Posts Tagged ‘freedom of religion’

UN experts demand release of Nigerian atheist from one-year detention

April 29, 2021

Seven UN human rights experts on Thursday 29 April 2021 demanded the release of a Nigerian atheist and humanist, Mubarak Bala, who has been detained without charge by the police for a year over alleged blasphemy.

The experts’ demand add to calls by many human rights groups, including Amnesty International, in the last one year for the release of the activist who faces death penalty if convicted under the law being operated in many parts of Northern Nigeria.

Mr Bala who is the president of Humanist Association of Nigeria, was arrested at his home in Kaduna State on April 28, 2020 over his Facebook post considered to be critical of Islam. His post reportedly caused outrage among Muslims in many parts of highly conservative northern part of the country.

The detainee whose arrest was prompted by a petition by a lawyer, S.S Umar, backed by some Islamic figures, was later transferred to the neighbouring Kano State.

His whereabouts remained unknown to his family and lawyer for many months before he was later granted access to them.

Delivering judgment in a fundamental human rights enforcement suit filed on his behalf, a judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja, Inyang Ekwo, on December 21, 2020, declared Mr Bala’s detention illegal and ordered his immediate release.

The court also ruled that the denial of his ability to choose his own legal representation, constituted gross infringements of his rights to personal liberty, fair hearing, freedom of thought, expression and movement.

It awarded damages of N250,000 damages in his favour.

https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/458323-alleged-blasphemy-un-experts-demand-release-of-nigerian-atheist-from-one-year-detention.html

https://punchng.com/un-group-kicks-as-atheist-spends-one-year-in-illegal-detention/

India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka are all in the same rickety boat when it comes to human rights

December 17, 2020

TRT World published a summary of a report by the South Asia Collective “India and Pakistan no different on how they treat minorities”. Please note that Turkish Radio and Television Corporation is the national public broadcaster of Turkey. One looks there in vain for information on human rights violations in Turkey itself. Still the report referred to (produced with the financial support of the European Union and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation) is of interest:

The past ten years have been abysmal for minorities and civil rights activists in South Asian countries including India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, according to the South Asia State of Minorities Report 2020. 

Governments have introduced repressive laws that curb freedom of expression, persecute journalists and bar people from organising peaceful demonstrations, says the report published by the South Asia Collective, an international group of activists and NGOs. Some laws disproportionately target minorities such as Muslims in India and Sri Lanka, and Christians in Pakistan.  One policy that transcends almost all the regional governments is their attempt to restrict the role of NGOs – especially if they receive funding  from abroad. 

India, where minorities have faced state-sanctioned violence since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was re-elected last year, has handicapped foreign NGOs by setting limits on how they can spend money received from international donors.  Most of the affected NGOs are the ones that work in areas which highlight abuse of power, government indifference towards the plight of minorities, and the brutality of security forces. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/06/istanbul-court-jails-four-human-rights-defenders-on-terror-charges-seven-acquitted/]

“BJP rule has been characterised by the open targeting of several high-profile NGOs, with foreign funding freezes being the weapon of choice,” the report said. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/09/29/amnesty-feels-forced-to-shut-sown-its-india-office-amidst-govenment-pressure/]

New Delhi's discriminatory amendment to citizenship law has further alienated India's Muslims.
New Delhi’s discriminatory amendment to citizenship law has further alienated India’s Muslims. (AP Archive)

Other policy changes such as requiring NGOs to register with income tax authorities every five years are a similar tool of “administrative harassment”. ..

The intimidation is not limited to NGOs as journalists reporting on creeping BJP authoritarianism often feel the wrath of the state.   “…between 25 March and 31 May 2020, at least 55 Indian journalists faced arrest, physical assaults, destruction of property, threats or registration of FIRs (police reports),” the report said. 

New Delhi increasingly relies on internet controls to curb dissent. Internet shutdowns jumped to 106 in 2019 from only six in 2014 as authorities used different laws to control the flow of information.  Kashmir faced a complete internet blackout for months after the Muslim-majority region’s nominal autonomy was withdrawn last year…

India is also using the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act to target Dalits, a caste of Hindus who face widespread discrimination under the country’s hierarchical caste system… Changes in the Citizenship Act that target Muslim migrants and the brutal police reponse to subsequent protests — in which 22 people were shot dead in Utter Pradesh state in a single day — further illustrate the worsening status of minorities in India. 

In neighbouring Pakistan, India’s archrival, minorities and those activists trying to help them, fare no better. 

“NGOs and INGOs (international NGOs) are subject to extensive regulation involving multiple, lengthy procedures of registration, security clearance, and approvals for funding,” the report said.

The Christians and Hindus in Pakistan regularly complain that young girls are forced to convert to Islam.
The Christians and Hindus in Pakistan regularly complain that young girls are forced to convert to Islam. (AP Archive)

In recent years, Islamabad has increased vigilance on NGOs which it fears might be working on a foreign agenda to promote dissent.  What will particularly bother Pakistan’s policymakers is the report’s focus on how the country’s Blasphemy Law, meant to protect religious sentiments, continues to be misused against minorities. 

In reality, the law explicitly discriminates against Ahmadiyas since parts of it criminalise public expression of Ahmadiya beliefs and prohibit Ahmadiyas from calling themselves Muslims, praying in Muslim sites of worship and propagating their faith.”  Just this week, a report by the United States Commission on International Rights Freedom pointed out that Pakistan accounts for nearly half of the incidents of mob violence against alleged blasphemers.  

At times, people accused of blasphemy are killed in court in front of police and lawyers.   Christians, another minority, are frequently targeted while authorities do little to protect them.  For instance, a church constructed in the Toba Tek Singh district of Punjab province had to be sealed in 2016 after local Muslims agitated against it.  This alienation doesn’t stop at the places of worship – young Chrsitan students are continuously harassed by their peers to convert to Islam, the report said. 

Similarly, Sri Lanka witnessed rising levels of intolerance towards minorities in recent years, especially as successive governments tried to pacify extremist Buddhists to garner their votes.  Muslims in Sri Lanka have felt a wave of discrimination and official apathy after the suicide attacks that killed more than 200 people last year.  “After the Easter attacks, Muslims, particularly a large number of Muslim men, were arrested seemingly without reasonable cause.” Jingoistic government-aligned media has helped paint Muslims as the villain in Sri Lanka. 

The incitement of hatred and vitriol by media outlets continues unabated. For example, Muslim Covid-19 patients were identified by their faith, unlike other patients, and blamed by the media for spreading coronavirus.” 

https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/india-and-pakistan-no-different-on-how-they-treat-minorities-42419

Humanists International announces today a grand grants scheme for 2021

December 15, 2020

Humanists International has announced on 14 December its 2021 Grants Scheme: six grant programs for a total budget of £122,000

One of Humanists International’s strategic aims is “to have successful and sustainable member organizations in every part of the world.” In order to achieve this aim, Humanists International runs on a yearly basis a Growth & Development Plan to provide funding, training, intellectual resources and other forms of support to let humanist organizations around the world develop and flourish.

The 2021 Grants Scheme that has been announced today consists of six different grant programs:

  • Development Grants (£50,000)
  • Digital Humanism Grants (£25,000)
  • Regional Networking Meetings Grants (£15,000)
  • Humanist Ceremonies Grants (£10,000)
  • Young Humanist Grants (£16,000)
  • Café Humaniste Online Grants (£6,000)

All details about the six grant programs, the eligibility and selection criteria, and how to apply for a grant are available on the website under the Growth & Development page.

The deadline to apply is 12 February 2021.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/06/15/humanists-calls-on-un-to-stop-reprisals-against-human-rights-defenders/

10 December: Launch of the Freedom of Thought Report 2020 by Humanists International

November 10, 2020

International Human Rights Day 2020 is coming up and here is an early save the date for the Humanists International.

Since 2012 Humanists International has published the Freedom of Thought Report to monitor the rights and treatment of humanists, atheists and non-religious people in every country in the world. This year, the thematic focus of the Report is COVID-19, and its impact on the non-religious people globally. In particular we have seen the establishment of restrictions on:

– Women’s rights
– Media freedom, protest and access to information
– Individuals at risk

Here is the list of the event speakers:- Andrew Copson
President of Humanists International

Dr Ahmed Shaheed
UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief

Emma Wadsworth-Jones
Humanists International’s Casework & Campaigns Manager

Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir
Mauritanian blogger and anti-slavery activist

Debbie Goddard,
Vice-President of American Atheists

Rev. Fred Davie,
Commissioner of The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

The event will be live-streamed on Facebook on 10 December at 15.00 UTC.No registration is needed. Access is free. We are going to share the link of the live streaming with you in due time.Confirm your participation
to the event on Facebook now!

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/06/15/humanists-calls-on-un-to-stop-reprisals-against-human-rights-defenders/

The clock of Mubarak is ticking….

October 6, 2020

Humanist International created an ingenious way to show how long Mubarak Bala is being held illegally in detention:

Mubarak Bala has been detained arbitrarily
without charge for
:

 161  DAYS :    13  HOURS :    37  MINUTES :    00  SECONDS

banner mb homepage take 4.png

Mubarak Bala is the president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria. He has beenheld in detention without access to a lawyer since his arrest on 28 April 2020 in connection with a Facebook post.

Humanists International believes that Mubarak Bala is being targeted for the peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of expression and religion or belief, and calls for the case against him to be dropped, for Mubarak Bala to be released immediately and unconditionally, and for the Nigerian authorities to ensure his safety upon his release.

read the latest updates on mubarak bala

Sign the Statement

https://www.tickcounter.com/widget/countup/180906

https://freemubarakbala.org/

22 August: the day to remember victims of religion-based violence

August 23, 2019

On the occasion of first International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief – 22 August – a large group of UN independent experts (see names below) issued a statement saying that States have an important role to play in promoting religious tolerance and cultural diversity by promoting and protecting human rights, including freedom of religion or belief. The experts urged States to step up their efforts to combat intolerance, discrimination and violence against people based on religion or belief, including against members of religious minorities and people who are not religious.

Any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on religion or belief which has the effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis would amount to religious intolerance and discrimination. This was made clear in the 1981 General Assembly Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.

We have observed violence in the name of religion around the world perpetrated by States and non-state groups leading to discrimination, persecution, arbitrary arrests or detention, enforced disappearances, sexual violence and killings of many people based on their religion or belief. Victims have included religious minorities, individuals who are not religious, LGBTI persons, children and women who face many forms of discrimination and gender-based violence. Such violence threatens the hard-fought progress in securing women’s equality and the rights of LGBTI persons.

“We stress that religion or belief should never be used to justify discrimination. When faced with religious persecution or discrimination, victims are often also deprived of their right to participate fully in political, economic and cultural life, as well as their rights to education and to health. This can include the desecration and destruction of numerous cultural heritage sites of rich historic and religious value, such as places of worship and cemeteries.

As populism has become a trend in the political and social arena, it has fostered many forms of hatred against those who are viewed as foreign or simply different. Often, States and religious institutions resort to the instrumentalisation of religions or beliefs in order to retain their influence or control and achieve other political agendas. Fundamentalism is on the rise across the world’s major religious traditions, posing a threat to many human rights. Moreover, critical views of religions or beliefs are sometimes mischaracterised as ‘hate speech’ or labelled an offence to the religious feelings of others both by governments and non-state groups. Too often this is used as a pretext to silence those with critical voices and punish others for not believing.

The right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief is misunderstood as protecting religions and beliefs instead of the people with the beliefs and those without. It is incumbent on States to ensure that religions or beliefs are not used to violate human rights, and to combat religious extremism – which are a threat to many human rights, while adhering to international norms.

States have resorted to the securitisation of religion or belief, or viewing them through a lens of national security, in their fight against violent extremism. But an overly securitised approach has proven to be counterproductive and has led to xenophobia, increasing ‘religious profiling’ and discrimination, particularly towards religious minorities….

We urge States and all individuals and groups to work together to enhance the implementation of international human rights standards that protect individuals against discrimination and hate crimes, and to increase interreligious, interfaith and intercultural initiatives, and expand human rights education in an inclusive manner as a key catalyst for change.”

The experts are: Mr. Ahmed Shaheed (The Maldives), Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Ms Karima Bennoune (Algeria/USA), Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Mr. Fernand de Varennes (Canada), Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Ms Dubravka Šimonović (Croatia), Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Mr. David Kaye (USA), Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Ms Meskerem Geset Techane, (Ethiopia) , Chair of the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; Mr. Michel Forst (France), Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez (Mexico), Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Ms Agnes Callamard (France), Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Ms Maud de Boer-Buquicchio (The Netherlands), Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, child pornography and other child sexual abuse material; Ms Koumbou Boly Barry (Burkina Faso), Special Rapporteur on the right to education; Mr. Dainius Pῡras (Lithuania), Special Rapporteur on the right to health; Ms Fionnuala Ní Aoláin (Ireland), Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Mr. Victor Madrigal-Borloz (Costa Rica), Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; Mr. Bernard Duhaime (Canada),  Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on enforced and involuntary disappearances

NGOs demand the release of Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir in Mauretania

June 24, 2019

UK issues call for applications for funding human rights defenders work

May 14, 2019

On 13 May 2019 the UK Mission to the United Nations in New York issued a call for Programme Fund bids for the fiscal year 2019-2020.

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The UK Mission to the United Nations in New York is running an open call for project bids for funding under the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s International Programme in support of the UK Government’s objectives at the UN in New York on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Human Rights Defenders. Funding will be available for ODA-eligible projects running between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020. Bids will be accepted from civil society, including NGOs and think tanks, as well as international organisations, including UN offices, agencies, funds and programmes. As a first step, interested parties must submit a written expression of interest to uk@un.intby Tuesday 21 May.

For more information on the programme, guidance for bidding, and additional deadlines, see the Programme Fund form below.

Murder of human rights defender Ko Ni in Myanmar

February 1, 2017

On 30 January 2017 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, joined her voice to the many that have strongly condemned the brutal murder of Ko Ni, a prominent Muslim lawyer and constitutional law expert, who was also the legal adviser to the National League for Democracy (NLD). Mr. Ko Ni was shot and killed outside Yangon Airport on Sunday 29 January after returning from Indonesia where he had been part of a Government-led delegation attending an interfaith study tour. A suspect has been arrested.

“This appears to be another shocking example of a reprisal against those speaking out on behalf of the rights of others,” the expert said, recalling her recent end of visit statement, where she highlighted her concern at the increasing risks faced by human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and others working on sensitive issues. [see below“I am shocked to the core by the senseless killing of a highly respected and knowledgeable individual, whom I have met during all of my visits to the country, including most recently just over a week ago,” Ms. Lee said. She expressed her sincerest condolences to his family, and the family of taxi driver Nay Win killed in the same incident after he bravely attempted to apprehend the gunman. The Special Rapporteur underlined that, “U Ko Ni’s passing is a tremendous loss to human rights defenders and for Myanmar.”

Also Front Line Defenders deplores in strong term the killing of human rights defender U Ko Ni. His profile [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/u-ko-ni] describes him as human rights defender and human rights lawyer. He was the legal advisor for the National League for Democracy. He participated in the pro-democracy protests known as the 88 Uprising and was a former political prisoner. Upon release, he became actively involved in the interfaith peace movement and advocated for the rights of Muslim citizens in Myanmar. He strongly opposed the country’s race and religion protection bill which was introduced in August 2015 and which restricted interfaith marriage and caused a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment. In 2016, he helped found the Myanmar Muslim Lawyers Association. He also wrote six books on good governance and various human rights issues. U Ko Ni’s daughter reported that the human rights defender often received threats for speaking out against the continuing influence of the military on politics.

As recently as 25 January 2017 the Special Rapporteur had expressed her fears of government retaliation following her visit to Myanmar. She expressed concern that people may face reprisals for meeting with her. Lee recently concluded an official visit in the area during which individuals shared accounts of human rights abuses by the government. Some of the statements came from those in a hard labor camp as well as survivors of a village burning. Lee fears these individuals who met with her will face reprisals from those who believe the accounts given are contrary to the government. “I am deeply concerned about those with whom I met and spoke, those critical of the Government, those defending and advocating for the rights of others, and those who expressed their thoughts and opinions which did not conform to the narrative of those in the position of power.” (Lee will submit her report on Myanmar in March to the UN Human Rights Council).

(Ms. Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014 as the Special Rapporteur on situation of human rights in Myanmar.) See also:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/03/19/myanmar-backsliding-by-prosecuting-human-rights-defenders-instead-of-perpetrators/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/01/21/u-n-rapporteur-on-myanmar-called-whore-by-radical-buddhist-monk/

Sources:

JURIST – UN rights expert fears government retaliation following visit to Myanmar

http://reliefweb.int/report/myanmar/myanmar-un-rights-expert-condemns-senseless-killing-respected-muslim-lawyer-ko-ni

European Parliament zooms in on human rights defenders in Cambodia, Tajikistan and Vietnam

June 9, 2016

A press release of 9 June 2016 reports that the European Parliament – in three resolutions voted on Thursday – focused on:

Opposition in Cambodia

MEPs deplore the worsening climate for opposition politicians and human rights activists in Cambodia and condemn all acts of violence, politically-motivated charges, arbitrary detention, questioning, sentences and convictions imposed on them. The Cambodian authorities should revoke the arrest warrant for, and drop all charges against, Sam Rainsy, President of the leading opposition party, the CNRP, and also immediately release the five human rights defenders still in preventive custody, namely Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan, Lim Mony and Ny Chakra. All politicians, activists and human rights defenders should “be allowed to work freely without fear of arrest or persecution”.

Given that the EU is Cambodia’s largest development assistance partner, with a new allocation of €410 million for 2014-2020, Parliament calls on the European External Action Service (EEAS) to make the “amount of EU financial assistance dependent on improvements in the human rights situation in the country”. EU member states, foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, the EEAS and the EU Commission should also set out clear benchmarks for the forthcoming elections in Cambodia, consistent with international law on freedom of expression, association and assembly, it adds.

Prisoners of conscience in Tajikistan

Parliament is deeply concerned about increases in the detention and arrest of human rights lawyers, political opposition members and their relatives in Tajikistan. Restrictions on media freedom and internet and mobile communications, and restrictions on religious expression are also worrying in this country, it adds. MEPs call for the release of all those imprisoned on politically-motived charges, including, well-known businessman and government critic Abubakr Azizkhodzhaev, opposition figure Zaid Saidov, activist Maksud Ibragimov, opposition deputy leaders Mahmadali Hayit and Saidumar Hussaini, and 11 other members of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT).

The EU has a “vital interest in stepping up political, economic and security cooperation with the Central Asian region via a strong and open EU-Tajikistan relationship”, says the resolution. But “political and economic relations with the EU are deeply linked to the sharing of values relating to respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”, adds the text.

Protesters in Vietnam

MEPs deplore continuing human rights violations in Vietnam, including “political intimidation, harassment, assaults, arbitrary arrests, heavy prison sentences and unfair trials, perpetrated against political activists, journalists, bloggers, dissidents and human rights defenders”, and call on the government of Vietnam to put an “immediate stop to all harassment, intimidation, and persecution” of these individuals. “The increasing levels of violence perpetrated against Vietnamese protesters” demonstrating throughout the country in May 2016 to express their anger over “an ecological catastrophe that decimated the nation’s fish stocks” are worrying, note MEPs. The Vietnam government should respect the right to freedom of assembly in line with its international human rights obligations, the findings of the investigations into the environmental disaster should be published and those responsible should be held accountable, they add.

The resolution also calls on the Vietnam government to put an end to religious persecution in the country, to amend legislation on the status of religious minorities and to withdraw the fifth draft of the law on belief and religion, currently being debated in the National Assembly, as it is “incompatible with international norms of freedom religion or belief”.

Source: Human rights: opposition in Cambodia, prisoners of conscience in Tajikistan, continuing violations of human rights in Vietnam