Petitions of the weekThis week we highlight petitions pending before the Supreme Court that address the standard for removal of a juror for misconduct during deliberations, a court’s ability to enable a defendant to earn income to pay restitution, and whether a horizontal agreement to boycott a supplier can escape per se condemnation under Section 1 of the […]

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Friday round-upYesterday, the challengers in Department of Commerce v. U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, a dispute over discovery in a challenge to the government’s decision to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census, asked the justices to dismiss the case, arguing that a district court decision earlier this week […]

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Friday round-upYesterday, the challengers in Department of Commerce v. U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, a dispute over discovery in a challenge to the government’s decision to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census, asked the justices to dismiss the case, arguing that a district court decision earlier this week […]

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Screenshot from an episode of the online show “1 Dîner 2 Cons”, recorded in Casablanca, Morocco. 


© 2018 1D2C / YouTube

(Tunis) – Moroccan authorities should immediately abandon attempts to dissolve the cultural group Racines, over critical comments made by guests on an online talk show it hosted, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said today.  

Racines, a Casablanca-based association, was targeted because its office was used as a venue to record an episode of the talk show ‘1 Dîner 2 Cons’ (One Dinner, Two Fools) on August 5, 2018. Human Rights Watch’s Ahmed Benchemsi was one of six guests invited to comment on Moroccan news during the episode that was posted on YouTube on August 24. During the show, some guests criticized King Mohammed VI’s speeches and policies, in a context of increased police repression of street protests. The episode has been viewed more than half a million times.

“The talk show ‘1 Dîner 2 Cons’ is one of the very few spaces left for free, uncensored speech in Morocco,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “By seeking the dissolution of the organization that hosted it, authorities are sending a grim message to the dwindling ranks of critical journalists and commentators in Morocco, and that message is ‘Shut up.’”

On October 9, the governor of Casablanca-Anfa, a high-ranking official in the Interior Ministry, wrote to Casablanca’s general prosecutor, requesting Racines’ dissolution on the grounds that the group had “organized an activity including interviews interspersed with clear offenses towards institutions (… and in which) political opinions were expressed that are very remote from the purposes for which the association was created.” The governor’s letter refers to the episode of ‘1 Dîner 2 Cons’ recorded on August 5. The general prosecutor petitioned the court on November 13 to dissolve Racines on the grounds raised by the governor’s letter.

Racines was neither the organizer of ‘1 Dîner 2 Cons’ nor the party that posted the recorded show on YouTube. The show was not posted on the group’s website or YouTube channel. “The association merely offered its Casablanca office as a venue for recording the show, at the request of its creators and hosts, journalists Amine Belghazi and Youssef El Mouedden,” Racines’ president, Raymond Benhaim, told Human Rights Watch. On December 26, the court ruled in the prosecutor’s favor and ordered that Racines be dissolved. The group published on January 15 a press release in which it announced its decision to appeal.

“The decision to dissolve Racines is a blow blatantly intended to intimidate critics into silence. No one should be punished for peacefully expressing their opinions or for criticizing institutions.  If the Moroccan authorities are serious about their constitutional and international commitment to guarantee freedom of expression and association, all attempts to shut down Racines should be immediately dropped,” said Heba Morayef, Middle East and North Africa director at Amnesty International.  

In its written judgment, the first instance court cited article 36 of the Law on Associations, which states that “any association engaged in an activity other than the ones provided for by its statutes may be dissolved.” By mentioning an article of Racines’ 2015 statutes defining the association’s objectives to include “enabling access to culture, establishing a cultural policy in Morocco, and organizing cultural events,” the court seemed to imply that hosting a show like ‘1 Dîner 2 Cons’ was beyond the scope of the association’s stated objectives. But Racines’ 2015 statutes include “activism for freedom of speech” among its objectives. Its updated 2018 statutes add that part of Racines’ mission is to implement “debates (…) concerning free speech.”

Associations should be free to determine their statutes and activities and make decisions without state interference. The rules governing organizations should not be used as a pretext to suppress exercise of human rights such as the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said. 

1 Dîner, 2 Cons is a YouTube-based talk show in which the two hosts, self-described as “fools,” invite journalists, artists, and others to debate casually and in an offbeat tone, over dinner, a range of political and social controversial topics. It has been broadcasting since 2016. This is the first time authorities have taken legal action in response.

The relevant episode, which is titled “The Nihilists’ Saga” and is available online divided into three segments, features Ahmed Benchemsi, the Human Rights Watch advocacy and communications director for the Middle East and North Africa; Omar Radi, a journalist; Barry, a singer; Jawad El Hamidi, a religious freedom advocate; Aadel Essaadani, a cultural activist and Racines staff member; and Rachid Aourraz, an economist. Several guests criticized the King’s failure to ensure accountability in relation to the increase of police repression. One guest also mentioned the corruption that, according to him, plagued the Interior Ministry’s handling of a major social program initiated by the King in 2005.

Since the 2000’s, many independent media outlets have closed in Morocco and their founders have left the country, after years of harassment and intimidation. The government has imprisoned journalists, confiscated publications, seized assets, subjected journalists to unfair trials with disproportionate fines, and led advertising boycotts. Several journalists and commentators, including strong critics of state policy, are currently in jail. Morocco-based television channels refrain from any criticism of royal policies and practices.

 

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Sudanese protesters cover their faces during an anti-government demonstration in the capital Khartoum on January 6, 2018. 


© 2018 Getty Images

 
(Nairobi) – Security officials in Sudan have killed dozens of protesters and rounded up hundreds since widespread anti-austerity protests began on December 19, 2018, four organizations said today. Sudanese authorities should immediately release or charge those detained in relation to the ongoing protests, four organizations said today.

Those arrested include protesters, journalists, doctors, lawyers, and opposition party leaders. On January 7, 2019, the interior minister said that at least 816 people had been arrested during the protests across the country. The number is most likely far greater since many people have also been detained for short periods and released. Many of those arrested remain in incommunicado detention, without access to family or lawyer visits.

“The number of arbitrary arrests related to the recent protests is huge, and the government seems intent on pursuing more arrests, repression, and other abuses as long as the protests continue,” said Mossaad Mohammed Ali, executive director of the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS).

The other three organizations are Human Rights Watch, the International Refugee Rights Initiative, and the Al-Khatim Adlan Centre for Enlightenment and Human Development.

On January 8, National Security and Intelligence Service (NISS) officials arrested Salih Mahmoud Osman, a prominent human rights activist and Communist party member, at his law offices. NISS confirmed two days later that he was in custody, and his family has been told that no visits will be allowed for two weeks.

“We are worried about his health and even his life because he is suffering from hypertension and diabetes,” his family said in a statement. “We call on the international community to advocate for his immediate release.”

Others arrested include Masoud Mohamed el-Hassan and 88-year-old Siddig Yousif, both Communist party members, and Sudan Congress party leaders including Omer el-Digair. Mohamed Naji Al-Assam and Ahmed Rabi of the Sudanese Professionals Association’ Secretariat were arrested and detained on January 4 and 5, respectively. Adila Al Zaibaq and Sumaia Isaaq, activists with the Sudanese Women’s Union (SWU), were arrested on December 25 and remain in detention. Ihsan Figiri, Amal Jabralla, Ahmed El- Sheikh, and Najeeb Najm El-Din, leaders of the Sudan Doctors Syndicate, are also detained.

NISS officers have also detained hospital patients. On January 5, a group of 12 security force members arrested Yasser Ali Elsir, 57, at his home where he was recuperating after being shot in the chest by a sniper on December 25. Elsir spent nine days in a hospital. Family members said in a statement the security forces are detaining him in an unknown location and will not allow him to travel although he requires further surgery outside the country.

Doctors’ associations reported additional detentions of doctors and violence against medical professionals and patients, especially on January 9 during protests in Omdurman. On January 11, Dr. Alfatih Omer Elsid, the manager of Tuga private hospital, was arrested while on his way to the mosque in Khartoum. He was arrested, the Sudan Doctors Syndicate said, after he announced that his hospital will provide free medical services to injured protesters. On January 13, Dr. Hiba Omer Ibrahim, a surgeon and mother of five, was arrested and held by NISS in an unknown location.

Dr. Alaa Nugdallah, the head of the Sudanese Surgeons’ Association, was arrested on January 14 at his office in Khartoum. The association issued a statement on January 13 warning of a nationwide strike if detained doctors were not released in 24 hours.

In addition, the NISS is detaining more than 40 Darfuri students whom they have accused publicly of being part of a “sabotage cell,” news reported. Under the 2010 national security laws, the NISS may detain people for up to four and a half months without judicial review. The abuse of detainees in NISS custody, including torture, is well documented and all detainees in the agency’s custody are at risk of such ill-treatment.

Authorities should make known the names and whereabouts of all detainees and either charge them with an internationally recognized criminal offense, upholding due process protections, or release them at once, the organizations said.

“Violence won’t help Sudan overcome its many problems,” said Jehanne Henry, associate Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Rather than using violence and abuses to clamp down on dissent, Sudan needs to engage peacefully with protesters’ concerns.”   

Signatory organizations
African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies
Human Rights Watch 
International Refugee Rights Initiative 
Al Khatim Adlan Centre for Enlightenment and Human Development     

   

 
 

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This week a militant Islamist group in Indonesia raided the offices of an HIV prevention organization on suspicion that the group had been conducting “LGBT activities.” The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) was joined by Indonesian soldiers and local residents in an incident that follows a disturbing pattern of similar vigilante raids across Indonesia. 

Sebuah kelompok yang menentang komunitas Lesbian, Gay dan Transjender (LGBT) sedang bersiap untuk menghadapi kelompok pro-LGBT yang melakukan protes tandingan di Monumen Tugu, Yogyakarta, pada 23 Pebruari.


© 2016 Andreas Fitri Atmoko/Antara

Mulyadi Anwar, a member of the city council in Pekanbaru in eastern Sumatra, orchestrated the raid and boasted about it in an anti-LGBT message on his re-election campaign Facebook page. Mulyadi acknowledged that the organization provides condoms and counseling for sex workers and waria (roughly translated as transgender women). However, he said: “[The organization] is for HIV prevention but we still cannot accept it. They still do vice activities. We are closing this place.”

For three years Indonesia has been engulfed by a government-driven moral panic about gender and sexuality. Politicians, government officials, and state offices have issued anti-LGBT statements calling for criminalization of homosexuality, censorship of LGBT-related information, and other threats to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

Tensions began across the country in January 2016, when Indonesia’s higher education minister, Mohammed Nasir, tweeted that he wanted to ban all LGBT student groups from university campuses. Within two months, dozens of public officials had joined a cascade of public anti-LGBT vitriol.

Throughout 2017, police across Indonesia raided saunas, nightclubs, hotel rooms, hair salons, and private homes on suspicion that gay or transgender people were inside. Militant Islamists often tipped off police or accompanied them during these raids. Police apprehended at least 300 people in 2017 because of their presumed sexual orientation or gender identity. Raids and arrests continued throughout 2018.

The combination of anti-LGBT rhetoric, the public flogging of gay men, and police targeting of private spaces has jeopardized Indonesia’s very limited public health infrastructure. Indonesia’s HIV rates in men who have sex with men, which have spiked five-fold over the past decade, could worsen as a result.

Years of anti-LGBT rhetoric from public officials has effectively sanctioned and given political cover for violence and discrimination. To change course, the government needs to uphold its commitments to “unity in diversity” by halting and investigating unlawful police raids and by supporting inclusive public health programs – not sanctioning their attack.

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Challengers urge justices to dismiss census case after district court rulingOn February 19, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral argument in U.S. Department of Commerce v. U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, a dispute over evidence in a challenge to the Trump administration’s decision to reinstate a question about citizenship on the 2020 census. The justices agreed in November […]

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Generally, KCNA and other North Korean media outlets identify the locations where Kim Jong Un (and, before him, Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung) conduct inspections and provide “on the spot” guidance. These visits are a routine way to signal the regime’s interests and priorities, to show off its achievements, and to highlight the … Read More…

Senior Policy Director Alexandra Bell spoke with the Washington Post … Continued

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Empirical SCOTUS: If Ginsburg leaves, it could be the liberals’ biggest loss yet – A look back at previous justices replaced with more conservative successorsThe saga over Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s health seems to ebb and flow from the headlines almost daily. Part of the mystery relates to the amount of information shared with the public. We know that, while treating Ginsburg for rib fractures, doctors found malignant lesions in her lungs that were promptly removed, and that subsequent […]

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