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ALEKSEI NAVALNY’S HEALTH AND LIFE IN DANGER

Aleksei Navalny's health and life in danger

Russian Federation map
50
days left to take action

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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TWO HONGKONGERS REMAIN INCOMMUNICADO IN CHINA

Two Hongkongers remain incommunicado in China

HKYouths graphic
55
days left to take action

QUINN Moon (乔映瑜), TANG Kai-yin (邓棨然) and 10 other individuals were intercepted by coast guard officers from mainland China after leaving Hong Kong on a speedboat on 23 August 2020.

After an unfair trial, Quinn and Tang were sentenced to two and three years’ imprisonment, respectively, for “organizing other persons to secretly cross the border” (组织他人偷越国(边)境) on 30 December 2020. They were transferred to Guangdong Province Women's Prison and Guangdong Province Conghua Prison in late January 2021 respectively. Another eight of the 12 arrested were sentenced to seven months’ imprisonment for “secretly crossing the border” (偷越国(边)境) and handed over to the Hong Kong police on 22 March 2021 after serving their sentences. The other two, who were under 18 at the time of arrest, were handed over to the Hong Kong police on 30 December 2020 after the Chinese authorities decided not to pursue prosecution. Nine of the 10 HongKongers handed over to the Hong Kong authorities are currently being detained on criminal charges pressed against them before their arrest in mainland China in 2020. These charges include conspiring to wound with intent, rioting, assaulting a police officer, conspiring to commit arson, possessing a substance with intent to destroy or damage property, making an explosive substance, committing arson with intent and conspiring to commit arson with intent. Li Yu-hin is charged with “assisting offenders”, “possessing ammunition without license” and “colluding with foreign or external elements to endanger national security”. 

Since the 12 Hongkongers were intercepted on 23 August 2020, the Chinese authorities have deprived them of their right to legal representation of their choice and claimed that they had “chosen their own lawyers” without allowing any direct communication between them and their family. Apart from rejecting all requests made by family-hired lawyers to meet with the detained Hongkongers, the authorities threatened and intimidated at least four of the family-hired lawyers to withdraw from this case. The practicing licenses of Lu Siwei and Ren Quanniu, the two lawyers representing Quinn Moon and another Hongkonger respectively, were revoked in February 2021. It is reported that at least seven of the returned Hongkongers could not contact their family and lawyers days after they were sent back to Hong Kong.

Amnesty International has documented numerous cases in which detained individuals in mainland China, many of them human rights defenders, have been routinely deprived of their right to see lawyers that they or their families have chosen to represent them. In some instances, the authorities have appointed lawyers for detainees without their consent or consent of the family. In other cases, the authorities threatened lawyers to drop cases, claimed that detainees dismissed family-hired lawyers without producing any proof or stopped families from hiring lawyers – all of which effectively amounts to depriving the detainees’ of their right to legal representation. Individuals deprived of legal representation of their own choice are often denied access to information about their legal rights, making them more vulnerable to unfair legal procedures.

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FOUR AHWAZI ARAB MEN SECRETLY EXECUTED

Four Ahwazi Arab men secretly executed

Iran prison
29
days left to take action

According to an informed source, on the day of the executions, ministry of intelligence agents phoned the families of Ali Khasraji, Hossein Silawi, Jasem Heidary and Naser Khafajian and said one person from each family would be permitted to have a prison visit that day. Agents instructed family members to wait at a public space in Ahvaz, Khuzestan province, where they were then blindfolded and driven to an unknown location, revealed to be Sepidar prison upon arrival. At the prison, the families had visits with all four men. According to an informed source, bruising was visible on all four men, raising concerns that they had been tortured or otherwise ill-treated, and the lips of Ali Khasraji, Hossein Silawi and Jasem Heidary had not healed from when they sowed them shut on hunger strike. After the visit and the execution of the men, ministry of intelligence agents told the four families that they were not permitted to hold public memorials or invite family to their home to mourn, and that they were only permitted to hold a private memorial without visitors. There has also been an alarming rise in executions of ethnic minority prisoners since mid-December 2020 in Iran, which includes the execution of Ali Motairi, also a member of Iran’s Ahwazi Arab minority, on 28 January 2021, and the executions of at least 20 Baluchi prisoners. 

In January 2020, the judiciary spokesperson had announced that three men had been sentenced to death in relation to an armed attack on a police station in Ahvaz on 14 May 2017 that led to the death of two officials. While the spokesperson did not identify them by name, the case details he revealed indicated that he was referring to Hossein Silawi, Ali Khasraji and Naser Khafajian. That same month, prison officials told the three men that they had been sentenced to death for the May 2017 attack. They were convicted and sentenced following unfair trials and never given copies of their verdicts. On 8 October 2020, the Iranian government wrote to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that “the case [against these three men] is still pending” and that “since the legal proceedings have not hitherto been completed, it is inadmissible to raise the issue of … capital punishment.”
Jasem Heidary was sentenced to death following an unfair trial which convicted him of collaboration with armed opposition groups. His verdict was upheld in November 2020. On 23 January 2021, Ali Khasraji, Hossein Silawi and Jasem Heidary sewed their lips shut and went on hunger strike in protest at their prison conditions, denial of family visits, and the ongoing threat of execution. They ended their hunger strike in mid-February 2021. 

Under international law, the crime of enforced disappearance continues until the state releases information pertaining to the fate or whereabouts of the individuals concerned, and this requires, when the disappeared person is found to be dead, returning the remains to their family, who have the right to dispose of those remains according to their own tradition, religion or culture. The anguish inflicted on families due to the continuing uncertainty around the fate of their loved ones and the location of their remains violates the absolute prohibition on torture and other ill-treatment.  

Khuzestan province has a large Arab population who generally self-identify as “Ahwazi Arabs”. Despite Khuzestan’s natural resource wealth, the province suffers from severe socioeconomic deprivation and high levels of air and water pollution. Continued under-investment in Khuzestan province by the central government has exacerbated poverty and marginalization. Ahwazi Arabs face entrenched discrimination curtailing equal access to education, employment, adequate housing and political office. Despite repeated calls for linguistic diversity, Persian remains the sole language of instruction in primary and secondary education in the province.
 

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SAHRAWI PRISONER’S HEALTH IN DANGER

Sahrawi prisoner's health in danger

Ceuta and Melilla map
49
days left to take action

Mohamed Lamine Haddi is a Sahrawi activist who participated in the 2010 Gdeim Izik camp protesting Sahrawis’ social and economic conditions. In November 2010, he was arrested in the violent clashes following the dismantling of the camp. In 2013, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison on charges of participation in and aiding a “criminal organisation,” and participation in violence against public forces which caused intended death under Articles 293, 129 and 267 of the Moroccan Penal Code. The military court which tried him and other Sahrawis did not investigate the defendants’ claims that they had been forced to sign confessions under torture. A civilian court confirmed his sentence in 2017, using the statements that he said had been made under torture.

According to Mohamed Lamine Haddi’s lawyer, during his first year in Tiflet II prison, he was only permitted to leave his cell for 15 minutes once per day, alone. Since then, he has been allowed out of his cell for maximum 1 hour per day, alone. During the winter, he is not allowed hot showers like other prisoners and on 14 December 2020, the prison director ordered all his private belongings be confiscated. Since being in Tiflet II, Mohamed Lamine Haddi has been banned from visits by his lawyer and family visits were banned in March 2020. The context of COVID-19 does not justify family visits being banned for such a prolonged period of time. On 16 January 2021, Mohamed Lamine Haddi’s lawyer wrote to the King's prosecutor and the Director of Tiflet II prison asking for an investigation into his prison conditions. Neither replied. Before starting his hunger strike, Mohamed Lamine Haddi told his lawyer that he would rather die than be kept in the conditions of Tiflet II.

Mohamed Lamine Haddi started a hunger strike on 17 January 2021. His weekly 15-minute calls to his family were banned from 22 February 2021. His family issued a statement on 13 March 2021 declaring that his fate was unknown to them. Mohamed Lamine Haddi was allowed to call his mother for one and a half minutes on 23 March to tell her that the prison authorities force-fed him. His mother told Amnesty International that he sounded very weak and he could barely speak. He told her that he was suffering a partial paralysis on his left side. On 25 March, Mohamed Lamine Haddi was permitted to call his mother to tell her that he had been temporarily transferred to Kenitra prison to sit university exams. This transfer was made without any prior notification to Mohamed Lamine Haddi or his family. Mohamed Lamine Haddi told his family that he is still experiencing partial paralysis, as well as memory loss and pain in his left hand. Prison authorities continue to deny him access to a doctor. Authorities followed this same procedure with detained Sahrawi activist Abdeljalil Laaroussi in 2017. His lawyer told Amnesty International that, in order to hide his health status, authorities transferred Laaroussi to Bouzarkene prison to take university exams and forced him to be photographed.

Two other Gdeim Izik prisoners, Sidi Abdallah Abbahah and Bachir Khadda, are also held in solitary confinement in Tiflet II, 1227km from their families who all live in El-Ayoun. According to their lawyer, they are all victims of psychological torture, harassment and ill treatment. They are held in cells of around 5m² for at least 23 hours a day. Sidi Abdallah Abbahah told their lawyer that the prison guards and prison director frequently insult them and threaten them with torture, death and taking away their right to have showers. Since 2017 they have held several hunger-strikes against the prolonged isolation and ill-treatment.

Human rights international standards, such as the United Nations’ Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, define solitary confinement as spending 22 hours or more per day without meaningful human contact. They provide that prolonged solitary confinement – over 15 consecutive days – is considered cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Under the Moroccan Prison Law, solitary confinement is an exceptional measure imposed only as a security or protective measure for prisoners. Morocco’s Penal Code also criminalizes torture.

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. In recent years, access to Western Sahara has grown increasingly difficult for external monitors as the human rights situation has continued to deteriorate. The UN Security Council has ignored 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.
 

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IMPRISONED ACADEMIC’S LIFE IN DANGER

Imprisoned academic's life in danger

Maati Monjib
30
days left to take action

In a statement that Maati Monjib sent out of prison through his lawyers on 4 March, he stated three major drivers behind his hunger strike. He wrote: “I begin a hunger strike starting Thursday, March 4, 2021 at 4:00 p.m. to express a distress call to public opinion following the persecution and injustice inflicted on me by the Moroccan political regime. I observe this hunger strike to protest: 1) My arbitrary arrest on 29 December 2020, 24 hours before the hearing was held in the most secret in the 2015 trial for "undermining the security of the state". A hearing that I wasn't summoned to. My defense was not informed. This trial was postponed until my arrest and ended up convicting me in absentia."

In this statement, Maati Monjib also mentions the defamation against him in "official media and those affiliated to the security services" which infringe his dignity and the presumption of innocence. He continued, "I declare to the national and international public opinion that I am completely innocent of the spurious accusations which seek to undermine my credibility as a journalist and opinion writer. The reason for all this persecution can be found in my writings critical of the regime and its political police and in my human rights defense activities such as my support for the detainees of the Hirak el Rif movement and the journalists unfairly detained under the guise of common law crimes.”

In 2015, Maati Monjib went on hunger strike for 24 days when he was banned from travelling to Spain where he was scheduled to give a talk at a conference about Arab media in transition. His health deteriorated significantly during the hunger strike and he was hospitalized after losing consciousness. The authorities subsequently lifted the travel ban on 29 October 2015.

Maati Monjib and six other activists were investigated in 2015 under accusations of “threatening the internal security of the state” through “propaganda” that may threaten “the loyalty that citizens owe to the State and institutions of the Moroccan people” under Article 206 of the Penal Code. In the 2015 case against Maati Monjib and his six co-defendants, the police interrogation revolved around their receipt of foreign funds from the NGO Free Press Unlimited to conduct training sessions around the technique of StoryMaker, a secure storytelling app developed by Free Press Unlimited (FPU), the Guardian Project and Small World News, which enables citizen journalists to publish content anonymously if they wish to.

According to Maati Monjib, his trial sessions usually last four or five minutes before the judge adjourns and announces the next hearing date. It has been postponed 21 time since 2015. In a letter sent to Amnesty International, the government mentioned that the reasons for the new 2020 investigation is deriving from the annual reports of 2015 and 2016 of Free Press Unlimited, which suggests that this new investigation is linked to the old case of 2015 about the receipt of foreign funding from that NGO to conduct training workshops for citizen journalists. These charges are related to legitimate activities that are protected under the right to association.

Under international human rights law, the right to freedom of association includes NGOs’ capacity to engage in fundraising activities and to seek, receive and utilise resources from national, foreign and international sources. Restrictions on foreign funding that impede the ability of associations to pursue their statutory activities constitute an undue interference with Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Morocco is a party. 

Maati Monjib is a prominent academic and human rights defender. He is a regular commentator on Moroccan politics in international media, think tanks and academic forums where he often shared opinions and analysis about the Moroccan authorities' infringement of human rights.
 

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Northern Ireland: Amnesty welcomes Westminster action on abortion services

Women's rights are human rights

Responding to reports that the Northern Ireland Office is to make regulations to give the Secretary of State the powers to direct the commissioning of abortion services in Northern Ireland. Grainne Teggart, Northern Ireland Campaigns Manager said: “One year since abortion regulations were published, it is unacceptable that these services have yet to be commissioned. This is a damning indictment of the failure of the Northern Ireland Health Minister to prioritise the health of women and girls. “The Northern Ireland Office has legal obligations to ensure the regulations are applied. Once again

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83-YEAR-OLD DETAINEE NEEDS URGENT MEDICAL CARE

83-year-old detainee needs urgent medical care

Dr. Mohammed al-Khudari © Private
0
days left to take action

Two weeks prior to his arrest on 4 April 2020, Dr. Mohammed al-Khudari underwent surgery and was being treated, including through radiotherapy, for his cancer. According to the medical reports shared by his family, when discharged from the hospital his treatment required that he regularly take eight different medications. Although he has been allowed access to medical care in jail, the family is concerned that Dr. Mohammed al-Khudari is not getting adequate medical treatment. The arrests of the two Palestinian nationals is part of a wider crackdown by the Saudi Arabian authorities on Palestinian, Jordanian and Saudi Arabian nationals residing in Saudi Arabia with a perceived link to Hamas de facto authorities.

Dr. Mohammed al-Khudari and Dr. Hani al-Khudari were arbitrarily arrested on 4 April 2019 and remained in detention without charges until 8 March 2020. Both men have been subjected to gross human rights violations including enforced disappearance, arbitrary arrest and detention, being held incommunicado and solitary confinement. Furthermore, both men were interrogated behind closed doors without the presence or participation of their lawyers. Their treatment and conditions of detention placed a great deal of stress and psychological pressure on both men, especially Dr. Mohammed al-Khudari. The denial of access to adequate medical care has caused further deterioration of the health of Dr. Mohammed al-Khudari. Such conduct violates the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment.

Amnesty International has documented the Saudi Arabian authorities’ use of the SCC since 2011 to systematically silence dissent, concluding that SCC judges have presided over grossly unfair trials, handing down prison sentences of up to 30 years and numerous death sentences under vague provisions of the counter-terror and anti-cybercrime laws.
 

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TORTURED AHWAZI ARABS AT RISK OF EXECUTION

Tortured Ahwazi Arabs at risk of execution

Iran prison
0
days left to take action

In their October 2020 response to a communication from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) concerning the situation of Hossein Silawi, Ali Khasraji and Naser Khafajian, the Iranian government claimed that “the allegation of torture and abuse … is totally devoid of any standing” because torture is prohibited under Iranian law and the authorities “carry out the necessary inspections and oversight programs and deal with any violation or irregularity in a lawful manner.” Beyond this blanket denial, the government did not indicate whether an investigation had been carried out into the allegations of torture and other ill-treatment. Hossein Silawi and Ali Khasraji have said that the torture they sustained at the hands of ministry of intelligence agents while held in prolonged solitary confinement resulted in their ribs being broken. Ali Khasraji has said that he sustained injuries in one of his hands and subsequently required a surgical implant to support the healing of his broken bones. Amnesty International understands that for several months, the authorities refused to transfer him to a hospital outside prison for medical treatment, despite his hand being severely swollen and painful, and his transfer took place only after he attempted suicide in protest. In their response to the OHCHR, the Iranian government also denied that the men had been subjected to enforced disappearance. The government stated that “they are held in a very specific location directly overseen by the State Prisons …Organization, which refutes the allegation of enforced disappearance.” The government did not provide any additional information about the whereabouts of this “very specific location”. According to local Ahwazi Arab activists, Hossein Silawi and Ali Khasraji were most likely detained in a ministry of intelligence detention centre in Ahvaz between April 2020 and November 2020 when they were returned to Sheiban prison. 

The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting corporation (IRIB) broadcast the forced “confessions” of Hossein Silawi, Ali Khasraji and Naser Khafajian shortly after their arrest in May 2017, in breach of the presumption of innocence. In the propaganda programme, the men’s faces are blurred, and they are introduced as “Hossein S.”, “Ali Kh.” and “Naser S.” Local human rights activists have told Amnesty International that Naser Khafajian was introduced with the wrong initial. Hossein Silawi is shown giving his forced “confessions” while lying on a hospital bed, which exacerbates concerns around the coercive circumstances in which his “confessions” were extracted and filmed.
Mohammad Ali Amouri, Jaber Alboshokeh and Mokhtar Alboshokeh are sentenced to life imprisonment solely because of their peaceful work with a now-disbanded cultural rights group called Al-Hiwar (meaning “Dialogue” in Arabic). For months now, Jaber Alboshokeh has suffered from a dental infection and Mokhtar Alboshokeh from a jawbone infection, but the authorities have denied them access to a dentist. Jaber Alboshokeh is being held in the same ward as prisoners convicted of violent crimes, posing a risk to his safety and well-being. Mokhtar Alboshkeh and Jaber Alboshokeh have said that in recent months, prison officials have subjected them to beatings with batons multiple times when they have spoken out against their cruel and inhumane prison conditions. 

In view of the irreversible nature of the death penalty, the proceedings in capital cases must scrupulously observe all relevant international standards protecting the right to a fair trial. Defendants must benefit from the services of competent defence counsel from the time of arrest and throughout the pre-trial, trial and appeal proceedings. They must be presumed innocent until their guilt has been proved based upon clear and convincing evidence leaving no room for an alternative explanation of the facts. Statements elicited as a result of torture or other ill-treatment must be excluded as evidence. The proceedings must guarantee the right to review of both the factual and the legal aspects of the case by a higher tribunal. The effective exercise of this right requires that individuals are provided with a public, reasoned judgement. The right to seek pardon must also be ensured. Under international law, the imposition of the death penalty following an unfair trial constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of the right to life. 

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception. The death penalty is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Iran’s Ahwazi Arab minority face entrenched discrimination curtailing equal access to education, employment, adequate housing and political office. Continued under-investment in Khuzestan province by the central government has exacerbated poverty and marginalization. Despite repeated calls for linguistic diversity, Persian remains the sole language of instruction in primary and secondary education in the province. 

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FORCED EVICTION KILLS CHILD; 3,500 LEFT HOMELESS

Forced eviction kills child; 3,000 left homeless

Kumi visit- Meeting with thought leaders, Kenya
0
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The Nubian Community has experienced historical injustices linked to statelessness and land ownership. They were first settled by the British colonial government near Kisumu airport but later, after the expansion of the airport, they resettled in Kibos in 1938 and have been living there ever since. The ownership of Kibos has been challenged repeatedly, with Kenya Railways claiming ownership of the land and threatening to evict the community. The community successfully filed a petition under a Certificate of Urgency to seek a conservatory order preventing Kenya Railways from evicting them until ownership is ascertained in Environment and Land Court (ELC). The Conservatory Order was served to the Kenya Railways and County Commissioner (who tore it up) on 5 February, at 4:15 pm. At 5pm, the County Commissioner started marking Kibos homes with Xs. At 9pm the Kenya Power and Lightening Company cut off the main power to the whole settlement. By 10.30pm, police officers descended on the community, firing teargas into the homes of over 3,500 and a 83 year-old mosque. Excavators and other heavy equipment were used to bring down homes, the mosque and two nursery schools. As the authorities proceeded to demolish buildings,  a child was crushed to her death while her mother cried for time to remove her from the house.

The County Commissioner oversaw the demolition of all buildings. Barely five days later, on 10 February, the Environment and Land Court of Kisumu summoned the Kenya Railways Corporation to show cause why they should not be held in contempt of court for ignoring the conservatory orders and for failing to appear in court. In a hearing held on 11 February, the Court upheld the status quo of the conservatory orders and granted the community rentry orders.

The forced evictions in Kibos were conducted less than a month after the Supreme Court of Kenya, on 11 January, made a definitive judgment  on the right to housing. The landmark judgement states, under section 153, that, ”The right to housing in its base form (shelter) need not be predicated upon “title to land”. Indeed, it is the inability of many citizens to acquire private title to land, that condemns them to the indignity of “informal settlements”. Where the Government fails to provide accessible and adequate housing to all the people, the very least it must do, is to protect the rights and dignity of those in the informal settlements. The Courts are there to ensure that such protection is realized, otherwise these citizens, must forever, wander the corners of their country, in the grim reality of “the wretched of the earth”.
 

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AILING PROFESSOR ARRESTED AFTER CANCELLATION OF BAIL

Ailing professor arrested after cancellation of bail

Regional map of Pakistan © Amnesty International
0
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Professor Muhammad Ismail is a retired professor of Urdu language and lives with his wife in Islamabad.
His daughter, Gulalai Ismail, is a well-known human rights defender, recognized for her women’s rights advocacy. She is the 2017 winner of Anna Politkovskaya award and the chair of Aware Girls. Gulalai is also an outspoken supporter of Pakistan’s Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, a peaceful movement that campaigns against extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations suffered by Pakistan’s Pashtun population.

Gulalai Ismail was charged with “sedition”, “terrorism” and “defamation” for a speech made at a protest on 22 May 2019 after which she was forced into hiding on 23 May 2019. As a result, her family home was raided multiple times, and men in plain clothes from the country’s security agencies confiscated their devices. The threats and intimidation tactics intensified after Gulalai applied for political asylum in the USA. Professor Muhammad Ismail had a First Investigative Report (FIR) registered against him, along with his wife and daughter, on 12 July 2019, accusing them of taking funding from “foreign countries”, aiding “terrorist organizations” and working for them under the guise of their social work. 

While on bail before arrest in this case, Professor Ismail petitioned the Peshawar High Court to quash this charge. On 24 October 2019, when he was due to appear for the hearing of this petition, that he was abducted by unidentified men outside the court. His family was only informed of his whereabouts later that night by local civil society activists that he was in custody of the Cyber Crime Wing of the Federal Investigation Agency in Peshawar. The official confirmation of his arrest only came on 25 October 2019, when he was produced at a special court of Peshawar and charged with hate speech and spreading “fake information” against the government’s institutions under the draconian Pakistan’s Electronic Crimes Act for statuses he has uploaded on his personal social media pages.

He was released on conditional bail on 25 November 2019 by the Peshawar High Court, after having spent one month in pre-trial detention. He paid two surety bonds of Rs 100,000 (USD 625) each and also provided financial guarantees from two people. The trumped-up charges were never dropped.

Since then, the Ismail family has remained under constant and invasive surveillance, and have been targeted under anti-terrorism laws, the Criminal Penal Code and cyber-security legislation. On 2 July 2020, the Peshawar Anti-Terrorism Court acquitted Gulalai, Professor Ismail and his wife Uzlifat of “financial terrorism” charges. But just three months later, on 30 September 2020, they were charged with sedition and terrorism by the same court – which carry lengthy prison sentences. 

His family had secured pre-arrest bail for him, which was cancelled at the confirmation hearing on 2 February 2021 after which Professor Ismail was promptly taken into police custody. Uzlifat Ismail’s bail was accepted. On 3 February 2021, the anti-terrorism court sent Professor Ismail on a three-day physical remand. The family will only be able to move the courts to grant him bail after he is moved to the jail and if the remand is not extended. In the meantime, Professor Ismail is being kept at the police station, where it is unclear if appropriate COVID-19 precautions are being taken.

Freedom of expression, assembly and association have come under attack in Pakistan in recent years. Human rights defenders and journalists face restrictions in both online and offline spaces. The clampdown on civic space has intensified, through draconian laws that enable violations of human rights.
 

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