Posts Tagged ‘joint statement’

80 Media and Human Rights groups urge African Heads of State to release jailed journalists amid pandemic

April 9, 2020

On 9 April 2020, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and 80 other media and human rights NGOs have urged ten African Heads of State to release journalists from detention in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To:

President of Algeria Abdelmadjid Tebboune
President of Benin Patrice Talon
President of Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza
President of Cameroon Paul Biya
President of Chad Idriss Deby
President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
President of Eritrea Isaias Afwerki
Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed Ali
Prime Minister of Morocco Saad-Eddine El Othmani
President of Rwanda Paul Kagame

Your Excellencies,

We the 81 undersigned media, press freedom, and human rights organizations are writing to call on your respective governments to release all jailed journalists amid the sweeping COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, the Committee to Protect Journalists published an open letter to world leaders urging the immediate release of all journalists imprisoned for their work. Given that a staggering number of these imprisoned journalists are held in jails across the African continent, we are reiterating that call to your respective countries at this time of grave public health concern.

According to CPJ’s most recent annual survey conducted on December 1, 2019, there were at least 73 journalists in prisons in Africa, including 26 in Egypt, 16 in Eritrea, seven in Cameroon, four each in RwandaBurundi, and Morocco, three in Algeria, and one each in BeninNigeriaChadTanzaniaEthiopiaSomaliaComorosDemocratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan.

As of March 31, at least 11 of these journalists have been released from jails in Somalia, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria, DRC, Algeria, Comoros, South Sudan, and Egypt, according to CPJ research. However, at least six more journalists and media workers have been jailed since December 1, and remain in prison as of March 31, including four inEthiopia and one each in Cameroon and Algeria.

Article 16 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights states, “Every individual shall have the right to enjoy the best attainable state of physical and mental health.” These rights were extended to prisoners and detainees when the African Commission adopted the 1995 Resolution on Prisons in Africa. According to the World Health Organization, “People deprived of their liberty, and those living or working in enclosed environments in their close proximity, are likely to be more vulnerable to the COVID-19 disease than the general population.”

For journalists jailed in countries affected by the virus, freedom is now a matter of life and death. Imprisoned journalists have no control over their surroundings, cannot choose to isolate, and are often denied necessary medical care. Many of these journalists have been held in detention without trial for lengthy periods and are suffering from ill health exacerbated by underlying health conditions and overcrowded prisons, where they have contracted malaria, tuberculosis, and other diseases.

We urge you to release every jailed journalist in your respective countries and to protect the free press and the free flow of information at this crucial time. Journalism must not carry a death sentence.

Sincerely,

(for names of signing organisations see link below)

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/03/20/corona-virus-threatens-human-rights-defenders-in-detention-egypt-and-turkey/

UN experts alarmed over China’s missing human rights lawyers: victims of RSDL

March 24, 2020

Ding Jiaxi was disbarred and previously jailed for protesting against official corruption. (Twitter pic/L4L_INT)

A group of UN special rapporteurs said on Monday 23 March 2020 that they were “gravely concerned” about the welfare of three human rights lawyers “forcibly disappeared” by Chinese authorities shortly after their arrests last December. Ding Jiaxi, a prominent Beijing-based disbarred lawyer, previously jailed for protesting against official corruption, and lawyers Zhang Zhongshun and Dai Zhenya have been held since late last year in so-called “residential surveillance in a designated location” (RSDL – see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/10/more-on-residential-surveillance-in-a-designated-location-rsdl-in-china/). The three were among more than a dozen lawyers and activists who were detained or went missing in the final days of 2019 in what rights groups have said was a crackdown on participants of a private democracy gathering.

Nine other lawyers and activists who attended the informal weekend gathering in the city of Xiamen “have also been summoned for questioning or detained in what has been a cross-provincial operation led by a special taskforce of Yantai City police,” the experts pointed out.

The experts acknowledged that there are provisions in international law that allow exceptional measures to be taken to protect public order and national security. But they insisted that “enforced disappearance is a grave and flagrant violation of human rights and is unacceptable in all circumstances” .“We are dismayed that national security provisions are used to target human rights defenders who meet peacefully and exercise their right to free speech, even if such speech is critical of the state,” they said.The experts also cautioned that the arrest and detention of the three lawyers could have a “chilling effect” on the defence of human rights in China. “When the authorities in any country systemically charge human rights defenders with ‘subversion of state power’ or other terror-related charges without clearly communicating the factual basis for such accusations, we worry that these defenders are just being persecuted for the exercise of their most basic human rights,” they said. Earlier this month, activists revealed that Xu Zhiyong, an outspoken Chinese rights activist who called for President Xi Jinping to step down over the coronavirus outbreak, had been charged with “inciting state subversion” and had been placed in RSDL since mid-February. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/03/06/2013-turned-into-nightmare-for-human-rights-defenders/]

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/world/2020/03/23/un-experts-alarmed-over-chinas-missing-human-rights-lawyers/

COVID-19 emergencies should not be shortcut to silencing human rights defenders

March 17, 2020

Following on the heels of the joint statement on the Corona virus by the two High Commissioners [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/03/17/two-high-commissioners-issue-rare-joint-statement-re-covid-19/], more than a dozen U.N. experts on issues including on the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, health, education, and religious belief, along with the U.N. working group on arbitrary detention signed a statement urging Governments in crisis mode not to use the emergency measures to suppress human rights.

The rights experts, who are appointed by the United Nations Human Rigbhts Council but who do not speak on behalf of the world body, said they recognized “the severity of the current health crisis and acknowledge that the use of emergency powers is allowed by international law in response to significant threats” but they went on to “urgently remind states that any emergency responses to the coronavirus must be proportionate, necessary and non-discriminatory.

The experts stressed that the use of emergency powers should be declared publicly and the U.N. treaty bodies should be notified if fundamental rights, including movement, family life, and assembly were being significantly limited. “Moreover, emergency declarations based on the COVID-19 outbreak should not be used as a basis to target particular groups, minorities, or individuals,” they insisted. The emergency, the experts said, “should not function as a cover for repressive action under the guise of protecting health nor should it be used to silence the work of human rights defenders.”

They warned that some states might find the use of emergency powers “attractive because it offers shortcuts.” “To prevent such excessive powers to become hardwired into legal and political systems, restrictions should be narrowly tailored and should be the least intrusive means to protect public health,” they said.

 

Emergency Powers in Virus Fight Must Not be Used to Quash Dissent: UN Experts

International Women’s Day 2020: Joint Statement at 43rd session of UN Human Rights Council

March 9, 2020

Many organisations, especially NGOs, used the occasion of International Women’s Day 2020 to highlight work carried out by women human rights defenders. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/27/women-human-rights-defenders-in-focus-at-43rd-human-rights-council/. Here an example of how 18 NGOs came together for a Joint Statement during the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council

The speaker was: Paola Salwan Daher, Center for Reproductive Rights:

Nigeria: almost a hundred NGOs call on the Senate to reject Anti-Social Media Bill

March 5, 2020

Gabriel Ewepu in the Vanguard of 5 March 2020 reports that 95 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), under the auspices of Coalition of Civil Society Organizations for Protection of Civic Space, called on the Nigerian Senate to reject the Anti-Social Media Bill. This call was contained in a statement signed by leaders of the 95 during a media conference in Abuja. The statement reads in part:

Read the rest of this entry »

Renewal of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders crucial

February 29, 2020

At the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council, States will consider a resolution extending for three years the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders. Civil society organisations from across the world are calling on all States to support the consensus renewal of the mandate, and to resist any attempt to undermine the mandate and States’ obligations. This is a key opportunity for States and the Council to demonstrate their support and recognition for the indispensable role defenders play to ensure that all people enjoy freedom, dignity, justice and equality. Despite their vital contribution, both some governments and non-State actors are still seeking to silence defenders as they expose injustices and demand accountability for all.

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders is integral to their protection and recognition, globally. It gathers and responds to information on the situation of defenders around the world, engages constructively with governments and non-State actors and provides expert recommendations to promote the effective implementation of the Declaration on human rights defenders (‘the Declaration’).  See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/11/what-should-michael-forsts-successor-as-rapporteur-on-hrds-look-like/

In 2019, the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly supported the vital work of defenders. The Human Rights Council recognised the critical role of environmental human rights defenders in protecting natural ecosystems, addressing climate change, attaining the sustainable development goals (SDGs). The General Assembly passed by consensus a resolution focusing on implementation of the Declaration and some key elements of protection policy; the resolution also attracted a record number of co-sponsors.

More than 50 Civil society organisations from across the world are calling on all States to support the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur by:

  • Participating positively in the negotiations on the resolution,
  • Presenting early co-sponsorship of the text,
  • Resisting any attempts to dilute the mandate or State obligations, and
  • Supporting consensus renewal of the mandate.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc43-support-consensus-renewal-un-special-rapporteur-human-rights-defenders

Hay Festival in Emirates promotes freedom of expression but not for its citizens

February 26, 2020

As the Hay Festival Abu Dhabi opens on February 25–28, 2020 in the United Arab Emirates, we the undersigned call on the Emirati authorities to demonstrate their respect for the right to freedom of expression by freeing all human rights defenders imprisoned for expressing themselves peacefully online, including academics, writers, a poet, and lawyers. In the context of the Hay Festival, the UAE’s Ministry of Tolerance is promoting a platform for freedom of expression, while keeping behind bars Emirati citizens and residents who shared their own views and opinions. We support the efforts of festival participants to speak up in favor of all those whose voices have been silenced in the UAE. We further support calls for the UAE authorities to comply with international standards for prisoners, including by allowing prisoners of conscience to receive books and reading materials.The country’s most prominent human rights defender, Ahmed Mansoor, is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence after being convicted on the spurious charge of “insulting the status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols including its leaders” in reprisal for his peaceful human rights activism, including posts on social media. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/ahmed-mansoor/]……

Other prisoners have been tortured in prison in the UAE. A Polish fitness expert, Artur Ligęska, was held in the same isolation ward as Mansoor, in conditions he described as “medieval.” After his charges were dismissed and he was freed in May 2019, Ligęska wrote a book in which he recounted the prison conditions in Al-Sadr’s isolation wing, where prisoners were held without running water for many months in very unhygienic conditions, and some were subjected to torture, abuse, and sexual assault. He was instrumental in getting the news about Mansoor’s hunger strike out to the world from prison in March 2019, at great personal risk.

Other human rights defenders have faced similar mistreatment in prison, where they are often held in isolation, resorting to hunger strikes to try to bring attention to their unjust imprisonment and ill-treatment in detention, such as human rights lawyers Dr. Mohammed Al-Roken and Dr. Mohammed Al-Mansoori...

,,,

The Hay Festival Abu Dhabi is supported by the UAE’s Ministry of Tolerance in a country that does not tolerate dissenting voices. Regrettably, the UAE government devotes more effort to concealing its human rights abuses than to addressing them and invests heavily in the funding and sponsorship of institutions, events, and initiatives that are aimed at projecting a favorable image to the outside world.

With the world’s eyes on the Hay Festival Abu Dhabi, we urge the Emirati government to consider using this opportunity to unconditionally release our jailed friends and colleagues, and in the interim, to at least allow prisoners of conscience to receive books and reading materials, to have regular visits with family, to be allowed outside of their isolation cells to visit the canteen or go outside in the sun. In particular, we ask that Ahmed Mansoor be given a bed and a mattress so that he no longer has to sleep on the floor, and that prison officials cease punishing him for public appeals that are made on his behalf. We ask the authorities to improve their prison conditions as a sign of goodwill and respect for people who wish to organize and participate in events in the UAE, such as the Hay Festival Abu Dhabi or the upcoming Expo 2020 Dubai, in the future. By doing so, the UAE would demonstrate that the Hay Festival is an opportunity to back up its promise of tolerance with actions that include the courageous contributors to freedom of expression who live in the country. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/26/celebrity-endorsements-and-the-dubai-expo-on-the-one-hand-and-the-other/]

for names see: https://pen.org/open-letter-ngos-and-individuals-to-uae-authorities/

28 NGOs ask EU Parliament to reject cooperation deal with Vietnam on 11 February

February 10, 2020

The signing NGOs include Human Rights Watch, Defend the Defenders, The 88 Project, and the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam.

There are notable precedents of the European Parliament setting human rights benchmarks to be met before giving their consent to bilateral deals in order to promote human rights progress,” the NGOs claim pointing to a 2016 case in Uzbekistan and the EP’s rejection in March 2019 of the EU-Turkmenistan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. The European Parliament needs to take the exact same strategy with Vietnam, withholding Parliament’s permission and authorizing an identical resolution outlining the civils rights problems that Vietnam must satisfy for MEPs to greenlight the offer,” the NGOs claimed.

Only once a series of human rights concerns have been duly addressed by the state authorities, MEPs should give their consent to the deals.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/11/04/joint-ngo-letter-eu-vietnam-free-trade-agreement

NGOs Ask EU Parliament to Vote Against EU-Vietnam FTA And IPA Over Human Rights Issues

NGOs demand that rules against Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) are upgraded

January 28, 2020

Journalist Carole Cadwalladr, activist Arlindo Marquês and slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia have all being victims of SLAPP.

. to European Commissioner Vice President Věra Jourová ahead of proposed new laws. The NGOs want to ensure that EThe organisations include the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation, Reporters Without Borders, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth Europe

Jourová is preparing legislation which will work to deter such lawsuits.

In essence, SLAPPs are used to silence individuals and organisations that play a watchdog role and hold those in positions of power to account,” they wrote. Naming journalists within the European Union affected by SLAPP, the groups called the lawsuits received by assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia one of “the most striking examples which include journalists”. Maltese reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia had 47 law suits pending against her at the time of her assassination,” they said. (The Maltese government has refused to ban the use of SLAPP suits in Malta, rejecting a motion by the Opposition in parliament).

The Shift, which works with international organisations to fight the threats against journalists, has also itself faced threats of SLAPP suits twice – one by a Russian banker and another by Henley & Partners, Malta’s concessionaire for the cash for passports scheme. The same firm also targeted Caruana Galizia prior to her assassination. In both cases, The Shift did not back down. Journalist Carole Cadwalladr, who exposed the Cambridge Analytica data-harvesting scandal, is also facing SLAPP action, the organisations noted. British co-founder of the Leave.EU campaign Arron Banks is refusing to drop the final two SLAPP lawsuits against the journalist who now started a crowdfunding campaign to cover the massive legal costs.

The organisations said that SLAPP lawsuits are not limited to journalists, but are also targeted at academia, trade unionists, activists, civil society organisations and individual citizens, including human rights defenders. Strong EU anti-SLAPP measures, including legislation and legal funds for victims, at a time when there is no such legislation in force in any EU member state will help protect those who are vulnerable to this type of legal harassment, they said. Such measures would also send a strong political message that the EU is ready to stand up for its citizens and protect fundamental rights,” they continued.

EU legislation must cover everybody affected by SLAPP – 27 NGOs

Saudi Arabia finds that celebrities are easier to buy than human rights NGOs

January 13, 2020

On 13 January 2020 Amnesty International has released a joint statement, along with Transparency International and Civicus, [https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/ior30/1649/2020/en/] explaining why it will not be engaging in this year’s C20 process, a cycle of preparatory meetings leading up to the annual G20 summit, which  started yesterday with a three-day “kick-off meeting”.

“The C20 is supposed to provide a platform for civil society voices from around the world to influence the G20 agenda. Since Saudi Arabia has locked up most of its own independent activists, the only domestic organizations present will be aligned with the government – which makes a mockery of the whole process,” said Netsanet Belay, Research and Advocacy Director at Amnesty International. “The C20 in Riyadh is a sham. We cannot participate in a process which is being abused by a state which censors all free speech, criminalizes activism for women’s and minority rights, as well as homosexuality, and tortures and executes critics.”

Saudi Arabia took over the G20 presidency in December 2019. It has recently invested in expensive PR campaigns to improve its image, and hosted several high-profile sporting events which draw international visitors [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/04/dakar-rally-starts-on-5-january-in-jeddah-but-hrds-in-jail/]. But behind this carefully cultivated façade, Saudi Arabia’s human rights record is as appalling as ever. Saudi Arabia is responsible for the extrajudicial execution of the journalist and peaceful critic Jamal Khashoggi. More than a year after his murder in October 2018, there has been no justice or accountability for his death. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/27/saudi-arabia-continues-to-buy-celebrities-this-time-for-the-mdl-beast-festival/]

The country’s leading women’s rights activists remain behind bars and on trial for their promotion of women’s rights in the country. Scores of other individuals, including human rights defenders, have been serving lengthy prison terms for their peaceful activism or have been arbitrarily detained for up to a year and a half without charges. The Saudi Arabian authorities have also carried out executions following unfair trials and routine torture and other ill-treatment in custody.

The Saudi-led C20 process has already failed to guarantee the C20’s fundamental principles. The appointment of the Chairs of working groups and various committees was opaque and non-consultative, while arbitrary decisions have excluded experienced international groups. The C20 process is led by the King Khalid Foundation, which is connected to the Saudi Royal Family, and cannot be considered as transparent, inclusive and participatory. Since the Saudi authorities ban political parties, trade unions and independent human rights groups, there is no way the C20 meetings can be the free and open discussions they are designed to be.

The full statement is available here