arbitrary detention

  • 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.


    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

  • #FreeAlaa: Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah on hunger strike protesting his continued illegal detention

    We, the undersigned civil society organizations, lawyers, journalists, and activists, urge the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Alaa Abdel Fattah, our courageous friend, human rights activist, and blogger.

  • #FreeSherifOsman: UAE must not extradite political commentator to Egypt, where he would face torture


    We, the undersigned organisations, urge the authorities of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) not to deport Sherif Osman to Egypt, where he would be at high risk of being subjected to torture and other human rights violations. An extradition would constitute a violation of the principle of non-refoulement enshrined under article 3 of the Convention against Torture, to which the UAE is a party since 2012. We further urge the UAE to release Osman immediately.

  • Another Wave of Atrocity Crimes in Chin State UN Security Council Must Act Now to End Myanmar Junta’s Campaign of Terror

    We, the undersigned 521 Myanmar, regional and international civil society organizations, call on the UN Security Council to urgently convene a meeting on the escalating attacks in Chin State, and address the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian, human rights and political crisis in Myanmar. We call for the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution to consolidate international action to stop the military's violent assault against the people of Myanmar. The UN Security Council must also impose a global arms embargo to stop the flow of weapons and dual-use goods to the Myanmar military junta.

    It has been nine months since the attempted coup by the brutal Myanmar military. 1,236 people have been killedand 9,667 arbitrarily detained as of 3 November, 2021. The junta has continued its violent assault throughout Myanmar, recently deployed troops and increased its attacks against civilians in Chin State, Sagaing and Magwe Regions in north-western Myanmar, while continuing its attacks in Karenni, Karen and Shan States.

    On Friday 29 October, the Myanmar military began shelling the town of Thantlang in Western Chin State, setting as many as 200 houses and at least two churches on fire. Soldiers also deliberately torched houses at random.

    Save the Children - whose office in Thantlang was set on fire alongside local civil society organizations including Chin Human Rights Organization - strongly condemned the recent attacks stating “the incident is further evidence of a deepening crisis in Myanmar” as the violence continues to affect large numbers of children across the country. Such indiscriminate attacks against civilians and humanitarian organizations are violations of international law and constitute war crimes.

    Following the 1 February attempted coup, Chin State has been at the forefront of some of the strongest resistance to the Myanmar military junta. This has been met with fierce attacks by the military, including use of fighter jets and heavy artillery used against civilians while hundreds have been arbitrarily detained, and dozens killed. Prior to this most recent attack, approximately 10,000 residents had already fled Thantlang as the military junta indiscriminately shot into homes and set off fires by shelling in September. At the time, a Christian pastor who was attempting to put out the fires was shot dead, and his ring finger cruelly cut off and removed, along with his wedding ring. Those displaced have taken shelter in nearby villages and others have sought refuge in India. Many of those who have been displaced have been unable to access humanitarian aid as the junta weaponizes aid for their own political benefit, often blocking access or destroying it in an effort to weaken the resistance.

    In early October, amid increasing deployment of heavy weapons and troops by the military junta, the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged “the international community to speak with one voice, to prevent the commission of further serious human rights violations against the people of Myanmar.” The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights also warned of greater human rights catastrophe and further mass atrocity crimes amid the deployment of tens of thousands of troops stating, “These tactics are ominously reminiscent of those employed by the military before its genocidal attacks against the Rohingya in Rakhine State in 2016 and 2017.” Echoing these concerns, 29 Rohingya organizations have urged the Council not to repeat the mistakes it made in 2017 by failing to act on warnings of an impending military offensive against the Rohingya.

    Since the start of the attempted coup nine months ago, hundreds of Myanmar and international society organizations have repeatedly and vehemently called for the UN Security Council to act. This includes a statement from 92 Chin civil society organizations and Burma Campaign UK, who have called on the UK as the “penholder” of Myanmar at the UN Security Council to urgently act. The Special Advisory Council for Myanmar have also called for the UN Security Council to “issue a resolution to consolidate international action towards resolving the crisis.”

    Yet, the Security Council has failed to take any effective actions beyond statements. As the offensives escalate in Chin State, the UN Security Council must act before it is too late. It must convene an urgent meeting on the escalating attacks in Chin State and the overall deepening political, human rights and humanitarian crisis as a result of the Myanmar military leaders search for power and greed that has caused immense suffering. The human security risk not only threatens the people of Myanmar but also regional and thus global security and peace. The Council must immediately build on previous statements with concrete action by adopting a resolution that consolidates international action to resolve the deepening crisis, a global arms embargo to stop the flow of weapons, including dual-use goods, and refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court. The Council must demonstrate that it will take concrete actions to stop the junta from committing further atrocity crimes and posing further risk to human security of the people of Myanmar.

    The UN must not continue to fail the people of Myanmar.

    For more information, please contact:

    Signed by 521 Myanmar, regional and international civil society organizations* including:


    1. 8888 Generation (New Zealand)
    2. Action Committee for Democracy Development
    3. African Great Lakes Action Network
    4. All Burma Democratic Face in New Zealand
    5. All Burma IT Student Union
    6. Alternative Solutions for Rural Communities (ASORCOM)
    7. ALTSEAN-Burma
    8. America Rohingya Justice Network
    9. American Baptist Churches USA
    10. American Rohingya Advocacy
    11. Ananda Data
    12. Anti-Dictatorship in Burma - DC Metropolitan Area
    13. Arakan CSO Network
    14. Arakan Institute for Peace and Development
    15. Arakan Rohingya Development Association – Australia
    16. Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO)
    17. Arakan Rohingya Union
    18. Arizona Kachin Community
    19. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
    20. Asho University Students Association (AUSA)
    21. Asho Youth Organization
    22. Asian Dignity Initiative
    23. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    24. Asian Resource Foundation
    25. Asia-Pacific Solidarity Coalition
    26. Assistance Association for Political Prisoners
    27. Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters
    28. Association of Women for Awareness & Motivation (AWAM)
    29. Athan – Freedom of Expression Activist Organization
    30. Auckland Kachin Community Inc.
    31. Auckland Zomi Community
    32. Australian Burmese Rohingya Organisation
    33. Backpack Health Workers Team
    34. Balaod Mindanaw
    35. Bangkok Chin University Student Fellowship
    36. Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM)
    37. Baptist World Alliance
    38. Blood Money Campaign
    39. British Rohingya Community in UK
    40. Buddhist Solidarity for Reform
    41. Burma Action Ireland 
    42. Burma Campaign UK 
    43. Burma Human Rights Network
    44. Burma Medical Association
    45. Burma Task Force
    46. Burmese American Millennials
    47. Burmese Community Support Group (Australia)
    48. Burmese Democratic Forces
    49. Burmese Rohingya Association in Queensland-Australia (BRAQA)
    50. Burmese Rohingya Association Japan (BRAJ)
    51. Burmese Rohingya Association of North America
    52. Burmese Rohingya Community Australia (BRCA)
    53. Burmese Rohingya Community in Denmark
    54. Burmese Rohingya Community of Georgia
    55. Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK
    56. Burmese Rohingya Welfare Organisation New Zealand
    57. Burmese Student Association at UCSB
    58. Burmese Women’s Union
    59. California Kachin Community
    60. Calvary Burmese Church 
    61. Campaign for a New Myanmar
    62. Canadian Burmese Rohingya Organisation
    63. Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative
    64. Cantors' Assembly
    65. CAU Buddhist
    66. CDM Supporter Team (Hakha)
    67. Central Chin Youth Organization (CCYO)
    68. Centre for Human Rights and Development, Mongolia
    69. Cherry Foundation (Yangon), Burma/Myanmar
    70. Chin Baptist Association, North America
    71. Chin Baptist Churches USA
    72. Chin Civil Society Network (CCSN)
    73. Chin Community of Auckland
    74. Chin Community of USA-DC Area 
    75. Chin Education Initiative (CEI)
    76. Chin Human Rights Organization
    77. Chin Humanitarian Assistance Team Rakhine State (CHAT)
    78. Chin Leaders of Tomorrow (CLT)
    79. Chin Literature and Culture Committee (Universities of Yangon)
    80. Chin Student Union - Kalay
    81. Chin Student Union - Pakokku
    82. Chin Student Union - Sittwe
    83. Chin Student Union of Myanmar
    84. Chin University Student Fellowship – Paletwa
    85. Chin University Students in Rakhine State (CUSRS)
    86. Chin Women Organization (CWO)
    87. Chin Women's Development Organization (CWDO)
    88. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    89. Coalition for Democracy
    90. Community Resource Centre (CRC)
    91. Dallas Kachin Community
    92. Darfur and Beyond, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
    93. DEEKU-Karenni Community of Amarillo, TX
    94. Democracy for Ethnic Minorities Organization
    95. Democracy for Myanmar - Working Group (NZ)
    96. Democracy, Peace and Women's Organization – DPW
    97. Equality Myanmar
    98. European Rohingya Council (ERC)
    99. Falam Phunsang Tlawngta Pawlkom
    100. Federal Myanmar Benevolence Group (NZ)
    101. Fidi Foundation (Hakha)
    102. Florida Kachin Community
    103. Free Burma Action Bay/USA/Global
    104. Free Myanmar Campaign USA/BACI
    105. Free Rohingya Coalition (FRC)
    106. Freedom for Burma
    107. Freedom, Justice, Equality for Myanmar
    108. Future Light Center
    109. Future Thanlwin
    110. Gender and Development Institute – Myanmar
    111. Gender Equality Myanmar
    112. Generation Wave
    113. Georgia Kachin Community
    114. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
    115. Global Justice Center 
    116. Global Movement for Myanmar Democracy
    117. Global Myanmar Spring Revolution
    118. Global Witness
    119. Globe International Center
    120. Grassroots Movement for Burma
    121. Green Party Korea International Committee
    122. Hakha Campaign for Justice
    123. Hakha University Student Organization (HUSO)
    124. Houston Kachin Community
    125. Human Rights Alert
    126. Human Rights Development for Myanmar
    127. Human Rights Foundation of Monland
    128. Human Rights Watch
    129. Imparsial
    130. Incorporated Organization Shilcheon Bulgyo
    131. Infinite Burma
    132. Initiatives for International Dialogue
    133. Institute for Asian Democracy
    134. Inter Pares
    135. International Campaign for the Rohingya
    136. International Karen Organisation 
    137. Iowa Kachin Community
    138. Ipas
    139. Jewish World Watch
    140. Jogye Order Chapter of Korea Democracy Union
    141. Justice For Myanmar
    142. Kachin Alliance
    143. Kachin American Community (Portland – Vancouver)
    144. Kachin Community of Indiana
    145. Kachin Community of USA
    146. Kachin National Organization USA
    147. Kachin Peace Network (KPN)
    148. Kachin State Women Network
    149. Kachin Women’s Association Thailand
    150. Kanpetlet University Student Organization
    151. Kansas Karenni Community, KS
    152. Karen American Association of Milwaukee, WI
    153. Karen Association of Huron, SD 
    154. Karen Community of Akron, OH 
    155. Karen Community of Iowa, IA 
    156. Karen Community of Kansas City, KS & MO 
    157. Karen Community of Minnesota, MN 
    158. Karen Community of North Carolina, NC 
    159. Karen Environmental and Social Action Network
    160. Karen Human Rights Group
    161. Karen Organization of America
    162. Karen Organization of Illinois, IL
    163. Karen Organization of San Diego
    164. Karen Peace Support Network
    165. Karen Rivers Watch
    166. Karen Women’s Organization
    167. Karen Youth Education Pathways 
    168. Karenni Civil Society Network
    169. Karenni Community of Arizona, AZ
    170. Karenni Community of Arkensas, AK
    171. Karenni Community of Austin, TX
    172. Karenni Community of Bowling Green, KY
    173. Karenni Community of Buffalo, NY
    174. Karenni Community of Chicago, IL
    175. Karenni Community of Colorado, CO
    176. Karenni Community of Dallas, TX
    177. Karenni Community of Des Moines, IA
    178. Karenni Community of Florida, FL
    179. Karenni Community of Fort Worth, TX
    180. Karenni Community of Georgia, GA
    181. Karenni Community of Houston, TX
    182. Karenni Community of Idaho, ID
    183. Karenni Community of Indianapolis, IN
    184. Karenni Community of Massachusetts, MA
    185. Karenni Community of Michigan, MI
    186. Karenni Community of Minnesota, MN
    187. Karenni Community of Missouri, MO
    188. Karenni Community of North Carolina, NC
    189. Karenni Community of Portland, OR
    190. Karenni Community of Rockford, IL
    191. Karenni Community of San Antonio, TX
    192. Karenni Community of Sioux Falls, SD
    193. Karenni Community of Utah, UT
    194. Karenni Community of Utica, NY
    195. Karenni Community of Washington, WA
    196. Karenni Community of Wisconsin, WI
    197. Karenni Human Rights Group
    198. Karenni National Women’s Organization
    199. Karenni Society New Zealand
    200. Karenni Society of Omaha, NE
    201. Karenni-American Association
    202. Kaung Rwai Social Action Network
    203. Keng Tung Youth
    204. Kentucky Kachin Community
    205. Korean Ashram
    206. L'chaim! Jews Against the Death Penalty
    207. Los Angeles Rohingya Association
    208. Louisiana Kachin Community
    209. Manyou Power People
    210. Maryland Kachin Community
    211. Matupi University Student Fellowship
    212. Metta Campaign Mandalay
    213. Metta-Vipassana Center
    214. Michigan Kachin Community
    215. MINBYUN - Lawyers for a Democratic Society International Solidarity Committee
    216. Mindat University Student Union
    217. Minnesota Kachin Community
    218. Mizo Student Fellowship
    219. Myanmar Advocacy Coalition
    220. Myanmar Cultural Research Society (MCRS)
    221. Myanmar Engineers - New Zealand
    222. Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation in Malaysia
    223. Myanmar Gonye (New Zealand)
    224. Myanmar Peace Bikers
    225. Myanmar People Alliance (Shan State)
    226. Myanmar Students' Union in New Zealand
    227. Nationalities Alliance of Burma USA
    228. NeT Organization
    229. Network for Human Rights Documentation (ND-Burma)
    230. Never Again Coalition
    231. New Bodhisattva Network
    232. New York Kachin Community
    233. New Zealand Doctors for NUG
    234. New Zealand Karen Association
    235. New Zealand Zo Community Inc.
    236. Ninu (Women in Action Group)
    237. No Business With Genocide
    238. North Carolina Kachin Community
    239. Nyan Lynn Thit Analytica
    240. Olive Organization
    241. Omaha Kachin Community
    242. Overseas Mon Association. New Zealand
    243. Pa-O Women’s Union
    244. Pa-O Youth Organization
    245. Pennsylvania Kachin Community
    246. People’s Initiative for Development Alternatives
    247. People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD)
    248. Progressive Voice
    249. Pyithu Gonye (New Zealand)
    250. Rohingya Action Ireland
    251. Rohingya American Society
    252. Rohingya Arakanese Refugee Committee
    253. Rohingya Community in Netherlands
    254. Rohingya Community in Norway
    255. Rohingya Culture Centre Chicago
    256. Rohingya Human Rights Initiative
    257. Rohingya Human Rights Network (Canada)
    258. Rohingya Organisation Norway
    259. Rohingya Refugee Network
    260. Rohingya Society Malaysia
    261. Rohingya Women Development Network (RWDN)
    262. Rohingya Youth Development Forum (RYDF)
    263. Rvwang Community Association New Zealand
    264. Save and Care Organization for Ethnic Women at Border Areas
    265. Save Myanmar Fundraising Group (New Zealand)
    266. Save the Salween Network
    267. SEA Junction
    268. SEGRI
    269. Shan Community (New Zealand)
    270. Shan MATA
    271. Sitt Nyein Pann Foundation
    272. Solidarity for Another World
    273. South Carolina Kachin Community
    274. Spring Revolution Interfaith Network
    275. Stepping Stone for Peace
    276. Students for Free Burma
    277. Support the Democracy Movement in Burma
    278. Swedish Burma Committee
    279. Swedish Rohingya Association
    280. Synergy - Social Harmony Organization
    281. Ta’ang Women’s Organization
    282. Tedim Youth Association (TYA)
    283. Tennessee Kachin Community
    284. Thantlang Revolutionary Campaigner
    285. Thantlang University Student Organization (TUSO)
    286. Thantlang Youth Association (TYA)
    287. The Center for Freedom of Information
    288. The Pastors Fellowship
    289. The Sound of Hope
    290. The Spring University Myanmar (SUM)
    291. Thint Myat Lo Thu Myar
    292. S. Campaign for Burma 
    293. UION
    294. Union for Reform Judaism (URJ)
    295. Union of Karenni State Youth
    296. Unitarian Universalist Association
    297. Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC)
    298. Virginia Kachin Community
    299. Washington Kachin Community
    300. West Virginia Kachin Community
    301. Women Peace Network 
    302. Women’s Advocacy Coalition – Myanmar
    303. Women’s League of Burma
    304. WOREC Nepal
    305. Yeollin Seonwon
    306. Zomi Federal Union (ZFU)
    307. Zomi Siamsim Kipawlna - Myanmar
    308. Zotung Student Society (ZSS - Myanmar)

    *Note: 213 organizations' names are not disclosed at their request due to security concerns.

    Civic space in Myanmar is considered repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor

  • Bahrain: End Degrading Treatment of Activists

    Bahraini authorities’ treatment of wrongfully imprisoned detainees violates international standards on prisoner treatment and in some cases may constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, a coalition of ten rights groups said today. The authorities should ensure that all detainees are treated with humanity and in accordance with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the Nelson Mandela Rules, including access to the adequate medical care they require and contact with their relatives.

    Family members of 12 opposition activists or human rights defenders held in Building 7 of Jaw Prison have told rights groups that under new regulations the authorities shackle the men, many of them elderly and in poor health, whenever they leave their cells, including for medical visits. The men are serving long prison terms in connection with their prominent and peaceful roles in the pro-democracy uprising in February 2011.

    “These new regulations degrade and humiliate prisoners who clearly pose no escape risk,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Authorities can take reasonable measures to prevent escapes, but shackling infirm patients, many of them torture victims, clearly goes beyond any need for security.”

    The authorities should immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners held solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, the groups said.

    On April 12, 2017, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a human rights defender held in Building 7, began a hunger strike to protest the new regulations at Jaw Prison, which the prisoners believe are a disproportionate response to the escape of 10 prisoners from another part of Jaw Prison on January 1.

    In addition to the shackling, which has led the detainees to refuse to attend medical appointments in protest at what they perceive as degrading treatment, the authorities have cut visiting hours and the time for phone calls with their relatives.

    Since the escape, which resulted in the death of a police officer, family members of the opposition and human rights activists and several other prisoners have told the rights groups that the authorities’ treatment of their relatives has worsened significantly.

    Since March 1, authorities have shackled prisoners in Building 7 whenever they leave their cells. This practice is contrary to Rule 47 of the Mandela Rules, which states that restraint instruments should only be used as a precaution against escape or to prevent prisoners from injuring themselves or others. Family members of prisoners in other buildings have also told rights groups that their relatives are shackled whenever they leave their cells and that since the escape, their cells are locked most of the day, meaning that those without toilet in their cell have only limited access to toilets.

    International human rights mechanisms have said that the use of restraints on elderly or infirm prisoners who do not pose an escape risk can constitute ill-treatment. The prison authorities appear willing to abide by some of the Nelson Mandela Rules by transferring patients requiring specialized treatment to specialized institutions or civil hospitals. But the disproportionate use of physical restraints is degrading and is preventing detainees from getting the health care they require.

    Family members of Al-Khawaja, 56, told rights groups that he had an appointment with an eye specialist at the Bahrain Defense Forces military hospital on March 12 because of headaches and vision problems. But the prison administration insisted that he had to wear the prison uniform, have his legs and ankles shackled, and submit to full body strip search.

    The family said he refused because of the humiliation involved. Al-Khawaja wrote to the prison authorities in March requesting a new medical appointment and to be allowed to go without a strip search and shackles, but has received no response. On April 12, he began a hunger strike. His family expressed concern about the impact of his hunger strike on his already deteriorating health and said that on April 15 he refused medical attention to address a low blood sugar level in protest at the regulations.

    On April 20, Al-Khawaja began to take necessary liquids to avoid losing consciousness and being transferred to hospital, where he feared he would be force-fed, as in past hunger strikes. He suffers from exhaustion, general weakness, and dizziness. He has lost weight and his blood sugar remains low.

    A family member of Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace, 55, who requires crutches or a wheelchair as the result of polio and sickle-cell anemia, told rights groups that he refused to attend medical appointments, including a March 12 appointment with a hematologist and an appointment in early March to deal with a shoulder infection, because of the prison authorities’ insistence on shackling him with chains during the transfer.

    Family members say that Mohamed Hassan Jawad, 69, and Hasan Mshaima, 69, have also refused essential medical appointments in protest over the authorities’ insistence that they be shackled and wear the prison uniform. Mshaima has heart problems and is a former cancer patient who requires regular checks-ups. His family said that he needs Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans every six months and that the last one was over eight months ago.

    “These leading Bahraini political and human rights activists have suffered deteriorating health during their prolonged arbitrary detention since 2011,” said Husain Abdulla, executive director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain. “Shackling these prisoners of conscience is not a legitimate prison security measure but is intended to degrade and humiliate them. The international community must not forget these long-term prisoners of conscience and should work to end their unjust and punitive detention.”

    Since March 1, the prison administration has reduced all prosioners’ family visits from one hour to 30 minutes, once every two or three weeks, and that prisoners are now separated from their families by a glass barrier during visits. Since June 2016, phone calls to their families, which they are allowed to make up to three times per week, have been cut from 40 minutes to 30 minutes combined for all calls. On March 20, prison authorities stopped providing the detainees with toilet paper or tissues.

    On March 1, the detainees in Building 7 and others in Jaw Prison began boycotting family visits in protest.

    “These opposition activists are prisoners of conscience who should not have spent even a single day in prison,” said Lynn Maalouf, research director at Amnesty International’s Regional Office in Beirut. “The authorities must immediately put an end to the collective and arbitrary punishment of the entire Jaw prison population as a result of the escape of a group of prisoners; they must release all prisoners of conscience without delay and ensure all prisoners are treated humanely and receive the adequate medical treatment they require.”

    Rule 36 of the Nelson Mandela Rules states that discipline and order shall be maintained with no more restriction than is necessary to ensure safe custody, the secure operation of the prison, and a well-ordered community life. Thus, while authorities can take steps to minimize the risk of further escapes, the measures they introduce must be proportionate, should not impinge on prisoners’ dignity, and should not unnecessarily aggravate the suffering inherent in the deprivation of liberty.

    Any deliberate infliction of inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners should be investigated and those responsible held accountable.

    Eleven of the 12 detainees in Building 7 were sentenced in trials that did not meet international standards on fair trials and convicted of crimes that included alleged involvement with a group whose purpose was to replace Bahrain’s monarchy with a republican form of government. The evidence produced against them at their trial consisted only of public statements advocating reforms to curtail the power of the ruling Al Khalifa family and “confessions” that were coerced while they were in incommunicado detention. The twelfth detainee, Sheikh Ali Salman, whose nine-year prison sentence was reduced to four years on April 3, was convicted in relation to peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, following a grossly unfair trial.

    The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry’s report of November 2011 said that authorities subjected the group to a “discernible pattern of mistreatment,” including torture, after their arrests in some cases. Authorities have not provided physical or psychological rehabilitation for detainees who were tortured.

    • Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
    • Amnesty International
    • Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
    • Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
    • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    • English PEN
    • European Centre For Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
    • Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
    • Human Rights First
    • Human Rights Watch

  • Bangladesh: Police crackdown on opposition protest with disproportionate force

    Bangladesh police.max 1400x700

    CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) are gravely concerned about the use of disproportionate force during demonstrations led by the main opposition party in Dhaka on 28 October 2023. Our organisations call for an independent and impartial investigation into the violations and for the authorities to respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

  • Burundi: The Human Rights Council should continue its scrutiny and pursue its work towards justice and accountability

    To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, Geneva, Switzerland

    At the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council (the Council) in October 2020, the Council renewed the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Burundi for a further year. This allowed the only independent mechanism mandated to document human rights violations and abuses, monitor, and publicly report on the situation in Burundi to continue its work. By adopting resolution 45/19, the Council recognised that changing political circumstances do not equate to human rights change, and maintained its responsibility to support victims and survivors of violations and continue working to improve the situation in the country.
    Ahead of the Council’s 48th session (13 September-8 October 2021), we are writing to urge your delegation to support efforts to ensure that the Council continues its scrutiny and pursues its work towards justice and accountability in Burundi. In the absence of structural improvements, and in view of the recent increase in human rights violations against persons perceived as government opponents, we consider that there is no basis, nor measurable progress, that would warrant a departure from the current approach or a failure to renew the mandate of the CoI. At the upcoming session, at minimum, the Council should adopt a resolution that reflects realities on the ground, including the following elements.
    First, the resolution should acknowledge that despite some improvements over the past year, the human rights situation in Burundi has not changed in a substantial or sustainable way. All the structural issues the CoI and other human rights actors have identified since 2015 remain in place. In recent months, there has been an increase in arbitrary arrests of political opponents or those perceived as such, as well as cases of torture, enforced disappearances and targeted killings, apparently reversing initial progress after the 2020 elections. Serious violations, some of which may amount to crimes against humanity, continue. Impunity remains widespread, particularly relating to the grave crimes committed in 2015 and 2016.1 Even if some human rights defenders have been released, national and international human rights organisations are still unable to operate in the country.
    The resolution should acknowledge that any substantive change to the Council’s consideration of Burundi’s situation is dependent on demonstrable and sustainable progress on key human rights issues of concern. The Council’s approach should rely on benchmarks designed to measure tangible progress and based on key indicators identified by the CoI.2 The Burundian Government should acknowledge existing human rights challenges explicitly and grant access to and cooperate with independent human rights mechanisms. It should also design a clear implementation plan and timeframe.
    Second, the Council’s approach should focus on the following core functions:
    (i) Continued independent documentation of violations and abuses, monitoring of, and public reporting on, the human rights situation in Burundi, with adequate resources. 
    These functions remain essential, espe­cial­ly in the absence of a strong human rights movement and independent institutions in Burundi. This work should be conducted by the CoI, or a similarly inde­pendent mechanism or team of experts, who are solely focused on Burundi and use professio­nal me­tho­dologies to collect detailed information. The mechanism or team should be mandated to esta­blish responsibilities and identify all those suspected of criminal responsibility. To follow up on the CoI’s previous work, including on links between human rights violations and economic networks and corruption, it should en­ga­ge in thorough analysis of political, social, and economic dynamics in Burundi. To do so, it requires an adequate level of expertise, resources, and staffing.
    (ii) Follow up to the work and recommendations of the CoI, in particular on justice and accountability.
    The reports and recommendations of the CoI since 2017 form a road map for reform, particularly in the area of justice and accountability. The Burundian Government has not taken meaningful steps to resume cooperation with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) or to cooperate with regional human rights mechanisms.3 The national human rights institution, the Commission Nationale Indépendante des Droits de l’Homme du Burundi (CNIDH), lacks independence, demonstrated by its failure to investigate and report on politically motivated human rights violations, and therefore cannot be a substitute for the CoI, despite its renewed A status. Therefore, an independent mechanism or team that is also mandated to conduct substantive work on justice and accountability remains essential. In addition to documenting violations and identifying all those suspected of criminal responsibility, its work should also include recommendations on ending impunity.
    The CoI, which is due to present a written report to the Council at its upcoming 48th session, continues to provide critical oversight of the human rights situation in Burundi. Like its predecessor, the UN Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB), it has documented gross, widespread and systematic human rights violations and abuses. The thoroughness and visibility of its work has put those suspected of criminal responsibility on notice that their conduct is being monitored and documented. 
    Concrete and long-term improvements in the human rights situation in Burundi will not come as a result of the Council relaxing its scrutiny. Rather, continued international scrutiny and substantive work towards justice and accountability constitutes the best chance to achieve meaningful change in the country.
    At its 48th session, the Council should avoid sending the Burundian Government signals that would disincentivise domestic human rights reforms. The Council should ensure continued documentation, monitoring, public reporting, and public debates on Burundi’s human rights situation, with a focus on justice and accountability. It should urge the Burundian authorities to make concrete commitments to implement human rights reforms within a clear time-frame, which should be measured against specific benchmarks.
    We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues and stand ready to provide your delegation with further information as required.
    1. Action des Chrétiens pour l’Abolition de la Torture – Burundi (ACAT-Burundi)
    2. African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS)
    3. AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)
    4. Amnesty International
    5. Article 20 Network
    6. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    7. Association Burundaise pour la Protection des Droits Humains et des Personnes Détenues (APRODH)
    8. Association des Journalistes Burundais en Exil (AJBE)
    9. The Burundi Human Rights Initiative (BHRI)
    10. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
    11. Center for Constitutional Governance (CCG)
    12. Centre for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR-Centre)
    13. CIVICUS
    14. Civil Society Coalition for Monitoring the Elections (COSOME)
    15. Coalition Burundaise pour la Cour Pénale Internationale (CB-CPI)
    16. Collectif des Avocats pour la Défense des Victimes de Crimes de Droit International Commis au Burundi (CAVIB)
    17. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    18. Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR)
    19. Ethiopian Human Rights Defenders Center
    20. European Network for Central Africa (EurAc)
    21. Forum pour la Conscience et le Développement (FOCODE)
    22. Geneva for Human Rights / Genève pour les Droits de l’Homme
    23. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P)
    24. Human Rights Watch
    25. INAMAHORO Movement, Women and Girls for Peace and Security
    26. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    27. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    28. International Federation of ACAT (FIACAT)
    29. International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
    30. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
    31. Light For All
    32. Ligue Iteka
    33. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Burundi (CBDDH)
    34. Observatoire de la Lutte contre la Corruption et les Malversations Économiques (OLUCOME)
    35. Odhikar
    36. Organisation pour la Transparence et la Gouvernance (OTRAG)
    37. Protection International Africa
    38. Reporters Without Borders
    39. Réseau des Citoyens Probes (RCP)
    40. SOS-Torture/Burundi
    41. Tournons La Page
    42. TRIAL International
    43. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
    Civic space in Burundi is rated as closed by the CIVICUS Monitor

    1 In its latest oral briefing to the Council, assessing the human rights situation against specific action points identified in their September 2020 report, the CoI concluded that “the current situation in Burundi is too complex and uncertain to be referred to as genuine improvement” (Oral briefing of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, Human Rights Council 46th session, 11 March 2021, available here
    2 See the 2020 civil society letter, available at: DefendDefenders et al., “Burundi: Vital role of the Commission of Inquiry in prompting meaningful human rights progress,” 20 August 2020 (accessed on 22 July 2021). The latest CoI report is available here
    3 The African Union (AU) human rights observers were never fully deployed and faced a number of serious limitations to their work. Their mission ended on 31 May 2021. Burundi never cooperated with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) to implement its resolutions.
  • Cambodia: Drop Fabricated Charges against ‘ADHOC 5’

    Cambodian authorities should immediately drop politically motivated bribery charges against five human rights defenders known as the ADHOC 5 (“FreeThe5KH” in social media campaigns), five international organizations said today. The trial of the five – four current and one former senior staff members of the nongovernmental Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) – is scheduled for August 27, 2018, after lying dormant for a year. If convicted, each faces between 5 and 10 years in prison.

  • Cambodia’s Government should stop silencing journalists, media outlets

    Free Arbitrarily Detained Media Workers, Restore Media Licenses

  • China: Open letter from global civil society calls for release of student activists and workers

    On 9 and 11 November, only days after China underwent a UN review on its human rights situation, Chinese authorities carried out a massive crackdown, forcibly disappearing student activists in five cities across the country. The missing activists are supporters of workers at Jasic Technologies, in Shenzhen, who have been fighting for their rights. This is the most severe case of repression against workers and students in China in recent years.

  • CIVICUS Appaled at attacks on protesters at UN Climate summit in Copenhagen
    18 December 2009. Johannesburg, South Africa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • CIVICUS expresses concern over detention of Uzbekistan activist


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • CIVICUS expresses solidarity with embattled Swazi Civil Society

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    For more information please contact CIVICUS:

    Jessica Hume ( , +27 82 768 0250), Communications Manager


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

  • 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

  • Civil Society’s call to stop persecution of activists arrested on 29 September 2017

    Mr. Given Lubinda
    Minister of Justice
    National Assembly of Zambia, Parliament Buildings,
    P.O. Box 31299, Lusaka
    Plot 150/2584
    Zambia Email: ;
    Minister Stephen Kampyongo
    Minister of Home Affairs Email: ;
    24 October 2017

    Dear Minister Given Lubinda,

    Civil Society’s call to stop persecution of activists arrested on 29 September 2017

    We, the undermentioned National Associations of Civil Society Organisations, write to express our deep concern over the arbitrary arrests of Mr. Lewis Mwape and five other activists including two females on 29 September 2017, as they protested peacefully en route to the Parliament building. All six were arrested as they called for transparency and accountability over the purchase of 42 fire trucks for forty-two million US dollars. They are all members of civil society groups and individual human rights defenders. The male activists were held at the Emmasdale police station and their female colleagues were detained at the Garden police post before being released.

    Mr. Minister, we recognise the fact that Zambia is a democratic state and citizens have the right to request answers and transparency on issues that affect them, including the use of public funds. The arbitrary arrests and detention of these activists and their scheduled court appearance on 27 October 2017 is a violation of their right to freedom of expression and assembly, as guaranteed in the Zambian Constitution, and of the country's regional and international human rights obligations.

    We are concerned that any form of judicial persecution of the activists may set a negative precedent wherein those who engage in peaceful protests and express views that are different from those of the government are targeted by the state. It may also compel others who would want to speak out in the future not to do so for fear of persecution. We therefore write to urge the Zambian authorities to ensure that the rule of law is respected and that the rights of all the activists are guaranteed as they appear in court.

    Mr. Minister, for some time, we have watched with trepidation, the erosion of fundamental rights in Zambia and we are worried that Zambia’s rich democratic history and its status as a model in Southern Africa is being threatened. On 5 July 2017, for example, President Edgar Lungu proclaimed a state of threatened emergency. We felt at the time that there was no reasonable justification for the executive to invoke emergency powers. These restrictions on fundamental freedoms will reverse the democratic gains made over the years, if they continue.

    We therefore urge the government of Zambia and the judiciary to drop the case against Mr. Lewis Mwape and all 5 activists when they appear in court on 27 October.

    Association of Development Agencies (ADA), Jamaica
    Acción Solidaria on HIV/aids, Venezuela
    ARCA, Costa Rica
    Burundi Child Rights Coalition, Burundi
    CIVILIS Human Rights, Venezuela
    CIVICUS, Global Civil Society Alliance
    CSO Platform for Climate Change in Vanuatu
    Coordinadora Civil, Nicaragua
    Ghana Association of Private Voluntary Organisations in Development (GAPVOD)
    JOINT Liga de ONGs em Mocambique
    KEPA, Finland
    Mauritius Council of Social Services (MACOSS)
    NGO Federation of Nepal
    Rendir Cuentas, Uruguay
    SFK/NGO Council of Kenya
    Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO)
    Tanzania Association of NGOs (TANGO)
    The West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI)
    Vanuatu Association of Non-Governmental Organisations
    Uganda National NGO Forum

  • Countries on CIVICUS Monitor watchlist presented to UN Human Rights Council

    Statement at the 48th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

    Thank you, Madame President.

    A number of countries have experienced serious and rapid decline in respect for civic freedoms in the last months. We call upon the Council to do everything in their power to immediately end the ongoing civic space crackdowns which are a foreshadowing of worse violations to come.

    In Afghanistan, against a backdrop of deepening human rights, humanitarian and economic crisis, activists face systematic intimidation and are at grave risk. The Taliban are carrying out house-to-house searches for activists and journalists, and have responded with excessive force, gunfire and beatings to disperse peaceful protests, leading to deaths and injuries of peaceful protesters. The Council previously failed to take swift action to establish a monitoring and accountability mechanism. We urge it to remedy this missed opportunity now.

    In Belarus, attacks on human rights defenders and independent journalists have intensified, against the backdrop of recent draconian changes to the Mass Media Law and to the Law on Mass Events which were adopted in May 2021. We call on the Council to ensure that arbitrarily detained human rights defenders are released, and perpetrators of violations are held to account.

    Since the end of May, Nicaragua’s authorities have carried out a further crackdown on civil society and the opposition. Dozens of political leaders and human rights defenders were arrested and prosecuted as the government acted to silence critics and opponents ahead of presidential elections in November, a context which renders free and fair elections impossible. It is essential that the Council escalates its international scrutiny of Nicaragua to further accountability and justice for crimes under international law.

    We thank you.

    Civic space in Afghanistan, Belarus and Nicaragua is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor 

  • Cuba: release detained protesters and stop harassment of rights activists and their organisations

    Cuban authorities must stop the repression of civil rights activists and release those who are currently detained or under house arrest, says global civil society alliance CIVICUS.

  • Deportation of human rights defender highlights repressive environment in Vietnam

    • Vietnam arbitrarily detains and deports global human rights leader attending regional summit
    • Senior Amnesty International official also denied entry to attend World Economic Forum meeting
    • Barred entry of activists comes amid widespread repression of human rights in Vietnam
    • CIVICUS condemns actions, calls for end to harassment, intimidation, imprisonment of activists

    Global human rights groups have condemned Vietnam’s arbitrary detention and deportation of a Malaysian human rights leader who had arrived in the country to attend a regional World Economic Forum (WEF) summit.

    Debbie Stothard, Secretary-General of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), had arrived in Vietnam on September 9 and was detained overnight at the Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport overnigh before being deported to Malaysia the following morning. Stothard, who had been invited to speak at the forum, was denied entry for “national defense, security or social order and safety” reasons. She also serves as coordinator of the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma). ASEAN is the Association of South East Asian Nations, a regional political and economic bloc.

    Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, has expressed grave concern at Stothard’s arbitrary detention and deportation and said it illustrates the repressive human rights environment in Vietnam. Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Global Operations, Minar Pimple was also barred from entering Vietnam to speak at the WEF meeting.

    “By arbitrarily detaining and deporting a representative of a well-respected international human rights organisation, Vietnamese authorities have demonstrated serious disdain for international norms. Such actions weaken Vietnam’s commitment to the sustainable development goals framework which promises respect for fundamental freedoms and support for effective partnerships with civil society,” said Mandeep Tiwana, CIVICUS Chief Programmes Officer.

    “The authorities must allow her to participate in the forum without restrictions or reprisals” said Tiwana.

    Fundamental freedoms are severely curtailed in Vietnam, with activists, journalists and bloggers routinely arrested and imprisoned under vaguely defined national security laws. Activists also face restrictions on their movement and are subject to surveillance, harassment and violent assaults. Media outlets in Viet Nam are heavily censored and peaceful protesters have faced arbitrary arrests and excessive use of force by the police.

    In April 2018, three United Nations experts urged Vietnamese authorities “not to crack down on civil society to muzzle dissenting voices and stifle the people’s rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and association, in violation of the country’s obligations under international human rights law”.

    These restrictions against civil society highlight relentless efforts by the Vietnamese authorities to silence individuals who have critical or dissenting views.

    In a tweet after her ordeal, Stothard said “whatever inconvenience I am being subjected to is nothing compared to the attacks on Vietnam #HumanRights defenders & the media”.

    CIVICUS calls on the Vietnam government to immediately stop these actions and unconditionally release all human rights defenders imprisoned for exercising their fundamental rights. The authorities must also end all forms of harassment and intimidation against them.

    The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in countries across the globe, has rated the space for civil society in Vietnam is rated as closed.

    For more information, please contact:

    Josef Benedict

  • DRC: Ongoing restrictions on civic freedoms must be addressed and accountability ensured

    Statement at 48th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Item 10: Enhanced Interactive Dialogoue on the High Commissioner's report on the Democratic Republic of Congo

    Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

    Thank you, Madame President, and thank you High Commissioner for your report. We share your concerns on ongoing restrictions on civic freedoms. Journalists and HRDs continue to face threats, harassment, intimidation and arbitrary arrests, while protests have been at times met with disproportionate force.

    In the past few months, under the state of emergency laws in the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, three journalists - Joël Musavuli, Héritier Magayane and Barthelemy Kubanabandu Changamuka – were killed, and numerous others have received threats. journalist Sosthène Kambidi was arrested by military officers last month on accusations of “criminal conspiracy, rebellion and terrorism” for being in possession of a video of the murder of two UN monitors in 2017. Kambidi was involved in a media investigation on the circumstances of those murders.

    Protests are too often met with disproportionate force on the part of security forces. An opposition protest to demand the depoliticization of the national electoral commission in September 2021 was violently repressed by police officers in Kinshasa, who also beat and assaulted journalists who were covering the protest, including RFI correspondent Patient Ligodi.

    Human rights defenders have been subjected to arbitrary detention and judicial harassment for their peaceful activism. LUCHA activists Elisée Lwatumba Kasonia and Eric Muhindo Muvumbu were arrested in April while calling for a strike to protest increasing insecurity. They were charged with “civil disobedience” and “threatening an attack” and released under stringent bail conditions in July. Other LUCHA activists, Parfait Muhani and Ghislain Muhiwa, have been charged with defamation, among other charges, and await trial before the Military Court.

    We call on the Tshisekedi administration to ensure that fundamental freedoms are respected, including by reviewing all restrictive legislation, decriminalising press offences, and as a matter of urgency ensuring the protection of human rights defenders and journalists.

    To ensure sustained improvements, ending impunity for rights violations, including those against civil society, must be a priority. To this end, we call on the Council to maintain critical ongoing efforts towards accountability, including that of the team of international experts on Kasai. We further ask the High Commissioner how members and observers of this Council can best support those on the ground to prevent further civic space violations.

    We thank you.

    Civic space in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is rated as "repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor

  • EGYPT: ‘We are dealing with an extremely elaborate, very creative repressive machinery’

    alaaCIVICUS speaks with Egyptian activist Mona Seif about the international campaign for the release of  her brother, British-Egyptian political prisoner Alaa Abdel Fattah, ahead of the COP27 climate summit  taking place in Egypt in November. Alaa played a leading role in the protests that led to the downfall of  former dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011, but since President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi came to power in  2014,  he has spent most of the time in prison or police detention. He has been jailed since December  2021 on a five-year sentence for sharing a Facebook post denouncing abuses against imprisoned  activists. Following the 2011 uprisings Mona has been part of the No Military Trials for Civilians Group. Alaa and Mona’s father, Ahmed Seif El-Islam, is also a prominent human rights lawyer.

    What is Alaa’s situation in prison?

    He’s been denied both a British consular visit and his lawyer’s visits. So on 2 April he went on a hunger strike in protest.

    It has been nearly 200 days now. To sustain his strike this long, he has been ingesting around 100 to 150 calories per day. Last time I saw him, before I travelled outside Egypt in June, he had already lost a lot of weight and looked quite frail. When I visited him again more recently it shocked me. I had never seen him so weak, so emaciated. He has become a skeleton with a lucid mind.

     As his demands are still not being addressed, he is considering going back to a full hunger strike, when he relied only on water and salts. That means his health may deteriorate much faster.

    What are his demands?

    Alaa’s demands have evolved since he first went on his hunger strike. In the early days, he requested an independent judge to investigate all the human rights violations he had endured since September 2019, which our family reported.

    Alaa has been systematically deprived of his basic rights as a prisoner, and while in the Tora maximum-security prison he witnessed horrific crimes. He saw officers preventing detainees accessing any kind of medical care and saw inmates dying after calling for help for hours.

    As a British citizen, he demanded access to the British consulate and his lawyers in the UK. He waited for this to happen for four months before he started a hunger strike.

    In a recent family visit, Alaa handed my mother and sister a new list of demands concerning the situation of all prisoners and political prisoners, arguing that there is no room for ‘individual salvation’. He now demands the release of all those detained or imprisoned in national state security detention facilities and headquarters after exceeding the two-year maximum pretrial detention period, as well as all people imprisoned for expressing their ideas, convicted for political reasons, or tried by emergency courts.

    What tactics are the Egyptian regime using to silence dissent?

    We are dealing with an extremely elaborate repressive machinery, which is very creative in coming up with new tactics of repression and shifting them when necessary.

    For instance, between 2013 and 2015 the government mostly dug up old assembly laws and used them to crush protests. Since 2015 there has been a steep rise in enforced disappearances: people are simply kidnapped and disappeared, possibly kept in a military-run detention facility. We continue to lack sufficient information about these sites. Then there was a wave of prosecution of protesters on terrorism charges.

    Since 2019 people have been increasingly detained on state security accusations, with detention being renewed over and over without detainees being referred to the courts for as long as the government sees fit. They are doing what we now call ‘recycling’ detainees: people are kept in detention for some time, then released but soon slapped again with the exact same charges – but as there is now a new case against them, they press the reset button and keep them for yet another period of preventive or pretrial detention.

    How have international allies helped raise human rights issues?

    International civil society is our main lifeline. Most of the media platforms are blocked in Egypt. Many lawyers have been harassed and targeted, and some are in prison. A lot of human rights defenders have been pushed into exile, or are continuously threatened and harassed, or have been thrown in prison. So it is increasingly hard to find someone who will speak up on our behalf.

    The few civil society organisations that are still operating domestically, and definitely international organisations based abroad, are the main channels through which the families of prisoners and other people in Egypt can voice their concerns, call for help, try to gather some attention and put on some pressure to at least try to alleviate some of the abuses.

    Over the past two years, we have increasingly relied not just on international organisations abroad, but also on the Egyptian diaspora. Within their capacity, those who have had to leave Egypt try to bring attention to what is happening in the country.

    But we must bear in mind the regime also harasses Egyptians living abroad, often through retaliation against family members who remain in the country. Egyptian embassies in some countries, such as Germany, are complicit with state security services. They send people to harass activists and report on them, so many are afraid of participating publicly in peaceful protests.

    We have relied on allied civil society organisations for reporting purposes. The number of rights violations and crimes committed on a weekly basis is enormous, and tactics of repression shift so much that it is sometimes hard to keep up.

    I experienced all these changes in tactics first-hand, as a sister of a detainee. But keeping up and documenting everything is overwhelming. Most people doing human rights work in Egypt are burnt out and exhausted. This has been going on for years and everyone has dealt with trauma in one form or another.

    How do you view the Egyptian government’s initiative to release some political prisoners ahead of COP27?

    The Egyptian regime has released only 500 detainees over the past few months. But there are tens of thousands of political prisoners in Egypt.

    The recent releases are part of the regime’s international public relations strategy in response to concerns expressed by the international community about the deteriorating human rights situation. The authorities claim they are opening a new chapter in its relationship with domestic civil society, the opposition and the international community.

    But this is far from the truth. They are not willing to do the bare minimum. Alaa’s case makes clear that the regime is not serious about resolving the situation of political prisoners. Alaa continues to be denied his basic rights both as an Egyptian and a British citizen. I’m worried this may continue up until a point the damage will be irreversible.

    If such a high-profile prisoner is subjected to these kinds of human rights violations, including torture, one can only imagine what is happening to other prisoners without Alaa’s support and visibility. I think the release of a few people is the best we can hope for.

    Needless to say, no one is being held accountable for the torture or ill-treatment of prisoners. Since 2019 the General Prosecutor has not addressed any complaints concerning the situation in prisons. Whenever a particularly serious human rights violation gets some attention, the PR machinery sets in motion to smear the detainees and their families. And for most families, the focus is on stopping ongoing violations that endanger the lives of their loved ones rather than holding perpetrators accountable. In the long run, it will be a problem that we are all so focused on trying to save as many people from this prison system as possible that nobody is paying enough attention to seeking proper justice and accountability.

    Do you think COP27 will provide an opportunity for international solidarity with Egyptian civil society?

    The reality is that most governments don’t care what the ruling regime is doing in Egypt. They are willing to turn a blind eye to El-Sisi’s atrocities because he fits into regional arrangements and is easily brought into mega business deals and arms deals that involve a lot of money. Who cares how big a debt he is accumulating on the shoulders of Egyptian people.

    This makes it much harder for people working on documenting and exposing the regime’s crimes to try to stop them. At the end of the day, business deals sustain the facade of mutual respect between western governments and the Egyptian government.

    The Egyptian government is increasingly aware and taking advantage of the fact that it can get away with so many crimes as long as it keeps satisfying the economic interests of France, Germany, the UK and the USA.

    This is all working very well in the run-up to COP27, which the Egyptian regime is clearly using as a whitewashing PR stunt. In doing this, they are being assisted not just by the Gulf countries, which was to be expected, but by many western governments. Despite the recent talk of the USA withholding some of its military aid, if you look at it, the reality is that El-Sisi is getting all the support he needs.

    All we can do about this is what we are already doing, which is try as much as possible to make enough noise to bring attention to the crimes and rights violations the Egyptian regime does not want the world to know about. This may come at an extremely high price, but it is what it is. This is the reality of living in Egypt in 2022, under El-Sisi’s rule.

    Civic space in Egypt is rated ‘closed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor.

    Follow @Monasosh and @FreedomForAlaaon Twitter and sign this petition for Alaa’s release.

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