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ALGERIA: Islamic scholar sentenced to three-year prison term for “offending Islam”

Amnesty International (22.04.2021) – https://bit.ly/3sN0ElS – Today’s sentencing of Said Djabelkheir, a well-known Islamic expert, to three years in prison for “offending” Islam in comments he posted on Facebook, is a chilling setback for freedom of expression in Algeria, said Amnesty International.

 

In three online posts on Facebook in January 2020, Said Djabelkheir drew comparisons between Eid al-Adha and the Berber New Year celebrations; referred to some stories in the Qur’an as ‘myths; and said he considered some hadiths ‘apocryphal’.  The Sidi Mhamed Court of First Instance today convicted him of “offending the Prophet of Islam” and “denigrating the dogma or precepts of Islam” under Article 144bis of Algeria’s Penal Code.

 

“It is outrageous that Said Djabelkheir is facing three years in prison simply for voicing his opinions about religious texts. Punishing someone for their analysis of religious doctrines is a flagrant violation of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of belief – even if the comments are deemed offensive by others,” said Amna Guellali, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

 

“Algerian courts have no business judging people’s religious beliefs and opinions. Said Djabelkheir’s conviction must be quashed immediately. Any provisions in Algeria’s penal code that criminalize the rights to freedom of expression, opinion or belief must be urgently repealed.”

The court sentenced Said Djabelkheir to a three-year prison term but did not issue a detention order so he has not yet been taken into custody. He was also fined 50,000 Algerian dinars. Lawyers will appeal the decision.

 

The charges were brought after a teacher at the University of Sidi Bel Abbès, who considered that aid Djabelkheir’s writings on Facebook violated religious precepts, pressed charges against him before the investigative judge of the Sidi Mhamed first instance court.

 

Said Djabelkheir told Amnesty International that he was not notified about his prosecution and that he first learned of it when friends alerted him in January 2020 about it. Said Djabelkheir said that during the course of the investigation into his case by the Sidi Mhamed first instance court judge he was never summoned for interrogation. He was not informed of his trial date, and again only learned of it via Facebook posts shared by the lawyers of the university teacher. His trial took place at the Sidi Mhamed court on 1 April.

 

Said Djabelkheir is the victim of an ongoing online and offline harassment for expressing his views. He told Amnesty International that he received numerous death threats on Facebook since he joined the social media in 2007.

 

Algerian authorities have used Article 144bis of Algeria’s penal code in the past to crack down on dissent and prosecute activists and critical voices. On 8 October 2020, the first instance court of Khenchla, in eastern Algeria, issued a 10-year prison sentence and a heavy fine against Amazigh and Hirak activist Yacine Mebarki for charges including “offending the Prophet of Islam”. The verdict was later reduced on appeal to one year in prison.  ­­

 

In September 2016, the Setif Appeals court sentenced Slimane Bouhafs, a Christian convert, to three years in prison under the same article, for Facebook posts criticizing religious dogma.

Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Algeria is a state party, guarantees the right to freedom of expression and opinion. The UN Human Rights Committee noted in 2011 that “prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with the Covenant.” And Article 18 of the Covenant guarantees freedom of religion or belief.

 

 

Photo : Amnesty International





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INDONESIA: Amnesty condemns TNI for anti-LBGT campaign following soldier’s dismissal, imprisonment

By Moch. Fiqih Prawira Adjie

 

The Jakarta Post (18.10.2020) – https://bit.ly/3e0szJj – Amnesty International Indonesia has condemned the Indonesian Military (TNI) for the recent imprisonment and dismissal of a soldier for having same-sex intercourse with another officer, calling the sentence unjust and dangerous to the community.

 

“This unjust sentence should be immediately overturned and the individual immediately released. No one should be persecuted based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation,” Amnesty International Indonesia’s executive director Usman Hamid said in a press statement on Saturday urging the military to end its campaign against the community.

 

He argued that the ruling would set a dangerous precedent for other service members thought to have engaged in consensual same-sex activities.

 

“It further enshrines discrimination and risks inciting violence against perceived LGBT people inside the military and in wider society,” Usman said.

 

The Semarang Military Court declared a chief private, identified only as P, guilty of violating Article 103 of the Military Criminal Code on disobedience to service orders, after being found having sex with a subordinate in the Armed Forces. The court sentenced him to one-year imprisonment and dishonorably dismissed him from the military.

 

Amnesty, he said, urged the government to send a clear message to the public that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity would not be tolerated, including in the military. He highlighted that state institutions should lead by example and not undermine commitments to human rights’ protections.

 

“Indonesia has to repeal this archaic and discriminatory provision in the criminal code and other regulations. The government must reform when it comes to the rights of LGBT people,” he added.

 

According to Amnesty records, this was not the first case of a soldier being prosecuted because of their perceived sexual orientation. A military officer in Denpasar, Bali, was convicted in March under the same article for having same-sex consensual relations with three men. The officer filed for an appeal but the Surabaya Military High Court backed the martial court in Denpasar.

 

Usman further said that criminalization of consensual same-sex conduct violated rights to privacy and to freedom from discrimination as stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

 

The TNI, however, has defended the sentence against P, arguing that homosexuality in the force would be met with firm punishment.

 

Lini Zurlia, an advocacy officer of the cross-border organization for LGBT rights ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, also criticized the punishment. She argued that the officer’s sexuality was a private matter, adding that the ruling could have further impacts on members of the Indonesian LGBT community.

 

The National Police also announced that the force would hand down ethics punishments to personnel found to engage in LGBT activity following the reports of alleged LGBT members in the military, spokesman Brig. Gen Awi Setiyono said.

 

“The police will take firm action, a code of conduct sanctions awaits,” Awi said, referring to regulations such articles in the 2014 National Police code of ethics that stipulate that all personnel should follow moral, religious and legal norms as well as local wisdom.

 

While homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, there has been growing anti-LGBT rhetoric in the past years with members of the community facing discrimination and hate crimes.

Photo: Love wins: A passerby hugs an activist campaigning for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community during Car Free Day in Jakarta on June 16, 2019. (JP/Seto Wardhana).





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SIERRA LEONE: Discriminatory ban on pregnant girls attending school is lifted

Amnesty International (30.03.2020) – https://bit.ly/3bGXJmq – Following today’s ministerial statement to overturn with immediate effect the ban on pregnant girls attending schools, Marta Colomer, Amnesty International’s Acting Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa said:

 

“Today we have cause to celebrate as thousands of pregnant girls across Sierra Leone will be allowed back into classes nationwide when schools reopen after COVID-19.

 

“This inherently discriminatory ban which was formalized for almost five years now has already deprived too many young women of their right to education, and the choice as to what future they want for themselves. It has now rightly been consigned to the history books.

 

“Indeed, pregnant girls are given back their dignity and we welcome the government announcement to overturn with immediate effect the ban on them attending school. It’s a victory for all those who campaigned tirelessly to make such a great change happen.

 

“We now hope that authorities in Sierra Leone will develop strategies to address the negative societal attitudes and stigmatization that pregnant girls have been facing for years.  This decision gives also hope to other pregnant girls in Africa who have been stigmatized, discriminated against and, in some countries, also banned from school.”

 

Background

 

Today, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education issued a statement announcing that the 2010 government decision preventing pregnant girls from attending school and sitting exams was overturned with immediate effect. It is to be replaced by two new policies focused on the ‘Radical Inclusion’ and ‘Comprehensive Safety’ of all children in the education system. President Julius Maada Bio made it clear that his ‘New Direction’ Government makes decisions based on both evidence and constitutional due process.

 

On 12 December 2019 the regional Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice ruled that the ban should be revoked. The case challenging the ban was brought by Sierra Leonean NGO (WAVES) in partnership with Equality Now and the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA). Amnesty International intervened as an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”).

 

The organization has previously documented how the ban put the rights of thousands of girls under threat. The ban was formally issued in April 2015 during the Ebola crisis. Due to Ebola, there was a sharp increase in teenage pregnancies and government should put measures in place to ensure this doesn’t happen in this time of COVID-19.


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