Posts Tagged ‘Amnesty International’

Human Rights Defenders pay high price for Bahrain Grand Prix

March 28, 2019

The Bahraini authorities appear to be using the glamour of motor sport to obscure the country’s human rights record

Bahrain: Grand Prix should not ‘sportswash’ country’s human rights record” says Amnesty International.

[see my earlier post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/01/sports-and-human-rights-focus-on-sports-washing-big-names-play-for-big-money/]

Ahead of the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix this weekend, Amnesty International has highlighted the grim human rights record of the country. Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Campaigns, said: “Beneath the glamour of the F1, there is a far more sinister side to Bahrain, revealing the country as a deeply repressive state where anyone critical of the government can be jailed merely for posting a tweet. “Prominent human rights defenders are under relentless attack in the country. 

Nabeel Rajab was shamefully convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for tweeting about the conflict in Yemen and torture allegations in Jaw Prison. “Instead of just ‘sportswashing’ its image and glossing over its dismal human rights record through high-speed sport, the Bahraini government should immediately repeal laws that criminalise freedom of expression and fast track the release of all prisoners of conscience.

Since mid-2016, the Bahraini authorities have embarked on a systematic campaign to eliminate organised political opposition in the country. The main targets of this far-reaching repression have been human rights defenders, journalists, political activists, Shi’a clerics and phttps://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/bahrain-verdict-against-sheikh-salman-another-nail-coffin-free-speecheaceful protesters…Earlier this month, Ebrahim Sharif was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for three years, for a tweet criticising Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. …. Bahrain has used draconian legislation such as Law No. 58 of 2006 on the Protection of Society from Terrorist Acts, the Law on Political Associations, and repressive provisions of the Penal Code including Articles 134, 160, 165, 168, 214, 215, 216 and 310, to target protesters and other critics of the government. Since 2011, more than 800 people have been stripped of their nationalities. Of those, 115 lost their citizenship following a ludicrous mass trial that relied on confessions extracted under torture.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/02/happy-new-year-but-not-for-ahmed-mansoor-and-nabeel-rajab-in-the-gulf-monarchies/

For more information on the human rights situation, see the following blog – Bahrain: What lies behind the scenes of the Formula One Grand Prix.

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/bahrain-grand-prix-should-not-sportswash-countrys-human-rights-record

 

Marielle Franco: one year after her killing in Rio

March 13, 2019

A long piece in Open Democracy of 12 March provides more details and links tentatively the murder to the State:

Three moments have been key in unravelling the truth regarding this political crime. The first, the detention in December 2018 of Marcello Moares Siciliano, also a counselor in Rio de Janeiro. He was identified as the supposed intellectual author of the crime and he is being directly accused of being involved in the murder. The State Prosecutor and the Police searched his home and found material connected to the murder that also pointed towards two ex-military police officers who were also detained as possible complices.

The second, in January of this year, was the major revelation that these two military police officers have dark connections to Flavio Bolsonaro, the son of president Jair Bolsonaro, who is currently a senator. The accused are suspected to be members of the militia group ‘Escritório do Crime’, one of the most dangerous criminal groups currently in the west of Rio de Janeiro.

The third, is the unexpected arrest of a military police officer and another ex-police officer only a few days before commemorating one year since her murder. One is accused of pulling the trigger, and the other of driving the vehicle used for the attack. These appear to be the first concrete results of a complex investigation that remains plagued with uncertainty that would confirm the Brazilian state’s role in the murder…

What is certain is that the investigation has also suggested a link between Marielle’s opposition to the militarisation of Rio de Janeiro and her murder. She had discovered some worrying conexions, which could imply her death was caused by powerful mafias that wished to silence her. The complexity and the difficulty of clarifying the events surrounding her death show there are powerful interests impeding the investigation.

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/democraciaabierta/who-killed-marielle-1-year-later-few-answers/

Iran cracks down on Nasrin Sotoudeh and other human rights defenders

March 12, 2019

Nasrin Sotoudeh

Sotoudeh was charged with spying, spreading propaganda and insulting Iran’s supreme leader. Photograph: Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images

Only yesterday I hoped that Nasrin Sotoudeh‘s invitation to the G7 would set a good precedent [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/11/does-g7-set-a-precedent-with-sotoudeh-for-inviting-human-rights-defenders/], now Reuters reports that she has been handed a new sentence that her husband said was 38 years in prison and 148 lashes! The news comes days after Iran appointed a hardline new head of the judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, who is a protege of Ali Khamenei. The appointment is seen as weakening the political influence of the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani. (NOTE: Her husband clarified later that she will be serving 10 years of the 33 he had announced on his Facebook page and in an interview with Radio Farda)

In the meantime AI reports that a series of videos shared on social media in recent weeks have shed light on the daily harassment and violent attacks women in Iran face at the hands of morality police and pro-government vigilantes seeking to enforce the country’s forced hijab (veiling) laws. The videos show members of the public or plain-clothes morality police aggressively confronting or attacking women for defying Iran’s degrading forced hijab laws, in the name of defending “public decency”. Perpetrators of such attacks appear to be getting bolder in their assaults in response to efforts by women to film the violence they face and share the videos on social media. “The video footage that has emerged in recent weeks demonstrates the shocking levels of abuse women in Iran face on a daily basis from morality police or pro-government thugs simply for daring to defy the country’s abusive forced hijab laws,” said Philip Luther of Amnesty International.  Iranian women’s rights defenders have courageously filmed these incidents as part of the My Camera My Weapon campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the constant harassment and assault that women and girls face in Iran’s streets as a result of forced hijab laws.

Amnesty added:…..The charges on which Nasrin Sotoudeh was convicted include “inciting corruption and prostitution” and “openly committing a sinful act… by appearing in public without a hijab”. Some of the activities that the authorities have cited as “evidence” against her include: opposing forced hijab; removing her headscarf during prison visits; defending women who peacefully protested against forced hijab; giving media interviews about the violent arrest and detention of women protesting against forced hijab; and placing flowers at the scene where a woman protester was violently arrested.

The UN Human Rights Council also was dealing with Iran this week: Worrying patterns of intimidation, arrest, prosecution, and ill-treatment of human rights defenders, lawyers, and labour rights activists in Iran signal an increasingly severe State response to protests and strikes in the country, Javaid Rehman, the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, said on 12 March 2019. “Today, the people of Iran face a myriad of challenges,” he told the Human Rights Council in Geneva. “Many have voiced their concern through protests, demonstrations, and strikes. People from diverse sections of society – from truck drivers to teachers to factory workers – across the country have protested.” “It is in this context of increased challenges that concerns are mounting about human rights, including the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and to association in Iran,” he said, calling on the Government to release all those detained for exercising such rights. Presenting his first report to the Council, Rehman said the re-imposition of secondary sanctions by the United States of America had further increased concerns for the welfare of ordinary Iranians.

The Special Rapporteur also highlighted the alarming health situations of numerous imprisoned individuals such as human rights defender Arash Sadeghi [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/30/iran-shameful-sentences-for-narges-mohammadi-issa-saharkhiz-arash-sadeghi-no-detente-in-human-rights/]. Rehman also highlighted the situation of prominent woman human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh who was reportedly convicted last week of charges related to her work and could face a lengthy prison sentence. Other issues raised in his report include concerns regarding the right to life and to fair trial, the situation of detained foreign and dual nationals, and the treatment of religious and ethnic minorities.

Human Rights Watch commented that the Iranian judiciary’s draconian sentence for a prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was an “appalling travesty of justice“.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/11/human-rights-lawyer-nasrin-sotoudeh-jailed-for-38-years-in-iran

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/03/iran-pro-government-vigilantes-attack-women-for-standing-up-against-forced-hijab-laws/

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1903/S00091/iran-un-expert-concerned-by-crackdown-on-protests.htm

https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/03/12/iran-decades-long-sentence-womens-rights-defender

https://en.radiofarda.com/a/jail-term-ambiguity-clarified-for-iran-rights-defender—eu-protests/29817359.html

Amnesty launches report on Laws designed to silence human rights defenders

February 21, 2019

The report lists 50 countries worldwide where anti-NGO laws have been implemented or are in the pipeline
Governments around the world are stepping-up their attacks on civil society organisations and human rights defenders, according to a new Amnesty International report. On 21 February 2019 RTE Ireland summarizes it as follows: It says governments are creating laws that subject non-governmental organisations and their staff to surveillance, bureaucratic hurdles and the threat of imprisonment. The international human rights group says the global assault on NGOs has reached a crisis point as new laws curb vital human rights work. The report, Laws Designed to Silence: The Global Crackdown on Civil Society Organisations, lists 50 countries worldwide where anti-NGO laws have been implemented or are in the pipeline.
Amnesty International says these laws commonly include implementing ludicrous registration processes for organisations, monitoring their work, restricting their sources of resources and, in many cases, shutting them down if they do not adhere to the unreasonable requirements imposed on them.
[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/07/global-statement-on-the-20th-anniversary-of-the-un-declaration-on-human-rights-defenders/]
We documented how an increasing number of governments are placing unreasonable restrictions and barriers on NGOs, preventing them from carrying out crucial work,” said Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International. “In many countries, organisations who dare to speak out for human rights are being bullied into silence. Groups of people who come together to defend and demand human rights are facing growing barriers to working freely and safely. Silencing them and preventing their work has consequences for everyone.”  SEE ALSO NAIDOO’S OP-ED: http://news.trust.org//item/20190220144717-jcwuf/
https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/02/global-assault-on-ngos-reaches-crisis-point/

https://www.rte.ie/news/2019/0221/1031852-amnesty_assault_on_ngos/

Working environment at Amnesty International severely judged by own staff

February 8, 2019

That human rights NGOs are severely criticized is nothing new but that it comes from its own staff is rare. Still here is a report that states that “Amnesty International has had a “toxic” working environment going back as far as the 1990s”.  This does not mean that AI is specially bad compared to other larger NGOs, just that there are very few other such public reports.

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Sports and human rights: focus on ‘sports washing’ – big names play for big money

February 1, 2019

Sports and human rights (or as some like to say ‘sports and politics‘) remains a hotly disputed topic. While the organized sport world (FIFA, IOC) is slowly coming around to take these matters more seriously [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/03/fifas-second-report-on-human-rights-misses-sustainable-approach/  and  https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/03/olympic-committee-tries-its-hands-on-human-rights-cautiously/], it seems that less progress is made with sports events organized by repressive regimes simply to boost their image. Recently called ‘sports washing‘ [The term was coined in relation to a planned tennis exhibition match in Jeddah last December between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, – https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/19/novak-djokovic-and-rafael-nadal-have-a-chance-to-score-a-point-for-human-rights-defenders/. It never went ahead due to an injury of Nadal.]. Azerbaijan in 2015 tried to make good use of sporting events (see e.g.    https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/06/12/baku-games-starting-today-with-avalanche-of-human-rights-criticism/; and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/04/21/azerbaijan-a-formula-for-combining-sports-and-repression/).

Now the regime of Saudi Arabia hopes that it can buy its way to a better image with hosting sport events and Amnesty International has warned sports stars not to become a propaganda tool. Saudi Arabia said it has hired the former England captain, David Beckham, to lead an exhibition team against his former Real Madrid teammate Zinedine Zidane.  The game, to be held later this year, is part of a £60-billion re-launch of the entertainment industry in Saudi Arabia, called the National Transformation Programme. According to an article in the Sun, it would earn Beckham an estimated £1million. [Beckham also has a lifetime endorsement deal worth £120million with Adidas which I think doesn’t sit well with Adidas’ claimed stance in favor of human rights – see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/13/first-time-major-companies-say-that-human-rights-defenders-are-essential-for-profitable-business/].

Announcing the match in front of big screen images of the football legends, Saudi sports minister Turki Al-Sheikh said: “This is an exhibition match including two big worldwide stars – Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham playing against each other…If God wills, you will see it this year in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The UN children’s aid group UNICEF, for whom Beckham is a goodwill ambassador, has criticised the Saudi-led coalition saying its bombing attacks there have had catastrophic consequences for the local population. Saudi Arabia has detained more than a dozen women’s rights activists such as Loujain al-Hathloul who once appeared in a Vanity Fair.  Loujain’s sister, Alia, has criticised US singer Mariah Carey for playing a concert on Thursday at the King Abdullah Economic City. She said: “My own baby sister said she is being whipped, beaten, electrocuted and harassed on a frequent basis.” She stated: “Remember, thanks to my sister @LoujainHathloul, you r able to perform in Saudi Arabia. I wish she can attend your concert. But she’s locked behind bars because she tried to improve women’s condition. Don’t forget to thank her on stage,” she wrote to Carey on Twitter. [but Mariah Carey is an old hand when it comes to selling her soul: see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/12/19/mariah-carey-needs-better-informed-staff-and-donate-her-1-million-fee-to-human-rights-defenders-in-angola/].

My post yesterday was about golfershttps://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/31/amnesty-international-calls-on-golfers-not-to-play-the-saudi-propaganda-game/] who were being paid $ 1million when the European Tour staged a tournament in Saudi Arabia. While Paul Casey decided not to take part on human rights grounds, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter did play.

How difficult if not impossible it is to try and separate sports and politics can be illustrated by the recent case of soccer player, Hakeem al-Araibi, a Bahrain-born soccer player for a team in Australia has been held in detention in Thailand [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/02/craig-foster-australian-footballer-and-human-rights-defender/].  Hannah Beech in the NYT on 31 January 2019 puts the question “Can Big Global Sports Come Around to Human Rights Advocacy?

Hakeem al-Araibi, center, a former member of Bahrain’s national soccer team who has refugee status in Australia, at court in Bangkok in December.CreditCreditAthit Perawongmetha/Reuters

The global sports market is worth hundreds of billions of dollars a year. Now, this powerful industry is coming together to promote an unlikely cause: human rights. Since late November, a Bahrain-born soccer player for a minor team in Australia has been held in detention in Thailand. The player, Hakeem al-Araibi, 24, is not a famous athlete. He has no lucrative sponsors. But he has spoken out against one of the most powerful men in international soccer, who is also a member of the ruling family of Bahrain. His testimony of torture at the hands of Bahrain’s repressive government earned him refugee status in Australia, which determined that he faced credible threats of persecution should he return to the Gulf state. Still, over the past week, Mr. Araibi has collected an impressive list of supporters in the world of international sports.

  • Fatma Samoura, the secretary general of FIFA, has called for Thailand to return him to Australia “as a matter of urgency.”
  • Thomas Bach, the head of the International Olympic Committee, raised the issue with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
  • Praful Patel, of the Asian Football Confederation, issued a statement asking the Prime Minister of Thailand to ensure Mr. Araibi’s return to his adopted home.

[By the way, the head of the Asian Football Confederation is Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, the Bahraini official whom Mr. Araibi accused of not stopping the persecution of athletes in his charge. Sheikh Salman also serves as a FIFA vice president.!]

Mary Harvey, the chief executive of the Center for Sports and Human Rights, said:  “Hakeem is a historic test case, because it’s the first time that we’ve seen these big, powerful sports bodies all come together publicly to address the fate of a single person”. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/12/mary-harvey-her-goal-is-now-human-rights/]. The court ordered al-Araibi, who is in the Bangkok Remand Prison, to appear before it at 8.30am on Monday to answer whether or not he is willing to be extradited,  lawyer Bergman said.

—–

Amnesty International calls on golfers not to play the Saudi propaganda game

January 31, 2019

Rose during the pro-am at Royal GreensRose during the pro-am at Royal Greens
Golf’s world number one Justin Rose should use his profile to highlight human rights issues and counter the “propaganda value” of this week’s Saudi International, according to Amnesty International.

The tournament has attracted a star-studded field despite the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/jamal-khashoggi/]

Rose has defended his participation by the lame response: “I’m not a politician, I’m a pro golfer“. Human rights violating countries are well aware of the ‘sports-washing’ value of international sporting events, and the players need to understand this too. [ just see some the posts: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/sports-and-politics/]

AI UK’s director Kate Allen said. “We haven’t called on golfers to pull out of the Royal Greens event and it’s not for us to say who should be playing in these tournaments or whether countries like Saudi Arabia should be hosting them“.

The point with this, like other sporting events in countries with atrocious human rights records, is to fully understand the context…By hosting the European Tour, Saudi Arabia is almost certainly hoping to use the glamour of elite golf and the lush panorama of the Royal Greens course to subtly rebrand the country.” 

AI makes the concrete suggestion:”If each member of the European Tour tweeted their support for Loujain al-Hathloul and the other jailed women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia, they could go a long way to countering their propaganda value to the Saudi government.”

Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by the Saudi regime

 

See also my: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/19/novak-djokovic-and-rafael-nadal-have-a-chance-to-score-a-point-for-human-rights-defenders/

 

https://www.rte.ie/sport/golf/2019/0130/1026532-amnesty-calls-golfers/

2018 will go down in history as a year of shame for Iran

January 24, 2019

On 23 January 2019 RFE/RL reported that Iranian human rights defender Reza Khandan got a six-tear prison sentence. The next day Amnesty International issued a damning overview of the situation of human rights defenders in that country: Iran arrested more than 7,000 people in a sweeping crackdown against protesters and dissidents in the past year. See more below:

Rez Khandan with his wife, Nasrin Sotoudeh, in Tehran in 2013
Rez Khandan with his wife, Nasrin Sotoudeh, in Tehran in 2013

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In Russia first criminal case under “undesirable organizations” law

January 22, 2019

he Russian authorities have for the first time used the repressive “undesirable organizations” law to open a criminal case against human rights defender Anastasia Shevchenko, exposing her to the risk of a six-year prison term. Until now, violations of this law were punished under administrative law.

This morning Anastasia Shevchenko, a Coordinator with the Otkrytaya Rossiya (Open Russia) movement, was charged with “repeated participation in the activities of an undesirable organization.”  “In recent years, the Russian authorities have progressively suffocated and criminalized dissent. The Open Russia movement has become the latest victim of this crackdown,” said Marie Struthers, Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at AI.

It’s clear that the authorities are expanding their toolkit for imprisoning human rights defenders and activists, so if applied broadly this practice will have far-reaching implications for the right to freedom of expression.”In recent days, police have opened criminal investigations, conducted searches and arrests of Open Russia’s activists across the country. [see also my older post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/05/21/russia-human-rights-ngos-likely-to-become-officially-undesirable/]

Background:  On 17 January, Open Russia Coordinator in Pskov Liya Milushkina and her husband Artyom Milushkin were arrested and accused of selling drugs, an offense punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment. Artyom, who is also a political activist, previously reported that police officers threatened to plant drugs on him during his recent arrest in November. Amnesty International has interviewed several associates of the Milushkins all of whom are adamant that the criminal case against the couple is fabricated. Amnesty International has documented a number of cases in which activists in Russia have been prosecuted on trumped-up drug charges, including human rights defender Oyub Titiev who is currently standing trial in Chechnya. On 18 January, police filed a case against Open Russia Coordinator in Krasnodar Yana Antonova for posting a video about the shortage of schools in the region. She was charged with “participation in the activities of an undesirable organization”, an administrative offence when “committed” for the first time.

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/18/fidh-collected-russias-50-anti-democracy-laws/

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/01/russia-the-first-criminal-case-under-the-undesirable-organizations-law-marks-a-new-level-of-repression/

Acquittals in bogus foreign funding case in Egypt welcome but long overdue

December 20, 2018

Responding to the news that the South Cairo Criminal Court on 20 December 2018 acquitted all 43 defendants in the retrial of Egypt’s notorious “foreign funding” case – also known as Case 173Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International’s North Africa Campaigns Director said: “Today’s acquittal of all 43 NGO workers in the first ‘foreign funding’ case is a step in the right direction for Egyptian justice. This was a bogus case that targeted human rights defenders simply for doing their legitimate work and should never have happened in the first place…However, today’s ruling only relates to the first phase of the case which investigated the funding of international organizations; the investigation into local Egyptian NGOs is ongoing and dozens of staff are still at risk.”

Since the ‘foreign funding’ case was opened Egyptian human rights defenders have been treated as enemies of the state, subjected to an unprecedented crackdown, including asset freezes, travel bans and prosecutions. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/04/03/egypt-the-foreign-funding-accusation-against-human-rights-defenders-goes-in-overdrive/]

The key test now will be whether today’s court decision paves the way for an end to the persecution of all human rights defenders in the country. The Egyptian authorities must lift all travel bans and asset freezes against NGO staff and drop their investigations into Egyptian NGOs and human rights defenders for their legitimate human rights work.”

[In June 2013,the first phase of the investigation into NGO funding (Case 173 of 2011) concluded when 42 foreign and Egyptian NGO workers were sentenced to prison terms of between one and five years and a series of international NGOs were closed. Since 2014, investigative judges have been conducting a criminal investigation into the work and funding of local NGOs and have issued asset freezes against six organizations and 10 human rights defenders. They have banned at least 30 human rights defenders and NGO staff from travel abroad. The judges also summoned at least six directors and 61 civil society organization staff for interrogation and later ordered their release on bail.]