Stand As My Witness
Imagine being in prison? The ‘crime’? Speaking up and standing for what you believe in.
Hundreds of people - fathers, mothers, sons, daughters - are behind bars, harassed and persecuted for standing up for rights - for a free press, to protect the environment and equality, campaigning for a government that listens, and more.
These human rights defenders are asking you to #StandAsMyWitness
Add your voice. Take Action and call for their release.
Why you should #StandAsMyWitness
I am a human rights lawyer in Iran. I have done extensive work -protecting and defending the rights of women, children and human rights defenders in Iran.
I have been previously arrested while representing Zahra Bahrami, a Dutch-Iranian citizen charged with security offences. I was arrested on 4 September 2010 and charged with spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security. On 9 January 2011, I was sentenced to 11-years imprisonment and was released on 18 September 2013, a few days before the Iranian President was to address the United Nations.
On 13 June 2018, I was arrested and sentenced to combined 38-year imprisonment on seven charges: assembly and collusion against national security; propaganda against the state; membership in the Defenders of Human Rights Centre, the Legam group (against capital punishment), and the National Peace Council; encouraging people to corruption and prostitution; appearing at the judiciary without Islamic hijab; disturbing public peace and order, and publishing falsehoods with the intent to disturb public opinion.
Since October 2020, I have been detained in the Qarchak prison, overcrowded with serious sanitary and structural issues. I face a recurrent lack of access to health care, non-nutritional food, which further complicates my health. My health has seriously deteriorated since my arrest.
On 11 August 2020, I went on a hunger strike and published a letter demanding the release of political prisoners. On 17 August 2020, my daughter Mehraveh Khandan aged 20, was arrested and detained for hours to force me to end the hunger strike.
On 7 November 2020, I was temporarily released since I had contacted the COVID-19 virus but was taken back to prison on 2 December 2020.
My husband, Reza Khandan, was also targeted for challenging compulsory veiling laws. He has been sentenced to six years imprisonment in a ruling that can be enforced at any time. On 9 February 2021, his bank accounts were frozen.
My arrest, sentencing and the attacks on my family are illustrative of the repressive nature of laws and practices in Iran.
The CIVICUS monitor rates Iran as closed
Call for my release by going to the TAKE ACTION section below.
Call for my release by going to the TAKE ACTION section below.
We are Members of Parliament for the Kingdom of Eswatini. We were arrested on the evening of 25 July 2021 during the wave of pro-democracy protests demanding political reforms. We are detained at the Mbabane police station and charged for inciting terrorism under the Suppression of Terrorism Act and flouting COVID-19 regulations. We are due to appear before the High Court in Mbabane.
The pro-democracy protest started in June 2021 in the Kingdom of Eswatini, following the death of a 25-year-old student, Thabani Nkomonye, who allegedly died at the hands of the police. This sparked an upsurge of protests across the Kingdom seeking justice for Thabani and demanding political reforms. Since the start of the protests, the government of Eswatini launched a violent crackdown on peaceful protesters, resulting in the death of over 80 people, several others injured, and many arbitrarily detained.
On 29 July 2021, we appeared before the High Court in Mbabane for a bail application hearing. The judge reserved the judgement and rejected the bail application on 6 August 2021. On 14 September, the High Court again ruled against a second bail application. The decision was appealed, but the High Court declared that ‘it cannot correct its judgement as it had made specific findings in dismissing the bail and advised the parties on the only available remedy, which is to appeal to the Supreme Court.’
The quest for political reforms and our arrest continue to spark tensions and protests across the country. In October 2021, demonstrations and anti-police violence marches took place across the country, calling for our release and the release of other peaceful protesters. More than 1000 people were arrested, including children who participated in the protests.
We are detained under horrendous conditions and stand the risk of contracting COVID-19.
The CIVICUS monitor rates Eswatini as repressed
Call for our release by going to the TAKE ACTION section below.
I am an independent human rights lawyer in Tajikistan. On 28 September 2015 I was arrested in connection with my professional duties when I provided legal representation to members of the banned opposition party, Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT). I have also spoken out about the alleged torture that one of my clients endured during pre-trial detention. The government had repeatedly requested that I drop the case, but I refused to do so. I was charged with forgery, fraud, inciting national, racial, local or religious hostility and extremism.
Following a seriously flawed criminal investigation in a closed trial which failed to meet international standards of fairness, in October 2016 I was sentenced to 23 years in prison. My sentence was increased to 28 years, after further politically motivated charges were brought against me. In October 2019 my sentence was reduced by six years, as part of the government’s mass amnesty.
I am currently being held in the Strict Regime Prison Colony No.1 in Dushanbe. I am imprisoned with ordinary prisoners which is an added risk as I worked as a former police officer prior to being a lawyer. This poses an added threat to my life, especially from prisoners who know that I am a former police officer.
During my imprisonment, I have faced torture and ill-treatment including severe beatings which required hospitalisation. I have also been placed in solitary confinement several times, which I believe is linked to my efforts of drawing attention to the ill-treatment of prisoners. After numerous complaints about my situation, the office of the Ombudsman of Tajikistan has promised to investigate and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
In May 2019, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued its opinion, concluding that my detention is arbitrary and violates international human rights law.
On 29th April 2020, my relatives expressed their concern about the deterioration of my health as I was suffering from a high fever linked to symptoms of COVID-19. However, the government of Tajikistan has responded to COVID-19 with denialism and cover ups, with the Department for the Execution of Criminal Sentences of the Ministry of Justice denying that I had any health problems. I am fearful that the second wave of the COVID-19 virus has begun in the prison and that I am at risk of re-infection, with little availability for medical treatment in the prison as I have seen with other political prisoners.
To create awareness around my case, my family has started a foundation in my name.
Tajikistan is rated repressed on the CIVICUS Monitor
Call for our release by going to the TAKE ACTION section below.
I am an activist against human rights abuses in Nicaragua. As the daughter of a union leader who was detained by previous governments, since massive socio-economic protests began in April 2018 I have protested for the release of political prisoners and against the Daniel Ortega government. Due to my commitment to my country’s civic movement, I was persecuted, threatened and fired from several jobs.
On 26 January 2020, I was arbitrarily detained under accusations of narcotrafficking, which I vehemently deny. Before the arrest, I was in a safe house in Managua since November 2019 due to the constant sieges at my home in Matagalpa. My family members also denounce that I was subjected to torture and ill-treatment aimed at forcing me to accept the charges. According to Nicaraguan human rights organizations, false charges have been used as a strategy to criminalize activists and defenders in Nicaragua, denying their status of political prisoners.
Currently I am at the women’s prison “La Esperanza”, where I suffered an asthma attack, a high blood pressure crisis and was diagnosed with bronchitis. I have been repeatedly denied medical attention and access to medications, as well as to any type of protection or security measures against the Covid-19 outbreak. Because of chronic health conditions, there is high risk that I could develop coronavirus-related complications in case of an infection.
On 8th May 2020, I was found guilty of narcotrafficking. In early July, I was sentenced to 10 years in prison and a fine equivalent to 900 US dollars or 500 days in prison, but I have refused to sign documents accepting this conviction. In July 2020, my lawyers will present an appeal on my behalf.
Nicaragua is rated Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor#StandAsMyWitness and call for my release by going to the TAKE ACTION section below
United Arab Emirates
I am Ahmed Mansoor, one of the last voices within the United Arab Emirate (UAE) who provided a credible independent assessment of human rights developments in the country. I am on the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch advisory boards. In 2015, I won the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders as recognition for my human rights work, following repeated crackdowns on human rights defenders in UAE that led to my arrest in 2011 and again in 2017.
On 29 May 2018, I was sentenced to 10 years in prison on trumped-up charges of ‘insulting the status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols including its leaders and for seeking to damage the relationship of the United Arab Emirates with its neighbours by publishing false reports and information on social media’. I was also fined 1 million dirhams and given three years probation to be served upon my release. This decision was upheld by the UAE’s State Security Court on 31 December 2018.
In early September 2019, I started a hunger strike in protest against the solitary confinement, ill-treatment and torture I suffer in Al-Sadr prison, including being denied a bed, mattress or pillow. I have been subjected to frequent harassment by correctional officers, who refuse to allow me access to books, newspapers, radio or TV. Many NGOs, United Nations representatives and the European Union have called for my release.
By detaining me in such appalling conditions, the UAE authorities violate their obligation under the Convention Against Torture and Principle 6 of the Body of Principles, as well as Article 2 of the UAE’s Code of Criminal Procedure.
UAE features on the CIVICUS Watchlist as a state with a severe decline in civic space and freedoms.
The CIVICUS Monitor rates UAE as a closed state.Call for my release by going to the TAKE ACTION section below.
As former President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and Co-Founder of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, I have spent my life taking a stand for democracy and freedom. But I am now behind bars: my peaceful advocacy work landed me in prison.
In February 2011, pro-democracy protests swept Bahrain, starting in the capital Manama. Many of the demonstrations were brutally suppressed by the authorities - nearly 100 people died and thousands were arrested - I was one of those arrested.
I was part of the ‘Bahrain 13’, a group of prominent activists and opposition leaders arrested after calling for civil and political rights during the 2011 uprising. On 22 June 2011 a Bahraini court sentenced me to life imprisonment on trumped-up charges during what is largely regarded as an unfair trial.
Torture, physical and sexual abuse, solitary confinement - these are some of the ways the authorities have punished me while in prison. Security personnel have even made sexual threats against my wife and daughter. But those responsible for my abuse have never been held to account. I have gone on repeated hunger strikes to protest my detention and the conditions I am forced to endure. My health is deteriorating and the cramped prison environment puts me at risk of contracting COVID-19.
2021 marks a decade of incarceration.
And on April 5 2021 I will turn 60 in prison, separated from family and friends.
I do not want to spend another decade behind bars so I urge you to #StandAsMyWitness. Use your voice.
Bahrain is rated Closed by the CIVICUS Monitor
Call for my release by going to the TAKE ACTION section below
We are human rights defenders from Nicaragua and members of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, which advocates for the rights of peasant communities.
On 13 July 2018, we were arrested alongside other activists and charged with terrorism. We have been accused of directing an attack on 12 July in Morrito that killed four police officers and a professor. However, when the incident occurred, we were participating in a March in Managua, and the media and other witnesses confirmed this. Nevertheless, we were sentenced to 261 and 210 years imprisonment respectively and tortured while in prison. On 11, 2019, we were released under the amnesty law.
On 25 February 2020, we were part of a National Coalition towards a unified opposition seeking to challenge incumbent Daniel Ortega seeking a fourth term as president in the 2021 Nicaraguan general elections. We also raised concerns about the country's political crisis and called for President Daniel Ortega to resign.
We were re-arrested on the night of 5 July 2021 as part of a wave of arrests targeting activists and people who expressed their desire to stand for the presidency ahead of the presidential elections scheduled for November 2021.
The arrest of human rights activists and political leaders in Nicaragua is emblematic of a system that creates fear and abuse power with impunity. A state that routinely imprisons opposition leaders and activists.
We are detained under terrible conditions and risks contracting the COVID-19 virus.
Nicaragua features on CIVICUS Watchlist as a state with a serious decline in civic space and freedoms.
Nicaragua has been downgraded from repressed to closed in the new CIVICUS monitor report.
Call for our release by going to the TAKE ACTION section below.
We are members of the Human Rights Centre Viasna (Viasna), a human rights organisation based in Belarus. We are: Ales Bialiatski, chairperson of Viasna. I was arrested on 14 July 2021 and charged with ‘tax evasion’. The true reason was assisting victims of political repression. If convicted, I may be imprisoned for up to 7 years.
Valiantsin Stefanovich, a member of Viasna Board and International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) vice-president. I was arrested on 14 July 2021 and have been in pre-trial detention since then. I was charged with ‘tax evasion’ and ‘preparing actions that grossly violate public order or active participation in them’. The charges appear to be the government’s reprisal for my many years of human rights work.
Uladzimir Labkovich, a lawyer at Viasna and co-leader of the election observation initiative “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”. I was detained together with my wife on 14 July 2021 after a search in our apartment. I was then remanded in custody to await trial on politically motivated charges of ‘tax evasion’ and ‘preparing actions that grossly violate public order’ or active participation in them’. If found guilty, I may be sentenced to seven years in prison.
Marfa Rabkova, coordinator of Viasna’s network of volunteers. I was arrested on 17 September 2020 and have been in pre-trial detention since then. I am charged with eleven ‘crimes’, including ‘training and preparing people to participate in mass riots’, ‘incitement of racial, national, religious or other social hatred or discord committed by a group’ and ‘membership in a criminal organisation’. I could face up to 20 years in prison.
Andrei Chapiuk, a volunteer of Viasna in Minsk. I was detained on 2 October 2020 and charged with ‘participation in mass disorders’. I could face up to seven years in prison.
Leanid Sudalenka, director of Viasna’s branch in Homieĺ. I was arrested on my way to the office on 18 January 2021. My ‘offence’ is that I provided legal assistance to dozens of Homieĺ region residents detained and charged for their participation in post-election protests. On 3 November 2021, I was sentenced to 3 years in prison.
Tatsiana Lasitsa, a volunteer with Viasna’s Homiel branch. I was arrested on 12 January 2021 and charged with ‘organising or participating in group actions that gravely violate public order’. On 3 November 2021, I was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
The Belarusian government is systematically silencing civil society voices. On 16 February 2021, law enforcement officers raided Viasna offices in Minsk, Homieĺ, Mahilioŭ, Viciebsk, Brest and other cities and opened a criminal case into Viasna’s activities.
Belarus features on CIVICUS Watchlist as a state with serious concerns regarding the exercise of civic freedoms.The CIVICUS monitor equally rates Belarus as closed.Call for our release by going to the TAKE ACTION section below.
I am Kenia Hernandez, the coordinator of Zapata Vive, a peasant movement that defends land rights collective identity and promotes different forms of peaceful resistance against unfavourable development models imposed by the Mexican State. I am also the leader of the National Movement for the Freedom of Political Prisoners.
I have been subjected to several harassments as part of my work as a human rights defender. I was arbitrarily arrested on 18 October 2020 at a toll booth on the Amozoc highway in the state of Puebla by unidentified police officers.
I was later transferred to prison, facing unfounded charges of ‘violent robbery.’
On 19 February 2021, the Trial Court of the Judicial District of Almoloya de Juarez, State of Mexico, sentenced me to ten years and six months in prison based on fabricated charges of ‘robbery with violence.
My health has significantly deteriorated due to the unsanitary conditions I am subjected to in the maximum-security prison Centro Federal de Readaptacion Social Femeni (CEFERESO) No.16, in the municipality of Coatlan, in Morelos state, where I have been detained since October 2020.
The arrest of human rights defenders and political leaders in Mexico is illustrative of a system that creates fear and abuse power with impunity.
The CIVICUS monitor rates Mexico as repressed.Call for my release by going to the TAKE ACTION section below.
Hoda Abdel Moneim
I am Khurram Parvez, a Kashmiri human rights defender. Currently, I am the Programme Coordinator for the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and the Chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearance (AFAD). These organisations have documented serious human rights violations in Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir for two decades, including enforced disappearances and unlawful killings.
I have faced systematic harassment and intimidation due to my work as a human rights defender. In 2016, I was arrested by the Indian authorities a day after being barred from travelling to Switzerland for the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. I was charged under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA), which permits detention without charge for up to two years. I was released after 76 days in detention.
On 22 November 2021, I was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on charges related to conspiracy and terrorism under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act 1967 (UAPA), a counter-terrorism law, including Section 17 (raising funds for a terrorist act), 18 (conspiracy), 18B (recruiting of any person or persons for a terrorist act), 38 (offences relating to membership of a terrorist organisation and 40 (raising funds for a terrorist organisation).
UN experts have expressed concerns about the UAPA which have been routinely used by the government to detain human rights defenders. Individuals detained under the law are held in pre-trial detention for long periods.
India features on the a href="https://monitor.civicus.org/watch-list/">CIVICUS Watchlist as a state with a severe decline in civic space and freedoms.
The CIVICUS monitor rates India as repressed.
Call for my release by going to the TAKE ACTION section below.*This first-person narrative has been developed by CIVICUS based on Khurram's case
I am Kamira Nait Sid, an Amazigh from Algeria and a strong advocate of the Amazigh language, culture and identity. My advocacy work was through the Association of Women in Kabylie, where I also raised critical questions concerning women's rights.
As an indigenous Amazigh woman and co-president of the Amazigh World Congress, I have been a victim of harassment by Algerian authorities, arrested, detained on several occasions for a short period. I am often subjected to searches and interrogations when travelling abroad from the airport in Algiers.
I was abducted on 24 August 2021 in Northern Algerian by unidentified men for several days before friends, family, colleagues and my lawyers received confirmation that I was in police custody.
I am accused of belonging to the Kabyle separatist movement (MAK). I was placed in pre-trial detention on 1 September 2021 by the investigating judge at the Sidi M'hamed court in Algiers. I am being prosecuted under Article 87 of the Penal Code, which classifies any act as a terrorist act if it threatens the state's security, territorial integrity, stability, or normal functioning of institutions.
The arrest of human rights defenders in Algeria is descriptive of a system that crackdowns on critical voices in the country.
The CIVICUS monitor rates Algeria as repressed.Call for our release by going to the TAKE ACTION section below.
I am a lawyer and a women human rights defender (WHRDs) from Hong Kong. I advocated for the protection and promotion of labour rights and the rights of persecuted human rights defenders in mainland China. I was one of the vice-chairs of the now-defunct Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (the Hong Kong Alliance or HKA), a grassroots advocacy group established in 1989 in Hong Kong to campaign for the release of political prisoners and democratic reforms in China, and accountability for the extrajudicial killings and other violations by the Chinese authorities during the lethal crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen, Beijing in June 1989. As a lawyer in Hong Kong, I also provided legal assistance to peaceful activists and protesters targeted by police and judicial actions for their involvement in pro-democracy activities.
I was arrested and detained on 4 June 2021 for publishing two social media posts to call on the public to join the annual peaceful vigil to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen massacre of civilians and protesters in Beijing. The authorities banned the vigil for two consecutive years under the pretext of combatting COVID-19.
On 13 December 2021, the Wan Chai District Court sentenced me to 12 months’ imprisonment under the Public Order Ordinance for ‘taking part in and inciting participation in the Tiananmen vigil in 2020’. Later on 4 January 2022, the West Kowloon Magistrate’s Court convicted me for ‘inciting others to participate in an illegal assembly’ based on the social media posts in 2021 and sentenced me to 15 months’ imprisonment, five to be served concurrently. This means I will spend a total of 22 months behind bars.
At the same time, I am still facing charges from September 2021 of ‘inciting subversion of state power’, together with two other members of the HKA. The indictment states that we were suspected of inciting others to subvert the Chinese regime in Hong Kong between 1 July 2020 and 8 September 2021. In addition, four other executive committee members of the HKA and I were charged with ‘not complying with the requirement to provide information under Article 43 of the National Security Law of Hong Kong, when the police accused our organisation of being backed by ‘foreign agents’ and demanded it provide information for the police investigation.
CIVICUS Monitor rates Hong Kong as repressedCall for my release by going to the TAKE ACTION section below.
This past year has been tough for everyone. For human rights defenders, their work got even harder. In many restrictive states the COVID-19 pandemic became an excuse to clamp down on human rights, and activists fighting for freedom and justice were ruthlessly rounded up by the authorities.What you can do:
1. Engage on Social Media.
Use this social media toolkit to share your messages of solidarity.
2. Send a Letter.
Help us demand the immediate release of activists featured in our campaign. You will find template letters for each of them! Take a look. Choose 1, or if you have time 2. Write to their respective governments and demand their release:
3. Share the details of HRDs not mentioned in our Interactive Map.
Do you know any human rights defenders in detention or facing judicial harassment that you would like us to profile? Tell us about them by following the link below.
Your actions make a difference!
With your support, #StandAsMyWitness proudly joined successful global calls for the release of: