Posts Tagged ‘religion’

Human Rights Watch demands fair trial for 94 defendants in UAE

March 16, 2013

United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities should guarantee the safety of 94 defendants facing trial on state security charges says Human Rights Watch. They should also establish an independent investigation into the defendants’ allegations of ill-treatment in detention. The second session of their trial begun on 11 March 2013.HRW_logo

At the first trial session on March 4, authorities brought 84 of the 94 accused before the court to enter pleas. The remaining 10 are being tried in absentia. All 84 of the defendants denied the charges, which, local activists say, are largely based on confessions obtained from two of them, apparently while they were detained incommunicado in 2012. One of the two, Ahmed al-Suweidi, told the court he is innocent and asked for its protection. He told the judges: “I know that what Im going to say may cost my life, but I deny the charges and I ask the court to protect my life and the life of my family,” according to witnesses present in the courtroom.  Many of the other defendants told the court that they had been seriously ill-treated during months in detention, including prolonged solitary confinement, exposure to continuous fluorescent lighting that made it difficult to sleep, inadequate heating, and hooding when they were taken from their cells, including while being taken to the toilet or for interrogation. They said they had been repeatedly insulted by prison guards. Lawyers acting for the defendants have repeatedly pressed the judicial authorities to investigate these allegations, but they have yet to do so. “This trial raises serious questions about the UAE’s willingness to respect the fundamental right of all accused to receive a fair trial,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The court shouldn’t admit evidence obtained through ill-treatment or coercion. And the UAE government should ensure allegations of ill-treatment of detainees are properly investigated at once.” Authorities prevented a group of international observers and journalists from entering the court on March 4, stating that they had not requested permission from the Ministry of Justice. Security officials also denied entry to the UAE to two international human rights observers who attempted to enter the country to monitor the trial. “The UAE authorities seem intent on keeping this trial as much under wraps as they can,” said Whitson. “If they are interested in ensuring a fair trial, they should allow international observers to attend the court sessions, not block their presence.”

via UAE: Ensure Safety of 94 on Trial | Human Rights Watch.

Full report of observer mission to trial of Nabeel Rajab in Bahrain now available

February 17, 2013

BCHR_NABEEL_RAJAB_SPEECHThe Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), published on 14 February 2013 a report, which presents the findings of a judicial observation mission conducted on the trial in appeal of prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab. The report concludes that a series of violations of the right to fair trial marred the judicial process and that  Nabeel Rajab is suffering judicial harassment (and was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment) for merely advocating for and exercising the right to peaceful assembly in Bahrain. The report is available in English and Arabic. 

Nabeel Rajab is President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), Deputy Secretary General of FIDH, and the BCHR was 2012 nominee for the MEA. Read the rest of this entry »

Human Rights Defenders in the USA: fighting the looney right

February 8, 2013

In the aftermath of the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, at the end of last year, I came across a post that used the word ‘human rights defenders’ to describe those who publicly countered attempts to blame the victims or to scold the teachers for not being religious enough or being too soft. I decided to sit on it for a while as the shock and emotions run too high and is seemed all very political. Now, on reflection I have decided to share it here as it certainly clarifies the climate in which liberal groups (such as People For the American Way) have to operate in parts of the USA. The qualification Human Rights Defenders in the end seems about right to me. The article reads in part:

“..grief stricken and appalled Human Rights Defenders throughout the nation called on citizens Tuesday to reject extremist hate messages American leaders and groups have relayed, as the nation mourns the tragic and horrific loss of 20 children and six adults“, such as “God caused the shooting” and singing “praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment.” [Only hours after the tragedy Shirley Phelps-Roper of the Westboro Baptist Church group’s  tweeted: “Westboro will picket Sandy Hook Elementary School to sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment.”]

Mike Huckabee and Bryan Fischer (of the American Family Association) both implied that the school shooting occurred on public schools for adhering to the separation of church and state — saying God let the massacre happen because we’ve moved away from things like compulsory prayer (1). Echoing Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson in the wake of 9/11 (who also, in part, blamed that tragedy on People For the American Way), Focus on the Family’s James Dobson said God has ‘allowed judgment to fall upon us’ because the nation has turned its back on him by accepting things like abortion and gay marriage.”(2). The Tea Party Nation has called the teachers “radicals in the classrooms,” accusing them of being part of a liberal plot to “destroy the family” and create a society that “coddled” the shooter (3).


The references above provide links to the statements mentioned in the article of 19 December 2012 which can be found in full on :



October 12, 2012

On Monday, September 24, 2012 (yes 2012!) a Greek man was arrested for making a Facebook page that lampooned the Eastern Orthodox monk Elder Paisios, a religious figure to whom some have arbitrarily attributed saintly properties.  The authorities charged the man with “malicious blasphemy,” because he had named his page “Elder Pastitsios” a reference to the popular Greek pasta dish, and the page parodied the monk and his work in the vein of Pastafarianism, a lighthearted, satirical movement that promotes irreligion.
My good friend the Greek comedian Silas has the nerve and creativity to give his views on where freedom of expression, opinion and satire stand in Greece today (subtitled in English). How a stand-up comedian can be a HRD (even if – better exactly because – you may not agree with him)

ΣΤΟ ΜΥΑΛΟ ΤΟΥ ΣΙΛΑ – 181 – Tα όρια της θρησκείας – YouTube.