human rights violations

 

  • ‘The idea that a certain group does not belong in a country is instrumental in enabling discrimination and persecution against it’

    CIVICUS speaks toSusannah Sirkin, director of international policy and partnerships and senior advisor with Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). Founded in 1986, PHR uses medicine and science to document and call attention to mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. PHR’s work focuses on the physical and psychological effects of torture and sexual violence, the forensic documentation of attacks on civilians, the unnecessary and excessive use of force during civil unrest, and the protection of medical institutions and health professionals working on the frontline of human rights crises. Sirkin oversees PHR’s international policy engagement, including its work with the United Nations, domestic and international justice systems, and human rights coalitions, and is also responsible for managing and multiplying PHR’s strategic partnerships globally.

    1. What is the current situation of the Rohingya people in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and in the refugee camps in Bangladesh?

    The situation is absolutely desperate and devastating, both inside Myanmar, as far as anybody can tell, and in Bangladesh, as the world is able to see on television. Essentially, what we have witnessed over the past six months – although this has been building up for years – is what the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) has referred to as possible genocide, and what most organisations concerned with international law and human rights have denounced as crimes against humanity. Dozens of Rohingya villages have been burnt to the ground, forcing people to flee on long journeys through the jungle to reach a very precarious situation in Bangladesh. People fleeing have been pursued and attacked with guns and other weapons not just by the military but also by civilian members of the Burmese population.

    In Bangladesh, refugees are living in incredibly overcrowded, under-resourced, and dangerous camps – it’s hardly fair to even call them “camps,” although the situation has improved a bit over the past couple of months. More than 620,000 Rohingya, about half the population, have so far fled Rakhine state, and they have nowhere else to go. So they are forced to stay on a very small piece of land in one of the poorest and already most densely populated countries in the world. There have already been outbreaks of infectious diseases, and given the problems of overcrowding and lack of basic hygiene and sanitation, which my own team at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has recently reported, it is possible for infectious diseases to spread rapidly and with lethal results.

    Essentially, the world has witnessed the virtual destruction of a culture, a community and a portion of the Burmese population. Myanmar and Bangladesh have recently reached an agreement for the Rohingya to return to Myanmar, but nobody really believes such an agreement can be implemented under the present circumstances. In the first place, refugees shouldn’t be sent back to Myanmar unless citizenship and basic rights are guaranteed. In the second, the provisions in the agreement involve Rohingya providing documents according to citizenship laws that don’t recognise them as citizens. This is obviously hugely problematic. What’s more, they have no homes to return to, as their villages have been burned, their lands and cattle seized by their non-Muslim neighbours, and many in their families and communities killed. There have also been very serious reports of mass rapes of women and girls, as well as killings of babies and young children, so the situation couldn’t be worse on any count.

    2. Why is the Rohingya minority being specifically targeted?

    There’s a long history of discrimination and persecution of minority groups in Myanmar, not only of the Rohingya but also of the Chin, Kachin, Karen, and Shan minorities. PHR has documented the persecution of ethnic minorities in Myanmar for a decade, and other human rights groups have done it long before us.

    Historically, it has been a problem for people who are not Burmese to live in Burma or Myanmar. There is a hyper-nationalist strain among both the population and the country’s leadership, and, on top of this, the country has lived for decades under a military dictatorship that persecuted not only the political opposition but also ethnic and religious minorities.

    Myanmar has failed to recognise diversity and human rights for all its population. The Rohingya, a Muslim minority in a country that has a Buddhist majority, have long been deprived of their citizenship and treated as if they were illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Many Rohingya have lived in Rakhine state for several generations, well over a hundred years, and belong in Myanmar as much as anybody else. However, in the latest census they were not counted among Burmese minorities but rather as foreigners lacking the protections that citizens receive under the law.

    The idea that a certain group does not belong in a country is instrumental in enabling discrimination and persecution against it. A few years ago, PHR released a report on the burning of Muslim homes in Buddhist-dominated areas of Myanmar. We documented a well-known massacre in the town of Meikhtila, where police and security officials stood by and watched as local population burned houses and people alive. These actions had long been encouraged by racist and anti-Muslim rhetoric, fuelled by a few very charismatic Buddhist monks that had much influence with the population.

    Before the 2015 crackdown and subsequent crisis, more than one million Rohingya lived in Myanmar, most of them in Rakhine state. Their relationship with their Buddhist neighbours had been tense for quite some time, and outbreaks of violence had been relatively frequent in the past. The current crisis broke out in August 2017, when government forces were attacked by militants and a “clearance operation” was launched by Myanmar security forces in response. Mass expulsion of the Rohingya has since been executed under the pretence of a counter-insurgency operation, with the local population joining in burning villages and killing people. This looks like a very well-coordinated effort between officials and citizens, which is very disturbing.

    In present Myanmar, the situation is compounded by the denial of human rights on multiple levels. We have recently seen a frightening crackdown on the freedom of expression in the country, and for some time the area in northern Rakhine State has been closed off to journalists. For some years now, it has been very difficult for humanitarian aid to reach the area. When a government shuts down access in such way, one can only fear the worst, because it strongly suggests that they are trying to hide something.

    3. Has progressive and human rights-oriented civil society in Myanmar and Bangladesh done anything to respond to this crisis? If so, what challenges have they faced?

    There have been efforts by very courageous individuals and organisations inside Myanmar, especially those representing minority groups, as well as human rights and humanitarian organisations. But it is extremely dangerous, if not impossible, to be an independent civil society voice inside Myanmar right now. For the Rohingya in Rakhine State, speaking up means sure death, and there is no access even for journalists to document what is going on in the area. So, unfortunately, even the most courageous members of civil society have been silenced by persecution.

    In Bangladesh, there are a number of efforts underway, particularly by the humanitarian community, to help the refugees. But it’s not the best possible situation in terms of humanitarian response, either. The fact that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was not designated as the lead agency has been viewed negatively, although there has been strong coordination between the International Organization for Migration and UNHCR. In any case, the refugee influx has been overwhelming and the early response was insufficient. Moreover, this is happening in a challenging environment, and we need to understand that such an influx of refugees can be nothing but overwhelming for a country like Bangladesh – which makes an adequate international response all the more important.

    4. You mentioned that the area where the atrocities are occurring is closed to journalists and civil society. What challenges have PHR and similar organisations faced in documenting the abuses?

    The number one challenge is that human rights groups can’t get into Myanmar. It is therefore extremely difficult to do what we are supposed to do in terms of properly and independently documenting and assessing the facts inside the country where the crimes have occurred. The prohibition not only applies to human rights civil society organisations – representatives of the UNHCHR and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar have also been barred from visiting the country. On the other hand, entry was allowed for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, who was able to interview survivors and confirm reports of atrocities.

    As we lack access to Myanmar, we have instead documented what has happened to this people by interviewing them in Bangladesh. Thankfully, human rights groups and humanitarian organisations have had access to refugee camps, and this has been critical to documenting the plight of the Rohingya and their current humanitarian situation, and reporting on it. Doing this in the middle of a huge humanitarian crisis poses specific challenges. We are basically interviewing survivors who are desperately in need of trauma recovery, medical care, shelter, food, water, sanitation, and information about their missing family members. We have interviewed people who lost everybody in their families and are the sole survivors; people who have seen their homes burned to the ground, who had family members raped and shot dead, who were shot at even while crossing the river to get to Bangladesh. Documenting these kinds of human rights violations is certainly challenging for the person that is being interviewed, but it is also challenging for the one doing the reporting, because the need is so intense and the trauma is so acute – and we are a medically-based organisation, after all.

    5. What support should the international community offer to resolve this crisis?

    First, what most urgently requires a response from global governments is the humanitarian crisis unfolding on the ground in Bangladesh, in order to meet the most desperate needs of the refugees.

    Second, there is a need for governments of the most powerful countries with influence on the Myanmar government – including China, which has consistently supported the government – to exert pressure so Myanmar immediately stops persecuting this population and gives them the citizenship and associated guarantees that they are due.

    It is important to note that there have been high expectations regarding the role of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who is now Myanmar’s nominal head of state, and her apparent lack of concern and acknowledgment of what her government has been doing have been very concerning. On one hand, we need to understand that she has limited control over the country’s military forces enacting the brutal campaign against the Rohingya. On the other hand, however, the international community needs to send Suu Kyi a strong message, since so much of the Burmese population views her as a leader and a hero, and her voice could change the tenor of this crisis – it could turn the population away from prejudice, discrimination, and persecution of the Rohingya and other minorities.

    Third, there needs to be credible efforts to establish accountability and justice. This is critical, given the seriousness of the crimes that have been committed. Unfortunately, efforts to refer the crimes in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court for assessment have been blocked by China, among others.

    Finally, it is also crucial to confront the flaws of the repatriation agreement, so that anybody who chooses to return to Myanmar is able to do so safely and with guarantees for all their human rights, including the right to reclaim their land, property, livelihood, and employment, as well as to practice their religion freely and safely. On the other hand, those who choose not to go back need to be guaranteed the right to claim asylum and find safe haven in another country. Policy-wise, the biggest challenge will be defining what will happen to these people who have fled in such high numbers.

    This will not be an easy crisis to solve. Global politics are not looking particularly good at the moment. World leaders and the Security Council have many other crises to deal with, including the North Korea situation, Iran, Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, and so on. Many of us are worried that people are going to forget about this particular crisis unfolding in a remote part of the world, so it is vital to continue to call attention to these serious human rights abuses and not let the world forget that this is an ongoing humanitarian crisis. As recently as last week, we’ve seen reports of outbreaks of diphtheria, and there are fears of a cholera epidemic, which will not be easy to contain. The long-term solution to this crisis will most definitely require continuous surveillance, reporting, and action by UN bodies, regional organisations, individual governments, and civil society.

    • Civic space in Myanmar is rated as ‘repressed’ in the CIVICUS Monitor, indicating serious restrictions in the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly, and expression.
    • Get in touch with PHR through their website or Facebook page, or follow @P4HR and @susannahsirkin on Twitter

     

  • 16 Rights Groups Raise Bahrain Human Rights Concerns with Formula One

    Rights watchdogs tell F1 leaders to use their leverage to compensate victims of abuse & ensure right to protest ahead of two Grand Prix races in Bahrain

     

  • A year on, NGOs amplify calls for justice and accountability for Jamal Khashoggi's murder

    On 2 October 2018, Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain official documents in order to get married, but he did not make it out alive. He was brutally killed inside the consulate in what the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Dr Agnes Callamard, called a “premeditated extrajudicial killing” for which the state of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible.

    Khashoggi was a well-known Saudi journalist and intellectual who, due to safety concerns and the inability to continue his work inside Saudi Arabia, decided to live in self-imposed exile in the United States. He was a firm promoter of freedom of speech and press freedom in the Arab world. While he was no outright opponent of the Saudi royal family and did not call for regime change in the country, he criticised the arrest of human rights defenders and the reform plans of the Crown Prince. This alone may have been enough to seal his fate.

    After more than two weeks of deception and denial about his death, on 19 October 2018 the Saudi authorities admitted that Khashoggi had been killed inside the consulate by a group of men connected to the authorities, but continued to deny any direct knowledge or responsibility for the crime. One year after his murder, the remains of Khashoggi’s body are still missing and have not been returned to his family. The Saudi authorities implicated 11 individuals responsible for Khashoggi’s killing, some of whom face the death penalty. They are currently being tried in the Specialised Criminal Court, a jurisdiction notorious for violations of fair trial guarantees. The trial proceedings remain in large part secret, and criminal responsibility in the chain of command has not yet been established.

    Khashoggi’s death sparked outrage and was widely condemned. In the days and weeks following his killing, the international community began to ask questions and to demand clarity. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued several press releases, while the UN Special Procedures on enforced disappearance, summary executions and freedom of expression issued a joint Urgent Appeal. Moreover, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, stressed the need for a prompt, thorough and transparent investigation into the circumstances of Khashoggi’s death and full accountability for those responsible.

    On 24 October 2018, the EU Parliament issued a resolution urging the Saudi authorities to disclose the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s remains. In addition to demanding an independent and impartial international investigation into the journalist’s death, the resolution also classified it as being part of a pattern of a widespread crackdown against prominent human rights defenders, women activists, lawyers, journalists, writers and bloggers, which has intensified since Mohammad bin Salman began consolidating control over the country’s security institutions. It stated that the systematic practice of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings could amount to a crime against humanity. Lastly, it requested that the perpetrators of Khashoggi’s murder be identified and brought to justice, following a fair trial held in accordance with international standards before an impartial court and with international observers present.

    On 5 November, 2018, Saudi Arabia’s human rights record was examined by UN Member States as part of the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review. The killing of Khashoggi was raised extensively during the review and featured heavily among the 258 recommendations the Saudi authorities received to improve the human rights situation in the country. At least 27 states raised concerns about Khashoggi’s extrajudicial killing, with many reiterating the need for a transparent, impartial, independent and effective investigation.

    In January 2019, Dr Callamard decided on her own initiative and under the terms of her mandate as UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions to open a special human rights investigation into Khashoggi’s killing.

    On 7 March 2019, in a landmark initiative, a group of 36 UN Member States led by Iceland delivered a joint statement during the 40th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) expressing serious concern over the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia and condemning in the strongest possible terms the killing of Khashoggi. The statement reiterated the call for a prompt, independent, impartial and transparent investigation into his murder and stressed the need to protect journalists and to uphold the right to freedom of expression.

    During the 41st session of the HRC, on 19 June 2019, Dr Callamard presented her report, which concluded that the murder of Khashoggi was “overseen, planned and endorsed by high-level state officials of Saudi Arabia”. The Special Rapporteur found that both the investigations conducted by Saudi Arabia and Turkey failed to meet international standards and that the ongoing trial in Saudi Arabia of 11 suspects, while seemingly an important step towards accountability, also fails to meet international fair trial standards. Dr Callamard believes that the killing of Khashoggi constitutes an international crime over which states should claim universal jurisdiction. Asserting that her human rights inquiry is not a substitute for a criminal investigation or a court of law, the UN Special Rapporteur called on the Human Rights Council, the Security Council or the UN Secretary-General to demand a follow-up criminal investigation.

    Most recently, on 23 September 2019, during the 42nd session of the HRC, Australia delivered a joint statement on behalf of 23 UN Member States raising concerns over the persecution and intimidation of activists, the practice of enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention, and reports of torture and unfair trials as well as extrajudicial executions. Furthermore, the statement called for an end to impunity over the murder of Khashoggi and highlighted the need for the truth to be established and accountability achieved. We deeply regret that a number of states that had joined the March 2019 statement have now decided to no longer support this immediate call for action. We would like to highlight that states still have the possibility to become co-signatories until 11 October 2019.

    Additionally, during the course of the past year and as a response to Khashoggi’s murder as well as the war in Yemen, some governments have suspended weapon sales to Saudi Arabia.

    While we welcome the appeals, pledges and measures taken by some states over the past year and consider them as steps in the right direction towards accountability for the murder of Khashoggi, more tangible actions must follow. There is an undeniable risk that with big events scheduled to take place in Saudi Arabia in 2020, such as the G20 summit and the famous Dakar Rally, state-to-state relations could normalise. We cannot stand by and allow the return of business as usual as this would mean that Khashoggi died in vain and that there is little hope for hundreds of other unlawfully disappeared, detained, tortured or executed activists whose cases failed to attract similar levels of international attention.  

    As Dr Callamard rightly said during a side event at the 42nd session of the HRC: “While one year must feel like a lifetime to Khashoggi’s family and friends, in human justice time and the search for truth it is very brief. Thus we should not lose sight of what we are trying to achieve; we should not lose hope and courage that justice can be attained.” In that spirit, the undersigned organisations renew their call for action, demanding the following:

    We call on the international community, and in particular the UN, to:

    1. Take action to ensure that a further impartial, prompt, thorough, independent and effective criminal investigation into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is opened;
    2. Ensure that all perpetrators of the crime, including those at the head of the chain of command, are identified and prosecuted in a fair and transparent trial without recourse to the death penalty;
    3. Establish an immediate moratorium on all arms sales and exports of surveillance technology to Saudi Arabia;
    4. Co-sign the joint statement led by Australia on behalf of 23 UN Member States by 11 October;
    5. Introduce and endorse a UN resolution establishing a monitoring mechanism over the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia; and
    6. Urge the authorities in Saudi Arabia to implement the recommendations below.

    We call on the authorities in Saudi Arabia to:

    1. Return the remains of Khashoggi’s body to his family;
    2. Invite independent international experts to oversee investigations into his murder; cooperate in good faith with all UN mechanisms; and ensure that those responsible for his death are brought to justice;
    3. Immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders, writers, journalists and prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia whose detention is a result of their peaceful and legitimate work in the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights;
    4. Establish a moratorium on the death penalty, including as punishment for crimes related to the exercise of the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, and peaceful assembly;
    5. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders and journalists in Saudi Arabia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities and public reporting without fear of reprisals; and
    6. Ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and bring all national laws limiting the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association into compliance with international human rights standards.

    List of signatories:

    • ALQST
    • Americans for Democracy and Human Rights
    • Amnesty International
    • CIVICUS
    • English PEN
    • European Center for Democracy and Human Rights
    • European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights
    • Gulf Center for Human Rights
    • Index on Censorship
    • International Service for Human Rights
    • MENA Rights Group
    • PEN America
    • Rights Realisation Centre
    • World Organisation Against Torture

     

  • Cameroon elections promise more trouble, not solutions for Anglophones

    By Teldah Mawarire, Campaigns and Advocacy Officer and Ine van Severen, Civic Space Research Officer

    For nations in crisis, free and fair elections usually can bring much-needed reprieve. Voting offers hope and chance to end strife and conflict. We’ve seen this in recent times in countries like The Gambia, The Maldives and Malaysia, where increasingly autocratic presidents were booted out of office at the ballot box by fed-up voters.

    Read on: The Government and Business Journal

     

  • CIVICUS warns of grave dangers to civil society activists in Kenya

    Johannesburg. 18 May 2010. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation warns that the operating environment for civil society in Kenya remains fraught with danger. As the spotlight is focused on impunity in Kenya by the international community including the International Criminal Court (ICC) and special representatives of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), civil society activists are facing grave risks.

    Groups advocating for ending impunity for perpetrators of human rights violations and those that have documented the violations are particularly threatened. On 4 May 2010, a meeting organised by Bunge la Mwannanchi on the post election violence in Kenya was dispersed and four of its activists were detained and later released without charges. In April this year, Kenneth Kirimi, a member of the civil society group, Release Political Prisoners, was arbitrarily detained and severely tortured by security operatives requiring him to need medical treatment. He was questioned with regard to his work on collecting information about extra-judicial killings and sharing of information with the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Philip Alston.

     

  • CSO's Letter to the African Union Commission about the State of Human Rights in Egypt

    by H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat 

    We write to you in your capacity as the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, the secretariat of the continental organisation responsible for driving the political agenda and development of the people of Africa. As Chairperson of the AU Commission, we are assured of your mandate to promote the objectives of the AU. The undersigned organisations work to advance human rights in Africa and write to express deep concerns about the situation of human rights in the Republic of Egypt. In particular, this letter highlights some systematic violations of human rights in Egypt. While we acknowledge that you may well be aware of certain issues raised in this letter, we bring them to light due to the appalling situation and gravity of the violations.

    Beyond hosting the Africa CUP of Nations (21 June- 19 July) which brought a lot of excitement to the people of Africa, human rights in Egypt face serious threats. Our concerns span from interference with the system of administration justice, enforced disappearances, attacks against human rights defenders and attacks against the independent media. Moreover, we are concerned about the use of systematic torture, lengthy pre-trial detention, the shrinking civic space and other related violations as detailed below.

    Interference with the system of administration of justice and violation of fair trial rights

    In April 2019, the Constitution of Egypt was amended to give the executive branch excessive powers to control the judiciary. Thus, in the amended constitutional articles 185, 189 and 193 the president has powers to appoint the head of judicial bodies including the chief of the Supreme Constitutional Court and the Public Prosecutor. Moreover, in article 200 the executive, and particularly the military, is attributed powers to “protect the constitution and democracy, and safeguard (…) individual rights and freedom”. Categorically, these amendments violate the notion of separation of power known for ensuring checks and balance between the arms of the government. Unless a proper system of checks is put into place, there are huge risks that, working under the military, the judicial arm of the government will not play its role effectively as it ought to do.

    The death of Egypt’s former President Mohamed Morsi on Monday 17 June 2019, is yet another shocking event that exposes Egypt’s violation of fair trial rights. Morsi died in a defendant courtroom while attending a session in his trial on espionage charges.[1] Reports say that his death could be linked to negligence by Egyptian authorities to provide him with adequate medical treatment for diabetes, liver and kidney malfunction.[2]  

    Enforced disappearances, mass arrest and attacks against activists

    Security forces have used enforced disappearances to instil fear among the population in the country. Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented 1,530 cases of enforced disappearances in Egypt between July 2013 and August 2018. We are particularly concerned that enforced disappearances and mass arrests were used against rights activists and political opponents of President El-Sisi. This has occurred in an attempt to wipe out opposition in the country. The victims of such arrests include political activists such as rights defender Wael Abbas (now released); Shady al-Ghazaly Harb, a surgeon; Haitham Mohamadeen, a lawyer; Amal Fathy; and Shady Abu Zaid, a satirist.[3] Other persons affected include Hoda Abdelmonem, a 60-year-old lawyer and rights defender and Alaa Abdel Fattah (also released, recently). As of 1 November 2018, Ezzat Ghonim, Executive Director of an organisation called Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), was reported missing for several months.[4]

    Attacks against the media

    The 2018 law regulating the media provides overly broad powers to the Council of the Media to block websites, shut down television channels and other publishing forums without a judicial order to that effect. The law also places personal media accounts under the supervision of the Media Council. It means that one can be arrested for publishing fake news on their personal account, even if the publication was done as satire. The situation is exacerbated in a context where media experts such as journalists are detained. To mention a few, Mahmoud Abu Zeid (Shawkan) a photo-journalist was jailed for 5 years, Abdullah Elshamy, also a journalist was sentenced to 15 years in absentia simply for conducting his work, he also undertook a hunger strike in prison. Not so long ago, Hisham Gaafar, a journalist and human rights defender, and Director of an NGO that focuses on media studies was also detained. Gaafar was held for 3 years and only released in April 2019. We submit that the clampdown on media has negatively affected the enjoyment of the rights of freedom of expression and access to information. It is our view that if these rights are to flourish in Egypt, the authorities must seek to improve the country’s human rights record by allowing media freedom and by implication the right to access to information. The Egyptian authorities should also refrain from attacking media professionals.

    Torture

    The 2017 Committee against Torture report on Egypt noted that the practice of torture is “habitual, widespread and deliberate” in Egypt. It adds that torture appears to occur frequently following arbitrary arrests and is often carried out to obtain a confession or to punish and threaten political dissenters. Torture is perpetrated by police officers, military officers, national security officers and prison guards. Prosecutors, judges and prison officials also facilitate this ill practice by failing to curb practices of torture, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment, or to act on complaints.[5]

    Pre-trial detention

    Egypt’s Criminal Procedural Code[6] entrenches provisions that have overly vague grounds for pre-trial detention. This has led to lengthy detention of journalists and political activists who have been bold enough to criticize the system of governance in the country. Case in point includes the prolonged detention of Egyptian journalist Mahmoud Hussein Gomaa Ali, who was arrested for more than two years without charges. It is suspected that Mahmoud’s punitive pre-trial detention is a message from the government of Egypt to journalists who dare to speak openly against the ruling authorities.

    Closing civic space

    The 64th Ordinary Session of African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, held in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, was marred with daunting reports about restriction of civic space. Many delegates of civil society organisations operating in the continent faced serious difficulties obtaining entry visas. Participants from Ghana, Malawi, Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania were unable to obtain visas to attend the session. Indirect restrictions further included exorbitant fees for hosting side events led by civil society actors and the intentional miscommunication on logistics for events. Registration for the session proved difficult and some participants reported what appeared to be intrusive harassment by security agents. The above scene leads one to think about the challenges faced by rights groups based in Egypt.

    Your Excellency, in 1984, Egypt ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), an instrument that compels member states to respect, protect and fulfil all the human rights recognized in the Charter. Moreover, Egypt is a member state and current chair of the AU and expected to lead as a human rights champion in upholding the human rights principles set out in AU’s Constitutive Act. Your Excellency, the on-going violations of human rights in Egypt are not in keeping with the country’s obligations and domestic laws, including the constitution and major international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Egypt. It also violates objectives 3(g) and (h) of the Constitutive Act of the AU which enjoins AU member States to promote popular participation and human and people’s rights, respectively. Recalling the role of the AU as the lead regional institution tasked to better the lives of the people of Africa, and particular the Egyptian citizens, we respectfully ask you to take measures to ensure that the government of Egypt restores respect for the rule of law, ensures ample protection of human rights and aligns its practice to ratified international and regional human rights standards including the Constitutive Act of the AU and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. We respectfully ask you to consider including the situation of human rights in Egypt as a point for discussion in the agenda of the next Summit of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU with recommendations for the Summit to deliberate on asking the government of Egypt to:

    1. Take steps to ensure full compliance with international and regional human rights standards;
    2. Respect separation of power by refraining from interfering with the system of administration of justice;
    3. Halt enforced disappearances, investigate and punish perpetrators of enforced disappearance;
    4. Investigate and punish perpetrators and stop attacks against political opponents, peaceful protesters and journalists;
    5. Respect the right to access to information and freedom of the media. In particular, lift the ban against independent press and media;
    6. Investigate and take actions to punish perpetrators of torture and ensure assistance and reparations to the victims;
    7. Address lengthy pre-trial detention and release all detainees who are being held in pre-trial detention without proper charges. and
    8. Promote a culture of dialogue and participation and comply with internationally and regionally recognised standards on the rule of law and civic space.

    In addition, we request you to recommend the AU to:

    1. Ask Egypt to report on measures and progress achieved in the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.

    Signed by

    1. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS);
    2. Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CREAA);
    3. Freedom Initiative;
    4. Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa;
    5. International-Lawyers.org;
    6. MENA Rights Group;
    7. Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network;
    8. Southern African Christian Initiative (SACHI);
    9. Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN);
    10. West African Human Rights Defenders; and

     

    [1] The Wall Street Journal at https://www.wsj.com/articles/egypt-s-ousted-islamist-president-mohammed-morsi-has-died-11560789900.

    [2] Middle East Monitor report available at https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180331-morsis-health-has-deteriorated-severely/amp/.

    [3] Human Rights Watch Report - 2018, available at https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/egypt#f95966.

    [4] See details at https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/egyptian-security-forces-arrest-19-rights-activists-and-lawyers.

    [5] Para. 69 of the UN Committee against Torture report on Egypt, available at file:///C:/Users/mandlate/Downloads/G1717367.pdf (Doc A/72/44).

    [6] The UN Working group on Arbitrary Detentions (WGAD) criticized Egypt severely for having vague laws on pre-trial detention. For further details see https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Detention/Opinions/Session80/A_HRC_WGAD_2017_83.pdf.

     

  • Deportation of academic increases the chilling effect on freedom of expression in Fiji

    USP Fiji

    The recent deportation of academic Professor Pal Ahluwalia is alarming and highlights the restrictive environment for freedom of expression in Fiji, global civil society alliance CIVICUS said today.

     

  • Egypt: international community must take a stand and demand an end to human rights violations

    • More than 2000 people arrested after peaceful protests
    • Widespread arrests include people not related to the protests but perceived by the authorities to have taken part in any demonstrations dating back to 2011
    • Global civil society alliance condemns the harsh repression of protests in Egypt and calls for international pressure

    The ongoing crackdown on people in Egypt, large scale arrests and heightened security in Cairo and other major cities signal another low moment for human rights in Egypt, global civil society alliance CIVICUS said today. The Egyptian authorities have arrested more than 2000 people in a massive sweep that followed peaceful protests calling for an end to widespread corruption and condemning the actions of the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. On 26 September 2019, the Egyptian authorities deployed hundreds of military personnel across the country to pre-empt any planned anti-government protest, intimidate the population and force many to self-censor to avoid reprisals from the state. Many of those who have been arrested include representatives of civil society, academics, former politicians and others.  

    The recent crackdown and militarisation of cities across the country began during a rare protest on the weekend of 20 September when protesters expressed concerns over the government of President Sisi and condemned high levels of corruption. In response, security forces physically assaulted some protesters and used tear gas to disperse others, arrested thousands and detained them in different locations. The protests have been followed by a widespread crackdown on human rights defenders, members of the political opposition, activists and journalists—many of whom had not taken part in the protests at all and were instead arrested in raids on their homes. The Egyptian authorities embarked on a punitive campaign by using this protest to arrest many including those perceived to have been connected to protests in 2011.

    Many of those arrested have been ordered into pretrial detention and informed that they were under investigation for using social media to spread false news, aiding a terrorist group to achieve its objectives and for participating in unauthorised protests. Others remain forcibly disappeared today. Among those arrested is human rights defender and lawyer Mahienour el-Masry who was detained on 22 September 2019 as she exited the headquarters of the State Security Prosecution in Cairo where she represented some of the detained protesters. She was then interrogated by the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) on false allegations of spreading false news and aiding a terrorist group to achieve its objectives.

    More than five journalists have been arrested for sharing information and videos about the protests and the violent response by the police online. Families of those speaking from abroad to condemn the Sisi government have faced harassment and intimidation; for example, in the wake of videos recorded by Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim in which he criticised Sisi, Ghonim’s dentist brother Hazem was arrested and ordered into pretrial detention in retaliation.

    To pre-empt any further protests, some government officials threatened to decisively confront any attempts to “destabilise Egypt” and riot police, plain clothes security officials and other security personnel were deployed in major cities across Egypt.

    Over the last few years, President Sisi’s government has promulgated and amended laws that restrict the activities of civil society organisations and their ability to access funding, detained scores of human rights defenders and journalists and imposed travel bans on many. In its March 2019 submission to the UN Human Rights Council, CIVICUS and partners found that Egypt had not implemented any of the recommendations related to civic space. Instead, civic space in Egypt continues to deteriorate exponentially.

    Many civil society organisations have been forced to close down amidst this systemic crackdown on fundamental freedoms as the government has also imposed some of the worst restrictions on internet freedoms.

    “Amidst the ongoing human rights violations in Egypt exemplified by the forceful dispersal of peaceful protests and arrests of nearly 2,000 people, Egypt’s international partners and the United Nations Secretary General should call on him to put an end to all forms of restrictions on fundamental rights in Egypt,” said Dr. Nancy Okail, Executive Director of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.

    CIVICUS calls on the international community to exert pressure on President Sisi to call on his security forces to immediately release all those detained in relation to the recent protests, respect the rights of Egyptians to assemble and express themselves in a peaceful manner.

    -----

    Egypt is rated as closed by the CIVICUS Monitor, a participatory platform that rates and measures the state of civic freedoms in 196 countries. Earlier this month, CIVICUS and 15 human rights organisations wrote a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council with a call to use the Universal Periodic Review of Egypt to address the unprecedented levels of repression.

    For more information, please contact:

    Masana Ndinga-Kanga

    MENA Advocacy Lead, CIVICUS

    Email: :

     

  • Eritrea: Extend UN Special Rapporteur mandate, help end generalized impunity

    To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Geneva, Switzerland

    Excellencies,

    Ahead of the 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council (“HRC” or “the Coun­cil”), we write to you as a cross-re­gional group of non-governmental organizations to share our serious concerns over the sys­te­ma­tic, wide­spread and gross human rights violations that continue to be committed with impu­nity in Eritrea.

    We urge your Govern­ment to support and co-sponsor at the upcoming session a streamlined reso­lution that accurately reflects the gravity of the situation on the ground, renews the man­date of the Special Rapporteur under the Council’s agenda item 4, and sets out a framework for need­ed reforms to improve the human rights situation in the country and advance ac­count­ability.

    At the Council’s last regular session, during an enhanced interactive dialogue on Eri­trea held in March 2018, Deputy UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore noted:

    “In 2016, the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea found reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity, namely, enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture, other inhumane acts, per­secution, rape and murder, had been committed since 1991. The Commission noted that despite the State’s increased engagement with the international community, there was no evidence of progress in the field of hu­man rights. I regret to report that this state of affairs remains unchanged.”[1]

    In her most recent statement to the Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, Sheila B. Keet­ha­ruth, similarly detailed violations per­tain­ing to the right to life, including deaths in custody for which responsibility “falls squarely on Gov­ernment authorities,” the right to liberty and security of the person, freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, freedoms of expression, assembly and as­so­ciation, and freedom of religion or belief, inc­lu­­ding the harass­ment, mis­treatment, torture and detention of members of unrecognized religions.[2] These continuing violations present a systematic character, meaning, in the words of the Special Rap­porteur, that “they cannot be the result of ran­dom or isolated acts by the autho­rities” and that they occur in a country ruled “not by law, but by fear.”[3]

    Since Eritrea was first considered by the Council, the Government has refused to cooperate with the mechanisms the Council set up, including the Special Rapporteur and the Commis­sion of In­quiry (CoI). At the March 2018 enhanced interactive dialogue, Eritrea was not present to take the floor as the con­cer­ned country.

    Eritrea’s cooperation with other international bodies, mechanisms or agencies has been extremely selec­tive. While the Government recently invited the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Hu­man Rights (OHCHR) for a short-term technical assistance mission, the Deputy High Commissio­ner under­lined that “the test of the merits of our engagement with Eritrea – like Eritrea’s commitments at the international level – lies in whether or not they produce concrete human rights improvements for the people of Eritrea.” She concluded that there had been no measurable progress to date.

    Eritrea has consistently denied UN Special Procedures, including the country-specific Special Rap­por­teur, access to the country. At the time of writing, pen­ding visit requests by Special Procedures included requests from the Spe­cial Rapporteurs on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (request in 2005; reminders in 2007 and 2010); freedom of religion or belief (request in 2004; reminders in 2005 and 2006); extrajudicial, sum­mary or arbitrary exe­cu­tions (request in 2010); the right to food (request in 2003); and freedom of opi­nion and expression (request in 2003; reminders in 2005 and 2015).

    Eritrea has also attacked, intimidated and threatened human rights defenders and independent UN ex­perts, including the Special Rapporteur and members of the CoI. When the latter presented their report in 2015, they noted that “[they] were followed in the streets and in [their] hotels and vilified in blogs on line where the words of [their] report have been twisted and misquoted.” The Com­mission’s Chair added: “Of course this is trivial compared to the day to day experience of people in Eritrea itself, but it is indicative of a determination on the part of the authorities to control anyone they perceive as a critic.”[4]

    The gravity, scale and nature of the continuing violations call for justice. Victims, including those who live inside the country and those who have fled it, deserve redress. As domestic avenues for such red­ress are non-existent, the international community must continue to act with a view to en­ding the gene­ra­lized impu­nity that prevails in the coun­try. The Deputy High Commissioner remin­ded the Coun­cil that, as advi­sed by the Special Rapporteur, there could be “no sustain­able solution to the refugee out­flows until the Government complied with its human rights obligations.”[5]

    In view of the ongoing crimes under international law and violations of human rights and fun­da­mental freedoms committed in Eritrea, the Special Rapporteur’s mandate remains an indispensable mechanism to advance the protection and promotion of human rights in the country. The mandate holder continues to fulfil an invaluable role by monitoring the dire situation in the country, shining a light on violations, providing a crucial platform to help amplify the voices of victims, and offering Eritreans an opportunity to find long-lasting solutions for the respect of their human rights.

    Consistent with its mandate to address situations of violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations, the Human Rights Council should continue to address the situ­ation in Eritrea. We urge your dele­gation to actively support and co-sponsor a resolution that:

    • Recalls the reports of the Commission of Inquiry and the Special Rapporteur and continues to ex­press its deep concern over the findings contained therein;
    • Condemns the reported systematic, widespread and gross human rights viola­tions and abuses that have been and are being committed by the Government of Eritrea in a climate of genera­li­zed im­punity;
    • Reiterates that all perpetrators of such violations and abuses should be held ac­countable;
    • Extends the mandate of the Special Rap­porteur and invites the mandate holder to continue to fol­low up on the findings of HRC mechanisms, including on accountability;
    • Invites the Special Rapporteur to assess and report on the Eritrean Government’s degree of enga­ge­ment and cooperation with the Council and its mechanisms, as well as with OHCHR, and whe­re feasible to develop benchmarks for progress on human rights and a time-bound action plan for the imple­mentation of these benchmarks;
    • Calls on all states to urge the Government of Eritrea to co-operate with the Special Rappor­teur and other UN bodies and mechanisms, including Special Procedures, implement the recommen­da­­tions these bodies and mechanisms made over the years, and allow unfettered ac­cess to the coun­try, including detention centers and training facilities.

    We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues and are available to provide your delegation with further information as required.

    Sincerely,

    Africa Monitors

    Amnesty International

    ARTICLE 19

    Asian Legal Resource Centre

    Central Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (REDHAC)

    Christian Solidarity Worldwide

    Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea (CDRiE)

    CIVICUS

    DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)

    Eritrean Diaspora in East Africa

    Eritrean Lowland League

    Eritrean Law Society

    Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights

    FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights)

    FORUM-Asia

    Human Rights Concern – Eritrea

    Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA)

    Human Rights Watch

    International Fellowship of Reconciliation

    International Service for Human Rights                        

    PEN Eritrea

    Release Eritrea

    Reporters Without Borders

    Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN)

    West Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN/ROADDH)


    [1] The meeting summary can be found at: www.bit.ly/2Fc69BX

    [4] www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16731&LangID=E The Special Rapporteur herself has faced personal attacks during an interactive dialogue that was held in June 2017, when she was referred to as a “naked Empress with no clothes” and was accused of carrying out a witch-hunt against Eritrea. See www.amnesty.org/en/documents/ior40/8032/2018/en/

    [5] See footnote 1 above.

     

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

    India blockage statement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    For more information, please contact:

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

     

  • Ladies European Tour community should #StandWithSaudiHeroes

    بالعربية

    Dear Organisers, Participants and Sponsors,

    We, the undersigned organisations, are writing to ask you to reconsider your participation in the Ladies European Tour golf week taking place in Saudi Arabia and denounce human rights violations against women in the Kingdom. 

    With the competition taking place from 12 to 19 November, domestic and international viewers from 55 countries worldwide will watch female players compete for a hefty cash prize, while women’s rights defenders in the Kingdom languish in prison, without access to legitimate legal redress. The 1.5 million dollar cash prize being offered to the winner comes directly from the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), which is chaired by Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman. Saudi PIF has invested billions into campaigns to whitewash their human rights abuses, including downplaying the abhorrent murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.    

    While we acknowledge that such tournaments represent an important milestone in women’s golf, we are deeply concerned that Saudi Arabia is using this sports event as a public relations tool to sports-wash its appalling human rights record, including the discrimination against women and the crackdown on women’s rights defenders. 

    In 2018, Saudi Arabia carried out a wave of arrests of Saudi women activists who were challenging the country’s discriminatory male guardianship system by peacefully campaigning for their right to drive. Among those who remain detained are Loujain al-Hathloul, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sadah, Nouf Abdulaziz, and Maya al-Zahrani; many reported they were subjected to torture in detention, including flogging, electric shocks, sexual harassment, and being held in solitary confinement. Several other women’s rights defenders have been temporarily released; however, many are still awaiting trial and could face lengthy prison sentences. We remain concerned that they will not be able to exercise their right to fair proceedings in accordance with the international human rights standards, which Saudi Arabia is obliged to adhere to.

    Loujain al-Hathloul’s sister, Lina, recently expressed her outrage over the illegitimacy of the Saudi regime, and the wall between the government and the people. “Loujain has been in prison for two and a half years. We haven’t managed to have any contact with high-ranking Saudi officials. They don’t want to answer our questions… Loujain and the other activists have not yet had a trial, or been condemned. They have been tortured. Their only charge is that they were human rights activists,” she said. 

    Women in Saudi Arabia, including foreign women residing in the country, are denied agency over their own lives, nor are they legally recognized as full human beings. Saudi law prohibits disobedience to husbands or male guardians, and women still do not have the right to choose who they want to marry, or how they want to give birth, without the approval of a male guardian.  In addition, Saudi women cannot pass their nationality on to their children and foreign wives of Saudi citizens are not permitted to return to their home countries without their husband’s permission. Despite the country’s domestic violence law endorsed under Royal Decree in 2013, men continue to exercise extreme power over women and children, leaving many of them trapped in abusive relationships. Furthermore, those who speak out on the reality of the status of women’s rights and other human rights issues are often arrested on trumped-up charges, or even forcibly disappeared. 

    The only way to achieve true progress, in the eyes of the world, is to implement real reforms on women’s rights, and immediately release the activists who have been arrested for defending these rights. 

    While we hope that Saudi Arabia can indeed develop its interaction with other countries around the world through hosting sports and other events in the Kingdom, we cannot ignore the country’s attempt to conceal its continued detention of women’s rights activists and discrimination against women by hosting a women’s sports tournament. 

    Take Action!

    In light of the above, the signatories call on Ladies European Tour organisers and players, to urge the Saudi authorities to drop all charges against Saudi women’s rights activists and immediately and unconditionally release them. Because you can genuinely make a difference in these activists’ lives and their struggle for freedom and gender equality, we are asking you to help increase awareness and show solidarity by sharing on social media messages of support and solidarity with #StandWithSaudiHeroes.

    Yours Sincerely,

    1. ALQST for Human Rights
    2. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
    3. CIVICUS Alliance
    4. CODEPINK
    5. Equality Now
    6. European Center for Democracy and Human Rights 
    7. Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor 
    8. Freedom Forward 
    9. Freedom Now
    10. Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties
    11. Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
    12. HUMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement 
    13. International Service for Human Rights 
    14. Kurdistan Without Genocide Association (KWG)
    15. Le Collectif de Femmes pour les Droits de l'Homme – Paris 
    16. L’Association Francophone pour les Droits de l’Homme 
    17. MENA Rights Group 
    18. The Freedom Initiative
    19. Women’s March Global  

     

  • Las elecciones en Camerún auguran más problemas, no soluciones para los anglófonos

    Por Teldah Mawarire, responsable de campañas y de incidencia política e Ine van Severen, responsable de investigación del espacio cívico

    Para las naciones en crisis, las elecciones libres y justas pueden traer un alivio muy necesario. Votar ofrece esperanza y la oportunidad de poner fin a los conflictos. Hemos visto esto en los últimos tiempos en países como Gambia, Maldivas y Malasia, donde presidentes cada vez más autocráticos fueron expulsados de sus cargos en las urnas por el hartazgo de los votantes.

    Lea el artículo en inglés en: The Government and Business Journal

     

  • New report reveals extent of media repression and human rights violations in Equatorial Guinea

     

  • Open letter to the Emirati authorities to free HRD, Ahmed Mansoor on his 50th Birthday

    On 22 October, Ahmed Mansoor will turn 50 in prison so CIVICUS and partners have organised a series of actions to help #FreeAhmed and offer #BirthdayWishes4Ahmed. The United Arab Emirates authorities have convicted and imprisoned him for 10 years solely for his human rights work and for exercising his right to freedom of expression.  We are looking for signatories to a joint letter calling upon the Emirates government to immediately and unconditionally release the human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, whose life we believe may be at risk following beatings and hunger strikes to protest deplorable and inhumane prison conditions. 

    Please add your signature to this letter at either the bottom of this page or at the following link by 14 Octoberhttp://eepurl.com/gFtjJr

    You can find information about protests worldwide (NYC, DC, Toronto, London and more) at: https://www.facebook.com/FriendsofAhmedMansoor/


    Le 22 octobre, Ahmed Mansoor célèbrera ses 50 ans en prison, nous avons donc organisé une série d'actions pour aider à sa libération #FreeAhmed et lui offrir nos voeux #BirthdayWishes4Ahmed. Les autorités l'ont condamné et emprisonné pendant 10 ans uniquement pour son travail en faveur des droits humains et pour avoir exercé son droit à la liberté d'expression. Nous recherchons des signataires pour une lettre commune commune (en anglais) appelant le gouvernement des Émirats Arabes Unis à libérer immédiatement et sans condition le défenseur des droits humains Ahmed Mansoor, dont nous pensons que la vie pourrait être en danger à la suite de brutalités et des grèves de la faim entreprises pour dénoncer des conditions carcérales déplorables et inhumaines.

    Merci d'ajouter votre signature à cette lettre au bas de cette page ou sur le lien (en anglais) suivant avant le 14 octobre: http://eepurl.com/gFtjJr

    Vous pouvez trouver des informations sur les manifestations dans le monde entier (NYC, DC, Toronto, Londres, etc.) en anglais sur: https://www.facebook.com/FriendsofAhmedMansoor/


    El 22 de octubre, Ahmed Mansoor celebrará sus 50 años en la cárcel, por lo que hemos organizado una serie de acciones para ayudar a su liberación #FreeAhmed y felicitarle #BirthdayWishes4Ahmed. Las autoridades lo han condenado y encarcelado durante 10 años únicamente por su labor en el ámbito de los derechos humanos y por ejercer su derecho a la libertad de expresión. Estamos buscando signatarios para una carta conjunta (en inglés) en la que se pide al gobierno de los Emiratos Árabes Unidos que libere inmediata e incondicionalmente al defensor de los derechos humanos Ahmed Mansoor, cuya vida creemos que puede correr peligro tras las agresiones y las huelgas de hambre emprendidas con el fin de protestar contra las condiciones deplorables e inhumanas que sufre en prisión.

    Por favor agregue su firma a esta carta al final de esta página o en el siguiente enlace (en inglés) antes del 14 de octubre:  http://eepurl.com/gFtjJr

    Puede encontrar información sobre las protestas en todo el mundo (NYC, DC, Toronto, Londres y más) en inglés en: https://www.facebook.com/FriendsofAhmedMansoor/



     في 22 أكتوبر/تشرين الأول، سيبلغ أحمد 50 عاماً وهو في السجن، لذلك قمنا بتنظيم سلسلة من الإجراأت للمساعدة في إطلاق سراح أحمد وتقديم الأمنيات له عن طريق الوسوم

    #FreeAhmed و#BirthdayWishes4Ahmed

    لقد أدانته السلطات الإماراتية وحُكم عليه بالسجن 10 سنوات بسبب عمله في مجال حقوق الإنسان وممارسته حقه في حرية التعبير. نحن نبحث عن موقعين على الرسالة المشتركة التي تدعو حكومة الإمارات إلى الإفراج فوراً ودون شرط عن المدافع عن حقوق الإنسان أحمد منصور، حيث أن حياته في خطر بعد تعرضه للضرب وإضرابه المتكرر عن الطعام للاحتجاج على ظروف السجن المزرية وغير الإنسانية

    يرجى توقيع هذه الرسالة المفتوحة في أسفل هذه الصفحة أو على هذا الرابط بحلول 14 أكتوبر

    يمكنكم العثور على معلومات حول الاحتجاجات في جميع أنحاء العالم (نيويورك، واشنطن، تورنتو، لندن وغيرهم) باللغة الإنجليزية على

    https://www.facebook.com/FriendsofAhmedMansoor/

     

    Sign the letter

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  • Open letter: Pope Francis' visit to Mozambique presents an opportunity to address human rights violations

    Read it in Portuguese | Italian

    JOINT OPEN LETTER

    Your Holiness, Pope Francis
    Apostolic Palace
    00120 Vatican City

    Re: Open letter on human rights to Pope Francis from Civil Society groups on his visit to Mozambique

    Your Holiness, Pope Francis

    We, the undersigned, are writing as a group of non-governmental organisations working to promote and defend human rights in many countries around the world, including Mozambique. Ahead of your visit to Mozambique scheduled to take place between 4 and 6 September 2019, we would like to bring to your attention a number of human rights issues of concern and to urge you to use your visit as an opportunity to publicly support our call for the protection and promotion of human rights particularly as the country prepares to hold its 6th general elections in October 2019, since the end of the civil war in 1992.

    We are gravely concerned by the increasing intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders, activists, civil society organisations and media, the deterioration of the human rights situation in Cabo Delgado, the lack of accountability, justice and effective remedies for victims of human rights violations and abuses as well as violations of the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

    Crackdown on freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and media freedom

    In the past year, there has been an increasing crackdown on dissent particularly the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, freedom of expression, and media freedom by the Mozambican government. Freedom of movement of Human Rights Defenders (HRD’s), political actors, journalists and civil society groups has also come under increasing attack.

    In the aftermath of the October 2018 municipal elections, several human rights defenders, civil society activists and local journalists received anonymous death threats, intimidating phone calls and messages. This was in apparent retaliation for their participation in the election process, which included monitoring polling stations and publishing live municipal elections results.[1]

    Among those targeted for their participation in monitoring the 2018 municipal election were priests Father Benvindo Tapua and Father Cantífulas de Castro, Director and Deputy Director of Radio Encontro respectively.[2] Journalists from Catholic run radio stations, Watana and Radio Encontro, were intimidated and harrassed. Others were assaulted, including a reporter for Miramar television station who was attacked by a member of the main opposition party, the Mozambique National Resistance’s (RENAMO), when he was covering a riot at the local RENAMO’s office in Chimoio, Manica province.[3]

    We have also seen repression by Mozambican authorities of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. From 21 to 24 January 2019, the police surrounded the office of the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP), an independent civil society organisation, which launched a campaign against the repayment of alleged illegally acquired secret loans amounting to USD2.2 billion which were taken under former president Armando Guebuza. The police also ordered people to remove campaign T-shirts and CIP’s employees to stop distributing the T-shirts.[4]

    In March 2019, authorities disrupted one march and initially blocked another both in the capital Maputo. On March 1, police officers armed with rifles disrupted a march organized by a local primary school to mark the city’s annual carnival. Four days later, the mayor of Maputo rejected plans for Mozambique’s leading women’s rights group, Forum Mulher, to march against domestic violence on International Women’s Day.[5]

    We fear escalation of the crackdown and climate of repression of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association and media freedom ahead of the forthcoming general elections.

    Human Rights violations and abuses in the Cabo Delgado province

    Since October 2017, the northern districts of Cabo Delgado province have experienced appalling attacks by individuals believed to be members of an armed group known as “Al-Shabaab”. The attackers have invaded villages, set houses on fire, hacked villagers to death with machetes and looted their food. In response, the government increased military presence in the region, however, the authorities’ response has been concerning. Security forces have reportedly intimidated, harassed, arbitrarily arrested and detained people on suspicion of belonging to the armed group. In addition, there are allegations of the detainees being subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. Deeply concerning are reports of cases of summary executions. Security forces have also intimidated, detained and even charged journalists and human right defenders and researchers who have been investigating the humanitarian crisis as well as the violations and abuses by state security forces.[6]

    On 5 January 2019, journalist Amade Abubacar was arrested by police officers of Macomia district without a warrant while he was interviewing villagers who had fled their homes due to intensified attacks carried out by individuals believed to be members of an armed group.[7] Amade was held in pre-trial detention for nearly 100 days, including 12 days in incommunicado military detention.[8] On 23 April, Amade was granted provisional release from Mieze prison in Pemba city.[9] He is still facing accusations of crimes of “public incitement through electronic media” and “incitement” and “injury against public officials”.[10]

    In December 2018, Estacio Valoi, an investigative journalist, and David Matsinhe, a researcher at Amnesty International, were arrested by the military and held incommunicado for two days in Mocímboa da Praia district, accused of spying and aiding and abetting the armed group “Al-Shabaab”. They were released without charges, but their equipment remains confiscated by the military for “further investigation.”[11] The area remains a virtual no-go area for the press, with negative implications for citizens’ right to know.

    Accountability and justice for victims of human rights violations and abuses

    We are very concerned about the continued impunity for human rights crimes, including extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment which has created an environment of public fear and insecurity. Several organizations have documented numerous cases which remain unresolved, including:

    On 8 October 2016, Jeremias Pondeca, a senior member of the Mozambique National Resistance opposition party (RENAMO) and was also part of the mediation team seeking to end the clashes between RENAMO and the government, was shot dead in Maputo by unknown men suspected of being part of a death squad composed of state security officers.[12]

    On 27 March 2018, unknown gunmen abducted human rights lawyer Ericino de Salema outside the offices of the Mozambican Union of Journalists in Maputo.[13] The men then beat and abandoned him on the Maputo Ring Road. As a result of the assault, Mr. Salema suffered serious fractures to his arms and legs. At the time of the attack, Mr. Salema was the resident political commentator on the television show, STV’s Pontos de Vista, on which he has often taken positions critical of the government’s policies. It is feared that the attack was likely in retaliation for his critical views in the course of his professional duties.

    On 4 October 2017, an unidentified gunman assassinated the then mayor of Nampula City, Mahamudo Amurane, at his home.[14] Since his election as mayor of Nampula in 2013, Mahamudo Amurane had embarked on a public quest to root out alleged corruption in the city’s administration and revitalize public infrastructure.

    Violations of the rights of refugees and asylum seekers

    Despite the government’s international commitment to respect and protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, we documented worrying reports of arbitrary arrests and deportation of refugees by the state security forces and immigration officers.

    On 17 January 2019, police and immigration officers arrested 15 refugees and asylum seekers (14 men and one woman) from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and one male refugee from Ethiopia who were at the time residing in Maratane Camp in Nampula province. According to their testimonies, they were arrested without a warrant, hand-cuffed and beaten. They were not immediately informed of the reasons for their arrest and detention.[15]

    The 16 refugees and asylum seekers are currently detained at the Third Police Station in Pemba. The 16 people have been held for more than seven months, and they have not been notified of the reason for their detention or of any criminal charges against them. They have also not been brought before a court. According to interviews conducted with the detainees by Amnesty International, they are being held in inhumane conditions. The detainees were forced to dig a hole in the police station’s patio to use as a toilet. They have been drinking possibly contaminated water that is yellow in colour from the cell’s sink. Sometimes those who can afford it pay someone to buy them bottled water.[16]

    On 23 January 2019, the government of Mozambique deported seven men from the group of 16 refugees and asylum seekers, who were originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). They were not notified of a deportation order, nor were they permitted to challenge their deportation in court. According to testimony from the seven men, the immigration officers forced them to board a flight to Kinshasa, DRC. When they arrived at the Kinshasa airport, the immigration officer denied them entry and ordered their return to Mozambique. They were returned to Pemba city on 26 January and taken to the Third Police Station, where they are still being detained.

    In light of the above, we are calling on Your Holiness to raise these human rights concerns with the Government of Mozambique and request that the government immediately look into the matters and take concrete and meaningful steps to respect, protect, promote and fulfill human rights.

    In addition, we ask that Your Holiness reiterate to the government that it must ensure that members of civil society including journalists, researchers and lawyers can carry out their work freely and without fear of attacks, intimidation, harassment. The government must also ensure prompt, thorough, impartial and independent investigations into cases of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detention and other cases of human rights violations and abuses and that those suspected to be responsible are brought to justice in fair trials.

    We hope that Your Holiness’ visit to Mozambique presents a genuine opportunity to the government of Mozambique to reaffirm its commitment to upholding the human rights enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic, as well as the government’s regional and international human rights obligations and commitments.

    Thank you for your consideration of this letter.

    Yours Sincerely,

    African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX)

    Africans Rising

    Amnesty International

    CIVICUS

    Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

    Federation of Journalists of Portuguese Language (FJLP)

    Human Rights Watch

    IFEX

    International Press Institute (IPI)

    MISA-Mozambique

    Parlamento Juvenil – Moçambique

    Reporters Sans Frontiers

    Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC)

    Solidariedade Moçambique (SOLDMOZ-ADS)

    #ReageMoçambique

     

    [1] Amnesty International (19 October 2018) Mozambique: Journalists and Activists Threatened – AFR 41/9263/2018. Available at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr41/9263/2018/en/. Amnesty International (17 October 2018) Mozambique: Journalists and activists face death threats and intimidation in post-election witch-hunt. Available at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/10/mozambique-journalists-and-activists-face-death-threats-and-intimidation-in-post-election-witch-hunt/.

    [2] Amnesty International (19 October 2018) Mozambique: Journalists and Activists Threatened – AFR 41/9263/2018.Available at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr41/9263/2018/en/.

    [3] All Africa (3 May 2019) Mozambique: Misa warns of deteriorating press freedom.Available at: https://allafrica.com/stories/201905030729.html

    [4] Amnesty International (29 January 2019) Mozambique: Woman human rights defender facing threats online: Fátima Mimbire.Available at:https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr41/9744/2019/en/

    [5] Human Rights Watch (13 March 2019) Armed police break up Mozambique Children’s march – Women’s day protest proceeds after initial ban.Available at: https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/03/13/armed-police-break-mozambique-childrens-march

    [6] Human Rights Watch (4 December 2018) Mozambique: Security forces abusing suspected insurgents. Available at: https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/12/04/mozambique-security-forces-abusing-suspected-insurgents

    American Bar Association (11 April 2019) Mozambique: Effective counter-terrorism strategies do not include arresting journalists. Available at: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/human_rights/reports/ArrestsInCaboDelgado/

    [7] Amnesty International (11 January 2019) Mozambique: Journalist Arbitrarily detained incommunicado: Amade Abubacar. Available: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr41/9674/2019/en/

    [8] Amnesty International (5 February 2019) Mozambique: Further Information: Detained journalist denied family visits: Amade Abubacar. Available: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr41/9792/2019/en/

    [9] Reporters Without Borders (23 April 2019) Two Mozambican journalists freed after being held for months. Available at: https://rsf.org/en/news/two-mozambican-journalists-freed-after-being-held-months

    [10] Amnesty International (19 August 2019) Mozambique: Further information: Journalist awaits prosecutor’s decision: Amade Abubacar. Available at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr41/0890/2019/en/

    [11] Committee to Protect Journalists, Mozambican journalist arrested, held in military prison,9 January 2019. Available: https://cpj.org/2019/01/mozambican-journalist-arrested-held-in-military-pr.php

    [12] Human Rights Watch (11 October 2016) Mozambique: Prominent opposition leader killed. Available at: https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/10/11/mozambique-prominent-opposition-leader-killed

    [13] Committee to Protect Journalists (28 March 2018) Mozambique journalist abducted, assaulted. Available at: https://cpj.org/2018/03/mozambique-journalist-abducted-assaulted.php

    [14] Amnesty International (5 October 2017) Mozambique: Killing of anti-corruption mayor must be investigated.Available at:https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/10/mozambique-killing-of-anti-corruption-mayor-must-be-investigated/

    [15] Amnesty International, Mozambique: refugees, asylum seekers held arbitrarily, 13 June 2019. Available at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr41/0465/2019/en/

    [16] Amnesty International, Mozambique: Further information: refugees, asylum seekers held without charge, 16 August 2019. Available at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr41/0880/2019/en/

     

  • Russia: Stop violence against peaceful protesters

    Russia Navalny Protests GettyImages 12307445752

    Read the statement in Russian

    The arrest of more than five thousand protesters in Russia calling for the release of anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny is a gross violation of the constitutional rights of all Russians to assemble peacefully, as Russia continues to openly deny its international human rights obligations, global civil society alliance CIVICUS said today.

     

  • Silence Does Not Mean Consent: The Dire State of Human Rights in Equatorial Guinea

    Located in the west of Central Africa between Cameroon and Gabon, and with a population of less than a million people, Equatorial Guinea is often described as one of the most censored countries in the world. The space for civil society - civic space - is closed, and consequently, independent journalists and human rights defenders (HRDs) are vulnerable to judicial persecution, threats and attacks from the state. Recent acts of intimidation, arbitrary arrest, detention and harassment of HRD Alfredo Okenve on the day he was supposed to receive a human rights award from the French Embassy in the capital city of Malabo exemplify the risks faced by HRDs.

    Cover EG

    President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo is Africa’s longest-serving head of state and the world’s longest-serving non-royal leader, having seized power from his uncle Francisco Macías Nguema through a coup d’état in 1979. Equatorial Guinea remained isolated until oil was discovered in the early 1990s and the country opened up to more foreign investment. However, despite the vast amounts of funds secured from the sale of oil, Equatorial Guinea’s human development indicators remain extremely low. Much of the wealth is controlled by President Obiang’s family and close associates while a majority of citizens lack basic services and live in poverty. President Obiang and his ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) have used violence, repression, intimidation and harassment to maintain control of all state institutions and military forces for four decades. Groups or political parties and activists that are perceived by government officials to threaten the power base of the PDGE are either co-opted, harassed, intimidated, or forced to self-censor.  

    This policy brief sheds light on some recent human rights violations committed by the regime and restrictions placed on citizens. Since assuming power four decades ago, President Obiang has refused to implement any verifiable and irreversible democratic or political reform. The ruling PDGE party, maintaining stringent control over all aspects of governance, has completely closed spaces for civil society reforms. Given this, Equatorial Guinea’s UPR hearing offers a rare opportunity to hold the government responsible for human rights violations. The African Union (AU), donors, multilateral organisations and global civil society have a responsibility to exert pressure on the government to implement much-needed reforms.

    Read the Policy Brief: ENGLISH | SPANISH

     

  • Singapore: Joint Statement on the Sentencing of Human Rights Defender Jolovan Wham

    We, the undersigned human rights organisations, strongly condemn the politically-motivated prosecution of Singaporean human rights defender Jolovan Wham. After convicting Wham in January 2019 of ‘organising a public assembly without a permit,’ the State Court sentenced him, on 21 February, to a fine of S$3,200 (US$2,367), or by default, 16 days in prison. 

     

  • Standing in solidarity with Venezuelan human rights defenders

    The recent, ongoing and unwarranted detention of five members of the Venezuelan NGO ‘Azul Positivo’ is one more event in a series of threats, harassment, attacks, restrictions, reprisals and criminal proceedings against Venezuelan civil society organizations and human rights defenders, which has been intensifying since November 2020. In recent months and weeks, state agents have forcibly entered the offices of civil society organizations; public threats have been made against defenders who have been engaging with human rights mechanisms, NGO bank accounts have been frozen and arrest warrants issued for aid workers.

     

  • Sudan: Civil society call on Human Rights Council to dispatch an independent international fact-finding mission to establish the facts and circumstances of alleged human rights violations committed in Sudan

    To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council

    Dear Excellencies,

    We, the undersigned Sudanese, African and international organisations and individuals, write to you ahead of the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council (“the Council”), which will take place from 25 February-22 March 2019, to express our concerns and urge you to address the Sudanese government’s crackdown on peaceful demonstrators and ongoing violations of human rights. Since 13 December 2018, tens of thousands of people have protested throughout Sudan and the authorities have responded by indiscriminately firing live ammunition and tear gas into crowds of peaceful protesters killing more than 50 civilians.

     

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