Posts Tagged ‘arbitrary arrest’

Update on Mansoor in UAE: after one year detention appears in court

April 13, 2018

Ahmed Mansoor – the Emirates’ most prominent human rights defender – finally has been taken to court after a year in arbitrary detention [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/21/emirates-one-year-later-human-rights-defender-ahmed-mansoors-whereabouts-remain-unknown/].

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has finally received information about Mansoor, including the surprising news that his trial had already started in March 2018. There had been no news about him since September 2017. The second hearing took place on 11 April 2018, and as Mansoor still has no lawyer to defend him, no details about the exact charges are available.

In the weeks leading up to his arrest, Mansoor had used Twitter to call for the release of human rights activist Osama Al-Najjar, who remains in prison despite having completed a three-year prison sentence in March 2017 for his peaceful activities on Twitter; as well as prominent academic and economist Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith. The latter, who was jailed in a previous case with Mansoor in 2011, was also held incommunicado for nine months after his subsequent arrest in August 2015. He continued to be held in solitary confinement after court proceedings began, remaining in solitary for 19 months. On 29 March 2017, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for critical comments he had made online about human rights violations in the UAE and Egypt. On 2 April 2017, Dr. Bin Ghaith began a hunger strike to protest his sentence, which violated his rights to freedom of expression and fair trial. On 25 February 2018, Dr. Bin Ghaith began another hunger strike to protest poor conditions in Abu Dhabi’s notorious Al-Razeen prison, a maximum security prison in the desert used to hold activists, government critics, and human rights defenders. On 2 April 2018, GCHR learned that Dr. Bin Ghaith had been forced to end his recent hunger strike earlier due to threats made by the authorities to restrict visits after news of his protest became known….

http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1829

Emirates at the UPR in Geneva: two sides of the same medal?

January 23, 2018

Sometimes it hard t believe that media have observed the same meeting. Here the case of the Emirates (UAE) which was the subject of a UPR session on 22 January 2018. The Middle East Eye says that “At UN meeting, rights groups slam UAE for arbitrary detention“, while The National sees that “UAE strategy will advance human rights in Middle East, Gargash tells UN council”.

Portrait of UAE founder Zayd Bin Sultan Nahyan at UAE’s culture exhibition at the Palace of Nations, Geneva (MEE/Amandla Thomas-Johnson)
Amandla Thomas-Johnson's picture Amandla Thomas-Johnson reports that Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash strongly denied allegations that the country practises arbitrary detention. Gargash, who led a high-level delegation to a peer-review process called the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which each UN-member state undergoes every five years. “I would like to affirm that the UAE does not arrest or detain any person arbitrarily,” he said. “A person is immediately informed of the accusations against them. Everything that takes place is in line with our laws and done with concrete safeguards against arbitrary detention and arrest.
The remarks from the senior Emirati diplomat starkly contrasted with the opinion of four UN Special Rapporteurs – independent experts mandated to look into human rights violations – who in 2016 called on the UAE to respect the rights of several foreign nationals who were arbitrarily detained. Gargash’s comments came amid a quick-fire session held at the human rights conference room, with over 100 country-delegates given just over a minute each to speak. Rights organisations that took part in the UPR process by submitting documents detailing alleged human rights abuses, had mixed responses to the session;
  • Safwa Aissa, Executive Director of the Geneva-based International Centre for Justice and Human Rights, said of the session: “It’s not bad, but we wanted something better, especially from European countries. We had met with many countries beforehand and made them aware of the situation in the countries.”
  • Similarly, Julia Legner from Geneva-based Alkarama Foundation said: “It was slightly disappointing. I was expecting harsher criticism, given that it’s a peer review by states. It’s clear that some states will always congratulate the UAE.” “There could have been stronger comments on the total silencing of civil society, the crackdown on freedom of expression, which has reached a limit where there is no human rights defenders operating from within the UAE.” Responding to Gargash’s claim that arbitrary detention is not practised, she said: “We beg to differ and we have evidence.”
  • Toby Cadman, an international human rights barrister, said that while the UPR is “an important process,” it often has “the appearance of the Eurovision Song Contest of International Justice whereby friendly States, regional, diplomatic and trade partners pat each other on the back rather than offer constructive criticism and call for change”. “The UAE UPR was indicative of that approach today. There is a real need for fundamental reform in the UAE criminal justice and penal system.” 

David Haigh, who is bringing a legal case against UAE authorities for his arbitrary arrest and torture, criticised Gargash’s comments as untruthful. “I was arbitrarily detained for 15 months before I was charged. In the judgments against me one of the UAE courts confirmed that I had complained of arbitrary detention,” Haigh told MEE after the session. “Of course there is arbitrary detention.” Haigh, who has now established a foundation and law firm to assist others who suffer injustice in the UAE, said arbitrary detention happens “time and time again”.

 

Advancing human rights is a critical factor in ensuring stable societies and promoting development, ..The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs said that as a model nation for youth in the region, the UAE had sought to strengthen human rights and legal safeguards within the review framework overseen by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights….In the context of a region where extremism creates division and polarisation, Mr Gargash said advancing human rights was a “powerful antidote” to pernicious forces.

“The promotion of tolerance and the rejection of extremism is fundamental to the advancement of human rights in the UAE and the wider region,” he told a packed chamber at the Palais des Nations. “Piece by piece, we have developed a comprehensive strategy to advance the cause of human rights in the UAE.” The UAE will establish a national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles and guidance of the reporting process before the end of the year, he said. In responses to contributions from the floor, Dr Gargash said the country would also study joining additional protocols and extending invitations to special rapporteurs…

In response to allegations based on reporting about pre-trial detention, Dr Gargash said there was no detention without an arrest warrant…“The UAE is a bastion of stability where people from about 200 nationalities live peacefully in social and religious harmony. We are committed to finding the right balance between protecting our legitimate need for security and preserving our reputation as an open society.”….

He also pointed to the UAE’s role as the world’s largest donor of official development assistance as a proportion of its national income….

In its submission, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights recognised considerable developments in the UAE in the past four years. “UAE’s efforts in combating trafficking are marked as a good example,” the office said. “This included the Adoption of Federal Act Law No 1 of 2015, which provides protection for victims of trafficking, and the 2012 and 2015 Amendments of Federal Law No 51 of 2006 on combating trafficking.” It also hailed the progress in raising the status of women. “The National Strategy for Empowerment of Emirati Women in the UAE for 2015-2021 … provides a framework for government, private sector and civil society organisations to establish work plans to increase women’s presence and empowerment mainly in the economic sector in the UAE.”

Anwar Gargash, UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, tours Michael Møller, Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva, around UAE culture exhibition (MEE/Amandla Thomas-Johnson)

Cultural diplomacy: Earlier in the day, Gargash had been the focus of attention as he hosted the director-general of the UN in Geneva, Michael Moller, around a new cultural exhibition the UAE had officially opened minutes before the human rights session began a floor above. Spread over two floors and including mock Bedouin tents and a photo exhibit, women took centre-stage at the UAE’s latest efforts at cultural diplomacy, with a troop of women clad in sequined abayas performing a fashion show for onlookers. But The Middle East Eye said that “UAE’s efforts at cultural diplomacy came under fire by Julia Legner, at Alkarama”:  “It’s part of the propaganda machine of the UAE, trying to portray an image of culture and tolerance and inclusion and progress. They’re using it as a chance to cover up the dark side.” 

For my earlier posts on the UAE, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/uae/

http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/un-meeting-uae-heavily-criticised-rights-groups-arbitrary-detention-888227605

https://www.thenational.ae/world/gcc/uae-strategy-will-advance-human-rights-in-middle-east-gargash-tells-un-council-1.697809

Ahmed Mansoor under arrest – Emirates under pressure

March 28, 2017

The importance of Ahmed Mansoor – MEA Laureate 2015 – as human rights defender and as the most important source of information on human rights in the Emirates (UAE) has been demonstrated by the international response to his sudden arrest [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/21/ahmed-mansoor-mea-laureate-2015-arrested-in-middle-of-the-night-raid-in-emirates/ ]. In addition to many newspaper and social media, there have been two important statements this morning:

The UN Special Procedures have called for Ahmed Mansoor’s release:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21449&LangID=E,

And so has the Chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the EU Parliament  http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/20170328IPR68805/droi-chair-calls-on-uae-to-unconditionally-release-ahmed-mansoor 

In view of the link between Manchester and UAE airlines (Emirates and Ethiad) it is specially interesting to note that AI Manchester has joined the campaign to free Ahmed Mansoor:

Ahmed Mansoor, MEA Laureate 2015, arrested in middle-of-the-night raid in Emirates

March 21, 2017

Ahmed Mansoor’s whereabouts are unknown © Martin Ennals Foundation

On 20 March, 2017, around midnight, Mr. Ahmed Mansoor was arrested at his home in Ajman, UAE, by a large team of the Emirates’ security forces. The Government has finally confirmed that it is holding him, but until today we don’t know where. The reasons for his arrest remain unknown but might be linked to a series of tweets he posted on Twitter in recent days, calling for the release of UAE human rights defender Osama Al-Najjar or to a letter that he signed, along with other activists in the region, calling for the release of all prisoners of conscience in the Middle East ahead of an Arab League Summit scheduled to be held in Jordan on 29 March 2017.

Following a massive crackdown on human rights defenders in the UAE in recent years, Ahmed Mansoor is today widely respected as the only independent voice still speaking out through his blog and Twitter account against human rights violations from inside the country. He was the Laureate of the Martin Ennals Award 2015. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/10/07/the-link-to-the-full-mea-2015-ceremony-of-6-october/]. Mr. Mansoor has faced repeated intimidation, harassment, and death threats from the UAE authorities or their supporters, including arrest and imprisonment in 2011 following an unfair trial. Although pardoned and released later that year, the UAE authorities have arbitrarily imposed a travel ban on him. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/09/15/fly-emirates-if-the-emirs-let-you/]

In August 2016 Ahmed Mansoor was at the centre of a hacking scandal involving Apple’s iOS operating system [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/08/29/apple-tackles-iphone-one-tap-spyware-flaws-after-mea-laureate-discovers-hacking-attempt/]

Sources:

UAE: alarm at middle-of-the-night arrest of leading human rights activist | Amnesty International UK

http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/united-arab-emirates/2017/03/d24255/

Cameroon: killing and disappearances by government forces in graphic video

September 7, 2016

This animation – published by AI on 5 September 2016 – was produced based on testimonies collected by Amnesty International by interviewing over 35 direct eyewitnesses and a senior military source. All the sources confirmed that at least 200 men and boys were arrested on 27 December 2014 in the villages of Magdeme and Doublé in Cameroon. In the same operation conducted jointly by the army, the police and the gendarmerie, at least 8 people, including a child, were killed, over 70 buildings were burnt down and many possessions were stolen or destroyed.

The fate of most of those arrested in these two villages remains unknown. At least 25 of these men and boys – perhaps more – died in custody during the night of their arrest in a makeshift cell, while 45 others were taken and registered in Maroua’s prison the following day. At least 130 people, therefore, remain unaccounted for, presumed to be victims of enforced disappearance, with some evidence suggesting more may have died while in the custody of the security forces.

You can sign the petition to the Cameroonian authorities here: http://bit.ly/2cbpF7v

Video: Africartoons Studio; Music: Kalakuta Music Group

for other posts on Cameroon: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/cameroon/

Turkey: really the place for a fair trial?

March 20, 2016

All the attention is on Turkey as the country where refugees will have to be processed. The more the question of fair trial becomes important. The following does not bode well:

In the early morning of 16 March 2016, police raided the houses of 9 lawyers in Istanbul, Turkey. After the search, lawyers Ramazan Demir, İrfan Arasan, Ayşe Acinikli, Hüseyin Boğatekin, Şefik Çelik, Adem Çalışçı, Ayşe Başar, Tamer Doğan and Mustafa Rüzgar were taken into custody. They are all members of the Libertarian Lawyers Association ÖHD). There has not been given any justification for these arrests and searches. The case file on the arrests is confidential. Allegedly the lawyers are arrested on suspicion of having ties with a terrorist organization. All the lawyers that were arrested represent the 46 lawyers who were arrested in 2011 on suspicion of “working for, or belonging to, a terrorist organization”. A hearing in the trial against these lawyers took place only one day after the arrests (!), on 17 March 2016. The arrest of their lawyers means that they are deprived from their legal defense.

Lawyers for Lawyers and Fair Trial Watch are extremely worried about the state of the rule of law in Turkey, which is quickly deteriorating. They sent a letter to the Turkish authorities in which they urge them to:
–     Immediately release lawyers and drop the criminal investigation;L4L logo
–     Abstain from identifying lawyers with their clients or their clients’ causes;
–     Put an end to all forms of harassment against lawyers in Turkey;
–     Guarantee in all circumstances that all lawyers in Turkey are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of reprisals, intimidation, threats and free of all restrictions.
For more information see: http://www.advocatenvooradvocaten.nl/11446/turkey-police-raid-on-and-arrest-of-9-lawyers

Meanwhile on 11 February, 2016 the Human Rights Foundation drew attention to the case of journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, and urges the government of Turkey to drop the arbitrary charges imposed on them. On November 26, Dündar, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Cumhuriyet, and Gül, the Ankara bureau chief, were arrested based on a criminal complaint filed against them by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The complaint stems from a report published in Cumhuriyet on May 29, 2015 with photos and video footage claiming that Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization secretly armed Islamist rebel groups in Syria. The two journalists are being held at the high-security Silivri prison west of Istanbul. They are currently awaiting trial and facing up to life in prison.

HRF to Turkey: Free Journalists Can Dündar and Erdem GülSource: Vedat Arik/AP

The rise of authoritarianism in Turkey is blatant. Erdogan’s government crackdown on independent journalists is a step towards exerting dictatorial control over Turkey’s media,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen.

https://humanrightsfoundation.org/news/hrf-to-turkey-free-journalists-can-duendar-and-erdem-guel-00516?utm_content=&utm_source=VerticalResponse&utm_medium=Email&utm_term=here&utm_campaign=HRF%20to%20Turkey%3A%20Free%20Journalists%20Can%20Dündar%20and%20Erdem%20Gülcontent

The magical number 92 in Zimbabwe!

February 25, 2016

Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe turned 92 this month. Public Domain photo by the U.S. Air Force.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe. Public domain photo by the U.S. Air Force.

Two recent items on Zimbabwe showed an interesting link with the number 92 – coincidence?:

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, nicknamed ‘Uncle Bob’, turned 92 on 21 February 2016.

Human rights defenders have been arrested while doing their work and in 92% of the cases the arrests were unjustified and victims acquitted. We have 224 cases of human rights defenders including lawyers, members of civic society organisations, journalists and student activists arrested and charged,” said Dzimbabwe Chimbga of  Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) appearing before the Parliamentary Thematic Committee on Human Rights on 26 February.

Amnesty International’s and Human Rights Watch’s annual reports of 2015 contain enough information to make the 92% a good estimate

For earlier posts on Zimbabwe see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/zimbabwe/

Sources

https://globalvoices.org/2016/02/23/worlds-oldest-president-zimbabwes-robert-mugabe-turns-92/

‘Increasing cases of human rights violations worrisome’ – NewsDay Zimbabwe

Teo Soh Lung: Human Rights Defender from Singapore

February 5, 2016

This month’s profile of a human rights defender in the ISHR Monitor is that of  Teo Soh Lung, Director of Function 8 Limited. The interview was conducted during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Singapore.

Soh Lung started her career as a lawyer with no intention of becoming a public figure, but ‘I always felt that as lawyers we should do more than just earn a living.’  Early in her career Soh Lung worked at a Catholic centre, a form of half-way house, which assisted people ranging from migrant workers, Filipino domestic workers to former convicted offenders. ‘We were happily busy doing this kind of work, not thinking that we were ‘defenders’ as such.’ 

In the early 1980s, Soh Lung became active in the Law Society of Singapore and with a number of other lawyers established the criminal legal aim scheme. In association with the Law Society she started to comment on bills proposed by the Government. ‘We thought, as lawyers we should assist the Government by commenting on bills. Singapore was a one-party State at this time. However, the Government did not want to hear our opinions and soon afterwards a law was passed which restricted our right to comment on bills.’  

On 21 May 1987 Soh Lung was arrested without charge as permitted by the Internal Security Act (ISA). Around this time 21 other young people including lawyers involved in the Law Society were also arrested. ‘I was accused of trying to overthrow the Government and manipulating the Law Society – I was made out by the Government to be the ring leader.’ 

Months later, those detained were released. Given no one knew the truth about what had transpired, 9 out of the 22 arrested decided to publish a press statement which denied the Government’s story and confirmed that they had been tortured while in detention. The next day the 8 of the 9 were re-arrested (the ninth was out of the country). ‘Our cells were incredibly dirty. There were slits for air. I was in solitary confinement the entire time, other than a lizard and insects that kept me company.’ 

While detained, Soh Lung commenced habeas corpus proceedings, arguing that she had been unlawfully detained. ‘Initially Francis Seow, the former Solicitor General, represented my case. However, when he came to the prison to interview me he himself was arrested because he was communicating with international human rights bodies and the American Ambassador – the Government alleged he was receiving money from the CIA. He spent 72 days in jail.’ Soh Lung referred to the difficultly she had finding lawyers to represent her. ‘Historically anyone that represented ISA detainees were then detained themselves.’

When the Court handed down its decision, it decided Soh Lung’s case on technical grounds. This meant that her substantive argument had not been considered – and most importantly – that she could be re-arrested as and when the Government wished. ‘As soon as we stepped outside of the prison gate I was re-arrested. This was, and still is not, unusual. The judicial system doesn’t have any power to keep people free if the Government wants them to remain imprisoned.’  Soh Lung was in prison for another 2 years, during which time the law changed and the right to judicial review, as well as the Privy Council were abolished.

‘As a lawyer if you start a fight, you need to fight until the end. After my appeals of my re-arrests were unsuccessful and the change to the law, I realised there was nothing more I could do with the judiciary to ensure my release. In 1990 after two years of detention, I was released with restrictions.’   It took Soh Lung 20 years to publish the book she wrote about her detention the year after she was released.

‘I knew people would continue to be treated as I was if I didn’t speak out about it. There were people who were arrested before me under the ISA, but I didn’t know about this when I was arrested. I wanted to create awareness within civil society.’  The civil society movement, and in particular ISA defenders, in Singapore went quiet in the 1990’s after Soh Lung’s arrest, but regained strength and became more active about the time of the release of her book and her story.

‘In 2013 there was an event on the 50th anniversary of Operation Cold Store during which names of those who had been arbitrarily detained were made public. A few years after the event, there were 1315 names on the list – which was initially a list of about 700. After all this time and among others who had similarly suffered, people had the strength to speak out about their experience.’ 

In 2010 Soh Lung and others detained with her established Function 8, an NGO which submits on indefinite imprisonment without trial that is currently permitted by three Singaporean statutes – the Internal Security Act, the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act and the Misuse of Drugs Act. Soh Lung travelled to Geneva as an observer on behalf of the Alliance of Like-Minded Civil Society Organisations in Singapore (ALMOS) during Singapore’s UPR. ‘We are excited about engaging more with the UPR. It is a new process for us. One which we believe can assist to hold Singapore accountable to its international obligations and bring about national change, and hopefully one day, the repeal of the ISA.’ 

Source: Defender profile: Teo Soh Lung from Singapore | ISHR

Ongoing police harassment against Imelda Urio and 35 other human rights defenders in Tanzania

November 23, 2015

With International Women Human Rights Defenders Day coming up (29 November) I will pay special attention to questions that concern them. Here a case of police harassment from Front Line concerning Tanzania:  Read the rest of this entry »

Thai journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk about (self)censorship under the junta

June 19, 2015

On 26 May 2015, at the 2015 Oslo Freedom Forum, Thai journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk describes his fight for democracy in his home country following the May 2014 military coup. Talking about his own arrest, Rojanaphruk denounces the limitations to the right to assembly, expression and movement in Thailand, as well as the regime’s efforts to build the illusion of a happy Thailand. Rojanaphruk concludes his presentation by reminding us that tolerance and dialogue are essential if Thailand is to become a democracy again.

for more on Thailand: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/thailand/