Brussels, 17 February 2012 A 61/12 – The spokesperson of Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission, issued the following statement today:

“The High Representative deplores the arrest on Thursday by Syrian security forces of human rights defender Mazen Darwish, the head of the Damascus-based ‘Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression’, as well as at least 12 other human rights defenders, including blogger Razan Gazzawi, and the wife of Mazen Darwish. The EU stresses the need to respect the freedom of expression and the freedom of human rights defenders to carry out their work, in line with Syria’s international obligations.

The High Representative expresses her concern for the physical safety of Mr. Darwish and others arrested, and demands information about their whereabouts and access for their families. She calls on the Syrian authorities to immediately release Mr Darwish and all those human rights defenders arrested on Thursday, and to release all political prisoners in accordance with Syria’s commitments to the Arab League to end violence.

The High Representative strongly condemns the level of violence in recent weeks committed against civilians by the indiscriminate bombardment of residential districts in Homs, Zabadai, Hama and Deraa. The violence has reached unspeakable levels of criminality and destruction.”

TEGUCIGALPA (14 February 2012) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya said* today that human rights defenders in Honduras continue to suffer extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, death threats, attacks, harassment and stigmatization, and called on the Honduran Government to urgently establish a protection programme.

“Honduras faces serious challenges in combating violence and insecurity,” Ms. Sekaggya said the independent expert charged with monitoring and reporting on the situation of human rights defenders at the end of her mission to the country. “The pervasive impunity and absence of effective investigations of human rights violations undermine the administration of justice and damage the public’s trust in authorities.”

“I have observed that certain categories of human rights defenders are at particular risk, including journalists, staff of the National Human Rights Commission, lawyers, prosecutors and judges. Defenders working in favour of the rights of women, children, the LGBTI community, the indigenous and Afro-Honduran communities are also targeted, as well as those working on environmental and land rights issues,” the expert said. (more…)

2 February 2012

GENEVA – The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Ms. Margaret Sekaggya, will visit Honduras from 7 to 14 February 2012.

“The purpose of the mission is to evaluate, in an objective and impartial manner, the situation of human rights defenders in Honduras,” Mrs. Sekaggya said. The Special Rapporteur also added that she will seek to “create constructive dialogue with the Government in order to ensure that all human rights defenders can carry out their peaceful activities without fearing for their security.”

The Special Rapporteur is scheduled to meet with Government officials, representatives of the legislative and judicial branches, a broad range of civil society actors, the United Nations and diplomatic delegations.

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2 February 2012

GENEVA– A number of UN human rights experts on Thursday expressed their dismay at the continuing abuse of anti-terrorism legislation to curb freedom of expression in Ethiopia.

A week ago, three journalists and two opposition politicians* were given prison sentences ranging from 14 years to life imprisonment under Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism laws. This follows the sentencing of two Swedish journalists to 11 years in prison on 27 December 2011. Another 24 defendants are scheduled to appear before the court on 5 March 2012, for various charges under the anti-terrorism law, several of whom may face the death sentence if convicted.

“Journalists play a crucial role in promoting accountability of public officials by investigating and informing the public about human rights violations,” said Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, who emphasized that “they should not face criminal proceedings for carrying out their legitimate work, let alone be severely punished. Ethiopia has an obligation to fully guarantee all individuals’ right to freedom of opinion and expression under international human rights law.”

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