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Palestine – Journalist beaten in Gaza, while two journalists arrested in the West Bank

2 Oct

2 October 2012

Source: Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms – MADA
(MADA/IFEX) – Ramallah, 27 September 2012 – The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) has reported on a deeply concerning spike in abuses of media freedoms in the occupied Palestinian territories over the past week.

This includes serious violations committed by internal security forces in the Gaza Strip and the arrest of two journalists in Nablus by security services in the West Bank.

Last Tuesday, 25 September 2012, was a particularly bad day for violations against freedom of expression in Gaza.

Most shocking was the severe beating of “Palestine Today” cameraman Ismail Alibdh by Hamas Internal Security. Alibdh told MADA he was simply filming a burning house in the Bureij area, which had resulted in the death of a child and injured his sister and father.

Alibdh told MADA Center that when he started filming, a number of internal security staff approached and asked him to stop, which he did. Alibdh added: “Although I stopped filming, around four men approached and beat me, then they took me to a second, isolated location. There interrogated me about why I was filming the house and I told them I was a cameraman for “Palestine Today”. They abused me and then released me, after more than an hour.”

Sawt Alshaab, from “Voice of the People” Radio also received a threat for the similar reason over the telephone. The director of the radio Husein Jamal told MADA Center that the radio station ran live coverage of the burning house, including local protests to which police and internal security responded. During this live coverage, an anonymous caller threatened to assault staff. Jamal said: “I want to send the message that we often receive threats when we cover sensitive events. I’m calling on Palestinian authorities to provide a safe working environment for journalists.”

On Monday 24 September 2012, writer and blogger Yousri Ghoul, who is editor of the Madarat magazine in the Ministry of Culture, was reported for urgent investigation by the Employee Bureau in Gaza city after publishing an article titled “Literary Thoughts.” He was pressured to delete the article from his blog. Ghoul said: “I was investigated about the article and my intention in writing it, then in a second interrogation I was told I was being investigated because of conversations between myself and Ministry staff about the Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, Mohammed Madhoun. I said if that was the case, why was I being interrogated about the article, and why was I pressured to delete the article from my blog?”

In a separate incident on Tuesday, internal security prevented journalists from covering the march which began near the Legislative Council in Gaza, calling for an end to internal division between Fateh and Hamas. AFP photographer Mohammed Albaba said internal security prevented all journalists at the scene from covering the march, on the grounds that it was unlicensed. Albaba added: “One of the security men asked me to close my camera, so I demanded he show his official order, and he replied that the march was unlicensed, so coverage was prohibited.”

In addition, the Magistrate’s Court in Nablus extended the detention of Alquds Press reporter Mohammed Mona, for another 15 days. Mona was arrested by the Preventive Security Service on Wednesday, 19 September 2012 .

The same court also rejected a new request by a MADA Center lawyer to release journalist and writer Walid Khalid on bail today. The Preventive Security Service arrested Khaled on 18 September, 2012.

MADA condemns these repeated attacks on media freedoms in Palestine and calls on the relevant authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to:

1. Immediately release detained journalists in the West Bank.
2. Cease prosecutions and assaults of journalists.
3. Respect freedom of opinion and expression, and Article 19 of the Palestinian Basic Law, which clearly guarantees this right.
4. Hold to account those who beat or threaten journalists, particularly the attack on cameraman Ismail Alibdh.
5. Refrain from coercing journalists as part of internal differences between Fatah and Hamas.

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International – Rights to peaceful assembly and association online recognised by UN

2 Oct

2 October 2012

Source: ARTICLE 19
(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) – 1 October 2012 – ARTICLE 19 welcomes the UN Human Rights Council’s adoption of a new resolution on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

Adopted on 27 September 2012, the resolution is important as it:
* Recognises the important role of information and communication technologies in protecting the rights to peaceful assembly and association.
* Calls upon states to promote and facilitate internet access.

The resolution on “the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association” (A/HRC/21/L.25) was adopted at the 21st Session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva. The resolution, tabled by the United States, received the support of more than 50 state delegations and was adopted without a vote.

We welcome the resolution as a positive statement which recognises the importance of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association for all people. In particular, we welcome the fact that the resolution:

* Reiterates the important role of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) in enabling and facilitating the enjoyment of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association

* Reiterates the importance of all states promoting and facilitating access to the internet

* Reiterates the importance of international cooperation so that the media and information and communications facilities are developed in all countries

* Calls upon states to respect and fully protect the rights of all individuals to assemble peacefully and associate freely, online as well as offline

* Stresses that respect for the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association helps to address and resolve challenges and issues that are important to civil society. Examples include: the environment, sustainable development, crime prevention, human trafficking, empowering women, social justice, consumer protection, to achieve all human rights.

The resolution expresses concern at the limitations which states impose on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. ARTICLE 19 shares these concerns. We have seen a number of countries legislating and acting to restrict the rights to peaceful assembly and association in recent years, both offline and online.

* 29 September 2011, Sierra Leone: Police announced an indefinite ban on all political rallies and public meetings. Although the ban followed incidents of violence at assemblies in the country, its indefinite and blanket nature violates the principles of necessity and proportionality, required by Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

* November 2011, Ecuador: ARTICLE 19 reported that 192 members of social and indigenous groups were being detained under “terrorism” and “sabotage” charges for protesting against a law seeking to privatise water supplies.

* 8 March 2012, Tunisia: The Ministry of the Interior announced an indefinite ban on all demonstrations, marches and forms of collective expression on Habib Bourgiba Avenue, Tunis. This had been a focal point for demonstrations in the capital during the revolution a year earlier. Demonstrators attempting to reach the avenue on 9 April 2012 were met by the police, who used tear gas and truncheons to While the right to freedom of peaceful assembly is allowed to be restricted to protect public order, indefinite bans on one location do not comply with the principles of necessity and proportionality.

* 9 June 2012, Russia: President Putin marked his third term in presidential office by signing the Law on Meetings, Rallies, Demonstrations, Processions and Pickets for Russia. The law allows excessive administrative fines of up to RUB 300,000 ($9,300) for unauthorised assemblies. Also in June 2012, the Moscow City Court upheld a district court decision to ban gay pride marches in the city for the next 100 years. Earlier, in March 2012, St Petersburg became the fourth Russian city to ban “homosexual propaganda”, a move that severely restricts the freedom of peaceful assembly and association for advocates for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT).

We have also seen a rise in the number of blanket restrictions on access to the internet and to telecommunications networks. This seems to aim to curb people’s ability to associate online and organise assemblies.

* 27 January 2011, Egypt: The authorities all but shut down the internet and mobile communications throughout the country for five days in an attempt to curb public demonstrations calling for regime change

* 3 June 2011, Syria: The authorities blocked all internet services the day before more than 50,000 protesters took to the streets to mark “Children’s Friday” in honour of children killed during the uprising

* August 2012, Belarus: The State Security Committee arrested a number of moderators of online communities. They interrogated and beat them, searched their apartments and confiscated their laptops. Pavel Yeutsikhiyeu, a moderator of the “We’ve had enough of this Lukashenko” group on the Russian social networkVKontake, was sentenced by Minsk’s Kastrychnitski district court to five days in prison. The government is also reported to have hacked into a number of online discussion forums to remove content and to libel forum administrators.

* 21 September 2012, Pakistan: The authorities blocked all mobile telephone reception in 15 cities to prevent demonstrations against the film The innocence of Muslims. Similar “kill-switch” tactics were used to control national celebrations in the country, including Eid on 20 August 2012, Independence Day on 14 August 2012, and Pakistan Day on 23 March 2012.

ARTICLE 19 sees the new resolution as a timely response to such significant challenges to the protection and promotion of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

In his 2012 report, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, recognised the “increased use of the Internet, in particular social media, and other information and communication technology, as basic tools which enable individuals to organize peaceful assemblies.” The report calls on states “to recognize that the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association can be exercised through new technologies, including through the Internet.” He reiterated calls made by the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank LaRue, for “all States [to] ensure that Internet access is maintained at all times, including during times of political unrest”.

ARTICLE 19 therefore welcomes the adoption of the resolution and, in particular, the fact that it affirms that these rights apply as much online as offline. We call on all states to review their domestic laws and practices to ensure that they comply with the new resolution and with other international human rights standards in this area.

Download the resolution:
UN_freedom_of_assembly.doc (75 KB)

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Belarus – Government urged to investigate mistreatment of political prisoners in Belarus

2 Oct

2 October 2012

Source: Human Rights Watch
(Human Rights Watch/IFEX) – Moscow, October 2, 2012 – Belarusian authorities should immediately end all harassment and intimidation of the political prisoners Ales Bialiatski and Zmitser Dashkevich, Human Rights Watch said today. Belarus should order an immediate investigation of all instances of mistreatment of detainees held on politically motivated charges, which activists say has increased recently, Human Rights Watch said.

Platform, a Belarusian human rights group that provides legal assistance to prisoners, filed a complaint on September 28, 2012 to the UN special rapporteur on torture alleging that Dashkevich has been severely mistreated in the penal colony where he is being held. Andrei Bandarenka, the head of Platform, told Human Rights Watch that Dashkevich has been subjected to repeated threats of physical violence, including rape and murder, by the administration of the penal colony as well as verbal abuse, and arbitrary punishments, including undue restrictions on meetings with his family. Ales Bialiatski’s colleagues and others have expressed concern that he is frequently subjected to psychological pressure and unfair punishments.

“Mistreatment of detainees is prohibited under any circumstances,” said Yulia Gorbunova, Europe and Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “These latest instances of harassment further demonstrate that the Belarusian authorities intend to continue retaliating against their critics even after they are thrown in jail.”

Belarusian human rights groups report that the government has intensified the crackdown on dissent in recent weeks, including increasing pressure on political prisoners, ahead of a European Union meeting about sanctions on Belarus.

Family and friends had publicly expressed their concern about the poor state of Dashkevich’s health, which has been deteriorating rapidly over the past few months. Dashkevich, an opposition activist and a leader of the youth opposition movement Young Front, was convicted in March 2011 in connection with participation in peaceful protests following the December 2010 presidential elections. In August 2012, a court added an additional year to Dashkevich’s two-year sentence for ”repeatedly disobeying orders” of the administration of the penal colony. Belarusian and international human rights groups have called both sentences politically motivated. Following his second sentencing, Dashkevich was transferred to a penal colony in the city of Mozyr.

Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups are also concerned about the alleged mistreatment in detention of Ales Bialiatski, head of Viasna, the Belarusian human rights center, who was arrested on politically motivated charges of tax evasion in August 2011. In November 2011, Bialiatski was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison and confiscation of all his assets. In February, he was transferred to the Bobruiskaya penal colony No. 2.

A Viasna staff member told Human Rights Watch that Bialiatski has been prohibited from meetings with relatives since May and has been held in almost complete isolation from the outside world for the last few months. In June, Bialiatski was labeled a “repeated violator” of the conditions of his detention by the prison authorities, which made him ineligible for amnesty under an amnesty law signed by the president in June.

Ales Bialiatski’s colleagues from Viasna and other Belarusian human rights groups have on many occasions expressed concern that the staff at the Bobruiskaya colony regularly subject Bialiatski to arbitrary reprimands in the form of restrictions on his mealtimes and permission to receive parcels from his friends and family members, ostensibly as punishment for violating rules. The staff also prohibit other detainees from talking to Bialiatski or showing him support, threaten them with disciplinary measures such as being placed in a punishment cell if they do, human rights groups have reported.

Valentin Stefanovich, vice-president of Viasna, told Human Right Watch that the intensified harassment of political prisoners appeared to be part of the Belarusian authorities’ most recent crackdown ahead of a European Union Foreign Affairs Council session in October, where member states will be considering extending targeted sanctions against Belarus. The crackdown could be aimed at pressuring outspoken critics to ask for presidential pardon and to sign statements acknowledging their guilt.

The European Union has in the past called on the authorities of Belarus to release all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally. In April, August, and September, in an apparent response to growing international criticism, the government pardoned a number of prisoners sentenced in connection with the December 2010 protests. Released prisoners later alleged that they were pressured to sign pardon requests acknowledging their guilt as conditions for their release.

“It is a complete disgrace that the authorities appear to be singling out detainees held on politically motivated charges and using them as bargaining chips in a political game.” Gorbunova said. “The harassment of Bialiatski, Dashkevich, and other detainees should stop immediately and all instances of mistreatment should be thoroughly investigated.”

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Bahrain – Bahraini court sentences activist Zainab Al-Khawaja to two months’ imprisonment

2 Oct

2 October 2012

Source: Bahrain Center for Human Rights
(BCHR/IFEX) – 1 October 2012 – The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) condemn the continued detention of leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab and the recent imprisonment sentence passed on human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja. The two centers express deep concern over the use of the most politically oriented judiciary to create false cases associated with politically-motivated charges to keep Nabeel Rajab and Zainab Al-Khawaja behind bars.

On Thursday 27 Sep 2012, the court of appeal held a second session in the appeal trial of imprisoned Human Rights defender Nabeel Rajab, who is serving a 3 years sentence for peacefully protesting. During the session, the public prosecution presented to the court some altered videos of Nabeel Rajab in protests. In one of the videos, footage where Nabeel was publicly calling on people to remain peaceful in their protest were removed, a fact which the lawyers immediately raised and proved by showing the full video.

In another video, a scene where youth were hurling Molotov cocktails on police, was connected to another scene where Nabeel was peacefully protesting in Manama. The two scenes were in different areas and they were connected to create a false connection. The fabricated videos show clearly the desperate attempt by the public prosecution to accuse Nabeel Rajab of calling for violence, in order to contain the international criticism to the criminalization of the rights to assembly and freedom of expression in Bahrain.

The videos provided by the public prosecution were not presented originally at the initial trial, and thus the defense lawyers bjected against the submission of new incriminating evidences, an act the defense team felt that the court should have rejected. The lawyers also pointed out to the fact that the videos show the normal movement of people at the Manama old market which makes the claim by the prosecution that the protest hindered movement and business there as inaccurate.

The lawyers also requested to grant entry visas to four human rights defenders in order to allow them to testify at the court on behalf of Nabeel Rajab to confirm his peaceful activism. The defenders have previously talked to the Minister of Human Rights in Geneva and requested the same.

In addition, the lawyers requested to include in the case both, the complaint submitted by Nabeel, which is related to the attack he was subjected to during his participation in a protest that took place in Manama on 6 January 2012 and also outcome of the investigation into that attack. No one was held accountable for that attack.

On Thursday 27 September 2012, the court refused to release the human rights defender and postponed the trial for another hearing session on 16 October 2012. As of 1 October 2012, Nabeel Rajab will have been in prison for 126 days.

On 26 September 2012, the court passed a 2 months’ imprisonment sentence on human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, on the alleged charge of “ripping the photo of the king”. Zainab has been detained since 2 August 2012 when she staged a one-person protest at Al-Qadam roundabout. She is currently facing 8 different lawsuits while another 5 cases are in processing at the public
prosecution.

The GCHR and BCHR believe that the only reason for targeting Nabeel Rajab and Zainab Al-Khawaja with imprisonment on the alleged charges is to prevent them from continuing their legitimate and peaceful human rights work.

The BCHR and GCHR call on the US administration as well as other governments that have influence in Bahrain including the UK government, the EU and the leading human rights organizations to:

1- Call for the immediate release of human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab, and Zainab Al-Khawaja as well as all other detained human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in Bahrain.

2- Increase the pressure on the Government of Bahrain to stop the ongoing daily human rights violations as well as the escalated attacks against human rights defenders.

3- Immediately stop all arms sales to the Government of Bahrain due to the continuous human rights violations.

4- To put pressure on the Government of Bahrain to guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

via IFEX

Honduras – Honduran journalist linked to peasant group receives death threats

2 Oct

2 October 2012

Source: Comité por la Libre Expresión – C-Libre
(C-Libre/IFEX) – 28 September 2012 – The Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (Comité de Familiares de Detenidos y Desaparecidos en Honduras, COFADEH) has publicised certain text messages containing death threats against journalist Karla Zelaya, linked to the Aguan Unified Peasants’ Movement (Movimiento Unificado Campesino del Aguan, MUCA).

According to Zelaya, the latest threats began on 20 September, two days after the murder of lawyer Antonio Trejo and on the second day of a trial against Trejo and 25 peasants accused of illegal protests, damage to the Supreme Court and carrying illegal arms during a 21 August peaceful protest outside the court. The verdict for this case is expected on 5 October.

One of the texts said: “You bitch . . . you’re going to die, you should be scared. You and your friends are going to die and we’ll start with you.”

Another said, “This is how all those who are talking will end up . . . if this bitch keeps opening her mouth, watch your backs.” Each message was sent from a different cell phone number.

The following day, Zelaya received yet another message: “Good day, watch your backs . . . you’re going to get a surprise you won’t like.”

On 20 and 21 August, farmers from Bajo Aguán gathered in Tegucigalpa to tell the Supreme Court that a ruling returning their land to their cooperatives in Aguán had been illegally overturned following an intervention by landowners Miguel Facussé y René Morales.

It was under these circumstances that Trejo was arrested. Trejo had been acting as a legal representative for the cooperative movement (Movimiento Auténtico Reivindicador del Aguán, MARCA) before he was shot to death on 22 September.

Zelaya was also present in August during the gathering in Tegucigalpa. She was documenting the repression of the peasants’ group and was beaten by police in a Belén police station.

via IFEX

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