human rights


  • Indian Government should withdraw criminal charges against NGO ‘Lawyers Collective’ and its representatives

    Signatories India Letter

    26 June 2019,

    Bangkok/Colombo/Dublin/Geneva/Johannesburg/London/New Delhi/New York/Paris

    We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the filing of criminal charges against Indian NGO ‘Lawyers Collective’, its Senior Advocate Anand Grover, and other representatives. Criminal charges were filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on June 13, 2019, relying on an investigation report of January 2016 of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The MHA report has been challenged by Lawyers Collective in January 2017 and the case is under consideration by the High Court of Bombay.

    Lawyers Collective is a human rights organisation based in New Delhi with its registered office in Mumbai and was founded by noted Indian human rights defenders and lawyers Ms Indira Jaising and Mr Anand Grover. Ms Jaising and Mr Grover are senior advocates with an exceptional profile of public service, probity and personal and professional integrity as lawyers and as human rights defenders. Ms Jaising was an Additional Solicitor General of India between 2009 and 2014, and was also a member of the UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) between 2009 and 2012. Mr Grover held the mandate of UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health between 2008 and 2014. Ms Jaising and Mr Grover, through Lawyers Collective, have advocated for advancing the rights of the most vulnerable and marginalised sections of Indian society, thereby upholding constitutional values as enshrined in the Indian Constitution.

    Lawyers Collective’s registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 (FCRA) was first suspended on May 31, 2016, and its bank accounts frozen. The FCRA license was not renewed on October 28, 2016, and was cancelled on November 27, 2016. Lawyers Collective petitioned the High Court of Bombay to challenge the FCRA cancellation and non-renewal in January 2017 and March 2017, respectively. In January 2017, its domestic accounts were unfrozen. Lawyers Collective’s challenge to the FCRA cancellation and non-renewal are currently pending before the High Court.

    Filing of criminal charges while the matter is under consideration by the High Court is a blatant misuse of its agencies by the Indian Government to target critical human rights work undertaken by Lawyers Collective and its representatives, often involving sensitive cases against Indian ministers and senior officials of the ruling political party.

    On May 15, 2019, the MHA wrote to CBI for ‘further investigation as per law’ into the matter relating to Lawyers Collective. On June 13, 2019, the CBI solely relying on the impugned MHA report registered a First Information Report under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) relating to charges of criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, cheating, false statement made in declaration and various sections under the FCRA and Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act 1988. Given that there has been no change in circumstances since 2016 and also no material or evidential basis to support the provisions invoked under the IPC and PC Act, the filing of criminal charges is a blatant act of reprisal against Lawyers Collective and its representatives.

    Such actions by the Indian Government are contrary to its pledge at the UN Human Rights Council and its obligations and commitments under several international human rights treaties and declarations. The FCRA has been time and again criticised by human rights defenders and NGOs within and outside India for its regressive and unfair interference in the functioning of organisations. Indian human rights defenders have condemned the use of FCRA and the accusations of “foreign funding” to quash dissent and smear individuals and groups.

    In his analysis of the FCRA in 2016, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Assembly and Association Maina Kiai concluded that certain provisions of FCRA were not in conformity with international human rights law and noted that “access to resources, including foreign funding, is a fundamental part of the right to freedom of association under international law, standards, and principles, and more particularly part of forming an association”.In June 2016 Kiai joined the UN Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression and on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders calling on the Government of India to repeal the regressive FCRA, which was being used to “silence organisations involved in advocating civil, political, economic, social, environmental or cultural priorities, which may differ from those backed by the Government.[1],”

    We strongly call upon the Indian Government to cease misusing the country’s laws, including the FCRA, against human rights defenders. In the specific case of Lawyers Collective, we urge the criminal charges be immediately withdrawn pending the decision of the High Court of Bombay. We appeal to the National Human Rights Commission of India to take cognizance of this matter and take immediate actions under the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993 (PHRA) and to undertake a legal review of the FCRA under Section 12 (d) of the PHRA.

    We further call upon the Indian Government to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Lawyers Collective and Mr Anand Grover, as well as against all human rights defenders in India and ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance.

    Signatory organizations:

    Amnesty International


    Forum Asia

    Front Line Defenders

    Human Rights Defenders Alert

    Human Rights Watch

    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

    International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

    South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR)

    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders




  • INDIGENOUS PEOPLES: ‘Canadians stand in solidarity with us and want to see change’

    TeresaEdwardsCIVICUS speaks with Teresa Edwards, Executive Director and In-House Legal Counsel of the Legacy of Hope Foundation (LHF), about reactions to recently evidence of atrocities committed against Canada’s Indigenous peoples in the context of the country’s longstanding Residential School System, and about civil society efforts to obtain truth, justice and reparations. The LHF is a national Indigenous not-for-profit, charitable organisation that seeks to educate the public, create awareness, foster empathy and inspire action around the issues of inequality, racism and human rights violations committed against Canada’s Indigenous Peoples.


    What has changed for Indigenous Peoples in Canada since the authorities started to acknowledge the existence of children’s graves in residential schools?

    As Indigenous Peoples, we have always known about these atrocities happening from Survivors, our families, our communities for generations. We had also raised these issues with the authorities for years with little to no response.

    Since the children’s remains began to be unearthed in May, and Canadians are realising because of the undeniable, irrefutable DNA evidence being uncovered around the schools, we have had an outpouring of support that we could have never imagined. We have been contacted by individuals, families, foundations, elementary and high school students, teachers’ unions and many other unions, small, medium and large businesses, policing and correctional officers, parishioners, and the list goes on – all asking what they can do to help, or contribute to Reconciliation in some way.

    The staff of the Legacy of Hope Foundation have been working tirelessly since May to deliver on our usual projects, exhibitions and curriculum while responding to the thousands of inquiries we receive each day, and it has not let up. We have hired more staff and casual workers so that we can try to ensure that we don’t miss an opportunity to produce more educational resources, exhibitions, curricula, workshops and other opportunities to engage with the public. It has been incredibly encouraging to see that Canadians have so much heart now that they are learning about Canada’s real history!

    What actions have Indigenous civil society groups taken to raise the profile of issues of abuse and exclusion, including around Canada Day and in the election campaign?

    Indigenous groups have tried to raise awareness for decades about the many injustices impacting on all of our Nations, as well as about the particular issues for each territory, with very little uptake by most mainstream media or governments. When the stories about the children’s remains hit social media and smaller media outlets, the larger media outlets then began to cover more about what has been happening. With each new uncovering at a new location at a residential school, more and more Canadians began to ask questions, seek answers and reach out to Indigenous Peoples across Canada. With the pressure mounting, Canadians have looked to the government to respond.

    On 1 July, hundreds of thousands of Canadian allies walked with Indigenous Peoples across Canada for a day of reflection, sending the government the message that Canadians stand in solidarity with us and want to see change.

    As for the election campaign, we are not a political organisation, but I can say that we did see Indigenous rights considered by some parties more than others. Regardless of who is in power, we are always willing and wanting to work with them toward Reconciliation efforts.

    What difference have recent acts of recognition and apology – such as theapology by the Catholic bishops and the observance of theNational Day for Truth and Reconciliation in September – made, and what further steps are still needed?

    We are encouraged by the Catholic bishops’ apology and commitment to raising funds for Survivors resources and the organisations that serve them. However, we look forward to having the Pope come to Canada to apologise as well and committing to actions to support Reconciliation efforts too.

    What are the key challenges that Indigenous Peoples encounter in Canada and what are the barriers to realising Indigenous Peoples’ rights?

    There are several, and they vary from coast to coast, but there are many basic human rights that need to be addressed: access to clean running water in every Indigenous community within a country as wealthy as Canada, the need for equitable funding for education for Indigenous children, the need for equitable funding for medical services for Indigenous Peoples, being able to live free from violence or worry of being killed just because you are Indigenous, being able to exercise treaty rights, addressing high rates of poverty and access to economic development are only a few.

    We have had seven generations of discrimination and injustice. It is my hope that working with Canadians we can improve things for the next seven generations so when our ancestors look back at what actions we took in our lifetime, they will see that we were working together to create a brighter future.

    What actions are needed to advance Indigenous Peoples’ rights, and what support is needed to enable those actions?

    Having Indigenous history taught in all schools from kindergarten to grade 12 in an age-appropriate way, as we do for all the other atrocities that have happened throughout history, would be a concrete way to influence the future generations who will be our teachers, doctors, politicians, judges and decision-makers, because that would have a significant impact on how Indigenous Peoples are treated going forward. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission already outlined very clearly 94 Calls to Action that would significantly advance Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Now we just need to continue to implement them.

    Civic space in Canada is rated ‘open’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with the Legacy of Hope Foundation through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@legacyhopefound on Twitter.


  • INDONESIA: ‘The Sexual Violence Bill is one step further in claiming the rights of women and children’

    Nuril QomariyahCIVICUS speaks with Nuril Qomariyah, coordinator of Perempuan Bergerak, about the Sexual Violence Bill recently passed in Indonesia and the key roles played by civil society.

    Founded in 2016, Perempuan Bergerak is an Indonesian civil society organisation (CSO) that promotes women’s rights in local communities, striving for the values of equality, justice and human rights, and providing support for both women and men to build more equal gender relationships.

    What is the relevance of the newly passed Sexual Violence Bill?

    The Sexual Violence Bill that Indonesia’s House of Representatives passed on 9 May 2022, formally known as RUU TPKS, seeks to protect victims of sexual violence crimes and help them with the recovery process. 

    The bill deals with nine types of criminal acts of sexual violence regulated in article 4, paragraph 1: non-physical sexual harassment, physical sexual harassment, forced contraception, forced sterilisation, forced marriage, sexual torture, sexual exploitation, sexual slavery and electronic-based sexual violence. Perpetrators proven guilty of these crimes will be subject to imprisonment.

    It is interesting that the inclusion of electronic-based sexual violence received some criticism. In the early stages, when the bill was being drafted, it was not included. However, CSOs and activists advocated for its inclusion because sexual violence cases, especially among young children, are increasingly happening in or in connection with cyberspace.

    How might the new law change things for the better?

    The main outstanding thing about this bill is that it focuses on the victims and seeks to create an environment that will help them recover from acts of sexual violence. According to a study conducted by the Indonesia Judicial Research Society, the law should be appreciated because it clearly takes sides with sexual violence victims by mandating the establishment of mechanisms to support their recovery.

    In its article 30, paragraph 1 the bill states that victims are entitled to services such as restitution and counselling. If the perpetrator is unable to pay restitution the state will compensate the victim in accordance with the court’s decision. Further, victims are recognised as having the right to receive the necessary treatment, the right to be protected and the right to recovery.

    Community-based service providers such as the police are required to receive and follow up on reports of sexual violence and provide assistance to the victims. Under the new law they are no longer allowed to dismiss sexual violence cases, and instead must conduct the investigation needed to help the victims. The role of families, communities and central and local governments in preventing sexual violence is also emphasised. The new law seeks to make victims of sexual violence feel comfortable enough to report their perpetrators and open legal cases against them. We consider this bill fundamental in helping victims and survivors of sexual violence.

    Do you see it as a civil society victory?

    Indeed, we consider this a civil society victory because we have been involved in the whole process and have long advocated for the bill to be passed. CSOs working closely with victims and survivors of sexual violence understand how important this bill is, which is why we were at the forefront of the efforts that resulted in its approval. 

    It took us 10 years to get here. This is quite a long time. During the past decade, we have organised and made sure we built a unified front pushing for this law. Sexual violence is an offence that affects those who constitute the majority in our society; it is women and children who experience it the most. So getting this law passed is one step further in claiming the rights of women and children, including their right to live in a safe and secure environment. 

    The new law empowers victims because it provides tools to respond to cases of sexual violence. We are very happy to see this kind of progress. A victory like this provides confirmation of the great influence our work has on society. 

    What tactics did you use to encourage the passage of the new legislation?

    Perempuan Bergerak is based in Malang, the second-largest city in the province of East Java. We provide safe spaces for people, and especially women, to get together, exchange with one another, learn and organise. We also provide space for men to learn about equality in human relations so they are able to see women as fully autonomous human beings, rather than weak creatures of lesser value who are under their dominion.

    The Sexual Violence Bill is crucial for this work because it has the potential to provide the same kind of safe space, with legal guarantees, for women and children all over Indonesia. This is why we collaborated with various community groups in Malang, including students, academics and activists, to raise wide awareness about the importance of the bill. Perempuan Bergerak has a large virtual community on social media platforms, so we created content to promote the bill and shared it on these platforms. The young generation is very active on social media, so we channelled much of our activism there. 

    In addition to social media activism, we did a lot of work on the ground, including organising discussion forums, making as many appearances as we could on television and local radio stations, and demonstrating on the streets alongside other organisations and activists.

    We are also part of Koalisi Masyarakat Sipil Anti Kekerasan Seksual (KOMPAKS), a coalition of Indonesian civil society groups fighting against sexual violence. As a coalition, we share the same vision and have worked together to push the government to pass this bill. We mobilised in unity throughout the whole process. 

    What challenges do you see moving forward, and how does civil society plan to address them?

    The main challenge we anticipate is implementation. We know we will have to be very vigilant, monitor each implementation stage and make sure local governments respect the law. We have known this would be a challenge all along, so throughout our advocacy and campaigning in the process to get the bill passed we acted together as civil society to create awareness at the community level about the importance of this bill’s implementation. Now that our strategy to get the bill has worked, we will need to keep moving together to ensure a successful process of implementation. We believe that through collaboration with as many stakeholders as possible, including with the government, educational institutions and civil society, we can make the implementation stage progress smoothly.

    Civic space in Indonesia is rated ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch withPerempuan Bergerakthrough itsInstagram page.


  • INDONESIA: “Peaceful pro-independence activists may be labeled as terrorists”

    CIVICUS speaks to Samuel Awom, Coordinator of the human rights group KontraS Papua, which monitors human rights violations, advocates for victims and works for peace in Papua. KontraS Papua is based in Jayapura, Papua’s capital, and monitors human rights issues throughout the Papuan region.

    In Papua, located at the east end of the Indonesian archipelago, there have been gross human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary arrest of activists by the Indonesian security forces under the pretext of suppressing separatism. Although Indonesia President Joko Widodo continues to promise to address the grievances of the Papuan people, they face ongoing discrimination, exploitation, and repression.

    Sam Awome

    What is the human rights situation in Papua?

    As shown by the monitoring undertaken by KontraS Papua and other civil society groups, the military and police perpetrate serious human rights violations in the Papuan region. Abductions, killings and other violations of the rights of activists and other civilians by the security forces have taken place since 1963, when Indonesia took over Papua from the Netherlands. This situation has persisted until today. No legal processes have been undertaken to investigate and resolve these incidents. This is a very serious problem in Papua.

    Recent events include the displacement of thousands of people from the Intan Jaya, Nduga, and Puncak areas, where there has been continued conflict between the military and pro-independence armed groups since December 2018.

    In 2019, the situation became extremely tense following incidents of racist speech against Papuan students by the authorities in Java island, which were challenged by mass protests and mobilisation across Papua. In response, there were mass arrests of protesters and activists, which in turn led to violent incidents, including riots and arson. Until today, the instigators and perpetrators of the violence remain unknown and there has been a failure to investigate this. No one has been brought to justice for the killing of students and young people at that time. Many Papuans are still traumatised by this.

    Following this, in December 2019 the armed conflict expanded in the Intan Jaya district, causing thousands of civilians to flee, and some were killed. 

    Most recently, on 25 April 2021, President Joko Widodo ordered the military commander and the chief of police to arrest all members of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN/OPM), an armed pro-independence group, after the head of the Regional State Intelligence Agency was shot dead. On 29 April, the Indonesian government officially categorised the TPN/OPM as a ‘terrorist' organisation. This was followed by the entry of large numbers of security forces into the Puncak district.

    What do you think will be the impact of the government labeling the TPN/OPM as a terrorist group? 

    This comes at a time when all the civil society organisations (CSOs) and peace networks are talking about reconciliation and peace. The end of conflict requires dialogue and negotiation between the central government and Papua. The labelling of the TPN/OPM armed group as terrorists is a regressive move by the Jokowi administration that will close the space for democracy and the protection of human rights.

    This has made the situation in Papua worse. We now see the deployment of thousands of troops to the region and public access to the internet being blocked. This will create a situation for increased human rights violations in Papua, as the anti-terrorism law will allow for arbitrary arrests and undermine the rule of law. The Anti-Terrorism Law grants police powers to hold suspects for up to 221 days without being brought to court – a blatant violation of the right of anyone arrested on a criminal charge to be brought promptly before a judge and be tried within a reasonable time or be released. The law also expands the use of military personnel in counterterrorism operations, which further increases the likelihood of the excessive use of force and other human rights violations.

    In my opinion, this decision was made because the Jokowi administration has been only listening to the view of top military officials and has failed to find a concrete solution to the Papua problem. Meanwhile, all the civil society groups and movements in Papua, as well as the regional parliaments in the provinces and the governor, are calling for dialogue.

    This decision now prevents CSOs from investigating when civilians are attacked in conflict areas because the military operations have brought along restrictions of movement.

    Why is the government carrying out this military operation, and what is its impact on civil society?

    The government's rationale for the operations is that it has accused the TPN/OPM of attacking civilians, including teachers, and burning schools and a plane. Further, the shooting of the head of the Papua Regional State Intelligence Agency in the Puncak district has worsened the situation. However, the shooting has yet to be fully investigated to determine what was behind the shooting, and the investigation needs to be undertaken by an independent team. There has been no further explanation about this so far.

    As a result of this shooting, the head of the Police Security Intelligence Agency, Commissioner General Paulus Waterpauw, stated that human rights activists and CSOs are undermining political stability and damaging democracy in Papua. This creates a risk for human rights defenders, and particularly for Papuan activists working on ending the conflict and who are involved in political discussions around independence, who will be categorised as allied with terrorists, stigmatised, and arbitrarily arrested.

    Why was Viktor Yeimo arrested and what are the charges against him?

    Viktor Yeimo, the international spokesperson for the West Papua National Committee and the Papuan People's Petition Against Special Autonomy, was detained by the authorities on 11 May on the grounds that he was behind the 2019 anti-racism protests. However, his interrogation by the police seems to be leaning towards linking him with the TPN/OPM armed group.

    He was arrested in Jayapura, taken to the Papua Police station, and then transferred to the Police Mobile Brigade headquarters in Abepura. He is being investigated for treason, incitement, and broadcasting false information as well as other charges. A coalition of lawyers is supporting him. Communication with his family has been denied and has been made difficult by the authorities.

    Several more activists of the Papuan student alliance movement were also detained in cities inside and outside Papua and have been questioned. The democratic space in Papua is being squeezed.

    This has been reinforced by an internet disruption that began about one month ago after the Papuan head of intelligence was shot. It has made it very difficult for us to communicate with contacts and activists throughout Papua. It has made it challenging to get updates on the situation in the field and to send material to places in Intan Jaya, Nduga, and Puncak Jaya.

    What do Papuan activists need from the international community and civil society?

    We need support from international CSOs working with local civil society to promote and develop the concept of peace and reconciliation. We also need support on how to open negotiations between the central government in Jakarta and Papua. Further, we need to open up the space for access to international CSOs, journalists, and humanitarian monitors in Papua, which is currently closed.

    International actors and governments must also monitor and speak up against the anti-terrorism policies of the Indonesian government that have the potential to increase human rights violations. Civilians in Papua are often viewed as supporting armed groups and this makes them vulnerable. Those who have been displaced because of the conflict must also be assisted by the international community.

    Our hope is that CSOs in Papua, Indonesia, and internationally can work together to protect human rights and seek solutions to severe violations in Papua. There is also a need for international solidarity to seek lasting peace to the conflict in Papua.

    Civic space inIndonesiais rated as ‘obstructedby theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with KontraS through itswebsite and follow@KontraS on Twitter. 


  • Indonesia: Government should immediately withdraw arbitrary charges against Fatia Maulidiyanti & Haris Azhar

    The Indonesian government should put an end to the judicial harassment against human rights defenders Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar, and uphold the right to freedom of expression, a group of human rights organisations said.

    ‘The Government of Indonesia must uphold its international human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as well as its own national constitution which protects the right to freedom of expression,’ said the groups.

    The groups urged the Indonesian government to ensure that all persons can express their opinions without fear of reprisals and to ensure its actions are compliant with Indonesia’s Constitutional protections for human rights and the ICCPR, of which Indonesia is a State Party. The National Human Rights Institution, Komnas HAM, must also work towards ensuring the protection of defenders facing judicial harassment, the groups said.

    On 22 September, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment filed a police report against human rights defenders Fatia Maulidiyanti, Coordinator of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (Kontras), and Haris Azhar, Founder of Lokataru Foundation. The police report alleges that the two individuals violated criminal defamation provisions (Article 310 (1) of the Penal Code), and the controversial Electronic Information and Transaction law (EIT Law). Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan has reportedly demanded IDR 300 billion, approximately USD 21 million, in compensation.

    The report was filed after subpoenas were earlier sent to the two human rights defenders, following a talk show on Haris Azhar’s YouTube channel, titled ‘Ada Lord Luhut di balik Relasi Ekonomi-Ops Militer Intan Jaya!! Jenderal BIN Juga Ada!!’, (There is Lord Luhut behind the relation of Economy-Military Operation Intan Jaya!! General of State Intelligence Agency is also there!!) in which Haris Azhar and Fatia Maulidiyanti discussed the findings of a multi-stakeholder report revealing the alleged involvement of active and retired Indonesian army officials in the business operations of the gold mining sector.

    In the report, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan was identified as being affiliated with mining company PT Madinah Qurrata'ain, which holds the Derewo River Gold Project permit in Papua Province's Intan Jaya Regency, located along the Derewo fault zone, northwest of Grasberg and Wabu.

    Through shareholding, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan is affiliated with PT Toba Sejahtera, whose subsidiary PT Tobacom Del Mandiri or PT Tambang Raya Sejahtra is said to have acquired a 30 percent stake in PT Madinah Qurrata'ain. 

    The report also recorded the escalation of violent and armed conflict triggered by military operations, one of which occurred in the Intan Jaya Regency. The conflict resulted in the loss of civilian lives and the displacement of thousands of people, including children and women.

    ‘The legal actions by the Coordinating Minister constitute judicial harassment and abuse of power. It criminalises the rights of these two human rights defenders to express their opinions on public affairs and creates a chilling environment for individuals who criticise the government,’ the groups said. 

    ‘We call on the Indonesian government to amend all repressive laws and legal provisions that hinder the protection of freedom of expression, and ensure the laws align with international human rights standards. The criminalisation of defamation is an inherently disproportionate and unnecessary restriction to the right to freedom of opinion and expression, under international human rights law. Indonesia must immediately drop the charges against Fatia and Haris and take steps towards preventing the misuse of litigation against human rights defenders and civil society that erode the exercise of their rights,’ they concluded.

    Endorsed by the following organisations:

    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    ASEAN Regional Coalition to #StopDigitalDictatorship 

    • Manushya Foundation
    • SAFEnet
    • Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)
    • Access Now
    • ELSAM
    • ALTSEAN-Burma

    Asia Democracy Network (ADN)
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
    Front Line Defenders (FLD)
    Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) 
    Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI) 
    Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) 
    OMCT (World Organisation Against Torture), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

    Civic space in Indonesia is rated 'obstructed' by the CIVICUS Monitor.


    For further information or to request interviews with CIVICUS staff, please contact:


  • International Organisational Committee of the Parallel OSCE Civil Society Conference

    For immediate release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    For more information contact:

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


  • Iraq: Over 700 people killed and 2800 arrested since protests started in October

    Statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Iraq's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
    Watch us deliver our statement below

    During the 2nd Universal Periodic Review cycle, the Government of Iraq received eight recommendations relating to civic space. Of these recommendations, seven were accepted and one was noted, but our analysis indicates that none of the recommendations have been implemented. During this cycle, Iraq accepted a number of recommendations relating to civic space,  including recommendations to “guarantee freedom of expression and opinion by protecting the action of journalists, media professionals and human rights defenders from all use of violence and threats by security forces” and to “guarantee the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly in law and practice.” 

    Iraq has severely restricted the right to freedom of expression, by detaining, intimidating and failing to bring to account the extra-judicial killings of journalists. Journalist Nizar Dhanoun was assassinated on 11 February 2020. Alaa Al-Shammari, a reporter for Dijla Satellite TV in the city of Najaf, was severely beaten by riot police on 26 November 2019. The station’s office in Baghdad was later closed and its private broadcasting equipment confiscated. Countless other cases of intimidation have been reported.

    Protests that started 1 October 2019 and focused on high levels of corruption, unemployment and poor service delivery, have been met with widescale arrests and a violent crackdown by authorities on protestors. Reports indicate that almost 700 people have been killed during the protests and over 2,800 arrested. Iraq has failed to hold to account those responsible for the deaths of protestors and journalists, nor has it amended the legal frameworks that further restricts civic space. The penal code curtails freedom of assembly, including through its 2003 Provisional Order 19 which includes a requirement to submit the names and addresses of protestors 24 hours in advance. 

    For this reason, Madame President, we urge the Government of Iraq to amend the legal framework currently restricting civic space, immediately and unconditionally release all protestors, and bring to justice those responsible for the extra-judicial killing of protesters and journalists in Iraq.

    Civic space in Iraq is currently rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor

    See civil society recommendations that were submitted to the UN Human Rights Council about the conditions of human rights in Iraq.

    See our wider advocacy priorities and programme of activities at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council


  • Irom Sharmila

    Irom Sharmila

    Name: Irom Sharmila  

    Location: India

    Reason Behind Bars:

    Irom has been on a hunger strike since 2000 to highlight persistent human rights abuses committed by Indian security forces under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1958 (AFSPA). Under Section 4 (A) of the law, security forces involved in counter-insurgency operations in “disturbed areas” are given the authority to arrest, detain and even use lethal force against persons suspected of being a threat to “public order.”  Of critical concern is section 6(A) of the law which prohibits courts from holding security officials accountable for their human rights abuses without prior government approval. The law is regularly invoked to forcefully suppress public demonstrations, particularly in insurgency affected areas, including the states of Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur. Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee, a committee founded in 2004 by the government of India to review AFSPA, recommended that the law should be amended as it institutionalizes abuse, repression and discrimination.

    On 2 November 2000, members of the Assam Rifles, one of India’s oldest paramilitary forces, allegedly shot and killed 10 people at a bus stop in Imphal Valley, Manipur. However, despite accusations that the shooting constituted extrajudicial executions the Indian authorities refused to investigate the incident, concluding that it was within the mandate of AFSPA.   In protest of the government’s failure to investigate the incident, Irom decided to indefinitely prolong her traditional Thursday fasts, which she has been carrying out since childhood, to demand the repeal of AFSPA. 

    On 5 November 2000, Irom was arrested by the Indian police under  Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalizes attempts to commit suicide. Section 309 prescribes 1 year in prison to “whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence”. Every year since 2000, Irom has been re- arrested  and charged under the law  and forced fed in detention.

    On 20 August 2014, the District and Sessions Judge of Imphal East released Irom stating that refusing food and water doesn’t constitute attempted suicide. However, despite the court ruling, on 22 August 2014, Irom was forcefully re-arrested by the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Imphal East and taken to  Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JNIMS) to be force fed through her nose.  Directly preceding her arrest, Irom was staging a peaceful hunger strike a kilometre away from a government hospital where she has been  imprisoned for the past year.  The government’s relentless judicial persecution of Irom is based solely on her independent activism and represents a severe breach of her basic civil rights. Irom must be immediately and unconditionally released.

    For more information:
    Frontline Defenders: Human rights defender Ms Irom Chanu Sharmila re-arrested
    Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign
    Three days after her release, anti-AFSPA activist Irom Sharmila re-arrested from protest site

    Take action:
    Send a letter to President Pranab Mukherjee and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi
    Write to Indian authorities and Indian diplomatic missions around the world demanding Irom’s release


  • Is there hope for a human rights-respecting culture in Bahrain?

    Guest article by Nedal Al-Salman and Kristina Stockwood


  • ISRAEL: There is a lack of political will to end the occupation


    Twitter: Amit Gilutz

    After a tough year for dissent in the occupied Palestinian territories, CIVICUS speaks to Amit Gilutz, spokesperson of B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. Founded in 1989, B’Tselem (which means ‘in the image of’, pointing to the universal moral edict to respect and uphold the human rights of all people) strives to end Israel’s occupation, which it sees as the only way to achieve a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all people, Palestinian and Israeli alike, who inhabit the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. It does so by documenting and publicising acts of injustice, violence and human rights violations in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip, and by challenging the legitimacy of the occupation regime both in Israel and internationally.

    How would you describe the environment for civil society in Israel over the past year? Has it worsened or improved?

    The recent Israeli governments - each more extremely right-wing than its predecessor - have for years engaged in a campaign aimed at silencing criticism of their policies in general and specifically stifling any debate about the occupation. Not only are human rights organisations such as B’Tselem targeted: anyone critical of the government, whether they be journalists, academics, or artists, easily becomes the target for incitement through smear campaigns and legislation designed to narrow the space available for political or even cultural action. At the same time the government is engaged in intensive international lobbying aimed at cutting funding for civil society organisations (CSOs). This process, widely referred to as ‘shrinking democratic space’, is the predictable consequence of the prolonged occupation itself, now in its 51st year. It is paralleled with another push to erase the occupation, namely the formal annexation of the territories, which the current government seems to be keener on than previous ones.

    What effects have the turn towards right-wing populism abroad, and particularly in the USA, Israel’s most powerful ally, had in Israel?

    Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has been joining forces with other reactionary and populist governments around the world, aiming to create new alliances that would diminish the ability of the international community to act effectively against the occupation. These alliances, together with the green light Israel sees coming from Washington, including through a series of unilateral measures the US administration has taken against Palestinians, has emboldened the pro-settlement camp in Israel, as well as the government to step up its efforts in the dynamic process of gradually taking over more and more Palestinian land and resources, while pushing Palestinians onto enclaves that are detached from one another and from resources needed for a sustainable future.

    A case in point is the plan to forcibly remove the Palestinian community of Khan al-Ahmar, which is a war crime under international law. For decades Israel has created a coercive environment for dozens of Palestinian communities in the West Bank, hoping they will give up and leave, as if by their own volition, while stopping short of directly loading them onto trucks and dumping them elsewhere. These are the kinds of images that would damage the PR efforts of a state that purports to be a democracy, while at the same time controlling millions of subjects with no political rights. In the current political climate, Israel seems to be nearing a point in which this consideration will no longer stop it, although the planned forcible transfer of Khan al-Ahmar’s residents is for now on hold, thanks to international pressure.

    How significant was the Knesset’s decision to pass the contentious nation-state bill into law, declaring Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people”?

    Although significant, none of the laws passed recently should be seen in isolation because it is their totality that matters. Their combined purpose is to mark any opposition to the occupation as illegitimate, as lying beyond the border of acceptable politics, and to further marginalise the Palestinian citizens of Israel. That said, the opposition to the nation-state bill has been quite exceptional, and one can only hope that this opposition can be sustained.

    How do you work in the occupied territories, and what challenges do you face in doing so?

    B’Tselem field researchers are Palestinians who work in the communities in which they live, all across the Occupied Territories. The reality of the occupation is something that they experience on both the personal, as well as the professional, level. Take for example the B’Tselem field researchers based in blockaded Gaza: together with two million Palestinians they live under this reality. On a personal level, it’s part of their lives. On a professional level, the fact that they never get a permit from Israeli authorities to leave the Gaza Strip means that it’s almost impossible for them to meet with colleagues from the B’Tselem team. A permit to exit the strip would also mean some relief from the inhumane conditions that the blockade Israel imposes on Gaza has created. In the occupied West Bank, our field researchers and volunteers have been arrested, strip-searched and harassed, have had their equipment confiscated and otherwise prevented from doing their work.

    On the other side, in Israel proper, life of course is much more ‘normal’ – as exposed as our team is to the ongoing hate speech and government incitement. Specifically, Hagai El-Ad, B’Tselem’s Executive Director, has once again recently been a target of incitement. In October 2018, when he appeared for the second time in front of the United Nations (UN) Security Council, Israel’s Envoy to the UN, Danny Dannon, boasted in English about Israeli democracy, while addressing Hagai in Hebrew and accusing him of being a traitor.

    What extra help, including from international civil society, does progressive civil society in Israel need to help create a future in which Israelis and Palestinians can coexist and enjoy equal human rights?

    We need civilians around the world to demand that their representatives do nothing short of decisive action in order to bring an end to the occupation. What we lack is not political solutions but political will, and meanwhile an unbearable toll is taken on Palestinians.

    Civic space in Israel is rated as ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor

    Get in touch with B’Tselem through theirwebsite orFacebook page, or follow@btselem and@amit_gilutz on Twitter


  • JAMAICA: ‘We must establish a republic – where the people are sovereign and not the Queen’

    Rosalea HamiltonCIVICUS speaks about the movement to make Jamaica a republic with Professor Rosalea Hamilton, founding director of the Institute of Law and Economics and member of the Advocates Network.

    The Advocates Network is a non-partisan alliance of individuals and organisations advocating for human rights and good government in Jamaica.

    What are the goals of the movement for republicanism in Jamaica?

    To understand the goals, let’s break down the concept of republicanism. It means different things to different people. Perhaps the most popular, widespread view of a republic is a state without a monarch. This is the view held by many countries across the region that have removed Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, Barbados being the most recent case, and declared themselves a republic. But the other concept of a republic, as a state in which the people are sovereign, is typically ignored or downplayed.

    Since Barbados became a republic in November 2021, the republican conversation, which had started in Jamaica around 1995, gained momentum. Having learned from the experience of our Caribbean neighbours, many of us now view the concept of a republic as involving not just the removal of the Queen but also the establishment of a state where the people are sovereign and not the Queen.

    Although we have a representative, democratic form of government, it does not effectively represent the will of the people. Therefore, a core objective in creating a republic would be to strengthen and deepen our representative democracy to ensure we have a government of, by and for the people.

    So for those of us who are part of the Advocates Network, our goal is not just removing the Queen as head of state, which we see as a necessary first step, but also deepening our democracy and ensuring the establishment of a state where the Jamaican people are sovereign.

    What explains the recent momentum of the movement for republicanism in Jamaica?

    Most recently, the movement gathered strength in response to the royal visit to Jamaica in March 2022, which was viewed as inappropriate not only because it was during the throes of the pandemic, but because we were – and still are – grappling with pre-existing issues that have been exacerbated due to the pandemic. These include high murder rates, undereducated children, child abuse, gender-based violence and inadequate housing. Many of us in the Advocates Network are actively involved in tackling these problems, which we view as rooted in our colonial past. We think it’s time not only to move away from the monarchy, but also fix these colonial legacy problems. 

    The royal visit was therefore seen as a distraction. But it also provided an opportunity for Jamaicans to learn more about the royal family and their active role in the trafficking and enslavement of Africans. Jamaicans became more aware of the details of past atrocities and have begun questioning the role of the Queen as head of state after 60 years of independence. Social media has played a big role in helping to build awareness and deepen understanding.

    But there are also several other factors at play. The world is changing. For us in the Caribbean and across the Black African world, something shifted with the murder of George Floyd in the USA and the Black Lives Matter movement. As the entire world saw the video of a white man kneeling on the neck of a Black man, we found that our Governor-General – the official who represents the Queen in Jamaica – was wearing an insignia with a white angel standing on the head of a devil depicted as Black. It was a shocking reminder of the link between our colonial past and our institutions today.

    That woke people up. The George Floyd murder, and the many racist incidents that followed in the USA, the UK and elsewhere in Europe, reminded us that we still live in a world where people are treated as less than human based on the colour of their skin. The unheard calls for reparations are becoming louder as we try to come to grips with a past that is still with us.

    The movement for republicanism can therefore be seen as a rejection of our colonial past and its modern-day expressions in the form of racism, discrimination, inequity and more.

    In light of the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, what do you think the relationship between Caribbean countries and the UK will look like going forward?

    A lot will depend on how the UK responds to the growing calls of Caribbean people and our governments for a different relationship than we have had in the past. The formal position of Caribbean governments is to engage in a reparatory process. Governments may choose to be patient with this process, but increasingly many Caribbean people are demanding a formal apology and reparations, as was evident during the royal visits to the region. Many are saying it’s time!

    The voices are getting louder, not only in the Caribbean but in the USA and other parts of the world. The rejection by the majority of the Commonwealth heads of government of Kamina Johnson Smith, the candidate for Secretary-General who was openly backed by the UK, is indicative of this changing relationship with the UK.

    If the UK doesn’t respond positively and continues its racist, discriminatory policies, the relationship is likely to become more antagonistic.

    But I am hopeful things will change. An important part of our response to the royal visit was an open letter listing 60 historical reasons for an apology and reparations from the UK and its royal family. It was a way to bring to their attention the horrors of the past, because we are not sure they understand our history.

    It may be working. I noted that at a Commonwealth conference, Prince Charles said he’s still learning about the past. Most of us are still learning, and unlearning, what we were taught about the past.

    The UK has a great opportunity to rebuild this historic relationship on less exploitative and more humane terms. Engaging in a meaningful reparatory justice process can create a framework to build a mutually beneficial relationship that puts the past behind us and enable us to build a better future for generations to come. 

    How is the Advocates Network working towards these goals?

    We are advocates for human rights and good governance, issues that are central to creating a people-centred republic. So we are actively engaged in public education and building public awareness about what it will take to create a republic where the Jamaican people are sovereign. Right now, we are organising online forums. We won’t stop until we are on the right path to creating a meaningful republic. As we say: ‘Wi Naa Ease Up!’

    Public education is key! The 60 reasons appended to the open letter to the royals was to educate not just the royals about our history but also our fellow Jamaicans. We want Jamaicans to understand the many reasons we must remove the Queen as head of state. It’s simply unacceptable to have a head of state who refuses to formally apologise for an atrocity that the United Nations has labelled as constituting crimes against humanity.

    The major obstacle to overcome is to shift the mindset of Jamaicans to see themselves as owners of Jamaica with sovereign responsibility to determine the future of Jamaica. If we make this shift, a meaningful republic that can better address the pressing issues facing Jamaicans will be within our grasp.

    What international help do the movement and its people need?

    The work involved in creating a meaningful republic as well as pursuing reparatory justice is indeed challenging. It’s a heavy burden. It’s a painful burden to confront our past and change our society. Unearthing the past to guide our future is heavy lifting.

    Collaboration, especially in disseminating information, is important for our education campaign, including through interviews by a global south organisation based in South Africa, such as CIVICUS.

    Financial resources are helpful, but in-kind support is as important and will certainly help us to reduce the burden. Access to research materials, educational opportunities, media facilitation, technological assistance and international forums will be helpful. We welcome opportunities to amplify our voices in collaboration with individuals and organisations with similar objectives in other countries.

    Civic space in Jamaica is rated ‘narrowed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Follow@Advocatesnetja and@rosaleahamilton on Twitter.


  • JAPAN: ‘Links between politics and the religious right have impeded progress on LGBTQI+ rights’

    Akira NishiyamaCIVICUS speaks with Akira Nishiyama, executive officer of the Japan Alliance for Legislation to Remove Social Barriers based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation, J-ALL).

    J-ALL was founded in 2015 to advocate for legislation to remove the barriers LGBTQI+ people experience due to their sexual orientation or gender identity in Japan. It focuses on raising awareness among the public, producing research and convening consultations, developing policy proposals and lobbying with government officials and legislators.

    What is the situation of LGBTQI+ people in Japan?

    LGBTQI+ people are estimated to make up between three and 10 per cent of Japan’s population. Many are closeted for fear of discrimination and prejudice. According to recent research, over half of teenagers who identify as LGBTQI+ have been bullied, and only about 10 per cent of LGBTQI+ people are able to come out at their workplace. The rate of LGBTQI+ people who have considered suicide is about twice as high as among their heterosexual counterparts and the rate of those who attempt suicide is six times higher – and 10 times higher among transgender people.

    Such a vulnerable status is caused by the absence of a law at the national level that prohibits discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) and raises awareness of LGBTQI+ and SOGI issues. We believe that an anti-discrimination law would enable us to solve social problems such as bullying and SOGI-based discrimination due to prejudice or misunderstanding and effectively deter and remedy human rights violations. It would force governmental agencies, educational institutions and private companies to prepare preventive schemes so that SOGI-related human rights violations would not take place, and make consultation services available.

    Additionally, Japan’s Act on Special Cases in Handling Gender Status of Persons with Gender Identity Disorder sets strict conditions to change one’s legal gender status. Under this law, a person with a so-called ‘gender identity disorder’ must be diagnosed by two or more psychiatrists and must fulfil five conditions to request the family court to make a ruling towards change of their gender status, which is still thought of in binary terms: they must be above 18 years of age, not be married at the time of the gender change, have no children who are still minors, have no reproductive glands, or only reproductive glands that have permanently lost their function, and have body parts that appear to resemble the genitals of the other gender.

    These conditions are considered too strict compared to those of other countries. In 2015, 12 United Nations organisations issued a joint statement asking the Japanese government to ensure the legal recognition of the gender identity of transgender people without such abusive requirements, but the Japanese government has not yet made any moves in that direction.

    What work does J-ALL do?

    J-ALL was established in April 2015 in response to a call from politicians and the LGBTQI+ community to reach a consensus and make effective policy recommendations. For the previous decade or so, civil society organisations (CSOs) in Japan had been lobbying separately on LGBTQI+ and SOGI-related issues.

    J-ALL is an umbrella organisation with 96 member CSOs from throughout Japan. It is run by directors who are leaders of CSOs in various regions. Its secretariat is managed by executive officers who specialise in lobbying, public relations and international affairs, as well as student interns.

    Our lobbying activities have succeeded in pushing forward several SOGI-related laws. For instance, in October 2018 the Tokyo Metropolitan Government adopted an ordinance that protects LGBTQI+ people from SOGI-based discrimination in line with the Olympic Charter. This ordinance clearly stipulates anti-discrimination based on SOGI and was the first ordinance of its kind at the prefectural level.

    In addition, in May 2019 the Japanese government amended the law on harassment. The amended version requires private entities and municipal governments to set guidelines to prohibit harassment and outing based on SOGI in the workplace.

    As the only CSO aimed at proposing SOGI-related bills, J-ALL is pushing politicians and governmental officers at both national and municipal levels by working together with Rengo – the Japanese Trade Union Confederation and a member of the International Trade Union Confederation – eminent scholars and researchers of labour law and international human rights law, and activists fighting to eliminate all kinds of discrimination, including discrimination against women. In recent years, around 40 companies have signed a statement to support the LGBT Equality Law, which would ban anti-LGBTQI+ discrimination. Economic federations have also declared the necessity for legislation on SOGI.

    Have you faced any anti-rights backlash?

    As the social movement to promote the rights of LGBTQI+ people has grown, backlash by religious right-wing groups, ultra-conservative politicians and trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERF) groups has also grown. For instance, several politicians gave discriminatory speeches against LGBTQI+ people in response to discussions regarding the anti-discrimination bill agreed on by LGBT Giren, a nonpartisan political caucus set up to discuss SOGI-related human rights violations in 2021. Bashing against transgender women and LGBTQI+ people based on heteronormativity, conventional understandings of the family and stereotypical images of women are prevalent in both the real world and the internet.

    Japan has not made much progress on gender inequality, let alone LGBTQI+ rights and SOGI-related issues. This is because the Japanese government is closely connected with religious right-wing groups based on the values of male chauvinism and a patriarchal view of the family. Because of these close ties, ruling politicians have long ignored the existence of people with diverse sexualities and gender identities and have sustained a social system that lacks SOGI-related education and allows for SOGI-based human rights violations. As a result, LGBTQI+ people face wide-ranging challenges such as prejudice, bullying and harassment, and victims of SOGI-related human rights violations are not protected by the law.

    We believe that Japanese civil society needs to recognise this connection between mainstream politics and the religious right in order to tackle human rights issues in earnest. It is also important to learn about which groups of people are marginalised by the current social systems built by the majority and what kind of human rights violations they face, and to take actions such as electoral participation and making public comments based on these concerns.

    How is civil society working to achieve marriage equality, and what was the significance of the recent verdicts of the Sapporo and Osaka district courts?

    There is a CSO, Marriage For ALL Japan, that has been working actively and specifically to achieve the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Japan. In 2019 this organisation filed lawsuits in five districts – Fukuoka, Nagoya, Osaka, Sapporo and Tokyo – and has been conducting awareness-raising activities across the nation.

    In March 2021, the Sapporo District Court ruled that not allowing same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. After a careful scrutiny of the scientific and medical arguments currently used to deny legal benefits to same-sex couples, the Sapporo District Court reasoned that the failure to allow ‘even a certain degree’ of legal benefits to same-sex couples based on their sexual orientation is against Article 14 of the Constitution, which stipulates equality under the law. Although the court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim for compensation, its verdict was viewed as a step that would surely accelerate the movement to legalise same-sex marriage in Japan.

    But then in June 2022, the Osaka District Court concluded that not allowing same-sex marriages does not violate Article 14, given that the legal disadvantages faced by same-sex couples can be compensated by wills or other means. In addition, the court emphasised that the gap between the benefits enjoyed by heterosexual and same-sex couples has been minimised by the recognition of same-sex partnerships at the municipal level. This, however, overlooks the fact that the municipal system of partnership recognition is not legally binding.

    The Osaka District Court also claimed that the ‘true’ elimination of discrimination and prejudice should be achieved by constructing a social system through the democratic process of free discussion by the people. This was criticised by civil society as an abdication of the judiciary’s crucial role as the bastion of human rights. Also under fire is the court’s claim that marriage is purely for the purpose of reproduction.

    How can the international community support LGBTQI+ people fighting for their rights in Japan?

    Since 2020 J-ALL has been running a global campaign, Equality Act Japan (EAJ), alongside Human Rights Watch and other global human rights organisations. We would like you to sign the petition found in our website to ask the Japanese government to enact the LGBT Equality Act.

    If you are a private company, we will appreciate your cooperation in adhering to the Declaration of Business Support for LGBT Equality in Japan, which we promote as a part of the EAJ campaign.

    Last but not least, we would be happy if you could join us by checking out the current situation in Japan, follow our activities through our website or social media, and support us through a one-time or a monthly donation.

    Civic space in Japan is rated as ‘narrowed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with J-ALL through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@lgbthourengokai on Twitter. 


  • JAPAN: ‘The vulnerability of the homeless is the result of contemporary society’s built-in social exclusion’

    CIVICUS speaks to Tsubasa Yuki ofMoyai Support Centre for Independent Living about the situation of homeless people amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan. Founded in 2001, the Moyai Support Centre supports homeless people by creating a community space and providing advice and rent guarantees for those seeking housing.

    In Japan it is illegal to beg on the streets and there is little sympathy for homeless people, who are commonly stereotyped as running away from gambling debts. Tokyo’s preparations for the Olympic Games, originally planned for 2020 and now postponed to 2021, prompted the removal of homeless tents around railway stations and parks. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Moyai Support Centre started an online petition to request permission from the Tokyo Olympic organisers and the city government to use the Olympic Village as a homeless shelter. 

    Tsubasa Yuki

    Can you tell us about the work of the Moyai Support Centre for Independent Living?

    Our programmes for supporting homeless people are threefold, and most of them are not exclusive for people in homelessness. Firstly, we have a consultation service, Seikatsu-Soudan. Every Tuesday, around 20 people visit our office asking for immediate help. In most cases, they are seriously impoverished and need public assistance. In those cases, we provide them with accurate information about social welfare services and support their application processes.

    Secondly, we provide rent guarantees for homeless people seeking secure housing. After applying for public assistance, people are usually allocated to shelters and then start searching for apartments, and this is where we come in. We have provided rent guarantees for more than 2,000 people in total. However, insurance issued by private companies has recently become more common. So we advise our visitors to use those private companies if they can, and often our representative provides his phone number as an emergency contact when they apply for private insurance.

    Thirdly, we have a community space. It is often the case that even after getting secure housing, formerly homeless people do not have any place to be when they go out. So we have a café, Salon de Café Komorebi, which opens every Saturday. This café is managed by our staff alongside many volunteers, including formerly homeless people. Unfortunately, the café is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    What was the situation of homeless people in Japan before the pandemic?

    Some general trends can be identified. In Tokyo, and probably in other Japanese cities, there are at least 1,000 rough sleepers, most of whom are male and relatively old, with an average age around the mid-50s. They usually combine multiple strategies for survival: they are day labourers, seek other informal jobs, scavenge and eat at soup kitchens. In the case of Tokyo, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) has a public employment programme through which rough sleepers can gain a monthly cash income of around 20,000 yen (approx. US$190). Rough sleepers are mostly single males, but many of them form some kind of community in which they share useful information and, less frequently, jobs.

    In addition to rough sleepers, at least 4,000 people use cyber cafés and other facilities to spend the night in. Most of them are employed in the most insecure part of the labour market – they are cleaning staff, security officers, construction workers, or have transportation jobs. While they may seem to have relatively more secure housing than rough sleepers, the truth is that cyber cafés are segregated into compartments and as a result, these people usually don’t have any communities they belong to.

    What specific challenges have homeless people faced during the pandemic?

    The most striking point is that many community-based and faith-based organisations and other groups suspended soup kitchens due to fear of spreading the virus. This has made it really hard for rough sleepers to get enough food and vital information about the virus and the public services available to them.

    In addition, public employment services stopped in April 2020 and as a result, rough sleepers have lost their major source of cash income. Cash incomes from the informal economy, including scavenging, also declined because of the lockdown and stay-at-home policies.

    In April, the TMG requested that many enterprises in the service economy suspend their business. Cyber cafés and similar facilities were also requested to stop operating. Although this was not mandated by law, many enterprises followed the policy. As a result, people living in cyber cafés lost their places to sleep. Many of them also lost their jobs and incomes due to economic decline prompted by the lockdown policy.

    How have the Moyai Support Centre and other civil society organisations (CSOs) responded to the situation? 

    Many CSOs have had to stop their activities as well. We closed our café in April 2020. But at the same time, we extended our consultation services. Currently, in addition to the Tuesday consultation service, we have set up a soup kitchen and provide consultation services in front of the TMG office, together with another civil society group, Shinjuku Gohan Plus. In April alone, we distributed more than 600 packages of food and provided consultation services to more than 150 people.

    As well as providing direct services to people in need, we have started a petition so we can use the Olympic Village set up for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics as a shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, the petition has collected more than 50,000 signatures.

    Under the pandemic, the TMG made 2,000 hotel rooms available as shelter for those expelled from cyber cafés, and more than 800 people have been using them. But it is not clear whether this policy will be extended after the state of emergency ends. The Olympic Village can be the next place to accommodate them.

    In July and August 2020, we will have elections for the TMG. We are trying to tackle the shortage of decent shelters for people facing homelessness by making the issue one of the major topics in the coming election for Tokyo’s governor. As it is connected both to issues of the Olympics and COVID-19, it is now attracting a great deal of attention from people inside and outside Tokyo. So we are now planning to submit a petition and deliver an open questionnaire letter to candidates in the election. They will be obliged to express their stance and opinions on the issue of homelessness in Tokyo. 

    But we understand these are only temporary solutions. Be it at hotels or the Olympic Village, these are only temporary shelters at best. The next step for us is to support homeless people to find secure housing, that is, get their own apartment. This is challenging even for people who have successfully applied for and received public assistance. We are trying to reach them in shelters and support them in finding apartments.

    But this cannot be done solely by CSOs like us. This mass transition from shelters to apartments can only be successfully accomplished with the help of willing and conscientious owners and landlords. The next goal for both CSOs and public entities should be to gain their support.

    What lessons have you learned so far around the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on homeless people?

    The current situation reveals that soup kitchens and other voluntary activities played a vital role as an information centre for homeless people, and especially for rough sleepers. People in that situation have scarce access to important information about COVID-19 and related policies and services. Some of them gain information from radio and newspapers but these media are not available to all rough sleepers. Thus, for many of them, voluntary activities are almost the only source of accurate information.

    Further, while it might be common knowledge that homeless people are particularly vulnerable to disasters, it is worth noting that homeless people and those working in insecure jobs have been the first to be affected by the pandemic, and the hardest hit. Stay-at-home policies might be one of the most effective strategies against the pandemic, but they presuppose that people have secure housing and a certain amount of savings. For those people with no secure housing, employment status and savings, it is almost impossible to follow the policy. In addition, homeless people are not eligible for any of the compensation or temporary income support that is available to other people. The vulnerability of the homeless is the result of contemporary Japanese society’s built-in social exclusion.

    Civic space inJapan is rated as ‘narrowed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with the Moyai Support Centre for Independent Living through itswebsite.


  • Joint letter on Colombia: COVID-19 cannot be a smokescreen to target social leaders

    Joint Letter: Colombia must implement the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recommendations regarding social leaders, even during the pandemic

    In its recent report, IACHR crucially underscores the importance of recognizing the right to defend rights and the fundamental role of social leaders in Colombia, especially in the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The report Human Rights Defenders and Social Leaders in Colombia, recently presented by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) after their visit to the country in November 2018 repeatedly highlights that the work of human rights defenders and social leaders is essential for the full assurance of the Rule of Law and constitutes an indispensable pillar for the strengthening and consolidation of democracy. When the defense of human rights is impeded, it is not only a particular individual or community that is affected; attacks against social leaders affect the cohesion and continuity of social organization on a larger scale.

    Social leaders play a fundamental role in maintaining the social fabric in their communities, often under precarious security conditions. In the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the recommendations in the report are even more important to safeguard their work. As Erlendy Cuero, social leader and Vice President of the National Association of Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES), stated in a recent series by Dejusticia on pandemic and inequality, #DelMiedoALaAcción [From Fear to Action], during the pandemic, "homicides, threats and persecution have increased because we find ourselves in a situation where the support for some leaders with protection measures has been reduced and those who do not have security measures are left unprotected.” The latter is compounded by the fact that leaders, who have to stay at home because of the coronavirus, are at greater risk because they are more easily located.

    Leaders in areas far from urban centers are more vulnerable, meaning the Colombian government’s adoption of the IACHR’s recommendations in those areas is even more essential. 

    Key recommendations made by the Commission include that Colombia: 

    • “Redouble its efforts to implement the Peace Agreement so that the right conditions are in place all around the country for people to be able to defend human rights and defend communities”.
    • “Involve social organizations in any efforts to develop a comprehensive public policy on prevention and on protection of human rights defenders and social leaders, reactivating platforms for dialogue such as the National Roundtable on Guarantees and the National Commission on Security Guarantees, in which agreements have already been worked out”
    • “Properly implement any precautionary measures granted by the InterAmerican Commission and keep protection arrangements in place for beneficiaries as long as the measures are in force”
    • “Take all necessary measures to ensure that authorities or third parties do not manipulate the punitive power of the State and its institutions of justice to harass human rights defenders and harm their work. Ensure that the proper punishment is applied if this occurs”
    • “Adopt measures to investigate with due diligence and confront impunity regarding crimes committed against human rights defenders and social leaders in the country, establishing the perpetrators and masterminds of the crimes”
    • "Improve coordination between national and local so that protection measures can be adapted to safeguard the rights of human rights defenders and social leaders and ensure that measures are effective in remote rural areas" 
    • "Agree on protection measures to address the level of risk, listening to and consulting with the human rights defenders in order to develop a timely, specialized intervention that is proportionate to the potential risk and has a differentiated approach.”
    • "Improve coordination with international human rights organizations" with which the Commission ends its report.

    The signatory organizations place special emphasis on the Inter-American Commission’s recognition of the right to defend rights and its call to comply with the provisions contained in the Final Peace Agreement, in line with the constitutional judges in the recent tutela [protection] action judgments confirming #TheRighttoDefendRights presented by various social leaders and organizations in the country, at the end of 2019.


    ARTICLE 19
    Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente (AIDA)
    Asociación Minga
    Amnesty International
    Business & Human Rights Resource Centre 
    Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo - Cajar
    Comisión Colombiana de Juristas (CCJ)
    Espacio Público
    Front Line Defenders (FLD)
    Fundación Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos (FCSPP)
    International Land Coalition - LAC (ILC LAC)
    International Service for Human RIghts (ISHR)
    International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA)
    Latin America Working Group (LAWG)
    Not1More (N1M)
    Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
    Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe por la Democracia (REDLAD)
    Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights 
    Unión Nacional de Instituciones para el Trabajo de Acción Social (UNITAS)
    Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)


  • Joint letter to new Ethiopian Prime Minister on recent arrests of journalists and human rights defenders

    In a letter to the Ethiopian Prime Minister-designate, a coalition of over 40 civil society organisations express their concern regarding the recent arrests of journalists and human rights defenders

    To: Prime Minister-Designate, Dr. Abiy Ahmed Ali 
    Cc: Abadula Gemeda, Speaker of the House of Peoples’ Representative
    Your Excellencies, 

    The undersigned international, regional and national human rights and development organisations write to express our grave concern over the recent arrest of 11 Ethiopian journalists, bloggers and political opposition leaders amid a new crackdown on fundamental freedoms. Such measures undermine the Ethiopian government's international human rights obligations as well as recent political commitments to initiate an era of widespread democratic political reform. As you assume your position as Prime Minister, we urge the Ethiopian Government to immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders, political activists and journalists, including the 11 individuals detained this week. 

    On 25 March 2018, Ethiopian police and security forces arrested journalists Eskinder Nega and Temesgen Desalegn, Zone9 bloggers Mahlet Fantahun, Befekadu Hailu, blogger Zelalem Workaggnhu  and political activists Andualem Arage, Addisu Getinet, Yidnekachewu Addis, Sintayehu Chekol, Tefera Tesfaye and Woynshet Molla.

    The arrests were carried out while the defenders were attending a private meeting in Addis Ababa at the home of journalist Temesgen Desalegn. The private gathering was held in recognition of the recent release of thousands of political prisoners amidst ongoing and widespread protests against political marginalisation and land grabbing in the Oromia and Amhara regions which began in late 2015. The eleven are currently being held at Gotera-Pepsi Police Station in Addis Ababa.

    Days earlier on 8 March, authorities arrested Seyoum Teshome, a prominent blogger and university lecturer. Teshome, who is a frequent contributor to and was detained for three months under the previous State of Emergency, is currently being held in the notorious Maekelawi Prison in Addis Ababa. 

    While the authorities have not publicly indicated if charges will be brought against the defenders, under the February reinstatement of the national State of Emergency, groups and individuals must seek permission from the Command Post to host public gatherings.

    Prior to their release in February, several of the defenders had previously been imprisoned for periods ranging from two to seven years in relation to their legitimate work as journalists, bloggers and political activists. Eskinder Nega and the Zone9 Bloggers are recipients of international awards celebrating their contribution to independent journalism and human rights. 

    The arrests follow the declaration of a national State of Emergency on 16 February by the Cabinet for a period of six months. The State of Emergency includes a number of draconian and overbroad provisions. Among other worrying violations of fundamental democratic freedoms, the State of Emergency imposes a blanket ban on all protests, the dissemination of any publication deemed to “incite and sow discord” including those who criticise the State of Emergency, and allows for warrantless arrest.

    Such measures are contrary to international human rights law and the Ethiopian Constitution and are counter-productive to peace and security. The invocation of the State of Emergency criminalises dissent and persecutes human rights defenders, protesters and journalists.

    We urge the government of Ethiopia to: (i) immediately release all human rights defenders, political opponents and journalists detained for exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly; (ii) end all forms of harassment against journalists and all citizens with critical views on national matters and; (iii) review and amend the State of Emergency to ensure that any limitations on fundamental rights are in line with  international human rights obligations.


    Access Now
    African Law Foundation (Nigeria)
    ARTICLE 19
    Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
    Asia Democracy Network (ADN)
    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    Asian Legal Resource Center (ALRC)
    Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
    The Article 20 Network
    Balkan Civil Society Development Network (BCSDN)
    Bytes4All Pakistan 
    Caucasus Civil Initiatives Center 
    Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation 
    Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
    Commonwealth Human Right Initiative (CHRI)
    DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    End Impunity
    Endorois Welfare Council (Kenya)
    Ethiopia Human Rights Project (EHRP)
    Freedom House
    Front Line Defenders
    Karapatan (Philippines) 
    Global Participe (Republic of the Congo)
    Greenpeace Africa 
    International Civil Society Centre 
    International Service for Human Rights
    JOINT - Ligas de ONGs em Mocambique (Mozambique)
    Odhikar (Bangladesh)
    OutRight Action International
    Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum
    PEN International
    Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
    Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
    Sengwer Indigenous Peoples Programme 
    Uganda National NGO Forum (UNNGOF)
    West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI)
    West African Human Rights Defenders' Network (WAHRDN)
    World Movement for Democracy 
    World Organization Against Torture 
    Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) 


  • Joint Letter to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) on Egypt

    As the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) celebrates its 30 anniversary, several organisations have written a letter asking the bank to reflect on its core values - democracy, pluralism and sustainable development, which still seem far out of sight.


  • Joint Letter to UN Human Rights Council: More attention needed on human rights violations in China

    To: Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council

    RE: Sustaining attention to human rights violations in China


    After another year marked by enforced disappearances, denial of due process, and continued efforts to suppress human rights, we call on your delegation to join with other States to take collective, coordinated action at the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council to hold China accountable for its human rights record.

    One year ago today, the High Commissioner released a statement  calling on China to address a wide range of human rights violations. The concerns he raised were echoed by many States at the March 2016 Human Rights Council, including through a strong cross-regional statement delivered on behalf of twelve States.  These States reiterated the High Commissioner’s call for China to uphold its own laws and international commitments, and urged China to release lawyers and other human rights defenders detained for their human rights work.


  • Joint Letter to UN: Strengthen and renew the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan

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

    RE: Renewing and strengthening the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan to ensure accountability for gross violations of human rights and related crimes in South Sudan

    We, the undersigned national, regional and international non-governmental organisations, write to call on your delegation to renew and strengthen the mandate of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan (the Commission), during the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in March. It is essential that the Commission continues its vital work to collect and preserve evidence of gross human rights violations, abuses and related crimes, with a view to end impunity and ensure accountability. The HRC should also strengthen the resolution to make explicit that the mandate of the Commission includes the identification of individual perpetrators, with a view to enable future prosecutions.

    The civil war in South Sudan broke out on 15 December 2013 in Juba, quickly spreading north. By the end of 2015, conflict had spread throughout the western and southern Equatorias region. Although the parties to the conflict signed a peace agreement in August 2015, major fighting resumed in July 2016 when the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army (SPLA) and opposition soldiers clashed in Juba, resulting in the loss of civilian lives, looting of civilian property, and further displacement of civilians.

    According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), over 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced since 2013, including 1.9 million people who have been internally displaced. In 2017 alone, 700,000 South Sudanese fled as refugees to neighbouring countries. OCHA further reports that 7 million South Sudanese need assistance and protection.

    After the Commission’s visit to South Sudan in December 2017, Commissioner Clapham expressed concern at the increased levels of violations and abuses, including sexual violence, committed by the parties against civilians. He noted that the “atrocities and the violations are no longer confined to a few parts of South Sudan but are rather spread across the entire country.”

    The Commissioners renewed their call for perpetrators of the widespread human rights violations to be brought to justice. Commissioner Yasmin Sooka emphasised the immediate need to establish the Hybrid Court and the Commission on Truth, Healing and Reconciliation. Although the South Sudan Council of Ministers reportedly approved the Hybrid Court statute and the government’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the African Union, the South Sudanese government is yet to take further steps to operationalise the Court.
    Regional actors have also voiced frustration and concern over the continued violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. In January, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) expressed frustrations with the parties’ failure to comply with the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities, Protection of Civilians, and Humanitarian Access and their violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws. IGAD’s Council of Ministers resolved “to take all necessary measures including targeted sanctions against individual violators and spoilers of the peace agreement.”

    In addition, during the 30th ordinary session of the African Union (AU) summit, Moussa Faki Mahamat, AU Commission Chairperson reiterated the support of the AU to IGAD to impose sanctions on leaders violating the ceasefire agreements. “In South Sudan, how can we not repeat that we cannot understand the insane violence that the belligerents inflict, with indescribable cruelty, on a population that has suffered too much. The time has come to impose sanctions on those who obstruct peace”. On 2 February 2018, the United States of America imposed a unilateral arms embargo on the country.

    With the violence ongoing, and in the absence of another international mechanism to monitor and document human rights violations and abuses, and pending the establishment and operationalisation of the Hybrid Court, the Commission’s role is vital. Moreover, the Commission might be needed even when the Court is established. Our organisations urge the UN HRC to take strong and meaningful action during its 37th Session to enhance the Commission’s mandate and enable it to support justice, truth, and reparation for the victims of the grave human rights violations committed in South Sudan.

    We call on all Member States to adopt a resolution that:

    • Renews the mandate of the Commission to conduct independent investigations into alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, collect and preserve evidence of gross human rights violations and abuses and related crimes, with a view to ending impunity and ensuring accountability, with a particular focus on sexual and gender-based crimes, and attacks or reprisals against human rights defenders;
    • Strengthens the language on accountability to make explicit that the mandate of the Commission includes the identification of individual perpetrators, with a view to future prosecutions.
    • Urges the Government of South Sudan to allow and facilitate access to all locations and persons of interest to the Commission;
    • Requests that the report of the Commission be transmitted to the AU Commission in order to support and inform future investigations of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan and the UN Security Council for consideration and further action;
    • Encourages the AU to take immediate steps to establish the Hybrid Court for South Sudan as recommended by the AU Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan, and provided for in the 2015 peace agreement;
    • Urges all States to encourage further concrete action to deter and address on-going violations of international human rights and humanitarian law at the UN Security Council.

    We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues.


    1. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (The Gambia)
    2. Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia
    3. Burundian Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (CBDDH)
    4. CIVICUS
    5. Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (South Sudan)
    6. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    7. End Impunity Organisation (South Sudan)
    8. Eritrean Law Society
    9. Eve Organisation for Women Development (South Sudan)
    10. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
    11. Global Society Initiative for Peace and Democracy (South Sudan)
    12. Human Rights Centre Somaliland
    13. Human Rights Watch
    14. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    15. International Refugee Rights Initiative
    16. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    17. International Youth for Africa (South Sudan)
    18. Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network
    19. South Sudan Christian Community Agency
    20. South Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy
    21. South Sudan Law Society
    22. Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition
    23. West African Human Rights Defenders Network (Togo)
    24. Women Monthly Forum (South Sudan)


  • Joint letter to United Nations on human rights crisis in Ethiopia


    Permanent Representatives of
    Members and Observer States of the
    UN Human Rights Council

    Geneva, 25 May 2017

    RE: Addressing the pervasive human rights crisis in Ethiopia
    Your Excellency,

    The undersigned civil society organisations write to draw your attention to persistent and grave violations of human rights in Ethiopia and the pressing need to support the establishment of an independent, impartial and international investigation into atrocities committed by security forces to suppress peaceful protests and independent dissent.

    As the UN Human Rights Council (UN HRC) prepares to convene for its 35th session from 6 – 23 June 2017, we urge your delegation to prioritise and address through joint statements the ongoing human rights crisis in Ethiopia.

    In the wake of unprecedented, mass protests that erupted in November 2015 in Oromia, Amhara, and the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples (SNNPR) regional states, Ethiopian authorities routinely responded to legitimate and largely peaceful expressions of dissent with excessive and unnecessary force. As a result, over 800 protesters have been killed, thousands of political activists, human rights defenders, journalists and protesters have been arrested, and in October 2016, the Ethiopian Government declared a six-month nationwide State of Emergency that was extended for an additional four months on 30 March 2017 after some restrictions were lifted.

    The State of Emergency directives give sweeping powers to a Command Post, which has been appointed by the House of People’s Representatives to enforce the decree, including the suspension of fundamental and non-derogable rights protected by the Ethiopian Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and other international human rights treaties to which Ethiopia is party. More information on the human rights violations occurring under the current State of Emergency is included in the Annex at the end of this letter.

    Lack of independent investigations

    Few effective avenues to pursue accountability for abuses exist in Ethiopia, given the lack of independence of the judiciary – the ruling EPRDF coalition and allied parties control all 547 seats in Parliament.

    Ethiopia’s National Human Rights Commission, which has a mandate to investigate rights violations,in its June 2016 oral report to Parliament that the lethal force used by security forces in Oromia was proportionate to the risk they faced from the protesters. The written Amharic version of the report was only recently made public, and there are long-standing concerns about the impartiality and research methodology of the Commission. On 18 April 2017, the Commission submitted its second oral report to Parliament on the protests, which found that 669 people were killed, including 63 members of the security forces, and concluded that security forces had taken “proportionate measures in most areas.Both reports are in stark contrast with the findings of other national and international organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions has rated the Commission as B, meaning the latter has

    Refusal to cooperate with regional and international mechanisms

    In response to the recent crackdown, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has access for independent observers to the country to assess the human rights situation recently renewed his call for access to the country during a visit to the capital, Addis Ababa. Ethiopia’s government, however, has the call, citing its own investigation conducted by its Commission. UN Special Procedures have also made similar calls.

    In November 2016, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights adopted a resolution calling for an international, independent, and impartial investigation into allegations of the use of excessive and unnecessary lethal force by security forces to disperse and suppress peaceful protests. Recent European parliament and US Congressional resolutions have also called for independent investigations. The Ethiopian embassy in Belgium dismissed the European Parliament’s resolution citing its own Commission’s investigations into the protests.

    As a member of the UN HRC, Ethiopia has an obligation to “uphold the highest standards” of human rights, and “fully cooperate” with the Council and its mechanisms (GA Resolution 60/251, OP 9), yet there are outstanding requests for access from Special Procedures, including from the special rapporteurs on torture, freedom of opinion and expression, and peaceful assembly, among others.


    During the upcoming 35th session of the UN HRC, we urge your delegation to make joint and individual statements reinforcing and building upon the expressions of concern by the High Commissioner, UN Special Procedures, and others.

    Specifically, the undersigned organisations request your delegation to publicly urge Ethiopia to:

    1. urgently allow access to an international, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigation into all of the deaths resulting from alleged excessive use of force by the security forces, and other violations of human rights in the context of the protests;
    2. respond favourably to country visit requests by UN Special Procedures;
    3. immediately and unconditionally release journalists, human rights defenders, political opposition leaders and members as well as protesters arbitrarily detained during and in the aftermath of the protests;
    4. ensure that those responsible for human rights violations are prosecuted in proceedings which comply with international law and standards on fair trials; and
    5. fully comply with its international legal obligations and commitments including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and its own Constitution.

    With assurances of our highest consideration,

    • Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia
    • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    • Civil Rights Defenders
    • DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    • Ethiopia Human Rights Project
    • Freedom House
    • Front Line Defenders
    • Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
    • Human Rights Watch
    • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    • International Service for Human Rights
    • Reporters Without Borders
    • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

    Annex: Background

    A repressive legal framework

    The legal framework in Ethiopia restricts the enjoyment of civil and political rights, and therefore the activity of the political opposition, civil society, and independent media in the country.
    The Charities and Societies Proclamation (2009) caps foreign funding at 10% for non-governmental organisations working on human rights, good governance, justice, rule of law and conflict resolution. The law has decimated civil society and human rights activism in the country. Currently, a handful of independent human rights organisations continue to operate, but with great difficulty.
    The Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (2009) has been used repeatedly to silence critical voices. Political opposition party leaders and members, people involved in public protests, religious freedom advocates and journalists have been arrested and charged under this law. Both laws are a matter of great concern and have been repeatedly raised in international forums, including at Ethiopia’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2014.
    Overarching restrictions under the State of Emergency

    The State of Emergency directives restrict the organisation of political campaigns, demonstrations, and any communication that may cause “public disturbance.” It also bans communications with foreign governments and NGOs that may undermine ‘national sovereignty, constitutional order and security’, and the right to disseminate information through traditional and social media. Additionally, the Command Post was given sweeping powers to arbitrarily arrest and detain individuals without due process.
    A few weeks before the State of Emergency was extended by an additional four months, the government announced it was lifting some of these restrictions, including the Command Post’s power to arbitrarily arrest people or conduct property searches without warrants, curfews, and certain restrictions regarding sharing of information online and offline.
    Despite some improvements in internet access since mobile data services were restored throughout parts of the country on 2 December 2016, social media platforms such as Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter remain inaccessible except through VPNs.

    Mass arrests

    Since the declaration of the State of Emergency, the Command Post announced that tens of thousands have been arbitrarily arrested and transported to different detention centers throughout the country. Most of the detainees were held for a period of around three months in Awash, Alage, Bir Sheleko, and Tolay police and military camps. In November 2016, authorities announced the release of 11,607 people who were detained under the State of Emergency following “rehabilitation training programs.” One month later, authorities announced they were releasing an additional 9,800 detainees.  Former detainees have reported being subjected to torture, harsh prison conditions, and other forms of ill treatment. In late March 2017, the Command Post announced through state media that 4,996 of the 26,130 people detained for allegedly taking part in protests would be brought to court.

    Continued targeting of the political opposition, the media and civil society

    According to the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia, three of Ethiopia’s main opposition parties, the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJ), Blue Party, and All Ethiopian Unity Party (AEUP) have claimed that a large number of their members were targeted by Command Post and arbitrarily arrested.

    On 30 October 2016, Dr. Merera Gudina, a professor and prominent opposition leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress was arrested after his return from Brussels where he provided testimony on the current political crisis to some members of the European Parliament and described human rights violations being committed in Ethiopia. On 3 March 2017, prosecutors formally charged Dr. Merera with a bid to "dismantle or disrupt social, economic and political activity for political, religious and ideological aim [...] under the guise of political party leadership". Dr. Merera was also accused of meeting with an organisation designated as a terrorist group contravening restrictions contained in the State of Emergency directives.

    Members of the Wolqait Identity Committee, including Colonel Demeqe Zewude, have also faced allegedly politically motivated criminal charges under the 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. Their attempted arrest sparked protests in the Amhara capital of Gondar in August 2016.

    On 18 November 2016, journalists Elias Gebru and Ananiya Sori were arrested by security forces, according to the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia. Both were reportedly arrested in relation to their criticism of government policies and actions. Ananiya was released on 13 March 2017. At the time of writing, Elias is still being held in prison without due process of law.

    On 6 April 2017, Ethiopia’s Supreme Court ruled that two bloggers from the Zone 9 collective previously acquitted of terrorism charge should be tried instead on charges of inciting violence through their writing. If convicted of the charge, Atnaf Berhane and Natnael Feleke would face a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. The court also upheld the lower court’s acquittal of two other Zone 9 bloggers, Soleyana S Gebremichael and Abel Wabella.

    See additional assessment:

    Civic Space in Ethiopia is rated as ‘Closed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor.


  • Joint Letter: Human rights violations in Bahrain

    We, the undersigned Bahraini, regional and international human rights organizations, remain alarmed at the ongoing human rights crisis in the Kingdom of Bahrain. We are also concerned about the diminished response from states at the Human Rights Council since the situation began to dramatically deteriorate over one year ago. We welcome your country’s commitment to address situations of concern based on the objective criteria laid out in the joint statement delivered by Ireland at the 32nd session of the HRC. This commitment was reiterated in a subsequent joint statement on the improvement of membership standards, signed by 48 states at the 35th session this year. However, we have yet to see this commitment translate into a principled response to the deteriorating situation in Bahrain. As this letter outlines in detail, Bahrain demonstrably meets the criteria that should compel states and the Council to act to address this situation. We therefore call on your delegation to uphold your pledge and renew both individual and collective initiatives at the Council to address the Bahraini Government’s intensifying human rights violations.

    The Government of Bahrain has continued to suppress all forms of opposition, criticism, or dissent in 2017. The Government began the year by ending a de factomoratorium on the death penalty when it executed three victims of torture after trials marred by serious due process violations. In January, the Government restored domestic law enforcement powers to Bahrain’s National Security Agency (NSA), an institution implicated in systematic and widespread torture in 2011. In April, the King approved a constitutional amendment allowing civilians to be tried in military courts, further eroding the limited reforms made in line with the recommendations of the 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report. Bahrain’s leading Shia cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim, was convicted of money laundering in May on politically motivated charges, and the Government used lethal force to clear a months-long peaceful sit-in around his home, killing five individuals in the process, injuring hundreds more, and arresting 286 individuals. In May, courts disbanded the Kingdom’s last major opposition political society, Wa’ad, and in June the Government indefinitely suspended operations at the country’s only independent newspaper, Al-Wasat. Meanwhile, the Government continued its relentless suppression of civil society, committing reprisals against activists and their families and convicting Bahrain’s leading human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab, for commenting on continuing human rights abuses during television interviews and on social media, violating his right to freedom of expression.

    We recall here the guiding considerations outlined in the June 2016 joint statement, and reaffirmed in the June 2017 joint statement, and their application to the situation in Bahrain:

    Whether  there  has  been  a  call  for  action  by  the  UN  Secretary  General,  the  High Commissioner for Human Rights or a relevant UN organ, body or agency:

    • On  13 September 2016, High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein stated: “In Bahrain,I am  concerned  by  harassment  and  arrests  of  human  rights  defenders  and  political activists, and legislation which enables revocation of citizenship without due process. I urge greater attention to this situation.[emphasis added] The past decade has demonstrated repeatedly and with punishing clarity exactly how disastrous the outcomes can be when a Government attempts to smash the voices of its people, instead of serving them.
    • Likewise, during his  Annual Report and Oral Update to the 34th  Session of the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner said of Bahrain, “I am deeply concerned over the increasing levels of human rights violations in the Kingdom. I call on the Government of Bahrain to undertake concrete confidence building measures, including allowing my Office and Special Procedures mandate holders to swiftly conduct visits.
    • And, on  2 June 2017, the High Commissioner said, “Human rights defenders working in Bahrain reportedly continue to face restrictions, intimidation, interrogations, detentions and travel bans… I urge Bahrain to choose a different path – one of engagement and dialogue, as well as accountability for violence, regardless of the perpetrator. My Office stands ready to offer technical assistance and advice on the promotion and protection of human rights in Bahrain.

    Whether  a  group  of  Special  Procedures  have  recommended  that  the  Council  consider action:

    • On  16 June 2017, the Special Procedures on extrajudicial executions, peaceful assembly and association, human rights defenders, freedom of religion or belief, and the working group on arbitrary detention,  issued a statement saying: “We call on the Government of Bahrain  to  immediately  cease  its  campaign  of  persecution  against  human  rights defenders, journalists and anyone else with divergent opinions, and take all measures to guarantee  a  safe  and  enabling  environment  for  all  Bahrainis,  independent  of  their political opinions, beliefs or confession.”
    • On   18  July  2017,  the  Special  Procedures  further  stated:  “We  reiterate  our  serious concerns regarding the wider context of a general crackdown and mounting pressure exerted  on  civil  society  and  dissidents  in  Bahrain,  the  ongoing  prosecution  and punishment of human rights defenders, and especially intimidation and reprisals against people who have cooperated with UN human rights mechanisms.
    • Since 2016, Bahrain has been the subject of at least ten communications from Special Procedures concerning credible allegations of human rights violations including extrajudicial killing, torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, and systematic persecution of religious groups. In many cases, these violations were in response to the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, and freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

    Whether the state concerned has a national human rights institution with A-status[and whether that institution has drawn the attention of the international community to an emerging situation and called for action]:

    • According to the most recent  review in May 2016, Bahrain’s National Institution for Human Rights has not been granted A-status. The Sub-Committee on Accreditations expressed reservations regarding the institution’s independence and its effective application of its mandate.
    • The UN Committee Against Torture’s May 2017  concluding observations on Bahrain’s latest periodic report stated concerns regarding the NIHR  and six other bodies. The Committee said the following: “that they are not independent, that their mandates are unclear and overlap, and that they are not effective given that complaints ultimately pass through the Ministry of the Interior. It is also concerned that their activities have had little or no effect, and that the authorities provided negligible information regarding the outcome of their activities.

    Whether the State concerned has been willing to recognize that it faces particular human rights challenges and has laid down a set of credible actions, including a timetable and benchmarks to measure progress, to respond to the situation:

    • In 2011, the Bahraini Government accepted 26 recommendations issued by the BICI, a panel of jurists and international human rights experts. The Government claimed it had fully implemented all 26 recommendations in May 2016, citing the chairman of the BICI, Cherif Bassiouni, as  evidence of its progress. However, on 10 May 2016, Bassiouni stated he was  wrongfully quoted and asserted that the Government had only implemented ten of the 26 recommendations and had failed to address “priority” reforms such as those pertaining to accountability and prisoners of conscience. All independent assessments – including those conducted by Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, the Project on Middle East Democracy, and the United States Government – have similarly found that Bahrain’s authorities have failed to make substantive progress on the majority of reforms.
    • In 2017, the Bahraini government actively contravened BICI recommendations that had previously seen partial or full levels of implementation, including recommendations to restrict the NSA’s arrest authority and to prevent military courts from trying civilians. During Bahrain’s Second Cycle Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2012, member and observer states presented 176 recommendations to the Bahraini Government to recognize and address ongoing, widespread human rights violations in the Kingdom. Bahraini authorities partially or fully accepted 158 of those recommendations, promising to bring the national situation in line with international human rights obligations. However, by Bahrain’s Third Cycle UPR in May 2017, the Government had failed to fulfill these recommendations and had regressed in many key sectors identified for reform, as noted by OHCHR, States, and NGO stakeholders.
    • Rather  than  acknowledge  the  scope  of  the  Kingdom’s  human  rights  challenges,  as highlighted  by  the  recommendations  issued  during  both  UPR  cycles,  the  Assistant Foreign Minister, Abdulla bin Faisal bin Jabur Al Doseri,  described the result as “praise” for “Bahrain’s human rights achievements.” In a meeting with Bahrain’s National Institution for Human Rights in July 2017, the King dismissed the country’s human rights challenges outright, stating that the Kingdom “takes pride in its outstanding human rights record” and that “human rights represent a core part of Bahrain’s culture.”

    Whether the State concerned is engaging in a meaningful, constructive way with the Human Rights Council on the situation:

    • The Bahraini Government has consistently declined to substantively engage the Council and, as indicated in the following statements, has actively targeted Bahraini civil society actors  for  their  participation  in  Human  Rights  Council  sessions  or  for  otherwise interacting with the UN. As noted, although it nominally participates in the UPR process, the Government has consistently failed to implement accepted recommendations and has submitted  misleading national reports on its progress. Moreover, in June 2016, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister, Khalid Al Khalifa,  explicitly maligned the High Commissioner for urging the Kingdom to undertake human rights reform: “We will not allow the undermining of our security and stability and will not waste our time listening to the words of the High Commissioner who is powerless."
    • The Bahraini Government has used wide-ranging travel bans against civil society and political figures to obstruct their access to UN bodies and mechanisms. These travel bans have been in effect since throughout the 32nd, 33rd, 34th  and 35th  Sessions of the Human Rights Council, and during Bahrain’s 3rd Cycle Universal Periodic Review.
    • Government ordered travel bans and reports of targeted reprisals against civil society for their engagement at the Human Rights Council have prompted statements of concern from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. As noted in a statement by the OHCHR spokesperson on  14 July 2017:The continuing restrictions on civil society and political activists and the targeting of human rights defenders and organisations in Bahrain are deeply worrying. We urge the Government to take the necessary steps to ensure compliance with Bahrain’s obligations under international human rights law, in particular to guarantee the freedoms of expression, opinion and association and the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of liberty.”
    • On  18 July 2017, following reports that Bahraini human rights defender Ebtisam al- Saegh was arrested and tortured by members of the National Security Administration as a reprisal for her human rights work at the Human Rights Council, a group of United Nations experts “expressed deep concern at the alleged arbitrary detention of Bahraini human rights defender Ebtisam Alsaegh amid reports she has been tortured and sexually abused and is now on hunger strike.”

    6.   Whether the State concerned is effectively cooperating with Human Rights Council Special Procedures, including by enabling country visits:

    • Bahrain has failed to follow through on repeated calls from the Council to welcome Special Procedures to visit the country and, as noted above, has dismissed the OHCHR as “powerless.”  In  2015,  Bahrain’s  Chief  of  Public  Security,  Major  General  Tariq  al- Hassan, suggested that the Government has denied the Special Procedures access to Bahrain because they are biased against the Kingdom: Hassan specifically  accused then Special  Rapporteur  on torture  Juan  Mendez  of  “prejudice”  and  spreading “uninvestigated” claims of Bahraini Government abuse.
    • Bahrain  has  not allowed  any of  the  Special  Procedures to  visit  since  2006, despite repeated requests by various mandate holders. In recent years, Bahrain has ignored or rejected country visit requests from the following: the Special Rapporteur on torture, the Working Group on arbitrary detention, the Working Group on enforced disappearances, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, and the Working Group on discrimination against women.

    Whether the State concerned is engaging with OHCHR, including in the field of technical assistance and effective engagement with the UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies:

    • Bahrain has failed to successfully conclude multiple rounds of negotiations with the OHCHR to carry out a technical mission to Bahrain, or to establish an OHCHR office in the country.
    • Most recently, in June 2017, renewed efforts to carry out an OHCHR technical mission to Bahrain again stalled and remain indefinitely “postponed,” similar to the indefinite postponement  and   effective  cancellation  of  the  2013  country  visit  by  the  Special Rapporteur on torture.

    Whether a relevant regional mechanism or institution has identified a situation as requiring the attention of the international community; or whether the State concerned is cooperating with relevant regional organizations:

    • No competent, independent regional mechanism or institution exists in the region from which Bahrain can seek relevant assistance to positively affect the human rights situation in the country.

    Whether  the  State  is  facilitating  or  obstructing  access  and  work  on  the  part  of humanitarian actors, human rights defenders, and the media:

    • Bahraini  authorities  have  consistently  and  increasingly  obstructed  the  work  of  civil society actors in the kingdom, including human rights defenders and the media.
    • As noted above in point 5, the Government of Bahrain has imposed wide-spread travel bans on civil society and political activists to obstruct their access to the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms.
    • On  10 July 2017, Nabeel Rajab, president and co-founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and FIDH Deputy Secretary General, was sentenced to two years in prison solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression by conducting interviews with television media outlets. He faces up to fifteen more years in prison if convicted on additional charges related to tweets.
    • Human rights defender Ebtisam al-Saegh has been repeatedly arrested and subjected to torture and sexual assault in relation to her work, as  noted by Special Procedure mandates on 18 July 2017. She currently faces politically motivated “terrorism” charges related to her human rights work.
    • During the 34th  Session of the Human Rights Council in March 2017, three family members of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy were arrested in Bahrain as a reprisal against his human rights activities. Authorities subjected them to torture and ill-treatment to coerce false confessions on charges of “fake bomb making.” They remain in detention and face trial on these fabricated charges.
    • On 4 June 2017, Bahrain  indefinitely suspended the only independent newspaper in the country, Al-Wasat, ultimately forcing their office to close and all staff to be laid off.

    It is clear that the Government of Bahrain has failed to uphold its international obligations to safeguard human rights and has repeatedly acted to violate and curtail the fundamental rights of people in the country. Bahrain’s current human rights situation manifestly fulfills the criteria set out in the June 2016 joint statement committing state signatories to engage – strong action is imperative to prevent further instability.

    We therefore call on your Government to individually and collectively with others respond to the human rights crisis in Bahrain. Such efforts should include, but are not limited to, national statements and joint statements under Items 4 or 2 of the Council’s agenda, and ultimately a resolution by the Human Rights Council.


    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
    ARTICLE 19
    Bahrain Center for Human Rights
    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy
    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
    CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    European Center for Democracy and Human Rights
    Human Rights Watch
    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    International Service for Human Rights
    Reporters Without Borders (RSF)