human rights defenders

 

  • Blocage de l'accès internet au Cameroun prive la société civile des ressources essentielles

    English

    Le Cameroun a vu l'État imposer toute une série de restrictions aux droits fondamentaux de la société civile en 2017, notamment une fermeture d'Internet de quatre mois dans les régions anglophones du pays en réponse aux protestations contre la marginalisation de ces régions. CIVICUS parle avec Maximilienne Ngo Mbe, Directrice du Réseau des Défenseurs des Droits de l’Homme de l’Afrique Centrale (REDHAC). Créé en 2007, le REDHAC est un réseau d’activistes et d’organisations de la société civile d’Afrique centrale qui compte des membres dans huit pays de la région et se concentre principalement sur la protection des droits humains fondamentaux.

    1. Comment décririez-vous l'état actuel de la démocratie au Cameroun? La pratique de la démocratie dans le pays a-t-elle changé au cours des dernières années?

    La démocratie est actuellement en recul au Cameroun malgré des nombreuses structures successivement mises en place par le gouvernement pour garantir la pratique démocratique. Tels sont les cas de l’Observatoire National des Élections (ONEL), une structure indépendante de supervision et contrôle du processus électoral créé en Décembre 2000; et ses successeurs l’ONEL1 et ELECAM (Elections Cameroun) de 2006. Tous les membres d’ELECAM sont des cadres du Rassemblement Démocratique du Peuple Camerounais (RDPC), le parti au pouvoir, nommées par décret présidentiel et financés par le gouvernement. En conséquence, son impartialité n’est pas garantie.

    Il y’a une décennie on observait que la pratique démocratique se mettait en place étant entendu que c’était un processus. Mais cela n’a été que de courte durée car en 2013 le président a déclaré la guerre à la secte terroriste Boko Haram qui sème la terreur à l’Extrême Nord du Cameroun. En conséquent, la démocratie a pris un coup dur, sous la forme d’une loi électorale qui ne favorise pas la transparence et l’alternance, qui n’est pas indépendante et qui limite la participation par les coûts exorbitants, alors que le salaire minimum est de 25000 francs; des lois restrictives des libertés fondamentales; de l’absence d’application des lois votées; et de l’établissement d’un État de non droit.

    L'Etat du Cameroun reste répressif. Nous assistons chaque jour à la violation des libertés fondamentales, et en particulier de la liberté d'expression et de la liberté d'association. La prédominance du pouvoir exécutif sur les pouvoirs législatif et judiciaire reste constante. La pratique de la démocratie n'a véritablement pas changé au cours de ces dernières années, car nous avons toujours eu le même président depuis 35 ans. En plus de cela il y a l’absence véritable d'un vrai parti d'opposition car toute manifestation d'un parti autre que le parti au pouvoir est réprimée par le gouvernement.

    1. La société civile est-elle actuellement en mesure de contribuer à la gouvernance démocratique au Cameroun?

    On peut répondre par oui et non: Oui, car elle reste la moins corrompue et la plus neutre parmi les autres forces (traditionnels, religieuses, élites, administratives); et non, parce qu’elle est déstructurée, amateur, sans financement.

    1. Comment les restrictions récentes à la liberté d'expression, telles que le blocage de l'accès à Internet, ont-elles affecté la société civile?

    Les restrictions à la liberté d’expression sont devenues une règle au Cameroun, et incluent la censure, des menaces, des arrestations et détentions arbitraires, des intimidations, des cambriolages dans les locaux des OSC, des fermetures des medias, des impôts très élevés pour les patrons de télévision privés, et la mise en résidence surveillée. De novembre 2016, date à laquelle la crise a commencé dans le Nord-Ouest et le Sud-ouest du Cameroun, on a assisté à des restriction additionnelles: la coupure de la connexion internet pendant trois mois (janvier-avril 2017) et des perturbations de la communication et coupures dans les organisations de la société civile hors des deux régions où les activistes qui manifestait avaient été arrêtés. En conséquent, la société civile a été privée d’accès à l’information, de moyens pour diffuser et partager de l’information et pour s’organiser efficacement, et de la possibilité de recevoir des rapports pour poursuivre des activités, ce qui a produit des retards auprès des bailleurs et le ralentissement de la mise en œuvre des activités. En plus, la société civile a été affectée par l’interruption du soutien financier par des partenaires en raison de leurs délais dans la soumission des rapports narratifs.

    1. Comment la société civile y a-t-elle réagi?

    La société civile a très mal appréhendé la coupure d’internet dans les régions du nord et du sud-ouest Cameroun suite à une décision du gouvernement. Du coup elle a mobilisé toutes ses forces et énergies afin de convoquer ce dernier à rétablir la connexion internet dans ces deux régions. Plusieurs organisations de la société civile d’autour le monde, et notamment les sociétés civiles camerounaises à l’instar du REDHAC, se sont démarquées par ses multiples communiqués de presse condamnant ce geste du gouvernement. Bien plus, le représentant spécial du Secrétaire général et chef du Bureau régional des Nations Unies pour l’Afrique centrale (UNOCA), François Louncény Fall, a décrit la décision du gouvernement comme ayant créé une «situation déplorable». Après d’énormes efforts et de multiples combats fournis par les organisations de la société civile, internet fut rétablit trois mois plus tard.

    1. Quel soutien ou solidarité la société civile internationale peut-elle vous offrir en ces temps?

    Nous avons besoin de plusieurs formes de soutien. Premièrement, de soutien financier à moyen et à long terme et avec une certaine souplesse dans la soumission des projets et rapports, ainsi que des fonds d’urgence permanents capables de réduire les vulnérabilités des défenseurs en danger. Deuxièmement, on a besoin de soutien technique, sous la forme par exemple de l’approvisionnement de matériel sophistiqué de sécurité (cameras de surveillance, systèmes d’alarme, empreinte digital, cameras photo avec la capacité d’authentifier des photos et vidéos lors du monitoring et la soumission de rapports) et autres outils informatiques sécurisés. Finalement, on a besoin aussi des formations permanentes pour renforcer les capacités de la société civile en termes de sécurité numérique, physique et de gestion de leurs données informatiques; des formations relatives à la consolidation de la démocratie et l’état de droit et à l’implication au processus électoral et à la bonne gouvernance; des formations sur la surveillance et le signalement des violations des droits humains en toutes circonstances et en particulier dans les périodes de conflit ou de terrorisme; et des formations en plaidoyer national, régional et international.

    ·         L'espace civique au Cameroun est classé comme ‘répressif’ par leCIVICUS Monitor,indiquant de sérieuses restrictions aux libertés d'association, de réunion pacifique et d'expression.

     

     

     

  • Brazil: Ensure justice for Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips and act to protect Indigenous rights defenders

    Portuguese

    Authorities in Brazil must thoroughly investigate the brutal murders of Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira and journalist Dom Phillips in the Javari Valley (Amazonas state) and act to protect Indigenous territories and defenders, global civil society alliance, CIVICUS said today.

    Pereira and Phillips went missing on 5th June as they returned from a reporting trip on the Itaquaí River, in the northern Amazonas state. The response of the Brazilian authorities to their disappearance was slow, and initial search efforts were largely led by Indigenous defenders of the União dos Povos Indígenas do Vale do Javari (UNIJAVA). Late last week, authorities confirmed that Pereira and Phillips’ bodies were found after a suspect confessed his involvement in the crime. The pair were ambushed by members of an illegal fishing operation in protected areas of the Javari Valley, which Phillips had reportedly photographed a day earlier. 

    These devastating killings are not an isolated event as Brazil is one of the most dangerous countries for land and environmental defenders. At least 20 environmental defenders were killed in 2020, according to Global Witness. These attacks reflect the Bolsonaro government neglect toward Indigenous territories and his administration’s active effort to dismantle Brazil’s environmental governance institutions. Shortly before his killing, Pereira had spoken to a journalist about Bolsonaro’s efforts to undermine Brazil’s Indigenous affairs agency (FUNAI), of which he had taken unpaid leave after being sidelined for leading a successful operation against illegal mining inside Yanomami territory. Maxciel dos Santos, another Indigenous protection agent, was shot and killed in the Amazonas state in September 2019. The murder remains unsolved three years on.

    Bruno Pereira was a civil servant who formerly headed the effort to protect Indigenous peoples who live in voluntary isolation. He had recently been working directly with Indigenous peoples of the Javari Valley on the protection of their territories through UNIVAJA. Dom Phillips was a British journalist who lived in Brazil for over a decade, and whose reporting increasingly focused on the Amazon rainforest and environmental issues. He was conducting interviews and research for a book about the rainforest’s protection.

    We stand in solidarity with Indigenous rights defenders and the families of Pereira and Phillips as they demand justice. Today, environmental groups, Indigenous organisations and civil servants have scheduled protests in front of FUNAI buildings. CIVICUS joins their calls for a thorough investigation to hold all perpetrators accountable. Inquiries must also be made into the role of the Brazilian State in allowing criminal networks to operate with impunity, enabling attacks on Indigenous territories and human rights defenders. We call on the international community to express their support for environmental and Indigenous rights defenders in Brazil, and the journalists’ whose important work shines a light on the risks they face.

    The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in countries across the globe, rates civic space – the space for civil society – in Brazil as obstructed. 

    Background

    In his electoral campaign, President Jair Bolsonaro vowed to “end all activism in Brazil.” Since he took office in 2019, Indigenous communities and environmental and land rights defenders have become increasingly vulnerable to attacks, as the government emboldens criminal groups that engage in illegal logging, mining, land grabbing and other activities. Other widely documented attacks include public vilification of CSOs, criminalisation of activists and attempts to monitor critics and discredit the media.

     

  • CAMBODIA: ‘This is a textbook case of organised crime with links to the state’

    CIVICUS speaks with Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, a Spanish national and co-founder of Mother Nature Cambodia (MNC), a civil society organisation (CSO) that advocates and campaigns locally and internationally for the preservation, promotion and protection of Cambodia’s natural environment. Due to their work, the authorities have systematically intimidated and criminalised MNC activists. Gonzalez-Davidson has been convicted in absentia for his activism and currentlyfaces further charges.

    Alejandro Gonzalez Davidson

    What were the origins of MNC?

    We founded MNC in 2013, and the most important factor leading to its founding was that the environment in Cambodia, and especially the forest, was being decimated so fast. Because I could speak Khmer, I was a translator and was reading about it in the news and eventually also seeing it happen.

    This senseless destruction was being disguised as development, but in reality it was organised crime sponsored by the state, including the army, the police, politicians at all levels and local authorities. It was painful to see. Local Indigenous people were being cheated and this got me fired up.

    I also came to the realisation that civil society, and especially international organisations that were allegedly protecting the environment, were not doing anything that was effective enough. Local groups were not able to do much, and some international groups were doing greenwashing: misleading the public with initiatives that were presented as environmentally friendly or sustainable, but were not addressing the real causes of the problems. 

    A small group of friends and I started a campaign to stop a senseless hydroelectric dam project, which we knew was never about electricity but about exploiting natural resources and allowing logging and poaching. I was deported a year and a half after we started MNC. Over time, we have had to evolve to try and expose environmental crimes by the state on a large scale.

    What have been the main activities and tactics of MNC?

    They have changed over time. Back in 2013 to 2015, we could still do community empowerment and hold peaceful protests. We could bring people from cities to remote areas. In 2015, the harassing and jailing of activists started. We realised peaceful protests could not happen anymore because protesters would be criminalised. We continued to do community empowerment until 2017, but then had to stop that too.

    One of our biggest tactics is going to a location, recording short videos and presenting them to the public so that Cambodians can understand, click, share and comment. We have received millions of views. We also did shows on Facebook live and lobbied opposition parties in parliament. From 2019 onwards, activists could no longer appear in the videos and we had to blur their faces and distort their voices. Now we can’t even do that because it is too risky.

    What is the state of civic space in Cambodia?

    The regime of Prime Minister Hun Sen has destroyed democratic institutions, including active and independent civil society, independent media and opposition parties. It has dismantled all these as it realised people were ready and hungry for democracy.

    There is a lot for the regime to lose if the status quo changes, mainly because of money. The regime is mostly organised crime. They don’t want pesky independent journalists, activists organising protests or CSOs doing community empowerment. They don’t want to lose power and be held accountable. This is why now there is very little space compared to five years ago, and the situation is still going downhill. 

    Most civil society groups have retreated and are not pushing the boundaries. They are afraid of their organisation being shut down, funding being cut, or their activists and staff being thrown in jail. Indeed, working in Cambodia is difficult but it’s not acceptable to have a very small number of CSOs and activists speaking up.

    What gives me hope is that conversations and engagement among citizens about democracy are still happening, and that repression cannot go on forever.

    Why has MNC been criminalised, and what impact has this had and what is impact of the court cases?

    Cambodia doesn’t really have any other group like us. We are a civil society group, but we are made up of activists rather than professional staff. Other activists used to do forest patrols in the Prey Lang forest, but the government forced them to stop. There are also Indigenous communities and environmental activists trying to do some work, but what happened to MNC is also a message to them.

    In 2015, three MNC activists were charged and subsequently convicted for their activities in a direct-action campaign against companies mining sand in Koh Kong province. In September 2017, two MNC activists were arrested for filming vessels we suspected were illegally exporting dredged sand on behalf of a firm linked to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. In January 2018, the two activists were fined and sentenced to a year in jail.

    In September 2020, three activists affiliated with MNC were arbitrarily detained while planning a peaceful protest as part of a campaign against the planned privatisation and reclamation of Boeung Tamok lake in the capital, Phnom Penh. They were sentenced to 18 months in prison for ‘incitement’.

    Most recently, in June 2021, four environmental activists affiliated with MNC were charged for investigating river pollution in the Tonle Sap river in Phnom Penh. They have been charged with ‘plotting’ and ‘insulting the King’. There are currently six MNC activists in detention.

    We have been charged with threatening to cause destruction, incitement, violating peoples’ privacy – just for filming at sea – and the latest additions to the list are ‘plotting’ to violently overthrow institutions – just for recording sewage going into the Mekong river – and insulting the King. The government is no longer even pretending that this is about law enforcement and is now just picking crimes to charge us with.

    As we become more effective in what we do, the state’s rhetoric against us has become more aggressive. The authorities have vilified us, calling us traitors and terrorists. Repression starts from the very bottom, with the local police, the mayor, the military police and their civilian friends who are in the business of poaching, logging and so on. They follow you, threaten you and even try to bribe you. They also control the media narrative and have trolls on social media. Even if all you do is a media interview, they will threaten you online.

    This has created a climate of fear among activists. As in any other dictatorship, Cambodia has always been ruled by fear. This percolates down to young people, who make up the vast majority of our activists. Their families and friends get really worried too. When people feel there is less of a risk in getting involved, the state hits activists and civil society again with more arbitrary and trumped-up charges, as a way to instil further fear in people’s minds.

    The impact of the court cases against MNC has been strong. At first we were able to put up with them by diversifying our tactics and putting new strategies in place, but over the last two years and with six people in jail, it’s become more difficult. But this won’t stop our activism. It will not defeat us.

    Have you faced threats from private companies?

    The line between the private sector and the state is blurred in Cambodia, and in certain cases is just not even there. You don’t have a minister or the army saying, ‘this is my hydroelectric dam’ or ‘we are doing sand mining’, but everyone knows the links are there.

    Those representing the state will provide the apparatus and resources to threaten activists and local communities, and businesspeople – who sometimes are their own family members – will give them a percentage of the earnings. For example, sand from mining exported to Singapore – a business worth a few hundred million dollars – was controlled by a few powerful families, including that of the leader of the dictatorship, Hun Sen. This is a textbook case of organised crime with links to the state. And when a journalist, civil society group or local community tries to expose them, they use the weapons of the state to silence, jail, or bribe them. 

    Why did MNC decide to formally disband?

    In 2015 the government passed a repressive NGO law with lots of traps that made it difficult for us to be in compliance. I was also no longer in the country, as I was not allowed to return even though I had been legally charged and convicted there. In 2013, when we registered, there were three of us, plus two nominal members who were Buddhist monks. The other two founders were taken to the Ministry of Interior and told to disband or otherwise go to jail, so they decided to disband.

    We also thought it would be better not to be bound by the NGO law. Cambodian people have the right to protect their national resources. According to the Cambodian Constitution and international treaties the state has signed, we are not breaking the law. But we know this will not stop them from jailing us.

    What can international community do to support MNC and civil society in Cambodia?

    Some things are being done. Whenever there is an arbitrary arrest of activists, there are embassies in the capital, United Nations institutions and some Cambodian CSOs who speak up. 

    That’s good, but sadly it’s not enough. If you are doing business with Cambodia, such as importing billions of dollars per year worth of garments, you have to do more than just issue statements. You should make a clear connection between the health of democracy in Cambodia and the health of your business relationships. For example, the UK is working on a trade deal with Cambodia, and it must attach to it conditions such as ensuring a free media and halting the arbitrary jailing of activists. 

    The problem is that some diplomats don’t understand what is going on or don’t care about the human rights situation. Southeast Asian countries should also help each other and speak up on the situation in Cambodia. Not just civil society but members of parliament should call out, send letters to their ambassador and so forth.

    Civic space inCambodiais rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with Mother Nature Cambodia through itswebsite or itsFacebook page, and follow@CambodiaMother on Twitter. 

     

  • Cambodia: A year on, the persecution of human rights defender Rong Chhun and other activists continue

    Stand with Rong Chuun

    CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, calls on the Cambodian authorities to drop the baseless charges against trade union activist and human rights defender Rong Chhun and to release him immediately and unconditionally. One year on from his arrest, his ongoing persecution highlights the unrelenting government repression against activists in the country and his ongoing detention during a pandemic is putting his life at risk.

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

    Chhun was charged with incitement under Article 495 of Cambodia’s Penal Code after he advocated for the land rights of villagers living near the Cambodia-Vietnam border. He was jailed at Prey Sar Prison and his trial began in January 2021. He has been denied bail amid an unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak in Cambodia’s prisons.

    “The authorities must drop the politically-motivated charges that have been brought against Rong Chhun. Speaking up for local communities should never be a crime. The persecution against him exemplifies the systematic weaponization of the courts by the Hun Sen regime to target activists and silence all forms of dissent,” said Lisa Majumdar, CIVICUS Advocacy Officer.

    Rong Chhun’s arrest last year sparked a wave of arrests in relation to planned protests to demand his release. Many of the activists arrested remain in detention and have also been denied bail. They include Hun Vannak, Chhoeun Daravy, Tha Lavy, Koet Saray, and Eng Malai (aka So Metta), who are members of Khmer Thavrak and Sar Kanika a former activist for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).  Others detained include Muong Sopheak and Mean Prommony, member and Vice-President of the Khmer Student Intelligent League Association (KSILA).

    “It is extremely disturbing that activists in Cambodia have been denied bail despite calls by the UN to decongest prisons and release political prisoners during the pandemic. Holding them at this time poses a serious risk to their lives - and adds another layer of punishment for these activists. The international community must do more to stand side by side with Cambodia civil society and demand their release,” said Lisa Majumdar.

    Research undertaken by the CIVICUS Monitor shows that laws are routinely misused in Cambodia to restrict civic freedoms, undermine and weaken civil society, and criminalize individual’s exercise of their right to freedom of expression. Human rights defenders, civil society activists and journalists are often subject to judicial harassment and legal action. They have also been ongoing police ill-treatment against the families and relatives of detained activists  from the banned Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) who have been holding protests.

    Civic space in Cambodia is rated as ‘repressed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor.

     

  • Cambodia: Drop Fabricated Charges against ‘ADHOC 5’

    Cambodian authorities should immediately drop politically motivated bribery charges against five human rights defenders known as the ADHOC 5 (“FreeThe5KH” in social media campaigns), five international organizations said today. The trial of the five – four current and one former senior staff members of the nongovernmental Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) – is scheduled for August 27, 2018, after lying dormant for a year. If convicted, each faces between 5 and 10 years in prison.

     

  • Case of Zambia’s 42-for-42 tests freedom of expression and assembly

    On May 17, six Zambia activists, civil society leader’s and a musician will appear before the magistrates in Court 3 in the capital Lusaka. This is not the first appearance as their case has been postponed several times. The six (pictured) are jointly charged with disobeying lawful orders after they held a protest last September questioning the government why it has used 42-million Kwacha to purchase 42 firetrucks, a cost that the six say is exorbitant. Laura Miti of theAlliance for Community Action who is also one of the six accused tells CIVICUS briefly about the case and why it is important.

    Defiant and standing strong: Six of the Zambian activists and civil society leaders at one of the many court appearances after they held a protest in Lusaka last year questioning the government over expenditure

    1. Can you tell us more about the court case in which you are appearing for in court on May 17?

    The court case is the result of a peaceful protest that the Alliance for Community Action led on Parliament on 29 September 2017. The protest was called for together with civil society organisations and the general public to demand that accountability for a purchase by government of 42 fire trucks for 42 million Kwacha. Protesting and freedom of expression are both values enshrined in our Constitution so we were not breaking the law. The protest was broken up by the police and 6 protesters arrested and charged with disobeying lawful orders. Instead we were arrested and held for 10 hours and later released after being charged.

    2. What does this case mean for the state of the freedom to protest and freedom of expression in Zambia?

    By misapplication of the Public Order Act, Police in Zambia routinely prevent or break up protests that are even mildly critical of the government. However, protests or marches in support of government are allowed to go on even if the protester are openly breaking the law by being carrying weapons and being violent. The way this case has been held is an assault on both freedoms and it is concerning for us.

    3. What challenges do you face as a woman human rights defender?

    The terrain for women who speak out and challenge authorities is not easy for activists and it is even tougher for women due to the patriarchal nature of our society. As happens with all female activists, those who are unhappy with my work tend to attack my person and speak about my private life rather than engage with the issues at hand. This then discourages other women from speaking out and holding the state to account.

    4. How can international civil society support you and the other 5 you are jointly charged with?

    The defence of human rights in Zambia is for Zambians to ensure but a breakdown of human rights anywhere in the world, affects us all. We therefore believe that the excesses of the Zambian government should be called out by all who believe in a just world. When representatives of the Zambian government travel to international fora, they should be asked to explain the steep degeneration of the Zambian democratic space and respect for human rights in the last few years.

    5. Please describe in one paragraph what you or your CSO does in Zambia

    The Alliance for Community Action (ACA) works to grow the routine demand and supply of public resource accountability in Zambia, with focus on instituting the demand in the general public. The ACA would like Zambians to routinely link the quality of services they access to the budgetary and expenditure choices made by government and to demand accountability. The ACA encourages Zambians to speak up and ask targeted questions about how public money is spent and capacitates ordinary citizens to do so.

     

  • China must protect the rights of detained human rights defenders Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing

    Today, 19 September 2022, marks one year in detention for two young Chinese human rights defenders: Huang Xueqin, an independent journalist and key actor in China’s #MeToo movement, and Wang Jianbing, a labour rights advocate.[1]

    CIVICUS and other civil society groups, call on Chinese authorities to respect and protect their rights in detention, including access to legal counsel, unfettered communication with family members, their right to health and their right to bodily autonomy. We emphasise that their detention is arbitrary, and we call for their release and for authorities to allow them to carry out their work and make important contributions to social justice.

    Who are they ?

    In the 2010s, Huang Xueqinworked as a journalist for mainstream media in China. During that time, she covered stories on public interest matters, women’s rights, corruption scandals, industrial pollution, and issues faced by socially-marginalized groups. She later supported victims and survivors of sexual harassment and gender-based violence who spoke out as part of the #MeToo movement in China. On 17 October 2019, she was stopped by police in Guangzhou and criminally detained in RSDL for three months – for posting online an article about Hong Kong’s anti-extradition movement.

    Wang Jianbing followed a different path, but his story – like Huang’s – demonstrates the commitment of young people in China to giving back to their communities. He worked in the non-profit sector for more than 16 years, on issues ranging from education to disability to youth to labour. Since 2018, he has supported victims of occupational disease to increase their visibility and to access social services and legal aid.

    Arbitrary and incommunicado detention

    On 19 September 2021, the two human rights defenders were taken by Guangzhou police; after 37 days, they were formally arrested on charges of ‘inciting subversion of state power’. Using COVID-19 prevention measures as an excuse, they were held for five months in solitary confinement, and subject to secret interrogation, in conditions similar to those of ‘residential surveillance in a designated location’, or RSDL. After months of delays and no due process guarantees, their case was transferred to court for the first time in early August 2022.

    We strongly condemn the lengthy detentions of Huang and Wang. In a Communication sent to the Chinese government in February 2022, six UN independent experts – including the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and the Working Group on arbitrary detention (WGAD) – raised serious concerns about Wang’s disappearance and deprivation of liberty. They asserted that Wang’s activities were protected and legal, and that Chinese authorities used a broad definition of ‘endangering national security’ that runs counter to international human rights law.

    In May 2022, the WGAD went one step further, formally declaring Wang’s detention to be ‘arbitrary’and urging authorities to ensure his immediate release and access to remedy. Noting other, similar Chinese cases, the WGAD also requested Chinese authorities to undertake a comprehensive independent investigation into the case, taking measures to hold those responsible for rights violations accountable.

    We echo their call: Chinese authorities should respect this UN finding, and immediately release Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing. 

    [1] As their cases are deeply connected, their friends and supporters refer to them as a single case called the ‘Xuebing case’, using a portmanteau of their first names.

     

  • CIVICUS and Colombian Confederation of NGOs concerned about aggressions and impending restrictions on civil society

    Click here to read a Spanish language version of this release

    CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, and the Colombian Confederation of NGOs (CCONG) are deeply worried about the growing challenges faced by civil society in Colombia. Several activists have been attacked while potentially restrictive legislation is underway and would curtail civil society organisations’ ability to contribute to the implementation of the peace agreements.

     

  • CIVICUS and Consorcio Oaxaca demand the immediate release of unjustly detained Mexican human rights defenders

    Click here to read a Spanish language version of this release

    CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance and the Mexican CSO Consorcio para el Diálogo Parlamentario y la Equidad Oaxaca (Consorcio Oaxaca) are deeply concerned about the widespread use of arbitrary detention and torture against human rights defenders in Mexico. A recent report, jointly published by 11 Mexican and international human rights organisations, sets out how such practices are extensively used to restrict the work of human rights defenders.

     

  • CIVICUS Calls For Calm and Respect of Voters’ Rights in Kenya Elections

    As Kenyans go to the polls tomorrow to vote in general elections, global civil society alliance, CIVICUS calls on the authorities, leaders of political parties and communities to adhere to democratic principles and respect the will of all Kenyans.

    Kenya has a history of violence during election seasons and fear of a recurrence has dominated the period of political campaigns. Kenyan authorities and leaders of political parties have a responsibility to ensure a peaceful and transparent election, which will enhance Kenya’s democratic credentials.

    Human rights violations committed over the last few months have raised security concerns and increased calls for all involved in the vote to avoid a repeat of the violence that followed the 2007-2008 elections in which over 1,000 people were killed and more than 500,000 internally displaced.  

    Last week, Chris Msando, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC) head of Information, Communication and Technology, was found dead after being missing for three days.  Msando had played a key role in the development of a new electronic ballot and voter registration system and complained of death threats shortly before he was killed. 

    Since Msando oversaw the new electronic system regarded as key to eliminating vote rigging and ensuring the credibility of the elections, his killing raises serious concerns over threats of violence related to electoral malpractices. Prior to the adoption of the new system, Kenya’s High Court nullified a contract awarded to Dubai-based Al-Ghurair Printing and Publishing, a company with alleged links to President Uhuru Kenyatta.  Following the court’s 9 July ruling, President Kenyatta and his Jubilee Coalition questioned the independence of the judiciary and accused it of supporting the political opposition.  

    The election campaign period has also been dominated by an exchange of accusations between President Uhuru Kenyatta and main opposition leader, Raila Odinga.  The President accused Odinga of trying to divide Kenya and provoke violence and Odinga, in turn, accused the President of planning to rig the vote. While the 2013 elections were largely peaceful, violence erupted following the 2007 elections after political figures encouraged supporters to protest election results.  

    “Kenya’s politics is largely based on ethnic affiliations and the views of political figures are taken seriously.  It will be very important for leaders to avoid using language that may incite the population and instigate violence during and after tomorrow’s elections.   Said David Kode, CIVICUS’ Head of Advocacy and Campaigns.

    There has been violence among rival parties’ supporters during the nominations of candidates for positions of president, legislators and local councillors.  Human rights defenders and journalists have also been attacked, intimidated and vilified as they sought to access voter registration stations and polling booths and report on political campaigns. On 18 June 2017, Walter Menya of the Nation newspaper was arrested and held at an undisclosed location for two days before being released without charge. Some communities have heightened tensions by accusing activists and journalists of anti-nationalist agendas for making representations at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the aftermath of the 2007-2008 polls. 

    CIVICUS calls on the Kenyan authorities, politicians and leaders to act in a responsible manner and respect the will of the electorate during and after the elections. 

    Kenya’s civic space is rated as ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society across the globe. It is currently on the Monitor’s Watch List of countries where there are serious and ongoing threats to civic space.

    Watch our interview with activist and poet Sitawa Namwalie talking about about her hopes and fears for 2017 Kenyan Elections. 

    ENDS

    For more information, please contact:

    Grant Clark

    Senior Media Advisor

    CIVICUS

    Email:

    T: +27 63 567 9719

     

    David Kode

    Head of Advocacy and Campaigns

    CIVICUS

    Email:

     

  • CIVICUS calls on interim government of Kyrgyzstan to cease intimidating civil society activists

    30 June 2010. Johannesburg. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is concerned that two prominent human rights defenders in Kyrgyzstan -- who are among the leading voices documenting the ongoing crisis -- were detained and interrogated by the Office of the Prosecutor of the Osh Oblast, Kyrgyzstan on 28 June. This action of the authorities sends a negative message to civil society groups working towards restoring peace in the country.

    According to local sources, Tolekan Ismailova of Human Rights Center "Citizens against Corruption" and Aziza Abdirasulova of Public Foundation "Kylym Shamy" were interrogated as witnesses, related to misinformation about death toll published in the online newspaper 24.kg.

    Although the news site journalist received news of 20 deaths during the military operations in Nariman village of Karasuu district on 21 June via online mailing lists, Ismailova and Abdirasulova feel they were wrongly accused of spreading misinformation. Ismailova had immediately contacted 24.kg upon hearing the news, to inform the paper that the actual death toll was two individuals.

     

  • CIVICUS Concerned over Increased Harassment of Human Rights Defenders in Uzbekistan

    13 July, 2010-- Johannesburg ---CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is concerned by recent reports that Uzbek officials are intensifying pressure against human rights defenders in response to the political upheaval and violence in neighboring Kyrgyzstan. 

    In Uzbekistan, many human rights defenders have long faced harassment and state scrutiny of their activities. Often, the state has demonstrated a deep distrust for human rights advocacy, labeling activists as "enemies" of the state and accusing them of criminal activities. Now local sources report that Uzbek law enforcement agencies have received orders from their superiors to increase vigilance and take preventative measures with the population.

    According to local sources, human rights activists Saida Kurbanova and Mamir Asimov of Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (HRSU), have been summoned by a local police station, where they have been questioned and forced into signing warning notices about their "illegal activities against the public." Another HRSU staff has reported the spreading of false rumors about his work that he believes may be part of an attempt by the security forces to build a case against him. Human Rights Alliance leader Elena Urlayeva, who has been working with Kyrgyz refugees, was harassed at her home on July 4, 2010 by an unknown woman aggressively demanding that she stop her advocacy work. That same night, her husband was attacked and severely beaten near their home by two men instructing him to "tame" his wife.

     

  • Civil society assess outcomes of UNGA76 Third Committee session

    17 NGOs that closely follow and engage with the Third Committee have joined together to publish a joint statement on outcomes of this 76th session.

     

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

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


    Hon. Antony Blinken Secretary of State

    United States of America

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

    Senator James Risch, Ranking Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

    Representative Gregory Meeks, Chairman,House Committee on Foreign Affairs

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

     Dear Secretary Blinken:

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

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

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

    Read the full letter here

    Signed by

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

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

     

     

  • Civil Society Support Mechanisms: A Directory

    The Civil Society Support Mechanisms: A Directory is a resource for civil society under threat. It lists mechanisms available to assist individuals and organisations based on their specific threat or based on their location. The database is divided into national, regional and global mechanisms and contains information on how to engage each mechanism as well as contact details for each.

    The directory was produced to provide information to the vast network of organisations and mechanisms that support human rights groups in general, and many that support civil society in particular. In order to strengthen and promote their work, civil society organisations, human rights defenders, journalists, activists and others rely on alliances between each other, the sharing of best practices and lessons learned, and constructive engagement with governments and intergovernmental institutions. These networks foster greater connections between ground-level issues and global-level processes, and amplify the voices of civil society in global decision making. This solidarity is especially critical for civil society when it is under threat or attack.

    Download the Directory

     

  • CSW66: ‘Grassroots environmental defenders are highly underrepresented in decision-making’

    interview MALAWI CSW66CIVICUS speaks about women’s rights and the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) with Joy Hayley Munthali and Dorothy Kazombo Mwale of the Green Girls Platform.

    Founded in 2018, the Green Girl Platform is a female-led civil society organisation (CSO) that advocates for climate justice for women and girls in Malawi by building capacity, providing leadership skills and promoting sexual and reproductive health rights.

    What are the main women’s rights issues in Malawi, and how does Green Girl Platform work to address them?

    In Malawi, women and girls are highly affected by the effects of climate change and environmental degradation due to their role in society. Girls are expected to help fetch firewood and get clean water for their households. Due to the effects of climate change, including erratic rains and depletion of natural resources, women and girls often have to walk long distances to find clean water and firewood. Because of these challenges, most girls are forced into early marriages and some drop out of school.

    The vulnerability of women and girls to environmental degradation, as well as to sexual violence and exploitation and gender-related violence, is on the rise. This is happening due to a lack of understanding of the implications of climate change for their lives, lack of information, lack of leadership skills, low participation in governance structures, limited women-led climate-related platforms and a lack of understanding and application of their rights.

    Women and girls are left out of decision-making processes although they are the ones who are most affected. The Green Girls Platform was founded to address the violence against women and girls that emanates from climate change and increase the number of women and girls engaged with climate change issues.

    The Green Girls Platform is working to ensure that gender and women’s rights are placed on the local, national and global environmental and climate change agendas by advocating for gender-responsive governance and policies. We conduct capacity-building workshops and training on climate change to equip girls with skills and knowledge on climate justice and all it encompasses. Through our initiatives, we have been able to reach around 5,000 young women and girls in Malawi, increasing their active participation in addressing climate change.

    What issues did you try to bring into the CSW agenda this year?

    As an organisation we noticed that there is underrepresentation of young women and girls in decision-making processes. Their participation and active engagement in climate change governance structures is minimal. Structural changes are needed so that more women are included in decision-making bodies.

    Climate change is affecting young women’s access to education, and we need to come up with adaptation strategies that work for girls and young women in their specific contexts. Strategies have to be sustainable and demand-driven to build the adaptive capacity of women and girls and enhance their access to education.

    We are aware of the violence that girls and young women environmental defenders face either within their homes or in their communities. We would like to see the adoption of measures to protect the rights of adolescent girls and young women from climate-related violence. Civil society donors could help us navigate these challenges.

    What were your expectations, and to what degree were they met?

    Our expectations were that our concerns would be listened to and we would collectively come up with solutions to some of the overarching challenges. Although our needs were met to a good degree, we were not highly impressed by the output. But we are positive that things will improve.

    In terms of access, we faced some challenges. Only one of our staff was able to attend the CSW sessions in person, and she did so for only three days due to insufficient funding. We also attended some online events, mainly side events, but we had issues accessing main events due to time differences and late notices, and because some of them were not open to civil society.

    Do you think that international bodies, and specifically the UN, adequately integrate women in their decision-making processes?

    UN Women has taken steps in the right direction in terms of integrating women into decision-making spaces. However, we still have challenges getting all voices represented at the table. Women and girl environmental defenders working at the grassroots level are highly underrepresented in decision-making spaces, even though they are the ones working at the local level and facing the adverse impacts of climate change. Access to climate financing for girls and young women working on climate issues is still minimal and inaccessible, leading to more issues falling through the cracks and not reaching decision makers.

    Civic space in Malawi is rated ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with the Green Girl Platform through itsFacebook page and follow@GirlsPlatform on Twitter.

     

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

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

     

  • Egypt: Call to postpone the EU-Egypt Association Council

    A coalition of civil society organisations have written to Ms. Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission and Mr. Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, and EU Member States’ Ministers of Foreign Affairs urging them to postpone the EU-Egypt Association Council and not to extend a formal invitation to the Egyptian authorities for July 2017.  This event would constitute a public political gesture conveying to them, and to public opinion in Europe and in Egypt, an endorsement of Egypt’s policies of the past few months, by the EU and its Member States. We consider that would encourage President Al-Sisi’s government to proceed with further, broader repressive measures, thus accelerating the destabilisation of Egypt even further. This would serve neither the Egyptian people’s interests, nor those of Europe in its search for stability, resilience and security in the MENA region.

    Readthe letter 

     

  • Egypt: End arbitrary detention, Free them all

    Arabic

    Twelve Egyptian activists have been on hunger strike since early February 2022 in protest of their prolonged pre-trial detention at Tora Prison Complex. Among them, Abdelrahman Tarek (Moka), Ahmed Maher (Rigo), Galal El Beheriy, and Walid Shawkystarted hunger strikes to protest their unlawful imprisonment. On 8 March, Walid Shawky ended his hunger strike. Their health is at risk as their physical condition further deteriorates. The undersigned organisations call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the aforementioned individuals, as well as all of the many other individuals currently held in detention for peacefully exercising their right to free expression.

     

  • Egypt: End Reprisals, Harassment and Threats Against Civil Society Leader Mostafa Fouad

    Arabic

    The undersigned civil society organisations call on Egyptian authorities to immediately end their harassment of Egyptian activist and Deputy Director of HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement, Mostafa Fouad.