Financial Accountability for Torture and other Human Rights Abuses

Europe Pacific, North Africa, East Africa, West-Africa, Horn of Africa, Middle East,
United Kingdom Netherlands, United States of America, Philippines, Chad, Peru, Haiti, Kenya, Senegal, Myanmar, Australia, Libya,

Perpetrators of torture and other serious human rights abuses often profit financially from the abuses they carry out, whether directly (for example, through the proceeds of forced labour) or indirectly (for example, as part of a broader scheme of grand corruption). Yet, rarely are perpetrators forced to surrenders these tainted proceeds and assets. 

Meanwhile, and despite considerable progress in promoting accountability through criminal, human rights and other judicial mechanisms, survivors of these abuses rarely receive reparations for the harm they suffered.  Too often, judgments fail to include adequate reparations or damages to repair the harm caused by abuses. And even where reparations are awarded, compliance and enforcement is patchy and inconsistent. For example, awards totalling approximately $300 million have been issued in favour of victims of torture and other abuses perpetrated by the regime of Hissène Habré in Chad. Yet these victims have so far been paid none of this sum.

We consider that this gap is unsustainable, and serves to promote impunity.

With the support of the Knowledge Platform for Security & Rule of Law, we have been working to change policy and practice. We have developed a 'Framework' document, which identifies a range of models to promote financial accountability, and so challenge the financial impunity that some perpetrators enjoy. In developing the Framework, a key objective has been to identify models which use perpetrators’ assets to fund reparations for their victims. Where this is not feasible, we have identified models that can still provide some measure of financial accountability by depriving perpetrators of assets (or at least their use and enjoyment).

These models we have identified are often drawn from, or informed by, the approach taken in other sectors, particularly the anti-corruption and serious organised crime sectors.  Indeed, the development of the Framework has reinforced the value of inter-disciplinary sharing of knowledge and exchange; we hope that this project will serve as a basis for continuing dialogue and policy development.  

An accompanying Public Policy Briefing is available through this post, which summarises the Framework, and provides recommendations to key stakeholders, including policy makers and practitioners. The full 'Framework' document is available on request.

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