Regarding Rights

Academic and activist perspectives on human rights


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Indignation, not engagement: Australia’s response to international criticism of asylum seeker detention

Juan Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Photo: http://www.unmultimedia.org

Juan Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Photo: http://www.unmultimedia.org

By Cynthia Banham

Centre for International Governance and Justice

The Abbott government’s recent outrage at the United Nations over a finding by the Special Rapporteur on torture that Australia’s asylum seeker policies violate international law has a very familiar ring. Continue Reading →


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The UK Detainee Inquiry: accountability promises unfulfilled

By Cynthia Banham

Centre for International Governance and Justice

Abuse of Prisoners at Abu Ghraib Image from the Wikimedia Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:AbuGhraibAbuse-standing-on-box.jpg

Abuse of Prisoners at Abu Ghraib
Image from the Wikimedia Commons

Six days before the Christmas just gone, the British government unexpectedly released the public version of the report of the Detainee Inquiry into torture complicity by British officials after 11 September 2001. Established in 2010, the Detainee Inquiry was ordered by Prime Minister David Cameron soon after taking office. It followed a series of damaging court cases brought by Britain’s detainees in the war on terror (citizens and residents) over their alleged torture, and the UK’s involvement.

The Report of the Detainee Inquiry raises many difficult questions for the government and its intelligence agencies, but makes no findings. Some of the questions concern official advice given to British intelligence agents who witnessed the torture of terrorist suspects to the effect that “there was no obligation to intervene”. Others relate to whether the UK became “inappropriately” involved in the US’s extraordinary rendition program. Continue Reading →


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Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum Co – implications for international human rights litigation in the US

By Cynthia Banham

The US Supreme Court; Source: wiki commons

The US Supreme Court
Source: wiki commons

Until recently, the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) (28 USC § 1350) was regarded by human rights activists as a critical tool in global efforts to hold human rights violators to account.

This curious American  statute, dating back to 1789, gives US district courts jurisdiction over civil actions by aliens for wrongs committed in violation of “the law of nations”. After being largely ignored for two centuries, it was rediscovered by human rights activists after the landmark 1980 case of Filártiga v. Peña-Irala. In that case, two Paraguayans successfully sued a former Paraguayan official (all three were resident in the US at the time of the lawsuit) over the torture and death of their family member in Paraguay.

But this April, the US Supreme Court in Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum Co severely curtailed the application of the ATS in such cases, unanimously holding that the statute generally does not apply beyond America’s borders. Continue Reading →


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“He put electric shock on me”: a glimpse of the persistent, widespread practice of torture in Papua

Matan Klembiap
Photograph courtesy of Anum Siregar, Democratic Alliance for Papua

By Budi Hernawan

On 15 February 2013, in the sub-district of Depapre (approximately 30 kilometres west of the Papuan provincial capital of Jayapura), six Papuan men were arrested and detained by the local police. Daniel Gobay (30), Arsel Kobak (23), Eneko Pahabol (23), Yosafat Satto (41), and Salim Yaru (35) were in a car when the police stopped and searched them. Matan Klembiap (40), who was on his motorbike behind the car that the police stopped, was also detained. During the police interrogation all of the men were tortured to confess that they knew the whereabouts of two key pro-Papuan independence activists, Sebby Sambom and Terrianus Sato, who have gone into hiding. On the following day, four of the men were released without any charge; Daniel Gobay and Matan Klembiap remain in police custody, charged with “possessing a sharp weapon” under the Emergency Regulation 12/1951, a legacy from the Dutch colonial laws. Continue Reading →


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Counter-terrorism: After the 9/11 decade

By Cynthia Banham
Centre for International Governance and Justice

 

Regarding Rights is pleased to re-publish “Counter-terrorism: After the 9/11 decade”  by CIGJ PhD scholar Cynthia Banham, originally written for the Lowy Institute’s blog The Interpreter.

We thank the editors of The Interpreter for their permission to post Cynthia’s article here.

The Open Society Foundation’s recent report detailing the scale of the Bush Administration’s extraordinary rendition program and the extent of cooperation by 54 allies reveals yet again the excesses in the way liberal democracies responded to the al Qaeda terrorist threat in the decade after the 9/11 attacks.

Yet in many ways the actions of the governments that came after those of George W Bush, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown tell us more about the lengths to which modern liberal democracies will go in order to defend themselves against terrorist threats. These governments did not face imminent national security crises, yet their willingness to subvert the rule of law has been no less flagrant.

Continue Reading →


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Zero Dark Thirty: Airbrushing Torture

By Cynthia Banham

Centre for International Governance and Justice

Regarding Rights is pleased to re-publishZero Dark Thirty: Airbrushing Torture” by CIGJ PhD scholar Cynthia Banham, originally written for the Lowy Institute’s blog The Interpreter. Zero Dark Thirty has generated considerable controversy for its portrayal of torture; readers may also be interested in this article from the New York Times, which locates the film within debates about whether Hollywood has an obligation of fidelity to ‘historical truth’.

We thank the editors of The Interpreter for their permission to post Cynthia’s article here. Continue Reading →