Police Should Only Mount Necessary Road Blocks-Zimbabwe Home Affairs Minister

 Zimbabwe’s Home Affairs Minister and his Deputy have called on the Police to reduce the road blocks on the country’s roads.

They made this call while appearing before  a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development.

Chombo stated that his Ministry had recommended that the road blocks be reduced to four per province, beginning from the end of June.

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“We have told the Commissioner General of Police to reduce or remove all unnecessary roadblocks and leave the necessary ones,” Chombo said.

Towing the argument of his Boss, Chombo’s Deputy maintained that road blocks were only necessary to  curb crimes such as drugs and human trafficking.

“These are the core aspects of the police. These other things were being done on behalf of the Vehicle Inspection Department. There is no need for the police to check on fitness of vehicles and the route (for commuter omnibuses),” he told the parliamentary committee.

 

Activist who accused Bahrain security forces of sexual assault is rearrested

A  prominent human Rights Activist,Ebtial-Saegh has been arrested and  detained by Security agents in Bharain for tweeting remarks considered  to be attacks on the   kingdom’s ruler and security forces.

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However, the activist is accusing the members of the security agency of sexually assaulting her. Read more……

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Mexico: Investigate state wrongdoings, not watchdogs

                                                        Statement

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ARTICLE 19 is extremely concerned about yesterday’s statement by the President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, in relation to recent revelations documented by ARTICLE 19 Mexico and partners on the use of surveillance technology against journalists, victims of human rights violations and human rights defenders in Mexico. In his statement, the President asserted that the state prosecutor should launch an investigation of those who have raised “false accusations.” Read more….

Zimbabwe: Linda Musarira, Others Nabbed Over Toy Gun

Police have denied access to medication to the three human rights activists who were arrested for an alleged illegal possession of a “fire arm” in central Harare on Wednesday.

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Linda Masarira, Zimbabwe National Students Union secretary general, Makomborero Haruzivishe, and the Young Voters’ Platform national programs coordinator, Desmond Sharukai, were arrested at a local restaurant where they were having a drink Wednesday night for allegedly possessing a gun.

Fellow activists, who witnessed the arrest of the three, said Linda and friends were apprehended after they had an altercation with the workers of the restaurant they were having “drinks” at.

“Linda had a misunderstanding with one of the workers at the restaurant and she pointed a toy gun at him,” said the activists who requested not to be named.

According to their attorney, Obey Shava, from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, one of the activists who are detained at Harare Central police station, Haruzivishe, was assaulted during the skirmishes at the scene of their arrest and sustained a “fractured” leg.

“The police have denied my clients access to medication after spending the whole day negotiating with them to have them taken to the hospital so that they can be attended to by doctors,” Shava told NewZimbabwe.com in Harare Thursday.

“They denied the request to have them sent to hospital for treatment despite serious and visible injuries,” he said.

Shava also said the police were yet to prefer charges against the three activists.

“This is an illegal detention which my clients continue to be under given the fact that it is now than 17 hours since they were arrested.

“If they are to charge them I suspect that they might charge them with assault and possible pointing a gun at someone, but they are yet to charge them,” said Shava.

Source : New Zimbabwe(London)

Egypt: Blocking news websites violates the constitution and international obligations

ARTICLE 19 is concerned by the unprecedented situation of restrictions on freedom of the press and the free flow of information in Egypt, following the announcement by the Egyptian state-run news agency, Mena, on 24 May 2017 that the Egyptian authorities had blocked 21 news websites.

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The blocking included Egyptian news websites known for criticizing authorities such as Mada Masr, and the websites of foreign outlets such as Al Jazeera, Huffpost Arabi and Al Sharq TV.

“Recent blocking measures indicate a continuing and serious deterioration of media freedoms and reflect a decline in human rights in general in Egypt, where the authorities have so far ignoredthe warnings of local and international human rights organizations,” said Saloua Ghazouani, director of ARTICLE 19 Middle East and North Africa.

“The blocking measures are further evidence that the authorities tolerate only the voices that support the regime and are silent about its serious human rights abuses,” stated Ghazouani.

The blocking measures violate the Egyptian Constitution of 2014 and also Egypt’s international obligations as a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Article 70 of the Egyptian Constitution states that “Freedom of the press, printing and paper, visual, audio and electronic publication is guaranteed.” Article 71 states that “It is prohibited to censor, confiscate, suspend or shut down Egyptian newspapers and media outlets in any way.”

In recent years, Egypt’s rankings in the World Press Freedom Index, prepared by Reporters Without Borders, have been steadily deteriorating. In 2017, Egypt is on the “blacklist” of countries where the situation for freedom of expression is “very dangerous,” with journalists jailed or detained for long periods.

In 2017, Egypt ranked 161 out of the 180 countries included in the report, down from 159 in 2016 to 158 in 2015.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Egyptian authorities to restore access to the 21 news websites and ensure access to information through a free and independent media for all in Egypt.

Uganda: Abuse of Social Media Forcing Govt to Filter Content, Says ICT Minister

Kabarole — The minister for Information and Communications Technology and National Guidance, Mr Frank Tumwebaze has said the increasing public abuse of social media is forcing the hands of government to regulate the use of the platforms.

Speaking at the 51 celebrations of the World’s Communication Day at Virika Parish, Fort Portal Diocese in Fort Portal Municipality on Sunday, Mr Tumwebaze said there is need to filter social media content that the public posts on Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter.

“In other countries such as UK, everything that goes on air is first filtered but here in Uganda we have not reached that, but we need to be ambassadors of our information,” Mr Tumwebaze said.

He said some people have taken advantage of such platforms to terrorise the country and warned such users to desist and use the new innovations to transform the country.

Mr Tumwebaze who asked the public to be security conscious of cybercrimes, rallied Ugandans to register their SIM cards before August 30 as his ministry and Uganda Communication Commissions will switch off all subscribers who will fail to register or verify their SIM cards.

He warned that there won’t be any more extension after the three month’s grace period allowed for subscribers to register. Fort Portal Dioceses Bishop Robert Muhirwa, expressed concern on misuse of social media platforms to spread pornographic information to the public and asked the government regulate such content.

“Somebody used my name on Facebook and started asking people for money allegedly for helping needy people, and this is wrong. Government should help us” Bishop Muhirwa said.

To mark the World’s Communications Day, Pope Francis asked the media users to be objective and help their nations through spreading good news since bad news disorganises communities.

Why Day is celebrated

World Communications Day was declared by Pope Paul VI in 1967 as an annual celebration that encourages reflection on the opportunities and challenges that the modern means of social communication, including the press, motion pictures, radio, television and the internet, afford the Church to communicate messages of the Gospel.

This year’s World’s Communications Day was celebrated under the theme; “Communicating hope and trust in our time.”

Source : The Monitor(Kampala)

UK: Whistleblowers and journalists face prison for revealing information that could be obtained under FOI

New proposals by the UK Law Commission to reform the 1989 Official Secrets Act (OSA) could lead to the imprisonment of civil servants and journalists for disclosing information that would be available to anyone asking for it under the Freedom of Information Act, say the Campaign for Freedom of Information (CFOI) and ARTICLE 19.


The Law Commission is proposing to make it easier to secure convictions under the 1989 OSA by weakening the test for proving an offence. But the proposed weaker test would catch information that would have to be disclosed under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, say the CFOI and ARTICLE 19.

In a joint response to the Law Commission proposals, ARTICLE 19 and the CFOI are concerned that:

  • Whistleblowers and journalists could be convicted for revealing information about defence, international relations or law enforcement that is unlikely to cause harm
  • Leaking information that anyone could obtain by making an FOI request could be an offence
  • It would not be a defence to show that the information had already lawfully been made public under the FOI Act or otherwise – unless the information had also been ‘widely disseminated’
  • Someone revealing danger to the public, abuse of power or serious misconduct would not be able to argue that they acted in the public interest
  • Maximum prison sentences on conviction, currently 2 years, would be increased.

CFOI director Maurice Frankel said: “These proposals are not only oppressive but unworkable. It is beyond common sense to make it an Official Secrets offence to leak information which anyone could obtain under FOI. The proposals would deter officials from discussing information that has lawfully been made public. It will set the FOI Act and the Official Secrets Act on a collision course. It is not the Law Commission’s job to make an ass of the law but that’s what its proposals would do.”

ARTICLE 19 Executive Director Thomas Hughes said: “In many countries in the world, secrecy laws are abused to imprison and harass journalists, whistleblowers and civil society, in particular in many Commonwealth countries where these laws are a legacy of British colonial control and oppression. If taken forward, the Commission’s proposals would move the clock backwards, undoing improvements in the UK’s 1989 Official Secrets Acts, and setting a dangerous example of eroding freedom of expression protections, which may be copied by oppressive regimes globally.”

The 1989 Official Secrets Act makes the leaking of information in certain areas, and the publication of those leaks, an offence.  Some offences are committed regardless of whether the information is shown to be harmful. Others require proof that a disclosure is ‘likely’ to damage defence, international relations, or law enforcement, or falls into a ‘class’ of information likely to damage the security services’ work.

The Law Commission says the ‘likely to damage’ test prevents prosecutions being brought, because proving this requires even more damaging information to be revealed in court. The CFOI and ARTICLE 19 point out that sensitive evidence can be given in camera during a trial of OSA offences and say the Commission has not explained why this very considerable safeguard is inadequate.

The Commission wants the harm test to be reduced from ‘likely’ to cause harm to ‘capable’ of causing harm, but the FOI Act only exempts information about defence, international relations and law enforcement if disclosure would be ‘likely’ to harm those interests.* Leaking information which is capable of but very unlikely to harm, say, law enforcement would therefore become an offence – although such information must be disclosed to anyone who asks for it under FOI.  An official would face the threat of imprisonment for making an unauthorised disclosure of information which anyone could obtain on request.

ARTICLE 19 and the CFOI are extremely concerned about the Law Commission’s proposals and the quality of the analysis which supports them. The proposals would substantially and unnecessarily extend the reach of the Official Secrets Act 1989, and threaten journalists and whistleblowers who release information about danger to the public, abuse of power or serious misconduct. The example this sets internationally is further cause for concern.

Uganda: Fresh Torture Accusations Leveled Against Uganda’s Police

Press Release

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Last week, Uganda’s police were – again – accused of torturing suspects to illicit confessions. First, defendants charged in the murder of police commander Andrew Kaweesi had visible injuries during their court appearance. They complained in court of being beaten in Nalufenya police station in Jinja, Eastern Uganda. Then, photos leaked of the hospitalized mayor of Kamwenge, who had horrific injuries including gaping wounds on his knees and ankles, which he said resulted from beatings by police who were investigating the same murder.

The ensuing police denials ring hallow.

Over the last 15 years, Human Rights Watch has interviewed hundreds of Ugandans who say they were tortured by police, specifically by a string of units which have changed name and location over the years, but whose brutality repeats itself over and over again. First, Operation Wembley in Clement Hill, then Violent Crimes Crack Unit in Kireka, then Rapid Response Unit, also in Kireka and now the Special Investigations Division, at times assisted by staff from the Flying Squad, in Nalufenya. Scores of victims across Uganda have described nearly identical treatment during interrogations, including beatings on the joints with batons over several days, at times while handcuffed in stress positions with their hands under their legs. All of this units have defied laws regulating arrest and detention with no consequences.

In December 2011, General Kayihura, the inspector general of the Uganda Police Force, disbanded Rapid Response Unit, in part due to human rights violations by its officers. But without investigations into those violations and prosecutions of those responsible, the very same officers have continued to commit abuses as part of a new unit, with a new name. The lack of investigations and failure to remove abusive officers from police ranks, despites decades of allegations, only reinforces the problem – that Uganda’s police too often rely on forced confessions. They beat suspects to bypass the tough work of carefully investigating crimes and gathering credible evidence that could stand up to scrutiny in court.

Uganda’s police leadership need to stop facile denials that torture festers in Uganda’s police cells, and particularly nowadays, in Nalufenya. Police should take suspects’ allegations seriously, investigate officers for torture and mistreatment, and work with prosecutors to finally bring charges under Uganda’s never-used Anti Torture Act. Officers who commit torture should be removed from police ranks. Police shouldn’t be allowed to commit crimes while seeking to fight them.

Maria Burnett is the Director, East Africa and the Horn.

Source : Human Rights Watch(Washington DC)

Uganda: As Museveni Critic Remains in Jail, Govt On the Spot Over Rights

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As the magistrate court at Buganda Road resumes hearing of cases against Stella Nyanzi on Monday April 25, focus is likely to extend to the declining state of fundamental rights in Uganda and that of the Constitutional Court.

Its wheels have yet to move on a petition filed nearly 15 months ago challenging sections of the Computer Misuse Act (CMA) against which she is being charged for harassing and offending President Yoweri Museveni.

Dr Nyanzi, a social researcher at Makerere University was kidnapped by unknown people on the night of Friday, April 7, around the headquarters of the Internal Security Organisation.

She was addressing a Rotary fellowship at a nearby hotel.

A day later Police acknowledged it was holding her.

When she appeared in court on Monday April 10, Dr Nyanzi’s charge sheet indicated two counts of cyber harassment and offensive communication contrary to Sections 24 (1 and 2a) and 25 of the CMA enacted in 2011, that had been drawn two weeks earlier on March 23 and sanctioned by the Director of Public Prosecutions on March 27, weeks before her arrest.

The court remanded her to Luzira Maximum Security Prison for 14 days.

Section 25 in particular, which is about offensive communication, is a subject of a constitutional petition filed on February 3, 2016 by Andrew Karamagi and Robert Shaka.

The charges against Dr Nyanzi were first drawn on March 23, 2017 and sanctioned four days later. They followed hours-long interrogation on March 7, 2016.

Dr Nyanzi, who uses expletives, allegedly insulted Museveni on her Facebook page by calling him “a pair of buttocks” on January 28.

But a review of her timeline shows she posted nothing at all on that said day.

Besides being the butt of all jokes, the charges have continued to draw widespread condemnation across the country and beyond its borders.

Most recently on Wednesday, April 19, Amnesty International demanded her immediate release, saying she was a “prisoner of conscience, held solely for exercising her right to freedom of expression.”

“Her continued detention and prosecution violate Uganda’s obligations under the country’s constitution and international human rights law regarding the rights to liberty and freedom of expression,” read its call to action; a mechanism through which it mobilises global attention.

That Dr Nyanzi and her lawyers were surprised with a government application to subject her to a sanity test after her first appearance in court is only helping attract more scrutiny and interest on the trial and its associated human rights issues.

Source : The East African

Zambia: Police Acted Independently in Hichilema Midnight Raid – Treason Charge – State House

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Presidential press Amos Chanda has issued a statement claiming State House has not interfered with the arrest of leading opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema.

Hichilema, the opppsition UPND president, was arrested this morning after a midnight raid at his private residence and charged with treason for obstructing a presidential motorcade in Mongu.

State House have issued their first statement since the drama unfolded last night.

The episode has widely been condemned by all well meaning Zambians and the international community as an act of political intolerance.

But Chanda claims the state has no hand in the drama and will not interfere in the investigations.

BELOW IS A STATEMENT BY CHANDA

STATE HOUSE WILL NOT INTERFERE IN HH PROSECUTION.

STATE HOUSE has announced that it will not interfere with the ongoing investigations or charges being leveled against UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema.

Speaking at a media briefing today Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations Amos Chanda clarified that State House had no intentions or business in interfering in police work.

Mr Chanda said it was not the duty of State House to prosecute individuals and neither was it their duty to arrest or not arrest individuals.

“Several crimes were committed but that is up to the Police to decide whether to prosecute or not, it is up to the Police to decide who to arrest or not,” Mr Chanda said.

Mr Chanda emphasised that they believed the police would decisively act on any criminal behavior that occurred in Mongu and the State would let police work independently as always.

He added that the UPND media had henceforth forged a statement from his office citing that the President was giving instructions to police.

He described the statement as fake and a total fabrication, Mr Chanda said a formal complaint had henceforth been taken to the relevant authorities.

Mr Chanda emphasised that State House would not give any comment on the criminal investigations being conducted by police.

Source : Zambia Reports