Posts Tagged ‘political prisoners’

European Parliament’s Sakharov prize awarded to Venezuela opposition

October 27, 2017

Only a week ago I mentioned the curiously collective award given to the South-Korean people [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/18/korean-people-win-friedrich-ebert-human-rights-award-for-candlelight-rallies/], and now the European Parliament has awarded its Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Venezuela‘s opposition-dominated National Assembly, as well as to political prisoners in the country.

Opposition MP Freddy Guevara in Caracas (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Cubillos)

The National Assembly in Venezuela was nominated for the award by the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) parliamentary grouping along with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE group). MEP Jose Ignacio Salafranca said “they are brave people who, despite being beaten or imprisoned, are not afraid and do not give up, but fight for their freedom and for their dignity.” Fellow MEP Guy Verhofstadt said the award supported “the fight of democratic forces in favor of a democratic Venezuela and against the Maduro regime.”

For more on the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought: http://thedigestapp.trueheroesfilms.org/publicpage#/awards/BDE3E41A-8706-42F1-A6C5-ECBBC4CDB449/Sakharov-Prize-for-Freedom-of-Thought, where you can also learn more about the other two awards named after Sakharov.

Previous winners of the Sakharov Prize include Yazidi women [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/11/01/sakharov-prize-2016-went-ultimately-to-two-yazidi-women/] and Saudi blogger Raif Badawi [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/10/29/saudi-blogger-raif-badawi-awarded-europes-sakharov-prize/].

Source: Sakharov prize awarded to Venezuela opposition | News

Shlosberg awarded the inaugural Boris Nemtsov Prize

May 23, 2016

The Boris Nemtsov Foundation was established by Zhanna Nemtsova, a daughter of the murdered politician, Boris Nemtsov, and plans to work in the field of education and raising public awareness, expert evaluations and also in “helping political prisoners and those who are prosecuted on political grounds in Russia.” A new national award, the Boris Nemtsov Prize, was created which is awarded annually for “outstanding courage in fighting for democratic values, human rights and freedom in Russia.”

Lev Schlosberg, a member of the Yabloko Party and a former deputy of the Pskov regional parliament, was announced as the first recipient. The award ceremony will take place in Bonn, Germany, on Russia’s National Day, June 12.

Nemtsov was in 2015 runner-up in the European Parliament’s Sakharov prize: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/10/29/saudi-blogger-raif-badawi-awarded-europes-sakharov-prize/

Source: Human rights activist Shlosberg awarded Boris Nemtsov Foundation Prize | Russia Beyond The Headlines

MEA Laureate Mutabar continues to press for diplomatic action on Uzbekistan

November 7, 2014

Mutabar Tadjibayeva, MEA Laureate 2008 and now living in exile in Paris has as President of International Human Rights Association “Fiery Hearts Club” wrote an Open Letter in advance of the meeting between the French and Uzbek Ministers of Foreign Affairs in France. Here follows the full text of the letter:

Mr. Laurent Fabius, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs
37, Quai d’Orsay
F – 75351 PARIS

Members of the French Senate and National Assembly
Palais du Luxembourg
15, rue de Vaugirard
75291 PARIS Cedex 06

Dear Minister Laurent Fabius, Dear Members of the Senate and National Assembly:

In advance of your meeting with Mr. Abdulaziz Kamilov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan, we write to encourage you to urge the Uzbek government to sincerely address the serious, systematic and ongoing human rights violations of the Uzbek people, including the situation of civil society activists, religious prisoners, transparency and openness in France-Uzbekistan dialogue, the recent undemocratic initiatives of president Karimov to amend the Uzbek Constitution, and state-orchestrated forced labour of children and adults during annual cotton harvesting season.

The situation of civil society

In your meeting with Mr. Kamilov we urge you to raise the situation of imprisoned civil society activists who make up one of the most vulnerable categories of inmates in the Uzbek penitentiary system. The number of imprisoned civil society activists has remained almost unchanged for many years because of two reasons: there are not so many independent civil society activists operating in Uzbekistan because of the government’s continued repressive policy and ongoing persecutions against the activists, and in place of one released imprisoned activist the government tends to send to jail two more civil society activists. Different independent observers and international rights groups mention from 15 to 30 civil society activists who remain in prison.

Our organization has studied well the cases of at least the following civil society activists who were sent to jail under trumped up criminal cases and who are serving their lengthy prison terms: Murod, Juraev, Solijon Abdurakhmonov, Azam Farmonov, Mehriniso Hamdamova, Zulkhumor Hamdamova, Isroiljon Kholdorov, Nosim Isakov, Gaybullo Jalilov, Abdurasul Khudoynazarov, Erkin Kuziev, Ganikhon Mamatkhonov, Zafarjon Rakhimov, Yuldash Rasulov, Dilmurod Saidov and Akzam Turgunov. Whereabouts of journalist Jamshid Karimov who has been kept forcedly in a psychiatric clinic for five years and then released in 2011 is unknown. Soon after his release from the psychiatric clinic he has disappeared. His colleagues suggest he has been forcedly placed into the psychiatric clinic again.

We urge you to raise the issue of the above mentioned political prisoners in your talks with the Uzbek Minister and call on the Uzbek government to immediately release those civil society activists from prison out of urgent humanitarian concerns. But specifically we urge you to request immediate release of the following imprisoned civil society activists who are elderly and experiencing dire health problems: Murod Juraev, Dilmurod Saidov, Solijon Abdurakhmonov, Agzam Turgunov, Ganihon Mamatkhonov and Mehriniso Hamdamova. In February several human rights defenders from Uzbekistan were allowed by the authorities to visit Murod Juraev, Dilmurod Saidov, Solijon Abdurakhmonov and Agzam Turgunov in prison. The visits have confirmed their poor health conditions and lack of access to proper medical treatment in prison. The fact that the Uzbek activists were allowed by the authorities to visit the imprisoned colleagues is unprecedented but we don’t yet what underlying reasons have pushed the Uzbek authorities to do so. Nevertheless we can accept this fact as a good sign.

Ganikhon Mamatkhonov, another elderly human rights activist, who was convicted under trumped up criminal charges in 2009 to 4,5 years was expected to leave the prison on March 10, 2014 because his prison term ended. But on the eve of his release the prison administration has accused him of disobeying orders and rules of prison administration and put into a solitary confinement. Mamatkhonov has experienced heart attack three times, the last time it happened during his detention. We think the Uzbek authorities have deliberately accused Mamatkhonov of disobeying prison orders and rules and sent him to a solitary confinement in order to prolong his prison sentence. This is a popular method used by the Uzbek authorities to keep “unwanted” inmates in prison under prolonged sentences. For instance, an opposition activist Murod Juraev was convicted to 12 years in prison in 1995, but his sentences ever since been prolonged up to four years each time in 2006, 2009 and 2012. An inmate accused of disobeying prison orders and rules becomes automatically non eligible for annual amnesty acts. Mehriniso Hamdamova is a women religious scholar and activist convicted to 7 years in prison in April 2010. She has hysteromyoma and needs an urgent surgery. This type of surgery and post-surgery medical treatment can’t be provided in prison.

During your talks with Minister Kamilov we urge you to call on the Uzbek authorities to immediately release the above mentioned small group of political prisoners out of humanitarian concerns. We also take this opportunity to stress that the Uzbek authorities keep sending more civil society activists to prison under clearly trumped up charges. In 2013 Bobomurod Razzakov of “Ezgulik” Human Rights Society was sent to prison. In March 2014 two members of “Erk” political opposition party Fakhriddin Tilloev and Nuriddin Jumaniyozov were convicted to 8 years and 3 months in prison.

Religious prisoners

Under religious prisoners or prisoners of conscience we understand those inmates who are convicted for religious extremism, fundamentalism, terrorism, crimes against the constitutional system. Today religious prisoners are the most vulnerable massive group of inmates in Uzbekistan. Numerous accounts of independent observers point out that the vast majority of the religious prisoners were convicted to lengthy prison terms as a result of self-incriminating confessions extracted under torture and similar ill-treatment. Among them there are many family members and close relatives.

The government policy against religious extremism targets in most cases peaceful religious practice and is based on a primitive maxim that if there is one religious extremist in the family, then all members are automatically labeled as extremists. For most religious prisoners torture and similar ill-treatment continues even when after they are convicted and sent to prison facilities for serving their sentences. They rarely fall under annual amnesties, in most cases the authorities accuse them of disobeying prison orders and rules and prolong their sentences. Independent observers think there are from 6.000 to 10.000 religious prisoners but this data can’t be corroborated because the penitentiary system in Uzbekistan is completely closed. The issue of religious prisoners and gross human rights violations they are facing does rarely become a subject of discussions between Uzbekistan and its international interlocutors because of its sensitive character but we think France should be concerned with this issue as well if the bloc cares about the security situation and human rights in this Central Asian nation.

France – Uzbekistan dialogue

In its dialogue with the Uzbek government France should be careful to be dragged too much to different ends affected by the various views among the EU member-states. This trend could continuously affect the implementation of the EU strategy towards Uzbekistan because of the lack of precise set of benchmarks which makes independent monitoring / evaluation difficult. Moreover, we are afraid that the whole process of the dialogue between France as well as the EU and Uzbekistan has mostly been an “insiders’ game” and elite driven, neither France and the EU nor the Uzbek government have consulted members of the civil society organizations (CSOs) in Uzbekistan. Lack of public information over France’s and the EU’s strategy and relations with Uzbekistan logically leads into a virtually non-existent public awareness of it in Uzbekistan. Information on the France and the EU – Uzbekistan dialogue is kept behind closed doors meetings.

While pointing to human rights, democracy, good governance and rule of law as one of the first priority issues, senior EU officials (e.g. the EUSR and his staff) are at the same time careful in avoiding “double standards” by singling out less criticism on human rights record in Uzbekistan. This, however, from local viewpoint means that in terms of democracy and human rights even longer patience is needed as the strategy does neither pressure the Uzbek regime nor advises to ease the social tension by adopting new practices. Such an attitude merely allows Tashkent choosing among priorities what fits to their own policy path, Thus Tashkent can continue playing

its own regular role in a new framework as well: each time an important international interlocutor (e.g. the UN or EU) adopts a set of specific recommendations addressed to the Uzbek government, the Uzbek authorities respond by adopting a National Action Plan on the implementation of the recommendations. No practice changes in the end.

In advance of elections Uzbek president aims at amending the Constitution again

In advance of expected parliamentary and presidential elections in December 2014 and March 2015 Uzbek president Karimov has initiated amendments to articles 32, 78, 93, 98, 103 and 117 of the Constitution. The government controlled mass media reported about the president’s initiative on March 14, 2014 but the substance of suggested amendments to the constitutions was missing in publications. However quick analysis of the suggested amendments demonstrate that the president is most probably aiming at amending the constitution to allow himself to be appointed as a life-time president through a referendum.
Moreover, he has already used such tactic of entrenching himself in the power in the past several times during presidential elections and referendums he has himself orchestrated in the past. There is also a bad precedent in the Central Asian region – Nazarbaev of neighboring Kazakhstan has appointed himself a life-time leader through similar constitutional amendments without any hesitation several years ago.

We think the EU should be concerned seriously with such trends in the political life of Uzbekistan which further entrenches an authoritarian system in the country and further increases political uncertainty with security situation in this Central Asian nation.

Forced labor

Despite continuous international protests and criticism the Uzbek authorities keep on practicing massive state-orchestrated forced labour of children and adults during annual cotton harvest season. In the fall of 2014 as well the Uzbek authorities forced more than million of different groups of citizens, including schoolchildren, students, teachers, personnel of medical facilities, owners of small and medium businesses, to harvest cotton in abusive conditions under the threat of punishment. As in the previous years during 2014 cotton harvest season independent observers have again documented over 10 cases of death in the cotton fields of the people forced to this type of labor mainly because of failing technical and labor security standards, incidents and lack of proper medical treatment. The Uzbek authorities kept harassing local activists and journalists who tried to report on the issue.

We appreciate your attention to these matters and welcome the opportunity to discuss them with you.

Sincerely,
Mutabar Tadjibayeva
President of International Human Rights
Association “Fiery Hearts Club”

Sakharov Freedom Award Goes to 98 Azeri Political Prisoners

October 11, 2014

October is awards season, so you should know that the 2014 Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award recognizes 98 political prisoners in Azerbaijan. [Note : there is also the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize – of more info please go to: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards]

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee’s Secretary General, Bjørn Engesland, announced the award in Oslo on 6 October, noting the sad fact that Azerbaijan’s political prisoners “are too numerous to all be mentioned here.” The Committee has documented 98 political prisoners, among them 13 journalists and bloggers.  In addition, the prisoners include 10 human rights defenders and civil society activists, nine youth activists, a prominent opposition leader, “and many other opposing voices and religious activists.” The Committee noted that Azerbaijan assumed the Presidency of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers this year.“Just weeks after Azerbaijan took over the chairmanship in May 2014, a new wave of detention of activists started. In what appears as a sign of contempt against the Council of Europe institutions, this wave in particular hit human rights defenders who have worked hard with the Council for the recognition and release of Azerbaijani political prisoners.

via Sakharov Prize Goes to Azeri Political Prisoners.

Major conference on human rights in Belarus on 27 May in Geneva

May 22, 2014

On Tuesday 27 May 2014, will take place a Conference on the human rights situation in Belarus, from 14h00 –17h00 in the International Conference Centre in Geneva (room 3)

Speakers include:

  • Florian Irminger, Human Rights House Foundation
  • Tatsiana Reviaka, Human Rights Centre “Viasna” and Belarusian Human Rights House
  • Aleh Hulak, Belarusian Helsinki Committee
  • Anna Gerasimova, Belarusian Human Rights House
  • Volodymyr Yavorskyy, Working group on the development of the Guidelines on Definition of Political Prisoner
  • Andrzej  Poczobut, journalist
  • Nicolas Agostini, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  • Andrei Paluda, Human Rights Centre “Viasna”
  • Pavel Levinau, Belarusian Helsinki Committee
  • Natallia Pinchuk, wife of Belarus political prisoner Ales Bialaitski
  • Marina Adamovich, wife of Belarus political prisoner Mikola Statkevich

For more  information contact: anna.innocenti[at]humanrightshouse.org

The meeting is cosponsored by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, FIDH, Civicus, Belarusian Human Rights House and the Human Rights House Foundation.

Swedish Ice Hockey President presses case of human rights defender detained at Minsk airport and scores…

May 12, 2014

Swedish human rights activist detained at Minsk airport

On 12 May 2014 Charter97 brings a story that shows that Belarus finds it awkward to let human rights defenders into the country but it equally that high-level intervention by sports officials can help. According to Christer Englund, the President of the Swedish Ice Hockey Association, the detention of Paulina Kluge and the earlier detention of Martin Uggla are obvious violations of the arrangements between the International Ice Hockey Federation and the Belarusian authorities. “No visas are needed for those having a ticket for a hockey match. It shouldn’t matter what your name is,” Christer Englund said. “The issue is now being discussed on the level of Lukashenka and Fasel.” Paulina  Kluge was allowed to enter Belarus in the end he said in interview with SVD sport.

Human rights defender Martin Uggla, who had been deported from Belarus earlier, wrote on Facebook: “Another Swedish human rights activist from Östgruppen – Paulina Kluge – was detained at the airport in Minsk on May 9. She was waiting for the deportation. My case was being discussed at the highest level (Fasel and Lukashenka) at that time. They began to discuss both issues. As a result, Paulina was allowed to enter the country! They said it was a ‘technical error’. As for my status, there’s no new information so far”. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/human-rights-defenders-call-for-release-political-prisoners-during-ice-hockey-world-championship-in-belarus/

[About 30 opposition activists have been detained by the police in the last two weeks]

Swedish human rights activist detained at Minsk airport – Charter97 :: News from Belarus – Belarusian News – Republic of Belarus – Minsk.

Human rights defenders call for release political prisoners during Ice Hockey World Championship in Belarus

April 25, 2014

Libereco, a Swiss-German human rights organisation, called on Lukashenka to grant amnesty to the Belarusian political prisoners on the occasion of the Ice Hockey World Championship, The statement on Libereco’s website reads that nine people remain under arrest for political reasons in Belarus. They are former presidential candidate Mikalai Statkevich, Ales Bialiatski, activists Ihar Alinevich, Mikalai Dziadok, Andrei Haidukou, Eudard Lobau, Vasili Parfiankou, Artsiom Prakapenka and Yauhen Vaskovich.

Interesting to note that the appeal to Lukashenka was signed by Christoph Strässer, the German Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy; Read the rest of this entry »

Human rights defenders participate in MP4Freedom campaign

April 2, 2014

US-based NGO Freedom House, in cooperation with the Lithuanian Parliament and Belarusian human rights defenders, launched on 26 March 2014 the MP4Freedom initiative inviting Lithuanian MPs to become “godparents” of political prisoners in Belarus.As neighbors, Lithuanians should care about the future of the Belarusian nation,” said Petras Austrevicius, deputy speaker of the Seimas, who championed the initiative on behalf of the Lithuanian Parliament.  “The idea behind this initiative is to encourage Lithuanian MPs to engage on the issue personally by becoming ‘godparents’ of political prisoners in Belarus.”

To make this initiative effective, Lithuanian MPs should address the Belarusian authorities and demand the release of political prisoners,” said Marina Lobava, the mother of a political prisoner Eduard Lobau. “MPs can write to the heads of detention facilities requesting information about the health of a particular political prisoner. They can also help by contacting the International Red Cross and facilitating its visits to prisons. International advocacy in the EU to keep the political prisoners issue on the foreign policy agenda towards Belarus is also necessary.”

Under this campaign, the participating Lithuanian parliamentarians, who represent the governing and opposition political parties alike, take the responsibility to follow the cases of particular political prisoners in Belarus, meet with their relatives, and speak publicly both at Lithuanian and international venues on human rights violations in Belarus. There are currently 10 political prisoners in Belarus, according to the Human Rights Center Viasna.

Freedom House, the Lithuanian Parliament and human rights defenders launch initiative to support Belarusian political prisoners | Belarus: civil society under attack | Freeales.fidh.net.

Burma: 56 political prisoners freed, but Section 18 law stays in place and new arrests continue

October 17, 2013

In a move praised by local and international rights groups, Burma’s government, led by ex-general Thein Sein, has released 56 political prisoners. However, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners [AAPP] noted in a statement to the media that 133 political prisoners were still languishing in the country’s prisons. Read the rest of this entry »

Good Breaking News: Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh among freed political prisoners

September 18, 2013

Today, 18 September 2013, the BBC and other news media brought the good news that Iran lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh is among the freed political prisoners which Iran is reported to have freed (at least eight). Nasrin Sotoudeh was arrested in 2010 and jailed for six years on charges of acting against national security. She was one of the three Final Nominees of the MEA in 2012 and winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov award.NASRIN_SOTOUDEH_PORTRAIT

The release of the political prisoners comes just days before Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani visits New York for the UN General Assembly. In his election campaign, he promised to free political prisoners.

via BBC News – Iran lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh among freed political prisoners.