Supreme Court ruling marks a further erosion of human rights work in Ethiopia

19 October 2012. Amnesty International, CIVICUS and Human Rights Watch are deeply concerned at the 19 October 2012 decision by Ethiopia’s Supreme Court to uphold the freezing of the assets of the Human Rights Council, Ethiopia’s leading, and oldest, human rights organization and the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association, a prominent women’s rights organization. 

The decision is yet another blow to the work of these two organizations and to the promotion and protection of human rights throughout the country.

The decision of the Supreme Court represents the acquiescence of the courts in the ongoing targeting of independent human rights organizations in Ethiopia, which has resulted in the near total demolition of human rights civil society in the country. The decision upholds the confiscation of substantial funding from the Human Rights Council (HRCO) – an organization with a strong track record of independent monitoring, documenting and advocacy on human rights issues; and from the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA), an organization that was conducting significant levels of work on women’s rights issues, including in providing legal and other forms of assistance to thousands of women every year.

HRCO and EWLA’s bank accounts were frozen in December 2009 after the passing of the Charities and Societies Proclamation (the ‘CSO law’), in January of that year. The law, ostensibly aimed at regulating civil society, places excessive restrictions on the work, operations and funding of human rights organizations, including by prohibiting human rights organizations from receiving more than 10 percent of their funding from foreign sources.


Cambodia: CIVICUS calls for unconditional release of detained activists

Johannesburg, 24 August 2012: Global civil society network CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation urges the Cambodian government to stop what appears to be an increasingly vicious campaign against civil society. Environmental and land rights activists exposing human rights abuses are particularly at risk as Cambodia's government seeks to promote rapid economic growth through policies that favour the private sector over citizens' rights.

"We can state without a doubt that 2012 has been the worst year for human rights in Cambodia in over a decade," says Naly Pilorge, Director of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights. "From increasingly violent crackdowns on peaceful protests, to arbitrary arrests and unwarranted criminal charges against protestors and human rights workers, and to the killing of a prominent environmental activist, civil society in Cambodia is under siege."

71 year-old veteran activist Mam Sonando has been in detention since 15 July on charges of committing public order crimes including "participating in an insurrectionary movement." His detention follows a protest by villagers against the forcible acquisition of their land in Kratie province, during which security forces killed a 14 year-old girl. Prior to his arrest, Mam Sonando's radio station, Beehive Radio, had highlighted a complaint by an overseas opposition political movement to the International Criminal Court that argued that large-scale forced evictions by the Cambodian government that displaced thousands of people amounted to crimes against humanity. It is widely believed that Mam Sonando's arrest was in response to this independent reporting by Beehive. Various reports indicate that his health is deteriorating rapidly and he has now fallen ill for a second time since being detained.


A new low in Bahrain as Nabeel Rajab is sentenced

Johannesburg, 22 August 2012: The sentencing of Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, to three years in jail marks a new low for civil society in Bahrain, says global civil society network CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation.   

On 16 August 2012, Manama’s Lower Criminal Court convicted Nabeel for nothing other than exercising what should be normal democratic freedoms enjoyed by all. He was found guilty of “participation in an illegal gathering, calling for a march without prior notification” and “inciting others to join in illegal gatherings using social networking sites.” At the time of his sentencing Rajab was already serving a three month sentence for “insulting an official authority over twitter.”


CIVICUS calls for fair and transparent inquiry into the deaths of protesting miners in South Africa

17 August 2012, Johannesburg: Global civil society network CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is deeply saddened at the killing of over 30 protesting miners by police on 16 August in Marikana, North West Province, South Africa.

"While details of the incident are still coming to light, we urge South Africa's government to immediately institute an independent inquiry into the circumstances of the deaths," says Katsuji Imata, Acting Secretary General of CIVICUS. "Law enforcement agencies engaged in crowd control are bound by strict legal requirements and are expected to abide by the UN Basic Principles on the Use Force and Firearms. An inquiry must reveal to the public the extent to which legal requirements were followed by police officers and whether there was disproportionate lethal force."

In the lead up to the incident on 16 August, which occurred outside the Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine, workers belonging to rival unions had been involved in a week-long violent standoff triggered by a demand for better wages in which ten people, including two police officers, were killed. Police were asked to restore peace after thousands of striking mineworkers gathered together in support of their demands.


Time for the Commonwealth to act on Swaziland

16 August 2012. The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and global civil society network CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation call for the Commonwealth to bring Swaziland under the scrutiny of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group for persistent and serious violations of Commonwealth values.

While Swaziland's national constitution (2005) guarantees the rights of freedom of expression, association and assembly, these fundamental freedoms are weakened by contrary claw-back provisions that limit their exercise.

The King's Proclamation of 1973, which prohibits political organising, remains in force. Political parties are banned. Political activity and expression that does not align itself with the regime is not tolerated. Political gatherings are regularly dispersed and publications critical of the regime are censored.

The lack of tolerance of dissent is evidenced by the de-registration of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland in April 2012, soon after it stated its intention to boycott the 2013 elections. That same month, peaceful pro-democracy protests were repressed, with journalists detained and human rights defenders harassed.

Pro-democracy activists and human rights defenders are targeted using imprecise counter-terror legislation, including the Suppression of Terrorism Act (2008) and the draconian provisions of the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act (1938), which are regularly employed to inhibit the exercise of democratic and civic freedoms.

There is a strong perception of police impunity, as credible allegations of extra-judicial killings, torture and ill-treatment have not been adequately addressed.


Moves to stifle civil society in Russia demand strong international action

8 August 2012- Global civil society network CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation condemns the recent surge in restrictions on civil society in Russia and urges the international community to speak out against the Russian government's disregard for international norms on the treatment of civil society.

In the past two months, Russia's government has hurried a number of regressive laws through parliament. The laws, which will come into force 120 days after they have been signed by President Vladimir Putin, will severely constrain the work of civil society and impede the exercise of the key civil society rights – of free expression, association and assembly. CIVICUS believes that the new laws are a reaction to the widespread protests at the assumption of the presidency by President Putin for a third term and allegations of misuse of state machinery.


Civil Society welcomes UN High Level Panel on Post 2015 but where are the voices of People living in Poverty?

7 August 2012- The Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), CIVICUS, the Feminist Task Force, Oxfam International, Beyond 2015, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Article 19, ATD Fourth World, the World Movement for Democracy and Stakeholder Forum, welcome the appointment by the UN Secretary-General of a diverse High-Level Panel to advise on a post-2015 development agenda.

However, as networks comprising a wide range of civil society organisations at the local, national and global level, we are concerned the High Level Panel does not include the voices of people living in poverty, and their representative associations who deserve a seat at the table. We feel the current composition of the panel is largely state-centric and should include greater civil society voices, particularly those of women, workers and other socially excluded populations.


Killings of activists must end in the Philippines: CIVICUS and Karapatan

Johannesburg, 30 July 2012: Global civil society network CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and the Philippine-based national human rights organisation, Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights, urge the Philippines government to end persecution and extrajudicial killings of human rights defenders, and to carry out fair and independent investigations into all cases of extrajudicial killings and disappearances.

President Benigno Aquino III has promised to “resolve cases of extrajudicial executions and other violations of human rights.” Nevertheless, genuine reform to ensure the protection of civil society members continues to be lacking. The government continues to implement Executive Order 546, which allows the use of paramilitary forces and private militias to spearhead its controversial counter-insurgency programme, Oplan Bayanihan.

According to Karapatan, 99 instances of extrajudicial killing and 11 cases of enforced disappearance have been documented since President Aquino assumed office in June 2010. The majority of the victims have been farmers, indigenous peoples and activists advocating for land rights and environmental protection. Additionally, it is reported that at least 385 political prisoners continue to languish in prisons as a result of exercising the key civil society freedoms - freedom of expression, association and assembly.


Pakistan Government must protect civil society before it's too late

Johannesburg, 24 July 2012: CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and Pakistan women’s rights group Blue Veins strongly condemn attacks on human rights defenders in Pakistan, and urge Pakistan’s government to uphold its responsibility to protect civil society.

The work of civil society activists and independent journalists is becoming increasingly dangerous in Pakistan.  On 4 July 2012, women’s rights activist Farida Afridi was shot dead by gunmen in the Khyber Agency region of the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) of Northwest Pakistan.  Farida worked for the Society for Appraisal and Women Empowerment in Rural Areas, a CSO focusing on the welfare and the rights of women.  She had been threatened by extremist groups to stop her activities as a human rights defender prior to her death.


Belarus and Eritrea resolutions an important step towards accountability: CIVICUS

Johannesburg, 12 July 2012: Global civil society network CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation welcomes the recent UN Human Rights Council decision to address persistent and serious human rights violations in Belarus and Eritrea.

At the close of its 20th session last week, the Council adopted resolutions with broad support from member states condemning the deterioration of respect for fundamental freedoms in Belarus and Eritrea and establishing Special Rapporteurs on the two countries.

The Council cited heightened restrictions on the freedoms of association, assembly and expression in Belarus and called on the Belarus Government to put an immediate end to the arbitrary detention of human rights defenders and unconditionally release all political prisoners.


International community must act against latest curbs on free speech in Ethiopia

Johannesburg, 9 July 2012: Recent moves to curb freedom of expression in Ethiopia represent a steep escalation in an ongoing campaign to silence dissent, says global civil society network CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation.

On 27 June, prominent blogger and human rights defender Eskinder Nega was convicted along with five other exiled journalists for attempting to incite violence and overthrow the constitutional order. Eskinder was arrested on 14 September 2011 after he wrote an article criticising the manner in which Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism proclamation was being used to stifle free speech. The authorities have accused him of attempting to start an uprising through a series of articles he wrote on the Arab Spring and through his analyses of the political situation in Ethiopia. Sentencing for Eskinder, who is in custody, and for other journalists who were tried in absentia, is planned for 13 July.


Призыв к срочным мерам по предотвращению ущемления НКО в России

Государственная Дума Российской Федерации рассмотрит поправки к законам об НКО 13 июля.

Гражданское общество во всем мире шокировано предлагаемыми поправками в отдельные законодательные акты, которые предусматривают обозначение организаций как «выполняющих функции иностранного агента» в случае получения ими зарубежного финансирования. Такие организации становятся объектом повышенного государственного контроля и обязаны предоставлять дополнительную финансовую отчетность, что противоречит Конституции РФ и международным обязательствам.

Принятие поправок серьезно подорвет деятельность гражданского общества и нанесет урон международной солидарности. СИВИКУС выступает с призывом к гражданскому обществу во всем мире выразить свое возмущение создаваемым в России прецедентом, подписав и отправив прилагаемое письмо в адрес Государственной Думы Российской Федерации по адресу


Another setback for freedom of assembly hits Russia, say CIVICUS and Greenpeace Russia

Johannesburg, 26 June 2012: Russia has taken a further step backwards on democratic freedoms by amending the administrative code on illegal public events to punish violations of rules through exorbitant fines, say CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and Greenpeace Russia.

On 8 June 2012, President Putin signed into law controversial increases to existing penalties for violating rules on participation in and organisation of public protests. The new maximum penalty for participation in a protest that is not in accordance with government regulations is 300,000 rubles (approximately US$9,000) for individuals, while organisations face fines up to 1 million rubles (approximately US$32,000). The fine limits have been increased by 150 times for individuals and by 300 times for organisations.


Space for civil society shrinking in Uganda say national and global CSOs

Johannesburg, 25 June 2012. Civil society space in Uganda is rapidly shrinking, warn global network CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and Uganda-based East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP). Independent civil society organisations are being openly threatened and placed under excessive scrutiny by senior government officials.

For example, on 18 June, a skills-building workshop for LGBTI human rights defenders organised by EHAHRDP was closed abruptly after police raided the training venue. Workshop participants, and guests and staff in the hotel where the meeting was taking place were effectively held hostage for over three hours while police attempted to identify and detain participants. Two EHAHRDP staff members and two workshop participants were also detained on a police bus. The police advised EHAHRDP to end the training and to deliver a copy of their registration and incorporation documents to the Criminal Investigations Department. EHAHRDP was further advised to seek approval from police institutions when such gatherings are scheduled in future in order to avoid more disruption. Local journalists arrived before the police and said that they had received a tip-off of the action from the Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity, Hon. Rev. Fr. Simon Lokodo. 


Disappointment and frustration abound in Rio

Disappointment and frustration abound in Rio

Johannesburg, South Africa 22 June 2012 CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is deeply dismayed with the outcome of Rio+20 and believes the under-achievement of Rio raises serious questions about the ability of the inter-governmental system as currently constituted to achieve sustainable development, protection of human rights, and the full participation of people.

“The Rio+20 statement as it stands is completely out of touch with reality,” says Wael Hmaidan, Director of CAN International, who delivered a statement on ‘The Future We Don’t Want’ on behalf the NGO Major Group for Rio+20 at the conference’s opening plenary on 20 June. He was referring to the 283-paragraph outcome document, completed and endorsed by delegations from 191 governments and sent to Heads of State and Government to adopt at the end of the Rio+20 conference.

In the hope of strengthening civil society participation and making the process more inclusive, global civil society network CIVICUS has been acting as one of the Organising Partners for the NGO Major Group for the Rio+20 Conference. NGOs constitute one of nine Major Groups engaged in the Rio+20 process which culminated on 22 June.


Civil society under attack as dissent is silenced in Bangladesh

Johannesburg, 15 June 2012. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation denounces the government of Bangladesh’s systematic clampdown on peaceful political dissent and calls for a full investigation into the politically motivated disappearances of civil society activists.

Since the beginning of 2012, a number of civil society members, journalists and political activists have been attacked by representatives of law enforcement agencies. Civil society protests and public meetings have been disrupted by the police. Meanwhile new legislation is being proposed to control the activities of independent civil society groups, marking a dangerous decline in democratic freedoms in Bangladesh.


Urgent action: safety of Nabeel Rajab must be ensured

CIVICUS is deeply concerned about the safety of Bahrain civil society activist and President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Nabeel Rajab, who was arrested again on 6 June.

It has been confirmed from reliable sources that the evident reason for Nabeel’s arrest was his appearance on ‘The Stream’ programme of Al-Jazeera on 4 June. His arrest took place despite an assurance being sought by Al-Jazeera from the government of Bahrain that he would not be sanctioned for appearing on television.


Uzbekistan: allow independent experts access to prevent persecution, say CIVICUS and Expert Working Group

Johannesburg, 5 June 2012: CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and Expert Working Group, Uzbekistan, demand an end to the persecution of human rights activists in Uzbekistan and proper access for international human rights experts

Gulshan Karaeva, who heads the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan in the country’s Kashkadarya region, is the latest civil society victim to be targeted for her work and beliefs in a country which has one of the worst human rights records in the world. Karaeva is being singled out for her work in providing free legal aid to victims of human rights violations. In a letter she published on the internet on 5 May 2012, she reported that she had refused a demand by Uzbekistan’s National Security Services to cooperate with the agency as an informant. Days later, she experienced a series of attacks and threats.


Increased support needed for civil society in Azerbaijan after Eurovision contest

Johannesburg. 4 June 2012: Global civil society network CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and Azerbaijan CSO the Center for National and International Studies (CNIS) are deeply concerned about the safety of Azeri civil society activists who raised awareness of human rights violations during the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest, held last month in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Civil society in Azerbaijan was highly vocal ahead of the contest, demanding the release of political prisoners and the removal of restrictions on freedoms of speech and assembly under the banner of the Sing for Democracy campaign. Now, as the international spotlight shifts from Azerbaijan, credible concerns are being raised about possible renewed persecution of activists.


CIVICUS welcomes UN officials' move to defend Bahrain activists

Johannesburg. 29 May 2012.

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation salutes the bold and courageous action of UN Human Rights Council President, Laura Dupuy Lasserre, in asking the government of Bahrain to commit not to harassing or abusing civil society activists present at the current UN human rights meeting in Geneva.

The current UN Human Rights Council's universal periodic review (UPR) process saw Bahrain's human rights track record called into scrutiny by other governments. Civil society members therefore came to Geneva for the Human Rights Council meeting to lobby and speak out against Bahrain's appalling human rights record and treatment of civil society activists, which has seen arrests, imprisonment, torture, violence and other forms of harassment.


Open Letter to the King of Bahrain

King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa
Office of the King
The Amiri Court
Rifa'a Palace
The Kingdom of Bahrain

8 May 2012

Your Majesty
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and the organisations and individuals listed below are deeply concerned about the arrest of Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and FIDH Deputy Secretary General.

Mr Nabeel Rajab was arrested on 5 May 2012 upon arrival at Manama airport. He has been accused of "insulting the statutory bodies" pursuant to Article 216 of the Penal Code, which carries an imprisonment for a term up to three years and a fine. These charges come in relation to tweets that Mr Rajab posted deemed "insulting" to the Ministry of Interior.


International Criminal Court needs to investigate and prosecute human rights crimes against Syrian citizens, says CIVICUS

Johannesburg, 9 May 2012

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation calls for the international community to show stronger political will to stop human rights abuses in Syria. The international community must ensure that President Bashar al-Assad's regime is brought under pressure to abide by international law, and that there are investigations and accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is time for the UN Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court.

"A key part of a solution to the crisis in Syria must be to hold perpetrators of war crimes to account. It is unacceptable that such crimes have gone unpunished for 14 months. Addressing issues of impunity and accountability are tantamount to any reconstruction of the Syrian social fabric and long-lasting peace," says Adele Poskitt, Policy Officer at CIVICUS.

The division and lack of consensus within the international community over the crisis is prolonging violence and suffering in Syria. According to the UN, the death toll has reached 9,000 people and tens of thousands more have been displaced or fled the country.


Bahrain must immediately and unconditionally release Nabeel Rajab: CIVICUS

8 May 2012

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is shocked at the arrest and detention of Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab.

Nabeel Rajab was arrested on 5 May 2012 upon arrival at Manama airport. According to reports, he has been accused of “insulting the statutory bodies” pursuant to Article 216 of the Penal Code, which carries an imprisonment for a term up to three years and a fine. These charges come in relation to tweets that Nabeel posted that were deemed “insulting” to the Ministry of Interior.

“We believe that Nabeel Rajab’s arrest is an outright violation of the state’s duty to protect the freedom of speech of its citizens,” says Netsanet Belay, Policy and Research Director at CIVICUS. “He has been arrested for no reason other than his peaceful, legal and courageous acts of human rights activism.”


Israel government should free Ameer Makhoul on the second anniversary of his arrest

Johannesburg. 4 May 2012.

More than 25 organisations around the world have combined to urge Israel to free imprisoned human rights defender Ameer Makhoul on the second anniversary of his arrest.

Ameer has been in prison since May 2010. On 1 May 2012, Ameer was transferred from Gilboa prison to another jail in Majido, allegedly as punishment for participating in a hunger strike to highlight the conditions of political prisoners in Israel. His family was not informed, and only found out about the move when they tried to visit him at Gilboa prison. The transfer of Ameer to Majido adds to the harassment being faced by his family by making it difficult for them to reach him.

Ameer has been Director of Ittijah: Union of Arab Community-Based Associations since it was established in 1995. He has also served as Chair of the Public Committee for the Defence of Political Freedoms of Arab Citizens in Israel, in addition to being a prolific writer on political, social and civil society issues in Israel.

The circumstances surrounding Ameer's arrest by Israel's Shin Bet security agency, and the consequent failure by the Israeli government to follow the due process of law immediately after his arrest, smack of harassment and political interference.


Formula One race heightens tensions and ignores human rights abuses in Bahrain: CIVICUS

Johannesburg. 17 April 2012.

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation calls for a boycott of the Bahrain Grand Prix on 21 April 2012 and the release of all political prisoners in Bahrain.

The decision for the race to go ahead dangerously ignores the ongoing human rights violations and increases the tension in a country that is sliding towards another eruption of violence. The Bahrain Grand Prix was cancelled last year in the midst of a brutal government crackdown on protests that formed part of the Arab Spring, but the Formula One administrating body, the Fédération Internationale de I’Automobile, has announced that it is “safe” for the race to go ahead this week. This announcement was made even as clashes between protesters and security forces continue to occur daily. Villages that are home to Bahrain’s majority Shi’ite population have been attacked by supporters of the regime, and an explosion on 9 April 2012 in al-Akar, a village in the east of Bahrain, left several people injured and led to threats of retaliation.


Worsening human rights conditions in Syria demand an immediate end of force and a political solution

Joint statement by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and the Arab NGO Network for Development

The use of military action is intensifying in Syria, and the human rights and humanitarian conditions are deteriorating. Despite the calls of Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Arab League and the UN Special Envoy to Syria, Syrian authorities have failed to halt the use of excessive force and violence.

Further, the Syrian authorities have not taken any serious steps towards implementing political reforms demanded by the people. The steps the Syrian government has taken in assigning a committee to propose constitutional amendments and laws for political parties, associations and elections do not reflect the seriousness of popular demand for reform and political openness. Syrian authorities have also not taken any measure to reform social and economic policies in line with international human rights standards, and in accordance with the recommendations it accepted at the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review session in October 2010


CIVICUS warns of impending crackdown on Malawian civil society

Johannesburg, South Africa, 22 March 2012. The space for civil society to operate independently in Malawi is sharply shrinking warns international civil society network CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation. In a warning sign of an impending crackdown, members of civil society and the media are being openly intimidated to prevent them from criticising the government.

On 8 March 2012, the Malawi President's Office issued a public statement warning civil society organisations (CSOs) and media houses against insulting President Bingu wa Mutharika. Among other things, the statement notes: "It is a pity that some civil society organisations and media houses find demeaning, insulting and accusing the President as a scoop to merit themselves. It should be obvious that such insults, accusations and derogatory statements and ill comments about our Head of State are but a shame in the eyes of the international community." The statement threatens dissenters that the government "monitors carefully" social networks that are "hostile and probably careless in demeaning the State President." It also finds "unacceptable" phone-in radio programmes that offer a "platform for callers to castigate or insult the Head of State."


CIVICUS urges South Africa's Parliament to reject 'Secrecy Bill'

Johannesburg. 20 February 2011. As the South African National Council of Provinces considers the so called 'Secrecy Bill,' CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation urges parliamentarians to reject the "undemocratic" draft law.

The Protection of State Information Bill, drawn up by South Africa's Minister for State Security, was passed by the National Assembly in November 2011 despite serious concerns raised by a wide range of CSOs about its unconstitutionality and incompatibility with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which South Africa is a party. The bill is presently being considered by the South African National Council of Provinces which is undertaking a country-wide consultation process.  If passed by the National Council of Provinces, the bill will be sent to the President for signing into law.

"Passage of the bill will constitute a major setback for South Africa's democracy, weakening people's ability to tackle corruption and challenge official wrongdoing," said Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General of CIVICUS. "It will not only muzzle media and civil society nationally but also severely tarnish South Africa's reputation as a role model for democratic standards around the world."


CIVICUS urges justice and solidarity with Bahrain protestors

Johannesburg 14 February 2012. As Bahrain marks the first anniversary of its pro-democracy protests, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation calls upon the Arab League and Bahrain’s military and trading partners to pressure the government to end an ongoing travesty of justice.

A year on from the popular protests that began on 14 February 2011, 21 prominent human rights and political activists, many of them suffering from medical conditions, languish in prison, serving prison sentences ranging from two years to life. The sentences were imposed after flawed trials conducted by military courts and confirmed on appeal by military courts, in violation of well established legal principles. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, which was authorised by the King to look into rights violations, has reported that detainees were tortured, but no action has been taken to bring the perpetrators to justice.


NGOs around the world Condemn Persistent Crackdowns on Egyptian Civil Society and reject disabling draft NGO Law

Johannesburg. 8 February 2012. Amid rising tension in Cairo, Egypt, violence against peaceful protestors is being intensified and non-governmental organisations are being openly attacked. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Arab NGO Network for Development and the Open Forum for CSO Development Effectiveness condemn persistent and brutal crackdowns by Egyptian security forces and the attempt to control civil society activity through a draft Law on Associations and Foundations.

On 25 January 2012, thousands of members of Egyptian civil society flooded Tahrir Square to mark the first anniversary of the people's revolution and also to register their protest at the present turn of events. "What promised to be an uprising to end oppression in Egypt one year ago has been manipulated by the military to reinforce its control and severely repress legitimate civil society activities" said Ingrid Srinath, Secretary-General of CIVICUS.


Future of last remaining human rights monitoring NGO in Ethiopia in the balance

1 February 2012.

On 3 February 2012, the Cassation Bench of the Federal Supreme Court of Ethiopia will hear a petition by the Human Rights Council (HRCO), Ethiopia's oldest human rights organisation, to admit an appeal against the freezing of its bank accounts. Amnesty International, ARTICLE 19, CIVICUS, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and Human Rights Watch express deep concern at the obstacles and restrictions to which HRCO and other human rights organizations in Ethiopia are now subjected, as illustrated by this case. The decision of the Supreme Court will be of great significance for the future of HRCO's vital work and for the wider promotion and protection of human rights in Ethiopia.


CIVICUS deplores sustained harassment of independent Belarusian NGO

Johannesburg. 13 January 2012. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation condemns official attempts to discredit and dissolve the Belarus Helsinki Committee (BHC), an independent NGO highlighting violations of democratic freedoms on Belarus. The case of the BHC is the latest instance of the on-going pervasive clampdown on civil society activities in Belarus.

Last month, the Belarusian Ministry of Tax and Duties requested the Ministry of Justice to initiate the process of closing down the Belarus Helsinki Committee. A communication was received by BHC in June 2011 for alleged violation of Belarus' tax laws, requiring it to pay more than 240 million Belarusian Rubles (approximately 28000 US Dollars) in taxes and fines for receiving a grant from the European Commission back in 2002-2003.


CIVICUS calls for immediate end to violence against peaceful protesters in Egypt

Johannesburg. 24 November 2011. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation calls for immediate cessation of excessive and lethal force against peaceful protesters in Egypt. 

Since 18 November 2011, 40 civilians have been killed by security forces and over 1700 injured in nationwide protests to demand concrete action on the transition to democratic rule and an end to human rights violations. Live ammunition and harmful tear gas have been indiscriminately used against unarmed protestors, some of whom have been deliberately run-over by military vehicles. 


CIVICUS condemns harsh sentence for defending human rights in Belarus

Johannesburg. 24 November 2011. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation strongly denounces the sentencing of leading human rights defender, Ales Bialiatski, today in Belarus. The fabricated case against Bialiatski is a clear move by the Belarusian government to further silence civil society and opposition voices.

On 24 November 2011, the Pervomaiski District Court in Minsk sentenced Bialiatski to four and a half years imprisonment under “strict regime” conditions and the confiscation of property on charges of tax evasion. This politically motivated trial, which commenced 2 November 2011, highlights the measures that the authoritarian regime is prepared to take to stop those who do not toe the party line. This case is the latest example of the crackdown on dissent, opposition to the government and free media in a country growing increasingly isolated from Europe.


Press Statement: Italian priest latest victim of extra judicial killing in the Philippines

Johannesburg. 24 October 2011. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation strongly condemns the killing of Father FaustoTentorio, an Italian priest in the North Cotabato region of the Philippines on 17 October 2011. According to CIVICUS partner Karapatan, an alliance of human rights organisations in the Philippines, Fr. Tentorio is the 54th victim of extra-judicial killings since President Benigno Aquino III came into power in June 2010.

Fr.Tentorio worked for over three decades among the indigenous people in the Cotabato area advocating for indigenous people's land rights against the incursions of big business, especially by mining corporations. He was outspoken against military presence in the villages and was involved in exposing deliberate attempts to marginalise indigenous people by powerful individuals acting in complicity with state agencies. He also blamed the security forces for being tools for suppression of people's rights.


Egypt: Relentless attack on civil society threatens transition to democratic governance

21 October 2011. Johannesburg. The actions of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ (SCAF) is diminishing the space for civil society in Egypt and threatening the country’s transition to democracy, said CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and the Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement (EACPE) today. The recent attack on Coptic Christian protesters on 10 October 2011 is just the latest and most worrying example in a trend of attacks on civil society.


Civil society in South Africa deplores failure to give visa to the Dalai Lama

Johannesburg. 4 October 2011.  The South African government should stand by its founding values by granting a visa to the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, urged civil society in South Africa today. 

The Dalai Lama was due to visit South Africa from 6-8 October to attend the 80th birthday celebrations of fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. He was expected to deliver the inaugural Desmond Tutu International Peace lecture at the University of the Western Cape. Delay in granting him a visa by the South African government has now resulted in him cancelling his trip to the country. 


US- Take Tough Stance with Uzbekistan: Bill Would give militay aid to repressive government

The US government should not move toward “business as usual” with Uzbekistan, a group of 20 human rights organizations, labor and consumer groups, trade unions, investors, and other organizations said today in a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The letter’s signatories, including CIVICUS, expressed concern over proposed US legislation to permit military and other assistance to the Uzbek government, one of the most repressive in the world.

On September 21, 2011, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill that will allow taxpayer-funded military assistance to the Uzbek government. Uzbek authorities silence civil society activists, independent journalists, and all political opposition; severely curtail freedom of expression and religion; and organize forced child labor on a massive scale.

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Civil society breaks through silos to tackle global issues: 10th CIVICUS World Assembly

Montreal. 12 September 2011. Civil society is starting to make progress in breaking down silos between different sectors and across themes, regions and languages to improve their collective work towards building a more just world. This is the main result of this weekend’s 10th edition of the CIVICUS World Assembly, held from 10-12 September in Montreal and attended by over 800 delegates.  


Montreal communiqué for post MDG agenda

Montreal, 11/09/2011. A new global vision which is radical, ambitious and universal is needed to tackle the critical issues faced by people and the planet, and frame the post-2015 global agenda, outlined civil society organisations in a Montreal communiqué at the CIVICUS World Assembly on September in Montreal, Canada. 

Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General of CIVICUS pointed out that the gap between the Millennium Declaration and the technocratic formulation of the MDGs is far too wide. “It is shocking that despite all the industrial progress on the planet, millions of people continue to live in poverty and destitution.  Social and economic development cannot be delinked from civil and political freedoms. This reality must be taken cognizance of by policy makers in the future.”  


Civil society must lead the way in finding alternative solutions to global problems: Opening of CIVICUS World Assembly

Montreal, Canada. 10 September 2011. Stressing that world-wide civil society was “on the cusp of history” in its impact on democracy, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Secretary General Ingrid Srinath, said today that it was up to every single civil society representative to ensure that it would be a positive change and not a slide into irrelevance.


Azerbaijan: Continued clampdown on activists a threat to democracy

Johannesburg 5 September 2011. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is concerned by a series of systematic attacks on civil society by the Azeri government since February this year. These include the closure of the Human Rights House on 10 March, the targeted demolition of premises housing offices of three human rights activists on 10 August and the most recent being the unfair conviction of political activists on 25 August.  CIVICUS strongly urges Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev to intervene and restrain the actions of the authorities to stop the rampant restrictions and attacks on Azeri civil society.


Reinvent or face irrelevance: CIVICUS report warns civil society organisations

building_bridges_cover2 September 2011. Johannesburg. Civil society - the sphere of people's associations and organisations - is undergoing its most significant crisis and change for a generation. Many established civil society organisations (CSOs) are struggling under the weight of multiple economic and political challenges, but are also disconnected from citizens, particularly from new, informal modes of participation and activism.

This is the key finding of a new report on the state of civil society published by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation. The report, Bridging the Gaps: Citizens, organisations and dissociation, concludes that the rise of informal activity, such as the peoples movements of the Arab Spring, offers a new challenge and opportunity to CSOs: they must embrace such movements to connect better with the public and renew themselves in order to survive.


CIVICUS urges parliamentarians of Trinidad and Tobago to reject extension of State of Emergency

Johannesburg. 1 September 2011. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation has joined local civil society groups to call upon the parliament of Trinidad and Tobago to reject the proposed three-month extension of a State of Emergency, due to be voted on on Friday, 2 September 2011.


CIVICUS urges Bahrain Government to stop sham trials of activists

Johannesburg. 1 September 2011.  CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation in solidarity with regional civil society groups urges the Government of Bahrain to stop the ongoing sham trials of pro-democracy activists and provide them the right to appeal lengthy and unjust sentences in regular civilian courts.


10th CIVICUS World Assembly: Can civil society influence decisions with global impact?

10 August 2011. Montreal/Johannesburg. At a time when global crises pose mounting threats and global governance appears all but absent, the challenges and opportunities for civil society to influence decision-making are immense. Ensuring that local voices can be heard on a global scale and increasing the ability of civil society to influence decision-makers will be but two of the themes addressed at the upcoming 2011 CIVICUS World Assembly.

Jointly organised by Institut du Nouveau Monde (INM) and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the 10th edition of the CIVICUS World Assembly will take place at the Palais des Congrès in Montreal from 10-12 September 2011. This event, centred on the theme “Civil Society and Global Decision-Making: Doing It Better”, will bring together almost 800 representatives from civil society, as well as donors, governments and businesses from all over the world.


Cambodia must halt slide to authoritarianism

10 August 2011. Johannesburg. The Cambodian Government’s decision to introduce a law which will restrict the activities of Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) presents worrying signs about deterioration in the country’s democracy, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation said today. The proposed Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations will also make it more difficult for foreign aid organisations to operate in the Asian country, CIVICUS said.

CIVICUS joined a growing network of local and international civil society groups calling for the Cambodian parliament to abandon this draft law, believing the law will give the government discretionary powers to control civil society groups. The law, a clear violation of international human rights law, is also seen as part of a growing global trend of governments attempting to restrict their citizens’ freedom of association and speech and dissenting civil society voices.


CIVICUS urges immediate release of Belarusian Human Rights Defender, Aliaksandr Bialiatski

a_bialiacki4 August 2011. Johannesburg. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation strongly condemns the arrest of Aliaksandr (Ales) Bialiatski, prominent Belarusian human rights defender, vice president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and head of the Minsk-based human rights centre Viasna. 

"We have abundant reasons to believe that any alleged charges currently  against Mr. Bialiatski are directly intended to silence his active support of human rights in Belarus”, said Will Lasky, CIVICUS Eurasia Coordinator.  "CIVICUS believes his detention to be politically motivated and unlawful.” Mr. Bialiatski’s arrest is yet another instance in a pattern of harassment and intimidation toward civil society in Belarus.


Civil Society stands in solidarity with people of Swaziland

Johannesburg. 20 April 2011. International and South African civil society groups strongly condemn the brutal crackdown by Swaziland security forces on anti-government protestors.


As a group of concerned organisations, we strongly condemn the brutal crackdown by authorities on peaceful protestors in Swaziland. We stand united to voice our concerns about the daily abuses and the ongoing repression of its people.

The people of Swaziland have started to protest and rebel against the government in the country that has systematically prevented and repressed opposition voices. The democracy movement in Swaziland, while long standing, began in earnest on 12 April 2011 and is similar to many other pro-democracy movements on the African continent, as the people state that enough is enough: they want freedom and democracy. The repressive actions by the state to silence peaceful protest represent anything but a free and democratic society.

The abuses by the forces of the monarchy must end and Swaziland's people must be free of repression and be allowed to exercise their rights. People must be allowed the maintenance of the fundamental pillars of a democratic society, namely respect and protection of their human rights including freedom of association and freedom of. Police brutality and repression is not acceptable. The government of Swaziland should at all times respect the citizens' rights to assemble and be part of associations as enshrined in the 2006 constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights that it has promised to respect.  Freedom of association means repealing the 1973 ban on political parties and so political parties are not legally recognised in Swaziland. All citizens need to be free to mobilise, associate and oppose the Government, without fear of repression.

We stand in full support of the struggle in Swaziland for democratic freedom and human rights. We urge the Swaziland authorities to end the repression of peaceful dissent. We urge the international community to stand up against these abuses and condemn what is going on in the country against its citizens. We also strongly urge the South African government to act against the state sanctioned human rights abuses that are occurring within its direct neighbour.

List of organisations involved

  • CIVICUS:World Alliance of Citizen Participation
  • Human Rights Watch
  • African Diaspora Forum
  • CAF Southern Africa
  • Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute
  • Action for Conflict Transformation
  • Amnesty International


Civil Society Welcomes Maina Kiai as UNHRC Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and of Association

30 MARCH 2011 - ARTICLE 19, CIVICUS:World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), and the World Movement for Democracy welcome the appointment of Maina Kiai as the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association for the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).  His appointment comes at a crucial time when issues related to freedom of assembly are at the core of recent developments in North Africa, the Middle East, and beyond.

Through a press release on 5 July 2010, ARTICLE 19, CIVICUS, ICNL, and the World Movement called for the establishment of a UN Special Rapporteur to defend freedom of association and the creation of an objective and independent mechanism for monitoring repressive measures against civil society.  On 30 September 2010, we and other civil society groups welcomed the adoption of the Human Rights Council's Resolution A/HRC/15/L.23, which created the Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly and association.

We are now delighted that the UNHRC also appointed Mr. Kiai as the Special Rapporteur.  We have no doubt that Mr. Kiai, who has over 20 years of experience in human rights advocacy and policy development in Africa and around the world, will execute the responsibilities of the Special Rapporteur in an independent, impartial, objective, principled, and diligent manner.

At a time when the rights to freedom of assembly and association are increasingly under threat around the world, Mr. Kiai's mandate is of the highest importance.  We expect him to put the issues of freedom of assembly and association at the center of the UN's priorities and to further deepen the UN's commitment to protecting civic participation in political and social development.

ARTICLE 19, CIVICUS, ICNL, and the World Movement express our support for Mr. Kiai as he seeks to fulfill his mandate, and we look forward to working with him.




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