police state

Turkey: 200 on trial over coup attempt

A trial over the July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey began at a prison courtroom in Sincan on May 22. Two hundred of the 221 defendants in the case were marched into the courtroom before a group of pro-government protesters, some of whom threw nooses and demanded the death penalty. Many of the protesters had lost relatives during the coup, which resulted in 240 deaths, primarily civilians. Most of the defendants are former military personnel, with ranks ranging from captains to generals. Prosecutors are seeking life sentences for the defendants, who they are accused of "commandeer[ing] tanks, warplanes and helicopters, bombing the parliament and attempting to overthrow the government." US-based Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen, named as the number one defendant in the case and accused of orchestrating the coup, will be tried in absentia.

Trump-Duterte 'bromance' bodes ill for freedom

The Philippines' inimitable President Rodrigo Duterte is being his usual charming self. The United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard, arrived in the country on May 5 to attend a conference on drug policy and human rights at the University of the Philippines. Callamard is of course a harsh critic of Duterte's campaign of police and paramilitary terror against low-level drug dealers and users. Duterte wasted not a moment in voicing defiance, warning drug users: "And here's the shocker: I will kill you. I will really kill you. And that's why the rapporteur of the UN is here, investigating extrajudicial killing."

Dangerous conditions in US immigration centers

Advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned May 8 that there are "systemic failures" in US immigration detention centers, such as unreasonable delays in health care and unqualified medical staff, leading to "dangerously subpar" care. The group expressed concerns about the Trump administration's plans to detain an even higher number of immigrants, which HRW believes will result in more "needless and preventable deaths." The group documented numerous incidents of "substandard and dangerous" medical care, and the misuse of solitary confinement for people with mental health conditions. According to the report, this type of substandard care contributed to seven of the 18 deaths in detention centers from 2012 to 2015.

Philippines: legal challenge to deadly drug war

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte remains intransigent on his ultra-murderous "drug war," which has unleashed police and paramilitary terror on low-level dealers and users across the archipelago. But, hearteningly, courageous dissent and resistance to the blood-drenched crackdown persists. Al Jazeera on April 24 features a profile of the legal team at Manila's Center for International Law, which has been going to bat for the targets of Duterte's terror—despite the threat of reprisals.

UN: Saudi anti-terror laws threaten rights

UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism Ben Emmerson on May 5 said that Saudi Arabia's anti-terrorism laws are too broad and pose a threat to individual rights. He noted that Saudi Arabia's definition of terrorism, which includes "endangering 'national unity' or undermining 'the reputation or position of the State,'" is over-inclusive and should conform to international law, which maintains that terrorism must include "acts or threats of violence." Emmerson also expressed concern about the reported prosecution of writers and activists for non-violent actions. He urged Saudi Arabia's government to establish an "independent national security and due process review mechanism" to re-examine those prosecuted for political expression.

UN rights chief blasts Egypt security measures

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said May 1 that Egypt's recent security measures have been encouraging the very radicalization they were trying to control. In a press conference in Geneva, al-Hussein criticized the increased security measures Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has instituted since the bombings of Christian churches last month. While condemning the attacks, al-Hussien said that al-Sisi's declaration of a three-month state of emergency was only likely to increase radicalization. Al-Hussein said that the state of emergency was leading to "massive numbers of detentions, reports of torture, and continued arbitrary arrests" which "facilitates radicalization in prisons." He continued that "the crackdown on civil society through travel bans, freezing orders, [and] anti-protest laws...is not the way to fight terror." Al-Hussein concluded that "national security...must be a priority for every country, [but not] at the expense of human rights."

Turkey: thousands more fall to post-coup purge

Turkish authorities removed more than 3,900 people from their positions in the civil service and military pursuant to a new national security law published on April 29. Those removed included prison guards, clerks, academics, and employees of the religious affairs ministry, all of whom the government alleged had links to terrorist organizations. This is the latest action by the Turkish government since a state of emergency was issued after a failed coup attempt in July of last year. Also on April 29, Turkey blocked the website Wikipedia on the grounds that it posed a threat to national security.

Egypt: Sisi extends control over judiciary

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi ratified a law April 27 that will allow him to appoint head judges in the country's highest courts. The amended law, which was ratified when it was published in the official gazette, allows el-Sisi to chose one of three potential judges nominated by each court to be the head of that court. Previously, leadership passed to the most senior member of the court, and the president was expected to sign off on the leadership role in a process that was largely ceremonial. El-Sisi and supporters of the change insist that the move is necessary to strengthen his administration's authority as they tackle issues such as terrorism, but members of the Egyptian judiciary have resisted the change.

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