Today, just one day after we delivered a tribute women human rights defenders attacked for their activism, we received news from Algerian activist Cherifa Kheddar that she was assaulted by police and arrested along with several other members of her organization while trying to demonstrate in front of the Central Post Office on International Women's Day in Algiers.
As a member of the Women Human Rights Defender International Coalition (WHRDIC), WLUML condemns the killing of Shaimaa El Sabbagh and calls on the Egyptian government to investigate her murder, and to drop charges against all witnesses.
On December 31st, 2014 the African Assembly for the Defence of Human Rights (RADDHO) organized a press conference to review the situation of human rights in Mauritania, further to the arrest and detention of Biram Dah Abeid, President of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA) and eight other human rights defenders. The conference took place in the presence of two members of the WLUML network Fatou Sow (International Director) and Codou Bop (Board member). They participated at the conference to denounce the fatwa against Aminettou Mint El-Moctar, president of the Association of the Women heads of the family. The following statment was delivered to the conference.
A death sentence was issued in June 2014, against Ms. Aminettou Mint El Moctar, president of the Association of Women-Headed Households (AFCF) in Nouakchott. This was not an act of the Mauritanian justice system, but a fatwa from Yadhih Ould Dahi, the leader of a radical Islamist movement, Ahbab Errassoul. This fatwa was relayed in many mosques in the country and in the media, which resulted in violent threats against Ms. Mint El Moctar. The judicial authorities refused to accept the complaint she tried to file against the religious leader. The pressure on Ms. Mint El Moctar remains very strong.
Since 21st June 2014 Yara Sallam, WLUML networker and award-winning human rights defender has been held under the unconstitutional 'Protest Law', along with six other women arrested on the same occasion. Countless more are being held on similarly spurious charges in a wave of crackdowns on civil society and dissenting voices in Egypt. On 26 October 2014, a Cairo Misdemeanours Court sentenced Yara - along with 22 other human rights defenders and protesters - to three years' imprisonment, a further three years' police monitoring, and a fine of 10,000 Egyptian Pounds each. An appeal has been launched to overturn the sentence, but they remain behind bars.
On 13 September 2014, the Police Institute near Tora postponed the trial of the seven women human rights defenders until 11 October 2014. The decision to postpone was taken after the court heard the prosecution’s evidence. The defense attorneys requested the postponement in order to allow a technical expert to examine and determine the veracity of the video footage evidence presented during the session.
The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition has grave concerns for the wellbeing of Ms Sanaa Seif, a prominent Egyptian Woman Human Rights Defender, who began a hunger strike on 28 August 2014 to protest the Protest and Public Assembly Law. Ms Seif is currently being held in Qanater prison.
Ms Seif was one of seven women defenders who were arrested on 21 June 2014 while participating in a peaceful demonstration calling for the repeal of the law, which essentially grants security officials and authority figures the discretion to ban any protest without justifying the grounds for banning them. It also allows police officers to forcibly disperse any protest, and sets heavy prison sentences for peaceful protest and expression.
Yara Sallam, Hanan Mustafa Mohamed, Salwa Mihriz, Samar Ibrahim, Nahid Sherif (known as Nahid Bebo), Fikreya Mohamed (known as Rania El-Sheikh) also remain in custody awaiting trial, which has been set for 13 September 2014.