Between June 14 and 17, 2016, Freedom Now’s Executive Director Maran Turner participated in the 32nd UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. She was able to deliver remarks before the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association. Video and transcripts of her statements are below.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Health

Thank you members of the Council. As an organization that works on political imprisonment, we have noticed a disturbing trend that speaks directly to the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, specifically that governments are consistently denying adequate medical treatment to prisoners of conscience.

The right of individuals in detention to medical care has been repeatedly reaffirmed by the UN. The Human Rights Committee has determined that member states have an obligation to provide adequate medical care for prisoners, the Committee Against Torture has concluded the failure to provide medical care to detainees can amount to cruel and degrading treatment, and the Special Rapporteur on Health has issued several reports which reiterate the state’s responsibility to ensuring the right of access to health, health goods, facilities and services for prisoners.

Despite the UN’s repeated declarations of these rights, it is our experience that member states are repeatedly denying basic health care to detainees.

In Vietnam, for example, 70 year old democracy activist Father Nguyen Van Ly suffered three strokes and a brain tumor since his imprisonment in 2007. He was released on medical parole in 2010, but returned to prison in 2011 where he spent his days in significant pain due to harsh prison conditions until he was recently release just a few weeks ago.

In Uzbekistan, journalist Dilmurod Saidov contracted tuberculosis shortly after he was imprisoned in 2009. He has been forced to participate in treatments that either exacerbate his condition or produce harmful side effects. There are grounds also to believe he was given psychotropic drugs under the pretext of treatment. Despite an open letter Mr. Saidov wrote to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2010, his condition has not improved and he remains imprisoned.

We urge the Special Rapporteur to investigate these cases and for the Human Rights Council to take action on ensuring proper medical care for prisoners. Thank you.

Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association

Thank you. We welcome Mr. Kiai’s report on fundamentalism’s impact on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and are grateful to have contributed to this report.

First, and I believe relevant to today’s interactive dialogue, I must express our sadness over the senseless murder of British Member of Parliament Jo Cox and echo the call of husband to fight against the hate that killed her; the hate, and intolerance, and fundamentalism that she dedicated her life to fighting.

Recalling the Special Rapporteur’s reports and statements in which he emphasized that freedom of assembly and of association has long since receded. Authoritarian regimes continue to muzzle their citizens and imprison individuals for their exercise of assembly and association.

We take special note of the imprisonment of anti-slavery activists Biram Dah Abeid, Brahim Bilal Ramdane, and Djiby Sow in Mauritania. The three men were arrested for participating in a peaceful protest and were sentenced to two years in prison for their actions. Although they were released recently, their criminal convictions still stand and they rights to assemble and associate remain under threat as do others in Mauritania.

We are also concerned about the Ethiopian government’s use of the 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to target and imprison members of political opposition parties. Andualem Aragie, a high-ranking official in the largest opposition party in the country, is currently serving a life sentence.

Finally, we take note of the continuing imprisonment of Ilgar Mammadov, a political opposition who remains wrongly imprisoned in Azerbaijan.

We urge the Special Rapporteur to inquire about these cases and ask that the member states to respect the rights of assembly and association.