repressed

 

  • Adjournment of Civil Society Activists’ Trial in Cameroon Shows State Has No Case

    JOHANNESBURG – Three civil society leaders in Cameroon remain imprisoned in solitary confinement and on trial for leading peaceful protests, following their court appearance on 27 July.

    The trial of Felix Balla Nkongho, Fontem Neba and Mancho Bibixy in a military court in the capital, Yaoundé, was adjourned for the third time since it began over six months ago. The activists face various spurious charges, some which, like treason and terrorism, carry the death penalty. A fourth activist, Justice Ayah Paul Abine is being held incommunicado at the Secretariat for Defense while hundreds of others remain detained at the Kondengui Central Prison in Yaoundé. 

    The activists were arrested in January 2017 after publicly raising concerns against the marginalisation of Cameroonians in the country’s Anglophone North West and South West regions, by the Francophone regime of President Paul Biya. They had called for the reforms in the legal and education system. Their organisation, the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC), has been banned. 

     “We strongly condemn the ongoing arbitrary arrests and unjustified prosecution of individuals opposing the atrocities in defiance of human rights standards. The international community has a responsibility to help end the cycle of persecution in Cameroon.”  Said Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at CIVICUS:

    The trial itself has been marked by irregularities and a lack of due process. In the latest proceedings, the judge began by kicking one of the defence attorneys out of court. The defence team’s representations in English were also mistranslated into French by the court interpreter.  In addition, the judge claimed that the state was not aware of the trial of the activists. 

    CIVICUS also expresses growing concern at the deepening human rights crisis. Reports of human rights violations in the Anglophone regions include the shooting and killing of unarmed protesters; arbitrary arrests; detention without trial; torture; legal harassment and unjust prosecutions; the targeting of journalists and media outlets; and the shutdown of the internet for months. 

    We call on the Cameroonian authorities to release all detained protesters and ensure that democratic rights to freedom of expression and assembly are respected. 

    We further call on the international community to increase efforts to engage the Biya regime to find lasting solutions to the conflict. We particularly urge the United Nations to intervene on behalf of barrister Nkongho, who has served the UN as a human rights and legal advisor to the UN Mission in Afghanistan, and the other activist leaders on trial. 

    Note: Civic space in Cameroon is rated as “repressed” by the CIVICUS Monitor, a global tracking tool of violations against the freedom of expression, association and assembly.

    Ends.

    For more information, contact:

    Grant Clark

    CIVICUS Media Advisor

     

  • Bangladesh: Authorities must end smear campaign against human rights group Odhikar

    • Human rights group Odhikar is the target of a broad campaign to prevent them from exposing human rights violations in Bangladesh
    • Pro-government media are engaged in a smear campaign against Odhikar, accusing them of involvement in “murky activities” and “conspiracy against the country”
    • State agencies have used bureaucratic red tape to prevent Odhikar from receiving funding and renewing their registration with the state for past four years
    • These actions highlight a systematic pattern of discrediting activists and organisations critical of the government
    • Global civil rights alliance, CIVICUS, has called on Bangladesh, as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, to stop these campaigns ahead of December elections

    A chilling smear campaign by government-aligned media in Bangladesh against a local human rights group is the latest in an ongoing drive to prevent efforts to expose human rights violations in the country.

    Global civil rights group, CIVICUS, says the campaign targeting human rights organisation Odhikar highlights the repressive environment for civil society in Bangladesh.

    Odhikar was founded in 1994 and is a member of the International Federation for Human Rights.

    In the latest spate of incidents, the Election Commission of Bangladesh abruptly cancelled the Odhikar’s registration as an election observer on November 2018, saying that the state-run NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB) had notified them that the organisation’s registration had expired.

    Three days later, the daily Janakantha newspaper published an article accusing Odhikar of being involved in various “anti-state and anti-government activities”, engaged in “conspiracy against the country”. It claimed the group was “tarnishing the country’s image by providing wrong information to the international community regarding elections and the human rights situation” in Bangladesh.

    The reporter also alleged that intelligence agencies recommended that the activities of Odhikar be shut down for violating NGO regulations, unlawfully taking funds from donor agencies and suspicious bank accounts. Odhikar has denied the accusations and called them completely false and fabricated.

    Since then, other media reports have surfaced calling for Odhikar’s activities to be stopped, alleging anti-state actions among them, a report by private TV channel, Channel 1 on November 16, accusing the organisation of embezzling funds.

    “This damaging smear campaign to discredit the work of an organization committed to upholding human rights is extremely alarming for civil society and civic freedoms in Bangladesh,” said Josef Benedict, Civic Space Researcher at CIVICUS.

    “These actions are unjustifiable intimidation tactics and highlight a pattern of demonising human rights defenders who are critical of the government,” Benedict said.

    Since 2014, the NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB), state agency, has deliberately subjected Odhikar to bureaucratic delays to deprive the organisation of financial resources, while also withholding the renewal of its mandatory registration. Odhikar has previously been publicly threatened by the police for carrying out “subversive” activities” after documenting a spate of extrajudicial killings in Bangladesh in 2013. Activists working with Odhikar have come under surveillance, been targeted and arbitrarily detained for their activities.

    ““Bangladesh must start acting like a member of the UN Human Rights Council and take immediate steps to put an end to all forms of harassment against Odhikar and its staff,” said Benedict.

    “The government must also ensure that human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.”

    Bangladeshis are scheduled to go to the polls in late December to vote in national elections. Ahead of elections, scores of activists and government critics have been detained following peaceful protests with some facing criminal defamation charges. The authorities have also launched intensive and intrusive surveillance and monitoring of social media and have attempted to weaken opposition parties by arresting their members and dispersing their gatherings.

    CIVICUS has called on the government to also respect the right to freedom of association, which it committed to in its recent review at the Human Rights Council and confirm Odhikar’s registration with the NGO Affairs Bureau immediately as well as reinstate the organisations registration for election observation.

    Bangladesh was added to a global watchlist of countries which have seen an alarming escalation in threats to civil society. The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in countries across the globe, rates civic space – the space for civil society – in Bangladesh as ‘repressed’

    ENDS.

    For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

    Josef Benedict, Civic Space Researcher, CIVICUS

    Email:

     

    CIVICUS Media

    Email:

    facebook/civicusalliance

    twitter: @CIVICUSalliance

     

  • Bangladesh: Arbitrary de-registration of prominent human rights group Odhikar another blow to civil society

    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) are extremely alarmed by the decision of the government to arbitrarily revoke the registration of Odhikar, a leading human rights organisation in Bangladesh. This move is another blow to civil society and human rights defenders who have been facing systematic repression by the Sheikh Hasina regime.

     

  • Bangladesh: No accountability for killing of Mushtaq Ahmed 100 days on

    100 days on since the death in custody of writer and critic Mushtaq Ahmed, no one has been held accountable for his killing. Global civil society alliance CIVICUS calls on the Bangladesh authorities to immediately establish an independent investigation into his death and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

     

  • Belarus: Release arrested journalist after forced emergency landing at Minsk Airport

    Journalist, Roman Protasevich is wanted by the government for broadcasting the government’s violent response to last year’s protests against Alexander Lukashenko

     

  • Cameroon: End crackdown, release detainees and resolve crisis

    Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS urges an end to the pervasive crackdown against English speaking Cameroonians as three respected civil society members - Barrister Felix Agbor Balla, Dr Fontem Neba and Mancho Bibixy - are due to appear before a Military Tribunal in the capital Yaoundé on 23 March 2017.

     

  • Closed and repressed: No space for democracy to take root in Eritrea

    CIVICUS interviews a human rights defender from Eritrea, who speaks about the nature of the government and its complete disregard for fundamental human rights. The human rights defender asked to remain anonymous for security reasons.

    1. What is the overall state of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Eritrea?

    Unlike in the neighbouring countries, the regime in Eritrea is unique and arguably has no match in the world. It is the most repressive regime in the world, ruling the country with no Constitution and national assembly. There is no political pluralism and no elections have been organised since independence. The ruling party exists only in name with most of its leaders in the executive and legislative arms of government are either languishing in unknown detention centres or have abandoned the party. Since 1994 the party has never held any congress or elected new leadership. Hence power has been concentrated in the hands of a single man, President Issias Afwerki, who rules the country alone and as he wishes.

    The absolute power he enjoys combined with his sadistic, cruel and arrogant character has driven him to the extreme. His regime violates every aspect of human rights and inflicts unbearable suffering on the Eritrean people. The regime has no regard for human rights and international law. Almost the entire population of Eritrea has been subjected to indefinite national service, forced labour and slavery. Families have disintegrated and societies destroyed by migration as citizens seek to escape the repression. Those who escape the country are exposed to human trafficking, hostage taking for ransom, torture and other inhumane treatment.
    The regime has made Eritrea a closed and an isolated country with no independent and foreign media outlets; civil society activities are banned in Eritrea thus there are no local CSOs or international NGOs of any kind in the country. In addition, the report of the UN Commission of inquiry on the situation of human rights in Eritrea in June 2016 revealed that crimes against humanity have been committed in Eritrea by the Eritrean regime.

    2. What is the state of the media?

    Between 1997 to 2001 private press in the form of print media operated in Eritrea but this was under a restrictive legal domestic framework. There were eight private newspapers until September 2001. In 2001 senior government officials known as “G-15” demanded democratic reforms and the enforcement of the 1997 ratified Constitution. In September 2001, the government clamped down on 11 members of the “G-15” accusing them of treason and said they were a threat to national security. The government proceeded to close private newspapers and imprisoned 18 journalists for providing platforms to the “G-15” to express their views. Since then both the political prisoners and journalists have been held incommunicado in secret prison facilities without charges. Many of the journalists and writers are believed to have died in detention. In effect, since September 2001 no private media has existed in Eritrea. Only state-owned and state-operated media exists in the country. These include TV, radio, and print outlets.
    Freedom of expression, exchange of information and communication in public places such as tea shops, buses, taxis, restaurants, bus terminals, offices, schools and colleges, public, social and religious events are closely monitored by spys working for the regime. Even people who are out of the country are afraid to express themselves publicly for fear of reprisals against their relatives at home in Eritrea. Journalists who work for public media outlets and manage escape still fear that their families back home will be targeted as the Eritrean government punishes family members because of association.

    3. How does the compulsory national military service exacerbate human rights violations in Eritrea?

    According to the National Service Proclamation of 1995, Eritreans are required to serve 18 months of national service which includes six months of military training and 12 months of service in the army and civil service. The proclamation notes that military service is compulsory for males and females who are between 18 to 40 years old. However, contrary to the national proclamation, in reality the national service is indefinite. Those who were recruited in the first round, for example in 1994 have not been released up to now. The whole productive section of the society has been locked up in the national service without any pay, proper feeding or clothing. Even children are recruited into national service. All students have to go to the military training camp of Sawa to do their final year of education in the secondary level and complete military training. Conditions there are very miserable. The national service recruits are treated worse than slaves. They are deprived of opportunities to start families and from undertaking economic activities. They are deprived of moving freely, expressing themselves and from practicing the religion of their choice. In addition, those who desert and evade national service are detained, tortured or fined. Also women are used as sex objects by the military officers and work as house maids or slaves to provide forced services to the officers.

    4. Tell us about the failure of the government to implement the 1997 Constitution

    The government does not have any desire to implement the 1997 Constitution. In May 1998, one year after the ratification of the Constitution, the Eritrean government ignited a border war with Ethiopia. It developed into a full-fledged conflict that came to end in 2000 after the loss of about 100 000 lives on both sides and huge damages to properties and a huge humanitarian crisis and displacement. The Algeris agreement ended the war and a border commission was formed to delineate and demarcate the border but the border has not yet been demarcated. A “no war and peace state” prevails now. Although there are no links between the border and the Constitution, the Eritrean government claims that it is not implementing the Constitution because the border has to be demarcated first.

    5. What are three things that need to change for democracy to take root in Eritrea?

    For democracy to take root in Eritrea: there needs to be

    • Change of the existing government;
    • Crimes committed so far have to be addressed and perpetrators brought to justice;
    • The international community needs to support Eritreans both in the diaspora and those in Eritrea in leading a transition to democratic rule.

     

  • Colombia: Government must end violence against protesters

     

    Statement at the 47th Session of the UN Human Rights Council


     Delivered by Óscar Eduardo Ramírez, Campaña Defender la Libertad

    As emphasised in the outgoing Rapporteur's report, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated social and economic inequalities and, if urgent action is not taken, we will face an epidemic of police killings on an unprecedented scale. 

     

  • Equatorial Guinea: CIVICUS urges release of activists and respect for human rights

    Spanish 

    Update: Since the issuance of this release, as of 28 April Enrique Asumu has been released from jail. Alfredo Okenve is still in detention.

     Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, is deeply concerned about the arbitrary detention of civil society activists Enrique Asumu and Alfredo Okenve, and severe restrictions on civic space in Equatorial Guinea. Enrique Asumu and Alfredo Okenve are the President and Vice President of the civil society organisation, the Centre for Development Studies and Initiatives (CEID). 

    The two activists were arrested on 16 April in the capital Malabo following activities commemorating the twentieth anniversary of CEID.  They were interrogated by the Minister of Interior for several hours before being taken to a prison in Malabo where they are detained. 

    “The government of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, in power for almost 40 years has created unacceptably stifling conditions for political and civil society participation, which are an anathema in this day and age,” said Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research at CIVICUS.

    Several members of CEID are also at risk of arrest following summons from the authorities to explain their participation at CEID’s 20th anniversary celebrations. CEID facilitates civic engagement on human rights, good governance, community and rural development. The organisation also raises awareness about the management and use of natural resources in Equatorial Guinea.

    The arbitrariness of the detention of Enrique Asumu and Alfredo Okenve is symptomatic of the political environment in Equatorial Guinea.  Earlier this year, in February 2017, CIVICUS spoke to Alfredo Okenve about the situation in the country revealing a sorry picture of public protests being violently repressed;   a majority of civil society organisations being heavily influenced by the state; close monitoring of independent civil society by the authorities; restriction of online freedoms through routine blocking of websites and social media; and the labelling of those expressing democratic dissent as ‘enemies of the state’.

    Last year, in March 2016, Equatorial Guinean authorities issued an order to suspend the activities of CEID indefinitely. They accused the organisation of violating the country’s public order law by disseminating messages aimed at inciting youth to violence and civil disobedience during its Youth Forum on tolerance and development on 29 January 2016.   In September 2016, CEID announced that it had resumed operations and has since then organised several events attended by public officials including the Prime Minister. 

    CIVICUS urges the release of the detained activists and respect for internationally guaranteed human rights standards by the government of Equatorial Guinea.

    Equatorial Guinea is rated closed by the CIVICUS Monitor.

    For more information, please contact

    Deborah Walter

    Communication Manager, CIVICUS

     

    Inés M. Pousadela

    Policy and Research Officer, CIVICUS

     

  • Eswatini: Respect democratic rights and stop violence against peaceful protesters

    Eswatini authorities must stop the brutal repression of peaceful protesters and respect the rights of people to demand democratic reform. CIVICUS calls on the authorities in Eswatini to protect the right to protest, which is enshrined in the Eswatini constitution and in international human rights law.

     

  • Ethiopia: Stop violence against protesters and lift internet restrictions

    (Johannesburg 2 July 2020) CIVICUS calls on the authorities in Ethiopia to stop using violence to disperse ongoing protests and to lift internet restrictions that have been imposed across the country.

    At least 80 people have been killed since protesters started demonstrating against the brutal assassination of prominent musician Hachalu Hundessa on 29 June 2020. Hachalu, whose songs reflected the challenges of the Oromia people during anti-government protests from 2014 to 2018, was killed by unidentified gunmen in Addis Ababa.

    “The Ethiopian authorities have a long history of using brutal force to quell protests, and the ongoing repression of protesters has once again opened divisions and provoked violence among the different ethnic groups. The shutting down of the internet and arrest of prominent political figures bring back memories of the human rights violations perpetrated by previous governments. The authorities should lift restrictions on the internet and implement UN guidelines on managing protests to avoid a further escalation of violence,” said Paul Mulindwa, Advocacy and Campaigns Officer, CIVICUS.

    Background

    More than 80 people have been killed as protesters condemn the killing of popular musician Hachalu Hundessa. The Ethiopian government has failed to provide assurances that those responsible have been identified and will be brought to justice. The number of deaths may be higher as internet restrictions imposed by the authorities in cities affected by the violence make it impossible to obtain credible information on the extent of the unrest. Prominent political figures, including former political prisoner and journalist Eskinder Nega, have also been arrested. CIVICUS is concerned that the government’s violent response may intensify this volatile situation.

    For more information on civic space violations, visit the Ethiopia country page on theCIVICUS Monitor.

    To arrange an interview with CIVICUS or activists in Ethiopia please contact:

     |  

     

  • India: Death of priest highlights persecution of human rights defenders under Modi government

    The death of Jesuit priest and human rights defender Father Stan Swamy, today, has deeply shocked and outraged global civil society alliance CIVICUS. Swamy’s death is a result of the persecution he has faced by the Modi government after revealing abuses by the state.

     

  • India: Two more women activists arrested as crackdown on protesters continue

    Human Rights Defenders Alert – India and global civil society alliance CIVICUS call for the immediate release of two women activists who were arrested last week for their involvement in mass protests against the discriminatory citizenship law. These arrests highlight the escalating crackdown on dissent by the Indian authorities.

     

  • Indian activist Sudha Bharadwaj spends 900 days in detention

    • 13 February 2021 marks Sudha Bharadwaj’s 900th day in pre-trial detention
    • Questions raised about validity of letters used to incriminate Sudha
    • Indian authorities have limited the number of books she can receive

    February 13 marks 900 days since Indian activist Sudha Bharadwaj was arrested and imprisoned. On this day, global civil society organisation CIVICUS calls on the Indian government to immediately release Bharadwaj and drop all charges against her. 

    Since 2018, Sudha and 15 other activists, writers and lawyers have been arrested under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and accused of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). It is alleged that she and the other human rights defenders conspired to incite Dalits at a public meeting which led to violence in Bhima Koregaon village in the Pune district of Maharashtra in January 2018. 

    Sudha Bharadwaj was initially placed under house arrest in August 2018 but in October 2018 was moved to Byculla Women’s Prison in Mumbai. There are serious concerns about the validity of evidence against her. This week a U.S. digital forensics firm raised questions about incriminating letters used to implicate Sudha and the other activists. The letters were found on an activist’s laptop which is thought to have been hacked. 

    Sudha’s health continues to deteriorate in prison. The 59 year old suffers from diabetes, hypertension and Ischemic heart disease, making her susceptible to COVID-19 in the cramped prison. Despite underlying health issues, Bharadwaj’s pleas for bail have been quashed by the courts as the National Investigation Agency claims her condition is not serious. 

    Sudha, a lawyer and rights defender, has also been denied books and newspapers in prison. A special  National Investigation Agency court finally ruled last month that Sudha can receive five books a month from outside prison. However, the judge has ordered the Superintendent of Byculla prison to “carefully examine” the books for “objectionable content” before handing them over.

    “The fact that my mother, a lawyer, has been denied access to books and newspapers shows the absolute determination of the Modi government to restrict the liberties of human rights defenders. My mother has been unjustly detained for over two years without trial. We are increasingly worried about her health and demand that she be released immediately to rest at home until her case comes to court,” said Maaysha, Sudha Bharadwaj’s daughter.

    Sudha 900 days in detention

    The treatment of Sudha highlights the increasingly repressive measures used by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to clamp down on dissent and silence human rights defenders.

    In January,  the UN Human Rights office expressed serious concern about the detention of human rights defenders including those in the Bhima Koregaon case. It urged the Indian authorities to immediately release the detainees, at the very least on bail before their court hearing. While in October last year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet, expressed concern over the use of “vaguely defined laws” to silent activists and government critics. 

    “The Modi regime is abusing the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and using it to round-up activists and human rights defenders on trumped-up charges and keep them for long periods in detention. Sudha is a lawyer and activist who has spent her life defending Indigenous people in India and protecting workers’ rights. She should never have been arrested but unfortunately her human rights work has put her directly in the firing line of the government,” said Josef Benedict, Asia-Pacific civic space researcher for CIVICUS.

    Sudha Bharadwaj is one of a group of leading human rights defenders who feature in CIVICUS’s global campaign #StandAsMyWitness. The campaign urges people to call for an end to the imprisonment and harassment of human rights defenders across the world. People are also encouraged to share the defenders’ individual stories on social media using the hashtag #StandAsMyWitness.

    ----Ends---

     

  • Judicial harassment of human rights defender Muhammed Ismail persists amid pandemic

    The Pakistan authorities must halt their judicial harassment of human rights defender Muhammed Ismail and his wife Uzlifat Ismail and drop all charges against them, said CIVICUS, FIDH, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and Front Line Defenders. The human rights defender faces charges under the Anti-Terrorism Act and the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act and is currently on conditional bail, which Pakistan’s Federal Investigative Agency has sought to revoke. His next hearing to determine bail is scheduled for 18 May 2020 before the Peshawar High Court.

     

  • Police crack down on rare protest in Djibouti

    Police threw teargas grenades at a crowd to break up a protest in Tadjourah, Djibouti, on 14 May. Dozens of protesters had gathered to denounce alleged nepotism after the recruitment of 76 new civil servants linked to the construction of a new port in Tadjourah and placed stones and tyres on a main road to block traffic. According to a local civil society source, some protesters suffered gunshot wounds, including one who is severely injured.

     

  • Somaliland poet’s three-year prison sentence a shameful attack on free expression

    The three-year conviction of Somaliland poet and peace activist Nacima Abwaan Qorane this week highlights the increasingly repressive environment in Somaliland for peaceful expression, said global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

     

  • Thailand: Halt prosecution of pro-democracy activists and protesters

    His Excellency Somsak Thepsuthin
    Minister of Justice
    Ministry of Justice,
    The Government Complex,
    Chaeng Wattana Rd., Laksi Bangkok 10210
    Thailand

    Thailand: Halt prosecution of pro-democracy activists and protesters

    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global alliance of civil society organisations (CSOs) and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world. Founded in 1993, CIVICUS has more than 10,000 members in more than 175 countries throughout the world.

    We are writing to you with regards to our concerns around civic freedoms in Thailand. Since the beginning of 2021, scores of activists and critics have been charged for lèse majesté, sedition and other violations. Cases we are particularly concerned by include:

    • On 19 January 2021, a woman was jailed for 43 years for criticising the royal family online. Anchan Preelert, a food seller and former civil servant, faced 29 counts of “insulting the monarchy”, or lèse majesté, under Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code and provisions of the Computer Crime Act[1]. She was arrested in January 2015 and detained for nearly four years until November 2018, when she was released on bail. Anchan was initially detained incommunicado in a military camp for five days before her transfer to a detention facility. She was repeatedly denied bail.
    • On 9 February 2021, the authorities indicted[2] pro-democracy activists Arnon Nampha, Parit Chiwarak, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, and Patiwat Saraiyaem on lèse majesté charges for their onstage speeches during a September 2020 political rally. Each accused faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. The activists were also charged with sedition under Article 116 of the penal code, which carries a penalty of up to seven years in prison. The four have pleaded not guilty to the charges. The Bangkok Criminal Court also denied bail requests and ordered the activists into pretrial detention. The order could condemn them to detention for years until their trial is concluded. Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and Parit Chiwarakan were granted bail on 23 April and 11 May 2021 respectively.[3]
    • On 8 March 2021, three activists - Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, Panupong “Mike” Jadnok and Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa - were charged with lèse majesté and denied bail in connection with a demonstration in Bangkok in September 2020. The activists were also charged with sedition. Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul and Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa have since been released on bail. 15 other activists were also charged for their involvement in the pro-democracy protests, including with sedition or organising illegal gatherings, and granted bail. [4]
    • On 1 April 2021, prosecutors indicted five pro-democracy activists on charges of ‘attempting to harm the queen’ during a street demonstration in October 2020, during which some protesters shouted slogans critical of the monarchy. The five – veteran activist Ekachai Hongkangwan, Mahidol University student Bunkueanun Paothong, Suranart Paenprasert and two others - pleaded not guilty in a Bangkok criminal court to violating section 110 of the criminal code, which states that whoever attempts an act of violence against the queen or the royal heir faces 16-20 years’ imprisonment. All five deny any wrongdoing and were released on bail. Queen Suthida was not in any evident danger in the incident, which occurred when a limousine carrying the queen passed through a small crowd of protesters.[5]
    • On 24 May 2021, the Central Juvenile and Family Court informed 17-year-old Thanakorn Phiraban that he had been indicted on lèse majesté under charges related to his speech at a pro-democracy rally in December 2020 in Bangkok.[6]

    In February 2021, UN human rights experts said lèse majesté laws have “no place in a democratic country.” They expressed serious concerns about the growing number of lèse majesté prosecutions and harsh prison sentences that courts in Thailand have meted out to some defendants.[7]

    We are also concerned about attempts to restrict protests which resumed in February 2021 and the use of excessive force by the security forces.

    • On 28 February 2021, authorities barricaded[8] a road facing a compound of army barracks in an attempt to block pro-democracy protesters who had marched from Victory Monument in Bangkok to military barracks on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road, housing the prime minister’s residence. Razor wire was placed to prevent pedestrians from using the bridge in front of the barracks. The Thai police shot rubber bullets and used water cannon and tear gas against the protesters; in response, protesters threw bottles and other objects at the police. At least 16 people were injured.[9]
    • On 20 March 2021, scores of people were injured and arrested in Bangkok after police used water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets to break up a rally by pro-democracy protesters calling for the release of detained activists, constitutional changes and reform of the nation’s monarchy.[10] The organisers of the rally had said they planned to have demonstrators throw paper planes with messages over the palace walls. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, a watchdog organisation, reported 32 detained. Among those arrested were seven unaccompanied minors. They faced six charges, which include breaking the Emergency Decree’s ban on mass gatherings, causing public disturbance and resisting arrests. At least 33 people were reported injured, including 13 police officers and two reporters were hit by rubber bullets.

    These actions are inconsistent with Thailand’s international obligations, including those under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which Thailand ratified in 1996. These include obligations to respect and protect fundamental freedoms which are also guaranteed in Thailand’s Constitution.

    As such, we urge Thai authorities to take the following steps as a matter of priority:

    • Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against the pro-democracy protesters and lift all restrictions on the exercise of their human rights;
    • Pending their release, ensure that they are protected from torture and other ill-treatment and have regular access to lawyers of their choice, their family members and to medical care;
    • Revoke emergency measures imposing restrictions on the rights to freedom of assembly and expression
    • Create a safe and enabling environment for activists, human rights defenders and other members of Thailand’s civil society to peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly without intimidation, harassment, arrest or prosecution

    We express our sincere hope that you will take these steps to address the human rights violations highlighted above.

    Yours sincerely,

    David Kode
    Advocacy & Campaigns Lead.
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

    Cc:
    Mr. Wongsakul Kittipromwong
    The Attorney General of the Kingdom of Thailand

    His Excellency Don Pramudwina,
    Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand

    His Excellency Sek Wannamethee, Ambassador and Permanent Representative
    Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    [1] ‘Thai woman jailed for record 43 years for criticising monarchy’, BBC News, 19 January 2021 

    [2] ‘Four Thai Activists Denied Bail Ahead of Next Month's Trial’, VOA News, 9 February 2021 

    [3] ‘Thai Court Grants Bail to Pro-Democracy Activist on Hunger Strike’, Benar News, 11 May 2021

    [4] ‘3 More Thai Pro-Democracy Protest Leaders Jailed on Royal Defamation Charges’, Benar News, 8 March 2021

    [5] ‘Thailand pro-democracy activists charged over protest near queen's motorcade’, The Guardian, 1 April 2021

    [6] ‘Thailand: Child Prosecuted for Insulting Monarchy’, Human Rights Watch, 27 May 2021

    [7] ‘Thailand: UN experts alarmed by rise in use of lèse-majesté laws’, OHCHR, 8 February 2021

    [8] ‘Police clash with protesters, rubber bullets, tear-gas fired’, Thai PBS, 28 February 2021

    [9] ‘Thai protesters, police clash near PM’s residence’, Al Jazeera, 28 February 2021

    [10]‘Thailand protests: scores injured as police clash with pro-democracy activists’, The Guardian , 21 March 2021


    Civic Space in Thailand is rates as Repressed by the CIVICUS Moitor 

     

  • Thailand: Withdraw the Draft Act on Not-for-Profit Organisations

    Cabinet Ministers of the Royal Thai Government
    Government House
    1 Phitsanulok Road Dusit
    Bangkok, Thailand

    Cc: Council of State
    All members of the National Assembly of Thailand
    National Human Rights Commission of Thailand

    Re: The Draft Act on the Operations of Not-for-Profit Organizations B.E…

     

  • Zimbabwe government must respect the right to protest and investigate abduction and torture of activists

    The government of Zimbabwe must respect the right of its citizens to peacefully protest and must allow demonstrations, planned for Friday, August 16, to go ahead without violence from security forces.

    Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, has called on Zimbabwean authorities to uphold fundamental freedoms, including the right to protest. The government has banned public rallies called to protest its handling of the country’s economic crisis.

    CIVICUS has also strongly condemned the abduction and torture of human rights defenders, including Tatenda Mombeyarara, earlier this week.

    Mombeyara was one of at least six rights activists who were abducted by suspected state agents on August 13 and 14 from his home this week, brutally assaulted, tortured and left for dead at a stone quarry in the capital, Harare. The unidentified men accused him of being involved in organizing today’s planned protest marches. Mombeyara, who is recovering from injuries including broken bones, damaged kidneys and chemical burns, is one of seven activists arrested in May on their return from peacebuilding workshops in the Maldives and charged with plotting to overthrow the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

    “We are also deeply concerned about a continued repression of fundamental freedoms in Zimbabwe and what appears to be a culture of impunity and a general lack of investigations into human rights violations,”, said Paul Mulindwa, Advocacy and Campaigns Officer at CIVICUS.

    “The abduction and torture of activists comes amid an ongoing military operation and restrictive environment for human rights defenders in the country,” Mulindwa said.

    The human rights situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate, despite earlier promises from the Mnangagwa administration of an end to Mugabe-era repression tactics. Civic freedoms, including freedoms of association, peaceful assembly, and expression, are routinely and violently repressed by Zimbabwean authorities. The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society around the globe, rates civic space – the space for civil society – in Zimbabwe as “repressed”. State authorities continue to harass, and arbitrarily arrest those exercising their rights to assemble and voice dissent. Human rights defenders have been subjected to assaults, arbitrary arrest, and enforced disappearance.

    "The occurrences are deeply hurting,” said Nyaradzo Mashayamombe, with Zimbabwean rights NGO, Tag a Life International (TaLI).

    “The security forces does not need to beat and dehumanise people but to monitor and guide peaceful activities of citizens.,” said Mashayamombe.

    CIVICUS has called on the Zimbabwean security forces to avoid using excessive force against protesters as well as for a quick, fair, and independent investigation into the cases of abduction and torture of Mombeyarara and other activists.

    ENDS.

    For more information, please contact:

    Paul Mulindwa

     

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