Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR): Press briefing notes on DR Congo, United Arab Emirates and Maldives
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Date: 17 July 2012
(1) DR Congo
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is today calling for international standards of due process to be fully respected during the appeal trial in the case of the murder of Congolese human rights defender Floribert Chebeya Bahizire, and the disappearance of his driver, Fidèle Bazana Edadi.
Mr. Chebeya was a pioneer of the human rights movement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and his murder sent a devastating blow to human rights defenders across the country.
His body was found on 2 June 2010 on the outskirts of Kinshasa. On 23 June 2011, the Military Court of Kinshasa/Gombe convicted five policemen, three of them in absentia, of murder, illegal arrest and detention as well as abduction. The Inspector-General of the National Congolese Police was suspended in connection with the case in 2010, but was never formally charged. The next hearing of the ongoing appeal trial is scheduled to take place today. There is more detail on this case in a press release that has just been sent out.
(2) United Arab Emirates
We are concerned about what appears to be an accelerating crackdown on human rights defenders in the United Arab Emirates through harassments, denial of travel, termination of work contracts, arrests, denaturalization and expulsion from the country.
Yesterday (Monday), one prominent activist, Ahmed Abdul Khaleq, was deported to Thailand. Mr. Abdul Khaleq was found guilty in November 2011 along with four other human rights defenders of “publicly insulting” senior officials, but was later pardoned by the President. He was detained once again in May this year. His case is of particular concern because he is a Bidoon, or stateless person, which makes him extremely vulnerable. Our staff in Bangkok have met with him already, and report that he arrived in Thailand with just the clothes he was wearing after being taken straight from prison to the airport. He had no luggage, and just a small sum of money. He says he was never told why he was arrested for the second time, and was never taken to court. Our office in Bangkok is holding further talks with him to find out more about this very disturbing case.
Late last night, another human rights defender and head of the union of jurists in the UAE, Mohamad Al Roken, was detained along with his son and brother-in-law.
It appears that national security is increasingly being used as a pretext to clamp down on peaceful activism, to stifle calls for constitutional reform and on human rights issues such as statelessness. A number of activists openly critical of the Government have been arbitrarily deprived of their Emirati nationality.
We call on the Government to guarantee that human rights defenders are able to carry out their work without fear of reprisals and urge them to release those who have been detained for peaceful exercise of their fundamental human rights.
We are concerned by reports of violent protests over the weekend in the Maldives and excessive use of force by security forces in response. Instances of apparent brutality have been captured on camera. These include the seemingly deliberate and uncalled-for use of some kind of spray on former President Nasheed, and the driving of police vehicles at high speed into crowds of protestors. Such actions deserve immediate investigation, and firm action should be taken by the authorities against those responsible for excessive use of force.
We appeal to all parties to refrain from violence and create conditions for political dialogue and reconciliation. We note reports that charges have been brought against former President Nasheed in relation to his conduct in office, and stress that any such matters must be handled with full respect to the due process rights and fair trial safeguards guaranteed by the Maldives’ Constitution and international human rights treaty obligations.