Welcome to Civil Society Watch Monthly Bulletin, an e-newsletter of updates and analyses concerning civil society's rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression around the world. The Bulletin is compiled by the staff at Civil Society Watch, a programme of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation. Please feel free to forward the Bulletin to friends and colleagues. We welcome your comments and contributions!
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
RESOURCES AND PUBLICATIONS
PERU: Conflict lingers - Rights of indigenous peoples still in question
Violence recently erupted in Peru, stemming from protests over controversial decrees that allow the Peruvian government to further open parts of the Amazon region for development and the extraction of oil, minerals, timber, and other natural resources by multinational corporations. In the wake of this violence, CIVICUS’ Civil Society Watch interviewed Peruvian civil society leader, Rosa Mendoza, to learn more about the aftermath of the recent protest and their impact on civil society in Peru. Rosa Mendoza is on the board of the Peruvian civil society group Asociación Nacional de Centros (ANC) and an executive committee member of the Conferencia National sobre Desarrollo Social (CONADES).
AZERBAIJAN: Letter to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan
15 June 2009 -CIVICUS supports participatory democracy and citizens’ freedom of association around the world.
Read the full article: http://www.civicus.org/csw_files/Azerbaijan_NGO_bill.pdf
MOLDOVA: Directives aim to intimidate civil society organisations
12 May 2009 - CIVICUS is very concerned that the governemnt has initiated a number of repressive actions against non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the aftermath of the elections of 5 April 2009
Read the full article: http://www.civicus.org/csw_files/LetterMoldova-12.05.09.pdf
NICARAGUA: Manual on international cooperation postponed
24 June 2009 - Letter sent to the President of Nicaragua welcoming the postponed implementation of the draft manual on International Cooperation
Read the full article: http://www.civicus.org/csw_files/CIVICUS-statement-Nicaragua.pdf
UZBEKISTAN: Renewed crackdown on independent civil society in Uzbekistan
1 June 2009 – Government has stepped up its harassment of independent civil society activists, following a reported explosion on the border with Kyrgyzstan the night of 25 May.
Read the full article: http://www.civicus.org/csw/1074
UZBEKISTAN: Uzbek civil society activists detained for commemorating 2005 massacre
13 May 2009 - CIVICUS has expressed concern over the detention of well-known civil society activists in Tashkent, Uzbekistan for commemorating the anniversary of the 2005 “Andijan Massacre”.
Read the full article: http://www.civicus.org/csw/1059
ITUC annual survey of trade union rights violations.
According to an ITUC Annual Survey of Trade Union Rights Violations, 2008 was another difficult and dangerous year for trade unionists around the world. According to the report on workers' rights in 143 countries, over 76 trade unionists defending workers' rights died as a result of targeted killings, and many more experienced physical attacks and other forms of intimidation. The number of killings in Colombia, which is deemed the most dangerous place on earth for trade unionists, reached 49 - an increase of 10 over the previous year. Nine unionists were murdered in Guatemala, which in recent years has witnessed an increase in violent attacks against trade union representatives and members. In a number of instances, governments were either directly or indirectly involved in the killings. Some 7,500 cases of workers’ dismissal as a result of their involvement in trade union activity were recorded in a total of 68 countries, including 20 countries in Africa alone. Disturbing trends in labour rights in industrialised countries are also evident in the survey, as trends toward contracting labour and use of "third-party" labour agency employment continue to increase.
Read the full article: http://www.ituc-csi.org/spip.php?article3800
MALAYSIA: Three human rights activists released
Malaysian authorities released three human rights activists from the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) on 9 May 2009. The three men were among a group of five HINDRAF activists that were arrested and detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in December 2007 for organising protest rallies without a permit. Two of the HINDRAF activist were ealier released on 5 April 2009.
NIGERIA: Shell reaches Financial Settlement for Deaths
The 13 year old case in which Shell allegedly was complicit in murder, torture and other abuses by Nigeria's former military government against campaigners in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Ken Saro-Wiwa and the eight others were members of the Ogoni ethnic group from the Niger Delta. These non-violent protesters had been campaigning for the rights of the local people and protesting at pollution caused by the oil industry and were executed after being convicted by a military tribunal over the 1994 murder of four local leaders.
Read the full article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-kretzmann/shells-settlement-doesnt_b_213352.html
PERU: Two decrees revoked after months of protest
Peru's Congress voted overwhelmingly to revoke two decrees that indigenous peoples groups claimed would result in the exploitation of their native lands for oil drilling, mining and logging by international companies. The vote occurred after months of protest that left dozens of civilians and state police officers killed. Daysi Zapat, vice president of the Interethnic Assosiation for Development of the Pervuvian Jungle declared the government’s moves to recind the two decrees as a “historic day" for the indigenous peoples of Peru.
Read the full article: http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/06/18/peru.indians/index.html
TURKMENISTAN: Over 1000 prisoners granted pardon
The president of Turkmenistan has pardoned 1,671 prisoners in a move designed to appease international concerns regarding the country’s abysmal human rights record. Earlier plans to declare the pardon on the 9 May Victory Day holiday were postponed after law enforcers were discovered accepting bribes of up to $ 100,000 from the relatives of prisoners pleading for their release.
Read the full article: http://www.gundogar.org/?0220047836000000000000011000000
BELARUS: Largest fine yet for unregistered religious activity
The government of Belarus imposed its largest fine yet for unregistered religious activity, fining Vladimir Burshtyn, a Baptist in the eastern town of Osipovichi, 700,000 Belarusian Roubles (329 US Dollars) - the equivalent of two months’ average wages. Burshtyn, according to report from Forum 18 News Service, received this fine after organising choir singing and conducting public discussions on religion.
BOLIVIA: Supreme decree on terrorism could impact on media owners
Media outlets in Bolivia face increased restrictions after Supreme Decree 0138 was issued by Bolivian President Evo Morales. The Decree, issued on 20 May 2009, orders the confiscation of possessions by individuals suspected of financing or supporting terrorism. Morales stated that this will also apply to owners of media outlets thought to engage in or support "separatists” activities..
CAMBODIA: “The perilous state of freedom of expression”
On 8 June 2009, the Phnom Penh Municipality government in Cambodia reportedly sent armed forces to close the Lazy Fish guesthouse in the Boeung Kak area after its owner agreed to rent the premises to the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) for a public forum on "Human Rights and Development" on 12 June. The CCHR suspend its forum after the guesthouse was forcibly closed and in a joint statement released by the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR), Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC), Independent Democracy of Informal Economic Association (IDEA), Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Association (KKKHRA), and Cambodian League for the Protection and Defence of Human Rights (LICADHO), the civil society groups accused the Cambodian government of restricting freedom of expression, leading a “perilous state of freedom of expression” in the country.
EGYPT: More stringent violations of the right to privacy
After forcing internet café owners to register the names and identities of customers who visit their cafés frequently, Egyptian security officers are now asking internet café owners to monitor which websites their customers browse and report to the police anyone who browses "political" websites. Security forces recently raided an internet cafe in the Agouza district and arrested the owner because he did not keep a book with the details of his clients.
GREECE: 86 year old human rights activist “poses threat to national security”
86 year old French citizen and president of the Association of French Aromanians, Iancu Perifan, was refused entry into Greece on 2 May. Upon his arrival at the Greek-Albanian Kristallopigi (Florina) border crossing he was given a refusal of entry note in Greek and Albanian (he speaks neither language) explaining that he was being refused entry because he was an "individual dangerous to national security”. The denial stems from the authorities' disapproval of his views and writings on minority rights, according to a report from the International Expression of Freedom eXchange.
IRAN: British embassy staff to be put on trial
An Iranian cleric has said that some local British embassy staff will be put on trial for allegedly stoking post-election violence, a move set to put further strain on their frayed ties. Seven of the nine local staff originally detained by the Iranian authorities have now been released.
KYRGYZSTAN: Resolution offered for the restrictive new religion law
Government officials in Kyrgyzstan claim they have formed a Commission of government and religious representatives to resolve three controversial provisions of the new restrictive Religion Law signed by President Kurmanbek Bakiev in January 2009. However, officials refuse to provide a timetable for any decisions or to say if these restrictive provisions will be removed.
MOLDOVA: Controversial new penalties for religious activity
Moldova's new Code of Administrative Offences, which came into force on 31 May, contains a controversial article with a range of punishments for peaceful religious activities. The original article punishes all unregistered religious activity was heavily criticised by the European Court of Human Justice. However the only noted change in the article, as noted by Forum 18, is the replacement of the last phrase which reads: “which contradicts the current legislation.” Article 54 Part 3, which replaces the condemned Article 200 Part 3, also prescribes a fine and deportation for foreigners who conduct religious activity without notifying the local authorities in advance.
PAKISTAN: Media left paralysed
In a bid to stop the Taliban from reinforcing their positions in the Swat Valley, the Pakistan military has launched a military offensive in the region. As a result the valley continues to plunge into chaos, endangering the civilian population, creating a refugee crisis, and bringing media reporting to a halt. Local newspapers have stopped publishing for safety reasons, national newspapers have ceased distribution in the region, and cable broadcasts to region are crippled and unavailable. The authorities have also introduced a curfew in the Swat and neighbouring districts and limited freedom of movement.
PHILIPPINES: Thousands protest proposed resolution to amend the Philippine constitution
10 June 2009. Following moves by the Philippine House of Representatives to amend the country’s constitution, thousands of protestors marched through Manila’s financial district to denounce the latest efforts to amend the constitution. Over 5,000 police officers were deployed to guard the 15,000 demonstrators protesting against the charter change, commonly called “cha-cha” in the Philippines. Despite opposition by the Philippine Senate, the House of Representatives passed a resolution a week prior to the protest, which critics fear will enable President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to postpone next year’s elections.
PHILIPPINES - Activists receive direct death threats
Chairperson of Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya - KPD (Movement for National Democracy) in Central Luzon, Mr Francisco Honra, Secretary-General of the Nuclear Free Bataan Movement (NFBM) and Ms Emily Fajardo, KPD worker organiser and NFBM treasurer received direct death threats in June. These three defenders were working on a case of arbitrary arrest and torture.
SOMALIA: Director of Radio Shabelle killed
Mukhtar Mohamed Hirabe, Director of Radio Shabelle, one of Somalia’s leading independent radio stations, was killed by two gunmen on 7 June in Bakara Market, Mogadishu. Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists to operate and Hirabe is the fifth journalist to be killed in 2009 and the third victim of a targeted killing this year.
SUDAN: Approval of a new press law
The Sudanese Parliament recently approved the draft of a press law which was widely opposed by Sudanese journalists and civil society organisations. The law is a severe strike against the freedom of the press in Sudan and paves the way for more suppression and confiscation of materials and information that are unfavorable to government.
SWAZILAND: Media Institute of Southern Africa condemns arrest of human rights lawyer
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) in Swaziland recently learned of the arrest and detention of human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko. Maseko was arrested on 2 June 2009 and charged under the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act of 1938. Maseko was arrested for alleged utterances he made during a Workers Day event held on 1 May 2009 in the city of Manzini.
SYRIA: Draft of a new press law
On 10 May an informal committee of Syrian government officials convened and began the drafting of a new press law. According to reports, the draft of the new press law will continue to subject the press to criminal code while further extending penalties to internet users. Under the current press law, adopted in 2001, journalists can be jailed if they “attack the state’s prestige or dignity, national unity or army morale (...) the national economy (...) or the security of the currency”.
TURKEY: Dozens of trade unionists arrested on terrorism charges
On Thursday 28 May 2009, the Turkish police invaded the Confederation of Public Employees’ Unions’ KESK headquarters in Ankara and the KESK local branch offices in Izmir, Istanbul, Van and Manisa. More than 30 members of the teacher’s union, Egitim Sem,
UZBEKISTAN: Five activists of Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan arrested
Five activists from the group, Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan, were detained after attempting to turn in a statement to the Czech Republic Embassy about continuous human rights violations by the government of Uzbekistan. It is reported that Ilnur Abdulov, Anatoly Volkov, Oleg Sarapulov, Tatiana Dovlatova and one more person, whose identity remains unknown, were detained and transported to Mirzo-Ulugbek center of internal affairs department in Tashkent. According to preliminary reports, Anatoly Volkov and his fellow detainees have reportedly been assaulted by state authorities while incarcerated.
Amnesty International Report 2009: State of the World’s Human Rights
Amnesty International is calling for a New Global Deal on human rights, because of a human rights investment gap by world leaders. "It's not just the economy, it's a human rights crisis – the world is sitting on a social, political and economic time bomb," said Irene Khan.
Read the full report: http://report2009.amnesty.org/en/
Strategies for Effective Policy Advocacy: Demanding Good Governance in Africa
Katito, George and Aggad, Faten, South African Institute of International Affairs Research Report, No. 3, June 2009.
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom 2009 Annual Report
“The Threat of Religious Extremism to Religious Freedom and Security” has been the Commission’s overarching theme during this reporting period, and unfolding events in Pakistan make clear the relevance of this theme to the 2009 Annual Report.
Read the full report: http://www.uscirf.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2260&Itemid=35
We hope you enjoyed the Bulletin! If you would like to send an appeal or share information with us regarding issues affecting civil society in your region, please contact the Civil Society Watch (CSW) team at email@example.com
CIVICUS is an alliance of members and partners in over 100 countries, dedicated to strengthening civil society and citizen action around the world. Civil Society Watch is a programme of CIVICUS, which seeks to expose, address and prevent threats to civil society's rights to freedom of association, expression and assembly. For more information, visit www.civicus.org and www.civilsocietywatch.org
The views expressed in this bulletin are a reflection of those contained in the original reports to which they are linked here, and are not necessarily those of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation.