Posts Tagged ‘medical care’

Azerbaijan: OMCT campaigns for human rights defender Elchin Mammad

May 26, 2020

Azerbaijani Human Rights Defender Elchin Mammad is one the cases in the  #FacesOfHope campaign by OMCT to which I referred yesterday [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/25/faces-of-hope-campaign-human-rights-defenders-imprisoned-worldwide/].

As a human rights lawyer and journalist, Elchin Mammad is used to speaking his mind. The 42-year old attorney presides over the Social Union of Legal Education of Sumgait Youth (SULESY), a non-governmental organisation that provides free legal assistance to low income families and non-profits. His busy schedule also includesda job as the editor in chief of Yukselish Namine, a newspaper specializing in human rights concerns. On 30 March 2020, a few days after he had published online a critical report on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan, police officers arrested Elchin at his home in Sumgait, a town north of the capital Baku. The police claimed to have found stolen jewellery at his office.

The next day, Sumgait City Court remanded Elchin Mammad in custody for three months as a criminal suspect. The father of two young children remains detained under trumped-up charges at Shuvalan pre-trial detention centre no. 3. This latest twist is nothing new to Elchin. He has faced harassment from the authorities in connection with his human rights work since 2015, when his organisation was investigated. He was subjected to arbitrary detention, repeatedly summoned and questioned by the police. He was also placed under travel restrictions in connection with the investigation.

On 15 May, the government officially stated that there are 46 COVID-19 infected inmates in the country. This puts Elchin’s life at risk, particularly as he suffers from hepatitis C. Azerbaijan’s prison system is plagued by severe overcrowding, while food, medication, sanitation, and even drinking water are substandard. This has led to the European Court of Human Rights repeatedly ruling that detention conditions in the country amount to inhuman and degrading treatment. In times of pandemic, such an environment risks becoming an incubator for the novel coronavirus.

Elchin’s case is particularly emblematic of the Azerbaijani authorities’ abusive and arbitrary methods used to silence critical voices. In 2014, the government launched an unprecedented crackdown on civil society. Prominent human rights defenders joined other political prisoners in Azerbaijan’s jails, on fabricated criminal charges of financial irregularities. Although most were released after spending years in prison, as a result of international pressure, the situation of defenders remains precarious

The authorities have seized the coronavirus outbreak as an opportunity to intensify the crackdown on civil society. On 19 March, President Ilham Aliyev used his yearly address to the nation on the Novruz Bayrami holiday to promise “new rules” for the duration of the pandemic, threatening to clear the country of “traitors” and “enemies” and to “isolate the fifth column”. To people like Elchin, who has dedicated his life to the defence of the downtrodden, these ominous words might now ring like a death sentence.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/26/azerbaijan-finally-full-acquittal-of-ilqar-mammadov-and-rasul-jafarov/

https://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/statements/azerbaijan/2020/05/d25855/

Filmmaker and human rights defender Shady Habash dies in Egyptian pre-trial detention

May 2, 2020

Shady Habash, 24, was a film director and cinematographer (Instagram/@ShadyHabash)

On 2 May 2020 the Middle East Eye reported that Egyptian film director and photographer Shady Habash reportedly passed away in Tora prison in the capital Cairo on Friday, according to human rights organisations.

Continuing Egypt’s revolution from exile: Ramy Essam and Ganzeer

[Habash and his colleague Mustafa Gamal were arrested following the release of Balaha, a song that indirectly poked fun at Sisi, the former defence minister who came to power after a military coup ousted president Mohamed Morsi in 2013. Essam, the singer who performed Balaha, is currently in exile in Sweden. The author of the song, Galal el-Beheiry, is also in jail.  “Balaha” is a derogatory nickname for Sisi, in reference to a character from a classic Egyptian movie known for being a compulsive liar. A statement by Essam after Habash’s arrest said that the director “doesn’t have anything to do with the content and message of the song”. Charges brought against Habash and Gamal include membership of a “terrorist group,” spreading false news, abuse of social media networks, blasphemy, contempt of religion and insulting the military. They have both been in pre-trial detention pending investigations since their arrests.]

Human Rights Watch has estimated that more than 60,000 political prisoners have been languishing in Egyptian jails since Sisi became president in 2014.  The former army general has routinely jailed critics, including secular and Muslim Brotherhood politicians, journalists, and human rights defenders. Hundreds have died in custody through medical negligence or other poor detention conditions.

On 5 May Egypt’s public prosecutor said that alcohol poisoning caused the death in jail of this young video maker after he drank liquid sanitiser he had mistaken for water.  https://news.yahoo.com/egyptian-video-maker-died-alcohol-poisoning-jail-prosecutor-015419633.html

For some older posts on Egypt, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/egypt/

Saudi Arabia ends death penalty for minors and flogging but Abdullah al-Hamid dies in detention

April 27, 2020

Many media reported on Saudi Arabia‘s King Salman having ordered an end to the death penalty for crimes committed by minors and to floggings, which should indeed be considered progress. King Salman’s son and heir, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has sought to modernize the country, attract foreign investment and revamp Saudi Arabia’s reputation globally. He’s also overseen a parallel crackdown on liberals, women’s rights activists, writers, moderate clerics and reformers. The 2018 killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey by agents who worked for the crown prince drew sharp criticism internationally. [for some ealrier posts on Saudi Arabia, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/saudi-arabia/]

The latest royal decree could spare the death penalty for at least six men from the country’s minority Shiite community who allegedly committed crimes while under the age of 18, including Ali al-Nimr, who had participated in anti-government protests. Such activity carries terrorism-related charges in the kingdom for disturbing order and disobeying the ruler. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have long called on the kingdom to abolish the use of the death penalty, particularly for crimes committed by minors. The president of the Saudi government’s Human Rights Commission, Awwad Alawwad, confirmed the latest decision in a statement Sunday, saying it helps the kingdom establish “a more modern penal code and demonstrates the kingdom’s commitment to following through on key reforms.” He said “more reforms will be coming,” and that the two decisions “reflect how Saudi Arabia is forging ahead in its realization of critical human rights reforms even amid the hardship imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Five years ago, prominent Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was given 50 lashes before hundreds of spectators in the metropolitan city of Jiddah. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/10/29/saudi-blogger-raif-badawi-awarded-europes-sakharov-prize/]. It drew outrage and condemnation from around the world, including from many of Saudi Arabia’s Western allies.

In the meantime long prison sentences carry their own risk as seen in the case of Saudi human rights defender Abdullah al-Hamid, 69, has died in custody in a hospital in Saudi Arabia, according to the Right Livelihood Foundation, which awarded a prize [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/14/right-livelihood-award-urges-freedom-for-3-saudi-laureates/]. It said on Friday that al-Hamid, who was serving an 11-year prison sentence, was taken to hospital after suffering from ill-health in a Riyadh prison earlier this year. He subsequently had a stroke and fell into a coma in early April, according to rights groups including Amnesty International. “Dr al-Hamid was a fearless champion for human rights in Saudi Arabia,” Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty’s Middle East research director, said in a statement.

The Right Livelihood Foundation said al-Hamid was repeatedly denied crucial medical care and “paid the ultimate price for his convictions”. Ole von Uexkull, head of the foundation, blamed Saudi authorities for his death, saying that al-Hamid’s “unlawful imprisonment and inhumane treatment … led to his death“.

Policy response from Human Rights NGOs to COVID-19: FIDH

April 10, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many human rights organisations have been formulating a policy response. While I cannot be complete or undertake comparisons, I will try and give some examples in the course of these weeks. Here the one by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH): “COVID-19: States bear direct responsibility for the health of individuals in their custody” states a press release of 7 April 2020.

While the cases of COVID-19 are multiplying in prisons, detention centres and in places of custody, faced with the risk of a massive spread of the virus behind the walls, FIDH (the International Federation for Human Rights) calls for urgent measures to be taken to preserve the health of detainees, and for the release of the most vulnerable, of those detained for minor crimes and on remand custody, and of those whose detention is contrary to international norms.
In times of crisis, governments have an obligation to protect those who are most vulnerable. Prison populations, confined to detention facilities that can easily become virus hotspots, are among those most vulnerable to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a particular risk where collective cells and overcrowding are the norm, where social distancing is impossible to achieve, where many detainees are awaiting trial, and where the prisons’ health services are unprepared.
Over the past weeks, throughout the countries and regions where the COVID-19 virus has spread, many prison inmates, staff and/or caregivers have tested positive for the virus. Hundreds of inmates with virus symptoms have been “confined”. Tensions in prisons have also increased in the context of the spread of the virus, in reaction to the overcrowding of prisons, to the lack of personal hygiene or health services, or to restrictions on visits —notably when those visits enabled adequate food supply-, or other activities.While every prison, detention centre and place of custody constitutes a potential epidemiological outbreak, the spread of the virus in places of detention will be inevitable unless urgent measures are taken to mitigate this risk.

Echoing concerns expressed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) in its COVID-19 Statement of Principles, FIDH calls on governments to relieve congestion in prisons by releasing vast numbers of prisoners through various means, including temporary or early releases and amnesties; home detention and commutation of sentences.

Such measures should be consistent with States’ obligations under the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (revised and adopted as the “Nelson Mandela Rules”) which detail measures aimed at ensuring adequate personal hygiene, health, and safety of prisoners.

We welcome the move by a number of countries, including Argentina, Chile, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Iran, Tunisia and Turkey to begin releasing prisoners in an effort to reduce overcrowding and prevent the spread of the virus. These efforts however have been inconsistent with many of these countries’ human rights obligations and with international institutions’ recommendations.

In countries like China, Egypt, Iran or Turkey, where the policies of mass incarceration of journalists, whistle blowers, human rights defenders, political prisoners or of civilians taking part in demonstrations are in flagrant contradiction with international human rights norms, prison releases have not included these persons.

States should thus follow specific priorities for the releases, that are guided by the vulnerablity of the individual detained as well as the motives for his or her detention. As such, priority should be given to the elderly, to pregnant women and to children, to those with underlying health conditions, as well as to administrative detainees, to individuals detained for minor or non-violent offences, and to detainees awaiting trial. In addition, prisoners of conscience, prisoners detained for expressing their opinions, human rights defenders, whistleblowers, and undocumented migrant detainees should be immediately and unconditionally released.

Governments should also ensure that during the COVID-19 pandemic the human rights of all those who remain in detention are upheld. As such, measures adapting the conditions of detention, with regard to food, health, sanitation and quarantine measures, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the facilities, should be put in place, to guarantee decent living and health conditions for all detained persons.

Any restrictions imposed on detainees should be non-discriminatory, necessary, proportionate, time-limited and transparent. Measures should not, under any circumstances, justify absolute or solitary confinement. Confinement measures should enable confidential and through distance, meetings of inmates with their families, close companions and lawyers in a confidential manner, while respecting the WHO recommended physical distancing and handwashing protocols. Under the current COVID-19 circumstances, we also recommend that all detainees should have access to time outside of the confins of their cells and be able to utilise recreational spaces available.

Lastly, while States must be able to maintain order and security within prisons and detention centers, measures to prevent riots and restore security conditions in prisons should not empower authorities to resort to the excessive use of force.

Read more

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/covid-19/

https://www.fidh.org/en/region/Africa/covid-19-states-bear-direct-responsibility-for-the-health-of

Refugees and migrants in camp conditions at high risk of COVID-19

March 30, 2020

Corona virus threatens human rights defenders in detention: Egypt and Turkey

March 20, 2020

Human rights defenders are often kept in detention and that is bad enough, but with the Covid-19 pandemic this risks killing many of them. Overcrowded prison conditions are such that infection is bound to occur. Following a request from the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, Tehran released 85,000 prisoners, including many political prisoners, in an attempt to help stop the spread of the virus. China, Italy and Bahrain also have released prisoners over coronavirus concerns.

Now a coalition of human rights groups, activists, and politicians, including former Tunisian President Moncef Marzuki, sent a letter to UN Secretary and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urging the prisoner releases after the first case among prisoners was confirmed in Egypt. …..”Even more worrying in this time of pandemic, prisoners are crammed in cells that are so small that they have to wait for their turns to lay down and sleep,” the letter read.

Coronavirus: Egypt detains novelist Ahdaf Soueif for demanding prisoners’ release

On Wednesday the Egyptian government’s reaction was – surprise, surprise – to detain four activists who staged a protest calling for the release of prisoners in the country. The writer Ahdaf Soueif protested in front of the cabinet building in Cairo, alongside academic Rabab al-Mahdi, Soueif’s sister and academic Leila Soueif, and her niece, activist Mona Seif. Mona Seif live streamed the protest on Facebook, recording a confrontation with police officers who reportedly asked them to stop and “discuss the matter” at a police station…..On 19 March the Middle East Eye reported that Laila Soueif remained in custody late on Wednesday but the three others were freed. This comes as Egyptian prosecutors on Thursday ordered the release of 15 political dissidents, including a prominent academic arrested as part of a crackdown on nationwide protests in September. Mona Seif, Laila Soueif’s daughter, is the sister of Alaa Abdel Fattah, a left-wing activist currently in pre-trial detention.

President Erdoğan’s government in Turkey has rejected calls from human rights organizations to release inmates from two overcrowded prisons despite detection in those facilities of the coronavirus, which has caused the death of more than 8,000 people around the world. A purge of thousands of dissidents in the aftermath of a coup attempt in July 2016 has filled Turkey’s prisons, which today are overcrowded with tens of thousands of political prisoners…On Wednesday Erdoğan announced a number of measures to battle the spread of the coronavirus following an emergency meeting convened to coordinate the fight. Yet the release of prisoners was not among the measures disclosed by the Turkish president.

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a member of parliament and one of Turkey’s most prominent human rights defenders, revealed how he received news from Edirne Prison that three prison guards tested positive there for COVID-19, as a result of which the prison was put under quarantine. A day later, Balıkesir’s Kepsut Prision was also quarantined, Turkish media reported. “A short while ago my husband called and informed me that contamination in a cell had been detected and that they had put everyone in quarantine,” the wife of an inmate told reporters. On March 16 Gergerlioğlu launched a campaign for the release of all prisoners starting with those at greatest risk and submitted a parliamentary question directed to the Ministry of Justice about health conditions in the country’s prisons.

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https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/coronavirus-egypt-united-nations-rights-groups-request-prisoner-release

https://pen.org/press-release/egyptian-writer-detained-for-protesting-prison-conditions-that-could-worsen-covid-19-spread/

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/coronavirus-egypt-releases-bail-four-women-who-called-releasing-prisoners

https://ahvalnews.com/amnesty-bill/turkey-excludes-sex-offenders-early-prison-release-after-outcry-columnist-says

https://www.balcanicaucaso.org/eng/Areas/Turkey/Journalism-in-times-of-COVID19-an-update-from-Turkey-200596

 

http://bianet.org/english/law/222239-27-rights-organizations-call-on-turkey-to-release-jailed-journalists

Wang Meiyu, democracy activist, dies in prison in China

October 2, 2019

The Guardian, Hong Kong, reported on 28 September 2019 that human rights defenders are calling for an investigation into the death of the Chinese democracy activist who was arrested for holding up a placard calling for Chinese President Xi Jinping to step down. Wang Meiyu, 38, was detained in July after he stood outside the Hunan provincial police department holding a sign that called on Xi and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to resign and implement universal suffrage in China. He was later charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a vague offense often given to dissidents.

According to Wang’s mother and lawyer, he died on Monday. Wang’s wife, Cao Shuxia, received a call from police notifying her that her husband had died at a military hospital in the city of Hengyang, where he had been held. The police officer on the telephone did not offer any explanation of the cause of death. According to Minsheng Guancha, a Chinese human rights group, Cao was later able to see Wang’s body and saw that he was bleeding from his eyes, mouth, ears and nose, and that there were bruises on his face. According to Radio Free Asia, Cao said police pressured her to accept their statement that Wang’s death had been an accident, but she refused. “The Chinese government must investigate allegations of torture and the death in detention of human rights activist Wang Meiyu and hold the perpetrators of torture and extrajudicial killing criminally accountable,” Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) said in a statement.

Since Monday, Wang’s family has been placed under house arrest, CHRD said. He has two young children. Others connected to his case have also come under pressure. Late on Wednesday, six armed police detained Xie Yang, a rights lawyer, and Chen Yanhui, an activist, who had met at a hotel to discuss Wang’s case. They were released on Thursday. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/30/rsdl-chinas-legalization-of-disappearances/

Wang, who began his work as an activist when his home was forcibly demolished, had been detained and claimed to have suffered torture before. After he held up the placard calling for Xi’s resignation, he wrote online of how police stormed into his home, ordering him to write a confession letter and a statement promising he would stop. “These idiots. They can’t understand that even after these years of persecution, including being deprived of water for three days or suffering two hours of electrical needles that caused me to vomit blood, I won’t surrender,” he wrote.

Amnesty asks Myanmar to drop charges against detained filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi

August 1, 2019

In response to the opening of the trial of filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi on 1 August 2019, Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Director for East and South East Asia said: “Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi should be celebrated for his human rights work, not wallowing in prison without appropriate care.

Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi is the latest in a long line of Myanmar activists targeted for criticising the Myanmar military. Peaceful comments on Facebook are not a crime, even if they criticise officials, and his is yet another politically motivated trial. Authorities should drop these vindictive charges, and Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi must be immediately and unconditionally released. “We remain deeply concerned about his health in detention, as he recovers from his battle with liver cancer. Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi should be celebrated for his human rights work, not wallowing in prison without appropriate care. “As the 2020 elections draw near, the clock is ticking for the NLD-led government to repeal the abusive legislation repeatedly used against peaceful critics like Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi.

Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi is a prominent filmmaker and founder of the Human Dignity Film Institute and the Human Rights, Human Dignity International Film Festival in Myanmar in 2013 [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/06/06/burmamyanmar-to-have-first-international-human-rights-film-festival-in-june/#more-2975. He was arrested on 12 April 2019 after a Myanmar military official accused him of defamation for a series of Facebook posts critical of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution and the military’s role in politics. He was initially accused of “online defamation” under Section 66(d) of the 2013 Telecommunication Act. Several days later, the same officer who had lodged the initial proceedings filed a second complaint under Section 505(a) of Myanmar’s Penal Code, which prohibits the circulation of statements or reports which could cause a solider or other member of the Myanmar military to “mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty.” If found guilty and convicted of the 505(a) charge, Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi faces a maximum sentence of two years in prison. The complaint under Section 66(d) – which also carries a maximum of two years in prison – remains pending.

Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi is being detained in Yangon’s Insein prison, where he has been held for more than three months since his arrest. He has been denied bail, despite battling liver cancer and undergoing a major operation earlier this year.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/08/myanmar-drop-charges-detained-filmmaker/

In memoriam Chinese human rights defender Ji Sizun

July 15, 2019

Undated photo of award-winning Chinese human rights activist Ji Sizun, who died of cancer at 71, weeks after the end of his prison term, July 10, 2019.

Undated photo of award-winning Chinese human rights activist Ji Sizun, who died of cancer at 71, weeks after the end of his prison term, July 10, 2019. Courtesy of an RFA listener.

Award-winning Chinese human rights activist Ji Sizun has died of cancer, pn 10 July 2019 weeks after the end of his prison term. He was 71. Ji, a self-taught legal activist from the southeastern province of Fujian, died of colorectal cancer on Wednesday afternoon at the Zhangzhou Xiangcheng Hospital in Zhangzhou city, his family said.

He had just finished serving a four-and-a-half year jail term for publicly supporting the 2014 pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, and had been held incommunicado and under close surveillance by the authorities since his “release” in April. His family members were denied permission to visit or speak with him until he was unconscious (!), and Ji’s body was sent directly for cremation after his death by the authorities. His sister said her brother had dedicated his life to human rights work, which was why he had never married. “He would say that his work was too dangerous, so he didn’t want to have a wife and child to care about him.”

Ji’s cancer was diagnosed while he was in prison, and he was offered treatment in a local hospital, according to Ji Zhongjiu, a lawyer who had tried to visit him there.

A source close to the case said Ji’s remains had been handed over to his local neighborhood committee, rather than to his family, sparking suspicions that Ji’s death may not have been entirely due to natural causes. “There are huge question marks over this whole thing … as for the family’s letter entrusting them with this task, the family are very confused about that,” the source said. “The letter was signed on June 12, and Ji suddenly died less than a month after they signed it, so clearly there are suspicions that the authorities have been playing god.” He said the family never wanted Ji to be cremated.

Earlier this year, Ji was awarded the fifth Cao Shunli Memorial Award for Human Rights Defenders, for his contribution in promoting legal rights and education at the grassroots level in China. Cao died in March 2014 after she was denied medical treatment for months while in detention. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/16/human-rights-defender-ji-sizun-in-jail-awarded-5th-cao-shunli-memorial-award-for-human-rights-defenders/

The Chinese authorities should investigate the circumstances and causes of human rights activist Ji Sizun’s death, Human Rights Watch said.

Reported by Gao Feng for RFA’s Mandarin Service, and by Wong Lok-to for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/activist-death-07102019113636.html

https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/07/10/china-account-activists-death

Human rights defender Ji Sizun- in jail – awarded 5th Cao Shunli Memorial Award for Human Rights Defenders

March 16, 2019

RFA reported on 14 March 2019 that jailed rights activist Ji Sizun was awarded the fifth Cao Shunli Memorial Award for Human Rights Defenders, for his contribution in promoting legal rights and education at the grassroots level in China. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/02/12/cao-shunli-a-profile-and-new-award-in-her-name/]

The award has been given to those who carry on Cao’s grassroots advocacy while facing threats and risks in promoting human rights, protecting vulnerable social groups from abuses, pushing for civil society participation in international human rights mechanisms, and monitoring the Chinese government’s implementation of its human rights obligations,” the overseas-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network said in a statement on its website.

Ji, 70, is a self-taught legal activist from the southeastern province of Fujian who was detained in October 2014 for publicly supporting the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. He was later handed a four-and-a-half-year jail term for “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order” and “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble” for helping petitioners to organize two protests in August and September 2014. “Ji Sizun’s health has seriously deteriorated during his incarceration, and he suffered a debilitating stroke in 2016 and has not received sufficient medical treatment for a number of severe health conditions,” CHRD said. He should be released from Putian Prison in Fujian Province on 26 April, 2019.

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/un-calls-for-probe-into-activists-death-03142019112234.html