civic rights restrictions

 

  • Attacks on opposition and media continue as elections approach in Maldives

    • State slaps opposition supporters with spurious “terrorism” charges ahead of elections
    • Opposition campaign offices and members’ properties attacked and vandalised
    • New cumbersome visa requirements for foreign journalists adds to media restrictions
    • Global human rights groups call for probe into attacks and an end to media repression

       

    • Global challenges, local responses

      By Danny Sriskandarajah and Mandeep Tiwana

      We are facing a global emergency of civic space. This is now a universal phenomenon, no longer restricted to autocracies and fragile democracies. While there is growing interest in the nature and impact of these restrictions, there is limited analysis of the deeper drivers of the phenomenon, and even less about how to support local responses.

      Read on: International Journal on Human Rights

       

    • India: Democracy threatened by growing attacks on civil society 

      According to the policy brief, published by CIVICUS in November 2017, although civil society in India has been playing essential roles ever since the country's struggle for independence, the space for civil society - civic space - is increasingly being contested.

       

    • India: End communication blockade in Jammu and Kashmir without further delay

      India blockage statement

      Kathmandu/Bangkok/Paris/Geneva, 4 October 2019:

      Today completes two months of the unprecedented communication blockade in Jammu and Kashmir, India. The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), CIVICUS, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) urge the government of India to immediately restore internet and mobile phone connections in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir. We are deeply concerned over the wide-ranging impact on the enjoyment of basic human rights caused by this continuous restriction on communications.

      Internet shutdowns, of which there have been dozens in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir since the beginning of the year, have significant consequences, negatively impacting the economy, education, access to health care and emergency services, press freedom, freedom of expression, and the right to engage in political decision making. This is particularly grave given the context, in which the government of India, on 5 August, 2019, revoked the autonomous status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the State into two Union Territories. With the suspension of communications, people have effectively been denied the right to make informed political opinions and to express themselves regarding these decisions.

      Although limited landline connections were reportedly restored across Jammu and Kashmir on 13 September 2019, access to those connections remains limited. No enforceable law in India permits such unprecedented and prolonged internet shutdown without any valid justification. Moreover, freedom of expression is protected under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which India is a state party, and under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution.

      A petition filed before the Supreme Court of India noted that the communication shutdown had fueled “anxiety, panic, alarm, insecurity and fear among the residents of Kashmir” and created hurdles for journalists to report on the situation in the region. In a statement on 22 August 2019, five UN human rights experts expressed deep concern over the shutdown and called it “inconsistent with the fundamental norms of necessity and proportionality.’

      There have also been reports of hundreds of detentions of political activists, human rights defenders, community leaders, and others, including children between 9 and 11 years of age, under the draconian Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) of 1978, which permits preventive detention without charge. The communication blockade has also impeded access to legal aid.

      FORUM-ASIA, CIVICUS, FIDH, and OMCT strongly believe that this prolonged restriction on communication, coupled with arbitrary mass detentions, denial of freedom of expression and access to information, is unnecessary and disproportionate to the situation and will further lead to a deterioration of human rights and basic freedoms. We urge the government of India to end the communications blockade immediately and to adopt remedial measures to undo the damage done so far in Jammu and Kashmir. We reiterate our call to the government of India to resort to peaceful democratic means and refrain from use of brute force.

      For more information, please contact:

      1. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, majumdar[AT]civicus.org
      2. South Asia Programme, FORUM-ASIA, sasia[AT]forum-asia.org
      3. FIDH, jrousselot[AT]fidh.org
      4. OMCT, nb[AT]omct.org, sa[AT]omct.org

       

    • People Power Under Attack

      CIVICUS Monitor Ratings Update October 2017

      Updated ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor, released 4 October 2017, provide further evidence that the space for civil society - civic space - continues to close around the world. The findings show that this phenomenon extends to a wide range of countries - from established democracies like Belgium and the Netherlands, to economic powerhouse China and conflict ridden Yemen. The report outlines how civic space ratings worsened in eight countries, improved in two and remained unchanged in 185 countries. These changes are based on a review of quantitative and qualitative data on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression undertaken between July and September 2017.

      Some highlights:

      • 108 countries are now in the CIVICUS Monitor’s ‘obstructed’, ‘repressed’ and ‘closed’ categories, an increase of two from April 2017, which indicate serious restrictions of civic space.
      • Just 22 countries now occupy the ‘open’ category, down from 26 in April. This means that just 2%  of the world’s population live in a country with ‘open’ civic space. This analysis also shows that more than three billion people live in countries with serious to extreme restrictions on fundamental civic freedoms.
      • Only 13 of 28 European Union (EU) member states now have ‘open’ civic space, an uncomfortable statistic for the leaders of a union founded on the values of democracy and human rights.
      • Journalists are especially vulnerable to violations of their civic freedoms, between June 2016 and September 2017, the CIVICUS Monitor published a total of 184 reports involving attacks of one kind or another on journalists.

      Download the Report 

       

    • People power under attack: just 3% of people live in countries where fundamental civic freedoms are fully respected

      • Almost six billion people live in 106 countries where there are serious violations of freedoms of expression, assembly, and association
      • This first ever global dataset on civic space shows that countries with fewer fundamental civic rights restrictions have less inequality

      Johannesburg, 4 April 2017 –Just three percent of people live in countries where the rights to protest, organise and speak out are respected, protected and fulfilled. This is according to the CIVICUS Monitor, which today releases the first-ever global dataset on civic space, a concept central to any open and democratic society which means that states have a duty to protect people's’  fundamental rights to associate, assemble peacefully and express views and opinions. CIVICUS also finds that serious violations of these rights are taking place in 106 countries - well over half of all UN Member States.

      The CIVICUS Monitor rates how open civic space is in countries based on how well they uphold the three fundamental civic freedoms that enable people to act collectively and make change: freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of expression.

      Of the 195 rated, it finds that civic space in 20 countries - Bahrain, Burundi, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Laos, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Vietnam -  is closed, a rating characterised by an atmosphere of fear and violence, and severe punishment for those who dare to disagree with authorities.

      A further 35 countries are rated repressed. Fifty-one countries are rated obstructed and 63 narrowed. Just 26 countries are rated as open, meaning the state safeguards space for people in the country to share their views, participate in public life and influence political and social change.

      Click here for responsive visualisations of all of our findings: https://monitor.civicus.org/findings

      In order to highlight countries of immediate concern to us, today CIVICUS is also launching our new Watch List. This advocacy tool enables us to highlight up to five countries on the CIVICUS Monitor where there is a serious and rapid decline in the ability of people to actively engage in a country’s social and political processes, and have their voices heard. Countries on the first iteration of this Watch List include: Cameroon, Macedonia, Myanmar, the USA, and Turkey.

      “Our research shows that restrictions on fundamental civic freedoms are truly a worrying global phenomenon affecting almost 6 billion people,” said CIVICUS Secretary General and CEO Danny Sriskandarajah. “They cut across established democracies and repressive states, undermining participatory democracy, sustainable development and efforts to reduce inequality.”

      The CIVICUS Monitor provides updates on attacks against civil society organisations and activists every weekday.  Analysis of almost 500 updates published on the CIVICUS Monitor over the past four months has found:

      • Detention of activists, use of excessive force against protesters, and attacks on journalists were the three most common violations of civic freedoms.
      • Activists were most likely to be detained over criticism of authorities, human rights monitoring or demands for social or economic needs to be met.
      • Excessive force was most likely to be used against protesters who criticise government decisions or corruption, call for action on human rights abuses or call for basic social or economic needs to be met.
      • Journalists were most likely to be attacked for political reporting, covering protests or conflicts, or because of their ethnicity, religious or political affiliation.
      • In the majority of cases, the state is the perpetrator of violations, although non-state actors also frequently attack journalists, with many of these crimes going unpunished.

      “Swift action should be taken by authorities and the international community to address the rapid decline in respect for civic space in the five countries on our Watch List,” said CIVICUS Monitor lead researcher Cathal Gilbert. “Escalating attacks on protest rights in the United States, the repression of activists in Anglophone areas of Cameroon and Turkey’s all-out assault on dissent must end without delay.”

      CIVICUS Monitor ratings and daily updates are based on a combination of inputs from local activists, regional civil society experts and research partners, existing assessments by national and international civil society organisations, user-generated input and media-monitoring. The CIVICUS Monitor now provides ratings for all UN Member States and regular updates from a network of twenty research partners around the world.

      ****

      Annex I – CIVICUS Monitor ratings, 4th April 2017

      Closed (20 countries): Bahrain, Burundi, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Laos, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

      Repressed (35 countries): Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Colombia, Djibouti, Egypt, Gambia, Iraq, Liberia, Mauritania, Mexico, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Republic of the Congo, Russia, Rwanda, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

      Obstructed (51 countries): Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire
      Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Fiji, Gabón, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Nauru, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tanzania,
      Timor-Leste, Togo, Tunisia, Ukraine and Zambia.

      Narrowed (63 countries): Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Comoros, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominica, El Salvador, France, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guyana, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Kosovo, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Micronesia, Montenegro, Namibia, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Romania, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay and Vanuatu.

      Open (26 countries): Andorra, Barbados, Belgium, Cape Verde, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Sweden, Switzerland and Tuvalu.

      Regional breakdown

       

      Africa

      Americas

      Asia

      Europe

      Oceania

      Closed

      9

      1

      10

      0

      0

      Repressed

      15

      3

      14

      3

      0

      Obstructed

      18

      9

      19

      3

      2

      Narrowed

      10

      21

      3

      19

      10

      Open

      2

      1

      0

      21

      2

      ****

      Notes to editors:

      The CIVICUS Monitor is available at https://monitor.civicus.org. If you have a question about the CIVICUS Monitor - see our FAQ page here.

      For more information or to set up interviews with CIVICUS staff and research partners, please contact Deborah Walter, Communication Manager, CIVICUS on or . Tel: +27 - 11 - 8335959

      CIVICUS is a global alliance of over 3,600 civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world.

      www.civicus.org

      www.twitter.com/CIVICUSalliance

      www.facebook.com/CIVICUS

      #CIVICUSMonitor 

       

    • Repression in Paradise: Assault on fundamental freedoms in the Maldives

      The Maldives, an archipelago of islands in the Indian Ocean, was thrown into a political crisis on 1 February 2018 when the country's Supreme Court ordered the release and retrial of a group of opposition politicians, including exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed. President Yameen Abdul Gayoom refused to comply with the ruling, leading to mass protests in the capital, Malé.In response, the President declared a state of emergency, provided the security forces with sweeping powers and suspended constitutional rights. He also removed and arrested two Supreme Court judges.