India: UN body petitioned over ongoing detention of prominent Kashmiri human rights defender

On the first-year anniversary of prominent Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez’s arrest and detention, four human rights organisations have submitted a complaint to the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.


 “The detention of Khurram Parvez carries all the signs of an arbitrary detention in clear breach of binding legal standards the Indian State has committed to respect. For over a year, domestic courts have failed to uphold the rule of law and international law. This is why we are seizing the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to issue a ruling on the arbitrariness of Khurram’s detention, and to demand the Indian authorities release him,” said OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.

Khurram Parvez has worked tirelessly to document human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir for the past 20 years. He is the Coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), and the Chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD). Mr Parvez is also a distinguished scholar with the political conflict, gender, and people’s rights initiative at the Center for Race and Gender at University of California, Berkeley.

“In addition to being arbitrarily detained for a year, Khurram Parvez faces a possible life sentence and the death penalty in a blatant act of reprisal for his legitimate and peaceful human rights activities. Khurram ought not to have spent a single minute behind bars and should be compensated for his prolonged and unjust deprivation of liberty,” said FIDH President Alice Mogwe.

Khurram Parvez was arbitrarily arrested on November 22, 2021 by National Investigation Agency (NIA) officers following 14-hour raids on his house and the JKCCS office in Srinagar, during which his electronic devices and several documents were seized. Mr Parvez has since been prosecuted under multiple trumped-up charges related to criminal conspiracy and terrorism, and his fundamental rights to due process and a fair trial have constantly been violated.

The rights groups reiterate their calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr Parvez and for all charges against him to be dropped.


Press contacts:

FIDH: Raphaël Lopoukhine, PR and editorial manager, , +33 6 72 28 42 94

OMCT: Iolanda Jaquemet, Director of Communications, , +41 79 539 41 06

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Signatories:

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

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders


Civic space in India is rated as "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor  

 

One Year of Arbitrary Detention: Human Rights Organisations Call for Release of Kashmiri Human Rights Defender Khurram Parvez

The undersigned organisations call for the immediate and unconditional release of Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez, who was arrested one year ago on November 22, 2021 on politically motivated terrorism and other charges.

Parvez, the Coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and Chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), has been a champion of human rights advocacy, documentation, and investigations including in the Jammu and Kashmir region, for over 20 years.

On November 22, 2021, India’s counterterrorism body, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), raided Parvez’s home and office for approximately 14 hours, seizing his and his family members’ laptop, mobile phone, and books. He was then called in for questioning at the NIA office where he was arrested on the basis of a First Information Report lodged by the NIA on November 6, 2021. The arrest memo stated that Parvez was being charged under the Indian Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), India’s abusive counterterrorism law, which makes release on bail difficult. Specifically, he was charged with “criminal conspiracy,” “waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the Government of India,” “punishment for conspiracy to wage war against the Government of India,” “raising funds for terror activities,” “punishment for conspiracy,” “recruiting any person or persons for commission of a terrorist act,” “offence relating to membership of a terrorist organisation,” and “offence of raising funds for terrorist organisations.” In May 2020, United Nations (UN) experts raised concerns about various provisions in the UAPA that are inconsistent with international human rights law and standards.

Indian authorities have repeatedly targeted Khurram Parvez for his human rights work in an attempt to silence him and intimidate others. Over the years, the NIA and other law enforcement agencies have accused him of “carrying out secessionist and separatist activities” in the region and have conducted raids at his home and offices. In 2016, authorities barred him from travelling to Switzerland to attend the UN Human Rights Council session, and then jailed him for 76 days under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA). In December 2021, UN experts urged the Indian authorities to stop targeting Parvez.

On May 13, 2022, after 173 days of detention, the NIA filed a preliminary charge sheet before the NIA Special Court in New Delhi against Parvez and stated that they will continue investigating this case. The NIA accused Parvez of “running a network of over ground workers of the [Pakistan-based armed militant organisation] Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) for furthering activities of LeT and to commit terrorist attacks in India”, according to the press release published by the NIA on May 13, 2022. His detention has since then been extended at least five times by the NIA Special Court in New Delhi under Section 43D(2)(b) of the UAPA, which allows for the extension of the detention period for up to 180 days if the investigating agency is unable to complete the investigation of a case within a 90-day period.

Parvez has now been in detention for one year. His arbitrary detention is part of a longstanding list of human rights violations committed by Indian authorities against human rights defenders, civil society organisations, journalists, and activists in Jammu and Kashmir. Rather than working towards accountability for these violations, authorities have targeted and arrested those who have exposed and sought justice for such violations. Indian authorities have also clamped down on media freedom and shut down the internet to quash peaceful protests and restrict access to information. This has caused a chilling effect, further shrinking civic space in a region that is already facing an increasing clampdown on dissent since the Indian Parliament revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special autonomous status in August 2019.

The Indian authorities must release Parvez immediately and unconditionally, and all charges against him must be dropped, as they are a reprisal for his peaceful human rights work. Human rights defenders should be protected, not persecuted. The Indian authorities must stop criminalising the work of human rights defenders and end all attempts to silence and intimidate human rights defenders and others critical voices of the government. Instead, Indian authorities should prioritise ending impunity for the human rights violations that human rights defenders have bravely documented and exposed, especially in Jammu and Kashmir, and ensure human rights defenders can work in a safe and enabling environment without fear of reprisals.

Signed:

Amnesty International

Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

FORUM-ASIA

Front Line Defenders (FLD)

Human Rights Watch

International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

Minority Rights Group International

Stichting The London Story

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Press Contacts

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Civic space in India is rated as "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor 

 

Kyrgyzstan: Withdraw draft law threatening NGOs

International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and CIVICUS call on the authorities of Kyrgyzstan to withdraw the highly restrictive draft law on NGOs, which was recently introduced, and to ensure that any legislation affecting freedom of association that is adopted is in line with the country’s international human obligations. 

The draft NGO law, elaborated by the presidential administration, was put forward for public discussion on 2 November 2022 after it was prepared in what appears to have been a rushed manner without adequate consultation with experts and civil society representatives. The draft significantly increases state control over NGOs, provides for excessive restrictions on the operations of such organisations, and raises concerns that it could be used to target groups working on issues which are sensitive to authorities.  

‘’This draft law mirrors NGO legislation seen in other, more repressive countries in the post-Soviet region. Going ahead with this initiative would seriously endanger the operating freedom of NGOs in Kyrgyzstan and undermine hard-won gains in terms of civil society participation in the country,’’ said Brigitte Dufour, Director of IPHR.The Kyrgyzstani authorities should drop this ill-considered draft law and focus instead on securing an environment in which human rights and other NGOs can carry out their crucial work without hindrance and intimidation.” 

The introduction of the draft law is particularly worrisome as it comes in the context of a worsening environment for free speech and civic space in Kyrgyzstan. In recent months, the authorities have widened their campaign against critical voices, including through mass arrests and criminal charges initiated against activists, journalists and human rights defenders who have spoken out against the government. Activists and bloggers have also been intimidated and warned because of social media posts critical of the government – most recently a veteran human rights activist was singled out for pressure.

The draft law requires all NGOs, including branches and representations of foreign NGOs, to register with the authorities in order to operate lawfully in the country, unlike existing legislation that does not require compulsory state registration of such organisations. NGOs that are already registered would have to re-register within seven months after the law enters into force; otherwise, they would be liquidated. At the same time, some of the grounds on which NGOs may be denied registration are vaguely worded. For example, applications for registration could be rejected if the name of NGOs is considered to ‘’offend’’ ‘’morality’’ or ‘’national and religious feelings of citizens’’ or – in the case of branches of foreign NGOs – if they are deemed to ‘’pose a threat’’ to ‘’national unity and identity’’ or to ‘’cultural heritage and national interests’’. As these terms are not defined by the law, authorities would have wide discretion to apply them and potentially use them to deny registration to groups working on minority rights or other sensitive issues. 

Moreover, the draft law grants broad powers to authorities to oversee NGOs’ compliance not only with national law but also with their statutes, thus affording state bodies the role of controlling and assessing whether NGOs ‘’correctly’’ implement their own mandates. As part of their oversight functions, state bodies would be able to request access to a range of NGO documents, including bank information; to send representatives to attend any events organised by NGOs; and to carry out annual inspections of NGO activities. In this way, they would be able to interfere in the internal affairs of NGOs and potentially put pressure on groups they do not like, including by issuing written warnings to them or threatening them with closure.

In accordance with the draft law, authorities would be able to request courts to close NGOs because of even minor violations of national laws; activities considered to be contrary to their statutes; or ‘’systematic’’ failures to provide required information. Authorities would not be expected to exhaust other, less harsh measures prior to taking this step. These provisions are inconsistent with international human rights standards, under which the forced dissolution of NGOs should only be used as a last resort when necessary and proportionate in response to serious misconduct. The implementation of these provisions could result in arbitrary decisions to close down NGOs which challenge public policies and seek accountability for human rights violations and other misconduct among officials. 

Additionally, the draft law creates confusion by regulating the activities of ‘’non-governmental non-commercial organisations’’, although this term is not used in pre-existing legislation, which only distinguishes between commercial and non-commercial organisations. Several other provisions of the draft law create uncertainty for affected organisations because of their unclear and ambiguous wording. For example, the draft law states that ‘’restrictions’’ on permissible types of activities for NGOs, as well as on their income ‘’might be established’’ by national legislation without providing any further information on what such restrictions might be. 

The draft law contains several discriminatory provisions, in particular provisions which prohibit foreign citizens and stateless persons from acting as founders of NGOs and which impose requirements and obligations on NGOs that do not apply to other types of non-commercial or commercial organisations. While the initiators of the draft law claim that one of its objectives is to ensure transparency of NGOs, this objective is already met by existing legislation, which sets out extensive reporting obligations for non-commercial organisations, including through a new, controversial financial reporting scheme introduced in 2021.

“If adopted, the draft NGO law would deal a serious blow to Kyrgyzstan’s vibrant civil society. It is so broadly worded that it can easily be used to arbitrarily obstruct the work of organisations that are ‘thorns in the side’ of those in power because they criticise government policies, expose human rights violations or stand up against injustice,’’ said Aarti Narse, Civic Space Research Officer at CIVICUS. 

As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Kyrgyzstani authorities have an obligation to protect the right to freedom of association in a non-discriminatory manner and ensure that any restrictions on this right meet strict requirements of necessity, legality and proportionality. The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association has emphasised that associations should not be required to register in order to legally carry out their work and that registration procedures should be viewed as an exercise of notifying rather than asking for permission from authorities. Previously registered groups should not be required to reregister under newly-adopted laws to protect them against arbitrary rejection and any rejection of an application for registration must be clearly motivated. 

States are also obliged to avoid measures that disproportionately target or burden civil society organisations and to ensure that such groups are able to carry out their activities without unwarranted state interference. In its recently adopted concluding observations on Kyrgyzstan’s implementation of the ICCPR, the UN Human Rights Committee specifically called on the authorities to ensure that any legislation governing NGOs ‘’does not lead in practice to undue control over or interference in the activities of NGOs’’. Authorities must ensure that the involuntary dissolution of NGOs is only used when there is a clear and imminent danger resulting in a flagrant violation of national law and other, less drastic measures have been insufficient. 

The draft law runs counter to the commitments made by the Kyrgyzstani government prior to its recent election as a member of the UN Human Rights Council for the period 2023-2025. As part of its membership bid, the government specifically undertook to enhance the capacity of civil society in the country. The draft law also endangers Kyrgyzstan’s GSP+ status, under which it enjoys generous trade preferences with the EU. In order to maintain this status, Kyrgyzstan is required to effectively implement its obligations under international human rights conventions, including the ICCPR.

The current public consultation on the draft NGO law will last at least one month, in accordance with national legislation. Following this, it will go to parliament for consideration and is planned to enter into force on 1 May 2023. The draft law has already been severely criticised by NGO representatives, human rights defenders and lawyers. 

The draft NGO law was put forward shortly after another problematic draft law concerning media, also elaborated by the presidential administration. According to media reports, the presidential administration has now agreed to revise the draft media law based on feedback from the media community, as well as to submit it to the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission for an expert assessment. 

We urge the Kyrgyzstani authorities to put a halt to the consideration of the draft NGO law in its current format and to ensure that any draft legislation affecting NGOs is elaborated through close and effective consultation with civil society representatives and national experts. The authorities should also request and welcome international expert comments on such draft legislation from the Venice Commission, the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.


 Civic space in the Kyrgyzstan is rated as 'Repressed' by the CIVICUS Monitor

 

Risk of refoulement of asylum seeker in cooperation with Algerian authorities would mark a dangerous turning point for human rights for Tunisia

Arabic

The undersigned organizations express their deep concern at the risk of refoulement of an Algerian asylum seeker - Zakaria Hannache - present in Tunisia since August 2022. Tunisian authorities must under no circumstances repeat the dangerous precedent set by the kidnapping and refoulement of Algerian refugee Slimane Bouhafs on 25 August, 2021, about which no investigation has been opened to date in Tunisia.

 

Indonesia: Halt using the G20 Summit to harass and block civil society activities

CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance, and the Fight Inequality Alliance are appalled by the decision of the Indonesian authorities to disband the activities of civil society groups and harass their organisers in Bali, Indonesia, ahead of the G20 Summit. We call on the government of Indonesia to halt such actions, investigate these human rights violations thoroughly and adhere to the human rights standards enshrined in international law and its own Constitution.

 

Malaysia: Civic spaces shrinking at an alarming rate for LGBTQ persons in Malaysia

Together with over 66 organisations, we express concern over the recent raid of a social gathering in Kuala Lumpur and the shrinking civic spaces for LGBTIQ person in Malaysia.


 In the wake of Halloween celebrations, the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM), the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (JAWI), and the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), conducted a joint raid of a social gathering attended by people of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions (SOGIE), including LGBTQ persons. The raid which took place on October 29, 2022, resulted in the arrests and interrogation of at least 24 gender-diverse persons.

Those arrested were alleged to have committed unclearly defined violations such as “encouraging vice” and “indecent acts”; the use of ‘illegal substances’; and for freely exercising one’s gender expression. All persons have been released on bail, and awaiting further action. Sharing of experiences by the attendees and monitoring by LGBTQ human rights groups responding to the raid show a number of critical human rights violations. They reinforce the ongoing trend of state actions that suggest discriminatory intent to persecute and shrinking spaces for LGBTQ people to live with dignity. During the raid, the attendees were segregated based on religion and gender: gender-diverse persons identified as Muslims were targeted, vilified, mistreated, misgendered, and slapped with charges for violating the Syariah Criminal Offences Act. Trans and gender-diverse people reportedly experienced degrading and humiliating treatment while undergoing urine tests by the police.


 READ THE FULL STATEMENT

Civic space in Malaysia is rated as""Obstructed" by the CIVICUS Monitor.

 

Alaa Abdel-Fattah’s life at serious risk: demand Egypt to immediately release him now!

CIVICUS stands in solidarity with movements and civil society organisations calling on Egypt to immediately release human rights activist, Alaa Abdel-Fattah. 


Alaa Abdel-Fattah is a British-Egyptian writer, human rights defender and software developer. He was one of the leading voices and campaigners during the 25 January 2011 revolution. He has been published in numerous outlets; is well-known for founding a prominent Arabic blog aggregator; and has been involved in a number of citizen journalism initiatives. His book, You Have Not Yet Been Defeated, which compiles some of his deeply influential writings, has received widespread acclaim. 

Alaa has been arrested under every Egyptian head of state during his lifetime. He is currently in detention following an unfair trial on spurious charges that relate to his human rights advocacy. On 2 April 2022, Alaa embarked on an open-ended hunger strike as a last bid for freedom. After more than 200 days of partial hunger strike, Alaa announced that, as of 1 November 2022, he is stopping his previous 100-calorie intake and moving to a full hunger strike. Alaa also decided that on 6 November 2022, coinciding with the beginning of COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, he will start a water strike. This means that if he is not released, Alaa will die before the end of COP27. 

“If one wished for death then a hunger strike would not be a struggle. If one were only holding onto life out of instinct then what’s the point of a strike? If you’re postponing death only out of shame at your mother’s tears then you’re decreasing the chances of victory….I’ve taken a decision to escalate at a time I see as fitting for my struggle for my freedom and the freedom of prisoners of a conflict they’ve no part in, or they’re trying to exit from; for the victims of a regime that’s unable to handle its crises except with oppression, unable to reproduce itself except through incarceration” - Alaa wrote in a letter to his family announcing escalation of his hunger strike

On 31 October 2022, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment said, “In advance of COP27, I am joining the chorus of global voices calling for the immediate release of Alaa Abd el-Fattah, an Egyptian activist who has languished in jail for years merely for voicing his opinion. Freedom of speech is a prerequisite for climate justice!”

We, the undersigned organisations and groups:

  1. Call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately release Alaa Abdel Fattah and all those arrested and detained solely for exercising their rights

  2. Call on the British authorities to intervene to secure the release and allowed to travel  to the UK of their fellow citizen Alaa Abdel Fattah, as his health is deteriorating to a critical and life-threatening point

  3. Call on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to publicly reiterate its call on Egypt to immediately release Alaa Abdel-Fattah, Mohamed el-Baqer, and all those arrested and detained solely for exercising their rights

  4. Call on UN Special Procedures to publicly reiterate their call on Egypt to immediately release Alaa Abdel-Fattah, Mohamed el-Baqer and Mohamed “Oxygen” Ibrahim Radwan and all those arrested and detained solely for exercising their rights

  5. Call on all government leaders and business leaders going to COP27 to use all possible leverage and urge the Egyptian authorities to immediately release Alaa Abdel Fattah and all those arrested and detained solely for exercising their rights

  6. Call on civil society organisations, groups and activists going to COP27 to urge the Egyptian authorities to immediately release Alaa Abdel Fattah and all those arrested and detained solely for exercising their rights

Signatories 

  1. Access Now

  2. Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association

  3. African Earth Farms

  4. ALQST for Human Rights

  5. Amazon Watch

  6. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

  7. Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC)

  8. Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

  9. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

  10. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

  11. Committee for Justice

  12. Committee to Protect Journalists

  13. Commonwealth Youth Peace Advocates Network Kenya

  14. Community Transformation Foundation Network (COTFONE)

  15. Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR)

  16. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)

  17. EgyptWide for Human Rights

  18. El Nadim Center

  19. FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

  20. Freedom Initiative

  21. Friends of the Earth Malta

  22. Friends of the Earth Scotland

  23. Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

  24. Human Rights Watch

  25. HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement

  26. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

  27. MENA Rights Group

  28. National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter

  29. People in Need

  30. Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)

  31. Sinai Foundation for Human Rights (SFHR)

  32.  Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR)

  33. The Center for International Policy

  34. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

  35. Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State

  36. War on Want

  37. West African Human Rights Defenders' Network/Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (WAHRDN/ROADDH)

  38. WomanHealth Philippines

  39. World Organisation Against Torture, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Background information: On 29 September 2019, Alaa Abdel Fattah was arrested while fulfilling his probation requirements at El-Dokki Police Station. He was questioned before the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) on charges of joining an illegal organisation, receiving foreign funding, spreading false news, and misusing social media; he was then ordered into pretrial detention pending case no. 1356 of 2019. On the same day, Alaa’s lawyer Mohamed el-Baqer attended Alaa’s interrogation and was similarly arrested, questioned before the SSSP, and ordered into pretrial detention pending the same case and arbitrary charges. During their pretrial detention Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed el-Baqer were arbitrarily added to Egypt’s terrorist list in relation to a separate case (no. 1781 of 2019), for which they have never been questioned or given the right to defend themselves. As a result of this designation, they face a travel ban, asset freeze, and for el-Baqer, potential disbarment as a lawyer. On 20 December 2021, following an unfair trial before a State security emergency court, in which they were denied their right to due process (defense lawyers were denied the right to present a defense on behalf of their clients, and denied permission to copy the case files), Abdel Fattah was sentenced to five years in prison, and el-Baqer and blogger Mohamed “Oxygen” Ibrahim Radwan to four years in prison on charges of “spreading false news”. Verdicts from such courts cannot be appealed. The time they spent in pretrial detention pending the original case ( No. 1356 of 2019) will not count as time served toward the December 2021 prison sentences, and the verdict is final since it has subsequently been ratified by President Al-Sisi. Further details here

Preparations for COP27 are taking place against the backdrop of an ongoing and deep-rooted human rights crisis in Egypt. The Egyptian authorities have for years employed draconian laws, including laws on counter terrorism, cyber crimes, and civil society, to stifle all forms of peaceful dissent and shut down civic space. Under the current government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, thousands continue to be arbitrarily detained without a legal basis, following grossly unfair trials, or solely for peacefully exercising their human rights. Thousands are held in prolonged pre-trial detention on the basis of spurious terrorism and national security accusations. Among those arbitrarily detained are dozens of journalists targeted for their media work, social media users punished for sharing critical online content, women convicted on morality-related charges for making Tik Tok videos, and members of religious minorities accused of blasphemy. Prisoners are held in detention conditions that violate the absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment, and since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power hundreds have died in custody amid reports of denial of healthcare and other abuses. Egypt remains one of the world’s top executioners, executing 107 people in 2020 and 83 in 2021, with at least 356 people sentenced to death in 2021, many following grossly unfair trials including by emergency courts. The crisis of impunity has emboldened Egyptian security forces to carry out extra-judicial executions and other unlawful killings, enforced disappearances and torture with no fear of consequences. 


 Civic space in Egypt is rated as "Closed" by the CIVICUS Monitor 

 

Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS urges a peaceful transfer of power in Brazil

Brazil’s presidential election results have been declared by the country’s election authority with Luiz Inacio Lula De Silva securing 50.8% of the vote as compared to 49.2% for the incumbent Jair Bolsonaro. The incumbent Jair Bolsonaro has delayed conceding defeat through a public statement in accordance with tradition. He has also repeatedly questioned the integrity of Brazil’s electoral system.

“We celebrate Brazil’s democratic electoral process and urge Jair Bolsonaro and his supporters to accept the election results by respecting the people’s mandate. The incoming government should place human rights at the center of its agenda and work with civil society to continue strengthening the country’s institutions,” said Lysa John Secretary General of CIVICUS.


Civic space in Brazil is rated as "Obstructed" by the CIVICUS Monitor

 

Kyrgyzstan: Mass arrests of government critics in escalating crackdown on dissent

We, the undersigned organisations call on the authorities in Kyrgyzstan to immediately release and drop the charges against people arrested without credible reason in the past week after speaking out against a controversial draft border agreement with neighbouring Uzbekistan. We believe that the criminal cases initiated against them constitute retaliation for their legitimate criticism of government policies and their civic engagement on this issue. Instead of persecuting critical voices, the authorities should safeguard open discussion on this and other matters of public concern.

 

EU-Southeast Asia CSOs Recommendations to the 4th EU-ASEAN Policy Dialogue on Human Rights

On behalf of the CSOs[1] that participated at the 2nd EU-Southeast Asia CSOs Forum held on October 24-22, 2022 in Jakarta, and in parallel with the 4th EU-ASEAN Policy Dialogue on Human Rights, we would like to express our gratitude to the EU-ASEAN Forum on Human Rights for the space and opportunity to engage in a dialogue with civil society representatives. We believe that this is proof of commitment for improved communication, coordination, and meaningful engagement between CSOs, ASEAN, and the EU to achieve our common aspiration to leave no one behind.

On this occasion, we hereby submit the following recommendations to strengthen human rights protection within the ASEAN and the EU. The recommendations are based on present and emerging challenges faced by human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists, and on recommendations submitted by CSOs at the EU-ASEAN Human Rights Dialogue in 2019. We request for the inclusion of the attached submission as part of the official meeting notes. In this light, we urge immediate steps to be taken, collectively with civil society organisations across both regions, towards the implementation and monitoring of our recommendations.

Present and Emerging Challenges

After the First EU-ASEAN Human Rights Dialogue with CSO in 2019, the socio-political and economic situations in the ASEAN and the EU have tremendously regressed. These were mainly brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate crisis, and the rise of militarism and authoritarianism. With respect to critical security issues, the Russian invasion of Ukraine led by President Vladimir Putin has resulted in deaths and injuries of thousands of civilians. Since 1 February 2021, the attempted military coup in Myanmar has spurred a cross-regional political, human rights, and humanitarian crisis. As of this writing, more than 1,000,000 people have been displaced, with more than 2,000 civilians killed, and 15,000 arrested. The use of excessive force by police and military against civilians claiming their basic human rights and fundamental freedoms has been perpetuated with impunity across the region.

The COVID-19 pandemic has, indeed, aggravated the shrinking of civic spaces. Instead of meaningfully addressing challenges and needs of the vulnerable, authoritarian states have even accumulated more power by convoluting health emergencies and national security approaches. Numerous documents have revealed how COVID-19 was used as a pretext to adopt restrictive laws to curb access to information, justice, and basic services. State-sponsored disinformation and misinformation were intensified. Dissenting opinions towards government pandemics measures were purged. Furthermore, measures to mitigate viral infection limited peoples’ movement and participation in social, economic and political affairs. The proclivity towards securitized approaches has led ASEAN to further exclude civil society and neglect peoples’ voices. This is in breach of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, which aims to promote a people-centred and people-oriented regional community.

The climate crisis has led to the global health emergency, political upheavals, gross human rights violation, and humanitarian disasters. Climate change has disproportionately affected planetary health, which is closely linked with the health of its population and their ability to achieve their right to life. These have contributed to the uncertainty and instability of the future, particularly of those who live in fragile situations. In fact, Southeast Asia is already bearing the brunt of climate emergencies. Moreover, rising sea levels, flooding, and typhoons have tremendously increased more recently.

The current economic systems have perpetuated capitalist greed. Extractive industries have greatly contributed to multiple rights violations, particularly land grabbing. Moreover, they have put the lives of indigenous communities and environmental human rights defenders. With respect to climate action, communities' access to decision-making processes and participation remains virtually absent. As their concerns are neglected, this crisis continues to hinder State obligations to protect and fulfil human rights, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Worse, more and more people have become vulnerable and disempowered.

Amidst these crises, communities with pre-existing intersectional vulnerabilities are further discriminated against and marginalised. Pandemic recovery plans have failed to meaningfully address the specific needs of women, youth, children, LGBTQIA+ communities, and persons with disabilities. Furthermore, conflicts and climate emergencies have forcibly displaced people, rendering many stateless and without protection.

The steady rise of militarism and authoritarianism has many lives at greater risk. Repressive laws and practices, both in offline and online spheres, have become dangerously normalised. These include systematic proliferation of censorship, harassment, arbitrary arrests, violence, misinformation, and state-sponsored propaganda. As of this writing, human rights and environmental rights defenders, pro-democracy activists, dissenters, children, youth, journalists, academics, LGBTQIA+ communities - historically marginalized based on their sexual orientation, gender identity & expression and sexual orientations and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) are finding themselves on the edge of uncertainty and danger.

These shared lived experiences have proven the urgent need to establish and sustain safe and brave transnational and cross-sectoral networks and solidarity. It is crucial for marginalised individuals and communities to meaningfully engage in multilateral advocacy on human rights, and intersectional issues that matter to them the most.

Recommendations

Building on the 2019 Consolidated Recommendations from the first EU-ASEAN CSO Forum, our key recommendation is for EU and ASEAN Member States (referred to as ‘States’) to develop policies, implement measures, and invest in programmes that are inclusive, non-discriminatory, participatory, and proportionate. These should promote greater accountability and sustainability in order to address issues related to public health emergencies, security and climate crises, and the rise of authoritarianism.

States should ensure that development programs, which are in line with international human rights standards and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are designed and implemented to fully advance inclusion, equality, dignity and justice in all corners of ASEAN and the EU.

READ THE FULL JOINT STATEMENT


Civic space in Indonesia is rated ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor.

 

COP27: Over 200 organisations call on UNFCCC Secretariat & State parties to put human rights at the centre of climate action

CIVICUS together with over 200 organisations wrote an open letter asking the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and State parties to put human rights at the centre of the energy transition at COP27.

 

10 human rights groups urge China to submit report to UN Committee against Torture

                                                                                         OPEN LETTER

General Secretary Xi Jinping
Central Committee of the Communist Party of China
Zhongnanhai Ximen, Fuyou Street
Xicheng District, Beijing 100017
People’s Republic of China
Fax: +86 10 6307 0900; +11 10 6238 1025

Re: State Report on the Implementation of the Convention Against Torture

Dear General Secretary Xi,

Almost three years have passed since the due date (9 December 2019) of the PRC’s latest State party report to the UN Committee Against Torture. We are writing on behalf of the people in the PRC, and human rights defenders worldwide, to request the submission of the above-mentioned report without further delay.

By ratifying the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (hereinafter “Convention”), the PRC has committed to submit quadrennial progress reports on the implementation of the treaty’s provisions. However, the PRC government has failed to submit its sixth periodic report since its fifth periodic review in 2015. In the last two decades, the PRC has not submitted any of its State party reports to the Committee Against Torture (hereinafter “Committee”) on time. Since 20051, the PRC government has not issued any invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment for a follow-up visit.

In its Concluding Observations on the PRC’s fifth periodic report issued in 2016, the Committee had requested the State party to submit its sixth periodic report by 9 December 20192, and reiterated its concerns about torture and ill-treatment taking place during prolonged pre-trial and extralegal detention3; enforced disappearances on the pretext of ‘residential surveillance at designated locations’4; and deaths in custody5. Reiterating its previous recommendations6 to the PRC on including a comprehensive definition of torture in its legislation, the Committee had expressed concern that “serious discrepancies between the definition in the Convention and that incorporated into domestic law create actual or potential loopholes for impunity”7.

Moreover, the PRC has yet to ratify the Optional Protocol of the Convention despite receiving repeated recommendations8 from the Committee to withdraw all reservations and declarations to the Convention9.

Such unwillingness to fulfill its international obligations implies that the PRC is seeking to evade its responsibility to protect human rights within its territory. This rationale can be supported by countless testimonies of the occurrence of torture in extrajudicial and pre-trial detention facilities in Tibet, Uyghur people in East Turkistan10, and Han Chinese where discretionary and extrajudicial powers have been granted to the police and security agencies to deny basic human rights to political detainees.

Many political prisoners, including human rights defenders, continue to die as a result of torture and ill-treatment at the hands of police and state security agents. In Tibet, this phenomenon has been illustrated by the cases of Norsang in 201911, and Lhamo12 in 2020. To avoid being held responsible for deaths in custody, prison authorities tend to release prisoners once they have reached near-death conditions, as illustrated by the cases of Gangbu Rikgye Nyima13, released one year early in failing health; Gendun Sherab14, who died in 2020 due to torture injuries; Choekyi15, who died in 2020 after being released five months early; Tenzin Nyima16, who was released early in a comatose state and died shortly after; and Kunchok Jinpa17, who passed away in 2021 after being transferred to hospital mid-sentence. In East Turkistan, Uyghurs have been rounded up by Chinese police and detained against their will in large internment (“re-education”) camps where they have been subjected to arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, political indoctrination, torture, and other serious human rights violations18. Overall, by refusing to submit the State party report, the PRC is shielding itself from external criticism and scrutiny that would follow in the form of stakeholders' responses.

Furthermore, PRC’s negligence also weakens the international accountability and monitoring mechanisms essential to the functioning of the UN. In this respect, the PRC’s refusal to comply with the rules that they voluntarily agreed to (by signing and ratifying the Convention) undermines the fight for human rights on a global scale. Extensive delays in submitting its state party reports undermine China’s ability to effectively address the serious human rights violations.
Sincerely,

Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy

Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD)

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

World Uyghur Congress (WUC)

Front Line Defenders

Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP)

CIVICUS

Human Rights in China (HRIC)

Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC)

Asian Dignity Initiative (ADI)

Copied to:
Mr. Claude Heller, Chairperson
Committee Against Torture

Mr. Volker Türk,
UN High Commissioner on Human Rights

Ms Alice Jill Edwards,
Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Zhang Jun,
PRC’s Permanent Representative to the UN

Wang Yi,
Foreign Minister, People’s Republic of China

References
E/CN.4/2006/6/Add.6.
2 CAT/C/CHN/CO/5, para. 66.
3 CAT/C/CHN/CO/5, para. 10.
4 CAT/C/CHN/CO/5, para. 15.
5 CAT/C/CHN/CO/5, para. 24.
6 CAT/C/CHN/CO/4, paras. 32 and 33, and A/55/44, para. 123.
7 CAT/C/CHN/CO/5, para. 9.
8 A/55/44, para.124, and CAT/CO/CHN/4, para. 40.
9 CAT/C/CHN/CO/5, para. 64.
10 “Concentration Camps in China for Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims”, Uyghur Human Rights Project, 26 January 2019, https://uhrp.org/report/briefing-concentration-camps-china-uyghurs-and-other-turkic.
11 “Investigate death of Tibetan man detained for opposing China’s forced political education”, Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, 5 May 2021, https://tchrd.org/investigate-death-of-tibetan-man-detained-for-opposing-chinas-forced-political-education
12 “China: Tibetan Woman Dies in Custody”, Human Rights Watch, 29 October 2020,
https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/10/29/china-tibetan-woman-dies-custody
13 “Tibetan Protester Released Early from Prison in Critical Condition”, Radio Free Asia, 3 March 2021,
https://www.rfa.org/english/news/tibet/health-03032021173252.html
14 “Tibetan Monk Dies After Living Two Years with Torture Injuries Sustained in Custody”, Radio Free Asia, 24 April 2020, https://www.rfa.org/english/news/tibet/gendun-sherab-04242020150923.html
15 “China: Investigate Untimely Death of Former Political Prisoner due to Denial of Medical Care”, Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, 8 May 2020, https://tchrd.org/china-investigate-untimely-death-of-former-political-prisoner-due-to-denial-of-medical-care
16 “China: Tibetan Monk Dies from Beating in Custody”, Human Rights Watch, 21 January 2021,
https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/01/21/china-tibetan-monk-dies-beating-custody
17 “China: Tibetan Tour Guide Dies from Prison Injuries”, Human Rights Watch, 16 February 2021,
https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/02/16/china-tibetan-tour-guide-dies-prison-injuries
18 “Internment Camps”, World Uyghur Congress, 1 August 2017,
https://www.uyghurcongress.org/en/political-indoctrination-camps


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

 

Kyrgyzstan: Joint NGO report for UN Human Rights Committee review

The United Nations Human Rights Committee will review Kyrgyzstan’s human rights record at its upcoming session in Geneva, which starts on 10 October 2022. The Committee will assess Kyrgyzstan’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and adopt conclusions and recommendations based on the third periodic report about the implementation of the covenant submitted by Kyrgyzstan’s government, as well as other information, including NGO reports.

 

Iran: civil society urgently calls for accountability and respect for women’s rights

The death of Mahsa Amini while in custody after she was arrested for allegedly violating Iran’s strict rules on  women’s dress code and the massive arrests of protesters require urgent accountability by the government and end to violence against women and women human rights defenders, global civil society organisation, CIVICUS said today.  

 

Sudan: woman at risk of death by stoning

Mariam Tirab, 20 years old woman from Sudan was sentenced to death by stoning on June 27th, 2022. She was found guilty By a judge in Kosty in White Nile state of violating article 146(2) (Adultery). The young woman was arrested in 2021, when a police officer interrogated her without informing her that her confession will be used against her in court. She has been tried without access to legal representation and was not informed about the charges and the penalty of the crime of adultery (Zina) in Sudanese laws. She was denied her constitutional and legal rights under the Sudanese laws.

Article 146 of the Sudanese criminal law is built on the Sharia laws, where married women charged with adultery are sentenced to death by stoning, while unmarried women are punished by 100 lashes. Despite the legal reforms of 2020, wherein the transitional government banned corporal punishments, the Sharia laws related to adultery remained unchanged.

Mariam Tirab was sentenced even though she was not granted access to proper legal aid or provided with basic information about her rights. Her confession was obtained by police through illegal procedures. The legal procedures and the justice system is failing women in Sudan, denying many access to their basic right of having fair trial. A group of lawyers and women’s rights organizations have started an appeal of the case at the higher court. In the last 10 years, Sudan witnessed several cases similar to Mariam’s where the sentences were overturned when they were appealed.. Under the current military regime, the justice system in Sudan is at its worst, , as unfair and politicized trials are the norm. The lack of a civilian government in the country for almost a year is increasing challenges for local WHRDs and human rights groups are exerting pressure on the military regime to reform the justice system.

Since the military coup on October 25th, 2021, systemic violence against women increased across the country. The return of fundamental Islamic leaders to the political scene in support of the military led to an increase in oppression of women’s rights. The police force under the Public Order Laws was recreated under a new name - "social police", which is considered a major set back for women’s rights in Sudan.. Women and girls’ are constantly being scrutinized for what they wear and how they appear in public. University officials have imposed dress codes and prevented some female students from entering the gates without a scarf. The former regime imposed hijab in Sudan for three decades prior to the revolution in 2018. Within one year of the military coup, women in Sudan are living under the same oppressive system once again. The military leaders are closing the public spaces, using repressive laws to crush the resistance movement led by women.

A visit to Mariam Tirab in prison was prevented by a judge recently. She is detained in Kosty city of white Nile state under inhumane prison conditions. Women’s rights and human rights groups started a campaign and organized protests calling for her release and for legal reforms that respect women rights. We the undersigned groups and Individuals call on the Sudanese authorities to:

- Overturn the sentence against Mariam Tirab and grant her the right to fair trial and access to lawyers and visits. - Abide by and respect their obligations to international laws as state parties of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Right and the UN Convention against the Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT). - We call on relevant UN Special Procedures mandate holders and OHCHR to take action to urge Sudanese authorities to overturn this sentence and end violations of the international human rights law and respect the state obligations to protect women and human rights.

 

  1. AWID ( Association of Women in Development)
  2. CIVICUS
  3. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  4. Global Fund for Women
  5. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  6. Women Living Under Muslim Laws WHRDMENA Coalition
  7. Canadian Federation of University
  8. Women Collectif genevois de la Grève féministe
  9. CONCERNED NIGERIANS
  10. Sisters Trust Nora organization for compacting violence against women's and girls
  11. Alharisat organization
  12. Sudanese Women Rights Action
  13. İnsan Hakları Derneği (İHD)/Human Rights Association
  14. Hafidha Chekir. FIDH/Tunis
  15. Taha Metwally/ANKHAssociation
  16. Arefe Elyasi /Open Stadiums
  17. Nedal Alsalman /BCHR
  18. Razan Nour/ Innovation for Change Middle East and North Africa
  19. Sawsan Salim/ KMEWO
  20. Rajaa ahlafi /Adala association for the right to a fair trial
  21. Onaheed Ahmed /Sudanese Front For Change
  22. Nizam Assaf/Amman Center for Human Rights Studies
  23. Ahmed Mefreh/Committee for Justice
  24. Cecilie Olivia Buchhave/KVINFO
  25. Connie Carøe Christiansen/KVINFO
  26. Vanessa Mendoza cortés/ Associación Stop violències
  27. Andorra Sama Aweidah/Women's Studies Centre
  28. Meriam Mastour/Les FoulardsViolets
  29. Zohra Triki/Doustourna
  30. Sofie Birk/KVINFO
  31. Marieme helie lucas/ Secularism Is A Women's issue (siawi.org)
  32. Mémoire et citoyenneté
  33. Equality Now
  34. Hagir Omer, Madania
  35. Mashair Saeed/WHRD
  36. Mamoun Elgizouli Sara Abdelgalil/WHRD
  37. Jihad Mashamoun/Researcher
  38. Sally Armstrong/ Journalist
  39. Ibrahim Bella Ammar Abbas
  40. Sara López/WLUML
  41. Anniesa Hussain/WLUML
  42. Yussef Robinson/ SDfHR
  43. Elie Losleben Abramovich Fabienne/Collectif féministe
  44. Stéphanie Friedli/Collectif genevois de la Grève féministe
  45. Aude Spang/Collectif genevois de la Grève féministe / Syndicat Unia

 Civic space in Sudan is rated as "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor

 

 

China must protect the rights of detained human rights defenders Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing

Today, 19 September 2022, marks one year in detention for two young Chinese human rights defenders: Huang Xueqin, an independent journalist and key actor in China’s #MeToo movement, and Wang Jianbing, a labour rights advocate.[1]

CIVICUS and other civil society groups, call on Chinese authorities to respect and protect their rights in detention, including access to legal counsel, unfettered communication with family members, their right to health and their right to bodily autonomy. We emphasise that their detention is arbitrary, and we call for their release and for authorities to allow them to carry out their work and make important contributions to social justice.

Who are they ?

In the 2010s, Huang Xueqin worked as a journalist for mainstream media in China. During that time, she covered stories on public interest matters, women’s rights, corruption scandals, industrial pollution, and issues faced by socially-marginalized groups. She later supported victims and survivors of sexual harassment and gender-based violence who spoke out as part of the #MeToo movement in China. On 17 October 2019, she was stopped by police in Guangzhou and criminally detained in RSDL for three months – for posting online an article about Hong Kong’s anti-extradition movement.

Wang Jianbing followed a different path, but his story – like Huang’s – demonstrates the commitment of young people in China to giving back to their communities. He worked in the non-profit sector for more than 16 years, on issues ranging from education to disability to youth to labour. Since 2018, he has supported victims of occupational disease to increase their visibility and to access social services and legal aid.

Arbitrary and incommunicado detention

On 19 September 2021, the two human rights defenders were taken by Guangzhou police; after 37 days, they were formally arrested on charges of ‘inciting subversion of state power’. Using COVID-19 prevention measures as an excuse, they were held for five months in solitary confinement, and subject to secret interrogation, in conditions similar to those of ‘residential surveillance in a designated location’, or RSDL. After months of delays and no due process guarantees, their case was transferred to court for the first time in early August 2022.

We strongly condemn the lengthy detentions of Huang and Wang. In a Communication sent to the Chinese government in February 2022, six UN independent experts – including the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and the Working Group on arbitrary detention (WGAD) – raised serious concerns about Wang’s disappearance and deprivation of liberty. They asserted that Wang’s activities were protected and legal, and that Chinese authorities used a broad definition of ‘endangering national security’ that runs counter to international human rights law.

In May 2022, the WGAD went one step further, formally declaring Wang’s detention to be ‘arbitrary’ and urging authorities to ensure his immediate release and access to remedy. Noting other, similar Chinese cases, the WGAD also requested Chinese authorities to undertake a comprehensive independent investigation into the case, taking measures to hold those responsible for rights violations accountable.

We echo their call: Chinese authorities should respect this UN finding, and immediately release Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing. 

[1] As their cases are deeply connected, their friends and supporters refer to them as a single case called the ‘Xuebing case’, using a portmanteau of their first names.

 

Pakistan: Government has failed to comply with UN Working Group findings to end persecution of Muhammad Ismail and family

 

CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance and Front Line Defenders, call on the Pakistan government to immediately comply with recommendations of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) on the case of human rights defender Muhammad Ismail and put an end to all acts of harassment against him and his family.

 

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.  

 

Bangladesh: Odhikar faces another blow as government upholds de-registration decision

The decision by the Prime Minister’s Office of Bangladesh to uphold the de-registration of prominent human rights organisation Odhikar is appalling and demonstrates the government’s ongoing efforts to crush the organisation and stifle human rights work in the country, CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance said today.

 

Introducing the new Chair and Vice-Chair of the CIVICUS Board

 

 

We are pleased to announce that the CIVICUS Board has elected Dylan Mathews as Board Chair and Sonia Kwami as Board Vice-Chair. The decision was made as part of the first meeting of the new cohort of the CIVICUS Board, which began its term on 1st July 2022.

Dylan Mathews is the Chief Executive of Peace Direct, a UK-based international NGO that aims to shift power and resources to locally-led civil society organisations working in some of the most conflict-affected countries worldwide. Dylan has spent twenty years working in the international development, humanitarian and peacebuilding sectors, and is passionate about tackling the power imbalances and systemic problems that prevent local civil society from playing a more active role in their contexts. While born in the UK, Dylan is of Sri Lankan heritage, was brought up in Zambia, has lived in the Caribbean and Sudan and has supported civil society organisations in over 20 countries.

"I am honoured and humbled to be taking up the position of Board Chair,” said Dylan Mathews. “CIVICUS is the most vital dynamic champion of civil society globally, and I can think of no other organisation worldwide that has done so much to support civil society at a time when freedoms are under threat in so many countries. I look forward to serving with my board colleagues to help advance CIVICUS' mission and its ambitious new strategy.”

Sonia Kwami is a campaigner and leader in development practice, who is passionate about working with and inspiring diverse groups of people to become change agents and catalysts for justice. Over the past two decades, she has successfully managed development programmes, advocacy and campaigns (online and offline), and supported civil society efforts in over 60 countries, particularly in the global south.

“It has been a privilege and an honour to serve on the CIVICUS Board over the last two years,” said Sonia Kwami. “In this period, I have had the opportunity to be part of a diverse board, where we have helped shape critical conversations on the scope and impact of the Board while working alongside CIVICUS staff, members and allies to identify the priorities that we have adopted as part of CIVICUS’ Strategic Plan for 2022-27. I look forward to working together to support civil society across the world in my new role as Vice-Chair of the Board.”

Sonia is from Ghana and is currently the Africa Campaigns Director for ONE, a global movement campaigning to end extreme poverty and preventable disease by 2030, so that everyone, everywhere can lead a life of dignity and opportunity. As part of this work, she leads in developing, managing and executing ONE’s campaigns in Africa, which also involves working closely with diverse groups of people to demand justice, equality and accountability from governments and duty bearers.

In their roles as Board Chair and Vice-Chair, Dylan Mathews and Sonia Kwami will work closely with Patricia Lerner, who continues as the Treasurer of the CIVICUS Board.

For more information:

 

Five years since genocide, the world must act to ensure justice for Rohingya

In marking the five-year commemoration of the genocide committed against the Rohingya in 2017, 384 civil society organisations reaffirm our commitment to continue to stand in solidarity with and seek justice for the Rohingya, to ensure the full restoration of their rights in Myanmar, and to end the impunity of the Myanmar military. The plight of the Rohingya must not be forgotten.

 

Over 150 organisations demand international community stand against raids and closures of 7 Palestinian organisations

Amid Israel’s escalating attacks targeting their work, a group of more than 150 Palestinian, regional, and international organisations express our full solidarity with the designated seven leading Palestinian civil society organisations, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq Law in the Service of Man (Al-Haq), Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), Health Work Committees (HWC),the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC).

 

Malaysia: Ismail Sabri’s government is undermining fundamental freedoms

Ismail Sabri

One year after Ismail Sabri took over as the Prime Minister of Malaysia, ARTICLE 19 and CIVICUS are concerned about systematic attempts by his government to restrict and undermine fundamental freedoms, especially freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

 

Joint Letter to Bahrain King: Free 400-day hunger striker Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace

King of Bahrain, Shaikh Hamad bin 'Issa Al Khalifa

Crown Prince and Prime Minister, Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa

Your Majesties,

We, the undersigned, are writing to you concerning Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, an academic, activist and blogger imprisoned in Bahrain whose health is declining rapidly. We respectfully urge you to secure Al-Singace’s immediate and unconditional release, and in the meantime, ensure he receives proper medical care, is protected from torture and other ill-treatment, and that his academic work is transferred to his family.

Abduljalil Al-Singace, 60, is serving a life sentence for his role in peaceful protests calling for democratic reform in Bahrain in 2011. He has been imprisoned for almost 12 years solely for exercising his human rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Al-Singace has been on hunger strike since 8 July 2021 and has now exceeded 400 days without solid food. We are deeply concerned by the current state of his health as his blood sugar has reached an extremely low level. We are especially concerned that in flagrant disregard of his physicians’ orders, the delivery of multiple essential prescribed medicines has either been delayed or denied, including pills necessary for his nervous system and bodily functions, and eye drops.

Al-Singace suffers from post-polio syndrome and multiple other health problems, including severe intermittent headaches, a prostate problem, arthritis in his shoulder joint, tremors, numbness, and diminished eyesight. In January 2022, his neurologist requested a CT scan, but the authorities have reportedly refused the request to have the procedure performed at the Salmaniya Medical Complex, run by the Health Ministry. Instead, the authorities insist that the test be conducted at the King Hamad Military Hospital. But he does not believe that he would receive adequate and timely healthcare at King Hamad Military Hospital, given that he has yet to be informed of the result of an MRI scan of his shoulder taken there in October 2021. This delay amounts to a deliberate failure to provide healthcare in line with Bahrain’s obligations under international law. Given his fragility and pre-existing health problems, this denial of healthcare puts his life at risk and may lead to irreversible damage. Therefore, we call on the government to immediately provide him with adequate healthcare.

Al-Singace’s hunger strike is in response to the prison authorities’ confiscation of his book on Bahraini dialects of Arabic that he spent four years researching and writing by hand. 

On 18 July 2021, the authorities transferred him from Jau prison to the Kanoo Medical Centre, where he continues to be held. The same month, the Bahrain Ministry of Interior Ombudsman declared that his book could not be turned over to his family until a “legal decision” about its contents was made. In November 2021, a legal decision clarified the apolitical nature of the book, but government authorities have yet to return the book to his family. In March 2022, an Ombudsman representative visited Al-Singace, made baseless allegations about the book's content and asked him to edit and resubmit the book for the authorities to review.

In July 2022, the UN Human Rights Committee repeated its call to the government of Bahrain to release Al-Singace along with other unjustly imprisoned human rights defenders including Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Naji Fateel. Today, on 13 August, Al-Singace marks 12 years since his initial arrest in 2010. He was subsequently unjustly re-imprisoned after a brief hiatus of 21 days in early 2011 and was re-arrested on 17 March 2011 during the uprising. Today also marks the 401st day of Al-Singace’s hunger strike.

We call upon you to release Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace immediately and unconditionally. We also urge you to ensure he receives his medication without delay and has access to adequate healthcare, in compliance with medical ethics, including the principles of confidentiality, autonomy, and informed consent, and is protected from torture and other ill-treatment. We also call on you to ensure that his work is immediately handed over to his family.

Sincerely,

  1. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
  2. Amnesty International
  3. Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) 
  4. ​​Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) 
  5. CIVICUS
  6. Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  7. Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)
  8. English PEN
  9. European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
  10. Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
  11. Human Rights Watch
  12. Freedom House
  13. PEN International 
  14. Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
  15. Scholars at Risk

Background

Upon his return from London with his family, Dr. Al-Singace was arrested at the Bahrain International Airport on 13 August 2010. A detailed account of his torture allegations can be found in a report by Human Rights Watch published on 1 September 2010, which states:

“Al-Singace, who had spent the previous 15 days in incommunicado detention, told al-Buainain of having been handcuffed and blindfolded the entire time. Al-Singace said that his captors beat him on his fingers with a hard instrument, slapped him around, and pulled and twisted his nipples and ears with tongs.”

When the Arab spring erupted in Bahrain, government authorities released Al-Singace on 24 February 2011. However, he was soon rearrested 21 days later, on 17 March 2011. Since then, Al-Singace has remained in arbitrary detention.

In November 2011, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry documented in a report that the police subjected Dr. Al-Singace to nightly beatings for two months while they held him in solitary confinement. The commission said that the  authorities targeted his disability by confiscating his crutches, making him “stand on one leg for prolonged periods” and by pushing his crutch “into his genitals.” The commission also found that the  authorities “threatened him with rape and made sexually explicit comments about his wife and his daughter.”

 

Guinea: Release human rights defenders and lift restrictions on freedom of assembly

The use of violence and the killing of demonstrators to disperse ongoing protests in Guinea entrenches impunity and is a major setback for the fragile transition, global civil society alliance CIVICUS said today. Human rights groups report that at least five people were killed and several injured as the armed forces in Guinea used violence to disperse protesters on 28 and 29 July 2022. 

 

FIJI: Contempt proceedings over highlighting spelling mistake inject climate of fear

Amnesty International and CIVICUS call on the Fiji government to drop contempt charges against a lawyer in Fiji for the exercise of his right to freedom of expression. On 27 June 2022, Fiji’s Attorney General filed charges for contempt of court against senior lawyer Richard Naidu for highlighting on social media an error in a court judgment where the word ‘injection’ was used instead of ‘injunction’. Amnesty International and CIVICUS believe that the charges are an excessive and politically motivated response to pointing out a spelling error in a court judgment and violate the right to freedom of expression.

 

Uganda: Reverse the suspension of LGBT organisation


CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world is seriously concerned about a recent decision by the Ugandan authorities to suspend the operations of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), an organisation that has for years championed the rights of LGBT people in Uganda. 

On 5 August 2022, Stephen Okello, Executive Director of the National Bureau for NGOs, a government agency that regulates the operations of NGOs, suspended the operations of SMUG with immediate effect, accusing it of working illegally, without a valid NGO Permit. The government of Uganda is obliged to protect and promote the rights of its citizens and create an enabling environment for civil society organisations to operate by removing any undue restrictions on the right to freedom of association. 
 
“The suspension of this organisation is a new low for human rights in a country that has continuously failed to respect fundamental freedoms, including freedom of association. This is intended to silence civil society voices committed to defending human rights of LGBT community in Uganda. Ugandan authorities should immediately reverse this decision and allow SMUG to resume their work,” said Mawethu Nkosana, LGBTI Advocacy  Lead for CIVICUS., 

Background 
The closure and suspension of Sexual Minorities Uganda follows several attacks, restrictions, and harassments imposed on NGOs, particularly LGBTQ organisations.  Uganda is a deeply “conservative and religious” society where LGBT people face general hostility. Homosexuality remains illegal and gay people face arrest, ostracism and violence. The country's parliament once passed an anti-gay law that handed out life sentences for some categories of homosexual offences. Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has always criticised and attacked gay people as disgusting and social deviants running “social imperialism”. 

The NGO Bureau has imposed the current restrictions on SMUG at a time when the government has deliberately closed one of the biggest basket funds - Democratic Governance Facility (DGF), a major funder of civil society organisations in Uganda. CIVICUS calls on the government of President Yoweri Museveni to rescind the suspensions of SMUG, respect its international human rights obligations, and create an enabling environment for all civil society organisation and human rights defenders.

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

 

Sri Lanka: end government crackdown on peaceful protesters

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

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

 

28 CSOs condemn the continued blocking of Al-Manassa’s website and dozens of other news websites

The undersigned civil society organisations condemn the blocking by the Egyptian authorities of three links to access the Al-Manassa website within approximately 72 hours, starting from Thursday, 14 July. The blocking occurs as part of a series of continued restrictions on the website, which is one of the few independent news sites operating from inside Egypt. The undersigned organisations call on the authorities to lift the blocking of Al-Manassa, stop its repeated targeting, and bring to an end the censorship imposed on other news websites.

 

Joint statement: the European Union must address reprisals against human rights defenders in India

The joint European Union (EU)-India press release, which provides a summary of the topics discussed during the 10th EU-India human rights dialogue which took place on 15 July 2022 in New Delhi, fails to adequately address pressing issues of security and reprisals faced by human rights defenders in India, five human rights organisations said today. The organisations expressed their disappointment in the EU’s apparent failure to raise concern about the systematic attacks on civil society actors in India.

While both parties reiterated their commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights in the joint EU-India press release, there was no mention of any concrete action to be taken to ensure the ending of reprisals and persecution against human rights defenders, the release of jailed defenders and to prevent the adoption and abuse of restrictive laws, including anti-terror laws.

The joint EU-India press release from the dialogue makes specific mention to “the importance of safeguarding the freedom, independence and diversity of civil society actors, including human rights defenders and journalists, and respecting freedom of association and peaceful assembly”. While this is an important acknowledgment, it must be backed by corresponding action to end persecution and immediately release jailed human rights defenders.

Indian rights defenders need immediate support and an end to systematic attacks, threats and arbitrary arrests. Of the 16 defenders arrested in relation to the Bhima Koregaon case, 13 remain in jail. On 5 July 2021, 84-year-old Stan Swamy died in custody due to the lack of medical treatment. There has been no public acknowledgment of the State’s complicity in his incarceration and death. Six defenders out of these arrested for participating in the peaceful campaign against the Citizenship Amendment Act remain in jail. In November 2021, Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez was arrested and remains incarcerated on spurious charges. In June 2022, Teesta Setalvad was jailed as a direct reprisal for her campaign for accountability and justice for victims of the 2002 Gujarat riot. Many other defenders, including indigenous women seeking justice, are jailed and labelled as terrorists due to their human rights work. The joint EU-India press release fails to address any of these cases, or to acknowledge the general worsening of the human rights situation in India.

The targeting of defenders is well-known, and has a direct impact on their safety, their families, and the communities they represent. Vague commitments on human rights and safeguarding freedoms and defenders no longer suffice. The scale of the violence and punishment for peaceful defense of human rights in India requires a proportionate and public response and a demand for accountability for continued violations. In the face of the blatant disregard for national standards and international commitments, particularly important in light of India’s global presence and membership to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the EU must take a public stand on patterns of reprisals and individual cases.

The joint EU-India press release also recognizes “the importance of strengthening national and international human rights mechanisms for the protection and promotion of human rights and the important role of national human rights institutions, civil society actors and journalists”. However, it falls short of addressing laws in India that are routinely used to target human rights defenders and the failure of the National Human Rights Commission of India to proactively intervene in cases where defenders are targeted. The use of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) and their impact on the human rights defenders’ ability to work safely requires more direct and public attention. The FCRA has been used to block much needed funds, freeze bank accounts, and subject NGOs to investigations, creating a chilling effect for civil society.

We acknowledge the EU-India human rights dialogue as an opportunity for both parties to speak on important issues of human rights. However, recognition of the work of human rights defenders and of marginalized communities in the country will be visible based on tangible outcomes, including public statements that reflect clear human rights benchmarks. Failure to do so is a missed opportunity and may serve to further embolden India to violate human rights with impunity.

We call on the EU and member states to ensure that there is strong follow up to the dialogue and a commitment to hold India accountable for its treatment of human rights defenders in the country. The targeting of defenders through the use of national institutions, including arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment, must be strongly condemned and individual cases should be publicly raised. The EU must also support human rights defenders by observing trials and undertaking visits to defenders in prisons. Effective protection for human rights defenders requires adhering to concrete human rights standards and taking action beyond the annual human rights dialogue between parties.

Signed

  • Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  • Front Line Defenders
  • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Civic space in India is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor. 

 

Myanmar: Execution of four democracy activists highlights junta’s brutality

We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the execution carried out by the military junta against four pro-democracy activists in Myanmar. We call on the international community, including ASEAN states, to publicly denounce these grave violations committed by the junta and to hold them accountable for their crimes.

 

Malawi: respect human rights and allow peaceful protest

The government of Malawi must stop the clampdown on peaceful protests and respect the rights of its citizens to voice concerns which is in line with the country’s national and international human rights obligations, said the global civil society alliance CIVICUS, today. On 20 July 2022, Malawians took to the streets to express their views against “selective justice” by the country’s judiciary over corruption cases and the high cost of living. Protesters are concerned by the selective application of the rule of law, and judiciary’s failure to prosecute corrupt politicians.

Malawian authorities have resorted to using extreme violence and brutal attacks to respond to the protests. About 76 protesters, including human rights activists, were arrested by police on 20 July 2022, after participating in a peaceful protest in Lilongwe, and subsequently charged for inciting violence, unlawful assembly, and contempt of court. Protesters argue that the government’s stance on combating corruption is slow and often selective, leaving highly connected politicians free while less connected citizens are harassed and not given due justice as guaranteed by the constitution. Many protesters were brutally beaten and detained in police stations, with reports of serious torture in the detention facilities.

In response to the protests, security forces brutally arrested four leaders of the Human Rights Ambassadors group, which organised the demonstrations. Police used teargas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition to quell the protests.

“The government of President Lazarus Chakwera is starting to resort to the same levels of violence as the previous government. More protests are planned for the future and the Malawian authorities must respect the right of its citizens to express themselves about issues affecting them as enshrined in the Malawian constitution and international human rights frameworks that Malawi is party to.” said Paul Mulindwa, Advocacy and Campaigns Africa Lead for CIVICUS.

Background

In March, activists supported by peaceful citizens organised an anti-corruption demonstration in Lilongwe. In response, police tear-gassed, arrested and detained many of the peaceful protesters. Malawi is a constitutional republic and has ratified and domesticated several regional and international human rights instruments. However, Malawi’s police have in recent times used violence and brutal force against protesters. Persistent cases of reported corruption continue to hinder rule of law, justice and economic development of citizens. Significant human rights abuses by police include degrading treatment of women, such as rape; arbitrary arrest or detention; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; and serious acts of corruption. The inadequate justice system, along with dire socio-economic conditions and widespread perception of pervasive corruption, continue to undermine good governance, a culture of human rights, justice and equality, as promised by President Chakwera to the people of Malawi in 2019.


Civic space in Malawi is rated as Obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor

 

Maldives: amend provision in the evidence act that compels journalists to reveal sources

The undersigned 10 organizations call on the government of Maldives to repeal or amend the deeply problematic provision in the Evidence Act (Act No. 11/2022) that compels journalists to reveal sources on court orders and to ensure the rights to privacy, freedom of expression and the press in line with international human rights law.

 

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 #StandAsMyWitness campaign - 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.

 

Sri Lanka: Brutal attack against peaceful protesters by security forces

Joint Statement

Five human rights organizations strongly condemned the brutal attack against unarmed peaceful protesters by Sri Lankan forces in Colombo in the early hours of 22 July 2022 . Since March 2022, thousands of people including human rights defenders, journalists, and members of civil society have been protesting peacefully across the country against the government’s mismanagement of the economy amid a deepening economic and financial crisis that has led to skyrocketing prices and shortages of fuel, food, and other basic necessities. On numerous occasions, the authorities responded with unnecessary and disproportionate force, arrest, misinformation, and threats against protesters, including human rights defenders. The violence on 22 July 2022 occurred less than 24 hours after Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as the country’s new President. Mr. Wickremesinghe succeeded Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled the country on 13 July and resigned a day later. The unnecessary and disproportionate force used against unarmed civilians is a clear violation of Sri Lanka’s human rights obligations under international law and is inconsistent with international human rights standards.

Protesters across the country have been peacefully demanding accountability, an end to corruption, and the abolition of the executive presidency, which protesters say it serves to centralize state power. Human rights defenders in the North and East of Sri Lanka have been demanding accountability for many years without redress. In recent days, protesters have also been calling for the resignation of Ranil Wickeremasinghe, widely believed to be an ally of his predecessor. Shortly after being sworn in as President, on 18 July, Ranil Wickremesinghe declared a State of Emergency in the country curtailing freedom of assembly and judicial safeguards of those arrested.

At around 1:30am on 22 July 2022, security forces including members of the Sri Lanka Army, Air Force, police, and the Special Task Force, surrounded the “Gota Go Gama” (GGG) protest site in Colombo which had been occupied by demonstrators for over a hundred days. Witness accounts and footage from the protest site revealed the extent of the violence used by security forces against the protesters, with some of them being beaten and dragged, while others pleaded for mercy. Nine protesters were arrested and granted bail on the same day. At least 14 protesters were hospitalized. Among those arrested was a well known human rights lawyer. Journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders including women, persons with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community were assaulted. Materials and electronic devices belonging to protesters were destroyed. Troops barricaded all entrances to the protest site and used violence and threats to prevent access to journalists, lawyers, human rights defenders, and medical personnel. The violence took place after the protesters had already announced their decision to peacefully handover the Presidential Secretariat building at 2 pm the same day to the government. This building had been occupied by protesters since 9 July 2022. The Bar Association of Sri Lanka and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka have condemned the violence against protesters.

Reprisals, including through the use of force against peaceful protesters, have increased especially in response to the demonstrations. Human rights defenders and survivors in the North and East have long faced worse reprisals and violence with relatively less attention. In Colombo, on 9 May 2022, pro-government mobs attacked peaceful protesters in Colombo and at least 1,500 people were arrested in connection with the violence. On 9 July 2022, around 11 journalists were severely injured while covering the protests.

We are gravely concerned about the security forces’ violent crackdown on peaceful protests in Sri Lanka. We condemn the unnecessary and disproportionate use of force and call for an independent, impartial, and thorough inquiry into such actions and to hold those responsible accountable. and to release protesters who have been arrested.

Signed

  • Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  • Front Line Defenders
  • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  • South Asians for Human Rights

Civic space in Sri Lanka is rated as Obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor

 

Sri Lanka: State of emergency must not be used to curtail fundamental freedoms

CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance, is concerned with the declaration of a state of emergency by the prime minister’s office in Sri Lanka on 13 July and again by the Acting President on 18 July. Our organisation urges the Sri Lankan authorities to refrain from using the state of emergency to stifle dissent and respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced on 9 July 2022 that he would step down on 13 July to ensure a ‘peaceful transition of power’ after about 100,000 protesters gathered outside the president’s official residence, amid the worst economic crisis in decades. He then fled Sri Lanka and appointed prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe to be acting president. This led to thousands of anti-government protesters storming Wickremesinghe's office on 13 July calling for him to step down as police and troops fired tear gas and water cannons. Protesters also broke into the main state television station and briefly took over broadcasts.

In response, the authorities announced a state of emergency, the third since the anti-government protests began in March 2022, under the pretext of safeguarding national security. Police imposed an indefinite curfew across the Western Province, which includes Colombo, "to contain the situation". Wickremesinghe also announced that a committee consisting of the chief of defense staff, army, navy, and air force commanders, and the inspector general of police had been appointed to ‘restore order’ and called the protesters ‘fascists’.

Another state of emergency was declared across the island on 18 July ‘in the interests of public security, the protection of public order and the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community’. The Sri Lankan parliament is scheduled to deliberate to elect a new president on 20 July.

During previous states of emergency in April and May 2022 to quell the protests, human rights groups documented various abuses by security forces including the arbitrary arrests of protesters,  use of excessive  and lethal force, the targeting of activists, violence against journalists who were reporting on the situation, and restrictions on access to social media.

“It is alarming that the authorities have once again resorted to using emergency regulations to stifle protests in the name of national security. During previous states of emergency, we witnessed the arbitrary arrests of hundreds, excessive force against protesters and even incidents of torture or ill-treatment in detention. The authorities must lift the state of emergency immediately, end all restrictions on fundamental freedoms and stop the vilification of protesters,” said Cornelius Hanung, Asia Advocacy and Campaigns Officer of CIVICUS.

The violations against protesters are part of a broader trend of attacks on civic space under the Rajapaksa administration that civil society has documented in recent years including the targeting of activists and critics, the use of the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), the harassment of Tamil war victims’ families and civil society organisations and failure to hold officials accountable for conflict-era crimes under international law.

As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Sri Lanka must adhere to its obligation to uphold fundamental freedoms enshrined in the treaty, particularly freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly.

“We condemn the continued use of excessive force against protesters under the pretext of maintaining law and order and other abuses by security forces. Any new government must ensure an independent and impartial investigation into all these violations and perpetrators must be held accountable. Continued impunity will only further erode human rights and the rule of law” Cornelius Hanung said.

In June 2022, Sri Lanka was added by the CIVICUS Monitor to a watchlist of countries that have seen a rapid decline in civic freedoms.


Civic space in Sri Lanka is rated as Obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor

 

Indonesia: Draft law of criminal code negatively impacts fundamental freedoms

Statement in Indonesian

Joint statement: Hold public consultations on the revised draft of the Criminal Code and repeal restrictive provisions

We, the undersigned organizations, are alarmed by provisions in the draft amendments of the Indonesian Criminal Code, recently made public, that will negatively impact civic space and fundamental freedoms in the country. We call for these provisions to be repealed and for the Indonesian government and parliament to conduct public consultations before adopting the draft amendments.

On 6 July 2022, the Ministry of Law and Human Rights handed over the finalized draft of the amendment of the Criminal Code to the parliament for further discussions. Civil society groups had raised concerns since 2019 around the inaccessibility of the draft amendments to the public, rendering meaningful participation in the decision-making process impossible.

The fact that the draft has been made available only recently shows the government’s lack of commitment to uphold transparency and inclusivity for all stakeholders, including civil society, to engage and voice their concerns.  Our organizations believe that this clearly undermines fundamental democratic principles that Indonesia has always claimed to the world it stands for.

In the recent draft, it is apparent that provisions that will undermine civic space still exist. These include Articles 218 and 219 (defamation and insults against the President and Vice President), Articles 240 and 241 (defamation and insults against the government), as well as Article 351 and 352 (defamation and insults against public authorities and State institutions) which will carry the punishment of imprisonment for committing such offenses.

All these provisions are vaguely and broadly drafted, giving the government and its authorities unfettered discretion that will significantly curb freedom of speech and expression in the country. This will substantially create a chilling effect on those exercising their rights while simultaneously creating a culture of self-censor and a climate of fear.

The draft also contains provisions (Article 256) that will criminalize individuals who organize peaceful protests without notification with fines and up to six months imprisonment. The provision will create further barriers to peaceful demonstrators who have already been facing harassment and violence by state authorities in numerous instances documented by CIVICUS.

Civil society groups in Indonesia have been advocating for the repeal of such provisions from the current draft since 2019, without success, as the government has remained adamant to push them through. If parliament adopts the current draft, this will be considered a significant breach of Indonesia’s human rights obligations, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Indonesia is a party. The Covenant recognizes that limitation of fundamental freedoms should only be done when strictly necessary and in a proportionate manner. Such vague and overbroad provisions are clearly not consistent with the ICCPR.

We note that during the last Universal Periodic Review (UPR) cycle for Indonesia in 2017, the recommendation to repeal or amend and end prosecutions of problematic articles in the Criminal Code has been conveyed several times by many countries. Yet to date, these recommendations are still far from full implementation, given that the government preserved the emblematic articles instead. Given the upcoming review session of Indonesia, which coincided with Indonesia’s Chairship to the G20 Summit, we urge the government to meaningfully implement those recommendations to ensure civic spaces are preserved without further harm to those who are exercising their fundamental freedoms.

Our organizations call on the government to repeal all the problematic provisions from the draft amendment of the Criminal Code, provide adequate time for civil society and other stakeholders to review and provide feedback on it before adoption and ensure the law is in line with Indonesia’s human rights obligations. Adopting the draft as it currently is will only accelerate the democratic backsliding being witnessed in the country.

Signatories:

  1. AccessNow
  2. ALTSEAN-Burma
  3. Amnesty International Indonesia
  4. ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, legally registered as Southeast Asia Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression Caucus (ASC), Inc
  5. Asia Democracy Network
  6. Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR)
  7. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  8. Association for Civil Rights in Israel
  9. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
  10. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  11. Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS)
  12. Franciscans International
  13. Free Expression Myanmar
  14. Human Rights Law Centre
  15. Hungarian Civil Liberties Union
  16. Karapatan Alliance Philippines
  17. Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET)
  18. Manushya Foundation
  19. Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet)
  20. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
  21. The Legal Resources Centre
  22. The William Gomes Podcast, United Kingdom
  23. Workers Hub For Change (WH4C)
  24. Yayasan Perlindungan Insani Indonesia
  25. Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI)

Civic space in Indonesia is rated as Obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor 

 

Egypt: Uphold rights to free expression at environmental summit

Arabic

36 organisations urge Egyptian authorities to end crackdown on civil society organisations and peaceful protests for a successful COP27


Egyptian authorities should ease their grip on civic space and uphold the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly to enable a successful climate summit, known as the COP27, in Egypt, 36 organisations said today.

 

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

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

 

India: Halt harassment and release human rights defender Teesta Setalvad

Free Teesta Protests Gallo

CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, condemns the recent arrest of Teesta Setalvad and calls on the government of India to stop targeting human rights defenders. The arrest is the latest attempt by the Modi government to criminalise activists and undermine civic space in the country.

 

Singapore: Drop investigations and cease harassment against human rights defenders

Seven (7) human rights organisations urgently call on the Singaporean authorities to drop their criminal investigations of human rights defenders Kirsten Han and Rocky Howe and cease harassing them through legal processes for their work.

 

Ecuador: Human rights at risk as protests are violently repressed

The use of violence to restrict ongoing protests in Ecuador and the refusal of the government to heed the demands of the protesters further threatens fundamental freedoms, Global civil society alliance CIVICUS said today. 

 

Civil Society holding the line in contested times: 2022 CIVICUS State of Civil Society Report

Published at the halfway point of 2022, the State of Civil Society Report shines a light on a time of immense upheaval and contestation. Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine has directly blighted the lives of millions but is also sending echoes of disruption around the world, as soaring food and fuel prices pile further misery on communities already hit hard by the impacts of the pandemic and extreme weather caused by climate change.

The report finds hope, however, in the many mobilisations for change around the world: the mass protests, campaigns and people’s movements for justice, and the many grassroots initiatives defending rights and helping those most in need. Civil society is striving by all means available to make a difference.

Five key trends

The report identifies five key current trends of global significance:

  1. Rising costs of fuel and food are spurring public anger and protests at economic mismanagement
  2. Democracy is under assault but positive changes are still being won
  3. Advances are being made in fighting social inequality despite attacks
  4. Civil society is keeping up the pressure for climate action
  5. Current crises are exposing the inadequacies of the international governance system

SOCS2022HeaderEn2

1. Rising costs of fuel and food are spurring public anger and protests at economic mismanagement
Governments around the world are failing to protect people from the impacts of massive price rises worsened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Public anger at a dysfunctional economic system, poverty and economic inequality and corruption is rising. Mass protests are the result. In Sri Lanka, widespread protests against economic mismanagement led to resignation of the prime minister. In Iran people are demanding fundamental change as food prices soar. In Kazakhstan over 200 people were killed with impunity following protests over fuel price rises. But people will continue to protest out of necessity even in the many countries where fundamental freedoms are repressed and state violence is inevitable.

2. Democracy is under assault but positive changes are still being won
Institutions and traditions of democracy are under increasing attack. Coups are imperilling hard-fought gains. The military has gained power in multiple countries, including Burkina Faso and Sudan. In several others, including El Salvador and Tunisia, elected presidents are removing democratic checks on power. Entirely fraudulent elections have been held in countries as different as Nicaragua and Turkmenistan. Autocratic nationalists have triumphed in elections in countries including Hungary and the Philippines. But at the same time there have been successful mobilisations to defend democracy, not least in the Czech Republic and Slovenia, where people voted out political leaders who fostered divisiveness in favour of fresh and broad-based alternatives. Progressive leaders promising to advance social justice have won power in countries such as Chile and Honduras. In many contexts, including Costa Rica and Peru, a prevailing sentiment of dissatisfaction is leading to a rejection of incumbency and willingness to embrace candidates who run as outsiders and promise disruption.

3. Advances are being made in fighting social inequality despite attacks
In politically turbulent times, and despite severe pushback by anti-rights groups, progress has been achieved in advancing women’s and LGBTQI+ rights. The USA, where neoconservative forces are emboldened, is ever more isolated on sexual and reproductive rights as several other countries in the Americas, including Colombia and Mexico, have eased abortion restrictions following civil society advocacy. Opportunistic politicians continue to seek political advantage in vilifying LGBTQI+ people, but globally the normalisation of LGBTQI+ rights is spreading. Most recently, the people of Switzerland overwhelmingly voted in favour of an equal marriage law. Even in hostile contexts such as Jamaica important advances have come through civil society’s engagement in regional human rights systems. But when it comes to fighting for migrants’ rights, only Ukrainian refugees in Europe are being received with anything like the kind of compassion all such people deserve, and otherwise the dominant global sentiment is hostility. Nonetheless, a new generation is forging movements to advance racial justice and demand equity for excluded people.

4. Civil society is keeping up the pressure for climate action
A young and diverse generation is the same social force that continues to make waves on climate change. As extreme weather gets more common, the brunt of the climate crisis continues to fall disproportionately on the most excluded populations who have done the least to cause the problem. Governments and companies are failing to act, and urgent action on emissions cuts to meet the size of the challenge is being demanded by civil society movements, including through mass marches, climate strikes and non-violent civil disobedience. Alongside these, climate litigation is growing, leading to significant legal breakthroughs, such as the judgment in the Netherlands that forced Shell to commit to emissions cuts. Shareholder activism towards fossil fuel firms and funders is intensifying, with pension funds coming under growing pressure to divest from fossil fuels.

5. Current crises are exposing the inadequacies of the international governance system
Russia’s war on Ukraine is the latest crisis, alongside recent conflicts in the Sahel, Syria and Yemen, among others, to expose the failure of global institutions to protect people and prevent conflict. The UN Security Council is hamstrung by the veto-wielding role of Russia as one of its five permanent members, although a special session of the UN General Assembly yielded a resolution condemning the invasion. Russia has rightly been suspended from the UN Human Rights Council, but this peak human rights body remains dominated by rights-abusing states. If the UN is to move from helping to prevent crises rather than trying to react to them, effective civil society engagement is needed. The world as it stands today, characterised by crisis and volatility, needs a UN prepared to work with civil society, since civil society continues to seek and secure vital progress for humanity.


About the report

This is the 11th annual State of Civil Society Report, published by global civil society alliance CIVICUS. This year’s report takes a shorter and more accessible format. It draws from stories published by our rolling commentary and analysis initiative, CIVICUS Lens, and from over 120 interviews with civil society activists, leaders and experts who are close to the important issues of the day. 
 

About CIVICUS

CIVICUS is a global alliance of civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world. CIVICUS has over 10,000 members across the globe.

Andrew Firmin, Editor in Chief, CIVICUS

Ines Pousadela, Senior Research Advisor, CIVICUS

For media inquiries and interviews please contact

 

Brazil: Ensure justice for Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips and act to protect Indigenous rights defenders

Portuguese

Authorities in Brazil must thoroughly investigate the brutal murders of Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira and journalist Dom Phillips in the Javari Valley (Amazonas state) and act to protect Indigenous territories and defenders, global civil society alliance, CIVICUS said today.

Pereira and Phillips went missing on 5th June as they returned from a reporting trip on the Itaquaí River, in the northern Amazonas state. The response of the Brazilian authorities to their disappearance was slow, and initial search efforts were largely led by Indigenous defenders of the União dos Povos Indígenas do Vale do Javari (UNIJAVA). Late last week, authorities confirmed that Pereira and Phillips’ bodies were found after a suspect confessed his involvement in the crime. The pair were ambushed by members of an illegal fishing operation in protected areas of the Javari Valley, which Phillips had reportedly photographed a day earlier. 

These devastating killings are not an isolated event as Brazil is one of the most dangerous countries for land and environmental defenders. At least 20 environmental defenders were killed in 2020, according to Global Witness. These attacks reflect the Bolsonaro government neglect toward Indigenous territories and his administration’s active effort to dismantle Brazil’s environmental governance institutions. Shortly before his killing, Pereira had spoken to a journalist about Bolsonaro’s efforts to undermine Brazil’s Indigenous affairs agency (FUNAI), of which he had taken unpaid leave after being sidelined for leading a successful operation against illegal mining inside Yanomami territory. Maxciel dos Santos, another Indigenous protection agent, was shot and killed in the Amazonas state in September 2019. The murder remains unsolved three years on.

Bruno Pereira was a civil servant who formerly headed the effort to protect Indigenous peoples who live in voluntary isolation. He had recently been working directly with Indigenous peoples of the Javari Valley on the protection of their territories through UNIVAJA. Dom Phillips was a British journalist who lived in Brazil for over a decade, and whose reporting increasingly focused on the Amazon rainforest and environmental issues. He was conducting interviews and research for a book about the rainforest’s protection.

We stand in solidarity with Indigenous rights defenders and the families of Pereira and Phillips as they demand justice. Today, environmental groups, Indigenous organisations and civil servants have scheduled protests in front of FUNAI buildings. CIVICUS joins their calls for a thorough investigation to hold all perpetrators accountable. Inquiries must also be made into the role of the Brazilian State in allowing criminal networks to operate with impunity, enabling attacks on Indigenous territories and human rights defenders. We call on the international community to express their support for environmental and Indigenous rights defenders in Brazil, and the journalists’ whose important work shines a light on the risks they face.

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

Background

In his electoral campaign, President Jair Bolsonaro vowed to “end all activism in Brazil.” Since he took office in 2019, Indigenous communities and environmental and land rights defenders have become increasingly vulnerable to attacks, as the government emboldens criminal groups that engage in illegal logging, mining, land grabbing and other activities. Other widely documented attacks include public vilification of CSOs, criminalisation of activists and attempts to monitor critics and discredit the media.

 

Egypt: Mohamed El-Baqer: 1000 days of arbitrary detention

Arabic

Human rights defender Mohamed El-Baqer must be released immediately and unconditionally, stated 19 human rights organisations. His detention is arbitrary, aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights work and is only putting his life and psychological well-being at serious risk.

 

Open call to all international actors: Do more to stop internet shutdowns shrouding torchings and killings in Myanmar

Content note: this statement contains references to violence, murder, and potential war crimes.

 

India: Joint statement on the deteriorating health of G. N. Saibaba in Nagpur Central Jail

Seven human rights organisations expressed concerns about the deteriorating health of the activist and Delhi University professor Gokarakonda Naga Saibaba in Nagpur Central Jail, Maharashtra State, and called on the Indian authorities to provide urgent access to health care.

 

European Commission work programme 2023: The need to include the development of a European Civil Society Strategy

 CIVICUS joins call to the European Commission for the development of a European Civil Society Strategy


Ms Ursula von der Leyen President of the European Commission

cc: Ms Vera Jourova Vice-President of the European Commission

Mr Didier Reynders Commissioner for Justice

We, civil society organisations acting at local, national and European level, call on the European Commission to include in the work programme of 2023 a proposal for a European Civil Society Strategy1.

Civil society organisations, such as citizens’ associations, NGOs and public benefits foundations, and human rights defenders are instrumental to make effective the values enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union and the rights proclaimed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, on a daily basis, both at European and national level.

Our action strives to leave no one behind and is crucial in the area of culture, social care, education, health, anti-corruption, environment, anti-discrimination and much more.

We intervene as democratic antibodies when rights, democracy and the rule of law are under attack.

Our role is key to build public spaces, upscale participatory democracy and channel citizens’ participation.

Our rapid mobilisations and recommendations have been and are essential in the context of the multifaceted crises affecting our societies which each time exacerbate the many vulnerabilities people are confronted with, such as the financial crisis in the early 2010s, the COVID-19 pandemic, the humanitarian crisis following the Russian invasion of Ukraine or the environmental catastrophes resulting from the climate emergency.

Unfortunately, evidence from the field2 shows growing obstacles and attacks affecting civil society’s ability to act in full capacities and independence, as research3 and the findings of the European Commission rule of law report4 confirm. As a result of these attacks, our collective European future is jeopardised. 

The ongoing measures and actions taken at the European level in support of civic actors’ activities have mostly been limited in scope and impact. It is now urgent to provide an overarching solution to fill the gaps of existing policies and mainstream positive practices.

The call for a civil society strategy has been a long-term demand of CSOs at European and national level5. This demand is now supported by a European Parliament resolution on the shrinking space for civil society in Europe (2021/2103(INI)) voted with a large majority on 8 March 2022, and recommendation 36.8 of final report of the Conference on the Future of Europe6

We urge the European Commission to consider all this, and in consequence to give substance to the mandate of the Vice President of the European Commission for values and transparency and resources for carrying out a regular, open and transparent civil dialogue - along the provision of Article 11 of the Treaty - and safeguard civil society space by developing, in cooperation with CSOs and human rights defenders, a comprehensive European civil society strategy before the end of the current five-years term.

We remain at your disposal to discuss the overall content of such a strategy, and the steps to be started immediately.

For further communication, you can contact the initiators of the letter: Civil Society Europe (Carlotta Besozzi, ) and European Civic Forum (Alexandrina Najmowicz, ).


 1 European Civic Forum, TOWARDS VIBRANT EUROPEAN CIVIC AND DEMOCRATIC SPACE, The case for a European civil society strategy and preliminary reflections on the gaps, challenges and opportunities to be addressed (2022).

2 European Civic Forum, Civic Space Watch report 2021 - ACTIVIZENSHIP #6 (2022); Civil Liberties Union for Europe, Bringing human rights and Article 2 values to life: the roles, challenges and solutions for civil society (2022); Civil Society Europe, Contribution to 2022 Rule of Law Report (2022); CIVICUS, People Power under attack 2021 (2022): European Youth Forum, Safeguarding civic space for young people in Europe (2022).

3 European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Protecting civic space in the EU (2021); Civic space – experiences of organisations in 2019 (2020); Civil society space: views of organisations (2018); Challenges facing civil society organisations working on human rights in the EU (2018).

4 European Commission, 2020 Rule of law report - Communication and country chapters (2020); 2021 Rule of law report | European Commission (2021).

5 Including though CSOs joint statement Civil Society on the Frontline - 5 points for EU action 2019-2024 (2019), Hungarian Environmental Partnership Foundation, Recommendations for a Comprehensive European Policy and Strategy on Civil Society (2022), final output of the Civil society convention for the future of Europe (2022), Recharging Advocacy for Rights in Europe (RARE)’s Advocacy brief on an European strategy for civil society: recognition, inclusion, protection (2022), HRDN Submission to the European Commission in the framework of the 2nd Annual Rule of Law Review Cycle (2021).

6 Conference on the Future of Europe, Report on the final outcome (2022), p.79.

 

SIGNATORIES

 

Zimbabwe: Release abducted activist Obert Masaraure immediately

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Philippines: Government must stop judicial harassment against human rights groups

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