activist arrest

 

  • BANGLADESH: HRD tortured while in arbitrary detention must be released and charges be dropped

     

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    Bangladesh authorities must immediately release human rights defender Mohammad Abdul Kaium, who has been allegedly tortured in custody during his arbitrary detention. The fabricated case filed against him under the Digital Security Act (DSA)-2018 and other penal laws should be dropped immediately.

    The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has verified information that Mohammad Abdul Kaium, a human rights defender associated with Odhikar, an independent rights organisation working on key issues of civil and political rights, is facing state-orchestrated persecution from the Sheikh Hasina regime in Bangladesh.

    Kaium edits online news portal www.mymensinghlive.com and is a journalist with www.bdpress24.com. He is also a web developer. In 2018, Kaium signed an agreement to provide web-development service for Idris Ali Khan, a close relative of a Member of Parliament of the ruling party, whom Kaium had criticised in the past. The agreement was worth BDT 120,000 (USD 1,394).

    On 11 May 2019, Idris Khan summoned Abdul Kaium to his office to receive his payment. Upon Kaium's arrival Idris Khan offered USD 200, significantly lower than the agreed amount. Kaium refused to take the lower payment. As he left Idris Khan's office in Kristopur, Mymensingh district town – an area which is under the Kotwoali police station's jurisdiction – two plain-clothed officers of the Detective Branch (DB) Police arrested him. The police officers also seized a cell phone from Kaium.

    The DB police ordered Abdul Kaium to give them ‘the USD 200' and searched him. Failing to find the money, the police tortured him and ordered Kaium to confess that he extorted money from Idris Khan. While he was in detention, a team of plain-clothes detectives raided Kaium's house in the Bhatiashor area of Mymensing town without a search warrant. The police seized the files and other items, including the signed web development agreement between Kaium's company and Idris Khan, as well as the key to Kaium's room. However, the police have not yet submitted a list of seized items to the court.

    Kaium has told AHRC's Human Rights Fact-Finding Team that on the evening of 11 May, from his cell, he overheard Idris Khan bribing the police officers to torture him. Kaium also saw from his cell DB police Sub Inspector (SI) Akram placing money in the drawer of his office desk.

    Later the same evening, DB Officer-in-Charge (OC) Shah Kamal, SI Akram, SI Monju, SI Jewel and SI Porimol ordered Kaium to confess to receiving US dollars from Idris Khan.   Kaium refused, and asked the police officers why he was being kept in detention without a court appearance. Kaium reports that the DB officers became angry and threatened to kill him under the pretext of 'crossfire' unless he provided a confessional statement on his alleged involvement in an illegal currency-exchange business. As Kaium continued to refuse, he was subjected to a prolonged physical attack by all officers present, including being slapped, punched, hit with his belt and struck with a wooden chair. The police also seized Kaium's National Identity Card and forced him to divulge the passwords of his social media and email accounts, and the login details of his online news portal.

    On 12 May, a case was brought against Kaium by police in response to a complaint filed with Trishal Police Station by Idris Ali Khan on the same day.

    It includes the following charges under the repressive Digital Security Act of 2018:

    • Section 23 – digital or electronic fraud; punishable by five years’ imprisonment and a BDT 500,000 (USD 5,809) fine; or seven years’ imprisonment and BDT 1 million (USD 11,619) fine;
    • Section 25 – publishing, sending of offensive, false or fear inducing data-information punishable by imprisonment of three to five years and a BDT 300,000 to one million fine;
    • Section 29 – publishing, broadcasting, etc., defamatory information, punishable by imprisonment of three to five years and a BDT 500,000 to 1 million fine.

    The police also accused Kaium of offences under the Penal Code of 1860:

    • Sections 385 – putting a person in fear of injury in order to commit extortion punishable by five to 14 years' imprisonment with fines; and,
    • Section 386 – extortion by putting a person in fear of death or grievous hurt, punishable by 10 years' imprisonment with fine.

    On 13 May, Kaium was brought before the Chief Judicial Magistrate's Court in Mymensingh. The police requested he remain in police remand for five days while Kaium's lawyer sought bail. On 14 May, the Magistrate rejected both petitions for remand and bail and ordered that Kaium be detained in prison. On 23 May, the Sessions Judge's Court rejected Kaium's bail petition.

    The factual information in relation to Kaium's detention establishes that the police illegally arrested and detained him a day before the case was fabricated against him. Although according to the First Information Report the alleged incident occurred in the jurisdiction of the Kotowali police, the complaint was registered in a different jurisdiction. The police arbitrarily detained Kaium for over 36 hours following his arrest in violation of Article 33 (2) of the Constitution of Bangladesh and Section 61 of the Code of Criminal Procedure-1898.

    The Court failed to protect Kaium's right to liberty and also ignored the fact that the police officers tortured Kaium in custody. It indicates that the Court's complicity in maintaining the culture of impunity in Bangladesh.

    Bangladesh authorities must halt the practice of fabricating cases against independent human rights defenders and journalists.

    TheCIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in countries across the globe, rates the space for civil society in Bangladesh asrepressed.

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

    Josef Benedict, Civic Space Researcher,


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  • Nicaragua: One month later, Medardo Mairena Sequeira still behind bars

    Global civil society alliance CIVICUS is seriously concerned about the prolonged detention of Nicaraguan human rights defender, Medardo Mairena Sequeira. Medardo was detained a month ago as part of a wave of arrests targeting activists and people who expressed their desire to stand for the Presidency ahead of Presidential elections scheduled for November 2021.

    For far too long, President Daniel Ortega has used state apparatuses to target human rights defenders, journalists and members of the political opposition to stifle freedom of expression and extend his grip on power. Now, a few months before the November 2021 elections, this intensified crackdown aims to silence political opponents to guarantee him victory when Nicaraguans vote. The international community must act now to prevent a further deterioration of human rights,” said David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Lead at CIVICUS.

    In addition to Medardo, those detained include labour leaders Freddy Navas Lopes, Pablo Morales and Pedro Joaquin Mena. Most of the people arrested are accused of complicity in the kidnapping and killing of police officers in 2018 during large scale protests that swept through Nicaragua that year. The authorities state that they are investigating those arrested for inciting foreign interference and violating national sovereignty.

    Police also raided the home of feminist leaders Dora Maria Tellez and Ana Margarita Vijil, and arrested them. They are both members of the opposition party Unamos. For several months, leaders and members of Unamos have been subjected to arbitrary arrests and detentions. The authorities have also imposed travel bans on other members of the political opposition and civil society, and froze their bank accounts.

    Background

    Since 2018, President Ortega’s administration has precipitated a socio-political and human rights crisis in Nicaragua. Human rights defenders, journalists and members of the political opposition have been subjected to acts of intimidation, arrests and detentions by security agents. In March 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a Resolution in response to human rights violations which renews and strengthens scrutiny on Nicaragua. In March 2021, Nicaragua was also placed on the CIVICUS Monitor Watch List, due to concerns about the country’s rapidly declining civic space. A few months before the November elections, the authorities have increased their attacks against members of the political opposition, human rights defenders and journalists.

    Nicaragua is rated as ‘repressed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, our online platform that measures the state of civic freedoms in all countries.

    *Photo Credit: Jorge Mejía peralta

     

  • Cambodia: A year on, the persecution of human rights defender Rong Chhun and other activists continue

    Stand with Rong Chuun

    CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, calls on the Cambodian authorities to drop the baseless charges against trade union activist and human rights defender Rong Chhun and to release him immediately and unconditionally. One year on from his arrest, his ongoing persecution highlights the unrelenting government repression against activists in the country and his ongoing detention during a pandemic is putting his life at risk.

    Rong Chhun, the President of the independent Cambodian Confederation of Unions and a member of the Cambodia Watchdog Council, was arrested on 31 July 2020. He has been a vocal human rights defender and has long raised concerns about the plight of farmers’ and workers’ rights.

    Chhun was charged with incitement under Article 495 of Cambodia’s Penal Code after he advocated for the land rights of villagers living near the Cambodia-Vietnam border. He was jailed at Prey Sar Prison and his trial began in January 2021. He has been denied bail amid an unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak in Cambodia’s prisons.

    “The authorities must drop the politically-motivated charges that have been brought against Rong Chhun. Speaking up for local communities should never be a crime. The persecution against him exemplifies the systematic weaponization of the courts by the Hun Sen regime to target activists and silence all forms of dissent,” said Lisa Majumdar, CIVICUS Advocacy Officer.

    Rong Chhun’s arrest last year sparked a wave of arrests in relation to planned protests to demand his release. Many of the activists arrested remain in detention and have also been denied bail. They include Hun Vannak, Chhoeun Daravy, Tha Lavy, Koet Saray, and Eng Malai (aka So Metta), who are members of Khmer Thavrak and Sar Kanika a former activist for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).  Others detained include Muong Sopheak and Mean Prommony, member and Vice-President of the Khmer Student Intelligent League Association (KSILA).

    “It is extremely disturbing that activists in Cambodia have been denied bail despite calls by the UN to decongest prisons and release political prisoners during the pandemic. Holding them at this time poses a serious risk to their lives - and adds another layer of punishment for these activists. The international community must do more to stand side by side with Cambodia civil society and demand their release,” said Lisa Majumdar.

    Research undertaken by the CIVICUS Monitor shows that laws are routinely misused in Cambodia to restrict civic freedoms, undermine and weaken civil society, and criminalize individual’s exercise of their right to freedom of expression. Human rights defenders, civil society activists and journalists are often subject to judicial harassment and legal action. They have also been ongoing police ill-treatment against the families and relatives of detained activists  from the banned Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) who have been holding protests.

    Civic space in Cambodia is rated as ‘repressed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor.

     

  • Cameroon: End crackdown, release detainees and resolve crisis

    Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS urges an end to the pervasive crackdown against English speaking Cameroonians as three respected civil society members - Barrister Felix Agbor Balla, Dr Fontem Neba and Mancho Bibixy - are due to appear before a Military Tribunal in the capital Yaoundé on 23 March 2017.

     

  • CIVICUS and Consorcio Oaxaca demand the immediate release of unjustly detained Mexican human rights defenders

    Click here to read a Spanish language version of this release

    CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance and the Mexican CSO Consorcio para el Diálogo Parlamentario y la Equidad Oaxaca (Consorcio Oaxaca) are deeply concerned about the widespread use of arbitrary detention and torture against human rights defenders in Mexico. A recent report, jointly published by 11 Mexican and international human rights organisations, sets out how such practices are extensively used to restrict the work of human rights defenders.

     

  • Civil society calls on the Israeli Government to release Ameer Makhoul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

  • Global Letter in solidarity with Belarusian civil society

    Russian | Belarusian

    ‘You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep the Spring from coming’
    Pablo Neruda

    161 human rights organisations demand an end to the repression against the Human Rights Center Viasna and all other human rights defenders in Belarus. We condemn the systematic arbitrary arrests, beatings and acts of torture they are subjected to. Despite all-out repression by the Belarusian authorities, human rights defenders in Belarus continue to strive to protect human rights. Inspired by their courage, we will not stop fighting until they are all released and able to continue their human rights work freely and unhindered.

    Over the past few days, we have witnessed another wave of raids and detentions against Belarusian human rights defenders and activists. This repression is a blatant retaliation for their work denouncing and documenting human rights violations ongoing since the brutal crackdown against peaceful protesters in the wake of the August 2020 election. Since August 2020, more than 35,000 Belarusians were arrested for participating in peaceful protests, around 3,000 politically motivated criminal cases were initiated, at least 2,500 cases of torture of Belarusian citizens were documented. We believe these systematic and widespread human rights violations may amount to crimes against humanity. As of July 19, 561 persons in Belarus are considered political prisoners.

    Between July 14 and 16, 2021, more than 60 searches were conducted at the homes and offices of Belarusian human rights organisations and their staff, including the Human Rights Centre ‘Viasna’, two member organisations of the International Committee for the Investigation of Torture in Belarus, Human Constanta and Legal Initiative, as well as the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the Belarusian Association of Journalists, the Legal Transformation Center LawTrend, Ecodom and many others. Documents and IT equipment, including laptops, mobile phones and computers were seized during the searches.

    During these latest raids, more than 30 people were interrogated. 13 of them were detained for a 72-hour period, reportedly in connection to an investigation into public order violations and tax evasion. Most of them were subsequently released, namely, Mikalai Sharakh, Siarhei Matskievich, and Viasna members Andrei Paluda, Alena Laptsionak, Yauheniya Babaeva, Siarhei Sys, Viktar Sazonau, Ales Kaputski and Andrei Medvedev. Several of them, however, remain under travel ban and face criminal charges. Notably, Ales Bialiatsky, Viasna Chairperson Valiantsin Stefanovic, Viasna Deputy Head and Vice-President of the FIDH, and Uladzimir Labkovich, a lawyer and Viasna member, remain detained. On July 17, all four were transferred to a pre-trial detention center “Valadarskaha”. Four other Viasna members Leanid Sudalenka, Tatsiana Lasitsa, Marfa Rabkova and Andrey Chapyuk, as well as Aleh Hrableuski of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, remain in pre-trial detention since late 2020 or early 2021.

    Viasna, one of the country’s top human rights organisations, and a member of the OMCT and FIDH networks, has been targeted by the Belarusian government for over two decades. In August 2011, its chairperson Ales Bialiatsky was sentenced to four and a half years of imprisonment on trumped-up charges, and released in June 2014 after spending 1,052 days in arbitrary detention in appalling conditions. In retaliation for Viasna’s courageous work and unwavering stance for human rights, the Belarusian authorities are trying to destroy the organisation by putting seven of its members behind bars.

    The raids started only one day after the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution condemning the situation of human rights in Belarus, demanding the release of all persons arbitrarily detained and an investigation into allegations of torture and other human rights violations.

    On July 8-9 and July 16, 2021, the authorities also raided the homes and premises of various independent media outlets and their staff, including ‘Nasha Niva’, one of country’s oldest independent newspaper, and detained three of its journalists. The offices of RFE/Radio Liberty and Belsat, the largest independent TV channel covering Belarus, were also searched, and several of their journalists were detained. As of now, over 30 media workers and dozens of bloggers remain in detention.

    We, the undersigned civil society organisations, condemn the massive human rights violations perpetrated by the Belarusian authorities, which we fear may trigger more violence. This latest wave of repression, together with the brutal crackdown over the last months, demonstrates that the authorities aim at having every human rights defender either detained or exiled.

    We stand in solidarity with our colleagues and friends who are detained, harassed, and persecuted for their brave work. We regard their struggle with great concern and sorrow, and we are inspired by their commitment and resilience.

    We urge the Belarusian authorities to stop the harassment and intimidation of critical voices, and to free all unjustly detained human rights defenders, journalists and activists.

    We call on the international community to take a strong stance in support of the Belarusian human rights community, and to speak out for the release of all those who are still behind bars, and whose only crime is to demand a society based on justice instead of fear.

    Signatories

    1. Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran - Iran
    2. ACAT Belgique - Belgium
    3. ACAT Burundi - Burundi
    4. ACAT España-Catalunya (Acción de los Cristianos para la Abolición de la Tortura) - Spain
    5. ACAT Germany (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture) - Germany
    6. ACAT Italia - Italy
    7. ACAT République Centrafricaine - Central African Republic
    8. ACAT République Démocratique du Congo - Democratic Republic of Congo
    9. ACAT Suisse - Switzerland
    10. ACAT Tchad - Tchad
    11. ACAT Togo - Togo
    12. Action Against Violence and Exploitation (ACTVE) - Philippines
    13. Action des Chrétiens Activistes des Droits de l’Homme à Shabunda (ACADHOSHA) - Democratic Republic of Congo
    14. Advocacy Forum – Nepal - Nepal
    15. Agir ensemble pour les droits humains - France
    16. Albanian Human Rights Group
    17. ALTSEAN-Burma - Myanmar
    18. Anti Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) - Malaysia/Asia-Pacific
    19. Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial - Belgium
    20. ARTICLE 19
    21. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights - Indonesia
    22. Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC) - Philippines
    23. Asociación para una Ciudadanía Participativa (ACI PARTICIPA) - Honduras
    24. Asociación pro derechos humanos (Aprodeh) - Peru
    25. Association Mauritanienne des droits de l'homme (AMDH-Mauritanieuri) - Mauritania
    26. Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) - India
    27. Association Tchadienne pour la promotion et la Défense des Droits de l'Homme (ATPDH) - Tchad
    28. Association tunisienne des femmes démocrates - Tunisia
    29. Avocats Sans Frontières France (ASF France) - France
    30. Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) - India
    31. Belarusian-Swiss Association RAZAM.CH - Switzerland
    32. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee - Bulgaria
    33. Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) - Cambodia
    34. Capital Punishment Justice Project (CPJP) - Australia
    35. Center for Civil Liberties - Ukraine
    36. Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) - United States of America
    37. Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR), University of York - United Kingdom
    38. Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights (CDDHR) - Russia
    39. Centro de Derechos humanos Fray Bartolomé de las Casas A.c. (Frayba) - Mexico
    40. Centro de Derechos Humanos Paso del Norte - Mexico
    41. Centro de Investigación y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CIPRODEH) - Honduras
    42. Centro de Prevención, Tratamiento y Rehabilitación de Victimas de la Tortura y sus familiares (CPTRT) - Honduras
    43. Centro de Salud Mental y Derechos Humanos (CINTRAS) - Chile
    44. Changement Social Bénin (CSB) - Benin
    45. CIVICUS
    46. Civil Rights Defenders (CRD) - Sweden
    47. Comision Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH-RD) - Dominican Republic
    48. Coalition Burkinabé des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CBDDH) - Burkina Faso
    49. Coalition Marocaine contre la Peine de Mort - Morocco
    50. Coalition Tunisienne Contre la Peine de Mort - Tunisia
    51. Collectif des Associations Contre l'Impunité au Togo (CACIT) - Togo
    52. Comisión de derechos humanos – COMISEDH - Peru
    53. Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH) - Honduras
    54. Comité de solidaridad con los presos políticos (FCSPP) - Colombia
    55. Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) - Northern Ireland (UK)
    56. Crude Accountability - United States of America
    57. Czech League of Human Rights Czech Republic
    58. Death Penalty Focus (DPF) - United States of America
    59. Defenders of human rights centre - Iran
    60. DEMAS - Association for Democracy Assistance and Human Rights - Czech Republic
    61. DITSHWANELO - The Botswana Centre for Human Rights - Botswana
    62. Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF) - Belgium
    63. Eleos Justice, Monash University - Australia
    64. Enfants Solidaires d'Afrique et du Monde (ESAM) - Benin
    65. Federal Association of Vietnam-Refugees in the Federal Republic of Germany - Germany
    66. FIDU - Italian Federation for Human Rights - Italy
    67. Finnish League for Human Rights - Finland
    68. Free Press Unlimited - The Netherlands
    69. Fundación Regional de Asesoría en Derechos Humanos (INREDH) - Ecuador
    70. GABRIELA Alliance of Filipino Women - Philippines
    71. German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (GCADP) - Germany
    72. Greek Helsinki Monitor Greece
    73. Helsinki Citizens' Assembly – Vanadzor - Armenia
    74. Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights - Poland
    75. Citizens' Watch Russia
    76. Human Rights Alert - India
    77. Human Rights Association (İHD) - Turkey
    78. Human Rights Center (HRC) - Georgia
    79. Human Rights Center (HRC) "Memorial" - Russia
    80. Human Rights House Foundation
    81. Human Rights in China (HRIC) - USA
    82. Human Rights Monitoring Institute (HRMI) - Lithuania
    83. Human Rights Mouvement “Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan” - Kyrgyzstan
    84. Human Rights Organization of Nepal - Nepal
    85. Humanist Union of Greece (HUG) - Greece
    86. Hungarian Helsinki Committee - Hungary
    87. IDP Women Association "Consent" - Georgia
    88. Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) - Kenya
    89. Instituto de Estudios Legales y Sociales del Uruguay (IELSUR) - Uruguay
    90. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) - Kenyan Section - Kenya
    91. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) - France
    92. International Legal Initiative - Kazakhstan
    93. International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) - Belgium
    94. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) - Switzerland
    95. Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society - India
    96. JANANEETHI - India
    97. Justice for Iran (JFI) - United Kingdom
    98. Justícia i Pau - Spain
    99. Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law - Kazakhstan
    100. Kharkiv Regional Foundation "Public Alternative" - Ukraine
    101. La Strada International - The Netherlands
    102. La Voix des Sans Voix pour les Droits de l'Homme (VSV) - Democratic Republic of Congo
    103. Latvian Human Rights Committee (LHRC) - Latvia
    104. Lawyer's Committee for Human Rights YUCOM - Serbia
    105. League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) - Iran
    106. Legal Policy Research Centre (LPRC) - Kazakhstan
    107. Libereco Partnership of Human Rights - Germany/ Switzerland
    108. LICADHO - Cambodia
    109. Lifespark - Switzerland
    110. Liga Portuguesa dos Direitos Humanos - Civitas (LPDHC) - Portugal
    111. Liga voor de Rechten van de Mens (LvRM) (Dutch League for Human Rights) - The Netherlands
    112. Ligue des droits de l'Homme (LDH) - France
    113. Ligue Tchadienne des droits de l'Homme - Tchad
    114. Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) - Maldives
    115. Martin Ennals Foundation - Switzerland
    116. Minority Rights Group - Greece
    117. Mouvance des Abolitionnistes du Congo Brazzaville - Congo Brazzaville
    118. Mouvement Ivoirien des Droits Humains (MIDH) - Côte d'Ivoire
    119. Mouvement Lao pour les Droits de l'Homme - Laos
    120. Movimento Nacional de Direitos Humanos (MNDH) - Brazil
    121. Netherlands Helsinki Committee - The Netherlands
    122. Norwegian Helsinki Committee - Norway
    123. Observatoire du système pénal et des droits humains (OSPDH) - Spain
    124. Observatoire Marocain des prisons - Morocco
    125. Odhikar - Bangladesh
    126. OPEN ASIA|Armanshahr - France
    127. Organisation contre la torture en Tunisie (OCTT) - Tunisie
    128. Organisation Guineenne de Defense des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen (OGDH) - Guinea
    129. Österreichische Liga für Menschenrechte ÖLFMR - Austria
    130. Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) - Palestine
    131. Pax Christi Uvira - Democratic Republic of Congo
    132. People's Watch India
    133. Programa Venezolano de Educación-Acción en Derechos Humanos (Provea) - Venezuela
    134. Promo LEX Association - Republic of Moldova
    135. Protection International (PI)
    136. Public Association "Dignity" - Kazakhstan
    137. Public Association Spravedlivost Human Rights Organization - Kyrgyzstan
    138. Public Verdict Foundation - Russia
    139. Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme RADDHO - Senegal
    140. Repecap Academics - Spain
    141. Réseau des Defenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC) - Cameroon
    142. Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH) - Haïti
    143. Rights Realization Centre - UK
    144. Rural People's Sangam - India
    145. Salam for Democracy and Human Rights - UK, Lebanon, Bahrain
    146. Social-Strategic Researches and Analytical Investigations Public Union (SSRAIPU) - Azerbaijan
    147. SOHRAM-CASRA - Centre Action Sociale Réhabilitation et Réadaptation pour les Victimes de la Torture, de la guerre et de la violence - Turquie
    148. SOS-Torture/Burundi - Burundi
    149. SUARAM - Malaysia
    150. Syndicat national des agents de la formation et de l'education du Niger (SYNAFEN NIGER) - Niger
    151. Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) - Philippines
    152. Thai Action Committee for Democaracy in Burma (TACDB) - Thailand
    153. The Advocates for Human Rights - United States of America
    154. The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House (BHRH) - Lithuania
    155. The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) - Indonesia
    156. The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)
    157. Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights United States of America
    158. Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) - France
    159. World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) - France
    160. World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) - Switzerland
    161. Xumek asociación para la promoción y protección de los derechos humanos - Argentina

    Civic space in Belarus is rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor

     

  • India: Halt harassment and release human rights defender Teesta Setalvad

    Free Teesta Protests Gallo

    CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, condemns the recent arrest of Teesta Setalvad and calls on the government of India to stop targeting human rights defenders. The arrest is the latest attempt by the Modi government to criminalise activists and undermine civic space in the country.

     

  • India: Two more women activists arrested as crackdown on protesters continue

    Human Rights Defenders Alert – India and global civil society alliance CIVICUS call for the immediate release of two women activists who were arrested last week for their involvement in mass protests against the discriminatory citizenship law. These arrests highlight the escalating crackdown on dissent by the Indian authorities.

     

  • Joint Statement: Civil society condemns the wrongful conviction of Cambodian human rights defenders

    logo cambodia statement 1 750x90

    The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), CIVICUS, Freedom House, and Front Line Defenders condemn yesterday’s conviction of four human rights defenders from the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) and a National Election Committee (NEC) official, in what we see as a clear attack against their legitimate human rights work.

    On 26 September 2018, senior ADHOC staff members – Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Lim Mony, and Yi Soksan – were convicted of ‘bribery of a witness’ under Article 548 of the Criminal Code, while a NEC official and former ADHOC staff member Ny Chakrya was found guilty as an accomplice under Articles 29 and 548 of the same Criminal Code. Each has been given a five-year sentence by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, with 14 months and one day considered served and the rest of the sentence suspended.

    Read more on Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

     

  • Myanmar: Release all activists and politicians detained and restore democracy

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    Global civil society alliance CIVICUS is alarmed that the military’s takeover of control of Myanmar from the civilian government represents a sharp reversal of the partial yet significant progress toward democracy made in recent years following five decades of military rule and international isolation.

     

  • Pakistan: Three years on, Prime Minister Imran Khan has overseen an assault on civic freedoms

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    Three years after Imran Khan took office as Pakistan’s Prime Minister in August 2018, global civil society alliance CIVICUS has documented an ongoing assault on civic freedoms. Human rights defenders and critics have been harassed, criminalised and forcibly disappeared. There have been ongoing efforts to censor the media and to target journalists, and the crackdown on the Pashtun movement including enforced disappearances of activists has persisted. The culture of impunity in the country has meant that perpetrators of these abuses have not been held accountable.

    As a current member of the Human Rights Council, Pakistan has a duty to uphold the highest human rights standards. However, the documented violations are inconsistent with Pakistan’s international obligations to respect and protect civil society’s fundamental rights to the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, including those under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). These fundamental freedoms are also guaranteed in Pakistan’s Constitution.

    Human rights defenders at risk

    The Pakistani authorities have harassed, and at times, prosecuted activists for criticising government policies. Among those targeted since Imran Khan came to power include human rights defender Idris Khattak who was forcibly disappeared from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in November 2019 for seven months. Nearly seven months later, in June 2020, the Ministry of Defence finally admitted that human rights defender Khattak was being held in state custody. He is now facing prosecution in a military court. Women human rights defender Gulalai Ismail was forced to leave the country in September 2019. She and both her parents, activist Professor Mohammed Ismail and his wife Uzlifat Ismail, have been facing harassment for the last two years and are also facing trumped up terrorism charges.

    The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women has raised concerns that women human rights defenders are frequently subjected to reprisals, harassment and threats. One stark example of this has been the response to the ‘Aurat March’, a march held yearly in towns and cities across Pakistan to mark International Women’s Day and for women to reclaim their space, speak up for their rights and demand justice. Women rights activists involved in the march have routinely been subjected to intimidation and threats. The Imran Khan administration has systematically failed to speak out or take action against the perpetrators. On the contrary, in March 2021, a court in Peshawar ordered the registration of a first information report (FIR) against the organisers of the march in Islamabad.

    NGOs shut down or expelled

    The government has shut down numerous civil society organizations over the last three years under the guise of combating terrorism, money laundering or for promotion of an ‘anti-state’ agenda. In December 2018, not long after the Prime Minister assumed power, Pakistan expelled 18 international NGOs from the country when their renewal of registration was rejected arbitrarily without reason. Local NGOs have had their funds frozen. The procedures for NGOs to obtain foreign funding lacks transparency, remains cumbersome and applied in a discriminatory manner.

    Assault on press freedom

    Press freedom in Pakistan has also continued to deteriorate under Imran Khan’s leadership. The military has set restrictions on reporting, including barring access to regions, encouraging self-censorship through direct and indirect methods of intimidation against both reporters and editors, and even allegedly instigating violence against reporters.

    In 2019, several journalists were placed on a “watch list” by the Pakistan Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Cybercrime Wing over criticism of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman during his visit to Pakistan. In October 2019, the head of the Committee to Protect Journalists' (CPJ) Asia programme, Steven Butler, was denied entry into Pakistan and deported because his name was on a “stop list of the Interior Ministry”. In 2020, government officials and supporters mobilised a cyber-harassment campaign against women journalists and commentators whose views and reporting have been critical of the government and more specifically its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Journalists have been criminalized and even abducted. Rizwan Razi was arrested in February 2019 in Lahore over a series of social media posts allegedly critical of the judiciary, government and intelligence services. In July 2020, Matiullah Jan was abducted by unidentified armed men from a busy street in Islamabad and released 12 hours later. Jan is known for his criticism of the country’s powerful institutions, including its military, and has been labelled “anti-state”. In May 2021, journalist Asad Ali Toor was assaulted by three unidentified men, believed to be agents of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency who forcibly entered his apartment in Islamabad. They interrogated, gagged and beat him.

    Crackdown on the PTM movement

    There has been a systematic crackdown against the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM). The PTM have mobilised nationwide against human rights violations against Pashtun people. They have demanded the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission to examine human rights violations committed by the state and non-state actors in Pashtun areas, including enforced disappearances allegedly perpetrated by the Pakistan army, and extrajudicial killings. Protesters also continue to call for equal rights for Pashtun people, as guaranteed by the constitution, and the restoration of peace in Pashtun areas and the region in general.

    Instead of addressing these concerns, the Imran Khan administration has arbitrarily arrested, detained and prosecuted on spurious charges scores of PTM activists since the beginning of the protests. These activists have been accused of sedition and other crimes under Pakistan’s Penal Code, and of terrorism charges.

    Some PTM activists have been killed. In February 2019, PTM leader Arman Loni died in police custody Loralai in Baluchistan. He had suffered blows to the head and neck when police officers physically assaulted him with rifle butts. Arman’s death was not registered by the police for another two months. In May 2020, Arif Wazir, a PTM leader, died in Islamabad following an attack by unidentified assailants outside his home in Wana, South Waziristan. He had been detained and charged for his activism, and had previously been considered ‘anti-national’ by authorities. No one has been brought to justice for these killings.

    Authorities have attempted to suppress the PTM by silencing media coverage of the movement. In December 2018, internet service providers blocked the website of Voice of America's (VOA) Urdu language service. An article by Manzoor Pashteen published in the New York Times in February 2019 was censored by its local publisher. Journalists covering protests have been targeted in a similar manner to participants.

    Enforced disappearances

    Enforced disappearances targeting human rights defenders, political activists, students, journalists and others have continued relentlessly under the Imran Khan administration. The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance has received 1144 cases of allegations of enforced disappearances from Pakistan between 1980 and 2019 with more than 731 cases pending at the end of 2019. According to human rights groups, in some instances, people are openly taken into custody by the police or intelligence agencies, and often authorities deny information to families about where their loved ones are being held. Many of those forcibly disappeared have been subjected to torture and death during detention.

    The government had committed to criminalising enforced disappearances when it came to power in 2018. However, the bill to do so languished at the draft stage for more than two years before it was finally introduced to the National Assembly in June 2021.

    Recommendations

    After three years in power, the current administration continues to fall far short of its human rights obligations.

    We urge the government of Pakistan to undertake the following as a matter of urgency:

    • Take steps to ensure that all human rights defenders in Pakistan are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals in all circumstances and conform to the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
    • Drop all charges against human rights defender Idris Khattak and release him immediate and unconditionally. End all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level and restrictions on freedom of movement - against Muhammad Ismail, his wife Uzlifat Ismail and Gulalai Ismail.
    • Take measures to foster a safe and enabling environment for civil society, including by removing legal and policy measures that unwarrantedly limit the freedom of association. This includes removing all undue restrictions on the ability of CSOs to receive international and domestic funding, in line with international law and standards; refrain from acts leading to the closure of CSOs or the suspension of their peaceful activities and consult meaningfully with civil society in any review of these laws and regulations.
    • Ensure freedom of expression and media freedom, both online and offline, by bringing all national legislation into line with international law and standards and ensuring that journalists are able to work freely and without fear of retribution for expressing critical opinions or covering topics that the government may find sensitive. Any forms of harassment and attacks against journalists must be promptly and impartially investigated immediately and perpetrators brought to justice;
    • Put an end the harassment, stigmatisation, intimidation, unlawful surveillance, travel restrictions and arrest of peaceful PTM activists and ensure that they can freely express their opinions and dissent without fear of reprisals. Conduct a swift, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the killing of PTM leaders and activists Arman Loni and Arif Wazir, and ensure that those responsible for his death are brought to justice;
    • Ensure efforts to criminalise enforced disappearance as an autonomous crime move swiftly and that the law in in line with international law and standards. The government must also ensure that all allegations of such acts are thoroughly investigated and those responsible brought to justice.

    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 Pakistan as Repressed.

     

  • Rights Groups Urge Bahrain to Release Dr Abduljalil AlSingace, Jailed Academic on Hunger Strike

    Dr Abduljalil AlSingace, an imprisoned opposition activist and human rights defender, has been on hunger strike since 8 July 2021. He is protesting against persistent ill-treatment at the hands of Jau Prison authorities, the main prison in Bahrain, restrictions imposed during COVID19 limiting prisoners contact to only five numbers, and to demand that a book he wrote in prison that was confiscated be immediately handed to his family, a coalition of 16 rights groups stated today.

    A respected academic and blogger, Dr AlSingace has spent the last decade in prison serving a life imprisonment sentence. He was amongst 13 opposition activists arrested between 17 March and 9 April 2011, including high-profile political opposition leaders, activists and human rights defenders, who were then convicted by a military tribunal for their roles in the 2011 pro-democracy protest movement.

    According to the 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, Bahraini authorities placed Dr AlSingace in solitary confinement for two months and subjected him to torture following his arrest, including being repeatedly beaten and “sexually molested”.

    Dr AlSingace launched a hunger strike on 8 July 2021 in response to degrading treatment he was subjected to by a prison officer, to protest the restriction of being permitted to call only five numbers during the ongoing COVID19 pandemic, and to demand the return of his book, confiscated by prison guards on 9 April 2021, and on which he worked for at least four years. We understand the book to be a study of linguistic diversity among Bahraini Arabic dialects, without any political content, yet the book has not been returned despite repeated promises by prison authorities.

    On 19 July, the Office of the Public Prosecution referred AlSingace’s case to the Ombudsman of the Ministry of Interior (the Ombudsman). The statement from the Public Prosecution incorrectly provided that AlSingace’s hunger strike was also related to “the refusal of the [Jau’s Reformation and Rehabilitation] centre’s administration to allow him to contact his relatives”.

    According to the Ombudsman, who cleared the prison officials from any wrongdoing and accused Dr AlSingace for alleged “smuggling” of his own work, Dr Al Singace “was not subjected to mistreatment”. This conclusion was reached without Dr AlSingace’s testimony as he refused to be interviewed. Human Rights Watch has found that the Ombudsman has repeatedly failed to investigate credible allegations of prison abuse or to hold officials accountable. The UN Committee against Torture has also raised concerns that these bodies were neither independent nor effective.

    Although the Ombudsman states that prison authorities “did not intend to confiscate the papers”, it confirms “that the reason for [Dr AlSingace’s] hunger strike was the confiscation of the papers he wrote” and that his work cannot be returned until a “legal decision” is taken.

    Many imprisoned political leaders in Bahrain are older and suffer from pre-existing health conditions and consequences of their torture in 2011, which today make them particularly vulnerable to diseases like COVID-19. Dr AlSingace has several chronic illnesses, suffering from post-polio syndrome, vertigo, causing him to lose his balance and fall, a slipped disk in his back and neck, causing chronic pain, and paresthesia in his muscles and limbs. Consequently, AlSingace requires the use of crutches or a wheelchair and is among those most at risk. Dr AlSingace has faced sustained medical negligence by prison authorities throughout his 10-year imprisonment, namely the prison’s regular refusal to take him to appointments with medical specialists over the past four years.

    We are thus deeply disturbed receive reports from family members that on 18 July 2021 Dr AlSingace was transferred to the Ministry of Interior medical facility in al-Qalaa for monitoring and to be given intravenous fluids; by 29 July AlSingace had reportedly already lost 10kg. Recent outbreaks of COVID-19 reported at Jau Prison create an additional threat to Dr AlSingace’s health.

    Since his imprisonment, the international community has made consistent calls for his immediate and unconditional release, including the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights Defenders, leading international human rights organisations, and American, British and European legislators.

    The confiscation of Dr AlSingace’s book is an unjust punishment and the authorities must ensure the protection of his rights, including the return of his intellectual property. We call for Dr AlSingace’s immediate and unconditional release and for his work to be immediately given to his family.

    Signatories

    1. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
    2. Amnesty International
    3. Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR)
    4. Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
    5. CIVICUS
    6. Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
    7. English PEN
    8. European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
    9. Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
    10. Human Rights First
    11. IFEX
    12. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    13. PEN International
    14. Scholars at Risk
    15. REDRESS
    16. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

    Civic space in Bahrain is rated as Closed by the CIVICUS Monitor

     

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