International Day to End Impunity: States must end the cycle of impunity

International Day to End Impunity: States must end the cycle of impunity - Protection

On International Day to End Impunity (2 November), ARTICLE 19 is calling on States to end the cycle of impunity for attacks on those who exercise their rights to free expression.

We are highlighting cases from across the globe, where human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers and protesters have been harassed, attacked, imprisoned, killed or disappeared merely for daring to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of ARTICLE19 said:

“The impact of impunity is a far reaching chilling effect on freedom of expression across the world.  Attacks against all types of journalists, media workers and human rights defenders are rarely investigated let alone punished, and this lays the foundation for self-censorship, stopping journalists criticising governments, or investigating issues such as corruption and human rights violations.

“As well as dealing with cases of murder, many of the cases we come across detail constant low-level harassment, threats, office break-ins and arbitrary arrests, which also have a chilling effect. 

“In many countries where we work, the problem isn’t just a pitiful rate of successful convictions for such crimes, but also a lack of thorough and effective investigations to begin with.

“We are calling for States to adopt all necessary political and legal measures to protect journalists and human rights defenders by fully engaging with the UNESCO plan of action on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, and complying fully with its reporting requests.”

Cases include:

  • Brazilian photographer Alexandro da Silveira (known as Alex Silva) who lost the sight of an eye after being shot with a rubber bullet by troops from the Military Police while covering a demonstration in São Paulo in 2000. The original decision to award him compensation was revoked when the Court of Justice of the State of São Paulo, found that the injury was not proved to be due to police action and that Silveira should be responsible for any damage incurred for choosing to continue to cover the demonstration as a journalist during a police crackdown.
  • Ahkmednabi Akhmednabiyev, a Russian journalist who was shot dead in July 2013 as he left for work in Makhachkala, Dagestan. A reporter for Caucasian Knot, and deputy editor of independent newspaper Novoye Delo, Akhmednabiyev, 51, actively reported on human rights violations against Muslims by the police and Russian army. He had survived a previous assassination attempt in a similar manner six months earlier, in January 2013, which the authorities failed to investigate. A year after his killing, with neither the perpetrators nor instigators behind his murder found, the investigation was suspended in July 2014.
  • Abdoulie John, Gambia’s stringer of the Associated Press news agency and editor of Jollofnews.com who has been subjected to years of harassment by the National Intelligence Agency, including having his passport confiscated. He is currently in exile in Senegal.
  • Mexican journalist Carmen Olsen who was attacked, threatened, and detained by municipal police in Rosarito Beach, when she tried to take pictures of a policeman who assaulted a young man.  Olsen made a complaint to the authorities regarding her detention and harassment and the case currently sits with the Office of the Attorney General of Baja California, but the investigation has not advanced.
  • Mascuud Abdulahi Aadan, a correspondent for the Mogadishu based Dalsan Radio who was attacked with another journalist on 17 July 2013 by Raas kambooni militia as they returned from an assignment in Kismayu. The journalists had gone to report on a landmine attack on the Africa Union Mission in Somalia, in Calanley. Mascuud had to be taken to Kenya for specialized treatment. In December 2013, about six months after the shooting, Mascuud returned to Somalia. His attackers remain at large and the investigation has made little progress.

Notes to editors

For more information about each case, interviews etc., contact Siobhan Sheerin on siobhan@article19.org or 020 7324 2510.

ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works globally to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from ARTICLE 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech.

ARTICLE 19 is a member of IFEX (an international network of free expression organisations) which campaigned for an official UN day in recognition of the danger impunity poses to free expression worldwide. This year, on the inaugural International Day to End Impunity, IFEX is calling on states to meaningfully engage with UN mechanisms to tackle impunity by implementing the recommendations of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, and comply with the reporting requests of UNESCO’s Director-General’s Report on The Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity.