civil society

  • Addressing Civic Space Restrictions in Uganda: What Role for the UPR?

    This policy action brief, prepared by CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, and the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), examines a range of restrictions on civil society’s fundamental rights recently experienced in Uganda. In particular, these have included a series of break-ins on the premises of civil society organisations (CSOs), in which CSO information has been stolen; attacks on the media, which have included physical attacks on journalists and the closure of private radio stations; the introduction of restrictive legislation, including on CSO operations, the media and the freedom of assembly; and increased restriction of peaceful assemblies, including through the use of excessive force to break up protests.

  • Against all odds: Civil society under fire

    By Danny Sriskandarajah

    Civil society is under fire—sometimes literally—in many countries and in all regions of the world. Governments are clamping down on fundamental civic freedoms. This year’s Global Risks Report highlights the threat to civic space, noting “a new era of restricted freedoms and increased governmental control could undermine social, political and economic stability and increase the risk of geopolitical and social conflict.”

    Read more: BRINK

  • Alaa Abdel Fattah

    Alaa Abdel Fattah

    Name: Alaa Abdel Fattah

    Country: Egypt

    Update:

    He was again sentenced to 5 years in prison by a Criminal Court in Cairo during a re-trail of the case on 23 February 2015 for participating in a protest and assaulting a policeman.

    Reason Behind Bars:

    On 11 June 2014 civil society activist and blogger, Alaa Abdel Fattah was sentenced to 15 years in prison and handed a fine of EGP 100000 (approximately US $14000) for participating in a peaceful protest. Alaa was among a group of activists who protested against the use of military courts to try civilians. The protests took place on 26 November 2013 outside the Shuna-Council – Egypt’s Upper House of Parliament. He was charged with “demonstrating without prior notification,” “assaulting security forces,” “stealing a public radio,” and “interrupting the work of national institutions.”  He was sentenced in absentia as he was denied access to the court when the sentencing was done.

    On 28 November 2013, about 20 security agents physically assaulted Alaa and his wife Manal Bahey el Din who is a blogger and activist and confiscated computers and telephones at their home before he was arrested.  He was detained for close to four months and later released on bail. 

    Background information 

    Alaa has been arrested and detained several times in the past for his activism and played an instrumental role in the protests during the Arab Spring that led to the down fall of former President Hosni Mubarak.   He was detained in 2006 for a month and a half for his online activities and was summoned by the Egyptian authorities in October 2011 for taking part in a peaceful demonstration organised by Egypt’s Coptic Christians in October 2011. 27 protesters and a military officer were killed during the demonstrations. 

    On 5 January 2014, the North Giza Criminal Court sentenced Alaa to one year in prison on charges of  arson, damage to property and danger to public safety. The charges were based on allegations that Alaa and another activist attacked the campaign headquarters of former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq on 28 May 2012. The one year sentence was suspended for three years.   

    Alaa was given a summons for his arrest by the Office of the Public Protector and on 28 November he wrote to the Public Protector confirming that that he will respect the summons.  He was however arrested on 28 November 2013, and held in pre-trial detention until he was provisionally released in March 2014 by the South Cairo Criminal Court on bail of EGP 10000 (approximately us $ 1400).  He is a prisoner of conscience and is in jail on fictitious charges for his human rights campaigns.  

    On 18 August 2014, Alaa began a hunger strike following news that his father Ahmed Seif El-Islam, a prominent human rights lawyer, was taken into an extensive care unit after his open heart surgery. According to a statement released by Alaa’s family the hunger strike followed a “decisive moment” when Alaa decided he “will not cooperate with this absurd and unfair situation, even if it costs him his life." Alaa’s family and friends stated that they are holding the Egyptian government accountable for any deterioration in Alaa’s health, since it was the draconian Egyptian government that imprisoned him for the third time since 25 January 2014 based on trumped up charges. 

    For more information 

    Amnesty International: Egypt – heavy jail sentences for peaceful protests

    Egypt: Sentencing to 15 years of prison of Mr. Alaa Abdel Fatah and Mr. Ahmed Abdel Rahman  

    Egypt: 15 year sentences for 25 peaceful protesters

    Egypt: Update- suspended sentences on trumped-up charges for human rights defenders Ms. Mona Seif and Mr. Alaa Abd El Fattah  

    Take Action 

    Write immediately to the Egyptian authorities urging them to release Alaa Abdel Fattah and other activists arrested for exercising their rights of assembly and association.  

    Send Appeals to 

    President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi 

    Office of the President 

    Al Ittihadia, Cairo 

    Arab Republic of Egypt 

    Fax: 0020223911441

     

    Deputy Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Human Rights 

    Mahy Hassan Abdel Latif 

    Multilateral Affairs and International Security Affairs 

    Corniche al-Nil, Cairo 

    Arab Republic of Egypt 

    Fax: 00202 25749713

    Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Write to the Egyptian diplomatic representation in your country.  See a list of Egyptian diplomatic representation abroad here.

  • Burundi civil society sees the International Criminal Court as a last resort for justice

    Human rights defender Cyriaque Nibitegeka speaks to CIVICUS about Burundi’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court and the implications for human rights and victims of human rights abuses. Nibitegeka is one of the leaders of civil society in Burundi. He is also a lawyer and member of the Burundi Bar. He was a professor at the Law Faculty of the University of Burundi before being dismissed for his human rights activities.

  • Civic Space in Europe Survey

    Recent  years  have  witnessed  increased  challenges  to  the  core  democratic  values  upheld  in  many 
    parts  of  the  world,  protest  movements  have  gathered  in  many  countries  to  call  for  greater 
    accountability of governments. 


    At the same time a number of governments have appeared to regard civil society organisations and 
    active  citizens  as  unhelpful  and  have  at  times  suggested  that  the  basic  freedoms  of  association, 
    assembly and expression should be limited  in favour of vaguely defined ‘national interests’; in other 
    cases there have been direct calls for limits to the right to campaign, which would undermine the 
    basic freedoms that lie at the heart of democracy in Europe.


    So  we  set  out  to  understand  a  core  issue:   do  civil  society  organisations  feel  that  their  rights  are 
    being eroded? 


    This survey set out to draw out some initial perceptions of civil society leaders in Europe as part of a 
    wider global process to understand and analyse the changes that are taking place in many countries. 
    It is intended to highlight some key trends but does not aim to provide a fully comprehensive picture 
    of the situation in every country at this stage.

    DOWNLOAD REPORT

  • CIVICUS Monitor Findings Report

    Data from the CIVICUS Monitor shows that 3.2 billion people live in countries where civic space (which is made up by the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly) is repressed or closed.

                                               

    Of the 104 countries for which we have verified ratings, 16 countries are rated closed, 32 repressed, 21 obstructed, 26 narrowed and nine open. Of the closed countries, seven are in Africa, five in the Middle East, three in Asia and one in the Americas. Of the repressed countries, 14 are in Africa, seven in Asia, four each in Europe and the Americas and three in the Middle East.1 Of the obstructed countries, seven are in Asia, five in the Americas, four each in Africa and Europe and one in the Middle East. Of the narrowed countries, ten each are in Europe and the Americas, four in Africa and two in Asia. All nine of the open countries for which we have verified ratings are in Europe. 1 The list of countries included in each of these regional classifications 

    DOWNLOAD REPORT

     

  • Civil Society “Contested and Under Pressure”, says new report

    Read this press release in Arabic, French, Portuguese and Spanish

    Civil society around the globe is “contested and under pressure” according to a 22-country research findings report released by CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, and The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL). The report, Contested and Under Pressure: A Snapshot of the Enabling Environment of Civil Society in 22 Countries, brings together insights from Enabling Environment National Assessments (EENA) conducted around the world between 2013 and 2016.

  • Civil society resourcing: “Revolutions do not occur because of good project proposals”

    By  Ine Van Severen

    It’s undeniable: the space for civil society organisations (CSOs) and philanthropy is shrinking. According to new research by CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks trends in the conditions for civil society in countries around the world, 3.2 billion people live in countries where citizens’ freedoms of association, assembly or expression are restricted.

    Read on: Alliance Magazine 

  • CM Feed Test 1

    Human rights defender Cyriaque Nibitegeka speaks to CIVICUS about Burundi’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court and the implications for human rights and victims of human rights abuses. Nibitegeka is one of the leaders of civil society in Burundi. He is also a lawyer and member of the Burundi Bar. He was a professor at the Law Faculty of the University of Burundi before being dismissed for his human rights activities.

  • CM Feed Test 2

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  • CM Feed Test 5

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  • Fiji’s role in leaving no-one behind in sustainable development

    By Danny Sriskandarajah

    It is now confirmed that Fiji will be chairing the next United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP 23) in Bonn, Germany. This is welcome news as the islands of the Pacific arguably have the most to lose – and the most to gain – when it comes to sustainable development. As a region of the world that is home to some of our most vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities, destined to suffer the worst effects of climate change, the Pacific perhaps best embodies the importance of ‘leaving no-one behind’.  

    Read on: Pacific Islands News Association

     

  • Gambian civil society optimistic as new democratic era dawns

    The Gambia has recently gone through a major democratic transition. CIVICUS interviews Sohna Sallah, the Vice President of the Democratic Union of Gambian Activists about the major political change and implications for human rights in the Gambia.

  • In a time of exclusion, making space for Faith Based Organizations

    By Amjad Mohamed Saleem

    For many people around the world, faith is embedded in cultures, practices and communities. Earlier this month, World Interfaith Harmony week taught us that religious practices and perspectives continue to be sources of values that nourish an ethics of multicultural citizenship commanding both solidarity and equal respect. Historically, spiritual heritage has often provided humanity the capacity for personal and social transformation. 

  • Irom Sharmila

    Irom Sharmila

    Name: Irom Sharmila  

    Location: India

    Reason Behind Bars:

    Irom has been on a hunger strike since 2000 to highlight persistent human rights abuses committed by Indian security forces under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1958 (AFSPA). Under Section 4 (A) of the law, security forces involved in counter-insurgency operations in “disturbed areas” are given the authority to arrest, detain and even use lethal force against persons suspected of being a threat to “public order.”  Of critical concern is section 6(A) of the law which prohibits courts from holding security officials accountable for their human rights abuses without prior government approval. The law is regularly invoked to forcefully suppress public demonstrations, particularly in insurgency affected areas, including the states of Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur. Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee, a committee founded in 2004 by the government of India to review AFSPA, recommended that the law should be amended as it institutionalizes abuse, repression and discrimination.

    On 2 November 2000, members of the Assam Rifles, one of India’s oldest paramilitary forces, allegedly shot and killed 10 people at a bus stop in Imphal Valley, Manipur. However, despite accusations that the shooting constituted extrajudicial executions the Indian authorities refused to investigate the incident, concluding that it was within the mandate of AFSPA.   In protest of the government’s failure to investigate the incident, Irom decided to indefinitely prolong her traditional Thursday fasts, which she has been carrying out since childhood, to demand the repeal of AFSPA. 

    On 5 November 2000, Irom was arrested by the Indian police under  Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalizes attempts to commit suicide. Section 309 prescribes 1 year in prison to “whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence”. Every year since 2000, Irom has been re- arrested  and charged under the law  and forced fed in detention.

    On 20 August 2014, the District and Sessions Judge of Imphal East released Irom stating that refusing food and water doesn’t constitute attempted suicide. However, despite the court ruling, on 22 August 2014, Irom was forcefully re-arrested by the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Imphal East and taken to  Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JNIMS) to be force fed through her nose.  Directly preceding her arrest, Irom was staging a peaceful hunger strike a kilometre away from a government hospital where she has been  imprisoned for the past year.  The government’s relentless judicial persecution of Irom is based solely on her independent activism and represents a severe breach of her basic civil rights. Irom must be immediately and unconditionally released.

    For more information:
    Frontline Defenders: Human rights defender Ms Irom Chanu Sharmila re-arrested
    Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign
    Three days after her release, anti-AFSPA activist Irom Sharmila re-arrested from protest site

    Take action:
    Send a letter to President Pranab Mukherjee and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi
    Write to Indian authorities and Indian diplomatic missions around the world demanding Irom’s release

  • Lu Maw Naing

    Lu Maw Naing

    Name: Lu Maw Naing

    Location: Myanmar 

    Reason Behind Bars:

    On 25 January 2014, Burmese journalist Lu Maw Naing and several of his colleagues at Unity newspaper published the article, “A secret chemical weapons factory of the former generals, Chinese technicians and the commander-in-chief at Pauk Township”. The article exposed a clandestine chemical weapons facility in the Magwe Division and further revealed that former head of the ruling junta, Than Shwe, and current commander-in-chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces, Min Aung Hlaing, visited the facility with a number of Chinese technicians. These claims were substantiated by statements from local residents and factory workers. 

    On January 31st, Lau Maw Naing was arrested without a warrant in Pauk Township, Magway Division. On February 1st, Naing was transferred to the Special Branch Police in Pauk Township where he was held without bail on charges of exposing state secrets.

    From 31 January – 1 February, three other Unity reporters, including Yarzar Oo, Sithu Soe, and Paing Thet Kyaw, and Unity’s CEO, Tint San, were arrested in connection with the article.

    Days later, in an apparent attempt to intimidate members of Unity’s staff and suppress further reporting on the chemical weapons plant, security forces raided Unity’s offices and confiscated copies of the issue.

    On March 17th, Lu Maw Naing and his colleagues were charged at Pakokku District Court with “disclosing State secrets, trespassing on the restricted area of the factory, taking photographs and the act of abetting”.

    On July 10th, all five journalists were sentenced to 10 years in prison and hard labor for violating Article 3 of the 1923 Burma State Secrecy Act. 

    Lu Maw Naing is reportedly in ill-health and has been denied adequate medical treatment. 

    Background information

    On 15 July 2013, on an official visit to the UK, Burmese President Thein Sein Committed to releasing all political prisoners by the end of 2013.  

    However, on a nationally broadcasted speech on 7 July 2014, Thein Sein defended the arrests, stating that, “If media freedoms are used to endanger state security rather than give benefits to the country, I want to announce that effective action will be taken under existing laws.” 

    According to national watchdog group, Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, at least 46 political prisoners, including peaceful protestors, journalists and civil society activists, remain in prison in Myanmar. 

    For More Information 

    Committee to Protect Journalists- Burma takes another step toward repressing its media

    Take Action 

    Amnesty International Urgent Action on Media Workers Imprisoned in Myanmar

    Write to President Thein Sein demanding the release of Imprisoned Journalists 

  • Mahienour El-Masry

    Mahienour El-Masry

    Name: Mahienour El-Masry

    Location: Egypt

    Update:

    CIVICUS was informed by a partner in Egypt that on December 27 2015, Mahienour El-Masry second demurrer was rejected by the court.

    Reason Behind Bars: 

    On 21 September 2014, Mahienour El- Masry was provisionally released after the Al Mansheya Misdemeanor Appeals Court suspended her six months prison sentence following an appeal filed by her to the Court of Cassation. On 20 July 2014, the Sidi Gaber Appeal Misdemeanor Court in Alexandria had sentenced Mahienour to six months of prison and a fine of EGP 50,000 (approximately USD 7,200) under Law No 107: Law on the Right to Public Meetings, Processions and Peaceful Demonstrations. Mahienour was found guilty of “participating in an unauthorized protest” and “assaulting police officers”.

    Mahienour’s sentencing is due to a peaceful demonstration she attended to on 2 December 2013 in front of the Alexandria Criminal Court during the fourth hearing of  Khaled Saeed’s murder trial. On 6 June 2010  Khaled Saeed,  the emblematic figure of the 25 January Revolution, was tortured to death by two police officers in Sidi Gaber. The police arrested Mahienour on 12 April 2014 while she was in a clothing store in Mohram Bey District in Alexandria. During her imprisonment, Mahienour was kept in the Damanhour Women prison.

    Mahienour’s arrest is believed to be related to her legitimate human rights work of providing legal assistance to political prisoners and monitoring human rights violations in Egypt.  A member of the Revolutionary Socialist movement and a human rights defender, Mahienour also worked extensively with women’s rights and youth organizations to document atrocities committed by security officers in Egypt.  Mahienour was awarded the prestigious Ludovic Trarieux Human Rights Annual Prize in 2014, an award given to lawyers for their contributions to defending human rights. 

    Background Information:

    Law No 107: Law on the Right to Public Meetings, Processions and Peaceful Demonstrations was adopted on 24 November 2013 and drew widespread criticism from UN experts and civil society organizations for being in breach of international standards. The law gives excessive powers to security forces to arbitrarily ban and disperse peaceful protests while imposing heavy penalties on demonstrators. Since its adoption, Law No 107 has been routinely used to clampdown on peaceful demonstrators and human rights defenders protesting the Egyptian government’s growing intolerance of dissent.

    For more information:

    Egypt:Provisional release of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry

    Amnesty International: Human rights lawyer latest victim of Egypt’s repressive protest law

    Frontline Defenders: Mahienour El-Masry

    Nazra for Feminist Studies: Mahienour El-Massry

    Read Mahienour’s close friend Rasha’s account of her

    Read Mahienour’s letter from jail

    September 2015 Update on Mahienour El-Massry from Fidh

    Take action:

    Send a letter to the Public Prosecutor, and the Egyptian Embassy in your country For a list of Egyptian diplomatic missions abroad please click here
    Solidarity with Mahienour el-Masry and jailed activists
    Resist the Anti- Protest Laws in Egypt

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