Posts Tagged ‘political prisoners’

Nicaragua: death in detention and sham trial

February 21, 2022

The United Nations Human Rights Council’s 49th session, which begins on February 28 in Geneva, presents an opportunity to send a powerful message to the Ortega-Murillo government that these human rights violations will not be tolerated. Governments should support a strong resolution on Nicaragua, demanding the release of all detainees subjected to arbitrary detention and prosecutions and establishing an independent mechanism to investigate rights violations.

Tamara Taraciuk Broner, Acting Director, Americas Division of HRW, describes the latest in the Nicaraguan Government’s Attempts to Tighten its Authoritarian Grip:

Nicaragua’s courts are scheduled to hold a sham trial of seven government critics and opposition leaders, all arbitrarily imprisoned since June 2021. It’s the latest in a slew of trials of people detained on absurd charges months on end.

This week’s trial epitomizes Nicaragua’s mockery of justice: A joint trial, with no due process, on charges of “conspiracy to undermine national integrity,” in most cases based solely on the defendants’ exercise of their right to free expression, that will most likely result in swift convictions for all.

Since February 1, at least 14 detainees have been found guilty of “undermining national integrity” during closed-door trials at “El Chipote” prison, rather than at public courthouses, as Nicaraguan law requires. Each trial has lasted just a few hours and has resulted in swift convictions and sentences of several years in prison.

Announcing the trials on January 31, the Attorney General’s Office called the detainees “criminals and thieves.” Authorities had suspended the trials in October 2021 without offering a clear reason.

Between May and November 2021, the government unleashed a wave of arbitrary arrests to pave the way for President Daniel Ortega’s reelection to a fourth consecutive term. Nicaraguan authorities arrested at least 40 critics, including student and business leaders, campesino representatives, defense lawyers, journalists, activists, and seven presidential candidates. More than 130 others were detained earlier and remain in detention.

Criminal proceedings have lacked basic due process. In many cases, detainees were held incommunicado for weeks or months at El Chipote, some in prolonged solitary confinement. When allowed visits, families described abusive conditions, including repeated interrogations and insufficient food.

On February 12, Hugo Torres died in detention. Torres a 73-year-old former companion of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, had been arbitrarily arrested in early June and accused of “treason.”

Prosecutors have based serious accusations solely on claims that the accused had given interviews to media outlets, shared WhatsApp messages, participated in meetings, or signed letters calling for free elections, demanding international condemnation of government abuses, or expressing support for sanctions against Nicaraguan officials.   

These trials contribute to President Ortega’s mounting record of abuse. Given the lack of judicial independence of Nicaraguan courts, this would provide victims the possibility of being heard by an independent body with a chance to holding perpetrators accountable.

Other inmates also are in dire straits, according to family members and rights defenders, who say the prisoners are malnourished, losing weight, teeth and memory, and getting weaker by the day.

Many are facing a serious risk to health and life,” the former president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Antonia Urrejola, said on Twitter.

Ortega, who secured a fourth consecutive term in November elections, has faced widespread criticism from rights groups, opposition figures and international observers who decried the vote as “a sham”.

On Monday, the European Union’s external affairs spokesman, Peter Stano, sent “deep condolences” to Torres’s family and called for an independent investigation into his death. “We reiterate our call for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners … subjected to inhumane detention conditions” in Nicaragua, Stano tweeted.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/12/24/vilma-nunez-human-rights-defender-who-stays-in-nicaragua/

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/02/14/nicaraguas-ultimate-sham-trial

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/14/calls-grow-for-nicaragua-to-release-jailed-opposition-figures

Crackdown on Human Rights Lawyers in Belarus continues

October 27, 2021
Gennady Fedunych (left) and Natalia Matskevich (right) at the trial in Minsk, Belarus.
Gennady Fedunych (left) and Natalia Matskevich (right) at the trial in Minsk, Belarus. © Human Rights Center Viasna 2018

Anastasiia Zlobina, Assistant Researcher for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch reports that on 25 October 2021, the Minsk Bar Association disbarred prominent Belarusian defense lawyer Natalia Matskevich, the latest in a wide-raging and politically motivated crackdown on lawyers.

Matskevich is one of four lawyers who represented Viktar Babaryka, former presidential contender arrested on politically motivated charges in June 2020 in the run-up to the August 9 election. In July 2021, Supreme Court sentenced Babaryka to 14 years in prison for “grand bribery” and “laundering of illicit funds.”

On October 20, the Justice Ministry suspended the license of Evgeni Pylchenka, a lawyer who also represented Babaryka, pending the outcome of a disciplinary case against him. Matskevich’s disbarment and Pylchenka’s suspension came soon after they had filed an appeal in Babaryka’s case. Their colleagues said these sanctions were “absurd” and based on “ridiculous” allegations, including “some [supposedly] incorrectly worded questions to witnesses during trial.” 

In July, days after Babaryka’s verdict, authorities stripped his then-lawyer Dmitry Layevsky of his attorney’s license, citing “inappropriate comments about the work of his colleagues.” Prior to his disbarment, Layevsky had faced pressure from the authorities and the Minsk Bar Association.

In October 2020, the Justice Ministry terminated the license of Aliaksandr Pylchenka, another prominent member of Babaryka’s defense team, over supposed “incompetent comments to mass media”

According to Layevsky, Matskevich and Evgeny Pylchenka became “irreplaceable” in Babaryka’s case due to their detailed knowledge of the voluminous case as well as Babaryka’s trust in them.

Since August 2020, Belarusian authorities have been turning up the pressure on lawyers for publicly speaking out about human rights violations and in defense of clients in politically motivated cases. In addition to the obstruction of their work, lawyers have faced personal harassment such as threats, arbitrary detention, raids, revoked licenses, and administrative and criminal charges.

The Belarusian National Bar Association and its regional bars have continuously failed to protect their members.

At least 27 lawyers have already been banned or suspended in reprisal for speaking out against the recent wave of repressions in Belarus. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/10/two-lawyers-from-belarus-share-lawyers-for-lawyers-award-2021/

In November, new restrictive amendments will enter into force, further increasing the Ministry of Justice’s authority over, and eviscerating the independence of, Belarusian lawyers. The arbitrary suspension and disbarment of Belarusian lawyers doesn’t just rob them of their ability to practice their profession, but undermines their clients’ right to legal counsel, and sends a chilling message of intimidation to their colleagues.

On October 26, the Belarusian human rights community issued a joint statement on their recognising another 12 persons as political prisoners, HRC Viasna reported. As of October 26, there are 833 political prisoners in Belarus on this list.

The updated list includes:

  • Syarhei Prus and Dzmitry Bondarau, who were sentenced under Part 3 of Article 130 of the Criminal Code to 5 years in a penal colony for creating and posting online a video calling for illegal actions against riot police officers of the Mahilioŭ regional department of internal affairs;
  • Dzmitry Sonchyk, who was sentenced under Art. 364 and Art. 369 of the Criminal Code to 5 years of imprisonment in a penal colony for insults and threats to police officers in comments in a Telegram channel in 2020 and 2021;
  • Andrey Razuvayeu , who was sentenced under Article 369 and 295 of the Criminal Code to 4 years in a penal colony for insulting a government official and keeping a small amount of hunting gunpowder;
  • Iryna Melkher, Anton Melkher, Halina Dzerbysh, Syarhei Razanovich, Lyubou Razanovich, Pavel Razanovich, who have been in custody on terrorism charges since early December 2020. According to the human rights defenders, they have not participated in any investigative actions, while the investigation is not formally completed, and the state propaganda resources back in 2020 claimed that the guilt and role of all those involved in the case was ‘established and proven’;
  • former investigator Yauhen Yushkevich. The circumstances of the new accusation of terrorism give grounds to believe that his detention may be arbitrary and related to his public activities, human rights activists stress;
  • Yauhen Buynitski, who was detained on charges under Part 3 of Art. 371 of the Criminal Code for organizing illegal border crossing by citizens fleeing arbitrary politically motivated persecution by the Belarusian authorities, which could have serious consequences for them – torture, cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment and illegal imprisonment.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/10/26/belarusian-authorities-retaliate-against-lawyers-defending-human-rights

China: Weiquanwang’s annual report details more than 800 political prisoners in 2018

January 2, 2019
And for those interested in China there is a good wrap up in a piece of 31 December 2018 by Radio Free Asia. It refers to the Weiquanwang rights website which published its annual report detailing more than 800 political prisoners in China. [for some of my other posts on China: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/china/]

The same article details other cases such as:

Authorities in Guangdong have handed down a two-year jail term to anti-censorship campaigner Zhen Jianghua after finding him guilty of subversion. He was tried in secret in Guangdong’s Zhuhai city on Aug. 10, and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment after the court found him guilty of “incitement to subvert state power,” his former defense attorney Ren Quanniu told RFA. “Given the particular circumstances of the case, two years is quite a harsh sentence,” Ren said. “They could have given him a suspended sentence for this, but this is probably because he refused to cooperate and plead guilty.” Zhen had registered a website overseas to elude ruling Chinese Communist Party censorship, and offered information about censorship, and circumvention tools for accessing the internet beyond the complex system of blocks, filters, and human censorship that make up China’s Great Firewall. [According to Frontline Defenders, Zhen had also worked as a technical consultant with Human Rights Campaign in China, as an advising expert with Chinese Wikipedia, and as a project officer of a HIV/AIDS prevention education project in Zhuhai, run by the Hong Kong AIDS Foundation.]

The tally also included Deng Yaoqiong, a woman incarcerated in a psychiatric facility in the central province of Hunan after she live-streamed video of herself splashing ink on a poster of President Xi Jinping. Dong Yaoqiong was sent for “compulsory treatment” after she streamed live video of herself splashing ink on a poster of President Xi in Shanghai, in protest at “authoritarian tyranny” on July 4. She is being held as a psychiatric patient in a women’s ward in Hunan’s Zhuzhou No. 3 Hospital. Her father Dong Jianbiao and Beijing artist-activist Hua Yong were also detained when they spoke out about her detention. Beijing artist Guo Zi said Hua Yong is now in contact with the outside world after his detention, but that nothing has been heard from Dong Yaoqiong or her father. “It’s nearly 2019 now, and it’s a great tragedy that there is still no legal framework being implemented for the freedom of speech … nearly 20 years into the 21st century,” he said.

Another political prisoner, veteran democracy activist Wang Bingzhang, has warned that his life is in danger in prison, where he is serving a life sentence for “espionage” in the southern province of Guangdong. Wang made the comments to his daughter, who visited him on Christmas Day. “In particular, he said that if he met with an unfortunate end, it wouldn’t be from health or physical problems, because his health was OK.

Patrick Poon, China researcher for Amnesty International, said the mass incarceration of Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic groups in the northwestern region of Xinjiang has been a major concern during 2018. The authorities have also stepped up a nationwide crackdown on religious believers, shutting down churches and mosques and detaining anyone who resists. “Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Hui Muslims, and other Muslim minorities have been persecuted to a high degree, and we have heard reports of torture and inhumane treatment,” Poon said. Meanwhile, a crackdown on human rights lawyers and associated activists begun in July 2015 continues to widen, while political prisoners are denied a fair trial in Chinese courts. “The Chinese government should stop all of this persecution, and respond to concern from the international community by releasing all political prisoners,“. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/15/today-ilham-tohti-completes-his-fourth-year-in-chinese-detention/]

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/prisoners-12312018133354.html  (as reported by Lau Siu-fung for RFA’s Cantonese Service, and by Liu Fei for the Mandarin Service; translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie))

Amnesty starts again its Write For Rights campaign

November 24, 2018
Write for Rights event in Amsterdam, 2015

Write for Rights event in Amsterdam, 2015 © Amnesty International

Every year, Amnesty International runs its Write For Rights, a campaign over November and December where it encourages you to write messages of support to people around the world who have suffered injustice, and show you how to support their campaigns for justice. And the yearly campaign seems to work. For last year’s campaign see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/04/write-for-rights-again-in-december-2017/

There is plenty of material for those who want to support:

Get the campaign booklet Download the campaign booklet (PDF). It introduces you to each case and sets out how you can write to them, and how to write to the authorities on their behalf. This is the main resource for Write For Rights.

Three ways to join in Write For Rights:

1. Write a message of solidarity

This is where Write For Rights began: writing to people who are wrongly punished, to show them that they’re not alone. If writing letters isn’t for you, you can send a message of solidarity online.

2. Write an appeal letter

In a world of petitions, physical post does get noticed! As well as writing to the people suffering human rights abuses, we also ask you to write to the authorities who can bring them justice. All the details of how to write to authorities are in our campaign booklet.

You can download pre-printed ‘appeal’ address labels to make it easier to send multiple letters.

3. Hold an event

Write for Rights events come in all shapes and sizes – from stalls in outdoor markets, to intimate gatherings in a local pub. See UK AI’s tips for putting together a successful Write for Rights event. Don’t forget to add your event to the website once you’ve got the date and location confirmed!

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/write-rights-getting-started

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.