Human rights

8 December 2020News

Mauritius issues threat of futher action after expiry of UN deadline

British officials might stand trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity because of the British government’s refusal to return the illegally-occupied Chagos Islands to Mauritius.

That was the threat made on 27 December by the prime minister of Mauritius, Pravind Jugnauth, after an advisory opinion by the world court last February and the expiry of a six-month deadline set by the UN general assembly.

The Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean include…

1 April 2019Review

OR Books; 2018; 226pp; £16 (purchase online here)

How can we hold dictators to account? The list of those who have enjoyed complete impunity is long. Lawyer Wolfgang Kaleck has spent his whole life fighting to reverse this state of affairs: using the law to challenge Latin American ex-dictators, representing the families of US drone-attack victims in Yemen, and filing criminal complaints against the likes of ex-US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld.

Kaleck’s latest book is a manifesto for international law and how it can be…

1 June 2017Feature

How a human rights lawyer was destroyed

Victory palms. GRAPHIC: EMILY JOHNS

On 2 February 2017, Phil Shiner, the award-winning human rights lawyer who brought the UK government to account for the 2003 killing of the Iraqi hotel receptionist Baha Mousa, was struck off by the solicitors disciplinary tribunal (SDT). In March 2017, Shiner, who was also ordered to pay interim costs of £250,000, was declared bankrupt, and was reported to be in poor health.

Shiner and his legal firm, by fighting for victims of the Iraq war, had…

1 June 2017News

Prosecution part of sustained attack on human rights group

On 17 May, a British Muslim human rights campaigner was charged with a terrorism offence for refusing to give police the passwords to his laptop and his mobile phone.

Muhammad Rabbani, international director of the London-based human rights group CAGE, was detained and questioned at Heathrow airport in November under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

He refused to surrender his passwords on the grounds that his devices contained confidential testimony relating to torture.…

1 October 2016News

Vigil held for jailed art teacher

Vigil against Turkish repression outside Turkish embassy, London, 23 September. Photo: Index on Censorship

On 23 September, Index on Censorship and English PEN, another freedom of expression group, held a vigil outside the Turkish embassy in London in support of art teacher Ayse Çelik and others currently persecuted for speaking out in Turkey.

As we went to press, Çelik was awaiting a new trial date, accused of ‘promoting terrorist organisation propaganda’ after she called in…

18 February 2014News

After a four-month campaign, the international Stop the Shipment campaign succeeded in stopping a shipment of over a million canisters of tear gas to Bahrain on 8 January.


Bahrain Watch and CAAT protest outside the
South Korean embassy, London, on 18 October,
demanding an end to exports of tear gas to Bahrain.
Photo: CAAT

The government of Bahrain has been using tear gas to repress pro-democracy demonstrations since the Arab Spring spread to the Gulf state in February 2011.

A Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) report in 2012 found that ‘Bahraini law enforcement officials routinely violate every UN principle’ in their ‘unusually…

1 January 2014Blog entry

On January 1, 1804 Haiti became an independent nation free from colonial slavery but this important history is often missing from the prevalent narrative that blames Haiti for its current plight.

Having broken free of the shackles of French colonial slavery, 210 years ago today Haiti become an independent country and in doing so became the first, and only, country to be born out of a successful slave revolt.

Despite its huge historically significance, the scope of the human ideals upon which Haiti gained its independence from a brutal colonial ruler is often lost in the modern narrative…

1 September 2013News

Hunger strikes continue in Guantanamo and California

It was reported on 6 August, that 60 people being held in the United States military’s Guantánamo Bay detention centre were continuing a hunger strike against their continued imprisonment without trial.

The hunger strike has lasted six months and at one point involved over 100 of the 160 detainees. Many hunger strikers have suffered force-feeding, a practice  widely condemned as torture.

The remaining British resident, Shaker Aamer, who has been detained for 11 years, is among…

5 July 2013News

As PN went to press, US military authorities were stepping up their attempts to break the hunger strike of detainees at the Guantánamo Bay detention centre in Cuba.

The hunger strike, which has been running for over 130 days, involves almost two-thirds of the 166 detainees.

Detainee and British resident Shaker Aamer told his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, director of the legal charity Reprieve, that the authorities were making cells ‘freezing cold’ and using ‘metal-tipped’ feeding tubes to try to break the will of the hunger strikers, according to a report in the Observer on 22 June.

Speaking four months after he joined the hunger…

8 June 2013News

On 17 May, the mass hunger strike at the Guantánamo Bay detention centre reached its 100th day. Over 30 detainees were reported to have been force-fed, including two British residents, Shaker Aamer and Ahmed Belbacha.

On 13 May Al Jazeera published what it claimed was an internal policy document. According to this, force-feeding involves shackling hunger strikers to a ‘restraint chair’ (for up to two hours) and forcing a tube through a nostril and down into the…

10 May 2013News

In April, Britain’s Law Society intervened in the case of Mandira Sharma, a Nepalese human rights lawyer facing persecution as an ‘anti-Maoist dollar mongerer’. Sharma, founder and chair of the human rights group Advocacy Forum, is one of a number of human rights defenders in Nepal who have faced threats because of their campaigns against immunity for politicians, paramilitaries and other individuals suspected of war crimes during the Nepali civil war (1996-2006).…

5 February 2013News in Brief

There are credible reports of 81 Afghans ‘disappearing’ from police custody in Kandahar over the last year, according to a report by the UN assistance mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in January.

Over half of those interviewed by UNAMA had experienced torture or ill-treatment, including children as young as 14.

UNAMA also found an increase in the use of electric shocks and stress positions as methods of torture over the last year. Other methods also continue to be used…

5 February 2013News in Brief

On 11 January, a member of Maya Evans’ legal team revealed in the Guardian that they had been able to discover secret evidence that was not revealed to her, under the ‘closed material procedures’ used in her case in 2010, when she challenged the complicity of British officials in the torture of a prisoner held in Afghanistan.

The concealed evidence indicated that ‘UK officials facilitated the torture of a UK-held prisoner at the hands of a foreign state – potentially criminal…

24 January 2013Blog entry

Following a brutal arrest and an IPCC complaint being upheld, Mani Hamid is seeking a movement to support victims of miscarriages of justice.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) have upheld Mani Hamid's complaint – “the police had wrongfully arrested him, assaulted him and violated his human right to protest.” (please see back history below (1)). He is currently pursuing prosecution of the police for misconduct and solicitors for negligence. Mani is teaching himself about Human Rights law and is determined to take these cases up to the International Human Rights courts.

1 January 2013Blog entry

Although widely unknown and uncelebrated Haiti's history actually “played an inordinately important role in the articulation of a version of human rights” that promotes universality.

Whilst today is the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation it is also the anniversary of another historic event, although one that is little known by comparison, that actually saw the end to slavery, Haitian independence.

It is widely accepted that the signing of the…