A human rights hero was rightly honored last week.
Dick Marty earned a reputation in the 1980s as a dogged prosecutor of organized crime in the Swiss canton of Ticino. He later joined the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly where he produced a series of hard-hitting reports, exposing human rights abuses by powerful forces.
On December 1, the Council of Europe honored these achievements by granting him its Pro Merito Award.
Marty’s 2006 Council of Europe report documented the network of secret CIA prisons in Europe that the United States government established to unlawfully detain scores of foreign Muslim men after the 9/11 attacks. He followed it in 2007 by detailing the torture and unlawful transfers of these detainees. The reports helped lead to five rulings in support of torture victims by the European Court of Human Rights among a host of other steps.
Two years later, he documented serious violations in Russia’s North Caucasus region, including by forces under de facto control of Chechnya’s current governor Ramzan Kadyrov. He later testified at the Vienna murder trial of three men accused of killing a Kadyrov opponent.
In 2010, Marty produced a report on serious abuses committed by some members of the Kosovo Liberation Army during and after the 1998 to 1999 Kosovo war, targeting Serbs, Roma, and ethnic Albanians considered collaborators. This spurred the European Union to create a Special Investigative Task Force, led by a former US war crimes ambassador, which found sufficient evidence to merit indictments against certain individuals for a campaign of persecution and abuse. The EU subsequently created the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, based in The Hague, which is today trying former KLA leader and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and three other former KLA officials.
The common theme in Dick Marty’s reports is a pursuit of the facts without regard for the politics. He condemned grave abuses, no matter the culprit or how unpopular the claim. For this, he has been slandered by pundits, politicians and a prime minister campaigning to suppress his work. More seriously, he has received death threats and became the subject of an assassination plot.
For his courage and commitment, Dick Marty deserves the recognition and praise.