Posts Tagged ‘Mary Lawlor’

India arrests Khurram Parvez again

November 23, 2021

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India arrested on Monday, 22 November 2021 prominent human rights defender Khurram Parvez after a day of extensive searches at his residence and office in Jammu and Kashmir capital Srinagar. He is an internationally recognized human rights defender, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/81468931-79AA-24FF-58F7-10351638AFE3

A family member told The Wire that Khurram’s residence in the city’s Sonawar locality was raided by NIA officials who were accompanied by local police and paramilitary troopers, on Monday morning. Another raid was carried out later in the day at his office in the Amira Kadal locality.

The raids were carried out in connection with a case (RC 30/2021) filed by the agency earlier this year.

Sources said the investigators confiscated Khurram’s mobile phone, laptop, some books and documents from his office and residence before taking him to the agency’s camp office in Srinagar’s Church Lane on Monday afternoon. “In the evening, we got a call to bring his clothes,” said a family member, adding that his wife and their son went to the office and handed his clothes to the officials there.

The NIA has not so far issued any statement on the arrest of Khurram, who is also the chairman of Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances. Sources said his family was handed the arrest memo on Monday evening and he is likely to be flown to New Delhi on Tuesday.

The United Nations said it was disturbed by the reports of Khurram’s arrest, “I’m hearing disturbing reports that  Khurram Parvez was arrested today in Kashmir & is at risk of being charged by authorities in #India with terrorism-related crimes. He’s not a terrorist, he’s a Human Rights Defender,” Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, tweeted. David Kaye, a former UN Special Rapporteur, said Khurram’s arrest under terrorism charges was “yet another extraordinary abuse in Kashmir.”

World Organisation Again Torture (OMCT), a Geneva based non-profit which works with groups across the world to fight for human rights, said it was “deeply concerned” by Khurram’s arrest, “We are deeply concerned about the high risk of torture while in custody. We call for his immediate release,” OMCT said in a tweet.
One of the most prominent rights defenders from Kashmir, Khurram has extensively worked on documenting the abuses allegedly committed both by security forces and militants in Kashmir as coordinator of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a rights group based in Srinagar. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/01/human-rights-defender-khurram-parvez-reluctantly-released-in-india/

The JKCCS has published more than a dozen reports on human rights abuses in Kashmir and its last report, ‘Kashmir’s Internet Siege’ focused on the mass detentions and the reported breakdown of the judicial system in Jammu and Kashmir in the aftermath of the reading down of Article 370. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/09/forgotten-kashmir-something-has-to-be-done/

Khurram’s last tweet on August 30 this year was about a programme organised by Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances and its members countries across Asia who pledged “that truth will not be buried, disappeared won’t be ever forgotten & perpetrators will never be forgiven.”

However, India’s government resists any notion of having acted wrongly:

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that the [UN] statement makes “baseless and unfounded allegations” against Indian security forces. “It also betrays a complete lack of understanding on the part of the OHCHR of the security challenges faced by India from cross-border terrorism and its impact on the most fundamental human right ‘the Right to Life’ of our citizens, including in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

Asserting that all actions are undertaken in accordance with the law, he said, “We urge the OHCHR to develop a better understanding of the negative impact of terrorism on human rights.”

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/prominent-human-rights-activist-arrested-by-india-s-top-anti-terrorism-agency/9b91bc37-0dd2-48d4-aedc-b020fb36ea54

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/valley-rights-activist-khurram-parvez-detained-by-nia/cid/1840157

https://thewire.in/rights/khurram-parvez-nia-arrest

https://www.reuters.com/world/india/un-criticises-disturbing-arrest-rights-activist-indian-kashmir-2021-11-23/

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/global-rights-bodies-call-for-release-of-kashmir-based-activist-khurram-parvez/article37640132.ece

https://thewire.in/diplomacy/un-ohchr-khurram-parvez-arrest-india-dismiss

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja goes on hunger strike after ban on family calls

November 17, 2021

Jailed Bahraini human rights defender Abdulhadi al-Khawaja has started a hunger strike after being informed that he has been banned from receiving calls from family, his daughter Zaynab said on Tuesday 16 November 2021.

My father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, has started a hunger strike today. The prison administration informed him that he is not allowed to make any calls. Having had no visitation rights for the past two years, these calls were his only communication with us,” Zaynab al-Khawaja wrote on Twitter.

Khawaja, who turned 60 in April, is a prominent human rights defender and the former president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. He has been in prison for 10 years, serving a life sentence for “organising and managing a terrorist organisation”, among other charges. See: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/4d45e316-c636-4d02-852d-7bfc2b08b78d

His case was one of the first high-profile arrests following the beginning of pro-democracy protests in 2011 that sparked a widespread government crackdown in Bahrain. Tens of thousands of people poured out onto the streets at the time, calling for democratic reforms, an end to discrimination against the majority Shia Muslim population and, eventually, the end of the 245-year rule of the Khalifa monarchy.

Mary Lawlor, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, has called for the release of Khawaja on his 60th birthday, but her calls have been unheeded. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/24/martin-ennals-award-laureates-rally-to-demand-freedom-for-their-imprisoned-fellow-award-winners/

“He’s serving a life sentence in prison for peacefully defending the rights of others,” Lawlor said.  

Earlier this year, Khawaja’s other daughter, Maryam, told Middle East Eye that his family’s access to him had been sporadic.

You can never expect what’s going to happen; you might have a call this week but then next week there isn’t a call. So nothing is ever set in stone,” she said during an interview in February.

Maryam has herself become one of the most prominent voices internationally for the Bahraini democracy movement. It’s a profile that has forced her to live in exile due to a sentence she received in absentia for allegedly assaulting a police officer.

What we see today is what you could call a stalemate, but it goes beyond that because it’s a situation that cannot continue the way that is it. There is absolute control over everything with regards to public space, access to freedoms and so on,” she said at the time.

A report compiled in February by the London-based campaign group Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy for the 10th anniversary of the uprising said that, since 2011, at least 51 people had been sentenced to death in Bahrain.

According to the report, mass trials have become “commonplace” in the country, with 167 people sentenced in a single day in February 2019. Hundreds of activists have seen their citizenship stripped by the kingdom, with an estimated 300 currently denaturalised.

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/bahrain-jailed-activist-abdulhadi-khawaja-hunger-strike-ban-family-calls

Lawlor calls on Kyrgyzstan to stop harassment of human rights defender Kamilzhan Ruziev

November 12, 2021

Kyrgyzstan must investigate death threats against human rights defender Kamilzhan Ruziev instead of harassing him for making complaints against the police, said Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders “It is extremely disturbing that authorities began laying criminal charges against Mr. Ruziev after he exposed police torture and ineffectiveness, when they should actually be investigating the death threats made against him,”

As director of the non-governmental human rights organisation Ventus, Ruziev defends victims of torture, domestic violence, and discrimination. In 2019, a police investigator, whom Ruziev exposed for committing torture, reportedly threatened to kill him. When the State Committee for National Security and the Prosecutor’s Office failed to investigate the threats, Ruziev took them to court, only to find himself facing seven criminal charges.

“Kyrgyz authorities must give Mr. Ruziev a fair trial and effectively investigate all allegations of threats and ill-treatment against him and other human rights defenders,” she said. The next hearing on Mr. Ruziev’s case will be on 11 November 2021.

Lawlor said she was also disturbed by reports that Mr. Ruziev was ill-treated while held in detention for 48 hours in May 2020, and denied access to his lawyer.

“Now I hear that his health is deteriorating, and complaints to the authorities about violations committed against him continue to fall on deaf ears,” she added.

In a report to the Human Rights Council earlier this year on threats and killings of human rights defenders, Lawlor warned: “when a human rights defender receives death threats, swift action must be taken to prevent the threats from escalating. Impunity fuels more murders.”

Lawlor is in contact with the authorities of Kyrgyzstan on this issue, and stressed that “Kyrgyzstan must do better to safeguard the environment for human rights defenders to carry out their work.”

Her call was endorsed by: Ms. Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health.

https://www.miragenews.com/investigate-death-threats-against-human-rights-664761/

Indonesia: Human Rights Defenders under pressure

October 15, 2021

Here a bit of wrap up on recent developments in Indonesia. First two disclaimers:

(1) I have a long-standing interest in this country [see: Indonesia and the Rule of Law, 20 Years of “New Order” Government, a Study prepared for the ICJ, published by Frances Pinter Publishers, London, 1987, pp 208 (ISBN: 0 86187 919 8) and previous posts: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/indonesia/]

(2) the human rights situation has generally improved since that book in 1987 and is a lot better compared to other countries in Asia such as China and Myanmar.

Still, there is no case for complacency as many of the hopes raised with the election of President Jokowi were dashed (see e.g.: https://www.economist.com/asia/2021/08/19/indonesias-president-promised-reform-yet-it-is-he-who-has-changed)

Over the past two years, human rights defenders (HRDs) have faced unprecedented challenges in Asia, where existing risks were exacerbated, while new threats have emerged. Governments enacted and used repressive laws, online harassment became widespread, and Asian HRDs have seen their families and loved ones increasingly subjected to harassment and threats. The COVID-19 pandemic has also significantly increased violations against defenders, and created new challenges for them to safely conduct their work.

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and the Commission for Disappeared Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS) presented a joint analysis, “Refusing Silence: A joint analysis on the situation of Human Rights Defenders”, as part of a collaboration in documenting cases of violations against human rights defenders in Asia, and particularly in Indonesia since 2020. [For the full PDF version of this analysis in English, click here]

The Indonesian government should put an end to the judicial harassment against human rights defenders Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar, and uphold the right to freedom of expression, the human rights organisations said.

‘The Government of Indonesia must uphold its international human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as well as its own national constitution which protects the right to freedom of expression,’ said the groups.

The groups urged the Indonesian government to ensure that all persons can express their opinions without fear of reprisals, and to ensure its actions are compliant with Indonesia’s Constitutional protections for human rights and the ICCPR, of which Indonesia is a State Party. The National Human Rights Institution, Komnas HAM, must also work towards ensuring the protection of defenders facing judicial harassment, the groups said.

On 22 September, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment filed a police report against human rights defenders Fatia Maulidiyanti, Coordinator of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (Kontras), and Haris Azhar, Founder of Lokataru Foundation. The police report alleges that the two individuals violated criminal defamation provisions (Article 310 (1) of the Penal Code), and the controversial Electronic Information and Transaction Law (EIT Law). Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan has reportedly demanded IDR 300 billion, approximately USD 21 million, in compensation.

The report was filed after subpoenas were earlier sent to the two human rights defenders following a talk show on Haris Azhar’s YouTube channel, titled ‘Ada Lord Luhut di balik Relasi Ekonomi-Ops Militer Intan Jaya!! Jenderal BIN Juga Ada!!’, (There is Lord Luhut behind the relation of Economy-Military Operation Intan Jaya!! General of State Intelligence Agency is also there!!) in which Haris Azhar and Fatia Maulidiyanti discussed the findings of a multi-stakeholder report revealing the alleged involvement of active and retired Indonesian army officials in the business operations of the gold mining sector…

The report also recorded the escalation of violent and armed conflict triggered by military operations, one of which occurred in the Intan Jaya Regency. The conflict resulted in the loss of civilian lives and the displacement of thousands of people, including children and women.

The legal actions by the Coordinating Minister constitute judicial harassment and abuse of power. It criminalises the rights of these two human rights defenders to express their opinions on public affairs and creates a chilling environment for individuals who criticise the government,’ the groups said.

We call on the Indonesian government to amend all repressive laws and legal provisions that hinder the protection of freedom of expression, and ensure the laws align with international human rights standards. The criminalisation of defamation is an inherently disproportionate and unnecessary restriction to the right to freedom of opinion and expression, under international human rights law.[4] Indonesia must immediately drop the charges against Fatia and Haris and take steps towards preventing the misuse of litigation against human rights defenders and civil society that erode the exercise of their rights,’ they concluded.

And then there is the situation of Papua:

Indonesia regularly receives criticism for its strategy in relation to separatist groups in Papua, a strategy that relies heavily on a security-based approach and which has raised questions about the government’s commitment to human rights. Most recently, the nation found itself included on a list of 45 countries cited as being culpable of intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders seeking to cooperate with the UN, according to an annual report from the UN Secretary General’s Office distributed on September 17.

Between May 2020 and April this year, five individuals seeking to cooperate with UN human rights agencies – Wensislaus Fatubun, Yones Douw, Victor Mambor, Veronica Koman [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/24/indonesian-human-rights-defender-veronica-koman-receives-sir-ronald-wilson-human-rights-award/]and Victor Yeimo – were “subject to threats, harassment and surveillance by government, non-state and private actors, including business enterprises and local political actors”, the report said.

On 21 September 2021 A U.N. expert has urged Indonesia to provide an independence activist in its Papua province with proper medical care to “keep him from dying in prison”, after reports that his health had deteriorated.

Victor Yeimo, 39, who is the international spokesman of the West Papua National Committee, was arrested in the provincial capital of Jayapura in May. He has been charged with treason and inciting violence and social unrest in relation to pro-independence protests that swept the remote, resource-rich region for several weeks in 2019. Yeimo has denied the charges.

His trial went ahead in August despite repeated requests from his lawyer for a delay on medical grounds, Mary Lawlor, U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said in a statement on Monday. “I’ve seen it before: States deny medical care to ailing, imprisoned human rights defenders, which results in serious illness or death,” said Lawlor. “Indonesia must take urgent steps to ensure the fate does not await Mr Yeimo,” she said, adding that his access to medical care had been restricted and his prison conditions “may have amounted to torture”. Yeimo is being treated at a Jayapura hospital after a court ordered he receive medical attention. Papuan activist Rosa Javiera told a news conference organised by the rights group Amnesty International on Tuesday that Yeimo was suffering from chronic tuberculosis that required continuous medical treatmentt.

The Indonesian government has used the covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to crack down on West Papuan street protests and to impose online censorship, according to new research published by the human rights watchdog TAPOL. Covid-19 protocols have given more power to the police and military to crush protests but they are not fairly implemented across Indonesia in general. The findings are in a new study, the West Papua 2020: Freedom Of Expression And Freedom Of Assembly Report, in which TAPOL has collated and analysed incidents recorded by West Papuan and Indonesian civil society organisations.

The West Papua 2020 Report
The West Papua 2020 Report. Image: Tapol screenshot APR

https://www.phnompenhpost.com/international/indonesia-faces-scrutiny-over-papua

https://www.ucanews.com/news/widodo-criticized-for-rights-violations-in-indonesia/94647#

UN Experts urge EU to take the lead on protecting human rights defenders in context of business

September 7, 2021

The European Union has a chance to set an example for the entire world by protecting people who risk their lives standing up for human rights in the context of business activities, said Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, joined by the UN Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises known as the Working Group on Business and Human Rights), Mr. Surya Deva (Chairperson), Ms. Elzbieta Karska (Vice-Chairperson), Mr. Githu Muigai, Mr. Dante Pesce, and Ms. Anita Ramasastry; and Mr. Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues.

The European Union legislative initiative on mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence “must include safeguards for human rights defenders,” they stated on 6 September 2021.

The European Union, as the world’s largest single market, has a golden opportunity to advance the safety and security of human rights defenders who are working around the globe to build more just societies, often at great personal risk,” Lawlor said. “A robust, binding regime in the EU covering companies of all sizes would provide a powerful model for other parts of the world.”

Human rights defenders often risk their lives confronting violations along supply chains, Lawlor said. “Parent companies must carry out human rights and environmental due diligence throughout their supply chains to ensure human rights defenders are not subjected to reprisals from their subsidiaries, sub-contractors and suppliers,” she said. “The EU must ensure that where such retaliation happens, these companies can be held accountable.”

In the 10 years since the Human Rights Council adopted the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, business compliance has remained extremely low. In the same period, increasing numbers of human rights defenders have been killed for their work. The UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights has recently developed guidance setting forth expectations that businesses address risks to defenders and that States address this as part of their own mandatory human rights due diligence regulations.

People who stand up for human rights related to environmental protection, community land rights, indigenous peoples’ rights, poverty, minorities and business accountability – often intertwining issues – are most at risk of being attacked or killed.

Where human rights defenders come under attack in the context of business activities it is a clear sign of other underlying human rights issues.” Lawlor said. Potential risks for human rights defenders should be seen as a key component of companies’ due diligence duty to identify and assess human rights risks connected to their projects, and must be specifically included in the expected EU proposal.

Business enterprises must also be obliged to consult with defenders under the EU initiative, and the door should be kept open for defenders to bring issues to companies’ attention at every stage within business projects,” Lawlor said. “

“Now is the time for the EU to give new life to its founding principles by delivering a strong law that could help reduce the number of lives lost in defence of human rights,” Lawlor said.

https://www.miragenews.com/golden-opportunity-for-eu-to-take-global-lead-626609/

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, at the 46th session of the Human Rights Council

August 23, 2021

Courtesy of Reliefweb, here the reference to “States in denial: the long-term detention of human rights defenders – Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor” (A/76/143), posted 19 Aug 2021 Originally published 19 July 2021.

Summary

In the present report, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, analyses the situation of human rights defenders in long – term detention, serving sentences of 10 years or longer. The Special Rapporteur draws attention to underlying factors that contribute to the phenomenon of detaining human rights defenders for lengthy periods as a result of their legitimate human rights activities. The report contains examples of individual cases of human rights defenders serving long-term prison sentences. She makes recommendations to relevant stakeholders to halt and reverse these trends and suggests ways to prevent this from happening in the future. [see also; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/05/20/special-rapporteur-mary-lawlor-starts-new-website/]

1. Introduction

  1. In December 2015, woman human rights defender Lodkham Thammavong was 1 of some 30 people who protested outside the Lao Embassy in Bangkok to express their concern over the Lao Government’s alleged human rights violations.
  2. Three months later, when she returned to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, she and two other human rights defenders, Soukane Chaithad and Somphone Phimmasone, were arrested by Lao police.
  3. The Special Rapporteur has received credible information that they were not informed of the charges against them and no arrest warrants were presented at the time of arrest or afterward. Ms. Thammavong and the others were reportedly forced to make false confessions, paraded on national television to apologize for being traitors and denied their rights to legal representation.
  4. A year later, in March 2017, after an unfair trial, Ms. Thammavong was found guilty of “treason to the nation, propaganda against the State, and gatherings tied at causing social disorder”. She was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Mr. Chaithad and Mr. Phimmasone were also convicted on the same charges, and given 16 and 20 years, respectively.
  5. At the time of writing, Ms. Thammavong is currently being held in Tan Piao Prison, located around 60 km from Vientiane, making family visits difficult. She is said to be lacking access to water and still has had no access to legal counsel.
  6. Unfortunately, such attacks on human rights defenders are not rare. Hundreds of human rights defenders across the world are serving long prison sentences after being convicted on fabricated charges following unfair trials. Many, like Ms. Thammavong, were denied adequate legal representation.
  7. The Special Rapporteur has monitored numerous cases of defenders serving more than 10 years in prison, and of many other defenders facing charges for which they could be sentenced to similarly long terms. Many, like Ms. Thammavong, have been sentenced under vague and ill-defined charges often relating to treason, subversion or terrorism.
  8. Many are held in harsh conditions, and/or have been forced to confess to crimes they did not commit. Some suffer from ill health and are deprived of adequate medical attention. Some are also denied regular access to their families. Some are at risk of being sentenced to death, and some have died in jail while serving long sentences.
  9. In the present report, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, intends to show that the issue of the long-term detention of human rights defenders is extensive, that there are many commonalities in the methods used to unjustly jail them and that many Member States – including some who are members of the Human Rights Council, or who aim at being a member – consistently deny they are holding defenders in jail. She advises States on how to prevent further such attacks on defenders and recommends that all human rights defenders be immediately and unconditionally released from jail.
  10. The full extent of this problem is not known. Human rights defenders are serving long terms in detention on every continent, but there are very likely many more cases than those featured in the present report that have not been brought to the Special Rapporteur’s attention.
  11. The cases included here are only those where consent has been obtained directly from the defenders themselves, or from their families or representatives. Many other cases are also known to the Special Rapporteur, but are not included in the report for various reasons, including where it was not possible to obtain consent or where highlighting cases would risk making the situation of the defenders worse. Some defenders were jailed so long ago that their cases have faded from public view and no longer feature in many advocacy efforts. This can also make consent and information more difficult to obtain.
  12. There is a wide range of defenders serving long terms in detention. Some are labour leaders, some are lawyers, others are journalists. Some are jailed for defending article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which outlines the right for people to vote in elections. Others are targeted for peacefully advocating for democratic reform, or for exposing deficiencies in governance. The Special Rapporteur reiterates that peacefully defending these and other rights that States have promised to safeguard is never a crime.
  13. Some defenders have been targeted and jailed in reprisal for their engagement, or intended engagement, with United Nations mechanisms. Some are famous, winners of international awards for their work, with prominent international profiles, while others are relatively unknown, even within their country. Some hold dual nationalities and are citizens of countries other than the one in which they are jailed.
  14. Some defenders have been convicted in mass trials and some have been sentenced in absentia. Some defenders sentenced to long terms in jail are living in exile, unable to return to their country for fear of arrest. Others are kept in long periods of pretrial detention, not knowing if or when they will face charges that could send them to prison for long terms.
  15. Other defenders are seized and nothing is heard from or about them for many years. Not all are held by Governments. Some, like Syrian woman human rights defender Razan Zaitouneh, are believed to have been taken by militia groups. There has been no news of her current whereabouts for years.
  16. Other human rights defenders sentenced to long terms in jail die in custody. Human rights defender Azimjan Askarov was unjustly sentenced to prison in 2010 in Kyrgyzstan, and he was still in prison 10 years later with serious medical problems. Despite appeals from the mandate holder, the United Nations, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to the authorities for his release on health grounds, he died in detention in 2020.
  17. The Special Rapporteur notes there is often a flurry of attention and activity around a case when a human rights defender is arrested or convicted, sometimes accompanied by intense international media coverage and advocacy from foreign governments and United Nations mechanisms. But even with the most prominent defenders, attention typically fades over the years as fresh cases demand the attention and resources of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), independent United Nations experts and interested Governments.
  18. Many defenders serving long sentences feel forgotten or abandoned.
  19. The effect of the long-term detention of defenders can be devastating – to themselves, to their families, to their communities and to the civil societies to which they belong. Just fighting a legal case can exhaust a defenders’ resources, and that of their NGO. Indeed, this damage to them and their work is often the motivation for their being targeted.
  20. States will recall that in her first report to the General Assembly in 2020 (A/75/165), the Special Rapporteur outlined her priorities for the mandate, which included a focus on “defenders serving long terms in prison”. She believes States should have confronted this enduring problem long ago. Some States have ignored years of appeals to stop jailing human rights defenders and still refuse to release those they currently hold in detention.
  21. The Special Rapporteur is instructed under the mandate to study developments and challenges on the right to promote and protect human rights and seek, receive and respond to information on the situation of human rights defenders, and to recommend effective strategies to better protect human rights defenders.
  22. One simple piece of advice for States to better protect human rights defenders is not to put them in prison for long terms for peacefully defending the rights of others.
  23. Many States sentence human rights defenders to long terms in prison because they want to, and because they can. They want to because they are unhappy with defenders exposing corruption, pointing out human rights violations or highlighting other deficiencies in governance.
  24. Jailing defenders does not always silence them, and some continue to defend rights while in detention, but States often use this method of attack against human rights defenders to crush peaceful dissent.
  25. States can do this because they ignore international treaties they have committed to, often with negligible international consequences. They enable themselves to jail human rights defenders by passing vague laws, often in the name of national security or countering terrorism, by staging sham trials that fail meet international standards, by torturing defenders into making false confessions and by lying about the work of human rights defenders.
  26. Some States contest that those jailed are not defenders but subversives, traitors or terrorists. The Special Rapporteur knows the difference, and she respectfully reminds States that her long years of experience in identifying who is a human rights defender – and who is not – is partly why she was entrusted with this mandate. The Special Rapporteur is keen to discuss individual cases with States to better explain why those in detention referred to in the present report are human rights defenders.
  27. Despite the many detailed cases regularly presented to Member States of human rights defenders currently serving long jail terms, the Special Rapporteur notes that in response to her call to Member States for submissions to the present report, not one State acknowledged holding any human rights defender in long-term detention.
  28. Many States have for many years used this method of attack against human rights defenders. The Special Rapporteur’s predecessors in this mandate have, since the mandate was established 20 years ago, repeatedly recommended that States not use unfair trials or security legislation as a pretext for jailing, or otherwise attacking, human rights defenders.
  29. In 2001, Hina Jilani, the first mandate holder on the situation of human rights defenders, in her first report to the then Commission on Human Rights, stated that: “The situation of human rights defenders … and their sentencing after unfair trials will be a matter of serious concern for the Special Representative” (E/CN.4/2001/94, para. 89 (f)).
  30. Despite regular, detailed updates to Member States from the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders over many years about this unjust practice, defenders are still routinely subjected to unfair trials, after which many are sentenced to long terms in prison.
  31. In her most recent report to the Human Rights Council, presented earlier this year (A/HRC/46/35), the Special Rapporteur focused on the killing of human rights defenders. She identified a lack of political will from Member States to hold the perpetrators accountable as a key driver of the murders. In the case of long-term detention of defenders, it is less the absence of political will to prevent this abuse, but rather the active presence of a political will in States to target defenders.
  32. Some representatives of Member States have told the Special Rapporteur, in response to her raising the case of an unfair trial, that they cannot interfere in their countries’ independent judicial process. While the Special Rapporteur respects the principle of judicial independence, she cannot be silent when a criminal justice system falls short of international standards and is used to unjustly jail human rights defenders.
  33. In 2003, Ms. Jilani told Member States: “When human rights defenders are arrested, detained and/or prosecuted under security legislation, the process should be fully transparent. The charges on which the arrest and detention are based should be made public and explained in a sufficiently complete manner that the veracity of their substance can be independently verified” (A/58/380, para. 71).
  34. Many States are still failing this test of transparency and continue to consign human rights defenders to long years of misery in prison.
  35. While those mechanisms which enable long-term, unjust detention, including torture, unfair trials and the gross misrepresentation of the work of those peacefully defending the rights of others, should be addressed, the fundamental reason that defenders are held in long-term detention is because of the political will in States to do so.
  36. Targeting human rights defenders with long jail terms is never acceptable, and it is a red line no State should cross. It is immoral, illegal, inexcusable and dishonourable. This practice exposes States’ lack of resolution to fulfil the international standards they have committed to uphold. Consigning those who peacefully defend human rights to prison raises serious questions about States’ intentions to abide by the international agreements they have signed.

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/states-denial-long-term-detention-human-rights-defenders-report-special-rapporteur

UN experts demand release of human rights defender Dawit Isaak, imprisoned without trial in Eritrea since 2001

August 19, 2021

On 18 August 2021 UN experts demanded the release of journalist and human rights defender Dawit Isaak, imprisoned without trial in Eritrea since 2001, amid uncertainty about whether he is even still alive.

To this day, Dawit Isaak has never been charged with a crime, spent a day in court or spoken to his lawyer,” said Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. “The level to which the Eritrean Government is ignoring Mr. Isaak’s basic, fundamental human rights is appalling. He must be released at once.”

In the first years of his detention, “we received information that Mr. Isaak was often taken to hospital, which was concerning in itself,” Lawlor said, “Now we receive no news, and that’s worse. We fear for his life. At an absolute minimum, Eritrea must immediately present evidence that he is alive and well.”

Dawit Isaak, 56, a dual Swedish-Eritrean national, established one of Eritrea’s first independent media outlets in the 1990s, the Setit newspaper. In May 2001, it published open letters written by a group of politicians known as the G15 urging the Government to hold open elections and implement a newly drafted Constitution. With the world’s attention diverted by the September 11 terrorist attacks, Mr. Isaak was arrested on 23 September 2001.

According to a credible source, Mr. Isaak was alive in September 2020, the first sign of life in seven years. He is reportedly being held in Eiraeiro prison, a detention centre infamous for its conditions, where torture is allegedly common practice and where many inmates have reportedly died in custody.

The enforced disappearance of Mr. Isaak for almost two decades is extremely concerning,” said Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker, Special Rapporteur on Eritrea. “The Government of Eritrea has not confirmed his whereabouts or provided any solid evidence about his state of health in all these years. It has denied torture allegations but has not allowed anyone to visit Mr. Isaak.

Lawlor said she had rarely witnessed such disregard for human life as she documents cases of human rights defenders in long-term detention around the world.

“Locking up human rights defenders for long periods of time may feel like a guarantee against internal scrutiny,” Lawlor said. “But we have not forgotten.”

Mr. Isaak’s work has been recognised by a number of prestigious awards, including UNESCO’s Freedom of Press Award {see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/9329f937-0d8b-4543-8664-2263e968adbf] and he was a finalist for the Sakharov Award in 2017

The Special Procedures mandate holders are in contact with the Eritrean authorities on this matter.

The experts’ call is endorsed by: Ms. Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health; the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances: Mr. Tae-Ung Baik (Chair), Mr. Henrikas Mickevičius (Vice Chair), Ms. Aua Balde, Ms. Gabriella Citroni and Mr. Luciano Hazan; and Mr. Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

https://www.miragenews.com/un-experts-demand-release-of-human-rights-615941/

China in the 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council: Uyghurs and jailed human rights defenders

July 6, 2021

In a statement 22 June 2021, the ISHR on behalf of over 20 civil society organisations called for unequivocal action by the High Commissioner to monitor and report on the human rights situation in China. The violations targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, the groups underlined, have been determined by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to constitute crimes against humanity.

‘The Special Procedures and treaty bodies have repeatedly, for the last five years, raised serious concerns about the human rights situation in China,’ said Sarah M Brooks, ISHR programme director. ‘But despite these efforts, little has changed. More is needed.’

The gravity of the situation was underlined also by a joint statement delivered by Canada, on behalf of more than 40 states, earlier today. Listing a range of concerns about treatment of Uyghurs, those governments pressed China to allow ‘immediate, meaningful and unfettered’ access to the region for the High Commissioner.

The weight of evidence and the gravity of allegations of crimes against humanity against Uyghurs demands that the High Commissioner commence remote monitoring and public reporting immediately. The full statement can be accessed here

Anadolu on 29 June 2021 reported that Mary Lawlor, the UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders, says she has countless reports about mistreatment of activists in China.

The UN’s independent expert on human rights defenders said that she feared activists in China were arbitrarily sentenced to long prison terms, house arrest and tortured and also denied access to medical treatment, their lawyers and families.

Condemning human rights defenders…to long terms in prison for their peaceful human rights work, abusing them in custody and failing to provide them with adequate medical care…cannot continue,” Mary Lawlor, the UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders, said in a statement.

She said she had “countless reports” pointing to the mistreatment of human rights defenders in Chinese custody, which is “endemic.”

Geneva’s Chinese mission spokesman Liu Yuyin later refuted Lawlor’s criticism, accusing the UN expert of having “deliberately smeared China, spread disinformation and interfered in China’s judicial sovereignty under the pretext of human rights.”

“The individuals that Ms. Lawlor and other special procedure mandate holders mentioned have committed a series of crimes such as inciting subversion of state power and splitting the state. The facts are clear and the evidence is solid,” he added.

Lawlor said the treatment meted out to those jailed may amount to torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment, despite a plethora of recommendations from the UN mechanisms over the years, including from the Committee Against Torture.

Some defenders, such as Gao Zhisheng, have been “forcibly disappeared,” while others such as Guo Hongwei have died in prison, she said. Lawlor said she knew of at least 13 human rights defenders sentenced on “spurious charges” such as “picking quarrels” or “provoking trouble” to 10 years or more in prison for peacefully defending the rights of others. Among them is Qin Yongmin, sentenced to 35 years in prison for work that included promoting engagement with the UN, and Ilham Tohti, a “moderate scholar” serving a life sentence.

“Tohti was arbitrarily arrested, allegedly tortured and sentenced to life after a closed-door trial. He was not allowed any family visits and no information has been provided by Chinese authorities since,” said Lawlor. He is a much-recognised defender: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/37AE7DC4-16DB-51E9-4CF8-AB0828AEF491

Human rights defender Chen Xi, serving 10 years in prison, has chronic enteritis, which causes dehydration and fever. In winter, he contracts severe frostbite on his hands, ears and abdomen, and in his lifetime, he has been sentenced to 23 years in prison, said the expert.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc47-governments-ngos-call-high-commissioner-step-work-protect-uyghurs

https://www.globalvillagespace.com/un-expert-raises-concern-on-jailed-activist-in-china/

Father Stan’s death: callousness that amounts to murder

July 5, 2021

What many feared has happened, jailed Indian tribal rights activist Stan Swamy has died of a cardiac arrest in Mumbai city. He was 84. He was jailed last year under draconian anti-terror law UAPA in connection with the Elgar Parishad case – his death has triggered a flood of messages on social media from political leaders, intellectuals and other activists. Swamy, the oldest person to be accused of terrorism in India, was arrested in October 2020.

Members of the civil society on Sunday 4 July 2021 had urged the chief justice of the Bombay High Court to intervene and provide relief to ailing activist Stan Swamy. They demanded that the 84-year-old, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease and had been put on ventilator support, should be granted bail immediately and allowed to return to Jharkhand.

Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders shared a similar Tweet, saying it was “horrible news” that Swamy was put on a ventilator: “He’s spent 9 months in jail on unfounded charges. I’m deeply saddened and expect that every possible specialist treatment will be provided to him.”

Mr Gilmore – the European Union’s Special Representative for Human Rights, – re-tweeted Ms Lawlor’s post and added: “India: I am very saddened to hear that Father Stan Swamy has passed away. A defender of indigenous peoples’ rights. He was held in detention for the past 9 months. The EU had been raising his case repeatedly with authorities.”

The Jesuit priest, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, was moved to a private hospital in May after he tested positive for Covid. As he was very belatedly released on bail into hospital and was denied critical treatment in detention, he should be considered a death in the custody of the state.

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren stated on Monday: Shocked to learn about the demise of Father Stan Swamy. He dedicated his life working for tribal rights. I had strongly opposed his arrest & incarceration. The Union Govt should be answerable for absolute apathy & non provision of timely medical services, leading to his death.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/11/the-indomitable-father-stan-swamy-defending-the-adivasis-and-the-dalits-a-cause-of-arrest/

I understand there will be likely a virtual memorial tomorrow, but no details known yet.

A joint statement by important international NGOs (Amnesty International, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, CSW, FIDH, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Front Line Defenders, International Commission of Jurists, International Dalit Solidarity Network, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders)) was issued on 5 July: https://www.fidh.org/en/region/asia/india/india-joint-statement-on-the-death-of-human-rights-defender-father

The Government keeps insisting that all was ‘legal’: https://www.mangalorean.com/govt-rebuts-un-says-stan-swamys-detention-was-lawful/

On 25 November 2021 this: https://thewire.in/rights/bombay-hc-asks-jesuit-group-to-file-new-plea-if-they-want-stan-swamys-name-cleared

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-57718356

https://scroll.in/latest/999322/as-activist-stan-swamys-heath-worsens-civil-society-members-call-for-bail-specialised-treatment

https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-stan-swamys-death-marks-a-tragic-moment-for-indian-democracy-akhil-gogoi/387163

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/elgar-parishad-case-stan-swamys-death-devastating-eu-un-human-rights-reps-on-stan-swamys-death-2479792

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/activists-opposition-call-out-custodial-murder-of-stan-swamy-101625494111357-amp.html

https://www.fidh.org/en/region/asia/india/india-joint-statement-on-the-death-of-human-rights-defender-father

https://www.indialegallive.com/column-news/stan-swamy-uapa-unlawful-activities-prevention-act-kanchan-nanaware-varavara-rao-binayak-sen/

https://www.miragenews.com/death-in-custody-of-priest-stan-swamy-is-596431/

https://www.ucanews.com/news/book-tells-story-of-indian-jesuit-who-died-in-custody/94104#

“A Seat At The Table” a guide for engaging with the UN system: 30 June 2021

June 22, 2021

The ISHR is Launching “A Seat At The Table”A guide to crafting effective narratives at the UN
about human rights and the people who defend them

The stories and narratives that are told about human rights defenders at the UN have a major impact on how they are understood and supported on the ground. Over the past 9 months, the ISHR has explored perceptions and views that diplomats working at the UN have about human rights and people who defend them. The objective was to understand the messages that best increase support for human rights defenders and to craft more effective human rights narratives, particularly as they relate to people who defend human rights. ISHR is now ready to share its findings with you and launch the new practitioners’ guide “A Seat At The Table“, meant for anyone working within or engaging with the UN system to promote and protect human rights, whether they be advocates with organisations, diplomats or frontline community activists and leaders.

This event will be held online. In order to attend the event, please RSVP here.

Welcome:    Ambassador Marc Bichler, Permanent Mission of Luxembourg

Panelists:   

Tom Clarke, human rights campaigner, communications specialist and guide co-author

Sophie Mulphin, human rights communications specialist and guide co-author

Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Ambassador Nazhat Shameen Khan, President of the Human Rights Council

Ilze Brands Kehris, Assistant Secretary-General for human rights

Guadalupe Marengo, Amnesty International

Thomas Coombes, human rights strategist and communications expert, founder of hope-based communications

Moderator: Marianne Bertrand, International Service for Human Rights

30 June 2021  
1:00-2:30pm CEST 
Online event Register now

https://mailchi.mp/ishr/749qlxejj6-33142?e=d1945ebb90