Tag Archives: Human Rights Watch

USA: Commissioners Urge a UN Committee on Torture Review of China


Commissioners from the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) released today a letter to Mr. Claude Heller, the Chair of the United Nations Committee Against Torture urging him to not delay a robust review of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) because of the PRC’s failure to submit its country report in a timely manner. The Commissioners note that the “human rights situation in China has demonstrably worsened since the Committee’s last review in 2015, particularly in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region” and remind the Committee Against Torture Chair that the Committee has the power to move ahead with a review without a country report.

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative James P. McGovern (D-MA), the CECC’s Chair and Cochair respectively, were joined on the letter by fellow CECC Commissioners Representative Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) and Representative Thomas Suozzi (D-NY). The letter includes information about the torture and ill-treatment of individuals detained in China drawn from the CECC’s 2021 Annual Report on human rights conditions in the PRC.  An Executive Summary of the 2021 Annual Report can also be downloaded.

The full text of the letter is below and here


In the 2015 Concluding Observations, the Committee expressed serious concerns “over consistent reports indicating that the practice of torture and ill-treatment is still deeply entrenched in the criminal justice system, which overly relies on confessions as the basis for convictions.” In addition, former detainees, including those of mass internment camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), have documented the prevalence of torture in extrajudicial detention facilities in recent years. Regrettably, credible reports postdating the Concluding Observations continue to show that torture and ill-treatment of detainees at the hands of Chinese government officials have not abated. To give but a few recent examples—


In October 2020, authorities in Baoji municipality, Shaanxi province, detained lawyer Chang Weiping a second time in one year not long after he accused authorities of having tortured him during the earlier detention in January 2020. Chang has been legal counsel in health discrimination lawsuits, among others. Chang’s detention is linked to a civil society meeting held in Xiamen municipality, Fujian province, in December 2019. Authorities also detained and reportedly tortured lawyer Ding Jiaxi and legal expert Xu Zhiyong in connection to their participation in the Xiamen meeting.




Iran: Rights lawyers on trial for lawsuit against Supreme Leader over vaccine ban


The trial of five activists who had filed a lawsuit against Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for “Covid mismanagement” was held behind closed doors Saturday.

The group of five, who were put on trial at Branch 29 of Tehran Revolutionary Court, has come to be called ‘Defenders of Right to Health’ by the media. They are: Mehdi Mahmoudian, Mostafa Nili, Arash Keykhosravi, Mohammadreza Faghihi and Maryam Fara-Afraz

Khamenei ruled out importing United States- and British-made Covid-19 vaccines in January 2021, arguing that the US and Uk cannot be trusted. At the time, the US-German Pfizer, US-made Moderna and the British-made AstraZeneca were the only vaccines approved internationally and available in early 2021.

The group’s litigation apparently sought to establish that decisions by Khamenei, former President Hassan Rouhani, and others led to thousands of unnecessary deaths when a severe wave of infections hit Iran from June to August 2021.

The members of the group were arrested on August 15 last year while holding a meeting to prepare legal action against authorities for mismanagement of the pandemic and delay in in mass vaccination. All, except Mahmoudain, were released after spending more than a month in solitary confinement.

In an unexpected move in early March, Iran’s Judiciary accepted to register the group’s lawsuit against the authorities, including Khamenei.

While Khamenei banned the Western vaccines, hundreds of millions of dollars were distributed among government-run companies with no experience in vaccine development to produce a homegrown variant.

The five activists have been charged with “acting against national security”, an often-used vague charge often brought against dissidents and critics of the Islamic Republic. They are accused of forming a “hostile group aiming to harm the country’s security and make propaganda against the state”.











https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/fr/case/human-rights-defender-arash-keykhosravi-released-bail (FRANCAIS)

The Philippines: Elections must be ‘game-changing’ moment for human rights


Upcoming elections next month should be a game-changing moment for human rights in the Philippines, Amnesty International said today, as it released an eight-point agenda urging all Presidential candidates to ensure that the protection of human rights is a core part of their plans.

Following six years in which human rights significantly deteriorated and were repeatedly attacked by President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, the 9 May elections should be a moment to dramatically change course.

“The forthcoming elections are set to be some of the most important in recent history, and we hope they will help pave the way for a radically different approach to human rights,” said Erwin van der Borght, Interim Regional Director for Amnesty International.

“Over the past six years, thousands of people, overwhelmingly poor, have been killed by the police and other armed individuals as part of the government’s so-called ‘war on drugs’. On top of this, there has been almost no justice and accountability. The next government must restore respect for human rights, including the right to life and due process, by urgently abandoning this murderous policy and instead adopting an approach to drugs that puts health and human rights at the centre.”

Across the country there has been a sharp increase in human rights violations and overwhelming impunity under the Duterte administration.

“Political activists, human rights defenders, Indigenous Peoples, lawyers and others critical of the authorities have been threatened, attacked, arbitrarily detained and killed either because they were accused of supporting the communist movement or because of their work to expose and condemn human rights violations.”

“In addition to ending these appalling attacks, the new government must tackle years of impunity, hold perpetrators of serious violations to account in fair trials and ensure long-awaited justice and reparations for thousands of victims. Human rights violations must not be swept under the rug for political expediency.”




Cameroon: Crise anglophone : L’avocat d’Ayuk Tabe inculpé pour sécession


Me Nicodemus Amungwa Tanyi est accusé de détenir les images de propagande sécessionniste dans son téléphone portable.

Me Nicodemus Amungwa Tanyi, avocat d’Ayuk Tabe et plusieurs présumés séparatistes ont été inculpés le 10 mars 2022 des faits qualifiés de « sécession ». L’avocat a été inculpé par un juge du tribunal militaire de Yaoundé, en présence de madame le bâtonnier et plusieurs autres avocats venus l’assister. Malgré cette décision du tribunal militaire de Yaoundé, Nicodemus Amungwa Tanyi continue de vaquer sereinement à ses occupations en attendant d’être jugé. L’avocat au barreau du Cameroun a été inculpé sur une affaire qui date depuis le 31 mai 2021.

Ce jour, il avait été interpellé alors qu’il se trouvait au groupement de gendarmerie territoriale de Yaoundé pendant qu’il assistait son client dans une procédure de reprise d’un immeuble et de rébellion. « Pendant l’enquête préliminaire Me Amungwa a fait usage de son téléphone portable pour filmer. L’enquêteur s’en est aperçu et a récupéré son téléphone pour exploitation. Selon les enquêteurs, il s’est avéré après la fouille du téléphone de l’avocat que ce dernier détenait les images de propagande « sécessionnistes » dans son appareil.

L’avocat inculpé le 10 mars dernier a été dénoncé par l’un de ses confrères. Après son interpellation, Me Amungwa a été conduit au Service central des recherches judiciaires pour exploitation. Me Amungwa avait été détenu pendant plus de dix jours au Service central des recherches judiciaires avant d’être libéré.







Kyrgyzstan: Release Wrongfully Detained Lawyer Nurbek Toktakunov


IPHR [International Partnership for Human Rights] is seriously concerned about the detention of well-known lawyer Nurbek Toktakunov in Kyrgyzstan following critical remarks he made about the judicial system in connection with a peaceful protest against the war in Ukraine, which was dispersed by police. We call on the Kyrgyzstani authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the lawyer, to safeguard the rights to freedom of expression and assembly in accordance with their international obligations, and to allow lawyers, activists and other citizens to peacefully speak up on issues of concern to them without fear of repercussions.

On 24 March 2022 Pervomaisky District Court of Bishkek found Nurbek Toktakunov guilty of petty hooliganism (under article 126 of the Code of Offenses) and ruled to detain him for five days because of his allegedly insulting remarks about judges in Kyrgyzstan. The following morning, police detained Toktakunov outside his home, reportedly using disproportionate force, although the lawyer did not put up any resistance. He is currently serving his sentence in a police detention facility in the capital, where he has reported being held in substandard conditions with his cell lacking light, toilet and a place for sleeping. He has appealed against the ruling in his case.

The charges levelled against Toktakunov concern remarks he made in connection with a peaceful picket against the war in Ukraine held outside the Russian embassy in Bishkek on 17 March, when he criticised as unconstitutional a controversial court-sanctioned blanket ban on holding assemblies outside the embassy and in other central areas of the capital from 11 March to 11 April 2022. With reference to this decision, police claimed that the peaceful protest was not allowed and detained three participants, namely human rights defenders Aziza Abdirasulova, Dinara Oshurakhunova and Ondurush Toktonasyrov.







https://april.kg/ru/article/pravozashhitnik-nurbek-toktakunov-arestovan-na-5-sutok (KYRGYZ)


Cameroon: Crise anglophone : Les avocats fragilisés par la loi antiterroriste


Entre inculpations et condamnations à vie, les défenseurs des droits de l’homme sont jugés devant le tribunal militaire en toute violation des conventions internationales ratifiées par le Cameroun.

Me Amungwa Tanyi Nicodemus, avocat d’Ayuk Tabe et de plusieurs autres présumés séparatistes, a été inculpé le 10 mars 2022 par un juge d’instruction militaire de « sécession ». Cette affaire remonte au 31 mai 2021. Les faits de la procédure sont puisés de la fouille illégale du téléphone portable de Me Amungwa. C’était dans les locaux du groupement territorial de gendarmerie de Yaoundé, où l’avocat était parti assister un de ses clients. Me Amungwa s’est alors retrouvé en face de son confrère qui l’avait injustement accusé qu’il était en train de filmer l’audition.

Après son interpellation, Me Amungwa a été conduit au Service central des recherches judiciaires, sous prétexte que les images de propagande sécessionnistes ont été découvertes dans son téléphone portable, alors que cela n’était pas fondé. L’avocat d’Ayuk Tabe que nous avons contacté affirme qu’il continue de vaquer sereinement à ses occupations malgré son inculpation. Il dit être victime de son engagement à défendre les personnes dont les droits sont violés dans le cadre de la crise anglophone. Et il n’est pas seul…

Agbor Balla, vice-président de l’African Bar association, (Afba) et président de de la Fako lawyers association (Fakla), et président du Cameroun anglophone civil society consortium a été interpellé en janvier 2017 pour insurrection et hostilités contre la patrie dans le cadre de la crise anglophone. Cet avocat a été incarcéré à la prison centrale de Yaoundé prison d’où il a été libéré le 31 août de la même année. Sa libération est intervenue à la suite d’un communiqué du secrétaire général de la présidence de la République qui annonçait l’arrêt des poursuites à l’encontre de certaines personnes poursuivies dans le cadre de la crise anglophone.

Ayah Ayah Abine, ancien avocat général à la Cour suprême, avait également bénéficié de l’arrêt des poursuites en août 2017. Ce magistrat et ancien député de la nation avait été arrêté un samedi matin à son domicile. C’était le 8 décembre 2018, lorsque des hommes en civil sont venus procéder à son interpellation pour soupçons de complicité avec les séparatistes. L’ancien avocat général de la Cour suprême a été gardé pendant plusieurs mois au secrétariat d’Etat à la défense avant d’être libéré.







Tunisia: Military Court Jails Prominent Lawyer


Suggests No Critic of President’s Power Grab is Safe

The jailing of a prominent lawyer on March 2, 2022, for arguing with police officers is an alarming new step in the confiscation of civil liberties since President Kais Saied seized extraordinary powers on July 25, 2021, Human Rights Watch said today. Abderrazak Kilani, a former government minister and head of the national bar association, is one of the most prominent Tunisians to be put behind bars for his peaceful expression since the ouster of the authoritarian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

A military court has charged Kilani, a civilian, in connection with a verbal exchange he had with security officers who were denying him access to a hospital on January 2. He was trying to visit a client who had been taken there while under a form of house arrest. During the exchange he criticized the president.

“After placing scores of critics under ‘assigned residence’ house arrest or banning their travel, tossing Abderrazak Kilani into Mornaguia Prison sends a chilling new message that no one who criticizes President Saied’s power grab is safe,” said Salsabil Chellali, Tunisia director at Human Rights Watch. “

Kilani faces charges of “disturbing the public order,” “insulting public officials,” and “inciting [members of the security forces] by violence, assault, threats, or fraudulent practices to cease performing their individual or collective duties,” under articles 79, 125, and 136 of the penal code, Samir Dilou, one of his lawyers, told Human Rights Watch. The military court claims jurisdiction apparently because the speech in question was addressed to members of the security forces, Ridha Belhaj, another of his lawyers said. Kilani faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.

Kilani, 67, served as a deputy prime minister for relations with the Constituent Assembly from 2011 to 2013. He also has served as head of the bar association and as ambassador to the UN in Geneva. He is active in the Citizens against the Coup, an informal group of Tunisians who openly oppose Saied’s seizure of special powers.







https://www.hrw.org/fr/news/2022/03/14/tunisie-un-tribunal-militaire-emprisonne-un-eminent-avocat (FRANCAIS)








Tunisie : Des organisations demandent la libération immédiate Me Abderrazak Kilani


The Philippines: Cease dangerous practice of red-tagging human rights defenders


The Philippine authorities must refrain from ‘red-tagging’ human rights defenders and activists, and amend the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 to conform with international human rights law and standards, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said in a new legal briefing published today.

In the Philippines, State authorities have branded human rights defenders, labor leaders, public interest lawyers, journalists, political opposition, religious groups and other activists as “terrorists” and/or “communists” without substantial proof of any unlawful conduct, in a practice locally known as ‘red-tagging’.

The legal briefing, Danger in Dissent: Counterterrorism and Human Rights in the Philippines, underscores how this practice often has deadly consequences, with many of those red-tagged by State authorities being subsequently killed or injured by unidentified assailants. There is often no effective investigation and accountability for such killings or any accountability for the red-tagging by government officials.

The legal briefing highlights how the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which may be used to further extend the practice of red-tagging, is incompatible with international human rights law and standards.

For instance, the Act contains an overbroad definition of terrorism, permits potentially unwarranted government surveillance and requests for data, and allows the arrest and detention of any person suspected of committing terrorist acts for up to 24 days without a judicial warrant, among other problematic provisions. Despite these flawed provisions, in December 2021, the Supreme Court of the Philippines upheld the constitutionality of most of the Act, only striking down two provisions of the Act.






Mixed news from Egypt on Human Rights Defenders


OHCHR | Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

In the past month and into the New Year, I have heard encouraging reports about Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) in many parts of the world, including Egypt.

But while courts in Egypt have ordered the release of a number of HRDs, and lifted travel bans of others, many more continue to be held in detention without charge for long periods of time, or have been sentenced in unfair trials or have been added to the terrorist list.

I welcome the release from detention on 8 January 2022 of Ramy Shaath, the Egyptian-Palestinian human rights defender detained in July 2019 and accused of terrorism. Unfortunately, he had to relinquish his Egyptian citizenship and passport before leaving the country. That same day, Ramy Kamel Salib, who focused on defending the right to freedom of religion, and who was detained in February 2020 was issued with a release order. The two men had been charged with disseminating false news and joining a terrorist organisation and were the subject of multiple communications I sent to the Egyptian government, only some of which received a response.


I continue to raise with the Egyptian authorities the mis-use of anti-terrorist and national security laws to criminalise the work of HRDs. In multiple cases, their detention without trial has been repeatedly renewed for longer than the two year legal limit, often based vague provisions of the Penal Code, the Anti-Terror Law and Anti-Cybercrime law. Of additional concern is the practice whereby HRDs whose release has been ordered by courts are placed under investigation in new cases before they get a chance to leave detention.

Among those who have been victims of this practice are HRDs Ezzat Ghoneim, Hoda Abdel Moneim, Aisha el-Shater, Mohamed Abou Horira.

Some HRDs remain unable to travel due to travel bans, including human rights lawyers Negad el-Borei and Azza Soliman.

Others, like Gamal Eid, have been unable to work. He has suspended the activities ofthe Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), due to ongoing harassment and attacks.

I remain ready to discuss these and any other issues relating to Human Rights Defenders with the Egyptian authorities.






Philippines: Events of 2021



Serious human rights abuses continued in the Philippines in 2021. On September 15, the International Criminal Court (ICC) agreed to open a formal investigation into possible “crimes against humanity” committed during President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” from 2016 to 2019, and extrajudicial executions committed in Davao City in the southern Philippines from 2011 to 2016, when Duterte was mayor.

In October, Maria Ressa, the co-founder and executive editor of the news website Rappler, won the Nobel Peace Prize for defending media freedom, specifically for resisting the Duterte government’s attempts to muzzle the press.

In July, the Philippine government and the United Nations launched a joint “human rights program” to address human rights violations and accountability failings in the country, reflecting domestic and international concerns about “drug war” killings. Rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, consider the program inadequate, and continue to call for an independent international investigation.

Killings of civilians and “red-tagging”—accusing activists and others of being combatants or supporters of the communist New People’s Army—are endemic to the government’s counterinsurgency campaign. Many of those red-tagged are subsequently killed. Journalists covering the insurgency or investigating abuses and corruption also face harassment and violence.


Killing of Activists, Rights Defenders

The country’s 52-year-long communist insurgency continued in 2021. During counter-insurgency operations against the New People’s Army (NPA), government security forces frequently targeted leftist activists, including peasant leaders, environmentalists, human rights lawyers, and Indigenous group heads, among others. Government and military officials often “red-tag” such individuals through announcements and social media, putting them at grave risk of attack.

In March, nine individuals belonging to different activist groups were killed during police raids in the Calabarzon region south of Manila. All those killed were previously accused of communist involvement. The simultaneous police raids occurred two days after President Duterte publicly ordered law enforcement officials to “finish off” communist insurgents. Human rights groups rejected claims that the victims were rebels or rebel supporters. In December 2020, police killed nine members of an Indigenous people’s community on the island of Panay, in the central Philippines.

The counterinsurgency campaign has likewise targeted lawyers, including some representing clients who have been “red-tagged.” In Cebu City in August, gunmen shot dead Rex Fernandez, a human rights lawyer whose group, the National Union of People’s Lawyers, provides legal services to activists. Juan Macababbad, a human rights lawyer who worked on environment and Indigenous rights cases, was shot dead in September, by gunmen in South Cotabato province, in the southern Philippines.



Fixing human rights disaster under Duterte should be priority for next president – HRW

IBP seeks protection for court officers after latest Cavite killing