Posts Tagged ‘Special Rapporteur’

New Year, New Charges against Thai Protesters – the Lese-majesty law in Thailand

January 4, 2021

Thai authorities on 1 January 2021 made their 38th arrest of a pro-democracy activist in recent weeks under the country’s tough lèse majesté law as authorities crack down on the country’s unprecedented protest movement. That law, Section 112 of the Thai criminal code, forbids defamation of the king and provides for three to 15 years’ imprisonment for violations.The law had been dormant since King Maha Vajiralongkorn succeeded his father, King  Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in 2016. The Thai government, though, is now using it to try to stamp out continuing protests calling for the government to resign, a new constitution and reform of the monarchy

Thailand’s authorities must stop targeting pro-democracy protesters with draconian legal action and instead enter into dialogue, according to the UN’s special rapporteur for freedom of assembly, who warned the country risks sliding into violence. Clément Voule said he had written to the Thai government to express alarm at the use of the fierce lese-majesty law against dozens of protesters, including students as young as 16.

It is legitimate for people to start discussing where their country is going and what kind of future they want,” Voule said of the protests. “Stopping people from raising their legitimate concerns is not acceptable.

So far, 37 people face charges of insulting the monarchy for alleged offences ranging from wearing traditional dress deemed to be a parody of the royals to giving speeches arguing that the power and wealth of the king should be curbed.

Anti-government protesters flash a three-finger salute – a gesture used adopted by protesters from the Hunger Games films – as they gather in support of people detained under the lese-majesty law at a police station in Bangkok.
Anti-government protesters flash a three-finger salute – a gesture used adopted by protesters from the Hunger Games films – as they gather in support of people detained under the lese-majesty law at a police station in Bangkok. Photograph: Narong Sangnak/EPA

Prominent protest leaders face an unusually high number of charges. This includes the student activists Parit Chiwarak, also known as Penguin, (12 charges) and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul (six charges) and the human rights lawyer Anon Nampa (eight charges), who have given speeches calling for the power of the royals to be curbed.

The pro-democracy protest fundraiser Inthira Charoenpura
The pro-democracy protest fundraiser Inthira Charoenpura speaks from a stage outside Bang Khen police station in Bangkok. Photograph: Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP

Protesters – who have faced various other charges over recent months, including sedition – declined to participate in a government reconciliation panel in November, rejecting it as an attempt to buy time. The recent cases come after months of demonstrations in which protesters have made unusually frank and public calls for reform to the monarchy.

Benja Apan, 21, one of 13 people facing charges over a demonstration outside the German embassy in Bangkok, said legal action was unlikely to deter protesters from coming out in the new year. “I actually think it will bring more people out, because it is not fair,” she said.

The human rights group Amnesty International has launched a campaign calling on PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to drop charges pressed on a number of activists for their role in the pro-democracy movement and to repeal, or at least amend, Thailand’s draconian lèse majesté law. According to the campaign, at least 220 people, including minors, face criminal charges for relating to their actions in the pro-democracy movement. Activists are calling on government and monarchy reform, raising issues considered taboo and unprecedented in Thai society. Thailand must amend or repeal the repressive laws it is using to suppress peaceful assembly and the expression of critical and dissenting opinions.

Amnesty International is calling on people to take action and send a letter to the prime minister, calling on the Thai government to change their approach when handing the ongoing protests to protect human rights. Sample letter by AI’s campaign calls on Prayut to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally drop all criminal proceedings against protesters and others charged solely for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression
  • Cease all other measures, including harassment, aimed at dissuading public participation in peaceful gatherings or silencing voices critical of the government and social issues
  • Amend or repeal legislation in order to ensure it conforms with Thailand’s international human rights obligations on freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, and to train state officials to carry out their duties confirming to Thailand’s obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression.

On Saturday 19 December 2020 Maya Taylor in The Thaiger had already reported that the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights has expressed shock and dismay at Thailand’s use of its strict lèse majesté law against a 16 year old pro-democracy activist. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani has called on Thailand to refrain from using the law against those exercising their right to freedom of speech, as she expressed alarm that a minor was being charged under the law. “It is extremely disappointing that after a period of 2 years without any cases, we are suddenly witnessing a large number of cases, and – shockingly – now also against a minor. We also remain concerned that other serious criminal charges are being filed against protesters engaged in peaceful protests in recent months, including charges of sedition and offences under the Computer Crime Act. Again, such charges have been filed against a minor, among others.

The UN Human Rights Committee has found that detention of individuals solely for exercising the right to freedom of expression or other human rights constitutes arbitrary arrest or detention. We also urge the government to amend the lèse majesté law and bring it into line with Article 19 of the ICCPR on the right to freedom of expression.”

Thailand’s Foreign Ministry spokesman has played down the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ criticisms over the kingdom’s enforcement of the Lese Majeste law.

See also in 2019: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/23/thailand-amnesty-and-un-rapporteur-agree-on-misuse-of-lese-majeste/

https://thethaiger.com/news/national/pro-democracy-movement-making-little-headway-monarchys-powers-remain-untouched

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/27/un-thailand-protesters-royal-insult-law-lese-majesty

https://www.voanews.com/east-asia-pacific/new-year-new-charges-thai-protesters-slapped-royal-defamation-charges

Sir Nigel Rodley – a giant human rights scholar – passed away

January 26, 2017

It is with great sadness that I learnt of the death of my old friend Nigel Rodley at the age of 75. From 1973 to 1990, he was the first Legal Adviser of Amnesty International (I was Executive Secretary of the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva at the time) and in that capacity we met often and worked together on many projects, in particular the coming about of the International Convention Against Torture. Nigel went on to become the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Torture, President of the International Commission of Jurists, Chairman of the UN Human Rights Committee and a long-time professor and Chair of the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex. We saw each other last year at the anniversary party of our common friend Leah Levin and he was as sharp as ever. Reed Brody on his Facebook page wrote rightly: “Sir Nigel Rodley, one of the legends in the field of international human rights“. We will miss him.

If you would like to see and hear him, go to the minutes 34-48 in the video report of 2016 contained in: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/02/10/video-to-learn-more-about-the-nels… Read the rest of this entry »

Violence in the occupied territories keeps HRDs busy

February 13, 2016

Israel has used excessive force against Palestinians, Makarim Wibisono, the outgoing UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Gaza and the West Bank said, calling for an investigation. He demanded that all Palestinian prisoners, including children, be charged or released. “The upsurge in violence is a grim reminder of the unsustainable human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the volatile environment it engenders”.  Makarim Wibisono has announced he is resigning in protest at the Israeli government’s response to his concerns (his term would have expired on 31 March). The special investigator quoted statistics by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, which say that about 5,680 Palestinians, including children, were detained by Israel as of the end of October 2015. Detaining these people “often under secret evidence, and for up to six-month terms that can be renewed indefinitely, is not consistent with international human rights standards,” Wibisono said, adding that the Israeli government “should promptly charge or release all administrative detainees.” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon branded Wibisono’s report as biased. “The report reflects the one-sidedness of the mandate and its flagrant anti-Israel bias. It is this one-sidedness which has made the rapporteur’s mission impossible to fulfill, hence his resignation,” he said.

Front Line reports that on 3 February 2016, human rights defender Mr Awni Abu Shamsiyya, son of human rights defender Mr Emad Abu Shamsiyya, was arrested alongside youth activist Mr Nizar Silhab Al-tamimi. The arrest took place after a raid on the Shamsiyya family home in Tel-Rumeida, Hebron. Awni Abu Shamsiyya and Nizar Silhab Al-tamimi were accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail at Israeli soldiers and of posting inflammatory statements on Facebook. [Awni Abu Shamsiyya is a 16 year old, known for his participation in the Palestinian non-violent popular resistance movement in Hebron. He is also an active member of the Human Rights Defenders Group, a non-partisan group that aims to document and expose violations of international law and injustice against families in areas of conflict under Israeli occupation. His father, Emad Abu Shamsiyya, is a long-standing activist in Palestine and volunteer at B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, where he is involved in documenting the occupation of Tel-Rumeida. He is also a deputy coordinator of the Human Rights Defenders Group.In May 2015, Emad Abu Shamsiyya’s family home was subjected to an attempted arson attack by settlers in the middle of the night. In March 2015, a group of soldiers invaded  his family home, searched the house and confiscated the family’s computer hard disk and a memory card containing footage filmed by  B’Tselem volunteers. Frontline NEWlogo-2 full version - croppedhttp://www.btselem.org/hebron/20150402_night_search_and_confiscation]

On 4 February 2016, Awni Abu Shamsiyya and Nizar Silhab Al-tamimi were interrogated by Israeli police and intelligence services before being brought before the military court of Ofer, where the accusations against the young activists of throwing a Molotov cocktail at Israeli soldiers and posting inflammatory statements on social media were presented, and a fine of appr €460 was requested by the military prosecutor. The court ordered Awni Abu Shamsiyya’s release after holding that the accusations against him had not been proven, however, the trial of Nizar Silhab Al-tamimi was postponed to 7 February 2016 after it was claimed by the military prosecutor that his confession had been obtained.

 

As an illustration of the context in which the violence and arrests occur see the report of Tuesday, 9 February 2016, by the International Solidarity Movement, al-Khalil team (Hebron), which published graphic pictures of Israeli forces patrolling the Palestinian market in occupied al-Khalil (Hebron), harassing and intimidating residents.

Israeli forces ontheir patrol through the Palestinian market

Israeli forces on their patrol through the Palestinian market

Any male adult or youth was stopped on their way to work and forced by the Israeli soldiers to lift up their shirts and trouser-pants, as well as throw their IDs on the ground. After throwing their IDs on the ground Israeli soldiers ordered the men to move back, so they could pick up the IDs from a ‘safe distance’. Most Palestinians were dismissed after this humiliating procedure, whereas some of them were detained for minutes or violently body-searched.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also interesting to note here the protest by Palestinian human rights defenders who are condemning the killing by Hamas of one of the resistance organization’s own members in Gaza. On Sunday, the Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, announced it had executed Mahmoud Rushdi Ishteiwi. Qassam said that the slaying of Ishteiwi implemented a death sentence issued by “the military and Sharia judiciaries of Qassam Brigades for behavioral and moral excesses that he confessed.”

Killing Ishteiwi in such a way constitutes an assault on the rule of law and might institutionalize a serious case of extrajudicial execution,” said the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR). “Prosecuting collaborators with the Israeli forces is necessary, and the Palestinian armed groups play an important role in such prosecution,” PCHR stated. “However, only official authorities should open investigations and hold the perpetrators to account.” Following news of Mahmoud Ishteiwi’s execution, Buthaina Ishteiwi told the Wattan news outlet that she believed her brother had been killed due to a dispute with his superiors.

[Under the laws of the Palestinian Authority, death sentences issued by courts can only be carried out after ratification by the PA president. The West Bank-based PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has not ratified any death sentences in a decade. Hamas has however continued the use of the death penalty in Gaza. According to PCHR, a total of 172 death sentences have been issued since the PA was established in 1994, of which 30 were in the West Bank and 142 in Gaza. Eighty-four death sentences were issued since Hamas took over in Gaza in 2007. But however serious the threat from informants, Palestinian human rights defenders have been adamant that even wartime collaboration must be dealt with according to the rule of law. Both PCHR and Al Mezan have moreover long advocated the total abolition of the death penalty in all cases. In a short film entitled “Against the Death Penalty” and released in December, PCHR highlights its campaign to end the practice once and for all.]

https://www.rt.com/news/332245-israel-excessive-force-palestine/

Source: Palestinian human rights defenders condemn execution by Hamas | The Electronic Intifada

http://palsolidarity.org/2016/02/intimidating-military-patrol-of-palestinian-market/

Human rights defender Farmonov’s jail sentence extended; time for Rapporteur on Uzbekistan

May 29, 2015

Human Rights Defender Azam Farmonov, imprisoned since 2006. © Tolib Yakubov
Uzbek authorities should immediately and unconditionally release the imprisoned human rights defender Azam Farmonov, whose sentence has been arbitrarily extended for five years by an Uzbek court, Human Rights Watch said on 28 May. In a related press statement NGOs call on the UN Human Rights Council to mark the 10th anniversary of the Andijan massacre to establish a special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Uzbekistan to hold the government accountable for ongoing, egregious abuses and the ensure sustained scrutiny and public reporting on human rights developments in the country. The Uzbek government’s serious, systematic violations and persistent refusal to cooperate with the UN’s human rights mechanisms-including by denying access to special procedures, and failing to implement key recommendations made by treaty bodies and UN member states under the Universal Periodic Review-warrant resolute Human Rights Council action.

[The arbitrary extension of Farmonov’s prison term shortly before his scheduled release date for allegedly “violating prison rules,” came to light on May 21, 2015. The EU and the UN Committee against Torture have previously called for Farmonov’s release. “Azam Farmonov has already lost nine years simply for being a human rights activist in Uzbekistan,” said Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The cruel addition of five more years to his sentence is yet another sign that the Uzbek government should be made to pay a price for its abysmal human rights record.”]

Human Rights Watch has documented the practice of arbitrarily extending the sentences of people imprisoned on political charges. The action is often taken just days before the person is to be released, on bogus grounds such as possessing “unauthorized” nail clippers, saying prayers, or wearing a white shirt and may result in years of additional imprisonment.

Farmonov’s family also revealed that they had received a note Farmonov had written on toilet paper in which he appeals to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to raise the issue of his unjust treatment directly with President Islam Karimov and senior officials in the Uzbek government.  Ban is scheduled to visit Uzbekistan from June 9 to 11 and should urge President Karimov to uphold Uzbekistan’s international human rights commitments and release all those held on politically motivated charges.

The EU, the UN Committee against Torture, and other bodies have earlier called for Farmonov’s release. In an official statement by then-European Commission president José Manuel Barroso, at a January 2011 meeting in Brussels with Karimov, Barroso raised specific human rights concerns, including Farmonov’s unjust imprisonment and ill-treatment. In its 2014 human rights dialogue with Uzbekistan, the EU noted its concern with the authorities’ practice arbitrarily extending sentences. But an EU statement on May 18 following a meeting of the EU-Uzbekistan Cooperation Council reads: “the EU welcomed Uzbekistan’s readiness to discuss about human rights with the EU in an increasingly open fashion within the Human Rights Dialogue.” “The extension of an unjust sentence for a human rights defender, not Uzbek officials’ hollow rhetoric, is the real test of whether the government is ‘ready’ to improve human rights,” Swerdlow reacted

Uzbekistan: 5 More Years for Jailed Activist | Human Rights Watch.

UN Special Rapporteur on HRDs, Michel Forst, first presentation to Council

March 11, 2015

humanrightslogo_Goodies_14_LogoVorlagenIn his report, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, [presented to the 28th Session of the UN Human Rights Council on 9 March 2015 and published earlier as A/HRC/28/63] underscores that violations of freedom of expression are a central feature of attacks against human rights defenders.

As well as outlining his recent activities, the report sets out a clear and comprehensive “road map” for the issues the mandate will address during his tenure based on extensive consultations. In this regard, Michel Forst emphasises that he will interpret his mandate as broadly as possible, and identifies nine key themes he will address through his work. On this basis, he calls on all States to, inter alia:

  • Combat impunity for threats and violations aimed at human rights defenders;
  • Repeal laws criminalising the work of human rights defenders;
  • Pay particular attention to defenders “most exposed” to risk;
  • Cooperate with the mandate, including by responding satisfactorily to communications, and extending open invitations for country visits.
  • The Special Rapporteur expresses serious concerns regarding reprisals against defenders engaging with international human rights mechanisms. [E.g. of 34 defenders recently convicted or imprisoned in Azerbaijan as part of a broad campaign to suppress dissenting voices, NGOs such as Article 19 have noted that several have been targeted for their engagement with the Council of Europe and European Court of Human Rights. Ten NGOs have jointly  called upon the Human Rights Council to address Azerbaijan under Item 4 of the Council’s agenda.]

via UNHRC: UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders urges… · Article 19.

UN special rapporteurs join calls on Azerbaijan

August 20, 2014

Yesterday,19 August 2014, three United Nations human rights experts [The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom or opinion and expression, David Kaye] alsoy condemned the growing tendency to prosecute prominent human rights defenders in Azerbaijan, and urged the Government “to show leadership and reverse the trend of repression, criminalization and prosecution of human rights work in the country.” Yesterday I referred to the UN expert group on business and human rights (currently in the country, see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/un-expert-group-on-business-and-human-rights-on-timely-visit-to-azerbaijan/) and reports of several major NGOs (see my post of yesterday: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/azerbaijan-a-hot-summer-in-summary/)

The UN experts highlighted the specific cases of Leyla Yunus, director of the Azerbaijani Institute of Peace and Democracy; Arif Yunus, head of Conflict Studies in the Institute of Peace and Democracy; Rasul Jafarov, coordinator of Art of Democracy and head of Human Rights Club; and Intigam Aliyev, chair of Legal Education Society. “Azerbaijan’s recent membership of the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations does not square well with the authorities’ actions directed at stifling freedoms on the ground,” the UN rights experts noted.

UN experts call on the Government of Azerbaijan | Scoop News.

Here we go again: appointment UN special rapporteurs postponed

March 31, 2014

Contrary to what I hoped in my post of last week, there are still problems with the appointment of the slate of special rapporteurs of the UN Human Rights Council. The session that just finished SHOULD have seen the appointment of 19 special procedure mandate holders, including the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders. The appointments were, however, postponed until April at the request of Peru. It seems that Peru argued that the President had not justified the few instances in which he had chosen to select another candidate than the one recommended by the consultative group based on the interviews they had carried out; and that the final group of selected candidates did not adhere to requirements of gender or regional balance. Peru was specifically unhappy at a lower representation of experts from Latin America amongst the special procedures. So, we wait a bit longer!

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/new-un-special-rapporteur-on-human-rights-defenders-indeed-michel-forst/

Iran’s Larijani attacks human rights report by UN and Sotoudeh expresses faith in the future

March 20, 2014

When it comes to the human rights situation in Iran one could refer to numerous recent reports that lament the continued repression and ill-treatment of human rights defenders in spite of the change of President at the top (as I did e.g. in: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/iran-human-rights-defenders-arbitrarily-detained-are-made-to-suffer-again-through-lack-of-medical-care/), but perhaps another way to demonstrate the enormous gap between the fanatics in power and those who struggle for a better Iran is two contrasting quotes:

The first comes from the Head of Iran’s Human Rights Council, Mohammad Javad Larijani, who in a 2-hour press conference rejected again any criticism and attacked the UN Rapporteur on Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, saying that his report was biased and filled with inaccurate reports and double standards.Larijani said that “he was turned into a media actor for propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran”. [from Iran rejects latest human rights report by the UN | Iran Pulse: Must-Reads from Iran Today.]

The other comes from http://www.arsehsevom.net/2014/03/nasrin-sotoudeh-equality-will-prevail/, quoting human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, one of the Final Nominees of the MEA in 2012 and recently released:

nasrin-sotoudeh

Not much more to say!

Margaret Sekaggya succeeded as HRD Rapporteur by Michel Forst: Reassuring

March 13, 2014

In March, Margaret Sekaggya will finish her term as the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders. For more than five years the Ugandan Margaret Sekaggya has served the mandate with dedication and commitment, and has played an integral role in promoting the work of and furthering protection for human rights defenders around the world.

Also it has been announced that the new Special Rapporteur will be Michel Forst , from France.

Michel ForstHe is a lawyer by training and the Secretary General of the Commission Nationale Consultative des Droits de l’Homme de la Republique Française. From 2008 – 2013, he was the Independent Expert of the United Nations on the situation of human rights in Haiti. He was Director General of Amnesty International in France and worked in the human rights department of UNESCO. Mr. Forst is also a founding trustee of Front Line Defenders.

In short, Margaret Sekaggya did a great job – like her predecessor Hina Jilani – and the credentials of the new Rapporteur give all reason to hope that the level of knowledge and commitment will be maintained. Glad to report something good coming out of the Council!