Important side event in Geneva on ending reprisals coming up

September 12, 2018

On Wednesday 19 September (16:00-17:30 – Room XXIV, Palais des Nations, Geneva) the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) is organizing a side event Ending reprisals: Discussion with human rights defenders and experts.

This event seeks to provide a space for human rights defenders and experts to shed light on the nature and extent of reprisals and intimidation against those cooperating with the UN; discuss and expand on the Secretary-General’s report; and to consider efforts to date to address reprisals and intimidation against those cooperating with the UN as well as ways to further develop and strengthen policies and practices to prevent and address reprisals.

Participants: 

  • Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights
  • Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • National human rights defenders

Moderator: Phil Lynch, Director of ISHR (see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/08/ishr-new-report-on-reprisals-and-restrictions-against-ngo-participation-in-the-un/)

The event is co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations and the Permanent Mission of Uruguay to the Office of the United Nations.

Download the flyer here

some of my earlier posts on reprisals: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/


Many HRD issues at the 39th session of the UN Human Rights Council

September 8, 2018

The 39th session of the UN Human Rights Council is held from coming Monday to 28 September 2018. Human Rights Defenders issues abound. Thanks to the excellent overview of the ISHR I can provide a short summary. To stay up-to-date, follow @ISHRglobal and #HRC39 on Twitter.

Reprisals

On 19 September, the Council will hold its first dedicated interactive dialogue on reprisals. It will engage with the Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights (Andrew Gilmour) who as UN senior official on reprisals will present the Secretary General’s annual report on the United Nations’ “the reprisals report”. The dedicated dialogue to address acts of intimidation and reprisals was mandated by the resolution on reprisals in September 2017 and provides a key opportunity for States to raise concerns about reprisals, and demand that Governments involved in existing cases provide an update on any investigation or action taken toward accountability. [for some of my earlier posts on reprisals: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/]

Other key thematic reports relevant to HRDs

The Council will hold interactive dialogues and consider the reports of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, including on their country visits to Argentina and Sri Lanka, as well as the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance including on their country visit to Gambia.

The Council will consider the human rights of indigenous peoples on several occasions: it will hold a panel on the issue (see further below), the annual reports by the High Commissioner,  the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, including on her visits to Mexico and Guatemala, and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence will also present his annual report, followed by an interactive dialogue, in addition to discussing the Secretary General report on the prevention of genocide.

The Council will discuss the report of the Secretary-General on capital punishment and the implementation of the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty.

The Council will also discuss the report of the High Commissioner on mechanisms concerned with ensuring the safety of journalists and the Council will consider a resolution on the issue. The first informal consultation is scheduled for 11 September at 15:30.

The Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes will present a set of principles for States, businesses and other actors to protect workers, including the need to protect worker representatives and human rights defenders from reprisal.

Country-specific developments

Burundi. During its 36th session, the Council passed two resolutions on Burundi (read here ISHR’s analysis of these two resolutions). At the 39th session, the Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on his final report on Burundi on 11 September from 15:00 to 18:00. The Council will also hold an interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on 17 September between 09:00 and 12:00. ISHR continues to remain highly concerned about the human rights situation in Burundi and its refusal to cooperate with the Council’s mechanisms, which clearly warrant an invitation to the General Assembly to consider the suspension of Burundi as a member of the Council. ISHR joined a group of NGOs in calling for the renewal of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry. [for earlier posts on Burundi: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/burundi/]

Yemen. Last September, the Council appointed a Group of Eminent Experts to carry out a comprehensive examination of all alleged violations of international human rights law committed by all parties to the conflict since September 2014. They will present their report followed by an interactive dialogue on 26 September from 09:00 to 12:00. The Council will also consider a report of the High Commissioner on the human rights situation in Yemen and on the implementation of the technical assistance. The Group of Eminent Experts’ report strongly suggests that parties to the armed conflict have perpetrated, and continue to perpetrate, violations and crimes under international law. Over 50 civil society organisations have called on the Council to renew and strengthen the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts through the enhancement of its reporting structure and strengthening language on accountability.

China. The 39th session is the final session before China’s Universal Periodic Review. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/15/remember-2nd-anniversary-of-the-death-of-cao-shunli/; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/26/chinas-win-win-resolution-gets-the-votes-in-the-un-council/ and many more]

Other country situations where HRD issues are relevant

The Council will hear reports on and is expected to consider resolutions addressing a range of country situations, in some instances involving the renewal of the relevant expert mandates.

They include:

  • Interactive dialogue with the Commission on Syria
  • Interactive dialogue with the Commission on human rights in South Sudan
  • Interactive dialogue with the Fact-finding mission on Myanmar
  • Interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s oral update on Ukraine
  • Interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report on the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s oral update on Libya
  • Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia
  • Interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on Somalia
  • Interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on Sudan
  • Interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Central African Republic

Adoption of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) reports

During this session, the Council will adopt the UPR working group reports on Turkmenistan, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Colombia, Uzbekistan, Tuvalu, Germany, Djibouti, Canada, Bangladesh, Russian Federation, Azerbaijan, Cameroon, and Cuba.

Appointment of mandate holders

The President of the Human Rights Council has proposed candidates for the following two vacancies of mandate holders to be filled at this session:

  1. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus
  2. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea

Resolutions to be presented to the Council’s 39th session

At the organisational meeting the following resolutions relevant to HRDs were announced (States sponsoring the resolution in brackets):

  1. The human rights situation in Yemen (Yemen and a group of countries)
  2. The protection of human rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Togo on behalf of the African group)
  3. The protection of human rights in the Sudan (Togo on behalf of the African group)
  4. World Programme for Human Rights Education (Brazil, Costa Rica, Italy, Morocco, Slovenia, Senegal,  Philippines, Thailand)
  5. The human rights situation in Syria (France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Kingdom)
  6. The human rights situation in Somalia (the UK and a group of countries)
  7. The safety of journalists (Austria, Brazil, France, Greece, Morocco, Qatar and Tunisia)
  8. The human rights of indigenous peoples (Guatemala and Mexico)
  9. The promotion and protection of the human rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas (Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, South Africa)
  10. The human rights situation in Burundi (the European Union)
  11. The human rights situation in Myanmar (the European Union)
  12. Equal participation in political and public affairs (Botswana, Czech Republic, Indonesia, Netherlands, Peru)
  13. The situation of Rohingya muslims and other minorities in Myanmar (Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation)

Panel discussions

During each Council session, panel discussions are held to provide member States and NGOs with opportunities to hear from subject-matter experts and raise questions. All panel discussions will be broadcast live and archived on http://webtv.un.org. Three panel discussions are scheduled for this upcoming session:

  • The high-level panel discussion to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide will take place on 13 September from 10:00 to 12:00.
  • The annual half-day panel discussion on the rights of indigenous peoples will take place on 19 September from 9:00 to 11:00. The theme will be the participation and inclusion of indigenous peoples in the development and implementation of strategies and projects in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  • The annual discussion on the integration of a gender perspective throughout the work of the Human Rights Council and that of its mechanisms will take place on 24 September from 16:00 to 18:00. The theme will be gender integration and human rights investigations: strengthening a victim-centred approach.

Side events. As always there will be many side events concerning HRDs to which I will refer in the future.

——

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc39-key-issues-agenda-september-2018-session


Civil Society sends letter to new High Commissioner for human rights Bachelet

September 8, 2018

A large group of international and regional NGOs have agreed on the following letter to the new High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet; sent on 1 September 2018 [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/08/22/change-of-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-at-the-un-optimism-warranted/]. The tone is totally right for the difficult years ahead:

Dear High Commissioner Bachelet,

As local, national, regional, and international civil society organizations from every corner of the world, we offer warm congratulations on your appointment as United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights.
We are committed to a world in which every person enjoys human rights and dignity and in which our communities are fair, just and sustainable. We consider that a strong High Commissioner, working in strategic partnership with independent civil society, can contribute significantly to the realization of this vision.

You take up office at a time when human rights are under attack and when we risk the reversal of many of the achievements of the modern human rights movement. We look to you in these troubled times to be an unwavering voice in the defence of human rights, and of victims, rights-holders and human rights defenders around the world.

On every continent, the rights of individuals, communities and peoples are being violated and abused by governments and non-state actors, often with complete impunity. Civil society, peaceful dissidents, and the media are often brutally silenced. The role of your Office in ensuring robust monitoring of, and reporting on, such situations is essential for curbing violations and deterring further abuse, as well as for ensuring justice and accountability. Technical-assistance and capacity building by the OHCHR is also critical and, to be effective, should be approached holistically alongside a rigorous assessment of the rights challenges in the country, including through key indicators to measure progress and assess the degree of engagement and cooperation by the State.

As High Commissioner, you have a unique role to play in bringing country situations of concern to the attention of the UN Human Rights Council and other UN bodies, particularly situations that may not be on their agenda or which receive limited attention, often because of political pressure. This role should extend to providing briefings to the Security Council on situations either on its agenda or that, if left unattended, could represent a threat to international peace and security. Monitoring missions and inter-sessional briefings to the HRC can be initiated at the High Commissioner’s prerogative, on the basis of your Office’s universal mandate, bringing attention to neglected country situations and contributing towards the achievement of the Council’s mandate to prevent human rights violations.

We are aware that the position of High Commissioner comes with its own challenges. Many States will insist you avoid “naming and shaming” and push you to engage in “quiet diplomacy” and to respect national sovereignty. Often, those most intolerant of criticism and most forceful in suppressing dissent will speak the loudest in seeking to mute your voice. Survivors, victims and defenders on the front line in countries where their rights are being violated will rely on you as a human rights champion, to have the courage and conviction to call out violators clearly and publicly, even when it’s challenging or unpopular with governments.

Globally, the rights essential to civic space are being systematically undermined. Civil society and human rights defenders face severe daily risks in their struggle to defend human rights on the ground, including imprisonment, asset-freezes, defamatory campaigns, torture, enforced disappearance, and even death. Risks are also present in the UN context, where individuals frequently face intimidation, harassment or reprisals for their engagement with the UN. We urge you to be a staunch defender of the rights of defenders both on the ground and at the UN, to publicly call out violators, and to undertake or push for investigations into attacks and reprisals. We also encourage you to take full advantage of the distinct, often innovative complementary role of civil society to the work of the OHCHR, and ensure the Office works closely with civil society as a strategic partner at the national, regional, and international levels.

Currently, the human rights framework itself is under unparalleled attack. Authoritarian populists are attacking the universality of human rights, disproportionately and unlawfully restricting rights in the purported interests of “national security,” often tacitly or openly encouraging attacks by their followers or vigilantes on rights defenders as well as the vulnerable and poor, while selectively interpreting human rights and seeking to co-opt or subvert human rights mechanisms to suit their political agendas. Safeguarding and strengthening universal human rights norms and mechanisms should be a core responsibility of the High Commissioner.

The current climate highlights the need for a strong public advocacy role for your mandate in the defence of international human rights law and the international human rights system, as well as a strong role internally within the UN to mainstream respect for human rights throughout the work of UN organs and agencies, and within the Sustainable Development Agenda.

Once again, we congratulate you on your new role, and stand ready to support you and your Office in the fulfilment of your vital mandate.

With assurances of our highest consideration,


Nominations for the European Civil Society Prize 2018 closing soon

September 1, 2018

Although not a human rights award in the strict sense, I think that the current state of civil society in large parts of Europe does need a boost [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/04/europe-also-sees-shrinking-space-for-human-rights-defenders/]. So the EESC Civil Society Prize 2018 on identities, European values and cultural heritage in Europe is most welcome and human rights groups and defenders should apply.

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) this year is promoting initiatives to do with European values, identities and cultural heritage. The deadline is 7 September 2018. The Civil Society Prize, now in its tenth edition, was launched by the EESC to reward and encourage by civil society organisations and/or individuals that have made a significant contribution to promoting the common values that bolster European cohesion and integration.

Prize money totals EUR 50 000 and will be awarded to a maximum of five winners and it will reward innovative initiatives which have made a significant contribution to:

  • raising awareness of the multiple layers and richness of European identities;
  • exploiting the full potential of Europe’s cultural wealth;
  • facilitating access to European cultural heritage; and
  • promoting European values such as respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law.

The full list of requirements and the online application form are available on webpage – EESC Civil Society Prize 2018.

The EESC Civil Society Prize is open to all civil society organisations officially registered within the European Union and acting at local, national, regional or European level. It is also open to individuals.

The award ceremony will take place on 13 December 2018 in Brussels.

https://www.eesc.europa.eu/en/news-media/press-releases/eesc-civil-society-prize-2018-applications-closing-soon


Major piece by departing High Commissioner in the Economist

August 31, 2018

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who steps down on 1 September wrote a long and hard-hitting piece under the title “Grassroots leaders provide the best hope to a troubled world” in the Economist of 30 August 2018. Just some excerpts here, please read the whole thing:

If they are growing in number it is because (with exceptions) many other politicians are mediocre. They, too, are focused on their own image, the vanities associated with protocol and re-election. Too busy with themselves, or too afraid to stand up to the demagogues and for others, they seem to shelter in the safety of silence and shuffled papers. Only when they leave public office do some speak up, discovering their courage rather belatedly. Many come and go; no one really notices.

In consequence, too many summits and conferences held between states are tortured affairs that lack profundity but are full of jargon and tiresome clichés that are, in a word, meaningless. What is absent is a sincere will to work together, though all will claim—again, under the lights and on camera—that they are wholly committed to doing so. The systems for states to act collectively at higher levels in pursuit of solutions are decomposing. There are signs of it everywhere we care to look.

….

I believe it is only a matter of time, for example, before we see a Takfiri confrontation with Buddhist extremism in Asia. Where this is likely to occur, geographically, and who is likely to be involved, can already be surmised. The how and the when are, as always, indeterminate. It will depend on the outcome of regional presidential elections and how the situations in Cox’s Bazaar and Myanmar play out. The current signs are not encouraging. What is clear is that our systems for fixing this are broken.

When Myanmar inflicts enormous suffering on the Rohingya—burns them in their homes, cuts the throats of their children, rapes and terrorises, sends 700,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh in only three weeks—and the government pays no penalty for this—what are we saying to the perpetrators? Or to the victims? And to other potential perpetrators across the globe? Xi Jinping openly backs the government of Myanmar and, unusually for the US, given the extent of the horrors, President Trump did not even mention Rakhine when he addressed the UN General Assembly in September 2017. Strong evidence indicates the Burmese military and others may have committed acts of genocide. How much more cruel can humanity be, and how much chaos and pain are we fomenting?

….

And when multiple stress fractures already exist—the result of decades of mediocre leadership—all that’s required is a tripwire. To heal those fractures, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere, we must think differently, think more about human rights, and do this with some urgency.

A fracture within society is often shorthand for human suffering or the existence of burning grievances. Before conflicts begin, suffering stems from three types of human rights violations. One is the denial of fundamental freedoms, such as of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly, creating a situation where life and fear of the state become inseparable. A second is the deprivation of basic services, such as legal and social protections or rights to education and healthcare, which often only confirms the hold of political elites over others. And third, feeding the first two, discrimination, structural and deep, propped up by racism, chauvinism and bigotry.

When multiple stress fractures already exist—the result of decades of mediocre leadership—all that’s required is a tripwire

…If we do not change course quickly, we will inevitably encounter an incident where that first domino is tipped—triggering a sequence of unstoppable events that will mark the end of our time on this tiny planet.   Can we swerve in time?   

My hope lies in a set of people not widely known internationally, but familiar to those in the human rights community. Unlike the self-promoters—the elected xenophobes and charlatans—these people do have courage. They have no state power to hide behind: instead, they step forward. They are the leaders of communities and social movements, big and small, who are willing to forfeit everything—including their lives—in defence of human rights. Their valour is unalloyed; it is selfless. There is no discretion or weakness here. They represent the best of us, and I have had the privilege of knowing some of them personally, while others are well known to my office. 

Suffering reflects a massive dereliction of the duty to serve, by those who exercise sovereignty on behalf of their people

This is what true leaders look like. Bertha Zuniga Caceres from Honduras, the young daughter of the murdered environmental activist, Bertha Caceres, who has bravely continued her mother’s struggle. Dr Sima Samar in Afghanistan, who leads the country’s independent human rights commission and is utterly fearless, even when threats to her personal safety abound. The same could be said of Senator Leila de Lima in the Philippines, who has now been arbitrarily imprisoned without trial for 18 months. Pierre Claver Mbonimpa from Burundi, a gentle yet principled soul, undeterred even after his son was murdered and he himself survived repeated attacks.

I have also been deeply impressed by the dignity and courage of Denis Mukwege from the Democratic Republic of Congo, an extraordinary human being by any measure. Likewise, I have been humbled by the determination of Angkhana Neelapaijit from Thailand, whose husband, a lawyer, disappeared in 2004 leaving her to become a most courageous activist, fighting against enforced disappearances. 

There are others too, from Bahrain for example: the Khawaja family, Nabeel Rajab, Maytham Al Salman and Ebtisam Al Sayegh, who have all have shown extraordinary courage in the face of considerable adversity. Hatoon Ajwad Al Fassi and Samar Badawi in Saudi Arabia: courageous leading voices for the rights of Saudi women, both currently in detention. Amal Fathy in Egypt and Radhya Al Mutawakel in Yemen are also two brave individuals who have put their own safety at risk as they have spoken out against injustice and on behalf of victims of human-rights violations. 

Likewise, Ludmila Popovici, an activist against torture in Moldova. In Poland, Barbara Nowacka has been active in organising protests against measures to pull back women’s rights. Sonia Viveros Padilla in Ecuador is fighting for the rights of people of African descent. Close by, in El Salvador, Karla Avelar, the courageous transgender activist, deserves high praise—as does the Peruvian Maxima Acuna, a well-known environmental human rights defender.   

I could continue. There are grassroots leaders of movements against discrimination and inequalities in every region.  These names are just a sample of the real store of moral courage and leadership that exists among us today.      

While some speak from an individual vantage point, fighting specific battles on behalf of their local communities, others lead broader social movements. World-wide, they are not coordinated. But what if they were? What would happen if all the movements supported each other, openly and actively?  

There are grassroots leaders of movements against discrimination and inequalities in every region…the real store of moral courage and leadership among us.

……What if this coordinated, focused, human-rights movement had the backing of business leaders? There are business leaders who are also real leaders, and who have thought seriously about human rights; people like Barbara Novick of Blackrock, Paul Polman of Unilever, Microsoft’s Brad Smith and Deepmind’s Mustafa Suleyman. This has never been done before; but if we did do it, it might just deliver a sort of shock therapy to those dangerous or useless politicians who now threaten humanity. Maybe, just maybe, it would be enough to stop the rot, so that when a fool tips that first domino or strikes the tripwire they hurt no one but themselves, and we can hope that the injury is only a slight one.  

I leave you with that thought. This is my parting note: one of courage and defiance, and a longing for the leadership of the just.

__________

https://www.economist.com/open-future/2018/08/30/grassroots-leaders-provide-the-best-hope-to-a-troubled-world?

——–

See also my: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/08/22/change-of-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-at-the-un-optimism-warranted/


Human rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh on hunger strike in Iran

August 30, 2018

One of the most admirable human rights defenders in the world, Iranian Nasrin Sotoudeh, has gone on hunger strike, Front Line Defenders reports on 25 August 2018. This time in protest against her judicial harassment and the continuing pressure which is being exerted on her family, relatives and friends. The defender was arrested in June and has been in the women’s ward of Evin Prison since.

Nasrin Sotoudeh  is a human rights defender and lawyer who in recent months has represented a number of women’s rights defenders who have faced charges as a result of their protests against compulsory veiling in Iran. The defender has also actively criticised the new limit which has been imposed by the Iranian judicial system on the number of state-approved lawyers which are permitted to defend political and security based cases. [see https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/nasrin-sotoudeh  and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/16/iranian-human-rights-lawyer-nasrin-sotoudeh-arrested-again/]

On 25 August 2018, human rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh began a hunger strike in protest against her judicial harassment and the continuing pressure which is being exerted on her family, relatives and friends. The next day, the Assistant Prosecutor and two other judicial authorities filed three new charges against her for “urging a referendum,” “assisting in the formation of house churches” and “organising protest rallies”. The human rights defender believes that these charges have been filed as a result of her failure to attend a court hearing on 15 August 2018, when she was sentenced to five years in prison in absentia for “propaganda against the state”, “assembly against national security” and “espionage”. The defender has lodged an appeal against these convictions. On 18 August 2018, at approximately 8 a.m., three agents of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry, holding  a warrant from Branch 7 of the Revolutionary Court in Evin Prison, raided Nasrin Sotoudeh’s house while her children were asleep. The agents also raided the house of her sister-in-law. It is believed that the agents were searching for objects related to the defender’s human rights work, such as badges reading “I oppose the compulsory Hijab”. 

——–

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/nasrin-sotoudeh-arrested 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/26/no-choice-jailed-iranian-lawyer-nasrin-sotoudeh-goes-on-hunger-strike

https://www.iranhumanrights.org/2017/11/previously-imprisoned-human-rights-lawyer-nasrin-sotoudeh-refuses-to-appear-in-court/?utm_content=buffer11e53&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer


30 August: International Day of Disappearances

August 30, 2018

Today, 30 August, is the International Day of the Disappeared. The UN has a Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) – established in 1980. The WGEID’s mandate is to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of their relatives who, having disappeared, are placed outside the protection of the law. The WGEID endeavours to establish a channel of communication between the families and the Governments concerned, to ensure that individual cases which families have brought to the Group’s attention are investigated with the objective of clarifying the whereabouts of disappeared persons. Clarification occurs when the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person is clearly established, irrespective of whether the person is alive or dead. The WGEID is made up of five independent experts.

A good piece on the widespread problem is by Ewelina U. Ochab – a human rights advocate and author of the book “Never Again: Legal Responses to a Broken Promise in the Middle East” in Forbes of 29 August 2018. She points out that the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance as of August 2018, had only 58 ratifications.

Many organizations use the day to try and get attention for particularly serious cases. One example is the Asian Human Rights Commission with its statement focusing on Asia:International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances: Powerlessness before extra-judicial killings”

Today, the world commemorates the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. Enforced Disappearances is one of the recurring tragedies that is happening throughout the world. Many countries, particularly less-developed countries, now adopt enforced disappearances as the easiest way of dealing with problems that Governments find difficult to cope with. The twin evils of enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings remain as the two major problems in several Asian countries.

Bangladesh has recorded several hundreds of enforced disappearances of political opponents of the present Ruling Party within the last few months. The matter has been well publicized. But there have not been any serious interventions in order to bring an end to this iniquity. Other countries such as Pakistan, several parts of India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines are among the countries which are prominent in the practice of enforced disappearances.

……………………..

As another year goes by, there will be many additional victims of Enforced Disappearances. Will there be an attempt, at both local and international levels, to put up severe resistance to end this practice? This includes the restoration of the other factors of: a fair trial and the role of Judges in this equation. This remains as one of the major issues that concern Human Rights in our world today. When the lives of so many people are so blatantly destroyed, how can Human Rights be spoken of with any kind of significance and importance?

The fate of Victims of Enforced Disappearances is one of the urgent concerns voiced today. Victims should be given more protection. Victims should and need to be heard by all sectors of society. A genuine response to their cries for help is what is needed NOW.


for some of my earlier posts on disappearances, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/disappearances/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Day_of_the_Disappeared

http://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-053-2018

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ewelinaochab/2018/08/29/the-international-day-of-the-victims-of-enforced-disappearances/#144b745eb42e


Where is the international support for Canada in its row with Saudi Arabia

August 27, 2018

The tension between Saudi Arabia and Canada began when Canada’s Global Affairs Twitter account tweeted this 3 August 2018 statement concerning human rights abuses: Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in , including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful activists.

The excessive response by Saudi Arabia and the various issues at stake have been sufficiently described  in the media (see several links below) but what is most disturbing is what one commentator called “Not a shred of solidarity was on offer anyway: it was all just a dispute between “friends” and “allies.” Weak EU response with obviously no support from the Trump government, has left the Canadian government close to mulling a kind of apology “Canada will of course continue to “speak out,” Trudeau said last Wednesday, but he also said this of Saudi Arabia: “This is a country that has some importance around the world. It is making progress when it comes to human rights.” There is no need for mediation,” said Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. “…Canada has made a mistake and needs to fix it.” Al-Jubeir’s views were then immediately expanded by former Conservative foreign affairs minister John Baird in an interview broadcast by the Saudis’ own Al-Arabiya network.

On 9 August a number of Canadian organizations expressed their support to Canada for its recent position on the detention of women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia. “and urged the international community to join Canada in calling for the unequivocal respect of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.”

With Russia and quite of few other countries coming out openly to express solidarity with Saudi Arabia it is time to ask where the like-minded solidarity is and what international NGOs do to support courageous Canada??

[with exception for HRW https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/08/08/saudi-arabia-punishes-canada-criticizing-human-rights-defenders-arrests and AI https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/08/saudi-arabia-international-community-must-speak-up-for-human-rights-defenders-after-canadian-ambassador-expelled/]

———

http://www.mediafiledc.com/saudi-canadian-duel-takes-place-on-multiple-platforms/

https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2018/08/11/saudi-arabia-picks-a-pointless-fight-with-canada

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-canada-owes-no-apology-to-the-saudis/

https://www.macleans.ca/politics/worldpolitics/the-trudeau-government-is-losing-its-human-rights-battle-with-the-saudis-and-missing-a-huge-opportunity/

https://interpares.ca/news/joint-statement-canadas-support-women-human-rights-defenders-saudi-arabia

 


Change of High Commissioner for Human Rights at the UN: optimism warranted

August 22, 2018

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, following approval by the General Assembly, has appointed Michelle Bachelet of Chile the next United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  [Ms. Bachelet ended her second four-year term as President of Chile in March 2018, having already held the position between 2006 and 2010.  The first woman elected to Chile’s highest office, after her first term, she joined the United Nations as the first Executive Director of the newly established United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women). A long-time human rights champion and ground-breaking leader, Ms. Bachelet is a paediatrician who began her Government career as an adviser in the Ministry of Health, rising quickly to become the first woman to lead Chile’s Health Ministry in 2000 and its Defence Ministry in 2002. Ms. Bachelet became involved in Chilean human rights activism in the early 1970s.  She and her parents were political prisoners, and her father, a general in the air force, died in prison.  After their release, Ms. Bachelet and her mother spent several years in exile.  She returned to Chile in 1979.] Her human rights background as well as her political cloud and experience give reason to hope that the Office of the High Commissioner will continue to be at the forefront in spite of the countervailing currents at the moment.  

 

 

 

 

 

Recognition of the fearless outgoing High Commissioner has continued to pour in:

The 2018 Human Rights Tulip has been awarded to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Dutch Foreign minister Stef Blok will present him with the prize on 3 September in The Hague. For more information on the Human Rights Tulip see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/tulip-award. ‘The Netherlands greatly values the way in which he has fulfilled his mandate as High Commissioner,’ Mr Blok said. ‘He addressed human rights violations wherever they occurred. This critical and independent attitude is what is needed in a world where human rights are in jeopardy in many places.

On Monday 20 August the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said in a wide-ranging interview days before his four-year term ends that U.S. President Donald Trump bears “a heavy responsibility” for how the media is portrayed and that his remarks could have a knock-on effect that could hurt journalists in other countries.” [U.S. newspapers across the country ran editorials last Thursday defending freedom of the press in response to President Donald Trump calling some media organizations enemies of the American people.] “The President should be aware that a heavy responsibility lies on his shoulders when it comes to the way in which the media is being portrayed,” Zeid said.

In his last major interview with UN News on 15 August, the UN human rights chief says that the “real pressure on this job comes from the victims and those who suffer and expect a great deal from us.” “Governments are more than capable of defending themselves. It’s not my job to defend them. I have to defend civil society, vulnerable groups, the marginalized, the oppressed. Those are the people that we, in our office, need to represent,” he adds, noting that “oppression is making a comeback”.

When asked about whether his view of the UN and what it can achieve has diminished during his time spent speaking out loudly in defence of the abused and defenceless over the past four years, he says: “It’s very difficult to tolerate abuse of the UN when I keep thinking of the heroic things that people do in the field, whether the humanitarian actors or humanitarian personnel, my human rights people, the people who are monitoring or observing. And I take my hat off to them. I mean, they are the UN that I will cherish and remember.”

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https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2018-08-20/trump-has-responsibility-towards-media-un-rights-boss-says

https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/08/1017052

https://www.government.nl/latest/news/2018/08/14/high-commissioner-for-human-rights-zeid-raad-al-hussein-to-receive-2018-human-rights-tulip

https://www.un.org/press/en/2018/sga1824.doc.htm


Some good news from Cambodia: Tep Vanny and three other human rights defenders pardoned

August 22, 2018

Tep Vanny, second from left, gestures upon arrival at her home in Phnom Penh, Aug. 20, 2018.

Tep Vanny, second from left, gestures upon arrival at her home in Phnom Penh, Aug. 20, 2018. – AP Photo

Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihamoni on 20 August 2018 granted royal pardons to prominent land rights activist Tep Vanny and three others convicted for their roles in a protest over a land grab in the capital Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak Lake community. Tep Vanny, 38, was arrested on 15 August 2016 after participating in a demonstration, handed six days in prison for “insulting a public official” and, instead of being released when the sentence was served, charged with “aggravated intentional violence” for a protest she held more than three years earlier in front of the home of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

On Feb. 23, 2017, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Tep Vanny of assaulting two security officers during the 2013 protest at Hun Sen’s home, sentencing her to 30 months in prison and making her pay 9 million riels (U.S. $2,250) in compensation to the officers. Three other female activists—Heng Mom, Bo Chhorvy, and Kong Chantha—were also convicted for “obstructing public officials” during the protest, but released on bail.

On Monday, King Sihamoni issued a royal decree at the behest of Hun Sen, overturning the convictions of all four activists without providing any reason for the decision. Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service, Tep Vanny said: “I was given no prior notice that I would be released,”“The prison guards came to inform me just before 8:30 p.m. that I would be freed soon and said I should get my things ready. I told them they had come to tell the wrong person.”  Although I am happy tonight for the freedom to meet with my family, relatives, and community members, my pain remains with me, as I have spent over two years in jail,”.

Tep Vanny was awarded the 2013 Vital Voices Global Leadership Award for her work campaigning on behalf of the community evicted from Boeung Kak Lake, which was later filled with sand to make way for a development project with ties to Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). On Monday, she appealed to Hun Sen to release all of the country’s remaining political prisoners, including former RFA reporters Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin, who have spent nine months behind bars on “espionage” charges.

Various rights groups had demanded Tep Vanny’s release in the lead up to the 15 August anniversary marking her two years in prison, with New York-based Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director Phil Robertson calling her conviction “just one of many outrageous cases in which the authorities have misused Cambodia’s justice system to harass and imprison peaceful land rights activists.” On Monday, London-based Amnesty International’s senior director of global operations Minar Pimple welcomed Tep Vanny’s release in a statement, but called it “long overdue.”

re Boeung Kak Lake case see my older: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/06/20/boeung-kak-lake-women-sentenced-for-peaceful-protest-in-cambodia/

Still this is only SOME good news as in the meantime Front Line reported that on 12 August 2018, human rights defender Nay Vanda received a court summon dated 9 August 2018 issued by the Vice Prosecutor of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, summoning him to attend a trial at 7:30am on 27 August 2018 at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Subsequently, human rights defender Ny Chakrya also received the same court summons. These summons are related to charges brought against five human rights defenders on 2 May 2016. Nay Vanda, Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan and Lim Mony were charged  <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/five-adhoc-members-detained#case-update-id-3050&gt; with bribing a witness under Article 548 of the Criminal Code, and Ny Chakrya was charged as an accomplice to bribery of a witness in accordance with Articles 28 and 548 of the Criminal Code. If convicted, they face between five to ten years imprisonment. It is anticipated that the three human rights defenders who have not received the court summons will receive them in the coming days. 

The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/adhoc&gt;  is a human rights organisation founded in December 1991 by a group of former political prisoners aiming to address violations of rights and freedoms. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/adhoc/

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Many links including: https://www.rfa.org/english/news/cambodia/pardons-08202018162801.html