Cuba: Int’l action needed to hold Cuban government accountable for human right violations

The international community must demand accountability from the Cuban government for its actions and to immediately stop unlawful short-term aarbitrary detentions, house arrests, forced exile, and smear campaigns against dissenting voices

In response to the aggressive acts committed by police officers in recent weeks against Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) activists on hunger strike; the beatings and arrests of members of the San Isidro Movement; the forced exile imposed on Cuban citizens, making them stateless; permanent house arrests; and smear campaigns against journalists, artists, and dissidents, the undersigned 7 organizations issue the following statement:

 

UK: Stop the violence against protesters and amend the Policing Bill

The use of violence against peaceful protesters in the United Kingdom (UK), who are protesting against the draconian police, crime, sentencing and courts bill, is a major assault on the right to peaceful assembly in the UK and indicative of how peaceful protesters will be treated if this bill is eventually passed into law.

 

Thailand: NGO law would strike ‘severe blow’ to human rights

The Thai authorities’ adoption of a draft law to regulate non-profit groups would strike a severe blow to human rights in Thailand, several international organizations said today. The bill is the latest effort by the Thai government to pass repressive legislation to muzzle civil society groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

 

Bangladesh: Authorities must conduct investigations into death of protesters

The Bangladeshi authorities must conduct prompt, thorough, impartial, and independent investigations into the death of at least 14 protesters across the country between 26 and 28 March, and respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, said 11 human rights organisations in a joint statement today. The organisations also called on the international community to urge Bangladeshi authorities to put an end to the practice of torturing and forcibly disappearing opposition activists.

 

Pakistan: Chronology of harassment against human rights defender Muhammad Ismail

Prof Ismail

Pakistani human rights defender Professor Muhammad Ismail, aged 66, is a prominent member of Pakistani civil society and the focal person for the Pakistan NGOs Forum (PNF), an umbrella body of civil society organisations (CSOs) in Pakistan. Since July 2019, Muhammad Ismail and his family have faced systematic harassment and intimidation from the security forces. Muhammad Ismail is currently in detention on trumped-up charges.

 

Poland: Escalating threats to women activists

Investigate, Protect Rights Defenders, End Hateful Rhetoric

 

More must be done to ensure women in civil society are protected

Arabic

Twenty-five years since the ratification of the Beijing Platform for Action, and a year since women across the world participated in the Women's Global Strike - gender justice is still not a reality for most women. Despite mass mobilisations globally with women at the forefront, and despite numerous campaigns and policy interventions orchestrated by women civil society leaders, activists and lawyers, women across the world struggle to achieve full equality.

 

Denmark: Reject discriminatory "Security for all Danes” Act and respect freedom of assembly

Members of the Danish Parliament Folketinget

Christiansborg 1240 Copenhagen K

Tel.: +45 3337 5500

E-mail:


URGENT: Reject discriminatory "Security for all Danes” Act and respect freedom of assembly.

Dear Members of the Danish Parliament,

The undersigned civil society organisations wish to express our serious concerns over restrictive provisions in the proposed “Security for all Danes” Act which we believe could potentially limit civic freedoms in Denmark and undermine the country’s commitments to international human rights standards and European Union Law. Submitted to parliament in January 2021, the draft law follows previous measures by the government intended to address insecurity in vulnerable areas but which, in reality, sow division and inflame discrimination against excluded groups.

Concerns over harsh and disproportionate draft law

We are particularly concerned that the draft law “Security for All Danes” seriously contravenes the basic democratic right to peaceful assembly. We believe this law to be excessively strict; the introduction of Section (6b) to the Act of Police Activities empowers police to unilaterally issue a broad ban on peaceful assembly in a specific place for up to 30 days with the possibility of a 30-day extension.

Additionally, the bill proposes penalties of imprisonment of up to one year for those who are deemed to violate the law and a fine of a minimum of DKK 10,000 (USD 1600). The fines proposed are harsh and the threat of detention is a disproportionate response to the right to freely assemble. We are equally concerned about the absence of clarity on effective remedy for those whose fundamental rights are violated. International law says the authorities should provide some form of independent and transparent oversight panel that can determine if the person received timely access to legal help and if they were offered remuneration for any wrongs committed against them.

Impact on Denmark’s human rights record

Denmark is rated ‘open’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that measures the state of civic freedoms in over 196 countries across the world. Only 3.4% of the world’s population live in ‘open’ countries where democratic rights, such as the freedoms of speech, assembly and association, are recognised. The publication of the draft law may affect Denmark's reputation as a robust advocate for human rights in the international community. There are also serious concerns from civil society that the law may be used to justify unlawful actions by people who violate human rights.

Denmark has historically advocated for the promotion and protection of human rights in different countries across the world, making a difference in many communities. We urge the Danish government not to tarnish its human rights record by implementing this bill.

Potential to incite hate and division

If implemented in its current form, the Act would incite hate and division and seriously undermine the rights of excluded groups, such as those who are nationally in the minority.

The Act aims to put an end to citizens’ feelings of insecurity caused by the “appearance and behaviour of young men.” While announcing the law to Parliament on 6 October 2020, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen alluded to a link between criminality and people from so-called “non-Western” backgrounds. This law follows other packages which target “non-Western” neighbourhoods, such as the ‘Ghetto Package,’ a law permitting the sale of apartment blocks in areas largely inhabited by immigrants.

According to the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ECNL), such legislation is at odds with EU rules on the prohibition of discrimination based on race and ethnic origin and with fundamental rights of freedom of assembly as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which also prohibits discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, social origin, race, and membership of a national minority.

Ahead of the next sitting in Parliament to discuss this restrictive draft law, we call on Danish Parliamentarians and the government to:

  • Reject the proposal as it stands;
  • Request the Ministry of Justice to carry out a review of the proposal and involve civil society, targeted communities and other interested parties;
  • Assess the impact of this law against international standards and compliance with EU law;
  • Refrain from statements inciting hate and discrimination against minority

CC/bbc

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen

Minister for Justice, Nick Hækkerup

Minister of Immigration and Integration, Mattias Tesfaye

Endorsed by CIVICUS

  • Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties) European Civic Forum
  • ARCI, Italy 
  • New Europeans, Europe Advocates Abroad, Greece Osservatorio Repressione, Italy Peace Institute, Slovenia Obywatele RP, Poland BlueLink Foundation, Bulgaria
  • Legal-Informational Centre for NGOs (PIC), Slovenia Umanotera, Slovenia
  • CNVOS, Slovenia
  • International Institute for Nonviolent Action - Novact, Spain Bulgarian Fund for Women, Bulgaria
  • Ligue des droits de l’Homme, France
  • The Voice of Civic Organizations, Slovakia
  • Nexus (Consulting and support for Alert and Mobilization initiatives), France Spiralis, Network of the development of NGO´s, Czech Republic
  • European Movement Italy, Italy
  • NETPOL - Network for police monitoring, United Kingdom New Europeans Minsk, Belarus
  • Human Rights House Zagreb, Croatia Irídia - Center for Human Rights, Spain Gong, Croatia
  • Netherlands Helsinki Committee, The Netherlands Associazione Antigone, Italy
  • Grup de Periodistes Ramon Barnils (Ramon Barnils Group of Journalists) / Observatori Crític dels Mitjans Mèdia.cat (Mèdia.cat Critical Media Watchdog), Spain
  • Društvo Asociacija, Slovenia
  • Focus, Association for Sustainable Development, Slovenia Institute of Public Affairs (ISP), Poland
  • Europe Section of the National Network for Civil Society (BBE), Germany Òmnium Cultural, Spain
  • Statewatch, United Kingdom Civil Society Advocates, Cyprus ENAR, Europe

 

India: Women human rights defenders still in pre-detention after 300 days

INDIA Protests DevanganaKalita NatashaNarwal

Global civil society alliance CIVICUS and Front Line Defenders call for the immediate release of women human rights defenders Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal who have now spent 300 days in pre-trial detention.

Devangana and Natasha were arrested on 23 May 2020 due to their peaceful campaign against the regressive Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The women human rights defenders have faced multiple cases (First Information Reports) including under the anti-terror law, aimed at prolonging their detention. Devangana and Natasha’s arrest and continued incarceration highlights the escalating crackdown on dissent by Indian authorities.

Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal are founding members of the Pinjra Tod, a collective of women students and university alumni from across Delhi, who advocate on women’s rights, student’s rights and to lessen restrictions, placed on female students. The collective argues against using concepts of safety and security to silence and suppress women’s rights to mobility and liberty. Since the CAA was passed in December 2019, the women human rights defenders had played a critical role in peacefully protesting and mobilising against the law. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has described the law as ‘fundamentally discriminatory in nature’.

On 23 May 2020, the Special Crimes Cell of the Delhi Police arrested Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal in connection with their alleged role in a sit-in protest against the CAA that took place at Jaffrabad metro station in Delhi in February 2020. Among the charges laid against them include obstructing a public servant in discharge of public functions, wrongful restraint, and assault or criminal force to deter a public servant from discharge of his duty. The defenders were granted bail the following day (24 May) by the Metropolitan Magistrate Delhi. In the order granting bail, the judge noted that the defenders were merely exercising their right to freedom of expression by protesting and did not engage in any form of violence.

Despite being granted bail, the defenders were never released. In what has become a familiar pattern for arrest of human rights defenders, Devangana and Natasha were rearrested on 26 May by a Special Investigation Team of the Crime Branch of the police and remanded in Tihar jail. The new charges include serious offences of murder, attempted murder, criminal conspiracy and ‘promoting enmity between different groups’ under the Penal Code; offences under the Arms Act and the Prevention of Destruction of Public Property Act.

Natasha and Devangana were subsequently charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, (UAPA), India’s primary counter-terrorism law which has been increasingly misused by the government of Narendra Modi. The UAPA has become the weapon of choice to detain human rights defenders, journalists and protesters under catch-all charges. For Natasha and Devangana, each time they were granted bail by court, a further FIR with more severe charges was filed against them, preventing release. Multiple cases culminated in FIR 59/2020 which includes sections of the UAPA, under which Natasha, Devangana and several other human rights defenders are currently jailed.

“The arbitrary detention of Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal for 300 days now, is aimed at punishing them for their human rights work. The Indian authorities must drop the baseless and politically-motivated criminal charges against them and release the women human rights defenders immediately and unconditionally” said Olive Moore, Deputy Director - Front Line Defenders.

Human rights defenders across India have been arrested and detained for long periods for their involvement in protests or criticising the authorities. A series of vaguely worded and overly broad laws are being used by the Indian authorities to deprive activists of bail and keep them in detention. These includes the UAPA, section 124A on ‘sedition’ of the Indian Penal Code, the National Security Act (NSA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA), which applies only in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.

“The Indian government must stop using restrictive national security and counter-terrorism laws against human rights defenders and critics. The laws are incompatible with India’s international human rights obligations and highlight the increasingly repressive civic space we have seen in India under the Modi government,” said David Kode, Advocacy & Campaigns Lead at CIVICUS.

In December 2019, India’s rating was downgraded by the CIVICUS Monitor from ‘obstructed’ to ‘repressed’ owing to its increased restriction of space for dissent during 2019 and particularly following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s re-election in May 2019.

For further information, please contact:

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation: Josef Benedict, Asia Pacific Researcher –

Front Line Defenders: Adam Shapiro, Head of Communications & Visibility – - +1-202-294-8813

 

Philippines: Government should be held accountable for the killings of activists

The Philippine Government must face international accountability for its widespread killing of activists and human rights defenders, and the grave human rights violations it has committed, seven human rights groups said in a statement today.

 

Call for independent investigation into Rwandan singer Kizito Mihigo’s death

Open letter to all Commonwealth Heads of Government

Civil society organisations around the world are calling on the Rwandan authorities to allow an independent, impartial, and effective investigation into the death in custody of Kizito Mihigo, a popular gospel singer and peace activist. As your governments mark Commonwealth Day today and prepare to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali in June, we are writing to ask you to engage with your counterparts in the Rwandan government in support of this call.

 

Algeria: Assertive public position from international community crucial to protecting Algerians on Hirak anniversary

 

Read the statement in Arabic

On 18 February 2021, with the potential resumption of protests on the eve of the two-year anniversary of the “Hirak” pro-democracy protest movement, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune announced a presidential pardon for at least thirty Hirak detainees. As of 21 February, thirty-eight prisoners of conscience were released according to the National Committee for the Release of Detainees (CNLD), although it remains unclear how many were pardoned. At least nineteen of them were only released conditionally while awaiting judgment, such as journalist Khaled Drareni, union activist Dalila Touat and political activist Rachid Nekkaz.

Throughout the past year, President Tebboune issued several presidential pardons in February, April and July 2020 for a total of 19,502 detainees, out of which thirteen were Hirak detainees. These releases, while a welcome development for the detainees and their families, have not yet indicated any willingness from authorities to reverse an unrelenting crackdown on civic space.

On the anniversary of the Hirak, the undersigned organisations reiterate their call for the international community to urge the Algerian government to put an end to policies aimed at silencing those who seek peaceful outlets and means of expression, in line with the Algerian Constitution, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.

We appeal to the international community to take a more assertive public position clearly condemning human rights violations, with the aim of protecting Algerian citizens striving to safeguard their fundamental freedoms. The international community should call on the authorities to release all arbitrarily-held detainees and cease all judicial harassment and intimidation against them and the judiciary. Increased scrutiny on Algeria is direly needed, and international actors are urged to closely monitor the human rights situation and trials of activists, journalists and human rights defenders.

International actors should further ensure the prompt investigation of allegations of physical, sexual and psychological abuse in detention, such as those raised by student Walid Nekkiche on 1st February 2021, after fourteen months of arbitrary pre-trial detention, and suspected perpetrators should be held accountable.

As the Hirak became a largely online movement after protests were voluntarily halted in March 2020, authorities have accelerated the arbitrary prosecution and harassment of individuals, including activists and journalists, in most cases merely for expressing their opinion online.

The number of prisoners of conscience has doubled in the second half of 2020 according to the documentation of the National Committee for the Release of Detainees (CNLD), overshadowing the presidential pardons, and illustrating the increased criminalisation of public freedoms. About one thousand prosecutions stemmed from individuals exercising their rights to free expression and peaceful assembly in 2020, as reported by the Collective of Lawyers for Prisoners of Conscience. Sixty-three individuals have been prosecuted on charges of offence to the President, a charge not used more than four times in twenty years under the Bouteflika presidency.

Among those targeted, Algerian women’s rights organisations recently jointly denounced the arbitrary detention and sentencing of activists Dalila Touat and Naïma Abdelkader. Other prisoners of conscience include activist Oussama Taifour, sentenced in October 2020 to one year in prison after he denounced online a work suspension related to his activism; activist Zoheir Kaddam, sentenced in June 2020 to one year in prison, although he had neither access to his legal file nor his lawyers present; or activist Khaldi Ali[1], sentenced in November 2020 to three years in prison based on critical social media publications. Furthermore, in September 2020, two men were sentenced to three years of prison and forty-two others to suspended terms after police raided what they alleged was a “gay wedding”.

In January 2021, Judge Saad Eddine Merzouk was sanctioned by the Superior Judicial Council with a six months’ suspension after making critical public declarations. Prior to this, in February 2020, prosecutor Mohamed Belhadi was transferred, seemingly arbitrarily, after he requested the acquittal of sixteen protesters.

Amendments to the Penal Code passed in April 2020 now allow for the criminalisation of free expression, assembly and association. Executive decree 20-332 in November 2020 tightened controls over digital media, including a regime of prior authorization, which added to an already restrictive legal framework under the Law 12-06 on Associations or the 2012 Information Law.

At least thirteen media outlets have been made unavailable on Algerian networks in 2020[2], adding to five others in 2019[3]. Journalists Khaled Drareni, Abdelkrim Zeghileche, Mustafa Bendjama – who says he was arrested at least fifteen times - and Said Boudour are among those sentenced and/or repeatedly prosecuted.

A top-down constitutional revision, adopted in December 2020 following a referendum with a historically low official turnout rate, was largely criticised for its lack of transparency and inclusivity. The revision does not bring about tangible progress on the rule of law, but instead constitutionalizes the army’s political role, includes weak guarantees on rights and freedoms – deleting the right to freedom of conscience – and perpetuates the executive authorities’ domination over all institutions.

In addition to the erosion of fundamental freedoms witnessed in the past year, the weaponizing of the pandemic against civil society and journalists has defied calls by the United Nations to decongest detention facilities, and only serves to foster conditions for violence and instability.

Signatories

  • Article 19
  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  • National Centre for Development Cooperation (CNCD-11.11.11)

[1] Also identified as Khaldi Yacine.

[2] Casbah Tribune, Tariq News, Twala.info, Maghreb Emergent, Radio M, Interlignes, Dzvid, Le Matin d’Algérie, L’Avant-Garde, Ultra Sawt, Yabiladi.com, Essaha.com and Shihab presse.

[3] Tout sur l’Algérie (TSA), Observ’Algérie, Algérie Part, Algérie Patriotique and Ma Revue de Presse DZ.

 

Civil society letter to U.S. State Dept on Human Rights Defenders

80 civil society organisations from 30+ countries urge Honarable Secretary of State, Antony Blinken to strengthen U.S. government foreign policy to support human rights defenders globally


Hon. Antony Blinken Secretary of State

United States of America

CC:      Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman,Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Senator James Risch, Ranking Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Representative Gregory Meeks, Chairman,House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Representative Michael McCaul, Ranking Member, House Committee on Foreign Affairs

 Dear Secretary Blinken:

We, the undersigned organisations, work to promote human rights, democracy, media freedom, environmental sustainability, and an end to corruption around the world. The protection of human rights defenders — such as activists, lawyers, and journalists — is critical to each of our missions. We are deeply concerned by the unabated rise in reprisals against human rights defenders, both globally and within the United States, and the chilling effect that these attacks have on fundamental freedoms and civic space.

We would like to request the opportunity to begin a discussion with the incoming State Department political leadership on the role that the Biden Administration will play in protecting human rights defenders.

As the Administration prepares to re-engage the U.S. government at the United Nations and other multilateral institutions, we encourage you to elevate the protection of human rights defenders as a U.S. foreign policy priority and commit to play a global leadership role on this issue.

Read the full letter here

Signed by

  1. Access Now
  2. Accountability Counsel
  3. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies Al-Haq
  4. Alliance of Baptists Amazon Watch
  5. American Jewish World Service
  6. Amnesty International USA
  7. ARTICLE 19
  8. Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)
  9. Balay Alternative Legal Advocates for Development in Mindanaw, Inc (BALAOD Mindanaw)
  10. Bank Information Center
  11. Business and Human Rights Resource Centre
  12. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  13. Center for Civil Liberties
  14. Center for Human Rights and Environment
  15. Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
  16. China-Latin America Sustainable-Investments Initiative Church World Service
  17. CIVICUS
  18. Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach Committee to Protect Journalists
  19. COMPPART Foundation for Justice and Peacebuilding Nigeria
  20. Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces
  21. Crude Accountability
  22. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  23. EarthRights International
  24. Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines Equitable Cambodia
  25. FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders FORUM-ASIA
  26. Freedom House
  27. Freedom Now
  28. Front Line Defenders
  29. Gender Action
  30. Global Witness
  31. Green Advocates International (Liberia)
  32. Greenpeace
  33. Human Rights First
  34. Inclusive Development International Indigenous Peoples Rights
  35. International International Accountability Project International Rivers
  36. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  37. Jamaa Resource Initiatives Kenya
  38. Japan NGO Action Network for Civic Space Just Associates (JASS)
  39. Kaisa Ka (Unity of Women for Freedom) KILUSAN
  40. Latin America Working Group
  41. Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
  42. National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
  43. Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala - NISGUA
  44. Network Movement for Justice and Development
  45. Odhikar – Bangladesh OECD Watch
  46. Oil Workers Rights Protection Organization Public Union Azerbaijan
  47. OMCT (World Organisation Against Torture), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  48. Open Briefing
  49. OT Watch
  50. Oxfam America
  51. Peace Brigades International - USA (PBI-USA)
  52. Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies
  53. Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
  54. Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights)
  55. Project HEARD
  56. Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER) - Latin American NGO
  57. Protection International
  58. Rivers without Boundaries Coalition Mongolia Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
  59. Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS)
  60. Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network Swedwatch
  61. Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP)
  62. Transparency International
  63. United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights
  64. Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
  65. Witness Radio – Uganda

Civic space in United States of America is rated Obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor, see country page.

 

 

Bahrain: Joint Letter to EU Ahead of Meeting With Bahraini Delegation

Please note: This letter was sent on 25 January and it was acknowledged by the European External Action Service (EEAS). The Bahraini foreign minister visit to Brussels has been rescheduled to the 10th of February 2021. The EU Bahrain interactive human rights dialogue is now scheduled for the 22nd of February 2021.


Re: EU-Bahrain Cooperation Agreement Must Depend on Human Rights Improvements

 

To:

Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the European Commission

Eamon Gilmore, EU Special Representative for Human Rights

 

Your Excellencies,

In light of the meeting between Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and the European External Action Service currently scheduled to take place in Brussels on 26 January 2021, we are writing to raise concerns about the deterioration of the human rights situation in Bahrain, following a year in which Human Rights Watch reports that the Bahraini government has “escalated repression” against critics.

As the informal EU-Bahrain Human Rights Dialogue originally scheduled for November 2020 has been indefinitely postponed, it is vital that human rights concerns are placed at the centre of your conversations with Bahraini officials during this upcoming meeting.

Bahrains Crackdown on Political Opposition and Civil Society

Bahrain’s February 2011 Arab Spring uprising was an event which many hoped would herald a new era of democracy in the country. However, since the government’s violent suppression of the protests, promised reforms have failed to materialise. The leaders of the protest movement, some of them now elderly, continue to languish in prison.

Since 2017, authorities have outlawed all independent media and dissolved all political opposition parties. Among the most prominent prisoners currently incarcerated are high-profile political opposition leaders, activists, bloggers and human rights defenders sentenced to life imprisonment for their roles in the 2011 pro-democracy protests. These include Hassan Mushaima, Abduljalil AlSingace, Abdulhadi AlKhawaja, Sheikh Mohammed Habib AlMuqdad and Abdulwahab Husain. In 2018, the leader of Bahrain’s largest opposition bloc, Sheikh Ali Salman, was sentenced to life in prison following trials on speech charges and spurious accusations of espionage.

Over the last four years, political activists have borne the full brunt of political repression in Bahrain, facing arbitrary arrest and lengthy prison terms, and in some cases torture, for opposing the government. Hundreds have been arbitrarily stripped of citizenship, while activists and journalists who continue their work from exile risk reprisals against family members who remain in the country.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least six journalists are currently imprisoned for their work in Bahrain, while the country has fallen to a lamentable 169/180 on the Reporters Without Borders 2020 World Press Freedom Index. Bahrain scored a paltry 1/40 for political rights in Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2020 report.

In addition, Bahrain’s government has increasingly turned to repressive cybercrime legislation to further restrict civic space, with prominent defence lawyers, opposition leaders and human rights defenders prosecuted over their social media activity since 2018. As Amnesty International has reported, Bahrain’s authorities have used the COVID-19  pandemic as a pretext “to further crush freedom of expression.”

Medical Negligence and Mistreatment in Jau Prison

Bahrain’s prisons remain overcrowded and unsanitary, and human rights groups have called on the government to release those imprisoned solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression in light of the threat posed by COVID-19. Prisoners are frequently subjected to humiliating treatment and denied adequate medical care, in violation of Bahrain’s international human rights obligations. These include Hassan Mushaima and Dr Abduljalil AlSingace, who suffer from a range of chronic medical conditions, as well as human rights activists Ali AlHajee and Naji Fateel.

Other prominent prisoners include two European-Bahraini dual citizens, the Danish-Bahraini Abdulhadi AlKhawaja and the Swedish-Bahraini Sheikh Mohammed Habib AlMuqdad, both of whom are considered prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International, having been prosecuted and sentenced to life imprisonment for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and subjected to torture and other ill-treatment including denial of medical care. 

In April 2011, security forces violently arrested Al-Khawaja and broke his jaw, leading to surgery for four broken bones in his face. Security officers tortured Al-Khawaja directly after his major jaw surgery, while blindfolded and restrained to a military hospital bed, which forced the doctor to ask the security officers to stop as it would undo the surgical work. Almost ten years later he still suffers from chronic pain and requires additional surgery to remove the metal plates and screws that were used to reattach his jaw.

AlMuqdad, who was tortured by methods including severe beating and electrocution, suffers from multiple health problems, including a hernia likely caused by his torture, but is being denied proper health care. As of January 2021, in addition to the need for urgent surgery to repair the hernia, AlMuqdad is in need of heart surgery to unblock his coronary arteries and examination by a urologist to diagnose a prostate problem. The prison administration continues to delay the surgeries and specialist appointments, blaming the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Death Penalty and Arbitrary Killings

In 2017, Bahrain abandoned a de facto moratorium on the death penalty and has since conducted six executions, five of which were condemned as arbitrary by UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Agnes Callamard, in 2017 and 2019 respectively. According to recent research by the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and Reprieve, 26 death row inmates currently face imminent execution in the country, nearly half of whom were convicted on the basis of confessions allegedly extracted under torture in cases related to political unrest. 

These include Mohammed Ramadhan and Husain Moosa, whose death sentences were upheld in July 2020 despite credible evidence that both men were convicted on the basis of confessions obtained under torture. Independent experts at the International Committee for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims concluded that investigations by Bahrain’s human rights oversight bodies into the torture of the two men “fail[ed] to meet the minimum professional standards and the minimum international legal standards”, while the Bar Human Rights Council of England and Wales warned that “upholding the convictions would be wholly inconsistent with Bahrain’s international obligations”. Both men are at risk of imminent execution. Three UN human rights experts warned on 12 February 2020 that carrying out these death sentences would constitute an arbitrary killing. 

Our Requests

Bahraini authorities have engaged in widespread violations of human rights enshrined in both Bahrain’s national legal system as well as in multiple international human rights treaties to which Bahrain is a state party. 

Furthermore, a prevailing culture of impunity has allowed suspected perpetrators of serious human rights violations to avoid accountability. In light of the continued deterioration of the human rights situation in Bahrain, we therefore ask that during the meeting the EEAS:

  • Urges the unconditional and immediate release of all those imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, including Hassan Mushaima, Abduljalil AlSingace, Abdulwahab Husain and Sheikh Ali Salman;
  • Urges for the unconditional and immediate release of Danish-Bahraini Abdulhadi AlKhawaja and Swedish-Bahraini Sheikh AlMuqdad;
  • Calls for an independent review of the cases involving those facing the death penalty, including the cases of Mohammed Ramadhan and Husain Moosa; as well as for the ultimate revocation of their death sentences;
  • Urges Bahraini authorities to reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty;
  • Pressures Bahrain to end the use of torture and other -ill-treatment and to tackle the culture of impunity by holding suspected perpetrators accountable and ensuring effective mechanisms for victims to receive justice and restitution;
  • Urges Bahrain to rescind its arbitrary bans on opposition parties, civil society groups and independent media and encourage the development of civic space in Bahrain;
  • Urges the Bahraini Government to ensure its respect to, and protection of, the right to freedom of expression, and to take necessary steps to ensure freedom of the press; and
  • Persuades Bahrain’s government to take concrete and measurable steps towards justice reform and respect for human rights.

Sincerely, 

  1. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
  2. Amnesty International
  3. Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK
  4. ARTICLE 19
  5. Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
  6. CIVICUS
  7. Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  8. Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)
  9. European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
  10. Freedom House
  11. Global Legal Action Network (GLAN)
  12. Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
  13. Human Rights Watch (HRW)
  14. Index on Censorship
  15. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  16. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  17. PEN International
  18. Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  19. Reprieve
  20. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

 Civic space in Bahrain is rated as "Closed" by the CIVICUS Monitor, see country page.

 

 

 

Standing in solidarity with Venezuelan human rights defenders

The recent, ongoing and unwarranted detention of five members of the Venezuelan NGO ‘Azul Positivo’ is one more event in a series of threats, harassment, attacks, restrictions, reprisals and criminal proceedings against Venezuelan civil society organizations and human rights defenders, which has been intensifying since November 2020. In recent months and weeks, state agents have forcibly entered the offices of civil society organizations; public threats have been made against defenders who have been engaging with human rights mechanisms, NGO bank accounts have been frozen and arrest warrants issued for aid workers.

 

Deportation of academic increases the chilling effect on freedom of expression in Fiji

USP Fiji

The recent deportation of academic Professor Pal Ahluwalia is alarming and highlights the restrictive environment for freedom of expression in Fiji, global civil society alliance CIVICUS said today.

 

Myanmar: Release all activists and politicians detained and restore democracy

GettyImages 1299737267 Save Myanmar

Global civil society alliance CIVICUS is alarmed that the military’s takeover of control of Myanmar from the civilian government represents a sharp reversal of the partial yet significant progress toward democracy made in recent years following five decades of military rule and international isolation.

 

Cambodia: Drop charges against union leader Rong Chhun and other activists

On Wednesday, prominent trade unionist and labour activist Rong Chhun will again appear before the trial court in Cambodia in one of a series of high-profile trials being carried out in Cambodia in an ongoing crackdown on activists which escalated significantly over the past year.

Rong Chhun, the President of the independent Cambodian Confederation of Unions and a member of the Cambodia Watchdog Council, was arrested on 31st July 2020. He has been a vocal human rights defender and has long raised concerns about the plight of farmers’ and workers’ rights.

Chhun was charged with incitement under Article 495 of Cambodia’s Penal Code for allegedly spreading ‘fake news’ after he appeared on a Radio Free Asia broadcast saying Vietnamese soldiers had placed border posts 500 meters into Cambodian territory and expelled villagers from their land.

Ahead of Rong Chhun’s hearing tomorrow, global civil society alliance CIVICUS calls on Cambodian authorities to drop the political motivated charges that have been brought against him and other activists. The authorities must also cease all forms of judicial harassment against them and release all those detained immediately

Rong Chhun’s arrest last year sparked a chilling wave of arrests in an escalation of attempts by the authorities to intimidate activists and silence all forms of dissent, highlighting the rapid deterioration of human rights in Cambodia.

A wave of arrests

On 10 August, activists Chhou Pheng, Chum Puthy and Sar Kanika, were charged with ‘incitement’ under Article 495 of the Criminal Code. On 13 August, two activists, Hun Vannak and Chhouen Daravy, from youth group Khmer Thavrak were also arrested after calling for Rong Chhun’s release. Other members of the youth group have been targeted by the authorities for planned protests; On 6 and 7 September, Buddhist monk Koet Saray and Tha Lavy were arrested while activist Eng Malai was picked up by authorities after leaving the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia, where she had raised security concerns. All three were charged with ‘incitement’.

The police also arrested Vice-President of the Khmer Student Intelligent League Association (KSILA), Mean Prommony, on 6 September for planning a protest while another member of KLSIA, Muong Sopheak was detained on 11 September.

On 3 September, Thun Ratha, Long Kunthea, and Phoung Keorasmey, activists with environmental group Mother Nature Cambodia, were arbitrarily detained while planning a peaceful march to call attention to the filling in of a Phnom Penh lake. They were charged with ‘incitement’ on 6 September.

Rapper Kea Sokun was arrested in Siem Reap on 10 September and charged with incitement under Articles 494 and 495 of the Cambodian Criminal Code. Sokun is understood to have been targeted as the result of a song he released in April called ‘Dey Khmer’ (‘Khmer Land’) which is about the politically sensitive topic of the Cambodian-Vietnamese border.

CIVICUS is also concerned that the Ministry of Interior is attempting to smear civil society groups Khmer Thavrak and Mother Nature Cambodia as unauthorised organisations. The Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations, passed in July 2015, has been widely criticised by grassroots groups, unions, NGOs and the United Nations as inconsistent with international human rights law. It criminalises all unregistered groups and makes registration dependent on an unclear and complex bureaucratic process.

Despite the risk of arrest and criminalisation, civil society activists have not backed down and continue to play a brave role in speaking up and exposing abuses by state and non-state actors.

The international community must stand by these activists and call on the Cambodian authorities to halt their systematic campaign of weaponizing the courts to silence critical voices.

Research undertaken by the CIVICUS Monitor shows that laws are routinely misused in Cambodia to restrict civic freedoms, undermine civil society, and criminalise individual’s exercise of their right to freedom of expression. Human rights defenders, civil society activists and journalists are often subject to judicial harassment and legal action.

 

Russia: Stop violence against peaceful protesters

Russia Navalny Protests GettyImages 12307445752

Read the statement in Russian

The arrest of more than five thousand protesters in Russia calling for the release of anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny is a gross violation of the constitutional rights of all Russians to assemble peacefully, as Russia continues to openly deny its international human rights obligations, global civil society alliance CIVICUS said today.

 

Bahrain: Open letter to Danish Prime Minister to take immediate action to free Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja

Arabic

It's been 10 years since human rights defender, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja has been arrested for his human rights activities. CIVICUS together with several human rights organisations have written to Danish Prime Minister, Mette Frederisken asking him to help call for his release.


Dear Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen,

We the undersigned organisations from around the world are appealing for your assistance to free prominent human rights defender and dual Danish-Bahraini citizen Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja from prison in Bahrain, where he is serving a life sentence for his peaceful political and human rights activities. As he completes the tenth year of his imprisonment, we appeal to you directly to urge the Danish government to renew efforts to ensure his release so he can be reunited with his family and receive needed medical treatment in Denmark.

 

Uganda: Egregious measures threaten free and fair elections

Urgent joint civil society letter on Ugandan Elections taking place on 14 January 2020

To the: African Commission and United Nations Special Procedures
ACHPR Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders 
ACHPR Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression
UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression
UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders
UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions 
UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention 

cc: United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Regional and International Heads of State and Government 

Re: Egregious and widespread pre-electoral violence, intimidation and repressive measures threaten free and fair electoral process in Uganda

Uganda is set to hold Presidential and Parliamentary general elections on January 14th, 2021. The undersigned organisations are deeply concerned with the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in the country and submit this urgent appeal to your respective mandates under the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and United Nations (UN) to urge the Government of Uganda to adhere to its constitutional, regional and international obligations, particularly during this critical electoral period. 

Over the last few months, we have noted an escalation of violations that has created a climate of unprecedented fear and intimidation by State security and other regulators, seemingly intended to silence dissent, undermine political opposition participation 1, and deprive Ugandans of their enjoyment of fundamental rights; in particular, the right to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. Security forces have adopted the use of excessive and deadly force to quell public gatherings and intimidate the public, especially human rights defenders, journalists, opposition politicians and their supporters, and vulnerable groups such as women and youth.

Credible human rights organisations and media institutions have documented numerous cases of mass arrests and abductions of civilians, which are becoming more of a daily occurrence 2. In addition, COVID-19 related prevention measures have been exploited to unduly restrict civil and political rights and other fundamental freedoms. In the months leading to the election, authorities arrested opposition party leaders, journalists, and dispersed opposition campaign rallies with teargas for allegedly violating COVID-19 guidelines 3. On the other hand, authorities in a partisan manner, allowed certain rallies organised by the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) to continue unhindered 4.

 Covering the political opposition has become an unacceptably dangerous job for journalists, who have been assaulted numerous times by security personnel. For example, on December 27 at least three journalists -- Daniel Lutaaya, Ashraf Kasirye, and Ali Mivuli-- were injured by projectiles fired by police 5. Kasirye remained hospitalized at the time of publication. In early December, police beat at least six journalists who were covering opposition candidate Robert Kyagulanyi in Lira 6 and fired a rubber bullet at another journalist in Jinja 7. In a December 27 statement 8, police said they would investigate attacks on journalists, a commitment that was deeply undermined on January 8, when the Inspector General of Police, Martin Okoth Ochola, told journalists that police were beating them for their own safety 9.

Regulators have sought to further restrict media access and coverage during the electoral period. In December, the Media Council of Uganda issued guidelines, requiring all foreign journalists in Uganda to reapply for accreditation; introducing a more stringent regime for accreditation of journalists seeking entry into Uganda; and barring all local journalists from covering political events without credentials 10. The Uganda Communications Commission in December wrote to Google, asking for the take-down of opposition aligned YouTube pages 11. On January 12 Reuters 12 and AFP 13 news agencies reported that the regulator ordered Internet Service Providers to block access to social media platforms. In a speech 14, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni claimed the shutdown of social media platforms was retaliatory to an earlier measure by Facebook, which took down government-linked accounts for allegedly manipulating public debate 15.

Human rights defenders and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) play an important role in promoting an enabling environment for the respect and protection of human rights. In relation to elections, they support institutional processes in areas such as voter education, independent election monitoring and helping to reduce election-related conflict. Despite this critical role, organisations such as the Uganda National NGO Forum and Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET) that were engaging in election-related activities such as polling have had their bank accounts arbitrarily frozen following allegations of money-laundering 16. Prominent human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo along with four others were arrested last month on similar money-laundering allegations 17. Another striking example is the suspension of the National Election Watch-Uganda (NEW-U), a loose coalition of largely formal NGOs engaged in election monitoring, by the National Bureau of NGOs, allegedly for non-registration 18.

In light of the numerous and widespread violations that have been observed, particularly over the past several weeks, there is a strong justification to be concerned over the fairness and integrity of the upcoming elections. 

This appeal calls on the UN and African Commission special procedures to exercise their mandates to urge the government of Uganda to adopt all reasonable safeguards to enable Ugandans to participate in the election free of violence and intimidation, and to abandon all efforts to restrict the media from freely reporting on the electoral process. Ugandan security forces must refrain from the excessive use of force against civilians and refrain from arbitrary arrests and detention as a means to silence persons critical of the State. Anyone arrested must be afforded the full due process of the law, including a prompt, free and fair trial. Perpetrators of election related violations that have occurred in recent months must be held accountable and effective remedies afforded to the victims.

We further call on you to strongly urge the government of Uganda to embrace the fundamental right to political participation and to observe the cardinal principles of transparency, accountability, fairness and non-discrimination in collecting, processing, registering and reporting of the votes. In addition, the Ugandan government must allow independent organisations to freely and safely conduct election monitoring to help safeguard the general election process from electoral misconduct and instill public confidence in the integrity of the process.

Finally, we call on you to remind member States of the African Union and United Nations and other multinational organisations to uphold their treaty obligations and hold Uganda accountable to its own constitution, regional and international obligations, ensuring adherence to the principles of a free and just democratic society. 

We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues that carry with them serious implications for the rule of law and respect for fundamental freedoms in Uganda, as well as the East African sub-region more generally, and stand ready to provide any further information.

Sincerely, 

Access Now
African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX)
ARTICLE 19 - Eastern Africa 
Association Nigérienne des Scouts de l'Environnement (ANSEN)
Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine) 
CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
Eastern Africa Journalists Network (EAJNet)
Ethiopian Human Rights Defenders Center (EHRDC)
MARUAH, Singapore
Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)
Network of Estonian Non-profit Organizations
Network of Public Interest Lawyers, Uganda  
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
ROSE (Réseau des Organisations de la Société Civile pour l'Observation et le Suivi des Élections en Guinée), Guinea
Odhikar, Bangladesh
Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS)
Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
Spaces for Change, Nigeria
Uganda National NGO Forum
Vijana Corps, Uganda
Womankind Worldwide 
Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD)


1. The Independent, NUP accuses security of targeting their supporters during night operations, November 24, 2020, available at https://www.independent.co.ug/nup-accuses-security-of-targeting-their-supporters-during-night-operations/.

2.  Id. See also NTV Youtube broadcaST, Mukono residents cry out, some now sleep in the bush in fear of arrest, January 6, 2021, available at  https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=mukono+residents+cry+out. Relatedly see Daily Monitor, Two NUP candidates, four supporters go missing in Mpigi District, available at https://www.monitor.co.ug/uganda/news/national/two-nup-candidates-four-supporters-go-missing-in-mpigi-district-3251388.

3. Human Rights Watch, Uganda: Authorities weaponize covid-19 for repression, November 20, 2020, available at https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/11/20/uganda-authorities-weaponize-covid-19-repression.

 4. Id.

5. Committee to Protect Journalists, Police beat, detain journalists covering opposition candidates ahead of Uganda elections, January 7, 2021, available at https://cpj.org/2021/01/police-beat-detain-journalists-covering-opposition-candidates-ahead-of-uganda-elections/.

6. Human Rights Network for Journalists- Uganda, Journalists covering presidential candidate Kyagulanyi brutally attacked by security forces, December 12, 2020, available at https://www.hrnjuganda.org/journalists-covering-presidential-candidate-kyagulanyi-brutally-attacked-by-security-forces/.

7. Foreign Correspondents Association Uganda, Tweet, December 2, 2020, available at https://twitter.com/fcauganda/status/1334184041722093568?lang=en.

8. Uganda Police Force, Statement on violent fracas at Kyabakuza, December 27, 2020, available at https://www.upf.go.ug/statement-on-violent-fracas-at-kyabakuza/.

9. Daily Monitor, Police will beat you for own safety, ICP Ochola tells journalists, January 8, 2021, available at https://www.monitor.co.ug/uganda/news/national/police-will-beat-you-for-own-safety-igp-ochola-tells-journalists-3251102.

10. International Press Institute, Uganda orders journalists to seek fresh accreditation, December 11, 2020, https://ipi.media/uganda-orders-journalists-to-seek-fresh-accreditation/.

11. Accessnow, KeepItOn: Uganda must #KeepITOn during the upcoming general election, January 11, 2021, available at, https://www.accessnow.org/cms/assets/uploads/2021/01/KeepItOn-open-letter-uganda-general-election.pdf.

12. Reuters, Uganda orders all social media to be blocked -letter, January 12, 2021, available at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-uganda-election-social-media/uganda-orders-all-social-media-to-be-blocked-letter-idUSKBN29H1E7

13. Rfi, Uganda bans social media ahead of election, Bobi Wine says home raided, January 12 2021, available at https://www.rfi.fr/en/africa/20210112-uganda-bans-social-media-ahead-of-election-bobi-wine-says-home-raided-yoweri-museveni.

14. NTV Uganda, Facebook, January 12, 2021, available at https://web.facebook.com/169252986456497/videos/401297207829849.

15. DW, Uganda elections: Facebook shuts down government-linked accounts, January 11, 2021, available at https://www.dw.com/en/uganda-elections-facebook-shuts-down-government-linked-accounts/a-56195067.

16. Daily Monitor, Govt freezes accounts of 4 NGOs doing poll work, December 2, 2020, available at https://www.monitor.co.ug/uganda/special-reports/elections/govt-freezes-accounts-of-4-ngos-doing-poll-work-3216360.

17. The Guardian, Uganda charges leading lawyer for LGBT rights with money laundering, December 24, 2020, available at, https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/dec/24/uganda-charges-leading-lawyer-for-lgbt-rights-with-money-laundering-nicholas-opiyo

18. URN, Government suspends operations of national Election Watch Uganda, October 29, 2020, available at https://ugandaradionetwork.net/story/government-suspends-operations-of-national-election-watch-uganda.

 

Hong Kong: Crackdown on democratic freedoms continues with mass arrests

Global civil society alliance CIVICUS condemns the mass arbitrary arrests in Hong Kong this week in an unprecedented crackdown on democratic freedoms and calls for the immediate release of all those detained. The arrests are the clearest sign yet that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) under President Xi Jinping is determined to stamp out political opposition in the region.

53 people, including pro-democracy activists, opposition candidates and former lawmakers, and lawyers, were arrested and detained under the draconian National Security Law (NSL). The 53 have been accused of ‘subverting state power’ by holding and participating in primary elections held by Hong Kong’s pro-democratic party in July 2020. At the time, China declared the primaries ‘illegal’. 

Among those arrested is  Benny Tai, an activist and legal scholar. Former legislators James To, Lam Cheuk-ting, Claudia Mo and Leung Kwok-hung and Eddie Chu Hoi-dick were also arrested. Others include young pro-democracy campaigners Lester Shum, Gwyneth Ho, Tiffany Yuen and Jeffrey Andrews. Police also searched the home of already-detained activist Joshua Wong, as well as three news outlets.

The arrests took place in early-morning raids on 6 January, compounding a climate of fear pervasive in Hong Kong since the NSL was adopted in June 2020. The NSL has been heavily criticized by human rights groups for undermining fair trial rights, providing sweeping new powers to the police, increasing restrictions on civil society and the media and weakening judicial oversight. Protests against the law were some of the biggest in Hong Kong’s history.

Following its adoption, the law was immediately used to prosecute activists and critics, prompting a statement in July 2020 from the UN Human Rights Office that ‘such laws should never be used to criminalize conduct and expression that is protected under international human rights law.’ The repression enabled by the law, of which this week’s mass arrests are just the latest example, clearly shows once again that the concerns raised by the law and protests against it were entirely justified.

More than 10,000 people have been arrested overall in connection with the 2019 protests against the NSL, and more than 2,000 have faced prosecution on charges such as “rioting”, “illegal assembly” and “possession of weapons”. In December 2020, prominent pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam were convicted on charges relating to peaceful protests in 2019 and handed jail sentences. Wong was sentenced to 13.5 months in jail, Chow to 10 months and Lam to seven months. 

In September 2020, CIVICUS joined over 300 organisations in endorsing a call by UN experts for a Special Session of the Human Rights Council to evaluate the range of violations by China’s government, including those in Hong Kong, and to establish an impartial and independent UN mechanism to closely monitor, analyze, and report annually on that topic.  Organizations also urged the UN Secretary-General to appoint a Special Envoy, consistent with his Call to Action on Human Rights, and called call on the High Commissioner for Human Rights to monitor and publicly report on China’s sweeping rights violations. 

As the Council prepares to sit again in February for its 46th Session, CIVICUS reiterates these calls. China became a member of the Council in October 2020 – taking action to address its human rights violations is not only crucial to support those on the ground, including activists in Hong Kong who face persecution and incarceration, but it would also send a strong message that no country is above scrutiny. At the moment, the international community is falling far short on both counts.

 

Poland: concerns over intimidation, violence and detentions of peaceful protesters

Joint letter to:

Clement Voule, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Assembly and Association
Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders
Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression
Tlaleng Mofokeng, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Physical and Mental Health
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais Wilson, 52 Rue des Pâquis
1201 Geneva, Switzerland


 

Cuba: release detained protesters and stop harassment of rights activists and their organisations

Cuban authorities must stop the repression of civil rights activists and release those who are currently detained or under house arrest, says global civil society alliance CIVICUS.

 

Algeria: European Parliament calls for action on human rights and expresses solidarity with demonstrators

Arabic

The European Parliament’s second urgency resolution on Algeria in a year is an important step and should be followed by stronger public action from the international community

 

India: Human rights body must raise concerns over crackdown

To: Hon’ble Justice (Retd.) H.L. Dattu
Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission of India
New Delhi Email:

Re: Request to raise serious concerns over the ongoing crackdown on human rights defenders in India

Dear Justice (Retd.) Dattu,

We, the undersigned international and regional non-governmental organisations, are concerned by the ongoing crackdown by the State agencies on human rights defenders in India. It is in this context that we are writing to request you to raise these concerns and take the necessary measures within your mandate.

On October 28 and 29, 2020, the houses and offices of several human rights defenders, human rights groups and journalists in Srinagar and Bandipora (Jammu and Kashmir), Bengaluru (Karnataka), and Delhi were raided by National Investigation Agency (NIA) officials. These raids were said to be undertaken to investigate the use of funding for “carrying out secessionist and separatist activities” in Kashmir. The raided premises included the houses and offices of several well-known human rights defenders, including: Ms. Parveena Ahangar, Chairperson of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and 2017 laureate of the Rafto Prize; Mr. Khurram Parvez, Coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and Chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD); other JKCCS members; and the independent daily newspaper Greater Kashmir. The raids were also conducted in Bengaluru at the residence of Ms. Swati Sheshadri, and in Delhi at the residence of Mr. Zafarul Islam Khan, Chairperson of the NGO Charity Alliance and former Chairperson of the Delhi Minorities Commission. Documents and electronic devices, including hard disks containing sensitive information such as victims' personal data and testimonies, were seized during these raids. The individuals and groups affected by these actions have been at the forefront of the human rights movement in the country for decades, and these raids appear to be an attempt to silence them and to hamper their important human rights work. We are extremely concerned regarding the blatant misuse of the counterterrorism law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), against these defenders.

On October 8, 2020, Mr. Stan Swamy, an 83-year-old Jesuit priest and prominent Adivasi rights activist based in Ranchi (Jharkhand), was arrested without any warrant by NIA officials from his residence. On October 9, 2020, he was transported to Mumbai (Maharashtra), where he was remanded in Taloja jail. His age and the fact that he is suffering from advanced Parkinson’s disease is putting him at an increased vulnerability of contracting COVID-19. Mr. Swamy was arrested for his alleged involvement in the “Bhima Koregaon case”, in connection with caste-based violence that broke out during the Elgar Parishad at Bhima Koregaon (Maharashtra), on January 1, 2018.

As many as 15 other prominent human rights defenders across the country, known for their human rights and civil liberties work on behalf of the most marginalized communities in India, have been detained in the Bhima Koregaon case under the UAPA. Some of them have been detained since June 2018. The 15 are: Mr. Varavara Rao, Ms. Sudha Bharadwaj, Mr. Vernon Gonsalves, Mr. Gautam Navlakha, Mr. Arun Ferreira, Mr. Sudhir Dhawale, Mr. Rona Wilson, Ms. Shoma Sen, Mr. Anand Teltumbde, Mr. Mahesh Raut,

Mr. Surendra Gadling, Mr. Hany Babu, Mr. Sagar Gorkhe, Mr. Ramesh Gaichor, and Ms. Jyoti Jagtap. Their bail applications have systematically been rejected.

Since December 2019, the police have also arrested human rights defenders who peacefully protested against the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and filed charges of sedition, murder, and terrorism. Those arrested and currently imprisoned include Ms. Devangana Kalita, Ms. Natasha Narwal, Mr. Umar Khalid, Ms. Gulfisha Fatima, Mr. Meeran Haider, Mr. Shifa-ur-Rehman, Mr. Sharjeel Imam, Mr. Asif Iqbal, Ms. Ishrat Jehan, Mr. Khalid Saifi, and Mr. Akhil Gogoi. Charges also remain pending against anti-CAA activists, Ms. Safoora Zargar and Dr. Kafeel Khan, who were granted bail recently. We also remain concerned over pending legal proceedings against anti-CAA activists in Uttar Pradesh and several prominent human rights defenders in Delhi who have been repeatedly questioned.

As human rights defenders in India are being targeted for their legitimate human rights activities, our organisations urge the National Human Rights Commission of India to intervene immediately.

We respectfully call upon the National Human Rights Commission of India to carry out independent and impartial investigations into the above-mentioned cases through the provisions of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, in conformity with its mandate to protect human rights, including freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.

Most of these human rights defenders remain detained, some of them in serious health conditions. We therefore urge the National Human Rights Commission of India to intervene with the concerned courts and the Government of India and demand their immediate release.

We also call upon the National Human Rights Commission of India to undertake trial observations in the above-mentioned cases.

We thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Respectfully,

Signatories:
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
FIDH, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Front Line Defenders
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
Minority Rights Group (MRG)
South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR)
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Cc
Mr. C. S. Mawri
Assistant Registrar and Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders
National Human Rights Commission of India
New Delhi Email:

Cc
Ms. Katharina Rose
Geneva Representative
Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) Email:

Mr. Kieren Fitzpatrick
Director
Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions Email:

 

16 Rights Groups Raise Bahrain Human Rights Concerns with Formula One

Rights watchdogs tell F1 leaders to use their leverage to compensate victims of abuse & ensure right to protest ahead of two Grand Prix races in Bahrain

 

Thailand: Government must respect and protect the rights of demonstrators

GettyImages 1229088941 Thailand Oct 2020

We, the undersigned organizations, condemn the Thai police’s unnecessary and excessive use of force against peaceful protesters marching to the national parliament in Bangkok on November 17, 2020. We are concerned that authorities could employ similar measures when facing protesters who have declared they will march to the Siam Commercial Bank headquarters on November 25.

 

Morocco: End intimidation and harassment campaign against rights defender Maati Monjib

The undersigned civil society organisations call on the Moroccan authorities to immediately end their intimidation and harassment campaign against academic and human rights defender Maati Monjib and drop all baseless charges leveled against him.

 

Sri Lanka: A year after Presidential elections, civic freedoms under increasing assault

A year on from the election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as President of Sri Lanka, global civil society alliance CIVICUS is extremely concerned about the country’s regression in civic freedoms. Research undertaken by the CIVICUS Monitor – which rates civic space in Sri Lanka as ‘obstructed’ – shows a worrying pattern of increasing restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and association, often with impunity. Human rights defenders, journalists and critics who speak out are facing increasing levels of surveillance, judicial harassment and threats. At the same time, the Rajapaska administration has reneged on both domestic and international human rights commitments, leaving the country on a precipice of a human rights downward spiral.

A crackdown on fundamental freedoms

As civic space has been squeezed tighter under the Rajapaksa administration, human rights lawyers, activists and academics have been targeted with arrests, intimidation and threats for speaking up. Prominent human rights lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah has been held in detention for more than seven months under the country’s repressive Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) without charge or any credible evidence being put before a court. His trial has been postponed to February 2021. In May 2020, lawyer Achala Seneviratne, who is representing the families in a case where 11 youth disappeared in which Navy officers are implicated, received death threats on social media. In June 2020, lawyer Swasthika Arulingam was arrested and detained for several hours in Colombo for attempting to enquire about the detention of Black Lives Matter protestors. 

In September 2020, the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres raised concerns over the Sri Lankan government’s intimidation of human rights activists in his annual report on reprisals. The report stated that the UN had “received continued allegations of surveillance of civil society organisations, human rights defenders and families of victims of violations, including repeated visits by police and intelligence services, questioning organisations about their staff and activities related to the UN”.

Amidst other such warning signs of a rapidly deteriorating human rights situation are increasing acts of intimidation against journalists. In the first few months after the elections, unidentified people physically attacked journalists several times, and issued death threats against reporters perceived as critical of the government. Security officials have also searched media offices. Many have resorted to self-censorship and fear covering sensitive issues – a virtually all-encompassing brief, including the army, human rights violations, missing peoples, land-grabbing, political corruption, and the Rajapaksa family themselves. In a number of cases, authorities have openly surveilled journalists, using official vehicles for maximum intimidation. 

Protesters, too, have been intimidated and subject to surveillance. Even families of the disappeared, participating in rallies in the northern and north-eastern districts to obtain answers about the fate of their loved ones in the final stages of the civil war in 2009 and its aftermath, have been  interrogated by military personnel, often at odd and intrusive times. Surveillance of such families was noted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in his May 2020 report.

Increasing state control over civil society 

Numerous civilian institutions, including the NGO Secretariat, which regulates non-governmental groups, have been placed under the control of the Defence Ministry. Independent NGOs are increasingly under threat as the administration have sought to restrict them. A number of NGOs, particularly those in the war-affected Northern and Eastern provinces of the country, reported visits from intelligence officers who sought details of staff, programmes and funding. The UN has reported on concerns from civil society organisations, especially in the north and east of the country, of being denied the right to for groups working on politically sensitive issues, such as LGBTQI+ rights, disappearances, land rights and transitional justice. These refusals typically come in verbal form, without any documentation, reasons or avenue for appeal.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has reneged on the Sri Lanka government’s  commitment to repeal the repressive Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) with legislation that respects its international human rights obligations. The PTA has been used to arbitrarily detain suspects for months and often years without charge or trial. In 2017, the UN special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism found that the law “has fostered the endemic and systematic use of torture. 

Sri Lanka’s international commitments

In February 2020, Sri Lanka announced that it was withdrawing from its commitments to the UN Human Rights Council. The country had cosponsored a landmark resolution in 2015 to promote reconciliation, accountability and human rights, renewing these commitments in further UNHRC resolutions in 2017 and 2019. There are real risks that ongoing failure to date to secure any accountability or justice for victims of human rights abuses and violations during the decades-long conflict will continue. Coupled with violations of civic space and democratic freedoms ratcheting up in the country, now would be a disastrous time for international attention to fall from Sri Lanka. 

A resolution on the human rights Council’s role in preventing human rights crises, adopted in October this year, reaffirmed that CSOs and human rights defenders have a role to play in preventing human rights emergencies, by providing information on early warning signs and on patterns of human rights violations. Attacks against such actors serve as early warning signs in and of themselves, underscoring the need for ongoing Council scrutiny at a time when all the human rights patterns documented by civil society groups and the UN itself point to hard-fought democratic gains being progressively rolled back. 

We therefore urge the government of Sri Lanka to undertake the following as a matter of urgency: 

  • Put an end the harassment, stigmatisation, intimidation, unlawful surveillance and arrest of human rights defenders, journalists and groups seeking truth and justice for victims of the civil war and ensure that they can freely express their opinions and dissent without fear of reprisals.
  • Ensure that journalists may work freely and without fear of retribution for expressing critical opinions or covering topics that the government may find sensitive.
  • Release human rights lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah, repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act and replace it with counterterrorism legislation that respects international legal standards.
  • Ensure a safe and enabling environment for activists in which they can organize, assemble, receive and share information.

We further urge the international community to ensure a robust response to Sri Lanka’s human rights violations and its attempts to undermine UN mechanisms, including at the Human Rights Council. We call on the Council to establish an international accountability mechanism which would deliver truth and justice to victims of the conflict, and to take steps to protect those human rights defenders and activists on the ground, including those documented above, who face attacks and threats for speaking out. The attempted silencing of these voices could prove the early warning ahead of an impending human rights emergency.

 

Algeria: Free Amazigh and Hirak activist in prison for exercising his freedom of opinion

بالعربية

On 11 November, the court of Khenchela (eastern Algeria) is expected to hear activist Yacine Mebarki's appeal, following his sentencing on 8 October to 10 years in prison and a heavy fine of 10 million dinars (about 77,611.55 USD) – the most severe sentence ever handed to an activist for his online speech. 

Algerian authorities should release Yacine Mebarki and drop unfounded charges related to his online publications and other charges that stem from the legitimate exercise of his freedom of speech and conscience, said the undersigned organisations. Authorities should put an end to criminal investigations and prosecutions against individuals for peacefully expressing their views, including views which may be critical of religious teachings and state officials. 

Yacine Mebarki is a farmer from the town of Khenchela, known for his participation in the Hirak popular protest movement demanding radical political change in Algeria, and his engagement in the defense of Amazigh rights. 

Police in Khenchela arrested Yacine Mebarki on 30 September, after a search of his home during which they discovered an old Quran belonging to Mebarki’s grand-father, which had a torn page, as well as two empty bullets. According to the activist’s lawyer, the bullets are the remains of old traditional celebrations involving gun-firing, prevalent in the Khenchela region and which are now used for decorative purposes. 

The prosecutor of the Khenchela First Instance Court prosecuted Mebarki on the basis of social media publications, including a Facebook post from 17 February in which he appears to criticize Egyptian Salafi scholar Abu Ishaq al-Heweny for calling for “jihad” against countries to take their “money, their children and their women”, as well as for the torn Quran and the bullets found in his house. During the trial, the judge also mentioned a Facebook post from 12 September in which Mebarki appeared to mock Algerian Minister of Justice Belkacem Zeghmati.

Mebarki was sentenced on 8 October to ten years in prison for "offense against the precepts of Islam" (Article 144bis 2 of the Penal Code); “profanation of the Sacred Book” (Article 160 of the Penal Code); “inciting to discrimination” (Article 295bis); “inciting a Muslim to convert to another religion” and “distribution of documents intended to undermine the faith of a Muslim” (Article 11 par. 1 and 2 of ordinance 06-03 setting the conditions and rules for the exercise of religions other than Islam). In addition, he was sentenced for “possession of war material without authorization” (Article 31 of ordinance 97-06 relating to war material, arms and ammunition), based on the discovery of the two bullets. 

The above charges related to the activist’s freedom of speech and conscience are in violation of Algeria’s Constitution (article 42) and international human rights law, notably Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) ratified by Algeria. In an authoritative interpretation of the ICCPR from 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Committee noted that “the prohibition of displays of disrespect for a religion or any other belief system, including anti-blasphemy laws, is not compatible with the Covenant”. In October 2017, UN Experts also urged States “that still have blasphemy laws to repeal them because of their stifling impact on the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief, and on the ability to engage in a healthy dialogue about religion”. 

This development is especially worrying as in recent months, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities have accelerated the arbitrary prosecution of peaceful activists for expressing their opinion and journalists. As of 9 November and according to the National Committee for the Release of Detainees (CNLD), a local group monitoring Hirak trials, there are 87 prisoners of conscience in Algeria. 

Signatories

  • Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights
  • Amnesty International
  • Article 19
  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  • CGATA (General Autonomous Confederation of Workers in Algeria)
  • CIVICUS
  • SNAPAP (Autonomous Union of Public Administration Personnel)

 

Cambodia’s Government should stop silencing journalists, media outlets

Free Arbitrarily Detained Media Workers, Restore Media Licenses

 

Upcoming UN review critical moment for Maldives to address civic freedom gaps

CIVICUS and the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) call on UN member states to urge the Government of the Maldives to protect civic freedoms as its human rights record is examined by the UN on 4 November 2020 as part of the 36th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

 

Appointment of UAE Ministry of Interior Official to the Presidency of INTERPOL

العربية

Dear Secretary General,

We, the undersigned, are writing to express our deep concern over recent reports announcing the candidacy of Major General Ahmed Nasser Al Raisi, the General Inspector of the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Ministry of Interior, for the presidency of the International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL). The elections will be held during the General Assembly on December 7-8 in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

We believe that the appointment of Mr Al Raisi would both undermine the mission and reputation of INTERPOL and severely impact the ability of the organisation to carry out its mission effectively and in good faith. We are additionally concerned over the lack of transparency and oversight in the election process: information on the candidates running for president have not been made public, nor were the candidates subjected to vetting procedures by state parties and civil society actors.

While we understand that the Secretary General is responsible for the operations of INTERPOL, the president must embody its values and mission. Article two of INTERPOL’s Constitution states that the aim of the organisation is “to ensure and promote the widest possible mutual assistance between all criminal police authorities within the limits of the laws existing in the different countries and in the spirit of the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights.’” 

Given the UAE’s poor human rights record, including the systematic use of torture and ill-treatment in state security facilities, Mr Al Raisi’s appointment as president would damage INTERPOL’s reputation and stand in great contradiction to the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the organisation’s mission. In this regard, we would like to recall previous reports of the UAE’s misuse of INTERPOL red notices.

As the current Inspector General at the Ministry of Interior, Mr Al Raisi’s responsibilities include overseeing the organisation and management of the security and police forces in the UAE, conducting periodic inspections into various ministry departments, and investigating complaints against the police and security forces and their members. Mr Al Raisi reports directly to the deputy prime minister and the minister of interior. 

As a state representative of the UAE, Mr Al Raisi is part of a security apparatus that continues to systematically target peaceful critics, rendering civic space virtually non-existent in the country. Lawyers, journalists, political activists and human rights defenders in the UAE have been subjected to harsh reprisals, intimidation tactics, enforced disappearances, torture, and arbitrary detention as a result of peacefully expressing their opinions, including on trumped-up “terrorism” charges. In a recent Opinion, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) expressed concern over the “systemic problem with arbitrary detention in the United Arab Emirates,” adding that systematic deprivations of liberty in violation of international law “may constitute crimes against humanity.”

Furthermore, the UAE is responsible for grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law beyond the country’s borders. Despite announcing the withdrawal of most of its ground troops from Yemen in 2019, the UAE remains part of the Saudi-led military operations, continues to maintain a presence in Aden and southern governorates, and continues to provide support for certain Yemeni forces who have committed grave abuses over the past several years.

Lastly, the election of the UAE’s security chief as president of INTERPOL would undermine the agency’s credibility in combating cybercrime. We recall that as part of its mission, INTERPOL “helps member countries to identify, triage and coordinate the response to cyber threats […] [and] assist[s] countries in developing prevention and disruption strategies.” Yet, the Emirati authorities have long resorted to state-sponsored spyware to target dissidents, journalists, and civil society activists. 

A 2019 Reuters investigation exposed a clandestine team of former US intelligence operatives, known as Project Raven, which the UAE National Electronic Security Authority recruited to help the UAE engage in surveillance of other governments, foreign journalists, and human rights activists. Emirati human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, who was disappeared by Emirati security forces in 2017 after he was subjected to several cyberattacks, was one such target of Project Raven. He is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence on charges related to his human rights activism. Loujain al-Hathloul, a prominent Saudi women’s rights defender, was also subjected to cyberattacks by the UAE authorities who hacked into her email before arresting and forcibly transferring her to Saudi Arabia in 2018. She remains in prison today in reprisal for her activism.

In light of the above, we believe that it is antithetical to the mission and aims of INTERPOL that the organisation be represented by an individual and a state that have been repeatedly responsible for grave human rights violations. We additionally believe that candidates for the presidency of INTERPOL should have their suitability for the role scrutinised through proper vetting processes that seek to uphold INTERPOL’s commitment to international human rights standards. The United Arab Emirates, in the person of Mr Ahmad Al Raisi, should therefore not be in a position to head the International Criminal Police Organisation.

In light of the above, we urge you to share the aforementioned concerns with INTERPOL’s member countries ahead of the appointment of the organisation’s next president. 

We thank you for your consideration and remain available should you wish to discuss this matter.

Sincerely,

List of Signatories:

  • L'Action des Chrétiens Pour l'Abolition de la Torture – France
  • AlQST for Human Rights
  • Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
  • Association for Victims of Torture in UAE
  • CIVICUS
  • Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)
  • European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights
  • The Freedom Initiative
  • Gulf Centre for Human Rights
  • Human Rights First
  • Human Rights Watch
  • International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE
  • International Centre for Justice and Human Rights
  • International Service for Human Rights
  • MENA Rights Group
  • L'Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture (OMCT)
  • Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
  • SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties
  • UnidOSC, Mexico

 

Judicial harassment of human rights defender Muhammad Ismail

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Front Line Defenders, FIDH, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, the World Organisation Against Torture(OMCT), and the International Service for Human Rights strongly condemn the deliberate targeting of human rights defender Muhammed Ismail and his wife Uzlifat Ismail, the parents of woman human rights defender Gulalai Ismail. The authorities must halt the ongoing judicial harassment against Gulalai Ismail and her family, which is a direct reprisal due to her human rights work. Gulalai has multiple criminal complaints filed against her, including under regressive anti-terror laws. Since she was forced to leave Pakistan due to concerns for her safety, her parents have been targeted under the Penal Code, anti-terrorism laws and cyber security legislation. In the most recent incident, Pakistan authorities approached the Anti Terrorism Court in Peshawar, and filed a new case with charges that include sedition and terrorism. On 30 September 2020, the court charged the three defenders.

 

Honduras: killings and harassment of environmental defenders must stop

Honduran authorities must act to protect environmental defenders in the community of Guapinol and investigate threats and harassment against them, according to global civil society alliance CIVICUS. On 14 October 2020 Arnold Joaquín Morazán Erazo, one of 32 people criminalised for protesting a mining project in the area, was killed by unknown gunmen in his house in Guapinol.

The murder of Arnold Joaquín Morazán Erazo occurred as new judicial hearings in the Guapinol case are about to begin and takes place against a backdrop of extreme violence against the community and the defenders. The Comité Municipal de Defensa de los Bienes Comunes y Públicos de Tocoa (CMDBCP), an organisation that has been working for the protection of the Guapinol river, says these events are part of a campaign to destabilise the community and provoke fear in the hope of ending resistance to the mining project in Carlos Escaleras National Park. 

Although Arnold Joaquín was not a member of the CMDBCP he had actively participated in the protests against the mining project in 2018. Days before the murder of Arnold Joaquín Morazán Erazo, the CMDBCP denounced an increase in surveillance and intimidation by the army and police in Guapinol; this pattern of harassment has persisted following his murder.

CMDBCP has also denounced online harassment and threats made against the committee and human rights defenders from the area. Such defamation campaigns have been reported to the Human Rights Prosecutor's Office which has so far failed to launch an investigation. 

“The Guapinol Water Defenders continuously suffer stigmatisation and harassment because of their work defending human rights and the environment. The Honduran authorities should guarantee an immediate and thorough investigation into threats made against environmental defenders, and do more to protect their lives,” said Natalia Gomez, CIVICUS Advocacy and Campaigns Officer covering Latin America.

On October 15 the legal team of the #GuapinolWaterDefenders presented a new request for a hearing to review the detention of 8 incarcerated defenders. CIVICUS calls on the Honduran authorities to set them free, and to guarantee the right to peaceful protest and association.


Background

On 7 September 2018, dozens of armed security guards from the Los Pinares mining company came to intimidate a peaceful camp in the community of Guapinol that had been set up to demonstrate against an iron oxide mine operating illegally in the Carlos Escaleras National Park. 

Following the peaceful protest, 13 defenders from Guapinol were charged with arson and unlawful deprivation of liberty. On September 1 2019, a judge ordered pre-trial detention for 8 defenders; they have been in jail for over a year despite the fact their charges - aggravated arson and unjust deprivation of liberty - do not usually result in imprisonment.

The case of the #GuapinolWaterDefenders is part of CIVICUS’s #StandAsMyWitness campaign, which calls for the immediate release of human rights defenders, and an end to their persecution. It also calls on states, authorities and multinational corporations to guarantee peaceful human rights activities - without fear of reprisals and intimidation.

For more information on civic space violations, visit the Honduras country page on the CIVICUS Monitor 


ABOUT CIVICUS

CIVICUS is a global alliance of civil society organizations dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world. CIVICUS has more than 10,000 members around the world.

The CIVICUS Monitor is an online participatory platform that monitors civic freedoms, including freedoms of expression, association and assembly, in 196 countries around the world.

 

Open letter: The Covid-19 ‘recovery’ must supercharge the fight against inequality

The Covid-19 ‘recovery’ must supercharge the fight against inequality

 

Algeria: Critically-ill activist Abdallah Benaoum must be immediately released

بالعربية

The Algerian authorities have accelerated the arbitrary detention and prosecution of activists and journalists amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, most recently refusing requests to provisionally release and provide adequate medical care for Algerian activist Abdallah Benaoum, imprisoned solely for his critical views of the authorities' crackdown on Hirak protests, ten national, regional and international groups said today, ahead of his trial scheduled on 27 October. Lawyers and family members fear for Benaoum’s life. 

Abdallah Benaoum has been in pre-trial detention for eleven months for Facebook posts he published criticizing the authorities and opposing the holding of presidential elections. He is in urgent need of a heart surgery that authorities are denying by his continuous unlawful detention and their refusal to grant him access to the medical care he requires. 

On 28 May 2019, human rights defender Kamel Eddine Fekhar died in custody at the age of 55 after a 50-day hunger strike to protest his unlawful detention for expressing views critical of the government and his prison conditions. On 11 December 2016, British-Algerian freelance journalist Mohamed Tamalt, 41, died in custody in a hospital in Algiers, following a hunger strike to protest his ill-treatment during his imprisonment for Facebook posts "offending" then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

To avoid a similar fate for Abdullah Benaoum, the undersigned organisations call on Algeria to abide by its commitments under international human rights law, release Benaoum immediately and unconditionally, and allow him to undergo his heart surgery in accordance with his wishes. 

Police in Oued Rhiou, a town in Relizane province, arrested Benaoum and another activist, Khaldi Ali, on 9 December 2019, three days before contentious presidential elections. A prosecutor in the Relizane First Instance Tribunal charged both men with "insulting state institutions," "undermining the integrity of the national territory," "harming national interest," “undermining army morale,” “attempting to pressure judges on pending cases” and "incitement to an unarmed gathering" under Articles 146, 79, 97, 75, 147 and 100 of the Penal Code. 

None of these charges are legitimate offences under international human rights law since they impose undue restrictions to the right to freedom of expression. The case file indicates that the prosecutor presented as evidence videos and publications found on Benaoum's personal Facebook account, in which he called for the boycott of presidential elections, writing "no to military elections," "Hirak students in all governorates are faced with the harshest repression." In the posts he also criticized the light sentencing of a police officer for the killing of a young man in Oued Rhiou. The prosecutor submitted this as evidence that Benaoum was inciting disobedience and undermining state security.

On the day of his trial on 16 July, Benaoum was unable to stand on his feet and talk, according to his lawyer. The judge eventually agreed to call a doctor three hours after the opening of the trial. The doctor concluded that Benaoum was unfit to stand trial. However, despite this, the judge refused his lawyer's request for provisional release. On 2 September, the judge again rejected another petition for his provisional release. The hearing is now scheduled for 27 October. 

Benaoum suffers from a heart condition – atherosclerosis - which can lead to a heart attack and requires urgent medical intervention. He underwent a first heart surgery in 2018, but his health condition started to deteriorate after an incarceration later that year and deteriorated further after his latest arrest in December 2019. Doctors established that he needed a second surgery. 

In a hand-written letter submitted to his lawyers on 4 September 2020, the activist complained of poor medical care and ill-treatment in detention.

The authorities have denied multiple requests for provisional release on the motive that the allegations against him constitute serious crimes.  Authorities have been transferring Benaoum back and forth between a prison in Relizane near his hometown and two prisons in the Oran province, at 160 km from his place of residence, which has further deteriorated his health. He is currently detained in the Oran central prison.

Denying a prisoner much-needed medical care violates the rights to health and to life and may amount to torture and other ill-treatment in certain circumstances. The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the Mandela Rules, require states to ensure that people in detention can enjoy the same standards of health care that are available in the community. According to the UN Human Rights Committee, adequate or appropriate and timely medical care must be provided to all detainees as part of state duties. Similarly, according to Algerian law, “the right to medical care is guaranteed for all categories of detainees. Medical services are provided to inmates, in the establishment's infirmary or, if necessary, in any other health structures.”

Pre-trial detention must be an exceptional measure and based on an individualised determination that it is reasonable and necessary, specified in law and without vague and expansive standards. The Algerian authorities have failed to justify the need for the imposition of this measure, notably against a prisoner of conscience whose health and life are at risk. The decision to hold Benaoum in pre-trial detention despite the circumstances contravenes article 123 of the Algerian Code of Criminal Procedure as well as Algeria’s obligations under international human rights law

The National Union of Magistrates has denounced the pervasive and abusive recourse to pre-trial detention as well as the lack of independence of the justice system from executive authorities, in a country where members of the judiciary have been sanctioned professionally for working independently or calling for judicial independence. 

The authorities’ refusal to release him also runs counter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ recommendation to release detainees to contain the spread of COVID-19, notably those who have underlying medical conditions and those held simply for expressing dissenting views. The  recent death of two detainees and the infection of at least eight others illustrates the heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 in in Algeria’s prisons. 

Benaoum’s lawyers and his mother were not able to visit him on 1st and 2nd October 2020. Prison authorities claimed to his family that Benaoum himself had refused visits and claim he is refusing medical care. According to his lawyers, however, this is inconsistent with Benaoum’s request not to stop visiting him, which he wrote in a hand-written letter on 4 September, and the activist only requested for his doctor, who did his first surgery in 2018, to be able to supervise the second surgery. In July, in another letter, Benaoum complained of isolation from the outside world and difficult prison conditions. The activist had not been able to receive any family visits from March to September 2020 due to restrictions related to COVID-19. 

Benaoum had only been free for five months before his new arrest in December 2019. The activist was incarcerated between April 2018 and June 2019 on charges of "offending the President of the republic" and "reviving the wounds of the national tragedy" under article 46 of the Law on Peace and National Reconciliation of 2006, which prohibits publications about the Algerian civil war. He was conditionally released following a request from his lawyers, 10 months before the end of his sentence. In 2013, Benaoum had also been the subject of two communications from UN Special Procedures in relation to arbitrary arrests and excessive use of force.  

Signatories

  • Amnesty International
  • Article 19 
  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  • CGATA (General Autonomous Confederation of Workers in Algeria)
  • CIVICUS
  • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  • Riposte Internationale
  • SNAPAP (Autonomous Union of Public Administration Personnel)
  • SESS (Solidarity Union of Higher Education Teachers)
  • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

 

85 CSOs concerned as Cuba is granted a new seat on UN Human Rights Council

In response to Cuba’s election to a fifth term on the Human Rights Council, 85 Cuban and international human rights and freedom-of-expression organizations, in conjunction with independent media outlets, released the following statement: 

We are deeply concerned about the decision to grant Cuba a new opportunity to have a seat on the Human Rights Council. This not only rewards Cuba’s poor human rights record, but it also undermines the integrity of the Council to hold abusive governments accountable for their actions in the region and across the globe.

Nations with the honor of being part of the Council must be committed to international human rights law. The members of the Council should ensure that Cuba does not avoid responsibility for its own conduct or use its seat to weaken international human rights norms. As organizations dedicated to the protection and advancement of human rights, we will be vigilant, monitoring Cuba’s actions within the Council, certifying that human rights and fundamental freedoms are being respected and protected.  

Background 

On October 13, 2020, at the UN General Assembly, the international community granted a new seat on the Human Rights Council to Cuba. Since its founding in 2006, Cuba has already held one of the eight Human Rights Council seats distributed to Latin America and the Caribbean for four mandates. In Cuba’s 12 years on the Council, the country has only supported 66 of the 205 resolutions passed in response to serious human rights violations around the world.

In all three cycles of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Cuba has received severe warnings about violations of freedom of association and expression, political persecution, arbitrary detentions, prohibitions on free domestic and international travel, absence of judicial independence, censorship, control of the internet, and the scarcity of media plurality. In July 2020, these violations even played out publicly at the Human Rights Council, with the Cuban representative and his allies censoring Cuban human rights defender Ariel Ruiz Urquiola through constant interruptions, as he discussed the crimes done to him and his sister by the Cuban government.

At the global level, Cuba has not ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, or the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Furthermore, the Cuban government has not provided an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which visits those imprisoned for crimes of a political nature, has been unsuccessful in accessing the island since 1989. Cuba is also the only country in the Americas that Amnesty International has been unable to visit since 1990.  

In Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2020 report, Cuba obtained a score of 14 points out of a possible 100 with respect to civil and political liberties, the lowest in Latin America. In 2019, International IDEA’s The Global State of Democracy 2019 report stated that Cuba ranked within the world’s bottom 25 percent for civil society participation, and is the only country in the region that has not taken significant steps towards a democratic transition in the last four decades. Classified as an authoritarian regime and ranked 143rd out of the 167 countries and territories featured in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2019, Cuba has also earned multiple low rankings by a number of human rights and freedom-of-expression organizations. For example, in its most recent report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) highlighted the Cuban government’s continued repression and punishment of dissent and public criticism through beatings, public denigration, travel restrictions, and arbitrary firings.

In 2019, The Special Rapporteur for the Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) concluded that “the grave neglect of elements essential to the freedom of expression, representative democracy and its institutions persists” in Cuba. Likewise, in its 2020 report on the human rights situation in Cuba, the IACHR identified a common pattern in the use of arbitrary detention as a method of harassment employed by the police and state security agents. According to organizations including Prisoners Defenders and Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos, there are anywhere from 125 to 138 political prisoners in Cuba as of October 2020.

The country continues to be, year after year, ranked among the worst in Latin America for press freedom, and is ranked 171st out of the 180 countries analyzed in Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) 2020 World Press Freedom index. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) includes Cuba on a list of 10 countries with the greatest level of censorship on the planet.

Signatories:

  1. 14yMedio
  2. AC Consorcio, Desarrollo, Justicia
  3. ADNCuba
  4. Alas Tensas
  5. Alianza Democrática Oriental
  6. Alianza Regional por la Libre Expresión e Información
  7. Árbol Invertido
  8. Artículo 19 Oficina para México y Centroamérica
  9. Asociación Cubana de Pequeños Emprendedores (ACPE)
  10. Asociación Cubana para la Divulgación del Islam
  11. Asociación Pro Libertad de Prensa (APLP)
  12. Asociación Sindical Independiente de Cuba (ASIC)
  13. CADAL
  14. Centro Cubano de Derechos Humanos
  15. Centro de Justicia y Paz - Cepaz 
  16. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)
  17. CIVICUS
  18. Civil Rights Defenders
  19. Club de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba
  20. Colegio de Pedagogos Independientes de Cuba (CPIC)
  21. Comité Cubano Pro Derechos Humanos (CCPDH)
  22. Comité de Ciudadanos por la Integración Racial 
  23. Comunidad Judía Sefardita Bnei Anusim de Cuba
  24. Confederación Obrera Nacional Independiente de Cuba
  25. Corriente Agramontista (agrupación de abogados independientes cubanos)
  26. CubaLex
  27. CubaNet 
  28. Cultura Democrática
  29. Delibera Organización
  30. Demo Amlat 
  31. Demóngeles
  32. Diario de Cuba
  33. Editorial Hypermedia
  34. Espacio Público (Venezuela)
  35. Federación de Estudiantes de Derecho de Venezuela 
  36. Federación Venezolana de Estudiantes de Ciencias Políticas
  37. Foro Penal 
  38. Forum 2000 Foundation
  39. Freedom House
  40. Frente Democrático Estudiantil 
  41. Fundación Ciudadanía y Desarrollo (Ecuador).
  42. Fundación Nacional de Estudios Jurídico, Políticos y Sociales  
  43. Hearts on Venezuela
  44. Instar
  45. Instituto Cubano por la Libertad de Expresión y Prensa (ICLEP)
  46. Instituto La Rosa Blanca
  47. Instituto Patmos
  48. Instituto Político para la Libertad (IPL)
  49. Inventario
  50. Justicia, Encuentro y Perdón 
  51. Juventud Activa Cuba Unida
  52. La Hora de Cuba
  53. Libertad Cuba Lab
  54. Mesa de Diálogo de la Juventud Cubana (MDJC)
  55. Ministerio Internacional Apostólico y Profético “Viento Recio”
  56. Ministerio Mujer a Mujer
  57. Movimiento para la Libertad de Expresión (MOLE) 
  58. Movimiento San Isidro
  59. Museo de la Disidencia en Cuba 
  60. Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos
  61. Observatorio de Libertad Académica (OLA)  
  62. OtroLunes - Revista Hispanoamericana de Cultura
  63. Outreach Aid to the Americas, Inc. (OAA)
  64. Palabra Abierta
  65. PEN America
  66. PEN Argentina
  67. PEN Club de Escritores Cubanos en el Exilio
  68. PEN Internacional
  69. PEN Nicaragua
  70. People in Need (PIN)
  71. People in Need Slovakia
  72. Prisoners Defenders
  73. Programa Cuba 
  74. Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos (Provea)
  75. Puente a la Vista 
  76. Red Apostólica Internacional Fuego y Dinámica RAIFD
  77. Red de Cultura Inclusiva
  78. Red Defensora de la Mujer (REDAMU)
  79. Red Femenina de Cuba 
  80. Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe por la Democracia (REDLAD)
  81. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
  82. Solidaridad de Trabajadores Cubanos (STC)
  83. Tremenda Nota
  84. Un Mundo Sin Mordaza
  85. Yucabyte

 

Saudi Arabia: C20 attendees must call on government to free jailed activists

In January 2020, over 220 Civil Society Organisations endorsed a statement issued by Amnesty International, CIVICUS and Transparency International announcing that they will not be participating in the sham Civil20 process hosted by Saudi Arabia, due to the Kingdom’s horrific human rights record. Ahead of the Civil20 Summit on 6-10 October, we address this letter to all the NGOs and CSOs attending the Summit.

 

Singapore: Drop police report against independent media outlet New Naratif

We, the undersigned civil society organisations, urge the government of Singapore to order the Elections Department (ELD) to immediately withdraw its police report against New Naratif, and to cease abusing the law to harass critical voices and independent journalists.

 

India: Amnesty International Forced to Halt Work

Government Increasingly Targeting Rights Groups

Today, CIVICUS joined fourteen other human rights organizations in condemning the Indian government’s actions against Amnesty India and pledged to continue support for local human rights defenders and organizations against the recent crackdown.

Amnesty International India announced that it is halting its work in the country after the Indian government froze its bank accounts in an act of reprisal for the organization’s human rights work. Fifteen international human rights organizations condemned the Indian government’s actions against Amnesty India and pledged to continue support for local human rights defenders and organizations against the recent crackdown.

The Indian government’s actions against Amnesty India are part of increasingly repressive tactics to shut down critical voices and groups working to promote, protect, and uphold fundamental rights, said the Association for Progressive Communications, Global Indian Progressive Alliance, International Commission of Jurists, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Front Line Defenders, FORUM-ASIA, Foundation the London Story, Hindus for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, International Service for Human Rights, Minority Rights Group, Odhikar, South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government has accused Amnesty India of violating laws on foreign funding, a charge the group says is politically motivated and constitutes evidence “that the overbroad legal framework is maliciously activated when human rights defenders and groups challenge the government’s grave inactions and excesses.”

The BJP government has increasingly cracked down on civil society, harassing and bringing politically motivated cases against human rights defenders, academics, student activists, journalists, and others critical of the government under sedition, terrorism, and other repressive laws.

These actions increasingly mimic that of authoritarian regimes, which do not tolerate any criticism and shamelessly target those who dare to speak out. With growing criticism of the government’s discriminatory policies and attacks on the rule of law, the authorities seem more interested in shooting the messenger than addressing the grievances. Women’s rights activists and indigenous and minority human rights defenders have been especially vulnerable. The recent action against Amnesty India highlights the stepped-up pressure and violence felt by local defenders on the ground, regardless of their profile.

The authorities have repeatedly used foreign funding regulations under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), a law broadly condemned for violating international human rights law and standards, to target outspoken groups. United Nations experts on human rights defenders, on freedom of expression, and on freedom of association have urged the government to repeal the law, saying it is “being used more and more to silence organisations involved in advocating civil, political, economic, social, environmental or cultural priorities, which may differ from those backed by the Government.”

Yet, the Indian parliament amended the FCRA this month, adding further onerous governmental oversight, additional regulations and certification processes, and operational requirements that would adversely affect civil society groups and effectively restrict access to foreign funding for small nongovernmental organizations.

A robust, independent, and vocal civil society is indispensable in any democracy to ensure a check on government and to hold it accountable, pushing it to do better. Instead of treating human rights groups as its enemies, the government should work with them to protect the rights of all people and ensure accountability at all levels of government.


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

New report: Punished for speaking up: The ongoing use of restrictive laws to silence dissent in India


For more information please contact:

Head of Advocacy & Campaigns, David Kode

 

CIVICUS calls on Nicaraguan authorities to withdraw new bill threatening freedom of association

A new bill introduced in Congress by lawmakers from Nicaragua’s governing party would severely restrict freedoms of association and expression if passed into law, global civil society alliance CIVICUS said today. Introduced on 22 September, The Foreign Agents Law (“Ley de Regulación de Agentes Extranjeros”) would require individuals and organisations that receive overseas funding  to register as “foreign agents”. Those registered as such would be banned from participating in activities relating to domestic politics.

This legislation would give government ample discretionary powers to control and muzzle civil society, including the power to freeze assets of organisations and people classified as “foreign agents” who fail to register within 60 days. It would also ban anonymous donations, require individuals and organisations to submit detailed monthly reports on funding and use of resources, and allow the government to cancel the registration of organisations not meeting requirements.

Similar legislation implemented in other countries, including Russia, has had a chilling effect on civic space, leading to the closure of many organisations and the discrediting of civil society activists. CIVICUS calls on the Nicaraguan Congress to reject the proposed bill and guarantee an enabling environment for civil society organisations and human rights defenders.

“This law would significantly obstruct the operation of civil society organisations in Nicaragua and contribute to the stigmatisation of activists and human rights defenders. Nicaraguan authorities have repressed peaceful protests, sought to silence critical voices and are now attempting to take away people’s right to freely associate,” said Natalia Gomez, CIVICUS Advocacy and Campaigns Officer.


Background

In April 2018, widespread protests for social rights set off a crisis in Nicaragua which persists to date. Violations during this crisis have left over 300 protesters dead and more than 100,000 people forcibly displaced. While mass mobilisations have abated, the persecution and criminalisation of political dissidence has continued. Opposition politicians, independent journalists and human rights defenders have faced systematic harassment from security agents and from civilian pro-regime groups. 

For more information on civic space violations, visit the Nicaragua country page on the CIVICUS Monitor 


ABOUT CIVICUS

CIVICUS is a global alliance of civil society organisations dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world. CIVICUS has more than 10,000 members worldwide.

The CIVICUS Monitor is an online participatory platform that monitors civic freedoms, including the freedoms of expression, association and assembly, in 196 countries across the world.

 

Indonesia: Academic at risk of imprisonment for online criticism of university hiring procedures

Joint NGO Statement by CIVICUS, Article 19, KontraS Aceh, LBH Banda Aceh, KontraS and YLBHI

Saiful Mahdi

 

Civil Society Organisations Call for the Draft Law on Public Order to be Immediately Discarded

CambodiaRightsGroups

Phnom Penh, 13 August 2020We, the undersigned national and international organisations and communities, call on the Royal Government of Cambodia (“RGC”) to immediately discard the repressive draft Law on Public Order and uphold its obligations under international human rights law. The draft law contains an extensive array of provisions that effectively criminalise the legitimate everyday activities of many within the Kingdom of Cambodia (“Cambodia”), in violation of their rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and other protected human rights. If enacted, the draft law will become yet another piece of repressive legislation in a legal framework that severely undermines human rights.

 

Young leaders breaking down the Agenda 2030 to the National level

agna young leaders breaking down the Agenda 2030

Virtual Global Exchange on Zoom: Young Sustainable Development advocates will break down the 2030 Agenda from Global to Local accountability mechanisms for civil society.

August is a month to commemorate the great effort millions of young people around the world are doing to support the well benign of their communities, defending human rights and protecting democracies all over the world. This Virtual Global Exchange session will highlight the experiences of young leaders holding decision-makers accountable to their Sustainable Development promises.

Under the framework of the ongoing series of webinars for civil society around Legitimacy, Transparency and Accountability, join this interactive virtual exchange and tell us: how is civil society participating in your country or region to advance, monitor and adapt the Sustainable Development Goals to local contexts? What have been the greatest learnings from this experience? What are your recommendations for organisations starting these efforts during COVID-19?

 

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Virtual Global Exchange on Zoom: Breaking down the 2030 Agenda

When: Wednesday 19 August 2020
Time: 9:00 México / 16:00 South Africa
Where: Zoom
Registrations here

The event will be held in Spanish with simultaneous translation to English and French.

Guest speakers: Rosario Garavito, The Millenials Movement; Marcia Alarcón, TECHO Paraguay; Roberto Baeza, The Hunger Project Mexico
Moderator: Roberto Zárraga, Red Global de Acción Juvenil
Read more:Believe Better” A working paper on young people’s inclusion in national follow up, review and accountability process of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

What is the Agenda 2030?

The Agenda is a commitment to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development by 2030 world-wide, ensuring that no one is left behind. The adoption of the 2030 Agenda was a landmark achievement, providing for a shared global vision towards sustainable development for all.

Approaches to Accountability

 

Urgent Appeal: Civil Society Call for Moroccan Authorities to Cease Intimidation of Journalist Omar Radi

Arabic

The undersigned civil society organisations call for an immediate and unconditional end to the intimidation and harassment of independent Moroccan journalist, Omar Radi, who has been summoned by police to appear for interrogation seven times over the past several weeks. Radi has been targeted by the authorities for his critical investigations and reporting, as one of the few journalists in Morocco who covers the corruption and business relations of the monarchy and its networks. Radi had been subjected to a sophisticated spyware attack, whereby his private communications were intercepted by a third party as documented in a public report by Amnesty International. Since the release of the report, the Moroccan government has undertaken an intimidation and harassment campaign, and has accused Radi of working with Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, among other unsubstantiated allegations.

 

Sri Lanka: Human Rights Under Attack

Lawyers, Human Rights Defenders and Journalists Arrested, Threatened, Intimidated

SriLankaCourts

 

An Urgent Call to Release Human Rights Defenders in Honour of Nelson Mandela Day

Twitter Facebook Free HRDs campaign 2

Dear World Leaders,

On Nelson Mandela Day, civil society organisations across the globe call on you to release imprisoned human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience.

Like Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in prison for his opposition to apartheid, there are thousands of human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience wrongfully accused and in jail around the world. They have been imprisoned for seeking gender, social, political, economic and environmental justice, for defending excluded people, and for promoting democratic values. 

Many of these human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience are serving sentences for crimes they never committed, after being convicted in unfair trials. Our organisations have for several years documented the unlawful jail terms handed down to human rights defenders in several countries.

We are particularly concerned that the authorities in many countries continue to detain human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience during the COVID-19 pandemic. We recognise the governments of Iran, Ethiopia, Turkey, Bahrain and Cameroon for releasing prisoners as part of their response to this unprecedented health crisis. However, not many human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience were included, and it is now more urgent than ever to release them.  

There are also hundreds of human rights defenders who remain in pretrial detention who have not been charged or tried. Overcrowding and poor sanitation in jails increase the risk of COVID-19 infection and should be strong factors for the reduction of prison populations.

We also urge you to stop the arbitrary arrest and detention of journalists in jail solely for reporting on human rights violations during the pandemic. Although COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted in some parts of the world, some countries have used the pandemic as a pretext to restrict civic freedoms. Journalists and human rights defenders have been physically assaulted and subjected to arbitrary detention and judicial persecution for reporting on the virus. 

We need human rights defenders now more than ever. It is their duty to hold governments to account, to ensure states respect international human rights laws during the pandemic, and to tackle environmental degradation and inequalities that have accelerated the impact of COVID-19.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, recently said:

“Governments are facing huge demands on resources in this crisis and are having to take difficult decisions. But I urge them not to forget those behind bars, or those confined in places such as closed mental health facilities, nursing homes and orphanages, because the consequences of neglecting them are potentially catastrophic.”

Sadly, some imprisoned human rights defenders have died under suspicious circumstances in various countries during the pandemic.

As we commemorate Nelson Mandela Day on 18 July, we remember that Mr. Mandela urged all of us to take on the burden of leadership in addressing social injustices. We call on you to give millions of families, friends and colleagues of human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience around the world a reason to renew their hope for a better future during these unprecedented times.

We urge you to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in jail solely for their peaceful human rights activities, and stop all judicial persecution against them.
  • Prioritise and release detainees who have not been charged, and those held in pretrial detention.
  • Stop carrying out new arrests and detentions, particularly on journalists and activists reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic, and those accused of breaking lockdown regulations.

 

Endorsed by:

 

1. A Common Future
2. A.C. Reforma Judicial
3. Abraham's Children Foundation
4. ACPDH
5. ACSIS
6. Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture
7. Action D'urgence pour Toute Détresse
8. Action for Humanity and Social Progress
9. Action pour la Lutte Contre l'Injustice Sociale
10. Action pour le Développement
11. Action To Heal Foundation Sierra Leone
12. Actions pour la Protection des Femmes
13. Active  Vision
14. Admiral development organization
15. Adolescents Initiatives Support Organization
16. Afghanistan Democracy and Development Organization
17. Africa Intercultural Development Support Trust
18. Africa Rise Foundation
19. African Center for Solidarity and mutual Aid between the Communities  CASEC - ACSAC
20. AFRICAN FOUNDATION FOR ENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT - AFED
21. African Holocaust
22. African Observatory Of Civic Freedoms And Fundamental Rights OCFFR-AFRICA
23. AJBDEM DURABLE
24. ALUCHOTO
25. Amis des Étrangers au Togo
26. Amnesty International
27. Asia Pacific Forum on Families International
28. Association des blogueurs pour une citoyennetà active
29. Association Femmes et Enfants
30. Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiatives Trust
31. Association for Health, Safety and Environmental Awareness International
32. Association pour les droits de l'Homme et l'Univers Carcéral
33. Association pour les victimes du monde
34. Association pour l'Integration et le Developpement Durable Durable au Burundi, AIDB
35. ASUTIC Senegal
36. Avenir Jeune de l'Ouest
37. AWHES
38. Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights
39. Banjul Youth in Community Services
40. Banlieues Du Monde Mauritanie
41. Bareedo Platform Somalia
42. Bella Foundation for Child and Maternal Care
43. Bousla Organisation
44. BRIGHTER FUTURE FOUNDATION
45. Burundi Child Rights Coalion
46. CAHURAST-Nepal
  Campaign Against Ignorance and Illiteracy
48. Capellanes conacce
49. CAPTE - Uruguay Silvia FLORES MOSQUERA
50. CareMe E-clinic
51. CEAMUJER
52. Center for the Development of Civil Society
53. Centre d'Initiatives et d'Actions pour le Développement durable au Burundi
54. Centre for Human Rights and Social Advancement CEFSAN
55. Centre Oecuméniquepour la Promotion du Monde Rural
56. Centro para la Acción Noviolenta y Cultura de Paz en CentroamÃrica
57. CESPHA
58. ChildHelp Sierra Leone
59. Circles of Hope Community Support Group for PLHIVAIDS
60. CIVICUS
61. Commonwealth Society of Nigeria
62. Cooperation for Peace and Development
63. Corporacion Regional Yariguies GEAM
64. COSAD BENIN
65. Differentabilities
66. DISCOURAGE YOUTHS FROM POVERTY
67. Domestic workers Union
68. DreamBoat Theatre for Development Foundation
69. Droits de l'homme sans frontières 
70. Edmund Rice International
71. Edo Civil society organisations
72. EIP
73. Fater Bibi Technologies
74. FCPEEP
75. FEDERATION DES FEMMES POUR LE DEVELOPPEMENT INTEGRAL AU CONGO
76. FINESTE
77. Formidable Initiatives for Women and Girls
78. Foundation for Democracy and Accountable Governance
79. Fraternity Foundation for Human Rights-Birati
80. Free political prisoners
81. FUNDACION SIMAS
82. Fundación T.E.A. Trabajo - Educación - Ambiente
83. FUTURE LEADERS SOCIETY
84. Global Witness
85. Give Hope Uganda
86. Governance and Forest Initiatives
87. GreenLight Initiative
88. Hadejia youth movement for social cohesion
89. Health NGO's Network
90. Healthy Choices Ic.,
91. Human Rights Committee
92. Humanitarian Care for Displaced Persons
93. IFAN
94. INSPIRIT Creatives UG NGO
95. Institute for Public Policy Analysis and Implementation
96. Integrated Agricultural Association-I,A,A
97. International Dalit Solidarity Network
98. International Falcon Movement - Socialist Educational International
99. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
100. Iraqi journalists right deafenc association
101. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
102. Justice Acess Point
103. JusticeMakers Bangladesh
104. Key Populations Alliance of Zambia
105. Khpal Kore Organization
106. Kibera Joy Initiative
107. Kumakomo Community Radio
108. Le Réseau Nigérien des Défenseurs des Droits Humains
109. Leadership initiative network for the Advancement of women and youth
110. Local  Community Development Association
111. Lumiere Synergie Developpement
112. Maecenata Foundation
113. MAMAS FOR BURUNDI ASSOCIATION
114. Manna Development AGency
115. Marketplace 247
116. MFFPS
117. Millennium Sistahs Trinidad and Tobago Inc
118. Missing Link Uganda
119. Mouvement des Femmes et Filles pour la Paix et la Sécurité au Burundi
120. Mouvement Populaire pour la Santé au Gay
121. Movement for Social Justice MSJ-4
122. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Uganda
123. Network of Civil Society Organisations for Election Observation and Monitoring - ROSE
124. Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago  for the Advancement of Women
125. New Owerri Youth Organisation
126. NGO Collective for Food Security and Rural Development - COSADER
127. NGO CONSTRUISONS ENSEMBLE LE MONDE
128. NGO Defensoria Ambiental
129. NGOs Council ASDGC Kenya
130. Nipe Fagio
131. Nouveaux Droits de l'homme Congo Brazzaville
132. ONG ASSAUVET
133. ONG BAL'LAME
134. ONG Programa sociocultural CRP
135. Palestinian Non Governmental Organizations Network
136. PAMOJATWASIMAMA
137. Partenariat pour la Protection Integree
138. PAYNCOP
139. Peace and Life Enhancement Initiative International
140. PHY ORG
141. Plan international
142. Princegnf
143. Prisma European Network
144. Psychologues du Monde Afrique
145. Reacción Climática 
146. Real Agenda For Youth Transformation Trust
147. REDHNNA-Red por los Derechos Humanos de los niños, niñas y adolescentes
148. REPONGAC
149. Research and Advocacy Unit
150. Root Change
151. Ruheso Tanzania
152. RUKIGA FORUM FOR DEVELOPMENT
153. Safety and Risk Mitigation Organization
154. Save Our Continent, Save Nigeria.
155. Save the Climat
156. Secours de la Femme Rurale au Developpement, Safrd
157. SHAKHI 'Friends of Women'
158. Shanduko Yeupenyu Child Care
159. She's  Writes
160. Sierra Leone School Green Clubs
161. Social Justice Forum
162. Social Mission Catalysts LLC
163. Solidarity health Foundation
164. Solidarity Youth Voluntary Organisation
165. SOS Jeunesse et Enfance en Détresse - SOS JED
166. South Sudan Civil Society Forum
167. Sustainable Develipment and Peace Building Initiatives
168. Tanzania Development Trust
169. Tanzania Peace Legal Aid and Justice Center  PLAJC
170. Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
171. the  Wuhan election campaign
172. The Angelic Ladies Society
173. Transitional Justice Working Group
174. Tsoro-o-tso San Dev Trust
175. Ugonma Foundation
176. Ukana West 2 Community Based Health Initiative
177. Unión Nacional de Instituciones para el Trabajo de Acción Social- UNITAS
178. Unique Foundation The Gambia
179. Vijana Corps
180. Wacare Organization
181. Welfare Association for Development Alternative -WADA
182. Women Against Violence and Expediency Handling Initiative
183. Women Friendly
184. Women Working for Social Progress
185. World Federalist Movement Canada
186. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
187. WORLDLITE
188. Young Professional Development Society Nepal
189. Your Health Your Responsibility
190. Youth Alliance for Rural Development in Liberia Inc.
191. YOUTH AND ENVIRONMENT VISION
192. Youth Arm Organization
193. Youth For The Mission
194. Youth Harvest Foundation Ghana
195. YOUTHAID-LIBERIA
196. Zambian Governance Foundation
197. Zimbabwe We Want  Poetry Campaign

 

 

Serbia: CIVICUS calls on Serbian authorities to stop attacks against peaceful protesters

CIVICUS urges Serbian authorities to stop using force to disperse protesters demonstrating against the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. CIVICUS calls for an independent investigation into violent attacks on protesters by police and condemns police violence against journalists covering the protests.

 

CONNECT WITH US

DIGITAL CHANNELS

HEADQUARTERS
25  Owl Street, 6th Floor
Johannesburg,
South Africa,
2092
Tel: +27 (0)11 833 5959
Fax: +27 (0)11 833 7997

UN HUB: NEW YORK
205 East 42nd Street, 17th Floor
New York, New York
United States
10017

UN HUB: GENEVA
11 Avenue de la Paix
Geneva
Switzerland
CH-1202
Tel: +41 (0)22 733 3435