Indonesia: police file case against watchdog for defamation
August 28, 2014
On 27 August 2014 National Police chief General Sutarman stated that the force will continue to investigate Adrianus Meliala, a member of the state-sanctioned National Police Commission (Kompolnas) watchdog, for speaking out in a TV interview about rampant corruption in the police. The move has been criticised as a clear attempt to intimidate and muzzle the watchdog to prevent it from bringing corruption and abuse of power to light as it is mandated to do. In a revealing demonstration of its priorities, the police force will continue to pursue Mr. Meliala even as it fails to act on a myriad of high-profile corruption cases within the force.
On 24 August 2014 Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, a long-time human rights defender and director of the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), received a warrant summoning her to report to the Yala police station by 25 August 2014 in relation to an investigation for libel and defamation against Army Task Force 41. The CrCf works to promote justice in cases of torture, enforced disappearance, extrajudicial killings, and other human rights violations in the south of Thailand. The libel case against Ms. Khongkachonkiet is in relation to an open letter issued by the CrCF detailing the torture of a young man by the military in Yala, which the military claims is unfactual and therefore libelous. This case is representative of a widespread and long-standing effort to suppress efforts to bring violations to light and hold perpetrators accountable in the south of Thailand.
UPDATE 25/08/2014: Ms. Khongkachonkiet has been able to delay reporting to the police until late September.
Burma: prominent activists sentenced
August 27, 2014
On 25 August 2014 prominent activists Win Cho and Wai Lu were sentenced to 3 months in prison for assembling without the authorities’ permission under Section 18 of the infamous Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act. Win Cho, a community organiser and member of the Myanmar Social Development Network who has worked on land rights and economic injustice, and Wai Lu, who has been involved in environmental and labour rights issues, have both served numerous sentences in the past for violating Section 18. In this instance, they were sentenced for having staged a protest on 26 March 2014 against an abrupt electricity fee hike in Rangoon. Wai Lu was sentenced to an additional month in prison for his involvement in a protest against the eviction of small-scale miners from the Moehti Moemi gold mine.
Sri Lanka: HRDs prevented from cooperating with UN and intimidated in aftermath of visit UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
August 27, 2014
In 2013, several members of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO) were prevented from engaging with the UN. HRDs were also intimidated in connection with the visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in August 2013. On 7 March 2013, Mr Jude Besil Sosai Anthirai was prevented from travelling to Colombo to the UN compound, where he wished to submit a petition. On 22 August 2013, Sanja Sandanadas was questioned at her home by officers from the Criminal Investigation Department about her work and told not to organise any event during the visit of the High Commissioner. On 3 September 2013, Selvakumar Krishnapillai was questioned several times by two men about a petition presented to the High Commissioner; two days later he was asked to report to the Ministry of Defence.
China: prominent rights lawyer released
August 11, 2014
On 7 August 2014 Gao Zhisheng, a lawyer known for his work with persecuted religious minorities and disenfranchised farmers, was released from prison in Xinjiang province following three years of official incarceration. Gao has been the subject of state harassment and intimidation since 2006, when he agreed to act as legal counsel to members of the heavily persecuted Falun Gong sect. Besides official detention, he has twice been disappeared by state authorities for years at a time and has allegedly been severely tortured. Although Gao has been freed from prison, he will continue to be denied basic civil and political rights for at least a year under his sentence for “inciting subversion of state power.”
UPDATE 14/08/2014- Gao’s family alleged that he was subject to inhumane detention conditions and torture. Gao was kept in a small cell with little light and no television or reading material and was severely underfed: he lost 22.5 kilograms while in detention. Although he has been released from prison, he is under constant surveillance.
India: false charges filed against rights defender
July 23, 2014
On 15 July 2014 Sajal Kumar, an active member of a local land rights movement, was threatened by security guards employed by a mining company and had false charges filed against him. Mr. Kumar has been a core member of the Bhoomi Bachao Sangharsh Samiti group, which opposes a land concession to DB Power Company Ltd., which is developing an open-pit coal mine near his village. This is the fourth false charge filed by the company that Mr. Kumar has faced. He is currently being forced to stay away from his house due to threats from both police and company security guards.
Late on 28 June 2014, Parashuram (full name undisclosed) of the women’s rights NGO Odanadi Seva Samsthe, was arrested in Periyapatna on charges of “atrocity.” Parashuram was instrumental in the break-up of a human trafficking ring earlier in 2014, and the arrest is seen by civil society in India as a reprisal by corrupt police aligned with the ring. The woman who filed a complaint against Parashuram for assault is allegedly the wife of one of the leaders of the trafficking ring.
China: Anti-corruption activists on trial
June 25, 2014
On 17 April 2013, Mr. Zhao Changqing and Mr. Ding Jiaxi, members of the anti-corruption New Citizens’ Movement allegedly suspected of having participated in organizing the campaign for public disclosure of assets, were reportedly taken into custody on charges of “unlawful assembly.”
UPDATE 08/04/2014: Ding Jiaxi and Li Wei went on trial in Beijing under heavy security. The two were detained for having called on China’s political leaders to disclose their assets, and are charged with “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order.” There have been obvious irregularities in both the trial and questioning methods. Ding alleges that he was severely beaten in custody; the defence is not being allowed to speak in their clients’ defence, call witnesses or to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses; Ding’s lawyer was questioned and physically abused by police during the lunch break; and foreign diplomats were unable to enter the courtroom. Another New Citizens’ Movement activist, Zhao Changqing, is due to be tried on 10 April.
UPDATE 10/04/14: Sui Muqing and Jiang Yuanmin, Ding and Li’s lawyers, walked out of the trial and denounced it as not in conformity with Chinese law after the court refused to provide original (as opposed to photocopied) evidence of the trial. However, it appears that unlike in January, when Ding and Li replaced their lawyers to delay the trial, Sui and Jiang will continue to represent the accused.
UPDATE 18/04/2014: Ding Jiaxi, Zhao Changqing, Li Wei, and Zhang Baocheng all found guilty of “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order.” Ding received three and a half years in prison, Zhao received two and a half, and Li and Zhang received two. All four are likely to appeal.
UPDATE 18/06/2014: Ding and Li’s sentences upheld by Beijing’s intermediate court.
Sri Lanka: student activists arrested, freed on bail
June 23, 2014
On 20 March 2014, arrest warrants were issued by a Sri Lankan magistrate for 15 student activists who were protesting for their right to education. The students were denied permission to protest, but carried the 5000-strong demonstration out anyway, which resulted in the leaders’ arrests. On 27 March 2014, they were released on bail.
On 27 March 2014, Kasim Ahmad, a former social and political activist who is well known for challenging the repression of freedom of expression about Islam, was arrested by police. He was arrested in connection to allegedly disrespectful comments he made about Islamic authorities at a conference on 15-16 February 2014, which the authorities deem to have been in violation of Section 9 of the Syariah Criminal Offences Act.
UPDATE 27/03/2014: Kassim has been charged with quoting two banned books and insulting Islam in a speech, under Section 7(b) and 9 of the Syariah Criminal Offences Act.
UPDATE 26/06/2014: Kassim filed an application for a judicial review to challenge the prosecution’s decision to charge him in the Syariah High Court, and to have to case stayed until the judicial review was complete.
UPDATE 14/07/2014: The Kuala Lumpur High Court dismissed Kassim’s leave application, ruling that the civil court had no jurisdiction to hear the application.
UPDATE 17/07/2014: The Civil High Court ruled that the Syariah High Court has jurisdiction to hear and decide on the case, and set the trial dates for 20-22 October 2014. Kassim also heard a third charge against him, for allegedly questioning whether the hijab constitutes part of the aurat.