Worldwide attack on rights: over three billion people living in countries where civic freedoms are violated

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  • Global impact laid bare by the CIVICUS Monitor, a new online research tool that rates civic space around the world and documents violations of rights
  • Governments shutting down civic space and shutting up dissenting voices

Johannesburg, 24 October 2016 – More than three billion people live in countries where the rights to protest, organize and speak out are currently being violated according to the CIVICUS Monitor, the first-ever online tool to track and compare civic freedoms on a global scale.

The new tool, launched in beta today by the global civil society alliance CIVICUS, rates countries based on how well they uphold the three fundamental rights that enable people to act collectively and make change: freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of expression.

Bin the Travel Ban: Lift undue restrictions on Mozn Hassan and Egyptian civil society’s right to freedom of association

Mozn Hassan is a courageous feminist and a human rights defender who protested with her fellow citizens to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak, calling for a new era of freedom and democracy in Egypt. Her struggle for equal rights for women during and after the Egyptian revolution, through her organisation Nazra for Feminist Studies, earned her the 2016 Right Livelihood Award. But she’s unlikely to receive this prestigious award because of a travel ban imposed on her by the Egyptian authorities.

Mozn’s travel ban is the latest in a series of measures taken against her and other prominent leaders of Egyptian civil society under the ambit of the infamous Case 173 of 2011, commonly known as the “NGO Foreign Funding case”.

In March 2016, Mozn Hassan was summoned to appear before a judge investigating the “NGO Foreign Funding” case soon after her participation at the UN Commission on the Status of Women. On June 27, 2016, she was prevented by the airport authorities in Cairo - acting on the instructions of the investigating judge and the Prosecutor General - from participating in the Women Human Rights Defenders Regional Coalition for the Middle East and North Africa meeting held in Lebanon.

Violent attacks on peaceful protests in the DRC: Civil society writes open letter to President Joseph Kabila

One hundred and eighty-five civil society organisations from 33 African countries have written an open letter to President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) raising concerns over ongoing attacks on protestors and the targeting of human rights defenders.

Recently, on 19 September 2016, security forces violently dispersed protests by citizens who criticised the failure of the electoral commission - Commission Electorale Nationale Independente (CENI) to meet the deadline for announcing the timeframe for the next elections.  The government announced that 17 people, including three police officers were killed during clashes although civil society and political observers argue that the figure is much higher. Several protesters also suffered from gunshot wounds.  

South Korea: Ensure accountability for death of South Korean activist


Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS mourns the death of South Korean activist and farmer Mr. Nam-gi Baek on 25 September due to injuries he sustained while exercising his right to peaceful assembly. We urge South Korean authorities to conduct a swift and impartial investigation into Mr Baek’s death and the use of excessive force by police to disperse and intimidate protesters.

Call for endorsements: Letter to President Kabila


Mr Joseph Kabila
President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Palais de la Nation
Ave de Lemera, Kinshasa, Congo (DRC) 

Dear President Kabila, 
We, the undersigned representatives of African civil society organisations, write to express our serious concerns about the police’s continued use of brutal force to crush peaceful assemblies and to silence the legitimate demands of the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Over the last few years, we have observed with shock a series of sustained assaults on human rights defenders, civil society organisations, members of the political opposition and ordinary citizens who are calling for elections to be held in accordance with the constitution, and opposing your attempts to remain as Head of State after your mandate officially expires on 19 December 2016.

We are appalled at the latest spate of indiscriminate killings of peaceful protesters that took place in Kinshasa during demonstrations on Monday 19 September 2016.  There is no justification for this atrocity, which was your government’s response to citizens’ exercise of their fundamental freedom of peaceful assembly. Citizens were peacefully calling attention to the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (CENI) failure to meet the 19 September deadline to announce the date of much-anticipated elections.

Steady increase in the deterioration of human rights in the Maldives

CIVICUS speaks to human rights and climate change activist Thilmeeza Hussain about current restrictions in the space for civil society in the Maldives. Thilmeeza is the Former Deputy Permanent Representative of Maldives to the United Nations.

1. What is the current state of human rights in the Maldives?

We have seen a steady increase in the deterioration of human rights in the Maldives over the last few months.  In August 2016 the authorities passed the Defamation and Freedom of Speech Act, which severely restricts the freedom of expression. The law criminalises speech deemed defamatory, and sets hefty fines and jail terms for journalists and individuals found guilty of slander. It empowers regulators to close newspapers and other media platforms if they fail to pay such fines.

In addition, new amendments to the Freedom of Assembly Act state that protests, marches, parades and other such gatherings can only take place with prior written permission from the police and only in designated areas. The challenge is that we all know that permission will not be granted for peaceful demonstrations that focus on issues considered sensitive by the government. The law will be used to pre-empt public assemblies and prevent them from taking place. The Act is at variance with Article 32 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to assemble without prior notification.  

Egypt’s independent human rights community at risk of complete eradication


The undersigned organisations condemn unreservedly the asset freeze ruled on Saturday 17 September by the Cairo Criminal Court in Zeinhom on prominent human rights organisations and defenders in Egypt, as part of case no 173/2011, known as the “foreign funding case”.

Prominent human rights organisations and human rights defenders were particularly targeted: the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and its director Bahey el din Hassan, the Hisham Mubarak Law Center (HMLC) and its director Mostafa El Hassan, the Center for the Right to Education and its executive director Abdel Hafiz Tayel, as well as human rights defenders Hossam Bahgat and Gamal Eid. 

The personal assets of the five human rights defenders are frozen and three NGOs CIHRS, HMLC and the Center for the Right to Education, are losing access to their bank accounts and their properties. The management of these NGOs’ finances and programmes are to be handed over to government officials, giving them control their activities and full access to their records and database, including files related to victims of human rights violations. 

Still a long road ahead in Colombia peace process - Gina Romero (RedLad)


CIVICUS speaks to Gina Romero, Executive Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy (RedLad), a not-for-profit platform than brings together more than 480 CSOs, networks, activists, academics, social movements, youth and political groups working together for stronger democracies, human rights, sustainable development and social cohesion in the region. RedLad is also a CIVICUS Voting Member organisation. 

1. We are finally able to glimpse the end of a half-century long conflict. What are the prospects for lasting peace in Colombia?

First of all, it should be noted that this process that is coming to an end has been a negotiation with a single guerrilla group, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). The FARC are the most significant such group in terms of territorial power and symbolism, but unfortunately they are not the only armed group with the ability to determine the scope of peace. Besides the fact that peace is evidently not something that can be achieved by just defeating an armed group. This is a very important lesson we have learnt from peace processes in other countries, and it also applies here.

Civic space and citizen rights still under threat in Brazil

AnaCernovCIVICUS speaks to Ana Cernov, Coordinator of the South-South Program at Conectas Human Rights, an international human rights non-governmental organisation. Based in Sao Paulo, Conectas was founded in Brazil in 2001 with the aim of promoting human rights and the democratic rule of law in the Global South. 

1. During the Olympic Games and after, we have seen the repression of several #ForaTemer and other protests. Have restrictions on the freedom of peaceful assembly increased after President Rousseff was impeached?

The repression of protests is not new in Brazil, however, it has indeed intensified in recent years and has become increasingly selective in the way it responds. Policing is ostensibly a military task –a regrettable heritage of the dictatorship that ruled the country for 21 years, from 1964 to 1985. Besides, it is also decentralised, as state governors each head their own military police. Therefore we cannot say that the Temer government is directly and solely responsible for the repression of the current protests. However, it is also true that there is high discretion regarding which protests are repressed depending on which side of the political spectrum they come from. The introduction of restrictions on the space for protest has steadily intensified since the protests that took place in June 2013, so in fact President Rousseff’s removal has not been a turning point in this respect.

CIVICUS Webinar: Gender, Inclusion & the State of Civil Society

Join SOCS authors
Joanna Maycock - European Women’s Lobby (moderator)
Mutsiya Leonard - UHAI East African Sexual Health and Rights Initiative
Sudarshana Kundu - Gender at Work
Kathy Mulville - Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights
& other CIVICUS Members for a webinar on

Wednesday 28th September 14:00 (GMT +2)


Help build critical, constructive dialogue on how the civil society sector can do better at advancing gender equality within and beyond our areas of work.

You will also inform development of the CIVICUS Gender Working Group by sharing your thoughts and experiences:

  • What works to create more gender-equal decision-making? What doesn’t?
  • What strategies do you use to challenge gender exclusion? What innovative or inspiring strategies or experiences would you like to share?
  • What are the main benefits of greater gender equality within our sectors/movements? How do you make the case to those who aren’t convinced? How do mainstream civil society groups step up effectively?


@CIVICUSalliance @EuropeanWomen @UHAIEASHRI @GenderatWork @WGNRR

We regret that the webinar will be conducted in English only

Solidarity is key to addressing socio-environmental conflicts in Costa Rica


CIVICUS speaks to Vanessa Dubois, Project Officer at ARCA (Central American Regional Association for Water and the Environment), a Costa Rican environmental CSO established to promote the protection, conservation and sustainable use of the environment and hydric resources, and to promote processes of integrated management of natural resources and the recognition of the human rights to water and sanitation.

1. Costa Rica is usually among the best-placed Latin American countries in rankings and evaluations of the quality of civic space, institutional development and respect for human rights. Is the country living up to its reputation?

In fact, there are no serious obstacles for the exercise of the freedoms of association, expression and peaceful assembly of civil society in Costa Rica. But there is indeed a less visible problem regarding the protection afforded to social and environmental leaders. True, murders of HRDs or civil society activists are not an everyday occurrence in Costa Rica; however, since the early nineties there have been approximately ten murders and fifteen attempts against the physical integrity of environmental activists -who, along with indigenous activists, are in fact the main targets of aggressions. The most recent case, in 2013, was the murder of our environmentalist colleague Jairo Mora. It was as a result of this regrettable event that we have been able to more successfully bring up the issue at the national level, in order to counterweigh the erroneous image that here nothing bad ever happens. In 2014 or 2015, especially in the context of land struggles on indigenous territories, community leaders have been criminalised.

Civil society working on women’s rights in Pakistan restricted by Council of Islamic Ideology

Blue Veins Logo1Civil society organisations (CSOs) working to improve women’s rights in Pakistan are facing difficulties after the Council of Islamic Ideology has made several attempts to limit their work as part of their clampdown on women’s rights in general. CIVICUS spoke to Qamar Naseem from Blue Veins, a CSO in Pakistan that provides legal assistance to survivors of gender-based violence and trains lawyers and judges to better deal with the cases on gender-based violence in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

1.What is the general situation for civil society in Pakistan? 
There are systemic threats to CSOs in Pakistan and especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In recent years, there has been a perceptible rise in restrictions on civic space. The independent civil society is under threat not just from the government but also from powerful non-state actors including influential business entities and extremist groups, as well as, religious leadership subscribing to fundamentalist ideologies. 
We are increasingly experiencing and witnessing criminalisation of dissent and there are efforts to criminalise the work of CSOs as the civic space is shrinking alarmingly. Attacks on CSOs have increased significantly in recent years while authorities have shown no interest to safeguard human rights defenders and CSOs. 

Worrying spate of attacks on independent media in Zambia

Global civil society alliance CIVICUS and the Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD) condemn attacks on independent media houses and journalists in Zambia. Attacks on the media, which intensified in the run up to the 11 August 2016 elections, show no signs of abating. Worryingly, government authorities are curbing independent reporting of the political situation in the country at a time when election results in favour of the ruling party are being challenged by the opposition. 

Tanzania: Stop targeting human rights defenders

Global civil society alliance CIVICUS urges Tanzanian authorities to put an end to their campaign of judicial persecution, arbitrary arrests and intimidation of civil society members and local communities opposing land rights violations.  

We are setting our 2017-2022 Strategic Priorities! We'd Love to hear from you!

This year CIVICUS concludes the implementation of its 2013-2017 Strategic Priorities (French, Spanish). The CIVICUS Board, membership and broader constituency are now mobilising to shape the new 2017-2022 Strategic Priorities for the alliance. 

The global consultation will look at the challenges facing humanity and how civil society (and the CIVICUS alliance more specifically) can best address these challenges.  The consultation will utilise:

  • Online surveys and social media conversations with the broader constituency
  • Face-to-face and virtual convenings with members and key stakeholders
  •  Dedicated sessions with underrepresented groups and disconnected parts of civil society

The global consultation will take place between July and December 2016. The major output of the process will be a synthesis report recommending strategic directions that will provide the framework for CIVICUS’ 2017-2022 Operational Plan, effective from 1 July 2017.

To start framing the conversation, the process will commence with a short survey that includes three questions:

  1. What is the greatest challenge of our time?
  2. What can civil society do to address this challenge?
  3. How can CIVICUS best support civil society in this effort? 

Please help us to make the most of this important moment to demonstrate our accountability to the greater CIVICUS Alliance by making your voice heard. Go to the survey and have your say!

We recommend consulting  the Year in Review summary from the 2016 State of Civil Society Report to give context to your answers.
As a way of thanking you for your participation, all respondents who return fully completed surveys will have their email addresses entered into a draw for one of 10 free one-year Voting Memberships (subject to the Voting Membership criteria outlined in the CIVICUS Membership Policy (French, Spanish).

For more information on how you can make your voice heard in our 2017-2022 Strategic Priorities consultation process, contact

International Community must condemn Turkey repression

CIVICUS logo colour on transparency lowresWHRDIClogo  GWFlogo

The state of emergency imposed in Turkey following the failed coup attempt is deeply worrying, say CIVICUS, Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRDIC) and Global Fund for Women (GWF). The three organisations urge Turkey’s trade and development partners to condemn the arbitrary restrictions on fundamental freedoms, as well as the undermining of the rule of law in the country, which are putting excluded groups such as women and LGBTQI communities at further risk of rights violations.

“The international community must caution Turkey’s government on its rapid slide towards authoritarianism,” said Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research Head at CIVICUS. “If unchecked, the on-going purge in Turkey will undo decades of progress on the rule of law, civil society rights and democratic norms.”  

In addition to the arrest of thousands of military personnel suspected of involvement in the coup attempt, hundreds of judges and prosecutors have been suspended while academics have been subjected to travel bans. Over 1200 charities and foundations have also been shut down for suspected links to coup plotters and over 100 media outlets have been ordered to be closed. Several journalists from the Zaman newspaper – which was attacked even before the coup - have been detained. Other media violations have included raids on the homes of journalists, rescinding of press credentials and the publishing of journalist’s names and photographs deemed to be linked to the coup plotters. 

“The present state of emergency poses an imminent threat to human rights, including the right to express peaceful dissent which is being quashed in the current environment of militarism, nationalism and religious conservatism,” the WHRDIC stated. “Turkish authorities must particularly engage with and protect women human rights defenders, including LGBTQI groups, who are reporting increased harassment.” 

CIVICUS, WHRDIC and GFW urge the international community to remain vigilant about human rights violations taking place in Turkey and to call upon President Erdogan’s government to restore rule of law, civil society space and press freedom in the country. 


How South African civil society scored a victory for freedom of expression


South African civil society recently succeeded in making the state broadcaster reverse a policy decision it had made concerning the censorship of violent protest images in news reporting. Media Freedom and Diversity Organiser Micah Reddy of the Right to Know (R2K) Campaign tells CIVICUS how they succeeded.

1. Can you briefly explain the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s (SABC) decision concerning broadcasting of protests?

The policy was ostensibly about respectability in terms of how journalists at the public broadcaster SABC cover violence during protests. But people were quick to see through the SABC’s reasoning. The unwritten rule was that there would be no airing of violence that happens at protests whatsoever, and such a blanket coverage ban is effectively censorship. 

The SABC argued that the decision was arrived at because we live in a very violent society where violence is covered too recklessly and there is too much gratuitous violence on our television screens. The SABC argued that when people see violent protests on TV they tend to emulate what they see, and that those who are protesting grandstand in front of the cameras and destroy public property when they know they are being filmed, and this encourages others to destroy property and use the cameras to promote their own agendas. It’s as absurd as saying journalists should not report on crime because it breeds more crime ─ which is something the SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng actually said. This is a very patronising view not only of people who protest but audiences as well. It is not for one man in a management position to tell us what we can and cannot watch and to attempt to control and distort the media narrative on the assumption that he should protect us from violent images, like an overbearing nanny.

Alert on Israel: NGO ‘Transparency’ Law part of wider trend to silence dissent

On July 11 Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, passed a law to restrict the activities of civil society organisations (CSOs) dependent on international sources of funding. The so called ‘transparency law’ requires Israeli CSOs receiving over 50% of their funding from international sources such as international aid agencies, CSOs, multilateral agencies and the United Nations to indicate this on every document, website, sign or publication that they issue and in all communication with officials. 

Murder of Kenyan human rights lawyer an act to intimidate human rights defenders

 In the aftermath of the extra judicial killings of human rights defender Willie Kimani and two others, CIVICUS speaks to Kamau Ngungi, the coordinator of the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders-Kenya about the implications this has for the human rights community. 

1. Can you detail the circumstances that led to the death of human rights defenders Willie Kimani and Josephat Mwenda?

The death of human rights defender Willie Kimani, Josephat Mwenda and Joseph Muiruri is believed to be due to their demand for accountability for the malicious attack on Josephat Mwenda on 10 April 2015. On this date Josephat Mwenda, a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) rider was shot at by an Administration Police Officer without provocation. Josephat reported the shooting incident to the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) and sought legal assistance from the International Justice Mission (IJM) who immediately took on his case. Since then, Josephat faced persistent threats including malicious prosecution. 

Launch of the Leave No-one Behind Partnership

LNOB project partners2

The Global Goals for Sustainable Development offer an historic opportunity to eradicate extreme poverty and ensure no one is left behind. To realise this opportunity, three international non-profit organisations (CIVICUS, Development Initiatives, and Project Everyone) with the support of the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development are working together on a new global initiative called the Leave No-one Behind Partnership, which aims to directly support the interests of the world’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged people.

CIVICUS Alert: USA: Investigate incidents and protect the right to protest

CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, calls on the Government of the United States of America to thoroughly investigate instances of heavy-handed action by police officers in dealing with protests against the killing of black individuals by law-enforcement agents.

The international community must keep watch on Mexico’s violations of human rights

yesicaCIVICUS speaks to Yésica Sánchez Maya about the recent repression of the teachers’ protest in Oaxaca and the situation of human rights defenders in Mexico. Sánchez Maya is a member of the leading team of the Consortium for Parliamentary Dialogue and Fairness in Oaxaca, and a member of the organisation’s Program of Movement Building and Public Advocacy.

Twenty-Six NGOs Call for Immediate and Unconditional Release of Bahraini Human Rights De-fender Nabeel Rajab, Prior to His Trial

NabeelRajabTomorrow, 12 July 2016, the trial of the prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab begins. Facing charges related to comments on the social media website Twitter, Rajab may be sentenced to more than ten years in prison. We, the undersigned NGOs, hold the government of Bahrain responsible for the dete-rioration of Rajab’s health due to poor detention conditions. We call on the Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Rajab, and to drop all charges against him.

Closure of Zambia’s Post newspaper a worry for freedom of expression

LewisMwapeCIVICUS speaks to Zambian civil society activist Lewis Mwape of The Zambian Social Development network. Recently, the government tax body attempted to close the outspoken Post newspaper and banned protests and rallies in Lusaka for 10 days until 18 July 2016. This led to a huge outcry from civil society that the state is clamping down on freedom of expression ahead of the Zambian general election in August. In this interview Mwape speaks about the state of freedom of expression in the country and the general operating environment for civil society ahead of the poll.

1. Can you detail what happened this month concerning the closure of Zambia’s biggest daily newspaper The Post?

In June agents from the Zambia Revenue Authority pounced on the offices of the post and closed the paper saying it owes taxes. It is also important to note that the newspaper argues that most of its debt had been settled before the raid. While I must highlight that it maybe true that the Post owes money, the timing and style of the pouncing raises concerns. Ahead of the elections, this newspaper was a critical voice providing information to citizens to balance out information they receive from the state media.

Failure to pay tax by any institution is unlawful. However, I get worried when government institutions are used to victimise those perceived to be opponents of the party in power. In many circumstances those that have accumulated huge tax arrears have been once friends of the same governments and sometimes same political parties that saw no problem in not paying tax but they are now persecuted because their opinion has changed. Victimisation is not the answer.

Catastrophic human rights situation in Bangladesh

CIVICUS recently spoke to a civil society activist in Bangladesh, who asked to remain anonymous, on the recent events in the country, including the recent killing of academics and bloggers and the implications for civic space.

1. Can you give background to what happened earlier this year when academics and bloggers were hacked to death in the country?

The political turmoil in Bangladesh threatens the freedom of expression, assembly and of association and a huge number of human rights violations are taking place, such as enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, targeted killings and mass arrest among others. The members of the opposition political parties mainly Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jaamat-e-Islami, dissenting voices and the young people make up the majority of victims of human rights violations. The present government came to the power through controversial and farcical elections in January 2014 which were boycotted by all major political parties, and as a result, political confrontations have increased. The government has become more repressive in order to keep power at any cost. The rule of law is non-existent. Therefore there is a huge political vacuum which allows for political extremism to grow. At the same time the government wants to project itself as the only custodian of “secularism” and therefore seeks to project the mainstream political opponents and the anti-government youth as “extremist” so that it can use lethal actions to silence them.

CIVICUS Alert: Guatemala: Life-threatening situation for civil society activists and journalists

In a matter of a month, a trade union lawyer, an indigenous land rights activist, and two journalists were murdered in Guatemala. Global civil society alliance CIVICUS is deeply concerned about the life-threatening situation for civil society activists and journalists in the country.

The most recent, Brenda Marleni Estrada Tambito, a legal advisor to the Guatemalan union federation UNSITRAGUA, was followed and shot five times from a moving car in Guatemala City on 19 June.  On 8 June, indigenous leader Daniel Choc Pop, a member of the Highlands Peasants’ Committee in the San Juan Los Tres Ríos community of the department of Alta Verapaz, was killed by a security guard during an alleged invasion of a private ranch. The day before, 7 June, Víctor Hugo Valdés Cardona, who directed a culture and news programme on local television, was shot dead outside his home in Chiquimula. A week earlier, on 30 May, a radio host named Diego Salomón Esteban Gaspar had been intercepted and shot dead while riding his motorcycle in Ixcán. 

Addressing exclusion an urgent political issue, says new report

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  • The 2016 State of Civil Society Report, produced by CIVICUS, provides a comprehensive `year in review’ as well as 33 guest essays focusing on the topic of exclusion. 
  • Addressing exclusion is an urgent political issue, which gained renewed emphasis with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015.
  • In the past year, civil society responded to profound human rights abuses caused by conflicts and worked to alleviate human suffering in the wake of disasters, yet faces major challenges including dubious attempts to silence dissenting voices.
  • CIVICUS documented serious violations of the freedoms of association, expression and peaceful assembly in 109 countries over the course of 2015.

In an increasingly unequal world where human rights are being undermined, civil society is challenging exclusion in innovative ways. 

“Much of civic life is about promoting inclusion. It is about amplifying the voices of the marginalised, tackling the causes of discrimination, and promoting equal rights and access to services,” said Dr Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah, CIVICUS Secretary-General on launching the organisation’s 2016 State of Civil Society Report. “But, for many millions of people exclusion remains a painful, everyday reality.” 

Egypt: Civil society faces existential threat

In recent months, civil society in Egypt has faced unprecedented attacks by the authorities, who are attempting to crush them. Many people working with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been detained and ill-treated, charged with offences under the draconian Counter-terrorism law, or subject to a judicial request to ban them from travel and freeze their assets. The undersigned 11 international non-governmental organizations urge the Egyptian authorities to end such attacks against human rights defenders and uphold their obligations under international and Egyptian law, and to respect the right of human rights defenders, individually and in association with others, to work for the protection and realization of human rights. 

South Korea breaching the right to protest

south korea - lae-goon park295X295CIVICUS speaks to Lae-goon Park, director general of Human Rights Center (SARAM) and a steering committee member of Coalition 4.16 on the Sewol Ferry Disaster, about the environment for civil society and the ongoing mass protest movement in South Korea. Park was recently sentenced to three years in prison for exercising his legitimate right to protest.

Q: A protest movement has emerged in South Korea in response to the government’s failure to adequately investigate the causes of 2014 Sewol Ferry disaster, in which hundreds of children drowned. Can you tell us about the origins and current state of the movement?

When the Sewol Ferry sank off the South-West Coast of South Korea on 16 April 2014, people voluntarily held a series of candlelight vigils across the country, calling for the safe return of the passengers. However, when 304 people were discovered dead (including nine who remain missing), these candlelight vigils evolved into protests criticising the government’s failed rescue measures and calling for an independent investigation into the tragedy. Based on these protests, and pan-national petition campaigns, the Special Law on the Sewol Ferry Tragedy was enacted in November 2014 creating an independent investigative body into the tragedy, the Special Investigation Committee. The investigative was expected sanction those responsible, and establish a framework of laws to enhance due diligence for public safety. However, the government is not fully cooperating with the Special Investigation Committee and has attempted to undermine its independence and efficacy by appointing pro-government officials, not allocating sufficient resources and or allowing full access to all necessary sources of evidence and information. In addition, the ruling party has issued a number of public statements critical of the work of the Special Investigation Committee in attempts to undermine its credibility.

Core Civil Society Rights Violated in 109 Countries - Civil Society Watch Report

CSW ReportCoverThe latest CIVICUS monitoring shows that in 2015 one or more of the core civil society freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly were seriously violated in at least 109 countries. Global civil society alliance CIVICUS has documented serious violations of the freedoms of association, expression and peaceful assembly in 109 countries over the course of 2015.

The list shows that instead of heeding calls to reverse the trend of closing civil society space, more and more states are failing their commitments under international law and reneging on their duty to protect and enable civil society. Several non-state actors also stand accused of seriously violating civil society freedoms.

The following table briefly summarises the nature of the violations captured in this report:

Repression hinders growth of civic space in Nicaragua



CIVICUS speaks to the executive team of Coordinadora Civil, a national articulation platform formed in Nicaragua in 1998 for emergency relief assistance as Hurricane Mitch hit the region. Its mission later adapted to the changing needs of Nicaraguan civil society, and it is currently a coordination body encompassing NGOs, territorial networks, trade associations, youth groups and social organisations with a focus on human rights, gender, and cultural and generational diversity

1. The Interoceanic Canal seems to have become the main object of claims in Nicaragua. Is there free and open discussion on this and other issues affecting the population and how has the government reacted to protests?

In Nicaragua there is a lot of debate going on, that is promoted both by individual experts and by civil society organisations such as Coordinadora Civil, and social movements such as the National Council for the Defence of Land, Lake and Sovereignty, which brings together the peasant communities that would be displaced from their land if the Interoceanic Canal is built. Through different mechanisms these various actors have developed a wide variety of actions to inform citizens about the law, bring up discussion around the information disseminated by the Chinese company in charge of the project, HKND, and circulate studies and evaluations conducted by state agencies, academic institutions as well as local and international independent scientists.

After the media, Sudan’s intelligence body clamps down on civic space

sudan-interview485X381In light of the recent crackdown on students protesting peacefully in Sudan, attacks on civil society organisations and judicial persecution of human rights defenders, CIVICUS speaks to a Sudanese human rights defender, who asked to remain anonymous, to shed light on the challenging environment in which civil society operates.

Q: How would you describe the state of human rights in Sudan at the moment?

There are a number of urgent human rights challenges that Sudan faces at the moment and with some it has been facing  for a long time. These human rights challenges are compounded by economic and political crises. To start with, the Human Rights Commission, created as a mechanism to protect and promote human rights is very weak. There are consistent violations of the rights to expression, association and assembly and these restrictions are at variance with international human rights standards.

Despite violent repression, we continue protesting for change - Camila Rojas (FECh)



CIVICUS speaks to Camila Rojas, a public administration student and the president of the biggest student federation in Chile, that of the University of Chile (FECh), about the environment for activism and the reasons why protests usually turn violent and are repressed in the country

1. From your experience in the student movement, what do you think are the causes of violence in demonstrations in Chile?

For many years now Chilean society has been mobilised around the social right to education, with milestones in 2006, when high school students mobilised massively, and 2011, when even more massive mobilisation at all levels led to a social movement for public education. This movement managed to maintain its autonomy and prevented its demands from being processed in the neoliberal terms that are typical of the Concertación, the centre-left coalition that has ruled the country for almost the entire post-transition democratic period. However, over the years successive governments have been unable to satisfactorily respond to our demands, since they did not have the political will to jointly work on reforms. All of this happened in the context of a system that daily oppresses us and takes away our sovereignty over our own lives by subjecting everything to the rules of the market and therefore contributing to the build-up of violence.

LGBT activists in Tunisia under pressure

In this anonymous interview with CIVICUS, a Tunisian activist who works for an LGBT organisation speaks about the conditions for LGBT activists and organisations in Tunisia. CIVICUS also asked her about the general situation for civil society post-revolution and post the Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to Tunisian civil society actors half a year ago.

1. What are the conditions for civil society organisations and human rights defenders working on LGBT issues in Tunisia?

There is currently a public campaign against LGBT persons and civil society activists and organisations working on LGBT issues on national television claiming that we are a threat to Muslim and Arabic identity. This has led to increased aggression against LGBT activists in the streets and especially those activists who go on television to speak about LGBT issues. Some activists have also been beaten in public spaces. The campaign against LGBT activists has not only been supported by ordinary people but also by the military and police who have said that they would fight against LGBT people where they meet them. Some LGBT activists have even been expelled from their schools and universities. The LGBT people and activists who look a bit different to what are gender norms in Tunisia, such as women with short hair, people with piercings or a man who is a bit feminine, can be arrested at check points.

Papua New Guinea: Investigate violence against peaceful protesters

Global civil society alliance CIVICUS urges the Government of Papua New Guinea (PNG) to respect the right to protest peacefully and condemns the use of extreme violence by security forces in PNG to supress demonstrations by students. 

On 8 June 2016 lethally armed police attacked student protestors with live ammunition as they demonstrated peacefully from the University of PNG’s Waingani Campus in Port Moresby.  The protesters had planned to march from their campus to Parliament.  At least 38 protesters were injured, several of them with bullet wounds and some remain in a critical condition. Other protesting students were physically assaulted as the police attempted to disperse them.  

Environmental matters a risky affair for Kenyan activists

PhyllisOmidoCIVICUS speaks to Phyllis Omido, a Kenyan grassroots environmental activist about the challenges faced by activists for environmental rights in the country. She is a co- founder of the Center for Justice, Governance and Environmental Action (CJGEA), an organisation that advocates for the rights of marginalised communities in the coastal belt of Kenya. She was Africa’s recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 and is known for organising protests and shutting down a lead smelting plant located in the middle of Owino Uhuru, a slum near Mombasa.

1. Can you explain the rise in numbers of environmental rights activists in Kenya and the circumstances they are operating under?

The main cause for the rise in the numbers of environmental rights activists  is business encroaching on human territory, pollution, displacement of communities by the state and corporate activities, wanton destruction of mangrove trees and deviation of water bodies among other reasons. This affects the livelihoods of poor communities forcing them to seek protection of their fundamental rights. When trying to follow available channels to advocate for rights, access to information, lack of public participation and access to justice are impeded by business with facilitation of the state.

Help us shed light on the situation in Venezuela: Diana Vegas(Sinergia)


CIVICUS speaks to Diana Vegas, the vice-president of Sinergia, a Venezuelan organisation that aims at expanding spaces for citizen participation, providing a space for civil society articulation and strengthening civil society.

1. There have recently been many news reports regarding the State of Emergency decree, skyrocketing inflation, food shortages and increasing violence in Venezuela. How are these developments affecting civic space in the country?

Indeed, several concurrent crises are having an impact on Venezuelans’ daily lives. Their effects include a hike in poverty (a survey jointly conducted by several universities has revealed that up to 75% of the population are poor, while structural poverty is almost 30%), deteriorating working conditions, one of the highest inflation rates in the world, shortages of basic goods including food and medicine, deteriorating health and education services, increased fear, and loss of public space. The main response of the State to all of these has been systematic repression. The most central explanatory element of these severe crises lies in the institutional destruction caused by arbitrariness and the prevalence of social relations based on force. Today Venezuela is among the countries with the highest proportion of violent deaths in the world: in 2015, the homicide rate was 90 per 100 000 inhabitants, a historical record.

Joint Statement: Venezuela Should Revoke Emergency Decree


The international community should press Venezuela to revoke the recent “State of Exception and Emergency Decree” that granted the government powers to restrict rights, suspend international cooperation for civil society groups, including human rights organizations, and limit the constitutional powers of the National Assembly, 125 human rights and civil society organizations from around the world said today.

Ethiopia: End use of counter-terrorism law to persecute dissenters and opposition members



The Ethiopian Government must end its escalating crackdown on human rights defenders, independent media, peaceful protestors as well as members and leaders of the political opposition through the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP) says a group of civil society organisations (CSOs).

“The government’s repression of independent voices has significantly worsened as the Oromo protest movement has grown,” said Yared Hailemariam, Director of the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE). “The international community should demand the end of this state-orchestrated clampdown and the immediate release of peaceful critics to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.”

What Argentina’s government can do to improve civic space




Fernando Bracaccini a lawyer and coordinator of the Area for the Strengthening of Democratic Institutions at ACIJ (Civil Association for Equality and Justice), a non-profit organisation, speaks to CIVICUS on the environment for civil society organisations in Argentina. The ACIJ was founded in 2002 to defend the principles of the national Constitution and the rule of law, back all struggles against discrimination, promote legislation favouring the most disadvantaged groups, and developing participatory and deliberative democratic practices in Argentina. 

1. Following two recent incidents – the arrest of social activist Milagro Sala in the Jujuy Province and the drafting of a so-called “anti-protest protocol” – to what extent are the freedoms of association and peaceful assembly threatened in Argentina? 

Although these two events are different, arising from disparate decisions and jurisdictions, both have had a restrictive effect on the right to protest. Even though legal charges were actually raised against Milagro Sala, the fact remains that the decision to arrest her was based solely on her participation in the protest that took place on 14 December 2015. ACIJ publicly stated that this was an arbitrary restriction of the right to protest. The decision is also a show of the lack of independence of the judiciary in many Argentine provinces.

Alert: State of emergency in Venezuela

Global civil society alliance CIVICUS is concerned about the negative impact of Venezuela’s “state of exception and economic emergency” on civil society freedoms. On 13 May 2016 President Nicolás Maduro issued a decree calling for  the state of exception on the basis that “extraordinary circumstances of social, economic, political, natural and ecological nature […] seriously affect the constitutional order, social peace, national security, public institutions and citizens of the Republic.” 

Resilience of Kyrgyzstan CSOs pays off as parliament throws out ‘foreign agents’ Bill

DinaraOshurahunovaDinara Oshurahunova, of the NGO Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, speaks with CIVICUS on recently failed attempts in Kyrgyzstan to pass a foreign agents law and the civil society environment in the country

1. Could you tell us more about the draft Foreign Agents Law that was rejected by Parliament on May 12 in its final reading?

In 2013 the draft Foreign Agents Law was first introduced. The law would mandate NGOs that are funded by foreign resources to register as “foreign agents”. Additionally, the draft law opened the door for the prosecution of NGOs engaged in “political activities”. The notion of "political activities" was vaguely worded in the draft law meaning it was open to different interpretations. Since then the draft law went through changes: the term "foreign agent" was removed, while the provision regarding "political activity" was also eliminated. The recently rejected version of the draft law imposes heavy reporting requirements for NGOs.

Justice for Land Rights Activist, Sikhosiphi Rhadebe: Civil Society writes open letter to South African President Zuma

Nearly two hundred civil society organisations from 74 countries, including South Africa, have written an open letter to South African President Jacob Zuma to mark the second-month anniversary of the brutal assassination of South African community and land rights activist Sikhosiphi Rhadebe. Mr Rhadebe was killed on 22 March 2016 by unknown assailants using firearms.

Still a small window open to reverse China’s new NGO law

In this anonymous interview with CIVICUS, a human rights defender working for a civil society organisation in China details what China’s new NGO Law means and its likely impact on NGOs. Although the law was passed in April and should take effect in January 2017, it can be repealed if the President is convinced not to sign the order to enact it.

Q: Please detail briefly what China’s new NGO law says for local and foreign NGOs

First of all, it has to be clarified that calling the law the “foreign NGOs” as has been peddled in most media is a misleading translation. In its original Chinese language, the law is literally about “extra-territorial” not “foreign” NGOs, meaning that it covers NGOs in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, as China sees it.

Free Emirati human rights defender Dr. Nasser Bin Ghaith, on trial for online posts in violation of his right to free expression

قراءة بيان باللغة العربية

We, the undersigned NGOs, call on the authorities to immediately release human rights defender and professor of economics Dr. Nasser Bin Ghaith, who remains in detention in an unknown location in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for his social media posts and human rights activities. He has been denied proper access to his lawyer or family since his arrest in August 2015, and reportedly subject to torture in custody. The continued detention and charges violate his human rights, including his right to free expression.

Swazi monarch a barrier to a vibrant civil society

ThulaniMasekoCIVICUS speaks to Thulani Rudolf Maseko, a human rights defender and founding member of the Lawyers for Human Rights, Swaziland about persistent civic space challenges in the Kingdom of Swaziland and his experiences as a victim of the actions of monarchy. He spoke to us on the sidelines of a side event on Swaziland at the United Nations Human Rights Council

1. What are some of the human rights challenges faced by Swazis?

The main problem for Swaziland is the lack of a democratic space for the people to express themselves. The system of government is one based on the supremacy of the King and royal institutions. It is now generally acknowledged that a system that concentrates power in one center is inconsistent with the ideals of the rule of law and democratic governance. Supremacy anywhere is not in line with the respect, promotion, protection and fulfilment of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.

It is significant to mention that the problem with Swaziland started on 12 April 1973 when King Sobhuza unlawfully repealed the Constitution, dissolved Parliament and assumed all state and governmental power. His son, King Mswati III who assumed power on April 25, 1986 reaffirmed this position as soon as he had assumed the throne in 1987 when he promulgated Decree No. 1 of 1987. Through this amendment Proclamation, he confirmed that in terms of Swazi law and custom, the King is the supreme power in Swaziland.

Global Day of Citizen Action: thousands gathering in over 35 countries to protect their fundamental freedoms

Today, citizens will be gathering in streets and squares around the world to exercise their fundamental rights to speak out, organise and take action on issues affecting their everyday lives. The events are being organised as part of the Global Day of Citizen Action, which is bringing together thousands of citizens in over 35 countries across approximately 80 events to raise awareness about the importance of civic space and the role of citizens in driving change within their communities and governments.

Battle for natural resources endangers Guatemala’s CSOs

CarmenAidaIbarraCarmen Aída Ibarra (pictured) is the Executive Director of the Pro Justicia Movement Coalition, a grouping of citizen participants that brings together three civil society organisations fighting impunity in Guatemala. She speaks to CIVICUS about the operating environment for civil society in the country. 

Read the interview in English or Spanish

Justice for Sikhosiphi Rhadebe

Sikhosiphi-Rhadebe3As you may be aware, 22 May 2016, will mark the second-month anniversary of South African community and land rights activist Sikhosiphi Rhadebe’s brutal murder in the Eastern Cape province. To mark this sad occasion, we are hoping to get a critical mass of civil society organisations from around the world to express their solidarity through a sign on letter.  

Mr Rhadebe was the chair of the Amadiba Crisis Committee which is engaged in an unequal struggle against titanium mining operations in South Africa’ s pristine Wild Coast region. The local community is concerned that dust generated by open cast mining will cause severe health problems and use up scarce communal water sources. Mining activities could also possibly lead to relocation of the local community and interfere with agricultural activities.

Azerbaijan: Civic space in focus as country is listed as ‘inactive’ by OGP

Publish What You Pay (PWYP), ARTICLE 19 and CIVICUS welcome yesterday’s unprecedented decision by the Steering Committee of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) to list Azerbaijan as ‘inactive'.  Through this decision, the OGP – a voluntary initiative promoting government transparency and accountability – reaffirms how vital civil society is for an open government and the importance that OGP members attach to the protection of civic space.



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