Posts Tagged ‘BBC’

3 Saudi women human rights defenders released but for how long? And what about the others?

March 28, 2019

Amnesty International urges Saudi authorities to release activists Loujain al-Hathloul, Eman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef, outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in Paris, March 8, 2019
Protesters called for the female activists’ release at the Saudi embassy in Paris last month – copyright REUTERS

Media just reported that Saudi Arabia has temporarily released three female human rights defenders facing charges related to human rights work and contacting foreigners. Two sources told Reuters that three women had been released, and more would be freed on Sunday.[see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/13/saudi-arabia-persist-with-trial-for-women-human-rights-defenders/]

Amnesty International and UK-based Saudi rights organisation, ALQST, named the women as Eman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef and Roqaya al-Mohareb. Saudi state media said the releases were only provisional. Lynn Maalouf from Amnesty welcomed the releases but said it should not be on a temporary basis. “They have been locked up, separated from their loved ones, subjected to torture and threats for simply peacefully calling for women’s rights and expressing their views,” she said.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-47731946

Saudi Arabia persist with trial for women human rights defenders

March 13, 2019

In spite (or perhaps because) of an exceptional statement in the UN Human Rights Council last week [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/08/saudi-arabia-for-first-time-openly-criticized-in-un-human-rights-council/] and the backlash from the Khashoggi murder [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/07/peter-nkanga-awarded-with-inaugural-jamal-khashoggi-award-for-courageous-journalism/], Saudi Arabia intends to put the detained women’s rights activists on trial. Read the rest of this entry »

Raed Fares Assassinated in Syria [“What can they do? Kill me?”]

November 26, 2018

Raed Fares
Raed Fares’ radio station defied threats from jihadist groups and resisted orders to stop playing musicPresentational white space

Raed Fares, a well-known Syrian activist, was killed in the north-western town of Kafranbel, in the in the rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib. Fares and fellow activist Hamoud Jneed were attacked in their car. Jneed died immediately, while Fares was transferred to Orient Hospital, where he later died. It was not the first time the founder of Radio Fresh, an independent radio station broadcasting from inside opposition-held areas in the country, had been targeted. His activism had earned the ire of both militants and the Syrian government. Four years ago, two gunmen for the Islamic State (IS) militant group shattered several bones and punctured his lung in a failed attempt to silence Fares. More attempts on his life would follow and yet the former estate agent was determined to carry on.

It was not just Fares the militants took issue with. The radio station – with its music and female presenters – also angered the groups which overran the town and surrounding area. Four years ago, when IS had a presence in Idlib province, the station’s office was raided by militants. In 2016, Fares was detained by the Nusra Front, the former al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria.

The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance, which currently controls most of Idlib province, had ordered Radio Fresh to stop broadcasting music. The station’s response was to play long sequences of other sounds, such as tweeting birds, clucking chickens and bleating goats. “They tried to force us to stop playing music on air,” Fares told the BBC in 2017. “So we started to play animals in the background as a kind of sarcastic gesture against them.”

Among the many expressions of concern is the Human Rights Foundation as Fares spoke at its 2017 Oslo Freedom Forum: “We are deeply saddened and disturbed by the assassination of Raed Fares, a dear friend and esteemed member of the Oslo Freedom Forum community. Raed worked tirelessly to counter fundamentalist narratives through journalism and to empower his fellow Syrians to build a better future. His work, bravery, and determination to succeed despite the many threats on his life make him a hero of the Syrian revolution,” HRF Chairman Garry Kasparov said. … Fares first became known outside of Syria in early 2014, when he started writing eye-catching, often sarcastic protest signs and sharing photos of them on social media. ….He quickly became one of the most trusted sources of on-the-ground footage and information on Syria’s continuing conflict. With his death, many reporters outside Syria have lost a vital and increasingly rare source, and agents of misinformation will grow that much stronger in his absence.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-46320355

https://mailchi.mp/db20e9d559e0/off-speaker-raed-fares-assassinated-in-syria?e=f80cec329e

Thai Human Rights Defender ‘Pai Dao Din’ jailed for 2-and-a-half years on lese majeste charge

August 16, 2017

On 15 August 2017, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa received a two and a half years jail sentence after pleading guilty to violating the lèse majesté law. The human rights defender – also known as Pai Dao Din – has been detained since 3 December 2016 in connection with his sharing of a BBC article on the life of King Vajiralongkorn on social media. Pai Dao Din, is leader of a student activist group called Dao Din based in Khon Kaen University. (https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/jatupat-boonpattararaksa). The group advocates for community rights, social justice and democracy. He is also a member of New Democracy Movement (NDM), which opposes the military dictatorship in Thailand, a regime in place since the coup d’etat in May 2014. In May 2017, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa  was awarded the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/05/10/gwangju-award-for-human-rights-defender-pai-dao-din-upsets-thai-government/]The defender was originally sentenced to five years in jail, however this sentence was reduced after he pleaded guilty to sharing material deemed insulting towards the country’s monarchy.

{While authorities did not file charges or even a complaint against the London-based BBC for publishing the article, only Jatupat was arrested. His bail requests were consistently rejected as authorities regarded lèse majesté as a serious charge possibly entailing severe punishment. Domestic and international campaigns over recent months have failed to free him on bail. Prior to the court judgment, Jatupat, who had maintained his innocence for months, agreed to plead guilty after consulting with his family and legal team to get a more lenient sentence.}

 “It appears that Jatupat was singled out, from thousands of people who shared the BBC article, and prosecuted for his strong opposition to military rule rather than any harm incurred by the monarchy,” said Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch. “His guilty verdict and jail sentence show yet again how Thailand’s draconian ‘insulting the monarchy’ law has been misused to punish dissenters.

Source: Activist ‘Pai Dao Din’ jailed for 2-and-a-half years on BBC Thai article lese majeste charge

Andy Hall, British labour labour rights defender, flees Thailand

November 7, 2016

 

British rights activist Andy Hall leaves the Bangkok South Criminal Court
Andy Hall – Image copyright REUTERS

On 7 November 2016, the BBC, Reuters and other media reported that labour rights defender Andy Hall has left Thailand after a three-and-a-half year legal battle with a pineapple processing company accused, in a report he contributed to, of abusing its workforce. The dismissal of one set of charges against the British activist was confirmed by Thailand’s Supreme Court last week. But he was convicted in September on two other counts under sweeping criminal defamation and computer crimes laws and was given a three-year suspended prison sentence. He also faces civil complaints by the pineapple company, Natural Fruit, which is demanding around $12m in damages.

But it was mostly the prospect of further criminal charges over another group of workers he is supporting that persuaded Mr Hall that he should leave Thailand and not returner the time being. He and the 14 migrant workers from Myanmar – who have alleged abusive treatment at the hands of a farm which supplied the big Thai poultry processor, Betagro, with chickens – recently had defamation lawsuits filed against them. [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/andy-hall/]

Before he left Thailand Mr Hall told the BBC that he felt that the prospect of having to contest continuous lawsuits filed against him would make it impossible for him to defend migrant workers’ rights effectively. The situation for human rights defenders, he said in a statement made as he prepared to depart, has rapidly deteriorated in Thailand, with significantly increased risks.

The challenge confronting Mr Hall is one faced by many Thai activists as well. Defamation is a criminal charge that can carry a two-year prison sentence, often used alongside the even tougher Computer Crimes Act, which mandates a sentence of up to five years in prison.

  • Two years ago, the editors of a small newsletter, Phuketwan, were prosecuted by the Thai navy for an article in which they quoted a Reuters news agency report alleging Thai military involvement in human trafficking. They were finally acquitted last year, but the effort of defending themselves contributed to the newsletter being shut down.
  • In June this year three prominent human rights defenders were prosecuted under the same two laws by a unit of the Thai military over a report they took part in which alleged the use of torture against military detainees in southern Thailand.

On Thursday 3 November, the U.N. Human Rights office in Bangkok issued a statement praising the Supreme Court’s decision. But it also called on the Thai government “to drop charges against all human rights defenders who have been charged with criminal offenses for reporting human rights violations in accordance with its obligations under international human rights law.

On 6 October EU Trade Commissioner Cecilie Malmström had strongly backed the British labour rights activist who helped expose labour abuses in Thailand, for which he received a three-year suspended jail sentence. Andy Hall met Malmström in Strasbourg, where MEPs also passed a strong resolution condemning Hall’s treatment under the military junta now running the country.

Sources:

Thai Supreme Court Dismisses Defamation Claim Against Labor Activist – Malaysia Sun

 Andy Hall, British labour rights activist, flees Thailand – BBC News

Malmström backs EU whistleblower over Thai labour rights

Apple tackles iPhone one-tap spyware flaws after MEA Laureate discovers hacking attempt

August 29, 2016

Ahmed Mansoor, the Laureate of the Martin Ennals Award 2015, was the target of a major hacking attempt. Fortunately it received global coverage on 26 and 27 August 2016 and Apple has immediately issued a security update to address the vulnerabilities. [For those with Iphones/Ipads, you may want to update your IOS software to 9.3.5!]


Ahmed MansoorImage copyrightAP – human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor

The flaws in Apple’s iOS operating system were discovered by Mansoor who alerted security researchers to unsolicited text messages he had received on 10 and 11 August. They discovered three previously unknown flaws within Apple’s code that meant spyware could be installed with a single tap. Apple has since released a software update that addresses the problem. The two security firms involved, Citizen Lab and Lookout, said they had held back details of the discovery until the fix had been issued.

The texts promised to reveal “secrets” about people allegedly being tortured in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s jails if he tapped the links. Had he done so, Citizen Lab says, his iPhone 6 would have been “jailbroken”, meaning unauthorised software could have been installed. “Once infected, Mansoor’s phone would have become a digital spy in his pocket, capable of employing his iPhone’s camera and microphone to snoop on activity in the vicinity of the device, recording his WhatsApp and Viber calls, logging messages sent in mobile chat apps, and tracking his movements,” said Citizen Lab. The researchers say they believe the spyware involved was created by NSO Group, an Israeli “cyber-war” company.

Text message
The spyware would have been installed if Mansoor had tapped on the links. Image copyright CITIZENLAB

For more on Mansoor: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/ahmed-mansoor/

Sources:

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-37185544

https://citizenlab.org/2016/08/million-dollar-dissident-iphone-zero-day-nso-group-uae/  (from the researchers who identified the vulnerabilities. Good summary followed by full technical analysis)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3758671/Apple-boosts-iPhone-security-Mideast-spyware-discovery.html

U.N. Rapporteur on Myanmar called “whore” by radical Buddhist monk

January 21, 2015

Myanmar monk's U.N. whore rant
Wirathu:”Just because you hold a position in the United Nations doesn’t make you an honourable woman. In our country, you are just a whore,”

For those who think that hate speech has no place in peace-loving Buddhism, this is sobering item:

A radical Myanmar Buddhist monk, Wirathu,  called the U.N. human rights envoy – Ms Yanghee Lee –  a “whore”, and accused Lee of bias towards Rohingya Muslims, a stateless minority in the western Myanmar state of Rakhine. Wirathu denounced Yanghee Lee, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar before a cheering crowd of several hundred people, in a speech in Yangon on Friday, after she questioned draft laws that critics say discriminate against women and non-Buddhists. “You can offer your arse to the kalars if you so wish but you are not selling off our Rakhine State,” he said. Kalars is a derogatory word for people of South Asian descent.

His speech was condemned by Thawbita, a leading member of the progressive Saffron Revolution Buddhist Monks Network in Mandalay, where Wirathu is also based. “The words used that day are very sad and disappointing. It is an act that could hurt Buddhism very badly,” Thawbita told Reuters. But he is unlikely to face censure. A senior official at the Ministry of Religious Affairs told Reuters there were no plans to act against Wirathu. This is the more remarkable as in December a New Zealander and two Burmese were charged with insulting Buddhism. The arrest was triggered by a complaint by an official from the country’s religious department. [see: http://news/world-asia-30527443]

 

Rapporteur Lee in a statement released by her office on Monday said:  “During my visit I was personally subjected to the kind of sexist intimidation that female human rights defenders experience when advocating on controversial issues“.

Myanmar monk’s U.N. whore rant “could hurt Buddhism” | Asia-Pasific | Worldbulletin News.

How the mighty fall in Uzbekistan: Gulnara Karimova asks human rights protection

August 22, 2014

Gulnara Karimova

Gulnara Karimova (pictured above), the glamorous daughter of Uzbekistan’s president, used to be one of the more powerful people in Central Asia. But now, in secret recordings obtained by the BBC, she says she and her teenaged daughter are being treated “worse than dogs” and need urgent medical help since she has fallen out with her dictator father President Islam Karimov. The BBC news correspondent Natalia Antelava on 21 August reports on this exceptional story.  Natalia Antelava reports that in March 2014, she received and authenticated a handwritten letter from Karimova, in which she said she and her daughter had been placed under house arrest and now the short audio recordings were smuggled out of Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan has a history of human rights violations and Karimova has fully played her role in this sorry state of affairs (see e.g. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/daughter-of-uzbek-dictator-loses-defamation-case-in-paris/. Stroehlein of Human Rights Watch (which will publish next month a report on wrongfully imprisoned people in the country) is understandably cautious when it comes to Karimova’s recent concern for human rights in Uzbekistan, since it follows a decade-long period when the woman known as “Googoosha” wielded immense power in the country. “She almost certainly had top-level regime access to critical information regarding serious and systematic rights abuses in Uzbekistan, and she has had many opportunities to hand that information over to journalists and human rights groups,” he says . “She hasn’t.” 

Read the rest of this entry »

Where is it (il)legal to be gay?

February 6, 2014

The BBC has produced a map which shows the broad legal status of gay people living in UN member states, according to data provided by the UN’s human right’s office, who built on information from the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association.

The legal status of people in same-sex relationships depends very much on where they live. At one end of the spectrum there are those countries that punish homosexuality with the death penalty – Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen – as well as in parts of Nigeria and Somalia. At the other end, there are those countries where gay couples have the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples. However, the categorisation of countries according to their approach to gay rights is not without problems. Some states have conflicting laws on same-sex relationships, simultaneously having laws that punish and protect, while other countries have different laws in different regions. This is reflected in the key. Countries have been categorised by their most progressive or regressive laws, apart from where laws are contradictory. Countries where gay rights vary between states have been coloured by their most progressive or regressive law. [The map does not reflect day-to-day experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans and intersex people. In many places where anti-discrimination laws exist, gay people continue to be persecuted by state authorities and wider society.]

There is also an interesting timeline, pulled together by the UN, which uses 1789 – the date of the French Revolution – as its starting point. It was chosen by the UN as a baseline, as it was a time when homosexuality was criminalised in many countries.

BBC News – Where is it illegal to be gay?.

Russia publishes report on human rights in the EU

January 17, 2014

On 14 January 2014 the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs published its report “On the situation with human rights in the European Union” (posted on the ministry’s website ) in which it claimed that the EU was struck by “serious human rights illnesses.” A large part of he report relies on information from international human rights organizations, such as AI. In the document the Russian Foreign Ministry Read the rest of this entry »