Repressive new NGO law deeply damaging for human rights in Egypt – Zeid

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Thursday said the issuance of a repressive new law further restricting space for human rights monitoring, advocacy and reporting by non-governmental organisations would be deeply damaging for the enjoyment of human rights and leave rights defenders even more vulnerable to sanctions and reprisals than they already are. The law also runs counter to Egypt’s obligations under international human rights law.

“The previous law (Law 84 of 2002) was already repressive. The new legislation places such tight restrictions on civil society that it effectively hands administration of NGOs to the Government,” said Zeid. “The crucial function of these NGOs – to hold the State accountable for its human rights obligations – has been severely hampered already through asset freezes, travel bans, smear campaigns and prosecutions. This new law further tightens the noose.”

Law 70 of 2017, which was enacted on 24 May, requires NGOs to seek permission to operate from “the competent administrative entity” that will decide whether an association’s work is in line with the Government’s development and social welfare plans. Civil society groups will also be required to report all information on their funding, activities and programmes to the authorities, and to seek permission for activities, including conducting surveys. All NGOs currently conducting any “civic activity” have one year to amend registration. If they do not comply within 60 days of a request to report, they can face closure for one year. Non-compliance with some provisions of the law can result in criminal prosecution, subject to a maximum term of five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to 1 million EGP (around USD 55,000).

Funding from foreign sources is subject to even closer scrutiny than before and requires official approval. NGOs will need government permission before working with foreign organisations and will have to notify the authorities 30 working days before receiving any foreign funds. The national authority for regulation of foreign NGOs includes representations from security agencies.

In recent years, hundreds of civil society groups have been dissolved while others have had their assets frozen and travel bans imposed on their members. More than 37 Egyptian NGO workers and leaders have been accused of “illegal receipt of foreign funding” and “working without legal permission”. None of them have been officially charged, but they remain at risk of criminal prosecution. This is particularly worrying as many Egyptian NGOs that work with international partners provide essential services, including education and health care, in the country. There are also alarming reports of human rights defenders who have been subjected to smear campaigns for their participation in human rights workshops.

High Commissioner Zeid said the new law breaches Egypt’s human rights obligations, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Government of Egypt had also committed to a number of recommendations under its second Universal Periodic Review before the UN Human Rights Council in May 2015 to promote and protect the rights to freedom of association and expression and to adopt an NGO law in compliance with international human rights standards.

However, restrictions on freedom of association and expression appear to be continuing. Last week, access to 21 websites and satellite news networks was blocked, with the authorities accusing them of supporting terrorism and spreading false news.

“We do not underestimate the challenges Egypt faces in combating terrorism and violent extremism. I condemn in the strongest terms the latest terrible attack – this time on a bus carrying Coptic Christians last week,” High Commissioner Zeid said. “But muzzling civil society is not the solution. Civil society and media oversight of the Government are essential elements of a strong and stable society, where grievances can be openly aired. Muzzling dissent can only lead to further instability.”

“I urge the Government to repeal Law 70 of 2017 and to seek a new path of dialogue and collaboration with civil society.”

Distributed by APO on behalf of United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG).

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iflix Extends Global Footprint to 23 Territories with iflix Africa

iflix (www.iflix.com), the world’s leading Subscription Video on Demand (SVoD) service for emerging markets, today announced the establishment of iflix Africa to bring its world class service to sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). iflix Africa will be headquartered in Cape Town, South Africa and trade commercially as ‘iflix’. With launches planned in Nigeria, Ghana Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, iflix Africa will increase iflix’s global footprint to 23 territories worldwide, with additional regional markets to be added over the coming months.

The commercial launch of iflix’s SVoD service across SSA is planned over the second and third quarter of 2017, and will make iflix’s vast range of thousands of TV shows, movies and more, including many first run exclusives and award winning programs available to hundreds of millions of consumers across the region. In addition to having the best of Hollywood, Bollywood, Nollywood and other regional and local programming, the service will additionally offer an extensive collection of highly acclaimed African shows and movies with iflix Africa planning to introduce exclusive African content series.

Having first launched its service in May 2015, iflix quickly established its dominance in the Asian region, rolling out its world class service to 18 markets across Asia and MENA in less than two years, acquiring over 5 million members over the period. iflix Africa will capitalize on SSA’s large youth population, rapidly growing internet and smartphone penetration, and huge appetite for digital content and entertainment.

In March 2017, iflix announced the completion of a US$90+ million round of funding to support its international expansion. The round added new investors Liberty Global Group and Zain Group to the company’s formidable shareholder registry which also includes global heavyweights Sky plc, Catcha Group and Evolution Media.

Mark Britt, iflix Co-founder and CEO said: “The establishment of iflix Africa represents an incredibly exciting step in iflix’s growth story. As Africa transitions from the margins to the mainstream of the global economy, there is a unique, ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to fundamentally shift the way a billion people consume and enjoy content. By 2020, Africa will have 720 million smartphone users. We aim to meet the entertainment needs of those growingly connected viewers.”

“As the fastest-growing mobile market on earth, Africa is without question one of the world’s most dynamic regions. We are thrilled to introduce our first-of-its-kind SVoD service here. We are passionately focused on providing the broadest selection of premium content at a price everyone can afford. We can’t wait to tackle both the enormous opportunities and challenges ahead, in serving this incredibly diverse and exciting region,” added Andre de Wet, iflix Head of Africa.

Currently available to over one billion consumers in 18 markets across Asia and MENA, iflix will soon roll-out its world class service across sub-Saharan Africa with initial launches in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Each subscription will allow users to access the service on up to five devices, including phones, laptops, tablets, and television sets, for viewing wherever, whenever.

Distributed by APO on behalf of iflix.

For media enquiries, please contact:
Peggy Lee
Global Director of PR & Communications
Peggy@iflix.com
+60 12 217 8345

Kathryn Mechie
Regional Manager of PR & Communications
Kathryn@iflix.com
+27 71 138 2253

About iflix:
iflix (www.iflix.com) is the world’s leading Subscription Video on Demand (SVoD) service, offering users unlimited access to thousands of TV shows and movies from all over the world. With a huge selection of your favorite comedies, drama, K-drama, Turkish drama, Bollywood, Nollywood, cartoons, movies and more from Hollywood, The UK, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. iflix places the entertainment you want at your fingertips. For one low monthly fee, iflix subscribers can watch on their mobile phone, laptop, tablet, TV… wherever, whenever.
Let’s play.

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DR Congo: UN Should Investigate Kasai Violence

The United Nations Human Rights Council should urgently establish a commission of inquiry into the situation in the central Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a coalition of 262 Congolese and 9 international nongovernmental organizations said today. The 35th session of the Human Rights Council begins June 6, 2017, in Geneva.

“The violence in the Kasai region has caused immense suffering, with Congolese authorities unable or unwilling to stop the carnage or hold those responsible for the abuses to account,” said Ida Sawyer, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “An independent, international investigation is needed to document the abuses, identify those responsible, and help ensure justice for the victims.”

Between 500 and 1,000 people have been killed in the Kasai region since large-scale violence between the Congolese army and the Kamuina Nsapu movement broke out in August 2016, according to the UN. Human rights activists and UN monitors have had difficulties reaching parts of the region, so the actual number of dead may be significantly higher.

Congolese army soldiers have used excessive force in violation of international law, killing scores of suspected Kamuina Nsapu members and sympathizers, including large numbers of women and children. Members of the group, armed largely with sticks and other crude weapons, have recruited children and carried out targeted attacks on the government, killing police officers, soldiers, and local officials.

Over 1.3 million people in the region have been displaced from their homes in recent months, including over 23,500 who fled to neighboring Angola.

Two members of the UN Group of Experts on Congo, Zaida Catalán, a Swede and Chilean, as well as Michael J. Sharp, an American, were killed in March 2017, while investigating widespread human rights abuses in the region. It remains unclear who was responsible. The four Congolese who had accompanied them – their interpreter, Betu Tshintela, and three motorbike drivers – are still missing.

UN investigators have confirmed the existence of at least 42 mass graves in the greater Kasai region since August 2016.

On March 8, 2017, the UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, called for the creation of a commission of inquiry to investigate violence in the Kasais. Congolese officials then pledged to carry out their own investigation, and on March 22, agreed to support from the UN and African Union (AU). This investigation has not moved forward in a transparent or credible way, and the UN and AU have not been able to effectively collaborate with the Congolese investigators or support the Congolese investigation, the organizations said.

On April 19, the high commissioner said that meaningful steps by the Congolese government “to ensure that there is a prompt, transparent, independent investigation to establish the facts and circumstances of alleged human rights violations and abuses perpetrated by all parties, and other abuses of justice” had been “lacking.”

“Given widespread army violations, alleged involvement by top officials, and past interference in sensitive cases, the Congolese judiciary’s ability to credibly investigate the violence is in serious doubt,” said Georges Kapiamba, president of the Congolese Association for Access to Justice (ACAJ). “An independent, international inquiry is necessary to get to the bottom of what’s really happening in the Kasais and who is responsible.”

The conflict in the Kasai region is purportedly about customary control over local chieftaincies, but there are also clear ties to national political dynamics, with the Congolese army backing the leadership of people seen to be loyal to President Joseph Kabila and his political coalition, and some of the Kamuina Nsapu groups supporting people seen to be closer to the opposition.

Violence escalated after state security forces killed Kamuina Nsapu, the apparent heir to the throne of a chieftaincy in the Tshimbulu area, in August 2016. Since his death, the group named after him has grown into more of a popular movement than an organized armed group with clear command structures. Some Kamuina Nsapu members have directed their demands toward the national political crisis, calling for Kabila to step down. His constitutionally mandated two-term limit ended on December 19.

In recent months, Kamuina Nsapu factions and other armed groups have proliferated, with some of the groups fighting each other. Local politicians have reportedly sought to manipulate ethnic tensions in the region, encouraging militias from certain ethnic groups to attack people from other ethnic groups.

“The Human Rights Council’s engagement now is critical to help protect civilians from further violence, and to press for accountability for serious violations and abuses both by the Congolese army and armed groups,” said Paul Nsapu, deputy secretary-general of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). “A strong message is needed to show that these crimes won’t go unpunished.”

Distributed by APO on behalf of Human Rights Watch (HRW).

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DR Congo: UN Should Investigate Kasai Violence

The United Nations Human Rights Council should urgently establish a commission of inquiry into the situation in the central Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a coalition of 262 Congolese and 9 international nongovernmental organizations said today. The 35th session of the Human Rights Council begins June 6, 2017, in Geneva.

“The violence in the Kasai region has caused immense suffering, with Congolese authorities unable or unwilling to stop the carnage or hold those responsible for the abuses to account,” said Ida Sawyer, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “An independent, international investigation is needed to document the abuses, identify those responsible, and help ensure justice for the victims.”

Between 500 and 1,000 people have been killed in the Kasai region since large-scale violence between the Congolese army and the Kamuina Nsapu movement broke out in August 2016, according to the UN. Human rights activists and UN monitors have had difficulties reaching parts of the region, so the actual number of dead may be significantly higher.

Congolese army soldiers have used excessive force in violation of international law, killing scores of suspected Kamuina Nsapu members and sympathizers, including large numbers of women and children. Members of the group, armed largely with sticks and other crude weapons, have recruited children and carried out targeted attacks on the government, killing police officers, soldiers, and local officials.

Over 1.3 million people in the region have been displaced from their homes in recent months, including over 23,500 who fled to neighboring Angola.

Two members of the UN Group of Experts on Congo, Zaida Catalán, a Swede and Chilean, as well as Michael J. Sharp, an American, were killed in March 2017, while investigating widespread human rights abuses in the region. It remains unclear who was responsible. The four Congolese who had accompanied them – their interpreter, Betu Tshintela, and three motorbike drivers – are still missing.

UN investigators have confirmed the existence of at least 42 mass graves in the greater Kasai region since August 2016.

On March 8, 2017, the UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, called for the creation of a commission of inquiry to investigate violence in the Kasais. Congolese officials then pledged to carry out their own investigation, and on March 22, agreed to support from the UN and African Union (AU). This investigation has not moved forward in a transparent or credible way, and the UN and AU have not been able to effectively collaborate with the Congolese investigators or support the Congolese investigation, the organizations said.

On April 19, the high commissioner said that meaningful steps by the Congolese government “to ensure that there is a prompt, transparent, independent investigation to establish the facts and circumstances of alleged human rights violations and abuses perpetrated by all parties, and other abuses of justice” had been “lacking.”

“Given widespread army violations, alleged involvement by top officials, and past interference in sensitive cases, the Congolese judiciary’s ability to credibly investigate the violence is in serious doubt,” said Georges Kapiamba, president of the Congolese Association for Access to Justice (ACAJ). “An independent, international inquiry is necessary to get to the bottom of what’s really happening in the Kasais and who is responsible.”

The conflict in the Kasai region is purportedly about customary control over local chieftaincies, but there are also clear ties to national political dynamics, with the Congolese army backing the leadership of people seen to be loyal to President Joseph Kabila and his political coalition, and some of the Kamuina Nsapu groups supporting people seen to be closer to the opposition.

Violence escalated after state security forces killed Kamuina Nsapu, the apparent heir to the throne of a chieftaincy in the Tshimbulu area, in August 2016. Since his death, the group named after him has grown into more of a popular movement than an organized armed group with clear command structures. Some Kamuina Nsapu members have directed their demands toward the national political crisis, calling for Kabila to step down. His constitutionally mandated two-term limit ended on December 19.

In recent months, Kamuina Nsapu factions and other armed groups have proliferated, with some of the groups fighting each other. Local politicians have reportedly sought to manipulate ethnic tensions in the region, encouraging militias from certain ethnic groups to attack people from other ethnic groups.

“The Human Rights Council’s engagement now is critical to help protect civilians from further violence, and to press for accountability for serious violations and abuses both by the Congolese army and armed groups,” said Paul Nsapu, deputy secretary-general of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). “A strong message is needed to show that these crimes won’t go unpunished.”

Distributed by APO on behalf of Human Rights Watch (HRW).

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