Human Rights News February 2012

  Combating Torture in Brazil: training judges, prosecutors, public defenders and lawyers

At the end of October 2011 the IBAHRI, in partnership with the Brazilian Bar Association (Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil), the National Justice Council (Conselho Nacional de Justiça), the Ministry of Justice Secretariat for Human Rights and the Association of Public Defenders, launched a training manual for judges, prosecutors, public defenders and lawyers on combating torture in Brazil.

The manual, Protegendo os brasileiros contra a tortura, follows the 2010 IBAHRI fact-finding mission report ‘One in Five’, which identified significant challenges in the Brazilian criminal justice system, including pre-trial detention and torture.

The manual is part of a major project implementing training in six different states in Brazil and the development of legal education curricula for use by justice institutions. Training has recently taken place in Brasília (26–27 October), São Paulo, Fortaleza, Rio de Janeiro (30 November–1 December) and in Porto Alegre and Porto Velho (5–6 December).

The training manual can be downloaded from the IBA website at

Afghan Independent Bar Association holds its second General Assembly

The Afghan Independent Bar Association (AIBA) held its second General Assembly (GA), on 13–16 October 2011. Members debated, voted and passed amendments to the AIBA By-Laws and elected a new Executive and Leadership Council.

The Assembly was run with assistance from the IBAHRI and donors, but largely by the AIBA itself, indicating that it is starting to function for itself without external support. At the first GA there were 400 lawyers registered in Afghanistan; there are now over 1,200 and the AIBA has set up committees dealing with continuing legal education, women and children’s rights, and corporate law. The AIBA is one of the few bar associations in the world that stipulates a minimum percentage of women lawyers to be on its Leadership Council, and which requires all lawyers to perform three cases per year pro bono as a requirement for annual registration.

To see images on the Afghan Independent Bar Association General Assembly 2011 photo gallery, go to

Gaddafi trial: international or Libyan law?

Libyans and lawyers alike are clear on one thing: justice must be done regarding the trial of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the late dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Yet the location of his trial remains a source of some controversy.

Both Gaddafi, 39, and former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, 62, have been charged by the International Criminal Court (ICC) with crimes against humanity allegedly committed since the beginning of the Libyan uprising in February 2011.

Gaddafi is currently being held in the town of Zintan, 100 miles south of Tripoli. Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) also claims that it captured al-Senussi last November, though it is yet to produce any evidence. The NTC wrote to the ICC on Friday, 20 January, to inform the Court that it wished to try both men on native soil. Under the Rome Statute, which brought the Court into being, the ICC can only try cases when national jurisdictions are unable or unwilling to do so themselves.

ICC judges are yet to rule on whether the men should be tried in Libya or The Hague, and the decision is likely to hinge on whether they believe the domestic trials will be fair. According to a Human Rights Watch report, Gaddafi has not seen a lawyer since his arrest.

If tried in Libya, the charges could be broadened to include other crimes, such as corruption, and they could be extended to cover a longer period of time. Under Libyan law, unlike international law, defendants can face the death penalty.

ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has publicly proposed various options, including the ICC conducting a trial in Libya, or the Libyan courts conducting their own separate trials following a hearing at The Hague. Yet international lawyers stress that the ultimate decision lies not with him or the NTC, but with the ICC judges.

For Hans Corell, former Under-Secretary-General for legal affairs and Legal Counsel of the United nations, two consecutive trials could be the best solution, to avoid overloading the Libyan judicial system. Speaking to IBA Global Insight, he said: ‘I think it is extremely important that Saif Gaddafi is tried before the ICC. Libya has so many urgent matters to attend to at present, and trying him now will be extremely burdening.’

Read the full article on the IBA website at

IBAHRI urges new Egyptian Parliament to reform freedom of association laws without delay

The IBAHRI is urging the new Egyptian Parliament to protect by law, and respect in practice, the right of freedom of association of Egypt’s citizens. The call comes following recent raids on several NGOs operating in Cairo, including at least one organisation working to defend the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession in the Arab regions. In particular, the IBAHRI is concerned over Egypt’s Law on Non-Governmental Associations (Law No 84 of 2002), which impedes the ability of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to recruit staff, to elect their leadership, hold meetings and receive foreign funding. While such restrictions are widely viewed as obstructing the functioning of independent civil society groups, failure to respect the Law is deemed a criminal offence.

In November 2011, the IBAHRI launched a fact-finding report on the rule of law and the legal profession in the months immediately following Egypt’s revolution. The report was launched with a high-level panel discussion at the House of Commons, London.

The report and a recording of the discussion are available to download from the IBA website at


IBAHRI undertakes parliamentary strengthening in Ukraine

In January, the IBAHRI participated in a two-day training workshop for parliamentary staff in Ukraine as part of its ongoing support to The Westminster Consortium (TWC) parliamentary strengthening programme. The workshop was entitled Monitoring Human Rights related Legislation by the Parliamentary Committees in Ukraine and followed the launch of a localised Ukrainian version of the IBAHRI/TWC publication: Human Rights and Parliaments: a Handbook for Members and Staff in Kiev in December 2011.

As well as examining the tools available for parliamentary committees to monitor implementation of human rights related legislation and Ombudsman reports, the training considered ways in which existing oversight procedures could be used to respond to concerns about human rights in prisons, using examples of best practice and case studies from the UK.

The Human Rights and Parliaments handbook can be downloaded from the IBA website at


IBAHRI undertake fact-finding visit to Malawi

The IBAHRI undertook a fact-finding mission to Malawi in January 2012 to assess the state of the rule of law in the country, with a focus on independence of the judiciary and the legal profession. A report detailing the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the mission will be issued in the first quarter of 2012.

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