Front Line News Archive

Israel: Anti-boycott law violates human rights and further undermines Israeli democracyposted on: 2011/07/18

EU must unequivocally condemn the law

APRODEV, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), Front Line Defenders, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders - a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) - and the Quaker Council for European Affairs are extremely concerned about the 'Law for Prevention of Damage to the State of Israel through Boycott – 2011' (anti-boycott law). This new law, which was adopted by the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) by a majority of 47 to 38 votes on 11 July 2011 constitutes another attack against freedom of expression and association in Israel.

The anti-boycott law prohibits calls for a “boycott of the state of Israel” by Israeli citizens and organisations, and, in some cases, agreement to participate in a boycott.

Journalist harassed after press briefing in Bahrainposted on: 2011/07/17

Following a press briefing organised by the Irish delegation of medical, political and human rights figures at the end of their visit to Bahrain on 14 July 2011 the journalist Ms Reem Khalifa was surrounded by pro-Government protesters and abused and harassed. The protesters then called the police and claimed one of their number had been struck on the jaw. Eye witnesses to the encounter have testified that no person was struck and that it was Ms Reem Khalifa who was the victim of harassment and that she then walked away from the confrontation in the hotel lobby.

Further Information

The Irish delegation press briefing had been disrupted by a small group of women who shouted repeatedly. Delegation members were interviewed by a number of journalists including Reem Khalifa at the end of the briefing. When Reem Khalifa went to exit through the lobby of the Ramada Palace Hotel she was surrounded by a small group of women who shouted abuse at her, seemingly because she had been undertaking her legitimate journalistic activity and interviewing members of the delegation.

Bahrain: Press Release - New hope for Irish-trained medics imprisoned in Bahrain as Irish delegation concludes visitposted on: 2011/07/15

The Bahraini Minister for Health has told an Irish delegation that she will appeal to King Hamad to release on bail the 14 medics who remain in prison following anti-government protests last March.

The delegation included former Minister for Foreign Affairs David Andrews, Marian Harkin MEP, Senator Averil Power, Professor Eoin O'Brien, Andrew Anderson and Khalid Ibrahim of Front Line and freelance photo journalist Conor McCabe. It was led by Professor Damian McCormack who had worked with two of the imprisoned medics when they trained in Dublin.

Further Information

Over the course of two days, the delegation met a wide range of groups. Doctors who had previously been in custody recounted how they had been subjected to torture and degradation. The families of those still in prison expressed concern about their loved ones. Meetings were also held with the Minister for Health, the Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs and representatives of the public prosecution service.

Russia: Fully Investigate Estemirova’s Murderposted on: 2011/07/14

Little Progress on Second Anniversary of Prominent Chechen Activist’s Killing

(Moscow, July 14, 2011) – The Russian authorities have made little attempt to effectively investigate possible involvement by local officials in the July 2009 murder of the prominent human rights advocate Natalia Estemirova, Human Rights Watch, Civil Rights Defenders, Front Line Defenders, Amnesty International and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee said today, on the second anniversary of her death.

Further Information

The organizations, citing a new independent report detailing severe problems with the government’s inquiry, reiterated their call for a thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation and the prosecution of those responsible.

“Two years after Estemirova’s murder, there are more questions than answers about the circumstances surrounding her killing,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Sri Lanka:UPDATE - Arrest of chief suspect in the disappearance of human rights defender Mr Pattani Razeek posted on: 2011/07/12

On 8 July 2011, the Colombo Crimes Division formally arrested Mr Shahabdeen Nowshaadh, for his alleged involvement in the disappearance of Mr Pattani Razeek. Mr Nowshaadh, who is the chief suspect in the case, remains in custody but has not been officially charged. It is reported that the aforementioned arrest is linked to evidence which suggests that phone calls were made from Mr Nowshaadh's mobile phone using Mr Razeek's sim card shortly after his disappearance.

Uganda: UPDATE - Human rights defender Mr Samwel Mohochi initiates legal proceedings against the Government of Ugandaposted on: 2011/07/06

Further to a Front Line urgent appeal dated 14 April 2011, Front Line has been informed of the following new information regarding the situation of human rights defender and lawyer, Mr. Samwel Mohochi:

It is reported that Mr Mohochi, a lawyer and trustee of the Kenya National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, has begun legal proceedings against the Government of Uganda at the East African Court of Justice following his deportation from Entebbe International Airport on 13 April 2011.

Further Information

Mr Mohochi is reportedly suing the Government of Uganda under Articles 6 (d) and 7 (2) of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community, for failing to allow him access to due process of the law or any legal or administrative process before being deported.

Mr Mohochi is allegedly seeking a declaration from the Court stating that the decision to deny him entry to Uganda was illegal on the grounds that he is a citizen of a Kenya, a member state of the East African Community.

Bahrain : letter from Bahrain thanking doctors who signed the open letter to the King of Bahrainposted on: 2011/07/01

Dear Stephanie, Michelle and all the noble Irish doctors and human rights defenders,

I want to thank you for all the support and good work you have done to defend us, the Bahraini doctors. Your emails my sister fwds me brings tears to my eyes every time I read them. You cannot imagine how grateful I am for all you have done and continue to do to ensure our release and to rescue us from these unjust trials.

I hold Ireland close to my heart. It was the first European country I visited in 1993 to sit for my DCH in RCSI. My last visit was last July when I was so impressed with the developments. I also, work part-time with wonderful people in RCSI-MUB Bahrain as a facilitator for the Masters Degree in Healthcare Management.

Thank you all again and I am forever indebted you.

Yours sincerely,

Dunia Al Hashimi, MBBS, DCH (Irl), CABP, MSc(Hons) HCM
Pediatric Emergency Consultant
Released on May 4th 2011

Lithuania: International Consortium Launches NGO Assistance Fund posted on: 2011/07/01

Front Line took part in the launch of an international consortium on 1 July 2011 in Vilnius to provide support to human rights defenders under threat around the world. The Embattled NGO Assistance Fund will help civil society activists withstand crackdowns and pressure, enabling them to continue their work to defend citizens’ rights and freedoms. Speaking at the launch Secretary of State Clinton described the NGO Assistance Fund as "an idea whose time had come". Both she and Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt highlighted the current crackdown on human rights defenders in Burma, Belarus and Bahrain as a cause of concern.

Malaysia: UPDATE-Trial of human rights defender Mr Charles Hector Fernandez postponed until August 2011posted on: 2011/06/29

Charles Hector Fernandez is a human rights defender and lawyer working to defend the rights of migrants and workers. He is being charged with defamation by a Japanese-owned company Asahi Kosei for US$3.3 million following a comment posted on his blog concerning the treatment of 31 Burmese migrant workers by the company.

Further Information

Appearing at the court on 27 June 2011, Charles Hector Fernandez's lawyer requested the postponement of the full trial on the grounds that the defendant needs more time to prepare for the case. His lawyer claimed that Charles Hector Fernandez was only made aware of the charge on 21 February 2011 despite the charge being filed against him on 14 February 2011. He further stated that he needed more time to prepare for the case given that more witnesses needed to be interviewed, and that his father had recently passed away unexpectedly.

Bahrain: Letter from Abdulhadi Al Khawaja in prison details impact of brutal beating and need for medical treatmentposted on: 2011/06/27

Former Front Line Protection Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Abdulhadi Al Khawaja has been sentenced to life imprisonment after an unfair trial before a military court in Bahrain. Abdulhadi Al Khawaja was badly beaten during his arrest and according to credible reports has been subjected to further ill treatment since then. In this letter Abdulhadi Al Khawaja describes his injuries, the treatment received to date and his need for ongoing medical treatment.

Prison Letter from Abdulhadi Al Khawaja

To whom it may concern,

I, the undersigned, Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, detained since 9/4/2011 in the crackdown following events of February 14th, send this letter regarding my health situation.

Due to the severe beating I received upon my arrest by security forces on the 9th of April I had to undergo surgeries in the Military Hospital (BDF).

Cambodia: UPDATE – Release of trade union leader and human rights defender Mr Sous Chanthaposted on: 2011/06/27

Front Line welcomes the release of human rights defender Mr Sous Chantha on Friday 24 June 2011 following a verdict of the Phnom Penh Court. The decision by the court which was made at 12.00pm on Friday local time convicted Sous Chantha to 10 months imprisonment on the charge of drug distribution. The charge was lowered from drug trafficking to drug distribution for personal use. Given that Sous Chantha was detained prior to the trial for 7 months and 5 days, the remainder of the sentence (2 months 25 days) will be suspended.

Further Information

Mr Sous Chantha is a prominent trade union leader and human rights defender in Cambodia. He is a union leader with United Apparel Garment Factory and the Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers Democratic Union (CCAWDU).

Strasbourg: The Human Rights Prize of the Council of Europe goes to Committee Against Torture of the Russian Federationposted on: 2011/06/27

The Russian organisation, The Committee against Torture, has won the 2011 Human Rights Prize. It was awarded by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg to Igor Kalyapin on behalf of the Committee.

further Information

The bi-ennial prize is in recognition of outstanding action in the defence of human rights in Europe.

Igor Kalyapin is the Chairman of the Committee Against Torture.

“I hope it will help us to be better heard, to speak loudly about the problems we have in Russia and particularly in Chechnya.”

One member of the jury panel, Dick Marty, paid particular tribute to the work of the group of 45 lawyers in the North Caucusus and Chechnya region.

“I had the opportunity to see their work at first hand, and it’s extraordinary in the sense that they are a team of young lawyers who assist victims, parents, and they do everything possible to ensure that the judicial machine is put into action. They fight impunity, and I must say that in this country (Russia) impunity is almost universal.”

The award isn’t just about the 10,000 euros prize money. It is a way of keeping human rights in Europe in the spotlight.

China: Front Line welcomes the release of human rights defender and Sakharov Prize winner Hu Jiaposted on: 2011/06/27

Front Line welcomes the release of human rights defender and Sakharov Prize winner Mr Hu Jia, who was freed from prison on 26 June following his completion of a three and a half year sentence for “inciting subversion of state sovereignty”. Hu Jia faces a further year’s ‘deprivation of political rights’, banning him from speaking to the media or engaging in political activities. In a brief phone interview with a Hong Kong television station broadcast late on 26 June, Hu Jia said he would continue his rights defence work. Front Line is greatly concerned that Hu Jia and his family will be subjected to extrajudicial house arrest in the coming months.

Further Information

Hu Jia arrived home at 2.30am on 26 June to his parents and his wife, fellow human rights defender Ms Zeng Jinyan. In a message posted on Twitter on Sunday morning, Zeng Jinyan wrote, “All well, very happy. He needs time to rest and recuperate.” Hu Jia suffers from chronic Hepatitis B. The couple’s three year old daughter was not there to greet him because, fearing that they would be kept under house arrest following Hu Jia’s release, Zeng Jinyan placed her in the care of relatives.

DRC: Verdicts in trial of killers of murdered human rights defender Floribert Chebeyaposted on: 2011/06/24

On 23 June a military court in DRC announced the verdict in the trial of the alleged killers of human rights defender and founder of Voix Des Sans Voix, Floribert Chebeya Bahizire. Four of the accused were sentenced to death, one was sentenced to life imprisonment and three were acquitted.

Further Information

While Front Line welcomes the conviction of those involved in the killing of Floribert Chebeya Bahizire, the organisation urges the DRC Minister for Justice to commute the death sentences to life imprisonment.

One of those sentenced to death is Colonel Daniel Mukalay who was Chief of Police Intelligence at the time of the killing of Floribert Chebeya Bahizire and his driver Fidèle Bazana and whom the judge identified as the intellectual author of the crime. At the time of his killing Floribert Chebeya Bahizire was on his way to a meeting with Police General John Numbi who remains suspended from his post "pending investigation".

Bahrain: Human rights defenders from across the Middle East speak out on behalf of Abdulhadi Al Khawajaposted on: 2011/06/22

In reaction to the trial and sentencing of human rights defenders and former Front Line Protection Coordinator for the Middle East, Abdulhadi al Khawaja, human rights defenders from across the Middle East have spoken out on his behalf.

Further Information

1. Waleed Sulais – Saudi Arabia

At an early age, Abdulhadi Al Khawaja became a human rights defender. His sole concern was that people live in freedom, justice and equality, within a legal framework that would protect them from unfairness and arbitrariness.

Al Khawaja worked with many rights defenders for over fifteen years. Until moments prior to his arrest, he still held that ultimate sacrifices are necessary for the welfare of millions of people.

Abdulhadi taught that human rights defenders ought to do good to those who do evil to them, and that rule of law should prevail.

Freedom for the human rights defender, Abdulhadi Al Khawaja.

2. Suad Al Gedsi - Yemen

I know Abdulhadi in person very well. He is an exceptional rights activist, working independent from any sect or political party.