Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, a prominent Sudanese human rights defender, has been unlawfully detained for over two months, held by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) at Khartoum’s Kober Prison without charge or access to legal representation, 39 human rights groups and activists said.
Dr. Mudawi, who was arrested with his driver, Adam El-Sheikh Mukhtar, on December 7, 2016 at the University of Khartoum, has received three brief visits from family members, all of which have been supervised by the NISS. A public statement issued by the family after meeting him on January 27, 2017 stated that he appeared to be in poor health with visible weight loss. They said that the NISS have prevented Dr. Mudawi from receiving essential medication for a pre-existing heart condition. The latest visit, on February 9, followed a week-long hunger strike that continues to date. The family noted that Dr. Mudawi has lost further weight and is extremely fragile with decreasing blood pressure.
Released detainees also reported to Hurriyat and Radio Dabanga that they saw Dr. Mudawi being beaten by NISS officers following the declaration of his first hunger strike.
February 14, 2017 is 70 days since his arrest, and 13 days since Dr. Mudawi resumed a hunger strike to protest his detention without charge or access to legal representation. He originally went on hunger strike on January 22, but ended it on January 27 following a family visit. Dr. Mudawi resumed his hunger strike on February 2 to protest the continued unlawfulness of his detention. He has since been placed into a “punishment cell” with bad ventilation and very hot temperatures, thereby exacerbating his medical concerns. The NISS have furthermore opened proceedings against Dr. Mudawi under Article 133 (Attempted Suicide) as a result of his hunger strike.
The Government of Sudan, under law, is responsible and accountable for the mental and physical integrity of Dr. Mudawi, and over a dozen other detainees who are being held by NISS without charge or access to their families and lawyers. They include human rights defenders Tasneem Ahmed Taha Alzaki and Hafiz Idris. The NISS is known for ill-treatment and torture. Released detainees have reported harsh beatings by officials in Kober prison.
The undersigned organisations and individuals call on the Sudanese authorities to immediately release all detainees or to charge them with an internationally recognised offence, and to ensure their physical and psychological integrity in custody.
The prolonged detention, without access to counsel, of Dr. Mudawi and his colleagues constitutes a clear violation of international human rights norms, which prohibit arbitrary or unlawful detention. Sudan’s 2010 National Security Act allows NISS to hold detainees for up to four and a half months without judicial review, in violation of international human rights norms.
Moreover, the abuse of detainees – as documented by these organisations – violates Sudan’s obligations under international law and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which prohibit torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment.
The organizations condemn the silencing of political opposition members, activists, and human rights defenders through arbitrary detention, despite constitutional guarantees of the freedom of expression, association, and assembly. The criminalization and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders is contrary to the protections guaranteed by the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and Sudan’s obligations under international and regional human rights law.
The groups call upon the Government of Sudan to grant the aforementioned detainees immediate and unequivocal access to their lawyers and family members, and release them in the absence of valid legal charges consistent with international standards.
The groups also call on Sudan to reform the 2010 National Security Act which grants the NISS wide powers of arrest and detention for up to four and a half months without judicial review, as well as broad powers of search and seizure, permits incommunicado detention without prompt access to a lawyer, and grants immunity to officials.
The groups furthermore call for the investigation and prosecution of those found responsible for ill-treatment and torture. The organisations are unaware of any prosecution of NISS officers despite wide reporting of ill-treatment and torture in NISS facilities. Impunity for such violations remains the norm.
This is an excerpt of an article published on HRW's website on February 14, 2017.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Kazakhstan.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing arbitrary detention of Mr. Max Bokayev, Head of the NGO “Arlan” and a human rights defender working for the protection of the environment, freedom of expression and the fight against torture, and Mr. Talgat Ayanov, a lawyer and activist from Atyrau, Western Kazakhstan. Both human rights defenders played a crucial role in organising peaceful protests that took place last April and early May 2016 against the amendments to the Land Code of Kazakhstan.
According to the information received, on January 30, 2017, relatives of Messrs. Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov received two separate letters issued from the pre-trial detention centre in Atyrau. The first one, dated January 25, 2017, was informing them that the two would be transferred to the Penal Colony in Atyrau. This was subsequently confirmed verbally to both Messrs. Bokayev and Ayanov. The second letter, dated January 30, 2017, was informing the relatives of the two defenders that Messrs. Bokayev and Ayanov would be transferred to the Penal Colony of Petropavlovsk, Northern Kazakhstan, which is 1,500 km from Atyrau, their home city, to serve their sentence. This is in violation of Kazakhstan’s domestic law, which requires keeping convicts near their place of residence.
On January 27, 2017, Messrs. Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov were transferred from Atyrau pre-trial detention centre to a pre-trial detention facility in Aktobe, more than 500 km away from Atyrau, their home city, where they remained detained as of February 9, 2017, before being transferred to the Penal Colony of Petropavlovsk. The relatives of Messrs. Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov have not been informed on a possible date for the transfer of Messrs. Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov to the Penal Colony of Petropavlovsk, as according to Article 91.7 of the Criminal Executive Code, authorities are requested to take measures on security and confidentiality during transfer process.
The Observatory strongly condemns the ongoing arbitrary detention and harassment of Messrs. Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov. Moreover, the Observatory fears that imprisonment in the Penal Colony of Petropavlovsk where conditions of detention are known to be particularly harsh and where they would be cut from regular visits from their family members and lawyers would place them at risk of torture and ill-treatment, in violation of Kazakhstan’s obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
The Observatory urges authorities in Kazakhstan to release Messrs. Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov immediately and unconditionally as their detention is arbitrary since it only seems to aim at sanctioning their human rights activities.
This appeal was published on the OMCT's website on February 13, 2017.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its utmost concern regarding the large number of killings of human rights defenders at the outset of 2017, and reiterates its concern for defenders of land rights and natural resources, as well as indigenous and Afro-descendant human rights defenders, who continue to face high risks of violence.
So far in 2017, the IACHR has learned of 14 murders of human rights defenders: seven in Colombia, two in Guatemala, two in Mexico, and three in Nicaragua. The IACHR expresses its consternation over the devastating increase in violence against those who oppose extractive or development projects or who defend the right to land and natural resources of indigenous peoples in the region; they now account for 41 percent of all murdered human rights defenders in the region, according to information from civil society organizations.
The seven murders in Colombia about which the Commission has received information have taken place in a context in which human rights defenders in the country are increasingly being threatened or killed, something the Commission previously condemned in a press release on November 2, 2016. This context still exists despite the recent signing of a historic peace agreement. The information received indicates that Olmedo Pito García, a young indigenous leader and member of the organization Movimiento Político y Social Marcha Patriótica, in Cauca, was killed on January 6, 2017. In addition, on January 7, Aldemar Parra Garcia, a community leader who advocated against the involuntary displacement of his community due to the environmental destruction caused by industrial mining, was shot to death. The murder occurred despite the State having been informed, through its early warning system, of death threats against members of the community and of the presence of suspicious men in the area.
The IACHR also received information regarding the murders of Juan Mosquera, a recognized community leader in the Bajo Atrato region, and his son, Moisés Mosquera, on January 10, 2017; José Yimer Cartagena, a campesino leader of Marcha Patriótica Alto Sinú and vice president of ASODECAS; and a young Afro-Colombian community leader with CONPAZ, Emilsen Manyoma Mosquera, and her husband, Joe Javier Rodallega, whose bodies were found on the morning of January 17, 2017, in Buenaventura. In addition, Yoryanis Isabel Bernal Varela—an advocate for the rights of Wiwa indigenous women in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta—was reportedly killed on January 26, 2017. The IACHR values the recent creation of the National Commission on Security Guarantees in the context of the Final Peace Agreement, whose goal is to fight and dismantle criminal behavior against human rights defenders. Regarding the case of Emilsen Manyoma Mosquera, the IACHR expects progress in the investigation by the Office of the Attorney General.
With regard to Mexico, Isidro Baldenegro was reportedly killed on January 15, 2017. He was a well-known indigenous environmental activist who fought against illegal logging of the old-growth forest of the Western Sierra Madre on Tarahumara/Rarámuri traditional lands in the state of Chihuahua. Isidro Baldenegro won the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2005 and was recognized as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International for being incarcerated for 15 months on false charges. He was killed during a visit to his community, where he no longer lived because of death threats he had received. The activist was the second Goldman Environmental Prize winner to be killed in the space of a year, following the murder of Berta Cáceres in March 2016. Isidro Baldenegro was also the fourth activist from the community of Coloradas de la Virgen to be killed in the past 12 months in retaliation for defending ancestral forests and lands. The Commission was also informed about the killing of human rights and environmental defender Juan Ontiveros Ramos, who following Isidro Baldenegro’s murder had denounced the untenable situation of violence in the region to the Human Rights Unit of the state Public Prosecutor’s Office and Ministry of the Interior.
With regard to Guatemala, Laura Leonor Vásquez Pineda, a former activist in the movement of peaceful resistance against the San Rafael mining project, was killed on January 16, according to the information available. She was reportedly found dead in her home, with gunshot wounds to the head. The Commission was also informed that indigenous land rights defender Sebastián Alonso Juan was killed on January 17 in Huehuetenango, during a peaceful protest against the hydroelectric projects Pojom I and II.
In Nicaragua, three members of the Miskitu indigenous community in Nicaragua have reportedly been killed so far this year. As the Commission noted in a press release on February 23, 2016, and as is acknowledged by the precautionary measures in place, the Miskitu are facing particular risk as they are in the midst of a conflict over territory, in a context of lack of implementation by the State of official recognition of indigenous ownership over their ancestral lands. In this context, and despite the IACHR’s call to the State to protect the members of the Miskitu community, an entire family—Bernicia Dixon Peralta; her husband, Feliciano Benlis Flores, and their 11-year-old son, Feliciano Benlis Dixon—was murdered on their land. The information received indicates that this was a retaliation killing, as the family had taken their case to court and had been successful in obtaining legal title to their land.
The Inter-American Commission reiterates that States have the obligation to prevent any attempt on the life and physical integrity of human rights defenders, and to guarantee in all circumstances that rights defenders can carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of any restrictions. States have the duty to guarantee the safety of groups of defenders at particular risk and to adopt specific measures of protection tailored to their needs, for example through special protocols.
The States are obligated to undertake, at their own initiative,immediate, thorough, and impartial investigations, carried out with due diligence, into the killings of Olmedo Pito García, Aldemar Parra Garcia, Juan Mosquera, Moisés Mosquera, Emilsen Manyoma Mosquera, Joe Javier Rodallega, Yoryanis Isabel Bernal Varela, Isidro Baldenegro, Juan Ontiveros Ramos, Laura Leonor Vásquez Pineda, Sebastián Alonzo Juan, Bernicia Dixon Peralta, Feliciano Benlis Flores, and Feliciano Benlis Dixon. The States have the obligation to establish who is responsible for the killings and to bring the perpetrators and masterminds to justice. The investigations should include the development of lines of investigation under the hypothesis that the motive for these killings may have been the victims’ work as human rights defenders.
The Commission also reiterates that acts of violence and other attacks against human rights defenders not only affect the guarantees afforded to all human beings but also undermine the fundamental role that human rights defenders play in society and contribute to the vulnerability of all those whose rights they champion. In the case of indigenous communities, such acts carry additional serious consequences because they damage social and cultural cohesion.
A principal, autonomous body of the OAS, the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.
This article was published on OAS' website on February 7, 2017.
India: Ongoing judicial harassment of human rights defenders Ms. Teesta Setalvad and her husband, Mr. Javed Anand
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in India.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources of the ongoing judicial harassment of human rights defenders Ms. Teesta Setalvad and her husband, Mr. Javed Anand. Ms. Setalvad is the founder of Sabrang Trust, a non-governmental organisation that works to promote conflict resolution and support peace building, as well as of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP). Within the framework of CJP, Ms. Setalvad has notably been at the forefront of protests and legal interventions on behalf of victims and their families regarding crimes committed against Muslims during the Gujarat riots of 2002, and has been sharply critical of the then Gujarat State government led by Mr. Narendra Modi, now Prime Minister of India.
According to the information received, on February 3, 2017, Ms. Teesta Setalvad and Mr. Javed Anand appeared before the Mumbai Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Magistrate Court, related to charges they are facing for alleged violations of Section 120 B of the Indian Penal Code (criminal conspiracy) and the Foreign Contribution (Regulations) Act (FCRA). The CBI decided to grant them bailon the surety of Rs 20,000 (about 280 EUR), but they cannot leave the country without court’s permission. The next hearing in this case is scheduled for May 12, 2017.
Ms. Teesta Setalvad and Mr. Javed Anand had been summoned by the court after the CBI filed a charge sheet on January 3, 2017 against them and their publishing company, Sabrang Communications and Publishing Private Limited (SCPPL), for alleged criminal conspiracy and alleged violations of the FCRA, in relation to funding received from the US-based Ford Foundation without the prior approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Yet, according to Ms. Teesta Setalvad, the publishing house had a consultancy contract with the Ford Foundation, which excluded it from the restrictions of the FCRA.
The Observatory expresses its deepest concern about the ongoing judicial harassment against Ms.Teesta Setalvad and Mr. Javed Anand, which seems to be merely aimed at sanctioning their human rights activities, in particular their work for justice and truth with regard to the 2002 Gujarat riots (see background information).
The Observatory also urges the Indian authorities to ensure that all judicial proceedings against Ms. Teesta Setalvad and Mr. Javed Anand are conducted in full compliance with their right to a fair trial, as provided for under international law.
This is an excerpt of an article published on the OMCT's website on February 8, 2017.
Thai authorities are waging a campaign to criminalize and punish dissent by targeting civil society and political activists who peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly, a new briefing from Amnesty International said today.
Dozens of human rights defenders, pro-democracy activists and others are currently being investigated and prosecuted under draconian laws and decrees, which are used as tools to silence critics by Thailand’s military government.
“The Thai authorities have created a fearful environment where people cannot speak or assemble peacefully without risking arrest and prosecution,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.
“The severe restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly speak volumes to the actions of a government that cannot tolerate different opinions on issues of national importance.”
The briefing, “They Cannot Keep Us Quiet”: The Criminalization of Activists, Human Rights Defenders and Others in Thailand, describes ongoing criminal proceedings against 64 members of Thailand’s civil society, including political activists, students, community organizers and environmental defenders. The cases also cover researchers, lawyers, journalists and academics.
The people investigated and prosecuted have done nothing more than exercise human rights that Thailand is obliged to respect and protect under international law. None of them have resorted to or advocated violence.
Some have been targeted because they reported on torture and other ill-treatment, and raised concerns about corruption. And others because they called for greater academic freedom, or stated their desire to have a say in the affairs of government.
Many of the people investigated and prosecuted were simply doing their jobs, as lawyers, journalists and advocates for vulnerable communities.
Authorities are using an array of laws and decrees to investigate, arrest and prosecute members of Thailand’s civil society. Penal Code provisions relating to sedition, defamation and offences to the monarchy, as well as the restrictive Computer Crimes Act, have frequently been used in cases against these individuals.
Authorities have also initiated criminal proceedings under new laws and decrees promulgated by Thailand’s military government since it took power in a May 2014 coup, including the 2015 Public Assembly Act and the 2016 Referendum Act. Head of NCPO Order No. 3/2558, a decree issued by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha in 2015, bans “political gatherings” of five or more persons. Authorities have frequently used this order to detain and charge peaceful protesters.
Many activists and human rights defenders face lengthy proceedings before military courts, which fail to protect the right to a fair trial. Several face criminal proceedings in multiple cases and could be imprisoned for decades, if convicted.
For example, Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa, a student activist and human rights defender, is being subjected to criminal proceedings in five distinct cases relating to his participation in public protests, handing out of materials urging voters to reject the draft constitution prior to last year’s referendum, and posting of an article on Facebook that was deemed to be critical of the Thai monarchy. He is currently being held in Khon Kaen Remand Prison after a court revoked his bail. He could face up to 40 years imprisonment if convicted in all cases.
"The authorities have turned Thailand’s laws into tools of coercion with which to silence human rights and political activists. If criminal proceedings lead to convictions, the stain on the legacy of the military government will become indelible,” said Champa Patel.
The Thai government’s current campaign against civil society and the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly casts a shadow over its plans for elections, likely to be held in 2018.
Civil society, already chafing under restrictions imposed by the military government on a wide array of human rights, could be severely impacted by the conviction of a large number of its members. Many of those facing criminal proceedings are leaders in their fields, and it is imperative that they are able to help shape Thailand’s future.
Thai authorities must therefore immediately drop charges and end criminal proceedings against the individuals profiled in this briefing and others who are being investigated or prosecuted solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights.
In January, prosecutors established a positive precedent in this regard by dropping criminal charges against Naritsarawan “May” Kaewnopparat, a young woman profiled in the briefing. A military officer had initiated criminal proceedings against May because of her public campaign to secure justice for her uncle, an army private that was tortured to death during military training.
However, restrictions on human rights that were once cast as temporary measures have not been lifted more than two-and-a-half years after the coup and could become permanent under Thailand’s new constitution, which would sweepingly grant them legitimacy and legality.
In particular, authorities have given no indication of when Order No. 3/2558’s ban on public gatherings may be lifted, raising concerns among political parties and civic groups preparing for a new campaign season. Thailand’s government must prioritize the reform or repeal of laws and orders that unjustifiably restrict human rights, including those described in the briefing.
“Since coming to power, Thailand’s military government has dismantled protections of human rights and smothered free expression in the country. If repressive laws and orders are not quickly reformed or repealed, restrictions on human rights could become entrenched,” said Champa Patel.
This article was published on Amnesty International's website on February 8, 2017.
A spike in the number of human rights activists killed in the last month highlights the continuing dangers faced by those exposing ongoing abuses, said Amnesty International today as the much-delayed talks with the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional ELN) get under way in Ecuador.
The organization is calling on the government to immediately provide effective protection to at-risk human rights defenders after at least 10 were killed in January alone; nearly double last year’s monthly average.
“The peace process in Colombia is a bright light at the end of a long and dark tunnel that has already brought some tangible benefits to many Colombians. However, unless the killings of activists stop, this will leave an indelible stain on any resulting peace accord,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
“These brave activists are being silenced by powerful local and regional economic and political interests, as well as various armed groups, including paramilitaries, for defending their rights or exposing the country’s tragic reality.”
The sharp drop in combat-related violence affecting civilians since the start of peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) has offered a glimpse of what a post-conflict Colombia could look like. But the rise in killings of community leaders, land rights and environmental activists, with around 80 killed last year, as well as reports of increasing paramilitary activity in regions such as Urabá, in the north-west, could undermine such gains.
Killings this year have included those of Afro-descendant community leader Emilsen Manyoma and her partner Joe Javier Rodallega. They were last seen alive on 14 January and their bodies were discovered on 17 January in Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca Department.
The justice deal hammered out with the FARC last year, which is currently being debated in Congress, and which will also benefit members of the armed forces, and will likely be applied to the ELN, is a step forward in terms of realizing victims’ right to truth, justice and reparation.
However, it falls short of what is in compliance under international law, in part because the definition of command responsibility used in the agreement is too narrow and so would make it very difficult to bring guerrilla and security force commanders to justice for the crimes committed by their subordinates.
“True peace will only become a reality once all those suspected of criminal responsibility for some of the most horrific crimes imaginable are held properly to account in fair trials,” said Erika Guevara Rosas.
“Effective measures must be put in place to end the killing of human rights defenders, and guarantees given to ensure the safety of Indigenous, Afro-descendant and peasant farmer communities in many rural areas, who continue to be targeted, mainly by paramilitary groups.”
Following the start of the implementation of the peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the government is starting talks with the ELN, after the group released one of its high-profile hostages, Odín Sánchez, on 2 February.
This article was published on Amnesty International's website on February 7, 2017.
Cambodian authorities should immediately drop the politically motivated criminal investigation of human rights defenders Am Sam-at and Chan Puthisak, Amnesty International, Civil Rights Defenders, Human Rights Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists said today.
Cambodian officials have accused Sam-at, a respected human rights monitor at the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) for nearly 20 years, and Puthisak, a land rights activist from Boeung Kak Lake and former prisoner of conscience, of instigating violence at an October 10, 2016 demonstration. Para-police forces, who are regularly used to suppress demonstrations, violently dispersed what had been a peaceful protest in Phnom Penh. When Puthisak attempted to prevent para-police from confiscating a drum that was being used by a demonstrator, four or five para-police attacked him, repeatedly beating him on the head with their fists, according to a video of the incident. When Sam-at tried to stop the assault, the para-police attacked him, also beating him on the head. Both men sustained injuries that needed medical attention.
“The investigation of Sam-at and Puthisak by the Cambodian authorities is a typically absurd and undisguised case of judicial harassment,” said Champa Patel, Southeast Asia and Pacific director at Amnesty International. “As usual, unnecessary and excessive use of force by the para-police goes unpunished, and those who work to promote and protect human rights find themselves subject to criminal proceedings.”
On November 4, two members of the para-police filed a complaint with the Phnom Penh Court of First Instance, alleging that they were injured during the dispersal of the demonstration. The authorities are investigating Sam-at and Puthisak for instigating intentional violence, under articles 27 and 217 of Cambodia’s Criminal Code, which carry penalties of up to three years in prison. Both men are due for questioning on February 8, by Phnom Penh Court of First Instance Deputy Prosecutor Ngin Pich. There has been no indication that complaints filed against para-police by Sam-at and Puthisak after the incident on October 10, 2016 are being investigated.
The October 10 demonstration involved approximately 150 participants peacefully calling for respect for housing and land rights in Freedom Park, an area designated for demonstrations. The protesters were marching on a street adjacent to the park when the incident took place. Videos of the incident establish that the demonstration was peaceful and that Sam-at was wearing a blue human rights monitor vest when the para-police attacked him.
The case investigation of the two falls within a wider pattern of judicial intimidation in Cambodia. There are currently as many as 26 human rights and political activists in prison on charges which have all the hallmarks of being politically motivated. This includes 14 political activists who were jailed following a demonstration in July 2014, when para-police violently clashed with participants. No efforts have been reported on the authorities’ efforts to bring to justice the para-police responsible for the unlawful use of force.
“The case against Sam-at and Puthisak is part of an extensive effort by the Cambodian authorities to discredit the legitimate work of human rights organizations and to make clear the threat of prison for everyone working to promote and protect rights in the country,” said Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director at Human Rights Watch. “This campaign of intimidation against rights advocates has to stop now.”
Para-police, often referred to as “district security guards,” are auxiliary security forces that are regularly used to violently suppress demonstrations in Cambodia. No single legal document sets out the rules governing their functions and powers. Rather, their legal basis and the rules governing their activities are set out in a confusing combination of government statements and policies, and by instructions from the Ministry of Interior. They work in tandem with police, under the authority of district governors.
“The Cambodian government should be commending people like Sam-at and Puthisak for their work to promote and protect human rights rather than trying to intimidate them,” said Kingsley Abbott, senior international legal advisor at the International Commission of Jurists. “The case should be immediately and formally closed and a genuine investigation initiated into wrongful use of force by the para-police.”
This article was published on HRW's website on February 7, 2017.
Speaking out against a ban and provisional suspension of a number of civil society organizations in Burundi, United Nations rights experts warned today of growing repression of human rights defenders and groups amid the already difficult environment in which they.
Also worrying, according to a news release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) were two bills adopted by the National Assembly of Burundi last December that require local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to obtain authorization from the Minister of the Interior for any activity and that the work of foreign NGOs must comply with priorities set by the Government.
“These moves are just the latest in a series of attacks on the rights to freedom of expression and association in Burundi,” said the rights experts.
“Disturbingly, these measures take particular aim at human rights defenders and independent civil society, and are being used to unduly obstruct and criminalize their work on broad and often fallacious grounds.”
Authorities in Burundi banned five civil society organizations in October 2016. In December 2016, they also barred two other groups, one of which was working for good governance and the fight against corruption. Additionally, four other organizations have also been provisionally suspended.
Also in the release, the experts reiterated the “unanimous” strong stance of various bodies, including the UN Human Rights Council – the inter-governmental body responsible for promoting and protecting human rights around the world – on allegations of serious human rights violations in Burundi, the experts called on the Governmental to “an end to the climate of impunity currently prevailing in the country” and to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi and with OHCHR in a positive and collaborative manner, as an essential step towards ending the major crisis facing the country.
“It is crucial that the State promotes and protects the rights to freedom of expression and association enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Burundi is a State party,” they said.
“All individuals, including human rights defenders, have the right to express themselves and associate freely, without fear of threats, intimidation, violence, arbitrary detention or enforced or disappearance,” the experts added.
The human rights experts voicing their concern included:
This press release was published on the UN News Centre's website on February 6, 2017.
European Union officials should press President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan to free unjustly imprisoned political activists, journalists, and other government critics, Human Rights Watch said today. EU officials should also urge Aliyev to end the crackdown on independent groups and allow them to operate without undue government interference.
President Aliyev will be in Brussels on February 6, 2017, to inaugurate talks on a new partnership agreement between Azerbaijan and the EU to enhance political and economic ties between them. He is set to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Council Donald Tusk, and other top EU officials.
“Time and time again, the EU has praised courageous human rights defenders, pledging to ‘throw the EU’s full weight behind them,’” said Lotte Leicht, EU director at Human Rights Watch. “As the EU and Azerbaijan forge a new era of cooperation, now is the time to make good on those EU promises and not sweep Aliyev’s crackdown on dissent, and basic human rights under the red carpet.”
In a joint letter signed by 76 human rights groups worldwide and sent to top EU officials, the groups said the EU should use the meetings with President Aliyev to secure concrete commitments for urgently needed rights reforms in Azerbaijan.
In recent years, the Azerbaijan government has made concerted efforts to restrict independent activism, critical journalism, and opposition political activity by imprisoning and harassing many activists, prominent human rights defenders, and journalists. Draconian laws and regulations impede the operation of independent groups and their ability to secure funding.
Following pressure by Azerbaijan’s international bilateral and multilateral partners, including the EU, in 2016, the Azerbaijani authorities released 17 human rights defenders, journalists, and political activists. They had been convicted on politically motivated charges, including narcotics and weapons possession, tax evasion, hooliganism, incitement, and even treason, and sentenced to long prison terms.
But in 2016 and 2017, the authorities have made dozens of new arrests of other activists and bloggers on spurious criminal, often drug-related, charges to prevent them from carrying out their legitimate work.
In late 2016, in one case, an Azerbaijani court sentenced Bayram Mammadov and Giyas Ibrahimov to 10 years in prison on false drug charges in retaliation for painting political graffiti on a statue of former President Heydar Aliyev. In January, Elgiz Gahraman was sentenced to five-and-a-half years on bogus drug-related criminal charges. All three are members of NIDA, a pro-democracy youth group advocating for peaceful change of government.
More than a dozen activists convicted in politically motivated trials between 2013 and 2015 remain in prison. Among them is Ilgar Mammadov, leader of the pro-democracy opposition movement Republican Alternative (REAL). The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers has repeatedly called for his release, in line with a 2014 European Court of Human Rights decision finding that Mammadov’s imprisonment was in retaliation for his criticism of the government.
None of the convictions of those released in 2016 were quashed and some face travel restrictions, including the award-winning investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, and the human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev. Others have fled the country fearing further politically motivated prosecutions.
Some of those released, as well as many nongovernmental groups, had to downsize significantly or halt their work, in the face of almost insurmountable bureaucratic hurdles to access independent funding.
In response to the crackdown on civil society, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a prominent international multi-stakeholder group that encourages better governance of resource-rich countries, downgraded Azerbaijan’s status in 2015 and declined to restore it in 2016. EITI gave Azerbaijan until its March 2017 board meeting to amend several laws governing the work of nongovernmental groups or face suspension.
In response, Azerbaijan’s Cabinet of Ministers issued new regulations for nongovernmental groups in January. The new regulations simplify some procedures for registration of foreign grants, but leave intact the authority to arbitrarily deny the groups’ registration. The superficial changes offer limited prospects for fundamentally improving the operating environment for independent groups, Human Rights Watch said.
The new framework for EU and Azerbaijan relations will replace the 1999 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which guided their bilateral relations in political dialogue, trade, investment, and economic, legislative, and cultural cooperation.
The EU’s engagement with Azerbaijan should be guided by Article 21 of the Lisbon Treaty, adhering to the principles of “democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” as well as by the commitments enshrined in the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders and the EU’s Strategic Framework for Human Rights and Democracy.
“Any negotiations with Azerbaijan should include clearly articulated EU expectations for concrete human rights improvements by Azerbaijan’s government, including the immediate and unconditional release of rights activists, political opposition members, and journalists,” Leicht said. “Deepening engagement without securing concrete rights improvements would signal to the people wrongfully imprisoned in Azerbaijan and to those bravely continuing their work in the face of government hostility that the EU has abandoned them.”
This article was published on HRW's website on February 6, 2017.
By Andrew Anderson
The recent decision by President Obama to lift sanctions on Sudan might give cause for hope that the human rights situation in the country might finally be moving in a positive direction.
Sadly, the reality is that the situation is going in the opposite direction and the government of Sudan is currently waging a campaign of violence and intimidation to silence the last voices of dissent. The ongoing violence by government forces, pro-government militia groups and anti-government armed groups forms the backdrop to continued harassment, arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detentions and torture of human rights defenders (HRDs) by Sudanese military and security forces.
In November the government arrested 23 opposition activists, 10 of whom are currently on trial, following a three day stay at home strike organised to protest at the rising cost of living and the cutting of government food subsidies. The government’s immediate response was uncompromising confrontation. Speaking to supporters at an event in the east of the country, President Bashir said “We want to tell them that if you want to overthrow the regime, then face us directly on the streets. I challenge you to come out onto the streets. But we know you will not come because you know what happened in the past… This regime will not be overthrown by keyboards and WhatsApp.”. In 2013 more than 200 people were killed when the army and police cracked down on protests against a previous round of subsidy cuts.
Meanwhile the government has shut down independent media and has repeatedly seized the print runs of newspapers prior to distribution. In this way the newspapers have to incur the printing costs while being unable to sell any of the papers. It is yet another way to silence independent or critical voices.
One of those voices is that of Dr Mudawi Ibrahim Adam. Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim is one of the most distinguished human rights defenders in Sudan known for his role in exposing human rights violations in Darfur. He is the founder and former director of the Sudan Social Development Organization (SUDO), which works on human rights as well as water, sanitation and health.
Dr Mudawi is a man who has devoted his life to trying to pull Sudan out of the chaos of war and conflict and to building a peaceful prosperous Sudan. He wrote “I think we have no choice. If we want to live a decent life in our own country we have to continue working with the people, struggling with them. We need the support of the international community. We need to feel that there are people behind us. It is a moral support. It is not tangible but it has a deep meaning in the heart. It has something, even when you close your eyes you see people who you haven’t seen, you imagine their shapes, but they are holding your hand continually”.
But now it is Mudawi himself who needs this support.
On 7 December 2016, Mudawi Ibrahim Adam and his long-time driver Mr Adam El-Sheikh were arrested on the University of Khartoum campus and forcibly transferred to an unknown location. On 12 December, Ms Nora Abaid, an accountant from Mudawi Ibrahim Adam’s engineering company, Lambda Engineering, was arrested by NISS agents who approached her in an unmarked car. They all continue to be detained incommunicado. Under the 2010 National Security Act (NSA), detainees can be held in custody for up to four and a half months without judicial review.
On 22 January 2017, Dr Mudawi Ibrahim Adam started a hunger strike, in protest of his arbitrary detention since 7 December by the Sudanese authorities. Reports received today describe how members of the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) badly beat him and chained him to the wall of his cell. It seems this is an attempt to force him to end his hunger strike. Mudawi has been tortured before. He has now been detained on at least five occasions by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) since 2003. He has been threatened and he has been subjected to prosecution on fabricated charges. And yet he has refused to flee his beloved country. He has continued to work peacefully for an end to conflict and respect and rights for all in Sudan.
The government of the United States and other providers of significant development aid must send a clear message to the government of Sudan that the lifting of sanctions is not an unconditional act of benevolence. The government of Sudan must honour its commitments to improve the human rights situation. A starting point would be the release of Dr Mudawi and all those jailed for using their right to peaceful protest.
Andrew Anderson is Executive Director Front Front Line Defenders – the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, based in Dublin, Ireland.
This article was published on Sudan Tribune's website on February 4, 2017.