protests

 

  • SUDAN: Demands for political change are fuelled by brutal state response to protests

    Abdel Rahman El Mahdi Sudan2Following a year that was marked by the violent repression of any kind of opposition and dissent in Sudan, a situation that has continued unchanged into 2019, CIVICUS speaks to Abdel-Rahman El Mahdi, a civil society activist and founder of the Sudanese Development Initiative (SUDIA). SUDIA is a civil society organisation that works toward stability, development and good governance in Sudan. With over 20 years of experience in international development, Abdel-Rahman specialises in organisational management and programming, with a thematic expertise extending to peacebuilding and human security, and civic engagement and democratic transformation. 

    What is driving the current wave of protests in Sudan?

    The current wave of protests was initially sparked by the rising cost of living and the increasing difficulties the Sudanese people are facing in meeting their basic needs. Poor economic and fiscal policy coupled with unbridled corruption had led to record high inflation rates, widening poverty and causing critical shortages in basic commodities and services. Shortages of fuel and bread across the country had people standing in long queues for hours to get these basic living commodities. A chronic liquidity crisis where banks and ATMs were only dispensing up to 2,000 Sudanese pounds a day (approximately US$40) to account holders was also making things worse and fuelling a lack of confidence in the banking system and the overall situation of the country.

     

  • Time to Sign: Stand with students & activists in Bangladesh

    Bangladesh: Release and drop all charges against all those arbitrarily arrested and investigate police abuse

    Global civil society alliance CIVICUS is calling for your support and solidarity to demand the release of students and protesters who were arrested and charged over the last month in Bangladesh. On 15th August, Bangladesh was added to the CIVICUS Monitor’sWatch List, which means that there has been an escalation in serious threats to fundamental freedoms in recent weeks and months.

    Add your voice to the campaign to demand that the government reverse this trend, release all those arbitrarily arrested and investigate police abuses by sending the letter below to government authorities, and adding your voice on social media using #BangladeshProtests.

     

  • Tunisie : Faire preuve de retenue et respecter les droits humains alors que les tensions politiques s'intensifient

    English | Arabic

    Les autorités tunisiennes doivent s'abstenir de recourir à une force excessive dans un contexte de tensions politiques.

    Le 25 juillet, les gens sont descendus dans les rues de plusieurs villes de Tunisie pour exprimer leurs inquiétudes quant à la réponse du gouvernement à la pandémie de COVID-19, au déploiement des campagnes de vaccination et à la situation économique désastreuse à laquelle les Tunisiens sont confrontés.

    CIVICUS, une alliance mondiale pour la société civile, est préoccupée par les attaques violentes contre les manifestants en Tunisie et appelle les autorités tunisiennes à faire preuve de retenue dans un contexte de tensions politiques et à respecter les droits humains. 

    Après une journée de manifestations antigouvernementales, le président Kais Saied a invoqué les pouvoirs d'urgence, dont la plupart sont contraires à la Constitution tunisienne, suspendant le Parlement pour 30 jours et limogeant le Premier ministre Hichem Mechichi. Les ministres de la Justice et de la Défense ont également été limogés. Un couvre-feu d'un mois a été imposé ainsi que des restrictions supplémentaires qui empêchent les personnes de se déplacer entre les villes en dehors du couvre-feu, sauf pour des raisons de santé urgentes. Les autorités ont également imposé des restrictions à la liberté de réunion pacifique, interdisant les rassemblements de plus de trois personnes dans les lieux publics.

    Le 26 juillet, 20 policiers lourdement armés ont fait irruption dans les bureaux du média international Al-Jazeera, ont confisqué du matériel et expulsé le personnel de ses locaux. Ces événements suscitent de graves inquiétudes quant à la liberté de la presse dans le pays.

    « Le président Saied ne doit pas utiliser la crise actuelle et les pouvoirs d'urgence pour étouffer la démocratie, notamment les libertés d'expression et de réunion pacifique en Tunisie. Le recours systématique à la violence contre des manifestants pacifiques est une tendance inquiétante et l'utilisation de mesures d'urgence pour limiter les droits fondamentaux, sous couvert de la pandémie de COVID19, est un affront à la démocratie et une menace sérieuse pour les acquis des manifestations pro-démocratiques d'il y a dix ans », a déclaré Aarti Narsee, chercheuse en espace civique.

    L'imposition des mesures d'urgence actuelles en réponse à des manifestations antigouvernementales rappelle une tendance continue où les manifestations mettant en lumière les préoccupations sur les questions sociales et économiques touchant les Tunisiens sont violemment réprimées par les autorités. En janvier 2021, les forces de sécurité ont fait un usage excessif de la force, notamment des gaz lacrymogènes, des canons à eau et des violences physiques, contre les manifestants, ce qui a entraîné la mort d'un manifestant et l'arrestation de milliers de personnes, dont des mineurs. Les autorités ont également pris pour cible les défenseurs des droits humains et ceux qui s'expriment sur la situation économique désastreuse de la Tunisie.

    Contexte :
    Les restrictions de l'espace civique se poursuivent en Tunisie, dix ans après que des manifestations ont forcé une transition politique. Les défenseurs des droits humains, les journalistes et les militants qui font part de leurs préoccupations concernant les violations des droits humains sont pris pour cible par les autorités. La liberté de réunion a été considérablement réduite dans le cadre des mesures d'urgence liées au Covid-19, qui ont interdit des rassemblements à différents moments. En octobre 2020, les forces de sécurité ont violemment réprimé des manifestants pacifiques qui protestaient contre une loi qui accorderait l'immunité au personnel de sécurité, devant le Parlement à Tunis. La plupart des protestations sont motivées par l'impact de la détérioration de l'économie, l'augmentation des prix des produits de base et le haut niveau d'impunité dont jouissent les forces de sécurité. Après les manifestations de dimanche, le Président a assumé l'autorité exécutive avec l'aide d'un nouveau Premier ministre qu'il va choisir. En principe, le Premier ministre devrait être élu par le Parlement, qui est contrôlé par le parti Ennahda, avec lequel le Président a une querelle de longue date.


    L'espace civique au Tunisie est classé comme Obstrué par CIVICUS Monitor.

     

     

  • Uganda: shocking violence against protesters requires urgent attention

    JOHANNESBURG: Shocking scenes have emerged from Uganda where police and the military have used live ammunition and extreme violence to disperse protestors demanding the release of detained members of parliament and activists following days of political unrest in further signs of growing political intolerance against dissenting voices.

    Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, condemns this use of lethal violence used by security forces and calls on the East African Community to urgently meet and send communication to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to immediately ensure the release of arrested political and human rights activists.   

    Said Teldah Mawarire, CIVICUS Campaigns and Advocacy Officer: “The use of live ammunition to disperse protests is unacceptable under any circumstances and must be condemned by regional leaders. Security forces must cease this action immediately.”

    “It goes against the tenets of open and free political participation which Uganda subscribes to as a democracy,”’ said Mawarire.

    Following a by-election in Arua Municipality on 15 August 2018, violence erupted resulting in the police shooting and killing Yasin Kawuma, the driver of popular member of parliament Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine. Kyagulanyi and other activists have been held incommunicado and not allowed access to legal representation or visits from family members. Other reports suggest the detainees have been severely tortured and denied access to medical treatment. Another detained member of parliament Francis Zaake was dumped in Rubaga hospital in an unconscious state.

    Days after the poll, there were also several arrests of protestors in different parts of the country including Kamwokya and the capital Kampala. Protestors also gathered at the Kenya border in Busia registering displeasure at the recent detentions and demanding the release of Kyagulanyi and other activists. In all cases, the authorities responded either with live ammunition, teargas and assaults on protestors.

    Journalists have also not been spared by police brutality. In Arua, journalists Hebert Zziwa and Ronald Muwanga were arrested while reporting live on the unrest. Both were assaulted and detained overnight before being charged with inciting violence and malicious damage to property. They have been released on bail. Journalists were also viciously assaulted by members of the uniformed forces during protests in Kampala on 20 August 2018.

    “Impunity remains a cause for concern where perpetrators of incidents of political violence are rarely held to account. An immediate enquiry made up of eminent and independent individuals from the continent, must be established to investigate the torture and loss of life with a view of bringing those responsible to justice,” said Mawarire.

    CIVICUS Monitor, an online tool that tracks threats to civil society in all countries, rates the space for civil society in Uganda as “repressed”. Under this rating, civil society and citizens do not fully enjoy their freedoms and those engaging in protest are targeted by the state authorities through arrests, use of live ammunition and arrests.

    CIVICUS expresses solidarity with Ugandans demanding the respect of fundamental freedoms and calls on the East African Community and the African Union to urge President Museveni to immediately stop using violence against his citizens, release all those in detention and respect the rule of law.

    ENDS.

    For more information, please contact:

    Teldah Mawarire

    David Kode

     

     

  • United States: ‘Even in challenging times, civil society needs to be proactive in setting the agenda"

    CIVICUS speaks toNick Robinson, a legal advisor at the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) and lead of theirUnited States Program. ICNL is a civil society organisation that works with governments, civil society and the international community in more than 100 countries to improve the legal environment for civil society, philanthropy and public participation. 

    1. How is ICNL engaging with the impacts on civil society of the current political climate in the United States?

    ICNL has engaged with the current political environment by developing a set of initiatives focused on the United States. For example, in one of our central initiatives, the US Protest Law Tracker, and related freedom of assembly work, we analyse and advocate against anti-protest laws and overly aggressive prosecution of demonstrators. In another initiative, we are engaging Congress and other policy-makers about concerns we have regarding recent legislative proposals to strengthen the enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Dating from 1938, FARA requires those who engage in political activities on behalf of foreign principals to register as a ‘foreign agent’ with the Department of Justice. While the Act has traditionally been rarely enforced, its provisions are so broad and vague that if it was implemented it could lead to many civil society organisations (CSOs) having to register as ‘foreign agents’. It is worth noting that ‘foreign agent’ acts in other countries, like Russia, have stigmatised and undercut civil society. In fact, as we’ve documented in a recent report, many of these other countries claim to have based their legislation on FARA.

    Other projects include one that provides support to CSOs concerned about politicised government legal compliance actions against them and third party attacks; and a project that aims to help address vulnerabilities we see in the US university space.

    1. What has been the impact on US-based civil society groups in this first year of the Trump Presidency? What rights and groups do you perceive as being in the most danger?

    We see a number of types of civil society groups and activities being particularly vulnerable at the present moment. As the prosecution of so-called ‘J20 protesters’ made clear, the use of collective liability is on the rise against protesters. This is deeply disturbing. In the J20 case, which was a case resulting out of protests in Washington DC against President Trump on Inauguration Day (20 January 2017) that damaged property, almost 200 protesters had charges brought against them that could bring decades in jail. The prosecutors never claimed they had evidence that the specific individuals who were charged had damaged property or assaulted anyone; instead, they were trying to hold liable anyone who was present at the protest under a theory of collective liability.

    The protesters in the first batch were found innocent on all charges by a jury in December 2017, but it took 11 months to get a verdict. The other protesters charged are still awaiting trial. Keep in mind, this is a prosecution brought not by an obscure local prosecutor, but by the federal government – the Department of Justice. Along with CIVICUS and the Charity & Security Network, ICNL was able to bring our concerns about the freedoms of association, assembly and expression to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). We brought one of the charged J20 protesters, Elizabeth Lagesse, to give her testimony at an IACHR hearing that anyone interested in the case should check out.

    We’ve also seen discriminatory or aggressive actions taken against civil society groups. For example, in September 2017, Representative DeSantis introduced a bill that would have banned Islamic Relief Worldwide from receiving federal funds based on unsubstantiated claims that they had ties to terrorist organisations. ICNL participated in a coalition that spoke out against this bill, which was ultimately withdrawn. However, this is part of a larger pattern of trying to target some groups by claiming they have ties to terrorist groups.

    Finally, we’ve seen a number of impacts on civil society because of the administration’s new immigration policies. Organisations have mobilised to fight some of these policies because of the effect they will have on the country and people’s lives, but they also affect the functioning of organisations. Employees or volunteers of many groups are now facing deadlines by which they have to leave the US or are facing the threat of deportation. The visa bans of targeted countries, most of which are predominantly Muslim, have made it difficult, and sometimes impossible, for civil society groups to do something as simple as bring a speaker for a conference from one of these countries.

    This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, but it gives you a sense of some of the challenges we are seeing.

    1. Can you tell us more about your US Protest Law Tracker, its uses and main findings?

    My colleague Elly Page has led ICNL’s efforts on the US Protest Law Tracker. ICNL created it when we realised there was an increase in the number of anti-protest bills being introduced in states across the country. As of the beginning of 2018, 28 states had considered 50 bills that restrict the right to protest since November 2016. Eight of these bills have been enacted, while a number of others are still pending. The tracker provides succinct analysis of each bill and categorises them under topics like ‘campus speech’ and ‘trespass’. Activists, the media, and the public can then search the tracker to find out the latest information about what bills are being considered.

    We’ve seen not only an uptick in these laws, but a proliferation in the ways that the right to protest can be chilled. Perhaps most disturbing has been the number of bills that apply theories of collective liability or that increase the penalties for relatively minor offences frequently related to demonstrations – like blocking traffic or trespassing.  We’ve also been troubled by governors declaring states of emergency in response to protests – even in situations where this might make sense, like the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in August 2017, these powers aren’t being tailored sufficiently. And we are concerned that these powers are beginning to be used whenever there is the mere threat of violence at a protest. This can chill participation in protests.

    1. How big an impact do you think democratic regression in the US is having at the regional and global level?

    Other governments are picking up on US rhetoric and actions. For example, in Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán started using rhetoric around “Hungary comes first”, modelled on President Trump’s slogan “America First”, to justify the passage of a restrictive bill targeting international funding of civil society. President Trump’s practice of labelling certain stories “fake news” has been picked up and used by governments in countries like Cambodia, China, Russia and Syria against media reports documenting their human rights violations. It’s an easy way to delegitimise critics.

    It’s important to note though that we don’t just see these challenges in the US, but across several developed democracies. Australia has seen proposals to ban foreign funding to CSOs and limit the amount of advocacy they are allowed to engage in. France has seen the repeated extension of national states of emergency and the use of other national security measures that can undercut a free and open civic space. It’s a bigger challenge than just the US.

    1. What message would you like to convey to international civil society groups working in challenging circumstances?

    I would leave them with two thoughts. First, as the US government takes a step back from taking a lead on protecting civil space globally, and I think it is taking a step back, international civil society needs to push governments of other democracies to step up and take on more of a leadership role. There is a vacuum that needs to be filled.

    Second, and related, in times like these it’s understandable that many of the responses of civil society are defensive. We need to defend the gains we’ve made over the years. Yet I think it’s also really important that we continue to pursue a vision of the independent pluralistic civil society that we want to create in the world. Even in difficult times we want to be proactive, and set the agenda we want to set – not just react to the latest crisis or concern. It’s difficult to do, but a vital task.

    • Civic space in the United States is rated as ‘narrowed’ in theCIVICUS Monitor
    • Get in touch with ICNL through theirwebsite orFacebook page, or follow @ICNLAlliance 

     

  • Zimbabwe Police arbitrarily arrest trade union leaders over planned protests

    • Police arrest, assault union leaders and members ahead of planned peaceful march
    • Authorities banned demonstrations against economic crisis, citing cholera concerns
    • Protests prompted by fuel queues, new tax on money transfers impacting mostly poor
    • National, global NGO groups urge government to respect the protected rights of citizens

    Global and national civil society groups have expressed concern at the arrest of trade union leaders in Zimbabwe ahead of planned peaceful protests.

    Zimbabwean police pre-empted nationwide demonstrations against the deepening economic crisis in the country, scheduled for October 11, by banning them and arbitrarily arresting organisers belonging to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).

    The National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO) and global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, has urged the authorities to show restraint and respect the constitutionally protected rights of all Zimbabweans.

    Police banned the protests citing concerns of a cholera outbreak in recent weeks. The unions say they are being targeted because of their dissenting message as other gatherings had been allowed to proceed.

    ZCTU members were arrested in the capital, Harare as well as in the cities of Mutare and Masvingo. According to reports, police were armed with truncheons, tear smoke canisters and accompanied by water cannons during the raids. Several union members were assaulted. ZCTU president Peter Mutasa and secretary general Japhet Moyo were among those arrested.

    Following a disputed 30 July 2018 election outcome, economic uncertainty has deepened in Zimbabwe, which has been struggling with foreign currency shortages, hyper-inflation and erosion of the local currency. This has triggered fuel queues as business slowed down in response to the economic decline.

    The government also recently imposed a new 2% tax on mobile money transactions that the unions said will be borne mostly by the poor. Trade unions had organised a protest to highlight these trying economic circumstances to the government and raise concerns about the hardships the new tax would bring for the poor.

    “It had been our sincere hope that after the election in August, the authorities would open more space for citizens, civil society and trade unions to freely express their opinions including through peaceful protests,” said Leonard Mandishara, NANGO Executive Director.

    “Hence, we are disappointed that the authorities are still employing methods of an era gone by to silence dissent,” said Mandishara.

    NANGO also said civil society is awaiting with much anticipation the outcome of a commission of enquiry established after six people were shot dead by the military in Harare at an election-related protest.

    CIVICUS calls on the Zimbabwean government to engage with civil society and trade unions on the fundamental rights of citizens including the right to assemble peacefully.

    NANGO is a non-partisan, non-profit organisation and the official, non-denominational coordinating body of NGOs in Zimbabwe. It is mandated by its membership to coordinate the activities of NGOs, represent the NGO sector and strengthen the voice of NGOs in Zimbabwe.

    ENDS.

    For more information, please contact:

    Leonard Mandishara, NANGO Director

    Teldah Mawarire, CIVICUS Advocacy and Campaigns Officer

     

  • Zimbabwe: Civil society concerned as human rights violations persist after violent reprisal for protests

    Human rights violations continue in Zimbabwe in the aftermath of the violent attacks against protesters on 14 to 16 January 2019. More than 700 people have been detained. The military continues to physically assault citizens and the legal process for many of those who are in detention is seriously flawed. We need to stand in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe and call on the government to address the concerns of its citizens, stop all human rights violations, demilitarise the streets and release all those detained in relation to the protests. Sign the letter below addressed to President Emmerson Mnangagwa with a call for him to address these human rights concerns.


    21 February 2019

    Office of the President and Cabinet

    Munhumutapa Building

    Corner Samora Machel Avenue and Sam Nujoma

    Harare, Zimbabwe

    Tel: 00 263 24270 7091/7

    Email:

     

    Dear Sir,

    Re: Civil society concerned as human rights violations persist after violent reprisal for protests

    We the undersigned civil society organisations, based in different countries across the world, write to you to express our concerns over the continued human rights violations taking place in Zimbabwe, more than a month after the violent reprisal for protests. We are appalled at the ongoing violence targeting ordinary citizens and members of civil society and high levels of impunity enjoyed by those responsible for these actions.

    Mr. President, there is an urgent need for inclusive dialogue in Zimbabwe and for the deep divisions and mistrust fostered by recent events between the government, civil society and citizens to be addressed. Since protests were violently dispersed from 14 to 16 January 2019, the streets in Zimbabwe have been heavily militarised and soldiers have been breaking into homes and subjecting citizens to some of the worst forms of human rights violations that have included shootings, severe assaults and rape. The human cost from the response to the protests is immense. At least seventeen people were killed during the protests or succumbed to injuries from the violations, more than 316 injured, many with gunshot wounds, and at least 700 arbitrarily arrested or detained. The arbitrary arrests and sentencing of many is at variance with Zimbabwe’s Criminal Procedures and Evidence Act. A majority of those detained have been subjected to flawed legal processes including mass trials, and many are been denied bail. Some have been brought to the courts with visible injuries, requiring urgent medical attention and many more subjected to mass trials without proper access to legal representation. There is an urgent need for the respect the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

    We are concerned by reports which indicate that in the aftermath of the protests, security forces raided medical facilities, including the Belvedere Medical Centre in Harare, where some of the injured received medical attention and assaulted them again before whisking them off to detention in police stations. Many human rights defenders and civil society representatives have been targeted and accused of colluding with the political opposition to “unseat” the regime. Some have been forced to go into hiding in Zimbabwe and others have had to flee the country to avoid being subjected to torture or worse. Human rights defender Pastor Evan Mawarire is free on stringent bail conditions and also faces charges of subverting the government while the Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) Japhet Moyo has been detained and injured and faces charges of attempting to overthrow a constitutionally elected government.

    Mr. President, before the 30 July 2018 elections, many Zimbabweans – and most of us in the international community – had hoped to see a peaceful political transition that would usher a new dawn where the rule of law was upheld, and the fundamental rights of all citizens respected. Unfortunately, we are witnessing a continuation of violence against citizens who legitimately exercise their discontent over excessive hikes in the prices of basic commodities and a deteriorating economic environment. While we welcome the release of some of those detained, many more remain behind bars unjustly.

    We urge your government to initiate efforts to find a lasting solution to the challenges affecting Zimbabwe.

    We appeal to you to urgently organise a multi-stakeholder dialogue process that will bring together your government, members of civil society, the political opposition, youth, academics, labour representatives and representatives of the religious community and minority groups, to chart a path to peace, in which all Zimbabweans can participate.

    We urge your government to immediately withdraw armed soldiers out of residential and city areas in both urban and rural Zimbabwe and to carry out an independent investigation into the violence and ensure that perpetrators from the Zimbabwe National Army and Zimbabwe police are held accountable.

    Endorsed by

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