Archive for the 'Front Line' Category

Even Maina Kiai cannot escape harassment in Kenya

August 22, 2017

There are certainly worse violations to which human rights defenders are submitted than a short detention at the airport, but this case concerns Maina Kiai, who is former UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly. Kiai, also Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) board member.  On 20 August 2017 he was stopped from catching his flight at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to the US. This was after immigration officers demanded that he gets travel clearance before they could stamp his passport. He was held for about two hours before but was allowed to travel after Director of Immigration Major-General Gordon Kihalangwa (Rtd) intervened. Kihalangwa told the Star that Kiai was not detained but was taken through routine security checks that every traveler is subjected to. “Kiai was not restricted. It was a normal security check and not meant to demean him or anyone.”

That notoriety has protective value can be seen from what he added: “Kiai is a renown personality. He is even known to me. I spoke to him personally before he traveled“.  [for more on Maina Kiai: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/maina-kiai/]

Still, human rights defenders such as  Njonjo Mue termed the incident “disturbing and an attempt by the state to manage its citizens with a fist”“We are dealing with a regime determined to silence all independent voices, its dictatorship and we back to 1990s”Khelef Khalifa of Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) said it was not a coincidence but a deliberate attempt to silence all those voices that speak to power.

Last week, there were attempts by the state to shut down the NGOs KHRC and AfriCOG in what government termed as failure to comply with statutory obligations. The events climaxed by failed raid on AfriCOG offices. On 16 August 2017 this is what Front Line Defenders had to say about this:

Kenya Revenue Authority officials attempted to raid the African Centre for Open Governance’s offices.  On 14 and 15 August 2017, the Executive Director of the NGO Co-Ordination Board notified the Kenya Human Rights Commission- KHRC and the African Centre for Open Governance- AfriCOG that the Board would be cancelling their registration. The NGO Co-Ordination Board also called for the freezing of their accounts and the arrest of the Board of Directors and members of AfriCOG ……

On 16 August 2017, Kenya Revenue Authority officials attempted to raid the AfriCOG offices, however, the search was called off in order to investigate complaints by the organisation. On 15 August 2017, the Executive Director of the NGO Co-Ordination Board sent a letter to the Director of Criminal Investigations stating that AfriCOG will be shut down and calling for the arrests of its directors and members. The NGO Co-Ordination Board has alleged that AfriCOG is not a registered organisation under the NGO Co-Ordination Act 1990 as required by law. The letter, in which AfriCOG and the Central Bank of Kenya were copied, also called for the freezing of accounts in the name of  AfriCOG.

On 14 August 2017, the Kenya Human Rights Commission received a letter from the NGO Co-Ordination Board de-registering the NGO. In the letter, the Executive Director of the NGO Co-Ordination Board also asked the Central Bank of Kenya, who was copied in the correspondence, to freeze any accounts in the name of KHRC. The allegations by the Board include that the NGO has illegal bank accounts, that it illegally employs expatriates and that it is concealing illegal remuneration of board members. 

These allegations are similar to those made by the NGO Co-Ordination Board about the KHRC in 2015 when the Board issued a press statement announcing that it had initiated the de-registration process for a number of NGOs, including the KHRC. In Kenya Human Rights Commission v Non-Governmental Organisations Co-Ordination Board [2016] eKLR, Judge Onguto found that the NGO Co-Ordination Board had violated Article 37 of the Constitution by not giving the KHRC a hearing before deciding to cancel its registration certificate and freeze its bank accounts.

Source: Rights defenders condemn Maina Kiai detention, urges him to sue | The Star, Kenya

https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2001251969/maina-kiai-briefly-stopped-at-jkia-as-officials-demand-clearance-to-travel

http://freeassembly.net/news/thank-you-from-kiai

Thai Human Rights Defender ‘Pai Dao Din’ jailed for 2-and-a-half years on lese majeste charge

August 16, 2017

On 15 August 2017, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa received a two and a half years jail sentence after pleading guilty to violating the lèse majesté law. The human rights defender – also known as Pai Dao Din – has been detained since 3 December 2016 in connection with his sharing of a BBC article on the life of King Vajiralongkorn on social media. Pai Dao Din, is leader of a student activist group called Dao Din based in Khon Kaen University. (https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/jatupat-boonpattararaksa). The group advocates for community rights, social justice and democracy. He is also a member of New Democracy Movement (NDM), which opposes the military dictatorship in Thailand, a regime in place since the coup d’etat in May 2014. In May 2017, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa  was awarded the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/05/10/gwangju-award-for-human-rights-defender-pai-dao-din-upsets-thai-government/]The defender was originally sentenced to five years in jail, however this sentence was reduced after he pleaded guilty to sharing material deemed insulting towards the country’s monarchy.

{While authorities did not file charges or even a complaint against the London-based BBC for publishing the article, only Jatupat was arrested. His bail requests were consistently rejected as authorities regarded lèse majesté as a serious charge possibly entailing severe punishment. Domestic and international campaigns over recent months have failed to free him on bail. Prior to the court judgment, Jatupat, who had maintained his innocence for months, agreed to plead guilty after consulting with his family and legal team to get a more lenient sentence.}

 “It appears that Jatupat was singled out, from thousands of people who shared the BBC article, and prosecuted for his strong opposition to military rule rather than any harm incurred by the monarchy,” said Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch. “His guilty verdict and jail sentence show yet again how Thailand’s draconian ‘insulting the monarchy’ law has been misused to punish dissenters.

Source: Activist ‘Pai Dao Din’ jailed for 2-and-a-half years on BBC Thai article lese majeste charge

Killing of minority rights defender Lafiqul Islam Ahmed in Assam State, India

August 14, 2017

On 1 August 2017, two unidentified gunmen shot and killed minority rights defender Lafiqul Islam Ahmed in Kokrajhar district, Assam state. Lafiqul Islam Ahmed <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/lafiqul-islam-ahmed>  was a human rights defender and a student leader. He was the president of All Bodoland Minority Students’ Union (ABMSU), a student group working to defend the rights of migrant Muslim communities in Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD), an autonomous administrative division in northern Assam. ABMSU have protested against the forceful eviction of Muslims from government land across the state, and demanded compensation and rehabilitation for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Assam. Under Lafiqul Islam Ahmed’s leadership, the union has also campaigned to end child marriage, child labour and dowry and have worked on women’s empowerment. Lafiqul Islam Ahmed was also vocal against corruption, smuggling and arbitrary anti-Muslim policies and harassment.

The human rights defender had previously been subjected to threats. The Superintendent of Police in Kokrajhar has opened an investigation into the murder and two persons were arrested in connection to the case on 2 August 2017. Lafiqul Islam Ahmed, along with the ABMSU, was to lead a march on 2 August 2017 to protest against the discrimination of Muslims through the  “D voters” system. This is a category of voters in Assam whose citizenship rights, entitlements and privileges are withheld until they can prove their citizenship. Many members of the Muslim community in the state have allegedly been arbitrarily categorized as such, making them second-class citizens and severely restricting their civil and political rights.

STOP THE KILLINGS: you can help Front Line

July 13, 2017

At the end of last year I announced the new Front Line project to remember human rights defenders who have been killed [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/02/new-on-line-memorial-to-remember-killed-human-rights-defenders/] and now I am asking you for your cooperation. If you yourself do not know any cases to be included, you could still forward the post to any person or organization you think could be helpful.  The main parameters of the project are:


The HRD Memorial – http://www.hrdmemorial.org

The the aim is to commemorate all human rights defenders who have been killed for their peaceful work in defense of human rights since the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders came into effect in 1998.

The criteria for inclusion is simply that the person targeted was a HRD killed because of their peaceful human rights work. (The HRD Memorial doesn’t include disappearance cases because of the difficulty in documenting the cases and trying to determine if the person is alive or dead.)

Front Line Defenders have taken a policy decision to only include a case with the permission of the family because of the risk of re-victimisation.

Any inputs (as well questions) can be sent straight to , Head of HRD Memorial Project at Front Line Defenders [jimATfrontlinedefenders.org>]

Repressive governments continue to kill human rights defenders because they think human rights defenders are expendable people, that the killings will have no consequences and that the HRDs will soon be forgotten. The Memorial would be an important tool in the fight against impunity and to keep the flame alive. The Memorial and the participation of national and international NGOs will provide the basis for an international campaign with the theme “Stop the Killings”, which will be launched in the first quarter of 2018. 

Sudan: award-winning human rights defenders under pressure

July 12, 2017

Amal Habani
AFP reported on 10 July from Khartoum that a court found that the journalist Amal Habani, winner of Amnesty International’s Ginetta Sagan Award, was ordered to pay 10,000 Sudanese pounds ($1,430) or face a jail term of four months. The court found her guilty in a case filed by a security officer who accused her of preventing him from doing his job during the March trial of three rights activists. “This is injustice. I was covering a trial of human rights activists when the security officer beat me,” Habani told AFP by telephone from the court on Monday. “When I complained against him, he filed a case against me. I will not pay the fine but rather go to jail.”
Her lawyer Ahmed Elshukri said he will file an appeal against the court’s order. Habani, who writes for online Sudanese newspaper Al-Taghyeer, said the incident with the security officer occurred when she was taking pictures on her mobile phone outside a court during the March trial.

An even more serous case is that of Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/dr-mudawi-ibrahim-adam] an internationally recognised human rights defender who was the winner of the inaugural 2005 Front Line Defenders Award for human rights defenders. Ibrahim Adam Mudawi and his colleague Idris Eldoma Hafiz face six serious charges such as “undermining the constitutional system” and “waging war against the state”. Rights groups have denounced the allegations as trumped up and linked to their human rights advocacy. The trial is underway in the capital Khartoum. “Human rights work is not a crime, so Dr Mudawi and Hafiz must be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s regional director. “Their arrest and continued incarceration is a miscarriage of justice, plain and simple.” Mudawi has continuously been harassed for his human rights work in Darfur and across Sudan for more than a decade. See also: https://www.defenddefenders.org/2017/07/sudan-human-rights-defenders-detained-face-death-penalty/

Sudan regularly ranks near the bottom of international press freedom rankings. International NGOs have accused Sudan’s powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) of detaining human rights workers, opposition politicians and journalists.

Sources:

http://www.enca.com/africa/sudanese-human-rights-defenders-face-death-sentence

Sudan court fines award-winning journalist

for the Ginetta Sagan award see: https://www.amnestyusa.org/press-releases/amnesty-international-usa-honors-sudanese-journalist-amal-habani-with-annual-award-for-womens-human-rights-defenders/

Turkey: detention of human rights defenders further extended

July 12, 2017

Front Line just reported that on 11 July 2017, the detention of the Turkish human rights defenders [see my post of a few hours ago: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/11/council-of-europe-losing-patience-with-turkey-after-arrest-of-human-rights-defenders/], was prolonged. Nalan Erkem, Seyhmuz Ozbekli, Ozlem Dalkiran, Idil Eser, Veli Acu, Gunal Kursun, Ilknur Ustun, Nejat Tastan, Ali Gharawi and Peter Steudtner was extended by seven more days by a decision of the prosecutor. The detention order refers to suspected membership of an armed terrorist organisation. This order is due to expire on 12 July 2017 at 2.30 pm. Over the course of  10 and 11 July 2017, police carried out searches at the houses of the detained defenders, and reportedly seized flash and hard drives as well as other electronic equipment. Despite the undisclosed nature of the investigation, there has been a smear campaign conducted against the defenders in certain segments of Turkish media as well as amongst social media networks, equating the human rights defenders with “spies”.

Council of Europe losing patience with Turkey after arrest of human rights defenders

July 11, 2017

Many NGOs and governments have expressed deep concern over what is happening in Turkey. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) probably matters more than most in this case as it is one of the few international institutions where Turkey still is a ‘functioning member’. Back in April it was put on a ‘watch list’ and Turkey reacted furiously [http://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-politics-councilofeurope-idUSKBN17R18U ]. Now, on 7 July 2017, the co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Turkey, Marianne Mikko (Estonia, SOC) and Nigel Evans (United Kingdom, EC), have expressed serious concern at the arrest of several prominent human rights defenders in Istanbul on 5 July, including Amnesty International Director Idil Eser.

These arrests, which took place during a training seminar on human rights defenders, are another devastating signal at a time when Turkey needs to address serious human rights issues, as pointed out by the Parliamentary Assembly in its most recent resolution.” “We ask for the immediate release of these human rights defenders, and urge the Turkish authorities to ensure that fundamental freedoms, including freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, are duly and effectively secured, and to refrain from further action which might have a chilling effect on society,” said the co-rapporteurs.

On 5 July 2017, ten human rights defenders were arrested and detained: Nalan Erkem and Özlem Dalkiran (Helsinki Citizens Assembly), Ilknur Üstün (Women’s Coalition), Idil Eser and Veli Acu (Amnesty International), Günal Kursun (Human Rights Agenda Association), Nejat Tastan (Association for Monitoring Equal Rights), Seyhmuz Özbekli (Rights Initiative) and moderators Ali Garawi and Peter Steudtner. [See also back in 2016: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/20/turkey-fair-trial-human-rights-lawyers-expression-l4l/]

On 8 June 2017, Yves Pozzo Di Borgo (France, EPP/CD), PACE’s rapporteur on “Ensuring the protection of human rights defenders in the member States of the Council of Europe“, had already expressed his deep concern after the arrest of Taner Kiliç, Chair of Amnesty International. (https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/09/human-rights-watch-urges-turkey-to-release-amnestys-country-head/)

Turkish author Elif Şafak / Elif Shafak urges her fellow writers to resist self-censorship and instead challenge tyranny and repression with their pens. However, it’s not enough for writers alone to defend democracy — we all must become activists and stand in solidarity with those who oppose tyranny worldwide. See her speak at the Oslo Freedom Forum this year: Oslo Freedom Forum
On 24 May 2017 Front Line Defenders urged that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – joining the leaders of other NATO nations to attend a summit of the military alliance in Brussels on 25 May – be held accountable for his treatment of HRDs. Front Line Defenders urged countries to call on the Turkish government to fulfil the country’s international human rights obligations and to cease the systematic targeting of human rights defenders (HRDs).

Source: PACE: News

https://turkeypurge.com/rights-activists-detained-in-turkey-at-risk-of-torture-says-un-spokesman

 

Uganda: Killing of human rights defender Erasmus Irumba by security forces

June 30, 2017

 reports that on 23 June 2017, Erasmus Irumba was shot and wounded during an alleged altercation with a commanding officer of the local Uganda People’s Defence Forces and other security officials in Ntoroko District, western Uganda. He was then driven to a more rural area where he was shot again at close range and killed. Erasmus Irumba <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/erasmus-irumba>  was the coordinator of Twerwaneho Listeners Club (TLC) in Ntoroko District. TLC is a non-governmental organisation based in Fort Portal, in western Uganda. TLC carries out human rights advocacy through weekly radio programmes centred on human rights education, capacity building of human rights defenders, civic education, the monitoring and documentation of human rights violations and the challenging of unlawful government actions in court. TLC radio programmes generally aim at holding public leaders and corporations more accountable. Erasmus Irumba was particularly active in TLC’s Village Budget Clubs, a project that sought to scrutinise the allocation and implementation of district budgets and ensure proper management of public funds at the local level.

[On 23 June 2017, at approximately 7.30pm, Erasmus Irumba was reportedly summoned to go to Butungama trading centre for a meeting with senior security officials in his region, including the Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Richard Muhangi of Uganda People’s Defence Forces 3rd Mountain Battalion, with two of his escorts, the Ntoroko District Police Commander and the District Internal Security Organ Officer. During this meeting, Erasmus Irumba and another civilian who was with him were shot in the leg in an altercation that has been this far presented as arising from his attempt to resist arrest. Whilst still alive, but severely bleeding, Erasmus Irumba and his colleague were put in the boot of a private car and driven to a more rural area where they were shot dead. Erasmus Irumba’s body, which presented a gun wound in the forehead, was later taken to Buhinga Regional Referral Hospital in Fort Portal. In response to the killings, it is reported that some senior security officials including Lt. Col. Richard Muhangi and the Ntoroko District Police Commander have been arrested.]

Front Line Defenders is concerned that the killing of Erasmus Irumba is linked to the corruption of the security officials involved and believes he was targeted due to his peaceful and legitimate work at TLC.

 

 

Front Line seeks advocacy officer for its Brussels office

June 29, 2017

is looking for an Advocacy Officer for its EU office in Brussels, Belgium

 

The Advocacy Officer helps develop the work of Front Line Defenders at European Union level as part of a small 2-person team in Brussels. This work includes the following tasks:

  • Responsibility for sending appeals on cases of human rights defenders at risk to EU/Member State authorities and to Norway/Switzerland to press them for action in accordance with the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders and beyond;
  • Tracking results achieved, and compiling detailed data on responses for analysis and for reporting to headquarters;
  • Analysis, in coordination with Front Line Defenders’ Protection Coordinators, on the impact of EU action on Human Rights Defenders, and development and updating of strategies on maximising EU/MS response and impact on HRDs;
  • Prepare, in coordination with Front Line Defenders’ Protection Coordinators, briefings on HRDs for input into EU meetings;
  • By delegation of the Head of Office, participate in EU briefing and debriefing meetings, and advocate on HRD issues and individual cases;
  • In coordination with the Head of Office, initiate and undertake advocacy actions, in particular through the development of contacts with EU/Member State officials;
  • Organise and coordinate events, including visits of human rights defenders, awareness-raising workshops, etc.;
  • Assist with fundraising;
  • Assist the Head of Office in administrative tasks, as appropriate.

Desired profile and required qualifications

  • Relevant academic background;
  • At least two years of relevant experience, and sound knowledge of the functioning of the EU Institutions, the EU human rights instruments and the international human rights standards;
  • Dedication to the protection of human rights defenders and to the promotion of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders;
  • Strong organisation and time-management skills;
  • Excellent communication, relational and diplomatic skills, both oral and written in English and French;
  • Very good computer skills (office applications, database updating);
  • Experience of fundraising;
  • Availability for meetings early in the morning or late in the afternoon once or twice a week, upon coordination with the Head of Office. The position also requires very occasional international travel.

Salary €3050 per month gross. Conditions are according to Belgian legislation including the legal ability to live and work in Belgium.

Please send a letter of motivation and a CV to emma@frontlinedefenders.org by midnight on Monday 10 July 2017.

Interviews are planned to take place on 24-25th July. Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted – thank you for your understanding.

 

http://www.eurobrussels.com/job_display/130644/Advocacy_Officer_Front_Line_Defenders_Brussels_Belgium

Qatar extradited human rights defender Otaibi to Saudi Arabia ignoring Norway’s grant of asylum

June 1, 2017

IMG_1127
On 31 May 2017 ALQST reported that Qatar has extradited the prominent Saudi human rights defender Mohammed bin Abdullah al-Otaibi to Saudi Arabia, even after Norway accepted his application for political asylum.  Otaibi was arrested at Doha International Airport on Wednesday 24 May, 2017 as he was about to travel with his wife to Norway, on travel documents provided by the Norwegians.  Days later, on Sunday, 28 May 28 3 a.m., Otaibi was deported overland to Saudi Arabia via the Salwa border crossing and delivered to the Saudi authorities, who sent him with an escort of Saudi security vehicles to the Dammam Prisons Department.
For more details see the piece referred to below:

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