Human Rights
Being vigilant

10 human rights cases to watch in 2016

17 February Feb 2016 0926 17 February 2016
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We are only two months in, and already 2016 has seen a number of violations against human rights defenders (HRDs). Here is a list of the top 10 cases to watch this year.

1. Morocco: Mbarek Daoudi

Human rights defender and member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO), Mbarek Daoudi fights for the right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people, and independence for Western Sahara.

Daoudi has been taken before the Court of Appeal in Agadir, and sentenced to five years' imprisonment on trumped-up charges of “possession of hunting cartridges” and “attempting to manufacture a firearm”.

2. India: Malini Subramaniami

Malini Subramaniam is a journalist for the news website, reporting on human rights violations taking place in the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh state. During the last year, she has conducted investigations into arrests and torture of journalists by police, as well as allegations of sexual violence by security forces.

Ms. Subramaniam has been subjected to multiple incidents of harassment and violence. On 7th Februrary 2016, a group of approximately twenty people gathered in front of her residence, shouting slogans accusing the human rights defender of being a supporter of the Naxalite–Maoist insurgency and demanding that she be put to death. The mob's aim was to agitate her neighbours against her, and provoke an attack.

Police have also interrogated Subramaniam on many occasions, both at her home and at police stations.

3. Nigeria: Jean-Chrysostome Kijana

Mr.Kijana is a prominent journalist and human rights defender, who is chairman of Nouvelle Dynamique de la Société Civile en RDC (NDSCI): a human rights organisation which monitors and denounces human rights violations, promotes the rule of law and the right to education, and advocates for the rights of female victims of sexual violence in the DRC.

On 6 February 2016, the journalist went into hiding after having received threats and reportedly escaping an abduction attempt on the same day. He has been the target of intelligence services in the region in the past.

4. Thailand: Sirikan Charoensiri

Sirikan Charoensiri is a human rights lawyer, and one of the legal representatives of the 14 student activists from the New Democracy Movement (NDM).

The human rights defender had been accused of objecting to a search of her car by police officers on the night of 27 June 2015, and filing a false police report accusing the police of malfeasance in office under Article 157 of the Thai Criminal Code. During the search, the police seized mobile phones belonging to the 14 NDM student activists, which had been placed in the human rights lawyer's car before the student activists were detained a day earlier.

5. Mexico: Damián Gallardo Martínez

On 4 February 2016, teacher and activist Mr Damián Gallardo Martínez was placed in solitary confinement following arrest and arbitrary detention. Martínez has worked to defend the rights of indigenous communities and the right to education in the Mixe and Zapoteca regions of the Oaxaca Hills. He has also campaigned for educational reform in Mexico.

Originally arbitrarily detained in 2013, when he was arrested without a warrant, Mr. Martínez has since been subjected to extensive abuse and torture, including him and his fellow detainees having their trousers and underwear pulled down by prison guards and being forced to do squats.

6. Russia: Igor Kalyapin

Chairman of the Committee for Prevention of Torture (CPT) Igor Kalyapin has been accused of administrative offences by the the Orenburg regional department of the Ministry of Justice in Russia. The CPT and Kalyapin have been charged with violating the 'Foreign Agents' law.

If found guilty, Igor Kalyapin faces a fine of up to €3500. CPT itself can be fined up to €5800, and the organisation will be forced to close.

7. Israel: Awni Abu Shamsiyya and Nizar Silhab Al-tamimi

Palestinian youth activists Awni Abu Shamsiyya and Nizar Silhab Al-tamimi were arrested on 3rd February 2016, following a raid on the Shamsiyya family home in Tel-Rumeida, Hebron. Awni Abu Shamsiyya (16) and Nizar Silhab Al-tamimi (16) were accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail at Israeli soldiers, and of posting inflammatory statements on Facebook.

The military prosecutor requested a fine of 2000 Shekels (approximately €460). Awni Abu Shamsiyya was released after accusations against him were not proven. However, the trial of Nizar Silhab Al-tamimi was postponed, after it was claimed by the military prosecutor that his confession had been obtained.

The Shamsiyya family has been the target of repeated arrests and harassment, including raids, that saw a group of soldiers invading the family home, searching the house and confiscating the family's computer hard disk and a memory card containing footage filmed by B'Tselem volunteers.

8. Nigeria: Jelili Atiku

Jelili Atiku is a Nigerian artist and human rights defender. He works to promote freedom of expression through art and to develop creative and thought-provoking ways of discussing human rights.

Jelili Atiku was arrested after being accused, along with four other individuals, of conspiring “to commit felony to wit public disturbance”. The allegations relate to a performance called Aragamago Will Rid This Land of Terrorism, which denounced state terrorism, the usurpation of land and appropriation of cultural patrimony by Ejigbo's authorities.

Jelili Atiku and his family members have previously been subjected to other forms of harassment, including repeated threats of arrest, the destruction of his artwork, and the ransacking of his workshop.

9. Kazakhstan: Ermek Narymbaev

Ermek Narymbaev is an independent human rights defender and blogger. He has been actively involved in exposing financial fraud carried out by a number of banks in Kazakhstan and is outspoken about the government's failure to protect human rights in the State. He also provides legal advice to people who have been deliberately misinformed by their banks.

In January 2016, Ermek Narymbaev was found guilty of intentionally using communication networks to incite national discord and insult the honour and dignity of the Kazakh nation. The human rights defender received a 3-year prison term. On 5 February 2016, Mr. Narymbaev began his 19th day on hunger strike in protest against his conviction.

9. Egypt: Gamal Eid and Islam Gawish

Islam Gawish is a blogger and popular young cartoonist, who uses his cartoons to highlight human rights abuses committed by the police, as well as issues of corruption and repressive governmental policies. On 31 January 2016, Gawish was arrested at his workplace and detained overnight by police. His laptop was confiscated, and his arrest highlights the increasing trend of Egyptian authorities harassing online media and internet activists.

Gamal Eid is a renowned lawyer and advocate of freedom of expression in Egypt. He is the founder and director of the Arab Network of Human Rights Information(ANHRI), which was established in 2003 to promote freedom of expression, campaign against censorship in the Middle East and North Africa, and provide legal assistance to journalists and internet activists. On 4 February 2016, Egyptian security at Cairo International Airport prevented Mr.Eid from travelling to Athens on a business trip. Egyptian authorities have repeatedly used travel bans to intimidate and silence critical human rights defenders, including the recent ban against poet Omar Hazek.

10. Honduras: Paola Barraza

Ms Paola Barraza was assassinated by unknown attackers in front of her house in the neighbourhood of Lempira, in Comayaguela this 24 January 2016. Barraza was a trans woman, and member of the board of directors of Asociación LGTB Arcoíris (LGTB Rainbow Association), an organisation which works for equality and equity for the lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual and intersex (LGTBI) community in Honduras.

Ms. Barraza was shot three times in the head and twice in the chest, and died at the scene as a result of her wounds. The killing was reported to the authorities charged with investigating crimes against members of the LGTBI community, however no investigator has been assigned to the case.

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