April 24, 2020

Urgent Call for Release of Arbitrarily Detained Human Rights Defenders Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

The ABA Justice Defenders Program calls for the immediate release of all arbitrarily detained human rights defenders around the world amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and in particular those whose detention the Program has documented as arbitrary:

AFRICA

Cameroon

Paul Chouta, a Cameroonian journalist charged with defamation and spreading fake news on the basis of his reporting. Mr. Chouta has been detained since May 2019 and the proceedings against him have been repeatedly delayed.

Samuel Abuwe Wazizi, a Cameroonian journalist detained since August 4, 2019. Mr. Wazizi’s case was transferred to a military tribunal and he has been held in incommunicado detention since August 7, 2019. 

Tanzania

Tito Elia Magoti, a Tanzanian human rights lawyer and Theodory Giyan, an IT expert, detained since December 24, 2019 for their public criticism of the government. Their trial has been postponed seven times.

EURASIA

Turkmenistan

Mansur Mingelov, a Turkmen minority rights activist detained since August 2012 and sentenced to 22 years in prison in August 2012 in a trial characterized by numerous fair trial violations.

MIDDLE EAST & NORTH AFRICA

Kuwait

Hani Hussein, a Kuwaiti human rights lawyer detained since February 19, 2020.

Saudi Arabia

Salman Al-Awda, a Saudi Arabian cleric detained since September 2017 and facing the death penalty. According to his son, Sheikh Awda last appeared in front of the Specialized Criminal Court on December 29, 2019 and no new hearing date has been set.

Raif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian blogger detained since June 2012 and sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes in May 2014.

Samar Badawi, a Saudi Arabian women’s rights activist detained since July 2018. Ms. Badawi was set to appear in court on March 18, 2020, but her hearing date has been indefinitely postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Israa Al-Ghomgham, a Saudi Arabian women’s rights activist detained since December 2015. In February 2019, Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor confirmed that Ms. Ghomgham was no longer facing the death penalty. However, as of April 2020, Ms. Ghomgham has not yet received her verdict.

Loujain Al-Hathloul, a Saudi Arabian women’s rights activist detained since May 2018. Ms. Hathloul was set to appear in court on March 18, 2020, but her hearing date has been indefinitely postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Mohammed Hassan Al-Habib, a Saudi Arabian cleric detained since July 2016 and sentenced to seven years in prison in January 2018.

Waleed Abu Al-Khair, a Saudi Arabian human rights lawyer detained since April 2014 and sentenced to 15 years in prison in January 2015. Mr. Khair is the recipient of the 2019 ABA International Human Rights Award.

Hassan Farhan Al-Maliki, a Saudi Arabian cleric detained since September 2017 and facing the death penalty. According to a family member, Sheikh Maliki last appeared in front of the Specialized Criminal Court on March 8, 2020 and was set to appear again on April 5, 2020 before Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Judicial Council postponed all hearings until further notice due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Ali Al-Nimr, a Saudi Arabian national detained since February 2012 and sentenced to death by beheading as a minor in May 2014 for participating in a peaceful protest.

Issa Al-Nukheifi, a Saudi Arabian anti-corruption activist detained since December 2016 and sentenced to six years in prison in February 2018 in addition to a travel and social media ban post-release.

Mohammed Al-Otaibi, a Saudi Arabian co-founder of the Union for Human Rights in Riyadh detained since May 2017 and sentenced to 14 years in jail in January 2018 in apparent connection to his legitimate rights work with the organization. Mr. Otaibi is currently appealing his guilty verdict.

Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan, a Saudi Arabian humanitarian worker detained without charge since March 2018. According to his family, Mr. Sadhan has been held incommunicado since his arrest with the exception of a one-minute phone call that he made to his family in February 2020.

SOUTH ASIA

India/Kashmir

Miyan Abdul Qayoom, a Kashmiri human rights lawyer and President of the Jammu & Kashmir High Court Bar Association detained since August 4, 2019.

India

In the summer of 2018, Maharashtra police arrested the following activists and lawyers who historically advocated for the rights of marginalized and vulnerable communities in India. A preliminary review by the Justice Defenders Program of the Bhima Koregaon judicial records raised serious concern regarding procedural irregularities, abuse of process, and violations of fundamental human rights. The majority of the detained Bhima Koregaon activists are senior citizens and many report health issues that put them at higher risk amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sudha Bharadwaj, an Indian human rights lawyer detained since August 2018.

Sudhir Dhawale, an Indian minority rights activist detained since June 2018.

Arun Ferreira, an Indian human rights lawyer detained since August 2018.

Surendra Gadling, an Indian human rights lawyer detained since June 2018.

Vernon Gonsalvesan Indian academic detained since August 2018.

Varvara Rao, an Indian academic detained since August 2018. On April 1, 2020, Mr. Rao was denied bail after India had begun its COVID-19 lockdown.

Mahesh Raut, an Indian scholar detained since June 2018.

Shoma Sen, an Indian professor detained since June 2018. On April 1, 2020, Ms. Sen was denied bail after India had begun its COVID-19 lockdown.

Rona Wilson, an Indian civil rights activist detained since June 2018.

The Justice Defenders Program also expresses its concern regarding reports of the impending arrest of Indian scholar Anand Teltumbde and Indian civil rights activist Gautam Navalakha amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

SEE ALSO

Iran

Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights-Open Letter to Release Iran's Female Prisoners of Conscience During Pandemic

Turkey

Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE)- Imprisoned Lawyers in Turkey and COVID-19

Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE)- Turkey: Judicial Harassment of Thirteen Lawyers