• 25 years later, looking back at my CIVICUS journey


    by Anabel Cruz, Board Chair 2016-2019

    Anabel Cruz Action ShotIn early 1993, democracy was rather “young” in many parts of the world. Only less than four years had passed since the fall of the Berlin Wall; Apartheid had not yet been totally dismantled and the first elections in South Africa held with universal suffrage were to happen the year after, in 1994. At the same time, the early nineties saw several countries in Latin America taking their first steps towards elected democracies, after more than a decade of military dictatorships.

    Internet did not exist yet, and global communications were something at least very new, slow and difficult. Only one year earlier, in 1992, a professor of sociology at the University of Aberdeen had described globalisation as the compression of the world and the intensification of the consciousness of the world as a whole.

    So, in that context, isn’t it really admirable that a group of individuals, from diverse regions and parts of the world, came together to found CIVICUS, as a global alliance of civil society organisations? Those visionaries defined the mission of the new Alliance as: “to strengthen citizen action and influence, based on the underlying principle that free and effective societies exist in direct proportion to their degree of citizen participation and influence." (CIVICUS Organising Committee, minutes Lisbon meeting January 1993).

    Today, more than 25 years later, this mission is still valid and current, and it is also our permanent challenge. Freedom, participation and solidarity remain as one of our basic goals and fundamental values.

    My 25-year journey with CIVICUS

    As I reflect on my own journey with CIVICUS, a series of images come to my mind, and I relive my first contacts with CIVICUS like one of those high-speed movies. I learned of the new organisation in the first months of 1993: while helping to consolidate local democracy, civil society organisations in Latin America were seeking new international horizons and collaborations.

    I never imagined that my visit to Independent Sector in Washington DC, at that moment hosting the recently founded Alliance, would result in such a long-lasting and enduring relationship. For the last 25 years, I have had the privilege of following and participating in CIVICUS history, its achievements, challenges, strategies and course corrections, from diverse positions: I have been a member, a partner, a Board member, the Chair of Board in two different opportunities.

    One of CIVICUS first successful steps was probably its first international meeting. Soon after the organisation was founded, in 1995, the first CIVICUS World Assembly took place in Mexico City: 500 people from more than 50 different countries came together to learn about the new organisation and to have conversations on how to strengthen citizen action and cooperation opportunities. Since that moment, 16 global events have been organised in all parts of the world, global gatherings for civil society to connect, debate and create shared solutions, now known as International Civil Society Week (ICSW). The most recent one, in Belgrade, Serbia happened just last month, and was a vibrant gathering attended by over 700 delegates from 92 countries.

    From the very beginning, CIVICUS prioritised activities such as networking, information-gathering and building the capacity of existing and new national and regional associations. Consistent with this, the Affinity Group of National Associations (AGNA) was one of CIVICUS’ first, and still enduring, programmes, bringing together national associations and regional platforms from around the world for more than 20 years to foster greater cooperation across boundaries.

    Building civil society knowledge in a changing world

    From its inception in 1993, CIVICUS has sought to make a significant contribution to recording the rise of civil society around the world, and to building a knowledge base on civil society by civil society. A first World Report on Citizen Participation came out as early as 1995, intended to get a grasp on the state of civil society worldwide. Later in 1997 The New Civic Atlas was published, as a compilation of civil society profiles from 60 countries around the world. In order to provide consistency with regard to the issues covered and a more rigorous comparative framework and after a number of consultations, in 1999 CIVICUS was ready to launch a new idea, the Civil Society Index (CSI).

    I remember so well the words of former CIVICUS Secretary General Kumi Naidoo, reporting years later that participants of the CSI consultations had described the project as “an exercise in madness,” especially due to the lack of data on civil society in most countries, and the contested definition of civil society that would not allow comparisons or global analysis. But CIVICUS challenged the paradigms once again and the so-called Diamond Tool was presented in the CIVICUS World Assembly in Manila, as the preliminary methodological design for the CSI project.

    Subsequently, CIVICUS developed a fully-fledged project design and the CSI had its pilot phase from 2000 to 2002, with the CSI implemented in 13 countries. The evaluation of the pilot phase recommended modifications in the methodology and considered the Index project as “an innovative, contextually flexible, empowering and uniquely participatory tool for self-assessment by civil society stakeholders of the state of civil society in their countries” Two full phases followed, from 2003 to 2006, with the participation of 53 countries, and from 2008 to 2011, with the CSI implemented in 56 countries and also at regional level in six African countries.

    The results of the decade of CSI implementation yielded an enormous contribution to the body of knowledge about civil society around the world. The world was changing very fast, new actors burst onto the scene: The Indignados Movement in Madrid, the student protests in Chile and in other countries, the Arab Spring, all these new started to rise in late 2010 with peaks during 2011 and 2012. The CSI findings were clear and very well oriented, pointing out a noticeable disconnect between established civil society organisations and the increasing number of citizens involved in both new and traditional forms of activism. It does not come as surprise that the final CSI report title was “Bridging the gaps: citizens, organisations and dissociations” (2011) and concluded that the CSI needed to evolve to encompass the changing landscape.

    Conditions for civil society proved to be volatile and can change very rapidly, so information cannot be out of date. Indeed, more agile tools were needed, without compromising the rigor that characterized the CSI tool, in order to continue providing a leading barometer of that human impulse to freedom, justice and collective endeavour.

    CIVICUS has listened and has tried to respond to the changing situations and the multiple demands. The State of Civil Society Report, published annually since 2013 and the CIVICUS Monitor launched in 2016, are part of that necessary evolution. The State of Civil Society Report has become CIVICUS' flagship annual publication, providing the key trends affecting civil society organisations (CSOs) and citizen movements. Furthermore, the CIVICUS Monitor is a research tool aimed to share reliable, up-to-date data on the state of civil society freedoms in all countries. Danny Sriskandarajah, our Secretary General from 2012 to 2018, defined the CIVICUS Monitor as “the first robust and comprehensive tool to track conditions for civil society around the world”.

    The road ahead…

    CIVICUS is indeed one of the few organisations whose main job is to protect and promote civil society writ large, all over the world. And in the years to come, no doubt that CIVICUS will continue listening to our members, partners, to our primary constituencies and will always be ready to innovate, will work hard to understand realities to defend civic and democratic freedoms, to strengthen the power of people, and to empower a more accountable and innovative civil society.

    As we prepare to address new challenges, we are fortunate to find ourselves in a position of strength at CIVICUS: with a stable financial base, a committed and diverse board, a broad and growing membership and a talented secretariat team led by Lysa John, our inspiring new Secretary General. We have the best conditions to continuing strengthening citizen participation around the world.

    As I step down from the Board soon, I can only say how privileged and grateful I feel. Thank you for the opportunity of having served for so many years, for all the learnings, for the love and friendship that I have received, for having met the most committed people to justice that can exist. CIVICUS is about shared values, solidarity and inclusion. I will always be a champion for those values. Thank you CIVICUS!

    Anabel Cruz

    Chair of the Board of CIVICUS 2016-2019

  • 5 countries on CIVICUS Monitor watchlist presented to UN Human Rights Council

    Statement at the 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    This Council has identified restrictions on fundamental freedoms as a warning sign of an impending human rights crisis. Five countries were highlighted in the latest CIVICUS Monitor Watchlist, which puts a spotlight on a group of countries where there has been a rapid decline in respect for civic space. 

    These include Myanmar, where a military coup has led to deaths of at least 50 protesters, and the arbitrary detention of more than a thousand activists, protesters and politicians, while journalists are targeted daily. 

    In Nicaragua, there has been systematic repression of demonstrations. Human rights defenders, journalists and perceived political opponents face criminalisation and harassment, and a recent onslaught of repressive laws hinders civic space still further.

    In Poland, months of ongoing protests sparked by a near-total ban on abortion have been met with excessive force by authorities and far-right groups. Laws and reforms which undermine judicial independence and the rule of law have been passed since 2015 and media freedom is under threat. 

    In Russia, there have been large scale attacks on peaceful assembly and journalists during the massive nationwide peaceful protests. Over 10,000 protesters have been detained.

    In Togo, where civic space has been backsliding since 2017, the detention of a journalist and trade unionists and the suspension of a newspaper are recent examples highlighting the deterioration in the respect of civic freedoms.

    The Council cannot fulfill its protection or prevention mandates unless it is prepared to take meaningful action in situations which show such warning signs. We call for stronger scrutiny on Myanmar and Nicaragua to be brought by the Council this session, and for due attention on Poland, Russia and Togo to prevent deteriorating situations on the ground. 

    Civic space ratings by CIVICUS Monitor
    Open Narrowed Obstructed  Repressed Closed


  • 5 países de la lista de vigilancia de CIVICUS se presentan al Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU


    Declaración en el 46º período de sesiones del Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU

    Este Consejo ha identificado las restricciones a las libertades fundamentales como una señal de alarma de una inminente crisis de derechos humanos. Cinco países han sido destacados en la última lista de vigilancia de CIVICUS Monitor, la cual pone el punto de mira un grupo de países en los que se ha producido un rápido declive del respeto al espacio cívico.

    Entre ellos se encuentra Myanmar, donde un golpe militar ha provocado la muerte de al menos 50 manifestantes y la detención arbitraria de más de mil activistas, manifestantes y políticos, mientras que los periodistas son objeto de ataques diarios.

    En Nicaragua se ha producido una represión sistemática de las manifestaciones. Los defensores de derechos humanos, los periodistas y los presuntos opositores políticos sufren criminalización y acoso. Además, una reciente oleada de leyes represivas obstaculiza aún más el espacio cívico.

    En Polonia, las autoridades y los grupos de extrema derecha han respondido con una fuerza excesiva a los meses de protestas desencadenadas por la prohibición casi total del aborto. Desde 2015 se han aprobado leyes y reformas que socavan la independencia judicial y el Estado de derecho. Asimismo, la libertad de los medios de comunicación está amenazada.

    En Rusia se han producido agresiones a gran escala contra las reuniones pacíficas y los periodistas durante las masivas protestas pacíficas a nivel nacional. Más de 10.000 manifestantes han sido detenidos.

    En Togo, donde el espacio cívico se ha visto limitado desde 2017, la detención de un periodista y de sindicalistas y la suspensión de un periódico son ejemplos recientes que ponen de manifiesto el deterioro del respeto a las libertades cívicas.

    El Consejo no puede cumplir sus mandatos de protección o prevención a menos que esté preparado para tomar medidas significativas en situaciones que muestren tales señales de alerta. Pedimos que el Consejo lleve a cabo un examen más riguroso de Myanmar y Nicaragua en este periodo de sesiones, y que preste la debida atención a Polonia, Rusia y Togo para evitar el deterioro de la situación sobre el terreno.

    Calificaciónes de espacio cívico - CIVICUS Monitor
    Abierto Estrecho Obstruido  Represivo Cerrado


  • A decline in civic freedoms is anything but ‘silly’  

    UK Member of Parliament, Jacob Rees-Mogg’s belittling of the CIVICUS Monitor's Watchlist is further evidence of the disregard for civil society and citizen activism in the country. 

    We, the undersigned, are concerned by the UK government’s ongoing actions to curtail freedom of peaceful assembly. The derisive response from the Leader of the House of Commons to a query on the country’s placement on the CIVICUS Monitor’s International Watchlist is further cause for dismay.

    The senior member of the ruling party made his comments during a parliamentary question and answer session in the House of Commons. Following MP Alistair Carmichael’s query on the decline of civic freedoms in the United Kingdom, Rees-Mogg proceeded to dismiss the concerns raised by negating the evidence presented and belittling its source.  

    CIVICUS is a global alliance of 10,000+ members and gathers its data through a network of established research partners.  In September 2021, the UK was placed on the CIVICUS Monitor Watchlist – a quarterly brief that spotlights countries where a serious and rapid decline of civic freedoms has been observed. Other countries featured on this list include Afghanistan, Belarus and Nicaragua.   

    The Watchlist highlights threats to the right to freedom of peaceful assembly currently experienced in the UK. The proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is a chief source of concern and is expected to give police more power to crack down on protests, with serious repercussions for minority groups in the country. Despite concerns expressed by civil society, new proposals to the Policing Bill were introduced in October 2021. These include protest banning orders and new stop and search powers.  

    The controversial bill, currently with the House of Lords (the upper house of Parliament), comes at a time when protests by anti-racism and environmental rights groups are being met with disproportionate force and restrictions. Other legislative developments, such as the proposal to “overhaul” the Human Rights Act and the introduction of changes to the New Elections Bill and the Judicial Review and Courts Bill, are expected to further undermine the democratic checks and balances that hold the government accountable.  

    The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is an integral part of international commitments to protect civic freedoms. We expect the UK to be a global champion of these commitments. Government Minister Rees-Mogg’s response sadly reflects a complete disregard for the fundamental freedoms of citizens in one of the world’s oldest democracies. Casting aspersions on civil society is a tactic often used by authoritarian governments to deflect criticism and avoid oversight. It is unfortunate that the UK government has often employed this approach to defame activists and organisations who speak truth to power.  

    As past and present leaders of the CIVICUS alliance, we stand with the findings of the Monitor Watchlist and call on the UK government to urgently remedy the developments which have caused civil society organisations across the world to raise this alarm.  

    We welcome the opportunity to meet with MP Jacob Rees-Mogg to present the findings of our research and make recommendations on how the UK government can reverse the decline of civic freedoms in the country. 


    Julia Sanchez
    CIVICUS Board Chair (Canada)

    Anabel Cruz
    Former Board Chair (Uruguay)

    Ingrid Srinath
    Former Secretary General (India)

    Kumi Naidoo
    Former Secretary General (South Africa)

    Katsuji Imata
    Former Secretary General (Japan)

    Lysa John
    Present CIVICUS Secretary General (South Africa)

    Civic space in the United Kingdom is rated as narrowed by the CIVICUS Monitor.

  • Afganistán: la ONU y los Estados miembros deben tomar medidas urgentes para proteger a la sociedad civil

    En CIVICUS, la alianza global de la sociedad civil, nos preocupa profundamente la seguridad de las personas que defienden los derechos humanos, de los periodistas y del personal de las organizaciones de la sociedad civil en Afganistán, tras el colapso del gobierno del presidente Ashraf Ghani y la toma del poder por parte de los talibanes.

    Tal y como han solicitado los expertos de la ONU, instamos a los Estados miembros de la ONU a que tomen medidas inmediatas para protegerlos y a que convoquen urgentemente una sesión especial del Consejo de Derechos Humanos sobre Afganistán, que incluya un debate sobre el rápido establecimiento de una misión de investigación para evaluar la situación sobre el terreno e informar sobre ella.

    Los talibanes tienen un historial de abusos contra los derechos humanos, represalias coordinadas contra sus críticos y ataques a civiles con impunidad. Tras la toma de Kabul, las personas que defienden los derechos humanos informaron de que los talibanes habían revelado listas de nombres de representantes de la sociedad civil y de que se habían llevado a cabo redadas en sus domicilios. A las personas defensoras que intentan salir del país también se les ha impedido subir a los aviones, ya que las misiones extranjeras han dado prioridad a la evacuación de sus propios ciudadanos y personal. Los demás se han escondido y temen por su vida.

    El Alto Comisionado para los Derechos Humanos también expresó su preocupación por los primeros informes según los cuales los talibanes están imponiendo severas restricciones a los derechos humanos en las zonas bajo su control, especialmente dirigidas a las mujeres.

    "La crisis que se está produciendo en Afganistán requiere una respuesta urgente y decidida de la ONU y de los Estados miembro. Deben adoptarse medidas proactivas para garantizar la seguridad y la protección de quienes defienden los derechos humanos, especialmente de las mujeres. Muchos corren el riesgo de ser objetivo de los talibanes por su trabajo, y hay que hacer esfuerzos para evacuarlos y reubicarlos a ellos y a sus familias", dijo Josef Benedict, investigador del Espacio Cívico de CIVICUS.

    CIVICUS ha documentado los ataques de los talibanes a la sociedad civil en los últimos años. Las personas que defienden los derechos humanos, sobre todo las mujeres, han sido amenazadas en el transcurso de su trabajo y algunas han sido secuestradas y asesinadas. Muchos han tenido que trasladarse por razones de seguridad, aunque los autores no han rendido cuentas. Las recientes negociaciones de paz no han incluido de forma adecuada y efectiva a la sociedad civil, especialmente a las defensoras de los derechos humanos.

    Según la información recopilada por el Comité Afgano de Defensores de los Derechos Humanos (AHRDC), sólo entre septiembre de 2020 y mayo de 2021 fueron asesinados 17 defensores de los derechos humanos. Más de 200 personas defensoras de los derechos humanos y representantes de los medios de comunicación han denunciado haber recibido graves amenazas. Dadas las actuales condiciones de conflicto e inestabilidad política, estas amenazas han aumentado.

    El llamamiento del secretario general de la ONU, António Guterres, el 16 de agosto, para que la comunidad internacional hable al unísono para defender los derechos humanos en Afganistán es un paso en la dirección correcta.

    "El Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU debe aprovechar la oportunidad actual para reanudar rápidamente las estancadas conversaciones de paz en Afganistán y garantizar la representación efectiva de la sociedad civil, especialmente de las mujeres. También debe pedir a los talibanes que respeten la legislación internacional en materia de derechos humanos, protejan a los civiles y pongan fin a las operaciones de represalia", dijo Josef Benedict.

    El CIVICUS Monitor es una plataforma en línea que hace un seguimiento de las amenazas a la sociedad civil en países de todo el mundo, califica el espacio cívico -el espacio para la sociedad civil- en Afganistán comorepresivo

  • Afghanistan : L'ONU et les États membres doivent prendre des mesures urgentes pour protéger la société civile

    CIVICUS, l'alliance mondiale de la société civile, est profondément préoccupée par la sécurité des défenseurs des droits humains, des journalistes et du personnel des organisations de la société civile en Afghanistan, suite à l'effondrement du gouvernement du Président Ashraf Ghani et à la prise de pouvoir par les Talibans.

    Comme l'ont demandé les experts de l'ONU, nous exhortons les États membres de l'ONU à prendre des mesures immédiates pour les protéger et à demander de toute urgence la tenue d'une session spéciale du Conseil des droits de l'homme sur l'Afghanistan, qui comprendra une discussion sur la mise en place rapide d'une mission d'enquête chargée d'évaluer la situation sur le terrain et de rendre compte.

    Les talibans ont un passé de violation des droits humains, de mesures de représailles coordonnées contre leurs détracteurs, et d'attaques contre les civils en toute impunité. Après la prise de contrôle de Kaboul, les défenseurs des droits humains ont signalé que des listes de noms de représentants de la société civile ont été révélées par les talibans et que des raids ont été menés à leur domicile. Les défenseurs des droits humains qui tentent de quitter le pays ont également été empêchés d'embarquer dans des avions, les missions étrangères ayant donné la priorité à l'évacuation de leurs propres ressortissants et de leur personnel. D'autres se sont cachés et craignent pour leur vie.

    Le Haut-Commissaire aux droits de l'homme s'est également inquiété des premières informations indiquant que les talibans imposent de sévères restrictions aux droits humains dans les zones qu'ils contrôlent, en ciblant particulièrement les femmes.

    « La crise qui se déroule en Afghanistan exige une réponse urgente et déterminée de la part des Nations unies et des États membres. Des mesures proactives doivent être prises pour assurer la sécurité et la protection des défenseurs des droits humains, en particulier des femmes. Nombre d'entre eux risquent d'être pris pour cible par les talibans en raison de leur travail, et des efforts doivent être déployés pour les évacuer et les réinstaller, eux et leurs familles », a déclaré Josef Benedict, chercheur en matière d'espace civique chez CIVICUS.

    CIVICUS a recueilli des informations sur les attaques des talibans contre la société civile au cours des dernières années. Les défenseurs des droits humains, en particulier les femmes, ont été menacés dans l'exercice de leurs fonctions et certains ont été enlevés et tués. Nombre d'entre eux ont dû déménager pour des raisons de sécurité, alors même que les auteurs de ces actes n'ont pas été tenus pour responsables. Les récentes négociations de paix n'ont pas réussi à inclure de manière adéquate et efficace la société civile, en particulier les femmes défenseures des droits humains.

    Selon les informations compilées par le Comité afghan des défenseurs des droits humains (AHRDC), 17 défenseurs des droits humains ont été tués entre septembre 2020 et mai 2021 seulement. Plus de 200 défenseurs des droits humains et représentants des médias ont déclaré avoir reçu de graves menaces. Compte tenu des conditions de conflit et de l'instabilité politique actuelles, ces menaces se sont amplifiées.

    L'appel lancé par le secrétaire général des Nations unies, António Guterres, le 16 août, à la communauté internationale pour qu'elle parle d'une seule voix afin de faire respecter les droits humains en Afghanistan, est un pas dans la bonne direction.

    « Le Conseil de sécurité des Nations unies doit saisir l'occasion qui se présente actuellement pour relancer rapidement les pourparlers de paix inter-afghans, qui sont dans l'impasse, et assurer une représentation effective de la société civile, en particulier des femmes. Il doit également appeler les talibans à respecter le droit international des droits de l'homme, à protéger les civils et à mettre fin aux opérations de représailles », a déclaré Josef Benedict.

    Le CIVICUS Monitor,une plateforme en ligne qui suit les menaces pesant sur la société civile dans les pays du monde entier, qualifie l'espace civique - l'espace pour la société civile - en Afghanistan comme étant réprimé.

  • Afghanistan: UN and Member States must take urgent steps to protect civil society

    CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance is deeply concerned about the safety of human rights defenders, journalists and staff of civil society organisations in Afghanistan following the collapse of President Ashraf Ghani’s government and the takeover by the Taliban.

    As called for by UN experts, we urge UN member states to take immediate steps to protect them as well as urgently call for a Special Session at the Human Rights Council on Afghanistan which will include a discussion on the speedy establishment of a fact-finding mission to be deployed to assess the situation on the ground and report back.

    The Taliban have a track record of abusing human rights, coordinating reprisals against their critics and attacking civilians with impunity. Following the takeover of Kabul, human rights defenders have reported that lists of names of representatives of civil society have been revealed by the Taliban and raids have been carried out in their homes. Human rights defenders trying to leave the country have also been prevented from boarding planes as foreign missions have prioritised evacuating their own nationals and staff. Others have gone into hiding and fear for their lives.

    The High Commissioner for Human Rights has also expressed concerns about early indications that the Taliban are imposing severe restrictions on human rights in the areas under their control, particularly targeting women.

    “The crisis unfolding in Afghanistan requires an urgent and resolute response from the UN and member states. Proactive steps must be taken to ensure the security and protection of human rights defenders especially women. Many are at risk of being targeted by the Taliban because of their work and there must be efforts taken to evacuate and resettle them and their families,” said CIVICUS’s Civic Space Researcher, Josef Benedict.

    CIVICUS has documented attacks on civil society by the Taliban in recent years. Human rights defenders particularly women have been facing threats for undertaking their work and some have been abducted and killed. Many have had to relocate due to safety concerns even as perpetrators have not been held accountable. Recent peace negotiations failed to adequately and effectively include civil society, especially women human rights defenders.

    According to information compiled by the Afghan Human Rights Defenders’ Committee (AHRDC) 17 human rights defenders were killed between September 2020 and May 2021 alone. Over 200 human rights defenders and media representatives reported receiving serious threats. In light of the present conflict conditions and political instability, these threats have magnified.

    The UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ on 16 August urged the international community to speak in one voice to uphold human rights in Afghanistan is a step in the right direction.

    “The UN Security Council must seize the current opportunity to quickly restart the stalled intra-Afghan peace talks and ensure effective representation of civil society especially women. It must also call on the Taliban to respect international human rights law, protect civilians, and end reprisal attacks”, said Josef Benedict.

    The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in countries across the globe, rates civic space – the space for civil society – in Afghanistan as Repressed.

  • Australia's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

    Statement at 47th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights -- Outcome Adoption for Australia

    CIVICUS welcomes Australia's engagement in the UPR process.

    In our report submitted to the review, CIVICUS examined a number of unwarranted restrictions which undermine the consolidation of a more enabling environment for civil society in Australia. We further articulated several measures the relevant authorities should take to address these barriers to the realization of a more pluralistic civic space.

    In our submission, we raised a number of concerns about the climate for civic space in the country. In particular, we underscored that, climate and environmental movements and defenders are increasingly being vilified and criminalised for peaceful protests. We further raised alarm over unwarranted restrictions on media freedoms due, in large part, to police raids on independent media outlets and recent attempts to silence whistleblowers who reveal government wrongdoing under the Intelligence Services Act. 

    As a result of these issues, in December 2019, the CIVICUS Monitor, which rates and tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 196 countries, downgraded Australia’s civic space rating from open to narrowed.

    While we welcome Australia's acceptance of recommendations to “Continue to protect civil and political rights for all persons in Australia as well as freedom of expression” we regret its unwillingness to accept a number of specific and targeted recommendations, including:

    • Amending national security laws that inhibit the speech of journalists, whistle-blowers and lawyers;
    • Repealing laws criminalizing public interest reporting; and
    • Ensuring meaningful participation in political and public life for all persons, especially for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

    We urge the government to drop all charges against whistleblowers, halt plans for legal changes to allow for the deregistration of charities for minor offences and consult with civil society in the implementation of the UPR recommendations.

    Civic space in Australia is rated as Narrowed  by the CIVICUS Monitor

  • Austria's civic space rating upgraded

    Available in German

    Political gains made by the Green party and increasing dialogue between government and civil society, has led to an improvement in civic space in Austria, prompting a ratings upgrade from narrowed to open. Only 3% of the world’s population lives in countries with open civic space, where citizens are free to form associations, peacefully demonstrate in public spaces and practice freedom of expression. This ratings decision by the CIVICUS Monitor was taken following a thorough assessment of conditions in the country for the free exercise of civic freedoms, as protected by international law.

    In 2018 under the ÖVP-FPÖ (Peoples Party -Freedom Party Austria) coalition government, Austria was downgraded to narrow following a deterioration in civic space. During this period, the government refused to engage with civil society organisations (CSOs) but instead pursued smear campaigns against them. In addition, funding to NGOs in many sectors was also drastically reduced. More specifically, NGOs working with migrant and refugee rights were labelled as ‘human traffickers’ by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Freedom of expression came under threat as government officials attempted to prevent independent media from reporting on certain briefings and subjected them to online attacks.  

    However, the September 2019 election outcome has resulted in a positive change, as the far-right FPÖ party was replaced in the coalition by the Green party. The Green party has been more open to dialogue with CSOs which presents the sector with the unique opportunity to make themselves heard again. CSOs demands are now being taken into consideration in governments current work programs.  

    The financial support allocated during the COVID-19 pandemic through a 700 million Euro support fund, exclusively for Not- for Profit Organisation’s (NPOs), after consultation with the sector, is a welcome development. In an unprecedented move, on 13 May 2020, a law (20. Covid-19 Gesetz) which was passed by parliament to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, made mention - for the first time in Austrian history - of "NPOs". This signals that the sector is being recognised. Throughout this process, CSOs report that they were thoroughly involved and regularly consulted, marking a significant shift in government’s approach.

    “The inclusion of CSOs in various consultation processes, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, by the Austrian government is an example of good practice which other states in the region should follow,” said Aarti Narsee, civic space researcher for the region.  

    However, the hard-line of the government on migration-related issues persists in Austria. In a recent example, the ÖVP Foreign Minister remarked that the country will not assist with the dramatic migrant situation in the Lesbos Moria Camp in Greece after it had been set on fire, because it “does not want to send wrong signals to the migrants”.

    “While we welcome these positive developments in civic space in Austria, we also want to urge the leading ÖVP party to refrain from its anti-migrant rhetoric- a tactic which has not ceased with the new governing coalition,” said Narsee.  

    Austria is now rated open on the CIVICUS Monitor. Visit Austria’s homepage for more information and for the latest updates.

    For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

    Aarti Narsee, Civic Space researcher, CIVICUS


  • Benin downgraded as civic freedoms deteriorate
    • Judicial persecution of journalists and activists
    • Recent legislative and presidential elections marred by protests, violence and human rights violations.
    • A number of opposition members either arrested or in exile
    • 5th country in West Africa to be downgraded over the past 6 months

    Benin has been downgraded from Obstructed to Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks violations to civic freedoms, including the freedoms of expression, association and assembly, in every country across the world.  A ‘Repressed’ rating means that in Benin there are serious restrictions to fundamental freedoms.

    “Activists, journalists and members of the opposition have been threatened and persecuted,” said human rights activist John Gbenagnon. “Harassment through arbitrary arrest, detention, targeted use of legal and regulatory measures and restrictions on finances has become a common experience for many human rights activists and opposition members in Benin.”

    Democratic  freedoms  in Benin have deteriorated under President Patrice Talon’s administration, who was recently re-elected in April 2021 after a controversial election characterised by the absence of main opposition candidates.

    Many opposition candidates were excluded from the presidential ballot after a new electoral law, adopted in the absence of opposition parties in the National Assembly, required presidential candidates to be ‘sponsored’ by at least 10 percent of parliament members and/ or mayors. Several opposition members have been arrested in the past few months, while others remain in exile or were disqualified from participating. The exclusion of opposition parties from elections sparked protests and violence a few days before the vote, killing at least two people in Savè.

    The CIVICUS Monitor is concerned that the deterioration of rights around elections has become a common theme in Benin. Previous legislative elections, in April 2019, were marred by civic space violations, including an internet shutdown and the use of excessive and lethal force  against protesters; protests were banned in many localities and demonstrators were arbitrarily arrested and detained. Among those arrested and prosecuted was trade unionist Joseph Aïmasse, from Confédération Syndicale des Travailleurs du Bénin, who was sentenced on 1 April 2019 to two months in prison and a 360 USD fine for having called for an ‘unauthorised protest’.

    Arrests and targeting of those with views contrary to the state have become more common in Benin. The vaguely-worded 2018 Digital Code, recently criticised by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions, is being used as a tool to arrest and prosecute bloggers, journalists and opposition members. Under this law, prominent investigative journalist Ignace Sossou was arrested and sentenced in December 2019  to an initial prison sentence of 18 months and a fine; Sossou was charged with ‘harassment via electronic means‘ after quoting the public prosecutor on Twitter during a media workshop.

    Media freedoms are increasingly under threat in Benin. The country’s national media regulator, Haute Autorité de l’Audovisuel et de la Communication (HAAC), has arbitrarily sanctioned media outlets and journalists. For example, in December 2019 Radio Soleil, owned by an opposition leader, was ordered to ‘suspend broadcasts’ until further notice after the HAAC rejected the station’s application to renew its license.

    In a particularly regressive step for justice, in April 2020 Benin withdrew from a specific article of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Protocol, that prevents individuals and CSOs from submitting complaints directly to the Court.

    Benin’s civic space downgrade  mirrors a decline in democratic freedoms across West Africa:  Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Niger and Togo were downgraded from Obstructed to Repressed in December 2020, indicating a worrying trend in the region. 

    All five countries had presidential elections in 2020 and 2021, mostly fraught by controversy, civic space violations and increased political tension. In 2019, Nigeria had its rating changed to Repressed, a year after Senegal also saw its rating deteriorate from ‘Narrowed’ to Obstructed.





  • Civic Freedoms and the COVID19 Pandemic: A snapshot of restrictions

    On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. The spread of the pandemic, and the response of states to the crisis, have created unprecedented living conditions for much of the world’s population. A range of restrictions on freedoms has been introduced in attempts to curb the pandemic. However, some of these have had troubling impacts on human rights and the space for civil society. In many cases, they have patterned onto and reinforced existing restrictions of civic space.

    Civic space is the bedrock of any open and democratic society and is rooted in the fundamental freedoms of people to associate, assemble peacefully and freely express their views and opinions. Since 2016, the CIVICUS Monitor has documented and analysed the state of civic space in 196 countries.

    States have taken measures that include emergency laws, nationwide lockdowns and restrictions on movement. But one month after the declaration of the pandemic, CIVICUS has documented several alarming civic space trends that have resulted. These are:

    • Unjustified restrictions on access to information and censorship;
    • Detentions of activists for disseminating critical information;
    • Crackdowns on human rights defenders and media outlets;
    • Violations of the right to privacy and overly broad emergency powers.

    International human rights law recognises that in the context of officially proclaimed public emergencies, including in public health, which threaten the life of a country, restrictions on some rights can be justified, but they must have a legal basis and be strictly necessary, of limited duration, respectful of human dignity, subject to review, proportionate to achieving the objective, not involve discrimination and be used strictly to the extent required by the emergency in question. Even where an official proclamation of emergency has been made, non-derogable fundamental rights such as the right to life and freedom from torture and inhuman, cruel, or degrading treatment still must not be infringed. Where a proclamation of emergency has not officially been made, rights can only be restricted during a public health threat in accordance with the limitations allowed in normal times under the relevant provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

    International law is clear, but there are concerns that some of the actions taken by some states may be exceeding justifiable restrictions and negatively affecting civic freedoms. CIVICUS has compiled information on key civic space issues that have surfaced due to the response by governments and some other groups to the COVID-19 pandemic, raising serious concerns about the state of civic space at this time. These reports are sourced from civil society groups and activists, credible news sources and official documents. The restrictions are happening in a range of countries with different civic space ratings. When a country is referenced the respective rating colour is also displayed:


    Censorship and restrictions on access to information

    In  China, the government initially  responded to the outbreak by withholding information from the public, under-reporting cases of infection and downplaying the severity of the infection. The authorities also censored numerous articles and social media posts about the pandemic, including those posted by families of infected people seeking help and by people living in cordoned-off cities documenting their daily life. In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro, through a ‘medida provisória’ (provisional measure), decreed that government officials were not obliged to answer any freedom of information requests during the outbreak. The Supreme Court subsequently suspended the decree.The CIVICUS Monitor has shown that in 2019, censorship was the most common tactic used by states to silence activists, journalists and government critics and suppress critical information. Human rights groups have documented attempts to censor or restrict information on the COVID-19 pandemic. These have potentially prevented people from accessing information about the pandemic that can help them protect themselves and their families and being able to ask informed questions about the decisions being taken by the authorities in response to the pandemic.

    In Turkmenistan, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov’s government is limiting the use of the word ‘coronavirus’ as much as possible in order to deter the spread of information about the pandemic. It has ordered the word’s removal from health brochures distributed in hospitals, schools and workplaces. In El Salvador journalists have not been allowed to ask questions during press conferences related to the crisis and the government’s response.

    In Vietnam, where the state controls all conventional media and implements strict social media censorship, the authorities have been cracking down on people using Facebook and bloggers who are trying to deliver timely and valuable information about the pandemic. As of 17 March, at least 654 people who posted on Facebook about the outbreak had been summoned to police stations for interrogation about their posts, and 146 of them have been fined.

    During this crisis, internet shutdowns directly harm people’s health and lives, and undermine efforts to bring the pandemic under control. The shutdown in Indian-administered Kashmir is hampering the ability of doctors to obtain information about the virus and educate the public. Similar concerns have also been raised in Rakhine state in Myanmar, which is also subject to an internet shutdown.

    Threats and arrests for criticising state response

    There have also been reports of people being threatened or arrested for criticising their state’s response or disseminating information on the pandemic.

    In Iran, civil rights activists, journalists, a city councillor and a footballer have all been  detained or summoned for questioning after criticising the Iranian government’s management of the pandemic in social media posts. Some of those who were summoned were accused of portraying the country in a negative light and pressured to be supportive of the government’s response to the outbreak.

    In the Solomon Islands, the Ministry of Health has sent out a memo threatening ‘termination with immediate effect’ for staff who post comments online criticising the government’s response to the pandemic. It said the regulations were included under the State of Public Emergency declaration. In Sri Lanka, on 1 April, the Inspector General of Police instructed all police officers to take legal action against those who publish posts on social media criticising government officials.

    Police in Pakistan have arrested dozens of doctors and medical staff who protested about a lack of personal protective equipment in their fight against the pandemic. In Thailand, on 23 March, an artist was charged under the draconian Computer Crime Act for a Facebook post criticising the lack of airport COVID-19 screening.

    Restrictions on the media

    Journalists and the media have a key role to play in sharing timely information about the pandemic. However, some states are shutting down media outlets, restricting the media and criminalising journalists.

    On 17 March it was reported that decrees had been issued by the governments of Jordan, MoroccoOman and Yemen to suspend newspaper printing and distribution in response to the pandemic. This includes both independent and state-owned media outlets. Authorities reportedly imposed this to prevent the possible spread of the virus during the printing, delivery and distribution of papers.

    On 5 March, authorities in Niger arrested Kaka Touda Mamane Goni, an independent journalist who publishes news reports on his Facebook and Twitter pages, at his home in Niamey, Niger’s capital. His arrest stemmed from a complaint filed by the local General Reference Hospital, which alleged that his social media posts about a suspected COVID-19 case at the hospital posed a threat to public order.

    In Kenya, blogger Robert Alai was arrested on 20 March for posting false information about the virus. Alai had claimed that the government was concealing crucial information about the spread of the virus and that its impact was far greater than the government was acknowledging. He is accused of contravening the Computer Misuse and Cyber Crimes Act 2018.

    The house of journalist, Darvinson Rojas in Venezuela was raided and he was detained by agents of the Special Action Forces of the Bolivarian National Police on 21 March for his reporting on the pandemic in Venezuela. At the hearing on 23 March, Rojas was accused of ‘instigating hatred and public instigation’.

    On 26 March, the President of Vanuatu signed a declaration of a State of Emergency in response to the pandemic. As part of the declaration it was announced that all news articles on the virus had to be vetted by the National Disaster Management Office after consultation with the Ministry of Health.

    Journalists have at times also been subjected to physical assault or harassment while covering COVID-19 lockdowns. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, journalist Tholi Totali Glody was reportedly chased by police officers and thrown off a motorcycle taxi on 22 March in Likasi, Haut-Katanga province, resulting in injuries that included a broken leg.

    Passage and use of restrictive laws to counter ‘fake news’

    The pandemic’s spread has been matched by the proliferation of misinformation about the virus. While misinformation is a serious problem, some states have resorted to unduly repressive laws on ‘fake news’ that could have wider impacts.

    On 18 March, the government of South Africa's new regulations criminalising statements intended to deceive any person about COVID-19 or the government's response to it. The regulations were published in the Government Gazette under the 2002 Disaster Management Act and carry penalties including fines, imprisonment, or both.

    The Philippines government declared a state of emergency in response to the pandemic on 25 March and passed a law that included provisions penalising the spreading of ‘false information’ on social media and other platforms. Those found violating this provision may face two months’ imprisonment or a fine of not less than P10,000 (approx. US$196). Courts may also impose a fine of up to P1 million (approx. US$19,642). On 28 March, Egypt's general prosecution said that those spreading ‘fake news’ and rumours about the virus may be imprisoned for five years and fined EGP 20,000 (approx. US$1,266).

    Turkey’s Ministry of Interior announced on 23 March that legal action had been taken against 316 social media account holders who had shared information about the virus ‘to cause worry among the public, incite them to fear and panic and target persons and institutions’. In Malaysia, the authorities reported on 11 March that they had opened 37 criminal investigations related to the spread of ‘fake news’ on the virus.

    Targeting of human rights defenders

    There is also evidence that governments and others are using the pandemic as an opportunity to target human rights defenders.

    In Honduras, on 24 March, police arbitrarily arrested Evelyn Johana Castillo for being on the street during the emergency, while she was returning home from buying food with her husband and older daughter. She is the Assistant Coordinator of the Ojojona Women’s Network and a member of the National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders in Honduras. Evelyn stated that this attack against her may have been a reprisal.

    A human rights defender in El Salvador has been the target of a smear campaign after posting on Facebook on 13 March about overcrowding and the lack of hygiene for people held in quarantine during the pandemic. She received messages containing harmful speech, intimidation and threats, including misogynistic insults and derision of her feminist activism.

    According to local civil society groups, death squads in Colombia are taking advantage of lockdowns to kill rural activists. Marco Rivadeneira, a high-profile activist, was murdered in the southern Putumayo province, Ángel Ovidio Quintero was shot dead in the western Antioquia region and Ivo Humberto Bracamonte was killed on the eastern border with Venezuela.

    Police abuses during lockdowns

    Civil society groups and journalists have raised concerns about the use of excessive force or inhumane and degrading treatment by law enforcement officials towards people who have violated lockdowns in various countries. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings has raised concerns about this.

    According to Human Rights Watch, police and local officials in the Philippines have  confined those arrested for violating the government’s COVID-19 regulations in dog cages and forced them to sit in the midday sun as punishment, among other abuses. In Indiavideos have circulated of police officers violently caning those who do not respect the restrictions. Violators have also been publicly shamed in India by being forced to do squats, push-ups, crawl or roll around the streets.

    In South Africa numerous videos have emerged that appear to depict police officers and soldiers kicking, slapping, whipping and even shooting lockdown violators. On the first day of South Africa’s lockdown, police fired rubber bullets at News24 journalist Azarrah Karrim, despite her shouting ‘I’m media’, when she was covering the dispersal of people by security forces in Johannesburg.

    In Kenya, police in various locations were also recorded caning people who defied the curfew. Videos and photos also featured the police lobbing teargas canisters and clubbing people with batons in the city of Mombasa to clear the streets in advance of the curfew.

    Surveillance and violations of the right to privacy

    There have been numerous examples of states increasing intrusive surveillance measures. Any surveillance measures and restrictions on the rights to privacy introduced in response to the pandemic should be provided for by law and be necessary, proportionate, timebound and implemented with transparency and adequate oversight; they must be the least intrusive available to achieve the desired result. The reality has not lived up to these standards.

    China's authorities are notorious for using technology for surveillance, unconstrained by privacy legislation. Its universal street camera system, first deployed for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, has been expanded all over the country's main metropolitan areas and has been recently upgraded with facial recognition capabilities. The authorities have been using this system to catch, shame and fine citizens going outside without face masks and to identify and quarantine individuals who show symptoms.

    The move by the authorities in Israel to permit the security service to use mobile phone data of infected people has also raised privacy concerns. This system is apparently already operational, with 400 people having received text messages warning them of potential contact with infected people.

    On 31 March, Armenia's parliament passed amendments to broad surveillance powers to enable the use of mobile phone data for tracking COVID-19 cases. The amendments impose restrictions on the right to privacy and allow the authorities to access confidential medical information related to people exposed to the virus. In Fiji, civil society raised privacy concerns after the Ministry of Health disseminated private information that listed the names and addresses of passengers who were on the same flight as the country’s first confirmed COVID-19 patient. The list of 82 names included residential addresses.

    Overly broad emergency laws and new restrictive legislation

    International civil society has documented a number of countries that have declared a state of emergency or passed emergency laws or regulations to combat the virus that grant the state overly broad powers and endanger civic freedoms. International human rights law is clear that any measures introduced must be subject to sufficient oversight by both the legislature and the courts, should not be discriminatory and must be time bound.

    Among the emblematic cases highlighted by CIVICUS partners is Hungary. Its new law (Bill on Protection against the Coronavirus or Bill T/9790), adopted on 30 March, extends the government’s power to rule by decree by absolving it from parliamentary scrutiny and does so without providing a clear cut-off date. The new law also amends the Criminal Code concerning the crime of ‘imparting or conveying false information’: anyone who publicises false or distorted facts that interfere with the ‘successful protection’ of the public or might alarm or agitate the public could be punished by up to five years in prison.

    The government of Cambodia has drafted a state of emergency bill, containing many overly broad and vague provisions, which would empower Prime Minister Hun Sen to override fundamental human rights protections. This includes unlimited surveillance of telecommunications, control of the media and social media and complete authority to restrict the freedoms of movement and assembly. Articles 1 and 4 of the bill would allow the law to be used even after the crisis ends.

    Some states have also used the crisis to quietly pass restrictive legislation without adequate scrutiny. For example, amid the chaos of the pandemic in the USA, at least three states have passed  laws imposing new criminal penalties on protests against fossil fuel infrastructure.

    Recommendations to governments

    Given the concerns outlined above, it is clear that governments need to do more to respect civic freedoms when responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Governments should implement the following recommendations to ensure that fundamental freedoms do not become another casualty of the virus:

    • Safeguard the freedom of expression in all forms while addressing the pandemic and refrain from censoring social and conventional media. Any restrictions should be pursuant to an order by an independent and impartial judicial authority, and in accordance with due process and standards of legality, necessity and legitimacy, in line with international law and standards.
    • Maintain reliable and unfettered access to the internet and cease internet shutdowns that prevent people from obtaining essential information and services during the crisis.
    • Address violations against human rights defenders and journalists during the pandemic, and ensure that those who commit violations are independently and promptly investigated and the perpetrators are brought to justice.
    • Respect and protect media freedom, as guaranteed under international human rights law, during the pandemic.
    • Replace approaches to misinformation on the pandemic that rely on censorship and criminal sanctions with those emphasising transparency and media freedom.
    • Ensure that surveillance measures adopted to address the pandemic are lawful, necessary and proportionate. As part of this, ensure that any expanded monitoring and surveillance powers are timebound, and only continue for as long as necessary to address the current crisis.
    • Ensure that increased collection, retention and aggregation of personal data, including health data, is only used for the purposes of responding to the pandemic.
    • Ensure that law enforcement officials respect the law and avoid abusive conduct while enforcing lockdowns and curfews, and investigate those suspected of such abuses and bring the perpetrators to justice.
    • Guarantee that any new emergency laws and decrees deployed to combat the pandemic do not in any circumstances restrict certain fundamental rights, including the right to life, prohibition of torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment, recognition before the law and the presumption of innocence. Make sure that any such laws or decrees are not discriminatory in any way, including on the grounds of race, ethnicity, sex, sexual identity, language, religion and social origin, and are timebound and subject to sufficient oversight by both the legislature and courts. 


  • CIVICUS Monitor: Informe global y nuevas clasificaciones
    • Un creciente número de personas viven en países ‘cerrados’, ‘represivos’ y ‘obstruidos
    • Los países que han sufrido retrocesos incluyen Estados Unidos, Ecuador, Chile e Costa Rica
    • Las principales violaciones incluyen: detención de personas manifestantes, censura y ataques a periodistas
    • Las libertades de expresión, asociación y reunión pacífica se deterioraron durante la pandemia de COVID-19

    Las libertades fundamentales de asociación, reunión pacífica y expresión continúan deteriorándose en todo el mundo, de acuerdo con un informe global publicado por el CIVICUS Monitor, una investigación colaborativa que da seguimiento a las libertades fundamentales en 196 países. El nuevo informe, El poder ciudadano bajo ataque 2020, muestra que el número de personas que viven en países con restricciones significativas del espacio cívico continúa aumentando año tras año.

    El 87% de la población mundial vive en países con un espacio cívico calificado como ‘cerrado’, ‘represivo’ u ‘obstruido’ -un aumento de más del 4% respecto al año anterior. Más de un cuarto de estas personas vive en países con la peor calificación, ‘cerrado’, países donde regularmente se permite a actores estatales y no estatales encarcelar, herir y asesinar a personas por intentar ejercer sus libertades fundamentales. China, Arabia Saudita, Turkmenistán y otros 20 países se encuentran dentro de esta categoría.

    La pandemia de COVID-19 ha tenido un impacto grave en las libertades cívicas a nivel mundial. En tiempos de crisis, el espacio para el diálogo abierto y constructivo entre los gobiernos y la sociedad civil, así como el acceso a información oportuna y confiable, son fundamentales. Sin embargo, nuestra investigación demuestra que los gobiernos han tomado un rumbo diferente y están usando la pandemia como una oportunidad para introducir o implementar restricciones adicionales a las libertades cívicas.

    Nuestros datos muestran que la detención de personas manifestantes y el uso excesivo de la fuerza son las tácticas más comunes utilizadas por las autoridades en el poder para restringir el derecho a la reunión pacífica. Si bien esta violación de derechos ya era común el año anterior, las autoridades han hecho uso de la pandemia como excusa para restringir mucho más este derecho. Censura, ataques a periodistas, y el acoso e intimidación contra personas defensoras de los derechos humanos fueron tácticas habituales documentadas a lo largo del año.

    “Utilizar la detención como principal táctica para restringir las protestas solamente demuestra la hipocresía de los gobiernos que emplean la COVID-19 como pretexto para reprimir protestas -es más probable que el virus se propague en espacios confinados como las cárceles”, declaró Marianna Belalba Barrero, Investigadora principal sobre espacio cívico de CIVICUS. “Nuestra investigación refleja una profundización de la crisis del espacio cívico en todo el mundo y resalta cómo los gobiernos están utilizando la pandemia como una excusa para restringir mucho más los derechos, por ejemplo, a través de la aprobación de legislación para penalizar la expresión”.

    Este año, once países han empeorado y solo dos han mejorado su calificación. El CIVICUS Monitor está particularmente preocupado por las restricciones al espacio cívico en las Américas, donde cuatro países empeoraron su calificación: Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador y los Estados Unidos. Asimismo, resulta alarmante el deterioro del espacio cívico en África Occidental, donde cuatro países -Costa de Marfil, Guinea, Níger y Togo- pasaron de ‘obstruido’ a ‘represivo’.

    Existe una creciente preocupación sobre el declive de los derechos democráticos y civiles en Europa, donde Eslovenia también empeoró su calificación. El empeoramiento de las condiciones del espacio en Asia sigue siendo motivo de preocupación, donde Filipinas pasa de ‘obstruido’ a ‘represivo’. Oriente Medio y África del Norte, una región donde la mayoría de los países se encuentran en la categoría ‘cerrado’, agrega un país más a la lista, Irak, que pasa de ‘represivo’ a ‘cerrado’.

    Con mejoras limitadas pero esperanzadoras, la República Democrática del Congo y Sudán mejoraron su calificación, pasando en ambos casos de ‘cerrado’ a ‘represivo’.

    “En la mayoría de las regiones, la situación de las libertades cívicas es sombría este año. En una época en la que los derechos cívicos son más necesarios que nunca para exigir cuentas a los gobiernos, el espacio para hacerlo se encuentra cada vez más restringido. Es crucial que los gobiernos progresistas trabajen de cerca con las y los defensores de derechos humanos y la sociedad civil para detener este declive y ejercer resistencia contra las fuerzas autoritarias”, afirmó Belalba Barreto.

    Sin dejarse intimidar por las restricciones, las y los defensores de derechos humanos y la sociedad civil continúan operando, adaptándose y resistiendo. Las protestas masivas fueron a menudo un factor clave que generó cambios positivos. En Chile, las protestas masivas forzaron al gobierno a realizar un referéndum para el cambio de la constitución. En los Estados Unidos, algunos Estados se comprometieron a desmontar o realizar reformas estructurales a sus fuerzas policiales tras las protestas del movimiento Black Lives Matter. Mientras en Malawi, meses de protesta dieron como resultado una histórica repetición de las elecciones presidenciales y la transición de poder.

    Más de veinte organizaciones colaboran en el CIVICUS Monitor con el objetivo de proporcionar una base empírica para llevar a cabo acciones destinadas a mejorar el espacio cívico en todos los continentes. El Monitor ha publicado más de 500 actualizaciones sobre el espacio cívico en el último año, las que se analizan en El poder Ciudadano Bajo Ataque 2020. El espacio cívico de 196 países se clasifica como cerrado, reprimido, obstruido, estrecho o abierto, siguiendo una metodología que combina varias fuentes de datos sobre las libertades de asociación, reunión pacífica y expresión. 

  • CIVICUS Monitor: Nouveau rapport mondial et classifications

    Onze pays déclassés dans un nouveau rapport international sur les libertés civiques

    • Un nombre croissant de personnes vit dans des pays classés comme « fermés », « réprimés » et « obstrués »
    • Les pays déclassés comprennent les États-Unis, les Philippines, la Guinée, Niger, Côte d'Ivoire et l'Irak.
    • Les principales violations incluent la détention de manifestants, la censure et les attaques contre des journalistes.
    • Les libertés d'expression, d'association et de réunion pacifique se sont détériorées pendant la pandémie de COVID-19.

    Les libertés fondamentales d'association, de réunion pacifique et d'expression continuent de se dégrader dans le monde entier selon un nouveau rapport publié aujourd'hui par CIVICUS Monitor, un projet collaboratif de recherche qui fait un suivi des libertés fondamentales dans 196 pays. Ce nouveau rapport intitulé « Le pouvoir du peuple attaqué 2020 », montre que le nombre de personnes qui vivent dans des pays imposant d'importantes restrictions sur l’espace civique continue d'augmenter d'année en année.

    Désormais, 87 % de la population mondiale vit dans des pays considérés comme « fermés », « réprimés » ou « obstrués », soit une augmentation de plus de 4 % par rapport à l'année dernière. Plus d'un quart de la population mondiale vit dans des pays se trouvant dans la pire catégorie, celle des pays « fermés », où l’on permet régulièrement que des acteurs étatiques et non étatiques emprisonnent, blessent et tuent des personnes pour avoir tenté d'exercer leurs libertés fondamentales. La Chine, l'Arabie saoudite, le Turkménistan et vingt autres pays se trouvent dans cette catégorie.

    La pandémie de COVID-19 a eu des conséquences désastreuses sur les libertés civiques partout dans le monde. En temps de crise il est fondamental de disposer d’un espace de dialogue ouvert et constructif entre les gouvernements et la société civile, ainsi que d’avoir un accès à des informations rapides et fiables. Cependant, nos recherches montrent que les gouvernements ont emprunté une autre voie et qu'ils utilisent la pandémie comme une opportunité pour introduire ou appliquer des restrictions supplémentaires sur les libertés civiques.

    Nos données montrent que la détention de manifestants et l'usage excessif de la force à leur encontre sont les tactiques les plus couramment utilisées par les autorités gouvernementales pour restreindre le droit de réunion pacifique. Même s'il s'agissait d'une violation fréquente au cours de l'année dernière, les autorités ont utilisé la pandémie comme un prétexte pour restreindre davantage ce droit. La censure, les attaques contre des journalistes et le harcèlement et l'intimidation des défenseurs des droits de l'homme ont également été des tactiques courantes documentées tout au long de cette année.

    « L'usage de la détention comme tactique principale pour restreindre les manifestations ne fait que montrer l'hypocrisie des gouvernements, car ils utilisent la COVID-19 comme un prétexte pour réprimer les manifestations et le virus se propage plus facilement dans des espaces restreints, comme les prisons », affirme Marianna Belalba Barreto, responsable de la recherche sur l'espace civique chez CIVICUS. « Notre recherche reflète une crise croissante de l'espace civique dans le monde et met en évidence la façon dont les gouvernements utilisent la pandémie comme excuse pour restreindre davantage les droits, notamment en adoptant des lois qui criminalisent l'expression. »

    Cette année onze pays ont été déclassés et seulement deux ont vu leur classement s'améliorer. Le CIVICUS Monitor est particulièrement préoccupé par les restrictions pesant sur l'espace civique dans les Amériques, où quatre pays sont descendus de catégorie — le Costa Rica, le Chili, l'Équateur et les États-Unis —. La détérioration de l'espace civique en Afrique de l'Ouest est également alarmante et quatre pays — la Côte d'Ivoire, la Guinée, le Niger et le Togo — sont passé de la catégorie « obstrué » à celle de « réprimé ».

    Le déclin des droits démocratiques et civiques en Europe est de plus en plus préoccupant. D'ailleurs, la Slovénie a aussi été déclassée. La dégradation de l’espace civique en Asie demeure une source de préoccupation, les Philippines étant passées de la catégorie « obstrué » à celle de « réprimé ». La région MENA compte le plus grand nombre de pays dans la catégorie « fermé » et un pays de plus est venu s’ajouter à la liste, l'Irak passant de la catégorie « réprimé » à celle de « fermé ».

    Avec des améliorations limitées mais toujours bienvenues, la RDC et le Soudan ont amélioré leurs classements et sont passés de la catégorie « fermé » à celle de « réprimé ».

    « Cette année dans la plupart des régions le panorama des libertés civiques semble sombre. À un moment où les droits civiques sont plus que jamais nécessaires pour demander des comptes aux gouvernements, les opportunités pour le faire se font de plus en plus rares. Il est essentiel que les gouvernements progressistes travaillent en étroite collaboration avec les défenseurs des droits de l'homme et avec la société civile pour mettre un terme à cet engrenage pernicieux et pour repousser les forces autoritaires à l'œuvre », affirme Belalba Barreto.

    Sans se laisser décourager par les restrictions, les défenseurs des droits de l'homme et la société civile continuent de travailler, de s'adapter et de résister. Les manifestations de masse ont souvent été le facteur clé ayant conduit à des changements positifs. Au Chili, des manifestations de masse ont forcé le gouvernement à organiser un référendum pour changer la constitution. Aux États-Unis, certains états se sont engagés à démanteler ou à entreprendre une réforme structurelle de leurs forces de police à la suite des manifestations Black Lives Matter. Au Malawi, des mois de manifestations ont conduit pour la première fois à l’annulation de l'élection présidentielle, à la tenue de nouvelles élections et à la passation du pouvoir.

    Plus d'une vingtaine d'organisations collaborent au sein du CIVICUS Monitor afin de fournir une base empirique pour les actions visant à améliorer l'espace civique sur tous les continents. L'année dernière le Monitor CIVICUS a publié plus de 500 mises à jour sur l'espace civique, lesquelles sont analysées dans le rapport « Le pouvoir du peuple attaqué 2020 ». L'espace civique de 196 pays est classé dans une des cinq catégories disponibles, soit fermé, réprimé, obstrué, rétréci ou ouvert, selon une méthodologie qui combine plusieurs sources de données sur les libertés d'association, de réunion pacifique et d'expression.

  • COVID-19 and freedom of expression: A global snapshot of restrictions

    New research brief from the CIVICUS Monitor finds:

    • New censorship controls have been implemented during the pandemic
    • The pandemic has expanded the use of laws criminalising misinformation - new or amended measures in over 35 countries
    • Journalists detained in over 30 countries for their reporting on the pandemic

    Over a year has passed since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. During this period, the CIVICUS Monitor has documented ongoing and unjustifiable restrictions to civic freedoms. The latest research brief focuses on the state of freedom of expression and violations committed as a direct response to the pandemic.

    The research covers the period from January 2020 to February 2021 and highlights where governments are using COVID-19 as a pretext to censor the media and silence dissent. In some countries, governments have passed laws and regulations which impose undue restrictions on press freedom and access to information.

    Censorship and the detention of journalists are some of the violations covered in the research brief. From Tanzania to Turkmenistan, governments have banned and blocked media for their COVID-19 related coverage. While in Chile and China, governments have put journalists in jail for their reporting on the pandemic.

    The research brief how of journalists, media workers and civil society organisations have been the target of government overreach and provides over 60 country case studies that illustrate three trends:

    • The use of restrictive legislation to silence critical voices, including the use of misinformation legislation
    • Censorship and restrictions on access to information, including the suspension of media outlets due to their COVID-19 coverage
    • Attacks on journalists over their reporting of the pandemic, including physical attacks and arrests


  • Five countries added to the civic space watchlist
    • Egypt, China (Hong Kong), Colombia, Guinea and Kazakhstan join global watchlist
    • Escalating rights violations include arrests, abductions and assassinations of activists, as well as the persecution of journalists and media blackouts
    • International community must pressure governments to end repression and bring perpetrators to account

    Five countries from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America have been added to a watchlist of countries which have seen a rapid decline in fundamental freedoms in recent weeks and months. The new watchlist released by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks the latest developments to civic freedoms across the globe, identifies growing concerns in Egypt, China (Hong Kong), Colombia, Guinea and Kazakhstan.

    Activists, civil society groups and peaceful protesters in these countries are experiencing an alarming number of attacks to their civic freedoms as protected by international law. In particular, the freedoms of expression, assembly and association. Violations include the murder of human rights defenders and social leaders in Colombia; excessive force and mass arrests against protesters in Hong Kong, Egypt and Kazakhstan; and the arbitrary arrest of activists in Guinea who are trying to uphold the constitution and presidential term limits as the country prepares for 2020 elections. 

    “It is deeply alarming to see ongoing and serious  attacks to basic rights in these countries,” said Marianna Belalba Barreto, CIVICUS Civic Space Research Lead. “The scale of these violations is often under reported as journalists in these countries are facing their own host of restrictions” Belalba said. “We call upon neighbouring states and international bodies to put pressure on these countries to end the repression.”

    In September 2019, demonstrations against alleged government corruption in Egypt were met with excessive force. The use of tear gas was widespread and videos have surfaced of police beating protesters before being taken into custody. In a bid to silence government critics, security forces have carried out sweeping arrests of protesters, detained journalists, blocked news websites and disrupted online messaging services. Civic space in Egypt is rated as Closed.

    Human rights groups in Hong Kong have documented excessive and unlawful force by security forces against protesters including the use of truncheons, pepper spray, tear gas and rubber bullets. Protesters have also been attacked by pro Beijing mobs. More than 1,300 people have been arrested in the context of the mass protests as of mid-September 2019 and some have been ill-treated in detention. Civic space in China (Hong Kong) is rated as Closed.

    In Colombia, dozens of community leaders have been killed this year, and violence has escalated ahead of October's Municipal Elections. Thousands have marched across the country calling for an end to the violence and impunity for these crimes. Colombia remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for human rights defenders and environmental activists. Civic space in Colombia is rated as Repressed.

    In Guinea, plans to change the constitution, which could see the presidential term limit abolished, has sparked opposition and protests. Activists opposing constitutional changes have been arbitrarily arrested, and security forces have used live ammunition and tear gas during protests, killing several people and injuring dozens more. Civic space in Guinea is rated as Obstructed.

    While in Kazakhstan, since June 2019 elections human rights abuses have hit a new high. The work of journalists and electoral observers has been obstructed, while thousands have been detained in post-election protests. Civic space in Kazakhstan is rated as Obstructed.

    In the coming weeks and months, the CIVICUS Monitor will closely track developments in each of these countries as part of efforts to ensure greater pressure is brought to bear on governments and the perpetrators of these attacks. The CIVICUS Monitor rates countries based on the state of their civic space as either open, narrow, obstructed, repressed or closed. These ratings are based on multiple streams of data that assess the state of freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.

  • Five countries added to watchlist of countries where civic freedoms are under serious threat


    • Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sudan, and Venezuela join global watchlist
    • Escalating rights violations include killings, attacks on protesters, media restrictions and arbitrary detentions of human rights defenders
    • International community must pressure governments to end repression

    Five countries from Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Latin America have been added to a watchlist of countries which have seen a rapid decline in fundamental freedoms in recent weeks and months. The new watchlist released by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society across the globe, identifies growing concerns in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sudan, and Venezuela.

    Activists and civil society organisations in these countries are experiencing an infringement of their civic freedoms as protected by international law. These violations include the use of excessive force by security forces during peaceful protests and journalists being arbitrarily detained and harrassed in both Sudan and Venezuela. In Serbia, space for independent media is under concerted attack while massive anti-government demonstrations are taking place. In Saudi Arabia, authorities continue the crackdown on women human rights defenders, who are being subject to arbitrary detentions and ill treatment for their activism on gender issues. While, in Afghanistan, there has been a record high number of civilian casualties (3,800 in 2018). The upcoming July presidential elections pose additional security risks and a threat to shrinking civic space, as over 400 civilians and voters were killed or injured (including eight candidates), during last October’s parliamentary elections.

    “It is deeply concerning to see escalated threats to basic rights in these countries,” said Ms. Barreto, CIVICUS Civic Space Research Lead. “It is critical that these five governments wake up to their failure to respect international law and take swift action to respect their citizens’ most basic freedoms in a democratic society and create an enabling environment for civil society organisations” Belalba said. “We also call upon neighbouring states and international bodies to put pressure on these countries to end the repression and ensure positive steps are taken to guarantee the safe space for civil society to continue their legitimate work”

    Large-scale anti-government demonstrations have been ongoing across Sudan since 19th December 2018 calling for President Omar Al-Bashir to step down in the context of a growing frustration over the harsh economic and social situation. In response, the authorities have launched a violent campaign targeting protesters, including doctors, teachers, journalists, women activists and opposition political leaders. With the declaration of a state of emergency, civic space restrictions continue to increase with hundreds of protesters on trial and dozens sentenced in summary trials on charges of participating in demonstrations.

    Serbia has witnessed sustained protest since December 2018. Protests started after an opposition politician was assaulted by unknown assailants wielding metal rods. For the most part, authorities in Serbia have largely ignored or attempted to downplay the scale of the protests. However on 17th March 2019 after 14 consecutive weeks of demonstrations, police in Belgrade used excessive force to disperse protesters that were calling for greater press freedom and fair elections. After encircling the Presidential building, clashes between protesters and police broke out, leading to the use of tear gas by Serbian authorities. Ten people were arrested in the confrontation. The government has also orchestrated a smear campaign against protesters  labelling opponents of the government as “paid” activists working against Serbian interests.

    Despite claims that the Saudi Arabian government is leading reforms to improve the situation of women in the country, Saudi authorities continue to persecute women activists. Since the crackdown began in May 2018, at least 22 women human rights defenders have been arrested and subjected to human rights violations because of their activism on gender issues. Reports indicate that several detained rights defenders have been subjected to torture including sexual assault and harassment.

    In Venezuela, since January 2019, massive anti-government protests have continued to take place in the country. The government has responded by using excessive force against demonstrators, arbitrarily detaining protestors, including teenagers, as well as detaining and harassing human rights defenders and journalists. Just between 21 and 25 January, at least 41 people died in circumstances linked to the protests,and more than 900 people were arbitrarily detained. For years, protesters in Venezuela have been met with excessive force by authorities, as people take to the streets to demand a change in government, the pattern of repression will likely intensify. Human rights organisations working to deliver humanitarian aid are especially targeted with harassment, and in some cases, their offices have been raided. It is estimated that more than three million venezuelans have fled the country due to the humanitarian crisis and denial of basic rights such as health and food.

    Since the beginning of 2019, at least three journalists have been killed in Afghanistan. The country was the world's deadliest for journalists in 2018 with 13 reporters and 2 other media professionals killed. Citizens risk being killed and attacked for participating in government elections and civil society is currently excluded from peace negotiations between the Taliban and the United States (U.S.), and parallel peace talks in Moscow. Women’s groups and persecuted communities are campaigning to have their voices heard in the peace process, and to ensure that any agreement guarantees human rights and democratic freedoms.

    In the coming weeks, the CIVICUS Monitor will closely track developments in each of these countries as part of efforts to ensure greater pressure is brought to bear on governments. CIVICUS calls upon these governments to do everything in their power to immediately end the ongoing crackdowns and ensure that perpetrators are held to account.

    See full CIVICUS Monitor Watchlist Summary

  • Global Monitor Report: Twice as many people live in repressed countries compared to a year ago

    Findings based on data released today by the CIVICUS Monitor, a global research collaboration which rates and tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 196 countries.

    The CIVICUS Monitor's latest global assesment,  People Power Under Attack 2019, finds that the fundamental freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression are backsliding across the world. In the space of a year, twice as many people are living in countries where these civic freedoms are being violated: 40% of the world’s population now live in repressed countries - last year it was 19%.

    The report, which is based on data from the CIVICUS Monitor, a global research collaboration, shows that civil society is under attack in most countries. In practice, this means that just 3% of the world’s population are now living in countries where their fundamental rights are in general, protected and respected – last year it was 4%.

    2019 has been a historic year for protest movements. From the streets of Sudan to Hong Kong, people have poured onto the streets to make their voices heard. However, according to the 536 updates by the CIVICUS Monitor, the fundamental right to peaceful assembly is under attack across the world. In fact, within the last year the CIVICUS Monitor documented that 96 countries either detained protesters, disrupted marches or used excessive force to prevent people from fully exercising their right to peaceful assembly.

    “This data reflects a deepening civic space crisis across the globe. As millions of protesters spilled onto the streets, government response has been repression instead of dialogue,” said Marianna Belalba Barreto, Civic Space Research Lead at CIVICUS. “However, the fact that so many activists were brave enough to raise their voices, shows the resilience of civil society in the face of brutal repression.”

    Nine countries have changed their civic space rating: seven countries have been downgraded and only two improved their rating. Worrying signs for civic space are recorded in Asia-Pacific, where three countries dropped a rating: Australia, India and Brunei. There is growing concern about the decline of democratic and civic rights in Europe, with Malta also being downgraded. Other countries on the slide include Nigeria, Comoros and Madagascar.

    People Power Under Attack 2019 also provides analysis on the kinds of violations most frequently recorded on the CIVICUS Monitor over the past year. Globally, censorship is the most common violation, occurring across 178 countries. From blocking websites and social media, to banning television programmes, governments across the world are going to great lengths to control public discourse and suppress free speech. The other top violations include:

    There are bright spots emerging, as both Moldova and the Dominican Republic improved their ratings this past year. The Dominican Republic moved from the obstructed to narrowed category after civil society managed to challenge and overturn restrictive laws; these laws related to defamation cases and constitutional amendments which would lengthen Presidential terms.

    Over twenty organisations collaborate on the CIVICUS Monitor to provide an evidence base for action to improve civic space on all continents. The Monitor has posted more than 536 civic space updates in the last year, which are analysed in People Power Under Attack 2019. Civic space in 196 countries is categorized as either closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open, based on a methodology which combines several sources of data on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

    Regional summaries and press statements:

    For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

  • Human Rights Council: Restrictions on civil society will curtail any chance of building back better

    Statement at the 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Thank you, Madame President; High Commissioner.

    We welcome your update and strongly agree that recovering better requires ensuring participation for all. In this very difficult year, we are encouraged that civic activism has continued as people have mobilised to demand their rights.

    But across the world, civil society has been impeded in its work.  The CIVICUS Monitor shows that in the context of COVID-19 measures, protest rights have been violated and restrictions on freedom of expression continue as states enact overly broad emergency legislation that limits human rights.

    We reiterate that restrictions on civil society will curtail any chance of building back better. States should indeed be investing in protecting and promoting a free and independent civil society at this crucial time.

    The Council has the opportunity to act immediately on a number of situations where civic space is being threatened. In Sri Lanka, attacks against civil society are compounding grave failures of accountability. In Nicaragua, where ahead of elections, restrictions on civic space and expressions of dissent are likely to escalate. Myanmar, where we are inspired by the courage of people who risk lives and freedom every day to protest the coup, who continue to fear violent crackdown on dissenting voices. In India, where the government has continued its persecution of human rights defenders, student leaders, journalists and other critics, including through restrictive laws, prolonged pre-trial detention and excessive force perpetrated against protesters. 

    We call on the Council this Session to take measures to support civil society by acting now, on the situations brought before it. Situations which require immediate action.

  • Kazakhstan downgraded as civic freedoms deteriorate

    Russian / Русский

    • Failure of authorities to independently and impartially investigate the Bloody January' 2022 protests, when 200 people were killed and thousands injured
    • Widespread allegations of arbitrary detentions of peaceful protesters, torture and ill-treatment and due process violations in connection with the January events
    • The January events used as a pretext by authorities to target civil society activists, opposition supporters, and journalists

    Kazakhstan has been downgraded from Obstructed to Repressed  by the CIVICUS Monitor. A repressed rating is the second worst a country can receive and indicates that fundamental civic freedoms, including the freedoms of expression, association and assembly, are severely restricted. 

    The CIVICUS Monitor is a research collaboration tool that rates and tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 197 countries and territories; rating changes are conducted after a thorough assessment of the state of civic freedoms in the country and come after regular monitoring.

    Kazakhstan has been downgraded to ‘repressed’ due to widespread violations of the  freedoms of peaceful assembly, association and expression  during the ‘Bloody January’ protests and in their aftermath.  

    “This downgrade comes on the heel of the rapid decline in civic space seen following the January events and is a culmination of a longer-term trend in which civic freedoms have deteriorated in Kazakhstan. It reinforces our concerns about the situation there,’’ said Aarti Narsee, Civic Space Research Officer at CIVICUS. 

    In January 2022,  peaceful protests over a sharp increase in fuel prices began in Kazakhstan's Mangystau region and spread to other regions, with thousands of people voicing demands for broader social and political change. Under circumstances which remain unclear, protests escalated into violence. Security forces responded with excessive and lethal force to the protests and the subsequent unrest, and as a result of these events, over 200 people were killed and thousands injured. 

    Authorities detained over 10,000 people, including people who were peacefully protesting in connection with the January events. 

    Over 5,000 criminal cases have been initiated relating to these events. The CIVICUS Monitor and its research partners International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law (KIBHR) are seriously concerned that those charged with rioting and other criminal offences following the January events include activists believed to have been targeted in retaliation for their peaceful and legitimate civic engagement. Additionally, there are widespread allegations of due process violations and torture and ill-treatment of people detained, with eight detainees having died in custody, according to official information.

    We are particularly concerned about the failure of authorities to independently investigate the ‘Bloody January’ events, with the investigation process initiated by the government lacking impartiality. While  President Tokayev has vowed that all allegations of abuse in detention will be investigated, authorities have also failed to carry out thorough, impartial and effective investigations into such allegations and to adequately protect victims. It is of further concern that there have been reports about acts of intimidation and harassment of civil society actors working to document and assist victims of violations.

    “The authorities must investigate all violations reported in connection with the January events, in full accordance with international standards, and hold accountable all those responsible for unlawful detentions, excessive use of force, torture and other abuses. The authorities must not obstruct civil society efforts to document violations and assist victims but should instead cooperate with such initiatives in the interests of promoting access to truth and justice,’’ said Brigitte Dufour, Director of IPHR.

    The CIVICUS Monitor, IPHR and KIBHR are also concerned that the right to peaceful assembly is continuously being restricted in Kazakhstan. The revised law on assemblies, adopted in 2020 de-facto retains the requirement to obtain advance permission for holding assemblies, although it formally provides for a notification procedure. Peaceful protests are regularly dispersed, with protesters being detained and penalised.

    Journalists continue to work at the risk of intimidation and harassment, including politically motivated legal cases. During the January events, media workers faced a series of harassment, including physical attacks perpetrated by security forces and non-state actors, resulting in several journalists being injured and one person affiliated with a media outlet being killed. None of those responsible for these attacks are known to have been held accountable.

    Authorities have increasingly cracked down on opposition movements, including the two banned movements, the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan and the Koshe (Street) Party, and the unregistered Democratic Party of Kazakhstan. People affiliated with these groups are being detained, questioned and prosecuted because of their peaceful exercise of the freedoms of expression, association and assembly. In a high-profile case, Democratic Party leader Zhanbolat Mamai is currently  facing spurious criminal charges believed to have been initiated to penalise him for his opposition activities.

    The continued pattern of persecution of government critics runs contrary to President Tokayev’s recent pledges to create ‘’a new Kazakhstan’’ and promote ‘’political modernization’’.

    “If the authorities truly want to create a new Kazakhstan, they should stop persecuting civil society activists, opposition supporters, independent journalists and others who criticise the government and demand democratic and social change. They should release all individuals recognised as political prisoners by human rights groups, and drop the cases against those charged in retaliation for their legitimate exercise of fundamental freedoms,’’ said Yevgeniy Zhovtis, Director of KIBHR.




    Kazakhstan is now rated Repressed  by the CIVICUS Monitor. There are a total of 50 countries in the world with this rating (see all). This rating is typically given to countries where civic space is heavily contested by power holders, who impose a combination of legal and practical constraints on the full enjoyment of fundamental rights (see the full description of ratings).

    *** IPHR and KIBHR cooperate with the CIVICUS Monitor on the preparation of regular updates on civic space developments in Kazakhstan.

  • Le Bénin baisse de catégorie tandis que les libertés civiques se dégradent
    • Persécution judiciaire des journalistes et militants
    • Les récentes élections législatives et présidentielles ont été émaillées de manifestations, de violences et de violations
    • Certains membres de l’opposition sont en détention ou en exil
    • C’est le cinquième pays d’Afrique de l’Ouest à descendre de catégorie dans les six derniers mois.

    Le CIVICUS Monitor vient de déclasser le Bénin, qui descend de la catégorie d'«obstrué» à celle de «réprimé». Le CIVICUS Monitor est une plateforme numérique qui fait un suivi des violations des libertés civiques, notamment les libertés d'expression, d'association et de réunion dans tous les pays du monde. L'inclusion du Bénin dans la catégorie « réprimé » signifie que les libertés fondamentales y sont sérieusement restreintes.

    « Des militants, des journalistes et des membres de l'opposition ont été menacés et persécutés », affirme John Gbenagnon, militant pour les droits de l'homme. « Le harcèlement par le biais d'arrestations arbitraires, de détentions, de l'utilisation ciblée de dispositions légales et réglementaires, et de restrictions financières est devenu une expérience habituelle pour de nombreux militants des droits de l’homme et membres de l'opposition au Bénin. »

    Au Bénin les libertés démocratiques se sont détériorées sous le gouvernement du président Patrice Talon, récemment réélu en avril 2021 après une élection controversée, caractérisée par l'absence des principaux candidats de l'opposition.

    De nombreux candidats de l'opposition ont été exclus de l'élection présidentielle après qu'une nouvelle loi électorale, adoptée en l'absence des partis d'opposition à l'Assemblée nationale, contraint les candidats à la présidence à obtenir le parrainage d'au moins un dixième des membres du Parlement ou des maires. Plusieurs membres de l'opposition ont été arrêtés au cours des derniers mois, tandis que d'autres restent en exil ou ont été disqualifiés et n’ont pas pu se présenter. L'exclusion des partis d'opposition des élections a déclenché des manifestations et des violences quelques jours avant le vote, une situation qui s'est soldée par au moins deux morts à Savè.

    Le Monitor CIVICUS s’inquiète du fait que la détérioration des droits en période électorale au Bénin se banalise. Les élections législatives d'avril 2019 ont été entachées de violations de l'espace civique, notamment une coupure d'Internet et un usage excessif de la force, y compris de force létale, contre les manifestants. Les manifestations ont été interdites dans de nombreuses localités et des manifestants ont été arrêtés et détenus de manière arbitraire. Parmi les personnes arrêtées et poursuivies se trouvait le syndicaliste Joseph Aïmasse de la Confédération syndicale des travailleurs du Bénin. Il a été condamné le 1er avril 2019 à deux mois de prison et à une amende de 360 USD pour avoir appelé à une « manifestation non autorisée ».

    Les arrestations et le ciblage de ceux qui ne partagent pas l'avis de l'État sont devenus plus fréquents au Bénin. Le Groupe de travail des Nations unies sur la détention arbitraire a récemment critiqué l'ambigu Code du numérique de 2018, qui est utilisé comme un outil pour arrêter et poursuivre les blogueurs, les journalistes et les membres de l'opposition. Au titre de cette loi, le célèbre journaliste d'investigation Ignace Sossou a été arrêté et condamné en décembre 2019 à une peine de prison initiale de dix-huit mois et à une amende ; il avait été accusé de « harcèlement par le biais d'une communication électronique » après avoir cité le procureur de la République sur Twitter lors d'un atelier pour les médias.

    La liberté des médias est de plus en plus menacée au Bénin. La Haute Autorité de l'audiovisuel et de la communication (HAAC) a sanctionné arbitrairement des médias et des journalistes. Par exemple, en décembre 2019, lorsque Radio Soleil, propriété d'un dirigeant de l'opposition, a reçu l'ordre de « suspendre ses émissions » jusqu'à nouvel ordre, après que la HAAC a rejeté la demande de renouvellement de licence de la station.

    En avril 2020, dans une démarche particulièrement régressive pour la justice, le Bénin s'est retiré de l'article 34-6 du Protocole de la Cour africaine des droits de l'homme et des peuples (CADHP), ce qui empêchera désormais les individus et les OSC de déposer des plaintes directement auprès de la Cour.

    La dégradation de l'espace civique du Bénin reflète le déclin des libertés démocratiques dans toute l'Afrique de l'Ouest : la Côte d'Ivoire, la Guinée, le Niger et le Togo ont été déclassés et sont passés de la catégorie «obstrué» à celle de «réprimé» en décembre 2020, dessinant ainsi une tendance inquiétante dans la région. 

    Ces cinq pays ont tenu des élections présidentielles en 2020 et 2021 qui, pour la plupart, ont été marquées par des controverses, des violations de l'espace civique et une tension politique accrue. En 2019 le Nigéria a intégré la catégorie «réprimé», un an après que le Sénégal a également vu son classement se dégrader, passant de la catégorie « rétréci » à celle d'«obstrué».




    Pour plus d'informations ou pour organiser un entetien, veuillez contacter:  


Página 1 de 2



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

11 Avenue de la Paix
Tel: +41.79.910.34.28

CIVICUS, c/o We Work
450 Lexington Ave
Nueva York
NY 10017
Estados Unidos