Documenting the Killings of Environmental Defenders (Guardian and Global Witness)

July 15, 2017

Last Friday I asked attention for Front Line’s project Memorial that tries to honor all human rights defenders who have been killed since 1998 [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/13/stop-the-killings-you-can-help-front-line/]. Now the Guardian announces that this year, in collaboration with Global Witness, it will attempt to record all of the deaths of people who are killed while defending their land, forests, rivers or wildlife – most often against the harmful impacts of industry. The project will also document the stories of some of the land and environmental defenders still under attack

Activists, wildlife rangers and indigenous leaders are dying violently at the rate of about four a week, with a growing sense around the world that ‘anyone can kill environmental defenders without repercussions’

Environmental defenders being killed in record numbers globally, new research reveals.

    • The Guardian pieces addresses also the crucial question of methodology.” Environmental defenders: who are they and how do we decide if they have died in defence of their environment?” [see:

      https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/13/environmental-defenders-who-are-they-and-how-do-we-decide-if-they-have-died-in-defence-of-their-environment]

      Amazon rainforest activists José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife Maria do Espírito Santo were murdered by gunmen in Brazil’s Pará state in May 2011
      Amazon rainforest activists José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife Maria do Espírito Santo who were murdered by gunmen in Brazil’s Pará state in May 2011. Photograph: Stringer, Brazil/Reuters

      Some excerpts:

      Who are land and environmental defenders?

      Land and environmental defenders are people who take peaceful action, either voluntarily or professionally, to protect the environment or land rights. They are often ordinary people who may well not define themselves as “defenders”. Some are indigenous or peasant leaders living in remote mountains or isolated forests, protecting their ancestral lands and traditional livelihoods from business projects such as mining, dams or luxury hotels. Others are park rangers tackling poaching or illegal logging. They could even be lawyers, journalists or NGO staff working to expose environmental abuse and land grabbing.

      How does Global Witness document killings of defenders?

      Global Witness uses online searches and its extensive network of local contacts to source evidence every time a land or environmental defender is reported as murdered, or as having been abducted by state forces. A number of criteria must be fulfilled for a case to be verified and entered into the Global Witness database. A credible online source of information is required with the victim’s name, details of how they were killed or abducted (including the date and location), and evidence that s/he was a land or environmental activist. In some cases, specialised local organisations are able to investigate and verify the case in-country, meaning that an online source is not necessary. Global Witness includes the friends, colleagues and family of defenders if either they appear to have been killed as a reprisal for the defender’s work, or because they were killed in an attack which also left the defender dead. While Global Witness endeavours to keep its database updated in real-time, verification of cases can be time-consuming, meaning that the names of some individuals are added weeks, or even months, after their death.

      Honduras: Julia Francisco Martinez, widow of indigenous activist Francisco Martinez Marquez who was killed in January 2015
      Honduras: Julia Francisco Martinez, widow of indigenous activist Francisco Martinez Marquez who was killed in January 2015 after months of death threats. His killers have not been brought to justice. Photograph: Giles Clarke/Global Witness

      Why does Global Witness say that its data is incomplete? There are a number of reasons why the information in Global Witness’s database is likely to be incomplete. Many killings go unreported, and very few are investigated by the authorities, which is part of the problem itself. Suppression of the media and restrictions on human rights in some countries reduces the number of organisations and outlets documenting killings. In high-conflict countries it can be difficult to verify that a killing was linked to somebody’s activism. Some countries are likely to be under-represented because principal searches are currently limited to English, Spanish, Portuguese and French. Global Witness’s network of local sources is also stronger in some regions than others.

      For full details of Global Witness’s methodology, visit globalwitness.org/defenders/methodology

      see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/01/violence-against-environmental-human-rights-defenders-one-of-the-worst-trends-in-recent-years/

 

Source: The defenders | The Guardian

 


Bartolome de las Casas, an award specially for indigenous peoples

July 14, 2017

portada

Photo: Leader of Peru’s Ashaninka indigenous people, Ruth Buendia, was handed over the Bartolome de las Casas Prize from the Government of Spain. ANDINA/Difusión

Granted already in 2014, King Felipe VI of Spain presented the 23rd Bartolome de las Casas Award on Tuesday 4 July to Ruth Buendia, for her leadership skills as chairwoman of the Central Ashaninka del Rio Ene (CARE), a local organization in Peru that gathers 17 indigenous communities and works to defend the rights of the Ashaninka people in the Ene River Valley.the award honors her significant contribution to human and sustainable development, as well as her environmental protection work.  The jury acknowledged Buendia’s efforts to provide access to public health and education services across the communities. Also, she managed to stop the construction of the Patizipatango hydroelectric dam, which prevented arable lands of 10 communities from being flooded.

In 2014, Buendia received also the Goldman Environmental Prize, dubbed the Green Nobel Prize, which recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk.  See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/01/violence-against-environmental-human-rights-defenders-one-of-the-worst-trends-in-recent-years/

The Bartolome de las Casas Award was also granted to Colombia‘s Fundacion Caminos de Identidad —FUCAI (Roads to Identity Foundation) for its constant work strengthening identity and autonomy of indigenous peoples in different fields: education, food sovereignty, family, childhood and youth.

Liu Xiaobo: a giant human rights defender leaves a lasting legacy for China and the rest of the world

July 13, 2017

USA AI then mentions some of the many other HRDs who under the leadership of President Xi Jinping have suffered persecution:

Ilham Tohti, an economics professor at Minzu University of China in Beijing, was sentenced to life imprisonment for “separatism”. Amnesty International believes that he is in prison for writings posted on the Internet.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/11/hot-news-ilham-tohti-chinas-mandela-wins-2016-martin-ennals-award/]

Women’s rights activist Su Changlan was sentenced in March 2017 to three years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power.”[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/08/amnesty-international-campaigns-with-7-women-who-refuse-to-wait-for-their-rights/]

Human rights lawyers like Jiang Tianyong have been detained, arrested and harassed by government authorities in the last several years. He was formally arrested for “subverting state power” after being detained in an unofficial detention facility for over six months. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/01/human-rights-defenders-issues-on-the-agenda-of-the-next-35th-human-rights-council/]

The reaction of the Chinese government to criticism from abroad over Liu Xiaobo’s treatment is by the way typical. See e.g. in the Strait Times of 14 July: “Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang also said China had lodged protests with “certain countries” for interfering in its “judicial sovereignty”…….”Conferring the prize to such a person goes against the purposes of this award. It’s a blasphemy of the peace prize”. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/12/06/china-and-its-amazing-sensitivity-on-human-rights-defenders/]

Source: Liu Xiaobo: A giant of human rights who leaves a lasting legacy for China and the world – Amnesty International USA

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/china-says-awarding-nobel-peace-prize-to-liu-xiaobo-was-blasphemy


STOP THE KILLINGS: you can help Front Line

July 13, 2017

At the end of last year I announced the new Front Line project to remember human rights defenders who have been killed [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/02/new-on-line-memorial-to-remember-killed-human-rights-defenders/] and now I am asking you for your cooperation. If you yourself do not know any cases to be included, you could still forward the post to any person or organization you think could be helpful.  The main parameters of the project are:


The HRD Memorial – http://www.hrdmemorial.org

The the aim is to commemorate all human rights defenders who have been killed for their peaceful work in defense of human rights since the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders came into effect in 1998.

The criteria for inclusion is simply that the person targeted was a HRD killed because of their peaceful human rights work. (The HRD Memorial doesn’t include disappearance cases because of the difficulty in documenting the cases and trying to determine if the person is alive or dead.)

Front Line Defenders have taken a policy decision to only include a case with the permission of the family because of the risk of re-victimisation.

Any inputs (as well questions) can be sent straight to , Head of HRD Memorial Project at Front Line Defenders [jimATfrontlinedefenders.org>]

Repressive governments continue to kill human rights defenders because they think human rights defenders are expendable people, that the killings will have no consequences and that the HRDs will soon be forgotten. The Memorial would be an important tool in the fight against impunity and to keep the flame alive. The Memorial and the participation of national and international NGOs will provide the basis for an international campaign with the theme “Stop the Killings”, which will be launched in the first quarter of 2018. 


Sudan: award-winning human rights defenders under pressure

July 12, 2017

Amal Habani
AFP reported on 10 July from Khartoum that a court found that the journalist Amal Habani, winner of Amnesty International’s Ginetta Sagan Award, was ordered to pay 10,000 Sudanese pounds ($1,430) or face a jail term of four months. The court found her guilty in a case filed by a security officer who accused her of preventing him from doing his job during the March trial of three rights activists. “This is injustice. I was covering a trial of human rights activists when the security officer beat me,” Habani told AFP by telephone from the court on Monday. “When I complained against him, he filed a case against me. I will not pay the fine but rather go to jail.”
Her lawyer Ahmed Elshukri said he will file an appeal against the court’s order. Habani, who writes for online Sudanese newspaper Al-Taghyeer, said the incident with the security officer occurred when she was taking pictures on her mobile phone outside a court during the March trial.

An even more serous case is that of Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/dr-mudawi-ibrahim-adam] an internationally recognised human rights defender who was the winner of the inaugural 2005 Front Line Defenders Award for human rights defenders. Ibrahim Adam Mudawi and his colleague Idris Eldoma Hafiz face six serious charges such as “undermining the constitutional system” and “waging war against the state”. Rights groups have denounced the allegations as trumped up and linked to their human rights advocacy. The trial is underway in the capital Khartoum. “Human rights work is not a crime, so Dr Mudawi and Hafiz must be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s regional director. “Their arrest and continued incarceration is a miscarriage of justice, plain and simple.” Mudawi has continuously been harassed for his human rights work in Darfur and across Sudan for more than a decade. See also: https://www.defenddefenders.org/2017/07/sudan-human-rights-defenders-detained-face-death-penalty/

Sudan regularly ranks near the bottom of international press freedom rankings. International NGOs have accused Sudan’s powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) of detaining human rights workers, opposition politicians and journalists.

Sources:

http://www.enca.com/africa/sudanese-human-rights-defenders-face-death-sentence

Sudan court fines award-winning journalist

for the Ginetta Sagan award see: https://www.amnestyusa.org/press-releases/amnesty-international-usa-honors-sudanese-journalist-amal-habani-with-annual-award-for-womens-human-rights-defenders/


Turkey: detention of human rights defenders further extended

July 12, 2017

Front Line just reported that on 11 July 2017, the detention of the Turkish human rights defenders [see my post of a few hours ago: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/11/council-of-europe-losing-patience-with-turkey-after-arrest-of-human-rights-defenders/], was prolonged. Nalan Erkem, Seyhmuz Ozbekli, Ozlem Dalkiran, Idil Eser, Veli Acu, Gunal Kursun, Ilknur Ustun, Nejat Tastan, Ali Gharawi and Peter Steudtner was extended by seven more days by a decision of the prosecutor. The detention order refers to suspected membership of an armed terrorist organisation. This order is due to expire on 12 July 2017 at 2.30 pm. Over the course of  10 and 11 July 2017, police carried out searches at the houses of the detained defenders, and reportedly seized flash and hard drives as well as other electronic equipment. Despite the undisclosed nature of the investigation, there has been a smear campaign conducted against the defenders in certain segments of Turkish media as well as amongst social media networks, equating the human rights defenders with “spies”.


Council of Europe losing patience with Turkey after arrest of human rights defenders

July 11, 2017

Many NGOs and governments have expressed deep concern over what is happening in Turkey. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) probably matters more than most in this case as it is one of the few international institutions where Turkey still is a ‘functioning member’. Back in April it was put on a ‘watch list’ and Turkey reacted furiously [http://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-politics-councilofeurope-idUSKBN17R18U ]. Now, on 7 July 2017, the co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Turkey, Marianne Mikko (Estonia, SOC) and Nigel Evans (United Kingdom, EC), have expressed serious concern at the arrest of several prominent human rights defenders in Istanbul on 5 July, including Amnesty International Director Idil Eser.

These arrests, which took place during a training seminar on human rights defenders, are another devastating signal at a time when Turkey needs to address serious human rights issues, as pointed out by the Parliamentary Assembly in its most recent resolution.” “We ask for the immediate release of these human rights defenders, and urge the Turkish authorities to ensure that fundamental freedoms, including freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, are duly and effectively secured, and to refrain from further action which might have a chilling effect on society,” said the co-rapporteurs.

On 5 July 2017, ten human rights defenders were arrested and detained: Nalan Erkem and Özlem Dalkiran (Helsinki Citizens Assembly), Ilknur Üstün (Women’s Coalition), Idil Eser and Veli Acu (Amnesty International), Günal Kursun (Human Rights Agenda Association), Nejat Tastan (Association for Monitoring Equal Rights), Seyhmuz Özbekli (Rights Initiative) and moderators Ali Garawi and Peter Steudtner. [See also back in 2016: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/20/turkey-fair-trial-human-rights-lawyers-expression-l4l/]

On 8 June 2017, Yves Pozzo Di Borgo (France, EPP/CD), PACE’s rapporteur on “Ensuring the protection of human rights defenders in the member States of the Council of Europe“, had already expressed his deep concern after the arrest of Taner Kiliç, Chair of Amnesty International. (https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/09/human-rights-watch-urges-turkey-to-release-amnestys-country-head/)

Turkish author Elif Şafak / Elif Shafak urges her fellow writers to resist self-censorship and instead challenge tyranny and repression with their pens. However, it’s not enough for writers alone to defend democracy — we all must become activists and stand in solidarity with those who oppose tyranny worldwide. See her speak at the Oslo Freedom Forum this year: Oslo Freedom Forum
On 24 May 2017 Front Line Defenders urged that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – joining the leaders of other NATO nations to attend a summit of the military alliance in Brussels on 25 May – be held accountable for his treatment of HRDs. Front Line Defenders urged countries to call on the Turkish government to fulfil the country’s international human rights obligations and to cease the systematic targeting of human rights defenders (HRDs).

Source: PACE: News

https://turkeypurge.com/rights-activists-detained-in-turkey-at-risk-of-torture-says-un-spokesman

 


Eulogy of Pakistan’s Abdul Sattar Edhi, “the richest poor man”

July 11, 2017

edhi

Farah Jamil published on 10 July 2017 a blog post “The Richest Poor Man” recalling the life of the great humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi from Pakistan. Leading humanitarian and the most endearing person in the country. ‘Edhi’ left us at the age of 88 last year on July 8. He had been suffering from kidney failure since 2013 and was on dialysis. Edhi dedicated his life for the welfare of the poor irrespective of their caste, class and creed and that’s what makes him an asset for the whole universe. “He was not only an asset for this country but for the whole humanity because of his selfless work”.

It was in 1974 when a formal institution by the name of Edhi Foundation was set up. …..with more than 1,800 ambulances stationed across Pakistan, the Edhi Foundation is Pakistan’s largest welfare organization.  In 1997, the foundation entered the Guinness World Records as the “largest volunteer ambulance organization”. The Edhi Foundation’s slogan is: “Live and help live”.….

Edhi Sahab received many national and international awards included the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, Lenin Peace Prize, Hamdan Award for volunteers, Peace and Harmony Award (Delhi), Peace Award (Mumbai), Gandhi Peace Award (Delhi), UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize.

Throughout his life, Edhi sahab set examples for the world to follow through his actions. He was a simple man with a heart of gold. He slept in a windowless room adjoining the office of his foundation furnished with just a bed, a sink and a hotplate.…..

His last words were:

–Bury me in same clothes, donate all my body parts, and make sure my clothes are distributed among others.

—Take care of the poor people of my country.

…….Edhi sahib, you indeed were the richest poor man!

Source: #MainEdhiHun: The Richest Poor Man | SAMAA TV


Call for Nominations for Council of Europe’s Raoul Wallenberg Prize 2018

July 10, 2017

CCouncil of Europe Raoul Wallenberg Prize 2018

Since 2014, the Council of Europe Raoul Wallenberg Prize is awarded every two years in order to reward extraordinary humanitarian achievements by a single individual, a group of individuals or an organisation. The prize consisting of  10.000 € is awarded at a ceremony at the Council of Europe on 17 January – the date of Raoul Wallenberg’s arrest in Budapest in 1945.

The Jury consists of seven independent persons with recognised moral standing in the field of human rights and humanitarian work, appointed by: the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the municipality of Budapest, the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Lund, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Raoul Wallenberg family.

The deadline for submission of candidates for the “Raoul Wallenberg” prize 2018 is set for 31 October 2017.

NB  There are at least two other awards with Wallenberg in the title:

and there is the Raoul Wallenberg Institute itself based in Lund, Sweden.


Civil society participation at the UN subject of ISHR event on 17 July

July 9, 2017

Civil society participation at the UN is essential to ensure the relevance and value of debates and decisions at the international level along with the implementation of UN resolutions and recommendations on the ground. The International Service for Human Rights is organizing an interactive event to discuss NGO engagement with UN bodies and processes as well as opportunities and imperatives for reform. Monday 17 July, 11:30 – 13:00Room XXIV, Palais des Nations, Geneva

ISHR will also launch a brand new handbook, the ‘Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly: A Practical Guide for NGOs’. Copies of the updated version of the ‘Practical Guide to the UN Committee on NGOs’ will also be available at the event.

Panelists
Dianela Pi, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Uruguayan Mission to the UN in Geneva
Iniyan Ilango, FORUM-ASIA
Eleanor Openshaw, International Service for Human Rights
Moderator

• Tanya Bennett, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Australian Mission to the UN in Geneva

Concluding remarks:
• Peggy Hicks, OHCHR

[Attendance with UNOG pass only. If you are a member of civil society interested in attending but don’t have a UNOG pass, please contact information@ishr.ch.]