Time to sign: Environmental rights and democracy in Latin America


The #Sign4TheEnvironment campaign aims to promote the signature of the regional treaty for environmental democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean - known as the Escazu Agreement. The Escazú Agreement represents a major step forward for the rights of people to access information and participate in policies, projects and decisions that affect the environment. The right  to participate in decision-making processes is key for an open civic space. 

The agreement is also the first international instrument that includes obligations for the protection environmental defenders and the right of assembly in relation to the environment as the treaty obliges countries to recognize the role and protect activists and their organizations. Attacks and killings of environmental defenders in Latin America is a major concern, as the region is usually the most dangerous place on earth for environmental defenders according to the annual report of Global Witness:

The treaty will open for signature on September 27 during the General assembly of the United Nations. The Agreement will need the signature and ratification of 11 countries to entering into force.

Add your name to the government petition & learn more about the importance of the Escazú Agreement. For the latest updates on the state of citizen rights in each country in Latin America and the Caribbean see the CIVICUS Monitor.



Osama Al-NajjarName: Osama Al-Najjar

Location: United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Reasons Behind Bars:

Human rights defender and online activist Osama Al- Najjar, was arrested on 17 March 2014 in Abu Dhabi by state security forces.  Preceding his arrest, Osama was returning from the Arazeen jail where his imprisoned father, Hossain Al-Najjar, is currently serving an eleven year prison sentence for being a member of UAE94, a group of 94 activists serving heavy prison sentences on highly questionable grounds for  attempting to overthrow UAE’s authoritarian government.

Upon his arrest, Osama’s whereabouts were kept secret from his immediate family.
He was kept in solitary confinement and tortured at a secret detention centre  in Abu Dhabi for four days before he was transferred to the Alwathab jail in Abu Dhabi. 


Irom Sharmila

irom2Name: Irom Sharmila  

Location: India

Reason Behind Bars:

Irom has been on a hunger strike since 2000 to highlight persistent human rights abuses committed by Indian security forces under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1958 (AFSPA). Under Section 4 (A) of the law, security forces involved in counter-insurgency operations in “disturbed areas” are given the authority to arrest, detain and even use lethal force against persons suspected of being a threat to “public order.”  Of critical concern is section 6(A) of the law which prohibits courts from holding security officials accountable for their human rights abuses without prior government approval. The law is regularly invoked to forcefully suppress public demonstrations, particularly in insurgency affected areas, including the states of Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur. Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee, a committee founded in 2004 by the government of India to review AFSPA, recommended that the law should be amended as it institutionalizes abuse, repression and discrimination.

On 2 November 2000, members of the Assam Rifles, one of India’s oldest paramilitary forces, allegedly shot and killed 10 people at a bus stop in Imphal Valley, Manipur. However, despite accusations that the shooting constituted extrajudicial executions the Indian authorities refused to investigate the incident, concluding that it was within the mandate of AFSPA.   In protest of the government’s failure to investigate the incident, Irom decided to indefinitely prolong her traditional Thursday fasts, which she has been carrying out since childhood, to demand the repeal of AFSPA. 


Lu Maw Naing

Name: Lu Maw NaingLu Maw Naing

Location: Myanmar 

Reason Behind Bars:

On 25 January 2014, Burmese journalist Lu Maw Naing and several of his colleagues at Unity newspaper published the article, “A secret chemical weapons factory of the former generals, Chinese technicians and the commander-in-chief at Pauk Township”. The article exposed a clandestine chemical weapons facility in the Magwe Division and further revealed that former head of the ruling junta, Than Shwe, and current commander-in-chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces, Min Aung Hlaing, visited the facility with a number of Chinese technicians. These claims were substantiated by statements from local residents and factory workers. 

On January 31st, Lau Maw Naing was arrested without a warrant in Pauk Township, Magway Division. On February 1st, Naing was transferred to the Special Branch Police in Pauk Township where he was held without bail on charges of exposing state secrets.

From 31 January – 1 February, three other Unity reporters, including Yarzar Oo, Sithu Soe, and Paing Thet Kyaw, and Unity’s CEO, Tint San, were arrested in connection with the article.

Days later, in an apparent attempt to intimidate members of Unity’s staff and suppress further reporting on the chemical weapons plant, security forces raided Unity’s offices and confiscated copies of the issue. 


Mahienour El-Masry

Name: Mahienour El-MasryMahienour El-Masry

Location: Egypt


CIVICUS was informed by a partner in Egypt that on December 27 2015, Mahienour El-Masry second demurrer was rejected by the court.

Reason Behind Bars: 

On 21 September 2014, Mahienour El- Masry was provisionally released after the Al Mansheya Misdemeanor Appeals Court suspended her six months prison sentence following an appeal filed by her to the Court of Cassation. On 20 July 2014, the Sidi Gaber Appeal Misdemeanor Court in Alexandria had sentenced Mahienour to six months of prison and a fine of EGP 50,000 (approximately USD 7,200) under Law No 107: Law on the Right to Public Meetings, Processions and Peaceful Demonstrations. Mahienour was found guilty of “participating in an unauthorized protest” and “assaulting police officers”.


Pierre Claver Mbonimpa

Name: Pierre Claver MbonimpaPierre Mbonimpa

Country: Burundi 


He was provisionally released from jail but is in exile at the moment. He was shot and seriously injured on 3 August 2015 and was taken out of the country for medical treatment. His son in law, Pascal Nshimirimana, was subsequently assassinated on 9 October 2015.

Reason behind bars:  

Leading Burundian human rights activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa was arrested at midnight on 15 May 2014 in Bujumbura was interrogated by prosecutors and later charged with inciting public disobedience and threatening national security on the basis of comments he made on Burundian radio station,  Radio Publique Africaine (RPA).  He is one of Burundi’s leading human rights defenders and president of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH).   The charges against him stem from comments he made on Radio Publique Africaine (RPA) on 6 May 2014 that some youth from Burundi were being armed and sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for military training.   Before his arrest, he was questioned by the police about the comments he had made on radio. Pierre Claver is a former police officer, a former prisoner and founded APRODH to defend prisoner’s rights and the rights of all Burundians. He is currently being detained at the Prison Centrale de Mbimpa. 


Alaa Abdel Fattah

Name: Alaa Abdel FattahAlaa Abdel Fattah

Country: Egypt


He was again sentenced to 5 years in prison by a Criminal Court in Cairo during a re-trail of the case on 23 February 2015 for participating in a protest and assaulting a policeman.

Reason Behind Bars:

On 11 June 2014 civil society activist and blogger, Alaa Abdel Fattah was sentenced to 15 years in prison and handed a fine of EGP 100000 (approximately US $14000) for participating in a peaceful protest. Alaa was among a group of activists who protested against the use of military courts to try civilians. The protests took place on 26 November 2013 outside the Shuna-Council – Egypt’s Upper House of Parliament. He was charged with “demonstrating without prior notification,” “assaulting security forces,” “stealing a public radio,” and “interrupting the work of national institutions.”  He was sentenced in absentia as he was denied access to the court when the sentencing was done.

On 28 November 2013, about 20 security agents physically assaulted Alaa and his wife Manal Bahey el Din who is a blogger and activist and confiscated computers and telephones at their home before he was arrested.  He was detained for close to four months and later released on bail. 


Xu Zhiyong

Name: Xu ZhiyongXu Zhiyong

Country: China

Reason Behind Bars:

Civil society activist and public-interest lawyer Xu Zhiyong was arrested in Beijing on 22 August 2013 in apparent reprisal for his role in the “New Citizens’ Movement,” a network of human rights defenders which advocates for greater democratic freedoms and rule of law in china.

Xu was formally arrested following more than two month in detention beginning on July 16 on charges of, “Gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place” in a wave of targeted arrests aimed at undermining the leadership of the New Citizens’ Movement.

On January 26, 2014, Xu was sentenced to four years in prison. On 11 April 2014, a Beijing court rejected an appeal submitted by Xu contesting his four-year sentence. 


Adilur Rahman Khan

Name: Adilur Rahman Khan Adilur Khan

Country: Bangladesh


The Attorney General's office at the instruction of the government, has filed an appeal at the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court against the order of stay and the matter is now waiting to be heard by the Appellate Division.

Reason Behind Bars:

Adilur Rahman Khan, Secretary of prominent human rights organization Odhikar, was arrested at his home in the capital, Dhaka on 10 August 2013 and remanded into custody. Plain clothes members of the Detective Branch who conducted the raid failed to produce an arrest warrant. Police have also raided Odhikar’s office, confiscating several computers.

Adil is reportedly being accused of violating the Information and Communication Technology Act and Code of Criminal Procedure for the publication of a fact finding mission report by Odhikar on the alleged killing of 61 people by Bangladeshi security forces in May 2013.

On 4 September 2013, Adil was charged under Section 57 of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Act 2006.

On 11 October 2013, Adil was released on bail and on 15 April 2014 his case was stayed for a period of 6 months.

If convicted, Adil faces up to 10 years in prison.

Background Information:

CIVICUS believes that Adil is being unjustly persecuted for his work and beliefs as a human rights defender by Bangladesh’s security forces as part of the government’s escalating campaign to silence independent dissent in the country. As part of this clampdown, civil society groups including Odhikar are increasingly being subjected to harassment and intimidation by law enforcement agencies.

In October 2011, Adil was summoned by the Special Branch of the police, who refused to give reasons for their action. Odhikar representatives have also reported increased levels of surveillance and monitoring by government security forces in the lead-up to Adil’s arrest.


Abdulhadi Abdulla al-Khawaja

Name: Abdulhadi Abdulla al-KhawajaAbdulhadi Abdulla al-Khawaja Bahrain

Country: Bahrain


Mr. Al-Khawaja continues to be denied adequate medical attention and suffers from severe medical complications as a result of his mistreatment in detention. Mr. Al-Khawaja has reported that he has cramps in his facial muscles from metal plates and screws that were set in his jaw after it was broken by security officials in four places in 2011. Mr. Al-Khawaja also continues to experience acute pain due to an injury to his coccyx sustained during torture in 2011.

Reason Behind Bars:

In May 2011, Abdulhadi, along with 21 other opposition activists, went on trial in front of a military tribunal, the National Safety Court. On 22 June 2011, he and seven other defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment, convicted of organising demonstrations and of "forming a terrorist group to change the constitution and its monarchical system." Abdulhadi's conviction was based on a confession made under duress, and no evidence was presented during the trial to suggest that Abdulhadi had called for violence during the mass protests for civil rights and self-determination.


Tran Thi Thuy

tranName: Tran Thi Thuy

Country: Vietnam

Reason Behind Bars:

The prominent land rights activist, Tran Thi Thuy, was arrested in August 2010 on charges of ‘subversion’. Following a closed, one-day tribunal held on 30 May 2011, the activist was sentenced to eight years in prison for allegedly violating Artice 79 of the Vietnamese Penal Code, prohibiting attempts “to overthrow the socialist government”.

The charges brought against Tran Thi Thuy relate directly to her work as a rights actiivist. Herself a member of the sizeable population of dispossesed landowners (known as ‘aggrevated citizens’ or ‘dân oan’), who have been offered little or no compensation in return for the siezure of their property by local government officials, Tran Thi Thuy championed the land rights of families, like her own, by actively petitioning the authorities for appropriate redress.

In September 2011, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled that Tran Thi Thuy had been arbitrarily detained for exercising her fundamental right to freedom of association and her conviction was in contravention of international law and in violation of their fundamental right to an open and fair trial.


Take Action: Free Dr Mohammed Al Qahtani and Dr Abdullah Al-Hamid

Names: Dr Mohammed Al Qahtani and Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid Dr Mohammed Al Qahtani

Country: Saudi Arabia


In March 2014, imprisoned human rights defenders Dr Abdullah Al-Hamid and Dr Mohammed Al-Qahtani began a hunger strike in protest against their targeted mistreatment in al-Ha'ir prison in Riyadh.

Reason Behind Bars:

On 9 March 2013, Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid and Dr. Mohammed Al Qahtani, co-founders of the civil society group the Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights (ACPRA), were convicted of 12 charges by the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh including ‘Refusing to submit to the will of the King’; ‘Incitement’ and ‘Communicating inaccurate information to Foreign Entities’.

Dr Abdullah Al-Hamid

The presiding judge sentenced Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid to five years in prison for these alleged crimes, in addition to six years of a 2004 sentence, which he had not served, following a pardon (revoked on the grounds that the most recent charges represented a ‘breach’ of the conditions of his release) – bringing his total sentence to eleven years. Dr Mohammed Al-Qahtani was sentenced to ten years imprisonment. Moreover, both defendants are prohibited from travelling after the expiration of their prison sentences, for a duration equal to their prison terms, respectively. Following the sentencing,
both defendants were taken into custody and transferred to Al-Malaz prison.


Take Action: Nabeel Rajab

Nabeel Rajab_BName: Nabeel Rajab

Country: Bahrain


An arbitrary travel ban was placed on Nabeel Rajab in July and he remains unable to travel. The travel ban was imposed because the charges against him have not been formally closed and applications by his lawyers to do so have been ignored.

Reason Behind Bars:

Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and Director of Gulf Center for Human Rights, was detained on 1 October 2014 upon returning to Bahrain after an extensive international advocacy campaign to highlight on-going restrictions on fundamental freedoms in Bahrain.

Mr Rajab’s recent detention followed a written summons to appear before the Cyber Crimes Department of the Criminal Investigation Directorate. Following a brief investigation, Mr Rajab was arrested on suspicion of violating article 216 of the Bahrain Penal Code - which punishes offending public institutions - in relation to tweets he sent deemed critical of the government. On October 1st, public prosecutors ordered Mr Rajab’s detention for another 7 days pending further investigation.

CIVICUS remains deeply concerned that Nabeel Rajab’s most recent detention represents yet another flagrant attempt to silence the outspoken activist and further muzzle independent advocacy and reporting on Bahrain’s unabated crackdown on civil liberties and civil society freedoms. In the weeks prior to his arrest, Mr Rajab embarked on a two-month international tour including to the European Union and the 27th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to advocate for greater respect for democratic freedoms in Bahrain.


Mohammad Seddigh Kaboudvand

sedighName: Mohammad Seddigh Kaboudvand

Country: Iran 


Mohammad Seddigh Kaboudvand, who has been detained in Tehran since July 2007, has repeatedly been denied requests for sick leave for treatment for a serious heart ailment.  It is reported that Mr Kaboudvand’s health has severely deteriorated as a result.

Reasons Behind Bars: 

Mohammad Seddigh Kaboudvand is an Iranian-Kurdish journalist and human rights activist who founded the Kurdistan Human Rights Organisation (HROK) and served as the editor of the independent weekly newspaper, Payam-e mardom. Until his detention, Mr Kaboudvand documented cases of human rights violations in Iran’s Kurdish areas.


Take Action: Eskinder Nega

Name: Eskinder NegaEskinder Nega 2

Country: Ethiopia


On 1 May 2013, Ethiopia’s Supreme Court upheld prominent journalist Eskinder Nega’s 18 year prison sentence. The decision follows broad international criticism of Mr. Nega’s arrest including an advisory opinion issued by the UN working Group on Arbitrary Detention on 1 April 2013, calling for Mr. Nega ‘immediate release.’ In its decision, the Working Group determined that the Ethiopian government had violated Nega’s fundamental rights to free expression and due process, as codified under the International Covenant on Civil and political Rights (ICCPR).


Ameer Makhoul

Ameer newName: Ameer Makhoul

Country: Israel

Reason behind bars:

Ameer Makhoul, prominent Palestinian human rights activist and Director of the Palestinian NGO, Ittijah: Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, was arrested at his home on 6 May 2010 and later charged with “assistance to the enemy in a time of war,” “aggravated espionage” and “contact with a foreign agent.” The charges however are widely considered politically motivated.

Mr Makhoul was sentenced to nine years in prison on 30 January 2011 with an additional one year suspended sentence by the Haifa District Court and has been serving his term at the Israeli Prison in Gilboa.




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