Posts Tagged ‘judicial harassment’

On 26 April Numan Afifi must report to the police in Malaysia – smells like reprisal

April 24, 2019

On 16 April 2019, human rights defender Numan Afifi was asked by the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) to present himself on 26 April at the federal police headquarters in Bukit Aman in relation to an investigation into a speech that he had delivered at the United Nations in Geneva last month.

According to the information received from  Front Line Defenders, Numan Afifi is a human rights defender who has advocated for LGBT+ rights in Malaysia. He has actively contributed to issues ranging from democracy to HIV advocacy through his involvement in the Pelangi Campaign, the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs in the UPR Process (COMANGO) and Challenger.

On 16 April 2019, the human rights defender was contacted by an inspector from the Classified Crimes Investigation Unit, which investigates cases that fall under the Sedition Act. Numan Afifi has been asked to present himself at the federal police headquarters in Bukit Aman on 26 April 2019 to provide a statement regarding a speech presented at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva during the Consideration of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Outcome of Malaysia on 14 March 2019. The human rights defender has not been told whether the police investigation concerns his speech alone or if other civil society organisations present at the conference are involved as well. To date, no official charges have been lodged against him.

In Geneva, Numan Afifi read out a statement on the situation of LGBT+ rights in Malaysia. The statement, which was a response to Malaysia’s UPR submission, had been prepared by a coalition of 12 Malaysian organisations working on gender identity and sexual orientation. It commended the government on its acceptance of one of the recommendations regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, and raised concerns about the rejection of the other 10. The statement also called for the government and civil society to have a dialogue on sexual orientation and gender identity.

[On 17 April 2019, a smear campaign has been launched against him by pro-government groups on social media, alleging that the statement he had presented at the UN conference contained inaccurate information. The human rights defender is being pressured to retract his claims regarding the existence of state-sponsored violence against LGBT+ people in Malaysia. In June 2017, Numan Afifi was barraged with online criticism, harassment and death threats after organising a “gay breaking fast” event during the month of Ramadan to show solidarity to the LGBT+ community.]

For some of many posts on reprisals: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/numan-afifi-summoned-questioning-police-over-speech-delivered-un

UN Rapporteurs intervene again for Palestinian human rights defender Issa Amro

April 11, 2019

Israel must fully honour and implement the rights and obligations contained in the UN’s Declaration on human rights defenders, and in particular end the use of criminal, legal and security tools to obstruct the legitimate work of human rights defenders, say two UN rapporteurs: Michael Lynk, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory and Michel Forst, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders .

Their comments come on 11 April 2019 after the latest hearing on 7 April in the case of Issa Amro, a human rights defender and founder of Youth Against Settlements, a Hebron-based group which seeks to end settlement expansion through non-violent civil resistance. “Israel must provide for the protection of human rights defenders in the context of their work and ensure that, if charged with any offence, their right to a fair trial is respected,” said the Rapporteurs “The case of Issa Amro is emblematic of the sophisticated array of obstacles faced by Palestinian human rights defenders who engage in non-violent activities.

Cracking down on individuals whose work is essential to denouncing violations and creating safe and peaceful societies, sends a troubling message that the Israeli authorities make little effort to abide by international human rights standards, including the right to a fair trial.

We are very concerned that in January 2019 Israel did not renew the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), an international observer force that was instrumental in efforts to avoid violence – a decision which led to a group of human rights defenders, including Issa Amro, deciding to accompany children to school.”

The UN experts also expressed deep concern about the repressive working environment faced by Palestinian human rights organisations in recent years.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/08/14/five-un-experts-urge-israel-to-stop-harassment-of-human-rights-activist-issa-amro/ and https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/issa-amro

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1904/S00078/israel-must-ensure-protection-for-issa-amro.htm

Philippines: killing and harassment of HRDs goes on

February 7, 2019

In a January 2019 decision obtained by Rappler this week, the Department of Justice revived the charges against Ressa and Santos, as well as Rappler Inc., on the grounds that the news article was updated in February 2014, and is therefore actionable. Maria Ressa and Rappler Inc are already facing charges of tax evasion which Amnesty has condemned as politically-motivated. Rappler has been a consistent critic of President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration, publishing detailed investigations into some of the thousands of extrajudicial executions committed by police and other unknown armed persons during drug-related operations.

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/peace-consultant-and-human-rights-defender-randy-felix-malayao-killed

https://www.amnestyusa.org/press-releases/yet-another-absurd-legal-attack-against-rappler-and-maria-ressa-in-the-philippines/

Bangladesh Government depicted as “against human rights defenders”

March 5, 2018

Among the many (written) NGO statements issued during the current session of the UN Council on Human Rights in Geneva, this one by the Asian Legal Resource Centre stands out by describing a whole government apparatus as standing against independent human rights defenders. It was dated 26 

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) wants to bring the situation of human rights defenders of Bangladesh to the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Government of Bangladesh stands against the human rights defenders with draconian legislations and various institutions and agencies of the State. Independent dissenting voices face systemic harassments. Given the circumstances, the human rights defenders have to work without any notion of protection while defending rights in the country. The threats against the human rights defenders are increasing as the 3rd Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is approaching.

The Government of Bangladesh has amended the existing laws and has adopted new laws with vague definitions and harsher provisions to stifle the human rights organisations and individual defenders along with other dissenting voices.

The incumbent government made the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act 2016. This law not only intimidates the civil society actors but also prevents the expected outcome that the human rights organisations strive for achieving for the society. The law provides the NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB), a wing under the Office of Prime Minister, the power to review and cancel proposed projects by NGOs. A persons’ travelling out of Bangladesh in relation to the projects requires prior governmental approval. The NGO Affairs Bureau is authorised to scrutinise the activities through inspections and monthly coordination meetings by the representatives of the NGOAB while prior approval is also required for planned activities before receiving the grants. Without any judicial process the NGOAB is empowered to impose sanctions for alleged ‘non-compliance’ against any organisation or individual receiving foreign funds for voluntary activities. Such actions also include fines, disciplinary actions, and cancellation of registration of the NGO even for ‘derogatory’ remarks. The decisions of the NGOAB can only be brought before the Secretary of Office of the Prime Minister as an ‘appeal’. The law establishes the bureaucrats’ control over voluntary activities while Bangladesh’s bureaucracy has reputation for systemic corruption and abuse of power.

Bangladesh’s Cabinet has approved the Digital Security Bill-2018 on 29 January 2018. This Bill may be enacted in any day during the ongoing Session of the national parliament. This proposed law curtails both the freedom of press and the writ of human rights organisations. The police is authorised to arrest any person without a warrant of arrest issued by a Court of the country if the police officer believes that an offence is committed under this law. A person can be imprisoned for 14 years, with or without a fine of BDT 10 million for publishing any material online for ‘spreading negative propaganda against Liberation War or the Father of the Nation’ while there is no definition of ‘negative propaganda’ provided in the law. Publishing ‘false’ and ‘distorted’ information to tarnish the image of the State is punishable with three years’ imprisonment and with or without a penalty of BDT three hundred thousand. If a person is held for the second time for the same crime he or she will be imprisoned for five years with or without a penalty of BDT one million. Such provision will put the human rights defenders in grave danger, as they have to contest the official version of the State, which always denies allegation of human rights abuses and accuses the rights groups for ‘tarnishing the image of the State’. For example, the government and the law-enforcement agencies of Bangladesh deny every incident of enforced disappearances and each of extrajudicial executions while the human rights defenders and media explore and expose the truth.

Bangladesh Government, by default, protects the perpetrators of human rights abuses in a deeply rooted culture of impunity. The State prevents the basic institutions from functioning and serving the people with fairness. Instead, the incumbent government uses all the institutions, including the judiciary, as tools to secure its power at the cost of the lives and liberties of the ordinary people.

The participation of independent human rights organisations in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council makes them governmental targets for exposing the human rights realities. For example, Odhikar, a locally based human rights organisation, contributed to the UPR process during the first and second cycles in 2009 and in 2013. This rights group consistently documented the cases and pattern of extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, custodial torture, curtailing the freedom of expression and opinion, and denial of justice to the victims of gross human rights abuses in Bangladesh. The government started harassing this organisation for publishing a fact-finding report on a massive crackdown in May 2013. Its leaders were made the victims of the country’s first ever cyber crime case, which is still pending before a special tribunal incepted for holding trial of such cases. Their bank accounts are frozen and NGO registration’s renewal has been halted since mid 2014. The activists who are engaged in standing beside the victims of human rights violations remain under active surveillance by the intelligence and law-enforcement agencies.

Bangladesh is moving toward another general election by the end of 2018. The incidents of gross human rights abuses are also on the rise. The incumbent government is using the State’s law-enforcement agencies and judiciary to drive away the political opposition. The government has already started arresting the opposition activists arbitrarily as the main opposition leader is afraid to be convicted in controversial corruption cases. As days pass on more violation of human rights would deteriorate the situation requiring the human rights defenders to assist the victims. The activities of the rights groups would invite more reprisals against the human rights defenders, except those who directly or indirectly align with the incumbent government for their financial and political benefits.

Bangladesh’s system of governance is authoritarian and coercive by nature. The institutions – be it a constitutional body or a statutory entity – function according to the wish of the Prime Minister, as a supreme controller of everything. The universal normative principles of justice and good governance do not exist or work in this country. As a result, all the basic institutions constantly fail to act for the actual purpose of upholding the rule of law and facilitate functional democracy. The judiciary and the entire criminal justice apparatus, survive as mere facades. These facades facilitate the process of silencing the society’s vibrant voices.

The ALRC urges the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders to request Bangladesh for sending invitation to the mandate for country visit. The Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to focus on Bangladesh’s domestic human rights realities and intervene for the protection of victims from gross violation of rights.

For some of my other posts on Bangladesh see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/bangladesh/

http://alrc.asia/bangladesh-government-stands-against-independent-human-rights-defenders/

Jiang Tianyong, Chinese defender of defenders, sentenced to 2 years jail

November 21, 2017

Jiang Tianyong, 46, who had taken on many high-profile cases including those of Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetan protesters and victims of the 2008 contaminated milk powder scandal, before being disbarred in 2009, received a two year jail sentence. He was convicted on the spurious grounds of “inciting subversion” on Tuesday. Jiang’s sentence is the most high-profile jailing since Xi confirmed his status as China’s most powerful leader in a generation at a Communist Party congress last month. Jiang’s family has been unable to contact him since his sudden disappearance last November en route from Beijing to Changsha, where he had gone to inquire about detained human rights lawyer Xie Yang.

Jiang Tianyong has long been infiltrated and influenced by anti-China forces and gradually formed the idea of overthrowing the existing political system of the country,” the judge said. The court said he had gone abroad for training on how to accomplish the goal and “applied for financial support from foreign anti-China forces”.

German Ambassador to China Michael Clauss expressed “serious concerns about the lawfulness of the legal proceedings”, saying in a statement the trial’s circumstances “certainly called into question the fairness of the verdict”. Germany will “continue to take an active interest in his fate,” he added.

The United Nations special rapporteur on human rights, Michel Forst, has said he feared Jiang’s previous disappearance was in part retaliation for the lawyer’s assistance to UN experts.

Jiang’s sentence was “a textbook example of the Chinese authorities’ systematic persecution of those who are brave enough to defend human rights in China today,” said Amnesty International China researcher William Nee. It was likely to have a “chilling effect” on other activists, since the evidence used against him was so minimal: critical social media comments, attendance of overseas trainings, and showing moral support to other human rights defenders facing trials.

Jiang’s wife, Jin Bianling, said none of the lawyers she had hired were allowed to see him and she only learned in August that the court had appointed one. “I contacted him continuously, but as soon as he heard I was Jiang Tianyong’s wife, he would immediately hang up the phone,” Jin, who fled to the US in 2013, told AFP by telephone. Four wives of lawyers detained in the 709 crackdown who came to show support were harassed by plainclothes agents and also denied entry in Changsha. “When I heard all the charges they listed against him, I felt my husband was very righteous. They made me greatly admire him,” she said. “I think history will remember what my husband has done.”

http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/world/chinese-human-rights-lawyers-jailed-for-two-years/article/508131

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/22/chinese-activist-jiang-tianyong-subversion-trial-dismissed-as-sham

Many birthday parties for jailed human rights defender in Turkey

October 12, 2017

human rights defenders in Turkey, still in jail after 100 days

Ten activists, including İdil Eser, the Director of Amnesty International Turkey, were arrested on 5 July. İdil’s 54th birthday is on 14 October, which she will spend imprisoned on baseless and trumped-up charges. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/12/turkey-detention-of-human-rights-defenders-further-extended/] (Amnesty International Turkey’s Chair, Taner Kılıç, was also arrested a month earlier. On 4 October a prosecutor filed an indictment calling for jail terms of up to 15 years for all 11 human rights defenders on absurd terrorism charges.)

After three months the investigation has unsurprisingly failed to provide any incriminating evidence to substantiate the prosecutor’s fantastical charges. .. The activists are accused of assisting a variety of “armed terrorist organisations” with diametrically opposing ideologies. They face maximum sentences of 15 years. The charges against them include outlandish claims that standard human rights activities – such as appealing to stop the sale of tear gas, making a grant application or campaigning for the release of hunger striking teachers – were carried out on behalf of terrorist organizations. Some of the claims against İdil are based on Amnesty International documents and public communications that predate her appointment at the organisation.

To mark İdil’s 54th birthday, Amnesty International will hold more than 200 parties and actions globally, starting with a public, pop-up, Turkish-themed birthday party on 13 October in Auckland. Elsewhere around the world there will be a birthday party in the European Parliament and a press conference in a makeshift prison in Madrid. The parties will feature full-size paper cutouts of Idil to highlight her absence, along with Turkish food, music, decorations and more.

I am ready to pay the price for my choice to work on human rights and I am not scared. My time in jail has made me even more committed to standing up for my values. I will not compromise them.” Idil Eser (8/19/17).

 

Rouhani’s Iran disappoints massively on human rights

August 23, 2017

Those who held hopes that with the re-election of the ‘moderate’ President, Hassan Rouhani, things would also improve in Iran for the large number of human rights defenders in detention will be disappointed. In fact many of his supporters are frustrated by his failing to enact numerous reforms he promised, including the release of HRDs. Here some of the recent developments:

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Funders should help HRDs to withstand legal onslaughts by corporations

July 7, 2017

Otto Saki of the Ford Foundation contributed a piece  How companies are using law suits to silence environmental activists—and how philanthropy can help”. On 30 June 2017, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre provided the following summary:

…While extrajudicial killings…[of human rights defenders] attract immediate condemnation, corporate interests are using other, less obviously violent means to undermine the important work of these activists: Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) are used to intimidate, harass, and silence activists who are working to expose corporate injustices and human rights violations. As intended, such lawsuits have a clear chilling effect on activism, silencing critical voices and stifling accountability…

…While there are strong laws aimed at protecting people’s rights, those laws too often fail to be applied. At the same time, big businesses have amassed great power and influence; they are armed literally and figuratively with high-value law firms, auditors, security experts, and investigators to defend their interests. Facing that kind of arsenal, it is difficult for individuals and organizations to fight back.

The use of SLAPP suits in South Africa is becoming a trend…

…South Africa needs to revise court procedures to make it easier for judges to scrutinize frivolous lawsuits without dragging the defendants into court. Second, civil society must recognize that SLAPP lawsuits are not isolated, but are part of a broad and purposeful strategy to distract and disable environmental activists and empower corporate interests.

…As philanthropy considers how to best support and build resilience for social justice activists and institutions, it is critical to consider their ability to withstand this kind of legal pressure…As funders, we need to have open conversations with our grantees about how they can be prepared before a crisis erupts…

Read the full post here

Source: Commentary: Philanthropy should consider how best to support human rights defenders when companies use lawsuits to silence them | Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Europe also sees shrinking space for human rights defenders

April 4, 2017

On 4 April 2017 Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, wrote about “The Shrinking Space for Human Rights Organisations“. The new EU ‘alert site I referred to yesterday [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/03/protectdefenders-eu-launches-new-alert-website-but-no-single-stop-yet/] showed in 2016 some 86 reported violations in the European (and Central Asian) region, mostly detention and judicial harassment. Also the recent CIVICUS findings of the narrowing space for civil society points in this direction. An example could be Hungary as illustrated by reports of Human Rights Watch (2016), Human Rights First (2017) and Amnesty International (2016/17); the issue of academic freedom is not directly related but part of the restrictive trend [see links below].

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

March 11, 2017

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

 

 

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

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

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

Phnom Penh 20170207 PHTO
Cambodian police detain protesters during a protest to free jailed activists in Phnom Penh, Cambodia May 9, 2016.© Reuters/Samrang Pring

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

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

 

Sources:

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

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

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