Role of Forensic and Medical Sciences in the Investigation and Prevention of Torture

6365386329_f24a5e7976_zMendez discussed his report on the use of forensic science to combat torture, as it still persists in over 100 countries. Ms. Reventlow, Denmark, Switzerland, and Mendez, believe it’s the state’s obligation to prevent and investigate torture through medical/forensic examination. Denmark and Switzerland feel it’s essential to establish a standard for legal investigations. Denmark and Mendez also believe victims should be given rehabilitation and reparations.

Switzerland deems the eradication of torture a matter of political will and insufficient resources. Another cause maybe the lack of medical and forensic personnel training, which prevents proper documentation of torture cases. It is also pointed out that torture investigations must follow the Istanbul Protocol because it analyzes the physical and psychological effects of torture. Doctors, lawyers, judges, and prosecutors must become educated in this Protocol. A significant type of torture comes from interrogators trying to coerce a confession. This causes official medical examiners to be influenced by the department inflicting the torture.

Mendez insists on implementing safeguards to ensure that examinations are credible, independent, and objective. Some states may reject the Istanbul Protocol because they claim they are too poor, but Mendez and Hansen point out these examinations are not expensive. Rodley explains how forensic evidence can greatly affect the outcome of a torture case. He also mentions that victims of torture may face deportation because officials do not want to deal with these “undesirables”.

Hansen explains his work with the Protocol and its legal implications. He strongly recommends the use of the Protocol, and explains that the major aspect of forensic examinations lies in consistency. Finally, Hansen mentions that time does not affect the significance of forensic examinations. The conference concluded with the need to establish a framework to deal with torture cases, and the need to raise awareness of the issue.

Meeting: The Role of Forensic and Medical Sciences in the Investigation and Prevention of Torture and Other Ill-Treatment (co-organization by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Permanent Missions of Denmark and Switzerland, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (ICRT), Amnesty International and the American University Washington College of Law Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law’s Anti-Torture Initiative)
Date/Location: October 22nd, 2014; Conference Room 7, UN HQ, New York.
Speakers: Switzerland, Denmark, Chairman of the Human Rights Committee Sir Nigel Rodley, Director of IRCT’s legal and advocacy team Ms. Miriam Reventlow, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez, and Dr. Steen Holger Hansen from the University of Copenhagen’s forensic medicine department.
Written By WIT Representative: Ellie Guner
Edited by WIT Representative: Aslesha Dhillon

Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and People

A special committee meeting was convened to discuss the situation of Puerto Rico, with regard to the granting of independence to colonial countries. The meeting was based on the General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV) that affirms independence to colonial countries and people and recognises the passionate yearning for freedom in all dependent peoples and the decisive role of such peoples in the attainment of their independence.    

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Petitioners drew attention to the major political challenges facing Puerto Rico, resulting from its relationship with the United States: (i) the United States military presence in Puerto Rico; (ii) the imprisonment in the United States of pro-independence Puerto Ricans; and (iii) the application of the death penalty to Puerto Ricans convicted on federal charges. They, therefore, emphasised on the need to defend their inalienable right to sovereignty, which has been denied to them for many years.

Mr. Pedro Pierluisi, stressed that the government of the United States has the ministerial and moral duty to act upon the 54% of votes rejecting the commonwealth status. It is imperative upon the international community to find a common objective and a mechanism whereby the people of Puerto Rico can determine their status without any colonial restraints.

Ms. Wilma E. Reverón-Collazo, highlighted the plight of workers who have been majorly challenged by American businesses and have consequently suffered economic damages. Furthermore, petitioners also underscored that Puerto Rico is the fourth country for military recruitment in the US. In 1917, 27,787 Puerto Ricans fought WWI and thousands of them lost their lives or are suffering from PTSD, arthritis, brain damage and severe disabilities.

Most petitioners posited that even though the US is seen as a major proponent of human rights, its colonial rule in Puerto Rico can be seen equivalent to a form of slavery. Mr. Juan Dalmau, denouncing the role of international community stated that the subordination of Puerto Rico is a testimony to the failure of the idea that the relation between nations should be conditioned as per international law.

Meeting Title: Granting of independence to colonial countries and people
Speakers: (Chair)H. E. Ambassador Xavier Lasso, Permanent Mission of Ecuador to the United Nations; Mr. Pedro Pierluisi, Resident Commisioner of Puerto Rico; Wilma E. Reverón-Collazo, human rights activist; Mr. Juan Dalmau, Candidate of the Puerto Rican Independence Party.
Location: CR2, CB, United Nations Headquarters, New York
Date: 23 June 2014
Written by WIT Representative: Nusrat Laskar
Edited by WIT Representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark 

Supporting the process of transition from Relief to Development

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Panellists exchanged their ideas towards better integrated planning and risk management, in particular the context of increasing funding streams to manage crisis risk. Mr. Mundele addressed four key points, including the humanitarian context in DRC, economic progress of Congo, history of the management and humanitarian framework in DRC, the mechanisms of economic stimulus and community resilience in post conflict. He emphasised the focus should be put on the prevention program of disaster risk to evaluate the Congo’s Framework for Action and develop the contribution of Africa to the establishment of the post-2015 framework.

Mr. Soumaré pointed out that humanitarian organisations and the Governments should plan and work together. “Government leadership is the key”, he said. Not only does it encourage humanitarian and development organizations to work more effectively, it also multiplies the impact. Mr. Jean noted that this is an important issue in Haiti; one of the most vulnerable countries, exposed to all sorts of catastrophes, including droughts, earthquakes, cyclones, etc. There are currently innovative approaches driven by Governments and the UN, however there is limited support from donors and a lack financing sources to develop innovative approaches to humanitarian work.

Mr. Clerg echoed Mr. Jean’s comments. He specifically focused on risk management in preventing humanitarian crisis. He concluded with three main calls for action. First, prioritizing countries at risk to ensure development aid goes to people and countries that are the most at risk. Next, humanitarian organisations should put high emphasis on managing the risk of crises, instead of just responding to its consequences. Lastly, crisis risk management should be prioritized in order to prevent and mitigate future humanitarian crises.

Meeting Title: Panel discussion on “Supporting the process of transition from relief to development: Funding and risk management”
Speakers: H.E. Ibrahim O. Dabbashi (Libya), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council; Ms. Kanni Wignaraja, Director, United Nations Development Operations Coordination Office; H.E. Charles Naweji Mundele, Minister of Social Affairs, Humanitarian Action and National Solidarity, Democratic Republic of the Congo; Mr. Moustapha Soumaré, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Democratic Republic of the Congo; Mr. Yves-Robert Jean, Director-General, Ministry of Planning and External Cooperation, Haiti; Mr. Peter de Clerq, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Haiti
Location: ECOSOC Chambers, United Nations HQ, New York 
Date: 23 June 2014
Written By WIT representative: Samantha Kong
Edited by WIT representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark

 

Environment and Humanitarian Action: Increasing Effectiveness, Sustainability, and Accountability

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Today an event was held which highlighted how environmental sustainability is an integral part in humanitarian aid effectiveness. The panelists in this meeting discussed the findings from a report entitled “Environment and Humanitarian Action: Increasing Effectiveness, Sustainability, and Accountability.”

The first speaker, Ms. Gebremedhin, the Director of Humanitarian Assistance and Foreign Affairs of Finland, began by addressing various environmental issues that need to be taken into account during humanitarian action, in order for it to reach its full potential. For example, management of solid wastes and hazardous materials and safeguarding natural resources are essential, and the reduction of deforestation, desertification, and pollution is necessary for sustained livelihoods in the aftermath of a disaster. Furthermore, efficient leadership and accountability are needed in humanitarian situations, and addressing environmental concerns is a shared responsibility between donors and humanitarian organisations.

Following, Mr. Khalikov, Director of OCHA Geneva, stated the effectiveness of humanitarian aid is dependent on environmental conditions. He cited floods and draughts as main environmental threats that can complicate an already existing humanitarian crisis, like a famine or armed conflict.

Ms. Anita van Breda from WWF USA spoke about combining climate change adaptation strategies with disaster risk reduction. She highlighted the Green Recovery Program – a partnership between WWF and the American Red Cross –, which works to sustain livelihoods, provide adequate water, sanitation, and shelter, and deals with disaster management. Her three key recommendations to take the environment into consideration when taking humanitarian action included: updating academic training and professional development, learning to manage change and developing new ways of learning, and ensuring that staff and volunteers have the necessary discipline, skills, and aptitude.

Concluding the meeting Ms. Costa, the Executive Director of the Women’s Refugee Commission spoke about the threat faced by women and girls when they have to leave their refugee camps to collect firewood for cooking and heating. Many have to travel 5 or 6 hours a day to collect enough wood to cook just one meal, and on the journey are raped, beaten, or killed. Ms. Costa emphasised the importance of shifting communities away from dependence on wood fuel and towards more environmentally friendly and sustainable options in order to decrease the threat of this gender based violence and to reduce deforestation and resource overconsumption.

Meeting Title: Environment and Humanitarian Action: Increasing Effectiveness, Sustainability, and Accountability
Speakers: Ms. Anna Gebremedhin, Director of Humanitarian Assistance and Foreign Affairs of Finland; Mr. Rashid Khalikov, Director of the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Geneva; MS. Anita van Breda, Director of Humanitarian Partnerships, WWF USA; Ms. Sarah Costa, Executive Director of Women’s Refugee Commission
Location: Conference Room 5 NLB, United Nations HQ, New York
Date: 23 June 2014
Written by WIT Representative: Marli Kasdan
Edited by WIT Representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark