peaceful protests

 

  • Adjournment of Civil Society Activists’ Trial in Cameroon Shows State Has No Case

    JOHANNESBURG – Three civil society leaders in Cameroon remain imprisoned in solitary confinement and on trial for leading peaceful protests, following their court appearance on 27 July.

    The trial of Felix Balla Nkongho, Fontem Neba and Mancho Bibixy in a military court in the capital, Yaoundé, was adjourned for the third time since it began over six months ago. The activists face various spurious charges, some which, like treason and terrorism, carry the death penalty. A fourth activist, Justice Ayah Paul Abine is being held incommunicado at the Secretariat for Defense while hundreds of others remain detained at the Kondengui Central Prison in Yaoundé. 

    The activists were arrested in January 2017 after publicly raising concerns against the marginalisation of Cameroonians in the country’s Anglophone North West and South West regions, by the Francophone regime of President Paul Biya. They had called for the reforms in the legal and education system. Their organisation, the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC), has been banned. 

     “We strongly condemn the ongoing arbitrary arrests and unjustified prosecution of individuals opposing the atrocities in defiance of human rights standards. The international community has a responsibility to help end the cycle of persecution in Cameroon.”  Said Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at CIVICUS:

    The trial itself has been marked by irregularities and a lack of due process. In the latest proceedings, the judge began by kicking one of the defence attorneys out of court. The defence team’s representations in English were also mistranslated into French by the court interpreter.  In addition, the judge claimed that the state was not aware of the trial of the activists. 

    CIVICUS also expresses growing concern at the deepening human rights crisis. Reports of human rights violations in the Anglophone regions include the shooting and killing of unarmed protesters; arbitrary arrests; detention without trial; torture; legal harassment and unjust prosecutions; the targeting of journalists and media outlets; and the shutdown of the internet for months. 

    We call on the Cameroonian authorities to release all detained protesters and ensure that democratic rights to freedom of expression and assembly are respected. 

    We further call on the international community to increase efforts to engage the Biya regime to find lasting solutions to the conflict. We particularly urge the United Nations to intervene on behalf of barrister Nkongho, who has served the UN as a human rights and legal advisor to the UN Mission in Afghanistan, and the other activist leaders on trial. 

    Note: Civic space in Cameroon is rated as “repressed” by the CIVICUS Monitor, a global tracking tool of violations against the freedom of expression, association and assembly.

    Ends.

    For more information, contact:

    Grant Clark

    CIVICUS Media Advisor

     

  • Arrests of hundreds at demonstrations on West Papua highlight relentless suppression of dissent

    • Hundreds of West Papuans were arrested for holding peaceful protests
    • Some protesters were attacked by pro-government groups and suffered injuries
    • There has been a failure by the government to address West Papuan grievances and instead respond with repressive tactics

    Mass Arrests IndonesiaIndonesian authorities arbitrarily arrested hundreds of demonstrators across West Papua and other parts of Indonesia on December 1 following peaceful pro-independence protests.

    West Papua is a former Dutch colony that was placed under Indonesian rule following a United Nations-supervised referendum in 1969, which many believe to befraudulent.

    The rallies were held to mark the 57th anniversary of the raising of the Morning Star flag - a banned symbol of Papuan independence – to declare independence from the Netherlands.

    Global civil rights group, CIVICUS, says the arrest of at least 500 activists highlights the continued repression against peaceful pro-independence activism in West Papua and the ongoing impunity for these violations.

    According toreports, peaceful demonstrations took place inseveral locations in West Papua as well as other cities across the country including the cities of Jakarta, Surabaya, Palu, Kupang, Makassar, Manado and Ambon. Most of the arrested have been released.

    In Surabaya city, which saw one of the biggest rallies, protesters were allegedly attacked by pro-government nationalist groups leaving at least 17 injured.

    “The weekend arrests of hundreds of West Papuan activists solely for their peaceful political expression is outrageous and another attempt to silence their ongoing demands. Despite continued promises by President Joko Widodo to address the grievances of West Papuans, all they have faced time and time again are repressive actions by the Indonesian security forces” said Josef Benedict, CIVICUS civic space researcher.

    There have been long standing demands by West Papuan groups for independence due to the exploitation of land and resources and serious human rights violations in the region. Over the decades, the Indonesian security forces have responded brutally with reports of unlawful killings and unnecessary and excessive use of force and firearms during peaceful pro-independence protests and gatherings.

    Political activists and others accused of links to pro-independence groups have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated during arrests. Most recently, in September 2018, at least 67 Papuan student activists were detained by the police for participating in at least three protests in Jayapura..

    “The international community, especially countries in the region, cannot continue to stay silent on the abuses in West Papua. It must push for an end to the suppression of fundamental freedoms there and call for a genuine dialogue between the government and West Papuans to resolve the situation in the region.” said Benedict.

    CIVICUS has called on the Indonesian government to respect the right to freedom of expression and assembly and take the necessary steps to ensure that all police and military personnel who have been involved in human rights violations in West Papua are held accountable. The government must also take measures to ensure that local human rights defenders and journalists are protected and that international human rights organisations, journalists and the UN are provided unimpeded access to the West Papuan region.

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

    ENDS

    For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

    Josef Benedict

     

  • Fiji: Stop harassing peaceful protesters at the University of the South Pacific

    Joint Statement by Amnesty International and CIVICUS

    The Fiji authorities must respect the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly for university staff and students and immediately cease intimidation tactics.

     

  • Human rights groups demand Zimbabwe stop violent repression of protesters and respect fundamental freedoms

    • Security forces violently repress protests, killing at least eight and injuring more than a dozen after using live ammunition against demonstrators
    • Hundreds of protesters arrested during a three-day national shutdown called to protest massive fuel price hikes, with reports of security forces assaulting citizens in their homes
    • Leading human rights defender Evan Mawarire among those arrested and charged with public violence
    • Authorities shut down social media sites and the internet, only partially restoring online access after the end of the strike action
    • Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and Civil Society alliance, CIVICUS call on South Africa and the African Union to act to prevent more violence

    Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, have called on the authorities in Zimbabwe to exercise restraint and desist from using violence against peaceful protesters who have been demonstrating against a massive increase in fuel prices.

    Security forces used brute force against Zimbabweans who took to the streets during a three-day national strike to protest President Emerson Mnangagwa’s decision to raise the fuel price by more than 150%. This astronomical price hike would see the cost of petrol increase from US$ 1.4 per litre to US$ 3.31 per litre and diesel from US$ 1.36 to US$ 3.31 per litre. The national protests come amidst a deterioration in economic conditions, fuel shortages and ever-increasing prices of food and basic necessities.

    To protest Mnangagwa’s announcement, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and activists called for a national shutdown of businesses, schools and places of work.

    In response, security forces used live ammunition on protesting crowds while in the Matabeleland region, in particular, soldiers reportedly invaded protesters’ homes and shot occupants. Yesterday, army and police officers surrounded the home of human rights defender and leader of the #ThisFlag movement, Evan Mawarire, before arresting and detaining him. Mawarire has been charged with inciting public violence through social media and is yet to appear in court.

    Reports from the ground indicate that armed police, soldiers and masked men have caused mayhem as they kidnapped, harassed, intimidated and attacked citizens, while the streets remained heavily militarized.

    “We are alarmed by incidents of extreme violence being reported, which include shooting at peaceful protestors and forcefully removing people from their homes. This is a gross violation of people’s right to organise and freely express themselves, said Lysa John, Secretary General of CIVICUS.

    “Zimbabwean authorities must immediately stop using violence against its citizens and withdraw the military from the streets. We urge the South African government to intervene immediately to contain this crisis. The African Union must act with urgency to ensure that peace returns to Zimbabwe and hold those involved in the killing and harming of civilians accountable for their actions,” John said.

    “We are concerned about threats targeting leaders of civil society, specifically Crisis in Zimbabwe Action leaders and its Secretariat who are falsely accused of hosting numerous meetings with a plan to unseat the Mnangagwa administration.” Said Tabani Moyo, Spokesperson for the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition.

    “This statement is quite unfortunate as the public space is awash with our position calling for an inclusive national dialogue with all stakeholders.” Moyo continued.

    In a move reminiscent of the manner in which the previous government of President Robert Mugabe often operated, authorities shut down social media sites and completely cut off access to internet during the mass action. Online access has now reportedly been partially restored but social networks remains inaccessible.

    The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in all countries, has rated civic space – the space for civil society – in Zimbabwe as “Repressed”. This means civil society is significantly constrained and active individuals and civil society members who criticise power holders risk surveillance, harassment, imprisonment, injury or death.

    For more information, please contact:

    Teldah Mawarire

    Grant Clark

    Click here for our Press Centre

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CIVICUS/

    Twitter: @CIVICUSalliance

     

  • Joint Letter: Restore democratic rule in Thailand

    5 June 2018

    Prime Minister
    General Prayut Chan-o-cha
    Government House
    Pitsanulok Road, Dusit
    Bangkok 10300, Thailand

     

    Re: Concerns regarding arrest and prosecution of peaceful protesters

    Dear Prime Minister,

    We are writing to you with regards to the recent arrest and charging of pro-democracy activists for their participation in a peaceful protest in Bangkok on 22 May 2018, the fourth anniversary of the military coup in Thailand. These individuals were part of a group of hundreds of protesters who were calling for an end to military rule and for elections to be held by November 2018, in line with commitments previously made by your government.

    15 individuals were arrested on the day of the protest and subsequently charged with various offences including violations of Penal Code Sections 116 (sedition), 215 (assemblies leading to “breach of the peace”) and 216 (refusal to disperse). They are also facing charges under Article 12 of the Head of the NCPO Order No. 3/2558, which prohibits “political gatherings of five or more persons”, the Road Traffic Act, and the Public Assembly Act.

    On 24 May, after being detained for two nights, the 15 activists were brought to the Bangkok Criminal Court and granted bail of 100,000 Thai Baht per person (approximately USD 3,100). The court also imposed restrictions prohibiting the activists from organising or participating in further protests.

    On 29 May, authorities issued summons to at least 47 additional individuals present during the protest, including a staff member from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights who was on hand to monitor the event. This group of individuals will learn the nature of the charges they face when they report to a Bangkok police station on 7 June.

    The arrest and charging of the protesters clearly contravene Thailand’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), as do the restrictions placed on the future activities of these individuals.

    After four years of military rule in Thailand, government authorities continue to arbitrarily arrest, detain and prosecute peaceful protesters and government critics under an array of laws including those used to charge the 22 May protesters as well as the Computer Crimes Act and Penal Code provisions relating to defamation and offenses against the monarchy. Many pro-democracy activists are subject to charges in multiple criminal cases concerning their protest activities and could face decades of imprisonment, if convicted.

    By limiting political activities, curbing public gatherings, monitoring private communications, and stifling public discourse on matters of national interest, authorities are unjustifiably restricting the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Moreover, these actions have created a fearful environment in which people cannot freely express their opinions, criticize public authorities, or peacefully assemble without risking arrest and prosecution. These human rights violations are taking place in the context of the Thai government’s repeated failure to fulfil promises to hold elections and restore democratic norms.

    Therefore, we urge Thai authorities to take the following steps as a matter of priority:

    • Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against the 22 May pro-democracy protesters and lift all restrictions on the exercise of their human rights;
    • Quash convictions and drop charges against anyone prosecuted or convicted for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association or peaceful assembly;
    • Amend or repeal laws and orders that restrict or provide criminal penalties for the peaceful exercise of human rights or allow for arbitrary detention, including Penal Code provisions relating to sedition, defamation and insults to the monarchy; the Computer Crimes Act; the Public Assembly Act; and NCPO Order No. 3/2558;
    • Create a safe and enabling environment for activists, human rights defenders and other members of Thailand’s civil society to peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly without intimidation, harassment, arrest or prosecution; and
    • Lift all restrictions on political activities and take steps to restore democratic rule in Thailand as soon as possible.

    We express our sincere hope that you will consider and support these recommendations. We would be happy to discuss these matters with you or other appropriate officials at any time and offer our support in reforming laws and policies to ensure compliance with international human rights law and standards.

    Sincerely,                      

    David E. Kode                                  Soo Yon Suh                                    Matthew Bugher

    Advocacy & Campaigns Lead          Program Manager                            Head of Asia Programme

    CIVICUS                                          Asia Democracy Network                ARTICLE 19

     

  • Myanmar: Drop Charges Against Three Kachin Activists 

    Joint Statement by CIVICUS and Amnesty International

    Myanmar authorities must immediately drop defamation charges against three Kachin activists who led a peaceful rally in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State. The march was to call for humanitarian access to thousands of displaced civilians and for an end to the armed conflicts in northern Myanmar. 

    The prosecution of the activists – and other recent cases of politically motivated arrest and imprisonment – represent an alarming return to practices that characterized Myanmar’s decades of direct military rule. 

    Myanmar-anti-war-protestsOn 3 September 2018, Lum Zawng (m), Nang Pu (f), and Zau Jet (m) were charged under Section 500 of the Penal Code with defamation of the Myanmar military. The charges relate to statements they made at a peaceful rally on 30 April 2018 and at a press conference the next day, following major escalation in fighting between the Myanmar military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), an ethnic armed organization in Kachin State. The violence displaced more than 5,000 civilians, 2,000 of whom were trapped for several weeks in a forest near the village of Aung Lawt without access to humanitarian assistance or safe passage from the area. 

    In response, on 30 April, thousands of people gathered peacefully in Myitkyina to demand the rescue of trapped civilians, the resumption of humanitarian access and an end to the conflict. Lawyer Lum Zawng was one of the organizers of the rally where protesters called for the military to stop aerial attacks on civilians. The authorities have charged him with defamation. 

    The other two activists, Nang Pu, Director of the Htoi Gender and Development Foundation, and Zau Jet, Chairman of the Kachin National Social Development Foundation, are also facing defamation charges for comments they made at a press conference after the rally. The two had spoken about the situation of displaced civilians in the Hpakant area and about reports of threats against and ill-treatment of civilians by Myanmar soldiers. If convicted, they each face up to two years in prison. 

    The prosecution of Lum Zawng, Nang Pu and Zau Jet is clearly an attempt by the Myanmar authorities to intimidate, harass and silence community leaders and human rights defenders who speak out about military abuses and the impact on civilian populations. Amnesty International and global civil society alliance, CIVICUS call on the Myanmar authorities to immediately drop the charges against the three activists. 

    The rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are enshrined in Articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Under international human rights law and standards, certain restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly may be imposed, but only in narrow, clearly defined circumstances. Such restrictions must be provided by law; be limited to certain specified purposes such as national security, public order or respect of the rights or reputation of others; and be necessary and proportionate to the achievement of one of those permissible purposes. 

    Amnesty International and CIVICUS are concerned about a range of laws in Myanmar – including Section 500 of the Penal Code – which are incompatible with the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and which are used to arrest, prosecute and imprison human rights defenders and other peaceful activists. Both organizations urge the Myanmar authorities – in particular Parliament – to take immediate action to review and repeal or else amend all such laws to bring them into line with international human rights law and standards. 

    Human rights defenders play a vital role in the protection and promotion of human rights, and it is crucial that they are able to speak out freely on human rights violations, including those committed by the military against civilians in areas of armed conflict, without fear of repercussions. Under Article 2 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, each state has a duty to create the conditions necessary to defend human rights within their jurisdictions. Amnesty International and CIVICUS call on the government of Myanmar to ensure an environment in which it is possible to defend human rights without fear of reprisal or intimidation.

    Background
    The armed conflict between the Myanmar military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has been ongoing since June 2011, after a 17-year ceasefire ended. Since the resumption of hostilities, fighting has spread to other parts of northern Myanmar, involving a myriad of armed groups.

    The Myanmar military has committed war crimes and other gross human rights violations against civilians, particularly from ethnic minorities, as documented in detail by Amnesty International in a June 2017 report and by the UN Fact-Finding Mission in a report presented to the Human Rights Council in September 2018. These crimes and violations include unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrest and indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas. Ethnic armed groups have also committed abuses against civilians. Investigations into allegations of human rights violations and crimes under international law are rare and perpetrators seldom, if ever, held to account, contributing to a climate of impunity in the country. 

    More than 100,000 people have been internally displaced across the conflict-affected areas of northern Myanmar since 2011, many of them displaced multiple times. The humanitarian situation of internally displaced people (IDPs) remains serious, with ongoing concerns about conditions in IDP camps, including access to food, shelter, clean water and sanitation. In addition, the authorities – both civilian and military – have imposed severe restrictions on humanitarian access, exacerbating the needs of the displaced population.

    ENDS

    For more information, contact:

    Josef Benedict
    josef.benedict{AT}civicus.org

     

  • Nicaragua: Cese de la violencia en contra de los manifestantes pacíficos

    Inglés

    La alianza global de la sociedad civil CIVICUS y la Coordinadora Civil de Nicaragua hacen un llamamiento al gobierno de Nicaragua para que detenga la violencia contra las personas que se manifiestan de manera pacífica y para que respete su derecho a manifestarse libremente y de forma pacífica. Después de 54 días de protesta, 135 personas han sido asesinadas, más de 1000 han resultado heridas y 400 detenidas. Mientras tanto, estas personas manifestantes piden al presidente Daniel Ortega que renuncie.

     

  • Nicaragua: Cese de la violencia en contra de los manifestantes pacíficos

    Inglés

    La alianza global de la sociedad civil CIVICUS y la Coordinadora Civil de Nicaragua hacen un llamamiento al gobierno de Nicaragua para que detenga la violencia contra las personas que se manifiestan de manera pacífica y para que respete su derecho a manifestarse libremente y de forma pacífica. Después de 54 días de protesta, 135 personas han sido asesinadas, más de 1000 han resultado heridas y 400 detenidas. Mientras tanto, estas personas manifestantes piden al presidente Daniel Ortega que renuncie.

     

  • Palestine: Israel must end impunity and indiscriminate attacks on protestors

    One month after a horrific massacre of protesters in the occupied Palestinian territory, global civil society alliance, CIVICUS is urging accountability for the unacceptably high levels of lethal violence employed by Israeli security forces against demonstrations.  

    Since 30 March 2018, when Palestinians launched a protest campaign against forced evictions, the denial of their right to return to their occupied territories and the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, more than 120 protestors have been killed including children, journalists and health personnel. In addition, more than 12 000 Palestinians have been wounded.  On May 14, the deadliest day of the protests, more than 61 Palestinians including 8 children were shot and killed by Israeli forces and nearly 3 000 were wounded in Gaza. 

    Despite the decision by the UN Human Rights Council on 18 May 2018 to dispatch an independent commission of inquiry to investigate violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, Israeli forces are continuing to use unnecessary, indiscriminate and disproportionate force against protesters. This includes exploding bullets, which are designed to inflict maximum damage, in a calculated attempt to kill, maim and inflict serious bodily harm on Palestinian protesters. Palestinian civil society representatives are being prevented from travelling abroad including to UN bodies to expose the atrocities being committed by Israeli forces.

    Said Mandeep Tiwana, CIVICUS’ Chief Programmes Officer: “We all bear responsibility for not doing enough to demand an end to the atrocities committed by Israeli security forces.”

    “Silence from some states and overt support for Israeli forces’ actions by others is emboldening them to act with impunity and cause massive suffering to the Palestinian community,” said Tiwana.

    As Israeli authorities wilfully ignore calls from the international community to exercise restraint against Palestinian protestors, CIVICUS urges civil society around the world to urge their governments to speak out against continuing attacks on Palestinian protesters, demand an end to impunity by Israeli forces and support the commission of inquiry mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate violations in the context of the large scale civilian protests in the occupied Palestinian territory.

    ENDS.

    For more information, contact:

    Grant Clark

     

  • Poland: concerns over intimidation, violence and detentions of peaceful protesters

    Joint letter to:

    Clement Voule, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Assembly and Association
    Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders
    Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression
    Tlaleng Mofokeng, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Physical and Mental Health
    Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
    Palais Wilson, 52 Rue des Pâquis
    1201 Geneva, Switzerland


     

  • 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.

     

  • Thailand: Drop charges against peaceful protesters and end restrictions on civic freedoms

    Read the Thai version of the letter

    Letter to the Prime Minister of Thailand as the government cracks down on peaceful protests calling for democracy, human rights and reform.


    Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha
    Office of the Prime Minister
    Pitsanulok road
    Bangkok 10300
    Thailand

    Thailand: Drop charges against peaceful protesters and end restrictions on civic freedoms

    CIVICUS, the World Alliance for Citizen Participation, is a global alliance of civil society organisations (CSOs) and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world. Founded in 1993, CIVICUS has more than 10,000 members in more than 175 countries throughout the world.

    We are writing to you to highlight our serious concerns about the escalating crackdown on peaceful protests in Thailand. According to reports by civil society groups, at least 80 individuals have been arbitrarily arrested since 13 October 2020. [1]

    • On 13 October, police forcibly dispersed a pro-democracy protest organised by the People’s Group at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument. Police allegedly kicked, punched, and threw some protesters to the ground. At least 23 protesters including protest leader Jatuphat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa were arrested.[2]
    • On 14 and 15 October, another 34 people were reportedly arrested including protest leaders.[3] Five of the protest leaders - Arnon Nampa, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Prasit Khrutharot, Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul and Nathchanon Pairoj were charged with “sedition” (Article 116 of the Thai Criminal Code).[4] The rest were charged under the newly promulgated Emergency Decree. We are seriously concerned about reports that the police had prevented their lawyers from meeting with the arrested activists. Some have also been denied bail.
    • Activists Ekachai Hongkangwan and Boonkueanoon Paothong were also arrested on 16 October. They had reportedly shouted and held up the defiant three-finger salute when the Queen’s motorcade drove past protesters on 14 October. They have been charged under Section 110 of the Criminal Code and could face life imprisonment.[5]
    • On 16 October, police closed roads and established barricades with multiple rows of barbed wire in order to prevent people from peacefully gathering peacefully. Subsequently, police repeatedly used water cannons with chemical irritants and dye in attempts to disperse the crowd, estimated to be in the thousands.[6] Police also charged in with batons and shields to disperse the protesters.[7] 12 protesters were reportedly arrested.[8] Among those arrested include Kitti Pantapak, a journalist with Prachathai news outlet. His equipment was also confiscated.[9]
    • On 17 October, despite peaceful protests at least seven activists were reportedly arrested including student leader Panupong Chadnok.[10] On the same day, Chatchai Kaewkhampod a protest leader from Ubon Ratchathani province was also arrested.

    We are also concerned about the introduction of a new emergency decree that severely restricts peaceful assembly and expression. The decree bans gatherings of five persons or more, and broadly prohibits the publication of news and information “which may instigate fear amongst the people” or that “affect national security or peace and order”.

    Under the decree, authorities can arrest and detain people without charge for up to 30 days on grounds as vague as “supporting” or “concealing information” about the protests. The decree also allows those arrested to be detain them in informal places of detention and does not require access to legal counsel or visits by family members. Officials carrying out the duties under the decree enjoy legal immunity.

    During the announcement of the measure, the authorities cited the need to “maintain peace and order” and that protesters had “instigated chaos and public unrest”.[11] We believe this to be a clear misrepresentation of the actions of the protesters.

    The latest crackdown follows months of acts to suppress dissent, including the widespread use of judicial harassment against activists and human rights defenders. Authorities have arbitrarily arrested activists and filed charges against them under an array of repressive laws.

    These actions are inconsistent with Thailand’s international obligations, including those under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which Thailand ratified in 1996. These include obligations to respect and protect fundamental freedoms which are also guaranteed in Thailand’s Constitution.

    As such, we urge Thai authorities to take the following steps as a matter of priority:

    • Immediately and unconditionally release all pro-democracy protesters detained, drop all charges against them and lift all restrictions on the exercise of their human rights;
    • Pending their release, ensure that they are protected from torture and other ill-treatment and have regular access to lawyers of their choice, their family members and to medical care;
    • Revoke emergency measures imposing restrictions on the rights to freedom of assembly and expression
    • Investigate all allegations of excessive force or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the police while dispersing protests and halt the use of water cannons water cannon unless there are situations of serious public disorder as provided by the 2020 United Nations guidance on less-lethal weapons in law enforcement
    • Create a safe and enabling environment for activists, human rights defenders and other members of Thailand’s civil society to peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly without intimidation, harassment, arrest or prosecution

    We express our sincere hope that you will take these steps to address the human rights violations highlighted above.

    Yours sincerely,

    David Kode
    Advocacy & Campaigns Lead.
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation


    Civic space in Thailand is rated Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor

    1 ‘Arrest Statistics’, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, 18 October 2020, https://www.tlhr2014.com/?p=22156

    2 Thailand: Over 20 Democracy Activists Arrested, Human Rights Watch, 13 October 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/10/13/thailand-over-20-democracy-activists-arrested

     3 Two more rally leaders arrested, Bangkok Post, 15 October 2020, https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/2002671/two-more-rally-leaders-arrested and Thailand bans mass gatherings under emergency decree, Al Jazeera, 15 October, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/10/15/thailand-imposes-emergency-amid-protests-leaders-detained 

    4 ‘Thailand: End crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy activists, lift emergency decree ‘ FIDH, 16 October, https://www.fidh.org/en/region/asia/thailand/thailand-end-crackdown-on-peaceful-pro-democracy-activists-lift 5 Article 110 of the Criminal Code bans any act of violence against the Queen or Her Majesty’s liberty. See ‘Two arrested on motorcade charges’, Bangkok Post, 16 October 2020, https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/politics/2003267/two-arrested-on-motorcade-charges

    5 Article 110 of the Criminal Code bans any act of violence against the Queen or Her Majesty’s liberty. See ‘Two arrested on motorcade charges’, Bangkok Post, 16 October 2020,  https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/politics/2003267/two-arrested-on-motorcade-charges 

    6 ‘Thailand: Water cannons mark deeply alarming escalation in policing’, Amnesty protests’, 17 October 2020, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/10/thailand-water-cannons-deeply-alarming-escalation/ 

    7 Thailand: Water Cannon Used Against Peaceful Activists Human Rights Watch, 17 October 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/10/17/thailand-water-cannon-used-against-peaceful-activists 

    8 Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, 17 October 2020, https://twitter.com/TLHR2014/status/1317170040169377792 

    9 Prachatai's reporter, 24, arrested while covering police crackdown, Prachatai, 16 October 2020 https://prachatai.com/english/node/8848 

    10 Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, 17 October 2020,  https://twitter.com/TLHR2014/status/1317482849772077061 

    11 Thailand’s emergency decree ‘an excuse’ to end pro-democracy protests, MPs say’, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, 15 October 2020, http://aseanmp.org/2020/10/15/thailand-emergency-decree-excuse/ 

     

  • UN resolution needed to help address human rights crisis in Cambodia

    To Members and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council

    Dear Excellency,

    The undersigned civil society organizations, representing groups working within and outside Cambodia to advance human rights, rule of law, and democracy, are writing to alert your government to an ongoing human rights crisis in Cambodia and to request your support for a resolution ensuring strengthened scrutiny of the human rights situation in the country at the upcoming 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council (the “Council”).

    National elections in July 2018 were conducted after the Supreme Court, which lacks independence, dissolved the major opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). Many believe that this allowed the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) under Prime Minister Hun Sen to secure all 125 seats in the National Assembly and effectively establish one-party rule. Since the election, respect for human rights in Cambodia has further declined. Key opposition figures remain either in detention – such as CNRP leader Kem Sokha, who is under de factohouse arrest – or in self-imposed exile out of fear of being arrested. The CNRP is considered illegal and 111 senior CNRP politicians remain banned from engaging in politics. Many others have continued to flee the country to avoid arbitrary arrest and persecution.

    Government authorities have increasingly harassed opposition party members still in the country, with more than 147 former CNRP members summoned to court or police stations. Local authorities have continued to arrest opposition members and activists on spurious charges. The number of prisoners facing politically motivated charges in the country has remained steady since the election. The government has shuttered almost all independent media outlets and totally controls national TV and radio stations. Repressive laws – including the amendments to the Law on Political Parties, the Law on Non-Governmental Organizations, and the Law on Trade Unions – have resulted in severe restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.

    It is expected that a resolution will be presented at the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council in September to renew the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia for another two years. We strongly urge your delegation to ensure that the resolution reflects the gravity of the situation in the country and requests additional monitoring and reporting by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Mandated OHCHR monitoring of the situation and reporting to the Council, in consultation with the Special Rapporteur, would enable a comprehensive assessment of the human rights situation in Cambodia, identification of concrete actions that the government needs to take to comply with Cambodia’s international human rights obligations, and would allow the Council further opportunities to address the situation.

    Since the last Council resolution was adopted in September 2017, the situation of human rights in Cambodia, including for the political opposition, human rights defenders, and the media, has drastically worsened. Developments since the 2018 election include:

    Crackdown on Political Opposition

    On March 12, 2019, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued arrest warrants for eight leading members of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party who had left Cambodia ahead of the July 2018 election – Sam Rainsy, Mu Sochua, Ou Chanrith, Eng Chhai Eang, Men Sothavarin, Long Ry, Tob Van Chan, and Ho Vann. The charges were based on baseless allegations of conspiring to commit treason and incitement to commit a felony. In September 2018, authorities transferred CNRP head Kem Sokha after more than a year of pre-trial detention in a remote prison to his Phnom Penh residence under highly restrictive “judicial supervision” that amounts to house arrest. Cambodian law has no provision for house arrest and there is no evidence that Sokha has committed any internationally recognizable offense.

    During 2019, at least 147 arbitrary summonses were issued by the courts and police against CNRP members or supporters. Summonses seen by human rights groups lack legal specifics, containing only vague references to allegations that the person summoned may have violated the Supreme Court ruling that dissolved the CNRP in November 2017.

    Human Rights Defenders and Peaceful Protesters

    In November 2018, Prime Minister Hun Sen stated that criminal charges would be dropped against all trade union leaders related to the government’s January 2014 crackdown on trade unions and garment workers in which security forces killed five people. However, the following month, a court convicted six union leaders – Ath Thorn, Chea Mony, Yang Sophorn, Pav Sina, Rong Chhun, and Mam Nhim – on baseless charges and fined them. An appeals court overturned the convictions in May 2019, but in July 2019 the court announced its verdict in absentia convicting Kong Atith, newly elected president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (CCAWDU), of intentional acts of violence in relation to a 2016 protest between drivers and the Capitol Bus Company. The court imposed a three-year suspended sentence, which will create legal implications under Article 20 of the Law on Trade Unions, which sets out among others that a leader of a worker union cannot have a felony or misdemeanour conviction.

    In December 2018, Thai authorities forcibly returned Cambodian dissident Rath Rott Mony to Cambodia. Cambodian authorities then prosecuted him for his role in a Russia Times documentary “My Mother Sold Me,” which describes the failure of Cambodian police to protect girls sold into sex work. He was convicted of “incitement to discriminate” and in July 2019 sentenced to two years in prison.

    In March 2018, the government enacted a lese majeste (insulting the king) clause into the Penal Code, and within a year four people had been jailed under the law and three convicted. All the lese majeste cases involved people expressing critical opinions on Facebook or sharing other people’s Facebook posts. The government has used the new law, along with a judiciary that lacks independence, as a political tool to silence independent and critical voices in the country.

    In July 2019, authorities detained two youth activists, Kong Raya and Soung Neakpoan, who participated in a commemoration ceremony on the third anniversary of the murder of prominent political commentator Kem Ley in Phnom Penh. The authorities charged both with incitement to commit a felony, a provision commonly used to silence activists and human rights defenders. Authorities arrested seven people in total for commemorating the anniversary; monitored, disrupted, or cancelled commemorations around the country; and blocked approximately 20 members of the Grassroots Democracy Party on their way to Takeo province – Kem Ley’s home province.

    Attacks on Journalists and Control of the Media

    Prior to the July 2018 election, the Cambodian government significantly curtailed media freedom, online and offline. In 2017, authorities ordered the closure of 32 FM radio frequencies that aired independent news programs by Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Voice of America. RFA closed its offices in September 2017, citing government harassment as the reason for its closure. The local Voice of Democracy radio was also forced to go off the air.

    Since 2017, two major independent newspapers, the Phnom Penh Post and The Cambodia Daily, were subjected to dubious multi-million-dollar tax bills, leading the Phnom Penh Post to be sold to a businessman with ties to Hun Sen and The Cambodia Daily to close.

    Social media networks have come under attack from increased government surveillance and interventions. In May 2018, the government adopted a decree on Publication Controls of Website and Social Media Processing via the Internet and the Law on Telecommunications, which allow for arbitrary interference and surveillance of online media and unfettered government censorship. Just two days before the July 2018 elections, authorities blocked the websites of independent media outlets – including RFA and VOA – which human rights groups considered immediate enforcement of the new decree.

    Since then, Cambodian authorities have proceeded with the politically motivated prosecution of two RFA journalists, Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin. They were arrested in November 2017 on fabricated espionage charges connected to allegations that the two men continued to report for RFA after RFA’s forced closure of its Cambodia office. They were held in pre-trial detention until August 2018. Their trial began in July 2019 and a verdict on the espionage charges is expected late August. They face up to 16 years in prison.

    ***

    The Cambodian government’s actions before and since the July 2018 election demonstrate a comprehensive campaign by the ruling CPP government to use violence, intimidation and courts that lack judicial independence to silence or eliminate the political opposition, independent media, and civil society groups critical of the government.

    We strongly urge your government to acknowledge the severity of the human rights situation and the risks it poses to Cambodia’s fulfilment of its commitments to respect human rights and rule of law as set out in the Paris Peace Accords 1991. It is crucial that concerned states explicitly condemn the Cambodian government’s attacks on human rights norms and take steps to address them.

    For these reasons, we call on the Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution requesting the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to monitor and report on the situation of human rights in Cambodia and outline actions the government should take to comply with its international human rights obligations. The High Commissioner should report to the Council at its 45th session followed by an Enhanced Interactive Dialogue with the participation of the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia, other relevant UN Special Procedures, and members of local and international civil society.

    We further recommend that your government, during the Council’s September session, speaks out clearly and jointly with other governments against ongoing violations in Cambodia.

    We remain at your disposal for any further information.

    With assurances of our highest consideration,

    1. Amnesty International
    2. ARTICLE 19
    3. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
    4. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    5. Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC)
    6. Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU)
    7. Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)
    8. Cambodian Food and Service Workers' Federation (CFSWF)
    9. Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)
    10. Cambodian League for the Promotion & Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
    11. Cambodian Youth Network (CYN)
    12. Cambodia's Independent Civil Servants Association (CICA)
    13. Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL)
    14. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    15. Civil Rights Defenders (CRD)
    16. Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
    17. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) 
    18. FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
    19. Fortify Rights
    20. Human Rights Now
    21. Human Rights Watch (HRW)
    22. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    23. Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA)
    24. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    25. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC)
    26. National Democratic Institute (NDI)
    27. Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières - RSF)
    28. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) 

     

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