Posts Tagged ‘CIVICUS’

Don’t let Tajikistan human rights defender Yorov celebrate his 50th birthday in jail!

July 9, 2021

Buzurgmehr Yorov, a Tajikistani human rights lawyer (Photo supplied)Buzurgmehr Yorov, a Tajikistani human rights lawyer (Photo supplied)

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On 9 July 2021, Buzurgmehr Yorov, a Tajikistani human rights lawyer and outspoken critic of the government, risks to mark his 50th birthday behind bars. Yorov was wrongfully imprisoned in September 2015 and sentenced to 22 years on trumped-up charges. [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/00187e62-3527-4167-93e2-45c84b098562]. Human rights organisations CIVICUS and the International Partnership of Human Rights (IPHR) call for his immediate and unconditional release.

In 2015, Buzurgmehr was arrested after representing members and leaders of the banned opposition party, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRTP). Following his arrest, he was interrogated for ten hours and allegedly beaten. He was then detained for eight months before his trial began – during this time he was physically abused and held in solitary confinement on many occasions.  

In a series of closed and unfair trials held between October 2016 and August 2017, the human rights lawyer was convicted on various charges, including overthrowing the government, inciting unrest, and insulting the President and government officials. Although his sentence was reduced by six years in November 2019 to mark the 25th anniversary of Tajikistan’s constitution, he is currently being held in the Strict Regime Prison Colony No.1 in Dushanbe.

In May 2019, the UN Human Rights Council concluded that Buzurgmehr’s arbitrary detention is against international law, and it called on the Tajikistan authorities to release him immediately.  See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/29/in-tajikistan-lawyers-have-to-be-human-rights-defenders/

“The Tajikistani authorities use intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrest, threats and criminal prosecution to pressure independent lawyers to drop or refrain from taking up cases and issues considered to be politically sensitive. Burzurgmehr Yorov was brave enough to try to do his job despite this pressure. The international community should urge the Tajikistani authorities to implement UN recommendations and release him immediately,” said Brigitte Dufour, Director of IPHR. 

Buzurgmehr has repeatedly been subjected to torture and ill-treatment in detention, including severe beatings and periods in solitary confinement. His family are particularly concerned about his health during the COVID-19 pandemic, as several fellow prisoners have contracted the virus and died.  

Buzurgmehr Yorov has been a vocal critic of government abuse and has been awarded numerous international prizes in recognition of his contribution to democratic and civil rights in Tajikistan. After founding Sipar law firm in 2007, he frequently represented government critics and provided legal assistance to victims of human rights violations. 

Buzurgmehr’s family recall one occasion before his detention – when the police demanded he accompany them to the station, Buzurgmehr replied, “Here, in the office of the bar, there are people who came from afar, from different parts of the country to see me. I will never make them wait just because I am urgently called to talk to the head of the Interior Ministry’s Department for Combating Organized Crime. Even if President Emomali Rahmon invites me to talk – until I fulfill my duties to clients, I’m not going anywhere.”

Buzurgmehr’s detention marks a concerning trend in Tajikistan, where independent lawyers are increasingly facing intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrest, threats and criminal prosecution, in an attempt to stop them from taking on politically sensitive cases.  

Buzurgmehr Yorov is one of the faces of CIVICUS’s international #StandAsMyWitness campaign, calling for the release of imprisoned human rights defenders across the world. Ahead of Buzurgmehr Yorov’s 50th birthday, CIVICUS and IPHR join calls for his immediate and unconditional release. The international community must continue to put pressure on the Tajikistani authorities to improve the situation of lawyers in the country and to respect fundamental rights.

Tajikistan is rated as ‘repressed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, CIVICUS’s online platform that measures civic freedoms, including the freedoms of expression, association and assembly, in every country across the world.

IPHR: International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) is an independent, non-governmental organization founded in 2008. Based in Brussels, IPHR works closely together with civil society groups from different countries to raise human rights concerns at the international level and promote respect for the rights of vulnerable communities.

https://www.eurasiareview.com/08072021-call-for-tajikistan-to-release-human-rights-lawyer-ahead-of-50th-birthday-behind-bars/

10th edition of CIVICUS’s State of Civil Society Report (2021)

May 26, 2021

Protests prove the power of collective action as states fail pandemic test, says new report

As COVID-19 swept the globe, deepening existing fault-lines in societies and generating fear and uncertainty, many governments used the pandemic as a pretext to clamp down on civic freedoms, sparking protests in many countries. The annual State of Civil Society Report 2021, by global civil society alliance CIVICUS, shows that despite the odds, millions of people around the world mobilised to demand more just, equal and sustainable societies during the pandemic.

Mobilising against the odds

Globally, the mass mobilisation that made headlines and changed the conversation was the resurgence of demands for racial justice under the Black Lives Matter banner in the USA and beyond following the police killing of George Floyd in May 2020. People from all walks of life came to the streets to demand an end to systemic racism and police brutality.

The scourge of racism was highlighted in places as diverse as Colombia, the Netherlands and South Africa. The determination to end police brutality resonated widely, encouraging uprisings against police violence, notably in Nigeria.

Even in highly repressive countries, people bravely put their bodies on the line to oppose abusive power and demand democratic freedoms.

India witnessed the largest coordinated strike in world history as farmers defied brutal tactics to protest against corporate capture and elite collusion. Exposure of grand corruption in authoritarian Russia brought people to the streets, where they were met with more repression.

Bold civil disobedience against military might was offered in Myanmar. Dreams of democracy were deferred in Algeria, Belarus and Hong Kong, among others, but people showed extraordinary courage, taking to the streets in the face of great odds, keeping alive hopes for change.

Proving the power of collective action

The success of collective action led to breakthroughs in democracy and human rights across the globe.

In Chile, concerted street protests led to a commitment to develop a new constitution through democratic processes, with gender parity and Indigenous representation guaranteed. Sustained mobilisations in Argentina resulted in abortion being legalised, while in several countries young environmental activists took action to keep climate change in the spotlight.

Civil society’s collective action forced an election re-run in Malawi, and overcame systematic voter suppression in the USA. In Thailand, tens of thousands of protesters called for democratic reforms, including, for the first time, demanding a curb on the powers of the monarchy; activists used many creative forms of protest, including using giant inflatable ducks during mobilisations and holding ‘Runs Against Dictatorship’.

Following civic actions, same-sex relations were decriminalised in Bhutan and Gabon and same-sex marriage legalised in Costa Rica.

Many states failed the pandemic test

The pandemic offered a stress test for political institutions, and most were found wanting. The inadequacy of healthcare and social support systems was revealed. International cooperation was lacking as governments asserted narrow self-interest, birthing the dismal practice of vaccine nationalism by wealthy industrialised countries.

Many governments poured out official propaganda and sought to control the flow of information, ramping up censorship and criminalising legitimate inquiry and commentary. China was in the front rank of states that expanded surveillance practices and trampled on the right to privacy.

During the pandemic, several states increased their coercive power. In the Philippines, people were put in dog cages for breaking pandemic regulations, while in several Middle Eastern and North African states, including Bahrain, Egypt and Iran, human rights defenders remained in crowded jails, at risk of contracting COVID-19.

Some countries – notably New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan – got the virus under control, won public trust and communicated pandemic response measures clearly, while largely respecting rights and democratic freedoms. This shows that the path of repression taken by many was not a necessity but a choice.

Pandemic proves the need for civil society

When states failed to respond effectively to the pandemic, civil society stepped up, providing help to people most in need and defending rights. Civil society organisations responded swiftly with vital support, distributing cash, food, medicines and sanitary supplies, sharing accurate information on the virus and providing healthcare and psychological services.

Looking forward

CIVICUS’s report calls on states to reverse rights restrictions imposed under the pandemic at the earliest opportunity. It urges them to respect human rights and democratic freedoms, and listen to the voices of protesters. It asks the international community to do more to uphold norms on civic freedoms and support peaceful assembly.

The great current wave of protests is sure to continue. People are brave to protest, but they should not have to do so at the risk of being thrown behind bars, or facing brutal, even lethal, violence.

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/state-civil-society-report-2021-enarpt

https://civicus.org

Mary Lawlor calls on Bahrain to release Abdulhadi al-Khawaja on 60th birthday

April 6, 2021
A placard reads "Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, will and determination, hunger strike" during an anti-government protest on 5 September 2014 (AFP/File photo)

A placard reads “Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, will and determination, hunger strike” during an anti-government protest on 5 September 2014 (AFP/File photo)

Mary Lawlor, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, made the case for the release of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, former president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, before his 60th birthday this week. in a video message posted to Twittery.

Khawaja, who previously served as president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, has been in prison for 10 years, serving a life sentence for “organising and managing a terrorist organisation”, among other charges. “He’s serving a life sentence in prison for peacefully defending the rights of others,” Lawlor said.  

He’s been given an unfair trial and details of his torture have been corroborated by an independent commission of inquiry.”  Lawlor said she had known Khawaja “for many years” and “witnessed his committed work for human rights in the Middle East”

The UN expert also noted that Khawaja’s case had been taken up by the European Union, the United Nations and other international organisations.

I urge the Bahraini government to finally release Abdulhadi in time for his 60th birthday on the 5th of April. His family have been fragmented and dislocated and have suffered greatly over the past ten years; it would be an honourable and compassionate act to allow them to reunite,” Lawlor concluded. 

Khawaja’s was one of the first high-profile arrests following the beginning of pro-democracy protests in 2011 that sparked a widespread government crackdown in Bahrain. See also; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/09/12/bahrain-travails-of-a-family-of-human-rights-defenders/

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/un-expert-calls-bahrain-release-human-rights-defender-abdulhadi-alkhawaja

https://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/media-releases/5023-bahraini-human-rights-defender-abdul-hadi-al-khawaja-turns-60-on-his-10th-anniversary-in-prison

NGO Statement remembers the one-year anniversary of the ban on the Maldivian Democracy Network

December 19, 2020

Today – 19 December 2020 – marks one year since the Government of the Maldives arbitrarily shut down the longest serving human rights group in the country, the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) and arbitrarily confiscated all of its funds. Since then, the Government has not reversed any of its unconstitutional actions related to the dissolution of MDN.

We remind the Government of the Maldives that Article 30(b) of the country’s Constitution guarantees the right to establish societies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Article 43 affords everyone the right to fair administrative action that adheres to basic fairness and procedural propriety. MDN has been deprived of these rights through arbitrary action taken without due process.

An administrative decision was taken based on allegations of a criminal offence, depriving the organisation and the human rights defenders involved of their right to appeal in the criminal and civil processes initiated by the Government of the Maldives. The right to appeal is guaranteed by Article 56 of the Constitution. Furthermore, the organisation has not been given the right of reply or to defend itself against what is widely seen as a biased decision based on the interpretation of an academic research.

We are disappointed that the Parliament of the Maldives has refused to investigate the matter and hold the government accountable. We urge the Parliament not to use its mandate selectively, and call on it to conduct its affairs equally, uphold the Constitution and the rule of law.

The Government of the Maldives, by taking arbitrary and unconstitutional actions to silence civil society, has set a dangerous precedent that has resulted in a violent witch-hunt of human rights defenders and civil society organisations. We call on President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to conduct a fair and open enquiry into these deplorable actions and stop the harassment of the human rights community in the Maldives, as several United Nations Member States recommended during the third Universal Periodic Review of the Maldives in November 2020[1].

Signed by:

The Asian Forum on Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

CIVICUS

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH),

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)

The Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) is a non-partisan civil society organisation based in the Canton of Geneva, Switzerland, operating under the Swiss civil code. MDN, registered  in the Maldives from 2006 until December 2019, was one of  the longest-running human rights groups in the country until the Government of  Maldives forcefully shut down the organisation.

See also; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/26/maldives-mohamed-nasheed-from-human-rights-defender-to-president-to-exile/

[1] Recommendations made to the Maldives at the 36th session of the Universal Periodic Review

USA and 3 other countries in the Americas downgraded by human rights researchers

December 17, 2020

On Wednesday, 16 December 2020 Débora Leão and Suraj K. Sazawal published an opinion piece in IPS entitled: “USA Downgraded as Civil Liberties Deteriorate Across the Americas” (Débora Leão is a Civic Space Researcher at CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance. She has a Master of Public Policy degree. Prior to joining CIVICUS, Débora worked on advocacy and research related to civic participation, urban development and climate justice. Suraj K. Sazawal serves on the board to Defending Rights & Dissent and is co-author of ‘Civil Society Under Strain’, the first book to explore how the War on Terror impacted civil society and hurt humanitarian aid.

Protests in New York City against racism and police violence, following the death of George Floyd. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Few images better illustrate the recent decline in civil liberties in the United States than that of peaceful protesters near the White House being violently dispersed so Donald Trump could stage a photo-op. Moments before the president emerged from his bunker on June 1 to hold a bible outside a boarded-up church, federal officers indiscriminately fired tear gas at people who had gathered in Lafayette Park to protest about the police killing of George Floyd. This was far from an isolated incident: nationwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality have been met with widespread police violence.

Since May, the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks fundamental freedoms across 196 countries, documented dozens of incidents where law enforcement officers, dressed in riot gear and armed with military grade-equipment, responded to Black Lives Matter protests with excessive force. These include officers driving vehicles at crowds of protesters and firing tear gas canisters and other projectiles at unarmed people, leaving at least 20 people partially blinded.

Throughout the year, journalists and health workers, clearly marked as such while covering the protests, have been harassed and assaulted. In one incident caught on live TV, a news reporter and camera operator from Louisville, Kentucky were shot by police with pepper balls while covering protests over the police killing of Breona Taylor.

This sustained repression of protests and an increased crackdown on fundamental freedoms led to the USA’s civic space rating being downgraded from ‘narrowed’ to ‘obstructed’ in CIVICUS new report, People Power Under Attack 2020.

This disproportionate response by law enforcement officers to protesters goes beyond what is acceptable practice when policing protests, even during an emergency. Under international law, people have a right to assemble freely. Any restrictions to this right must be proportionate and necessary to address an emergency or reestablish public order.

While recent brutality against protests for racial justice is concerning, the decline in basic freedoms in the USA began before this crackdown. The repression seen in 2020 was preceded by a wave of legislation limiting people’s rights to protest.

In recent years, several states enacted restrictive laws which, for example, criminalise protests near so-called critical infrastructure like oil pipelines, or limit demonstrations on school and university campuses. Increased penalties for trespassing and property damage are designed to intimidate and punish climate justice activists and organisations that speak out against fossil fuels.

In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, some of the ‘anti-protest’ bills introduced this year seem particularly cruel, for instance, by proposing to make people convicted of minor federal offences during protests ineligible for pandemic-related unemployment benefits.

Growing disregard for protest rights underscores wider intolerance for dissent. In parallel with restrictions on the freedom of peaceful assembly, the USA also saw an increase in attacks against the media, even before Black Lives Matter demonstrations erupted. Over the past three years, the CIVICUS Monitor has documented the frequent harassment of journalists by the authorities and civilians while covering political rallies or when conducting interviews.

Correspondents critical of the Trump administration or reporting on the humanitarian crisis in the USA/Mexico border region sometimes faced retaliation; documents obtained by ‘NBC 7 Investigates’ in 2019 showed the US government created a database of journalists who covered the migrant caravan and activists who were part of it, in some cases placing alerts on their passports.

In January 2020 a journalist was barred from accompanying Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an official trip to Europe after Pompeo objected to the questions by another reporter from the same outlet.

The harsh treatment of people wanting to express themselves and the decline of civil liberties is part of a broader global decline in fundamental freedoms. Our new report shows less than four percent of the world’s population live in countries that respect the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

Each country’s civic space is rated in one of five categories: ‘open, ‘narrowed, ‘obstructed,’ ‘restricted,’ or ‘closed’. The USA was one of 11 countries downgraded from its previous rating.

Another recent example may be that on 15 December 2020 five independent UN human rights experts expressed serious concern over the arrest and charges brought against an indigenous leader (Nicholas Tilsen, human rights defender of the Oglala-Lakȟóta Sioux Nation), for peacefully protesting a political rally held last July at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, located on treaty lands of the Great Sioux Nation.

In the Americas, three other countries showed significant declines: Chile and Ecuador were downgraded to ‘obstructed’ and Costa Rica’s rating changed to ‘narrowed’.[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/01/even-costa-rica-has-serious-problem-with-protection-of-indigenous-defenders/] In the first two countries, as with the USA, rating changes reflected unnecessary and disproportionate crackdowns on mass protest movements.

Violations of protest rights were common across the region, with detention of protesters and excessive use of force among the top five violations of civic freedoms recorded this year. In addition, the Americas continue to be a dangerous place for those who dare to stand up for fundamental rights: across the world, 60 percent of human rights defenders killed in 2020 came from this region.

The authorities must engage with civil society and human rights defenders to create an environment where they are able to fulfil their vital roles and hold officials accountable.

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/12/1080122

CIVICUS 2020 report “People Power Under Attack” – Africa

December 14, 2020

Africa: Civic Rights Were Eroded Across Africa in 2020

The most common violations of civic space registered by the CIVICUS Monitor were the detention of journalists, followed by disruption of protests, censorship, intimidation and the detention of protestors. Almost half of CIVICUS Monitor updates in 28 different countries mentioned the detention of journalists. 14 December 2020. Fundamental civic rights, including freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, deteriorated across Africa in 2020. [See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/24/today-civicus-launches-its-worldwide-monitor-to-track-civil-space/]

In an allAfrica.com guest column Sylvia Mbataru and Ine Van Severen – CIVICUS researchers who contributed to People Power Under Attack 2020 – unpack what the report says about Sub-Saharan Africa. They conclude that civic space has been reduced in four West African nations (Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Niger and Togo) and has improved in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.

Over the past year the CIVICUS Monitor has documented several drivers of civic space violations in Africa including mass protests that were met with violent repression, and electoral processes, mostly presidential elections. Violations in the context of elections often involve the arrest of opposition members and pro-democracy activists, internet shutdowns, detention of journalists and crackdowns on protesters.

In three of the four West African countries that were downgraded – Côte d’Ivoire , Guinea and Togo – constitutional changes were adopted in recent years, leaving incumbent presidents Alassane Ouattara, Alpha Condé and Fauré Gnassingbé all claiming that new constitutions allowed them to run for further terms. The process of changing constitutions or bypassing term limits led to mass protests that were met with excessive force, the adoption and use of restrictive legislation, and punishment for dissenters criticising those in power, in particular pro-democracy activists.

Niger has also been downgraded by the CIVICUS Monitor. Even though a peaceful political change of power seems likely in the elections later this month, serious questions remain about Niger’s democratic prospects as human rights violations continue and civil society is subjected to restrictions.

These countries in West Africa have not been alone in efforts to muzzle dissent, exclude opposition and crack down on protests in the context of elections.  This bleak picture is further seen in Eastern and Southern Africa.

In Burundi, ahead of the May 2020 elections, state security forces and members of the youth league of the ruling party threatened, intimidated and killed opposition party members, and stifled the media and civil society organisations.

In Tanzania, as the country prepared for its August 2020 vote, the government embarked on a major crackdown to suppress dissent, including by enacting new laws and regulations to stop opposition members from actively campaigning, prevent civil society organisations and independent observers from observing the electoral process, weaken civil society and the media, and limit the use of online platforms by journalists and voters.

Despite this difficult picture, the year also proved the resilience of people and civil society in exercising their civic freedoms, leading to fundamental democratic changes. In Malawi, although the period surrounding the disputed May 2019 election was characterised by violations including internet shutdowns and repression of protests, civil society successfully contested the results, leading to a new election and a change of government in June 2020 .

However, many other African countries are moving away from holding free and fair elections. With several countries gearing up to hold elections in the coming months, civic rights violations are being reported in countries across the continent.

In Uganda, opposition members and their supporters are being violently prevented from holding rallies and journalists are being arrested and violently attacked while covering events held by opposition candidates and civil society; human rights defenders are being threatened by state authorities, including by having their bank accounts frozen and their operational licences withheld.

In Ethiopia, civil society groups have expressed concern at the crackdown on dissenting political views ahead of the general elections slated for 2021. Similarly, in Zambia, civil society has denounced an escalating trend of judicial harassment, repression and attacks on human rights defenders ahead of the August 2021 general elections. In Benin, electoral laws have been adopted that make it difficult for opposition candidates to stand in the 2021 presidential  election, which might lead to President Patrice Talon running almost unopposed.

The situation is so bleak that for the first time in a decade, according to the 2020 Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance, overall governance in Africa has declined. The Index highlighted that, “in terms of rights, civil society space and participation, the continent had long before embarked on a deteriorating path and the pandemic simply aggravated this existing negative trajectory.”

With even more elections on the cards in 2021 – in Djbouti, Chad and Somalia among others – governments should prioritise the respect of fundamental freedoms, including the right of people to express themselves without intimidation and to assemble peacefully to express their dissent. Africa’s leaders should adhere to the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Government, ensuring that free and fair elections take place. 2021 must be the year in which Africa’s dismal trends are reversed.

https://findings2020.monitor.civicus.org/africa.html

https://findings2020.monitor.civicus.org/africa.html

CIVICUS publishes “CIVIC FREEDOMS AND THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC: A SNAPSHOT OF RESTRICTIONS AND ATTACKS”

October 6, 2020

The CIVICUS Monitor has produced on Monday 5 October 2020 a new research brief on the state of civic freedoms amid the global pandemic. The brief provides a snapshot of restrictions facing activists, journalists and civil society organisations. There are over 35 country case studies and it is broken into five parts:

  • Protests in the time of COVID-19
  • Freedom of expression under threat
  • Restrictive laws under the pandemic
  • Excluded groups left further at risk
  • Bright spots during the pandemic.

Also worth flagging, is that at the end of November, the CIVICUS Monitor will be releasing its annual global index on the state of civic freedoms (see last version. This is the flagship data report which rates and measures the state of freedom of association, peaceful assembly, and free speech across 196 countries. The report will provide global statistics on areas such as, excessive force against protesters, the detention of protesters, the detention of journalists, acts of censorship, etc. This data will also be disaggregated at the regional level.

  • Civic activism continues during the COVID-19 pandemic and people have continued to mobilise to demand their rights.
  • Violations of protest rights have been documented: protesters are being detained, protests are being disrupted and excessive force is being used by states.
  • Restrictions on the freedom of expression and access to information continue.
  • States are enacting overly broad emergency legislation and legislation that limits human rights.

In April 2020, just one month after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, we highlighted a series of alarming civic space violations by states. As noted in our previous brief, in many countries the emergency measures introduced to tackle the pandemic have had troubling impacts on human rights and the space for civil society. After more than six months of the pandemic, violations and restrictions on civic space continue.

Since 2016, the CIVICUS Monitor has documented and analysed the state of civic space in 196 countries. Civic space is the bedrock of any open and democratic society and is rooted in the fundamental freedoms of people to associate, peacefully assemble and freely express their views and opinions. This brief covers civic space developments in relation to COVID-19 between 11 April 2020 and 31 August 2020. It is compiled from data from our civic space updates by activists and partners on the ground.

International human rights law recognises that in the context of officially proclaimed public emergencies, including in public health, which threaten the life of a country, restrictions on some rights can be justified. As explained in our previous brief, those limitations need to comply with international standards. But while international law is clear, some states have gone beyond justifiable restrictions, with negative consequences on civic space and human rights while also creating additional barriers for already excluded groups.

Although states placed restrictions on large public gatherings during the pandemic, people have continued to mobilise through various forms of protest. However, a number of violations were documented during protests, including the detention of protesters, protest disruptions and the use of excessive force by law enforcement agencies. In addition, violations on the freedom of expression, which featured prominently in our first COVID-19 brief, have continued. These violations include censorship of free speech, targeting of media outlets and detentions of journalists. States have also continued to pass restrictive laws, such as overly broad emergency laws, under the guise of fighting the pandemic. Citizens, journalists and human rights defenders (HRDs) have experienced harassment and intimidation. During the pandemic, many excluded groups have faced additional risks and violations.

See also:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/23/civicus-and-600-ngos-dont-violate-human-rights-while-responding-to-covid-19/

and

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/27/annual-reports-2019-civicus-global-report/

https://monitor.civicus.org/COVID19Oct2020/

Duterte speech at General Asembly tries to divert attention from killings by discrediting NGOs

September 25, 2020

Human rights watchdog Karapatan decried what they called as vilification against human rights defenders by President Rodrigo Duterte. During his recorded speech at the 75th United Nation’s General (UNGA) Assembly on 23 September Duterte claimed, “A number of interest groups have weaponized human rights; some well-meaning, others ill-intentioned.” He claimed further that “the Philippines will continue to protect the human rights of the Filipino people, only that there are groups trying to discredit the functioning institutions and mechanisms in a democratic country.

In reaction, Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan said that Duterte, “is posturing in making desperate pleas before the international community that is growing increasingly critical of his human rights record and tyrannical rule.” “Duterte’s empty promise to ‘continue’ protecting the rights of Filipinos is betrayed when Duterte himself, just a few seconds later, continued to justify the drug war and the terror-tagging of human rights defenders, reiterating his administration’s distorted reasoning that the said campaigns are in protection of human life and the accusation that human rights groups and advocates are ‘weaponizing’ human rights,” Palabay said in a statement. [see also: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/threats-against-cristina-palabay]

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. said Duterte’s accusations against human rights workers is a blanket denial of human crisis in the Philippines. “Duterte would rather discredit human rights defenders and institutions than acknowledge that there are extrajudicial killings and other violations in the Philippines. He continues to deny what the whole world has already come to recognize,” said Reyes in a statement.

Just last week, the European Parliament expressed support to the human rights defenders in the Philippines. They also condemned the recent killings of activists in the country and called for accountability of the perpetrators. The United Nations Special Procedures also expressed solidarity with Filipino human rights defenders.

Duterte also said in his speech that “To move forward, open dialogue and constructive engagement with the United Nations is the key.” However, Palabay reiterated that the Duterte government did not even allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Special Rapporteurs to conduct an in-country investigation on the killings under the government’s campaign against illegal drugs and other human rights violations. Palabay added, “Their (UN bodies) requests for such are met with threats of violence, wild accusations of foreign meddling, and demeaning insults. The Philippine government even rejected most of the findings and recommendations of the recent report of the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and is currently finding ways to evade independent investigation at the UN Human Rights Council.”

Reyes also said that Duterte’s statement about engaging the UN is “empty rhetoric as it merely aims to blunt international criticism of his human rights record.

Meanwhile, a resolution on the Philippines is now being discussed at the UN Human Rights Council. A draft of the resolution was presented by the Iceland and the Philippines at the HRC 45th regular session according to Civicus, a global alliance of civil society organizations and activists.

Different progressive groups in the Philippines are calling to end all political killings and other rights violations under President Duterte during Martial Law commemoration last Sept. 21. (Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat)

Human rights defenders have been calling for independent investigation on human rights violations in the Philippines. This call was reiterated during an online forum led by Civicus on Tuesday,22 September.

Laila Matar, deputy director for UN at Human Rights Watch said at the minimum, the HRC resolution “need to be stripped of all government propaganda.”It also has to make sure that the OHCHR would continue in monitoring and reporting comprehensively on the human rights situation and report also through interactive dialogues at the HRC so that the international community would have a chance to truly address human rights violations in the country,” Matar said.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/22/the-killing-of-randy-echanis-and-zara-alvarez-put-the-philippines-under-more-pressure/

‘Weaponizing human rights?’ | Rights group refutes Duterte’s ‘lies’ at the UN assembly

Human rights defender’s story: Maryam Al-Khawaja from Bahrain

August 3, 2020

On 17 July 2020 ISHR published this video of Maryam Al-Khawaja, who is a human rights defender from Bahrain/Denmark. She is the Vice-Chair of the Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights, a board member at ISHR, and a board member at CIVICUS.

see also; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/maryam-al-khawaja/

https://www.ishr.ch/news/human-rights-defenders-story-maryam-al-khawaja-bahrain

The South Africa based NGO CIVICUS celebrates Mandela Day with campaign #StandAsMyWitness

July 18, 2020

On 18 July, the world celebrates the birth and legacy of Nelson Mandela: In prison for 27-years, South Africa’s first democratic president, resilient spirit, and compassionate advocate for human rights for all. It’s been 30 years since the world rejoiced his release from prison as a global icon of peace. Yet, all around the world people are still imprisoned, persecuted, and harassed for their stand for freedom, rights and democratic values, and for calling out corrupt governments and multinational companies.

They are asking you to #StandAsMyWitness.

Thousands are in jail following unfair trials and trumped-up charges. Many are currently in pre-trial detention, facing long prison sentences for their human rights activities. For defenders locked up in overcrowded prisons, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens their already precarious health and welfare. They need you to use your voice so they are not silenced.

Launching on Nelson Mandela’s birthday, the campaign calls for rights defenders’ immediate release from jail and persecution, and for states, authorities and multinational corporations to guarantee peaceful human rights activities – without fear of reprisals and intimidation.

Adding your voice will give human right defenders, families, friends and colleagues a reason to renew their hopes for a better future during these unprecedented times.

1. Engage on Social Media

Use this social media toolkit to share your messages of solidarity. https://thesocialpresskit.com/standasmywitness

2. Send a Letter

We’re featuring 6 activists to shine a spotlight on their cases and demand their immediate release. They are from 6 countries, and you will find 6 template letters for each of them! Take a look. Choose 1, or if you have time 2. Write to their respective governments and demand their release:

  1. Teresita
  2. Sudha
  3. Asya
  4. Maria Esperanza
  5. Niger activists
  6. Loujain

3. Share the details of HRDs not mentioned in our Interactive Map.

Do you know any human rights defenders in detention or facing judicial harassment that you would like us to profile? Tell us about them by following the link below.

HRDs Map

Interactive Map of Human Rights Defenders in Detention

see also; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/12/nelson-mandela-human-rights-lecture-in-geneva-on-18-july-2019/

https://www.civicus.org/index.php/involved/support-campaigns/stand-as-my-witness