Monday, September 19, 2011

Guantanamo: Futile Attempts at Justice

Despite an executive order closing down the base and a Supreme Court opinion extending habeas corpus to the detainees, many of the 172 remaining Guantanamo Bay detainees have yet to see any results. Some argue that the holdups and delays are necessary in order to be sure the US does not mistakenly release a terrorist. The United States government has stayed the process of gaining freedom for one detainee by claiming it has new information, allegedly procured recently, that may cause the District Court to reverse its decision granting the right of habeas corpus to this particular detainee. Evidence introduced eight years after the initial arrest, as well as multiple other delays by the government do significant harm to the domestic and international perception of the US legal system. Read the full piece describing this detainee’s case by Human Rights USA’s litigation director, Allison M. Lefrak.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Asylum Granted!

Human Rights USA wishes to congratulate Colleen O’Brien of Steptoe & Johnson for her recent victory in an asylum case. When her client Farid* first contacted Human Rights USA, he was deeply afraid of returning to his native India where he had already suffered persecution at the hands of family and community members who could not accept his homosexuality. Farid believed his family would try to force him into marriage and subject him to further punishing attempts to “cure” him if he returned. Steptoe & Johnson agreed to take Farid’s case, and with Human Rights USA’s support and many hours of hard work and creative legal thinking by Colleen and her team at Steptoe, Farid’s case was approved by the asylum office in Los Angeles, which will allow him to remain in the United States.

If you are an attorney handling an asylum case involving forced marriage, check out Human Rights USA’s Guide and Sample Briefs.

*The name has been changed to protect the individual’s privacy.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

New leadership for global coalition against torture

The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the principal global coalition of anti-torture organizations, has a new Secretary General today as Gerald Staberock succeeds Eric Sottas who had led the organization since its inception in 1985 and who is taking his retirement today.

Before joining OMCT in December 2010, Mr. Staberock led global programs at the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), including its Centre for Judges and Lawyers (CIJL) and its Global Security and Rule of Law Initiative. In this context he coordinated the most comprehensive global study on counter-terrorism and human rights (ICJ Eminent Jurists Panel on Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights). Before joining the ICJ he worked at the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) on rule of law and anti-torture projects, including on penitentiary and legal reforms in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. He concluded his judicial clerkship at the Higher Regional Court in Berlin qualifying as lawyer. He received his legal education in Bonn, Geneva and Washington DC (LLM). Mr Staberock has also written on a number of issues, including the rule of law in transition countries, counter-terrorism and human rights and the national implementation of human rights law.

“We are confident that Gerald Staberock, who has joined the OMCT nine months ago, will build on the foundation that has been laid," said Mr Yves Berthelot, OMCT President. "His legal rigour, rich experience in anti-torture and rule of law reforms in transition countries, and place at the heart of the debate on torture and counter-terrorism over the last ten years enable him to lead the organisation and to ensure its rightful place at the forefront of the fight against torture”.

“I am honoured to take up this challenge at a time when the strong and principled advocacy voice of the OMCT is more needed than ever” said Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General. “The absolute prohibition of torture is challenged today through lack of respect and a pervasive culture of impunity in many parts of the world. At the same time there are opportunities not least through the transitions of the Arab spring to advance the fight against torture. This is the time to double the effort, to assist and support victims of torture, to ensure accountability and prevent torture, and to counter public complacency in the face of torture. I am looking forward to contribute to this cause together with the dedicated team in the OMCT Secretariat and in the partner organisation of the SOS Torture Network”, he added in a first comment.

Since its founding in 1997, Human Rights USA (originally called the World Organization Against Torture USA) has been a member of the SOS Torture Network, a coalition of more than 300 human rights organizations working to stop torture within their own countries. Human Rights USA's Executive Director, Theresa Harris, serves as a member of OMCT's General Assembly.

As we welcome Mr. Staberock to his new position, we gratefully applaud Mr. Sottas for his outstanding accomplishments with OMCT. The organization's achievements are the direct result of his vision, dedication and steadfast determination against torture.