Posts Tagged ‘impunity’

De Lima fears weak UN HRC resolution provides for impunity

October 11, 2020

The resolution recently adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) failed to take concrete action against the summary killings in the country, detained Senator Leila de Lima said Saturday 10 October 2020. On Wednesday, the UNHRC adopted a resolution asking UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet to support the Philippines in fulfilling its international human rights obligations—not really an independent probe.

De Lima lamented that the resolution that could have strengthened human rights and accountability mechanisms in the country was instead “tantamount to absolving a murderous regime of its crimes against humanity.”…..

“Do we really expect this regime to stop the carnage and submit to technical cooperation and capacity building programs to promote the rights that it has been blatantly violating? No, we cannot tame a rabid mass murderer that is Duterte,” she said.

The senator reiterated the call for an independent international probe. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/11/un-council-agrees-action-on-philippines-in-spite-of-vehement-objection/]

We need to be more vigilant and well-informed in order not to be swayed by the deceptions and lies of government operators who curry favor with Duterte for selfish political interests. We vigorously assert our call for an independent international probe into the human rights crisis that continues to wreak havoc in our country,” she said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Thursday said the Philippines would cooperate with the UNHRC resolution

https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/759319/de-lima-unhrc-resolution-absolves-gov-t-of-crimes-against-humanity/story/

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session41/Pages/ResDecStat.aspx

Agnes Callamard calls overturned verdict in Khashoggi case “parody of justice”

September 9, 2020

An independent UN human rights investigator called the overturned verdict of Saudi Arabia’s prosecutor in the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi a “parody of justice” that spared “high-level” plotters.  At a regular press briefing on Tuesday, Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, (OHCHR), quoted Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, in saying, “they came at the end of a process which was neither fair nor just, or transparent“. [for earlier posts on Khashoggi, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/jamal-khashoggi/]

In October 2018, the 59-year-old columnist for The Washington Post was killed and dismembered at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. Saudi prosecutors in Riyadh had convicted eight people for the brutal murder. However, on Monday, a Saudi court overturned five death sentences in a final ruling that jailed eight defendants for between seven and 20 years, according to Saudi State media.

The press briefing came on the heels of a series of tweets from the independent UN expert who reacted disparagingly to Monday’s verdict. “The five hitmen are sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, but the high-level officials who organized and embraced the execution of Jamal Khashoggi have walked free from the start – barely touched by the investigation and trial,” Ms. Callamard tweeted.

As for the individual responsibility of the person on top of the State”, the independent UN expert upheld, “the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, he has remained well protected against any kind of meaningful scrutiny in his country“. She stated that “the Saudi Prosecutor performed one more act today in this parody of justice”, adding “but these verdicts carry no legal or moral legitimacy”.

7 September to become Munir Day in Indonesia?

September 8, 2020

The Jakarta Post of 7 September reports on a proposal by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) to designate  7 Sepember as national human rights defenders day, coinciding with the date of the assassination of prominent human rights activist Munir Said Thalib. “Dedicating Sept. 7 as national human rights defenders day could further promote the idea of providing support and protection for human rights activists in the country,” Komnas HAM commissioner Choirul Anam said in a statement on Monday. Human rights activists have persistently faced violence, harassment and criminalization to date, Choirul said. “Munir himself was a person who pioneered protection of human rights defenders in Indonesia.” Munir, the cofounder of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), was murdered with arsenic on Sept. 7, 2004, aboard a Garuda Indonesia plane on his way to the Netherlands to pursue a master’s degree in international law and human rights. Pressures have been mounting for years from the public and rights activists for law enforcement to prosecute the murder’s mastermind, who remains unknown to this date.[SEE: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/09/10/an-exceptional-number-of-ngos-90-demand-justice-for-munir-in-indonesia/]

Amnesty International Indonesia said Munir’s murder was indicative of the wider culture of impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of attacks against human rights defenders in the country. The lack of full accountability and the political will to resolve the case contributes to an ongoing climate of fear among human rights defenders, said Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid.We call on President Joko Widodo, who has made a public pledge to resolve the case, to take decisive and concrete action. This process can be started by conducting a review of past criminal proceedings into Munir’s murder, including alleged violations of international human rights standards,” Usman said. In September 2016, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo made a public pledge to resolve the case of Munir’s murder. But the Indonesian authorities have yet to publish the report into the investigation, in violation of Presidential Decree No. 111/2004 on the establishment of the fact-finding team on Munir’s killing, which obligates the government to make the report public.  This article was published in thejakartapost.com with the title “In light of Munir’s murder, Sept. 7 proposed as ‘national human rights defenders day’ – National – :

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/09/07/in-light-of-munirs-murder-sept-7-proposed-as-national-human-rights-defenders-day.html

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/09/07/human-rights-activists-urge-komnas-ham-to-treat-munirs-murder-as-extraordinary-case.html

https://indonesiaatmelbourne.unimelb.edu.au/the-thinking-behind-the-man-called-munir/

Kazakh human rights defenders sentenced for just remembering Dulat Aghadil

August 29, 2020

Dulat Aghadil died in mysterious circumstances in February.
Dulat Aghadil died in mysterious circumstances in February.
According to RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service of 28 August 2020 dozens of Kazakh human rights defenders were given short jail sentences or fines for attending a commemoration of prominent civil rights campaigner Dulat Aghadil, who died in custody in February this year.

At least seven people were found guilty for attending an unsanctioned rally and sentenced to up to 15 days in detention this week, relatives and rights defenders said.

Among those jailed were activists Alma Nurysheva and Alsan Hasanonov, who were sentenced by a court in Aqmala Province on August 27. Their trials took place via a video link. The same court ordered several other activists to pay fines ranging between $200 and $400. Kazakh human rights defenders say “dozens” of activists from Nur-Sultan, Almaty, Aqtau, Oskemen, and Semei cities have gone on trial in recent days.

At least 100 people attended the commemoration on August 8 in Aghadil’s home village of Talapker in the Aqmola Province. Aghadil, 43, died under mysterious circumstances while being held in pretrial detention in the capital, Nur-Sultan, in late February, just one day after being arrested for failing to comply with a court order to report to local police. Authorities said Aghadil died from a heart attack, but his family and fellow rights defenders say he had no history of heart issues. Rallies were held in Nur-Sultan and other cities in February and March to demand a thorough investigation into his death.

https://www.rferl.org/a/kazakh-activists-punished-for-attending-commemoration-of-civil-rights-figure-who-died-in-custody/30809396.html

Nepal: transitional justice a moving goal

August 26, 2020

Nepal continues to struggle with the implementation of of the transitional justice process. Victims of the armed conflict and human rights defenders have opposed the idea of forming a political mechanism to facilitate the conclusion of the transitional justice process, as proposed by the six-member task force formed to propose measures to end the months-long dispute within the ruling party. The idea, first proposed by Nepal Communist Party co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal during the Standing Committee meeting in December last year, will politicise the entire process if implemented, and work in favour of the perpetrators, they say. “I am shocked to see the recommendations. They are against the principles of jurisprudence and transitional justice,” said Ram Bhandari, chairperson of Network of the Families of Disappeared referring to the recommendations made by the task force.

Parties should stop politicising the transitional justice process. Forming a political mechanism would be an illegal move,Kalyan Shrestha, a former chief justice at the Supreme Court whose bench directed the government to remove the amnesty provisions in the transitional justice Act, told the Post. He said the political parties, who were the parties to the conflict, are in one place now treating the victims as the defeated force. Shrestha said that transitional justice has a universal jurisprudence and it must be abided by.

In a thoughtful piece of 26 August 2020 Mohna Ansari, Commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal, argues that Nepal must reboot human rights, rule of law” puts this in context:

Killing of journalists in Mexico: Juan Carlos Morrugares the latest victim

August 24, 2020

The BBC reported on 23 August that a man in Mexico has been given a 50-year prison sentence for ordering the killing of a prominent journalist, Miroslava Breach, who covered drugs violence and corruption in the country and was one of 11 journalists murdered in 2017 in Mexico. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/30/in-depth-investigative-report-on-journalist-miroslava-in-mexico/]. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/24/new-national-award-to-honor-slain-mexican-journalists/

Prosecutors said the lengthy prison term for Juan Carlos Moreno set a precedent in cases involving crimes against free expression. This “good news” comes amidst continuing killings of journalists also in this year. Reporter Pablo Morrugares was shot and killed in the city of Iguala in early hours of 2 August 2020, according to news reports and officials.

Pablo Morrugares was the fifth journalist to be killed in Mexico this year, in attacks which are increasingly also killing police guards assigned to the victims. More than 140 journalists have been killed over the past 20 years.

We are dismayed that Mexican journalists are being killed while supposedly under federal protection,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “Authorities must do everything in their power to curb this impunity in attacks on the press, bring the culprits in Pablo Morrugares’ murder to justice, and guarantee the safety of reporters it has committed to protect.

Morrugares, the founder and editor of news website PM Noticias, was attacked shortly before 1:00 a.m. on August 2 in a restaurant in Iguala, some 120 miles south of Mexico City in the state of Guerrero Two heavily armed men entered the restaurant and fired more than 50 rounds at Morrugares, who died instantly. A police officer assigned to Morrugares as part of a federal protection program also died in the attack. The gunmen left the scene immediately after.

Before founding PM Noticias, Morrugares worked as a spokesperson for the Iguala municipal government during the administration of José Luis Abarca. The former mayor was arrested on November 4, 2014, for his alleged involvement in the mass abduction and suspected assassination of 43 students from a Guerrero rural teachers’ college on September 26 of that year. In 2016, Morrugares and his wife were targets of an attack by unidentified gunmen in Iguala, according to news reports. Following the attack, the reporter was placed in a protection program overseen by the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which operates under the auspices of the federal Interior Secretariat (Segob). An official of the Mechanism, who asked to remain anonymous as he is not authorized to speak on the matter, told CPJ today that his institution relocated the journalist to a safe house at an undisclosed location in 2018, where he stayed under federal protection until the end of 2019. The official said that Morrugares returned to Iguala at his own request in January of this year and was assigned two state police officers as bodyguards, one of whom died in this week’s attack.

https://cpj.org/2020/08/mexican-journalist-pablo-morrugares-killed-in-iguala/

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-53880211

Nine human rights groups express fear over threats from security officers of the Liberian Government.

August 6, 2020

Human Rights Activist, Adama K. Dempster

In a statement issued in Monrovia on August 5, 2020, the groups in a collective letter noted that “Credible threats” have been made against a staff of the Global Justice and Research project (GJRP), Hassan Bility, as well as witnesses of alleged crimes by a recent defendant of a war crimes unit in the United Kingdom.

The human rights organizations that include CIVITAS MAXIMA, Center for Justice and Accountability, Center for Civil and Political Rights, Civil Society Human Rights Platform, Human Rights Watch and the Advocates for Human Rights amongst others also indicated in the release that “Credible threats have been made against Adama Dempster, Secretary-General of the Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia, in connection to his human rights work and advocacy for a war crimes court.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/23/human-rights-defenders-to-president-weah-the-ball-is-in-your-camp/]

The groups said that Dempster, who led the civil society delegation that traveled to Geneva to report to the United Nations on Liberia’s human rights record, has also received credible information that he is being “targeted for elimination.”

These threats come from certain leading figures within the Liberian government’s security services, and confidential sources state that they are related to Dempster’s work delivering human rights reports to the International Community and the United Nations against the current Government, as well as his advocacy for a war crimes court,” said the human rights groups.

Bility’s GJRP has been actively involved in researching and identifying some key perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity during Liberia’s civil war, and some based on the work of GJRP have been prosecuted in the United States while others are detained in Europe awaiting trial for their roles. Among those prosecuted in the United States under this effort is Mohammed Jabateh (alas Jungle Jabbah).  In Europe, Martina Johnson of the defunct National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) with some former fighters of the United Liberation Movement (ULIMO-K) of warlord Alhaji G.V. Kromah has been arrested.

The recently announced threats against human rights advocates come following the release and subsequent coming to Liberia Agnes Reeves Taylor, former wife of jailed Liberian President Charles Taylor.

There are still more warlords and war crimes perpetrators in Liberia who were identified in Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation report, and some are currently serving in the National Security Agency (NSA).

The human rights organization state in their statement that: “The intimidation and threats against GJRP staff and witnesses started immediately after Agnes Reeves Taylor, who was indicted in 2017 in the United Kingdom for torture, returned to Liberia in July 2020. They included multiple threatening phone calls to GJRP staff, including the director, Hassan Bility, as well as against witnesses of her alleged crimes.”

According to the human rights groups, several witnesses have said that people claiming to be Reeves Taylor supporters have threatened their lives — including in person, and claiming also that certain public statements about Bility and the GJRP by Reeves Taylor, who was not acquitted, but whose case in the UK did not go to trial based on a point of law, also raise concerns.

The groups also reminded the Government of Liberia of the United Nations Human Rights Committee’s Concluding Observations, issued in 2018.

The UN body said that the Government of Liberian should make certain that “all alleged perpetrators of gross human rights violations and war crimes are impartially prosecuted and, if found guilty, convicted and punished in accordance with the gravity of the acts committed.”

The Human Rights Committee’s Observations required Liberia to report by 27 July 2020 on the implementation of the recommendations regarding accountability for past crimes. Liberia has not met this deadline. “We sincerely hope that Liberia will take its international treaty obligations seriously by implementing the recommendations and submitting its follow-up report to the Committee,” said the groups.

The groups called on the Government of Liberia to ensure that human rights defenders in Liberia are protected from harassment and threats by individuals within the Government security services.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/08/05/protect-human-rights-defenders-liberia

https://www.liberianobserver.com/news/ranking-state-security-officers-linked-to-threats-against-human-rights-advocates/

Human Rights Organizations in Liberia Alarm Over Being Targeted by Government’s Security, Call for Protection

Nobel Laureate Denis Mukwege under threat in Congo

August 5, 2020

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Dr Denis Mukwege, says his family has been intimidated and threatened since he denounced the recent massacre in Kipupu in Mwenga territory in South Kivu of Congo. Mukwege, who is the founder and Medical Director of Panzi Hospital and Foundations, said in a statement on Monday 3 August 2020 that since 2012 and even after two assassination attempts, he had continued to receive death threats [see also; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/05/breaking-news-see-which-other-awards-the-2018-nobel-peace-prize-laureates-won-already/].

Since my tweet on Sunday, July 26 denouncing the recent massacre in Kipupu in Mwenga territory in South Kivu, I have received various hate mails, and members of my family have been intimidated and threatened,” he said.

Since then[ 22 years ago], I have not ceased to campaign for the search for truth and the application of justice, without which we cannot hope for lasting peace,” he said.

While calling for peace, the Nobel Peace Prize Laurel made a case for the examination of the mapping report carried out by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, adding that the report contained a compilation of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocides detailed from 1993 to 2003. “Without analyzing these crimes-which mark the history of the Congo-and without justice being rendered for these crimes, no people involved in these conflicts will be able to recover or live in peace,” he said. He further said it seemed that advocating for the creation of a special jurisdiction to try crimes in the Congo scares some people who pour out their hatred on social media by pitting one against the other, often on the basis of lies. However, he said reconciliation between peoples and the establishment of reparations for the victims could not be achieved without our relentless search for the truth. “No intellectual malfeasance, no threat, no intimidation, will prevent me from expressing myself on the reality of the atrocities experienced by the populations of my country and the consequences of which I treat every day in my hospital in Bukavu,” he said.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/12/djimon-hounsou-set-to-play-congolese-nobel-prize-winner-denis-mukwege-in-new-film/

Read more: https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/my-family-under-threat-over-congo-massacre-tweet-peace-laureate-mukwege.html

Gulag historian Yury Dmitriyev returns to prison

July 24, 2020

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Expert on Stalin atrocities Yury Dmitriyev. Photo: Igor Podgorny, 7×7-journal.ru

The Moscow Times of 22 July 2020 carries a detailed report by Evan Gershkovich on Gulag historian Yury Dmitriyev who has spent decades calling attention to one of the darkest chapters in Russia’s history. He now faces up to 15 years in prison on sexual assault charges in a case his allies say has been trumped up to silence him. Acquitted of child pornography, Yury Dmitriyev now faces charges of sexual assault.

The Moscow Times profiled Dmitriyev in 2018:

Yury Dmitriyev normally hates Moscow. The concrete, the commotion, the pollution. As much as he can, he stays in Karelia, where he was born, raised and has spent his 62 years. In the northwestern region bordering Finland and the Baltic and White Seas, he can usually be found in the woods or in his study, writing.

Yet on a pleasant evening in mid-May, Dmitriyev, a prominent researcher of Soviet crimes, was happy to be in the metropolis. Accompanied by his elder daughter, Yekaterina Klodt, and his lawyer, Viktor Anufriyev, old friends greeted him with grins and tight hugs in a courtyard outside Teatr.doc, a progressive theater, ahead of a human rights awards ceremony.

One month earlier, Dmitriyev had been cleared of child pornography charges. Authorities had detained him in December 2016 after investigators found nude photos of his 11-year old adopted daughter; Dmitriyev said he took the photos to monitor her physical changes as she was prone to illness. From the outset, human rights defenders claimed that the case was fabricated to silence an outspoken activist.

If the arrest came as a shock to those who knew him, so too did his acquittal: Fewer than one percent of criminal defendants in Russia are cleared.

But authorities, human rights defenders now say, weren’t done with the historian just yet. Only a month after the awards night, a judge annulled the April decision, starting the trial anew.

Then, two weeks later, prosecutors brought additional charges to the table: This time they claimed that Dmitriyev had sexually assaulted his daughter. As of late June, the historian was back in jail facing another uphill legal battle, his freedom having been fleeting.

“The new charges are a chance for the prosecution to get it right,” Anufriyev said. “They failed the first time, so officials are giving them another chance to get the job done.”

Digging and documenting

Two decades ago, Dmitriyev discovered a set of mass graves in a Karelian forest containing the bodies of more than 9,500 victims of Josef Stalin’s Great Terror. Poring over KGB documents, the head — and sole employee — of Memorial’s Karelia branch spent the next 20 years documenting each victim’s story.

“What makes Yury unique is that he combines both the digging and the documenting,” said Sergei Krivenko, a colleague of Dmitriyev’s at Memorial and a member of the Presidential Human Rights Council. “Some people work on compiling books of names, some people search for the exact locations of the killings. No one has dedicated themselves to both the way Yury has.”

No one has dedicated themselves to both digging and documenting the way Yuri has.

Those who know Dmitriyev say he toiled everyday. “He’s been doing this work for the past 30 years, and I’m 33,” said Klodt, his elder daughter. “I’m so used to it that, for me, his work is no different than a dentist’s.”

Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, historians say, the state has supported them in locating and memorializing the burial sites of the estimated 15 to 30 million victims of Stalin’s rule. At the location Dmitriyev discovered — Sandarmokh — local authorities helped build roads and erect monuments and aided with an annual gathering at the site.

But in recent years, human rights defenders say, the climate has become less hospitable. Those who spoke with The Moscow Times pointed to a resurgence in Stalin’s popularity as a significant reason: In June last year, Russians voted him the “most outstanding” person in history. In second place was President Vladimir Putin, who has accused the West of “excessive demonization” of the Soviet leader.

Others pointed to a surge in nationalism since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and got involved in Ukraine. “There were many foreigners killed at Sandarmokh — Norwegians, Poles, Finns and Ukrainians, including around 200 intellectuals,” Krivenko said. “This is a very important place for Ukrainians especially, and a delegation would visit the site annually.”

Dmitriyev organized the memorial visit every year on Aug. 5. He invited foreign delegations and led discussions, Krivenko said. After the events in Crimea and Ukraine, the discussions often turned to politics.

“I think this is why they went after him,” Krivenko said. He also pointed to an October 2016 decision to add Memorial to a register of “foreign agent” organizations that receive foreign funding. “I think this gave the local siloviki” — officials with ties to law enforcement — “a signal that they could go after us.”

Two months later, in December, Dmitriyev was first arrested.

Prison as a work trip

The day after the awards night, Dmitriyev was invited to speak with human rights students at the Sakharov Center, named after the Nobel Prize-winning human rights activist.

Klodt had come with him and complained that she wasn’t feeling well. “Maybe they should put you in prison for a year too so they can toughen you up,” her father joked.

Quick to laugh, thin and slightly disheveled, Dmitriyev presented an unimposing figure. But when the subject of his work came up, he turned deadly serious.

“I don’t fight the system. That’s a dead end, and I’m already old now,” he told The Moscow Times before the event. “I fight for memory. I fight so anyone who wants to can learn about their relatives, regardless of whether the government wants it or not. These people existed at some point. They worked and loved and had children. I’m for protecting the freedom of private life and of those memories.”

Without those memories, Dmitriyev continued, today’s generation cannot judge whether their government is laudable or acting improperly.

The people I dig up were in the same prison, walked the same halls and were behind the same bars.

“When a person knows the history of their family for multiple generations, they can understand what our state is doing right and what it’s doing wrong,” he said. “Called upon by the state to do this or that, they’ll say, ‘No, my great-grandfather was summoned in the same way and it ended badly for him. So maybe it’ll end badly for me as well.’”

Dmitriyev shrugged at the subject of his time in prison. “I don’t make a great tragedy out of that year,” he said. “I just think of it as a work trip. I’ve gained a better understanding of what my heroes — the people I dig up and write about — were thinking. They were in the same prison, walked the same halls and were behind the same bars.”

More difficult, he said, was being separated from his younger daughter. Dmitriyev himself was adopted, and at some point he decided he wanted to care for an orphaned child too. He hoped he’d be able to talk to her again by the end of the year. “It’s a humane policy by the prosecutor’s office,” he joked. Then he turned serious again: “I can handle it, I’m a tough person. But what about the child? She thinks everyone has abandoned her.”

Into the forest

After Dmitriyev was first arrested, the girl was taken in by her biological grandmother. Klodt said the family and the grandmother maintained regular communication. But when Dmitriyev was acquitted, Klodt said, the grandmother cut off all communication with the family. Then she sent a letter to the prosecution demanding the acquittal be overturned.

Anufriyev, Dmitriyev’s lawyer, believes that local authorities pressured her into writing the letter. He also says that the new charges of sexual assault are founded solely on a June 6 meeting between investigators and the girl during which, Anufriyev says, they coerced her into saying what they wanted. “They say they’re helping the child, but really they’re making her suffer,” he said.

Reached by phone, Tatyana Kordyukova, a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office, said she couldn’t comment on the case and referred The Moscow Times to the Investigative Committee. The Investigative Committee, in turn, did not respond to requests for comment.

On July 25, the retrial of the first case will begin. The Investigative Committee is currently researching the new charges, a process which could take months. The original charges carry up to 15 years in prison; the new charges up to 20.

This time, though, Anufriyev says Dmitriyev is better prepared. “After his last stint in prison, he now knows that we can fight and win this thing,” he said.

Klodt, too, is ready for the fight. “I’m not constantly hysterical like last time,” she said. “I understand that something needs to be done. I’m not giving up.”

His colleagues say they won’t give up either. When Dmitriyev was first arrested, human rights defenders, artists and writers across the country spoke out for him and wrote letters to Putin. Still, they are sober about the possible outcome.

“This is the atmosphere for us right now,” Krivenko said. He pointed to the case of Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian filmmaker accused of terrorism after he had refused to accept the annexation of Crimea, and Memorial colleague Oyub Titiyev, who is also in prison on charges widely believed to be fabricated.

“The only good thing from all this is that the president is showing us how it all happened in the 1930s — how people were blamed, how siloviki read signals from the top,” Krivenko said. “We used to study this in archives, now we see it in real life.”

During his short stint out of prison, Dmitriyev returned to work. Anatoly Razumov, a historian and one of Dmitriyev’s closest friends, stayed at his house from the night before the acquittal was overturned until June 19. The entire time, he says, Dmitriyev worked on a book he had to put off when he was first arrested.

In May, asked if he would return to his work or if he feared doing so would anger certain parties, Dmitriyev was unmoved. “If you’re afraid of wolves, you shouldn’t go into the forest,” he replied.


This article first appeared in The Moscow Times and is republished in a sharing partnership with the Barents Observer.

A journalist recalls the Indemnity bill in Gambia of which he became the victim

July 3, 2020

The government of Yahya Jammeh had orchestrated first an investigative ‘Commission’ and then an ‘‘Indemnity Bill’’ following the breakdown of public order during the student demonstrations’’ of 10-11 April 2000…..Nevertheless, the two most important charges were never independently investigated.  Instead …. the victims were criticised and condemned. Thanks to the ‘‘Bill’’.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/10/19/how-bad-is-it-in-the-gambia-freedom-radio-has-some-disturbing-quotes/]

Now in a opinion piece of 3 July 2020 Gambian journalist Alhagie Mbye looks back on Yahya Jammeh’s Indemnity Bill that created so much damage:

As a journalist, I followed and covered the whole proceedings both at the ‘‘Commission’’ and outside of it. What was uncovered remained astonishing and shocking. Sadly, some of the ‘‘Commissioners’’ including some respected elites and religious leaders later promoted as heads of his Muslim Council and other lucrative posts remained deplorable and appalling indeed.

Most horrendous was that during the time, the APRC’s representative, refused to answer a single question from the press gallery. It was deliberate act of arrogance, deceit and deception on the part of both the Justice Minister and his boss. Both the local and international press were flabbergasted. The injustice by a Justice Minister will never be forgotten. 

Accordingly, the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders headed by Emmanuel Joof, were fuming. …The Coalition consisting of some of the best lawyers in the country maintained it was ‘‘unconstitutional and cannot be accepted in any civilised society’’.

The opposition parties also openly condemned it in its entirety prompting the National Assembly Members from the opposition side to walk out of the National Assembly in protest. It was a bold move during that crucial time.

...Observers and local human rights activists, including women groups warned that…”the indemnity Bill is untimely provocative, dangerous and unconstitutional”. They called it an ‘‘affront and violation of the county’s own Constitution that give right to citizens to express freely themselves’’. They jointly added that Gambian law ‘‘guarantees everyone to exercise his or her fundamental and basic human rights without interference’’. The international media groups and human rights bodies worldwide were alerted and some of them were absolutely furious but Yahya Jammeh as usual careless about such concerns…

The ambiguous and vague ‘‘Bill’’ also caused the unbelievably curtailing of the rights and freedoms of The Gambian press as well as opposition activities. It brazenly and blatantly downgraded the country’s reputation as well as the respect it earned since independent from Britain as a country of law, peace and stability.

As intended, the ‘‘Bill’’ resulted in several human rights violations with immunity including atrocities committed by reckless National Intelligent Agency (NIA) operatives and the so-called ‘jungler’ officers. Using the ‘‘Bill’’ as a protection and cover against violations, the regime was out to victimise and terrorise the population without any justification. As a result, many innocent citizens got hurt and humiliated. Several men and women maimed. Others lost their lives and livelihoods.

No doubt when I reported on it both in the local and international press, including the brutality of his men against law abiding and innocent citizens including poor farmers and peasants who were totally ignorant of his ‘‘Bill’’, Yahya Jammeh’s revenged was my arrest, detention in confinement at his notorious NIA headquarters in Banjul and brutally tortured me.

Thus, it is startling that today the same accused officers and officials with brutality are still trying to use the same ‘‘Bill’’ as umbrella to outsmart us in our modern courts. But accepting their arguments will be a travesty.

Recently a certain senior politician mocked that people are ‘‘angry’’. Clearly people are right to be angry until justice is seen to be done in favour of the victims of an indescribable and inexpressible human rights violation.

Yahya Jammeh’s ‘‘Indemnity Bill’’ was one of the darkest days of The Gambia. All those involved directly or indirectly should not only bow or hang their heads in shame but be brought to justice as soon as possible.

https://thepoint.gm/africa/gambia/opinion/journalist-alhagie-mbye-revisits-yahya-jammehs-indemnity-bill

see also: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-51082371