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ALEKSEI NAVALNY’S HEALTH AND LIFE IN DANGER

Aleksei Navalny's health and life in danger

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49
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Please note that we do not have an email address for the target. If you would like to send your appeal letter online, please fill in this form

 

Aleksei Navalny is a Russian opposition politician and anti-corruption activist. He is one of the most prominent critics of the Russian authorities and the founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (known as FBK in Russian), which has conducted investigations into corruption among Russia’s senior officials and prominent politicians and businesspeople. Aleksei Navalny, as well as many FBK employees and associates, have faced reprisals for their work including fabricated criminal and administrative charges, police raids and house searches, physical violence and selective army conscription.

In 2014, Aleksei Navalny was found guilty under politically motivated charges of fraud and sentenced to three and a half years on probation. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) later ruled that the conviction was “arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable” (Navalnyye v. Russia, no. 101/15, §83, 5 March 2018) and that by keeping Aleksei Navalny under house arrest for 10 months prior to the sentencing, Russian authorities pursued an “ulterior purpose”, namely “to suppress political pluralism” (Navalnyy v. Russia (No. 2), §98, no. 43734/14). The Russian Supreme Court ordered a retrial, which failed to address human rights violations pinpointed by the ECtHR and confirmed the initial sentence.

On 20 August 2020, Aleksei Navalny fell seriously ill during a flight from Tomsk (Siberia) to Moscow. On 22 August 2020, on his family’s insistence and after a vigorous domestic and international campaign, Aleksei Navalny was transferred for treatment to Berlin, Germany, in a coma. President Putin subsequently claimed that he had personally intervened to authorise his transfer. Aleksei Navalny gradually recovered in Germany and was discharged from the hospital to continue his rehabilitation. Experts with multiple governments, international organisations, and UN Special Rapporteurs (including then-SR on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions Agnès Callamard) concluded that Aleksei Navalny had been poisoned with military-grade nerve agent Novichok and pointed to the responsibility of the Russian authorities for the poisoning.

On 17 January 2021, Aleksei Navalny returned to Moscow where he was arrested at the border control for allegedly violating the terms of the suspended sentence by not reporting to the penitentiary authorities. Massive, overwhelmingly peaceful protests against his arrest took place across Russia in January and February of this year where more than 11,000 people were arrested, often with excessive force. More than 1,000 peaceful protesters were put under “administrative arrest” following unfair trials and held in inhuman conditions. A number of Aleksei Navalny’s associates and high-profile supporters, as well as many other demonstrators, are also facing criminal charges related to the protests.

On 2 February 2021, a court in Moscow ruled to imprison Aleksei Navalny for 2 years and 8 months (subsequently reduced by two months) for “violation of terms of a suspended sentence”. He was sent to a penal colony IK-2 in Vladimir Oblast, about 100 km east from Moscow, where he remains held.
 

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DETAINED JOURNALIST FACING TRIAL

Detained journalist facing trial

Omar Radi - © Fanny Hedenmo
47
days left to take action

Omar Radi is an investigative journalist and activist from Morocco. He is a founder of and journalist at Le Desk, an independent Moroccan news website that publishes content critical of the authorities. He has worked with several national and international media outlets, including radio station Atlantic Radio, magazines Le Journal Hebdomadaire and TelQuel and news website Lakome. His investigations have focused on political affairs, including the relations between political powers and business elites in Morocco and investigating corruption by the authorities. In 2013, he won the first investigative journalism award of International Media Support (IMS) and the Association of Moroccan Investigative Journalists (AMJI) for an investigation into the exploitation of sand quarries published on Lakome. In 2016, he was the author of an investigation report widely known as “Servants of the State” in which he listed the names of around 100 senior officials alleged to have illegally acquired state land.”

Prior to his detention, Omar Radi was questioned seven times by the Central Bureau for Judicial Investigations in Casablanca. The first session, on 25 June 2020, lasted for more than five hours; the interrogators accused him of obtaining funds from sources linked to foreign intelligence agencies. He was summoned for questioning six further times  on 2, 9, 13, 17, 20 and 25 July 2020. The Office of the Prosecutor of the First Instance Court in Casablanca charged Omar Radi with “sexual assault,” “rape,” “undermining external state security by maintaining relations with agents of a foreign authorities to harm Morocco's military and diplomatic situation” and “harming internal security” by receiving foreign funds that could “prejudice the integrity, sovereignty or independence of the Kingdom or shake the allegiance of citizens towards the State and Moroccan people’s institutions,” under Articles 485, 486, 191 and 206 respectively of the Penal Code. His trial on these charges started on 22 September 2020.
  
Omar Radi’s targeting by the Moroccan authorities is not new. On 17 March 2020, a court in Morocco handed Omar Radi a suspended four-month prison sentence and a fine of 500 Moroccan dirhams (US$52) for a tweet in which he criticized an appeal court judge for upholding heavy prison sentences against Hirak El-Rif activists. Omar Radi has previously been subjected to legal harassment. In 2016-17, he covered protests by Hirak El-Rif, a social movement demanding socioeconomic rights for the marginalized Rif region in northern Morocco. In 2018, he co-directed a documentary called Death Over Humiliation, about events related to Hirak El-Rif in the province of Al Hoceima.

In a separate case, on 4 July 2020, Omar Radi and fellow journalist Imed Stitou, were arrested and kept in custody for 48 hours. Two days later, they were brought before the prosecutor of a court in the Casablanca district of Aïn Sebaâ on charges of “public drunkenness” and “violence.” On the same day, the court referred them to trial, scheduled the first hearing for 24 September and ordered their release in the meantime. Omar Radi has said that had been followed on the street by a journalist from Chouf TV, a TV station supportive of the government, who had provoked them into an altercation. After 6 postponed hearings, a new one was scheduled for 1 April 2021.

In June 2020, an Amnesty International report revealed that Omar Radi was targeted by the Moroccan authorities using spyware produced by NSO Group, an Israeli company. Following its publication, the Moroccan authorities launched a smear campaign against Amnesty International, in an attempt to discredit the organization’s findings and distract from the unlawful surveillance in Morocco of human rights defenders and journalists. In October 2019 Amnesty International had published a report presenting evidence Moroccan human rights defenders Maati Monjib and Abdessadak El Bouchattaoui had similarly been targeted by surveillance technology produced by the company NSO Group. Amnesty International has underlined the gravity of the threat that unlawful targeted surveillance poses to the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Morocco.
 

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FAMILY MEMBERS DETAINED ON FABRICATED CHARGES

Family members detained on fabricated charges

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41
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Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev have long been targeted by the Chechen authorities. According to media reports, in 2019, at the age of 16, Ismail Isaev faced violence and persecution for his real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. He was captured by the police, beaten and held at a secret location for seven days and released for ransom. On 30 March 2020, Ismail Isaev and Salekh Magamadov were arbitrarily detained by the Chechen police and held at the premises of the patrol police regiment. There, according to their account, they were tortured and otherwise ill-treated in retaliation for moderating a youth Telegram channel “Osal Nakh 95” which contained posts critical of the Chechen authorities and traditions. They were released in May after a video with their forced “apologies” had been published on the Internet. Fearing further reprisals, including in connection with their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity, they fled Chechnya in July 2020. The Russian LGBT Network helped Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev move to Nizhnii Novgorod, in Central Russia, due to ongoing concerns over their safety.

On 4 February, the LGBT Network reported that police detained Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev at the flat in Nizhnii Novgorod where they were staying. One of them managed to quickly call the LGBT Network while the flat was being raided, and the LGBT Network immediately sent them a lawyer. The lawyer discovered an empty flat and evidence of the violent raid. He eventually managed to get confirmation from the local police that Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev had been apprehended by the police, and that they were being taken by car to Gudermes, in Chechnya. The police did not disclose any other circumstances of the case.

Upon arrival in Gudermes in the afternoon of 6 February, Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev were questioned as witnesses at the local police station. Their lawyer was not provided with the details of the case. They were released at around 8pm but immediately re-arrested as soon as they left the police compound, without any explanations, and taken by car to the village of Sernovodskoe, around 90km away, also in Chechnya. Their father and their lawyer followed them. In Sernovodskoe, the lawyer was not allowed to see his clients, nor was he allowed into the police station. According to the lawyer, at around 11pm, a senior Chechen official arrived at the police station and, together with police officers, forced his clients’ father to give up any attempts to see them, despite being the legal guardian of the underaged Ismail Isaev, or to have the lawyer represent them. Following this, the LGBT Network sent another lawyer to Chechnya. When the new lawyer arrived the next day, 7 February, the police did not allow him to see his clients and refused to accept his formal complaint. 

When the lawyers hired by LGBT Network were finally able to see Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev in March, they informed them about their ill-treatment during their transfer to Chechnya and while held at Sernovodskoe police station. According to Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev, the police forced them to refuse the services of the lawyers of their choice and to sign false “confessions”. Among those who interrogated them at Sernovodskoe police station, Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev recognised the officers from the patrol police regiment who had detained and tortured them in Spring 2020.

On 8 February, the European Court of Human Rights requested that the Russian authorities take urgent steps to ensure that Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev are provided with immediate and unimpeded access to a lawyer of their choice and to their family members, and that they are immediately examined by an independent health professional. However, this request was ignored. At that time, Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev were held in the pre-trial detention facility in Urus-Martan. On 9 February, Urus-Martan Town court remanded Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev, initially for two months, and they were placed in the pre-trial detention facility SIZO-2 in Grozny. Neither their parents nor their lawyers were informed about the hearing. The lawyers appealed their remand. On 20 February, the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic rejected the appeal. Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev were only able to see the lawyers of their choice in mid-March.

Over the years, human rights defenders have documented widespread human rights violations in Chechnya, including mass arbitrary detentions, torture and other ill-treatment, and extrajudicial executions. Those who criticise the Chechen authorities, including in social media, face severe reprisals. In September 2020, 19-year-old Salman Tepsurkaev, moderator of a popular Telegram channel “1ADAT”, was abducted from Krasnodar region in southern Russia by men presumed to be Chechen law enforcement officials and taken to a secret location in Chechnya. His fate and whereabouts remain unknown despite a criminal investigation having been nominally opened into his enforced disappearance in late November 2020.
 

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VERDICT UPHELD AGAINST LOUJAIN AL-HATHLOUL

Verdict upheld against Loujain al-Hatloul

Loujain al-Hathloul
29
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On 13 March 2019, Loujain al-Hathloul was among 11 women human rights defenders (WHRDs) brought to trial before the Criminal Court in Riyadh. The court session was closed, and diplomats and journalists were banned from attending. Several women activists faced charges of contacting foreign media, other activists and international organizations including Amnesty International. Some of them were also accused of “promoting women’s rights” and “calling for the end of the male guardianship system.”

The trial of several WHRDs arrested between May and July 2018 resumed in 2020 and resulted in a number of prison sentences being handed down following unfair trials. After months of delays and prolonged detention without their trials proceeding, in November 2020 Loujain al-Hathloul, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sada, Nouf Abdelaziz and Mayaa al-Zahrani, were brought before the Criminal Court in Riyadh in separate trial sessions. Loujain al-Hathloul’s case was transferred to the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) in December 2020 after the Criminal Court concluded that it was “outside its jurisdiction”. The SCC specializes in trying terrorism-related cases and should not be trying and sentencing peaceful activists.

On 28 December 2020, Loujain al-Hathloul was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison - partially suspended by two years and ten months - by the Specialized Criminal Court.

On 10 February 2021, Loujain al-Hathloul was conditionally released from prison and continues to face probation and a travel ban of five years. In addition, she continues to be denied access to justice and accountability for her allegations of being tortured and harassed in prison during the first three months of her detention.

The Saudi Arabian authorities continue to arbitrarily detain without charges and try individuals for their peaceful expression and human rights work. Amongst those are: Mohammed al-Bajadi, founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) and prominent human rights defender who has been detained without charges or trial since May 2018; and Salman al-Awda, a reformist cleric who faces a death sentence for his peaceful expression.

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SAHRAWI ACTIVIST ABUSED UNDER HOUSE ARREST

Sahrawi activist abused under house arrest

Section Maroc - Action Marathon 2012
28
days left to take action

Sultana Khaya is the president of an organization called the ‘League for the Defense of Human Rights and against Plunder of Natural Resources’ and is known for her vocal activism in defence of the right of self-determination for the Sahrawi people.

In a call with Amnesty International on 8 March, Sultana Khaya lamented spending international women’s day- on 8 March- “suffering under siege”. Since 19 November 2020, Sultana Khaya and her family’s movements are restricted to the confines of their own house. Videos, reviewed by Amnesty International and filmed by Sultana Khaya and her sister Waraa Khaya on various days since 19 November 2020, show security forces in uniforms and civilian clothes standing in front of the house, and at times police vans parked outside. Sultana Khaya has not been allowed to walk further than to the corner of her house before being forcefully carried back to the house by police officers by her hands and legs. A video filmed on 17 February, shows police officers in plainclothes dragging Waraa Khaya and forcing her inside the house, repeatedly slamming the door shut and banging on it.

Under international human rights law, house arrest is considered as a form of detention and requires certain safeguards to be considered lawful. According to the UN Human Rights Committee’s General Comment 35 on Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights liberty-depriving measures, including house arrest, must not be arbitrary and must be carried out with respect for the rule of law and allow a meaningful and prompt judicial review of detention. Deprivation of liberty, including in the form of house arrest, is arbitrary when it results from the exercise of human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

Western Sahara is the subject of a territorial dispute between Morocco, which annexed the territory in 1975 and claims sovereignty over it, and the Polisario Front, which calls for an independent state in the territory and has set up a self-proclaimed government-in-exile in the refugee camps in Tindouf, southwestern of Algeria. A UN settlement in 1991, which ended fighting between Morocco and the Polisario Front, called for a referendum to be put to the people of Western Sahara to exercise their right to self-determination by choosing independence or integration into Morocco. The referendum has not been held amid ongoing disputes about the process of identifying who may vote in the referendum.

In recent years, access to Western Sahara has grown increasingly difficult for external monitors as the human rights situation has continued to deteriorate. In 2020, Moroccan authorities prevented at least nine lawyers, activists and politicians from access to Western Sahara. Journalists have also been denied access which makes the struggle of human rights activists widely uncovered. The UN Security Council has been ignoring calls by Amnesty International and others to add a human rights component to the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), which would allow for monitoring and reporting on human rights abuses, as is done by the vast majority of comparable UN missions around the world.
 

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RELEASE ACTIVIST AND END PROSECUTION

Release activist and end prosecution

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25
days left to take action

The “undesirable organizations” law was adopted in May 2015 as part of the Russian authorities’ ongoing crackdown on freedom of association and expression (see details here: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur46/2223/2015/en/) and introduced amendments to several Russian laws. According to the law, the Office of the Prosecutor General can designate a foreign or international non-governmental organization “undesirable” if it deems that the organisation poses a threat to the country’s “constitutional order, defence potential or state security”. An “undesirable” organization must immediately stop all activities in Russia from which point any cooperation or association with it is deemed unlawful and an offense. Following two penalties within a year’s period under Article 20.33 of the Code of Administrative Offences for cooperation with an “undesirable” organisation, the “offender” can be prosecuted under Article 284.1 of the Criminal Code for further violations of the law on “undesirable” organizations. The law has been used arbitrarily to ban from Russia a number of foreign organisations, mostly those providing funding for civil society. Currently, the “undesirable organizations” register includes 31 organizations. 

On 26 April 2017, the Prosecutor General’s Office declared “undesirable” the UK-registered organisations Otkrytaya Rossia and Open Russia Civic Movement (both founded by an exiled critic of President Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Khodorkovsky). There is a Russian movement Otkrytaya Rossia (Open Russia) - an initiative that brought together activists in Russia - which is neither a registered “organisation”, nor is a foreign one. Nonetheless, activists who are associated with Otkrytaya Rossia are regarded by the Russian authorities as members of a banned foreign organisation and face prosecution. Dozens of activists have been fined for their activities under the Code of Administrative Offences. Three people have so far been convicted for alleged cooperation with an “undesirable” organization. In February 2020, a court in Yekaterinburg (the Urals) sentenced Otkrytaya Rossia’s ex-coordinator Maksim Vernikov to 300 hours of community service. In October 2020, a court in Krasnodar (southern Russia) sentenced another former Otkrytaya Rossia coordinator and activist Yana Antonova to 240 hours of community service. Finally, on 18 February 2021, a court in Rostov-on-Don (southern Russia) sentenced Anastasia Shevchenko - also a former co-ordinator of Otkrytaya Rossia and the first person to face criminal prosecution under this law - to four-year suspended imprisonment and four years on probation.

Mikhail Iosilevich is a civil society and political activist and the local leader of Pastafarians (or followers of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster). He supported and organized a number of local events, including an anti-corruption rally, a “Monstration” (a march under absurd slogans in protest against restrictions of freedom of expression) and other events. He was fined twice in July 2019 and June 2020 under Article 20.33 of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences (“Carrying out activities of an undesirable organization”) for providing the premises (his café, which also houses the local Pastafarian church) for civic initiative Free People forum attended by opposition activists, including those from Otrkytaya Rossia.

The criminal case against Mikhail Iosilevich was initiated on 29 September 2020. The investigation alleges that between 2 and 9 September 2020 Mikhail Iosilevich provided his café to an opposition group associated with Otkrytaya Rossia, for the training of election monitors. On 1 October, law enforcement officials conducted searches in Mikhail Iosilevich’s flat, his café and homes of five other Nizhnii Novgorod activists, including prominent independent journalist and editor of online media Koza Press Irina Slavina. The day after the search, Irina Slavina committed suicide by self-immolation in front of the local Ministry of Interior. She had left a message on her Facebook page saying; “Russian Federation is to blame for my death”. For months, the authorities had targeted her with prosecution and fines. 

In January 2021, a second criminal case was initiated against Mikhail Iosilevich for his alleged failure to report his second (Israeli) citizenship to the Russian authorities. The activist maintains that he had duly informed the authorities as prescribed by law.
 

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FIRST CONTACT WITH DETAINED UYGHUR IN YEARS

First contact with detained Uyghur in years

Ekpar Asat
27
days left to take action

Ekpar Asat is a Uyghur businessman dedicated to helping older people and children with disabilities. He founded a popular social media app that featured information on a variety of current affairs and cultural topics. He went missing in April 2016, after which he was later convicted without any known trial on charges of “inciting ethnic hatred and ethnic discrimination” (煽动民族仇恨、民族歧视) and sentenced to 15 years in prison. His family only found out about the trial through communications between the Chinese authorities and a few US senators in December 2019 and January 2020. He is currently detained in a prison in Xinjiang’s Aksu prefecture.

The US embassy in Beijing encouraged Ekpar Asat to apply for the US State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) after he met with Max Baucus, then the American ambassador to China, in Xinjiang in 2014. The IVLP is a professional exchange programme in which current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields experience the US first hand and build relationships with American counterparts.

The US State Department mentioned Ekpar Asat’s case in its 2019 human rights report on China. After a bipartisan group of US senators urged China to release Ekpar Asat, the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC, responded by email in January 2020 with information about Ekpar Asat’s conviction and sentencing but without providing any further details. 

Xinjiang is one of the most ethnically diverse regions in China. More than half of the region’s population of 22 million people belong to mostly Turkic and predominantly Muslim ethnic groups, including Uyghurs (around 11.3 million), Kazakhs (around 1.6 million) and other populations whose languages, cultures and ways of life vary distinctly from those of the Han who are the majority in “interior” China. 

Media reports have illustrated the extent of new draconian security measures implemented since Chen Quanguo came into power as Xinjiang’s Party Secretary in 2016. In October 2016, there were numerous reports that authorities in the region had confiscated Uyghur passports in an attempt to further curtail their freedom of movement. In March 2017, the Xinjiang government enacted the “De-extremification Regulation” that identifies and prohibits a wide range of behaviours labelled “extremist”, such as “spreading extremist thought”, denigrating or refusing to watch public radio and TV programmes, wearing burkas, having an “abnormal” beard, resisting national policies, and publishing, downloading, storing, or reading articles, publications, or audio-visual materials containing “extremist content”. The regulation also set up a “responsibility system” for government cadres for “anti-extremism” work and established annual reviews of their performance. 

It is estimated that up to a million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other predominantly Muslim people have been held in the “transformation-through-education” centres. The Chinese authorities had denied the existence of such facilities until October 2018, when they began describing them as voluntary, free “vocational training” centres. They claim that the objective of this vocational training is to provide people with technical and vocational education to enable them to find jobs and become “useful” citizens. China’s explanation, however, contradicts reports of beatings, food deprivation and solitary confinement that have been collected from former detainees. 

China has rejected calls from the international community, including Amnesty, to allow independent experts unrestricted access to Xinjiang. Instead, China has made efforts to silence criticism by inviting delegations from different countries to visit Xinjiang for carefully orchestrated and closely monitored tours.
 

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FREE JOURNALIST JAILED FOR COVERING PROTESTS

Free journalist jailed for covering protests

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20
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Authorities in Somalia’s Puntland regional state have escalated their crackdown against journalists, including intimidation and arrests, as the country heads towards presidential and parliamentary elections. Kilwe Adan Farah, and 3 other journalists -Ahmed Botan Arab, Abdifatah Abdullahi Farah and Ahmed Botan - have been arbitrarily arrested in Puntland’s capital Garowe and the sea-side town of Bosaso in the past two and a half months in what is a worrying development for media freedom in the region as the country inches towards an election, which has been delayed.

Amnesty International has previously reported on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom in south central Somalia. As the country prepares for its upcoming elections, it is important for the authorities at both regional and federal levels to protect, promote and respect freedom of expression and media freedom.
 

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CARTOONIST TORTURED, WRITER DIES IN JAIL

Cartoonist tortured, writer dies in jail

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23
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Ahmed Kabir Kishore, 46, a prominent Bangladeshi cartoonist told Amnesty International that he was severely tortured from 2 to 5 May 2020 in custody of one or more state security agencies prior to his arrest being officially recorded. On 5 May 2020 unit 3 of the Rapid Action Battalion or RAB-3 officially recorded his arrest along with Mushtaq Ahmed, 53, a Bangladeshi writer for posting on Facebook satirical cartoons and comments critical of the Bangladeshi government’s response to COVID-19 pandemic and ruling political party leaders under the country’s draconian Digital Security Act. The two had been held in pretrial detention for nine months. Since May 2020, they have been denied bail at least six times.

Mushtaq Ahmed died in prison on 25 February 2021. Protests erupted in Dhaka after his death demanding justice for Mushtaq Ahmed and release of Ahmed Kabir Kishore along with the repeal of the draconian Digital Security Act. Bangladesh’s High Court granted Ahmed Kabir Kishore bail for only six months on 3 March 2021. Authorities released Ahmed Kabir Kishore, a week after Mushtaq Ahmed died.

The cartoonist said that when Mushtaq Ahmed and he were brought to the RAB-3 station in Khilgaon, Dhaka, he discovered that Mushtaq Ahmed too was tortured in custody of state security agencies. The Rapid Action Battalion’s spokesperson Lt Col Ashiq Billah rejected the allegations saying to a local media that “an aggrieved person can say anything.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has called on the Government of Bangladesh to ensure that the investigation into his death in custody is prompt, transparent and independent.
Ahmed Kabir Kishore is an insulin-dependent diabetic patient. He suffered from severely high levels of blood sugar between 18 and 30 millimoles per litre during his incarceration. He bled through his right ear during the torture and, as a result, cannot hear anything with right ear. In addition, he has since experienced severe pain in his left knee and ankle and has difficulty walking now. He requires urgent and proper medical attention.

Mushtaq Ahmed’s death in prison is the “effect of the authority’s cruel practice of prolonging detention of people” said Amnesty International. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has observed that the “harassment, intimidation or stigmatization of a person, including arrest, detention, trial or imprisonment for reasons of the opinions they may hold, constitutes a violation of article 19, paragraph 1.”

The Committee further observed, “the mere fact that forms of expression are considered to be insulting to a public figure is not sufficient to justify the imposition of penalties. The Committee has expressed concern regarding “laws on such matters as…disrespect for authority, disrespect for flags and symbols, defamation of the head of state and the protection of the honour of public officials, and laws should not provide for more severe penalties solely on the basis of the identity of the person that may have been impugned. States parties should not prohibit criticism of institutions, such as the army or the administration.”

Nine others have been accused in the same case for publishing “false information” and “propaganda against the liberation war, the spirit of liberation war, father of the nation”, which could “deteriorate law and order” by “supporting or organizing crime” under sections 21, 25, 31 and 35 of Bangladesh’s draconian Digital Security Act. If convicted, they could face up to 10 years in prison with fines up to 10 million Bangladeshi takas.

Gower Rizvi, international affairs adviser to Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said in an interview to the Deutsche Welle on 11 February 2021 that the Digital Security Act is open to abuse. “Sadly, we have now learnt that some of the wordings are very loose and vague, which leaves it open to its abuse,” he said.

Amnesty International has repeatedly called on Bangladesh’s government to repeal the Digital Security Act unless it can be amended in compliance with international human rights law including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
 

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ASSISTANT JUDGE RISKS DOUBLE PROSECUTION

Assistant judge risks double prosecution

Hatsyar Wshyar
13
days left to take action

In 2017, the Union of Judges filed multiple lawsuits against Hatsyar Wshyar for “using unseemly phrases on his private social media accounts targeting certain individuals” under article 236 of the penal code. He frequently published posts on his social media accounts, criticizing the justice system in Sulaymaniya and what he saw as corrupt practices in the courthouse. He was detained for 50 days and sentenced to four months in prison, during which time he was dismissed from his position. He was released in January 2018 and pursued legal action against the courthouse for firing him.
On 24 November 2019, the Asayish forces arbitrarily arrested him during his court hearing, searched his family home, taking official documents related to his case, his mobile phone and laptop. Hatsyar Wshyar remained in solitary confinement with the Asayish for seven days, where he was reportedly blindfolded and tortured. He was transported directly by the Asayish to face a closed hearing on 2 December 2019, where he was sentenced to one year in prison for “misuse of electronics” under article two of the penal code after he was denied access to his own lawyer and appointed a court lawyer instead and was not allowed to speak. He remained on hunger strike for more than two months after his sentencing, during which his health significantly deteriorated.

After serving his sentence on 2 December 2020, Hatsyar Wshyar was not released, and was transferred to the custody of Asayish Sulaymaniyah. Since then, he was only able to call his family three times, each time lasting less than one minute, and was only able to see his lawyer once with Asayish forces present, and was thus not able to inform his lawyer of his conditions. By 2 March 2021, the lawyer still did not have access to the case file against Hatsyar Wshyar.
 

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