TrialWatch officially launched by Clooneys

April 25, 2019

As announced earlier this year [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/15/star-power-for-good-george-and-amal-clooney-at-least-try-to-tackle-controversial-issues/] on 25 April 2019 the Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ), together with partners Microsoft Corporation, Columbia Law School, the American Bar Association, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), launched their TrialWatch® initiative at an inaugural TrialWatch Conference and launch event.

Clooney Foundation For Justice Logo

Courts around the world are increasingly being used to silence dissidents and target the vulnerable. But so far there has been no systematic response to this,” said Amal Clooney, Co-President, Clooney Foundation for Justice. “The Clooney Foundation for Justice’s TrialWatch program is a global initiative to monitor trials, expose abuses, and advocate for victims, so that injustice can be addressed, one case at a time.”

TrialWatch is an initiative focused on monitoring and responding to trials around the world that pose a high risk of human rights violations. TrialWatch aims to be the first comprehensive global program scrutinizing criminal trials around the world. CFJ will recruit and train trial monitors, including non-lawyers, who can observe and report on criminal trials around the world, and use a specialised app to record the proceedings. The Clooney Foundation for Justice will then work to expose injustice and rally support to secure justice for defendants whose rights have been violated. For each trial monitored, CFJ will work with an eminent legal expert to produce a Fairness Report assessing and grading the fairness of the trial against human rights standards, and, where necessary and possible, will be followed up with legal advocacy to assist a defendant in pursuing remedies in regional or international human rights courts. Ultimately, the data that is gathered will populate a global justice index that measures states’ performance in this area.

TrialWatch will focus on trials involving journalists, LGBTQ persons, women and girls, religious minorities, and human rights defenders. In recent months, TrialWatch monitors have observed proceedings in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America. The cases have involved journalists being prosecuted under a wide variety of laws, including cyber laws, administrative laws, and terrorism laws, in six countries. TrialWatch has covered a trial of individuals being prosecuted under anti-LGBTQ laws in sub-Saharan Africa and proceedings involving a journalist detained under India’s National Security Act for criticizing the government on social media. TrialWatch monitors are also monitoring the trial of a lawyer in Eurasia, who is being prosecuted in connection with his work on behalf of human rights defenders and the trial of a journalist in Nigeria, who is being prosecuted for writing about internal government documents and refusing to reveal his source. Fairness reports are being produced to assess each of these trials, and many more trials will be monitored on an ongoing basis around the world.

CFJ has partnered with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to develop an online training course for monitors. This course was developed by CFJ and approved by OHCHR.

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https://finance.yahoo.com/news/clooney-foundation-justice-convenes-human-rights-leaders-mark-103100664.html?


On 26 April Numan Afifi must report to the police in Malaysia – smells like reprisal

April 24, 2019

On 16 April 2019, human rights defender Numan Afifi was asked by the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) to present himself on 26 April at the federal police headquarters in Bukit Aman in relation to an investigation into a speech that he had delivered at the United Nations in Geneva last month.

According to the information received from  Front Line Defenders, Numan Afifi is a human rights defender who has advocated for LGBT+ rights in Malaysia. He has actively contributed to issues ranging from democracy to HIV advocacy through his involvement in the Pelangi Campaign, the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs in the UPR Process (COMANGO) and Challenger.

On 16 April 2019, the human rights defender was contacted by an inspector from the Classified Crimes Investigation Unit, which investigates cases that fall under the Sedition Act. Numan Afifi has been asked to present himself at the federal police headquarters in Bukit Aman on 26 April 2019 to provide a statement regarding a speech presented at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva during the Consideration of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Outcome of Malaysia on 14 March 2019. The human rights defender has not been told whether the police investigation concerns his speech alone or if other civil society organisations present at the conference are involved as well. To date, no official charges have been lodged against him.

In Geneva, Numan Afifi read out a statement on the situation of LGBT+ rights in Malaysia. The statement, which was a response to Malaysia’s UPR submission, had been prepared by a coalition of 12 Malaysian organisations working on gender identity and sexual orientation. It commended the government on its acceptance of one of the recommendations regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, and raised concerns about the rejection of the other 10. The statement also called for the government and civil society to have a dialogue on sexual orientation and gender identity.

[On 17 April 2019, a smear campaign has been launched against him by pro-government groups on social media, alleging that the statement he had presented at the UN conference contained inaccurate information. The human rights defender is being pressured to retract his claims regarding the existence of state-sponsored violence against LGBT+ people in Malaysia. In June 2017, Numan Afifi was barraged with online criticism, harassment and death threats after organising a “gay breaking fast” event during the month of Ramadan to show solidarity to the LGBT+ community.]

For some of many posts on reprisals: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/numan-afifi-summoned-questioning-police-over-speech-delivered-un


Report “Indigenous World 2019” launched on 24 April in NY

April 24, 2019

On 24 April 2019, at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York, IWGIA released The Indigenous World 2019, an extensive yearbook presenting a comprehensive, global overview of the developments indigenous peoples experience. The book documents an increasing trend towards the harassment and criminalization of indigenous peoples and communities. It also highlights the rising tensions between states and indigenous peoples, shrinking civil society space, loss of land rights and lack of access to justice for indigenous peoples to enjoy their rights.

“Indigenous peoples make up 5% of the world’s population, yet they represent 15% of the world’s poorest, and in 2017, half of the approximately 400 environmental and human rights defenders killed. The numbers for 2018 are as-yet-unknown, but this troubling trend hasn’t seemed to stop,” Julie Koch, IWGIA Executive Director, says. “We need to do more to protect, learn from and support indigenous peoples and their traditional, sustainable practices as key actors in ensuring a safer and more equitable world.”

In 2018, there has been an increase in the documentation and reporting of illegal surveillance, arbitrary arrests, travel bans preventing free movement, threats, dispossession and killings of indigenous peoples. We have witnessed instruments meant to protect indigenous peoples being turned against them, through the use of legislation and the justice system, to penalize and criminalize indigenous peoples’ assertion of their rights. [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/08/08/9-august-international-day-of-the-worlds-indigenous-peoples-un-experts-see-increasing-murder/]

The intensification and exploitation of natural resources is leading to a global crisis for indigenous peoples’ rights,” Koch says. Many indigenous peoples live in the Earth’s last remaining biodiversity hotspots and are often called the “guardians of the forest”. Several studies have shown that tree cover loss is significantly reduced on indigenous land compared to non-indigenous controlled land.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/15/documenting-the-killings-of-environmental-defenders-guardian-and-global-witness/

Tensions are rising between states and indigenous peoples


Anne Gallagher new director-general of Commonwealth Foundation

April 24, 2019

Anne Gallagher
Anne Gallagher

The Commonwealth Foundation, which supports civil society organisations throughout the Commonwealth, has appointed Anne Gallagher as its next director general. Gallagher, president of the International Catholic Migration Commission, will relocate from Australia to take up the London-based role for an initial four-year term from June. She will succeed Vijay Krishnarayan, who is stepping down after completing the maximum of two terms.

Before joining the ICMG, Gallagher, a lawyer by training, worked at the United Nations in roles including special adviser to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. She has also held positions including co-chair of the International Bar Association’s Presidential Task Force Against Human Trafficking and been a member of the Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration.

Gallagher said in a statement “As the civil society voice of the Commonwealth, the foundation has played a vital role in advancing core Commonwealth values of democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law…That role will continue to be critical as we move into a future where truly inclusive multilateral cooperation is becoming ever more urgent.

https://www.thirdsector.co.uk/anne-gallagher-appointed-director-general-commonwealth-foundation/management/article/1582715


Novelty: on-line training in human rights for Jamaican judiciary

April 23, 2019

Judges participating in break out groups at the Workshop on International Human Rights Online Training Course for the Jamaican Judiciary for the Presentation of the Online Training Platform last Thursday (11 April)

Caribbean News reports on 22 April 2019 that judges in Jamaica now have an interactive online platform offering resources and self-paced learning opportunities on international human rights law. The online platform is sponsored by United Nations Jamaica and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in collaboration with the Judicial Education Institute and the Court Management Services. The platform was launched 11 April in Kingston by Chief Justice Bryan Sykes and senior human rights adviser George Abualzulof representing the United Nations resident coördinator to Jamaica.

The Chief Justice noted that “the online training platform on international human rights provides the opportunity to be aware of current and new ways of thinking about human rights and how it applies in different circumstances. It also gives us the opportunity to be aware of what is happening in other parts of the world on this very important issue.

The UN’s senior human rights adviser described the online platform as “marking a milestone in the development of professional training capacity in the administration of justice,”..

The online training platform offers modular training with an emphasis on international human rights; human rights of persons deprived of liberty; rights to a fair trial; and international human rights law. Judges learn at their own pace in a collegial environment where peers can learn while holding discussions on human rights law and standards.


Vito’s trial in Georgia opens – crucial to challenge raising hate crimes

April 22, 2019

Vitali Safarov – Image: Svitlana Valko

……The investigation and trial into Vitali Safarov’s murder is the first time Georgian law enforcement are dealing with an alleged hate crime murder. And proving “ethnic hatred” as a motive, and that the crime was carried out by a group, is not an easy task for the prosecution – and requires a high level of professionalism. It took more than half a year for Georgian investigators to collect evidence and witness statements, as well as to conduct several expert examinations. According to Agit Mirzoev, head of the Centre for Participation and Development, both suspects are believed to be members of a neo-Nazi group that is known for having attacked foreign citizens and homeless persons in a central Tbilisi neighbourhood. Speaking to Ekho Kavkaza on 16 April, defence counsels stated that neither Kandelakishvili, nor Sokhadze were involved in a neo-Nazi organisation.

Mirzoev says that the suspects’ social network accounts were filled with far-right images and music. Here, according to Mirzoev, Sokhadze and Kandelakishvili paid respect to Adolf Hitler, bragged about cleansing the city of homeless persons, made threats against LGBT persons, and published videos of themselves training with bladed weapons and killing stray dogs. Sokhadze, who is believed to be a leader of the group, used the nickname “Slayer” online. Sokhadze’s social media account has since been deleted after the arrest, but prosecutors and the Centre for Participation and Development have screenshots.

Human rights groups have worked hard to keep the investigation in the public spotlight and encourage Georgian law enforcement to rise to the challenge. Initially the prosecutor’s office inclined to ignore the hate motive and charged only Kandelakishvili with premeditated murder, treating Sokhadze as a passive accomplice and charging him with not reporting the crime. But public pressure has worked: on 16 April, the prosecution charged both suspects with premeditated murder, committed by a group, on the grounds of ethnic hatred. If convicted, the defendants face sentences of between 13 to 17 years in prison. Neither defendant admitted their guilt.

…….Furthermore, on 16 April, the defence lawyers asked the judge to dismiss all evidence and witness testimonies presented by the prosecution. They claimed the evidence had been manipulated “in the interest of a certain segment of the population” – clearly referring to members of civil society and others who insist that the murder was a hate crime. The judge rejected the defence’s motion, admitting all evidence and witnesses from both the prosecution and the defence. The evidence will now be presented by the parties and reviewed by the judge during further sessions of the trial, which is expected to last several weeks. The next session is scheduled for 24 April.

… And the trial’s outcome is important in Georgia, a multi-ethnic country with centuries-old traditions of diversity – and where different cultures, languages and faiths co-exist. Sadly, Georgia is also a place where today the extreme right are growing in numbers and strength. Indeed, the struggle for justice for Vitali has spurred an anti-xenophobia campaign (“Georgia: No Place for Hate”), which is organised by his colleagues in the Centre for Participation and Development and other local NGOs. Right before the beginning of the hearings, over a hundred people gathered in front of the court building for a solidarity demonstration. They held photographs of Vitali and posters calling for a Georgia without hatred and racism, demanding justice and no impunity for the perpetrators. Activists and friends of Vitali wore pins reading “Never forget”, complete with his image. As he watched the participants of the action, Leri Safarov, Vitali’s father, could not hold back tears. “Only now am I starting to really know my son and understand what he was doing. Please carry on his work.”

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/odr/vitali-safarov-trial-georgia/


In surprise move Bahrain king reinstates citizenship of 551 – 439 to go

April 22, 2019

FILE - In this May 21, 2017 file photo, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa speaks during a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The king reinstated the citizenship of 551 people convicted amid a crackdown on dissent on the island. The surprise royal decree, announced Sunday, April 21, 2019, by the state-run Bahrain News Agency, gave no explanation for his decision. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

The surprise royal order gave no explanation for King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s decision, other than to say that he had the final authority in such cases. “The study and evaluation of the situation of convicts should be based on criteria pertaining to the seriousness, impact and consequences of the crimes, as well as on the danger the convict may pose on national security,” the state-run Bahrain News Agency said in announcing the king’s decision. Authorities later will announce the names of those having their citizenship restored.

[Last week, 138 people lost their citizenship in a mass trial. That drew a rebuke from U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who described the convictions as giving “rise to serious concerns” about the country’s legal system. The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy said last week’s verdict brought to 990 the number of people ordered stripped of their nationality since 2012.]

Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei, the director of advocacy at the institute, said he was surprised by the news. However, he cautioned that those like himself who had their citizenship stripped at the ministerial level, rather than through the courts, likely wouldn’t benefit from the king’s order. “I honestly think there is something going on behind scenes, maybe some diplomatic pressure is applied to the government,” AlWadaei said. “There must be a state behind it, maybe Britain or the United States.

Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jongambrellap.

https://www.wral.com/bahrain-king-reinstates-citizenship-of-551-amid-mass-trials/18339059/


How ‘China fear’ affects companies: Leica tries to disclaim an ad that features the Tank Man

April 21, 2019

A promotional video that presents several vignettes of photojournalists documenting violence and conflict around the world became a controversy not just between the company Leica and China but also between two companies.  A recurring scene features a photographer who captured the famous image of a civilian blocking a column of tanks the day after the Chinese military’s deadly crackdown of protesters in June 1989. As the photographer’s shutter closes to capture the historic shot of the “Tank Man”, as the still-unidentified person is known, the screen transitions to a dedication to “those who lend their eyes to make us see”, before Leica’s distinctive red logo appears.

Following a public uproar in China and censorship of the brand on social media, Leica Cameras AG said on Thursday it had neither commissioned nor authorised the five-minute video – entitled The Hunt – that depicted photojournalists covering Beijing’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy activists in 1989. Yet despite Leica’s efforts to disavow the video, F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi, the ad company that represents the German firm in Brazil and which produced the film, said on Friday that it was “developed together” with its client’s representatives in Brazil. F/Nazca “would never [harm] its huge reputation by creating, producing and airing a work without the proper approval of its client”, spokeswoman Carolina Aranha said in an interview on Friday. The agency was “immensely proud” of the video, which was released earlier this week, and was confident it had “delivered a remarkable piece”, she said. Leica did not immediately respond to requests for comment on F/Nazca’s statement when contacted outside business hours…

Airing just weeks before the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen Square, the video came at a highly sensitive time for Beijing, which routinely quells any mention in China of the events of June 4. But Zhou Fengsuo, who was a student leader at the time of the protests and now lives in the US, said Beijing was unlikely to make any explicit response to the video for fear of drawing attention to the matter. But that did not prevent a stern response from some members of the Chinese public. Soon after the commercial was shown online, social media users rushed to pour scorn over the German camera maker, which works with Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei to develop lenses for the company’s smartphones…

Following the outcry, the company said that it regretted any “misunderstandings or false conclusions that may have been drawn”. China is one of Leica’s fastest growing markets, with the company planning dozens of new stores on top of its current nine.


What ‘Jokowi 2.0’ means for human rights in Indonesia

April 21, 2019

In anticipation of the final result of the Indonesian presidential election on 22 May, which seems to have been won by sitting President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (now with a senior Islamic cleric Ma’ruf Amin as his vice president), Asmin Fransiska, Abdil Mughis Mudhoffir, and Lailatul Fitriyah give in EconoTimes of 21 April 2019 their views on what that means for human rights:

Asmin Fransiska, Lecturer in Human Rights Law, Universitas Katolik Indonesia Atma Jaya

In 2014, Jokowi won the presidential election by promising to respect, protect and fulfil human rights. For four and a half years the Jokowi government failed to keep this promise. Jokowi should use his second victory to keep his promises.Indonesia’s 2017 Universal Periodic Review by the UN , shows that the government must address a number of human rights issues, for example, violence carried out by security forces, especially in remote areas, such as Papua, and cases of torture, and violence against women, children and minority groups.

…..As a first step, Jokowi and his new vice president, Ma’ruf Amin, must evaluate the Attorney General’s performance who for four years failed to bring human rights criminals to justice as recommended by the National Human Rights Commission….

Jokowi needs to balance the priorities of infrastructure development with environmental protection and corruption eradication. These two things are a prerequisite for development that values human rights. Indicators of human rights-friendly development include environmental preservation, protection of indigenous peoples and vulnerable communities, and high public participation in the development process from the beginning to the end.

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Abdil Mughis Mudhoffir, PhD Candidate in Politics, University of Melbourne, Lecturer in Sociology, Universitas Negeri Jakarta

In my opinion not much will change in terms of civil liberties protection in Jokowi’s second term if the constellation of power supporting the Jokowi government remains the same. …..The existence of retired generals allegedly involved in human rights violations as well as those connected with mining companies in Jokowi’s circle of power will hinder efforts to resolve not only past atrocities but also agrarian conflicts. The number of land conflict victims from agriculture, mining and infrastructure development activities will likely increase. State repression and civilian violence against discussions, film screenings and meetings that criticise the business relationships of people around Jokowi as well as those advocating for the interests of marginalised groups will continue.

Meanwhile, civil society efforts to prevent the military from intervening in civilian matters will continue to face challenges. The case of Robertus Robet, an activist and academic who was recently arrested during a rally for singing a song that criticised the military, for example, is likely to be left unresolved but will serve as a warning. The use of identity politics will still be dominant given that the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and Gerindra seemed to gain significant votes and will remain in opposition. Moreover, they also have strong candidates, such as current Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan, Sandiaga Uno or other PKS officials for the 2024 presidential election. The two parties will likely continue using religious identity narratives that will reproduce and sharpen polarisation in society to consolidate their power. As before, Jokowi’s camp will also respond to the attacks using similar narratives, with minority groups taking the brunt.

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Lailatul Fitriyah, PhD Candidate in Theology, University of Notre Dame

……..In other words, in the context of human rights, voters choose Jokowi on the principle of ‘the best of the worst’. Jokowi was elected because he did not have any record of human rights abuse, that’s all. Another aspect of Jokowi 2.0 era, which human rights activists will closely monitor, is his running mate, Ma’ruf Amin. Ma’ruf Amin’s popularity does not come from his commitment to inclusiveness, but his traditional support base as the senior cleric of the Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Muslim organisation. In the long term, Ma’ruf Amin must serve not only his Muslim base, but also other segments of Indonesian society, especially those from marginal groups.

Ma’ruf should change his perspective. In his role as an Islamic scholar, he has alienated minority groups, including, Syi’ah, Ahmadiyah and LGBTIQ. As Vice President, Ma’ruf must act as a public official with the obligation to protect the rights of all Indonesian people, irrespective of race, ethnicity, sexuality or religion/non-religion. For Jokowi’s second term, the sacrificing of minority rights to gain popular votes will no longer be acceptable. Jokowi should protect minority groups who, although they had lived within the structure of systemic violence under his first term, have shown they still trusted him for a second term in office.

See also my recent: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/16/82-year-old-father-magnis-in-indonesia-tough-words-for-a-good-purpose/

https://www.econotimes.com/Jokowi-wins-Indonesias-election-polls-indicate–what-does-that-mean-for-human-rights-1527148


The 2019 World Press Freedom Index launched on 18th of April

April 20, 2019

Published every year since 2002 by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the World Press Freedom Index is an important advocacy tool based on the principle of emulation between states. Because it is well known, its influence over governments is growing. Many heads of state and government fear its annual publication. [for 2018 see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/30/world-press-freedom-index-2018-is-out-colorful-but-disheartening/]

The Index ranks 180 countries and regions according to the level of freedom available to journalists. It is a snapshot of the media freedom situation based on an evaluation of pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country and region. (It does not rank public policies even if governments obviously have a major impact on their country’s ranking. Nor is it an indicator of the quality of journalism in each country or region.)

Along with the Index, RSF calculates a global indicator and regional indicators that evaluate the overall performance of countries and regions (in the world and in each region) as regards media freedom. It is an absolute measure that complements the Index’s comparative rankings. The global indicator is the average of the regional indicators, each of which is obtained by averaging the scores of all the countries in the region, weighted according to their population as given by the World Bank.

The degree of freedom available to journalists in 180 countries and regions is determined by pooling the responses of experts to a questionnaire devised by RSF. This qualitative analysis is combined with quantitative data on abuses and acts of violence against journalists during the period evaluated. The criteria used in the questionnaire are pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information. Click here for more information

The press freedom map, which is distributed in print and digital versions, offers a visual overview of the situation in each country and region in the Index. The colour categories are assigned as follows: good (white), fairly good (yellow), problematic (orange), bad (red) and very bad (black).

https://rsf.org/en/ranking