Posts Tagged ‘labour activists’

Turkmenistan’s cotton activist Matalaev free after 3 years

September 11, 2019

Gaspar Matalaev

valdosta / Pixabay

blogged in Value Walk of 9 September 2019 about “Gaspar Matalaev Free After Three Years Of Unjust Imprisonment”.  Gaspar Matalaev, a labor rights monitor from Turkmenistan, was released from prison on 6 September after three years’ imprisonment in retaliation for his reporting on forced labor. A court in Turkmenabat sentenced Matalaev on spurious charges of fraud in 2016 and Matalaev served the entire three-year sentence. “We are relieved that Gaspar is out of prison and home with his family where he belongs,” said Ruslan Myatiev, director of turkmen.news, a member of the Cotton Campaign. “But make no mistake, every day that Gaspar spent in prison was a travesty of justice to punish him for his human rights work and intimidate others from speaking out about abuses.”

Gaspar Matalaev, a reporter with turkmen.news who had monitored and reported on the systematic use of forced adult and child labor in Turkmenistan during cotton harvesting, was arrested in October 2016, just two days after turkmen.news published his extensive report on Turkmenistan’s labor practices. While in detention, Matalaev was tortured by electric shock and held incommunicado. Throughout the investigation and trial, he did not have access to effective legal representation or to key files, information, and documents. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions determined that Matalaev’s arrest and imprisonment was arbitrary.

“Matalaev and others take great personal risks when they document these abuses,” said Judy Gearhart, executive director at the International Labor Rights Forum, which hosts the Cotton Campaign. “Turkmenistan’s international partners, including in the U.S., EU, and the international development banks, should use their influence with the government of Turkmenistan to press for greater protections for human rights monitors and journalists.” International Labor Rights Forum honored Matalaev with its annual Labor Rights Defender award in 2019.

More than 100,000 people signed a petition calling on the government of Turkmenistan to release Matalaev. …….

The Cotton Campaign and investors called on companies to sign the Turkmen Cotton Pledge, and work to ensure that cotton from Turkmenistan produced with forced labor does not enter their supply chains. Thus far 70 major apparel and home goods brands and industry associations have signed the pledge.

Thanks to the work of reporters and human rights defenders like Gaspar Matalaev, companies and consumers can make informed sourcing and purchasing decisions,” said Patricia Jurewicz, vice president of the Responsible Sourcing Network, Cotton Campaign co-founder, and host of the Turkmen Cotton Pledge. “Companies can take a stand to end the human rights abuses in Turkmenistan, and ensure that materials produced with forced labor do not enter their supply chains.”

Cotton Campaign is a global coalition of human rights, labor, responsible investor, and business organizations dedicated to eradicating child and forced labor in cotton production.

 

Gaspar Matalaev Free After Three Years Of Unjust Imprisonment

Iranian activist Esmail Bakhshi goes public with his torture claim and hits a nerve even inside Iran

January 11, 2019

Iranian activist Esmail Bakhshi was arrested in November for organizing weeks-long protests at a sugar factory.
Iranian activist Esmail Bakhshi was arrested in November for organizing weeks-long protests at a sugar factory.

Iranian activist Esmail Bakhshi has been out of jail for a month, but says he still bears the physical and psychological scars from being tortured “to the verge of death” during his 25-day jail stay in Khuzestan Province. Bakhshi was arrested on November 20 for his role in weeks-long protests over unpaid salaries at a local sugar factory. He was charged with disruption of public order and collusion against national security and spent weeks in jail before his release on bail on December 12. After detailing his sufferings on Instagram (public letter), Bakhshi challenged Intelligence Minister Mahmud Alavi, a mid-ranking cleric, to a live TV debate concerning the alleged torture of detainees. “As a cleric, and from the moral and human rights point of view, tell us what is the sentence for those who torture prisoners? Is torturing prisoners permissible? If it is, to what extent? Does the ministry you run have the right to secretly monitor private telephone conversations?

Now Bakhshi’s claims have shined a light into the greater issue of prisoner mistreatment and torture, which rights group say is widespread, and have prompted parliament to launch an investigation. Iranian media reported that a parliament committee has been authorized to investigate Bakhshi’s claims after lawmakers requested a probe. Ali Motahari, an outspoken member of parliament, wrote a column in the reformist Etemad daily on January 6 in which he said Bakhshi’s claims were a “source of shame” and demanded answers from the Intelligence Ministry (“The letter …. should be a wake-up call for all those with a conscience and defenders of citizens’ rights who must follow up this matter until it reaches a clear conclusion.” ).

Since the publication of the labor activist’s letter, Bakhshi’s lawyer has indicated that her client has come under intense pressure to retract his statements about being tortured.

On January 6, 2019, Judiciary Spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei claimed the authorities would investigate if Bakhshi lodged a formal complaint.

“After mentioning torture Esmail Bakhshi has come under intense pressure aimed at forcing my client to deny what happened,” Zilabi said on January 7.

The suggestion that the Intelligence Ministry could be sued has brought reactions from former political prisoners and prisoners of conscience who have suffered torture at the hands of the state. They noted that it is practically impossible to bring torturers to justice and in most cases it was the victims who received punishments for publicizing the torture.

 

After I was released [from more than a month in detention in early December 2004] I gave interviews and spoke to judicial authorities about being tortured,Fereshteh Ghazi, an Iranian reporter living in exile in the US, tweeted on January 6.  “Then I was summoned by [the Tehran Prosecutor at the time, Saeed] Mortazavi and in the presence of my lawyer he told me I had to file a lawsuit, which I did. He said now that the suit had been filed I had to prove my case or else he would lock me up for a long period. So I became a defendant in my own suit.”

Taghi Rahmani, a reporter and political activist who lives in Paris after serving 15 years in Iran’s prisons, tweeted: “In 1991 I was beaten during interrogation. In fact Judge [first name unknown] Haddad had entered the room and witnessed most of the beating. When my attorney [Abdolfattah] Soltani brought up the beatings in court, Judge Haddad sued Soltani and he was sentenced to four months in prison…

Attorney Ali Mojtahedzade suggested that to assure the public that torturers could be sued and brought to justice, the judiciary should first conclude the prosecution of those responsible for previous atrocities, such as the deaths of Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi and blogger Sattar Beheshti during detention.

..Another former political prisoner, Hossein Ronaghi commented: “Sattar Beheshti had said that his interrogator had hung him on the ceiling and beat him. He was terrified about being tortured again”.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/08/23/observatory-expresses-grave-concern-over-health-of-iranian-hrd-hossein-ronaghi-maleki/]

[The February 2018 report of the UN Secretary-General on Iran stated: “The Secretary-General remains concerned about continuing reports indicating that the practice of torture and ill-treatment in the Islamic Republic of Iran persists. Such reports point to a pattern of physical or mental pressure applied upon prisoners to coerce confessions….” The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran also expressed concern in his September 2018 report.]

Video profile of Surendra Pratap, labour rights defender from India

December 7, 2016

Surendra Pratap works for the Centre for Workers’ Education in India. He talked to ISHR about his activities promoting workers’ rights and trade unions. This video clip was published in the ISHR Monitor of December 2016.

Chinese human rights defender He Xiaobo released on bail but others jailed

April 8, 2016

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped

reports that on 8 April 2016 that human rights defender He Xiaobo (not to be confused with Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo) was released on bail after over four months in custody in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. The workers’ rights campaigner had been detained on 3 December 2015 along with a number of colleagues and on 8 January he was formally charged with ’embezzlement’. Two other human rights defenders detained at that time, Zeng Feiyang and Meng Han remain in detention and are facing charges of “gathering a crowd to disrupt social order”. He Xiaobo runs Nanfeiyan Social Work Service Centre, an NGO campaigning for compensation on behalf of workers who have been injured during the course of their work. The centre’s registration was rescinded in 2015. https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-he-xiaobo.

It is not a breakthrough in the treatment of human rights defenders in China (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/the-plight-of-chinas-human-rights-lawyers-worsened/) but even small good news is welcome. On the other hand, also today Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD人权捍卫者‏@CHRDnet) reports that 6 human rights defenders collectively received 20.5 years in prison for exercising their rights to free speech, assembly and association

Colombian human rights defender Berenice Celeita talks on 10 June in Washington

June 2, 2015

Wednesday 10 June, 2015 (p.m.) Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Peace Brigades International, and Amnesty International USA organize a “Discussion with Colombian Human Rights Defender Berenice Celeita“. The event will feature Ms. Berenice Celeita, the founder of the Association for Investigation and Social Action (NOMADESC) and winner of the 1998 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. Through NOMADESC, Ms. Celeita advises and accompanies social organizations and unions as well as civic, women’s, indigenous, afro-descendent, and family farmer organizations.

Ms. Celeita will discuss the current human rights situation in Colombia, including the most pressing issues faced by marginalized communities claiming their rights, and will speak about strategies for combating human rights abuses against these populations.

[For years, civil society activists in the Cauca and Valle del Cauca Departments of Colombia have endured incidences of intimidation, harassment, and persecution as a result of their work. While these incidences have recently intensified, they are not new and form part of a long pattern of threats and attacks against the work of human rights defenders and community leaders in Colombia. The internal armed conflict in Colombia generates internally-displaced populations and sexual violence against women, and further marginalizes impoverished populations. Indigenous and afro-descendent leaders who stand up for their rights and defend their lands are acutely at risk of death threats and other forms of intimidation. In this context – characterized by a lack of security and government accountability – the work of human rights defenders and civil society activists is paramount and must be safeguarded, as they serve as the voice and guardians for local populations facing evictions, violence, and persecution.]

To attend contact: rsvp@rfkhumanrights.org before 8 June.

Thailand: cases of judicial harassment illustrate plight of human rights defenders

August 26, 2014

Coup d’etat in Thailand or not, judicial harassment continues to rack the lives of human rights defenders. A Statement of 24 August by the Asian Human Rights Commission [AHRC] concerns Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, a human rights defender and director of the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), who received a warrant summoning her to report to the police station by 25 August 2014. The warrant is in relation to an investigation carried out pursuant to a legal complaint of libel and defamation filed against her by Army Task Force 41. The complaint accuses Pornpen Khongkachonkiet of causing damage to the reputation of the Army by disseminating an open letter about a case of torture. (The Army has claimed that the young man was not tortured, and so therefore the open letter constitutes libel and defamation.)

The judicial harassment of Pornpen Khongkachonkiet is part of a broader pattern of harassment and legal proceedings against human rights defenders in Thailand, such as the following 3 examples show: Read the rest of this entry »

labour activists in Thailand get hearing on 28 May but have lost some of their hearing

May 20, 2013

After an absence for a few days for a fascinating meeting of and on HRDs in York university, UK, on which I will report more on another occasion, I return to my regular blog with a case that involves two kinds of hearingRead the rest of this entry »