Posts Tagged ‘Global Voices’

Even simply remembering Kem Ley is forbidden in Cambodia

July 16, 2020

Cambodia continues to block memorial activities honoring murdered political analyst Kem Ley [See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/12/third-anniversary-kem-ley-murder-cambodia-impunity/]

Individuals and groups were blocked by police and local authorities in Cambodia from holding activities commemorating the fourth anniversary of the death of political analyst Kem Ley.

Kem Ley was killed at a gas station on July 10, 2016. Many suspect the murder was linked to his work as a commentator and political analyst. He was murdered days after he gave a radio interview about a Global Witness report detailing corruption under the Hun Sen government, which has ruled the country since 1985.

On July 8, a group of monks and young activists were prevented by police from holding a memorial service at the gas station where the late analyst was killed. They were forced instead to hold their prayers on a sidewalk more than 100 meters from the site.

A young man wearing a shirt with Kem Ley’s face printed on it was arrested that day. The next day, a group of youth leaders were blocked by security forces from travelling to Kem Ley’s family home in Takeo.

Another convoy of monks and activists was blocked on July 10. But supporters of the slain commentator continued to honor him by embarking on a march of several kilometers. Chheang Sinath, a tuk-tuk (three-wheeled vehicle) driver and member of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association, criticized authorities’ actions in an interview with VOD news:

We just came to participate and show respect. Just participating and remembering [Kem Ley’s] sacrifice for society is seen as a wrongdoing [by authorities]. This is not appropriate unless we hold a demonstration or protest something. This is just a ceremony to pay gratitude to him, but authorities tried to stop us.

Venerable Bo Bet, a monk from a Phnom Penh pagoda, expressed frustration that his group of 10 monks was not allowed to pay respects to Kem Ley:

We want to pay respects at the place he was killed, and we will also hold ceremonies at other places. We come here and want to burn incense. We want to hold funeral rites at the site. We want to remember his good deeds here because we do this only once a year.

Kem Ley’s wife and kids were forced to seek asylum in Australia after his death. Bou Rachana thanked supporters of her late husband for their efforts.

See also; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/17/swedens-aid-to-cambodia-refocuses-on-civil-society/

https://globalvoices.org/2020/07/15/cambodia-continues-to-block-memorial-activities-honoring-murdered-analyst-kem-ley/

Ali Gharavi of the “#Istanbul10” speaks about his experience and his hope

May 6, 2020

Ali Gharavi is a consultant working with human rights defenders, their organisations and communities. He is one of ten people who were arrested in Turkey in July 2017 at an information management and well-being workshop on Buyukada island. The hashtag #Istanbul10 was used in the sustained advocacy efforts that called for the dropping of all charges against them and their immediate release. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/16/turkey-who-will-defend-the-human-rights-defenders/]

In March 2020, ahead of an anticipated – but since postponed – verdict hearing, Ali spoke with IFEX Regional Editor Cathal Sheerin about how his experience being arrested in Turkey and jailed for four months has affected his life and informed his work. “While I breathe, I hope: In conversation with Ali Gharavi of the #Istanbul10″ (interview published through a partnership between Global Voices and IFEX).

Ali Gharavi. Credit Annie Game
CS: How do you feel about the upcoming hearing? I feel a combination of anticipation and anxiety. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions over the last almost three years and the verdict was supposed to have been reached at the last hearing. In terms of realistic outcomes, we’ve talked about two or three possibilities with our families, lawyers and the authorities in Sweden. I’ve been trying to keep my wits about me and not putting all my eggs in one basket, but we’re pretty optimistic that the outcome could be acquittal.

What makes you optimistic for acquittal? I’m only nominally optimistic really because these things can turn on a dime. At the hearing before the last one, the prosecutor said that – of the ten of us plus Taner Kılıç – he would accept acquittal for five because of lack of evidence, but the rest he wanted to convict. I was in the acquittal group. All of us are quite adamant, however, about not having this ‘split’ decision.

Why do you think you were divided into two groups? It’s really hard to say. Two of us in the acquittal group – Peter Steudtner and I – are not Turkish, so it’s possible that they want to remove the international angle from all of this. However, that’s just my speculation. It’s actually quite arbitrary, and I think this is partly because they have no evidence. It might even be a way to ramp this down: Let’s acquit half of them now and then acquit the rest in a trickle.

…..
How aware were you when you were detained of the advocacy that was taking place on your behalf? What impact did it have on your morale? Maintaining my morale was one of the biggest challenges for me. I was held at four different sites. At one point, they transferred us to the anti-terrorism headquarters for interrogation, which sounds like – and was – quite a harrowing experience. ……

I’ve done letter-writing campaigns in the past, and I never knew for sure if they had any effect on the people who were in jail, but having been on the inside, I can say that those moments were life-saving. Sometimes my lawyer would search for my name on Twitter and print out all the tweets that had been posted that week about me; there was also this Twitter campaign, #haikusforAli, and demonstrations in Brussels, sit-ins in front of embassies. All of those moments reminded me that people on the outside were thinking of me and mobilising. I’m not exaggerating when I say that those were the things that saved me when I was in the depths of an abyss.

How has the experience affected how you work?  The kind of work I’d been doing was intended exactly for this kind of situation, where you need to pay attention to the whole person, not just their devices or the organisation’s activities. Because of my incarceration, I now understand that at a molecular level. For me, the whole experience has placed a higher premium on understanding people – who they are, where they are – as a big part of how we can actually help them regardless of whichever aspect of their work we’re trying to assist them with. One thing the experience revealed was how inadequately resourced and researched care and crisis response is: how do you care for not just the person incarcerated, but also his family, the community around him, his colleagues?

Once the crisis is ‘over’ the assumption is that life goes on as usual, whereas there’s actually recovery that needs to be done. Often there’s also a massive financial burden due to legal costs and the inability to work for a while. After my release I went to Berlin and arrived into a very supportive debriefing environment. It’s a very privileged situation to be in – those ten days were very helpful in making me understand that I’d be going through this trauma and recovery and that it’s not just business as usual. There was a crowd-funder created for me so that I didn’t just have to drop back into work, and there was physical and psychological therapy too. I knew it intellectually, but now I know it viscerally, that just because you get released the trauma doesn’t just go away. It takes years to be functional again. People assume that when you recover you’re going to go back to being who you were, but that’s not true.

Would you ever return to Turkey? It would be very difficult for me to feel safe there, but I would go, if only in order to ‘get back on the horse’. If the verdict doesn’t go the way we expect, then I’d be incarcerated if I turned up there, so I obviously wouldn’t return. I love Turkey – the people and the environment – and I feel like a big part of my life and friends is now off-limits to me. But I dream of when I’ll be able to go back, hug the people who were inside with me and eat baklava with them. As Cicero said: ‘While I breathe, I hope.’

The humanity of what I experienced in detention was humbling. Regardless of why those people were incarcerated with me, they – that young 19-year-old who spoke to me in German, and others – were an amazing source of inspiration and support. During the toughest times I’d be angry with them, but they were amazingly unwavering. I’ve heard via word of mouth that those two supposed ISIS members are now back with their families and all is well. I owe them a big debt of gratitude.

Most of the time I was incarcerated alongside political prisoners who faced trial on specious charges, or who had been (and continue to be) detained for years on end as they wait for an indictment. And now we hear that despite the mortal threat of COVID-19 sweeping through the prison system, those prisoners will stay behind bars.

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/03/20/corona-virus-threatens-human-rights-defenders-in-detention-egypt-and-turkey/]

‘While I breathe, I hope’: In conversation with Ali Gharavi of the #Istanbul10

While I breathe, I hope: In conversation with Ali Gharavi of the #Istanbul10

UAE finally free Osama al-Najjar after detaining more than five years.

August 9, 2019

Osama Al-Najjar remained in detention, despite completing his jail sentence. Photo Credit: activist’s Twitter account

On 9 August 2019 Global Voices reports that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have freed activist and political prisoner Osama al-Najjar after detaining him for more than five years. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/13/political-prisoners-in-the-emirats-are-detained-indefinitely-even-after-release-date/]

”Two other detainees, Badr al-Bahri and Othman al-Shehi, whose initial sentences expired in April 2017 and July 2018 respectively, have also been freed”, the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE) said in a statement. Al-Bahri and al-Shehi were arrested over their links to al-Islah, which was a legally registered Islamist political movement in the UAE before it was banned by authorities in 2014.

Many political prisoners remain in detention in the UAE, despite repeated calls from human rights groups for their release. Prominent human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor is currently serving a ten-year jail sentence over comments he posted online. Prior to his arrest in March 2017, he campaigned online on behalf of jailed activists in the UAE, including Osama al-Najjar. Academic Nasser Bin Ghaith is also serving a ten-year jail sentence over tweets critical of the UAE authorities. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/ahmed-mansoor/]

UAE frees activist Osama al-Najjar after 5 years in detention

New documentary series highlights the struggle of women human rights in Vietnam

August 7, 2019

A new series of video interviews highlights the perspectives and struggles of human rights women in Vietnam.

The 88 Project, an organisation supporting freedom of expression in Vietnam, released the first video of an ongoing interview series with female activists in Vietnam. In the first interview with Pham Doan Trang, a dissident journalist and political activist, she discusses the challenges women face as bloggers and human rights activists: “In general, Vietnamese women are not respected. Not only in democracy activism but in all fields. In democracy activism, female activists are disadvantaged because they get attacked no less than male activists. They get beaten and assaulted. The work they do is no less than their male counterparts. But what they often get from other people is pity. I think it is not respect.” See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/18/overview-of-recent-campaigning-for-human-rights-defenders-in-vietnam/

Other women including social activist and blogger Tran Thi Nga, who is currently serving a nine-year prison sentence, have also been seriously injured following physical attacks, often conducted by hired men. Tran Thi Nga’s attack was documented and posted on Youtube with recordings of her being wheeled into a hospital accompanied by her two young children. According to family reports, Tran Thi Nga has been subjected to both physical and psychological harassment after her arrest, receiving death threats and beatings from a cellmate.

According to the 88 Project database, there are currently more than 200 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam with over 30 identifying as female. Bloggers and journalists are frequently arrested and charged for “activities attempting to overthrow the state” or “conducting propaganda against the state”. According to Amnesty International, the Vietnamese government has been conducting a growing crackdown on freedom of expression and peaceful activism over the past few years.

Nguyen Dang Minh Man, a photojournalist and the woman who has served the longest time in prison so far, is expected to be released at the beginning of August.

World Press Freedom Day celebrated on 3 May 2019

May 6, 2019

Friday 3 May was World Press Freedom Day. Read the rest of this entry »

Fake news targeted Sakharov award nominee Zefzafi in Moroccan media

April 5, 2019

In September 2018, Nasser Zefzafi, imprisoned leader of Morocco’s Hirak protest movement in the Rif region, was nominated for the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov Prize For Freedom of Thought. The annual award was established in 1988 to honor ‘’individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to the fight for human rights across the globe.’’ [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/09/30/nominees-for-the-2018-sakharov-prize-announced-by-european-parliament/]

Zefazfi is currently serving a 20-year prison term for his role as a leader in the Hirak protests. … Zefzafi made it to the list of three finalists for the Sakharov Prize, but did not win. It was instead awarded to Ukrainian film director and writer Oleg Sentsov. Following the announcement of the winner on 25 October, Moroccan news site Cawalisse published a fabricated story alleging that the European Parliament “withdrew Zefzafi’s name from the list of winners’’ because he is a “criminal who has no link to human rights.”

Screenshot of the fabricated Cawalisse story alleging that the European Parliament deemed Zefzafi  a ”criminal’.

The article (which does not list an author!) states that “a group of lobbies from within the European Parliament, including those that support Polisario separatists and those hired by drug gangs, pressured the prize’s committee to award it to Zefzafi and give his crimes the label of protecting rights.” The story is completely false. It is based on fabricated facts and conspiracy theories. The European Parliament never maintained that Zefzafi was a criminal, nor did they withdraw his name “from the list of winners.” He was simply not chosen to win the prize. In fact, there was no “list of winners” in the first place, but only one winner, Oleg Sentsov…

https://advox.globalvoices.org/2019/04/04/how-pro-government-media-in-morocco-use-fake-news-to-target-and-silence-rif-activists/

On 19 November seven Moroccan Human Rights Defenders go on trial

November 19, 2015

Hisham Almiraat (center) with friends at the Global Voices 2012 Summit in Nairobi. PHOTO: Ivan Sigal

Maâti Monjib, Hicham Mansouri, Samad Iach, Mohamed Elsabr and Hisham Almiraat are facing charges of “threatening the internal security of the State”, an offense that can lead to up to five years in prison. Rachid Tarek and Maria Moukrim are facing charges of “receiving foreign funding without notifying the General Secretariat of the government”, which if found guilty, can result in fines.

The trial for the case is scheduled for 19 November, 2015. Morocco has seen a dramatic increase in human rights violations and attacks against journalists in the past year. Crackdowns on independent media, human rights defenders and civil society have led to a stifling environment that limits freedom of expression and association in the country.

We call the international community’s attention to the continuous interrogations, harassment, threats and arrests, as a deliberate attempt by the Moroccan authorities to silence dissidents. Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right (Article 19 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). The Moroccan government violates this universal right with the charges.

16 international and regional NGOs concerned with freedom of expression urge the Moroccan authorities to drop all charges and end the harassment of human rights defenders and journalists.

Read the rest of this entry »

The middle ages are back: 10 years prison & 1000 lashes for Saudi Human Rights Defender

May 8, 2014

On 7 May 2014, human rights defender Mr Raif Badawi was sentenced by a Jeddah Criminal Court in Saudi Arabia to 10 years in prison, 1000 lashes and a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals. The human rights defender is a co-founder of the “Free Saudi Liberals” website and was convicted of “insulting Islam”. As Raif Badawi’s page https://frontlinedefenders.org/RaifBadawi on Front Line Defenders explains, the human rights defender was originally sentenced to “ONLY” seven years’ imprisonment and 600 lashes. See also last year’s post: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/saudi-website-founder-to-be-imprisoned-and-lashed-·-global-voices/

 

Six Members of Blogging Collective “Zone 9” Arrested in Ethiopia

April 29, 2014

zonenine

On April 25, six members of the Zone Nine blogging collective were arrested in Ethiopia. They are now reported to being held at Maekelawi, a detention center in Addis Ababa. News of the arrests first broke on Twitter, where fellow bloggers and social media users voiced support for those arrested and expressed their own fears about what may be to come. Writer Bisrat Teshome, who lives in Addis Ababa, tweeted: “Terrified with the rant of EPRDF on journalists & bloggers. I almost fainted when my door was knocked at about 7pm. #Ethiopia — Bisrat Teshome (@_Bisre)“. As of this evening, no charges had been issued to the members of our group.

[Formed in 2012, the Zone Nine group has leveraged significant critiques of ruling government policy and practice through online campaigns in an effort to raise awareness about political repression in the country. Translating international news for local audiences — through partnership with Global Voices, launched Global Voices in Amharic two years ago. Have been a surveillance target of the Ethiopian government.]

[Kality prison is divided into eight different zones, the last of which — Zone Eight — is dedicated to journalists, human right activists and dissidents. Thus the name of the blog for the proverbial prison in which all Ethiopians live: Zone Nine]

via Six Members of Blogging Collective Arrested in Ethiopia – Global Voices Advocacy.