Front Line News Archive

Saudi Arabia: UPDATE - Human rights defender Mikhlif Al-Shommari faces new charges before State Security Courtposted on: 2011/04/20

Front Line has received new information regarding the case of Sheikh Mikhlif Al Shommari, a prominent Saudi Arabian HRD who was the subject of a Front Line appeal last year - see link to original Front Line Appeal below.

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Reports reaching Front Line suggest that new charges may be brought against him so that he may tried before the State Security Court. Al Shommari fears that he may be charged with terrorism as this was the case when he was detained for 4 months on a similar charge back in 2007. Front Line is calling on the Saudi authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Sheikh Al Shommari as his continued arbitrary detention is directly connected to his peaceful and legitimate work as a human rights defender.

Sheikh Al Shommari remains arbitrarily detained at Al Damman General Prison. His case appears to have reached a stalemate following the dismissal by a court of the initial charge of "annoying others" which had been brought against him following his arrest. The case was sent back by the court to the prosecutor to decide on next steps.

China: One year on human rights defender Gao Zhisheng remains missing and at serious risk of torture posted on: 2011/04/19

It is now one year to the day since human rights defender and self-taught lawyer Mr Gao Zhisheng was last heard from. This anniversary marks the second time that Gao Zhisheng has been disappeared for over a year by the Chinese authorities.

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“Front Line demands that the Chinese Government immediately release Gao Zhisheng from this arbitrary detention, ensure his well-being and guarantee that he will not be disappeared again”, said Front Line Executive Director Mary Lawlor in Dublin today. “Furthermore, Front Line is calling on the Chinese Government to end the use of extralegal methods to target human rights defenders working in that country” added Ms Lawlor.

Gao Zhisheng is a human rights lawyer who was named one of China's top ten lawyers by the Ministry of Justice in 2001. However, after beginning to investigate and draw attention to allegations of abuse against members of China’s religious minorities, he became subject to harassment, detentions and forced disappearances.

China: UPDATE - Jiang Tianyong released after two months of arbitrary detentionposted on: 2011/04/19

Front Line welcomes the release from police custody of human rights defender and lawyer Mr Jiang Tianyong on 19 April 2011. Jiang Tiangyong had been missing since 19 February 2011 when he was abducted from his brother's home in Beijing by police. His family were given no information on his whereabouts or on what charges he was being held.

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Front Line remains concerned by reports that up to 19 other human rights defenders are still missing, including human rights lawyer Mr Teng Biao, who was abducted on the same day as Jiang Tianyong and has not been heard from since. A day after his abduction on 19 February, police from the Beijing Public Security Bureau reportedly searched Teng Biao's home and confiscated items including two computers and a printer. In December 2010, Teng Biao was detained, assaulted and seriously threatened by police officers when he attempted to visit the mother of a friend under house arrest.

See here the original appeal on this case

China: UPDATE - Jiang Tianyong released after two months of arbitrary detentionposted on: 2011/04/19

Front Line welcomes the release from police custody of human rights defender and lawyer Mr Jiang Tianyong on 19 April 2011. Jiang Tiangyong had been missing since 19 February 2011 when he was abducted from his brother's home in Beijing by police. His family were given no information on his whereabouts or on what charges he was being held.

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Front Line remains concerned by reports that up to 19 other human rights defenders are still missing, including human rights lawyer Mr Teng Biao, who was abducted on the same day as Jiang Tianyong and has not been heard from since. A day after his abduction on 19 February, police from the Beijing Public Security Bureau reportedly searched Teng Biao's home and confiscated items including two computers and a printer. In December 2010, Teng Biao was detained, assaulted and seriously threatened by police officers when he attempted to visit the mother of a friend under house arrest.

See here the original appeal on this case

Syria: UPDATE - Release of human rights defender Abd Al-Karim Dhaoonposted on: 2011/04/19

Front Line welcomes the release of Syrian human rights defender Mr 'Abd Al-Karim Dha'oon on 4 April 2011.Mr Dha'oon is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Syrian Committee for the defence of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights. He was arrested on 1 April by Syrian security forces while observing a peaceful protest in favour of democratic reforms in the main square of Al-Salamia town in central Syria and he has been detained since that date.

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Front Line believes that the arrest of 'Abd Al-Karim Dha'oon was directly related to his work in the defence of human rights. Front Line calls on the authorities in Syria to allow him.

Syria: UPDATE - Release of human rights lawyersposted on: 2011/04/19

Front Line welcomes the release of five human rights lawyers, Messrs Hussain 'Issa and Tamer Al-Jahmani, members of the Committee for the Defence of Prisoners of Conscience in Syria, and Sulayman Nahili, Nidal Al-Shaykh Hammoud and Muhammad Ibrahim 'Issa during the past two weeks. The five lawyers were arrested between 5 and 27 March 2011 as part of a widescale crackdown by the Syrian authorities against human rights defenders and pro-democracy and political activists across Syria in response to protests calling for democratic reforms and improved observance of civil and political rights.

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Front Line believes that the arrests were directly related to the lawyers' work in the defence of human rights.

Burundi: UPDATE-State prosecutor seeks life sentence against journalist and human rights defender Jean-Claude Kavumbaguposted on: 2011/04/18

On 13 April Burundi state prosecutor, Marc Ndabakeshimana asked a panel of judges to hand down the maximum life sentence to Mr Kavumbagu who was charged with treason following the publication of two articles critical of the country's security forces in July 2010.

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Defence lawyers Gabriel Sinarinzi and Bernard Maingain called for Mr Kavumbagu's release on the basis that a charge of treason was only applicable at times of war. During a previous bail appeal hearing in November 2010, a state prosecutor had already acknowledged that Burundi was not at war, which makes the criminal charge inapplicable. The defence lawyers also argued that charges of defamation against the army and police were not applicable as such charges were restricted by the criminal code to cases in which those allegedly defamed were individuals or groups of individuals and not institutional bodies.

See here the original appeal on behalf of Jean-Claude Kavumbagu

Western Sahara: UPDATE - Human rights defenders Ali Salem Tamek, Brahim Dahane and Ahmad Anasiri released posted on: 2011/04/15

Front Line welcomes the release (albeit on bail) of three human rights defenders from Western Sahara on 14 April 2011. They are Ali Salem Tamek, first Vice-President of the Sahrawi Collective of Human Rights Defenders (CODESA); Brahim Dahane, President of the Sahrawi Association of Victims of Grave Violations of Human Rights (ASVDH); Ahmad Anasiri, General Secretary of the Sahrawi Committee for the Defence of Human Rights in Smara.

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The three defenders were arrested along with four others on 8 October 2009 and have been detained since that date. The defenders have undertaken eight hunger strikes in protest against their detention and alleged deprivation of their right to a fair trial. Three of the defenders had intended to start a ninth hunger strike on 14 April.

India: UPDATE - Dr Binayak Sen has been released on bail.posted on: 2011/04/15

On Friday 15 April 2011 Dr Binayak Sen was granted bail by the Indian Supreme Court who found that the evidence on record proves that there is no sedition case against the human rights defender. Dr Binayak Sen is the General Secretary of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) regional office in the state of Chhattisgarh, as well as the Vice-President of the PUCL at a national level. On 24 December 2010, Dr Binayak Sen had been sentenced to life imprisonment by Raipur Additional District and Sessions Court.

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The PUCL, which was founded in 1976, is a non-governmental, non-political organisation dedicated to the defence of civil liberties and human rights. In recent decades, Dr Binayak Sen has been involved in training people living in rural villages with regard to community health and disease prevention.

In 2004, he was awarded the Paul Harrison Award by the Christian Medical College in Vellore. Dr Binayak Sen has also campaigned to raise awareness with regard to human rights violations committed by allegedly state-sponsored Salwa Judum militias.

Burundi: Joint statement by non-governmental organisations on the second anniversary of the assassination of Ernest Manirumvaposted on: 2011/04/12

When will the truth be revealed about the assassination of Ernest MANIRUMVA? Two years after the assassination of Ernest Manirumva, former Vice-President of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Malpractice Observatory (OLUCOME), the Burundian justice system is struggling to shed light on this crime and investigations remain incomplete.

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To mark this occasion a coalition of NGOs have issued a joint statement to highlight their concern at the lack of progress on this and:

1. Express concern at the slowness of the Burundian justice system in handling the case of the assassination of Ernest Manirumva. After the trial opened at the Bujumbura Appeals Court on 14 July 2010 and the first hearing was adjourned one month later, it has taken a further four months to issue summonses for all the accused persons. Similarly, more than two months after the Bujumbura Appeals Court ruled that the case should be transferred to the Intermediate Court of Bujumbura, some of the accused, notably those with no fixed address, have still not been issued with a summons and the date for the next hearing has not been set.

2.

Bahrain: UPDATE - Latest information on the situation of human rights defenders in Bahrainposted on: 2011/04/08

Further to the Front Line Urgent Appeal dated 6 April 2011, Front Line has received the following new information concerning human rights defenders in Bahrain:

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On 7 April 2011, human rights defender and blogger Mr Mohammed Al-Maskati was released, having spent one week in detention. It is not yet known whether any charges have been brought against him.

However, the authorities' crackdown on teachers and medical workers associations has continued. On 5 April 2011, Mr Mahdi Abu Deeb, President of the Bahraini Teacher's Association was arrested. He is reportedly being investigated for "incitement of hatred of the political regime" and "advocating regime change through the use of force".

China: Disabled housing rights activist and human rights defender Ni Yulan and husband Dong Jiqin disappear into police custodyposted on: 2011/04/08

Veteran human rights defender Ni Yulan and her husband Dong Jiqin are the latest victims of the Chinese government's severe crackdown on human rights defenders.

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Ms Ni and Mr Dong were taken into police custody in the early hours of Thursday morning (7 April) from their small room in the Yu Xin Gong Hotel, Beijing, where they have been forced to stay for most of the last year since police demolished their home in 2008. The couple's daughter, Dong Beibei, was questioned by the police for two hours before being released. Despite numerous requests, Ms Dong was given no information regarding the whereabouts of her parents or why they are being held.

This is the latest step in a sustained and increasingly spiteful campaign by police in Beijing's Xicheng District against Ni Yulan and Dong Jiqin. Previous to this disappearance, police had forced the management of the Yu Xin Gong Hotel to cut off the electricity and water supply to their room.

Cambodia: Joint statement calls for withdrawal flawed Draft NGO and Association Lawposted on: 2011/04/07

(Bangkok, April 7, 2011) – Cambodia’s draft law regulating associations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) should be abandoned because it will undermine rather than promote civil society in the country, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Forum-Asia, Global Witness, Southeast Asia Press Alliance, Front Line Defenders,FIDH and OMCT within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders said today.

Cambodia: Withdraw Flawed Draft NGO and Association Law Revised Draft Does Not Address Rights Concerns

For Immediate Release

(Bangkok, April 7, 2011) – Cambodia’s draft law regulating associations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) should be abandoned because it will undermine rather than promote civil society in the country, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Forum-Asia, Global Witness, Southeast Asia Press Alliance, Frontline Defenders, and FIDH and OMCT within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders said today.

Vietnam: UPDATE - Human rights defender Professor Pham Minh Hoang remains in detention without having been brought to trialposted on: 2011/04/06

Almost eight months since his initial arrest, human rights defender Professor Pham Minh Hoang remains in detention without having been brought to trial. Furthermore, Phan Minh Hoang's lawyer has yet to be granted access to his file.

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Pham Minh Hoang is a lecturer at the Ho Chi Minh City Polytechnic Institute and an anti-mining activist. He faces charges of “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people's administration” under Article 79 of the Vietnamese Penal Code, an offence which carries the death penalty as a maximum sentence.He was arrested in Saigon on 13 August 2010 on suspicion of belonging to an outlawed organisation. The authorities did not acknowledge his arrest until 9 September, after almost one month of incommunicado detention in an unknown location.

Front Line believes that the ongoing detention of Phan Minh Hoang is directly related to his legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights.

Kyrgyzstan: UPDATE - Upcoming final hearing in the Supreme Court Appeal of human rights defender Mr Azimjan Askarovposted on: 2011/04/06

Further to the Front Line Urgent Appeal dated 24 January 2011 and subsequent updates, Front Line has received the following new information concerning the ongoing Supreme Court appeal of human rights defender Mr Azimjan Askarov:

The final hearing in Azimjan Askarov's Supreme Court Appeal against his sentence of life imprisonment is due to be held on 12 April 2011. It is believed that this hearing may be the last chance to have Azimjan Askarov's innocence vindicated.

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Azimjan Askarov was accused of complicity in the murder of a Kyrgyz policeman during the ethnic conflict in southern Kyrgyzstan in 2010. He was subsequently found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment on 15 September 2010, following a trial which lacked almost any semblance of fair trial guarantees in accordance with Kyrgyz or international standards. His sentence was later confirmed on initial appeal.