Pakistan: Government orders closure of 18 civil society organisations

Global civil society calls on the Government of Pakistan to reverse its order to close 18 human rights and development organisations

25 national, regional and international civil society organisations (CSOs) express their deep concern over the suspension and expulsion of 18 international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) in Pakistan. These organizations serve millions of people in Pakistan and contribute to the country’s economic and social development. We are also concerned that these actions indicate further restrictions to Pakistan’s already repressed civic space and urge the government to reconsider this decision.
 
On 3 October 2018, Pakistan’s Interior Ministry ordered 18 INGOs to wind up their operations within 60 days. The Interior Ministry had rejected their applications for re-registration in November 2017 without providing reasons, and subsequently rejected their appeals of the rejections. The appeals of more than a dozen other INGOs are still under review.
  
These expulsions come three years after the previous government ordered all INGOs operating in Pakistan to re-register with the Interior Ministry in October 2015, under a new INGO policy that effectively impedes the registration and functioning of international humanitarian and human rights groups.
 
The new policy and registration process required the submission of detailed accounts of INGOs’ current and past project funding. Even more concerning, all INGOs working in Pakistan are required to sign a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which prohibits any participation in ‘political activity,’ such as campaigning and advocacy activities, as well as distribution of materials deemed to negatively affect social, cultural and religious sentiments. The MoU also prevents INGOs from appealing the government’s decisions in court.
 
Local and concerned NGOs have called on the Interior Ministry to permit the INGOs to reapply for registration before closing their operations to avoid the extensive disruption that would otherwise occur. Pakistan has the world’s sixth biggest population, but a fifth of the people are still living in poverty. INGOs are helping to deliver the new governments’ 100-day reform agenda. In 2017 alone, the INGO sector reached an estimated 34 million people with humanitarian relief and development assistance. The 18 NGOs affected by the closure order are engaged in supporting access to healthcare, education and good governance.
 
The undersigned groups urge the government of Pakistan to create an enabling environment for civil society and human rights defenders to operate in accordance with the rights enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, among others.
 
We therefore urge the Pakistani authorities to reconsider its decision to suspend these organisations and to allow them to apply again for re-registration. We also call on the government to revise the policy for INGOs so that it does not contravene the rights to freedom of expression and association and cannot be misused to restrict their legitimate work.
 
Sincerely,
 
African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Asia Development Alliance 
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
Association For Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
Bytes for All ( Pakistan)
Caucasus Civil Initiatives Center (CCIC)
CIVICUS
Сenter for Civil Liberties, Ukraine
Civil Society Organisations Network for Development (RESOCIDE), Burkina Faso
Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan
Fundacion Ciudadano Inteligente, Chile
Free Expression Myanmar (FEM), Myanmar 
Human Rights Concern - Eritrea (HRCE)
Innovation 4 Change( I4C)  South Asia Hub
Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL)
Karapatan, Philippines 
Kontras, Indonesia
Lokataru Foundation, Indonesia
Metro Center, Iraq
Odhikar, Bangladesh
SUDIA (Sudanese Development Initiative), Sudan
Uganda National NGO Forum, Uganda
West African Human Rights Defenders’ Network (WAHRDN/ROADDH)

Zimbabwe Police arbitrarily arrest trade union leaders over planned protests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDS.

For more information, please contact:

Leonard Mandishara, NANGO Director

Teldah Mawarire, CIVICUS Advocacy and Campaigns Officer

Myanmar: Drop Charges Against Three Kachin Activists 

Joint Statement by CIVICUS and Amnesty International

Myanmar authorities must immediately drop defamation charges against three Kachin activists who led a peaceful rally in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State. The march was to call for humanitarian access to thousands of displaced civilians and for an end to the armed conflicts in northern Myanmar. 

The prosecution of the activists – and other recent cases of politically motivated arrest and imprisonment – represent an alarming return to practices that characterized Myanmar’s decades of direct military rule. 

Myanmar-anti-war-protestsOn 3 September 2018, Lum Zawng (m), Nang Pu (f), and Zau Jet (m) were charged under Section 500 of the Penal Code with defamation of the Myanmar military. The charges relate to statements they made at a peaceful rally on 30 April 2018 and at a press conference the next day, following major escalation in fighting between the Myanmar military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), an ethnic armed organization in Kachin State. The violence displaced more than 5,000 civilians, 2,000 of whom were trapped for several weeks in a forest near the village of Aung Lawt without access to humanitarian assistance or safe passage from the area. 

In response, on 30 April, thousands of people gathered peacefully in Myitkyina to demand the rescue of trapped civilians, the resumption of humanitarian access and an end to the conflict. Lawyer Lum Zawng was one of the organizers of the rally where protesters called for the military to stop aerial attacks on civilians. The authorities have charged him with defamation. 

The other two activists, Nang Pu, Director of the Htoi Gender and Development Foundation, and Zau Jet, Chairman of the Kachin National Social Development Foundation, are also facing defamation charges for comments they made at a press conference after the rally. The two had spoken about the situation of displaced civilians in the Hpakant area and about reports of threats against and ill-treatment of civilians by Myanmar soldiers. If convicted, they each face up to two years in prison. 

The prosecution of Lum Zawng, Nang Pu and Zau Jet is clearly an attempt by the Myanmar authorities to intimidate, harass and silence community leaders and human rights defenders who speak out about military abuses and the impact on civilian populations. Amnesty International and global civil society alliance, CIVICUS call on the Myanmar authorities to immediately drop the charges against the three activists. 

The rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are enshrined in Articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Under international human rights law and standards, certain restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly may be imposed, but only in narrow, clearly defined circumstances. Such restrictions must be provided by law; be limited to certain specified purposes such as national security, public order or respect of the rights or reputation of others; and be necessary and proportionate to the achievement of one of those permissible purposes. 

Amnesty International and CIVICUS are concerned about a range of laws in Myanmar – including Section 500 of the Penal Code – which are incompatible with the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and which are used to arrest, prosecute and imprison human rights defenders and other peaceful activists. Both organizations urge the Myanmar authorities – in particular Parliament – to take immediate action to review and repeal or else amend all such laws to bring them into line with international human rights law and standards. 

Human rights defenders play a vital role in the protection and promotion of human rights, and it is crucial that they are able to speak out freely on human rights violations, including those committed by the military against civilians in areas of armed conflict, without fear of repercussions. Under Article 2 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, each state has a duty to create the conditions necessary to defend human rights within their jurisdictions. Amnesty International and CIVICUS call on the government of Myanmar to ensure an environment in which it is possible to defend human rights without fear of reprisal or intimidation.

Background
The armed conflict between the Myanmar military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has been ongoing since June 2011, after a 17-year ceasefire ended. Since the resumption of hostilities, fighting has spread to other parts of northern Myanmar, involving a myriad of armed groups.

The Myanmar military has committed war crimes and other gross human rights violations against civilians, particularly from ethnic minorities, as documented in detail by Amnesty International in a June 2017 report and by the UN Fact-Finding Mission in a report presented to the Human Rights Council in September 2018. These crimes and violations include unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrest and indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas. Ethnic armed groups have also committed abuses against civilians. Investigations into allegations of human rights violations and crimes under international law are rare and perpetrators seldom, if ever, held to account, contributing to a climate of impunity in the country. 

More than 100,000 people have been internally displaced across the conflict-affected areas of northern Myanmar since 2011, many of them displaced multiple times. The humanitarian situation of internally displaced people (IDPs) remains serious, with ongoing concerns about conditions in IDP camps, including access to food, shelter, clean water and sanitation. In addition, the authorities – both civilian and military – have imposed severe restrictions on humanitarian access, exacerbating the needs of the displaced population.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Josef Benedict
josef.benedict{AT}civicus.org

Indonesia: Shut down of civil society conference an attack on civic space

Responding to the decision by the Indonesian police to remove permission for the "Peoples' Global Conference against IMF-WB" at the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank's annual meeting this week in Bali, Indonesia:

“At a time when the space for civil society and alternative voices is shrinking around the world, it is disgraceful that Indonesia, which prides itself as a champion of democracy, has decided to take such action. CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, calls on the Indonesian authorities to immediately review their arbitrary decision to cancel the conference and allow the event to take place. Authorities must also investigate allegations of intimidation and surveillance of the event organisers.”

“The space for critical debate in Indonesia is receding by the day with restrictions on peaceful gatherings, the arrest of activists for peaceful protests and human rights defenders facing various risks in undertaking their work.  CIVICUS calls on authorities to halt these draconian actions and instead create an enabling environment for activists and civil society to engage as well as critique the government and other actors including international financial institutions.”

Background

An alternative conference on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank's annual meeting this week in Indonesia has been cancelled due to pressure from the police. The planned event -- the "Peoples' Global Conference against IMF-WB" -was set to kick off on 11 October 2018.  The alternative conference, involving around 300 participants from Indonesia and around the world, was to bring together dozens of civil society groups to draw attention to the impact of free trade and IMF-WB backed policies that critics say aggravate income inequality, abuse labor rights and harm the environment.

Civil society has long called for international financial institutions to integrate civic space concerns into their work and in any country specific development projects supported or initiated by them.

According to reports, police intelligence personnel had infiltrated the event planning team as volunteers, subjecting them to intimidation and constant surveillance. The organisers are looking for an alternate venue and are in negotiations with police in Bali.

Josef Benedict, CIVICUS civic space research officer (josef.benedict[at]civicus.org, twitter @josefroy2): 

For more information on civic space in Indonesia visit their country page on the CIVICUS Monitor.  The state of civil liberties in Indonesia is currently rated as Obstructed.

Letter from Jail: Nicaraguan Farm Leader, Medardo Mairena

Incarcerated farm leader Medardo Mairena writes a letter to media from jail

SOSNicaragua6Medardo Mairena Sequeira,  is the Coordinator of the National Council in Defense of Land, Lake and Sovereignty and member of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy. Medardo is one of the leaders of the movement against the construction of the Canal in Nicaragua. Medardo was detained on July 13 along with campesino leader Pedro Joaquín Mena Amador when they were planning to board a plane to the United States to participate in a solidarity event with Nicaragua. Medardo and two other farm leaders, face false charges ranging from terrorism, murder, kidnappings, aggravated robbery and obstruction of public services.


I am grateful to God and my family, to the Nicaraguan people, to independent media, to national and international human rights commissions, to the Organization of American States, to the UN Security Council for not letting the Nicaraguan people alone.

To all my friends, to all the people, I ask you to remain united praying in these difficult times for everyone, especially for us political prisoners. We are imprisoned only because we think differently. The Ortega regime is a coward. They have imprisoned us just for raising our voices and speaking up for those who can’t and for those who are no longer with us. In the penitentiary system, we are in maximum security jails where the cells are in bad conditions, there is no electricity, restrooms are damaged. Windows that are supposed to allow air to enter are closed. It is like being baked in an oven and we are isolated from everyone else. Us campesino leaders are in the Modelo gallery 300, in the place known as “little hell”. We are 20 prisoners in the same conditions, we are sick, and they don’t allow a doctor to visit us. Thanks to god, I’m feeling better but it is only because of god. Here we have mosquitoes, cockroaches, scorpions. They don’t allow us to get out of the cells even for taking sun. They took my friend Pedro Mena’s Medication, he suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure and he always carries his treatment in his bag because he needs to take a daily pill. They treat us inhumanely.

I invite the people to keep doing peaceful demonstrations,  as we have always done it. Even if you don’t see me, my heart is always with you because we need to demand our freedom, because we are innocent from the accusations. The day the facts happened in Morito, we were in Managua demanding for dialogue be resumed with the government, because we want justice, democratization and a peaceful exit to the crisis. We cannot forget those whose lives have been taken by the regime. At least my family still has hope of seeing me alive, but the mothers that lost their children do not and we cannot forget their injustice.

Sincerely,

Medardo.

Translated originally from Spanish. Read original letter


CIVICUS has called on the authorities in Nicaragua to drop all charges against Medardo Mairena, Pedro Joaquín Mena, and Victor Manuel Diaz, and release them safely. CIVICUS also calls for the release of all the rural leaders, students and activists currently detained for exercising their right to protest.

Nicaragua has been added to a watchlist of countries which are experiencing an alarming escalation in threats to fundamental freedoms. The watchlist is compiled by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in countries across the globe.   

 

Joint Statement: Civil society condemns the wrongful conviction of Cambodian human rights defenders

logo cambodia statement 1 750x90

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), CIVICUS, Freedom House, and Front Line Defenders condemn yesterday’s conviction of four human rights defenders from the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) and a National Election Committee (NEC) official, in what we see as a clear attack against their legitimate human rights work.

On 26 September 2018, senior ADHOC staff members – Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Lim Mony, and Yi Soksan – were convicted of ‘bribery of a witness’ under Article 548 of the Criminal Code, while a NEC official and former ADHOC staff member Ny Chakrya was found guilty as an accomplice under Articles 29 and 548 of the same Criminal Code. Each has been given a five-year sentence by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, with 14 months and one day considered served and the rest of the sentence suspended.

Read more on Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

Apply: Goalkeepers Youth Action Accelerator

  • New programme to support youth tackling major social issues through data collection
  • Initiative will amplify activists’ work and hold leaders accountable
  • Selected activists will receive funding, technical assistance and networking support

2019 is kicking off with an exciting, innovative, youth-led and multi-partner programme called the Goalkeepers Youth Action Accelerator! The launch of the Accelerator is a direct response to the challenges young people face in accessing sufficient and appropriate resources to meaningfully engage in development decisions and activities that affect their communities.

The Accelerator will support promising youth advocates who are using data in innovative ways to address Global Goals 1-6 -- local development challenges related to poverty, hunger, health and well-being, education, gender equality and water and sanitation. These youth-led initiatives should relate to:

  • Data sourcing & Accountability: Initiatives that gather community views and experiences and/or crowdsourced data related to the specific development issue you’re working on. For example: Float Beijing Citizen Generated Data Quality
  • Data translation & Storytelling: Initiatives and campaigns that translate existing development data into stories that showcase progress and encourage leaders across sectors to act. For example: Stories for Advocacy

Chosen youth advocates will receive funding, technical and networking support, valued at up to US$30,000.

Apply Now!

Do you want to increase youth representation and influence in development decisions in your community? Do you want to generate and use data to improve accountability for local development?  Do you have a great idea, but need a little extra support to realise its full potential? 

If this sounds like you, check the eligibility criteria and frequently asked questions, and apply before 31st October! 

Still not sure if this is the right opportunity for you, contact the Goalkeepers Youth Action Accelerator coordination team at

Important Dates

  • Applications open: 26 September 2018
  • Applications close: 31 October 2018
  • Finalists announced: 30 November 2018
  • Virtual orientation (mandatory): December 2018
  • Workshop in Arusha, Tanzania (mandatory): 21-25 January 2019 

If you are selected, you will also have the opportunity to engage in additional networking opportunities to increase the visibility of your initiative, build local and global solidarity and mobilise funds.

See press release

New digital security law a further blow to media freedom and free expression in Bangladesh

  • The Digital Security Act was passed despite protests from civil society and journalists
  • DSA  incorporates other legislation that has been systematically used to silence dissent
  • New law comes amid a growing, brutal crackdown on peaceful protests and dissent  

Global rights group condemns violent repression of peaceful protests in eSwatini (formerly Swaziland)

  • Global civil society alliance condemns ongoing violations of freedom of assembly
  • At least two protesters shot, several injured in police attacks on marches
  • Hundreds of thousands of workers staged three days of protests
  • Violent police action against peaceful protests comes on eve of controversial elections

Global human rights groups have condemned the violent repression of peaceful protests in eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) as part of a long-running pattern of fundamental rights violations in the southern African kingdom.

At least two protesters were shot on Wednesday and several reported injured after police attacked demonstrations by workers, who were protesting the autocracy of King Mswati III, ruler of sub-Saharan Africa’s last remaining absolute monarchy, and calling for improved wages and better working conditions. The workers were among hundreds of thousands of others who responded to a call by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) to stage three days of peaceful protests, beginning on September 18, in the cities of Manzini, Mbabane, Siteki and Nhlangano.

 The latest incidents in ongoing restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression have come just ahead of today’s highly controversial parliamentary elections. More than 500,000 registered voters are expected to cast ballots for representatives of the legislature – an institution under the firm control of the King. The elections will be held without the participation of political parties, which are banned in Swaziland. 

Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, said the brutal police action against protesters violated constitutionally-protected rights to freedom of assembly and highlights the continued actions by the authorities to repress fundamental rights in Africa’s last remaining absolute monarchy.

“Swazis are unable to participate in political processes and with the tight controls exerted by the authorities over the media, constitutionally-guaranteed peaceful protests remain the only means through which they can raise concerns about issues affecting them,” said David Kode, CIVICUS Campaigns and Advocacy Lead.

“By using violence against those who exercise this right, the authorities are revealing the true extent of the brutality of the regime,” Kode said.

The current wave of repression of protesters is the latest in a trend observed since the start of the year to curtail the only means available to citizens to inform the government about issues affecting them. On June 29 for example, the police used brute force to disperse protesting workers as they made their way to deliver a petition to the Deputy Prime Minister’s office, calling for an introduction of a minimum wage and an end to the abuse of small-scale sugarcane workers. Four protesters were injured and hospitalised and one was detained and released after a while. 

On September 8, police used force to repress demonstrations led by nurses to  express concerns over healthcare cuts and medicine shortages. The protesting healthcare workers were blocked as they tried to deliver a petition to government officials.  Violence was also used against hundreds of trade union members demonstrating against the King’s misuse of the state pension fund.

King Mswati III unilaterally changed the country’s name from Swaziland to eSwatini in April, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of independence from Britain.

CIVICUS calls on the authorities to respect the rights of citizens to assemble peacefully and hold to account security forces who targeted peaceful protesters. 

The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in countries around the world, rates the space for civil society in Swaziland as ‘repressed’.   

For more information, please contact:

David Kode

Attacks on opposition and media continue as elections approach in Maldives

  • State slaps opposition supporters with spurious “terrorism” charges ahead of elections
  • Opposition campaign offices and members’ properties attacked and vandalised
  • New cumbersome visa requirements for foreign journalists adds to media restrictions
  • Global human rights groups call for probe into attacks and an end to media repression

Lysa John Announced as new CIVICUS SG

The CIVICUS Board of Directors is pleased to announce that following an extensive international search and selection process, Lysa John will be joining CIVICUS as the new Secretary General (SG) of the alliance.

Colombia: Rise for Climate marchers unlawfully obstructed

Peaceful activists and campesinos of the “Movimiento Rios Vivos” were unlawfully obstructed by police in Ituango, Colombia on 8 September 2018 as they participated in the global “Rise for Climate” mobilisation. The action in Ituango was part of a global mobilisation organised by the environmental rights group 350.org, which  brought together tens of thousands of people who took part in 900 actions in 95 countries around the world.  The blocking of the protesters is an example of the ongoing pattern of violations against environmental defenders.

Time to Sign: Stand with students & activists in Bangladesh

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

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

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

Malaysia: Senate’s rejection of bill abolishing fake news law a step backwards for the Pakatan Harapan government

ARTICLE 19 and CIVICUS are extremely disappointed that the Senate (Dewan Negara) has rejected a bill to repeal the repressive Anti-Fake News Act 2018. International and national rights groups, UN experts and Malaysian civil society have raised serious concerns that the law is inconsistent with international standards and may be used to violate the right to freedom of expression. The failure to abolish the law runs contrary to the new government’s commitment to reform the restrictive environment for expression and public discourse established by the previous Barisan Nasional government.

Deportation of human rights defender highlights repressive environment in Vietnam

  • Vietnam arbitrarily detains and deports global human rights leader attending regional summit
  • Senior Amnesty International official also denied entry to attend World Economic Forum meeting
  • Barred entry of activists comes amid widespread repression of human rights in Vietnam
  • CIVICUS condemns actions, calls for end to harassment, intimidation, imprisonment of activists

Global human rights groups have condemned Vietnam’s arbitrary detention and deportation of a Malaysian human rights leader who had arrived in the country to attend a regional World Economic Forum (WEF) summit.

Debbie Stothard, Secretary-General of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), had arrived in Vietnam on September 9 and was detained overnight at the Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport overnigh before being deported to Malaysia the following morning. Stothard, who had been invited to speak at the forum, was denied entry for “national defense, security or social order and safety” reasons. She also serves as coordinator of the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma). ASEAN is the Association of South East Asian Nations, a regional political and economic bloc.

Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, has expressed grave concern at Stothard’s arbitrary detention and deportation and said it illustrates the repressive human rights environment in Vietnam. Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Global Operations, Minar Pimple was also barred from entering Vietnam to speak at the WEF meeting.

“By arbitrarily detaining and deporting a representative of a well-respected international human rights organisation, Vietnamese authorities have demonstrated serious disdain for international norms. Such actions weaken Vietnam’s commitment to the sustainable development goals framework which promises respect for fundamental freedoms and support for effective partnerships with civil society,” said Mandeep Tiwana, CIVICUS Chief Programmes Officer.

“The authorities must allow her to participate in the forum without restrictions or reprisals” said Tiwana.

Fundamental freedoms are severely curtailed in Vietnam, with activists, journalists and bloggers routinely arrested and imprisoned under vaguely defined national security laws. Activists also face restrictions on their movement and are subject to surveillance, harassment and violent assaults. Media outlets in Viet Nam are heavily censored and peaceful protesters have faced arbitrary arrests and excessive use of force by the police.

In April 2018, three United Nations experts urged Vietnamese authorities “not to crack down on civil society to muzzle dissenting voices and stifle the people’s rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and association, in violation of the country’s obligations under international human rights law”.

These restrictions against civil society highlight relentless efforts by the Vietnamese authorities to silence individuals who have critical or dissenting views.

In a tweet after her ordeal, Stothard said “whatever inconvenience I am being subjected to is nothing compared to the attacks on Vietnam #HumanRights defenders & the media”.

CIVICUS calls on the Vietnam government to immediately stop these actions and unconditionally release all human rights defenders imprisoned for exercising their fundamental rights. The authorities must also end all forms of harassment and intimidation against them.

The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in countries across the globe, has rated the space for civil society in Vietnam is rated as closed.

For more information, please contact:

Josef Benedict

Egypt: “Cyber crime” law another massive blow for freedom of expression

The passing of the so called “cybercrime law” is another worrisome development for citizens in Egypt, adding another layer to the already repressive freedom of expression situation in the county. Signed by President Abdelfattah al-Sisi in August 2018,  the law provides the State with the authority to block websites it deems pose threats to national security or the economy. Administrators and visitors to these sites may face fines and jail times for doing so. The law was passed by Parliament in June 2018.

Persecution of rural protest movement leaders continue as crisis deepens in Nicaragua

  • Three campesino environmental activists mistreated in detention, awaiting trial
  • UN report confirms continued targeting of campesino leaders by government
  • UN staff expelled from Nicaragua after UN report on protesters’ rights abuses
  • More than 320 people killed since violent crackdown on protests began in April
  • Global rights groups urge authorities to drop all charges, release campesino leaders

Treaty could protect environment and human rights in Latin America

 

Governments across Latin America and the Caribbean can make history and set new standards for protection of the environment and human rights by signing the Escazú Agreement during the upcoming United Nations General Assembly in New York on 27 September.

CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, is one of 200 organisations who signed to a joint open letter, calling on the heads of state of all 33 countries in the region to ratify the ground-breaking treaty.  

“For CIVICUS, the Escazú Agreement is a fundamental tool to address the serious situation faced by environmental defenders in Latin America and the Caribbean, which in recent years has become the most dangerous region in the world for people engaged in campaigns to protect their environment,” said Natalia Gomez, Advocacy and Network Engagement Officer of the Vuka! Coalition.

The open letter calls on governments to sign the agreement and then adopt rapid and effective measures to implement it in their respective countries. It was signed by over 200 global, regional and national organisations that work across Latin America and the Caribbean in fields such as human rights, the environment, development and democracy, including Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Human Rights Watch, Article 19, Front Line Defenders and Global Witness.

Adopted in San José, Costa Rica, by representatives of 24 countries on 4 March 2018, the Escazú Agreement would be the first binding treaty in the region to establish protections for the rights of access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters, as well as enshrining the protection of environmental human rights defenders.

CIVICUS calls on the governments of the 33 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to sign and ratify the Escazú Agreement and in this way, assume a real commitment to the protection of the civic space and environmental defenders.

All 33 states in Latin America and the Caribbean will have the opportunity to sign the agreement at the UN headquarters in New York from 27 September 2018. At least 11 countries must sign and ratify it by 27 September 2020 for it to come into force.

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:

Natalia Gomez



P
hotoCred: ECLAC - United Nations

CIVICUS condemns conviction of Reuters journalists on trial in Myanmar

Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, believes the conviction of two journalists employed by global news agency, Reuters, who have been on trial in Myanmar is a dark day for press freedom in Myanmar. The two journalists have been sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested on December 12, 2017 under the country’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act. The reporters, who were facing up to 14 years imprisonment if convicted, were arrested after being handed documents by police officers during a dinner meeting, that turned out to be secret government documents relating to Myanmar’s western Rakhine state and security forces, according to the country’s Information Ministry.

At the time of their arrest, the journalists, who both pleaded “not guilty” to charges, had been investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslims in Inn Din village in Rakhine during a brutal military crackdown in that state against the Rohingya minority that began last August. During the trial, a police captain, admitted in court that a senior officer had ordered his subordinates to “trap” the journalists by handing them the classified documents. He was subsequently sentenced to a one-year prison term.

In recent months, there have been continued attacks on fundamental freedoms in Myanmar with dozens being arrested and charged for peaceful protests or for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

“We believe the verdict in this trial is a travesty of justice and sends a chilling message to all journalists in the country,” said Clementine de Montjoye, Advocacy and Campaigns Officer at CIVICUS:

“Prosecutions on spurious grounds serve to intimidate local journalists and activists, and this trial is representative of the Myanmar government’s repeated attempts to cover up its actions,” said de Montjove.

“Given the state-sponsored atrocities being committed in Myanmar today, the government’s crackdown on independent investigations and dissent is hardly surprising”.

In an End of Mission report issued in July, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, said “the democratic space in Myanmar continues to sharply deteriorate”. Her report also highlighted concerns about the use of repressive laws to suppress political dissidents, youth, human rights defenders and activists and the arrest of demonstrators around the country.

The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society across the globe, has rated civic space in Myanmar as repressed. CIVICUS stands in solidarity with Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo and all Myanmars who work to promote democracy and the protection of fundamental freedoms.

ENDS.

For more information, contact:

Clementine de Montjoye

 

 

127 Rights groups call for immediate release of Nabeel Rajab after UN group calls his detention arbitrary and discriminatory

Paris-Geneva-Manama- For the second time since 2013, the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has issued an Opinion regarding the legality of the detention of Mr. Nabeel Rajab under international human rights law. In its second opinion, the WGAD held that the detention was not only arbitrary but also discriminatory. The 127 signatory human rights groups welcome this landmark opinion, made public on 13 August 2018, recognising the role played by human rights defenders in society and the need to protect them. We call upon the Bahraini Government to immediately release Nabeel Rajab in accordance with this latest request.

In its Opinion (A/HRC/WGAD/2018/13), the WGAD considered that the detention of Mr. Nabeel Rajab contravenes Articles 2, 3, 7, 9, 10, 11, 18 and 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Articles 2, 9, 10, 14, 18, 19 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Bahrain in 2006. The WGAD requested the Government of Bahrain to “release Mr. Rajab immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law.

This constitutes a landmark opinion as it recognises that the detention of Mr. Nabeel Rajab – President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), Deputy Secretary General of FIDH and a member of the Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa Advisory Committee – is arbitrary and in violation of international law, as it results from his exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression as well as freedom of thought and conscience, and furthermore constitutes “discrimination based on political or other opinion, as well as on his status as a human rights defender.” Mr. Nabeel Rajab’s detention has therefore been found arbitrary under both categories II and V as defined by the WGAD.

Mr. Nabeel Rajab was arrested on 13 June 2016 and has been detained since then by the Bahraini authorities on several freedom of expression-related charges that inherently violate his basic human rights. On 15 January 2018, the Court of Cassation upheld his two-year prison sentence, convicting him of “spreading false news and rumors about the internal situation in the Kingdom, which undermines state prestige and status” – in reference to television interviews he gave in 2015 and 2016. Most recently on 5 June 2018, the Manama Appeals Court upheld his five years’ imprisonment sentence for “disseminating false rumors in time of war”; “offending a foreign country” – in this case Saudi Arabia; and for “insulting a statutory body”, in reference to comments made on Twitter in March 2015 regarding alleged torture in Jaw prison and criticising the killing of civilians in the Yemen conflict by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition. The Twitter case will next be heard by the Court of Cassation, the final opportunity for the authorities to acquit him.

The WGAD underlined that “the penalisation of a media outlet, publishers or journalists solely for being critical of the government or the political social system espoused by the government can never be considered to be a necessary restriction of freedom of expression,” and emphasised that “no such trial of Mr. Rajab should have taken place or take place in the future.” It added that the WGAD “cannot help but notice that Mr. Rajab’s political views and convictions are clearly at the centre of the present case and that the authorities have displayed an attitude towards him that can only be characterised as discriminatory.”

The WGAD added that several cases concerning Bahrain had already been brought before it in the past five years, in which WGAD “has found the Government to be in violation of its human rights obligations.” WGAD added that “under certain circumstances, widespread or systematic imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty in violation of the rules of international law may constitute crimes against humanity.”

Indeed, the list of those detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression and opinion in Bahrain is long and includes several prominent human rights defenders, notably Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace and Mr. Naji Fateel – whom the WGAD previously mentioned in communications to the Bahraini authorities.

Our organisations recall that this is the second time the WGAD has issued an Opinion regarding Mr. Nabeel Rajab. In its Opinion A/HRC/WGAD/2013/12 adopted in December 2013, the WGAD already classified Mr. Nabeel Rajab’s detention as arbitrary as it resulted from his exercise of his universally recognised human rights and because his right to a fair trial had not been guaranteed (arbitrary detention under categories II and III as defined by the WGAD).The fact that over four years have passed since that opinion was issued, with no remedial action and while Bahrain has continued to open new prosecutions against him and others, punishing expression of critical views, demonstrates the government’s pattern of disdain for international human rights bodies.

To conclude, our organisations urge the Bahrain authorities to follow up on the WGAD’s request to conduct a country visit to Bahrain and to respect the WGAD’s opinion, by immediately and unconditionally releasing Mr. Nabeel Rajab, and dropping all charges against him. In addition, we urge the authorities to release all other human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in Bahrain and to guarantee in all circumstances their physical and psychological health.

This statement is endorsed by the following organisations:

1- ACAT Germany – Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture
2- ACAT Luxembourg
3- Access Now
4- Acción Ecológica (Ecuador)
5- Americans for Human Rights and Democracy in Bahrain – ADHRB
6- Amman Center for Human Rights Studies – ACHRS (Jordania)
7- Amnesty International
8- Anti-Discrimination Center « Memorial » (Russia)
9- Arabic Network for Human Rights Information – ANHRI (Egypt)
10- Arab Penal Reform Organisation (Egypt)
11- Armanshahr / OPEN Asia (Afghanistan)
12- ARTICLE 19
13- Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos - APRODEH (Peru)
14- Association for Defense of Human Rights – ADHR
15- Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression – AFTE (Egypt)
16- Association marocaine des droits humains - AMDH
17- Bahrain Center for Human Rights
18- Bahrain Forum for Human Rights
19- Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy – BIRD
20- Bahrain Interfaith
21- Cairo Institute for Human Rights – CIHRS
22- CARAM Asia (Malaysia)
23- Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)
24- Center for Constitutional Rights (USA)
25- Center for Prisoners’ Rights (Japan)
26- Centre libanais pour les droits humains - CLDH
27- Centro de Capacitación Social de Panama
28- Centro de Derechos y Desarrollo – CEDAL (Peru)
29- Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales – CELS (Argentina)
30- Centro de Políticas Públicas y Derechos Humanos – Perú EQUIDAD
31- Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos – CENIDH (Nicaragua)
32- Centro para la Acción Legal en Derechos Humanos – CALDH (Guatemala)
33- Citizen Watch (Russia)
34- CIVICUS : World Alliance for Citizen Participation
35- Civil Society Institute – CSI (Armenia)
36- Colectivo de Abogados « José Alvear Restrepo » (Colombia)
37- Collectif des familles de disparu(e)s en Algérie - CFDA
38- Comisión de Derechos Humanos de El Salvador – CDHES
39- Comisión Ecuménica de Derechos Humanos – CEDHU (Ecuador)
40- Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (Costa Rica)
41- Comité de Acción Jurídica – CAJ (Argentina)
42- Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos – CPDH (Colombia)
43- Committee for the Respect of Liberties and Human Rights in Tunisia - CRLDHT
44- Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative – CHRI (India)
45- Corporación de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos del Pueblo – CODEPU (Chile)
46- Dutch League for Human Rights - LvRM
47- European Center for Democracy and Human Rights – ECDHR (Bahrain)
48- FEMED – Fédération euro-méditerranéenne contre les disparitions forcées
49- FIDH, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
50- Finnish League for Human Rights
51- Foundation for Human Rights Initiative – FHRI (Uganda)
52- Front Line Defenders
53- Fundación Regional de Asesoría en Derechos Humanos – INREDH (Ecuador)
54- Groupe LOTUS (DRC)
55- Gulf Center for Human Rights
56- Human Rights Association – IHD (Turkey)
57- Human Rights Association for the Assistance of Prisoners (Egypt)
58- Human Rights Center – HRIDC (Georgia)
59- Human Rights Center « Memorial » (Russia)
60- Human Rights Center « Viasna » (Belarus)
61- Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
62- Human Rights Foundation of Turkey
63- Human Rights in China
64- Human Rights Mouvement « Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan »
65- Human Rights Sentinel (Ireland)
66- Human Rights Watch
67- I’lam – Arab Center for Media Freedom, Development and Research
68- IFEX
69- IFoX Turkey – Initiative for Freedom of Expression
70- Index on Censorship
71- International Human Rights Organisation « Club des coeurs ardents » (Uzbekistan)
72- International Legal Initiative – ILI (Kazakhstan)
73- Internet Law Reform Dialogue – iLaw (Thaïland)
74- Institut Alternatives et Initiatives Citoyennes pour la Gouvernance Démocratique – I-AICGD (RDC)
75- Instituto Latinoamericano para una Sociedad y Derecho Alternativos – ILSA (Colombia)
76- Internationale Liga für Menschenrechte (Allemagne)
77- International Service for Human Rights – ISHR
78- Iraqi Al-Amal Association
79- Jousor Yemen Foundation for Development and Humanitarian Response 80- Justice for Iran
81- Justiça Global (Brasil)
82- Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law
83- Latvian Human Rights Committee
84- Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
85- League for the Defense of Human Rights in Iran
86- League for the Defense of Human Rights – LADO Romania
87- Legal Clinic « Adilet » (Kyrgyzstan)
88- Liga lidských práv (Czech Republic)
89- Ligue burundaise des droits de l’Homme - ITEKA (Burundi)
90- Ligue des droits de l’Homme (Belgique)
91- Ligue ivoirienne des droits de l’Homme
92- Ligue sénégalaise des droits humains – LSDH
93- Ligue tchadienne des droits de l’Homme – LTDH
94- Ligue tunisienne des droits de l’Homme – LTDH
95- MADA – Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedom
96- Maharat Foundation (Lebanon)
97- Maison des droits de l’Homme du Cameroun - MDHC
98- Maldivian Democracy Network
99- MARCH Lebanon
100- Media Association for Peace – MAP (Lebanon)
101- MENA Monitoring Group
102- Metro Center for Defending Journalists’ Rights (Iraqi Kurdistan)
103- Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers - International Association of People’s Lawyers
104- Movimento Nacional de Direitos Humanos - MNDH (Brasil)
105- Mwatana Organisation for Human Rights (Yemen)
106- Norwegian PEN
107- Odhikar (Bangladesh)
108- Pakistan Press Foundation
109- PEN America
110- PEN Canada
111- PEN International
112- Promo-LEX (Moldova)
113- Public Foundation – Human Rights Center « Kylym Shamy » (Kyrgyzstan)
114- RAFTO Foundation for Human Rights
115- Réseau Doustourna (Tunisia)
116- SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights
117- Scholars at Risk
118- Sisters’ Arab Forum for Human Rights – SAF (Yemen)
119- Suara Rakyat Malaysia - SUARAM
120- Taïwan Association for Human Rights – TAHR
121- Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights – FTDES
122- Vietnam Committee for Human Rights
123- Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State
124- World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers – WAN-IFRA
125- World Organisation Against Torture - OMCT,  in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
126- Yemen Organisation for Defending Rights and Democratic Freedoms
127- Zambia Council for Social Development – ZCSD

For more information, please contact:

  • FIDH: Maryna Chebat, , +33 6 48 05 91 57, Twitter: @MS_Chebat
  • OMCT: Delphine Reculeau, , +41 228 09 49 39
  • GCHR: Khalid Ibrahim, , +961 70 15 95 52

Six countries added to watchlist of countries where civic freedoms are under serious threat

  • Bangladesh, Maldives, Cameroon, DRC, Guatemala, Nicaragua join global watchlist
  • Escalating rights violations include killings, attacks on protesters, media, opposition
  • Neighbours, international community must pressure governments to end repression

Six countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa have been added to a watchlist of countries which have seen an escalation in serious threats to fundamental freedoms in recent weeks and months.

The new watchlist released by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society across the globe, identifies growing concerns in Bangladesh,  Maldives, CameroonDemocratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Activists and civil society organisations in these countries are currently experiencing a severe infringement of civic freedoms, as protected by international law.

Violations include brutal attacks by police on peaceful protests in Nicaragua and Bangladesh; the murder of human rights defenders in Guatemala; the killing of protesters and a brutal state campaign against activists and the political opposition in the DRC; and the prosecution of human rights defenders and journalists on fabricated charges in Cameroon, amidst an escalating civil conflict.

“It is deeply concerning to see escalated threats to basic rights in these countries,” said Cathal Gilbert, CIVICUS Civic Space Research Lead.

“It is crucial that these six governments wake up to their failure to respect international law and take swift action to respect their citizens’ most basic freedoms in a democratic society,” Gilbert said.

“We also call upon neighbouring states and international bodies to do put pressure on these countries to end the repression.”

Over the past year, authorities in Bangladesh have used repressive laws to target and harass journalists and human rights defenders, restrict freedom of assembly and carry out the enforced disappearances of opposition supporters. The human rights situation has deteriorated further ahead of national elections scheduled for late 2018. Members of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), the student wing of the ruling party Bangladesh Awami League (BAL), have attacked student activists, academics and journalists with impunity.

In Nicaragua, at least 300 people have been killed since protests began in April 2018, with hundreds more kidnapped or missing. The demonstrations were initially sparked by regressive changes to the social security system but grew to include calls for President Daniel Ortega to resign in the wake of his brutal repression of peaceful protests. While large-scale marches have subsided in recent days, some continue amid a tense political situation as the Ortega government continues to silence critics despite agreements struck with international bodies, and an undertaking to allow an IACHR investigation into the violence. Attacks on protestors are perpetrated both by state forces and armed groups aligned with the government.

This year, between January and July alone, at least 18 human rights defenders (HRDs) were killed in Guatemala. There were also two assassination attempts and 135 other attacks, with 32 of those aimed at women HRDs. In early August, United Nations Special Rapporteurs issued a statement raising the alarm at the spike in killings in 2018. Reports from Guatemala indicate that the space for civil society has worsened due to land disputes and actions by corporate interests, the source of targeted violence against specific groups of activists.

Despite the announcement that Congolese president Joseph Kabila will not run for a third term, tensions are still high in the DRC, ahead of scheduled elections in December.  In recent months, protestors, youth movements, human rights defenders, journalists and the political opposition have all faced widespread state repression, including arrests. In June this year, CSOs and UN Special Rapporteurs expressed serious concerns about a planned new law that would give authorities power to dissolve non-governmental organisations (NGOs) over public order or national security concerns.

In Maldives, a widespread crackdown on dissent began in February 2018 when a court ordered the release of opposition leaders. This decision led to the arbitrary arrest of judges, scores of opposition politicians and activists as well as the use of unnecessary force by police to disperse peaceful demonstrations. There are also documented cases of people being ill-treated in detention. With elections due on 23rd September 2018, civic space is likely to become increasingly contested. Already in May 2018, the Electoral Commission moved to bar four opposition leaders from running in the upcoming presidential elections.

In Cameroon, an escalating conflict in the country’s Anglophone regions between armed separatists and the government has sparked a mounting humanitarian crisis. It began as protests in 2016, resulting in state repression of protests and the arrest and prosecution of protest leaders. The conflict intensified in recent months with killings and human rights violations committed by both sides. At least 100 civilians, 43 security officers and an unknown number of armed separatists have reportedly been killed, according to an International Crisis Group report. NGOs and human rights defenders have also been targeted.

In the coming weeks, the CIVICUS Monitor will closely track developments in each of these countries as part of efforts to ensure greater pressure is brought to bear on governments. CIVICUS calls upon these governments to do everything in their power to immediately end the ongoing crackdowns and ensure that perpetrators are held to account.

ENDS.

For more information, please contact:

Cathal Gilbert

Grant Clark

Cambodia: Drop Fabricated Charges against ‘ADHOC 5’

Cambodian authorities should immediately drop politically motivated bribery charges against five human rights defenders known as the ADHOC 5 (“FreeThe5KH” in social media campaigns), five international organizations said today. The trial of the five – four current and one former senior staff members of the nongovernmental Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) – is scheduled for August 27, 2018, after lying dormant for a year. If convicted, each faces between 5 and 10 years in prison.

Uganda: shocking violence against protesters requires urgent attention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDS.

For more information, please contact:

Teldah Mawarire

David Kode

 

JOINT STATEMENT: Civil Society Groups Call for the Release of Tep Vanny

Land activist and human rights defender Tep Vanny has been unjustly detained for two years, for defending the rights of the Boeung Kak Lake community and her fellow Cambodians. We, the undersigned civil society organisations and communities, condemn her ongoing imprisonment and call on the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Tep Vanny, drop all dormant criminal charges and overturn any convictions against her, so that she may return to her family and community.

Tep Vanny has fought tirelessly to protect the rights of members of her community following their forced eviction from their homes on Boeung Kak Lake, Phnom Penh, but also those of fellow human rights defenders campaigning for separate causes. As long as she is behind bars, Tep Vanny is prevented from carrying out her peaceful and valuable work.

“We have to share all the benefits of our experience. If we stand up together, we can get justice,” said Tep Vanny. “If the communities join together, we have big power.”

It was during one such peaceful protest that Tep Vanny was arrested on 15 August 2016, challenging the arbitrary detention of four human rights defenders and one election official. On 22 August 2016, she was convicted of ‘insulting a public official’, and sentenced to six days in prison. However, instead of releasing her based on time served, the authorities reactivated dormant charges dating back to a 2013 peaceful protest, later sentencing her to two and half years of imprisonment and a fine of 14 million riels (around $3,500). To date, Tep Vanny’s requests for pardon or early release have all been rejected. Her many trials and appeals have fallen far short of fair trial standards, with the evidence presented failing to meet the burden of proof required to sustain a conviction.

“As a victim of eviction I can guarantee that Tep Vanny did not use any violence or do anything wrong. I would stake my life on that,” said fellow Boeung Kak Lake activist Bov Chhorvy. “The authorities should release her so she can be with her family. Her children and mother need her.”

Her excessively lengthy detention, apart from taking a personal toll, further deprives her two children of a normal childhood, since they only see their mother once a month. Tep Vanny’s mother’s deteriorating health is aggravated by the ongoing unjust treatment of her daughter. The inability to care for her family places an acute psychological burden on Tep Vanny, exacerbated by her detention in one of Cambodia’s worst prisons, where she shares a cell with more than 150 other detainees in squalid conditions. Civil society representatives as well as members of the Boeung Kak Lake community have been frequently turned away when attempting to visit her in prison, further compounding the isolation from friends and family and in violation of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

We call on the Cambodian authorities to release Tep Vanny immediately and unconditionally, drop all charges and end all criminal investigations against her. This will ensure that she is able to continue her work as a human rights defender, and more importantly reunite with her family and community. Finally, we urge the authorities to cease the intimidation and harassment of Tep Vanny and all other activists through arrests, prosecution and imprisonment.

This statement is endorsed by:

  1.      24 Families Community (Preah Sihanouk)
  2.      92 Community (Phnom Penh)
  3.      105 Community (Phnom Penh)
  4.      297 Land Community (Koh Kong)
  5.      Activities for Environment Community (AEC)
  6.      Alliance for Conflict Transformation (ACT)
  7.      Amnesty International (AI)
  8.      Angdoung Community (Preah Sihanouk)
  9.      Angdoung Kanthuot (Battambang)
  10.    Angdoung Trabek Land Community (Svay Rieng)
  11.    Anlong Run Community (Battambang)
  12.    Ansoung Sork Community (Battambang)
  13.    Areng Indigenous Community (Koh Kong)
  14.    ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
  15.    Asian Democracy Network (ADN)
  16.    Asian Forum for Human Rights & Development (Forum Asia)
  17.    Banteay Srey Community (Phnom Penh)
  18.    Bat Khteah Community (Preah Sihanouk)
  19.    Boeng Chhuk Community (Phnom Penh)
  20.    Boeung Pram Community (Battambang)
  21.    Borei Keila Community (Phnom Penh)
  22.    Borei Mittepheap Community (Banteay Meanchey)
  23.    Borei Sontepheap Community (Phnom Penh)
  24.    Bos Sa Am Community (Battambang)
  25.    Bou Japan Land Community (Koh Kong)
  26.    Buddhism for Peace Organization (BPO)
  27.    CamASEAN Youth’s Future (CamASEAN)
  28.    Cambodia Indigenous Peoples Organization (CIPO)
  29.    Cambodia’s Independent Civil Servants Association (CICA)
  30.    Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)
  31.    Cambodian Domestic Workers Network (CDWN)
  32.    Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)
  33.    Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association (CITA)
  34.    Cambodian Informal Economy Workers Association (CIWA)
  35.    Cambodian Labor Confederation (CLC)
  36.    Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
  37.    Cambodian Youth Network (CYN)
  38.    Capacity Community Development Organization (CCD)
  39.    Chek Meas Land Community (Svay Rieng)
  40.    Cheko Community (Phnom Penh)
  41.    Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL)
  42.    Cheung Wat Village Land Community (Banteay Meanchey)
  43.    Chikor Kraom Land Community (Koh Kong)
  44.    Chikor Leu Land Community (Koh Kong)
  45.    Chirou Ti Pi Community (Tbong Khmum)
  46.    Chhub Community (Tbong Khmum)
  47.    Chorm Kravean Community (Kampong Cham)
  48.    C I 5 Community (Preah Sihanouk)
  49.    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  50.    Civil Rights Defenders (CRD)
  51.    Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (C.CAWDU)
  52.    Coalition of Cambodian Farmers Community Association (CCFC)
  53.    Coalition of Integrity and Social Accountability (CISA)
  54.    Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL)
  55.    Community Peace-Building Network (CPN)
  56.    Confederation of Cambodian Worker (CCW)
  57.    Dok Por Community (Kampong Speu)
  58.    Dombe Community (Tbong Khmum)
  59.    Equitable Cambodia (EC)
  60.    Fishery Community (Banteay Meanchey)
  61.    Front Line Defenders (FLD)
  62.    Forest and Biodiversity Preservation Community (Svay Rieng)
  63.    Free Trade Union of Workers of Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC)
  64.    Gender and Development Cambodia (GADC)
  65.    Horng Samnom Community (Kampong Speu)
  66.    Human Rights Watch (HRW)
  67.    Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA)
  68.    Independent Monk Network for Social Justice (IMNSJ)
  69.    Indigenous Youth at Brome Community (Preah Vihear)
  70.    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), within the Framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  71.    International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX)
  72.    Khva Community (Phnom Penh)
  73.    Koh Sralao Fishery Community (Koh Kong)
  74.    Lor Peang Land Community (Kampong Chhnang)
  75.    Mlup Prom Vihea Thor Center (Koh Kong)
  76.    Moeunchey Land Community (Svay Rieng)
  77.    Minority Rights Organization (MIRO)
  78.    Mother Nature Cambodia (MNC)
  79.    Network for Prey Long Protection in Mean Rith Commune (Kampong Thom)
  80.    Orm Laing Community (Kampong Chhnang)
  81.    Ou Ampil Land Community (Banteay Meanchey)
  82.    Ou Chheu Teal Community (Preah Sihanouk)
  83.    Ou Khsach Community (Preah Sihanouk)
  84.    Ou Tracheak Chet Community (Preah Sihanouk)
  85.    Ou Tres Community (Preah Sihanouk)
  86.    Ou Vor Preng Community (Battambang)
  87.    Phnom Bat Community (Phnom Penh)
  88.    Phnom Kram Community (Siem Reap)
  89.    Phnom Sleuk Community (Battambang)
  90.    Phnom Torteong Community (Kampot)
  91.    Phsar Kandal Village Land Community (Banteay Meanchey)
  92.    Phum 22 Community (Phnom Penh)
  93.    Phum Bo Loy Community (Ratanakiri)
  94.    Phum Dei Chhnang Community (Kampong Speu)
  95.    Phum Samut Leu Community (Ratanakiri)
  96.    Phum Ou Svay Land Community (Banteay Meanchey)
  97.    Phum Sela Khmer Land Community (Banteay Meanchey)
  98.    Phum Thmei Taing Samrong Community (Kampong Speu)
  99.    Ponlok Khmer (PKH)
  100.      Poy Japan Land Community (Koh Kong)
  101.      Prasak Community (Battambang)
  102.      Preah Vihear Kouy Indigenous Community
  103.      Prek Takung Community (Phnom Penh)
  104.      Prek Tanou Community (Phnom Penh)
  105.      Prek Trae Community (Preah Sihanouk)
  106.      Prey Chher Pich Sangva Laor Chhert Community (Kampong Chhnang)
  107.      Prey Long Community (Kampong Thom)
  108.      Prey Peay Fishery Community (Kampot)
  109.      Progressive Voice (PV)
  110.      Railway Community (Phnom Penh)
  111.      Raksmey Samaki Community (Kampong Speu)
  112.      Roluos Cheung Ek Community (Phnom Penh)
  113.      Rum Cheik Land Community (Siem Reap)
  114.      Russey Sras Community (Phnom Penh)
  115.      Land and Housing Community Solidarity Network (Phnom Penh)
  116.      Samaki Phnom Chorm Mlou Community (Kampot)
  117.      Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT)
  118.      Samaki Romeas Haek Land Community (Svay Rieng)
  119.      Samaki Rung Roeung Community (Phnom Penh)
  120.      Sangkom Thmey Land Community (Pursat)
  121.      Samaki 4 Community (Phnom Penh)
  122.      SAMKY Organization
  123.      Sdey Krom Fishery Community (Battambang)
  124.      SILAKA Organization
  125.      Skun Land Community (Banteay Meanchey)
  126.      Skun Land Community (Siem Reap)
  127.      Smach Meanchey Land Community (Koh Kong)
  128.      Somros Koh Sdech Fishery Community (Koh Kong)
  129.      SOS International Airport Community (Phnom Penh)
  130.      Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
  131.      Spean Chhes Community (Preah Sihanouk)
  132.      Srechong Land Community (Kampong Thom)
  133.      Sre Prang Community (Kampong Cham)
  134.      Sreveal Land Community (Kampong Thom)
  135.      Steung Bort village Land community (Banteay Meanchey)
  136.      Steung Khsach Sor Forestry Resource (Kampong Chhnang)
  137.      Steung Meanchey Community (Phnom Penh)
  138.      Strey Klangsang Community (Phnom Penh)
  139.      Tani Land Community (Siem Reap)
  140.      Ta Noun Land Community (Koh Kong)
  141.      Ta Trai Village Land Community (Banteay Meanchey)
  142.      Teng Tao Land Community (Svay Rieng)
  143.      The Cambodian NGO Committee on CEDAW (NGO-CEDAW)
  144.      Thmor Kol Community (Phnom Penh)
  145.      Thmor Da Community (Pursat)
  146.      Thmor Thom Community (Preah Sihanouk)
  147.      Thnol Bort Village Land Community (Banteay Meanchey)
  148.      Thnong Land Community (Koh Kong)
  149.      Toul Rada Community (Phnom Penh)
  150.      Toul Samrong Community (Kampong Chhnang)
  151.      Toul Sangke A Community (Phnom Penh)
  152.      Tourism Employee Grand Diamond City Union (Banteay Meanchey)
  153.      Tourism Employee Union (Banteay Meanchey)
  154.      Trapaing Chan Community (Kampong Chhnang)
  155.      Trapaing Chor Community (Kampong Speu)
  156.      Trapaing Krasaing Land Community (Siem Reap)
  157.      Trapaing Raing Community (Phnom Penh)
  158.      Trapaing Sangke Community (Kampot)
  159.      Tumnop II Community (Pursat)
  160.      Tunlong Community (Kampong Cham)
  161.      Vital Voice Global Partnership
  162.      World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), within the Framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Liberian musician, Indian student and Angolan author named as global creative arts contest winners!

What do a Liberian rapper, an Indian journalism graduate and a young Angolan author have in common? 

They are all winners of a global contest that encourages young creatives to imagine the kind of democracy they would like to live in.

Hosted by global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, under the theme, “Re-imagining Democracy: In Search of Silenced Voices”, the Through Arts and Imagination creative arts competition was organised to celebrate International Youth Day on August 12. The aim was to encourage young creative artists to share their vision of what democracy should be and to raise the silenced voices of youth globally.

Contestants submitted entries in three creative arts categories: written arts, which included poems, short stories and essays of 500 words or less; visual arts, which included drawings, paintings, cartoons and photography; and multimedia arts, which included short films of no longer than 2 minutes and songs. Creators had to be under 30 years old to enter.

Prizes for the winners, whose submissions included a song, a poem and a cartoon, include a USD300 cash prize to be donated to a social change organisation of their choice.

Music artist, Amaze, wowed judges with his song promoting voter awareness in his native Liberia, entitled “Know Who To Vote For”.

“I feel democracy should be everybody business,” said Amaze.

“My inspiration was to educate voters to vote right and not base on ethnicity, scholarships, or religious background,” said Amaze.

He was one of 15 finalists and was selected for the best multimedia arts entry from among dozens of entries from across the globe by a panel of judges and almost 1,500 online voters worldwide.

Amaze, whose name is Henry Amazin Toe, started his music career at age 14 in Guinea and is currently a hipco Accountability Ambassador who mentors other underground artists to create music for social change. Hipco is a genre of dance music that blends hip-hop, R&B and traditional Liberian music with lyrics in colloquial dialects spoken in Liberia. 

The contest’s the visual arts category winner, Vandita Sariya from India, came out tops for a cartoon, entitled “One” that she says was inspired by a surge in intolerance in society where she lives.

“A wave of pseudo-nationalism is going on in my country, India and people are judging and even killing others for who they are, what they look like, what they eat and what their beliefs are,” said Sariya.

Sariya, who says she plans to donate her prize money to towards children’s education and nourishment, is an emerging creative artist who has been practicing her craft for just six months.

A poem by Angolan author, Cláudia Cassoma – encouraging youth to see themselves as the “master key” to all the solutions they seek – was chosen as the winner of the written arts category.

Cassoma, who has had four books published, says the poem, entitled Chave Mestra" (Portuguese for master key), was inspired by a common attitude she encounters among young people in her country, Angola and globally.

“Today, one thing I hear a lot are complaints by youth about the million things that are wrong with the world while they themselves are doing nothing. Usually, that's the case because they feel they can't do anything,” Cassoma said.

“The piece is a message for youth to reimagine democracy by seeing themselves as the master key, the key to solve any if not all issues we face,” she said.  

Said Elisa Novoa, CIVICUS Youth Working Group coordinator: “The aim of this contest was to give a space for young people to express a vision for the kind of democracy they desire. It was also an opportunity to mobilise young creative minds from every corner of the globe, offering a platform to amplify their messages related to the respect of democratic values and social justice.”

“In a world where information is shared with so much hate, discrimination and stigmatisation, we want to enable arts to be a tool to share messages of hope, justice and equality,” said Novoa.

The winning entries will also be featured in CIVICUS’ State of Civil Society Report 2018, to be released in September 2018.

ENDS.

For more information, contact:

Grant Clark

CIVICUS Communications team

 

 

 

Bangladesh: Release all those arbitrarily arrested and investigate police abuse

To the President of Bangladesh,
H.E. Md Abdul Hamid

Bangladesh: Release all those arbitrarily arrested and investigate police abuse

Dear President Hamid,

We are writing to express our concerns about serious violations of civic freedoms perpetrated during recent protests in Bangladesh. We urge your government to take immediate steps to address these issues in accordance with your international human rights obligations.

Our organisations are concerned about reports that police used excessive force, including firing rubber bullets and tear gas on 4th August 2018 to disperse demonstrations in Dhaka which were triggered by the killing of two teenagers by a speeding bus on 29th July 2018. We are also concerned that the government may be covering up the actual death toll and have received information that at least three others students may have also been killed and one critically injured.

Some of the student protesters were also allegedly attacked by members of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) and Jubo League, the student and youth wing of the ruling Bangladesh Awami League (BAL) party.

More than 20 journalists were attacked, some of whom were later detained briefly by the police. At least four journalists from The Daily Star newspaper were reportedly beaten while at least seven photojournalists were injured in attacks in Jhigatala and Science Lab areas of the city on 5 August 2018. While some attackers wore helmets, the journalists identified some of their attackers as BCL members.

We are also concerned about the arbitrary arrest of scores of individuals around the protest, in particularly Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam who was taken from his home, just hours after he made comments on Al-Jazeera about protests in the city. He was subsequently charged under section 57 of Bangladesh’s Information Communications Technology Act a provision that has been frequently used to bring charges against critics, activists and other dissenting voices in Bangladesh. He has also alleged that he was tortured while in custody. A lawyer in Sirajganj, Sakhawat Hossain Shakil, was also arrested and remanded under Section 57 of the ICT Act on 7th August for allegedly sharing anti-government posts and expressing solidarity with safe road protesters on Facebook.

At least 22 protesters were remanded in police custody for two days and five are facing charges under Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act. Some were allegedly tortured or ill-treated in custody. They are now detained in prison as the courts have rejected the applications for bail.

In the last few months, our organisations have also documented attacks by the BCL against students protesting the civil service quota system, which reserves 30 percent of government jobs for children of freedom fighters from Bangladesh’s Liberation War in 1971. Academics and journalists supporting them have also been targeted. Some student activists were subsequently detained and charged. At least six are languishing in jail and according to their lawyers were allegedly tortured in police custody. 

The arrest and charging of peaceful protesters and allegations of torture and ill-treatment, clearly contravene Bangladesh obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment. Our organisations also believe that the violent actions of the police at these protests are inconsistent with international human rights standards on the use of force such as the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement, and that the failure to take appropriate measures to prevent and punish harm caused by private actors, such as the BCL, also contravenes Bangladesh’s international human rights obligations.

Many of the issues above were also raised at the Human Rights Council during Bangladesh’s recent Universal Periodic Review in May 2018, and received support from your government. Protecting civic freedoms is also part of Bangladesh’s commitments under Agenda 2030 and these violations highlight that the country is failing abysmally to meet targets set under Sustainable Development Goal 16 on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, and particularly target 16:10 to “protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements”.

Therefore, we urge your government to take the following steps as a matter of priority:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release all protesters who have been arbitrarily detained for exercising their human rights, in particular photographer Shahidul Alam, and drop all charges against them;
  • Carry out prompt, impartial, independent and efficient investigations into all complaints and reports of excessive use of force by the police, as well as attacks by non-state actors, against protesters and journalists, bring those responsible to justice and provide reparations to the victims;
  • Review and amend all laws that restrict freedom of expression, such as section 57 of the 2006 Information and Communication Technology Act;
  • Send a clear message to members of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) and other non-state actors that violence by them will not be tolerated;
  • Create a safe and enabling environment for activists, civil society and citizens to 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 consider and implement these recommendations. 

Sincerely, 

David E. Kode
, Advocacy and Campaigns Lead
, CIVICUS
Ichal Supriadi
, Secretary General, 
Asia Democracy Network (ADN)
Basil Fernando, Director, Policy and Programme, 
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
Henri Tiphagne
, Executive Director, 
People’s Watch
Mathew Jacob
, National Coordinator, 
Human Rights Defenders Alert – India (HRDA)
John Samuel, 
Executive Director, 
Forum Asia (Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development)

Perpetrators of violence against protesters and journalists in Bangladesh must be held accountable

A global human rights group has called for police and ruling party supporters to be held accountable for their violent responses to peaceful student protests in Bangladesh. Thousands of students protesting poor road safety have been targeted with excessive force by police and brutal attacks reportedly from the student wing of the ruling party.

SADC should urge respect of the rule of law in Zimbabwe’s post-elections crisis

JOHANNESBURG: The Southern African Development Community (SADC) should urge Zimbabwean authorities to show restraint and respect of the rule of law in the wake of a violent crackdown on post-election protests.

Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, is calling on SADC to engage Zimbabwe on its response to protesters who express dissatisfaction with the administration of the July 30 general elections.

At least six people were killed and many more injured when security forces used live ammunition against protesters in the capital Harare, as the country awaited the results of the historic vote.  Riot police and military in armoured vehicles swept through the streets, targeting bystanders and forcing others to shutter businesses and return home.  Several journalists covering the event were intimidated and forced to stop working.

On August 4, riot police dispersed a press conference organised by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the capital, Harare.  Before that, police raided MDC headquarters, arresting party members and charging them with inciting and engaging in political violence.  Most are currently being held in Harare’s notorious Chikarubi Maximum Security Prison.  Security forces have intimidated the political opposition and ordinary citizens, arresting supporters of the MDC.  Some have been abducted and others have gone into hiding.  The army is also harassing, under the cover of darkness, activists it suspects of leading the organization of protests.

 The release of the results of the 30 July elections and the actions of the army and riot police have brought back traumatic memories of decades of repression suffered by Zimbabweans, under the regime of ousted president Robert Mugabe.

 “The use of live ammunition against unarmed civilians can never be justified,” said David Kode, CIVICUS Campaigns and Advocacy lead.

“As responsible neighbours and stakeholders of peace in the region, SADC leaders should send a clear message to Zimbabwean authorities to act with integrity and respect the rule of law including exercise of fundamental freedom.”

The 30 July elections were expected to usher in a new era of democratic governance in Zimbabwe after the military coup in November 2017 but the post elections crisis has led to uncertainty and demonstrated that the military continues to cast an ominous shadow over politics.  Zimbabwean authorities invoked the restrictive Public Order and Security Act to enable the armed forces intervene.  

The right to freedom of expression, association and assembly is enshrined in the Zimbabwean constitution. SADC should call on the government and security forces to exercise restraint and respect these fundamental rights of citizens including the right to assemble peacefully.  

CIVICUS Monitor, an online tool that tracks threats to civil society in all countries around the world, rates the space for civil society in Zimbabwe as “repressed.”

ENDS.

 

For more information, please contact:

David Kode

 

Grant Clark

 

Maldives: Still no justice for abducted Maldives journalist

Four years after the disappearance of journalist Ahmed Rilwan, the criminal court has acquitted two suspects on trial for abducting him.

Malaysia: Acquittal of individuals charged for sedition a positive move for free speech

  • A Malaysian court has acquitted three government critics charged under the draconian Sedition Act
  • A renown political cartoonist, a human rights lawyer and a parliamentarian were on trial for criticism of the government and judiciary’s political-motivated prosecution of former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim
  • CIVICUS calls for sedition charges against others for their activism, to be dropped
  • The government must also repeal the Sedition Act ahead of the UN human rights review in November

Joint Statement: End judicial harassment of Singaporean activist Jolovan Wham

CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance and its partners Asia Democracy Network (ADN), Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Forum Asia, Instituto de Comunicación y Desarrollo (ICD), West African Human Rights Defenders Network, Experts for Security and Global Affairs Association, Balkan Civil Society Development Network (BCSDN),  European Civic Forum (ECF) and International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) call on the Singapore government to drop contempt charges against human rights activist, Jolovan Wham for his comments on social media criticising the judiciary. Our organisations believe the charges brought against him are politically motivated, aimed to suppress his freedom of expression.

Government repression undermines legitimacy of Cambodian elections

The assault on civic freedoms in Cambodia has narrowed the democratic space in the country and raises serious questions about the legitimacy of the 29 July elections. Over the last year, monitoring by the CIVICUS Monitor shows how the authorities have outlawed the leading opposition party, shutdown or arbitrarily interfered with media outlets, introduced laws to restrict and silence civil society and jailed its critics.

Rights Groups: Latest arrests part of government campaign to silence activists

The arrests of 13 activists and church development workers in the Philippines is part of an ongoing campaign by the government of President Rodrigo Duterte to intimidate and silence human rights defenders, say global and local rights groups.

Global civil society alliance CIVICUS and local rights organisation, Karapatan are calling for authorities to drop all charges against and immediately release all the activists who were arrested on July 4 in the southern city of General Santos. 

Philippines National Police (PNP) members and military personnel raided a meeting of the Iglesia Filipino Independiente-Visayas Mindanao Regional Office for Development (IFI-VIMROD) and presented three arrest warrants, none of which corresponded with any participants gathered.  Regardless, the entire group was arrested and fabricated charges of obstruction of justice were filed against 11 defenders, who were later released on bail, while charges against the remaining two remain unknown.

Among those arrested were Teresita Naul, Karapatan National Council member for Northern Mindanao; Aldeem Yanez of Iglesia Filipino Independiente (IFI); Datu Jomorito Guaynon, Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organisation chairperson; Ireneo Udarbe, of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas; Vennel Chenfoo, previously of the Kabataan Partylist; Kristine Cabardo of the League of Filipino Students; and Roger Plana, an IFI-VIMROD volunteer.

“The arrests are symptomatic of an ongoing drive by the regime in Philippines to silence human rights defenders and representatives of civil society,” said David Kode, CIVICUS Campaigns and Advocacy lead.

Since the declaration of martial law on May 23, 2017 on spurious grounds, Karapatan has documented the arbitrary arrests of almost 1,000 people on the island of Mindanao. Some 95 of them remain detained.  The actions of the Philippines’ current administration and armed forces is an assault on people’s rights and civil liberties, aimed at pressuring human rights defenders to self-censor. 

CIVICUS and Karapatan also urge the authorities to investigate and prosecute police and military members responsible for this gross abuse of power.

CIVICUS Monitor, an online tool that tracks threats to civil society in all countries, has rated civic space in the Philippines as ‘Obstructed’.

ENDS.

For more information, please contact:

Grant Clark

CIVICUS Communications

 

Cristina Palabay,

Karapatan Secretary General

+63 917 316 2831

2018 INTERNATIONAL YOUTH DAY: ‘Through Arts and Imagination’

Re-Imagining Democracy: in search of silenced voices

 

Call for Submissions

Johannesburg, 3 July 2018 – What does democracy mean to you? How are youth in your community putting democracy into action? What do you see as threats to democracy today? What does your ideal democracy look like?

‘Through Arts and Imagination’ is a global contest seeking bold and original creative arts submissions – music, poetry, art, multimedia – that present youth perspectives on Re-imagining Democracy.  To celebrate International Youth Day on 12 August 2018, the Youth Working Group at CIVICUS,  a global civil society alliance, would like to create space for the voices of silenced youth to be heard.  CIVICUS wants to provide an opportunity for youth to express a vision of democracy reimagined. You will not only get the chance to make your voice heard by a global audience, but you will also get a chance to help a cause of your choice!

“In a world in which our democracy and fundamental freedoms are under increasing threat, a world where the voices of young people are silenced and marginalised, we believe that it is up to this generation to re-imagine the democracy we want to live in,” said Elisa Novoa, of the CIVICUS Youth Working Group.

The Symposium hopes to showcase pieces that present what democracy means to you – what it looks like and feels like in everyday life.  We want to see that democracy is about more than just putting a ballot in a box, but instead involves actions such as: organizing, thinking and writing, working alongside others, protesting, expressing solidarity, being part of a community, and engaging locally. You are also welcome to submit your ideas and dreams about a democracy that is true to its name – ‘rule by the people’ – and how you imagine it would play out in your community.

What are we looking for?

The Youth Day Creative Symposium has three submission categories:

  • Written arts: poems, short stories, essays (500 words max.)
  • Visual arts: drawings, cartoons, paintings, photography, collages
  • Multimedia arts: short films (2 min max), songs

The submission must relate to the overall theme of Re-Imagining Democracy. Submissions should present your views and feelings on the current state of democracy and your views, as a young person, on rethinking and rebuilding it. 

Your submission should relate to one of the following sub-themes:

  • Diversity- We are One! Art that celebrate, feature and empower people of many different intersectional identities (gender, race, sexuality, age, ethnicity, nationality, etc.)
  • Culture and society - Breaking Barriers for all! Art that showcases intercultural-interreligious integration and “decoloniality
  • Economic justice. Art that speaks to  solidarity economies, democratisation of labour, youth social entrepreneurship and just transition
  • Democratisation of education Art that shares a message around access to education, different modes of learning, active participation and dialogue, education of multiple historical narratives
  • Silenced/unsilenced youth - Hear my voice! The experience of driving a rights-based agenda: organising, speaking up, mobilising.

Are you Eligible?

In order to submit a piece in this contest participants and submissions must fulfill the criteria below:

  • Creators must be 30 and under by 12 August 2018
  • Submissions must respect the deadline (27 July, 2018)
  • Only one submission per person
  • Original content that hasn’t previously been published
  • Agreement with the Youth Day Symposium Terms and Conditions[1]  and CIVICUS event principles[2] 
  • Submission in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese

What’s in it for you?

  1. The top 15 submissions will be promoted on the CIVICUS social media pages.
  2. One-day workshop run by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation to support participants in their work to share powerful messages through creative mediums on Friday 10 August in online[1] for the top 15 submissions.
  3. Cash prize and free CIVICUS voting membership to the organisations that the top 3 symposium participants chose to donate their prize to.[2]
    • 1st place: 300$US
  4. Publication of the best (3) submission in the 2018 State of Civil Society Report.

How to submit?

Please submit your application by filling in this form: https://www.civicus.org/index.php/international-youth-day-symposium. The deadline for submissions is 27th July 2018.  For any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at

How will your submission be evaluated?

  • Creativity: The submission is created based on an original idea and the participant has showed the use of their imagination and has created something unique.
  • Authenticity: The submission is reflective of the participant’s experience, a true lived experience, or a vision of potential experience. The piece is grounded in the reality of the topic of reimagining democracy as they understand it and creatively interpret it.
  • Connection to the theme: The submission directly relates to one of the presented sub-themes and explores and relevant and pertinent issue within that sub-theme.
  • Connection to struggle & contributions to community: The submission reflects a relevant challenge that is faced by youth based on the themes. It tells a story of an initiative creating a positive outcome for a community.
  • Youth perspective: The submission presents and considers the youth voice and experience.

*Consideration will be given to ensure gender, ethnic and religious diversity of contestants.

 

[1] 2018 Creative Symposium partners might be able to provide a physical space to run this workshop in their cities.

[2] Participants will select in their registration form an organisation contributing towards the solution of their selected cause to donate their prize if their poem, song or short story is selected in the top 3.

DIA INTERNACIONAL DE LA JUVENTUD 2018: 'A través de las artes y la imaginación'

Re-imaginar la democracia: en busca de voces silenciadas

 

Convocatoria

Johannesburgo, 3 de julio de 2018 - ¿Qué significa para ti la democracia? ¿Cómo están poniendo en práctica la democracia los jóvenes en tu comunidad? ¿Qué consideras que supone una amenaza a la democracia de hoy en día? ¿Cómo es tu democracia ideal?

 'Through Arts and Imagination' es un concurso internacional que busca recoger piezas artísticas, originales y creativas, de música, poesía, arte y/o multimedia, en las que se muestre el punto de vista de la juventud en torno al tema Re-imaginar la democracia. Para celebrar el Día Internacional de la Juventud el 12 de agosto de 2018, el grupo de trabajo sobre la juventud de CIVICUS, la alianza global de la sociedad civil, desea crear un espacio para que se escuchen las voces de las personas jóvenes que están siendo silenciadas. CIVICUS quiere brindar una oportunidad para que los jóvenes expresen su visión sobre cómo re-imaginar la democracia. No solo tendrán la oportunidad de hacer que sus voces sean escuchadas por un público internacional, ¡sino que también tendrán la oportunidad de contribuir con la causa que elijas!

 "En un mundo en el que nuestra democracia y nuestras libertades fundamentales están siendo amenazadas constantemente, un mundo donde las voces de los jóvenes están siendo silenciadas y marginadas, creemos que nos corresponde a nuestra generación volver a imaginar la democracia en la que queremos vivir" dijo Elisa Novoa, del grupo de trabajo sobre la juventud de CIVICUS.

El encuentro espera mostrar diferentes piezas que expresen qué significa la democracia para los jóvenes: cómo se ve y cómo se siente en la vida cotidiana. Queremos hacer visible que la democracia es algo más que poner una papeleta en una caja, que incluye acciones como: organizar, pensar, escribir, trabajar de manera colaborativa, protestar, expresar solidaridad, formar parte de una comunidad e involucrarse a nivel local. Del mismo modo, podrán enviarnos sus propuestas acerca del significado mismo de democracia (gobierno de la gente), y de la manera en que se muestra en su comunidad.

¿Qué estamos buscando?

El encuentro creativo del Día Internacional de la Juventud se divide en tres categorías:

  • Artes escritas: poemas, cuentos, ensayos (500 palabras máx.)
  • Artes visuales: dibujos, caricaturas, pinturas, fotografía, collages
  • Artes multimedia: cortometrajes (2 min máximo), canciones

La presentación debe estar relacionada con el tema general Re-Imagining Democracy (Re-imaginar la democracia). Las presentaciones deberán expresar sus opiniones y sentimientos sobre el estado actual de la democracia y sus puntos de vista, como persona joven, sobre el replanteamiento y la reconstrucción de la misma.

Su presentación deberá estar relacionada con uno de los siguientes subtemas:

  • Diversidad - ¡Somos uno! Arte que celebra, presenta y empodera a personas de diferentes identidades (género, raza, sexualidad, edad, nacionalidad, etc.)
  • Cultura y sociedad - ¡Rompiendo barreras! Arte que muestra la integración intercultural-interreligiosa y la descolonización
  • Justicia económica: Arte que habla de economías solidarias, democratización del trabajo, emprendimiento social juvenil y transición justa
  • Democratización de la educación: Arte que comparte un mensaje sobre el acceso a la educación, los diferentes modos de aprendizaje, la participación activa y el diálogo, la educación de múltiples narrativas históricas
  • Juventud silenciada/no silenciada - ¡escucha mi voz! La experiencia de trabajar según un programa basado en los derechos: organizar, hablar, movilizar.

¿Eres candidato/a?

Para enviar una pieza en este concurso, las personas participantes y sus presentaciones deben cumplir los siguientes criterios:

  • Las personas candidatas deberán tener 30 años o menos antes del 12 de agosto de 2018
  • Se deberá respetar el plazo (27 de julio de 2018)
  • Solo se podrá realizar una presentación por persona
  • El contenido debe ser original y no haberse publicado previamente
  • Estar de acuerdo con los Términos y Condiciones del Encuentro del Día de la Juventud y con los principios de los eventos de CIVICUS
  • Las presentaciones deberán realizarse en inglés, francés, español y/o portugués

¿Qué puedes obtener con todo esto?

  1. Las 15 mejores presentaciones se promocionarán en las redes sociales de CIVICUS.
  2. Un taller de un día dirigido por CIVICUS: Alianza Mundial para la Participación Ciudadana, para dar apoyo a los participantes en su trabajo y mostrarles cómo compartir mensajes potentes a través de medios creativos (Viernes 10 de agosto, encuentro virtual[i] para las 15 mejores presentaciones).
  3. Premio en efectivo y membresía con derecho a voto de CIVICUS para las organizaciones a las que los 3 participantes principales del simposio decidan donar su premio. [ii]
    • 1er puesto: 300 $ US
  4. Publicación de las mejores (3) presentaciones en el Informe sobre el estado de la sociedad civil de 2018.

 ¿Cómo presentarse?

Envía tu solicitud rellenando este formulario: https://www.civicus.org/index.php/2018-dia-internacional-de-la-juventud. La fecha límite para las presentaciones es el 27 de julio de 2018. Para cualquier pregunta, no dude en ponerse en contacto con nosotros en

¿Cómo se evaluará la propuesta?

  • Creatividad: La propuesta parte de una idea original y el/la participante ha mostrado el uso de su imaginación y ha creado algo único.
  • Autenticidad: La propuesta refleja la experiencia del participante, una experiencia real o una visión de su experiencia potencial. La pieza se basa en la idea de cómo reinventar la democracia y la interpreta de manera creativa.
  • Relación con el tema: La presentación se relaciona directamente con uno o varios de los temas propuestos.
  • Relación con la lucha y las contribuciones a la comunidad: La presentación muestra uno de los retos a los que se enfrentan los jóvenes en función de los temas propuestos. Cuenta la historia de una iniciativa que crea consigue un resultado positivo para una comunidad.
  • Perspectiva de las/los jóvenes: la presentación presenta y considera la voz y la experiencia de las personas jóvenes.

* Se tendrá en consideración el equilibrio de diversidad de género, etnia y religión de las/los participantes.

 

[i] Los colaboradores del Encuentro 2018 pueden proporcionar un espacio físico para la realización de este taller en sus ciudades.

[ii] Los participantes seleccionarán, en el formulario de registro, una organización que contribuya con la causa seleccionada para donar su premio, en caso de que su obra sea seleccionada entre los 3 primeros.

JOURNÉE INTERNATIONALE DE LA JEUNESSE 2018: 'A travers les arts et l'imagination'

Ré-imaginer la démocratie: à la recherche de voix réduites au silence

 

Appel

Johannesburg, 3 juillet 2018 - Que signifie la démocratie pour vous? Comment les jeunes mettent-ils la démocratie en pratique dans votre communauté? Que considérez-vous comme une menace pour la démocratie aujourd'hui? Comment est votre démocratie idéale?

 'Through Arts and Imagination' est un concours international qui vise à collecter des morceaux artistiques, originaux et créatifs de musique, de poésie, d'art et/ou de multimédia, dans lesquels le point de vue de la jeunesse est présenté autour du thème Ré-imaginer la démocratie. Pour célébrer la Journée internationale de la jeunesse, le 12 août 2018, le groupe de travail de la jeunesse de CIVICUS, l'alliance mondiale de la société civile, veut créer un espace pour que les voix des jeunes qui sont réduites au silence soient entendues. CIVICUS veut donner l'opportunité aux jeunes d'exprimer leur vision sur la manière de ré-imaginer la démocratie. Non seulement ils auront l'occasion de faire entendre leur voix auprès d'un public international, mais ils auront aussi l'occasion de contribuer à la cause qu’ils choisissent !

 "Dans un monde où notre démocratie et nos libertés fondamentales sont constamment menacées, un monde où les voix des jeunes sont réduites au silence et marginalisées, nous croyons qu'il appartient à notre génération de ré-imaginer la démocratie dans laquelle nous voulons vivre" a déclaré Elisa Novoa, du groupe de travail des jeunes de CIVICUS.

La réunion espère montrer différentes oeuvres qui expriment ce que la démocratie signifie pour les jeunes: à quoi ça ressemble et comment il se sent dans la vie quotidienne. Nous voulons montrer que la démocratie est plus qu'un simple bulletin de vote, qui comprend des actions telles que: organiser, penser, écrire, travailler en collaboration, protester, exprimer sa solidarité, faire partie d'une communauté et s'impliquer au niveau local. De la même manière, vous pouvez nous envoyer vos propositions sur le sens même de la démocratie (gouvernement du peuple) et la façon dont il est montré dans votre communauté.

Que cherchons-nous?

La réunion créative de la Journée internationale de la jeunesse est divisée en trois catégories:

  • Arts écrits: poèmes, histoires, essais (500 mots maximum)
  • Arts visuels: dessins, dessins animés, peintures, photographies, collages
  • Arts multimédias: courts métrages (2 min maximum), chansons

La présentation devrait être liée au thème général Re-Imagining Democracy (Ré-imaginer la démocratie). Les présentations doivent exprimer leurs opinions et sentiments sur l'état actuel de la démocratie et leurs points de vue, en tant que jeunes, sur la façon de la repenser et de la reconstruire.

Votre présentation doit être liée à l'un des sous-thèmes suivants:

  • Diversité - Nous sommes un! Art qui célèbre, présente et habilite des personnes d'identités différentes (genre, race, sexualité, âge, nationalité, etc.)
  • Culture et société - Brisez les barrières! Art qui montre l'intégration interculturelle-interreligieuse et la décolonisation
  • Justice économique:  Art qui parle d'économies solidaires, de démocratisation du travail, d'entrepreneuriat social des jeunes et de transition juste
  • Démocratisation de l'éducation: Art qui partage un message sur l'accès à l'éducation, les différents modes d'apprentissage, la participation active et le dialogue, l'éducation de multiples récits historiques
  • Jeunesse réduite au silence/pas réduite au silence - écoutez ma voix! L'expérience de travailler selon un programme basé sur les droits: organiser, parler, mobiliser.

Êtes-vous un/e candidat/e?

Pour envoyer une pièce dans ce concours, les participants et leurs présentations doivent répondre aux critères suivants:

  • Les candidats doivent avoir 30 ans ou moins avant le 12 août 2018
  • La date limite doit être respectée (27 juillet 2018)
  • Une seule présentation par personne pourra être faite
  • Le contenu doit être original et non publié
  • Convenir des termes et conditions de la réunion de la Journée de la jeunesse et des principes des événements CIVICUS
  • Les présentations doivent être en anglais, français, espagnol et / ou portugais

Que pouvez-vous obtenir avec tout cela?

  1. Les 15 meilleures présentations seront publiés dans les réseaux sociaux de CIVICUS.
  2. Un atelier d'une journée dirigé par CIVICUS: Alliance mondiale pour la participation citoyenne, pour soutenir les participants dans leur travail et leur montrer comment partager des messages puissants par des moyens créatifs (vendredi 10 août, atelier en ligne[i] pour les 15 meilleurs présentations).
  3. Prix CIVICUS en espèces et adhésion avec droit de vote pour les organisations auxquelles les 3 principaux participants décident de faire don de leur prix. [ii]
    • 1ère place: 300 $ US
  4. Publication des meilleures (3) présentations dans le Rapport sur l'état de la société civile de 2018.

Comment se présenter?

Envoyez votre demande en remplissant ce formulaire: https://www.civicus.org/index.php/2018-journee-internationale-de-la-jeunesse. La date limite pour les soumissions est le 27 juillet 2018. Pour toute autre question, n'hésitez pas à nous contacter à

Comment la proposition sera-t-elle évaluée?

  • Créativité: La proposition est basée sur une idée originale et le participant a montré l'utilisation de son imagination et a créé quelque chose d'unique.
  • Authenticité: La proposition reflète l'expérience du participant, une expérience réelle ou une vision de son expérience potentielle. La pièce est basée sur l'idée de réinventer la démocratie et de l'interpréter de manière créative.
  • Relation avec le sujet: La présentation est directement liée à un ou plusieurs des sujets proposés.
  • Relation avec la lutte et contributions à la communauté: La présentation montre l'un des défis auxquels les jeunes font face en fonction des sujets proposés. Raconte l'histoire d'une initiative qui crée un résultat positif pour une communauté.
  • Perspective des jeunes: la présentation présente et considère la voix et l'expérience des jeunes.

* L'équilibre entre la diversité des sexes, l'ethnicité et la religion des participants sera pris en considération.

 

[i] Les collaborateurs de la Réunion 2018 peuvent fournir un espace physique pour la réalisation de cet atelier dans leurs villes.

[ii] Les participants sélectionneront, dans le formulaire d'inscription, une organisation qui contribue avec la cause sélectionnée pour faire don de leur prix, dans le cas où leur travail est sélectionné parmi les 3 premiers.

CIVICUS Announces Leadership transition

It is with a mix of sadness and appreciation that the CIVICUS Board of Directors announces that Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah will be stepping down from his role as Secretary General at the end of 2018. Since joining the Secretariat team in January 2013, Danny has played a critical role in the development and success of the alliance.

One of the notable successes of the past 5 and a half years has been the invaluable cooperative working relationship between the Board, Secretary General, and Secretariat Staff, through a period of dynamic growth.

“We cannot thank Danny enough for the dedication, passion, enthusiasm and motivation he has given CIVICUS alliance over the past 5 and half years. He will be missed by the staff, Board, members and partners alike,” said Anabel Cruz, Chair of the Board.  “However, we are confident that working closely with the Secretariat staff and management team, we will have a smooth transition. Our priority now is to find an exemplary leader to carry out our mandate with passion, to live our values, to help us generate collective creativity and courage through our many relationships to achieve true systemic change in our world.”

“It will have been six fabulous, fruitful, fulfilling years at CIVICUS. It has been a real privilege working not just with amazing colleagues inside the Secretariat, but also with the inspiring people who have been part of our board over the years, and the ever-growing alliance of members and partners around the world,” Danny reflected.

“However, the time has come for me to step aside and for CIVICUS to have some fresh leadership to take it through the next stages of the alliance’s development,” he added. “With a wonderful board, a great staff team and stable finances, everything is in place for a smooth transition.”

“Conditions for us as citizens to organise and mobilise in some ways are getting worse, but my reflection after these five and a half years is that the world needs civil society more than ever before,” Danny advises. “It needs us to be bold, to be creative, to push the boundaries and to push for systematic change. One of the most inspiring things about this role is that we work in this alliance with people who are doing just that - who are standing up in defending civic freedoms, who are coming up with new ways of channeling citizen voice, and of challenging power.”

Over the next few months, the CIVICUS board will oversee the search and selection of the next Secretary General. The incoming Secretary General will play a leading role in empowering civil society and citizen action, at a critical moment for civil society. The Board has said it is looking for a disruptive change leader, an inspirational visionary with a courageous voice who can defend civic freedoms and democratic values, strengthen the power of people to organise, mobilise and take action, and empower a more accountable, effective and innovative civil society.

CIVICUS has engaged Macaulay Search to assist with the recruitment process and full details of the job description and selection process can be found here:

English  French Spanish

 

Nepal government must halt efforts to curtail civil society organisations

A new proposed policy by the government of Nepal would further curtail the work of international and national non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in the country by tightening the state’s control over them.

Nigerian president Buhari must ensure release of journalist Jones Abiri

President Muhammadu Buhari
Aso Villa, Yakubu Gowon Crescent, 
The Three Arms Zone, Asokoro, 
Abuja, FTC, Nigeria

Dear President Muhammadu Buhari,

We at the Committee to Protect Journalists, a non-profit organization that champions press freedom internationally, and 18 other organizations, are writing to call for the release of journalist Jones Abiri, who has been held by Nigeria's Department of State Security (DSS) for nearly two years, and to call for DSS to be held accountable for its attacks against journalists in Nigeria.

We were disappointed that, after repeated requests during CPJ's visit to Nigeria in April 2018, we were not permitted to visit Abiri in detention. In a meeting with CPJ on April 24, 2018, Garba Shehu, your presidential spokesperson, confirmed that Abiri remained in DSS custody and said he would be charged in court on allegations of being a militant. Yet after almost two years behind bars, Abiri has not seen a courtroom, nor has his family been given any information about his health and well-being.

The DSS operates under Nigeria's coordinator of national security, which reports directly to you, according to the 1986 National Security Agencies Act. During a visit to State House in April, Garba Shehu also told CPJ that you would be made personally aware of Abiri's ongoing detention. We therefore call for your swift action to ensure Abiri's release and that those responsible for his prolonged and illegal detention are held accountable.

In February and March 2018, the DSS also arrested Tony Ezimakor, the Abuja bureau chief of the privately owned Daily Independent newspaper. CPJ documented Ezimakor's week-long detention without charge or court appearance, during which the DSS threatened the journalist with terrorism charges for his reporting.

Over the last two years, CPJ has repeatedly tried to contact Lawal Musa Daura, director general of the DSS, and Gbeteng Bassi, director of operations of the DSS, without success. Nigerian journalists have similarly told CPJ, with dismay, that they are unable to reach the DSS for comment, regarding the arrest of their colleagues or otherwise. During the same April 2018 meeting with CPJ, Garba Shehu confirmed that the DSS has not designated anyone responsible for communicating with the Nigerian public. We urge you to improve accountability and make the DSS accessible to the press. This includes the appointment of a DSS spokesperson.

Your action to ensure the safety of journalists and the promotion of open dialogue through the press is made even more important because Nigeria will hold elections in February 2019. Around the world, CPJ has documented how attacks on journalists have escalated during election periods and other political processes. It is in this context that we urge you to take decisive action to ensure that journalists are free to report on matters of public concern, and that a culture of self-censorship does not cloud public decision-making processes. As part of this, Abiri should be released without delay.

Sincerely,

Joel Simon
Executive Director
Committee to Protect Journalists

Shu'aibu Usman Leman
National Secretary
Nigerian Union of Journalists

Wade H. McMullen, Jr.
Managing Attorney
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

Elizabeth Chyrum
Director
Human Rights Concern - Eritrea

David Kode
Head of Advocacy and Campaigns 
CIVICUS

Edmund YaKani
Executive Director
Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, South Sudan

Zohrab Ismayil 
Programmes Director
Caucasus Civil Initiatives Center (CCIC)

Yared Hailemariam
Director
Association For Human Rights In Ethiopia (AHRE)

Dina Meza
Directora Ejecutiva 
Asociación por la Democracia y los Derechos Humanos
ASOPODEHU-Honduras

Melanie Sonhaye Kombate
Programs and Advocacy Director
West African Human Rights Defenders Network (ROADDH/WAHRDN)

Rahman Gharib
Chairman
Metro Center for Journalists Rights & Advocacy

Alphonsus B.M. Gbanie
Executive Secretary
Human Rights Defenders Network- Sierra Leone

Yemisi Ransome-Kuti
Founding Executive Director and Board Member, 
Nigeria Network of NGOs

Osai Ojigho
Director
Amnesty International - Nigeria

Cristina Palabay
Secretary General 
Karapatan - Philippines

Adilur Khan
Secretary General
Odhikar - Bangladesh

Carles Torner
Executive Director
PEN International

Folu Agoi
President
PEN Nigeria

Sulemana Braimah
Executive Director
Media Foundation for West Africa

Civil Society Responses to US Withdrawal From UN Human Rights Council

Following the announcement of the United States withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), a number of civil society organisations with offices in Geneva, the headquarters of UNHRC, offer their opinions on the resulting impact on the work of the Human Rights Council. For media enquiries, please contact

CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance

“The USA did not engage in the Human Rights Council under the Bush administration and only returned under the Obama Administration. The Council survived then and it will survive now. The worrying part is that global power dynamics have shifted significantly since then and with the US withdrawal, the vacuum will certainly be filled by Russia and China who have not demonstrated commitment to advancing the human rights discourse. This could negatively impact on Council priorities. Democratic states committed to protecting and promoting human rights will need to show increased commitment to safeguarding human rights norms.”

  • Susan Wilding, Head of Geneva office, CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance

Amnesty International

 “Once again President Trump is showing his complete disregard for the fundamental rights and freedoms the US claims to uphold. While the Human Rights Council is by no means perfect and its membership is frequently under scrutiny, it remains an important force for accountability and justice.

“The US should urgently reverse this decision, which places it squarely on the wrong side of history. It is wilfully choosing to undermine the human rights of all people everywhere, and their struggles for justice.”

  • Salil Shetty, Secretary General, Amnesty International

 International Commission of Jurists

"The withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations Human Rights Council is unlikely in itself to have much impact on the Council, or human rights in the world. The real issue is the Trump administration's broader rejection of multilateralism and rule of law (international or otherwise), and how it acts in practice, both at home and abroad.”

  • Matt Pollard, Senior Legal Adviser, International Commission of Jurists

 International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

"The withdrawal of the US is deeply regrettable. The constructive engagement of States with a genuine commitment to human rights and the rule of law is essential for peace, security and sustainable development."

‘While the Human Rights Council is far from perfect, it makes a significant contribution to protecting human rights, providing justice to victims, and promoting accountability for perpetrators."

  • Phil Lynch, International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) Director 

 DefendDefenders

"The Trump administration decision to turn its back on the UN's top human rights body is childish, hypocritical, and self-defeating. Today, only the enemies of human rights, some of whom sit on the Council, are pleased. 

“Nature abhors a vacuum, and the same goes for multilateral fora. While the US will lose voice and influence, China, Russia, Egypt will likely try and assert greater control over the Human Rights Council's agenda and dynamics." 

  • Nicolas Agostini, Representative to the UN for DefendDefenders 

 Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

"By withdrawing the US put appeasement of Israel before the need to protect and support those struggling for human rights and democracy around the world."  

  • Jeremie Smith, Director, Geneva Office, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

Civic Space and the World Cup

Football is the world’s most popular sport, played on all continents, by girls and boys and women and men of all ages. For many, it is an invaluable outlet for expression, for joining together with others and for collectively enjoying the outdoors. Even in the world’s most repressive countries, football is a thriving sport. However, for people who also want to express themselves, assemble and associate in other ways, or promote causes or ideas with which the authorities in their country disagree, the world is not such a welcoming place. These graphics show how teams competing at the FIFA World Cup in Russia fare when assessed on their respect for the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression. On this evidence, minnows Iceland come out on top, while favorites Brazil languish near the bottom. The graph below also shows that there are several countries - including Russia, Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabi - which implement widespread or systematic repression of their citizens are taking part in this year's tournament.

See how the 32 competing countries compare by visiting the World Cup section of the CIVICUS Monitor, which is an online research tool that tracks and rates civic space scores across all countries.

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Palestine: Israel must end impunity and indiscriminate attacks on protestors

One month after a horrific massacre of protesters in the occupied Palestinian territory, global civil society alliance, CIVICUS is urging accountability for the unacceptably high levels of lethal violence employed by Israeli security forces against demonstrations.  

Since 30 March 2018, when Palestinians launched a protest campaign against forced evictions, the denial of their right to return to their occupied territories and the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, more than 120 protestors have been killed including children, journalists and health personnel. In addition, more than 12 000 Palestinians have been wounded.  On May 14, the deadliest day of the protests, more than 61 Palestinians including 8 children were shot and killed by Israeli forces and nearly 3 000 were wounded in Gaza. 

Despite the decision by the UN Human Rights Council on 18 May 2018 to dispatch an independent commission of inquiry to investigate violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, Israeli forces are continuing to use unnecessary, indiscriminate and disproportionate force against protesters. This includes exploding bullets, which are designed to inflict maximum damage, in a calculated attempt to kill, maim and inflict serious bodily harm on Palestinian protesters. Palestinian civil society representatives are being prevented from travelling abroad including to UN bodies to expose the atrocities being committed by Israeli forces.

Said Mandeep Tiwana, CIVICUS’ Chief Programmes Officer: “We all bear responsibility for not doing enough to demand an end to the atrocities committed by Israeli security forces.”

“Silence from some states and overt support for Israeli forces’ actions by others is emboldening them to act with impunity and cause massive suffering to the Palestinian community,” said Tiwana.

As Israeli authorities wilfully ignore calls from the international community to exercise restraint against Palestinian protestors, CIVICUS urges civil society around the world to urge their governments to speak out against continuing attacks on Palestinian protesters, demand an end to impunity by Israeli forces and support the commission of inquiry mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate violations in the context of the large scale civilian protests in the occupied Palestinian territory.

ENDS.

For more information, contact:

Grant Clark

Nicaragua: Cese de la violencia en contra de los manifestantes pacíficos

Inglés

La alianza global de la sociedad civil CIVICUS y la Coordinadora Civil de Nicaragua hacen un llamamiento al gobierno de Nicaragua para que detenga la violencia contra las personas que se manifiestan de manera pacífica y para que respete su derecho a manifestarse libremente y de forma pacífica. Después de 54 días de protesta, 135 personas han sido asesinadas, más de 1000 han resultado heridas y 400 detenidas. Mientras tanto, estas personas manifestantes piden al presidente Daniel Ortega que renuncie.

Joint Letter: Restore democratic rule in Thailand

5 June 2018

Prime Minister
General Prayut Chan-o-cha
Government House
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit
Bangkok 10300, Thailand

 

Re: Concerns regarding arrest and prosecution of peaceful protesters

Dear Prime Minister,

We are writing to you with regards to the recent arrest and charging of pro-democracy activists for their participation in a peaceful protest in Bangkok on 22 May 2018, the fourth anniversary of the military coup in Thailand. These individuals were part of a group of hundreds of protesters who were calling for an end to military rule and for elections to be held by November 2018, in line with commitments previously made by your government.

15 individuals were arrested on the day of the protest and subsequently charged with various offences including violations of Penal Code Sections 116 (sedition), 215 (assemblies leading to “breach of the peace”) and 216 (refusal to disperse). They are also facing charges under Article 12 of the Head of the NCPO Order No. 3/2558, which prohibits “political gatherings of five or more persons”, the Road Traffic Act, and the Public Assembly Act.

On 24 May, after being detained for two nights, the 15 activists were brought to the Bangkok Criminal Court and granted bail of 100,000 Thai Baht per person (approximately USD 3,100). The court also imposed restrictions prohibiting the activists from organising or participating in further protests.

On 29 May, authorities issued summons to at least 47 additional individuals present during the protest, including a staff member from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights who was on hand to monitor the event. This group of individuals will learn the nature of the charges they face when they report to a Bangkok police station on 7 June.

The arrest and charging of the protesters clearly contravene Thailand’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), as do the restrictions placed on the future activities of these individuals.

After four years of military rule in Thailand, government authorities continue to arbitrarily arrest, detain and prosecute peaceful protesters and government critics under an array of laws including those used to charge the 22 May protesters as well as the Computer Crimes Act and Penal Code provisions relating to defamation and offenses against the monarchy. Many pro-democracy activists are subject to charges in multiple criminal cases concerning their protest activities and could face decades of imprisonment, if convicted.

By limiting political activities, curbing public gatherings, monitoring private communications, and stifling public discourse on matters of national interest, authorities are unjustifiably restricting the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Moreover, these actions have created a fearful environment in which people cannot freely express their opinions, criticize public authorities, or peacefully assemble without risking arrest and prosecution. These human rights violations are taking place in the context of the Thai government’s repeated failure to fulfil promises to hold elections and restore democratic norms.

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

  • Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against the 22 May pro-democracy protesters and lift all restrictions on the exercise of their human rights;
  • Quash convictions and drop charges against anyone prosecuted or convicted for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association or peaceful assembly;
  • Amend or repeal laws and orders that restrict or provide criminal penalties for the peaceful exercise of human rights or allow for arbitrary detention, including Penal Code provisions relating to sedition, defamation and insults to the monarchy; the Computer Crimes Act; the Public Assembly Act; and NCPO Order No. 3/2558;
  • 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; and
  • Lift all restrictions on political activities and take steps to restore democratic rule in Thailand as soon as possible.

We express our sincere hope that you will consider and support these recommendations. We would be happy to discuss these matters with you or other appropriate officials at any time and offer our support in reforming laws and policies to ensure compliance with international human rights law and standards.

Sincerely,                      

David E. Kode                                  Soo Yon Suh                                    Matthew Bugher

Advocacy & Campaigns Lead          Program Manager                            Head of Asia Programme

CIVICUS                                          Asia Democracy Network                ARTICLE 19

Eritrea: Extend UN Special Rapporteur mandate, help end generalized impunity

To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Geneva, Switzerland

Excellencies,

Ahead of the 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council (“HRC” or “the Coun­cil”), we write to you as a cross-re­gional group of non-governmental organizations to share our serious concerns over the sys­te­ma­tic, wide­spread and gross human rights violations that continue to be committed with impu­nity in Eritrea.

We urge your Govern­ment to support and co-sponsor at the upcoming session a streamlined reso­lution that accurately reflects the gravity of the situation on the ground, renews the man­date of the Special Rapporteur under the Council’s agenda item 4, and sets out a framework for need­ed reforms to improve the human rights situation in the country and advance ac­count­ability.

At the Council’s last regular session, during an enhanced interactive dialogue on Eri­trea held in March 2018, Deputy UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore noted:

“In 2016, the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea found reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity, namely, enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture, other inhumane acts, per­secution, rape and murder, had been committed since 1991. The Commission noted that despite the State’s increased engagement with the international community, there was no evidence of progress in the field of hu­man rights. I regret to report that this state of affairs remains unchanged.”[1]

In her most recent statement to the Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, Sheila B. Keet­ha­ruth, similarly detailed violations per­tain­ing to the right to life, including deaths in custody for which responsibility “falls squarely on Gov­ernment authorities,” the right to liberty and security of the person, freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, freedoms of expression, assembly and as­so­ciation, and freedom of religion or belief, inc­lu­­ding the harass­ment, mis­treatment, torture and detention of members of unrecognized religions.[2] These continuing violations present a systematic character, meaning, in the words of the Special Rap­porteur, that “they cannot be the result of ran­dom or isolated acts by the autho­rities” and that they occur in a country ruled “not by law, but by fear.”[3]

Since Eritrea was first considered by the Council, the Government has refused to cooperate with the mechanisms the Council set up, including the Special Rapporteur and the Commis­sion of In­quiry (CoI). At the March 2018 enhanced interactive dialogue, Eritrea was not present to take the floor as the con­cer­ned country.

Eritrea’s cooperation with other international bodies, mechanisms or agencies has been extremely selec­tive. While the Government recently invited the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Hu­man Rights (OHCHR) for a short-term technical assistance mission, the Deputy High Commissio­ner under­lined that “the test of the merits of our engagement with Eritrea – like Eritrea’s commitments at the international level – lies in whether or not they produce concrete human rights improvements for the people of Eritrea.” She concluded that there had been no measurable progress to date.

Eritrea has consistently denied UN Special Procedures, including the country-specific Special Rap­por­teur, access to the country. At the time of writing, pen­ding visit requests by Special Procedures included requests from the Spe­cial Rapporteurs on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (request in 2005; reminders in 2007 and 2010); freedom of religion or belief (request in 2004; reminders in 2005 and 2006); extrajudicial, sum­mary or arbitrary exe­cu­tions (request in 2010); the right to food (request in 2003); and freedom of opi­nion and expression (request in 2003; reminders in 2005 and 2015).

Eritrea has also attacked, intimidated and threatened human rights defenders and independent UN ex­perts, including the Special Rapporteur and members of the CoI. When the latter presented their report in 2015, they noted that “[they] were followed in the streets and in [their] hotels and vilified in blogs on line where the words of [their] report have been twisted and misquoted.” The Com­mission’s Chair added: “Of course this is trivial compared to the day to day experience of people in Eritrea itself, but it is indicative of a determination on the part of the authorities to control anyone they perceive as a critic.”[4]

The gravity, scale and nature of the continuing violations call for justice. Victims, including those who live inside the country and those who have fled it, deserve redress. As domestic avenues for such red­ress are non-existent, the international community must continue to act with a view to en­ding the gene­ra­lized impu­nity that prevails in the coun­try. The Deputy High Commissioner remin­ded the Coun­cil that, as advi­sed by the Special Rapporteur, there could be “no sustain­able solution to the refugee out­flows until the Government complied with its human rights obligations.”[5]

In view of the ongoing crimes under international law and violations of human rights and fun­da­mental freedoms committed in Eritrea, the Special Rapporteur’s mandate remains an indispensable mechanism to advance the protection and promotion of human rights in the country. The mandate holder continues to fulfil an invaluable role by monitoring the dire situation in the country, shining a light on violations, providing a crucial platform to help amplify the voices of victims, and offering Eritreans an opportunity to find long-lasting solutions for the respect of their human rights.

Consistent with its mandate to address situations of violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations, the Human Rights Council should continue to address the situ­ation in Eritrea. We urge your dele­gation to actively support and co-sponsor a resolution that:

  • Recalls the reports of the Commission of Inquiry and the Special Rapporteur and continues to ex­press its deep concern over the findings contained therein;
  • Condemns the reported systematic, widespread and gross human rights viola­tions and abuses that have been and are being committed by the Government of Eritrea in a climate of genera­li­zed im­punity;
  • Reiterates that all perpetrators of such violations and abuses should be held ac­countable;
  • Extends the mandate of the Special Rap­porteur and invites the mandate holder to continue to fol­low up on the findings of HRC mechanisms, including on accountability;
  • Invites the Special Rapporteur to assess and report on the Eritrean Government’s degree of enga­ge­ment and cooperation with the Council and its mechanisms, as well as with OHCHR, and whe­re feasible to develop benchmarks for progress on human rights and a time-bound action plan for the imple­mentation of these benchmarks;
  • Calls on all states to urge the Government of Eritrea to co-operate with the Special Rappor­teur and other UN bodies and mechanisms, including Special Procedures, implement the recommen­da­­tions these bodies and mechanisms made over the years, and allow unfettered ac­cess to the coun­try, including detention centers and training facilities.

We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues and are available to provide your delegation with further information as required.

Sincerely,

Africa Monitors

Amnesty International

ARTICLE 19

Asian Legal Resource Centre

Central Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (REDHAC)

Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea (CDRiE)

CIVICUS

DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)

Eritrean Diaspora in East Africa

Eritrean Lowland League

Eritrean Law Society

Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights

FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights)

FORUM-Asia

Human Rights Concern – Eritrea

Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA)

Human Rights Watch

International Fellowship of Reconciliation

International Service for Human Rights                        

PEN Eritrea

Release Eritrea

Reporters Without Borders

Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN)

West Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN/ROADDH)


[1] The meeting summary can be found at: www.bit.ly/2Fc69BX

[4] www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16731&LangID=E The Special Rapporteur herself has faced personal attacks during an interactive dialogue that was held in June 2017, when she was referred to as a “naked Empress with no clothes” and was accused of carrying out a witch-hunt against Eritrea. See www.amnesty.org/en/documents/ior40/8032/2018/en/

[5] See footnote 1 above.

Niger: This 25 May marks two months in detention of 26 activists and civil society members

  • 10 organisations call on authorities to stop their prosecutions and release them in order to ease the current tense situation 

Two months after 26 civil society activists were arrested in peaceful demonstrations against a new finance law in the capital, Niamey, Oxfam and Amnesty International are joining with eight NGOs to call on the authorities of Niger to ease the situation by releasing the detainees and bring an end to the prosecutions.

OPEN CALL for contributions to CIVICUS’ State of Civil Society Report on ‘Reimagining Democracy’

French | Spanish

The upcoming CIVICUS State of Civil Society Report, to be published in September 2018, will focus on the special theme of ‘Reimagining Democracy’. The publication will explore the current state of democratic practices, the contemporary trends that are having an impact on them, and civil society initiatives to respond to major democratic challenges and reinvent democracy from the ground up. As with previous reports, we are seeking to collaborate with and hear the views of a wide range of civil society activists, leaders, experts and stakeholders.

This is where you come in: we want your thoughts on the situation of and perspectives on democracy in your context, your stories about civil society action in connection to our theme, and your ideas about what civil society can do to reimagine, rebuild and project democracy into the future. Through your submissions, we hope to be able to view our theme from a variety of different angles in order to get as complete an nuanced a picture as possible.

Submissions will be published in a dedicated section of our website and will help inform our final report.

About submissions

This is an open call for submissions, and anyone who has a story to share that is in one way or another related to the theme is welcome to participate.

We will receive short written submissions (ideally of up to 1,500 words) on a specific aspect of the theme. Submissions should preferably focus on a practical case study of civil society experience and response. We are particularly looking for case studies that focus on innovative and creative responses to the challenges and limitations of current democratic practices.

We would like to collect the widest possible range of experiences of legitimate democratic expressions - of the many ways in which ‘people power’ can express itself. We are taking a broad view of democracy, beyond elections, encompassing a variety of democratic practices at every level. Please feel free to present your working definition of democracy as you frame your issue and tell your story.

Key questions for submissions to address may include:

  • How does your particular topic relate to the overall theme of ‘Reimagining Democracy’?
  • What was the problem in your context that civil society sought to respond to?
  • What were the key ways in which civil society responded, and what was creative and innovative about the response?
  • What were the main successes and challenges encountered in responding?
  • What further civil society action is required, and what is needed to support this action?
  • What recommendations can you make for wider international learning?

Submissions may be made by individuals or organisations, and may be written in English, French, Portuguese or Spanish. We encourage the submission of audio-visual material and photos alongside written submissions.

All submissions received will be published, provided they show a clear relation to the theme, highlight examples of civil society action, and are consistent with CIVICUS’ core values and principles, as articulated in our 2017-2022 Strategic Plan. We may edit submissions before publication for house style and consistency of language usage, but will correspond with authors if substantive changes are suggested.

About the theme

Our theme. ‘Reimagining Democracy’, comes as a response to the various challenges to democratic practices observed in country after country around the world. These include personal presidential rule and challenges to the rule of law, pushback by the politically powerful against the expression of democratic dissent, public dissatisfaction with contemporary democratic practice, restrictive definitions of citizenship leading to the exclusion of many people, and the rise of extreme and polarising political movements.

Seeking to move beyond pessimism, our main focus will be on the responses of civil society to defend, rebuild and deepen democracy – to reimagine democracy. We will highlight examples of successful practice in reimagining democracy, as well as the challenges encountered in responding, and make a series of practical recommendations on how civil society actions to reimagine democracy can be nurtured and strengthened.

Possible topics as part of this theme include:

  • Presidential/personal rule, constitution and election rigging and the declining rule of law
  • Cronyism, elite collusion and grand corruption
  • Attacks on democratic dissent
  • Majoritarianism and attacks on political minorities and excluded groups
  • Political populism and extremism
  • The rise of uncivil society
  • Political disaffection and rejection of conventional politics
  • Democratic deficits in international institutions
  • Protest responses, social movements - and pushback against these
  • Civil society engagement before, during and after elections
  • Community organising and neighbourhood participation
  • Workplace democracy and democracy within civil society organisations

For more information about the ‘Reimagining Democracy’ theme and process, see our background note here. If you have any questions, or to submit your contribution, please contact .

CIVICUS interview with Malaysia electoral reform coalition, Bersih 2.0

In the lead up to the 14th general elections in Malaysia on 9 May, CIVICUS interviewed the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0 which means "clean" in Malay). The coalition - made up of like-minded civil society organisations - was officially launched in 2006 with the objective of campaigning for clean and fair elections in Malaysia.

Among its eights demands include: cleaning the electoral roll; reforming postal balloting; the use of indelible ink; a minimum 21 days campaign period; free and fair access to media for all political parties; strengthening public institutions to act independently and impartially in upholding the rule of law and democracy and halting corruption and dirty politics.

Since 2007, it has organized five massive street protests to the have drawn tens of thousands of people to protest on the streets of Kuala Lumpur and other parts of the country calling for electoral and national reform. Smallers protests have also been held in different countries across the world. Ahead of these mass rallies Bersih 2.0 organisers have been arrested or harassed by the authorities and authorities have seized their computers, mobile phones and documents.

Over the last month, Bersih 2.0 raised concerns about the redelineation of constituencies which was done in haste in favour of the ruling government, highlighted problems with the overseas postal voting system, publicized vote buying by candidates and the manipulation and abuse of power by the Election Commission (EC) on Nomination Day

More information on Bersih 2.0 can be found at https://www.bersih.org

Joint Statement: Dozens killed in Nicaragua by state repression of protests

Spanish

We hereby condemn the violent repression of the demonstrations held in Nicaragua against the Social Security reforms, and we demand respect for the legitimate right to protest of Nicaraguan women and men

Daniel Ortega, President of the Republic of Nicaragua.

Rosario Murillo, Vice President of the Republic of Nicaragua.

We, 323 undersigned national, diverse regional and international organizations and networks, hereby condemn the violent repression of the demonstrations held in Nicaragua against the Social Security reforms, and we demand respect for the legitimate right to protest of Nicaraguan women and men.

Since Wednesday the 18th April, organizations, networks and human rights defenders in Nicaragua have been documenting and denouncing multiple violations of the right to hold peaceful protests, that include: murders, disappearances, arbitrary detentions, physical aggressions; the use of stones, sticks, rubber bullets, and tear gas; threats, acts of intimidation and the infringement of the right to information; in the context of the demonstrations that were organised in response to the Government’s imposition of the Social Security reforms that involve cuts of 5% in pensions, as well as other measures that affect the fundamental rights of Nicaraguan women and men.

As has been verified, these attacks are being perpetrated by State security forces that repress the population with excessive use of force, and by groups of civilians linked to the Juventud Sandinista (Sandinista Youth Movement) who are acting with total impunity, and with the complicity and consent of the police, causing outbreaks of violence that have already claimed the lives of at least 40 people.1

Another matter of grave concern are the violations of the right to freedom of expression, manifested in the theft of journalists' professional equipment, assaults and acts of intimidation during repressive actions and the shutting down of the transmission, through digital cable service, of 100% Noticias, channel 12 and channel 23 that were covering the protests.

These attacks violate the right to freedom of assembly and to peaceful association, the right to freedom of opinion and expression of the Nicaraguan people, and their right to defend the social rights that are threatened by the Social Security reforms that the Government seeks to impose.

This situation is not an isolated case; in recent times, numerous acts have been documented that infringe the right to social protest - by restricting people’s freedom of movement, through campaigns of criminalization, threats and harassment against organizations and human rights’ defenders, or through the closure of communication spaces, and many other actions that threaten democracy and the human rights of Nicaraguan women and men.

In the light of the above, we, the organizations and individual signatories to this letter, demand the following actions from the Nicaraguan State:

  • The immediate cease of repression and violence carried out by armed forces, the police and groups of civilians linked to the government. The authorities must fulfil their duty to guarantee Nicaraguan women’s and men’s right to social protest
  • The release of detainees in different parts of the country. Guarantees must be provided that no criminal action will be taken against them.
  • An inclusive national dialogue process, securing the participation and involvement of different sectors that have movilized, victims, networks and civil society organizations, as well as representatives from diverse social movements
  • Respect for the work carried out by human rights defenders, journalists and the media.

Sincerely yours,

1. Abogadas y Abogados para la Justicia y los Derechos Humanos

2. Abriendo Camino A.C.

3. Académicas en Acción Critica

4. Acción Solidaria

5. ACCSI Acción Ciudadana Contra el SIDA

6. Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del aborto - El Salvador

7. AIETI Asociacion de Investigación y Especialización sobrecTemas Iberoamericanos

8. Aireana, grupo por los derechos de las lesbianas. Asunción. PARAGUAY

9. Akahata A.C.

10. Alianza Latinoamericana y Caribeña de Juventudes

11. Alianza Regional por la Libre Expresión e Información

12. American Jewish World Service

13. Americas Program, Center for International Policy

14. Amigas en Consejos de Desarrollo AMICODE

15. AMUMRA - Asociación Civil de Derechos Humanos Mujeres Unidas Migrantes y Refugiadas en Argentina

16. ANC- Peru

17. Andrea Kraybill Art

18. APADEIM

19. APRODEH

20. Arte para Sanar

21. Articulação de Mulheres Brasileiras

22. Asamblea Feminista de Madrid

23. Asistencia Legal por Derechos Humanos A.C.

24. Asociación Andaluza por la Solidaridad y la Paz (ASPA)

25. Asociación Bolivarianos Diversos

26. Asociación Cepres

27. Asociación Ciudadana ACCEDER

28. Asociación Ciudadana por los Derechos Humanos de Argentina

29. Asociacion Civil De Mujeres Resilientes

30. Asociación Civil Magdalenas Puerto Madryn

31. Asociacion de Mujeres Salvadoreñas en Accion del Barrio San Jacinto AMSAB-SJ

32. Asociación de jóvenes feministas Ameyalli, El Salvador

33. Asociación Educativa Barbiana

34. Asociación Entre Amigos LGBTI de El Salvador

35. Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente, AIDA (Regional)

36. Asociacion Interpueblos-Cantabria-España

37. Asociación para una sociedad más justa

38. Asociación para una vida mejor (Apuvimeh)

39. Asociación Paz y Esperanza

40. ASOCIACIÓN PRO DEFENSA DE LA CUENCA DEL RÍO JUAN DÍAZ

41. Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de España

42. Associação brasileira de defesa da mulher da infância e da juventude

43. ATTAC Roanne

44. AvanzaFem AC

45. Balance Promoción para el Desarrollo y Juventud, México

46. Beso Diverso

47. Bilboko Bilgune Feminista

48. BILGUNE FEMINISTA (Euskal Herria-Pais Vasco)

49. Bordamos Feminicidios (México)

50. Both ENDS

51. Brigada UNE

52. Calala Fondo de Mujeres

53. Campaña 28 de Septiembre - Guatemala

54. Campaña Convención DSYDR Peru

55. Campo A.C.

56. Canas Dignas

57. Capital Humano y Social Alternativo - CHS Alternativo

58. CASACIDN

59. Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir - España

60. Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir – México

61. CENDEROS

62. Centro de Acción y Defensa por los Derechos Humanos - Cadef

63. Centro de análisis, formación e iniciativa social, CAFIS A.C.

64. Centro de Derechos de Mujeres CDM

65. Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña Tlachinollan

66. Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (CDH-UCAB)

67. Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Metropolitana (CDH-UNIMET)

68. Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Francisco de Vitoria OP, A.C. (México)

69. Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Matías de Córdova (Chiapas, México)

70. Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos "Segundo Montes Mozo S.J." (CSMM)

71. Centro de Estudios e Investigación sobre Mujeres

72. CENTRO DE ESTUDIOS HUMANISTAS - Costa Rica

73. Centro de estudios y capacitación familiar. Cefa

74. Centro de Iniciativas para la Cooperación Batá (CIC Batá)

75. Centro de Investigación para la Prevención de la Violencia en Centroamérica – CIPREVICA

76. Centro de Investigaciones para la Equidad Política Pública y Desarrollo, CIPE.

77. Centro de Sanación, Formación e Investigación Transpersonal Q'anil

78. Centro Documentación e Información Bolivia-CEDIB-

79. Centro Hermanas Mirabal de Derechos Humanos A.C.

80. Centro Para el Desarrollo Integral de la Mujer

81. Centro para la Paz y los DDHH de la Universidad Central de Venezuela

82. Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL)

83. Cepaz - Centro de Justicia y Paz

84. CEPROSAF

85. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

86. Civilis Derechos Humanos

87. CLADEM ARGENTINA (Comité de América Latina y el Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos de las Mujeres)

88. CLADEM Bolivia

89. Cladem Nicaragua

90. Coalicion Todas

91. Codhez

92. Codice, Jalisco

93. Colectiva Actoras de Cambio

94. Colectiva Amorales

95. Colectiva Ciudad y Género AC

96. Colectiva con Letra F (México)

97. Colectiva Chancha Negra

98. Colectiva de Mujeres de Masaya

99. Colectiva Femimista

100. Colectiva Sororidad Glocal

101. Colectivas lesbicas

102. Colectivo de Abogados "José Alvear Restrepo" (Ccajar), Colombia

103. Colectivo de Mujeres de Matagalpa Nicaragua

104. Colectivo de Mujeres Sobrevivientes Siempre Resistentes – Chile

105. Colectivo de Trabajadoras y Trabajadores Sociales de Honduras (CTS-H)

106. Colectivo de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras de Honduras

107. Colectivo Estudiantil Pro Derechos Humanos del Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas

108. Colectivo Josefa Lastiri

109. Colectivo para la Participación de la Infancia y Juventud

110. Colectivo PSG

111. Colectivo Trans del Uruguay

112. Colectivo Utopía Puebla

113. Collectif Guatemala

114. Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Ica

115. Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos del Estado Monagas de la Federación de Colegios de Abogados de Venezuela

116. Comité Ambiental en Defensa de la Vida (Colombia).

117. Comité de América Latina y el Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos de las Mujeres (CLADEM)

118. Comité de America Latina y el Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres (CLADEM- Mexico)

119. Comité por los derechos humanos en América latina (CDHAL)

120. Comunidad de familiares y amigos por los Derechos Humanos de la Diversidad Sexual COFADHIS

121.Comunidad Xinka

122.Concertación Interamericana de Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres

123.Consejo de Mujeres Cristianas

124. Consejo tiyat tlali

125. Consorcio para el Diálogo Parlamentario MX

126. Consorcio para el Diálogo Parlamentario y la Equidad Oaxaca AC

127. ControlaTuGobierno, A.C.

128. CONVERGENCIA DE LAS CULTURAS - Costa Rica

129. Convite A.C.

130. Cooperacció

131. Coordinación de Mujeres del Paraguay

132. Coordinadora 28 de Mayo - Guatemala

133. Coordinadora Estatal de Organizaciones Feministas

134. Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos - Perú

135. Coordinadora Norte Tierra y Libertad - Costa Rica

136. Córdoba Solidaria

137. Count Me In! Consortium

138. Cuerpas Creando Comunidad

139. Cuerpas Sin Reglas

140. CuidaTuEspcio 

141. Defiende Venezuela

142. Derechos Humanos

143. Ditsö- Costa Rica

144. Ecologistas en Acción (España)

145. Elige Red de Jóvenes por los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos AC

146. Ellas por la igualdad AC

147. Epistemologías del Sur: Red de pensamiento crítico, respecto de los derechos humanos, la dinámica educativa y el territorio

148. Equidad de Género, Ciudadanía, Trabajo y Familia

149. Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación de la Compañía de Jesús en Honduras

150. Escritorio Juridico Gutierrez Ceballos

151. Espacio DESCA

152. Espacio Público - Venezuela

153. Espiral hacia la Igualdad

154. Estancia del Migrante González y Martínez, A.C. (Querétaro, México)

155. Estudiantes por una Política Sensata de Drogas, Costa Rica.

156. EXCUBITUS derechos humanos en educacion.

157. Existir al caminar A.C.

158. Feministas en Marcha - Puerto Rico

159. Feministas Independientes

160. FIA capitulo Venezuela Seccional Anzoategui

161. Fondo Apthapi Jopueti Bolivia

162. Fondo CAMY

163. Fondo de Acción Urgente para América Latina y el Caribe FAU-AL

164. FONDO LUNARIA MUJER COLOMBIA

165. Foro de Jóvenes con Liderazgo AC

166. Free Press Unlimited

167. FRENTE COOPERATIVO Y DE ECONOMÍA SOCIAL - Costa Rica

168. Frente por los Derechos Igualitarios

169. FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund

170. FRONT LINE DEFENDERS

171. Fronteras

172. FUNBIDE

173. Fundación Acceso

174. Fundación Arcoiris por el respeto a la diversidad sexual.

175. Fundación CAUCE, Cultura Ambiental - Causa Ecologista. Paraná. Argentina

176. Fundación Colectivo Hombres XX, A. C.

177.  Fundacion PANIAMOR

178.  Fundación para el Debido Proceso (DPLF)

179. Fundacion para el Desarrollo Comunitario-FUNDECOM

180. Fundación para el Desarrollo de la Libertad Ciudadana

181. Fundación salvadoreña por la diversidad sexual de la Mano Contigo

182. FUNDECOM

183. Global Fund for Women

184. Grupo de Accion Comunitaria. Madrid. Estado Español

185. Grupo de Educación Popular con Mujeres A.C.

186. Grupo Visión Nocturna Uruguay

187. Guatemala citizen

188. Guatemaltecas por la Defensa del Estado Laico (GDEL)

189.Hivos

190. Iacta Sociojuridica SCCLP

191.ILGALAC

192. IMDEC AC

193. INCIDIR, A.C.

194. Ingeniería Sin Fronteras Aragón

195. Iniciativas de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo

196. Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights

197. Instituto Caribeño de Derechos Humanos (ICADH)

198. Instituto de Enseñanza para el Desarrollo Sostenible

199. Instituto Sur Andino de Investigación y Acción Solidaria-ISAIAS

200. IRC WASH

201. JAKILU

202. JASS-JUST ASSOCIATES/ASOCIADAS POR LO JUSTO

203. Jóvenes Voceras y Voceros en DSDR, El Salvador.

204. Juntos por la Vida

205. Justice and Peace Netherlands 206.Kallpachay Suyu. Ambiente y cultura.

207. Kentucky Interfaith Taskforce on Latin America and the Caribbean

208. La Cabaretiza AC

209. La Casa Mandarina AC

210. LA COMUNIDAD PARA EL DESARROLLO HUMANO - Costa Rica

211. Laboratorio de la Máscara

212. Las Reinas Chulas cabaret y derechos humanos A.C.

213.Lesbocolectivo las Resueltas

214. LeSVOZ, AC

215. Los siempre sospechosos de todo

216. Mama Cash

217. Maquila Solidarity Network

218. MARCHA CENTROAMERICANA POR LA PAZ Y LA NO VIOLENCIA

219. Margens Clínicas - São Paulo/ Brasil

220. Marxa Mundial de Dones

221. Memoria de mujeres

222. Momundh

223. Movimiento Autónomo de Mujeres de Nicaragua

224. Movimiento de Mujeres de Chinandega

225. Movimiento de Mujeres de Santo Tomás

226. Movimiento de Mujeres Visitación Padilla

227. Movimiento Migrante Mesoamericano

228. Movimiento Vinotinto

229. Mujer Ideas Desarrollo e Investigación

230. Mujer y salud en Uruguay MYSU

231. Mujeres Ambientalistas, El Salvador.

232. Mujeres de Izabal

233. Mujeres de Negro Rosario – Argentina

234. Mujeres Integradas en el Oeste de Rosario Argentina

235.Mujeres Trabajadoras Unidas, A.C

236. MUNDO SIN GUERRAS Y SIN VIOLENCIA - Costa Rica

237. Ni Una Menos

238. NIMD

239. Observatorio Etico Caribe y América Central – Obetica

240. Observatorio Ético Internacional – OBETI

241. Observatorio Venezolano de Conflictividad Social (OVCS)

242. ODASA

243. OFICINA JURIDICA PARA LA MUJER

244. OMCT - Organización Mundial Contra la Tortura

245. Organización de Mujeres Tierra Viva

246. OTRANS ARGENTINA

247. Otros Mundos A.C./Amigos de la Tierra México

248. Paro Internaciónal se Mujeres, Polonia

249. Partido Feminista de España

250. PARTIDO HUMANISTA - Costa Rica

251. Perifèries del Món

252. Pikara Magazine (País Vasco-España)

253. Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo PIDHDD

254. Plataforma Internacional contra la Impunidad

255. Plataforma Salvadoreña de juventudes

256. Plazandreok

257. Please remove signature of Kentucky Interfaith Taskforce

258. Presencia y Palabra: Mujeres Afroperuanas

259. Pro-Búsqueda

260. Profesionales católicos - Piura - Perú

261. Proiuris

262. PROMEDEHUM (Venezuela)

263. Radio Stereo Vos

264.Radioexpresion

265. Reacción Climática - Bolivia

266. Red Con Las Amigas Y En La Casa

267. Red de Activistas Ciudadanos por los DDHH

268. Red de Ambientalistas Comunitarios de El Salvador RACDES

269. Red de la No Violencia contra las Mujeres - REDNOVI

270. Red de mujeres contra la violencia

271. Red de salud de las Mujeres Latinoamericanas y del Caribe

272. Red Internacional de Migración y Desarrollo

273. Red Latinoamericana y Caribeña de Jóvenes por los Derechos Sexuales RedLAC

274. Red Nacional Coincidir

275. Red Nacional de Defensoras de Derechos Humanos en Honduras

276. Red Para la Infancia y la Adolescencia de El Salvador (RIA)

277. Red Solidaria de Derechos Humanos A.C. (Michoacán, México)

278. REDLAMYC Red latinoamericana y caribeña que lucha por los derechos de niñas niños y adolescentes

279. REDMUCH

280. Refugee and Immigrant Fund (RIF)

281. Resonar

282. RESURJ Realizando la Justicia Sexual

283. Revista SIC del Centro Gumilla

284. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

285. Roma National Center from Moldova

286. Schone Kleren Campagne

287. Schumacher College

288. Sector de Mujeres

289. Seguridad en Democracia (SEDEM)

290. Semillas de Nuestra Tierra, AC

291. Sol de primavera

292. Sombrilla Costa Rica

293. SOS Corpo- Instituto Feminista para a Democracia - Recife/ Pernambuco -Brasil

294. Spatium Libertas AC

295. SPW

296. St Williams church

297. Stichting Lleca (Holanda)

298. Strajk Kobiet Polonia

299. SURKUNA - Centro de apoyo y protección de derechos humanos

300. Sursiendo, Comunicación y Cultura Digital AC

301. Swefor Guatemala

302. Tequio jurídico

303. Todas Mx

304. Trabajadora del retail

305. Transparencia Venezuela

306. Uganda Youth Alliance For Family Planning And Adolescents Health -UYAFPAH

307. Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos - Guatemala (UDEFEGUA)

308. Unidas Somos Tendencia

309. Union global por la democracia

310. Unión Latinoamericana de Mujeres ULAM

311. Unitierra

312. Universidad de la Tierra en Puebla

313. Urgent Action Fund- Latin America and the Caribbean

314. UXU EMAKUMEEN TALDEA

315. Vecinas Feministas por la Justicia Sexual y Reproductiva en América Latina y el Caribe

316. Voces de mujeres, historias que transforman

317. Voces Mesoamericanas, Acción con Pueblos Migrantes A.C.

318. WECF International

319. Witness for Peace

320. WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform

321. WOLA (Washington Office on Latin America)

322. Women Advocacy and Development Initiative (WADI)

323. Women Strike Polonia

1 Source: Nicaraguan Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders (IN-Defensoras)

Bangladesh: Open Letter to Prime Minister about controversial digital security bill

Conditions for human rights defenders and journalists in Bangladesh are dire, and appear to be worsening according to the CIVICUS Monitor. A declining respect for democracy has precipitated the closure of civic space through a systematic clampdown on independent dissent. This intensifying crackdown on civil society has led to a de facto ban on public meetings, mass arrests of activists and reports of abductions and torture. Civil society actors documenting human rights violations perpetrated by the government are particularly vulnerable to harassment, intimidation and arbitrary arrest.

The authorities in Bangladesh continue to target civil society, most recently through draconian legislation designed to undermine the sector's independence. In  October 2016, parliament passed an amendment to the widely-criticised Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Bill (FDRB). The law strengthens the government's power to revoke CSO licenses for a variety of offences, including defamation, involvement in subversive activities and terrorist financing. The Digital Security Bill placed in Parliament is yet another attempt to stifle freedom of expression in Bangladesh and impede independent journalism. See full details of the Security bill in a joint leter below to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh:

H.E. Sheikh Hasina Wazed
Prime Minister of Bangladesh
c/o Md. Nojibur Rahman
Principal Secretary to the HPM
Prime Minister’s Office
Tejgaon, Dhaka-1215
Bangladesh

Dear Prime Minister,

Open Letter: Proposed Digital Security Bill will restrict free expression and promote self-censorship in Bangladesh

FORUM-ASIA, the Asian Human Rights Commission and CIVICUS (World Alliance for Citizen Participation) are writing to you, as civil society organisations, to express our grave concern about the implications of the proposed Digital Security Bill 2018 on the right to freedom of expression of the citizens of Bangladesh. 

We understand that the draft bill was presented before the parliament and was sent to a Standing Committee on 9 April 2018 and is expected to be reviewed over the next four weeks. 

We believe the 2018 Digital Security Bill contains provisions that are overly broad and vague, and that impose disproportionate sentences and prescribe lengthy prison sentences for violators. The bill, if adopted, will exacerbate a range of legal restrictions that will impinge on the right to freedom of expression guaranteed in the Constitution and the country’s obligations under international law, in particular the ICCPR, which was ratified by Bangladesh in 2000.
We are particularly concerned about the follow aspects of the bill: 

  • The bill proposes to empower low ranking police officers with wide discretionary powers to conduct investigations, searches and seizures without applying normative digital evidentiary standards and without judicial oversight. 
  • The bill lacks a precise definition of what is considered a cybercrime and criminalises the use of electronic devices to “cause deterioration to law and order”, harm "religious sentiments”, cause incitement "against another person or organization”, and carry out “acts of defamation” - all of which have been incorporated from section 57 of the ICT Act. The bill simply splits these offences into four separate sections (21, 25, 28 and 29) with punishment ranging from three to 10 years' jail term. 
  • There are concerns around the inclusion of the crime of “carrying out negative propaganda" against the Liberation War (1971 War of Independence) or the ‘Father of the Nation’ (Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country's first president) that carries a maximum sentence of up to 14 years' in jail or a fine of up to Tk 50 lakh (60,000 USD) or both. These provisions are in contravention of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
  • Section 32 of the draft bill related to "espionage” could be used against journalists, online activists and lawyers who investigate and expose controversy or illegality within the government. 
  • The bill also stipulates some crimes are “non-bailable” and authorises security agencies to search or arrest anyone without any warrant if a police officer believes that an offense under the law has been committed or there is a possibility of crimes. Such provision often encourages abuse of power by law enforcement officers and promotes self-censorship.

We are concerned that, according to reports, although the draft bill is currently under consideration in parliament, cases filed under section 57 of the ICT Act will continue to be investigated and if necessary, prosecuted.

Section 57 of the ICT Act violates the right to freedom of expression by both criminalising legitimate forms of expression and through its vague wording that allows the authorities to arbitrarily and abusively apply the law. Scores of journalists have been arrested under section 57 of the Act for their reporting; around 700 cases have been filed under this Section since 2013. The provision has also been described as a “de facto blasphemy law”, as it criminalises several forms of online expression including anyone who “causes to hurt or may hurt religious belief”.

In 2017, the Human Rights Committee in its concluding observations raised concerns about the arrest of journalists, “secular bloggers” and human rights defenders under the ICT Act and called for the government to “repeal or revise the [ICT law] with a view to bringing it into conformity with the State party’s obligations under the Covenant, taking into account the Committee’s general comment No. 34 (2011) on the freedoms of opinion and expression”.

We are also highly concerned by the government's lack of meaningful consultation regarding the bill with key stakeholders including journalists, civil society and the human rights community. We urge the government of Bangladesh to prioritise a collective review of the proposed Digital Security Bill to bring it in line with international human rights law and standards and to repeal Section 57 of the ICT Act. The government must ensure that any future legislative proposals that have implications for the media or civil society are developed in full consultation with all stakeholders.

Freedom of expression is of critical importance to hold those in power accountable. There should be no limitations on the freedom of expression and personal opinion, particularly those that systematically violate democratic spaces and practices.

It is crucial that the government takes steps to develop an enabling environment for freedom of expression in line with international standards and end its willful misuse of restrictive legislation to subvert free speech.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) works towards the radical rethinking and fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in order to protect and promote human rights in Asia. Established in 1984, the Hong Kong based organisation is a Laureate of the Right Livelihood Award, 2014.

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global alliance of civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world. Headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa it is a membership alliance with more than 4,000 members in more than 175 countries.

FORUM-ASIA is a regional human rights group with 58 member organisations in 19 countries across Asia. FORUM-ASIA has offices in Bangkok, Jakarta, Geneva and Kathmandu. FORUM-ASIA addresses key areas of human rights violations in the region, including freedoms of expression, assembly and association, human rights defenders, and democratization.

For further details, contact: 


AHRC, bangladeshATahrc.asia 
CIVICUS, josef.benedictATcivicus.org
FORUM-ASIA, sasiaATforum-asia.org

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