Posts Tagged ‘disappearances’

More on “residential surveillance in a designated location” (RSDL) in China

January 10, 2018

The People’s Republic of the Disappeared documents the experiences of Chinese activists (and one Swede) placed into “residential surveillance at a designated location” (RSDL). Several of those who wrote about their experiences for the book say their time in RSDL was worse than any previous treatment they had experienced, whether in legal detention centers or illegal “black jails.” What about RSDL makes it the most feared type of detention in China?

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.Under Xi Jinping, China’s assault on the human rights community has escalated to extremes not seen since the 1989 Pro-Democracy crackdown, while technological advancements, not to mention certain complicit foreign companies, have allowed for unprecedented increases in police capacity and state control. Add to that an effort by the Party to weaponize the law through legislation whose only purpose is to mask its authoritarian objectives behind false talk of rule of law. The revised Criminal Procedure Law, in which RSDL is codified in Article 73, is case in point, as it grants agents of the state effectively unfettered power, often in violation of fundamental international law, to act in the preservation of national security, which is synonymous with the preservation of Party supremacy.

RSDL is so feared, arguably, because it is so quintessentially totalitarian, right down to the ubiquity of black hoods and midnight raids, evoking scenes from V for Vendetta. Little is known, but that is slowly changing, about what it means to disappear in China. Even a few years after it came into effect, in 2016 many people were still misled by the euphemistic title, the residential in RSDL. Torture is common. RSDL is a tool of repression, designed to terrorize and demonstrate power. It is so feared because it was designed to be feared.

One thing that can be done to address this fear is just to spread knowledge about RSDL. Indeed, many frontline human rights defenders have spoken about the protective quality of reading or hearing stories about others’ experiences in detention, such as the pamphlet a Guide to Drinking Tea by Wu Gan, who was recently sentenced to eight years in prison for his rights defense, or Hua Ze’s book In the Shadow of the Rising Dragon, which was a big inspiration for The People’s Republic of the Disappeared. Indeed, one of the goals of this book was to provide some protection for at risk human rights defenders, to mitigate their fears with the stories of others so they would at least be a little better prepared for what to expect.

Is the use of RSDL, as compared to other forms of detention (legal and not), reserved for a particular type of person? Those who contributed their stories for the book are lawyers and rights defenders; who else might find themselves “disappeared” into RSDL in China?

According to Article 73 of the Criminal Procedure Law, residential surveillance may be enforced at a designated location — in other words in secret and outside the protection of the law — in cases involving endangering national security, terrorism, or serious bribery, and when enforcement in the individual’s actual residence may “impede the investigation.” Of course, the police are also able to deny access to the state prosecutor if it “impedes the investigation” so this notion rings hollow. Based on this, we see at least three vaguely defined categories of people who may find themselves disappeared into RSDL. The connotations of these categories generally refer to human rights defenders who are common targets of RSDL, ethnic minorities and predominantly Uyghurs for whom another system for disappearances is widespread, and elites or political opponents, for whom yet another system for enforced disappearances, shuang gui, exists. If you look closely, China maintains several distinct systems for disappearance, each one generally targeting one demographic or another.

Why do you think the Chinese government made the effort to legally define RSDL, granting it a legitimate status, only to disregard any and all legal safeguards while actually holding detainees? 

China cares about image. The Party wouldn’t harass and detain its critics if it didn’t care. It recognizes the international community places importance on the rule of law, at least rhetorically; indeed there are plenty of other offenders. But China, and as we are seeing with more countries in the region, has perfected the weaponization of the law. Legislation is passed to fit a particular template for good governance and the rule of law, trials are convened, and judgments are passed, “in the spirit of the law” or “based on relevant domestic regulations” or within its “judicial sovereignty.” Absurdly politicized, and yet successful. Some recent examples of China’s success with this strategy are Apple cravenly withdrawing VPN access for Chinese iTunes Store users and Springer Nature agreeing to censor political journals, both out of supposed deference to domestic regulations. Passing legislation such as the Criminal Procedure Law and additional regulations on RSDL, for example, allows the government to hide its normalization of enforced disappearances, and other serious rights violations including torture, behind the veneer of the rule of law.

But China fails. Firstly, international law is clear that enforced disappearances are a grave human rights violation and crime, without any exception or circumstance, including state of war or emergency or national security. This is customary international law, binding upon all countries regardless of treaty ratification. Secondly, China’s rhetoric of the rule of law falls apart against international standards that the law be accessible, predictable, equitable, and accountable. None of these features are effectively present, especially with RSDL. China may try to convince the world that it is a country based on the rule of law but this is actually the rule by law, or legalist authoritarianism.

Obviously numbers are impossible to come by, thanks to the secretive nature of the practice. But do you have an estimate for the number of people held in RSDL, or the number of “disappeared” overall in China?

As I point out in the chapter on RSDL and international law, because enforced disappearances are so heinous they may rise to the level of a crime against humanity if, put simply, they are part of a widespread or systematic attack on a civilian population, and in the last chapter I go into more detail about what this means.

I would like to add that while the book focuses mainly on human rights defenders, by far the largest demographic of disappeared in China are Uyghurs, who starting after the 2009 Urumqi riots and accelerating under Xinjiang Party Secretary Chen Quanguo since 2016 have disappeared in waves, with many never heard from again. Like RSDL, the state has many euphemisms for its systems to disappear Uyghurs, the most widespread being “political education.”

In terms of the book, human rights defenders are a major targeted demographic for disappearances under RSDL. By most estimates the number of victims of RSDL range from the hundreds to the thousands. These are those who are placed under RSDL for a few days to those who are kept for the full six months, to those who are subjected to even lengthier and wholly illegal disappearances following RSDL such as with lawyer Wang Quanzhang. An old friend, the book is in fact dedicated to Wang Quanzhang, who remains missing now after nearly two and a half years.

When conceiving the numbers of victims, we should bear in mind that international law also recognizes the family members of the disappeared as victims of enforced disappearance, and as such Li Wenzu, Wang’s wife, and the many other spouses, parents, and children of the disappeared must also be counted among the victims of disappearance in China.

Part of the reason why it is so difficult to know the precise numbers of disappeared under RSDL or other mechanisms for disappearance in China is that they are by definition secretive. Furthermore, the same condition that calls RSDL into existence, a claim of national security, allows for the refusal to acknowledge details. For example, while the Supreme People’s Court maintains a database on all cases and includes cases that involve RSDL, many known cases are left out of the database due to national security exceptions on listing case information. Confronting this lack of quantifiable information is precisely why it is so important to engage in monitoring and analyzing China’s use of enforced disappearances, such as the undertaking of the recently launched RSDLmonitor.

At the same time, while it is important to develop a fuller picture of how widespread disappearances are under RSDL, arguably what matters more is how systematic the state has been in its legislation and implementation of disappearances. There is already enough evidence to see that RSDL is systematized and organized enforced disappearances as a Party policy.

The narratives in the book paint the picture of human rights defenders under siege — many of the chapters describe actively preparing to be taken away by the state, after having watched friends and allies suffer the same fate. Over a year after the “709 crackdown,” what is the state of the Chinese activist community? To phrase the question another way, has the authorities’ brutal suppression campaign worked?

The Chinese rights defenders who I have been honored to meet or work in support of are the most resilient and courageous group imaginable. Here is a community struggling for the rights and interests of their fellow citizens, intimidated, brutalized, disappeared, imprisoned by their government and yet they continue. Wang Quanzhang, the last remaining disappeared human rights lawyer of the 709 Crackdown, is case in point. His bravery is an inspiration. For all his attempts to terrorize, Xi Jinping cannot sap the human rights community of its vitality. This campaign, despite its severity and sophistication, like its predecessors, will just lead to new voices, new leaders, new tactics, and new pillars of support. As long as the Chinese Communist Party tramples on the rights of its citizens, there will be a human rights community, and that is because, if I may quote Foucault, “Where there is power, there is resistance.”

How can the international community effectively respond to Chinese human rights violations like RSDL and the torture of detainees?

As I write in the conclusion, it is not easy to confront China, which wields what scholars describe as sharp power and economic statecraft to intimidate and influence, while at the same time either manipulating international law and organizations to its own design, such as with Interpol, or hollowing them of their legitimacy, such as with China’s seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council. But, just as the global race to the bottom for trade and production that rushed to exploit China’s low-paid labor surplus decades ago contributed to its economic transformation, giving rise to its present day economic statecraft used to influence the global order, so too has the international community’s acquiescence to China’s rhetoric of rule of law and judicial sovereignty allowed its war on human rights to continue without consequence. Enough is enough.

The international community needs to stop pretending it is held hostage by China as an excuse for its inaction. One good example is the recent decision by the United States to sanction former Beijing police chief Gao Yan, who through command responsibility was culpable for the death in custody of human rights defender Cao Shunli in 2014. We need more strategic, targeted, follow through.

https://thediplomat.com/2018/01/michael-caster-on-chinas-forced-disappearances/

RSDL: China’s legalization of disappearances

December 30, 2017

It would nice – for a change – to be able to report improvements in the situation of human rights defenders but as feared at the beginning of this year that has not happened. Here the case of China:

On 15 December 2017 China itself issued a White Paper hailing its ‘remarkable progress’ in the ‘law-based protection of human rights’ over the last five years. NGOs such as Human Rights Watch called it ‘hollow’ and a ‘self-congratulatory report’. Here some recent developments especially linked to the tactic of temporary disappearance RSDL:

There is a very informative blog post by Peter Dalin[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/21/confessions-abound-on-chinese-television-first-gui-minhai-and-now-peter-dahlin/] about his friend Wang Quanzhang  in the Hong Kong Free Press (30 December) under the title “The last missing lawyer: a victim of China’s new willingness to flout international human rights norms“. The piece details the system of Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL) and points to its increasing use and danger that it may spread. (See below in green.)

One example of this practice came this week when a court sentenced Wu Gan to eight years in prison. Using social media and outlandish performance art, he went by the online handle “Super Vulgar Butcher” and likened himself to a meat cutter who was making short work of those who violate human rights. After the harsh sentence was imposed in Tianjin, Wu delivered an eloquent statement through his lawyers, speaking with clarity and courage. “For those living under a dictatorship,” he declared, “being given the honourable label of one who ‘subverts state power’ is the highest form of affirmation for a citizen. It’s proof that the citizen wasn’t an accomplice or a slave, and that at the very least he went out and defended, and fought for, human rights.” The authorities, he said, attempted to force him to plead guilty and co-operate in propaganda videos in exchange for a suspended sentence. “I rejected it all. My eight-year sentence doesn’t make me indignant or hopeless. This was what I chose for myself: when you oppose the dictatorship, it means you are already walking on the path to jail.”

This in contrast to the decision the same day in the case of human rights lawyer Xie Yang who was not sentenced to prison after he pleaded guilty to charges of “inciting subversion of state power.”
Xie was released on bail in May after what critics described as a show trial. He had previously claimed that police used “sleep deprivation, long interrogations, beatings, death threats, humiliations” on him. But on Tuesday he denied he had been tortured, according to a video on the court’s official Weibo social media account. “On the question of torture, I produced a negative effect on and misled the public, and I again apologize,” he told judges. The court said he would face no criminal penalties following his full confession. (Xie Yang is one of China’s “709 lawyers”, taken into custody in 2015 during an extensive government crackdown see: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/xie-yang). See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/07/29/the-remarkable-crackdown-on-lawyers-in-china-in-july-2015/

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, has also told China that it wrongfully arrested three prominent human rights activists accused of subversion and called on the government to release and compensate them. The panel, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, made up of five independent experts, said the three activists, Hu Shigen, Zhou Shifeng and Xie Yang, had been punished for promoting human rights. It said their treatment did not conform with China’s obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and urged Beijing to consider amending its laws to bring them into conformity with international norms. “The appropriate remedy would be to release Hu Shigen, Zhou Shifeng and Xie Yang immediately, and accord them an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations,” the working group concluded. (The findings were contained in a 12-page document that was first reported in October by The Guardian)——–

Peter Dalin’s post:

Some five years ago my friend Wang Quanzhang – China’s last missing lawyer – came over to my Beijing apartment for a Swedish-style Christmas. By this time he had learned to tolerate, if not appreciate, the meatballs, as it was his second Christmas at my house. Since then, I’ve been deported from China and banned for ten years under the Espionage Act.

wang quanzhang

Wang Quanzhang. File photo: RFA.

I am unlikely to spend any more Christmases in China. Wang might never be allowed to spend any Christmas anywhere, outside of prison. Wang disappeared on 5 August 2015. For two and a half years his family, wife Li Wenzu and their young son, and the lawyers Wang had chosen for himself should he ever be detained, have not seen nor heard from him. There’s no trial in sight. It may strike anyone reading this that his case is simply another victim’s story. Frankly, there are so many that it’s hard to keep track or become engaged. However, his case represents something far worse, and is a window into the new China envisioned by Xi Jinping and the CCP.

China’s attempts to weaken UN mechanisms put in place to monitor how countries implement or follow basic rules and rights are well documented. What is happening in China now – an unprecedented disappearing of critics, lawyers and human rights defenders – goes far beyond being just another crackdown on civil society. It is another step towards weakening a core part of the international law system. One of the first major changes under Xi Jinping’s rule was to extend the power of the state even further by legalizing the use of Enforced Disappearances. For a Party usually known for its abysmal public relations management, it did so with a stroke of marketing “genius”, referring to it as a procedure known as Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location, or RSDL. At first, its use was limited to central government targeting key rights defenders, claiming they threatened national security. People would be secretly detained and placed in hotel rooms and government-run guesthouses. Slowly, they started using special custom-built secret prisons. In 2016, the procedure was adopted by local police. Now it’s being used to target critics of any sort, and for any type of “crime”, and not only those accused of threatening national security. Its use, by any measure, is expanding rapidly.

Rights activist Wu Gan and rights lawyer Xie Yang were sentenced the day after Christmas. Wu Gan will spend the next eight years in prison. Both men were disappeared for significant lengths of time before entering the normal judicial process; they were in RSDL. RSDL allows the state to simply take anyone it wishes, no court approval is needed, and disappear them for up to six months. The victim’s family does not need be notified of the victims’ whereabouts, they are denied access to legal counsel, and even more preposterously the prosecutor’s office is almost always barred from visiting the secret facility or victim – despite its nominal role to make sure rampant torture is not practiced. In fact, despite knowing many victims of RSDL myself, I have never heard of someone having had such a visit, and I myself certainly never met anyone from the Prosecutor’s office during my brief stay in RSDL.

In China, exceptions quickly become norms. The exceptions allowing all this have quickly become the norm. With these “exceptions”, RSDL becomes enforced disappearance. Enforced disappearances is not only a crime in international law, but a most severe one. It is even prohibited in war-time. If used systematically, or in a widespread manner, it qualifies as a crime against humanity.

The West’s tepid response to enforced disappearances, even of their own citizens, who have been kidnapped outside of mainland China, such as British citizen Lee Bo in Hong Kong and Swedish citizen Gui Minhai in Thailand, only encourages China to keep expanding its use. Why not, when there are no consequences. My only hope, or wish, for this Christmas season is that the further exposure of RSDL, through the first ever book on the subject, The People’s Republic of the Disappeared, edited by my former coworker Michael Caster, will help shed light on what is going on in China.

This should make the West realize that China’s legalization of what may constitute a crime against humanity is a blow to the whole UN system, and a threat to the West itself, and the rules-based system it advocates. Without a response, how long will it be before Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and other countries in the Asia-Pacific, all with some history of using Enforced Disappearance themselves, realize the effectiveness of the system in silencing critics, and move to legalize their own versions?….It’s hard to say what 2018 has in store for Wang. His case is testament to the breakdown of any rule of law in China. Despite holding all the cards, China does not have the courage to try him in a court of law. He will, for now and who knows for how long, simply be disappeared.

https://www.hongkongfp.com/2017/12/30/last-missing-lawyer-victim-chinas-new-willingness-flout-international-human-rights-norms/

The People’s Republic of the Disappeared

https://www.thespec.com/opinion-story/8028958-the-clarity-and-courage-of-wu-gan/

http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?id=39930&t=1

For China, Christmas is the best time of year to put human-rights activists on trial

Mexican Graciela Pérez Rodriguez to receive 2017 Human Rights Tulip

November 10, 2017

The 2017 Human Rights Tulip has been awarded to Mexican human rights defender Graciela Pérez Rodriguez. Foreign minister Halbe Zijlstra will present her with the prize on Friday 8 December in The Hague, two days ahead of Human Rights Day. The Human Rights Tulip is an annual prize awarded by the Dutch government to human rights defenders who take an innovative approach to promoting human rights. The prize consists of a bronze sculpture and €100,000, which is intended to enable recipients to further develop their work. See: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/tulip-award

Graciela Pérez Rodriguez defends the rights of family members of disappeared persons in Mexico. Through her work she attempts to break through the taboos surrounding this issue. The human rights defender is herself searching for her disappeared daughter, brother and three nephews. Graciela Pérez Rodriguez, a non-professional who has immersed herself in forensic science, is a founding member of the Forensic Citizen Science project. This national collective of disappeared persons’ family members in various Mexican states helped establish the Mexican National Citizen Registry of Disappeared Persons and a DNA database run by and for citizens, which facilitates the identification of victims’ remains at a late stage.

Despite the difficult circumstances in which she works, Graciela remains committed to searching for disappeared persons in Mexico,’ Mr Zijlstra said. ‘Human rights defenders like Graciela are indispensable in the fight for a better world. It takes pressure from the inside to achieve real change.’ Disappearances are a serious problem in Mexico. Between January and August this year over 2,400 people were reported missing. In mid-October the Mexican Congress passed a new law to combat disappearances, which provides for longer prison sentences and a committee tasked with finding disappeared persons. The Dutch government sees this law as an important step forward in dealing with this problem.

see also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/mexico/

https://www.government.nl/latest/news/2017/11/09/graciela-perez-rodriguez-to-receive-2017-human-rights-tulip

Egyptian human rights defender, Doaa Hassan, speaks about disappearances

October 31, 2017

On 30 October 2017 the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) published this testimony by Doaa Hassan, the criminal justice programme director at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Justice. Doaa is particularly focusing on enforced disappearances which several members of the organisation have been victims of.

For other post on Egypt see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/egypt/

Silencing of Miriam Rodriguez Martinez in Mexico: a loud voice for the disappeared

June 21, 2017

Since December 2012, on average two human rights defenders have been killed every month in Mexico. During his recent visit to Mexico (25 January 2017), United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, highlighted the particular dangers faced by indigenous rights defenders and those campaigning to protect the environment from the impact of mega development projects. The situation of human rights defenders in Mexico is conditioned by the criminalisation of their activities through the deliberate misuse of criminal law and the manipulation of the state’s punitive power by both state and non-state actors, to hinder and even prevent the legitimate activities of defenders to promote and protect human rights,” said Forst. “The failure to investigate and sanction aggressors has signaled a dangerous message that there are no consequences for committing such crimes. This creates an environment conducive to the repetition of violations”Two major contributory factors are the impunity enjoyed by organised criminal gangs and the failure by state authorities to provide protection to HRDs or to bring the perpetrators of attacks to justice. Nothing demonstrates the problem better than the work and life of Miriam Rodriguez Martinez, who was gunned down on 10 May 2017.

The obituary in the Economist of 20 May 2017 tells the sad story of this enormously courageous woman in detail: http://www.economist.com/news/obituary/21722139-campaigner-mexicos-disappeared-was-50-obituary-miriam-rodr-guez-mart-nez-died-may

see also: https://socialistworker.org/2017/05/18/justice-for-miriam-rodriguez

and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/02/27/alarming-criminalisation-of-human-rights-defenders-in-latin-america/

Re-appearance of Abdul Wahid Baloch in Pakistan after four months!

December 8, 2016

abdul-wahid-balochRe-appearances after a time lapse of 4 months are rare. So this case in Pakistan deserves a mention: Abdul Wahid Baloch is a human rights defender who has called for justice for the Baloch community through the organisation of campaigns, protests and public condemnation of a number of high profile cases. Human rights defenders that have demanded justice for state violations against the Baloch community have been regarded as being anti-state by the Pakistani authorities.  On the morning of 5 December 2015, Abdul Wahid Baloch returned to his house in Karachi, roughly four months after his disappearance on 26 July 2016. Abdul Wahid Baloch thanked human rights groups, media and individuals who campaigned for his release but refused to comment on anything involving his disappearance.

Source: Abdul Wahid Baloch | Front Line Defenders

For another post on repression of the Baloch: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/04/07/intimidation-against-human-rights-defender-nasrullah-baloch-in-pakistan/

#BringBackOurGirls gets Argentinian Emilio Mignone award

December 6, 2016

The Government of Argentina has awarded the Nigeria#BringBackOurGirls movement the International Human Rights Prize ‘Emilio F. Mignone’ for work in advocacy towards respect for human rights worldwide. A statement on Monday 5 December in Abuja by the BBOG spokesman, Sesugh Akume, said the award ceremony would take place at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Buenos Aires. It added that the coalition would be represented at the event by two members of the Movement, Aisha Yesufu, who is the Chairperson of the  Strategic Team, and Dr. Chinwe Madubuike.
The group stated “While in Argentina, they will as part of the award ceremonies, meet with the human rights group– Las Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo … …It is made up of grandmothers, mothers and other citizens who have since 1977 been advocating for the return of an estimated 500 children abducted or born in detention during the military era and illegally adopted, with their identities hidden.

The statement noted that like the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, which has advocated weekly in the last 39 years, the Chinwe Madubuike has been on a daily campaign since April 30, 2014 for the rescue of now 196 out of the 219 ChibokGirls abducted from their school on 14 April 2014 by Boko Haram.

Source: BBOG wins Argentine rights award – Punch Newspapers

Anti-Disappearances NGO wins Asian human rights award

November 11, 2016

The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) has won the Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award 2016 for its efforts to resolve the problem of forced disappearances in Asia.

AFAD has made indelible contributions in pushing states to address the rights of families of the disappeared and in seeking justice for the victims,” said Legislative Speaker Su Jia-chyuan, chairman of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. He said that AFAD was a major force behind the UN’s adoption in 2006 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, and has in recent years been active in lobbying Asian governments to sign and ratify the convention.

[Su said that many instances of politically motivated disappearances also occurred in Taiwan when the nation was under authoritarian rule. As someone who took part in rescue missions for missing people at that time, Su said he could deeply empathize with the fear experienced by the victims’ families and the hardships faced by human rights organizations in authoritarian nations.]

Founded in 1998 in Manila, AFAD facilitates searches for people who are abducted or imprisoned by a state or political organization, and works to ensure the attainment of truth, justice, redress and the reconstruction of the collective memory of the missing. Recipients of the award include Reporters Without Borders, Rescue Foundation of India, End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes International, as well as Kim Seong-min, founder and director of Free North Korea Radio. The award comes with a prize of US$100,000.

Source: AFAD wins human rights award – Taipei Times

Cameroon: killing and disappearances by government forces in graphic video

September 7, 2016

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

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

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

Video: Africartoons Studio; Music: Kalakuta Music Group

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

UN Rapporteurs urge Ethiopia to end violent crackdown and impunity

February 10, 2016

On 21 January 2016 a group of United Nations Rapporteurs (Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances) called on the Ethiopian authorities to end the ongoing crackdown on peaceful protests by the country’s security forces, who have reportedly killed more than 140 demonstrators and arrested scores more in the past nine weeks. “The sheer number of people killed and arrested suggests that the Government of Ethiopia views the citizens as a hindrance, rather than a partner,” the independent experts said, while also expressing deep concern about allegations of enforced disappearances of several protesters.

The current wave of protests began in mid-November, in opposition to the Government’s ‘Addis Ababa Integrated Development Master Plan’ to expand the capital’s municipal boundary. The ‘Master Plan’ could reportedly lead to mass evictions and the seizure of agricultural land in the Oromia region, as well as extensive deforestation. The UN experts welcomed the Government’s announcement on 12 January 2016 suspending the implementation of the ‘Master Plan’, but were concerned about continuous reports of killings, mass arrests, excessive use of force and other abuses by security forces. “The Government’s decision is a positive development, but it cannot be seen as a sincere commitment until the security forces stop their crackdown on peaceful protests,” they said. “The role of security forces should be to protect demonstrators and to facilitate peaceful assemblies, not suppress them.”

We call on the Government to immediately release protesters who seem to have been arrested for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, to reveal the whereabouts of those reportedly disappeared and to carry out an independent, transparent investigation into the security forces’ response to the protests,” the experts said.  “Impunity, on the other hand, only perpetuates distrust, violence and more oppression.

The UN independent experts also expressed grave concern over the Ethiopian Government’s application of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation 652/2009 to arrest and prosecute protesters, labelling them as ‘terrorists’ without substantiated evidence. This law authorises the use of unrestrained force against suspects and pre-trial detention of up to four months. “Ethiopia’s use of terrorism laws to criminalize peaceful dissent is a disturbing trend, not limited to the current wave of protests,” they experts noted. “The wanton labelling of peaceful activists as terrorists is not only a violation of international human rights law, it also contributes to an erosion of confidence in Ethiopia’s ability to fight real terrorism. This ultimately makes our world a more dangerous place.”

How the law was used recently is clear from the case of the “Zone 9” bloggers. Fortunately, on 16 October 2015 Front Line was able to report that all “Zone 9” bloggers were cleared of terrorism charges by the Federal Court in Addis Ababa. All bloggers and journalists whose terrorism charges have been dropped are members of the “Zone 9” and prominent social media activists. With the exception of Soliana Shimelis, the other human rights defenders, namely Mss Mahlet Fantahun and Edom Kassaye and Messrs Natnael Feleke, Befekadu Hailu, Atnaf Birhane, Zelalem Kibret, Abel Wabela, Tesfalem Weldyes and Asmamaw Haile Giorgis, were arrested on 25 and 26 April 2014 and remained in detention for over a year before being freed.  The human rights defenders’ lawyer stated that “all the evidence presented was very weak to prove they were planning any kind of terrorism”. However, charges of inciting violence remain pending against Befekadu Hailu, who might face a ten-year imprisonment sentence if convicted. See: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/29137

On Ethiopia: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/suffocating-dissent-in-ethiopia-counterpunch-tells-the-facts-and-names-the-names/

http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16977&LangID=E