African Court and United Nations to Strengthen Relationship

By: Skylar Salim
Impunity Watch News, Africa

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — On February 9, 2019, an agreement was signed between the United Nations and the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) at the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of African States in Addis Ababa. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, and the president of the African court, Sylvain Oré, met and signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

Sylvain Oré and Michelle Bachelet at the signing the MoU at the African Union‘s 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of African State and Government. Photo courtesy of CaptialFM.

In September, 2018, ACHPR judges and UN human rights experts met to discuss the issue of the death penalty. This meeting in September drove the UN and the Court to negotiate and sign the MoU. The agreement is designed to strengthen the working relationship between the United Nations and the African Court. The African Court is an institution composed of judges from the African Union that meets four times a year.  The court works to enhance and protect human rights in Africa. Bachelet has noted that, “The Court is a critically important mechanism for the promotion and protection of peoples’ and human rights in Africa, and it is an invaluable partner in the region”. During the signing ceremony for the MoU, Oré stated, “The Court and the UN Office share common values on humanity, including the culture of promoting and protecting human rights.”

Through the agreement, the UN and the court will work toward supporting each other on international and regional levels. The agreement indicates that the institutions will work together when it comes to conceiving and implementing human rights standards in Africa, and what practices are best suited for regional courts such as the ACHPR. Possible activities discussed in the agreement include the UN increasing their knowledge of the practice and jurisprudence of the ACHPR, while the Court will work to understand the work done by the UN Treaty Bodies. Bachelet observed that, “[the UN] already had a good relationship with African human rights system as a whole.” She went on to note that, “however, with this agreement, we are taking it to another level. It will enable us to improve the synergies between the two organizations. The Court is a critically important mechanism for the promotion and protection of peoples’ and human rights in Africa, and it is an invaluable partner in the region.”

For further information, please see:

CapitalFMKenya — African Court Signs MoU with UN to Strengthen Relations — 11 February 2019

CNBC Africa — UN Human Rights Office and African Court on Human and People’s Rights Sign Cooperation Agreement — 11 February 2019

IPP Media — African Court and UN Rights Office Sign MoU to Strengthen Relations — 11 February 2019

African Court Upholds Tanzanian Court Sentence

By: Hannah Gabbard
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

ARUSHA, Tanzania – On May 11, 2018, the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) unanimously ruled that the United Republic of Tanzania did not violate George Maili Kemboge’s right to equality or the right to enjoy the best attainable state of mental and physical health pursuant to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights. Photo Courtesy of AfCHPR.

In August 2006, Kemboge was convicted by the District Court of Tarime for the rape of a fifteen year old girl. He was sentenced to thirty years in prison, twelve cane strokes, and a fine of five hundred thousand Tanzania Shillings.

In 2013 the High Court of Tanzania upheld the sentence and the Court of Appeal of Tanzania affirmed in 2014. Kemboge filed an appeal with the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights in 2016 alleging that his right to equal protection of the law and right to enjoy the best attainable state of physical and mental health had been violated. Kemboge appealed to the Court to quash the conviction and sentence and grant reparations.

On the merits, Kemboge argued that the Court of Appeal only considered procedural matters and did not consider the “interests of justice” and that equal protection of the law was violated. Kemboge presented three arguments he alleged the Court of Appeals did not consider. Here, the Court ruled that Kemboge’s allegation of a equal rights protection was dismissed because Kemboge did not demonstrate how the arguments were not properly raised before the lower courts.

Secondly, Kemboge alleged that his right to enjoy the best attainable state of physical and mental health was violated because he was not recognized as married to the victim. The Court ruled that state’s refusal to recognize an alleged marriage to the victim does not violate his right to enjoy the best attainable state of physical and mental health and therefore, dismissed the allegation.    

The Court did not find any violation of rights and dismissed Kemboge’s appeal for reparations.

For further information, please see:

African Union – The Matter of George Maili Kemboge v. the United Republic of Tanzania – 11 May 2018

African Governance Architecture – Press Release: African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights to Render Six Judgements – 09 May 2018

African Union – Executive Summary of the Application – 3 November 2015

EHCR Rejects Said Mansour’s Request to Block Denmark Deportation

By: Brianna Ferrante
Impunity Watch News Reporter

RABAT, MOROCCO- The European Court of Human Rights has unanimously rejected Moroccan Said Mansour’s appeal against being deported from Denmark for his terror-related convictions in fear of being subjected to torture.

 

Said Mansour prior to his deportation from Denmark. Photo courtesy of Carl Redhead

A court in Denmark had previously convicted Mansour in July of 2015 on charges related to the editing and publishing of three books and multiple Facebook posts considered to be terrorist propaganda.

The works were written and distributed by Mansour for the purposes of praising Osama Bin Laden and encouraging readers and followers to join an al-Queada affiliate in Syria known as the al-Nursa Front. Mansour was sentenced to four years in prison and had his Denmark citizenship revoked.

Additionally, the Moroccan ambassador to Denmark has previously stated Mansour is suspected for his alleged involvement in a 2003 terror attack that claimed the lives of 42 people in Casablanca. Since his release from prison, he was deported to Morocco on January 4th.

Mansour’s appeal to the ECHR was premised on Article Three of the European Convention on Human Rights, which he alleged his deportation would directly conflict with.

Article 3 prohibits anyone from being subjected to torture, inhumane or degrading treatment of punishment. Mansour argued that he would be in danger in the north African country, due to his publicized criticisms of its king and the government.

The ECHR rejected this claim unanimously, relying  on international reports that the human rights situation in Morocco has generally improved over several years, and that the authorities have been working to improve and increase compliance with internationally mandated human rights standards.

For more information, please see:

The Local Denmark- European Court of Human Rights Upholds Danish Deportation of Former Citizen Who Incited Terror. February 14, 2019. 

Morocco World News- ECHR Rejects Said Mansour’s Request Against Deportation. February 15, 2019.

Yaabiladi English- European Court of Human Rights Endorses Mansour’s Deportation. February 15, 2019.

European Human Rights Court Orders Italy to Pay Damages to Amanda Knox

By: Brianna Ferrante
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

STRASBOURG, France – The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Italy to pay $20,000 in damages to Amanda Knox, an American student studying abroad who spent four years in an Italian prison before being acquitted for the 2007 murder of her then-roommate, Meredith Kercher.

 

Amanda Knox during the the 2009 trial. Photo courtesy of AP News P.P Cito.

A seven-judge panel of the ECHR concluded Italy was at fault for failing to provide Knox a lawyer during the initial police interrogation beginning on November 1, 2007. The court specifically referenced Knox’s vulnerability at that time as a foreign young woman, very new to the country, and not fluent in the language.

Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were the initial suspects in the sexual assault and murder of Kercher, a London native who was placed as Knox’s roommate while also studying abroad in Perugia. The pair was convicted of sexual assault and murder in 2009, but Knox was convicted of an additional charge for the malicious accusation of Diya Lumumba- a local bar manager, for alleging his responsibility for Kercher’s murder. Knox retracted these statements shortly after, but police did not strike it from their records and the conviction still stands.

In her complaint to the ECHR, Knox alleged she was subjected to gross and inhumane treatment while in police custody, citing specific instances where she was slapped, deprived of sleep, food, and water, and was forced to speak at times under extreme psychological stress and pressure without an attorney present despite her requests.

Knox’s initial complaint during the trial was dismissed by the court as being unsubstantiated, on the ground that there was insufficient evidence to prove the maltreatment she was alleging. The initial interrogation went on for 53 hours over a period of five days, without a lawyer, and solely in Italian.

Ivory Coast native Rudy Hermann Guede was later convicted for Kercher’s murder, after DNA linked him to the crime, and is serving a 16-year sentence. While Italy’s Court of Cassation overturned Sollecito and Knox’s convictions citing lack of evidence in May of 2015, Knox’s charge for malicious accusation remains and is the subject of a pending appeal.

The court held that Italy’s failure to provide either a lawyer or professional interpreter negatively affected the legal proceedings and accuracy of the information she was giving during the interrogation. The award was comprised of €10,400 in damages, and €8,000 for legal costs and related expenses, approximately $20,000.

Attorneys for Knox hopes this ruling will be persuasive in their appeal of the malicious accusation charge.

For more information, please visit:

NPR- Italy ordered to pay damages to Amanda Knox- January 24, 2019.

Daily Mail UK- European court awards Amanda Knox damages for having her rights violated in her murder trial- January 24, 2019.

POLITICO- Court orders Italy to pay damages to Amanda Knox- January 24, 2019.

Rape Declared National Emergency in Sierra Leone

By: Skylar Salim
Impunity Watch News, Africa

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone – On February 7, 2019,President Julius Maada Bio declared a national emergency regarding the prevalence of rape and sexual violence in Sierra Leone. He also told all public hospitals to provide free medical care to victims of sexual violence. This declaration grew from public outrage over a case that was never prosecuted involving the rape of a 5-year-old girl by her uncle in 2018, leading to her paralysis. The president noted that hundreds of cases are reported monthly, and “some of our families practice a culture of silence and indifference toward sexual violence, leaving victims even more traumatized.” Around 70% of the victims of this violence are under the age of 15. According to the United Nations, almost half of the women in Sierra Leone face violence, and 90% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have been victims of genital mutilation.

President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone declares a national emergency over sexual violence and rape. Photo courtesy of Abderrahmane Mokhtari.

Bio stated that perpetrators of these crimes are getting younger and more violent, and that sex with minors will be made punishable by life in prison. Currently, perpetrators face a maximum of only 15 years in prison. This declaration came after activists, such as the group Hands Off Our Girls, and First Lady Fatima Bio had been campaigning for reform for months. Hands Off Our Girls is a group supported by the First Lady that works to stop sexual violence against women and child marriage in the country.

Police figures of reported cases of sexual and domestic violence have been rising, with 10,544 reported cases in 2015 to 12,029 reported cases in 2017. Activists have also stated that many cases never get reported, and that the actual number is much higher. During Sierra Leone’s civil war, which lasted from 1991 to 2002, rape and sexual violence against women and girls was widespread. Many women and girls were forced into sexual slavery, to be “bush wives,” during the conflict. A UN report presented after the conflict noted, “the failure to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible for rape and other forms of gender-based violence has contributed to an environment of impunity that perpetuates violence against women.”

While the country made progress against sexual violence, a report by Save the Children notes that children were left vulnerable to sexual violence by the Ebola outbreak in 2014 as many of them were orphaned. The Rainbo Initiative, an organization that helps sexual violence survivors, notes that they were being overwhelmed by cases involving children every day. Vickie Remoe, a TV producer, has noted “politician will alone will not fix the problem. What we need in behavioral change… men need to learn to think differently about girls, and to act differently towards girls.

For further information, please see: 

AP – Sierra Leone President Declares Rape a National Emergency – 8 February 2019

CNN – Sierra Leone’s President Declares Rape a ‘National Emergency’ – 8 February 2019

NYT – Sierra Leone Declares National Emergency Over Rape of Young Girls – 8 February 2019