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CIVICUS launches #StandAsMyWitness campaign to stop persecution of Human Rights Defenders

In time for the Nelson Mandela’s birth anniversary on the 18th of July, CIVICUS is launching the ‘Stand As My Witness’ campaign, calling for human rights defenders’ immediate release from jail and persecution, and for States, authorities and multinational corporations to guarantee peaceful human rights activities, without fear of reprisals and intimidation. Thousands of human rights defenders around the world are persecuted and harassed for their stand for freedom, rights and democratic values, and for calling out corrupt governments and multinational companies. Many of them are targeted for their work in defence of land rights, protection of the environment, and protection of economic, social and cultural rights. Many are currently in jail or pre-trial detention in overcrowded prisons following unfair trials and trumped-up charges, facing long prison sentences for their human rights activities. The COVID-19 pandemic threatens their already precarious health and welfare. To fight repression of defenders and help them to be heard, #StandAsMyWitness features the stories of six defenders below and calls on everyone to engage with the online campaign.

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Article
15 July 2020

India: Indigenous rights activist Sudha Bharadwaj featured in CIVICUS' #StandAsMyWitness campaign

Author: CIVICUS

'Why you should #StandAsMyWitness', July 18, 2020

a Bharadwaj is a human rights lawyer, with a focus on protecting the rights of Adivasi (indigenous) people in the state of Chattisgarh. She also served as the General Secretary of the Chattisgarh People’s Union for Civil Liberties. She was arrested in August 2018 and is accused of inciting Dalits at a public meeting together with ten other human rights defenders, leading to the violence in Bhima Koregaon village in the Pune district of Maharashtra on 1st January 2018. She and the ten others were charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) between June and August 2018. Others include Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen, Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Raut, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha and Dr. Anand Teltumbde. They are all currently in detention. Police subsequently claimed that the human rights defenders had links with ‘unlawful organisations’. She is being detained in Mumbai Byculla Women's Jail where an inmate had tested positive for coronavirus. She is diabetic and have hypertension and is seeking bail from the High Court after the special NIA court in Mumbai rejected her appeal on 29 May 2020...

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Article
15 July 2020

Kazakhstan: Environmental defender Asya Tulesova featured in CIVICUS' #StandAsMyWitness campaign

Author: CIVICUS

'Why you should #StandAsMyWitness', July 18, 2020

Asya Tulesova is an environmental and civic rights defender in Kazakhstan. On 06th June 2020, she was detained while taking part in a peaceful protest, around several issues including, land sales to foreign citizens and credit amnesties in the city of Almaty. She was held for several hours in detention without any access to legal representation or her family. She was later released. However, later that day she was detained again, held for several hours and then released yet again. On 8th June 2020 she was detained yet again and charged with “publicly insulting the representative of the government”... and “non-dangerous infliction of harm to a representative of the authorities”... The charges are related to a video which captured her knocking off the hat of a police official during the protest. In a Facebook post, she explained... she acted in an emotional break in response to ...inhuman cruel and illegal police treatment of peaceful unarmed citizens who are not a danger to society who have come to a peaceful rally to express their peaceful demands. She is currently being held pre-trial detention. During her pre-trial hearing on 7th July 2020, the judge dismissed requests to release her on bail...

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Article
15 July 2020

Nicaragua: Woman Human Rights Defender María Esperanza Sánchez García featured in CIVICUS' #StandAsMyWitness campaign

Author: CIVICUS

'Why you should #StandAsMyWitness', July 18, 2020

María Esperanza Sánchez García is an activist against human rights abuses in Nicaragua. As the daughter of a union leader who was detained by previous governments, since massive socio-economic protests began in April 2018 she has protested for the release of political prisoners and against the Daniel Ortega government. Due to her commitment to her country’s civic movement, she was persecuted, threatened and fired from several jobs. On 26 January 2020, she was arbitrarily detained under accusations of narcotrafficking, which she vehemently deny. Before the arrest, she was in a safe house in Managua since November 2019 due to the constant sieges at her home in Matagalpa. Her family members also denounce that she was subjected to torture and ill-treatment aimed at forcing her to accept the charges... Currently she is at the women’s prison “La Esperanza”, where she suffered an asthma attack, a high blood pressure crisis and was diagnosed with bronchitis. She has been repeatedly denied medical attention and access to medications, as well as to any type of protection or security measures against the Covid-19 outbreak. Because of chronic health conditions, there is high risk that she could develop coronavirus-related complications in case of an infection...

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Article
15 July 2020

Niger: Human Rights Defenders Moudi Moussa, Halidou Mounkaila & Maikoul Zodi featured in CIVICUS' #StandAsMyWitness campaign

Author: CIVICUS

'Why you should #StandAsMyWitness', July 18, 2020

Moudi Moussa, Halidou Mounkaila & Maikoul Zodi are human rights defenders from Niger. Moudi Moussa is a journalist and trade unionist, Halidou Maikoul is a leader of the Nigerien teachers union (SYNACEB) and Mailkoul Zodi is the National Coordinator of Tournons La Page (TLP). They were arrested on 15 March after participating in a protest in which they urged the Nigerien authorities to investigate allegations of the misuse of funds for contracts at the Ministry of Defence. The protests were violently repressed, and they were charged with participating in an unauthorised gathering, complicity in damaging public property, arson and manslaughter. Their continued detention is symptomatic of an ongoing pattern of restrictions on civic space in Niger and the continued harassment of human rights defenders and journalists. Over the last several months, human rights defenders have been intimidated by security forces for speaking out against corruption and have been charged with defamation under the Cyber Crimes Law (2019). Journalists and bloggers have also been subjected to judicial persecution for reporting on corruption. In May 2020 Niger’s Parliament approved a new law that empowers authorities to intercept telephone communication in the context of the fight against terrorism and transnational crime. 

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Article
15 July 2020

Philippines: Woman Human Rights Defender Teresita Naul featured in CIVICUS' #StandAsMyWitness campaign

Author: CIVICUS

'Why you should #StandAsMyWitness', July 18, 2020

Teresita Naul is a human rights defender in the Philippines... who dedicated her life to protecting the poorest and the most marginalised. She advocates for their right to health and other basic social services. She is a member of the Secretariat of the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao – Cagayan de Oro Chapter and Coordinator in Northern Mindanao for Karapatan, a leading human rights group.

She was among those arrested just two days after the country had been placed under lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On 15 March, she was arrested in Lanao del Sur, on the southern island of Mindanao, by the Philippine Army (AFP) and national police on charges of kidnapping, serious illegal detention, and destructive arson... She has been accused together with 554 other people of being involved in an attack against the military based in Agusan del Sur in December 2018. According to human rights groups, others accused of being involved include activists and journalists from Caraga and the Northern Mindanao Region, and also include nuns, a lawyer and public sector employees... She remains detained at the Agusan del Sur Provincial Jail, in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions that put her life at imminent risk, given her serious breathing disorder...

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Article
15 July 2020

Saudi Arabia: Woman Human Rights Defender Loujain Al-Hathloul featured in CIVICUS' #StandAsMyWitness campaign

Author: CIVICUS

'Why you should #StandAsMyWitness', July 18, 2020

Loujain Al-Hathloul is a Saudi human rights defender, writer and activist who has been campaigning for the rights of women to drive and the end of the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia. In 2015, she was ranked third in the most influential Arab Woman by Arabian Business Magazine, shortly after she was arrested for attempting to drive between the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia – raising the profile on the discriminatory gender laws that banned women from driving. Her activism work defending human rights in Saudi Arabia has included bold campaigns for women’s participation in public life, including running for local elections in December 2015. This election was the first to include women, but ultimately she was barred from running... Recently, concerns have been raised by her family, during the COVID-19 pandemic, that the state has not protected her basic human rights in detention, including over four weeks of no-contact with my family. During their detention, WHRDs have also faced torture and sexual harassment. Despite this targeting of women’s rights and human rights activists, Saudi Arabia has continued to white-wash its image, including through hosting major sporting events, the G20 Summit and international concerts...

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