16.07.20
Statements

An Urgent Call to Release Human Rights Defenders and Prisoners of Conscience in Honour of Nelson Mandela Day

Dear World Leaders,

On Nelson Mandela Day, civil society organisations across the globe call on you to release imprisoned human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience.

Like Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in prison for his opposition to apartheid, there are thousands of human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience wrongfully accused and in jail around the world. They have been imprisoned for seeking gender, social, political, economic and environmental justice, for defending excluded people, and for promoting democratic values.

Many of these human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience are serving sentences for crimes they never committed, after being convicted in unfair trials. Our organisations have for several years documented the unlawful jail terms handed down to human rights defenders in several countries.

We are particularly concerned that the authorities in many countries continue to detain human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience during the COVID-19 pandemic. We recognise the governments of Iran, Ethiopia, Turkey, Bahrain and Cameroon for releasing prisoners as part of their response to this unprecedented health crisis. However, not many human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience were included, and it is now more urgent than ever to release them.

There are also hundreds of human rights defenders who remain in pretrial detention who have not been charged or tried. Overcrowding and poor sanitation in jails increase the risk of COVID-19 infection and should be strong factors for the reduction of prison populations.

We also urge you to stop the arbitrary arrest and detention of journalists in jail solely for reporting on human rights violations during the pandemic. Although COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted in some parts of the world, some countries have used the pandemic as a pretext to restrict civic freedoms. Journalists and human rights defenders have been physically assaulted and subjected to arbitrary detention and judicial persecution for reporting on the virus.

We need human rights defenders now more than ever. It is their duty to hold governments to account, to ensure states respect international human rights laws during the pandemic, and to tackle environmental degradation and inequalities that have accelerated the impact of COVID-19.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, recently said:

“Governments are facing huge demands on resources in this crisis and are having to take difficult decisions. But I urge them not to forget those behind bars, or those confined in places such as closed mental health facilities, nursing homes and orphanages, because the consequences of neglecting them are potentially catastrophic.”

Sadly, some imprisoned human rights defenders have died under suspicious circumstances in various countries during the pandemic.

As we commemorate Nelson Mandela Day on 18 July, we remember that Mr. Mandela urged all of us to take on the burden of leadership in addressing social injustices. We call on you to give millions of families, friends and colleagues of human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience around the world a reason to renew their hope for a better future during these unprecedented times.

We urge you to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in jail solely for their peaceful human rights activities, and stop all judicial persecution against them.
  • Prioritise and release detainees who have not been charged, and those held in pretrial detention.
  • Stop carrying out new arrests and detentions, particularly on journalists and activists reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic, and those accused of breaking lockdown regulations.

Endorsed by:

1. A Common Future

2. A.C. Reforma Judicial

3. Abraham's Children Foundation

4. ACPDH

5. ACSIS

6. Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture

7. Action D'urgence pour Toute Détresse

8. Action for Humanity and Social Progress

9. Action pour la Lutte Contre l'Injustice Sociale

10. Action pour le Développement

11. Action To Heal Foundation Sierra Leone

12. Actions pour la Protection des Femmes

13. Active Vision

14. Admiral development organization

15. Adolescents Initiatives Support Organization

16. Afghanistan Democracy and Development Organization

17. Africa Intercultural Development Support Trust

18. Africa Rise Foundation

19. African Center for Solidarity and mutual Aid between the Communities CASEC - ACSAC

20. AFRICAN FOUNDATION FOR ENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT - AFED

21. African Holocaust

22. African Observatory Of Civic Freedoms And Fundamental Rights OCFFR-AFRICA

23. AJBDEM DURABLE

24. ALUCHOTO

25. Amis des Étrangers au Togo

26. Amnesty International

27. Asia Pacific Forum on Families International

28. Association des blogueurs pour une citoyennetà active

29. Association Femmes et Enfants

30. Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiatives Trust

31. Association for Health, Safety and Environmental Awareness International

32. Association pour les droits de l'Homme et l'Univers Carcéral

33. Association pour les victimes du monde

34. Association pour l'Integration et le Developpement Durable Durable au Burundi, AIDB

35. ASUTIC Senegal

36. Avenir Jeune de l'Ouest

37. AWHES

38. Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights

39. Banjul Youth in Community Services

40. Banlieues Du Monde Mauritanie

41. Bareedo Platform Somalia

42. Bella Foundation for Child and Maternal Care

43. Bousla Organisation

44. BRIGHTER FUTURE FOUNDATION

45. Burundi Child Rights Coalion

46. CAHURAST-Nepal

Campaign Against Ignorance and Illiteracy

48. Capellanes conacce

49. CAPTE - Uruguay Silvia FLORES MOSQUERA

50. CareMe E-clinic

51. CEAMUJER

52. Center for the Development of Civil Society

53. Centre d'Initiatives et d'Actions pour le Développement durable au Burundi

54. Centre for Human Rights and Social Advancement CEFSAN

55. Centre Oecuméniquepour la Promotion du Monde Rural

56. Centro para la Acción Noviolenta y Cultura de Paz en CentroamÃrica

57. CESPHA

58. ChildHelp Sierra Leone

59. Circles of Hope Community Support Group for PLHIVAIDS

60. CIVICUS

61. Commonwealth Society of Nigeria

62. Cooperation for Peace and Development

63. Corporacion Regional Yariguies GEAM

64. COSAD BENIN

65. Differentabilities

66. DISCOURAGE YOUTHS FROM POVERTY

67. Domestic workers Union

68. DreamBoat Theatre for Development Foundation

69. Droits de l'homme sans frontières

70. Edmund Rice International

71. Edo Civil society organisations

72. EIP

73. Fater Bibi Technologies

74. FCPEEP

75. FEDERATION DES FEMMES POUR LE DEVELOPPEMENT INTEGRAL AU CONGO

76. FINESTE

77. Formidable Initiatives for Women and Girls

78. Foundation for Democracy and Accountable Governance

79. Fraternity Foundation for Human Rights-Birati

80. Free political prisoners

81. FUNDACION SIMAS

82. Fundación T.E.A. Trabajo - Educación - Ambiente

83. FUTURE LEADERS SOCIETY

84. Global Witness

85. Give Hope Uganda

86. Governance and Forest Initiatives

87. GreenLight Initiative

88. Hadejia youth movement for social cohesion

89. Health NGO's Network

90. Healthy Choices Ic.,

91. Human Rights Committee

92. Humanitarian Care for Displaced Persons

93. IFAN

94. INSPIRIT Creatives UG NGO

95. Institute for Public Policy Analysis and Implementation

96. Integrated Agricultural Association-I,A,A

97. International Dalit Solidarity Network

98. International Falcon Movement - Socialist Educational International

99. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

100. Iraqi journalists right deafenc association

101. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

102. Justice Acess Point

103. JusticeMakers Bangladesh

104. Key Populations Alliance of Zambia

105. Khpal Kore Organization

106. Kibera Joy Initiative

107. Kumakomo Community Radio

108. Le Réseau Nigérien des Défenseurs des Droits Humains

109. Leadership initiative network for the Advancement of women and youth

110. Local Community Development Association

111. Lumiere Synergie Developpement

112. Maecenata Foundation

113. MAMAS FOR BURUNDI ASSOCIATION

114. Manna Development AGency

115. Marketplace 247

116. MFFPS

117. Millennium Sistahs Trinidad and Tobago Inc

118. Missing Link Uganda

119. Mouvement des Femmes et Filles pour la Paix et la Sécurité au Burundi

120. Mouvement Populaire pour la Santé au Gay

121. Movement for Social Justice MSJ-4

122. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Uganda

123. Network of Civil Society Organisations for Election Observation and Monitoring - ROSE

124. Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago for the Advancement of Women

125. New Owerri Youth Organisation

126. NGO Collective for Food Security and Rural Development - COSADER

127. NGO CONSTRUISONS ENSEMBLE LE MONDE

128. NGO Defensoria Ambiental

129. NGOs Council ASDGC Kenya

130. Nipe Fagio

131. Nouveaux Droits de l'homme Congo Brazzaville

132. ONG ASSAUVET

133. ONG BAL'LAME

134. ONG Programa sociocultural CRP

135. Palestinian Non Governmental Organizations Network

136. PAMOJATWASIMAMA

137. Partenariat pour la Protection Integree

138. PAYNCOP

139. Peace and Life Enhancement Initiative International

140. PHY ORG

141. Plan international

142. Princegnf

143. Prisma European Network

144. Psychologues du Monde Afrique

145. Reacción Climática

146. Real Agenda For Youth Transformation Trust

147. REDHNNA-Red por los Derechos Humanos de los niños, niñas y adolescentes

148. REPONGAC

149. Research and Advocacy Unit

150. Root Change

151. Ruheso Tanzania

152. RUKIGA FORUM FOR DEVELOPMENT

153. Safety and Risk Mitigation Organization

154. Save Our Continent, Save Nigeria.

155. Save the Climat

156. Secours de la Femme Rurale au Developpement, Safrd

157. SHAKHI 'Friends of Women'

158. Shanduko Yeupenyu Child Care

159. She's Writes

160. Sierra Leone School Green Clubs

161. Social Justice Forum

162. Social Mission Catalysts LLC

163. Solidarity health Foundation

164. Solidarity Youth Voluntary Organisation

165. SOS Jeunesse et Enfance en Détresse - SOS JED

166. South Sudan Civil Society Forum

167. Sustainable Develipment and Peace Building Initiatives

168. Tanzania Development Trust

169. Tanzania Peace Legal Aid and Justice Center PLAJC

170. Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

171. the Wuhan election campaign

172. The Angelic Ladies Society

173. Transitional Justice Working Group

174. Tsoro-o-tso San Dev Trust

175. Ugonma Foundation

176. Ukana West 2 Community Based Health Initiative

177. Unión Nacional de Instituciones para el Trabajo de Acción Social- UNITAS

178. Unique Foundation The Gambia

179. Vijana Corps

180. Wacare Organization

181. Welfare Association for Development Alternative -WADA

182. Women Against Violence and Expediency Handling Initiative

183. Women Friendly

184. Women Working for Social Progress

185. World Federalist Movement Canada

186. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

187. WORLDLITE

188. Young Professional Development Society Nepal

189. Your Health Your Responsibility

190. Youth Alliance for Rural Development in Liberia Inc.

191. YOUTH AND ENVIRONMENT VISION

192. Youth Arm Organization

193. Youth For The Mission

194. Youth Harvest Foundation Ghana

195. YOUTHAID-LIBERIA

196. Zambian Governance Foundation

197. Zimbabwe We Want Poetry Campaign

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