Archive for the 'Amnesty international' Category

Prominent human rights defender Eren Keskin given six-year jail sentence in Turkey

February 16, 2021

I have been prosecuted many times and jailed for my thoughts. I’m still here. I’m not going anywhere’ – Eren Keskin tweeted after she was sentenced.

Amnesty International has condemned the sentencing of four Turkish human rights defenders on “terrorism-related” in a case involving Özgür Gündem – a daily newspaper that was closed down in 2016. Eren Keskin, a prominent human rights defender and lawyer in Turkey – was sentenced to six years in jail for supposed “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. See: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/BFDBB222-0FE0-32BF-ADD6-4D342A315C22

Zana Kaya, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief was sentenced to one year and 13 months in prison for “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation.” Özgür Gündem’s former publisher, Kemal Sancılı and the newspaper’s managing editor İnan Kızılkaya have been sentenced to six years and three months in prison for “being a member of an armed terrorist organisation” – the same sentence as Eren Keskin’s.

All four remain at liberty pending their appeals. This case is latest where anti-terrorism laws used to criminalise legitimate and peaceful activity in Turkey. Milena Buyum, Turkey Campaigner at Amnesty International said: “Today a human rights lawyer who has spoken out against injustice for more than three decades, has become the victim of injustice herself.

Eren Keskin has dedicated her life to defending the rights of women, prisoners and fought for justice for the families of the disappeared. This verdict is yet another shocking example of anti-terrorism laws being used to criminalise legitimate, peaceful activities.See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/12/martin-ennals-award-finalist-eren-keskin-honoured-in-ankara/

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/turkey-human-rights-lawyer-eren-keskin-given-six-year-jail-sentence-terrorism

Digest of Laureates ready – this blog changes orientation

February 2, 2021

With the launching of the new Digest of human rights laureates by True Heroes Films (THF) today, 2 February 2021, I have decided to centre my blog more on human rights awards and laureates. It will give the blog more focus and this will also help the Digest to stay up to date. After many years of work, True Heroes Films (THF) has made public its gateway to human rights awards and their laureates at www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest. The Digest is a new free online tool that gives everybody access to information on human rights awards, including the list of people who received such awards. Over the last 20 years, the human rights movement has discovered the value of awards. The Digest tells that story and makes human rights defenders more visible as an encouragement and role model for others.

Here some specialised user comments:
The Digest “will help us demonstrate to the world how many human rights defenders there are in the world and the different human rights they defend and fight for” stated Guadalupe Marengo, Head of Global Human Rights Defenders Programme at Amnesty International.


It is a useful resource that places individuals, the laureates, at the heart of the search process,” commented Eleanor Davies of the Centre of Applied Human Rights at York University.


With a simple and straightforward way to find what you are looking for, it helps initiate partnerships,” says Friedhelm Weinberg, Executive Director of HURIDOCS, an organisation specialised in information technology.

For human rights defenders, the Digest allows finding awards and people concerned with similar causes worldwide. Award givers can quickly check their candidates. For media, the Digest means instant access to information on human rights defenders or an award announcement to complete their story.


The Digest was created during 8 years with support from the City of Geneva, Brot für die Welt and the Permanent Mission of the Netherlands to the United Nations Office.

http://www.trueheroesfilms.com/

Sri Lanka: damning UN report deserves follow up

January 28, 2021

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) must take urgent steps to address the worsening human rights situation in Sri Lanka, said Amnesty International, on 27 January 2021 following the release of a damning UN report on the country’s efforts to ensure accountability for crimes committed during the civil conflict.

Almost twelve years on from the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war, the report, from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights warns that the country’s persistent failure to address historic crimes is giving way to ‘clear early warning signs of a deteriorating human rights situation and a significantly heightened risk of future violations.’ [see also; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/30/sri-lanka-lawyers-human-rights-defenders-and-journalists-arrested-threatened-intimidated/]

In February 2020, the Sri Lankan government announced that it would no longer cooperate with the UNHRCs landmark resolution 30/1, which promotes reconciliation, accountability, and human rights in the country, and would instead pursue its own reconciliation and accountability process. This report lays bare Sri Lanka’s abject record on delivering justice and accountability and the decaying effect this has had on human rights in the country David Griffiths, Director of the Office of the Secretary General at Amnesty International

This report lays bare Sri Lanka’s abject record on delivering justice and accountability and the decaying effect this has had on human rights in the country. The seriousness of these findings highlights the urgent need for the UN Human Rights Council to step up its efforts in Sri Lanka,” said David Griffiths.

“For more than a decade, domestic processes have manifestly failed thousands of victims and their families. Given the government’s decision to walk away from resolution 30/1, and regression on the limited progress that had been made, the Human Rights Council must send a clear message that accountability will be pursued with or without the cooperation of the government.”

Amnesty International is calling on the UN Human Rights Council to implement the report’s key recommendations to put in place more stringent oversight on Sri Lanka, including more robust monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation, and the collection and preservation of evidence for future prosecutions. 

UN member states should learn from past experience, and this time heed the early warning indicators identified by the UN’s top human rights official.” said David Griffiths

The OHCHR report, published on 27 January 2021, is available to download here:.  The Human Rights Council will meet for its 46th session from 22 February to 23 March, during which Canada, Germany, Montenegro, North Macedonia and the UK – the current core group of states leading on Sri Lanka – are expected to present a resolution in follow-up to the OHCHR report.

Amnesty International published an assessment of the situation in Sri Lanka, setting out clear expectations for HRC action, earlier this month. The High Commissioner’s report supports the call for more robust monitoring and reporting on the situation, as well as the collection and preservation of evidence for future prosecutions.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/01/sri-lanka-damning-un-report-stresses-need-for-urgent-international-action-on-accountability/

Egypt decade after Arab spring: Amnesty and UN express concern over detention

January 27, 2021

The human rights organization Amnesty International published a scathing report on 25 January 2021 decrying the inhumane conditions in Egyptian prisons. The report comes a decade after the Arab Spring uprising.

The report detailed the experiences of 67 individuals in detention, 10 of whom died in custody and two who died shortly after being released. It was carried out primarily between February 2020 and November 2020 and focused on 16 prisons. It found that:

  • Prisoners were kept in squalid conditions and received unhealthy food;
  • There was no proper access to health care, which may have resulted in death;
  • Overcrowding, poor ventilation and limited access to water and toilets led inevitably to outbreaks of coronavirus.

The report also found that some prisoners were deliberately denied access to health care due to their political affiliations. Activists, politicians and human rights defenders were denied basic treatments available to other inmates. There was also evidence of prison authorities “targeting prisoners critical of the government and denying them adequate food or family visits,” Markus Beeko, Secretary General of Amnesty International in Germany, asserted. According to UN estimates, there are 114,000 people incarcerated in the north African country.

On 22 January 2021 Mary Lawlor also deplored the arrest and prolonged pre-trial detention of  human rights defenders and bloggers, and their  accusation of being members of a terrorist organisation, continuing Egypt’s practice to intimidate and criminalise human rights defenders, journalists and their families.

I am extremely concerned by the seemingly unrelenting efforts of the Egyptian authorities to silence dissent and shrink civic space in the country, despite repeated calls from UN mechanisms and the international community,” said Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

The Special Rapporteur said she was disturbed by the detention since 2018 of human rights defender and blogger Mohamed Ibrahim Radwan, also known as ‘Mohamed Oxygen’, on charges of “membership of a terrorist organisation” and “misuse of social media” in retaliation for his posts and videos reporting on human rights issues. He was granted conditional release by the Cairo Criminal Court in November last year but was attached to a new case on charges of joining a terrorist organisation and kept in detention. He remains in pre-trial detention in Al-Aqrab Prison, south of Cairo.

Lawlor said that human rights defenders such as researcher and post-graduate student Patrick Zaki, who was arrested in February last year, have endured repeated renewals of detention without trial. “Pre-trial detention should only be used as the exception to the rule, rather than the default approach,” said Lawlor.

Not only are these human rights defenders, journalists and other civil society actors unduly targeted for their legitimate and peaceful defence of human rights and fundamental freedoms, they are wrongfully accused of belonging to terrorist organisations and portrayed as a national security threat under vague legal provisions,” the Special Rapporteur said. “This is an issue which I and a number of UN experts have previously communicated our concern about to the Egyptian authorities.

The Lawlor’s call has been endorsed by: Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism and Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

In the meantime also a tiny sparkle of good news: Egypt’s Administrative Court overturned on Thursday a 2016 decision by Cairo governorate to close El-Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/25/ai-germany-award-goes-to-egypts-nadeem-center-for-torture-victims/.

Ten years after the Tahrir square protests in Cairo, Egypt’s human rights record is disastrous. On the occasion of the anniversary of the 2011 revolution, several international campaigns are calling for the release of imprisoned activists writes Sofian Philip Naceur in Qantara.de Violent, authoritarian and extremely paranoid: since his bloody takeover in 2013, Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has restored a regime whose brutality far outstrips even the reign of long-term ruler Hosni Mubarak. Hopes for real political and social change after the mass uprising that forced Mubarak out of office after 30 years in power have faded away, leaving a disillusionment that is omnipresent.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/12/18/arab-spring-information-technology-platforms-no-longer-support-human-rights-defenders-in-the-middle-east-and-north-africa/

Countless people who, before and after the 2011 revolt, campaigned in various ways for “bread, freedom and social justice” in Egypt, are today intimidated and politically inactive, or have fled the country to live in exile. Tens of thousands, however, remain imprisoned in Egypt for political reasons, paying a hefty price for their activism and courage.

Egyptian opposition figures are using the current media attention around the tenth anniversary of the “25 January Revolution” to highlight the fate of those currently in prison for their political engagement. Some have been sentenced to heavy jail terms, while others are subjected to pre-trial detention lasting years by the Egyptian security forces and the country’s judiciary. European opposition politicians are also participating in corresponding campaigns.

Eight politicians from Germany’s left-wing party – Die Linke – have signed a solidarity statement calling for the immediate release of all political detainees, which explicitly highlights the fate of six detained leftist activists, journalists and trade unionists. Although the campaign specifically highlights six individual cases, it expresses solidarity not only with Egyptian leftists, but with all those “who are resisting Sisi’s dictatorship”. In addition to journalist Hishem Fouad, who advocated for striking workers and independent trade unions long before 2011, the German politicians are also calling for the release of novelist Ayman Abdel Moati, lawyer and trade union activist Haitham Mohamadeen and trade unionist Khalil Rizk. All four are detained on flimsy, terrorism-related charges.

https://www.dw.com/en/egypt-amnesty-slams-inhumane-prison-conditions/a-56331626

https://en.qantara.de/content/human-rights-violations-in-egypt-demanding-president-sisi-free-his-political-prisoners

english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContentP/1/399358/Egypt/Egypt-court-overturns-closure-of-human-rights-NGO-.aspx

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/egypt-amnesty-condemns-prison-conditions

https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2021/1/27/the-social-media-myth-about-the-arab-spring

https://www.yenisafak.com/en/news/academic-urges-new-era-for-political-prisoners-in-egypt-3559752

New low in Saudi sports washing: FIFA leader stars in Saudi PR video

January 11, 2021

By Rob Harris on actionnewsjax of 8 January 2021 reports on Amnesty International denouncing FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s for appearing in a promotional video for the Saudi Arabian government in which he claims the kingdom has made important changes. The slick 3½-minute PR campaign was posted on Twitter by the Saudi ministry of sport on Thursday, featuring Infantino participating in a ceremonial sword dance and sweeping shots of the palaces of Diriyah.

“It’s an amazing scenery, it’s an incredible history,” Infantino says in part. “This is something that the world should come and see. The video, which also features Infantino praising how “a lot has changed” in Saudi Arabia, was filmed while on a trip that saw him meet with the crown prince,

“It should be abundantly clear to everyone at FIFA that Saudi Arabia is attempting to use the glamour and prestige of sport as a PR tool to distract from its abysmal human rights record,” Amnesty International said in a statement to The Associated Press.

FIFA did not say if Infantino challenged Prince Mohammed on human rights issues in Saudi, given the governing body’s own code.

It’s worrying that Gianni Infantino has apparently endorsed a video where he hails the ‘greatness’ of Saudi Arabia but says nothing about its cruel crackdown on human rights defenders,” Amnesty said, “including people like Loujain al-Hathloul, who was given a jail sentence only days ago.”[see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/12/29/loujain-al-hathloul-sentenced-to-over-5-years-prison-by-saudi-terror-court/]

We would urge Mr. Infantino to clarify the circumstances of his appearance in this video and to make a statement expressing support for jailed women’s human rights defenders like Loujain al-Hathloul,” Amnesty said. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/11/06/loujain-al-hathloul-and-her-health-singled-out-by-cedaw/]

Scrutiny over Infantino’s links to Saudi Arabia in 2018 led to FIFA offering assurances that no nation would be allowed to fund its plans for new competitions. That followed a global uproar that saw Western businesses turn away from the crown prince and the sovereign wealth fund following outcry over Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi’s slaying and dismemberment by government agents inside the kingdom’s consulate in Turkey.

FIFA said Infantino used his meetings to discuss how football can be a “vector of core social values, such as inclusion, solidarity and tolerance.” Amnesty did welcome Infantino’s support for women’s football in Saudi Arabia.

https://www.actionnewsjax.com/sports/amnesty-critical/X3PX62NHAFLLYABC7GA3BHZF7Q/

Facebook and YouTube are allowing themselves to become tools of the Vietnamese authorities’ censorship and harassment

December 1, 2020

On 1 December 2020, Amnesty International published a new report on how Facebook and YouTube are allowing themselves to become tools of the Vietnamese authorities’ censorship and harassment of its population, in an alarming sign of how these companies could increasingly operate in repressive countries. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/03/more-on-facebook-and-twitter-and-content-moderation/].

The 78-page report, “Let us Breathe!”: Censorship and criminalization of online expression in Viet Nam”, documents the systematic repression of peaceful online expression in Viet Nam, including the widespread “geo-blocking” of content deemed critical of the authorities, all while groups affiliated to the government deploy sophisticated campaigns on these platforms to harass everyday users into silence and fear.

The report is based on dozens of interviews with human rights defenders and activists, including former prisoners of conscience, lawyers, journalists and writers, in addition to information provided by Facebook and Google. It also reveals that Viet Nam is currently holding 170 prisoners of conscience, of whom 69 are behind bars solely for their social media activity. This represents a significant increase in the number of prisoners of conscience estimated by Amnesty International in 2018.

In the last decade, the right to freedom of expression flourished on Facebook and YouTube in Viet Nam. More recently, however, authorities began focusing on peaceful online expression as an existential threat to the regime,” said Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns.

Today these platforms have become hunting grounds for censors, military cyber-troops and state-sponsored trolls. The platforms themselves are not merely letting it happen – they’re increasingly complicit.

In 2018, Facebook’s income from Viet Nam neared US$1 billion – almost one third of all revenue from Southeast Asia. Google, which owns YouTube, earned US$475 million in Viet Nam during the same period, mainly from YouTube advertising. The size of these profits underlines the importance for Facebook and Google of maintaining market access in Viet Nam.”

In April 2020, Facebook announced it had agreed to “significantly increase” its compliance with requests from the Vietnamese government to censor “anti-state” posts. It justified this policy shift by claiming the Vietnamese authorities were deliberately slowing traffic to the platform as a warning to the company.

Last month, in Facebook’s latest Transparency Report – its first since it revealed its policy of increased compliance with the Vietnamese authorities’ censorship demands – the company revealed a 983% increase in content restrictions based on local law as compared with the previous reporting period, from 77 to 834. Meanwhile, YouTube has consistently won praise from Vietnamese censors for its relatively high rate of compliance with censorship demands.

State-owned media reported Information Minister Nguyen Manh Hung as saying in October that compliance with the removal of “bad information, propaganda against the Party and the State” was higher than ever, with Facebook and Google complying with 95% and 90% of censorship requests, respectively.

Based on dozens of testimonies and evidence, Amnesty International’s report shows how Facebook and YouTube’s increasing censorship of content in Vietnam operates in practice.

In some cases, users see their content censored under vaguely worded local laws, including offences such as “abusing democratic freedoms” under the country’s Criminal Code. Amnesty International views these laws as inconsistent with Viet Nam’s obligations under international human rights law. Facebook then “geo-blocks” content, meaning it becomes invisible to anyone accessing the platform in Viet Nam.

Nguyen Van Trang, a pro-democracy activist now seeking asylum in Thailand, told Amnesty International that in May 2020, Facebook notified him that one of his posts had been restricted due to “local legal restrictions”. Since then, Facebook has blocked every piece of content he has tried to post containing the names of senior members of the Communist Party. 

Nguyen Van Trang has experienced similar restrictions on YouTube, which, unlike Facebook, gave him the option to appeal such restrictions. Some appeals have succeeded and others not, without YouTube providing any explanation.

Truong Chau Huu Danh is a well-known freelance journalist with 150,000 followers and a verified Facebook account. He told Amnesty International that between 26 March and 8 May 2020, he posted hundreds of pieces of content about a ban on rice exports and the high-profile death penalty case of Ho Duy Hai. In June, he realized these posts had all vanished without any notification from Facebook whatsoever.

Amnesty International heard similar accounts from other Facebook users, particularly when they tried to post about a high-profile land dispute in the village of Dong Tam, which opposed local villagers to military-run telecommunications company Viettel. The dispute culminated in a confrontation between villagers and security forces in January 2020 that saw the village leader and three police officers killed.

After Facebook announced its new policy in April 2020, land rights activists Trinh Ba Phuong and Trinh Ba Tu reported that all the content they had shared about the Dong Tam incident had been removed from their timelines without their knowledge and without notification.

On 24 June 2020, the pair were arrested and charged with “making, storing, distributing or disseminating information, documents and items against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code after they reported extensively on the Dong Tam incident. They are currently in detention. Their Facebook accounts have disappeared since their arrests under unknown circumstances. Amnesty International considers both Trinh Ba Phuong and Trinh Ba Tu to be prisoners of conscience.

The Vietnamese authorities’ campaign of repression often results in the harassment, intimidation, prosecution and imprisonment of people for their social media use. There are currently 170 prisoners of conscience imprisoned in Viet Nam, the highest number ever recorded in the country by Amnesty International. Nearly two in five (40%) have been imprisoned because of their peaceful social media activity.

Twenty-one of the 27 prisoners of conscience jailed in 2020, or 78%, were prosecuted because of their peaceful online activity under Articles 117 or 331 of the Criminal Code – the same repressive provisions that often form the basis of ‘local legal restrictions’ implemented by Facebook and YouTube. For every prisoner of conscience behind bars, there are countless people in Viet Nam who see this pattern of repression and intimidation and are understandably terrified about speaking their mind. Ming Yu Hah

These individuals’ supposed “crimes” include peacefully criticizing the authorities’ COVID-19 response on Facebook and sharing independent information about human rights online.

For every prisoner of conscience behind bars, there are countless people in Viet Nam who see this pattern of repression and intimidation and are understandably terrified about speaking their minds,” said Ming Yu Hah.

Amnesty International has documented dozens of incidents in recent years in which human rights defenders have received messages meant to harass and intimidate, including death threats. The systematic and organized nature of these harassment campaigns consistently bear the hallmarks of state-sponsored cyber-troops such as Du Luan Vien or “public opinion shapers” – people recruited and managed by the Communist Party of Viet Nam (CPV)’s Department of Propaganda to engage in psychological warfare online.

The activities of Du Luan Vien are complemented by those of “Force 47”, a cyberspace military battalion made up of some 10,000 state security forces whose function is to “fight against wrong views and distorted information on the internet”.

While “Force 47” and groups such as Du Luan Vien operate opaquely, they are known to engage in mass reporting campaigns targeting human rights –related content, often leading to their removal and account suspensions by Facebook and YouTube.

Additionally, Amnesty International’s investigation documented multiple cases of bloggers and social media users being physically attacked because of their posts by the police or plainclothes assailants, who operate with the apparent acquiescence of state authorities and with virtually no accountability for such crimes.


Putting an end to complicity

The Vietnamese authorities must stop stifling freedom of expression online. Amnesty International is calling for all prisoners of conscience in Viet Nam to be released immediately and unconditionally and for the amendment of repressive laws that muzzle freedom of expression.

Companies – including Facebook and Google – have a responsibility to respect all human rights wherever they operate. They should respect the right to freedom of expression in their content moderation decisions globally, regardless of local laws that muzzle freedom of expression. Tech giants should also overhaul their content moderation policies to ensure their decisions align with international human rights standards.

In October 2020, Facebook launched a global Oversight Board – presented as the company’s independent “Supreme Court” and its solution to the human rights challenges presented by content moderation. Amnesty International’s report reveals, however, that the Board’s bylaws will prevent it from reviewing the company’s censorship actions pursuant to local law in countries like Vet Nam. It’s increasingly obvious that the Oversight Board is incapable of solving Facebook’s human rights problems. Ming Yu Hah

“It’s increasingly obvious that the Oversight Board is incapable of solving Facebook’s human rights problems. Facebook should expand the scope of the Oversight Board to include content moderation decisions pursuant to local law; if not, the Board – and Facebook – will have again failed Facebook users,” said Ming Yu Hah.

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/11/algorithms-designed-to-suppress-isis-content-may-also-suppress-evidence-of-human-rights-violations/]

“Far from the public relations fanfare, countless people who dare to speak their minds in Viet Nam are being silenced. The precedent set by this complicity is a grave blow to freedom of expression around the world.”

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/12/viet-nam-tech-giants-complicit/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/01/facebook-youtube-google-accused-complicity-vietnam-repression

https://thediplomat.com/2020/07/facebook-vietnams-fickle-partner-in-crime/

Loujain al-Hathloul’s trial: Judge transfers her case to even worse court

November 26, 2020

Following up on my post from yesterday [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/11/25/loujain-al-hathloul-to-stand-trial-in-saudi-arabia-today/] Amnesty International reported on 25 November 2020 that a Saudi Arabian judge has decided to transfer human rights defender Loujain al-Hathloul’s case to Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court (SCC), an institution used to silence dissent and notorious for issuing lengthy prison sentences following seriously flawed trials

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/11/saudi-arabia-loujain-alhathlouls-trial-exposes-hypocrisy-on-womens-empowerment/

In reprisal for talking to diplomats Egypt arrests human rights defender Mohamed Basheern

November 18, 2020

On 16 November 2020, Amnesty International denounces the arbitrary arrest of Mohamed Basheer, the Administrative Manager at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), over bogus charges.

By arresting Mohamed Basheer, a member of staff at one of Egypt’s most prominent independent human rights organizations, the Egyptian authorities have yet again shown their intolerance of any scrutiny of their abysmal human rights record, sending a chilling message to the embattled human rights community in Egypt that they remain at risk.” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director.

Amnesty International strongly condemns Basheer’s arrest and detention and believes he is being targeted solely for his organization’s legitimate human rights work, including for meeting with Western diplomats. Members of the international community, and especially the states whose representatives were part of that visit, must now show that they won’t accept this reprisal and urge the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Basheer, drop all charges against him, and end the persecution of Egyptian civil society and human rights defenders. ” 

EIPR is an independent human rights organization whose work covers a variety of political, civil, economic and social rights in Egypt. According to Gasser Abdel-Razek, the Executive Director of EIPR, plainclothes security forces raided Basheer’s home in the early hours of 15 November. They took him to a National Security Agency building, where they detained him for more than 12 hours and questioned him without a lawyer present about the visit on 3 November by Western ambassadors and diplomats to the EIPR’s office. He was then taken to the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP), where a lawyer who attended his questioning by prosecutors there, said the questions had focused on EIPR’s publications and legal assistance to victims of human rights violations.

Mohamed Basheer was added to Case No. 855/2020 Supreme State Security, which involves investigations over unfounded terrorism-related charges against prominent detained human rights defenders and journalists, including Mahienour el-Masry, Mohamed el-Baqer, Solafa Magdy and Esraa Abdelfattah. Amnesty International has extensively documented how the SSSP use prolonged pre-trial detention over unfounded terrorism related charges to imprison opponents, critics and human rights defenders for months and years without trial. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/09/un-expresses-deep-concern-over-egypt-using-special-terror-courts-to-silence-human-rights-defenders/]

EIPR researcher Patrick George Zaki remains detained pending investigations by the SSSP over unfounded “terrorism”-related charges since his arrest in February 2020. 

See also: https://www.egyptindependent.com/egypt-rebuffs-frances-concerns-over-arrest-of-egyptian-activist-mohamed-bashir/

And on 18 November the authorities arrested another staff member of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Karim Ennarah, director of criminal justice initiatives Mada Masr reported [https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/11/egypt-arrest-rights-group-karim-ennarah.html]


Read more: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/11/egypt-arrest-rights-group-karim-ennarah.html#ixzz6eHaFxm3G

and https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/11/egypt-arrest-human-rights-condemn-eu-un.html

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/11/egypt-authorities-arrest-staff-member-of-prominent-rights-group-in-reprisal-for-a-meeting-with-diplomats/

What limits for NGOs in the decentralisation of human rights infrastructure?

November 11, 2020


Ravindran Daniel, in Open Global Rights of 10 November 2020 published a piece that should interest anybody who wrestles with the issue of how to ‘decentralise’ the international human rights movement. In “What are the implications of International Human Rights NGOs moving to the South?” Daniel – who is a human rights lawyer from India, served as director of the Human Rights Division with the UN peacekeeping missions in East Timor, Libya and the Sudan and established the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development – takes the recent closure of AI India as the starting point for a wider discussion of the structural problems that come up in trying to realise the ‘democratization of the global human rights movement”. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/09/29/amnesty-feels-forced-to-shut-sown-its-india-office-amidst-govenment-pressure/]



..The closure of Amnesty International’s India office raises questions about AI’s global strategy and the democratization of the global human rights movement. AI’s India office was part of the AI’s 2010 Global Transition Program (GTP) which aimed at restructuring the organization by reducing its London office operations and transferring them to regional hubs in various parts of the world. New forms of national offices were set up in India, Brazil, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, and Indonesia. The aim was also to make AI a truly global movement and raise funds from the Global South and not depend entirely on funds from the Global North. Donors such as the Ford Foundation and the Open Society Foundation funded AI’s move to the South which was seen as strengthening mobilization from local to international levels and increased contact with human rights defenders and civil society actors.

However, it also raised some questions for both AI and the global human rights movement.

When opening its office in India in 2012, AI may not have foreseen the assumption of power by an illiberal government in 2014; although it must have known the risks involved in other countries. When AI rolled out its GTP program in 2010, was it unrealistically optimistic, particularly when the global support for human rights  in the West was rapidly declining? The optimism about emerging powers such as India, Brazil, and South Africa had waned and several illiberal governments had become powerful in the global system. It could not have waited for an opportune time since governments of various hues always challenge human rights organizations to function freely. The fact remains that human rights offices, national or international, face reprisals by governments and AI should have foreseen it when it established its India office under the GTP program. The question remains: was the cost including the consequences for those associated with AI India worth the risk?

However, the question is: given its tradition of safeguarding its members from bias and reprisals, what steps did it take to prevent reprisals for its members and supporters of national offices? Since 2001, AI abandoned its “own country rule” under which AI members were barred from working on cases in their own countries. It was a self-imposed limitation to safeguard members against potential problems from their own governments but also to stress the importance of solidarity in human rights work.

The closure of the Indian office raises the value of “own country rule” which would have possibly prevented the Indian government from taking the extraordinary step of closing the AI’s office. The Indian Government is alleging money laundering, which would entail conducting investigations against all those who contributed to AI India putting a large number of its supporters at risk.

Was the cost including the consequences for those associated with AI India worth the risk?

Moreover, the aim of the “own country rule” was to prevent AI’s local chapters from becoming just another local human rights organization with international links. In the case of the AI India office, its links to its parent organization seemed to have impeded its functioning. For example, in November 2019, Indian police raided the AI India office after the parent organization testified before the US Congress on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

The closure of the AI’s India office has implications for the global human rights movement as well. An evaluation of the Ford Foundation’s Strengthening Human Rights Worldwide Global Initiative (SHRW), under which the foundation funded AI to move to the South, raised the following issues: how to differentiate between the roles played by national and international NGOs; if these roles could be construed as the imperial expansion of Northern-based groups?; if such moves help or reduce the voice of local groups and communities;and if international NGOs have an advantage over national NGOs in garnering a larger share of resources due to a concentration of “cultural capital” (“knowledge and access to global governance institutions”) among NGOs based in the North?

The ecology of the human rights movement began changing in the 80s and the SHRW review captures it. In this changed context, AI’s efforts to be closer to the ground happened at an ill-advised time when strong NGOs had emerged in the South and were increasingly challenging the traditional human rights ecology. While based in the North, AI was functioning as a global movement with some of the corresponding limitations, such as authoritarian governments accusing it of being a Western organization. AI, instead of building from its strength, seemed to have pursued a naïve goal of expanding in the field at a wrong time for the wrong reasons.

Nevertheless, the global human rights movement must condemn the Indian government’s actions against the AI India office. It must campaign for withdrawing all the cases and restoring the office. It should also examine the lessons learned from democratizing the movement in the last two decades, including strengthening the role and voices of NGOs in the South. AI on its part should re-examine its GTP’s assumptions considering the developments of the last two decades. A 2017 evaluation of the GTP commissioned by AI recommended the need for a “new narrative” that “…goes beyond moving closer to the ground, beyond the distribution of Amnesty International Secretariat (IS) and to the distribution of Amnesty as a movement… (making all) regions vibrant communities for public campaigning”.


https://www.openglobalrights.org/what-are-the-implications-of-international-human-rights-ngos-moving-to-the-south/

Amnesty International’s Write for Rights campaign 2020 launched

November 9, 2020

On 2 November 2020 Amnesty International has launched its flagship annual letter-writing campaign, Write for Rights, to help change the lives of people around the world who have been attacked, jailed, harassed or disappeared for standing up for their rights.

During Write for Rights – which takes place between November and December each year – people around the world will send millions of cards, emails and tweets of solidarity to individuals or groups of people whose freedoms are being denied, or write letters putting pressure on those in power to stop the abuses being committed against them. 

This year, the campaign will support ten individuals who are suffering abuses, including:

Write for Rights goes back to the very roots of Amnesty International, which was founded in 1961, with Amnesty’s early campaigners writing letters of support to those affected by human rights abuses, as well as letters of concern to governments around the world.

For last year, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/18/amnestys-write-for-rights-campaign-2019-launched-today-focuses-on-youth-activists/

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/millions-letters-texts-and-tweets-sent-free-ten-individuals-human-rights-abuses