Human rights

1 October 2023Feature

Ukrainian pacifist in court for 'absurd' charge

On 20 September, the prosecution failed to appear in court in Kyiv to begin its case against Ukrainian pacifist Yurii Sheliazhenko.

Yurii, executive secretary of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement, has been told he will be charged with ‘justifying Russian aggression’. His flat was raided on 3 August and he has been given a night-time curfew (10pm – 6am) until 11 October (though he is allowed to leave for an air raid shelter if there is an attack, or for medical assistance).


1 October 2023Feature

Campaign launched to demand asylum for Belarusian peace builder

Following the denial of political asylum by the Lithuanian authorities for the Belarusian peace-builder and human rights defender Olga Karatch (Volha Karach), the international campaign #protection4olga was launched in late August to demand protection and asylum for the director of the organisation ‘Our House.’

Olga has been fighting for human rights in Belarus for years, including the right to conscientious objection to military service, and is therefore persecuted and faces capital…

2 April 2023News

‘Staggering escalation of the government’s clampdown on protest’ looks set to become law

As PN went to press, the Public Order bill was on its way to becoming law.

While the House of Lords did make some changes to this repressive legislation, the bill as a whole remains a ‘staggering escalation of the government’s clampdown on protest’.

That was the description given at the end of January in a joint parliamentary briefing from Amnesty International UK, Liberty, Big Brother Watch, Greenpeace, the Black Equity Organisation, Netpol (the Network for Police…

1 October 2022News

Human rights groups labelled 'terrorists'

On 18 August, Israeli troops raided the offices of six Palestinian human rights groups in the occupied West Bank, confiscating computers and other equipment.

The six groups, which Israel labelled terrorist organisations in 2021, were: al-Haq (the West Bank affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists); the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association; the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees; the Union of Agricultural Work Committees; the Bisan Centre for Research…

8 December 2020News

Mauritius issues threat of futher action after expiry of UN deadline

British officials might stand trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity because of the British government’s refusal to return the illegally-occupied Chagos Islands to Mauritius.

That was the threat made on 27 December by the prime minister of Mauritius, Pravind Jugnauth, after an advisory opinion by the world court last February and the expiry of a six-month deadline set by the UN general assembly.

The Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean include…

1 April 2019Review

OR Books; 2018; 226pp; £16 (purchase online here)

How can we hold dictators to account? The list of those who have enjoyed complete impunity is long. Lawyer Wolfgang Kaleck has spent his whole life fighting to reverse this state of affairs: using the law to challenge Latin American ex-dictators, representing the families of US drone-attack victims in Yemen, and filing criminal complaints against the likes of ex-US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld.

Kaleck’s latest book is a manifesto for international law and how it can be…

1 June 2017News

Prosecution part of sustained attack on human rights group

On 17 May, a British Muslim human rights campaigner was charged with a terrorism offence for refusing to give police the passwords to his laptop and his mobile phone.

Muhammad Rabbani, international director of the London-based human rights group CAGE, was detained and questioned at Heathrow airport in November under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

He refused to surrender his passwords on the grounds that his devices contained confidential testimony relating to torture.…

1 June 2017Feature

How a human rights lawyer was destroyed


On 2 February 2017, Phil Shiner, the award-winning human rights lawyer who brought the UK government to account for the 2003 killing of the Iraqi hotel receptionist Baha Mousa, was struck off by the solicitors disciplinary tribunal (SDT). In March 2017, Shiner, who was also ordered to pay interim costs of £250,000, was declared bankrupt, and was reported to be in poor health.

Shiner and his legal firm, by fighting for victims of the Iraq war, had…

1 October 2016News

Vigil held for jailed art teacher

Vigil against Turkish repression outside Turkish embassy, London, 23 September. Photo: Index on Censorship

On 23 September, Index on Censorship and English PEN, another freedom of expression group, held a vigil outside the Turkish embassy in London in support of art teacher Ayse Çelik and others currently persecuted for speaking out in Turkey.

As we went to press, Çelik was awaiting a new trial date, accused of ‘promoting terrorist organisation propaganda’ after she called in…

18 February 2014News

After a four-month campaign, the international Stop the Shipment campaign succeeded in stopping a shipment of over a million canisters of tear gas to Bahrain on 8 January.

Bahrain Watch and CAAT protest outside the
South Korean embassy, London, on 18 October,
demanding an end to exports of tear gas to Bahrain.
Photo: CAAT

The government of Bahrain has been using tear gas to repress pro-democracy demonstrations since the Arab Spring spread to the Gulf state in February 2011.

A Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) report in 2012 found that ‘Bahraini law enforcement officials routinely violate every UN principle’ in their ‘unusually…

1 January 2014Blog

On January 1, 1804 Haiti became an independent nation free from colonial slavery but this important history is often missing from the prevalent narrative that blames Haiti for its current plight.

Having broken free of the shackles of French colonial slavery, 210 years ago today Haiti become an independent country and in doing so became the first, and only, country to be born out of a successful slave revolt.

Despite its huge historically significance, the scope of the human ideals upon which Haiti gained its independence from a brutal colonial ruler is often lost in the modern narrative about…

1 September 2013News

Hunger strikes continue in Guantanamo and California

It was reported on 6 August, that 60 people being held in the United States military’s Guantánamo Bay detention centre were continuing a hunger strike against their continued imprisonment without trial.

The hunger strike has lasted six months and at one point involved over 100 of the 160 detainees. Many hunger strikers have suffered force-feeding, a practice  widely condemned as torture.

The remaining British resident, Shaker Aamer, who has been detained for 11 years, is among…

5 July 2013News

As PN went to press, US military authorities were stepping up their attempts to break the hunger strike of detainees at the Guantánamo Bay detention centre in Cuba.

The hunger strike, which has been running for over 130 days, involves almost two-thirds of the 166 detainees.

Detainee and British resident Shaker Aamer told his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, director of the legal charity Reprieve, that the authorities were making cells ‘freezing cold’ and using ‘metal-tipped’ feeding tubes to try to break the will of the hunger strikers, according to a report in the Observer on 22 June.

Speaking four months after he joined the hunger…

8 June 2013News

On 17 May, the mass hunger strike at the Guantánamo Bay detention centre reached its 100th day. Over 30 detainees were reported to have been force-fed, including two British residents, Shaker Aamer and Ahmed Belbacha.

On 13 May Al Jazeera published what it claimed was an internal policy document. According to this, force-feeding involves shackling hunger strikers to a ‘restraint chair’ (for up to two hours) and forcing a tube through a nostril and down into the…

10 May 2013News

In April, Britain’s Law Society intervened in the case of Mandira Sharma, a Nepalese human rights lawyer facing persecution as an ‘anti-Maoist dollar mongerer’. Sharma, founder and chair of the human rights group Advocacy Forum, is one of a number of human rights defenders in Nepal who have faced threats because of their campaigns against immunity for politicians, paramilitaries and other individuals suspected of war crimes during the Nepali civil war (1996-2006).…