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If no one ever knows ... nothing will ever change, so …

Step one is Documenting your Human/Civil Rights Case

Coming to terms with the work ahead.

If you have been abused and possibly injured physically and/or psychologically by abusive agencies of State power then in many ways you may be encountering similar problems to those of a rape victim or a sexually abused child. Attempting to get recognition/redress about what has happened to you, seeking to prevent the same fate befalling others, and seeking to get your life back on an even keel is going to be a challenge. To survive try to treat the whole very unpleasant matter as a learning process that may even in time have a few positive features in unexpected ways even though you currently will be suffering grave loss.

Somehow you must gather up the strength to be very methodical about how you proceed (perhaps with very limited help indeed from others) and you also need to make good use of your time. It is very difficult to be methodical when you are injured and under stress. One way to tackle such situations is to establish habits. First make specific times to pursue the matter. Allocate at least one evening a week as your review and planning time to put into good order and document whatever took place that week - and make this a habit. Just a few minutes a week may be all that is needed in some cases. But don't skip this review activity, as the longer you leave matters the harder it will be to remember and address the issues and get the work needed done.

The paperwork task (The 'bedrock' essential for running your case)

  • If you face a backlog of work, putting in good order a mass of documents, then you need to allocate an extra specific time each week to catch up. Or even perhaps more time in a block to catch up. But do be careful ! This is difficult work (a lawyer would charge you thousands of dollars to do it !) and trying to do it all in a rush may just leave you despairing and not much further forward. Perhaps make any catch up work separate from the weekly review work and do a bit of both each week at separate times..
  • Keep EVERYTHING that is related to the events. (i.e. notes you made, receipts, bus tickets from trips you had to make etc. etc.) and all related documents. As letters, bills, and other items come to hand store them temporarily in a cardboard folder or box.
  • Keep a day by day diary of all that happens. Use a small cheap pocket note book for this - one that you can carry around with you. Date the pages as you make notes so you know when things happened. Make notes on any visits you made, phone calls you get, and any phone calls you make about this matter. Particularly make sure you record all names , phone numbers and the sort of information that you just will not be able to remember otherwise.)
  • At regular intervals (at least once a week) review what has happened and bring up to date your master chronology record. To do this you have to file any new documents *, add to an index list ** , and add to a narrative chronology *** . If you have a home computer then this will be of massive assistance as you can maintain the index and chronology as computer files. If you don't have a computer then seriously consider getting a friend to type up the chronology from time to time.


* File all new documents and items in date order from the cardboard folder or box into an A4 arch file ring binder and use A4 plastic sheet protector plastic pockets to hold each document, or goup of related documents. Mark in pencil on the back of each original document an index number and also the word ORIGINAL. If the document is multi-page then staple the pages together so they do not get displaced. When you can get photo copies of the most critical documents and store the copies in another arch file binder which is arranged similarly to your master ring binder.

** Update your master index that lists all items in the ring binder. (each line of this index will have a document index number, the date of the document, who it is from, a few words to describe it, and the number of copies held (use a pencil to record this number as it will change from time to time as you send out copies and get new copies made.)

*** Update the full narrative chronology to cover events over the past week. This chronology is a most important document as it is the primary way that you will be able to explain to others what has happened.

Why is a chronology vital ? ... and how to construct one

 At various times you will have to explain (sometimes by letter) what happened. If you are disorganised and ramble on for a long time you will not only fail to keep an audience but also do your cause much damage. (But this is exactly what a majority of injured persons actually seem to do because they are in a mental turmoil as a result of the injury effects and the sense of injustice and betrayal felt.)

Remember 'The State' controls medical professionals who know all about this effect and some will exploit the effect to try to destroy you and your case. A very standard response by State agencies to serious complaints is to try to carry out a character assassination on you, painting you as mistaken, neurotic, and even mentally ill.

Any failure on your part, when in contact with officials, to clearly and concisely explain what actually took place, without getting too emotional, will be taken by other people not familiar with your case as proof that you are crazy and what State controlled medical professionals may be saying about you must be correct. It is very easy for a medical professional to destroy your reputation so be very careful. Some don't even know when they start doing this kind of thing for the State as it merges with the normal habitual control tricks some of them use on their patients.

 A regularly updated and checked summary chronology (derived from the full narrative chronology) is a good way for you to combat attempts to discredit you. It is best used as a neat typed up document. It should not be very long, probably only 4 pages long as a maximum. This summary chronology consists of a list of most important events (in strict date order) and a short note on each. The short notes may also reference other documents, notes, the full chronology etc.

Some Other Strategies: What to do - What not to do

Until you start putting communications in writing you will be unable to prove anything. However as soon as you make even a verbal complaint the system may start working against you. As a civil/human rights victim you can expect to be treated as a whistleblower. There are some things that you should do as soon as possible.

Get documents as soon as possible

Get all the documentation you can as quietly as possible. (According to what other victims say official records have a habit of being lost or mysteriously changing after a complaint really gets started.) In some cases you may not even have to give any reason for seeking records. Try to make such requests as low key as possible. Just say that you are trying to understand more what has happened. In fact you are doing this and probably will be much more able to see just where you stand when you have all the details you can get.

In order to get access to some records you will probably have to talk to various officials. Be very careful when you have verbal discussion with such people. The onus of proof as to what was said or resolved will be on you, and as an ordinary member of the public your word is worth very little compared with that of a "qualified professional person" of "high state official". In some cases a good way to document a meeting with an official is to immediately (within a day or so) send a letter to the offical asking for confimation of a point, and also putting in the letter a lot more that would let a third person know what took place. If possible Also send a copy of this letter to someone you can trust and who would then be able to act as a witness as to what you felt had taken place at the time.

In some cases it may be best, if at all possible, to make sure someone else is present at any meetings with officials so this person can later act as a witness for you as to what took place. Always make notes as what was said. If this is not possible at the meeting then make notes very soon after. In some cases if you do not formally contact the agencies involved you risk damaging your case, as you will not later be able to show that you gave the agency any chance to comment on and perhaps resolve the matter.

If your mental condition is being questioned

If the State is trying to use the mental illness weapon against you this can be a very difficult problem. In many cases it is important to get an independent medical audit of the specific and relevant aspects of your medical condition. But this is often all but impossible. Second opinions as written medical reports when they could be used in dispute with another doctor are very difficult to get. Other doctors will usually run a mile if they are openly asked to give a report that may be used to attack a fellow doctor or that is to be used as evidence in a human rights abuse case. Another path that could be applicable in some cases is to establish some other medical records about your health and condition, independent of the State controlled medical records, that you could thus use later on to support your case.

Letters to officialdom

There is no point in making a letter of inquiry longer than it has to be, it is a strain for you to write, and they may well just fail to make reply. Such letters are best done as basically just a list of questions. You should remember that this letter ( and any other letters) could be available later on in court for all to see if civil or other litigation is at some point embarked on. It is thus in your interest to be fully accurate, clear, and not to use any insulting language in it, even though your emotions are probably boiling over at the injustice of your situation.

 If you fail to get a reply after 2 weeks or so send another copy. Do not expect a long letter in reply. In many cases you can expect the reply to be very limited, that is 2 to 4 general sentences. Such a reply is not a reply in the true logical sense, rather it is an indication that the officials either have no duty to reply or have switched to "self protection mode". In a few cases if this happens then it could mean that you may be viewed, even at this early point, as a very real threat by officialdom. Further letters are unlikely to get further information or lead to any resolution. In civil cases you then have to consider if you are willing to spend money on expert legal advice and take the matter further.

From past experiences of victims it is not unreasonable to assume, that any reply to your letter will come from a seemingly only partly human bureaucrat not directly involved (and thus unaccountable) , and whose easiest course of action is to ignore the substance of questions, and use bureaucratic language to sidestep aspects that are most important. He or she will also avoid making direct reply to aspects which show the actions of authorities in a bad light and avoid any hint that mistakes have occurred or that even any apology is in any way appropriate or due to you. In short a totally legal and at the same time totally insulting letter. The following points may assist you in avoiding some of the traps and help you to get a more useful reply.

Practical Aspects of Preparing Inquiry(complaints) letters

  1. Think carefully of the exact reason that you are writing the letter(i.e. normally this is to get very specific information back in reply), and make sure that the contents focus fully on and conform to this aim.
  2. Consider the form of reply you expect to get and how to foil attempts to ignore your requests for information and action. (What are the best questions to ask ? and how are they best put ?)
  3. Ask for a reply (and enclose an S.A.E. if possible.)
  4. Be specific , be clear, be concise.
  5. Don't sidetrack. If detail must be added do this by numbering references to attached sheets, don't extend in length the primary letter of complaint. List at the bottom of the primary letter all such items enclosed say that they are stapled to the letter( and staple them there!). (This avoids the excuse of such items becoming easily "lost" by the chain of "unaccountable persons" who may handle the correspondence.)
  6. Ask specific questions NOT general ones, and number all questions.
  7. Avoid emotional language. Avoid all forms of repetition.
  8. Structure the letter. (e.g. introduction(why you are writing), list of questions, list of enclosures)
  9. Limit the letter to one page if at all possible. Use large sized paper (e.g. A4 ) not small note paper.
  10. If at all possible get the letter typed or better still use a word processor and good quality printer and index all correspondence on a database. This will save you a lot of time if the matter drags on and many letters are involved. Keep copies of all letters that you send in a file (see above on filing document). This will save you hours of work in searching for items later.)
  11. Keep at least 2 photo copies (or printouts if computer generated) of all items sent. Mark one copy on the back "Original". If the case gets very complex consider keeping all such originals in a separate ring binder.
  12. Check and double check before posting that all items listed as enclosed are in fact enclosed and stapled to the letter.
  13. If after 14 days you don't get a reply write again. A short letter asking why there has been no reply is sufficient. (keep 2 copies.) Enclose a copy of the original letter and of any enclosures that were sent with the letter the first time. Send all this using registered mail. This forces someone to sign for receipt of your letter.
  14. Be prepared to find the reply you get quite unacceptable in terms of your aims. If this is the case you could in some cases try just once more, questioning any errors in the reply you got. (It's probably best to again use registered mail for this) Remember do not be repetitious, rather use the opportunity to introduce additional questions, ask for clarification of aspects of the reply. Say clearly and forcefully, but politely, if you cannot agree with statements they have made about the case because their statements are not in accordance with the truth. (keep 2 copies as before)
  15. If after another 14 days your inquiries have been ignored you will now have the proof (i.e. copies, registered letter receipts) of this fact. If clear points exist at which they have in effect called you a liar and disagree on verifiable historical points you may be in a very good position to defend your position.

Taking Things Further

Getting far with a serious human rights or civil rights complaint today often needs lots of money and lots of luck. A common scam used is to try to define all abuse as just 'accidents'. Governments spend millions on covering up abuse and trying to manipulate the mass media. The courts cannot be trusted - they tend to only prove who is the more wealthy party. This makes it even more vital that you document your case. If lots of cases can be documented so that an overall picture becomes clear paths may open to real action and change.

 OVOP intends to explore what happens with United Nations Human Rights Committee reviews. Of particular interest are cases that reached the UN but failed to get a review.

 OVOP intends to make available to victims a more comprehensive kit to aid the effective submission of human/civil cases to international committees and to the mass media. If you feel that you can contribute to such work please contact us.

ONE VOICE - ONE PEOPLE is an independent, non-party-political, non-profit organisation committed to defend human rights and fundamental freedoms and to contribute to the promotion and advancement of democratic societies, institutions and processes

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(C) One Voice One People. Last updated: March 2000