Posts Tagged ‘threats’

China goes after dissidents abroad

January 18, 2022

On 18 January 2022 a new report by Safeguard Defenders, inspired Al-Jazeera (Erin Hale) to write about how the Chinese authorities are trying to coerce critics thousands of miles from home into returning.

Wang Jingyou was living in Turkey last year when he found that the 7,000 kilometres (4350 miles) between him and his homeland was no obstacle to an offended Chinese state. Wang had left China after voicing his support on TikTok for Hong Kong’s democracy protests, but after he questioned the outcome of an Indian-Chinese border clash on social media in February 2021, mainland authorities sprung into action.

Within half an hour of the post, police in his hometown of Chongqing had visited his parents. Then they detained them. They said Wang, who is in his early twenties, had “slandered and belittled heroes” while also “picking quarrels”, two charges that in China are often used to silence government critics.

“I’m not in China, I’m in Europe,” Wang told Al Jazeera. “I just said something. I didn’t do anything and they put my (name) on a wanted (list) in the government website, in the official media, also in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs too.”

Wang soon found himself on a months-long journey of harassment that saw him detained while flying through Dubai in April 2021 and threatened with deportation to China – which he narrowly avoided when his story became international news. Wang and his fiancée travelled through several countries before they eventually claimed asylum in the Netherlands, but not before China had cancelled their passports.

“We are in the Netherlands, but they also have many, many ways to find us,” Wang said, alleging that even with a Dutch phone number he continues to receive threatening text messages and phone calls.

Chinese paramilitary police in summer unoforms march outside a new museum to the Chinese Commuist Party

Wang’s story may sound dramatic, but it is far from extraordinary in Xi Jinping’s China, according to human rights watchdog Safeguard Defenders, which released a new report on Tuesday on the country’s widespread practice of “involuntary returns”. Such pressure has been used on more than 10,000 alleged Chinese “fugitives” who since 2014 have been coerced into returning from abroad to face detention or prosecution for alleged corruption and other crimes, the report said citing official data.

Methods to “encourage” return can vary from harassment and coercion of friends and family online, to approaching a citizen overseas through Chinese or domestic security agents, and more “irregular” methods like state-sponsored kidnapping, Safeguard Defenders said. In some cases, authorities may freeze family assets or even threaten to remove children from families.

Kidnappings typically occur in countries with a strong relationship with China, like Thailand or Myanmar, but Safeguard Defenders said as many as 10 people may have been kidnapped from among Australia’s large Chinese diaspora in recent years.

The list also includes the 2015 disappearance of five staff members associated with a Hong Kong book store specialising in books banned in China. One bookseller, Gui Minhai, disappeared in Thailand while the others went missing on trips to China, only to later emerge in Chinese detention

China has also made use of Interpol “red notices“, which flag a citizen to police and immigration departments around the world so they can be deported back home, where they face a 99 percent conviction rate if prosecuted, the watchdog said.

“Involuntary returns” have become increasingly common since China first launched an ambitious anti-corruption campaign in 2012, followed by Operation Foxhunt in 2014 to repatriate Communist Party officials facing corruption charges who have fled abroad, and the broader Operation Sky Net in 2015 to target money laundering.

While nominally law-enforcement based, Operation Foxhunt has been described as a “campaign to enforce political loyalty, avoid in-Party factionalism and to more generally instil Party discipline”, Safeguard Defenders said in the report.

Both campaigns have corresponded to a 700 percent jump in Chinese people seeking asylum abroad between 2012 and 2020 as China’s already limited civil and political rights have been curtailed even further under President Xi, the rights group said.

That number does not include the 88,000 Hong Kong people who applied to resettle in the UK in 2021 under a new immigration scheme, after the imposition of a national security law for the Chinese territory that Amnesty says has “decimated” freedoms and rights that Beijing had promised to respect until at least 2047.

More than 175,000 people have been officially recognised as refugees, but that has not kept Chinese authorities from orchestrating “involuntary returns” whether they are government defectors, Falun Gong practitioners, human rights defenders, political dissidents, or even ordinary citizens like Wang who have fallen afoul of increasingly strict authorities.

Wang says he was just doing what millions of other people do everyday — sharing his views on social media.

“We didn’t do anything against China,” he said. “I wrote something. I never thought they would (begin to) watch me.”

https://safeguarddefenders.com/en/blog/involuntary-returns-report-exposes-long-arm-policing-overseas

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/1/18/china-critics-overseas-feel-the-long-reach-of-beijing-report

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jan/18/china-forced-2500-fugitives-back-from-overseas-during-pandemic-report-finds

To Counter Domestic Extremism, Human Rights First Launches Pyrra

December 26, 2021

New enterprise uses machine learning to detect extremism across online platforms

On 7 December 2021, Human Rights First announced a new enterprise, originally conceived in its Innovation Lab as Extremist Explorer, that will help to track online extremism as the threats of domestic terrorism continue to grow.

Human Rights First originally developed Extremist Explorer to monitor and challenge violent domestic actors who threaten all our human rights. To generate the level of investment needed to quickly scale up this tool, the organization launched it as a venture-backed enterprise called Pyrra Technologies.

“There is an extremist epidemic online that leads to radical violence,” said Human Rights First CEO Michael Breen. “In the 21st century, the misuse of technology by extremists is one of the greatest threats to human rights. We set up our Innovation Lab to discover, develop, and deploy new technology to both protect and promote human rights.  Pyrra is the first tool the lab has launched.”

Pyrra’s custom AI sweeps sites to detect potentially dangerous content, extremist language, violent threats, and harmful disinformation across social media sites, chatrooms, and forums.

 “We’re in the early innings of threats and disinformation emerging from a proliferating number of smaller social media platforms with neither the resources nor the will to remove violative content,Welton Chang, founding CEO of Pyrra and former CTO at Human Rights First, said at the launch announcement.  “Pyrra takes the machine learning suite we started building at Human Rights First, greatly expands on its capabilities and combines it with a sophisticated user interface and workflow to make the work of detecting violent threats and hate speech more efficient and effective.”

The Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism has been an early user of the technology. 
“To have a real impact, it’s not enough to react after an event happens, it’s not enough to know how extremists operate in online spaces, we must be able to see what’s next, to get ahead of extremism,” said Oren Segal, Vice President, Center on Extremism at the ADL. “That’s why it’s been so exciting for me and my team to see how this tool has evolved over time.  We’ve seen the insights, and how they can lead to real-world impact in the fight against hate.”   

 “It really is about protecting communities and our inclusive democracy,” said Heidi Beirich, PhD, Chief Strategy Officer and Co-Founder, Global Project Against Hate and Extremism.  “The amount of information has exploded, now we’re talking about massive networks and whole ecosystems – and the threats that are embedded in those places. The Holy Grail for people who work against extremism is to have an AI system that’s intuitive, easy to work with, that can help researchers track movements that are hiding out in the dark reaches of the internet. And that’s what Pyrra does.”

Moving forward, Human Rights First will continue to partner with Pyrra to monitor extremism while building more tools to confront human rights abuses. 

Kristofer Goldsmith, Advisor on Veterans Affairs and Extremism, Human Rights First and the CEO of Sparverius, researches extremism. “We have to spend days and days and days of our lives in the worst places on the internet to get extremists’ context.  But we’re at a point now where we cannot monitor all of these platforms at once. The AI powering Pyrra can,” he said.

Pyrra’s users, including human rights defenders, journalists, and pro-democracy organizations can benefit from using the tool as well as additional tools to monitor extremism that are coming from Human Rights First’s Innovation Lab.

“This is a great step for the Innovation Lab,” said Goldsmith. “We’ve got many other projects like Pyrra that we hope to be launching that we expect to have real-world impact in stopping real-world violent extremism.”   

https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/counter-domestic-extremism-human-rights-first-launches-pyrra

Lawlor calls on Kyrgyzstan to stop harassment of human rights defender Kamilzhan Ruziev

November 12, 2021

Kyrgyzstan must investigate death threats against human rights defender Kamilzhan Ruziev instead of harassing him for making complaints against the police, said Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders “It is extremely disturbing that authorities began laying criminal charges against Mr. Ruziev after he exposed police torture and ineffectiveness, when they should actually be investigating the death threats made against him,”

As director of the non-governmental human rights organisation Ventus, Ruziev defends victims of torture, domestic violence, and discrimination. In 2019, a police investigator, whom Ruziev exposed for committing torture, reportedly threatened to kill him. When the State Committee for National Security and the Prosecutor’s Office failed to investigate the threats, Ruziev took them to court, only to find himself facing seven criminal charges.

“Kyrgyz authorities must give Mr. Ruziev a fair trial and effectively investigate all allegations of threats and ill-treatment against him and other human rights defenders,” she said. The next hearing on Mr. Ruziev’s case will be on 11 November 2021.

Lawlor said she was also disturbed by reports that Mr. Ruziev was ill-treated while held in detention for 48 hours in May 2020, and denied access to his lawyer.

“Now I hear that his health is deteriorating, and complaints to the authorities about violations committed against him continue to fall on deaf ears,” she added.

In a report to the Human Rights Council earlier this year on threats and killings of human rights defenders, Lawlor warned: “when a human rights defender receives death threats, swift action must be taken to prevent the threats from escalating. Impunity fuels more murders.”

Lawlor is in contact with the authorities of Kyrgyzstan on this issue, and stressed that “Kyrgyzstan must do better to safeguard the environment for human rights defenders to carry out their work.”

Her call was endorsed by: Ms. Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health.

https://www.miragenews.com/investigate-death-threats-against-human-rights-664761/

A human rights defender’s story: Alicia Wallace from the Bahamas

February 17, 2021

On 15 January 2021 The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) published a long interview with Alicia Wallace, a human rights defender from the Bahamas. Here it is in full:

“I remember to be hopeful, not because it feels good or because I am waiting for something to happen on its own, but because I believe in my own power and the magic we create when queer people, Black people, women come together to channel our rage, righteous and raw, into sustained action.”

The year is 2050. What does the world look like – in particular for women, Black people, LGBTI people?

We are making strides toward equality and we are centered in all decision-making processes. We are protected and respected. It is a norm for us to be in positions of leadership. Diversity is expected. We are as safe at night as anyone is during the day. We have access to education, healthcare, food, and housing. All of our needs are met. Redistribution of wealth is in progress. Our survival is not dependent on or propping up the capitalist system. We are defining justice for ourselves. We recognise ourselves as the source of our own healing.

How did your work help achieve the vision you just described?

My work provoked conversation. It made information, from academic theory to changemaking methodologies, accessible to everyone. I created spaces where people have been comfortable to question, critique, challenge, learn, share, and create. I developed tools for all of us to be able to think outside of the reality we used to know. We knew we were not bound to it because I put significant emphasis on imagination and future-making. I found a way to fight the injustice we faced and facilitate collaborative visioning, imagining, and creating. We channeled our rage, weaponised hope (inspired by the work of artist Angelika Wallace-Whitfield), and we came together to co-create the futures. I helped to create tools and systems to enable that practice.

Was there a defining moment in your life that motivated you to defend human rights?

I am a queer Black woman. I have student loan debt. I am unwaged. I am a survivor of violence. My life is a collection of moments that make it necessary for me to defend and promote human rights if I am to survive and leave the world better than I met it. Perhaps what prompts me to action is recognition of another important fact—I have privilege. I have had experiences I may never speak of, and I know that my circumstances could be a lot worse. It is important for me to use what I have to help us all get what we ought to have had a long time ago. For me, the defining moment happens over and over again, when I feel rage threatens to control my body, and I remember to be hopeful, not because it feels good or because I am waiting for something to happen on its own, but because I believe in my own power and the magic we create when queer people, Black people, women come together to turn channel our rage, righteous and raw, into sustained action.

Do you face any threats and attacks because of your work? 

I’ve been experiencing rape and death threats for the past six years. Most of it has been online. The most troubling threats come following participation in direct action or agitation from people in positions of influence. In 2018, when I participated in the 71st session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in Geneva, a radio personality made dangerous statements about me on the air. The same person incited the first threats of violence against me in 2014, so I knew I needed to take it seriously. I made a report to the CEDAW focal point on reprisals, but the outcome was not favorable. A government representative called me to suggest I report the incident to the police, but did not offer support in doing so and could not cite an offense, according to Bahamian law, that I would be reporting. It was a ridiculous suggestion that gave me no help. The government, of course, reported its “action” to the UN, even claiming that I said I no longer felt unsafe. I told the focal point that this was untrue and that, at the very least, the government should have been instructed to publicly state its support for human rights defenders, enact hate speech and hate crime legislation, and direct the radio personality to cease and desist all reference to me and any other human rights defenders. It would have cost the UN nothing to support me and other human rights defenders by making these recommendations to the government. Instead, I am left to fend for myself in a place where I continue to live and work without protection, legal or otherwise.

On this see what was stated by Andrew Gilmour in December 2019: “The Bahamas responded to the allegations of intimidation and reprisals against woman human rights defender Alicia Wallace after she engaged with the Committee on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). She and her colleagues were subjected to hate speech by a well-known radio personality, the effect of which was to create an unsafe environment for Ms. Wallace and other women human rights defenders. The Bahamas affirmed its commitment to protect human rights defenders and ensure that they can engage freely with the UN. The delegation told the Council that authorities proactively provided assistance to Ms. Wallace to guarantee her safety.”[from: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/23/andrew-gilmours-2019-report-on-reprisals-it-gets-worse-but-response-remains-mostly-rhetoric/]

What could be done for you to be able to work safely and effectively?

Institutions and people in positions of power need to rebuke violence, harassment, and threats of violence. The State needs to enact legislation against hate crimes and hate speech. It needs to publicly state its support of human rights defenders, make it clear that the relationship between itself and advocates is complementary, not adversarial, and assert that it will protect us. The United Nations and other bodies in control of international mechanisms and reporting processes need to take responsibility for the safety and security of the human rights defenders it depends on to monitor and evaluate State action. These organisations need to raise the bar, calling States to higher standards. They have to make it clear to States and the general public that the safety and security of human rights defenders are a matter of priority before we are detained, disappeared, or murdered.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your work? 

It has, as predicted, increased the volume of work. People, especially vulnerable people, are suffering. The pandemic has created crisis after crisis, from domestic violence and unpaid care work to unemployment and disruption of education. In anticipation of the effects of COVID-19 and State actions in response to it, Feminist Alliance for Rights (FAR)—where I am a steering committee member—produced guidelines for feminist policymaking during this time. This is one of the most critical pieces of work I have contributed to this year. In addition, I have been engaged in rapid response, working on policy recommendations to end gender-based violence, and continuing the regular programming of Equality Bahamas. It has been a busy year, but one of learning and where I have been able to see and strengthen my own agility. Human rights defenders have to be able to anticipate, prepare, respond, pivot, assess, and revise at all times, and especially during the crisis. The work has intensified and been taxing, but I believe that we have learned more this year than we have in years gone by, people are more aware of inequalities, and in addition to getting more people on our team, we can get institutions to make substantive change.

You are the producer of a monthly newsletter called The Culture RUSH. How does fusing pop culture with social justice help achieve your vision?

I want people to understand the movement for justice and equality. I want to see a broader understanding of feminism, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ people’s rights, and the importance of  centering vulnerable people in decision-making processes, programmes, and activities. We need more people on our team. That requires two main actions: communicating in clear, accessible ways, and meeting them where they are in order to deliver the message. Academic text, feminist theory, and the language of institutions and advocacy are not as appealing or accessible as pop culture. People know what’s going on in Cardi B’s marriage, Megan Thee Stallion’s friend group, and the lives of real housewives. If WAP gets us talking about women’s pleasure, let’s talk about  women in rap, lyrics, and music videos. In The Culture RUSH, I make connections between pop culture and social justice. In January 2021, I am starting Scorch, a paid subscription newsletter breaking feminist theory and academic text down into digestible bites (similar to Blinkist). I’m excited about making human rights and social justice accessible and interesting to wider audiences. When people are interested, they’re more likely to get invested, and when they’re invested, we can convince them to take action with us. People power is how we win.

Thank you, Alicia! 


Alicia A. Wallace is a queer Black feminist, gender expert, and research consultant. She is the Director of Equality Bahamas which promotes women’s and LGBTQ+ rights as human rights through public education, community programming, and advocacy. Her work has included a two-year educational campaign ahead of a national referendum on gender and citizenship, the design and coordination of  Women’s Wednesdays—a month event series bringing women together to share knowledge and ideas—and management of a disaster relief donation and distribution center. Alicia is also a steering committee member of Feminist Alliance for Rights (FAR). She has a weekly column on social and political issues in the Bahamian daily newspaper The Tribune and has published academic papers. 

Photo credits in order of appearance: Blair J. Meadows, Equality and Justice Alliance, Equality Bahamas

http://ishr.ch/news/human-rights-defenders-story-alicia-wallace-bahamas

Afghanistan: 65 media workers and rights defenders killed since 2018

February 15, 2021

UNAMA/Freshta DuniaThe Pul-e-Kheshti Mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan. (file photo) 15 February 2021Human Rights

On 15 February 2021 the UN reported that 65 journalists, media professionals and human rights defenders were killed in Afghanistan between 1 January 2018 and 31 January 2021, with 11 losing their lives since the start of peace negotiations last September. 

This trend, combined with the absence of claims of responsibility, has generated a climate of fear among the population”, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a news release, announcing the findings from its latest report

The violence, the Mission said, resulted in contraction of the human rights and media space, with many professionals exercising self-censorship in their work, quitting their jobs, and leaving their homes, communities – and even the country – in hope it will improve their safety.  See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/26/afghanistan-human-rights-defenders-targeted-but-fearless/. The Digest of Human Rights Laureates lists some 20 defenders: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest

“The killings have had the broader impact across society of also diminishing expectations around efforts towards peace”, UNAMA added. 

The special report Killings of Human Rights Defender and Media Professionals also documented “changing patterns” of attacks.  The most recent wave, that of intentional, premeditated and deliberate targeting of individuals with perpetrators remaining anonymous contrasts to previous years, UNAMA said. In the past, such deaths were mainly as a result of proximity of individuals to attacks by organized armed groups, mainly the Islamic State in the Levant-Khorasan-Province (ISIL-KP), involving the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/30/car-bomb-kills-two-human-rights-workers-in-afghanistan/

The report underscored the role of all actors in preventing such killings and intimidation, promoting accountability and preventing impunity. Investigations into killings must be independent, impartial, prompt, thorough, effective, credible and transparent, it urged, adding that the prosecution of suspected perpetrators should strictly follow due process and fair trial standards.   

Deborah Lyons, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and the head of UNAMA, underscored the importance of media professionals and human rights activists. 

The voices of human rights defenders and the media are critical for any open and decent society. At a time when dialogue and an end to the conflict through talks and political settlement should be the focus, the voices from human rights and the media need to be heard more than ever before, instead they are being silenced”, she said. 

The Afghan people need and deserve a flourishing civic space – a society where people can think, write and voice their views openly, without fear”, Ms. Lyons added  UNAMA reportHuman rights defenders, journalists and media workers killed by incident type

Recommendations 

Among its recommendations, the report called on the Government to put in place an adequate preventive framework, including special protective and proactive security measures for rights defenders, journalists and media workers subject to threats or other types of intimidation.  

It urged the Taliban to adopt, publicize and enforce policies that prohibit the killings of human rights defenders, journalists and media workers, as well as to repeal existing and refrain from new policies that limit civic space. 

The report also called on the international community to continue to engage with rights defenders, journalists and media workers at risk and increase support to programs that provide security, travel, financial, capacity building and other assistance to them.

It also called on non-state actors to stop all killings of human rights defenders, journalists and media workers, in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law. 

Killings of Human Rights Defender and Media Professionals

Five UN rapporteurs raise concern on harassment of journalist Dharisha Bastians

September 15, 2020
The Colombo Gazette on 15 September reported that a group of five UN special rapporteurs have expressed their serious concerns to the Government of Sri Lanka on the continued harassment of journalist Dharisha Bastians, the former editor of Sunday Observer and reporter for the New York Times in Colombo. [The joint letter was issued by David Kaye Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Agnes Callamard,  Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions,  Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and Joseph Cannataci,  Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy.]

In a joint letter to the Government dated 13th July 2020 the Special Rapporteurs said Bastians’ was being targeted for her writing and her work to defend human rights in Sri Lanka. The letter said the rapporteurs were concerned that the continued harassment of Bastians and the seizure of her computer and exposure of her phone records could endanger and compromise her sources and deter other journalists from reporting on issues of public interest and human rights. “We are particularly concerned that these measures may be aimed at discrediting her work, in an effort to stop her reporting on Sri Lankan political and human rights affairs,” the special rapporteurs letter to the Government noted.

In June 2020 the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) entered the home of Ms. Bastians in Colombo and seized her personal computer in connection with an ongoing investigation carried out over the alleged abduction of a Swiss embassy staffer in Colombo in November 2019. Bastians said the CID had arrived at her residence on two previous occasions to seize her laptop without a court order. The joint letter also noted that “pro-government media have reportedly conducted a smear campaign against Ms. Bastians and her family, supported by attacks on social media, labelling her as a traitor and a criminal.”

CLICK HERE FOR FULL LETTER

Five UN rapporteurs raise concerns on harassment of Dharisha Bastians

Nine human rights groups express fear over threats from security officers of the Liberian Government.

August 6, 2020
Human Rights Activist, Adama K. Dempster

In a statement issued in Monrovia on August 5, 2020, the groups in a collective letter noted that “Credible threats” have been made against a staff of the Global Justice and Research project (GJRP), Hassan Bility, as well as witnesses of alleged crimes by a recent defendant of a war crimes unit in the United Kingdom.

The human rights organizations that include CIVITAS MAXIMA, Center for Justice and Accountability, Center for Civil and Political Rights, Civil Society Human Rights Platform, Human Rights Watch and the Advocates for Human Rights amongst others also indicated in the release that “Credible threats have been made against Adama Dempster, Secretary-General of the Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia, in connection to his human rights work and advocacy for a war crimes court.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/23/human-rights-defenders-to-president-weah-the-ball-is-in-your-camp/]

The groups said that Dempster, who led the civil society delegation that traveled to Geneva to report to the United Nations on Liberia’s human rights record, has also received credible information that he is being “targeted for elimination.”

These threats come from certain leading figures within the Liberian government’s security services, and confidential sources state that they are related to Dempster’s work delivering human rights reports to the International Community and the United Nations against the current Government, as well as his advocacy for a war crimes court,” said the human rights groups.

Bility’s GJRP has been actively involved in researching and identifying some key perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity during Liberia’s civil war, and some based on the work of GJRP have been prosecuted in the United States while others are detained in Europe awaiting trial for their roles. Among those prosecuted in the United States under this effort is Mohammed Jabateh (alas Jungle Jabbah).  In Europe, Martina Johnson of the defunct National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) with some former fighters of the United Liberation Movement (ULIMO-K) of warlord Alhaji G.V. Kromah has been arrested.

The recently announced threats against human rights advocates come following the release and subsequent coming to Liberia Agnes Reeves Taylor, former wife of jailed Liberian President Charles Taylor.

There are still more warlords and war crimes perpetrators in Liberia who were identified in Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation report, and some are currently serving in the National Security Agency (NSA).

The human rights organization state in their statement that: “The intimidation and threats against GJRP staff and witnesses started immediately after Agnes Reeves Taylor, who was indicted in 2017 in the United Kingdom for torture, returned to Liberia in July 2020. They included multiple threatening phone calls to GJRP staff, including the director, Hassan Bility, as well as against witnesses of her alleged crimes.”

According to the human rights groups, several witnesses have said that people claiming to be Reeves Taylor supporters have threatened their lives — including in person, and claiming also that certain public statements about Bility and the GJRP by Reeves Taylor, who was not acquitted, but whose case in the UK did not go to trial based on a point of law, also raise concerns.

The groups also reminded the Government of Liberia of the United Nations Human Rights Committee’s Concluding Observations, issued in 2018.

The UN body said that the Government of Liberian should make certain that “all alleged perpetrators of gross human rights violations and war crimes are impartially prosecuted and, if found guilty, convicted and punished in accordance with the gravity of the acts committed.”

The Human Rights Committee’s Observations required Liberia to report by 27 July 2020 on the implementation of the recommendations regarding accountability for past crimes. Liberia has not met this deadline. “We sincerely hope that Liberia will take its international treaty obligations seriously by implementing the recommendations and submitting its follow-up report to the Committee,” said the groups.

The groups called on the Government of Liberia to ensure that human rights defenders in Liberia are protected from harassment and threats by individuals within the Government security services.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/08/05/protect-human-rights-defenders-liberia

https://www.liberianobserver.com/news/ranking-state-security-officers-linked-to-threats-against-human-rights-advocates/

Human Rights Organizations in Liberia Alarm Over Being Targeted by Government’s Security, Call for Protection

Nobel Laureate Denis Mukwege under threat in Congo

August 5, 2020

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Dr Denis Mukwege, says his family has been intimidated and threatened since he denounced the recent massacre in Kipupu in Mwenga territory in South Kivu of Congo. Mukwege, who is the founder and Medical Director of Panzi Hospital and Foundations, said in a statement on Monday 3 August 2020 that since 2012 and even after two assassination attempts, he had continued to receive death threats [see also; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/05/breaking-news-see-which-other-awards-the-2018-nobel-peace-prize-laureates-won-already/].

Since my tweet on Sunday, July 26 denouncing the recent massacre in Kipupu in Mwenga territory in South Kivu, I have received various hate mails, and members of my family have been intimidated and threatened,” he said.

Since then[ 22 years ago], I have not ceased to campaign for the search for truth and the application of justice, without which we cannot hope for lasting peace,” he said.

While calling for peace, the Nobel Peace Prize Laurel made a case for the examination of the mapping report carried out by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, adding that the report contained a compilation of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocides detailed from 1993 to 2003. “Without analyzing these crimes-which mark the history of the Congo-and without justice being rendered for these crimes, no people involved in these conflicts will be able to recover or live in peace,” he said. He further said it seemed that advocating for the creation of a special jurisdiction to try crimes in the Congo scares some people who pour out their hatred on social media by pitting one against the other, often on the basis of lies. However, he said reconciliation between peoples and the establishment of reparations for the victims could not be achieved without our relentless search for the truth. “No intellectual malfeasance, no threat, no intimidation, will prevent me from expressing myself on the reality of the atrocities experienced by the populations of my country and the consequences of which I treat every day in my hospital in Bukavu,” he said.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/12/djimon-hounsou-set-to-play-congolese-nobel-prize-winner-denis-mukwege-in-new-film/

Read more: https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/my-family-under-threat-over-congo-massacre-tweet-peace-laureate-mukwege.html

Sri Lanka: Lawyers, Human Rights Defenders, and Journalists Arrested, Threatened, Intimidated

July 30, 2020

In a joint statement published on 29 July 2020 entitled “Sri Lanka: Human Rights Under Attack” by Human Rights Watch and 9 other major NGOs confirms what many have been fearing since the presidential election of November 2019, [See: defenders-in-sri-lanka-fear-return-to-a-state-of-fear/]:

The United Nations, as well Sri Lanka’s partners and foreign donors, should immediately call for full respect, protection and fulfillment of the human rights of all Sri Lankans, and particularly to halt the reversal of fragile gains in the protection of human rights in recent years.

Numerous civilian institutions, including the NGO Secretariat, have been placed under the control of the Defence Ministry. Serving and retired military officers have been appointed to a slew of senior government roles previously held by civilians. The authorities have recently  established military-led bodies such as the Presidential Task Force to build “a secure country, disciplined, virtuous and lawful society,” which has the power to issue directives to any government official. This represents an alarming trend towards the militarization of the state. Many of those in government, including the president, defense secretary, and army chief, are accused of war crimes during the internal armed conflict that ended in 2009.

Dissident voices and critics of the current government, including lawyers, journalists, human rights defenders and victims of past abuses, are being targeted by the police, intelligence agencies and pro-government media.

Since the presidential election in November 2019, anti-human rights rhetoric intended to restrict the space for civil society has been amplified by senior members of government. On 6 July 2020, at an election rally, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stated that “NGOs will be taken into a special attention under the new government formed after the General Election, specifically, how foreign monies and grants are received to the NGOs from foreign countries and further, activities of the international organisations will be observed.” The government has also announced a probe into NGOs registered under the previous government.

In the months following the November 2019 presidential election, a number of organizations reported visits from intelligence officers who sought details of staff, programs and funding, in particular, organizations in the war-affected Northern and Eastern provinces of the country. Such visits are blatant attempts to harass and intimidate Sri Lankan civil society.

In February, the acting District Secretary in the Mullaitivu District (Northern Province) issued a directive that only non-governmental organizations with at least 70 percent of their activities focused on development would be allowed to work, effectively enabling arbitrary interference with and prevention of a broad range of human rights work. A Jaffna-based think-tank was visited several times, including soon after the Covid-19 lockdown, and questioned about its work, funding and staff details.

Lawyers taking on human rights cases have been targeted through legal and administrative processes and have faced smear campaigns in the media. Kumaravadivel Guruparan, a human rights lawyer, was a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law at the University of Jaffna. He appeared as counsel on behalf of victims in the case of 24 Tamil youth who were subjected to enforced disappearance while in military custody at Navatkuli in 1996. In November 2019, Guruparan was banned by the University Grants Commission (UGC) from teaching law while also practicing in court. The ban was following a letter sent by the Sri Lankan army to the UGC questioning why Guruparan was permitted to engage in legal practice while being a member of the faculty. Guruparan resigned from the University on 16 July 2020.[ see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/02/sri-lankan-human-rights-defender-barred-from-legal-practice-appeals-to-supreme-court/

On 14 April, Hejaaz Hizbullah, a lawyer who has represented victims of human rights violations, was arrested under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). He is being held illegally without charge and without being produced before a magistrate for over 90 days. He has had limited access to his lawyers and family members. The day before his arrest, Hizbullah joined others in submitting a letter addressed to President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa criticising the denial of burial rights to the Muslim community under Sri Lanka’s Covid-19 regulations.

Achala Senevirathne, a lawyer who represents families in a case involving the enforced disappearance of 11 youth in 2008, in which senior military commanders are implicated, has been attacked on social media, including with threats of physical violence and sexualized abuse. The police have failed to act on her complaints of threats to her safety.

On 10 June, Swastika Arulingam, a lawyer, was arrested when she inquired about the arrests of people conducting a peaceful Black Lives Matter solidarity protest. Other lawyers, not named here for reasons of security, have also been visited at their homes by security officials, or called in for lengthy interrogations linked to their human rights work.

Journalists and those voicing critical opinions on social media, have been arbitrarily arrested. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed alarm at the clampdown on freedom of expression, including the 1 April announcement by the police that any person criticizing officials engaged in the response to Covid-19 would be arrested. It is unclear whether there is any legal basis for such arrests. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has cautioned against “an increasing number of such arrests since the issuing of a letter dated 1 April 2020”.

Media rights groups have condemned the targeting of journalists since the presidential election, with threats of arrest, surveillance, and lengthy police interrogations linked to their reporting. Dharisha Bastians, former editor of the Sunday Observer newspaper and a contributor to the New York Times, her family, and associates, have been persecuted by Sri Lankan police in retaliation for her work. Since December 2019, authorities have attempted to link Bastians to the disputed abduction of a Swiss Embassy employee in Colombo. The government claims the alleged abduction was fabricated to discredit the government. Since Bastians had reported on the incident as a journalist, the police have obtained and published her phone records, searched her house, and seized her laptop computer.

On 9 April, a social media commentator Ramzy Razeek was arrested under Sri Lanka’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act and the Computer Crimes Act. He approached the Sri Lankan police for protection following online death threats linked to his social media posts condemning all forms of extremism. Instead of receiving protection, he was jailed and denied bail. His hearing has been postponed, despite his failing health and the heightened risk posed by the pandemic in prisons.

The targeting and repression of journalists and human rights defenders is not only an assault on the rights of these individuals, but an attack on the principles of human rights and the rule of law which should protect all Sri Lankans. These policies have a chilling effect on the rights to freedom of expression and association, which are crucial for the operation of civil society and fundamental to the advancement of human rights. Those working on ending impunity and ensuring accountability for past crimes, and especially victims, victim’s families, members of minority communities, and networks in the Northern and Eastern provinces, are particularly at risk of intimidation and harassment.

The Sri Lankan authorities must end all forms of harassment, threats, and abuse of legal processes and police powers against lawyers, human rights defenders and journalists. Ramzy Razeek and Hejaaz Hizbullah must be released immediately. Human rights defenders living and working in Sri Lanka should be able to carry out their peaceful human rights work without fear of reprisals, which requires a safe and enabling environment in which they can organize, assemble, receive and share information.

While the government of Sri Lanka continues to deny Sri Lankans the ability to promote and defend human rights, particularly targeting members of civil society, we call upon the international community, including states and the United Nations, to demand that Sri Lanka live up to its international human rights obligations.

Sri Lankan human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists need to be protected now.

https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/media_2020/07/Final%20-%20Joint%20Statement%20on%20Sri%20Lanka%2029%20July.pdf

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/07/29/sri-lanka-human-rights-under-attack

Intimidating break-in into the house of Turkish human rights defender Eren Keskin

June 18, 2020

Unknown perpetrators broke into Human Rights Association (İHD) Co-Chair Eren Keskin‘s house yesterday (June 16) to “threaten and intimidate her”, the association has said in a written statement.

Pretending to be burglars, the perpetrators ransacked the house but did not steal anything, according to the statement. The incident happened when Keskin was not at home and the police came to the house and made examinations. It was found after the police’s examination that a ring was taken and left on the table in the living room in what the İHD said was “a message” to the lawyer.

The incident was directly aimed at “threatening and intimidating” Keskin, according to the association. “She is known for clearly and fearlessly expressing her thoughts. For this reason, she often faces investigations and cases that we can call ‘judicial harassment.

“Our association will make the necessary applications nationally and internationally and will closely pursue the case. We remind the government of its duties with regards to the protection of human rights defenders in Turkey and would like to express that the government will directly be responsible for any unfavorableness that may develop.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/28/eren-keskin-in-turkey-sentenced-to-prison-and-more-to-come/

https://youtu.be/HOk0ykxtU-s

Rights Defender Eren Keskin Deposed over Her Tweets from Five Years Ago

http://bianet.org/english/human-rights/225874-unknown-perpetrators-break-into-rights-defender-eren-keskin-s-house

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/home-human-rights-lawyer-eren-keskin-broken