Posts Tagged ‘extra judicial killings’

Two South Sudanese activists who had disappeared two years ago now presumed dead

May 30, 2019

It’s time for Kenya, South Sudan to account for the enforced disappearance of Samuel Dong and Aggrey Idri

As news of the death of Samuel Dong Luak and Aggrey Ezboni Idri circulated recently, I felt extremely saddened.. The enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killing of two outspoken critics of the South Sudanese government, by South Sudanese security services allegedly with the acquiescence of Kenyan authorities, and both states’ continuous denial of responsibilities, signals a worrying trend of disrespect for human life and insecurity for those who dare to speak up and challenge power.

Samuel Dong Luak was a prominent human rights lawyer, Secretary General of the South Sudan Law Society for over ten years, as well as a member of the South Sudan Constitutional Review Commission.

Aggrey Ezboni Idri was an opposition leader, and member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO). In 2013, after receiving death threats for providing legal assistance to the former Secretary General of South Sudan’s governing party, Pagan Amum, who had been accused of “treason” by President Salva Kiir, Dong fled South Sudan and sought refuge in Kenya, where he was granted refugee status. The same year, Aggrey also relocated to Kenya after South Sudan descended into conflict.

The deceased lived with their families in the capital, Nairobi, until they were disappeared on 23 and 24 January 2017, respectively. Amnesty International, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, and other human rights groups called on the governments of Kenya and South Sudan to reveal the fate or whereabouts of the two men, suspected to be held by Kenyan authorities before deportation. The families of the disappeared also mobilised; petitioning Kenya’s High Court to produce the two men in court, but the petition was dismissed as Kenya denied having them in its custody. The family later asked the police to conduct a thorough investigation, but a final judgment in January 2019 confirmed the dismissal of their petition and ended judicial oversight into police action with regard to the case. Yet, the Court had noted that the police investigation fell short of seeking information from South Sudanese authorities and potential key witnesses.

The fate of Dong and Aggrey remained unknown until April 30,2019, when the UN Panel of Experts on South Sudan circulated a report pointing to the likelihood of their death. The report states that “the Panel has corroborated evidence strongly suggesting” that Dong and Aggrey were kidnapped in Kenya by an arm of South Sudan’s National Security Service (NSS), transferred to Juba, and executed in a NSS detention and training facility in Luri, on January 30, 2017.

In a report published in April 2018, DefendDefenders reported on the role of the NSS in limiting free expression and committing violations against human rights defenders (HRDs) in South Sudan. This case further highlights the unchecked power and impunity enjoyed by South Sudanese security services, which jeopardises possibilities for peace in the context of the revitalised peace agreement signed in September 2018. South Sudan’s conduct blatantly violates human rights standards, including the Declaration on the Protection of All persons from Enforced Disappearances. Moreover, South Sudan continues to retain laws that are inimical to their regional and international human rights obligation. This results in shrinking civic space and democratic practice and killing or exiling of journalists and HRDs.

The alleged acquiescence or cooperation of the government of Kenya violates article 3 of the UN Convention Against Torture, which prohibits returning people to places where they risk being tortured or ill-treated. Kenya ratified it. Dong’s confirmed status as a refugee also commits Kenya to the principle of non-refoulement enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention. Worryingly, this does not seem to be an isolated case.

……..
Against these worrying trends, I add my voice to that of other human rights organisations in calling on South Sudanese and Kenyan authorities to establish swift, impartial, independent, transparent and thorough investigations into Dong and Aggrey’s case. Both Kenya and South Sudan are State parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and must take all necessary measures to uphold their obligations under the African Charter and other international instruments. South Sudanese authorities must allow the UN Panel of Experts on South Sudan and other monitors to access the site where the killing allegedly took place and all relevant witnesses and information. It is necessary to investigate these events fully, including the chain of command that led from Dong and Aggrey’s disappearance in Nairobi to their alleged execution. Those responsible, irrespective of their rank or standing, need to be held accountable, and the families of the victims must have access to adequate remedies for the losses they suffered.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other regional and international organs should collectively and strongly ensure that justice and accountability is served in this case. They must demand that Kenya and South Sudan end all enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.

Denials, impunity, and attempts at diffusing responsibility cannot stand in front of such serious allegations. More than two years after their disappearance, justice and accountability are due to the families and the communities Dong and Aggrey were forced to leave behind.

COMMENT: Disappearance and extrajudicial killing

 

First Breach-Valdez Prize to Mexican journalist Daniela Rea

May 5, 2018

I reported already on the creation of a new award in Mexico [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/24/new-national-award-to-honor-slain-mexican-journalists/].  On 3 May 2018, the Mexican journalist Daniela Rea, known for her chronicles of the violence gripping her native country, was awarded the first edition of the Breach-Valdez Prize in Journalism and Human Rights. “We are gathered here today for them, for a prize born out of pain,” Rea said on accepting the award from Valdez’s widow. “But we are also here for all those other colleagues, many of them anonymous, who continue going out into the street, notebooks in hand, to ask questions, to write, to try to understand the workings of this machinery of death… despite our narco-government.”

(Rea, 35, was born in Guanajuato, in central Mexico, but launched her journalism career in the eastern state of Veracruz, one of the most violent in the country because of turf wars between rival drug cartels. From 2005 to 2012 she worked in Mexico City for respected newspaper Reforma, focusing on the consequences of the Mexican government’s decision in 2006 to deploy the military to fight drug trafficking. “I didn’t make a conscious choice and say ‘I’m going to write about human rights.’ It was the natural result of writing about Mexican life,” Rea told AFP.)

For more on World Press Freedom Day and awards see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/05/04/world-press-freedom-day-a-good-time-for-honoring-journalists/

https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Mexico-Daniela-Rea-Wins-Coveted-Breach-Valdez-Journalism-Prize-20180503-0024.html

Pakistan: summary justice by the police is widespread

February 10, 2018

On 4 February 2018 the Pakistani newspaper The News on Sunday carried the story “Punjab police has a history and reputation of staging fake police encounters. Has anything changed?

A solution for speedy justice
Fake police encounters are said to be more rampant in Punjab province and some urban centres of Sindh, including Karachi. If one takes the case of Punjab, one finds such encounters to be a popular and preferred method of ‘dispensing justice’ adopted by the police. Police encounters have been staged for long but their number is said to have skyrocketed during the tenures of Shehbaz Sharif as the chief minister of Punjab. This has led to the perception that he has full trust in this method of controlling crime and patronises police officers known as encounter specialists. Prized postings and out-of-turn promotions for such officers strengthen this perception.

After tracing the history of police encounters in Punjab the article states that “Killings through police encounters got an exponential boost after Shehbaz Sharif came to power in Punjab in 1997. It was in July 1999 that BBC carried a news story that 850 suspected criminals had been killed by the police in encounters since the PML-N government had taken over in the province. The fact that 20 of them had been killed in just one week in May 1999 had disturbed human rights defenders all over the world. This killing spree was also observed during his second tenure that started in 2013. In 2015 alone, 440 suspects were killed in police encounters in Punjab.

Ejaz Butt, a crime reporter based in Lahore, recalls the time when he says police was said to have been asked by the Shehbaz Sharif government to decimate the top 10 gangsters of the city. He says police would stage encounters without any fear and hold press conference a day before with the criminals in handcuffs. “The officers would tell reporters to ask questions from criminals, saying they would be killed in shootout the next day,” he adds. The need for this clean-up operation was felt when the trader community of the city became fed up with excessive demands for extortion money and paid assassins who were operating everywhere.

Butt says the encounter experts are very much clear about who to shoot down. “The criminals who have fired at policemen, raped female inmates during robberies, killed abducted children even after getting ransom, molested minors, indulged in multiple murders, including those of witnesses are not spared,” he adds. He says they opt for this method as it is difficult to establish these crimes in courts and letting them go will make them commit the same crime again.

Every time there is an encounter there is a judicial inquiry but most of the time fake encounters are hard to establish. Why is it so? Butt explains the reason is that “encounter specialists are also expert in making the encounter plan and executing it. They prepare a sketch of the crime scene beforehand and fire bullets at police van with unlicensed weapons, claimed to be owned by the criminals. Besides, there is no eyewitness because all the roads and pathways leading to the venue of the encounter are blocked for public before it is carried out.”

Sarmad Saeed Khan says the fake encounters are not probed properly because they are done at the behest of the government. “Not even a single fake encounter can be staged by a police officer on his own”. He says not “every police officer is ready to take these orders and only those agree who get the blessings of the government”.

Though these police officers got out-of-turn promotions, he says, “the Supreme Court reversed these which is a good step. But despite this, these officers obey unlawful orders from the government to kill people in encounters. These dreaded officers are also used to pressurise political opponents whenever needed,” he adds.

If there are any demands for investigation, complainants are warned that they can be taken as those attackers if they keep on demanding an inquiry. Moreover “The problem unfortunately is that even the blood relatives disassociate themselves from such cases and disown the deceased due to the stigma attached to them.”

http://tns.thenews.com.pk/solution-speedy-justice/#.Wnni02Z7GV4

 

New coalition of Human Rights Defenders in the Philippines tries to deal with killings

November 4, 2017

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Duterte is wrong: Human rights defenders are beautiful !

November 2, 2016

The Philippines seems to get most of its attention nowadays because of the ranting of its President rather than the human rights situation on the ground. That is why wrote a reply in the  of 1 November 2016 under the title “Human rights defenders are beautiful“.

The intruiging title is linked to a recent episode in which President Duterte complimented the Filipino beauty queen, Kylie Verzosa, on her international recognition by saying “You see, Filipinas are beautiful”,  and then added gratuitously “Pero kayong lahat diyan sa human rights commission, mga pangit (But all of you there at the Commission on Human Rights, you are all ugly)”. It would be a mistake to think that this was just another jest. Since the CHR, under then chair Leila de Lima, investigated him in 2009 for possible human rights violations in relation to the killings attributed to the so-called Davao Death Squad, he has harbored a sense of resentment against the constitutional agency which has dared question the rising casualty toll in his so-called war on drugs..
The writer then says: But we should all ask: What have human rights advocates done to deserve such hostility, such cavalier treatment, from the President? Human rights advocates, including those identified with the National Democratic Front, including those who have served and are serving in the CHR, were among those who tried to hold the Marcos regime accountable during the dictatorship itself, and are among those leading the fight to bring the Marcos family to justice. Mr. Duterte’s own mother, who was a leader of the anti-Marcos movement in Davao City, would have recognized them as kindred spirits……….A devout and disciplined Catholic, she would have understood the sacrifice these advocates made, in choosing the less lucrative, much more dangerous career of human rights work. I daresay she would have recognized in them the dignity, the beauty, of the saints: They are doing not only the right, but the beautiful, thing.

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Bodies of disappeared human rights lawyer Kimani and his client found in Kenya

July 3, 2016

A lawyer, Willie Kimani, his client, Josphat Mwenda and their taxi driver, Joseph Muiruri, were last seen returning from a traffic court hearing at Mavoko Law Courts on 23 June 2016. Many feared that they were abducted. Now, on 1 July 2016 their bodies have been found. Kimani was a lawyer with NGO International Justice Mission in Kenya. Kimani had been representing Mwenda in a case he had brought against the police after he was shot by them during a traffic stop.

Kenyan lawyers held a protest http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2000207020/lawyers-stage-protest-outside-ig-boinnet-s-office-over-missing-lawyer-client-and-taxi-driver-civil-societies-condemn-disappearance on 30 June, and petitioned the police inspector general for information regarding the men’s whereabouts.

We are deeply saddened by reports of the murders of Kimani, his client, and his taxi driver, and offer our condolences to their families and colleagues who continue to incur great risk fighting for justice and accountability,” said Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino. “It’s vital for the future of Kenya that its human rights lawyers are able to operate without fear of violence, and that the killers be swiftly brought to justice.”

Police should not hesitate to interrogate and arrest their own officers when there is cause,” said Namwaya of HRW. “This case stands as a clear threat to the legal profession and all those who push for police accountability in Kenya.”

http://www.hrw.org/africa/kenya

[http://www.knchr.org/Portals/0/PressStatements/Joint%20Press%20Release%20-Disappearance%20of%20Willie%20Kimani%20et%20al.pdf]

http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/human-rights-first-demands-justice-murder-human-rights-lawyer-kenya

Closing Civil Society Space – a euphemism for Killing Human Rights Defenders

November 30, 2015

The Huffington Post of 29 November 2015 carried a good piece by Brian Dooley (Human Rights First) under the title “When Closing Civil Society Space Means Killing Human Rights Defenders”. He states that “what sometimes gets overlooked in the discussion around “shrinking civil society space” are direct, violent attacks on human rights defenders.”

He refers to this year’s Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (HRDs) which details killings of HRDs in Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East. And a Note by the UN Secretary-General in July this year included how “defenders also describe their sense that they are often on their own, with the media showing little interest in reporting acts of aggression against them and with little support from political figures…”

Read the rest of this entry »

Human rights defenders squeezed by geo-politics? The cases of Colombia, Iran and Cuba.

September 11, 2015

Health and holidays (in that order) have slowed down my blog production somewhat this summer, but perhaps this was a welcome break for many of my readers for reasons of holiday and health (in that order I hope). Anyway, during these summer months I read quite some instances of HRD repression related to countries involved in major ‘geo-political’ progress and I started wondering whether this is coincidental. Take the following three cases: Colombia, Iran and Cuba. Read the rest of this entry »

UN special rapporteur urged to investigate human rights defenders in the Philippines

December 6, 2014

The UN special rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, has made a fast start with his mandate. Hardly back from Burundi and Morocco, he met with human rights defenders in  Quezon City, Philippines as reported by InterAksyon.com on 6 December 2014.

(Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, with human rights defenders in Quezon City – photo from Karapatan)
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders Michel Forst indicated his interest in filing a request for an official visit after a two-hour meeting late last week with members of Manilakbayan, a contingent of indigenous peoples’ groups and advocates, and representatives of the human rights group Karapatan from Mindanao and Southern Tagalog.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, in a statement, urged the international community and human rights advocates worldwide to “press the Philippine government to accede to the request of the UNSR-HRD to look into the numerous reports of attacks against rights defenders in the country.” Forst’s predecessors — Hina Jilani and Margaret Sekaggya — both submitted several requests to conduct an official investigation in the Philippines, but did not obtain official invitations from the government.

UN special rapporteur wants to probe attacks on PH rights defenders.

FIDH mission reports on Honduran Elections

December 21, 2013

The mission to Honduras was made up of Baltasar Garzón, a Spanish jurist and human rights defender; Luis Guillermo Pérez Casas, attorney and head of the FIDH mission; Lisa Haugaard of the Latin America Working Group; Annie Bird of Rights Action; Mirna Perla, former magistrate of the Supreme Court of Justice of El Salvador; Julieta González from APRODEV-Advocacy Program for Central America in Brussels; Susanna Daag from the Copenhagen Initiative for Central America (CIFCA) in Brussels; Hollman Morris, Colombian journalist and human rights defender; Enrique Santiago of the Foro de Abogados of Spain; Beatriz Gil from the Institute for Political Studies on Latin America and Africa (IEPALA) in Spain; and Pascal Paradis from Lawyers without Borders, Canada. The mission was carried out with the support of CIPRODEH.logo FIDH_seul

The report of 20 December 2013 highlights the following:
  • deep concern over the attacks and threats made against the human rights defenders mentioned in its November 23, 2013 press release, including journalists and those who work to defend women, indigenous and Garifuna territories, natural resources, and the lesbian, gay, transsexual, bisexual, and intersexual community. The mission had access to two blacklists targeting leaders of social and labor organizations, human rights defenders, journalists, and members of the Libertad y Refundación political party and indicating they would be murdered.
  • concern over the recent and apparently arbitrary transfer of public prosecutors who had been working in the Special Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Prosecutors’ Offices and the impact of these transfers on the work necessary to overcome the high level of impunity in the country.
  • number of irregularities in the election process identified through multiple reports from diverse sectors of Honduran civil society.
  • a lack of transparency around the funding of political campaigns and the sources of political party funding.
  • strong presence of the Armed Forces during the course of the elections.
  • reports that during the course of the last few days, four people linked to the Partido Libertad y Refundación have been murdered. These numbers are over and above the 39 murders that have taken place since May of last year, mostly of members of the same party.

for the full text see: International Mission of FIDH with the Support of CIPRODEH on the Honduran Elections – FIDH.