Friday, January 18, 2013

URGENT APPEAL - For Ms. Mansoureh Behkish of Mourning Mothers of Iran - Summoned to Prison

URGENT APPEAL - For Ms. Mansoureh Behkish of Mourning Mothers of Iran - Summoned to Prison

January 18, 2013 - The Observatory has been informed by the Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LDDHI) about the summoning of Ms. Mansoureh Behkish, a supporter of the “Mothers of Park Laleh” (the “Mourning Mothers” of Iran)[1], also known for fighting against the death penalty, to serve a prison sentence.

According to the information received, Ms. Mansoureh Behkish has been summoned by the Shahid Moqaddas Sentences Implementation Bureau to report herself to Evin prison in Tehran by January 29, 2013, at the latest where she will serve her sentence to six months in prison for “spreading propaganda against the system” (See background information attached).

The Observatory is deeply concerned about the summoning of Ms. Behkish, as it is arbitrary and clearly aims at sanctioning her legitimate human rights activities. The Observatory therefore calls upon the Iranian authorities to refrain from detaining Ms. Behkish as well as to immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders presently detained in Iran, and more generally to put an end to all forms of harassment against them.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The African Network of Women Shelters Call to Action

The African Network of Women Shelters (ANWS)
Kigali Call to Action
We, the members of the African Network of Women Shelters (ANWS) Steering Committee and partners 
from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Kenya,  Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Zimbabwe;

Recognizing the outcomes of 1stand 2ndConferences of the Global Network of Women Shelters (GNWS) 
held in Edmonton-Canada in September 2008 and Washington DC–USA in February 2012;
Observing that violence against women (VAW) remains one of the major challenges in Africa and 

We welcome  the 57thSession of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and States’ 
consideration to address the challenge under the theme  “Elimination and Prevention of All Forms of 
Violence Against Women and Girls”;We also affirm the Statement of the NGO Committee on the Status of Women/Africa at the forthcoming 57thSession of the Commission on the Status of Women;

We note the following:
Violence against women is a major obstacle to women attaining equality, development and peace, and 
prevents women from enjoying their human rights and fundamental freedoms and a life of dignity free 
from oppression. Many women want to escape the violence and find refuge and safety because their 
homes or communities are unsafe. But the vast majority cannot find refuge and safety. They may seek 
safety and peace by going to safe spaces, such as shelters, refuges, women’s centers, or transition 
homes, to seek peace and safety. In these spaces, women and their children who have had violence 
perpetrated upon them could find refuge, compassion, resources, and assistance. 
Women’s centers and safe spaces, where they exist in Africa, provide life saving services to  women 
fleeing violence, often working in dangerous places with minimal support, resources and protection. 
Cultural barriers often inhibit these centers from operating openly and this means that victims often 
face a lifetime of discrimination, stigmatization, poverty, and increased risk of further victimization.
As set out in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action in 1993, Member States asserted that 
“gender-based violence and all forms of sexual harassment and exploitation…are incompatible with the
dignity and worth of the human person, and must be eliminated.”  Since then, States have reaffirmed 
their commitment to ending violence against women through the adoption of the Declaration on the 
Elimination of Violence against Women (CEDAW). Others include the Beijing Platform for Action, the 
agreed conclusions of the 42ndand 51st sessions of the CSW, and UN Security Council resolutions 1325, 

1820, 1888, 1889, and 1960, and UN Security Council Resolutions 1261, 1379 and 1612 on children in armed conflict.
In Africa, States have committed to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on 
the Rights of Women in Africa, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and the Great 
Lakes Region Protocol on the Suppression and Prevention of Sexual Violence Against Women and 
Despite these commitments, violence against women and children persists as a widespread and 
pervasive human rights violation.  States have clear and concrete obligations under their constitutions 
and international commitments they have signed and ratified to prevent such violence, prosecute and 
punish perpetrators, and provide redress and relief to victims and survivors of violence. In addition 
states that have not ratified also have a moral obligation to sign and ratify all treaties and protocols 
geared towards ending violence against women and girls.
We emphasize the lack and/or inadequate provision of women’s centers and safe spaces in States across 
Africa. The African Network of Women Shelters therefore calls on African governments to:
 enact and implement policies and legislation to establish and support shelters and safe spaces 
for women and girls in Africa;
 strengthen political will and invest and allocate funds for survivors of violence to guarantee 
service provision and access safe spaces and refuges. We note the importance of women driven 
shelters and safe spaces in women survivors’ confidence building, and thus the need for their 
support with appropriate infrastructure to offer holistic interventions with prevention on GBV 
and women empowerment programs.
 We call on governments to maintain accountability and transparency in State reconstruction by 
including women's needs and priorities, women's human rights including access to justice, and 
representation and participation in peace processes.
 We call on governments and civil society to provide confidential and secure domestic and sexual 
violence interventions and provision of specialist services that meet the needs of a diversity of 
women, including the disabled, elderly and refugees, who are currently underserved by existing 
 We call on governments, civil society and aid agencies to: 
o strengthen policies and decrees and their facilitation as related to VAW and genderbased violence,
o ensure the policies are fundamental in initiating and sustaining women’s centres and safe spaces, 
o are holistic, integrated and include community level awareness raising programmes done in a rights-based, gender and culturally sensitive manner, and
o integrate gender-based violence in school curricula as a means of primary prevention.
 We encourage Governments to put in place mechanisms to coordinate and harmonize service 
provision by various Government departments and civil society organizations in health, education, economic development and other social services. This should include monitoring and 
 We urge governments, civil society and aid agencies to focus on strengthening and supporting 
women-to-women shelter exchange learning, documentation, collection and  management of 
data which is essential for providing improved holistic responses.
Done in Kigali on this 5th day of December 2012.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2013


After exhausting all of her appeals, Rizana Nafeek is at imminent risk of execution in Saudi Arabia for a crime she allegedly committed while under the age of 18.
Aged only 17 years at the time, Sri Lankan domestic worker Rizana Nafeek was arrested in May 2005 on charges of murdering an infant in her care. On 16 June 2007, she was sentenced to death by a court in Dawadmi, a town west of the capital Riyadh. The sentence was subsequently upheld by the Court of Cassation and sent for ratification by the Supreme Judicial Council. However, it was sent back to the lower court for further clarification.
The case went back and forth until on or around 25 October 2010, when the Supreme Court in Riyadh upheld the death sentence. The case was then sent to the King for ratification of the death sentence. Recent media reports indicate that the family of the infant who died have refused to pardon her and her execution is now imminent. Rizana Nafeek had no access to lawyers either during her pre-trial interrogation or at her first trial. She initially “confessed” to the murder during interrogation, but has since retracted this account. Rizana Nafeek says she was forced to make the “confession” under duress following a physical assault. The man who translated her statement was not an officially recognized translator and it appears that he may not have been able to adequately translate between Tamil and Arabic. He has since left Saudi Arabia.
The passport Rizana Nafeek used to enter Saudi Arabia in May 2005 gives her date of birth as February 1982, buther birth certificate states she was born six years later, making her 17-years-old at the time of the infant’s death. According to Amnesty International’s information, she was not allowed to present her birth certificate or other evidence of her age to the court, which relied instead on her passport and so considered her to be 23 years old atthe time of the offence.

Please write immediately in Arabic, English or your own language:

ν Urging the King of Saudi Arabia to prevent the execution of Rizana Nafeek, who is believed to have been under18 at the time of the crime for which she has been convicted;
ν Calling on the King to commute her death sentence, particularly given Saudi Arabia’s obligations as a state
party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and taking into account the uncertainty over Rizana Nafeek’sage;
ν Reminding the authorities that they should act in accordance with international law, particularly Article 37 of theConvention of the Rights of the Child, and end the use of the death penalty against juvenile offenders.

King and Prime Minister
King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques
Office of His Majesty the King
Royal Court, Riyadh
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior)
+966 1 403 3125 (please keep trying)
Salutation: Your Majesty

Minister of the Interior
His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed
bin Naif bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Ministry of the Interior, P.O. Box 2933,
Airport Road, Riyadh 11134
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 403 3125 (please keep
Salutation: Your Royal Highness

And copies to:
Governor of Riyadh Province
His Royal Highness Prince Sattam bin
Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Riyadh, Riyadh Province
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 141 10470

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.

Saudi Arabia is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which expressly prohibits the execution of juvenile offenders – those convicted of crimes committed when they were under 18. However, Saudi Arabia does execute juvenile offenders in breach of their obligations under the CRC.
In Saudi Arabia there have been disturbing patterns of discrimination against vulnerable individuals. Many of those executed over the past years were foreign nationals, mostly migrant workers from poor and developing countries. In 2012 Amnesty International has recorded the execution of at least 79 people of which 27 were foreign nationals. In 2011 at least 82 executions took place, including 28 foreign nationals, more than triple the figure of 27 for 2010 including 5 foreign nationals. In 2009, at least 69 people are known to have been executed, including 19 foreign nationals, in 2008 at least 102, including almost 40 foreign nationals, and in 2007 at least 158, including 76 foreign nationals.
Saudi Arabia applies the death penalty for a wide range of offences. Court proceedings fall far short of international standards for fair trial. Defendants are rarely allowed formal representation by a lawyer, and in many cases are not informed of the progress of legal proceedings against them. They may be convicted solely on the basis of “confessions” obtained under duress and/or deception.
Saudi Arabia is a state party to the Convention against Torture, which prohibits the use of evidence extracted under torture or other ill-treatment. Article 15 states: "Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as vidence that the statement was made."
In a report published in 2008 on the use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, Amnesty International highlighted the extensive use of the death penalty as well as the disproportionately high number of executions of foreign nationals from developing
countries. For further information please see Affront to Justice: Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia (Index: MDE
23/027/2008), 14
October 2008:
The Supreme Court began to function in February 2009 as the final court of appeal. This is part of a new court system introduced by the 2007 Law of the Judiciary. The Court of Cassation, which used to handle appeals, has since been replaced by courts of appeal. The Supreme Judicial Council continues to exist and has been allocated responsibilities such as the supervision of the organization of the Judiciary, including the appointment, promotion and disciplining of judges. For more information regarding the judicial reforms, please see Saudi Arabia: Affront to Justice: Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia (Index:
MDE 23/027/2008), 14 October 2008 (see above).

Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. This is the fourth update of UA 175/07. Further information:, and
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