Blog: Press Releases
October 9, 2015
Myanmar: Hold police accountable for crackdown at Letpadan; Free wrongfully imprisoned protesters
New report finds police blocked peaceful assembly, used excessive force
(YANGON—October 10, 2015) Myanmar police officers used excessive force during a crackdown on protesters and arrested more than 100 individuals in Letpadan, Bago Region in March, according to a new report (summaries available in English and Burmese) released today by Fortify Rights and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic (“the Clinic”). Authorities should release individuals wrongfully detained for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, the organizations said.
Compiling evidence from dozens of eyewitness accounts, more than 500 photographs (see slideshow), and 40 videos, Fortify Rights and the Clinic found that police brutally punched, kicked, and beat unarmed protesters with batons on their heads, backs, and legs in the town of Letpadan on March 10. Police also beat protesters in police custody, including at least one protester being treated in an ambulance and others whose hands were bound behind their backs.
“The government should hold to account those police officers that used excessive force against the protesters,” said Matthew Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights. “This crackdown occurred in broad daylight. Police officers are clearly visible on film and in photos beating unarmed protesters, yet they walk free while the protesters are behind bars.”
The new report, Crackdown at Letpadan: Excessive Use of Force and Violations of the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Expression in Letpadan, Bago Region, Myanmar, also details how not all police officers at the scene participated in violence during the crackdown. Some police officers used riot shields or their own bodies to protect protesters from attacks by other police officers, providing further evidence of the unjustified use of force by some officers.
Police arrested 127 protesters, journalists, and bystanders in Letpadan on March 10. Seventy-seven men and women of those arrested in Letpadan face charges that carry sentences of up to nine years and six months imprisonment. Several student leaders face multiple counts under a law relating to peaceful assembly, potentially adding years to their sentences. In the weeks and months following the crackdown at Letpadan, Myanmar authorities have arrested dozens of additional student leaders and activists for involvement in the protests at Letpadan and elsewhere.
“The decision of Myanmar authorities to prosecute protesters rather than those police officers that committed abuses doesn’t bode well for a country on the cusp of national elections,” said Tyler Giannini, Director of the Clinic. “Justice demands the authorities release those wrongfully arrested in Letpadan and drop charges against peaceful protesters.”
On September 11, the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) issued a statement calling for police officers responsible for the use of excessive force at Letpadan to be disciplined. The statement alleged that the beating of protesters led to injuries, and that the protesters should not be facing charges under the penal code.
Fortify Rights and the Clinic welcomed the MNHRC’s investigation and statement on the events in Letpadan, but noted that it failed to address all the violations related to the protest and crackdown in Letpadan. In particular, the MNHRC failed to address restrictions on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression as well as the arbitrary arrest and detention of individuals connected to the protests.
Under international law, arrest and detention are unlawful when individuals are engaging in a protected activity, such as exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
In January 2015, protesters began to march south from Mandalay to demonstrate their opposition to the National Education Law passed by Parliament in September 2014. In early March, police blockaded the protesters at Letpadan. As the protesters attempted to challenge the blockade on March 10, police officers violently dispersed the group of 200 protesters.
“The events leading up to the crackdown failed to justify the massive wave of violence unleashed by police officers,” said Matthew Smith. “This crackdown is ongoing and reveals the shallow depth of human rights reform in Myanmar.”
For more information, please contact:
Amy Smith, Executive Director, Fortify Rights (in Yangon): +66.87.795.5454; email@example.com; Twitter: @AmyAlexSmith @FortifyRights
Matthew Bugher, lead author and researcher, Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic and consultant to Fortify Rights: +95.9401596412; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; Twitter: @bughermk1
Students from the International Human Rights Clinic—Roi Bachmutsky (JD ’17), Roni Druks (JD ’17), Courtney Svoboda (JD ’16), Matthew Thiman (JD ’16), Yao Yang (Harvard/Berkeley JD ’16), and Sharon Yuen (LLM ’16)—provided essential support in reviewing evidence as well as with writing and editing for the report. The team worked under the direction of the report’s lead researcher, Matthew Bugher, who was a Global Justice Fellow at Harvard Law School as well as Tyler Giannini, co-director of the Clinic.
September 28, 2015
Coalizão demanda investigação federal em audiência na OEA sobre violência, corrupção no Complexo Prisional Aníbal Bruno (Curado)
Coalizão demanda investigação federal em audiência na OEA sobre violência, corrupção no Complexo Prisional Aníbal Bruno (Curado)
Lista de mais de 500 vítimas será apresentada à Corte IDH
28 de setembro de 2015, San José, Costa Rica – O Estado brasileiro aparecerá hoje perante a Corte Interamericana de Direitos Humanos para prestar esclarecimentos sobre o alto número de violações de direitos humanos dentro do Complexo Prisional Aníbal Bruno (renomeado Complexo do Curado), que vem se agravando desde que a Corte determinou a imposição de medidas provisórias em maio de 2014. A coalizão de entidades de direitos humanos que levaram o caso à OEA demanda uma investigação penal federal sobre violência e corrupção no local, tendo preparado novas evidências – incluindo fotografias, vídeos e uma lista com mais de 500 vítimas de morte e/ou violência. Ontem, as falhas do Estado no Complexo geraram mais vítimas durante um tumulto, com Ricardo Alves, residente próximo ao presídio, morrendo de “bala perdida” e dois presos sendo baleados.
O Aníbal Bruno é um retrato emblemático das muitas aflições que assolam os sistemas prisionais latino-americanos. O notório presídio é representativo de uma convergência de fatores que frequentemente caminham juntos, como violência, tortura, acesso à saúde deficiente, superencarceramento e denúncias de corrupção, todos registrados em um mesmo local. Desde os estágios iniciais do caso, a coalizão de organizações que monitoram o presídio tem constantemente sustentado que o Estado falhou ao não abordar de maneira apropriada e efetiva tais problemas, trazendo à luz extensiva documentação dos abusos cometidos.
Durante a audiência, que será transmitida ao vivo no site da Corte às 14hs, horário de Brasília, a coalizão irá disponibilizar fotos, vídeos e outras provas apresentadas no website arquivoanibal.weebly.com.
A Comissão Interamericana de Direitos Humanos começou a monitorar o Complexo Aníbal Bruno em 2011. Duante quatro anos, a coalizão catalogou violações à dignidade humana dos presos, funcionários e visitantes do Complexo. Um preso, por exemplo, relatou em fevereiro de 2015 que, em função da superlotação, dormia amarrado às barras que revestem a cela, por meio de uma rede improvisada. O encarceramento de mais de 7 mil indivíduos em um espaço com capacidade para menos de 1,9 mil pessoas é reflexo não somente da situação calamitosa do sistema prisional pernambucano, que possui uma das piores taxas de encarceramento no Brasil, mas também de uma realidade prisional nacional que historicamente encarcera violando direitos.
A coalização de organizações de direitos humanos responsáveis pelo caso compreende a Pastoral Carcerária, o Serviço Ecumênico de Militância nas Prisões – SEMPRI, a Justiça Global e a Clínica Internacional de Direitos Humanos da Faculdade de Direito de Harvard.
September 22, 2015
Inter-American Court of Human Rights Summons Brazil to Answer for Wave of Violence and Deaths at Aníbal Bruno Prison (Curado Complex)
Brazilian state will be “in the dock” before the Organization of American States (OAS) body at the end of September
September 22, 2015 – After three major riots and at least sixteen deaths (including one police officer killed and one prisoner quartered) within the last year, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has taken the rare step of summoning the Brazilian state to a public hearing at the end of the month to answer for recurring violations at the Aníbal Bruno Prison Complex (renamed Curado Complex), one of the largest prisons in Latin America.
The Court has ordered the Brazilian state to protect the life and integrity of prisoners, staff, and visitors of the notorious prison since May 2014, when it analyzed hundreds of complaints of abuse presented by a coalition of human rights organizations. At the hearing—set to take place on September 28 and be broadcast live from Costa Rica at 1:00 p.m. EST on the Court website (http://www.corteidh.or.cr) the coalition will present new evidence demonstrating the continuation of grave abuses at the Complex, including decapitations, gang rapes, beatings, and knife attacks.
Aníbal Bruno Prison has been under international scrutiny since August 2011, when the facility started being monitored by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Since then, the coalition has documented chronic abuses, such as the presence of the so-called chaveiros: prisoners who effectively carry out official functions in the cellblocks, and are granted the authority to maintain order and discipline in the facility, often through the use of violence. A window onto the crisis of the Brazilian prison system, Aníbal Bruno incarcerates more than 7000 men in space designated for fewer than 1900, with an insufficient number of officers to adequately ensure security. The State has also been negligent regarding the conditions of human security pertaining to state agents.
The coalition of human rights groups responsible for the case is comprised of the Catholic Prison Ministry (Pastoral Carcerária), Ecumenical Service of Advocacy in Prisons (Serviço Ecumênico de Militância nas Prisões – SEMPRI), Global Justice (Justiça Global), and the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School.
In February of this year, the coalition released the filings from the international case online in order to bring attention to the situation of the Aníbal Bruno Prison Complexo. For more information, please visit: http://arquivoanibal.weebly.com.
Corte Interamericana de Direitos Humanos Exige Explicações ao Brasil sobre Onda de Violência e Mortes no Presídio Aníbal Bruno (Complexo do Curado)
Estado Brasileiro estará “no banco do réus” no final de setembro perante órgão da Organização dos Estados Americanos (OEA)
22 de Setembro de 2015 – Após três rebeliões e ao menos 16 (dezesseis) óbitos (incluindo um policial morto e um preso esquartejado) no último ano, a Corte Interamericana de Direitos Humanos tem tomado a rara iniciativa de convocar o Estado brasileiro a uma audiência pública no final do mês para responder sobre as violações reiteradas no Complexo Prisional Aníbal Bruno (renomeado Complexo do Curado), um dos maiores presídios da América Latina. Continue Reading…
June 19, 2015
Civilian Harm from Explosive Weapons
Agreement Needed to Curb Use in Towns, Cities
(Geneva, June 19, 2015) – Extensive civilian casualties caused by the use of explosive weapons in towns and cities around the globe show the urgent need for countries to agree to curb the use of these weapons in populated areas, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
Air-dropped bombs, artillery projectiles, mortars, rockets, and other explosive weapons kill or injure tens of thousands of civilians every year. In the first half of 2015, Human Rights Watch documented incidents involving the use of explosive weapons that claimed civilian lives and destroyed vital infrastructure in populated areas of Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Ukraine, Yemen, and elsewhere.
The 35-page report, “Making a Commitment: Paths to Curbing the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas,” published jointly with Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, says that countries should develop and implement a new non-binding agreement to reduce the harm from explosive weapons and offers options for developing such an agreement.
“The high levels of civilian death and destruction from explosive weapons are avoidable,” said Bonnie Docherty, senior arms researcher at Human Rights Watch and co-author of the report. “Nations should agree to curtail the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and stop using those with wide-area effects entirely.”
Explosive weapons that produce wide-area effects are particularly dangerous. They encompass weapons that produce a large blast and/or spread fragments over a wide radius, such as aircraft bombs; weapons that deliver multiple munitions that saturate a large area, such as Grad rockets and others from multi-barrel rocket launchers; and weapons that are so inaccurate that they cannot be effectively targeted, such as barrel bombs.
Momentum for international action is growing as recognition of the harm caused by explosive weapons in populated areas increases. In September, Austria will host a meeting to consider how to improve protection of civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
The new report seeks to inform these discussions by providing options for a non-binding instrument – a political commitment – in which countries would agree to restrict the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. The report examines about 30 relevant commitments that could serve as models for the shape of an explosive weapons commitment and the process to achieve it.
A new political commitment could take a variety of forms including a declaration, compilation of regulations, set of guidelines, manual, or combination of these types. The process of developing a commitment could be led by countries, emerge from the United Nations system, or be a mix of those two options.
Developers of the commitment would also have to decide on a mechanism for countries to endorse the final document.
Whatever process is followed, nongovernmental organizations should be actively involved because they would bring extensive expertise as well as humanitarian concerns to the process, Human Rights Watch and the Harvard clinic said.
Over the past few years, the UN secretary-general, several UN agencies – notably the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) – and the International Committee of the Red Cross have all acknowledged the need to address the civilian harm caused by the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas.
Many countries have echoed their concerns, and the September meeting in Austria follows a 2014 meeting about the subject in Norway. The Austria meeting provides an opportunity for countries to take the next step to initiating a process to develop a new commitment on explosive weapons.
“Extensive precedent shows that the timely development of an explosive weapons commitment is feasible,” said Docherty, who is also a lecturer on law at the Harvard clinic. “Countries need only recognize the urgency of the problem and bring political will to deal with it.”
This report was written by Docherty and Anna Crowe, clinical advocacy fellow, with significant research and writing contributions from Ben Bastomski, JD ’15, Kate Boulton, JD, ’15, and Ishita Kala, JD ’16.
For more information on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, please visit:
For more information, please contact:
In Boston, Bonnie Docherty (English): +1-617-669-1636 (mobile); or firstname.lastname@example.org
April 30, 2015
New Publication Examines Different Approaches to Assisting Victims of Armed Conflict and Armed Violence”
“New Publication Examines Different Approaches to Assisting Victims of Armed Conflict and Armed Violence”
Seeks to promote collaboration among leaders in field
(Cambridge, MA, April 30, 2015)- Mitigating the human costs of armed conflict and armed violence has become a moral and legal imperative over the past two decades. Within the international community, several strategies for helping civilian victims have emerged. A publication, released this week by Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program and Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), seeks to advance understanding and promote collaboration among leaders in the field.
The 28-page report, Acknowledge, Amend, Assist: Addressing Civilian Harm Caused by Armed Conflict and Armed Violence, examines a range of current approaches: casualty recording, civilian harm tracking, making amends, transitional justice, and victim assistance. In so doing, the report illuminates their commonalities and differences and analyzes the difficulties they face individually and collectively.
“These programs all provide valuable assistance to civilian victims, but they have yet to be viewed holistically,” said Bonnie Docherty, editor of the volume and lecturer on law in the Human Rights Program. “A comparative look at the approaches could help reduce overlapping efforts and identify gaps that should be closed.”
Acknowledge, Amend, Assist takes its name and much of its substance from a two-day global summit held at Harvard Law School in October 2013. The event brought experts from government, civil society, and academia together to explore the challenges of meeting victims’ needs and to learn about where their work might coincide and/or conflict. This publication seeks to build upon the momentum generated by the summit and present the issues that it raised to a wider audience.
As the essays demonstrate, the five approaches to addressing civilian harm share not only an ultimate goal but also many overarching principles. In general, they define “victim” broadly, envision a wide range of support, encourage victim participation in the process, and aim to address articulated needs. They recognize that even if one party bears primary responsibility for providing assistance, there may be multiple players involved.
At the same time, the approaches differ in focus and practice. Some concentrate on lawful harm, others on unlawful harm. They also call for various forms of recognition and aid. Distinctions among the approaches that have led to debate include who should bear responsibility for providing assistance and how law can most effectively contribute to the process.
“We hope members of the assistance community will draw lessons from each other’s strategies and consider how to increase collaboration,” Docherty said. “In the long run, more informed, complementary, and coordinated approaches would improve the lot of victims of armed conflict and armed violence.”
For more information, contact Bonnie Docherty at email@example.com.
April 9, 2015
The “Killer Robots” Accountability Gap
Obstacles to Legal Responsibility Show Need for Ban
(Geneva, April 9, 2015) – Programmers, manufacturers, and military personnel could all escape liability for unlawful deaths and injuries caused by fully autonomous weapons, or “killer robots,” Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The report was issued in advance of a multilateral meeting on the weapons at the United Nations in Geneva.
The 38-page report, “Mind the Gap: The Lack of Accountability for Killer Robots,” details significant hurdles to assigning personal accountability for the actions of fully autonomous weapons under both criminal and civil law. It also elaborates on the consequences of failing to assign legal responsibility. The report is jointly published by Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic.
“No accountability means no deterrence of future crimes, no retribution for victims, no social condemnation of the responsible party,” said Bonnie Docherty, senior Arms Division researcher at Human Rights Watch and the report’s lead author. “The many obstacles to justice for potential victims show why we urgently need to ban fully autonomous weapons.” Continue Reading…
December 10, 2014
On Human Rights Day, Urgent Need to Promote Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe’s 2013 Constitution Presents Opportunities and Challenges
10 December 2014, Harare, Zimbabwe—Zimbabwe’s Constitution offers new opportunities to promote the economic, social, and cultural rights (ESCR) of all Zimbabweans, said Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic (the Clinic) today.
ESCR are a fundamental component of international human rights law, and essential to the economic and political development of a nation. As a briefing paper released today by ZLHR and the Clinic explains, inclusion of some such rights—the rights to work, food, housing, the highest attainable standard of health, education, and culture—in the 2013 Constitution represents a major milestone in Zimbabwe’s history, and offers a source of hope for the country’s population.
“Economic, social, and cultural rights are indispensable to our families, our communities, and our political system,” said Irene Petras, Executive Director of ZLHR. “For the first time, the 2013 Constitution provides us with a legal framework to fight for the realisation of rights, thereby promoting the wellbeing of all Zimbabweans.”
November 11, 2014
Ukraine, Syria: Incendiary Weapons Threaten Civilians
Stronger International Law Needed for Weapons That Burn
(Geneva, November 11, 2014) – Evidence of the use of incendiary weapons in Ukraine and Syria highlights the need for stricter law to govern these weapons, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today with Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic.
The 16-page report, “Incendiary Weapons: Recent Use and Growing Opposition,” details incendiary weapon attacks in Ukraine and Syria and illustrates the increasing stigma against the weapons. Incendiary weapons can cause excruciatingly painful thermal and respiratory burns. Victims who survive often suffer long-term physical and psychological damage due to extensive scarring and disfigurement.
“Weapons that cause terrible burns and disfigure survivors have been used against towns in both Syria and Ukraine,” said Bonnie Docherty, senior Arms researcher at Human Rights Watch and lead author of the report. “The recent attacks with incendiary weapons show it’s past time for nations to reassess and strengthen international law on these cruel weapons,” said Docherty, who is also a lecturer in the Harvard clinic.
The report is being distributed at the annual meeting of countries that are party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), which is being held at the United Nations in Geneva from November 10-14, 2014. Protocol III of the treaty bans certain use of incendiary weapons, but its loopholes and inconsistencies have not been addressed since the law was created more than 30 years ago.
Human Rights Watch researchers will present the report’s findings at a CCW side event at 2 p.m. on November 12 in Room XXIV at the UN Palais des Nations in Geneva.
Human Rights Watch documented attacks with incendiary Grad rockets on two towns in Ukraine, although the organization was unable to confirm the party responsible. In Syria in 2014, government forces have continued their use of incendiary weapons and have also dropped indiscriminate barrel bombs containing incendiary components.
All countries and especially CCW states parties should condemn such use of incendiary weapons and express support for revisiting and amending the protocol, Human Rights Watch and the Harvard clinic said. Continue Reading…
November 7, 2014
Senior Myanmar Officials Implicated in War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity
Myanmar must decide how to address legacy of abuses by military
November 6, 2014, Yangon, Myanmar—A four-year investigation by the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School has found that the Myanmar military committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2005-2006, and that perpetrators, including the current Home Affairs Minister, continue to serve at the highest levels of the country’s government.
Today, the Clinic released a legal memorandum, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity in Eastern Myanmar, which examines the conduct of the Myanmar military during an offensive that cleared and forcibly relocated civilian populations from conflict zones in eastern Myanmar. Through more than 150 interviews with eyewitnesses, the Clinic documented how soldiers fired mortars at villages; opened fire on fleeing villagers; destroyed homes, crops, and food stores; laid landmines in civilian locations; forced civilians to work and porter; and captured and executed civilians.
“These are serious allegations that demand a determined, good faith response by the Myanmar government and military,” said Tyler Giannini, Co-Director of the Clinic. “The abuses perpetrated by the military have been too widespread, too persistent, and too grave to be ignored.”
The memorandum specifically implicates three commanders in international crimes as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court: Major General Ko Ko, the current Home Affairs Minister; Brigadier General Khin Zaw Oo, the current commander of the Bureau of Special Operations 4; and General Maung Maung Aye, most recently the Naypyidaw Regional Commander. All three received promotions after the offensive.
As part of its investigation, the Clinic compiled more than 1,000 pages of draft affidavits from interviews with individuals in Myanmar and along the Thailand-Myanmar border, including villagers, village leaders, and former Myanmar Army soldiers. Additionally, the Clinic collected photographic evidence and solicited expert declarations from four individuals with knowledge relevant to the offensive and the Myanmar military’s structure and policies.
“In interview after interview, villagers described a pattern of military abuse—stories that have been notably absent from the national conversation about reform,” said Matthew Bugher, Global Justice Fellow at Harvard Law School and a principal researcher on the Clinic’s memorandum. “It is critical that these voices are heard, especially since a similar pattern appears to be playing out today in Kachin State and northern Shan State.”
The Clinic’s evidence is sufficient to satisfy the standard required for the issuance of an arrest warrant against these commanders by the International Criminal Court. Under international criminal law, these commanders could be held accountable for their own actions as well as for crimes committed by soldiers under their effective command and control. Although the Clinic’s memorandum uses the framework of the Rome Statute, international justice is not the only means of addressing past abuses.
“Myanmar faces profound and difficult decisions as it transitions away from military rule and towards meaningful reform,” said Susan Farbstein, Co-Director of the Clinic. “Ultimately, it is the people of Myanmar who must decide how to address the legacy of military abuse.”
The International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School has been working on human rights in Myanmar since 2004 and has examined international crimes in the country since 2008. Among its publications, the Clinic released Crimes in Burma in May 2009 and Policy Memorandum: Preventing Indiscriminate Attacks and Wilful Killings of Civilians by the Myanmar Military in March 2014.
For more information:
Matthew Bugher, Global Justice Fellow at Harvard Law School, in Yangon:
firstname.lastname@example.org or +95 094 0159 6412
Tyler Giannini, Co-Director, International Human Rights Clinic, Harvard Law School, in the United States:
email@example.com or 617-496-7368
Cara Solomon, Communications Manager, Human Rights Program, Harvard Law School, in the United States:
firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-495-9214
November 3, 2014
Posted by Mindy Roseman
In a long-awaited decision today, Namibia’s Supreme Court found that the government forcibly sterilized women living with HIV/AIDS. The ruling upholds the 2012 High Court’s decision in Government of the Republic of Namibia v LM and Others.
Below, we’ve re-posted a press release from the Namibian Women’s Health Network (one of the International Human Rights Clinic’s partners) and the South Africa Litigation Centre, one of the legal partners on the case. While there may be much to cheer about in the decision, the Supreme Court’s affirmation that no evidence of discriminatory animus on the basis of HIV status still disappoints.
In 2010, the Clinic teamed up with the Namibian Women’s Health Network and Northeastern University School of Law to document the full range of discriminatory treatment that women living with HIV/AIDS face in seeking and receiving health care. Forcible sterilization was one of the many human rights violations HIV positive women suffered. Our report, “At the Hospital There Are No Human Rights,” was issued in July 2012.
Namibia’s Highest Court Finds Government Forcibly Sterilised HIV-Positive Women
(Windhoek, Namibia, Nov. 3, 2014) – Today the Namibian Supreme Court affirmed that HIV-positive women have been forcibly sterilised in public hospitals in Namibia.
“This decision by the country’s highest court is a victory for all HIV-positive women as it makes clear that public hospitals in Namibia have been coercively sterilising HIV-positive women without their consent,” stated Jennifer Gatsi Mallet, Director of Namibian Women’s Health Network (NWHN). “However, these three women are only the tip of the iceberg. We have documented dozens of cases of other HIV-positive women who have been forcibly sterilised. The government needs to take active steps to ensure all women subjected to this unlawful practice get redress,” added Gatsi Mallet.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Government of the Republic of Namibia v LM and Others affirmed the High Court’s July 2012 order finding that the government had subjected women to coercive sterilisation. The case was brought by three HIV-positive women who were subjected to sterilisation without their informed consent in public hospitals. The High Court found in favour of the women and held that the practice of coerced sterilisation violated the women’s legal rights.
“This decision has far-reaching consequences not only for HIV-positive women in Namibia but for the dozens of HIV-positive women throughout Africa who have been forcibly sterilised,” said Priti Patel, Deputy Director of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre. “This decision sends a clear message that governments throughout Africa must take concrete actions to end this practice,” said Patel.
NWHN first began documenting cases of forced sterilisation in 2007. Since then, dozens of HIV-positive women in Namibia and in other countries in Africa have come forward describing similar experiences at public hospitals. Despite numerous requests to the Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services in Namibia, very little action has been taken to address this practice.
The three women at the centre of the case were represented by lawyers from the Legal Assistance Centre and supported by the Namibian Women’s Health Network and the Southern Africa Litigation Centre.
For more information:
Jennifer Gatsi-Mallet, Director, NWHN: +264 (81) 129 6940 (m); email@example.com
Veronica Kalambi, NWHN: +264 (81) 787 8326 (m); firstname.lastname@example.org
Priti Patel, Deputy Director, SALC: +27 (0) 76 808 0505 (m); email@example.com
Nyasha Chingore-Munazvo, Project Lawyer, SALC: +27 10 596 8538 (o); +27 72 563 5855 (m); firstname.lastname@example.org