Posts Tagged ‘detention’

Azerbaijan: OMCT campaigns for human rights defender Elchin Mammad

May 26, 2020

Azerbaijani Human Rights Defender Elchin Mammad is one the cases in the  #FacesOfHope campaign by OMCT to which I referred yesterday [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/25/faces-of-hope-campaign-human-rights-defenders-imprisoned-worldwide/].

As a human rights lawyer and journalist, Elchin Mammad is used to speaking his mind. The 42-year old attorney presides over the Social Union of Legal Education of Sumgait Youth (SULESY), a non-governmental organisation that provides free legal assistance to low income families and non-profits. His busy schedule also includesda job as the editor in chief of Yukselish Namine, a newspaper specializing in human rights concerns. On 30 March 2020, a few days after he had published online a critical report on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan, police officers arrested Elchin at his home in Sumgait, a town north of the capital Baku. The police claimed to have found stolen jewellery at his office.

The next day, Sumgait City Court remanded Elchin Mammad in custody for three months as a criminal suspect. The father of two young children remains detained under trumped-up charges at Shuvalan pre-trial detention centre no. 3. This latest twist is nothing new to Elchin. He has faced harassment from the authorities in connection with his human rights work since 2015, when his organisation was investigated. He was subjected to arbitrary detention, repeatedly summoned and questioned by the police. He was also placed under travel restrictions in connection with the investigation.

On 15 May, the government officially stated that there are 46 COVID-19 infected inmates in the country. This puts Elchin’s life at risk, particularly as he suffers from hepatitis C. Azerbaijan’s prison system is plagued by severe overcrowding, while food, medication, sanitation, and even drinking water are substandard. This has led to the European Court of Human Rights repeatedly ruling that detention conditions in the country amount to inhuman and degrading treatment. In times of pandemic, such an environment risks becoming an incubator for the novel coronavirus.

Elchin’s case is particularly emblematic of the Azerbaijani authorities’ abusive and arbitrary methods used to silence critical voices. In 2014, the government launched an unprecedented crackdown on civil society. Prominent human rights defenders joined other political prisoners in Azerbaijan’s jails, on fabricated criminal charges of financial irregularities. Although most were released after spending years in prison, as a result of international pressure, the situation of defenders remains precarious

The authorities have seized the coronavirus outbreak as an opportunity to intensify the crackdown on civil society. On 19 March, President Ilham Aliyev used his yearly address to the nation on the Novruz Bayrami holiday to promise “new rules” for the duration of the pandemic, threatening to clear the country of “traitors” and “enemies” and to “isolate the fifth column”. To people like Elchin, who has dedicated his life to the defence of the downtrodden, these ominous words might now ring like a death sentence.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/26/azerbaijan-finally-full-acquittal-of-ilqar-mammadov-and-rasul-jafarov/

https://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/statements/azerbaijan/2020/05/d25855/

Faces of Hope Campaign: Human Rights Defenders Imprisoned Worldwide

May 25, 2020

Defending the right to housing for vulnerable communities, exposing corruption and torture, speaking up against injustice, raising their voices for the rights of indigenous peoples or of minorities, upholding miners’ rights, peacefully demonstrating against discrimination or for access to clean water. All are legitimate ways to affirm our common rights. And yet, such activities have led many human rights defenders around the world to prison.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, detention may come with serious risks. Like other inmates, defenders face overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions, with basic protective measures a distant dream. Worse, they may be denied access to health care as a form of punishment. These brave people are among the most exposed to contracting the virus, and among the least likely to receive proper treatment.

Following UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s call to governments to “release every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners, and those detained for critical, dissenting views” to prevent catastrophic rates of COVID-19 infection, OMCT launched in May 2020 a global campaign calling for the release of all human rights defenders detained worldwide, including those in pre-trial detention.

See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/29/un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-bachelet-calls-for-restraint-in-governments-covid-emergency-powers/

Human Rights Defenders work to ensure journalists are free to keep us informed about how our governments are responding to the pandemic and about the effects of quarantine measures; they denounce the abuse of power and police violence that can result from the state of emergency; they champion the needs of discriminated communities; they call on States to protect our housing and labour rights as jobs disappear; they demand that women’s sexual and reproductive rights not be neglected as healthcare systems focus on the virus. In short, human rights defenders make sure no one is left behind.

…..Let’s bring this solidarity to all the arbitrarily detained human rights defenders whose lives are at risk. Join our campaign and ask for their release using #FacesOfHope. They need us. And we need them too.

Meet the #FacesOfHope:

PHILIPPINES: Teresita Naul

EGYPT: Ibrahim Ezz El-Din

GUATEMALA: Jorge Coc Coc and Marcelino Xol Cucul

INDIA: Safoora Zargar

CAMEROON: Mancho Bibixy Tse

PERU: Walter Aduviri Calisaya

TURKEY: Selçuk Kozağaçlı

AZERBAIJAN: Elchin Mammad

https://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/statements/2020/05/d25823/

Policy response from Human Rights NGOs to COVID-19: FIDH

April 10, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many human rights organisations have been formulating a policy response. While I cannot be complete or undertake comparisons, I will try and give some examples in the course of these weeks. Here the one by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH): “COVID-19: States bear direct responsibility for the health of individuals in their custody” states a press release of 7 April 2020.

While the cases of COVID-19 are multiplying in prisons, detention centres and in places of custody, faced with the risk of a massive spread of the virus behind the walls, FIDH (the International Federation for Human Rights) calls for urgent measures to be taken to preserve the health of detainees, and for the release of the most vulnerable, of those detained for minor crimes and on remand custody, and of those whose detention is contrary to international norms.
In times of crisis, governments have an obligation to protect those who are most vulnerable. Prison populations, confined to detention facilities that can easily become virus hotspots, are among those most vulnerable to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a particular risk where collective cells and overcrowding are the norm, where social distancing is impossible to achieve, where many detainees are awaiting trial, and where the prisons’ health services are unprepared.
Over the past weeks, throughout the countries and regions where the COVID-19 virus has spread, many prison inmates, staff and/or caregivers have tested positive for the virus. Hundreds of inmates with virus symptoms have been “confined”. Tensions in prisons have also increased in the context of the spread of the virus, in reaction to the overcrowding of prisons, to the lack of personal hygiene or health services, or to restrictions on visits —notably when those visits enabled adequate food supply-, or other activities.While every prison, detention centre and place of custody constitutes a potential epidemiological outbreak, the spread of the virus in places of detention will be inevitable unless urgent measures are taken to mitigate this risk.

Echoing concerns expressed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) in its COVID-19 Statement of Principles, FIDH calls on governments to relieve congestion in prisons by releasing vast numbers of prisoners through various means, including temporary or early releases and amnesties; home detention and commutation of sentences.

Such measures should be consistent with States’ obligations under the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (revised and adopted as the “Nelson Mandela Rules”) which detail measures aimed at ensuring adequate personal hygiene, health, and safety of prisoners.

We welcome the move by a number of countries, including Argentina, Chile, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Iran, Tunisia and Turkey to begin releasing prisoners in an effort to reduce overcrowding and prevent the spread of the virus. These efforts however have been inconsistent with many of these countries’ human rights obligations and with international institutions’ recommendations.

In countries like China, Egypt, Iran or Turkey, where the policies of mass incarceration of journalists, whistle blowers, human rights defenders, political prisoners or of civilians taking part in demonstrations are in flagrant contradiction with international human rights norms, prison releases have not included these persons.

States should thus follow specific priorities for the releases, that are guided by the vulnerablity of the individual detained as well as the motives for his or her detention. As such, priority should be given to the elderly, to pregnant women and to children, to those with underlying health conditions, as well as to administrative detainees, to individuals detained for minor or non-violent offences, and to detainees awaiting trial. In addition, prisoners of conscience, prisoners detained for expressing their opinions, human rights defenders, whistleblowers, and undocumented migrant detainees should be immediately and unconditionally released.

Governments should also ensure that during the COVID-19 pandemic the human rights of all those who remain in detention are upheld. As such, measures adapting the conditions of detention, with regard to food, health, sanitation and quarantine measures, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the facilities, should be put in place, to guarantee decent living and health conditions for all detained persons.

Any restrictions imposed on detainees should be non-discriminatory, necessary, proportionate, time-limited and transparent. Measures should not, under any circumstances, justify absolute or solitary confinement. Confinement measures should enable confidential and through distance, meetings of inmates with their families, close companions and lawyers in a confidential manner, while respecting the WHO recommended physical distancing and handwashing protocols. Under the current COVID-19 circumstances, we also recommend that all detainees should have access to time outside of the confins of their cells and be able to utilise recreational spaces available.

Lastly, while States must be able to maintain order and security within prisons and detention centers, measures to prevent riots and restore security conditions in prisons should not empower authorities to resort to the excessive use of force.

Read more

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/covid-19/

https://www.fidh.org/en/region/Africa/covid-19-states-bear-direct-responsibility-for-the-health-of

Policy response from Human Rights NGOs to COVID-19: Gulf Center for Human Rights 

April 9, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many human rights organisations have been formulating a policy response. While I cannot be complete or undertake comparisons, here the position of Khalid Ibrahim, executive director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) posted on 8 April 2020 in Global Voices:

COVID19 cases in the MENA region have led governments to institute containment and other measures to slow the spread the highly contagious coronavirus. These measures have especially targeted some of the most vulnerable groups such as human rights defenders in prison, migrant workers and independent media. The Gulf Center for Human Rights have tracked how some of these measures have seriously impacted the overall human rights situation in the region.

Below is GHCR’s brief human rights review of COVID-19’s impact on the MENA region:

1. Detained human rights defenders

The reality is that most human rights defenders are still in prison in the MENA region at a time when governments including those of Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt released some prisoners as part of preventive measures to contain the spread of the virus. With the spread of COVID-19, the lives of jailed human rights defenders are at imminent risk in countries such as Iran, Egypt, Kuwait, Syria, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria and other countries that have crowded prisons lacking minimum health standards. Among those currently imprisoned are Abdulhadi Alkhawaja and Nabeel Rajab, founding directors of the GCHR, serving a life sentence and five years in jail, respectively. In the United Arab Emirates, Ahmed Mansoor has been held in solitary confinement for three years, serving a 10-year jail sentence for his human rights activism, including peacefully expressing his views on social media. In Saudi Arabia, women’s rights activist Lugain al-Hathloul also remains in prison.

2. Access to information and shutting down newspapers

Most governments in the MENA region are not releasing the actual numbers of cases of those infected with the virus and also making it very difficult for journalists to have access to reliable information about the spread, treatment, and the victims of COVID-19. Also, journalists who are providing factual information about the crisis to citizens are at risk.

….In Oman, on March 22, 2020, the Supreme Committee for Dealing with COVID-19 ordered all newspapers, magazines, and other publications to cease printing and circulating, according to the Times of Oman, which published the committee’s order. The order also prohibited the sale and circulation of newspapers, magazines and publications imported into the country. In Morocco, that same day, the minister of culture, youth and sports, Hassan Abyaba, announced in a statement the suspension of the publication and distribution of print newspapers until further notice. Also, in Jordan, on March 17, 2020, the Jordanian Council of Ministers suspended the publication of all newspapers for two weeks, according to an official statement by the Jordanian Communications Minister Amjad Adaileh. Newspapers continued to be suspended due to the quarantine and the government’s demand for citizens to stay in their homes.

3. Draft law threatened freedom of expression in Tunisia

4. Temporary imprisonment for spreading rumours in UAE

On April 1, 2020, the Gulf News, a daily English-language newspaper based in Dubai, published an article that says that “people who circulate rumours may be jailed for one year if they spread false information.” It is now possible that COVID-19 could be used as a pretext to imprison some of the bloggers and Internet activists who are targeted by the State Security Apparatus (SSA).

5. Location-tracking applications

Some Gulf states such as Bahrain are using location-tracking technologies which would enable the full detection of the movement of citizens. There are concerns that the use of these applications in countries widely known for gross and documented violations of human rights will allow them to place greater restrictions on personal freedoms.

6. Xenophobia against migrant workers in the Gulf

…..Reports that GCHR received from various Gulf countries confirmed that migrant workers are not given equal access to medical care and they are facing some difficult time at the moment, as many of them already live and work in poor conditions. Authorities across MENA could help stop the spread of COVID-19 by freeing all human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience because they do not pose a risk to the public — but rather are at great risk themselves. While detained, authorities must uphold the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners to provide basic healthcare and sanitation for all. It is also important to allow visits from UN experts and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

https://advox.globalvoices.org/2020/04/08/impact-of-covid-19-containment-measures-on-human-rights-and-civil-liberties-in-the-middle-east/

80 Media and Human Rights groups urge African Heads of State to release jailed journalists amid pandemic

April 9, 2020

On 9 April 2020, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and 80 other media and human rights NGOs have urged ten African Heads of State to release journalists from detention in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To:

President of Algeria Abdelmadjid Tebboune
President of Benin Patrice Talon
President of Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza
President of Cameroon Paul Biya
President of Chad Idriss Deby
President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
President of Eritrea Isaias Afwerki
Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed Ali
Prime Minister of Morocco Saad-Eddine El Othmani
President of Rwanda Paul Kagame

Your Excellencies,

We the 81 undersigned media, press freedom, and human rights organizations are writing to call on your respective governments to release all jailed journalists amid the sweeping COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, the Committee to Protect Journalists published an open letter to world leaders urging the immediate release of all journalists imprisoned for their work. Given that a staggering number of these imprisoned journalists are held in jails across the African continent, we are reiterating that call to your respective countries at this time of grave public health concern.

According to CPJ’s most recent annual survey conducted on December 1, 2019, there were at least 73 journalists in prisons in Africa, including 26 in Egypt, 16 in Eritrea, seven in Cameroon, four each in RwandaBurundi, and Morocco, three in Algeria, and one each in BeninNigeriaChadTanzaniaEthiopiaSomaliaComorosDemocratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan.

As of March 31, at least 11 of these journalists have been released from jails in Somalia, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria, DRC, Algeria, Comoros, South Sudan, and Egypt, according to CPJ research. However, at least six more journalists and media workers have been jailed since December 1, and remain in prison as of March 31, including four inEthiopia and one each in Cameroon and Algeria.

Article 16 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights states, “Every individual shall have the right to enjoy the best attainable state of physical and mental health.” These rights were extended to prisoners and detainees when the African Commission adopted the 1995 Resolution on Prisons in Africa. According to the World Health Organization, “People deprived of their liberty, and those living or working in enclosed environments in their close proximity, are likely to be more vulnerable to the COVID-19 disease than the general population.”

For journalists jailed in countries affected by the virus, freedom is now a matter of life and death. Imprisoned journalists have no control over their surroundings, cannot choose to isolate, and are often denied necessary medical care. Many of these journalists have been held in detention without trial for lengthy periods and are suffering from ill health exacerbated by underlying health conditions and overcrowded prisons, where they have contracted malaria, tuberculosis, and other diseases.

We urge you to release every jailed journalist in your respective countries and to protect the free press and the free flow of information at this crucial time. Journalism must not carry a death sentence.

Sincerely,

(for names of signing organisations see link below)

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/03/20/corona-virus-threatens-human-rights-defenders-in-detention-egypt-and-turkey/

Tajikistan’s jailed human rights lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov awarded Homo Homini award 2020

February 7, 2020

Tajik lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov (file photo)
Tajik lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov (file photo)

The Prague-based NGO People in Need has awarded its annual Homo Homini prize to Tajikistan’s jailed human rights defender Buzurgmehr Yorov for his “commitment to defending basic human rights and to assure a fair trial to all citizens” of his country.  For more on this and similar awards, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/homo-homini-award.

Yorov has been promoting human rights in Tajikistan for many years despite facing severe persecution as a result of his work. He did not hesitate to defend clients who were targeted by politically motivated charges, whose cases other lawyers were not willing to take,” the NGO said on 5 February 2020. “As a result of doing his job, this prominent lawyer lost both his property and his freedom,”.

Yorov was sentenced in October 2016 on charges of issuing public calls for the overthrow of the government and inciting social unrest. His 23-year prison term was later extended by five years after he was found guilty of contempt of court and insulting a government official. Last year, his prison term was cut by six years as part of a mass amnesty. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/29/in-tajikistan-lawyers-have-to-be-human-rights-defenders/]

The Homo Homini Award will be presented on March 5 to his brother, Jamshed Yorov, at the opening of the One World Film Festival, a human rights film festival held annually in the Czech Republic.

https://www.rferl.org/a/jailed-tajik-lawyer-yorov-awarded-homo-homini-human-rights-prize/30418801.html

Four jailed Iranian human rights lawyers win European Bar award

November 29, 2019

IRAN -- Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh is seen in Tehran on November 1, 2008.

Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh is seen in Tehran on 1 November 2008.

The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) has bestowed its annual Human Rights Award to four lawyers from Iran: Nasrin Sotoudeh, Addolfattah Soltani, Mohammad Najafi and Amir Salar Davodi. Shirin Ebadi will receive the award on behalf of the jailed lawyers from CCBE President José De Freitas.

The CCBE is a professional organization that represents Law Societies from 45 different countries and over one million lawyers. Previous recipients of the award include Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) and Azerbaijani human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev. For more on this and other awards for lawyers see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/ccbe-human-rights-award

Nasrin Sotoudeh is a human rights defender who has been in prison since summer of 2018 for her peaceful activities defending women’s rights to choose their dress style. Although there is no written law in Iran for compulsory hijab, the police and courts spend considerable resources to force women to use the veil. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/13/1-million-people-demand-that-iranian-government-release-nasrin-sotoudeh/]

Abdolfattah Soltani who co-founded the Defenders Of Human Rights Center along with his colleagues, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi and others served as the attorney defending the family of Iranian-Canadian photo journalist Zahra Kazemi. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/22/iranian-human-rights-defender-abdolfattah-soltani-released-from-jail/

Mohammad Najafi performed various human rights related work and defended protestors who were arrested during a mass uprising in early 2018.

Amirsalar Davoudi was sentenced to 30 years in prison, 111 lashses and substantial monetary fine for his work. One of the charges included “collaborating with the enemy sate” which was brought against Davoudi for doing an interview with the Voice of America’s Persian section.

A statement from the CCBE urges Iran “to take all the necessary measures to release these four human rights lawyers and to guarantee that all lawyers in the Islamic Republic of Iran are able to perform their professional duties without fear of reprisal, hindrance, intimidation or harassment.

https://en.radiofarda.com/a/jailed-iranian-lawyers-win-human-rights-award/30297336.html

Algerian human rights defender Halim Feddal sent to preventive detention

November 26, 2019

Front Line Defenders reports that on 20 November 2019, the Public Prosecution in Chlef ordered the preventive detention of human rights defender Halim Feddal, after he was arbitrarily arrested on 17 November 2019. He had been taking part in a peaceful demonstration demanding the release of a number of Algerian political prisoners.

Halim Feddal is the founder and secretary general of the Algerian National Association Against Corruption (ANLC) which works on exposing and fighting corruption in Algeria. He is also a member of the Hirak Movement, which is a grassroots human rights movement that calls for the promotion of civil and political rights in Algeria. The human rights defender frequently participates in peaceful demonstrations in the city of Chlef.

On 17 November 2019, Halim Feddal was arrested by security forces in plain clothes from a peaceful demonstration that he was attending in front of the court in Chlef. The protesters were demonstrating against the politically motivated detention of some members of the Hirak movement. Halim Feddal was taken to a local police station where he spent three days under interrogation and was not allowed to contact his lawyer or his family. On 20 November 2019, the Public Prosecution charged him with “threatening the unity of the country” and “incitement of an illegal gathering”. The Public Prosecution ordered preventive detention for Halim Feddal without scheduling a date for his court hearing.

Human rights defenders in Algeria are continually harassed and arbitrarily detained by the authorities. Halim Feddal has frequently been called to the police station and interrogated about his human rights work. Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned about the detention and harassment of Halim Feddal, and finds the general crackdown on human rights defenders in Algeria increasingly worrying. Front Line Defenders believes that Halim Feddal is being detained solely as a result of his peaceful and legitimate human right work.

Download the Urgent Appeal

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/halim-feddal-sent-preventive-detention

48 Human Rights groups intervene for detained Nigerian Omoyele Sowore

August 26, 2019

On 23 August 2019 48 NGOs issued an urgent appeal in relation to the arrest and detention of Omoyele Sowore, Nigerian journalist and human rights defender, to the UN and African human rights bodies. Joy Hyvarinen, head of advocacy at Index on Censorship said: “Index on Censorship urges the Nigerian authorities to release the prominent journalist and campaigner Omoyele Sowore immediately. The arrest and detention are a shocking violation of Mr Sowore’s human rights, which calls into question Nigeria’s willingness and ability to meet international human rights obligations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Omoyele Sowore (Photo: Mohamed Nanabhay / Wikipedia)

To the members of the Working Group and the Special Rapporteurs:

We, 48 human rights and press freedom organisations, respectfully request that you consider this urgent appeal in relation to the arrest and arbitrary detention of Nigerian journalist and human rights defender Omoyele Sowore who was arrested by the authorities following a call for peaceful protest. We request that you urgently intervene to secure the immediate release of Mr Sowore and declare his arrest and detention a gross violation of his human rights, including the right not to be arbitrarily detained as protected by Article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Banjul Charter); the right to a fair trial as protected by Article 14 ICCPR and Article 7 of the Banjul Charter; the right to freedom of expression as protected by Article 19 ICCPR and Article 9 of the Banjul Charter; the right of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association as protected by Articles 21 and 22 ICCPR and Articles 10 and 11 of the Banjul Charter; and his rights as a human rights defender as outlined in the 1999 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and 2017 African Commission Cotonou Declaration on strengthening and expanding the protection of all Human Rights Defenders in Africa.

Background 

  1. Mr Sowore is a prominent journalist, human rights activist and pro-democracy campaigner. He is the founder of Sahara Reporters, an online news agency based in New York City that focuses on corruption, human rights abuses and other political misconduct in Nigeria. Challenging government corruption and speaking truth to power has been the constant thread throughout Mr Sowore’s career, from the leading of student protests in the 1990’s to his recent campaign running for Presidential office in Nigeria.

Omoyele Sowore’s arrest and detention 

  1. Mr Sowore was arrested on 3 August 2019 in his hotel room during a trip to Lagos. Security agents forcefully detained Mr Sowore without informing him of any charges against him and flew him to Abuja, where he is currently being detained at the facility of the headquarters of the Nigerian State Security Service. Mr Sowore has access to food and water, but no access to the outside world: no newspapers, television or phone, and he spends most days in isolation. He was held incommunicado until 6 August, during which time Mr Sowore refused to answer any questions without consulting with his lawyer. He was allowed access to his lawyers only on 7 August, 4 days after his arrest.
  2. Based on Section 35 of the Nigerian Constitution, Mr Sowore should have been arraigned before a court within 48 hours. As of today, Mr Sowore has not been arraigned in any court.
  3. However, on 6 August, 3 days after his arrest, the State Security Service did seek an ex- parte order from the Federal High Court in Abuja to detain Mr Sowore under Section 27(1) of the Terrorism Act 2013, which enables the detention of anyone planning to “commit an act of violence”. The Court’s order of 8 August, made within 48 hours after the State Security Service’s request, granted the authorities permission to detain Mr Sowore for 45 days. Within 24 hours, his legal team, led by Mr Femi Falana, filed a motion to set aside the order and requested Mr Sowore’s immediate release, arguing that his detention was contrary to the Nigerian Constitution. At the time of writing, this request has not been heard by the courts and no date for hearing has been fixed. Importantly: no formal charges have been filed against Mr Sowore.

Mr Sowore’s call for a peaceful #RevolutionNow protest 

  1. The arrest of Mr Sowore appears to be the direct consequence of his call for a peaceful protest scheduled to take place on 5 August 2019, using the hashtag #RevolutionNow.

The objective of the protest was to demand that the Nigerian government end corruption and economic inequality and guarantee education to all. That the protest Mr Sowore and the Coalition for Revolution (CORE) movement he founded called for was a peaceful one is made clear at the very outset of the call for protest, issued on 27 July, which starts by setting out the “rules of engagement”:

We eschew all forms of violence. No protester should throw any object as little as stones or attack any security officials. We are aware of their intent to provoke the mass unduly by using undue tactics and sponsored agents, so as to give the protest a bad name. We encourage all Nigerians to remain calm as we are ready to fight these injustices to a logical conclusion. 

  1. A week earlier, in an interview with the Arise News channel, Mr Sowore stated that “Nigeria needs revolution, not war,” clearly distinguishing his call for substantial change from a call to violence. Mr Sowore has used the word “revolution” contextually to mean “change for the better” since 2006, when he founded Sahara Reporters. Mr Sowore then stated that he would “revolutionise” the way news is being reported in Nigeria –– something he actually did with the investigative citizen journalism the website publishes.
  2. Despite Mr Sowore’s arrest and detention, the 5 August #RevolutionNow protests took place in Abuja, Lagos, Osun, Ondo and Cross River. Protesters met a police force that dispersed them with teargas and gunshots. Numerous protesters, including several of Sahara Reporters’ journalists, were arrested and charged with illegal assembly.

Request for urgent action 

  1. It is clear that Mr Sowore’s arrest on apparent grounds of suspicion of terrorism is unfounded. Mr Sowore did what he has done throughout his career as a journalist and human rights activist: exercise his right to freedom of expression and seek to bring about change through peaceful means, in this case a peaceful protest. The use of the emotive term “revolution” merely underlines his desire for transformative change in what he considers the shortcomings of the current government. There are strong suspicions that Mr Sowore’s arrest stems from ulterior motives than responding to any supposed criminal wrongdoing. This is further highlighted by the fact that the authorities failed to define a charge against him for the first few days after his arrest; the investigations that were subsequently instigated against him under the Terrorism Act were clearly only created to serve the purpose of silencing Mr Sowore.
  2. As such, the arrest and detention of Mr Sowore amount to a violation of his right not to be arbitrarily detained as guaranteed under Article 9 ICCPR and Article 6 of the Banjul Charter. The fact that the charges brought against him most likely stem from his call for a peaceful demonstration and his critical stance on the Nigerian government also violates Mr Sowore’s right to free expression under Article 19 of the ICCPR and Article 9 of the Banjul Charter and his right of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association under Articles 21 and 22 ICCPR and Articles 10 and 11 of the Banjul Charter. Not properly arraigning Mr Sowore before a competent court within the time limit mandated by the Nigerian Constitution and not allowing him access to a lawyer during the initial days of his detention violates his right to a fair trial as protected by Article 14 ICCPR and Article 7 of the Banjul Charter. The foregoing also constitutes a violation of his rights as a human rights defender as defined in the 1999 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and 2017 African Commission Cotonou Declaration on strengthening and expanding the protection of all Human Rights Defenders in Africa.
  3. As a State Party to both treaties, Nigeria is under an obligation to guarantee these rights to all its citizens, as specified under Article 2(1) of the ICCPR and Article 2 of the Banjul Charter. Accordingly, we appeal to the Working Group and UN and AU Special Rapporteurs to:
  • intervene urgently to secure the immediate release of Mr Sowore; and
  • declare his arrest and continuing detention a gross violation of his human rights.

SIGNED BY:
All Workers’ Convergence (AWC) 

Afrika Movement for Freedom and Justice (AMFJ)

Agege Women Agenda (AWA)

ARTICLE 19 Senegal/West Africa

Centre for Constitutional Rights

Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice (CHRSJ)

Chidi Odinkalu Former Chairman, National Human Rights Commission (Nigeria) & Senior Fellow, Open Society Justice Initiative

Coalition for Revolution (CORE) 

Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) 

Community Women Initiatives (CWI) 

The Concerned Forum 

Congress of Progressive Youths (COPY) 

Democratic Youth League

Edo State Civil Society Organisation (EDOSCO)

Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria 

Freedom of Expression Hub

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UAE finally free Osama al-Najjar after detaining more than five years.

August 9, 2019

Osama Al-Najjar remained in detention, despite completing his jail sentence. Photo Credit: activist’s Twitter account

On 9 August 2019 Global Voices reports that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have freed activist and political prisoner Osama al-Najjar after detaining him for more than five years. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/13/political-prisoners-in-the-emirats-are-detained-indefinitely-even-after-release-date/]

”Two other detainees, Badr al-Bahri and Othman al-Shehi, whose initial sentences expired in April 2017 and July 2018 respectively, have also been freed”, the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE) said in a statement. Al-Bahri and al-Shehi were arrested over their links to al-Islah, which was a legally registered Islamist political movement in the UAE before it was banned by authorities in 2014.

Many political prisoners remain in detention in the UAE, despite repeated calls from human rights groups for their release. Prominent human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor is currently serving a ten-year jail sentence over comments he posted online. Prior to his arrest in March 2017, he campaigned online on behalf of jailed activists in the UAE, including Osama al-Najjar. Academic Nasser Bin Ghaith is also serving a ten-year jail sentence over tweets critical of the UAE authorities. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/ahmed-mansoor/]

UAE frees activist Osama al-Najjar after 5 years in detention