Posts Tagged ‘prison conditions’

Lawlor urges UAE to free Ahmed Mansoor, Mohamed al-Roken and Nasser bin Ghaith

February 22, 2021

Having just written about a humanitarian award in the Emirates [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/02/22/zayed-award-for-human-fraternity-to-latifa-ibn-ziaten-and-uns-antonio-guterres/] it is appropriate to refer to UN Special rapporteur Mary Lawlor’s assessment that three human rights defenders imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates are being mistreated in conditions that may amount to torture.

Lawyer Mohamed al-Roken, jailed in 2012 in a crackdown on Islamists [https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/7B69B1D9-E359-444A-B448-02E8B9C0750C], rights campaigner Ahmed Mansoor, imprisoned in 2018 for insulting the government [https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/074ACCD4-A327-4A21-B056-440C4C378A1A], and pro-democracy blogger Nasser bin Ghaith, arrested in 2015, are all serving 10-year sentences. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/31/uae-it-is-not-just-ahmed-mansoor-academic-nasser-bin-ghaith-gets-10-year-for-tweets/]

Reports … indicate that the conditions and treatment that these human rights defenders are subjected to, such as prolonged solitary confinement, are in violation of human rights standards and may constitute torture,” said Mary Lawlor,

The UAE government media office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. UAE authorities have previously dismissed such accusations as false and unsubstantiated.

Lawlor described the three rights defenders’ jail sentences as an attempt to silence them and “intimidate and deter others from engaging in this legitimate work“.

The statement said Mansoor went on hunger strike twice in 2019 to protest his conditions, including reportedly being held in a cell measuring four square metres with no mattress, and limited access to sunlight, a shower or portable water.

It said Bin Ghaith went on hunger strike in 2017 and 2018 to protest against being denied access to medication, as well as physical assault by prison authorities and periods in solitary confinement.

https://news.yahoo.com/u-n-rights-expert-urges-141938085.html

Egypt decade after Arab spring: Amnesty and UN express concern over detention

January 27, 2021

The human rights organization Amnesty International published a scathing report on 25 January 2021 decrying the inhumane conditions in Egyptian prisons. The report comes a decade after the Arab Spring uprising.

The report detailed the experiences of 67 individuals in detention, 10 of whom died in custody and two who died shortly after being released. It was carried out primarily between February 2020 and November 2020 and focused on 16 prisons. It found that:

  • Prisoners were kept in squalid conditions and received unhealthy food;
  • There was no proper access to health care, which may have resulted in death;
  • Overcrowding, poor ventilation and limited access to water and toilets led inevitably to outbreaks of coronavirus.

The report also found that some prisoners were deliberately denied access to health care due to their political affiliations. Activists, politicians and human rights defenders were denied basic treatments available to other inmates. There was also evidence of prison authorities “targeting prisoners critical of the government and denying them adequate food or family visits,” Markus Beeko, Secretary General of Amnesty International in Germany, asserted. According to UN estimates, there are 114,000 people incarcerated in the north African country.

On 22 January 2021 Mary Lawlor also deplored the arrest and prolonged pre-trial detention of  human rights defenders and bloggers, and their  accusation of being members of a terrorist organisation, continuing Egypt’s practice to intimidate and criminalise human rights defenders, journalists and their families.

I am extremely concerned by the seemingly unrelenting efforts of the Egyptian authorities to silence dissent and shrink civic space in the country, despite repeated calls from UN mechanisms and the international community,” said Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

The Special Rapporteur said she was disturbed by the detention since 2018 of human rights defender and blogger Mohamed Ibrahim Radwan, also known as ‘Mohamed Oxygen’, on charges of “membership of a terrorist organisation” and “misuse of social media” in retaliation for his posts and videos reporting on human rights issues. He was granted conditional release by the Cairo Criminal Court in November last year but was attached to a new case on charges of joining a terrorist organisation and kept in detention. He remains in pre-trial detention in Al-Aqrab Prison, south of Cairo.

Lawlor said that human rights defenders such as researcher and post-graduate student Patrick Zaki, who was arrested in February last year, have endured repeated renewals of detention without trial. “Pre-trial detention should only be used as the exception to the rule, rather than the default approach,” said Lawlor.

Not only are these human rights defenders, journalists and other civil society actors unduly targeted for their legitimate and peaceful defence of human rights and fundamental freedoms, they are wrongfully accused of belonging to terrorist organisations and portrayed as a national security threat under vague legal provisions,” the Special Rapporteur said. “This is an issue which I and a number of UN experts have previously communicated our concern about to the Egyptian authorities.

The Lawlor’s call has been endorsed by: Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism and Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

In the meantime also a tiny sparkle of good news: Egypt’s Administrative Court overturned on Thursday a 2016 decision by Cairo governorate to close El-Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/25/ai-germany-award-goes-to-egypts-nadeem-center-for-torture-victims/.

Ten years after the Tahrir square protests in Cairo, Egypt’s human rights record is disastrous. On the occasion of the anniversary of the 2011 revolution, several international campaigns are calling for the release of imprisoned activists writes Sofian Philip Naceur in Qantara.de Violent, authoritarian and extremely paranoid: since his bloody takeover in 2013, Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has restored a regime whose brutality far outstrips even the reign of long-term ruler Hosni Mubarak. Hopes for real political and social change after the mass uprising that forced Mubarak out of office after 30 years in power have faded away, leaving a disillusionment that is omnipresent.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/12/18/arab-spring-information-technology-platforms-no-longer-support-human-rights-defenders-in-the-middle-east-and-north-africa/

Countless people who, before and after the 2011 revolt, campaigned in various ways for “bread, freedom and social justice” in Egypt, are today intimidated and politically inactive, or have fled the country to live in exile. Tens of thousands, however, remain imprisoned in Egypt for political reasons, paying a hefty price for their activism and courage.

Egyptian opposition figures are using the current media attention around the tenth anniversary of the “25 January Revolution” to highlight the fate of those currently in prison for their political engagement. Some have been sentenced to heavy jail terms, while others are subjected to pre-trial detention lasting years by the Egyptian security forces and the country’s judiciary. European opposition politicians are also participating in corresponding campaigns.

Eight politicians from Germany’s left-wing party – Die Linke – have signed a solidarity statement calling for the immediate release of all political detainees, which explicitly highlights the fate of six detained leftist activists, journalists and trade unionists. Although the campaign specifically highlights six individual cases, it expresses solidarity not only with Egyptian leftists, but with all those “who are resisting Sisi’s dictatorship”. In addition to journalist Hishem Fouad, who advocated for striking workers and independent trade unions long before 2011, the German politicians are also calling for the release of novelist Ayman Abdel Moati, lawyer and trade union activist Haitham Mohamadeen and trade unionist Khalil Rizk. All four are detained on flimsy, terrorism-related charges.

https://www.dw.com/en/egypt-amnesty-slams-inhumane-prison-conditions/a-56331626

https://en.qantara.de/content/human-rights-violations-in-egypt-demanding-president-sisi-free-his-political-prisoners

english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContentP/1/399358/Egypt/Egypt-court-overturns-closure-of-human-rights-NGO-.aspx

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/egypt-amnesty-condemns-prison-conditions

https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2021/1/27/the-social-media-myth-about-the-arab-spring

https://www.yenisafak.com/en/news/academic-urges-new-era-for-political-prisoners-in-egypt-3559752

MEA nominee Yu Wensheng in poor health after years in prison

January 21, 2021

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Yu Wensheng was known for taking on a number of high-profile human rights cases. (AFP pic)

AFP reported on 19 January 2021 that Yu Wensheng Chinese lawyer nominated for the 2021 Martin Ennals award [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/01/18/%e2%80%8b%e2%80%8bmartin-ennals-award-finalists-2021-announced/] is in poor health after years in prison according to his wife.

Yu Wensheng was detained in Beijing in January 2018 in front of his young son just hours after he wrote an open letter calling for constitutional reforms, including multi-candidate elections.

His physical state is very poor. His right hand is deformed and trembles so much that he cannot write,” his wife Xu Yan told AFP. Last week, she was allowed to have a 25-minute video call with her husband, who is being held in a detention centre in the eastern province of Jiangsu. It was their first such meeting in three years, she said. Four of Yu’s teeth were missing and he was unable to chew food properly, Xu said, and that there was no heating in the detention centre.. “There are probably a lot of things he cannot say right now, we will only know the full extent of what he experienced after he is released,” she said.

Xu said her husband’s nomination “not only supports and honours (him), but is also  encouragement and affirmation to other human rights lawyers and defenders”. Yu’s defence lawyer Lu Siwei had his legal licence revoked by authorities last week after handling several sensitive human rights cases..

Beijing denied knowledge of either Yu or the Martin Ennals Award on Tuesday. “There are indeed some people abroad who are always using human rights as a pretext to create a disturbance,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a regular briefing on Tuesday. “I think this behaviour has no meaning whatsoever.”

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/world/2021/01/19/imprisoned-chinese-human-rights-lawyer-in-poor-health-says-wife/

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/activists-crackdown-01252021082807.html

UN rights chief urges Iran to release jailed Sotoudeh and other human rights defenders, citing COVID-19 risk

October 7, 2020

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According to the UN human rights office (OHCHR), conditions in Iranian prisons, suffering from chronic overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions, have worsened during the pandemic. Shortage of water and inadequate protective equipment, testing, isolation and treatment have led to a spread of coronavirus among detainees, reportedly resulting in a number of deaths. 

Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, underlined the responsibility of States to ensure health and well-being of all individuals under their care, including those in prisons. 

Under international human rights law, States are responsible for the well-being, as well as the physical and mental health, of everyone in their care, including everyone deprived of their liberty,” she said in a news release, on Tuesday 6 October 2020.  

People detained solely for their political views or other forms of activism in support of human rights should not be imprisoned at all, and such prisoners, should certainly not be treated more harshly or placed at greater risk,” she added. 

In February, the Iranian judiciary issued directives on temporary releases to reduce the prison population and avoid further spread of the virus, benefiting some 120,000 inmates, according to official figures, said OHCHR, adding that the measures appear to have been suspended, and prisoners have been required to return in large numbers.  

In addition, people sentenced to more than five years in prison for “national security” offences were excluded from the schemes. 

As a result, most of those who may have been arbitrarily detained – including human rights defenders, lawyers, dual and foreign nationals, conservationists, and others deprived of their liberty for expressing their views or exercising other rights – have been placed at a heightened risk of contracting the virus, added the Office. 

“I am disturbed to see how measures designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 have been used in a discriminatory way against this specific group of prisoners,” said High Commissioner Bachelet. 

One of the most emblematic cases is that of prominent lawyer and women’s rights defender, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who was given a combined prison sentence of over 30 years on charges related to her human rights work. Her life is believed to be at considerable risk as she suffers from a heart condition, and has been weakened by a long hunger strike.  

Once again, I urge the authorities to immediately release her, and grant her the possibility of recuperating at home before undergoing the medical treatment of her choice,” said Ms. Bachelet 

Over the years, she has been a persistent and courageous advocate for the rights of her fellow Iranians, and it is time for the Government to cease violating her own rights because of the efforts she has made on behalf of others.”  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/01/four-well-known-human-rights-defenders-are-the-2020-right-livelihood-laureates/]

The High Commissioner also voiced concerns over persistent and systematic targeting of individuals who express any dissenting view, and the criminalization of the exercise of fundamental rights. 

“It is disheartening to see the use of the criminal justice system as a tool to silence civil society,” said Ms. Bachelet. 

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/10/1074722

Medical negligence in Egypt’s prisons alarming: another victim

September 4, 2020

Ahmed Abdrabbu (L) and his wife
Ahmed Abdrabbu, left, and wife were arrested at Cairo International Airport on 23 December 2018 (Twitter/@nosaybaahmed)
On 2 September 2020 the Middle East Eye reported that – according to the Committee for Justice (CFJ )- Egyptian human rights defender Ahmed Abdrabbu became the latest of some 1,000 prisoners to die amid medical negligence since Abdel Fattah el-Sisi assumed presidency.

The Tora prison, also known as “the Scorpion“, has been repeatedly denounced by rights groups and described as “degrading” by Human Rights Watch. “Authorities there have denied inmates contact with their families or lawyers for months at a time, held them in degrading conditions without beds, mattresses or basic hygienic items, humiliated, beaten, and confined them for weeks in cramped ‘discipline’ cells – treatment that probably amounted to torture in some cases,” HRW said in a report in 2016.

According to Abdrabbu’s family, the publisher was arrested on 23 December 2018 at Cairo International Airport and was later charged with “membership in a terrorist organisation” and working to “undermine the constitution”, accusations commonly used by Egyptian authorities against opponents of the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. His wife, who was with him at the time, was released in June 2019 and is currently serving parole, his daughter Nusaiba wrote on Twitter.

According to Mehreh’s CFJ, which tracks deaths in Egyptian prisons, including those as a result of Covid-19, almost 1,000 prisoners have died in custody since July 2013. The majority of those deaths were because of medical negligence, Mefreh told MEE. In its biannual report, CFJ documented the deaths of 51 prisoners as a result of denial of medical care in detention facilities during the first half of 2020, including 17 people who died of Covid-19. Those whose deaths were attributed to medical negligence in recent years include former President Mohamed Morsi, Egyptian-American prisoner Mustafa Kassem, film director Shadi Habash, and former Muslim Brotherhood MP Essam El-Erian. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/02/filmmaker-and-human-rights-defender-shady-habash-dies-in-egyptian-pre-trial-detention/]

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/07/update-to-monas-campaign-for-her-sister/

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/egypt-political-prisoner-father-american-citizen-dies-jail

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

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

Hannah Foster decries Human Rights Violations amid COVID-19 in Africa

July 16, 2020

On 14 July 2020 the FOROYAA Newspaper carried a summary of remarks made by Hannah Foster, who is the spokesperson of the NGOs Forum at the opening ceremony of the 66th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) which started on Monday July 13th 2020 (via Zoom)

Gambian human rights defender, Mrs. Hannah Foster, has raised concern about human rights violations in Africa, in particular amid the spread of Covid-19

We all have seen that from all parts of the world human rights violations have remained a major concern in most countries. Since late December 2019, the Coronavirus which causes Covid-19 has held the world captive with uncertainties, fear and insecurity. In most countries, we’ve seen the freedom of association and assembly remains a major cause for concern in most of the countries reviewed,” she said

Madam Foster said it is also a cause for concern that with Covid-19, there has been an increase of gender based violence registered in most of the countries that have been reviewed by the Forum.

She added that it was reported at the Forum that systematic harassment and targeting of human rights defenders in many countries persist and or have intensified the closing of civic space due to the existence of restrictive legislations.

“It was ascertained that a lot more needs to be done as many African countries continue to face challenges of insecurity, violence, terror attacks and the volatile situation brought about by Covid-19,” she said.

Speaking further, Madam Foster said they had raised the issue of overcrowding in prisons especially during Covid-19. “The overcrowding of prisons due to non-observance of judicial guarantees in respect of remand detainees as well as standard minimum rules, also have created challenges. And the Forum calls on the African Commission to urge States to respect and implement all laws governing the treatment of prisoners especially in this time of Covid-19, which has brought about an extension of restricting laws that are being implemented,” Foster informed the participants.

Foster said the Forum urged more States and NGOs to use and popularize the African Commission processes and decisions and to encourage States to comply with decisions as well as consider signing the Protocol on the right to individul complaint

We have challenges of Benin and Cote d’Ivoire withdrawing their signatures of Article 346. And we will like to urge the Commission to enter into dialogue with them to ensure that they encourage them to review the decision,” she said.

Foster said the forum also observed that freedom of expressions, the criminalization of bloggers and internet restrictions continue to hinder the independent and freedom of journalists and like-minded groups.

Humanitarian access has also become very problematic. The Forum took this opportunity to call on the African Commission and all States that have not ratified pertinent treaties to speedily do so in order to enable their implementation as the enjoyment of those rights by all citizens,” she added.

Read the original article on Foroyaa.

https://allafrica.com/stories/202007150349.html

Iranian human rights defender charged with “dancing in prison” and alleged torturer may escape justice

June 17, 2020

Narges Mohammadi has "serious health problems," her brother says, but is not allowed out of prison to see a doctor.
Narges Mohammadi has “serious health problems,” her brother says, but is not allowed out of prison to see a doctor.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the latest “absurd charge” brought against jailed Iranian journalist and human rights advocate Narges Mohammadi, who has been imprisoned since 2015. On 12 June 2020 RSF urged the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, Javaid Rehman, to “intervene quickly and do everything possible to obtain the release of Iran’s longest-held woman journalist.

In a recent open letter to the Iranian judicial authorities, her brother revealed that she was now accused of “dancing in prison during the days of mourning” commemorating the seventh-century killing of Imam Hussein, a revered figure in Shi’ite Islam. Mehdi Mohammadi, now a refugee in Norway, also wrote that his sister had serious health problems but “was not allowed out of prison to see a doctor, who went to her cell.” “This persecution of Narges Mohammadi is evidence of judicial discrimination at the behest of the Intelligence Ministry and senior justice system officials,” said Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Iran-Afghanistan desk.

Mohammadi, 47, has been awarded several prestigious prizes, including the Per Anger Prize in 2011 and the APS Sakharov prize in 2017 [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/28/imprisoned-human-rights-defender-narges-mohammadi-awarded-aps-sakharov-prize-2018/]. For more information on these and other awards see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest

In the meantime there is also an interesting case of an Iranian judge and former prosecutor who was arrested in Romania by Interpol for rights violations (13 June 2020 Radio Farda)

Gholamreza Mansouri, Iranian judge and former prosecutor.
Gholamreza Mansouri, Iranian judge and former prosecutor.

Iran’s Judiciary Spokesman confirmed that Interpol has detained Gholamreza Mansouri in Romania. He is accused of human rights violations by rights defenders, but he is also one of the defendants in a recent sensational corruption case in Iran who fled to Europe. Judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hossein Esmaili said Mansouri’s extradition is not possible now due to coronavirus restrictions but he will be returned to Iran and put on trial for corruption. He also told a local news network that Iran requested the arrest through the Interpol.

Iranian journalists and human rights activists want Mansouri to be put on trial in Germany or another European country for his grave human rights violations including the arrest and torture of journalists. SEE ALSO: Fearsome Prosecutor Of Journalists Accused Of Taking Bribes, Flees Iran

In a tweet on June 11, the Secretary-General of Reporters without Borders urged German authorities not to let him escape justice. Reporters without Borders (RSF) has supported the call of Iranian activists and filed a complaint with Germany’s Federal Public Prosecutor against Mansouri for the arrest and torture of at least 20 journalists in 2013….Mansouri is a highly influential prosecutor and judge notoriously famous for prosecuting journalists and putting them behind bars. In one instance in 2013 he ordered the simultaneous arrest of 20 journalists in one day.

Mansouri’s name came up as one of the recipients of bribes in the first trial session of Akbar Tabari, a former Judiciary deputy. The former judge allegedly received 500,000 euro in bribes from Tabari.

In a video published on social media on June 9, Mansouri claimed that he was abroad for treatment of a serious medical condition and could not return due to the restrictions introduced after the breakout of coronavirus. He did not reveal where he was but said he would go to an Iranian embassy to arrange for his return to defend himself against the corruption charges.

See also; https://iranian.com/2018/02/08/1000-days-counting/

https://www.rferl.org/a/jailed-iranian-journalist-faces-new-absurd-charge/30667834.html

https://en.radiofarda.com/a/iran-prosecutor-wanted-for-corruption-and-rights-violations-arrested-by-interpol/30668621.html

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1689336/middle-east

Azerbaijan: OMCT campaigns for human rights defender Elchin Mammad

May 26, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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