A flotilla of three passenger and three cargo ships departed off the coast of Cyprus on 30 May 2010 under United States, Greece, and Turkey flags carrying a combined 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian and reconstruction supplies along with over 600 passengers bound for Gaza. In the early hours of 31 May Israeli commandos killed at least nine activists and wounded many others during a military operation to board and seize the six ships en route while in international waters. After taking control, the Israeli military forced the seized ship to the port of Ashdod, approximately 40 kilometers south of Tel Aviv, from where the hundreds of passengers have been detained or deported. Among the activists from Australia, Europe, Israel, Palestine and the United States were an elderly Holocaust survivor, two German members of the Bundestag lower house of parliament, and 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland.

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, 21 December 2010  -  CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation applauds the court order last Friday to free 43 health workers, but remains concerned that the immediate release of at least five of the health workers has been delayed due to the authorities' new claim of unrelated warrants against them.

The 43 health workers, collectively known as the "Morong 43", have been held in detention since February 6 for alleged support of the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

The court order to release the health workers comes exactly a week after President Aquino's announced the government would withdraw all terrorism charges against them.

"The court has ordered the freedom of all 43 health workers, including those in military custody, so the remaining health workers still held in detention should be immediately released to their families," said Adam Nord, CIVICUS Lobby and Engagement Manager.

"The Philippine authorities must not seek to interfere with the long overdue release of the Morong 43 by now making new allegations against them."

Despite the Philippine authorities claiming that five health workers had outstanding arrest warrants, the Morong 43's lawyer, Jules Matibag, says the government had yet to present such documents.

"Without any authenticated warrant of arrest issued by another court, all of the 43 should be released immediately," Matibag said.

Matibag said the courts orders "guaranteed" the freedom of all 43 detainees.

The detainment of the Morong 43 over the last ten months takes place against a backdrop of staunch clampdown on political dissidents in Philippines, with reports that there are at least 374 political prisoners detained in the country.

"CIVICUS will continue to stand with local civil society until all the Morong 43 are returned to their families." Nord said.

Nord emphasized that it was important that their release becomes the "first step by the Government to guarantee that all of civil society in the Philippines is free for the threat of illegal detentions and extrajudicial killings."

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement of civil society dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society across the world. CIVICUS will continue to engage on this issue and other initiatives to defend the space for civil society around the world.

For more information please contact CIVICUS:

Adam Nord ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ), Lobby and Engagement Manager,or

Rowena McNaughton ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ), Media Officer.

Office Tel: +27 11 8335959

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, 21 December 2010 -- CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation applauds the court order last Friday to free 43 health workers, but remains concerned that the immediate release of at least five of the health workers has been delayed due to the authorities' new claim of unrelated warrants against them.

The 43 health workers, collectively known as the "Morong 43", have been held in detention since February 6 for alleged support of the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

The court order to release the health workers comes exactly a week after President Aquino's announced the government would withdraw all terrorism charges against them.

"The court has ordered the freedom of all 43 health workers, including those in military custody, so the remaining health workers still held in detention should be immediately released to their families," said Adam Nord, CIVICUS Lobby and Engagement Manager.

"The Philippine authorities must not seek to interfere with the long overdue release of the Morong 43 by now making new allegations against them."

Despite the Philippine authorities claiming that five health workers had outstanding arrest warrants, the Morong 43's lawyer, Jules Matibag, says the government had yet to present such documents.

"Without any authenticated warrant of arrest issued by another court, all of the 43 should be released immediately," Matibag said.

Matibag said the courts orders "guaranteed" the freedom of all 43 detainees.

The detainment of the Morong 43 over the last ten months takes place against a backdrop of staunch clampdown on political dissidents in Philippines, with reports that there are at least 374 political prisoners detained in the country.

"CIVICUS will continue to stand with local civil society until all the Morong 43 are returned to their families." Nord said.

Nord emphasized that it was important that their release becomes the "first step by the Government to guarantee that all of civil society in the Philippines is free for the threat of illegal detentions and extrajudicial killings."

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement of civil society dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society across the world. CIVICUS will continue to engage on this issue and other initiatives to defend the space for civil society around the world.


For more information please contact CIVICUS:
Adam Nord ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ), Lobby and Engagement Manager, or
Rowena McNaughton ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ), Media Officer.
Office Tel: +27 11 8335959

21 December 2010. JOHANNESBURG. South Africa. CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation, and the Eurasia Network condemn the recent crackdown of Belarusian government authorities on election monitoring personnel, opposition party leaders and protestors during and immediately following the 19 December 2010 Belarusian presidential elections.  We call on all OSCE member countries, including Belarus, to abide by its commitments to OSCE founding principles safeguarding the right to peaceful assembly and to freedom of expression.

According to the Belarus Helsinki Committee, at approximately 3:15 a.m. on 20 December, government personnel arrested ten members of the Viasna Human Rights Center in central Minsk, detaining lawyers - including Valentin Stefanovich and Vladimir Labkovich - who were in the process of analysing data from 600 election observers from across the country. The previous night, the Chairman of Belarus Helsinki Committee, Aleh Hulak, was also arrested and detained by security personnel during a post-election demonstration in Nezavisimosti Square. According to human rights monitors, 634 were detained, many of whom have either been sentenced to jail, or are currently standing trial. Among the arrested are seven presidential candidates. 

While the OSCE called the election 'flawed' at a news conference, Belarus President Lukashenko condemned the peaceful demonstrations and defended the mass arrests.

"You saw how our law-enforcers behaved. They stood firm and acted exclusively within the bounds of the law. They defended the country and people from barbarism and ruin," Lukashenko said at a Minsk press conference.

CIVICUS and the Eurasia Network call upon the OSCE to "insure effectively the rights of the individual to know and act upon human rights and fundamental freedoms"as agreed by all parties to the 1991 Copenhagen Document, and to halt the erosion of civil rights as put forward in the Outcome Document of Civil Society Parallel Conference held in Astana, Kazakhstan three weeks ago. We also echo local and international civil society's calls for the Belarusian authorities to annul the results of an election where the OSCE and other monitoring bodies sited mass fraud, intimidation and violence.  

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement of civil society dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society across the world. CIVICUS will continue to engage on this issue and other initiatives to defend the space for civil society around the world.


For more information please contact:
Adam Nord ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ), CIVICUS' Lobby and Engagement Manager,
Tel +27 11 8335959 (ext 108)
Or
Rowena McNaughton ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ), CIVICUS' Media Officer,
Tel: +27 11 8335959 (ext 125


For immediate release

OSCE Summit Fails to Deliver: A Wasted Opportunity to Strengthen the Human Dimension

(Astana, 2 December) In the face of acute human rights challenges in the OSCE region, the organisers of the Parallel OSCE Civil Society Conference lamented OSCE participating states' failure to take steps to strengthen implementation of the organisation’s Human Dimension commitments. Regardless of difficulties plaguing Summit discussions around other issues, the Human Dimension should have been addressed through an Astana Framework for Action. The broad language in the Astana Commemorative Declaration is no substitute for a targeted, meaningful action plan committing participating States to concrete steps to strengthen implementation mechanisms in all three dimensions.

Civil society representatives see the failure to produce an Astana Framework for Action as a wasted opportunity to reinforce commitment to the Helsinki Principles. "While the absence of a strong position on the implementation of the human dimension, on civil society participation and on mechanisms to respond to crises in the region is very disappointing, no Summit Document is better than a Summit Document which would have eroded the very founding principles of this institution,” says Sonia Zilberman of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, a member of the Organisational Committee. “Regardless of other dividing issues such as regional conflicts and security concerns, participating states should have shown their political will to address the human dimension through an Action Framework."

The failure to adopt a forward looking Plan shows that States were not truly prepared to hold a Summit and reinvigorate the organisation. Many civil society organisations across the region have criticised the OSCE for approving the Chairmanship by a country with a weak human rights record and have been insisting that systematic, concrete reforms on human rights, including the release of a leading human rights activist, Evgeniy Zhovtis, should have been pre-conditions for the agreement on this Summit.

On 29 November, over 150 civil society participants from across the OSCE region adopted the Parallel Civil Society Conference Outcome Document, which presents the OSCE and participating States with 70 recommendations on:

  • strengthening implementation of the Human Dimension commitments;
  • greater cooperation with civil society by OSCE mechanisms and functions;
  • more effective response mechanisms to political and humanitarian crises, and;
  • a greater focus on the severe situation of human rights in the post-Soviet region, especially in Central Asia.

The lack of a strong human dimension-focused Framework for Action is especially regrettable given the situation in Central Asia and the unique role the OSCE plays as the only regional organisation that focuses on human rights and democracy. “Of course, we wanted a clear and strong commitment to the human dimension. It is disappointing that we leave Astana without definitive steps forward, especially for Kyrgyzstan,” said Tolekan Ismailova of the Human Rights Center “Citizens against Corruption” in Kyrgyzstan, a co-organiser of the Parallel Conference. “At the same time, however, we did get a unified civil society position which is a great achievement”, she concluded.

The International Organisational Committee looks toward the 2011 Chairmanship of Lithuania to develop a strong framework for civil society engagement and a greater emphasis of the OSCE on the human dimension. The difficulties in reaching agreement at the international level point to the key role of civil society across the OSCE region in fostering and furthering cooperation among participating States. This very message is the essence of the Helsinki Process, which, 35 years ago, revealed to the world a novel notion that civil society participation in promoting principles of human rights and democracy is key to real security and stability in the region.

For more information contact:

  • Freedom House, Vyacheslav Abramov (Russian, English): +7 727 2643513; or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Kazakhstan Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law, Roza Akylbekova (Russian): +7 701 713 6509; or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Sonia Zilberman (Russian, English): +7 705 327 53 78; or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, Yuri Dzhibladze ( Russian, English): +7-916-673-5153; or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Netherlands Helsinki Committee, Harry Hummel (English, Dutch): +31-70-392-6700; or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Sacha Koulaeva (English, French, Russian), +33 6 48059480; or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Johannesburg. 17 November 2010. The Swazi Trade Union Movement is undertaking Global Days of Action on 16 and 17 November to raise awareness and demand for human rights and justice for the people of Swaziland. CIVICUS extends its whole-hearted support to Swazi civil society in this endeavour and remains deeply concerned about the freedom of civil society in the country.

“Swaziland is Africa’s last absolute monarchy and the government’s tight control and frequent crackdowns on opposition parties and pro-democracy movements are unacceptable in today’s world,” said Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General of CIVICUS. “It is high time the government accepts the legitimate aspirations of the people of Swaziland to enjoy democratic rights.”

The space for civil society to freely express, associate and assemble remains constrained in Swaziland.  Statements in the press on 19 October by Swazi Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini outlined his intentions to propose legislation to force columnists to request prior permission before publishing comments that criticise the government. The Prime Minister stated that columnists write pieces that are harmful to the image of the country and that they receive compensation from foreign sources with interests in Swaziland. The Prime Minister’s statement insinuates that newspaper pieces which are critical of the government will be censored before they are published.

Enactment of such a law will breach freedom of expression guarantees in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the country’s own Constitution. Moreover, it would repudiate the aims and objectives of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Commonwealth, of which Swaziland is a member.

“CIVICUS remains deeply concerned about the censorship of the press in Swaziland and the frequent government crackdowns on pro-democracy demonstrations organised by civil society groups,” says David Kode, Policy Officer at CIVICUS. “The Swazi security forces have used the Suppression of Terrorism Act, enacted in November 2008, to justify the use of force and intimidation in suppressing dissent, including demonstrations.”

In September 2010, security forces disrupted pro-democracy demonstrations, detaining and releasing some activists without charge and deporting foreign human rights activists and trade unionists in the country to show solidarity with Swazi civil society. The government approved these actions, claiming that intimidation and torture are tools for government use to suppress opposition to the state and those acting on behalf of foreign forces.

CIVICUS urges the Swazi government to respect the rights of the people of Swaziland to express democratic dissent and demand the reform of authoritarian institutions.

CIVICUS:  World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement of civil society with members and partners in over a hundred countries.  The Civil Society Watch (CSW) Project of CIVICUS tracks threats to civil society freedoms of expression, association and assembly across the world.  In 2009, CSW tracked threats to civil society in over 75 countries around the globe.


For more information please contact CIVICUS:

Jessica Hume ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , +27 82 768 0250), Communications Manager

or

David Kode (david.kode@civicus,org, +27 73 775 8649), Policy Officer
Office Tel: +27 11 833 5959

CIVICUS joins civil society groups from around the world in demanding the immediate release of Ameer Makhoul, Director of Ittijah, an association of community-based Arab organisations based in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Ameer Makhoul, a prominent human rights activist and prisoner of conscience was arrested under questionable circumstances on 6 May 2010.

Ameer Makhoul remains in prison despite the lack of evidence against him. During his latest appearance in the District Court in Haifa on 16 September, the cross examination of the policemen who arrested Ameer on 6 May revealed that during the Shabak (GSS) investigations, Ameer was denied sleep and access to the restroom for more than 24 hours. It was also revealed that there was no evidence on his computer and cell phone to prove he was involved in espionage or any conspiracy with a Hezbollah agent - charges levelled against him by the Israeli government.

According to local sources, Ameer was detained incommunicado for six days following his arrest where he was given no explanation of the charges brought forth against him and was denied access to a lawyer during that time. Ameer is charged with violating "security" regulations, allegedly meeting and conspiring with an alleged Hezbollah agent while abroad who supposedly recruited him to engage in espionage against Israel. The Shin Bet, the Israeli security service, has refused to reveal any evidence supporting the charges against Ameer.

During all of his seven meetings with his lawyers in prison, Ameer was denied his constitutional right to consult with lawyers privately and confidentially. According to Provision 45 of the Prisons Ordinance, clients and lawyers should not be separated, conversations should not be recorded or listened in on and it should be possible for lawyers to exchange documents relevant to the legal proceedings of the case. However, during each of the consultations, communication was only allowed via telephone, separated by a glass screen, or with prison guards listening into the conversations.

The following civil society organisations from around the world and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen consider Ameer as a prisoner of conscience, who has been arbitrarily arrested and detained for his lawful work with Ittijah, a civil society group which promotes the rights of Palestinian Arab civil society and advocates for political, economic and social change for Palestinians who are denied equal access to infrastructure and services. We call upon on the Israeli Government to respect its international human rights obligations by restoring to Ameer Makhoul his rights to freedom of expression, movement and proper due process of law. His next appearance in court will be October.

This Public Statement has been endorsed/signed by the following:

Karapatan, Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights - Philippines
Association of NGOs of Aotearoa - New Zealand
Development Services Exchange - Solomon Islands
Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement - Egypt
Cook Islands Association of NGOs - Cook Islands
National Association of NGOs - Zimbabwe
National Council for Voluntary Organisations - England
NGO Coalition on Child Rights - Pakistan
Nigerian Network of NGOs - Nigeria
Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations - Scotland
Sinergia, Venezuelan Association of Civil Society Organisations - Venezuela

6 September 2010. Over 70 eminent civil society activists from across the globe who attended the CIVICUS World Assembly in Montreal this August expressed deep disappointment at the enactment of India's regressive Foreign Contributions Regulations Act, 2010 (FCRA).

Among other things, the Act allows for broad executive discretion to designate organisations as being of ‘political nature' and thereby prevent them from accessing funding from abroad, which could affect the independence of civil society groups critical of government policies. It also requires organisations to renew their permission to receive funding from abroad every five years which subjects them to additional bureaucratic red tape, and places an arbitrary cap of 50% on the administrative expenses of an organisation receiving foreign funding as a further sign of interference in the internal functioning of civil society organisations.

Johannesburg. 18 May 2010. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation warns that the operating environment for civil society in Kenya remains fraught with danger. As the spotlight is focused on impunity in Kenya by the international community including the International Criminal Court (ICC) and special representatives of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), civil society activists are facing grave risks.

Groups advocating for ending impunity for perpetrators of human rights violations and those that have documented the violations are particularly threatened. On 4 May 2010, a meeting organised by Bunge la Mwannanchi on the post election violence in Kenya was dispersed and four of its activists were detained and later released without charges. In April this year, Kenneth Kirimi, a member of the civil society group, Release Political Prisoners, was arbitrarily detained and severely tortured by security operatives requiring him to need medical treatment. He was questioned with regard to his work on collecting information about extra-judicial killings and sharing of information with the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Philip Alston.

Geneva. 13 May 2010. Yesterday, the Universal Periodic Review of the Republic of Belarus at the United Nations Human Rights Council resonated with civil society concerns regarding severe restrictions on the freedom of association.

A number of fundamental rights violations, including against the freedom of association were highlighted during the session, especially with respect to the infamous Criminal Code Article 193.1, which criminalises participation in activities of non-registered associations as being punishable by up to two years in prison. Since its entry into force in 2006, 17 people, including several minors, have been convicted under this legal provision. Not only does this provision run contrary to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but it also violates the Constitution of Belarus.

With the aim of drawing governments and civil society attention to the issue, CIVICUS, in collaboration with FIDH and the Assembly of Pro-Democratic NGOs of Belarus, organised a Side Event at the Council session highlighting the implications of Article 193.1. Bringing local voices to the Human Rights Council, the event featured presentations from five national civil society leaders, including one activist who had been imprisoned under the same provision for her peaceful NGO activities.

During the interactive dialogue session on the review of Belarus, government delegations from Belgium, Czech Republic, Ireland, Israel Netherlands and Poland all addressed the implications of Criminal Code Article 193.1. The Netherlands in particular strongly urged the Belarus Government to decriminalise the activities of individuals on behalf of non-registered organisations by abolishing article 193.1 of the Criminal Code and called on the government to create an enabling environment for human rights defenders to peacefully exercise their freedoms of expression and assembly in conformity with international law.

"As CIVICUS drew attention to this issue at its Side Event shortly before the session, we are very much encouraged to see that these governments shared the deep concerns of the Belarus civil society," said Renate Bloem, CIVICUS Permanent Representative to the United Nations, "We hope that others have also addressed this issue in their written recommendations."

Various states also called on Belarus to take concrete measures to ensure respect for fundamental rights and enhance cooperation with UN human rights bodies as well as abolish the death penalty, address issues of human trafficking and torture, ease restrictions on the freedom of expression, and protect journalists and human rights defenders.

CIVICUS emphatically urges the Belarus Government to adopt the recommendations that came out of the UN Human Rights Council's deliberations, in particular stopping the criminal persecution of peaceful civil society activity.

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement of civil society with members and partners in over a hundred countries. The Civil Society Watch (CSW) programme of CIVICUS tracks threats to civil society freedoms of expression, association and assembly across the world. CIVICUS is also taking the lead on the Every Human Has Rights campaign.

For more information, please contact:
Devendra Tak, Media and Communications Manager, CIVICUS This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
or
Sonia Zilberman, Civil Society Watch Programme, CIVICUS
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Tel: +1-216-378-2176
Johannesburg. 12 May 2010. In the run up to the 2011 general elections, the legal and political environment for civil society in Uganda is rapidly deteriorating, and beginning to follow the trajectory of Ethiopia facing elections later this month.
 

As the 23 May elections in Ethiopia near, the administration has virtually left no stone unturned to silence the local media and civil society groups. To curtail the ability of civil society to effectively monitor the present elections, the Ethiopian authorities have over the past two years introduced a raft of restrictive measures, many of which are being replicated by the Ugandan authorities.

Johannesburg. 10 May 2010. In the lead up to the 2010 Parliamentary elections and the 2011 Presidential elections, the government of Egypt has stepped up efforts to clamp down on dissent from political activists and civil society organisations. In the past few months, against a backdrop of continued demonstrations on a wide range of social problems including high food prices and low minimum wages, the government has singled out political protests in particular for violent suppression  

These political protests include a Cairo protest on 6 April and 3 May that were put down by police in riot gear wielding batons. The protesters were detained and beaten under the serious threat of even more violent repression. One lawmaker of the ruling National Democratic Party, Nashaat al-Qasas, commented to Egypt's Parliament on 18 April: "I would have questioned the Interior Ministry for being soft on these outlaws ... Do not use water hoses to disperse these outlaws, shoot at them directly."

 CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, through its Early Warning System, has noted continued repressive conditions for local civil society activists and organisations. In March 2010, a copy of a draft law to suppress independent civil society was leaked to the local press and immediately garnered widespread denunciation from local civil society, as well as international criticism from both human rights groups and governments.
 

Among the worst restrictions in the proposed law are provisions that would grant the Minister of Social Solidarity unchecked authority to deny registration or de-register and liquidate any civil society organisation. This Ministerial prerogative -- along with provisions that explicitly limit civil society activities to "social care, development, and community awareness-raising" and require Minister of Social Solidarity permission for all civil society partnerships with any international entity -- would effectively repress the little remaining space for any freedom of expression, association and assembly in Egypt.

"Without an open space for civil society there is no hope that the elections scheduled for the next two years will be fair and transparent," said Netsanet Belay, manager of CIVICUS' Civil Society Watch programme. "There is a critical need in Egypt for legislative amendments to enable truly democratic processes, including reform of election laws that grant the Interior Minister broad, practically unrestricted, powers to supervise voter registration, open the door for nominations and declare the election results."


CIVICUS and the Every Human Has Rights (EHHR) campaign call upon their members and supporters to apply sustained pressure on both the Egyptian government and key international actors by stating their unequivocal censure of the leaked draft Law on Associations and Foundations and their solidarity with Egyptian civil society in demanding open, transparent, and democratic multi-party elections. Visit www.everyhumanhasrights.org to find out how you can take action now.

 


CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement of civil society with members and partners in over a hundred countries. The Civil Society Watch (CSW) programme of CIVICUS tracks threats to civil society freedoms of expression, association and assembly across the world. CIVICUS is also taking the lead on the EHHR campaign.

For more information please contact CIVICUS:
Jessica Hume (jessica.hume at civicus dot org), Communications Officer or
Adam Nord (adam.nord at civicus dot org ), Civil Society Watch Programme Officer
Office Tel: +27 11 833 5959

Johannesburg. 26 March 2010. Despite the noble intentions expressed in the Global Political Agreement to promote openness and tolerance, human rights defenders in Zimbabwe continue to face persecution because of their work. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and its partners are deeply concerned that the September 2008 agreement signed between rival political factions as a governance road map for an "Inclusive Government" is not being implemented in good faith, to the severe detriment of civil society activity in the country.

Recent events such as the arbitrary arrest of Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (Zim Rights) Director, Okay Machisa, on 24 March for organising an "unapproved" photo exhibition, and harassment of Zimbabwe General Agricultural and Plantation Worker's Union (GAPWUZ) members for documenting the violence surrounding the "land reform" process through a film and report, attest to sustained use of coercive means by Zimbabwean security forces to silence human rights defenders. The Secretary General of GAPWUZ, Gertrude Hambira, has been forced to leave the country and go into self-imposed exile for fear of her life.

Johannesburg. 16 March 2010. Uzbek HIV activist, Maxim Popov, has been sentenced to seven years in prison apparently as punishment for his work to raise public awareness on prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and the promotion of healthy lifestyles. Although the sentence was given in September 2009, this news became public only in late February 2010.

According to local sources, Maxim Popov was charged with embezzlement of funds, involving minors in anti-social behavior, molesting individuals, involving individuals with drugs, and tax evasion. Two of his colleagues were also charged with embezzlement, tax evasion and violations of foreign currency regulations and were given one-year suspended sentences. Mr Popov is the leader of NGO Izis, which focuses on work with drug addicts, sex workers and on HIV prevention. He is also the author of the book "HIV and AIDS Today", which was published with the support of UNICEF and Population Services International. This book, explaining STD prevention, was deemed "illegal" by the criminal court of Tashkent, based on the findings of a commission of experts that it is disrespectful of the national culture and the Uzbek people.

27 January 2009. Johannesburg, South Africa


A fact-finding cum solidarity mission to Nicaragua undertaken by CIVICUS with the support of its members, the Coordinadora Civil (CC) and the Red Nicaraguense por la Democracia y el Desarrollo Local (RNDDL), has found evidence of pressure being applied by the authorities on independent civil society groups. Nevertheless, talks with officials have been positive raising hopes for better government-civil society relations.

The mandate of the mission included: (i) expressing solidarity with civil society groups in Nicaragua who have had to contend with decreasing space to carry out their legitimate activities through 2008-2009 and, (ii) persuading the authorities to protect civil and political freedoms in the country, particularly the right to express democratic dissent.

The mission members met with a number of civil society groups, including members of the women's movement who have had to face restrictions in recent times as well as parliamentarians and government officials. The mission noted the positive strides made by the government in providing health care and education resulting in an increase in the overall literacy rate.

The mission observed that although government-civil society relations at the municipal level were often quite good, there were some outstanding issues in need of redress at the national level. Notably, the mission welcomed the willingness of parliamentarians and government officials to consider the concerns communicated to them by national civil society groups.

The following are the major areas of concern:
(a) launch of motivated prosecutions against activists expressing dissent against official policies, (b) ostracising and blacklisting of certain civil society groups particularly those working on accountability matters, (c) marginalisation of independent civil society groups through the creation of government organised NGOs (GONGOs) supported by federal funds, (d) blocking of access to information by official bodies, (e) harassment of independent media groups particularly radio and television outlets critical of official actions and, (f) de facto implementation of the draft law on international cooperation that places restrictions on support to local civil society organisations from international groups.

"Our talks with key officials have been open and positive," feels Anabel Cruz, chair of CIVICUS' board who headed the mission. "We call upon the Government of Nicaragua to consider civil society as partners in national development and hope that the concerns will be addressed."

CIVICUS urges the Government of Nicaragua to protect and safeguard the space for civil society in accordance with international, regional and constitutional commitments. A comprehensive report on the mission is being prepared and will be released shortly.

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement of civil society with members and partners in over a hundred countries. The Civil Society Watch (CSW) programme of CIVICUS tracks threats to civil society freedoms of expression, association and assembly across the world.

For more information contact:
Devendra Tak ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ), Communications Manager
or Mandeep S.Tiwana ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) and Adam Nord ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) Civil Society Watch Programme, CIVICUS
Ph +27- 11-8335959

Click here for Spanish translation (requires pdf reader).

Johannesburg. 10 December 2010. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is deeply concerned about the deteriorating operating environment for civil society in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The past few months have been marred by growing intolerance towards dissenters, which began in the run up to the October elections and continues in the post election phase.

Authorities in Bahrain are waging a relentless campaign against activists whose views are not in line with the official position. Currently, 24 prominent human rights defenders are facing trial under Bahrain's anti-terrorism laws. They have been charged with collaborating with foreign organisations and circulating false information. They have also been accused of forming terrorist networks, destruction of public and private property and defaming the authorities.

The arrested activists have complained about torture and abuse meted out to them by the National Security Agency. They have so far appeared in court on four occasions and the next hearing has been scheduled for 23 December. During their first appearance in court on 27 October, detainees informed the court that while in detention they were beaten, electrocuted, verbally and physically assaulted and denied adequate sleep. Those detained were not allowed access to legal representation during interrogation and some family members did not know where they were being detained for two weeks after their arrest. It has also been reported that prior to, during and after the elections about 350 other activists have been arrested.

"In a worrying trend, it has become commonplace in Bahrain to arrest activists for writing articles and delivering speeches which are critical of the government's discriminatory policies and official corruption,"  said Netsanet Belay, CIVICUS' Director of Policy and Research. "Persecution and torture of public-spirited individuals offering legitimate criticism against official policies and the clampdown on their organisations amounts to a repudiation of Bahrain's accession to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture."

The Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), a CIVICUS partner for the Civil Society Index and one of the few remaining independent groups striving for the protection of civil and political freedoms in the country, has been targeted in the recent crackdown. On 6 September, the Ministry of Social Development issued an order to dissolve the Board of the BHRS and went ahead to appoint an administrator 'an employee from the Ministry' to lead the BHRS. The BHRS has had to go to court in response to these arbitrary actions and its fate currently depends on the court's response. The first hearing of the case scheduled for 26 October has been postponed to 4 January 2011.

According to Abdullah Aldorazi of BHRS, "The unfair order issued by the Ministry of Social Development to dissolve the Board of the BHRS is a security strategy aimed at preventing the documentation of atrocities carried out by the authorities during the crackdown and preventing families of the detainees from using the society as a safe haven."

CIVICUS urges the authorities of the Kingdom of Bahrain to live up to their commitments under international law and guarantee civil society the space to freely express, associate and assemble.

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement of civil society with members and partners in over a hundred countries. The Civil Society Watch (CSW) Project of CIVICUS tracks threats to civil society freedoms of expression, association and assembly across the world.


For more information please contact CIVICUS:


Jessica Hume ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , +27 82 768 0250), Communications Manager

or

David Kode ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , +27 73 775 8649), Policy Officer
Office Tel: +27 11 833 5959

CIVICUS House, 24 Gwigwi Mrwebi Street, Newtown 2001, Johannesburg, South Africa
PO Box 933, Southdale 2135, Johannesburg, South Africa
tel: +27-11-833-5959 | fax: +27-11-833-7997 | email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
web: www.civicus.org

 

World Leaders must act decisively before it's too late

Johannesburg. 23 September 2010. As the high level Summit on the Millennium Development Goals draws to a close, CIVICUS urges world leaders to act decisively on the recommendations presented to them.

"The Summit has provided occasion to re-assess failed promises and take corrective action on the MDGs before it's too late," said CIVICUS Secretary General Ingrid Srinath. "Achieving the MDGs in the next five years requires world leaders to fulfil their existing commitments, become accountable to each other and their people, re-commit to human rights, and ensure civil society has the freedom to exist, express and engage."

A number of concrete acceleration strategies to keep the MDGs on track to be achieved by 2015 were forwarded by civil society and official representatives. Recommendations during the three day Summit from 20-22 September include addressing the shortfall in development funding by taxing financial transactions; ensuring strict adherence by rich countries towards fulfilling their overseas development aid commitments and meeting a minimum target of 0.7% of their GNI; reforming and regulating financial structures to guard against economic meltdown and job losses; implementing fair trade policies to reduce wealth disparities between rich and poor countries; reducing dependence on fossil fuels through support for energy efficient and green technology; and focusing national development plans to prioritise women's empowerment, social security and equitable distribution of wealth. Notably, strong recommendations were made to ground MDG strategies in social justice and human rights concepts.

As a follow-up to the MDG Summit, CIVICUS urges governments to unconditionally implement the solutions suggested by civil society experts, and ensure that the principles of accountability and participation are an integral part of MDG strategies over the next five years. In particular leaders should:

  • Review and align MDG strategies with the international human rights framework and set time bound targets to achieve goals;
  • Guarantee access to accurate and timely information on progress achieved with regard to MDG targets;
  • Strengthen accountability mechanisms at the national and international level to ensure compliance with MDG targets; and
  • Ensure public and civil society participation in all MDG related processes.

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement of civil society dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society across the world.



For more information please contact CIVICUS:
Mandeep Tiwana (

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

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), Policy Manager or
Jessica Hume (

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), Communications Officer,
Office Tel: +27 11 833 5959

12 August 2010. Johannesburg. Civil society organisations express deep apprehension at the recent attempts to strangle the media and the freedom of expression in South Africa. On 3 August, Sunday Times journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika was arrested by a large posse of policemen in what appear to be intimidating tactics. He was arrested without a warrant for purportedly being in the possession of a forged letter announcing the resignation of the premier of Mpumalanaga province. He had recently authored a media report on 1 August in which he questioned the police chief's decision to lease a building to house the top brass of the police at a sum of 500 million rand for ten years.

 

Relations between the government and independent media groups have been strained of late particularly in respect of the controversial Protection of Information Bill which impedes access to information, and the proposed Media Appeals Tribunal to adjudicate perceived misleading reports by the media. 


The Protection of Information Bill creates obstacles for civil society and media groups seeking to expose official malpractices by giving the government extensive powers to prevent the communication of information in the "national interest" on the pain of draconian punishments ranging from a minimum of three years imprisonment, extending up to 25 years. National interest is defined through omnibus provisions, which include broad categories such as "all matters relating to the advancement of public good", the protection of trade secrets of state organs including "profits, losses or expenditures of any person" and the "pursuit of justice, democracy, economic growth, free trade, a stable monetary system and sound international relations". 

12 August 2010. Johannesburg. Civil society organisations express deep apprehension at the recent attempts to strangle the media and the freedom of expression in South Africa. On 3 August, Sunday Times journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika was arrested by a large posse of policemen in what appear to be intimidating tactics. He was arrested without a warrant for purportedly being in the possession of a forged letter announcing the resignation of the premier of Mpumalanaga province. He had recently authored a media report on 1 August in which he questioned the police chief's decision to lease a building to house the top brass of the police at a sum of 500 million rand for ten years. 


Relations between the government and independent media groups have been strained of late particularly in respect of the controversial Protection of Information Bill which impedes access to information, and the proposed Media Appeals Tribunal to adjudicate perceived misleading reports by the media. 

Johannesburg. 29 July 2010: A group of civil society organisations from across the globe have expressed alarm about systematic restrictions on civil society freedoms of expression, association and assembly in Venezuela, including persecution of human rights defenders. On 14 July, President Chavez had called for a criminal investigation of human rights organizations accused of taking funds from the United States government for the purpose of destabilizing the Venezuelan government. The call for an "in depth investigation" into the funding sources of Venezuelan NGOs is seen as the latest in a long series of growing restrictions on human rights, particularly the freedom of expression. 

Harassment tactics, including public threats and judicial proceedings, are regularly used by the government of Venezuela to silence critics and undermine human rights defenders and journalists. Earlier this year, a member of the opposition political party - Oswaldo Alvarez Paz - was arrested for commenting on Venezuela's involvement in the drug trade on charges of "conspiracy against the government". He is currently facing a possible two to sixteen year sentence. On 11 June, journalist Francisco Perez was given a 3 years and 9 months prison sentence, stripped of his professional certification, and ordered to pay a nearly $ 20,000 fine for publishing an article on corruption in the local Valencia government. Reports of threats, harassment, and abuse on the ground continue as many activists and members of the media are forced to operate in dangerous circumstances.

13 July, 2010-- Johannesburg ---CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is concerned by recent reports that Uzbek officials are intensifying pressure against human rights defenders in response to the political upheaval and violence in neighboring Kyrgyzstan. 

In Uzbekistan, many human rights defenders have long faced harassment and state scrutiny of their activities. Often, the state has demonstrated a deep distrust for human rights advocacy, labeling activists as "enemies" of the state and accusing them of criminal activities. Now local sources report that Uzbek law enforcement agencies have received orders from their superiors to increase vigilance and take preventative measures with the population.

According to local sources, human rights activists Saida Kurbanova and Mamir Asimov of Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (HRSU), have been summoned by a local police station, where they have been questioned and forced into signing warning notices about their "illegal activities against the public." Another HRSU staff has reported the spreading of false rumors about his work that he believes may be part of an attempt by the security forces to build a case against him. Human Rights Alliance leader Elena Urlayeva, who has been working with Kyrgyz refugees, was harassed at her home on July 4, 2010 by an unknown woman aggressively demanding that she stop her advocacy work. That same night, her husband was attacked and severely beaten near their home by two men instructing him to "tame" his wife.

30 June 2010. Johannesburg. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is concerned that two prominent human rights defenders in Kyrgyzstan -- who are among the leading voices documenting the ongoing crisis -- were detained and interrogated by the Office of the Prosecutor of the Osh Oblast, Kyrgyzstan on 28 June. This action of the authorities sends a negative message to civil society groups working towards restoring peace in the country.

According to local sources, Tolekan Ismailova of Human Rights Center "Citizens against Corruption" and Aziza Abdirasulova of Public Foundation "Kylym Shamy" were interrogated as witnesses, related to misinformation about death toll published in the online newspaper 24.kg.

Although the news site journalist received news of 20 deaths during the military operations in Nariman village of Karasuu district on 21 June via online mailing lists, Ismailova and Abdirasulova feel they were wrongly accused of spreading misinformation. Ismailova had immediately contacted 24.kg upon hearing the news, to inform the paper that the actual death toll was two individuals.

Johannesburg. 22 June 2010. Earlier this month, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and a number of civil society groups censured Iran at the UN Human Rights Council for outright refusal to accept key recommendations made during its Universal Periodic Review (UPR). 

Iran rejected 45 of the 188 recommendations made to it by diplomatic delegations of different states and took back 20 recommendations to Tehran for further review. Notably, the rejected recommendations included "end to severe restrictions on the rights to free expression, association and assembly" (United States) and the "end to the detention and trials of writers solely for the practice of their right to freedom of expression" (Slovenia).

Johannesburg. 18 May 2010. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation warns that the operating environment for civil society in Kenya remains fraught with danger. As the spotlight is focused on impunity in Kenya by the international community including the International Criminal Court (ICC) and special representatives of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), civil society activists are facing grave risks.

Groups advocating for ending impunity for perpetrators of human rights violations and those that have documented the violations are particularly threatened. On 4 May 2010, a meeting organised by Bunge la Mwannanchi on the post election violence in Kenya was dispersed and four of its activists were detained and later released without charges. In April this year, Kenneth Kirimi, a member of the civil society group, Release Political Prisoners, was arbitrarily detained and severely tortured by security operatives requiring him to need medical treatment. He was questioned with regard to his work on collecting information about extra-judicial killings and sharing of information with the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Philip Alston.

Geneva. 13 May 2010. Yesterday, the Universal Periodic Review of the Republic of Belarus at the United Nations Human Rights Council resonated with civil society concerns regarding severe restrictions on the freedom of association. 

A number of fundamental rights violations, including against the freedom of association were highlighted during the session, especially with respect to the infamous Criminal Code Article 193.1, which criminalises participation in activities of non-registered associations as being punishable by up to two years in prison. Since its entry into force in 2006, 17 people, including several minors, have been convicted under this legal provision. Not only does this provision run contrary to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but it also violates the Constitution of Belarus. 

Johannesburg. 12 May 2010. In the run up to the 2011 general elections, the legal and political environment for civil society in Uganda is rapidly deteriorating, and beginning to follow the trajectory of Ethiopia facing elections later this month.

As the 23 May elections in Ethiopia near, the administration has virtually left no stone unturned to silence the local media and civil society groups. To curtail the ability of civil society to effectively monitor the present elections, the Ethiopian authorities have over the past two years introduced a raft of restrictive measures, many of which are being replicated by the Ugandan authorities.

Johannesburg. 10 May 2010. In the lead up to the 2010 Parliamentary elections and the 2011 Presidential elections, the government of Egypt has stepped up efforts to clamp down on dissent from political activists and civil society organisations. In the past few months, against a backdrop of continued demonstrations on a wide range of social problems including high food prices and low minimum wages, the government has singled out political protests in particular for violent suppression.

These political protests include a Cairo protest on 6 April and 3 May that were put down by police in riot gear wielding batons. The protesters were detained and beaten under the serious threat of even more violent repression. One lawmaker of the ruling National Democratic Party, Nashaat al-Qasas, commented to Egypt's Parliament on 18 April: "I would have questioned the Interior Ministry for being soft on these outlaws ... Do not use water hoses to disperse these outlaws, shoot at them directly."

19 April 2010, Johannesburg. CIVICUS has received information from local sources that the offices of Socio-Ecological Union (SEU) in Samara, Russia, have been raided by the police in connection with alleged criminal charges of extremism against Mr. Sergey Simak the Co-Chair of the Organization,.

On the 13th of April, staff from the regional branches of the Department for Economic Crimes and the Center for the Combat of Extremism raided the SEU offices and seized Mr. Simak's computer and documents, which are alleged to have been used for criminal purposes.

According to local reports, a source in the regional Police Department stated that the case was initiated on 12 April, the same day that activists from Samara, and 44 other cities in Russia, held protests over the felling of virgin Mediterranean pistachio-juniper forests, to make space for a health and sports complex. Furthermore, ecologists and activists from Samara have been actively involved in protesting the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill, which reopened with the support of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and has grave ecological consequences for Lake Baikal and surrounding region.

CIVICUS is deeply concerned that attacks on the environmental movement in Russia are becoming common and systematic. A member of SEU has expressed fears to CIVICUS that, as SEU is currently headquartered out of Samara, the whole organization may be jeopardized by this latest attack. CIVICUS urges President Medvedev to protect freedoms of association and expression in the country, and ensure that peaceful environmentalism is not regarded as extremism in Russia.

Environmental groups in Russia are repeatedly stripped of their fundamental right to freedom of expression when the issues are political or economic in nature. In January 2010, police raided NGO Baikal Environmental Wave, a member of the SEU Network, and confiscated computers in response to the NGO's advocacy surrounding the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill. Further, in Turkmenistan, the authorities arrested Mr. Andrey Zatoka under trumped up charges, a renowned ecologist, activist and member of SEU.

The Socio-Ecological Union remains to be the oldest, largest, and one of the most respected NGOs in the post-Soviet region. The compromise of the operations and existence of this organization would have grave consequences not only for the region's rich and diverse ecology, but also for the civil society in Eurasia as a whole.

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement of civil society with members and partners in over a hundred countries. The Civil Society Watch (CSW) programme of CIVICUS tracks threats to civil society freedoms of expression, association and assembly across the world. In 2009, CSW tracked threats in 75 countries across the globe.

For more information, please contact:

Devendra Tak, Media and Communications Manager, CIVICUS This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
or
Sonia Zilberman, Civil Society Watch Programme, CIVICUS
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Tel: +27 -11- 8335959

By Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General, CIVICUS

A few weeks ago I wrote of the semi-annual CIVICUS Board meeting and the key issues the Board would be deliberating. My thanks to all those who sent in their suggestions and input. A significant agenda item at the meeting was the re-structuring of CIVICUS to better deliver against the expectations of our constituents. Particular thanks are due to the students and faculty at the Moynihan Institute at Syracuse University whose work has helped frame our thinking.

The civil society leaders who founded CIVICUS envisioned "A global alliance of individuals and organisations which might strengthen civil society institutions, advocate for the cause of civil society among the world's decision-makers, and stimulate dialogue among civil society organisations and across the nonprofit, business and public sectors." 16 years on, it appears we have stayed true to their intent and continued to evolve, responding to constituent needs and a changing environment for civil society.

Each frontier that civil society has opened to include meaningful citizen participation has, however, provoked strong resistance in the form of greater constraints and more aggressive challenges. Geopolitical and economic developments have also significantly altered the landscape. Consequently, CIVICUS' 2008 Strategic Directions identified 3 core themes that have emerged over the past decade - protection of civil society rights, fostering of best practice - especially in the area of civil society accountability - and building civil society capacity to influence policy.

The re-structuring exercise at CIVICUS aims to optimise our organisation's structure to achieve those goals effectively and efficiently, and to do so in a manner that is consistent with our values. At their February meeting, the Board of CIVICUS reviewed the proposed new structure which reconfigures the current long list of programme departments into 2 departments - Policy & Research and Outreach supported by an Operations department. Over the next few weeks we will work out the details of the new modus operandi. It has been particularly heartening that the process thus far has lived up to our belief in inclusive, participatory decision-making.

You may recall that CIVICUS is also currently developing an Impact Planning and Learning Framework (IPLF) which aims to improve our ability to track, report and learn from our performance. The new structure, combined with the IPLF, will help CIVICUS achieve better synergy and coordination between programmes and ensure that CIVICUS' constituents play a more central role in its governance.

We will keep you posted on significant milestones as we progress and look forward to your input and feedback at each stage.

By Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General, CIVICUS

A few weeks ago I wrote of the semi-annual CIVICUS Board meeting and the key issues the Board would be deliberating. My thanks to all those who sent in their suggestions and input. A significant agenda item at the meeting was the re-structuring of CIVICUS to better deliver against the expectations of our constituents. Particular thanks are due to the students and faculty at the Moynihan Institute at Syracuse University whose work has helped frame our thinking.

The civil society leaders who founded CIVICUS envisioned "A global alliance of individuals and organisations which might strengthen civil society institutions, advocate for the cause of civil society among the world's decision-makers, and stimulate dialogue among civil society organisations and across the nonprofit, business and public sectors." 16 years on, it appears we have stayed true to their intent and continued to evolve, responding to constituent needs and a changing environment for civil society.

Each frontier that civil society has opened to include meaningful citizen participation has, however, provoked strong resistance in the form of greater constraints and more aggressive challenges. Geopolitical and economic developments have also significantly altered the landscape. Consequently, CIVICUS' 2008 Strategic Directions identified 3 core themes that have emerged over the past decade - protection of civil society rights, fostering of best practice - especially in the area of civil society accountability - and building civil society capacity to influence policy.

The re-structuring exercise at CIVICUS aims to optimise our organisation's structure to achieve those goals effectively and efficiently, and to do so in a manner that is consistent with our values. At their February meeting, the Board of CIVICUS reviewed the proposed new structure which reconfigures the current long list of programme departments into 2 departments - Policy & Research and Outreach supported by an Operations department. Over the next few weeks we will work out the details of the new modus operandi. It has been particularly heartening that the process thus far has lived up to our belief in inclusive, participatory decision-making.

You may recall that CIVICUS is also currently developing an Impact Planning and Learning Framework (IPLF) which aims to improve our ability to track, report and learn from our performance. The new structure, combined with the IPLF, will help CIVICUS achieve better synergy and coordination between programmes and ensure that CIVICUS' constituents play a more central role in its governance.

We will keep you posted on significant milestones as we progress and look forward to your input and feedback at each stage.

18 December 2009. Johannesburg, South Africa

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is deeply appalled at the indiscriminate targeting of peaceful protestors by law enforcement agents during the World Climate Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark.

According to on the ground sources, hundreds of protestors have been detained since the Summit began on December 7. A large number of protestors have been severely assaulted by officers using batons, tear gas and pepper spray, requiring them to receive medical treatment.

Many of those arrested have been forced to sit handcuffed in rows in sub-zero temperatures while others have been confined to cages specially erected for the Summit. On November 26, the Danish Parliament approved a new law to give the police additional powers to preemptively detain protestors for up to 12 hours even if they had breached no law. Protesters could also be jailed for 40 days under the hurriedly drafted legislation.

A number of check-points have been set up on Denmark’s borders to deter the entry of potential protestors into the country. Many NGO delegates have been denied entry to the official venue of the climate change talks being attended by over 100 heads of state and government.

“The appalling actions of the police and their vesting with excessive powers in the run-up to the Summit are indicative of the unwillingness of the existing world order to listen to alternative voices of dissent”, said Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General of CIVICUS.

CIVICUS urges world leaders and the international community to heed the calls that “The world wants a real deal!” and respect the demonstrators’ rights to peaceful protest as guaranteed under International and European law.

For more information please contact:
Mandeep S.Tiwana, Civil Society Watch Programme, CIVICUS

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

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Tel: +27-11-8335959 (office), +27-714698121 (mobile)

17 November 2009. Johannesburg, South Africa. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation condemns the introduction of the Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009 in the Uganda Parliament on 14 October 2009. The Bill contains derogatory references to members of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) community as well as sexual rights activists -- whom it accuses of “seeking to impose their values of sexual promiscuity on the people of Uganda.”

“The Bill flagrantly violates personal freedom and the guarantee of non-discrimination enshrined under international human rights law,” said Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General of CIVICUS. “It is deeply disturbing that such a Bill that seeks to breach the country’s existing human rights commitments has been introduced in the Ugandan Parliament.”

08 October 2009, Johannesburg, South Africa

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation expresses deepest condemnation at the killing of at least 157 protestors and the wounding of over a thousand people during a military crackdown upon a large scale public protest in Guinea on 28 September. The protest was sparked by indications given by the leader of the military regime, Captain Moussa "Dadis" Camara that he may stand for the national presidential election scheduled in January 2010, reneging on a previous promise not to contest the election. A number of female protestors were raped and sexually assaulted with guns by soldiers in the streets of the capital city, Conakry in what clearly are repugnant criminal acts against citizens exercising their right of democratic dissent.

Guinea has a long history of military dictatorships. The present military regime headed by Captain Camara seized power in a coup in December 2008 following the death of President Lasana Conté who controlled Guinea from 1984-2008 by means of another military dictatorship. Although, the regime has promised to hold elections, no indications of any substantive commitment to a free and fair democratic process have emerged, as evidenced by indications given by Captain Camara to stand for elections while being in control of all state institutions.

"As a condition precedent to the restoration of democracy in the country, it is essential that an independent, impartial investigation by international experts is conducted into the tragic events of 28 September and those responsible are brought to justice," said Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General of CIVICUS. "For there to be a peaceful transition, the military in Guinea must commit itself to not interfering with or contesting future elections. If the situation is left unaddressed, it could have grave geo-political implications for the politically fragile West African region which has a history of civil war and conflict fuelled by military regimes."

Civil society members, journalists and political activists were severely harassed following the 28 September massacre. The present climate of fear and insecurity in the country has seriously affected exercise of the freedoms of expression and assembly, raising concerns amongst civil society about the sincerity of the regime's commitment to ushering in democratic rule.

CIVICUS supports the collective demands of NGOs, trade unions and political groups which include release of all persons detained during and after the demonstrations including a number of women who have been sexually assaulted; return of bodies of slain civilians to their families; fair and adequate compensation to victims and prosecution of the offenders; the establishment of an international commission of inquiry to investigate the events; measures to protect civil society members, the independent media and opposition political activists; and complete restructuring of the security apparatus to enable respect for Guinea's commitments to its people under domestic and international human rights and humanitarian law.

CIVICUS calls upon the United Nations, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States and other members of the international community involved in deliberations with the military regime to take into account the demands of civil society and the aspirations of the people of Guinea. In crafting a solution to the current crisis, political considerations must not be allowed to subsume the course of justice for the victims.

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement of civil society with members and partners in over a hundred countries. The Civil Society Watch (CSW) programme of CIVICUS tracks threats to civil society freedoms of expression, association and assembly across the world. In 2008, CSW tracked threats in 61 countries across the globe.

For more information visit: www.civicus.org or contact Jessica Hume (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), Communications Officer or Mandeep S.Tiwana (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.),

Civil Society Watch Programme Officer

Tel: +27- 11 -833 5959 mob: +27 714698121

12 June 2009. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation condemns the violence stemming from protest in Peru and supports the resumption of peaceful dialogue and cooperation between the Government of Peru and the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Amazon (AIDESEP).

According to reports, approximately 40 people were killed and more than 100 wounded when Peruvian police and military opened fire on unarmed protestors on 5 June 2009.

The indigenous protesters oppose plans by the Peruvian government to further open parts of the Amazon region for development and the extraction of oil, minerals, timber, and other natural resources by multinational corporations. They maintain that multinational corporations are gaining access to ancestral territories without consultation from indigenous peoples. Protests have resulted in road blockades and the closure of areas in the Amazon region.

Talks among indigenous communities represented by AIDESEP and the Peruvian government broke down on 5 June 2009. Following vows of insurgency by protesters, the Peruvian military joined state police in a campaign of forced removals. Although threats of insurgency have since been rescinded, armed intervention continues, and the 60 day state of emergency that has been in effect since 8 May 2009 remains.

The implementation of newly promulgated laws passed last year give President Garcia new powers to implement free-trade agreements, which includes new trade pacts with the United States and Canada. Such pacts threaten the preservation of rural and native communities' autonomy and use of land as affirmed by Article 89 of the Constitution of the Republic of Peru. Moreover, the laws did not follow mandatory consultation with the affected communities under Article 6 of the ILO Convention 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal People in Independent Countries in breach of Peru's obligations under international law.

Although, the Congress has indefinitely suspended two of the decrees in response to recommendations of the Special Commission of the Congress, Constitutional Commission of the Congress and the Office of the Ombudsman, it has not repealed them to eliminate a significant cause of the conflict.

CIVICUS is deeply concerned over the escalation of violence and increased use of armed intervention by the Peruvian government and recommends that:

(i) an independent commission of inquiry comprising international experts be set up to investigate the violence and the events preceding it; and

(ii) an invitation be extended to the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous People to carry out an investigation.

CIVICUS supports the rights of all peoples of Peru to peacefully organise, protest and petition the government, and encourages resumption of peaceful talks and good-faith dialogue between the indigenous peoples of Peru and the government.


 

13 May 2009 – CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation has expressed concern over the detention of well-known civil society activists in Tashkent, Uzbekistan for commemorating the anniversary of the 2005 “Andijan Massacre”.

Civil society activists Oleg Sarapulov and Tatyana Dolblatova from the Committee for the Freedom of the Prisoners of Conscience in Uzbekistan, and Elena Urlaeva, Salomatoy Boymatova, and Anatoly Volkov and Victoria Banjenova from the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan were detained for most of today at the Tashkent Police Department for peacefully paying tribute to the memory of those killed in Andijan on 12-13 May 2005.

Further, Bahadir Namazov from the Committee for the Freedom of the Prisoners of Conscience in Uzbekistan remains under house arrest to prevent them from attending the peaceful memorial services at Tashkent’s Monument to Courage.

“Commemorating the deaths of fellow citizens is not a crime. Their detention even further tarnishes Uzbekistan’s democratic credentials as a member of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE),” said Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General of CIVICUS.

According to reports, surveillance and pressure on independent human rights defenders began yesterday, on the 12th of May, and has continued throughout today. All the mentioned human rights activists were followed by several law enforcement agents.

On 13 May 2005, gunmen attacked government buildings and broke into the Andijan city prison, taking hostages. In reaction, thousands of demonstrators later gathered, airing grievances about the government. While official estimates state that 173 people were killed, it was widely reported that over 500 lost their lives. Although, no official investigation has been made into these events, it is clear officers from the Ministry of the Interior and National Security Service used violent and disproportionate force against protesting citizens, resulting in these deaths. The government of Uzbekistan has not held any of the forces accountable for the violence.

CIVICUS believes these civil society activists were arbitrary detained, in breach of national constitutional guarantees and Uzbekistan’s commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights assuring the freedom to assemble peacefully.

28 January 2009- Despite severe criticism from donors, civil society and foreign governments, on 6 January 2009, the Ethiopian Parliament passed a controversial law restricting the activities and funding for civil society organisations (CSOs).

"The Law will have a crippling effect on civil society in Ethiopia. We are deeply disappointed that Parliament has passed this regressive law which undermines democratic values and the people of Ethiopia", said Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation.

The law, "Proclamation for the Registration and Regulation of Charities and Societies", will prevent CSOs from taking part in democracy building initiatives and acting as a check and balance against human rights abuses. Key provisions of the law infringe upon freedom of association guarantees in the Constitution of Ethiopia, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and People's Rights by:

 

  • Limiting CSOs that receive essential funds from abroad to a mere service delivery role through prohibitionsfrom working on key areas including advancement of human and democratic rights, gender equality, conflict resolution and accountability of law enforcement agencies;
  • Allowing wide executive discretion to refuse registration to CSOs and  curb their activities.
  • Clamping down on the independence of CSOs through provisions that permit institution of inquiries on unspecified grounds, allow removal of CSO officers and require advance notification of meetings;
  • Subjecting CSOs to strict official control through exhaustive reporting requirements, mandatory license renewals every three years and an arbitrary cap of 30% on administrative expenses; and
  • Discouraging CSO activities through harsh fines and strict punishments for administrative lapses.

CIVICUS has closely followed and critiqued drafts of the law before its final passage in Parliament. Sadly, the concerns outlined by CIVICUS and other CSOs have been ignored by the Ethiopian government. CIVICUS submissions on successive drafts have emphasised that any regulatory mechanism for civil society must be underpinned by legislation that is equitable, just and fair. The current law substantially fails this test.

Note to the Editor
For more information, please contact Mandeep Tiwana, Civil Society Watch Officer at

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or Julie Middleton, Civil Society Watch Acting Manager at

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