Posts Tagged ‘fair trial’

Mubarak Bala wins Humanist International 2021 Freedom of Thought Award

August 27, 2021

In recognition of his efforts and contributions to promote humanist values in Nigeria, the General Assembly of Humanists International awarded Mubarak Bala with the 2021 Freedom of Thought Award during its General Assembly. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/04/29/un-experts-demand-release-of-nigerian-atheist-from-one-year-detention/

Born in Kano state, northern Nigeria, in 1984 and a chemical engineer by training, Mubarak Bala is a prominent member of the Humanist movement. As President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, he has played a vital role in the Humanist community in Nigeria.

Bala has been working to promote freedom of religion or belief in Nigeria and has been an outspoken religious critic in the conservative northern region, where open religious opposition is unusual. He has campaigned for the decriminalization of apostasy and blasphemy laws in states that implement Sharia in northern Nigeria. In addition he has engaged in human rights education and raised awareness on the importance of freedom of thought and conscience to peace, progress and stability in the region. He has organized meetings and conferences to enlighten the local populace especially those inclined to religious extremism and radical Islam due to indoctrination, lack of understanding or misinformation about freedom of religion or belief.

Bala has been held in detention since his arrest on 28 April 2020. Held for 15 months without any charge, Bala now faces charges of public disturbance in connection with Facebook posts deemed “blasphemous” he is alleged to have published in April 2020. In addition to being arbitrarily detained for 15 months, there have been several other violations of his rights to a fair trial, which include denying Bala access to his legal counsel until October 2020, failing to comply with a Federal High Court order to release Bala on bail, and consistent attempts to obstruct Bala’s legal team.

Andrew Copson, President of Humanists International, commented: “Mubarak Bala is an honorable humanist who has experienced great hardship and persecution in his realization of a life lived true to his values. Today he is a prisoner of conscience, whose thoughts are freer than he himself.”

The award was accepted on his behalf by his wife Amina Ahmed during the General Assembly of Humanists International on 15 August, commenting the award with these words:

On behalf of my husband Mubarak Bala, I really want to thank humanists all over the world for this wonderful honour. This award has really shown that the world still cares for Mubarak, and that Mubarak has not been forgotten. This is to show that humanity is above all regardless of religion and belief. I thank Humanists International for your utmost support and care for Mubarak’s family. We don’t know how to thank you enough, all I can say is thanks a zillion! And I know this is indeed a phase which will come to pass soon. I also want to thank the Humanists Association of Nigeria who has struggled these past months for Mubarak’s release. You have all really shown so much love and care for Mubarak and we really appreciate it.

Continued harassment of Mother Nature defenders in Cambodia

June 22, 2021

The Cambodian government should immediately drop baseless conspiracy and “insulting the king” charges against four environmental activists affiliated with the Mother Nature Cambodia environmental group and release the three in pretrial detention, Human Rights Watch said today.

On June 16, 2021, the police arrested Sun Ratha, 26, Ly Chandaravuth, 22, and Seth Chhivlimeng, 25, in Phnom Penh, and Yim Leanghy, 32, in Kandal province, apparently for their documentation that raw sewage has entered the Tonle Sap River near the Royal Palace. On June 20, the court charged Ratha and Leanghy with “conspiracy” and lese majeste (“insulting the king”) under articles 453 and 437 bis of Cambodia’s penal code, and Chandaravuth with “conspiracy.” If convicted, they face between 5 and 10 years in prison, and fines of up to 10 million riels (US$2,500). The authorities also charged in absentia aSpanish national, Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, the founder of Mother Nature Cambodia, who had been deported in 2015. Chhivlimeng was released without charge.

The Cambodian government has stepped up its campaign to silence activists peacefully advocating to protect the environment,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “Foreign governments, the United Nations country team, and international donors should call on the Cambodian authorities to drop their absurd charges against the environmental activists and publicly condemn any further clampdown on peaceful activism.”

An Interior Ministry spokesperson alleged that the authorities had proof that “rebellious” Mother Nature Cambodia had used foreign funding to try to topple the government, but did not make any evidence public.

This case followed earlier harassment of five Mother Nature Cambodia activists. On May 5, the Phnom Penh court convicted three environmental activists – Long Kunthea, 22, Phuon Keoraksmey, 19, and Thun Ratha, 29 – of “incitement to commit a felony or disturb social order,” articles 494 and 495 of Cambodia’s penal code. The judge sentenced them to between 18 and 20 months in prison as well as a fine of 4 million riels ($1,000) for their peaceful activism protesting the authorities’ filling-in Phnom Penh’s Boeung Tamok lake.

All three activists had been arrested in September 2020 and spent almost eight months in pretrial detention. Gonzalez-Davidson and Chea Kunthin, another activist, were also convicted in absentia and sentenced to between 18 and 20 months in prison. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/09/09/cambodia-arbitrary-arrest-of-mother-nature-activists/]

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the Cambodian authorities have stepped up their crackdown on youth and environmental activists engaged in peaceful activism and protest. The government has often used draconian new laws to arrest and prosecute activists in an apparent attempt to silence their voices and shut down their activism.

In March 2020 and early 2021, the authorities arrested environmental activists affiliated with the Prey Lang Community Network along with a prominent environmentalist and lawyer, Ouch Leng, to stop their efforts to document illegal logging and deforestation within the Prey Lang forest.

Human Rights Watch has documented cases of nearly 70 current political prisoners, including members of the political opposition, youth and environmental activists, trade union leaders, and journalists who are awaiting trial or are serving prison sentences. Many other activists have fled Cambodia to seek refuge abroad.

Because of the higher risks of getting Covid-19 in prison, Human Rights Watch has repeatedly appealed to the Cambodian authorities to conditionally release pretrial detainees not held for violent offenses. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and civil society groups have often criticized the government’s routine use of pretrial detention.

“Cambodia’s highly politicized courts mean that the environmental activists charged have no chance of getting a fair trial,” Robertson said. “Only international pressure on the Cambodian government holds out the possibility of saving these activists from unjust prison sentences.”

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/06/23/cambodia-free-environmental-activists

https://www.jurist.org/news/2021/06/cambodia-court-charges-environmental-activists-with-conspiracy-insulting-king/

https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/cambodia-arbitrary-detention-and-judicial-harassment-of-mother-nature

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/06/cambodia-assault-on-environmental-defenders-escalates-as-four-more-charged-imprisonment/ 

Three environmental rights defenders in Cambodia sentenced, but Government remains unapologetic

May 13, 2021

On 7 May 2021 Mary Lawlor, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, condemned a decision by a Cambodian court to sentence three environmental human rights defenders to jail terms of up to 20 months and urged the Government to release them immediately and unconditionally.

The convicted human rights defenders – Mr. Thun Ratha, Ms. Long Kunthea and Ms. Phuon Keoraksmey – are members of Mother Nature Cambodia (MNC), a non-governmental organization that advocates for the protection and preservation of Cambodia’s natural environment and supports local communities in defending those rights.

The three, who were sentenced by the Phnom Penh Municipal court on charges of incitement to create social chaos, had been in pre-trial detention for eight months before the conviction.

“The decision of the Cambodian court sentencing the three human rights defenders to prison terms is disgraceful and only reinforces the Government’s enduring policy to diminish civic space and dissenting voices,” said Mary Lawlor, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

“The verdict also shows how unable and unwilling the court is to uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms that the government has voluntarily accepted. I am concerned about the pattern of increasing prosecution of human rights defenders in Cambodia since July 2020,” Lawlor said. “The trial and conviction against the MNC human rights defenders clearly demonstrates a sustained intolerance and efforts to undermine the space for human rights defenders.”

“This decision is extremely worrying as States have the obligation to provide a safe and enabling environment in which environmental human rights defenders can operate free from threats, harassment, intimidation, criminalisation and violence,” emphasized the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, Dr. David Boyd.

The three were arrested in September 2020 without warrants and were charged under articles 494 and 495 of Cambodia’s Penal Code. The charges carried a custodial sentence of between six months to two years and a fine of one to four million riels (approximately USD 250 to USD 1,000).

Lawlor expressed serious concerns about the lack of factual evidence underpinning the charges. The human rights defenders were convicted based on a number of Facebook posts on environmental matters and video clips which showed them raising human rights and environmental awareness in a factual and peaceful manner. No substantial evidence was cited that would prove how their actions had in fact or could potentially lead to “social chaos”.

“While the three human rights defenders may still file an appeal, I urge the Cambodian Government to immediately and unconditionally release them. No one should be criminalised for undertaking legitimate human rights work,” she said. “As highlighted in my last statement in November, I call on the United Nations system in Cambodia to support all human rights defenders who are exposed to risk.”

The expert’s call has been endorsed by Mr. David Boyd, Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment; and Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and of association.

—————

Not surprisingly the Cambodian government see it differently:

Cambodia’s permanent mission to the UN said Lawlor’s statement was false and misleading.

“Crime is crime and it cannot be justified because it is in pursuit of other aspirations,” the press release said.

The permanent mission’s statement said that Cambodia values all duly-registered NGOs that are operating within the boundaries of law and that, unfortunately, Professor Lawlor seems to be advocating the work of an unlawful organization that commits crimes in the name of environmentalism.

The mission said MNC had officially dissolved itself in 2017, but the organisation continued on illegally exploiting the environmental movement until today and that the self-proclaimed human rights defenders are not entitled to break the law with impunity.

It described Lawlor’s remarks as inappropriate and an interference in the national judicial system of a sovereign state, saying the demand for the government to arbitrarily release anyone is tantamount to an attack on the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary that are guaranteed under the Constitution.

https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO2105/S00111/cambodia-un-expert-condemns-conviction-of-three-environmental-rights-defenders-urges-their-release.htm

https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national-politics/kingdom-denounces-un-rapporteurs-statement-mother-nature-activists-trial

UN experts demand release of Nigerian atheist from one-year detention

April 29, 2021

Seven UN human rights experts on Thursday 29 April 2021 demanded the release of a Nigerian atheist and humanist, Mubarak Bala, who has been detained without charge by the police for a year over alleged blasphemy.

The experts’ demand add to calls by many human rights groups, including Amnesty International, in the last one year for the release of the activist who faces death penalty if convicted under the law being operated in many parts of Northern Nigeria.

Mr Bala who is the president of Humanist Association of Nigeria, was arrested at his home in Kaduna State on April 28, 2020 over his Facebook post considered to be critical of Islam. His post reportedly caused outrage among Muslims in many parts of highly conservative northern part of the country.

The detainee whose arrest was prompted by a petition by a lawyer, S.S Umar, backed by some Islamic figures, was later transferred to the neighbouring Kano State.

His whereabouts remained unknown to his family and lawyer for many months before he was later granted access to them.

Delivering judgment in a fundamental human rights enforcement suit filed on his behalf, a judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja, Inyang Ekwo, on December 21, 2020, declared Mr Bala’s detention illegal and ordered his immediate release.

The court also ruled that the denial of his ability to choose his own legal representation, constituted gross infringements of his rights to personal liberty, fair hearing, freedom of thought, expression and movement.

It awarded damages of N250,000 damages in his favour.

https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/458323-alleged-blasphemy-un-experts-demand-release-of-nigerian-atheist-from-one-year-detention.html

https://punchng.com/un-group-kicks-as-atheist-spends-one-year-in-illegal-detention/

Victims of ‘forced confessions’ urge Western TV channels to ban Chinese TV

April 12, 2021
Erkin Tursun, a former TV producer whom officials said is serving a 20-year sentence in Xinjiang province, is seen speaking in a video shown at a news conference in Beijing, China on April 9, 2021.
Erkin Tursun, a former TV producer whom officials said is serving a 20-year sentence in Xinjiang province, is seen speaking in a video shown at a news conference in Beijing, China on April 9, 2021. © Reuters TV via Reuters

NEWS WIRES of 12 April 2021 reports that thirteen people who describe themselves as “victims of forced confessions broadcast on Chinese television” are urging European satellite operator Eutelsat to reconsider carrying Chinese channels CGTN and CCTV4.

The letter published by human rights watchdog Safeguard Defenders details a list of violations that the signatories say China is guilty of using to extort confessions from them and “refuse the right to a fair trial”. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/04/12/how-china-extracts-televised-confessions-from-human-rights-defenders/]

We are asking you… to determine whether television providers in democratic societies ought to continue to be morally complicit in the broadcast of information that is intentionally twisted and obtained through torture,” the group said. 

We are only a dozen victims able to speak out…. Many other victims are in prison. A few have been executed...The victims have no way of demanding reparations. The only way to stop this is for television regulators to investigate and take measures,” the group added. 

The letter notes Australian public broadcaster SBS stopped using content from Chinese state-run television in March pending a review of human rights concerns.

The UK also fined CGTN for partiality and violation of privacy and removed it from the airwaves, a ban that pushed the channel to set up shop in France. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/08/forced-television-confessions-in-china-lead-to-request-to-ban-cctv-in-uk/]

French audiovisual regulator CSA determined in March that CGTN met the technical criteria necessary for broadcasting but just this week Safeguard Defenders submitted two complaints against the channel. 

One cited an allegedly coerced interview with a Uighur child and the other was a defamation complaint from German researcher Adrian Zenz, whose reports on the treatment of Uighurs in China’s western Xinjiang region have drawn rebukes from Beijing.

The signatories are from China and other countries, including Chinese human rights lawyers Bao Longjun and Jiang Tianyong who have been targeted by authorities in their country. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/07/29/the-remarkable-crackdown-on-lawyers-in-china-in-july-2015/]

Simon Cheng, a former British consulate staffer in Hong Kong, who was granted asylum in the UK after allegedly being tortured by Chinese secret police also signed the letter. 

Also giving support is Swedish activist and Safeguard Defenders co-founder Peter Dahlin, who spent three weeks in jail in 2016 before being expelled from the country as a national security threat.

Angela Gui, daughter of Gui Minhai who published in Hong Kong until he was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2020, signed on behalf of her father. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/25/gui-minhai-10-years-jail-sentence-in-china/]

https://www.france24.com/en/asia-pacific/20210411-victims-of-forced-confessions-urge-western-powers-to-ban-chinese-tv-channels

https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/forced-confession-victims-urge-chinese-tv-channels-ban-2411414

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loujain al-Hathloul’s trial: Judge transfers her case to even worse court

November 26, 2020

Following up on my post from yesterday [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/11/25/loujain-al-hathloul-to-stand-trial-in-saudi-arabia-today/] Amnesty International reported on 25 November 2020 that a Saudi Arabian judge has decided to transfer human rights defender Loujain al-Hathloul’s case to Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court (SCC), an institution used to silence dissent and notorious for issuing lengthy prison sentences following seriously flawed trials

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/11/saudi-arabia-loujain-alhathlouls-trial-exposes-hypocrisy-on-womens-empowerment/

Loujain al-Hathloul to stand trial in Saudi Arabia today

November 25, 2020

As I have been following the case of Loujain al-Hathloul regularly [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/loujain-al-hathloul/] I think it is important to report that she will appear in a Saudi court today Wednesday 25 November 2020, more than two years after she was first detained in a crackdown on human rights defenders.

al-monitor Lina al-Hathloul, whose sister Loujain is being held by Saudi authorities, speaks at the 10th Anniversary Women In The World Summit at David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center on April 10, 2019, in New York City. Photo by Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images.

We were just announced that @LoujainHathloul has a trial tomorrow,” her sister, Lina al-Hathloul, tweeted Tuesday.

The conservative Gulf kingdom insists that Hathloul and the others are detained over national security concerns. Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Jubeir told CNN last week that Hathloul’s fate “was up to the courts.” 

The idea that she and her friends were detained because they advocated women’s driving is preposterous,” said Jubeir. 

Hathloul’s court date was scheduled for March but was postponed indefinitely amid what Saudi officials said were coronavirus concerns. On Oct. 26, she began a hunger strike to protest her treatment in prison and lack of regular contact with her parents. 

Amnesty International urged Riyadh to allow diplomats and journalists to attend the trial. The rights group also called for Hathloul to be given access to her parents, and to a lawyer so she can prepare an adequate defense. 

In light of the women rights activists reporting having been tortured or otherwise ill-treated in detention, we also have concerns about the admissibility of any ‘evidence’ that might be submitted in court tomorrow,” Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director, said in a statement. 

The only just outcome for this trial would be the immediate and unconditional release of Loujain al-Hathloul,” Maalouf said.  

On Tuesday, a group of 29 organizations issued a letter to the president of Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Commission, Awwad Al-Awwad, expressing their concern over the “continued arbitrary detention of women’s rights defenders.” 

Hathloul’s expected court appearance comes days after Saudi Arabia wrapped up its hosting duties for this year’s Group of 20 summit, of which women’s empowerment was a theme. Ahead of the virtual gathering, a coalition of human rights organizations sought to draw attention to what they say is an increase in repression under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/11/loujain-al-hathloul-saudi-arabia-trial-jailed-women-activist.html

UN expresses deep concern over Egypt using special terror courts to silence human rights defenders

October 9, 2020

Cairo accused of ‘gravely endangering’ activists and infringing on their fundamental rights by imprisoning them during pandemic

Egypt has jailed more than 60,000 dissidents (AFP/File photo) By MEE staff

The Middle East Eye of 8 October 2020 reported that the UN Human Rights Council said in a statement on Friday that Cairo was treating free speech as terrorism.

“Terrorism charges and exceptional courts are being used to target legitimate human rights activities, and have a profound chilling effect on civil society as a whole,” according to 10 international specialists, including the UN rapporteurs on counter-terrorism and extrajudicial killings.

The use of terrorism courts to target and harass civil society is inconsistent with the rule of law.

The statement came days after Egypt executed 15 political prisoners who had been in detention since 2014.

The UN experts slammed the terrorism courts, saying that they undermine defendants’ basic legal rights, including the presumption of innocence. The special courts were created in 2013 after a Sisi-led coup overthrew the elected government of then-president Mohamed Morsi.

Defendants do not enjoy the right to confer safely and confidentially with their lawyer,” said the experts. 

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/09/25/rafto-prize-for-2020-goes-to-the-egyptian-commission-for-rights-and-freedoms-ecrf/

“In addition, when the accused are put on trial from behind glass or inside metal cages, sometimes cut off from proceedings at the discretion of the presiding judge, they cannot effectively use their right to be present at their own trial.”

Egypt has embarked on a brutal crackdown on dissent since 2013, jailing more than 60,000 activists and imposing strict censorship measures on public discourse.

Sisi has consistently denied that there are political prisoners in Egypt, framing the crackdown as part of the fight against terrorism. After coming to power, he outlawed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and blacklisted it as a terror group.

On Thursday, the UN advocates cited the case of Bahey El-Din Hassan, director and co-founder of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, who was sentenced to 15 years in absentia in August over his criticism of the government. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/27/egypt-15-year-term-for-human-rights-defender-bahey-el-din-hassan/

“It is an act of reprisal, seemingly punishing [him] for his cooperation with the United Nations,” the statement said. 

“The exercise of free speech and human rights work are being treated as terrorism, and it appears that the Terrorism Circuit Court is being used to retaliate against human rights activity protected by international law.”

—–

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/egypt-terrorism-courts-jail-activists-un-experts

The clock of Mubarak is ticking….

October 6, 2020

Humanist International created an ingenious way to show how long Mubarak Bala is being held illegally in detention:

Mubarak Bala has been detained arbitrarily
without charge for
:

 161  DAYS :    13  HOURS :    37  MINUTES :    00  SECONDS

banner mb homepage take 4.png

Mubarak Bala is the president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria. He has beenheld in detention without access to a lawyer since his arrest on 28 April 2020 in connection with a Facebook post.

Humanists International believes that Mubarak Bala is being targeted for the peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of expression and religion or belief, and calls for the case against him to be dropped, for Mubarak Bala to be released immediately and unconditionally, and for the Nigerian authorities to ensure his safety upon his release.

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