Front Line News Archive

Bahrain: Concern mounts for welfare of prisoners denied medical treatment as punishment for their hunger strikeposted on: 2011/10/06

Front Line Defenders is outraged at the refusal of the prison authorities in Bahrain to provide medical treatment for human rights defenders and political activists currently on the 12th day of their hunger strike. The prisoners include former Front Line Defenders Protection Coordinator Abdulhadi Al Khawaja and are demanding the release of all women political prisoners in Bahrain.

Further Information

As the hunger strike enters its 12th day Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned at the deteriorating health of some of the prisoners. One prisoner was told by the prison guards that the denial of medical treatment was punishment for them going on hunger strike.

The 13 prisoners are taking tea and water only and are demanding the release of all women political prisoners in Bahrain.

The failure to provide medical care for the prisoners on hunger strike is in breach of all international standards for the fair treatment of prisoners.

Front Line Defenders is calling on Professor Cherif Bassiouni and the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry to intervene directly with the Bahraini authorities to ensure compliance with international law.

Bahrain: Cautious welcome for announcement of new trial for medical professionals before a civilian courtposted on: 2011/10/06

Following the international outcry over the sentencing of 20 medical professionals to sentences ranging from 5 to 15 years the Attorney General of Bahrain has announced that the medics will now have a new trial before a civilian court.

Further Information

Front Line Defenders welcomes this positive news while treating it with due caution given the failure of the Bahraini Government to honour previous commitments to transfer all outstanding cases to civilian courts and to reinstate those people who had been dismissed from their jobs because of their alleged participation in the pro-democracy demonstrations.

This announcement does nothing to address the fact that human rights defenders, political activists, health professionals and trade unionists have been subjected to summary justice, arrested on trumped up charges, held incommunicado, tortured and denied access to their lawyers and families. To date 208 people have been sentenced to prison terms – while one person has been sentenced to death.

PACE committee outraged at treatment of Ales Bialiatski by Belarus authoritiesposted on: 2011/10/06

The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has expressed on 5 October its dismay that Ales Bialiatski, a highly-respected human rights defender and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, has been arrested by the Belarusian authorities.

Further Information

In a statement approved during a meeting on the fringe of the Assembly’s autumn session in Strasbourg, the committee said it was “outraged by the Belarusian authorities’ attempt to criminalise the funding of vital human rights work in Belarus by foreign donors, including European institutions and government agencies. This was done by treating monies channelled through accounts held in trust by Mr Bialiatski as his personal income for tax purposes.”

The committee expressed its solidarity with Ales Bialiatski and urged the Belarusian authorities to “stop persecuting him and all other Belarusian human rights defenders”.

Source: Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

Statement by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton on the recent trials in Bahrainposted on: 2011/10/06

Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, issued the following statement on 30 September 2011:

“I would like to express my deep concern about the recent trials of civilians in Bahrain’s Courts of National Safety. Harsh prison sentences have just been reconfirmed against medical personnel, teachers, opposition and political activists. I urge the Bahraini authorities to fulfil their promises and bring the use of these courts to an immediate end. Further appeals should be heard transparently and fairly in regular courts in full accordance with Bahrain’s own laws and international obligations. I also want to condemn the use of the death sentence and call on Bahrain to re-establish a moratorium on its use.

These sentences risk further exacerbating tensions in Bahrain. I reiterate my call for dialogue between the regime and the opposition, as the only way to promote national reconciliation.

Vietnam: Front Line Defenders joins international NGOs in calling for the release of human rights defender Mr Pham Minh Hoang posted on: 2011/10/05

On 4 October 2011, Front Line Defenders and nine other international digital freedom and human rights organisations submitted a joint letter to H.E. Nguyen Tan Dung, the Prime Minister of Vietnam calling for the release of human rights defender Mr Pham Minh Hoang, who was sentenced to three years imprisonment on 10 August 2011.

Front Line Defenders, together with ACAT-France (Action des chretiens pour l'abolition de la torture), ARTICLE 19, Committee of Concerned Scientists, Committee to Protect Journalists, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Index on Censorship, PEN International, Reporters Without Borders, and Scholars at Risk, submitted a letter to the Prime Minister of Vietnam on the case of human rights defender and lecturer Pham Minh Hoang.

The letter, which was also sent to H.E. Alain Juppé, the French Foreign Minister, calls on the Government of Vietnam to acknowledge that Pham Minh Hoang's blogging activities and his activism are guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights, as well as the Vietnamese Constitution.

London/Bahrain: British Foreign Secretary William Hague expresses UK Government's concern at "disproportionate sentences"posted on: 2011/10/03

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has said that he is concerned about sentences handed out by a Special Tribunal in Bahrain describing the sentences as disproportionate and as undermining the process of national dialogue.

Full Statement on Bahrain by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague

The Foreign Secretary said:

“I am deeply concerned, that after the briefest of hearings, a Bahraini Special Tribunal has sentenced a group of medics to between 5 and 15 years in prison, upheld life sentences against Bahraini opposition leaders and passed one sentence of the death penalty.

“These sentences appear disproportionate to the charges brought. These are worrying developments that could undermine the Bahraini Government’s moves towards dialogue and the reform needed for long-term stability in Bahrain.

“I call on the Bahraini judicial authorities to follow due process carefully and transparently, and to revoke the decision to impose the death penalty.

“Cases before the Special Tribunals should be transferred to regular civilian courts.

UAE: Front Line Defenders and other three human rights organisations call for the release of activistsposted on: 2011/09/22

September 24, 2011, Front Line Defenders and other three international human rights organisations Amnesty International, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), and Human Rights Watch issued a joint statement to call for the release of the five activists.

UAE: Front Line Defenders and other three human rights organisations call for the release of activistsposted on: 2011/09/21

September 24, 2011, Front Line Defenders and other three international human rights organisations Amnesty International, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), and Human Rights Watch issued a joint statement to call for the release of the five activists.

Full Text of the Statement

(Dubai, September 22, 2011) – Emirati authorities should immediately drop all charges against five activists imprisoned after calling for greater political rights and freedoms and free them ahead of national elections on September 24, 2011, four international human rights organisations said today.

Brussels: Declaration by the High Representative Catherine Ashton on political prisoners in Eritreaposted on: 2011/09/21

High Representative Catherine Ashton issued a statement on behalf of the European Union on political prisoners in Eritrea on the 10th anniversary of their detention.

Russia: Natalya Estemirova's relatives lodged a complaint to ECHR against ineffective investigationposted on: 2011/09/20

Human Rights Center Memorial issued a statement on the complaint lodged by the relatives of the murdered human rights activist Natalya Estemirova to the ECHR.

Russia: Gay Culture and Rights Celebrated Despite Attacksposted on: 2011/09/20

LGBT organisation Coming Out issued a statement about Third International Festival QueerFest 2011, which opened September 15 in St. Petersburg, Russia, despite protests and attacks by members of clerical extremist organisations, who threw eggs, exploded firecrackers, and sprayed pepper spray at the premises.

Belarus: European Parliament resolution of 15 September 2011 on Belarus - the arrest of human rights defender Ales Bialatskiposted on: 2011/09/20

On 15 September 2011, the European Parliament passed a resolution on the arrest of human rights defender Ales Bialatski, Chair of the ‘Viasna’ Human Rights Centre, to express its concern at the deteriorating situation of human rights defenders in Belarus and to condemn the recent arrest of Ales Bialatski.

Russia: Natalya Estemirova's relatives lodged a complaint to ECHR against ineffective investigationposted on: 2011/09/20

Human Rights Center Memorial issued a statement on the complaint lodged by the relatives of the murdered human rights activist Natalya Estemirova to the ECHR.

Full Text of the Statement from Memorial

September 8, deputy head of the department of the Prosecutor General's Office Aleksey Vasilkov said that the murder of the human rights activist Natalya Estemirova, happened on July 15, 2009, is solved. HRC "Memorial" and Estemirova's relatives suppose that the prosecution doesn't have any grounds to state that.

September 9, lawyers from HRC "Memorial" (Moscow) and European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (London) and the lawyer of victim's family Roman Karpinskiy applied to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). They lodged a complaint against the failure to carry out an effective investigation of the case, which violates Art. 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Particularly the applicant's legal representatives (Estemirova's relatives, who were recognized as an aggrieved party) have been denied access to the criminal case files.

Belarus: European Parliament resolution of 15 September 2011 on Belarus - the arrest of human rights defender Ales Bialatskiposted on: 2011/09/20

On 15 September 2011, the European Parliament passed a resolution on the arrest of human rights defender Ales Bialatski, Chair of the ‘Viasna’ Human Rights Centre, to express its concern at the deteriorating situation of human rights defenders in Belarus and to condemn the recent arrest of Ales Bialatski.

Further Information on the Resolution

1. The resolution expresses deep concern at the deteriorating situation of human rights defenders in Belarus; strongly condemns the recent arrest of and allegations against Ales Bialiatski, Chair of the ‘Viasna’ Human Rights Centre, and the Belarusian authorities’ failure to respect the fundamental rights of freedom of assembly and expression;

2. Deplores the fact that the Belarusian authorities consistently refuse to grant legal status to independent human rights organisations in the country, making it impossible for them to operate by introducing repressive laws intended to silence civil society activities, and then use the threat of criminal sanctions to intimidate human rights defenders;

3.

Russia: Gay Culture and Rights Celebrated Despite Attacksposted on: 2011/09/20

LGBT organisation Coming Out issued a statement about Third International Festival QueerFest 2011, which opened September 15 in St. Petersburg, Russia, despite protests and attacks by members of clerical extremist organisations, who threw eggs, exploded firecrackers, and sprayed pepper spray at the premises.

Full text of the statement from Coming Out

Third International Festival QueerFest 2011 opened September 15 in St. Petersburg, Russia, despite protests and attacks by members of clerical extremist organisations, who threw eggs, exploded firecrackers, and sprayed pepper spray at the premises. Close to 200 people attended the opening ceremony, including representatives of Amnesty International, Civil Rights Defenders of Sweden, Human Rights Council of St. Petersburg and other leading human rights organisations of Russia and abroad; diplomats from the Netherlands, Sweden, Great Britain, France, Norway, artists and members of civil society spoke about the importance of LGBT rights work in Russia.

QueerFest's mission is to give Russian gays and lesbians a sense of Pride and to raise awareness of LGBT rights in society at large.