Zimbabwe's Abusive Crackdown: Daily Brief

Plus: Algeria's president abandons bid for reelection; draconian sentence against women’s human rights defender in Iran; crackdown on free speech in Lebanon; Thai lawyer's disappearance unsolved 15 years on; Venezuelan journalist gone missing; Columbia's chance to expose the truth; farmers in Guinea file complaint against mining company; and Bahraini-born refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi finally safe.

Zimbabwe security forces used excessive lethal force to crush nationwide protests in mid-January. While the protests have ended, the security force crackdown continues. Yet so far Southern Africa leaders have failed to press President Emmerson Mnangagwa to put an end to these abuses.

In a stunning turnaround, Algeria’s ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has dropped his bid for a fifth term in office and postponed elections after weeks of protests against his candidacy.

Bent on intimidating human rights advocates in Iran, Iranian authorities have added a draconian 33 years in prison and 148 lashes to the initial 5-year sentence of well-known and highly regarded women’s human rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh. Sotoudeh has been in prison since June 2018.

There has been an alarming increase in the use of Lebanon’s criminal defamation laws. The sentencing of Lebanese TV correspondent Adam Chamseddine to three months in jail for “insulting” a security agency in a Facebook post is the latest escalation in the authorities’ crackdown on speech.

15 years on, the disappearance of Thai lawyer and vice-chair of the Human Rights Committee of the Lawyers Council of ThailandSomchai Neelapaijit, remains unsolved. His body was never found, and Thailand’s penal code does not recognize enforced disappearance as a criminal offense.

Venezuelan journalist Luis Carlos Díaz has been reported missing. Díaz is a human rights and free speech advocate who is well known in Venezuela for his commentary and criticism of the government of Nicolas Maduro.

Colombia finally has a chance to expose the truth. An investigation of the recruitment of children by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) challenges the guerrilla’s narrative that “no one” had ever been forced to join.

Since operations began in 1973, la Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée (CBG) has taken land from rural farmers without adequate compensation, exploiting the Guinean government’s failure to provide adequate legal protections to customary land rights. Now, 13 rural communities have filed a complaint against the World Bank’s private lending arm over a loan to CBG.

Some good news: A month after being freed from a Thai jail, Bahraini-born refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi  receives Australian citizenship. “Finally, no country can follow me now”, he says.