Stop the reprisals against human rights defender Sukhgerel Dugersuren
August 18, 2022. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and other civil society organizations stand in solidarity with Mongolian human rights defender Sukhgerel Dugersuren and strongly condemn the criminalization and defamation campaigns against her. is about. They urge the Mongolian government to ensure that Sukhgerel can defend human rights safely without fear of reprisals and that all charges against her are dismissed, and call on all international institutions active in the country to speak out publicly in favor of Sukhgerel.
Read the statement below:
We, the undersigned civil society organizations, stand in solidarity with the Mongolian human rights defender Sukhgerel Dugersuren and strongly condemn the criminalization and defamation campaigns against him, which we identify as an attempt to prevent him from carrying out his crucial work in defense of human rights and the environment.
We urge the Mongolian government to ensure that Sukhgerel can defend human rights safely without fear of reprisal and that all charges against her are dismissed.
We call on all international institutions and actors active in the country – including development banks, UN bodies and experts, EU member states and institutions, international embassies, international investors or companies – to speak out publicly in favor of Sukhgerel, to use their influence to strongly condemn retaliation, and to take all possible steps to ensure that Sukhgerel can continue to carry out his work safely.
Who is Sukhgerel Dugersuren?
Sukhgerel Dugersuren is an internationally renowned human rights defender and the executive director of the Mongolian organizations Oyu Tolgoi Watch and Rivers without Boundaries Mongolia. She has a long history of exposing human rights violations and defending the rights of herders and rural communities in Mongolia. His courageous and inspiring work is admired by dozens of international and local civil society organizations, as well as by UN Special Rapporteurs and experts, who worked closely with her.
Over the past decades, Sukhgerel has supported dozens of communities negatively affected by large-scale projects, such as mines and hydroelectric dams. It has helped these communities to denounce the harmful effects of these activities and to bring their grievances to the attention of the Mongolian government, development banks and international organizations. For example, she supported complaints to the independent accountability mechanisms of the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Asian Development Bank.
What happened and why is it criminalized?
According to Front Line Defenders, on 2 August 2022, Mongolia’s General Intelligence Agency informed Sukhgerel that she was being investigated for committing crimes under Article 19.4 of the Mongolian Penal Code, which prohibits “unlawful cooperation with a foreign intelligence agency, agent”. While no further details regarding the investigations have been shared, we are concerned that Sukhgerel is at risk of imminent arrest and we are deeply concerned for his safety.
Sukhgerel is subject to a clear process of criminalization, where the law is used to limit civil liberties and punish human rights defenders. The undersigned human rights organizations consider these accusations to be false and baseless, as they appear to be related to Sukhgerel’s support for communities affected by the Erdeneburen hydroelectric power station, financed by the Chinese bank EXIM, and its legitimate demands for access to environmental information, public participation in environmental decision-making and transparency.
On August 3, 2022, during a government briefing, Mongolian Justice and Home Affairs Minister H. Nyambaatar said that the construction of the Erdeneburen hydropower plant had been suspended for two years, following a letter from the local communities to the Chinese authorities. He also said that when development projects are interrupted by a civil society organization or individual, a task force should be established to investigate such cases of “sabotage” under Article 19.6 of the Penal Code and that the government could claim compensation for the lost economic opportunity. This worrying statement was shared just days before Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Ulaanbaatar on August 7-8 to discuss economic cooperation between the two countries and specifically mentioned the Erdeneburen hydropower plant. in his words.
The statement by the Mongolian minister could be interpreted as a direct threat of reprisals against human rights defenders like Sukhgerel. It also sends a very chilling message to all individuals and communities peacefully raising concerns or opposing harmful projects, especially in a context where several environmental activists have already been threatened and criminalized.
Sukhgerel also faces a disturbing and orchestrated smear campaign in online media and social media. We are deeply concerned about the criminalization and smear campaign against Sukhgerel, which puts her at additional risk and poses a threat to all human rights defenders and civil society groups in the country. We are concerned that as a result of these online actions, other human rights defenders, and in particular communities protesting against the adverse effects of the Erdeneburen dam or other foreign-funded projects, may also to be criminalized.
We stand in solidarity with Sukhgerel and other human rights defenders in Mongolia, and call on all relevant international institutions and actors that uphold international law and human rights to step in quickly to support their important and legitimate struggles. Sustainable development is not possible where civil society is repressed and criminalized.
What do we ask?
We call on the government and other competent authorities of Mongolia to:
Immediately investigate and unconditionally cease all attempts to target and criminalize Sukhgerel Dugersuren, as well as other human rights defenders and individuals expressing their views or raising concerns about development projects in the country;
guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Mongolia can carry out their human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free from any restrictions, in accordance with Mongolia’s international obligations and commitments in human rights, including its recently approved law on human rights defenders; 
pPublicly recognize the importance of freedom of expression, meaningful participation, unhindered access to information about development and environmental impacts, and a safe environment for human rights defenders, to help ensure that development projects are truly sustainable for Mongolia.
We call on all international institutions and actors active in the country – including development banks UN bodies and experts EU Member States and Institutions international embassies, international investors and private companies – for:
urge the Mongolian authorities to immediately cease and dismiss all charges against Sukhgerel Dugersuren;
urge the Mongolian authorities to investigate and end all attempts to target, criminalize and stigmatize people expressing concerns or opinions about development projects, including Sukhgerel Dugersuren;
express your deep concern at the statements of Mongolian government officials, who have publicly pointed out that opponents of the Erdeneburen hydropower plant will be investigated and criminalized, and denounce the smear campaign to which Sukhgerel Dugersuren is confronted ;
publicly recognize the importance of freedom of expression, meaningful participation, unhindered access to information about development projects and environmental impacts, and the need to ensure a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders, stating publicly that communities must be able to defend their rights to a healthy environment and that human rights defenders are essential allies who should be supported.