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Regional Report Series on Law and Policy Environment for Civic Space: Middle East and North Africa

4 August 2020.

CLD has released its regional report on the legal environment for civil society in the Middle East and North Africa. The report, the fourth in our global series, highlights laws and policies in the region which prevent civil society from organising, meeting, fundraising, advocating, researching, expressing their opinions and otherwise operating. The report highlights more problematical laws, as a means of encouraging reform and openness in the region.

This series represents the public launch of law and policy reviews commissioned by Transparency International last year covering five regions: Asia Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, Latin America, Middle East and North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Three prior reports have already been launched, including Asia Pacific (available here), Europe and Central Asia (available here) and Latin America (available here).

The report identifies the following general trends across the region:

    • States in the region, particularly in the Gulf, have extensive powers over civil society organisations, including the ability to deny them recognition, dissolve them, require changes to their internal structures or mandate government attendance at meetings.
    • Both press laws and criminal codes contain numerous content restrictions which are vague and do not accord with international human rights standards.
    • Media regulators are not independent and journalists, newspapers and news websites are typically required to obtain a licence from the State to operate.
    • National security and anti-terrorism laws contain provisions which are often abused against peaceful civil society actors.
    • Some countries restrict public meetings as well as demonstrations while, more generally, authorities have significant discretion to ban assemblies.
    • Most countries do not have right to information laws and, instead, have broad secrecy rules.

The Middle East and North Africa regional report is available at: Middle East and North Africa Regional Report.

For further information, please contact:

Laura Notess
Legal Officer
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: laura@law-democracy.org
+1 782 234 4471
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

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Regional Report Series on Law and Policy Environment for Civic Space: Latin America

28 July 2020.

CLD today released the third regional report in our global series on the law and policy environment for civic space. The report focuses on nine countries in Latin America, highlighting laws and policies which restrict the ability of organisations to establish themselves and obtain funding, to conduct activities safely and to engage freely in advocacy. In identifying more problematic laws, the report and series seek to provide guidance to those working to create a more open civic space in the region and globally.

This series represents the public launch of law and policy reviews commissioned by Transparency International last year covering five regions: Asia Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, Latin America, Middle East and North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa. The Asia Pacific, and Europe and Central Asia reports have already been launched and are available here and here respectively.

Some of the general trends which can be observed in Latin America include the following:

    • Many countries in the region still retain “desacato” laws prohibiting the insult of public officials, along with general criminal defamation laws.
    • Strong securitisation policies have led to ambiguous emergency, national security and anti-terrorism laws which do not adequately protect peaceful civil society activity.
    • There is a trend towards the increasing criminalisation of protests.
    • Stronger legal regimes are needed to protect media regulators against political or commercial interference and to promote media diversity.
    • Typically overbroad secrecy laws often override rules providing for access to information in right to information laws.
    • Eight of the nine countries lack comprehensive whistleblower protection laws and, while the creation of safety mechanisms for journalists and others in some countries is a welcome development, some of these mechanisms lack adequate resources.

The Latin America regional report is available at: Latin America Regional Report.

For further information, please contact:

Laura Notess
Legal Officer
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: laura@law-democracy.org
+1 782 234 4471
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

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Regional Report Series on Law and Policy Environment for Civic Space: Europe and Central Asia

21 July 2020.

Today, CLD released a report on the legal environment for civil society in the Europe and Central Asia region. This report is part of a series evaluating laws which enable or restrict civil society from engaging freely in basic activities, including researching, advocating, fundraising and organising. By highlighting laws which are problematic, we hope to offer guidance for advocates seeking to create a more open civic space and raise awareness about what is needed to create an enabling environment for a vibrant civil society sector.

This series represents the public launch of law and policy reviews commissioned by Transparency International last year covering five regions: Asia Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, Latin America, Middle East and North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa. The Asia Pacific report was launched last week and is available here.

The second report in the series covers nine countries in the Europe and Central Asia region. It takes a detailed look at the law and policy environment in each country. Across the nine countries, some trends can be noted:

    • Some governments have inappropriately broad powers to interfere in the internal affairs of civil society organisations.
    • Four of the countries have significant restrictions on the ability of civil society to fundraise or access foreign funding, while such laws have also been proposed or debated in other countries in the region.
    • Stronger legal guarantees for media diversity and independence are needed.
    • Criminal content restrictions which do not accord with international human rights standards remain a recurrent concern.
    • Some national security laws use definitions which could cover peaceful civil society activity, while three countries give authorities unduly broad powers to declare states of emergency.
    • Legal frameworks fail to provide adequate protection against arbitrary surveillance.
    • Secrecy laws and overly broad regimes of exceptions undermine the right to information.

The Europe and Central Asia regional report is available at: Europe and Central Asia Regional Report.

For further information, please contact:

Laura Notess
Legal Officer
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: laura@law-democracy.org
+1 782 234 4471
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

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#HoldTheLine Coalition Calls for Criminal Tax Charge to be Dropped as Maria Ressa Returns to Court

20 July 2020.

CLD is one of 78 organisations who have formed a coalition in support of Maria Ressa and independent media in the Philippines. Today, the #HoldTheLine Coalition released the following statement:

#HoldTheLine Coalition Calls for Criminal Tax Charge to be Dropped as Maria Ressa Returns to Court

The #HoldTheLine Coalition  demands the Philippines authorities drop a barrage of bogus tax and foreign ownership cases against internationally celebrated journalist Maria Ressa and Rappler – the news organisation she founded.

“The prosecution of baseless financial charges and cases represents an attempt to use tax law and foreign ownership regulations as another weapon to criminalise journalism and silence Ressa and Rappler as threats to press freedom and democracy escalate in the Philippines,” said the #HoldTheLine steering committee. “We urge the government to drop all charges and cease and desist its orchestrated harassment campaign.”

The Coalition – a global collective of 78 civil society and journalism organisations – was formed to defend the prominent Filipino-American editor after she was convicted on a trumped-up criminal cyber libel charge in June.

The Coalition’s call for the dismissal of all tax and foreign ownership cases and charges comes as Ressa prepares to return to court in Manila on July 22nd on a baseless criminal tax charge, amid concerns about a  suspected COVID-19 outbreak involving the death of a worker at the Pasig Regional Trial Court where the hearing will take place.

Ahead of this appearance, this Court has an opportunity to quash the criminal taxation charge on which Ressa faces arraignment. The #HoldTheLine Coalition urges the state to immediately drop this charge and end the prosecution of the other charges and cases associated with it.

Convictions against Ressa in three related tax cases cumulatively represent prison sentences of 44 years. They hinge upon the bogus notion that Rappler’s parent company, Rappler Holdings Corporation (RHC), is not a holding company for a news organisation but rather a ‘dealer in securities.’

“Legal acrobatics – that’s what all these cases show. In order to charge me with tax evasion, the government reclassified Rappler as a ‘dealer in securities’ – we’re obviously a news organisation. It’s absurd!” Ressa said. “From inciting hate on social media to weaponising the law to using the full force of the state against journalists trying to hold power to account … it’s a war of attrition, tearing down trust and credibility. This is how democracy dies by a thousand cuts.”

It is notable that the arrest warrant in the criminal case associated with the July 22nd arraignment was issued in the immediate aftermath of Ressa being honoured with two prestigious international journalism awards in November 2018 — from the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which together with Reporters Without Borders (RSF) form the #HoldTheLine Coalition Steering Committee.

The tax-related cases and charges are predicated on another suite of charges and cases connected to alleged foreign media ownership breaches designed to shut Rappler down. They cumulatively represent maximum prison sentences of up to 36 years.

Together with the criminal libel conviction, which is currently under appeal, and a second pending libel action, convictions in all these cases could theoretically lead to a century in jail for  Ressa.

Further, the Coalition calls on the Pasig Regional Trial Court to conduct proceedings remotely on July 22nd to ensure the safety of Ressa, her legal representatives, media and court staff amid the coronavirus pandemic. We note that in addition to this court being associated with what appears to be a deadly COVID-19 outbreak, Ressa was forced into lockdown following her appearance in June before a different court which was also the subject of a COVID-19 scare.

This demand from the #HoldTheLine Coalition echoes the call by more than 10 thousand signatories who have signed a petition calling on  the Philippine government to drop all cases against Ressa, her former colleague Reynaldo Santos Jr, and Rappler, and to cease attacks on independent media in the Philippines. Once again, we also note the devastating blow to media freedom and access to information caused by the Duterte administration’s permanent shuttering of the national TV station ABS-CBN.

Contact #HoldTheLine Steering Committee Members for further details: Julie Posetti (jposetti@icfj.org); Rebecca Vincent (rvincent@rsf.org); Courtney Radsch (cradsch@cpj.org).

Note: The #HoldTheLine Coalition currently comprises 78 organisations. This statement is issued under the authority of the #HoldTheLine Steering Committee but it does not necessarily reflect the position of all or any individual Coalition members or organisations.

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Launch of Regional Report Series on Law and Policy Environment for Civic Space: Asia Pacific

14 July 2020.

Civil society can only flourish if a country has put in place an enabling legal environment that supports organisations’ right to organise, communicate, research, advocate and fundraise freely. In recent years, global observers have expressed increasing alarm at the growing number of legal burdens and restrictions that governments are imposing on civil society. A closed legal environment prevents civil society from fulfilling crucial roles such as raising awareness on matters of public interest, holding governments to account and advocating for particular approaches to social issues.

Last year, Transparency International commissioned CLD to conduct a review of laws and policies governing the environment for civic space in countries in five regions: Asia Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, Latin America, Middle East and North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa. We are now launching publicly the results of this review as a series of five reports.

The first of these reports, released today, covers the Asia Pacific region, focuses on the legal and policy environment for civic space in 15 countries. Some of the trends in the region highlighted in the report which are of concern include:

    • Stricter administrative requirements which make it challenging to register organisations, increase the discretion of authorities to dissolve organisations and restrict access to foreign funding.
    • Insufficient protections for freedom of expression due, among other things, to criminal defamation laws, overbroad content restrictions and a lack of independence among media regulatory bodies.
    • New restrictions on digital communications, sometimes with harsh penalties.
    • Broad secrecy laws and poor implementation of access to information laws, both of which limit public access to information.
    • An absence of enabling rules such as whistleblower protection laws or clear procedures for registering civil society organisations.

The Asia Pacific regional report is available at: Asia Pacific Regional Report.

For further information, please contact:

Laura Notess
Legal Officer
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: laura@law-democracy.org
+1 782 234 4471
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

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Joint Submission to the Universal Periodic Review of Myanmar Raises Freedom of Expression Concerns

9 July 2020.

CLD and 12 other organisations have highlighted ongoing concerns with freedom of expression in Myanmar in a Joint Submission to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Myanmar. The UPR process is conducted by the United Nations Human Rights Council and involves a review of human rights issues in a given country. 

The Submission highlights weaknesses in the legal framework for freedom of expression, notes threats and violence against those exercising their right to freedom of expression and ongoing prosecutions of journalists and human rights defenders, and stresses the ongoing absence of a comprehensive right to information law. It also calls for protection for media freedom, the right to freedom of assembly and digital rights, as well as steps to combat discrimination and intolerance.

The Joint Submission is available at: Joint Submission to Myanmar UPR

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#HoldTheLine: 60 organisations, including CLD, call for support for Maria Ressa and media in the Philippines

9 July 2020.

CLD is one of 60 organisations and supporters who have formed a coalition in support of Maria Ressa and independent media in the Philippines. Ressa is a prominent Filipino-American journalist and founder of the news website Rappler. On 15 June 2020, she was convicted of cyber-libel along with her former Rappler colleague Reynaldo Santos Jr. The conviction relates to a story about corruption from 2012 – before the law was even enacted – and hung on the correction of a typo.

The campaign takes its name from Ressa’s commitment to ‘hold the line’ in response to sustained state harassment. Those interested in showing support can sign the petition available here: https://rsf.org/en/free-mariaressa

The full #HoldTheLine campaign announcement, along with contact information for those interested in joining the coalition, is available here: #HoldTheLine Campaign Announcement.

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Civil Society Statement on Myanmar’s Internet Shutdown

22 June 2020.

CLD has signed a civil society statement calling for an end to the shutdown of all mobile internet access in Myanmar’s Rakhine and Chin States. The 21 June marked the first anniversary of the shutdown, now the longest in the world. The full statement and list of signatories is available here

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Executive Summary of CLD’s Report on the Right to Information during Health Emergencies in Arabic, English, French and Spanish

16 June 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised challenging new questions about the extent to which States may restrict human rights during public health emergencies.  Some States have chosen to restrict the normal rules governing the processing of requests for information, while others have tried to continue to respond to requests. Those that have introduced restrictions have justified them on the basis of operational challenges around staff working remotely and increased burdens on some departments to respond to health and economic challenges.

On 27 May 2020, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) released a report analysing the international human rights standards that should guide States when it comes to the right to information, Maintaining Human Rights during Health Emergencies: Brief on Standards Regarding the Right to Information. The Brief also looks at measures States have put in place to alter right to information regimes during the pandemic. In making recommendations based on international standards, the Brief stresses the particular importance of maintaining the right to information during public emergencies and that any restrictions on this right must be strictly required, in accordance with human rights law. The Brief builds on the COVID-19 Tracker, which documents legal changes to right to information regimes around the world. We are continuing to update the Tracker.

Today, we are releasing the Executive Summary of the Brief in Arabic, English, French and Spanish.

The full Brief is available in English at: https://www.law-democracy.org/live/maintaining-the-right-to-information-during-health-emergencies.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 431 3688
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

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Maintaining the Right to Information During Health Emergencies

27 May 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created both significant burdens for governments, as they are called upon to protect citizens’ health and minimise the economic impact of the pandemic, and significant operational challenges, as many staff are working from home. Many States have responded by imposing limits on the right to information while others have refrained from doing so. Today, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) is releasing a report, Maintaining Human Rights during Health Emergencies: Brief on Standards Regarding the Right to Information, setting out and analysing the international standards that should guide State behaviour in this area.

“Many States responded to the pandemic in a knee-jerk way by restricting or even suspending the right to information,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director, CLD. “We believe that this right is more important now than ever and that, instead of limiting it, States should protect it as an essential service which helps improve government responses to the emergency.

CLD’s Brief outlines relevant international standards, as well as the main ways in which States have limited the right to information during the COVID-19 pandemic. The latter builds on the COVID-19 Tracker, which captures legal changes to the rules relating to requests for information. The Brief then analyses what international standards mean for States, providing a number of key principles that States should respect during public health emergencies.

Some of the key principles in the Brief are:

    • General emergency legislation authorising limits on the right to information should require those limits to be necessary, taking into account all of the circumstances.
    • There should be no blanket suspension of the right to information, or even blanket extensions to time limits. Instead, public authorities should be required to justify any extensions which they claim are authorised under new rules.
    • No limits should be placed on requests for information relating to the emergency, especially where the purpose of the request is to provide information to the public. Instead, such requests should be prioritised.
    • Records management practices should be adapted to ensure continuity in the recording of government decisions and actions despite changed working conditions.

CLD’s Brief and Executive Summary are available at: Maintaining Human Rights during Health Emergencies: Brief on Standards Regarding the Right to Information.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 431 3688

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Puerto Rico: Right to Information Laws Adopted Recently are Weak

6 May 2020.

An assessment of two laws adopted recently in Puerto Rico to establish a legal right to access information held by government reveals the laws are very weak, according to an Analysis published today by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD). According to the RTI Rating (www.RTI-Rating.org), the two laws – the Transparency and Expeditious Procedures for Access Public Information Law (Access Law) and the Open Data Law (Open Data Law) – score just 73 out of a possible maximum of 150 points, putting them in 88th position relative to the 128 national laws assessed on the Rating, in the bottom one–third.

“Puerto Rico needs stronger rules on the right to information if it is to implement its constitutional guarantee for this right properly,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director, CLD. “The current laws are far weaker than most of the national laws that have been adopted in the Americas.

CLD prepared the Analysis at the request of Red de Transparencia, a local civil society transparency network. The laws will be discussed today at an open public conference being hosted at the Facultad de Derecho, Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico from 4.30-6pm.

While Puerto Rico has strong guarantees for the right to information and the scope of coverage of the two laws is broad, some of the key weaknesses with them are as follows:

    • There are important gaps in the procedures for making and responding to requests for information.
    • The regime of exceptions is far too broad, earning just 23% of the available points on the RTI Rating.
    • There is no independent administrative level of appeal.
    • The system of sanctions and protections is very limited.
    • There are few promotional measures to help support strong implementation.

CLD’s Analysis is available in English here and in Spanish here. The Executive Summary is also available in English and in Spanish.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 431 3688
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

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2020 Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Elections

30 April 2020.

Today, the specialised mandates tasked with promoting and protecting freedom of expression at the UN, OAS and OSCE launched their annual statement, the Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Elections in the Digital Age. The Joint Declaration, which was drafted with the assistance of the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), sets out standards for both State and non-State actors regarding communications during elections.

The Joint Declaration breaks new ground in several respects”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “Some key areas it addresses include extending certain types of rules which apply to legacy media, such as on spending and transparency, to digital media, respecting the right to privacy when using personal data to micro-target messages and, for digital actors, avoiding measures which limit the diversity of information available to users or the ability of certain parties and candidates to disseminate messages.

Some of the specific standards in the Joint Declaration include:

    • Rules on election spending should apply equally to both legacy and digital media, taking into account their differences.
    • Using personal data to target advertising should be done only where those concerned have consented to this sort of use of their data.
    • Parties and candidates should be required to be transparent about election spending, including on both legacy and digital media.
    • Digital media and platforms should ensure that automated tools do not, intentionally or unintentionally, prevent users from accessing a diversity of information.
    • Parties, politicians and candidates should not limit the ability of certain media to access their public communications.

The Joint Declaration is available:
Here in Arabic
Here in English
Here in French
Here in Russian
Here in Spanish

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 431-3688
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

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Join Special Rapporteurs for Online Launch of Joint Declaration

27 April 2020.

The special international mandates (special rapporteurs) on freedom of expression will launch their 2020 Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Elections in the Digital Age at 09:00 EST (New York time) on 30 April. Join them for this online event by registering here (login information will be provided following registration).

“The Joint Declaration this year is on an issue which has been attracting more and more attention in recent years,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director, CLD.  “The whole way parties, candidates and others communicate during elections has been completely transformed by digital technologies and the Declaration points to some ways regulatory systems need to catch up.”

CLD has been working with the special international mandates to develop these Joint Declarations (available here) since it was founded in 2010. The Declarations address topical issues relating to freedom of expression, covering different issues each year. The online event will feature the special international mandates as well as Toby Mendel from CLD.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 431 3688
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

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Mauritius: “Fake News” Arrest for Political Satire Not Legitimate

17 April 2020.

Rachna Seenauth was arrested on 15 April 2020 for posting a humorous message on Facebook about the Mauritian Prime Minister and the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The arrest was based on the grounds that the post was “false” and hence a breach of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) is deeply concerned about the arrest of Ms. Seenauth, previously an assistant to the former Mauritian President. Neither “fake news” laws nor the COVID-19 crisis should be used as an excuse to target speech that is critical of political leaders or the positions they are taking in response to the crisis.

“General prohibitions on spreading misinformation or false news which are not linked to very specific results, such as defamation or fraud, are not legitimate,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director, CLD.  “Ms. Seenauth’s case highlights the particular importance of protecting satire and other humorous statements, and not treating them as though they were statements of fact.”

Ms. Seenauth’s post included an image of a newscaster announcing the “breaking news” that numerous high-profile heads of State would hold a conference call with the Mauritian Prime Minister. The post joked that world leaders were interested in the “miracle treatment” for COVID-19 which had led to zero positive cases in Mauritius, a “world first” outside of North Korea. It also wondered whether the “same method” had been used to win the recent general election. The image, accompanied by smiling emojis and noting that the credit for the story was “Unknown”, was clearly satirical.

The ICT Act, as well as another Mauritian law analysed by CLD, includes a number of offences which prohibit certain types of online content in vague and unclear terms, such as content likely to cause annoyance, humiliation or distress. The ICT Act also prohibits using telecommunications equipment to send messages which are false or misleading.

CLD is also concerned that Ms. Seenauth’s lawyers were fined for breaching curfew while traveling to visit her. Although we welcome news reports indicating that Ms. Seenauth was released on bail on 16 April, we urge the Mauritian authorities to drop any charges against her. We also call for reform of the ICT Act to bring it into line with international standards.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 431 3688
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

***

17 avril 2020.

Maurice « Fake News » : Arrestation au motif de satire politique sans aucune légitimité

Rachna Seenauth a été arrêtée le 15 Avril 2020 pour avoir posté un message humoristique à propos du Premier ministre de  Maurice et de la réponse du pays face à la pandémie du COVID-19. L’arrestation reposait sur le fait que le message était « faux » et de ce fait constituait une infraction à la loi sur l’information et la technologie informatique  (Information and Communication Technology -ICT). Le Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) est particulièrement préoccupé par l’arrestation de Mme Seenauth, une ex-assistante de l’ancienne Présidente de Maurice. Ni les législations sur la « manipulation de l’information », ni la crise du COVID-19 ne devraient être utilisées comme excuse pour cibler des propos critiquant des leaders politiques ou les positions qu’ils adoptent en réponse à la crise. 

« Des interdictions générales portant sur la diffusion d’informations erronées ou sur la manipulation d’informations qui n’ont aucun lien avec des résultats spécifiques, tels la diffamation ou la fraude, n’ont aucune légitimité, » affirme Toby Mendel, Directeur de CLD.  « Le cas de Mme. Seenauth souligne l’importance toute particulière qu’il y a à protéger la satire et autres types de messages humoristiques, et à ne pas les traiter comme s’il s’agissait d’exposés de faits ».

Le message de Mme Seenauth comprend une image d’un présentateur qui annonce en « Alerte Info » que plusieurs chefs d’États importants tiendraient une conférence téléphonique avec le Premier ministre mauricien. Le message poursuit en plaisantant sur le fait que les dirigeants mondiaux sont tous avides de connaitre  « le traitement miraculeux » contre le Covid-19 qui a permis à Maurice de n’enregistrer aucune contamination,  « un cas unique au monde » en dehors de la Corée du Nord ! Il s’interroge également pour savoir s’il s’agit de « la même méthode » utilisée pour gagner les récentes élections générales. L’image, accompagnée d’émojis souriants et la remarque attribuant l’article à « Inconnu », indique de toute évidence qu’il s’agissait bien d’un contenu satirique.

La lois sur l’information et la technologie informatique(ICT), tout comme une autre loi mauricienne analysée par CLD, contient plusieurs motifs d’infractions qui interdisent certains types de contenu en ligne dans des termes vagues et peu précis, à savoir des contenus susceptibles d’être cause  de désagrément, d’humiliation ou de détresse. La loi sur l’ICT interdit également  le recours à des équipements de télécommunications pour envoyer des messages qui seraient faux ou trompeurs.  

Le Center for Law and Democracy (CLD) s’alarme également du fait que les avocats de Mme Seenauth aient été condamnés à payer une amende pour violation de couvre-feu alors qu’ils se déplaçaient pour l’assister en détention. Alors même que nous nous réjouissons des nouvelles qui indiquent que Mme Seenauth a été libérée sous caution le 16 avril, nous appelons les autorités mauriciennes  à abandonner toute poursuite contre elle. Nous les exhortons également à réformer la loi sur l’ICT afin de la mettre en pleine conformité avec les normes internationales en la matière.

Pour toute information complémentaire, veuillez prendre contact avec :

Toby Mendel
Directeur
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 431 3688
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

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CLD Joins Statement on Human Rights During the COVID-19 Pandemic

15 April 2020.

CLD has joined the following statement on human rights during the COVID-19 pandemic:

A call for human rights oversight of government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic

Regard for human rights is essential in times of crisis. Human rights principles provide a valuable framework for government action and establish crucial safeguards against abuses. Yet respect for human rights is particularly vulnerable – tenuous at best – in times of crisis. That holds true whether the crisis is related to national security, natural disasters or a public health emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic. It is, therefore, a vital time to ensure robust human rights oversight: to encourage strong human rights measures are adopted by governments, and to guard against intentional or unintended human rights violations.

Human rights obligations enshrined in international law, the Charter, treaties, legislation and other instruments make it clear what action governments must take to protect human rights – such as the rights to life, health, adequate housing and livelihoods – that are at risk due to the COVID-19 crisis. They establish clear requirements with respect to gender equality, non-discrimination and language rights, and highlight the necessity of deliberate action to protect fully the rights of marginalized individuals and communities. And they lay out the permissible limits on restricting other rights, to the extent that is necessary to address the crisis.
The fact that the human rights obligations are clear, however, is not an assurance they will be upheld. That is of particular concern with many of the key human rights obligations that are at stake in the COVID-19 pandemic, including with respect to health, housing, food, safe water and other basic needs. Governments across Canada have long asserted that those and other economic, social and cultural rights are not amenable to the same enforcement as other rights, leaving their protection to the more uncertain and arbitrary political realm. However, international human rights standards require that economic, social and cultural rights be equally subject to effective oversight and enforcement as other human rights. This is particularly important during the current crisis.

Too often, in times of crisis, human rights are dismissed by governments as being irrelevant and unnecessary at best, or unhelpful barriers to an effective response at worst. That is certainly so with the current COVID crisis. Governments face enormous challenges and need to make decisions rapidly. The public health risk is dramatic and the economic fall-out is spiralling exponentially. Understandably fearful and facing an information overload, people are less likely to second-guess government action and are inclined to give greater latitude to measures that significantly restrict their rights.

Often overlooked is the greater or differential impact of the pandemic itself on First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, Black and other racialized communities (especially individuals of Asian origin), the elderly, people living with disabilities, women and children at risk of violence in the home, refugees and migrants, people marginalized because of gender identity or sexual orientation, minority official language communities, prisoners, sex workers, people who are homeless or living in inadequate housing, people who use drugs, precariously-employed workers, and other at-risk communities. Governments have, importantly, taken action to respond to the needs of many of these communities, but more is needed, and oversight is a vital safeguard.

At the same time, bodies and institutions that traditionally play a central role in protecting human rights – including courts, and human rights commissions and tribunals – are facing considerable constraints and limitations. While some urgent matters are still being heard by way of video and telephone conferencing, many proceedings have been indefinitely adjourned and most new cases are not being scheduled. Moreover, due to the specific nature of the pandemic and the shutdown of democratic processes and civic space, public forums, such as parliamentary committee hearings and public community meetings, that serve as human rights accountability and transparency mechanisms of a sort, are now also unavailable.

We are therefore calling on governments at all levels – federal, provincial, territorial and municipal – to take urgent steps to enhance and strengthen human rights oversight of their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, including by:

– Ensuring that Indigenous knowledge-keepers, representatives of federal, provincial and territorial human rights commissions, representatives of relevant municipal human rights offices and language commissioners have or strengthen their official advisory role to special committees, emergency task forces, crisis response working groups and other bodies established by governments to coordinate their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

– Immediately establishing or identifying independent human rights oversight committees made up of First Nations, Métis and Inuit representatives from both rural and remote Indigenous communities and urban centres, impacted communities, frontline service providers, human rights advocates, labour representatives, academics and other experts, with mandates to:

  • Identify measures needed to strengthen human rights protection in COVID response strategies;
  • Track human rights violations associated with COVID response measures, including through police enforcement;
  • Highlight information and statistics, disaggregated by sex, gender, Indigenous identity, race, disability and other identities, that are needed to improve human rights protection;
  • Ensure that governments apply intersectional gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) to all dimensions of their responses to the COVID crisis incorporating, inter alia, anti-racist, anti-ableist and anti-oppression frameworks;
  • Encourage and draw upon community-based human rights monitoring and reporting of human rights violations associated with COVID-19;
  • Make regular recommendations to governments; and
  • Report publicly on a regular basis, through mechanisms to be determined by the Committee, once established.

Un appel pour une surveillance des droits humains dans les réponses gouvernementales à la pandémie de COVID-19

Le respect des droits humains demeure primordial en temps de crise. Les principes qui les sous-tendent apportent un cadre précieux pour guider les actions des gouvernements et fournissent les balises nécessaires pour empêcher d’éventuels abus. En temps de crise, le respect des droits humains devient particulièrement fragile – pour le moins ténu. Il en est ainsi peu importe la nature de la crise, que celle-ci soit due à des enjeux de sécurité nationale, à des catastrophes naturelles ou à une urgence de santé publique telle que la pandémie de COVID-19. Il s’agit donc d’un moment critique demandant une surveillance rigoureuse du respect des droits humains : afin d’encourager les divers paliers de gouvernements à adopter des mesures fortes destinées à renforcer l’exercice des droits humains et à se prémunir contre de possibles violations intentionnelles ou involontaires de ceux-ci.

Le droit international indique clairement quelles mesures les gouvernements doivent prendre pour assurer la protection des droits humains – qu’il s’agisse du droit à la vie, du droit à la santé, du droit à un logement convenable ou à des moyens de subsistance menacés en raison de la crise due à la COVID-19. Ils établissent des exigences claires en matière d’égalité entre les genres, de non-discrimination et de droits linguistiques, mettant en évidence la nécessité d’une action délibérée des gouvernements afin de protéger pleinement les droits des individus et des communautés marginalisées. Il permet de fixer les limites que les États ne peuvent franchir lorsqu’ils estiment nécessaire de restreindre certains droits pour faire face à la crise.

Cependant, le fait que les obligations imposées aux États en matière de droits humains soient claires ne garantit pas pour autant qu’elles seront respectées. Le risque de voir les gouvernements outrepasser leurs obligations est particulièrement préoccupant en ce qui concerne bon nombre de droits directement touchés par la pandémie de COVID-19, notamment ceux relatifs à la santé, au logement, à la nourriture et à l’eau potable. Malgré la reconnaissance internationale du principe d’interdépendance et d’indissociabilité des droits humains, il arrive que les différents paliers de gouvernement du Canada affirment que ces droits, tout comme les autres droits économiques, sociaux et culturels, ne devraient pas être soumis aux mêmes normes de mise en oeuvre et de surveillance que les droits civils et politiques, laissant leur protection incertaine et entre les mains du politique.

Trop souvent, en temps de crise, les droits humains sont considérés par les gouvernements comme non pertinents voire inutiles, si ce n’est qu’ils soient carrément vus comme des obstacles à une réponse efficace. Et c’est ce qui se passe actuellement avec la crise sanitaire. Les gouvernements sont confrontés à d’énormes défis et doivent prendre des décisions rapidement. Les risques encourus pour la santé publique sont dramatiques et les retombées négatives sur l’économie se multiplient de façon exponentielle. Naturellement effrayés et confrontés à une surcharge d’information, la population est moins susceptible de questionner les gestes posés par les gouvernements et davantage encline à leur accorder une plus grande latitude, même lorsque les mesures mises de l’avant restreignent considérablement leurs droits.

Souvent sous-estimé est l’impact important et différent que ces mesures restrictives ont sur: les communautés des Premières Nations, des Métis et des Inuit, les personnes noires ou racisées (notamment dans ce cas-ci des personnes d’origine asiatique), les personnes âgées, les personnes handicapées, les femmes et les enfants vivant de la violence à la maison, les personnes réfugiées et migrantes, les personnes marginalisées en raison de leur sexe ou de leur identité ou orientation
sexuelles, les minorités linguistiques officielles, les personnes incarcérées, les travailleuses et travailleurs du sexe, les personnes sans-abri ou vivant dans des logements inadéquats, les personnes dépendantes aux drogues, les personnes dont l’emploi est précaire et toute autre personne ou communauté marginalisée.

En même temps, les mécanismes et les institutions existants jouant traditionnellement un rôle central dans la protection des droits humains – y compris les cours, les commissions et les tribunaux des droits de la personne – sont confrontés à des contraintes et à des limites importantes. Bien que certaines causes urgentes soient toujours entendues par vidéoconférence ou conférence téléphonique, de nombreuses procédures ont été ajournées indéfiniment et la plupart des nouveaux cas ne sont pas inscrits au calendrier. En outre, en raison de la nature spécifique de la pandémie et de l’arrêt des processus démocratiques, les espaces publics de délibération, tels que les comités parlementaires et les consultations publiques, servant habituellement de mécanismes assurant la responsabilité et la transparence en matière de droits humains, sont actuellement non fonctionnels.

Nous appelons donc les paliers de gouvernement – fédéral, provincial, territorial et municipal – à prendre des mesures urgentes pour améliorer et renforcer la surveillance des droits humains dans leurs réponses à la pandémie de COVID-19, notamment :

– En veillant à ce que les gardiens du savoir autochtones, les représentant.e.s des commissions fédérales, provinciales et territoriales des droits humains, les représentant.e.s des bureaux municipaux des droits humains concernés, et les commissaires aux langues officielles aient un rôle consultatif officiel, voire accru, auprès des comités spéciaux, des groupes de travail d’urgence, des groupes de travail d’intervention en cas de crise et d’autres instruments créés par les gouvernements afin de coordonner leur réponse à la pandémie de COVID-19.

Établir ou identifier immédiatement des comités indépendants de surveillance des droits humains composés de représentant.e.s des Premières Nations, des Métis et des Inuit, des collectivités touchées, des fournisseurs de services de première ligne, des défenseur.e.s des droits humains, des travailleuses et des travailleurs, ainsi que des universitaires, avec pour mandat de :

  • identifier les mesures nécessaires pour renforcer la protection des droits humains dans les stratégies de réponse à la pandémie ;
  • surveiller les violations des droits humains associées aux mesures d’intervention prises pour contrer la COVID-19, y compris par le biais des forces de police ;
  • rendre visible et disponible les informations et les statistiques, désagrégées par sexe et genre, selon l’identité autochtone, la race, le handicap s’il y a lieu ou toute autre caractéristique identitaire, nécessaires pour améliorer la protection des droits humains ;
  • veiller à ce que les gouvernements appliquent une analyse comparative intersectionnelle entre les sexes à toutes les dimensions de leurs réponses à la crise de la COVID-19 intégrant, entre autres, des cadres antiracistes, anti-capacitisme et anti-oppression;
  • encourager et tirer parti d’une approche communautaire de veille des droits humains et du signalement des violations des droits associées à la COVID-19 ;
  • faire des recommandations régulières aux gouvernements ;
  • et faire rapport publiquement, sur une base régulière et par le biais de mécanismes à être déterminés par les Comités, une fois ceux-ci mis sur pied.

Endorsed by / Appuyé par :
ORGANIZATIONS
Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
Alberta Prison Justice Society
Amnesty International Canada (English branch)
Amnistie internationale Canada francophone
Anglican Church of Canada
ARCH Disability Law Centre
Assemblée des Premières Nations Québec-Labrador (APNQL)
Association des juristes progressistes
Association pour la défense des droits du personnel domestique de maison et de ferme (ADDPD) / Association for the Rights of Household Workers
Association québécoise des avocats et avocates en droit de l’immigration
Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale
Atira Women’s Resource Society
Atlantic Human Rights Centre, St. Thomas University
Avocats sans frontières Canada
Black Legal Action Centre
British Columbia Civil Liberties Association
British Columbia Treaty Commission
Bureau international des droits des enfants / International Bureau for Children’s Rights
Canada-Hong Kong Link
Canada Tibet Committee
Canada Without Poverty
Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform
Canadian Arab Federation
Canadian Association for Community Living
Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies
Canadian Association of Human Rights Institutes
Canadian Association of University Teachers
Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture
Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children
Canadian Council for International Co-operation
Canadian Council for Refugees
Canadian Council of Muslim Women
Canadian Federation of Students – Fédération canadienne des étudiantes et étudiants
Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action
Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (EN) – Réseau juridique canadien VIH/sida
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association
Canadian Office and Professional Employees’ Union
Canadian Prison Law Association
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Canadian Voice of Women for Peace
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East
Centrale des syndicats du Québec
Centre for Free Expression, Ryerson University
Centre for Human Rights Research, University of Manitoba
Centre for Law and Democracy
Centre international de solidarité ouvrière
Centre Oblat – A Voice for Justice
Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice
Christian Peacemakers Teams – Canada
Citizens for Public Justice
Clinique de droit international pénal et humanitaire, Université Laval
Clinique internationale de défense des droits humains de l’UQAM, Université du Québec à Montréal
Colour of Poverty Colour of Change
Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine – Committee for Human Rights in Latin America
Community Legal Aid and Legal Assistance of Windsor
Conseil central du Montréal métropolitain-CSN
Conseil national des chômeurs et chômeuses
Council of Agencies Serving South Asians
Council of Canadians
Council of Canadians with Disabilities
Criminal Defence Advocacy Society
Dalhousie Legal Aid Service
David Suzuki Foundation – Fondation David Suzuki
Desmarais Desvignes Crespo s.e.n.c.r.l., étude légale
Disability Rights Coalition (Nova Scotia)
DisAbled Women’s Network of Canada
East Coast Prison Justice Society
Egale Canada
The Equality Fund
Equitas
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
Fédération autonome de l’enseignement
Fédération des femmes du Québec
Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec
Federation of Black Canadians
Federation of Medical Women of Canada, WPS Committee
Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph of Canada
Femmes autochtones du Québec
First Nations Child and Family Caring Society
Friends of the Earth Canada
Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain
Gender and Women’s Studies, Trent University
Grand Council of the Crees/Cree Nation Government
Greenpeace Canada
Human Rights Research and Education Centre, University of Ottawa
Indigenous Climate Action
Indigenous House of Bishops Leadership Circle of the Anglican Church of Canada
Indigenous Law Centre, University of Saskatchewan
Indigenous Ministries of the Anglican Church of Canada
Indigenous World Association
Institute for Canadian Citizenship
Interdisciplinary Research Laboratory on the Rights of the Child, University of Ottawa
International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group
Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development
International Commission of Jurists, Canada
International Human Rights Program, University of Toronto
International Justice and Human Rights Clinic, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
International Women’s Rights Project
Inter Pares
Jack and Mae Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Justice for Girls
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
Landon Pearson Centre for the Study of Childhood and Children’s Rights, Carleton University
Law, Disability & Social Change Project, University of Windsor
Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
Ligue des droits et libertés
Ligue des droits et libertés – section Québec
Melançon Marceau Grenier et Sciortino, cabinet d’avocats en défense des conditions de travail des personnes salariées
Mennonite Central Committee Canada
Millennial Womxn in Policy
Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, Concordia University
National Council of Canadian Muslims
Nobel Women’s Initiative
Nonviolence International Canada
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
Oxfam Canada
Oxfam-Québec
Peace Brigades International – Canada
PEN Canada
Pivot Legal Society
Plan International Canada
Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund
Prisoners’ Legal Services
Project Ploughshares
Projet Accompagnement Québec-Guatemala
Public Service Alliance of Canada
Punjabi Community Health Services
Queen’s Prison Law Clinic
Rainbow Faith and Freedom
Regroupement Naissances respectées
Rideau Institute
Sisters Trust Canada
Social Rights Advocacy Centre
South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario
Table de concertation au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes
Tides Canada
Toronto Association for Democracy in China
UNICEF Canada
Unifor
Union of BC Indian Chiefs
United Nations Decade for People of African Descent Push Coalition
United Steelworkers Canada
Urban Alliance on Race Relations
Urban Native Youth Association
Uyghur Refugee Relief Fund
Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project
West Coast LEAF
WISH Drop-In Centre Society
Women’s Wellness Within
World Federalist Movement – Canada
World Sikh Organization (Canada)
YWCA Canada
613/819 Black Hub
INDIVIDUALS
Laurie E. Adkin, Professor, Comparative Politics and Environmental Studies Program, Department of Political Science, University of Alberta
Melanie Adrian, Associate Professor of Law, Carleton University
Sharry Aiken, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Queens University
Payam Akhavan, Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University
Kjell Anderson, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba
Nora Angeles, Associate Professor, School of Community and Regional Planning, University of British Columbia
Kirsten Anker, Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University
Honourable Lloyd Axworthy, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chair of World Refugee Council
Reem Bahdi, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Natasha Bakht, Full Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Fayyaz Baqir, Visiting Professor, School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa
Gerry Barr CM, Past President- CEO, Canadian Council for International Cooperation
Emmanuelle Bernheim, Professeure, Département des sciences juridiques, Université du Québec à Montréal
Faisal Bhabha, Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Adelle Blackett, Professor of Law & Canada Research Chair in Transnational Labour Law and Development, McGill University
Raphaëlle Blard, chargée de projets, éducation et médiation, Musée des maîtres et artisans du Québec
Peter Boothroyd, Professor Emeritus, School of Community & Regional Planning, University of British Columbia
Susan Breau, Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria
Ed Broadbent, Former Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada and Former President of Rights & Democracy
Bruce Broomhall, Professeur, Département des sciences juridiques, Université du Québec à Montréal
Ruth Buchanan, Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Katherine Bullock, Lecturer, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto Mississauga
Karen Busby, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba
Doris Buss, Professor of Law and Legal Studies, Carleton University
Michael Byers, Professor & Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law, University of British Columbia
Vince Calderhead, Counsel, Pink Larkin
Camille Cameron, Dean and Weldon Professor of Law, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University
Katy Campbell, Dean Emeritus, Faculty of Extension, University of Alberta
Luisa Canuto, Instructor, Department of French, Hispanic, & Italian Studies, University of British Columbia
May Chazan, Canada Research Chair in Gender and Feminist Studies, Trent University
Sally Chivers, Professor, English and Gender & Women’s Studies, Trent University
François Crépeau, Professor of International Law, McGill University
Robert J. Currie, Professor, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University
Alexandre Da Costa, Associate Professor, Department of Educational Policy Studies, University of Alberta
Amanda Dale, Human rights activist and scholar, Ottawa
Stéphanie Demers, Professeure, Département des sciences de l’éducation, Université du Québec en Outaouais
Nathalie Des Rosiers, Principal of Massey College at the University of Toronto, Former Dean of Law at University of Ottawa (Common law and Civil Law), Former General Counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Former President of the Law Commission of Canada, Former MPP (Ottawa-Vanier) & Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry
Karen Drake, Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Bernard Duhaime, professeur expert en droits humains et sur le système des Nations unies, Université du Québec à Montréal
Pearl Eliadis, Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University
Mohamad Fakih, CEO & President, Paramount Fine Foods, Chairman of Fakih Foundation
Bernie M. Farber, Chair, Canadian Anti-Hate Network
Leilani Farha, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing
Karine Gentelet, Professeure agrégée et Directrice du CIERA-UQO, Université du québec en outaouais.
Christine Gervais, Associate Professor, Department of Criminology, University of Ottawa
Sara Ghebremusse, Assistant Professor, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
Philip Girard, Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Cynthia Glidden-Tracey, Instructor, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia
Kasari Govender, British Columbia’s Human Rights Commissioner
Vanessa Gruben, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Lucie Guibault, Associate Dean, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University.
Dipti Gupta, Professor, Department of Cinema-Communications, Dawson College
Penny Gurstein, Professor, School of Community & Regional Planning, University of British Columbia
Jaswant Guzder, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University
Tanya Handa, Professeure, Département des sciences biologique, Université du Québec à Montréal
Lorian Hardcastle, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law and Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary
Tom Hutton, Professor, The Centre for Human Settlements and School of Community & Regional Planning, University of British Columbia
Adelina Iftene, Assistant Professor, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University
Beverly Jacobs, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Laverne Jacobs, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Sébastien Jodoin, Assistant Professor, Canada Research Chair in Human Rights and the Environment, Faculty of Law, McGill University
Am Johal, Director, Office of Community Engagement, Simon Fraser University
Rev. Susan C. Johnson, National Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
Ellen R. Judd, Distinguished Professor and Professor of Anthropology, University of Manitoba
Jasminka Kalajdzic, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Asha Kaushal, Assistant Professor, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
F. Tim Knight, Associate Librarian, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Jennifer Koshan, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Calgary
Faisal Kutty, Adjunct Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, and Assistant Professor of Law, Barry University School of Law
Fannie Lafontaine, Professeure, Faculté de droit, Université Laval, titulaire de la Chaire de recherche du Canada sur la justice internationale pénale et les droits fondamentaux
Louis-Philippe Lampron, Professeur titulaire, Faculté de droit, Université Laval
François Larocque, Professor and Canadian Francophonie Research Chair in Language Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Jodi Lazare, Assistant Professor, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University
Anne Levesque, Professeure adjointe, Programme de common law en français, Faculté de droit, Section de common law, Université d’Ottawa
Sheryl Lightfoot, Canada Research Chair of Global Indigenous Rights and Politics, University of British Columbia
Josh Liswood, Chair of the International Board, Plan International
Michael Lynk, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Western University
Mark MacDonald, National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop
Julie Macfarlane CM, Distinguished University Professor and Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Constance MacIntosh, Viscount Bennett Professor of Law, Associate Professor, Schulich School of Law Dalhousie University
Wayne MacKay, Professor Emeritus of Law, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University
Audrey Macklin, Professor and Chair in Human Rights Law, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto
Kelly McGuire, Associate Professor and Chair, Gender & Women’s Studies, Trent University
Heidi Matthews, Assistant Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Ingrid Mattson, London and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies, Huron UC at Western University
Karel Mayrand, Directeur général – Québec et Atlantique, Fondation David Suzuki
Tim McDaniels, Professor Emeritus, School of Community and Regional Planning, University of British Columbia
Frédéric Mégret, Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University
Errol Mendes, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Naiomi W. Metallic, Chancellor’s Chair in Aboriginal Law and Policy, Assistant Professor, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University
Karen R. Mock, C.M., President, JSpaceCanada
Sarah Morales, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law University of Victoria
Janet Mosher, Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Roxanne Mykitiuk, Professor, Director of Disability Law Intensive Program, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Baljit Nagra, Assistant Professor, Department of Criminology, University of Ottawa
Shaheen Nanji, Director, Global Engagement, SFU International, Simon Fraser University
Jennifer Nedelsky, Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
The Most Rev. Linda Nicholls, Archbishop and Primate, Anglican Church of Canada
Ken Norman, Emeritus Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, University of Saskatchewan
Obiora Okafor, Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
John Packer, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Pamela Palmater, Professor and Chair in Indigenous Governance, Ryerson University
Mona Paré, Professeure agrégée, Faculté de droit, Section de droit civil, Université d’Ottawa
Debra Parkes, Professor and Chair in Feminist Legal Studies, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
Imam Dr. Abdul Hai Patel, Former Ontario Human Rights Commissioner
Carla L. Peck, Professor, Department of Elementary Education, University of Alberta
Danielle Peers, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport and Recreation, University of Alberta
David Petrasek, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa
Sukanya Pillay, Visiting Professor and Law Foundation of Ontario Scholar, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Paula Pryce, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Anthropology, University of British Columbia
Nandini Ramanujam, Associate Professor Faculty of Law, McGill University
Bill Rees, Professor Emeritus, School of Community and Regional Planning, University of British Columbia
Sean Rehaag, Director, Centre for Refugee Studies and Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Graham Reynolds, Associate Professor, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
Honourable Allan Rock, former Minister of Justice, Minister of Health, Ambassador to the United Nations and President Emeritus, University of Ottawa
Jillian Rogin, Assistant Professor, Windsor Law, University of Windsor
Sophie Rondeau, avocate, doctorante, Université Laval / Université de Genève
Audrey Rousseau, Professeure de sociologie, Département des sciences, Université du Québec en Outaouais
Robert Russo, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
Carolyn Sale, Associate Professor, Department of English & Film Studies, University of Alberta
François Xavier Saluden, Chargé de cours, droits de la personne, droit international, droit de l’eau, Université de Montréal, Université du Québec à Montréal, Université Laval
Craig Scott, Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Sara Seck, Associate Professor, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University
Maged Senbel, Associate Professor, School of Community and Regional Planning, University of British Columbia
Léa Serier, Collaboratrice Groupe de travail sur les disparitions forcées ou involontaires, ONU, Auxiliaire de recherche au sein du laboratoire S’Ouvrir Aux Amériques (SOAA) pour mieux défendre les droits humains, Université du Québec à Montréal
Tess Sheldon, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Penelope Simons, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Anneke Smit, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Makere Stewart-Harawira, Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Alberta
Christina Szurlej, Associate Professor, Department of Human Rights, St. Thomas University
François Tanguay-Renaud, Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Andrew S. Thompson, Centre for International Governance Innovation Senior Fellow and Adjunct Assistant Professor, Political Science, University of Waterloo
The Ven. Michael Thompson, General Secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada
Mirja Trilsch, Professeure, Département des sciences juridiques, Faculté de science politique et de droit, Université du Québec à Montréal
Eric Tucker, Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Daniel Turp, professeur titulaire à la Faculté de droit de l’Université de Montréal
Alain Vallières, Membre de l’Institut international des droits de l’homme (Strasbourg), et membre du comité sur l’Immigration du Barreau du Québec
Mark Vardy, Postdoctoral Fellow, Faculty of Environment, Simon Fraser University
Mark Vessey, Professor of English Literature and Principal of Green College, University of British Columbia
Christine Vézina, Professeure agrégée, Faculté de droit, Université Laval
June Webber, Former Vice President, St Francis Xavier University and Director of the Coady International Institute
Sheila Wildeman, Associate Professor, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University
Stepan Wood, Professor and Canada Research Chair, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
Margot Young, Professor, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia

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COVID-19 Update: Tracking Changes to Right to Information Laws

2 April 2020.

The Centre for Law and Democracy has added a page to the RTI Rating (containing information about national right to information laws) which tracks the changes that have been made to right to information (RTI) laws in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (https://www.rti-rating.org/covid-19-tracker/). The aim is to provide a central repository of comparative information on this issue. If you are aware of relevant information which is not posted on this page, please write to us at: laura@law-democracy.org.

“Many governments, in some cases with the acquiescence of information commissions, seem to be taking advantage of this crisis to limit access to information,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director, CLD. “The need for accountability through openness, as well as the imperative need to get relevant information to the public, is greater now than ever.

CLD believes that blanket changes – such as suspending the operation of an RTI law or even imposing across the board delays – are not legitimate. Instead, delays need to be specifically justified. Requests that are of high public importance, in particular because they help hold government to account, should be treated as priorities. At this time, governments are making decisions of overwhelming importance – to the provision of health care, to maintaining respect for human rights and to safeguarding the economy – and maintaining accountability mechanisms, including RTI, is essential to ensuring that those decisions are strong in the first place and are implemented properly.

CLD is currently preparing a briefing note on the RTI standards which apply at this exceptional time, along with an assessment against those standards of the more common measures being taken by governments.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 431 3688
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

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Pakistan: Filing of Legal Brief in Contempt of Court Case

17 March 2020.

The Islamabad High Court in Pakistan has asked for help from experts in determining a number of questions relating to the law of contempt of court and media reporting on ongoing court cases. Late last week, the Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA), with support from the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), filed an amicus curiae  brief with the court setting out relevant international standards.

We welcome the fact that the High Court has asked for external views on this important issue”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “There is a tradition across much of South Asia to restrict freedom of expression far beyond what is necessary in the name of protecting the administration of justice and we hope that this case will start to change this.

In the case, which arose from another case involving a bail petition by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, anchors and guests in two television shows suggested that the court hearing the Sharif case had been swayed by the status of the petitioner as former Prime Minister. Contempt proceedings were then brought against five participants in the shows, on the basis that they had obstructed the administration of justice by prejudicing or impeding ongoing court proceedings. In the course of the contempt proceedings, the High Court posed eight questions for the outside experts (amici) that had been appointed. In their brief, IRADA and CLD responded to the same eight questions.

Our brief clearly shows that international standards and comparative practice across a wide range of democracies is strongly protective of free speech even in the context of ongoing court proceedings,” said Muhammad Aftab Alam, Executive Director of IRADA. “We hope that the High Court will accept those standards for Pakistan and find that the TV shows did not constitute contempt of court.

The amicus curiae brief prepared by IRADA and CLD is available at: Amicus Curiae Brief on Contempt of Court.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
Tel: +1 902 431-3688
www.law-democracy.org
Twitter: @law_democracy

Muhammad Aftab Alam
Executive Director
Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development
Email: ed@irada.org.pk
Tel: +92 321 5959775
www.irada.org.pk
Twitter: @IRADAPK

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Deadline Extended Until 4 March: Come Work for CLD!

Interested in a career in international human rights? We have extended the deadline to apply for a Legal Officer position at CLD until 4 March 2020, at 11:59 PM.

We look forward to receiving your applications. For a full job announcement and instructions on how to apply, see our previous posting

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Case Against Germany: No Right to Information Law in Bavaria Breaches Right to Freedom of Expression

19 February 2020.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) has filed a human rights complaint (communication) against Germany with the United Nations Human Rights Committee. The communication alleges that Germany has failed to meet its obligations to respect freedom of expression under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights because the German state of Bavaria does not have a right to information (RTI) law. CLD’s client, Mr. Walter Keim, was refused access to public interest documents related to his human rights activism. The communication has now been registered and sent to Germany, which has six months to respond.

“This is a very important case because it tests whether, according to the UN Human Rights Committee, the right to information requires each jurisdiction to adopt a dedicated RTI law,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director, CLD. “If we are successful, this will be a powerful advocacy tool for those advocating for the adoption of RTI laws.

Bavaria does have some limited rules providing for access to information but it lacks a comprehensive RTI law. As a result, certain categories of information are not accessible and there is no procedural framework for lodging of requests or challenging refusals to disclose information. These problems are exemplified by Mr. Keim’s case, in which authorities refused to grant him access to the opinions of two ministries. These opinions had informed the rejection of a petition he made to the Bavarian Parliament asking it to follow-up on the recommendations of the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights. The German courts held that he had no legal right to access that information, even though no grounds for secrecy were ever put forward by the German authorities.

Germany does have a federal RTI law but it is very weak, ranking in the bottom ten of all RTI laws globally, as assessed by the RTI Rating. In any case, it only applies to federal public authorities.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 431 3688
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

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Interested in an Exciting International Human Rights Career? Come Work With Us!

3 February 2020.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) is seeking a Legal Officer to begin as soon as possible. We are looking for a successful, highly motivated person who will work from Halifax, Canada. The successful applicant will be rewarded with exciting legal work, high level representational opportunities and the chance to travel globally.

The Legal Officer will have a range of responsibilities related to safeguarding human rights, including freedom of expression and the right to information, as part of a small, dynamic human rights organisation with a unique mandate. The position combines legal analysis and top level standard setting research with on-the-ground campaigning across the Global South, in collaboration with a diverse range of activists, partners and subject matter experts. Direct advocacy is a major part of CLD’s work, and the position includes opportunities to engage with policy-makers at the highest level, as well as to dialogue with the world’s foremost experts on human rights. The position includes travel opportunities, as well as representing CLD at various international conferences and meetings.

About the Organisation

CLD is an international human rights organisation based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which provides expert legal services globally on foundational rights for democracy, with a particular emphasis on freedom of expression, freedom of association, the right to information and digital rights. Our major ongoing projects include:

    • Supporting Myanmar’s democratic transition, including by fostering the development of a robust and independent media sector and drafting new laws governing broadcasting, digital speech and the press.
    • Facilitating public participation in governance in Nepal through the development and enhancement of open data and consultative systems.
    • Providing training and support to journalists, lawyers, judges and activists in multiple countries on media law and human rights issues.
    • Providing expert input into law reform processes in a range of countries, including Tanzania, Vietnam, Indonesia and Mongolia.
    • Expanding the right to information in Pakistan, through direct engagement with provincial governments to assess and improve implementation of key legislation.
    • Campaigning against global threats to digital rights, such as mass surveillance, Internet shutdowns and efforts to undermine encryption and digital security.

Essential Qualifications

    • A law degree (LL.B or J.D. equivalent).
    • 3-5 years of experience working or volunteering in the human rights field, including prior experience with freedom of expression or the right to information.
    • Knowledge of human rights law, particularly freedom of expression and the right to information, and awareness of mechanisms for the protection of human rights.
    • An understanding of legal and technical issues relating to digital speech, such as net neutrality, Internet shutdowns, etc.
    • Excellent written and spoken fluency in English, including an ability to draft complex legal and policy documents for a high level audience, as well as clear and concise position statements for general public consumption.
    • Strong analytical and research skills, including the ability to assess legislation or policies against international human rights standards.
    • Strong public speaking skills, including being comfortable addressing large audiences.
    • The ability to travel internationally, sometimes for two to three weeks at a time.
    • Some international experience, preferably in the Global South.
    • A keen interest in and openness to other cultures, and an ability to collaborate with people from a range of cultural, religious, social and educational backgrounds.
    • Ability to work effectively, often under pressure, to tight and demanding deadlines.
    • Strong interpersonal skills, and comfort managing small teams.

Preferred Qualifications

    • An advanced degree in law or another field relevant to our practice area (journalism, international development studies, etc.)
    • Some experience having lived or worked in the Global South.
    • Some basic accounting skills, such as how to develop and administer budgets.
    • Some experience developing grant and funding proposals, or experience establishing and maintaining relations with international donors.
    • The ability to work in Canada would be preferred, though we are happy to receive international applicants.
    • Knowledge of additional languages, in particular Spanish or Arabic.

Those interested in applying should send a copy of their CV, cover letter and latest law school transcripts to laura@law-democracy.org, by 11:59 PM on 26 February 2020 Atlantic Daylight Time (**note: this deadline has been extended to 4 March 2020**). Final candidates will be asked for writing samples and two references.

The salary range for this position will be $60,000-$70,000 CAD depending on experience. The position is a full-time, one-year contract subject to renewal. The language of work is English. For a description of job duties, see https://www.law-democracy.org/live/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Legal-Officer.JD_.Feb3_.pdf.

The Centre for Law and Democracy is committed to diversity and is an equal opportunity employer. We value and encourage applicants for all positions without regard to race, colour, religion, gender, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or any other legally protected status. This commitment applies with regard to all aspects of one’s employment, including hiring, transfer, promotion, compensation, eligibility for benefits, and termination.

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