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NEWSLETTER Volume 2, Issue 3

Preventing Torture Framing the Issue

May 2008

within the fight against terrorism Inside this issue:

Kenya: stop persecution in the fight against terrorism

Kenya: stop persecution in the fight against terror-

by Brandy Bauer, Senior Communications Officer, IRCT


Since the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi and the subsequent 2002 bombing of a hotel in Mombasa, the government of Kenya has stepped up measures to thwart terrorist attacks. The country established an antiterrorism unit within its police force, set up a National Counter-Terrorism Centre under the responsibility of the National Security and Intelligence Service, and became party to all 12 international conventions related to terrorism. Over the past few years, numerous human rights groups have accused Kenyan authorities of using the rhetoric of fighting terrorism to commit abuses against persons solely because of their ethnic, religious or racial background. The most recent example of such abuse is ongoing in the Mt Elgon area of western Kenya. Since 2005, a guerrilla militia group called the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) – drawn from the ethnic Sabaot people – has committed numerous atrocities against citizens in the area, including rape, murder, torture and theft or

destruction of property. First perceived as a loosely organised gang, the Kenyan authorities subsequently have deemed the SLDF to be an enemy of the state. In March of this year, the Kenyan military launched Operation Okoa Maisha, an effort to eradicate the SLDF and restore peace to the region. During the operation, police and military personnel sought to arrest SLDF members and recover illegal weapons. However, human rights organisations working in the area observed that instead of flushing out SLDF members, the police and military were conducting a broad campaign of torture and intimidation of civilians. The Independent MedicoLegal Unit (IMLU) – a registered nongovernmental organisation that seeks to promote the rights of torture victims and protect Kenyans from stateperpetrated violence – conducted a fact-finding mission to the region to interview and record the testimony of persons who claimed to have been tortured. IMLU also instructed a team of independent medical experts to carry out a

subsequent forensic medical examination of these persons, utilising the Istanbul Protocol, an internationally recognised instrument for the effective investigation and documentation of torture.1 In a preliminary report published together with the International Commission of Jurists-Kenya (IC J-K) and Child Legal Action Network, IMLU provides evidence that the allegations are true: the Kenyan military did perpetrate acts of torture against hundreds of civilians rounded up during Operation Okoa Maisha.

Spotlight on: the Philippines


Recommended reading


All of the arrests were characterised by an element of ambush by military officers, who burst into homes or violently seized the men while they carried out their daily business. In some cases police officers deceived those being arrested by requesting the men accompany them to a place where they would be given a card showing that they are not members of the SLDF (in which case they willingly complied). Later the arrestees were put into army trucks and taken to torture camps.

Almost all of those interviewed claimed the military carried out torture, though a few also claimed the police tortured them during their arrest or transfer to stations/courts.

• More than 400 torture

• The majority of those accused were males between the ages of 20 and 30.


Reporting on torture in the context of the “war on terrorism”

Some of the key findings from the IMLU team include the following: survivors had been remanded at nearby Bungoma Prison after being charged at the local law courts. The prison’s officer-incharge noted that this represented an almost doubling in the number of prisoners since the operation began.


Volume 2, Issue 3

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Kenya: stop persecution in the fight against terrorism (cont.) •

All of those interviewed said that the main abuse occurred at the Kapkota Military Camp, where they were beaten indiscriminately for several hours to several days. The forensic medical examination of 119 survivors revealed that 85% had severe soft tissue injuries with wounds. All but one of the torture survivors interviewed were drawn from the Sabaot ethnic community.

• All of the torture survivors interviewed had been charged in the courts with “Promoting War-like Activities”. IMLU’s findings correspond with testimonies and evidence gathered by other human rights groups, including Western Kenya Human Rights Watch and the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.

In a statement issued by the Ministry of State for Defence, the government denied the allegations, claiming that some suspects had been handed over to the military after having been tortured by locals and calling the operation successful because “we have managed to rid the region of the SLDF terrorists”.2 Yet IMLU Executive Director Sam

the SLDF and now by the state. Fighting terror with terror is an ineffective strategy for eradicating threats of armed militias and violates international instruments to which Kenya is party. The IMLU report also notes that “the systematic nature of torture and accompanying magnitude targeting a specific communal group

“Government denial has three stages, starting with saying torture did not happen, continuing by saying that what happened was something else, and finally by saying that what happened was justified for the protection of national security.” —Sam Mohochi, IMLU Executive Director Mohochi notes: “Government denial has three stages, starting with saying torture did not happen, continuing by saying that what happened was something else, and finally by saying that what happened was justified for the protection of national security or some other purpose.” The end result is a population that has been victimised twice – first by

amounts to a crime against humanity as enshrined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which Kenya has signed and ratified”. For its part, IMLU intends to continue investigating and documenting allegations of torture in the Mt Elgon region, and wherever possible provide medical and psychological rehabilitation for survivors. IMLU and IC J-K also plan to institute local and

international proceedings against those military and government officers implicated in the torture claims. The Kenyan government must put an immediate halt to the abuses on Mt Elgon, and fully investigate the claims of torture as per its obligations under international legal statutes. Moreover, the authorities must ensure that there is no impunity for perpetrators of torture, regardless of whether they are members of security forces, police or armed rebels. Respect for the absolute prohibition of torture and respect for justice is imperative to secure the future of a democratic, stable Kenya. To download a copy of IMLU’s report, please visit 1

The IRCT has provided training in the Istanbul Protocol to IMLU and other centres as part of its

Prevention through Documentation project. For more information, please visit 2 page_link=Mt%20Elgon%20 (SLDF)

Spotlight on: the Philippines by FIDH, IRCT, and the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates

Torture, enforced

Philippines: Fighting Terror or Terrorizing? issued last

disappearances and extrajudicial killings are common practices in the Philippines in the context of the "war on terror". Such are the conclusions of a new report, Terrorism

month by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) in cooperation with the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) and the IRCT. The report presents the results from an international fact-

and Human Rights in the

finding mission that took place last year in areas of Metro Manila and the island of Mindanao. The mission team held discussions with representatives from all walks of Philippine society, including the armed forces, members of the House of

Representatives and Senate, local authorities, civil society, torture victims and their families, detainees suspected of belonging to insurgent groups, as well as representatives of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front. These

Volume 2, Issue 3 discussions revealed that in most cases, suspected “enemies of the state” are arrested without a warrant or explanation, and then brought to a military camp or a secret detention place where they are forced to admit – often under torture – that they are members of “terrorist groups”. Last year the Philippines enacted the Human Security Act, legislation aimed at combating terrorism. However, the Act is heavily criticised for enshrining a very vague definition of the crime of terrorism and giving extensive and unchecked power to the Executive. This – coupled with the prevailing situation of impunity for human rights violations and the absence of laws penalizing acts of

Page 3 torture – creates an environment ripe for human rights abuses. Since the publication of the report, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has agreed to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT), and has passed the instrument to the Senate (which must concur with the ratification for it to take effect). The OPCAT is an essential tool in the prevention of torture, as it creates a mechanism for domestic and international monitoring of persons deprived of their liberty. While ratification of OPCAT is a commendable step forward, the Philippine government, primarily responsible for the respect of human rights in the

country, must do more to ensure that "terrorism" is not invoked as an excuse for human rights violations. Building on the OPCAT ratification, the government should promptly establish an independent and effective National Preventive Mechanism with a strong mandate to monitor all persons deprived of their liberty, and where possible also persons outside the effective control of the State. Further, the Philippines should provide unhindered access to all places of detention for both the National Preventive Mechanism and the UN Subcommittee on Prevention. FIDH, PAHRA and IRCT also ask the government to free immediately those persons

who have been arbitrarily detained in the framework of the fight against terrorism, or to bring charges against them and conduct fair trials. Other measures the Philippine government should adopt are: domestic legislation criminalising torture, bringing the Human Security Act in conformity with international human rights obligations, and ensuring fair conditions of detention and trials for suspected terrorists. In short, the due process of law, the right to life and the prohibition of torture must be guaranteed in all circumstances. To read the full report, visit

Reporting on torture in the context of the “war on terrorism” Highlights from a conference at the European Parliament

On 4 April, the IRCT and FIDH hosted a conference at the European Parliament entitled Reporting on torture

in the context of the “war on terrorism”. The conference brought together MEPs, journalists, NGO representatives and others to discuss the changing nature and perceptions of torture in the context of counterterrorism efforts, and how journalists can draw attention to these. The event was sponsored by Mr Carlos Coelho, MEP, Chairman of the EP Temporary Committee on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transportation and illegal detention of prisoners (TDIP). Mr Coelho

underlined the important role that journalists play in putting pressure on officials to investigate complicity of states in human rights violations. He also stressed that there is no grey area when it comes to torture, and states can neither accept evidence obtained through torture nor socalled "diplomatic assurances" from states known to use torture. Also present at the conference was Mr Dick Marty, President of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Rapporteur on alleged secret detentions in Council of Europe member states. Mr Marty emphasised that the attitude of European governments has been "shocking and

hypocritical"– as it has given silent approval to toward the practice of renditions and secret detentions. Mr Marty also noted that when states use torture Mr Carlos Coelho, MEP, sponsor of the event as a tool to fight terrorism, it transforms and the media themselves criminals into victims and are accused of being gives them the legitimacy to complicit in terrorist fight against states. activities. Under these circumstances, there is Several journalists spoke great need to support about the challenges to alternative forms of media, reporting on human rights and to protect journalists violations in countries who speak on behalf of where torture is endemic – victims. such as Colombia, Russia and Egypt. In many of these countries, the state interferes and imposes restrictions on the media,

To obtain a copy of Mr Coelho’s speech or minutes from the meeting, please email

Volume 2, Issue 3

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International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) Borgergade 13 · P.O. Box 9049

For more information...

1022 Copenhagen K DENMARK Phone: +45 33 76 06 00 Fax: +45 33 76 05 00 Email:

FIDH 17, passage de la main d’or 75011 Paris FRANCE Phone: +33 1 43 55 25 18 Fax: +33 1 43 55 18 80

The “Preventing Torture within the Fight against Terrorism” newsletter is published bimonthly as part of a joint FIDH-IRCT project aimed at reinstating respect for the prohibition against torture in counterterrorism strategies both globally and in ten target countries: Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Mauritania, Pakistan, the Philippines and Russia. The newsletter editors welcome submissions of content for future issues, including articles (send query first), comments, letters to the editor (up to 250 words) and suggestions for recommended reading. To submit content or make enquiries, email Brandy Bauer, IRCT Senior Communications Officer, at

For more information about the “Preventing Torture within the Fight against Terrorism” project, please visit the IRCT web site ( or contact: Sune Segal, Head of Communications, IRCT, +45 20 34 69 14, or Isabelle Brachet, Director of Operations, FIDH, +33 1 43 55 25 18,

This newsletter is being published with funding from the European Commission

Recommended reading

Readers of the “Preventing Torture within the Fight against Terrorism” newsletter may be interested in the following recent reports which discuss in more depth the issues touched upon in this issue. These resources are not meant to be an exhaustive list.

Double jeopardy: CIA renditions to Jordan from Human Rights Watch is based on in-depth interviews with nonJordanian detainees who were rendered to Jordan for interrogation and torture.

Available at: http:// jordan0408/

E-bulletin on counterterrorism and human rights of the International Commission of Jurists is a round-up of prominent news articles from around the world focused on counterterrorism and human rights. Available at:

Family matters: using family members to pressure detainees from the Public Committee against Torture in Israel describes how

Israeli security forces use threats against terror suspects’ family members as a form of coercion in interrogations. Available at: http:// node/1039

Terrorism and human rights in the Philippines: fighting terror or terrorizing? is a new report from FIDH, PAHRA and the IRCT (see page 2 of newsletter). Available at: Default.aspx? ID=159&M=News&PID=82& NewsID=1308

Tough interrogation of terror suspects is necessary was a debate hosted by Intelligence Squared US, with six experts weighing in on the topic. The full transcript is available at: http:// www.intelligencesquaredus .org/TranscriptContainer/ ToughInterrogationOfTerror Suspects-%20031108.pdf

Preventing Torture within the Fight against Terrorism 7  

May 2008 - Focus on Kenya and the Philippines

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