Israel’s international funding bills dangerous for civil society

IsraelTwo draft laws to restrict civic space in Israel are currently before its Parliament. CIVICUS spoke to a human rights defender, who asked to remain anonymous, on what the new bills mean and the dangers inherent in them for civil society organisations (CSOs). 

Read the full interview here

 

Israel: Repressive bills could severely undermine civil society

Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, expresses grave alarm over reports that members of the Israeli Knesset have proposed two Bills that, if approved, would place unprecedented and debilitating restrictions on the legitimate activities of civil society organisations (CSOs) operating in Israel. The Bills – titled “Obligation to Disclose Support by a Foreign Political Entity” and “Foreign Agents” - were introduced by members of the “Jewish Home” party on 16 and 23 June 2015 respectively.

 

Time to Sign: Stand with students & activists in Bangladesh

Bangladesh: Release and drop all charges against all those arbitrarily arrested and investigate police abuse

Global civil society alliance CIVICUS is calling for your support and solidarity to demand the release of students and protesters who were arrested and charged over the last month in Bangladesh. On 15th August, Bangladesh was added to the CIVICUS Monitor’s Watch List, which means that there has been an escalation in serious threats to fundamental freedoms in recent weeks and months.

Add your voice to the campaign to demand that the government reverse this trend, release all those arbitrarily arrested and investigate police abuses by sending the letter below to government authorities, and adding your voice on social media using #BangladeshProtests.

 

"Burundi is not an isolated island and the people of Burundi have the right to be protected against dictatorship and oppressive regime"

Pierre Nkurunziza was sworn in for a third term as Burundi’s President on Thursday, 20 August 2015, six days ahead of schedule. Nkurunziza’s candidacy - which is widely held to have violated the constitution and peace accord - and his subsequent winning of the elections deemed by the international community as lacking in credibility, have sparked protests over the last few months, leaving scores of people dead with many forced to flee and seek refuge abroad. 

CIVICUS spoke to a trusted partner in Burundi who requested that the interview be run anonymously for reasons of personal safety.  

1.How would you describe the current political situation in Burundi? 

The political situation in Burundi is very tense. Many people, including political opponents, civil society activists, journalists and even ordinary citizens have fled and continue to flee the country for fear of escalating violence and oppression. Killings and torture against opponents of the third term of Pierre Nkurunziza are rife. 

 

Social Protests in Bolivia: Miners’ mobilization in La Paz

RamiroOriasRamiro Orias, is a lawyer and specialist on human rights and issues related to access to justice in Bolivia. He is also a member of Foundation Construir and speaks to CIVICUS about the recent protests related to the mining region of Potosí and the current challenges that civil society actors face to get their demands heard in the country. Foundation CONSTRUIR is a Bolivian civil organization working for the defence of human rights and the strengthening of the rule of law. 

 

Read the full interview in English or Spanish

 

Syrian authorities must drop charges against three human rights defenders and release all prisoners of conscience

Sixteen international organisations have joined the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) in welcoming the release of its president Mazen Darwish and in calling for all charges against him and his colleagues to be dropped, as well as for the release of all other prisoners of conscience who remain detained by the Syrian authorities.

 

Civicus Alert: Lengthy sentences for religious freedom activists highlight continuing repression in Ethiopia

Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS condemns the 3 August sentencing of 18 Muslim leaders, protestors and journalists in Ethiopia under the country’s widely criticised anti-terrorism law. Heavy sentences handed out to the religious rights activists represent a serious violation of their rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression.

 

CIVICUS and FHRI urge Ugandan parliamentarians to reject or radically overhaul NGO Bill

Ahead of plans for a parliamentary debate on the proposed Uganda NGO Bill 2015, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) call upon the Honourable Members of Uganda’s Parliament to either reject or radically overhaul the Bill in line with ‘Best Practices’ outlined by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. The Parliament of Uganda is currently considering the NGO Bill. 

CIVICUS and FHRI believe that it is in the interests of the Ugandan people to have an NGO law that meets the highest constitutional and international law standards. 

Read more

 

Release activists imprisoned for supporting Sewol Ferry demonstrations

CIVICUS has written to the President of South Korea to express its deep concern over the judicial harassment and detention of individuals and civil society activists for organizing and participating in protests commemorating the one-year anniversary of the Sewol Ferry tragedy.

 

CIVICUS letter to President Park Guen-hye: Free Sewol Ferry Protesters

SewolCIVICUS has written to President Park Geun-hye of South Korea to reiterate our deep concern over the continued judicial harassment and detention of individuals and civil society activists for organizing and participating in protests commemorating the one-year anniversary of the Sewol Ferry tragedy.

We join the growing number of international and national civil society groups calling for the immediate release of all demonstrators and representatives of civil society organisations who have been unjustly persecuted and detained for exercising their fundamental rights.

Read the full letter here.

 

 

CIVICUS ALERT: Venezuela: Dialogue with, not harass activists cooperating with UN bodies

  

Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS condemns the Government of Venezuela’s repeated harassment of civil society members who engage with UN human rights mechanisms. Several civil society leaders are currently being subjected to a smear campaign by state authorities for raising legitimate concerns at the UN about Venezuela’s deteriorating human rights record. 

Recently, on 2 July, during ‘The Mallet’, a weekly television programme hosted by the current President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, several civil society members were subjected to targeted vilification. Among other slanderous claims, Mr Cabello accused activists, who had presented information to the UN Human Rights Committee on June 29 and 30, of conspiring against the state and defending the interests of foreign entities. The UN Human Rights Committee is a body of independent experts tasked with overseeing the compliance of states with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Venezuela is required to report  periodically to the Human Rights Committee on progress made by it in realising the rights enshrined in the ICCPR. 

 

CIVICUS interventions during 29th UN HRC Session

During the 29th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (15 June - 3 July 2015), CIVICUS made a number of joint and individual interventions to highlight restrictions on civil society space. The interventions, including 9 parallel side events and 10 oral statements, underscored pressing thematic and country specific concerns on the rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression and persecution of human rights defenders, which require the Council’s attention.

 

Submission Deadline Extended! Call for Partnership Involvement: International Civil Society Week 2016

English | French | Portuguese | Spanish

The deadline to submit a proposal to host an event at the 2016 ICSW has been extended to 13 September 2015!

ICSW 2016 will involve a diverse partnership of civil society actors that seek to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges. Let’s face these challenges together! CIVICUS and CCONG invite your organisation to host an event at ICSW 2016, which would bring together concerned citizens across different sectors, themes, regions and backgrounds.

We have extended our Call for partnership involvement until the 13 September 2015. Call is available in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

Use this opportunity to become an ICSW2016 partner and contribute to the implementation of one of the biggest civil society events. 

For more information, please contact us at

 

Azerbaijan condemned at UN body whilst hosting European Games

29 June 2015 - In a show of solidarity against grave rights violations, 25 governments have criticised Azerbaijan’s government in the world’s premier human rights body. The strongly worded joint statement was delivered at the UN Human Rights Council even as Azerbaijan was hosting the first ever European Games (12-28 June).

 

Angola: End crackdown on civil society, uphold international commitments

29 June 2015 - Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS condemns the on-going crackdown on civil society in Angola, urging the international community not to look the other way as the safety of activists, members of civil society organisations (CSOs) and journalists is imperilled.

 

CIVIL SOCIETY RIGHTS VIOLATED IN 96 COUNTRIES

CSW15 COVER3A new global report by CIVICUS finds that rights of civil society were violated in almost half of the world’s 193 countries in 2014. In particular, the report draws attention to the systematic assault on Freedom of Association, Expression and Assembly.

The CIVICUS Civil Society Watch Report shows that core civil society freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly were violated to a significant degree in at least 96 countries during 2014. 

 

Addressing the human rights situation and the need for accountability for past atrocities and on-going violations in South Sudan

Sudan statement header logos

To Permanent Representatives of member and observer States of the UN Human Rights Council

Geneva, 10 June 2015

Your Excellencies,

We are writing to urge your delegation to address serious, widespread and ongoing violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law committed in South Sudan and to also address the lack of any credible accountability for war crimes and possible crimes against humanity in the country during the upcoming 29th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

 

Lizet Vlamings (FHRI) speaks on Uganda's restrictive NGO Bill

Lizet Vlamings is a researcher with expertise in human rights and public health. Lizet has been working with the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) for the past 3 years on monitoring human rights violations and conducting legislative advocacy in Uganda.
 
The Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) is an independent, non-governmental, non-partisan and not-for-profit human rights advocacy organization established in 1991. The organization seeks to enhance knowledge, respect and observance of human rights, and promote exchange of information and best practices through training, education, research, legislative advocacy and strategic partnerships in Uganda. The organization has Observer Status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, is a member of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty and is affiliated to the International Federation of Human Rights Defenders, (FIDH

1. What is the current status of the Non-Governmental Organisations Bill (2015) that is being considered?
The Non-Governmental Organisations Bill, 2015 was published in the Uganda Gazette No. 18 Vol. CVIII on 10th April 2015, and is intended to repeal the NonGovernmental Organisations Registration Act, Cap. 113 (as amended in 2006). The Bill was tabled in Parliament on 13th May 2015, and thereafter referred to the parliamentary Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs. At this stage, the committee tasked with scrutinising the bill normally invites the public to present views on the  Bill. The Committee has not started receiving submissions from the public on the NGO Bill yet, but has shown intent to invite civil society stakeholders as soon as deliberations on the Bill start.

 

CIVICUS submission on China's draft Non-Mainland NGO Management Law

CIVICUS is deeply concerned about the possible impact of China’s new draft Non-Mainland Non-Governmental Organizations Management Law which applies to all non-profit, non-governmental “social organisations” formed outside mainland China that carry out activities promoting “public welfare” within mainland China. 

If enacted, the draft law will severely restrict the work of international civil society organizations (CSOs) and public spirited individuals operating in mainland China. In particular it will impede their right to critique and contribute to the development of national policies and public institutions in breach of the spirit of the International Bill of Rights and the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Read the submission in English or Chinese

 

 

Towards New Social Contracts: using dialogue processes to promote social change

TowardsNew-SocialContractsCover250This toolkit is designed to stimulate a reflection around the potential and limits of multi-stakeholder processes in promoting socio-political change, and provides practical tools and resources to facilitate the use of dialogue processes in new ways.

The proposed methodology is based on the direct observation of several local dialogue processes initiated by civil society around crucial challenges experienced in their communities. It takes stock of the useful and sometimes unusual perspectives of local stakeholders around challenges, trends and innovations on how citizens collectively engage in the decisions that affect their lives. 

 

Joint Letter to government of Cambodia: Work with civil society to address restrictions in draft Law on Associations, and Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO)

Cambodia organisational banner

7 May 2015

H.E. Sar Kheng
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior
Ministry of Interior,
275 Norodom Blvd,
Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia

Dear Excellency,

We the undersigned international and regional civil society organizations write to express our deep concern about provisions of the proposed Law on Associations, and Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO). If adopted in its current form, the draft would place undue restrictions on the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of association and undermine laudable steps taken to actualize democratic reforms in the country. We urge your government to consult with a wide spectrum of civil society stakeholders to ensure that the draft corresponds to Cambodia’s constitutional and international human rights commitments. 

 

CIVICUS Alert: CIVICUS condemns judicial harassment of Baltimore protesters

Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, expresses grave concern over the arbitrary suspension of fundamental civil liberties and the targeted judicial persecution of persons arrested for participating in ongoing demonstrations in Baltimore, USA.

“The decision to prolong pre-trial detention and the imposition of exorbitant bail on protestors in Baltimore is a blatant manipulation of the right to liberty enshrined in national and international law,” said Tor Hodenfield, Policy and Research Officer at CIVICUS. “The destruction of property during the largely peaceful protests does not give the authorities carte blanche to undermine the rights of its citizens.”

 

Venezuela: Stop Harassing Human Rights Defenders

Intimidation Undermines Independent Oversight

venezuelaVenezuela is intimidating and harassing human rights defenders, and making unsubstantiated allegations that they are seeking to undermine Venezuelan democracy, 28 international and Latin American human rights organizations said today. The authorities’ allegations concern the groups’ legitimate functions of documenting abuses and representing victims before international human rights bodies.

Venezuelan authorities should cease this tactic immediately, the groups said. Governments participating in the Summit of the Americas in Panama on April 10-11, 2015, should press the administration of Nicolás Maduro to ensure that human rights defenders can do their job without fear of reprisals, the organizations said.

The government harassment is clearly intended to discredit and intimidate groups that document human rights violations, the groups said.

 

Civic Space No Longer Under Threat Says Global Civil Society Alliance

civilsociety1 April 2015. Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS has boldly declared that the space for citizens and organisations to speak out, organise and take action is finally expanding and is no longer going to be a world-wide problem. CIVICUS’ analysis is based on several recent positive developments. A number of states have issued synchronised statements to indicate “a new era of engagement” on civic space.

The governments of Uganda and Nigeria in their joint statement released last week termed persecution of the LGBTI community and CSOs promoting their rights as wrong. “This is a clear case of discrimination. Just as we oppose the discrimination of anyone on the basis of ethnicity, sex, place of birth, economic status or religion, we opposed the discrimination of human beings just because they are born gay,” said the joint statement.

 

Over 70 groups sign NPO Statement concerning FATF R8 BPP consultation process

On March 4, 2015, the FATF Secretariat shared a section of the draft Best Practice Paper on Combating the Abuse of Non-Profit Organisation (BPP), requesting input from non-profit organizations (NPOs) to be submitted before the consultation on March 25 or by April 10. Input is requested on self-regulation and due diligence practices and on limited sections of the BPP, mainly those that target NPOs.

We welcome FATF’s approach to consult the sector. We wish to ensure that there is wide and meaningful consultation as possible on the whole paper, especially grassroots service organizations, which are more difficult to reach.

Read more

 

Securing a just and sustainable world means challenging the power of the 1%

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CIVICUS secretary general Danny Sriskandarajah, together with the leaders of ActionAid (Adriano Campolina), AWID (Lydia Alpízar Durán), Greenpeace (Kumi Naidoo) and Oxfam (Winnie Byanyima), have made a joint call for unity against the 1% ahead of the World Social Forum in Tunis.


The widening gap and imbalance of power between the richest and the rest is warping the rules and policies that affect all of us in society, creating a vicious circle of ever growing and harmful undue influence. Global efforts to end poverty and marginalisation, advance women’s rights, defend the environment, protect human rights, and promote fair and dignified employment are all being undermined as a consequence of the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few. Decisions are being shaped in the narrow interests of the richest, at the expense of the people as a whole. The economic, ecological and human rights crises we face are intertwined and reinforcing. The influence of the 1% has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

Faced with this challenge, we need to go beyond tinkering, and address the structural causes of inequality: we cannot rely on technological fixes – there is no app for this; we cannot rely on the market – unchecked it will worsen inequality and climate change; and we cannot rely on the global elites – left alone they will continue to reinforce the structures and approaches that have led to where we are. As the Rustlers Valley letter to civil society leaders noted, civil society organisations need to be bold in building from below. We need to help strengthen the power of the people to challenge the people with power.

 

Irish Government should set a higher standard for human rights compliance by business

CIVICUS has submitted recommendations on Ireland's national plan to implement UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. In the submission, CIVICUS argues that civil society should play a central role in implementing and monitoring the plan. CIVICUS also urged Ireland to be proactive in holding companies to account for abuses committed outside its territory. In addition, Ireland must also ensure that effective judicial remedies are available to victims of human rights abuses, while at the same time strengthening regulation of business operations through Irish law.

Download the recommendations here.

 

11 international organisations call on the UN to address restrictions on civil society in Azerbaijan

joint letter logos

Ahead of the 28th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (UN HRC), 11 human rights organisations are calling upon the intergovernmental body to address Azerbaijan's rapidly deteriorating environment for human rights defenders (HRDs), civil society organisations (CSOs) and independent media.

 

International Civil Society Week 2016 - Call for expressions of interest for local host in Latin America

Since International Civil Society Week (2014) was such a big success with more than 40 partner-led workshops and more than 630 inspired participants, CIVICUS is excited to continue the conference's legacy by convening the next International Civil Society Week (2016) in Latin America. To begin planning the conference, CIVICUS is seeking a local host partner which can help organise this global affair.

 

What are citizen actions and initiatives? Why participative democracy at local and global level?

mireille-delmas-martyInterview with Mireille Delmas-Marty, Emeritus Professor at Collège de France

This interview seeks to comment on the innovating potential of local democratic practices presented in the CIVICUS- FACTS Report on “Stories of Innovative Democracy at Local Level: Enhancing Participation, Activism and Social Change Across the World". Ms Delmas-Marty shares her analysis of the current governance system, including at the global level, and her vision of a global citizenship.

Read the interview in English or French

 

Kenya must address concerns ahead of Human Rights Council review

Joint Brief by CIVICUS and the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP)
 
21 January 2015 - Ahead of Kenya’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council tomorrow, CIVICUS and the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) urge the government to stop its onslaught against civil society and urgently address backsliding on civic freedoms.

 

16 NGOs urge international community to pressure Bahrain to drop charges against Nabeel Rajab

NabeelRajab15 January 2015 – This week, 16 human rights organisations have written to 47 States to express grave concern ahead of a 20 January verdict in the trial of Nabeel Rajab, a prominent Bahraini human rights defender.

Additionally, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, The Bahrain Center for Human Rights and The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy sent letters to United Nations officials and Members of Parliament in all 47 States urging them to publicly call on the Government of Bahrain to drop all charges against Rajab.

On 1 October 2014, Rajab reported to the Cyber Crimes Unit of Bahrain’s General Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID) after being summoned for questioning. Following hours of interrogation in relation to a tweet he published while abroad, Rajab was arrested. The tweet read: “Many #Bahrain men who joined #terrorism & #ISIS came from security institutions and those institutions were the first ideological incubator.”

 

Action 2015

Almost a billion lives hang in the balance at crucial summits in New York & Paris

Famous names back one of the biggest campaigns ever launched

New figures show poverty could increase for the first time in a generation

Action 2015 logoAccording to new research, almost a billion extra people face a life of extreme poverty if leaders duck key decisions on poverty, inequality and climate change due to be taken at two crucial summits in New York and Paris later this year, with billions more continuing to face a life of hardship.

 

CIVICUS condemns draconian sentencing of two Bahraini activists

5 December 2014: Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, is dismayed over the politically motivated sentences handed down this week to Bahraini human rights activists Maryam al-Khawaja and Zainab al-Khawaja. CIVICUS urges the government of Bahrain to end its relentless campaign to silence dissent in the country and release all human rights defenders imprisoned for exercising their legitimate democratic rights. 

 

CIVICUS Welcomes the UN Secretary General's Post-2015 report

4 December 2014: In response to the UN Secretary General's highly anticipated post-2015 synthesis report 'The road to dignity by 2030: ending poverty, transforming all lives and protecting the planet', CIVICUS issued the following statement: 

 

JOINT STATEMENT: Bahrain elections must not be used to cover human rights violations

ElectionsOn 22 November 2014, Bahrain’s citizens will be called to cast their votes for legislative and municipal elections. The elections will be the first to take place since the people of Bahrain took to the streets and squares of the Kingdom in February and March 2011, demanding more openness in the political process and sustained reform to enlarge the space for freedoms and rights enjoyed by Bahraini citizens. Since then, the government of Bahrain has violently repressed any attempt to denounce the human right situation in the country and thwarted any attempt to establish a meaningful and inclusive political dialogue with the opposition. Peaceful protesters, human rights defenders and democracy advocates continue to face extra-judicial detentions, imprisonment, ill treatment and torture in detention centres.

 

Use the UPR to challenge Egypt's crackdown on CSOs - Joint CSO call

The upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Egypt on 5 November 2014 comes at a critical time for human rights, freedoms and independent Egyptian civil society, including rights defenders and democracy activists. As a group of organizations which have documented and spoken out against human rights violations in Egypt, we are urging your Government to use the UPR as an opportunity to challenge the authorities’ crackdown. 

 

Read more

 

 

 

 

CIVICUS ALERT: Hong Kong: Listen to, not attack peaceful demonstrators

hongkong20 October 2014. CIVICUS is deeply worried about attacks on peaceful demonstrators in Hong Kong. Police have ramped up their efforts to disperse pro-democracy demonstrators calling for universal voting rights and an open ballot to elect Hong Kong’s chief executive in 2017.

Over the weekend, from 17- 19 October, more than 200 protesting citizens were injured in police raids on the camps of demonstrators.  At least 30 demonstrators were arrested and face a wide-range of questionable charges ranging from damaging property, disorderly conduct, weapons possession and resisting arrest.  

Even with a large majority of Hong Kong citizens calling for open and transparent elections, the Chinese government is unwilling to implement democratic reforms and is blaming a so called ‘third-force’ for instigating the protests. As the protests move into its fourth week, law enforcement agencies have begun using excessive force to try and silence law abiding citizens. 

 

Bahrain: Free Nabeel Rajab Immediately and Unconditionally

NabeelRajab9 October 2014. The undersigned more than 100 organisations call for the immediate and unconditional release of detained human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, arrested on 1 October 2014 in Bahrain.

Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), was summoned on 1 October 2014 to attend an investigation at the Criminal Investigation Directorate, specifically the General Directorate of Anti-corruption and Economic and Electronic Security. The investigation session lasted about 45 minutes and focused on two tweets that the authorities claim have offended the Ministry of Interior.
One tweet, from 28 September 2014, said: “many #Bahrain men who joined #terrorism & #ISIS have come from the security institutions and those institutions were the first ideological incubator.”

 

Hong Kong activists calls on government to "Listen to the voices of its people"

hongkongprotestPro-democracy protests continue in Hong Kong as protesters remain steadfast in their calls for fair and transparent elections of the Chief Executive and for China to stop meddling in the political affairs and electoral processes.  Ahead of planned talks between protesters and government representatives scheduled for Friday 10 October, CIVICUS interviews a human rights activist resident in Hong Kong who provides an insider’s view of the dynamics of the protests and response of the authorities. The activist chooses to remain anonymous because of the delicate state of human rights and out of concern for possible reprisals from the Chinese authorities.

1)    What triggered the recent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and what at the key demands of the protesters?

The Hong Kong “Occupy Central” campaign is a Hong Kong people’s movement which calls for transparent and fair elections of the Chief Executive through universal suffrage without any censorship of candidates in 2017. On August 31, 2014, however, the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress of China placed restrictions to deprive democrats from being nominated in an open and transparent manner for the Chief Executive position when elections are held in 2017.

 

Call for proposals: Application for implementing partner for civil society assessment in South Africa

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The legal, regulatory, and policy environment in which Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) operate is key to their ability to register, operate, access resources, and effectively engage in advocacy, all of which are key to civil society’s ability to flourish and be successful. Moreover, the laws and regulations that govern CSOs and the ways in which they are implemented, which form part of civil society’s enabling environment, potentially shape a host of other significant factors as well: a CSO’s ability to communicate and associate with others, to engage in peaceful assembly, to seek tax exemptions, to engage in philanthropy, and to access information. All of these factors, as well as the relationship between CSOs and their government, help to define the nature of civil society’s enabling environment within a particular country. Importantly, these factors, when taken together, significantly affect the public’s receptivity, the lifeblood of a well-functioning civil society, to the important work performed by CSOs.

 

Open letter from the Human Rights Caucus to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

"We write to you as the Post-2015 Human Rights Caucus, a cross-constituency coalition of development, environment, trade union, feminist and human rights organizations worldwide. We welcome your efforts to involve civil society in the important discussions about the future development agenda. This is a generational opportunity to ensure that the international community is progressing towards a sustainable future for people and planet, and we encourage your offices to ensure that people’s voices are heard in these deliberations..." Read more

HR Caucus

 

Submission on Sri Lanka to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG)

commonwealth-ministerial-action-groupCIVICUS and a number of national and international civil society groups have urged the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group to ensure that the Government of Sri Lanka upholds Commonwealth values on democracy and human rights.

Their joint submission makes a number of recommendations and highlights recent cases of attacks on human rights defenders, encroachments on civil society space, threats to journalists, and pervasive military control over the civilian administration in areas inhabited by the Tamil minority.

Read the full submission

 

 

 

Syria: Free Prominent Rights Defenders

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Verdict Scheduled in Charges Before Anti-Terrorism CourtSyrian HRDs

Geneva, September 5, 2014. The Syrian government should immediately and unconditionally release the arbitrarily detained human rights defender Mazen Darwish and his colleagues Hani Al-Zitani and Hussein Ghareer, 79 organizations said today. The Syrian Anti-Terrorism Court is expected to issue its verdict on September 24, 2014 in their trial for “publicizing terrorist acts.”

Darwish is the director of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM). Syrian Air Force Intelligence arrested the three men and other colleagues during a raid on the group’s office, in Damascus on February 16, 2012. The three men have been on trial before the Anti-Terrorism Court on charges of “publicizing terrorist acts” under article 8 of the country’s 2012 Anti-Terrorism Law. The charges are based on their peaceful activities that include monitoring and publishing information about human rights abuses in Syria.

 

Joint civil society letter on Bahraini Human Rights Defenders

The representatives of international human rights organisations write to urge the Bahrain government to comply with its international treaty obligations to provide victims of torture with physical and psychological rehabilitation. In particular, they urge the Bahrain government to allow and facilitate an independent assessment of the therapeutic needs of all persons who were mistreated during their detention by the Bahraini authorities, as confirmed by the findings of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI).

Read the full letter

 

CIVICUS Brief - Thailand: End crackdown on civil society and restore democratic freedoms

20 August 2014. Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, strongly condemns the continued denial of basic democratic freedoms by the military junta in Thailand and calls on the military to immediately remove unwarranted restrictions on civil society and the independent media. 

Since the May 22 coup, the military junta led by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has overseen the wholesale suspension of fundamental civil liberties in an attempt to stifle criticism and popular protest. The NCPO’s continued invocation of overbroad legislation to criminalize dissent represents a severe breach of international human rights law.  

Judicial persecution of human rights defenders

Despite firm constitutional protections against arbitrary detention, the NCPO has invoked restrictive legislation to endow the military with excessive powers to imprison human rights defenders and peaceful dissidents. 

Under the 1949 Martial Law Act brought into force two days prior to the coup, the military is permitted to arrest and detain individuals without charge for up to seven days. Moreover, under an order issued by the NCPO on 25 May, military courts are authorized to oversee a number of crimes which previously fell under the jurisdiction of civilian courts. These include offences under the Criminal Code and those related to national security and sedition. 

 

CIVICUS Alert: CIVICUS condemns crackdown on peaceful protests in Missouri, USA

14 August 2014. The use of excessive force and arbitrary arrest of peaceful demonstrators and journalists in Ferguson, Missouri, USA, represents a severe breach of the right to freedom of assembly says global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

“The authorities have a responsibility to protect and facilitate the right to peaceful assembly,” said Tor Hodenfield, Policy and Advocacy Officer at CIVICUS. “However, police in Ferguson have actively sought to undermine the ongoing protests in an apparent attempt to quash independent dissent.” 

Over 50 people have been arrested and numerous others injured since peaceful demonstrations began on 11 August in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of the state capital, St. Louis. The protests stem from the fatal shooting of an unarmed African- American teenager, Michael Brown, by police officers on Saturday, 10 August. Protestors are calling for greater accountability for the shooting, including the immediate disclosure of the identity of the officer responsible. 

 

CIVICUS ALERT: Sri Lanka: Worrying developments for Civil Society

31 July 2014 – Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS is shocked over moves in Sri Lanka to stifle civil society and muzzle democratic freedoms, particularly the rights to freely express, associate and assemble.

“With the political opposition effectively marginalised in Sri Lanka, civil society is thus the only alternative source of objective analysis of government policies and practices. But activists and independent civil society organisations are being targeted on an unprecedented scale,” said David Kode, Policy and Research Officer at CIVICUS.

On 1 July 2014, the National Secretariat for NGOs which operates under the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development issued a circular calling on NGOs to desist from “conducting press conferences, workshops, trainings for journalists and dissemination of press releases.” Indicative of Sri Lankan authorities’ intolerance of dissent, these activities are now being regarded as “unauthorised” and “beyond the mandate” of NGOs.

 

41 African and international CSOs call on the Ethiopian Prime Minister to release detained journalists and Zone 9 bloggers

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn 

Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia 

Office of the Prime Minister 

P.O. Box 1031 

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 

24 July 2014 

Re: Detained Journalists and Bloggers 

Dear Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, 

We write to you to express our grave concern regarding the terrorism charges laid against seven bloggers associated with the “Zone 9” website and three independent journalists in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights—which both expressly protect the right to freedom of expression. We therefore urge your government to fulfill its obligations under international law and release all individuals who have been arbitrarily detained in violation of their fundamental rights. 

As you may be aware, six of the bloggers (Zelalem Kibret, Atnaf Berahane, Natnael Feleke, Mahlet Fantahun, Befeqadu Hailu, and Abel Wabela) and the three journalists (Tesfalem Waldyes, Asmamaw Hailegeorgis, and Edom Kassaye) were arrested in late April, shortly after it was announced that the Zone 9 website would resume its activities after suspending operations because of increasing harassment and surveillance. All nine detainees were subsequently held for nearly three months before any specific allegations were presented or formal charges filed against them. Most concerning, however, are reports that some of the detainees have complained of serious mistreatment by investigators and that defense lawyers and their clients have been excluded from some of the proceedings. 

 

29 NGOs submit letter to newly appointed Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, urging a change of policy on Bahrain

16 July 2014, London – A group of 29 NGOs have sent a letter to the newly appointed Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Phillip Hammond, urging a shift in UK policy towards the situation in Bahrain. 

The letter calls for a ‘fresh’ approach to be adopted by the new Foreign Secretary in light of the FCO’s failure to heed a Foreign Affairs Committee recommendation that the U.K. should “designate Bahrain as a country of concern” in its 2014 human rights report if the situation had not improved by the start of this year. Despite this recommendation, the FCO subsequently failed to acknowledge Bahrain as a country of concern, and instead, listed it as a “case study” praising specific areas of reform.

The letter highlights the inconsistencies in UK policy towards Bahrain in recent years, specifically referencing recent statements made by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, who claimed that the human rights situation in Bahrain is a situation of “grave concern” and that recommendations made by the 2011 report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry are in a “state of non-implementation”. 

 

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