Posts Tagged ‘foreign agents’

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

Parallel Event on Asian Justice Institutions and HRDs on 2 March 2017 in Geneva

February 27, 2017

Parallel event on Asian Justice Institutions and Human Rights Defenders to be held on 2 March 2017 2:00 PM in Room: XXIII, Palais de Nations, Geneva, SwitzerlandModerator/Chair: Mr. Bijo Francis, Executive Director, Asian Legal Resource Centre

Speakers in the Panel:
1. Mr. Basil Fernando, Director, Policy and Programme, Asian Human Rights Commission
2. Mr. Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research, CIVICUS
3. Mr. Sharan Srinivas, Director, Research and Advocacy, Right Livelihood Award Foundation
contact: Md. Ashrafuzzaman, Main Representative, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Cell: +41 (0) 766 38 26 59, Email: zaman@ahrc.asia .
Background: Human rights defenders across the world today have to overcome restrictive and challenging circumstances to undertake their mandate. These challenges could be broadly classified into three categories. They are: (i) restrictions imposed through statutes or regulatory processes; (ii) false accusations and fabricated cases registered by the state against HRDs and their organisations; and (iii) threats presented against HRDs by non-state actors, including fundamentalist religious forces.

Of the above three categories, the first and second could be overcome to a large degree at the national level, had the criminal justice institutions in Asian states been independent, and are able to decide upon cases that these institutions are called upon to engage upon.

Asian states today often enact legislations to restrict the operations of HRDs and the organisations they represent. China for instance, has legislations that directly impede the operation of HRDs . Indeed, the law does not prohibit the operation of ‘foreign’ NGOs, but stipulates obtaining permissions from different state agencies before commencing work, and has cast a broad net that prohibits organisations from engaging in activities otherwise considered to be human rights work, including: advocacy, legal assistance, labour, religion, and ethnic minority affairs. State agencies are given unbridled powers to interpret an activity as one under any of these prohibited criteria. The situation of domestic NGOs, including lawyers is worse in China even before the enactment of the new ‘foreign NGO’ law. The government has imposed heavy scrutiny and restrictions upon domestic NGOs, and often detain HRDs and lawyers on criminal charges.

China however is not an exception in the Asian region. Thailand for instance has legislations in place even prior to the military coup that restricts HRDs and civil society work. Thai state has spared no resources to oppress HRDs, often using the law against defamation that has penal provisions, interpreted at the will of the state by the country’s courts. After the coup, the National Peace and Reconciliation Council has promulgated ordinances that literally restrict all forms of freedom. HRDs who campaigned against the military’s version of the current Thai constitution, and the namesake referendum that was organised by the military, were arrested and imprisoned.

Bangladesh, against all its obligations under domestic and international law detains HRDs, forces closure of civil society organisations by repeatedly raiding their offices and seizing office equipment and documents, and does not allow these organisations to operate their bank accounts. India too engages in similar tactics against civil society organisations that openly criticise the government and its policies. Similar circumstances exist in most other states in the region, including Singapore, Myanmar, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

In Pakistan, the state is engaged in a shadow war against the civil society using right-wing religious forces, including right-wing media, that has systematically targeted HRDs who have advocated for democratic governance, and in particular urged the country\’s military from illegally and arbitrarily intervening in civilian administration.

In all the above circumstances, what is witnessed is the increasing role played by the entire criminal justice apparatus in Asian states that collide with the state in repressing HRDs and civil society work. Asian states liberally use their agencies like the police, prosecutor\’s office and other specialised agencies to obstruct HRDs in their work, often alleging false criminal charges against organisations or the staff members of these organisations. On the other hand, Asian judiciary has repeatedly failed to intervene in these cases despite the civil society reaching out to the courts for justice.

In instances where restrictive legislations are enacted or executive orders issued, restricting civil society freedom, the judiciary has the responsibility to intervene, and if necessary, annul the law or the executive order holding it as one against constitutional rights and the state\’s obligation under international human rights law. Instead, the Asian judiciary often support state actions. Instances where cases are adjourned without a decision being made are common.

Improving Asia’s human rights standards is not possible without radical reforms brought into the region’s justice delivery framework, particularly of the criminal justice procedures. The absence of independence and professionalism of Asia’s justice architecture is the cornerstone upon which impunity is built in the region. Asian states are aware of this and has consciously kept their justice institutions under direct control. Today Asian HRDs and the entire civil society in the region suffers due to this. Effective judicial intervention in instances where the state exceeds its mandate and stifle civil society work is an exception than a norm.

The side event organised by the Asian Legal Resource Centre, along with The Right Livelihood Award Foundation is an attempt to expose the dubious role played by Asia’s justice institutions in stifling civil society work in the region. The event is also an attempt to raise awareness about this scenario in the global human rights community and to seek support to address this problem.

www.humanrights.asia.

 

Foreign agent law in Russia keeps widening its net

February 9, 2016

Only a few days ago I referred to the widening impact of the ‘foreign agent’ law in Russia [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/02/04/russian-foreign-agents-law-starts-to-affect-monitoring-in-detention-centers/]. Now it seems that even organizations that do NOT accept foreign funding, may actually fall under it.

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped

reports that on 28 January 2016, the Orenburg regional department of the Ministry of Justice accused the Committee for Prevention of Torture (CPT) and its chairman Mr Igor Kalyapin of violating the ‘Foreign Agents’ law. Read the rest of this entry »

Russian Foreign Agents Law starts to affect monitoring in detention centers

February 4, 2016

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped

reports that on 26 January 2016, the Russian Duma (lower chamber of Parliament) adopted at first reading amendments to the law regulating the work of Public Monitoring Commissions (PMCs). There is serious concern that if passed, the draft  amendments will put an end to the independent and effective monitoring of places of detention by excluding the many human rights defenders labeled as foreign agents.  Read the rest of this entry »

Donors should work jointly against the wave of civil society repression

July 10, 2015

The Newsletter of the International Service for Human Rights of 5 June 2015 carried an interesting piece written by two representatives of donors that are very active in the area of protection human rights defenders.  Julie Broome, Director of Programmes with the Sigrid Rausing Trust, and Iva Dobichina, Programme Manager with the Open Society Foundation‘s Human Rights Initiative, wrote jointly about much-needed efforts to “turn the tide against the wave of civil society repression”.  The piece follows in toto below, but some of the key points are: Read the rest of this entry »

Amnesty’s Moscow office decries “foreign agents law” together with 148 other NGOs

November 24, 2014

Sergei Nikitin, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, posted a clear and inspiring blog on 21 November about the “foreign agent” label with which the Russian Government is trying to discredit legitimate work by human rights defenders.  [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/foreign-agents/]. In spite of the harassment the writer keeps up hope that justice will ultimately prevail:

“……Two years ago, the law adopted by the State Duma entered into force. It is universally known as the “Foreign Agents” law, despite the fact that it is actually an amendment to an old law “on non-commercial organisations”. The updated law with all its novelties wasn’t put into use at first, but in February 2013 the Russian Prosecutor’s Office began mass inspections of NGOs across the country. These inspections were followed by court hearings. The wide-scale campaign to smear NGOs began.

However, despite the authorities’ demands, human rights activists refused to call themselves foreign agents voluntarily. When all the Russian NGOs united in solidarity and declared, once for all, that they are not “agents”, it prompted widespread admiration.

Russian authorities had to rush to modify the fateful law. Following these amendments, “foreign agents” are now being unilaterally registered, without any judicial review. The leading human rights organizations are on this list too. Registration now consists of a penstroke by the Ministry of Justice. Just this week, two more organizations were put on the register and stigmatized by the “foreign agent” label.

Russian NGOs still reject the insulting stigma – none of the forcibly registered organizations is going to lie to themselves and to society. They are not “agents”. These people, representing various NGOs in different cities around our country are working for the good of our fellow citizens by helping those whose rights have been violated by the Russian authorities.

The past two years of pressure and denigration of civil society activists, the wave of state propaganda and streams of lies and insults have made the lives of human rights defenders, environmentalists and activists very difficult. Their struggle is widely known amongst their NGO colleagues in other countries, evident through numerous solidarity actions that have been conducted abroad in support of Russian civil society over the past two years.

Up to the present day, on the second anniversary of the shameful “Foreign Agents” law, almost 150 NGOs – national and international – have signed a letter to President Putin calling for him to overturn the disgraceful legislation.

Along with my colleagues from Amnesty International, and in the presence of journalists, this week I delivered this letter to the Presidential Administration. Our colleagues from 32 countries that have signed the letter are now waiting for Russian authorities to react.

We brought the letter with six pages of signatures and a 90cm x 150cm poster reprinting the words of the letter. To our great surprise, both were accepted, although the large poster caused some fuss among Presidential Administration employees.

One might say: “Oh, everything is meaningless.” It is nothing like that. More than 50 years of Amnesty International activism in every region of the world suggests the opposite.

There were darker days in the history of our country. We experienced numerous campaigns of lies and slander against individual citizens, groups of citizens and nations. Mudslingers have been always singing from the same song sheet as the authorities.

However, the inexorable course of history teaches us that truth is always restored and justice prevails. It may take years, and sometimes requires a lot of strength.

But we all know that those defamed and stigmatized with the “foreign agent” label are very brave and courageous people. And ultimately, this dark page of history will be remembered with disgust.

A version of this blog originally appeared (in Russian) on Ekho Moskvy’s website.

Open letter to Putin – 148 NGOs slam ‘foreign agents’ law | Amnestys global human rights blog.

Joint NGO Letter to Russian President to stop clampdown on human rights defenders

October 22, 2014

If there was any doubt on where civil society stands on the issue of reprisals and repression of NGO activity in Russia, the letter below and the enormous number and variety of organizations having signed it should put the doubt to rest: [see also: https://plus.google.com/+HansThoolen/posts/2nWSsUBuCJw]

Dear President,

We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations, are writing to urge you to stop the clampdown on the right to freedom of association and end reprisals against independent non- governmental organizations (NGOs) in Russia.

We are deeply concerned that under the legislation on “foreign agents”, hundreds of NGOs have been subjected to unannounced inspections by government officials which have interrupted and obstructed their legitimate work with dozens currently embroiled in lengthy court hearings. Several NGOs and their leaders have had to pay prohibitive fines, and some were forced to close down because they refused to brand themselves as “foreign agents” – an expression akin to spying. Recent legislative changes now give the Ministry of Justice powers to register organizations as “foreign agents” without their consent and without a prior court decision. More than a dozen of leading Russian rights groups have already been branded by the Ministry. These NGOs are not foreign spies or “agents”, and have worked in the interest of the people of Russia. Many more face the same fate.

Under the previous legislation, NGOs in Russia were already accountable to the government and the public, having to report on their activities and finances. It is difficult to avoid concluding that the only purpose of the legislation on “foreign agents” is to publicly discredit and stigmatise them.

We believe that NGOs are essential to the healthy functioning of society. They play an important role in providing much needed services to the public. They help keep officials accountable and improve policies in the interests of the people.

We are calling on you as the President of the Russian Federation and the guarantor of its Constitution and of the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined therein, to take all necessary steps to ensure that the “foreign agents” law is repealed and NGOs in Russia are able to do their work without hindrance, harassment, stigmatisation or reprisals. 


• Action des chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture (ACAT) (France)
• Agir ensemble pour les droits de l’homme (AEDH) (France)
• Amnesty International
• ARTICLE 19 (UK)
• Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (Bulgaria)
• Bunge la Mwananchi (Kenya)
• Centre de recherche et d’information pour le développement (CRID) (France) • Centrum Kształcenia Liderów i Wychowawców im. Pedro Arrupe (Pologne)
• CIVICUS
• Comité catholique contre la faim et pour le développement – Terre solidaire (CCFD) (France)
• Committee on the Administration of Justice Ltd (CAJ) (Northern Ireland, UK)
• Cordaid (Pays-Bas)
• Danny Sriskandarajah, our Secretary General
• English PEN (UK)
• European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) (UK)
• Emmaüs International (France)
• Finnish PEN (Finlande)
• Foundation Max van der Stoel (Pays-Bas)
• Free Press Unlimited (Pays-Bas)
• Front Line Defenders (Irlande) • Fundacja Edukacja dla Demokracji (Pologne)
• Fundacja im. Stefana Batorego (Pologne)
• Gevalor (France)
• Greenpeace Spain (Spain) • Helsińska Fundacja Praw Człowieka (Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights) (Pologne)
• Hivos (Pays-Bas)
• Human Rights Commission (Kenya)
• Human Rights House Foundation (Norway)
• Human Rights House Foundation HRHF (Switzerland)
• Human Rights Watch
• Index on Censorship (UK) • INPRIS – Instytut Prawa i Społeczeństwa (Pologne) • Instytut Spraw Publicznych (Pologne)
• International Service for Human Rights
• Kansalaisjärjestöjen ihmisoikeussäätiö KIOS (Finlande)
• Kenya Human Rights Commission (Kenya)
• Koalicja Karat (Pologne)
• La lliga del drets dels pobles (Spain)
• Ligue des droits de l’Homme (France) • Małopolskie Towarzystwo Oświatowe (Pologne)
• MEMORIAL Deutschland e.V. (Germany)
• Milieudefensie (Pays-Bas)
• MONIKA – Naiset liitto ry (Finlande)
• Movies that Matter (Pays-Bas)
• Naisten Linja Suomessa ry (Finlande)
• Netherlands Helsinki Committee (Pays-Bas)
• Nederlands Juristen Comité voor de Mensenrechten (NJCM)
• Nederlandse Vereniging van Journalisten (NVJ) (Pays-Bas)
• NGO Working Group OSCE (Switzerland)
• Observatoire pour la protection des défenseurs des droits de l’Homme (joint program FIDH and OMCT) (France/Switzerland)
• Pakolaisneuvonta ry (Finlande)
• Pat Finucane Centre, (Irlande)
• Queer Youth Norway (Norway)
• REDRESS (UK)
• Reporters sans frontières (RSF) (France)
• Russie-Libertés (France)
• Sadankomitea (Finlande)
• Society for Threatened Peoples (Switzerland)
• Stiftung Haus der Demokratie und Menschenrechte (Germany) 
• Stowarzyszenie Wschodnioeuropejskie Centrum Demokratyczne (Pologne)
• The Bellona Foundation (Norvège)
• The Norwegian LGBT Association (Norvège)
• UNITED for Intercultural Action (Pays-Bas)
• XENION Psychsoziale Hilfen für politisch Verfolgte e.V. (Allemagne)
• Автономная некоммерческая правозащитная организация «Молодежный центр консультации и тренинга» (Russie)
• Автономная некоммерческая организация «Правозащитная организация «МАШР» (Russie)
• Благотворительный фонд развития города Тюмени (Russie)
• Общественная правозащитная организация «Солдатские матери Санкт-Петербурга» (Russie)”

 

Russian Federation: Joint NGO Letter to the President of the Russian Federation: To stop clampdown on freedom of association / October 21, 2014 / Statements / Human rights defenders / OMCT.

Russia’s Human Rights Defenders continue the struggle against foreign agents law and other repression

September 11, 2014

I have posted extensively on the ‘foreign agents” law in Russia (and a few other countries that got inspired by this bad example) [see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/foreign-agent/] and the article below in the Moscow Times is an excellent piece that sums up the current repression AND the resilience of the human rights defenders. Election-monitoring watchdog Golos won a rare victory among Russian NGOs on Tuesday 9 September when a Moscow court ruled it should not after all be labeled a “foreign agent.” But rights activists warn that the battle against the “foreign agents” label is only the tip of the iceberg in a far broader pressure campaign being waged by the authorities. Read the rest of this entry »

Two more organisations registered as ‘foreign agents’ in Russia

September 2, 2014

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped comes with the worrying news that on 29 August 2014, Russia added two more prominent human rights groups, the Institute for Freedom of Information and Soldiers’ Mothers of Saint-Petersburg to the list of ‘foreign agents’, which now includes 13 NGOs operating in the Russia. Both human rights groups were previously inspected by the authorities and received official notices from the Prosecutor of illegal activity, for carrying out “political activities” and receiving foreign funding without being registered as foreign agents. Read the rest of this entry »

Russia’s export promotion to Armenia includes the foreign agents law

June 4, 2014

In TransConflict of 4 June 2014, Edgar Khachatryan writes a thoughtful piece on the “foreign agents” law and especially how Russia tries to expert this tool to silence human rights defenders to other countries, such as Armenia. 

I am sure that Russia should declare its presence in the information sphere of Armenia more actively. There is no doubt about it. However, other methods should be used to neutralize the NGOs which stick a wedge in the Armenian-Russian relations. By the way, Russia has adopted a law which clearly defines the activities of NGOs” – announced Russian ambassador to Armenia, Ivan Volinkin. Earlier this year, on 12 April, the same Volinkin announced in Yerevan that Russia will halt any attempts at aggressive intervention of third parties in the domestic affairs of its friendly states “in an effort to instil ideas alien to their mind soul”.

After briefly analyzing the Russian law and its application (at least 3 NGOs have already been affected: ‘Women of the Don’ ‘Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre’ and the ‘Center for Social Policy and Gender Studies’), the author draws the conclusion that it is clear what effective interference the Russian Ambassador to Armenia is referring to. There is no doubt that human rights, democracy and peacebuilding seem alien and dangerous to the Russian authorities. By presenting the activities of human rights defenders as a betrayal of the nation and its values, the authorities are trying to silence those who think differently.

Ambassador Volinkin has called upon the Armenian authorities to use the ‘Russian experience’ in order to appease civil groups in Armenia. Moreover, the Ambassador warns that Russia itself will prevent the spread of such ‘alien’ ideologies in partner countries. A number of NGOs in Armenia qualified Volinkin’s announcements as a violation of accepted diplomatic norms and gross interference in the internal affairs of Armenia.

Claims made by NGOs the Armenian authorities to hold the Russian Ambassador to account fell on a deaf ear: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that they do not see any validity to the claims. Thus, the threat that the civil groups opposed by the authorities will be silenced with the ‘power of law’ is becoming more tangible. The phrase “keep silent or confess that you are a foreign agent!” may soon become an acceptable idea in Armenia too.

Edgar Khachatryan is the director of Peace Dialogue, a member of the Global Coalition for Conflict Transformation.

Russia – keep silent or confess that you are a foreign agent | TransConflict.

For older posts on the foreign agents issue: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/foreign-agent/