Posts Tagged ‘freedom of expression’

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

 

 

Malaysia: Human rights defender Lena Hendry convicted for showing film on Sri Lanka

February 23, 2017

In 2013 I reported on human rights defender, Lena Hendry, in Malaysia who was charged with showing the film “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka, a film on human rights violations in Sri Lanka.  [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/09/18/human-rights-worker-in-malaysia-to-appear-in-court-tomorrow-for-screening-the-film-no-fire-zone/#more-3469]. Now Front Line reports on 21 February 2017, that the human rights defender was convicted by the Magistrate’s Court in Kuala Lumpur [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/lena-hendry]. On 21 February 2017, Lena Hendry was found guilty by a magistrate’s court in Kuala Lumpur for screening “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka” under Section 6 of the Film Censorship Act 2002. She is currently on bail and intends to appeal the court’s decision. Her sentencing is scheduled for 22 March 2017.

Lena Hendry is the former Programme Coordinator for Pusat KOMAS, a human rights organisation established in 1993 in Malaysia. This organisation works to empower indigenous peoples, poor people in urban areas, workers, and civil society organisations through the use of popular media. [On 10 March 2016, The Magistrates’ Court of Kuala Lumpur acquitted Lena Hendry of the charges but  on 21 September 2016, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur reversed Lena Hendry’s aquittal following an appeal issued by the prosecution.

Front Line Defenders condemns the conviction of Lena Hendry, as it believes that the charges brought against the human rights defender are directly linked to her legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights, in particular in exposing human rights violations in Sri Lanka. Front Line Defenders urges the Malaysian government to repeal provisions of the Film Censorship Act 2002 that allow unnecessary and arbitrary government interference in the showing of films in Malaysia.

 

 

 

 

Saudi Arabia: already bad in 2016 for human rights defenders but continues in 2017

February 3, 2017

 

Nadhir Al-Majid is a well-known 40-year-old writer and teacher who has published many articles in various Arabic newspapers and electronic websites.

On 18 January 2017, the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh held its hearing in the presence of Nadhir Al-Majid, who was sentenced to seven years imprisonment followed by seven years of a travel ban in addition to a fine. Reports have confirmed that the writer was alone during the hearing and not accompanied by his family or his lawyer. He was taken immediately after the verdict to Al-Ha’ir prison in Riyadh. There are fears that the authorities will refuse to officially deliver a copy of the verdict to him or his family, which might prevent them from seeking an appeal of the sentence at the Court of Appeal. The Public Prosecutor directed many charges against Al-Majid including failing to obey the ruler, participating in demonstrations, writing articles supporting protests (dating back to the year 2007), in addition to having contact with correspondents of foreign news agencies – namely Reuters, AFP, and CNN.

He was previously jailed on 13 April 2011 after he was arrested and his electronic equipment was confiscated. He was beaten, kicked and ordered to stand for hours and then placed in solitary confinement for five months. He was then placed in a cell with convicted drug dealers and weapons traders. The reason for his arrest is related to his writings, including an article entitled “I protest, I am a human being” which supports the right to demonstrate. He was released on 27 June 2012. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) believes that the prison sentence of Nadhir Al-Majid is solely related to his work in defence of human rights.

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Saudi Arabian human rights defender Essam Koshak has been detained since 8 January 2017 for his online activism.

On 8 January 2017, Essam Koshak received a phone call from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Mecca, summoning him to al-Mansour police station. On arrival, at 5pm the same day, he was interrogated by the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution (BIP) about his Twitter account, which he uses to highlight human rights issues in Saudi Arabia, including the detention of human rights defenders and activists. During the first three days of interrogation, his request to have his lawyer present was denied. On 12 January, Essam Koshak’s detention was extended by four days and his lawyer was finally allowed to be present during his interrogations. He was transferred on the same day to Mecca General Prison where he is currently being held. Essam Koshak is a computer engineer and human rights activist who uses social media to call for reform and respect for human rights in Saudi Arabia.

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In the meantime the organization ALQST – through Samar Badawi [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/13/saudi-arabia-arrest-of-human… ] – draws attention to their “Human Rights Situation in Saudi Arabia 2016. Annual review” (for the full report: https://t.co/ACWlRfOFRu – for inquiries, yahya.i.assiri@gmail.com). 

The report contains a chapter on Human Rights Defenders describing several cases in more detail. It states that “Many of the political prisoners in Saudi Arabia are known to be prisoners of conscience. A large number of them have been swept up in the Authorities’ so-called War on Terror, but are in fact being held for their peacefully held and expressed political or religious views. This includes calls for social reform and in defence of human rights. They are tried in the Specialised Criminal Court, which is neither legitimate nor independent of the government, and was set up for the purpose of trying terrorism cases. Most human rights defenders are also charged and found guilty under the 2014 Counter-Terrorism Law. Today the majority of Saudi Arabia’s human rights activists are in prison, on trial, or being subjected to intense harassment.

sources:

http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1479

http://www.satprnews.com/2017/01/31/urgent-action-human-rights-defender-jailed-for-online-activism-saudi-arabia-ua-2517/

The 4th Werner Lottje Lecture showcases the Zone-9 Bloggers from Ethiopia (15 February)

January 26, 2017

This year’s Werner Lottje Lecture is dedicated to freedom of speech in Ethiopia, to which two Zone-9 bloggers (Zelalem Kibret und Jomanex Kasayehave been invited. The Zone-9 bloggers were finalists for the 2016 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (of which the late Werner Lottje was one of the founders). See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/11/16/and-a-lot-more-about-werner-lottje-the-great-german-human-rights-defender/

The event “We blog because we careDas Recht auf Meinungsfreiheit in Äthiopien” takes place in Berlin on 15 February 2017 at 17h30 in there building of Bread for the World– Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst, Caroline-Michaelis-Straße 1, and is co-organised with the German Institute for Human Rights. To attend please contact Alexandra Prieß: alexandra.priess@brot-fuer-die-welt.de.

2000 appr Werner LottjeSee also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/10/18/2nd-werner-lottje-lecture-on-10-november-in-berlin-with-alejandra-ancheita-and-michel-forst/

EU adopts Urgent Resolution on Ilham Tohti and the Tibetan Buddhist Academy

December 15, 2016

Just now, on 15 December 2016, the European Parliament adopted an urgent and substantive resolution on breaches of human rights, democracy, and rule of law in China. The resolution condemns in particular exactions committed in East Turkestan and Tibet against the Uyghur and Tibetan populations respectively and addresses the cases of the imprisonment of economics professor Ilham Tohti (MEA Laureate 2016) and the dismantling of Larung Gar, the largest Buddhist institute in the world. The EU demands Tohti’s immediate and unconditional release, recalling his scholarly work on Uyghur-Han relations. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/11/hot-news-ilham-tohti-chinas-mandela-wins-2016-martin-ennals-awad/]

Tohti Ilham

 

 

 

 

 

The resolution below (in full) was published by the European Parliament: Read the rest of this entry »