UN HRC: Individuals must be protected from arbitrary detention for exercise of their right to freedom of expression

Item 3 – Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Oral Statement

13 September 2016

Delivered by Andrew Smith

Mr. President,

ARTICLE 19 is gravely concerned at the arbitrary detention of individuals for exercising their right to freedom of expression, including journalists. According to UNESCO, approximately 221 journalists were reported imprisoned for their work in 2014 alone.

We echo the Working Group’s concerns following their visit to Azerbaijan at the use of criminal or administrative charges to detain and silence human rights defenders, journalists, political and religious leaders. The violent interrogations witnessed of pro-democracy youth activists Bayram Mammadov and Giyas Ibrahimov, detained on trumped up charges of drug possession, are routine. 

We agree with the Working Group that notwithstanding the clearly tactical pardon of some political prisoners in Azerbaijan, there has been no perceptible change in practice relating to other arbitrarily detained individuals. 

We call for the release of youth activist Elgiz Gahraman and political opposition member Natig Jafarli, both detained on 12 August 2016, and Faiq Amirov, financial director of leading opposition newspaper Azadlig, detained on 20 August 2016. 

ARTICLE 19 is deeply concerned by the abuse of state of emergency provision in Turkey to suppress dissent, including through the detention of at least 115 journalists, in the absence of individualised evidence of involvement in a criminal act. 

We are alarmed by arbitrary detention on political grounds in Egypt, includingof persons arrested for peaceful protest. We also call for the immediate release of arbitrarily detained journalist Mahmoud Al Sakka, in pre-trial detention and solitary confinement since 1 May 2016 for his work, when security forces stormed a sit-in protest at the press syndicate. 

In Bahrain, we call for the immediate release of arbitrarily detained human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab, in pre-trial detention since 13 June 2016 and Ghada Jamsheer, detained since 15 August 2016. 

In Iran, we call for the immediate release of Dr Homa Hoodfar, detained since 6 June 2016, and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, employee of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, sentenced on 9 September 2016 to 5 years imprisonment on undisclosed charges. 

In Mexico, we call for the State to comply with the Working Group’s Opinion, and the recommendation of the domestic National Human Rights Commission, to provide reparations for the arbitrary detention of Mayan journalist and Human Rights Defender Pedro Celestino Canché Herrera.

We ask the Working Group how the HRC can better draw attention to and secure the release of individuals arbitrarily detained for the exercise of their right to freedom of expression, in particular journalists. 

Thank you.