Monthly Archives: February 2014

AFRICA, Front Line Defenders

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Front Line Defenders issued 37 urgent appeals on behalf of human rights defenders at risk in  19 African countries – Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of  Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

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In 2012, human rights defenders in Africa 1 continued to face serious challenges to their security. Throughout
the year, Front Line Defenders received reports of killings, death threats, physical attacks, abductions, arbitrary detention, judicial or other forms of harassment and police intimidation. Many governments increased  repression against human rights defenders by introducing or maintaining legislation that substantially restricted their work. In countries affected by armed conflict, non-state actors also targeted human rights defenders.

The year was marked by the killing of two LGBTI rights defenders. In South Africa, Thapelo Makhutle was  brutally killed on 9 June 2012. He was a member and volunteer of LEGBO, an advocacy group based in  Northern Cape which provides support and training to rural LGBTI communities that face stigmatisation
and harassment.

No arrests have been made to date in connection with the killing. In Tanzania, the body of  Maurice Mjomba, who worked with the Centre for Human Rights Promotion (CHRP), was found on 30 July  in Dar es Salaam. The body showed signs of beating and strangulation. As reported in part 1 above, 18  journalists were murdered in Somalia, in most cases for their reporting of human rights abuses.

Numerous physical attacks were reported in Burundi, Chad, DRC, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia and  South Sudan. In the DRC, human rights defenders based in the conflict-torn Eastern region were the most vulnerable. In particular, women human rights defenders were physically assaulted, and some of them  raped, while working in remote villages. The situation worsened even further with the advancement of the  rebel movement M23 who captured the city of Goma in December.

Meanwhile in Northern Mali, controlled  by Islamic Jihadists intent on imposing sharia law and a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, human rights  defenders were forced to practice self-censorship to avoid reprisal attacks.

HRDs focused on fighting corruption continued to face the threat of violent assault or prosecution.  Cases were reported in Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, and South Sudan. In early July in South Sudan, an  anti-corruption HRD was abandoned by unidentified kidnappers after being subjected to a three-day ordeal  that included beatings and food deprivation. In Kenya, in November, an anti-corruption activist was assaulted and injured by two unidentified men. Before hitting him, one of the assailants demanded he drop a pending lawsuit alleging corruption in the procurement of election-related material.

Peaceful demonstrations were disrupted, often with violence, and human rights defenders involved  in the protests were arrested in Cameroon, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. In Swaziland, in  April, police forcibly disrupted events organized by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) and  other civil society groups to commemorate the 1973 ban on political parties as they called for democratic  reforms; fifteen trade union members were arrested. Ahead of the protests, the Swazi Government issued  a notice of de-registration of TUCOSWA. In Zimbabwe, women human rights defenders from Women of  Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) were arrested and detained for participating in demonstrations in January, June,  July, September, October and November.

There were numerous instances of judicial harassment in Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Djibouti,  Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritania, Sudan, The Gambia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. In Mauritania, prominent antislavery HRD Biram Dah Ould Abeid was detained for more than four months with six colleagues over allegations of “threatening state security” in connection with a protest against texts of Islamic scholars used

to endorse slavery. In Kenya, HRD and community organiser Phylis Omido was charged with incitement to
violence and unlawful assembly after staging a peaceful demonstration against a local lead-processing plant reportedly responsible for lead-poisoning in the Mombasa area.

She was eventually acquitted in November. Human rights defenders throughout the region had their work undermined by acts of police interference and intimidation, including in DRC, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritania, Nigeria,  Senegal, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. In Uganda, police in Fort Portal intensified their harassment against  members of Twerwaneho Listerners Club (TLC) through a series of repeated summons to appear before  the prosecutor, who warned them of possible criminal charges of incitement to violence and sectarianism in
reaction to TLC’s advocacy work on illegal evictions. In the Northern region of Gulu, police raided a drop-in  centre run by a women’s rights group in May without a search warrant. They confiscated computers, documents and other office materials and entered personal email accounts. Five members of the organisation,  which also works on sex work, were subsequently charged with living on the earnings of prostitution. In  Zimbabwe, police launched a manhunt against members of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) and  raided the organisation’s offices in August, claiming to be searching for illegal and offensive material, and  arrested 44 members who were in a meeting at the time of the raid.
The space for independent civil society remained limited in Sudan, where HRDs were arbitrarily arrested and
subjected to intimidation, ill-treatment and torture, in particular at the hands of the National Intelligence and
Security Service. Civil society organisations were publicly accused of working for foreign interests and three organisations were closed down in December. The space for independent civil society is non-existent in Eritrea,
where dozens of journalists and other dissenting voices remained in long-term imprisonment without charge. In  August, reports emerged that three of the ten journalists arrested in a 2001 crackdown died in prison. No significant progress was realised in the fight against impunity in relation to the killings of HRDs that occurred in recent years. Although the cases of those suspected of involvement in the killing of Floribert Chebeya (Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 2010 and of Ernest Manirumva (Burundi) in 2009 were both   heard on appeal, there was no hope that the proceedings would in the end deliver justice; calls to investigate senior figures within both countries’ security services, who may have been involved in the killings,
continued to be ignored.

Country in Focus:

Burundi Burundi’s reputation as country where human rights defenders and journalists enjoy substantial space to do their work is long lost. In recent years, the government has steadily imposed restrictions, either legal or de facto, on freedom of expression, of association and of peaceful assembly.

Most worrying in 2012 was the continuing use of violence and threats of violence against HRDs, in addition to the use of the judicial harassment and administrative measures to restrict their work. In February, Leonard Hakizimana, the head of the Matongo branch of the Ligue Iteka, was murdered after receiving repeated death threats. In June, the Bubanza correspondent of the independent radio station Radio Publique Africaine was the victim of a violent assault and had to be hospitalised. Two of his attackers were arrested, then released a few days later due to reported political pressure. In June, a prominent women’s rights advocate went into hiding as a result of multiple threats against her. Pro-government media outlets were used to foment hostility against prominent human rights defenders and journalists by running a continuous smear campaign against them.A number of HRDs continued to be dragged in court.

The president of an anti-corruption group was arrested in February and sentenced in July on charges of making false declarations in relation to a statement denouncing corruption in the judicial system. Because of an interview with a rebel group, terrorism-related charges were brought against a Radio Bonesha journalist, host of a popular talk show debating topical issues including human rights. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in May, and the appeal remains pending.By the end of 2012, proposals were put forward for draft legislation on non-profit organisations that included new restrictions on their activities, including a requirement for such organisations to renew their registration on an annual basis.

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Sudanese WHRDs at The Frontlines

The report on the Situation of Sudanese Women Human Rights Defenders, reflects the situation of Sudanese Women Human Rights Defenders during the period from 2009-2012. In this report we try to highlight the main challenges  facing WHRDs in Sudan, and document the escalating violations against them by state and non-state actors. The work of Sudanese WHRDs in the period covered in this report is the most risky and affected by the fundamental changes which took place during the 3 years this report documents.download (5)

 The secession of South Sudan in July 2011 created new challenges, especially in North Sudan where just months later a new civil war began in what became known as “the new south” (in the region of the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile). Additionally, the conflict in Darfur continued to escalate since 2002.

Women’s Movements in Sudan took many turns through modern history, but the situation of Sudanese women is interconnected with the country’s complicated sociopolitical history, and ethnic power relations, that define the power and wealth distribution in the community.  The situation of women, both activists  and non-activists, is deeply affected by the historical developments and ethnic power relations which created the modern Sudanese state and society. Throughout this report we follow Sudanese women human rights defenders struggles, triumphs and risks. Reminding us of the situation of Sudanese Women Human Rights defenders, their achievements, the violations they deal with the increased risks they encounter during their human rights work.

Since 2009 a new wave of women’s movement in Sudan  began when Sudanese women human rights defenders started the new approach of direct confrontation with the government and the conservative Sudanese community. Women took their rejection  of discriminating laws and social patriarchy to the streets, demonstrating against the legislations that degraded women’s dignity. Laws such as articles 151-152 of the Criminal Act of 1991 , and the Khartoum Public Order Act of 1998 which controls women’s movements and appearances on the public space, and contains humiliating punishments like whipping in public for the crime of wearing so called “indecent clothing”. One of the main challenges facing WHRDs are  struggles with Sudanese government officials who act with impunity, hindering justice for the WHRDs.

In 2011 Sudanese people, inspired by the Arab spring, took the streets, demanding regime change. Women and youth led this movement,  which was violently cracked down on by the Sudanese authorities. Women found themselves victims of rape, detention and prosecution. At least 150 women were detained, sexually abused or tortured, while dozens were injured and beaten in the protests. The protests against the regime broke down again in June 2012,  when the attack on women human rights defenders was more violent.  Fourteen women were detained for more than 5 weeks, while another 100 wee detained for days or hours during the 2 months of demonstrations. The police used live ammunition against protestors, killing Tahany, a 17 years old female student protester. The police fired rubber bullets against peaceful protester which led to the injury of four WHRDs. Women Human rights defenders in Sudan are living at risk, without supporting networks or protection mechanism from either the government or NGOs. The lack of capacity of human rights NGOs in Sudan and the firm restriction forced on them by the Sudanese government means WHRDs face risks which could lead to them losing their lives, while simultaneously their work is highly underestimated and not documented. Sudanese WHRDs, work in a violent environment, putting their lives at risk, while they have no support or protection networks of any kind and they are disconnected from the regional and international protection and support mechanisms.

Act for Sudan

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Act for Sudan is an alliance of American citizen activists and Sudanese U.S. residents who advocate for an end to genocide and mass atrocities in Sudan. Act for Sudan is dedicated to advocacy that is directly informed by the situation on the ground and by Sudanese people who urgently seek protection, justice, and peace.

Guiding Values

  • Elevate the voices of Sudanese inside and outside of Sudan, in part, by viewing expert policy recommendations through the lens of the Diaspora and the displaced.
  • Approach advocacy in a holistic manner, taking into account all relevant issues and regions in both the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan.
  • Identify the policies of the National Congress Party as the root cause of Sudan’s problems which include but are not limited to genocide, mass atrocities, displacement, and extreme poverty.
  • Address crises in Sudan in a timely manner that conveys a sense of urgency and upholds the dignity of the Sudanese people.
  • Advocate for what is necessary rather than what is politically correct or expedient.
  • Advocate for the civil, political, social and economic rights of the Sudanese people, including the opportunity for democratic transformation.
  • Create a partnership with Members of Congress that yields bold action with regard to U.S. policy.
  • Value an inclusive and collaborative process that engages, develops and empowers a network of grassroots activists.
  • End impunity.

Alliance Members:

Abukloi Enterprises, Inc.
Lightfoot, VA

Abyei Ngok Community Association – U.S.

Alliance for the Lost Boys of Sudan
Jacksonville, FL

African Soul, American Heart
Fargo, ND

American Anti-Slavery Group
Boston, MA

Americans Against the Darfur Genocide
Washington, DC

American Friends Service Committee

Arry Organization for Human Rights and Development

Barnabus Fund
United Kingdom

Blue Nile Association of North America

Brooklyn Coalition for Darfur & Marginalized Sudan
Brooklyn, NY

“Change the World. It just takes cents.”
Denver, CO

Colorado Coalition for Genocide Awareness and Action
Denver, CO

Connecticut Coalition to Save Darfur
Vernon, CT

Damanga Coalition for Freedom and Democracy
Falls Church, VA

Darfur Action Group of South Carolina
Columbia, SC

Darfur and Beyond
Phoenix, AZ

Darfur Human Rights Organization

Darfur Interfaith Network
Washington, DC

Darfur People’s Association of New York
Brooklyn, NY

Dear Sudan, Love Marin
Tiburon, CA

Essex County Coalition for Darfur
Montclair, NJ

Foundation for Global Collaboration and Peace
New York, NY

Fur Cultural Revival
Portland, ME

Genocide No More–Save Darfur of Redding, CA
Redding, CA

Georgia Coalition to Prevent Genocide
Atlanta, GA

Human Rights & Advocacy Network for Democracy (HAND)
Brooklyn, NY

Idaho Darfur Coalition
Boise, ID

International Justice Project
Newark, NJ

Investors Against Genocide
Boston, MA

Iowa Center for Genocide Prevention
Des Moines, IA

Jewish World Watch

Jews Against Genocide
New York, NY

Joining Our Voices
Baton Rouge, LA

Lane County Darfur Coalition
Eugene, OR

Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur
Boston, MA

Never Again Coalition
Portland, OR

New York Coalition for Darfur and All Sudan
New York, NY

New York Darfur Vigil Group
New York, NY

Nuba Mountains American Advocacy Group
Fresno, CA

Nuba Mountains Advocacy Group, USA
Batavia, OH

Nuba Mountain Peace Coalition
Dallas, TX

Nuba Mountains International Association USA

Nuba Vision Coalition, Inc;

Nubia Project

One Million Bones
Albuquerque, NM

Orange County for Darfur, a project of Living Ubuntu
Newport Beach, CA

Our Humanity in the Balance
Asheville, NC

Persecution Project Foundation
Culpeper, VA

San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition
San Francisco, CA

Save Darfur Washington State
Seattle, WA

Servant’s Heart Relief

Society for Threatened People
New York, NY

Southern Sudan Project
Richmond, VA

Sudan Advocacy Action Forum
Lexington, SC

Sudan Freedom Walk
New York, NY

Sudan Human Rights Network

Sudan Unlimited
San Francisco, CA

Stop Genocide Now
Redondo Beach, CA

The Institute on Religion & Democracy’s Church Alliance for a New Sudan
Washington, DC

THE INSTITUTE on Religion and Public Policy
Alexandria, VA

Triangles of Truth
New York, NY

Use Your Voice to Stop Genocide RI
Portsmouth, RI

Voices for Sudan
Washington, DC

World Without Genocide
Edina, MN

If you are interested in joining Act for Sudan please email info@actforsudan.org.

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