Poetry Challenge for Human Rights Defenders

November 16, 2021

Protection International, ProtectDefenders.eu and the Centre for Applied Human Rights of the University of York have been promoting a Human Rights Defenders Poetry Challenge:

This poetry challenge is for all activists and artists irrespective of previous experience with this form of art. As the global pandemic continues, we’d like to encourage those that work in support of human rights to take a moment to reflect on the past year, take a break from the current context in which we are situated and ponder about where we should be go from here.

We are accepting poetry of all styles (haiku, slam poems, free verse, limericks, etc.) and multimedia submissions are also welcome. Poems can be submitted in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Swahili and Thai, and the top poems in each language will be published in a digital booklet. The top three poems overall will win a cash prize, the authors be granted free access to our e-learning course on preventative protection and security and they will also be invited to a virtual poetry reading with key stakeholders and celebrity guests. The Poetry Challenge is completely free to participate, with no submission or entry fees.

More detailed information about the poetry challenge can be found on Protection International’s website or within our sharable explainer document (available in all Poetry Challenge languages).

We have also prepared a social media kit including draft posts and graphics in multiple languages.

Contact Meredith Veit (meredith.veit@protectioninternational.org) or Tommaso Ripani (tommaso.ripani@protectioninternational.org) if you have any questions!

Deadline for submissions: 30 November 2021


Lawlor calls on Kyrgyzstan to stop harassment of human rights defender Kamilzhan Ruziev

November 12, 2021

Kyrgyzstan must investigate death threats against human rights defender Kamilzhan Ruziev instead of harassing him for making complaints against the police, said Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders “It is extremely disturbing that authorities began laying criminal charges against Mr. Ruziev after he exposed police torture and ineffectiveness, when they should actually be investigating the death threats made against him,”

As director of the non-governmental human rights organisation Ventus, Ruziev defends victims of torture, domestic violence, and discrimination. In 2019, a police investigator, whom Ruziev exposed for committing torture, reportedly threatened to kill him. When the State Committee for National Security and the Prosecutor’s Office failed to investigate the threats, Ruziev took them to court, only to find himself facing seven criminal charges.

“Kyrgyz authorities must give Mr. Ruziev a fair trial and effectively investigate all allegations of threats and ill-treatment against him and other human rights defenders,” she said. The next hearing on Mr. Ruziev’s case will be on 11 November 2021.

Lawlor said she was also disturbed by reports that Mr. Ruziev was ill-treated while held in detention for 48 hours in May 2020, and denied access to his lawyer.

“Now I hear that his health is deteriorating, and complaints to the authorities about violations committed against him continue to fall on deaf ears,” she added.

In a report to the Human Rights Council earlier this year on threats and killings of human rights defenders, Lawlor warned: “when a human rights defender receives death threats, swift action must be taken to prevent the threats from escalating. Impunity fuels more murders.”

Lawlor is in contact with the authorities of Kyrgyzstan on this issue, and stressed that “Kyrgyzstan must do better to safeguard the environment for human rights defenders to carry out their work.”

Her call was endorsed by: Ms. Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health.

https://www.miragenews.com/investigate-death-threats-against-human-rights-664761/


It had to happen: Russian Authorities Move to Shut Down Memorial

November 12, 2021
On the night before the infamous “foreign agents” law came into force back in 2012, unknown individuals sprayed graffiti reading, “Foreign Agent! ♥ USA” on the buildings hosting the offices of three prominent NGOs in Moscow, including Memorial. 
On the night before the infamous “foreign agents” law came into force back in 2012, unknown individuals sprayed graffiti reading, “Foreign Agent! ♥ USA” on the buildings hosting the offices of three prominent NGOs in Moscow, including Memorial.  © 2012 Yulia Klimova/Memorial

On 12 November 2021Tanya Lokshina, Associate Director, Europe and Central Asia Division Human RightsWatch, reported that the Russian authorities have moved to shut down Memorial, one of Russia’s oldest and most prominent rights organization, an outrageous assault on the jugular of Russia’s civil society.

Memorial, which defends human rights, works to commemorate victims of Soviet repression, and provides a platform for open debate, has two key entities: Memorial Human Rights Center and International Memorial Society.[ the winners of not less than 7 human rights awards, see : https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/BD12D9CE-37AA-7A35-9A32-F37A0EA8C407]

On November 11, International Memorial received a letter from Russia’s Supreme Court stating that the Prosecutor General’s Office had filed a law suit seeking their liquidation over repeated violations of the country’s legislation on “foreign agents.”

A court date to hear the prosecutor’s case is set for November 25. According to Memorial, the alleged violations pertain to repeated fines against the organization for failure to mark some of its materials — including event announcements and social media posts — with the toxic and false “foreign agent” label, one of the pernicious requirements of the “foreign agents” law.

On November 12, Memorial Human Rights Center received information from the Moscow City Court that the Moscow City Prosecutor’s Office filed a similar suit against them and a court hearing was pending.  

For nearly a decade, Russian authorities have used the repressive legislation on “foreign agents” to restrict space for civic activity and penalize critics, including human rights groups. Last year parliament adopted new laws harshening the “foreign agent” law and expanding it in ways that could apply to just about any public critic or activist. The amendments were but a fraction of a slew of repressive laws adopted in the past year aimed at shutting down criticism and debate. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/foreign-agent-law/

The number of groups and individuals authorities have designated as “foreign agents” has soared in recent months. This week the Justice Ministry included on the foreign agent registry the Russian LGBT Network, one of Russia’s leading lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights groups, which had worked to evacuate dozens of LGBT people from Chechnya. The ministry also listed Ivan Pavlov, a leading human rights lawyer, and four of his colleagues, as “foreign agent-foreign media.” See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/11/10/ngo-lgbt-network-and-5-human-rights-lawyers-branded-foreign-agents-in-russia/

Even against this backdrop, to shut down Memorial, one of Russia’s human rights giants, is a new Rubicon crossed in the government’s campaign to stifle independent voices.

This move against Memorial is a political act of retaliation against human rights defenders. Russian authorities should withdraw the suits against Memorial immediately, and heed a long-standing call to repeal the legislation on “foreign agents” and end their crackdown on independent groups and activists.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/11/12/russian-authorities-move-shut-down-human-rights-giant#

https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2021/11/17/memory-and-memorial-will-prevail-a75588


Thomson Reuters Foundation’s conference 2021 focuses on the protection of free media and civil liberties

November 11, 2021

Nobel Peace Laureate Maria Ressa, Economist Jeffrey Sachs and Philanthropist Craig Newmark Amongst Speakers To Address World-leading Human Rights Forum Thomson Reuters Foundation is to host a two-day conference on 17 and 18 November focused on a post-pandemic roadmap to inclusive growth and the protection of free media and civil liberties. Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa, and an Afghan reporter who fled the Taliban, Zahra Joya, will join a distinguished line-up of speakers that also includes world-renowned Professor of Economics Jeffrey Sachs, Executive Director of Aspen Digital Vivian Schiller and founder of craigslist, philanthropist Craig Newmark. 

They will join human rights defenders, innovators, media experts, policymakers and business leaders at the online forum, which brings together thousands of delegates from around the world. The event comes at a critical juncture of the COVID-19 crisis and the UN climate summit, and will address how the pandemic has deepened longstanding social and economic inequalities, has revitalised the drive for a sustainable future and has triggered an alarming spike in media freedom and human rights violations.

With 18 hours of live-streamed talks, plenaries and insight sessions, leading experts from a variety of disciplines will share new insights on shifting the post-pandemic economy onto a more inclusive and sustainable path, one built on the principles of human rights, media freedom and climate justice. They will weigh in on cutting-edge solutions to tackle the world’s most consequential challenges, including the business case for economic inclusion, the path to zero emissions, the human cost of internet shutdowns and a legal network for journalists at risk.

This year’s diverse speakers also include Dr Hilda C. Heine, Senator and former President of the Marshall Islands; Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr OBE, Mayor of Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown; Zahra Joya, Journalist and founder of Rukhshana Media in Afghanistan; Javier Pallero, Policy Director at Access Now; Shamina Singh, Executive VP for Sustainability at Mastercard; Jorge Rubio Nava, Global Head of Social Finance at Citi; Danielle Belton, Editor-in-Chief of the Huffington Post; Lina Attalah, Co-founder of independent Egyptian news outlet Mada Masr; Alessandra Galloni, Editor-in-Chief of Reuters; Kanbar Hossein Bor, UK Coordinator Media Freedom Campaign & Deputy Director Democratic Governance, FCDO; Ma Jun, Founding Director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs and Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, Barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, specialising in human rights and civil liberties.

The converging economic, health and climate crises are putting our democracies, people and planet under an existential threat,” said Thomson Reuters Foundation CEO Antonio Zappulla. “But there is also a great opportunity for a coordinated global response – the success of which depends on how well we work with and learn from each other.

In response to the ongoing, drastic deterioration of media freedoms, the Foundation will also be launching a new Legal Network for Journalists at Risk (LNJAR) at Trust Conference, an initiative in partnership with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Media Defence.

The LNJAR comprises 15 organisations, and strategically coordinates different types of legal support to enable journalists and independent media outlets to continue to cover public interest stories and hold power to account without fear of retribution.

Additionally, the Foundation will unveil its partnership with UNESCO, the International Women’s Media Foundation and the International News Safety Institute (INSI) through which it has developed practical and legal tools for journalists, media managers and newsrooms to counter harassment.

Now in its ninth year, Trust Conference reflects the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s work in tackling the world’s most complex societal issues, with a focus on socio-economic inclusion, sustainability, media freedom and human rights.

The programme and the speaker line-up of Trust Conference are available here. Register for your complimentary ticket here.

Trust Conference Agenda

The 2021 forum will address urgent global challenges through a series of talks, debates and high-profile exchanges. Themes include:

  • Climate change as a human rights risk
  • Making a ‘Just Transition’
  • The impact of financial vulnerability on editorial independence
  • The race for cyber sovereignty
  • Defending media freedom
  • Newsroom diversity

https://www.albawaba.com/business/pr/nobel-peace-laureate-maria-ressa-economist-jeffrey-sachs-and-philanthropist-craig

https://www.trustconference.com/


Justin Bieber urged to cancel performance in Saudi Arabia

November 11, 2021

On December 5, 2021, Canadian pop star Justin Bieber is scheduled to perform at the Formula 1 STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021, a state-sponsored music festival funded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) has contacted Mr. Bieber and his team, urging him to cancel his performance and refuse the Kingdom’s efforts to whitewash its appalling human rights record. Instead, HRF has asked him to use his global influence to issue a statement in support of human rights in Saudi Arabia, just as his colleague Nicki Minaj did when she cancelled her 2019 performance in Saudi Arabia, following a letter from HRF.

It would be disastrous for Justin Bieber, an artist with a vast global following, and who is idolized by millions, to be used as a pawn by MBS’ murderous regime,” said HRF President Céline Assaf-Boustani. “Instead of giving into MBS’ plot to launder his image, as other artists have done since MBS’ ascent to power, Mr. Bieber should follow the lead of his fellow artist Nicki Minaj, who boldly shut down MBS and refused to perform for him.”

Saudi Arabia is not a democracy. It is an absolute monarchy whose de facto dictator, MBS, brutally silences anyone who dares to criticize his policies or calls for reform. Since the beginning of his rule in 2017, MBS has spearheaded a brutal crackdown on dissidents, many of whom have been harassed, arbitrarily detained, sentenced, and tortured to death. Among the groups that his crackdown has targeted are women, who are treated like second-class citizens, the LGBTQ+ community, and other minority groups.

Should he follow through with the performance, Mr. Bieber, who has shown support for the LGBTQ+ community throughout his career, will be profiting off a regime that executes LGBTQ+ individuals for the “crime” of being who they are. In April 2019, for example, five gay men were beheaded after they confessed to crimes under torture. Mr. Bieber has also supported the Black Lives Matter movement and the advancement of civil rights and social justice in the United States, indicating that he wants to use his artistic gifts to “serve this planet and each other,” and to help those who feel helpless in the face of “suffering, injustice, and pain.” 

As someone who has articulated a commitment to civil rights and social justice, Mr. Bieber should stay true to his words and use his platform to raise awareness about the atrocities being perpetrated every day in Saudi Arabia, especially against members of the LGBTQ+ community,” added Assaf-Boustani. “This performance would stand in stark contrast to the core values he claims to subscribe to. Music is not just a business, but also an influential art form that should not be purchased by a brutal dictatorship.”

The Formula 1 event at which Justin Bieber is scheduled to perform, is one of many events that is integral to the Saudi regime’s “Vision 2030” plan. Vision 2030 is a massive undertaking designed to project an image of modernism and prosperity to the rest of the world, and a critical component of it includes the funding of sporting and entertainment industries. This plan, along with a major public relations campaign abroad, has the clear intention of whitewashing the crimes of MBS’ dictatorship, and preventing any form of democratic reforms from taking hold in the country. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/01/25/cristiano-ronaldo-and-lionel-messi-resist-big-money-to-advertise-for-saudi-arabia/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/05/12/more-sports-washing-with-anthony-joshua-and-tyson-fury-clash-set-for-saudi-arabia-in-august/

HRF also sent letters to A$AP Rocky, David Guetta, Tiësto, Jason Derulo, and Mohamed Hamaki regarding their participation in the event.

Read HRF’s letter to Justin Bieber

https://mailchi.mp/hrf.org/hrf-to-justin-bieber-cancel-performance-in-saudi-arabia?e=f80cec329e


US Court says Facebook can pursue lawsuit against NSO Group

November 10, 2021

On 8 November 2021 media (here Reuters) reported that a U.S. appeals court said Facebook can pursue a lawsuit accusing Israel’s NSO Group of exploiting a bug in its WhatsApp messaging app to install malware allowing the surveillance of 1,400 people, including journalists, human rights activists and dissidents. In a 3-0 decision on Monday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco rejected privately owned NSO’s claim it was immune from being sued because it had acted as a foreign government agent. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/10/04/big-coalition-urges-un-to-denounce-abuses-facilitated-by-spyware-technologies/

Facebook, now known as Meta Platforms Inc, sued NSO for an injunction and damages in October 2019, accusing it of accessing WhatsApp servers without permission six months earlier to install its Pegasus malware on victims’ mobile devices. NSO has argued that Pegasus helps law enforcement and intelligence agencies fight crime and protect national security.

It was appealing a trial judge’s July 2020 refusal to award it “conduct-based immunity,” a common law doctrine protecting foreign officials acting in their official capacity. Upholding that ruling, Circuit Judge Danielle Forrest said it was an “easy case” because NSO’s mere licensing of Pegasus and offering technical support did not shield it from liability under federal law, which took precedence over common law.

Whatever NSO’s government customers do with its technology and services does not render NSO an ‘agency or instrumentality of a foreign state,'” Forrest wrote. “Thus, NSO is not entitled to the protection of foreign sovereign immunity.”

The case will return to U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton in Oakland, California.

Asked for comment on the decision, NSO said in an email that its technology helps defend the public against serious crime and terrorism, and that it “stands undeterred in its mission.”

WhatsApp spokesman Joshua Breckman in an email called the decision “an important step in holding NSO accountable for its attacks against journalists, human rights defenders and government leaders.”

Facebook’s case drew support from Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google and Cisco Systems Corp (CSCO.O), which in a court filing called surveillance technology such as Pegasus “powerful, and dangerous.”

On Nov. 3, the U.S. government blacklisted NSO and Israel’s Candiru for allegedly providing spyware to governments that used it to “maliciously target” journalists, activists and others. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/11/10/palestinian-ngos-dubbed-terrorist-were-hacked-with-pegasus-spyware/.

https://www.reuters.com/technology/facebook-can-pursue-malware-lawsuit-against-israels-nso-group-us-appeals-court-2021-11-08/

https://gadgets.ndtv.com/apps/news/facebook-meta-pegasus-nso-group-lawsuit-whatsapp-hack-spyware-us-appeals-court-2604175


NGO ‘LGBT-Network’ and 5 human rights lawyers branded “foreign agents” in Russia

November 10, 2021

Reacting to the news that LGBT-Network, a prominent Russian group defending the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, and five human rights lawyers from Komanda 29 have been added by the Ministry of Justice to its list of “foreign agents”, Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, said:

“Beyond shameful, the justice ministry’s decision reveals that committed, principled lawyers defending the rights of people targeted in politically motivated cases and frontline LGBTI rights defenders are unwelcome and “foreign” in Putin’s Russia.

“LGBT-Network has exposed heinous crimes against gay men in Chechnya and helped evacuate people at risk to safety where they can speak about these atrocities. Now LGBT-Network is, itself, a victim of the persecution that is being increasingly targeted at all human rights defenders – openly, viciously and cynically.

“The authorities cite the need to protect “national interests” and resist “foreign influence” in their incessant destruction of Russia’s civil society. But what’s really in the national interest is to protect, uphold and respect all human rights for everyone. These reprisals against human rights defenders and civil society organizations must stop, and the ‘foreign agents’ and ‘undesirable organizations’ laws must be repealed immediately.”

Late on 8 November, the Russian Ministry of Justice included the LGBT-Network and five lawyers from the recently dissolved human rights group, Komanda 29 (Team 29), including its founder Ivan Pavlov, a prominent lawyer, on the list of “foreign agents.” Ivan Pavlov and his colleagues have courageously provided help to civil society and political activists and groups that have been targeted by the authorities, including Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/19/russias-foreign-agents-bill-goes-in-overdrive/

The Russian LGBT-Network played a crucial role in the exposure of a brutal “anti-gay” campaign in Chechnya during which dozens of men were abducted, tortured and several believed to have been killed for their real or perceived sexual orientation. The group also provided shelter for victims of homophobic attacks from Chechnya and elsewhere around the country, and helped with their relocation to safer locations within and outside Russia.


Ahmadreza Djalali honored with 2021 Courage to Think Award

November 10, 2021

Scholars at Risk (SAR) announced on 9 November 2021 that Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali is the recipient of its Courage to Think Award for 2021. Dr. Djalali, a prominent scholar of disaster medicine sentenced to death in Iran, is being recognized for his struggle for academic freedom and connection to the international academic community. For more on the Courage to Think Award see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/165B4CC5-0BC2-4A77-B3B4-E26937BA553C.

Dr. Djalali’s wife, Vida Mehrannia, will accept the award on Dr. Djalali’s behalf at SAR’s virtual symposium, Free to Think 2021, on December 9. Information and registration for the free, online event is available here <https://www.scholarsatrisk.org/event/free-to-think-2021-and-courage-to-think-award/> .
Dr. Djalali is an Iranian-Swedish scholar who has held academic positions at Karolinska Institute, in Sweden; the Università del Piemonte Orientale, in Italy; and Vrije Universiteit Brussel, in Belgium. In December 2020, he was awarded a Scholars at Risk Fellowship at Harvard University, in the United States.
The continued imprisonment, extreme sentence, and mistreatment of Dr. Djalali in custody should be of grave concern for anyone who cares about the ability of scholars to work safely,” said Rob Quinn, executive director of SAR. “No scholar should face a death sentence, solitary confinement, and withholding of medical care for their academic or scientific work.
Not only has Dr. Djalali helped the development of the field of disaster medicine at higher education institutions, but he has also put his expertise into practice by supporting communities impacted by crises. Dr. Djalali provided medical aid, health services, and education to communities impacted by floods, earthquakes, and other disasters in Iran, including the 2003 Bam earthquake. While at the Center for Research and Training in Disaster Medicine, Humanitarian Aid, and Global Health (CRIMEDIM), in Italy, Dr. Djalali dedicated his research to resilience and performance of health systems, hospitals, and medical and rescue staff, and trained hundreds of humanitarian and medical staff around the world.
Dr. Djalali was arrested in April 2016 during a trip to Iran to participate in a series of academic workshops. It is strongly believed that he was targeted because of his ties to the international academic community, and the belief that he might trade his freedom in exchange for working for the Iranian intelligence service. On October 21, 2017, Dr. Djalali was sentenced to death for “corruption on earth,” based on unsubstantiated allegations that he had provided intelligence to a foreign government. Dr. Djalali was denied the right to appeal the conviction and sentence and has suffered from torture, ill-treatment, and a growing number of medical complications while in state custody.
On November 24, 2020, Iranian authorities moved Dr. Djalali to solitary confinement in preparation to carry out his death sentence. Dr. Djalali spent five nightmarish months in solitary confinement, awaiting imminent execution, until April 14, 2021, when authorities transferred him to a multiple-occupancy cell. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/11/26/as-iran-prepares-to-execute-ahmadreza-djalali-the-world-reacts/
For years, Dr. Djalali has been denied access to appropriate medical care for numerous health complications that worsened while he was in solitary confinement. These include leukemia, severe weight loss, chronic gastritis, low heart rate, and hypotension, gallstones, partial paralysis of the right foot, indirect inguinal hernia, hemorrhoid and fissures, low blood cell count, low levels of calcium and vitamin D, malnutrition, dyspepsia, and depression.
Authorities continue to deny Dr. Djalali access to his lawyer and his family in Iran, and from making calls to his wife and children in Sweden.


Palestinian NGOs dubbed terrorist were hacked with Pegasus spyware

November 10, 2021

Investigation by Front Line Defenders finds NGO employees’ phones were infiltrated months before Israel designated them as ‘terrorist organisations’

Phones of Palestinians working for human rights organisations recently designated by Israel as “terrorist organisations” [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/10/23/assault-by-israel-on-palestinian-human-rights-ngos/] were hacked using the Israeli-made spyware at the heart of a global surveillance scandal. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/07/21/nsos-pegasus-spyware-now-really-in-the-firing-line/]

Dublin-based Front Line Defenders (FDL) examined 75 phones belonging to Palestinian human rights workers and detected that six were infected with Pegasus spyware between July 2020 and April 202. Four out of the six phones belong to staff members at NGOs that were blacklisted last month for alleged ties to a group labelled by some states as a “terrorist organisation”, a move that has sparked international condemnation.

Those alleged to have been hacked include US citizen Ubai al-Aboudi, who heads the Bisan Center for Research and Development, and French national Salah Hammouri, a researcher at Addameer. 

At a press conference in Ramallah on Monday, representatives of the six organisations called for the international community to take action. “We call on the United Nations to launch an investigation to disclose the party that stood behind using this programme on the phones of human rights activists, a move that put their lives at risk,” Tahseen Elayyan, a legal researcher with Al-Haq, told Reuters.

FDL’s findings, which were reviewed and confirmed by Citizen Lab and Amnesty International Security Lab, will raise further concerns about Pegasus, the controversial spyware alleged to have been used to hack heads of state, journalists and activists in a series of explosive stories published this summer.

NSO Group, the Israeli-based tech firm behind Pegasus, only licences the product to sovereign states or the law enforcement or intelligence agencies of those states.

Haaretz reported on Monday that the export licence issued by the Israeli defence ministry to NSO Group only permits Israeli security services to monitor Israeli phone numbers.

An FDL spokesperson told Middle East Eye on Monday that the organisation does not know which state was behind the hacking it uncovered, but believes that the timeline of events over the past month may be critical in answering that question.

On 16 October, three days before the organisations were designated, Al-Haq approached FDL, suspecting that a staff member’s phone had been hacked. The same day, an FDL investigator found initial traces of Pegasus on the phone.

The following day, on 17 October, FDL said it held a meeting with all six organisations to inform them of the initial findings and see if others would want their phones investigated. NSO Group: US blacklists Israeli firms for harming ‘national security interests’.

On 18 October, Israel’s interior ministry notified Hammouri of its decision to revoke his permanent residency in Jerusalem and deport him on the basis of his alleged “breach of allegiance to the State of Israel”.

Then on 19 October, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz designated all six organisations which had gathered with FDL as “terrorist organisations.”

At this point, the organisations were reportedly only considered “terrorist” groups in Israel. But on 3 November – just ahead of the release of FDL’s findings –  Israel’s commander-in-chief of the Central Command issued an order to outlaw the organisations in the West Bank.

“It seems to us that [Israeli officials] were slow to react to what was transpiring and they were unprepared,” FDL spokesperson Adam Shapiro told MEE. “It suggests we caught them doing something they didn’t want us to.”

However, Shapiro emphasised that FDL could not say definitively what state was behind the hacking, a comment echoed by Addameer’s director, Sahar Francis.

“We don’t have evidence. We can’t accuse a certain party since we don’t have yet enough information about who carried out that action,” she told Reuters, calling on the UN to launch an investigation.

Israeli officials have not made a public statement yet about FDL’s findings. NSO Group told Reuters the company “does not operate the products itself … and we are not privy to the details of individuals monitored”.

The US government last week blacklisted the NSO Group and a second Israeli spyware firm, Candiru, saying their activities are contrary to US foreign policy and national security interests.

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/israel-spyware-pegasus-used-hack-palestinian-rights-activists-phones

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/nov/08/hacking-activists-latest-long-line-cyber-attacks-palestinians-nso-group-pegasus-spyware

https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/15450-experts-pegasus-spyware-found-in-phones-of-palestinian-activists

https://www.timesofisrael.com/report-palestinian-activists-phones-hacked-with-controversial-nso-group-tech/


Write for Rights 2021 launched

November 8, 2021

AI has launched the world’s biggest letter writing campaign to help 10 human rights defenders around the world facing.

Millions of letters, emails and texts will be sent to support people who have been jailed, attacked or disappeared 

Amnesty International has launched its flagship annual letter-writing campaign, Write for Rights to support 10 activists from around the world who have been attacked, jailed, harassed or disappeared for standing up for their rights.

This year, Write for Rights – which is funded by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery – will be supporting ten individuals, including:

  • Imoleayo Adeyeun Michael from Nigeria, who faces years behind bars for joining the #EndSARS protests against the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad last year;
  • Janna Jihad, a 15-year-old journalist from Palestine, who faces harassment and death threats for reporting on the racist brutality her community experiences;
  • Zhang Zhan, a citizen journalist from China who faces four years in prison for attempting to expose the extent of the Covid-19 crisis; [see also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/11/06/chinese-journalist-zhang-zhan-at-imminent-risk-of-death/]
  • Sphere, a Ukrainian LGBTI and women’s rights NGO, which is struggling to operate against frequent homophobic attacks, threats and intimidation;
  • Mohamed Baker, an Egyptian human rights lawyer denied a trial and put behind bars for his work supporting people who have been imprisoned unjustly; and
  • Ciham Ali Ahmed, a US-Eritrean national, who was arrested nine years ago at the Sudanese border when she was trying to flee Eritrea aged 15 and has not been seen since. 

Sacha Deshmukh, CEO of Amnesty UK, said:

“These individuals have been thrown behind bars, attacked, harassed or disappeared just for standing up for their rights. By coming together, people around the world have the power to raise their profile and increase their chances of protection or release.

“Sending a letter or email might seem like a small act, but when sent in their thousands they can have a huge impact. People in power are forced to listen. 

Amnesty International’s Write for Rights campaign: 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.

During last year’s Write for Rights campaign [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/11/09/amnesty-internationals-write-for-rights-campaign-2020-launched/] :

  • More than 360,000 actions were taken for Algerian journalist Khaled Drareni, who was imprisoned for his reporting on the Hirak protest movement. He was provisionally released in February 2021.
  • Over 300,000 messages were sent to and on behalf of Paing Phyo Min, a satirical poet and student leader jailed for criticising the military in Myanmar. He was freed early in April 2021.
  • More than 777,000 actions were taken for Saudi women’s rights campaigner Nassima al-Sada. As a result, a G20 summit hosted by Saudi Arabia was overshadowed by international calls to free Nassima and other women human rights defenders. Nassima has since been conditionally released.

View latest press releases 01 Nov 2021

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/worlds-biggest-letter-writing-campaign-launches-help-10-people-around-world-facing