Posts Tagged ‘open letter’

Action for the #IBelong Campaign in South Africa

November 13, 2020

A group of eminent personalities in South Africa, among whom Arnold Tsunga, Chairperson of the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network have addressed an open letter to the nation saying “Every child needs a birth certificate“:

Dear South Africans,

More than a million children are born in our country each year and are issued birth certificates.  But estimates are that another 100 000 children are not registered at birth in South Africa, setting them up for a lifetime of exclusion, disadvantage, and de facto statelessness.  

Our progressive constitution provides the right to a name and nationality from birth for every child. It also ensures the right to primary education, to healthcare and other social services, to protection from exploitation and abuse — among numerous other important human rights.  A birth certificate is key to a nationality, identity, and to the opportunities and obligations that will be part of what it means to be South African for the rest of their lives.  We can take pride in these provisions for our children, and the steps and progress made by our leaders to put them in place. 

Without a birth certificate, a child is at risk of being stateless, which means no country will recognize him/her as a citizen. Often, such children are excluded from accessing the fundamental rights and opportunities we take for granted, and stateless children may be joining a long line of family members before them.  Because their parents and grandparents lacked identity documents, they are unable to prove their child’s right to a birth certificate, and with it, a nationality. 

As supporters of UNHCR’s #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness, we call on our leaders and communities to remove barriers for these children.  Let us streamline and simplify birth registration processes.  Let us make sure that cost or distance from civil registration centres are not factors that condemn a child to be marginalised, and ultimately stateless.

Let us make sure that all parents understand their children’s rights and are supported to complete the steps needed to register their birth, regardless of their documentation status.

Let us ensure that safeguards against statelessness are in place to protect orphans and children found abandoned in South Africa.  Above all, let’s fulfil the promise to all children throughout this country that is laid out in our constitution.

South Africa’s future prospects lie with its children, and how well we prepare them for tomorrow.  By making sure that every child’s birth is registered, we can give them the best start in life: to seek health care, to be educated, to work legally, to pursue justice under the law, to vote, to marry, to provide for a family, and one day to register the birth of their own child. 

By doing so, we make it possible for them to play for their national sports team, to lead a municipality, a congregation, or a nation.  To become scientists, artists, writers, teachers, journalists or performers, with the potential to influence thought, or to shape our country’s history for the better, and ultimately that of our continent and the world.

Through birth registration, we have the opportunity to end one of the causes of statelessness forever.  Together, let’s do so.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/10/about-the-struggle-against-statelessness/

https://mg.co.za/special-reports/2020-11-13-every-child-needs-a-birth-certificate/

Exceptionally large coalition of NGOs urge more scrutiny of China

September 9, 2020

In an open letter published Wednesday 9 September 2020 the groups say they are seeking greater scrutiny of and response to violations in places like Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang, as well as beyond — such as through censorship, development that hurts the environment and the targeting of rights defenders.

The call for the creation of an “independent international mechanism” to focus on China’s rights violations adds to recent international pressure on Beijing over its handling of issues like protests in Hong Kong and detention centers — what the government calls vocational or training centers — for Uighur Muslims and others in western Xinjiang region.

China has systematically persecuted rights defenders in reprisal for their cooperation with U.N. human rights operations — torture, enforced disappearance, imprisonment, and stripping licenses from lawyers,” said Renee Xia, director of Chinese Human Rights Defenders, in a statement. “The U.N. system should no longer tolerate such treatment.”

The move follows a call by independent experts who work with the United Nations for a special session of the Human Rights Council focusing on the array of issues around China’s rights record. Advocates insist that no country — no matter how large or powerful — should escape extra scrutiny of their rights records when warranted. [see also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/27/un-experts-address-3-big-ones-usa-china-and-india/]

The groups also want U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to “take responsibility for publicly addressing China’s sweeping rights violations,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

At a news conference Wednesday in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian sought to brush off the groups’ appeal, saying: “I think the statements made by these organizations are groundless and not worth refuting.”

The appeal comes before the start of the 47-member-state Human Rights Council’s fall session on Monday. In its summer session, the council held an urgent debate on a rise of police violence against Black people and repression of protests in the United States.

https://www.startribune.com/over-300-groups-urge-more-scrutiny-of-china-on-human-rights/572357402/?refresh=true

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/09/global-coalition-urges-un-to-address-china-human-rights-abuses/

16 NGOs call on UN to convene special session on crackdown in Belarus

August 27, 2020

Police officers detaining a protester in Minsk on 10 August © Natalia Fedosenko/TASS

An open letter has been signed by: Article 19, Assembly of Pro-Democratic NGOs of Belarus, Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House, Belarusian Association of Journalists, Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Civil Rights Defenders, Human Constanta, Human Rights House Foundation, Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), La Strada International, Legal Initiative, Legal Transformation center (Lawtrend), Viasna Human Rights Center and World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).

The UN Human Rights Council must urgently convene a special session to address the human rights crisis in Belarus. The joint letter expresses the organisations’ “utmost concern” over “widespread violations of human rights, including arbitrary arrests, prosecutions under trumped-up charges, and torture and other ill-treatment”.

The letter calls on the council to adopt a resolution requesting the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to monitor and report on human rights abuses in Belarus with “a view to ensuring full accountability”.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/13/what-can-we-do-about-the-result-of-the-belarussian-election-on-line-discussion-today-at-14h00/

[In the three days after the 9 August presidential election, the authorities in Belarus confirmed the arrest of at least 6,700 protesters. According to Viasna Human Rights Center, at least 450 of the detainees reported being tortured or otherwise ill-treated – including through severe beatings, being forced to perform humiliating acts, being threatened with rape and other forms of violence – while held in incommunicado detention for up to ten days.

Since 12 August, the authorities have taken steps to de-escalate the situation, refraining from mass arrests and releasing those detained. However, the threats against peaceful protesters recently made by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his subordinates together with the recent deployment of the armed forces in the country’s capital Minsk and elsewhere, signal a possible new spiral of violence and accompanying human rights violations.]

Here the Letter in full:

Click to access civil-society-organizations-call-on-the-united-nations-human-rights-council-to-convene-a-special-session-on-belarus.pdf

Re-issued: Passionate plea for help in Open Letter by Mona Seif from Egypt about targeting of her family

August 6, 2020

It seems that this post of 27 July 2020 was corrupted; for some reason or another many people could not see the text of the letter itself. So here it is again in full. Please read and tke action on it. Mona Seif – MEA finalist of 2013 – and her family have been targeted by the authorities many times [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/08/21/an-exceptional-egyptian-family-of-human-rights-defenders/]

This is an open letter from MONA SEIF asking for your solidarity and support. It is long, but contains crucial details:
My name is Mona Seif, I am an Egyptian HRD. Over the past few weeks the Egyptian regime has been escalating violent targeting of my family. If you are following the news from this art of the world then you know how most of the media platforms have been blocked and many journalists detained, harassed, or pushed into exile. So I am writing to you, hoping you will carry my voice and that of everyone facing injustice here.  

Mona Seif, Egypt – Final Nominee MEA 2013

My brother Alaa Abdel Fattah has been in jail since last September. He was rearrested only 6 months after he got out of prison after completing a full five-years sentence. He has been in maximum security prison for 10 months in horrific conditions and daily violations of his rights, Egyptian laws and prison regulations. For the past months we have filed numerous official complaints, appealed to all sorts of entities here that have jurisdiction over the prison authorities, but none of them made any move to stop the violations or start a serious investigation. None of them made any attempt to bring us just a small bit of our rights. 

On the night of Alaa’s arrival to Tora Maximum security prison 2 he was stripped of his clothes, blind folded, beaten and threatened that “He will never get out of here“, we have submitted an official report to the general prosecutor, we have repeatedly met with the head of his Human Rights adminstration, Alaa went on record in state security prosecution while reviewing his pretrial detention and testified in details on the torture he endured. Until now, not one serious move was taken regarding this horrific incident, and it was an intro to the kind of prison he will be locked in. 

Since the crisis of Covid19 started, the Egyptian MOI has used it as an excuse to tighten the isolation of all prisoners, increase intimidation of prisoners and their families, and escalate in their deprivation of their basic rights. Since March 9th all visits have been completely banned in all prisons all over Egypt, however the families were not offered any alternative form of communication. We were not allowed phone calls with the prisoners, and most prisons are not allowing letters, even though both are explicit rights by the law, not to mention worrying times like these. Some prisoners were trying to get the word out about the deterioration of their health, about fear of Corona in prisons, the lack of proper information to help them understand the toll of the crisis and lack of sanitary measures indifferent  Egypt, the only response the MOI had was clamping down even harder on those prisoners, punishing those who voiced out their concerns, all this while the arrests of more activists is ongoing and the arrest of doctors who talk publicly about their needs, problems and the reality of managing Covid19 within our health system. 

With Alaa in particular, state security seems intent on preventing any sort of communication between us and him, even at times when they are allowing letters from other prisoners. Alaa went on a hunger strike on April12th and they did not even inform us. For a whole month during the covid19 emergency, my brother was on full hunger strike, my mother spent every morning at the prison’s gate and they did not allow us one letter to assure us of his well being.
For every letter received we as a family paid a heavy price. We received a letter after Alaa ended his hunger strike on May 18th, and another on June 6th after my mother camped daily by Tora prison. Then the last one we got was on June 25th after we were violently assaulted and robbed right infront of Tora prison on the watch of their guards,  and only after my younger sister Sanaa was abducted by plainclothed officers while entering the general prosecutor’s office- with her lawyer- to report the violent assault and officially document her injuries. Sanaa is now detained, and we haven’t been allowed any letters from her as well. 

I think I’ve seen alot, I’ve witnessed so many violations committed by the current and previous regimes, but somehow I would have never imagined that a victim of a violent assault would be kidnapped by state security from the gates of the general prosecutor’s office as they are trying to seek his protection and file an official complaint regarding a very public incident like the one we were part of. And it definitely wouldn’t have occured to me that not only the general prosecutor would turn a blind eye on such a grave crime committed at his doorstep, but actually enable them to “legalize”  her detention afterwards. 

Both Sanaa and Alaa are in prison They, and thousands of prisoners, are at risk facing the combined danger of an epidemic and a brutal senseless regime. 
Please speak up on their behalf.. write about them, share their stories, add your name to the petition, or you can directly write a letter to Judge Hany Georgy the Head of Human rights administration at the general prosecutor’s office  hanyfathy70@yahoo.com

 
Every voice counts,
Many thanks
Mona Seif

Links:

Video right after sanaa’s abduction (En subtitles) https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=40727036690138

Petition FreeAlaa

FreeSanaa

ZOOM accused of suspending accounts of human rights defenders

July 29, 2020

Bernise Carolino on 28 July 2020 wrote in the Canadian lawyers Magazine that Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada has condemned Zoom Communications Inc.’s suspension of the accounts of human rights activists, calling it a breach of its responsibility to respect the rights to free expression, association and assembly.

A letter from Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada called upon Zoom to ensure that the communications of its users are not similarly suspended or disrupted in the future. The group urged Zoom to establish a company policy to clarify how it intends to adhere to its international legal responsibility under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The group also requested that Zoom refrain from blocking participation of users based on geography.

In June, Zoom suspended three accounts of activists based in the U.S. and Hong Kong in compliance with a request from the government of China, which claimed that the activists were trying to use Zoom to host meetings commemorating the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Zoom then reinstated the accounts and said that it would not in the future permit such requests to affect individuals outside mainland China.

Despite the reinstatement of these accounts, the lawyers’ rights group took issue with Zoom’s plans to develop technology that will allow it to remove or block participants based on their location in response to requests from local authorities claiming that certain activity on the platform is prohibited based on their country’s laws.

All international businesses, including Zoom, must ensure that all their users can enjoy the rights and freedoms afforded to them under international law,” wrote Joey Doyle, a director of Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada and an author of the letter, in the organization’s press release. “This is particularly important in this present world where most communication takes place over online platforms such as Zoom.”

Zoom has an international law obligation to respect the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, the right to access information and the right to privacy, said Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, citing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as legal bases. The group also called attention to the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which recognizes the right of such defenders to advance the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Joshua Lam, another director of Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, and executive director Catherine Morris co-authored the letter, addressed to Eric S. Yuan, Zoom’s founder and chief executive officer, and Lynn Haaland, the company’s chief compliance and ethics officer.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/21/frontlines-guide-to-secure-group-chat-and-conferencing-tools/

https://www.canadianlawyermag.com/practice-areas/privacy-and-data/lawyers-rights-watch-canada-urges-zoom-to-abide-by-international-human-rights-obligations/331904

Re-issued: Passionate plea for help in Open Letter by Mona Seif from Egypt about targeting of her family

July 27, 2020

It seems that this post of 27 July 2020 was corrupted; for some reason or another many people could not see the text of the letter itself. So here it is again in full. Please read and tke action on it. Mona Seif – MEA finalist of 2013 – and her family have been targeted by the authorities many times [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/08/21/an-exceptional-egyptian-family-of-human-rights-defenders/]

This is an open letter from MONA SEIF asking for your solidarity and support. It is long, but contains crucial details:
My name is Mona Seif, I am an Egyptian HRD. Over the past few weeks the Egyptian regime has been escalating violent targeting of my family. If you are following the news from this art of the world then you know how most of the media platforms have been blocked and many journalists detained, harassed, or pushed into exile. So I am writing to you, hoping you will carry my voice and that of everyone facing injustice here.  

Mona Seif, Egypt – Final Nominee MEA 2013

My brother Alaa Abdel Fattah has been in jail since last September. He was rearrested only 6 months after he got out of prison after completing a full five-years sentence. He has been in maximum security prison for 10 months in horrific conditions and daily violations of his rights, Egyptian laws and prison regulations. For the past months we have filed numerous official complaints, appealed to all sorts of entities here that have jurisdiction over the prison authorities, but none of them made any move to stop the violations or start a serious investigation. None of them made any attempt to bring us just a small bit of our rights. 

On the night of Alaa’s arrival to Tora Maximum security prison 2 he was stripped of his clothes, blind folded, beaten and threatened that “He will never get out of here“, we have submitted an official report to the general prosecutor, we have repeatedly met with the head of his Human Rights adminstration, Alaa went on record in state security prosecution while reviewing his pretrial detention and testified in details on the torture he endured. Until now, not one serious move was taken regarding this horrific incident, and it was an intro to the kind of prison he will be locked in. 

Since the crisis of Covid19 started, the Egyptian MOI has used it as an excuse to tighten the isolation of all prisoners, increase intimidation of prisoners and their families, and escalate in their deprivation of their basic rights. Since March 9th all visits have been completely banned in all prisons all over Egypt, however the families were not offered any alternative form of communication. We were not allowed phone calls with the prisoners, and most prisons are not allowing letters, even though both are explicit rights by the law, not to mention worrying times like these. Some prisoners were trying to get the word out about the deterioration of their health, about fear of Corona in prisons, the lack of proper information to help them understand the toll of the crisis and lack of sanitary measures indifferent  Egypt, the only response the MOI had was clamping down even harder on those prisoners, punishing those who voiced out their concerns, all this while the arrests of more activists is ongoing and the arrest of doctors who talk publicly about their needs, problems and the reality of managing Covid19 within our health system. 

With Alaa in particular, state security seems intent on preventing any sort of communication between us and him, even at times when they are allowing letters from other prisoners. Alaa went on a hunger strike on April12th and they did not even inform us. For a whole month during the covid19 emergency, my brother was on full hunger strike, my mother spent every morning at the prison’s gate and they did not allow us one letter to assure us of his well being.
For every letter received we as a family paid a heavy price. We received a letter after Alaa ended his hunger strike on May 18th, and another on June 6th after my mother camped daily by Tora prison. Then the last one we got was on June 25th after we were violently assaulted and robbed right infront of Tora prison on the watch of their guards,  and only after my younger sister Sanaa was abducted by plainclothed officers while entering the general prosecutor’s office- with her lawyer- to report the violent assault and officially document her injuries. Sanaa is now detained, and we haven’t been allowed any letters from her as well. 

I think I’ve seen alot, I’ve witnessed so many violations committed by the current and previous regimes, but somehow I would have never imagined that a victim of a violent assault would be kidnapped by state security from the gates of the general prosecutor’s office as they are trying to seek his protection and file an official complaint regarding a very public incident like the one we were part of. And it definitely wouldn’t have occured to me that not only the general prosecutor would turn a blind eye on such a grave crime committed at his doorstep, but actually enable them to “legalize”  her detention afterwards. 

Both Sanaa and Alaa are in prison They, and thousands of prisoners, are at risk facing the combined danger of an epidemic and a brutal senseless regime. 
Please speak up on their behalf.. write about them, share their stories, add your name to the petition, or you can directly write a letter to Judge Hany Georgy the Head of Human rights administration at the general prosecutor’s office  hanyfathy70@yahoo.com

 
Every voice counts,
Many thanks
Mona Seif

Links:

Video right after sanaa’s abduction (En subtitles) https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=40727036690138

Petition FreeAlaa

FreeSanaa

Burundi after the “election”: UN and HRW follow up

July 21, 2020

Lisa Schlein reported on 14 July 2020 that UN Investigators are skeptical of reform promises by new President, while HRW sent a letter to the new President Ndayishimiye

Burundi's President Evariste Ndayishimiye gestures to the crowd after his inauguration in Gitega, Burundi Thursday, June 18,…

The U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Burundi is doubting that promises of reform made by Burundi’s newly-elected president will result in hoped-for improvements in the country’s human rights situation. The commission has submitted its report on prevailing conditions in the country to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The three-member panel welcomes promises of political reconciliation, judicial reform and protection of the population made by President Ndayishimiye, in his inaugural address. But, the chair of the U.N. commission, Doudou Diene, says the president’s comments were full of ambiguities and contradictions. 

For example, he notes the president’s remarks seemed to justify the imposition of restrictions on some public liberties such as freedom of expression, information and assembly under the guise of preserving Burundian culture. 

Speaking on a video link from Paris, he said, “Such remarks are concerning, especially given that the new president’s policies will be implemented by a government composed primarily of the old guard of the late President Nkurunziza’s regime — some of whom are under sanctions for their involvement in grave human rights violations.” 

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza queues at a polling station during the presidential, legislative and communal council…
FILE – Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza queues at a polling station during elections, under the simmering political violence and the growing threat of the coronavirus, in Ngozi, Burundi, May 20, 2020.

President Pierre Nkurunziza died of cardiac arrest on June 8, after a brief hospitalization, while his wife was in Kenya undergoing medical treatment. A number of news outlets report he died of the coronavirus. 

Commission chair Diene says gross, widespread human rights violations continue in Burundi and that it would be premature to make any pronouncements on the possible evolution of the situation under the new government. 

He said, “We solemnly urge the new president of the republic to demonstrate his willingness for change by fully cooperating with the international human rights mechanisms. The immediate release of the four journalists of Iwacu, of human rights defenders … would be a significant gesture of this.” {see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/05/burundi-elections-start-with-convicting-4-journalists/]

Burundi’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Renovat Gabu, rejects the commission’s report. He accuses the commission of interfering in the domestic affairs of his country and of slandering and insulting public authorities with the blessing of the U.N. council. 

Human Rights Watch

Letter to President Ndayishimiye: Protecting Human Rights in Burundi, 13 July, 2020

Re: Protecting Human Rights in Burundi

… We have reported on human rights concerns in Burundi since 1995. We are writing to raise important concerns and share our recommendations on steps your government should take to advance and protect human rights in Burundi. We hope that you will address these issues and make the protection and promotion of human rights a top priority throughout your presidency. We urge you to work to make systemic changes to end the violence and abuse, fueled by widespread impunity, that have plagued the country for far too long, especially since 2015.

While we regret the former administration’s withdrawal of Burundi from the International Criminal Court, which took effect in 2017, we are encouraged by the commitments stated in your inaugural speech to reform the judiciary and ensure that all government or other officials who commit offenses are held accountable. Your assurances that measures will be taken to protect victims and witnesses are critical to delivering this promise, as is your commitment to ensuring that corruption will not be tolerated….

To address these challenges and demonstrate a real commitment to promoting rights and turning the page on decades of violence, abuse, mismanagement, and impunity, we urge you to take the following steps during your first year in office:

  1. Remove from security services posts and other executive branches, officials who have been credibly implicated in serious human rights violations, according to reports by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, the UN Human Rights Council, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ fact-finding mission report, and Burundian and international human rights organizations. Ensure that no one who may be subject to criminal or other investigation into human rights abuses is in a position to influence that investigation.
  2. Instruct the security forces, the local administrators, and the Imbonerakure to stop extortion, the use of forced labor, beatings, arbitrary arrests, threats, harassment, and collection of contributions for state-led projects. Order the Imbonerakure and other officials to dismantle all unauthorized roadblocks.
  3. Direct the Justice Ministry to thoroughly and impartially investigate past grave violations of human rights with a view to appropriately prosecuting current and former state security officers and government officials who were responsible for serious criminal offenses. These include National Defense Force and police extrajudicial executions of 47 civilians, members of armed groups and other suspected opponents between December 30, 2014, and January 3, 2015 in Cibitoke province; police use of excessive force in a crackdown on protests in 2015; violence against suspected opponents after the protests; allegations of extrajudicial executions by members of the security forces on December 11, 2015 ; torture and ill treatment of suspected opponents by national intelligence agents and police in since 2015; and extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary arrests of suspected opponents by national intelligence agents, police, and Imbonerakure members since 2015, including during the periods leading up to the constitutional referendum in 2018 and the elections held earlier this year.
  4. Ensure a thorough and independent investigation into the crimes and abuses committed by the Imbonerakure. These investigations should lead to fair and transparent prosecutions, and your government should ensure that your party’s youth league is disarmed and not used for any official state security or similar duties.
  5. End all political interference in the judicial system, facilitate victims’ access to justice, and ensure progress on emblematic cases. This should include the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners and prisoners jailed for exercising their fundamental rights, including Germain Rukuki, Nestor Nibitanga, Christine Kamikazi, Agnès Ndirubusa, Egide Harerimana, and Térence Mpozenzi
  6. Fully protect everyone’s rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association in accordance with international standards. Lift the suspension on the operations of independent media and human rights organizations, and ensure journalists and human rights activists who are in exile can return safely. Members and supporters of political parties, Burundian and international journalists, and Burundian and international human rights defenders should be able to conduct their work freely, criticize government policies, and organize peaceful protests without fear of intimidation, reprisals, harassment, arrests, or the excessive use of force by the security forces.
  7. Cooperate with and support regional and international human rights mechanisms and treaties, and act to ensure that Burundian law adequately reflects international human rights commitments. This should include full cooperation with the UN Human Rights Council’s special procedures, including giving the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi unfettered access to the country; the resumption of cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; finalization of a memorandum of understanding with the African Union’s human rights observer mission and ensuring the observers get unfettered access to the country and its detention facilities; and allow international NGOs to operate without interference.
  8. Ratify the Rome Statute and align national legislation provisions to cooperate promptly and fully with the International Criminal Court as a court of last resort. Cooperate with the ongoing ICC investigations into alleged crimes against humanity committed in Burundi or by nationals of Burundi outside Burundi until 26 October 2017.

https://www.voanews.com/africa/un-investigators-skeptical-reform-promises-new-burundi-president

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/07/15/letter-president-ndayishimiye-protecting-human-rights-burundi

The Elders urge European leaders to stand firm on Israeli annexation threats

July 3, 2020

As reported in the Sri Lankan Guardian The Elders have called on European leaders to maintain their resolve against Israel’s plans to annex swathes of the West Bank, and to insist that any such moves would have negative political and economic consequences for bilateral relations.

The absence of any direct military and legal moves towards annexation on 1 July – the deadline unilaterally declared by Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu – should not be taken as grounds for complacency. Annexation of any part of the West Bank, including illegal settlement blocs, would constitute a flagrant breach of international law.
In letters to French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell, The Elders underscored the damage annexation would cause not only to any hopes of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also to global respect for the rule of law.
Annexation “is fundamentally contrary to the long term interests of both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples. [It] will not dampen future Palestinian demands for rights and self-determination, but destroying hopes in a two-state compromise will increase the risks of future violence in one of the most combustible areas in the world”, the Elders warned in their appeal to Europe’s leaders.
They called on the EU leaders to consider suspending the bloc’s Association Agreement with Israel if annexation does go ahead in any form, and recalled the UK’s historical and abiding responsibility to the region as the colonial Mandate holder in pre-1948 Palestine.
The Elders also reiterated their support for human rights defenders and civil society activists in Israel and Palestine, whose voices need to be protected and amplified at this challenging time.

http://www.slguardian.org/2020/07/the-elders-urge-european-leaders-to.html

CIVICUS and 600 NGOs: “don’t violate human rights while responding to COVID-19”

April 23, 2020

Six hundred NGOs signed a statement saying “We are in this together, don’t violate human rights while responding to COVID-19“:

As governments are undertaking extraordinary measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, we recognise and commend the efforts states are making to manage the well-being of their populations and protect human rights, such as the rights to life and health. However, we urge states to implement these measures in the context of the rule of law: all responses to COVID-19 must be evidence-based, legal, necessary to protect public health, non-discriminatory, time-bound and proportionate.

All responses to COVID-19 must be deeply rooted in these cross-cutting principles: respect of human dignity, independence and autonomy of the person, non-discrimination and equality, and respect of diversities and inclusion. Any response must comply with international standards on emergency legislation and respect human rights and the rule of law. Extraordinary measures are legitimate only under exceptional circumstances, such as when there is an immediate threat to public health. These measures should be used in a necessary and proportionate manner and should be aligned to international human rights law.

To date, there are over two million confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world. The next few weeks are crucial as measures put in place by states will determine the course of the pandemic. Resources will come under severe strain and there may be more shortages of personnel and protective equipment which will put countries under immense pressure. More cases may be reported which will lead to stricter measures being implemented by some states. Despite the challenges faced by governments across the globe, responses to the pandemic should not be used as a pretext to restrict civic space.

We are particularly concerned by states that are abusing emergency powers to place restrictions on fundamental rights, including freedom of expression and the right to access information. Across the globe, journalists, human rights defenders and other independent voices are threatened and punished for speaking out about the extent of the pandemic in their countries, or the measures adopted in response to COVID-19. These countries include Tajikistan, Niger, Egypt, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, El Salvador, Bangladesh and China. Other governments are adopting legislative measures to curtail fundamental freedoms, such as in Hungary, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the Philippines. Some states are abusing their powers to suppress peaceful assemblies, including in Hong Kong.

Governments including India, Myanmar, and Bangladesh, have enforced internet restrictions and shutdowns which prevent many people from accessing vital information about how to protect themselves against the virus. These restrictions also negatively affect the growing number of people who are working remotely so that they can practice physical separation.

Access to information is critical in efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19. Governments must proactively share key information about the pandemic as soon as it is available, such as important decisions, the number of cases, availability of equipment and supplies, and clear advice. Information should be widely available to everyone, not just selected government officials or other intermediaries, as is the case in Uzbekistan. This ensures that individuals, communities and health workers can react quickly and responsibly to new information.

Migrants in detention centers, for example in Mexico and Greece, are living in dire conditions without access to adequate hygiene facilities. It is also impossible for them to practice physical distancing due to overcrowding. All asylum seekers who arrived in Greece since 1 March 2020 have been denied access to asylum. We commend states such as Portugal which have temporarily lifted restrictions on asylum seekers with pending applications. This ensures they have access to healthcare and social security in line with the rest of the population.

Women and children who experience or are at risk of domestic violence may be forced to remain in dangerous situations with an abusive partner or relative. At the same time, access to places of safety and support services may be reduced as shelters are impacted by public health measures and criminal justice resources are diverted.

We are concerned by governments confining persons with disabilities within institutions in several countries including France. This contravenes the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and it places persons with disabilities at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19.

We are concerned by governments that have imposed restrictions leading to human rights violations against LGBT+ persons, including in Peru, Uganda, and Colombia. Governments need to ensure that their policies are inclusive and that all public officials are trained on LGBT+ rights.

Several countries have released prisoners as part of their response to curb the spread of the pandemic. These actions are commendable as congested detention facilities and prisons are high risk areas. We urge countries including Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran, Israel, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Turkey, India, and the UAE to include human rights defenders, peaceful protesters and prisoners of conscience among those being released.

We are further concerned by the growing practice of monitoring and closely controlling people’s movements, even at the cost of their privacy. Efforts to contain the virus must not be used to expand systems of invasive digital surveillance. Israel and Taiwan are notable examples of how technological surveillance is being used in this context, and how disproportionate the impact of such measures may be when they are not strictly defined and limited.

The unprecedented challenges presented by COVID-19 present an opportunity for states and civil society organisations to work together to defeat the virus.

We urge states to be transparent and accountable: this will ensure that any measures adopted to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will be effective. Specifically, we urge states to:

    1. Ensure all measures adopted in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic fully comply with states’ international human rights obligations, and that any associated restrictions on human rights are necessary, proportionate, inclusive and time-limited. Also maintain regular contact with civil society to ensure that new measures are in line with international standards.
    2. Ensure that COVID-19 is not used as a pretext for imposing unjustified restrictions on civil society; it must not be used to target human rights defenders and journalists, and to facilitate authoritarian power grabs.
    3. Ensure the pandemic is not used as an excuse to impose forced returns or refoulement in violation of international human rights law; or as a pretext to suspend or derogate from the fundamental right to seek asylum.
    4. Ensure that the independent judiciary, and not other branches of government, decides on any measures limiting the access and operation of courts. Allow independent courts to evaluate any unlawful imposition or unjustified extension of emergency measures, or the unlawful curtailment of the rule of law.
    5. Ensure that judiciaries and other relevant state authorities give particular consideration to urgent cases, where delay is most likely to cause irreparable harm, or where protective measures are required. This refers to: migrants (including asylum-seekers and refugees as well as internal migrants), women and children, LGBT+ communities, older persons, persons with disabilities, religious minorities and other vulnerable groups.
    6. Release detainees; immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience. This will ease pressure on the prison system and reduce the chance of the prison population, and the population more broadly, of contracting COVID-19.
    7. Pay special attention to traditionally marginalised or vulnerable groups and ensure access to appropriate support, resources and protection mechanisms. Be aware of any issues relating to stigmatisation, exclusion, violence, hatred, labelling and the targeting of victims of COVID-19.
    8. Ensure that no one is left behind in the national policies and strategies to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Make sure policies are inclusive and effectively protect against discrimination on any ground. Consider persons with a disability and make sure all information is delivered in accessible formats.
    9. Apply a gender perspective in all policies relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    10. Maintain reliable and unfettered access to the internet so that all have the right to access and share information. End all unjustified interference with internet connectivity.
    11. Protect the role of independent media outlets and public interest journalism. Ensure that measures to contain the virus, as well as the fight against disinformation, are not used as a pretext to muzzle the media or regulate media freedoms.
    12. Ensure any use of surveillance to track the spread of coronavirus is limited in purpose and time and abides by human rights safeguards. States should adhere to the rights of free expression, privacy, non-discrimination, confidentiality and protection of journalist sources.

To see the NGOs that have endorsed, follow the link below:

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See also:  https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/10/policy-response-from-human-rights-ngos-to-covid-19-civicus-protocol/

https://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/news/4379-civil-society-s-call-to-states-we-are-in-this-together-don-t-violate-human-rights-while-responding-to-covid-19

https://www.newsweek.com/governments-accused-using-pandemic-threaten-human-rights-1499469

Retired civil servants in India come out to support human rights defenders

July 22, 2019

After a group of NGOs [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/27/ngos-come-out-in-support-of-indias-lawyers-collective/], Scroll India reports on 22 July 2019 that former bureaucrats also condemn alleged intimidation of human rights defenders and dissidents and expressed concern over the CBI action against advocates Indira Jaising and Anand Grover, and the case filed against 10 poets and activists in Assam.

Citing three recent cases, the former civil service officers condemned what they said “appears an attempt to govern by fear and intimidation”. One of the cases the former bureaucrats commented on in their open letter was the Central Bureau of Investigation’s action against advocates Indira Jaising and Anand Grover. The searches at their homes and offices on July 11 were vindictive and the government had launched the “fresh attack” on the couple to silence them instead of following legal process, the signatories added. The group denounced “the abuse of authority in harassing human rights defenders”. The two advocates and their organisation Lawyers Collective have been “at the forefront in furthering women’s rights, gender equality, and environmental issues and have been committed to fighting over decades for the rule of law”, the open letter added. The writers pointed out that Jaising and Grover had been involved as lawyers in politically sensitive matters, especially a case in which Amit Shah, now the Union home minister, was an accused.

The former bureaucrats also referred to the labelling of social activists as “urban Naxals” by a wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The wing is “certifying some of India’s most credible leaders of social movements such as Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Shankar Singh as ‘urban Naxals’,” they added. “These are respected persons who have given their life’s efforts in working for the common man.

The letter also mentioned the case filed by the Assam Police against 10 people, most of them Bengali Muslim poets and activists who are often pejoratively referred to as Miya and whose body of work is known as Miya poetry. “In the tradition of protest Black, Dalit and Queer poetry, these poets have created a new genre of poetry which they call Miya poetry, in which they lament and protest about the suffering of their people as a result of the NRC process,” the former bureaucrats said. “They now are charged with inciting hatred under sections which could keep them in jail for many years of their lives.”

They condemned these attacks on human rights defenders, dissenters and poets. “Dissent and freedom of expression are the life-blood of any democracy,” they added. “We find it intensely worrying that there are crude and ham-handed attempts to intimidate such voices into silence, using the institutions of state authority.”

https://scroll.in/latest/931355/former-bureaucrats-condemn-alleged-intimidation-of-human-rights-activists-and-dissidents