OSAMA AL-NAJJAR

Name: Osama Al-Najjar

Location: United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Reasons Behind Bars

Human rights defender and online activist Osama Al- Najjar, was arrested on 17 March 2014 in Abu Dhabi by state security forces.  Preceding his arrest, Osama was returning from the Arazeen jail where his imprisoned father, Hossain Al-Najjar, is currently serving an eleven year prison sentence for being a member of UAE94, a group of 94 activists serving heavy prison sentences on highly questionable grounds for  attempting to overthrow UAE’s authoritarian government.

Upon his arrest, Osama’s whereabouts were kept secret from his immediate family. He was kept in solitary confinement and tortured at a secret detention centre  in Abu Dhabi for four days before he was transferred to the Alwathab jail in Abu Dhabi. 

Osama remained in pre-trial detention for six months before his first court hearing on 23 September 2014 at the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi. He is charged with being a member of Al-Islah (Reform and Social Guidance Association), a group banned in UAE for its alleged links to the Muslim Brotherhood, offending the State on Twitter, instigating hatred against the State via Twitter and spreading lies on Twitter about the torture of his father.

During his second hearing at the same court on 14 October 2014, Osama expressed that he was prevented from accessing his case file and was not allowed to contact his lawyer while in detention. The court postponed Osama’s case for a third time to 28 October 2014 to hear pleadings from both the defence and the prosecution. UAE authorities have not yet shared information on Osama’s final hearing, raising serious concerns that Osama’s access to justice will be delayed in reprisals for  his legitimate human rights work.

Background Information

Osama has been active on Twitter since 2012 and has used the platform to highlight fundamental human rights of political detainees and call for an end to their ill- treatment. Osama has also in the past commented on the unfair trial and imprisonment of the UAE94.  On 16 March 2014, hours before his arrest, Osama replied to the ruler of Sharjah on Twitter and said “The people responsible for imprisoning and harassing my father for the past 20 months owe him.”

The arbitrary arrest of Osama Al-Najjar is another routine example that demonstrates UAE authorities’ growing intolerance of online and offline dissent. Since its second cycle review under the Universal Periodic Review in 2013, UAE has placed a number of worrying restrictions on the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, and has not yet ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

For more information:

Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) Update: UAE: Trial of human rights defender Osama Al-Najjar continues

Frontline Defenders: Human rights defender Mr Osama Al-Najjar not given access to his case file or allowed contact his lawyer

Take Action

Join  Amnesty International's Urgent Action and write to the President  Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the Minister of Interior demanding the immediate and unconditional release of Osama Al-Najjar

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

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

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 

Pierre Claver Mbonimpa

Name: Pierre Claver Mbonimpa

Country: Burundi 

Update: 

He was provisionally released from jail but is in exile at the moment. He was shot and seriously injured on 3 August 2015 and was taken out of the country for medical treatment. His son in law, Pascal Nshimirimana, was subsequently assassinated on 9 October 2015.

Reason behind bars:  

Leading Burundian human rights activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa was arrested at midnight on 15 May 2014 in Bujumbura was interrogated by prosecutors and later charged with inciting public disobedience and threatening national security on the basis of comments he made on Burundian radio station,  Radio Publique Africaine (RPA).  He is one of Burundi’s leading human rights defenders and president of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH).   The charges against him stem from comments he made on Radio Publique Africaine (RPA) on 6 May 2014 that some youth from Burundi were being armed and sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for military training.   Before his arrest, he was questioned by the police about the comments he had made on radio. Pierre Claver is a former police officer, a former prisoner and founded APRODH to defend prisoner’s rights and the rights of all Burundians. He is currently being detained at the Prison Centrale de Mbimpa. 

Pierre Claver Mbonimpa (66 years old) is a leading human rights defender in Burundi and had served in the police force before 1994.   He was imprisoned for two years on the basis of false accusations and after experiencing the harsh and deplorable conditions in prison, he formed APRODH.  He has over the years campaigned against extra-judicial killings and publicly condemned the poor living conditions in Burundi’s prisons.   

He has been a victim of judicial harassment and persecution in the past for his human rights activities and in 2010 he was summoned by the judicial authorities and interrogated about the work he was doing on the case of human rights defender Ernest Manirumva who was assassinated in 2009 while investigating allegations of corruption in the Burundian police.

 Prior to his arrest on 15 May 2014, he responded to summons from the police on 7 and 12 May and sent his lawyer to represent him on 14 May.  He was interrogated about the comments he made on RPA and was later arrested at the airport in Bujumbura on 15 May while on his way to Kenya.   He is a recipient of the 2007 Martin Ennals Award and the 2011 Henry Dunant Award.   He is a prisoner of conscience arrested and intimidated for his human rights activities.   

For more Information 

Joint Submission by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, NGO in General Consultative Status with ECOSOC And Ligue des Droits de la personne dans la région des Grandes Lacs

Burundi: release human rights defender Pierre Claver Mbonimpa

Burundi: Confirmation de la détention préventive de M. Pierre Claver Mbonimpa

Letter calling for the release of Pierre Claver Mbonimpa

Alaa Abdel Fattah

Alaa Abdel Fattah Name: Alaa Abdel Fattah Country: Egypt Update: He was again sentenced to…

Irom Sharmila

Irom Sharmila Name: Irom Sharmila   Location: India Reason Behind Bars: Irom has been on a…

Lu Maw Naing

Lu Maw Naing Name: Lu Maw Naing Location: Myanmar  Reason Behind Bars: On 25 January…

Mahienour El-Masry

Mahienour El-Masry Name: Mahienour El-Masry Location: Egypt Update: CIVICUS was informed by a partner in…

Osama Al-Najjar

OSAMA AL-NAJJAR Name: Osama Al-Najjar Location: United Arab Emirates (UAE) Reasons Behind Bars Human rights…

Pierre C. Mbonimpa

Pierre Claver Mbonimpa Name: Pierre Claver Mbonimpa Country: Burundi  Update:  He was provisionally released from jail…
CONNECT WITH US

SOUTH AFRICA

Johannesburg Office
CIVICUS
25  Owl Street, 6th Floor
Johannesburg, 2092
Tel: +27 (0)11 833 5959
Fax: +27 (0)11 833 7997

SWITZERLAND

Geneva Office
11 Avenue de la Paix
CH-1202
Geneva
Tel: +41 (0)22 733 3435

UNITED STATES

Washington DC Office
CIVICUS World Alliance

1775 Eye Street NW Suite 1150

Washington DC 20006, USA

 

UNITED KINGDOM

London Office
Unit 60
Eurolink Business Centre
49 Effra Road
SW2 1BZ, London
Tel: +44 (0)20 7733 9696