Posts Tagged ‘police brutality’

Witness reminds us of the power of images through the Floyd Case

June 13, 2020

The video of the gruesome murder of George Floyd ignited protests around the world in solidarity against racism and white supremacy supported by the government and enforced by police. But we know for every video of police violence, there are many deaths that were not recorded that still deserve our attention and support.

Founded on the power of video to bring attention to the breach of human rights during the Rodney King arrest, beating, filming, and subsequent uprising 28 years ago, WITNESS continues to train and guide people to use their cell phone video camera to record incidents of human rights abuse, then share it with the media and justice system to prosecute wrongdoers. 

Today, the systems and patterns of police abuse are as rampant as ever. What has changed is our collective ability to document these moments. 

We help people document state violence, push for accountability, and implement structural change. In the past few weeks, we’ve seen a spike in demand for our guidance on how to shoot and share footage of police violence safely, ethically, and effectively. Our tips continue to inform ethical and strategic filming of police misconduct and protests.  Video is a tool to show violence. But more importantly, it’s a tool to show patterns. It forces the broader public to pay attention, and authority to change. We have seen commitments from local and state leaders and we encourage more people around the world to break down military and police power.  And to film it.  Ambika Samarthya-Howard Head of Communications WITNESS

https://mailchi.mp/witness.org/the-power-of-video-to-film-injustice?e=e2d40a1193

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/05/policy-response-from-human-rights-ngos-to-covid-19-witness/

Acquitted journalist Santosh Yadav about his ordeal in India

January 10, 2020

In a blog post by Kunal Majumder, CPJ India Correspondent on 8 January 2020, Indian freelance journalist Santosh Yadav says “I feel like a weight has been lifted’ as Chhattisgarh court ends four-year legal nightmare.

Freelance journalist Santosh Yadav, left, with human rights defender Shalini Gera and CPJ India Correspondent Kunal Majumder, during a convention on journalist safety in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, in February 2019. A court on January 2 acquitted Yadav of several charges, ending a four-year legal battle. (CPJ)

Freelance journalist Santosh Yadav, left, with human rights defender Shalini Gera and CPJ India Correspondent Kunal Majumder, during a convention on journalist safety in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, in February 2019 (CPJ)

On January 2, 2020 freelance journalist Santosh Yadav got his life back when the National Investigation Agency court in Jagdalpur acquitted him of charges of helping Maoists militants. The ruling marked the end of a legal nightmare that lasted over four years for Yadav, who says that he was threatened and beaten in custody, before being released on bail under restrictive conditions.

Yadav’s ordeal started in September 2015, when police in India’s Chhattisgarh state arrested him on accusations of aiding and abetting Maoist militants. The journalist’s colleagues and his lawyer, who spoke with CPJ at the time, said they believed the arrest was in connection to his reporting on alleged human rights abuses by police.

The journalist, who at the time was a contributor to the Hindi-language newspaper Navbharat in Bastar district, was charged with 28 counts including associating with a terrorist organization, supporting and aiding terrorist groups, taking part in a Maoist-led ambush against security forces, rioting with a deadly weapon, unlawful assembly, wrongful restraint, attempt to murder, public mischief and criminal conspiracy. He was held in pre-trial detention for one and a half years. Yadav told CPJ that during that time, police beat him regularly and threatened to have him killed. When he was released on bail, the court imposed several restrictive measures.

The day after the January 2 ruling that exonerated Yadav, the journalist spoke with CPJ about his struggle during the four years since his arrest. Here some excerpts from this interview :

Congratulations. So does this court ruling mean you are a free man?

Yes, all charges have been dropped. The judge said that I’m innocent and have been exonerated of all charges. He added that there is no evidence to prove the police charge that I’m a Maoist.

Prior to your 2015 arrest, had police contacted you about your reporting? Were there any signs or warning that police were unhappy with your journalism?

There were numerous incidents when local police officials would express displeasure over my reporting. I never thought it was anything serious. However, before my arrest, police started picking me up from my home at random hours, once at 3 a.m. They would threaten to arrest me, kill me. They even offered money in exchange for information on Maoists. They would keep me in lock-up the whole day and release me in the evening. I had a feeling that my life was at threat. I informed several journalists and human rights defenders including Malini Subramaniam [one of CPJ’s 2016 International Press Freedom Awardees], Shalini Gera and Isha Khandelwal that the police might arrest me.

……..
Previously, you told CPJ and other outlets that you were beaten and threatened even inside jail. Could you describe your time in prison?

I was beaten repeatedly, especially when I would go for bathing. I even started a protest fast, which several prisoners supported. The prison guards retaliated by beating us with batons. At that point, I didn’t know if I would live or die. After beating me mercilessly, I was stripped and put in solitary confinement for 11 days. Then they moved to me Kanker jail. [Kanker is 122 miles from Yadav’s hometown of Darbha.] Even there I was beaten up. The prison guards singled me out for my protests in the Jagdalpur jail and targeted me…

……..


Pakistan: summary justice by the police is widespread

February 10, 2018

On 4 February 2018 the Pakistani newspaper The News on Sunday carried the story “Punjab police has a history and reputation of staging fake police encounters. Has anything changed?

A solution for speedy justice
Fake police encounters are said to be more rampant in Punjab province and some urban centres of Sindh, including Karachi. If one takes the case of Punjab, one finds such encounters to be a popular and preferred method of ‘dispensing justice’ adopted by the police. Police encounters have been staged for long but their number is said to have skyrocketed during the tenures of Shehbaz Sharif as the chief minister of Punjab. This has led to the perception that he has full trust in this method of controlling crime and patronises police officers known as encounter specialists. Prized postings and out-of-turn promotions for such officers strengthen this perception.

After tracing the history of police encounters in Punjab the article states that “Killings through police encounters got an exponential boost after Shehbaz Sharif came to power in Punjab in 1997. It was in July 1999 that BBC carried a news story that 850 suspected criminals had been killed by the police in encounters since the PML-N government had taken over in the province. The fact that 20 of them had been killed in just one week in May 1999 had disturbed human rights defenders all over the world. This killing spree was also observed during his second tenure that started in 2013. In 2015 alone, 440 suspects were killed in police encounters in Punjab.

Ejaz Butt, a crime reporter based in Lahore, recalls the time when he says police was said to have been asked by the Shehbaz Sharif government to decimate the top 10 gangsters of the city. He says police would stage encounters without any fear and hold press conference a day before with the criminals in handcuffs. “The officers would tell reporters to ask questions from criminals, saying they would be killed in shootout the next day,” he adds. The need for this clean-up operation was felt when the trader community of the city became fed up with excessive demands for extortion money and paid assassins who were operating everywhere.

Butt says the encounter experts are very much clear about who to shoot down. “The criminals who have fired at policemen, raped female inmates during robberies, killed abducted children even after getting ransom, molested minors, indulged in multiple murders, including those of witnesses are not spared,” he adds. He says they opt for this method as it is difficult to establish these crimes in courts and letting them go will make them commit the same crime again.

Every time there is an encounter there is a judicial inquiry but most of the time fake encounters are hard to establish. Why is it so? Butt explains the reason is that “encounter specialists are also expert in making the encounter plan and executing it. They prepare a sketch of the crime scene beforehand and fire bullets at police van with unlicensed weapons, claimed to be owned by the criminals. Besides, there is no eyewitness because all the roads and pathways leading to the venue of the encounter are blocked for public before it is carried out.”

Sarmad Saeed Khan says the fake encounters are not probed properly because they are done at the behest of the government. “Not even a single fake encounter can be staged by a police officer on his own”. He says not “every police officer is ready to take these orders and only those agree who get the blessings of the government”.

Though these police officers got out-of-turn promotions, he says, “the Supreme Court reversed these which is a good step. But despite this, these officers obey unlawful orders from the government to kill people in encounters. These dreaded officers are also used to pressurise political opponents whenever needed,” he adds.

If there are any demands for investigation, complainants are warned that they can be taken as those attackers if they keep on demanding an inquiry. Moreover “The problem unfortunately is that even the blood relatives disassociate themselves from such cases and disown the deceased due to the stigma attached to them.”

http://tns.thenews.com.pk/solution-speedy-justice/#.Wnni02Z7GV4

 

Egypt: doctors protest police brutality but no human rights defenders can come and tell about it

February 15, 2016

While human rights organizations and the media around the world were remembering Egypt‘s Tahrir Square [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/five-years-after-tahrir-square-there-is-stability-in-egypt-but-do-not-ask-at-what-price/] the space for demonstrations in Egypt itself was minimal. But a huge exception was made on 13 February 2016 when some 10.000 people gathered at noon in front of the Doctors Syndicate in Cairo. Heartening to see that the doctors have the courage to take up the case against police brutality. But you are unlikely to hear about this from an Egyptian human rights defender in person as they are systematically banned from traveling. Read the rest of this entry »

Human Rights Defenders from York: Katsiaryna Borsuk

January 25, 2015

On 16 February 2015, the York Press carried a feature story by Stephen Lewis about 5 human rights defenders in the temporary shelter programme at York University. The aim of the placements is to give those fighting for human rights around the world a breather, as well as the chance to forge contacts with other human rights workers and organisations around the world.

Katsiaryna Borsuk was born in a village not far from Chernobyl, Belarus, a year after the nuclear accident which made it infamous. The village was radioactively polluted. When she was four, her family were evacuated to the city of Gomel where, as a child, she was taunted for being ‘radioactive’ herself. Many people of her generation have chronic health problems, she says – her own brother has problems with his eyes and his throat.

Interested in environmental protection, she studied natural sciences at university in Gomel. She got caught up in student environmental protests, then became involved with the youth movement. When she graduated, she began working for a banned youth organisation – one that promoted democracy and civil rights. She was several times questioned by the KGB. “They pretended to not be KGB. But they took notes,” she says. “They mostly took you somewhere. Once, they came by car, and interviewed me in the car.”

York Press:
Katsiaryna Borsuk

In 2012, although heterosexual herself, she became involved with Gay Belarus. Homophobia is widespread in Belarus, and there are very few people willing to stand up for LGBT people, she says. They are regularly subjected to homophobic attacks – attacks which are often filmed and posted on social media. Her organisation works with the victims of homophobia, trying to convince families to prosecute cases, talking to police and prosecutors’ offices, arranging free legal representation and even psychological support. But it is not easy. “The police are homophobic. They won’t protect you. Even if people are killed – there have been murders – the police don’t take the case.”

5 human rights defenders in York tell their incredible stories (From York Press).

Human rights defenders in York programme tell their story: Ruth Mumbi

January 22, 2015

On 16 February 2015 the York Press carried a feature story by Stephen Lewis about 5 human rights defenders in the temporary shelter programme at York University. The aim of the placements is to give those fighting for human rights around the world a breather, as well as the chance to forge contacts with other human rights workers and organisations around the world.As these are not the human rights defenders who figure highly in the news, I will in the coming days give you their stories. The first is Ruth Mumbi from Kenya:

York Press:
Ruth Mumbi

LIFE is tough in Nairobi’s Mathare slums in Kenya and “a lot of young people opt for crime so that they can have something to put on the table,” says Ruth Mumbi, who grew up here. There are small seeds of hope, however: among them the Bunge la Wamama Mashinani. It means the ‘grassroots women’s parliament’, says Ruth, flashing a smile. She helped found it, and now acts as coördinator.

We wanted to create a space for women to come together to discuss the challenges they are facing. Most women felt that we were not being fully heard.” The Bunge has few resources – not even a building. “We usually use small open spaces in the slums to hold our debates“.

The slum is riven by racial divides as well as crime – in 2006, fighting between rival Luo and Kikuyu groups saw at least ten people killed and hundreds of homes burned. But the young men who go out to rob, and rape, and kill, all have mothers or wives, Ruth says. “At the end of the day, they go back to their households, to their women. We should be talking with our kids to stop this.”

The Bunge also lobbies for better access to health care – and better access to justice for women who are raped or abused. The law can be an impossibly expensive business. “So we have been working with pro-bono lawyers and women’s rights organisations to provide free legal representation to women,” Ruth says.

As a human rights defender, she herself has faced harassment and intimidation. In 2011, she and a colleague were charged with incitement and remanded for two days in prison after leading a protest about the high death rates at a local maternity ward. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/kenya-rights-defenders-remain-under-attack/]. The harassment continues Ruth says: “Telling me to stop, sending threat messages, sending my mother messages telling her daughter to shut up or else.” And who is this shadowy ‘they’? “I believe they were the police.”

5 human rights defenders in York tell their incredible stories (From York Press).

Battered Lawyer Wins Zimbabwe Law Society Award

November 18, 2014

Kennedy Masiye

RadioVop in Zimbabwe reported on 14 November 2014 that Kennedy Masiye, a human rights lawyer who was brutally assaulted by the police recently, has been honoured by the Law Society of  Zimbabwe (LSZ) for his outstanding contribution to the protection and promotion of human rights in the country.

Masiye, a senior project lawyer with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) was named as the human rights lawyer of the year 2014 at the LSZ’s Summer School held in Nyanga last week. Masiye could not attend the award ceremony as he was detained in hospital (see picture above) recovering from acts of police brutality meted on him while in the course of discharging his professional duties.

[The LSZ’s human rights award is sponsored by Scanlen and Holderness Legal Practitioners and targets junior to mid-career lawyers under 35 years of age]

Masiye has represented and secured acquittals for several human rights defenders in the country including some former farm workers and villagers facing eviction from their living quarters.

I am humbled by the award. At least the work that I am doing as a human rights lawyer is being recognised by the legal fraternity. ZLHR has enabled me to explore my potential in the human rights field. The award is an icing on the cake given the work that we have being doing at ZLHR,” said Masiye.

RadioVop Zimbabwe – Battered Lawyer Wins Zim Law Society Award.

Witness 2013 overview in video

January 10, 2014

In relation to the other post of today about Witness’ new application, I want to draw your attention to the video posted on 23 December giving excerpts from the human rights channel covering police brutality, torture, chemical weapons attacks, etc. Through the lenses of bystanders, witnesses, and sometimes even perpetrators, you see the darkest episodes of humanity, all with the ease of a click, and the speed of an upload. They come from  Daveyton, South Africa in late February, watching with other shocked bystanders as officers handcuffed Mido Macia to their van and drove away, dragging the taxi driver down the gravel road behind them; from Haiti were you can listen to Haitian earthquake survivors, who testified that officials, landowners, and thugs were attempting to force them out of tent camps and into the streets. And in the pre-dawn hours of mid-August, in a suburban Damascus hospital, witnessing in horror victims as young as babies suffering from what would later be confirmed to be a chemical weapons attack. [In 2013, the Human Rights Channel curated nearly 2300 videos from 100 countries, but as the importance of citizen video becomes clear, so too do the challenges it involves, including the need for verification and the potential of misuse.]

Week of Action against crackdown on Cambodian garment workers: 10 January

January 8, 2014

 

While we were celebrating the New Year, Cambodian garment workers protesting for a rise in wages faced a violent police crackdown on 2 January 2014. Freedom Park in Phnom Penh was forcibly cleared by police and mass actions are now banned from the site. Violent crackdowns were instigated by Cambodian military when workers of the Yak Jin factory held a protest asking for a salary increase. Soldiers threatened protesters with “metal pipes, knives, AK47 rifles, slingshots and batons” and arrested 10 people, including monks and human rights defenders. On 3 January,  protesters rallied at the Canadia industrial park and were met with live ammunition, teargas and grenades, leading to a violent clash that ended in 4 dead and 21 wounded. In all, 23 people have been arrested, their location unknown.

[Cambodia’s garment industry comprises 500,000 workers, a majority of whom are women from the rural areas. It provides products for western brands such as  H&M, Adidas, GAP, and Walmart. Some of the factories are Korean-owned.]

A group of NGOs is organizing a Week of Action at international level. For more info write to apwld[at]apwld.org – a campaign kit will be available at apwld.org

For more information:

Global Week of Action against Gov’t Crackdown on Cambodian Protesters.

This is how Zimbabwe celebrated Women Human Rights Defenders Day:

November 30, 2013

Scores of peaceful marchers from Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) were beaten and some arrested by police in anti-riot gear on Friday. The women were on their way to the Mhlahlandlela Government Complex, where they submitted a petition outlining the needs and expectations of Zimbabwean women in the context of the on-going campaign against gender-based violence. WOZA leader Jenni Williams said baton-wielding officers, who were accompanied by dogs, pounced on the group of women, chasing and beating them up.

She added: “We have long argued that police in Bulawayo have seemingly a tribal and regional agenda. Why is it that when we demonstrate in Bulawayo our demos are either stopped before they even start or our members are beaten up? Yet I can go to parliament (in Harare) and nobody will arrest me?”Some women were arrested and then released without charge three hours later, at the intervention of the officer in charge at Drill Hall in Bulawayo, who simply said the women were free to go, without offering any explanation why the women had been violently and brutally arrested in the first place. Williams explained: “He just came in and said we could go, there was no problem. We said to him ‘Just like that? When people have been beaten up and dogs almost set on them and you say there is no problem?’.” The WOZA leader, who has been arrested more than 50 times, expressed concern at the heavy-handedness of Bulawayo police.

WOZA activists brutalised on Women Human Rights Defenders Day | SW Radio Africa.