Nicaraguan journalist Luis Sequeira wins Rory Peck Award

November 12, 2019

France 24 reported on 8 November 2019 that the Nicaraguan journalist Luis Sequeira won the Rory Peck Award, which honours freelance photo and video reporters, for his AFP coverage of recent violence that has gripped his homeland. Sequeira was lauded at the annual ceremony in London for his shockingly raw footage of the violent crackdown against protesters in Nicaragua that began last year and continued into 2019.

His work showed demonstrators’ arrests and clashes with security forces after protests erupted on April 18, 2018, in response to President Daniel Ortega’s social security reforms. The resulting bloodshed has seen 325 people killed, from both the opposition and security forces, another 2,000 injured while 60,000 inhabitants have fled into exile, according to human rights groups. “This award is for the Nicaraguan people who have fought for democracy,” Sequeira said after being handed the award by Nicaraguan rights activist Bianca Jagger.

Sequeira, 25, started shooting video at the age of 17 and has worked for Telemundo, RCN, HBO, Reuters and Rutly. He has covered events across the Americas, in Europe and Asia, as well as in the Middle East. His work has included reporting on the plight of the Kurdish people, the jihadist attacks in Paris in 2015 and the terrorist attacks in Orlando, Florida in 2016. Sequeira has been working for AFP since 2018.

This is the fourth time in six years that an AFP journalist has won the prize. It was launched in 1995 in memory of the independent videographer Rory Peck, who was killed in Moscow two years earlier. The award recognises the best independent news cameramen, and the ceremony is one of the main ways that the Rory Peck Trust, which administers the prize, raises funds to assist freelance journalists.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/11/27/friend-of-journalists-award-goes-to-azeri-president/

https://www.france24.com/en/20191108-nicaraguan-journalist-luis-sequeira-wins-rory-peck-award


Meet Marisa Hutchinson of the Association EQUALS in Barbados

November 10, 2019

On 22 October 2019 ISHR published this interview with Marisa Hutchinson, Board member of the Association EQUALS in Barbados


Prominent Russian human rights defender Sergei Sharov-Delone dies at 63

November 10, 2019

Sergei Sharov-Delone
Sergei Sharov-Delone
RFE/RL’s Russian Service reported on 8 November 2019 that one of Russia’s most prominent human rights defenders, Sergei Sharov-Delone, has died at the age of 63. Sharov-Delone’s son, Aleksandr Sharov, and the chairwoman of the Russia Behind Bars rights organization, Olga Romanova, said that Sharov-Delone had died late in the night on November 7 after suffering from cancer. Sharov-Delone was a member of the May 6 Committee that investigated police brutality against protesters during demonstrations in Moscow in May 2012 ahead of Vladimir Putin’s inauguration for a third term as president.

He actively assisted imprisoned activists via the Russian Behind Bars group and coordinated operations of the Moscow-based Public Defenders’ School. Sharov-Delone was a cousin of Soviet-era dissident Vadim Delone — one of seven Soviet dissidents who openly protested on Moscow’s Red Square against the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968.

In 2017, RFE/RL released a documentary about Sharov-Delone’s life and activities entitled Defender.

https://www.rferl.org/a/sergei-sharov-delone-/30260023.html

https://www.bignewsnetwork.com/news/263008507/prominent-russian-rights-defender-sergei-sharov-delone-dies-at-63


Gaston Chillier speaks about the values of his NGO, CELS, in Argentina

November 10, 2019

In an interview with Carly Graf of the Buenos Aires Times, Gaston Chillier, the executive director of Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), one of Argentina’s most influential human rights groups, reflects on the organisation’s four-decade fight and the battles that still lie ahead.

Eventually, the grassroots organisation grew into the Centro de Estudios Sociales y Legales (CELS). It would play a fundamental role in bringing to light the abuses and crimes against humanity committed by the military dictatorship and in promoting human rights reform once the regime fell. However, the work did not end with the fall of the military government – over the coming decades, CELS would go on to become increasingly influential in defending the dignity and protecting the human rights of all Argentines. As CELS celebrates the 40th anniversary of its founding, its executive director, Gastón Chillier, spoke with the Times to discuss the organisation’s history, future and the most pressing human rights issues in Argentina today.

 

How does the CELS of today compare to the CELS of 40 years ago?

There are many lines of continuity between now and then. It was founded by a group of people with family members who had been “disappeared,” intending to denounce the military government and fight for justice. We continue with that commitment and fight against impunity. Of course, there have been some changes that have broadened our vision beyond only combating institutional violence — the greatest of which is that we now advocate and incorporate groups who don’t have a direct tie to the dictatorship. In the 1990s, we brought into the fold groups like immigrants, the indigeneous, union workers, men and more. In the last 15 years, we’ve worked hard to defend the right to protest. I think of our organisation as many different sectors coming together for a grand commitment to defend human rights.

What is the state of the human rights movement in Argentina?

Argentina has a society that’s mobilised across distinct generations and across distinct movements. We have activated and incorporated a wide variety of interests in a way that’s only grown and amplified the human rights movement. What we have now is something much larger and more diverse, but with objectives that we share in common.

What are the biggest challenges to the movement?

Currently, the regional trend of re-militarisation. First, there’s the use of the armed forces to maintain internal security, using the excuse of things like terrorism or drug-trafficking to justify it. This has led to grave systemic violations like what we’re seeing in Colombia, Mexico and Chile. Then, there’s the return of former military actors to positions of political power. We’re seeing the emergence of leaders on the far right, far more conservative and bolstered politically by rhetoric that directly threatens the rights of most people. We see this in Bolsonaro in Brazil. Many of those leaders also have a strong tie to the business sector and they promote the concentration of wealth and the perpetuation of inequality.

How would you evaluate outgoing president Mauricio Macri and his government in this context?

Obviously, Macri is not the same as someone like Bolsonaro or Donald Trump. But, it seems to me, there are many elements of Macri’s government that do resemble this movement towards the right. His policies are more neoliberal, and his term ended with a phenomenal economic crisis, with thousands more poor people and with higher levels of inequality. He also supported the intensified use of armed forces and police, even if it meant abuse. So, no, he’s not like those others, but he still has a very poor record in these matters.

What do you anticipate from Alberto Fernández in terms of human rights?

I can’t speak to the agenda. But I do believe his election signifies a consensus in Argentina to reject militarisation and the creep towards authoritarianism. It seems there’s a widespread understanding of the importance of human rights. Macri’s one of the only leaders in the region in recent years that wasn’t able to maintain his mandate through re-election.

What do you say to critics who say CELS has become too partisan?

I don’t have a defensive response. We’re consistent with our founders. When we participate in a campaign, it’s because we want to bring in a government with the best human rights platform. Today, individual members of our organisation have their own opinions and, of course, we don’t prohibit them from having those. As for our organisation as a whole, we have an agenda of values, not of politics or partisanship.

Let’s talk about specific human rights issues Argentina faces today. First, the prosecution of crimes against humanity.

These didn’t slow down during Macri’s administration, really, because there aren’t ways for him to simply stop the judicial process. That said, the surrounding agencies that could make things go faster didn’t necessarily help […]

Also, there was such a backlash when the government said the“2×1” [ruling] was applicable in these cases, that the courts and Congress quickly corrected course, saying it couldn’t be used for perpetrators of crimes against humanity. And, now, whenever world leaders come like Trump, Angela Merkel or many others, one of the first things they’re taken to see is the Parque de la Memoria or the ESMA [former Navy Mechanics School, used a clandestine detention centre during dictatorship].

Therefore, I think this government finally understands what it was ignorant to before — here’s great relevance and importance to finding justice and memorialising Argentina’s past both here and worldwide.

And what about the push for abortion reform?

With Macri, we had a lot of ambiguity, especially last year during the failed legalisation fight. But then, we saw him and Maria Eugenia Vidal, the outgoing governor of Buenos Aires Province, with the blue scarf — a sign of the anti-abortion movement — at the end of this campaign […] With Alberto Fernández, we have an explicit position. I believe he’s expected to achieve it, and that he will push it through the legislature […]

Even though the Catholic Church and conservative northern provinces still wield great influence , I think it’s now inevitable, it’s just a matter of time […]

Argentina’s society, especially its younger generations, realise that this is a question of public health and another part of the inequality discussion. It is going to be over soon.

There have been cases too about the use of lethal force by security forces…

It’s one of those things that’s not necessa r ily documented, but it’s clearly risen in recent years, especially under Macri. It’s obvious through the political discourse there’s more support and alignment with security forces. In the case of a potential abuse — as in the case of Luis Chocobar — the government will often protect, ally itself with and celebrate police instead of investigating the officer or guaranteeing the victim’s family justice […]

Fernández is going to have to do a lot to reinstate a feeling of trust and legitimacy in the security forces and to disarm these policies promoted by the highest offices of power.

And what’s your view on the health of Argentina’s institutions?

The legacy of the last four years in this respect is very poor, as poor as the economic legacy […] We see this even in the report that came out from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights last week. It points out a number of potential abuses and interventions that could violate the law.

Now, the government under Cristina Fernández de Kirchner didn’t have a good record with institutional corruption, especially as it relates to the Judiciary, but Macri’s government has recorded the same kind of levels […] and Macri ran his campaign selling anti-corruption and transparency as one of the legacies of his administration.

This report goes against that message entirely […] There’s been corruption in our institutions for at least 30 years, not only under him, but it’s led to having a Justice Ministry without any credibility. It would be great to see the incoming government address it.

http://www.batimes.com.ar/news/argentina/gaston-chillier-cels-has-an-agenda-of-values-not-of-politics-or-partisanship.phtml


Michel Forst in last address to General Assembly pleads to fight reprisals

November 8, 2019

On 18 October 2019 the International Service on Human Rights (ISHR) reported on Special Rapporteur, Michel Forst, last appearnace before the UN General Assembly  making key recommendations to State and non-State actors and called for human rights defenders to be protected, and for authors of attacks and reprisals to be brought before justice.

On 15 October 2019, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Michel Forst presented his report (A/74/159) to the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee on the issue of impunity for attacks and reprisals against human rights defenders. This was followed by an interactive dialogue with States. This is the last time Forst will address the Third Committee in the capacity of Special Rapporteur. Forst voiced specific concern about digital attacks against youth and women human rights defenders, and expressed the need to protect them. He also expressed concern at specific attacks on human rights defenders living in isolated environments, as well as those working on sexual and reproductive rights and on sexual orientation and gender identity issues.

Impunity is used as a weapon by those who wish to undermine the rule of law and silence those struggling to uphold human rights. I echo Forst’s comment that impunity is a political choice, otherwise how do we explain that around 98 percent of killings of human rights defenders in certain countries remains unpunished?’ asked ISHR’s Tess McEvoy.

The Special Rapporteur – and the United States – highlighted individuals and groups from various countries who are victims of reprisals. These included:

The Special Rapporteur’s report made recommendations to States on ways to effectively combat impunity. These included:

  • Strengthening mechanisms for the protection of human rights defenders;
  • Criminalising acts of violence against human rights defenders; and
  • Adopting policies that protect the right to defend human rights whilst also recognising the obstacles that certain groups such as women human rights defenders and those protecting the rights of LGBTI and indigenous persons face.

These recommendations were echoed in a side event organised by ISHR and Amnesty International on 16 October, where women human rights defenders from Yemen and Myanmar provided harrowing accounts of attacks they face in their respective contexts.

Several States voiced their support for the report and the mandate, including Norway who called on all States to support this year’s resolution on Human Rights Defenders currently being negotiated. Notwithstanding the adoption by consensus of a definition of human rights defenders in the 1998 Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the usual detractors – including Russia and China – sought to delegitimise the work of human rights defenders by questioning whether the term is universally recognised. China went further to suggest that individuals were using the ‘flag of defending human rights’ to violate the law.

Notwithstanding the primary responsibility of States to combat impunity for attacks against defenders, the Special Rapporteur again emphasised his call for non-State actors to protect human rights defenders, and concluded by referencing his 2017 report on Business and Human Rights (A/72/170).

https://www.ishr.ch/news/unga-74-states-must-put-end-impunity-reprisals-against-defenders


Guatemalan human rights defender Abelino Chub Caal wins Trócaire human rights award

November 8, 2019

Abelino Chib Caal from Guatemala in Dublin after he was awarded the Romero International Award by Trócaire, for his work defending human rights. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Abelino Chib Caal from Guatemala in Dublin after he was awarded the Romero International Award by Trócaire. Photograph: Dave Meehan

On 26 April, 2019 Abelino Chub Caal walked free after spending 813 days in prison. Less than six months later, the Guatemalan human rights defender stood before a large Irish audience at the Riddel Hall in Belfast to accept the Trocaire Romero Award. This was the second edition of the award [see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/trocaire-romero-award]. The inaugural award in 2018 went to Sr Bridget Tighe in recognition of her humanitarian work in Gaza and the Middle East (for more on her click here)

The following week Sorcha Pollak of the Irish Times sat in a small meeting room in the Irish Times building with the Guatemalan teacher who has dedicated his life to fighting for the environmental and cultural rights of the indigenous people of his home country. A few days later, the 35-year-old flew back to Guatemala, unsure of the reception he will receive in a country which has an extremely poor international reputation for its treatment of community leaders who call for greater equality and recognition of human rights.

This has been the struggle of the indigenous people throughout our lives,” explains Caal in Spanish. “We’ve been completely rejected by the state. On the one hand the government says we’re the pride of Guatemala and they get millions of dollars in tourist money but at the same time we’re being repressed. They criminalise and persecute us; they send people to their deaths. They harass men and women who raise their voices against the injustice.”

Caal first became involved in the campaign for equal land rights aged 14 when his family’s community, in the department of Izabal in eastern Guatemala, was suddenly taken over by the cattle farm of a French woman operating in the area. “She had about 1,000 cattle just roaming around the community. They slept under our roof and ate all our crops.” He was deeply shocked when a community leader, who had come to the town to educate locals about their rights and the international treaties they could cite as protection, was thrown in jail for eight years.

After school, having graduated with a diploma in sustainable tourism, Caal began working for the Guillermo Toriello foundation which promotes local development. He also trained as a teacher but never got the chance to use his qualification. “I’ve dedicated myself to the community struggle and to becoming a mediator between state institutions and communities on land issues. It’s a legitimate and true struggle, the land for us is like our mother.”

The mining industry along with the rapidly growing production of palm oil, fruit, sugar cane and rubber by multinational companies is being carried out at the expense of local communities, says Caal. “They’ve accumulated all the land they can. All areas of flat land have been declared private property for palm plantations but not for the production of food.

“The state’s intention is to dispossess and exterminate the life of the indigenous communities. The communities are being expelled from their land and left without any alternatives. They just treat them as if they were toys.”

Caal cites examples of fellow human rights activists who were jailed for their work defending local communities, including Bernardo Caal Xol who was sentenced to eight years for his efforts to halt the development of a hydroelectric project along the Cahabon river by the Spanish ACS construction group which is chaired by Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez.

In February 2017, Caal was arrested and charged for alleged aggravated land grabbing, arson, coercion, illicit association and belonging to illicit armed groups. He spent the following two years in prison in Guatemala city.

While former government officials, locked up on corruption charges, made his life in prison difficult, he was surprised by the reception from gang members. “They were actually really respectful to me and called me profe [teacher]. They said I didn’t deserve to be there.”

During his two years behind bars, Caal witnessed hitmen inside the jail killing other prisoners and frequently worried for his safety. Despite being released earlier this year, after he was absolved of all charges, he knows that many other land rights defenders continue to face similar treatment. “The president is attacking human rights defenders, insinuating they have connections to drug trafficking. I wasn’t the first person to go to prison and I certainly won’t be the last. Our economic powers, they either send you to prison or send you to the grave.”

Upon his release, Caal spent one month in a safe house in Guatemala city and another three months in Costa Rica before travelling to Ireland to accept the Romero International Award presented by Irish NGO, Trócaire. He hopes his time in Ireland will raise awareness around the daily struggles faced by indigenous people across Guatemala in their attempts to hold on to their land. “We have been completely rejected by the state, we can’t be at peace. We just ask that people continue to show their solidarity with us.”

Caal is conscious that the Guatemalan public prosecutor’s office has not accepted his release and is appealing the decision. We part with uncertainty as to what will happen when he arrives home.

Gary Walsh of Trócaire says the voices of land rights defenders like Caal should put pressure on countries worldwide, including Ireland, to sign an international treaty on business and human rights which would help protect indigenous peoples around the globe.

Land grabs, environmental damage and violent attacks, including murder, are all too common features of how big business interacts with communities in the developing world,” says Walsh. “This has been facilitated by the absence of any global framework governing how businesses impact the human rights of the communities they engage with.” A binding international treaty is needed to ensure businesses operating outside the EU respect human rights, and that vulnerable people are protected, says Walsh. Recent negotiations held in Geneva around the revised draft of a legally binding treaty showed some progress despite insufficient engagement from EU member states including Ireland, said a spokeswoman for Trócaire

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/guatemalan-activist-abelino-chub-caal-wins-tr%C3%B3caire-human-rights-award-1.4076152


Right Livelihood Award brings 2019 laureates to Geneva on 28 November

November 7, 2019

The 2019 Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’, [for more see:https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/26/right-livelihood-award-2019-lauds-practical-visionaries/]are:

  • Aminatou Haidar (Western Sahara): for her steadfast nonviolent action, despite imprisonment and torture, in pursuit of justice and self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.
  • Guo Jianmei (China): for her pioneering and persistent work in securing women’s rights in China.
  • Greta Thunberg (Sweden): for inspiring and amplifying political demands for urgent climate action reflecting scientific facts (in lieu of Greta Thunberg, remarks from climate activists).
  • Davi Kopenawa / Hutukara Yanomami Association (Brazil): for their courageous determination to protect the forests and biodiversity of the Amazon, and the lands and culture of its indigenous peoples.

The Graduate Institute, Geneva, and the Right Livelihood Award Foundation organise a celebratory event, which will include musical interludes, on Thursday 28 November 2019 from 18:00 – 19:45 in the Auditorium Ivan Pictet in the Maison de la Paix, Geneva.

To register:  HERE

 


Applications now open for ISHR’s 2020 training for human rights defenders

November 7, 2019

ISHR is calling for applications for its flagship Human Rights Defender Advocacy Programme in 2020 – the extensive training programme for human rights defenders. So if you are a human rights defender keen to use the UN to push for change at home, you can apply now.

The training will take place in Geneva between 8 and 19 June 2020 and provides defenders with opportunities to put their advocacy skills directly into action at the 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council. The draft programme is here, and how to apply here.

ISHR’s Human Rights Defender Advocacy Programme (HRDAP) equips defenders with the knowledge and skills to make strategic use of the international human rights system. It also provides an opportunity for participants to directly engage in lobbying and advocacy activities at the UN level to effect change on the ground back home. As well as receiving training modules on all the UN human rights mechanisms from a range of experts, participants will also have the opportunity to build networks in Geneva and around the world, carry out lobbying of UN member States and UN staff, and learn from peers from a range of regions working on a range of human rights issues.

The programme brings togethers 16 committed human rights defenders from extremely different contexts and working on a wide range of areas: migrant rights; women human rights defenders in conflict, post-conflict & occupation settings; business, environment and human rights; the human rights of LGBTI persons; reclaiming civil society space and increasing protection of human rights defenders.

At the end of the training, 100% of participants were either “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with the overall programme, and they all also felt that they would be able to apply what they learnt to their own day-to-day work. ISHR will look to build upon this success in 2020.

Participants will take part in:

  1. A short online learning component, prior to face-to-face training, to enable you to consolidate your existing knowledge and develop your advocacy objectives;
  2. Intensive training in Geneva during June, to coincide with the 44th session of the Human Rights Council. The training will focus on ways to effectively use international human rights mechanisms and to influence outcomes;
  3. Specific advocacy at Human Rights Council sessions and other relevant meetings, with regular feedback and peer education to learn from the experiences, including expert input from leading human rights advocates.

This programme is directed at experienced human rights defenders in non-governmental organisations, with existing advocacy experience at the national level and some prior knowledge of the international human rights system.

In 2020, ISHR is particularly seeking applications from women human rights defenders working in conflict, post conflict and occupation settings. In addition, our work with migrant rights defenders aims to support coalitions and strategies to push back on the criminalisation of solidarity, as well as to ensure that the UN human rights mechanisms do their part to meaningfully raise the issue of migrants’ rights violations.

As we support human rights defenders across all the thematic areas, ISHR is working with these advocates to identify ways to push for safer environments at home, so that they are able to continue their vital work.

If you are interested in applying for ISHR’s training programme, please read the call for applications to check that you comply with the requirements, and apply before midnight Geneva time on 1 December 2019. The link to the online application form can be found in the call for applications. For more information, write to hrdap2020@ishr.ch.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrdap-ishr-2020-training-human-rights-defenders-apply-now-hrdap20


Human Rights Watch’ Omar Shakir loses his appeal in Israeli Supreme Court

November 6, 2019

On 5 November 2019, the Israeli Supreme Court dismissed the appeal against the Jerusalem District Court’s decision to uphold a deportation order against Human Rights Watch (HRW) representative in Israel and Palestine, Omar Shakir, who is accused by the State of supporting the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement. The Court ruled that Shakir must leave the country in 20 days. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/18/israel-deportation-of-human-rights-watchs-staff-member-again-on-the-table/]

HRW stated “Omar Shakir’s Expulsion Would Send Chilling Message“. The Israeli NGO “Human Rights Defenders Fund” issued the following statment on the case:

The Court dismissed the claim raised by Shakir’s lawyers Michael Sfard and Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man, according to which he did not violate the law that authorizes the exclusion from Israel of those who call for or support boycotting Israel or an area under its control (Amendment no. 28 to the Entry into Israel Law, 2017). The Court also rejected a request to suspend proceedings until a new Israeli government is formed following the September elections and could consider whether to proceed with the deportation.

The constitutional claims raised in the appeal were not directly addressed by the Court, which stated that the constitutionality of Amendment no. 28 to the Entry into Israel Law will be examined in a separate petition currently pending before the High Court of Justice.

The Court further dismissed the claim that Shakir did not call to boycott Israel, but was merely fulfilling HRW’s long-held mandate in calling businesses not to contribute to human rights violations in the OPT. Head of the panel of judges, Justice Neal Hendel, adopted the State’s position and asserted that Shakir’s Tweets throughout the years, including the ones he posted on behalf of HRW regarding corporate responsibility in the OPT, all amount to active and consistent promotion of boycott activity.

One of the more disconcerting aspects of the Court’s decision is the conflation of Shakir’s independent activities prior to joining HRW with actions taken more recently in his capacity as a researcher at HRW, such as HRW reports shared on his social media, as indication that there is “enough evidence to show substantial, coherent and consistent involvement of Shakir in promoting boycott, in violation of the law.” 

The most disturbing component of the ruling is the Court’s holding that the law’s application extends to those who use boycott to promote the protection of human rights in the OPT, in accordance with international law:

“[…] the subjective aim of Amendment no. 28 […] validates that a call to boycott Israel may be included within the meaning of the law, even if its reasoning is founded on the protection of human rights or on the norms of international law. In fact, it seems that the possibility of disguising a call for boycott under a human rights discourse will devoid Amendment no. 28 of its content and harm its objective aim — fighting the boycott movement. These aims demonstrate that [the text of the law] is not only limited to boycott that is based on political opposition to Israel’s control of the territories, but also includes boycott that is based on the identification of the Israeli control in the territories as a violation of international law.”   
Following that statement, the Court held that since Shakir’s activity regarding corporate responsibility in the OPT is based on his entire opposition to the legitimacy of the Israeli settlements in the OPT, his work constitutes illegal support of boycott in violation of Israeli law.

In addition, the Court stated that HRW is not considered to be a “BDS organization” and reassured that its activity will not be harmed by the decision to deport one of his representatives. Furthermore, the Court dismissed the petitioners’ concerns by stating that the current decision will not affect other human right defenders and organizations who will want to enter Israel.

Nonetheless, HRDF views this ruling as a dangerous precedent that reflects the shrinking space for human rights advocates who defend human rights in the context of the occupation.

Following the decision, Adv. Sfard stated: “Today, Israel has joined countries like Syria, Iran and North Korea, who have also deported Human Rights Watch representatives in attempt to silence criticism against human rights abuses committed in their territory. The Supreme Court’s decision gives Israel a dangerous and anti-democratic veto power over the identity of the representatives of international organizations operating in Israel and in the OPT. Today they deport Omar, and tomorrow they will deport other representatives, foreign journalists and anyone who opposes the government policies in the occupied territories.”

Adv. Schaeffer Omer-Man added: “Today’s Supreme Court ruling not only lends legitimacy to Israel’s attempts to mask its disapproval of Human Rights Watch’s activities condemning settlement activity in the OPT by deporting Omar Shakir, but it threatens to deepen the already pervasive self-censorship by Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders who are more vulnerable than ever to persecution for legitimate advocacy against Israeli violations of international law.”

Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth stated: “The Supreme Court has effectively declared that free expression in Israel does not include completely mainstream advocacy for Palestinian rights. If the government now deports Human Rights Watch’s researcher for asking businesses to respect rights as we do across the world, there is no telling whom it will throw out next.”
 
HRDF stands in solidarity with Omar Shakir and Human Rights Watch. The decision to deport Shakir on grounds of support for boycott is only one measure in the ever-growing efforts of the Israeli authorities in recent years to delegitimize human rights defenders, silence political expression and shut down the work of human rights organizations who report human rights abuses in the OPT.

The law on which the Court’s ruling relies is only one of a long line of legislation passed in recent years designed to delegitimize and sanction human rights defenders and organizations, block their funding, impose obstacles to their work, and create a chilling effect on Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights organizations.

The State’s and the Court’s insistence on separating Shakir’s work from HRW is artificial and its purpose is solely to conceal the harsh and far-reaching ramifications of this decision, which will enable the state to dictate and censor the work of human rights organizations who monitor and report human rights abuses in Israel and in the OPT. The international community must not be affected by this attempt to separate between HRW and its employee, Omar Shakir, as giving in to such tactics would harm the solidarity and support that all human rights defenders deserve.

(contact the HRDF team with any questions you might have: noa@hrdf.org.il)

———-

https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/11/05/israel-supreme-court-greenlights-deporting-human-rights-watch-official

https://mailchi.mp/18f35a27e33d/update-israeli-supreme-court-dismisses-appeal-against-the-deportation-of-human-rights-watch-israel-and-palestine-director-omar-shakir?e=51113b9c0e

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/10/israel-opt-amnesty-staff-member-faces-punitive-travel-ban-for-human-rights-work/

Israel: deportation of Omar Shakir must be halted and the work of human rights defenders protected

 


Profile of Widad Akreyi, Iraqi human rights defender

November 5, 2019

Dr. Widad Akreyi at the award ceremony for the 2018 International Woman Harmony Award, Cortona, Italy, Nov. 23, 2018.