Civic Space Developments

Civil society flags threats to democracy, human rights and the rule of law during transition period

During the period covered by this update, Kyrgyzstan was in transition following the political crisis that emerged after the October 2020 parliamentary elections, when peaceful mass protests against the election outcome evolved into violent clashes with the police, where protesters seized government buildings and high-ranking officials resigned. Sadyr Japarov, who rose to power during the crisis, won a landslide victory in the presidential election held on 10th January 2021 amid concerns about the lack of a level playing field and the misuse of public resources in his favour. Japarov also used his campaign platform to encourage voters to support a presidential governance system during a referendum held on the same day as the presidential election. An overwhelming majority of the referendum participants supported presidential rule and a new constitution establishing such a system is now under consideration. A first draft constitution put forward in November 2020 drew heavy criticism, with its opponents warning that it would legitimise authoritarian rule and weaken human rights protection in Kyrgyzstan. Due to the criticism, plans to put this document up for a vote during the January 2021 referendum were abandoned and work on the draft constitution continues. Another measure criticised as inherently undemocratic was the parliament’s adoption of a law postponing new parliamentary elections until spring 2021. Human rights groups and labour organisations also rallied against a draft trade union law, which passed its second reading in parliament in November 2020. Intimidation and harassment of journalists, bloggers and other outspoken individuals were ongoing concerns.
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Civil society flags threats to democracy, human rights and the rule of law during transition period

December 2020 general elections: journalists attacked, threatened

Several incidents of attacks against journalists have taken place in the aftermath of the 7th December general elections. In addition, several journalists have been subjected to threats, including death threats: Read more

December 2020 general elections: journalists attacked, threatened

Indian authorities target activists, journalists as they suppress support for the farmers’ protests

Since early January 2021, the authorities have continued to suppress and demonise the farmers protest movement using excessive force with over a hundred detained and charged as well as blocking roads and protests spaces. Activists supporting them have been criminalised using draconian laws as well as journalists reporting and commenting on the protests. The government has also attempted to silence criticism online. Read more

Indian authorities target activists, journalists as they suppress support for the  farmers’ protests

Restrictions in response to the exercise of fundamental freedoms continue

Restricted civic space and the worsening situation for human rights defenders continue in Egypt. While the three EIPR staff members, namely Gasser Abdel-Razek, Karim Ennarah and Mohamed Bashee were released, 7th February 2020 marks one year since the arrest of EIPR researcher and Bologna University student Patrick George Zaki. Graduate student Ahmed Samir Santawy was arrested on 1st February 2021, in relation to his research on women’s rights. In addition, the crackdown on freedom of expression continues. According to Reporters Without Borders, the number of journalists and bloggers detained in Egypt now stands at 33. In one case documented, freelance journalist Solafa Magdy was physically and sexually assaulted in police custody. Solafa and her husband were first arrested on 26th November 2019. Read more

Restrictions in response to the exercise of fundamental freedoms continue

Justice for Keyla: nursing student’s suspected homicide sparks outrage in Honduras

In early February 2021, police forces in Honduras repressed protests for justice in the case of Keyla Martínez, a nursing student who died under police custody in La Esperanza, Intibucá. Read more

Justice for Keyla: nursing student’s suspected homicide sparks outrage in Honduras

Activists and journalists targeted as draconian anti-terror law challenged in the Philippines

In recent months, human rights defenders, trade unions and journalists have been arrested on fabricated charges and killed. The Department of National Defence terminated a decades-old agreement that prohibits state forces from entering University of the Philippines' campuses without prior notice to school officials while security forces raided an indigenous Lumad school in Cebu City. Civil society groups are challenging the draconian anti-terror law in the Supreme Court. Read more

Activists and journalists targeted as draconian anti-terror law challenged in the Philippines

Authorities must guarantee justice in the case of Sergio Rojas, says Costa Rican civil society

In a statement published in February 2021, 67 Costa Rican and 9 international civil society organisations urged authorities to resume investigations and legal processes related to the killing of Bribi leader Sergio Rojas. Read more

Authorities must guarantee justice in the case of Sergio Rojas, says Costa Rican civil society

A deadly January in Colombia

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) warned that January 2021 had been the most violent start to a year since the signing of the Peace Agreement between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian State in 2016. Read more

A deadly January in Colombia

Polish Women’s Strike activists targeted by the state: Our livelihoods and families are under threat

On 27th January 2021 the Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling, which outlaws abortion in cases of foetal abnormalities, was published in the Polish Journal of Laws, and came into effect. Following the ruling's enforcement, protesters took to the streets, and demonstrations are expected to continue in the weeks to come. Thus far at least 150 people have been detained during protests. Founders of the Polish Womens Strike have been charged for their role in protests. Police have used execessive force, tear gas, pepper spray, kettling tactics and physical violence. They have also used concerning detention methods which were documented in a recent report by the Polish ombudsperson. Amid these protests, censorship is a concern, with a draft law proposed which aims to prohibit social media platforms from blocking, banning or removing content that does not violate Polish law. In a further threat to press freedom, the government is pushing to introduce an advertising tax which will adversely impact independent media.
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Polish Women’s Strike activists targeted by the state: Our livelihoods and families are under threat

Major victory for LGBT+ community as Bhutan parliament decriminalises homosexuality

On 10th December 2020, a joint sitting of both houses of Bhutan’s parliament approved a bill to decriminalise same-sex relations. Sections 213 and 214 of the penal code had criminalised “unnatural sex”, widely interpreted as homosexuality. Read more

Major victory for LGBT+ community as Bhutan parliament decriminalises homosexuality