Brussels, 9 December 2011 18424/1/11 REV 1 PRESSE 487 – On Human Rights Day, the European Union pays tribute to human rights defenders who dedicate their lives to promoting and protecting people’s fundamental rights around the world. This year, Human Rights Day focuses on the work of human rights defenders, and on how social media can be used to promote and underpin change.

The Arab spring vividly reminds us that human rights are universal and that people everywhere aspire to live in dignity and freedom. In 2011, thousands of people decided that the time had come to claim their rights. Social media carried their message, and allowed activists and individuals to break free from their isolation, to disseminate ideas and to denounce oppression.

Use of social media to promote human rights should not be restricted by governments. The EU has repeatedly and publicly condemned restrictions on freedom of expression and on access to the internet, as well as the arrest of bloggers, witnessed in many countries around the world.

 

December 9, 2011 – Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the attack in Mexico against human rights defender Norma Andrade, leader of the group Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa (Our Daughters Back Home), an organization that seeks justice for the girls and women disappeared or killed in the State of Chihuahua. Norma Andrade specifically sought justice for the killing of her daughter, Lilia Alejandra García Andrade, assassinated in 2001. Norma Andrade is beneficiary of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR.

The IACHR urges the State of Mexico to protect Norma Andrade and her family, and to investigate the attack, in order to prosecute and punish those responsible for committing and masterminding it.

According to the information received, unknown persons attacked Norma Andrade on Friday, when she was about to enter her house, and she was hit with five bullets. Her belongings were allegedly not stolen. Her daughter, Malú García Andrade, informed that Norma Andrade allegedly was followed that day and that unknown persons allegedly went to her employment site and requested information on her schedule and her address. According to the State Commission on Human Rights, Norma Andrade is hospitalized in serious condition.

The Inter-American Commission had received information before on alleged homicides, threats, harassment and attacks against human rights defenders who seek justice for the cases of women killed in Ciudad Juárez and other places in the State of Chihuahua. In December 2010, the IACHR condemned the assassination of Marisela Escobedo, who was gunned down at the entrance of the Government Palace of the State of Chihuaha, where she was claiming justice for the violent death of her daughter, Rubí Marisol Frayre, killed in 2008 when she was 16 years old. (more…)

 

GENEVA (7 December 2011) – A group of United Nations independent experts warned that a new Peaceful Assembly Bill in Malaysia may “arbitrarily and disproportionately restrict the right to assemble peacefully.” The restrictions range from a ban on street protests and a prohibition on non-citizens and citizens under 21 years of age to assemble peacefully, to conditional access for media to public gatherings.

“Many of these restrictions are not justifiable under international law,” said the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, expressing his deep regret that “neither the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), nor civil society was meaningfully consulted in the drafting of this Bill.”

According to the proposed legislation, which contains a vague definition of assembly, there would also be broad restrictions and conditions on gatherings and a restrictive notification procedure. The Bill gives excessive authority and power to law enforcement officials and the Minister in charge of home affairs on matters related to assemblies, as well as full discretion to the police to make any form of recording of assemblies.

(more…)

 

GENEVA (24 November 2011) – Three United Nations independent experts warned that the new legislative amendments recently adopted by the National Assembly of Belarus may severely and arbitrarily restrict the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association and expression, and breach international law.

“These amendments could constitute a direct affront to the exercise of fundamental civil and political rights which are at the core of any democratic society, such as the rights to assembly and to associate freely,” said the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Mr. Maina Kiai.

Mr. Kiai recalled that the National Assembly of Belarus introduced changes to the Laws on Public Associations, Political Parties, Public Gatherings and Administrative Violations, as well as the Criminal and the Election Codes, “in a legislative process that lacked proper consultation with civil society.”

According to the new legislation, organizing assemblies without the prior and explicit consent of the incumbent authorities is now considered a criminal offense, and new reporting liabilities are imposed on organisers concerning the financial resources used for such assemblies. Disseminating information, including through the social media, without any permission for assembly is also strictly prohibited, as well as any public call for initiating assemblies. (more…)

 

Brussels, 23 November 2011 A 468/11 – Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission, and Stefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, made today the following statement:

“We are seriously concerned about the detention and prosecution of internationally renowned Belarusian human rights defender Ales Byalyatski for alleged tax evasion.

We consider the charges against Ales Byalyatski in the ongoing trial as a politically motivated pretext to target his important work to the benefit of victims of repression. As such, the ongoing trial is a highly visible and symbolic manifestation of the crackdown on civil society in Belarus since the 19 December 2010 Presidential elections.

We call on Belarus to immediately and unconditionally release Ales Byalyatski and to drop the charges against him and against his deputy Valyantsin Stefanovich.”