Posts Tagged ‘illegal detention’

Turkey: detention of human rights defenders further extended

July 12, 2017

Front Line just reported that on 11 July 2017, the detention of the Turkish human rights defenders [see my post of a few hours ago: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/11/council-of-europe-losing-patience-with-turkey-after-arrest-of-human-rights-defenders/], was prolonged. Nalan Erkem, Seyhmuz Ozbekli, Ozlem Dalkiran, Idil Eser, Veli Acu, Gunal Kursun, Ilknur Ustun, Nejat Tastan, Ali Gharawi and Peter Steudtner was extended by seven more days by a decision of the prosecutor. The detention order refers to suspected membership of an armed terrorist organisation. This order is due to expire on 12 July 2017 at 2.30 pm. Over the course of  10 and 11 July 2017, police carried out searches at the houses of the detained defenders, and reportedly seized flash and hard drives as well as other electronic equipment. Despite the undisclosed nature of the investigation, there has been a smear campaign conducted against the defenders in certain segments of Turkish media as well as amongst social media networks, equating the human rights defenders with “spies”.

Council of Europe losing patience with Turkey after arrest of human rights defenders

July 11, 2017

Many NGOs and governments have expressed deep concern over what is happening in Turkey. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) probably matters more than most in this case as it is one of the few international institutions where Turkey still is a ‘functioning member’. Back in April it was put on a ‘watch list’ and Turkey reacted furiously [http://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-politics-councilofeurope-idUSKBN17R18U ]. Now, on 7 July 2017, the co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Turkey, Marianne Mikko (Estonia, SOC) and Nigel Evans (United Kingdom, EC), have expressed serious concern at the arrest of several prominent human rights defenders in Istanbul on 5 July, including Amnesty International Director Idil Eser.

These arrests, which took place during a training seminar on human rights defenders, are another devastating signal at a time when Turkey needs to address serious human rights issues, as pointed out by the Parliamentary Assembly in its most recent resolution.” “We ask for the immediate release of these human rights defenders, and urge the Turkish authorities to ensure that fundamental freedoms, including freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, are duly and effectively secured, and to refrain from further action which might have a chilling effect on society,” said the co-rapporteurs.

On 5 July 2017, ten human rights defenders were arrested and detained: Nalan Erkem and Özlem Dalkiran (Helsinki Citizens Assembly), Ilknur Üstün (Women’s Coalition), Idil Eser and Veli Acu (Amnesty International), Günal Kursun (Human Rights Agenda Association), Nejat Tastan (Association for Monitoring Equal Rights), Seyhmuz Özbekli (Rights Initiative) and moderators Ali Garawi and Peter Steudtner. [See also back in 2016: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/20/turkey-fair-trial-human-rights-lawyers-expression-l4l/]

On 8 June 2017, Yves Pozzo Di Borgo (France, EPP/CD), PACE’s rapporteur on “Ensuring the protection of human rights defenders in the member States of the Council of Europe“, had already expressed his deep concern after the arrest of Taner Kiliç, Chair of Amnesty International. (https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/09/human-rights-watch-urges-turkey-to-release-amnestys-country-head/)

Turkish author Elif Şafak / Elif Shafak urges her fellow writers to resist self-censorship and instead challenge tyranny and repression with their pens. However, it’s not enough for writers alone to defend democracy — we all must become activists and stand in solidarity with those who oppose tyranny worldwide. See her speak at the Oslo Freedom Forum this year: Oslo Freedom Forum
On 24 May 2017 Front Line Defenders urged that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – joining the leaders of other NATO nations to attend a summit of the military alliance in Brussels on 25 May – be held accountable for his treatment of HRDs. Front Line Defenders urged countries to call on the Turkish government to fulfil the country’s international human rights obligations and to cease the systematic targeting of human rights defenders (HRDs).

Source: PACE: News

https://turkeypurge.com/rights-activists-detained-in-turkey-at-risk-of-torture-says-un-spokesman

 

Cambodian ‘ADHOC 5’ Human Rights Defenders surprisingly freed…for the time being

June 30, 2017

 Lim Mony (first from left), Nay Vanda (third from left), Ny Sokha (fourth from right), and Yi Sokan (first from right) speak to the media in Phnom Penh after their release from pre-trial detention, June 29, 2017.
Lim Mony (first from left), Nay Vanda (third from left), Ny Sokha (fourth from right), and Yi Sokan (first from right) speak to the media in Phnom Penh after their release from pre-trial detention, June 29, 2017.  RFA
Many media outlets [here Radio Free Asia] and social media reported on the conditional release of the ‘ADHOC5′ (https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/29/the-adhoc-five-in-cambodia-continue-to-linger-in-shameful-pre-trial-detention-for-more-than-a-year). On 29 June 2017, Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Theam Chan Piseth concluded his investigation and issued a court order to send their case to trial, conditionally freeing the five from detention and placing them under court supervision. According to the ruling, the five cannot change their residence or leave the country without court permission and must answer to any court summons. Following their release, the former detainees traveled to a nearby temple, where a Buddhist monk performed a cleansing ceremony to “wash away all evil.” The four active ADHOC officials then gathered at their organization’s office for an hour before returning to their homes.

[ADHOC officials Lim Mony, Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan, and Nay Vanda, and National Election Committee (NEC) deputy secretary-general Ny Chakrya, had been held for 427 days amid a wide-ranging probe into a purported affair by opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president Kem Sokha. Authorities have charged the ADHOC officials with bribery and the NEC official—who is also a former ADHOC official—with accessory to bribery for attempting to keep Kem Sokha’s alleged mistress quiet. The five are collectively known as the “ADHOC 5.”]

Ny Chakra’s lawyer Som Sokong told RFA’s Khmer Service that he welcomed the provisional release of the ADHOC 5, but said the court should have thrown out their cases. “We are not satisfied with the court for not dropping all charges against them,” he said. “This release was done through a closing order by the investigating judge, who has forwarded the case to trial while releasing the charged persons provisionally. Their provisional detention has never been justified, which means it was a violation of their rights.”

Speaking to RFA after his release, Ny Sokha said that despite the hardships of his time in prison, he was encouraged by the support he and the other four detainees received from the local and international community, adding that he is committed to continue campaigning for human rights. “Even as a human rights defender, I was still badly mistreated, so I cannot imagine how ordinary people would have been treated,” he said.

Nay Vanda thanked the media for its coverage of his case, as well as NGOs and local supporters for pushing for the release of the ADHOC 5, while Ny Chakra pledged to return to his work at the NEC as soon as possible.

cambodia-yi-sokan-and-wife-june-2017-400.jpg
Yi Sokan embraces his daughter in Phnom Penh after his release from prison, June 29, 2017. Credit: RFA

ADHOC director Thun Saray, who fled to Canada last fall amid the charges against his four colleagues, told RFA he was pleased to learn that they had been released, but added that a provisional release was not enough to bring them and Ny Chakra justice. “I’m afraid they will be imprisoned again if their activities upset their arrestors.”

In response to an April court ruling to extend the pre-trial detention of the ADHOC 5, the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) called for Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government to “release without delay” the five rights defenders, while the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention recommended last November that they be freed. On April 26, the detainees were collectively named as a finalist for the 2017 Martin Ennals Award https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/26/breaking-news-three-human-rights-defenders-selected-as-finalists-for-the-2017-martin-ennals-award/.

Source: Cambodia Court Conditionally Frees ADHOC 5 Rights Activists

Human Rights Watch urges Turkey to release Amnesty’s country head

June 9, 2017

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday 8 June 2017 called on Turkish authorities to immediately release Taner Kılıç, chair of the board of Amnesty International’s Turkey section, who has been under detention since June 6. It is heartening to see the two biggest NGOs coming to each other’ rescue from time to time. In February this year AI Israel co-signed a statement deploring the decision not to allow Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch to take on his post [“We stand in solidarity with him and our colleagues at HRW.”  – see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/26/israel-denies-work-permit-to-human-rights-watch-and-continues-harassment-of-hrds/]

The anti-terror unit of the Izmir police on Tuesday detained lawyer and human rights defender Kılıç together with 22 other attorneys as part of a witch-hunt targeting people linked to the Gülen movement. “Turkey should release Taner Kılıç, who is a tireless defender of human rights, known for his support for Amnesty International over many years,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Detaining Kılıç on suspicion of terrorist offenses looks like a tactic aimed at discrediting his legitimate human rights work.”

Kılıç is a founding member of AI Turkey and has been chairman of its board of directors since 2014. He has also played a strong role in advocating for refugee rights as a lawyer and with domestic nongovernmental groups and others working on these issues. The European Union on Thursday expressed concern about the recent detention of Taner Kılıç.

(According to a report by the state-run Anadolu news agency on May 28, 154,694 individuals have been detained and 50,136 have been jailed due to alleged Gülen links since the failed coup attempt.

Source: Human Rights Watch urges Turkey to release Amnesty’s country head | Turkey Purge

NGOs jointly address (again) the human rights crisis in Ethiopia

May 26, 2017

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They draw attention to persistent and grave violations of human rights in Ethiopia and the pressing need to support the establishment of an independent, impartial and international investigation into atrocities committed by security forces to suppress peaceful protests and independent dissent. And they ask countries to prioritise and address through joint statements the ongoing human rights crisis in Ethiopia at the upcoming UN Human Rights Council from 6 – 23 June 2017. [for last year’s call see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/09/un-human-rights-council-urged-to-address-situation-in-ethiopia/]

In the wake of unprecedented, mass protests that erupted in November 2015 in Oromia, Amhara, and the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples (SNNPR) regional states, Ethiopian authorities routinely responded to legitimate and largely peaceful expressions of dissent with excessive and unnecessary force. As a result, over 800 protesters have been killed, thousands of political activists, human rights defenders, journalists and protesters have been arrested, and in October 2016, the Ethiopian Government declared a six-month nationwide State of Emergency, that was extended for an additional four months on 30 March 2017 after some restrictions were lifted.

The State of Emergency directives give sweeping powers to a Command Post, which has been appointed by the House of People’s Representatives to enforce the decree, including the suspension of fundamental and non-derogable rights protected by the Ethiopian Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and other international human rights treaties to which Ethiopia is party. More information on the human rights violations occurring under the current State of Emergency is included in the Annex at the end of this letter.

Lack of independent investigations

Few effective avenues to pursue accountability for abuses exist in Ethiopia, given the lack of independence of the judiciary – the ruling EPRDF coalition and allied parties control all 547 seats in Parliament.

Ethiopia’s National Human Rights Commission, which has a mandate to investigate rights violations, concluded in its June 2016 oral report to Parliament that the lethal force used by security forces in Oromia was proportionate to the risk they faced from the protesters. The written Amharic version of the report was only recently made public, and there are long-standing concerns about the impartiality and research methodology of the Commission. On 18 April 2017, the Commission submitted its second oral report to Parliament on the protests, which found that 669 people were killed, including 63 members of the security forces, and concluded that security forces had taken “proportionate measures in most areas.” Both reports are in stark contrast with the findings of other national and international organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions has rated the Commission as B, meaning the latter has failed to meet fully the Paris Principles.

Refusal to cooperate with regional and international mechanisms

In response to the recent crackdown, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has called for “access for independent observers to the country to assess the human rights situation”, and recently renewed his call for access to the country during a visit to the capital, Addis Ababa. Ethiopia’s government, however, has rejected the call, citing its own investigation conducted by its Commission. UN Special Procedures have also made similar calls.

In November 2016, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights adopted a resolution calling for an international, independent, and impartial investigation into allegations of the use of excessive and unnecessary lethal force by security forces to disperse and suppress peaceful protests. Recent European parliament and US Congressional resolutions have also called for independent investigations. The Ethiopian embassy in Belgium dismissed the European Parliament’s resolution citing its own Commission’s investigations into the protests.

As a member of the UN HRC, Ethiopia has an obligation to “uphold the highest standards” of human rights, and “fully cooperate” with the Council and its mechanisms (GA Resolution 60/251, OP 9), yet there are outstanding requests for access from Special Procedures, including from the special rapporteurs on torture, freedom of opinion and expression, and peaceful assembly, among others.

The letter urges Ethiopia to:

  1. urgently allow access to an international, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigation into all of the deaths resulting from alleged excessive use of force by the security forces, and other violations of human rights in the context of the protests;
  2. respond favourably to country visit requests by UN Special Procedures,
  3. immediately and unconditionally release journalists, human rights defenders, political opposition leaders and members as well as protesters arbitrarily detained during and in the aftermath of the protests;
  4. ensure that those responsible for human rights violations are prosecuted in proceedings which comply with international law and standards on fair trials; and
  5. fully comply with its international legal obligations and commitments including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and its own Constitution.

Download PDF (401.12 KB)

The Ethiopian Zone 9 bloggers were finalists for the 2016 MEA, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/15/martin-ennals-award-2016-relive-the-ceremony-in-13-minutes-or-in-full/ 

Source: Joint NGO Letter Addressing the Pervasive Human Rights Crisis in Ethiopia – Ethiopia | ReliefWeb

Chinese court says human rights defender Xie Yang admits to crimes

May 8, 2017

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Even landmark UN decision does not change Cambodia’s treatment of human rights defenders

March 11, 2017

I was reading (belatedly) about the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Rhona Smith, who in January 2017 intervened strongly in the case of the 5 Cambodian human rights defenders of ADHOC (#FreeThe5KH) who have been in detention since April last year. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/05/04/civil-society-condemns-charges-human-rights-defenders-cambodia/] Only then did I realize that the case had led a few months earlier to a landmark decision by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD): the first time that any UN body has referred to HRDs as a protected group.

 

 

On 21 November 21, 2016, the WGAD ruled that the ongoing detention of Mr. Ny ChakryaDeputy Secretary-General of the National Election Committee (NEC), and four staff members of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Messrs. Ny SokhaYi SoksanNay Vanda, and Ms. Lim Mony, was “arbitrary.” Following a submission made by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OMCT-FIDH partnership), the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) in June 2016, the WGAD’s Opinion No. 45/2016 ruled that the five human rights defenders (HRDs) have been discriminated against based on their status as human rights defenders, and in violation of their right to equality before the law and equal protection of the law under article 26 of the ICCPR.” This is the first time ever that the WGAD – or any other UN mechanism receiving individual complaints – has referred to HRDs as a protected group that is entitled to equal legal protection under Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ruling also recognised the violation of the five HRDs’ “rights to offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance and other relevant advice and assistance in defending human rights.”

 In addition, the WGAD found that the targeting of ADHOC staff members for having provided “legitimate legal advice and other assistance” violated the five HRDs’ right to freedom of association. It ruled that violations of fair trial rights (including the fact that the five were denied legal counsel from the beginning of their questioning), unjustified pre-trial detention, and statements made by the Cambodian authorities which denied the five the presumption of innocence – all of which contravene Cambodia’s international human rights obligations in respect to the right to a fair trial – are also serious enough to consider their ongoing detention as arbitrary. The WGAD concluded that “the deprivation of liberty of Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan, Lim Monyand Ny Chakrya, being in contravention of articles 7, 9, 10, 11 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of articles 9, 10, 14, 22 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is arbitrary.”

That Cambodian authorities are not impressed is shown by the continued detention of the 5 ADHOC HRDs and by the press release of 7 February 2017 calling for the cessation of the politically motivated criminal investigation of human rights defenders Am Sam-at and Chan Puthisak. Amnesty International, Civil Rights Defenders, Human Rights Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists signed the statement.

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Cambodian police detain protesters during a protest to free jailed activists in Phnom Penh, Cambodia May 9, 2016.© Reuters/Samrang Pring

Cambodian officials have accused Sam-at, a respected human rights monitor at the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) for nearly 20 years, and Puthisak, a land rights activist from Boeung Kak Lake and former prisoner of conscience, of instigating violence at an October 10, 2016 demonstration. Para-police forces, who are regularly used to suppress demonstrations, violently dispersed what had been a peaceful protest in Phnom Penh. When Puthisak attempted to prevent para-police from confiscating a drum that was being used by a demonstrator, four or five para-police attacked him, repeatedly beating him on the head with their fists, according to a video of the incident. When Sam-at tried to stop the assault, the para-police attacked him, also beating him on the head. Both men sustained injuries that needed medical attention.

The investigation of Sam-at and Puthisak by the Cambodian authorities is a typically absurd and undisguised case of judicial harassment,” said Champa Patel, Southeast Asia and Pacific director at Amnesty International. “As usual, unnecessary and excessive use of force by the para-police goes unpunished, and those who work to promote and protect human rights find themselves subject to criminal proceedings.”

 

Sources:

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56036#.WMP0Dhhh2V4

Cambodia: In landmark decision, UN body declares the detention of five human rights defenders arbitrary #FreeThe5KH / December 18, 2016 / Urgent Interventions / Human rights defenders / OMCT

https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/02/07/cambodia-drop-farcical-investigation-human-rights-defenders

Scholars campaign for Merera Gudina in Ethiopia who goes on trial Friday

March 3, 2017

Campaigns for individual human rights defenders are plenty especially from the well known human rights NGOs such as AI, HRW, Front Line and the Observatory. But here are specialized inter-professional groups such as Scholars at Risk (SAR) which regularly appeal for assistance for one of their members. Here the case of Dr. Merera Gudina in Ethiopia. A former professor of political science at Addis Ababa University, Dr. Gudina is expected to stand trial this Friday on charges stemming from his peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression and association.

On 1 December 2016, Ethiopian security officers arrested Dr. Gudina following his return from Belgium, where he addressed members of the European Union Parliament on alleged human rights violations and the current political crisis in Ethiopia. Ethiopian authorities placed Dr. Gudina in solitary confinement, and over two months later brought multiple charges against him, which apparently relate to his peaceful activism.

SAR calls for emails, letters, and faxes respectfully urging the authorities to release and drop all charges against Dr. Gudina; or, pending this, to ensure his well-being while in custody, including access to legal counsel and family, his removal from solitary confinement, and to ensure that his case proceeds in a manner consistent with Ethiopia’s obligations under international law, in particular internationally recognized standards of due process, fair trial, and free expression.

See also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/02/12/scholars-at-risk-stellar-example-of-specialized-protection-tool-for-human-rights-defenders/

Take action by lending your voice to Dr. Gudina!

Palestinian human rights defenders continue to be persecuted

December 21, 2016

Sources:

Amnesty slams Israel’s detention of Palestinian human rights defender – Middle East Monitor

https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/israel-threatens-expel-reporter-who-asked-apartheid-question

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-palumboliu/israel-puts-celebrated-_b_13590812.html

http://ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21041&LangID=E

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16906&LangID=E

Human rights defender Khurram Parvez (reluctantly) released in India

December 1, 2016

On 23 September 2016 I reported on the arrest of  human rights defender Khurram Parvez [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/khurram-parvezs-re-arrest-in-kashmir-illustrates-draconian-use-of-public-safety-act/#more-8476] in Jammu and Kashmir. A great many interventions by human rights NGOs focused on this case which highlights the draconian use of India’s Public Safety Act (PSA).

On 30 November 2016, Khurram Parvez was released from jail but even this was not done without wrangling by the police as reported by Front Line on 30 November: On 25 November 2016, the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir in Srinagar quashed the order of detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA) and ordered the immediate release of Khuram Parvez.  Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar in his order said Khuram Parvez’s detention was “illegal”. However, in the judge’s order there was a small clerical error, so the police at Jammu’s Kot Balwal jail decided to keep Khurram Parvez in detention until a corrigendum could be issued. On 29 November 2016 at 3 pm the Jammu’s Kot Balwal jail received the corrigendum, but did not release Khurram Parvez. Instead, at around 5 pm of the same day, he was taken to the joint interrogation centre at Meeran Sahib, Jammu. No reasons were provided for his continued detention to the human rights defender or his legal counsel. Khurram Parvez was released on the morning of 30 November. 

[Khurram Parvez is the Chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), a collective of 13 non-governmental organizations from ten Asian countries, that campaign on the issue of enforced disappearances. He is also the Programme Coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), which is a coalition of various campaign, research and advocacy organisations based in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, which monitor and investigate human right abuses. See: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/khurram-parvez]

Note that Khurram’s Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) won the 2016 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/11/11/anti-disappearances-ngo-wins-asian-human-rights-award/]

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