Posts Tagged ‘fair trial’

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 »

Chinese Government quote of the year

December 6, 2018

It is not often that this blog can quote the Chinese authorities in full agreement:

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson told reporters: “…detention without giving any reason violates a person’s human rights.”

[“We have made solemn representations to Canada and the US, demanding that both parties immediately clarify the reasons for the detention, and immediately release the detainee to protect the person’s legal rights.”]

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-46465768

50 human rights NGOs address Joint Letter to Aung San Suu Kyi on Reuters Journalists

November 6, 2018

Over 50 NGOs have signed a joint letter to Aung San Suu Kyi requesting the immediate and unconditionally release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.

TO: Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor, Myanmar

Read the rest of this entry »

Update on Mansoor in UAE: after one year detention appears in court

April 13, 2018

Ahmed Mansoor – the Emirates’ most prominent human rights defender – finally has been taken to court after a year in arbitrary detention [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/21/emirates-one-year-later-human-rights-defender-ahmed-mansoors-whereabouts-remain-unknown/].

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has finally received information about Mansoor, including the surprising news that his trial had already started in March 2018. There had been no news about him since September 2017. The second hearing took place on 11 April 2018, and as Mansoor still has no lawyer to defend him, no details about the exact charges are available.

In the weeks leading up to his arrest, Mansoor had used Twitter to call for the release of human rights activist Osama Al-Najjar, who remains in prison despite having completed a three-year prison sentence in March 2017 for his peaceful activities on Twitter; as well as prominent academic and economist Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith. The latter, who was jailed in a previous case with Mansoor in 2011, was also held incommunicado for nine months after his subsequent arrest in August 2015. He continued to be held in solitary confinement after court proceedings began, remaining in solitary for 19 months. On 29 March 2017, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for critical comments he had made online about human rights violations in the UAE and Egypt. On 2 April 2017, Dr. Bin Ghaith began a hunger strike to protest his sentence, which violated his rights to freedom of expression and fair trial. On 25 February 2018, Dr. Bin Ghaith began another hunger strike to protest poor conditions in Abu Dhabi’s notorious Al-Razeen prison, a maximum security prison in the desert used to hold activists, government critics, and human rights defenders. On 2 April 2018, GCHR learned that Dr. Bin Ghaith had been forced to end his recent hunger strike earlier due to threats made by the authorities to restrict visits after news of his protest became known….

http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1829

How China extracts televised “confessions” from human rights defenders

April 12, 2018

Safeguard Defenders says these confessions violate both domestic and international law as they are often filmed before detainees have been allowed their right to a fair trial. In some cases, the confessions were extracted before formal arrest. “They deprive the suspect of due process; infringing on the right to a fair trial, the presumption of innocence, the right to remain silent, the right not to self-incriminate and the right to be protected against giving a forced confession and torture.

Many foreign nationals have been included in these confessions, which are aired on Chinese state television and, in some cases, by Hong Kong media. The monitoring group believes they are regularly used as “tools of propaganda” for both domestic audiences and as part of China’s foreign policy.

The report found that 60 percent of the confessions are from detainees who either worked in media – such as journalists, bloggers and publishers – or were human rights defenders, such as lawyers, NGO workers and activists. They are people whom the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) typically perceives as its enemies or critics and are usually charged with national security crimes or social order violations. The study also found that Chinese police regularly took charge of the so-called confessions. Routinely dictating and directing what the detainee should say and do, right down to the outfit they were to wear.

The interviewees described how the police took charge of the confession from dressing them in ‘costume;’ writing the confession ‘script’ and forcing the detainee to memorise it; giving directions on how to ‘deliver’ their lines – including in one case, being told to weep; to ordering retake after retake when not satisfied with the result,” the report said.

As a result of their research, Safeguard Defenders has called on the Chinese authorities to immediately stop the use of televised confessions and ensure all detainees receive the legal protections enshrined in domestic and international law. The group also called on foreign governments to stress to Beijing that there will be “consequences for ongoing violations of fundamental rights and freedoms.”

State news channel CCTV was identified as the primary broadcaster for televised confessions. Sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, should be imposed on key executives of the media network, the group recommends. The network, along with others responsible for airing such confessions, should also be registered as foreign agents in other countries. According to the report, “media organizations that film, collaborate with police in the staged and scripted process, and broadcast these confessions… are as culpable as the Chinese state in committing this deceptive, illegal and human rights violating practice.”

https://qz.com/1249842/swedish-human-rights-activist-peter-dahlins-first-hand-account-of-how-china-extracts-confessions-for-tv/

https://www.standardrepublic.com/world/world-news-chinese-language-state-tv-which-operates-in-uk-and-us-produces-chilling-compelled-confession-movies-for-brutal-regime/

https://asiancorrespondent.com/2018/04/threats-torture-fear-rights-group-calls-for-end-to-chinas-televised-confessions/#crKm6uQdL4vf7sJS.97

Ahmed H. personifies the real danger of populist anti-terror measures!!

March 19, 2018

During an electoral campaign dominated by anti-migrant rhetoric, a Hungarian court has upheld a shocking verdict of terrorism against a Syrian citizen (Ahmed H.) and the symbolism is lost on no one [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/28/un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-in-last-council-statement-does-not-mince-words/]. On 19 March 2018, Maxim Edwards (a journalist writing on Central and Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet space – currently assistant editor at OCCRP in Sarajevo) published a fascinating insight into how ill-defined terrorism laws and anti-immigrant hype (in Hungary in this case) can lead to upholding a verdict of terrorism against a Syrian refugee.

Ahmed H. in the courtroom during the second-instance trial. Photo courtesy of Amnesty International / Anna Viktória Pál.

For Hungary to achieve anything in the next four years, we must not let in a single migrant” began Viktor Orbán in a speech earlier this month. ..

For Budapest, migration means terrorism — a commonsensical link reinforced daily by pro-government media and initiatives such as the state’s Public Consultation on Immigration and Terrorism. Leaflets for the May 2015 referendum on acceptance of refugees featured maps of “no go areas” across western Europe and shocking statistics about “murder by migrant.”

And now, the government has its very own case study. Last Wednesday, a Hungarian court upheld a verdict against a Syrian citizen accused of a terrorist act carried out at the Serbian border in 2015. After already spending two and a half years behind bars, Ahmed H. has been sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment and a ten year ban on entering Hungary.

 .

……

This was due to the elastic definition of terrorist acts in the Hungarian criminal code. Article 314A defines terrorism as, among other things, “coercing a government agency, state, or international body to do or not to do something”. Consequently, Ahmed’s alleged demand by megaphone that the Hungarian border police open the gates was enough to convict him of an act of terrorism.

(Ahmed was also charged with illegal entry into Hungary as part of a mass riot, an administrative violation which carries a minimum sentence of five years. He did not contest the charge that he threw objects at the police, which alone cannot constitute a terrorist threat even in the most elastic of interpretations.)

….
In a final twist to this story, Ahmed’s other relatives made it to an EU country, where they now live in safety. Ahmed H. himself, probably one of the only people in the crowd at Röszke who could legally enter Hungary, had succeeded in his errand — at the cost of over ten years of his life.

Please read the full story that contains lots of interesting detailshttp://neweasterneurope.eu/2018/03/19/trials-ahmed-h/

Bahrain: human rights protected but on paper only

March 12, 2018

“The use of the judiciary in Bahrain to target human rights defenders and other activists” is a side event organised by CIVICUS and FIDH in co-operation with Americans for Human Rights & Democracy in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and co-sponsored by ISHR.

It will take place on 13 March 2018 at 11:00 to 12:30 at Room XXIV. The event will address the politicisation of the judiciary to criminalise human rights defenders.

The context in which this event takes place should be well-known by now [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/bahrain/], but some recent events can be added:

On 21 February human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, BCHR President and FIDH Deputy Secretary General, was sentenced to 5 years in prison under trumped-up charges in relation to tweets denouncing the torture against detainees at Jaw prison and exposing the killing of civilians in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition. “This surrealistic verdict”, writes IFEX,  “after a trial that was by itself a mockery of justice, illustrates once again the current crackdown on any dissenting voice in Bahrain, where scores of critics are currently jailed’.

Also the Observatory (FIDH-OMCT) and BCHR reiterate their call to the Bahraini authorities to immediately release him, as well as all detained human rights defenders.

Perhaps the most damning information comes from the Bahraini Government itself (8 March 2018) when it responded to the statement of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights  which had been ‘negative’ in his  written review on the annual report on Bahrain. Dr. Yusuf Abdulkarim Bucheeri, Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office in Geneva, said in a statement that the review contained inaccurate information such as harassment of human rights defenders and other deleterious comments on the recent legal actions taken by Bahrain. ..They deliberately and unfairly side with malicious elements who have suspicious political agendas and sectarian tendencies and who want to inflict harm on the Kingdom of Bahrain and demean its achievements in the field of human rights, he said. “This is crystal clear from their support for the discourse of hatred and internal violence groups and for this reason, the Kingdom of Bahrain totally rejects the content of this statement with all the wrong and unacceptable descriptions it has given to the state.
Bucheeri said that Bahrain’s constitution stipulates the right to freedom of opinion and expression in an unquestionable manner and in a way that guarantees everyone’s right to express their opinion and disseminate it by word, writing or otherwise, but within the legal framework and without inciting division or sectarianism or undermining national security.
……
He called on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to make concerted effort to understand the reality of human rights and the great challenges facing the Kingdom of Bahrain which faces terrorist acts aimed to destabilize its security and stability.
The kingdom, he explained, confronts a phenomenon of violent extremism and it is the duty of the Office of the High Commissioner to do its best to double check the credibility of the information it obtained and to seek such information only from neutral, objective and non-politicized sources…

https://www.ifex.org/bahrain/2018/02/22/nabeel-rajab-sentenced/

https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/bahrain-fears-for-nabeel-rajab-s-life-inside-his-prison

https://www.ifex.org/middle_east_north_africa/2018/03/05/revolutionary-anniversaries/

http://www.bna.bh/portal/en/news/829935

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-nabeel-rajab

Cartoonist Ramón Esono Ebalé freed in Equatorial Guinea

March 8, 2018

Good news is rare but deserves attention, especially when it seems to be the result of an international campaign: the global #FreeNseRamon coalition:
An Equatorial Guinean court on 7 March, 2018 released an artist imprisoned on dubious charges for nearly six months, 18 human rights groups including PEN America said today. The prosecution dropped all charges against Ramón Esono Ebalé, a cartoonist whose work is often critical of the government, after the police officer who had accused him of counterfeiting $1,800 of local currency admitted making the accusation based on orders from his superiors.  [Esono Ebalé, who lives outside of his native Equatorial Guinea, was arrested on 16 September, 2017, while visiting the country to request a new passport. Police interrogated him about drawings critical of the government, said two Spanish friends who were arrested and interrogated alongside him and were later released. But a news report broadcast on a government-owned television channel a few days after the arrest claimed that police had found 1 million Central African francs in the car Esono Ebalé was driving. On 7 December, he was formally accused of counterfeiting. The charge sheet alleged that a police officer, acting on a tip, had asked him to exchange large bills and received counterfeit notes in return.]“It is a huge relief that the prosecution dropped its charges against Ramon, but they should never have been pressed in the first place,” said Salil Tripathi, chair of PEN International’s Writers-in-Prison Committee. “We urge the authorities to guarantee his safe return to his family, allow him to continue creating his hard-hitting cartoons, and ensure that Equatorial Guinea respects the right to freedom of expression.”

Ramon’s release from prison is a testament of the power of collective work of hundreds of artists, concerned citizens, and NGOs,” said Tutu Alicante, director of EG Justice, which promotes human rights in Equatorial Guinea. “But we must not forget that dozens of government opponents who are not as fortunate fill Equatorial Guinea’s jails; thus, the fight against human rights violations and impunity must continue.”

(The human rights groups are Amnesty International, Arterial Network, Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, Asociación Profesional de Ilustradores de Madrid, Cartoonists Rights Network International, Cartooning for Peace, Committee to Protect Journalists, Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, Jonathan Price and Paul Mason, Doughty Street Chambers, UK, EG Justice, FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Freemuse, Human Rights Watch, Index on Censorship, PEN America, PEN International, Reporters without Borders, Swiss Foundation Cartooning for Peace, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.)

(see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/cartooning-for-peace-award/)

https://pen.org/press-release/equatorial-guinea-artist-freed-prison/

https://freedomnewspaper.com/2018/03/07/press-release-amnesty-international-equatorial-guinea-artist-freed-from-prison/

 

Egypt ‘blessed’ with two side event at Human Rights Council in March 2018

March 6, 2018

On 13 February 2018 fourteen international and regional rights organizations stated that the Egyptian government has trampled over even the minimum requirements for free and fair presidential elections (planned 26-28 March). The government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has relentlessly stifled basic freedoms and arrested potential candidates and rounded up their supporters. “Egypt’s allies should speak out publicly now to denounce these farcical elections, rather than continue with largely unquestioning support for a government presiding over the country’s worst human rights crisis in decades,” the groups said.

The authorities have successively eliminated key challengers who announced their intention to run for president….The current atmosphere of retaliation against dissenting voices and the increasing crackdown against human rights defenders and independent rights organizations have made effective monitoring of the elections extremely difficult for domestic and foreign organizations. Media reports have said that the number of organizations that were granted permission to monitor the elections was 44 percent fewer than in the last presidential election in 2014 and that the number of requests, in general, has gone down. Several opposition parties called for boycotting the elections. A day later al-Sisi threatened to use force, including the army, against those who undermine “Egypt’s stability and security.” On February 6, the Prosecutor-General’s Office ordered an investigation against 13 of the leading opposition figures who called for a boycott, accusing them of calling for “overthrowing the ruling regime.” Seven years after Egypt’s 2011 uprising, the government has made a mockery of the basic rights for which protesters fought,” the groups said. “Egypt’s government claims to be in a ‘democratic transition’ but move further away with every election.

So, the two side events that are coming up are extremely valuable as the national space for dissent is nihil:

  • The Situation of Human Rights and Upcoming Elections in Egypt: Facilitating Radicalisation is an event organised by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and co-sponsored by ISHR, that will take place on 9 March at 13:30 to 15:00 in Room XXIII. The event will address the deterioration of the human rights situation in Egypt and the dangers of the international community’s failure to respond.
  • Human rights violations in Egypt and in the Gulf States is an event organised by FIDH, CIVICUS, the Gulf Center for Human Rights. It will take place on 15 March 2018 at 15:00 till 16:00 in Room XXIII. The event will focus on the interlinked plight of human rights defenders in Egypt and the Gulf States as both are facing ongoing targeting by their own governments as well as explore measures for coordination and advocacy at the international level.

In the same context there is the press release of Friday 2 February 2018 in which a number of organisations, under the umbrella Committee for Justice (CFJ), condemned Tuesday’s execution of Egyptian Tayseer Odeh Suleiman after he was convicted in Ismalia’s military court in what they said was a flawed trial inconsistent with international legal and human rights standards. Suleiman, 25, was hanged after the Supreme Military Court of Appeals rejected the defence put foward by his lawyer without explaining the reasons behind the rejection….CFJ confirmed that there had been an unprecedented increase in the implementation of death sentences in Egypt, based on illegal proceedings, with 26 people executed between the end of December last year and the present. CFJ further asserted that the reason for the death penalties “under the guise of combating terrorism” were misleading and in violation of basic standards of a fair trial indicating significant flaws in Egypt’s judicial process.

On only a few days ago (2 March 2018), responding to reports from his family and colleagues that Ezzat Ghonim – a prominent Egyptian human rights lawyer and director of the NGO, Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms – failed to return home from work yesterday, Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International’s North Africa Campaigns Director, said:  “Given the highly-charged political climate in Egypt and the clampdown on dissent in the lead-up to the presidential elections, we are deeply concerned that Ezzat Ghonim may have been forcibly disappeared. ”

For some of my earlier posts on Egypt, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/egypt/

https://www.iol.co.za/news/africa/rights-groups-condemn-egyptian-executions-done-by-military-13069428

https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/02/13/egypt-planned-presidential-vote-neither-free-nor-fair

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/egypt-fears-lawyer-ezzat-ghonim-latest-human-rights-activist-be-disappeared