Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights Watch’

Medical negligence in Egypt’s prisons alarming: another victim

September 4, 2020

Ahmed Abdrabbu (L) and his wife
Ahmed Abdrabbu, left, and wife were arrested at Cairo International Airport on 23 December 2018 (Twitter/@nosaybaahmed)
On 2 September 2020 the Middle East Eye reported that – according to the Committee for Justice (CFJ )- Egyptian human rights defender Ahmed Abdrabbu became the latest of some 1,000 prisoners to die amid medical negligence since Abdel Fattah el-Sisi assumed presidency.

The Tora prison, also known as “the Scorpion“, has been repeatedly denounced by rights groups and described as “degrading” by Human Rights Watch. “Authorities there have denied inmates contact with their families or lawyers for months at a time, held them in degrading conditions without beds, mattresses or basic hygienic items, humiliated, beaten, and confined them for weeks in cramped ‘discipline’ cells – treatment that probably amounted to torture in some cases,” HRW said in a report in 2016.

According to Abdrabbu’s family, the publisher was arrested on 23 December 2018 at Cairo International Airport and was later charged with “membership in a terrorist organisation” and working to “undermine the constitution”, accusations commonly used by Egyptian authorities against opponents of the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. His wife, who was with him at the time, was released in June 2019 and is currently serving parole, his daughter Nusaiba wrote on Twitter.

According to Mehreh’s CFJ, which tracks deaths in Egyptian prisons, including those as a result of Covid-19, almost 1,000 prisoners have died in custody since July 2013. The majority of those deaths were because of medical negligence, Mefreh told MEE. In its biannual report, CFJ documented the deaths of 51 prisoners as a result of denial of medical care in detention facilities during the first half of 2020, including 17 people who died of Covid-19. Those whose deaths were attributed to medical negligence in recent years include former President Mohamed Morsi, Egyptian-American prisoner Mustafa Kassem, film director Shadi Habash, and former Muslim Brotherhood MP Essam El-Erian. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/02/filmmaker-and-human-rights-defender-shady-habash-dies-in-egyptian-pre-trial-detention/]

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/07/update-to-monas-campaign-for-her-sister/

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/egypt-political-prisoner-father-american-citizen-dies-jail

Burundi after the “election”: UN and HRW follow up

July 21, 2020

Lisa Schlein reported on 14 July 2020 that UN Investigators are skeptical of reform promises by new President, while HRW sent a letter to the new President Ndayishimiye

Burundi's President Evariste Ndayishimiye gestures to the crowd after his inauguration in Gitega, Burundi Thursday, June 18,…

The U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Burundi is doubting that promises of reform made by Burundi’s newly-elected president will result in hoped-for improvements in the country’s human rights situation. The commission has submitted its report on prevailing conditions in the country to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The three-member panel welcomes promises of political reconciliation, judicial reform and protection of the population made by President Ndayishimiye, in his inaugural address. But, the chair of the U.N. commission, Doudou Diene, says the president’s comments were full of ambiguities and contradictions. 

For example, he notes the president’s remarks seemed to justify the imposition of restrictions on some public liberties such as freedom of expression, information and assembly under the guise of preserving Burundian culture. 

Speaking on a video link from Paris, he said, “Such remarks are concerning, especially given that the new president’s policies will be implemented by a government composed primarily of the old guard of the late President Nkurunziza’s regime — some of whom are under sanctions for their involvement in grave human rights violations.” 

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza queues at a polling station during the presidential, legislative and communal council…
FILE – Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza queues at a polling station during elections, under the simmering political violence and the growing threat of the coronavirus, in Ngozi, Burundi, May 20, 2020.

President Pierre Nkurunziza died of cardiac arrest on June 8, after a brief hospitalization, while his wife was in Kenya undergoing medical treatment. A number of news outlets report he died of the coronavirus. 

Commission chair Diene says gross, widespread human rights violations continue in Burundi and that it would be premature to make any pronouncements on the possible evolution of the situation under the new government. 

He said, “We solemnly urge the new president of the republic to demonstrate his willingness for change by fully cooperating with the international human rights mechanisms. The immediate release of the four journalists of Iwacu, of human rights defenders … would be a significant gesture of this.” {see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/05/burundi-elections-start-with-convicting-4-journalists/]

Burundi’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Renovat Gabu, rejects the commission’s report. He accuses the commission of interfering in the domestic affairs of his country and of slandering and insulting public authorities with the blessing of the U.N. council. 

Human Rights Watch

Letter to President Ndayishimiye: Protecting Human Rights in Burundi, 13 July, 2020

Re: Protecting Human Rights in Burundi

… We have reported on human rights concerns in Burundi since 1995. We are writing to raise important concerns and share our recommendations on steps your government should take to advance and protect human rights in Burundi. We hope that you will address these issues and make the protection and promotion of human rights a top priority throughout your presidency. We urge you to work to make systemic changes to end the violence and abuse, fueled by widespread impunity, that have plagued the country for far too long, especially since 2015.

While we regret the former administration’s withdrawal of Burundi from the International Criminal Court, which took effect in 2017, we are encouraged by the commitments stated in your inaugural speech to reform the judiciary and ensure that all government or other officials who commit offenses are held accountable. Your assurances that measures will be taken to protect victims and witnesses are critical to delivering this promise, as is your commitment to ensuring that corruption will not be tolerated….

To address these challenges and demonstrate a real commitment to promoting rights and turning the page on decades of violence, abuse, mismanagement, and impunity, we urge you to take the following steps during your first year in office:

  1. Remove from security services posts and other executive branches, officials who have been credibly implicated in serious human rights violations, according to reports by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, the UN Human Rights Council, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ fact-finding mission report, and Burundian and international human rights organizations. Ensure that no one who may be subject to criminal or other investigation into human rights abuses is in a position to influence that investigation.
  2. Instruct the security forces, the local administrators, and the Imbonerakure to stop extortion, the use of forced labor, beatings, arbitrary arrests, threats, harassment, and collection of contributions for state-led projects. Order the Imbonerakure and other officials to dismantle all unauthorized roadblocks.
  3. Direct the Justice Ministry to thoroughly and impartially investigate past grave violations of human rights with a view to appropriately prosecuting current and former state security officers and government officials who were responsible for serious criminal offenses. These include National Defense Force and police extrajudicial executions of 47 civilians, members of armed groups and other suspected opponents between December 30, 2014, and January 3, 2015 in Cibitoke province; police use of excessive force in a crackdown on protests in 2015; violence against suspected opponents after the protests; allegations of extrajudicial executions by members of the security forces on December 11, 2015 ; torture and ill treatment of suspected opponents by national intelligence agents and police in since 2015; and extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary arrests of suspected opponents by national intelligence agents, police, and Imbonerakure members since 2015, including during the periods leading up to the constitutional referendum in 2018 and the elections held earlier this year.
  4. Ensure a thorough and independent investigation into the crimes and abuses committed by the Imbonerakure. These investigations should lead to fair and transparent prosecutions, and your government should ensure that your party’s youth league is disarmed and not used for any official state security or similar duties.
  5. End all political interference in the judicial system, facilitate victims’ access to justice, and ensure progress on emblematic cases. This should include the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners and prisoners jailed for exercising their fundamental rights, including Germain Rukuki, Nestor Nibitanga, Christine Kamikazi, Agnès Ndirubusa, Egide Harerimana, and Térence Mpozenzi
  6. Fully protect everyone’s rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association in accordance with international standards. Lift the suspension on the operations of independent media and human rights organizations, and ensure journalists and human rights activists who are in exile can return safely. Members and supporters of political parties, Burundian and international journalists, and Burundian and international human rights defenders should be able to conduct their work freely, criticize government policies, and organize peaceful protests without fear of intimidation, reprisals, harassment, arrests, or the excessive use of force by the security forces.
  7. Cooperate with and support regional and international human rights mechanisms and treaties, and act to ensure that Burundian law adequately reflects international human rights commitments. This should include full cooperation with the UN Human Rights Council’s special procedures, including giving the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi unfettered access to the country; the resumption of cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; finalization of a memorandum of understanding with the African Union’s human rights observer mission and ensuring the observers get unfettered access to the country and its detention facilities; and allow international NGOs to operate without interference.
  8. Ratify the Rome Statute and align national legislation provisions to cooperate promptly and fully with the International Criminal Court as a court of last resort. Cooperate with the ongoing ICC investigations into alleged crimes against humanity committed in Burundi or by nationals of Burundi outside Burundi until 26 October 2017.

https://www.voanews.com/africa/un-investigators-skeptical-reform-promises-new-burundi-president

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/07/15/letter-president-ndayishimiye-protecting-human-rights-burundi

Nordic countries take up the human rights torch?

July 11, 2020

In an interesting article published on 10 july 2020, Bruno Stagno Ugarte – Deputy Executive Director for Advocacy of Human Rights Warch sees encouraging signs of a revival of the leading role of the Nordic countries when it comes to international human rights policy.

…There are encouraging signs these countries might be ready to re-engage in denouncing grave abuses and lead international efforts for country-specific scrutiny and accountability.

And it all started with the smallest of the lot, Iceland. [Philippines, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/22/why-iceland-led-the-un-resolution-on-the-philippines/ and Saudi Arabia, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/08/saudi-arabia-for-first-time-openly-criticized-in-un-human-rights-council/ ]…..

..If Iceland with a population of 365,000, found the bandwidth to lead on two issues simultaneously, its larger Nordic neighbors can surely match both its courage and performance.

There are reasons to be encouraged on that front. In June, Finland supported the creation of a Libya investigation by the Human Rights Council to document violations committed by all parties and preserve evidence. Denmark, currently a member of the Council, is considering addressing ongoing rights violations by Saudi Arabia. And now that Norway has been elected to a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council for the 2021-22 term, we hope it will become a principled voice for human rights and lead on country-specific situations.

In the absence of leadership by larger states, it is incumbent on smaller states, individually and collectively, to ensure that multilateral tools remain relevant to address dire human rights situations. The Nordic countries have done so in the past; it is time for them to do so again.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/07/10/nordic-comeback-human-rights

Human Rights Watch seeks Director of Physical Security

July 8, 2020

Human Rights Watch is seeking a forward-thinking, innovative and experienced senior security professional who can guide a globally dispersed organization that reports on the most sensitive human rights issues. The Director of Physical Security will lead the organization to optimal and inclusive physical security risk management practices for the complex environments in which it operates.

This position is the organization’s lead on all physical security matters, providing support and leadership across a wide range of areas including crisis and incident response, asset protection, programmatic work, travel safety and event security. In partnership with the Director of Information Security, this role provides unified security risk management leadership across HRW.

The successful candidate will understand the threat landscape facing Human Rights Defenders or similar constituencies and have a proven track record of enabling work in challenging operational contexts. They will continue to lead the organization towards best practices and further embed and promote a proactive security culture; collaborate with both internal and external security groups; and have experience in crisis management, operational security and training.

The role will require international travel, including to areas that might be considered high risk. This position will be based in one of HRW’s main offices and will report to the Chief Operating Officer or their designee.

Please apply by visiting the online job portal at careers.hrw.org. Application Deadline: August 1, 2020

https://reliefweb.int/job/3650928/director-physical-security

Human Rights Defenders in Sri Lanka: fear return to a ‘state of fear’

June 14, 2020

Families hold photographs of missing loved ones during a protest in Sri Lanka Families hold photographs of missing loved ones during a protest in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s largest city, in February 2020. (TNH)

Rights groups are warning of a crackdown on dissent and rising authoritarianism in Sri Lanka, raising fears for the future of long-stalled civil war reconciliation efforts. Since President Gotabaya Rajapaksa took office after November elections, local rights activists have reported a rise in surveillance by state security forces, threats, and other measures more common during the country’s 26-year civil war, which ended in 2009, as well as its aftermath. A long piece in the New Humanitarian of 10 june 2020 gives the details:

Surveillance has always been there, but since the election what we have seen is that it’s more open and more rampant,” said Shreen Saroor, a women’s rights activist…

Human Rights Watch says Rajapaksa is re-establishing a “state of fear” in Sri Lanka, citing interviews with dozens of activists and journalists. Many local journalists say they are self-censoring as threatening phone calls and other pressures escalate, acutely aware of the country’s history of unsolved murders and abductions. At least two reporters have already fled the country, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. 

In February, Sri Lanka announced it was backing out of commitments made to the UN Human Rights Council in 2015 by a previous administration. These promised a range of measures to investigate abuses during the civil war. ..

[see also: from my blog post https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/24/human-rights-defenders-issues-on-the-agenda-of-43rd-human-rights-council/ Sri Lanka: Civil society groups are concerned over the backsliding on the commitments made by Sri Lanka in Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1. The recently elected president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, along with his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has been appointed prime minister, have been implicated in war crimes and numerous human rights violations when they were defence secretary and president respectively from 2005 to 2015. The new Government has made clear its intention to walk away from the Council process on Sri Lanka, a process that is currently the only hope for victims of human rights violations that truth, justice, reparations, and guarantees of non-recurrence are possible. [see https://www.nwaonline.com/news/2020/feb/23/sri-lanka-details-un-case-pullout/] Meanwhile, the relatively open climate for human rights defenders and journalists of the past few years seems to be rapidly closing. More than a dozen human rights and media organisations have received intimidating visits by members of law enforcement and intelligence agencies, while death threats against journalists have resumed. ISHR calls on States to urge for continued cooperation of the Government of Sri Lanka with OHCHR and the Special Procedures. The Council should reiterate the reference in Resolution 40/1 to “the adoption of a time-bound implementation strategy” for implementation of all elements of Resolution 30/1. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/22/sri-lankan-government-accused-of-embarking-on-process-to-silence-critics/]

And, this month, Rajapaksa created two “task forces” with vague mandates, which rights groups fear could operate parallel to existing institutions. One, a body created to combat “anti-social activities”, is led by security and intelligence officials. Another task force mandated to protect cultural heritage appears to exclude non-Buddhists and non-Sinhalese. Rajapaksa’s first six months in office, the International Crisis Group said in a May report, have been “aggressively Sinhala nationalist, family-centred, and authoritarian”.

….“All these years of looking for justice would be then wasted,” said Yogeshwari, 45, whose husband disappeared 15 years ago.Families hold photographs of missing loved ones during a protest in Sri LankaTNH Families of Sri Lanka’s missing thousands fear the government is aiming to curb investigations into unsolved civil war disappearances.

In announcing his country’s withdrawal from its UN Human Rights Council commitments in February, Sri Lanka’s foreign minister, Dinesh Gunawardena, said the previous pledges would infringe on “the sovereignty of [the] people of Sri Lanka”…

A government body tasked with investigating disappearances, the Office on Missing Persons (OMP), didn’t begin its work until 2018. It’s effectively the only government body actively working on reconciliation issues. Ruki Fernando, an advisor with Inform, a Colombo-based human rights documentation centre, expects the Rajapaksa government to take a similar line domestically by clipping the OMP’s powers.  “It is not about shutting them down,” Fernando said. “It is more about making them administratively limp.”…

Saroor believes the Rajapaksa government will likely ramp up its stance against investigations and reconciliation efforts. “Sri Lanka transitional justice and truth-seeking will come to a standstill,” she said.

This piece was reported by a freelance journalist whose name is being withheld over concerns for their safety. 

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1687911/world

https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/news/2020/06/10/Sri-Lanka-activists-state-of-fear?utm_source=The+New+Humanitarian&utm_campaign=412d1dac95-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_06_12_Weekly&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d842d98289-412d1dac95-75444053

https://www.tamilguardian.com/content/un-chief-expresses-alarm-clampdown-freedom-expression-sri-lanka

NGOs express solidarity with Amnesty staffer Abu Zeyad

May 26, 2020

Policy response from Human Rights NGOs to COVID-19: Human Rights Watch

April 10, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many human rights organisations have been formulating a policy response. While I cannot be complete or undertake comparisons, I will try and give some examples in the course of these weeks. Here the one by Human Rights Watch, as submitted during the Informal Dialogue with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on 9 April 2020

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Internet shutdowns in times of COVID-19 could cost lives

April 2, 2020

Intentionally shutting down or restricting access to the internet violates multiple rights and can be deadly during a health crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Human Rights Watch said on 31 March 2020. Governments that are currently imposing an internet shutdown, such as Bangladesh, Ethiopia (it just announced restoring service), India, and Myanmar, should lift them immediately to save lives. During a health crisis, access to timely and accurate information is crucial. People use the internet for updates on health measures, movement restrictions, and relevant news to protect themselves and others.

Burundi elections start with convicting 4 journalists

February 5, 2020

Turkey defies European Court on Kavala and undergoes UPR review

January 29, 2020

FILE - A journalist stands in front of a poster featuring jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala, during a press conference given by his lawyers, in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct. 31, 2018.
A journalist stands in front of a poster featuring jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala, during a press conference given by his lawyers, in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct. 31, 2018.

Kavala and 15 other civil society activists are accused of supporting anti-government protests in 2013 against then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is now president. The protest action came to be known as the Gezi movement, named after an Istanbul park where the unrest started. Prosecutors are calling for life imprisonment without parole. The ECHR condemned the case, calling for an end to Kavala’s more than two years in prison and describing it as “arbitrary” and “politically motivated.”

The Istanbul court ruled Tuesday the ECHR decision was provisional because Ankara was appealing the verdict and that Kavala should remain in jail. The court’s decision is flawed because the European Court ruling was clear in its call for Kavala’s immediate release,” said Emma Sinclair Webb, Turkey researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch.

We saw multiple signs of how unfair this trial is,” said Webb, speaking after attending Tuesday’s court hearing. “The lawyers for Kavala raised many objections to the way witness evidence is used in this case. The court turns a deaf ear to all objections. It’s a shocking indication that once again, Turkey’s judiciary seems to be under heavy pressure of the executive.”

Tuesday’s court hearing was marred by chaos, with Kavala’s lawyers challenging the judge’s decision to hear some witnesses without their presence, prompting the lawyers to walk out of the room. Ankara strongly rejects the ECHR verdict, maintaining that the judiciary is independent. But observers note the case has strong political undertones. Three months ahead of Kavala’s prosecution, Erdogan accused him of “financing terrorists” and that Kavala was a representative for “that famous Jew [George Soros,] who tries to divide and tear up nations.” Erdogan did not elaborate on the comments about George Soros, who is an international philanthropist. Erdogan’s allegations against Kavala resemble the prosecution case against the jailed activist. Kavala is a pivotal figure in Turkey, using his wealth to help develop the country’s fledgling civil society after a 1980 military coup.

“Osman Kavala is very prominent within the civil society in this country,” said Sinan Gokcen, Turkey representative of Swedish-based Civil Rights Defenders. “He is not a man of antagonism; he is a man of preaching dialogue, a man of building bridges.”….

With the U.N. having few tools to sanction Turkey, the European Union is seen as offering the best hope by human rights advocates of applying pressure on Ankara. Turkey’s EU membership bid is already frozen, in part due to human rights concerns. But Ankara is seeking to extend a customs union, along with visa-free travel for its citizens with the EU. “It’s time all European countries should be speaking out very loud and clear on cases like this [Kavala],” said Sinclair-Webb. But even high-profile cases like Kavala’s have seen Brussels offer only muted criticism of Ankara. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Istanbul Friday for talks with Erdogan saw little criticism of Turkey’s human rights record. Instead, discussions focused on Ankara’s recent deployment of soldiers to Libya and the upholding of an EU-Turkish agreement controlling migrants entering Europe. “There are many issues to talk about with Turkey,” said Sinclair Webb. “Syria, Libya, Turkey, hosting so many refugees from Syria, and this often takes priority over Turkey’s domestic human rights crisis. This means there isn’t sufficient clarity on cases like this. What we are seeing is Turkey defying Europe’s human rights court.” Some analysts suggest Brussels could yet be lobbying behind the scenes for Kavala’s release, tying Ankara’s calls for extra financial assistance for refugees to gestures on human rights.

Pakistan: Release Manzoor Pashteen and his fellow human rights defenders immediately

HRW urges UN to address human rights violations in Turkey

https://www.voanews.com/europe/turkish-court-defies-europe-leaves-philanthropist-behind-bars