Posts Tagged ‘freedom of expression’

Assange’s persecution or prosecution? Marjory Cohen knows the answer

May 31, 2017

Marjorie Cohn – professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers – wrote a perhaps controversial but clear piece about the case of Assange under the title:  The Meaning of Assange’s Persecution. In Consortiumnews of 29 May 2017 you will find the full piece.  She concludes that the long legal ordeal of Julian Assange – and the continuing threats against the WikiLeaks founder – make a mockery of the West’s supposed commitment to press freedom and the public’s right to know. Here some excerpts:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. (Photo credit: Espen Moe)

….Although the Swedish investigation has now been dropped, the threat of arrest persists. The London police have indicated they will arrest Assange for failure to appear in a London Magistrates Court if he leaves the embassy. Britain would then likely extradite Assange to the United States for possible prosecution.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared in April that arresting Assange is a “priority” for the Department of Justice, even though the New York Times indicated that federal prosecutors are “skeptical that they could pursue the most serious charges, of espionage.” The Justice Department is reportedly considering charging Assange with theft of government documents. A decision to prosecute Assange would mark a 180-degree change of direction for President Trump. During the 2016 presidential campaign Trump declared, “I love WikiLeaks” after it published confidential emails from the Democratic National Committee that some U.S. intelligence agencies claim were obtained by Russian hackers (although Assange denies getting the material from Russia).

In March, WikiLeaks published CIA documents containing software and methods to hack into electronics. This was the beginning of WikiLeaks’ “Vault 7” series, which, Assange wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post, contained “evidence of remarkable CIA incompetence and other shortcomings.” The publication included “the agency’s creation, at a cost of billions of taxpayer dollars, of an entire arsenal of cyber viruses and hacking programs – over which it promptly lost control and then tried to cover up the loss,” Assange added. “These publications also revealed the CIA’s efforts to infect the public’s ubiquitous consumer products and automobiles with computer viruses.”

CIA Director Michael Pompeo called WikiLeaks “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.” Pompeo said, “We have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.” Pompeo declared, “Julian Assange has no First Amendment privileges. He is not a U.S. citizen.” But, the Supreme Court has long held that the Constitution applies to non-Americans, not just U.S. citizens. And, when the Obama Justice Department considered prosecuting WikiLeaks, U.S. officials were unable to distinguish what Wikileaks did from what the Times and Guardian did since they also published documents that Manning leaked. WikiLeaks is not suspected of hacking or stealing them.

…….

As Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, wrote at Just Security, Comey was drawing the line “not between leaking classified information and publishing it, but between publishing it for ‘good’ reasons and publishing it for ‘bad’ ones.” And, “[a]llowing the FBI to determine who is allowed to publish leaked information based on the bureau’s assessment of their patriotism would cross a constitutional Rubicon,” Goitein wrote.

Other advocates for civil liberties also defended WikiLeaks as a news organization protected by the First Amendment. “The U.S. government has never shown that Assange did anything but publish leaked information,” Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, told the Times. Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, stated in an interview with the Times, “Never in the history of this country has a publisher been prosecuted for presenting truthful information to the public.”

Assange’s Detention Called Unlawful [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/02/07/on-assange-there-is-more-to-the-decision-than-knee-jerk-reactions/]

In 2016, following a 16-month investigation, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that Assange’s detention by Britain and Sweden was unlawful. It stated, “[A] deprivation of liberty exists where someone is forced to choose between either confinement, or forfeiting a fundamental right – such as asylum – and thereby facing a well-founded risk of persecution.”….Thus, the U.N. group concluded that Assange’s continued stay in the embassy “has become a state of an arbitrary deprivation of liberty,” in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

….Even some mainstream news organizations that have been critical of WikiLeaks for releasing classified U.S. information have objected to the idea of criminal prosecution. A Washington Post editorial in 2010 entitled “Don’t Charge Wikileaks” said: “Such prosecutions are a bad idea. The government has no business indicting someone who is not a spy and who is not legally bound to keep its secrets. Doing so would criminalize the exchange of information and put at risk responsible media organizations that vet and verify material and take seriously the protection of sources and methods when lives or national security are endangered.”

In the U.S. government’s continued legal pursuit of WikiLeaks, there is much more at stake than what happens to Julian Assange. There are principles of press freedoms and the public’s right to know. By publishing documents revealing evidence of U.S. war crimes, emails relevant to the U.S. presidential election and proof of CIA malfeasance, Assange did what journalists are supposed to do – inform the people about newsworthy topics and reveal abuses that powerful forces want concealed. Assange also has the right to freedom of expression under both U.S. and international law, which would further argue for Great Britain dropping the failure-to-appear warrant and allowing Assange to freely leave the embassy and to finally resume his life.

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her most recent book is Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. Visit her website at http://marjoriecohn.com/ and follow her on Twitter https://twitter.com/marjoriecohn.

Source: The Meaning of Assange’s Persecution – Consortiumnews

NGOs jointly address (again) the human rights crisis in Ethiopia

May 26, 2017

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They draw attention to persistent and grave violations of human rights in Ethiopia and the pressing need to support the establishment of an independent, impartial and international investigation into atrocities committed by security forces to suppress peaceful protests and independent dissent. And they ask countries to prioritise and address through joint statements the ongoing human rights crisis in Ethiopia at the upcoming UN Human Rights Council from 6 – 23 June 2017. [for last year’s call see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/09/un-human-rights-council-urged-to-address-situation-in-ethiopia/]

In the wake of unprecedented, mass protests that erupted in November 2015 in Oromia, Amhara, and the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples (SNNPR) regional states, Ethiopian authorities routinely responded to legitimate and largely peaceful expressions of dissent with excessive and unnecessary force. As a result, over 800 protesters have been killed, thousands of political activists, human rights defenders, journalists and protesters have been arrested, and in October 2016, the Ethiopian Government declared a six-month nationwide State of Emergency, that was extended for an additional four months on 30 March 2017 after some restrictions were lifted.

The State of Emergency directives give sweeping powers to a Command Post, which has been appointed by the House of People’s Representatives to enforce the decree, including the suspension of fundamental and non-derogable rights protected by the Ethiopian Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and other international human rights treaties to which Ethiopia is party. More information on the human rights violations occurring under the current State of Emergency is included in the Annex at the end of this letter.

Lack of independent investigations

Few effective avenues to pursue accountability for abuses exist in Ethiopia, given the lack of independence of the judiciary – the ruling EPRDF coalition and allied parties control all 547 seats in Parliament.

Ethiopia’s National Human Rights Commission, which has a mandate to investigate rights violations, concluded in its June 2016 oral report to Parliament that the lethal force used by security forces in Oromia was proportionate to the risk they faced from the protesters. The written Amharic version of the report was only recently made public, and there are long-standing concerns about the impartiality and research methodology of the Commission. On 18 April 2017, the Commission submitted its second oral report to Parliament on the protests, which found that 669 people were killed, including 63 members of the security forces, and concluded that security forces had taken “proportionate measures in most areas.” Both reports are in stark contrast with the findings of other national and international organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions has rated the Commission as B, meaning the latter has failed to meet fully the Paris Principles.

Refusal to cooperate with regional and international mechanisms

In response to the recent crackdown, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has called for “access for independent observers to the country to assess the human rights situation”, and recently renewed his call for access to the country during a visit to the capital, Addis Ababa. Ethiopia’s government, however, has rejected the call, citing its own investigation conducted by its Commission. UN Special Procedures have also made similar calls.

In November 2016, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights adopted a resolution calling for an international, independent, and impartial investigation into allegations of the use of excessive and unnecessary lethal force by security forces to disperse and suppress peaceful protests. Recent European parliament and US Congressional resolutions have also called for independent investigations. The Ethiopian embassy in Belgium dismissed the European Parliament’s resolution citing its own Commission’s investigations into the protests.

As a member of the UN HRC, Ethiopia has an obligation to “uphold the highest standards” of human rights, and “fully cooperate” with the Council and its mechanisms (GA Resolution 60/251, OP 9), yet there are outstanding requests for access from Special Procedures, including from the special rapporteurs on torture, freedom of opinion and expression, and peaceful assembly, among others.

The letter urges Ethiopia to:

  1. urgently allow access to an international, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigation into all of the deaths resulting from alleged excessive use of force by the security forces, and other violations of human rights in the context of the protests;
  2. respond favourably to country visit requests by UN Special Procedures,
  3. immediately and unconditionally release journalists, human rights defenders, political opposition leaders and members as well as protesters arbitrarily detained during and in the aftermath of the protests;
  4. ensure that those responsible for human rights violations are prosecuted in proceedings which comply with international law and standards on fair trials; and
  5. fully comply with its international legal obligations and commitments including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and its own Constitution.

Download PDF (401.12 KB)

The Ethiopian Zone 9 bloggers were finalists for the 2016 MEA, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/15/martin-ennals-award-2016-relive-the-ceremony-in-13-minutes-or-in-full/ 

Source: Joint NGO Letter Addressing the Pervasive Human Rights Crisis in Ethiopia – Ethiopia | ReliefWeb

Havel Prize for Creative Dissent recognizes Human Rights Defenders in Bahrain, Venezuela and Zimbabwe

May 7, 2017

On 5 May 2017 the Human Rights Foundation in New York announced as the recipients of the 2017 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent the Zimbabwean activist and playwright Silvanos Mudzvova, Venezuelan satirical media project El Chigüire Bipolar, and Bahraini poet and activist Aayat Alqormozi.

the “Goddess of Democracy,” the iconic statue erected by Chinese students during the Tiananmen Square protests of June 1989.

Silvanos Mudzvova is a Zimbabwean actor, playwright, and activist known for challenging the country’s dictator, Robert Mugabe, in daring theatrical productions. Silvanos works with the protest group Tajamuka (“We are rising up”) and serves as the director of Vhitori Entertainment Trust, a theater group created to protest Zimbabwe’s democracy crisis, human rights abuses, and poor governance. Silvanos has directed several controversial performances including “The Final Push,” a political satire; “Missing Diamonds, I Need My Share;” a play on corruption in the diamond industry; and “Protest Revolutionaries,” a play that encourages Zimbabweans to plan their own Arab Spring. Silvanos has been detained and arrested several times. To avoid government persecution, Silvanos now performs what he calls “hit-and-run” performances in public spaces. Silvanos has been awarded an Artist Protection Fund (APF) Fellowship and is currently in-residence for this at The University of Manchester. “Silvanos Mudzvova’s persistence in using art and performance to challenge dictatorship is an inspiration. The persecution of Silvanos illustrates Robert Mugabe’s cruelty, intolerance, and cowardice,” said Havel Prize Committee Chairman Thor Halvorssen.

El Chigüire Bipolar is a Venezuelan satirical media project created in 2008 by Elio Casale, Oswaldo Graziani, and Juan Andrés Ravell. The website, most famous for mocking former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, is often described as a mix of the Onion and John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight. El Chigüire Bipolar’s popularity in Venezuela grows as the government increases pressure on independent news outlets. “El Chigüire Bipolar is playing an increasingly crucial role in resisting Maduro’s campaign to stifle free speech. Its raw humor and exacting analysis demonstrates the great power that satire has in criticizing authoritarian regimes,” said Havel Prize Committee member Garry Kasparov.

 Aayat Alqormozi is a Bahraini poet who uses her craft to advocate for the equal rights of Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims, and to express her opposition to Bahrain’s monarchy. In 2011, Aayat recited poetry during a protest at Pearl Square as a part of the Bahraini uprising. In response, she was expelled from university and imprisoned for “insulting the King and encouraging hatred of the ruling regime.” Nevertheless, Aayat’s poetry and peaceful defiance have made her a symbol of resistance against the al-Khalifa regime. “Aayat’s methods for peaceful resistance are motivating the next generation of artists and political dissidents in Bahrain. Her commitment to poetry as a vehicle for social and political change is worthy of recognition and encouragement,” said Havel Prize Committee member Amir Ahmad Nasr.

Past laureates include Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, Russian punk protest group Pussy Riot, North Korean democracy activist Park Sang Hak, Saudi women’s rights advocate Manal al-Sharif, and Cuban graffiti artist El Sexto. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/05/05/2014-havel-prize-for-creative-dissent-awarded-to-erdem-gunduz-pussy-riot-and-dhondup-wangchen/]The Havel Prize ceremony will be broadcast live at oslofreedomforum.com beginning at10:00 a.m. Central European Time on Wednesday, May 24. The event will take place at the Oslo Nye Theater. Contact: Prachi Vidwans, (212) 246-8486, prachi@hrf.org.

Source: Havel Prize for Creative Dissent Recognizes Efforts in Bahrain, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe | Human Rights Foundation Home Page

Eritrean-born journalist Dawit Isaak awarded 2017 UNESCO’s Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize

May 4, 2017

Dawit Isaak in Sweden circa 1987-88 © Kalle Ahlsén
Dawit Isaak, an imprisoned Eritrean-Swedish journalist, has been chosen to receive the 2017 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. Mr. Isaak was arrested in a crackdown on the media that occurred in September 2001. The last time he was heard from was in 2005. His present location is unknown.  An independent international jury of media professionals recommended unanimously Mr. Isaak in recognition of his courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression, and the recommendation was endorsed by the UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

Defending fundamental freedoms calls for determination and courage – it calls for fearless advocates,” said Irina Bokova. “This is the legacy of Guillermo Cano, and the message we send today with this decision to highlight the work of Dawit Isaak.” Dawit Isaak joins a long list of courageous journalists who have persevered to shed light in the dark spaces; keeping their communities informed against all odds,” said Cilla Benkö, President of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2017 Jury. “Some have given their lives in the pursuit of truth. Many have been imprisoned. Dawit Isaak has spent nearly 16 years in jail, without charge or trial. I sincerely hope that with this award the world will say, ‘Free Dawit Isaak Now.’”

Dawit Isaak, a playwright, journalist and writer, moved to Sweden in 1987, where he later became a citizen. After the independence of Eritrea, he returned to his homeland to become one of the founders and reporters of Setit, the first independent newspaper in the country. He was known for his critical and insightful reporting. Mr. Isaak was arrested in September 2001 during a political crackdown on the so-called G-15, a group of politicians, and journalists critical of Government policies. Some were detained and tortured, others disappeared. The last known sighting of Mr. Isaak was in 2005. His whereabouts now are unknown.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, said: “The Eritrean authorities should stop the practice of arrests and detention carried out without legal basis instantly,” welcoming the award of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2017 to Mr. Isaak.

The Prize was awarded during the celebration of World Press Freedom Day, 3 May, hosted in Jakarta, Indonesia this year in the presence of the Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, and the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo.

Created by UNESCO’s Executive Board in 1997, the annual UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize honours a person, organization or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defence and, or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, and especially when this has been achieved in the face of danger.

The $25,000 Prize is named in honour of Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist who was assassinated in front of the offices of his newspaper, El Espectador, in Bogotá, on 17 December 1986. It is funded by the Cano Foundation (Colombia) and the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation (Finland).

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/02/14/reporters-without-borders-published-its-2014-world-press-freedom-index/

Sources:

Eritrean-born journalist Dawit Isaak awarded UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2017

http://mareeg.com/eritrea-must-free-prize-winning-journalist-says-un-human-rights-expert/

Human Rights Watch granted Israeli work permit in the end

April 27, 2017

On 26 February 2017 I referred to the refusal of a work permit for the HRW office in Israel. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/26/israel-denies-work-permit-to-human-rights-watch-and-continues-harassment-of-hrds/]. Now the Israeli authorities have reversed the Interior Ministry’s decision. They have granted a one year work visa to Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch (HWR), upon his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport.

We welcome this opportunity to work in Israel and Palestine alongside vigorous national human rights organisations,” said Iain Levine, executive deputy director for programme at Human Rights Watch. “Israeli authorities do not always agree with our findings, but, in facilitating the ability of our staff to carry out our research and documentation, they have taken an important step to safeguard the principle of transparency and demonstrate their openness to criticism.”

Source: Ekklesia | Human Rights Watch granted Israeli work permit

Sunny Maldives: Murder of human rights defender and blogger Yameen Rasheed tip of the iceberg

April 25, 2017

The Maldives normally create images in our mind of luxury holidays. This is a false image [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/maldives/]. On Sunday, 23 April 2017, a prominent blogger and social media activist, Yameen Rasheed, was found in the stairwell of his residence in the country’s capital Malé with multiple stab wounds to his head, neck and body. Mr. Rasheed died of his injuries. The UN, Front Line and others expressed deep alarmed by Mr. Rasheed’s killing and urge the authorities to ensure that the investigation into the murder is prompt, thorough and that the perpetrators are brought to justice. Mr. Rasheed had in December reported to the Maldives Police Service that he was receiving targeted death threats following the publication of his photo along with those of others on an anonymous Facebook page, but he complained that he had to follow up for three days just to get a confirmation that his complaint had been registered. Mr. Rasheed’s killing comes in the context of what appears to be an upsurge in arrests and prosecutions of the political opposition.

Yameen Rasheed [see his profile: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/yameen-rasheed]  was a prominent human rights defender and social media activist in Maldives. Through his blog The Daily Panic, he was an outspoken critic of government corruption and was vocal against impunity for crimes against journalists and attacks of freedom of expression  committed by radical Islamist groups. Yameen Rasheed was a close friend of Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla, another well known Maldivian journalist, blogger and human rights advocate, who was abducted and disappeared in 2014. Since 2014, Yameen Rasheed had been working to obtain justice for Rilwan, and was recently coordinating with Rilwan’s family to file a case against the Maldives police on the investigation of Rilwan’s death. In 2015, he was arrested along with 200 other activists and imprisoned for three weeks after taking part in a pro-democracy rally in the capital.

Maldives has a troubling history of attacks targeting human rights defenders, journalists and bloggers. On 5 June 2012, blogger, LGBT activist and journalist Ismail Khilath Rasheed, also known as Hilath, was stabbed by radical Islamists. On 8 August 2014, prominent HRD Ahmed Rilwan went missing and has not been heard of since then. On 4 September 2015, human rights lawyer Mahfooz Saeed [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-mahfooz-saeed] was brutally attacked by two unidentified men, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/09/07/mahfooz-saeed-lawyer-of-maldives-ex-president-stabbed/. 

It would seem therefore that the groundbreaking legal proceedings (October 2016), which the ISHR has brought to the UN Human Rights Committee have a lot of merit. It was requested to rule that the Maldives violated international law by restricting human rights defenders from submitting information to the UN.

In what is the first case filed with the UN on behalf of former members of a national human rights institution, ISHR has asked the UN Human Rights Committee to authoritatively rule that there is a legal right to submit information, evidence and reports to the UN and that restrictions on this right, or reprisals for exercising this right, amount to serious breaches of international law. The case could have wide-ranging implications, as a number of countries seek to criminalise or prosecute people to prevent them from exposing human rights violations at the UN.

Assisted by ISHR, Ahmed Tholal and Jeehan Mahmood, former Commissioners of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), have filed a communication with the UN’s Human Rights Committee to highlight the Maldives’ failure to ensure their right to share information freely with the UN without reprisal. The HRCM was prosecuted in 2015 by the Supreme Court in the Maldives following a submission made by the HRCM on human rights in the Maldives to the UN’s Universal Periodic Review….The Court ruled that the HRCM’s report was unlawful, biased and undermined judicial independence, and ordered the HRCM to follow a set of guidelines designed to restrict the HRCM’s work and its ability to communicate with the UN.

Ahmed Tholal and Jeehan Mahmood said they were seeking a ruling from the Committee because they want the HRCM’s right to freely communicate with international human rights mechanisms to be firmly preserved in law and practice. ‘If the HRCM is not able to communicate freely with the UN, its ability to carry out its mandate is severely undermined. This case isn’t just about the HRCM of 2010. Rather it’s about the far reaching implications such reprisals will have on the independence and integrity of NHRI’s everywhere,’ they said.

‘The decision of the Supreme Court to restrict the activities and independence of the Commission is incompatible with the right of safe and unhindered communication with UN bodies, and the prohibition against reprisals for exercising that right. Such a decision by an arm of government is a clear breach of international law,’ Ms Sinclair of ISHR said. Background to the case can be found here.

A copy of the Communication can be found here.

Source: OHCHR Press Briefing Notes – South Sudan, Maldives | Scoop News

https://www.ishr.ch/news/reprisals-groundbreaking-legal-proceedings-filed-against-maldives

Human Rights Defender “v.” Freedom of Expression

April 19, 2017

On 4 April 2017 the European Court of Human Rights rendered a judgment1 in the case of Milisavljević v. Serbia (application no. 50123/06) in which it unanimously held that there had been a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights. What makes the case particularly interesting is that it concerns Natasa Kandic a well-known human rights defender who has won several awards including the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) in 1999. [see also : https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/04/07/serbian-natasa-kandic-receives-first-civil-rights-defender-of-the-year-awar/] Nothing is simple when it comes to human rights……

A journalist, Ms Milisavljević, had published in September 2003 an article in Politika about Kandic in which this journalist quoted another journalist who said that Kandic had been called a witch and a prostitute. Natasha Kandic sued for libel and the Serbian courts held that by failing to put one particular sentence – “Ms Kandić [had] been called a witch and a prostitute” – in quotation marks the journalist had tacitly endorsed the words as her own.

The European Court found that it was evident, even without the quotation marks, that that sentence, written by another journalist and previously published in a different magazine, had not been Ms Milisavljević’s personal opinion of Ms Kandić, but that she had merely been transmitting how Ms Kandić was perceived by others. Moreover, the domestic courts, limiting their reasoning to the lack of quotation marks, had completely failed to balance Ms Kandić’s right to reputation against Ms Milisavljević’s freedom of expression and duty, as a journalist, to impart information of general interest.

 CASE OF MILISAVLJEVIĆ v. SERBIA – Application no. 50123/06)

Where is the beef? In tolerance..

April 13, 2017

Living in Greece where the big feast of Orthodox Easter is preceded by various fasting habits, especially in the last week, the issue of tolerance of other religions or customs came up. Especially when the Greek Atheists Association organizes a Meat Supper event on Good Friday, the day when Greek Orthodox are supposed to keep a very strict Lent avoiding to consume even oil. They call the event “The Disclosed Supper” in opposition to the Last Supper which in Greek is “Secret Supper.” Although church representatives and several news outlets commented negatively on the ‘counter celebration’, I am not aware of any official sanction or threat of violence.

Then I read that human rights activist Bondita Acharya in India said she has been threatened by some Bajrang Dal activists and individuals ‘propagating Hindutva’ for expressing her opinion about eating beef on the social media.
Acharya said she has already lodged a complaint with the CID and Jorhat Police. As a resident of Jorhat district, Acharya said Bajrang Dal has also demanded a public apology from her for hurting the sentiments of the Hindus through her comments on the recent arrest of three persons in Jorhat for carrying beef. “After the incident, I spoke to some people from the minority community who were shocked. Many of us were sharing our views on beef and I expressed my opinion. The arrests were made to target the Muslims only and so I wrote that I am from Jorhat and I eat beef. Then all of us should be put in jail,” added Acharya, the northeast coordinator of Human Rights Defenders Alert (HRDA). She is also associated with rights organization Women in Governance (WinG)-India. WinG-India’s statement said, “She was criminally intimidated and defamed with threats of death, gang rape and acid attack.” Bajrang Dal, however, denied issuing such threats. But it said it strongly opposed Acharya’s comments on beef as cows are worshipped as ‘gau mata’ by the Hindus.  “…. Through her comments, she wanted to divide society and also hurt the sentiments of 130 crore Hindus. We will keep opposing comments which hurt the Hindu sentiments,” said Assam Bajrang Dal assistant convener Dhrubajyoti Kalita.

Happy Easter….

 

UAE: it is not just Ahmed Mansoor – academic Nasser Bin Ghaith gets 10 year for tweets

March 31, 2017

Middle East Eye reported on 31 March 2017 that the Emirates (UAE) had sentenced human rights defender Nasser Bin Ghaith to 10 years for ‘offensive online posts‘ (i.e. that criticised Egypt).

Dr Nasser bin Ghaith speaking at a conference (ADHRB)

After all the attention on the recent arrest of MEA Laureate, Ahmed Mansoor [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/ahmed-mansoor/], it is good to point out that he is not the only one being silenced in the UAE. On Wednesday Nasser Bin Ghaith was sentenced to 10 years in jail. Ghaith told the court he had been beaten and deprived of sleep for up to a week at a time by prison guards. The court did not specify which social media posts the charge related to or what they said. The authorities said he had published “photos and articles that are offensive to the state’s symbols and values, its internal and foreign policies and its relations with an Arab state,” which is understood to refer to Egypt. Ghaith is an Emirati economist who has lectured at the Abu Dhabi campus of the Paris-based Sorbonne University. He also worked as an economic and legal consultant to the UAE army.”By imposing this ludicrous sentence in response to his peaceful tweets, the authorities have left no room for doubt: those who dare to speak their minds freely in the UAE today risk grave punishment,” declared Lynn Maalouf, deputy director for research at Amnesty International. Amnesty called Ghaith “a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned for the peaceful expression of his conscientiously held beliefs.”  See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/05/18/uae-emirates-human-rights-defender-nasser-bin-ghaith-ngos-censorship/

For background see the older links:
Amnesty International: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/08/uae-press-release/ Amnesty International: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde25/2299/2015/en/
Human Rights Watch: https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/08/24/uae-reveal-whereabouts-academic

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/detention-nasser-bin-ghaith

Source: 10 years for a tweet: UAE jails academic for criticising Egypt | Middle East Eye

‘El Sexto’ Maldonado Released from Cuban Prison

March 6, 2017

The Human Rights Foundation reported that Cuban graffiti artist Danilo ‘El Sexto’ Maldonado was finally released from prison on 21 January 2017, after spending two months in detention. Cuban authorities arrested El Sexto for spray painting “Se fue” (in English, “He’s gone”) shortly after the death of the island’s former dictator, Fidel Castro. He was sent to one of Cuba’s most notorious maximum security prisons, El Combinado de Este, where he was subjected to daily psychological torture and frequent death threats. The Human Rights Foundation filed an individual complaint with the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for its Havel Prize Laureate.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/04/16/havel-prize-for-creative-dissent-awarded-to-girifna-sakdiyah-maruf-and-el-sexto/]
Danilo 'El Sexto' Maldonado