Further torture cases submitted to Danish courts as bureaucratic delays continue28-09-2012
The total number of cases in which Danish troops are accused of collusion in torture in Iraq today rose to 11 with the filing of two further cases at the Østre Landsret (Eastern High Court) in Copenhagen, however delays for hearings for the previous cases continue.
All eleven cases concern Iraqi citizens – detained and released without charge in late 2004 – who allege torture following their transfer by Danish troops to Iraqi forces following random arrest. The preliminary findings indicate that all had been subjected to ill-treatment amounting to torture.
As in the previous cases, allegations of torture were substantiated by medical and psychological examinations by the Independent Forensic Experts Group coordinated by the Copenhagen-based International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims.
While some lesions stemming from torture and ill-treatment heal over time, consequences of torture may still be detectable after many years through expert examinations conducted by experts in accordance with the United Nations’ Istanbul Protocol – also known as the Manual on Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Jørgen Lange Thomsen, Professor of Forensic Medicine at The University of Southern Denmark who took part in the examinations said: “My examinations of the eleven Iraqis left me in no doubt that they had been physically and mentally tortured. The methods included different forms of suspension - such as ‘Palestinian Hanging’ and the ‘Parrots Perch’, electric shocks, beating with cables and falanga (beating of the soles of the feet). The victims still suffer mentally, making their lives difficult.”
The Iraqis are being represented in the Danish courts by lawyer Christian Harlang who has called for swift legal proceedings owing to the severity of the allegations and is troubled by delays his clients are facing in attempting to get justice in Denmark. It has now been a year since Harlang filed the first torture case with the Danish courts, yet arguments over whether or not the cases are too old to be heard and whether or not the Iraqis must pay over €5,000 each for their cases to be heard are delaying procedures.
Miriam Reventlow, Head of Advocacy and Legal at the IRCT agrees that the delays are of particular concern given the gravity of the allegations of torture and ill treatment. “According to international law, such as the UN Convention against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights, a legal investigation has to be carried out effectively, which means that all allegations of torture must be fully, promptly, impartially and thoroughly investigated. Not only is Denmark a signatory to these international treaties, but is often referred to as an example by others of holding up anti-torture standards. We therefore wish to see the Denmark live up to these standards and provide effective remedy without delay to the 11 Iraqi victims.”
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Notes to editors
The clinical experts who carried out the examinations on the tortured Iraqis were:
- Mona Hamed a psychiatrist based with El Nadeem Centre in Egypt
- Sana Hamzeh a clinical psychologist based with Restart Center in Lebanon
- Jørgen Lange Thomsen, Professor of Forensic Medicine at The University of Southern Denmark and member of the IRCT / University of Copenhagen International Forensic Experts Group
About the IRCT
The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims is an independent non-profit global organisation with a membership of 150 rehabilitation centres in 74 countries. It’s International Secretariat is based in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The work of the IRCT is threefold:
- Rehabilitation of torture victims and their families
- Ensuring victims' access to justice
- Eradication of torture
About the International Forensic Expert Group
The International Forensic Expert Group on Torture was established in 2009 by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) in partnership with Copenhagen University Department of Forensic Medicine. It consists of prominent international forensic experts with extensive experience in the evaluation and documentation of torture and ill treatment. These independent experts participate in investigations of alleged torture and ill treatment and provide impartial forensic reports and legal testimony on their findings. They also provide consultative and technical advice on medical legal issues related to torture and ill treatment.