Announcing the 2019 Oslo Freedom Forum 27-29 May

January 17, 2019

The Human Rights Foundation announces that the 11th annual Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) will be held on May 27-29 in Oslo, Norway. If you are interested in attending, you can register here. The 2019 program will feature talks from activists, scholars, and journalists (see speakers list below) in Oslo’s historic Det Norske Theater; an interactive expo featuring brands committed to promoting human rights; action-oriented panels and workshops with thought leaders; and artistic performances.

In the meantime the Human Rights Foundation condemns the arbitrary arrest of nonviolent activist and pastor Evan Mawarire, and calls on the government of Zimbabwe to release him immediately. HRF has worked closely with Mawarire through the Oslo Freedom Forum — where he first spoke in 2017. According to news reports, armed police arrested Mawarire in his house today. He is expected to be indicted with inciting violence in the next few hours. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/02/line-up-of-speakers-for-oslo-freedom-forum-22-24-may-2017-zimbabwean-speaker-detained/]

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Confirmed speakers for the 2019 Oslo Freedom Forum include:

  • José Ramos-Horta, former President of East Timor and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
  • Svetlana Alexievich, Belarusian investigative journalist and Nobel Literature Laureate
  • Timothy Snyder, “Bloodlands” and “On Tyranny” author and historian
  • Masih Alinejad, Iranian journalist and women’s rights advocate
  • Eliot Higgins, Bellingcat founder and investigative journalist
  • Fartuun Adan, Somali activist and educator
  • Laritza Diversent, Cuban lawyer and journalist
  • William Easterly, “Tyranny of Experts” author and economist
  • Audrey Mbugua, Kenyan transgender activist
  • Eskinder Nega, former Ethiopian political prisoner and press freedom advocate

More details about the speakers and program will be released soon. In the meantime, you can find additional information on the website.

https://mailchi.mp/c77d6549da22/off-speaker-evan-mawarire-arrested-in-zimbabwe?e=f80cec329e


Protective accompaniment for land, water and human rights defenders badly needed

January 17, 2019

Photo: Peace Brigades International
Those who work to defend land, water, Indigenous, LGBTQI+ and human rights around the world face many dangers, including death- Photo: Peace Brigades International

Brent Patterson wrote on 16 January, 2019 a blog post: “Protective accompaniment supports land, water and human rights defenders”. It is a timely reminder of the work done by PBI:

According to Front Line Defenders, 2018 saw the highest number ever on record of human rights defenders killed [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/09/front-line-defenders-says-record-number-of-activists-killed-in-2018/]. One way to support these defenders is through protective accompaniment (often popularly describes ed as the ‘human shiled’). According to NGO Peace Brigades International (PBI), “Protective accompaniment is a strategy pioneered by PBI for protecting human rights defenders and communities whose lives and work are threatened by political violence.” The strategy involves recruiting volunteers from around the world who want to help “defend the defender,” providing them with training, and then sending them into areas of conflict in a highly visible way to provide increased security and moral support to defenders.

Normally volunteers spend a minimum of one year in the field. “When the level of threat is high accompaniment is sometimes round the clock. In other situations volunteers stay with threatened communities or remain in the offices of organizations, and accompany threatened activists when they travel,” PBI notes. “Another form of accompaniment is regular phone calls to organizations to check on their safety.

These volunteers are backed by an international network that raises the profile of the defender and their struggle, provides analysis and international solidarity, and increases the stakes and risk of repercussions for potential attackers. “Accompaniment increases the perceived political costs of ordering an attack in front of international witnesses — witnesses whose organization is committed to making such attacks as costly as possible for those responsible,” PBI notes. The political costs can be amplified by garnering local, national and international media coverage, mobilizing embassies, governments and international bodies, challenging with facts the official rhetoric that a human rights situation is improving, and making risk-adverse investors aware they could lose money with controversial mega-projects. Hundreds of defenders have received protective accompaniment over the years.

Those accompanied by PBI have included activists from Indigenous communities, environmental organizations, women’s organizations, trade unions, community organizations, as well as LGBTQI+ activists, journalists, lawyers and relatives of the disappeared.

Brent Patterson is an activist-blogger who writes this monthly column on inspiring stories of global resistance to neoliberalism and climate change.

http://rabble.ca/columnists/2019/01/protective-accompaniment-supports-land-water-and-human-rights-defenders


Mary Robinson cancels appearance at Dubai festival over Ahmed Mansoor’s continued detention

January 15, 2019

On 14 January 2019 the Middle East Eye reported that former UN  High Commissioner, Mary Robinson, has confirmed she will not attend a Dubai literary festival in response to a call from academics and authors for the United Arab Emirates to release detained human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor. In a statement to The Guardian, the Mary Robinson Foundation said: “In response to the open letter received by the Guardian, Mrs Robinson has advised the organisers that she will not be attending the literature festival.” [see my: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/02/happy-new-year-but-not-for-ahmed-mansoor-and-nabeel-rajab-in-the-gulf-monarchies/]

The letter, organised by the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE), calls on the Emirati authorities to “immediately and unconditionally release prisoner of conscience Ahmed Mansoor“. It was signed by academics, activists, British politicians, and comedians, including linguist Noam Chomsky and actor Stephen Fry.

Joe Odell, a campaigns manager for ICFUAE, said: “We urgently call on other attendees to follow suit. The festival claims to celebrate freedom of expression, yet so many in the UAE have been detained for exercising this very right,” Other prominent writers billed to speak at the festival include Oxford University professor Peter Frankopan, Canadian novelist Douglas Coupland, and author Ian Rankin.

Robinson’s decision to withdraw from the festival may also be linked to a controversy surrounding her in relation to Sheikha Latifa al-Maktoum, the daughter of the Emirati Prime Minister.

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/mary-robinson-cancels-appearance-dubai-festival-over-jailed-uae-activist-840835552


Call for nominations for the L4L award 2019

January 14, 2019

The Lawyers for Lawyers Award aims to honor lawyers who have made significant contributions to the protection of the rule of law and human rights in challenging environments. Former laureates include Alec Muchadehama from Zimbabwe [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2011/04/18/alec-muchadehama-zimbabwean-human-rights-defender-honored-in-amsterdam/], Magamed Abubakarov from the Russian Federation [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/05/21/russian-hrd-magamed-abubakarov-to-receive-lawyers-for-lawyers-award-2013/], Jorge Molano from Colombia [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/05/15/jorge-molano-from-colombia-laureate-of-2015-lawyers-for-lawyers-award/] and Sirikan Charoensiri from Thailand [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/24/lifetime-achievements-in-human-rights-4-human-rights-defenders]/.

The Lawyers for Lawyers Award will be presented for the fifth time in Amsterdam in May 2019. For more information on this and other awards for human rights lawyers, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/lawyers-for-lawyers. An independent jury, chaired by mrs. Heikelien Verrijn Stuart, decides which lawyer will receive the award. The closing date for submission of nominations is 1 March 2019.

NOMINATE NOW!


Front Line Defenders seeks advocacy officer for its EU office

January 14, 2019


 

 

 

FRONT LINE DEFENDERS has an opening at its EU OFFICE for an Advocacy Officer at Front Line Defenders’ EU office in Brussels

Contract: Full time position, indefinite (permanent) contract under Belgian law

Responsibilities

The Advocacy Officer helps develop the work of Front Line Defenders at European Union level as part of a small 2-person team in Brussels. This work includes the following tasks:

  • Responsibility for sending appeals on cases of human rights defenders at risk to EU/Member State authorities and to Norway/Switzerland to press them for action in accordance with the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders and beyond;
  • Tracking results achieved, and compiling detailed data on responses for analysis and for reporting to headquarters;
  • Analysis, in coordination with Front Line Defenders’ Protection Coordinators, on the impact of EU action on Human Rights Defenders, and development and updating of strategies on maximising EU/MS response and impact on HRDs;
  • Preparing, in coordination with Front Line Defenders’ Protection Coordinators, briefings on HRDs for input into EU meetings;
  • By delegation of the Head of Office, participating in EU briefing and debriefing meetings, and advocate on HRD issues and individual cases;
  • In coordination with the Head of Office, initiating and undertaking advocacy actions, in particular through the development of contacts with EU/Member State officials;
  • Organising and coordinating events, including visits of human rights defenders, awareness-raising workshops, etc.;
  • Leading and participating in coordination activities with other NGOs;
  • Assist with fundraising and advocacy on financial matters;

Desired profile and required qualifications

  • Minimum two years of relevant experience as advocacy/political officer, and sound knowledge of the functioning of the EU Institutions, EU human rights instruments, policy and practice, and international human rights standards;
  • Dedication to the protection of human rights defenders and to the promotion of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders;
  • Knowledge of civil society and experience of human rights NGO work and/or work within the EU institutions (EEAS, Devco, EP) preferable;
  • Experience of advocacy and campaigning;
  • Strong organisation and time-management skills;
  • Excellent communication, relational and diplomatic skills, both oral and written in English and French;
  • Computer skills (office applications, database updating);

Salary €3050 per month gross. Conditions are according to Belgian legislation including the legal ability to live and work in Belgium.

If you feel you meet our criteria, and feel inspired by the objectives and challenges of the position, please send a letter of motivation and a CV to euoffice@frontlinedefenders.org by midnight on Sunday 27 January 2018 (strict deadline).

Interviews are planned to take place on 11-18 February. The position will start on 15 May.

Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted – thank you for your understanding.

http://jobs.euractiv.com/job/advocacy-officer-179212


Annual Report of the Syrian Network for Human Rights in 2018

January 13, 2019

The Annual Report of the Most Prominent Work of the Syrian Network for Human Rights in 2018

The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) is a non-profit non-governmental human rights organization that was founded in June 2011 in light of the systematic rise of violations of human rights in Syria. SNHR aims to support the preserving and defending of victims’ right and consequently accounting process, achieve justice and peace, raise the awareness of the Syrian people in regard to their civil and political rights, and amass efforts and capacities in the context of stopping violations of human rights in Syria. The Syrian Human Rights Network works primarily on monitoring and documenting violations in Syria, and publishes research and reports related to such violations, as well as visual evidence from its investigations, such as photos, maps, graphs and infographics, in addition to working on advocacy and mobilization to defend the rights of victims, for justice and accountability in Syria. It also contributes to progress towards achieving justice and accountability in Syria.

SNHR is a member of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICR2P), a member of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, a founding member and a member of the executive committee of the Transitional Justice Coordination Group (TJCG), and a partner with the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor. Additionally, SNHR collaborates closely with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (COI), which was established by the United Nations Human Rights Council, and with a number of international human rights organization such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, Al Karama organization, and The Syrian Campaign, In addition to a number of local Syrian organizations.

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/03/16/the-silenced-voices-of-syria-special-campaign-aimed-at-human-rights-defenders/]

View full Report


Call for Nominations for the African Human Rights Defenders Shield Awards

January 11, 2019

The Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network has re-opened nominations for the 3rd edition of the African Human Rights Defenders Shield Awards. The award will honor exceptional individuals who have contributed to changes in their community by peacefully promoting and protecting human rights. See: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/african-human-rights-defenders-shield-awards.

Six awards will be presented:

– Pan-African Shield Award (Overall);
– East and Horn of Africa Shield Award;
– West African Shield Award;
– Southern Africa Shield Award;
– Central Africa Shield Award;
– Northern Africa Shield Award.

To make a nomination please fill out one of the online forms below. Nominations will be open until 15 March 2019. Both individuals and organizations are eligible for the award. Nominations made during the previous nomination period (June to September 2018) are still valid and will be automatically taken into consideration for the 3rd edition of the Awards without need to re-apply. The awards will be presented to the winners at the margins of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights 64th Ordinary Session 2019.

English | French | Portuguese

PS Note that the name of the awards has changed by adding the word “shield” (see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/09/04/call-for-nominations-2014-african-human-rights-defenders-awards/)

https://africandefenders.org/hrd-award/

 

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Iranian activist Esmail Bakhshi goes public with his torture claim and hits a nerve even inside Iran

January 11, 2019

Iranian activist Esmail Bakhshi was arrested in November for organizing weeks-long protests at a sugar factory.
Iranian activist Esmail Bakhshi was arrested in November for organizing weeks-long protests at a sugar factory.

Iranian activist Esmail Bakhshi has been out of jail for a month, but says he still bears the physical and psychological scars from being tortured “to the verge of death” during his 25-day jail stay in Khuzestan Province. Bakhshi was arrested on November 20 for his role in weeks-long protests over unpaid salaries at a local sugar factory. He was charged with disruption of public order and collusion against national security and spent weeks in jail before his release on bail on December 12. After detailing his sufferings on Instagram (public letter), Bakhshi challenged Intelligence Minister Mahmud Alavi, a mid-ranking cleric, to a live TV debate concerning the alleged torture of detainees. “As a cleric, and from the moral and human rights point of view, tell us what is the sentence for those who torture prisoners? Is torturing prisoners permissible? If it is, to what extent? Does the ministry you run have the right to secretly monitor private telephone conversations?

Now Bakhshi’s claims have shined a light into the greater issue of prisoner mistreatment and torture, which rights group say is widespread, and have prompted parliament to launch an investigation. Iranian media reported that a parliament committee has been authorized to investigate Bakhshi’s claims after lawmakers requested a probe. Ali Motahari, an outspoken member of parliament, wrote a column in the reformist Etemad daily on January 6 in which he said Bakhshi’s claims were a “source of shame” and demanded answers from the Intelligence Ministry (“The letter …. should be a wake-up call for all those with a conscience and defenders of citizens’ rights who must follow up this matter until it reaches a clear conclusion.” ).

Since the publication of the labor activist’s letter, Bakhshi’s lawyer has indicated that her client has come under intense pressure to retract his statements about being tortured.

On January 6, 2019, Judiciary Spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei claimed the authorities would investigate if Bakhshi lodged a formal complaint.

“After mentioning torture Esmail Bakhshi has come under intense pressure aimed at forcing my client to deny what happened,” Zilabi said on January 7.

The suggestion that the Intelligence Ministry could be sued has brought reactions from former political prisoners and prisoners of conscience who have suffered torture at the hands of the state. They noted that it is practically impossible to bring torturers to justice and in most cases it was the victims who received punishments for publicizing the torture.

 

After I was released [from more than a month in detention in early December 2004] I gave interviews and spoke to judicial authorities about being tortured,Fereshteh Ghazi, an Iranian reporter living in exile in the US, tweeted on January 6.  “Then I was summoned by [the Tehran Prosecutor at the time, Saeed] Mortazavi and in the presence of my lawyer he told me I had to file a lawsuit, which I did. He said now that the suit had been filed I had to prove my case or else he would lock me up for a long period. So I became a defendant in my own suit.”

Taghi Rahmani, a reporter and political activist who lives in Paris after serving 15 years in Iran’s prisons, tweeted: “In 1991 I was beaten during interrogation. In fact Judge [first name unknown] Haddad had entered the room and witnessed most of the beating. When my attorney [Abdolfattah] Soltani brought up the beatings in court, Judge Haddad sued Soltani and he was sentenced to four months in prison…

Attorney Ali Mojtahedzade suggested that to assure the public that torturers could be sued and brought to justice, the judiciary should first conclude the prosecution of those responsible for previous atrocities, such as the deaths of Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi and blogger Sattar Beheshti during detention.

..Another former political prisoner, Hossein Ronaghi commented: “Sattar Beheshti had said that his interrogator had hung him on the ceiling and beat him. He was terrified about being tortured again”.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/08/23/observatory-expresses-grave-concern-over-health-of-iranian-hrd-hossein-ronaghi-maleki/]

[The February 2018 report of the UN Secretary-General on Iran stated: “The Secretary-General remains concerned about continuing reports indicating that the practice of torture and ill-treatment in the Islamic Republic of Iran persists. Such reports point to a pattern of physical or mental pressure applied upon prisoners to coerce confessions….” The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran also expressed concern in his September 2018 report.]


Daniel Ellsberg wins Sweden’s Olof Palme Prize

January 10, 2019

American whistleblower wins Sweden's Olof Palme Prize
Daniel Ellsberg at a rally in Washington DC in 2010. Photo: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

On 9 January 2019 Swedish news paper The Local reported: “American whistleblower wins Sweden’s Olof Palme Prize“. Daniel Ellsberg, born in 1931, is best known for releasing the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret Pentagon study which revealed that several US administrations had misled the public over the war in Vietnam, to the New York Times. He was charged with espionage and conspiracy, but the charges were later dismissed. “Regardless of such consequences, his decision led to the removal of a mendacious government, a shortening of an illegal war, and an untold number of saved lives,” read a statement by the Olof Palme Foundation. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/05/27/5-june-stockholm-breakfast-seminar-on-the-importance-of-whistleblowers/

More than four decades later Daniel Ellsberg again takes on the Pentagon’s secret war plans. He warns us of a nuclear holocaust, caused by the refusal of the nine nuclear states to comply with the binding commitment of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to further the goals of a nuclear-free world.” The Foundation said it will award the prize at a ceremony on January 30th in Stockholm “for his profound humanism and exceptional moral courage”.

For more on this and other awards: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/olof-palme-prize

https://www.thelocal.se/20190109/american-whistleblower-daniel-ellsberg-pentagon-papers-wins-swedens-2018-olof-palme-prize

Scottish Bar gives inaugural human rights award to Salome Nduta of Kenya

January 9, 2019

Salome Nduta receives her award from Lord Bonomy, Chair of the judging panel in Scottish Bar International Human Rights Award.

Salome Nduta, from Nairobi, Kenya, is a protection officer with the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, and was honored as the first winner of the Scottish Bar International Human Rights Award. [see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/scottish-bar-international-human-rights-award]

I was born and brought up in one of the informal settlements of Nairobi in Kenya – Korogocho. I experienced first hand deprivation and lack of necessities as a child. I saw the struggles of a single mother eking [out a living] for her children surrounded by poverty and human rights violations by both state and non-state actors. It is this kind of environment that laid the basis of my activism work. My journey of activism has been full of experiential moments that have continued to push me to the next level. In all these moments, the legal fraternity has walked with me side by side. In Korogocho, a legal advice centre first trained me as a paralegal and walked with me through my journey of campaign against forceful evictions and for demolition of informal settlements which saw me arrested a number of times for standing up against oppression. Korogocho and other informal settlements do still exist but there is now in place clear eviction and resettlement guidelines, a housing Act and article 43 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 on social economic rights, as a result of the work of human rights defenders (HRDs). HRDs play a pivotal role in bringing and sustaining change. My activism life is a journey of moments and not just challenges, moments of falling, waking up, dusting yourself down and keeping on walking. Some moments are sad and some are joyous even when you are inhaling tear gas from canisters thrown by police.

“In each moment, one constant factor remains, change does occur! It is this change that keeps human rights defenders going. At times, it is difficult to see the change with our naked eyes but faith makes us believe that change has occurred or will occur, however long it takes, and that for me and other HRDs is sufficient. We are all blessed with characteristics that best describe us: patience, focus and dedication to the cause. My employer, NCHRD-K, deserves recognition and accolades for giving me the space and opportunities for growth and sharpening my skills to do what I love doing most, supporting human rights defenders. My daily tasks entail responding to distress calls from targeted HRDs day and night – targeted by both state and non-state actors – assessing their cases and advising on best suited intervention including legal, medical, psychosocial and relocation. The environment which HRDs operate in within the country cannot be described as entirely safe. I get satisfaction and strength when HRDs come and say, your intervention has brought me this far. In 2016, a human rights defender was sleeping in his house with his ten-year-old son Ainea, seven-month-old daughter and his wife. A petrol bomb was thrown into the house and it was by sheer luck that Ainea was still awake. He woke his parents. They safely got out, but everything else was burnt to ashes. This was the first time I was dealing with a case where children were involved. In 2018, the family invited us to the opening of their new home and I could not contain my emotions when I heard Ainea and his sister tell me thank you for the support to their family. Ainea declared he will support his father in his work as long as God gives him strength. For me this was a major change, winning a young boy into activism because he has seen it, lived it and emerged victorious. My passion is to give life to Chapter 4 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, where humanity is respected not just in rhetoric but in words and deeds.”

Read more at: https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/scottish-bar-salutes-salome-s-work-1-4852029