Civil society demands Tajikistan free human rights lawyer on eighth anniversary of arrest


Johannesburg/Brussels - As the eighth anniversary of the unjust detention of Tajikistan human rights lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov approaches, global civil society alliance CIVICUS and the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) call on the country’s authorities to immediately release him and unconditionally drop all charges. Buzurgmehr has sat in prison since 28 September 2015 and faces decades more behind bars following unjust convictions on false charges.

Malaysia: Government must stop harassing protesters and restricting peaceful protests

Protest outside parliament in Malaysia on 12 Sept 2023

ARTICLE 19 and CIVICUS are concerned by recent attempts by the police to harass protesters and restrict peaceful protests. Such actions are inconsistent with the constitution and Malaysia’s international human rights obligation to respect and protect the right to freedom of expression and assembly. It also makes a mockery of Malaysia’s membership at the UN Human Rights Council and the commitments it has made to ensure fundamental freedoms.

On 12 September 2023, a group of around 50 farmers from the state of Perak - supported by Lawan Lapar, a movement aimed at ensuring food security and members of the Malaysian Socialist Party (PSM) - gathered close to parliament to protest against land eviction measures that were affecting their livelihood. They had planned to handover a memorandum but were blocked by the police. Despite this, they continued and met representatives from the government as well as parliamentarians outside parliament.

Following this, police opened up investigations into the protest under Section 186 of the Penal Code for ‘obstructing civil servants from performing their duties’. On 18 September, three PSM leaders were hauled up for police questioning including PSM deputy chairperson S. Arutchelvan, treasurer Soh Sook Hwa and youth member Ayman Hareez. According to reports after, the questions asked had nothing to do with what the three were accused of.

Separately, police also tried to block the ‘Save Malaysia’ protest by opposition groups on 16 September against Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi's discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA), in his corruption case. The police kept demanding publicly that the organisers ‘apply for permit’ despite the law only requiring the organisers to give notice. Following the peaceful protest – in which around 800 people participated – police said they were going to question at least 25 people under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (PAA).

Previously, protesters were also called up by the police concerning peaceful protest marches around International Women’s Rights day and Labour Day.

“There is no basis for the police to haul up peaceful protesters for questioning. This is a clear form of harassment and creates a chilling effect for those who want to organise protests. Further, the police must stop demanding that protesters require permission from them to undertake a protest, when all that is required is a notification. Such scare tactics call into question the reformist credentials of the Anwar Ibrahim government and its commitment to respect the right to peaceful assembly” said Josef Benedict, CIVICUS Asia Pacific Researcher.

Our organisations remain concerned that the PAA falls short of international human rights law and standards. The law imposes onerous requirements such as the need to provide detailed information about the planned event and its organisers.  Further, anyone who organises an assembly without giving the required notice can be charged with a criminal offence carrying a fine of up to RM10,000 ($2,134 USD).

The PAA also lacks an exception to the notice requirement for spontaneous assemblies where it is not practicable to give advance notice. It also makes it a criminal offence for people under 21-years-old to organise an assembly and for children to attend an assembly. Further, non-citizens are also denied the right to organise or participate in protests, which is clearly discriminatory.

In 2024, Malaysia’s human rights record will be reviewed by states at the UN Human Rights Council. During its last Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2019, the government accepted recommendations to ‘amend existing provisions that limit the freedom of expression including the Peaceful Assembly Act’.

“The police force should stop any further harassment against protest organizers and participants. The government must take steps to revise the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 to ensure it is consistent with international law and standards. This includes allowing space for spontaneous protests and removing discriminatory provisions in the law. Ahead of Malaysia’s review at the Human Rights Council in 2024, this would signal that the government is committed to respecting and protecting the right to protest”, said Nalini Elumalai, Senior Malaysia Program officer at ARTICLE 19.

 Civic space in Malaysia is rated as 'Obstruted' by the CIVICUS Monitor 

Bangladesh: Quash conviction and release rights defenders

Odhikar Adil and Elan 2

Photo credit: Odhikar

Leaders of Prominent Rights Group Convicted on Trumped-Up Charges

Bangladesh authorities should immediately release human rights defenders Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, quash their convictions, and end all reprisals against them for their legitimate human rights work, said 72 organizations today. Khan and Elan were sentenced by the Cyber Tribunal of Dhaka to two years’ of prison and a 10,000 Bangladeshi Taka fine each in retaliation for their work documenting human rights violations in Bangladesh.

The Bangladesh Government has persistently targeted and launched a smear campaign against Khan and Elan, the secretary and director, respectively, of prominent Bangladeshi human rights organization Odhikar. Following the 2013 publication of Odhikar’s fact-finding report documenting extrajudicial killings during a protest, both defenders were arbitrarily detained – Khan for 62 and Elan for 25 days. After being released on bail, they continued to face prosecution and judicial harassment on trumped-up allegations that their 2013 report was “fake, distorted, and defamatory.” 

After years of stalling, Bangladeshi judicial authorities accelerated the hearings in their case following the designation of US sanctions against the country’s notoriously abusive paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and its officials in December 2021, blaming human rights organizations like Odhikar for this outcome. Their case has been marred with due process violations, such as the failure to provide the defense with advance information on the prosecution witnesses or a copy of the Criminal Investigation Department’s further investigation report until the day before a hearing. 

In addition to targeting Odhikar’s leaders, the Government interfered with the organization’s ability to conduct its human rights work by blocking their access to funds and leaving its registration renewal application pending since 2014. Following the US sanction designations, the Government increased surveillance and harassment against those affiliated with Odhikar and ordered the organization to provide sources and proof for its findings of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. On June 5, 2022, the Government’s NGO Affairs Bureau officially denied Odhikar’s application for renewal, stating that the organization’s publications have “seriously tarnished the image of the state to the world.” 

The Government then continued to besmirch the organization publicly, even criticizing and questioning the credibility of the US Department of State’s 2022 Country Report on Human Rights Practices: Bangladesh for relying on Odhikar’s documentation. UN human rights experts have expressed their concerns over the Government’s actions, stating that “the defamation of Bangladeshi-based human rights organisations by high-profile public figures is a clear attempt to undermine their credibility, reputation and human rights work in the country.” 

Human rights defenders should be allowed to conduct their necessary and important work without fear of harassment, intimidation, and reprisals. Instead of prosecuting and punishing those who document and expose human rights violations, the Government should investigate and hold the perpetrators of these violations accountable. 

We stand with Khan and Elan and urge the authorities to release them immediately and unconditionally, as they have been detained solely for their human rights work. The authorities should reverse their convictions, and ensure they are able to continue their human rights documenting and reporting without fear of reprisals. 


  1. Advocacy Forum Nepal 
  2. Amnesty International
  3. Anti-Death Penalty Asian Network (ADPAN)
  4. Asia Alliance Against Torture (A3T)
  5. Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)
  6. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  7. Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL)
  8. Association of Family Members of the Disappeared, Sri Lanka
  9. Asociacion Pro Busqueda de Ninas y Ninos Desaparecidos, El Salvador
  10. AwazCDS-Pakistan 
  11. BALAOD Mindanaw
  12. Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) 
  13. Belarusian Solidarity Foundation
  14. Bir Duino, Kyrgyzstan
  15. Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)
  16. Capital Punishment Justice Project, Australia 
  17. Centre for the Sustainable use of Natural and Social Resources (CSNR), Bhubaneswar, India
  18. Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (NKHR)
  19. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  20. Civil society and Human Rights Network (CSHRN)
  21. Collectifs des Familles de Disparus en Algérie
  22. Defence for Human Rights Pakistan (DHR)
  23. Desaparecidos - Philippines
  24. Eleos Justice, Monash University, Australia 
  25. Euro-Mediterranean Federation Against Enforced Disappearances (FEMED), France
  26. Families of the Disappeared (FOD), Sri Lanka
  27. Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND)
  28. FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  29. Forum ONG Timor-leste
  30. Free Jonas Burgos Movement
  31. HAK Association, Timor-leste
  32. Human Rights Alert, Manipur, India
  33. Human Rights First
  34. Human Rights Hub, Sri Lanka
  35. Human Rights Watch 
  36. Indonesian Association of Families of the Disappeared Families (IKOHI)
  37. Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI - Indonesia)
  38. Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI)
  39. Indonesia's NGO Coalition for International Human Rights Advocacy (HRWG)
  40. INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre, Sri Lanka
  41. Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) - Indonesia
  42. International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED)
  43. International Federation of ACATs (FIACAT)
  44. International Legal Initiative (ILI) - Kazakhstan
  45. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  46. JAAWABODA KENDRAYA (J. K.), Sri Lanka
  47. Karapatan Alliance Philippines (KARAPATAN) 
  48. Karnali Integrated Rural Development And research Centre ( KIRDARC ) Nepal 
  49. Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared-Detainees (FEDEFAM)
  50. Legal Literacy - Nepal
  51. Liga Guatemalteca de Higiene Mental
  52. Madres de Plaza de Mayo - Linea Fundadora, Argentina
  53. Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN)
  54. Martin Ennals Foundation
  55. National Fisheries Solidarity Organization, Sri Lanka
  56. Negombo Citizens’ Committee (N.C.C.)
  57. Nonviolence International Canada
  58. Pakistan Development Alliance 
  59. People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD)
  60. Programme against custodial torture & Impunity (PACTI) 
  61. Public Association “Dignity”, Kazakhstan, Astana
  62. Pusat KOMAS, Malaysia
  63. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights 
  64. Sindhi Foundation
  65. Task Force Detainees of the Philippines
  66. The Awakening, Pakistan 
  67. The Commission for Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) 
  68. The Indonesian Human Rights Monitor (IMPARSIAL)
  69. Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition, Washington DC
  70. We Remember-Belarus
  71. Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC)
  72. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

CIVICUS: UN must prove its relevance at this year’s General Assembly

JOHANNESBURG/NEW YORK - As world leaders gather in New York for the United Nations General Assembly this September, global civil society alliance CIVICUS calls on UN leadership to use this year’s summit to prove its value to solve the world’s compounding crises.

“The UN’s own relevance is at stake at this year’s General Assembly, with leaders of four out of five permanent members of the Security Council not attending this year’s meetings,” said Mandeep Tiwana, CIVICUS representative to the UN. “The globe faces an acute crisis of leadership. The post-Second World War consensus to seek solutions to global challenges through the UN is at a breaking point.”

Millions of people suffer from conflict in Ukraine, Sudan, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Sahel region, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere. Meanwhile, authoritarian leaders have seized or maintained power through a combination of political populism, outright repression and military coups. Our findings on the CIVICUS Monitor show 85% of people live in places experiencing serious attacks on basic freedoms of peaceful assembly, association and expression.

“It is the UN’s job to halt the severe backsliding on peace and rights–it cannot be outsourced or ignored,” said Tiwana. “UN leaders, including Secretary General Antonio Guterres, must urgently and directly call out governments causing immense suffering around the globe.”

CIVICUS likewise urges the UN to play a leading role in economic decision-making to combat rising inequality. Economic disparities not only make life harder for the world’s most vulnerable people, but drive further unrest.

“Despite eye-watering inequality within and between countries, big economic decisions affecting all countries are not made collectively at the UN,” said Tiwana. “The challenge before UN leaders this September is to bring harmony to decisions made by the G20, OECD, BRICS and others so they serve the best interests of excluded people around the globe.”

The concurrent Sustainable Development Goals Summit on September 18-19 offers hope. Called the greatest ever human effort to create peaceful, just, equal and sustainable societies, the SDGs are woefully behind schedule. UN leaders should forge effective partnerships with civil society to get the SDGs back on track.

“The formation of the UN as the conscience of the world in 1945 was an exercise in optimism and altruism,” Tiwana said. “This September that spirit will be needed more than ever to prove the UN’s value to start creating a better world for all.” 

For interviews, please contact

CIVICUS is the global alliance of civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world. A worldwide community of informed, inspired, committed citizens engaged in confronting the challenges facing humanity. We were established in 1993 and since 2002 have been proudly headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, with additional hubs across the globe. We are a membership alliance with more than 9,000 members in more than 175 countries.

Maldives: All candidates and parties must commit to respecting and protecting civic freedoms

Election box maldives

As citizens of the Maldives prepare to cast their votes in presidential elections scheduled for 9 September 2023, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation call upon all candidates and political parties to pledge their commitment to upholding and safeguarding civic freedoms as an integral part of their electoral mandates.

Civil society demands Tajikistan release jailed human rights defender


With Tajikistan marking its Independence Day on 9 September 2023, global civil society alliance CIVICUS and the Brussels-based International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) call on Tajikistani authorities to immediately release imprisoned human rights defender Manuchehr Kholiqnazarov, and other activists and journalists detained for their human rights activities.

“Manuchehr Kholiqnazarov is a peaceful human rights lawyer and activist who has sat in jail for far too long on trumped-up charges,” said Mandeep Tiwana, CIVICUS Chief Programmes Officer. “As Tajikistan celebrates its national day, the authorities must free him and others unjustly imprisoned without hesitation.”

Authorities arrested Manuchehr on 28 May 2022 while he was a member of “Commission 44,” an official body investigating a November 2021 extrajudicial killing which sparked mass protests in Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO). Prosecutors falsely charged Manuchehr with participating in a criminal association and publicly calling for violent change of the constitutional order. After a closed trial which failed to meet international fairness standards, Tajikistan’s Supreme Court sentenced him to 16 years’ imprisonment in December 2022.

Manuchehr EN

“It is completely absurd that the government appointed someone to a commission to investigate and report on human rights violations and then charged that same person for doing the work they were commissioned to do,” said IPHR director Brigitte Dufour. “Manuchehr should be released immediately.”

Manuchehr’s continued detention is symptomatic of the ongoing civic space restrictions in Tajikistan, which is one of the world’s most repressed countries. Tajikistan authorities have repeatedly levelled trumped-up charges of “extremism” and “terrorism” against journalists, bloggers and activists who criticise the government. CIVICUS Monitor, which assesses civic space worldwide, rates Tajikistan as “closed,” its worst possible ranking.

CIVICUS and IPHR recognise Manuchehr as part of the Stand As My Witness campaign, which advocates for the release of jailed activists and human rights defenders worldwide.

“Manucher Kholiqnazarov has spent 15 months in detention,” said Brigitte Dufour, Director of IPHR. “It is clear he is being persecuted for his commitment to fight human rights violations and injustice in Tajikistan, and he is not the only one. Tajikistan should free Manuchehr immediately, and with him all the other human rights defenders who sit behind bars just for standing up for human rights!”

For interviews, contact: or

CIVICUS is the global alliance of civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world. A worldwide community of informed, inspired, committed citizens engaged in confronting the challenges facing humanity. We were established in 1993 and since 2002 have been proudly headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, with additional hubs across the globe. We are a membership alliance with more than 9,000 members in more than 175 countries.

International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) is an independent, non-governmental organisation founded in 2008. Based in Brussels, IPHR works closely together with civil society groups from different countries to raise human rights concerns at the international level and promote respect for the rights of vulnerable communities. IPHR is committed to promoting human rights worldwide. It acts to empower local civil society groups who are working to advance the protection of human rights in their respective countries and assists them with raising human rights concerns at the international level. In cooperation with partner organisations, IPHR advocates on behalf of individuals and communities who are among those most vulnerable to discrimination, injustice and human rights violations.

G20 commitment to civic space and partnerships critical for sustainable development - CIVICUS

G 20 Civic Space

Realising commitments to civil society space and partnerships are essential to progressing on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and inclusive, resilient, and green growth, says CIVICUS, ahead of the New Delhi G-20 meeting. The Global civil society alliance made this call as leaders prepare to meet on 9-10 September 2023, with accelerating progress on SDGs, green development, and inclusive and resilient growth topping the agenda.  

Civil society demands release of jailed Eswatini activists

Eswatini MPs Photocourtesy of SAHRDN

JOHANNESBURG - Ahead of Eswatini’s 55th Independence Day on 6 September, global civil society alliance CIVICUS and the Eswatini rights organisation Foundation for Socio Economic Justice (FSEJ) call on the country’s authorities to immediately release from prison pro-democracy activists Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube.
“As Eswatini celebrates the anniversary of its freedom from colonial rule, the authorities must free jailed activists Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube without delay,” said Mandeep Tiwana, CIVICUS Chief Programmes Officer. “Mabuza and Dube never should have been arrested in the first place, and should not spend one more minute behind bars.”
Mabuza and Dube face up to 20 years imprisonment after a flawed conviction on trumped-up charges. CIVICUS and FSEJ recognise both men as part of the Stand As My Witness campaign, which advocates for the release of jailed activists and human rights defenders worldwide.
Police arrested Mabuza and Dube, both members of parliament, on 25 July 2021 amid a sweeping and violent crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy and anti-police protests. The protests erupted after the death of 25-year-old law student Thabani Nkomonye, allegedly at the hands of police. On 1 June 2023, almost two years after Mabuza and Dube’s arrests, an Eswatini court convicted them of terrorism, sedition and murder. A sentencing date has not been announced. CIVICUS rejects the verdicts as baseless and aimed at stifling dissent.
“It is extremely worrying that the Eswatini government continues to silence activists and human rights defenders through the use of the judicial system,” said FSEJ Executive Director Thabo Masuku. “The judiciary should independently uphold the values of justice and equity—not harass and intimidate pro-democracy activists like Mabuza and Dube.”
Mabuza and Dube’s imprisonment is part of a sharp downturn in rights in Africa’s last absolute monarchy. Serious violations have rocked the kingdom in recent years, including the brutal murder of activist and lawyer Thulani Maseko on 21 January 2023. Activists have also been targeted with arrests, abductions, torture and arson attacks. CIVICUS Monitor, which assesses civic space worldwide, rates Eswatini as “repressed,” one step above the lowest rank “closed.”
“The Eswatini authorities must respect their constitutional and international human rights obligations,” said Masuku. “They can start by freeing Mabuza and Dube immediately.”
For interviews, contact:
CIVICUS is the global alliance of civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world. A worldwide community of informed, inspired, committed citizens engaged in confronting the challenges facing humanity. We were established in 1993 and since 2002 have been proudly headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, with additional hubs across the globe. We are a membership alliance with more than 15,000 members in more than 175 countries.
The Foundation for Socio Economic Justice (FSEJ) is a grass root socio-economic justice movement fighting poverty, inequality and underdevelopment.

Photo: Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network

UAE: Rights groups urge Antony Blinken to press the Emirati government to release Ahmed Mansoor

The Honorable Antony J. Blinken
Secretary of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Mr. Secretary:

We, the undersigned organizations, write to you with deep concern over the continued detention and persecution of human rights defenders by the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), most notably Ahmed Mansoor, who received the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2015. We urge you to call on the UAE government to immediately and unconditionally release Ahmed Mansoor. We urge you to make this call publicly and to raise it in your engagement with UAE officials at the highest levels.

Ahmed Mansoor has faced repeated intimidation, harassment, and death threats from the UAE authorities and their supporters, and he was the victim of a sophisticated spyware attack by the Emirati government. When security forces raided his home just before midnight and arrested him on 20 March 2017, Mansoor was the last Emirati human rights defender still working openly in the UAE. Mansoor is also a member of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights Advisory Board and the Human Rights Watch Advisory Committee of the Middle East and North Africa Division.

According to the UAE’s state news agency,  authorities  arrested Ahmed Mansoor for “spreading false news” to “harm the reputation of the state” in March 2017. All the charges on which he was convicted were based solely on his human rights advocacy, including using email and WhatsApp to communicate with Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other human rights organizations. Following more than a year in isolation in pre-trial detention and a grossly unfair trial, an Emirati state security court sentenced him to 10 years in prison and fined him 1,000,000 Emirati Dirhams (around $272,000).

Over the past six years, UN human rights experts as well as independent rights groups have documented how the UAE government has held Ahmed Mansoor in solitary confinement without access to reading materials, television, or radio. Since December 2017, he has been denied eyeglasses most personal hygiene items and, at least until recently, a bed or mattress in his cell. These measures violate the prohibition against torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. UAE authorities deny that they have subjected Mansoor to such treatment, while refusing to allow independent observers to visit him.

Between November 30 and December 12, 2023, the UAE will host the 28th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28). To create conditions that allow the conference to be successful in its goal of achieving ambitious and urgent climate action, the UAE, as the host, should signal its intent to facilitate an open COP28 in a free civic space. A meaningful step in that direction would be the immediate and unconditional release of Ahmed Mansoor from prison, while concurrently taking concrete steps to ensure that observer organizations attending COP28 are able to participate effectively, safely, and meaningfully.

Since 2011, the UAE has closed virtually all civic space in the country, with laws that criminalize peaceful expression, association, and assembly. At least 62 Emirati nationals, three of whom are human rights defenders, are currently arbitrarily detained in prison following unfair trials on politically motivated charges. UAE authorities continue to incarcerate at least 58 of these Emirati prisoners, even though they have completed their sentences. Most of these prisoners are part of the grossly unfair “UAE94” mass trial of government critics, which violated their human rights. UAE authorities are using baseless counterterrorism justifications for continuing to hold them past their completed sentences.

The release of Ahmed Mansoor and other human rights defenders and peaceful critics, including those held past their release dates, is a key first step to signaling that civil society will have the space to exchange ideas freely and safely, to promote government accountability, and to represent marginalized populations during the upcoming climate conference. This step is crucial to addressing the climate crisis.

We realize that U.S. relations with the UAE are multifaceted, including strategic military and political ties. Unfortunately, U.S. government’s attention to the UAE’s terrible human rights record has long been woefully lacking. As the world’s attention is on the UAE ahead of COP28, the US government has an important opportunity to press the Emirati government to take concrete steps to adhere to its human rights obligations and to underscore the importance of thriving, independent civil society to climate action. Specifically, we urge you to press the Emirati government to immediately and unconditionally release Ahmed Mansoor and other jailed human rights defenders and to pledge to respect and protect the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association of all participants from all nationalities before, during, and after COP28. We also urge you to signal your deep concern about Ahmed Mansoor’s well-being and request permission for the U.S. embassy in Abu Dhabi to visit him in prison at the earliest opportunity.


  1. Access Now
  2. ALQST for Human Rights
  3. Amnesty International USA
  5. Democracy for the Arab World Now DAWN
  6. Emirates Detainees Advocacy Centre (EDAC)
  7. Freedom House
  8. Front Line Defenders
  9. Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
  10. Human Rights First
  11. Human Rights Watch
  12. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) - within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  13. Martin Ennals Foundation
  14. MENA Rights Group
  15. PEN America
  16. Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
  17. Stand up for the UAE detainees (SANID)
  18. The Freedom Initiative
  19. World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) - within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

CC:      Mr. John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate

            Ms. Erin M. Barclay, Acting Assistant Secretary Bureau of DRL

            Ambassador Barbara Leaf, Assistant Secretary Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs

Ethiopia: Civil society groups raise concerns over the termination of the Mandate of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia

We, the undersigned civil society, and human rights organizations are alarmed by your recent decisionto prematurely terminate the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry into the situation in the Tigray Region of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia (CoI).

The undersigned organizations concerned by grave human rights violations and abuses committed in the conflict in northern Ethiopia, welcomed the May 2021 initiative2 of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) to establish the Commission of Inquiry to, among others, determine the underlying causes of the conflict, investigate violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and identify perpetrators for purposes of pursuing justice and accountability. Several of the undersigned civil society and human rights organizations submitted briefings and information to the Commission of Inquiry on the nature and scale of human rights violations and abuses committed by the parties to the conflict. It was encouraging to witness an African organization take the lead in establishing an independent body to investigate these violations and abuses.

We are, therefore, shocked and perplexed by the decision to terminate the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry without publishing a report of its findings and recommendations. This decision contradicts the rationale behind the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry and the core values underpinning the work of the African Commission as set out in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the 2020 Rules of Procedure. It sets a detrimental precedent for future investigative mandates into human rights violations across the continent.

The reasons given by the African Commission in support of its decision are not convincing.

First, the African Commission’s decision is informed by the fact that the Ethiopian government is in the process of adopting “an inclusive and comprehensive national transitional Justice policy, centered on accountability, truth seeking, redress for victims, and reconciliation and healing, in line with the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, and the African Union’s (AU) 2019 Transitional Justice Policy (AUTJP)”.

It is disappointing that the African Commission, in its decision to terminate the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry, relied on a transitional justice policy proposal that is yet to be adopted. This reasoning also fails to recognize that continued investigations and evidence preservation efforts by independent bodies are central to any eventual justice and accountability for victims and survivors, and constituent of holistic transitional justice mechanisms.

Second, the African Commission’s decision is based on the fact the Ethiopian government has initiated a national process to “address the situation in the country and ensure accountability and redress for reported cases of human rights violations in the Tigray region” and that this process “offer[s] prospects for a national, inclusive and sustainable approach to addressing the situation in the country and taking adaptive measures”. The reasoning fails to recognize the crucial issues of independence and impartiality3 of the judiciary in Ethiopia, as the executive continues to interfere with judicial functions, including the frequent non-compliance of police to execute court orders.4 While we understand that legal reform has been initiated by the Ministry of Justice, Ethiopian criminal law does not currently recognize crimes against humanity, which have been widely reported in the conflict in northern Ethiopia, including the Tigray region. The role of independent investigative mechanisms in ensuring justice, accountability, and redress is indispensable due to the complexities of investigation, prosecution, and adjudication of the temporal scope, elements of these serious crimes, and the alleged perpetrators, including a foreign army.

Third, the African Commission’s decision is based on “positive developments” in the Tigray region, including restoration of peace and security, reconciliation, disarmament, demobilization, and rehabilitation. This fails to recognize ongoing gross human rights violations and abuses in the Tigray region, including a continued ethnic cleansing5 campaign in the western Tigray zone by Amhara security forces and interim authorities, as documented by Human Rights Watch. In a joint monitoring report published on 9 July 2023, civil society organizations also compiled various incidents where civilians were targeted after the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (COHA), in areas controlled by Eritrean troops. Human rights organizations have diligently documented violations, including war crimes6, ethnic cleansing7, sexual violence8, and crimes against humanity9 in northern Ethiopia for more than two years, and recent reports indicate that these violations persist. Since early August, a new conflict dynamic has emerged in the Amhara region, and international media outlets have reported civilian casualties.10 The commission's decision overlooked the complexity and broader context of the conflict in Ethiopia, which has an impact beyond the Tigray region, affecting the country as a whole.

We believe that the African Commission’s decision mistakenly buys into the rhetoric11 provided by the Ethiopian government- a party to the conflict and accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity - to eschew justice and accountability. We are apprehensive that in taking this unfortunate decision, the African Commission may have succumbed to undue political pressure from the Ethiopian government. The decision came barely four months after the Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia, in an address to the African Union Executive Council in February 2023, argued that the Commission of Inquiry “undermine[d] the AU-led Peace Process, the Peace Agreement, and its full implementation” and demanded that the African Commission “stop its consideration to undertake a unilateral investigation irrespective of ongoing national efforts12”. These remarks were a culmination of close to two years of unwarranted political attacks and a spirited smear campaign against the Commission of Inquiry by the Ethiopian government. In the same speech, the Deputy Prime Minister announced that the Ethiopian government was planning to present a resolution at the March 2023 session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission to terminate the mandate of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia.13

We acknowledge that the Ethiopian government declined to grant the Commission of Inquiry access into the country to conduct investigations. However, we note that in its combined 50th and 51st activity report, the African Commission reported that the Commission of Inquiry had “held oral hearings to receive the testimonies of witnesses and victims” and that it had also “received reports on the human rights situation in the Tigray region”. Through this activity report14, the African Commission informed the African Union Executive Council and the public at large that “[a] report on the findings and recommendations will be presented in this regard”. In its 52nd and 53rd activity report, presented to the African Union Executive Council in February 2023, the African Commission indicated that the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry had been renewed multiple times to allow it to “finalize its work and draft its investigation report for submission to the AU policy organs”.

Therefore, it remains unconscionable that the Commission of Inquiry failed to produce a report during its two- year-long existence and that instead of allowing it to finalize its work as promised in February 2023, the African Commission prematurely terminated its mandate. The termination of the mandate is also an abdication of the Commission’s duty towards victims and witnesses who appeared before the Commission of Inquiry to share their pains and sufferings hoping that they will one day see justice and accountability.

Considering the above concerns, we call upon the African Commission to promptly reconsider its decision to terminate the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry and ensure that its mandate concludes, at least, with a report of its findings and recommendations.


  1. Advocacy Hub Africa
  2. African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS)
  3. Alliance of Civil Society Organizations in Tigray (ACSOT)
  4. Amnesty International
  5. Atrocities Watch Africa
  6. Center for Advancement of Rights and Democracy (CARD)
  7. Center for Reproductive Rights
  8. Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
  9. Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW)
  10. Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR)
  12. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  13. Health Professionals Network for Tigray
  14. Human Rights Watch
  15. Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU)
  16. Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA)
  17. Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA)
  18. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  19. Irob Anina
  20. Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC)
  21. Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ Kenya)
  22. Legal Action Worldwide (LAW)
  23. OMNA Tigray
  24. Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU)
  25. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)
  27. South Sudan Law Society (SSLS)
  28. Swedish Foundation for Human Rights
  29. Tadamon Multicultural Council for Refugees, Egypt
  30. Tigray Human Rights Network.
  31. Women’s Association for Victims’ Empowerment (WAVE-Gambia)
  32. World Organization Against Torture (OMCT)
  33. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).

1 Africa Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Resolution on the termination of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on the Situation in the Tigray Region of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia - ACHPR/Res.556 (LXXV) 2023, 13 June 2023, resolutions/556-resolution-termination-mandate-commission-inquiry

2 African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Press Statement on the official launch of the Commission of Inquiry on the Tigray Region in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, 16 June 2021, tigray-region-federal

3 “Ethiopia: Freedom in the world 2022”, Freedom House,

4“Detained Ethiopian journalists still behind bars as police refuse to release them on bail despite court order – Lawyer”, Africa News Watch, 8 June 2022, order-lawyer/

5 Human Rights Watch, Ethiopia: Ethnic Cleansing Persists Under Tigray Truce, 1 June 2023, cleansing-persists-under-tigray-truce

6 Human Rights Watch, Ethiopia: Tigray Forces Summarily Execute Civilians, 9 December 2021, forces-summarily-execute-civilians

7 Human Rights Watch, Crimes against Humanity and Ethnic Cleansing in Ethiopia’s Western Tigray Zone, 6 April 2022,

8 Amnesty International, Ethiopia: Troops and militia rape, abduct women and girls in Tigray conflict – new report (10 August, 2021),

9 Amnesty International, Ethiopia: Summary killings, rape and looting by Tigrayan forces in Amhara (Index: AFR 25/5218/2022)

10 BBC Amharic: Multiple civilian casualties in Gondar city, 9 August 2023

11 Amnesty International, Ethiopia: Government’s effort to end mandate of UN human rights commission must be rejected. (Press release, 3 March 2023), rejected/

12 Human Rights Watch, Threats to Terminate the Mandate of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia, 28 February 2023,

13 Ashenafi Endale, “Ethiopia demands termination of mandate for UN rights experts” The Reporter, 17 December 2022, /

14 Previously cited, 1, 2

Extremely poor civic space records of BRICS countries undermine its legitimacy: CIVICUS


Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS has pointed out that the overwhelming majority of the newly admitted members of the BRICS alliance have troubling records of upholding civic freedoms and a history of quashing democratic dissent which does not augur well for multilateralism or people-centred decision making.  

CIVICUS believes civil society participation and civic space are essential for the creation of peaceful, just, inclusive and sustainable societies. Without civic space and participation there cannot be any meaningful transparency, accountability or participation in decision making.

“There were already serious concerns about BRICS being a values-free alliance given the appalling human rights records of China and Russia against whom there are credible accusations of committing crimes against humanity. The addition of six new members to BRICS, four of which have some of the worst records on the planet in respect of persecution of civil society, further weakens the legitimacy of the alliance,” said Lysa John, Secretary General of CIVICUS.

Benin and Burkina Faso: Reverse the suspension of media outlets

Gallo Media Freedom BurkinaFaso

CIVICUS, the global alliance of civil society organisations, condemns the decision by the governments of Benin and Burkina Faso to suspend media outlets over their coverage of the recent coup in Niger. On 8 August 2023, La Haute Autorité de l'Audiovisuel et de la Communication (HAAC), a commission responsible for the management and development of public information and communication in Benin, suspended Gulf Media Group , a private media house that owns  Golfe Fm, Golfe TV, and the weekly Gazette du Golfe.  Their digital channels have also been suspended from airing any information. The Media Group was suspended following their reports on the political situation in Niger after the coup that overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum.

Philippines: Human Rights Organisations Condemn Renewed Judicial Harassment Against Human Rights Defenders

Philippines Supreme Court petition

We, the undersigned organisations, are in solidarity with human rights defenders (HRDs) in the Philippines. We support their continuing pursuit for the universality, indivisibility, and interdependence of human rights. We strongly condemn the renewed judicial harassment faced by ten HRDs who were acquitted of perjury on 9 January 2023.

Joint Open Letter to G20: Call for an end to violations in Kashmir and release of human rights defenders

GettyImages 1256724461 India Prepares To Host G20 In Kashmir 21 May 2023 Yawar Nazir Getty Images

ATTN: Representative of G20 member countries, guest countries and invited international organizations

We, the undersigned organizations, would like to bring to your attention serious concerns regarding human rights violations occurring in Indian-administered Kashmir (IAK) including the unlawful detention and persecution of human rights defenders and journalists. As your leaders prepare to attend the G20 Summit in September 2023, we urge your government to raise these issues directly and forthrightly with the government of India in accordance with your obligations under international law and call on India to adhere to its international legal obligations.

UAE: Release all those unjustly imprisoned before COP28


Authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) should release all those unjustly imprisoned in the country before the start of COP28, which will be held at Expo City Dubai between 30 November and 12 December 2023. UAE authorities continue to detain dozens of people who completed their prison sentences some years ago, including 55 dissidents, lawyers and other people convicted in a mass trial known as the “UAE94” case. The UAE also continues to detain prominent human rights defenders, including Ahmed Mansoor and Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith, and to retaliate against people, including Amina Al-Abdouli and Maryam Al-Balushi, for speaking out about abuses in prison.

The authorities should also put an end to other human rights violations, including: monitoring government critics with sophisticated surveillance technology to stifle dissent; using repressive laws to imprison human rights defenders and dissidents; effectively denying the right to freedom of peaceful assembly through draconian legal restrictions and practices; and denying migrant workers, who suffer a range of violations linked to the abusive kafala system, the right to form unions.

Detaining people long after they have served their sentences

There are at least 58 people being held past the end of their sentences in the UAE. (See detailed list in the appendix below.)

The authorities appear to have used Article 40 of Federal Law No. 7 of 2014 on Combating Terrorism Offences, which includes a vague and overbroad definition of terrorism, to indefinitely detain people who have completed their sentences.

In its first paragraph, Article 40 states: "A terrorist danger exists in a person if he has adopted extremist or terrorist thinking, such that it is feared that he will commit a terrorist crime." The second paragraph states: "If a terrorist danger is present in a person, he shall be put in a counselling centre by a court judgment based on a request from the prosecution."

The process of detaining people beyond the completion of their sentences is not transparent and lacks minimum standards of fairness and due process. The Federal Court of Appeal in Abu Dhabi, at the request of the State Security Prosecution, issues referral orders to counseling centers without any fair trial guarantees. Such detention for "counselling" can apparently be extended indefinitely.

Authorities argue that many of the people held beyond their sentences pose a threat to state security and are in need of rehabilitation. Although the law speaks of "counselling centres," people whose detention is extended in this way often continue to be held in the same prison where they served their regular sentence. Prisoners scheduled for release are transferred from Al-Razeen Prison to the Munasaha (“Counselling”) Centre which is often just another building in the same prison that is isolated from the other wings.

The majority of the people being held beyond their completed sentences are part of the “UAE94”, a group of government critics who were arrested in 2012 and sentenced to between seven and ten years in prison after a grossly unfair mass trial in 2013. Among the “UAE94” group, 55 of them have completed their sentences, yet remain in prison. They include human rights lawyers Dr. Mohammed Al-Roken and Dr. Mohammed Al-Mansoori. In addition, Khalifa Rabia was arrested in July 2013 and sentenced to five years in prison on charges related to a tweet he wrote after the verdicts of the UAE94 case were issued, yet he remains in prison.

One of the main catalysts for the “UAE94” arrests and subsequent mass trial was a reform petition launched on 03 March 2011. The reform petition was signed by hundreds of men and women from across the Emirati intellectual, legal and political spectrum and had two main demands: democratic elections for the UAE’s Federal National Council and constitutional amendments to shore up the Federal National Council’s legislative and oversight powers. More than 30 petition signatories were charged as defendants in the UAE94 trial.

In addition to holding many beyond their sentences, UAE authorities have obstructed contact between some UAE94 prisoners and their families by only allowing calls or visits months apart, and have denied all calls between UAE94 prisoners and their immediate family members who are outside the UAE. This is a violation of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules).

No tolerance for human rights defenders and dissidents

The UAE has a Ministry for Tolerance but insists on charging, sentencing, detaining and mistreating human rights defenders and dissidents. The UAE should immediately release prominent human rights defenders, including Ahmed Mansoor, who has been held in prolonged solitary confinement since his arrest on 20 March 2017 for his human rights activities, and academic Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for tweeting about a previous imprisonment.


The undersigned organisations call on the international community, especially governments that have influence with the United Arab Emirates, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and the members of the European Union, in addition to all United Nations mechanisms including concerned special rapporteurs, to urgently call for and take steps to obtain the immediate and unconditional release of the prisoners listed in this appeal and to seek an end to grave human rights violations in the UAE. We also call on the international community to demand that independent monitors be granted permission to visit these prisoners in order to ensure their physical and mental health and safety.

We call on the UAE authorities to:

  1. Release all human rights defenders and dissidents who were arrested, detained, charged or sentenced for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, or other human rights including Ahmed Mansoor, Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith, Amina Al-Abdouli, Maryam Al-Balushi, and members of the “UAE94” case;
  2. Release all detainees who are being held past the end of their sentences, in flagrant violation of their human rights, and end the practice of arbitrarily detaining human rights defenders and dissidents in Munasaha (Counselling) Centres after they have served their full sentences.
  3. Repeal the text of Article 40 of Federal Law No. 7 of 2014 on Combating Terrorism Offences, which allows people to be detained indefinitely;
  4. Protect human rights in the country, including freedom of expression, assembly and association, and ensure nobody is arrested in violation of these rights; and
  5. End restrictions on civic space and uphold human rights, including freedom of expression and assembly, during the COP28 and beyond.


  1. Access Now
  2. ALQST for Human Rights
  3. Amnesty International
  4. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  6. Emirates Detainees Advocacy Centre (EDAC)
  8. Front Line Defenders
  9. Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
  10. Human Rights First
  11. Human Rights Sentinel
  12. Human Rights Watch
  13. IFEX
  14. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  15. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  16. MENA Rights Group
  17. Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
  18. Rights Realization Centre
  19. Salam for Democracy and Human Rights
  20. SMEX
  21. Stand up for UAE Detainees (SANID) Campaign
  22. Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State
  23. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Appendix: Prominent human rights defenders currently detained

Civic space in the United Arab Emirates is rated as "Closed" by the CIVICUS Monitor

Bahrain: Human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja begins hunger strike

The prominent Danish-Bahraini human rights defender and prisoner of conscience Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja, who has been arbitrarily detained in Bahrain since 2011 after leading peaceful protests calling for fundamental freedoms and rights in Bahrain, began a hunger strike on Wednesday 9 August. 

During a phone call with one of his daughters Mr. Al-Khawaja explained his hunger strike: 

The hunger strike is in protest against the continuation of my detention. But also specifically in protest of the denial of medical treatment. Keeping in mind a lot of the health issues are caused or were made worse because of the torture I was subjected to.

Today was the 11th appointment in 5 months that they [Bahraini authorities] have not taken me to. My last meal was yesterday at 6 PM, and this strike is water only. I will not be taking any kind of other fluids, including glucose or IV.” 

Denial of adequate medical treatment
Mr. Al-Khawaja has continued to be repeatedly denied access to adequate medical treatment. This includes access to a cardiologist despite being at risk of a heart attack or stroke at any time. As recently as Monday 7 August 2023, Mr. Al-Khawaja was not taken to a planned heart appointment, because the prison administration insisted that Al-Khawaja was to be transported handcuffed in an armoured vehicle – a violation to the Mandela Rules (Rule 73, 2-3).

Today, on Wednesday 9 August Al-Khawaja was denied an appointment with an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) for treatment to his worsening glaucoma. Al-Khawaja was confirmed with glaucoma in early 2023 – after several prior concerns were raised by Amnesty International. Al-Khawaja informed one of his daughters this week that his eye condition needs constant monitoring; including examination devices at a certified ophthalmologist in order to determine how to control the glaucoma. The deliberate medical negligence and ignorance of Al-Khawaja’s several health conditions is a violation to the Mandela Rules (Rule 27).

Statement by Maryam Al-Khawaja, daughter: “With this hunger strike my father is making a life attempt to be treated with humanity and decency by Bahrain. My father is a torture survivor, a prisoner of conscience and UN-declared arbitrarily detained. He should never have been imprisoned to begin with, but 12 years later we are still fighting to ensure he is given access to adequate medical treatment for conditions mostly caused by the Bahrain regimes own torture. My father is fighting for Baharin to live up to the absolute bare minimum rules laid out by the UN’s Mandela Rules and we urge the international community to ensure this. My father and all other prisoners of conscience in Bahrain must be released immediately and unconditionally.”


  • Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja is a prominent Danish-Bahraini human rights defender who was detained in 2011 in Bahrain after leading peaceful protests calling for fundamental freedoms and rights in Bahrain. Almost 12 years later, he remains at Jau Prison facing dire prison conditions and systematic denial of medical treatment.
  • In November 2011, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry documented that Al-Khawaja was subjected to torture and sexually assaulted by security forces in 2011.
  • In a joint communication made public on 4 May 2023, six UN experts – including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, and the Vice-Chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Mumba Malila – expressed their utmost concern at the continued arbitrary detention of human rights defender Mr. Al-Khawaja.
  • On April 3, 2023 the UN Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern about the deteriorating health of Mr. Al-Khawaja, calling on the Bahrain government “to provide urgent medical care & immediately release him”.
  • On May 16, 2023 several human rights organisations – including Amnesty International and DIGNITY – Danish Institute Against Torture – called on the Bahrain Governemnt to ensure Al-Khawaja adequate medical treatment
  • On August 9, 2023 AP News reported that several Bahrain prison inmates had started a hunger strike in latest sign of simmering unrest Bahrain

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

Afghanistan: Assault on civic space persists two years after Taliban takeover

AfghanWomanTalibanOn 15 August 2021, the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan and unleashed a systematic assault on civic space. 

Following the takeover, civil society organisations were targeted for their work. The Taliban raided their offices and froze their bank accounts forcing many CSO offices to close. The Taliban also repressed protests, especially by women’s rights activists, disrupting their demonstrations by firing shots into the air, detaining, interrogating and ill-treating them. In some cases, teargas and batons were used. 

Activists have been arbitrarily arrested and detained for their criticism of the Taliban. Others have faced harassment, intimidation, and violence and some have  been killed. Journalists face increased risks following the Taliban takeover with scores arrested, detained, tortured or ill-treated, or attacked for covering the situation on the ground. The Taliban also shut down key institutions including the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).

The international community took some steps in response to the situation in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the takeover by the Taliban.   It   appointed a Special Rapporteur to monitor the status of human rights in Afghanistan in October 2021 and in December 2021, the UN General Assembly, indefinitely postponed international recognition of the Taliban government. 

However, these efforts have failed to halt the repression of fundamental freedoms and two years on the violations have escalated leading to the downgrade of Afghanistan’s civic space ratings by the CIVICUS Monitor from ‘repressed’ to ‘closed’ in March 2023 

The following are some of the civil and political rights violations the CIVICUS Monitor has documented in Afghanistan over the last year:

Human rights defenders arrested and ill-treated

Over the last year activists especially women human rights defenders have faced arbitrary arrests and detention by the Taliban. Women’s human rights defender Zarifa Yaqobi and four of her colleagues were reportedly detained by Taliban intelligence agents on 3 November 2022 in western Kabul. Yaqobi had been involved in women’s protests and was apparently taking part in a press conference where a new women’s organisation was being launched at the time of her arrest. On 8 November 2022, young activist Farhat Popalzai was arrested by the Taliban. She is one of the founders of the ‘Spontaneous Movement of Afghan Women’.

In February 2023 women’s rights activist Parisa Mobarez, a founder of the Takhar Women’s Protest Movement and her brother were arrested at her home in Takhar province and badly beaten by the Taliban after she refused to provide her mobile phone password. On the same day, women’s rights activist Nargis Sadat, who had been involved in organising protest activities was arrested at a checkpoint in Kabul and detained for two months. 

On 8 March 2023, women’s rights activist Habiba Sharifi was detained alongside her father in Ghor province. She was arrested after she held a solo protest outside the provincial governor’s office on International Women’s Day. She was forced to sign a statement that they would not take part in any further anti-Taliban protests. In the same month, women’s rights activist Waheeda Mahrami was detained in the capital Kabul on 20 March and held for four days after having referred to the Taliban’s policies towards women as ‘gender apartheid’ on International Women’s Day. 

Education activist Matiullah Wesa was detained by the Taliban on 27 March 2023 outside a mosque in Kabul where he was attending evening prayers. He has been bringing education services to remote communities since 2009 via his PenPath NGO. 

Targeting of journalists and banning media outlets

The clamp down on journalists and media workers has persisted. The Taliban have raided media offices, confiscated equipment, and detained journalists. Some have been tortured and ill-treated. The Taliban has also imposed restrictions on the content that can be published or broadcast and many media outlets have been shut down. For the few independent news sources operating in the country, many journalists are self-censoring due to safety concerns.

Taliban officials on 3 October 2022 banned two media outlets - the Hasht-e Subh Daily and Zawia News outlets - for publishing ‘false propaganda’ against the Taliban. In November 2022 the Taliban blocked two international radio stations - Radio Azadi (run by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) and Voice of America’s (VoA) Dari and Pashto services - from broadcasting inside the country, accusing them of distributing ‘biased’ news and violating media principles.

A radio journalist was detained in northern Takhar province on 9 December 2022 by armed police and taken to the provincial headquarters of the General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI), where his interrogators said his radio station’s broadcasts had not been approved. They allegedly beat the journalist with an iron rod, administered electric shocks, and suffocated him with a plastic bag.

Afghan-French reporter Mortaza Behboudi was detained in January 2023, two days after entering Afghanistan while waiting for press accreditation. After being held in Kabul for 11 days he was transferred to another prison in Kabul and is said to be accused of spying. In February 2023 local journalist Mohmmadyar Majrooh was detained in the southern city of Kandahar and held for 5 days. He was detained after being summoned to meet officials from the General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI).

In June 2023, journalist Raza Shahir was detained and beaten for two days when he returned to Afghanistan to arrange visa paperwork, having previously moved to Iran for his safety. On 12 July 2023, officers with the Taliban General Directorate of Intelligence stopped journalist Irfanullah Baidar near the Eidgah Mosque in the eastern city of Jalalabad, covered his head with a sack and forced him into a vehicle, He was released on 24 July 2023. The Taliban did not issue any official statement regarding his arrest or subsequent release.

Crackdown on protests

The Taliban have continued to crackdown on protests over the last year especially by women’s rights activists around their right to education and employment with some arbitrarily arrested and ill-treated.

In September 2022, protests in eastern Paktia province, prompted by the Taliban’s re-closure of girls’ schools was dispersed by Taliban soldiers firing warning shots in the air. The Taliban also warned local journalists not to cover the protest. In the same month, Taliban security forces snatched and tore the banners before firing in the air to disperse a rally by women held a rally outside the Iranian embassy in the capital Kabul in solidary with protests taking place in neighbouring Iran.

In October 2022, around 100 women reportedly marched in the western city of Herat on 2 October 2022 for education rights The Taliban beat participants with sticks and fired in the air to disperse them; one woman claimed a Taliban soldier grabbed her hijab and her hair and pushed her to the ground. A group of female university students wanted to join the Herat rally but were prevented from doing so by Taliban soldiers, who locked them inside a university building and threatened them with a pistol. Several women participating in a rally in December 2022 in Kabul after the university ban on women was announced were beaten by Taliban soldiers. Female students in Herat were beaten with tree branches and also was pushed back with a water cannon as they attempted to hold a demonstration. 

A small group of young women were reportedly hit with whips by Taliban soldiers when they attempted to hold a peaceful protest outside Kabul university on 6 March 2023 on their right to education. Their protest was held to mark the beginning of yet another academic year while girls are still banned from secondary school and university. At another peaceful rally later that month, three women protesters were detained in Kabul on 26 March 2023 and interrogated overnight before being released the following day. The women were reportedly forced to sign documents vowing not to talk to the media or take part in any further protest activities. 

Around 50 women gathered in the Shar-e Naw district of the capital and held banners after the de facto authorities said that they would forcibly close beauty salons. Taliban security forces reportedly fired shots into the air, beat women with rods and used water cannon to disperse the gathering. Some protesters reported the Taliban had used electric stun guns against demonstrators. Others said their phones had been confiscated.

Women barred from university, working in NGOs and the UN

The Taliban continued to expand restrictions on all aspects of women’s lives banning girls and women from education above a sixth grade level, banning women from most employment and imposing severe restrictions on the ability of women and girls to travel. The end of 2022 saw a further deterioration in the already dire human rights situation when the Taliban banned women from attending university, sparking international condemnation.

In December 2022, the acting Minister of Economy issued a letter barring woman from working in international and national NGOs, citing the non-observance of Islamic dress rules and other laws and regulations of the Islamic Emirate as reasons for the decision. The ministry said that non-compliance will result in revoking the licences of NGOs. The ban has prompted several major aid organisations to suspend their operations, worsening the humanitarian crisis. Following this, the Taliban in April 2023 banned Afghan women from working for the UN in the country.

Critical academics detained

Academics critical of the Taliban have been arrested in order to silence them. University Professor Ismail Mashal was detained on 2 February 2023 by the Taliban while he was handing out free books in the capital Kabul. Mashal became well known in December 2022 for ripping up his academic qualifications on national television in protest at the Taliban’s ban on women attending universities. 

Another university lecturer, Zakaria Osuli was detained the day before in Kaul. Osuli, a lecturer and writer from Panjshir had reportedly recently published a book about Ahmad Shah Massoud, a late anti-Taliban military commander. He was held for more than two months and finally released on 10 April 2023.

University lecturer - Mohammad Ismail Rahmani – was detained on 18th February 2023, reportedly in connection with his writings and social media activism. Academic Rasul Abdi Parsi was detained in early March 2023. His arrest was reportedly linked to Facebook posts. 

Silencing of artists 

Artists in Afghanistan have come under increasing attack from the Taliban. In January 2023, the Taliban arrested Musa Shahin, a local singer of Panjshir province. They transferred him to an unknown location where he was allegedly tortured. Musa Shahin sings songs about Panjshir, a province which is one of the main bases of the resistance forces against the Taliban. Poet Haseeb Ahrari was reportedly detained from his home on 1 June 2023 shortly after he returned to Afghanistan from Iran. He had posted poetry discussing freedom and patriotism on social media and is originally from Panjshir province, which is a centre of anti-Taliban resistance.

The de facto authorities are also attempting to ban music. The Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice said in June that wedding halls in Kabul would no longer be allowed to play music. The ministry in July 2023 that it had destroyed a batch of instruments that had been ‘used to promote music and immorality’. 

Social media restrictions

The Ministry of Telecommunications announced on in September 2022 that they would ban TikTok but Afghans use VPNs to get around such restrictions. Social media content producers have also been targeted by the Taliban. Local reports suggest that at least 13 YouTubers and their colleagues were detained during November and December 2022. Most of these people were released relatively quickly, but they were threatened to stop their activities, and some had their filming equipment destroyed or stolen.

The international response

While the UN and states have documented violations and condemned the crackdown in civic space and other abuses by the Taliban there has been a lack of progress in establishing an effective accountability mechanism and ensuring the inclusion of women rights activists in dialogues on Afghanistan. 

On 6 September 2022, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan released his first report. The report highlighted the clampdown on press freedom, the detention and ill-treatment of journalists and media workers as well as physical attacks, threats, intimidation and harassment. It also documented how the Taliban have increasingly limited the freedom of peaceful assembly and the rapidly shrinking civic space and constant pressure human rights organisations, are subjected to.

The 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council discussed Afghanistan in September 2022, but failed to agree on an expanded monitoring mechanism despite calls from multiple local, regional and international human rights organisations. The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on 10 November 2022 accusing the Taliban of violating the human rights of Afghan women and girls, failing to establish a representative government, and plunging the country into "dire economic, humanitarian and social conditions." 

In another report published in February 2023,  the UN Special Rapporteur identified a pattern of ‘rapidly shrinking civic space’. In it, he expresses concerns that: “human rights defenders, who peacefully protest the increased restrictions on women and girls, are at heightened risk and have been increasingly beaten and arrested. The intention is clearly not only to punish them for protesting, but also to deter others from protesting.”

A Security Council resolution in March 2023 asked the UN to conduct and provide to the Security Council, by 17 November, “an integrated, independent assessment” with “forward-looking recommendations for an integrated and coherent approach among relevant political, humanitarian, and development actors” to the crisis in Afghanistan. The resolution called for the assessment to include consultations with relevant stakeholders, including Afghan women.

In April 2023, Afghan women protested against statements made by Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, that suggested the international community should officially recognise Taliban rule. Women activists also called out their exclusion from a two-day closed-door meeting in Qatar organised by the UN on Afghanistan.

Following an eight-day joint visit to Afghanistan in early May 2023, UN experts reported an extreme situation of institutionalised gender-based discrimination unparalleled anywhere in the world.

During an Enhanced Interactive Dialogue at the UN Human Rights Council on 19 June 2023, Afghan activists and civil society pointed to the continued lack of serious and sustained attention of the international community despite the grave situation in Afghanistan, and the urgent need for an accountability mechanism has not diminished.

Recommendations to the international community 

  • Publicly urge the Taliban to respect human rights, including fundamental freedoms in line with international human rights law and standards. 
  • Call on the Taliban to ensure all people in Afghanistan can exercise their rights to the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, and release immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders detained including Mathiullah Wesa
  • Call on the Taliban to revoke their ban on Afghan women working for the UN and NGOs
  • Take proactive steps to provide immediate practical support and protection to human rights defenders, journalists and civil society activists at risk. 
  • Provide Afghan human rights defenders in exile with financial, diplomatic and political support, including by issuing humanitarian visas and effective funding resettlement programmes. 
  • Ensure that UNAMA has a robust mandate to monitor and report on human rights and has the resources and capacity to extend its reach, and support local organisations to carry out their human rights work. 
  • Continue to support, strengthen and sufficiently fund the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan and urge the Taliban to co-operate fully with the mandate. 
  • Support efforts to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law, international humanitarian law and other serious human rights violations, including gendered dimensions of such violations and abuses, by all parties in Afghanistan, via the establishment of an independent investigative mechanism, such as a fact-finding mission or commission of inquiry, mandated by the UN Human Rights Council. 
  • Call on the UN Security Council to facilitate inclusive, intra-Afghan peace talks with the effective representation of human rights defenders, particularly women and representation from all ethnic groups, and include guarantees of safety and effective and equitable representation of views. 
  • Offer strong political and practical support to the International Criminal Court’s investigation on Afghanistan and provide adequate resources to allow the Office of the Prosecutor to investigate all crimes perpetrated by all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan. 
  • Ensure that political recognition and representation is not extended to Taliban-affiliated authorities.
    Civic space in Afghanistan is rated as CLOSED by the CIVICUS Monitor

Bangladesh: End Political Prosecution of Rights Leaders

Odhikar Logo

10 Years of Reprisals Against Odhikar Officials for Documenting Violations

The Bangladesh authorities should cease their continued criminalization and harassment of Bangladesh human rights group, Odhikar, 21 human rights groups said today. Authorities should drop politically-motivated charges against Odhikar’s leaders, Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan.

Laos: Ensure the Immediate Release of Chinese Human Rights Lawyer Lu Siwei

Lu Siwei

Lao authorities have reportedly arrested and detained well-known Chinese human rights lawyer Lu Siwei since 28 July 2023. We are gravely concerned that he is at serious risk of forced repatriation to China where he faces the high likelihood of torture and other ill-treatment.

Bangladesh: Opposition face arbitrary arrests and excessive use of force around protests

Bangladesh anti riot police in Dhaka 2019 REUTERS Mohammad Ponir Hossain resize2

CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) are extremely concerned about reports of arbitrary arrests and excessive force against opposition activists around mass sit-in protests in Bangladesh. Our organisations call on the authorities to release all those arrested for exercising their peaceful right to protest and to undertake a prompt and independent investigation into human rights violations and abuses committed by security forces and ruling party activists.

On 28 July 2023, thousands of opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) supporters rallied in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka demanding Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina step down and make way for a neutral caretaker administration to oversee a general election expected early next year.

The following day, police moved in to clear thousands of protesters fired rubber bullets and teargas to disperse stone-throwing crowds blockading main roads in the capital. According to news reports, clashes between police and protesters took place in at least four locations in the city.

There were also reports of police as well as ruling party supporters - carrying sticks and rods in the presence of police - violently attacking protesters. According to the BNP, 600 supporters were injured by police rubber bullets and attacks by the ruling party people. In one incident recorded on video, Gayeshwar Chandra Roy, a member of the BNP’s National Executive Committee, who was leading a peaceful sit-in protest in Dhaka was severely beaten and arrested by individuals wearing police vests. In another incident, a video showed alleged ruling party activists attacking opposition supporters in front of Notre Dame college. Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan told reporters that at least 700 people involved in the protests were arrested.

Media reports state that over 800 leaders and activists of the BNP were sent to jail in Dhaka two days prior to the protests. The police have charged at least 549 leaders of the BNP in 11 trumped-up cases registered on 30 July 2023 in addition to another 5000 others were charged on 19 July 2023.

“The arrests and violence against protesters in Bangladesh over the weekend once again highlight the lengths the government is willing to go to crush the opposition ahead of the 2024 elections. It also highlights the culture of impunity that exists with the country. Both the police and ruling party supporters must be held accountable for the serious violations against protesters,” said Josef Benedict, Asia Pacific Researcher for CIVICUS

The opposition have faced repeated attacks in 2023 while holding protests. In January 2023, several BNP supporters were injured in the central city of Faridpur when supporters of the governing Awami League attacked protesters while brandishing sticks and hurling Molotov cocktails. In April 2023, dozens of BNP activists were injured and many were arrested as police and ruling Awami League activists attacked the party's sit-in programmes in several places across the country .

In May 2023, police fired tear gas and arrested members of the BNP who took to Dhaka’s streets to protest as their leader, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, went on trial on new charges of alleged corruption. In June 2023, dozens of people were reported injured as the BNP staged protests in several cities against electricity cuts amid a nationwide heat wave.

The CIVICUS Monitor has documented over the last year how the government has also gone after human rights defenders, journalists and critics to silence dissent. Many have been charged under the draconian Digital Security Act (DSA) against critics. Journalists have faced reprisals including arrest, prosecution, torture and intimidation of their families for undertaking their work. Human rights group Odhikar continues to face judicial harassment.

“The escalating repression imposed by the Sheikh Hasina regime against the opposition and civil society removes any possibility that the upcoming elections will be free and fair.  The international community must step up its efforts to push back on this assault on democracy and human rights and support civil society. Failing to do this will further entrench a one-party state for many years to come” said Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman, Head of Bangladesh Country Desk at the Asian Human Rights Commission. 

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

Cambodia: Civil society condemns human rights violation during election

Supporters of the opposition Candlelight Party wave flags in May 21 2022. REUTERS Prak Chan Thul

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation condemn the pattern of intimidation and retaliation against media workers, civil society, and political opponents in the run-up to, during, and after  elections in Cambodia.

Guatemala: Respect the rule of law ahead of the second round of elections

GettyImages 1167430570 Guatemala Elections

Ahead of the second round of the presidential elections scheduled for 20 August 2023, the global civil society alliance CIVICUS calls on the Guatemalan authorities to respect the rule of law and democratic values to prevent a political crisis. Guatemala is currently at a precipice as some political parties have contested the outcome of the first round of elections held on 25 June 2023.

We welcome the official announcement by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal of the results of the first round amidst rising tensions. However, we are deeply concerned about the continued efforts by political parties and their allies in the judicial sector to alter these election results. We call on Guatemalan authorities to fully respect the integrity of the electoral process and the outcome of the first round of voting, which has been closely followed by national and international observers.

The elections were held in an atmosphere in which the rule of law was under attack, the independence of the judiciary was questioned, and journalists and human rights defenders were subjected to restrictions for their work.

To preserve the integrity of the electoral process, it is critical that the second round of the presidential elections on August 20 is held in strict compliance with the law. Constitutional order must be fully respected, and the authorities should create an environment where people participate without fear of reprisals.

CIVICUS calls on the Government of Guatemala to:

  1. Ensure that people exercise their civic and political rights in the context of the presidential elections. Immediately and unconditionally drop charges against all human rights defenders (HRDs), labour leaders, and journalists.
  1. Investigate and hold to account any government officials or non-state actors perpetrating intimidation and harassment against HRDs and journalists.
  2. Refrain from further persecuting justice officials for defending human rights and fighting corruption.


In July 2022, CIVICUS, Acción Ciudadana and Redlad submitted Guatemala’s UN Universal Periodic Review, which outlined the extreme violence against HRDs and journalists, who continue to face attacks, harassment, stigmatisation and killings. State and non-state actors have escalated attacks with impunity. The submission further reports cases of judicial harassment against justice officials and journalists and the gradual reduction of the space for a free and independent press.

As a result of these developments, civic space in Guatemala is currently rated as ‘repressed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in countries across the globe.

Vietnam: Stop the arbitrary arrest and detention of environmental human rights defenders

Hoang Thi Minh Hong

We, the undersigned organisations, express grave concern over the recent arbitrary arrest, detention, and silencing of several environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs) speaking out against harmful business operations supported by the government.

The arrest of environmentalist Hoang Thi Minh Hong, her husband and two staff members on 31 May 2023 on trumped-up charges of tax evasion is just another case in the increased targeting of EHRDs in Vietnam.

Hong–a vocal advocate against environmentally harmful business practices–founded the Center of Hands-on Actions and Networking for Growth and Environment (CHANGE) to work on issues of climate change and environmental conservation. In 1997, she became the first Vietnamese woman to set foot in Antarctica. And in 2019, she was named by Forbes magazine as one of the 50 most influential Vietnamese women. In 2022, however, anticipating the possibility of being prosecuted for her work as a result of increased arrests of her fellow EHRDs, Hong was forced to shut down CHANGE.

Her detention echoes that of Dang Dinh Bach, who was arrested on 24 June 2021 and sentenced to five years in prison on spurious charges of tax evasion. Bach was well-known for amplifying the voices of marginalised communities suffering the consequences of Vietnam’s coal power plants. Prior to his arrest, he requested to engage with the government to monitor the implementation of the European Union-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement. This Agreement includes commitments around promoting human and labour rights and the environment, which the government has been accused of repeatedly ignoring. Since Bach’s arrest, the global community has emerged in solidarity with him, supporting him when he declared that he will go on a hunger strike to his death in defence of his innocence on 24 June 2023.

This brings the total to five cases against prominent EHRDs in the past two years, the others being Nguy Thi KhanhMai Phan Loi, and Bach Hung Duong.

This increase in the number of alleged tax evasion cases against EHRDs under Article 200 of Vietnam’s Criminal Code 2015 takes place in the context of possible investment of USD 15.5 billion into Vietnam’s economy to transition to renewable energy as part of the Just Energy Transition Partnerships, which aims to support developing countries to move towards clean energy.

The recent attacks against EHRDs in Vietnam reaffirms the closure of civic space in the country. Judicial harassment has continued to be deployed against activists, independent journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers, and bloggers. They are arbitrarily arrested on various issues using made-up charges under the draconian 2015 Criminal Code, including Article 331 (abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state), Article 117 (prohibition of distribution of materials deemed as anti-state), and article 318 (criminalisation of those causing public disorder). The continuous closure of civic and democratic space in Vietnam is contrary to the country’s international legal obligations and commitments undertaken as a member of UN Human Right Council 2023-2025.

As we mark the 25th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, we urge the Government of Vietnam to immediately release and drop all charges against the detained EHRDs and stop the arbitrary arrest of human rights defenders exercising their fundamental freedoms.

Furthermore, we call on the government to meaningfully engage with civil society to ensure that the transition towards clean energy is participative and inclusive.

Lastly, we remind the government, as a current member of the UN Human Rights Council, of both its political commitments and  legal obligations to ensure human rights and fundamental freedoms under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These include, among others, article 9 and 19 which guarantees freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention and freedom of expression for all people under their jurisdiction.


  1. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  2. Community Resource Centre (CRC)
  3. Defend the Defenders
  4. EarthRights International
  5. Front Line Defenders
  6. Asia Pacific Network of Environment Defenders (APNED)
  7. Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines Inc. (CEC)
  8. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  9. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
  10. People in Need

Guatemala: Respect fundamental rights ahead of Presidential elections

Guatemala elections Gallo

CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society, is gravely concerned of increasing attacks and restrictions on democratic and civic freedoms in the wake of Guatemala’s 25th June presidential elections.  We call on the authorities to guarantee freedom and safety for people to participate in the political process without intimidation before, during, and after the elections.

We are appalled by the growing restrictions being imposed on civil society organisations and human rights defenders (HRDs) including indigenous leaders, justice operators and journalists in Guatemala. The authorities continue to undermine the rule of law and several HRDs have been investigated, detained, convicted, or forced into exile.

An example of this is the growing attacks on a leading human rights organisation protecting human rights defenders in Guatemala, Unidad de Protección de Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala (UDEFEGUA) and its director Jorge Santos. They have been targeted with defamation campaigns, including through the spread of false allegations to discredit the organisation.

The authorities are also imposing restrictions on representatives of political groups preventing them from participating in the elections. Carlos Pineda, a businessman and presidential candidate was disqualified when the Constitutional Court ruled that he did not comply with legal requirements. Three others including Roberto Arzu García-Granados,  indigenous Mayan leader Thelma Cabrera and Jordán Rodas Andrade have been prevented from running.

Civil society groups are also concerned about restrictions that may be imposed after the elections irrespective of the outcome. On 31 May 2023, 22 of 24 political parties contesting signed a declaration called "Life and Family", committing themselves to prevent the advancement of sexual and reproductive and LGBTIQ+ rights policies following the elections.

CIVICUS calls on the Government of Guatemala to lift all restrictions against HRDs, members of the political opposition and civil society organisations and create an environment free from intimidation and harassment before, during and after the elections. 


In July 2022, CIVICUS, Acción Ciudadana and Redlad submitted Guatemala’s UN Universal Periodic Review which outlined the extreme violence against HRDs and journalists, who continue to face attacks, harassment, stigmatisation and killings. State and non-state actors have escalated attacks with impunity. The submission further reports cases of judicial harassment against justice officials and journalists and the gradual reduction of the space for a free and independent press.

As a result of these developments, civic space in Guatemala is currently rated as ‘repressed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in countries across the globe.

Bahrain: Chronology of the persecution of human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja

Bahraini human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja is a prominent member of Bahraini civil society and well known human rights activist in the gulf. Since 1980, Abdulhadi and his family have faced systematic harassment and intimidation from the government of Bahraini for his human rights work. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja is currently serving a life in prison sentence. He was sentenced on this day, 12 years ago. 

Sri Lanka: Release youth activist Nathasha Edirisooriya and drop charges

Nathasha Edirisooriya pic 3

CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance, urges the government of Sri Lanka to immediately release youth activist and stand-up comedian Nathasha Edirisooriya and drop the charges against her unconditionally. Her arrest and detention go against the country’s international human rights obligations to protect fundamental freedoms.

Nathasha Edirisooriya was arrested on 27 May 2023, accused of insulting Buddhism and hate speech for two jokes made during a comedy performance published on YouTube three days earlier. An edited clip of the performance was circulated, resulting in severe social media backlash. She retracted the video the same day and publicly apologised.

On the night of 27 May 2023, Nathasha was prevented from travelling and subsequently arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) at the Bandaranaike International Airport. The police initially refused access to lawyers or her partner.

Despite her apology, online harassment and threats against her escalated, and the location of her residence was shared online. She faced trolling, serious threats of violence, and rape.

On 28 May, she was charged under Section 3 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act No. 56 of 2007, Section 291A (deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person) and 291B (deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of persons) of the Penal Code of Sri Lanka and the Computer Crimes Act. She was denied bail on the basis that her release would result in ‘public disturbance’ and was remanded until 7 June 2023. Her bail was then extended until 21 June.

“The arrest of Nathasha Edirisooriya highlights the increasing intolerance in Sri Lanka towards freedom of expression, including satire. Her detention is a clear attack on artistic expression and a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The charges against her must be dropped immediately,” said David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Lead at CIVICUS.

Nathasha Edirisooriya is one of the few practicing women stand-up comedians in Sri Lanka. She has actively created and defined a space for herself as a feminist who addresses issues of gender, sex, chauvinism and misogyny, moral and religious hypocrisy, education, family life and mental health through her stand-up comedy.

She has also been part of the CIVICUS Youth Action Lab for grassroots Global South youth activists building resilient and sustainable movements for a more equitable world. In 2021 she conducted a piece of research titled ‘Decoding Sexual Harassment’ to understand the instigation of sexual harassment in Sri Lanka.

CIVICUS is also concerned about the use of ICCPR Act against Nathasha Edirisooriya, which among other provisions, criminalises the advocacy of “national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”. No credible evidence has been presented to substantiate the charges. Further, the CIVICUS Monitor has documented how the law has been misused over the years to criminalise activists, stifle freedom of expression and detain and silence poets, writers and others.

“This is another example of the authorities' blatant misuse of the ICCPR Act. It has been systematically misused to silence free speech and to keep individuals behind bars for long periods. The law must be amended so that it is not used to deter or discourage individuals from freely expressing their opinions,” added Kode.

The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief has pointed out that the present Act is not fully compatible with Article 19 of the ICCPR. Instead of being used to protect minorities against incitement, it has been invoked to protect religions or beliefs against criticism or perceived insult. The UN Human Rights Committee also raised concerns on the misuse of the law and stated in March 2023 that the authorities have failed to grant bail in a timely manner to individuals charged under the Act.

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

India: UN body demands immediate release of Khurram Parvez

Khurram Parvez

Indian authorities should immediately release Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez, a group of United Nations (UN) human rights experts has said. Mr. Parvez has been detained since his arrest on 22 November 2021 under India’s draconian anti-terrorism legislation and is currently detained in Rohini Jail, Delhi.

In an opinion adopted on 28 March 2023 and released on 5 June 2023, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) said Mr. Parvez’s detention was “arbitrary”. It called on the Indian authorities to immediately release him and to provide him with an “enforceable right to compensation and other reparations.”

“The UN ruling on Khurram Parvez’s case authoritatively confirms that his detention is an act of reprisal for his human rights work, and an attempt to silence him and Kashmiri civil society as a whole. The Indian authorities must implement the UN’s recommendations and immediately release Khurram,” said Alice Mogwe, International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) President.

The WGAD is mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate alleged cases of arbitrary detention. The WGAD considers individual complaints and adopts opinions on whether the detention of a particular individual is considered to be arbitrary.

This WGAD opinion was issued in response to a complaint filed jointly by FIDH, CIVICUS, FORUM-ASIA and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) to the UN body on behalf of Mr. Parvez on 22 November 2022.

“The arbitrary and unjust detention of Khurram Parvez is not an isolated incident but the result of India’s relentless attacks on those who expose the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government’s discriminatory and abusive policies. India must reverse its politics of silencing dissent and guarantee the right to defend human rights in the country”, said Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.

The WGAD expressed serious concern about “the chilling effects” of Mr. Parvez’s arrest and prolonged detention on civil society, human rights defenders and journalists in India.

The WGAD found that Parvez’s deprivation of liberty is in contravention of Articles 2, 7, 9, 11, 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and 2, 9, 14,15, 19, 22, and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights .

The WGAD determined that the authorities failed to establish a legal basis for Mr. Parvez’s detention (Category I); that his detention stemmed from his “legitimate exercise of freedom of opinion, expression and association” (Category II); that the “violations of Mr. Parvez’s right to a fair trial are of such gravity as to give his detention an arbitrary character” (Category III); and that he was deprived of his liberty on “discriminatory grounds, owing to his status as a human rights defender and on the basis of his political or other opinion” (Category V).

FIDH, CIVICUS, FORUM-ASIA and OMCT welcome the WGAD’s opinion and reiterate their calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Khurram Parvez and all other human rights defenders currently in prison in India, and for all charges to be dropped.


Khurram Parvez is the Program Coordinator of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), the Chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), and FIDH Deputy Secretary-General. In February 2023, he was awarded the prestigious Martin Ennals Award, an annual prize which recognizes human rights defenders.

Mr. 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. In addition to the charges against Mr. Parvez under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), another case was filed by the NIA against him and journalist Irfan Mehraj in October 2020, specifically targeting JKCCS and anyone associated with the organization.

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

Thailand/Laos: investigate the killing of Lao refugee and put an end to transnational repression of human rights defenders

Screenshot 2023 05 26 175055

In response to news on 17 May 2023 of the fatal shooting of Bounsuan Kitiyano, a 56-year-old Lao human rights defender and a refugee recognized the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in a border town in northeastern Thailand, we, the ten undersigned organizations, urge the government of Thailand to independently, effectively and promptly investigate this incident and ensure effective remedy to the victim’s family and loved ones.  We also call on the Lao and Thai governments, together with diplomatic communities in Laos and Thailand and UN bodies, to address human rights violations faced by Lao human rights defenders who have sought asylum in Thailand.


On 17 May 2023, Thai authorities found Bounsuan’s body in Pho Sai District of Ubon Ratchathani Province in northeastern Thailand bordering Laos. Bounsuan, a member of Thailand-based “Free Lao,” a network of Lao migrant workers and human rights defenders, participated in activities including peaceful protests at the Lao Embassy in Bangkok and human rights workshops on topics including human and rights, environmental rights, anti-corruption and democracy. According to media reports, he had been shot three times while he was riding a motorcycle.[1] While the undersigned organizations do not have information on who is responsible for this killing, we have verified that the human rights defender had fled persecution from Laos and been living in Thailand for many years. According to media reports, Bounsuan was in the process of applying for a resettlement in Australia.[2]

Other individuals associated with the Free Lao network have faced arbitrary detention and alleged enforced disappearance either in Laos or Thailand.


The undersigned organizations note a recurring targeting of human rights defenders affiliated with Free Lao. The fatal shooting of Bounsuan took place only one month after the arrest and detention of Savang Phaleuth, another Free Lao member living in Bangkok. Reportedly, on 20 April 2023, Savang visited his home at Done Sart Village in Song Khon District of Savannaket Province, Laos, where he was arrested by police authorities from an unidentified unit.[3] Currently, he remains detained incommunicado. According to information obtained by the signatories, the police has not informed his relatives of the charges against him, nor allowed any family visits.

On 26 August 2019, prominent human rights defender Od Sayavong “disappeared” from his home in Bangkok after he and his fellow Free Lao members, including Phetphouthon Philachane, met with the then-UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.[4] Od also played an active role in leading a demonstration in Bangkok on 16 July 2019 to call for the release of other Free Lao members imprisoned in Laos and the protection of environmental and land rights in the country.[5] In that case, Thai authorities failed to conduct a prompt, impartial and effective investigation into this alleged disappearance, despite consistent calls from the UN and civil society organizations.[6]

Three months later, Phetphouthon, another member of Free Lao who was also a housemate of Sayavong, also went missing after he left Bangkok to visit his family in Vientiane.[7] His fate and whereabouts remain unknown to date.

Earlier, on 5 March 2016, three human rights defenders from the same group – Somphone Phimmasone, Soukane Chaithad, and Lodkham Thammavong – were arrested and detained by Lao authorities incommunicado due to their online criticisms of the Lao government and participation in a peaceful protest in front of the Lao Embassy in Bangkok. On 22 March 2017, the Vientiane People’s Court found them guilty of violating article 56 (treason to the nation), article 65 (propaganda against the state), and article 72 (gatherings aimed at causing social disorder) of Laos’s Penal Code. They were sentenced to 20, 16, and 12 years in prison, respectively.

These repeated allegations of arrest, detention, conviction and, in some instances, disappearance of members of Free Lao, suggests that what appear to be targeted attacks are not only taking place in Lao territories. Rather, they seem to be part of an ongoing pattern of transnational repression against activists and human rights defenders fleeing persecution from Laos to Thailand in order to silence the exercise of human rights, including the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression involving peaceful dissent.

In this context, on 11 December 2020, eight independent experts of the UN Human Rights Council submitted a letter to the Lao and Thai governments raising concerns regarding a “pattern of disappearances” with “countries in the region coordinating, assisting, or acquiescing to extraterritorially abduct political activists leading to disappearances.”[8] The letter also indicated that the Foreign Ministries of Laos and Thailand in 2018 released a joint statement on strengthening their collaboration to “stand firm on the policy to not allow any person or group of people plan for disorder or anti-government activities in another country on their land.” 

According to testimonies collected by the undersigned organizations, pervasive impunity for the cases listed above have led to a widespread chilling effect among Lao human rights defenders. Under this repressive climate, these human rights defenders who fled their country continue to live in fear of being targeted for exercising their human rights.


Thailand and Laos are both State parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) pursuant to which they must respect and ensure the rights to life, to liberty and security of person, to freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly and right to public participation among other rights. Enforced disappearance constitutes a violation of multiple provisions of the ICCPR. They have a duty to promptly, effectively and thoroughly investigate with independence, impartiality and transparency, and to prosecute potentially unlawful deprivations of life, including enforced disappearances, in accordance with relevant international standards, including the Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death.[9]   States must also provide access to an effective remedy and reparation to redress any violations of human rights under their jurisdiction.

The protection of the aforementioned rights also covers human rights defenders who face heightened risks of targeted violence due to their legitimate human rights work.

During the third cycle of Thailand’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2021, the government of Thailand “supported” at least six recommendations on the protection of human rights defenders, including to “[e]nsure the protection of human rights defenders, including through prompt and thorough investigation of attacks”; “[t]ake further steps to ensure a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders, stop all forms of harassment, violence and intimidation against them and ensure prompt, transparent and independent investigation of all reported cases”, and “[c]reate a safe and enabling environment to exercise the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression and prevent attacks and intimidation against human rights defenders.”[10]

The government of Laos also received similar recommendations during its UPR in 2020, including to “[e]nhance freedom of expression, lifting restrictions for independent media and providing a safe environment for the work of journalists and human rights defenders”; “[e]nsure the full enjoyment of the freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and progress to fully investigate all allegations of arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and criminal convictions for expressions of political opposition or criticism of State policies”; and “[u]ndertake domestic independent investigations into the disappearances and deaths of democracy and human rights activists.” Regrettably, the Lao government refused to accept most of these recommendations from the Review.[11]

The increasing number of transnational repression cases, including the recent killing of Bounsuan, indicates that both governments have not effectively implemented their human rights obligations of ensuring that human rights defenders can safely exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms in both countries.


In response to the situation set out above, the undersigned organizations urgently request that:

To the governments of laos and thailand

- Immediately undertake a prompt, thorough, effective, impartial and independent investigation into the killing of Bounsuan, as well as other possible human rights violations and abuses as set out in this statement, in line with international human rights law and standards, including the Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death;

- Ensure that the investigations lead to accountability for these crimes, by identifying, prosecuting and sanctioning any responsible person or persons;

- Provide access to an effective remedy and reparation for the family and loved ones of these crimes;

- Publicly commit to preventing further persecution, intimidation and harassment, providing a safe, respectful and enabling environment for all human rights defenders and ceasing from criminalizing freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association;

- Urgently terminate the aforementioned official agreement between both governments and any other measures enabling transnational repression of legitimate human rights activism;

- Demand prompt and effective accountability and an end to the human rights violations that have long been shrouded in the culture of impunity in both countries;
- For governments involved in inter-governmental dialogues with Lao and Thai authorities, raise the issue of alleged transnational repression against human rights defenders in both countries and ensure to make the results of such dialogues public;

- Ensure protection of refugees and asylum seekers living in fear of transnational repression and immediately facilitate the processing of their applications for resettlement in a third country.

1. Amnesty International
2. Human Rights Watch
3. International Commission of Jurists
4. International Federation for Human Rights
5. Manushya Foundation
6. Focus on the Global South
7. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
8. Front Line Defenders
9. Asia- Europe Peoples Forum (AEPF) International Organising Committee
10. Fresh Eyes

[1] Thai Rath,สลดหนุ่มใหญ่ นักเคลื่อนไหวชาวลาว ถูกยิงตายที่อุบลฯ คาดตามฆ่าล้างแค้น, 19 May 2023,

[2] Khaosod English, Thai Police: A Lao activist’s relatives may murder him, 21 May 2023, 

[3] Radio Free Asia, “Thailand-based rights activist arrested in Laos after returning to home village” 9 May 2023,

[4] UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Thailand/Lao PDR: UN experts concerned by disappearance of Lao human rights defender” 1 October 2019, 

[5] UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Letter to the Governments of Load and Thailand (UA LAO 2/2019), 25 September, 2019,

[7] Radio Free Asia, “Lao Migrant Goes Missing, Friends Suspect Government Abduction” 9 December 2019,

[8] UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Letter to the Governments of Load and Thailand (AL LAO 4/2020), 11 December 2020,

[9] UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death, 2017,

[10] UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Thailand, Recommendations received from Norway, Czechia, and Italy respectively, A/HRC/49/17/Add.1, Para 19 and 51.

[11] UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Thailand, Recommendations received from Italy, Czechia, and the United States of America, A/HRC/44/6/Add.1, Para.6.

Human rights croups call for the urgent release of Vietnamese climate leader, Dang Dinh Bach

CIVICUS joins calls for the release of Vietnamese climate leader, Dang Dinh Bach and stand in solidarity with civil society in the frontlines of Vietnam’s just energy transition


We, the undersigned climate justice and human rights advocates worldwide, call for the immediate release of prominent environmental lawyer, Dang Dinh Bach, who is serving a five year prison sentence in Vietnam on trumped-up tax evasion charges after advocating for the country’s movement away from coal.

Bach has declared that on June 24, 2023 - the two-year anniversary of his arrest - he will go on a hunger strike to the death in defense of his innocence. In his own spirit of nonviolent and peaceful protest, we are launching in solidarity with him a relay hunger strike" joining him in solidarity in a relay hunger strike from May 24 through June 24, to raise awareness about this extreme injustice and call for his release. We are running out of time to address the climate crisis. Action is urgent, and across the world, steps are being taken to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and mitigate the impacts of climate change for future generations.

The Vietnamese government itself has committed to net zero emissions by 2050 and accepted a $15.5 billion deal to support a just transition to clean energy. But this cannot succeed with climate leaders like Bach in jail. Bach is one of four members of the Vietnam Sustainable Energy Alliance who were imprisoned in Vietnam, despite playing an instrumental role in the country’s ambitious climate commitments, indicating an ongoing and highly concerning trend.

Bach has dedicated his life to improving the health and well-being of marginalized communities throughout Vietnam and worked tirelessly to limit pollutants such as plastic, asbestos, and coal. “I have witnessed so many painful stories of poverty and terrible diseases that weigh on abused communities in Vietnam,” said Bach in a recent statement from prison. “They are deprived of their land and livelihoods and do not have opportunities to speak out for justice and the right to be human in the face of environmental pollution, especially in places with coal-fired power plants across the country.

In order to conceal the truth and threaten the voices of people, the Vietnamese authorities have arrested, convicted and unjustly detained environmental and human rights activists in defiance of national and international law.” This is why we, the global community, stand in solidarity with Bach through peaceful protest and call for his release, as well as an end to retaliation against government and civil society actors in Vietnam and around the world pushing for human rights and environmental justice.

Read the full letter here

Bangladesh: Stop targeting Odhikar and its leadership

Respect the Fundamental Rights to Freedom of Association and Expression

Bangladeshi authorities must end reprisals against Odhikar and its leadership and respect the fundamental rights to freedom of association and expression. Those working to document and expose human rights violations should be able to conduct their important work without fear of harassment, intimidation, and reprisals.

Cambodia: Disqualification of opposition party reveals government’s zero commitment to free and fair elections

candlelight party Cambodia

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation strongly condemn Cambodia’s National Election Committee (NEC)’s decision to bar the Candlelight Party (CP) - the country’s main opposition party–from contesting in the upcoming general election in July 2023. 

India: End reprisals against the Jammu & Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) & human rights defenders in Kashmir

Sixteen human rights organisations today called on the Indian authorities to immediately stop the reprisals against human rights defenders and organisations in Jammu and Kashmir, especially Khurram Parvez, Irfan Mehraj, and the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS). Khurram Parvez[1] has been arbitrarily detained since 22 November 2021 as a reprisal for his human rights work, including documentation and advocacy in Jammu and Kashmir. We are alarmed by new criminal cases filed against Khurram Parvez and Irfan Mehraj, a journalist and human rights defender, in March 2023, and the ongoing reprisals against JKCCS.

JKCCS is the leading human rights organisation in Jammu and Kashmir. Since the organisation was founded in 2000, it has conducted ground-breaking human rights investigations, published dozens of rigorously researched human rights reports, litigated human rights cases, and through non-violent mobilisation and advocacy given voice to otherwise unheard victims of human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir. The organisation’s research is widely considered to be authoritative by scholars, international civil society and the United Nations’ human rights experts, who have cited JKCCS’ work in their own reports on the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir. Our organisations have also cited and referenced JKCCS’ work, which is invaluable in understanding the human rights situation of Jammu and Kashmir and is of exceptional quality.

Khurram Parvez is the Program Coordinator of JKCCS and the Chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD). In February 2023, Khurram Parvez was the recipient of the prestigious Martin Ennals Award. Irfan Mehraj previously worked as a researcher for JKCCS. In October 2020, the JKCCS office and Khurram Parvez’s home were raided by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA), and devices and documents including his passport were seized. Indian authorities through targeted reprisals and criminalizing human rights work have made it impossible for JKCCS to continue its vital work. The charges brought by the NIA against Khurram Parvez include serious terrorism-related charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA),[2] a counter-terror law that violates international norms and is systematically used by Indian authorities to incapacitate and persecute human rights defenders and other dissenters.[3] The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, together with the Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism and many others, have previously raised grave concerns about the 2019 amendment to the UAPA because of the threat it poses to human rights defenders and the right to freedom of expression.[4]

In addition to the charges against Khurram under the UAPA, another case has been filed by the NIA in October 2020 which specifically targets JKCCS and anyone associated with the organisation. On 20 March 2023, the NIA arrested Irfan Mehraj for serious terrorism-related charges. Khurram Parvez, already imprisoned in the 2021 case, was also arrested in the JKCCS case. The NIA has publicly stated that one of the grounds for Irfan Mehraj’s arrest was his close association with Khurram Parvez and JKCCS who were ‘funding terror activities in the valley and propagating secessionist agenda in the Valley under the garb of protection of human rights.’[5] Both human rights defenders remain detained in the maximum-security Rohini Jail in New Delhi. Khurram Parvez has been denied both release and bail despite widespread calls for his release.

Rather than upholding international legal obligations and protecting human rights, Indian authorities have explicitly criminalised JKCCS’ critical human rights work describing it as an organisation that publishes ‘anti-national and incriminating material to bring hatred, contempt and disaffection towards the Government of India’.[6] The Indian authorities have also carried out multiple raids at the residence and office of Khurram Parvez. His and Irfan Mehraj’s arrest highlights the determination of Indian authorities to criminalise and delegitimise human rights defenders and incapacitate and punish those like Khurram Parvez and Irfan Mehraj who, in extremely difficult circumstances and at great personal cost, defend human rights. On 24 March 2023, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, expressed her concern over the targeting of JKCCS and stated that the organisation ‘carries out essential work monitoring human rights. Their research and analysis of human rights violations are of huge value, including to international organisations seeking to ensure accountability and non-repetition of abuses.’[7]

There is a credible risk of increasing threats against JKCCS. In early March 2023, a week before Irfan Mehraj was arrested, the NIA interrogated Khurram Parvez for two consecutive days inside Rohini Jail, and threatened him and his colleagues with arrest in a new case. In their submissions to the Patiala House Court on 22 March when Khurram Parvez and Irfan Mehraj were remanded, the NIA indicated that more persons are likely to be arrested in the same case.[8]

We call on the Indian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Khurram Parvez and Irfan Mehraj, drop all charges against them and to end the ongoing persecution and targeting of human rights defenders in Jammu and Kashmir. Reprisals against human rights defenders in Jammu and Kashmir including human rights organisations and independent journalists are aimed at maintaining a forcible silence and facilitating continued impunity for violations in an intensely militarised region that the Indian government has made inaccessible to the international community and where grave human rights violations are longstanding and ongoing. The continued arbitrary detention of Khurram Parvez and Irfan Mehraj, and the abuse of counter-terror and related laws to target human rights defenders is a violation of India’s international obligations and reinforces concerns about the deteriorating human rights situation in India. India should protect human rights, not persecute human rights defenders. Indian authorities must immediately comply with their international legal obligations, allow civil society to freely operate in Jammu and Kashmir and India, and cease their longstanding obstruction of international civil society and inter-governmental organisations including the United Nations Special Rapporteurs and other human rights mechanisms which should have unfettered access to Jammu and Kashmir and Kashmiri detainees.


  • Amnesty International
  • Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN)
  • Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)
  • Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  • Collectif des familles de disparus en Algerie (CFDA)
  • Fédération Euro-méditerranéenne contre les disparitions forces (FEMED)
  • Front Line Defenders (FLD)
  • Latin American Federation of Associations for Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared (FEDEFAM)
  • FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  • International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED)
  • International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  • Kashmir Law and Justice Project
  • Martin Ennals Foundation
  • Nonviolence International
  • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) - within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

[1]     Parvez was recently recognized with the 2023 Martin Ennals award for human rights defenders in recognition of his decades-long efforts to document and seek accountability for human rights abuses despite grave personal risk.

[2]     See FIDH & OMCT, Prominent rights defender Khurram Parvez is still in prison (Urgent Appeal), 17 May 2022,

[3]     See FIDH, FLD & OMCT, Joint submission for the Universal Periodic Review, 31 March 2022,

[4]     See Mandates of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism et al, OL IND 7/2020, 6 May 2020,

[5]     See, Twitter, NIA India, NIA makes first arrest in NGO Terror Funding Case, 21 March 2023,

[6]     See, NIA, Money transfer to J&K by NGOs through Hawala Channel for terrorist activities in Kashmir valley, Case RC-37/2020/NIA/DLI, 08 October 2020,

[7]     See, OHCHR, Press Release, India: UN expert demands immediate end to crackdown on Kashmiri human rights defenders, 24 March 2023,

[8]     See, National Investigation Agency (NIA), NIA chargesheets another overground worker in J&K terrorism conspiracy case, 21 March 2023,

Bangladesh: End crackdown on journalists and online critics, and protect freedom of expression

Bangladesh journalism is not a crime gallo

On World Press Freedom Day, CIVICUS joins five other civil society organisations in expressing alarm over the increasing attacks against Bangladeshi journalists and online critics, exercising their right to freedom of expression.

Today, on World Press Freedom Day 2023, we, the undersigned civil society organisations, are alarmed at the increasing attacks against journalists and others, exercising their right to freely criticize government’s policies and practices. The widespread restrictions on freedom of expression undermine the conditions for open political debate ahead of elections, scheduled for January 2024.

Fifty-six journalists have been reportedly targeted by the government and its supporters in the first three months of 2023. Journalists in Bangladesh are at risk of arrest under the draconian Digital Security Act (DSA) and being subjected to harassment, surveillance, and physical attacks by government supporters.

On April 4, 2023, in one recent example, a group of armed assailants reportedly attacked Chattogram-based journalist Ayub Meahzi by throwing him off the roof of a two-story building. Meahzi survived but said that he believes the attack was in retaliation for his reporting on the involvement of local government officials engaged in illegal land grabbing and hill cutting.

On 30 March 2023, authorities arrested Shamsuzzaman Shams, a correspondent for the leading national newspaper Prothom Alo, under the DSA, in relation to his article about cost of living in the country. He was detained in the middle of the night and, accused of publishing content “tarnishing the image of the nation,” among other charges. Matiur Rahman, the editor, of Prothom Alo, executive editor Sajjad Sharif, and an unnamed camera operator at the outlet, and other unidentified people were also sued under the Act, in relation to the same article. Shams has since been released on bail. 12 days following Shams’ arrest, in a speech in parliament, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina castigated Prothom Alo as the “enemy” of the ruling Awami League party, democracy, and the people of the country. Following Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s statement, a group of young people broke into the Prothom Alo office and vandalised the outer office.

We are disturbed by the continued use of the draconian Digital Security Act (DSA) against journalists in retaliation for their work on topics including governmental policies, alleged corruption, and illicit business practices in Bangladesh. The act permits heavy fines and prison sentences for those who dissent and, with broadly defined “threats”, it allows warrantless arrests based simply on a suspicion that a crime has been committed online. As of early May 2023, at least 339 DSA cases had been filed against journalists since its inception in 2018, according to a tracker operated by the Dhaka-based think tank Centre for Governance Studies.

Newsrooms are further being driven towards self-censorship, with government authorities demanding news articles being removed from their websites, as the Digital Security Act allows the Government to order the removal and blocking of any information or data on the internet it deems necessary. The DSA also allows for invasive surveillance by permitting authorities to require service providers and other intermediaries to hand over data without requiring a court-obtained warrant.

Bangladeshi authorities are also weaponizing other laws against journalists. On 20 February 2023, the Bangladesh authorities stopped the publication of the Dainik Dinkal, after the Bangladesh Press Council, a Ministry of Interior offshoot, rejected its appeal against a government shutdown order on the grounds of violating the Printing Presses and Publications (Declaration and Registration) Act. Previously, the authorities blocked 54 news websites with the declared aim of preventing the spread of “rumours” ahead of the December 2018 national election. Prothom Alo special correspondent Rozina Islam faces ongoing prosecution in an investigation under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act and the penal code, in apparent retaliation for her reporting on alleged government corruption and irregularities in the public health sector at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Further, we are alarmed by the ongoing, pervasive impunity regarding violence against journalists, including authorities’ failure to make progress in the investigation into the 2012 murder of journalist couple Sagar Sarowar and Meherun Runi, with the Rapid Action Battalion deferring the submission of its probe report to court at least 95 times.

The increasing repression and curtailment of the right to freedom of expression is having a chilling effect on journalists and civil society, and seriously stifling journalistic freedoms. The 2022 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders ranked Bangladesh at 162 out of 180, the worst performing country in South Asia.

The Bangladesh government’s suppression of free speech and media freedom is inconsistent with Article 39 of the country’s constitution and Article 19 of Bangladesh’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The Bangladeshi government should:

  1. Immediately suspend the use of the Digital Security Act pending its repeal or amendment in line with international human rights law.
  2. Conduct swift, impartial, transparent and effective investigations into all acts of violence against journalists and hold any suspected perpetrators accountable in fair trials.
  3. Drop all charges against all who have been accused simply of exercising their right to freedom of expression.
  4. End harassment of journalists and protect media freedom. Ensure that people can voice criticism and concerns, both offline and online, without fearing sanctions.
  5. End misuse of laws to curtail the right to freedom of expression in Bangladesh and protect the media’s right to operate freely and independently and respect the public’s right to information through full and unrestricted access to news outlets.

Signed by

Amnesty International

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Committee to Project Journalists

Human Rights Watch

International Federation for Human Rights

Reporters Without Borders


India: Oxfam targeted again with accusations of foreign funding and influencing


CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance, is extremely concerned about the Indian authorities’ latest investigation against Oxfam India for alleged violations of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). This action continues a worrying trend of law enforcement agencies being systematically used to persecute civil society organisations (CSOs). FCRA regulates the acceptance and use of foreign funding for civil society.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a First Information Report (FIR) on 19 April 2023, accusing Oxfam of “planning to pressurise” the Indian government for FCRA licence renewal through foreign governments and institutions. Oxfam India is also accused of receiving funds after its FCRA had ceased, continuing to “pay sub grants to various partners” following a 2020 ban, and circumventing an FCRA-designated account between 2013 and 2016 by routing funds. The CBI also carried out searches at its office.

On 6 April 2023, Oxfam India claimed that it was ‘fully compliant with Indian laws and has filed all its statutory compliances, including Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) returns, in a timely manner since its inception’.

This is the latest attempt to harass and intimidate the Oxfam staff. In January 2022, the government refused to renew Oxfam India’s FCRA licence. The organization has filed a plea in the Delhi High Court against the decision. In September 2022, the Income Tax Department conducted an invasive “income tax ‘survey’” of Oxfam India, during which staff were not allowed to leave the premises and denied access to communication devices with the internet shut down by the authorities.

“The investigation against Oxfam India is the latest attempt to target an organisation that has worked for more than 70 years in the country to end discrimination and create a free and just society. Hindering it will affect thousands of people who benefit from its services. CIVICUS calls on the authorities to halt the judicial harassment against them and their staff immediately,” said David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Lead at CIVICUS.

As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), India must respect, protect and fulfil the right to freedom of association.

The CIVICUS Monitor has documented how the FCRA of 2010 and its amendments in 2018 and 2020 impose discriminatory restrictions on CSOs access to funding and makes their authorisation procedure difficult to navigate and highly bureaucratic, under the pretext of preventing foreign influence in India. Over the years, it has been invoked against human rights groups to justify an array of highly intrusive measures, ranging from official raids on NGO offices and freezing of bank accounts to suspension or cancellation of registration.

United Nations experts have raised At India’s review at the Human Rights Council in November 2022, several states called for the repeal or amendment of the FCRA to ensure the right to freedom of association.

“As a democracy, India must create a safe and enabling environment for civil society organisations to conduct their work instead of seeking to criminalise NGOs or squeeze their funding. The government must review the draconian FCRA to bring it in compliance with the ICCPR and other international human rights law and standards” added Kode.

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

Sudan: Protect civilians as armed conflict escalates

The international community including the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the African Union, Arab League  and the United Nations should act in a timely manner to prevent a civil war in Sudan, global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, said  today.  

Sudan: As violent clashes continue, Sudan’s international partners must call for accountability and justice

Since April 15, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the Sovereign Council and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), and General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, alias Hemedti – leader of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have, in their quest for power, engaged in deadly clashes across Sudan. In two days, nearly 100 civilians have been killed according to the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors and 1,100 injured. Fights between the two factions are still raging on Monday.

Eswatini: Over 390 orgs call for an investigation into the murder of activist, Thulani Maseko

Representatives of the undermentioned civil society organisations are still reeling with shock over 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.

Afghanistan: Free Girls Education Activist Matiullah Wesa

The abduction and detention of human rights defender and education campaigner, Matiullah Wesa, in Afghanistan is a clear attempt by the Taliban to curtail all opposition to their restrictions on the education of women and girls, global civil society alliance, CIVICUS said today.  Matiullah Wesa was abducted by the Taliban on 27 March 2023 outside a mosque in Kabul where he was attending evening prayers. His family was threatened and their phones, computers and documents confiscated. There are concerns that the Taliban may also be looking for his brother who works closely with him on education rights. 

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.



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