Tanzania: Civil society groups all on UN Human Rights Council to address crackdown on human rights

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

Excellency,

Ahead of the 39th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council (“the Council”), which will be held from 10-28 September 2018, we write to call on your delegation to deliver statements, both jointly and individually, to address the ongoing crackdown on civic space and human rights back­sliding in the United Republic of Tanzania.

Considering the rapidly declining environment for human rights defenders (HRDs), civil society, jour­na­lists, bloggers, the media and dissenting voices in Tanzania, we, the undersigned non-governmental organisations (NGOs), make a joint appeal to Member and Observer States of the Council. At the 39th session, States should urge the Tanzanian Government to change course, cease any form of intimidation, harassment and attacks against HRDs, journalists, bloggers, and opposition members and their suppor­ters, and amend restrictive laws and regulations with a view to bringing them in line with international human rights standards.

Since 2015, Tanzania has implemented newly-enacted draconian legislation and applied legal and extra-judicial methods to harass HRDs, silence independent journalism and blogging, and restrict freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. 

We call on your delegation to make use of the following agenda items[1] to raise concern, jointly and individually, and to engage in a constructive dialogue with the Tanzanian authorities:

  • General debate (GD) under item 2, following the High Commissioner’s update;
  • General debate under item 3, in relation to reports of the High Commissioner and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR);
  • General debate under item 4;
  • General debate under item 10; and
  • Interactive dialogues (IDs) with the Working Group on arbitrary detention and the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances.
  • Additionally, bilateral and collective engagement in multilateral fora such as the Council and at the embassy level, in Tanzania, should be used to raise relevant issues with the Government.

Through these opportunities for dialogue, your delegation can help the Council fulfil its responsibility to “address situations of violations of human rights […] and make recommend­ations thereon” and to “contribute, through dialogue and cooperation, towards the prevention of human rights violations and respond promptly to human rights emergencies.”[2]

The 39th session should be leveraged to help prevent a further deterioration of the human rights situation in Tanzania and send the Tanzanian Government a message that the international com­munity expects it to uphold its citizens’ human rights, in line with its obligations and the country’s history of openness, engagement, and respect for human rights.

We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues and stand ready to provide your delegation with further information.

Sincerely,

  1. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
  2. Africans Rising for Justice, Peace & Dignity
  3. ARTICLE 19
  4. Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
  5. Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
  6. Caucasus Civil Initiatives Center
  7. Сenter for Civil Liberties – Ukraine
  8. CEPO – South Sudan
  9. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  10. Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) – Uganda
  11. Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  12. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
  13. Conectas Human Rights – Brazil
  14. DefendDefenders (The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  15. FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  16. Freedom House
  17. Global Witness
  18. HAKI Africa – Kenya
  19. Human Rights Concern – Eritrea
  20. HURISA – South Africa
  21. International Civil Society Center
  22. JOINT Liga de ONGs em Mocambique – Mozambique
  23. Ligue Burundaise des droits de l’homme Iteka – Burundi
  24. Observatoire des droits de l’homme au Rwanda – Rwanda
  25. Odhikar – Bangladesh
  26. Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains/West African Human Rights Defenders Network (ROADDH/WAHRDN)
  27. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
  28. Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC)
  29. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  30. Zambia Council for Social Development (ZSCD) – Zambia

[1] See the annex for more detailed proposals for action, as well the report and letter referenced in footnotes 3 and 4.

[2] UN General Assembly resolution 60/251, paras. 3 and 5(f).

 

Tanzania: Civil society groups express concern over rapid decline in human rights

Tanzania: 65 civil society groups call on the Tanzanian Government to address rapidly deteriorating environment for media, human rights defenders and opposition party members

 

To President John Magufuli

Your Excellency,

We, the undersigned civil society organisations (CSOs) from across the world, write to express our deep concern over the worrying decline in respect for human rights, including the rights to freedom of association, expression and peaceful assembly, in Tanzania. We urge your government to take proactive measures to protect these rights which are crucial to civic space and publicly recognise the essential role that a vibrant civil society and an independent media play in creating peaceful and equal societies.

Tanzania’s long-standing commitment to improving the human rights of all people, both nationally and within the region, is notable and should be acknowledged as such.  However, we are deeply alarmed that these human rights issues are being precipitously undermined by the unwarranted closure of media outlets, judicial persecution and harassment of independent journalists, the targeted assassination of opposition party members, blanket restrictions on peaceful protests and the introduction and invocation of a raft of laws to undermine freedom of speech online. These and other forms of harassment and persecution of civil society and media discussed below erode Tanzania’s role as a regional champion of public freedoms, peace and stability and represent a breach of its international, national and regional human rights obligations and commitments.

New legal restrictions criminalizing freedom of expression on social and traditional media

The Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations, which was signed into law in March 2018, criminalises a broad scope of legitimate forms of online freedom of expression. Under the regulation, all bloggers and persons operating online radio and television streaming services must secure a license and pay an annual fee of over $900 before they can publish any material online. Such fees are not only financially prohibitive but place an arbitrary bar to entry to exercise the right to freedom of expression. We are also deeply concerned by provisions which endow the government with the authority to revoke a permit if a site or blogger publishes content that "causes annoyance" or "leads to public disorder."

Of equal concern are vague and overbroad provisions of the 2015 Cybercrimes Act which empower the government to arbitrarily ban and sanction the dissemination of newspaper articles or social media posts which it deems critical, including insulting the President. In particular, Article 16 criminalizes the publication of all information deemed “false, deceptive, misleading or inaccurate.” Persons found to have contravened the Act are subject to draconian prison sentences and harsh fines of not less than five million shillings ($2,190) or a term of not less than three years or both. Since coming into force, the law has been invoked to persecute dozens of individuals and journalists. In one week alone, five private citizens were charged under the Cybercrimes Act for statements made on Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media platforms, including a three-year sentence handed down to a private citizen for insulting President John Magufuli on Facebook.

Moreover, the Media Services Act, which came into force in November 2016, allows the authorities to unilaterally determine which journalists receive licenses, forces all journalists to obtain a license, and makes defamation and sedition a criminal offense. Under the law,  the government-run Accreditation Board is empowered to “suspend or expunge journalists” for committing “gross professional misconduct as prescribed in the code of ethics for professional journalists.” The penalties for violating provisions of law are severe. According to the law, anyone found guilty of acting with a seditious intention who commits an offence is liable to a fine of not less than 5 million Shillings (approximately $2,260) or three years in prison or both.

Suspensions, fines and banning media outlets

Despite strong constitutional, United Nations and African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights safeguards protecting the right to freedom of expression, the government has systematically targeted Tanzanian media outlets through a combination of closures and hefty fines on newspapers. This campaign of harassment, which appears to be an attempt to suppress their work to report on government policy and conduct, has resulted in four prominent newspapers being banned in 2017 and four other papers being heavily fined in early 2018.

On 24 October 2017, the government banned the Swahili-language Tanzania Daima for a period of 90 days on specious claims of publishing false news about anti-retroviral drug use for people with HIV. This was the fourth newspaper banned since June 2017 including Mwanahalisi which was banned for 24 months in September 2017; the weekly Raia Mwema for 90 days in September and Mawio newspaper for 24 months in June 2017.

On 2 January 2018, the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) fined five television stations a combined 60 million Tanzanian shillings ($27,000) for broadcasting “offensive and unethical” content, in particular for airing a press statement issued on 30 November by the Legal Human Rights Centre (LHRC). The report by LHRC documented violations such as detentions, intimidation and physical abuse in the context of  the 6 November 2017 elections of councillors in 43 wards. The TV stations that featured the LHRC's press statement and were subsequently penalised include: Star TV, Azam Two, East Africa TV, Channel 10 and ITV.

Judicial harassment and persecution of journalists and human rights defenders

In stark contrast to the authorities’ human rights obligations to uphold and protect the safety of journalists, several independent media practitioners have recently been subject to physical attacks and judicial persecution. Recently on 21 November 2017, newspaper journalist Azory Gwanda was abducted by a group of unknown assailants in the Coast Region. Prior to his enforced disappearance, Gwanda who is a journalist with newspapers, Mwananchi and The Citizen, had authored a number of articles documenting the murders of several local officials and police officers. To date Gwanda’s whereabouts remain unknown.

In August 2017, a Tanzania court began hearing a case against Micke William and Maxence Melo Mubyazi, co-owners of the whistleblower website, Jamii Forums. Both journalists were charged under the Cybercrimes Act on spurious accusations of obstructing justice for failing to disclose the identities of persons who posted details of allegedly corrupt officials on Jamiiforums. There have been over 40 adjournments of the case, including most recently on 3 May 2018. If convicted, they face fines up to 3 million shillings ($1,300) or a jail term of at least one year, or both.

Groups and defenders advocating for the rights of LGBTI individuals have also been equally persecuted. Among a wave of recent attempts to suppress organisations and activists working on SOGI issues, in October 2017, 13 human rights lawyers and defender were arbitrarily arrested and detained on allegations of promoting “promoting homosexuality”. Three civil society representatives, including Ugandan and South African lawyers from the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa and nine members of Tanzanian Community Health and Education Services and Advocacy (Chesa), were arrested during a private meeting.

Killings and criminal cases against political opposition members

Since the start of 2018, scores of political opposition members and parliamentarians have been violently attacked and even killed. On 22 February, Godfrey Luena, a member of parliament with Tanzania’s main opposition party Chama Cha Demokrasia Na Maendeleo (CHADEMA) and a vocal land rights defender, was killed with machetes outside of his home. Mr Luena had been a critic of alleged state sponsored land-grabbing. Days earlier, on 13 February, Daniel John, a CHADEMA official in Dar es Salaam, was abducted and killed by unknown assailants using machetes. Mr John was supporting an opposition political campaign for a contested parliamentary seat in Dar es Salaam.

A number of opposition party members and lawmakers have also been targeted in what appears to be a systematic campaign of judicial harassment. Among other worrying cases, two opposition leaders, CHADEMA MP Joseph Mbilinyi and local party leader Emmanuel Masonga were sentenced to five months on 26 February 2018 for insulting President John Magufuli during a political rally.

Harassment, intimidation arbitrary arrest of peaceful protesters

In response to growing public frustration over human rights backsliding in the country, individuals and groups have increasingly sought to exercise their rights to peaceful assembly to air their legitimate grievances. Worryingly, the authorities, including members of the government and security apparatus, have resorted to arbitrary arrests, excessive use of force and intimidation to silence these protests.

In April 2018, Tanzanian activists called for national demonstrations to bring attention to the decline in respect for human rights in Tanzania. However, in contravention of international standards, the authorities, which require anyone seeking to hold a public assembly to secure a permit, declared the protests illegal.

The government and police forces responded to these calls to stage public protests with severe intolerance, including hostile statements by senior government and police officials, including threats that protesters “will be beaten like stray dogs." Days before the planned 26 April demonstrations seven people were arrested in Arusha for their purported role in organising the protests. The few who dared to take part in the protests were quickly persecuted; nine protesters, who marched in Dar Es Salaam, were almost immediately arrested.

Recommendations to the Government of Tanzania

The undersigned groups urge your government to create an enabling environment for civil society and the media to operate in accordance with the rights enshrined in the Constitution of Tanzania, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, including the guidelines on freedom of association and peaceful assembly. Tanzania has ratified both the ICCPR and the African Charter. At a minimum, the following conditions should be ensured: freedom of association, freedom of expression, the right to operate free from unwarranted state interference, the right to seek and secure funding and the state’s duty to protect. In light of this, the following specific recommendations are made.

1) All disabling and restrictive provisions in the Cybercrimes Act, the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations and the Media Services Act must be amended and replaced by progressive sections that will guarantee freedom of expression and the media in line with international human rights standards.

2) The cases of newspapers banned, suspended or fined under the Media Service Act 2016 should be reviewed to enable them to continue their operations without undue interference.

3) Independent investigations should be conducted into cases of attacks and assaults on journalists, human rights defenders and opposition party members with a view to bringing suspected perpetrators to justice and these attacks should be publicly and unequivocally condemned.

4) Government officials should desist from publicly threatening human rights defenders including when activists that are working to expose corrupt practices in government or are critical of government policies and actions.

5) Best practices on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly prescribed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association should be adopted by the Government of Tanzania including removing the permission regime and providing recourse in cases of unlawful denial of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

Sincerely,

  1. Access Now
  2. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
  3. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
  4. Amnesty International
  5. ARTICLE 19 East Africa
  6. The Article 20 Network
  7. Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC)
  8. Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE) - Ethiopia
  9. Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
  10. Bahrain Center for Human Rights - Bahrain
  11. Balkan Civil Society Development Network (BCSDN)
  12. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  13. Caucasus Civil Initiatives Center (CCIC)
  14. Center for Civil Liberties - Ukraine
  15. Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) - Malawi
  16. Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations
  17. Chapter Four - Uganda
  18. Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea (CDRiE) - Eritrea
  19. CIVICUS
  20. Civil Rights Defenders (CRD)
  21. Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  22. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
  23. Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) - South Sudan
  24. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  25. End Impunity Organisation
  26. Ethiopia Human Rights Project (EHRP) - Ethiopia
  27. Freedom House
  28. Front Line Defenders
  29. Greenpeace Africa
  30. Governance, Elections, Advocacy, Research Services (GEARS) Initiative - Zambia
  31. Groupe d’Action pour le Progrès et la Paix (ONG GAPP-BÉNIN) - Bénin
  32. HAKI Africa - Kenya
  33. Human Rights Defenders Network - Sierra Leone
  34. International Civil Society Center (ICSC)
  35. International Rivers - Africa Program
  36. Iraqi Network of Social Media - Iraq
  37. Jamaa Resource Initiatives - East Africa
  38. JOINT Liga de ONGs em Mocambique - Mozambique
  39. Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights - Philippines
  40. Kepa - the Finnish NGO platform - Finland
  41. Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy (REDLAD)
  42. Liberia Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (LICHRD) - Liberia
  43. Ligue Djiboutienne des Droits Humains (LDDH) - Djibouti
  44. Ligue Iteka - Burundi
  45. Lumiere Synergie pour le Developpement - Senegal
  46. Malawi Human Rights Defenders Coalition  - Malawi
  47. Minority Rights Group International
  48. National Civic Forum - Sudan
  49. Observatoire des Droits de l'Homme au Rwanda - Rwanda
  50. Odhikar - Bangladesh
  51. OutRight Action International
  52. Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network (PAHRDN)
  53. Public Interest Law Center (PILC) - Chad
  54. RESOCIDE - Burkina Faso
  55. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
  56. Robert L. Bernstein Institute for Human Rights | NYU School of Law
  57. Servicios y Asesoría para la Paz (Serapaz) - México
  58. Sinergia - Venezuela
  59. Solidarity Center
  60. Sudanese Development Initiative (SUDIA) - Sudan
  61. Tournons la page (TLP)
  62. West African Human Rights Defenders’ Network (WAHRDN)
  63. World Movement for Democracy
  64. The Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD) - Zambia
  65. Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum - Zimbabwe

Bangladesh: Open letter on Digital Media Security Bill

To

The President of Bangladesh, H.E. Md Abdul Hamid

The Chair of the National Human Rights Commission, H.E. Kazi Reazul Hoque

Subject: Open letter on Digital Media Security Bill

Your Excellencies

We write to you as international civil society organisations engaged on human rights and sustainable development issues in Bangladesh. We are concerned that in the current political climate in Bangladesh, which is narrowing avenues for free debate and legitimate democratic dissent in the country, the Bangladesh Digital Security Bill 2018, likely to be introduced in the current session of Parliament, fails to protect the right of the media, civil society and members of the general public to freely express their opinions on policies and actions of decision makers.

Many of our organisations have closely followed debates about this bill over the years. In the past we have raised concerns about the existence of overbroad definitions and harsh punishments in the bill which, if enacted, would severely undermine freedom of expression as well as the freedom of the press. From available information, it appears that our concerns about the bill’s provisions as likely to impinge on constitutional rights and well as Bangladesh’s commitments under international law persist. Both Article 29 of the Constitution of Bangladesh and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights allow the imposition of restrictions on the right to freedom of expression only in very limited and clearly defined circumstances.

In the present situation we recommend that the bill’s provisions are carefully considered from a constitutional and international law standpoint. Mr. David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, has done extensive work on the subject including on the exercise of the freedom of expression in the digital age. We believe that the government would greatly benefit from engagement with Mr. Kaye, who could advise on the permissible limits on the freedom of expression under international law.

Furthermore, we urge the government to seek assistance from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on measures to strengthen the protection and promotion of human rights in the country in line with constitutional and international standards. We are concerned to hear that an official visit to Bangladesh by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, H.E. Zeid bin Ra’ad Al Hussein has been postponed and request the facilitation of a such a visit at the earliest opportunity.

We believe that Bangladesh’s democracy and commitment to human rights and sustainable development will be strengthened through constructive engagement with UN human rights experts. We urge you to kindly consider the above requests in the interests of the people of Bangladesh.

Sincerely,

List of signatories (in alphabetical order)

Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

Asian Human Rights Commission

CIVICUS

FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights

Human Rights Watch

Odhikar

People’s Watch

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

Joint statement from Environmental rights defenders workshop

In response to the rise in the attacks, harassment and killings of human rights defenders and activists defending land, environmental and indigenous rights, CIVICUS and Publish What you Pay released a report on the different restrictions and attacks faced by activists. 

NGOs Raise Concern Over Forcibly Disappeared Sayed Alawi

Sayed Alawi has been detained for over nine months, with no access to a lawyer or to his family since his arrest. During this time, he was allowed only four brief phone calls to his family, who has repeatedly inquired during this time about the reasons for and location of his detention. To date, the authorities have not provided this information.In the letter, the NGOs urge the Bahraini government to immediately disclose the location and charges against Sayed Alawi and to provide him with access to his family, legal representation, and medical treatment. The NGOs call for the release of Sayed Alawi unless the Bahraini government has charged him with a recognizable criminal offence.

Read the Joint Letter

Egypt: Call to postpone the EU-Egypt Association Council

A coalition of civil society organisations have written to Ms. Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission and Mr. Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, and EU Member States’ Ministers of Foreign Affairs urging them to postpone the EU-Egypt Association Council and not to extend a formal invitation to the Egyptian authorities for July 2017.  This event would constitute a public political gesture conveying to them, and to public opinion in Europe and in Egypt, an endorsement of Egypt’s policies of the past few months, by the EU and its Member States. We consider that would encourage President Al-Sisi’s government to proceed with further, broader repressive measures, thus accelerating the destabilisation of Egypt even further. This would serve neither the Egyptian people’s interests, nor those of Europe in its search for stability, resilience and security in the MENA region.

Read the letter 

Bahrain: End Degrading Treatment of Activists

Bahraini authorities’ treatment of wrongfully imprisoned detainees violates international standards on prisoner treatment and in some cases may constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, a coalition of ten rights groups said today. The authorities should ensure that all detainees are treated with humanity and in accordance with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the Nelson Mandela Rules, including access to the adequate medical care they require and contact with their relatives.

Family members of 12 opposition activists or human rights defenders held in Building 7 of Jaw Prison have told rights groups that under new regulations the authorities shackle the men, many of them elderly and in poor health, whenever they leave their cells, including for medical visits. The men are serving long prison terms in connection with their prominent and peaceful roles in the pro-democracy uprising in February 2011.

“These new regulations degrade and humiliate prisoners who clearly pose no escape risk,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Authorities can take reasonable measures to prevent escapes, but shackling infirm patients, many of them torture victims, clearly goes beyond any need for security.”

The authorities should immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners held solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, the groups said.

On April 12, 2017, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a human rights defender held in Building 7, began a hunger strike to protest the new regulations at Jaw Prison, which the prisoners believe are a disproportionate response to the escape of 10 prisoners from another part of Jaw Prison on January 1.

In addition to the shackling, which has led the detainees to refuse to attend medical appointments in protest at what they perceive as degrading treatment, the authorities have cut visiting hours and the time for phone calls with their relatives.

Since the escape, which resulted in the death of a police officer, family members of the opposition and human rights activists and several other prisoners have told the rights groups that the authorities’ treatment of their relatives has worsened significantly.

Since March 1, authorities have shackled prisoners in Building 7 whenever they leave their cells. This practice is contrary to Rule 47 of the Mandela Rules, which states that restraint instruments should only be used as a precaution against escape or to prevent prisoners from injuring themselves or others. Family members of prisoners in other buildings have also told rights groups that their relatives are shackled whenever they leave their cells and that since the escape, their cells are locked most of the day, meaning that those without toilet in their cell have only limited access to toilets.

International human rights mechanisms have said that the use of restraints on elderly or infirm prisoners who do not pose an escape risk can constitute ill-treatment. The prison authorities appear willing to abide by some of the Nelson Mandela Rules by transferring patients requiring specialized treatment to specialized institutions or civil hospitals. But the disproportionate use of physical restraints is degrading and is preventing detainees from getting the health care they require.

Family members of Al-Khawaja, 56, told rights groups that he had an appointment with an eye specialist at the Bahrain Defense Forces military hospital on March 12 because of headaches and vision problems. But the prison administration insisted that he had to wear the prison uniform, have his legs and ankles shackled, and submit to full body strip search.

The family said he refused because of the humiliation involved. Al-Khawaja wrote to the prison authorities in March requesting a new medical appointment and to be allowed to go without a strip search and shackles, but has received no response. On April 12, he began a hunger strike. His family expressed concern about the impact of his hunger strike on his already deteriorating health and said that on April 15 he refused medical attention to address a low blood sugar level in protest at the regulations.

On April 20, Al-Khawaja began to take necessary liquids to avoid losing consciousness and being transferred to hospital, where he feared he would be force-fed, as in past hunger strikes. He suffers from exhaustion, general weakness, and dizziness. He has lost weight and his blood sugar remains low.

A family member of Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace, 55, who requires crutches or a wheelchair as the result of polio and sickle-cell anemia, told rights groups that he refused to attend medical appointments, including a March 12 appointment with a hematologist and an appointment in early March to deal with a shoulder infection, because of the prison authorities’ insistence on shackling him with chains during the transfer.

Family members say that Mohamed Hassan Jawad, 69, and Hasan Mshaima, 69, have also refused essential medical appointments in protest over the authorities’ insistence that they be shackled and wear the prison uniform. Mshaima has heart problems and is a former cancer patient who requires regular checks-ups. His family said that he needs Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans every six months and that the last one was over eight months ago.

“These leading Bahraini political and human rights activists have suffered deteriorating health during their prolonged arbitrary detention since 2011,” said Husain Abdulla, executive director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain. “Shackling these prisoners of conscience is not a legitimate prison security measure but is intended to degrade and humiliate them. The international community must not forget these long-term prisoners of conscience and should work to end their unjust and punitive detention.”

Since March 1, the prison administration has reduced all prosioners’ family visits from one hour to 30 minutes, once every two or three weeks, and that prisoners are now separated from their families by a glass barrier during visits. Since June 2016, phone calls to their families, which they are allowed to make up to three times per week, have been cut from 40 minutes to 30 minutes combined for all calls. On March 20, prison authorities stopped providing the detainees with toilet paper or tissues.

On March 1, the detainees in Building 7 and others in Jaw Prison began boycotting family visits in protest.

“These opposition activists are prisoners of conscience who should not have spent even a single day in prison,” said Lynn Maalouf, research director at Amnesty International’s Regional Office in Beirut. “The authorities must immediately put an end to the collective and arbitrary punishment of the entire Jaw prison population as a result of the escape of a group of prisoners; they must release all prisoners of conscience without delay and ensure all prisoners are treated humanely and receive the adequate medical treatment they require.”

Rule 36 of the Nelson Mandela Rules states that discipline and order shall be maintained with no more restriction than is necessary to ensure safe custody, the secure operation of the prison, and a well-ordered community life. Thus, while authorities can take steps to minimize the risk of further escapes, the measures they introduce must be proportionate, should not impinge on prisoners’ dignity, and should not unnecessarily aggravate the suffering inherent in the deprivation of liberty.

Any deliberate infliction of inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners should be investigated and those responsible held accountable.

Eleven of the 12 detainees in Building 7 were sentenced in trials that did not meet international standards on fair trials and convicted of crimes that included alleged involvement with a group whose purpose was to replace Bahrain’s monarchy with a republican form of government. The evidence produced against them at their trial consisted only of public statements advocating reforms to curtail the power of the ruling Al Khalifa family and “confessions” that were coerced while they were in incommunicado detention. The twelfth detainee, Sheikh Ali Salman, whose nine-year prison sentence was reduced to four years on April 3, was convicted in relation to peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, following a grossly unfair trial.

The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry’s report of November 2011 said that authorities subjected the group to a “discernible pattern of mistreatment,” including torture, after their arrests in some cases. Authorities have not provided physical or psychological rehabilitation for detainees who were tortured.

Signatories:
• Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
• Amnesty International
• Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
• Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
• CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
• English PEN
• European Centre For Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
• Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
• Human Rights First
• Human Rights Watch

Open Letter to the President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenka

Dear Mr. President

We, 48 undersigned organizations from 24 countries, strongly condemn the continuing wave of detentions and harassment of peaceful protesters, journalists, human rights defenders, civil society activists, anarchists and opposition party members in Belarus.

25 African CSOs oppose Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Uganda’s draconian Anti-homosexuality Bill is currently awaiting President Yoweri Museveni’s signature. President Museveni has 30 days from 23 January 2014 when the bill was presented to him to either sign it into law or return it back to Parliament for reconsideration. The bill is in gross violation of basic human rights principles enshrined in Uganda’s constitution and international law.  CIVICUS has coordinated a joint letter by 25 civil society groups based in Africa urging President Museveni - for reasons outlined below - to do the right thing by rejecting this regressive Bill.

----------------------------------

4 February 2014

President Yoweri Museveni
Office of the President
Parliament Avenue
P.O. BOX 7168,
Kampala
Uganda

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dear President Museveni, 

We write to you as a group of civil society organisations based in Africa. We are deeply concerned about the passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which is currently under review by your office. We understand that, as the President of Uganda, you have the power to reject this repugnant bill and send it back to Parliament for reconsideration. 

We believe that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is profoundly un-African as it preaches an agenda of intolerance, discrimination and ultimately, divisiveness. It also breaches the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights’ promise of human beings being inviolable and entitled to respect for their life and integrity of their person.

An Open Letter to Egypt's Interim Government

Acting President Adly Mansour,
Magles El Shaab St., Kasr El Aini St.
Cairo
Egypt

Re: Escalation of violence and a call for restoration of sovereignty to the people of Egypt

Dear Acting President Adly Mansour,

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is appalled at the state-led violence against protestors across Egypt which has caused deaths and debilitating injuries to hundreds of people. We condemn in the strongest terms, the criminal actions of your regime and reject the official justifications being offered for use of indiscriminate and deadly force against protestors, including through the deployment of snipers, armoured vehicles and bulldozers. Nevertheless, we appeal for respect of the fundamental freedoms of all Egyptians, including those who stand in opposition to the current regime.

CIVICUS releases an open letter requesting the Indonesian Parliament to reject the proposed ORMAS Law and create an enabling environment for civil society

The People's Representative Council of Republic Indonesia
Gedung Nusantara III
Jl. Jenderal Gatot Subroto Jakarta 10270
Indonesia

Re: Restrictions on Civil Society under the 'ORMAS Bill'

Dear House Speaker Marzuki Ali,

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the Indonesian Forum for Environment (WALHI) and the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID) write to express our deep concern on the Bill on Mass Organisations (ORMAS Bill) due for hearing in Parliament on 12 April 2013.

We believe that the Bill severely undermines freedom of association enshrined in the Constitution of Indonesia and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Indonesia is a state party. We urge the Indonesian Parliament to reject the ORMAS Bill in its current form and adopt alternative legislation to create an enabling environment for civil society free from unwarranted restrictions.

Joint Open Letter on Bahrain

HM. King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa
Office of the King
The Amiri Court
Rifa’a Palace
The Kingdom of Bahrain

Your Majesty,

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation an international alliance of civil society in over 100 countries and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) are deeply concerned about the use of military courts to stifle civil society. Of particular concern is the sentencing of 20 medical doctors for 5 to 15 years in prison on 29 September 2011 on unproven charges including occupying the Salmanya Medical Complex, calling for the overthrow of the regime and spreading false information. We are also concerned by the harsh sentences of 14 opposition leaders and human rights defenders on 28 September 2011 as well as the sentencing of two Teachers’ Association leaders on 25 September 2011 to long prison term on unsubstantiated charges of disrupting schooling, broadcasting false news and threatening national security.

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Joint letter to Secretary Clinton regarding Uzbekistan

September 27, 2011


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
US Department of State
Harry S. Truman Building
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520


Dear Secretary Clinton,


We represent a broad, international coalition of human rights organizations, labor groups, trade unions, investors, and others, including independent civil society groups based in Uzbekistan, brought together by our common concern over recent actions by the US government to move toward “business as usual” with the Uzbek government, which remains one of the most repressive in the world.


Last week, an Appropriations Committee in the Senate approved a bill that will allow the provision of taxpayer-funded military and police assistance to the Uzbek government at a time when Uzbek authorities continue to silence civil society activists, independent journalists, and all political opposition; severely curtail freedom of expression and religion; and organize forced child labor on a massive scale.

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Open Letter to Ugandan Parliament: CIVICUS calls for the immediate and complete withdrawal of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda

Johannesburg, 10 May 2011. CIVICUS is calling for the immediate and complete withdrawal of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. As Museveni’s government try to push through the infamous Bill this week, the international community must react quickly and increase pressure on the country. 

The proposed Bill was drafted in 2009 but shelved due to international outcry. US President Obama described the Bill as "odious" and civil society organisations around the world have joined a global campaign against the Bill. However, public hearings on the Bill are currently taking place through the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee and there is a significant chance the Bill will be passed by Parliament by the end of the week (13 May).

The provisions of the Bill to issue the death penalty for HIV infected persons who have sexual relations with a person of the same gender, life imprisonment for attempting to contract a marriage with a person of the same gender, extradition to Uganda of citizens or permanent residents if they have sexual relations with a person of the same gender, and enhanced punishment of life imprisonment for sexual relations between people of the same gender, all overtly violate personal freedoms and the guarantee of non-discrimination enshrined under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Uganda is a party. It also breaches the Ugandan Constitution and existing human rights commitments by violating the rights to privacy, freedom from discrimination, equal protection for all, and protection of minorities.

In addition, the Bill is not just targeted at homosexual individuals, but is a wider attack on the freedoms of expression and association. Civil society space will be suppressed as the work of civil society organisations that promote the rights of LGBTI people will be criminalised through the cancellation of registration and punishment of the head of the organisation with seven years imprisonment.

See the Open Letter by CIVICUS calling for the Ugandan Parliament to fully reject the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, whether in its original or amended form. We call for the recognition of the freedom of expression and protection of civil society activists in Uganda."CIVICUS is calling for the immediate and complete withdrawal of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. As Museveni's government tries to push through the infamous Bill this week, the international community must react quickly and increase pressure on the country.



Open Letter to the Speaker of the Ugandan Paliament Download PDF

10 May 2011


Rt. Hon. Edward SsekandiKiwanuka
Speaker of Parliament
PO BOX 7178
Parliamentary Avenue
Kampala
Uganda


Sir,

I write from CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, an international alliance of civil society with members and partners in over a hundred countries. We urge you to call for an immediate and complete withdrawal of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that is to be brought before Parliament this week. The proposed Bill rolls back international human rights obligations undertaken by Uganda by declaring that the provisions of any international legal instrument contradictory to the spirit of the Bill shall be null and void.

We believe that the widely-condemned Bill, which was drafted in 2009 and has been the subject of criticism both at home and abroad, must be unanimously rejected. A number of world leaders have condemned the Bill including US President Obama who described it as "odious." Civil society groups have warned that the Bill risks further isolating Uganda from the international community.

We call on Parliament to reject the Bill for the following reasons:

  • The Bill overtly violates personal freedom and the guarantee of non-discrimination enshrined under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Uganda is a party.

  • The Bill breaches the Ugandan Constitution and existing human rights commitments by violating the rights to privacy, freedom from discrimination, equal protection for al, and protection of minorities.

  • The Bill is not just targeted at homosexual individuals, but is a wider attack on the freedoms of expression and association. Civil society space will be suppressed as the work of civil society organisations that promote the rights of LGBTI people will be criminalised through the cancellation of registration and punishment of the head of the organisation with seven years imprisonment.

We urge Parliament to fully reject the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, whether in its original or amended form. We call for the recognition of the freedom of expression and protection of civil society activists in Uganda.

Sincerely,

Ingrid Srinath
Secretary General
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Hon. Kiddhu Makubuya (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


CIVICUS Letter concerning freedom of movement for Turkmen journalists

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Open Letter to President Aquino Concerning Civil Society in the Philippines

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Re: Proposed International Cooperation Bill

Presidente de la República
S.E. Hugo Chávez Frías
Palacio de Miraflores, Caracas,
Venezuela
Fax:+58.212.806 3698
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 

Your Excellency,

 
 

Re: Proposed International Cooperation Bill

 
 
 
I write as the Secretary General of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, an international alliance of civil society with members and partners in over a hundred countries. CIVICUS works to strengthen civil society and citizen action throughout the world.
 
 
We at CIVICUS, our members and partners, are deeply concerned about your recent comments urging National Assembly members to adopt a "severe" law to effectively stop international funding for NGOs. We would like to emphasise that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) play an extremely important role in national life. Their constructive criticism and quest for greater accountability in public life are important assets for the nation. We therefore urge your government to respect expressions of legitimate dissent and unequivocally uphold civil society's rights to express, associate and assemble freely.
 
 

We would like to draw your attention to the International Cooperation Bill, currently being discussed by law makers. We believe that the bill has been drawn up without adequate consultation with civil society. Moreover, we are deeply apprehensive that that passage of the Bill in its current form will severely curtail civil society space in the following ways:

  1. Subjecting CSOs to additional layers of bureaucracy by requiring them to register with the government in order to receive funds from international sources could increase the possibility of subjective denial of registration to CSOs who have been critical of official actions.
  2. The creation of an official fund for International Cooperation and Assistance for the collection of monetary grants from overseas and their subsequent disbursement by the government is likely to impede international cooperation activities between Venezuelan CSOs and their counterparts abroad. Moreover, it will lead to government ownership and prioritisation of international cooperation funds rather than democratic ownership by CSOs and local communities.
  3. By increasing executive discretion to monitor CSO affairs through the creation of an Agency for International Cooperation, limits of whose powers and have not been clearly defined, raising apprehension of increased restrictions on CSO affairs. 

We believe that the registration and funding requirements of the Bill, given their ambiguity, have the potential to breach the right to freedom of association embodied in the Venezuelan Constitution, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Defenders Declaration. 

We urge you to use your executive powers and influence to carry out consultations with civil society with regard to the need for an international cooperation law as well as the principles that should underpin any regulatory mechanism for civil society.

Sincerely,

Ingrid Srinath
Secretary General
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

CIVICUS calls for the immediate and complete withdrawal of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda

CIVICUS is calling for the immediate and complete withdrawal of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. As Museveni's government tries to push through the infamous Bill this week, the international community must react quickly and increase pressure on the country.

The proposed Bill was drafted in 2009 but shelved due to international outcry. US President Obama described the Bill as "odious" and civil society organisations around the world have joined a global campaign against the Bill. However, public hearings on the Bill are currently taking place through the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee and there is a significant chance the Bill will be passed by Parliament by the end of the week (13 May).

The provisions of the Bill to issue the death penalty for HIV infected persons who have sexual relations with a person of the same gender, life imprisonment for attempting to contract a marriage with a person of the same gender, extradition to Uganda of citizens or permanent residents if they have sexual relations with a person of the same gender, and enhanced punishment of life imprisonment for sexual relations between people of the same gender, all overtly violate personal freedoms and the guarantee of non-discrimination enshrined under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Uganda is a party. It also breaches the Ugandan Constitution and existing human rights commitments by violating the rights to privacy, freedom from discrimination, equal protection for all, and protection of minorities.

In addition, the Bill is not just targeted at homosexual individuals, but is a wider attack on the freedoms of expression and association. Civil society space will be suppressed as the work of civil society organisations that promote the rights of LGBTI people will be criminalised through the cancellation of registration and punishment of the head of the organisation with seven years imprisonment.

See the Open Letter by CIVICUS calling for the Ugandan Parliament to fully reject the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, whether in its original or amended form. We call for the recognition of the freedom of expression and protection of civil society activists in Uganda."

Concern for the 43 health workers known as the 'Morong 43'


An open letter from Ingrid Srinath (Secretary General, CIVICUS) to the H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo President of the Philipines regarding the unconstitutional detention of 43 health workers by the Armed Forces of the Philipines.

 

H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

President of the Republic
Malacañang Palace,
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila Philippines

Your Excellency,

I write as the Secretary General of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, an international movement of civil society with members and partners in over a hundred countries. We are deeply concerned with regard to the detention of the 43 health workers, known commonly as the "Morong 43," by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). As discussed in the correspondence herewith attached, we strongly believe that justice requires the return of the 43 health workers to their families without further delay.

We urge you, Madame President, to lead the Philippines in living up to its constitutional and international commitments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, by ordering the immediate release of the 43 health workers.

Sincerely,

Ingrid Srinath
Secretary General for Civicus: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Download letter here (PDF)

CIVICUS' Open Letter to Iranian parliament

18 April 2011

H.E. Ali Larijani
Speaker of Parliament
Majles-e Shorura-ye-Eslami
Baharestan Square, Tehran, Iran
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Your Excellency,

I write as the Secretary General of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, an international alliance of civil society with members in over one hundred countries.

CIVICUS is pleased to hear that the Iranian Parliament has voted to suspend the review of the Establishment and Supervision of NGOs Bill for three months and referred it to the Social Commission of the Iranian Parliament for further deliberation. We welcome this action and implore members of Parliament and the government to use this interim period to reflect on provisions in the Bill that will guarantee the freedoms of expression, association and assembly as enshrined in the Iranian Constitution and in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Iran is a party.

We remain concerned that despite strong reservations from Iranian civil society, sections (including Article 6 and parts of Article 12) of the proposed Bill which have already been implemented will not be subject to this review. Article 6 of the Bill, for instance, authorises the creation of a Supreme Committee which will be composed of representatives from the security and other sectors including the judiciary, Ministry of Intelligence and the Basij resistance forces with powers to approve or reject the registration permits for NGOs. The Supreme Committee has also been empowered to have control over the choice, activities and decisions of the Board of Directors of NGOs and can decide to monitor the activities of NGOs and close their operations. We note with deep anxiety that the NGO community will have only one representative on the Supreme Committee.

Sections of Article 12 of the draft Bill mandate that all forms of demonstrations must be devoid of political affiliations and will only be considered legal following the approval of the Supreme Committee. If ratified, the law will empower the Supreme Committee to approve any relations or forms of cooperation including participation at conferences, seminars, signing of agreements and contracts between Iranian civil society organisations and international NGOs.

We believe that by attempting to ensure that the activities of NGOs are placed under the control of the security apparatus the Bill in its current form will pose a major threat to independent civil society in Iran. If not thoroughly reviewed, Article 6 in particular will provide military and strategic oversight and control over the activities of civil society organisations and practically restricts NGOs from interactions with international organisations including United Nations agencies.

Your Excellency, laws pertaining to civil society should be enabling of their activities and provide a conducive environment for them to operate. We request that the Establishment and Supervision of NGOs Bill be reviewed to reflect this.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you need further information in respect of best practices with regard to NGO laws.

Sincerely

Ingrid Srinath

Open Letter to president of Venezuela regarding the proposed International Cooperation Bill

Presidente de la República
S.E. Hugo Chávez Frías
Palacio de Miraflores, Caracas,
Venezuela
Fax:+58.212.806 3698
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
Your Excellency,
 
Re: Proposed International Cooperation Bill
 
I write as the Secretary General of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, an international alliance of civil society with members and partners in over a hundred countries. CIVICUS works to strengthen civil society and citizen action throughout the world.
 
We at CIVICUS, our members and partners, are deeply concerned about your recent comments urging National Assembly members to adopt a "severe" law to effectively stop international funding for NGOs. We would like to emphasise that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) play an extremely important role in national life. Their constructive criticism and quest for greater accountability in public life are important assets for the nation. We therefore urge your government to respect expressions of legitimate dissent and unequivocally uphold civil society's rights to express, associate and assemble freely.

Open Letter to Uzbek President Karimov

Click here to download copy of letter.

Open Letter to President of Kazakshtan about 30 Uzbek refugees

8 September 2010

To
H.E. President Nursultan Nazarbayev
President of Kazakhstan
Ak-Korda, President Residence
Astana
Kazakhstan

Your Excellency,

I write as the Secretary General of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, an international alliance of civil society with members and partners in over a hundred countries. Together with the undersigned partners, we are deeply concerned about the imminent decision of the Kazakhstan government on whether to extradite 30 Uzbek refugees to their country of origin. In their country, these individuals have been accused of involvement in terrorist activities, and will be at a serious risk of torture and inhumane treatment upon extradition.

Letter of appeal for the release of Ameer Makhoul

Letter of appeal for the release of Ameer Makhoul - Click here to download

Letter to Israeli Prime Minister appealing for the release of Mr. Makhoul

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Open Letter to the UN Secretary General on the situation in Kyrgyzstan

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CIVICUS makes a case for the release of Popov at the 14th Session of the Human Rights Council

Item 3
Promotion and Protection of all Human Rights
ID on the Reports of the Special Rapporteurs on Violence against Women, Extreme Poverty and the Right to Health
7 June 2010


Mr. President,

CIVICUS wishes to thank all three Rapporteurs for their reports and wants to highlight a few aspects of their work.

1. On violence against women: CIVICUS welcomes Ms Rashid Manjoo's first report and her focus on reparations. In particular, we want to underscore the importance she gives to structural and multiple forms of discrimination and that reparations cannot be just about returning women to the situation on which they were found before the individual instance of violence, but instead should strive to have a transformative potential. We would like to ask her to elaborate further on how to achieve this transformative potential on the ground, for example the area of dismantling patriarchal understanding that is so often the reason for systemic violence.

2. On extreme poverty: CIVICUS thanks Magdalena Sepulveda for her very clear demand to invest in social protection floors, including through non-contributory pensions, as a human rights obligation for governments as duty bearers, to prevent older persons from falling into extreme poverty and society as a whole from gliding into an appalling inequality. CIVICUS also commends her for her stand during her Zambian visit on the rights of civil society to participate freely and/or in cooperation with governments on all these important decisions regarding social protection issues, and not be curtailed through any unwarranted controls and restrictions on their independence and freedom of association.

Open letter to the President of Uzbekistan regarding Maxim Popov's continued incaceration

Click here to download

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