human rights defenders

 

  • Egypt: Quash Verdicts and Stop Unfair Trials by Emergency Courts

    We, the undersigned organisations, call on Egyptian President Abdelfattah Al-Sisi to immediately quash the verdicts against seven arbitrarily detained human rights defenders, activists and politicians.

     

  • Egypt: Release human rights defenders Alaa Abdel Fattah, Mohamed El-Baqer and Mohamed Oxygen

    Ahead of the Emergency Court verdict on 20 December, we, the undersigned organisations, call upon the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Alaa Abdel Fattah, Mohamed El-Baqer and Mohamed Ibrahim “Oxygen” and to drop all charges and cases against them. Their detention and imprisonment create an environment where freedom of expression is not respected. States and international institutions should raise these cases directly with their Egyptian counterparts and urge immediate release and dismissal of all charges.

     

  • Egypt: Stop the onslaught against civil society

    The undersigned civil society organisations express our serious concern over the recent escalation of restrictions on civil society and the public vilification of human rights defenders in Egypt. We call on the Egyptian authorities to uphold their international obligations and ensure that civil society and human rights defenders can work in a safe and enabling environment without fear of reprisals.

    On 24 May 2017, President Abdel Fatah El Sisi signed a highly restrictive law that provides the government with extraordinary powers over NGOs and stifles the activities of civil society. The bill was approved by Parliament in November 2016 but was put on hold after an outcry by local and international civil society organisations to prevent the President from passing it into law. Law 70 of 2017 severely limits the functioning of civil society organisations and unduly restricts the rights to freedom of expression and association. It introduces hefty fines and prison terms for civil society groups who publish a study or a report without prior approval by the government or engage in activities that do not have a developmental or social focus. These new restrictions make it practically impossible for human rights organisations to carry out their work.

    The law provides unprecedented authority to government bodies to interfere in the day-to-day operations of civil society organisations, including their cooperation with any entities outside of Egypt. Worryingly, the law includes overly broad and vague provisions that could lead to its arbitrary application and targeting legitimate activities. Article 13 of the law broadly prohibits civil society organisations from conducting activities that could be deemed harmful to national security, public order, public morality, or public health. The law further violates the right to freedom of association and criminalises activities considered to be of a “political nature” as well as legislative reform work thereby impeding the important work of independent civil society groups in Egypt.

    In addition, the government has imposed unwarranted restrictions on the right to freedom of expression online and the ability of individuals to communicate freely and seek and receive information. On 25 May, the government blocked 21 websites and accused them of spreading “terrorism and extremism” and “publishing lies". The block was carried out without any legal process or judicial oversight. These websites include Mada Masr - one of the few independent news outlets that carries out investigative journalism.

    On 25 May 2017, more than 10 media outlets published articles and reports as part of a smear campaign against human rights defenders who had travelled to Rome a few days before to participate in a meeting with civil society representatives from other countries. The articles labelled the human rights defenders “traitors,” and urged the Egyptian intelligence service to try them on criminal charges upon their return. This smear campaign is intended to discredit and delegitimise the work of peaceful activists by tarnishing their reputation.

    Human rights defenders continue to be intimidated and harassed by the authorities. On 24 May, human rights activist and Director of the Egypt Programme for the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Mohamed Zaree, was released on bail of 30,000 EGP (1,650 USD) after being interrogated for several hours by a judge. He was accused of receiving foreign funding for CIHRS, together with other civil society organisations, and for using the funds to promote activities that the authorities perceive to be against national security. He was also accused of tarnishing the reputation of Egypt by preparing human rights reports for the United Nations Human Rights Council.

    Over the past few years, Egyptian authorities banned 24 human rights defenders and NGO staff from traveling abroad, and froze the assets of seven human rights organizations and 10 human rights defenders. These punitive measures have been implemented by an investigative judicial panel appointed to investigate the activities of human rights organizations.

    What is also clear from recent events in Egypt, is that the Egyptian state seems determined to close down the civic space of feminists and women human rights defenders (WHRDs) in particular. The stifling of the activism of Egyptian feminists and WHRDs such as Azza Soliman and Mozn Hassan who work on critical issues of violence against women, the closure of the El Nadeem center, and the travel ban against WHRD, Aida Seif el-Dawla, etc, are typical of the tools normally used against WHRDs under repressive governments.

    We urge the Egyptian authorities to repeal Law 70 of 2017, close the ongoing criminal investigation into the work of human rights groups and ensure a safe and enabling environment in which civil society organisations and human rights defenders can carry out their work without fear of reprisals.

    Signatories

    Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti Violence Studies
    Amnesty International
    Article 19
    Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
    CIVICUS
    EuroMed Rights
    Front Line Defenders
    International Women’s Health Coalition
    Nazra For Feminist Studies
    MENA Women Human Rights Defenders Coalition
    Muslims for Progressive Values, Nederland
    The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy
    Transparency International
    Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition

     

  • Egyptian women's rights defenders risk life in prison

    Azza Soliman and Mozn Hassan have both been working to improve women's rights in Egypt. They have campaigned to end violence against women, amongst many other campaigns, and are now wrongfully accused of receiving foreign funding against national interest and "irresponsible liberation" of women.

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    Join the #SheDefends campaign to shine a spotlight on "The Price of Activism" paid by human rights defenders by posting pictures on your own social media urging the international community to "Protect Women Who Defend Our Human Rights" and tagging CIVICUS (@CIVICUSalliance) and using the hashtags #CSW61 #SheDefends.
    Promo pack available here: http://bit.ly/2niENW5
    See Flikr album in progress here https://t.co/dPIxhDQTiW

    Follow them at @NazraEgypt @Mozn @AzzaSoliman1

     

  • European States and US must take measures to protect Egyptian human rights defenders, both home and abroad

    The undersigned civil society organisations express their outrage at the latest death threats targeting the Director of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Bahey el-Din Hassan, as a result of his human rights work on Egypt in Europe and the US. On 21 March 2018, in reaction to a memo sent by seven Egyptian independent human rights groups, including CIHRS, to the UN Secretary-General regarding the presidential elections in Egypt, a TV show host called on the Egyptian authorities to “deal with him [Bahey el-Din Hassan] the same way the Russian spy was dealt with,”[1] in reference to the nerve agent attack on Serjei Skripal in the United Kingdom.

    Given the gravity of these threats against Bahey el-Din Hassan, the undersigned organisations call on the European States and the United States to:

    1. take all necessary measures to protect Egyptian human rights defenders (HRDs), both home and abroad, and

    2. to urge the Egyptian authorities to carry out immediate, thorough and impartial investigations on these threats. HRDs should be able to engage with regional and international human rights systems without fear for their lives. Support for HRDs is a stated priority of EU, Swiss, Norwegian and US foreign policies, and lies at the heart of the 1998 UN Declaration on HRDs.

    CIHRS is an indispensable and internationally recognised organisation, which has been a champion of human rights across the Middle East and North Africa for over 20 years.

    These events not only constitute the latest example of the harassment that Mr Hassan has faced in the last years, which forced him into exile in 2014 following the election of President el-Sisi, but also represent an extremely worrying pattern of reprisals against HRDs in Egypt and many other parts of the world.

    While pro-democracy activists in Egypt are being jailed for expressing their views on social media, these repeated and serious incitements on television calling to inflict physical harm against Bahey el-Din Hassan as well as other HRDs have not been adequately addressed by the Egyptian authorities. Amidst an unprecedented crackdown on human rights and civil society, together with a soon-to-be implemented draconian NGO law, the Egyptian authorities appear determined to silence HRDs by any means, including instructing security services and State-sponsored media to intimidate them in Egypt and abroad.

    Egyptian  NGOs already witnessed this kind of harassment during a human rights workshop in Rome in May 2017, when two persons pretending to be Egyptian journalists intimidated and took pictures of the Egyptian participants. Subsequently, a smear campaign was launched in Egypt where Moustafa Bakry, a political figure closely associated to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and a member of the pro-Sisi parliamentary bloc, stated on his TV show that the Egyptian security agencies should “kidnap” Egyptian human rights defenders, including Bahey el-Din Hassan, from Europe and bring them back to Egypt “in coffins”,[2] reminding them that this had been done in the past.

    AboutBahey el-Din Hassan

    Bahey el-Din Hassan is a journalist, he has published articles in The New York Times and The Washington Post. He is a leading initiator of the human rights movement in Egypt and the Arab region, director and co-founder of CIHRS, and a member of the boards and advisory committees of several international human rights organisations, including the Euro Mediterranean Foundation of Support to Human Rights Defenders (EMHRF), Human Rights Watch (HRW) Middle East and North Africa Division, and the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ). Hassan is also one of the founding members of EMHRF and EuroMed Rights.

    Signatories 

    1. Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
    2. Asian Forum For Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) 
    3. Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC)
    4. Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
    5. Caucasus Civil Initiatives Center (CCIC)
    6. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) – Argentina
    7. CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    8. Conectas
    9. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    10. EuroMed Rights
    11. FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
    12. Front Line Defenders
    13. Human Rights First
    14. Human Rights Watch
    15. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    16. JOINT Liga de ONGs em Mozambique
    17. Karapatan (Philippines)
    18. Odhikar (Bangladesh)
    19. Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
    20. Reporters Without Borders
    21. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
    22. The Working Group on Egypt (USA)[3]
    23. World Organisation against Torture, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

    [1] Link to the video (in Arabic) https://youtu.be/gZE8zCePfqw

    [2] Link to the TV show (in Arabic) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eirJclgosPs (min 34)

    [3] Elliott Abrams, Michele Dunne, Jamie Fly, Reuel Gerecht, Amy Hawthorne, Neil Hicks, Robert Kagan, Tom Malinowski, Steve McInerney, Tamara Wittes

     

  • Global Letter in solidarity with Belarusian civil society

    Russian | Belarusian

    ‘You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep the Spring from coming’
    Pablo Neruda

    161 human rights organisations demand an end to the repression against the Human Rights Center Viasna and all other human rights defenders in Belarus. We condemn the systematic arbitrary arrests, beatings and acts of torture they are subjected to. Despite all-out repression by the Belarusian authorities, human rights defenders in Belarus continue to strive to protect human rights. Inspired by their courage, we will not stop fighting until they are all released and able to continue their human rights work freely and unhindered.

    Over the past few days, we have witnessed another wave of raids and detentions against Belarusian human rights defenders and activists. This repression is a blatant retaliation for their work denouncing and documenting human rights violations ongoing since the brutal crackdown against peaceful protesters in the wake of the August 2020 election. Since August 2020, more than 35,000 Belarusians were arrested for participating in peaceful protests, around 3,000 politically motivated criminal cases were initiated, at least 2,500 cases of torture of Belarusian citizens were documented. We believe these systematic and widespread human rights violations may amount to crimes against humanity. As of July 19, 561 persons in Belarus are considered political prisoners.

    Between July 14 and 16, 2021, more than 60 searches were conducted at the homes and offices of Belarusian human rights organisations and their staff, including the Human Rights Centre ‘Viasna’, two member organisations of the International Committee for the Investigation of Torture in Belarus, Human Constanta and Legal Initiative, as well as the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the Belarusian Association of Journalists, the Legal Transformation Center LawTrend, Ecodom and many others. Documents and IT equipment, including laptops, mobile phones and computers were seized during the searches.

    During these latest raids, more than 30 people were interrogated. 13 of them were detained for a 72-hour period, reportedly in connection to an investigation into public order violations and tax evasion. Most of them were subsequently released, namely, Mikalai Sharakh, Siarhei Matskievich, and Viasna members Andrei Paluda, Alena Laptsionak, Yauheniya Babaeva, Siarhei Sys, Viktar Sazonau, Ales Kaputski and Andrei Medvedev. Several of them, however, remain under travel ban and face criminal charges. Notably, Ales Bialiatsky, Viasna Chairperson Valiantsin Stefanovic, Viasna Deputy Head and Vice-President of the FIDH, and Uladzimir Labkovich, a lawyer and Viasna member, remain detained. On July 17, all four were transferred to a pre-trial detention center “Valadarskaha”. Four other Viasna members Leanid Sudalenka, Tatsiana Lasitsa, Marfa Rabkova and Andrey Chapyuk, as well as Aleh Hrableuski of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, remain in pre-trial detention since late 2020 or early 2021.

    Viasna, one of the country’s top human rights organisations, and a member of the OMCT and FIDH networks, has been targeted by the Belarusian government for over two decades. In August 2011, its chairperson Ales Bialiatsky was sentenced to four and a half years of imprisonment on trumped-up charges, and released in June 2014 after spending 1,052 days in arbitrary detention in appalling conditions. In retaliation for Viasna’s courageous work and unwavering stance for human rights, the Belarusian authorities are trying to destroy the organisation by putting seven of its members behind bars.

    The raids started only one day after the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution condemning the situation of human rights in Belarus, demanding the release of all persons arbitrarily detained and an investigation into allegations of torture and other human rights violations.

    On July 8-9 and July 16, 2021, the authorities also raided the homes and premises of various independent media outlets and their staff, including ‘Nasha Niva’, one of country’s oldest independent newspaper, and detained three of its journalists. The offices of RFE/Radio Liberty and Belsat, the largest independent TV channel covering Belarus, were also searched, and several of their journalists were detained. As of now, over 30 media workers and dozens of bloggers remain in detention.

    We, the undersigned civil society organisations, condemn the massive human rights violations perpetrated by the Belarusian authorities, which we fear may trigger more violence. This latest wave of repression, together with the brutal crackdown over the last months, demonstrates that the authorities aim at having every human rights defender either detained or exiled.

    We stand in solidarity with our colleagues and friends who are detained, harassed, and persecuted for their brave work. We regard their struggle with great concern and sorrow, and we are inspired by their commitment and resilience.

    We urge the Belarusian authorities to stop the harassment and intimidation of critical voices, and to free all unjustly detained human rights defenders, journalists and activists.

    We call on the international community to take a strong stance in support of the Belarusian human rights community, and to speak out for the release of all those who are still behind bars, and whose only crime is to demand a society based on justice instead of fear.

    Signatories

    1. Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran - Iran
    2. ACAT Belgique - Belgium
    3. ACAT Burundi - Burundi
    4. ACAT España-Catalunya (Acción de los Cristianos para la Abolición de la Tortura) - Spain
    5. ACAT Germany (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture) - Germany
    6. ACAT Italia - Italy
    7. ACAT République Centrafricaine - Central African Republic
    8. ACAT République Démocratique du Congo - Democratic Republic of Congo
    9. ACAT Suisse - Switzerland
    10. ACAT Tchad - Tchad
    11. ACAT Togo - Togo
    12. Action Against Violence and Exploitation (ACTVE) - Philippines
    13. Action des Chrétiens Activistes des Droits de l’Homme à Shabunda (ACADHOSHA) - Democratic Republic of Congo
    14. Advocacy Forum – Nepal - Nepal
    15. Agir ensemble pour les droits humains - France
    16. Albanian Human Rights Group
    17. ALTSEAN-Burma - Myanmar
    18. Anti Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) - Malaysia/Asia-Pacific
    19. Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial - Belgium
    20. ARTICLE 19
    21. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights - Indonesia
    22. Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC) - Philippines
    23. Asociación para una Ciudadanía Participativa (ACI PARTICIPA) - Honduras
    24. Asociación pro derechos humanos (Aprodeh) - Peru
    25. Association Mauritanienne des droits de l'homme (AMDH-Mauritanieuri) - Mauritania
    26. Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) - India
    27. Association Tchadienne pour la promotion et la Défense des Droits de l'Homme (ATPDH) - Tchad
    28. Association tunisienne des femmes démocrates - Tunisia
    29. Avocats Sans Frontières France (ASF France) - France
    30. Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) - India
    31. Belarusian-Swiss Association RAZAM.CH - Switzerland
    32. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee - Bulgaria
    33. Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) - Cambodia
    34. Capital Punishment Justice Project (CPJP) - Australia
    35. Center for Civil Liberties - Ukraine
    36. Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) - United States of America
    37. Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR), University of York - United Kingdom
    38. Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights (CDDHR) - Russia
    39. Centro de Derechos humanos Fray Bartolomé de las Casas A.c. (Frayba) - Mexico
    40. Centro de Derechos Humanos Paso del Norte - Mexico
    41. Centro de Investigación y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CIPRODEH) - Honduras
    42. Centro de Prevención, Tratamiento y Rehabilitación de Victimas de la Tortura y sus familiares (CPTRT) - Honduras
    43. Centro de Salud Mental y Derechos Humanos (CINTRAS) - Chile
    44. Changement Social Bénin (CSB) - Benin
    45. CIVICUS
    46. Civil Rights Defenders (CRD) - Sweden
    47. Comision Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH-RD) - Dominican Republic
    48. Coalition Burkinabé des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CBDDH) - Burkina Faso
    49. Coalition Marocaine contre la Peine de Mort - Morocco
    50. Coalition Tunisienne Contre la Peine de Mort - Tunisia
    51. Collectif des Associations Contre l'Impunité au Togo (CACIT) - Togo
    52. Comisión de derechos humanos – COMISEDH - Peru
    53. Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH) - Honduras
    54. Comité de solidaridad con los presos políticos (FCSPP) - Colombia
    55. Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) - Northern Ireland (UK)
    56. Crude Accountability - United States of America
    57. Czech League of Human Rights Czech Republic
    58. Death Penalty Focus (DPF) - United States of America
    59. Defenders of human rights centre - Iran
    60. DEMAS - Association for Democracy Assistance and Human Rights - Czech Republic
    61. DITSHWANELO - The Botswana Centre for Human Rights - Botswana
    62. Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF) - Belgium
    63. Eleos Justice, Monash University - Australia
    64. Enfants Solidaires d'Afrique et du Monde (ESAM) - Benin
    65. Federal Association of Vietnam-Refugees in the Federal Republic of Germany - Germany
    66. FIDU - Italian Federation for Human Rights - Italy
    67. Finnish League for Human Rights - Finland
    68. Free Press Unlimited - The Netherlands
    69. Fundación Regional de Asesoría en Derechos Humanos (INREDH) - Ecuador
    70. GABRIELA Alliance of Filipino Women - Philippines
    71. German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (GCADP) - Germany
    72. Greek Helsinki Monitor Greece
    73. Helsinki Citizens' Assembly – Vanadzor - Armenia
    74. Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights - Poland
    75. Citizens' Watch Russia
    76. Human Rights Alert - India
    77. Human Rights Association (İHD) - Turkey
    78. Human Rights Center (HRC) - Georgia
    79. Human Rights Center (HRC) "Memorial" - Russia
    80. Human Rights House Foundation
    81. Human Rights in China (HRIC) - USA
    82. Human Rights Monitoring Institute (HRMI) - Lithuania
    83. Human Rights Mouvement “Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan” - Kyrgyzstan
    84. Human Rights Organization of Nepal - Nepal
    85. Humanist Union of Greece (HUG) - Greece
    86. Hungarian Helsinki Committee - Hungary
    87. IDP Women Association "Consent" - Georgia
    88. Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) - Kenya
    89. Instituto de Estudios Legales y Sociales del Uruguay (IELSUR) - Uruguay
    90. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) - Kenyan Section - Kenya
    91. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) - France
    92. International Legal Initiative - Kazakhstan
    93. International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) - Belgium
    94. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) - Switzerland
    95. Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society - India
    96. JANANEETHI - India
    97. Justice for Iran (JFI) - United Kingdom
    98. Justícia i Pau - Spain
    99. Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law - Kazakhstan
    100. Kharkiv Regional Foundation "Public Alternative" - Ukraine
    101. La Strada International - The Netherlands
    102. La Voix des Sans Voix pour les Droits de l'Homme (VSV) - Democratic Republic of Congo
    103. Latvian Human Rights Committee (LHRC) - Latvia
    104. Lawyer's Committee for Human Rights YUCOM - Serbia
    105. League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) - Iran
    106. Legal Policy Research Centre (LPRC) - Kazakhstan
    107. Libereco Partnership of Human Rights - Germany/ Switzerland
    108. LICADHO - Cambodia
    109. Lifespark - Switzerland
    110. Liga Portuguesa dos Direitos Humanos - Civitas (LPDHC) - Portugal
    111. Liga voor de Rechten van de Mens (LvRM) (Dutch League for Human Rights) - The Netherlands
    112. Ligue des droits de l'Homme (LDH) - France
    113. Ligue Tchadienne des droits de l'Homme - Tchad
    114. Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) - Maldives
    115. Martin Ennals Foundation - Switzerland
    116. Minority Rights Group - Greece
    117. Mouvance des Abolitionnistes du Congo Brazzaville - Congo Brazzaville
    118. Mouvement Ivoirien des Droits Humains (MIDH) - Côte d'Ivoire
    119. Mouvement Lao pour les Droits de l'Homme - Laos
    120. Movimento Nacional de Direitos Humanos (MNDH) - Brazil
    121. Netherlands Helsinki Committee - The Netherlands
    122. Norwegian Helsinki Committee - Norway
    123. Observatoire du système pénal et des droits humains (OSPDH) - Spain
    124. Observatoire Marocain des prisons - Morocco
    125. Odhikar - Bangladesh
    126. OPEN ASIA|Armanshahr - France
    127. Organisation contre la torture en Tunisie (OCTT) - Tunisie
    128. Organisation Guineenne de Defense des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen (OGDH) - Guinea
    129. Österreichische Liga für Menschenrechte ÖLFMR - Austria
    130. Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) - Palestine
    131. Pax Christi Uvira - Democratic Republic of Congo
    132. People's Watch India
    133. Programa Venezolano de Educación-Acción en Derechos Humanos (Provea) - Venezuela
    134. Promo LEX Association - Republic of Moldova
    135. Protection International (PI)
    136. Public Association "Dignity" - Kazakhstan
    137. Public Association Spravedlivost Human Rights Organization - Kyrgyzstan
    138. Public Verdict Foundation - Russia
    139. Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme RADDHO - Senegal
    140. Repecap Academics - Spain
    141. Réseau des Defenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC) - Cameroon
    142. Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH) - Haïti
    143. Rights Realization Centre - UK
    144. Rural People's Sangam - India
    145. Salam for Democracy and Human Rights - UK, Lebanon, Bahrain
    146. Social-Strategic Researches and Analytical Investigations Public Union (SSRAIPU) - Azerbaijan
    147. SOHRAM-CASRA - Centre Action Sociale Réhabilitation et Réadaptation pour les Victimes de la Torture, de la guerre et de la violence - Turquie
    148. SOS-Torture/Burundi - Burundi
    149. SUARAM - Malaysia
    150. Syndicat national des agents de la formation et de l'education du Niger (SYNAFEN NIGER) - Niger
    151. Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) - Philippines
    152. Thai Action Committee for Democaracy in Burma (TACDB) - Thailand
    153. The Advocates for Human Rights - United States of America
    154. The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House (BHRH) - Lithuania
    155. The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) - Indonesia
    156. The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)
    157. Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights United States of America
    158. Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) - France
    159. World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) - France
    160. World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) - Switzerland
    161. Xumek asociación para la promoción y protección de los derechos humanos - Argentina

    Civic space in Belarus is rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor

     

  • Guinea placed on human rights watchlist ahead of referendum

    •  Guinea placed on CIVICUS Monitor watchlist ahead of referendum
    • Escalating rights violations include use of excessive force on protesters
    • CIVICUS calls for release of human rights defenders and urges President Condé to step down

    Guinea has been placed on the CIVICUS Monitor human rights watchlist ahead of the proposed referendum on 22nd March. This list draws attention to countries where there has been a rapid decline in civic and democratic freedoms in recent months.

    Guinea was placed on the Monitor’s watchlist in October after deadly crackdowns and arbitrary arrests of protesters. It remains on the watchlist because the CIVICUS Monitor is concerned that if the government pushes ahead with the controversial referendum later this week, then further violence and unrest will follow.

    Guinea is rated ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, which is the third worst rating a country can receive by the global index, in the same category as Mali, Sierra Leone and Liberia. In obstructed countries, civic space is often monopolised by those in power and excessive force is commonly used by law enforcement agencies.

    Since October 2019, more than 30 people have been killed and dozens injured in widespread protests that have engulfed Guinea, as protesters call on the government to respect the provisions of the current constitution. The current constitution limits presidential tenures to two five-year terms and can only be changed via a referendum. If changed, it could pave the way for President Alpha Condé to remain in power.

    Le Front national de la défense de la Constitution, or the National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC), a movement composed of civil society and the political opposition, have been leading calls against a potential third term bid for President Condé.

    The leaders of the FNDC, human rights defenders Ibrahima Diallo and Sekou Koundouno, were arrested by masked men from the BRI (Investigation and Intervention Brigade) on 6 March and taken to an unknown destination. They were arrested immediately after expressing concerns over the ongoing arbitrary arrests of activists during a press conference. On 12th March they were released on bail and placed under judicial control.

    In October 2019 thirteen FNDC leaders were arrested ahead of planned protests in Conakry and accused of organizing banned protests and inciting civil disobedience. Five of them were sentenced to jail terms ranging from six months to one year. Journalists have also been physically assaulted for covering the protests and their equipment seized to prevent them from broadcasting images of the protests.

    The arrest and detention of human rights defenders highlights how the Guinean authorities are trying to silence pro-democracy voices and pave the way for President Condé to extend his term in office:

    “By arresting human rights defenders, the Guinean authorities aim to silence the voices of those who are against a new constitution. It is time for President Condé and his administration to respect the wishes of Guinean people and allow a political transition which will usher in a new era in Guinea’s nascent democracy,” said David Kode, head of advocacy and campaigns at CIVICUS.

    CIVICUS calls on the government of Guinea to immediately release all human rights defenders in detention.

    CIVICUS also calls on the African Union to ensure that the government of Guinea respects provisions of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance: it urges President Condé to respect the current constitution and step aside when his mandate ends to allow for a peaceful political transition.

    ENDS

     

    Contact:

    Nina Teggarty, CIVICUS Communications Officer, Campaigns & Advocacy

    Email:

    Phone: +27 (0)785013500

    CIVICUS media team:

     

  • Guinée : CIVICUS appelle à la libération des défenseurs des droits humains et place la Guinée sur la liste de surveillance des droits humains

    • L'alliance mondiale de la société civile CIVICUS demande la libération des défenseurs des droits humains Ibrahima Diallo et Sekou Koundouno.
    • La Guinée placée sur la liste de surveillance de CIVICUS Monitor à l'approche du référendum
    • Appel au retrait du président Condé à la fin de son mandat présidentiel

    CIVICUS, l'alliance mondiale des organisations de la société civile, appelle le gouvernement de Guinée à libérer les défenseurs des droits humains Ibrahima Diallo et Sekou Koundouno.

    Les deux défenseurs des droits humains ont été arrêtés le 6 mars par des hommes masqués de la BRI (Brigade d'Investigation et d'Intervention) et emmenés vers une destination inconnue. Ils ont été arrêtés immédiatement après avoir exprimé leurs préoccupations concernant les arrestations arbitraires en cours de militants lors d'une conférence de presse.

    Diallo et Koundouno sont les dirigeants du Front national de la défense de la Constitution, ou FNDC (National Front for the Defence of the Constitution), un mouvement composé de la société civile et de l'opposition politique. Ils ont mené des appels contre une éventuelle candidature pour un troisième mandat du président Condé.

    L'arrestation et la détention de défenseurs des droits de l'homme mettent en évidence la manière dont les autorités guinéennes tentent de faire taire les voix pro-démocratiques et d'ouvrir la voie à la prolongation du mandat du président Condé.

    Plus de 30 personnes ont été tuées et des dizaines d'autres blessées depuis que des manifestationsde grande ampleur contre une nouvelle constitution ont englouti la Guinée en octobre 2019. Les manifestants ont appelé le gouvernement à respecter les dispositions de la constitution actuelle qui prévoit que le mandat présidentiel ne peut excéder deux mandats de cinq ans.

    En octobre 2019, treize dirigeants du FNDC ont été arrêtés avant les manifestations prévues à Conakry et accusés d'avoir organisé des manifestations interdites et d'avoir incité à la désobéissance civile. Cinq d'entre eux ont été condamnés à des peines de prison allant de six mois à un an. Des journalistes ont également été agressés physiquement pour avoir couvert les manifestations et leur matériel a été saisi pour les empêcher de diffuser des images des manifestations.

    "En arrêtant Ibrahima Diallo et Sekou Koundouno ainsi que d'autres défenseurs des droits de l'homme, les autorités guinéennes visent à faire taire les voix de ceux qui sont contre une nouvelle constitution. Il est temps que le président Condé et son administration respectent la volonté du peuple guinéen et permettent une transition politique qui ouvrira une nouvelle ère dans la démocratie naissante de la Guinée", a déclaré David Kode, responsable du plaidoyer et des campagnes à CIVICUS.

    Pour contourner la constitution actuelle et ouvrir la voie à un troisième mandat, le président Condé a déclaré qu'il pourrait entamer le processus de modificationde la constitution par le biais d'un référendum.

    Le référendum a été reporté pour la deuxième fois le 11 mars 2020 et une nouvelle date n'a pas été fixée. Cependant, le CIVICUS Monitor a ajouté la Guinée à sa liste de surveillance car si le gouvernement poursuit ce vote controversé, de nouvelles violences et de nouveaux troubles sont à prévoir.

    La Guinée est classée dans la catégorie "Obstruée" par le CIVICUS Monitor. Dans les pays "obstrués", l'espace civique est monopolisé par ceux qui sont au pouvoir et la force excessive est couramment utilisée par les forces de l'ordre.

    CIVICUS demande à l'Union africaine de veiller à ce que le gouvernement de Guinée respecte les dispositions de la Charte africaine de la démocratie, des élections et de la gouvernance : elle exhorte le président Condé à respecter la constitution actuelle et à se retirer à la fin de son mandat pour permettre une transition politique pacifique.

    CIVICUS appelle également le gouvernement guinéen à libérer immédiatement Ibrahima Diallo et Sekou Koundouno, ainsi que tous les défenseurs des droits de l'homme en détention.

    FIN

    Contact:

    Nina Teggarty, Responsable de la communication, des campagnes et du plaidoyer chez CIVICUS

    Email:

    Téléphone: +27 (0)785013500

    CIVICUS media team:

     

     

  • HONDURAS: ‘We must address the roots of the conflict: the handing over of natural resources’

    Edy TaboraCIVICUS speaks about the criminalisation of environmental, land and territorial defenders in Honduras with Edy Tábora, director of the law firm Justicia para los Pueblos (Justice for the Peoples) and coordinator of the group of defence lawyers of eight defenders of the Guapinol river who were recently released from detention.

    Why were the Guapinol defenders criminalised?

    The case of the eight Guapinol comrades deprived of their freedom is one of the most revealing expressions of the conflicts around mining and energy and the dispossession of land and natural resources in Honduras. Along with that of Berta Cáceres, the Guapinol case is one of the most significant ones.

    Berta’s case, which culminated in her assassination, was the first in a new wave of criminalisation surrounding dispossession projects following the 2009 military coup. Her case displayed all the typical elements: stigmatisation, surveillance, rupture of the social fabric, criminalisation. The same pattern can be seen in many parts of Honduras.

    After the coup, there was a privately conducted exploration of mineral deposits and businesspeople realised there was a lot of money to be made here. In the case of Guapinol, the process kicked off with the granting of an iron oxide mining concession – one of the largest in the country – to Los Pinares, a holding company registered in Panama, owned by an extremely wealthy Honduran family. Its mining business was developed jointly with the US company Nucor.

    Nucor claims to have withdrawn from the project in late 2019 due to the conflict triggered by the criminalisation of the Guapinol defenders, but there is no evidence of this and we do not believe it to be true. Los Pinares is simply the mining arm of a company whose power comes from airport concessions at home and abroad. It is a company with high-level political connections, and with so much power that in 2013 it succeeded in getting the National Congress to change the delimitation of the core zone of a national park.

    On 22 April 2013, the day before a new mining law came into force, applications were submitted for the two mining concessions related to the Guapinol case, both located in the core zone of the Montaña de Botaderos National Park. This had been declared a national park in 2012, as part of a ‘friendly settlement’ with the relatives of Carlos Escaleras, a social leader and environmental defender active in the 1980s and 1990s, who was assassinated for defending this mountain. The statute of the national park, which bears the name of Carlos Escaleras, prohibited the granting of mining concessions in its core zone and even its buffer zone.

    However, in 2014, engineers began to arrive on the mountain to collect information and check how deep down metal was deposited. People noticed this, began to demand an explanation and organised in the Municipal Committee of Public and Common Goods of Tocoa.

    In June 2016 they began to file complaints; some were filed by the Guapinol defenders who ended up in prison. They requested information from the institutions in charge of granting mining permits but only obtained some information in November 2019, after three years of back and forth. Tired of not getting answers, in June 2018 people started protesting at the Municipality of Tocoa Colón. It was then that systematic surveillance by the national police and Los Pinares security began.

    In August 2018, the Honduran Council of Private Enterprise held press conferences in which it complained to the government about an alleged loss of 20 billion dollars caused by ‘vandals’ protesting in various parts of Honduras.

    Criminalisation was a nationwide strategy, but the criminalisation of the Guapinol comrades was the most serious case. On 8 September 2018, the Public Prosecutor’s Office presented the first accusation against 18 comrades for the crimes of usurpation, damage and usurpation of public space. Los Pinares appeared in the hearings as the accuser. Fourteen comrades were put on trial and all their cases were closed, but the fact that they were accused enabled the illegal eviction, in October 2018, of the Camp for Water and Life, one of many set up around Honduras. This was one of four charges brought by the Public Prosecutor’s Office as part of the strategy to criminalise resistance movements against mining and energy projects.

    In January 2019, in response to a complaint filed by Los Pinares, the Public Prosecutor’s Office filed another indictment against 32 people, including eight Guapinol comrades. The nature of the charges changed: it was no longer about usurpation of public space but about organised crime. Human rights defenders were now treated as taking part in organised crime, with charges including criminal association, theft, damage, unjust deprivation of liberty and aggravated arson. The case was assigned to the Specialised Court for Organised Crime, which meant it was transferred from local to national jurisdiction, in violation of the right to be tried by one’s natural judge. 

    Of the 32, a first group voluntarily submitted to trial in February 2019 and was kept in prison for only 10 days before the accusations against them were dismissed. The Guapinol eight, however, despite having voluntarily submitted to trial, were subjected to arbitrary detention from 26 August 2019 until 24 February 2022, when they finally regained their freedom.

    What did civil society do to secure their release?

    During the pandemic, Guapinol was one of the most high-profile cases globally. Not even the pandemic could stop our comrades’ defence. We quickly moved our activities online, and by late April 2020 we were already filing habeas corpus writs for our comrades’ right to health, alongside international organisations. Even under these conditions, we managed to set up discussions with important organisations, and three months after the pandemic began, we restarted our advocacy work, which meant that by the time the trial started, the case had become very well known around the world.

    Initially the case was promoted by the Coalition Against Impunity, which brings together more than 50 Honduran civil society organisations (CSOs). Later, many CSOs joined a kind of international support group for the case.

    First, we publicly denounced the violence and criminalisation against the Municipal Committee. Second, before our comrades were imprisoned, we documented the irregular granting of concessions for natural resources. Third, alongside several Honduran CSOs, we organised our comrades’ legal defence. A working group was then organised including national and international CSOs to support the defence. A lot of advocacy work was done, both nationally and internationally, to convince the public that this was a very important case and to counter the company’s account of the violence allegedly committed by our comrades.

    Documentary and testimonial work was crucial to expose our comrades’ real activism. We had many meetings with international CSOs. Canadian, US and European organisations and academics reported on the concession and the legal process. International CSOs filed amicus curiae – friend of the court – briefs with Honduran courts. We participated in multiple forums with national and international organisations.

    Many actions converged to create a powerful wave of demands for our comrades’ release. CIVICUS’s and Amnesty International’s campaigns, for example, allowed us to reach wider audiences. When the trial came, the case was widely known, and less than 24 hours after the end of the trial, in which our comrades were convicted with two thirds of the court’s votes, the Supreme Court of Justice annulled the whole process and ordered them to be released.

    This was an unprecedented decision, surely motivated by the strength of the demand for their freedom and by the evidence presented, both in and out of court, which demonstrated that our comrades were innocent and that they fight for a just cause that is of great interest to humanity.

    Are there other cases like the Guapinol case in Honduras?

    There are many defenders criminalised for defending land, including some from the Garífuna people, a marginalised minority, but they are not in prison. Many comrades were also imprisoned for defending democracy in the aftermath of 2017’s electoral fraud: around 30 people were imprisoned in maximum security prisons, but they are currently free. Most pending cases are being closed as a result of an amnesty issued by the National Congress in February 2022.

    In that sense, the Guapinol case was an exception, because this amnesty did not apply to them. What’s important about this case is that we managed to close the process by defending ourselves even with the highly questionable tools offered by the Honduran judicial system.

    However, there were other cases at the same time as Guapinol, such as that of the Indigenous comrades of the Lenca people in the department of La Paz, who were accused of forced displacement. They were imprisoned for more than a year for a crime that is the craziest thing I have ever heard: they were accused of displacing landowners. The Public Prosecutor’s narrative uses the made-up concept of ‘reverse racism’, according to which Indigenous peoples can also commit discrimination against minorities within their communities – the minority in this case being the landowners.

    Do you view Guapinol as part of a pattern of criminalisation against environmental defenders?

    We have detected patterns of criminalisation by sector in the cases we have monitored. For example, between 2011 and 2016 one of the most criminalised sectors was the student movement mobilised in defence of public education. Some 350 students, mostly university students, were criminalised.

    In the case of environmental defenders, we were able to document several patterns of criminalisation. Again and again, prosecutions were initiated only a few days after pronouncements by companies or employers’ organisations. The behaviour of the police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office has also been similar in all cases, with an initial focus on eviction and accusations changing over time following the same pattern. The narrative peddled by companies is always the same as well, often because they share the same lawyers.

    Criminalisation follows different patterns depending on the interests affected. The crimes people are accused of when challenging mining interests differ from those used to dispossess communities of land for the construction of tourism megaprojects or the plantation of African palm in the Atlantic zone, and from those used against peasants claiming access to land and crops.

    However, all the groups criminalised over the past 15 years have something in common: their resistance to the project, promoted since the 2000s, of handing over natural resources to private companies. Land grabbing was politically supported the state following the coup: from that moment on, national regulations were made more flexible to facilitate dispossession and the national police and the security forces of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the judiciary were placed at the service of the private sector, which used them to criminalise land rights defenders.

    Has there been any improvement in the situation of environmental defenders since the new government came to power in January 2022?

    The new government brought several positive changes. First, while we had already achieved the closure of several emblematic cases, it decreed an amnesty that resulted in the closure of most legal proceedings against defenders, although there are still some cases pending.

    Second, the new government has put an end to the state’s stigmatisation of land struggles, which used to make use of information obtained by state security forces. And third, for the time being the government has not tackled conflicts with violence. People who protest are not being repressed.

    In recent years state violence was deployed to manage social protest, private violence was reflected in the assassination of defenders, and hybrid violence was seen in the area of surveillance. Over the four years of the current government we may no longer witness violent management of social protests, but there is a chance that state violence will be replaced by private corporate violence.

    What are the challenges ahead?

    The challenge right now is to address the causes of criminalisation. We have worked to defend and support our comrades criminalised by the state and private companies, but we have never been able to address what’s at the root of the conflict: the handing over of natural resources. Preventing the criminalisation of defenders is a big step, but we must address the issue of concessions, which in fact continue. Approved projects are waiting to be implemented. If we don’t seize the moment to address this problem, then when the government’s political colour changes, private companies will come back stronger and criminalisation will intensify.

    Moreover, social movements are worn out after 12 years of resistance against the handing over of natural resources. There must be accountability, reparations for victims and guarantees of legal security for defenders to be able to do their work. The hostile legal framework for exercising rights and defending human rights that has been established in recent decades must be reversed.

    Civic space in Honduras is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Learn more about the Guapinol case on itswebsite and follow@Edy_Tabora on Twitter.

     

  • Honduras: After two years in pre-trial detention, release arbitrarily detained Guapinol human rights defenders

    • Today marks exactly two years since Guapinol human rights defenders were jailed
    • Human rights defenders featured in CIVICUS’s Stand As My Witness Campaign
    • United Nations declared their detention is arbitrary and calls for their release
    • Detention unlawfully extended for further six months in August
    • Honduras one of the most dangerous places for environmental rights defenders

    For two years, eight members of the Committee for the Defence of Common and Public Assets (CMDBCP) have been held in pre-trial detention in Honduras for defending protected water sources and natural resources of communities in danger of mining related contamination. The Guapinol human rights defenders have been advocating against the Guapinol mining project in Tocoa, in the department of Colón in Honduras. They were initially detained on 1 September 2019, and are being kept arbitrarily in pre-trial detention without any legal basis.

    The eight defenders are Ewer Alexander Cedillo Cruz, José Abelino Cedillo Cantarero, José Daniel Márquez Márquez, Kelvin Alejandro Romero Martínez, Porfirio Sorto Cedillo, Orbin Nahuan Hernández, Arnol Javier Alemán and Jeremías Martínez. They were initially arrested on 26 August 2019, while protesting against the mining activities of the Honduras company Inversiones Los Pinares (ILP), which threatens the safety and livelihood of thousands of people in communities in the department of Colón. ILP was granted mining concessions by the state of Honduras in 2014 and its ongoing mining projects have contaminated water sources. Projects are being implemented without adequate consultations with communities affected.

    “There is absolutely no basis for Honduras to detain the eight human rights defenders and to continue to keep them in pre-trial detention. Despite numerous calls from the international community, including from United Nations bodies for their release, the Honduran authorities continue to disregard the rule of law and have held them for two years now,” said David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Lead, CIVICUS.

    The CMDBCP was set up primarily to raise awareness about the impact of the Guapinol project mining activities and to advocate against the actions of mining communities on behalf of the people affected. More than 32 members of CMDBCP have been subjected to judicial persecution and arbitrary detention, 6 have been killed and many more face threats and intimidation. These restrictions are symptomatic of the violence and human rights violations which target environmental and land rights activists, which makes Honduras one of the most dangerous countries for activists working on climate justice and environmental rights in the world.

    On 9 February 2021, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions established that the deprivation of the liberty of the Guapinol human rights defenders is arbitrary and called on Honduras to release them immediately.

    “The continuous detention of the Guapinol human rights defenders violates Honduras’ regional and international human rights violations and exposes the defenders to severe health risks in the context of a global pandemic,” David continued.

    The Guapinol human rights defenders are part of the CIVICUS #StandAsMyWitness campaign - a global campaign that advocates for the rights of human rights defenders and calls for their release.

    CIVICUS calls on the Honduras government to respect the rule of law and immediately release the Guapinol human rights defenders and hold those responsible for human rights violations accountable.

    For more information on civic space violations, visit the Honduras country page on the CIVICUS Monitor

     

  • Hong Kong: Chow Hang Tung remains in detention for one year since her arrest

    Today, we mark a year since the arrest of human rights defender and lawyer Chow Hang Tung.

     

  • HRC49: Open letter to States on the draft resolution on human rights defenders

    At its current session, the UN Human Rights Council will be discussing a draft resolution on human rights defenders operating in conflict and post-conflict situations.  This is a useful and timely focus providing a means to give effect to a range of recommendations including those contained in the report of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in 2020. 

     

  • Human Rights Defenders Need to be Defended as Much as they Defend our Rights

    By Micahel Frost, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and a speaker at the International Civil Society Week, 8-12 April 2019, in Belgrade, Serbia

    This article is part of a series on the current state of civil society organisations (CSOs), which will be the focus of International Civil Society Week (ICSW)

     They are ordinary people – mothers, fathers, sisters, sons, daughters, brothers, friends. But for me they are extraordinary people – the ones who have the courage to stand up for everyone else’s rights. They are the human rights defenders.

    Last year, according to reliable sources, 321 of them were killed, in 27 countries. Their murders were directly caused by the work they do to ensure the rest of us enjoy the rights we claim as purely because we are human.

    Read on: Inter Press Service 

     

  • Human rights groups globally call for end to killing of activists in record numbers

      • Human rights activists are being violently attacked and killed in record numbers 20 years after historic UN declaration adopted to protect them.
      • More than 900 organisations sign global statement raising concern about crisis for rights campaigners and calling for greater protection of activists
      • December 9 is 20th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders
      • More than 3,500 human rights campaigners have been killed since then, mostly at the hands of governments, businesses and armed groups

    Activists in Jail Around the World -- See Map & Get Involved

    Exactly twenty years after the United Nations adopted a historic declaration to protect human rights defenders, activists are being violent attacked and killed globally in unprecedented numbers.

    This crisis for rights campaigners has prompted more than 900 organisations working on human rights to endorse a global statement raising serious concerns about the glaring gaps between the provisions in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the treatment of those on the frontlines of the fight for human rights.

    The statement comes as the world commemorates the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders on December 9.

    The Declaration is an inspirational text that upholds the rights of all human rights defenders (HRDs) to promote, protect and defend human rights, from the individual to global spheres. It affirms the responsibility and duty of states to protect defenders against violence, threats, retaliation and arbitrary actions resulting from the exercise of their fundamental rights.

    “Twenty years after the adoption of the Declaration on HRDs, HRDs across the world are exposed to excesses by state and non-state actors. There are glaring gaps in the recognition of the work of HRDs and in protecting them. A lot more needs to be done to ensure HRDs are able to do their work without fear of intimidation, threats or violence.” Said David Kode, CIVICUS’s Advocacy and Campaigns Lead.  

    The global statement is a collective call to governments, identified as the primary perpetrators of violence against HRDs, to respect the Declaration’s provisions, recognise rights activists as key players in the development of societies and create an enabling environment for them to engage in their activism without fear of intimidation, threats and violence.

    As the international community commemorates this milestone, we are reminded of the dangerous environment in which many HRDs operate. Over the past two decades, more than 3,500 rights activists have been killed for their work. Last year alone, more than 300 were murdered in some 27 countries. Despite the fact that these heinous crimes are preceded by threats, which are often reported to the authorities, in almost all cases, pleas for help and protection are routinely ignored. The high levels of impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of these acts are enhanced by the fact that culprits are often not prosecuted even when they are known to the authorities.

    HRDs continue to be subjected to judicial persecution and are charged with serious crimes such as terrorism, secession, treason, engendering state security and drug trafficking for their part in pro-democracy and human rights campaigns. Most of these charges carry hefty penalties and, in most cases, trials are flawed.

    Rights defenders are also subjected to acts of intimidation and smear campaigns and, in a time of heightened geopolitical tensions and bolstered government counter-terror programmes, are labeled “agents of foreign powers,” and “enemies of the state.” The objective is to discredit their work and force them to self-censor or leave their base communities.

    Many HRDs have been abducted and simply disappeared with no official information on their whereabouts. Others have fled to other countries to avoid state reprisals. While activists are targeted for violence and attacks by states, increasingly they also face specific and heightened risks because they challenge business interests.  

    “It is time for states to ensure that they fully commit to their international human rights obligations. Women human rights defenders, environmental, land rights and indigenous activists as well as those defending the rights of excluded communities continue to bear the brunt of attacks and restrictions by state and non-state actors.” Kode continued.

    As leaders of civil society organisations working across different nations and regions at all levels, the statements’ signatories have called on governments as primary duty bearers to guarantee that human rights defenders can carry out their work safely, without fear of intimidation or the threats of violence. The group has urged businesses to respect the rights of people to express their views and protest, in accordance with UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

    ENDS.

    For more information, please contact:

    David Kode

    Grant Clark

     

  • Increased targeting of members of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission

    Front Line Defenders, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, FIDH - International Federation for Human Rights, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and the International Service for Human Rights, condemn the killing of two employees of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), Fatima Khalil and Ahmad Jawed Folad, on 27 June 2020. The AIHRC staff were killed by an improvised explosive device while on their way to work in the organisation’s official vehicle in Kabul. We believe the killing is a direct reprisal for their human rights work.

     

  • INDIA: ‘The government is dealing with dissent in very concerning ways’

    Sudha BharadwajCIVICUS speaks Sudha Bharadwaj, a lawyer and long-time human rights defender working for the rights of workers and Indigenous peoples in India.

    Sudha wasarrested and detained in August 2018 under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and accused of having links with Maoist terrorist organisations. Alongside 15 other human rights defenders, she was further accused of conspiring to incite violence among the Dalit community. Despiteproof that incriminating evidence against them was planted,concerns expressed by United Nations (UN) experts about the arbitrary charges and UN calls to release political prisoners from crowded jails during the pandemic, requests for Sudha’s release, including on health grounds, were repeatedlyrejected. She was finallyreleased on bail in December 2021 after three years in detention.

    How did you get involved in human rights work?

    For the last 35 years I have been working in Chhattisgarh, an area in eastern India that is very rich in mineral resources. I began around 1986 as a trade unionist and worked with a legendary union leader, Shankar Guha Niyog, who was organising iron ore miners. Conditions were appalling. Workers were not unionised, working hours were long, wages were very paltry and even the very basic labour laws of our country were not being applied.

    I became a lawyer basically because my trade union needed one. I graduated in 2000, at the age of 40. I initially took up matters of our own union and later I shifted to work at the high court, where I realised contractual workers, farmers resisting land acquisition and Adivasi Indigenous groups resisting mining projects were forced to face very expensive corporate lawyers without any real legal assistance. They needed lawyers who understood them and who could devise legal strategies compatible with the tactics of their movements.

    I started a group of lawyers to provide legal aid to unions, farmers’ and village organisations, Adivasi communities, and civil society organisations (CSOs). Around this time, I became involved in the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), one of the oldest human rights organisations in India. We dealt with various human rights issues, including attacks and harassment of minorities and the criminalisation of Dalits and Adivasis under false accusations of having links with armed Maoist groups, also called Naxals. We took up several cases in which security forces fired on villagers accused of being Naxalites. We were eventually able to prove that these were false accusations.

    I dealt with cases against big corporations, so I made powerful enemies. By taking up cases of Adivasis I also annoyed the government. In 2018 I was teaching a course at the national lawyer’s university in Delhi and that’s when I was arrested.

    Can you tell us about your experience in detention?

    Because the case was in Pune, I was initially sent to the women’s wing of the Yervada central jail, which is a prison for convicts. I was taken there with another activist, Shoma Sen. As soon as we were brought there, we experienced attacks on our dignity. We were asked to strip and squat. We were isolated: kept in separate cells, unable to communicate with other prisoners, led out into a yard for only half an hour a day. We were under constant surveillance.

    In the winter it was very cold. We spend most of the time reading, although we struggled to get books. Because the library was in the men’s side of the jail, only 25 books were brought at a time. We were allowed to keep only two or three with us in our cell. We also had issues with access to water and sometimes had to carry in buckets. Shoma struggled with severe arthritis. 

    Later on, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) took over our case, so we were moved to Byculla jail in Mumbai. This jail was extremely overcrowded, and we lacked any privacy. We would sleep right next to one another on coffin-sized strips of the floor which were allotted to us by the kamwali (staff) in charge of the barracks. There were also limited bathrooms to share.

    Social distancing was impossible, and during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, many detainees got infected and were stuffed in a quarantine barrack. I did not become seriously sick but both Shoma and I requested medical bail due to underlying conditions. This was systematically denied.

    Due to the pandemic, we were totally cut off from the outside world and were not taken to the courts for about five or six months. Then PUCL and other groups requested the Bombay High Courts to authorise telephone calls and we were allowed to speak to our families for 10 minutes once a week. Our lawyers could talk to us by sending an email to the jail, and the jail would allow us to phone them back - for 10 minutes, twice a week. That’s how we were able to tell them about prison conditions. I also tried to help people around us who were old or sick to write petitions.

    How did you feel when you were finally granted bail, and what’s next?

    The bail order was issued on 1 December 2021. I felt extremely disappointed that other activists linked to the case were not released with me. My request for bail was accepted on technical grounds. I heard the NIA appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn my bail, but it was immediately dismissed.

    On 8 December I was taken to the court, given cash bail, and asked to produce sureties. When I came back to the jail, many detainees celebrated for me and gave me their requests. I was released the next day.

    The bail conditions have restricted me to Mumbai, which is not my city. Friends have been very helpful, but I don’t have a home or work here so I’m still trying to adjust to the situation. I would like to continue my practice on behalf of prisoners and trade unions. For now, I have to attend court hearings and check-in at the police station every two weeks.

    How have the conditions for activism in India changed while you were in jail?

    Even before I went to jail things were already challenging, but since I was released, I have seen increasing attacks against minorities, notably Muslims. There has been a rise in hate speech, which seems to be manufactured and copiously funded, especially on social media.

    The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), passed in December 2019, is discriminatory against minorities. There was a strong movement against the CAA law, in many places led by Muslim women, but this was shut down due to the pandemic.

    We are also seeing that many institutions that are supposed to be independent – such as the Election Commission and investigating agencies – are being manipulated by the government. There are even concerns about the independence of the National Human Rights Commission, which has failed to take a proactive role on many important issues. The undermining of these institutions will affect their roles in their future, even if the government changes.

    The government is dealing with dissent in very concerning ways. One clear example is the increasing surveillance of journalists, activists, and advocates. A lot of us involved in the case had our phones infected by Pegasus spyware. We have approached the Supreme Court-appointed Technical Committee looking into the use of Pegasus against Indian citizens and it has decided to request our phones from the NIA and undertake an inquiry.

    There are also concerns about the impacts of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) on civil society. If you advocate for workers, Indigenous peoples or poor communities, your work is considered a political activity and you are barred from doing it. Larger CSOs with FCRA registration should be able to support smaller CSOs on the ground, but the government is depriving them of the ability of distributing funds to local grassroots groups and reaching out to real beneficiaries.

    Where do you see positive change coming from in India?

    One beacon of hope is the farmers’ movement. The opposition was against the farm bills proposed by the government, but it was unable to stop them. It was farmers themselves who stopped them, by standing their ground for almost one year in the heat, cold and rain. Thousands of criminal cases were brought against farmers, and they were smeared as terrorists. But they managed to hold their ground, build unity and push back. The key lesson here is that people must get organised.

    I think that if it hadn’t been for the pandemic, the anti-CAA law movement would have had similar results. Students are also an important force, but we are seeing them facing attacks to prevent them organising and speaking up. But they will find a way to continue their struggle.

    At a time when many internal mechanisms are failing us, international scrutiny and pressure are also key to improving the situation. There are international standards India cannot ignore. But of late, the Indian government has taken a problematic attitude towards UN bodies, including UN missions to Kashmir, and has gone as far as preventing people from speaking at or participating in international conferences. When UN Special Rapporteurs have made comments on human rights in India, the response has been dismissive and disparaging.

    The government often uses terrorism and national security as an excuse for all kinds of human rights abuses. It is important to put the spotlight on this and not let the government get away with it.

    Civic space inIndia is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor. 


    Sudha was one of our #StandAsMyWitness faces. The campaign advocates for the release of Human Rights Defenders behind bars. In 2021, we welcomed the news of the release of three Human Rights Defenders -including Sudha-, and we continue to use our voices to call for the release of all other detained activists. Head to the official campaign page to read more about the current faces featured and join us in standing as their witnesses!

    StandAsMyWitness released HRDs

     

     

  • India: Chronology of harassment against human rights defender Khurram Parvez

    Khurram ParvezHuman rights defender Khurram Parvez, 44, is the Programme Coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) which is a coalition of various campaign, research and advocacy organisations based in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir which monitor and investigate human right abuses. He is also the Chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearance (AFAD) a collective of non-governmental organisations from ten Asian countries that campaign on the issue of enforced disappearances.

    Khurram has documented serious human rights violations in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, including enforced disappearances and unlawful killings. He was detained in November 2021 and is accused ofbeing in contact with individuals linked to a Pakistani militant group. He is facing multiple charges  under the Penal Code and draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 (UAPA), related to conspiracy and terrorism, which CIVICUS believes have been trumped up by the authorities because of his activism.

    He has faced systematic harassment to advocate against human rights violations in Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir. In September 2016, the Indian authorities arrested him a day after he was barred from travelling to Switzerland to attend the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. He was charged under the draconian Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA), which allows detention without charge for up to two years. He was released after 76 days in detention.

    In October 2020, nine simultaneous raids were conducted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on the houses and offices of several human rights defenders, non-governmental organisations and newspapers in Jammu and Kashmir - including the house of Khurram Parvez.

    Updated Jan 2023

    2021

    22 November 2021: Officials from the National Investigation Agency (NIA), assisted by the local police, conducted raids on the house of Khurram Parvez and the JKCCS office in the city of Srinagar, in Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory, for approximately 14 hours. Parvez’s mobile phone, laptop, and several books were seized. On the evening of the same day, Khurram Parvez was taken for questioning to the premises of the NIA in Srinagar. At around 6pm, his family members received a phone call from NIA officers who requested them to bring him clothes. Upon arrival at the premises of the NIA they were given an arrest memo for Parvez, which was issued on the basis of a First Information Report (FIR) lodged by the NIA on 6 November 2021.

    According to the arrest memo, Khurram Parvez faces charges of “criminal conspiracy”, “waging war against the government of India”, “punishment for conspiracy to wage war against the government of India” (Sections 120B, 121, and 121A of the Indian Penal Code, respectively), and “raising funds for terror activities”, “punishment for conspiracy”, “recruiting any person or persons for commission of a terrorist act”, “offence relating to membership of a terrorist organisation” and “offence of raising funds for terrorist organisations” (Sections 17, 18, 18B, 38, and 40 of the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), respectively).

    24 November 2021: Khurram Parvez was taken to New Delhi where he remained detained under NIA’s custody.

    30 November 2021:Appeared at the NIA court.

    2 December 2021: United Nations human rights experts expressed concern over the arrest of Khurram Parvez under the stringent UAPA anti-terror law and called for his release. They said: “We are concerned that one month after Mr. Parvez’s arrest, he is still deprived of liberty in what appears to be a new incident of retaliation for his legitimate activities as a human rights defender and because he has spoken out about violations.”

    4 December 2021: Khurram Parvez appeared before the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Special Court in New Delhi, after 12 days under NIA’s custody. Judge Parveen Singh extended his detention for another 20 days and ordered that he be transferred to the Tihar maximum security prison, in New Delhi.

    25 December 2021: Judicial custody extended for 30 days until 21 January 2022.

    2022

    24 January 2021:Judicial custody extended for 40 days. His family was barred from meeting him due to COVID-19.

    12 February 2022:The court extended his judicial custody for a further 40 days.

    24 March 2022: An NIA Court extended his judicial custody for 50 days.

    27 March 2022: The NIA carried out another raid of the residence of Khurram in Srinagar.

    13 May 2022: The NIA filed a charge sheet against Khurram Parvez and seven others before the NIA Special Court in New Delhi. He was charged under Sections 120B and 121A of the Indian Penal Code (“criminal conspiracy” and “punishment for conspiracy to wage war against the government of India”, respectively), Section 8 of the Prevention of Corruption Act (“taking gratification, in order, by corrupt or illegal means, to influence public servant”) and Sections 13, 18, 18B, 38 and 39 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) (“unlawful activities”, “conspiracy”, “recruiting any person or persons for commission of a terrorist act”, “offence relating to membership of a terrorist organisation” and “giving support to a terrorist organisation”, respectively). 

    In the chargesheet the authorities accused him and others of supporting a Pakistan based proscribed militant organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) to fund and recruit operatives for providing support in planning and execution of terrorist activities in various parts of India including Jammu & Kashmir.

    21 June 2022: A resolution introduced in the US Congress House of Representatives condemning human rights violations in India highlighted the case of Khurram Parvez

    6 July 2022: Khurram’s first hearing at the NIA Special Court in New Delhi took place. Lawyers were asked if they had received his chargesheet and other documents. The court also set the date for the next hearing

    16 November 2022: Khurram's case was raised by the UN Secretary General in its report on reprisals against individuals seeking to cooperate or having cooperated with the UN, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights.

    21 November 2022: One year anniversary of Khurram's detention. 12 NGOs issue a statement calling for his immediate and unconditional release.

    22 November 2022: UN experts issued a statement stating that the arrest and detention of Khurram Parvez has a chilling effect on civil society, rights activists and journalists in the region, They reiterated their call for his immediate and unconditional release by the Indian Government.

    2023

    19 January 2023: Khurram Parvez won the Martin Ennals Award, one of the world’s most prestigious human rights prizes. The organisation said that Khurram “relentlessly spoke the truth and was an inspiration to civil society and the local population.”


    India is rated 'Repressed' by the CIVICUS Monitor.

     

  • India: Chronology of harassment against human rights defender Sudha Bharadwaj

    SudhaSudha Bharadwaj, aged 60, is a human rights lawyer and activist who has spent her life defending Indigenous people in India and protecting workers’ rights. She was detained in August 2018, arrested under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) on trumped up accusations of having links with Maoist terrorist organisations, based on evidence believed to befabricated. It is alleged that she and 15 other human rights defenders conspired to incite Dalits at a public meeting which led to violence in Bhima Koregaon village in the Pune district of Maharashtra in January 2018. The treatment of Sudha highlights the increasingly repressive measures used by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to clamp down on dissent and silence human rights defenders.

     

  • India: Civil society orgs call for the Council's attention on the deteriorating human rights situation

    Statement at the 51st Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Delivered by Ahmed Adam

    On behalf of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), World Organisation against Torture (OMCT), CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation

    Mr. President,

    We call for the attention of the Council on the deteriorating human rights situation in India.

    Since 2014, India has witnessed a sharp rise of authoritarianism accompanied by systematic erosion of the rule of law and independent institutions such as the National Human Rights Commission, Elections Commission and the judiciary, that are mandated to safeguard human rights and fundamental freedoms.

    Indian authorities have escalated crackdowns on and persecution of human rights defenders, journalists, and critics through restrictive laws and counter-terrorism legislation that do not comply with India’s international obligations. The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) continues to be applied as part of a broader systematic repression of civil society and opposition voices. It fails to comply with international standards and must be repealed or reviewed.

    The government continues its assault on fundamental freedoms, in particular the rights to freedom of expression, media, peaceful assembly, association and movement, in Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez, and journalists Fahad Shah remain in detention under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in a deliberate attempt to obfuscate and stifle independent reporting on the extent and gravity of human rights implications of its policies in Kashmir.

    At the same time, majoritarian and ultranationalist narratives actively promoted or endorsed by public and religious officials as well as discriminatory legislation such as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and policies, and police inaction, continue to fuel hatred, discrimination, and violence against minorities, especially Muslims.

    We call on Indian authorities to end repression of civil society and media, end harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, journalists and critics, and release all those who are arbitrarily detained for their legitimate work including human rights defender Khurram Parvez and journalist Fahad Shah.

    The Council must act urgently and appropriately to prevent further escalation of violence, discrimination, and hatred against minorities which, if left unchecked, could lead to gross and systematic violations.

    Thank you


     Civic space in India is rated as "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor 

     

  • India: Halt harassment and release human rights defender Teesta Setalvad

    Free Teesta Protests Gallo

    CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, condemns the recent arrest of Teesta Setalvad and calls on the government of India to stop targeting human rights defenders. The arrest is the latest attempt by the Modi government to criminalise activists and undermine civic space in the country.