Tag Archives: Activist

Detained Chinese human rights activist Cao Shunli dies

By Kelcey Caulder

BEIJING, CHINA (BNO NEWS) — Chinese human rights activist Cao Shunli died at a military hospital in Beijing on Friday after she was reportedly denied medical treatment, according to a rights group.

Cao died at Beijing No. 309 Military Hospital on Friday morning, only an hour after her family was informed of her worsening condition, according to the U.S.-based advocacy group the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD).

“We mourn the loss of a stalwart defender of human rights and a friend,” said CHRD international director Renee Xia. “The death of Cao Shunli is the saddest yet clearest example of the Chinese government’s unbridled and rampant persecution of civil society activists and human rights defenders that seek participation in UN human rights activities.”

Police had detained Cao since September 14, 2013, when she was taken into custody at Beijing Capital International Airport. At the time, she was attempting to travel from China to Geneva for a UN Human Rights Council review and a training session of UN human rights mechanisms.

Authorities placed Cao under criminal detention for “unlawful assembly” and later arrested her for “creating a disturbance.”

According to CHRD, Shunli’s health seriously deteriorated during the five months she spent at the Chaoyang District Detention Center in Beijing, but officials refused to allow her to receive medical attention. She reportedly developed tuberculosis, liver ascites, fibroid tumors and cysts while at the detention center.

Cao was rushed to the intensive-care unit (ICU) of Beijing’s Quinghe Emergency Center on February 17. Three days later, Cao was transported from that location to 309 Military Hospital in Beijing where she remained until the time of her death, suffering from organ failure.

CHRD claimed to have documented evidence of the Chinese governments’ alleged role in “disappearing, arbitrarily detaining, and torturing or inhumanely treating Cao Shunli by denying her medical treatment in detention, which directly led to her death” and demanded that the government allow an independent investigation into Cao’s death to take place.

A spokesman for Britain’s Foreign Office expressed its sadness over Cao’s death and called on China to allow detainees to have access to proper medical attention. “We are saddened to hear that Chinese human rights activist Cao Shunli had died in detention, after she was reportedly denied medical treatment for serious illness,” he said.

The spokesman added: “Members of the Human Rights Council are bound to uphold and promote the highest standards of human rights. We strongly urge the Chinese authorities to ensure all detainees have access to adequate medical care, and to release all those detained for exercising their constitutional rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly.”

Cao was a powerful voice in China’s human rights movement.

Cao persistently advocated for civil society participation at the national level in both the 2009 and 2013 Universal Periodic Reviews at the United Nation’s Human Rights Council. She also advocated for the government disclosure of materials about the Universal Periodic Review and the inclusion of the views of petitioners in drafting China’s national human rights report for UPR.

Cao was also responsible for helping to host several peaceful rallies of up to 200 activists in front of government buildings in Beijing in 2013.

UK, Pakistani ministers visit Pakistani teen activist in hospital

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND (BNO NEWS) — Ministers from Britain, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday visited a 14-year-old Pakistani girl in a Birmingham hospital where she is being treated after being shot in the head by Taliban gunmen for advocating for girls’ education and criticizing the militant group.

Malala Yousafzai was shot by Taliban gunmen earlier this month while traveling to school in her hometown in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. She received emergency treatment in Peshawar and Rawalpindi which allowed her condition to stabilize before being flown to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, which has the capability to provide integrated care to children who have sustained severe injuries.

On Monday, Malala was visited by British Foreign Secretary William Hague, Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed, and Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik. They also met with David Rosser, the hospital’s medical director, and Zia Ud Din Yousafzai, the girl’s father.

“We are profoundly grateful to the full multi-disciplinary team of medical staff at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, for all they are doing to help Malala recover from her appalling injuries,” Hague said following his visit to the hospital. “I thanked Dr Rosser and his staff on behalf of the Prime Minister and our whole Government. I offered our support and sympathy to Mr Yousafzai and his family as they go through this ordeal, as well as our best wishes for Eid al-Adha.”

Malik said he visited the hospital to learn more about Malala’s recovery and to convey messages of good health and best wishes on behalf of the Pakistani government and its people. “We are grateful to the hospital authorities, especially the doctors treating Malala, for taking care of her in a most professional manner. As a result, she has made very good recovery in the past few days,” he said.

The Pakistani government previously said it would pay the full cost of the medical evacuation, the treatment under the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) system, and any ongoing rehabilitation. Two other schoolgirls were also shot during the Taliban attack, but neither were seriously injured.

Israeli Navy boards pro-Palestinian activist ship off Gaza

GAZA (BNO NEWS) — The Israeli Navy on Saturday boarded and seized a pro-Palestinian activist ship on the Mediterranean high seas to prevent it from breaking Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip, a military spokesperson said. The vessel was later directed to the port of Ashdod.

The Swedish-owned, Finnish-flagged boat SV Estelle, a three-mast schooner, left the Italian city of Naples on October 7 with about 30 people from eight countries, including Norway, Sweden, Greece, Spain, Israel, and Canada. Organizers said the vessel was carrying humanitarian cargo such as cement and children’s books.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it boarded the vessel after numerous calls were made to the passengers on board. “As a result of their unwillingness to cooperate and after ignoring calls to change course, the decision was made to board the vessel and lead it to the port of Ashdod,” a military spokesperson said.

Earlier, Dror Feiler, a spokesman for the Stockholm-based organization Ship to Gaza Sweden, said SV Estelle was being “attacked” in international waters. “Five or six military vessels surrounded Estelle,” he said. “Soldiers wearing masks are now trying to board the ship. The attack took place on international waters: N31 26 E33 45.”

The Israeli military, meanwhile, insisted its soldiers operated as planned and took every precaution necessary to ensure the safety of the passengers. “After boarding the vessel by IDF soldiers, who did not need to use force, the passengers were attended to and offered food and beverages,” the spokesperson added.

After the vessel arrived at the Ashdod port, the passengers were transferred to the custody of Israel Police and immigration authorities at the Ministry of Interior. The spokesperson added that any organization or state which wants to transfer supplies or aid to the Gaza Strip can do so via existing land crossings in coordination with Israeli authorities.

In May 2010, nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed and dozens more were injured when Israeli commandos boarded a ship participating in the ‘Freedom Flotilla I’, which was heading to the Gaza Strip with humanitarian aid on board. The incident caused global outrage over alleged excessive force, but Israel has denied such allegations and said its commandos were being attacked.

Following the incident, Turkey withdrew its Ambassador to Israel and suspended joint military exercises, as well as banning any Israeli military aircraft from entering its national airspace. The most recent flotilla attempt in November 2011 also failed to reach Gaza shores after Israeli soldiers boarded the vessels and directed them to Ashdod.

Pakistani teen activist flown to Britain for specialist medical care

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BNO NEWS) — A 14-year-old Pakistani girl, who was critically injured last week when she was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen for advocating for girls’ education and criticizing the militant group, was flown to Britain on Monday for specialist medical care.

Malala Yousafzai was shot by Taliban gunmen last week while traveling to school in her hometown in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. She received emergency treatment in Peshawar before being transferred to a military hospital in Rawalpindi, which allowed the girl’s condition to stabilize.

A spokesman for the Pakistani military said Monday that an international team of experts recommended to transfer Malala overseas now her condition is stable, rather than later when unforeseen complications could prevent such a transfer. Doctors expect the schoolgirl will need long-term treatment and rehabilitation, including damaged bones which need repair or replacement and intensive neurorehabilitation.

An air ambulance, provided by the United Arab Emirates, took off from Rawalpindi on early Monday and flew her to Britain where she will be taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, which has the capability to provide integrated care to children who have sustained severe injuries.

“The evacuation was arranged by the Pakistani authorities after an assessment by the medical team treating Malala. It follows an offer by the UK Government to assist Malala in any way that we could,” UK’s Foreign Office said in a brief statement. A Pakistani Army intensive Care Specialist accompanied Malala during the flight.

The Pakistani Army spokesman said the team treating the schoolgirl is “pleased” with her present condition, and praised the initial actions to save her life. “The view of the international experts was that the neurosurgery performed in Peshawar was exactly right and indeed saved her life,” he said, adding that treatment she received at the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) in Rawalpindi had stabilized her condition.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said Malala’s bravery in standing up for the right of all young girls in Pakistan to an education is an example to everyone. “Last week’s barbaric attack on Malala Yousafzai and her school friends shocked Pakistan and the world,” he said on Monday. “Our thoughts remain with Malala and her family at this difficult time.”

The Pakistani government said it would pay the full cost of the medical evacuation, the treatment under the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) system, and any ongoing rehabilitation. Two other schoolgirls were also shot in last week’s attack by the Taliban, but neither were seriously injured.

South Korean activist allegedly electrocuted while detained in China

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (BNO NEWS) — A South Korean activist who was detained in China in March is claiming to have suffered abuse at the hands of authorities there, including torture by electrocution, according to reports.

Kim Young-hwan, a prominent South Korean activist who fought for democracy in North Korea, was detained in Beijing in March. A report about the incident published in late May disclosed that he was being denied access to a lawyer.

China, according to the New York Times, had claimed that Kim was being held due to him “endangering national security”. China went on to say that they were handling the case according to the law. South Korea, though, claimed that there were human rights violations taking place.

After several months in custody, Kim was released last week and since returning home, has made claims that he was tortured while in custody. According to the Chosun, a Korean newspaper, Kim forced to do hard labor and was repeatedly electrocuted with a cattle prod after choosing to exercise his right to stay silent.

The physical torture allegedly stopped two months before Kim was released, but he was still forced to do hard labor for 13-hours a day.

When they were asked about the account of Kim’s time in custody, the Korean Foreign Ministry reportedly said “We will try our best to confirm the account, and if it is found to be true, we will lodge a strong protest,”

Belarusian rights activist sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for tax evasion

MINSK (BNO NEWS) — A prominent Belarusian human rights activist was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison on Thursday after being convicted of tax evasion, officials said.

Ales Belyatsky, the head of the Vyasna human rights center which is known for its criticism of Belarusian authorities, was convicted of failing to pay taxes over 567,000 euros (some $ 764,000) transferred by unidentified individuals to his accounts in Lithuania and Poland. He had denied the charges, saying that the money was for the human rights group.

Prosecutor Vladimir Saikovsky demanded that the activist be jailed in a high-security prison and his property be seized, according to the RIA Novosti news agency. Belyatsky, who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize several times, has also been ordered to pay a fine of 721 million Belarusian rubles ($ 83,000) to the state.

In his last plea, the 49-year-old activist accused the Belarusian secret service, the KGB, of “deliberately working against rights activists, using all methods to intimidate them.” Prosecutor Saikovsky denied the allegations that political motives were behind Belyatsky’s trial.

Belyatsky’s arrest sparked an angry reaction from the European Union, whose foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called on the Belarusian authorities to immediately release the activist. The President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, also condemned the detention.

“The European Parliament considers the charges against Ales Byalyatski in the trial as politically motivated and unjustified,” Buzek said in a statement. “We call on Belarusian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Ales Byalyatski and for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners still in custody and for all charges against them to be dropped.”

The Vyasna center has provided legal aid to thousands of Belarusians who were fined or jailed over their criticism of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime since 1996 when it was established.

Iranian activist lashed 74 times for ‘insult’ to President Ahmadinejad

TEHRAN (BNO NEWS) — An Iranian student activist was lashed 74 times on Sunday for insulting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, The Guardian newspaper reported.

Peyman Aref, a student of political science at Tehran University, was lashed before being released from Tehran’s Evin prison on Sunday. The lashing was carried out in the presence of Aref’s wife and officials from Iran’s judiciary.

Aref was sentenced in March 2010 to a year in jail after being found guilty of propaganda against the regime for speaking to foreign media. He also received the lashing sentence for writing an “insulting” letter to Ahmadinejad and was prohibited for life from working as a journalist, according to the news report.

Speaking to the website Rahesabz, Aref said after his release: “Whenever Ahmadinejad goes to New York [for UN general assembly], he boasts that Iran is the world’s freest country but I was brutally flogged in my country for insulting him.” He added: “[My crime] was that I wrote an open letter to Ahmadinejad and reminded him of what he did to the universities.”

In the letter to the president during his 2009 election campaign, Aref attacked Ahmadinejad for his crackdown on politically active students. Authorities apparently were offended after Aref refused to begin his letter with the formal greeting “Salam” as a sign of protest.

The lashing incident comes only a few weeks after Somayeh Tohidlou, a female Iranian blogger and campaigner for former presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, was sentenced to a “symbolic” lashing for the same crime.

Indian activist slams police restrictions on his anti-corruption fast

NEW DELHI (BNO NEWS) — Indian activist Anna Hazare on Saturday slammed authorities for imposing restrictions on his planned fast against corruption, the Hindustan Times reported.

Hazare wrote to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ahead of his fast and slammed the conditions imposed by Delhi Police on him for giving permission to fast. He questioned the rule under which restrictions are being imposed on him by police and said that no democracy has such restrictions for a peaceful protest.

The 73-year-old plans to start fasting on August 16 and to continue until the government passes an anti-corruption bill. However, Delhi police only gave him permission to fast for no more than three days. Hazare has refused to sign an undertaking that the fast will end within that period of time.

Earlier this month, supporters of Hazare burned copies of the government’s version of the Lokpal bill and slammed the legislation for exempting the prime minister, the judiciary and lawmakers. They called it the “anti-poor” law for excluding the office of the Prime Minister from the purview of a new ombudsman.

Hazare threatened to continue protesting the exclusion of some recommendations made by civil society representatives from the bill until August 16. The Gandhian social activist went on hunger strike in April to force the government to form a joint panel of ministers and activists to draft the Lokpa bill.

The bill follows a series of corruption scandals involving government officials. Transparency International ranked India, one of few yet to ratify the United Nations convention against corruption, at 78, placing it below neighboring rival China.

Rights group urges release of Chinese activist

LONDON (BNO NEWS) — Amnesty International on Friday urged Chinese authorities to release a human rights activist detained for organizing a demonstration in support of bloggers as her trial took place on Friday in Beijing.

Wang Lihong was arrested on March 21 on charges of “assembling a crowd to block traffic or undermine traffic order” amid a government crackdown on dissent which is likely to stem from fears among China’s leaders that the country could empathize with democracy protests carried out recently in the Middle East and North Africa.

The 56-year old activist pleaded not guilty to the charges which relate to her participation in a peaceful protest in April 2010 in support of three internet activists from Fujian province who were charged with defamation for posting questions online about an alleged police cover-up in the death of a young woman.

Wang Lihong’s lawyers said they had limited access to her case documents, in violation of legal provisions on lawyers’ rights, and that during the trial, which only lasted a few hours, they did not have enough time to present a proper defense as they were interrupted by the judge repeatedly.

The court verdict is expected within a month but if convicted, Wang Lihong could face up to five years in prison. “Wang Lihong is one of many Chinese activists locked up in recent months on spurious charges, simply for exercising their right to peaceful freedom of expression,” said Catherine Baber, Asia-Pacific Deputy Director at Amnesty International. “Her trial is a farce and she should be released immediately.”

Amnesty International also warned about Lihong’s health condition which has deteriorated after several months in detention. “The Chinese authorities must ensure Wang Lihong has access to the legal representation of her choice, and that she is not tortured or ill-treated in custody,” Catherine Baber said.

Wang Lihong is a widely known human rights activist who has often provided help and support to fellow activists and their families. Many activists across the country have been campaigning for Wang Lihong’s release and, on Friday, they gathered outside the court room in Beijing to express their support.

Belarus arrests prominent human rights activist

MINSK (BNO NEWS) — Belarusian authorities arrested one of the country’s most prominent human rights activists over alleged tax evasion in Minsk, RIA Novosti reported on Friday.

Ales Belyatsky, head of the human rights group Vesna, was arrested on Thursday, Vesna activist Anastasia Loiko said, adding that police seized Belyatsky’s computer and several documents after raiding his apartment and office. He is accused of evading taxes, a charge that carries a maximum seven-year sentence.

Nikolai Khalezin, head of the Belarusian Free Theater, said in his blog that a month ago Lithuania gave Minsk sensitive information about the bank accounts of Belarusian rights organizations registered there as well as individual activists, including Belyatsky. He added that it was easier for Belarusian rights groups to open bank accounts in Lithuania, but things have changed since Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite began expressing support for the policies of Belarusian President Alexander Luskashenko.

“It is not known who gave that order but now it is not only Ales Belyatsky and the rights center Vesna that are under pressure, it is a lot of Belarusian independent organizations and social activists,” Khalezin said, as reported by RIA Novosti.

Meanwhile, the United Nations expressed concern over the arrest and called on authorities to guarantee the well-being of Belyatsky, who is also the Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights. It reminded the Government of Belarus that it is obliged, by the international treaties which it has ratified, to ensure the rights and freedoms of human rights defenders.

“His whereabouts were initially unknown but it is now confirmed that he is in police custody,” Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, told reporters.

“Given the many worrying reports of harassment of human rights defenders in Belarus, we call on the authorities to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of [Mr.] Belyatsky and all human rights defenders in Belarus,” she stated.

The European Union also voiced concern about the arrest and urged authorities to explain the reasons behind Belyatsky’s detention. “The High Representative reiterates her strong regret at repeated acts of intimidation and harassment of peaceful human rights defenders in Belarus, and at the continued refusal to grant legal status to independent human rights organizations in the country,” the spokesperson of Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, said in a statement.

Hundreds of people were arrested throughout Belarus last month for taking part in street protests against Lukashenko’s authoritarian 16-year rule.

President Lukashenko has been accused of repressing opposition and activists in the past. More than 600 citizens of Belarus were detained after the December 19 demonstration in central Minsk following the reelection of Lukashenko, who won a fourth term in office with almost 80 percent of the vote. The results, however, were disputed.

The former Soviet republic is gripped by a severe financial crisis, and was forced to devalue its currency by 36% in May.