East Asia

Hong Kong steps up crackdown on Cantopop stars

Hong Kong District Court judge Ernest Lin Kam-hung handed down a judgment sentencing Tommy Yuen, a former Cantopop boy-band member, to 26 months imprisonment. Yuen was convicted of “acts with seditious intention” among other charges. Lin found that Yuen made seditious statements on Facebook and Instagram in 2021 disparaging police and officials. Lin asserted that Yuen had been advocating for Hong Kong independence and insulting Hong Kong’s government. Yuen was well known as a member of the Cantopop boy group E-kids, which was disbanded in 2006. He had been active in the 2019 anti-extradition protests, while Lin won a reputation for his harsh sentences handed down to protesters. (Photo: Yuen, outside West Kowloon Court in March 2021, standing to right of Alexandra “Grandma” Wong. Credit: Studio Incendo via Wikimedia Commons)


Russian officials sanctioned for abuse of Crimea journalist

The Council of the European Union announced sanctions on six Russians it says committed rights violations in Crimea. The six individuals were singled out for participating in legal proceedings against Ukrainian journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko, who was targeted by Russia for his outspoken opposition to the Russian occupation of Crimea. Two Federal Security Service (FSB) agents are sanctioned for torturing Yesypenko, and allegedly framing him on a weapons charge. Also sanctioned are two prosecuting attorneys,¬†the judge in the case,¬†and Viktor Krapko, the Crimean Supreme Court justice who allegedly authorized abusive searches against Yesypenko and others. Several of the sanctioned individuals were also named for their participation in “systematic persecution campaigns” against the Crimean Tatar community, and other minorities. (Map via Wikimedia Commons)

Central Asia

PRC officials sanctioned over Tibet assimilation policy

The US Department of State has announced visa restrictions on Chinese officials linked to the systematic “forced assimilation” of over a million Tibetan children in state-operated boarding schools. In 2021, a policy pivot in Beijing’s approach to educating children from minority peoples became evident with the release of the National Program for Child Development (2021-2030). The earlier policy document on the question emphasized the need to “respect and protect the rights of children of ethnic minorities to be educated in their own language.” However, this phrase was omitted in the updated version, with the emphasis instead on “promoting the common national language.” This alteration suggests a shift toward a more centralized program of Mandarin-language instruction for ethnic minority students. (Photo: GerdEichmann/Wikimedia Commons)

North Africa

Algeria: ex-defense minister faces war crimes charges

Switzerland’s Office of the Attorney General¬†announced¬†that it has formally charged former Algerian defense minister Khaled Nezzar in relation to war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during Algeria’s civil war. In the indictment submitted to the Swiss Federal Criminal Court,¬†prosecutors said “Nezzar is accused of violating the laws of armed conflicts in accordance with the Geneva Conventions between 1992 and 1994…and of committing crimes against humanity.” The indictment alleges that Nezzar “condoned, coordinated or ordered” acts of torture committed by his subordinates. (Map: PCL)

Ziada family

Dutch high court blocks lawsuit over Gaza air-strike

The Supreme Court of the Netherlands affirmed that Palestinians are precluded from bringing legal action against Israeli military officers for their involvement in a deadly air-strike on the Gaza Strip in 2014. The high court upheld the decisions of lower court judges, ruling that former Israeli chief of staff Benny Gantz and former Israeli Air Force commander Amir Eshel are shielded from prosecution due to their immunity status. The court ruled that this places them above legal reproach, regardless of the seriousness or nature of the alleged actions. The case was initiated by Gaza resident Ismail Ziada, who lost his mother, three brothers, a sister-in-law and a nephew in the July 2014 air-strike. In his suit, Ziada sought compensation under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction, which permits the pursuit of legal action for grave crimes committed in other countries. (Image:  Ismail Ziada)


Demand ‘universal jurisdiction’ for Taliban criminals

Amnesty International¬†called for the application of “universal jurisdiction” against members of the Taliban accused of crimes under international law. Invocation of this doctrine would give any country the power to prosecute Taliban members for such violations. The¬†statement came after a report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) which found that Taliban de¬†facto authorities have been committing extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, torture and other forms of maltreatment against former members of Afghanistan’s government and security forces. The report said that UNAMA has recorded at least 218 extrajudicial killings in less than two years, from August 2021 to June 2023. Amnesty stated: “The new UNAMA report demonstrates an unending pattern of extrajudicial killings…since Taliban‚Äôs return to power in August 2021.” (Photo: VOA via Wikimedia Commons)


Russia: election monitor arrested ahead of vote

In the latest iteration of Russia’s ongoing crackdown on dissent, a Moscow court¬†ordered the detention of Grigory Melkonyants, co-chair of independent election monitoring organization Golos. The initial detention period was set at two months pending an investigation into charges that Melkonyants operated an “undesirable” NGO‚ÄĒa crime in Russia, punishable with six years in prison.¬†Melkonyants’ arrest came amid a flurry of searches of the homes and offices of Golos associates. The organization attributed the timing of the arrest and searches to Russia’s upcoming regional elections.¬†(Photo: Wikipedia)

Sakharov Center

Russia: court closes Sakharov human rights center

A Moscow court ruled to liquidate the Public Commission for the Preservation of the Heritage of Academician Sakharov, or Sakharov Center, one of Russia’s most¬†respected human rights organizations, after an application from the Ministry of Justice. The Sakharov Center, established in 1996, had been convening public discussions for citizens to speak about the status of human rights and freedom in the country. The Justice Ministry contended that the Center’s discussion groups constituted a “violation of its territorial sphere of activity.” In a statement, the Center warned of closing political space in Russia, saying: “Uncontrolled power corrupts society… Sakharov warned about this, we see it with our own eyes today.” (Photo of Sakharov Center building via Wikipedia. Sign reads: “War in Chechnya since 1994. Enough!”)

Greater Middle East

Saudi border guards massacre Ethiopian refugees

Saudi Arabian border guards have killed hundreds of Ethiopian migrants and asylum-seekers attempting to cross the border from Yemen, according to a¬†report from Human Rights Watch. The report documented incidents between March 2022 and June 2023, based on interviews with migrants, satellite imagery, and social media posts. According to the report, Saudi border guards used explosive weapons such as mortars against migrants, and shot them at close range with live ammunition. Border guards reportedly fired on people even when they complied with orders. HRW called the recent pattern of killings a change from “an apparent practice of occasional shootings” to “widespread and systematic killings.” (Map via PCL)

Greater Middle East
Ahmed Douma

Egypt: iconic activist’s decade-long detention ends

An attorney representing imprisoned Egyptian political activist Ahmed Douma took to social media to announce the activist’s release, thanks to a presidential pardon. Douma had endured a decade of incarceration within Egyptian penitentiaries, and had five more years of his sentence to serve. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi apparently responded to repeated calls for his release by human rights organizations. A leading figure in¬†the January 25 Revolution of 2011,¬†Douma was convicted of violating a ban on protests in December 2013, following Sisi’s military coup. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)


Niger: ‘treason’ charges against ousted president

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker T√ľrk raised concerns about the Nigerien military junta’s decision to prosecute deposed president Mohamed Bazoum for high treason. T√ľrk called on the generals who have seized power to immediately restore constitutional order. “This decision is not only politically motivated against a democratically elected President but has no legal basis as the normal functioning of democratic institutions has been cast aside,” T√ľrk said. Regional bloc ECOWAS also condemned the treason charges against Bazoum, stating that the move “contradicts the reported willingness of the military authorities in the Republic of Niger to restore constitutional order through peaceful means.” (Photo of junta leaders: Lev√©e d‚ÄôAfrique via Africa Arguments)


UN human rights office: Taliban not ‘reformed’

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a statement¬†condemning the idea that the Taliban are “reformed” since the last time they were in power in Afghanistan. The statement, written by multiple human rights experts, drew attention to the gap between the promises made by the Taliban upon its return to power in August¬†2021 and the reality of “gender apartheid” in Afghanistan. (Photo:¬†Milad Hamadi/Tasnim News Agency via Wikimedia Commons)