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In Guinea, two journalists detained by police

14 Sep

Police in Conakry, the capital, briefly detained two journalists on August 31 while they were interviewing protesters demonstrating against a massacre of villagers by security forces on August 3.

Emmanuel Millimono, a reporter for the private radio station Soleil FM, and Aissata Diakité, a reporter for Espace FM radio, were taken to a police bus, where they were detained for almost an hour, Diakité told CPJ. She also said they had identified themselves as journalists to the police. Police seized their belongings but returned them to the journalists when they were released, she said. 

In early August, security forces killed several villagers in the Zogota district of Guinea’s southeastern N’Zérékoré forested region, according to news reports. The forces were sent in to suppress protests in which villagers demanded preference in employment sought by a Brazilian mining company located nearby, the reports said. 

from Committee to Protect Journalists http://cpj.org/2012/09/in-guinea-two-journalists-detained-by-police.php

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Lebanon must free a journalist detained without charge

14 Sep

New York, September 14, 2012–Authorities must immediately release journalist Rami Aysha who has been detained without charge and abused since being seized more than two weeks ago while investigating alleged arms smuggling in the southern suburbs of Beirut, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

“We are very disturbed by the mistreatment and continued detention of Rami Aysha and call for his immediate release,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Journalists in Lebanon must be able to work freely during this critical time in the country’s history.”

Aysha, a Lebanese-Palestinian freelancer who has worked as a journalist and translator for several international outlets in Lebanon including Time Magazine, was captured by Hezbollah forces on August 30, according to a letter CPJ received from journalists for Time, The Financial Times, Der Spiegel, The Sunday Times, and other Beirut-based journalists who are concerned about his detention.

Aysha was arrested along with an army lieutenant identified as Wissam Abd al-Khalik and a third person identified as the officer’s cousin, according to a report by Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV. The report acknowledged that Aysha was a journalist investigating a potential story.

The journalist and the two men were in a car on an airport road near the Hezbollah-controlled southern suburbs of Beirut, when Hezbollah agents forced them at gunpoint into another car, the Beirut journalists said in their letter, citing information from Aysha’s lawyer. The three were taken to a Hezbollah office and held there for several hours during which they were severely beaten, the letter said.

Aysha sustained two black eyes from the beating, and Hezbollah agents smashed the video camera he had with him, although he had not filmed anything, Aysha told his lawyer, according to the letter. Aysha was then transferred to a military police station in Beirut, where he was beaten by military police, the letter said. His case was heard before a military judge who refused to release him on bail, although no formal charges have been brought.

On September 12, Aysha was moved to Quba Prison in the northern city of Tripoli, far from his wife and daughter, according to the letter from the Beirut journalists. The journalist was put in a cell with 70 to 90 other inmates, his brother, Ramzi, told CPJ. The brother said the Aysha family was notified that they could visit him only three times a week, for just a few minutes at a time. Ramzi Aysha said that when he visited his brother in prison, he was allowed to see him for only two minutes. The journalist expressed great concern about his well-being, the brother said.

The journalist has frequently covered arms smuggling from Lebanon to neighboring Syria, which might be a reason for his detention, Ramzi Aysha said. The journalist has told authorities he was simply working on a story and was being unjustly detained, according to his brother. The letter from the Beirut-based journalists also said Aysha had often worked on arms smuggling stories; the letter said he often pursued such stories on his own initiative.

Aysha has worked for several international news outlets since 2007. Since the Syrian uprising began in 2011, he has covered the conflict and the emergence of the rebel Free Syrian Army, the letter said.

On Thursday, a military judge said the journalist could not be released until the investigation was completed, according to his brother. Aysha’s court date has not been set yet and under Lebanese law, he could remain in detention for up to six months without charge, Ramzi Aysha said.

Lebanon has increasingly been affected by the unrest in neighboring Syria, CPJ research shows. In April, CPJ documented the killing of a Lebanese cameraman while filming near the Syrian border.

  • For more data and analysis on Lebanon, visit CPJ’s Lebanon page here.

from Committee to Protect Journalists http://cpj.org/2012/09/lebanon-must-free-a-journalist-detained-without-ch.php

United Arab Emirates – UAE accused of enforced disappearance and torture of activists

14 Sep

14 September 2012

(Human Rights Watch/IFEX) – Beirut, September 14, 2012 – United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities should immediately bring a victim of enforced disappearance, Ahmed al-Suweidi, before judicial authorities and open a thorough and impartial investigation into credible allegations of torture at State Security facilities, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch was joined in its statement by Alkarama (Dignity), the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), and Index on Censorship.

On September 10, 2012, Human Rights Watch wrote to President Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to say that the UAE’s accession to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on July 19 was a positive step. But Human Rights Watch also expressed concern about the alleged torture in UAE custody of two Syrian nationals, Abdulelah al-Jadani and Musab Khalil Abood.

“The allegations of torture and the enforced disappearance of Ahmed al-Suweidi are matters of grave concern and exhibit increasingly brutal tactics by the UAE’s State Security apparatus,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The UAE’s allies in the West should not remain silent in the face of such serious international crimes.”

Al-Suweidi, whose situation recently came to light, is one of 60 civil society activists and human rights defenders whom UAE authorities are holding without charge following their peaceful calls for political reform. They include two prominent lawyers, Mohamed al-Roken and Mohamed al-Mansoori. The condition of the other detainees is also a cause of concern after reports from people who saw them at a September 6 hearing to extend the detention of six of them, the groups said.

Al-Suweidi was arrested on March 26 and taken to Al-Shahama detention center. On April 26 the authorities at Al-Shahama claimed to have transferred him to Al-Sader jail, but officials at Al-Sader claimed to have no knowledge of his whereabouts when his brother attempted to visit him shortly after. The UAE authorities have not denied he is still in detention, but they have refused to divulge his location. Al-Suweidi’s enforced disappearance is all the more alarming in light of the recent allegations of torture at a UAE State Security facility, the groups said.

Al-Suweidi holds a PhD from the University of Southern California and worked in the finance department of the Abu Dhabi government for 17 years until he retired in 2007. He is also a political activist and it was this activism that led authorities to strip him and six other Emiratis of their citizenship in May 2011. The “UAE 7,” as they became known, were among the first arrested in the current crackdown on free expression. On March 26, at a service station between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, six unmarked cars surrounded the vehicle in which al-Suweidi and a former judge, Ahmed al-Za’abi, were traveling. Men in civilian clothes who did not reveal their identity took them away. Al-Suweidi was held in a different wing of the detention center to the others, and his first and last contact with his family was a brief phone call on August 27, five months after his arrest.

Under international law, a state violates the prohibition against enforced disappearance when its agents take a person into custody and then either denies it is detaining the person, or fails to disclose the person’s whereabouts. “Disappeared” people are at high risk of torture.

Al-Jadani, one of the Syrians who alleged he was tortured in UAE custody, had been working in the UAE since February 2008 in a small road haulage business. He told Human Rights Watch after he was released from custody that on the morning of May 8, 2011, four unmarked vehicles with about 15 men in civilian clothes stopped his truck on the E311 Emirates Road as he was transporting construction materials from Ras Al Khaimah to Jebel Ali.

He said that the men forced him out of his truck and into one of their vehicles, confiscated his wallet and passport, and handcuffed and blindfolded him. They drove al-Jadani to his lodgings in Sharjah, where they searched his belongings and confiscated his laptop. They then drove him to a gated detention center, where security guards placed him in a windowless 3 by 2 meter cell equipped with a surveillance camera. The officers, who spoke with Gulf accents, identified the installation as a State Security facility.

Every afternoon for the next 18 days, al-Jadani alleged, they beat and whipped him, held him in painful stress positions, and hung him from the wall by his arms and legs. He was also subjected to severe sleep deprivation and extreme cold in his cell. His interrogation focused on his alleged connections with people involved in the Syrian uprising, in particular a fellow detainee, Musab Khalil Abood, another Syrian national who was a close acquaintance. Emirati officials had arrested Abood on May 6 as he attempted to return to Syria for his father’s funeral.

Al-Jadani’s interrogators demanded information about what they claimed was Abood’s participation in political violence in Syria. Later interrogation sessions focused on what interrogators alleged were al-Jadani and Abood’s links with violent Islamist groups such as al Qaeda.

Al-Jadani and Abood were held in solitary confinement in State Security for three months, with no access to legal assistance or contact with their families. After this time they were transferred to Al Wathba jail in Abu Dhabi, where Abood told al-Jadani and other inmates that he had also been subjected to regular torture during his time in solitary confinement at a State Security facility. An Emirati court freed al-Jadani in January, but convicted Abood on terrorism charges and sentenced him to three years in jail. Both men maintain that they are innocent of any involvement in terrorist activities. Abood has been on hunger strike since June 27.

UAE authorities should undertake independent and timely criminal investigations into these credible allegations of torture and enforced disappearance, leading to the identification and prosecution of those responsible, the groups said.

The nexus between torture and enforced disappearance is well established in international law. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has found that prolonged isolation and deprivation of communication is in itself a form of cruel and inhuman treatment. The European Court of Human Rights has declared that the uncertainty, doubt, and apprehension suffered by the families of disappeared people over a prolonged and continuing period of time is a violation of the absolute and non-derogable prohibition of torture.

On August 30, the UN Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances and the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances, which reviews state compliance with the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance, issued a joint statement to mark the second UN International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. “Enforced disappearance is not only a crime,” the statement said. “It is an act that negates the very essence of humanity and is contrary to the deepest values of any society.”

Since April 26, Ahmed Suwaidi’s wife and family have had no information about where he is being detained, the conditions in which he is being kept, or his treatment. The other 57 detainees have been permitted intermittent, monitored phone calls with their families, but their mental and physical well-being is also a matter of concern.

On September 6, six of the detainees were presented, one by one, before a judge at the Supreme Court as officials sought to extend their detention. An Emirati lawyer, Abdulhameed al-Kuamaiti, was present and able to talk to some of the detainees. Osama al-Najer, the son of one of the detainees, was not inside the room but was able to see the detainees as they were brought to the judge. They appeared disheveled, disoriented, and distressed.

Two of the detainees, Salem al-Shehi and Eisa al-Sari, appeared barely able to walk and al-Shehi appeared to be unable to follow the proceedings. Rashid al-Shamsi, another detainee, told the judge that he was weak because he had been given sleeping pills. The judge refused to explain the legal basis for the men’s detention to al-Kumaiti.

The UAE authorities should release all 60 detainees immediately or charge them with a recognizable criminal offense, the groups said. All of those alleging abuse should receive independent forensic medical exams. Any evidence obtained by torture should be excluded from any trial.

Ahmed al-Suweidi should be taken to a judge and should either be freed or charged with a crime and prosecuted in impartial and fair proceedings. He should be given access to his family and legal representatives and provided with medical assistance if it is required.

“The criminals in this affair are those responsible for the disappearance of Ahmed al-Suweidi, not the dozens of brave Emiratis standing up for their right to free expression,” said Rachid Mesli, director of Alkarama’s legal department.

Human Rights Watch
350 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10118
USA
hrwnyc (@) hrw.org
Phone: +1 212 290 4700
Fax: +1 212 736 1300

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Index on Censorship

CO-SIGNATORIES:

Alkarama (Dignity)
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

via IFEX

The Gambia orders BBC journalist to leave country

14 Sep

Gambian authorities detained Thomas Fessy, the West Africa correspondent of BBC World News, for several hours at the capital’s international airport on September 5 and ordered him to leave the country within 48 hours, the BBC reported. Fessy returned to Senegal on September 7.

Fessy had obtained a single-entry one-month visa from the Gambian High Commission in Senegal, he told CPJ. He had flown to Gambia from Senegal to report on President Yahya Jammeh’s decision to execute nine death row inmates and interview Gambian citizens about the death penalty, according to news reports. Local and international human rights groups have criticized Jammeh over the executions, according to the same sources.

In a statement sent to CPJ, Jon Williams, BBC’s World News Editor, confirmed that Fessy had “applied for and was given a visa to report from Gambia, but on arrival was denied the required accreditation to report inside the country.”

from Committee to Protect Journalists http://cpj.org/2012/09/the-gambia-forces-bbc-journalist-to-leave-country.php

International – Expanded telecom regulations could impact on Internet freedom

14 Sep

14 September 2012

(Index on Censorship/IFEX) – 10 September 2012 – In a joint statement, civil society groups voice concerns about proposals made by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) that would threaten the openness of the Internet.

To Member States and Government Delegations of the International Telecommunication Union:

In the interests of promoting and protecting global Internet openness and the exercise of human rights online, we write to urge International Telecommunication Union (ITU) member states and their delegates to the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) to refrain from expanding the scope of the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) treaty to include the Internet.

At the WCIT, governments will consider proposals that would expand the scope of the ITRs to include the Internet. Such expansion could have a significant negative impact on the Internet’s openness, its positive effects on economic growth, and the human rights of citizens.

As recently reaffirmed by the UN Human Rights Council, governments have a duty to protect human rights when making policy decisions for the Internet. However, while the ITU has extensive expertise in telecommunications policy and regulation, we do not believe that it is the appropriate forum to develop policies and standards that could affect the exercise of human rights on the Internet.

Further, the ITU maintains a relatively closed, non-transparent decision-making process in which only governments are allowed full participation. In contrast, the Internet has flourished under an open, decentralized model of governance, where groups representing business, the technical community, and Internet users as well as governments focus on different issues in a variety of forums. In keeping with the World Summit on Information Society commitments, we believe that such open, inclusive processes are necessary to ensure that policies and technical standards for the global Internet preserve the medium’s decentralized and open nature and protect the human rights of its users.

In recent months, many civil society groups have urged the ITU to reform its process so that it is fully transparent and open to participation by all relevant stakeholders. Advocates have pushed for these changes not only because we believe that transparency and participation are the best approach, even with respect to telephony, but also because we feared that certain countries’ proposals would pose grave threats to human rights on the Internet. Leaked documents detailing proposals for the WCIT have confirmed these fears. Thus, we both continue to call on member states to provide full transparency and open participation to all relevant stakeholders as they prepare for the WCIT, and urge all delegates to reject proposals that would threaten openness and human rights online.

We call on member states to:

* Hold a transparent, inclusive preparatory process for the WCIT that is open to all relevant stakeholders. We ask that governments:

* Publicly release WCIT proposals and position papers, documents from regional meetings they have participated in, and documents issued by other member states.

* Hold open, public consultations on the WCIT so that delegates may fully consider the interests of citizens as well as those of business and government.

* Inform citizens of the positions member states intend to take at the WCIT on key proposals made by other governments.

Oppose expansion of the International Telecommunication Regulations to the Internet. We ask that delegates:

* Rigorously examine proposals for their impact on human rights, Internet openness, innovation, and ICT access and development.

* Oppose proposals that would diminish the rights of users or limit Internet openness.

Sincerely,

Index on Censorship
Free Word Centre
60 Farringdon Road
London EC1R 3GA
United Kingdom
enquiries (@) indexoncensorship.org
Phone: +44 20 7324 2522

@IndexCensorship

ARTICLE 19
Association for Civil Rights
Cambodian Center for Human Rights
Committee to Protect Journalists
Human Rights Watch
Reporters Without Borders

NON-IFEX SIGNATORIES

Access
Association of Digital Culture, Taiwan
Association for Progressive Communications
Bytes For All, Pakistan
Center for Democracy & Technology, US
Center for Technology and Society – FGV, Brazil
Consumers International
Derechos Digitales, Chile
Eduardo Bertoni, Centro de Estudios en Libertad de Expresión y Acceso a la Información (CELE), Universidad de Palermo, Argentina
European Digital Rights
Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Pakistan
Fundación Karisma, Colombia
Human Rights in China, US
Internet Democracy Project, India
Internet Society – Bulgaria
Kictanet, Kenya
La Quadrature du Net, France
Nawaat, Tunisia
Open Rights Group, UK
Open Technology Institute, US
Panoptykon, Poland
Public Knowledge, US
Thai Netizen Network

via IFEX

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