Posts Tagged ‘elections’

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

August 27, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here the Letter in full:

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

What can we do about the result of the Belarussian “election”? On line discussion

August 13, 2020

The Human Rights House Foundation, in partnership with Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House, will host on THURSDAY, AUGUST 13, 2020 AT 14 PM an on -line  panel discussion with individuals closely following events on the ground. It will investigate what the European Union, United Nations, and individual states must do immediately to prevent further violence and seek a political solution to this growing crisis and how the international community should continue to occupy this space once this crisis moves off of the front pages.
On August 9, Belarusian President Alyasandr Lukashenka claimed a landslide re-election victory. This claim was widely anticipated, condemned by the political opposition, and met with large-scale peaceful protests across the country. Belarusian authorities responded with what international organisations label disproportionate violence against protesters. Since Monday, local human rights organisations report thousands detained, many of them arbitrarily, and facing further violence and abuse while in detention. More than 60 journalists – both domestic and foreign – have been arrested with the whereabouts of several unknown. In many ways, these early days of the post-election environment point towards a more violent crackdown than the country faced following the last presidential elections in 2010.
What can and should the international community do to pressure Belarusian authorities to cease their violent attacks on protesters and human rights defenders?
Speakers:
Anaïs Marin
UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus

Oleg Kozlovsky

Amnesty International
Franak Viačorka
Vice President of the Digital Communication Network
Hanna Liubakova
Journalist, Outriders

Valiantsin Stefanovic

Viasna. Human rights in Belarus

and

Tanya Lokshina
Associate director, Europe and Central Asia, Human Rights Watch
Moderation by Dave Elseroad, Human Rights House Foundation.
Also today, 13 August 2020, 5 UN human rights experts strongly criticised Belarus for police violence against peaceful protesters and journalists and large scale detention following a controversial presidential election, and called on the international community to put pressure on Belarus to stop attacking its own citizens: https://yubanet.com/world/belarus-must-stop-attacking-peaceful-protesters-un-human-rights-experts-say/

Belarus elections : will Tyga front for dictator Lukashenko?

August 7, 2020

The New-York-based Human Rights Foundation has a track record when it comes to pressurising celebrities for endorsing human rights violators [e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/18/will-janet-jackson-50-cent-and-tyga-perform-tomorrow-in-jeddah-and-what-will-they-say/]. This time it urges hip-hop artist Tyga to cancela his peformance at a government-sponsored concert in Belarus on August 8.

In 6 August, 2020 HRF’s President sent a letter to the American hip hop artist Tyga pointing  out that his performance is part of a plan to distract from the electoral fraud in the imminent election and prevent protesters from gathering at opposition rallies. The concert is organized and funded by the Belarusian dictatorship, led by Alexander Lukashenko. Under this regime, there is no freedom of speech, no freedom of assembly, and no freedom of association.

This performance, scheduled for the day before Belarus’ elections, is no coincidence. It is an excuse to cancel the opposition’s final electoral rally, and prevent ordinary Belarusians from showing their support for freedom and democracy,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen. “It is also a deliberate attempt to turn attention away from the massive electoral fraud that is already taking place across the country.” Belarus’ elections, which haven’t been free or fair since 1994, have been met with extreme repression. As HRF recounted in its letter to the performer: “Protestors are grabbed off the street at random, and many are beaten bloody. The two most popular candidates in the upcoming presidential election, Viktor Babryka and Sergei Tikhanouvsky, were both arrested on trumped up charges. Many opposition activists have had to flee the country, along with their children, after receiving threats from the government.” “Tyga has been an outspoken advocate of the Black Lives Matter movement. He has urged followers to vote in local elections and take to the streets in protest. His support for Lukashenko’s regime will greatly undermine the activism he has encouraged in the United States, and provide the Belarusian dictator a useful propaganda stunt,” said Halvorssen. “We hope he will stand on the side of the people of Belarus as opposed to their oppressor. He must decline the invitation to perform for the dictator.” HRF requested that Tyga cancel his concert and use this media opportunity to send an urgent and categorical message of encouraging support to protestors in Belarus.

Latest: https://belsat.eu/en/news/head-of-presidential-candidate-cherachan-s-campaign-office-detained/

Read the letter in full: https://hrf.us14.list-manage.com/track/click?u=c5e3037cd362a8e29147b750c&id=d46741b1d8&e=f80cec329e

For some of my older posts on celebrities see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/star-power/

Burundi after the “election”: UN and HRW follow up

July 21, 2020

Lisa Schlein reported on 14 July 2020 that UN Investigators are skeptical of reform promises by new President, while HRW sent a letter to the new President Ndayishimiye

Burundi's President Evariste Ndayishimiye gestures to the crowd after his inauguration in Gitega, Burundi Thursday, June 18,…

The U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Burundi is doubting that promises of reform made by Burundi’s newly-elected president will result in hoped-for improvements in the country’s human rights situation. The commission has submitted its report on prevailing conditions in the country to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The three-member panel welcomes promises of political reconciliation, judicial reform and protection of the population made by President Ndayishimiye, in his inaugural address. But, the chair of the U.N. commission, Doudou Diene, says the president’s comments were full of ambiguities and contradictions. 

For example, he notes the president’s remarks seemed to justify the imposition of restrictions on some public liberties such as freedom of expression, information and assembly under the guise of preserving Burundian culture. 

Speaking on a video link from Paris, he said, “Such remarks are concerning, especially given that the new president’s policies will be implemented by a government composed primarily of the old guard of the late President Nkurunziza’s regime — some of whom are under sanctions for their involvement in grave human rights violations.” 

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza queues at a polling station during the presidential, legislative and communal council…
FILE – Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza queues at a polling station during elections, under the simmering political violence and the growing threat of the coronavirus, in Ngozi, Burundi, May 20, 2020.

President Pierre Nkurunziza died of cardiac arrest on June 8, after a brief hospitalization, while his wife was in Kenya undergoing medical treatment. A number of news outlets report he died of the coronavirus. 

Commission chair Diene says gross, widespread human rights violations continue in Burundi and that it would be premature to make any pronouncements on the possible evolution of the situation under the new government. 

He said, “We solemnly urge the new president of the republic to demonstrate his willingness for change by fully cooperating with the international human rights mechanisms. The immediate release of the four journalists of Iwacu, of human rights defenders … would be a significant gesture of this.” {see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/05/burundi-elections-start-with-convicting-4-journalists/]

Burundi’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Renovat Gabu, rejects the commission’s report. He accuses the commission of interfering in the domestic affairs of his country and of slandering and insulting public authorities with the blessing of the U.N. council. 

Human Rights Watch

Letter to President Ndayishimiye: Protecting Human Rights in Burundi, 13 July, 2020

Re: Protecting Human Rights in Burundi

… We have reported on human rights concerns in Burundi since 1995. We are writing to raise important concerns and share our recommendations on steps your government should take to advance and protect human rights in Burundi. We hope that you will address these issues and make the protection and promotion of human rights a top priority throughout your presidency. We urge you to work to make systemic changes to end the violence and abuse, fueled by widespread impunity, that have plagued the country for far too long, especially since 2015.

While we regret the former administration’s withdrawal of Burundi from the International Criminal Court, which took effect in 2017, we are encouraged by the commitments stated in your inaugural speech to reform the judiciary and ensure that all government or other officials who commit offenses are held accountable. Your assurances that measures will be taken to protect victims and witnesses are critical to delivering this promise, as is your commitment to ensuring that corruption will not be tolerated….

To address these challenges and demonstrate a real commitment to promoting rights and turning the page on decades of violence, abuse, mismanagement, and impunity, we urge you to take the following steps during your first year in office:

  1. Remove from security services posts and other executive branches, officials who have been credibly implicated in serious human rights violations, according to reports by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, the UN Human Rights Council, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ fact-finding mission report, and Burundian and international human rights organizations. Ensure that no one who may be subject to criminal or other investigation into human rights abuses is in a position to influence that investigation.
  2. Instruct the security forces, the local administrators, and the Imbonerakure to stop extortion, the use of forced labor, beatings, arbitrary arrests, threats, harassment, and collection of contributions for state-led projects. Order the Imbonerakure and other officials to dismantle all unauthorized roadblocks.
  3. Direct the Justice Ministry to thoroughly and impartially investigate past grave violations of human rights with a view to appropriately prosecuting current and former state security officers and government officials who were responsible for serious criminal offenses. These include National Defense Force and police extrajudicial executions of 47 civilians, members of armed groups and other suspected opponents between December 30, 2014, and January 3, 2015 in Cibitoke province; police use of excessive force in a crackdown on protests in 2015; violence against suspected opponents after the protests; allegations of extrajudicial executions by members of the security forces on December 11, 2015 ; torture and ill treatment of suspected opponents by national intelligence agents and police in since 2015; and extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary arrests of suspected opponents by national intelligence agents, police, and Imbonerakure members since 2015, including during the periods leading up to the constitutional referendum in 2018 and the elections held earlier this year.
  4. Ensure a thorough and independent investigation into the crimes and abuses committed by the Imbonerakure. These investigations should lead to fair and transparent prosecutions, and your government should ensure that your party’s youth league is disarmed and not used for any official state security or similar duties.
  5. End all political interference in the judicial system, facilitate victims’ access to justice, and ensure progress on emblematic cases. This should include the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners and prisoners jailed for exercising their fundamental rights, including Germain Rukuki, Nestor Nibitanga, Christine Kamikazi, Agnès Ndirubusa, Egide Harerimana, and Térence Mpozenzi
  6. Fully protect everyone’s rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association in accordance with international standards. Lift the suspension on the operations of independent media and human rights organizations, and ensure journalists and human rights activists who are in exile can return safely. Members and supporters of political parties, Burundian and international journalists, and Burundian and international human rights defenders should be able to conduct their work freely, criticize government policies, and organize peaceful protests without fear of intimidation, reprisals, harassment, arrests, or the excessive use of force by the security forces.
  7. Cooperate with and support regional and international human rights mechanisms and treaties, and act to ensure that Burundian law adequately reflects international human rights commitments. This should include full cooperation with the UN Human Rights Council’s special procedures, including giving the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi unfettered access to the country; the resumption of cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; finalization of a memorandum of understanding with the African Union’s human rights observer mission and ensuring the observers get unfettered access to the country and its detention facilities; and allow international NGOs to operate without interference.
  8. Ratify the Rome Statute and align national legislation provisions to cooperate promptly and fully with the International Criminal Court as a court of last resort. Cooperate with the ongoing ICC investigations into alleged crimes against humanity committed in Burundi or by nationals of Burundi outside Burundi until 26 October 2017.

https://www.voanews.com/africa/un-investigators-skeptical-reform-promises-new-burundi-president

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/07/15/letter-president-ndayishimiye-protecting-human-rights-burundi

Recent events make that May 20 elections in Burundi should be postponed

May 18, 2020

IDN-InDepthNews

It is a matter of extreme urgency that Burundi’s presidential, legislative, and local elections, scheduled for May 20, be postponed. Admittedly, it’s the eleventh hour, but the contagion of violence, and the viral contagion of COVID-19, make rescheduling imperative. Three events of the past several days make an incontrovertible  argument:

  • On May 14, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Burundi—investigating alleged crimes against humanity committed by Burundian government forces since September 2016  —released an urgent statement in light of the “numerous acts of violence and human rights violations” occurring during the election campaign. The Commission made clear that accelerating violence and the “shrinking of democratic space” put the electoral process at serious risk.
  • On May 13, the Burundian government expelled the World Health Organization (WHO) team just as the pandemic inexorably spreads in Burundi. The government has done little to address the COVID-19 crisis. Massive campaign events are being held—making a mockery of physical distancing — in blatant defiance of WHO recommendations. And now the government, in a spasm of defensive irrationality, declares the WHO persona non grata.
  • And, on May 8, the Burundian government informed the East African Community that election monitors would be required to quarantine for 14 days, effectively preventing them from entering Burundi before the May 20 vote. The election will thus be held without any international monitoring to ensure that the vote is free and fair.

Pierre Nkurunziza, granted the title of “Supreme Guide of Patriotism,” heads an authoritarian regime. Nkurunziza, who is not standing for re-election, has chosen as his successor a man who is complicit in the alleged crimes against humanity now being investigated by the UN’s COI and the International Criminal Court. His name is Evariste Ndayishimiye, a retired army general who has served as minister of the interior and security. “Do not be afraid,” General Ndayishimiye said of COVID-19 during the campaign. “God loves Burundi, and if there are people who have tested positive, it is so that God may manifest his power in Burundi.”

New reports from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International amply testify that the crisis in Burundi has been worsening as the election nears. Government forces are launching attacks against real and perceived regime opponents. The few remaining independent media outlets are being threatened and harassed. Human rights defenders have either fled the country or been intimidated into silence…………..

[see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/burundi/]

 

https://www.indepthnews.net/index.php/the-world/africa/3544-burundi-threatens-to-deal-a-severe-blow-to-un-reputation

 

Tanzania shows great power sensitivity to UN human rights criticism

April 6, 2020

Chadema party MPs Halima Mdee, Ester Matiko and Ester Bulaya attend a press conference after being released from Segerea prison in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on March 12. PHOTO | AFP

Chadema party MPs Halima Mdee, Ester Matiko and Ester Bulaya attend a press conference after being released from Segerea prison in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on March 12. PHOTO | AFP
According to BOB KARASHANI in the East African of 4 April 2020 Tanzania‘s Foreign Affairs ministry has hit out at the United Nations Human Rights Office for criticising the country’s human rights record as it heads to the October general election. According to the ministry’s Permanent Secretary Col Wilbert Ibuge, the statement issued by the Geneva-based UN agency on March 17, was biased, with unsubstantiated allegations, and an attempt to both malign Tanzania’s international reputation and intrude on its sovereignty. Col Ibuge said that before going public, the agency should have first raised its concerns with the government for clarification “which would have been duly and graciously provided.”

The UN recently called the sentencing of several opposition leaders on charges including sedition and unlawful assembly “further troubling evidence” of a crackdown on dissent and stifling of public freedoms in the country. It accused the government of using the country’s criminal justice system to target its critics, and called on Tanzania to “immediately lift” a four-year ban on political rallies ahead of the October election. “The democratic and civic space has shrunk to almost nothing in Tanzania,” the agency said.

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/31/annual-reports-2019-tanzania-mostly-a-bad-year/]

—–

https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/news/ea/Tanzania-slams-UN-rights-abuses-claims/4552908-5514120-6n56syz/index.html

ICJ says human rights defenders alarmed over election results in Sri Lanka

November 19, 2019

Sri Lanka’s newly elected president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his Government must demonstrate that they will uphold human rights and rule of law, and ensure that Sri Lanka sustains its international obligations and commitments to justice and accountability, said the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) on 19 November 2019. “The election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, after a highly polarizing campaign, has alarmed human rights defenders in Sri Lanka and abroad, who have little reason to believe that someone facing such serious allegations of perpetrating human rights violations can be relied upon to meet the country’s obligations under international law,” said Frederick Rawski, ICJ Asia Pacific Director.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who won the presidency with 52.25% of votes, served as Sri Lanka’s Secretary of the Ministry of Defence from 2005 to 2015 during the tenure of his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, at the height of the armed conflict against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Gotabaya Rajapaksa faces credible allegations of involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity that took place during the country’s armed conflict.

International condemnation of atrocities committed during the conflict led to the UN Human Rights Council demanding that the Sri Lankan government commit to a process of transitional justice, in view of the systematic failures of accountability mechanisms in Sri Lanka in the past, as documented by the ICJ in its submission to the Human Rights Council, and others. Despite commitments from the Sri Lankan government, the transitional justice process has effectively stalled and impunity has prevailed.

The ICJ is deeply concerned that even the limited strides made over the past five years in Sri Lanka on transitional justice, positive constitutional amendments and institutional reform will be reversed,” said Rawski. The ICJ urged the Government to deliver on its commitment to the transitional justice process, including by holding those responsible for human rights violations and abuses accountable, and complying with the obligations set out in United Nations Human Rights Council Resolutions 30/1, 34/1 and 40/1.

Malawi: threats against human rights defenders

July 14, 2019

This is to draw attention to a long-runing battle between civil society and the authorities in Malawi.

The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) says it will not be intimidated by arrests of its members. The coalition said on Friday it will continue demanding the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission Chairperson Justice Dr Jane Ansah. Speaking at a press briefing at the HRDC Offices in Lilongwe, Vice Chairperson for HRDC Gift Trapence said his arrest has reinvigorated the coalition. “We will continue to fight for justice. They are not going to win and suppress this justice,” he explained. Trapence who was arrested for K7 million fraud on Tuesday and released on bail on Friday refused to comment on the case saying it is in court. The activist was arrested together with HRDC member Macdonald Sembereka. Trapence revealed that that HRDC members have been receiving threats from people who say they will torch the activists’ houses. He however stated that the HRDC will continue with plans to demonstrate two days a week until Ansah resigns. The coalition therefore encouraged people to join the protests in large numbers on Tuesdays and Fridays.

HRDC wants Ansah to resign saying she mismanaged the 2019 presidential elections in which President Peter Mutharika was declared winner.

See also: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/cases/location/malawi

 

We will not be intimidated – HRDC  

Court releases Malawi activists Trapence and Sembereka on bail

HRDC women says anti-Ansah demos not gender issue

Funding for NGOs and electoral integrity: a debate that transcends Ireland

January 18, 2019

A letter signed by several NGOs in Ireland addresses an important question that could be an issue in other countries too. The threat of external interference in elections is perhaps in the mind of many people when considering the issue of funding from abroad for NGOs, but the letter makes clear that there is an important distinction. Small local NGOs simply do no have the means that the wealthy and big corporations already enjoy and deploy. Moreover, it is the lack of transparency that matters most.
Here the full text of the letter, signed by Irish Council for Civil Liberties; The Wheel; Amnesty International Ireland;  Uplift; Front Line Defenders.

Read the rest of this entry »

Surangya’s take on human right in 2018

January 2, 2019

There are many people looking back on 2018 in terms of human rights. I would like to share the following by Surangya published on 1 January 2019 in Newsclick, entitled: “From terror plots to national security threats, political dissenters faced several charges and labels for raising their voice and questioning excessive power“, with its own angle and priorities:
Political Freedom

As 2018 draws to an end, we take a look at how the year fared for dissent and democracy in different parts of the world:

…Palestinian children detained in Israeli prisons for protesting the occupation

The occupying state of Israel is perhaps one of the best examples of a country normalising violence of all sorts. For decades, Israel has occupied Palestinian lands and subjected the people to all kinds of humiliation. This has only intensified the resistance against the occupation, with Palestinians ferociously protesting, even at the cost of their lives…..Israel recognises this threat, which is why as of November 2018, there were almost 6,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, most of whom challenged the occupation in one way or another. Even more astonishing is the fact that among these prisoners are nearly 250 children, over 40 of whom are under 16 years of age..This imprisonment of children and subjecting them to torture, inhumane living conditions, often even solitary confinement, is a clear violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Child, to which Israel is a signatory. Just recently, a 17-year-old Palestinian boy, Ahyam Sabbah, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for a charge of attempted stabbing…

Plot to assassinate the prime minister in India

… With the general elections approaching in 2019, the far-right government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with Narendra Modi at the helm, has been looking for any excuse to silence those highlighting this government’s many flaws and suppression of minorities. The most prominent case this year was of the arrest of 10 renowned human rights activists, who were labelled members of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and made part of a plan to assassinate Prime Minister Modi, despite there being no concrete evidence supporting these allegations. The wording of the UAPA is such that any speech a person makes questioning the state can be seen as a threat to the country’s security and sovereignty. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/09/22/attack-on-human-rights-defenders-in-india-are-an-attack-on-the-very-idea-of-india/]

PD%203.PNGVaravara Rao, Vernon Gonsalvez, Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira and Stan Swamy were amongst the activists who faced charges.

Failed peace process in Colombia

Two years after the signing of a peace treaty between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Havana, Cuba, the government has failed to make good on its promises. While the guerrilla organisation surrendered arms for the most part after the treaty was signed, the government now shows no political will to implement the accords and demobilised combatants have been subject of unabated persecution. 92 people who participated in the reincorporation process have been killed……For the more than 400 social leaders and human rights defenders assassinated by right-wing paramilitary and state forces since the Havana agreements were signed, the legal system has been much slower to find those responsible and the government has shown it has no desire to dismantle the criminal structures that carry out these crimes. Just in 2018, human rights organisations reported that over 226 leaders were assassinated and the National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia (ONIC) declared in August that under Duque’s presidency, there has been an increase in the attacks against indigenous people.

Impending elections always create an upsurge in state clampdowns on people’s rights to free speech and protest.

Crackdown in Congo

As the Democratic Republic of Congo finally hit the polls on December 30 after a delay of two years, there was widespread apprehension over the fairness of these elections. President Joseph Kabila held on to power for two years after his constitutionally mandated term ended in December of 2016. Despite being president for the permitted two terms, he remained reluctant to give up control over the country, and only agreed to not contest this time after naming Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary as his successor. Shadary is a former minister of interior, and remains under sanctions by the European Union for committing human rights violations in Congo…..At least 2,000 activists, opposition members, and journalists have been put behind bars since the protests against Kabila began in 2015. Many were released after weeks or months of detention and reported mistreatment. In November alone, at least 18 pro-democracy activists were arrested from the capital city Kinshasa. It remains to be seen if the much anticipated elections will bring a change and some relief to the people of Congo.

Philippines

A scenario similar to this, but of a different magnitude, is being witnessed in the island nation of Philippines under the authoritarian regime of Rodrigo Duterte, with widespread attacks on activists and pubic dissenters…Earlier this month, the government approved extension of martial law for the third time, making it effective for another year. While the stated purpose of this is to combat “extremists”, often labelled as members or leaders of the banned Communist Party of Philippines (CPP) or New People’s Army (NPA), those facing chargers are mostly activists challenging Duterte’s authority. In late February, the Duterte regime released a list of almost 600 activists and political dissenters, which was called the Terror List. Labelled terrorists and members of banned groups, many in the list are renowned activists and public figures, including Victora Tauli-Corpus, the current UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People.

Brasil

Any concrete evidence to show Lula’s involvement in the corruption scandal is yet to be presented. His indictment, however, gave the extreme right candidate Jair Bolsonaro’s campaign a push, ultimately leading to his victory. The judge responsible for the legal crusade against Lula, Sergio Moro, has been rewarded with a place in Bolsonaro’s cabinet as the Minister of Justice. The attacks against Brazil’s social movements have already intensified. Two leaders of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) were assassinated days before the Human Rights Day on December 10. Members of social movements fear that such incidents will become more commonplace under Bolsonaro, known for encouraging Brazilians to resort to violence when faced with social conflicts.

The year ahead…

While 2018 saw several right-wing regimes and authoritarian leaders accede to power, the coming year offers hope of being different as discontent against neo-liberal systems is rising. The Yellow Vests movement in France, which is still going strong after almost a month and a half, is an inspiring instance of that. Several countries will hit the polls in 2019. The need for mobilising against anti-people parties and disseminating the truth about such parties which often seem appealing to the masses with their populist messages is now stronger than ever, especially if we are to make 2019 any different.