Posts Tagged ‘India’

Media oppression in India and elsewhere is a shifting landscape

June 29, 2020

In “Media oppression is a shifting landscape” by Sevanti Ninan (a media commentator and founder-editor of TheHoot.org) published on 29 June 2020 in the Indian Telegraph you wil find a good analysis of the problems of news gathering in the current situation. It is about India but the analysis would be valid for many countries.

Arms of the government see journalism (of all kinds) not as a useful source of feedback at a time when the population is in distress but as a nuisance to be squashed. Fake news is no longer seen only as an electronic menace but as reporting with malign intent, whether in Kashmir or elsewhere.
Arms of the government see journalism (of all kinds) not as a useful source of feedback at a time when the population is in distress but as a nuisance to be squashed. Fake news is no longer seen only as an electronic menace but as reporting with malign intent, whether in Kashmir or elsewhere. Pexels

For some years now, the growing challenge to journalism has come from the increasing use of predictable laws (think of sedition and criminal defamation in the Indian Penal Code)….but media oppression is a shifting landscape. Tracking its changing features is just the first challenge. While the onset of Covid-19 has led to the government putting hitherto under-used laws to work, such as the Disaster Management Act and the Epidemic Diseases Act, these have been used in tandem with Sections of the IPC to criminalize reporting of the government’s response to the pandemic as well of the outcomes of its handling, such as the migrant exodus. Panicky administrations across the country have, so far, used no less than 14 Sections of the IPC and Sections of the IT Act (including the one that was struck down), the DMA, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Motor Vehicles Act and the provisions of Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act to issue showcause notices, lodge first information reports against reporters and arrest, confine and torture them.

If newsgathering is being criminalized in some parts of the country, it is being policed in Jammu and Kashmir… it has been gifted a 50-page media policy, which makes the government the arbiter of fake news and mandates background checks of media owners and editors if they are to receive government advertising. Charming! Who knows what will follow elsewhere in the country.

Overall then, a convergence of factors is at work. Arms of the government see journalism (of all kinds) not as a useful source of feedback at a time when the population is in distress but as a nuisance to be squashed.

Electronically disseminated fake news, until now, was in the domain of technology. But when the charge is levelled at reporting on the ground in far-flung areas of the country, it enters the domain of physical fact-finding. Busting fake news with internet tools is one thing. Doing it for field reporting is quite another.…..

..What support structures can be put in place? The country has a Press Council, a Human Rights Commission and numerous courts. But it needs a growing network of human rights defenders, a galvanizing force created by an alliance of journalist organizations, concerned lawyers and civil society stalwarts to map a strategy for this canvas. The Press Council is selective in what it takes note of; one must also ask whether its censure changes anything on the ground.

So far, the response to a sustained assault on journalism has been statements issued by media bodies themselves. But journalists need allies at a time like this; solidarity within their own ranks is not enough to put pressure on the oppressors. Just as civil society has come together to keep alive a human rights campaign for the release of Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bhardwaj and others in the Bhima Koregaon case, journalists, particularly the embattled, invisible ones the districts, now need ballast in their fight to keep up the pressure.

Precedents will be set if the misuse of laws goes unchallenged. District magistrates across states labelling reporting as fake news will be further emboldened without a pushback.

See also reent: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/27/un-experts-address-3-big-ones-usa-china-and-india/

https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/a-case-for-truth/cid/1784527

UN experts address 3 big ones: USA, China and India

June 27, 2020

Home

Joint statements by groups of UN experts are becoming more frequent, with at least three this month. When it comes to major powers like the USA, China and India – who are rather sensitive when criticised – there must be safety in numbers:

Addressing the USA after George Floyd..

On 5 June 2020 nearly 30 independent experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council called for the United States to reform its criminal justice system in the wake of a recent spate of killings of African Americans, including at the hands of the police. In their statement they urged the US authorities to address systemic racism and racial bias, and to conduct independent investigations into cases of excessive use of force by police officers.

The UN human rights experts charged that these killings involved impunity, disregard or depravity toward human life, and the use of public spaces to assert racial control, with each characteristic of a modern-day lynching. “The latest videos to surface showing white men chase, corner, and execute a young man who was out jogging, or showing an officer kneeling with his weight on a man’s neck for eight minutes shock the conscience and evoke the very terror that the lynching regime in the United States was intended to inspire”, they said.

With millions of Americans taking to the streets, the experts also expressed concern about police response to these protests. They said demonstrations have been marked by violence, arbitrary arrest, militarisation and the detention of thousands of protesters. Journalists of colour have also been targeted and detained, some of whom have faced violence and harassment.

UN Experts Urge India To Release Protest Leaders

On 26 June 2020 13 UN experts jointly called on India to immediately release human rights defenders who have been arrested for protesting against changes to the nation’s citizenship laws. “These defenders, many of them students, appear to have been arrested simply because they exercised their right to denounce and protest against the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act), and their arrest seems clearly designed to send a chilling message to India’s vibrant civil society that criticism of government policies will not be tolerated,” the experts said.

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/03/05/indias-overblown-notion-of-sovereignty-no-to-un-advice-for-supreme-court/]

Authorities should immediately release all human rights defenders who are currently being held in pre-trial detention without sufficient evidence, often simply on the basis of speeches they made criticising the discriminatory nature of the CAA,” they said. (Meeran Haider, Gulfisha Fatima, Safoora Zargar, Asif Iqbal Tanha, Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal, Khalid Saifi, Shifa Ur Rehman, Dr. Kafeel Khan, Sharjeel Imam, Akhil Gogoi.)

The experts also highlighted their concern that the authorities’ response to the protests seemed discriminatory. It appears they have not similarly investigated allegations of incitement to hatred and violence made by CAA supporters, some of whom are reported to have chanted “shoot the traitors” at counter-rallies.

UN experts call for decisive measures to protect ‘fundamental freedoms’ in China

On 26 June 2020 almost 50 UN independent experts on Friday to express their continuing alarm, urging the country to “abide by its international legal obligations”.

After having “repeatedly communicated” their concerns, they highlighted the repression of protests and democracy advocacy in the Hong Kong; impunity for excessive use of force by police; the alleged use of chemical agents against protesters; the alleged sexual harassment and assault of women protesters in police stations; together with the alleged harassment of health care workers.

The experts also raised their “grave concerns” on issues ranging from the collective repression of specific communities – “especially religious and ethnic minorities, in Xinjiang and Tibet” – to the detention of lawyers and prosecution – in addition to disappearances – of human rights defenders across the country. .

They urged China to invite civil and political rights monitors to conduct independent missions “in an environment of confidentiality, respect for human rights defenders, and full avoidance of reprisals” and encouraged the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to urgently monitor Chinese human rights practices. 

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/06/1065722

https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO2006/S00162/un-experts-urge-india-to-release-protest-leaders.htm

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/06/1067312

After NSO, now Indian based hacking group targets NGOs

June 10, 2020

A multi-year investigation by Citizen Lab has unearthed a hack-for-hire group from India that targeted journalists, advocacy groups, government officials, hedge funds, and human rights defenders.

A lot has been written about the NSO group and human rights defenders [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/nso-group/], now another case of cyber insecurity has come up:

Jay Jay – a freelance technology writer – posted an article in Teiss on 9 June 2020 stating that Citizen Lab revealed in a blog post published Tuesday that the hack-for-hire group’s identity was established after the security firm investigated a custom URL shortener that the group used to shorten the URLs of phishing websites prior to targeting specific individuals and organisations. Citizen Lab has named the group as “Dark Basin“.

“Over the course of our multi-year investigation, we found that Dark Basin likely conducted commercial espionage on behalf of their clients against opponents involved in high profile public events, criminal cases, financial transactions, news stories, and advocacy,” the firm said.

It added that the hack-for-hire group targeted thousands of individuals and organisations in six continents, including senior politicians, government prosecutors, CEOs, journalists, and human rights defenders, and is linked to BellTroX InfoTech Services, an India-based technology company.

….The range of targets, that included two clusters of advocacy organisations in the United States working on climate change and net neutrality, made it clear to Citizen Lab that Dark Basin was not state-sponsored but was a hack-for-hire operation.

…As further proof of Dark Basin’s links with BellTroX, researchers found that several BellTroX employees boasted capabilities like email penetration, exploitation, conducting cyber intelligence operations, pinging phones, and corporate espionage on LinkedIn. BellTroX’s LinkedIn pages also received endorsements from individuals working in various fields of corporate intelligence and private investigation, including private investigators with prior roles in the FBI, police, military, and other branches of government.

The list of organisations targeted by Dark Basin over the past few years includes Rockefeller Family Fund, Greenpeace, Conservation Law Foundation, Union of Concerned Scientists, Oil Change International, Center for International Environmental Law, Climate Investigations Center, Public Citizen, and 350.org. The hack-for-hire group also targeted several environmentalists and individuals involved in the #ExxonKnew campaign that wanted Exxon to face trial for hiding facts about climate change for decades.

A separate investigation into Dark Basin by NortonLifeLock Labs, which they named “Mercenary.Amanda”, revealed that the hack-for-hire group executed persistent credential spearphishing against a variety of targets in several industries around the globe going back to at least 2013…

https://www.teiss.co.uk/indian-hack-for-hire-group-phishing/

https://thewire.in/tech/spyware-rights-activists-lawyers-citizen-lab

https://scroll.in/latest/964803/nine-activists-most-of-them-working-to-release-bhima-koregaon-accused-targets-of-spyware-amnesty

Also: Hack-for-hire firms spoofing WHO accounts to target organisations worldwide

EU human rights committee condemns India’s arrest of human rights defenders

June 1, 2020

Maria Arena is the chairperson of the Subcommittee of Human Rights of the European Parliament member of Socialist and Democrats parliamentary group. Photo: Reporter

20 May 2020 the chairperson of the Subcommittee of Human Rights of the European Parliament sent a letter to Indian Home Minister Amit Shah, condemning the arrest of human rights defenders under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

In her letter, Maria Arena said the European body has been closely following the arrests of human rights defenders Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha by the National Investigative Agency in India.

Academic and Dalit author Teltumbde and human rights defender Navlakha had surrendered to the police last month after exhausting their possible legal remedies.

Nine other defenders have been in jail since 2018 in the Bhima Koregaon case, where the charges relate to caste violence around an Ambedkarite event and an alleged Maoist plot to foment armed revolution and possibly assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In 2018, the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had issued a statement against terror charges being invoked against the activists.

It is particularly alarming to note that human rights defenders cannot conduct advocacy activities, notably in favor of India’s poorest and most marginalised communities, without becoming subject to intimidation and harassment,” Arena said in her letter.

Equally worrying is the fact that terrorism charges, including under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) have been used to silence them,” she noted pointing out that by United Nations Special Procedures, this clearly represents a violation of international human rights standards.

The letter further stated that to date, the European Parliament had noted that various forms of legitimate peaceful protests against laws, policies and governmental actions, including the Citizenship Amendment Act, had been portrayed as terrorist activities under this legislation, resulting in a number of arrests. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/07/india-attacks-on-human-rights-defenders-abound-under-unlawful-activities-prevention-act/]

This is notably the case for human rights activists such as Safoora Zargar, Gulfisha Fatima, Khalid Saifi, Meeran Haider, Shifa-Ur-Rehman, Dr Kafeel Khan, Asif Iqbal and Sharjeel Imam, who were recently arrested by the police,” the letter noted.

Against this background, there are also increased fears that the legislation might confer discretionary powers upon state agencies. India, she said, should do much more to ensure a safe and conducive environment for civil society working in the country and consider enacting a law on the protection and promotion of human rights defenders.

In a similar vein, ProtectDefenders on May 26 2020 reports “Increasing attacks against human rights defenders in India and Guatemala”. …..

Over the past month, ProtectDefenders.eu has received a considerable and growing number of reports regarding attacks, threats, and alerts affecting human rights defenders in India. This information alerts to the numerous acts of police and judicial harassment in the repression of legitimate activities in favor of human rights. Among other incidents, police harassment and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders were reported in Manipur State, in relation to statements made to criticise the management of the current COVID-19 pandemic by local authorities.

Safoora Zargar, a 27-years old student and woman human rights defender unjustly detained since 10 April, is one of the OMCT’s campaign #FacesOfHope

For the OMCT campaign see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/25/faces-of-hope-campaign-human-rights-defenders-imprisoned-worldwide/

Moreover, the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah terming the detentions of several Indian human rights activists ‘arbitrary’. It says the activists have been arrested for “their participation in peaceful protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA)” in the last few months.

The letter highlights the cases of Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, student activists who have been associated with the anti-CAA protests in Delhi and were arrested recently by the Delhi police.

https://www.geo.tv/latest/290529-eu-human-rights-subcommittee-condemns-indias-arrest-of-human-rights-activists

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/europe-flags-rights-concern/cid/1777254

https://thewire.in/rights/ifhr-anti-caa-activists-arrests-release

Faces of Hope Campaign: Human Rights Defenders Imprisoned Worldwide

May 25, 2020

Defending the right to housing for vulnerable communities, exposing corruption and torture, speaking up against injustice, raising their voices for the rights of indigenous peoples or of minorities, upholding miners’ rights, peacefully demonstrating against discrimination or for access to clean water. All are legitimate ways to affirm our common rights. And yet, such activities have led many human rights defenders around the world to prison.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, detention may come with serious risks. Like other inmates, defenders face overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions, with basic protective measures a distant dream. Worse, they may be denied access to health care as a form of punishment. These brave people are among the most exposed to contracting the virus, and among the least likely to receive proper treatment.

Following UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s call to governments to “release every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners, and those detained for critical, dissenting views” to prevent catastrophic rates of COVID-19 infection, OMCT launched in May 2020 a global campaign calling for the release of all human rights defenders detained worldwide, including those in pre-trial detention.

See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/29/un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-bachelet-calls-for-restraint-in-governments-covid-emergency-powers/

Human Rights Defenders work to ensure journalists are free to keep us informed about how our governments are responding to the pandemic and about the effects of quarantine measures; they denounce the abuse of power and police violence that can result from the state of emergency; they champion the needs of discriminated communities; they call on States to protect our housing and labour rights as jobs disappear; they demand that women’s sexual and reproductive rights not be neglected as healthcare systems focus on the virus. In short, human rights defenders make sure no one is left behind.

…..Let’s bring this solidarity to all the arbitrarily detained human rights defenders whose lives are at risk. Join our campaign and ask for their release using #FacesOfHope. They need us. And we need them too.

Meet the #FacesOfHope:

PHILIPPINES: Teresita Naul

EGYPT: Ibrahim Ezz El-Din

GUATEMALA: Jorge Coc Coc and Marcelino Xol Cucul

INDIA: Safoora Zargar

CAMEROON: Mancho Bibixy Tse

PERU: Walter Aduviri Calisaya

TURKEY: Selçuk Kozağaçlı

AZERBAIJAN: Elchin Mammad

https://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/statements/2020/05/d25823/

India: complex picture growing darker

May 3, 2020

Government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have heightened the dangers to human rights across the world. In this podcast by Front Line Defenders, four human-rights defenders active in various parts of India share the challenges and concerns they have confronted since the start of the country-wide lockdown. The four are Gayatri Kandhadai, the Asia policy coordinator at the Association for Progressive Communications; Anindya Hajra, from the Pratyay Gender Trust in Kolkata; Sadam Hanjabam, from Ya All, an LGBT organisation in Manipur; and a human-rights defender in Kashmir who asked to remain anonymous for reasons of security.

Condemning the Modi government’s “misuse” of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) during the Covid-19 crisis, more than 60 human rights activists, student leaders and academics, in a solidarity statement, have said that the recent arrests of human rights defenders across India have been taking place in order to save the “real culprits” involved in inciting communal and caste disturbances in the recent past. UAPA is being invoked, alleges the statement, to “engineer the attempt to save indictable people affiliated to the right-wing ruling party like Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma, Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, who are still at large”, the statement says, adding, “We firmly believe that the extremely draconian and regressive amended UAPA law has been strategically put in place to exterminate both dissent and dissidents during the lockdown.” For the text and signatories Click here.

UN Rapporteurs concerned about detention of Miyan Abdul Qayoom of Kashmir Bar Association

April 28, 2020

Qayoom, who is also a human rights lawyer, was arrested on the night of 4 and 5 August during the clamp down. Qayoom was accused of being a “most staunch advocate of secessionist ideology”. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/09/forgotten-kashmir-something-has-to-be-done/]

Dated 27 February 2020, the UN has released the letter after 2 months. Qayoom was moved to Agra Central Jail, Uttar Pradesh, on 8 August and was kept in solitary confinement, as per the letter, adding that he is suffering from multiple health issues — including a scheduled open heart surgery at the time of his detention. On 29 January, the letter states, Qayoom suffered a heart attack. Next day, he was taken back to the jail’s dispensary. On 1 February 2020, he was transferred from Agra Central Jail to the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) in New Delhi, for a medical check-up. “He was then transferred to Tihar Jail, New Delhi,” the letter added.

The Special Rapporteurs also claimed in the letter that Qayoom is being denied “the right to a fair trial… and the right of everyone to hold opinions and to freedom of expression.”

We also express concern that Mr. Qayoom’s deprivation of liberty appears to be a reprisal for his opinions, the legitimate and peaceful exercise of his freedom to express them and his human rights work,” the letter added, citing various previous cases and relevant articles of ICCPR that entitles anyone who is deprived of liberty by arrest or detention to take proceedings before a court. “Arrest or detention as punishment for the legitimate exercise of other rights, as guaranteed by the ICCPR, is arbitrary, including the right to freedom of opinion and expression,” it mentioned.

The Special Rapporteurs stated:

“Please provide detailed information about the factual and legal grounds for the arrest and detention of Mr. Qayoom, including the charges brought against him. Please explain how his arrest and continued detention are in conformity with India’s international human rights obligations under the conventions it has acceded to.

Please provide detailed information on the treatment by the court of the habeas corpus petition initiated by Mr. Qayoom. Please explain how the absence of a decision on his petition more than six months after it was made is compatible with the requirement that the lawfulness of his detention’s petitioner is adjudicated as expeditiously as possible, and with India’s obligations under ICCPR.

Please provide detailed information on the present medical situation of Mr. Qayoom and explain how his medical concerns have been duly taken into account and addressed since he was arrested and placed in detention. Please explain what measures are being taken to ensure Mr. Qayoom’s access to appropriate medical care on a reliable and regular basis.

Please indicate what measures have been taken to ensure that human rights defenders in India are able to carry out their legitimate work in a safe and enabling environment without fear of threats or acts of intimidation and harassment of any sort.

Please provide detailed information, included disaggregated data to the extent possible, as to the number of persons from Jammu and Kashmir who have been detained under the Public Security Act since August 2019.”

UN special rapporteurs express concern over detention of Bar president Mian Qayoom

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.

Four women human rights defenders with a mission

March 25, 2020

The Bandera County Courrier of 7 March 2020 referred to the following four women human rights defenders from four non-European countries who should serve as examples for the many who are tirelessly fighting for their rights.

Mexico: Norma Librada Ledezma

Norma Librada Ledezmas 15 – year-old daughter Paloma disappeared on2  March 2002 in Chihuahua, Mexico. 27 For days, the mother searched desperately for her daughter . The police did not give her any support. At the 29. March 2002 Paloma’s body was found. Ledezma is convinced that if the police had investigated earlier and more thoroughly, their daughter could have been saved. That day, the Mexican founded the organization “Justicia para nuestras hijas”, which means: justice for our daughters. This provides legal advice and support in cases of feminicide (murder of women). The same applies to human trafficking and kidnapping. Ledezma wants justice for the victims and the families affected. The Mexican has already supported more than 200 investigations into cases of feminicide and kidnapping. The death of her daughter Paloma is not an isolated case in Mexico. According to UN Women, around ten women are killed in Mexico every day. Ledezma has been able to improve the investigation of feminicides in the country with her work. The Mexican woman has also set up a public prosecutor’s office in Chihuahua that specializes in crimes against women as victims. For her commitment, Ledezma has been nominated for the Martin Ennals Human Rights Award, an award for people and organizations who are committed to protecting human rights. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/05/daughters-murder-motivated-norma-ledezma-to-hunt-for-mexicos-disappeared/]

Norma Librada Ledezma
Norma Librada Ledezma Photo: Martin Ennals Foundation

India: Malti Tudu

Malti Tudu has a mission: she wants to end child marriage in her homeland, the state of Bihar, India. In the tribe the number of child marriages is particularly high. 74 percent of women get married under 18 year  For the young activist, one thing is certain: children should not be forced to marry. According to Unicef, child marriage violates the rights of girls and boys, with girls being affected five times more often. The married girls have to drop out of school. Teenage mothers also die more often than mature women from complications during pregnancy or childbirth. Tudu has been fighting child marriage in Bihar for more than two years. The activist has partnered with other women. Together they educate the residents in the surrounding villages and try to prevent as many child marriages as possible. The women also get a lot of headwind in their actions. But Tudu remains persistent – with success. She has already saved several girls from getting married. In the meantime, she has become a role model for many young women in India. In recent years, more and more women have come together to fight child marriage in India. And there is progress: In the past ten years, the proportion of child marriages in India has gone from 50 percent to 27 percent.

Kenya: Christine Ghati Alfons

Christine Ghati Alfons, a young Kenyan, is fighting for the circumcision of girls to stop. That is not easy. Many in their homeland are still convinced that circumcised women have better chances of marriage and are better integrated into the community. Officially, genital mutilation has been official in Kenya since 2011 forbidden. Nevertheless, according to the United Nations, one in five women is still between 15 and 49 years in Kenya – the mutilation happens in private clinics or at home.

Christine Ghati Alfons.
Christine Ghati Alfons. Photo: private

Had her father not stood up for her then, Alfons would have been circumcised. His involvement broke a taboo in the community – and had consequences. He was killed because he wanted to protect his eight-year-old daughter. Alfons didn’t know anything about her father’s courage for a long time. Because all of her friends were circumcised, she wanted that too. The vehemence with which her mother forbade her surprised her. When they talked about the risk of contracting HIV during circumcision at school, Alfons decided against it. Only then did she learn from the mother why her father died. “I want to make my father proud,” says Alfons today. She is committed to girls who have no one to stand up for them. The 27 year-old founded the organization “Safe Engage Foundation ”with which she goes to the communities to talk to children, parents and teachers, to convince them of the cruelty. When genital mutilation occurs, the clitoris and labia become partially or completely away. In particularly severe cases, the entire external genitalia is cut off and sewn back up except for a hole the size of a matchstick. The circumcised women torture themselves throughout their lives with physical and psychological pain. Not only in Africa, but also in Asia and the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia: Manal al Sharif

Manal al Sharif becomes famous in Saudi Arabia in 2011 with a shaky cell phone video that she films in an apparently banal activity: she is behind the wheel of a car. At the time, the autocratic monarchy was the last country in the world where women were prohibited from driving a car.

Manal al Sharif.
Manal al Sharif. Photo: Andreas Gebert / dpa

The eight-minute recording shows Sharif, an IT consultant, driving through the streets of the Saudi city of Khobar. She speaks to her friend and co-activist Wajeha al Huwaider, says things like: “We want change in our country” and: “A woman deserves the same rights as every man.” And she is optimistic. “Things will change – God willing.” A lot has happened since the video went viral. Initially, the Sharif admission jailed for eleven days. The repressive regime accuses her of “inciting public opinion against the state”. When she is released, she leaves the country because of death threats. But Sharif’s video fired the Saudi “Women2Drive” movement. And even after her emigration, the activist remains part of the movement, campaigning for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. 2018 the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – de facto the most powerful man in the country – allows women to drive. Nevertheless, he continues to take decisive action against critics of the Kingdom. According to Amnesty, some women’s rights activists, such as Loujain al Hathloul, have been detained for several years, relatives report torture. Sharif now lives in Sydney, has written a book about her experiences and is committed to Women in their country of origin…Manal al Sharif is now considered one of the most important women rights activists in Saudi Arabia.

These four women have a mission

India’s overblown notion of sovereignty: NO to UN advice for Supreme Court

March 5, 2020

The Wire (India) and other news outlets have written about the controversy ‘created’ around the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ intervention (Amicus Brief) in the Indian Supreme Court against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). In response, the Indian government has claimed that no foreign party has “locus standi” on CAA as it pertains to Indian sovereignty.

In a statement on Tuesday, ministry of external affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that India’s permanent mission in Geneva was informed “yesterday evening by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that her Office had filed an Intervention Application in the Supreme Court of India in respect to the 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)”. The CAA, passed by the Indian parliament in December 2019, seeks to grant fast-track citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who arrived in India on or before December 31, 2014. The CAA had led to widespread protests in India, starting with northeastern states. The UN human rights commissioner has highlighted several times that CAA would be discriminatory and violates India’s commitments made under international law. The UN stated that the High Commissioner has “has great respect for the Indian Supreme Court’s independence and importance, and in accordance with similar interventions in domestic jurisdictions by the High Commissioner and her predecessors, the amicus curiae  will focus on providing an overview of relevant and applicable international human rights standards and norms to support the Court’s deliberations in the context of its review of the CAA”.

After India was informed about OHCHR’s intention, Kumar asserted CAA was an “internal matter of India and concerns the sovereign right of the Indian Parliament to make laws”. “We strongly believe that no foreign party has any locus standi on issues pertaining to India’s sovereignty,” he added.

That reaction seems rather overblown. The Supreme Court is hearing a total of 143 petitions seeking to examine the constitutional validity of the Citizenship Amendment Act. Foreign governments and nationals have been parties to several legal cases in the Indian court system. (The Supreme Court is currently hearing a petition filed in 2017 against the Indian government’s plan to deport all Rohingya Muslims, estimated to be around 40,000, back to Myanmar. On January 10, UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance E. Tendayi Achiume filed an application seeking to intervene in the ongoing case, which is being heard by a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde. Earlier in the Italian marines case, the Italian ambassador had filed a petition challenging the jurisdiction of the Indian police after the arrests of the marines for the killing of Indian fishermen off the coast of India.)

In her draft application, Bachelet sought to intervene as an amicus curiae “by virtue of her mandate to inter aria protect and promote all human rights and to conduct necessary advocacy in that regard, established pursuant to the United Nations General Assembly resolution 48/141”. She noted that the office of the UN human right chief had filed amicus curiae briefs within proceedings before diverse jurisdictions, including International Criminal Court, US Supreme Court and final appeal courts in Asia and Latin America.

—–

https://thewire.in/diplomacy/un-human-rights-chief-intervention-application-supreme-court-caa

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/rights-or-wrong-the-hindu-editorial-on-un-rights-body-moving-supreme-court-against-caa/article30984751.ece