• Activism works: on Mandela Day, let's boost efforts to free human rights defenders around the world

    • #StandAsMyWitness campaign launched two years ago on Nelson Mandela Day
    • Campaign has been part of successful global calls to release incarcerated human rights defenders 
    • 21 human rights defenders currently featured in the campaign have spent 50 years collectively in prison

    In honour of Nelson Mandela Day 18 July, global civil society alliance CIVICUS calls for renewed efforts to help free 21 human rights defenders featured in its #StandAsMyWitness global campaign. Altogether, they have been imprisoned for half a century - and some face many more years behind bars. Activism makes a difference - #StandAsMyWitness has already been part of successful global calls leading to the release of 20 activists across the world.

    Launched two years ago on Mandela Day,  #StandAsMyWitness urges governments to free activists in prison or facing pre-trial detention after protecting and promoting human rights. 

    “Over 30 years since Nelson Mandela was released from prison and still human rights defenders are wrongfully incarcerated in both authoritarian regimes and democratic states. Their crime? Standing up for the rights of women, children and Indigenous people; fighting for climate justice; advocating for free and fair elections; and promoting democratic freedoms,” said David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Lead at CIVICUS.

    Human rights defenders in the #StandAsMyWitness campaign include Iranian lawyer Nasrin al-Sotoudeh, sentenced to 38 years on charges that include insulting Iran’s supreme leader; Mexican Kenia Hernandez, facing a decade in prison in retaliation for her work defending Indigenous communities; and Buzurgmehr Yorov, a 50-year old lawyer from Tajikistan, sentenced to 22 years behind bars after defending government opponents.

    Mr Mandela, perhaps the most iconic and respected human rights defender, was released after 27 years following global opposition to his incarceration. Similar efforts by civil society and sustained public pressure are needed to secure the freedom of rights defenders currently facing long sentences.

    “We urge people across the world to demand the release of brave activists in the #StandAsMyWitness campaign: sign a petition, use our hashtag on social media, or lobby your government. It is scandalous that those fighting for justice and equality have spent even one day in prison, never mind many years,” said Kode. 

    Sustained action from different sources can make a difference; since its launch two years ago, #StandAsMyWitness has worked with human rights organisations and civil society to guarantee the release of 20 human rights defenders. 

    They include activist Teresita Naul from the Philippines, released in October after many awareness-raising efforts by civil society; Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, freed in June last year after nearly five years of civil society campaigning and diplomatic pressure from democratic governments; and women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul from Saudi Arabia, released after 1000 days in 2021 following a prominent global campaign demanding her release.  

    South Africa’s iconic former president spent 27 years behind bars before his release. Let’s work together to make sure human rights defenders currently languishing in prison are not forgotten - let’s fight for their freedom together. They are urging you to: Stand As My Witness.

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    Below is a list of the human rights defenders featured in the #StandAsMyWitness campaign. To find out how to get involved, check out CIVICUS’s campaign webpage: Stand As My Witness.


    • Eswatini: Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube - MPs who campaigned for democratic reform


    • Hong Kong: Chow Hang-Tung - pro-democracy activist, sentenced for organising unauthorised Tiananmen Square Massacre commemoration vigil
    • India: Khurram Parvez - Kashmiri rights activist; listed in Time magazine’s 100 ‘Most Influential People 2022’ 


    • Belarus: Viasna Human Rights Defenders - members of Viasna human rights centre; jailed for exercising their right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression
    • Tajikistan: Buzurgmehr Yorov - human rights lawyer representing members of the opposition; recipient of Homo Homini human rights prize


    • Mexico: Kenia Hernandez - Indigenous and women’s rights activist; arrested after protest
    • Nicaragua: Maria Esperanza Sanchez Garcia - targeted for her civic activism
    • Nicaragua: Medardo Mairena and Pedro Mena - opposition activists initially sentenced to more than 200 years in prison after taking part in anti-government protests


    • Algeria: Kamira Nait Sid - Indigenous and women’s rights activist campaigning for the rights of the Amazigh people in Algeria
    • Bahrain: Abdul-Hadi al-Khawaja - detained after democracy protests in 2011; recipient of the prestigious Martin Ennals Award 2022 for human rights defenders
    • Egypt: Hoda Abdel Moneim - human rights lawyer and former member of Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights
    • Iran: Nasrin Sotoudeh - human rights lawyer specialising in the rights of women, children and human rights defenders
    • United Arab Emirates: Ahmed Mansoor - on the advisory boards for Human Rights Watch and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights; imprisoned for publishing information on social media


  • Belarus: CIVICUS condemns harsh verdict on human rights defenders

    Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, expresses serious concerns over the sentencing of Viasna human rights defenders, Maria Rabkova and Andrey Chapiuk by the Minsk City Court this afternoon. Maria and Andrey were both sentenced to 15 years and 6 years respectively following a trial marked by irregularities.  


  • Burundi : quatre journalistes toujours en prison un an après leur arrestation

    • Les autorités burundaises devraient libérer quatre journalistes et abandonner les poursuites engagées contre eux
    • Les journalistes ajoutés à la campagne #StandAsMyWitnessappelant à la libération de tous les défenseurs des droits humains
    • La liberté des médias et les droits civiques en déclin au Burundi


  • Burundi: four journalists still in jail one year after they were arrested

    • Burundian authorities should release four journalists and drop charges against them
    • Journalists added to #StandAsMyWitnesscampaign calling for release of all human rights defenders
    • Media freedoms and civic rights declining in Burundi


  • CIVICUS calls for the release of Eswatini MPs before the anniversary of their detention

    • Calls for the release of Eswatini MPs Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube
    • 25 July marks their one-year anniversary in detention 
    • MPs feature in  #StandAsMyWitness global human rights campaign
    • Regional SADC conference to address political unrest postponed

    Global civil society alliance CIVICUS calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Eswatini members of parliament Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube ahead of their one-year anniversary in detention.

    Bacede and Mthandeni were detained on 25 July 2021 following protests demanding political reforms and charged under the Suppression of Terrorism Act and for flouting Covid-19 regulations. They feature in CIVICUS’s global #StandAsMyWitness campaign, calling for the release of activists in prison or facing pre-trial detention after protecting and promoting human rights. 

    “CIVICUS calls for the immediate release of Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube, and all charges against them dropped. As MPs, it is their duty to peacefully demand democratic reform and speak out against repression - freedom of speech is not a crime. Their detention has been politically motivated, fuelled by a crisis sweeping Eswatini - they should not spend another night behind bars,” said David Kode, CIVICUS Advocacy and Campaigns Lead.

    Pro-democracy and anti-police protests swept Eswatini in June 2021 after the unexplained death of 25-year-old law student, Thabani Nkomonye, allegedly at the hands of the police. Over 1,000 people were arrested and the security forces called in to stamp out dissent. Political unrest followed and in recent months the landlocked Southern African country has experienced a so-called ‘winter revolution’ - journalists have been targeted and there have been clashes between the authorities and protesters calling for government and monarchical reforms.                                                                      

    A Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit to discuss political unrest sweeping the country was due to take place on 21 July but cancelled when Eswatini’s King Mswati III failed to appear in person. Campaigners believe King Mswati, Africa’s last absolute monarch, has thwarted calls for reform and suppressed political activism for years. His failure to attend the recent SADC conference was seen as a further blow to democracy.

    “We urge King Mswati to come to the table and start a national political dialogue with members of the opposition and civil society leaders as soon as possible; we call on Eswatini to stop suppressing dissent and silencing protesters and urge the government to overhaul rights and democracy in the country, starting with the release of all activists and human rights defenders currently behind bars,” said Kode.

    Human rights defenders across the world are risking their lives for social, political, economic, gender and environmental justice. There are currently 21 human rights defenders in CIVICUS’s #StandAsMyWitnesscampaign - collectively, they have been in prison for half a century. 

    Aswell as Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube, they include Bahrainian political activist Abdul-Hadi al-Khawaja, sentenced after pro-democracy protests in 2011; Mexican Kenia Hernandez, an Indigenous land rights campaigner sentenced to a decade of imprisonment in 2022; and human rights lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov from Tajikistan, sentenced to 28 years in 2015.

    “CIVICUS renews our calls to governments to release activists and human rights defenders. We urge people around the world to join the #StandAsMyWitness campaign and fight for their freedom - sign a petition, post on social media or lobby your government. Activists behind bars are asking you to #StandAsMyWitness.” 

    So far, #StandAsMyWitness has teamed up with activists and civil society organisations across the world and successfully seen the release of 20 human rights defenders.

    Those released include Loujain al-Hathloul from Saudi Arabia, a women’s rights activist convicted for driving a car; celebrated Indian human rights lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj; and Kazakhstan’s Asya Tulesova, arrested for knocking off a police officer's hat.

    To find out more about the #StandAsMyWitness campaign, visit CIVICUS’s campaign webpage: Stand As My Witness.


  • CIVICUS' New Strategic Period: A Time to Actively Engage Members and Allies

    A message from Lysa John, Secretary-General of CIVICUS

    Dear CIVICUS members and allies,

    On July 1st, we marked the beginning of a new strategy period for the CIVICUS alliance. In this update, I’m excited to share headlines from the efforts that we have been making to align our work and interrogate the outcomes we need in relation to our strategic priorities for 2022 to 2027.

    The 11th edition of our State of Civil Society report was published on 27 June and has received an encouraging response. In addition to a consistent social media push, we have been able to use the analyses to generate op-eds on key issues, and offer presentations to a wide range of activist, academic, and donor networks. Since its release, we have received much appreciation for the report’s assessment of meta-trends in civic space and democracy and for showcasing examples of where and how civil society has been successful in influencing change. Media coverage of the findings from the report include an op-ed by our editor-in-chief, Andrew Firmin and an overview by Mandeep Tiwana. The CIVICUS Monitor Watchlist was also updated during this period and includes Chad, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mexico and Sri Lanka.

    On Mandela Day (18 July) this year, we marked two years of the ‘Stand As My Witness’ campaign. The initiative aims to mobilise the public and policymakers to act for the release of prisoners of conscience. The campaign has profiled over 20 detained activists and has allowed us to contribute to global efforts resulting in the release of nine defenders. A dialogue with activists and networks linked to the campaign was organised on the second anniversary of the campaign and provided important insights on how our collective efforts could better assist the struggles of human rights defenders. Our teams have also been actively engaged in the 50th session of the Human Rights Council in this period. In addition to contributing to and presenting key statements, we were actively involved in amplifying demands from civil society on the process to elect the next UN Human Rights Commissioner, calling for the UN to renew its expert mandate on sexual orientation and gender identity and contributing to processes that have led to the adoption of a new resolution on the right to peaceful protest.

    Yet another initiative, namely the ‘Grassroots Solidarity Revolution’ campaign, has received considerable support and attention in this period. Updates from local dialogues and jam sessions held in five countries were shared online by a range of participants, including young leaders, grassroots networks and donors. Reflections on the lessons learned from the initiative by participants and co-travelers such as Dumiso Gatsha, Otto Saki and Yessenia Soto have provided an important opportunity to reflect on the questions and challenges being brought to light by this initiative, and its potential to catalyse the deeper and more difficult introspection on individual and institutional values that is essential to the discourse on localisation and decolonisation. In this context, we are pleased to report that a formal response to the joint letter to USAID Administrator Samantha Power from 1289 southern organisations has been received. The response, signed by the Administrator Power, acknowledges the priorities raised in the joint letter and outlined initiatives being taken to strengthen USAID’s direct engagement with and support to local civil society actors. These shifts were also reiterated as a priority in the dialogue on democracy organised between the USAID Administrator and civil society leaders organised on 16 June.

    Network-led developments include the launch of CIVICUS’ Youth Action Team’s report on youth trends in activism and civic space and the VUKA! Coalition’s consultation with the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) to contribute to their next thematic report on HRDs working on issues related to migration, refugees, and asylum. A joint gathering of regional networks working together on the freedom of peaceful assembly (FoPA) was also held in July 2022. The meeting included a review of collaborative efforts that have been organised since 2021 as part of a co-creation process with six regional platforms to identify context-specific needs and priorities and to produce resources that would support them as key interlocutors on the right to peaceful protest.

    Our newest offering, theCIVICUS Lens has helped us draw on the voices and experiences of diverse civil society groups to provide real-time analyses and perspectives on geo-political trends and developments. Articles published through CIVICUS Lens have – along with other aspects of our work - helped us forge partnerships with wider platforms for dissemination. Across June and July, we have published multiple op-eds and recorded over 84 media citations across global, regional, and local platforms including Reuters, IPS, Open Democracy, The Diplomat, Afrika NewsRoom, and El Pais.

    Finally, we are proud to have recently completed the Accountability Now reporting cycle for 2021-22. The review report includes commendations about the transparent and inclusive process undertaken to refresh our strategic plan and an acknowledgment of CIVICUS as a trusted and valued partner whose work has remained relevant to members in a time of rapid context changes. Efforts being made to provide a safe and equitable working environment have also been acknowledged in the report. Three key areas for improvement have also been identified in the review process and include: (i) Improving the indicators we use to measure strategic progress (ii) Improving our risk mitigation processes, and (iii) Increasing staff awareness and use of internal complaints mechanisms. Actions to address these areas of improvement have been identified and included in this summary of the process that has been published on the CIVICUS website.

    None of this would be possible without the active engagement of our members and allies. We are grateful for your support and look forward to your continued engagement in the work and outcomes of the alliance!

    In solidarity,

    Lysa John

    Secretary-General, CIVICUS.


  • Demands to release Mexican land rights campaigner on Indigenous Peoples’ Day

    On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, 9 August, global civil society alliance CIVICUS urges the Mexican authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Indigenous land rights campaigner Kenia Hernandez, and to free all Indigenous activists behind bars for their work protecting and promoting human rights.


  • En el día de los pueblos indígenas exigimos la liberación de una activista mexicana por el derecho a la tierra

    En el Día de los Pueblos Indígenas, que se celebra este 9 de agosto, la alianza mundial de la sociedad civil CIVICUS insta a las autoridades mexicanas a liberar de forma inmediata e incondicional a la activista indígena por el derecho a la tierra Kenia Hernández, y a liberar a todos los activistas indígenas que se encuentran encarcelados por su labor de protección y defensa de los derechos humanos.


  • En el Día de Nelson Mandela, alrededor de 200 organizaciones de DDHH piden la liberación de activistas como parte de la campaña “Conviértete en mi testigo” #StandAsMyWitness

    • 197 organizaciones de derechos humanos firman una carta para exigir a los Estados que pongan fin al encarcelamiento y al acoso que sufren las personas que defienden los  derechos humanos. 
    • Instamos a los Estados a que pongan fin a los nuevos arrestos y detenciones de defensores que se están produciendo durante la pandemia del COVID-19, con el aumento de riesgo que ello supone
    • Lanzamiento de la campaña "Conviértete en mi testigo" el 18 de julio, Día de Nelson Mandela, con la participación de defensores de los derechos humanos de todo el mundo.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  • Honduras: Comienza el juicio a los defensores de Guapinol mientras el Estado sigue ignorando las peticiones de liberación

    • El juicio de los defensores de los derechos humanos de Guapinol comienza hoy, 1 de diciembre, tras dos años de detención ilegal.
    • Forman parte de la campaña Stand As My Witness (Conviértete en mi testigo) de CIVICUS.
    • La Organización de Naciones Unidas ha declarado que su detención es arbitraria y exige su liberación.
    • Honduras ha sido nombrada recientemente por primera vez miembro del Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU.
    • Honduras es uno de los lugares más peligrosos para las personas que defienden los derechos medioambientales.

    Tras más de dos años en prisión preventiva, ocho miembros del Comité Municipal de Defensa de los Bienes Comunes y Públicos (CMDBCP) van a ser juzgados este 1 de diciembre de 2021 en Honduras por defender las fuentes de agua protegidas y los recursos naturales de las comunidades en peligro de contaminación relacionada con la minería. Los defensores de los derechos humanos de Guapinol han estado luchando contra el proyecto minero de Guapinol en Tocoa, en el departamento de Colón, Honduras. Fueron detenidos el 1 de septiembre de 2019 y se les mantiene arbitrariamente en prisión preventiva sin ninguna base legal.

    Los ocho defensores son Ewer Alexander Cedillo Cruz, José Abelino Cedillo Cantarero, José Daniel Márquez Márquez, Kelvin Alejandro Romero Martínez, Porfirio Sorto Cedillo, Orbin Nahuan Hernández, Arnol Javier Alemán y Jeremías Martínez. Fueron detenidos inicialmente el 26 de agosto de 2019, mientras protestaban contra las actividades mineras de la empresa hondureña Inversiones Los Pinares (ILP), que amenazan la seguridad y el sustento de miles de personas en comunidades del departamento de Colón. El Estado de Honduras otorgó a ILP concesiones mineras en 2014 y sus proyectos mineros en curso han contaminado las fuentes de agua. Los proyectos se están llevando a cabo sin consultar adecuadamente a las comunidades afectadas.

    " Las autoridades hondureñas siguen adelante con el juicio, a pesar de que grupos de la sociedad civil de Honduras y miembros de la comunidad internacional han expresado en repetidas ocasiones su preocupación por la prolongada detención y la persecución judicial de los ocho defensores de los derechos humanos. El proceso judicial ha sido irregular hasta ahora, y los defensores de los derechos humanos deben ser puestos en libertad inmediatamente", ha declarado David Kode, director de Trabajo de Incidencia y Campañas de CIVICUS.

    El CMDBCP se creó principalmente para concienciar sobre el impacto de las actividades mineras del proyecto Guapinol y para defender las acciones de las comunidades mineras en nombre de las personas afectadas. Más de 32 miembros del CMDBCP han sido objeto de persecución judicial y detención arbitraria, 6 han sido asesinados y muchos más se enfrentan a amenazas e intimidaciones. Estas restricciones son sintomáticas de la violencia y las violaciones de los derechos humanos que tienen como objetivo a las y los activistas medioambientales y del derecho a la tierra, lo que convierte a Honduras en uno de los países más peligrosos del mundo para quienes trabajan por la justicia climática y los derechos medioambientales.

    El 9 de febrero de 2021, el Grupo de Trabajo de las Naciones Unidas sobre Detenciones Arbitrarias estableció que la privación de libertad de los defensores de los derechos humanos de Guapinol es arbitraria y pidió a Honduras que los liberara inmediatamente. En octubre de 2021, Honduras fue nombrada por primera vez miembro del Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU.

    " Honduras sigue ignorando las conclusiones del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Detenciones Arbitrarias de la ONU y transmite un mensaje contradictorio sobre sus compromisos en materia de derechos humanos como miembro del Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU", continuó David.

    Los defensores de los derechos humanos de Guapinol forman parte de la campaña #StandAsMyWitness (Conviértete en mi testigo) de CIVICUS, una campaña mundial que reivindica los derechos de las personas que defienden los derechos humanos y lucha por su liberación.

    CIVICUS hace un llamamiento al nuevo gobierno de Honduras para que respete el Estado de derecho, libere inmediatamente a los defensores de Guapinol y haga rendir cuentas a los responsables de las violaciones de derechos humanos.

    Para obtener más información sobre las vulneraciones del espacio cívico, consulta la página del país de Honduras en el CIVICUS Monitor.


  • Honduras: Int. Law Experts file an amicus curiae brief requesting the cessation of criminal proceedings against the defenders of the Guapinol River

    On November 17, 2021, eleven international human rights organizations[1] filed an amicus curiae brief before the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Honduras, arguing against the unjust, extensive pretrial detention of the human rights activists known as the Guapinol Environmental Defenders. The Defenders have spent over two years in pretrial detention for events related to a peaceful protest to protect water sources in the Carlos Escaleras National Park. The brief argues that the extensive detention prior to their trial has violated the Defenders’ fundamental constitutional and international human rights. Honduran courts repeatedly reject attempts to release the Defenders, most recently from the Sentencing Court in Trujillo on October 27, 2021. The case is set to be heard before the Sentencing Court in La Ceiba starting on December 1, 2021.


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

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


  • India: Death of priest highlights persecution of human rights defenders under Modi government

    The death of Jesuit priest and human rights defender Father Stan Swamy, today, has deeply shocked and outraged global civil society alliance CIVICUS. Swamy’s death is a result of the persecution he has faced by the Modi government after revealing abuses by the state.


  • India: Human rights defender Sudha Bharadwaj spends another birthday in detention

    Human rights defender and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj will be spending her 60th birthday in detention today, more than three years after she was arrested on baseless charges under a draconian anti-terror law. Global civil society alliance CIVICUS calls on the Indian government to halt the ongoing persecution against her and release Bharadwaj immediately and unconditionally. 

    Bharadwaj has been in pre-trial detention since August 2018, when she was arrested under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and accused of having links with Maoist terrorist organisations. She and 15 other human rights defenders were further accused of conspiring to incite members of the marginalised Dalit community in relation to violence which erupted in Bhima Koregaon village in the Pune district of Maharashtra in January 2018.  

    Bharadwaj was initially held under house arrest until October 2018, when she was moved to Byculla Women’s Prison in Mumbai. This is her fourth birthday in prison. 

    “Instead of celebrating her birthday with family and friends, Sudha will be alone in Byculla prison because she chose to speak up for the rights of Indigenous people and workers. Her detention highlights the systematic misuse of security laws by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to clamp down on dissent and silence human rights defenders”, said Josef Benedict, CIVICUS Asia Pacific researcher. 

    Her multiple pleas for bail including for underlying health issues have been opposed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), despite calls by the UN to decongest prisons and release political prisoners during the pandemic. There are  serious concerns about the validity of evidence against her. A report in March 2021 by a U.S. digital forensics firm has raised questions about incriminating letters presented as evidence to implicate Bharadwaj and the other activists. The letters were found on an activist’s laptop which is thought to have been hacked. 

    UN experts have expressed concerns about the terrorism charges laid against Bharadwaj and about the UAPA in general, particularly with regards to its vague definition of ‘unlawful activities’ and ‘membership of terrorist organisations’ which have been routinely used by the government to stifle dissent. 

    “The Indian government must stop using restrictive national security and counter-terrorism laws against human rights defenders and dissenters. The laws are incompatible with India’s international human rights obligations and become tools for judicial harassment” added Benedict 

    Sudha Bharadwaj is one of a group of leading human rights defenders who feature in CIVICUS’ global campaign #StandAsMyWitness. The campaign urges people to call for an end to the imprisonment and harassment of human rights defenders across the world. CIVICUS encourages people to share the defenders’ individual stories on social media using the hashtag #StandAsMyWitness. 

    India’s rating was downgraded by the CIVICUS Monitor from ‘obstructed’ to ‘repressed’ in December 2019.  


  • Indian activist Sudha Bharadwaj spends 900 days in detention

    • 13 February 2021 marks Sudha Bharadwaj’s 900th day in pre-trial detention
    • Questions raised about validity of letters used to incriminate Sudha
    • Indian authorities have limited the number of books she can receive

    February 13 marks 900 days since Indian activist Sudha Bharadwaj was arrested and imprisoned. On this day, global civil society organisation CIVICUS calls on the Indian government to immediately release Bharadwaj and drop all charges against her. 

    Since 2018, Sudha and 15 other activists, writers and lawyers have been arrested under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and accused of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). It is alleged that she and the other human rights defenders conspired to incite Dalits at a public meeting which led to violence in Bhima Koregaon village in the Pune district of Maharashtra in January 2018. 

    Sudha Bharadwaj was initially placed under house arrest in August 2018 but in October 2018 was moved to Byculla Women’s Prison in Mumbai. There are serious concerns about the validity of evidence against her. This week a U.S. digital forensics firm raised questions about incriminating letters used to implicate Sudha and the other activists. The letters were found on an activist’s laptop which is thought to have been hacked. 

    Sudha’s health continues to deteriorate in prison. The 59 year old suffers from diabetes, hypertension and Ischemic heart disease, making her susceptible to COVID-19 in the cramped prison. Despite underlying health issues, Bharadwaj’s pleas for bail have been quashed by the courts as the National Investigation Agency claims her condition is not serious. 

    Sudha, a lawyer and rights defender, has also been denied books and newspapers in prison. A special  National Investigation Agency court finally ruled last month that Sudha can receive five books a month from outside prison. However, the judge has ordered the Superintendent of Byculla prison to “carefully examine” the books for “objectionable content” before handing them over.

    “The fact that my mother, a lawyer, has been denied access to books and newspapers shows the absolute determination of the Modi government to restrict the liberties of human rights defenders. My mother has been unjustly detained for over two years without trial. We are increasingly worried about her health and demand that she be released immediately to rest at home until her case comes to court,” said Maaysha, Sudha Bharadwaj’s daughter.

    Sudha 900 days in detention

    The treatment of Sudha highlights the increasingly repressive measures used by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to clamp down on dissent and silence human rights defenders.

    In January,  the UN Human Rights office expressed serious concern about the detention of human rights defenders including those in the Bhima Koregaon case. It urged the Indian authorities to immediately release the detainees, at the very least on bail before their court hearing. While in October last year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet, expressed concern over the use of “vaguely defined laws” to silent activists and government critics. 

    “The Modi regime is abusing the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and using it to round-up activists and human rights defenders on trumped-up charges and keep them for long periods in detention. Sudha is a lawyer and activist who has spent her life defending Indigenous people in India and protecting workers’ rights. She should never have been arrested but unfortunately her human rights work has put her directly in the firing line of the government,” said Josef Benedict, Asia-Pacific civic space researcher for CIVICUS.

    Sudha Bharadwaj is one of a group of leading human rights defenders who feature in CIVICUS’s global campaign #StandAsMyWitness. The campaign urges people to call for an end to the imprisonment and harassment of human rights defenders across the world. People are also encouraged to share the defenders’ individual stories on social media using the hashtag #StandAsMyWitness.



  • KAZAKHSTAN : « La quarantaine est devenue une sorte de prétexte du gouvernement pour persécuter la société civile »

    CIVICUS s’entretient avec Asya Tulesova, une défenseuse des droits civiques et environnementaux du Kazakhstan. Le 8 juin 2020, Asya a été arrêtée et détenue après avoir participé à une manifestation pacifique dans la ville d’Almaty. Elle a été libérée le 12 août 2020, mais en liberté conditionnelle. Le cas d’Asya faisait partie de la campagne de CIVICUS #StandAsMyWitness, lancée le 18 juillet, à l’occasion de la journée de Nelson Mandela, pour demander la libération des défenseurs des droits humains qui sont emprisonnés, persécutés ou harcelés pour avoir défendu la liberté, les droits et la démocratie et exposé la corruption des gouvernements et des sociétés multinationales.

    Asya Tulesova

    Pourriez-vous nous parler un peu de votre histoire et de votre militantisme en faveur de l’environnement ?

    Ces dernières années, j’ai travaillé pour une organisation de la société civile, la Common Sense Civic Foundation, axée sur le développement communautaire. Nous travaillons sur des projets environnementaux et éducatifs visant à améliorer la qualité de vie des communautés locales. En 2015, nous avons lancé notre projet de surveillance de la qualité de l’air à Almaty dans le but de donner à la population l’accès à des informations gratuites et actualisées sur la qualité de l’air dans la ville. Le projet a considérablement amélioré la compréhension des gens sur l’importance de la question.

    Quand je me suis rendu compte que la qualité de l’air était une question politique, j’ai essayé de me présenter au conseil municipal. Toutefois, ma candidature a été rejetée en raison de légères divergences dans mes déclarations d’impôts. Ce même raisonnement a été utilisé pour exclure des centaines de candidats se présentant comme indépendants dans tout le Kazakhstan. Nous avons intenté un procès contre la commission électorale centrale, mais nous n’avons pas réussi à convaincre le tribunal de rétablir ma candidature, même si nous avions toutes les preuves à l’appui de ma demande. Mon cas est actuellement examiné par le Comité des droits de l’homme des Nations unies.

    Nous poursuivons notre activisme environnemental en publiant des articles, en effectuant des recherches sur la pollution de l’air, en participant à des événements publics et en organisant des débats publics sur la question. En avril 2019, mon collègue militant Beibarys Tolymbekov et moi-même avons été arrêtés pour avoir tenu une banderole lors du marathon annuel d’Almaty ; nos amis Aidos Nurbolatov, Aigul Nurbolatova et Suinbike Suleimenova ont été condamnés à une amende pour nous avoir filmés en train de tenir la banderole. En tant que membres d’un mouvement de jeunes militants, nous voulions attirer l’attention des gens sur l’injustice des prochaines élections présidentielles et le manque de candidats indépendants. Beibarys et moi avons été placés en détention administrative pendant 15 jours. Pendant ma détention, j’ai entamé une grève de la faim pour protester contre la décision du tribunal, et à un moment donné, ma codétenue m’a donné un coup de poing dans le ventre car je refusais de me conformer à sa demande de mettre fin à ma grève de la faim. Notre arrestation a donné lieu à une série de manifestations dans tout le pays et à une augmentation de la participation politique des jeunes. Nous avons poursuivi nos efforts avec l’objectif d’attirer davantage de candidatures indépendantes à la compétition électorale.

    Le statut d’activiste au Kazakhstan est associé à un certain degré de pression constante de la part du gouvernement et des autorités chargées de l’application de la loi. De nombreux militants et défenseurs des droits humains, ainsi que des journalistes, vivent sous une surveillance intense et font l’objet d’une surveillance et d’une intimidation constantes de la part des forces de l’ordre ou d’autres personnes agissant en leur nom.

    Que s’est-il passé lors de la manifestation de juin 2020 où vous avez été arrêtée ?

    Lors de la manifestation du 6 juin 2020, j’ai été témoin d’actes de brutalité policière à l’encontre de manifestants pacifiques. Ce n’était pas la première fois ; chaque manifestation pacifique « non autorisée » que nous avons menée jusqu’à présent s’est accompagnée d’un usage excessif de la force par la police. Mais cette fois-ci, j’ai décidé de me tenir devant l’un des fourgons de police remplis de personnes détenues illégalement pour empêcher qu’on ne les emmène. Plusieurs policiers m’ont attaquée, m’ont entraînée loin du fourgon, et quand j’ai essayé de revenir, ils m’ont jetée à terre. Dans cet état d’esprit, j’ai enlevé sa casquette à un policier pour protester contre les actions illégales de la police et la détention de manifestants pacifiques. Il est difficile d’exprimer ce qui me passait par la tête à ce moment-là. J’étais vraiment en état de choc.

    Cela a été enregistré sur vidéo et j’ai été accusée d’« insulte publique à un représentant des autorités » en vertu de l’article 378, partie 2 du code pénal et d’« atteinte non grave à un représentant des autorités » en vertu de l’article 380, partie 1.

    Comment avez-vous ressenti le fait d’être en prison ? Aviez-vous peur d’attraper la COVID-19 ?

    J’ai été retenue en prison pendant plus de deux mois. Le centre de détention où j’ai été emmenée est situé à l’extrême nord d’Almaty. On m’y a emmené la nuit et on m’a d’abord mis dans une cellule de quarantaine pour les détenus nouvellement arrivés, où j’ai passé plus de dix jours à me familiariser avec le règlement intérieur de l’institution. Après cela, j’ai été transférée dans une autre cellule.

    En raison de la pandémie de la COVID-19, les visites de famille et d’amis ont été interdites. Je ne pouvais parler à ma mère que deux fois par semaine pendant dix minutes par appel vidéo, et je recevais mes avocats toutes les deux semaines. Les conditions dans cet établissement étaient bien meilleures que dans le centre de détention temporaire situé au poste de police où j’avais passé deux jours auparavant La cellule était relativement propre et disposait de deux lits superposés pour quatre personnes, d’un évier et de toilettes. Nous nettoyions la cellule à tour de rôle. Deux de mes compagnons de cellule fumaient dans la salle de bain. Nous étions nourris trois fois par jour, principalement de ragoûts et de soupes. On nous emmenait faire des « promenades » cinq fois par semaine, dans une installation spécialement conçue, qui était en fait une cellule sans fenêtre ni toit. Nos promenades duraient généralement 15 à 20 minutes. J’ai donc dû écrire une plainte aux autorités de l’institution pour me conformer à leur propre règlement intérieur et nous donner une heure complète de marche. Nous prenions une douche une fois par semaine, à raison de 15 minutes par personne.

    Plusieurs fois par semaine, je recevais des colis de ma famille et de mes amis. Leur soutien m’a beaucoup aidé à garder le moral. J’ai reçu une radio envoyée par un autre militant, Marat Turymbetov, dont l’ami Alnur Ilyashev avait été détenu dans le même centre pour avoir critiqué le parti Nur Otan au pouvoir. Nous avons passé beaucoup de temps à écouter la radio en attendant des nouvelles, mais la plupart des nouvelles concernaient la pandémie de la COVID-19. De temps en temps, nous entendions des rumeurs sur des cas de COVID-19 dans l’institution, mais rien n’était certain, donc je n’avais pas trop peur d´attraper le virus. Ma mère, cependant, était très inquiète à ce sujet et m’envoyait des médicaments de temps en temps. La pandémie a été très dure pour notre pays et a fait de nombreuses victimes.

    Cette fois-ci, je n’ai pas personnellement connu de violations majeures pendant ma détention, si ce n’est que le personnel a enfreint certaines règles internes. Je sais que d’autres détenus ont passé des mois dans l’institution sans recevoir des visites de la personne qui enquête sur leur cas, de leur avocat ou des membres de leur famille. J’ai d’abord eu des soupçons lorsque, au centre de détention temporaire, j’ai été placée dans une cellule avec la même femme qu’au centre de détention spécial pour infractions administratives un an plus tôt.

    Je ne peux pas dire que j’ai l’impression d’avoir été détenue pendant longtemps, mais cela a suffi à accroître mon estime et ma compassion pour les militants et autres personnes qui ont passé des mois et des années en prison. Par exemple, le défenseur des droits humains Max Bokayev est en prison depuis plus de quatre ans pour avoir soutenu une manifestation pacifique contre la vente illégale de terrains à des entreprises chinoises. Pendant la quarantaine, de nombreux militants et dirigeants politiques ont été soumis à des fouilles et des arrestations, faisant de la quarantaine une sorte d’excuse du gouvernement pour persécuter la société civile. Parmi les militants détenus figuraient Sanavar Zakirova, qui a été persécutée pour ses tentatives d’enregistrement d’un parti politique, les militants Abay Begimbetov, Askar Ibraev, Serik Idyryshev, Askhat Jeksebaev, Kairat Klyshev et bien d’autres.

    Que pensez-vous de la peine que vous avez reçue ?

    Je ne suis pas d’accord avec ma sentence, c’est pour cette raison que nous allons faire appel. Le tribunal doit tenir compte du degré de danger que représentent pour la société les infractions que j’ai commises, qui ne constituent guère un crime. Cependant, je regrette mon manque de maîtrise de moi-même et l’impolitesse dont j’ai fait preuve. Je crois fermement en la protestation non violente et mon cas est une grande opportunité pour nous et pour le gouvernement de condamner la violence venant des deux côtés.

    De quel soutien les activistes comme vous ont-ils besoin de la part de la communauté internationale ?

    Je suis très reconnaissante que mon cas ait reçu l’attention et le soutien de la communauté internationale. C’était un honneur d’être représentée dans la campagne CIVICUS, #StandAsMyWitness. Je suis également très reconnaissante à ma mère, à mes avocats, à ma famille, à mes amis et à mes supporters au Kazakhstan et dans le monde entier, qui ont trouvé de nombreuses idées créatives pour sensibiliser le public et attirer l’attention nécessaire sur mon cas et sur le problème des brutalités policières au Kazakhstan. Personnellement, j’ai été très inspirée par l’une des initiatives lancées par mes bons amis Kuat Abeshev, Aisha Jandosova, Irina Mednikova et Jeffrey Warren, Protest Körpe, une façon simple et visuellement belle de présenter les demandes de justice et de droits humains de façon agréable et affectueuse. Il est facile de participer. La plupart des messages de Protest Körpe sont universels et concernent de nombreux pays - faisons entendre nos messages ! Je pense que nous pouvons apprendre de Protest Körpe et d’autres initiatives de nouvelles tactiques créatives et les adapter à notre contexte local. Ne serait-ce pas formidable si ces campagnes et ces mouvements pouvaient former un réseau afin que nous puissions tous partager et tirer parti des expériences des autres ?

    L’espace civique au Kazakhstan est considéré comme « obstrué » par leCIVICUS Monitor.

    Contactez Asya surFacebook.


  • Lors de la Journée internationale Mandela, environ 200 organisations de défense des droits demandent la libération des militants dans le cadre de la campagne #StandAsMyWitness

    • 197 organisations de défense des droits de l'homme signent une lettre appelant les États à mettre fin à l'emprisonnement et au harcèlement des défenseurs des droits de l'homme
    • Les États sont priés de mettre fin aux nouvelles arrestations et détentions de défenseurs, notant un risque accru lors du COVID-19
    • Lancement de la campagne #StandAsMyWitness le 18 juillet, lors de la journée Nelson Mandela, avec des défenseurs des droits de l'homme du monde entier


  • Mandela Day: Nearly 200 rights organisations call for release of activists as part of #StandAsMyWitness campaign

    • 197 human rights organisations sign letter calling on states to end the imprisonment and harassment of human rights defenders
    • States urged to stop new arrests and detentions of defenders, noting heightened risk during COVID-19
    • #StandAsMyWitness campaign launches on Nelson Mandela Day 18 July, featuring human rights defenders from around the world


  • Niger: CIVICUS welcomes release of human rights defenders

    Global civil society alliance CIVICUS welcomes the decision by Nigerien authorities to release three human rights defenders after six months in detention. We now call on the Nigerien authorities to drop all charges against them. Moudi Moussa, Halidou Mounkaila and Maïkoul Zodi were among civil society members who gathered peacefully in Niamey, on 15 March 2020, to protest about corruption in the Ministry of Defence.


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