Posts Tagged ‘prison’

Policy response from Human Rights NGOs to COVID-19: FIDH

April 10, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many human rights organisations have been formulating a policy response. While I cannot be complete or undertake comparisons, I will try and give some examples in the course of these weeks. Here the one by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH): “COVID-19: States bear direct responsibility for the health of individuals in their custody” states a press release of 7 April 2020.

While the cases of COVID-19 are multiplying in prisons, detention centres and in places of custody, faced with the risk of a massive spread of the virus behind the walls, FIDH (the International Federation for Human Rights) calls for urgent measures to be taken to preserve the health of detainees, and for the release of the most vulnerable, of those detained for minor crimes and on remand custody, and of those whose detention is contrary to international norms.
In times of crisis, governments have an obligation to protect those who are most vulnerable. Prison populations, confined to detention facilities that can easily become virus hotspots, are among those most vulnerable to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a particular risk where collective cells and overcrowding are the norm, where social distancing is impossible to achieve, where many detainees are awaiting trial, and where the prisons’ health services are unprepared.
Over the past weeks, throughout the countries and regions where the COVID-19 virus has spread, many prison inmates, staff and/or caregivers have tested positive for the virus. Hundreds of inmates with virus symptoms have been “confined”. Tensions in prisons have also increased in the context of the spread of the virus, in reaction to the overcrowding of prisons, to the lack of personal hygiene or health services, or to restrictions on visits —notably when those visits enabled adequate food supply-, or other activities.While every prison, detention centre and place of custody constitutes a potential epidemiological outbreak, the spread of the virus in places of detention will be inevitable unless urgent measures are taken to mitigate this risk.

Echoing concerns expressed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) in its COVID-19 Statement of Principles, FIDH calls on governments to relieve congestion in prisons by releasing vast numbers of prisoners through various means, including temporary or early releases and amnesties; home detention and commutation of sentences.

Such measures should be consistent with States’ obligations under the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (revised and adopted as the “Nelson Mandela Rules”) which detail measures aimed at ensuring adequate personal hygiene, health, and safety of prisoners.

We welcome the move by a number of countries, including Argentina, Chile, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Iran, Tunisia and Turkey to begin releasing prisoners in an effort to reduce overcrowding and prevent the spread of the virus. These efforts however have been inconsistent with many of these countries’ human rights obligations and with international institutions’ recommendations.

In countries like China, Egypt, Iran or Turkey, where the policies of mass incarceration of journalists, whistle blowers, human rights defenders, political prisoners or of civilians taking part in demonstrations are in flagrant contradiction with international human rights norms, prison releases have not included these persons.

States should thus follow specific priorities for the releases, that are guided by the vulnerablity of the individual detained as well as the motives for his or her detention. As such, priority should be given to the elderly, to pregnant women and to children, to those with underlying health conditions, as well as to administrative detainees, to individuals detained for minor or non-violent offences, and to detainees awaiting trial. In addition, prisoners of conscience, prisoners detained for expressing their opinions, human rights defenders, whistleblowers, and undocumented migrant detainees should be immediately and unconditionally released.

Governments should also ensure that during the COVID-19 pandemic the human rights of all those who remain in detention are upheld. As such, measures adapting the conditions of detention, with regard to food, health, sanitation and quarantine measures, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the facilities, should be put in place, to guarantee decent living and health conditions for all detained persons.

Any restrictions imposed on detainees should be non-discriminatory, necessary, proportionate, time-limited and transparent. Measures should not, under any circumstances, justify absolute or solitary confinement. Confinement measures should enable confidential and through distance, meetings of inmates with their families, close companions and lawyers in a confidential manner, while respecting the WHO recommended physical distancing and handwashing protocols. Under the current COVID-19 circumstances, we also recommend that all detainees should have access to time outside of the confins of their cells and be able to utilise recreational spaces available.

Lastly, while States must be able to maintain order and security within prisons and detention centers, measures to prevent riots and restore security conditions in prisons should not empower authorities to resort to the excessive use of force.

Read more

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/covid-19/

https://www.fidh.org/en/region/Africa/covid-19-states-bear-direct-responsibility-for-the-health-of

Ukrainian filmmaker Sentsov wins EU’s Sakharov prize for human rights

October 27, 2018

Video by Claire PRYDE

The European Parliament on Thursday awarded the Sakharov human rights prize to Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, jailed in Russia for opposing its annexation of Crimea and described as a “symbol of the struggle” to free political prisoners. {https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/09/30/nominees-for-the-2018-sakharov-prize-announced-by-european-parliament/}

“Through his courage and determination, by putting his life in danger, the filmmaker Oleg Sentsov has become a symbol of the struggle for the release of political prisoners held in Russia and around the world,” European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said.

Sentsov, is serving a 20-year sentence in a Russian penal colony north of the Arctic Circle. The 42-year-old was convicted of an alleged arson plot in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 and triggered sanctions from the European Union.

Sentsov’s cousin Natalya Kaplan, who lives in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, said she hopes the prize will raise his morale when he finally hears about it. “I hope (this) will help Oleg to further stay strong and of course I am happy for him. He deserved this,” Kaplan told AFP in written remarks.

Sentsov started a hunger strike on May 14 demanding the release of all Ukrainian prisoners in Russia, and his deteriorating health provoked an outcry from the international community. Sentsov called off the protest after 145 days to avoid being force-fed.

https://www.france24.com/en/20181025-jailed-ukrainian-filmmaker-oleg-sentsov-wins-eus-sakharov-prize-human-rights

2016 RFK Human Rights Award went to two criminal reform advocates in the USA

December 14, 2016

 

A bit belatedly here is the ‘news’ that on 17 November 2016, Andrea James and Glenn E. Martin, leading human rights defenders working to reform the criminal justice system in the United States, received the 2016 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.  “Andrea and Glenn are precisely the moral leaders our country needs to solve one of our most pressing human rights problems here at home: a broken criminal justice system that unjustly targets communities of color and the poor,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “This is the civil and human rights issue of our time. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights is proud to recognize Andrea’s and Glenn’s remarkable achievements with this award, and to partner with them moving forward on this important work.

Read the rest of this entry »

An exceptional Egyptian family of human rights defenders

August 21, 2014

The family of MEA 2013 Final Nominee, Mona Seif, continues to be under the greatest strain in Egypt. Front Line Defenders reports that on 18 August 2014, her brother, human rights defender Mr Alaa Abd El Fattah, began a hunger strike to protest his detention [http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/AlaaAbdElFattah] and said that he will remain on hunger strike until he is released. Her sister human rights defender Ms Sanaa Seif also continues to be imprisoned. [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/26336]. Her father, human rights defender Ahmed Seif El-Islam is in the Intensive Care Unit of Qasr el-Eini hospital. Her family had tried several times to visit the father, but in vain.

Good NEWS: Ales Bialiatski – Belarus’ best-known human rights defender – freed from prison

June 22, 2014

On 21 June 2014 it was reported by AP and others that prominent Belarusian human rights defender  Ales Bialiatski was finally released from prison that day. The 51-year-old leader of the NGO Vyasna, was released 20 months ahead of schedule. Supporters greeted Bialiatski at a train station in the capital, Minsk, after he traveled from prison.”The international support and the support back home, this is what brought about my release,” Bialiatski told reporters, “I will continue to do what Ive been doing.”   [6 people remain in prison for political activism, including former presidential candidate Nikolai Statkevich]

via Belarus human rights leader freed from prison after 3 years in possible gesture to West | Star Tribune.

for earlier posts on Ales Bialiatski: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/ales-bialiatski/

Tibetan Filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen Released from Prison Yesterday

June 6, 2014

Portrait

On 5 June 2014  Dhondup Wangchen, the imprisoned Tibetan video-activist,  was released from prison in Qinghai’s provincial capital Xining, China, after serving a six-year sentence.  In a phone call to Gyaljong Tsetrin, cousin and president of Filming For Tibet, living in Switzerland,  a very emotional Dhondup Wangchen said: “At this moment, I feel that everything inside me is in a sea of tears. I hope to recover my health soon. I would like to express my feeling of deepest gratitude for all the support I received while in prison and I want to be reunited with my family.”

Lhamo Tso, wife of the imprisoned filmmaker who was granted US asylum in 2012 and now lives in San Francisco, is overjoyed: “Six years of injustice and painful counting the days ended today.  It is a day of unbelievable joy for his parents in Dharamsala, our children and myself. We look forward to be reunited as a family.”

Gyaljong Tsetrin, his cousin and co-producer of “Leaving Fear Behind”, said after talking him to: “Though Dhondup is still under the control of the Chinese authorities I am very relieved that he finally could leave prison and has now the possibility to consult a doctor.”  The self-taught cameraman and video-activist travelled across Tibet with his assistant Golog Jigme in 2007/2008. His film “Leaving Fear Behind” (28 min.) has been translated into a dozen languages and has been screened in more than 30 countries worldwide. Golog Jigme recently just arrived in India after a spectacular escape from Tibet. Dhondup Wangchen has been given awards by various NGOs, such as Committee to Protect Journalists, for his courageous work making the documentary “Leaving Fear Behind” and his case was the focal point of many campaigns of international human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Reporters without Borders. Government representatives around the world have brought up his case in their talks with their Chinese counterparts.

 

Tibetan Filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen Released from Prison.

Video on journalist Eskinder Nega in detention in Ethiopia

December 5, 2013

Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega is serving an 18-year prison sentence for “terrorism”. He was charged in 2011 after giving speeches and writing articles criticizing the government and supporting free speech. He is a Amnesty prisoner of conscience. Eskinder has long been a thorn in the side of the Ethiopian authorities. He has previously been harassed, arrested and prosecuted a number of times for his writing. Between 2006 and 2007, Eskinder and his wife Serkalem Fasil were detained and tried on treason and other charges along with 129 other journalists, opposition politicians and activists. Serkalem gave birth to their son Nafkot while in prison. In May 2013, Eskinder wrote from prison: “I will live to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It may or may not be a long wait. Whichever way events may go, I shall persevere!”

 

Chinese human rights defender Ni Yulan freed

October 6, 2013

Foto:  EPA

Finally a tiny bit of good news from the Chinese front: After 2,5 years in jail the Chinese human rights defender Ni Yulan has been freed. In 2011 she won the Dutch Tulip for HRDs award. She has never been able to receive the award in person and even her daughter had not been allowed to leave the country for that purpose.

As reported by the ANP via Chinese mensenrechtenactiviste Ni weer vrij | nu.nl/buitenland | Het laatste nieuws het eerst op nu.nl.

“Fabricated” charges like trafficking and sexual harassment used to silence Uzbek Human Rights Defenders

September 26, 2013

In what could possibly put trafficking campaigners and human rights organisations on a collision course, the Uzbekistan authorities have recourse to trafficking and sexual harassment charges to put human rights defenders behind bars. Read the rest of this entry »

Lawyers for Lawyers campaigns for forgotten Iranian human rights defender Houtan Kian

June 12, 2013

Whilst attention within Iran, as well as abroad, is focused on the upcoming presidential elections, Read the rest of this entry »