Posts Tagged ‘freedom to demonstrate’

Poland and Israel: human rights defenders not welcome

May 9, 2018

For those who think that muzzling human rights defenders is an exclusively non-western affair, look at these examples: Poland and Israel.

On 9 May 2018 Katharina Rall, environment researcher at Human Rights Watch, critically looks at Poland‘s efforts to hamper the freedom of expression and demonstration by human rights defenders at the forthcoming climate summit, known as the COP24. It will bring together state parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and thousands of experts, journalists, businesses and nongovernmental groups.  UN experts cite concerns about the ban on spontaneous assemblies in Katowice during the talks, which will make it difficult for groups to respond to developments at the negotiations. In a letter sent to the Polish government last month they said that by “curtail[ing] the possibility of spontaneously expressing views about the unfolding of the climate talks and organizing peaceful assemblies to this effect”, the new law appears to go beyond the rights restrictions necessary to ensure security and safety at the conference. The UN experts also noted that the law “appears to give sweeping surveillance powers to the police and secret services to collect and process personal data about all COP24 participants”. This is a serious issue for the safety of climate activists at the summit. [The Polish government has yet to respond to the UN rights experts. But a reply from the Polish environment minister to similar concerns raised by the Bureau of the Aarhus Convention, a regional human rights and environmental body, has done little to dispel them.]

Just the day before, 8 May 2018, AP reported that Israel’s Interior Minister, Arieh Deri, has ordered the head of the local office of Human Rights Watch to leave the country within 14 days for allegedly supporting boycotts of Israel. HRW responded that it stands by Omar Shakir, a U.S. citizen of Iraqi descent, and accused Israel of trying to muzzle criticism of its human rights record. It says neither it nor Shakir support boycotts, and that it will challenge the decision in court. Iain Levine, a Human Rights Watch official, says Israel’s actions, such as compiling a dossier on Shakir, and “deporting human rights defenders is a page out of the Russian or Egyptian security services’ playbook.” [In April last year his appointment had already let to controversy, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/27/human-rights-watch-granted-israeli-work-permit-in-the-end/]

http://news.trust.org//item/20180509072953-izwk3/

https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/israel-expel-human-rights-watch-rep-boycott-claims-55019948

Ibrahim Halawa – after 4 years in detention in Egypt – is able to speak out

February 27, 2018

Amnesty International published on 26 February 2018 an insightful interview with an Egyptian youth arrested in the august 2013 protests.
Weeks after his release Ibrahim Halawa spoke to AIu about his time in an Egyptian prison. Now walking the streets of Dublin his freedom has changed his life forever. Ibrahim Halawa was arrested aged just 17 along with hundreds of others during protests on 16 and 17 August 2013 around al-Fath Mosque in downtown Cairo. The protests descended into violence which the security forces responded to by using excessive lethal force that left at least 97 people killed, but according to Amnesty International’s research there is no evidence to indicate he was involved in any of the violence. The organization believes he was jailed for peacefully protesting. He was eventually acquitted on 18 September 2017, but 442 others were sentenced after a deeply unfair mass trial. Amnesty International is calling for all others who have been sentenced for peacefully exercising their rights to be immediately released.

 

Human Rights defender Fakhteh Zamani comments on Iranian developments

January 3, 2018

For the past ten years, Fakhteh Zamani has resided in Norway, given that her return to Iran at the moment is fraught with risks. Zamani is in daily touch with her friends living in Iran’s Kurdish provinces and human rights defenders in the Mashhad. Hetq interviewed Zamani via the internet and published the following on 3 January 2018 (under the title : Iranian Human Rights Activist – People in Iran Want Change, not Reforms):

It’s difficult to receive credible information regarding events now taking place in Iran. .. How do you receive information from Iran? ..

Yes, social networks are being filtered. My human rights defender acquaintances in Mashhad and elsewhere are able to break through the barriers and get information out. The Iranian government has tried to monitor the populace for the past forty years. The populace has long since found ways to transfer information. This is how we get our information, by using our contacts on the ground.

While the international media is reporting that the poor socio-economic situation and inflation have fueled the protests, President Hassan Rouhani has accused Saudi Arabia of inciting the situation….

You know that all dictators are accustomed to blaming outside governments for their failures. While it’s true that Iran and Saudi Arabia have always had tense relations, those who are protesting are demanding their fundamental rights. …There is no justification for blaming outside governments. People are hungry. Many go without being paid for weeks and months. Food prices are increasing, and wages are decreasing. People are disgruntled. Yesterday, I was talking to a wealthy businessman in Iran. He said that even though he makes money, he still can’t afford certain things. So, just imagine the plight of those working for others.

Given the sporadic information reaching the outside, is it correct to assume that the protests lack leadership? ….

Yes, there are no leaders. People are organizing themselves. Organizing demonstrations in Iran isn’t easy. The government spends millions to form groups designed to crush any opposition. Those taking to the streets, in revolt, have violated the law and face serious retribution. The protesters have spontaneously taken to the streets.

What are your predictions on the protests? What will follow?

Honestly, I can’t make specific predictions as to what will come next. But I already see the end of the Islamic Republic of Iran. While the government has introduced some reforms in the past twenty years, people have realized that these reforms haven’t benefitted them. In contrast to the 2009 protests, the current protesters are demanding that the regime steps down, to be replaced by democratic rule. People are also tired that their taxes are being spent on proxy wars in the Middle East. People in Iran want real change, not reforms. This is evident from the slogans they use.

You have left Iran due to your political views and activities. Would you return is serious changes take place?

I would return to expand my actions in the name of democracy and a better life. Furthermore, I would have to be certain that the rights of national minorities are placed on the back burner.

UN Human Rights Council urged to address situation in Ethiopia

September 9, 2016

15 major human rights rights groups have written a joint letter to the U.N. Human Rights Council urging an immediate halt to “excessive” use of force by Ethiopian security forces. The letter dated Thursday 8 September also calls for an independent investigation into the reported killings of hundreds of people in Ethiopia’s Amhara and Oromia states since November 2015 amid protests. “Authorities have also arbitrarily arrested thousands of people throughout Oromia and Amhara during and after protests, including journalists and human rights defenders,” the letter says. The Human Rights Council convenes next week in Geneva.

Earlier this  year UN Rapporteurs had already expressed their concern: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/un-rapporteurs-urge-ethiopia-to-end-violent-crackdown-and-impunity/

Read the rest of this entry »

Malaysian Bersih 2.0 (Walk for Democracy) wins Gwangju human rights award

April 26, 2016

Participants shout slogans during a rally organised by pro-democracy group Bersih 2.0 near Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur, August 30, 2015. — Reuters pic

Participants shout slogans during a rally organised by pro-democracy group Bersih 2.0 near Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur, August 30, 2015. — Reuters pic

Bersih 2.0 (also called the Walk for Democracy) has won South Korea’s 2016 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights for its efforts in pushing for electoral reform in Malaysia. The Bersih 2.0 steering committee, in a statement, said it was proud for being acknowledged for its work through the Gwangju award. “This acknowledgement is the result of the fight of the people of Malaysia who had gathered peacefully as many as four times in the city centre to seek a clean and fair electoral system in the country…The people have also proved their patriotic spirit when they walked the streets to defend the constitution, freedom to gather, voice an opinion and seek information,” it said. “We would like to take this opportunity to thank all non governmental organisations overseas who have supported Bersih 2.0 all these years.”

The committee said Bersih 2.0 was nominated by Indonesian activist Mugiyanto from the International NGO forum on Indonesian Development (INFID) and Malaysian activist Yap Swee Seng. The award ceremony will take place on May 18 at the Memorial Foundation in South Korea.

Source: Bersih 2.0 wins South Korean human rights award | Malaysia | Malay Mail Online

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bersih_2.0_rally

UN experts launch practical advice on how to implement the freedom to demonstrate

March 28, 2016

At the latest session of the Human Rights Council, States and NGOs reacted to the new compilation of advise and recommendations on how to protect the right to assembly (‘freedom to demonstrate’). UN human rights experts have launched a major new report on the proper management of assemblies. The compilation of practical recommendation, which seeks to ensure that the management of assemblies and protests comply with international law through which to apply international law, was drafted by the Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Association and Assembly (Maina Kiai) and on Extrajudicial Executions (Christoph Heyns), after a series of consultations with multiple stakeholders including civil society.

An interactive dialogue with the Rapporteurs followed the report’s presentation, and several States – including Norway, Egypt and Ireland – reiterated the responsibilities of business. Whilst a broad range of States – including Costa Rica, Turkey and Tunisia – acknowledged the report’s importance, others used their interventions to emphasise the responsibilities of protesters. In response to Russia, Botswana and Cuba amongst others, Mr Heyns was clear: ‘Rights come before responsibilities. The report does not challenge that responsibilities are an inherent component of human rights, but one must come before the other.’ Maina Kiai underlined that ‘requiring authorisation for a protest dilutes a right to a mere privilege’.

ISHR’s statement reiterated that free assembly is a vital component of a safe and enabling environment for human rights defence, and highlighted how vague laws such as the Ley de Tumulos in Guatemala, repressive clampdowns on protest such as in Gezi Park in Turkey, and the imprisonment of protesters such as the Bahrain 13 are being used to hamper the work of human rights defenders.

 

ISHR welcomed the report’s emphasis on the responsibilities of business. ‘We hear increasingly of abuses by private security firms against protesters, as well as strategic lawsuits against public participation brought by companies and the enactment, by States, of laws which specifically target and restrict protests against business operations,’ said ISHR’s Ben Leather. ‘States should take heed of the recommendations made in the report to reverse these trends’.

For other posts on this topic: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/freedom-to-demonstrate/

Source: UN experts launch practical advice on management of protests | ISHR

Student human rights defenders under pressure in Myanmar/Burma

April 27, 2015

Since November 2014, student organizations including the All Burma Federation of Student Union (ABFSU) have been protesting against the National Education Bill, which student activists claim restricts academic freedom. Enacted by Parliament on 30 September 2014, the National Education Law was intended to reform the country’s education system, but the ABFSU claim the government did not seek adequate student input in its formation. The new restrictions outlaw independent student and teacher unions, and erase ethnic languages, cultures and literatures from university syllabi.

Students opposed to the National Education Law staged a peaceful protest in Letpadan on 10 March 2015. Police responded violently to the movement. They arrested approximately 126 students, including student leaders Po Po, Nanda Sitt Aung and Phyo Phyo Aung. Three others, Myat Thu Aung, Kyaw Ko Ko (the Chairman) and Ye Yint Kyaw (spokesperson), managed to escape in March, but today they face criminal charges of unlawful assembly, rioting, incitement, and causing harm to a public servant. The charges carry penalties of up to three years in prison. Robert San Aung, who leads the Myanmar Lawyers’ Network team and is one the 3 Final Nominees of the MEA this year, said he believes the Court would not begin hearing the charges against those students currently detained, until police had apprehended those still in hiding.

The ABFSU is a student union with a long tradition and as far back as 2001 it won the Norwegian Student Peace Prize.

Myanmar/Burma – Student human rights defenders Myat Thu Aung, Kyaw Ko Ko and Ye Yint Kyaw facing charges | Front Line Defenders.

Broad coalition of NGOs at UN condemns Egypt’s treatment of women human rights defenders

March 23, 2015

During the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report on Egypt in the UN Human Rights Council on 20 March 2015 the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (for the composition see below), made a forceful statement about the terrible situation of women human rights defenders in that country.

“The systematic judicial harassment faced by many women human rights defenders is highlighted through the emblematic case of the seven women defenders2 arrested on 21 June 2014 for protesting peacefully against the Protest and Public Assembly Law (No. 107), who faced arduous hassles including prolonged pre-trial detention. Their sentence was finally reduced to two years of imprisonment and two years of surveillance by the appeals court in December 2014. [The seven are: Ms. Sanaa Seif, Ms. Yara Sallam, Ms. Hanan Mustafa Mohamed, Ms. Salwa Mihriz, Ms. Samar Ibrahim, Ms. Nahid Bebo and Rania El-Sheikh]

Furthermore, we strongly condemn the killing of Shaimaa ElSabbagh during a peaceful protest on 24 January 2015. She was taking part in a gathering to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the 25 January revolution. We call on the Egyptian government to ensure a prompt, independent and effective investigation to identify the perpetrator and hold them to account. In this connection, we are deeply concerned that Azza Soliman from the Centre for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA), who was witness to the incident and testified before the Prosecutor’s Office, is now targeted as a suspect and charges have been brought against her under the public assembly law.

Finally, we express our continued dismay over sexual violence against women in online and offline public spaces. Though a national strategy to combat violence against women has been announced, we emphasise the need for it to be comprehensive and holistic with involvement of all relevant ministries and stakeholders, as well as adequate budget allocation. During the UPR, the government highlighted a new amendment to the Penal Code article 306, which addresses sexual harassment. This amendment is far insufficient in its scope as it only considers sexual harassment a crime if the intent of the perpetrator is proven to be related to obtaining sexual benefits…”

The Coalition members:  Amnesty International, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Association for Progressive Communications (APC), Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights, Centre for Reproductive Rights, Centre for Women’s Global Leadership, Coalition of African Lesbians, Front Line Defenders, Human Rights First, Information Monitor (INFORM), International Federation for Human Rights, International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia-Pacific (IWRAW-AP), Isis International, ISIS Women’s International Cross- Cultural Exchange, Just Associates (JASS), The Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights (CLADEM), MADRE, Nazra for Feminist Studies, Peace Brigades International, Rainbow Rights Project Inc, Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights, Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML), Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights, WOmen’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC), World Organisation against Torture (OMCT).

Call for the release human rights defender Mohamed Mchangama in Comoros

February 17, 2015

The New York based Human Rights Foundation on 11 February 2015 called on the government of the Comoros to release Mohamed Said Abdallah Mchangama, President of the Federation of Comorian Consumers (FCC).
HRF to the Comoros: Release Activist Mohamed Mchangama and Drop Incitement Charges Against Him

Mchangama is one of the leaders of the “Madji Na Mwendje” (power and water) movement, formed by the FCC and other civil society organizations to protest the government’s inability to resolve the frequent power blackouts and water shortages plaguing the island. The movement called on all Comorian civil society groups to engage in a three-day general strike scheduled for February 9-11. The Sunday before the strike was set to start, Mchangama was summoned to appear at the police station of Moroni where he was immediately arrested and is currently being held.

Civil society leaders like Mchangama are a threat to competitive authoritarian regimes because of their ability to channel people’s frustration at corrupt and incompetent governments. By arresting him, the government seeks to quash a legitimate demand from hundreds of thousands of Comorians living below the poverty line. He must be released immediately,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of the Human Rights Foundation. “We have seen similar instances of repressing freedom of expression in the region. In Burundi, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa was arrested for criticizing the ruling party during a radio interview; and in Swaziland Thulani Maseko and Bhaki Makubu were both arrested for questioning the independence of the judicial system. These are all legitimate concerns in any democratic society. It is these abusive governments that are at fault here, not the people,” said Halvorssen.

For more information contact: Jamie Hancock at jamie[at]thehrf.org or see the original piece:

HRF to the Comoros: Release Activist Mohamed Mchangama and Drop Incitement Charges Against Him | News | The Human Rights Foundation.

Asian Human Rights Commission brings images of Hong Kong protest

October 3, 2014

In this week’s Episode [already no 47!], AHRC TV covers the tragic news of the death of Nanda Prasad Adhikari, following a 333-day hunger strike in Nepal.

There is also attention for the dramatic and spontaneous civil disobedience movement in Hong Kong. AHRC TV captures the mood on the occupied streets and catches up with the protestors, many of whom are students hoping to shape a better future for themselves.