March 18, 2019: Nicaraguan Police Forces Attack and Arrest Peaceful Protesters
The World Movement for Democracy condemns the use of indiscriminate violence by the Nicaraguan police forces on March 16, when they attacked a demonstration calling for the release of political prisoners and arrested 164 protesters. Among those arrested was World Movement Steering Committee member Sofia Montenegro.
The attack started just before 2:00 in the afternoon, when police began arresting anyone carrying a Nicaraguan flag in the vicinity of the demonstration, which was organized by the Blue and White National Unity coalition. In addition, police attacked and arrested journalists who were covering the protest. Many who were wounded during the attack lay in the streets for hours, because Red Cross personnel in the area were unable to move them to hospitals for fear of being attacked themselves. Those arrested were released late Saturday night to a large crowd of family members and friends. “It was a moving thing, [seeing] how the people at that time of night went out to the streets to receive us,” said Sofia Montenegro.
Government violence against civil society has become ubiquitous in Nicaragua since protests first broke out in April 2018. Over the past year, hundreds of citizens have been killed and independent media organizations have been attacked. Civil society leaders have been particularly targeted, such as Felix Madriaga, executive director of Instituto de Estudios Estrategicos y Politicas Publicas (IEEPP), whose attack by a Sandinista mob was detailed in last year’s DemocracyAlert. Since then, the Steering Committee of the World Movement has spoken out against these attacks and has urged the international community to hold the Ortega government accountable.
On December 28, 2018, the World Movement Steering Committee Chairperson and former United Nations (UN) Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Bangura, issued a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calling for concrete action towards the government of Nicaragua in defense of democracy and fundamental freedoms. In late January 2019, World Movement Steering Committee member Ana Gomes led a European Parliament special mission to meet with Nicaraguan political prisoners, journalists, and civil society members. While there, she published interviews with political prisoners at La Esperanza women’s prison.
The World Movement continues to call for the release of all political prisoners in Nicaragua and urges the diplomatic community to take action in defense of Nicaragua’s citizens, journalists, and civil society.
December 17, 2018: Nicaraguan Government Targets Civil Society Organizations
The Latin American Network for Democracy, the Steering Committee of the World Movement for Democracy, the Citizen Forum of the Americas, and the International Steering Committee of Civil Society of the Community of Democraciescondemn direct attacks made against Nicaraguan civil society organizations, social actors, and independent media by the government of Daniel Ortega.
Over the last few days, the National Assembly of Nicaragua has cancelled the legal registration of several prominent civil society organizations that work to strengthen democracy and human rights, and that have also been critical of Ortega’s government. On December 14, 2018, several of the targeted organizations, along with media outlet Confidencial, reported illegal raids without a warrant by State Security on their offices.
The organizations impacted are the Centro de Información y Servicios de Asesoría en Salud (CISAS), Instituto de Estudios Estratégicos y Políticas Públicas (IEEPP), the Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH), Hagamos Democracia, the Centro de Investigación de la Comunicación (CINCO), the Instituto para el Desarrollo y la Democracia (IPADE), Instituto de Liderazgo de las Segovias, and Fundación del Río, among others.
These attacks reflect the social and political crisis in Nicaragua that has undermined the individual freedoms and human rights of Nicaraguan citizens. According to the CIVICUS Monitor, the state of civic space in the country is “repressive.” The Monitor notes “free expression is being damaged due to the construction of a media empire in the hands of the president’s family, the disciplining of critical media through the arbitrary allocation of state advertising, extreme secrecy and a tight control on the flow of public information.”
Call for Action
The organizations mentioned above, their members, and allies around the world, call on:
- The member states of the United Nations to uphold the values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, many of which are being violated by the government of Nicaragua.
- Member nations of the Organization of American States and signatories of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which obligates them to promote and defend the right to democracy enshrined for all the peoples of the Americas.
- The nations that are part of the Governing Council of the Community of Democracies and signatories of the Warsaw Declaration and the Civil Society Standards that commits them to carry out coordinated diplomatic actions, whenever it is necessary, to support the space of civil society.
Under these commitments, we ask the diplomatic community to:
- Demand President Daniel Ortega and other government institutions to:
- Cease the repression of social organizations and their members;
- Return the legal status to organizations that were canceled;
- Return items that were confiscated to the raided organizations; and
- Redress the physical damage done in such raids.
- Request the Organization of American States and its member countries:
- That its Secretary General forcefully condemn the repression of civil society and the violation of democracy in Nicaragua, as he has so strongly done with other dictatorial regimes in the region;
- To comply with the OAS Charter’s democratic clause, and suspend the participation of Nicaragua in the sessions of the General Assembly, the Meeting of Consultation, the Councils of the Organization and specialized conferences, the commissions, working groups, and other OAS organs; and
- To share this call with other networks and diplomatic missions, to seek joint diplomatic and solidarity actions.
The lives and dignity of thousands of people, as well as the defense of citizenship, civil society, and democratic institutions, not only of Nicaragua, but of the entire region, depend on this.
October 12, 2018: Pakistani Civil Society Leader Faces Detention and Travel Ban
The World Movement is greatly concerned to learn about the arbitrary arrest of and travel ban imposed on Pakistani activist Gulalai Ismail. Ismail was detained at Islamabad International Airport upon returning from London on October 12, 2018. She was released on interim bail, but has been placed on the Exit Control List banning her from leaving the country. The harassment of Ismail is related to her role as an active supporter of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), which works to raise awareness of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and discrimination against Pakistan’s Pashtun ethnic minority.
In a WhatsApp audio message to friends immediately preceding her arrest, Ismail noted: “This is an attack on civic freedoms. This is an attack on our liberty to speak out. This is an attack on our freedom of speech.” Over the last year, the Pakistani government has escalated its repression of the Pashtun minority, increasingly targeting PTM members with detention, travel bans, and charges of “sedition and cybercrimes.” After Ismail participated in a public gathering organized by the PTM on August 12, 2018, she was among 19 individuals who were charged with multiple offences, including rioting and removing the country’s flag from a building.
Gulalai Ismail is the cofounder and chairperson of Aware Girls, an organization that aims to empower and educate young women on rights and leadership in Pakistan. Through Aware Girls, Ismail is an active participant in the World Movement network. In 2013, she received the National Endowment for Democracy’s Democracy Award and in 2017 was awarded the Anna Politkovskaya Reach All Women in WAR Award. Join us in calling on the government of Pakistan to cease harassment of Gulalai Ismail and other members of the PTM and to respect their right to freedom of expression.
October 8, 2018: Egypt Targets Civil Society Leader Esraa Abdelfattah Under Case 173
The World Movement for Democracy is concerned to learn that Egyptian activist and long-time World Movement participant Esraa Abdelfattah has been summoned to appear before a judge for questioning on October 9, 2018 in relation to Case 173. Commonly called the “NGO foreign funding case,” Case 173 is a politically-motivated investigation into civil society organizations working on democracy and human rights issues that receive foreign funding. In June 2013, it was used to sentence 43 Egyptian, American, and German NGO workers to sentences ranging from 1-5 years on charges of receiving money from abroad and establishing branches of an international organization without a license. Abdelfattah is being questioned in relation to her role as a projects manager for the Egyptian Democratic Academy, a non-governmental organization that promotes the use of new media tools to foster democracy and human rights.
Esraa Abdelfattah is a co-founder of the April 6 Youth Movement, a group originally created to show support for industrial workers in the town of El-Mahalla El-Kubra who were calling for increased labor rights. The April 6 Youth Movement later became a popular political movement demanding basic rights for all Egyptians. Abdelfattah, a 2011 nominee for a Nobel Peace Prize, has faced sustained government harassment due to the nature of her work over the last decade. Since 2015, she has been unable to leave the country due to a travel ban. Prior, she was imprisoned for several weeks in Qanater Women’s Prison for her role in organizing the 2008 “Facebook Protests” in support of workers who were planning a strike on April 6, 2008.
Abdelfattah’s summons comes amidst an ongoing crackdown on members of civil society in Egypt, in which activists and journalists have been arrested in unprecedented numbers. Given this environment, the World Movement is fearful that this summons represents an increasing trend of targeting and harassing activists under President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi, and we are fearful of the implications for Esraa Abdelfattah. Join us in calling on the government of Egypt to cease the harassment of Abdelfattah and other civil society leaders in Egypt.
July 13, 2018: World Movement Condemns Attack on Nicaraguan Civil Society Leader Felix Maradiaga
The World Movement for Democracy strongly condemns the recent attack on Felix Maradiaga, executive director of Nicaraguan non-governmental organization Instituto de Estudios Estrategicos y Politicas Publicas (IEEPP), by a Sandinista mob on Wednesday, July 10, 2018. Maradiaga was meeting with other members of civil society in the city of León when they were attacked by the pro-government youth. Reports by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) indicate that he faced multiple incidents of harassment in the days prior to the attack. Threats announcing the intention to assassinate Maradiaga surfaced on social media, and hooded men temporarily detained him after stopping his car on the highway.
“It is urgent that the State of Nicaragua adopt measures to prevent any attack against the beneficiaries and that…events such as those reported against Mr. Maradiaga are not repeated…It is essential that the State of Nicaragua guarantees that human rights defenders can carry out their work of reporting and documenting the human rights situation freely and in conditions of security,” remarked Commissioner Francisco Eguiguren of the IACHR.
This attack occurred amidst the rising incidence of violence against members of civil society who hold dissenting views in Nicaragua. Events like these present a clear threat to the internationally-protected rights of freedom of assembly and association and freedom of expression of Nicaraguan citizens. Although members of civil society were hopeful that the involvement of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) would result in greater respect for human rights in the country, the continued attacks on activists indicate a dangerous future for civic space.
The World Movement urges authorities to investigate and address the systematic violence against human rights defenders and civil society leaders in Nicaragua. Moreover, we call on the government to fully implement the recommendations of the IACHR and to resume dialogue with civil society organizations towards the full restoration of the rule of law and a process of democratic transition. Join us in telling the government of Nicaragua that the international community will not tolerate reprisals against members of civil society who express dissenting views.
June 22, 2018: Nicaraguan Government Continues Violence Against Protesters
Since protests first broke out in Nicaragua on April 18, the international community has witnessed an inexcusable escalation of violence against citizens by police, government-sanctioned paramilitaries, and pro-government Sandinista mobs. The mid-April protests over proposed reforms to the Social Security System initially saw three deaths—an estimated 200 people have been killed since. The protesters’ demands, which initially called for reversing social security reforms, have since evolved to demanding President Daniel Ortega’s resignation after his 11-year rule. Protesters allege systematic abuses of power by Ortega, Vice President Rosario Murillo—Ortega’s wife—and their party, which have gradually dismantled democratic institutions in the country since President Ortega’s return to the presidency in 2006.
After a month of protests, Ortega and Murillo agreed to enter into talks with the opposition, “Civic Alliance,” which is comprised in part by the students who organized the initial protests. The talks were mediated by bishops belonging to the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua. However, they quickly broke down after the government failed to abide by the opposition’s demands that it cease using violence against protesters, particularly after the bloody events of May 30.
On May 30, in events later named the Mother’s Day massacre, an estimated 600,000 protesters took to the streets in the cities of Managua, Estelí, and Masaya. Reports indicate that 18 were killed and almost 200 injured when police and armed militants opened fire on the crowds in all three cities. The Episcopal Conference condemned the government’s response, stating: “The bishops of Nicaragua have experienced with deep pain, the violent events perpetrated last night by armed groups related to the government against the civil population…[We] condemn all of these acts of repression…and we want to leave it clear the national dialogue talks cannot continue while the Nicaraguan people continue being denied their right to protest.”
Having controlled the city of Masaya for several weeks, protest leaders announced on June 18 their intention to break away from Ortega’s rule and form an independent commission to govern the city. However, the following day, government forces stormed the city and regained control, killing six in the process. Despite having attempted to reengage the government in dialogue, the Episcopal Conference once again suspended talks in the context of continuing state repression against protesters, and the government’s failure to invite representatives of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the European Union to investigate protester casualties.
In light of these disturbing events, the World Movement for Democracy once again strongly condemns all acts of violence and intimidation against peaceful protesters in Nicaragua. Additionally, it calls on Nicaraguan authorities to allow for members of the international community to investigate the reported extrajudicial killings, unlawful detentions, and disappearances of dozens of Nicaraguans over the last two months.
June 6, 2018: Egypt Military Court Sentences Journalist Ismail Alexandrani to 10 Years Amidst Wider Crackdown
The World Movement for Democracy expresses its deep concern over the unjust 10-year sentence handed to journalist and researcher Ismail Alexandrani by an Egyptian military court on May 22, 2018. Alexandrani, a winner of the World Youth Movement for Democracy’s International Essay Contest on Youth and Democracy, is a well-known expert on Sinai affairs and Islamic movements in Egypt. He also previously served as a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy and as a researcher at the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights.
Alexandrani was arrested on November 29, 2015, facing charges of obtaining and publishing military secrets, joining a banned organization, and publishing false news abroad. After nearly two years in pretrial detention, his case was referred by the Supreme State Security Prosecution to a military court. Following his arrest, more than 70 researchers from around the world issued a joint-statement calling for his release, which noted: “Alexandrani is one of Egypt’s brightest young researchers, who has spent the last few years doing ground-breaking work on the marginalized areas of Egypt…[his] arrest is a repression of free speech and should be condemned.”
His sentencing comes amidst a wider crackdown on journalists, members of civil society, and activists in Egypt. The Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) warns that the arrests of prominent democracy advocates signals President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s intention to further transform Egypt from an environment that “limits independent political space” to one that “wants to eliminate it entirely.”
The World Movement for Democracy expresses solidarity with activists arbitrarily detained and imprisoned in recent weeks and joins the international community in calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Ismail Alexandrani. Join us in telling the government of Egypt to #SetThemFree by sharing this alert!
January 19, 2018: Arson, Arrests, Violence: Human Rights Activists Under Attack in Russia
In a span of several weeks, human rights activists throughout the North Caucasus have been targets of violent attacks and intimidation. On January 17, 2018, the offices of Memorial Human Rights Center in Ingushetia were torched and destroyed by unidentified masked men. Memorial is one of the most prominent and effective human rights organizations in Russia with satellite offices in 49 regions. One week earlier, Oyub Titiev, leader of the Memorial Human Rights Center in Chechnya, was arrested for marijuana possession. A devout Muslim who abstains from alcohol and drugs, Titiev vehemently denies these charges and says the police planted the drugs. At his hearing, the court detained him for two months while the investigation is ongoing, and he faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty. Titiev, who had a dental appointment scheduled on the day that he was arrested, is currently having difficulty eating and is being denied access to a doctor.
Chechnya remains one of the most dangerous regions in Russia for human rights activists and journalists, and fabricated drug charges are commonly used there to imprison government critics. Memorial staff believe the arrest and arson are part of a coordinated effort to retaliate against their work. The office has long been targeted by the Chechen authorities, most infamously with the murder of Titiev’s predecessor, Natalya Estemirova. Natalya was kidnapped and murdered in 2010 and her killers have never been brought to justice. In response to Titiev’s arrest, Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic, publically criticized human rights activists, saying they are not “real” Chechens and that they are “people without kinship, ethnicity, or religion.”
The recent uptick in violence is not isolated to human rights activists. World Movement previously reported that in late December, three environmental activists from the group Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus, were brutally attacked by masked men in Krasnodar, Russia. The group’s founder Andrey Rudomakha was physically attacked along with two colleagues when returning from video recording possible environmental violations and illegal construction on the Black Sea coast. Andrey believes government authorities tracked their movements and provided information to aid the assailants’ attack and to steal the videos they recorded. Last week, Rudomakha and another member of the group received threatening messages targeted against them from the email address “Death to Rudomakha.”
The World Movement condemns these transparent acts of intimidation and urges the Russian government to denounce violence against the human rights community. Join us in solidarity with Memorial, Titiev, and Rudomakha by sharing their stories and urging for the charges against Titiev to be dismissed and the crimes against Rudomakha and Memorial to be investigated.
April 21, 2017: Equatoguinean Authorities Escalate Crackdown on Civil Society
Now, other members of CEID who attended the event are concerned they will also face interrogations and arbitrary arrests. The government’s recent intimidation tactics are the latest in a series of actions targeting CEID and its work. On March 2, 2016, Equatorial Guinea’s Minister of Internal Affairs and Local Corporations, Clemente Engonga Nguema Onguene, ordered an indefinite suspension of CEID’s activities. According to Minister Onguene, members of CEID shared “messages aimed at inciting violence and civil disobedience among Equatoguinean youth” at a youth forum they organized in January 2016. The messages allegedly violated the country’s law on association; however, CEID argued their comments were protected under the constitutionally protected rights on freedom of expression. In September 2016, CEID resumed their activities after finding the indefinite suspension was only valid for three months.
CEID is the co-founder of the Civil Society Coordinating Committee – a national coalition of 22 nongovernmental organizations working with the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global organization that promotes “open and accountable management” of national extractive resources. Because of its suspension, CEID relinquished its role as the coalition’s Secretariat.
The World Movement for Democracy joins the international community in urging the government of Equatorial Guinea to meet the human rights standards outlined by the EITI, and end its harassment of civil society. Click here to join us in sharing a solidarity tweet!
December 5, 2016: Ethiopian Authorities Arrest Ethiopian Opposition Leader Dr. Merera Gudina
On November 30, 2016, Ethiopian authorities detained Dr. Merera Gudina, a prominent Ethiopian scholar and chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC). He was arrested at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, upon his return from Belgium, where he testified before the European Parliament about human rights abuses in Ethiopia.
Join us in calling upon the Ethiopian government to immediately and unconditionally release Dr. Merera Gudina by sharing this tweet.
At the November 9, 2016 hearing, Dr. Gudina testified alongside Dr. Berhanu Nega, an exiled opposition party leader, and athlete Feyisa Lilesa, whose solidarity gesture at the 2016 Rio Olympics raised the profile of the protests in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region. Dr. Nega is a leader of the Patriotic Ginbot 7 (G7), an opposition group that is considered to be a “terrorist organization” by Ethiopia’s ruling party.
Dr. Gudina is accused of violating Ethiopia’s six-month state of emergency by associating with Dr. Nega. The state of emergency, which suspends constitutionally guaranteed rights and gives sweeping powers to the security sector, was declared on October 9, 2016 in response to ongoing anti-government protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions. Lily Mengesha, an Ethiopian journalist described the state of emergency as a continuation of the government’s escalating attacks on media freedom and human rights in the country that “will not deliver needed stability.”
Dr. Gudina’s arrest means that almost all of OFC’s senior leaders are in detention. Currently, six of his colleagues are on trial for terrorism charges, another is under house arrest, and many members of the party have been jailed. Since protests began in November 2015, more than 400 people have been killed in Ethiopia and at least 11,000 have been detained.
Dr. Gudina is a former member of the Ethiopian parliament, and leads the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum (MEDREK). He is also an internationally respected scholar and published author. In 2014, Dr. Gudina was chosen for the Reagan-Fascell fellowship at the National Endowment for Democracy where he explored “opposition politics, political polarization, and the role of the Ethiopian diaspora in facilitating democratization in Ethiopia.”
The World Movement for Democracy is alarmed by the Ethiopian government’s escalating crackdown on dissent, and urges the state to respect the human rights of its people.
Join us in calling upon the Ethiopian government to immediately and unconditionally release Dr. Merera Gudina by sharing this tweet.
September 23, 2016: Cuban Authorities’ Escalate Violent Assaults on Civil Society
On September 23, 2016, police authorities raided the headquarters of Cuban Legal Information Center (CUBALEX) and confiscated computers, hard drives, USB drives and cell phones. Cuban activist Kirenia Yalit stated: “when it seemed that everything was going to end and they had concluded their interrogations’ of the activists, they forced them to strip naked ‘and squat to verify that there was nothing hidden in their bodies.” The authorities also told Laritza Diversent, Director of CUBALEX, that members of the organization could be accused of “illicit economic activity” and “illicit association.”
CUBALEX is an independent Cuban organization based in the Havana municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, and provides free legal advice to Cuban citizens and civil society activists. Unfortunately, the raid of the CUBALEX offices was part of a larger wave of harassment against Cuban civil society that has been taking place since last week.A day earlier, 23 activists belonging to the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) were arrested, one of whom was indefinitely detained. This arrest marks the 43rd UNPACU member who has been imprisoned by the authorities.
On September 18, 27 members of the Ladies in White movement, and several #TodosMarchamos (We All March) demonstrators, were arrested during peaceful protests. In a separate incident, Ladies in White activist Leticia Ramos, is facing baseless charges of “public disorder” after a police raid on her home. As of now, Ramos is under a government-imposed house arrest. On September 20, Cuban political police raided and disbanded a “meeting of several trade unionists,” according to Iván Hernández Carrillo, spokesman for Cuba’s Independent Trade Union Coalition. On September 27, Cuban authorities detained Arturo Rojas and Ada López, members of the Otro18 (Another 18) initiative, which seeks to promote independent candidates trying to run in Cuba’s 2018 elections. The two activists were prevented from traveling to Colombia to observe the upcoming plebiscite on the country’s Peace Accords. The World Movement for Democracy is deeply concerned about the Cuban government’s ongoing crackdown on civil society, and urges them to seize the harassment immediately. Cuban activists should be able to practice their right to freedom of assembly and association without encountering state-sponsored violence. Ladies in White leader, Berta Soler, has urged the world to stand up for Cuba’s human rights activists in her recent interview. Join us in solidarity of Cuban activists by tweeting this message to the government of Cuba:
August 23, 2016: Detained Sudanese Human Rights Defenders Scheduled to Appear in Court on Wednesday
The World Movement of Democracy is concerned about new developments following the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Services’ (NISS) arrest of six Sudanese activists on May 22, 2016. The activists are affiliated with a Khartoum-based organization, Center for Training and Human Development (TRACKS). Three of the arrestees, Arwa Al-Rabie, Imany-Leila Ray, and Al-Hassan Kheiry, were released on bail after 10 days of detention. However, Midhat Hamadan and Mustafa Adam (who face additional charges under the Information Crimes Law), and Khalaf-Allah A. Mukhtar, remain detained in Al-Huda Prison in Omdurman North, Sudan. After 86 days in detention without being charged, they are now facing four charges including espionage and terrorism.
NISS has harassed the TRACKS Center for the past two years. On March 26, 2015 and February 29, 2016, NISS officers raided the TRACKS premises, confiscating electronic equipment and documents. Those raids also resulted in separate espionage and terrorism charges against Mukhtar and Hamadan, among others. During the last few months, TRACKS staff have been subjected to repeated summons, inhumane jail conditions, unexplained long-term detention, and delayed court sessions. Some of the TRACKS activists’ family members have also been targeted by NISS. After many delays, the accused are finally scheduled to appear in Central Khartoum Criminal Court on Wednesday, August 24.
The World Movement for Democracy condemns NISS’s unacceptable treatment of civil society and urges the government of Sudan to unconditionally release the activists and drop all charges against them. If the Sudanese government moves forward with the trial, the activists must be given a transparent, fair, and speedy trial. We stand in solidarity with other civil society organizations gathering at the Khartoum Criminal Court on August 24, 2016, at 11 A.M. in support of TRACKS staff.
Join us in tweeting the following statement: #ATTN Gov’t of #Sudan: End harassment of #TRACKS activists & #SetThemFree!
Sudanese activists facing charges below:
Alkhozainee Ahmed Alhadi, Temporary Accountant of the TRACKS Center
Mustafa Adam, Director of the Zarga organization for Rural Development, who was visiting the TRACKS Center when the raid took place
Adil Bakheit, Sudanese Human Rights Monitor
Midhat Afif Eldin Hamdan, Trainer of the TRACKS Center
Al-Hassan Kheiry, IT technician of the TRACKS Center
Khalaf-Allah A. Mukhtar, Director of the TRACKS Center
Arwa Al-Rabie, Administrative Director of the TRACKS Center
Imany-Leila Ray, volunteer from Cameroon
August 12, 2016: Bahrain Government Escalates Threat Against Civil Society Activist Sheikh Maytham Al Salman
DEMOCRACY ALERT UPDATE
As reported in our August 12 alert, Bahraini authorities detained and interrogated Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman on Sunday, August 14. After a grueling, twelve-hour interrogation, Bahraini authorities held Al-Salman at their facilities overnight. Violating the activist’s right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, authorities charged him with participation in an “illegal assembly.” On Monday, August 15, Al-Salman appeared before the Public Prosecution, and was released on bail. Although Al-Salman was released, the charges were not dropped.
Al Salman is just one of several prominent Bahraini civil society activists who have recently faced increasing intimidation by authorities. Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), is currently imprisoned and faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of “spreading false news.” The World Movement will continue to follow and update you on the status of Al Salman and Rajab’s cases.
DemAlert: Bahrain Government Escalates Threat Against Civil Society Activist Sheikh Maytham Al Salman
The World Movement for Democracy is alarmed to report that Sheikh Maytham Al Salman, civil society activist and leader of the Bahrain Interfaith Center, has been summoned for interrogations on Sunday, August 14. Al Salman believes that the summon from the Ministry of Interior will likely result in his arrest and indefinite detainment. Al Salman is an internationally renowned inter-faith leader, he spoke out against the re-arrest of civil society activist Nabeel Rajab. The video message is believed to be the cause for his summons. Rajab, a prominent Bahraini activist, and president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, has been a target of state harassment for his Twitter posts. He is currently suffering critical health complications in jail. Bahraini activist Zainab Al-Khawaja has left Bahrain because of the government’s threat to imprison her again. Recently, Al Salman has experienced a continued escalation of harassment by the Bahraini authorities. On August 8, Al Salman was arrested after returning from a UN conference and charged with “inciting hatred against the system of government” and “disseminating false news.” Although he was released 12 hours later, the charges have not been dismissed. He is also among 20 civil society leaders who recently received a travel ban as retribution for participating in a State Department briefing earlier this summer. Bahrain is a signatory to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and has committed to upholding the freedom of movement and freedom of expression rights. Despite this, the government of Bahrain has continued to violate international human rights with frightful repression. The World Movement for Democracy joins the international community in honoring its international obligations. We stand in solidarity with all civil society activists in Bahrain and we call on the government of Bahrain to cease their harassment and to respect its international commitment. Please share & tweet the following message:
#ATTN @bahdiplomatic: Cease the harassment of #Bahrain’s #civilsociety & activist @MaythamAlsalman
July 13, 2016: Over a Dozen Cuban Activists on Hunger Strike for Human Rights **Spanish translation below**
On July 13, 2016, Carlos Amel Oliva, leader of the youth wing of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unión Patriótica de Cuba UNPACU) one of the largest civil society groups in #Cuba, declared himself on hunger strike after Cuban government officials confiscated his laptop, cell phone, and other personal items upon his return to Cuba from a trip to the United States. Soon thereafter, over a dozen more members of UNPACU joined Oliva in solidarity and declared themselves on hunger strike, calling on the government to cease its repression against human rights defenders.
Further, on July 20, 2016, leading Cuban dissident and Sakharov prize winner, Guillermo Farinas, began a hunger strike after being physically assaulted by state security officials. Farinas has vowed to continue his strike until the government publicly announces an end to its violent tactics. A number of the hunger striking activists are already suffering health consequences, but have remained firm in their resolve. According to the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH), there have been over 7,000 short-term political detentions since the start of 2016, marking a sharp increase in the number of detentions and violence against peaceful activists in comparison with 2015. As such, the human rights landscape in Cuba continues to rapidly deteriorate.
On August 3, 2016, the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy (Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe para la Democracia) issued a statement of concern about the grave conditions Olivia, Farinas and numerous other human rights defenders face in Cuba. The World Movement for Democracy joins REDLAD and the international community in its unequivocal solidarity with Oliva, Farinas, and all other activists on hunger strike in Cuba, and calls upon the Cuban government to immediately end its systematic violence, harassment, and intimidation of human rights defenders and opposition activists.
Spanish translation below
Más de Una Docena de Activistas Cubanos en Huelga de Hambre por los Derechos Humanos Más de Una Docena de Activistas Cubanos en Huelga de Hambre por los Derechos Humanos El 13 de julio de 2016, Carlos Amel Oliva, líder del ala juvenil de la Unión Patriótica de Cuba (UNPACU), uno de los grupos más grandes de la sociedad civil en Cuba, se declaró en huelga de hambre después de que funcionarios del gobierno cubano le confiscaron su laptop, teléfono celular y otros artículos de uso personal a su regreso a Cuba de un viaje a los Estados Unidos. Poco después, más de una docena de miembros de UNPACU se unieron a Carlos Amel en solidaridad y se declararon en huelga de hambre, pidiendo al gobierno que cese la represión contra los defensores de derechos humanos.
Además, el 20 de julio de 2016, líder disidente cubano y ganador del premio Sajarov Guillermo Fariñas inició una huelga de hambre tras ser golpeado por funcionarios de la seguridad del estado, y ha prometido continuar con su huelga hasta que el gobierno anuncia públicamente un fin a sus tácticas violentas. Varios de los activistas en huelga de hambre ya están sufriendo consecuencias de salud, pero se han mantenido firmes en su resolución. De acuerdo con el Observatorio Cubano por los Derechos Humanos (OCDH), han habido más de 7.000 detenciones políticas a corto plazo desde el inicio de 2016, marcando un fuerte incremento en el número de detenciones y la violencia contra activistas pacíficos en comparación con el 2015. Por lo tanto, el panorama de los derechos humanos en Cuba sigue deteriorándose rápidamente.
Red de América Latina y el Caribe para la Democracia (REDLAD) han emitido declaracionmes de preocupación y han reiterado sus llamados a un mayor respeto de los derechos humanos en la isla. El Movimiento Mundial para la Democracia (WMD) se une a la comunidad internacional en su solidaridad inequívoca con Carlos, Guillermo, y todos los demás activistas en huelga de hambre en Cuba, y exhorta al gobierno cubano a poner fin inmediatamente a su violencia sistemática, el acoso y la intimidación de los defensores de derechos humanos y activistas de la oposición.
Únete a nosotros para demostrar apoyo a estos activistas por Twitter usando el siguiente mensaje:
ATTN Cuban Gov’t: End repression against Cuban activists! #juntoacoco #Cuba
ATTN gobierno cubano: poner fin a la represión contra activistas de DDHH YA! #juntoacoco #Cuba
July 18, 2015: Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Face Systematic Government Crackdown
The World Movement for Democracy strongly condemns the mass arrests and harassment of human rights lawyers and activists in China, and joins the international community in demanding that the Chinese government immediately stop the systematic crackdown on civil society in the country.
From July 10 to 17, more than 222 human rights lawyers, law firm staff, and activists in China were detained, arrested, or summoned by the local police across the country. To date, nine lawyers and two activists have been criminally detained or put under residential surveillance, and it is feared that these lawyers and activists will face police brutality. In addition, four lawyers and eleven other activists are still incommunicado, and more than 179 persons have been temporarily detained or forcibly summoned by police.
The list of those targeted includes Wang Yu, a prominent human rights lawyer who works for Fengrui Law Firm in Beijing, her husband and their 16-year old son, as well as her co-workers. Other renowned lawyers, such as Li Heping and Sui Muqing, were also taken by the police in Tianjin and Guangzhou, respectively. As of today, Li is still detained, Sui is under residential surveillance, and both have been threatened with the charge of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.”
In other areas of China, lawyers who have previously participated in human rights cases, or openly criticized officials for violating human rights, were also summoned and questioned by local police. Xie Yang, a lawyer based in Hunan, was taken away on July 11, soon after he signed a public statement with 101 other lawyers to show solidarity with Wang Yu on July 9.
On July 1, a new national security law was passed by the National People’s Congress, which allows the authorities to take official actions against potential threats to national security. Legal experts fear that the passage of this new law, with its vague provisions, will be used to justify more restrictions and control of civil society.
The World Movement for Democracy is very concerned that repressive measures will continue against human rights defenders in China. Please show your solidarity with the repressed lawyers, activists, and their families by sending a message to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the global community is watching and condemns the crackdown against human rights lawyers. And please share those words on Twitter and Facebook:
Other statements in support for human rights lawyers and activists in China:
- Amnesty International
- Freedom House
- U.S. Department of State
- European Union
- The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
- China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group
- International Services for Human Rights
- Christoph Strässer (Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid)
- Front Line Defenders
- Congressional-Executive Commission on China
- Taiwan Association for Human Rights
- Initiatives for China
- Committee to Support Chinese Lawyers
- China Human Rights Defenders
- Progressive Lawyers Group
- The Federation for a Democratic China (FDC) (in Chinese)
- Chinese Human Rights Defenders
- Human Rights Now (in Chinese)
- The Legal ECs
- The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong
- Law Council of Australia
- The Law Society
*Photo credited to @badiucao.
April 2, 2015: Bahraini Authorities Arrest Activist Nabeel Rajab over Tweet
On April 2nd, prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab was arrested in his house under the accusation that he “posted information that could incite others and disrupt civil peace,” and that he “illegally defamed a statutory body,” according to the statement published by the Bahraini Ministry of Interior.
As indicated in PEN International’s report, the arrest came after his tweets regarding the torture of prisoners in notorious Jaw prison. Mr. Rajab is the Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and has faced an ongoing campaign of intimidation and harassment for his human rights work.
The World Movement for Democracy strongly condemns the arrest and joins the international community in demanding that the Bahraini government release Mr. Rajab and investigate the allegations of torture in Jaw prison.
In the past year, Mr. Rajab was detained several times for speaking out about human rights violations in his country. Over the past few weeks, Mr. Rajab has tweeted about the March 10th violent clash between prisoners in Jaw prison and Bahraini security forces and the violence inflicted on the prisoners in the aftermath. Reports surfaced of prisoners being subjected to indiscriminate beatings after the clash and several prisoners of conscience were separated from other inmates and banned from communicating with the outside world.
The World Movement for Democracy is very concerned that the Bahraini authorities will use this charge to impose a new harsh sentences on Mr. Rajab. Before the April 2nd arrest, Mr. Rajab was already facing a possible six months of prison time for another tweet. In May 2014, he completed a two-year prison sentence after taking part in peaceful assemblies and protests criminalized by the government.