Cambodia: Foreign activists detained
March 7, 2013
06/03/2013 – Clean Clothes Campaign Activists – 5 foreign activists were detained in Cambodia after showing solidarity with workers who were on strike at a clothing factory. Police detained them when they were unable to produce their passports.
Thailand: Labour activists charged after peaceful assembly
August 26, 2012
On 27 August 2009, Ms Jittra Kotchadej, Ms Boonrod Paiwong, and Mr Soonthorn Boonyord led a peaceful assembly in front of the Parliament House in Bangkok, demanding the government to take action to assist 2,000 workers dismissed by Triumph International factories. The members of the Labour Union had earlier met with the secretary of then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajiva, who promised that he would look into the dismissal. The demonstration consisted of around 400 women labour activists from the Triumph International Labour Union, the Electronic and Mechanic Labour Union, and the World Garment Factory Labour Union, as well as human rights defenders from non-governmental organisations working on labour rights.
When the workers arrived at the Government House, no government official came out to talk to them so they moved to the parliament and received the same treatment. In response to their peaceful demonstration, the police used Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD) as a means to forcefully disperse the demonstration. Many of the labour activists were later diagnosed with ear problems as a result of the usage of the LRAD machine by the police.
On 27 January 2011, the public prosecutor officially charged Jittra Kotchadej, Boonrod Paiwong, and Soonthorn Boonyord under Section 215 and 216 of the Criminal Code. . Section 215 states that “If the offender is leading an act [which threatens violence or to cause a breach of peace], he/she shall be punished for the maximum of five years imprisonment or fined not exceeding ten thousands baht or both”. Section 216 states that “[w]hen an official orders any person assembled under section 215 to disperse and such person does not disperse, he/she shall be imprisoned for the maximum of three years or fined for the maximum of six thousands baht or both”.
They could be imprisoned, if found guilty, for a maximum jail term of five years and/or each be fined up to 10,000 Thai Baht (EUR 247). All three human rights defenders had submitted assets worth 100,000 Thai Baht (USD 3,245) each after the police at Dusit Precinct issued arrest warrants against them.
Jittra Kotchadej is an adviser of the Triumph International Labour Union. Boonrod Paiwong is the former Secretary-General of the Triumph International Labour Union. Soonthorn Boonyord is a labour activist affiliated with the National Congress of Thai Labour. Each of them could face a maximum jail term of five years and/or each be fined up to 10,000 baht (USD 325).
The trial of Ms Jittra Kotchadej, Ms Boonrod Paiwong, and Mr Soonthorn Boonyord will take place on 23, 24, 28, 29, and 30 August 2012.
The prosecution witnesses will take the stand on 23 and 24 August, while the defence witnesses will do so on 28, 29, and 30 August. The venue of the trial will be Bangkok Criminal Court on Ratchadapisek Road from 9am to 4.30pm.
Burma: Labour activist arrested in Mandalay after protest
August 18, 2012
On 7 August 2012, police detained labour activist Aye Thein who was assisting vendors that were protesting potential relocation in Mandalay’s Kidan Market yesterday. About 100 vendors protested in front of a municipal administration building before Aye Thein was arrested. Aye Thein was seen negotiating with authorities, which included the city’s mayor, the district administration director and a police commander, before being arrested. The activist’s family was told that the police were holding Aye Thein, but they were unclear on what he was being charged with.
Aye Thein was also providing assistance to child soldiers and forced-labour victims who were seeking assistance from the ILO. His Family member Ma Moe said she went to Mandalay’s Police Station-3 after learning that Aye Thein was being detained there but was not allowed to see him. She was told around 8am that U Aye Thein was at the Policed Station-3 so she went there around 9am but was told it was not possible to see him.
She said family members returned to the police station again in the afternoon were still not allowed to meet with Aye Thein but were could give some food supply and personal items.
Pakistan: NGO workers accused of blasphemy
July 16, 2012
A blasphemy accusation was filed against staff members of Insan Dost Association, namely Mr Anjum Raza Mattu, Mr Imran Anjum, Ms Shazia Parveen, and Ms Najma Khalil, on 8 June 2012.
Insan Dost Association (IDA) is a human rights organisation based in Punjab Province which works for the promotion and protection of the rights of bonded labourers and their families. It advocates for increased kiln workers’ wages, the enrolment of child kiln workers in schools, and the elimination of advanced debt bondage. On 30 June 2012, IDA staff were invited to participate in the investigation and were summoned to be present at the next meeting, which will be held on 9 July 2012.
The blasphemy accusation has been filed against the abovementioned IDA staff members by kiln owner Mr Javed Iqbal on behalf of another kiln owner, Mr Iftikhar Mohar. The complaint was submitted to the Commissioner of Sahiwal Division in Punjab Province, Mr Qazi Ashfaq Ahmed, who has the power to order the police to register a First Information Report (FIR) against the alleged accused. IDA staff members could be sentenced to life imprisonment or death if they are found guilty of blasphemy. IDA has been active in recent years in working to protect the rights of brick kiln workers and has had disagreements with kiln owner Iftikhar Mohar.
It is reported that Javed Iqbal has also accused IDA of being involved in anti-government activities and called for the registration certificate of IDA to be revoked.
Human rights defenders associated with IDA have been physically abused by kiln owner Iftikhar Mohar and his henchmen in the recent past.
On 19 November 2011, Mr Muhammad Munir, a member of IDA, was attacked by a few men with sticks and bamboos after he led around 200 workers to call on kiln owners to implement the Punjab Wage Board, a notification which fixed the minimum pay for a kiln worker making 1,000 bricks to 517 Pakistan Rupee (€4.4). The attackers were believed to be associated with kiln owners Mr Haji Iqbal, Mr Khalid Chaudhry, and Mr Iftikhar Mohar.
On 7 January 2012, a fabricated rape case was filed against Muhammad Munir and his wife, and on 2 February 2012, he was arrested by the police before being transferred to Sahiwal District Central Jail on 7 February 2012.
On 16 May 2012, Muhammad Munir’s wife and four IDA staff were beaten up at Arifwala tehsil court premises by Iftikhar Mohar and his lawyers while Muhammad Munir was defending himself against the false accusation before the court. On the same date, a complaint for attempted murder (FIR 298/12) was registered against human rights defenders Mr Anjum Raza Mattu, Mr Imran Anjum, Ms Khadija Munir, Mr Zeeshan Ali, Mr Rafij Masih, and Ms Bashiran Bibi.
On 31 May 2012, Imran Anjum was convicted under this charge and was sent to Sahiwal District Central Jail. He was released on bail on 27 June 2012.
Mr. Islam was a well?known labour rights activist in Bangladesh. Being a former garment worker, he advocated for safer factories and for workers to organize themselves. He also had been active in a campaign to raise the workers’ minimum wage. Recently, he was working on a campaign to organize workers of a
company that manufactures ready?to?wear apparel for US clothing companies. In the days before his death, he had been registering complaints of workers at Shanta Group, a company that produces clothing for Hilfiger, Nike and Ralph Lauren. He was Senior organizer of the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity (BCWS) and leader of the Savar and Ashulia, Savar area of the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation (BGIWF). On 4 April 2012, Mr. Islam left BCWSt around 6:30pm. When he left BCWS, he saw a police van parked outside and he became worried about surveillance. He called his colleague, Ms. Laboni Akhter, and suggested that they close the centre. Both of them closed the centre and left through the back entrance. Mr. Islam received a phone call from a worker named Mr. Mustafizur Rahman, requesting his assistance on a personal matter. First he denied but after continued being asked by Mr. Rahman, he agreed to help him and told him to meet each other at Jirani Bazar. Mr. Islam then took a rickshaw and headed towards the Baipail bus stop to take a bus ride to Jirani Bazar to meet with Mr. Rahman. After about 30 or 40 minutes, Ms. Laboni received a call from Mr. Rahman, saying that he was still waiting for Mr. Islam, whose phone was switched off. At around 9:30pm Ms. Laboni received a call from Mr. Islam’s wife, Ms. Hosne Ara, asking about her husband because he had not come home and his phone was switched off. Ms. Laboni immediately informed BCWS leaders who called the Ashulia police station to check if Mr. Islam had been arrested. They made several phone calls to the police, but they responded that they had no information about Mr. Islam.
The next day Ms. Hosne Ara and a senior BCWS organizer went to Ashulia police station to lodge a missing person report. The police initially refused to register the case since it was not yet 24 hours since Mr. Islam had gone missing. BCWS leaders contacted various security agencies including the National Security Intelligence, Rapid Action Battalion, Industrial Police, Special Branch, Detective Branch, as well as several hospitals. The missing person report was accepted and registered as General Diary number?357 the next day at 10:15 am. The same day local police in Ghatail discovered Mr. Islam’s body dumped by a roadside outside the Brakhon Sashon Women College, near Tangail?Mymensingh highway, almost 100 km north from Baipail, where he was last seen. The police officials were unable to identify the body, so they photographed and buried it. Mr. Islam’s body bore marks of torture, his right leg had injuries under the knee, his toes had been smashed, both knees had coagulated blood, and there were several bruises on the body. There was also a hole in one of his legs made by a sharp object. The next dayMr. Islam’s body was buried as nobody had come to claim his body.
On 7 April, Mr. Islam’s wife saw a picture of her husband’s body in a local newspaper named Amar Desh. After seeing this, she called BCWS leaders. Her family members decided to go to the Ghatail Police Station to ascertain that the found body was Mr. Islam’s body. They were joined by Mr. Islam’s colleagues at BCWS. The police showed them photographs, and the family positively identified the body as being Mr. Islam. Ghatail police chief Mr. Mahbubul Haq told journalists: “He [Islam] was murdered. His legs had severe torture marks including a hole made by a sharp object. All his toes were broken.”
At the request of his family, Mr. Islam’s body was exhumed and moved to a site near his home. His brother, Mr. Rafiqul Islam said he saw apparent torture marks on the body: “We found several marks of wounds from his waist to his foot.” Family members of Mr. Islam suspect that the members of the law enforcement agencies kidnapped him, brought him to an unknown location, brutally tortured him and after his death, left his body near Tangail?Mymensingh highway in Ghatail area. BCWS colleague Ms. Kalpona Akter accuses Bangladeshi security forces and garment firm owners of being responsible for Mr. Islam’s murder.
Thailand: Seven trade union leaders dismissed
October 10, 2011
The State Railway of Thailand’s dismissal of seven union leaders amounts to a destruction of the labour union and a gross human rights violation, say labour and human right advocates.
Tim De Meyer, a specialist with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), said gatherings, negotiations and work stoppages were among the basic rights of workers which all countries that are signatories of the ILO must recognise. He considered the punishment approach taken by the SRT – to dismiss labour union leaders and SRT employees for joining a work stoppage in 2009 in response to a train crash in Prachuap Khiri Khan province in which seven people died – unacceptable. Mr De Meyer, speaking during a seminar at the National Human Rights Commission in Laksi yesterday, insisted the SRT employees had the right to stop work under unsafe conditions.
Bangladesh: Labour leaders threatened with fabricated charges
September 26, 2011
Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS) leaders Kalpona Akhter and Babul Akhter and staff member Aminul Islam are facing a wide range of criminal charges including attempted murder, criminal intimidation, violence against civil servants, mischief causing damage, and violation of the Explosive Substances Act of 1908 in ten cases arising from violence related to labor unrest in June and July 2010. Some of the charges could lead to the death penalty.
Bangladesh : Garment workers leader arbitrarily arrested and detained
September 26, 2011
On 14 December 2010, in the early morning hours, individuals claiming to be part of the Detective Branch of the Bangladesh Police force came to the home of Ms. Moshrefa Mishu, president of Garment Workers Unity Forum. They were able to take Moshrefa without a warrant by threatening her with arrest. Moshrefa was unable to gather important medicines before being taken by the authorities to a detention centre. The rough conditions at Headquarters, constant interrogations, and inability to take asthma and spinal injury medications for 24-hours seriously contributed to the rapid deterioration of her health. This arrest is a continuation of the targeting of labour rights leaders in Bangladesh by the government and owners of garment factories in efforts to blame someone for the worker protests that have continued. You can read about the overall situation at http://www.sweatfree.org/bcws.
The outcome of her court hearing was a 2-day remand, despite her obviously ailing health, and lack of evidence surrounding the allegations. After fainting on her way to the police van after the hearing, Moshrefa was finally admitted to the National Hospital. She was transferred several times as her condition worsened, and she is currently in the emergency ward at DMCH.
Also of great concern were the restrictions being placed on the media’s ability to cover this story, and accurately relay information regarding her recovery. The police force gave strict orders that nobody is to be allowed in to see her, nor are doctors allowed to comment on her physical state. Media coverage at this time is biased, as accounts of her arrest and detention have left out significant details that could potentially bring into question the government’s course of action.
Vietnam: Three labour rights activist sentenced for distributing leaflets and helping to organise a strike
September 21, 2011
In February 2010, three labour rights activists, Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung, 30, Do Thi Minh Hanh, 26, and Doan Huy Chuong, 26, were arrested for distributing leaflets and helping to organize a strike of 10,000 workers at the My Phong shoe factory in Tra Vinh. They were not presented with an arrest warrant.
They were subsequently charged with disrupting security under article 89 of the Penal Code of Viet Nam. They are said to have received money from Tran Ngoc Thanh, chairman of the Warsaw-based Committee to Protect Vietnamese Workers, to print and distribute anti-Government leaflets and foment labour strikes. In particular, Mr. Nguyen, Ms. Do and Mr. Doan are accused of distributing leaflets and helping organize a strike of 10,000 workers at the My Phong shoe factory.
The Vietnamese authorities further accused the petitioners of being reactionary and trying to overthrow the Government. They are said to be members of a United States-based political party which advocates democracy. The source reports that the authorities have claimed that the “offender[s’] crimes are very serious, operated and organized with the intention to destroy the country’s security, and need punishing”.
They were kept in pretrial detention for eight months. During the period in pretrial detention, they were not allowed any visitations or legal assistance.
On 26 October 2010, in a one-day trial, Mr. Nguyen, Ms. Do and Mr. Doan were convicted of “disrupting security and order against the people’s administration” under article 89 of the Penal Code of Viet Nam. Mr. Nguyen was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment. Ms. Do and Mr. Doan were each sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment. None of the petitioners had defence lawyers present at the trial, nor were they allowed to speak in their defence.
Their sentence was posted on the Internet, by the State-run Cong An Nhan Dan, one day prior to the actual sentencing. In the source’s view, this highlights the political nature of the trial that lacked independence and impartiality.
Under Vietnamese law, workers are prohibited from forming independent unions of their own choosing. Instead, all unions must be registered and affiliated with the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor, an official labor confederation controlled by the Communist Party.
Chuong is one of the founders of the United Workers-Farmers Organization (UWFO, also Hiep Hoi Doan Ket Cong Nong). He was imprisoned in 2006 for 18 months on charges of “abusing democratic freedoms.” Hung and Hanh were both active supporters of the petitioners’ movement called Victims of Injustice, which helps impoverished workers and landless farmers seek redress from the government. Hung is also a member of the pro-democracy Bloc 8406.
Their families succeeded in hiring defence lawyers. However, as of 17 January 2011, the lawyers had not been granted access to the defendants, despite the fact that the appeal court was to hear the cases on 24 January 2011. On 18 January 2011, the families of the defendants submitted a joint complaint to various authorities, including the Minister of Public Affairs and the People’s Procuracy of Tra Vinh province, asking the court to respect the defendants’ right to legal representation and to postpone the appeal hearing. The court changed the appeal hearing date to 18 March 2011.
On 18 March 2011, the Appeal Court in Tra Vinh province upheld the sentences given in February 2010 to Mr. Nguyen, Ms. Do and Mr. Doan
On 2 August 2012, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) sent a communication to the Vietnamese government. The Government replied to the communication on 28 September 2012
On 14 November 2012, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention adopted an opinion on the case, recommending to release all three activists and accord them an enforceable right to compensation.
Cambodia: HRDs served with warrants from the courts
September 19, 2011
Human rights defenders and labour activists, Mr Ath Thorn, Ms Morm Nhim and Mr Tola Moeun, are believed to be among a group of 9 persons who are due to be served with warrants from the courts following strike actions taken by thousands of Cambodian garment workers who are calling for higher wages.