Archive for the 'ICJ' Category

International Day in Support of Victims of Torture 2020

June 27, 2020

UN Women/Ryan Brown After surviving military enslavement in Guatemala, Maria Ba Caal received help through an emergency grant from the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.

26 June 2020 was the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Torture is an “egregious abuse of human rights”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said. Although international law “unequivocally prohibits torture in all instances”, the UN chief pointed out that it nevertheless continues in many countries, “even those where it is criminalized”.

On this International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture, human rights defenders and survivors of torture around the world take the opportunity to speak out against this abhorrent denial of human dignity and they act to remember and support its victims”, Mr. Guterres said in his message.

Its prohibition forms part of customary international law, which means that it is binding on every member of the international community, regardless of whether a State has ratified international treaties that expressly prohibit the practice or not, according to the UN.  Moreover, the systematic or widespread practice of torture constitutes a crime against humanity.

The UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, channels funding to assist victims of torture and their families by awarding hundreds of grants to civil society organizations worldwide for medical, psychological, legal, social and other assistance.  It contributes to the rehabilitation, reparation, empowerment and access to remedies for nearly 50,000 torture survivors each year.

And to underline that torture is still very much a problem today the Himalayan Times of 26 June writes “that despite new criminal laws, impunity for acts of torture, ill-treatment prevails in detention” in Nepal

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Advocacy Forum (AF) and Terai Human Rights Defenders Alliance (THRD Alliance) have voiced concerns about the near-total failure by authorities to investigate and prosecute acts of torture in Nepal. On the occasion of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the three rights organisations urged the Government of Nepal to investigate into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment, and to bring prosecutions where warranted under the criminal provisions of the Penal Code…

The ICJ has made an appeal to the Government of Nepal to establish an independent preventative mechanism for monitoring of detention centres and to become party to the Optional Protocol of the Convention on Torture. Nearly two years after provisions in the new Penal Code came into effect, not a single torture prosecution appears to have been brought. There have also been very few instances in which victims have received an effective remedy and reparation for their ill-treatment, the press release stated.

Nepal has, as per the statement, failed to meet its obligations in this regard under article 2(3) of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and article 14 of the Convention Against Torture….

The AF and THRD Alliance both published reports on Friday that document instances of torture and other ill-treatment against detainees over the past year. Some 20 per cent of the more than 1,000 detainees interviewed reported some form of unlawful ill-treatment during confinement.

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/06/1067072

https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/rights-organisations-urge-government-to-prosecute-acts-of-torture-ill-treatment/

ICJ calls on Malaysia to finally abolish laws restricting freedom of expression and assembly

March 5, 2020

Malaysiakini wrote on the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) on the authorities to stop their investigations against activists engaging in peaceful protests. The call came after police today probed Ambiga Sreenevasan, Marina Mahathir, and numerous others over peaceful assemblies in Dataran Merdeka and outside the Sogo shopping centre over the weekend. The protests were held over the political turmoil which saw the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan government. “These investigations have the effect of harassing and intimidating human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists, and look worryingly like a new crackdown on dissent,” said ICJ Asia Pacific director Frederick Rawski. Read the rest of this entry »

Chilean human rights defender, José (Pepe) Zalaquett, no more

February 22, 2020

Side event preparing the UPR process on Turkey

January 22, 2020

In the framework of the 35th session of the Universal Periodic Review, Press Emblem campaign (PEC) and International Observatory for Human Rights (IOHR) are organising a side event entitled ‘Information meeting on the UPR process in Turkey‘ within the Palais des Nations on Monday, 27 of January, Room XXV from 1 to 2.30 pm.

Key Note Speaker:
Ambassador Stephen Rapp Former United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues in the Office of Global Criminal Justice

Panel 1: Press Freedom
Guest Speakers
Mr Yavuz Baydar: Editor-in-Chief of Ahval
Ms Evin Barış Altıntaş: Journalist & Blogger
Mr Massimo Frigo: Senior Legal Advisor for International Commission for Jurists

Panel 2: Human Rights Defenders
Guest Speakers
Şebnem Korur Fincancı – President of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey
Nurcan Baysal – Award-winning Turkish Human Rights Defender & Journalist [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/05/18/breaking-news-five-front-line-award-winners-2018-announced/]
Anne van Wezel – Former Co-Chair, EESC EU-Turkey Joint Consultative Committee

Moderator: Louise Pyne Jones, Head of Research, IOHR

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/13/press-emblem-campaign-pec-reports-to-human-rights-council-on-media-casualties/

https://www.pressemblem.ch/

ICJ Report on freedom of information in South East Asia especially on-line

December 23, 2019

Malaysian cartoonist Zunar helps launch a report by the International Commission of Jurists at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand.  (Photo by Osama Motiwala/ICJ))
Malaysian cartoonist Zunar helps launch a report by the International Commission of Jurists at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand.  (Photo by Osama Motiwala/ICJ))

On 16 December 2019 Dave Kendall wrote in the Bankok Post about the International Commission of Jurists(ICJ), having released a report called Dictating the internet: Curtailing free expression, opinion and information online in Southeast Asia. The report was presetned at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand, where some of the human rights defenders featured in the case studies participated in a panel discussion. The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/18/fight-through-cartoons-zunar/] drew a cartoon live on stage; it showed a government figure placing handcuffs around the two ‘O’s in the word Google.

The ICJ has a slightly different take from other non-governmental organisations that seek to protect freedom of speech. For the ICJ, the law is both the problem and the solution: Southeast Asian governments use existing laws and draft new ones to stifle dissent, violating international statutes upholding freedom of expression that they themselves have signed onto. The report calls for governments in Southeast Asia to “repeal, amend or otherwise rectify existing legal and regulatory frameworks to bring them in line with their international obligations” — and argues that “legislation framed in human rights terms is also the best and most effective way to protect against the very real threats posed by the spread of hate speech, disinformation online, cyber-attacks and other cybercrimes.

From left: ICJ director of Asia and the Pacific Frederick Rawski, Myanmar surgeon Ma Thida, human rights defender Sutharee Wannasiri, Singaporean activist Jolovan Wham and Malaysian cartoonist Zunar (Photo by Dave Kendall)

“It’s not a pretty picture,Frederick Rawski, ICJ director of Asia and the Pacific told the forum. “Laws are used to harass and threaten human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and others…New legal frameworks are being seen as an opportunity to consolidate and protect political power.” Corporations, too, have joined the party. “Businesses are using strategic lawsuits to avoid criticism, claiming they are protecting their businesses interests,Sutharee Wannasiri told the audience. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/04/international-civil-society-week-3-human-rights-defenders-engaging-business/]. The human rights activist is out on bail.

Governments have often cited vague concepts of “national security” and “public order” to justify using disproportionate means to shut down opposing views, sometimes even when privately expressed. “I was sentenced to 23 years in prison in 1993,” said Dr Ma Thida, a Myanmar surgeon, writer, and human rights activist. “The first charge was ‘endangering national serenity’.” She said the use of speech-suppressing colonial-era laws such as the National Secrets Act has actually increased since Aung San Suu Kyi joined the Myanmar government.

Governments across Southeast Asia vary in the subtlety — or otherwise — they employ in using the law to stifle dissent. “The police were very nice to me,” recalled Jolovan Wham, a Singaporean civil and labour rights activist [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/24/human-rights-defender-jolovan-wham-in-singapore-sentenced-ngos-dismayed/]. “They asked me, ‘Is the room too cold? Would you like some biscuits?’ Singapore introduced its Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act this year. “Singapore has a very good PR machine… they use democratic processes for authoritarian ends,” said Mr Wham. “They made a show of democratic consultation to justify this repressive law.

The ICJ report was welcomed by Sutawan Chanprasert, the founder of DigitalReach, a new organisation campaigning to protect digital rights in Southeast Asia. “The report shows that while technology gives more opportunities for people to express themselves on social media, the state is moving to control the online space too,” she told the Bangkok Post. “Under repressive ‘fake news’ laws, any content can be interpreted as ‘fake’, ‘false’ and ‘misleading’. And tech has provided a new kind of threat to freedom of expression– digital surveillance of political dissidents.

How human-rights defender Idris Khattak went ‘missing’ in Pakistan

November 25, 2019

On 23 November 2019 Francesca Marino, in a personal blog post in the New Kerala wrote a short story “How human-rights activist Idris Khattak went ‘missing’ in Pakistan“. It reads like the scenario for a film but it is the horrible truth:

November 13, on the Islamabad-Peshawar motorway. It is around five o’clock in the afternoon, there’s a long queue at the toll plaza. The man and his driver are stuck in the queue like many others. An ordinary afternoon in an ordinary day, it seems. But there’s nothing ordinary in what’s going to happen. The moment the car stops at the toll plaza to pay the fare, a couple of guys in plain clothes approach the car forcing the two men to go out. The man and his driver are handcuffed, their faces covered with masks and they are thrown into another car. Nobody complains nobody says anything. The people at toll plaza let the car go without any payment. An ordinary afternoon, in an ordinary day. In a couple of minutes, the void replaces the space occupied by the two men. The void, an ordinary entity in today’s Pakistan. The man taken by the ‘unknown’ people in plain clothes is Idris Khattak, and is not an ordinary man. Because fighting for the rights of citizens, in Pakistan, is not an ordinary thing to do. Not anymore.

Idris had worked for Amnesty International and for Human Rights Watch on various human rights issues including, ironically, the issue of enforced disappearances in the country. His last post on Facebook, before he disappeared, was in fact on disappearances that, according to Amnesty International and other international organisations has become a common practice in Pakistan in the last few years.

Idris is an easy target. He has been an active member of left-wing politics and progressive circles since his student days and an important member of the Democratic Student Federation. Lately, he joined the National Party, serving as its General Secretary in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The usual ‘unknowns’ had called him many times in the past threatening him and ‘gently advising’ him not to cross the limits in criticising the military.

A couple of days later, another lot of people in plain clothes shows up at Idris’ house. They tell the family they are children of Idris’ friends and need to take his laptop and his hard disk. They call a number Idris is on the phone, telling his family to give laptop and hard disks to the guys. Just this and the call is cut.

Meanwhile, after three days, the driver reappeared. He is shaken and terrified. He has been kept for three days in a basement, with his warden telling him he was clear and would be released soon. During those three days, he never saw Idris and has no idea of what happened to him.

An FIR and a habeas corpus have been filed in Peshawar High Court by Latif Afridi Advocate, but unfortunately is not going to make any difference. The rule of law, in this case like in many other cases before Idris, counts nothing.
 Reading from the latest Amnesty Report “The groups and individuals targeted in enforced disappearances in Pakistan include people from Sindhi, Baloch, Pashtun ethnicities, the Shia community, political activists, human rights defenders, members and supporters of religious and nationalist groups, suspected members of armed groups, and proscribed religious and political organisations in Pakistan. In some cases, persons are openly taken into custody by the police or intelligence agencies, and families trying to find out where they are held are denied information by the authorities. Some victims are eventually released or their whereabouts are disclosed to their families but they continue to be held in arbitrary detention including in internment camps. Those forcibly disappeared are also at risk of torture and death during captivity.”

The bloggers, who disappeared a few years ago, have been brutally tortured and still carry physical and mental symptoms related to their detention. According to Amnesty International “The disappeared are at risk of torture and even death. If they are released, the physical and psychological scars endure. Disappearances are a tool of terror that strikes not just individuals or families, but entire societies. Enforced disappearance is a crime under international law and, if committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack, they constitute a crime against humanity”.

Defence of Human Rights, a non-governmental organisation working for the recovery of disappeared people, laments that more than 5,000 cases of enforced disappearance have remained unresolved till date in Pakistan.
 According to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearance established in 2011 under international pressure hasn’t made any significant progress. The ICJ says the practice of enforced disappearances in Pakistan is no longer restricted to conflict zones alone. “It has become a tactic for suppressing dissenting voices wherever they are present.” Adding that “The practice has now become a national phenomenon” in Naya Pakistan.

Ironically, Imran Khan had committed to criminalise the practice of enforced disappearances under his government; useless to say, nothing has been done. And to add insult to irony, the Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari has stated that the government wants to sign the International Convention for Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. Meanwhile, the practice continues and the impunity and the arrogance of ISI and its thugs grow every day. Grows like the void, the void left where they were people once. And dreams, and hopes. The dreams and hopes to live in a civilised country, where dissent and protests are part of the democratic process and citizens have civil and human rights. An ordinary country.

https://www.newkerala.com/news/read/252635/how-human-rights-activist-idris-khattak-went-missing-in-pakistan.html

ICJ says human rights defenders alarmed over election results in Sri Lanka

November 19, 2019

Sri Lanka’s newly elected president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his Government must demonstrate that they will uphold human rights and rule of law, and ensure that Sri Lanka sustains its international obligations and commitments to justice and accountability, said the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) on 19 November 2019. “The election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, after a highly polarizing campaign, has alarmed human rights defenders in Sri Lanka and abroad, who have little reason to believe that someone facing such serious allegations of perpetrating human rights violations can be relied upon to meet the country’s obligations under international law,” said Frederick Rawski, ICJ Asia Pacific Director.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who won the presidency with 52.25% of votes, served as Sri Lanka’s Secretary of the Ministry of Defence from 2005 to 2015 during the tenure of his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, at the height of the armed conflict against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Gotabaya Rajapaksa faces credible allegations of involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity that took place during the country’s armed conflict.

International condemnation of atrocities committed during the conflict led to the UN Human Rights Council demanding that the Sri Lankan government commit to a process of transitional justice, in view of the systematic failures of accountability mechanisms in Sri Lanka in the past, as documented by the ICJ in its submission to the Human Rights Council, and others. Despite commitments from the Sri Lankan government, the transitional justice process has effectively stalled and impunity has prevailed.

The ICJ is deeply concerned that even the limited strides made over the past five years in Sri Lanka on transitional justice, positive constitutional amendments and institutional reform will be reversed,” said Rawski. The ICJ urged the Government to deliver on its commitment to the transitional justice process, including by holding those responsible for human rights violations and abuses accountable, and complying with the obligations set out in United Nations Human Rights Council Resolutions 30/1, 34/1 and 40/1.

In Tajikistan lawyers have to be human rights defenders

September 29, 2019

In June, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared the detention of Buzurgmehr Yorov a violation of international law.
In June, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared the detention of Buzurgmehr Yorov a violation of international law.

For more than five years now, lawyers’ ranks have been thinned as the Tajik authorities imposed new rules to disbar lawyers and, in some cases, brought criminal cases against lawyers who defended political opponents. According to RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, known locally as Ozodi, there are only around 850 lawyers in Tajikistan, a country of more than 9 million people. Yorov’s situation is one of the best-known. He had taken on clients who were almost surely targeted by the government. In 2015, Tajik authorities withdrew the registration of and then banned the country’s leading opposition party, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), then later declared it an extremist group and claimed it was behind what the government said was a coup attempt. There is scant evidence to support the claim of an attempted coup and even less evidence connecting the IRPT to the purported coup’s alleged mastermind, who was killed by Tajik security forces. More than a dozen senior IRPT leaders were detained at the end of September 2015. Yorov said he would defend them in court, meeting with one of them on September 26. Two days later, he said publicly that his client was being tortured; shortly after that, Yorov was himself taken into custody.

In October 2016, Yorov and fellow rights lawyer Nuriddin Makhamov were found guilty of fraud and inciting national, racial, local, or religious hatred. Yorov was sentenced to 23 years in prison, but additional time was added to his sentence in two successive trials. At one of those trials, Yorov was given two extra years for contempt of court for quoting 11th-century poet Ibn Avicenna.*

On September 18, the Association of Central Asian Migrants announced Yorov was being given the first Fayziniso Vohidova award. The prize is named after a rights lawyer who died earlier this year. Yorov’s brother, Jamshed, accepted the award on his behalf. Buzurgmehr Yorov has since been shortlisted for the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, whose winner should be announced on September 30. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/29/ilham-tohti-one-of-the-finalists-for-the-vaclav-havel-human-rights-prize/]

A September 10 statement by the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists expressed concern about the Tajik Anti-Corruption Agency’s “acts of intimidation” against a group of lawyers. The statement mentions Abdulaziz Abdurahmonzoda, a member of the independent Lawyers Union of Tajikistan.

Abdurahmonzoda is being charged with fraud. Prosecutors allege that he demanded a $500 bribe from a man named Saidmurod Saidov, who came seeking Abdurahmonzoda’s legal services.

Abdulaziz Abdurahmonzoda
Abdulaziz Abdurahmonzoda

According to the International Commission of Jurists, “Following the initiation of the inquiry of the allegations of ill-treatment, the head of the Anti-Corruption Agency of Dushanbe allegedly sent requests to a number of district courts of Dushanbe to obtain information about civil and criminal cases in which Saidbek Nuriddinov had participated as a lawyer.” Saidbek Nuriddinov is the chairman of the Lawyers Union of Tajikistan.

In 2013, Yorov, Fakhriddin Zokirov, Ishoq Tabarov, and Shukrat Kudratov were the defense attorneys for Zayd Saidov, a successful and former minister of industry who suddenly faced charges ranging from financial crimes to sexual relations with a minor and polygamy, after he declared earlier in the year that he planned to establish a new political party. In December 2013, Saidov was found guilty and sentenced to 26 years in prison (three more years were added in a later trial).

In June, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared the detention of Buzurgmehr Yorov a violation of international law. Rights groups including Human Rights Watch, Freedom Now, and Lawyers for Lawyers have repeatedly called for an end to the crackdown on lawyers in Tajikistan and the release of those who have been imprisoned.

https://www.rferl.org/a/finally-a-defense-of-tajikistan-s-lawyers/30185435.html

International Commission of Jurists tries fundraising Gala in Geneva

September 25, 2019

The ICJ is organizing its first fundraising Gala concert on Monday 14 October at 7:30pm in the Palais Eynard, 4 rue de la Croix Rouge, Geneva. The event will support the ICJ and its fight for the defense of the Rule of Law in the world and marks the end of the series of events we organized for our 60th anniversary in the city of human rights. The theme of our Gala will be: “Geneva, the Defense of the Rule of Law: What can I do?

After a welcome from the Mayor of Geneva and an introduction from Me Pierre de Preux, former Bâtonnier of the Geneva Bar, ICJ Commissioners including Sir Nicolas Bratza (former President of the European Court of Human Rights), Dame Silvia Cartwright (former Judge and Governor General of New Zealand), Professor Bob Goldman (ICJ President and former President of the Inter-american Commission on Human Rights) and Ms Roberta Clarke (ICJ Executive Chair, UN Women’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific) will give concrete answers to this question. The evening is also to enjoy a Concert of the ‘Soloists of the Menuhin Academy’ and the cocktail after that.

https://www.facebook.com/events/511460076090161/

42nd session of the Human Rights Council: list of side events

September 9, 2019

The 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council started today, 9 September 2019, and as usual is surrounded by a large number of side events. Here a selection with special relevance for human rights defenders:

  • Monday 9 September at 14:30 in Room VIII, Why is a Commission of Inquiry on Venezuela needed? organised by Amnesty International, ISHR, ICJ and Human Rights Watch.
  • Tuesday 10 September at 15:30-16:30 in Room XXII, Situation of the Right to Memory, Truth in Brazil: From the Transitional Policies to Denial organised by Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales, Conselho Federal da Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil, Instituto Vladimir Herzog and Centro de Estudos sobre Justiça de Transição.
  • Wednesday 11 September, Privacy in the Digital Age: Priorities for Protecting Rights Online organised by Article19.
  • Wednesday 11 September 10:00-11:30, Room XXV. Human Rights Council Elections 2019: discussions of candidate States’ visions for membership, The event is co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of the Czech Republic, Denmark and Fiji. It is intended to give candidates an opportunity to present their visions for Council membership and to respond to questions from a range of stakeholders on how they propose to realise the pledges and commitments they may have made in seeking election.
  • Thursday 12 September at 12:30-13:30 in Room XVI Ensuring credible HRC action on Sudan organised by Defendefenders.
  • Thursday 12 September at 13:30 to 14:30 in Room XVI Investigating Unlawful Deaths, organised by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the panel will include the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (by video link).
  • Monday 16 September at 13:00 in Room IVCivic space restrictions as an early warning of a deteriorating human rights situation organised by CIVICUS.
  • Tuesday 17 September, 10:00-11:00, Room IV, Rule of law in China,  organised by ISHR, International Bar Association, World Uyghur Congress and Tibet Advocacy Coalition.
  • Tuesday 17 September at 13:00-14.30 in Room VIII Indigenous Justice and Human Rights co-organised by the UN Special Rapporteur on Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).
  • Tuesday 17 September at 16:00-17:00, in Room IV Human rights in Myanmar organised by Forum-Asia.
  • Wednesday 18 September, 16:30-17:30, Room VIII, Ending Reprisals,  co-sponsored by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and Forum-Asia. The panel will include the Assistant Secretary General Andrew Gilmour and human rights defenders. It will discuss and expand on the Secretary-General’s report on cooperation with UN mechanisms, the nature and extent of reprisals and consider efforts to date to address the issue.
  • Thursday 19 September at 13:30 in Room VIII, The situation of human rights in Brazil organised by Conectas.
  • Thursay 19 September at 16:30 in Room XXII Access to Information organised by Article 19 and the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
  • Thursday 19 September at 12:00 to 13:00 in Room XXI, The First Year of the Transitional Justice System in Colombia organised by the Colombian Commission of Jurists and the ICJ.
  • Friday 20 September from 15:00 to 16:30 Libya: How to advance accountability for Human Rights Violations and Abuses in Libya, organised by the Netherlands, the International Commission of Jurists, the Cairo Institute, Human Rights Watch and Lawyers for Justice in Libya.
  • Tuesday 24 September 13:00-14:00 in Room XXV, Human rights in Cambodia, organised by Forum-Asia.
  • Thursday 26 September, 09:30 in Room XXIV, The Continued Silencing and Imprisonment of Saudi women’s rights activists on  organised by CIVICUS, ISHR, Women’s March Global and the Gulf Center for Human Rights. The panel will share the experiences of Saudi women human rights defenders, reflect on the reality they face in prison, and discuss what further efforts can be taken to ensure their immediate release and provide guarantees for a safe and enabling environment for them to continue their work.

You can download the list of NGO events here.

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/05/human-rights-defenders-issues-at-the-42nd-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc42-key-issues-agenda-september-2019-session