protest disruptions

 

  • As the climate crisis intensifies, so does the crackdown on environmental activism, finds new report

    New research brief from the CIVICUS Monitor examines the crackdown of environmental activism and profiles important victories civil society has scored in the fight for climate justice.

    • Environmental protests are being criminalised and met with repression on all continents
    • State authorities and private companies are common perpetrators of violations to civic freedoms
    • Despite the risks and restrictions, activist groups continue to score important victories to advance climate justice.

    As world leaders meet in Glasgow for the UN Climate Change Negotiations (COP26), peaceful environmental activists are being threatened, silenced and criminalised around the world. The host of this year's meeting is one of many countries where activists are regularly facing rights violations.

    New research from the CIVICUS Monitor looks at the common tactics and restrictions being used by governments and private companies to suppress environmental movements. The research brief “Defenders of our planet: Resilience in the face of restrictions” focuses on three worrying trends: Bans and restrictions on protests; Judicial harassment and legal persecution; and the use of violence, including targeted killings.

    As the climate crisis intensifies, activists and civil society groups continue to mobilise to hold policymakers and corporate leaders to account. From Brazil to South Africa, activists are putting their lives on the line to protect lands and to halt the activities of high-polluting industries. The most severe rights abuses are often experienced by civil society groups that are standing up to the logging, mining and energy giants who are exploiting natural resources and fueling global warming.

    As people take to the streets, governments have been instituting bans that criminalise environmental protests. Recently governments have used COVID-19 as a pretext to disrupt and break up demonstrations. Data from the CIVICUS Monitor indicates that the detention of protesters and the use of excessive force by authorities are becoming more prevalent.

    In Cambodia in May 2021, three environmental defenders were sentenced to 18 to 20 months in prison for planning a protest  against the filling of a lake in the capital. While in Finland this past June, over 100 activists were arrested for participating in a protest calling for the government to take urgent action on climate change. From authoritarian countries to  mature democracies, the research also profiles those who have been put behind bars for peacefully protesting.

    “Silencing activists and denying them of their fundamental civic rights is another tactic being used by leaders to evade and delay action on climate change” said Marianna Belalba Barreto, Research Lead for the CIVICUS Monitor. “Criminalising nonviolent protests has become a troubling indicator that governments are not committed to saving the planet .”

    The report shows that many of the measures being deployed by governments to restrict rights are not compatible with international law. Examples of courts and legislative bodies reversing attempts to criminalise nonviolent climate protests are few and far between.

    Despite the increased risks and restrictions facing environmental campaigners, the report also shows that a wide range of campaigns have scored important victories, including the closure of mines and numerous hazardous construction projects. Equally significant has been the rise of climate litigation by activist groups. Ironically, as authorities take activists to court for exercising their fundamental right to protest, activist groups have successfully filed lawsuits against governments and companies in over 25 countries for failing to act on climate change.


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  • Cambodia: Halt crackdown on striking trade union activists

    H.E. Dr. Ith Sam Heng
    Minister of Labour and Vocational Training
    Russian Federation Blvd (110),
    Phnom Penh, Cambodia

    Your Excellency,

    Cambodia: Halt crackdown on striking trade union activists

    CIVICUS: 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 with regards to our concerns around the crackdown against union activists from the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees of NagaWorld (LRSU), a casino workers’ union. On 18 December 2021, around 2000 members from LRSU went on strike in the capital Phnom Penh demanding, among other things, the reinstatement of 365 workers laid off by the company in April 2021. They had refused to accept termination packages from the Hong Kong-listed casino group NagaCorp.

    According to human rights groups, the layoffs unfairly targeted union members and leaders. Union leaders have filed complaints to the Ministry of Labour and Arbitration Council arguing the company violated Cambodian law and several ILO conventions. The layoffs were also often accompanied by improper compensation, according to LRSU leaders.

    According to a report received, the authorities have attempted to disrupt the strike and arrested union activists involved. Soon after the strike had begun, representatives from the Phnom Penh municipal court read out a provisional disposition declaring the strike action to be illegal and ordering striking workers to resume work.

    On the evening of 31 December 2021, there was a large presence of police around the strike site and a drone was seen flying over despite it being a drone-prohibited area. The police then detained eight union members from the union’s office in Chamkarmon district. They include Chhim Sokhorn, Kleang Soben, Sun Sreypich, Hai Sopheap, Ry Sovandy, Rin Phalla, Eng Sreybo and Sun Sreymom. Police arrested a ninth worker, Touch Sereymeas, on her way back home after the strike. The police claimed that arrests were made because of the union’s ‘illegal strike’ affecting public order and social security. The police also attempted to arrest another LRSU member, Choup Channat, who was often on a megaphone at the strike site in front of Naga World. However, Channat managed to get away from the site.

    While three activists were released after signing contracts with the police, six were questioned at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on 3 January and formally charged with ‘incitement’ under Articles 494 - 495 of the Criminal Code. They are all being held in pre-trial detention at Correction Centre 2 (CC2) prison.

    On 3rd January, as the six union activists were being questioned, 17 more protesters were arrested. 16 of them were detained at the Phnom Penh Municipal Police headquarters while one, who is a pregnant woman, was released.

    Three other union activists were arrested on 4 January are also facing ‘incitement’ charges. The nine include Ry Sovanndy, Sun Sreypich, Hai Sopheap, Klang Soben, Touch Sereymeas, Chim Sokhon, Sok Narith, Sok Konkhea and Chim Sithar, the LRSU union leader. Sithar was arrested with excessive force by plain clothes police outside the Australian Embassy, as she entered the barricades cordoning off the workers’ strike.

    The arrest and charges against the union activists are a violation of the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly that are guaranteed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Cambodia in 1992. These freedoms are also guaranteed in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia (articles 41 and 42) the Law on Peaceful Assembly (article 2) and the Labour Law (article 320). We are also concerned about the use of vaguely worded ‘incitement’ provisions under article 494 and 495 of the Criminal Code which has been systematically used to obstruct and punish the legitimate activities of human rights defenders and critics.

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

    • Drop the charges against the union activists, release them immediately and unconditionally, and refrain from conducting further reprisals against them;
    • Halt the harassment of the LRSU Union and respect and protect their right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest;
    • Create a safe and enabling environment for activists, human rights defenders and other members of civil society to peacefully exercise their civic freedoms without intimidation, harassment, arrest or prosecution.

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

    Yours sincerely,

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

    Cc:

    H.E. An Sokkhoeurn, Cambodia's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva

    H.E. Mr. Yeap Samnang, Cambodia’s Permanent Representative to ASEAN

    H.E. Mrs Polyne Hean, Representative of Cambodia to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR)

    Ms. Irene Khan, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression

    Mr. Clément Voule, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association

    Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia


     Civic space in Cambodia is rated as "repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor

     

  • Democratic Republic of Congo: stop the killing of protesters

    CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance and Nouvelle Société Civile Congolaise (NSCC), condemn the senseless killing of at least 34 protesters in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in recent days. The killings have come as citizens have called for President Joseph Kabila to step down, following the formal end of his mandate on 19 December.

     

  • Eswatini: Respect democratic rights and stop violence against peaceful protesters

    Eswatini authorities must stop the brutal repression of peaceful protesters and respect the rights of people to demand democratic reform. CIVICUS calls on the authorities in Eswatini to protect the right to protest, which is enshrined in the Eswatini constitution and in international human rights law.

     

  • 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.

     

  • Honduras government must stop violent clampdown on peaceful protests

    June 26, 2019

    Government violently represses citizens protests in Honduras

    • Three people killed and 20 wounded in brutal crackdown on protests in Honduras
    • Global civil society alliance condemns the harsh repression of demonstrations in Honduras and the decision of the government to use of military forces to control protests
    • Defenders in the country face an extremely risky environment experiencing violence and criminalization

     

  • Hong Kong: De-escalate violence and respect freedom of peaceful assembly

    Bangkok, 16 August 2019 – We, the undersigned civil society organisations, express our deep concerns on the escalating violence in Hong Kong and urge the authorities to ensure conditions for peaceful assembly and association are present, and the protestors to exercise their rights to protest peacefully. We call on the Hong Kong Government to take meaningful action to curtail actions by law enforcement that escalate this violence and to proactively address the demands of the Hong Kong protesters.

    The protests started over proposed amendments to the extradition laws which would have allowed local and foreign suspects to be extradited to mainland China. Such a move would undermine Hong Kong’s judicial independence and exposes suspects to risks of human rights violations. Despite statements that the bill is ‘dead,’ the Chief Executive of Hong Kong has stopped short of withdrawing it. Protesters are calling for its complete withdrawal, as well the unconditional release of arrested protesters and the subsequent dropping of charges against them. They are also calling for the Government to drop the use of the word ‘riots’ in relation to the protests, initiate an inquiry to police brutality, and implement genuine universal suffrage in Hong Kong.

    Over the past few weeks, the police have repeatedly used tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse protesters, in several cases, causing severe injuries. Protesters have been subjected to indiscriminate violent attacks both from the police and from unidentified individuals. These actions are often excessive and violate international human rights norms. Protesters have also been witnessed attacking police officers and destroying property. Recent reports of Chinese military troops in the Hong Kong border may signal a further escalation of tensions over the coming days.

    The undersigned organisations also raise concerns over the use of the term 'terrorism' by Chinese officials to describe these protests. Such discourse delegitimises the valid concerns of the protesters and seeks to justify possible extreme measures against them. We particularly note allegations that China’s State-sponsored media have started to label the Hong Kong democracy group Demosisto as a separatist movement, in efforts to stain their credibility.

    The undersigned organisations condemn these violations as they continue unabated in the absence of meaningful action from the Government. We call on the Government of Hong Kong to immediately take meaningful action to de-escalate the situation, including through taking steps to genuinely engage with pro-democracy leaders and address concerns on the violations of the rights of the Hong Kong people.

    We call on all parties to help ensure that the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association can be exercised peacefully, and to immediately end all forms of violence. Police forces must ensure their actions are justified, and strictly proportionate to the risks faced at hand, including when considering the use of pepper spray, tear gas, and rubber bullets, among other measures. The use of any such weapons should be done in strict observance of the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. The Government should initiate investigations into violations of freedom of peaceful assembly by state forces. Protesters should express their views in peaceful ways, and refrain from resorting to violence.

    We also call on the Hong Kong Government to immediately release all who have been arrested for conducting peaceful assembly and association and to drop all charges against them.

    As protests continue, we call on the international community to keep monitoring the human rights violations and abuses and use bilateral and multilateral fora to speak out against such. We also urge the international civil society to provide solidarity to the Hong Kong people as they strive to claim and protect their rights.

    Signatory organisations:

    1. Asia Democracy Network (ADN)
    2. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    3. Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL)
    4. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation (CIVICUS)
    5. Human Rights Watch

    For further information, please contact:

    • ANFREL, Karel Jiaan Antonio Galang, karel[AT]anfrel.org
    • CIVICUS, Josef Benedict, josef.benedict[AT]civicus.org
    • East Asia and ASEAN Programme, FORUM-ASIA, ea-asean[AT]forum-asia.org
    • Human Rights Watch, Phil Robertson, RobertP[AT]hrw.org, mobile: +66-85-060-8406

    Civic space in China is rated as Closed by the CIVICUS Monitor

     

  • Indonesia: Unilateral renewal of Special Autonomy and arbitrary arrest of protesters in West Papua

    CIVICUS and TAPOL regret the revision and renewal of the Special Autonomy Law in West Papua (Papua and West Papua Provinces), which further strips critical aspects of decentralisation and autonomy for the region. We are also extremely concerned about the arbitrary arrest of people protesting the renewal and forcible disruptions of protests.  Despite such protests and the lack of consultation with the people of West Papua, the law was passed by the Indonesia House of Representatives on 15 July.

    Papua protest July 2021

    Demonstrations held in the last week marked the latest in a series of protests by West Papuans opposing the Indonesian government's decision to extend Special Autonomy status and demanding an internationally supervised independence referendum. Police arrested 23 students and activists in Jayapura on 14 July 2021, and four protesters were injured. On 15 July, 18 demonstrators were arrested in Kaimana, West Papua, and a protest in Manokwari was blocked. Another 50 protesters were arrested and beaten in front of the House of Representatives in Jakarta on 15 July just prior to the passage of the law.

    We call on the Indonesia authorities to halt their repression of peaceful protest against the extension of the Special Autonomy Law. The right to peaceful protest is an essential part of a democracy, which Indonesia needs to immediately realise in West Papua. 

    The Special Autonomy Law in West Papua was first enacted in 2001 and has now been extended for another 20 years, with some concerning new amendments. The originally-enacted law had itself long been rejected by many West Papuans as failing to realise meaningful autonomy. 

    Eighteen articles of the revised law were amended and two articles were added, with serious implications for issues of decentralisation and autonomy. According to Article 76, the central government can now decide on the creation of new regencies and districts. This has been opposed by many West Papuans because it could lead to further marginalisation and militarisation in the region. Two sections of Article 28 were omitted, which removed the right to form local political parties. A new rule is now in place that the vice president will have an office in the provinces to oversee the implementation of the Special Autonomy Law.

    Kaimana protest arrests papua

    The Papuan People’s Assembly (Majelis Rakyat Papua/MRP) was excluded from the amendment discussions despite its inclusion in consultations being explicitly required by the law. The MRP had stated that the renewal is not the wish of West Papuan people. The Papuan People’ Petition (Petisi Rakyat Papua/PRP), which consist of 112 mostly Indigenous groups, collected 714,066 grassroot West Papuans’ signatures against Special Autonomy.

    The unilateral decision by the Government of Indonesia to revise and extend the Special Autonomy Law is a flagrant violation to the right to self-determination of West Papuan people.

    We urge the President of Indonesia Joko Widodo to issue a regulation in lieu of law (Peraturan Pemerintah Pengganti Undang-undang/Perppu) to annul the Special Autonomy Law. Instead of forcing this extension, the authorities should instead hold meaningful consultation with the West Papuan people to address their grievances, deal with the injustices they have faced and to seek an end to the conflict. This includes releasing all political prisoners detained for their activism including Victor Yeimo, ending the harassment of human rights defenders, activists, students and others in Papua and ensuring that all serious crimes committed by Indonesian security forces are investigated, findings made public and that victims and their families receive reparations.


    CIVICUS: 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.

    TAPOL campaigns for human rights, peace and democracy in Indonesia. We are based in the UK and work to raise awareness of human rights issues in Indonesia, including in the contested territory of West Papua. Founded on grassroots campaigning, TAPOL works closely with local organisations in West Papua and Indonesia to advocate for truth and justice and encourage the international community to take action. 

     

  • Morocco: Civil society condemns arrests of peaceful protesters

    The Regional Coalition for Women Human Rights Defenders in Middle East and North Africa and Global Civil Society Alliance CIVICUS, express grave concerns over the arbitrary arrests of peaceful protesters and call on the Moroccan authorities to release all those in detention.  So far at least 127 protesters have been detained in the wake of the brutal crackdown on demonstrations in the north of Morocco.  

     

  • Nigeria: Urgent call to end violence against #EndSARS protesters

    The brutal shooting of peaceful protesters in Lagos by Nigerian security forces is a gross violation of protesters’ rights and those responsible should be held accountable by the authorities, global civil society alliance CIVICUS said today.

     

  • Open Government Partnership undermined by threats to civil society

    • Fundamental civic freedoms seriously undermined in over a third of OGP countries – Colombia, Honduras, Liberia and Mexico fare worst
    • Worrying picture revealed by the CIVICUS Monitor, a new online research tool that rates civic space around the world and documents systemic violations of rights

    Johannesburg, 2 December 2016 –People’s rights to protest, organise and speak out are currently being significantly violated in 25 of the 68 active Open Government Partnership (OGP) countries, according to the CIVICUS Monitor, an online tool to track and compare civic freedoms on a global scale.

    The new tool launched in October by the global civil society alliance CIVICUS rates countries based on how well they uphold civic space, made up of three fundamental rights that enable people to act collectively and make change: freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of expression.

    The OGP brings together governments and civil society with the shared aim of making governments more transparent, accountable and responsive to their citizens. OGP countries make multiple commitments relating to civil society and public participation, which include consulting with civil society and enabling citizens to input on policy.

    Of the 68 active OGP countries, the CIVICUS Monitor finds that civic space in four - Colombia, Honduras, Liberia and Mexico -  is repressed, which means that those who criticise power holders risk surveillance, harassment, intimidation, imprisonment, injury and death. Civic space is also rated as repressed in Azerbaijan and Turkey, both recently declared ‘inactive’ by the OGP’s steering committee.

    In the past six months, the CIVICUS Monitor has documented a wide variety of attacks on civil society in these four countries, ranging from the assassinations of five social leaders in just one week in Colombia, to the police’s use of tear gas and water cannons to disperse student protests in Honduras, and from the four-hour detention and questioning of a newspaper editor in Liberia to the murder of a community radio journalist in Mexico.

    A further 21 OGP countries are rated obstructed, meaning that space for activism is heavily contested through a combination of legal and practical constraints on the full enjoyment of fundamental freedoms.

    Other commitments on civic participation and civic space that OGP countries make include releasing and improving the provision of information relating to civic participation; bringing in or including citizens in oversight mechanisms to monitor government performance; and improving legal and institutional mechanisms to strengthen civil society capabilities to promote an enabling environment for participation. 

    “The existence of significant restrictions on civil society in more than a third of OGP countries is deeply troubling and calls into question their commitment to the principle of empowering citizens upon which the OGP was founded,” said Cathal Gilbert, lead researcher on the CIVICUS Monitor. “OGP countries should be harnessing the potential of public participation in governance, rather than silencing government critics and harassing human rights defenders.”  

    Of the remaining OGP countries, civic space in 31 is rated as narrowed. A total of 12 countries are rated as open, which means that the state safeguards space for civil society and encourages platforms for dialogue. Positively, no OGP countries fall into the CIVICUS Monitor’s closed category.

    “Notably, OGP countries as a group fare better than the rest of the globe on civic space,” said Gilbert. “However, much more needs to be done collectively to ensure that commitments on public participation made by OGP countries in their national development plans are carried through.”

    As heads of state and government, members of parliament, academia, business and civil society representatives meet at the OGP Summit in Paris, France from 7-9 December, CIVICUS urges delegates to focus discussions on best practices to improve civic space conditions in OGP countries.

    ###

    For more information, please contact CIVICUS’ media team on .

    Notes to editor

    During the OGP Summit, lead researcher Cathal Gilbert will present these findings from the CIVICUS Monitor during a session from 11:15 - 12:35 on Thursday 8th December in Room 1, Palais d’Iena, Paris. For more information see here: https://en.ogpsummit.org/osem/conference/ogp-summit/program/proposal/459. CIVICUS Secretary-General Danny Sriskandarajah will take part in a high-level panel on civic space at the OGP Summit on Friday 9th December.

    The CIVICUS Monitor is available at https://monitor.civicus.org. Ratings are based on a combination of inputs from local civil society activists, regional civil society experts and research partners, existing assessments by national and international civil society organisations, user-generated input and media-monitoring. Local views are prioritised. The CIVICUS Monitor is regularly updated during the week and users are invited to contribute. More information on the methodology is available here.

    ###

    Annex I – CIVICUS Monitor ratings, December 2016 (Active OGP countries highlighted in bold)

    All (134) Countries:

    Closed (16 countries): Bahrain, Burundi, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Laos, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, UAE and Vietnam

    Repressed (33 countries): Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Cambodia, Cameroon, CAR, Chad, China, Colombia, Djibouti, DRC, Egypt, Gambia, Honduras, Iraq, Liberia, Mexico, Myanmar, Pakistan, Palestine, Republic of the Congo, Russia, Rwanda, Swaziland, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, Venezuela, Yemen, Zimbabwe

    Obstructed (29 countries): Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malaysia, Moldova, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Tunisia, Ukraine

    Narrowed (40 countries): Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Comoros, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, France, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Montenegro, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, Uruguay, USA

    Open (16 countries): Andorra, Belgium, Cape Verde, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden

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

    www.civicus.org

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    #CIVICUSMonitor

     

     

  • Polish authorities must stop persecuting and intimidating protesters

    Read the statement in Polish

    • Civil society organisations express serious concerns over civic space restrictions in Poland
    • Detention and intimidation of protesters by authorities a huge concern
    • Protests sparked by decision to impose a near-total ban on abortion

     

  • Serbia: CIVICUS calls on Serbian authorities to stop attacks against peaceful protesters

    CIVICUS urges Serbian authorities to stop using force to disperse protesters demonstrating against the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. CIVICUS calls for an independent investigation into violent attacks on protesters by police and condemns police violence against journalists covering the protests.

     

  • Sierra Leone: stop violence against peaceful protesters and respect democratic rights of citizens

    The government of Sierra Leone must stop the brutal repression of peaceful protests and respect the rights of its citizens to engage in demonstrations which is in line with the country’s international human rights obligations, said the global civil society alliance CIVICUS today. Over the past few weeks Sierra Leoneans took to the streets to express their views about the unprecedented economic hardship, brazen political intimidation, human rights violations, and high levels of corruption. They also expressed concerns over the selective application of the rule of law, and government’s control of the judiciary. The ongoing protests for democratic and economic reforms is a culmination of years of socio-economic challenges and marked increases in the cost of living.

     

  • Sri Lanka: end government crackdown on peaceful protesters

    Anti government protesters gather in the street during protests in Galle Buddhika Weerasinghe Getty Images 1407702727

    We, the undersigned organizations, condemn the Sri Lankan authorities' violent crackdown and increasing reprisals against peaceful protesters in Sri Lanka. This includes arrests, intimidation and the brutal attack on the protest camp in Colombo on 22 July 2022. The Sri Lankan authorities must ensure that security forces do not use excessive force and will respect the rights of peaceful protesters at the ‘Gotagogama’ site, which authorities have ordered to be vacated by 5:00 pm on 5 August 2022.[1]

     

  • Success in Sudan

    By Paul Mulindwa, an advocacy and campaigns officer with CIVICUS.

    Mediating a deadlocked political dispute is difficult work in the best of times. Mediating the conflict in Sudan between military rulers and opposition demonstrators – following the dramatic ouster of an autocratic leader, and against a background of widespread (violently suppressed) protests – was supposed to be nearly impossible. Yet the African Union has managed to do it.

    After weeks of tense negotiations, AU negotiators, led by Special Envoy Mohamed el Hacen Lebatt of Mauritania and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, managed to secure a power-sharing agreement between Sudan’s ruling military council and civilian opposition leaders. It is a major step toward ending the political crisis that has gripped Sudan for more than six months.

    The crisis began last December, when street protests erupted in response to cuts in bread and fuel subsidies. The economy was near collapse, following years of US sanctions (mostly lifted in 2017) and the loss of oil revenues following South Sudan’s independence in 2011, and the protests quickly grew into large-scale demonstrations against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s brutal three-decade-long dictatorship.

    Read on: Project Syndicate 

     

  • UK: Stop the violence against protesters and amend the Policing Bill

    The use of violence against peaceful protesters in the United Kingdom (UK), who are protesting against the draconian police, crime, sentencing and courts bill, is a major assault on the right to peaceful assembly in the UK and indicative of how peaceful protesters will be treated if this bill is eventually passed into law.

     

  • Venezuela: ‘Ante la profundización de la crisis económica y social, el descontento solo puede ser acallado mediante maniobras político-electorales y represión’

    English

    Al final de un año en que Venezuela ha pasado por crisis económica, desorden político y protestas masivas, CIVICUS conversa con Nizar El Fakih, abogado de derechos humanos y director de Proiuris. Proiuris es una organización de la sociedad civil venezolana centrada en el estudio y la defensa del estado de derecho y en la denuncia de sus violaciones.

    1. ¿Qué fue lo que condujo a la fundación de Proiuris en 2015, y qué objetivos persigue la organización?

    Proiuris se constituyó formalmente en 2015, luego de la oleada de detenciones arbitrarias masivas de manifestantes que tuvo lugar durante el año 2014. El objetivo original de su constitución fue sumar voluntades para ayudar legalmente a personas detenidas arbitrariamente por ejercer legítimamente sus derechos, entre ellos el derecho a la protesta. Posteriormente Proiuris fue ampliando su ámbito de trabajo para abarcar la investigación, la documentación y la divulgación tanto de violaciones de derechos civiles y políticos como de violaciones de derechos económicos y sociales, obligado por las circunstancias de un país donde la problemática de derechos humanos es seria, sistemática y transversal.

    1. ¿Cuáles han sido las causas principales del descontento y las protestas de abril-junio de 2017 en Venezuela?

    Las protestas han tenido su causa principal en una enorme crisis económica y social, que tiene su expresión más dramática en la escasez de alimentos y medicinas que afecta con mayor fuerza a los sectores más empobrecidos de la población venezolana. Hombres, mujeres, ancianos, niños, niñas y adolescentes hurgan en la basura en busca de comida, y el desabastecimiento de medicinas alcanza el 85% (y 95% para los tratamientos de enfermedades crónicas) según cálculos de los representantes de la industria farmacéutica en el país. Los pacientes de enfermedades crónicas mueren de mengua, pues los fármacos que requieren son de muy alto costo y el Estado no se los suministra oportunamente. La escasez de antirretrovirales para personas que viven con VIH/Sida, por ejemplo, es la peor en 20 años. Esta es una crisis que no tiene precedentes en el país y ante la cual el gobierno presenta como excusa una supuesta “guerra económica” promovida desde el exterior.

    La tragedia social y económica se ha profundizado por la ineficiencia del gobierno para dar respuestas a las contingencias. Pero más allá de la coyuntura, la crisis humanitaria compleja que atraviesa el país tiene causas estructurales, pues es el resultado de la progresiva destrucción del aparato productivo del país y la creciente dependencia de las importaciones, las cuales a su vez han disminuido sustancialmente a causa la caída de los precios internacionales del petróleo.

    En definitiva, el Estado venezolano actualmente no es capaz de garantizar el derecho a la alimentación. En materia de salud, asimismo, la situación es sumamente grave. Por ejemplo, epidemias como el paludismo y la difteria, que habían sido erradicadas en el país hace 50 años, han regresado y causado muertes que solo se conocen de manera extraoficial, porque las autoridades, de manera ilegal, insisten en ocultar los informes epidemiológicos que demuestran la gravedad de la situación.

    El progresivo deterioro en la prestación de servicios básicos alimentó el deseo de un cambio en la conducción política del país. Entre marzo y junio de 2017 miles de personas tomaron las calles de ciudades y pueblos de Venezuela para expresar su descontento.

    1. ¿Cómo ha reaccionado el gobierno ante las protestas? ¿Ha seguido movilizándose la ciudadanía venezolana?

    Lejos de atender las legítimas demandas de la población, el gobierno venezolano reaccionó con violencia extrema, una violencia mucho mayor que la empleada durante las protestas de 2014. El reporte oficial del Ministerio Público indica que hubo 121 muertos, muchos de ellos a manos de funcionarios de los cuerpos de seguridad del Estado y de grupos violentos y en algunos casos armados autodenominados “colectivos”, los cuales operan con el apoyo o la aquiescencia estatal. Extraoficialmente se registraron más de 7000 detenidos, muchos de los cuales fueron sometidos a la jurisdicción militar a pesar de ser civiles.

    Las manifestaciones de marzo-junio de 2017 fueron claramente protestas contra el gobierno. De más está decir que el gobierno ha hecho todo lo posible por desvirtuarlas, por ejemplo calificándolas de actos terroristas y tipificando lo ocurrido en ellas como delitos militares. En un auténtico sistema democrático habría contrapesos institucionales que evitarían que esta clase de excesos presidenciales, pero en Venezuela la cooptación oficialista de todas las instituciones y el empeño en censurar cualquier forma de disidencia ha sido un componente determinante de la crisis.

    El derecho a la manifestación pacífica y sin armas está consagrado en el artículo 68 de la Constitución de Venezuela, que establece la obligación del Estado en garantizar que las manifestaciones se desarrollen sin desbordar los límites establecidos. Sin embargo, el Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, a través de su Sala Constitucional, ha desdibujado las garantías de este derecho a través de una interpretación regresiva de la referida norma, al extremo de condicionar el derecho a manifestar a una previa autorización de la primera autoridad civil de la jurisdicción correspondiente. Ello, en la práctica, ha hecho del centro de Caracas, donde se encuentran las sedes de los principales organismos públicos, territorio vedado para manifestaciones antigubernamentales, ya que está ubicado en el municipio Libertador, cuyo alcalde es oficialista.

    La represión brutal del gobierno, junto con la falta de un liderazgo que canalice el malestar ciudadano, acabaron debilitando las protestas. Sin embargo, la crisis económica y social se ha profundizado y las razones del descontento y la disidencia no han podido ser acalladas sino mediante maniobras políticas y electorales. Entre esas maniobras, una especial referencia merece la instalación de una autodenominada “Asamblea Nacional Constituyente” plenipotenciaria, convocada, elegida e instalada al margen de la Constitución, que ha vaciado de competencias a la Asamblea Nacional, el único órgano del poder público controlado por la oposición.

    1. ¿Experimentaron los medios independientes y las organizaciones de la sociedad civil restricciones a la hora de documentar lo ocurrido en las protestas?

    Periodistas y medios, nacionales e internacionales, han sido víctimas de la censura y de las represalias gubernamentales por informar sobre la conflictividad social en Venezuela. El 25 de junio de 2017, el Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Prensa reportó que desde el 31 de marzo hasta el 24 de junio, 376 trabajadores de los medios de comunicación fueron agredidos, y que en el 60% de los casos los responsables fueron funcionarios militares adscritos a la Guardia Nacional Bolivariana.

    El asedio a la prensa durante las protestas de 2017 constituye una evidencia adicional de la política sistemática de represión ejecutada por el gobierno, mediante el uso desproporcionado de la fuerza en el control de las manifestaciones.

    Pero la libertad de expresión es un derecho humano y, por lo tanto, todos los ciudadanos deben tener garantías para ejercerla. En el contexto de las protestas, muchos ciudadanos fueron brutalmente reprimidos por el hecho de registrar y difundir lo que ocurría en las calles de Venezuela. Y no solamente fueron detenidos, sino que también padecieron agresiones físicas y el robo de sus cámaras y teléfonos celulares.

    1. ¿Cómo ha respondido la sociedad civil antes estas violaciones de derechos?

    La sociedad civil organizada y con visión de incidencia reaccionó de diversas formas: desde formalizar las denuncias, a pesar de ser conscientes de los mecanismos de impunidad que operan en un sistema de administración de justicia genuflexo ante el gobierno, hasta el desarrollo de formas de expresión creativas, entre ellas el “Muro de la Vergüenza”, en el cual se identificó públicamente a los personeros del gobierno responsables de la represión y la violación de derechos humanos. Diversas formas de expresión artística - canto, danza, teatro - también se incorporaron a las protestas y se desplegaron en lugares públicos tales como plazas y centros comerciales.

    Otras reacciones importantes fueron la formación de alianzas con los medios de comunicación para divulgar los atropellos y la organización de protestas de grupos de vecinos focalizadas cerca de sus sitios de residencia.

    1. ¿Considera que las respuestas de la comunidad internacional ante la situación de Venezuela han sido adecuadas? ¿Qué apoyo necesita hoy la sociedad civil venezolana de sus contrapartes extranjeras, regionales y globales?

    Ante la indiferencia del gobierno, los sectores de oposición que promueven un cambio político han dedicado esfuerzos a llamar la atención de la comunidad internacional sobre lo que sucede en Venezuela. Por su parte, el movimiento de derechos humanos venezolano ha desarrollado una labor valiosísima a efectos de documentar las violaciones y denunciarlas ante los organismos internacionales. Sin embargo, no ha sido fácil competir con el aparato de propaganda oficialista que se esfuerza por mostrar que en Venezuela hay una democracia vigorosa y que el caos que resuena en la prensa internacional es parte de la supuesta “guerra” contra Venezuela orquestada desde centros imperiales.

    Lo prioritario, en este momento, es lograr que los organismos internacionales admitan que en Venezuela hay en curso una crisis humanitaria compleja que el Estado no puede o no quiere resolver. En ese sentido es auspicioso, por ejemplo, que la Organización Mundial de la Salud haya reconocido, por primera vez y con todas las letras, que en el país hay una crisis humanitaria, a propósito de su Informe Mundial sobre el Paludismo 2017. Y más allá del reconocimiento de la crisis humanitaria, es vital que allí donde sea necesario los organismos internacionales flexibilicen sus protocolos para hacerle frente, de modo de brindar a los venezolanos la ayuda que necesitan, sobre todo en lo que se refiere a alimentos y medicamentos.

    Venezuela no es el primer país del mundo que padece un gobierno autoritario que pretende perpetuarse en el poder. La sociedad civil venezolana agradecería que sus pares en América Latina y en el mundo compartan su experiencia organizativa acumulada para luchar contra el sistema que nos oprime y que contribuyan a denunciar y visibilizar los atropellos sistemáticos que se cometen en Venezuela. Los venezolanos sabríamos agradecer que desde el exterior se examine la crisis humanitaria compleja que nos afecta con un enfoque de derechos humanos, es decir, a partir de la reivindicación de la dignidad humana mediante un efectivo ejercicio de solidaridad. Estamos seguros de que los auténticos promotores y defensores de derechos humanos en cualquier parte del mundo no serán indiferentes ante el hecho incontrovertible de que en Venezuela hay niños que están muriendo de hambre.

    • El espacio cívico en Venezuela es clasificado como ‘represivo’ en elCIVICUS Monitor, lo cual indica la presencia de restricciones serias de las libertades de asociación, reunión pacífica y expresión.
    • Visite elsitio web o el perfil deFacebook de Proiuris, o siga en Twitter a @Proiuris_Ve y a @nizarUCAB

     

  • What Oscar-nominated film ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’ tells us about protest rights

    trial of the chicago7 Susan Wilding oped

    Source: Open Democracy

    By Susan Wilding, Head of CIVICUS' Geneva office

    The Trial of the Chicago 7’ is up for six Oscars at the Academy Awards, to be announced on 25 April. The film, which dramatises the trial of seven social activists who opposed the Vietnam War, sheds light on key issues about the right to protest. It has particular resonance today – as is shown by the fact it is reportedly one of Netflix’s most-watched movies – when mass mobilisation is increasingly common across the globe.

    Read on Open Democracy

     

  • Why Bahraini rights activists need international support

    By Tor Hodenfield

    Last month - specifically, 14 February - marked the seventh anniversary of the peaceful protests that swept across Bahrain in 2011, calling for an end to authoritarian rule. Since the popular uprisings, however, intense and sustained state repression has left the Bahraini human rights movement increasingly challenged, amid dwindling international support.

    Read on: Middle East Eye