Civil society in a world of crisis: 2023 CIVICUS State of Civil Society Report


Civil society faces a world of challenges in 2023. Multiple conflicts and crises – including economic strife and severe setbacks in democratic institutions – are intensifying threats to human rights. The agenda for civil society is huge.

This is the world as captured by the 2023 State of Civil Society Report.


Vast-scale human rights abuses are being committed in Ukraine, women’s rights have been trampled on in Afghanistan and LGBTQI+ people’s rights are under assault in Uganda, along with several other African countries. Military rule has been normalised in countries such as Mali, Myanmar and Sudan, and democracy undermined by autocratic leaders in El Salvador, India and Tunisia, among others. Even supposedly democratic states such as Australia and the UK are undermining the vital right to protest.

But civil society continues to strive to make a crucial difference to people’s lives. It’s the force behind a wave of breakthroughs in respecting abortion rights in Latin America, most recently in Colombia, and in making advances in LGBTQI+ rights in countries as diverse as Barbados, Mexico and Switzerland. Mass protests in response to the high cost of living have won concessions on economic policy in countries including Ecuador and Panama, while union organising has gained further momentum in holding big-brand companies such as Amazon and Starbucks to account. Progress on financing for the loss and damage caused by climate change came after extensive civil society advocacy. The events of the past year show that civil society – and the space for civil society to act – are needed more than ever.

Key findings

Civil society is playing a key role in responding to conflicts and humanitarian crises – and facing retaliation

Civil society is playing a vital role in conflict and crisis settings – including in conflicts in Ethiopia, Syria and Ukraine – providing essential services, helping and advocating for victims, monitoring human rights and collecting evidence of violations to hold those responsible to account. But for doing this, civil society is coming under attack.

Catastrophic global governance failures highlight the urgency of reform

Too often in the face of the conflicts and crises that have marked the world over the past year, platitudes are all international institutions have had to offer. Multilateral institutions have been left exposed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It’s time to take civil society’s proposals to make the United Nations more democratic seriously – starting with the appointment of a civil society champion.

People are mobilising in great numbers in response to economic shock – and exposing deeper problems in the process.

As it drove a surge in fuel and food prices, Russia’s war on Ukraine became a key driver of a global cost of living crisis. This triggered a mass wave of protests in at least 133 countries – from Argentina to Indonesia and from Ghana to Kazakhstan – demanding economic justice. Civil society is putting forward progressive economic ideas, connecting with other struggles for rights, including for climate, gender, racial and social justice.

The right to protest is under attack – even in longstanding democracies

Many states, unwilling or unable to concede the deeper demands of protests have responded with violence, including in Iran, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka. The right to protest is under attack all over the world, including when people are mobilising to seek economic justice, democracy, human rights and environmental action. Civil society groups are striving to defend protest rights.

Democracy is being eroded in multiple ways – including from within by elected leaders

Economic strife and insecurity are providing fertile ground for the emergence of authoritarian leaders. In more democratic contexts, there are distinct trends of a further embrace of far-right extremism, and of the rejection of incumbency. In volatile conditions, civil society is working to resist regression and keep making the case for inclusive, pluralist and participatory democracy.

Disinformation is skewing public discourse, undermining democracy and fuelling hate

Disinformation is being mobilised, particularly in conflicts and during elections, to sow polarisation, normalise extremism and attack rights. Powerful authoritarian states and far-right groups are key sources, and social media companies are doing nothing to challenge a problem that’s good for their business model. Civil society needs to forge a joined-up, multifaceted global effort to counter disinformation.

Movements for women’s and LGBTQI+ rights are making gains against the odds

In the face of difficult odds, civil society continues to drive progress on women’s and LGBTQI+ rights. But breakthroughs have made civil society the target of a ferocious backlash. Civil society is working to resist attempts to reverse gains and build public support to ensure that legal changes are backed by shifts in attitudes.

Civil society is the major force behind the push for climate action

Civil society continues to be the force sounding the alarm on the triple threat of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss. Civil society is urging action using every tactic available, from street protest and direct action to litigation and advocacy in national and global arenas. But the power of the fossil fuel lobby remains undimmed and restrictions on climate protests are burgeoning. Civil society is striving to find new ways to communicate the urgent need for action.

Civil society is reinventing itself to adapt to a changing world

In the context of pressures on civic space and huge global challenges, civil society is growing, diversifying and widening its repertoire of tactics. Drawing on its special strengths of diversity, adaptability and creativity, civil society continues to evolve. Much of civil society’s radical energy is coming from small, informal groups, often formed and led by women, young people and Indigenous people. There is a need to support and nurture these.

About this report

This is the 12th report in our annually published series, exploring trends in civil society action at every level and in every arena. It builds on our ongoing analysis initiative, CIVICUS Lens, launched in January 2022. It is directly informed by the voices of civil society affected by and responding to the major issues and challenges of the day, drawing from over 180 civil society interviews published throughout the year. 


CIVICUS is a global alliance of civil society activists and organisations dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world. CIVICUS has over 153000  members in over 189 countries across the globe.


Philippines: Drop all charges against human rights defenders accused of rebellion

PhilippinesWeWillNotBeSilenced 2

Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, expresses its concerns over the judicial harassment of seven activists falsely accused of rebellion in Baguio City, the Philippines. We call on the Government of the Philippines to drop all charges against the activists and instead  direct its efforts to promote and protect the safety and security of human rights defenders.


Malaysia: End escalating harassment of Mentega Terbang Filmmakers

We, the 74 undersigned organisations and individuals, strongly condemn the harassment and intimidation of the artists and filmmakers behind the movie Mentega Terbang who have faced police questioning, death threats and property vandalisation.


Mexico: Illegal digital surveillance against journalists and activists

Joint statement with members of the Open Government Partnership

The undersigned members of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Steering Committee express their deep concern over the reports of alleged illegal digital surveillance against Mexican journalists, activists, and other human rights defenders, as highlighted in a letter signed by the core group of civil society organizations that lead the OGP process in Mexico, and validated by Citizen Lab. We reiterate the invitation to the Mexican government to provide a formal response, should it choose to, in line with the guidelines of the Rapid Response Protocol. 

These allegations are highly relevant to the values of OGP outlined in the Open Government Declaration, which include “protecting the ability of not-for-profit and civil society organizations to operate in ways consistent with our commitment to freedom of expression, association, and opinion.” Civic participation requires an enabling environment that is conducive to freedom of expression and freedom of association and upholding the right of everyone to hold opinions without interference, and the right to privacy. Illegal digital surveillance activities are therefore incompatible with open government principles, diminish citizens’ trust in their governments, and undermine the safety of these groups and the critical role they play.

We recognize the Mexican government’s OGP commitment to establish “Democratic controls on interventions of private communications”, and we encourage government stakeholders, including the Secretariat of National Defense, the National Guard, the National Intelligence Center, and other relevant security agencies, to use the OGP process to prioritize its implementation. We appreciate the efforts made so far by Secretary Salcedo, Secretary of Public Administration, to advance dialogue between civil society and state actors to achieve the reforms envisioned in the commitment. We further encourage the government to strengthen the democratic controls to prevent unwarranted digital surveillance of journalists, activists, and human rights defenders.

The OGP Steering Committee stands ready to provide any support necessary, including identifying needs and opportunities for collaboration and facilitating dialogue. Should it be deemed fruitful by Mexican stakeholders, we respectfully offer two of our members -one from civil society and one from government- to engage with the filers of this concern and the Mexican government, including relevant security agencies, to continue to advance dialogue and co-create a specific timeline for the successful implementation of Mexico's OGP commitment "Democratic controls on interventions of private communications".

Endorsed by the following members of the OGP Steering Committee:

The Government of Canada
The Government of Estonia
The Government of Italy
The Government of Kenya
The Government of Nigeria
The Government of the United Kingdom
Natalia Carfi, Open Data Charter
Anabel Cruz, ICD Uruguay
Aidan Eyakuze, Twaweza
Eka Gigauri, Transparency International Georgia
Blair Glencorse, Accountability Lab
Lysa John, CIVICUS
Lucy McTernan, Scottish Open Government Partnership
Stephanie Muchai, International Lawyers Project
Luben Panov, European Center for Not-for-Profit Law
Doug Rutzen, International Center for Not-for-Profit Law
Barbara Schreiner, Water Integrity Network

Civic space in Mexico is rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor


Rwanda: questionable trial after journalist's death

CIVICUS and 85 other organisations reiterate the call for an independent investigation

Rwandan authorities must allow an independent, impartial and effective investigation into the death of the Rwandan journalist John Williams Ntwali, 86 civil society organizations and media associations said today, reiterating a January 31 appeal. A credible process should be carried out given the hasty conviction of the driver of the car allegedly involved in a collision with the motorcycle he was travelling on and the lack of transparency surrounding the investigation.


Egypt: Solidarity statement with poet Galal El Behairy on the 5th anniversary of his arbitrary arrest and his announcement of a hunger strike

The undersigned organisations express their full solidarity with poet Galal El Behairy on the fifth anniversary of his arbitrary arrest and detention solely on the basis of his peaceful expression, an anniversary on which he has announced a hunger strike. The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) filed complaint no. 15196/2023, requesting the Public Prosecution to open an investigation into El Behairy’s hunger strike, to ensure prompt medical intervention and to order his release. Throughout his five years of detention, El Behairy has been denied his right to a fair trial and has been subjected to enforced disappearance, torture and medical negligence, which has led to the deterioration of his health. 


Chinese authorities must release “Blank Paper” protesters and allow free expression on COVID-19 pandemic


CHINA statement IWD23

On International Women’s Day, 25 organisations call on the Chinese government to release and drop all charges against editor Cao Zhixin (曹芷馨), writer Li Siqi (李思琪), accountant Li Yuanjing (李元婧), and teacher Zhai Dengrui (翟登蕊). Beijing police arrested the four women for participating in a memorial protest on November 27, 2022. We also call on Chinese authorities to release and drop charges against all other individuals in China detained for freely expressing themselves during the “Blank Paper” protests of November-December, many of whom were women, and to end its suppression of speech about the COVID-19 pandemic.


Tunisia: CIVICUS calls on President Kais Saied to stop targeting political opponents and migrants

The ongoing arrests and intimidation of activists and members of the political opposition, journalists and activists is another strategy by President Kais Saied to silence critics and further restrict civic space, global civil society alliance CIVICUS said today. 

Over the last several days at least 12 people including  a journalist, political figures, activists, lawyers and judges have been arbitrarily arrested in a move synonymous to a period in July 2021 when President Saied consolidated power to entrench his authority. Those arrested have been labelled “traitors” by President Saied who has also threatened anyone who defends them. President Saied also informed a National Security Council meeting that migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa are part of a campaign to change the demographic composition of Tunisia in order to make it “purely Africa.” 

On 24 February, the police arrested a prominent opposition member and one of the leaders of the National Salvation Front -  Jawher Ben Mbarek without disclosing the charges against him. His father, also a member of the political opposition had been held for several hours a day before. On 13 February, the authorities arrested journalist and director of Mosaique FM Radio Nourredine Boutar and accused him of “illicit enrichment,” and money laundering. His arrest is related to hosting a segment of Mosaique Radio called “Midi Show” which is critical of the authorities. Boutar was interrogated by security forces about the content produced by the radio and the journalists they employ. Before that on 22 February, officers from the counterterrorism unit arrested two members of the political opposition - Issam Chebbi and Chaima Issa from the Jomhouri party and National Salvation Front respectively.  The authorities have not provided any evidence to substantiate the reasons they provide for the arrests.  

“After consolidating his power over the last two years, President Saied is now arresting critics of his actions to send a strong message to Tunisians that those who voice their opposing views will be subjected to arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment. In the space of several years, President Saied has reversed the consolidated democratic gains that began a decade ago” says David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Lead, CIVICUS.

Members of the political opposition, activists, lawyers and former judges continue to be targeted and prosecuted for expressing views that are critical of the authorities. Human rights lawyer Ayachi Hammani is currently facing charges of spreading false information and threatening state security based on an interview he granted in December 2022 in which he was critical of the erosion of the independence of the judiciary by the authorities. He had granted the interview in his capacity as coordinator of the Committee to Defend Judges.  

The ongoing restrictions and targeting of members of the political opposition and critics of the regime have been preceded by actions by President Saied to consolidate his authority and act with impunity.  Since July 2021, he suspended parliament, dismissed several judges and dissolved the Superior Council of the Judiciary, a body set up after the 2011 protests to guarantee the independence of the judiciary.  President Saied later passed a Presidential Decree, granting himself absolute powers to fire judges. Journalists, activists and perceived political opponents are subjected to judicial persecution in some cases before military tribunals.  

Tunisia is rated Obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor.  


Rights groups reiterate their call on Moroccan authorities to end the persecution of Taoufik Bouachrine, and other critical journalists


The undersigned rights groups reiterate their call on Moroccan authorities to immediately end the persecution and detention of prominent independent newspaper editor Taoufik Bouachrine, and scores of Moroccan journalists and human rights defenders imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.


Honduras: 100+ orgs call for access to justice & measures of non-repitition

Honduras: One month after the murder of two defenders of the Guapinol and San Pedro Rivers, CIVICUS joins human rights organisations calling for compliance with international obligations to guarantee access to justice and measures of non-repetition


Cambodia: Media and civil society groups disturbed by revocation of media outlet’s license

Cambodia VOD Reuters

We, the undersigned media and civil society organizations, are deeply disturbed by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order to revoke the license of Voice of Democracy (VOD), one of the last remaining independent media outlets in Cambodia. We also condemn the recent sexual harassment and intimidation of a female VOD journalist.


Nicaragua: CIVICUS welcomes release of political prisoners but calls for lifting of all restrictions to civic space

Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS welcomes the release of 222 political prisoners who had been detained and convicted under trumped-up charges by Nicaraguan authorities. Their release is a step in the right direction, and should be followed by the lifting of other restrictions on civic space. While we are relieved for those who have been released and for their families, we remain concerned about the 38 political prisoners who continue to be held in degrading conditions in the country’s penitentiary system.


Call for an independent investigation into the death of Eswatini’s human rights activist, Thulani Maseko

Representatives of the undermentioned civil society organisations are shocked to hear about the brutal killing of Eswatini human rights defender Thulani Maseko. Such attacks and the ongoing violence against  pro-democracy campaigners in Eswatini make the search for peace and full respect for human rights in Eswatini even more urgent.

Civil society organisations around the world are calling on the Eswatini authorities to allow an independent, impartial, and effective investigation into the brutal murder of Thulani Maseko.

The murder of Thulani Maseko, is the latest in a series of tragic events associated with pro-democracy protests in Eswatini and the brutal response of the government to peaceful calls for democratic reforms. They highlight the seriousness of the human rights situation in Eswatini and the magnitude of the work that needs to be done to address it. Thulani Maseko, a well-known human rights lawyer and activist for democracy in the country, was shot dead on Saturday 21 January 2023, in front of his family in his home south of Mbabane. He was killed a few hours after King Mswati warned those calling for democracy that his mercenaries would deal with them, he noted that "People should not shed tears and complain about mercenaries killing them."

It the time of his death, Thulani, headed the Multi-Stakeholder Forum (MSF) of political parties and civil society groups leading the campaign for democracy in the kingdom. The spokesman of the Forum said, "assassins shot him through the window while he was inside (the) house with his family". At the time of his death, as a human rights lawyer, Maseko was representing many human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists in Eswatini.

The activist had reportedly been receiving death threats for more than a year. As a human rights defender, he had been subjected to judicial persecution, threats harassment and detentions. He was convicted for contempt of court on 18 March 2014, along with journalist Bheki Makhubu, after criticising Eswatini's judicial system. Since May 2021, the human rights situation in Eswatini deteriorated and pro-democracy protesters called for democratic reforms. Thousands of Swazis took to the streets to demand basic human rights and good democratic governance, which are a challenge of non-service delivery by the current government. In response to protests, King Mswati III– the last absolute monarch in Africa issued a decree – banning citizens from sending petitions to parliamentarians to demand democratic reforms.  The authorities used excessive force against protesters, detaining them, killing and injuring others, and hijacking and kidnapping activists. As a result, more than 80 people were reported killed, 200 plus injured, and over thousands of others arrested and detained. Currently, two Members of Parliament, Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube, remain in detention for 16 months, without trial, while facing criminal charges under the Suppression of Terrorism Act in relation to the protests.

Eswatini is rated as ‘repressed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that measures the state of civic freedoms in all countries. Information from Eswatini show a continued practice of activists and human rights defenders being harassed, threatened, and intimidated for their real or perceived initiatives and support towards pro-democracy and good governance. Stakeholders remain concerned that citizens involved in political activism are subjected to harassment, reprisals, torture and even killed and that King Mswati, has thwarted calls for reform and suppressed political activism for years.

We strongly urge the Eswatini government to: 

  1. Carry out impartial investigations into the brutal killing of Thulani Maseko and hold all those responsible accountable.
  2. Stop harassing activists and release all journalists and human rights defenders currently detained for their human rights activities.
  3. Create an enabling environment for human rights defenders and all citizens to be able to express, associate, and assemble without fear of intimidation and harassment.
  4. Ensure the safety and security of all Eswatini people, including human rights defenders, journalists and political activists and protect civic space.
  5. Immediately end the persecution of all activists, drop all charges against political prisoners including those awaiting trial or in jail for their perceived role in the May 2021 protests.
  6. Carry out independent investigations into the use of violence against peaceful protesters and prosecute security personnel who have used excessive force against demonstrators.

We call on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) to:

  1. Use all the existing mechanisms and instruments to engage with King Mswati’s government and all stakeholders to urgently look for sustainable solution to the political crisis and pave way for democratic reforms. 
  2. Demand accountability from Eswatini authorities for the gross violations of human rights, including arbitrary detentions, excessive use of force against protesters, and extra-judicial killings of activists.
  3. Call on the government of Eswatini to respects, protect, and fulfil human rights obligations in accordance with international and regional instruments.

The statement is endorsed by:



Civil society groups demand Indonesia to implement cohesive policy and approach to not legitimise Myanmar junta in ASEAN

On the 2nd anniversary of Myanmar's attempted coup, we, the undersigned, call on Indonesia as the Chair of ASEAN to not legitimise the Myanmar junta at any cost. This shall include a commitment to disinvite junta representatives from ASEAN meetings at all levels.


Resist Myanmar’s digital coup: International community must dismantle military dictatorship — or reap repercussions

Today marks two years since the Myanmar military initiated a deadly coup, ripping the country out of democratic transition. More than 700 days since the start of the coup and this bloody invasion now extends to the digital sphere where the military’s tightening stranglehold translates to brutal rights violations against the people.


Thailand: End unjust pre-trial detention against youth pro-democracy activists


Photo credit: FORUM ASIA

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and Asia Democracy Network (ADN) are deeply concerned about the condition of youth pro-democracy activists who have been on hunger-strike from prison for more than a week. The activists are protesting against their unjust pre-trial detention and are acting in support of other activists who have been exercising their right to protest and freedom of expression in the country. Our organisations call on the government to immediately and unconditionally release all the youth activists and drop all charges against them.


Maldives: Police should scrap plan to use taser guns

Anti India protests HamdhanShakeel

We, the undersigned organisations, call on the government of the Maldives to immediately halt preparations for the Maldives Police Service (MPS) to be issued Taser guns or any other form of conductive energy devices (CEDs). The Maldives Police Service has a long history of impunity for police brutality and torture, and has ignored recommendations from the United Nations Committee against Torture and civil society groups to carry out reforms to curb police abuse. Following her visit to the Maldives in 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment made specific recommendations towards ending impunity for torture and police brutality.

The Maldives Police Service has confirmed preparations to begin using Taser guns in their operations from this year. The Commissioner of Police Mohamed Hameed informed the media on November 16, 2022, that the police will be allowed to use the Taser 7. The Commissioner of Police went on to claim that Taser guns are “safer” than batons and pepper spray, which have been used extensively in the Maldives for decades.

We observe with great concern that no consultation with civil society or the general public has been held with regard to adding CEDs to the normative police use of less lethal weapons in the Maldives. We condemn misinformation by the Spokesperson of Police, Chief Superintendent Yoonus Sabah, that he has “not been aware of a majority of public raising concern over the use of Taser guns by the police” in the Maldives. Information provided to the media by the MPS refers to a regulation on the use of CEDs which remain a confidential document, denying civil society or the public the ability to scrutinise the use of the device.

We call on the Commissioner of Police to retract vague and misleading statements given to the media by the police Spokesperson with regard to the controversial safety record of Taser guns, highlighting the fact that inconclusive claims should not be used to promote a weapon termed less lethal as opposed to non-lethal for the very fact that it cannot guarantee the prevention of a death.

The Maldives Police Service has claimed that CEDs will not be used against those exercising peaceful assembly under the Right to Peaceful Assembly Act of the Maldives. We remind the Maldives government that the Right to Peaceful Assembly Act of the Maldives remains inconsistent with the Constitution of the Maldives, which makes it impossible to hold a “lawful” assembly in the capital region of the country. This opens the space for the police to use CEDs against those participating in peaceful assemblies that the police deem unlawful. We call on the Maldives Police Service to conduct thorough and transparent public consultations on the regulations intended to ensure the safe and accountable use of CEDs.

In light of pending investigations against police personnel alleged of police brutality resulting in severe torture, physical and mental injuries, and death of protestors and detainees, we call on the Speaker of Parliament to initiate a thorough evaluation of the police use of CEDs in their operations.

  • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  • Human Rights Watch
  • Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia)
  • Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN)

    Civic space in Maldives is rated as "Obstructed" by the CIVICUS Monitor.


Sri Lanka: End Arbitrary Detention of Student Activist

Copy of Stand with 9Wasantha Mudalige Held 150 Days Under Draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act

The Sri Lankan government should immediately end the arbitrary detention of Wasantha Mudalige, a student activist who was arrested on August 18, 2022, 7 human rights organizations said today. Since August 21, Mudalige, 29, has been held on orders signed by President Ranil Wickremesinghe under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), a draconian law that the government has long promised to repeal.

A hearing on Mudalige’s bail application has been scheduled for Hulftsdorp Magistrates Court on January 17, 2023. Under the PTA, the court does not usually grant bail if the Attorney General's Department, acting on the government’s behalf, opposes it.

The Sri Lankan government detained Mudalige as part of its crackdown since an economic crisis in 2022 sparked largely peaceful protests demanding governance reform and action against alleged official corruption. The government responded by giving sweeping powers to the police and military, which used unnecessary and excessive force to disperse demonstrations and arrest hundreds of people, including many students.

Many of those detained have since been released on bail. However, the authorities have used extraordinary powers under the Prevention of Terrorism Act to keep Mudalige in detention despite having produced no evidence of any involvement in “terrorism.” As convenor of the Inter University Students' Federation, he had taken a prominent part in the protests. Much of the time he has been held in solitary confinement and poor conditions, which can violate the prohibition on torture or other ill-treatment under international human rights law.

In December, Mudalige required hospital treatment for breathing difficulties. His family and his lawyer have expressed concern for his safety and his health in detention. On October 4, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka issued a notice calling for the police to protect Mudalige’s safety in custody.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act allows for up to a year of detention without charge on the orders of the defense minister, who is currently President Wickremesinghe. Since it was introduced as a “temporary” measure in 1979, the law has been used particularly to target members of the Tamil and Muslim communities, and to stifle dissenting voices including journalists and human rights defenders. The United Nations and human rights groups have repeatedly documented that the PTA has been used to enable prolonged arbitrary detention and torture or other ill-treatment.

Successive Sri Lankan governments, including the present administration, have repeatedly pledged to repeal the PTA and replace it with rights-respecting legislation – most recently to the European Union in October. Yet the government continues to use the law to violate human rights, in breach of its own domestic and international commitments.

On August 18, the authorities arrested Mudalige along with 19 other people during a protest in Colombo that the police violently disrupted using excessive force. Two others arrested that day were also detained under the PTA, but both have since been released without charge. Hundreds of people arrested under ordinary criminal legislation for offenses allegedly committed during the 2022 protests, such as damage to public property, have also been released on bail.

During the first three months of his detention, Mudalige was shuttled between two detention centers run by the police Terrorism Investigation Department. One is a dilapidated and abandoned prison unfit to hold prisoners. He and the other detainees were held in solitary confinement, in cramped cells without access to basic facilities including sanitation and sunlight. Holding people in such conditions violates the international legal prohibition on torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Prisoners suffered ill health, apparently as a result of the conditions in the jail and lack of treatment.

The abuse of counterterrorism legislation to arbitrarily detain a student activist involved in non-violent protest has a chilling effect on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, the groups said. President Wickremesinghe has called anti-government protesters “terrorists” and “fascists,” and threatened to renew a state of emergency and redeploy the military if fresh protests emerge amid the ongoing economic crisis. The authorities have continued to pursue other activists alleged to have participated in the 2022 protests.

On December 14, Mudalige was taken before a magistrate for the first time since he was detained. The magistrate ordered the attorney general to submit any evidence against Mudalige at the next hearing, on January 17, or to agree to bail. On January 5, the police took Mudalige before a magistrate and introduced new cases against him under ordinary criminal laws, related to other protests in which he purportedly participated in 2022.

The authorities have targeted Mudalige in the past for his activism. On August 3, 2021, he was arrested and jailed for more than three months after protesting for the right to free education. Thirteen human rights organizations issued an appeal against his detention.

The Sri Lankan authorities should immediately impose a moratorium on the use of the PTA, and promptly repeal it, the groups said. The authorities should immediately review the detention of anyone held under the PTA, ensuring adequate access to fair bail hearings. They should also release all protesters facing charges that do not meet international standards.

The government of Sri Lanka should fully respect the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.


Amnesty International

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

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Frontline Defenders

Human Rights Watch

International Working Group on Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice

 Civic space in Sri Lanka is rated as Obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor 


Cambodia: Blocking of music video another blow to freedom of expression

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), and Asia Democracy Network (ADN) are appalled that the Cambodian authorities have ordered for a music video by a rapper that recounts a deadly government crackdown on a workers’ protest nine years ago to be removed from a social media page. We are also concerned about the questioning of civil society activists. Such actions highlight the systematic crackdown on freedom of expression under the Hun Sen regime.

According to reports, Cambodia’s culture ministry ordered police to prevent the spread of the music video called “Blood Workers” citing its “inciting contents that can contribute to instability and social disorder.” The video, which had been posted on the human rights group LICADHO’s Facebook page, was by rapper Kea Sokun and shows footage of the 3 January 2014 protests by garment workers in Phnom Penh demanding an increase to the minimum wage, during which police shot four people dead, 38 wounded and a 15-year-old boy missing.

The cybercrime police also questioned Am Sam Ath, operations director at LICADHO on 9 January over the NGO’s involvement in releasing the rap video. To avoid further legal action, LICADHO removed the music video from Facebook and a censored page remains in its place. The group stated that the music video was not incitement and is protected speech under the Cambodian Constitution and they were saddened by this restriction on freedom of expression. LICADHO added that to this day, no one has been held accountable for the killings of workers Kim Phaleap, Sam Ravy, Yean Rithy and Pheng Kosal, or for Khem Sophath’s disappearance.

The authorities went further to question Tola Moeun from NGO Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights (CENTRAL), Vorn Pao, president of the Independent Democratic Association of Informal Economy (IDEA) and Theng Savoeun from CCFC (Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Communities) about the video.

By blocking the video, the Cambodian authorities have once again chosen to silence freedom of expression and censor the work of civil society in their efforts to highlight human rights violations and seek accountability. Therefore, our organisations call on the government to halt its intimidation of civil society and to reverse this decision immediately which is clearly inconsistent with Cambodia’s international human rights obligations.

This is not the first time rapper Kea Sokun has been targeted. He was arrested in September 2020 and spent a year in jail for incitement for a song he released called ‘Dey Khmer’ (‘Khmer Land’) which is about the politically sensitive topic of the Cambodian-Vietnamese border.

These actions are taking place in the context of an increasingly repressive civic space environment. In September 2022, CIVICUS published a report highlighting the ongoing persecution of activists, trade union activists, journalists, the opposition and others. Despite ongoing engagement and reporting by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia and multiple resolutions at the UN Human Rights Council and recommendations, the Cambodian government has shown no political will to undertake democratic or and civic space reforms, ahead of crucial 2023 elections.

Our organisations call on the international community to increase its pressure on the Hun Sen regime to respect and protect human rights, especially fundamental freedoms and halt their persecution of civil society activists and critics. Failure to do so will see the one-party regime further entrench itself in years to come.

Civic space in Cambodia is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor 


Afghanistan: International community must urge Taliban to lift ban on women’s access to employment

CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance, is appalled by the decision of the Taliban to ban women from employment in local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The move is discriminatory and regressive and will have a detrimental impact on women’s rights and the crucial work of civil society in the country. The international community must condemn this and urge the Taliban to lift the ban immediately.


Peru: Avoid violence and create enabling conditions for civic freedoms

CIVICUS expresses concern about the use of excessive force by security forces against protesters in Peru following the ouster of former President Pedro Castillo. We call on the country’s authorities to remove undue restrictions on civic space and ensure people can fully exercise their fundamental freedoms in the context of the political crisis.


#FreeSherifOsman: UAE must not extradite political commentator to Egypt, where he would face torture


We, the undersigned organisations, urge the authorities of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) not to deport Sherif Osman to Egypt, where he would be at high risk of being subjected to torture and other human rights violations. An extradition would constitute a violation of the principle of non-refoulement enshrined under article 3 of the Convention against Torture, to which the UAE is a party since 2012. We further urge the UAE to release Osman immediately.


African Commission must promote and protect human rights for all

Arabic | Kiswahili | Portuguese 

African Commission’s rejection of observer status applications by three human rights organisations threatens its ability to discharge its mandate to promote and protect human rights for all.

We, the undersigned organisations, express grave disappointment with the decision of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) to reject the observer status applications of Alternative Côte d'Ivoire, Human Rights First Rwanda, and Synergía – Initiatives for Human Rights. In the Final Communiqué of its 73rd ordinary session held in Banjul, The Gambia, from 20 October to 9 November 2022, the African Commission states that it rejected the applications of the three organizations on the ground that ‘sexual orientation is not an expressly recognized right or freedom under the African Charter’ and is ‘contrary to the virtues of African values’.


Bahrain: Court decision to uphold reprisal charges against Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja another violation of his rights

A recent decision by Bahrain’s Second Criminal Court to uphold two separate criminal charges against leading human rights defender Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja demonstrates the Bahraini authorities have no intention of relenting in their attacks against human rights defenders, global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, said today.  On 28 November 2022, the court convicted Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja of insulting a public servant in reference to a police officer in Jau Prison. He was fined 100 Bahraini Dinar (approximately US $ 266).  The case against him initially included a charge of “insulting a foreign head of state” which could lead to up to two years in prison and an additional fine if convicted.  Lawyers have not been able to determine if this charge is pending or has been dropped as they do not have complete access to legal files and case documents.  

In the second case, heard by the same court, Mr. Al-Khawaja was convicted and fined 60 Bahraini Dinar (approximately US $ 160) for breaking a plastic chair.  This happened when Al-Khawaja was again denied his right to call his daughters in exile where he broke a plastic chair in protest, injuring his own hand. Al-Khawaja was not present during these recent trials in person. He was also not able to grant power of attorney to his lawyer whom he had instructed to represent him, despite a court order to the Ministry of Interior to do so. As a result, Al-Khawaja had no legal representation at either trial in a flagrant violation of his rights and the court proceeded with the convictions without dealing with the issue of the power of attorney first. 

“By these new cases, the regime is punishing my father for demanding the most basic rights. Apparently, it was not enough torturing and imprisoning him for the past 11 years, the regime wants to put an end to the very limited ways he has for protesting the conditions he is in. My father tells me that ‘the people responsible for committing human rights abuses are at the heart of the system’. He gave me a list of known torturers’ names who not only never been held accountable but instead promoted,” says his daughter Zainab Al-Khawaja.


Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja started advocating for human rights when he was sixteen years old. He is the co-founder of both the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR).  Until early 2011, he worked as MENA Protection Coordinator for human rights group Frontline Defenders. He was also part of a fact-finding mission to Iraq in 2003 with Amnesty International and he is a member of the International Advisory Network for the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre.

He was arrested on 9 April 2011 for his role in organizing peaceful protests defending the rights of Bahrainis and calling for political reform during the popular ‘Arab Spring’ movements which began in Bahrain in February 2011.  He was violently detained by security forces as detailed in a report by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) published in November 2011 at the request of the King of Bahrain.  He is serving a life prison sentence in Jau prison following unfair trials in courts that did not comply with Bahraini criminal law or international fair trial standards. 

During his early detention, al-Khawaja suffered multiple fractures to his jaw and has undergone multiple surgeries but still suffers from chronic pain and requires additional intervention as he has not healed properly. His facial bone structure is permanently damaged. In January 2021, over 100 NGOs appealed to the Danish government to help free al-Khawaja so he could travel to Denmark for treatment. 

The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in countries across the globe, rates civic space – the space for civil society – in Bahrain as closed.


Laos: After 10 years, civil society worldwide is still asking: “Where is Sombath?”

SombathSomphone Laos

**Photo: Prachatai

Ahead of the 10-year anniversary of the enforced disappearance of Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone, we, the undersigned civil society organizations and individuals, renew calls on the Lao government to determine his fate and whereabouts and deliver justice, truth, and reparation to his family. We deplore the Lao authorities’ repeated failure to act on their human rights obligations to thoroughly investigate Sombath’s disappearance and provide adequate, effective, and prompt reparation for Sombath and his family over the past decade.


Australia: millions say no to jailing of peaceful climate activists

Australia protesters arrested Twitter BlockadeAusOver 220 organisations representing millions of members across the country have united to condemn the recent 15 month jail sentence for climate activist Deanna ‘Violet’ Coco and to express concern about increasing repression, including the recent introduction of new anti protest laws in multiple states.

“We are seeing fundamental democratic principles stripped before our eyes at an alarming rate. Violet is the 5th person to receive a jail sentence* in the last 12 months for peaceful climate activism, as repression mounts against community activists across the nation. She is one of thousands taking extraordinary action in the face of an urgent crisis” said Kelly O’Shanassy of Australian Conservation Foundation

On 2 December, Violet, from Fireproof Australia, was sentenced to 15 months in custody with a non parole period of 8 months. Her appeal for bail will be heard on 13th December. A solidarity action will take place outside Downing Centre Court.

We reject the claim from Premier Perrottet that protest should not inconvenience people, and are concerned about the message this sends in a democracy. Peaceful but disruptive protests have won many of the rights we take for granted today, including the 8 hour day, voting rights, end to conscription, and to enjoy the forests and precious places we defended. Australia is a signatory to conventions protecting our right to freedom of movement, association, peaceful assembly, and political speech which the government must respect, and we must defend.

"The freedom to protest has been a central part of many of the most important movements across this country, from land rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, to voting rights, to achieving the eight hour work day. Governments across Australia need to recommit to our democracy, and repeal these laws that criminalise protest." Alice Drury, Acting Legal Director, Human Rights Law  Centre.

We welcome the support from the UN and international human rights organisations, including the recent statement from Clement Voule, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly who expressed “I am alarmed at NSW court's prison term against climate protester Deanna Coco and refusal to grant bail until a March 2023 appeal hearing. Peaceful protesters should never be criminalised or imprisoned.”

Violet was charged with several offences, including disrupting vehicles, failing to comply with police direction and resisting or hindering police. The charges arose from her action blocking one lane of traffic on the Sydney Harbour Bridge for approximately 25 minutes.

“It's outrageous that the state wastes resources seeking jail time and locking up peaceful protestors in custody at the expense of taxpayers. In contrast, fossil fuel corporations are contributing to climate collapse, yet have bi-partisan support for further mining and their subsidies continue at a rate of $22,000 a minute” - Lucy Manne,

Protestors from Fireproof Australia, Extinction Rebellion, Blockade Australia and Frontline Action on Coal and many more have engaged in peaceful civil disobedience in recent years in support of urgent action on climate change. Thousands have been involved, representing the voices of many more.

Karly Warner of Aboriginal Legal Service NSW said “The Aboriginal Legal Service was born out of a protest movement in the 1970s. You would be hard-pressed to find any win for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ rights that wasn’t brought about by public protest.

There is no climate justice without racial justice. The right to assemble and demonstrate in our streets, towns and cities is a fundamental cornerstone of democracy. For marginalised communities, public protests enable us to be seen and heard, even — and especially — when those in power would rather suppress our voices.

We condemn in the strongest terms this government crackdown on our right to protest.”

The vast majority of Australians across the political spectrum support, and voted for, strong action on climate. People should not be concerned they could risk heavy penalties simply for taking to the streets. New anti-protest legislation in several states is wide open to police misinterpretation. NSW has already seen increased policing of peaceful NGO-led climate protests and police threats of invoking the laws against a wide variety of actions since their introduction in April.

“This state's ongoing repression of protestors through parliament passing harsher laws, police seeking draconian bail conditions and surveilling protestors, and prosecutors seeking custodial sentences shows just how much contempt this government holds for protestors and the environment. The repression of peaceful protestors must end” concluded Josh Pallas, NSW Council for Civil Liberties

Peaceful protest should not be a crime. Anti protest laws must be repealed. People engaged in peaceful protest should never be sentenced to jail.

Signatories to the open letter Australia

Dr David Abello, on behalf of the 78ers, the First Mardi Gras Inc

Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Limited

ACF Community Geelong

Action Ready

ADAC - A Different Approach Community


Amnesty International Australia

Andrew Denton

Animal Liberation NSW

Antipoverty Centre

Arid Lands Environment Centre

Armidale Action on Coal Seam Gas and Mining

Arshak Makichyan

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC)

Australian Communist Party

Australian Conservation Foundation

Australian Democracy Network

Australian Forests and Climate Alliance

Australian Lawyers Alliance

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (NSW State Division)

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union 


Australian Marine Conservation Society

Australian Nonviolence Projects

Australian Progress

Australian Religious Response to Climate Change

Australian Services Union NSW ACT (Services) Branch

Australian Services Union Victorian Private Sector Branch

Australian Unemployed Workers' Union

Australian Youth Climate Coalition

Author - The 99th Koala

Bayside Climate Crisis Action Group

Bellingen Activist Network

Beyond Gas Network

Beyond War

Black Flag Sydney

Black Wallaby Forest Action

Blockade Australia

Bob Brown Foundation

Dr Luke Buckmaster

Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action

Caldera Environment Centre

Castan Centre for Human Rights Law (Monash University)

Central Victoria Climate Action

Centre for Climate Safety

CFMEU Construction and General Division

Chipstop Campaign Against Woodchipping

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Cristy Clark



Climate Action Monaro

Climate Action Network Australia

Climate Action Radio Show

Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA)

Climate Change Action Network

Climate Council of Australia

Climate for Change

Climate Justice Programme

Climate Justice Union

Commons Social Change Library

Comms Declare

Community Action for Rainbow Rights

Community Legal Centres Australia

Community Legal Centres NSW

Community Power Agency

Conservation Council ACT Region

Conservation Council of SA

Conservation Council of WA (CCWA)

CoPower (Co-operative Power Australia)


Darebin Climate Action Now

Defend the Right to Protest

Digital Rights Watch

Do Gooder

Drum Rebellion

East Gippsland Climate Action Network

Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education

Environment Centre NT Inc

Environment East Gippsland inc

Environment Victoria

Environmental Justice Australia

Environs Kimberley

Extinction Rebellion Australia

Extinction Rebellion Cairns

Fireproof Australia

First Dog on the Moon

FlightFree Australia

Flinders University

Frenzal Rhomb

Friends of Bats and Habitat Gippsland

Friends of the Earth Australia

Friends of the Earth Melbourne

Friends of the Forest - Mogo

Frontline Action on Coal

Galilee Rising

Geelong Sustainability


El Gibbs, writer, disability advocate

Glen Eira Emergency Climate Action Network (GECAN)

Goongerah Environment Centre


Grassroots Action Network Tasmania

Grata Fund

Green Institute

Green Music Australia

Greenpeace Australia Pacific

Gudanji For Country

Heal the Earth Now  (international)

Healthy Connection For All

Dr Tamar Hopkins

Human Rights Law Centre

Dr Rebecca Huntley, Author,”How to Talk About Climate Change in a Way That Makes a Difference”

Dan Ilic

Institute of Collaborative Race Research

International PEN Melbourne Centre

International Service for Human Rights

Jews Against Fascism

Ketan Joshi, Author “Windfall: Unlocking a fossil free future”

Jumbunna Research, UTS

Justice Reform Initiative

Knitting Nanas Hunter Loop

Sydney Knitting Nannas & Friends

Kooyong Climate Change Alliance

Lane Cove Sustainability Action Group

Carmen Lawrence, academic, Ex WA Premier, Head Australian Labor Party

Legal Observers NSW

Liberty Victoria

Lighter Footprints

Lincoln Ave Progressives


Loud Jew Collective

Mackay Conservation Group

Margaret River Regional Environment Centre

Maritime Union of Australia (Sydney Branch)

Melbourne Activist Legal Support

Muslim Collective

Nannas for Native Forests

National Justice Project

National Tertiary Education Union (NSW)

Nature Conservation Council NSW

George Newhouse, Adjunct professor

Nillumbik Climate Action Team

North East Forest Alliance

North Queensland Conservation Council

NSW Council for Civil Liberties

Claire O’Rourke

Oxfam Australia

PASA (Philippines Australia Solidarity Association)

Paul Gilding

Pax Christi Australia

Peace in Papua

People’s Climate Assembly

Peter Garret

Pride In Protest

Progressive Cinema, Armidale, NSW

Proposition One Campaign for a Nuclear-Free Future

Public Interest Advocacy Centre

Public Services International (Asia Pacific Regional Office)

Queensland Conservation Council

Queensland Council for Civil Liberties

Redfern Legal Centre

Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU)

Rising Tide

Save the Bay Coalition

School Strike 4 Climate

Scientists Warning Foundation, California, US

Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network Ltd

Socialist Alliance

South East Forest Rescue

South East Region Conservation Alliance (SERCA)

Anna Spargo-Ryan, Writer / A Kind of Magic

Spirit of Eureka SA

Dr Joan Staples

Stop Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Stop Russell Vale Mine

Sweltering Cities

Tom Tanuki

The Australia Institute Tasmania

The Future Makers

The Independent and Peaceful Australia Network

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Sydney Branch

The Sunrise Project

The Sustainable Hour Podcast

The Wilderness Society

Tomorrow Movement

Transition Streets Geelong


Uni Students for Climate Justice

United Workers Union

University of Melbourne Student Union Environment Department

UNSW Centre for Crime, Law and Justice

UTS Criminal Justice Cluster

Victorian Pride Lobby

Victorian Socialists

Vote Climate

Vote Earth Now

Wage Peace

Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance VIC

Water for Rivers

What Can I Do? Australia

White Rose Society Australia

Wollongong Against War and Nuclear weapons (WAWAN)

Women’s Environmental Leadership Australia (WELA)

Women’s Justice Network

Workers for Climate Action

World Animal Protection

WSU Network for Law and Human Rights

Yarra Climate Action Now

Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Civic space in Laos is rated as "Narrowed" by the CIVICUS Monitor


Bangladesh: Government must stop human rights violations and end impunity

RAB Picture Gallo March 2022 resized

The undersigned human rights organisations commemorate all victims of human rights violations and stand in solidarity with the victims’ families in Bangladesh and across the world. This year’s International Human Rights Day’s slogan is “Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for All”. International Human Rights Day 2022 is being observed at a time when the human rights situation in Bangladesh continues to worsen. The absence of effective institutions to prevent political intolerance, undemocratic practices and human rights abuses has resulted in rampant impunity. The current authoritarian government has deprived the people of the benefits of good governance and administration of justice through the politicisation of various State institutions, including the judiciary and the Election Commission, and has severely repressed civil and political rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association.

Bangladesh is a party to eight major international treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the United Nations (UN) Convention against Torture, and has ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. However, the government continues to disregard its obligations under these treaties. Gross human rights violations, including cases of enforced disappearance, extrajudicial killings, and torture, continue to occur in Bangladesh. The government continues to deny the occurrence of enforced disappearances and has yet to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Members of law enforcement agencies and security forces enjoy impunity as the incumbent government uses them to implement its political agenda.

Despite strong international criticism, the government has intensified its crackdown on civil society organisations and human rights defenders, and the suppression of civic space. Examples of this include the harassment against human rights organisations such as Odhikar. It is suppressing dissenting voices by enforcing repressive laws, including the Digital Security Act and by filing criminal cases, including sedition and defamation charges. Furthermore, members of the ruling Awami League party and law enforcement agencies have regularly attacked and hindered peaceful assemblies of opposition political parties and dissidents. Ruling party members have also filed false and politically-motivated cases against a large number of opposition party leaders and activists. Law enforcement agencies have conducted raids and indiscriminate arrest operations against opposition party leaders and activists. Journalists and media outlets face many forms of repression, including frequent lawsuits, harassment, and serious physical attacks, and in some cases, deadly violence. Censorship, threats, intimidation, and persecution of media outlets is common. Attacks on journalists working for independent media outlets have also taken place.

On the occasion of International Human Rights Day 2022, our organisations call for an end to authoritarianism and the respect for democratic principles, human rights, human dignity, and social justice in Bangladesh. We urge the UN human rights monitoring mechanisms to press the Bangladeshi authorities to hold the perpetrators accountable. We call on the government of Bangladesh to create an independent, specialised mechanism that works closely with victim-families and civil society, as recommended by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to investigate all allegations of gross human rights violations, and to hold the perpetrators accountable.

 --- End of the Statement ---

The organisations jointly publishing the statement are:

  1. Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN)
  1. Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)
  1. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  1. Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
  1. Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL)
  1. Capital Punishment Justice Project (CPJP)
  1. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  1. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  1. Maayer Daak
  1. Odhikar
  1. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (RFK Human Rights)
  1. World Organization Against Torture (OMCT)

Civic space in Bangladesh is rated as "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor


Joint statement: Standing in solidarity with Filipino human rights defenders

We, the undersigned organisations, express our utmost concern over the ongoing criminalization of ten human rights defenders and members of Karapatan, GABRIELA and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) in retaliation for their legitimate human rights work.

Elisa Tita Lubi, Karapatan Chairperson; Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General; Roneo Clamor, Karapatan Deputy Secretary General; Gabriela Krista Dalena, Karapatan Treasurer; Edita Burgos; Wilfredo Ruazol, and Jose Mari Callueng, Karapatan National Council members; Gertrudes Ranjo Libang, Gabriela Chairperson; Joan May Salvador, Gabriela Secretary General; and Sr. Elenita Belardo, RMP member, are facing trial before the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 37 on malicious and trumped-up charge of “perjury” in retaliation for their actions seeking legal protection for human rights defenders. The week of January 2, 2023 the verdict will be handed down. If convicted, they could face up to four months or up to more than two years of imprisonment.

On May 6, 2019, due to the alarming increase in violence against human rights defenders in the Philippines, the above-mentioned human rights defenders from Karapatan, Gabriela, and the RMP filed a petition for the writ of amparo (protection order) and habeas data (access to information) before the Supreme Court, seeking protection against threats, attacks, and harassment by government officials. However, the Philippine Court of Appeals denied their petition in June 2019.

Following the rejection of the petition, the authorities responded with retaliatory measures against the 10 human rights defenders. On July 2, 2019, then-National Security Adviser General Hermogenes Esperon, who was named in the petition, lodged a complaint alleging that the 10 defendants had committed “perjury” by stating that the RMP was a registered non-governmental organisation at the Securities and Exchange Commission in the petition they filed before the Supreme Court. While the perjury complaint was initially dismissed for “lack of probable cause and/or insufficiency of evidence”, in February 2020, the Quezon City prosecutor sustained a motion for reconsideration filed by the National Security Adviser and found probable cause to charge the 10 human rights defenders with “perjury”. The charges against the 10 human rights defenders have been widely condemned by regional and global civil society organisations as well as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

Since the “perjury” charges were filed, the Department of Justice has charged at least 16 people, including nuns, linked to the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines with financing terrorism under Section 8(ii) of Republic Act 10168 or anti-terrorism financing act.

In the Philippines, human rights defenders continue to face attacks, killings, judicial harassment, arbitrary detention and stigmatisation campaigns by State agents, proxies, supporters and enablers. Since June 2016, when President Duterte took power, a climate of impunity for attacks against human rights defenders worsened. The killings of defenders have rarely been investigated, which increases the vulnerability of those who remain active, while undermining the human rights community’s confidence in the justice system. In addition, the Anti-Terrorism Act, which was passed in July 2020, further compounded the precarious situation for human rights defenders by legally formalising the practice of “red-tagging” defenders with overly broad and vague definitions of terrorism. The grave human rights situation in the Philippines including the ongoing onslaught facing human rights defenders has resulted in expressions of grave concern from the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) in June 2020 and more recently a number of Members of the European Parliament. Similarly, in April 2020, 9 UN human rights experts expressed their concern regarding the killings, threats, detentions and criminalization of human rights defenders in the Philippines. Both the OHCHR and the UN human rights experts recommended establishing an international, independent investigation of human rights violations in the Philippines.

We call on the new President of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., to distance himself from the previous administration, and firmly commit to respecting the right to defend human rights. President Marcos Jr. should cease the threats and attacks against rights defenders and ensure the protection of their rights, including the rights to life, due process, freedom of expression, and freedom of peaceful assembly. We urge the authorities to put an immediate end to the judicial harassment against Elisa Tita Lubi, Cristina Palabay, Roneo Clamor, Gabriela Krista Dalena, Edita Burgos, Wilfredo Ruazol, Jose Mari Callueng, Gertrudes Ranjo Libang, Joan May Salvador, and Sr. Elenita Belardo. Similarly, we call on the authorities to rescind the Anti-Terrorism Act and adopt the Human Rights Defenders Protection Bill.

We are inspired by the work, courage and commitment of these human rights defenders, and stand in solidarity with all of them.


  1. ACAT – Germany
  2. Action Solidarité Tiers Monde (ASTM) - Luxembourg
  3. ALTSEAN – Burma
  4. Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN)
  5. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)
  6. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  7. Associació Catalana per la Pau – Catalonia/Spain
  8. AWID – International
  9. Banglar Manabadhikar Surakhsa Mancha (MASUM) – India
  10. Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) – International
  11. Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights – Canada
  12. Capital Punishment Justice Project – Australia
  13. Centre for Philippine Concerns - Canada
  14. Changement Social Bénin – Benin
  15. Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CMDPDH) – Mexico
  16. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  17. Environmental Defender Law Center – United States
  18. ESCR-Net - International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  19. Federal Association of Vietnamese Refugees in the Federal Republic of Germany
  20. Filipino Women's Organization in Quebec (PINAY) – Canada
  21. Front Line Defenders – International
  22. Fundación Promoción Humana – Argentina
  23. Greek Helsinki Monitor – Greece
  24. Human Rights Defenders Alert (HRDA) – India
  25. Human Rights First - International
  26. Human Rights Watch – International
  27. IBON International
  28. International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) – International
  29. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  30. International League of People’s Struggle - Canada
  31. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) – International
  32. Judicial Reform Foundation – Taiwan
  33. KAIROS Canada
  34. La Voix des Sans Voix pour les Droits de l'Homme (VSV) – Democratic Republic of the Congo
  35. Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada
  36. Lok Shakti Abhiyan – India
  37. London Mining Network – United Kingdom
  38. Malaya Movement – Canada
  39. Malaya Movement – United States
  40. Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders (IM-Defensoras)
  41. Migrante - Canada
  42. Narasha Community Development Group – Kenya
  43. National Autonomous Union of Public Administration Staff (SNAPAP) – Algeria
  44. National Fisheries Solidarity Movement – Sri Lanka 
  45. National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter – United States
  46. Netherlands Philippines Solidarity Movement – Netherlands
  47. Odhikar – Bangladesh
  48. ONG Construisons Ensemble le Monde – Democratic Republic of the Congo
  49. Project South – United States
  50. Public Service Alliance of Canada - Alliance de la Fonction publique du Canada – Canada
  51. Rural People's Sangam – India
  52. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network – International
  53. SOHRAM-CASRA – Turkey
  54. Synergie des femmes pour les victimes des violences sexuelles (SFVS) – Democratic Republic of the Congo
  55. Tapol – Indonesia
  56. The Open University – United Kingdom
  57. The Uplands Center – United States
  58. United Church of Canada – Canada
  59. Universidad Nacional José Faustino Sánchez Carrión - Huacho – Peru
  60. Viva Salud – Belgium
  61. Women of Diverse Origins - Canada
  62. Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) – International
  63. Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition
  64. World Organisation Against Torture, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders


  1. Bronwyn Dudley
  2. Emile Kinley-Gauthier
  3. Florfina Marcelino
     Civic space in Philippines is rated as "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor  


Hong Kong: conviction of trustees and secretary from 612 Humanitarian Fund another blow to civil society

612trustees HK Watch

Photo credit: Hong Kong Watch

CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance, and Asia Democracy Network (AND) are appalled by the conviction of six pro-democracy figures affiliated with the-now defunct 612 Humanitarian Relief Support Fund (the 612 Fund) - for failing to register the fund. The court’s decision is another blow to freedom of association in Hong Kong and clearly highlights the regression of civic and democratic space in the region.


Mali: Reverse ban on organisations receiving funds from France

CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world is seriously concerned over a decision by the Mali government to ban organisations receiving funds from France. The ban is a total violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of association; and has a chilling effect on civil society organisations in Mali.

On 21 November 2022, the government of Mali took a decision to ban all organisations receiving funds, material, or technical support from France. This ban mainly affects organisations and groups providing emergency food aid, medical services, water supply and agricultural, as well as those involved in human rights and governance. The government of Mali is obliged to protect and promote the rights of its citizens including creating an enabling environment for civil society organisations to operate. All undue acts of intimidation, harassment, and restrictions on the right to freedom of association should be lifted in line with Mali’s international human rights obligations to enable civil society organisations (CSOs) to exercise their respective mandates.

“The banning of these organisations is a new low for human rights in a country that has continuously failed to respect fundamental freedoms, including freedom of association. This is intended to restrict organisations committed to defending human rights and providing much needed livelihood. Malian authorities should immediately reverse this decision and allow organisations to continue their work uninterrupted,” said Paul Mulindwa, CIVICUS’ Advocacy and Campaigns Lead for Sub-Saharan Africa.


Mali has been contending with violence from extremists groups since 2012, but also a serious political and humanitarian crisis. About 1,260,528 people are displaced by the conflict. Since May 2021 and a second coup d'état that consolidated their grip, coup leaders in Mali have gradually turned away from France, whose last soldier left the country in August 2022 after nine years of engagement against the extremists alongside the Malian army. The human rights situation in Mali continues to deteriorate, with extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and other killings, injuries, and kidnappings taking place.   Human rights groups have reported an increase in enforced disappearances, illegal arrests or detentions, including prolonged detentions and violations of due process guarantees, acts of torture or other inhuman treatment, as well as numerous cases of massive and forced displacement of civilians, death threats and acts of intimidation, looting and destruction of property.

The banning of organisation receiving funds from France came only days after the French government announced it was suspending aid to Mali. However, France still planned to provide humanitarian aid through NGOs. Since 2013, France had been providing a total of 100 million euros each year in assistance.

The CIVICUS Monitor rates the space for civil society in Mali as repressed.

For more information, please contact:

Paul Mulindwa

Advocacy and Campaigns Lead – Sub-Saharan Africa



Cambodia: Release union leader Chhim Sithar immediately and halt the harassment of strikers

CIVICUS and Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) condemn the recent arbitrary arrest of labour activist, Chhim Sithar, and call for her immediate and unconditional release. The government of Cambodia must also stop the judicial harassment against her and other trade union activists in the country.


Hong Kong: Chronology of harassment against human rights defender Chow Hang-tung

CHOW HANG TUNGChow Hang-Tung is a human rights lawyer, pro-democracy activist and was one of the four vice-chairs of the now-defunct Hong Kong Alliance in Support of the Patriotic Democratic Movement of China (HKA). The HKA was the main organiser of the annual Tiananmen vigils – an event of remembrance of the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989. She had also been proactively campaigning to release political prisoners and safeguard democracy in Hong Kong.

On 13 December 2021, the courts convicted her and sentenced her to 12 months imprisonment for participating in an unauthorised assembly and inciting others to do the same concerning the Tiananmen vigil in June 2020. On 4 January 2022, she was sentenced to an additional 15 months in jail, with five to be served concurrently, for inciting others to participate in the 2021 Tiananmen vigil by publishing two pieces calling on Hong Kong residents to mark the day by lighting candles. 

She is also facing charges of "inciting subversion of state power and "not complying with the requirement to provide information" under Article 43 of Hong Kong's National Security Law.

Updated March 2023


4 June 2021:  Chow Hang-tung was arrested by Hong Kong police on the 32nd anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown for inciting an unauthorised assembly after she urged people to mark the Tiananmen Massacre by lighting candles and said she would do so in a public space.

5 June 2021: Chow was released on bail.

30 June 2021: Police re-arrested Chow and her bail was revoked for allegedly encouraging others to join a banned rally for the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China that was to be celebrated on 1 July 2021. No charges were brought against her in connection with the banned event.

2 July 2021: Chow appeared before the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts, which refused to grant her bail. She was detained at the New South Territories police station.

5 August 2021: Chow was granted bail by a Hong Kong court after being remanded in custody for over a month. Chow had to pay a cash bail of HK$50,000, offer a surety of HK$50,000, hand over all travel documents, and submit a declaration that she does not hold a BNO passport.

25 August 2021: The standing committee members of the Hong Kong Alliance including Chow received letters from the police national security unit. The letters required them to provide information under paragraph 5 of Article 43 of the National Security Law.  Police officers visited the homes of the organisation’s committee members to serve the letters.

8 September 2021: Chow and several members of The Hong Kong Alliance were arrested after the group was accused of working as a "foreign agent". The arrests were made under the national security law

10 September 2021:  Chow and two others were charged with subversion. A Hong Kong court denied her bail.

24 September 2021: Chow appeared before the West Kowloon Magistrates Court for her second bail review hearing. The judge denied her bail on the same basis as the last review, that he has "insufficient ground for believing she would not continue to commit acts endangering national security."

25 September 2021: The Hong Kong Alliance announced it was disbanding. Authorities froze 2.2 million Hong Kong dollars (USD 283,000) of the group’s assets this month after it was charged 

29 September 2021:  The National Security Department informed the Hong Kong Alliance that its assets, including bank accounts and a property, were frozen under the Implementing Rules of Article 43 of national security law. 

30 September 2021: The West Kowloon Magistrates' Court denied bail for the third time

11 October 2021: the West Kowloon Magistrates' Court denied bail for the fourth time.

12 October 2021: Four UN experts, namely the UN Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights and Counter-terrorism, the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, the Rights to Freedom of Expression, and on Human Rights Defenders raised concerns over the arrest of Chow and highlighted the urgent need for the Hong Kong government to review the draconian National Security Law.

22 October 2021: The presiding judge granted bail, for the first time, to Chow and four other human rights defenders. However, Chow Hang-tung remained in remand on a separate charge of "inciting subversion of State power

26 October 2021: The Chief Executive ordered the Hong Kong Alliance be removed from Companies Register because the Alliance’s work, including organizing peaceful assemblies, undermines the Central governments’ “ability to safeguard national security and to maintain public safety and order”

1 November 2021: Chow pleaded not guilty to the charges levelled against her for their role in the Tiananmen vigil

6 December 2021: Chow's application for bail, the sixth since her arrest in September 2021, was denied by a Hong Kong court 

9 December 2021: A Hong Kong court found Chow and two other prominent pro-democracy activists guilty over an unauthorised assembly on 4 June 2020 to mark Beijing's 1989 crackdown on protesters in and around Tiananmen Square.

13 December 2021: Chow received a 12 month sentence


4 January 2022: Chow was sentenced to 15 months in prison for incitement of a banned vigil to commemorate those who died in Beijing’s crackdown in Tiananmen Square in 1989. During Chow’s trial, prosecutors said the activist had incited others to take part in the vigil through articles published on her Facebook account and in the Ming Pao newspaper. The judge said five months of the sentence will run concurrently, meaning Chow will serve 10 months in addition to her current sentence.

14 February 2022: Chow made an application to the magistrate asking that the court reporting restrictions about her case under s87A(2) of the Magistrates Ordinance be lifted.

25 April 2022: The application asking that the court reporting restrictions to be lifted was refused by Principal Magistrate Peter Law Tak-chuen. 

31 May 2022: Chow launched a legal bid against a magistrate’s decision not to lift reporting restrictions for a national security case. The application was made against the decision of Principal Magistrate Peter Law, who is also a hand-picked national security judge, not to lift reporting restrictions on committal proceedings for the Alliance’s national security case. Reporting restrictions surrounding committal proceedings – whereby a magistrate determines whether there is enough evidence for case to be transferred to the Court of First Instance of the High Court for trial or sentence – mean that written and broadcast reports are limited to including only the name of the defendants, magistrates, and lawyers, the alleged offence, the court’s decision, whether legal aid was granted, and future court dates.

17 June 2022:  Chow has sought to appeal her conviction and sentence linked to last year’s June 4 assembly, which was banned by police for public health concerns. Judge Judianna Barnes of the High Court will hear Chow’s argument on 11 October 2022.

29 June 2022: It was reported that Chow had been denied access to some details of the prosecution’s case against her, two weeks ahead of the national security case going to trial. Chow made the request on for the particulars of the prosecution’s case accusing the group acting as a foreign agent in front of Principal Magistrate Peter Law at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts. She told the court that it would be “impossible” for her to prepare her case without knowing on what basis the prosecution was accusing the Alliance functioning as a foreign agent.

12 July 2022: Chow asked Hong Kong’s High Court to open committal proceedings in her case to the media, but a government lawyer objected on the grounds that this may jeopardise a fair trial. 

13 July 2022: A Hong Kong court was asked to determine if Chow and two former members of the Hong Kong Alliance can challenge the legality of a national security data probe. The trio were accused of “failing to comply with [a] notice to provide information” from the national security police. 

27 July 2022: The UN Human Rights Committee urged Hong Kong to repeal the national security law and, in the meantime, refrain from applying it. They also called on Hong Kong authorities to “refrain and reconsider” security law charges against human rights barrister Chow Hang-tung

2 August 2022: The High Court quashed the court reporting restriction. The High Court Judge Alex Lee Wan-teng ruled in favour of Chow’s application and overturned Law’s decision, asking him to grant an order that Law shall lift the reporting restrictions when handling Chow’s next application, which will allow open reporting of pre-trial proceedings – known as committal hearings - in a Hong Kong national security case for the first time.   In the judgement, Lee mentioned the magistrate had no discretion but to lift the reporting restrictions when the applicant made a request under s87A(2), and Law’s denial would impede a fair trial and that the application was ultra vires.  Lee also said the court “rejects” a contention by Hong Kong’s Secretary for Justice that lifting the reporting restrictions “would frustrate the ultimate aim of doing justice.”  

17 August 2022: Principal Magistrate Peter Law lifted the court reporting restriction for the upcoming preliminary inquiry of Chow Hang-tung’s NSL case, following the decision from the High Court. The preliminary hearing, a process for Magistrates to determine whether the prosecution has enough evidence to make a case against the defendant, would be conducted in an open court. 

2 September 2022: Preliminary inquiry for Chow Hang-tung was conducted, with Veronica Heung as the Acting Principal Magistrate. The process was conducted as an open court. 

9 September 2022: The National Security case against Chow Hang-tung was moved to the Court of First Instance, after Acting Principal Magistrate Veronica Heung ruled in the preliminary inquiry that the prosecution had sufficient evidence against her. The highest penalty for incitement to subversion is ten years imprisonment.

11 October 2022: Chow Hang-tung appeared before Judge Judianna Barnes of the High Court seeking an appeal against her conviction and 15-months sentence over the 2021 banned commemoration. The Judge will hand down the judgement at the end of December. 

26 October 2022: In a trial held at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court against her and two other former standing committee members of the Hong Kong Alliance, Tang Ngok-kwan and Tsui Hon-kwong, who stand accused of not complying with national security police’ request for information on the investigation under the National Security Law, Principal Magistrate Peter Law barred Chow Hang-tung from using the phrase “Tiananmen massacre” during the national security trial, with a magistrate instead urging her to use “proper terminology.”

14 December 2022: Chow won an appeal against the conviction and 15-month prison term over the banned 4 June vigil in 2021. In a written judgement, Court of First Instance judge Judianna Barnes said police did not exercise their responsibility in allowing and facilitating a peaceful public assembly wherever feasible, as stated in the Public Order Ordinance. The judge added that while Chow had called for people to gather at Victoria Park, her action was not a crime as the ban was not legally sound. While her 15-month sentence, which was meant to end in January 2023, has been repealed, Chow will remain in detention over her two national security cases.


4 March 2023: Three former leaders of the disbanded Hong Kong Alliance which organised Hong Kong’s annual Tiananmen vigil, including Chow Hang-Tung were convicted under the Beijing-imposed national security law for failing to give police information on members and other data. The other two were Tang Ngok-kwan and Tsui Hon-kwong.

11 March 2023: The three were sentenced to four and a half months in jail. Chow was defiant, while criticising what she described as the “political” nature of the case, and the decision of the court to withhold key facts. She said: “We will continue doing what we have always done, that is to fight falsehood with truth, indignity with dignity, secrecy with openness, madness with reason, division with solidarity. We will fight these injustices wherever we must, be it on the streets, in the courtroom, or from a prison cell.”


India: UN body petitioned over ongoing detention of prominent Kashmiri human rights defender

On the first-year anniversary of prominent Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez’s arrest and detention, four human rights organisations have submitted a complaint to the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

 “The detention of Khurram Parvez carries all the signs of an arbitrary detention in clear breach of binding legal standards the Indian State has committed to respect. For over a year, domestic courts have failed to uphold the rule of law and international law. This is why we are seizing the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to issue a ruling on the arbitrariness of Khurram’s detention, and to demand the Indian authorities release him,” said OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.

Khurram Parvez has worked tirelessly to document human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir for the past 20 years. He is the Coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), and the Chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD). Mr Parvez is also a distinguished scholar with the political conflict, gender, and people’s rights initiative at the Center for Race and Gender at University of California, Berkeley.

“In addition to being arbitrarily detained for a year, Khurram Parvez faces a possible life sentence and the death penalty in a blatant act of reprisal for his legitimate and peaceful human rights activities. Khurram ought not to have spent a single minute behind bars and should be compensated for his prolonged and unjust deprivation of liberty,” said FIDH President Alice Mogwe.

Khurram Parvez was arbitrarily arrested on November 22, 2021 by National Investigation Agency (NIA) officers following 14-hour raids on his house and the JKCCS office in Srinagar, during which his electronic devices and several documents were seized. Mr Parvez has since been prosecuted under multiple trumped-up charges related to criminal conspiracy and terrorism, and his fundamental rights to due process and a fair trial have constantly been violated.

The rights groups reiterate their calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr Parvez and for all charges against him to be dropped.

Press contacts:

FIDH: Raphaël Lopoukhine, PR and editorial manager, , +33 6 72 28 42 94

OMCT: Iolanda Jaquemet, Director of Communications, , +41 79 539 41 06



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

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Civic space in India is rated as "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor  


One Year of Arbitrary Detention: Human Rights Organisations Call for Release of Kashmiri Human Rights Defender Khurram Parvez

The undersigned organisations call for the immediate and unconditional release of Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez, who was arrested one year ago on November 22, 2021 on politically motivated terrorism and other charges.

Parvez, the Coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and Chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), has been a champion of human rights advocacy, documentation, and investigations including in the Jammu and Kashmir region, for over 20 years.

On November 22, 2021, India’s counterterrorism body, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), raided Parvez’s home and office for approximately 14 hours, seizing his and his family members’ laptop, mobile phone, and books. He was then called in for questioning at the NIA office where he was arrested on the basis of a First Information Report lodged by the NIA on November 6, 2021. The arrest memo stated that Parvez was being charged under the Indian Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), India’s abusive counterterrorism law, which makes release on bail difficult. Specifically, he was charged with “criminal conspiracy,” “waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the Government of India,” “punishment for conspiracy to wage war against the Government of India,” “raising funds for terror activities,” “punishment for conspiracy,” “recruiting any person or persons for commission of a terrorist act,” “offence relating to membership of a terrorist organisation,” and “offence of raising funds for terrorist organisations.” In May 2020, United Nations (UN) experts raised concerns about various provisions in the UAPA that are inconsistent with international human rights law and standards.

Indian authorities have repeatedly targeted Khurram Parvez for his human rights work in an attempt to silence him and intimidate others. Over the years, the NIA and other law enforcement agencies have accused him of “carrying out secessionist and separatist activities” in the region and have conducted raids at his home and offices. In 2016, authorities barred him from travelling to Switzerland to attend the UN Human Rights Council session, and then jailed him for 76 days under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA). In December 2021, UN experts urged the Indian authorities to stop targeting Parvez.

On May 13, 2022, after 173 days of detention, the NIA filed a preliminary charge sheet before the NIA Special Court in New Delhi against Parvez and stated that they will continue investigating this case. The NIA accused Parvez of “running a network of over ground workers of the [Pakistan-based armed militant organisation] Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) for furthering activities of LeT and to commit terrorist attacks in India”, according to the press release published by the NIA on May 13, 2022. His detention has since then been extended at least five times by the NIA Special Court in New Delhi under Section 43D(2)(b) of the UAPA, which allows for the extension of the detention period for up to 180 days if the investigating agency is unable to complete the investigation of a case within a 90-day period.

Parvez has now been in detention for one year. His arbitrary detention is part of a longstanding list of human rights violations committed by Indian authorities against human rights defenders, civil society organisations, journalists, and activists in Jammu and Kashmir. Rather than working towards accountability for these violations, authorities have targeted and arrested those who have exposed and sought justice for such violations. Indian authorities have also clamped down on media freedom and shut down the internet to quash peaceful protests and restrict access to information. This has caused a chilling effect, further shrinking civic space in a region that is already facing an increasing clampdown on dissent since the Indian Parliament revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special autonomous status in August 2019.

The Indian authorities must release Parvez immediately and unconditionally, and all charges against him must be dropped, as they are a reprisal for his peaceful human rights work. Human rights defenders should be protected, not persecuted. The Indian authorities must stop criminalising the work of human rights defenders and end all attempts to silence and intimidate human rights defenders and others critical voices of the government. Instead, Indian authorities should prioritise ending impunity for the human rights violations that human rights defenders have bravely documented and exposed, especially in Jammu and Kashmir, and ensure human rights defenders can work in a safe and enabling environment without fear of reprisals.


Amnesty International

Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation


Front Line Defenders (FLD)

Human Rights Watch

International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

Minority Rights Group International

Stichting The London Story

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Press Contacts

For Amnesty International:



For Human Rights Watch:


For Stichting the London Story:



Civic space in India is rated as "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor 


Kyrgyzstan: Withdraw draft law threatening NGOs

International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and CIVICUS call on the authorities of Kyrgyzstan to withdraw the highly restrictive draft law on NGOs, which was recently introduced, and to ensure that any legislation affecting freedom of association that is adopted is in line with the country’s international human obligations. 

The draft NGO law, elaborated by the presidential administration, was put forward for public discussion on 2 November 2022 after it was prepared in what appears to have been a rushed manner without adequate consultation with experts and civil society representatives. The draft significantly increases state control over NGOs, provides for excessive restrictions on the operations of such organisations, and raises concerns that it could be used to target groups working on issues which are sensitive to authorities.  

‘’This draft law mirrors NGO legislation seen in other, more repressive countries in the post-Soviet region. Going ahead with this initiative would seriously endanger the operating freedom of NGOs in Kyrgyzstan and undermine hard-won gains in terms of civil society participation in the country,’’ said Brigitte Dufour, Director of IPHR.The Kyrgyzstani authorities should drop this ill-considered draft law and focus instead on securing an environment in which human rights and other NGOs can carry out their crucial work without hindrance and intimidation.” 

The introduction of the draft law is particularly worrisome as it comes in the context of a worsening environment for free speech and civic space in Kyrgyzstan. In recent months, the authorities have widened their campaign against critical voices, including through mass arrests and criminal charges initiated against activists, journalists and human rights defenders who have spoken out against the government. Activists and bloggers have also been intimidated and warned because of social media posts critical of the government – most recently a veteran human rights activist was singled out for pressure.

The draft law requires all NGOs, including branches and representations of foreign NGOs, to register with the authorities in order to operate lawfully in the country, unlike existing legislation that does not require compulsory state registration of such organisations. NGOs that are already registered would have to re-register within seven months after the law enters into force; otherwise, they would be liquidated. At the same time, some of the grounds on which NGOs may be denied registration are vaguely worded. For example, applications for registration could be rejected if the name of NGOs is considered to ‘’offend’’ ‘’morality’’ or ‘’national and religious feelings of citizens’’ or – in the case of branches of foreign NGOs – if they are deemed to ‘’pose a threat’’ to ‘’national unity and identity’’ or to ‘’cultural heritage and national interests’’. As these terms are not defined by the law, authorities would have wide discretion to apply them and potentially use them to deny registration to groups working on minority rights or other sensitive issues. 

Moreover, the draft law grants broad powers to authorities to oversee NGOs’ compliance not only with national law but also with their statutes, thus affording state bodies the role of controlling and assessing whether NGOs ‘’correctly’’ implement their own mandates. As part of their oversight functions, state bodies would be able to request access to a range of NGO documents, including bank information; to send representatives to attend any events organised by NGOs; and to carry out annual inspections of NGO activities. In this way, they would be able to interfere in the internal affairs of NGOs and potentially put pressure on groups they do not like, including by issuing written warnings to them or threatening them with closure.

In accordance with the draft law, authorities would be able to request courts to close NGOs because of even minor violations of national laws; activities considered to be contrary to their statutes; or ‘’systematic’’ failures to provide required information. Authorities would not be expected to exhaust other, less harsh measures prior to taking this step. These provisions are inconsistent with international human rights standards, under which the forced dissolution of NGOs should only be used as a last resort when necessary and proportionate in response to serious misconduct. The implementation of these provisions could result in arbitrary decisions to close down NGOs which challenge public policies and seek accountability for human rights violations and other misconduct among officials. 

Additionally, the draft law creates confusion by regulating the activities of ‘’non-governmental non-commercial organisations’’, although this term is not used in pre-existing legislation, which only distinguishes between commercial and non-commercial organisations. Several other provisions of the draft law create uncertainty for affected organisations because of their unclear and ambiguous wording. For example, the draft law states that ‘’restrictions’’ on permissible types of activities for NGOs, as well as on their income ‘’might be established’’ by national legislation without providing any further information on what such restrictions might be. 

The draft law contains several discriminatory provisions, in particular provisions which prohibit foreign citizens and stateless persons from acting as founders of NGOs and which impose requirements and obligations on NGOs that do not apply to other types of non-commercial or commercial organisations. While the initiators of the draft law claim that one of its objectives is to ensure transparency of NGOs, this objective is already met by existing legislation, which sets out extensive reporting obligations for non-commercial organisations, including through a new, controversial financial reporting scheme introduced in 2021.

“If adopted, the draft NGO law would deal a serious blow to Kyrgyzstan’s vibrant civil society. It is so broadly worded that it can easily be used to arbitrarily obstruct the work of organisations that are ‘thorns in the side’ of those in power because they criticise government policies, expose human rights violations or stand up against injustice,’’ said Aarti Narse, Civic Space Research Officer at CIVICUS. 

As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Kyrgyzstani authorities have an obligation to protect the right to freedom of association in a non-discriminatory manner and ensure that any restrictions on this right meet strict requirements of necessity, legality and proportionality. The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association has emphasised that associations should not be required to register in order to legally carry out their work and that registration procedures should be viewed as an exercise of notifying rather than asking for permission from authorities. Previously registered groups should not be required to reregister under newly-adopted laws to protect them against arbitrary rejection and any rejection of an application for registration must be clearly motivated. 

States are also obliged to avoid measures that disproportionately target or burden civil society organisations and to ensure that such groups are able to carry out their activities without unwarranted state interference. In its recently adopted concluding observations on Kyrgyzstan’s implementation of the ICCPR, the UN Human Rights Committee specifically called on the authorities to ensure that any legislation governing NGOs ‘’does not lead in practice to undue control over or interference in the activities of NGOs’’. Authorities must ensure that the involuntary dissolution of NGOs is only used when there is a clear and imminent danger resulting in a flagrant violation of national law and other, less drastic measures have been insufficient. 

The draft law runs counter to the commitments made by the Kyrgyzstani government prior to its recent election as a member of the UN Human Rights Council for the period 2023-2025. As part of its membership bid, the government specifically undertook to enhance the capacity of civil society in the country. The draft law also endangers Kyrgyzstan’s GSP+ status, under which it enjoys generous trade preferences with the EU. In order to maintain this status, Kyrgyzstan is required to effectively implement its obligations under international human rights conventions, including the ICCPR.

The current public consultation on the draft NGO law will last at least one month, in accordance with national legislation. Following this, it will go to parliament for consideration and is planned to enter into force on 1 May 2023. The draft law has already been severely criticised by NGO representatives, human rights defenders and lawyers. 

The draft NGO law was put forward shortly after another problematic draft law concerning media, also elaborated by the presidential administration. According to media reports, the presidential administration has now agreed to revise the draft media law based on feedback from the media community, as well as to submit it to the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission for an expert assessment. 

We urge the Kyrgyzstani authorities to put a halt to the consideration of the draft NGO law in its current format and to ensure that any draft legislation affecting NGOs is elaborated through close and effective consultation with civil society representatives and national experts. The authorities should also request and welcome international expert comments on such draft legislation from the Venice Commission, the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

 Civic space in the Kyrgyzstan is rated as 'Repressed' by the CIVICUS Monitor


Risk of refoulement of asylum seeker in cooperation with Algerian authorities would mark a dangerous turning point for human rights for Tunisia


The undersigned organizations express their deep concern at the risk of refoulement of an Algerian asylum seeker - Zakaria Hannache - present in Tunisia since August 2022. Tunisian authorities must under no circumstances repeat the dangerous precedent set by the kidnapping and refoulement of Algerian refugee Slimane Bouhafs on 25 August, 2021, about which no investigation has been opened to date in Tunisia.


Indonesia: Halt using the G20 Summit to harass and block civil society activities

CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance, and the Fight Inequality Alliance are appalled by the decision of the Indonesian authorities to disband the activities of civil society groups and harass their organisers in Bali, Indonesia, ahead of the G20 Summit. We call on the government of Indonesia to halt such actions, investigate these human rights violations thoroughly and adhere to the human rights standards enshrined in international law and its own Constitution.


Malaysia: Civic spaces shrinking at an alarming rate for LGBTQ persons in Malaysia

Together with over 66 organisations, we express concern over the recent raid of a social gathering in Kuala Lumpur and the shrinking civic spaces for LGBTIQ person in Malaysia.

 In the wake of Halloween celebrations, the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM), the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (JAWI), and the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), conducted a joint raid of a social gathering attended by people of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions (SOGIE), including LGBTQ persons. The raid which took place on October 29, 2022, resulted in the arrests and interrogation of at least 24 gender-diverse persons.

Those arrested were alleged to have committed unclearly defined violations such as “encouraging vice” and “indecent acts”; the use of ‘illegal substances’; and for freely exercising one’s gender expression. All persons have been released on bail, and awaiting further action. Sharing of experiences by the attendees and monitoring by LGBTQ human rights groups responding to the raid show a number of critical human rights violations. They reinforce the ongoing trend of state actions that suggest discriminatory intent to persecute and shrinking spaces for LGBTQ people to live with dignity. During the raid, the attendees were segregated based on religion and gender: gender-diverse persons identified as Muslims were targeted, vilified, mistreated, misgendered, and slapped with charges for violating the Syariah Criminal Offences Act. Trans and gender-diverse people reportedly experienced degrading and humiliating treatment while undergoing urine tests by the police.


Civic space in Malaysia is rated as""Obstructed" by the CIVICUS Monitor.


Alaa Abdel-Fattah’s life at serious risk: demand Egypt to immediately release him now!

CIVICUS stands in solidarity with movements and civil society organisations calling on Egypt to immediately release human rights activist, Alaa Abdel-Fattah. 

Alaa Abdel-Fattah is a British-Egyptian writer, human rights defender and software developer. He was one of the leading voices and campaigners during the 25 January 2011 revolution. He has been published in numerous outlets; is well-known for founding a prominent Arabic blog aggregator; and has been involved in a number of citizen journalism initiatives. His book, You Have Not Yet Been Defeated, which compiles some of his deeply influential writings, has received widespread acclaim. 

Alaa has been arrested under every Egyptian head of state during his lifetime. He is currently in detention following an unfair trial on spurious charges that relate to his human rights advocacy. On 2 April 2022, Alaa embarked on an open-ended hunger strike as a last bid for freedom. After more than 200 days of partial hunger strike, Alaa announced that, as of 1 November 2022, he is stopping his previous 100-calorie intake and moving to a full hunger strike. Alaa also decided that on 6 November 2022, coinciding with the beginning of COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, he will start a water strike. This means that if he is not released, Alaa will die before the end of COP27. 

“If one wished for death then a hunger strike would not be a struggle. If one were only holding onto life out of instinct then what’s the point of a strike? If you’re postponing death only out of shame at your mother’s tears then you’re decreasing the chances of victory….I’ve taken a decision to escalate at a time I see as fitting for my struggle for my freedom and the freedom of prisoners of a conflict they’ve no part in, or they’re trying to exit from; for the victims of a regime that’s unable to handle its crises except with oppression, unable to reproduce itself except through incarceration” - Alaa wrote in a letter to his family announcing escalation of his hunger strike

On 31 October 2022, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment said, “In advance of COP27, I am joining the chorus of global voices calling for the immediate release of Alaa Abd el-Fattah, an Egyptian activist who has languished in jail for years merely for voicing his opinion. Freedom of speech is a prerequisite for climate justice!”

We, the undersigned organisations and groups:

  1. Call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately release Alaa Abdel Fattah and all those arrested and detained solely for exercising their rights

  2. Call on the British authorities to intervene to secure the release and allowed to travel  to the UK of their fellow citizen Alaa Abdel Fattah, as his health is deteriorating to a critical and life-threatening point

  3. Call on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to publicly reiterate its call on Egypt to immediately release Alaa Abdel-Fattah, Mohamed el-Baqer, and all those arrested and detained solely for exercising their rights

  4. Call on UN Special Procedures to publicly reiterate their call on Egypt to immediately release Alaa Abdel-Fattah, Mohamed el-Baqer and Mohamed “Oxygen” Ibrahim Radwan and all those arrested and detained solely for exercising their rights

  5. Call on all government leaders and business leaders going to COP27 to use all possible leverage and urge the Egyptian authorities to immediately release Alaa Abdel Fattah and all those arrested and detained solely for exercising their rights

  6. Call on civil society organisations, groups and activists going to COP27 to urge the Egyptian authorities to immediately release Alaa Abdel Fattah and all those arrested and detained solely for exercising their rights


  1. Access Now

  2. Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association

  3. African Earth Farms

  4. ALQST for Human Rights

  5. Amazon Watch

  6. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

  7. Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC)

  8. Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

  9. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

  10. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

  11. Committee for Justice

  12. Committee to Protect Journalists

  13. Commonwealth Youth Peace Advocates Network Kenya

  14. Community Transformation Foundation Network (COTFONE)

  15. Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR)

  16. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)

  17. EgyptWide for Human Rights

  18. El Nadim Center

  19. FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

  20. Freedom Initiative

  21. Friends of the Earth Malta

  22. Friends of the Earth Scotland

  23. Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

  24. Human Rights Watch

  25. HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement

  26. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

  27. MENA Rights Group

  28. National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter

  29. People in Need

  30. Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)

  31. Sinai Foundation for Human Rights (SFHR)

  32.  Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR)

  33. The Center for International Policy

  34. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

  35. Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State

  36. War on Want

  37. West African Human Rights Defenders' Network/Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (WAHRDN/ROADDH)

  38. WomanHealth Philippines

  39. World Organisation Against Torture, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Background information: On 29 September 2019, Alaa Abdel Fattah was arrested while fulfilling his probation requirements at El-Dokki Police Station. He was questioned before the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) on charges of joining an illegal organisation, receiving foreign funding, spreading false news, and misusing social media; he was then ordered into pretrial detention pending case no. 1356 of 2019. On the same day, Alaa’s lawyer Mohamed el-Baqer attended Alaa’s interrogation and was similarly arrested, questioned before the SSSP, and ordered into pretrial detention pending the same case and arbitrary charges. During their pretrial detention Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed el-Baqer were arbitrarily added to Egypt’s terrorist list in relation to a separate case (no. 1781 of 2019), for which they have never been questioned or given the right to defend themselves. As a result of this designation, they face a travel ban, asset freeze, and for el-Baqer, potential disbarment as a lawyer. On 20 December 2021, following an unfair trial before a State security emergency court, in which they were denied their right to due process (defense lawyers were denied the right to present a defense on behalf of their clients, and denied permission to copy the case files), Abdel Fattah was sentenced to five years in prison, and el-Baqer and blogger Mohamed “Oxygen” Ibrahim Radwan to four years in prison on charges of “spreading false news”. Verdicts from such courts cannot be appealed. The time they spent in pretrial detention pending the original case ( No. 1356 of 2019) will not count as time served toward the December 2021 prison sentences, and the verdict is final since it has subsequently been ratified by President Al-Sisi. Further details here

Preparations for COP27 are taking place against the backdrop of an ongoing and deep-rooted human rights crisis in Egypt. The Egyptian authorities have for years employed draconian laws, including laws on counter terrorism, cyber crimes, and civil society, to stifle all forms of peaceful dissent and shut down civic space. Under the current government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, thousands continue to be arbitrarily detained without a legal basis, following grossly unfair trials, or solely for peacefully exercising their human rights. Thousands are held in prolonged pre-trial detention on the basis of spurious terrorism and national security accusations. Among those arbitrarily detained are dozens of journalists targeted for their media work, social media users punished for sharing critical online content, women convicted on morality-related charges for making Tik Tok videos, and members of religious minorities accused of blasphemy. Prisoners are held in detention conditions that violate the absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment, and since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power hundreds have died in custody amid reports of denial of healthcare and other abuses. Egypt remains one of the world’s top executioners, executing 107 people in 2020 and 83 in 2021, with at least 356 people sentenced to death in 2021, many following grossly unfair trials including by emergency courts. The crisis of impunity has emboldened Egyptian security forces to carry out extra-judicial executions and other unlawful killings, enforced disappearances and torture with no fear of consequences. 

 Civic space in Egypt is rated as "Closed" by the CIVICUS Monitor 


Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS urges a peaceful transfer of power in Brazil

Brazil’s presidential election results have been declared by the country’s election authority with Luiz Inacio Lula De Silva securing 50.8% of the vote as compared to 49.2% for the incumbent Jair Bolsonaro. The incumbent Jair Bolsonaro has delayed conceding defeat through a public statement in accordance with tradition. He has also repeatedly questioned the integrity of Brazil’s electoral system.

“We celebrate Brazil’s democratic electoral process and urge Jair Bolsonaro and his supporters to accept the election results by respecting the people’s mandate. The incoming government should place human rights at the center of its agenda and work with civil society to continue strengthening the country’s institutions,” said Lysa John Secretary General of CIVICUS.

Civic space in Brazil is rated as "Obstructed" by the CIVICUS Monitor


Kyrgyzstan: Mass arrests of government critics in escalating crackdown on dissent

We, the undersigned organisations call on the authorities in Kyrgyzstan to immediately release and drop the charges against people arrested without credible reason in the past week after speaking out against a controversial draft border agreement with neighbouring Uzbekistan. We believe that the criminal cases initiated against them constitute retaliation for their legitimate criticism of government policies and their civic engagement on this issue. Instead of persecuting critical voices, the authorities should safeguard open discussion on this and other matters of public concern.


EU-Southeast Asia CSOs Recommendations to the 4th EU-ASEAN Policy Dialogue on Human Rights

On behalf of the CSOs[1] that participated at the 2nd EU-Southeast Asia CSOs Forum held on October 24-22, 2022 in Jakarta, and in parallel with the 4th EU-ASEAN Policy Dialogue on Human Rights, we would like to express our gratitude to the EU-ASEAN Forum on Human Rights for the space and opportunity to engage in a dialogue with civil society representatives. We believe that this is proof of commitment for improved communication, coordination, and meaningful engagement between CSOs, ASEAN, and the EU to achieve our common aspiration to leave no one behind.

On this occasion, we hereby submit the following recommendations to strengthen human rights protection within the ASEAN and the EU. The recommendations are based on present and emerging challenges faced by human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists, and on recommendations submitted by CSOs at the EU-ASEAN Human Rights Dialogue in 2019. We request for the inclusion of the attached submission as part of the official meeting notes. In this light, we urge immediate steps to be taken, collectively with civil society organisations across both regions, towards the implementation and monitoring of our recommendations.

Present and Emerging Challenges

After the First EU-ASEAN Human Rights Dialogue with CSO in 2019, the socio-political and economic situations in the ASEAN and the EU have tremendously regressed. These were mainly brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate crisis, and the rise of militarism and authoritarianism. With respect to critical security issues, the Russian invasion of Ukraine led by President Vladimir Putin has resulted in deaths and injuries of thousands of civilians. Since 1 February 2021, the attempted military coup in Myanmar has spurred a cross-regional political, human rights, and humanitarian crisis. As of this writing, more than 1,000,000 people have been displaced, with more than 2,000 civilians killed, and 15,000 arrested. The use of excessive force by police and military against civilians claiming their basic human rights and fundamental freedoms has been perpetuated with impunity across the region.

The COVID-19 pandemic has, indeed, aggravated the shrinking of civic spaces. Instead of meaningfully addressing challenges and needs of the vulnerable, authoritarian states have even accumulated more power by convoluting health emergencies and national security approaches. Numerous documents have revealed how COVID-19 was used as a pretext to adopt restrictive laws to curb access to information, justice, and basic services. State-sponsored disinformation and misinformation were intensified. Dissenting opinions towards government pandemics measures were purged. Furthermore, measures to mitigate viral infection limited peoples’ movement and participation in social, economic and political affairs. The proclivity towards securitized approaches has led ASEAN to further exclude civil society and neglect peoples’ voices. This is in breach of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, which aims to promote a people-centred and people-oriented regional community.

The climate crisis has led to the global health emergency, political upheavals, gross human rights violation, and humanitarian disasters. Climate change has disproportionately affected planetary health, which is closely linked with the health of its population and their ability to achieve their right to life. These have contributed to the uncertainty and instability of the future, particularly of those who live in fragile situations. In fact, Southeast Asia is already bearing the brunt of climate emergencies. Moreover, rising sea levels, flooding, and typhoons have tremendously increased more recently.

The current economic systems have perpetuated capitalist greed. Extractive industries have greatly contributed to multiple rights violations, particularly land grabbing. Moreover, they have put the lives of indigenous communities and environmental human rights defenders. With respect to climate action, communities' access to decision-making processes and participation remains virtually absent. As their concerns are neglected, this crisis continues to hinder State obligations to protect and fulfil human rights, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Worse, more and more people have become vulnerable and disempowered.

Amidst these crises, communities with pre-existing intersectional vulnerabilities are further discriminated against and marginalised. Pandemic recovery plans have failed to meaningfully address the specific needs of women, youth, children, LGBTQIA+ communities, and persons with disabilities. Furthermore, conflicts and climate emergencies have forcibly displaced people, rendering many stateless and without protection.

The steady rise of militarism and authoritarianism has many lives at greater risk. Repressive laws and practices, both in offline and online spheres, have become dangerously normalised. These include systematic proliferation of censorship, harassment, arbitrary arrests, violence, misinformation, and state-sponsored propaganda. As of this writing, human rights and environmental rights defenders, pro-democracy activists, dissenters, children, youth, journalists, academics, LGBTQIA+ communities - historically marginalized based on their sexual orientation, gender identity & expression and sexual orientations and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) are finding themselves on the edge of uncertainty and danger.

These shared lived experiences have proven the urgent need to establish and sustain safe and brave transnational and cross-sectoral networks and solidarity. It is crucial for marginalised individuals and communities to meaningfully engage in multilateral advocacy on human rights, and intersectional issues that matter to them the most.


Building on the 2019 Consolidated Recommendations from the first EU-ASEAN CSO Forum, our key recommendation is for EU and ASEAN Member States (referred to as ‘States’) to develop policies, implement measures, and invest in programmes that are inclusive, non-discriminatory, participatory, and proportionate. These should promote greater accountability and sustainability in order to address issues related to public health emergencies, security and climate crises, and the rise of authoritarianism.

States should ensure that development programs, which are in line with international human rights standards and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are designed and implemented to fully advance inclusion, equality, dignity and justice in all corners of ASEAN and the EU.


Civic space in Indonesia is rated ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor.


COP27: Over 200 organisations call on UNFCCC Secretariat & State parties to put human rights at the centre of climate action

CIVICUS together with over 200 organisations wrote an open letter asking the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and State parties to put human rights at the centre of the energy transition at COP27.


10 human rights groups urge China to submit report to UN Committee against Torture

                                                                                         OPEN LETTER

General Secretary Xi Jinping
Central Committee of the Communist Party of China
Zhongnanhai Ximen, Fuyou Street
Xicheng District, Beijing 100017
People’s Republic of China
Fax: +86 10 6307 0900; +11 10 6238 1025

Re: State Report on the Implementation of the Convention Against Torture

Dear General Secretary Xi,

Almost three years have passed since the due date (9 December 2019) of the PRC’s latest State party report to the UN Committee Against Torture. We are writing on behalf of the people in the PRC, and human rights defenders worldwide, to request the submission of the above-mentioned report without further delay.

By ratifying the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (hereinafter “Convention”), the PRC has committed to submit quadrennial progress reports on the implementation of the treaty’s provisions. However, the PRC government has failed to submit its sixth periodic report since its fifth periodic review in 2015. In the last two decades, the PRC has not submitted any of its State party reports to the Committee Against Torture (hereinafter “Committee”) on time. Since 20051, the PRC government has not issued any invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment for a follow-up visit.

In its Concluding Observations on the PRC’s fifth periodic report issued in 2016, the Committee had requested the State party to submit its sixth periodic report by 9 December 20192, and reiterated its concerns about torture and ill-treatment taking place during prolonged pre-trial and extralegal detention3; enforced disappearances on the pretext of ‘residential surveillance at designated locations’4; and deaths in custody5. Reiterating its previous recommendations6 to the PRC on including a comprehensive definition of torture in its legislation, the Committee had expressed concern that “serious discrepancies between the definition in the Convention and that incorporated into domestic law create actual or potential loopholes for impunity”7.

Moreover, the PRC has yet to ratify the Optional Protocol of the Convention despite receiving repeated recommendations8 from the Committee to withdraw all reservations and declarations to the Convention9.

Such unwillingness to fulfill its international obligations implies that the PRC is seeking to evade its responsibility to protect human rights within its territory. This rationale can be supported by countless testimonies of the occurrence of torture in extrajudicial and pre-trial detention facilities in Tibet, Uyghur people in East Turkistan10, and Han Chinese where discretionary and extrajudicial powers have been granted to the police and security agencies to deny basic human rights to political detainees.

Many political prisoners, including human rights defenders, continue to die as a result of torture and ill-treatment at the hands of police and state security agents. In Tibet, this phenomenon has been illustrated by the cases of Norsang in 201911, and Lhamo12 in 2020. To avoid being held responsible for deaths in custody, prison authorities tend to release prisoners once they have reached near-death conditions, as illustrated by the cases of Gangbu Rikgye Nyima13, released one year early in failing health; Gendun Sherab14, who died in 2020 due to torture injuries; Choekyi15, who died in 2020 after being released five months early; Tenzin Nyima16, who was released early in a comatose state and died shortly after; and Kunchok Jinpa17, who passed away in 2021 after being transferred to hospital mid-sentence. In East Turkistan, Uyghurs have been rounded up by Chinese police and detained against their will in large internment (“re-education”) camps where they have been subjected to arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, political indoctrination, torture, and other serious human rights violations18. Overall, by refusing to submit the State party report, the PRC is shielding itself from external criticism and scrutiny that would follow in the form of stakeholders' responses.

Furthermore, PRC’s negligence also weakens the international accountability and monitoring mechanisms essential to the functioning of the UN. In this respect, the PRC’s refusal to comply with the rules that they voluntarily agreed to (by signing and ratifying the Convention) undermines the fight for human rights on a global scale. Extensive delays in submitting its state party reports undermine China’s ability to effectively address the serious human rights violations.

Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy

Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD)

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

World Uyghur Congress (WUC)

Front Line Defenders

Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP)


Human Rights in China (HRIC)

Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC)

Asian Dignity Initiative (ADI)

Copied to:
Mr. Claude Heller, Chairperson
Committee Against Torture

Mr. Volker Türk,
UN High Commissioner on Human Rights

Ms Alice Jill Edwards,
Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Zhang Jun,
PRC’s Permanent Representative to the UN

Wang Yi,
Foreign Minister, People’s Republic of China

2 CAT/C/CHN/CO/5, para. 66.
3 CAT/C/CHN/CO/5, para. 10.
4 CAT/C/CHN/CO/5, para. 15.
5 CAT/C/CHN/CO/5, para. 24.
6 CAT/C/CHN/CO/4, paras. 32 and 33, and A/55/44, para. 123.
7 CAT/C/CHN/CO/5, para. 9.
8 A/55/44, para.124, and CAT/CO/CHN/4, para. 40.
9 CAT/C/CHN/CO/5, para. 64.
10 “Concentration Camps in China for Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims”, Uyghur Human Rights Project, 26 January 2019,
11 “Investigate death of Tibetan man detained for opposing China’s forced political education”, Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, 5 May 2021,
12 “China: Tibetan Woman Dies in Custody”, Human Rights Watch, 29 October 2020,
13 “Tibetan Protester Released Early from Prison in Critical Condition”, Radio Free Asia, 3 March 2021,
14 “Tibetan Monk Dies After Living Two Years with Torture Injuries Sustained in Custody”, Radio Free Asia, 24 April 2020,
15 “China: Investigate Untimely Death of Former Political Prisoner due to Denial of Medical Care”, Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, 8 May 2020,
16 “China: Tibetan Monk Dies from Beating in Custody”, Human Rights Watch, 21 January 2021,
17 “China: Tibetan Tour Guide Dies from Prison Injuries”, Human Rights Watch, 16 February 2021,
18 “Internment Camps”, World Uyghur Congress, 1 August 2017,

Civic space in the China is rated as "Closed" by the CIVICUS Monitor


Kyrgyzstan: Joint NGO report for UN Human Rights Committee review

The United Nations Human Rights Committee will review Kyrgyzstan’s human rights record at its upcoming session in Geneva, which starts on 10 October 2022. The Committee will assess Kyrgyzstan’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and adopt conclusions and recommendations based on the third periodic report about the implementation of the covenant submitted by Kyrgyzstan’s government, as well as other information, including NGO reports.


Iran: civil society urgently calls for accountability and respect for women’s rights

The death of Mahsa Amini while in custody after she was arrested for allegedly violating Iran’s strict rules on  women’s dress code and the massive arrests of protesters require urgent accountability by the government and end to violence against women and women human rights defenders, global civil society organisation, CIVICUS said today.  


Sudan: woman at risk of death by stoning

Mariam Tirab, 20 years old woman from Sudan was sentenced to death by stoning on June 27th, 2022. She was found guilty By a judge in Kosty in White Nile state of violating article 146(2) (Adultery). The young woman was arrested in 2021, when a police officer interrogated her without informing her that her confession will be used against her in court. She has been tried without access to legal representation and was not informed about the charges and the penalty of the crime of adultery (Zina) in Sudanese laws. She was denied her constitutional and legal rights under the Sudanese laws.

Article 146 of the Sudanese criminal law is built on the Sharia laws, where married women charged with adultery are sentenced to death by stoning, while unmarried women are punished by 100 lashes. Despite the legal reforms of 2020, wherein the transitional government banned corporal punishments, the Sharia laws related to adultery remained unchanged.

Mariam Tirab was sentenced even though she was not granted access to proper legal aid or provided with basic information about her rights. Her confession was obtained by police through illegal procedures. The legal procedures and the justice system is failing women in Sudan, denying many access to their basic right of having fair trial. A group of lawyers and women’s rights organizations have started an appeal of the case at the higher court. In the last 10 years, Sudan witnessed several cases similar to Mariam’s where the sentences were overturned when they were appealed.. Under the current military regime, the justice system in Sudan is at its worst, , as unfair and politicized trials are the norm. The lack of a civilian government in the country for almost a year is increasing challenges for local WHRDs and human rights groups are exerting pressure on the military regime to reform the justice system.

Since the military coup on October 25th, 2021, systemic violence against women increased across the country. The return of fundamental Islamic leaders to the political scene in support of the military led to an increase in oppression of women’s rights. The police force under the Public Order Laws was recreated under a new name - "social police", which is considered a major set back for women’s rights in Sudan.. Women and girls’ are constantly being scrutinized for what they wear and how they appear in public. University officials have imposed dress codes and prevented some female students from entering the gates without a scarf. The former regime imposed hijab in Sudan for three decades prior to the revolution in 2018. Within one year of the military coup, women in Sudan are living under the same oppressive system once again. The military leaders are closing the public spaces, using repressive laws to crush the resistance movement led by women.

A visit to Mariam Tirab in prison was prevented by a judge recently. She is detained in Kosty city of white Nile state under inhumane prison conditions. Women’s rights and human rights groups started a campaign and organized protests calling for her release and for legal reforms that respect women rights. We the undersigned groups and Individuals call on the Sudanese authorities to:

- Overturn the sentence against Mariam Tirab and grant her the right to fair trial and access to lawyers and visits. - Abide by and respect their obligations to international laws as state parties of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Right and the UN Convention against the Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT). - We call on relevant UN Special Procedures mandate holders and OHCHR to take action to urge Sudanese authorities to overturn this sentence and end violations of the international human rights law and respect the state obligations to protect women and human rights.


  1. AWID ( Association of Women in Development)
  3. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  4. Global Fund for Women
  5. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  6. Women Living Under Muslim Laws WHRDMENA Coalition
  7. Canadian Federation of University
  8. Women Collectif genevois de la Grève féministe
  10. Sisters Trust Nora organization for compacting violence against women's and girls
  11. Alharisat organization
  12. Sudanese Women Rights Action
  13. İnsan Hakları Derneği (İHD)/Human Rights Association
  14. Hafidha Chekir. FIDH/Tunis
  15. Taha Metwally/ANKHAssociation
  16. Arefe Elyasi /Open Stadiums
  17. Nedal Alsalman /BCHR
  18. Razan Nour/ Innovation for Change Middle East and North Africa
  19. Sawsan Salim/ KMEWO
  20. Rajaa ahlafi /Adala association for the right to a fair trial
  21. Onaheed Ahmed /Sudanese Front For Change
  22. Nizam Assaf/Amman Center for Human Rights Studies
  23. Ahmed Mefreh/Committee for Justice
  24. Cecilie Olivia Buchhave/KVINFO
  25. Connie Carøe Christiansen/KVINFO
  26. Vanessa Mendoza cortés/ Associación Stop violències
  27. Andorra Sama Aweidah/Women's Studies Centre
  28. Meriam Mastour/Les FoulardsViolets
  29. Zohra Triki/Doustourna
  30. Sofie Birk/KVINFO
  31. Marieme helie lucas/ Secularism Is A Women's issue (
  32. Mémoire et citoyenneté
  33. Equality Now
  34. Hagir Omer, Madania
  35. Mashair Saeed/WHRD
  36. Mamoun Elgizouli Sara Abdelgalil/WHRD
  37. Jihad Mashamoun/Researcher
  38. Sally Armstrong/ Journalist
  39. Ibrahim Bella Ammar Abbas
  40. Sara López/WLUML
  41. Anniesa Hussain/WLUML
  42. Yussef Robinson/ SDfHR
  43. Elie Losleben Abramovich Fabienne/Collectif féministe
  44. Stéphanie Friedli/Collectif genevois de la Grève féministe
  45. Aude Spang/Collectif genevois de la Grève féministe / Syndicat Unia

 Civic space in Sudan is rated as "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor



China must protect the rights of detained human rights defenders Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing

Today, 19 September 2022, marks one year in detention for two young Chinese human rights defenders: Huang Xueqin, an independent journalist and key actor in China’s #MeToo movement, and Wang Jianbing, a labour rights advocate.[1]

CIVICUS and other civil society groups, call on Chinese authorities to respect and protect their rights in detention, including access to legal counsel, unfettered communication with family members, their right to health and their right to bodily autonomy. We emphasise that their detention is arbitrary, and we call for their release and for authorities to allow them to carry out their work and make important contributions to social justice.

Who are they ?

In the 2010s, Huang Xueqin worked as a journalist for mainstream media in China. During that time, she covered stories on public interest matters, women’s rights, corruption scandals, industrial pollution, and issues faced by socially-marginalized groups. She later supported victims and survivors of sexual harassment and gender-based violence who spoke out as part of the #MeToo movement in China. On 17 October 2019, she was stopped by police in Guangzhou and criminally detained in RSDL for three months – for posting online an article about Hong Kong’s anti-extradition movement.

Wang Jianbing followed a different path, but his story – like Huang’s – demonstrates the commitment of young people in China to giving back to their communities. He worked in the non-profit sector for more than 16 years, on issues ranging from education to disability to youth to labour. Since 2018, he has supported victims of occupational disease to increase their visibility and to access social services and legal aid.

Arbitrary and incommunicado detention

On 19 September 2021, the two human rights defenders were taken by Guangzhou police; after 37 days, they were formally arrested on charges of ‘inciting subversion of state power’. Using COVID-19 prevention measures as an excuse, they were held for five months in solitary confinement, and subject to secret interrogation, in conditions similar to those of ‘residential surveillance in a designated location’, or RSDL. After months of delays and no due process guarantees, their case was transferred to court for the first time in early August 2022.

We strongly condemn the lengthy detentions of Huang and Wang. In a Communication sent to the Chinese government in February 2022, six UN independent experts – including the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and the Working Group on arbitrary detention (WGAD) – raised serious concerns about Wang’s disappearance and deprivation of liberty. They asserted that Wang’s activities were protected and legal, and that Chinese authorities used a broad definition of ‘endangering national security’ that runs counter to international human rights law.

In May 2022, the WGAD went one step further, formally declaring Wang’s detention to be ‘arbitrary’ and urging authorities to ensure his immediate release and access to remedy. Noting other, similar Chinese cases, the WGAD also requested Chinese authorities to undertake a comprehensive independent investigation into the case, taking measures to hold those responsible for rights violations accountable.

We echo their call: Chinese authorities should respect this UN finding, and immediately release Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing. 

[1] As their cases are deeply connected, their friends and supporters refer to them as a single case called the ‘Xuebing case’, using a portmanteau of their first names.


Pakistan: Government has failed to comply with UN Working Group findings to end persecution of Muhammad Ismail and family


CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance and Front Line Defenders, call on the Pakistan government to immediately comply with recommendations of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) on the case of human rights defender Muhammad Ismail and put an end to all acts of harassment against him and his family.


Belarus: CIVICUS condemns harsh verdict on human rights defenders

Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, expresses serious concerns over the sentencing of Viasna human rights defenders, Maria Rabkova and Andrey Chapiuk by the Minsk City Court this afternoon. Maria and Andrey were both sentenced to 15 years and 6 years respectively following a trial marked by irregularities.  




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