Posts Tagged ‘kidnapping’

International abductions are becoming ‘mainstream’ human rights defenders find

July 15, 2021

Shawn Utley reports in the Madison Leader Gazette of July 14, 2021 on a Freedom House “webinar” about the alleged Iranian plot to kidnap Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad.

A newly released Justice Department indictment charging four Iranian intelligence operatives with plotting to kidnap a New York-based journalist who had criticized the Iranian regime, dramatically underscores how transnational abductions are becoming the new “normal” for repressive regimes around the world, two human rights activists said Wednesday.

“It’s a horrific attempt to silence dissent,” Saudi activist Lina Alhathloul said during a Freedom House “webinar” about the alleged Iranian plot to lure Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad to a third country so she could be forcibly rendered to Iran.

Her sister, prominent women’s rights activist Loujain Alhathloul, was abducted in Dubai in 2018 and flown to Saudi Arabia, where she was thrown in prison and tortured under the direction of a top aide to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS, according to U.S. officials and the accounts from the Alhathloul family.

This is very much a moment when we see this phenomenon is becoming mainstream,” added Nate Schenkkan, director of research strategy at Freedom House, “It’s becoming something that dozens of governments around the world use to control exiles and diaspora members. Countries do it because they can get away with it and because the consequences are not there.”

The comments came during a Freedom House-sponsored panel dedicated to the growing threat of the transnational repression trend, as detailed in a recent report and video from the group, and to the new season of Yahoo News “Conspiracy land” an eight-episode podcast that uncovered new details about the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

As was noted in the panel discussion, there are striking parallels between the Saudi plot to assassinate Khashoggi and the alleged Iranian plot to kidnap Alinejad. Both targeted journalists who, after criticizing their governments, had moved to the United States to live in exile. Khashoggi had excoriated the harsh crackdowns by MBS, including the detention of Loujain Alhathloul. Alinejad had criticized the corruption and repressive measures of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

A general manager of Alarab TV, Jamal Khashoggi, looks on during a press conference in the Bahraini capital Manama, on December 15, 2014. (Mohammed Al-Shaikh/AFP via Getty Images)
Jamal Khashoggi. (Getty Images)

Both plots involved extensive surveillance on U.S. soil. In Khashoggi’s case, Saudi operatives recruited spies inside Twitter to steal personal data about regime critics and later used sophisticated spyware to hack the phones of one of those critics who was in extensive contact with the Saudi journalist. In Alinejad’s case, Iranian intelligence operatives used private investigators to follow, photograph and video-record the Iranian-American journalist and members of her family in Brooklyn, according to federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, who on Tuesday brought the indictment against the Iranian operatives, all of whom reside in Iran..

https://wmleader.com/general-other/103482/iranian-kidnapping-plot-shows-that-transnational-abductions-are-becoming-mainstream-human-rights-activists-say/

https://freedomhouse.org/article/iran-plot-kidnap-american-writer-highlights-threat-transnational-repression

Mary Robinson and the case of the Arab Princess

February 16, 2021

There’s a saying in show business that you can spend 20 years becoming an overnight star. In politics, the same is true in reverse, as the sad case of Mary Robinson and Princess Latifa of Dubai shows. Mary Robinson as former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and a widely-honored human rights defender [with 9 awards to her name, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/4E44A265-DF1A-45E2-8C6A-3294577EA211] was a much admired personality. For that reason I was reluctant to highlight her role in the sad case back in December 2018, although many human rights NGOs (including AI and HRW) did criticise her.

The former UN human rights Commissioner has been criticised for describing the daughter of Dubai’s ruler as “troubled” after she was reportedly forcibly returned to the kingdom after fleeing months earlier. Mary Robinson met with Sheikha Latifa on 15 December and photos released showed the two women smiling together in what appears to be a home. Ms Robinson, the former president of Ireland, told BBC’s Radio 4 the princess was a “vulnerable” woman with a “serious medical situation” for which she was receiving psychiatric care.

Immediately the highly publicised and bizarre meeting in December was panned by rights groups for being stage-managed by the Emirati ruling family (Ms Robinson is a personal friend of Sheikha Haya, a wife of the Dubai ruler.) Defending her comments, Ms Robinson released a statement saying: “I am dismayed at some of the media comments on my visit and I would like to say I undertook the visit and made an assessment, not a judgement, based on personal witness, in good faith and to the best of my ability.”

Toby Cadman, a barrister instructed by Detained in Dubai to act on behalf of the princess, told Review: “I am extremely disappointed that she would lend herself to what has been interpreted as a whitewash. We have requested an independent assessment of [Princess Latifa’s] state of mind and her physical well-being. It’s up to the United Nations to be satisfied that she is not being detained against her will.” Then in January 2019 Mrs Robinson stated that she contacted Michelle Bachelet, UN high commissioner for human rights. On 18/02/2019 Former Irish president Mary Robinson said she has no regrets over getting involved in the case of a Dubai princess who had tried to flee the UAE.

Exactly one year on from Latifa’s dramatic capture at sea, rights groups told The Independent they were deeply concerned about her welfare and still had no knowledge of what happened to her between her March 2018 capture and December when she reappeared in Dubai. Pleas to the UAE for an independent delegation to be granted access to the royal to assess her, have gone unanswered. “Human Rights Watch is still calling for her to be able to travel to a third country where we and other monitors can be assured she is able to speak freely and independently without fear of retaliation,” Hiba Zayadin of HRW told The Independent.Ms Robinson is not equipped to make an evaluation of Latifa, who was in the presence of people who allegedly forcibly disappeared her,” she added.

Amnesty International put out a similar call. “There has been no reply from the UAE, which has never responded to anything regarding domestic human-rights abuses that Amnesty International has attempted to raise with them,” said Amnesty’s Devin Kenney.

Now, 16 February 2021, after new footage was shared by BBC Panorama, in which the 35-year-old daughter of the ruler of Dubai has confirmed that commandos drugged her as she tried to flee by boat and flew her back to detention and accused her father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, of holding her “hostage”, Mrs Robinson has stated that she feels “horribly tricked” by the family of Princess Latifa Al Maktoum, and has joined in calls for immediate international action in order to establish Princess Latifa’s current condition and whereabouts

Fortunately some of the worst rumours turn out not to be true e.g.that  Sheikha Latifa was killed during early 2019 through extreme physical torture by the female maids inside the palace.[https://www.weeklyblitz.net/news/fraud-racket-plays-new-trick-centering-a-murdered-princess/].

Robinson is rightly revered for her life’s work, and that work is not invalidated by her unacceptable interference in the case of Princess Latifa. But her reputation has been tarnished by this.

And on 25 February followed this https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/25/princess-latifa-letter-uk-police-investigate-sister-shamsa-cambridge-abduction

For those interested in the many articles about his case:

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/ireland/dubai-paid-for-robinson-to-visit-runaway-princess-c3gnrv8cj
https://www.irishcentral.com/news/politics/former-irish-president-defends-decision-to-meet-princess-allegedly-detained-against-will
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/the-mysterious-story-of-princess-latifa-her-reported-escape-from-dubai-and-her-meeting-with-mary-robinson-37679044.html
https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/mary-robinson-visit-to-dubai-a-private-family-matter-says-princess-haya-895790.html
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/robinson-writes-to-un-human-rights-chief-wp2z8vc9j
http://www.midwestradio.ie/index.php/news/28421-mary-robinson-s-address-to-ireland-s-diplomats-today-will-take-place-behind-closed-doors
https://www.wsj.com/articles/mrs-robinson-and-the-missing-princess-11547078838
https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/mary-robinson-dubai-princess-latifa-escape-uae-sheikh-mohammed-haya-a8717081.html
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6586191/UAE-swaps-British-arms-consultant-centre-bribery-scandal-Dubai-princess.html was there a swap? https://scroll.in/latest/909621/christian-michels-family-to-move-un-after-claims-that-he-was-extradited-in-swap-for-dubai-princess
https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/mary-robinson-cancels-appearance-dubai-festival-over-jailed-uae-activist-840835552
https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/01/17/uae-injustice-intolerance-repression
https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/former-president-mary-robinson-has-no-regrets-over-dubai-princess-visit-905272.html
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/letter-robinson-sent-to-un-about-princess-latifa-visit-is-not-for-public-distribution-37833996.html
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6925547/Lisa-Bloom-calls-Dubai-rulers-HORSE-banned-Kentucky-derby-protest.html
https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190629-reports-dubai-princess-left-crown-prince-husband-fled-uae/
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/feb/18/uae-release-latifa-shamsa-women-rights

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/feb/28/the-tourists-who-flock-to-dubai-seem-happy-to-overlook-a-few-missing-princesses

Human rights defender Sandra Kodouda remains missing four days after abduction in Sudan

April 17, 2015

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped reports that on 12 April 2015, human rights defender Sandra Kodouda was forcibly taken from her car by a group of unidentified men in Omdurman, Sudan. 

She was speaking to a friend on the phone and the kidnappers were overheard on the telephone line as they refused to show their identification when Sandra Kodouda requested it, and instructed her to switch off her phone. Shortly after, family members found her abandoned car with the keys still in the ignition. When filing a criminal case at the Omdurman Central Police Station alleging the kidnapping of Sandra Kodouda, her family members were informed by the authorities that there was no record of her detention at that time.

[Sandra Kodouda has campaigned on social issues throughout the country. She is a member of the Youth Committee against the Building of Dal and Kajabar Dams, and peacefully partook in country-wide anti-austerity demonstrations in September and October 2013. Sandra Kodouda has previously been targeted as a result of her human rights work. She was detained by the NISS in August 2014 on account of her participation in the No to Women’s Oppression collective, an initiative which has worked to raise awareness of oppression against women and to promote and protect women’s rights through peaceful protest and reporting. She was also detained by the NISS in July 2012 after mobilising support for the release of youth activist Mr Rudwan Daoud, who himself had been detained by the NISS in the same month on the basis of participating in peaceful political protests.]

Kidnappings of human rights defenders in DRC continue unabated

September 16, 2014

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - croppedjust published two recent reports on kidnappings in DRC. The first is that on 13 September 2014, the corpse of human rights defender Mr Mutebwa Kaboko was found in a forest, eight days after he was kidnapped by an armed group. Mutebwa Kaboko was a training facilitator for the organisation Aide Rapide aux Victimes des Catastrophes – ARVC, created in 2008 to help disaster victims, especially women and vulnerable children. Now operating in the territories of Uvira and Fizi Walungu, the association has led a campaign against the phenomenon of forced marriage.  He was abducted by men suspected of belonging to an armed group known as Mayi Mayi Yakutumba. [On 20 June 2014, Mutebwa Kaboko was abducted in a similar way by elements of Mayi Mayi Yakutumba. He had apparently denounced their presence in the locality of Katete. They had held Mutebwa Kaboko in the open forest for five days before releasing him.]

On 14 September two other human rights defenders, Ms Neema Bitu and Mr Jacques Muganga, were found back after being kidnapped and held for two days by members of a rebel group. The two defenders are investigators of l’Action des Femmes Contre la Torture – AFCT (Action for Women Against Torture), an organisation defending the rights of women based in the village of Mwaba Kangando/Kiliba, tens of kilometers from the town of Uvira near the border between Burundi and the DRC. The perpetrators are this time  suspected of belonging to Forces Nationales de Libération du Burundi, a rebel group composed mostly of Burundian combatants and operating in parts of South Kivu in the DRC. On the night of 13 September 2014, the two defenders were able to escape from their captors while they were firing on the government army. Their colleagues found them at dawn on 14 September 2014 at approximately. During their captivity, they reportedly suffered terrible beatings and now require emergency medical treatment.

This follows the abduction and detention on 1 September 2014, of human rights defenders Mr Célestin Bambone, Ms Marie Amnazo and Ms Kongwa Tulinabo [from the Action Paysanne pour le Développement et la Promotion des Droits de l’Homme (Peasant Action for the Development and Promotion of Human Rights – APDPDH), a human rights organisation based in Mugutu, in the South Kivu province and specialising in the monitoring of human rights violations in Mugutu and surrounding villages].

 

Today official launch of AI’s Panic Button – a new App to fight attack, kidnap and torture

June 23, 2014

Amnesty International launches new open source ‘Panic Button’ app to help activists facing imminent danger.

Today, 23 June 2014, Amnesty International launches its open source ‘Panic Button’ app to help human rights defenders facing imminent danger. The aim is to increase protection for those who face the threat of arrest, attack, kidnap and torture. In short:

Read the rest of this entry »

45 NGOs demand that Syrian militants release Human Rights Defenders

May 27, 2014

On 27 May RIA Novosti picked up the press release by Human Rights Watch calling for four prominent human rights defenders allegedly in custody of an armed opposition group in Syria to be immediately released. HRW together with 45 co-signing organizations states that irregular armed opposition groups in Syria are threatening and harassing journalists and human rights defenders.“Abductions of human rights defenders by armed groups in Syria are an assault on the very freedoms the armed opposition groups claim to be fighting for”. Almost six months a group of armed men kidnapped human rights defenders Razan Zeitouneh [or Zaitouneh], Wael Hamada, Samira Khalil, and Nazem Hammadi in a city outside Damascus, then controlled by a number of armed opposition groups, but there has been no information on the status or whereabouts of Zeitouneh and her colleagues, and no group has claimed responsibility for their abduction.

See previous post with video message  by Zaitouneh: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/01/27/human-rights-defender-razan-zaitouneh-still-missing-in-syria-after-one-month/

via HRW Demands Syrian Militants Release Rights Defenders Working to Expose Rebel Abuses | World | RIA Novosti.

Solidarity Foundation for Human Rights reports two human rights defenders kidnapped in Nablus

February 26, 2014

On 25 February 2014 the International Middle East Media Centre [IMEMC] carries a report from the Palestinian Solidarity Foundation for Human Rights (SFHR) that Israeli soldiers kidnapped on Tuesday its lawyer and its researcher, after the army violently invaded their homes in the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

The lawyer is Fares Riyad Abu al-Hasan and the researcher Ahmad Hamed al-Beetawy. The NGO said dozens of soldiers invaded the home of Abu al-Hasan, in the Rojeeb Housing Projects area, east of Nablus, and kidnapped him after violently searching his home causing property damage. The soldiers detonated the door of Abu al-Hasan’s home, invading the place and terrifying the family. They also interrogated Abu al-Hasan’s father for more than an hour, and confiscated documents and files. Abu al-Hasan was moved to the Petah Tikva interrogation facility. The  soldiers also detonated the front door of the home of Ahmad al-Beetawy, and invaded the property in the Dahia area, south of Nablus, searched it for more than an hour and kidnapped him.

The foundation said that the soldiers also invaded its office in al-Isra’ building, in the center of Nablus city, and confiscated computers and files after violently searching the property.

via Two Palestinian Human Rights Defenders Kidnapped In Nablus – International Middle East Media Center.

Huge number of NGOs call on Laos to investigate Sombath’s disappearance one year on

December 13, 2013
62 regional and international organizations expressed their outrage over the Lao Government’s ongoing failure to shed light on the enforced disappearance of prominent human rights defender Sombath Somphone. Sunday 15 December 2013 will mark the one-year anniversary of Sombath’s disappearance. Sombath was last seen on the evening of December 15, 2012 in Vientiane. Closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage showed that police stopped Sombath’s car at a police post. Within minutes after being stopped, unknown individuals forced him into another vehicle and drove away. Analysis of the CCTV footage shows that Sombath was taken away in the presence of police officers. This fact supports a finding of government complicity. Despite the Lao Government’s pledge to “thoroughly and seriously” investigate Sombath’s disappearance, the authorities’ probe has been inadequate and unproductive and there has been no progress in the investigation.

Sombath’s enforced disappearance is not an isolated incident. To this day, the whereabouts of nine people, two women, Kingkeo and Somchit, as well as seven men, SoubinhSouaneSinpasongKhamsoneNou,Somkhit, and Sourigna, arbitrarily detained by Lao security forces in November 2009 in various locations across the country remain unknown. The nine had planned peaceful demonstrations calling for democracy and respect of human rights. Also unknown are the whereabouts of Somphone Khantisouk, the owner of an ecotourism guesthouse and an outspoken critic of Chinese-sponsored agricultural projects that were damaging the environment in the northern province of Luang Namtha. He disappeared after uniformed men abducted him in January 2007. Signed by: Read the rest of this entry »

4 Human Rights Defenders kidnapped in Douma, Syria

December 13, 2013

On 9 December 2013, 4 human rights defenders [Ms Razan Zaitouna, Mr Wael Hamada, Mr Nazem Hamaadi and Ms Samira Khalil] were abducted by masked armed men and taken to unknown whereabouts in Syria. They were kidnapped from the offices of the Center for Documenting Human Rights Violations in Syria, located in Douma. Razan Zaitouna is an award-winning human rights defender who worked on the rights of political prisoners in Syria before the revolution, and continued her activities throughout the peaceful uprising in 2011, founding the ‘local coordination committees’. In 2011, she received the Anna Politkovskaya award “RAW (Reach All Women) in WAR” and in 2013 the International Women of Courage Award. Wael Hamada is an active human rights defender who had been kidnapped by the authorities in 2011 for his legitimate work in the defence of human rights in Syria, and Nazem Hamaadi is a well-known lawyer and poet, respected for his defence of detainees who were arrested in Damascus during the revolution. Samira Khalil is a human rights activist and a member of a peaceful political opposition party in Syria.Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped

Human Rights Film makers kidnapped in Sulu, Philippines

June 26, 2013

Jolo 1

UNIDENTIFIED GUNMEN abducted two Moro filmmakers who were working on an independent film project in troubled Sulu province in the Southern Philippines over the weekend. Read the rest of this entry »