Archive for the 'Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders' Category

Iranian Human Rights Defenders in trouble

September 27, 2018

On 21 September 2018 the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH/ OMCT) petitioned the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) to seek the release of Iranian human rights lawyer Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh. Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent defender and 2012 laureate of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize, was arrested on June 13, 2018 at her home in Tehran. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/08/30/human-rights-defender-nasrin-sotoudeh-on-hunger-strike-in-iran/ ].. On September 16, 2018, Ms. Sotoudeh was informed that she would be denied her family visitation rights if she and her female visitors – including her daughter – did not wear a full hijab. Ms Sotoudeh has refused the condition and was denied the right to see her daughter on September 17, 2018.
The Observatory urges the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Sotoudeh and to cease all acts of harassment and other abuses against her and all human rights defenders in Iran, in accordance with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and with international human rights standards and international instruments to which Iran is a State party.

The semi-official ISNA news agency reported on Thursday 27 September that another human rights defender, Narges Mohammadi, has been granted a three-day leave from prison to visit her ailing father.

However, the recent terror attack in Iran may be expected to prompt the Guards to compensate by cracking down on domestic detractors and perceived opponents of their mission of defending and principles of the Islamic revolution. Certainly, some prominent figures within the Iranian activist and expatriate communities have been quick to raise alarms about the likelihood of this outcome. For instance, the Center for Human Rights in Iran quoted the Iranian human rights activist and Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi as saying of last Saturday’s attack, “Such actions lead to the justification of state violence and the arrest of many opponents in the name of fighting terrorism.” Meanwhile activists echoed the sentiment, saying, “Terrorism and violence in any form should be condemned in the strongest terms [but] such acts of violence should not become an excuse for state violence to suppress peaceful opposition.

Call for nominations for the 2018 United Nations Human Rights Prize

March 16, 2018

The 2018 United Nations Human Rights Prize(s) will be given out at the United Nations HQ in New York on Human Right Day, 10 December 2018. The Call for Nominations is now open. This year’s award will coincide with the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The honorary prize is given out every five years, usually shared by 6 laureates. For more information see http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/united-nations-prizes-in-the-field-of-human-rights

An remarkable feature of this ‘inter-governmental’ award is that nominations can be received from: “member States, specialized agencies and non-governmental organizations in consultative status and from other appropriate sources.” Nominations may be made by submitting the online nomination form with basic identifying information about the nominee and the reasons for making the nomination.

Hard copies can, alternatively, be sent by post to: Human Rights Prize, OHCHR New York Office, Room S-1306, United Nations, New York, NY 10017. A printable form for submitting a nomination by post is available for download here.

The deadline for submission of nominations is 6 April 2018.

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See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/08/new-human-rights-award-music-to-our-ears/

Bahrain: human rights protected but on paper only

March 12, 2018

“The use of the judiciary in Bahrain to target human rights defenders and other activists” is a side event organised by CIVICUS and FIDH in co-operation with Americans for Human Rights & Democracy in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and co-sponsored by ISHR.

It will take place on 13 March 2018 at 11:00 to 12:30 at Room XXIV. The event will address the politicisation of the judiciary to criminalise human rights defenders.

The context in which this event takes place should be well-known by now [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/bahrain/], but some recent events can be added:

On 21 February human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, BCHR President and FIDH Deputy Secretary General, was sentenced to 5 years in prison under trumped-up charges in relation to tweets denouncing the torture against detainees at Jaw prison and exposing the killing of civilians in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition. “This surrealistic verdict”, writes IFEX,  “after a trial that was by itself a mockery of justice, illustrates once again the current crackdown on any dissenting voice in Bahrain, where scores of critics are currently jailed’.

Also the Observatory (FIDH-OMCT) and BCHR reiterate their call to the Bahraini authorities to immediately release him, as well as all detained human rights defenders.

Perhaps the most damning information comes from the Bahraini Government itself (8 March 2018) when it responded to the statement of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights  which had been ‘negative’ in his  written review on the annual report on Bahrain. Dr. Yusuf Abdulkarim Bucheeri, Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office in Geneva, said in a statement that the review contained inaccurate information such as harassment of human rights defenders and other deleterious comments on the recent legal actions taken by Bahrain. ..They deliberately and unfairly side with malicious elements who have suspicious political agendas and sectarian tendencies and who want to inflict harm on the Kingdom of Bahrain and demean its achievements in the field of human rights, he said. “This is crystal clear from their support for the discourse of hatred and internal violence groups and for this reason, the Kingdom of Bahrain totally rejects the content of this statement with all the wrong and unacceptable descriptions it has given to the state.
Bucheeri said that Bahrain’s constitution stipulates the right to freedom of opinion and expression in an unquestionable manner and in a way that guarantees everyone’s right to express their opinion and disseminate it by word, writing or otherwise, but within the legal framework and without inciting division or sectarianism or undermining national security.
……
He called on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to make concerted effort to understand the reality of human rights and the great challenges facing the Kingdom of Bahrain which faces terrorist acts aimed to destabilize its security and stability.
The kingdom, he explained, confronts a phenomenon of violent extremism and it is the duty of the Office of the High Commissioner to do its best to double check the credibility of the information it obtained and to seek such information only from neutral, objective and non-politicized sources…

https://www.ifex.org/bahrain/2018/02/22/nabeel-rajab-sentenced/

https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/bahrain-fears-for-nabeel-rajab-s-life-inside-his-prison

https://www.ifex.org/middle_east_north_africa/2018/03/05/revolutionary-anniversaries/

http://www.bna.bh/portal/en/news/829935

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-nabeel-rajab

Somewhere in a prison in the Emirates is Ahmed Mansoor but authorities claim not to know where

February 27, 2018

 Two Irish lawyers attempt to reach human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, who is held incommunicado in United Arab Emirates, but in vain.

Today the Martin Ennals Foundation reports that on 26 February 2018, two lawyers from Ireland approached the Ministry of the Interior in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to try to gain access to distinguished human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, who has been detained since 20 March 2017 for his human rights activities. Mansoor, who received the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2015, is a member of the advisory boards of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR).

Given the widely documented use of torture and solitary confinement by UAE authorities, and the lack of any independent information regarding Mansoor, there are grave fears for his safety. Numerous organisations have expressed concern that he may be tortured and subject to ill treatment in detention.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/28/ahmed-mansoor-under-arrest-emirates-under-pressure/

In Abu Dhabi, the Irish lawyers approached the Ministry of the Interior headquarters, which is the authority controlling and running prisons. The Ministry referred the lawyers to the police, who are not responsible for prisons. The police then advised them to approach the Al-Wathba prison, which they did, only to be told Mansoor is not being held there. The inability of the authority responsible to provide any information on Mansoor is remarkable given that he has been detained for almost a year.

The mission was mandated by GCHR, the Martin Ennals Foundation, Front Line Defenders, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).

Background

Ahmed Mansoor was arrested by a dozen security officers at his home in Ajman in the pre-dawn hours of 20 March 2017 and taken to an undisclosed location. The security officials conducted an extensive search of his home and took away all of the family’s mobile phones and laptops, including those belonging to his young children. The family had no information about Mansoor until a statement was issued on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website on 29 March 2017 saying that he was in detention in the Central Prison in Abu Dhabi. Since his arrest, his family were allowed to visit him only twice – on 3 April and 17 September 2017, and he has had no access to a lawyer.

In their public statements, the UAE authorities have said that Mansoor is accused of using social media websites to “publish false information that harms national unity.” On the day of his arrest, the UAE’s official news agency, WAM, announced that he was arrested on the orders of the Public Prosecution for Cybercrimes and detained pending further investigation on charges of “using social media [including Twitter and Facebook] sites to publish false and misleading information that harms national unity and social harmony and damages the country’s reputation” and “promoting sectarian and hate-incited agenda”. The statement classified these as “cybercrimes,” indicating that the charges against him may be based on alleged violations of the UAE’s repressive 2012 cybercrime law, which authorities have used to imprison numerous activists and which provides for long prison sentences and severe financial penalties

In the weeks leading up to his arrest, Mansoor had used Twitter to call for the release of activist Osama Al-Najjar, who remains in prison, despite having completed a three-year prison sentence in 2017 on charges related to his peaceful activities on Twitter; as well as prominent academic and economist Dr Nasser bin Ghaith, arrested in August 2015 and sentenced to 10 years in 2017. Both men have been convicted of charges related to peaceful messages they posted on the social media platform Twitter. Mansoor had also used his Twitter account to draw attention to human rights violations across the region, including in Egypt and Yemen. He had also signed a joint letter with other activists in the region calling on leaders at the Arab Summit who met in Jordan in March 2017 to release political prisoners in their countries.

As a result of his selfless and tireless efforts to defend the rights of migrants and Emirati nationals in the UAE, he had become a thorn in the side of the UAE authorities and consequently the object of years of government harassment and persecution.

Since his arrest, a group of United Nations human rights experts have called on the UAE to release Mansoor, describing his arrest as “a direct attack on the legitimate work of human rights defenders in the UAE.” They said they feared that his arrest “may constitute an act of reprisal for his engagement with UN human rights mechanisms, for the views he expressed on social media, including Twitter, as well as for being an active member of human rights organizations.” The experts include special rapporteurs on human rights defenders, on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression and opinion, along with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

The lengths the UAE authorities will go to silence Mansoor are shown by their efforts to hack his iPhone. In a widely documented case, the UAE were exposed after Mansoor’s suspicions were raised and he contact the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto in Canada. Citizen lab released the following report: https://citizenlab.ca/2016/08/million-dollar-dissident-iphone-zero-day-nso-group-uae/

Mansoor, along with Dr Nasser bin Ghaith, and online activists Fahad Salim Dalk, Ahmed Abdul-Khaleq, and Hassan Ali al-Khamis were arrested in April 2011 and charged with “publicly insulting” UAE rulers. On 27 November 2011, a panel of four judges of the Federal Court found all five men guilty and sentenced Mansoor to three years in prison, and the others to two years. The four men were released the next day, after the UAE president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, issued a pardon.

For more information: khambatta@martinennalsaward.org or visit www.martinennalsaward.org

ProtectDefenders.eu launches new alert website but no single stop yet!!

April 3, 2017

On 30 March ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders mechanism implemented by international civil society, launched its Index of attacks and threats against Human Rights Defenders, featuring a monitoring of alerts concerning violations perpetrated against individuals promoting Human Rights around the globe. The Index of attacks and threats against Human Rights Defenders is available on: ProtectDefenders.eu website.

It could be a most useful tool as quite a few key information providers coöperate (but not AI, HRW?). However, to be really useful as a single stop for this kind of information it is paramount that the site is as complete as possible (otherwise one would still have to go back to the websites of the individual organizations cooperating in the project). This is apparently not yet the case (or maybe definitions still differ from NGO to NGO). Front Line e.g. in its 2017 report (covering 2016) states that  281 HRDs were killed around the world [https://hrdmemorial.org/front-line-defenders-017-annual-report-highlights-killing-of-281-hrds-in-2016/], while a search on the new site shows only 39 killed in 2016 [https://protectdefenders.eu/en/stats.php?yearFilter=2016&regionFilter=&countryFilter=#mf]. That is 242 killings missing (without checking the annual reports of other cooperating partners) ! This issue is important as the announcement claims that the site wants to become “a source of reliable and updated information that should allow the identification of worrying trends and  encourage the coordination of adequate responses by decision-makers and authorities to counter the violations faced by defenders”. Read the rest of this entry »

Even landmark UN decision does not change Cambodia’s treatment of human rights defenders

March 11, 2017

I was reading (belatedly) about the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Rhona Smith, who in January 2017 intervened strongly in the case of the 5 Cambodian human rights defenders of ADHOC (#FreeThe5KH) who have been in detention since April last year. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/05/04/civil-society-condemns-charges-human-rights-defenders-cambodia/] Only then did I realize that the case had led a few months earlier to a landmark decision by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD): the first time that any UN body has referred to HRDs as a protected group.

 

 

On 21 November 21, 2016, the WGAD ruled that the ongoing detention of Mr. Ny ChakryaDeputy Secretary-General of the National Election Committee (NEC), and four staff members of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Messrs. Ny SokhaYi SoksanNay Vanda, and Ms. Lim Mony, was “arbitrary.” Following a submission made by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OMCT-FIDH partnership), the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) in June 2016, the WGAD’s Opinion No. 45/2016 ruled that the five human rights defenders (HRDs) have been discriminated against based on their status as human rights defenders, and in violation of their right to equality before the law and equal protection of the law under article 26 of the ICCPR.” This is the first time ever that the WGAD – or any other UN mechanism receiving individual complaints – has referred to HRDs as a protected group that is entitled to equal legal protection under Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ruling also recognised the violation of the five HRDs’ “rights to offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance and other relevant advice and assistance in defending human rights.”

 In addition, the WGAD found that the targeting of ADHOC staff members for having provided “legitimate legal advice and other assistance” violated the five HRDs’ right to freedom of association. It ruled that violations of fair trial rights (including the fact that the five were denied legal counsel from the beginning of their questioning), unjustified pre-trial detention, and statements made by the Cambodian authorities which denied the five the presumption of innocence – all of which contravene Cambodia’s international human rights obligations in respect to the right to a fair trial – are also serious enough to consider their ongoing detention as arbitrary. The WGAD concluded that “the deprivation of liberty of Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan, Lim Monyand Ny Chakrya, being in contravention of articles 7, 9, 10, 11 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of articles 9, 10, 14, 22 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is arbitrary.”

That Cambodian authorities are not impressed is shown by the continued detention of the 5 ADHOC HRDs and by the press release of 7 February 2017 calling for the cessation of the politically motivated criminal investigation of human rights defenders Am Sam-at and Chan Puthisak. Amnesty International, Civil Rights Defenders, Human Rights Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists signed the statement.

Phnom Penh 20170207 PHTO
Cambodian police detain protesters during a protest to free jailed activists in Phnom Penh, Cambodia May 9, 2016.© Reuters/Samrang Pring

Cambodian officials have accused Sam-at, a respected human rights monitor at the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) for nearly 20 years, and Puthisak, a land rights activist from Boeung Kak Lake and former prisoner of conscience, of instigating violence at an October 10, 2016 demonstration. Para-police forces, who are regularly used to suppress demonstrations, violently dispersed what had been a peaceful protest in Phnom Penh. When Puthisak attempted to prevent para-police from confiscating a drum that was being used by a demonstrator, four or five para-police attacked him, repeatedly beating him on the head with their fists, according to a video of the incident. When Sam-at tried to stop the assault, the para-police attacked him, also beating him on the head. Both men sustained injuries that needed medical attention.

The investigation of Sam-at and Puthisak by the Cambodian authorities is a typically absurd and undisguised case of judicial harassment,” said Champa Patel, Southeast Asia and Pacific director at Amnesty International. “As usual, unnecessary and excessive use of force by the para-police goes unpunished, and those who work to promote and protect human rights find themselves subject to criminal proceedings.”

 

Sources:

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56036#.WMP0Dhhh2V4

Cambodia: In landmark decision, UN body declares the detention of five human rights defenders arbitrary #FreeThe5KH / December 18, 2016 / Urgent Interventions / Human rights defenders / OMCT

https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/02/07/cambodia-drop-farcical-investigation-human-rights-defenders

Backsliding on civic space in democracies – important side event on 3 March in Geneva

March 2, 2017

One of the side events in Geneva during the UN Human Rights Council that is of special importance for human rights defenders is held tomorrow, 3 March 2017, from 13:00 – 14:00, in Room XXI, Palais Des Nations, Geneva.

Across the world, well-established principles and standards fundamental to maintaining a safe and enabling environment for civil society are being questioned and threatened in mature and consolidated democracies. In both the global North and global South, governments with vibrant civil societies and constitutional and historical commitments based on their struggles for democracy and freedom are adopting increasingly hostile and corrosive policies and practices to suppress independent civil society voices. The event will provide an opportunity for the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and civil society leaders to reflect on the global climate for civil society operating in mature democracies and articulate key measures these states must take to ensure an enabling environment for civil society and human rights defenders both at home and at the UN Human Rights Council. In advance of their examination under the Universal Periodic Review in May 2017, the event will also bring together civil society leaders from India, Brazil, Poland, and South Africa to examine state backsliding on civic space norms.[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/24/2017-10-need-to-reset-for-h…]

Panelists:

  • Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
  • Camila Asano, Conectas – Brazil
  • Henri Tiphagne, Human Rights Defenders Association – India
  • Maciej Kozłowski, Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD) – Poland
  • Corlett Letlojane, HURISA- South Africa

Moderator: Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research, CIVICUS

The event is co-sponsored by key international NGOs: –Amnesty InternationalCIVICUS, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), International Society for Human Rights (ISHR), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Human Rights Defenders Alert India (HRDA), The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBS)

https://www.forum-asia.org/?p=23168

Travel bans against human rights defenders remain popular in the Middle East

November 10, 2016

Travel bans on human rights defenders are popular with all kind of autocratic regimes but seem to enjoy special status in the Middle East. The video clip above (part of a joint campaign by AI and HRW) focuses on Egypt and so does the statement by 6 other NGOs issued on 9 November.  They strongly condemn the travel ban against Malek Adly, prominent Egyptian human rights lawyer and director of the Lawyers Network of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR). But there is more: Read the rest of this entry »

OSCE and Human Rights Defenders at the Warsaw meeting: no smooth sailing

September 28, 2016

The Diplomat wrote under the title “OSCE Manages to Irritate Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Human Rights Advocates, Too” a good piece summarizing the situation at the latest annual human rights conference (officially the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting), taking place from 19-30 September 2016, in Warsaw.

Most attention should go to the recurring reprisals against HRDs and in particular (when they are out of reach through exile) against their family: Read the rest of this entry »

Turkey: outcry over detention of human rights Defenders – even Russia joins in

June 23, 2016

An academic and two journalists who play a key role in Turkey’s human rights movement have been jailed pending investigation into spurious allegations of spreading terrorist propaganda. Human Rights Watch, Reporters without Boarder, Front Line, and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a joint program of FIDH and OMCT), among others, have raised serious concern and demanded their immediate release.

Ahmet Nesin, Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Erol Önderoğlu at the court house in Istanbul hours before being jailed pending investigation into spurious allegations of “making terrorist propaganda.” 
Ahmet Nesin, Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Erol Önderoğlu at the court house in Istanbul hours before being jailed pending investigation into spurious allegations of “making terrorist propaganda.” © 2016 private

An Istanbul court on 20 June, 2016, accepted a prosecutor’s request for them to be placed in pretrial detention on suspicion of having committed terrorist offenses. They are Erol Önderoglu, who is the Turkey representative of Reporters Without Borders and a journalist with the independent news website Bianet; Professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı, an academic at Istanbul University’s forensic medicine department and head of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey; and Ahmet Nesin, a writer and journalist.

The decision to demand the detention of Önderoğlu, Fincancı, and Nesin is a shocking new indication that the Turkish authorities have no hesitation about targeting well-known rights defenders and journalists who have played a key role in documenting the sharp deterioration in human rights in the country,” said Hugh Williamson, HRW’s Europe and Central Asia Director. “

The three were among 44 journalists, writers, and activists who participated in a solidarity campaign for media freedom in which each of them acted as a symbolic co-editor-for-a-day at the pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem in Istanbul. The government sees the newspaper as hostile to it and as a result has placed it under immense pressure.

Jailing a world-renowned journalist and human rights defender such as Erol sends a very powerful signal of intimidation to the entire profession in Turkey. It’s a new, unbelievable low for press freedom in Turkey,” Johann Bihr, head of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk at RSF, told CPJ. At least 14 journalists were imprisoned in Turkey on December 1, 2015, when CPJ last conducted its annual census of journalists jailed around the world. [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/03/20/turkey-fair-trial-human-rights-lawyers-expression-l4l/]

Front Line Defenders has more information on these individuals: Sebnem Korur Fincanci (https://frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/sebnem-korur-fincanci)  who also received the International Hrant Dink Award for her human rights work. Erol Önderoğlu (https://frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/erol-onderoglu)  and Ahmet Nesin (https://frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/ahmet-nesin).

While the NGO reactions are expected, more remarkable is the reaction from Russia which (in the good company of the USA, the UN and the EU) has condemned the crackdown on Turkey’s press freedom: Read the rest of this entry »