Posts Tagged ‘anti terrorism legislation’

Ahmed H. personifies the real danger of populist anti-terror measures!!

March 19, 2018

During an electoral campaign dominated by anti-migrant rhetoric, a Hungarian court has upheld a shocking verdict of terrorism against a Syrian citizen (Ahmed H.) and the symbolism is lost on no one [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/28/un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-in-last-council-statement-does-not-mince-words/]. On 19 March 2018, Maxim Edwards (a journalist writing on Central and Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet space – currently assistant editor at OCCRP in Sarajevo) published a fascinating insight into how ill-defined terrorism laws and anti-immigrant hype (in Hungary in this case) can lead to upholding a verdict of terrorism against a Syrian refugee.

Ahmed H. in the courtroom during the second-instance trial. Photo courtesy of Amnesty International / Anna Viktória Pál.

For Hungary to achieve anything in the next four years, we must not let in a single migrant” began Viktor Orbán in a speech earlier this month. ..

For Budapest, migration means terrorism — a commonsensical link reinforced daily by pro-government media and initiatives such as the state’s Public Consultation on Immigration and Terrorism. Leaflets for the May 2015 referendum on acceptance of refugees featured maps of “no go areas” across western Europe and shocking statistics about “murder by migrant.”

And now, the government has its very own case study. Last Wednesday, a Hungarian court upheld a verdict against a Syrian citizen accused of a terrorist act carried out at the Serbian border in 2015. After already spending two and a half years behind bars, Ahmed H. has been sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment and a ten year ban on entering Hungary.

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……

This was due to the elastic definition of terrorist acts in the Hungarian criminal code. Article 314A defines terrorism as, among other things, “coercing a government agency, state, or international body to do or not to do something”. Consequently, Ahmed’s alleged demand by megaphone that the Hungarian border police open the gates was enough to convict him of an act of terrorism.

(Ahmed was also charged with illegal entry into Hungary as part of a mass riot, an administrative violation which carries a minimum sentence of five years. He did not contest the charge that he threw objects at the police, which alone cannot constitute a terrorist threat even in the most elastic of interpretations.)

….
In a final twist to this story, Ahmed’s other relatives made it to an EU country, where they now live in safety. Ahmed H. himself, probably one of the only people in the crowd at Röszke who could legally enter Hungary, had succeeded in his errand — at the cost of over ten years of his life.

Please read the full story that contains lots of interesting detailshttp://neweasterneurope.eu/2018/03/19/trials-ahmed-h/

Saudi Terrorism court hands down heavy sentences for starting a human rights group

January 26, 2018

Background: The two men received a phone call on October 20, 2016 informing them that there was a case against them in the SCC, the Saudi court that handles terrorism cases, and informing them of the date of the first hearing. The first session of the trial took place in the SCC on October 30, 2016. The two men were charged with offences relating to their peaceful activism and freedom of expression, the main charge being the founding of a human rights organisation, the Union for Human Rights. They were accused of publishing statements about human rights, which the Public Prosecutor considered an infringement of the jurisdiction of government-sponsored civil society institutions like the Saudi Human Rights Commission and the National Society for Human Rights. The Public Prosecutor regarded publishing human rights reports, contacting the media and human rights organisations, being guests of the detained activist Abdullah al-Hamid, and retweeting posts on Twitter to be crimes deserving punishment. The first hearing ended with December 26, 2016 being set as the date for the next session.

In March 2017, Mohamed al-Oteibi left the country and travelled to Qatar, where he managed to obtain the right of asylum in Norway. As he set off for Norway, he was apprehended at Doha’s Hamad International Airport on May 24, 2017 and handed over to the Saudi authorities the following day. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/01/qatar-extradited-human-rights-defender-otaibi-to-saudi-arabia-ignoring-norways-grant-of-asylum/] Mohamed bin Abdullah al-Oteibi is a prominent defender of human rights in Saudi Arabia. He had been arrested previously in Saudi Arabia while engaging in legitimate civic activity without committing any criminal act. On January 1, 2009 he was arrested along with other activists and charged with taking part in a peaceful demonstration. On that occasion he spent about four months in prison, including two months in solitary confinement, isolated from the outside world. Given that the activity Oteibi had engaged in and for which he was punished was a legitimate civic activity, in 2011 the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a formal opinion to the effect that Oteibi’s arrest breached Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; that there was no legal basis to justify depriving Oteibi of his freedom; and that in the view of the Working Group his detention was essentially an arbitrary measure with no basis in law that contravened and breached a number of his basic legal rights.

Oteibi and Atawi were once again brought before the SCC, the court that handles terrorism cases, in December 2016. All of the charges against them violated their basic legal rights. The main charge was that of helping to set up an association concerned with human rights (the Union for Human Rights), despite the fact that Oteibi, Atawi and their colleagues had already closed down the group and suspended its activities, in exchange for undertakings that they would not face any penalty…

https://alqst.org/eng/terrorism-court-hands-seven-14-year-jail-sentences-starting-human-rights-group/

http://www.arabianbusiness.com/politics-economics/384249-new-saudi-law-to-fight-terrorism-criticised

UN rapporteurs decry Saudi Arabia’s use of anti-terror laws against human rights defenders

January 3, 2018

Independent Expert on Human Rights Michel Forst. Photo: Jean-Marc Ferré

On 2 January 2018 a group of four UN Special Rapporteurs (Michel ForstMr.  David Kaye, Ahmed Shaheed and Fionnuala D. Ní Aoláin) joined by José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention) deplored Saudi Arabia’s continued use of counter-terrorism and security-related laws against human rights defenders and urged the release of all those detained for peacefully exercising their rights.

We are witnessing the persecution of human rights defenders for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, association and belief, as well as in retaliation for their work. The Government has ignored repeated calls by UN experts and others to halt these violations, rectify them, and prevent their recurrence.”

More than 60 prominent religious figures, writers, journalists, academics and civic activists are reported to have been detained in a wave of arrests since September, adding to a list of past cases which had already been raised by UN experts with the Government. “We have written to the Government requesting detailed information about these numerous arrests on terrorism, cyber-crime or any other state security-related charges during that period,” the experts said.

The experts noted that they are also seeking government clarification about how these measures are compatible with Saudi Arabia’s obligations under international human rights law, as well as with the voluntary pledges and commitments it made when seeking to join the UN Human Rights Council. “Despite being elected as member of the Human Rights Council at the end of 2016, Saudi Arabia has continued its practice of silencing, arbitrarily arresting, detaining and persecuting human rights defenders and critics,” they said.

In addition to previous cases and new arrests since September, the experts pointed to the country’s failure to implement two recent opinions of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, calling for “the release of all the human rights defenders concerned in these cases.”

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/28/saudi-arabia-imprisoned-waleed-abu-al-khair-receives-another-human-rights-award/

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22570&LangID=E

Many birthday parties for jailed human rights defender in Turkey

October 12, 2017

human rights defenders in Turkey, still in jail after 100 days

Ten activists, including İdil Eser, the Director of Amnesty International Turkey, were arrested on 5 July. İdil’s 54th birthday is on 14 October, which she will spend imprisoned on baseless and trumped-up charges. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/12/turkey-detention-of-human-rights-defenders-further-extended/] (Amnesty International Turkey’s Chair, Taner Kılıç, was also arrested a month earlier. On 4 October a prosecutor filed an indictment calling for jail terms of up to 15 years for all 11 human rights defenders on absurd terrorism charges.)

After three months the investigation has unsurprisingly failed to provide any incriminating evidence to substantiate the prosecutor’s fantastical charges. .. The activists are accused of assisting a variety of “armed terrorist organisations” with diametrically opposing ideologies. They face maximum sentences of 15 years. The charges against them include outlandish claims that standard human rights activities – such as appealing to stop the sale of tear gas, making a grant application or campaigning for the release of hunger striking teachers – were carried out on behalf of terrorist organizations. Some of the claims against İdil are based on Amnesty International documents and public communications that predate her appointment at the organisation.

To mark İdil’s 54th birthday, Amnesty International will hold more than 200 parties and actions globally, starting with a public, pop-up, Turkish-themed birthday party on 13 October in Auckland. Elsewhere around the world there will be a birthday party in the European Parliament and a press conference in a makeshift prison in Madrid. The parties will feature full-size paper cutouts of Idil to highlight her absence, along with Turkish food, music, decorations and more.

I am ready to pay the price for my choice to work on human rights and I am not scared. My time in jail has made me even more committed to standing up for my values. I will not compromise them.” Idil Eser (8/19/17).

 

THE IMPACT OF COUNTER-TERRORISM LAWS AND POLICIES ON IHL AND HUMANITARIAN ACTION

January 25, 2017

Counter-terrorism is a major concern of many governments today. Since 9/11 and more recently after the attacks in Belgium, France, Germany, Lebanon, Tunisia or Turkey, states have adopted new counter-terrorism measures and legislation intended to address the threat of terrorism.

The steps taken are diverse, ranging from surveillance to emergency legislation as well as the use military force against designated terrorist groups abroad. In some instances, more restrictive conditions of financing and the risk of criminal sanctions in cases of ‘material support’ to listed terrorist organizations – a notion which has been broadly interpreted by US case law- have impacted the implementation of certain IHL rules as well as humanitarian assistance. This has reduced the scope of action of humanitarian agencies and NGOs.

In that context, this third IHL Talk on 26 January 2017 will discuss the legal regime governing terrorism, in particular how IHL addresses acts of terrorism and what is the relationship with other international treaties. More generally, experts will discuss the legal and operational challenges counter-terrorism has created for IHL and humanitarian action.

KEYNOTE SPEAKER

Ambassador Valentin Zellweger, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations and the other international organizations in Geneva

MODERATION

Gunilla von Hall, Foreign correspondent in Geneva for the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet

PANELISTS

Sandra Krähenmann, Research Fellow, Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Carla Ruta, Legal Adviser, Geneva Call

Where?  Villa Moynier, 120B Rue de Lausanne, Geneva

Source: Upcoming Events – The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

On 19 November seven Moroccan Human Rights Defenders go on trial

November 19, 2015

Hisham Almiraat (center) with friends at the Global Voices 2012 Summit in Nairobi. PHOTO: Ivan Sigal

Maâti Monjib, Hicham Mansouri, Samad Iach, Mohamed Elsabr and Hisham Almiraat are facing charges of “threatening the internal security of the State”, an offense that can lead to up to five years in prison. Rachid Tarek and Maria Moukrim are facing charges of “receiving foreign funding without notifying the General Secretariat of the government”, which if found guilty, can result in fines.

The trial for the case is scheduled for 19 November, 2015. Morocco has seen a dramatic increase in human rights violations and attacks against journalists in the past year. Crackdowns on independent media, human rights defenders and civil society have led to a stifling environment that limits freedom of expression and association in the country.

We call the international community’s attention to the continuous interrogations, harassment, threats and arrests, as a deliberate attempt by the Moroccan authorities to silence dissidents. Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right (Article 19 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). The Moroccan government violates this universal right with the charges.

16 international and regional NGOs concerned with freedom of expression urge the Moroccan authorities to drop all charges and end the harassment of human rights defenders and journalists.

Read the rest of this entry »

Report on a panel: Counter-terrorism laws must not criminalise human rights defenders

March 17, 2015

I was in Geneva last week where a number of interesting meetings took place. One of the side events I attended (a picture went out on Twitter), concerned the crucial issue of  “ Human rights defenders and national security”, on 9 March organized by a group of NGOs (International Service for Human Rights, Article 19, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Human Rights House Foundation, the International Commission of Jurists and the World Organisation Against Torture).ISHR-logo-colour-high

The panel was moderated by ISHR Director Phil Lynch, and had a very knowledgeable speakers such as Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders; Hina Jilani, Pakistani human rights lawyer and former Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders; Jimena Reyes, Director of the Americas Desk at FIDH; Roselyn Hanzi from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights; Gerald Staberock, Director of the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT); and Tanele Maseko, human rights defender from Swaziland.
A short report below:
Restrictions on human rights defenders

Phil Lynch opened the discussion by referring to unequivocal examples of restrictions imposed on human rights defenders by the operation of counter-terrorism laws, with examples cited including the recent amendments to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act in Australia which criminalises the disclosure of information about ‘special intelligence operations’, even where such disclosures expose or relate to serious human rights abuses; draft legislation in China which vaguely defines ‘terrorism’ to include ‘thought, speech or behavior’ that is ‘subversive’ or seeks to ‘influence national policy making’, and Law 8/2015, passed recently in Egypt, which allows individuals and associations which ‘infringe public order’ or ‘harm national unity or national security’ to be designated as terrorists. Concern was also expressed that renewed US efforts to combat extremism do not contain adequate human rights safeguards and that the imperative to counter-terrorism is being used as a subterfuge by regimes in allied States – such as Bahrain, China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia – to further restrict and repress civil society.

Panelists built on these examples throughout the discussion, referring to significant limitations on, and prosecution of, human rights defenders under the guise of national security in their regions, including the prosecution of indigenous activists campaigning against major development projects in Chile under the Anti-Terrorist Act; human rights defenders being spied on by intelligence authorities in Cuba which consequently contributed to their murder; human rights defenders in Zimbabwe being charged for allegedly participating in a disruptive demonstration, or under the Official Secrets Act which forbids the release of information, even if that information regards human rights violations; and human rights defenders being imprisoned and labelled terrorists for voicing disagreement with the government in Swaziland. Members of the audience provided further examples, including defenders in South Korea being charged under a law that prohibits support for North Korea.

Legislation protecting the rights of defenders

A schizophrenia currently exists in many countries where authorities laud their own human rights mechanisms in the international sphere and then actively criminalise the activities of human rights defenders at home,’ said Hina Jilani. It is essential that along with a national law for the protection of human rights defenders, counter terrorism laws do not impose restrictions on those protections.

Counter terrorism laws should be developed in a manner that fights terrorism, while at the same time, respecting the legitimate work of human rights defenders,’ said Gerald Staberock of OMCT.

The panelists also stressed the importance of ensuring the rights of human rights defenders are not constrained under other laws, such as laws prohibiting criticism of the head of state, emir or the army.

Independence of the judiciary and the military

The discussion also highlighted the necessity to ensure the independence of the judiciary. In this regard, Jimene Reyes of FIDH referred to the use of the judicial system in Cuba as an ‘instrument of uncritical oppression’. Members of the audience identified the importance that the judiciary, as well as the executive, must be able to recognise and respect the legitimate activities of human rights defenders.

Similarly the importance of the separation between the State and the military was emphasised. Ms Reyes stressed the risk for human rights defenders if they are ‘considered by the military to be the enemy’.

Importance of civil society participation

While there is a clear trend of governments using counter-terrorism legislation to conflate the legitimate activities of human rights defenders with actions that threaten national security, the panelists were in clear consensus that human rights defenders and a strong and healthy civil society is essential to the stability of the State and good governance.

‘The work of human rights defenders and other civil society actors is crucial to address inequality and to promote good governance, accountability and inclusive development, all of which contribute to national security,’ said Phil Lynch of ISHR. ‘However, to ensure this is possible, it is essential to raise national and international awareness of the pitfalls of counter-terrorism legislation and the importance of civil society participation’.

The event concluded with a reflection of the need to counter the ‘rhetoric of fear’ and firmly establish that ‘the rights to peaceful assembly and of association do not encourage extremism, chaos, or violence but are, in fact, the best antidotes we have against all of these ills’.

Myself and others brought up the need to fight back in the public domain and the media against campaign to delegitimize the work of human rights defenders and show more the positive contribution their legitimate work brings to society.

[The high-level segment of the Council session has called on all States to fully implement Human Rights Council Resolution 22/6, which was led by Norway and adopted by consensus in March 2013. It urges States to ensure that ‘measures to combat terrorism and preserve national security … do not hinder the work and safety’ of human rights defenders.]

National security: Counter-terrorism laws must not criminalise human rights defenders | ISHR.

Trial against Muharrem Erbey, in pre-trial detention for 4 years, resumes on 13 January in Turkey

January 11, 2014

While all attention is focused on the political power struggle in Turkey, human rights defenders there continue to be harassed and detained. A glaring example is the case of Muharrem Erbey who is in pre-trial detention since 4 years. On 13 January 2014, the trial against Muharrem Erbey, the recipient of the Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Rights Prize for 2012, will resume. On 24 December 2009, Mr. Muharrem Erbey was arrested by the Anti-Terror Unit of the Diyarbakır Security Directorate as part of an operation launched simultaneously in 11 provinces in Turkey. His arrest and detention Read the rest of this entry »

Terrorist charges against journalists and human rights defenders in Morocco

October 31, 2013

In the last three days Morocco has been seen using Anti-Terrorism laws against human rights defenders and journalists exercising their freedom of expression. The following two cases come from Frontline: Read the rest of this entry »

Human rights group says sentencing of 21 Oromos in Ethiopia politically motivated

August 19, 2013

On 15 August 2013 the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa [HRLHA] called for reversal of the sentencing of 21 Oromo students by the Federal High Court of Ethiopia on 7th August.  

Gadaa.comThree of the Sentenced Oromo Students

Read the rest of this entry »