Posts Tagged ‘illtreatment’

26 June: Torture issues in Hong Kong and Thailand

June 26, 2017

This week, to mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, celebrated annually on 26 June, Just Asia has a special report on Hong Kong’s plan [not sure but still…] to withdraw from the UN Convention against Torture.  The reason for such a withdrawal is a misguided attempt to address the rise in torture protection claimants in Hong Kong and block “fake” refugees, as well as solve the issue of illegal workers. In the video report Just Asia speaks to three prominent persons in the city to discuss their views. Puja Kapai is the Director of Hong Kong University’s Centre for Comparative and Public Law; Mark Daly is a human rights lawyer with Daly and Associates; as is Patricia Ann Ho. The three discuss how such a withdrawal will impact Hong Kong’s international standing, Hong Kong’s human rights protections, and whether it will truly make a difference to the city’s numerous torture claimants. [for other Just Asia posts: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/just-asia/]

In the same context of anti-torture work in Asia, Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists issued today a statement calling on Thailand to finally follow through on commitments to prevent torture and ill-treatment. They regret repeated delays to the finalisation and passage of Thailand’s Draft Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act……Similarly, Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists urge Thailand to move ahead with its commitment to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which obligates authorities to establish a National Preventive Mechanism.. as well as to allow such visits by an international expert body. Such independent scrutiny is critical to prevent torture and other ill-treatment, including through implementing their detailed recommendations based on visits. Authorities should also act immediately on the commitment made at Thailand’s Universal Periodic Review before the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2016, to inspect places of detention in line with the revised UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules….

Acts of torture and other ill-treatment in Thailand have rarely been investigated in a prompt, impartial, independent and efficient manner, as required by the Convention against Torture, and perpetrators of such acts have seldom been held to account. Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists urge authorities to ensure that such investigations are undertaken into all credible reports of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The scope, methods and findings of such investigations should be made public. Where sufficient, admissible evidence is gathered, perpetrators should be prosecuted in fair trials in civilian courts.

Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists also notes with concern the criminal prosecution or threats of prosecution—often under criminal defamation provisions—of victims of torture, their family members, and human rights defenders who have raised allegations of torture, including with a view to seeking redress. The organizations urge that such threats, investigations, charges, prosecution or other proceedings against these persons be are withdrawn and charges dropped, and that authorities take steps to create an enabling environment for freedom of expression in which people are able to seek redress and raise concerns about torture publicly without fear of reprisal or recrimination….

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/thailand/]

http://reliefweb.int/report/thailand/thailand-amnesty-international-and-international-commission-jurists-call-thailand

 

The Plight of China’s Human Rights Lawyers Worsened

January 19, 2015

Under the title “The Plight of China’s Rights LawyersFrances Eve, in Chinafile of 16 January 2015, has made an excellent compilation of the travails of the Chinese human rights lawyers in 2014. It was one of the worst years for civil society and human rights defenders in particular.

Pu Zhiqiang, center, pictured in 2011 talking with the media while he was serving as artist Ai Weiwei’s lawyer – Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

At least 9 lawyers either are currently facing criminal charges or began serving prison sentences in 2014: Ding JiaxiPu ZhiqiangQu ZhenhongTang JinglingXia LinXu ZhiyongYu WenshengChang Boyang and Ji Laisong (the last 2 now released). The unprecedented scale of criminal prosecution against rights lawyers sharply contradicts the goal of “governing the country by law,” which was proclaimed at October’s Fourth Plenum meeting. Here the whole piece for those interested:

“As the year came to a close, at least seven prominent Chinese human rights lawyers rang in the New Year from a jail cell. Under President Xi Jinping, 2014 was one of the worst years in recent memory for China’s embattled civil society. Bookending the year were the cases of two prominent legal advocates: in January, Xu Zhiyong was sentenced to four years imprisonment for his moderate criticism of government policy and leading the “New Citizens’ Movement,” a group advocating for political reforms in China. Outspoken free speech lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, who turns 50 tomorrow, has spent the past six months in detention as authorities continue to build a case against him.

The past year has been distinctly bad for a band of crusading lawyers, who for the past decade or so, since their movement first emerged, have described their mission asweiquan, “safeguarding rights.” According to several Chinese rights lawyers, more members of their ranks—which have grown from just a handful to over 200—are currently in detention than at any time since 2003, when lawyers involved in this kind of work first began to face criminal detention.

Among the first to be arrested was Gao Zhisheng, a feisty and outspoken defender of everyone, from factory workers and peasants to journalists and underground Christian and Falun Gong practitioners, who was sentenced to three years in 2006 on the politically motived charge of “inciting subversion of state power.” Suspending his sentence, authorities instead held Gao several times in detention incommunicado—where he was brutally tortured—until 2011, when judges ordered Gao to be sent to prison for “violating” his parole. Gao, who was released into a form of house arrest in August 2014, was a prominent case, yet imprisoning lawyers was still unusual at the time. Since then, rights lawyers who have taken on cases involving politically “sensitive” issues have increasingly faced threats, harassment, administrative punishments, the revocation of their law licenses, and, as in a few widely publicized cases, disappearance and eventorture.

But since President Xi Jinping came to power, the government’s war on rights lawyers has escalated. At least nine prominent lawyers either are currently facing criminal charges or began serving prison sentences in 2014: lawyers Ding JiaxiPu ZhiqiangQu ZhenhongTang JinglingXia LinXu Zhiyong, and Yu Wensheng, as well as Chang Boyang and Ji Laisong who were both released on bail awaiting trial after months in detention. The unprecedented scale of criminal prosecution against rights lawyers sharply contradicts the goal of “governing the country by law,” which was proclaimed at October’s Fourth Plenum meeting, a gathering of senior Chinese Communist Party leaders.

A student leader in the 1989 pro-democracy movement, Pu Zhiqing had gone on to represent several high profile free-speech cases, including an anti-defamation ruling in favor of the magazine China Reform in 2004 and a much heralded defence of the authors of a widely read exposé of rural corruption. More recently, he defended activist artist Ai Weiwei and petitioner Tang Hui—who was sent to a re-education through labor (RTL) camp for petitioning for stronger punishment for her daughter’s rapists—in a case which garnered widespread public sympathy. State media evenfeatured Pu in reports on RTL, an unusual platform for a government critic. But now Pu has been detained on charges of “creating a disturbance” and “illegally obtaining personal information” after attending a seminar in May discussing the June Fourth Massacre. Police later tacked on additional charges of “inciting ethnic hatred” and “inciting separatism,” reportedly over a blog post Pu had written criticising the government’s version of the Kunming knife attack in March 2014. Lawyer Qu Zhenhong, who initially served as Pu’s lawyer, was arrested in June in connection with his case.

Tang Jingling, arrested after taking part in a commemorative “June Fourth Meditation” last summer, was a lawyer who defended victims of government land grabs, counterfeit medicine, and village corruption until authorities refused to renew his law license in 2006. He then became a “citizen representative,” continuing to give legal assistance, and later a member of a non-violent civil disobedience movement that works on labor rights, the hukou system, and equal education. At the end of the year, Guangzhou police transferred Tang’s case to the local prosecutor, an indication that he may be indicted and tried soon. If convicted, Tang faces a lengthy prison sentence for “inciting subversion of state power.” Meanwhile, his wife has faced harassment forspeaking out on his case.

In November, authorities arrested two lawyers, Yu Wensheng and Xia Lin, after they were hired by families to represent activists detained for expressing support for the protests in Hong Kong. Yu faces a charge of “creating a disturbance” and Xia, a former member of Pu Zhiqiang’s legal team and partner at Pu’s Huayi Law Firm, is accused of committing fraud. Those imprisoned last year include the lawyer Ding Jiaxi, who is serving a 42-month sentence after demanding government transparency and anti-corruption measures with the New Citizens’ Movement, alongside Xu Zhiyong, whose advocacy and election to his district’s People’s Congress made him another former darling of the Chinese press. Xu missed the birth of his daughter while he awaited his January trial.

While incarcerated, these lawyers have all been granted only limited access to their attorneys. The PRC Law on Lawyers (2007) authorizes lawyers to meet with their clients starting on the very day when they are put under detention, as does China’s Criminal Procedure Law. But, according to lawyers and family members of detainees, such provisions are rarely respected on the ground and often overridden by local administrative or Party orders, especially in political cases.

Family members of the jailed lawyers have reason to fear, since rights lawyers are no strangers to torture in detention and police brutality. Tang Jingling told his lawyer he was assaulted at Guangzhou No. 1 Detention Center, and in an open letter to Xi Jinping Pu Zhiqiang’s wife decried the “inhumane mental and physical torment” her husband has been subjected to at the Beijing No. 1 Detention Center. In Heilongjiang province in March, four lawyers were taken into custody and severely beaten after they requested to meet with their clients; according to their family members, the four suffered 24 broken ribs among them. Gao Zhisheng suffered such ill-treatment in prison that he lost almost all his teeth and remains very frail.

China’s leaders are far from governing the country under a system based on the rule of law. Instead, they are paying lip service to the idea in order to give legitimacy to the Communist Party’s rule while building a legal system that serves their political interests. This includes manipulating the criminal justice system to silence dissent and rein in human rights lawyers who push for judicial independence, fair trials, and protection of their clients’ legal rights. Chinese law bars a convicted lawyer from practising law for good. This is at the heart of what makes the currently growing trend of criminalizing rights lawyers particularly troubling.

Allowing lawyers and the judiciary to carry out their work without political interference is a key indicator of a country’s success in promoting rule of law. In November, China’s nominal legislative body, the National People’s Congress, posted online for “public consultation” several amendments to the country’s Criminal Code. Among these draft amendments is Article 35, which would revise the Criminal Law on the disruption of court proceedings by giving authorities overly broad powers to interpret speech in court as insulting, threatening, or disruptive and includes the vague provision prohibiting “anything else that seriously disrupts court proceedings.” The effect of these changes would be to criminalize lawyers’ speech during trials if they challenge the court, punishable by up to three years in prison. More than 500 rights lawyers across China have signed an open letter to the NPC, demanding they drop this amendment as it runs “counter to the direction of judicial reform.”

China’s embattled rights lawyers, however, have refused to be coerced into submission. On the contrary, they are increasingly challenging authorities for failing to practice the respect for the law that they preach. More young lawyers are joining the movement. Trained professionals, they strongly believe that all suspects should be afforded a fair and public trial, and they see no reason why ruling élites should be above the law. Many are paying a heavy price, but see it as a part of the struggle for a “better future.” Facing the charges against him, Pu Zhiqiang is fully aware of what awaits him. As he said to his lawyer from jail: “If we lose, I probably can’t be a lawyer after I get out, so what can I be?”

The Plight of China’s Rights Lawyers | ChinaFile.

Why Maryam Al-Khawaja boycotted the Bahraini court on 1 December

December 1, 2014

The leading human rights defender Maryam Al-Khawaja explains her reasons for boycotting the court hearing in Bahrain that on Monday 1 December saw her sentenced to one year in prison. This impressive statement was originally posted on the website of the Gulf Center for Human Rights on 30 November 2014. For more posts on Maryam Al-Khawaja see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/maryam-al-khawaja/

Maryam-e1409582320645

As a human rights defender, I, Maryam Al-Khawaja, Director of Advocacy at the Gulf Center for Human Rights, have decided to boycott my court hearing on the 1 December 2014. During this hearing I am due to be sentenced on trumped up charges of assaulting two policewomen at the Bahrain International Airport. (Update: Al-Khawaja was sentenced to one year imprisonment on 1 December)

The decision to boycott the court was reached based on several grounds:

  • The lack of independence and due process in the Bahrain judiciary system:

It has become evidently clear that it is not possible to have a fair and independent trial in Bahraini courts as they stand. The judicial system in Bahrain is highly flawed, and is overrun with egregious human rights violations which usually start during the arrest, and continue throughout what is supposed to be a legal process. I was personally subjected to numerous human rights violations since the moment of arriving in Bahrain and until I was able to leave the country as can be read in my testimony here.

There are medical reports about the injuries I sustained during the assault I was subjected to, for which I continue to need physiotherapy. My case was sped up, and quickly turned for sentencing with complete disregard to legal procedures.

  • The lack of independency and neutrality of the judge himself:

The presiding judge, Mohammed Ali Alkhalifa, in the case brought against me is a member of the ruling family, and has been himself, as well as members of his family, identified previously during my advocacy campaigns as implicated in human rights violations. This makes his presiding over the case a clear case of conflict of interest given the personal grievances he may have against me. This judge in particular, it is important to note, has been involved in the sentencing of numerous human rights defenders including Nabeel Rajab and Naji Fateel in unfair trials.

  • The cooperation of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) with the Ministry of Interior:

During my imprisonment I met with the SIU, headed by Nawaf Hamza, to submit a complaint against the three policewomen and the first lieutenant who assaulted me at the airport. The prosecutor, Mohammed Al-Hazaa, rewrote my statement in his own words, attempting to implicate me in violations, and refused to correct what he had misquoted. This resulted in my refusal to sign the papers and filing of a complaint against the prosecutor. One day before the sentencing, namely on the 30th of November 2014, and due to almost daily follow up by my lawyer, the public prosecution notified him that the complaint case had been revoked. Despite my complaint about the assault since the beginning of my arrest, it was only one day before the sentencing that my lawyer was finally able to get a statement from the public prosecution that my complaint case had been revoked, at a time when the trumped up assault charges against myself were speedily processed and turned for sentencing.

  • The violation of my rights by the public prosecution:

During the interrogation I was subjected to, I was refused access to my lawyer by the prosecutor dealing with my case. During my imprisonment my lawyer was not given any visits, nor was the Danish embassy. The way that the public prosecution deals with politically motivated cases is it uses all aspects of the government to provide impunity for the perpetrators of violations.

Based on the reasons stated above, I find any and all cooperation with the court or attendance of the hearings by myself as a problematic legitimisation of an unfair and biased court. Therefore I have decided to boycott the hearings, and have asked my lawyer to do the same.

It is important to note here, if I, as a human rights defender, whose case receives international media and diplomatic attention is handled in this way; it is gravely concerning how cases not receiving attention are handled by the authorities in Bahrain.

Maryam Al-Khawaja
Director of Advocacy
Gulf Center for Human Rights
30th November 2014

Maryam Al-Khawaja: Why I am boycotting my date with Bahraini justice – Index on Censorship | Index on Censorship.

One of Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defenders, Nabeel Rajab, released today

May 24, 2014

Nabeel Rajab, Final Nominee MEA 2012

Nabeel Rajab, Final Nominee MEA 2012

According to AhlulBayt News Agency prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab has been released in Bahrain today, 24 May 2014.  The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) welcome back their – respectively – President of the BCHR and General Secretary of the GCHR, free after a detention that lasted approximately two years. The two organisations warn that thousands of others continue to be imprisoned including BCHR and GCHR founder Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Naji Fateel. It is to be noted that Nabeel Rajab is being released because he served the full length of his arbitrary detention sentence.

Nabeel Rajab was initially sentenced on 16 August 2012, to three years in prison for advocating peaceful demonstrations to defend the civil and human rights of all the citizens in the country. On 11 December 2012, the Court of Appeal reduced the sentences to two years in prison. During his detention, he faced dire conditions and was subjected to ill-treatment and torture. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) found that Nabeel’s detention was arbitrary as it resulted from the exercise of his universally recognized human rights. Despite this decision by the WGAD, all requests submitted to the authorities for an early release were summarily rejected.

Bahrain prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab to be released after two years – AhlulBayt News Agency – ABNA – Shia News.

For the older posts that tell the story more in detail see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/nabeel-rajab/

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/

 

Imam Baba Leigh writes impressively how opposing the death penalty in Gambia forced him into exile

November 5, 2013

Imam Baba Leigh

A huge social media campaign was mounted on behalf of Imam Baba Leigh during his incarceration [Twitter].

Just a few days ago, on 22 October, I was given an award from the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network. I was not expecting it, which makes me all the more happy and appreciative. Sadly, I was not allowed to go and receive it in my home country, The Gambia, because there was a chance I could be arrested there. My responsibility, as a Muslim and as a scholar, is to ensure people enjoy their human rights, regardless of colour, race, gender, religion, tradition, economic status or anything else. We are all human beings at the end of the day. As a human rights activist receiving such a prestigious award is wonderful. You feel your work is recognised and encouraged.

Problems for me started when, in August 2012, our head of state President Jammeh promised to execute several inmates. So I went to talk to The Standard newspaper and urged the President to forgive them. “Forgiveness is part of faith and they are no longer a threat to the security of the nation,” I said quoting the holy Qur’an. A week after the executions, the Islamic Council of The Gambia made a declaration that the executions were Islamic. I gave a Friday sermon at the mosque and replied the executions had nothing to do with Islam. They were un-Islamic. Even though the holy Qur’an mentions executions, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) valued forgiveness. My comments caused a lot of commotion. The newspaper was shut down. I started receiving intimidating calls…

On 3 December, I was arriving home after a funeral when I found two men from the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) there waiting for me. “You are wanted [at the NIA offices] to answer some questions,” they said…I was then put in a jail until around 1.00am. Then they started beating, hitting and kicking me. For nine days I suffered a lot. You never know how important and valuable freedom is until it is taken from you. I used to struggle trying to get people out of jail. Trying to bring peace. Trying to bring peaceful coexistence. I didn’t know this is the way things are until the day I was detained. You can understand ending up in prison if you commit a crime, if you are taken to a judge and sentenced. At least then you would know why you are being held, and for how long. I was abducted and then held incommunicado – I couldn’t see anybody, I couldn’t hear anybody.

I had not committed any crime and my conscience was clean. After nine days, they told me I was going home and they put me in another car. The man taking me said “we are taking you home”, but they drove to a hidden place called Bambadinka, which means “hole of dragons”. There I was put in a very small, very filthy, dirty room. I spent five months there. I was kept in a dark, small room where I couldn’t see or hear anything, only rats and spiders. After five months and 17 days, I was released. Some people say that I am now free. But this is not freedom. Freedom is to be able to go home when you want to. I’m just in a bigger jail.

My ambition is to speak for those who have no pulpit, no opportunity for themselves. And to pass the peaceful message of Islam and other religions. I’m urging people in position of authority, presidents and kings alike, to embrace the freedom of their people and to protect it. You can be a president today, you can be a leader today, you can be an authority today, but things change very quickly. You can find yourself fall from the presidency into prison. Then you will need the work of Amnesty International.”

[Imam Baba Leigh is currently in the USA where he has been receiving medical treatment] 

‘This is Not Freedom … I’m Just in a Bigger Jail’: Imam Baba Leigh Takes us into his Gambian Nightmare – IBTimes UK.

Observatory expresses grave concern over health of Iranian HRD Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki

August 23, 2013

On 23 August 2013, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of FIDH and OMCT, expresses its deep concern about the Iranian blogger and human rights activist Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki, whose health status has been deteriorating. On August 9, 2013, Mr. Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki started a hunger strike to protest the authorities’ ongoing refusal to allow him to continue his medical treatment out of Evin prison in Tehran. His mother, Ms. Zolaykha Mousavi, also started a hunger strike on August 20, 2013 to draw attention to his plight. Ronaghi-Maleki has been suffering from kidney and heart problems and bladder inflammation. Since the beginning of his hunger strike, he has suffered kidney bleeding, blood pressure oscillations and arrhythmic heart beats. He has already undergone several operations on his kidneys that were damaged after being repeatedly tortured during his detention, including 13 months in solitary confinement. He has been serving a 15-year prison sentence after being arrested on December 13, 2009 and convicted on charges of “membership of Iran-Proxy Internet Group”, “spreading propaganda against the system”, “insulting the Iranian Supreme Leader and the President”. logo FIDH_seul

OMCT-LOGO

via Iran : IRAN: Grave concern over health status of human … – FIDH.

 

Detention of human rights defender Yang Maodong in China

August 20, 2013

On 17 August 2013, it emerged that Guangzhou-based human rights defender Mr Yang Maodong, better known by his pen name Guo Feixiong, had been detained on charges of “assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place”. Although in detention since 8 August 2013, Yang Maodong’s family were only notified by the police of his arrest on 17 August [!]. Yang Maodong is a well known figure in China‘s rights defence movement Read the rest of this entry »

Group of NGOs submits 10 Recommendations to European Parliament on Repression in Turkey

June 10, 2013

During the last week, Turkish citizens, human rights defenders, trade unions and civil society organisations have come under attack by the Turkish government. What started as a peaceful demonstration has turned into a violent clash with the Turkish police and security services. In the protests, at least 3 people died and more than 2800 people were injured in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. Reports indicate that about 3000 people were taken into custody and Read the rest of this entry »

Impressive coalition of NGOs urges action for arbitrarily detained human rights lawyer Khalil Ma’touq in Syria

June 5, 2013

Khalil Marouiq Noor

New information obtained by human rights organizations has heightened concerns about the secret detention and failing health of a prominent Syrian human rights lawyer who has not been heard from since his arrest eight months ago! Read the rest of this entry »