COVID-19

 

  • NIGERIA : « Le tollé mondial suscité par la mort de George Floyd renouvelle l’appel à la responsabilité de la police »

    CIVICUS s’entretient avec Nelson Olanipekun, avocat spécialisé dans les droits humains et fondateur et chef d’équipe de Citizens’ Gavelle (« le maillet des citoyens »), une organisation nigériane de technologie civique qui s’efforce d’accélérer l’administration de la justice en favorisant l’accès à la justice, la participation des citoyens et l’utilisation des technologies numériques. Citizens’ Gavel a été fondé en 2017, en réaction au manque de transparence et de responsabilité dans le secteur de la justice.

     

  • NIGERIA: ‘La protesta antirracista global renovó el reclamo para que la policía rinda cuentas’

    CIVICUS conversa con Nelson Olanipekun, abogado de derechos humanos y fundador y líder del equipo de Citizens’ Gavel, una organización nigeriana de tecnología cívica que trabaja para aumentar la velocidad de la impartición de justicia mediante la promoción del acceso a la justicia, la participación ciudadana y el uso de tecnologías digitales. Citizens’ Gavel fue fundada en 2017, en reacción a la falta de transparencia y rendición de cuentas en el sector de la justicia.

    Nelson Olanipekun1

    ¿Qué tipo de trabajo hace Citizens’ Gavel?

    Citizens’ Gavel es una organización de la sociedad civil (OSC) con sede en Nigeria. Fue establecida hace tres años para hacer frente a la lentitud de los procesos judiciales, promover la rendición de cuentas y ofrecer apoyo legal. Nuestro principal objetivo es aumentar la eficacia de la impartición de justicia a través de la tecnología, la incidencia y el cabildeo estratégico, y reducir las violaciones de derechos humanos a través de políticas e incidencia legal. Actualmente estamos trabajando en conjunto con otras OSC en la reforma legal. En ese sentido, estamos tratando de convertirnos en un actor relevante en los procesos de formulación de políticas que afectan los derechos fundamentales de la ciudadanía nigeriana.

    Trabajamos con casos que involucran problemas que van desde el encarcelamiento masivo hasta la falta de procesos digitalizados en el sector de la justicia. El proceso de administración de justicia en Nigeria es uno de los más lentos de África; en consecuencia, tenemos una elevada proporción de personas encarceladas en espera de juicio. Alrededor del 70% del total de personas encarceladas están esperando su juicio; apenas el 30% tienen condena. En 2017 presentamos una demanda colectiva en nombre de más de 500 personas que esperaban su juicio en prisión en el estado de Oyo. Estas personas ya habían pasado varios años en la cárcel, pese a que la ley establece que se puede retener a los acusados durante un máximo de 28 días antes de llevarlos ante los tribunales. También digitalizamos los listados de causas de más de 30 tribunales de Nigeria y nos concentramos en mejorar la cooperación entre los actores del sector judicial.

    Brindamos representación legal gratuita para los detenidos con prisión preventiva que no pueden pagar un abogado. Hemos desarrollado programas y aplicaciones para que las víctimas de abusos de derechos humanos y sus familias puedan buscar ayuda legal fácilmente. Entre ellos se destaca Podus, una plataforma tecnológica que permite a las personas con prisión preventiva conectarse con el abogado pro bono que se encuentre más cerca. Esta plataforma fue creada específicamente para jóvenes que no tienen fácil acceso a abogados o a los programas de justicia. Contamos con más de 160 abogados en 24 estados de Nigeria y con un equipo legal de respuesta rápida de siete abogados. Hasta ahora hemos resuelto 1.500 casos. Otra aplicación de tecnología que desarrollamos para el área de justicia es el Reloj de la Justicia (Justice Clock), una plataforma tecnológica que calcula la cantidad de tiempo que los reclusos pasan detenidos y la cantidad de días que los sospechosos pasan en juicio en comparación con lo que disponen la Ley de Administración de Asuntos Penales y otras leyes. La plataforma también ofrece un espacio donde los actores del sector de la justicia -el poder judicial, la policía, los fiscales y los funcionarios penitenciarios- pueden informarse sobre las mejores prácticas internacionales y mejorar su trabajo. Hemos colaborado estrechamente con el estado de Ogun para implementar con éxito el Reloj de la Justicia de modo que el sector de la justicia, y específicamente el director del Ministerio Público y el Comisionado de Justicia del estado de Ogun, se aseguraran de que se respetaran los plazos constitucionales dentro de los cuales los acusados en espera de juicio pueden permanecer encarcelados.

    Hacemos un seguimiento de los casos que involucran violencia sexual y de género (VSG), tomamos casos de brutalidad policial, monitoreamos las campañas anticorrupción y los casos de corrupción para brindar información relevante al público, y abogamos por las personas indigentes y las conectamos a través de la tecnología. Nuestra preocupación por esta población surgió de la constatación de que el número de personas pobres que permanecen presas en espera de juicio va en aumento. Si no reciben ninguna ayuda, los acusados sin medios económicos pasan mucho tiempo en la cárcel por delitos menores, simplemente porque no pueden pagar la fianza ni sobornar a la policía. También son vulnerables y pueden ser obligados a confesar delitos que no cometieron y en consecuencia puede que terminen pasando en prisión períodos aún más prolongados.

    Citizens’ Gavel también trabaja en el tema del abuso policial. ¿Cuál es la situación en Nigeria, y cómo resonaron localmente las protestas globales provocadas por la muerte de George Floyd en los Estados Unidos?

    La brutalidad policial es un gran problema en Nigeria y llevamos bastante tiempo trabajando en el tema. En abril de 2019, por ejemplo, instamos a la Policía de Nigeria para que realizara una evaluación de la salud mental a los oficiales que habían cometido abusos o asesinatos; caso contrario iniciaríamos acciones legales.

    En Nigeria, la protesta global ante la muerte de George Floyd renovó el reclamo de que la policía rinda cuentas y la gente comenzó a compartir historias de sus interacciones con agentes de policía. En conjunción con los problemas locales preexistentes, el incidente ocurrido en los Estados Unidos y sus resonancias globales realzaron las voces locales que se pronunciaban contra la brutalidad policial. Tuvimos la oportunidad de contribuir a este movimiento abordando las quejas que los ciudadanos nos hicieron llegar y continuamos trabajando para garantizar que los policías culpables rindan cuentas de sus actos.

    ¿De qué modo se han profundizado los problemas de derechos humanos durante la pandemia de COVID-19?

    En cuanto comenzó la pandemia hubo un aumento de los casos de brutalidad policial relacionados con la aplicación de las medidas de confinamiento y el control del cumplimiento de los protocolos sanitarios. Las interacciones entre ciudadanos y agentes de policía aumentaron y como resultado de ello hubo más denuncias en contra de agentes de policía. Hacia abril de 2020, parecían ser más las personas muertas a manos de la policía que las fallecidas a causa del COVID-19. Además, los abusos cometidos por la Unidad del Escuadrón Especial Antirrobo de la Fuerza de Policía de Nigeria continuaron durante la pandemia, y las autoridades siguieron sin procesar a los agentes que cometieron actos de tortura y delitos violentos, en su mayoría contra hombres jóvenes de bajos ingresos.

    Otra epidemia de larga data, la de la VSG, también floreció bajo la pandemia. Antes de la pandemia, alrededor del 30% de las mujeres y niñas de entre 15 y 49 años de edad habían sufrido abusos sexuales. Al tiempo que previenen los brotes del virus, las medidas de confinamiento representan una amenaza creciente para la seguridad de mujeres y niñas, ya que obliga a las víctimas de VSG a permanecer encerradas junto con sus abusadores. Entre marzo y abril de 2020, las denuncias de VSG aumentaron 149%. El confinamiento también comprometió la disponibilidad y el acceso a servicios, ya que muchos centros y refugios para víctimas de VSG cerraron o redujeron la gama de servicios que brindaban. Como resultado, estos servicios esenciales estuvieron en falta precisamente en el momento en que las sobrevivientes más los necesitaban.

    En respuesta a esta situación, Citizens’ Gavel aumentó la cantidad de casos de VSG que maneja. Estamos haciendo todo lo que podemos teniendo en cuenta que las reuniones físicas y las intervenciones legales fueron suspendidas y los miembros de nuestro equipo han estado trabajando de forma remota durante varios meses. Afortunadamente, nos resultó relativamente fácil manejar la situación porque somos una organización de tecnología cívica y nuestro personal ya estaba capacitado en el uso de herramientas virtuales.

    ¿De qué modo podría la sociedad civil internacional apoyar su trabajo?

    Agradeceríamos toda oportunidad de capacitación que nos ponga en mejores condiciones para atender mejor a las comunidades locales con las que trabajamos. También nos gustaría conocer las estrategias que mejor han funcionado para frenar los abusos de derechos humanos en otros contextos.

    Citizens’ Gavel pone mucho énfasis en el uso de la tecnología para resolver algunos de los problemas de justicia que tiene el país y ha podido desarrollar algunas herramientas tecnológicas en ese sentido; sin embargo, nos gustaría aprender más sobre las tecnologías que están funcionando en otros contextos. El acceso a plataformas internacionales a través de las cuales podamos exigir que nuestro gobierno rinda cuentas también es clave para nuestra estrategia.

    El espacio cívico Nigeria is calificado como “represivo” por elCIVICUS Monitor.
    Contáctese con Citizen’s Gavel a través de susitio web o su página deFacebook, y siga a@citizen_gavel en Twitter.

     

  • NIGERIA: ‘The global anti-racist protests renewed the call for police accountability’

    CIVICUS speaks to Nelson Olanipekun, a human rights lawyer and the founder and team lead of Citizens’ Gavel, a Nigerian civic tech organisation that works to increase the pace of the delivery of justice by promoting access to justice, citizens’ engagement and the use of digital technologies. Citizens’ Gavel was founded in 2017 in reaction to the lack transparency and accountability in the justice sector.

    Nelson Olanipekun1

    What kind of work does Citizens’ Gavel do?

    Citizens’ Gavel is a civil society organisation (CSO) based in Nigeria. It was established three years ago to tackle the slow pace of the delivery of justice, promote accountability, and provide legal support. Our main goal is to increase the effectiveness of the delivery of justice through tech, advocacy, and strategic lobbying, and to reduce human rights violations through policy and legal advocacy. At the moment we are working jointly with other CSOs on legal reform. In doing so, we are trying to become a major player in policy-making processes that affect the fundamental rights of Nigerians.

    We work with cases involving issues that range from mass incarceration to the lack of digitised processes in the justice sector. The justice delivery process in Nigeria is one of the slowest in Africa and it results in a high percentage of people incarcerated while awaiting trial. About 70 percent of the people who are in prison are awaiting trial; only 30 percent have been convicted. In 2017 we filed a class action suit for more than 500 people who were awaiting trial in prison in Oyo State. These people had already spent several years in prison, although the law establishes that people can be held for a maximum of 28 days before being taken to court. We also digitised cause lists in over 30 courts across Nigeria, and focused on improving cooperation among stakeholders in the justice sector.

    We provide pro bono legal representation for pre-trial detainees who can’t afford a lawyer. We have developed programmes and apps for human rights abuse victims and their families to reach out for legal help easily. One of them is Podus, a tech platform that enables victims of pre-trial detention to connect with the pro bono lawyer nearest to their location. This platform was created specifically for young people, who don’t have easy access to lawyers or justice programmes. We have over 160 lawyers across 24 states in Nigeria and a rapid response legal team of seven lawyers. So far we have resolved 1,500 cases. Another tech-for-justice app we developed is Justice Clock, a tech platform that helps calculate the amount of time inmates spend in detention and the number of days suspects spend on trial vis-a-vis the appropriate provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and other laws. The platform also offers a space where actors in the justice sector – the judiciary, the police, prosecutors and prison officials – can stand at par with international best practices, and in doing so can make their work easier. We have worked hand in hand with Ogun State to successfully deploy the Justice Clock so that the justice sector, specifically the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Commissioner for Justice of Ogun State, ensures that it respects the constitutional time limits for which inmates awaiting trial can be imprisoned.

    We track cases that involve sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), take cases of police brutality, monitor anti-corruption campaigns and anti-corruption cases to provide relevant information to the public, and advocate for people living in extreme poverty and connect them through tech. Our concern about this population originally arose from the growing number of poor people who are imprisoned while awaiting trial. If they don’t receive any help, poor defendants spend a long time in jail for minor offences, just because they cannot afford to either pay bail or bribe the police. They are also vulnerable and can be coerced into confessing to crimes they did not commit and end up spending even longer periods in prison.

    Citizens’ Gavel also works on police brutality. What is the situation in Nigeria, and how did the global protests triggered by the death of George Floyd in the USA resonate locally?

    Police brutality is a big issue in Nigeria and we have worked on it for some time. In April 2019, for instance, we challenged the Nigerian Police Force to conduct mental health assessments on officers who had committed abuses or killings, or otherwise face legal action.

    The global protests triggered by the death of George Floyd renewed the call for police accountability in Nigeria and people started sharing stories of their encounters with police officers. Coupled with pre-existing local issues, the US incident that resonated globally enhanced the local voices who were speaking up against police brutality. We were able to contribute by addressing the complaints that citizens reported to us and continuing to work to ensure culpable officers are held accountable.

    In what ways have human rights issues worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic?

    As the pandemic started there was an increase in police brutality related to the enforcement of lockdown measures and compliance with sanitary protocols. Interactions between citizens and police officers increased and resulted in more complaints against police officers. By April 2020, it appeared that police officers had killed more people than COVID-19. Additionally, the brutalities committed by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad Unit of the Nigerian Police Force continued during the pandemic, and the authorities continued failing to prosecute officers who committed torture and violent crimes, mostly against young men from low-income backgrounds.

    Another longstanding epidemic, that of SGBV, flourished under the pandemic. Before the pandemic, about 30 percent of women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 had experienced sexual abuse. While preventing outbreaks of the virus, lockdown measures represented a heightened threat to the safety of girls and women, as victims of SGBV remained locked in with their abusers. Between March and April 2020, reports of SGBV increased by 149 percent. The lockdown also compromised the availability of and access to services, as many centres and shelters for victims of SGBV closed or reduced the range of services they provided. As a result, these essential services were lacking precisely when survivors needed them the most.

    In response to this situation, Citizens’ Gavel increased the number of SGBV cases we manage. We are doing as much as we can, taking into account that physical meetings and legal interventions were suspended and our team members had to work remotely for several months. Fortunately, this was relatively easy to pivot to because we are a civic tech organisation and our staff had already been trained to use online tools.

    What kind of support from international civil society would help your work?

    We would appreciate training opportunities to enhance our skills to better serve the local communities we work with. We would also like to know about the strategies that work best to curb human rights abuses in other environments.

    Citizens’ Gavel is big on using tech to solve some of the local justice issues and has been able to develop some tech tools; however, we would like to learn more about technologies that work in other contexts. Accessing international platforms through which we can hold the government accountable is also key to our strategy.

    Civic space in Nigeria is rated as ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with Citizens’ Gavel through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@citizen_gavel on Twitter.

     

     

  • Observations on the quest to build back better

    SDG Knowledge Hub’s interview with Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer

    • Five years since the passage of the SDGs, the impulse in many quarters is still to scale up existing approaches, rather than to push for fundamental changes in how our societies and economies function to better realize rights.
    • In addition, there are worrying signs that COVID-19 emergency restrictions could be used as a smokescreen for a broader crackdown on dissent, which would undermine accountability for the 2030 Agenda.
    • Countries that appear to have done better are ones that have empathetic leaders who have been inclusive in their policy responses and have involved civil society in decision making.

    The SDG Knowledge Hub spoke with Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at CIVICUS, about his assessment of responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and impacts on the 2030 Agenda. Mandeep highlights the persistence of “MDG mindsets” and an increase in censorship and surveillance. He also suggests five ways to build a better post-pandemic world.

    Read full interview in SDG Knowledge Hub

     

  • Open letter to donors: 'Accelerate your commitments' during COVID-19

    This is an open letter from representatives of NEAR, Civicus, and the Global Fund for Community Foundations

    Dear international donors,

    It is time to join up global solidarity with swift and effective local action. At the risk of calling the evolving tragedy of a global pandemic an opportunity, we believe that there is a way for you to accelerate your commitments and ensure we have a lasting and stronger local civil society in the global south, both during the COVID-19 emergency response and for many years to come.

    Read on Devex

     

  • Open letter to the G20 Finance Ministers

    Dear G20 Finance Ministers,

    As you meet this week, we are writing to you to encourage you to take concrete actions in order to build a better future through a just recovery by investing in people and ensuring that funds being made available reach those that need them the most.

     

  • Open letter: Donors and supporters must act to ensure civil society resilience against COVID-19 pandemic

    Dear civil society donors and supporters,

    As the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, civil society organisations across the world are taking proactive measures to protect the health and well-being of their staff and partners. This includes necessary shifts in strategy, reprioritisation, and adjustments in programming and outreach. At the same time, civil society infrastructure is under visible and immense financial pressure. Projects have been postponed, deliverables delayed and energies diverted to making alternative plans.  Major events have been cancelled at significant financial loss. Funds have been (rightly) redirected from planned activities to COVID-19 responses. Reserves - when they exist - are limited and will soon be depleted.

    Responding to these extraordinary challenges requires flexibility in how we use our grants.  We are strengthened and inspired by messages from donors and supporters who have been quick to reinforce their sustained support and commitment to enabling maximum flexibility for the work of their partners. It is an important sign of trust and recognition of the crucial role of civil society and civic action in our societies, now more than ever. 

    We call on all donors and intermediaries providing essential support for civil society to adopt similar approaches by offering as much flexibility, certainty, and stability towards grantees and partners as possible. 

    Here are five specific ways this can be done:

    • Listen to grantee partners and together explore how you can best help them face the crisis, trusting they know best what is needed in their own contexts.
    • Encourage the re-design and re-scheduling of planned activities and deliverables and provide clear guidance on how to seek approval for these changes.
    • Support new and creative ways of creating a culture of solidarity and interaction while adhering to the physical distancing and other precautionary measures. 
    • Offer greater flexibility by reconsidering payment installments based on actual needs, converting existing project grants into unrestricted funds, or adding extra funds to help build-up reserves or cover unexpected costs.
    • Simplify reporting and application procedures and timeframes so that civil society groups can better focus their time, energy and resources in supporting the most vulnerable rather than on meeting heavy reporting and due diligence requirements.

    CIVICUS will continue advocating for a robust civic space, including measures that enable civil society to mobilise with and for the groups most affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. In these critical times, we must nurture civic space and its resourceful actors by expanding relevance and resilience, not reducing it. We must also be mindful that the present moment could also be used as an opportunity by some actors to further restrict the civic space. 

    Imagine what could happen if civil society groups and movements all suddenly stop or scale back their efforts to move us towards a more just, inclusive and sustainable world. Now imagine a worldwide community of informed, inspired, committed citizens collectively engaged in confronting the challenges facing humanity - including the current pandemic.  We must do whatever it takes to keep civil society alive, vibrant and resilient.  

    The way we will deal with this pandemic will have profound and lasting implications on how we build the future of our world. 

    This crisis can be successfully dealt with through a global culture of solidarity and civic action, one underpinned by intense cooperation, trust and burden sharing. And your role, as funders and supporters of civil society, is fundamental to this outcome.

    Donors have responded! 
     
    Check out this Twitter thread and find 15 inspiring statements and pledges of support from funders to grantee partners that are aligned with our proposed approaches.

     

  • Open letter: The Covid-19 ‘recovery’ must supercharge the fight against inequality

    The Covid-19 ‘recovery’ must supercharge the fight against inequality

     

  • OUGANDA : « Personne ne peut gagner les élections sans le vote des jeunes »

    CIVICUS s'entretient avec Mohammed Ndifuna, directeur exécutif de Justice Access Point-Uganda (JAP). Établi en 2018, le JAP cherche à faire avancer, encourager et renforcer la lutte pour la justice dans le contexte du processus de justice transitionnelle bloqué en Ouganda, des difficultés du pays à mettre en œuvre les recommandations de ses premier et deuxième examens périodiques universels au Conseil des droits de l’Homme des Nations Unies, et face à la réaction de certains États africains contre la Cour pénale internationale.

    Mohammed est un défenseur des droits humains et un travailleur de la paix expérimenté et passionné, avec plus de 15 ans d'activisme des droits humains et de prévention des atrocités aux niveaux local, national et international. En 2014, il a reçu le Prix des droits de l’Homme de l'Union européenne pour l'Ouganda ; Il a siégé au comité directeur de la Coalition for the Criminal Court (2007-2018) et au conseil consultatif du Human Rights House Network à Oslo (2007-2012). Il siège actuellement au comité de gestion du Comité national ougandais pour la prévention du génocide et des atrocités de masse.

    Mohammed Ndifuna

    Quel est l'état de l'espace civique en Ouganda à l'approche des élections tant attendues en 2021 ?

    L'espace civique en Ouganda peut être caractérisé comme un espace harcelé, étouffé et pillé. La société civile semble être sur une sorte de pente glissante alors que les choses tournent de mal en pis. Par exemple, les organisations de la société civile (OSC) ont subi une vague d'attaques effrontées contre leur espace physique qui ont pris la forme d'effractions dans leurs bureaux en plein jour. Pendant ce temps, les attaques contre les OSC en général, et en particulier celles qui défendent les droits humains et encouragent la responsabilité, se sont poursuivies. Ces dernières années, un certain nombre de mesures législatives et administratives ont été adoptées à l'encontre des OSC et d'autres secteurs, comme la loi sur la gestion de l'ordre public (2012) et la loi sur les ONG (2016).

    Face aux élections générales et présidentielles, qui se tiendront le 14 janvier 2021, le ministre de l'Intérieur a établi que toutes les OSC doivent passer par un processus obligatoire de validation et de vérification pour pouvoir fonctionner. De nombreuses OSC n'ont pas été en mesure d'achever le processus. De ce fait, au 19 octobre 2020, seulement 2 257 OSC avaient terminé avec succès le processus de vérification et de validation, et celles-ci ne comprenaient que quelques OSC qui plaident en faveur des questions de gouvernance.

    Les OSC ougandaises sont fortement dépendantes des donateurs et étaient déjà aux prises avec des ressources financières réduites, ce qui a fortement affecté la portée de leur travail. Cette situation a été exacerbée par l'épidémie de COVID-19 et les mesures de verrouillage prises en réponse, qui ont sapé les efforts de mobilisation des ressources des OSC. Ainsi, la combinaison de ces trois forces - harcèlement, restrictions et accès limité au financement - a affaibli les OSC, obligeant la plupart à concentrer leurs efforts sur leur propre survie.

    Il semblerait que les enjeux des élections de 2021 soient bien plus importants que les années précédentes. Qu'est ce qui a changé ?

    La situation a commencé à changer en juillet 2019, lorsque Robert Kyagulanyi, mieux connu sous son nom de scène, Bobi Wine, a annoncé qu'il se présenterait à la présidence en tant que candidat à la plate-forme de l'opposition nationale pour l'unité. Bobi Wine est un chanteur, acteur, activiste et politicien. En tant que leader du mouvement du Pouvoir Populaire, Notre Pouvoir, il a été élu législateur en 2017.

    L'attention que Bobi reçoit des jeunes est énorme et il faut tenir compte du fait que plus de 75% de la population ougandaise a moins de 30 ans. Cela fait des jeunes un groupe qu'il est essentiel d'attirer. Aucun candidat ne peut remporter les élections ougandaises s'il ne recueille pas la majorité des voix des jeunes. Lors de la prochaine course présidentielle, Bobi Wine semble être le candidat le plus capable d'attirer ces votes. Bien qu'il n'ait pas beaucoup d'expérience en tant que politicien, Bobi est une personnalité très charismatique et a réussi à attirer non seulement des jeunes mais aussi de nombreux politiciens des partis traditionnels dans son mouvement de masse.

    Longtemps connu comme le « président du ghetto », Bobi Wine a utilisé son appel en tant que star de la musique populaire pour produire des chansons politiques et mobiliser les gens. Ses racines dans le ghetto l'ont également rendu plus attractif dans les zones urbaines. On pense que cela a motivé de nombreux jeunes à s'inscrire pour voter, il est donc possible que l'apathie des jeunes électeurs diminue par rapport aux élections précédentes.

    Face à la lutte acharnée actuelle pour les votes des jeunes, il n'est pas étonnant que l'appareil de sécurité se soit violemment attaqué aux jeunes, dans une tentative évidente de contenir la pression qu'ils exercent. De nombreux activistes politiques liés au Pouvoir Populaire ont été harcelés et, dans certains cas, tués. Plusieurs dirigeants politiques du Pouvoir Populaire ont été détenus intermittemment et poursuivis devant les tribunaux, ou auraient été enlevés et torturés dans des lieux clandestins. Dans une tentative évidente d'attirer les jeunes du ghetto, le président Yoweri Museveni a nommé trois personnes du ghetto comme conseillers présidentiels. Cela ouvre la possibilité que les gangs du ghetto et la violence jouent un rôle dans les prochaines élections présidentielles. 

     

    Lors des élections précédentes, la liberté d'expression et l'utilisation d'Internet ont été restreintes. Peut-on s’attendre à voir des tendances similaires cette fois ?

    Nous les voyons déjà. La préoccupation concernant la restriction de la liberté d'expression et d'information est valable non seulement rétrospectivement, mais aussi en raison de plusieurs événements récents. Par exemple, le 7 septembre 2020, la Commission ougandaise des communications (CCU) a publié un avis public indiquant que toute personne souhaitant publier des informations sur Internet doit demander et obtenir une licence de la CCU avant le 5 octobre 2020. Cela affectera principalement les internautes, tels que les blogueurs, qui sont payés pour le contenu qu'ils publient. De toute évidence, cela tente de supprimer les activités politiques des jeunes sur Internet. Et c'est aussi particulièrement inquiétant car, étant donné que les réunions et assemblées publiques sont limitées en raison des mesures de prévention de la COVID-19, les médias numériques seront la seule méthode autorisée de campagne pour les élections de 2021.

    La surveillance électronique a également augmenté, et la possibilité d'un arrêt des plateformes de médias sociaux à la veille des élections n'est pas écartée.

    Comment la pandémie de COVID-19 a-t-elle affecté la société civile et sa capacité à répondre aux restrictions d'espace civique ?

    La pandémie de COVID-19 et les mesures prises en réponse ont exacerbé l'état déjà précaire des OSC. Par exemple, la capacité de la société civile d'organiser des rassemblements publics et des manifestations pacifiques en faveur des droits et libertés fondamentaux, ou de protester contre leur violation, a été limitée par la manière dont les procédures opérationnelles standard (POS) ont été appliquées pour faire face à la COVID-19. Cela a entraîné des violations et des attaques contre l'espace civique. Par exemple, le 17 octobre 2020, les forces de police ougandaises et les unités de défense locales ont effectué une effraction conjointe lors d'une réunion de prière de Thanksgiving qui se tenait dans le district de Mityana et ont gazé gratuitement la congrégation, qui comprenait des enfants, des femmes, des hommes, des personnes âgées et des chefs religieux ; la raison alléguée était que les personnes rassemblées avaient désobéi aux POS pour la COVID-19.

    Dès que la mise en œuvre des POS pour la COVID-19 entre en contact avec la pression électorale, il est possible que la répression des libertés de réunion pacifique et d'association s'aggrave. Malheureusement, les OSC sont déjà fortement restreintes.

    Comment la société civile internationale peut-elle aider la société civile ougandaise ?

    La situation de la société civile ougandaise est telle qu’elle nécessite l’appui et la réponse urgents de la communauté internationale. Vous devez prêter attention à ce qui se passe en Ouganda et vous exprimer d'une manière qui amplifie les voix d'une société civile locale de plus en plus étouffée. Plus spécifiquement, les OSC ougandaises devraient être soutenues afin qu'elles puissent mieux répondre aux violations flagrantes des libertés, atténuer les risques impliqués dans leur travail et améliorer leur résilience dans le contexte actuel.

    L'espace civique en Ouganda est classé comme « répressif » par leCIVICUS Monitor.
    Contactez Justice Access Point via leursite Web ou leur pageFacebook, et suivez@JusticessP sur Twitter.

     

  • Pakistan: Rights group calls for release of activist Professor Muhammad Ismail ahead of bail hearing

    • Rights groups call for release of Professor Ismail ahead of bail hearing on 5 March
    • March 2 marks one month in detention for human rights defender Professor Ismail
    • Police evidence questioned by Pakistan National Assembly's Human Rights Committee

     

  • Pakistan: Rights group calls for release of activist Professor Muhammad Ismail following bail rejection

    • Anti-terrorism court refuses bail to Professor Muhammad Ismail despite his fragile post-COVID health 
    • Professor Ismail and family persecuted due to human rights work in Pakistan
    • Ismail added to #StandAsMyWitness campaign calling for release of imprisoned activists 

     

  • PANDEMIC TREATY: ‘States hold a shared responsibility to keep the world safe and must be held accountable’

    Barbara StockingCIVICUS speaks with Dame Barbara M Stocking about the need to develop a new pandemic treaty anchored in solidarity, transparency, accountability and equity.

    Barbara Stocking is chair of the Panel for a Global Public Health Convention, former president of Murray Edwards College at the University of Cambridge, former chief executive of Oxfam Great Britain and former chair of the Ebola Interim Assessment Panel.

     

     

    What is the Panel for a Global Public Health Convention, and what prompted its launch in April 2021? 

    The University of Miami decided to survey experts across the world about the topic of pandemics. This happened before the COVID-19 pandemic erupted. We needed to know if we were prepared for a pandemic and what issues needed to be tackled. I was among the experts in 2015: I chaired the Committee on Ebola that assessed the performance of the World Health Organization (WHO). An article summarising the experts’ views was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet a few months later.

    By then the COVID-19 pandemic was well underway, and University of Miami’s president, Julio Frank, proposed doing more than publishing a report. The Panel for a Global Public Health Convention was founded in 2020 to advocate for new ways of governing and undertaking outbreak control and response, and I was asked to chair it.

    The Panel is an independent, high-level advocacy coalition. It includes former presidents such as Laura Chinchilla from Costa Rica and John Mahama from Ghana, and former Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Angel Gurría. These are all people who can have influence with the WHO, its member states and other bodies. We are not campaigning publicly because we do not have the resources or the people, but we operate at the highest political level.

    In December 2021 the World Health Assembly agreed to launch the process to develop a global treaty on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. Our panel will keep watching as the idea unfolds to make sure it accomplishes the things we think are needed to stop outbreaks turning into pandemics.

    What shortfalls in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic made the need for a treaty apparent?

    The need for a convention became obvious to everybody as a result of COVID-19, but it is not just about COVID-19. For the last 20 years, every single report concluded that we were not ready to deal with a pandemic. COVID-19 just confirmed this in the most horrifying ways.

    Preparedness is key. Governments have tried to be prepared, but they were clearly not. Why is that? For some countries it was a matter of resources, and in those cases we must ensure they get the resources to have health surveillance systems in place. However, many countries with abundant resources and excellent health systems were not ready either. One of the reasons for this is that very few countries practice preparedness. When I was in the UK health service, each hospital would practice a major incident every three years. We need the same approach in public health preparedness. Practice is key and must include not just health systems but the whole government, because if anything that big happens, ministries and heads of state must also get involved.

    The public was not prepared either. We need to make sure we deliver the right messages and we engage communities, which we know are so important.

    When it became clear that there was a virus circulating, and it was not yet clear what it was, and the WHO made the call for a public health emergency of international concern, not much was done. February 2020 was a key moment for action, yet very little happened.

    It all boiled down to a fundamental lack of understanding about what being precautionary means in the case of a pandemic. With most things in life, you can ask yourself whether a situation is going to get worse and make a realistic assessment. But with a pandemic, especially at the beginning, you don’t know how the virus will replicate, and you must move fast. But with COVID-19, states did not. They also had objections to WHO guidelines because, they said, the WHO ‘had no authority’.

    The next fundamental problem is that although we have international health regulations, people tend to not comply, and there are no enforcement and accountability mechanisms. Clearly, there is also work to be done to update international health regulations, but the biggest issue is countries agreeing to be accountable to each other. The expression we use is ‘mutual assurance’: for a state to make difficult decisions, it needs to know other states will do the same. This should sell the idea of accountability.

    There is no point in having a pandemic treaty or convention unless people are willing to be accountable. But this is often ignored because it is difficult. States are sovereign over their territories and are responsible for the health of their people, but also hold a shared responsibility to keep the world safe. This is why we need a treaty or convention.

    How could the treaty help solve these problems? 

    The principles of equity, transparency and accountability must be built into this treaty. We need to think what needs sorting out or making right, because these are the things we will be held accountable for.

    For example, on the preparedness side, there has begun to be progress, but only through peer reviews of countries to determine whether they are ready. This system would have to be scaled up. Independent reviews would be a positive thing for the treaty or convention. We need somebody other than the WHO to conduct the assessments for preparedness and response, which can be done within a treaty structure. The WHO should set the standards and provide support in the role of ‘friend of the country’. We could set up a small body. As the WHO has pretty much all the data, there is no need to start from scratch. But it must be a body with the required experience and expertise. It may have to report up, through treaty structures, to heads of state, whom we hope would form the conferences of parties overseeing this treaty or convention.

    All these things can be built in. They will not take away WHO’s powers but rather add to them.

    How has civil society participated so far in the treaty process?

    Civil society is clearly asking for more say in health issues and in the development of the pandemic treaty, and I think this is truly necessary.

    At the WHO level, the civil society participating comes mostly from international bodies and local partners, which often have a health background – and I mean ‘health’ in the broader sense, including mental health.

    When hearings were held, civil society participated actively and the scope of participating civil society organisations (CSOs) broadened to include human rights CSOs, not only because of the freedoms affected by lockdowns but also because governments were using the pandemic as an excuse to violate human rights. As a result, more and more human rights CSOs wanted to have a say in the treaty.

    In terms of participation in the treaty process itself, the WHO has a category for civil society, as ‘official observers’. But civil society should have much more influence in the discussion. At the top level, the WHO is setting up two-day events to provide evidence to stakeholders beyond member states. They held a two-day event in April, in which the Panel participated and gave its view on the topic. Another event is coming up in June.

    One major problem I have seen is centralised pandemic management. We need to engage communities, and this includes civil society. When handling a pandemic, engagement of people and organisations at the local level must be built in. This can’t be done by central government alone; local authorities must play their role to engage with these groups. 

    Expanding the treaty’s governance to include civil society would be quite challenging because member states will own the treaty they will be signing up for, either by consensus or by government ratification. There has got to be more debate on how, even if there is a conference of parties, we can include civil society more and engage with it. 

    What are the main challenges you foresee for the near future, regarding the implementation of an eventual treaty?

    The first challenge is to produce a Global Public Health Convention with strong accountability. States must accept that they are to be held accountable towards each other and the world. And although it may be tough for states to accept the idea of being assessed by independent people, we need assessments to be conducted by an independent body. We can have states overseeing its work, but it needs to be able to work independently.

    The notion of ‘shared sovereignty’ is still hard for countries to accept fully. But we are a globe; we need people working together. We are all related to each other, so we need to have the willingness to cooperate and see how we can build together. People will worry about the loss of sovereignty, but we need to help them understand how critically important this is, in both a moral and a self-interested way. It is in each one’s own interest to have others behave well towards them. These are some of the blocks we need to get over to have a very good treaty.

    In sum, states have already agreed to produce some sort of treaty or convention and are already working on it. But the question is, is it going to be the right one? If everything goes well, we will have an agreement by 2024, and then there needs to be some time for countries to ratify it – or not.

    But we must not let the momentum pass because we really must be prepared. People keep asking if we might have another pandemic in the next 10 or 20 years. Well, frankly, we might have another one next year. There is a real urgency because habitats are changing; animals and humans are getting closer and closer together.

    I see everyone relaxing a bit since COVID-19 seems to be somewhat under control. But we must not go to sleep on this. It is almost certain that this will happen again in the future. The one thing we don’t know is how soon.

    Get in touch with the Panel for a Global Public Health Convention through its website. 

     

  • Passez à l'action : 16 campagnes en faveur des droits des femmes et de l'égalité entre les sexes

    Partout dans le monde, des femmes défenseures des droits, courageuses et déterminées, agissent sur tous les fronts, de la défense de l'égalité, de l'accès et de la justice à la lutte contre la corruption, les violations de l'environnement et même la persécution de leurs collègues militants. Pour beaucoup, la pandémie de COVID-19 a rendu encore pire un environnement opérationnel déjà difficile : un nombre croissant de gouvernements se sont servis de la COVID-19 comme d'un prétexte pour mettre en place des mesures répressives qui étouffent la société civile, ainsi que pour faire reculer les progrès réalisés en matière d'égalité des sexes et de droits reproductifs. Pourtant, la lutte continue. Voici 16 mouvements et campagnes animés par des personnes que vous pouvez soutenir au cours de ces 16 jours d'activisme.

     

  • POLAND: ‘The crisis of democracy and human rights will deepen’

    CIVICUS speaks with Małgorzata Szuleka about Poland’s recent presidential elections, held under the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ruling party’s use of anti-LGBTQI+ rhetoric to mobilise its electorate. Małgorzata is a lawyer at the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (HFHR) Poland, one of the largest and oldest human rights organisations in Poland and the region. HFHR Poland represents victims of human rights abuses in court proceedings, conducts research and monitors human rights violations. Since 2015 it has actively monitored the increasing rule of law violations in Poland. It works with partners in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the European Union (EU) and the USA.

    Małgorzata Szuleka

    After rescheduling, the Polish elections were held in June and July 2020. What was civil society’s position on having an election during the COVID-19 pandemic?

    The elections were originally scheduled for May 2020 and organising them posed a huge legal problem because there was no legal mechanism to postpone them. The only way to reschedule them was to announce a state of emergency, as provided for by the constitution. No elections may be organised during a state of emergency or within the next 90 days of it ending. From a constitutional perspective, an official declaration that the country was experiencing an epidemic would give the government the prerogative to introduce the state of emergency. This would automatically extend the term of office of the president until after regular elections could be scheduled, once the epidemic was over. However, the government did not follow this process. The elections were rescheduled and the run-off vote between the two leading candidates was held on 12 July 2020 on very dubious legal grounds. However, this wasn’t questioned by neither the government majority, nor the opposition.

    Civil society organisations (CSOs) first pushed the government to organise the elections in a proper way, urging it to announce a state of emergency. Once this didn’t happen, CSOs tried to raise the issue of international monitoring, mainly in terms of fairness and financing of the campaign. The problem was that the election was expected to be free but not fair. Public media was biased towards the candidate supported by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, President Andrzej Duda, and extremely critical and unprofessional towards any opposition candidate. Even though no state of emergency had been declared, many fundamental rights such as the freedoms of assembly and access to information were limited. These were major concerns.

    There was also the problem of the Supreme Court confirming the validity of the elections. On 12 July, President Duda was re-elected for a second term by a tight margin. He received 51 per cent of the vote while the opposition Civic Coalition contender received 49 per cent. Turnout was barely above 68 per cent, and more than 5,800 complaints were submitted regarding irregularities in the process. The Supreme Court ruled that 92 of those complaints were justified but had not influenced the final result, so it declared the results valid. Sadly, this decision completely ignored the problem of the constitutional and legal grounds for organising the elections in the first place.

    Were measures adopted to protect people during the campaign and voting process? Did the pandemic have any impact on turnout?

    The organisation of the campaign involved sanitary measures regarding social distancing and mask use. But these provisions were not fully respected on both sides. For campaigning purposes, the government loosened some restrictions; for example, even though face mask use was mandatory, pictures were published of the prime minister not wearing one in public. Also of concern was the fact that many public authorities engaged in political campaigning alongside President Duda. Public institutions were instrumentalised by ruling politicians. The government security centre, responsible for coordination and information in case of natural calamities or danger, sent out mass text messages on election day. Every voter received a message that said that people over 60 years old, pregnant women and people with disabilities could vote without waiting in line. This might have been used to mobilise the core electorate of the ruling party. This is just one example, but it could be an indication of the role played by official institutions to tilt the playing field in favour of the PiS party.

    Was media coverage during the election fair?

    Public media coverage was absolutely unfair. The rest of the coverage, mainly by private media, was relatively good; it definitely was not as bad as public media coverage, which was used for propaganda and enhanced President Duda’s campaign.

    One of elections complaints brought to the Supreme Court specifically referred to media coverage. It stated that public television supported the incumbent while systematically discrediting his rival, and that public institutions and officials repeatedly violated correct conduct by supporting only one of the candidates. But the problem with the entire institution of election complaints is that you need to prove not only that the alleged irregularity happened, but also that it had an impact on the election results. In presidential elections such as this one, this is very difficult to prove. Additionally, the electoral code doesn’t regulate the work of the media, so it’s hard to make the legal claim that the media should operate differently. And if you do, it is also difficult to prove that particular coverage of a particular candidate, or the lack of coverage, resulted in a particular election result. We can intuitively assume this, particularly in view of such tight results, but it is very difficult to create a solid legal case.

    What does President Duda’s re-election mean for democracy and human rights in Poland?

    It is a continuation of a very worrying trend. Out of all possible campaign issues, President Duda chose to focus on stoking homophobia. The campaign took place in a context of a years-long backsliding of the rule of law, in the middle of a crisis of relations between Poland and the EU, during a huge healthcare challenge and on the verge of an economic crisis that will affect everyone in Poland. But none of these issues were the focus of the political campaign and public discussion. President Duda mainly spoke about LGBTQI+ people posing a threat to our Christian traditional heritage, equating homosexuality with paedophilia. The issue was narrowed down to this divisive, outrageous and dehumanising narrative by the PiS party. It was a very pragmatic move from PiS spin doctors because it mobilised the very core of the electorate. All of a sudden LGBTQI+ groups and communities became the scapegoat for everything that is wrong in Poland. It is outrageous how much this issue was politicised and how it was used to dehumanise this minority group. It was painful and heartbreaking to watch.

    And the campaign was far from the end of it. President Duda is just a representative of the ruling PiS party, so he will say whatever he needs to keep them aligned. This is just a matter of calculation and internal power struggles. In June, the PiS party targeted LGBTQI+ people. In July, it targeted victims of domestic violence by starting discussion on withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention. In August, it proposed to register CSOs that are financed from abroad. Now I don’t know who is going to be their next enemy. It’s not only about being homophobic but rather about this governing majority always needing an enemy to confront or blame.

    We just entered a phase in which there will be no elections for the next three years so we can expect a huge consolidation of power and the government doing everything that it dreams of, such as creating pressure on CSOs, further polarising the media, targeting specific minority groups and escalating the conflict with the EU. We can expect all of this to happen over the next three years. The only thing that can stop them is pragmatic evaluation about whether this is needed at this time or whether there might be something more important to do. But I think the crisis of democracy and human rights in Poland will deepen.

    Civic space in Poland is rated as ‘narrowed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights-Poland through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@hfhrpl and@m_szuleka on Twitter.

     

  • POLAND: ‘We invented new forms of protest because we had to’

    CIVICUS speaks to Klementyna Suchanow, an activist, author and researcher based in Warsaw, Poland, about the recentannouncement by the Polish governmentthat it will begin the process to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention on Violence against Women. Klementyna is one of the founders of thePolish Women’s Strikeand the International Women’s Strike. The Polish Women’s Strike is a grassroots feminist movement founded in 2016 to defend women’s rights against the government's plan to ban and criminalise abortion. Under the COVID-19 pandemic, the movement has remained united and active via a Facebook group and continues to mobilise for women’s rights in Poland.

    Klementyna Suchanow

    What has the situation of gender rights in Poland been over the past few years?

    We are under a conservative government and while I would never say it was paradise five years ago, the situation for women’s and LGBTQI+ rights has recently worsened. Every day you witness more verbal and physical attacks against marginalised groups. Divisions have been created along political lines and the main targets of aggression have been immigrants and LGBTQI+ people. During the campaign for 2019’s European Parliament election and this year’s presidential election the main focus has been on hate against LGBTQI+ people. The wave of hatred is very intense and dealing with it is a challenge. 

    The situation of women and women’s rights movements is slightly different. Our new strand of popular feminism is very inclusive and pragmatic. This is why so many young people have joined us in recent months. We see younger generations become more politicised and aware. So the women’s movement is in a very strong position. It is the only movement that has succeeded in forcing the government to take a step back from its idea to ban abortion in 2016, and then later around other issues. It looks like our anger scares them, but they still keep doing things to worsen our situation.

    In sum, women are experiencing setbacks in our legal situation but our power keeps growing. I am not sure if this is the case with the LGBTQI+ community, because they are a minority group and are more exposed. The situation of LGBTQI+ people is definitely getting worse on all fronts.

    Have there been further regressions on gender rights during the COVID-19 pandemic?

    Taking advantage of the pandemic, the government and other groups have made several attempts to roll back women’s sexual and reproductive rights. In May 2020, the Polish parliament proposed a bill that would remove the legal obligation for medical facilities to refer patients to other facilities if they refuse to provide abortion care based on their staff’s personal beliefs. Under current Polish law, a legal abortion can only be performed if the mother’s life is at risk, the pregnancy is a result of rape, or the foetus has a serious deformity. About 98 per cent of abortions fall under the latter category, but a bill was proposed in May to eliminate this clause. In June, new provisions in the Criminal Code imposed harsh prison sentences on those who support women by providing them with abortion care.

    The amendments to abortion laws during the pandemic came about through a civic project submitted by a fundamentalist organisation. We organised protests, which was a slightly crazy thing to do, because how do you protest during a pandemic when you are not allowed to gather? That is why we got creative: we invented new forms of protest because we had to. We staged ‘queueing protests’, standing two metres apart in a queue outside a shop close to the parliament building, to comply with lockdown regulations, while holding signs and umbrellas. This happened in several cities, not just in the capital, Warsaw. As we were not allowed to walk freely, we also organised ‘car protests’. We interrupted traffic and blocked Warsaw’s main square for about an hour.

    These protests were quite effective. The amendments did not proceed and are now ‘frozen’. They were sent to a parliamentary commission, but the commission is not working on them. They have been neither rejected nor approved. But this also means that they might come back suddenly at any point in the future, and we will have to deal with them again.

    From the very beginning this government has been clear that it does not support women’s rights and does not care about violence against women. Since the government came into power, funding to centres that help women has been cut and these centres have had to resort to crowdfunding or are surviving on private donations, because they have no access to state funding anymore. However, some progress has also taken place, as with a recently passed law, which was proposed by a leftist party, that empowers police officers to issue an order to forbid perpetrators of violence from entering the household of the victim for 14 days. This has helped immediately separate victims from perpetrators.

    On the other hand, over the past several months we have seen announcements from the authorities that they are thinking about pulling Poland out of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, known as the Istanbul Convention. In the beginning we didn’t take it too seriously. But it is always like this: first they test the waters to see how far they can go, and if they don’t find too much resistance they start pushing forward. During the presidential campaign and election, the topic was not raised, but only a week afterwards it became an issue. Many serious developments, such as arrests of activists, took place right after the election.

    Now the situation is becoming serious. Announcements have been made by several ministers and the president has approved the idea to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention. There is also a lot of propaganda on state media to convince people that this Convention is about so-called ‘gender ideology’. However, surveys show that over 60 per cent of the population is against leaving the Convention compared to only 15 per cent who support the idea. Half of those who oppose leaving the Convention voted for the ruling party. It is weird that they are pushing this so far because it’s against the views of their own voters.

    As someone who was at the forefront of the2016 women’s strike in Poland, how do you feel about the current situation?

    We are so used to hearing bad news that we weren’t surprised with this latest announcement. The situation in Poland is such and so many bad things happen every day that you become immune to bad news.

    During the pandemic everything has been highly political. Instead of focusing on taking care of people’s health, everything became politicised. The presidential election was supposed to be held in May, and there was a lot of discussion about whether it should be held; it was finally postponed to late June. The ruling party knew that it was losing popularity because the health system is not efficient enough and the minister of health himself made huge money by supplying masks and medical equipment. This is why the ruling party pushed to have the election as soon as possible, before it lost too many votes. And instead of taking care of our safety and lives, the ruling party focused on its own political agendas. The attempts to ban abortion were very upsetting and disappointing because you expect more responsibility from your government at such a critical time.

    I knew people were tired of mobilising, so I was surprised to see so many come out to defend the Istanbul Convention, which became a national topic of discussion in the media and everywhere. A lot of positive energy has been created around this and is giving us the strength to try and stop it.

    We have been protesting for five years now. Protest has its own dynamics: you have to feel the moment and decide how to react; sometimes you give it a try and it doesn’t work out. It’s always an experiment. But right now, we feel that there is real energy and a momentum we need to ride on. There is a lot of interest from foreign media, and this topic has become the focus of attention. This is slightly strange because every time we tried to do something on violence against women in the past, it was very hard to get people to mobilise on the streets. There is something about violence that makes it difficult to translate feelings into street action. While many people experience it or know somebody who has been a victim, they don’t like to react to it. Many times in the past we failed when organising things on the topic of violence, but this time people took it up. We might now have a chance to defend the right to a life free from violence and make this a problem for the government.

    Do gender rights activists in Poland currently experience any restrictions on their right to organise, speak up and mobilise?

    I am a writer and artist, and as a result of my activism I am cut off from state grants. There are no state institutions that want to work with me right now because if my name shows up on their list, it becomes a problem for them. You could also be arrested or be taken to court by a right-wing legal foundation such as Ordo Iuris. Of course, there is also hate speech: the government uses your name and your image for propaganda on state media, and you can also be attacked by trolls on social media. Police can hurt you, as happened to me at one protest in 2018. This situation came about gradually, but at this point there is a wide range of forms of repression that you can experience. For the time being, however, I haven’t heard of feminist activists facing physical attacks from civilians.

    I am one of the activists who started taking direct action against the government, so there are a lot of things that I am being accused of. Ordo Iuris does not like me because I wrote a book exposing the international fundamentalist network that it is part of. I am on the list of their enemies, but so far, I have not been sued by them. They say they are working on their list of accusations against me, because there are so many. During our latest protest, members of Ordo Iuris approached a police officer and tried to convince him that I should be requested to show my identification. But the police in Warsaw know us, they know our faces, they knew that I had not done anything illegal during the protest and refused their request.

    In which ways can civil society hold accountable an increasingly authoritarian government such as Poland’s, and what support from international civil society does it need to do so?

    Regarding the Istanbul Convention, we are trying to convince the international community that European funds should be allocated bearing in mind the actual human rights compliance records of each member of the European Union (EU). A new instrument introduced in the EU established that funding should be linked to adherence to democratic principles and practices. We are trying to convince the Council of Europe, the source of the Istanbul Convention, to introduce similar measures towards the governments that are relinquishing their people’s rights. It’s all about linking funding to human rights compliance. Money is the only language governments will understand. Six Polish cities are currently not receiving European funds following their declaration of so-called ‘LGBTI-free zones’, which is considered an act against human rights. We would like to raise this question, together with Turkish women, who are facing a similar battle against their government’s initiative to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention. You cannot be destroying human rights, like Hungary and Russia are doing, and still be treated by the Council of Europe like anyone else, as a partner in the conversation. So, this is a new approach that we are trying to make people understand.

    We want international civil society organisations to lobby local politicians so they become aware that the issues of human rights and funding need to be considered together. The Council of Europe also needs to understand this so we can set a precedent and in the future women here and in other countries will be protected. If we have an authoritarian government that does whatever it wants, even if citizens don’t agree, we need to have some protections from abroad. All we find in Poland is repression, so we need somebody from outside to be on our side and not leave us alone.

    Civic space in Poland israted as ‘narrowed’ bytheCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with the Polish Women’s Strike through itsFacebook page and follow@strajkkobiet and@KSuchanow on Twitter.

     

  • POLOGNE : « La crise de la démocratie et des droits humains va s'aggraver »

    CIVICUS parle à Małgorzata Szuleka à propos de la récente élection présidentielle en Pologne, qui s'est tenue pendant la pandémie COVID-19, et sur l'utilisation par le parti au pouvoir de la rhétorique anti-LGBTQI+ pour mobiliser son électorat. Małgorzata est avocate à la Fondation Helsinki pour les droits humains (HFHR) - Pologne, l'une des plus grandes et des plus anciennes organisations de défense des droits humains en Pologne et dans la région. La HFHR Pologne représente les victimes de violations des droits humains dans les procédures judiciaires, mène des enquêtes et surveille les violations des droits humains. Depuis 2015, elle surveille activement les violations croissantes de l'État de droit en Pologne. Elle travaille avec des organisations partenaires en Europe de l'Est, en Asie centrale, dans l'Union européenne (UE) et aux États-Unis.

    Małgorzata Szuleka

    Après avoir été reprogrammées, les élections polonaises ont eu lieu en juin et juillet 2020. Quelle était la position de la société civile sur la tenue d'élections pendant la pandémie de la COVID-19 ?

    Les élections étaient initialement prévues pour mai 2020 et leur organisation posait un gros problème juridique car il n'y avait pas de mécanisme légal pour les reporter. La seule façon de les reporter était de déclarer l'état d'urgence, comme le prévoit la Constitution. Les élections ne peuvent pas être organisées pendant l'état d'urgence ou dans les 90 jours suivant sa fin. D'un point de vue constitutionnel, une déclaration officielle reconnaissant que le pays subissait une épidémie aurait donné au gouvernement la prérogative d'imposer l'état d'urgence. Cela aurait automatiquement prolongé le mandat du président jusqu'à ce que des élections régulières puissent être programmées, une fois l'épidémie terminée. Cependant, le gouvernement n'a pas suivi cette procédure. Les élections ont été reprogrammées et le second tour entre les deux principaux candidats a été reporté au 12 juillet 2020 sur la base d'arguments juridiques très douteux. Cependant, cela n'a été contesté ni par la majorité gouvernementale ni par l'opposition.

    Les organisations de la société civile (OSC) ont d'abord fait pression sur le gouvernement pour que les élections se déroulent correctement, l'exhortant à déclarer l'état d'urgence. Lorsque cela ne s'est pas produit, les OSC ont essayé de soulever la question du contrôle international, principalement en termes d'équité et de financement des campagnes. Le problème était qu’on s’attendait à ce que les élections soient libres mais non justes. Les médias publics ont fait preuve de partialité à l'égard du président Andrzej Duda, le candidat soutenu par le parti au pouvoir Droit et Justice (PiS), et se sont montrés extrêmement critiques et plutôt peu professionnels à l'égard de tout candidat de l'opposition. Bien que l'état d'urgence n'ait pas été déclaré, de nombreux droits fondamentaux, tels que la liberté de réunion et l'accès à l'information, se sont vus limités. Telles étaient les principales préoccupations.

    Il y avait aussi le problème de la Cour suprême qui confirmait la validité des élections. Le 12 juillet, le président Duda a été réélu pour un second mandat avec une faible marge. Il a obtenu 51 % des voix, tandis que son adversaire de l'opposition, la Coalition civique, en a obtenu 49 %. Le taux de participation a été légèrement supérieur à 68 % et plus de 5 800 plaintes pour irrégularités ont été déposées. La Cour suprême a jugé que 92 de ces plaintes étaient justifiées mais n'avaient aucune influence sur le résultat final, elle a donc déclaré les résultats valables. Malheureusement, cette décision a complètement négligé le problème des bases constitutionnelles et juridiques sur lesquelles ces élections avaient été convoquées.

    Des mesures ont-elles été prises pour protéger les gens pendant la campagne et le processus de vote ? La pandémie a-t-elle eu un impact sur la participation électorale ?

    L'organisation de la campagne a impliqué des mesures sanitaires en termes de distanciation sociale et d'utilisation de masques. Mais ces dispositions n'ont pas été pleinement respectées par les deux parties. Pour les besoins de la campagne, le gouvernement a assoupli certaines restrictions ; par exemple, bien que le port du masque facial soit obligatoire, des photographies ont été publiées dans lesquelles le premier ministre n'en portait pas en public. Le fait que de nombreux fonctionnaires aient participé à la campagne électorale aux côtés du président Duda est également préoccupant. Les institutions publiques ont été instrumentalisées par les hommes politiques du parti au pouvoir. Le centre de sécurité du gouvernement, responsable de la coordination et de l'information en cas d'urgence ou de catastrophe naturelle, a envoyé des SMS de masse le jour des élections. Chaque électeur a reçu un message disant que les personnes de plus de 60 ans, les femmes enceintes et les personnes handicapées pouvaient voter sans faire la queue. Cela aurait pu être utilisé pour mobiliser l'électorat du parti au pouvoir. Ce n'est qu'un exemple, mais il pourrait être révélateur du rôle joué par les institutions de l'État pour faire pencher la balance en faveur du parti PiS.

     

    La couverture médiatique pendant les élections a-t-elle été équitable ?

    La couverture médiatique publique était absolument injuste. Le reste de la couverture, principalement par les médias privés, a été assez bon ; il n'a certainement pas été aussi mauvais que les médias publics, qui ont été utilisés à des fins de propagande et ont renforcé la campagne du président Duda.

     

    L'une des plaintes électorales déposées auprès de la Cour suprême portait spécifiquement sur la couverture médiatique. Elle a déclaré que la télévision publique soutenait le président tout en discréditant systématiquement son rival, et que les institutions et les fonctionnaires publics ont violé à plusieurs reprises le code de conduite en soutenant un seul des candidats. Mais le problème avec le mécanisme de plaintes électorales est qu'il exige la preuve non seulement que l'irrégularité alléguée a eu lieu, mais aussi qu'elle a eu un impact sur les résultats des élections. Lors d'élections présidentielles comme celle-ci, c'est une chose très difficile à prouver. De plus, le code électoral ne réglemente pas le travail des médias, il est donc difficile de soutenir juridiquement que les médias devraient fonctionner différemment. Et si on y parvient, il est également difficile de prouver que la couverture (ou l'absence de couverture) reçue d'un média par un candidat particulier a abouti à un résultat électoral particulier. C'est une chose que nous pouvons intuitivement supposer, en particulier face à des résultats aussi serrés, mais il est très difficile de créer un argument juridique solide.

    Quelles sont les implications de la réélection du président Duda pour la démocratie et les droits humains en Pologne ?

    Elle représente la poursuite d'une tendance très inquiétante. Parmi tous les objets de campagne possibles, le président Duda a choisi d'alimenter l'homophobie. La campagne s'est déroulée dans le contexte d'un processus de longue date de recul de l'État de droit, au milieu d'une crise dans les relations entre la Pologne et l'UE, au cours d'un énorme défi sanitaire et au bord d'une crise économique qui touchera tous les Polonais. Mais aucune de ces questions n'a été au centre de la campagne électorale et du débat public. Le président Duda a surtout parlé des personnes LGBTQI+ qui représentent une menace pour notre héritage chrétien traditionnel, assimilant l'homosexualité à la pédophilie. La question s'est distillée dans le récit diviseur, scandaleux et déshumanisant du parti PiS. C'était un geste très pragmatique des astucieux propagandistes du PiS car il a mobilisé le noyau même de l'électorat. Soudain, les groupes et communautés LGBTQI+ sont devenus le bouc émissaire de tout ce qui ne va pas en Pologne. Il est scandaleux de constater à quel point cette question a été politisée et comment elle a été utilisée pour déshumaniser cette minorité. Ce fut un spectacle douloureux et déchirant.

    Et cela ne s'est pas terminé avec la campagne. Le président Duda n'est qu'un représentant du parti PiS, il dira donc tout ce qu'il faut pour le maintenir aligné. Ce n'est rien d'autre qu'une question de calcul et de lutte de pouvoir interne. En juin, le parti PiS a ciblé la population LGBTQI+. En juillet, elle a ciblé les victimes de violence domestique en lançant un débat sur le retrait de la Convention d'Istanbul. En août, il a proposé un système de registre pour les OSC qui reçoivent des fonds de l'étranger. Maintenant, je ne sais pas qui sera son prochain ennemi. Ce n'est pas seulement que la majorité actuelle au pouvoir est homophobe, mais aussi qu'elle a tout le temps besoin d'avoir un ennemi à affronter ou à blâmer.

    Nous venons d'entrer dans une phase où il n'y aura pas d'élections pendant trois ans, alors attendez-vous à une consolidation majeure du pouvoir qui permettra au gouvernement de faire ce qu'il veut : exercer plus de pression sur les OSC, polariser davantage les médias, attaquer les groupes minoritaires et intensifier le conflit avec l'UE, entre autres choses. On peut s'attendre à ce que tout cela se produise au cours des trois prochaines années. La seule chose qui pourrait les arrêter est l'évaluation pragmatique de la question de savoir si c'est quelque chose qui répond au besoin du moment ou s'il pourrait y avoir autre chose de plus important. Mais je crois que la crise de la démocratie et les droits humains en Pologne va s'aggraver.

    L'espace civique en Pologne est classé« rétréci »par leCIVICUS Monitor.
    Contactez la Fondation Helsinki pour les droits humains - Pologne via sonsite web ou sa pageFacebook, et suivez@hfhrpl et@m_szuleka sur Twitter. 

     

  • POLOGNE : « Nous avons inventé de nouvelles formes de protestation parce que nous n’avions pas d’autre choix »

    CIVICUS s’entretient avec Klementyna Suchanow, activiste, auteure et chercheuse basée à Varsovie, en Pologne, au sujet de l‘annonce récente du gouvernement polonais d’entamer le processus de retrait de la Convention d’Istanbul sur la violence contre les femmes. Klementyna est l’une des fondatrices de laGrève des femmes polonaises et de la Grève internationale des femmes. La grève des femmes polonaises est un mouvement féministe de base fondé en 2016 pour défendre les droits des femmes contre l’initiative du gouvernement visant à interdire et à criminaliser l’avortement. Pendant la pandémie de la COVID-19, le mouvement est resté uni et actif grâce à un groupe Facebook et continue de se mobiliser pour les droits des femmes polonaises.

     

  • POLONIA: ‘Inventamos nuevas formas de protesta porque no nos quedó otra opción’

    CIVICUS conversa con Klementyna Suchanow, activista, autora e investigadora basada en Varsovia, Polonia, acerca del recienteanuncio del gobierno polaco de que comenzará el proceso de retirada del Convenio de Estambul sobre la violencia contra la mujer. Klementyna es una de las fundadoras del Paro de Mujeres de Polonia (Polish Women’s Strike) y del Paro Internacional de mujeres. El Paro de Mujeres de Polonia es un movimiento feminista de base fundado en 2016 para defender los derechos de las mujeres contra la iniciativa del gobierno para prohibir y criminalizar el aborto. Durante la pandemia del COVID-19, el movimiento se ha mantenido unido y activo a través de un grupo de Facebook y continúa movilizándose por los derechos de las mujeres polacas.

    Klementyna Suchanow

    ¿Cuál ha sido en los últimos años la situación de Polonia en materia de género?

    Vivimos bajo un gobierno conservador, y aunque nunca diría que hace cinco años esto era el paraíso, la situación de los derechos de las mujeres y las personas LGBTQI+ recientemente ha empeorado. Cada día presenciamos más ataques verbales y físicos contra grupos marginados. Se han establecido divisiones a lo largo de líneas políticas y los principales blancos de agresiones han sido los inmigrantes y las personas LGBTQI+. Las campañas para las elecciones al Parlamento Europeo de 2019 y las elecciones presidenciales de este año han estado enfocadas sobre todo en el odio contra las personas LGBTQI+. La ola de odio es muy intensa y lidiar con ella es un gran desafío.

    La situación de las mujeres y los movimientos por los derechos de las mujeres es ligeramente diferente. Nuestra nueva corriente de feminismo popular es muy inclusiva y pragmática. Es por eso que tantas jóvenes se han unido a nosotras en los últimos meses. Vemos que las generaciones más jóvenes están más politizadas y conscientes. De modo que el movimiento de mujeres está en una posición muy fuerte. Es el único movimiento que ha podido obligar al gobierno a dar un paso atrás en su intento de prohibir el aborto en 2016, y posteriormente en otros temas. Parece que nuestra ira los asusta, pero siguen haciendo cosas para empeorar nuestra situación.

    En resumen, las mujeres estamos experimentando reveses en nuestra situación legal pero nuestro poder sigue creciendo. No estoy segura de si este es el caso de la comunidad LGBTQI+, porque se trata de un grupo minoritario y está más expuesta. La situación de las personas LGBTQI+ definitivamente está empeorando en todo sentido.

    ¿Se han producido más retrocesos en materia de género durante la pandemia del COVID-19?

    Aprovechando la pandemia, el gobierno y otros actores han hecho varios intentos para hacer retroceder los derechos sexuales y reproductivos de las mujeres. En mayo de 2020, el parlamento polaco propuso un proyecto de ley que eliminaría la obligación legal de los centros médicos de derivar pacientes a otras instituciones en caso de negarse a proporcionar servicios de aborto en función de las creencias personales de su personal. Según la ley polaca actual, el aborto solo es legal cuando la vida de la madre está en peligro, el embarazo es el resultado de una violación o el feto tiene alguna deformidad grave. Aproximadamente el 98% de los abortos que se realizan caen en esta última categoría, pero en mayo se propuso un proyecto de ley para eliminar esta cláusula. En junio, nuevas disposiciones del Código Penal impusieron duras penas de prisión para quienes apoyen a las mujeres mediante servicios relacionados con el aborto.

    Las modificaciones de las leyes sobre el aborto introducidas durante la pandemia surgieron de un proyecto cívico presentado por una organización fundamentalista. Nosotras organizamos protestas, lo cual fue una locura, porque ¿cómo se hace para protestar durante una pandemia, cuando la gente no tiene permitido reunirse? Por eso nos volvimos creativas: inventamos nuevas formas de protesta porque no nos quedó otra opción. Organizamos “colas de protestas”, paradas en fila con dos metros de distancia fuera de una tienda cercana al edificio del Parlamento, de modo de cumplir con las regulaciones de la cuarentena, mientras sosteníamos carteles y paraguas. Esto sucedió en varias ciudades, no solamente en la capital, Varsovia. Como no se nos permitía caminar libremente, también organizamos “protestas en automóvil”. Así interrumpimos el tráfico y bloqueamos la plaza principal de Varsovia durante aproximadamente una hora.

    Estas protestas fueron bastante efectivas. Las enmiendas no avanzaron y ahora están “congeladas”. Fueron enviadas a una comisión parlamentaria, pero la comisión no las está estudiando. No han sido rechazadas ni aprobadas. Pero esto también significa que en el futuro podrían ser resucitadas repentinamente y tendremos que volver a lidiar con ellas.

    Este gobierno ha dejado claro desde el principio que no apoya los derechos de las mujeres y no le importa la violencia contra las mujeres. Desde que llegó al poder, recortó el financiamiento de los centros de apoyo a las mujeres, los cuales han tenido que recurrir al crowdfunding o están sobreviviendo con donaciones privadas, porque ya no tienen acceso a la financiación estatal. Sin embargo, también se han logrado algunos avances, como ocurrió con una ley que se aprobó recientemente, a propuesta de un partido de izquierda, y que faculta a los agentes de policía a emitir órdenes de restricción que prohíben a los perpetradores de violencia ingresar al hogar de la víctima durante 14 días. Esto ha contribuido a separar inmediatamente a las víctimas de los perpetradores.

    Por otra parte, en los últimos meses las autoridades han anunciado repetidamente que están pensando en sacar a Polonia del Convenio del Consejo de Europa para prevenir y combatir la violencia contra las mujeres y la violencia doméstica, también conocido como Convenio de Estambul. Al principio no nos lo tomamos demasiado en serio. Pero siempre es así: primero prueban las aguas para ver qué tan lejos pueden llegar, y si no encuentran demasiada resistencia comienzan a avanzar. El tema no se planteó ni durante la campaña ni durante la elección presidencial, pero apenas una semana más tarde quedó puesto en la agenda. Muchos hechos graves, tales como arrestos de activistas, tuvieron lugar inmediatamente después de las elecciones.

    Ahora la situación se está poniendo grave. Varios ministros han hecho anuncios y el presidente ha aprobado la idea de retirarnos del Convenio de Estambul. También están haciendo mucha propaganda en los medios estatales para convencer a la gente de que el Convenio trata sobre la llamada “ideología de género”. Sin embargo, las encuestas muestran que más del 60% de la población está en contra de abandonar el Convenio, en comparación con apenas 15% que apoya la idea. La mitad de quienes se oponen votaron por el partido gobernante. Es extraño que el gobierno esté llevando esta iniciativa tan lejos, dado que va en contra de las opiniones de sus propios votantes.

     

    Habiendo estado al frente de la huelga de mujeres polacas de 2016, ¿qué opina de la situación actual?

    Estamos tan acostumbradas a escuchar malas noticias que este último anuncio no nos sorprendió. La situación en Polonia es tal, y cada día suceden tantas cosas malas, que una se vuelve inmune a las malas noticias.

    Durante la pandemia, todo se ha vuelto muy político. En lugar de poner el foco en cuidar la salud de las personas, todo se politizó. Se suponía las elecciones presidenciales iban a ser en mayo y hubo mucha discusión sobre si debían realizarse; finalmente se las postergó para finales de junio. El partido gobernante sabía que estaba perdiendo popularidad porque el sistema de salud no es lo suficientemente eficiente y su propio Ministro de Salud estaba ganando mucho dinero mediante la provisión de máscaras y equipos médicos. Por eso el partido gobernante presionó para que las elecciones fueran lo antes posible, antes de que perdiera demasiados votos. Y en lugar de cuidar nuestra seguridad y nuestras vidas, se enfocó en hacer avanzar su propia agenda política. Los intentos de prohibir el aborto fueron indignantes y decepcionantes porque en un momento tan crítico uno espera más responsabilidad de su gobierno.

    Yo sabía que la gente estaba cansada de movilizarse, así que me sorprendió ver que tanta gente salió a defender el Convenio de Estambul, que se convirtió en un tema de discusión nacional en los medios de comunicación y en todas partes. Se ha creado mucha energía positiva en torno de este tema, y esto nos está dando la fuerza que necesitamos para detener la iniciativa.

    Llevamos cinco años protestando. La protesta tiene su propia dinámica: hay que percibir cuál el momento para decidir cómo reaccionar; a veces intentas una cosa y no funciona. Todo es un experimento. Pero en este momento, sentimos que hay una energía real y un impulso que debemos aprovechar. Hay mucho interés por parte de los medios extranjeros y mucha receptividad en relación con este tema. Esto es un poco extraño, porque en el pasado cada vez que intentamos hacer algo en relación con la violencia contra las mujeres fue muy difícil hacer que la gente se movilizara en las calles. Hay algo en el tema de la violencia que hace difícil traducir los sentimientos en acciones callejeras. Si bien muchas personas lo experimentan o conocen a alguien que ha sido víctima de violencia, prefieren no reaccionar. Muchas veces en el pasado fracasamos cuando intentamos organizar algo sobre el tema de la violencia, pero esta vez la gente se enganchó. Puede que ahora tengamos la oportunidad de defender el derecho a una vida libre de violencia, convirtiéndolo en un problema para el gobierno.

    ¿Enfrentan los y las activistas polacas que trabajan temas de género alguna restricción de su derecho a organizarse, expresarse y movilizarse?

    Soy escritora y artista, y como resultado de mi activismo me han cortado las subvenciones estatales. Ninguna institución estatal quiere trabajar conmigo en este momento, porque si mi nombre aparece en alguna lista, se convierte en un problema para ellos. También podría ser arrestada o llevada a los tribunales por una fundación legal de derecha como Ordo Iuris. Por supuesto, también está el discurso de odio: el gobierno usa tu nombre y tu imagen para hacer propaganda en los medios estatales, y también puedes ser atacada por troles en las redes sociales. La policía te puede hacer daño, como me pasó a mí durante una protesta en 2018. Esta situación se fue dando de forma paulatina, pero en este momento hay una amplia gama de formas de represión disponibles. Por el momento, sin embargo, no he oído hablar de activistas feministas que hayan experimentado ataques físicos procedentes de civiles.

    Soy una de las activistas que comenzaron a emprender acciones directas contra el gobierno, de modo que me acusan de muchas cosas. A Ordo Iuris no le agrado porque escribí un libro revelando detalles acerca de la red fundamentalista internacional de la cual forma parte. Estoy en su lista de enemigos, pero hasta ahora no me han demandado. Dicen que están trabajando en su lista de acusaciones en mi contra, porque son muchas. Durante nuestra última protesta, miembros de Ordo Iuris se acercaron a un oficial de policía y trataron de convencerlo de que me pidiera identificación. Pero la policía de Varsovia nos conoce, conoce nuestras caras, sabía que yo no había hecho nada ilegal durante la protesta y rechazó su exigencia.

    ¿De qué manera puede la sociedad civil llamar a rendir cuentas a un gobierno cada vez más autoritario como el de Polonia, y qué apoyo de la sociedad civil internacional necesita para hacerlo?

    Con respecto al Convenio de Estambul, estamos tratando de convencer a la comunidad internacional de que los fondos europeos deben asignarse teniendo en cuenta la situación real del respeto de los derechos humanos por parte de cada miembro de la Unión Europea (UE). La UE cuenta con un nuevo instrumento que establece que la financiación debe estar vinculada a la adhesión a los principios y prácticas democráticos. Estamos tratando de convencer al Consejo de Europa, la fuente del Convenio de Estambul, de que introduzca medidas similares contra los gobiernos que atacan los derechos de sus ciudadanos. Se trata de vincular el financiamiento con el respeto y la promoción de los derechos humanos. El dinero es el único idioma que los gobiernos entienden. Actualmente hay seis ciudades polacas que no reciben fondos europeos por haberse declarado “zonas libres de LGBTI”, lo cual es considerado un acto contrario a los derechos humanos. Quisiéramos plantear este tema junto con las mujeres turcas, que enfrentan una batalla similar contra la iniciativa de su gobierno de retirar al país del Convenio de Estambul. No puedes atacar los derechos humanos como lo están haciendo Hungría y Rusia, y aun así seguir siendo tratado por el Consejo de Europa igual que todos los demás, como interlocutor válido en la conversación. Este es un nuevo enfoque que estamos tratando de que la gente entienda.

    Queremos que las organizaciones internacionales de la sociedad civil presionen a los políticos locales para que tomen conciencia de que los temas de derechos humanos y fondos deben considerarse en forma inseparable. El Consejo de Europa también debe entender esto para que podamos sentar un precedente y, en el futuro, tanto aquí como en otros países las mujeres estén protegidas. Si tenemos un gobierno autoritario que hace lo que quiere, aun cuando la ciudadanía no está de acuerdo, necesitamos contar con algunas protecciones externas. Todo lo que tenemos en Polonia es represión, de modo que necesitamos que alguien de fuera esté de nuestro lado y no nos deje solos.

    El espacio cívico en Polonia es calificado de “estrecho” por elCIVICUS Monitor.
    Contáctese con el Paro de Mujeres de Polonia a través de su página deFacebook y siga a@strajkkobiet y a@KSuchanow en Twitter.

     

  • POLONIA: “La crisis de la democracia y los derechos humanos se agravará”

    CIVICUS conversa con Małgorzata Szuleka sobre las recientes elecciones presidenciales de Polonia, celebradas durante la pandemia de COVID-19, y sobre el uso que hizo el partido gobernante de la retórica anti-LGBTQI+ para movilizar a su electorado. Małgorzata es abogada de la Fundación Helsinki para los Derechos Humanos (HFHR) de Polonia, una de las organizaciones de derechos humanos más grandes y antiguas tanto de Polonia como de la región. HFHR Polonia representa a víctimas de abusos de derechos humanos en procesos judiciales, realiza investigaciones y monitorea las violaciones de los derechos humanos. Desde 2015 ha hecho un activo seguimiento de las crecientes violaciones del estado de derecho en Polonia. Trabaja con organizaciones aliadas en Europa del Este, Asia Central, la Unión Europea (UE) y Estados Unidos.

    Małgorzata Szuleka

    Tras su reprogramación, las elecciones polacas se realizaron en junio y julio de 2020. ¿Cuál fue la posición de la sociedad civil respecto de la celebración de elecciones durante la pandemia de COVID-19?

    Originalmente las elecciones estaban programadas para mayo de 2020 y organizarlas planteaba un gran problema legal porque no existía un mecanismo legal para posponerlas. La única forma de reprogramarlas era declarar el estado de emergencia, según lo dispone la Constitución. No se pueden organizar elecciones durante un estado de emergencia o dentro de los 90 días siguientes a su finalización. Desde una perspectiva constitucional, una declaración oficial de que el país estaba experimentando una epidemia le hubiera dado al gobierno la prerrogativa de imponer el estado de emergencia. Esto hubiera extendido automáticamente el mandato del presidente hasta que se pudieran programar elecciones regulares, una vez superada la epidemia. Sin embargo, el gobierno no siguió este procedimiento. Las elecciones se reprogramaron y la segunda vuelta entre los dos principales candidatos se reailzó el 12 de julio de 2020 sobre la base de argumentos legales muy dudosos. Sin embargo, esto no fue cuestionado ni por la mayoría gubernamental ni por la oposición.

    Las organizaciones de la sociedad civil (OSC) primero presionaron al gobierno para que hiciera correctamente el llamado a las elecciones, instándolo a declarar un estado de emergencia. Cuando esto no ocurrió, las OSC intentaron plantear el tema del monitoreo internacional, principalmente en términos de equidad y financiamiento de la campaña. El problema era que se esperaba que las elecciones fueran libres pero no justas. Los medios públicos se inclinaron por el presidente Andrzej Duda, el candidato apoyado por el gobernante partido Ley y Justicia (PiS), y fueron extremadamente críticos y bastante poco profesionales en relación con todo candidato de oposición. Aunque no se había declarado el estado de emergencia, muchos derechos fundamentales, como la libertad de reunión y el acceso a la información, estaban limitados. Estas eran las principales preocupaciones.

    También se presentó el problema de que la Corte Suprema confirmó la validez de las elecciones. El 12 de julio, el presidente Duda fue reelegido para un segundo mandato por un margen estrecho. Recibió el 51% de los votos, mientras que su contendiente de la opositora Coalición Cívica recibió el 49%. El presentismo apenas superó 68% y se presentaron más de 5.800 denuncias de irregularidades en el proceso. La Corte Suprema dictaminó que 92 de esas denuncias estaban justificadas pero no habían influido en el resultado final, por lo que declaró válidos los resultados. Lamentablemente, esta decisión pasó completamente por alto el problema de los fundamentos constitucionales y legales sobre la base de los cuales se habían convocado estas elecciones.

    ¿Se adoptaron medidas para proteger a la gente durante la campaña y el proceso de votación? ¿Tuvo la pandemia algún impacto sobre la participación?

    La organización de la campaña implicó medidas sanitarias en materia de distanciamiento social y uso de mascarillas. Pero estas disposiciones no fueron completamente respetadas por ambas partes. Con fines de campaña, el gobierno relajó algunas restricciones; por ejemplo, aunque el uso de mascarillas faciales era obligatorio, se publicaron fotografías en las que el primer ministro no la llevaba puesta en público. También fue preocupante el hecho de que muchas autoridades participaran en la campaña electoral junto con el presidente Duda. Las instituciones públicas fueron instrumentalizadas por políticos del partido gobernante. El centro de seguridad gubernamental, responsable de la coordinación y la información en caso de emergencias o catástrofes naturales, envió mensajes de texto masivos el día de las elecciones. Cada votante recibió un mensaje que decía que las personas mayores de 60 años, las mujeres embarazadas y las personas con discapacidad podrían votar sin hacer cola. Esto pudo haber sido utilizado para movilizar al electorado del partido gobernante. Este es solo un ejemplo, pero podría ser indicativo del rol desempeñado por las instituciones estatales para inclinar el campo de juego a favor del partido PiS.

    ¿Fue equitativa la cobertura de los medios durante las elecciones?

    La cobertura de los medios públicos fue absolutamente injusta. El resto de la cobertura, mayormente por parte de medios privados, fue bastante buena; definitivamente no fue tan mala como la de los medios públicos, que fue utilizada para hacer propaganda y realzó la campaña del presidente Duda.

    Uno de los reclamos electorales presentados ante la Corte Suprema se refería específicamente a la cobertura mediática. Manifestó que la televisión pública apoyaba al presidente al tiempo que desacreditaba sistemáticamente a su rival, y que las instituciones y funcionarios públicos violaron reiteradamente el código de conducta al apoyar a uno solo de los candidatos. Pero el problema en relación con el mecanismo de los reclamos electorales es que requiere que se demuestre no solo que la supuesta irregularidad ocurrió, sino también que ella tuvo un impacto sobre los resultados electorales. En elecciones presidenciales como esta, esto es algo muy difícil de probar. Además, el código electoral no regula la labor de los medios de comunicación, por lo que es difícil sostener legalmente que los medios de comunicación deben operar de manera diferente. Y en caso de hacerlo, también es difícil probar que la cobertura (o la falta de cobertura) recibida de un medio por un candidato en particular haya resultado en un determinado resultado electoral. Esto es algo que intuitivamente podemos suponer, particularmente ante resultados tan ajustados, pero es muy difícil crear un argumento legal sólido.

    ¿Qué implicancias tiene la reelección del presidente Duda para la democracia y los derechos humanos en Polonia?

    Representa la continuidad de una tendencia muy preocupante. De todos los posibles temas de campaña, el presidente Duda escogió avivar la homofobia. La campaña tuvo lugar en el marco de un proceso de larga data de retroceso del estado de derecho, en medio de una crisis de las relaciones entre Polonia y la UE, durante un enorme desafío sanitario y al borde de una crisis económica que nos afectará a todas y todos los polacos. Pero ninguno de estos temas se convirtió en el foco de la campaña electoral y la discusión pública. El presidente Duda habló sobre todo de que las personas LGBTQI+ representan una amenaza para nuestra herencia tradicional cristiana, equiparando la homosexualidad con la pedofilia. El tema destiló en la narrativa divisiva, indignante y deshumanizante del partido PiS. Fue una movida muy pragmática de los astutos propagandistas del PiS porque movilizó al núcleo mismo del electorado. De repente, los grupos y comunidades LGBTQI+ se convirtieron en el chivo expiatorio de todo lo que está mal en Polonia. Es indignante lo que se politizó este tema y la forma en que se lo utilizó para deshumanizar a esta minoría. Fue un espectáculo doloroso y desgarrador.

    Y esto no se terminó con la campaña. El presidente Duda es apenas un representante del partido PiS, por lo que dirá lo que sea necesario para mantenerlo alineado. No es más que una cuestión de cálculo y lucha interna de poder. En junio, el partido PiS apuntó contra la población LGBTQI+. En julio, apuntó contra las víctimas de violencia doméstica al iniciar un debate sobre la retirada del Convenio de Estambul. En agosto, propuso un sistema de registro de las OSC que reciben financiamiento del exterior. Ahora no sé quién será su próximo enemigo. No se trata solamente de que la actual mayoría gobernante sea homofóbica, sino también de que todo el tiempo necesita tener un enemigo con el que confrontar o a quien culpar.

    Acabamos de entrar en una fase en la que no habrá elecciones por tres años, por lo que cabe esperar una gran consolidación del poder que permita al gobierno hacer todo lo que quiera: crear presión sobre las OSC, polarizar aún más a los medios de comunicación, atacar a grupos minoritarios y escalar el conflicto con la UE, entre otras cosas. Cabe esperar que todo esto ocurra durante los próximos tres años. Lo único que podría detenerlos es la evaluación pragmática de si se trata de algo que responde a la necesidad del momento o si acaso podría haber alguna otra cosa más importante. Pero creo que la crisis de la democracia y los derechos humanos en Polonia se profundizará.

    El espacio cívico en Polonia es clasificado como “reducido” por elCIVICUS Monitor.

    Contáctese con la Fundación Helsinki para los Derechos Humanos-Polonia a través de susitio web o su página deFacebook, y siga a@hfhrpl y a@m_szuleka en Twitter.

     

  • Progress and shortcomings from 44th Session of the Human Rights Council

    Joint Statement for the end of the 44th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    The 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council began with China's imposition of legislation severely undermining rights and freedoms in Hong Kong. Within days, there were reports of hundreds of arrests, some for crimes that didn’t even exist previously. We welcome efforts this session by a growing number of States to collectively address China’s sweeping rights abuses, but more is needed. An unprecedented 50 Special Procedures recently expressed concerns at China’s mass violations in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet, suppression of information in the context of Covid-19, and targeting of human rights defenders across the country. The Council should heed the call of these UN experts to hold a Special Session and create a mechanism to monitor and document rights violations in the country. No state is beyond international scrutiny. China’s turn has come.

    The 44th session also marked an important opportunity to enable those affected directly by human rights violations to speak to the Council through NGO video statements.

    Amnesty's Laith Abu Zeyad addressed the Council remotely from the occupied West Bank where he has been trapped by a punitive travel ban imposed by Israel since October 2019. We call on the Israeli authorities to end all punitive or arbitrary travel bans.

    During the interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, victims’ associations and families of victims highlighted the human rights violations occurring in detention centers in Syria. We welcome the efforts by some States to underline their demands and welcome the adoption of the Syria resolution on detainees and urge the Syrian government to take all feasible measures to release detainees and provide truth to the families, noting the important pressure needed by Member States to further call for accountability measures for crimes committed in Syria.

    Collette Flanagan, Founder of Mothers against Police Brutality, also delivered a powerful video statement at the Council explaining the reality of racist policing in the United States of America. We fully support victims’ families’ appeals to the Council for accountability.

    We hope that the High Commissioner's reporton systemic racism, police violence and government responses to antiracism peaceful protests will be the first step in a series of meaningful international accountability measures to fully and independently investigate police killings, to protect and facilitate Black Lives Matter and other protests, and to provide effective remedy and compensation to victims and their families in the United States of America and around the world.

    We appreciate the efforts made by the Council Presidency and OHCHR to overcome the challenges of resuming the Council’s work while taking seriously health risks associated with COVID-19, including by increasing remote and online participation. We recommend that remote civil society participation continue and be strengthened for all future sessions of the Council.

    Despite these efforts, delays in finalising the session dates and modalities, and subsequent changes in the programme of work, reduced the time CSOs had to prepare and engage meaningfully. This has a disproportionate impact on CSOs not based in Geneva, those based in different time zones and those with less capacity to monitor the live proceedings. Other barriers to civil society participation this session included difficulties to meet the strict technical requirements for uploading video statements, to access resolution drafts and follow informal negotiations remotely, especially from other time zones, as well as a decrease in the overall number of speaking slots available for NGO statements due to the cancellation of general debates this session as an ‘efficiency measure.’

    We welcome the joint statement led by the core group on civil society space and endorsed by cross regional States and civil society, which calls on the High Commissioner to ensure that the essential role of civil society, and States’ efforts to protect and promote civil society space, are reflected in the report on impact of the COVID-19 pandemic presented to the 46th Session of the HRC. We urge all States at this Council to recognise and protect the key role that those who defend human rights play.

    These last two years have seen unlawful use of force perpetrated by law enforcement against peaceful protesters, protest monitors, journalists worldwide, from the United States of America to Hong Kong, to Chile to France, Kenya to Iraq to Algeria, to India to Lebanon with impunity.

    We therefore welcome that the resolution “the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests” was adopted by consensus, and that the Council stood strongly against some proposed amendments which would have weakened it. We also welcome the inclusion in the resolution of a panel during the 48th session to discuss such events and how States can strengthen protections. We urge States to ensure full accountability for such human rights violations as an essential element of the protection of human rights in the context of protests. The current context has accelerated the urgency of protecting online assembly, and we welcome that the resolution reaffirms that peaceful assembly rights guaranteed offline are also guaranteed online. In particular, we also commend the resolution for calling on States to refrain from internet shutdowns and website blocking during protests, while incorporating language on the effects of new and emerging technologies, particularly tools such as facial recognition, international mobile subscriber identity-catchers (“stingrays”) and closed-circuit television.

    We welcome that the resolution on “freedom of opinion and expression” contains positive language including on obligations surrounding the right to information, emphasising the importance of measures for encryption and anonymity, and strongly condemning the use of internet shutdowns. Following the High Commissioner’s statement raising alarm at the abuse of ‘false news’ laws to crackdown on free expression during the COVID-19 pandemic, we also welcome that the resolution stresses that responses to the spread of disinformation and misinformation must be grounded in international human rights law, including the principles of lawfulness, legitimacy, necessity and proportionality. At the same time, we are concerned by the last minute addition of language which focuses on restrictions to freedom of expression, detracting from the purpose of the resolution to promote and protect the right. As we look to the future, it is important that the core group builds on commitments contained in the resolution and elaborate on pressing freedom of expression concerns of the day, particularly for the digital age, such as the issue of surveillance or internet intermediary liability, while refocusing elements of the text.

    The current context has not only accelerated the urgency of protecting assembly and access to information, but also the global recognition of the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. We welcome the timely discussions on ”realizing children’s right to a healthy environment” and the concrete suggestions for action from panelists, States, and civil society. The COVID-19 crisis, brought about by animal-to-human viral transmission, has clarified the interlinkages between the health of the planet and the health of all people. We therefore support the UN Secretary General’s call to action on human rights, as well as the High Commissioner’s statement advocating for the global recognition of the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment – already widely reflected at national and regional levels - and ask that the Council adopts a resolution in that sense. We also support the calls made by the Marshall Islands, Climate Vulnerable Forum, and other States of the Pacific particularly affected and threatened by climate change. We now urge the Council to strengthen its role in tackling the climate crisis and its adverse impacts on the realization of human rights by establishing a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change, which will help address the urgency of the situation and amplify the voices of affected communities.

    The COVID crisis has also exacerbated discrimination against women and girls. We welcome the adoption by the Council of a strong resolution on multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination against women and girls, which are exacerbated in times of a global pandemic. The text, inter alia, reaffirms the rights to sexual and reproductive health and to bodily autonomy, and emphasizes legal obligations of States to review their legislative frameworks through an intersectional approach. We regret that such a timely topic has been questioned by certain States and that several amendments were put forward on previously agreed language.

    The Council discussed several country-specific situations, and renewed the mandates in some situations.

    We welcome the renewal of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and ongoing scrutiny on Belarus. The unprecedented crackdown on human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers and members of the political opposition in recent weeks ahead of the Presidential election in August provide a clear justification for the continued focus, and the need to ensure accountability for Belarus’ actions. With concerns that the violations may increase further over the next few weeks, it is essential that the Council members and observers maintain scrutiny and pressure even after the session has finished.

    We welcome the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea. We urge the government to engage, in line with its Council membership obligations, as the Special Rapporteur’s ‘benchmarks for progress’ form a road map for human rights reform in the country. We welcome the High Commissioner report on the human rights situation in the Philippines which concluded, among other things, that the ongoing killings appear to be widespread and systematic and that “the practical obstacles to accessing justice in the country are almost insurmountable.” We regret that even during this Council session, President Duterte signed an Anti Terrorism Law with broad and vague definition of terrorism and terrorists and other problematic provisions for human rights and rule of law, which we fear will be used to stifle and curtail the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Also during this session, in a further attack on press freedom, Philippine Congress rejected the franchise renewal of independent media network ABS-CBN, while prominent journalist Maria Ressa and her news website Rappler continue to face court proceedings and attacks from President Duterte after Ressa’s cyber libel conviction in mid-June. We support the call from a group of Special Procedures to the Council to establish an independent, impartial investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines and urge the Council to establish it at the next session.

    The two reports presented to the Council on Venezuela this session further document how lack of judicial independence and other factors perpetuate impunity and prevent access to justice for a wide range of violations of civil, cultural, economic, political, and social rights in the country. We also urge the Council to stand ready to extend, enhance and expand the mandate of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission when it reports in September. We also welcome the report of the Special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967 and reiterate his call for States to ensure Israel puts an end to all forms of collective punishment. We also reiterate his call to ensure that the UN database of businesses involved with Israeli settlements becomes a living tool, through sufficient resourcing and annual updating.

    We regret, however, that several States have escaped collective scrutiny this session.

    We reiterate the UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard’s call to pressure Saudi Arabia to release prisoners of conscience and women human rights defenders and call on all States to sustain the Council’s scrutiny over the situation at the September session.

    Despite calls by the High Commissioner for prisoners’ release, Egypt has arrested defenders, journalists, doctors and medical workers for criticizing the government’s COVID-19 response. We recall that all of the defenders that the Special Procedures and the High Commissioner called for their release since September 2019 are still in pre-trial detention. The Supreme State Security Prosecution and 'Terrorism Circuit courts' in Egypt, are enabling pre-trial detention as a form of punishment including against human rights defenders and journalists and political opponents, such as Ibrahim Metwally, Mohamed El-Baqer and Esraa Abdel Fattah, Ramy Kamel, Alaa Abdel-Fattah, Patrick Zaky, Ramy Shaat, Eman Al-Helw, Solafa Magdy and Hossam El-Sayed. Once the terrorism circuit courts resumed after they were suspended due to COVID-19, they renewed their detention retroactively without their presence in court. It’s high time the Council holds Egypt accountable.

    As highlighted in a joint statement of Special Procedures, we call on the Indian authorities to immediately release HRDs, who include students, activists and protest leaders, arrested for protesting against changes to India’s citizenship laws. Also eleven prominent HRDs continue to be imprisoned under false charges in the Bhima Koregaon case. These activists face unfounded terror charges under draconian laws such as sedition and under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. While we welcome that Safoora Zargar was granted bail on humanitarian grounds, the others remain at high risk during a COVID-19 pandemic in prisons with not only inadequate sanitary conditions but also limited to no access to legal counsel and family members. A number of activists have tested positive in prison, including Akhil Gogoi and 80-year-old activist Varavara Rao amid a larger wave of infections that have affected many more prisoners across the country. Such charges against protestors, who were exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly must be dropped. We call on this Council to strengthen their demands to the government of India for accountability over the excessive use of force by the police and other State authorities against the demonstrators.

    In Algeria, between 30 March and 16 April 2020, the Special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, human rights defenders, issued three urgent appeals in relation to cases involving arbitrary and violent arrests, unfair trials and reprisals against human rights defenders and peaceful activists Olaya Saadi, Karim Tabbou and Slimane Hamitouche. Yet, the Council has been silent with no mention of the crackdown on Algerian civil society, including journalists.

    To conclude on a positive note, we welcome the progress in the establishment of the OHCHR country office in Sudan, and call on the international community to continue to provide support where needed to the transitional authorities. While also welcoming their latest reform announcements, we urge the transitional authorities to speed up the transitional process, including reforms within the judiciary and security sectors, in order to answer the renewed calls from protesters for the enjoyment of "freedom, peace and justice" of all in Sudan. We call on the Council to ensure continued monitoring and reporting on Sudan.

    ENDORSEMENTS

    International Service for Human Rights
    DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    Center for Reproductive Rights
    Franciscans International
    The Syrian Legal Development Programme
    Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR)
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
    International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA World)
    Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
    ARTICLE 19
    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
    IFEX
    Association for Progressive Communications
    International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    Amnesty International

     


    Current council members:

    Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burkina FasoBrazil, Cameroon, Chile, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, Germany, India, Indonesia, ItalyJapan, Libya, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Senegal, Slovakia, SomaliaSudan, Spain, Togo, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela

    Civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor

    OPEN NARROWED OBSTRUCTED  REPRESSED CLOSED