Posts Tagged ‘fair trial’

Two welcome paroles in Russia and Zimbabwe but justice is still to be done

June 11, 2019

Having reported earlier on the Oyub Titiev case in Russia [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/19/human-rights-defender-in-chechnya-oyub-titiev-sentenced-to-4-years/] and that of the seven human rights defenders arrested in Zimbabwe [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/21/four-zimbabwe-human-rights-defenders-detained-at-at-the-mugabe-airport-on-their-return-from-foreign-trip/], I am now happy to report some progress:

Responding to news that Shali City Court in Chechnya has granted parole to the imprisoned human rights defender Oyub Titiev after almost one-and-a-half years behind bars, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia said: “We have been calling for Oyub Titiev’s immediate and unconditional release since his detention. The real agenda behind his criminal prosecution on trumped up charges was to stop a human rights defender from doing his lawful human rights work….In spite of overwhelming evidence that the case against him had been fabricated, the authorities in Chechnya crudely abused the justice system to convict an innocent man. Today the court decided to at least partially amend the gross injustice by releasing Oyub in ten days time.” But if justice is to prevail, Oyub Titiev’s conviction should be quashed, and he must be given access to an effective remedy, including compensation, for his unlawful imprisonment.  “This decision comes just days after prominent Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov was detained and charged with supplying drugs amid allegations that he was framed, held incommunicado and beaten in custody. He is currently under house arrest and we call on his allegations against the authorities to be immediately investigated.”

High court Judge Justice Army Tsanga ordered for the release of the two activists seized at the Robert Mugabe International Airport upon arrival from Maldives. The state is alleging that the accused are members of the civil society organizations who connived with their accomplices went to Maldives where they underwent a training workshop by a Serbian non-governmental organisation called Center for Applied Non-Violent Action Strategies (Canvas) with intend to subvert a constitutionally elected government.

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https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/06/russia-titievs-parole-a-welcome-step-but-not-justice/

Breaking: Five Zim ‘Terrorists’ Out On Bail

Four Zimbabwe human rights defenders detained at at the Mugabe Airport on their return from foreign trip

May 21, 2019

Police have arrested four human rights activists at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport on their return from a foreign trip. Police officers also took away cellphones and laptops belonging to the activists. In a statement on Tuesday, 21 May 2019 Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) spokesman Kumbirai Mafunda said: “They were detained upon disembarking from a South African flight at Robert Mugabe International Airport last night and held for several hours without access to their lawyers”. Lawyers were only allowed access to them 5 hours hours after they were arrested.

The four are George Makoni, 38, advocacy officer for the NGO Centre for Community Development Zimbabwe; Tatenda Mombeyarara, 37, coordinator for lobby group Citizens Manifesto; Gamuchirai Mukura, 31, executive director of Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development (COTRAD); and Nyasha Mpahlo, 35, governance officer at Transparency International Zimbabwe.

The arrest of the human rights activists follows a report carried in State daily publications, The Herald and Chronicle that suggested that civic organisations are plotting to cause mayhem in the country. The Herald ran a story claiming that “a group of shady organisations with links to the (main opposition) MDC-Alliance has been hard at work laying the groundwork for civil unrest to be unleashed next month.” The newspaper said some activists had attended a workshop on the Maldives archipelago that was conducted by a non-profit Serbian organisation, Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS).

The civil society alliance Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition condemned the latest arrests. It said in a statement: “The police, government and state media have been colluding to criminalise the work of human rights defenders, laying unfounded allegations against civil society leaders as agents of regime change who want to topple the government.

On 27 May 2019 ZW News adds that two more human rights defenders were arrested: https://zwnews.com/human-rights-arrested-at-harare-international-airport/

https://www.iol.co.za/news/africa/four-human-rights-activists-arrested-in-zimbabwe-23677924

Govt Goes After Human Rights Activists

TrialWatch officially launched by Clooneys

April 25, 2019

As announced earlier this year [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/15/star-power-for-good-george-and-amal-clooney-at-least-try-to-tackle-controversial-issues/] on 25 April 2019 the Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ), together with partners Microsoft Corporation, Columbia Law School, the American Bar Association, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), launched their TrialWatch® initiative at an inaugural TrialWatch Conference and launch event.

Clooney Foundation For Justice Logo

Courts around the world are increasingly being used to silence dissidents and target the vulnerable. But so far there has been no systematic response to this,” said Amal Clooney, Co-President, Clooney Foundation for Justice. “The Clooney Foundation for Justice’s TrialWatch program is a global initiative to monitor trials, expose abuses, and advocate for victims, so that injustice can be addressed, one case at a time.”

TrialWatch is an initiative focused on monitoring and responding to trials around the world that pose a high risk of human rights violations. TrialWatch aims to be the first comprehensive global program scrutinizing criminal trials around the world. CFJ will recruit and train trial monitors, including non-lawyers, who can observe and report on criminal trials around the world, and use a specialised app to record the proceedings. The Clooney Foundation for Justice will then work to expose injustice and rally support to secure justice for defendants whose rights have been violated. For each trial monitored, CFJ will work with an eminent legal expert to produce a Fairness Report assessing and grading the fairness of the trial against human rights standards, and, where necessary and possible, will be followed up with legal advocacy to assist a defendant in pursuing remedies in regional or international human rights courts. Ultimately, the data that is gathered will populate a global justice index that measures states’ performance in this area.

TrialWatch will focus on trials involving journalists, LGBTQ persons, women and girls, religious minorities, and human rights defenders. In recent months, TrialWatch monitors have observed proceedings in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America. The cases have involved journalists being prosecuted under a wide variety of laws, including cyber laws, administrative laws, and terrorism laws, in six countries. TrialWatch has covered a trial of individuals being prosecuted under anti-LGBTQ laws in sub-Saharan Africa and proceedings involving a journalist detained under India’s National Security Act for criticizing the government on social media. TrialWatch monitors are also monitoring the trial of a lawyer in Eurasia, who is being prosecuted in connection with his work on behalf of human rights defenders and the trial of a journalist in Nigeria, who is being prosecuted for writing about internal government documents and refusing to reveal his source. Fairness reports are being produced to assess each of these trials, and many more trials will be monitored on an ongoing basis around the world.

CFJ has partnered with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to develop an online training course for monitors. This course was developed by CFJ and approved by OHCHR.

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https://finance.yahoo.com/news/clooney-foundation-justice-convenes-human-rights-leaders-mark-103100664.html?

In surprise move Bahrain king reinstates citizenship of 551 – 439 to go

April 22, 2019

FILE - In this May 21, 2017 file photo, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa speaks during a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The king reinstated the citizenship of 551 people convicted amid a crackdown on dissent on the island. The surprise royal decree, announced Sunday, April 21, 2019, by the state-run Bahrain News Agency, gave no explanation for his decision. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

The surprise royal order gave no explanation for King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s decision, other than to say that he had the final authority in such cases. “The study and evaluation of the situation of convicts should be based on criteria pertaining to the seriousness, impact and consequences of the crimes, as well as on the danger the convict may pose on national security,” the state-run Bahrain News Agency said in announcing the king’s decision. Authorities later will announce the names of those having their citizenship restored.

[Last week, 138 people lost their citizenship in a mass trial. That drew a rebuke from U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who described the convictions as giving “rise to serious concerns” about the country’s legal system. The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy said last week’s verdict brought to 990 the number of people ordered stripped of their nationality since 2012.]

Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei, the director of advocacy at the institute, said he was surprised by the news. However, he cautioned that those like himself who had their citizenship stripped at the ministerial level, rather than through the courts, likely wouldn’t benefit from the king’s order. “I honestly think there is something going on behind scenes, maybe some diplomatic pressure is applied to the government,” AlWadaei said. “There must be a state behind it, maybe Britain or the United States.

Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jongambrellap.

https://www.wral.com/bahrain-king-reinstates-citizenship-of-551-amid-mass-trials/18339059/

UN Rapporteurs intervene again for Palestinian human rights defender Issa Amro

April 11, 2019

Israel must fully honour and implement the rights and obligations contained in the UN’s Declaration on human rights defenders, and in particular end the use of criminal, legal and security tools to obstruct the legitimate work of human rights defenders, say two UN rapporteurs: Michael Lynk, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory and Michel Forst, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders .

Their comments come on 11 April 2019 after the latest hearing on 7 April in the case of Issa Amro, a human rights defender and founder of Youth Against Settlements, a Hebron-based group which seeks to end settlement expansion through non-violent civil resistance. “Israel must provide for the protection of human rights defenders in the context of their work and ensure that, if charged with any offence, their right to a fair trial is respected,” said the Rapporteurs “The case of Issa Amro is emblematic of the sophisticated array of obstacles faced by Palestinian human rights defenders who engage in non-violent activities.

Cracking down on individuals whose work is essential to denouncing violations and creating safe and peaceful societies, sends a troubling message that the Israeli authorities make little effort to abide by international human rights standards, including the right to a fair trial.

We are very concerned that in January 2019 Israel did not renew the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), an international observer force that was instrumental in efforts to avoid violence – a decision which led to a group of human rights defenders, including Issa Amro, deciding to accompany children to school.”

The UN experts also expressed deep concern about the repressive working environment faced by Palestinian human rights organisations in recent years.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/08/14/five-un-experts-urge-israel-to-stop-harassment-of-human-rights-activist-issa-amro/ and https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/issa-amro

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1904/S00078/israel-must-ensure-protection-for-issa-amro.htm

MEA laureate Ahmed Mansoor on hunger strike in Emirates

April 10, 2019

Award-winning rights human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, jailed in the UAE for “publishing false information”, has launched a in protest against prison conditions, International said Tuesday. Mansoor, whom says is a prisoner of conscience, has been on for over three weeks to protest detention conditions and his unfair trial in the UAE. the London-based group noted. For more on Mansoor see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/02/happy-new-year-but-not-for-ahmed-mansoor-and-nabeel-rajab-in-the-gulf-monarchies/

https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/jailed-uae-activist-mansoor-on-hunger-strike-amnesty-119040901441_1.html

The ISHR launched a campaign in support: https://us1.campaign-archive.com/?u=97549cf8cb507607389fe76eb&id=229155ca04&e=d1945ebb90

Seven persons charged in South Sudan, including Peter Biar Ajak

March 30, 2019

It clearly helps to get attention for a human rights defender in trouble if there is a connection to a western country as shown in the case of Cambridge PhD student Peter Biar Ajak who was with charged with sabotage and insurgency in South Sudan.

Jared Genser, an international human rights lawyer who took on Ajak’s case, called the recent charges “unequivocally false”, telling Newsweek that his client “was not involved in any way in the planning or execution of the protest.”

Ajak was originally detained by the NSS at Juba International Airport on 28th July 2018, and has still not been formally charged for anything relating to this initial arrest eight months ago.

Ajak had been an outspoken critic of the South Sudanese government’s response to the country’s ongoing civil war. He is a chairperson of the South Sudan Young Leaders Forum, and was arrested while on the way to an event held by the Red Army Foundation, an organisation created by former child soldiers to advocate for peace and address social issues in the country.

Shortly before his arrest Ajak had tweeted that: “We must stop thinking that the so-called leaders will bring peace #SouthSudan. We, the great people of #southsudan, must organize ourselves to bring about the peace we deserve!”

Over the past few months there has been mounting international pressure on the South Sudanese government to release Ajak and others who have been similarly detained. Detaining a person without charge for more than 24 hours is illegal under the South Sudanese constitution.

The United Nations condemned Ajak’s continued detention earlier this month, citing a “clear trend in the use of national security and counter-terrorism legislation by states to criminalize free expression and the legitimate work of human rights defenders.”

Mountain View

In September 2018, Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope wrote a letter to the President of the Republic of South Sudan. Ajak’s cause has also been championed by international human rights organisation Amnesty International.

https://www.varsity.co.uk/news/17369

https://www.sfgate.com/news/crime/article/7-in-South-Sudan-charged-with-sabotage-and-13714433.php

NGO statement condemns new irregularities in the case of Germain Rukuki, Burundi

March 29, 2019

On 27 March 2019, 21 international and Burundian human rights organisations condemn new irregularities in the case of Germain Rukuki in a Joint statement:

Almost four months after his appeal hearing at the Bujumbura Court of Appeal on 26 November 2018, the judicial case file of Burundian human rights defender, Germain Rukuki, has gone missing. In December 2018, the Government of Burundi decided to divide the Bujumbura Court of Appeal into three separate appeal courts, and the file apparently went missing during the reorganization.

Germain is appealing against his wrongful conviction by the Ntahangwa High Court and 32-year prison sentence, the longest prison sentence imposed on a human rights defender in Burundi. He is still awaiting the Court’s decision, which was initially expected within 30-days of the appeal hearing.

The loss of his case file further violates Germain Rukuki’s right to a fair trial, in addition to the multiple irregularities and undue delays that have characterized the legal proceedings since his arrest in July 2017.

We, the undersigned non-governmental organisations, strongly condemn this blatant miscarriage of justice and insist that Germain’s conviction is unlawful and part of a pattern of systematic attacks against human rights defenders and dissent voices since 2015, as echoed by the international human rights community, international and national civil society, as well as the United Nations and the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi in its reportreleased in September 2018.

We, the undersigned organisations, call on Burundian authorities to:

  • Release Germain Rukuki immediately and unconditionally, and quash his conviction and sentence;
  • Comply with international and regional human rights standards, notably the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and the right to a fair trial;
  • Until he is released, ensure Germain Rukuki and his lawyer have timely and adequate access to his case file;
  • Launch an immediate, effective, impartial and transparent investigation into the circumstances of and responsibility for the loss of Germain Rukuki’s file;
  • Recognise the legitimacy of human rights work in Burundi and ensure a safe and enabling environment in which it is possible to defend and promote human rights without fear of punishment, reprisal or intimidation…..

For the list of Signatories, see link below: https://www.defenddefenders.org/statement/burundi-21-international-and-burundian-human-rights-organisations-condemn-new-irregularities-in-the-case-of-germain-rukuki/

Human rights defender in Chechnya, Oyub Titiev, sentenced to 4 years

March 19, 2019

News headlines today: Mar. 18, 2019

Oyub Titiev, the director of the local branch of Memorial, one of Russia’s most respected human rights organizations, was convicted of marijuana possession, a charge his lawyers said was manufactured in order to punish Titiev for his work investigating and exposing human rights abuses in Chechnya, including extrajudicial killings. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/15/chechen-human-rights-defender-oyub-titiev-arrested-on-trumped-up-charges/]

The guilty verdict against Titiev was expected by his colleagues and human right organizations, which have slammed the case as a show trial, filled with inconsistencies and fabricated evidence. “The guilty verdict against Oyub Titiev is gross injustice to him, a disgrace to Russian criminal justice system, and a further sign that Ramzan Kadyrov, the governor of Chechnya, will be emboldened to silence reporting on human rights abuses,” Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

Natalia Estemirova, Titiev’s predecessor as director of Memorial’s Chechnya office, was kidnapped in Grozny and shot dead outside the city in 2009. In 2016, masked men attacked a group of journalists trying to enter Chechnya on a tour organized by the Committee to Prevent Torture, beating the reporters and setting their bus on fire. The same month, the head of the organization, Ilya Kalyapin was attacked in Grozny.

Memorial has long been a target of strongman Kadyrov, and repeatedly suffered attacks, and. Around the time of Titiev’s arrest, the organization’s office in a neighboring region was burnt down by masked men. One of Titiev’s colleague in Dagestan was beaten outside his home last March.

Saudi Arabia persist with trial for women human rights defenders

March 13, 2019

In spite (or perhaps because) of an exceptional statement in the UN Human Rights Council last week [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/08/saudi-arabia-for-first-time-openly-criticized-in-un-human-rights-council/] and the backlash from the Khashoggi murder [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/07/peter-nkanga-awarded-with-inaugural-jamal-khashoggi-award-for-courageous-journalism/], Saudi Arabia intends to put the detained women’s rights activists on trial. Read the rest of this entry »