How a Philipines website does the reporting on the UN findings on human rights violations

June 5, 2020

There has been quite a bit of media interest in the UN investigation into impunity in the Philippines [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/22/why-iceland-led-the-un-resolution-on-the-philippines/]. Could be interesting to see how a Philippines site reported on the outcome on 5 June 2020, showing both the UN and Government reaction:

The Philippines government has dismissed a UN human rights report which had claimed that the country had acted with impunity during its war on drugs, as “unfounded”. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said the report found “deep-seated impunity for serious human rights violations, and victims have been deprived of justice for the killings of their loved ones. Their testimonies are heartbreaking“, reports Efe news.

The report said President Rodrigo Duterte’s tough anti-drugs campaign had led to human rights abuses including “credible accusations of extrajudicial killings”. In response, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said on Thursday that impunity had no place in the Philippines. “Law enforcers operate on strict protocols and transgressors of the law are made accountable,” he said in a statement.

The UN report also highlighted the issue of official language used by Duterte in the implementation of his war on drugs, noting the use of vocabulary such as “neutralization”.

Such ill-defined and ominous language, coupled with repeated verbal encouragement by the highest level of State officials to use lethal force, may have emboldened police to treat the circular as permission to kill,” the report said. Roque dismissed the accusations. “We remain a nation that takes pride in protecting our people’s rights and freedoms, among which is the freedom of expression,” he said.

According to the UN, at least 8,633 people have been killed since the Philippines government launched its anti-drug campaign, while rights groups claim the tolls is more than 12,000. It added that among those killed between 2014-19 were 248 human rights defenders, social leaders, journalists, lawyers and union members.

http://www.daijiworld.com/news/newsDisplay.aspx?newsID=716146

see also:

https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2020/06/05/2018893/intl-rights-watchdogs-call-un-launch-investigative-body-ejks-philippines

https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/741407/gov-t-should-address-un-findings-on-police-planting-evidence-drug-war-killings/story/


The Flags of the Geneva Human Rights Platform Fly on the Mont-Blanc Bridge

June 3, 2020

Flags of the Geneva Human Rights Platform on the Mont Blanc Bridge

From today until Sunday 7 June 2020, flags with the Geneva Human Rights Platform (GHRP) logo will be flying on the Mont-Blanc Bridge. This should have coincided with the GHRP annual conference – an annual event open to all human rights actors in and outside Geneva that addresses current issues and challenges related to the work of Geneva-based human rights mechanisms. However, due to the COVID-19 situation, we postponed the conference to 15 October 2020.

As the space on the bridge was already booked in October, we decided to keep this slot to raise awareness about the platform in Geneva and beyond. This is also the occasion to announce the new date of the 2020 annual conference that will discuss the connectivity between the Geneva-based human rights system and regional human rights mechanisms’ explains Felix Kirchmeier, Executive Director of the Geneva Human Rights Platform..


More on Facebook and Twitter and content moderation

June 3, 2020

On 2 June 2020 many media (here Natasha Kuma) wrote about the ‘hot potatoe’ in the social media debate about which posts are harmful and should be deleted or given a warning. Interesting to note that the European Commission supported the unprecedented decision of Twitter to mark the message of the President Trump about the situation in Minneapolis as violating the rules of the company about the glorification of violence.

The EU Commissioner Thierry Breton said: “we welcome the contribution of Twitter, directed to the social network of respected European approach”. Breton also wrote: “Recent events in the United States show that we need to find the right answers to difficult questions. What should be the role of digital platforms in terms of preventing the flow of misinformation during the election, or the crisis in health care? How to prevent the spread of hate speech on the Internet?” Vice-President of the European Commission Faith Jourova in turn, said that politicians should respond to criticism with facts, not resorting to threats and attacks.

Some employees of Facebook staged a virtual protest against the decision of Mark Zuckerberg not to take any action on the statements of Trum,. The leaders of the three American civil rights groups after a conversation with Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, released a joint statement in which they say that human rights defenders were not satisfied with the explanation of Mark Zuckerberg position: “He (Zuckerberg) refuses to acknowledge that Facebook is promoting trump’s call for violence against the protesters. Mark sets a very dangerous precedent.”

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Earlier – on 14 May 2020 – David Cohen wrote about Facebook having outlined learnings and steps it has taken as a result of its Human Rights Impact Assessments in Cambodia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka

Facebook shared results from a human rights impact assessments it commissioned in 2018 to evaluate the role of its services in Cambodia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

Director of human rights Miranda Sissons and product policy manager, human rights Alex Warofka said in a Newsroom post, “Freedom of expression is a foundational human right that allows for the free flow of information. We’re reminded how vital this is, in particular, as the world grapples with Covid-19, and accurate and authoritative information is more important than ever. Human rights defenders know this and fight for these freedoms every day. For Facebook, which stands for giving people voice, these rights are core to why we exist.

Sissons and Warofka said that since this research was conducted, Facebook took steps to formalize an approach to determine which countries require more investment, including increased staffing, product changes and further research.

Facebook worked with BSR on the assessment of its role in Cambodia, and with Article One for Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

Recommendations that were similar across all three reports:

  • Improving corporate accountability around human rights.
  • Updating community standards and improving enforcement.
  • Investing in changes to platform architecture to promote authoritative information and reduce the spread of abusive content.
  • Improving reporting mechanisms and response times.
  • Engaging more regularly and substantively with civil society organizations.
  • Increasing transparency so that people better understand Facebook’s approach to content, misinformation and News Feed ranking.
  • Continuing human rights due diligence.

…Key updates to the social network’s community standards included a policy to remove verified misinformation that contributes to the risk of imminent physical harm, as well as protections for vulnerable groups (veiled women, LGBTQ+ individuals, human rights activists) who would run the risk of offline harm if they were “outed.”

Engagement with civil society organizations was formalized, and local fact-checking partnerships were bolstered in Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

Sissons and Warofka concluded, “As we work to protect human rights and mitigate the adverse impacts of our platform, we have sought to communicate more transparently and build trust with rights holders. We also aim to use our presence in places like Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Cambodia to advance human rights, as outlined in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and in Article One and BSR’s assessments. In particular, we are deeply troubled by the arrests of people who have used Facebook to engage in peaceful political expression, and we will continue to advocate for freedom of expression and stronger protections of user data.

https://www.adweek.com/digital/facebook-details-human-rights-impact-assessments-in-cambodia-indonesia-sri-lanka/

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But it is not all roses for Twitter either: On 11 May 2020 Frances Eve (deputy director of research at Chinese Human Rights Defenders) wrote about Twitter becoming the “Chinese Government’s Double Weapon: Punishing Dissent and Propagating Disinformation”.

She relates the story of former journalist Zhang Jialong whose “criminal activity,” according to the prosecutor’s charge sheet, is that “from 2016 onwards, the defendant Zhang Jialong used his phone and computer…. many times to log onto the overseas platform ‘Twitter,’ and through the account ‘张贾龙@zhangjialong’ repeatedly used the platform to post and retweet a great amount of false information that defamed the image of the [Chinese Communist] Party, the state, and the government.”…..

Human rights defenders like Zhang are increasingly being accused of using Twitter, alongside Chinese social media platforms like Weibo, WeChat, and QQ, to commit the “crime” of “slandering” the Chinese Communist Party or the government by expressing their opinions. As many Chinese human rights activists have increasingly tried to express themselves uncensored on Twitter, police have stepped up its monitoring of the platform. Thirty minutes after activist Deng Chuanbin sent a tweet on May 16, 2019 that referenced the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, Sichuan police were outside his apartment building. He has been in pre-trial detention ever since, accused of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”

…..While the Chinese government systematically denies Chinese people their right to express themselves freely on the Internet, … the government has aggressively used blocked western social media platforms like Twitter to promote its propaganda and launch disinformation campaigns overseas…

Zhang Jialong’s last tweet was an announcement of the birth of his daughter on June 8, 2019. He should be free and be able to watch her grow up. She deserves to grow up in a country where her father isn’t jailed for his speech.

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/v7ggvy/chinas-unleashing-a-propaganda-wolfpack-on-twitter-even-though-citizens-go-to-jail-for-tweeting

To see some other posts on content moderation: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/content-moderation/


EU human rights committee condemns India’s arrest of human rights defenders

June 1, 2020

Maria Arena is the chairperson of the Subcommittee of Human Rights of the European Parliament member of Socialist and Democrats parliamentary group. Photo: Reporter

20 May 2020 the chairperson of the Subcommittee of Human Rights of the European Parliament sent a letter to Indian Home Minister Amit Shah, condemning the arrest of human rights defenders under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

In her letter, Maria Arena said the European body has been closely following the arrests of human rights defenders Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha by the National Investigative Agency in India.

Academic and Dalit author Teltumbde and human rights defender Navlakha had surrendered to the police last month after exhausting their possible legal remedies.

Nine other defenders have been in jail since 2018 in the Bhima Koregaon case, where the charges relate to caste violence around an Ambedkarite event and an alleged Maoist plot to foment armed revolution and possibly assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In 2018, the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had issued a statement against terror charges being invoked against the activists.

It is particularly alarming to note that human rights defenders cannot conduct advocacy activities, notably in favor of India’s poorest and most marginalised communities, without becoming subject to intimidation and harassment,” Arena said in her letter.

Equally worrying is the fact that terrorism charges, including under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) have been used to silence them,” she noted pointing out that by United Nations Special Procedures, this clearly represents a violation of international human rights standards.

The letter further stated that to date, the European Parliament had noted that various forms of legitimate peaceful protests against laws, policies and governmental actions, including the Citizenship Amendment Act, had been portrayed as terrorist activities under this legislation, resulting in a number of arrests. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/07/india-attacks-on-human-rights-defenders-abound-under-unlawful-activities-prevention-act/]

This is notably the case for human rights activists such as Safoora Zargar, Gulfisha Fatima, Khalid Saifi, Meeran Haider, Shifa-Ur-Rehman, Dr Kafeel Khan, Asif Iqbal and Sharjeel Imam, who were recently arrested by the police,” the letter noted.

Against this background, there are also increased fears that the legislation might confer discretionary powers upon state agencies. India, she said, should do much more to ensure a safe and conducive environment for civil society working in the country and consider enacting a law on the protection and promotion of human rights defenders.

In a similar vein, ProtectDefenders on May 26 2020 reports “Increasing attacks against human rights defenders in India and Guatemala”. …..

Over the past month, ProtectDefenders.eu has received a considerable and growing number of reports regarding attacks, threats, and alerts affecting human rights defenders in India. This information alerts to the numerous acts of police and judicial harassment in the repression of legitimate activities in favor of human rights. Among other incidents, police harassment and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders were reported in Manipur State, in relation to statements made to criticise the management of the current COVID-19 pandemic by local authorities.

Safoora Zargar, a 27-years old student and woman human rights defender unjustly detained since 10 April, is one of the OMCT’s campaign #FacesOfHope

For the OMCT campaign see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/25/faces-of-hope-campaign-human-rights-defenders-imprisoned-worldwide/

Moreover, the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah terming the detentions of several Indian human rights activists ‘arbitrary’. It says the activists have been arrested for “their participation in peaceful protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA)” in the last few months.

The letter highlights the cases of Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, student activists who have been associated with the anti-CAA protests in Delhi and were arrested recently by the Delhi police.

https://www.geo.tv/latest/290529-eu-human-rights-subcommittee-condemns-indias-arrest-of-human-rights-activists

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/europe-flags-rights-concern/cid/1777254

https://thewire.in/rights/ifhr-anti-caa-activists-arrests-release


The Human Rights House concept

May 30, 2020

Human Rights Houses are coalitions of civil society organisations working together to advance human rights at home and abroad.

The Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF) works with civil society organisations to establish and support Human Rights Houses as bases for human rights activities. While member organisations are often co-located under one roof, the structure and make-up of House reflects the local needs and local context. This allows Houses to provide relevant benefits to a local human rights community as a whole and enhance the national capacity to uphold and protect human rights and independent civil society.

HRHF connects Human Rights Houses, building an international network for change and freedoms, and today, the network extends across 11 countries with 17 Houses.

Membership in Human Rights House provides solidarity, as well as opportunities for collaboration and networking. Working together, member organisations have greater opportunity to influence the human rights agenda. House members are also able to more effectively pool resources and benefit from reduced administration costs. Finally, in a time of closing space for civil society and attacks against human rights defenders, House membership offers a level of security and protection from increased threats and harassment.

HRHF’s Human Rights House concept is built around the enduring values of solidarity and partnership. It remains as important today as when the first House opened its doors in Oslo in 1989.

While each Human Rights House is unique, all houses are collaborative, independent, relevant, sustainable, effective, and united.

Human Rights Houses: collaborative, independent, relevant, sustainable, united

To find out more:

General enquiries, Human Rights House Foundation info@humanrightshouse.org


Virtual Human Rights Council adopts President’s statement on implications of COVID-19

May 30, 2020

On 29 May 2020 the UN Human Rights Council adopted a decision appealing to States to ensure human rights were at the front and centre of national responses to the pandemic and not side-lined while contending with the multiple ill effects of the virus on their societies.

Today’s decision is a profound reminder of the far-reaching effects of this deadly virus on all aspects of our livelihoods and our rights which we cannot take for granted”, stated Council President Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger. “We are all in this together, and we must act together with a sense of purpose if we are going to achieve our common agenda to promote and protect human rights around the globe”, she added.

The President’s Statement, presented by Ambassador Tichy-Fisslberger, and adopted by the 47 member States of the human rights body by silence procedure, “calls upon States to ensure that all human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled while combatting the pandemic and that their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are in full compliance with their human rights obligations and commitments”.

The adopted statement also calls on High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to produce a report on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the enjoyment of human rights around the world, including highlighting good practices and areas of concern, to be presented at the 46th session of the Human Rights Council scheduled to take place in February/March 2021. [One is to hope that it will include a hard look at the fragmentation of Covid-19 relate policy statements, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/27/proliferation-of-human-rights-bodies-guidance-on-covid-19/]

States also invited the High Commissioner to present an oral update on the human rights impact of COVID-19 at the 44th session of the Council which is still scheduled to start on 22 June, which is expected to set the tone for similar statements addressing the multiple human rights angles of the virus during the planned three-week meeting. Since suspending its 43rd session on 13 March due to coronavirus restrictions, the Human Rights Council has been conducting its business in a virtual manner holding regular Bureau meetings, with States and NGOs, and three “virtual informal conversations”, including with the High Commissioner and Special Procedures who have issued more than 90 press releases and statements addressing COVID-19.

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/human-rights-council-adopts-president-s-statement-human-rights-implications-covid-19


4 June: Virtual Discussion with Human Rights Defenders During COVID-19

May 29, 2020

Live discussion with 3 human rights defenders from across the globe

This event is part of the ‘Mural of Change’ campaign by Justice and Peace. 

Today, more than ever before, we need to bring awareness to human rights, justice and environmental action. For this reason, we from Justice and Peace Netherlands have brought to you the ‘Mural of Change’ – a vibrant graffiti mural in The Hague representing known and unknown human rights defenders from around the world. The mural created by the graffiti-art duo Karski & Beyond is a visual statement and a call to action, as it comes in the unprecedented times of COVID-19 pandemic.  [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/19/mural-of-human-rights-defenders-vitaly-safarov-greta-thunberg-and-berta-caceres-unveiled-at-hague-university/]

As part of our campaign to spread the message of change and action for human rights, we invite you to join our virtual event ‘Standing Side By Side With Human Rights Defenders’. During this event you will have the opportunity to meet three human rights defenders that took part in Shelter City. They will share with you the challenges they have been facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic; how their countries and the countries in their regions have responded to the spread of the virus; and how we can support them in their work. You will also have the chance to get in a conversation with them and ask your own questions.

SPEAKERS:

  • Genesis Davila, Human rights lawyer from Venezuela
  • Shibolo Awali, Lawyer and LGBTI rights defender from Uganda
  • Asha Kowtal, Dalit women’s rights defender from India

This discussion will be moderated by Tessa de Ryck, Security Training Coordinator for HRDs at Justice and Peace. The event will be in English.

https://www.crowdcast.io/e/xd56xkt9/register


Utopia3, the new podcast with filmmakers, HRDs, researchers and writers

May 29, 2020

Discover utopia3, the new podcast in partnership with the FIFDH

Conversations with those who think, make and struggle for Human Rights every day, in their own way.

Activists, filmmakers, researchers and writers meet every year at the FIFDH in Geneva to debate the most pressing human rights issues. utopia3 invites them to express themselves on their background, their motivations and the meaning they give to the human rights of today and tomorrow.

The interviews are conducted by Davide Rodogno, Professor of International History at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, and by David Brun-Lambert, cultural journalist.

Episode 1 – Joe Sacco

The legendary cartoonist and reporter Joe Sacco has been criss-crossing the planet for 30 years through his prodigious immersive graphic investigations, interweaving past and present, with a focus on the stigmas of war and its tragic consequences. In this first episode of utopia3, Joe Sacco talks about being rooted and uprooted, the genesis of a good story, the aftermath of colonialism and the recent protests around the globe.

Joe Sacco’s new book, Paying The Land, has just been published .

The next episodes of utopia3

  • 1st June: Perla Joe Maalouli, Lebanese Activist
  • 5th June: Yves Daccord, Former Director of the ICRC
  • 12th June: Burhan Sönmez, Writer
  • 19th June: Alaa Salah, Figure of the Sudanese Revolution
  • 26th June: Ilse and Femke Van Velzen, Filmmakers, and Ruth Hopkins, Investigative Journalist
  • 3rd July: Lauren Anders Brown, Filmmaker, and Ayanda Dlamini, Feminist Activist from Eswatini
  • 10th July: Andy Cohen, Filmmaker

Subscribe to utopia3 on Spotify, Deezer, Apple Podcast or Ausha.

Follow utopia3 on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

utopia3 is recorded at The Spot Podcast Factory studio in Geneva, in collaboration with the FIFDH. The series is produced by David Brun-Lambert and Davide Rodogno (editorial directors), Martial Mingam (art director), Julie Noyelle (coordinator) and Julien Babel (artwork).


PCIJ and Luistro receive Filipino human rights defenders award

May 29, 2020

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On 28 May 2020 Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) reported that Amnesty International Philippines has recognized the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and Br. Armin Luistro for exposing inequalities and standing up for the vulnerable sectors of the society.

PCIJ—an independent, non-profit media agency—was named as the Ignite Awards’ most distinguished human rights defender in the group category. It produced investigative reports on President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement of assets, liabilities and net worth, election spending of senatorial candidates, the government’s brutal drug war, the country’s congested jails, among others.

Luistro was conferred the most distinguished human rights defender in the individuals category. Aside from PCIJ and Luistro, Lorenzo Miguel Relente and Michael David Tan were the recipients of Young Outstanding Human Rights Defender and Art that Matters for Literature, respectively.

This season’s recipients come from varying rights backgrounds, from press freedom and right to education to gender equality and SOGIESC rights but they share one dedication, that is to the fight for basic rights of Filipinos,” Butch Olano, Amnesty International Philippines section director, said.


Protection International seeks research consultant for Kenya

May 28, 2020

Protection International Kenya (PIK) – a registered a non-governmental organization in Kenya with support from its headquarters in Belgium – seeks a Research Consultant for Protection strategies implemented by grassroots WHRDs Organizations. Closing date for applications 12 June 2020.

The research findings will be used for future capacity building of WHRDs, advocacy on the promotion and protection of WHRDs/HRDs at national, regional and global level and for dissemination purposes. PIK, with the support of Protection International Africa and Protection International Global, will publish the findings and disseminate among its partners, donors, government officials and all other stakeholders.

For more details see: https://reliefweb.int/job/3638457/research-consultant-protection-strategies-implemented-grassroots-whrds