Posts Tagged ‘arbitrary arrest’

Viet Nam: profile of human rights defender Nguyen Thuy Hanh, arrested and charged

April 9, 2021

Responding to the arbitrary arrest of prominent Vietnamese human rights defender Nguyen Thuy Hanh on 7 April , Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns, said:  “The arrest of Nguyen Thuy Hanh is a blatant and politically-motivated attempt to silence one of the most respected human rights advocates in the country.  Nguyen Thuy Hanh is an inspiring activist who has worked tirelessly to support unjustly detained persons in Viet Nam. Despite police beatings and years of harassment, she has remained steadfast in her efforts to help and support those in desperate need. Vietnamese jails are notoriously overcrowded and fail to meet minimum international standards. It is a travesty that Nguyen Thuy Hanh is being targeted for her humanitarian work in support of unjustly detained prisoners. She should be celebrated and supported for this work – not punished. 

We urge the Vietnamese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Nguyen Thuy Hanh and to end their relentless attacks on human rights defenders and peaceful critics. Authorities must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.” [see also yesterday’s: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/04/08/worries-about-rsf-laureate-pham-doan-trang-jailed-in-vietnam/

Nguyen Thuy Hanh is a human rights defender from Ha Noi. She founded the 50K Fund in 2017, through which she fundraised support for the families of unjustly detained persons across Viet Nam.  In 2019 she won the Le Dinh Luong Human Rights Award an award given by the U.S.-based opposition party Viet Tan for her work supporting the families of prisoners of conscience.

She was arrested on 7 April 2021 and charged under Article 117 of the Criminal Code for “making, storing, or spreading information, materials or items for the purpose of opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam”, carrying a potential prison sentence of between five and 20 years.  

Nguyen Thuy Hanh is also a vocal advocate for human rights with a popular Facebook account, where she frequently discusses human rights issues. She has faced multiple instances of harassment in retaliation for her peaceful human rights activism. 

Nguyen Thuy Hanh nominated herself as an independent candidate for Ha Noi City in the 2016 National Assembly election. Since then, she has been subjected to harassment and intimidation on many occasions. Amnesty International recently called on the Vietnamese authorities to end their mounting crackdown on independent candidates and other critical voices ahead of the 2021 National Assembly election. 

In January 2020, when police raided the village of Dong Tam in Ha Noi, leading to a deadly conflict, Nguyen Thuy Hanh fundraised for the family of a village leader who was killed by security forces. In retaliation, her bank account was frozen, with her bank reportedly telling Nguyen Thuy Hanh that police forced them to do so.  

In June 2018, while engaging in a peaceful protest against the Law on Cybersecurity and the Law on Special Economic Zones, Nguyen Thuy Hanh was arrested and detained by police. She reported afterwards that she was severely beaten during the interrogation which resulted in injuries to her face.  Police have also interrogated Nguyen Thuy Hanh on her work relating to the 50k Fund on many occasions.   

Amnesty International’s 2016 report, Prisons Within Prisons, documented the widespread torture and other ill-treatment which prisoners of conscience are subjected to in Viet Nam. 

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/04/nguyen-thuy-hanh-arrested-and-charged/

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam/award-12112019155718.html

Turkey: arrests and backsliding on femicide

March 22, 2021

Living close to Turkey, I follow the situation there perhaps with more worry than others. And nothing good seems to happen:

Turkish police detained three district heads of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and seven others in Istanbul on Friday over alleged links to militants, police said, two days after a court case began over banning the party.

Separately, Turkey’s Human Rights Association (IHD) co-chairman Ozturk Turkdogan was arrested by police at his home, IHD said, prompting human rights groups to call for his release. Turkdogan was then released on Friday evening, the association said.

Responding to the arrest today of Öztürk Türkdoğan, the president of Turkey’s Human Rights Organisation, Esther Major, Amnesty International’s Senior Research Adviser for Europe, said:

“The detention of Öztürk Türkdoğan is outrageous. With ink barely dry on the Human Rights Action Plan announced by President Erdoğan two weeks ago, his arrest reveals that this document is not worth the paper it is written on.

After over three years in jail without a conviction, one of Turkey’s highest-profile detainees, Osman Kavala, is “not optimistic” that President Tayyip Erdogan’s planned reforms can change a judiciary he says is being used to silence dissidents.
A philanthropist, 63-year-old Kavala told Reuters that after decades of watching Turkey’s judiciary seeking to restrict human rights, it was now engaged in “eliminating” perceived political opponents of Erdogan’s government.
Kavala was providing written responses via his lawyers to Reuters’ questions days after Erdogan outlined a “Human Rights Action Plan” that was said will strengthen rights to a free trial and freedom of expression. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/09/16/osman-kavala-and-mozn-hassan-receive-2020-international-hrant-dink-award/ and

Not surprisingly this is leading to reactions, such as a bipartisan letter penned by 170 members of the US Congress to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in which the lawmakers have urged President Joe Biden’s administration to consider the “troubling human rights abuses” in Turkey.  “President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party have used their nearly two decades in power to weaken Turkey’s judiciary, install political allies in key military and intelligence positions, crack down on free speech and (the) free press,” the letter said. Dated 26 February but made public on 1 March, the letter asks Washington to formulate its policy regarding Turkey considering human rights, saying that the Erdogan administration has strained the bilateral relationship. 

On top of this Turkey has pulled out of the world’s first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women by presidential decree, in the latest victory for conservatives in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party. The 2011 “Istanbul Convention| [SIC], signed by 45 countries and the European Union, requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting domestic violence and similar abuse as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation. Conservatives had claimed the charter damages family unity, encourages divorce and that its references to equality were being used by the LGBT community to gain broader acceptance in society. The publication of the decree in the official gazette early Saturday sparked anger among rights groups and calls for protests in Istanbul. Women have taken to the streets in cities across Turkey calling on the government to keep to the 2011 Istanbul Convention.

Gokce Gokcen, deputy chairperson of the main opposition CHP party said abandoning the treaty meant “keeping women second class citizens and letting them be killed.” “Despite you and your evil, we will stay alive and bring back the convention,” she said on Twitter. Last year, 300 women were murdered according to the rights group We Will Stop Femicide Platform.
The platform called for a “collective fight against those who dropped the Istanbul convention,” in a message on Twitter.
The Istanbul convention was not signed at your command and it will not leave our lives on your command,” its secretary general Fidan Ataselim tweeted.

Kerem Altiparmak, an academic and lawyer specializing in human rights law, likened the government’s shredding of the convention to the 1980 military coup. “What’s abolished tonight is not only the Istanbul convention but the parliament’s will and legislative power,” he commented.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1822001/middle-east

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/turkey-outrageous-arrest-lawyer-makes-mockery-erdogans-human-rights-reforms

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1828581/middle-east

https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2021-03-19/turkish-police-detain-pro-kurdish-party-officials-anadolu

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1818641/middle-east

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/03/24/turkey-erdogans-onslaught-rights-and-democracy

Profile of Muay: A Laotian Woman Human Rights Defender

March 18, 2021

On 17 a blog post in hrcessex by Sarah Mui profiles Muay: “A Fierce Woman Human Rights Defender”

Houayheung (“Muay”) Xayabouly is not only a mother, small business owner and the primary breadwinner of her family, but shehas also been breaking down stereotypical gender roles by being a fierce human rights defender and environmental activist in Laos.She is viewed as a public figure among her community because of her work to shed light onto the countless human rights violations that she and fellow Lao people have endured at the hands of the national government. In 2019, the Lao government decided to make an example out of Muay and unjustly sentenced her to five years in prison, for which she was stripped of all fair trial guarantees. In honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, I urge all who read this to remember her name, learn her fight and spread awareness to demand that all charges be dropped and Muay be set free.

Photo courtesy of Manushya Foundatio

In 2017, Muay began raising awareness on social media over the excessive tolls that she along with other people in her community were being charged when crossing a bridge on the border of Laos and Thailand. The cost of the toll was equivalent to several meals, but Lao people relied on it to travel to and from work each day, including Muay herself. It turned out that the Lao government had given the private international company, Duangdee, the concession to charge the toll when it constructed the bridge in the first place. This concession left her community in an impossible situation where they were perpetually indebted to this private company who took advantage of the bridge’s necessity. Muay’s video about the toll deeply resonated with the Lao people, who agreed that the government benefited from the financial relationship with Duangdee. This made Muay realize the importance of using her voice to speak up for Lao people, and it was then that she made the decision to dedicate her life to fighting for them.   

The Lao government did nothing in response to their people’s outcry over the excessive tolls, but rather chose to focus attention on finding ways to intimidate Muay. Soon after the video went viral, the police were sent to her location to warn her to not criticize it.

In 2018, Muay challenged the Lao government over the corrupt hiring practices of public sector and governmental positions in that they were being appointed on the condition of bribes instead of through proper hiring procedures. This was quite personal for Muay because her own brother had been deeply impacted by this practice. He had always aspired to become a police officer but was cheated out of money and the position of his dreams due to these dishonorable practices. Muay’s video discussing the topic received over 320,000 views as of July last year. 

Soon after Muay’s widely viewed video, she was fired from her job as a tour guide for “unknown” reasons other than the fact her employer had been mysteriously pressured to do so. 

Muay was not going to let the government deter her from helping Lao people. Later that year, she decided to create a school for Lao children to address the dire inequalities that they faced in accessing education. The current practice was for parents to pay a bribe to secure a spot for their children, otherwise they could not provide them an education. She started multiple fundraisers to accomplish this goal, including selling shirts that said, “I don’t want to buy government positions,” referencing the Lao government’s corrupt hiring practices in addition to holding a concert featuring a number of local performers. 

Again, instead of actually listening to the suffering of its people, the government chose to continue to try to intimidate Muay by shutting down the fundraising concert and prohibiting the selling of shirts. 

The year 2018 was also troubling because that summer a dam collapsed in Attapeu Province, which led to numerous deaths, disappearances and displacements of Lao people. The government purportedly underreported the impact of the collapse and restricted access to the scene by the media and independent aid organizations. Muay decided to take matters into her own hands and post her own videos of the disaster and its significant effect on the community. 

In response to the shocking video, Muay was called to the police station and was told to cease all criticism of the Lao government. 

Around the same time, Muay had learned that donations for the impacted families of the dam collapse were being sold by Lao police for their own monetary gain. She could not allow her community to suffer so she started collecting donations for them herself. She documented and shared this all on social media.

Within a few days, the Lao government issued a press statement advising the public against reading “unofficial news” about the collapse. 

In the autumn of 2019, the Lao people who lived close to the dam were again harmed after a tropical storm caused major flooding, leaving over 100,000 displaced from their homes. Again, disturbed by the Lao government’s indifference towards its people, Muay posted another video calling the government out for its slow response and its lack of preventative measures which could have mitigated the storm’s impact.  

Around the same time, the Lao government sent police to arrest Muay without a warrant while she was dining at a restaurant. She tried to post a video about what had happened, but she was forced to delete it. She was then placed in pre-trial detention long before her hearing and was denied an impartial lawyer and the ability to challenge her detention. She was subject to repeated long interrogations where she was coerced to confess to “spreading propaganda against the Lao government.” She was subsequently sentenced to five years in prison, for which she visitation has been limited and closely monitored. She has not been able to see her young daughter but a handful of times and international NGOs have been completely barred.

Photo courtesy of Manushya Foundation

The Lao Government is Using Muay as an Example to Silence Dissent 

Muay is a strong and dedicated woman human rights defender and environmental activist who has fought endlessly for her community. Instead of taking accountability and listening to the suffering of its people, the Lao government has instead chosen to turn a blind eye to its human rights obligations and punish Muay for her significant contributions to her country. Until now, Muay’s story has only been made available by a few NGOs working hard to shed light onto her fervent advocacy and now wrongful detention. To spread the word about her fight, please share this blog, follow #FreeMuay and visit this link to demand that Muay be set free!

About the Author: Sarah Mui is an American human rights lawyer currently in the LLM for International Human Rights Law program at the University of Essex. She is also a research assistant with the Manushya Foundation located in Bangkok. Sarah hopes to work in the field women’s rights upon graduation. 

https://hrcessex.wordpress.com/2021/03/17/muay-a-fierce-woman-human-rights-defender/

Garifuna rights defenders in Honduras should be released.

March 16, 2021

Defensoras garífunas

Sunday March 7 2021 an initial hearing was held in the court at Trujillo, Colón, in which Marianela Solórzano and Jennifer Solórzano, women human rights defenders belonging to the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), are on trial. Both were arrested by the Public Security Force (FUSEP) on March 3rd, and charged with damages, threats, robbery and usurpation of lands. 

In the trial records they are incriminated for the offenses of land usurpation, involving other Garifuna defenders, as well. The charges against them are related to the historic process of resistance by the Garifuna people to the plunder of their lands. Private businesses and governments alike have participated in the illegal appropriation of the ancestral territory of the Garifuna people, particularly the ownership of more than seven thousand hectares of land in the Cristales and Rio Negro communities confirmed by ancestral property deeds.  

Marianela is a defender of the rights of the LGBTI Garifuna community, and Jennifer, a defender of the ancestral Garifuna territories. Their arrests took place in the context of the continuous persecution and attacks against the Garifuna people organized in OFRANEH.

Historically, the communities belonging to OFRANEH have been the target of harassment, threats by armed groups, assassinations, and the disappearance of community leaders, among other highly serious rights violations. During the last ten years, these have only worsened due to the authoritarian criminal government model headed by Juan Orlando Hernández. Eight months ago, five Garifuna comrades were disappeared by armed men wearing uniforms of the Office of Police Investigations (DPI) of Honduras. As of now, their whereabouts are unknown. 

National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders in Honduras, the Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders (IM-Defensoras), and many other groups and networks of women human rights defenders in Mesoamerica, as well as the FIDH call on all feminist and LGBTI social movements and the international community to stay on the alert for developments in this case and to demand a hearing with full guarantees for the rights of the criminalized Garifuna defenders. 

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/25/four-honduran-woman-human-rights-defenders-say-why-funders-need-to-prioritize-social-movmements/

They demand the immediate freedom and point out that Marianela and Jennifer are human rights defenders, not criminals.  

http://im-defensoras.org/2021/03/urgent-alert-honduras-arrested-garifuna-rights-defenders-will-have-hearing-this-sunday-march-7th-the-international-community-demands-their-release/

https://www.fidh.org/es/temas/defensores-de-derechos-humanos/honduras-criminalizacion-de-las-defensoras-garifunas-marianela-y

Profile in Persecution: Hasan Radhi AlBaqali

March 3, 2021

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) posted on 18 the following profile on Hasan Radhi AlBaqali who was a 28-year-old security personnel at a private company when he was arrested by Omani authorities on 22 February 2016 at Muscat Airport Oman based on Bahrain’s allegations, via INTERPOL, that he was a fugitive from justice. During his detention, he was subjected to torture and to several human rights violations. Recently, his health condition has been deteriorating, and he has not been provided with adequate medical care. He is currently held in Jau Prison.

At the end of 2012, Hasan left Bahrain into exile. While being in exile between 2012 and 2016, he was convicted in absentia with: 1) Disturbing the peace, 2) rioting, 3) placement of objects resembling explosive devices, 4) arson, 5) possession and fabrication of combustible or explosive materials, 6) possession of arms, 7) travelling to Iran to receive military training, and 8) membership in a terrorist cell. Consequently, he was sentenced in absentia to nearly 100 years in prison. It is believed that Hasan’s conviction was due to his peaceful participation in the 2011 pro-democracy protests in Bahrain.

On 22 February 2016, airport security officers at Muscat Airport Oman arrested Hasan based on Bahrain’s allegations, via INTERPOL, that he was a fugitive from justice. Then, he was turned over to Bahraini security forces, who put him aboard one of their private planes, drugged him via several injections which knocked him unconscious, and flew him back to Bahrain. His personal belongings including phone, money, passport, and national ID card were taken from him en route and have not since been returned to him or his family. After arriving in Bahrain, Hasan was transferred to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) building in Adliya.

From the date of arrest till the next day, 23 February, Hasan was subject to enforced disappearance until 10 p.m. of 23 February when he was able to call his family, telling them that he was in the CID building. The family received this call after multiple attempts to reach him through the Omani Embassy and through several human rights organizations.

Hasan was interrogated for 15 days between the CID and Building 15 of Jau Prison, where he was tortured by National Security Agency (NSA) officers and CID officers in order to give a false confession. He was beaten on his head, neck, and stomach, subjected to electric shocks to his testicles, placed naked in a cold room and submerged in cold water, deprived from sleep, and threatened with his life and wife. As a result, he confessed to the charges attributed to him. During this period, Hasan’s lawyer was unable to attend the interrogations, and Hasan was unable to meet his parents. Instead, he was able to only call them four times during this entire period, where the duration of each call was less than one minute.

Hasan was prevented from attending his trial, and he was brought to court once but was forced to remain in the police vehicle outside under the pretext that there were not enough police officers present to guard him inside the courtroom. Consequently, he was convicted in November 2016 of attempting to kill a policeman, although he was outside Bahrain when this incident happened. Therefore, he was sentenced to an additional 7 years in prison. Hasan appealed his sentence, and on 2 February 2017, the Appeals Court reduced his sentence from seven years to five years. On 15 May 2018, in an unfair mass trial that involved 138 individuals, the Bahraini Fourth High Criminal Court convicted Hasan of: 1) training to the use of firearms and explosive devices for terrorist purposes, (2) possession of firearms without a license and using them for purposes contrary to safety and public order for terrorist aims, and (3) the charge of joining a terrorist group, Zulfiqar Brigades, whose purpose violates the provisions of the constitution. Consequently, he was sentenced to another 7 years in prison, in addition to the revocation of his nationality.

In November 2016, following the issuance of the seven-year sentence against him, Hasan was subjected to a second and more severe round of torture. He was beaten on his head, stomach, and waist, and he was repeatedly electroshocked on his testicles. This torture led to a severe deterioration in Hasan’s health. He suffered from loss of focus due to frequent head injuries, severe injury to his testicles as he began to urinate blood, and chronic abdominal pain.

At that point, the Office of the Public Prosecutor (PPO) ordered that he be examined at Salmaniya hospital. The decision may have been motivated by the fact that Hasan’s sister filed complaints with both the Office of the Ombudsman and the Special Investigations Unit. An examination at the hospital on 19 November 2016 found that he had suffered “testicular trauma,” with edematic swelling of the left testicle and epididymis to more than one third larger than the normal size. He was removed from the hospital and returned to prison before he could complete a proper course of treatment, and the family has not been given full access to his hospital records. The PPO insists that the medical records should stay under their custody and that if the family wants any medical information they should seek it through the prosecutor’s office. Throughout this second round of interrogations, Hasan was also denied access to an attorney, was not allowed to receive visits from his family, and his phone calls to family were limited to a single minute.

Recently, Hasan’s health has been deteriorating since the injuries sustained from torture were not treated properly. He was seeing blood in his urine and feces as well as feeling severe pain in his stomach, kidneys, and bladder. In light of this, in the beginning of January, he was taken to an appointment in the Military Hospital and did the PCR test ahead of a surgery for varicose in his testicles which was scheduled for the third week of January 2021. However, instead of being returned to Building 14 and placed in isolation, he was taken to solitary confinement in the isolation building, Building 15 of Jau Prison. He was not informed of the steps to be followed ahead of the surgery, leaving him with no knowledge about his situation. Additionally, he was not given any medication to ease the pain he was feeling. Finally, within the closed cell, he could not know day from night and as such could not pray. These conditions took a psychological toll on Hasan since the pain, coupled with the isolation and lack of knowledge about his fate, brought him to the point of hysteria. Furthermore, he had been prohibited from contacting his family since his transfer, therefore making him forcibly disappeared. He was only able to call them on 16 January after going on a hunger strike in order to pressure authorities to grant him the right to call. In that call, he explained to them what occurred over the last two weeks and requested that they contact governmental bodies in order to alleviate his suffering. Although the family did contact the Ombudsman Office, because they are not routinely informed about his medical situation, they could not provide all the relevant information.

Hasan’s arrest, confiscation of his belongings, torture, unfair mass trial, denial of medical treatment, and enforced disappearance violate both the Bahraini Constitution as well as international obligations to which Bahrain is party, namely, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Since Hasan was arrested for political reasons and given that his conviction depended on forced false confessions, we can conclude that he is arbitrarily detained by Bahraini authorities.

Accordingly, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls on Bahraini authorities to uphold their human rights obligations by investigating all allegations of torture, enforced disappearance, and denial of proper medical treatment to ensure accountability. ADHRB also demands that Hasan be provided with the required medical treatment for all the injuries and health problems resulting from torture within safe and healthy conditions. ADHRB reiterates its demand for Bahraini authorities to release Hasan immediately, along with all political prisoners that were tried based on confessions taken under torture.

Crackdown habit now extends to Hong Kong

January 7, 2021

For those who thought that the new National Security Law (NSL) in Hong Kong would not be used so harshly or quickly, the latest salvo against the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong is a rude wake up call: more than 50 people were arrested in the early hours of Wednesday 6 January 2021. Pro-democracy politicians and campaigners had their homes raided before being detained in an unprecedented crackdown. On 6 January 2021 Seth Farsides for the International Observatory for Human Rights described the scene:

In total, 53 individuals were detained on 6 January 2021 under provisions of the National Security Law (NSL), which was imposed on Hong Kong by the Chinese mainland in June 2020. The individuals stand accused of “subverting state power”, following a number of primaries being conducted for pro-democracy candidates ahead of the delayed Hong Kong election which had been due to take place in September 2020.

Today’s raids further demonstrate Carrie Lam’s willingness to stifle opposition movements and deny the people of Hong Kong a free and fair election. More than 1,000 officers were involved in an operation that “look[ed] more like a purge than law enforcement” according to Tom Cheshire, Asia correspondent for Sky news.

Among those arrested were several former lawmakers and district councillors, organiser of the primaries Benny Tai and American lawyer John Clancey and Robert Chung who provided the technology that carried out the poll through the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, of which he is the executive director.

It was reported that Joshua Wong was also raided by police, according to his Twitter account, while newspapers Apple Daily and the Stand were visited by police seeking contact information of primary candidates. {see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/12/10/albert-ho-wins-baldwin-medal-2020/]

Many of those arrested managed to livestream the events, with at least one capturing footage of authorities confirming their arrest was linked to participating in primary polling. Pro-Democrats had been aiming to win 35 seats in the upcoming election, a majority in the 70 seat LegCo.

Valerie Peay, Director of the International Observatory of Human Rights and past Hong Kong resident voiced her outrage at the move, saying:

At what point of this travesty will the UK Government hold China accountable for not only dismantling all protections put in place to protect the rights of the Hong Kong people but corrupting all sense of the rule of law? Almost all of the people arrested today were born in Hong Kong pre 1997 under British freedoms. Do their lives count for so little that we will not lift a finger to protect them now less than 24 years later?

In practice, this means that acts considered commonplace in western democracies – such as standing in elections – can now be punished in the once semi-autonomous city. Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director Yamini Mishra said:

Charging dozens of pro-democracy lawmakers and activists with ‘subversion’, just because they held their own informal primary contest, is a blatant attack on their rights to peaceful expression and association. People have a legitimate right to take part in public affairs. Political opposition should not be silenced just because the authorities don’t like it.

This is not the first crackdown under the NSL – although it is the most extensive single operation. In December 2020, the owner of Hong Kong tabloid Apple Daily, Jimmy Lai was charged with violating the law and Tony Chung, a teenage activist, was found guilty under the law for defiling a Chinese flag….

Between China’s election in October and taking its seat on the Human Rights Council on 1 January 2021, IOHR tracked over 100 human rights abuses, not including the ongoing daily abuse of the Uyghur Muslims. Within this, 17 abuses directly related to China’s actions in Hong Kong, including: The arbitrary detention of Hong Kong residents, establishment of a ‘snitching hotline’ incentivising residents to report violations of the NSL, requiring lawmakers to pass a ‘patriotism’ test, and the detention of three opposition lawmakers.

A slither of hope for those detained today might manifest in Hong Kong’s courtrooms. So far, Hong Kong’s courts have dismissed many of the charges brought against protesters under former laws and Hong Kong’s, albeit outgoing, chief justice has reaffirmed the courts commitment to the rule of law.

Worryingly, the NSL provides for the possibility of trials on the Chinese mainland and China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office has also lobbied for the need for “”judicial reform” in Hong Kong itself.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/12/18/chinas-continuing-crackdown-on-human-rights-lawyers-shocking-say-un-experts/

https://mailchi.mp/hrf.org/last-chance-to-support-hrf-in-287987?e=f80cec329e

Ugandan Human rights defender Nicholas Opiyo arrested like a criminal

December 23, 2020

Colin Stewart posted on December 22, 2020 in 76Crimes.com the story of how on 22 December the Ugandan police seized highly respected human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo from a restaurant where he was eating, forced him into a van and drove away with him. He was recently released on bail: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/uganda-leading-rights-lawyer-released-on-bail/2093856

Nicholas Opiyo is confronted outside a magistrate court in 2018 after attempting to prosecute Uganda’s chief of police. (Photo courtesy of Nicholas Opiyo)

In a message on its Facebook page, the Uganda Police Force stated that Opiyo was arrested by a “Joint Task team of Security and Financial Intelligence, on allegations of money laundering and related malicious acts. The investigations are progressing well and any new developments will be communicated in due course,” the message continued. “He remains in our custody at the Special Investigations Division.”

Opiyo, a strong ally of the LGBTI community in Uganda, is the executive director and lead attorney of Chapter Four Uganda, a human rights advocacy organization. As an attorney, he represented presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine) after Wine’s arrest before a campaign rally on Nov. 18. That arrest sparked widespread violence. Opiyo said Wine was arrested on a coronavirus violation, but “the actual reason really is that it is part of the broader attempt to stifle opposition campaigns.” He noted that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was also holding political rallies during the same period, but without police interference.

The Chimp Reports news site reported:

National Unity Platform Presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Bobi Wine claimed Opiyo was arrested because he was looking into the aftermath of the November 18th protests in which over 50 people were killed. The protests were sparked by the arrest of the candidate. Bobi Wine said Opiyo was “abducted by security from restaurant in Kamwokya [a section of Kampala, the capital of Uganda], alongside other lawyers investigating murders of 18th & 19th, Nov. Thrown into private van with tinted glasses and  driven at breakneck speed to unknown destination.”

The Uganda Police Force message about Opiyo was harshly criticized in hundreds of comments on Facebook, including remarks.

The website of Chapter Four Uganda states about Opiyo:

He is the recipient of German Africa Prize, 2017, Voices for Justice Award from Human Rights Watch, 2015 and the European Union Parliament Sakharov Fellows Prize, 2016. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/08/11/4-human-rights-defenders-receiving-the-alison-des-forges-award-2015/]

He was until March of 2017, a member of the Team of Expert to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Peaceful Assembly and Association. He is also a visiting scholar at the Centre for African Studies, Stanford University, CA, USA and the Global Health Program at the University of San Francisco (UCSF), California, USA.

Nicholas is the Board Chair of Action Aid Uganda, a member of the Human Rights Advisory Board BENETECH, a Silicon Valley human rights and tech company based in Palo Alto in California and African Middle Eastern Leadership Project (AMEL), a Washington, DC-based think and action group.

On 29 December a group of UN experts expressed their concern: https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/12/1081072

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/dec/23/uganda-detains-leading-lawyer-for-lgbt-rights-on-money-laundering-charges

Vietnam detaines human rights defender Pham Doan Trang just after concluding its annual human rights dialogue with the USA

October 8, 2020

Prominent Vietnamese activist Pham Doan Trang was arrested on the night of October 6 [File: Adam Bemma/Al Jazeera]
Prominent Vietnamese activist Pham Doan Trang was arrested on the night of October 6 [File: Adam Bemma/Al Jazeera]

On 7 October 2020 al-jazeera reported that Vietnam has detained prominent human rights defender and writer Pham Doan Trang just hours after the conclusion of its annual human rights dialogue with the United States. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/16/rsfs-press-freedom-award-2019-goes-to-three-women-journalists/]

Trang, a 42-year-old former journalist-turned-activist, was arrested at her home in Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday night, and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda”, an offence that carries a jail term of long as 20 years, Defending the Defenders said in a statement.

So far this year, Vietnam has arrested at least 25 activists as well as 29 land petitioners, bringing the total number of prisoners of conscience to 258, the rights group added. Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch’s Asia deputy director, said Vietnam was taking a “scorched-earth response” to political dissent.

Despite suffering years of systemic government harassment, including severe physical attacks, Trang has remained faithful to her principles of peaceful advocacy for human rights and democracy,” Robertson said. “Her thoughtful approach to reforms and demands for people’s real participation in their governance are messages the Vietnam government should listen to and respect, not repress.

Trang’s writing covers a wide range of issues including LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, the environment, and democratic activism. Most of her work is published clandestinely including the best-selling Politics for the Common People, which is akin to a guide for fledgeling activists.

She is also known for her on-the-ground activism, taking part in rallies in support of imprisoned dissidents, the environment and in response to China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea.

Trang has been on the radar of the security forces for more than 10 years and has been detained and harassed a number of times, including while she was on her way to a meeting with then-US President Barack Obama in 2016, and, a year later, after she met a European Union delegation on a fact-finding mission ahead of its annual human rights dialogue with Vietnam.

Her latest arrest came only a few hours after Vietnam had wrapped up its annual human rights dialogue with the US. The US State Department said in a statement that the virtual meeting lasted three hours and covered a range of rights issues including “continued progress and bilateral cooperation on the rule of law, freedom of expression and association, religious freedom and labor rights”.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/10/7/vietnam-arrests-leading-democracy-activist-after-us-rights-talks

https://thediplomat.com/2020/10/scorched-earth-vietnam-arrests-leading-dissident-activist-and-blogger/

Cambodia: Arbitrary arrest of Mother Nature activists

September 9, 2020

On 8 September 2020 the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests  urgent intervention in the arbitrary arrest of Mother Nature activists Thun Ratha, Long Kunthea and Phoun Keo Reaksme in Cambodia.

The three environmental activists and members of “Mother Nature”, were arrested for denouncing the exploitation of Phnom Penh‘s Bueng Ta-mouk lake. The project aims to build a military base, which will destroy the habitat of many bird species and damage biodiversity, and is also expected to cause significant flooding in Phnom Penh.  According to the information received, on September 3, 2020, Ms. Long Kunthea and Ms. Phoun Keo Reaksmey were arrested by police in Phnom Penh as they were about to walk from Wat Phnom to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house in order to request a meeting with the Prime Minister to share their concerns over a number of environmental issues, including the development of Bueng Ta-mouk lake. On the same day, Mr. Thun Ratha was arrested at his home in Khan Pur Sentchey District, Phnom Penh, by around 25 police officers, who surrounded the property for approximately two hours before arresting him. The police padlocked the property shut and left a letter displayed on the door informing that the operation was taken on the grounds that Mr. Thun Ratha “published the information without legal permission”, without specifying which information was published or what the legal grounds were for requiring permission over such a publication.

On September 6, 2020, the three were charged with “incitement to cause societal chaos” (articles 494 and 495 of the Cambodian Criminal Code) and placed in pre-trial detention. They could face up to two years in prison. Mr. Thun Ratha was taken to the Correctional Center 1 while Ms. Long Kunthea and Ms. Phoun Keo Reaksmey were taken to the Correctional Center 2.

The Observatory reiterates its deepest concern about the fact that Cambodian authorities regularly use legal harassment and the politicised judicial system to target land and environmental activists and recalls in particular that this is not the first time that Mr. Thun Ratha and other Mother Nature activists have faced harassment.

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/cambodia/incitement-09082020201342.html

https://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/cambodia/2020/09/d26068/

16 NGOs call on UN to convene special session on crackdown in Belarus

August 27, 2020

Police officers detaining a protester in Minsk on 10 August © Natalia Fedosenko/TASS

An open letter has been signed by: Article 19, Assembly of Pro-Democratic NGOs of Belarus, Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House, Belarusian Association of Journalists, Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Civil Rights Defenders, Human Constanta, Human Rights House Foundation, Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), La Strada International, Legal Initiative, Legal Transformation center (Lawtrend), Viasna Human Rights Center and World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).

The UN Human Rights Council must urgently convene a special session to address the human rights crisis in Belarus. The joint letter expresses the organisations’ “utmost concern” over “widespread violations of human rights, including arbitrary arrests, prosecutions under trumped-up charges, and torture and other ill-treatment”.

The letter calls on the council to adopt a resolution requesting the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to monitor and report on human rights abuses in Belarus with “a view to ensuring full accountability”.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/13/what-can-we-do-about-the-result-of-the-belarussian-election-on-line-discussion-today-at-14h00/

[In the three days after the 9 August presidential election, the authorities in Belarus confirmed the arrest of at least 6,700 protesters. According to Viasna Human Rights Center, at least 450 of the detainees reported being tortured or otherwise ill-treated – including through severe beatings, being forced to perform humiliating acts, being threatened with rape and other forms of violence – while held in incommunicado detention for up to ten days.

Since 12 August, the authorities have taken steps to de-escalate the situation, refraining from mass arrests and releasing those detained. However, the threats against peaceful protesters recently made by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his subordinates together with the recent deployment of the armed forces in the country’s capital Minsk and elsewhere, signal a possible new spiral of violence and accompanying human rights violations.]

Here the Letter in full:

Click to access civil-society-organizations-call-on-the-united-nations-human-rights-council-to-convene-a-special-session-on-belarus.pdf