Stories from Quick Reads and Human Rights
Saman Naseem, a juvenile Kurdish activist who went through a five month period of disappearance since his scheduled execution in February was able to call his relatives from prison this past weekend, according to Amnesty International. The day before he was due to be executed, he was transferred to an unknown location, which has now been confirmed to be Zanjan Prison. Neither his family nor lawyers were given any concrete information about his whereabouts until now.
Global Voices followed the story of the 22 year old Saman Naseem last winter as activists petitioned for the release of the Kurdish activist arrested while he was still a teenager for being a member of an armed Kurdish opposition group.
Activists and lawyers working on Naseem's case, alongside his family were left in the dark about the status of his case and whereabouts after his scheduled execution was cancelled. Working until the last minute, several campaigns placed international pressure on Iran to stop the execution on February 19. His death sentence and imprisonment is unjustified under Iran's own laws and international obligations, given that Naseem was a minor (just 17 years old) when he was arrested.
In a statement on Naseem's Amnesty Campaign page, Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa explained:
The welcome revelation that Saman Naseem was not executed and will receive a retrial is incredible news for his relatives, but raises very troubling questions about what the authorities have been doing to him while they held him in secret.
While the European immigration crisis is not showing any signs of dying down, the EU has been taking some much needed measures related to saving the lives of the people who are trying to enter Europe trough the Mediterranean. Aside from the Mediterranean Sea, migrants have also been fleeing their home countries by way of the now familiar ‘Balkan Route’, traveling from Kosovo and war-torn Middle Eastern countries. One of the key entrance points to European grounds is the route from non-EU Serbia into neighboring EU member Hungary. Hence, to keep immigrants out of the European Union, the Hungarian PM is planning on erecting a 4-meter-high, 175-kilometer-long fence along the border with Serbia.
Victor Orban, prime minister of Hungary, said during the Globsec Bratislava Security Conference:
Mađarska ne vjeruje u europsko rješenje pitanja ilegalnih imigranata, a zid prema susjedima gradi jer je to “obaveza države”.
Hungary does not believe in the European solution of the illegal immigrant problem and the wall towards our neighbors is this country's obligation
There were more than 50,000 illegal entrances to Hungary since the beginning of January 2015. At the same time, 47,000 migrants have entered Italy. Austria and Germany will return 15,000 illegal immigrants to Hungary and, by the end of the year, there could be some 150,000 immigrants in that country by the end of the year, Al-Jazeera reports.
A podcast by photojournalist Mauro Prandelli describes first-hand what is it like to be an undocumented person and to stay at the immigrant camp in Hungary, an immigrant calling the country “a dead zone for immigrants”. The interview was recorded in Bogovajda bush, 70 kilometers from Belgrade, Serbia.
In global terms, illegal immigration is a growing issue and governments are searching for a permanent solution. According to UNHCR's report ‘Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2014′, displaced persons now roughly equate to the population of Italy or the United Kingdom. The top three countries of origin of the immigrants are the Syrian Arab Republic (3.88 million), Afghanistan (2.59 million), and Somalia (1.11 million). However, many do not see building a wall between countries in the 21st century as a proper solution.
Global Voices collaborators the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran released a newly written report yesterday entitled “High Hopes, Tempered Expectations: Views from Iran on the Nuclear Negotiations.”
The report engaged with 28 members of Iranian civil society including former members of the Iranian Parliament, journalists, academics, lawyers, economists, filmmakers, writers, publishers, actresses, playwrights, activists, and family members of political prisoners. The key finding was unanimous support for the nuclear negotiations and an agreement to lift sanctions. The following are some of the key findings made from this sample group.
• Seventy-one percent of respondents expect economic benefits from an accord, typically citing increased investment and oil revenues, and gains to employment, manufacturing, and growth. However, one-fifth of those expecting economic gains believe these benefits could be lost to ordinary Iranians due to governmental mismanagement.
• Twenty-five percent of all respondents expect any economic benefits would reach only the upper levels of society and those connected to power, due to entrenched and rampant corruption and the administration’s lack of authority to confront rival centers of power.
• Sixty-one percent of the respondents believe a deal would improve the chances of achieving political and cultural reforms, as the administration could now turn its attention to such issues and it would be significantly strengthened politically in its ability to enact change.
• Thirty-six percent expected no improvement in political or cultural freedoms. Some cited the Rouhani administration’s lack of power and authority, especially vis-à-vis the legislative and judicial branches and Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. Others questioned Rouhani’s willingness to push forward with reforms, noting his few efforts even in the spheres that are under the president’s direct control.
The free speech advocate iLaw uploaded an infographic which showed that 166 people have been arrested in the past year in Thailand for expressing an opinion against the military-backed government.
The army grabbed power in May 2014 but it vowed to restore civilian rule and conduct free elections next year. Protests and public gathering of five or more people are currently prohibited in Thailand.
The infographic also revealed that there are 68 political prisoners in the country.
Meanwhile, another infographic by iLaw showed that lese majeste (anti-royal insult law) cases have risen in the past year. Some scholars are petitioning the review of the law which they described as harsh and repressive.
The growing migration crisis has recently also affected countries in southeastern Europe, with new issues arising almost daily. Reacting to the inhumane treatment of migrants who pass through Republic of Macedonia, renowned human rights activist Suad Missini started a hunger strike in front of the Parliament building in Skopje. He began the strike immediately after publishing his three demands in a Facebook post on Sunday, June 14, which garnered almost 300 likes and over 90 shares in just the first day.
I am just starting a hunger strike.
In front of the Parliament.
I demand urgently and immediately:
- Urgent adoption of the changes of the Asylum law, that would enable safe transit or temporary stay of refugees passing through the Macedonian territory, as well as free use of all publicly available means of transport.
- Concrete and publicly announced measures by the Ministry of Interior in view to safeguard the life, security and possessions of refugees passing through Macedonia.
- Immediate liberation of all refugees and migrants detained in the Gazi Baba center and its immediate closure.
The strike will not end unless these demands are fulfilled.
Thousands of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria and other war zones pass through Macedonia, traveling from Greece towards Serbia on a path to try to reach Germany or other well-off EU countries. The migrants used to follow the railway tracks on foot, suffering horrific “accidents.” Lately the migrants buy bicycles, reportedly at inflated prices, in southern Macedonian towns and cycle on the main highway. Many of them fall victim to human trafficking rings and gangs of robbers. Some of the refugees are held as “witnesses” in the Reception Center for Foreigners “Gazi Baba” in Skopje in what Macedonian Ombudsman Idzhet Memeti has called “inhuman, unhealthy, and undignified” conditions.
The Government is supposed to discuss the amendments to the Asylum Law on June 16.
Serbian Authorities Take Control of A Man's Facebook Account Following Alleged Threats Against PM Vucic
In Serbia, the detainment of individuals for personal social media postings has become almost commonplace over the last year. During the mass floods in May 2014, police arrested over a dozen individuals for allegedly “inciting panic” on social media when the country was indeed in a national state of emergency. Some were detained for several days.
In early July 2015, in the Serbian town of Aleksinac, police detained Dejan Milojevic for allegedly threatening the life of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic on his personal Facebook account. They seized his computer and other communications devices, and also took charge of his Facebook account, changing his password and locking Milivojevic out of his own account.
Serbian NGO Share Defense called the account takeover a “very intrusive measure under questionable legal basis, in particular from the aspect of international protection of privacy and freedom of expression standards.” The Share Defense team of legal experts explained the legal issues in this matter on their website:
Ovakav opis postupanja policije izdvaja aleksinački slučaj od sličnih istraga pokrenutih zbog komentara na društvenim mrežama, i otvara problem nejasnih ovlašćenja policije u digitalnom okruženju. Naime, pristup policije privatnom fejsbuk profilu nedvosmisleno predstavlja povredu tajnosti sredstava komuniciranja koja je zagarantovana članom 41 Ustava Republike Srbije. Odstupanja su moguća isključivo uz odluku suda koja bi se konkretno odnosila na sporni fejsbuk profil, o čemu za sada nema pouzdanih informacija. Dejanu Milojeviću je onemogućen pristup privatnom fejsbuk nalogu, čime mu je ograničena sloboda izražavanja i informisanja.
Policija je prilikom pretresa oduzela Milojevićev kompjuter i telefone (u skladu sa članom 147 Zakonika o krivičnom postupku), na šta ima pravo i bez posebne sudske odluke. Međutim, pretraživanje podataka o komunikaciji koji se čuvaju na tim uređajima nije moguće bez sudskog naloga.
This description of the actions of police separates the Aleksinac case from similar investigations started due to comments on social networks and opens the issue of unclear rights that police have in the digital realm. Specifically, police access to a private Facebook profile undoubtedly represents an injury to the privacy of communication, which is guaranteed under Section 41 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia. An exception to this can only be awarded by a court, that would have to reference the Facebook profile in question…Dejan Milivojevic's access to his private Facebook account has been breached, thus his freedom of expression and right to access to information has been limited.
Police seized Milivojevic's computer and telephones during the raid (in accordance with Article 147 of the Law on Criminal Proceedings), which they are authorized to do without exceptional court order. However, search and seizure of communication information that are stored on those devices* is not allowed without a court order. [*editor's emphasis]
While Milivojevic no longer has access to his Facebook account, the status update that had police raiding his home and led to accusations that he was threatening the Prime Minister is still publicly visible on his profile:
Браћо и сестре, враг је однео шалу!!! Дајте да се организујемо да неко убије говнара и да ослободимо земљу. Доста је било, стварно!!!
Brothers and sisters, the joke has gone too far!!! Let's organize and have someone kill the shithead and liberate the country. Enough is enough, really!!!
The Prime Minister's name was not mentioned in the status update or in the comments of the post, although one commenter does ask whom Milivojevic is referencing as “the shithead”. Milivojevic also calls for a “lynching” in his responses to comments, but then later adds in a comment that “of course, I was kidding about the killing; I abhore violence, even towards such a worm and bum.”
The ISIS cyber army has allegedly hacked the website of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog on July 8, 2015, and threatened its Syrian director, Rami Abdelrahman, for his role in documenting human rights abuses committed by all parties in the ongoing war in Syria.
The news was confirmed by Reuters. SITE Intel Group also reported the hack on the UK-based site:
— SITE Intel Group (@siteintelgroup) July 8, 2015
The cyber attack was made by the group, affiliated with ISIS, which calls itself the Cyber Army of the Khilafah, or the self-proclaimed Caliphate, which covers large swaths of territory across Syria and Iraq.
Below is a screenshot of the site, which is now down.
On Saturday, June 20, human rights expert and activist Suad Missini ended the hunger strike he started six days prior in protest of inhumane treatment of migrants passing through Macedonia. Mr. Missini issued the following statement [links added]:
While the effects of the changes of the Asylum Law are yet to be seen in practice, the conditions in the migrant center in Gazi Baba has not been improved. The refugees are still kept in the center which gains characteristics of a concentration camp, under impossible, inhuman and degrading conditions, out of the legal framework and international human rights standards which are part of the national legal system.
Authorities in Republic of Macedonia chose to remain deaf to the demands for solving of this problem by numerous international organizations and institutions. They act blind to the fact that the UN Committee Against Torture characterized the treatment of refugees in this center as torture and breach of the UN Convention Against Torture in its latest report. And all this while our country is a member of the UN Human Rights Council.
On the other hand, I'd like to stress that Macedonia, as member of Council of Europe (CoE), received a visit by the CoE Committee for Prevention of Torture, which included a visit to Gazi Baba center. This summer, the president of this committee Mikola Gnatovskij visited Macedonia and also talked to the authorities about this center, among other things. I emphasize that Macedonian authorities have still not issued approval for the report of this visit to be published.
Finally, two days before the start of the hunger strike, the Ombudsman of Republic of Macedonia presented the catastrophic situation and lawlessness that rule in this center.
Today, we can acknowledge that the public in Republic of Macedonia, as well as the international public and foreign media and organizations, are fully aware and informed about the problem with this center. These days, Gazi Baba center is an international topic. If the government decided that this catastrophic problem should not be a subject of immediate reaction and subsequent solution, then this definitely puts our country among those which openly and unscrupulously conduct torture, while the authorities are legitimized as institutions lead by persons which have no respect for human lives. The lives of hundreds of people detained within this center. And finally, about my life.
Therefore, on this day I end the hunger strike. Because the limits of health risks are already surpassed, and because the potentials of this strike are fulfilled.
My demands, which are demands by an enormous part of the public in Republic of Macedonia, are partially fulfilled.
My civic act was a drop which made waves, which, I sincerely hope, together with all the other efforts, will lead to solving of this problem which turns our country into an uncivilized space.
I am immensely grateful to the thousands who sincerely and unambiguously expressed their support, making this civil act as much theirs, as it was mine.
Meanwhile, Twitter users continue sharing leaked photos showing the conditions of detained refugees.
Mohammad Moghimi, the attorney of the Iranian activist and cartoonist Atena Faraghdani was arrested on 10 June following a visit to his client in jail. His charges are based on the fact that he shook Faraghdani's hand. Faraghdani was recently sentenced to 12.5 years in prison for posting drawings and content critical of the government on her Facebook page.
According to the Human Rights Activist News Agency, Moghimi has been transferred to ward 10 of Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj. His bail has been set to 20 million tomans -approximately $7000 USD. It is likely Faraghdani will face similar charges.
— Mansoureh Mills (@Mansourehmi) June 14, 2015
— Katniss/Lisbeth (@shokufeyesib) June 16, 2015
The social media campaign for Faraghdani's release can be followed under the #freeAtena hashtag.
As the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada started kicked off on June 6, a number of organizations joined forces in launching the #GirlsCan advocacy campaign. Women Deliver, UNICEF, Right to Play, GAIN and One Goal are using the FIFA as a backdrop to raise awareness of how sports can positively influence girls’ lives and call for more research and funding for girls’ sports.
Lauren Himiak, Women Deliver's Communications Manager, explained it to Global Voices:
The #GirlsCan hashtag and campaign kicked off encouraging the public to share photos of themselves playing sport and talking about why it was important in their development. We have seen everything from female racecar drivers in training to boxers in Africa participate, and we cannot wait keep the buzz growing. The great thing about #GirlsCan is to see the messages coming out of Twitter…”#GirlsCan change the world; #GirlsCan do everything boys can do; #GirlsCan be the next president”!
The campaign is calling on people worldwide to take action, either by participating in the #GirlsCan campaign and advocating on girls’ involvement in sports in their communities, or by spreading the word on social networks. Those interested in the on-going campaigns can follow hashtags #GirlsCan, #PowerInPlay or #InvestInGirls.
Sports programs represent a highly effective, low-cost means of addressing some of the most pressing global development challenges. Involvement in sports improves the overall health of adolescents and young women, including sexual and reproductive health, and it gives children and youth opportunities to be more successful and achieve gender equality in their communities.
Part of the campaign is the Girl Power in Play Symposium which will be held June 18-19, 2015, in Ottawa, Canada. The symposium's agenda this year focuses on the most pressing global gender issues, including girls’ right to play sports and related topics within the fields of health, education, nutrition, life-skills, and gender norms. The pinnacle of the #GirlsCan campaign is expected on October 11, 2015, when the organizations will share collected stories, research, blogs, and ideas on how can sports empower girls on and off the field.