Front Line News Archive

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Bahrain: Front Line condemns life sentence for the organisation's former Protection Coordinator Abdulhadi Al Khawaja posted on: 2011/06/22

Front Line, the Dublin based International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders deplores and condems the life sentence passed against the organisation's former Protection Coordinator for the Middle East and prominent member of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Abdulhadi Al Khawaja. Front Line also condemns the 15 year prison sentence passed in absentia on blogger and founder of Bahrainonline.org Ali Abdulemam and calls for both men to be acquitted.

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Today's verdict and the fact that the trial took place before a military court whose procedures fall far short of internationally recognised fair trial standards underlines the determination of the Government of Bahrain to secure a conviction at any cost” said Mary Lawlor, Executive Director of Front Line in Dublin today.

Abdulhadi Al Khawaja and the 20 other defendants were tried before the State of Safety Court which has consistently refused to address repeated and credible allegations of torture in pre-trial detention and during the trial itself.

Federación Rusa: Actualización: Alexei Sokolov, defensor de los derechos humanos, en huelga de hambreposted on: 2011/06/17

El 10 de junio de 2011, el Sr. Alexei Sokolov, defensor de los derechos humanos, se declaró en huelga de hambre como protesta por las condiciones de su encarcelamiento. Alexei Sokolov es fundador y presidente de Pravovaja Osnova (Fundación Legal), una organización que defiende los derechos de los prisioneros, y –durante toda su carrera- ha denunciado repetidamente el uso de tortura por parte de la policía rusa. Fue sentenciado a tres años de prisión el 13 de mayo de 2010, acusado de robo y está detenido actualmente en el Hospital de la Colonia Penal No. 37.

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El defensor comenzó la huelga de hambre como protesta por la violación de los derechos de los prisioneros y, particularmente, por la restricción de los llamados telefónicos, la asignación de tiempos para las duchas y la prohibición de que los prisioneros vistan ropa deportiva en algunos momentos del día. El 7 de junio de 2011, la administración de la prisión negó autorización a Alexei Sokolov para realizar llamados telefónicos, sobre la base de que un prisionero no puede realizar más de seis llamadas por año.

Russian Federation: UPDATE - Human rights defender Alexei Sokolov goes on hunger strikeposted on: 2011/06/17

On 10 June 2011 human rights defender Mr Alexei Sokolov declared a hunger strike in protest against prison conditions. Alexei Sokolov is the founder and chairman of Pravovaja Osnova (Legal Foundation), an organisation which defends prisoners’ rights, and throughout his career he has repeatedly denounced the use of torture by Russian police.He was sentenced to three years in prison on 13 May 2010 on charges of theft and robbery and is currently in detention in the Hospital Penal Colony No. 37.

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He began a hunger strike in protest against the violation of prisoners rights and in particular against the restrictions on phone calls, the allocation of times for showers and the prohibition on prisoners from wearing sportswear at certain times of the day. On 7 June 2011 the prison administration refused Alexei Sokolov permission to make phone calls on the basis that a prisoner should have no more than six phone calls a year. However, prisoners who had actively cooperated with the prison administration were allowed to make such calls.