human rights


  • Afghanistan: Free Girls Education Activist Matiullah Wesa

    The abduction and detention of human rights defender and education campaigner, Matiullah Wesa, in Afghanistan is a clear attempt by the Taliban to curtail all opposition to their restrictions on the education of women and girls, global civil society alliance, CIVICUS said today.  Matiullah Wesa was abducted by the Taliban on 27 March 2023 outside a mosque in Kabul where he was attending evening prayers. His family was threatened and their phones, computers and documents confiscated. There are concerns that the Taliban may also be looking for his brother who works closely with him on education rights. 


  • AFGHANISTAN: ‘Education is our basic right, it’s an Islamic right, it’s a human right’

    Matiullah WesaCIVICUS speaks about girls’ right to education in Afghanistan with Matiullah Wesa, founder and president of PenPath.

    PenPath is an Afghan civil society organisation (CSO) dedicated to reopening closed schools, establishing new schools with communities and local authorities’ support, supporting ‘secret schools’, collecting books and setting up libraries, distributing humanitarian aid and educational materials and conducting awareness-raising campaigns in Afghanistan. 

    What is PenPath, and what kind of work does it do?

    My brother Ataullah and I founded PenPath in 2009. We work on a wide variety of topics, including human rights, girls’ education and public libraries. We seek to realise fundamental human rights. We support children’s human rights and women’s human rights.

    In the area of education, we work towards the goal of reopening closed schools. In 2009, we reopened a school in a war zone area that had been closed for almost 15 years. After we started reaching out to volunteers, we were able to campaign house to house in village after village. Over time, we were able to reopen 100 schools in the 16 provinces of Afghanistan. 

    For instance, once we went to an area which had 2,100 families and not a single school. We started encouraging people by giving them information about the importance of education. They saw how important it was to have a school in their area. PenPath eventually established 46 schools in this previously school-less area, and we also opened 40 public libraries in remote areas.

    We want to change people’s minds and show them that children’s rights, women’s rights and the right to education are all fundamental rights. We organised a book donation campaign and with the help of Afghan people we have so far collected 340,000 books. We have also distributed 1.5 million stationery material kits (pens, notebooks, schoolbags, pencils) among Afghan people. We provided education facilities for 110,000 children; and 66,000 of them were girls.

    We think of PenPath as a bridge: we are a bridge between people and education.

    What inspired you and your brother to found PenPath?

    Our father was a tribal leader, and after 25 years of work and campaigning house to house to promote education, he established a public school for 900 students. This first school was built out of tents my father got, and we all studied under the trees. In 2003, I was a child attending school in Kandahar Province, Maruf District. I was in the fourth grade and I still remember the day when armed militants came and burned it down. It was very early in the morning, and they destroyed everything, including the Afghan national flag, pictures of the president, and of course the tents, chairs, books, and all school materials we owned. They yelled out awful things to teachers and students. My father was not present when this happened, so I told him once I saw him at home that evening. Even though he was devastated, this did not stop him. The next day, he encouraged all of us to fight for our rights and rebuild the school.

    Six days after my school was burned down, militants came into my house to warn my father that as he was a supporter of girls’ education we were not welcome any longer. They gave us one week to go. We left our home and our district or else we would have been killed.

    We left for Kabul, where we saw that both girls and boys had access to education. I reflected on this and decided to start some kind of campaign. I explained my idea to my father and he agreed to give me financial support for my project, which was also dear to him because he had a history with girls’ education initiatives. This is how my brother and I founded PenPath in 2009.

     What obstacles have you faced?

    When we campaign with PenPath, we travel around the country and visit all districts and villages on our way. We talk to the local people in each area and we promote the unity of Afghan society for the cause of education. It is always difficult to start this conversation. When you first approach locals, their reaction can be very aggressive; they give us death threats and say they will kill us if we keep doing what we do. We also receive threatening phone calls from unknown numbers.

    However, I don’t personally see these threats as obstacles. We manage to have thousands of contacts with locals and tribal leaders from all religious backgrounds who support our work. Fundamentalist militants can’t control our work and they can’t make us stop.

    How did the context change as the Taliban returned to power?

    The Taliban took over Afghanistan on 15 August 2021. Two days after this, PenPath started campaigning. We travelled to 20 provinces and met with thousands of women, men, tribal leaders and people from all religious backgrounds. We encouraged them to join us and contribute to the cause of girls’ education. We told them education is our basic right, it’s an Islamic right, it’s a human right.

    When the Taliban closed girls’ schools, PenPath was the first CSO to start protests against this. We started protesting in March 2022 and held press conferences against the Taliban’s decision. 

    Right now, girls’ schools are closed from grade six to grade 12 – that is, approximately from ages 12 to 18 –, which means that secondary education is out of reach for girls. People are starting to feel hopeless because it has been seven months now and girls still can’t go back to school.

    We are campaigning to reverse this every day, protesting and holding press conferences. The Taliban told the media they would open these schools soon, so now we are waiting for this to happen. We are just waiting for the Taliban’s final decision regarding girls’ education. If the Taliban don’t keep their promise and open the schools, we won’t stay silent – we will take to the streets.

    We will protest outside the Ministry of Education until schools are reopened. The reason I stayed in Afghanistan was to open all schools and to defend this fundamental right. This is now PenPath’s responsibility.

    To what extent are people able to mobilise for girls’ education in Afghanistan?

    Mobilising in Afghanistan is not an easy task. Every day we work to change the narrative around protests. We tell the media that we love our people and our country, and that is why we are fighting. But we must accept the hardships of mobilising in Afghanistan.

    We receive threats and face any challenges that come our way. I could write books about all the challenges I’ve encountered because of my work. But I prefer not to focus on the challenges: I try to share with the media just the positive things. We want to reopen schools, and we will do whatever is necessary to achieve this. We won’t be silenced.

    How does a ‘secret school’ work?

    Secret schools function inside people’s homes. Many houses in Afghan villages are sufficiently big, with very big entrance halls. Some secret schools have grades one to six (ages 7 to 12), and others have grades six to nine (ages 12 to 16). Girls usually attend the latter since the biggest problem is that now they can’t attend high school. We also have five online programmes that are specially designed for girls who can’t attend school right now due to the political situation. The vast majority of our secret schools are located in the most remote areas or in war zones. We provide them with teachers, grade divisions and the necessary infrastructure.

    In 2016 we started with 12 secret schools. These were located in a war zone area where there were no teachers available. We moved education to the houses and family teachers helped us with this. At this time, we didn’t want to promote this initiative on the media or among the government because we were afraid for the well-being of the teachers and students who took part. If they saw we had secret girls’ schools in that area, the military would try to kill our teachers.

    Right now, we have 33 secret schools in the poorest provinces of Afghanistan. These areas had no schools 20 years ago, and we were the ones who brought education to them. There are two kinds of schools in these areas: one has only one class, and the other one has up to nine classes. Girls from poor areas used to have no access to schooling, and now they do. This is what matters to us. We give girls hope. Right now, 5,000 girls are studying every day in our secret schools.

    How could international civil society support your work?

    Funding is a big challenge for us. During the last government, I had contacts with the president and the minister of education, but I’ve never had contacts with the local Taliban. This means that no one in the current administration will help us. We used to have a team of 2,400 volunteers and worked together with the government. They had a big salary budget and helped us with donations. But the majority of those officials don’t have a job anymore, and this is a problem because we are running very low on donations.

    On the ground I can manage, because all of our activities used to be in war-zone areas, which were 50 per cent Taliban-controlled anyway. I know how to talk to religious leaders and how to navigate these difficulties. But funding is a whole different thing.

    I am very active on social media. PenPath has a website, Facebook page and Twitter account. I also use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. If international civil society or foreign CSOs want to contribute to our projects, they can always get in touch with us on social media, by email and through WhatsApp. We currently don’t receive any kind of international funding, and all our work is volunteer work. But we do need your support to continue running secret schools, public libraries, online classes and other activities. Donations would be a big help for PenPath.

    Another key way the international community could help is by putting pressure on the Taliban government to reopen schools and by supporting education in Afghanistan. Before the Taliban took over in August last year, there were still many areas with no schools, so we need help building schools, providing scholarships, distributing books and stationery and bringing all these to remote places. We need all the help we can get if we are to provide education opportunities to every woman, girl and boy in Afghanistan.

    Civic space in Afghanistan is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with PenPath through itswebsite or itsFacebook page, and follow@PenPath1 and@matiullahwesa on Twitter and@penpathvolunteers and@matiullah_wesa on Instagram.

    PenPath Afghanistan 1


  • AFGHANISTAN: ‘Lack of dialogue and punishing sanctions are undermining the promotion of human rights’

    HadiyaAfzalCIVICUS speaks about the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan with Hadiya Afzal, programme coordinator of Unfreeze Afghanistan.. Unfreeze Afghanistan is a women-led civil society organisation (CSO) formed by women from Afghanistan and the USA. It advocates for the release of Afghan assets frozen following the Taliban takeover to enable the state to pay salaries owed to public sector workers, including teachers and doctors, and tackle the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

    Why is civil society calling for the release of frozen assets of the Afghan state?

    When over US$9 billion of Afghanistan’s Central Bank reserves were frozen in August 2021, it had a devastating impact on the economy. Central Bank assets are the people’s money, used to hold currency auctions in the country, safeguard against inflation and control price stability. Afghanistan needs its Central Bank reserves back to stabilise its economy and perform centralised banking functions again.

    The assets frozen also included private monies, that is, accounts held by private individuals, companies and CSOs. People were unable to withdraw their own money from banks for months, with many still unable to do so due to lack of cash. Many Afghans sold off anything they owned to afford essential goods, the prices of which skyrocketed.

    Over the past year, leading CSOs, humanitarian organisations and more than 70 economists, including Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, have advocated through meetings, protests, letters and media appearances for the return of Afghanistan’s money to get its economy back on its feet, independently of whatever global aid funding is provided. United Nations (UN) experts have also called for the USA to unblock Afghanistan’s frozen assets to ease the humanitarian situation.

    What kind of safeguards should be put in place if the frozen assets are returned?

    The USA has signalled that funds could be returned to Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), the country’s central bank, as long as three conditions are met: the establishment of independent monitoring mechanisms, the implementation of credible anti-money laundering regulations and controls to combat the financing of terrorism and DAB’s insulation from political interference – which meant replacing its top leadership, in the hands of Taliban officials, one of whom is under US and UN sanctions, with professionals.

    DAB has already agreed on independent monitoring conditions, and experts have set out how pre-existing independent monitoring and electronic auditing could be restored. US claims that the new Afghan government lacks expertise and that capacity building is needed for the state to be able to perform central bank functions could be addressed by assistance from the international community. The law that outlines DAB’s function as a technocratic institution charged with responsibilities such as currency auctions and oversight of banks is still in place. DAB continues to have the same audit oversight committee, with the same members it had under the previous government. And the chair of the audit committee has been an outspoken advocate for the return of DAB’s reserves.

    The Afghan government should ensure that the DAB law remains in place and that the institution will function separate from political considerations. Advocacy experts highlighted that the USA does not apply audit conditions as strictly to other countries as it does to Afghanistan. It does not seize their foreign assets due to limited monitoring capabilities.

    What else should the international community do to contribute to improving the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan?

    The international community should focus on supporting a strong, independent Afghan economy that can run on its own, the first step in which should be to return the full assets of the Afghan people to its central bank.

    Another measure the international community can take is to provide global aid raised by the UN and other international bodies. Human Rights Watch alerted that without sustained humanitarian aid donations, Afghanistan’s upcoming winter could be even worse than the last one.

    Last year, UN emergency funding staved off experts’ worst fears of a devastating winter, but the people of Afghanistan cannot continue to depend on global kindness after a year marked by war, the pandemic and rising inflation. Afghanistan’s assets must be returned to its central bank to bring stability to the lives of ordinary Afghans, and the international community should invest in the infrastructure necessary to ensure its success.

    What alternative measures, other than financial sanctions, can the international community implement to promote human rights, and specifically women’s rights, and support civil society in Afghanistan?

    Sanctions have had a devastating impact on Afghanistan, and the resulting humanitarian crisis has disproportionately affected the average Afghan. The Center for Economic and Policy Research stated that financial sanctions on Afghanistan amount to a form of ‘collective punishment’ of the Afghan people for the actions of a government they did not choose.

    The sanctions are not helping. In the words of Jamila Afghani, founder and president of the Afghan chapter of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, ‘we are not supporting Afghan women by starving them’.

    In fact, sanctions are only making things worse. The cultural practice of forced marriages and what effectively amounts to the sale of girls is reinforced by socio-economic factors. Even under the previous government more than 70 per cent of marriages were forced. These are expected to increase as a result of the humanitarian crisis.

    Meanwhile, Islamic scholars such as Daisy Khan have highlighted Quranic evidence supporting women’s independence, education and liberation. The promotion of human rights and specifically women’s rights is best fostered in a stable economic environment with sustained international diplomacy and interfaith dialogue.

    Lack of dialogue between the international community and the government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan compounded by punishing sanctions is undermining the promotion of human rights. Human rights can only be promoted through constructive dialogue while addressing the drivers of wellbeing – rebuilding financial stability, economic independence and global cooperation.

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

    Get in touch with Unfreeze Afghanistan through its website or Facebook page, and follow @UnfreezeAfghan on Twitter.


  • AFGHANISTAN: ‘Open-source monitoring reveals both the clampdown on women’s rights and the impact on their lives’

    AfghanistanWitness LogoCIVICUS speaks about the situation of human rights and women’s rights in Afghanistan with Anouk Theunissen and Humaira Rahbin, researchers with Afghan Witness, and Meetra Qutb, Afghan Witness’s communications specialist.

    Afghan Witness is a project run by the UK-based Centre for Information Resilience, aimed at independently collecting, verifying and preserving information on human rights in Afghanistan. It seeks to provide reliable data to international organisations, governments, the media and civil society and to create awareness about the realities of everyday life in Afghanistan. Its team includes people on the ground as well as international researchers, analysts, journalists and experts. Most of its team members’ identities are kept confidential for safety reasons.


  • AFGHANISTAN: ‘Our fight for accountability has become a thousand times harder under the Taliban’

    CIVICUS speaks with Horia Mosadiq, an Afghan women human rights defender (HRD) and founder of Safety and Risk Mitigation Organization (SRMO). SRMO aims to empower, support and protect Afghan civil society activists and organisations, including those working in remote and insecure areas, and to advocate for greater state protection and accountability for any abuses they suffer as result of their work.

    Horia has extensive experience in assisting HRDs at risk and providing human rights and safety training. She previously worked as the Afghanistan researcher for Amnesty International.

    Since the Taliban takeover in August 2021, Afghanistan has experienced a human rights and humanitarian crisis. Protests,especially by women, have been dispersed with excessive force, gunfire and beatings, leading to deaths and injuries of peaceful protesters. Journalists and HRDs have been threatened, intimidated and attacked and had their homes raided.

    Horia Mosadiq

    Why did you establish your organisation?

    Along with two other dedicated activists, I established SRMO in 2013 with a mandate to protect HRDs and civil society in Afghanistan. We founded it because there was no mechanism inside the country to respond to growing threats against activists. I was an HRD at risk for many years and was totally reliant on international civil society organisations (CSOs) such as Freedom House, Front Line Defenders and Urgent Action Fund.

    But we wanted to set up something led and run by Afghans, by people who understood the situation on the ground and could respond to the needs of Afghan HRDs who don’t speak English and don’t have access to international platforms and organisations. The whole idea behind SRMO is to reach out and protect grassroots activists, especially those in volatile areas and without international access or funding.

    What does your research reveal about the current situation of Afghan HRDs?

    We recently published a report that contains two distinct sections. The first covers the situation in 2021 until 15 August, a time when the previous government was in control and there was an elected president in charge. A clear law enforcement system, a judiciary and other accountability mechanisms were in place. They were not anywhere near perfect or even responsive, but at least they existed.

    The second section covers the events following the Taliban takeover on 15 August 2021. The whole security situation in the country changed significantly and the republic of Afghanistan was gone. The Taliban operate on the basis of Islamic ideology and renamed the country ‘Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan’. There is no law-and-order system anymore. The whole system is run by a group of mullahs with no clear accountability. Nobody knows which laws they are implementing. There is a lack of clarity and a definite legal gap. In many instances they refer to Sharia law, although we don’t have a codification of Sharia, so it is all open to interpretation. This is the situation on the ground today.

    Following the Taliban takeover, attacks against HRDs have continued and nobody has been held accountable. Many HRDs have been killed, abducted, tortured and disappeared. Between January and March 2022 alone, SRMO documented 120 violations against activists, journalists and critics, including killings and kidnappings. Even medical doctors have been abducted by the Taliban.

    Many CSOs have had to shut down and media workers and journalists have faced numerous restrictions. We documented the case of a TV journalist who interviewed a critic of the Taliban, and right afterward he and his crew were arrested and tortured, and were only released after signing statements pledging not to reveal their treatment to the international community. Many activists who protested had their passports and IDs taken away so they couldn’t leave the country and expose the truth. Activism is still happening, but civic space is increasingly shutting down.

    Contrary to the general belief among the diplomatic community, the security situation has not improved under the Taliban. Although you may not hear about many bombings or active fighting in various parts of the country, the general security situation has deteriorated. Dozens of HRDs, journalists and others have been abducted, tortured, disappeared and detained unlawfully and without any explanation. The de facto authorities are part of an abusive system. The limited accountability mechanisms that existed under the previous regime are all gone. Now no one is accountable to anyone. Our fight for accountability has become a thousand times harder under the Taliban.

    How have you conducted your work following the Taliban takeover?

    Since August 2021, our focus shifted to reactive work to provide safety and protection to HRDs at risk and evacuate them from the country. The evacuations have since slowed down, but we also support the internal relocation of those at risk. We also provide humanitarian assistance to women HRDs, as many have lost their jobs and livelihoods. So as well as facing security threats, many have lost their means of surviving, paying for food and essentials required for their family. We have tried to support some minimal living costs where possible.

    What has happened to the activists who were evacuated?

    Those who were part of an organised effort undertaken by some countries and CSOs are being looked after while they resettle. But those who fled the country to Central Asia, Pakistan or Turkey experience an extremely bad situation as they run out of funds, their visas expire and there are no programmes for their resettlement. Many are pushed back by embassies or told they need to register with the United Nations (UN) Refugee Agency and that it can take years before they are resettled.

    Some with expired visas are even being deported back to Afghanistan. I just heard that Greece has deported 500 Afghans to Turkey, which sent them back to Afghanistan. In Central Asian countries people cannot get their expired visas renewed while in the country; they must leave to get a new one, which many HRDs are unable to do. This is making it difficult for them to survive. Many activists and journalists are facing ever-growing economic difficulties. They can’t pay for rent or food. Things are particularly difficult for those with small children. Many funders don’t provide resources for HRDs outside their country.

    What can the international community do to support HRDs in Afghanistan?

    I am disappointed with the international community. The way they have responded to the Ukraine crisis is very different from how they have responded to the situation in Afghanistan. They were open to receive millions of Ukrainian refugees, whose cases were processed within weeks. In contrast, only a few countries – including Canada, Germany and the USA – have been willing to issue visas to Afghans. This is not nearly enough, as thousands are currently stranded in neighbouring countries and in need of immediate help. If they can do it for Ukraine, why not for Afghanistan? Is it because of our skin colour or because they don’t view the Taliban as the enemy? There may be politics involved but I think there is also systematic racial discrimination. 

    More positively, the appointment of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan is an excellent step. At the moment there is a vacuum of human rights monitoring mechanisms. CSOs can only do so much and having someone working with a UN mandate and the support of the international community is key. The international community should provide the UN Special Rapporteur all the necessary financial and diplomatic support and his recommendations must be taken seriously and implemented.

    Our recent report includes a series of recommendations for the international community to put pressure on the Taliban to ensure accountability for crimes committed against HRDs and to provide financial, diplomatic and political support to Afghan HRDs at risk, including by issuing humanitarian visas and funding resettlement programmes. The international community should use its leverage to pressure the Taliban to create a safer space for HRDs and journalists in Afghanistan. This issue is currently not being addressed adequately at the international and diplomatic level.

    Civic space inAfghanistanis rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Follow SRMO Afghanistan via itswebsite and follow@AfgSrmo on Twitter 


  • AFGHANISTAN: ‘The seizure of sovereign assets will worsen the world’s worst humanitarian disaster’

    ArashAzizzadaCIVICUS speaks with Arash Azizzada, co-founder and co-director of Afghans for a Better Tomorrow, about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Afghans for A Better Tomorrow is a grassroots civil society organisation (CSO) dedicated tobringing about transformative change for Afghans in the USA and beyond. It has recently advocated for the release of Afghanistan’s frozen assets.

    Why is civil society calling for the return of Afghanistan’s frozen assets?

    Before August 2021, when the USA froze Afghanistan’s assets, Afghanistan’s western-backed government was heavily reliant on foreign aid and was spending most of its revenue on the conflict with the Taliban. Since the Taliban took over, the entire country has essentially found itself sanctioned economically and Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), its central bank, had all its assets frozen.

    Since the DAB serves as collateral insurance for private banks to be able to operate, the entire banking system has been paralysed as of August 2021. The same goes for the whole Afghan economy: businesses and people cannot access their own hard-earned money to buy food at the market down the street. Philanthropic foundations have trouble sending funds into Afghanistan. This has contributed to soaring inflation, worsened by the rise in food and commodity prices caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and a record-breaking drought.

    As a result, Afghanistan has become ‘hell on Earth’, as the director of the United Nations (UN) World Food Programme put it. Over 21 million Afghans don’t know where their next meal will come from. Every women-led Afghan household currently faces poverty and hunger as the country’s healthcare system teeters on the brink of collapse.

    The consensus among Afghan civil society, both within and outside the country, is that the seizure of sovereign assets that belong to the Afghan people is a violation of international norms and will worsen the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. Through grassroots organising, high-level advocacy and litigation, the Afghan American community has stepped up to bring the frozen assets back to their rightful owner: the Afghan people.

    At the same time, following the blocking of Afghan assets, a group of families in the USA who had secured rulings against the Taliban connected to its role in the 9/11 attacks filed a civil case in a federal court to enforce those rulings using the frozen DAB funds. In February 2022, President Joe Biden signed an executive order allocating half of the more than US$7 billion that the previous government of Afghanistan had placed in the New York Federal Reserve for humanitarian relief in Afghanistan and leaving half subject to litigation brought by some of the 9/11 families.

    As part of a broad coalition of Afghan-American groups representing the community, we filed an amicus – friend of the court – brief stating that the court should oppose this for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the Taliban are not recognised as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan by its people or the international community. The money belongs to the Afghan people, not the Taliban. And although 9/11 families deserve compensation, doing it this way would harm Afghans and not the Taliban.

    What kind of safeguards should be put in place if the frozen assets are returned?

    While the Taliban might be the de facto rulers of most of Afghanistan, they remain untrustworthy and illegitimate. But the DAB continues to be function as a technocratic body, so frozen funds should be returned as long as there is proper ring-fencing and enhanced safeguards such as electronic auditing records to ensure the reserves are not interfered with by the Taliban.

    Our proposed plan recommends an initial trust-building process in which a conditional amount of US$150-200 million a month is released so that the DAB is allowed to perform its core functions. The funds ought to be used to regulate the Afghan currency and run US dollar auctions to inject liquidity into the struggling economy and ease the pain of the Afghan population. Not one cent of these funds should be used for humanitarian aid purposes.

    What should the international community do to contribute to improving the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan?

    International philanthropy and the international community should support a fledging Afghan civil society, and especially the women’s groups that remain operational within the country, by ensuring wide-ranging sanctions relief.

    As it stands, the entire Afghan population is on the receiving end of collective punishment due to the sanctions imposed on the Afghan state. As the world has become hostile to doing business in the country, the World Bank and other international institutions should continue to focus on funding economic development projects and ensure the healthcare system remains functional.

    The international community should work hard to differentiate between targeted sanctions that focus on individuals within the Taliban and projects that ensure Afghans have a chance at survival. As one example, direct cash assistance to the Afghan population remains a much more effective and equitable method of assistance than trying to truck in food for a population of over 21 million people and helping circumvent Taliban attempts at interfering with aid.

    The UN appeal for humanitarian aid for Afghanistan still remains US$2 billion short of its target. There is a strong need for donor countries to fill that gap. Much of it should be filled by the NATO member countries that occupied Afghanistan for 20 years.


    What alternative measures, other than financial sanctions, can the international community implement to promote human rights and support civil society in Afghanistan?

    A core demand remains the non-recognition of the Taliban government, which is deepening its repression and remains unrepresentative of the Afghan population. It is important that the international community listens to the voices of Afghan civil society, and specifically those of Afghan women leaders and the minority Hazara and Shia communities.

    The most vital thing at this moment is a strengthened mandate by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan to document and monitor human rights violations as well as support accurate and free media in the country. Significant UN presence on the ground will be key as Afghanistan faces a deteriorating human and women’s rights situation.

    Civic space in Afghanistan is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with Afghans for a Better Tomorrow through itswebsite orFacebook page,and follow@AfghansTomorrow on Twitter.


  • African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) reaches 30-year milestone but challenges remain

    November 15 marked the last day of the 61st Ordinary Session of the ACHPR taking place in Banjul, The Gambia as the Commission celebrates 30 years of advancing human rights in Africa.


  • Alaa Abdel Fattah

    Alaa Abdel Fattah

    Name: Alaa Abdel Fattah

    Country: Egypt


    He was again sentenced to 5 years in prison by a Criminal Court in Cairo during a re-trail of the case on 23 February 2015 for participating in a protest and assaulting a policeman.

    Reason Behind Bars:

    On 11 June 2014 civil society activist and blogger, Alaa Abdel Fattah was sentenced to 15 years in prison and handed a fine of EGP 100000 (approximately US $14000) for participating in a peaceful protest. Alaa was among a group of activists who protested against the use of military courts to try civilians. The protests took place on 26 November 2013 outside the Shuna-Council – Egypt’s Upper House of Parliament. He was charged with “demonstrating without prior notification,” “assaulting security forces,” “stealing a public radio,” and “interrupting the work of national institutions.”  He was sentenced in absentia as he was denied access to the court when the sentencing was done.

    On 28 November 2013, about 20 security agents physically assaulted Alaa and his wife Manal Bahey el Din who is a blogger and activist and confiscated computers and telephones at their home before he was arrested.  He was detained for close to four months and later released on bail. 

    Background information 

    Alaa has been arrested and detained several times in the past for his activism and played an instrumental role in the protests during the Arab Spring that led to the down fall of former President Hosni Mubarak.   He was detained in 2006 for a month and a half for his online activities and was summoned by the Egyptian authorities in October 2011 for taking part in a peaceful demonstration organised by Egypt’s Coptic Christians in October 2011. 27 protesters and a military officer were killed during the demonstrations. 

    On 5 January 2014, the North Giza Criminal Court sentenced Alaa to one year in prison on charges of  arson, damage to property and danger to public safety. The charges were based on allegations that Alaa and another activist attacked the campaign headquarters of former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq on 28 May 2012. The one year sentence was suspended for three years.   

    Alaa was given a summons for his arrest by the Office of the Public Protector and on 28 November he wrote to the Public Protector confirming that that he will respect the summons.  He was however arrested on 28 November 2013, and held in pre-trial detention until he was provisionally released in March 2014 by the South Cairo Criminal Court on bail of EGP 10000 (approximately us $ 1400).  He is a prisoner of conscience and is in jail on fictitious charges for his human rights campaigns.  

    On 18 August 2014, Alaa began a hunger strike following news that his father Ahmed Seif El-Islam, a prominent human rights lawyer, was taken into an extensive care unit after his open heart surgery. According to a statement released by Alaa’s family the hunger strike followed a “decisive moment” when Alaa decided he “will not cooperate with this absurd and unfair situation, even if it costs him his life." Alaa’s family and friends stated that they are holding the Egyptian government accountable for any deterioration in Alaa’s health, since it was the draconian Egyptian government that imprisoned him for the third time since 25 January 2014 based on trumped up charges. 

    For more information 

    Amnesty International: Egypt – heavy jail sentences for peaceful protests

    Egypt: Sentencing to 15 years of prison of Mr. Alaa Abdel Fatah and Mr. Ahmed Abdel Rahman  

    Egypt: 15 year sentences for 25 peaceful protesters

    Egypt: Update- suspended sentences on trumped-up charges for human rights defenders Ms. Mona Seif and Mr. Alaa Abd El Fattah  

    Take Action 

    Write immediately to the Egyptian authorities urging them to release Alaa Abdel Fattah and other activists arrested for exercising their rights of assembly and association.  

    Send Appeals to 

    President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi 

    Office of the President 

    Al Ittihadia, Cairo 

    Arab Republic of Egypt 

    Fax: 0020223911441


    Deputy Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Human Rights 

    Mahy Hassan Abdel Latif 

    Multilateral Affairs and International Security Affairs 

    Corniche al-Nil, Cairo 

    Arab Republic of Egypt 

    Fax: 00202 25749713


    Write to the Egyptian diplomatic representation in your country.  See a list of Egyptian diplomatic representation abroad here.


  • Alaa Abdel-Fattah’s life at serious risk: demand Egypt to immediately release him now!

    CIVICUS stands in solidarity with movements and civil society organisations calling on Egypt to immediately release human rights activist, Alaa Abdel-Fattah. 

    Alaa Abdel-Fattah is a British-Egyptian writer, human rights defender and software developer. He was one of the leading voices and campaigners during the 25 January 2011 revolution. He has been published in numerous outlets; is well-known for founding a prominent Arabic blog aggregator; and has been involved in a number of citizen journalism initiatives. His book, You Have Not Yet Been Defeated, which compiles some of his deeply influential writings, has received widespread acclaim. 

    Alaa has been arrested under every Egyptian head of state during his lifetime. He is currently in detention following an unfair trial on spurious charges that relate to his human rights advocacy. On 2 April 2022, Alaa embarked on an open-ended hunger strike as a last bid for freedom. After more than 200 days of partial hunger strike, Alaa announcedthat, as of 1 November 2022, he is stopping his previous 100-calorie intake and moving to a full hunger strike. Alaa also decided that on 6 November 2022, coinciding with the beginning of COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, he will start a water strike. This means that if he is not released, Alaa will die before the end of COP27. 

    “If one wished for death then a hunger strike would not be a struggle. If one were only holding onto life out of instinct then what’s the point of a strike? If you’re postponing death only out of shame at your mother’s tears then you’re decreasing the chances of victory….I’ve taken a decision to escalate at a time I see as fitting for my struggle for my freedom and the freedom of prisoners of a conflict they’ve no part in, or they’re trying to exit from; for the victims of a regime that’s unable to handle its crises except with oppression, unable to reproduce itself except through incarceration” - Alaa wrote in a letter to his family announcing escalation of his hunger strike

    On 31 October 2022, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment said,“In advance of COP27, I am joining the chorus of global voices calling for the immediate release of Alaa Abd el-Fattah, an Egyptian activist who has languished in jail for years merely for voicing his opinion. Freedom of speech is a prerequisite for climate justice!”

    We, the undersigned organisations and groups:

    1. Call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately release Alaa Abdel Fattah and all those arrested and detained solely for exercising their rights

    2. Call on the British authorities to intervene to secure the release and allowed to travel  to the UK of their fellow citizen Alaa Abdel Fattah, as his health is deteriorating to a critical and life-threatening point

    3. Call on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to publicly reiterateits call on Egypt to immediately release Alaa Abdel-Fattah, Mohamed el-Baqer, and all those arrested and detained solely for exercising their rights

    4. Call on UN Special Procedures to publicly reiteratetheir call on Egypt to immediately release Alaa Abdel-Fattah, Mohamed el-Baqer and Mohamed “Oxygen” Ibrahim Radwan and all those arrested and detained solely for exercising their rights

    5. Call on all government leaders and business leaders going toCOP27 to use all possible leverage and urge the Egyptian authorities to immediately release Alaa Abdel Fattah and all those arrested and detainedsolely for exercising their rights

    6. Call on civil society organisations, groups and activists going to COP27 to urge the Egyptian authorities to immediately release Alaa Abdel Fattah and all those arrested and detained solely for exercising their rights


    1. Access Now

    2. Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association

    3. African Earth Farms

    4. ALQST for Human Rights

    5. Amazon Watch

    6. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

    7. Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC)

    8. Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

    9. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

    10. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

    11. Committee for Justice

    12. Committee to Protect Journalists

    13. Commonwealth Youth Peace Advocates Network Kenya

    14. Community Transformation Foundation Network (COTFONE)

    15. Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR)

    16. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)

    17. EgyptWide for Human Rights

    18. El Nadim Center

    19. FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

    20. Freedom Initiative

    21. Friends of the Earth Malta

    22. Friends of the Earth Scotland

    23. Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

    24. Human Rights Watch

    25. HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement

    26. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

    27. MENA Rights Group

    28. National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter

    29. People in Need

    30. Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)

    31. Sinai Foundation for Human Rights (SFHR)

    32.  Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR)

    33. The Center for International Policy

    34. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

    35. Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State

    36. War on Want

    37. West African Human Rights Defenders' Network/Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (WAHRDN/ROADDH)

    38. WomanHealth Philippines

    39. World Organisation Against Torture, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

    Background information: On 29 September 2019, Alaa Abdel Fattah was arrestedwhile fulfilling his probation requirements at El-Dokki Police Station. He was questioned before the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) on charges of joining an illegal organisation, receiving foreign funding, spreading false news, and misusing social media; he was then ordered into pretrial detention pending case no. 1356 of 2019. On the same day, Alaa’s lawyer Mohamed el-Baqer attended Alaa’s interrogation and was similarly arrested, questioned before the SSSP, and ordered into pretrial detention pending the same case and arbitrary charges. During their pretrial detention Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed el-Baqer were arbitrarily added to Egypt’s terrorist list in relation to a separate case(no. 1781 of 2019), for which they have never been questioned or given the right to defend themselves. As a result of this designation, they face a travel ban, asset freeze, and for el-Baqer, potential disbarment as a lawyer. On 20 December 2021, following an unfair trial before a State security emergency court, in which they were denied their right to due process (defense lawyers were denied the right to present a defense on behalf of their clients, and denied permission to copy the case files), Abdel Fattah was sentenced to five years in prison, and el-Baqer and bloggerMohamed “Oxygen” Ibrahim Radwan to four years in prison on charges of “spreading false news”. Verdicts from such courts cannot be appealed. The time they spent in pretrial detention pending the original case ( No. 1356 of 2019) will not count as time served toward the December 2021 prison sentences, and the verdict is final since it has subsequently been ratified by President Al-Sisi. Further details here

    Preparations for COP27 are taking place against the backdrop of an ongoing and deep-rooted human rights crisis in Egypt. The Egyptian authorities have for years employed draconian laws, including laws on counter terrorism, cyber crimes, and civil society, to stifle all forms of peaceful dissent and shut down civic space. Under the current government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, thousands continue to be arbitrarily detained without a legal basis, following grossly unfair trials, or solely for peacefully exercising their human rights. Thousands are held in prolonged pre-trial detention on the basis of spurious terrorism and national security accusations. Among those arbitrarily detained are dozens of journalists targeted for their media work, social media users punished for sharing critical online content, women convicted on morality-related charges for making Tik Tok videos, and members of religious minorities accused of blasphemy. Prisoners are held in detention conditions that violate the absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment, and since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power hundreds have died in custody amid reports of denial of healthcare and other abuses. Egypt remains one of the world’s top executioners, executing 107 people in 2020 and 83 in 2021, with at least 356 people sentenced to death in 2021, many following grossly unfair trials including by emergency courts. The crisis of impunity has emboldened Egyptian security forces to carry out extra-judicial executions and other unlawful killings, enforced disappearances and torture with no fear of consequences. 

     Civic space in Egypt is rated as "Closed" by the CIVICUS Monitor 


  • ALGERIA: ‘The authorities are arresting human rights defenders to suffocate civil society’

    Rachid AouineCIVICUS speaks about the situation of human rights and civic freedoms in Algeria with Rachid Aouine, Director for SHOAA for Human Rights.

    SHOAA for Human Rights is an independent civil society organisation (CSO) aimed at supporting and protecting human rights in Algeria. Founded in 2020 and based in London, UK, it raises human rights awareness and monitors, documents and denounces abuses committed against citizens by those in power.

    What is the current situation of human rights and civic space in Algeria?

    As a result of the escalation of repressive practices by the Algerian authorities, human rights are in a critical state. Arbitrary arrests have increased, targeting journalists, human rights defenders, civil society activists and political activists associated with political parties linked to the Hirak protest movement for their exercise of the rights to the freedoms of association, expression, belief and peaceful assembly. In recent months they have been criminalised in an unprecedented way.

    The authorities are unjustly prosecuting people for their alleged association with the political opposition movements Rachad and the Movement for the Self-Determination of Kabylie, which in May 2021 were designated as ‘terrorist organisations’ by the High Security Council. This is a consultative body chaired by the president. It has also blamed these organisations for the devastating forest fires that overtook north-eastern Algeria in August 2021 and the murder of activist and artist Djamel Bensmaïl while he was in police custody. It announced it would intensify efforts to arrest their members until their ‘total eradication’.

    Since early 2021, prosecutions on bogus terrorism charges have proliferated alarmingly. For those convicted of these charges, the Penal Code dictates sentences ranging from one year in jail to lifelong imprisonment and the death penalty.

    Of course, those arrested and prosecuted have seen their due process and fair trial guarantees systematically violated.

    A new wave of arrests started in February 2022. Why are the authorities targeting human rights defenders in such large numbers?

    The Algerian authorities are arresting human rights defenders to suffocate civil society. Human rights defenders are the only limit to their power, because they are the only ones defending and advocating for human rights in Algeria. Their elimination would effectively end the flow of information about the human rights violations they commit to the outside world.

    Rather than addressing the problems that civil society denounces, the authorities are attacking those advocating for change, because they view change as a threat and a limitation to their power. To cover up the ongoing human rights violations, they are using systematic repression, specifically targeting human rights defenders and the exercise of the freedom of expression.

    Three years after the Hirak protests, the authorities continue to restrict protests. What tactics of suppression do they use?

    Indeed, three years after Hirak (which stands for ‘movement’ in Arabic) peacefully pushed for political change and forced President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s resignation, at least 300 activists, many of them associated with Hirak, are being held by the authorities.

    Through presidential decrees, the Algerian authorities have recently enacted new legislation hostile to the freedoms of expression and assembly. In June 2021, the Penal Code was amended by presidential decree, leading to the expansion of an already too broad definition of terrorism. People are now being accused of crimes such as ‘offending public bodies’, ‘spreading false information’, ‘membership of a terrorist group’, ‘apology for terrorism’, and ‘conspiracy against state security’. A Facebook post may lead to charges such as ‘using information technologies to spread terrorist ideas’ and ‘disseminating information that could harm the national interest’. Even a simple remittance is listed as an act of treason.

    All human rights defenders and advocates who fall under the thumb of these new laws, in particular articles 87 bis and 95 bis of the Penal Code, are automatically slapped with vague charges such as ´undermining national unity’ as well as bogus terrorism-related charges. Despite the presentation of evidence of their innocence by their defence, judicial authorities impose the verdicts sought by the authorities.

    The authorities are also accusing pro-Hirak CSOs of allegedly holding activities contrary to the objectives listed in the Law on Associations and in their own by-laws. On this basis, some of them have been dissolved, including Rassemblement Action Jeunesse and the cultural association SOS Beb El Oued, whose president was sentenced to a year in prison for ‘undermining national unity and national interest’ in connection with the association’s activities.

    Political activists and leaders of parties linked to Hirak are also punished for ‘crimes’ such as ‘calling for a gathering’, and parties are accused of not complying with the Law on Political Parties by organising ‘activities outside the objectives stipulated in its by-laws’. This happened, for example, after several activists gathered to discuss the establishment of a united front against repression.

    What needs to change in Algeria?

    Civil society must be preserved while there is still something left. Civil society plays a major role in any movement for change. When CSOs are absent or disabled, people are left without protection and guidance. This is especially true in efforts to avoid violence and prevent human rights violations; when a society is devoid of CSOs, people lack guidance in knowing what steps to take and human rights violations go unaccounted for. Civil society associations, centres and bodies are key for framing the protest movement – to provide it with structure, strategy and a goal.

    If nothing is done about it, the authorities will continue repressing independent civil society and the human rights situation will worsen. If nothing is done, the goal of democracy and respect for human rights will float further and further away, until it’s completely out of reach.

    How can international civil society support Algerian civil society in its struggle for human rights and democratic freedoms?

    Algerian civil society cannot achieve its goals on its own; it needs cooperation and support from the international community. To address human rights violations and promote democratic freedoms in Algeria, domestic civil society must establish relationships of cooperation and work jointly with international organisations.

    Algerian civil society can develop an effective strategy by opening international lines of communication and becoming a major source of information on the real conditions of human rights on the ground. On the basis of this information, international organisations can help activate international monitoring mechanisms and put pressure for change on Algerian authorities.

    Civic space in Algeria is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with SHOAA for Human Rights through itswebsite or itsFacebook page, and follow@shoaa_org on Twitter.


  • Algeria: activists continue to be arrested for exercising their fundamental rights


    Statement at the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Adoption of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Outcomes – Algeria

    Delivered by Rachid Aouine

    Thank you, Mr President.

    Mr. President, SHOAA for Human Rights and CIVICUS welcome the government of Algeria's engagement with the UPR process. We also welcome the fact that the government has accepted several recommendations related to the penal code and the protection of the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly, and We hope that the recommendations will be accepted seriously and will not be the same as in the previous sessions when they accepted the recommendations but did not implement them.

    However, we are still concerned about the ongoing restrictions on civic space, as nearly 300 activists are still in prison for exercising their right to expression and assembly, and the arrests of activists continue to this day, the latest of which is the detention of activist Nabila Baza, known as Amal Nayli, in temporary detention in the state of M'sila.

    Laws governing associations in Algeria continue to limit civil society's ability to operate freely. For example, the 2021 Law on Associations provides for mandatory registration of associations and imposes penalties of between three and six months and fines of between 100,000 and 300,000 Algerian dinars for individuals who belong to registered associations.

    The Penal Code contains provisions that restrict freedom of expression and Ordinance No. 21-08 in Article 87 bis which broadens the definition of terrorism has been used to target human rights defenders. For example, human rights defender Zaki Hanash was charged with terrorism and undermining national unity after he documented cases of arbitrary arrests and trials in February 2022. Lawyers continue to be intimidated and prosecuted for defending human rights defenders, activists and peaceful protesters.

    Mr. President, SHOAA for Human Rights and CIVICUS call on the Algerian government to take concrete steps that reflect its seriousness in implementing the recommendations of the UPR, especially amending laws related to association, stopping the violation of the freedoms of expression, association and assembly that are considered fundamental, and releasing human rights defenders and activists peaceful protesters and drop all charges against them.

    We thank you.

    Civic space in Algeria is rated as "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor.


  • Algeria: Global Campaign urges authorities to lift restrictions on civic space

    CIVICUS joins 37 other organisations today in announcing a 10-day campaign against the increasing government repression of individuals and groups defending human rights in Algeria.

    A year ago, Algerian authorities shut down the “Hirak” pro-democracy protests in most of the country. Since then, the number of unfounded terrorism prosecutions has soared, problematic amendments to the Penal Code were adopted, legal actions were initiated against civil society organisations and opposition political parties, and the crackdown on human rights defenders and the media has intensified, while authorities have continued to obstruct independent unions’ registration and activity. 

    #NotACrime is an online campaign aiming to draw attention to the ways in which Algerian authorities have increasingly attempted to stifle dissenting voices and independent civil society. Launched by 38 Algerian, regional and international organisations, the campaign will be conducted between 19-28 May on the organisations’ respective social media accounts.

    The campaign calls on Algerian authorities to end their repression of human rights, immediately and unconditionally release those detained solely for the peaceful  exercise of their human rights and allow everyone to freely enjoy their rights. Those suspected of responsibility for grave human rights violations should be brought to justice in fair trials, and the authorities should provide access to justice and effective remedies for victims. The campaign calls on all individuals, organisations and relevant parties to contribute in collectively demanding an end to the criminalisation of the exercise of fundamental freedoms in Algeria, using the #NotACrime hashtag. 

    At least 300 people have been arrested since the beginning of 2022 (as of 17 April) for exercising their right to free expression, peaceful assembly or association, according to Zaki Hannache, a human rights defender, though some have since been released. Arrests and sentencing of peaceful activists, independent trade unionists, journalists and human rights defenders have continued unabated, even after the protest movement was shut down. Algerians jailed for their speech have repeatedly carried out hunger strikes - El Hadi Lassouli since 3 May for instance - above all to protest their arbitrary imprisonment. According to the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH), these figures underrepresent the reality because many cases are not communicated due to fear of reprisal.

    The death in detention of Hakim Debbazi on 24 April, after he was placed in pretrial detention on 22 February for social media postings, shows what is at stake when people are detained  simply for exercising their human rights. 

    While international scrutiny has remained scarce, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, in her update to the Human Rights Council on 8 March 2022 , expressed concern over "increasing restrictions on fundamental freedoms" in Algeria and called on the government "to change course." Ahead of the examination of Algeria’s human rights record in November by the UN Human Rights Council, within the Universal Periodic Review process, the undersigned organisations express serious concern and hold Algerian authorities responsible for the dangerous backsliding in Algeria, notably in the rights to express one’s opinion, assemble and associate peacefully, and share and access information. 

    The campaign will extend until the anniversary of the death of Kamel Eddine Fekhar, a human rights defender who died in detention on 28 May 2019 after a 50-day hunger strike to protest his imprisonment for expressing views critical of the government. He had been charged with undermining state security and inciting racial hatred. On 11 December 2016, a British-Algerian journalist, Mohamed Tamalt, also died in custody following a hunger strike during his imprisonment for Facebook posts deemed offensive by the authorities. Algerian authorities have failed to adequately investigate both of their deaths.

    Exercising the fundamental freedoms of peaceful assembly, association and expression, and defending human rights is #NotACrime. 


    1. Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT-France)
    2. Action for Change and Democracy in Algeria (ACDA)
    3. AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)
    4. Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH)
    5. Amnesty International 
    6. ARTICLE 19
    7. Autonomous General Confederation of Workers in Algeria (CGATA, Algeria)
    8. Autonomous National Union of Electricity and Gas Workers (SNATEG, Algeria)
    9. Autonomous National Union of Public Administration Staff (SNAPAP, Algeria)
    10. Burkinabè Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (CBDDH)
    11. Burundian Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (CBDDH)
    12. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) 
    13. Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME)
    14. Civil Rights Defenders (Sweden)
    15. Collective Action-Detainees (Algeria)
    16. Collective of the Families of the Disappeared in Algeria (CFDA)
    17. Confederation of Trade Union Workers' Commissions (CCOO, Spain)
    18. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation 
    19. DIGNITY - Danish Institute against Torture
    20. Euro-Mediterranean Federation against Enforced Disappearances (FEMED)
    21. Euromed Rights
    22. Free Algeria
    23. Front Line Defenders
    24. General Confederation of Labour (CGT, France)
    25. Human Rights League (LDH, France)
    26. Human Rights Watch 
    27. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    28. International Labour Network of Solidarity and Struggles
    29. International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF)
    30. Ivorian Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (CIDDH)
    31. Justitia Center for Legal Protection of Human Rights in Algeria
    32. MENA Rights Group
    33. Public Services International (PSI)
    34. Riposte Internationale (Algeria)
    35. Shoaa for Human Rights (Algeria)
    36. Syndicate Union – Solidaires (France)
    37. Tharwa N’Fadhma N’Soumer (Algeria)
    38. Trade Union Confederation of Productive Forces (COSYFOP, Algeria)

     Civic space in Algeria is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor 


  • Algeria: Marked regression in human rights underscored by proliferation of baseless terrorism prosecutions


    The undersigned organisations are deeply concerned and alarmed by the sustained repression of fundamental freedoms and legitimate human rights work in Algeria, including the marked proliferation of prosecutions on baseless terrorism charges against human rights defenders, journalists and peaceful activists.


  • Alpha Condé wants a third term in Guinea. The AU must stop him

    By David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Lead 

    President Ramaphosa and the AU have a crucial role in aiding the continuation of Guinea's democracy. Guinea’s nascent democracy hangs in the balance as current President Alpha Condé’s resolve to defy the constitution and stand for a third term in office threatens to plunge the country into violence. Under the current constitution, President Conde is only allowed to serve two five-year terms. The only way he can change the presidential limit is through a new constitution, which requires a referendum.

    Read on: The Africa Report 


  • Amendments on the Media Services Act of 2016 of Tanzania

    Global civil society alliance CIVICUS welcomes the commitment by the Tanzanian authorities to review the restrictive Media Services Act of 2016 and create a more enabling environment for media outlets and journalists. The proposed review presents a key moment to address long-standing deficits in existing media legislation. It has the potential of opening the space for media actors to exercise their fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression.


  • Angola decriminalises homosexuality

    Angola has officially decriminalised same-sex relationships and prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. LGBTQI+ advocacy lead for CIVICUS, Mawethu Nkosana spoke with eNCA's Sally Burdett on Angola's repeal of Anti-gay law.


  • ANGOLA: ‘Chances for real democracy in Angola are quite low’



    CIVICUS speaks about the recent presidential and National Assembly election in Angola with Pascoal Baptistiny, Executive Director of MBAKITA – Kubango Agricultural Benevolent Mission, Inclusion, Technologies and the Environment.  MBAKITA is a civil society organisation based in Cuando Cubango province in southern Angola. Founded in 2002, it defends the rights of Indigenous peoples and traditional communities, denounces the discrimination they suffer and the expropriation of their lands, and promotes a more just, democratic, participatory, tolerant, supportive, healthy and humane society.

    What was the political climate in the run-up to the recent election in Angola?

    The political climate was veryunfavourable, not at all conducive to a free and fair election. Angola was alreadycharacterised by heavy restrictions on civic space, and this worsened in the run-up to the 24 August election.

    Civic space has been long marked by persecution, intimidation, threats, arbitrary arrests, judicial harassment, slander, defamation, censorship, intolerance and ordered killings. Protests are often banned and frequently repressed, sometimes with lethal violence.

    Restrictions tightened before the election and were maintained during the voting and in the aftermath, to prevent protests at suspected fraud. Rapid Intervention Police, State Secret Information Services, Public Order Police, Migration and Foreigners Services, Border Guard Police, Criminal Investigation Services and the Attorney General's Office were all deployed in the streets of Angola’s 18 provinces.


  • ANGOLA: ‘Much effort was put into excluding people from the electoral process’


    CIVICUS speaks about the recent Angolan election and its aftermath with Catarina Antunes Gomes and Cesaltina Abreu from the Social Sciences and Humanities Laboratory of the Catholic University of Angola (LAB). LAB works closely with Civic Movement Mudei (‘I changed’ in Portuguese), a movement of multiple civil society organisations (CSOs) that advocate for democratic change in Angola. It campaigns for voting rights and fair conditions of electoral competition, including transparent funding, equitable media coverage and citizen monitoring of election processes.

    Angola interview thumbnail

     What kinds of civic space restrictions did Angolan civil society encounter during the election?

    Civil society has faced many constraints before, during and after the election. Prior to the election, there was a partial review of the constitution that was done without any consultation and did not follow the recommendations of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. The organic law on general elections was also amended without the participation of civil society or the political opposition, and it resulted in reduced electoral transparency. Key stakeholders were denied a platform to be part of the process.

    A few months before the election, the government also decided to change Angola’s political and administrative division, with potential impact on the drawing of electoral districts. Although it did not follow through with this reform, this caused great confusion and gave rise to suspicions about the intentions of the ruling party, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), and the credibility of the election.

    In 2021 President João Lourenço appointed Laurinda Cardoso, a member of the MPLA’s political bureau, as chief judge of the Constitutional Court. Civil society also raised concerns about the appointment and swearing in of Manuel Pereira da Silva as the new president of the National Electoral Commission. But our voices have been overlooked during the whole process.

    The media situation has also been very precarious. Since the start of the electoral process, state intervention has increased, even in private media. Mudei monitored the media coverage of various parties and candidates from May until July and found that both public and private media had become instruments of propaganda, undermining the right to freedom of information and free choice.

    On 6 July, just as the electoral campaign was about to begin, a new law was proposed to prohibit surveys and posts revealing voting choices. Instead of ensuring people were fully included in the electoral process, much effort was put into excluding them.

    As a result, the level of transparency and fairness of the 24 August election has been dubious to say the least. It has been questioned by civil society through many public statements. The organisations we work with, Mudei and LAB, have produced a statementindicating they do not consider the elections to have been transparent, fair and free.

    What do you think contributed to low voter turnout?

    There were probably many reasons why fewer than half of registered voters went to the polls, but we believe major ones were disorganisation, fear and lack of trust.

    The whole process was badly organised. In September 2021 there was an ‘unofficial electoral registration’ period, which is really a process of connecting databases to determine who is eligible to vote, but it was not made clear to people what this was about. Most people were confused about what the law said on residency and voting. The process was marked by lack of clarity and irregularities. Everything seemed too complicated so many lost interest. Many people were excluded as a result.

    People were also afraid. The electoral campaign should be a time when candidates share their ideas with us, debate their parties’ proposals and tell us their thoughts about Angola’s future. But this was not what happened. The ruling party had a strong negative discourse, treating the other parties as enemies rather than adversaries. They didn’t present any ideas on how to make the country progress and what they published as their political programme was of very low quality.

    Staying away from the polls can also be interpreted as a form of protest. We have done a lot of comparative electoral analysis and found that protest voting has increased in Angola through the years. This is the result of people’s complete lack of faith in political institutions, given their limited democratic character and lack of transparency. This year the protest vote rose even further.

    How has the Angolan government reacted to civil society’s criticisms of electoral irregularities?

    The government has responded with repression. There are two situations that we would like to share with CIVICUS and other international allies so they can help us by providing visibility, pressuring human rights international bodies and offering support in the form of capacity-building and funding for human rights activists and social movements in Angola.

    The first situation concerns Pascoal Baptistiny, executive director of MBAKITA, a CSO that promotes the rights of Indigenous peoples and traditional communities in the province of Cuando Cubango in southern Angola. Pascoal has expressed concerns about the election, including in an interview with CIVICUS last year. This made him a target. He was put under surveillance and has recently requested our help to evacuate his family to Luanda, Angola’s capital, because he has been threatened and is afraid for their safety.

    The second situation concerns several members of Mudei, including its coordinator, who has been threatened repeatedly. Another of our colleagues, who was an independent candidate, has been mentioned in aggressive articles and social media posts along with an official from the European Union delegation in Luanda. They are attacked as part of a supposed subversive conspiracy involving powerful international interests aiming at destabilising Angola.

    The feeling of oppression has been increasing. The Angolan army has been put on high alert, allegedly to prevent attacks. But how would unarmed civilians be able to attack them? That is clearly an excuse; their presence is threatening and intimidating. We urge the international community to publicly denounce what our government is doing to people and act to protect civil society activists who continue to work regardless and face threats and violence as a result.

    Civic space in Angola is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with Mudei through itsFacebook page,and follow@MovCivicoMudei on Twitter.


  • ANGOLA: “The ruling party sees local elections as a threat”

    View the original interview in Portuguese here

    Pascoal Baptistiny 1CIVICUS speaks about the situation in Angola with Pascoal Baptistiny, Executive Director of MBAKITA  – Kubango Agricultural Benevolent Mission, Inclusion, Technologies and the Environment, a civil society organisation based in the Cuando Cubango province in southern Angola. Founded in 2002, MBAKITA defends the rights of Indigenous peoples and traditional communities, denounces the discrimination they suffer and the expropriation of their lands, and promotes a more just, democratic, participatory, tolerant, supportive, healthy and humane society.

    What is the state of civic space in Angola, and what are the main constraints faced by Angolan activists?

    The repression of civic space in Angola is one of the biggest challenges facing Angolan civil society today. Activists suffer arbitrary and illegal arrests, torture and ill-treatment, abductions, killings, harassment and disappearances by government forces, police and state intelligence services. This repression has made many Angolans careful about what they say in public. The few organisations that defend human rights in Angola often do so at great risk to the activists involved and their families.

    Could you tell us about the restrictions you and your colleagues faced in 2020?

    In 2020, my MBAKITA colleagues and I faced obstacles aimed at preventing, minimising, disrupting and reversing the impact of our organisation’s legitimate activities that focused on criticising, denouncing and opposing rights violations and ineffective government positions, policies and actions.

    The various forms of restriction we experienced included arbitrary restrictions and the interruption of demonstrations and meetings; surveillance; threats, intimidation, reprisals and punishments; physical assaults; smear campaigns portraying MBAKITA members as ‘enemies of the state’ and mercenaries serving foreign interests; judicial harassment; exorbitant fines for the purchase of means of transport; burglary of our offices and theft of computer equipment; search and seizure of property; destruction of vehicles; the deprivation of employment and income; and travel bans.

    In addition, 15 activists were arbitrarily detained and ill-treated during the COVID-19 prevention campaign. On 1 May my residence was invaded, and its guards were teargassed. On 16 November, two female activists were raped. Fatalities for the year included three of our activists and one protester.

    What kind of work does MBAKITA do? Why do you think it has been targeted?

    MBAKITA is an organisation that defends and promotes human rights. We work to promote, protect and disseminate universally recognised human rights and freedoms, and especially the rights to the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, the freedom of the press, the right to self-determination by Indigenous peoples, the rights to land, adequate food, clean water and the environment, and the fight against torture and ill-treatment.

    We challenge violations of the civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights of Indigenous and migrant people, ethnic and linguistic minorities, LGBTQI+ people and people with disabilities.

    My organisation uses peaceful and non-violent means in its activities. However, we have faced incalculable risks as a result of our human rights work in the southern provinces of Angola.

    MBAKITA has been systematically attacked for several reasons. First, because in 2018 we denounced the death of four children during Operation Transparency, an action against diamond trafficking and undocumented migrants carried out by the Angolan police and armed forces in the municipality of Mavinga, in the Cuando Cubango province. Second, because in 2019 we denounced the diversion of funds intended to support drought victims in Angola’s southern provinces by provincial governments. Third, because in April 2019, two activists of the organisation denounced the illegal appropriation of land by political businesspeople – generals, legislators and governors – in territories belonging to the San and Kuepe Indigenous minorities and used for hunting, fishing and gathering wild fruits, which make up the diet of these groups. Fourth, because in February 2020 MBAKITA denounced the diversion of funds designated for the purchase of biosecurity products for the prevention of COVID-19 and the diversion of food destined for the Basic Food Basket Assistance Programme for Vulnerable Groups. Fifth, because we participated in and conducted an awareness-raising campaign on COVID-19, which included the distribution of biosecurity materials purchased with MISEREOR-Germany funds. And finally, because we participated in all demonstrations held by Angolan civil society, including the most recent one on 9 January 2021, focused on the fight against corruption and the demand for local elections, under the slogan ‘Local elections now, 45 years in power is too long!’ and for the fulfilment of various electoral promises, including those of 500,000 jobs, the reduction of the cost of living for families and the socio-economic inclusion of Indigenous minorities.

    Why were the elections scheduled for 2020 cancelled?

    For one thing, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But aside from this deadly pandemic, the government was never interested in holding local elections in 2020. The ruling party, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), sees local elections as a threat to central power and fears losing its grip on power. It fears introducing an element of voter control over local government, that is, citizen participation and control over the management of public funds. The government thinks that the people will wake up to the idea of the democratic state and the rule of law, and that many people will become aware of their rights and duties. This would run counter to the MPLA’s intention, which is to perpetuate itself in power.

    The promise of local democracy in Angola has been a failure. Three years into his term in office, President João Lourenço has failed to deliver even 10 per cent of his electoral promises, leaving 90 per cent of Angolans in a state of total scepticism.

    In Angola, the party that has been in power for more than 45 years does not tolerate free people. Today, human rights defenders lose their jobs, are unable to feed their children, lose their careers and even their lives if they dare to be free, to desire democracy and to exercise their freedom.

    What are the prospects that the situation will change in the near future?

    For the situation to change, civil society has a lot of work to do. The most important and urgent actions are acquiring training in individual, institutional and digital security, learning English, obtaining observer status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, observing and participating in demonstrations and other public events, advocating and lobbying for the legalisation of human rights organisations, conducting prison visits, including interviews with prisoners and gathering evidence of torture, ill-treatment and imprisonment conditions, observing trials of activists in the lower courts, fundraising for the sustainability of human rights defenders’ activities, and monitoring the 2021 local elections and the 2022 general elections.

    What kind of support do Angolan activists need from international civil society to be able to continue their work?

    Needs are enormous and varied. Activists urgently need protection and security, including training in risk analysis, security planning and international and regional human rights protection mechanisms, as well as skills in investigating, litigating, documenting, petitioning and reporting human rights violations. Specifically, MBAKITA would like to receive technical assistance to assess what security arrangements could be put in place to increase the physical protection of the organisation’s office and my residence, as well as financial support for the purchase of such arrangements, such as a security system or a video surveillance camera.

    Assaulted activists, and especially the 15 MBAKITA activists who have been direct victims of repression and torture at the hands of government forces, also need post-traumatic psychological assistance. Financial assistance would help us pay the fees of the lawyers who worked for the release of six activists who were imprisoned between August and November 2020. It would also help us replace stolen work equipment, without which our ability to work has been reduced, including two vehicles, computers, memory cards, a digital camera and a camcorder.

    In the case of activists threatened with arbitrary detention, kidnapping or assassination, who have no choice but to leave the country or their region of origin quickly, we need support for transportation and provisional accommodation. Our activists would also benefit from exchanges of experience, knowledge and good practice, opportunities to strengthen their knowledge of digital security, training in journalistic and audio-visual techniques and the acquisition of English language skills.

    Finally, the operation of organisations and their sustainability would be helped by obtaining support for the installation of internet services and the creation of secure websites, the acquisition of financial management software and resources to recruit permanent staff, so that staff members are able to support their families and fully dedicate themselves to the defence of human rights.

    Civic space in Angola is rated ‘repressed’ by thehere.
    Get in touch with MBAKITA through itsFacebook page.



  • Angola: Repressive restrictions include arrest of protesters

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

    CIVICUS welcomes Angola’s acceptance of 14 recommendations focusing on civic space in this UPR cycle. However, in our UPR submission, we documented that since its last review, Angola has not implemented or taken any concrete steps to implement 19 of the 20 recommendations relating to civic space made in 2014. 

    Several pieces of restrictive legislation that in the past have been used against Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and journalists critical of the government, including provisions on criminal defamation in the Penal Code and restrictions under Law 23/10 on Crimes against the Security of the State, remain in place. 

    Additionally, we are concerned about restrictions on peaceful assembly, notably the arrest of protesters. More than ten people and two journalists were briefly arrested in front of Angola’s National Assembly in Luanda in January 2020 in a protest against the delay in the approval of the municipal legislative package. 

    In April 2018, the District Court of Malanje sentenced three student protesters to prison sentences of five to six months on charges of insult of public authorities and disturbance of the functioning of sovereign bodies, the latter a crime against state security. The three were released in July 2018, after a ruling of the Supreme Court.

    Civic space in parts of Angola, such as Cabinda, is severely restricted: HRDs are subject to threats and intimidation while arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment are systematically used to prevent protests from taking place. Between 28 January 2019 and 1 February 2019, security forces arrested at least 62 people in relation to a planned protest, on 1 February 2019, to call for independence for the enclave of Cabinda.

    CIVICUS calls on the Government of Angola to take proactive measures to address these concerns and implement recommendations to create and maintain, in law and in practice, an enabling environment for civil society.

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

    See our recommendations that were submitted to the UN Human Rights Council about the conditions of human rights in Angola.

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