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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GENEVA (23 December 2011) – UN human rights experts* on Friday denounced the continued secret detention of Gao Zhisheng, a prominent Chinese human rights lawyer who was arrested in 2006. They expressed concern at recent news that a Beijing court has withdrawn Mr. Gao’s five-year probation and ordered him to serve a three-year sentence. The probation of Mr. Gao, whose whereabouts have been unknown for the last 20 months, was to end this week.

“It is alarming that Mr. Gao continues to be arbitrarily detained. His detention over the years has resulted in various human rights violations, including his fundamental right to a fair trial. I urge the authorities to release Mr. Gao,” stated El Hadji Malick Sow, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which issued an opinion in 2010 declaring Gao’s detention arbitrary as it lacked any legal basis.

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Brussels, 22 December 2011 A 528/11 – 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 is deeply concerned at the news that Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhiseng, who has been missing for 20 months, has been sentenced again to 3 years in prison. The High Representative calls for his immediate release and for information about his well-being and location.

The High Representative has repeatedly called on the Chinese government, at the highest level, to reveal the whereabouts of Mr Gao, to give Mr Gao access to a lawyer and to allow Mr Gao to maintain contact with his family.