ISHR’s Human Rights Defenders Advocacy Programme 2017 starts on Monday

May 27, 2017

ISHR‘s Human Rights Defenders Advocacy Programme begins on Monday 29 May, with 17 human rights defenders from around the globe travelling to Geneva to learn about strategic engagement with the UN mechanisms.

HRDAP 2016 Participants

The programme equips defenders with the knowledge and skills to make strategic use of the international human rights system. It also provides an opportunity for participants to directly engage in lobbying and advocacy activities at the UN level to effect change on the ground back home. ISHR’s Training and Advocacy Support Manager, Helen Nolan, explains that this year’s HRDAP participants were selected from a pool of 380 applicants – the highest number yet.

We’re incredibly excited to be collaborating with 17 committed human rights defenders working on women’s rights, business and human rights, the rights of LGBTI persons, and human rights defender protection,’ said Nolan. ‘These defenders are travelling from around the globe – including Argentina, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ecuador, Egypt, Fiji, India, Nigeria, Peru, Russia and Sierra Leone – to spend two highly intense weeks gaining practical advocacy experience in Geneva.’

HRDAP coincides with the 35th Session of the Human Rights Council, and well as receiving training modules on all the UN human rights mechanisms from a range of experts, participants will have the opportunity to build networks in Geneva and around the world, carry out lobbying of UN member States and UN staff, and learn from peers from a range of regions working on a range of human rights issues.

Crucially, we know the programme works,’ said Nolan. ‘Last year, 100% of our participants were either very satisfied or satisfied with the programme, with 96% of them having at least partially achieved their key advocacy and learning objectives.’ In 2016, HRDAP enabled:

  • corporate accountability activist Alexandra Montgomery to provide frst hand testimony to state representatives and experts about the violence faced by land rights defenders in Brazil
  • Tehmina Zafar to sound the alarm in the UN Human Rights Council about proposed laws which could dramatically restrict the operation and independence of NGOs in Pakistan
  • Karen Mejía to inform a UN expert body about the need to defend women’s rights activists and decriminalise abortion in Honduras.
  • several participants to contribute substantially to the historic campaign to appoint the first ever UN expert on LGBTI rights

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/11/12/ishr-2017-training-course-for-human-rights-defenders-now-open-for-applications/

http://www.ishr.ch/news/supporting-defenders-ishrs-human-rights-defender-advocacy-programme-kicks


Video report of the 2017 Oslo Freedom Forum now available

May 27, 2017

Watch this video (made by the Universidad Francisco Marroquín film crew) if you missed the 2017 Oslo Freedom Forum from 22-24 May. Over the course of five days, ‘Spikersuppa square’ was filled with art, film, and presentations; explored innovations and ideas at the Tech Lab and Interactive Expo; heard from keynote speaker Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg; learned about human rights defenders and honored this year’s Havel Prize laureates. Next year’s forum (10-year anniversary) will take place on 28-30 May, 2018.  For reservations: alex@oslofreedomforum.com.


Lawyer wins Front Line’s 2017 human rights award for helping Crimean Tartars

May 26, 2017

On 31 March this year  I announced the 5 nominees for Front Line’s human rights award [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/31/finalists-for-the-2017-front-line-defenders-award-come-from-ukraine-nicaragua-vietnam-south-africa-and-kuwait/] and today the organization announced that the winner is Emil Kurbedinov, a lawyer who is helping ethnic Tartars in Crimea.

Emil Kurbedinov said 'Winning an acquittal for my clients is almost impossible - but what I can do is show them that, despite the risks, I will not abandon them'

Emil Kurbedinov was at the ceremony in Dublin’s City Hall this morning to receive the Human Rights Defender At Risk award for 2017. According to Front Line Defenders, which has its global headquarters in Blackrock in Dublin, defending human rights activists and political prisoners in Crimea is some of the most dangerous work that any lawyer can undertake. Despite those risks, Mr Kurbedinov has spent years providing emergency legal response for the Crimean Tartar minority, which it maintains has been persecuted by Russian authorities.

In January of this year, Mr Kurbedinov was detained by representatives of Crimea’s Centre for Counteracting Extremism while on his way to represent a client whose house had been raided by police. A district court later sentenced him to ten days in detention on a charge of “propagandising for extremist organisations“.

The Executive Director, Andrew Anderson, said: “In the midst of a global crackdown on human rights defenders, the five finalists demonstrate the will to persist in the face of severe, often life-threatening risks.

Source: Lawyer wins human rights award for helping Tartars


NGOs jointly address (again) the human rights crisis in Ethiopia

May 26, 2017

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They draw attention to persistent and grave violations of human rights in Ethiopia and the pressing need to support the establishment of an independent, impartial and international investigation into atrocities committed by security forces to suppress peaceful protests and independent dissent. And they ask countries to prioritise and address through joint statements the ongoing human rights crisis in Ethiopia at the upcoming UN Human Rights Council from 6 – 23 June 2017. [for last year’s call see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/09/un-human-rights-council-urged-to-address-situation-in-ethiopia/]

In the wake of unprecedented, mass protests that erupted in November 2015 in Oromia, Amhara, and the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples (SNNPR) regional states, Ethiopian authorities routinely responded to legitimate and largely peaceful expressions of dissent with excessive and unnecessary force. As a result, over 800 protesters have been killed, thousands of political activists, human rights defenders, journalists and protesters have been arrested, and in October 2016, the Ethiopian Government declared a six-month nationwide State of Emergency, that was extended for an additional four months on 30 March 2017 after some restrictions were lifted.

The State of Emergency directives give sweeping powers to a Command Post, which has been appointed by the House of People’s Representatives to enforce the decree, including the suspension of fundamental and non-derogable rights protected by the Ethiopian Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and other international human rights treaties to which Ethiopia is party. More information on the human rights violations occurring under the current State of Emergency is included in the Annex at the end of this letter.

Lack of independent investigations

Few effective avenues to pursue accountability for abuses exist in Ethiopia, given the lack of independence of the judiciary – the ruling EPRDF coalition and allied parties control all 547 seats in Parliament.

Ethiopia’s National Human Rights Commission, which has a mandate to investigate rights violations, concluded in its June 2016 oral report to Parliament that the lethal force used by security forces in Oromia was proportionate to the risk they faced from the protesters. The written Amharic version of the report was only recently made public, and there are long-standing concerns about the impartiality and research methodology of the Commission. On 18 April 2017, the Commission submitted its second oral report to Parliament on the protests, which found that 669 people were killed, including 63 members of the security forces, and concluded that security forces had taken “proportionate measures in most areas.” Both reports are in stark contrast with the findings of other national and international organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions has rated the Commission as B, meaning the latter has failed to meet fully the Paris Principles.

Refusal to cooperate with regional and international mechanisms

In response to the recent crackdown, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has called for “access for independent observers to the country to assess the human rights situation”, and recently renewed his call for access to the country during a visit to the capital, Addis Ababa. Ethiopia’s government, however, has rejected the call, citing its own investigation conducted by its Commission. UN Special Procedures have also made similar calls.

In November 2016, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights adopted a resolution calling for an international, independent, and impartial investigation into allegations of the use of excessive and unnecessary lethal force by security forces to disperse and suppress peaceful protests. Recent European parliament and US Congressional resolutions have also called for independent investigations. The Ethiopian embassy in Belgium dismissed the European Parliament’s resolution citing its own Commission’s investigations into the protests.

As a member of the UN HRC, Ethiopia has an obligation to “uphold the highest standards” of human rights, and “fully cooperate” with the Council and its mechanisms (GA Resolution 60/251, OP 9), yet there are outstanding requests for access from Special Procedures, including from the special rapporteurs on torture, freedom of opinion and expression, and peaceful assembly, among others.

The letter urges Ethiopia to:

  1. urgently allow access to an international, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigation into all of the deaths resulting from alleged excessive use of force by the security forces, and other violations of human rights in the context of the protests;
  2. respond favourably to country visit requests by UN Special Procedures,
  3. immediately and unconditionally release journalists, human rights defenders, political opposition leaders and members as well as protesters arbitrarily detained during and in the aftermath of the protests;
  4. ensure that those responsible for human rights violations are prosecuted in proceedings which comply with international law and standards on fair trials; and
  5. fully comply with its international legal obligations and commitments including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and its own Constitution.

Download PDF (401.12 KB)

The Ethiopian Zone 9 bloggers were finalists for the 2016 MEA, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/15/martin-ennals-award-2016-relive-the-ceremony-in-13-minutes-or-in-full/ 

Source: Joint NGO Letter Addressing the Pervasive Human Rights Crisis in Ethiopia – Ethiopia | ReliefWeb


Watch Live: 2017 Oslo Freedom Forum starts

May 23, 2017

Source: Watch Live: Talks Begin at the 2017 Oslo Freedom Forum


Nine Things Everyone Needs To Know About International LGBTI Rights

May 21, 2017

17 May 2017 was the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT). It was created in 2004 to raise awareness about the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTI people internationally. The date of May 17 was chosen specifically to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. The Advocates Post lists 9 things that are useful to remember such as:

  1. Internationally, the acronyms LGBT and LGBTI (standing for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex”) are the most commonly used terms.
  2. SOGI stands for “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.”
  3. Private, consensual same-sex conduct is a crime in at least 76 countries. Because of these discriminatory laws, millions of LGBTI persons around the world face the risk of arrest, prosecution and imprisonment every day. And in as many as 10 countries, same-sex acts can be punished with the death penalty.
  4. LGBTI people and rights are not a Western export. LGBTI people exist everywhere — in all countries, among all ethnic groups, at all socioeconomic levels, and in all communities. Further, global archeological and anthropological evidence — from prehistoric rock paintings in South Africa and Egypt to ancient Indian medical texts and early Ottoman literature — show that LGBTI people have always been a part of our communities. In fact in many parts of the world, it was Western colonial powers that imposed the criminal laws that punish same-sex conduct. You can click on an interactive map…
  5. Some countries are passing “gay propaganda” laws and other discriminatory laws that limit the rights to free speech, freedom of association, and assembly. E.g. in 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law Federal Law 135, banning propaganda to minors about “non-traditional sexual relations.” Article 3(2)(b) of Federal Law 135 imposes administrative fines and, in the case of non-citizens, deportation….
  6. LGBTI persons around the world experience widespread violence.
  7. LGBTI persons around the world experience discriminatory treatment every day, in workplaces, schools, family homes, and health care settings.
  8. International law protects LGBTI rights. The right to equality and non-discrimination are core human rights principles included in the United Nations Charter, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and all multilateral human rights treaties. The equality and non-discrimination guarantee provided by international human rights law applies to ALL people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity or “other status.” According to the United Nations, governments have core legal obligations to protect the human rights of LGBT people………
  9. Everyone can take action to support LGBTI rights. 17 May turns out to be the single most important annual date for global LGBTI mobilization and awareness raising. Research has shown that 17% of all annual discussions on Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia are generated around this day. A few day late this post wants to add to that.

Source: Nine Things Everyone Needs To Know About International LGBTI Rights – The Advocates Post


Women Nobel Laureates ask to fight fundamentalism in all its guises

May 18, 2017

On 16 May 2017 Jennifer Allsopp reported for 50.50 from the second day of the Nobel Women’s Initiative conference at the historic Kaiser-Friedrich-Halle in Mönchengladbach, Germany. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/04/20/nobel-womens-initiative-defending-the-defenders-24-26-april-2015/]

Women human rights defenders meet at the 2017 Nobel Women's Initiative Conference. Credit: author.

Women human rights defenders meet at the 2017 Nobel Women’s Initiative Conference. Credit: author.

Jody Williams, Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Shirini Ebadi and Tawakkol Karman have come to address the 900 attendees about their work fighting totalitarianism and fundamentalism in its many global guises in order to build a more peaceful just and equal world. The public event took place on the final evening of the sixth international conference of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. Over the last three days, more than 50 women human rights defenders have been in Mönchengladbach to discuss the future of the feminist movement in collaboration with Initiativikreis Mönchengladbach.

….

The global response to refugees has been a key theme of the conference over the past three days and is a concern of all the laureates. One of the reasons the delegates decided to hold the conference in Germany was to come and congratulate Germany for its policies, explained Tawakko Karman, Yemeni human rights activist and 2011 Nobel Peace laureate. Since the beginning of the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ in Europe, Germany has welcomed more than one million refugees, more than any other country in Europe. For 2016 and 2017 alone, the government has set aside 28.7 billioneuros of funding for their accommodation and integration.

….Many of the young people here have been politicised to defend human rights more broadly because of personal experiences of getting to know refugees in Germany. It heartens me because I know this experience will stay with them for life. I saw the same transformation time and time again myself as a national coordinator with the UK NGO Student Action for Refugees which supports students to set up volunteering and campaigning projects in their local communities. But unlike Germany, the UK – and other countries who are now turning their backs on refugees – are training the next generation to look inwards rather than out. They’re turning away from fostering international consciousness among citizens. This Jody Williams, who won the 1997 Nobel Peace prize for her work to ban antipersonnel landmines, has repeated over the last three days, is “the real fake news”.

Germany’s decision to welcome refugees has nevertheless not come without challenges, especially in terms of the far right explains Brigitte Schuster, a German teacher who has come along to hear the Nobel laureates speak. She teaches as part of a network of state funded programmes run by BAMF (the Federal for Migration and Refugees). Despite some “teething problems” in the provision of services, Bridgette insists, people are nevertheless now moving forward with their lives. They are contributing a lot to the community, she explains, including through sharing their stories and fostering consciousness of totalitarianism in other parts of the world.

After the event in the foyer the laureates message appears to have got through. Attendees have been issued a call to action. The laureates have thanked the German people for welcoming refugees but also asked them to keep up the pressure on the totalitarian regimes that they have fled and to fix the gaps in their own democracies. Tawakkol Karman, Yemeni human rights activist has called on those present not to victimise people but to “be close to people’s dreams, their aspirations and their suffering.” And she’s issued an order. “You will fight for a society of equal citizenship for men and women.

Five boys, all aged 15, jump over one another to tell me what they found most inspiring when I ask them in the foyer after the event. They’ve been brought along by their English teacher Meike Barth from the Gymnasium an der Gartenstraße which has around 900 students. They are also curious to learn about human rights struggles other parts of the world and how they can support them, in part because of the new refugee friends they have made at their school.

Ahmet says he was especially touched when Shirin Ebadi, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts to promote human rights in Iran, mentioned the Berlin wall: “She said that that physical wall and the wall Trump wants to build is like the Berlin wall and we can bring it down,” he recounts. But Ahmet’s also struck by her message about breaking down the walls between people ideologically. “It’s not just physical walls but walls in our hearts. People can always find ways to talk across physical walls, but what’s more hard is what she said about solidarity and people, the politicians trying to stop that connection. Actually,” he reflects, “I was thinking of this different metaphor of a different kind of wall we all build together with that hope, like bricks but you also need cement….It’s a metaphor in progress!”

Ahmet is also inspired by Jody William’s work to erase landmines. “There are still landmines in Vietman”, he tells me, “actually I read about that just last week and I was sat there thinking we need to do something about that.” I ask him what he’s going to do: he’s going to organise a local event and write to politicians.

Sebastian meanwhile tells me what stuck with him was the message advanced by Northern Irish peace activist and 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laurate Mairead Maguire to use academic studies to advance the cause of peace, whatever the discipline. He enjoys chemistry, biology and maths and wants to help tackle climate change. “People thing human rights is just a subject but it’s actually about everything, the whole environment. It’s not just politicians saying this and that.” He’s been inspired by the public meeting tonight to organise his own event. Benjamin, another student, wants to get active on social media and says he is going to help him.

 

Source: Fight fundamentalism in all its guises: a call to action from Yemen to Germany | openDemocracy


International Service for Human Rights publishes Annual Report

May 16, 2017

The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) has also published its annual report on 2016 (a bit confusingly called Annual Report 2017 as it also contains plans for 2017). Several chapters contain substantive information on the excellent work done for human rights defenders:

Agents of change | Empowering defenders to achieve impact (p 10)

Model Law | Groundbreaking new tool to protect defenders  (p 14)

Strange bedfellows | The role of business in protecting civil society space (p 18)

Reprisals | Ending attacks against those who cooperate with the UN (p 21)

Defending diversity | The struggle for LGBTI dignity and rights.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/supporting-defenders-achieving-change-2017-annual-report


Training initiative for indigenous human rights defenders in Philippines and Bangladesh

May 16, 2017

Amidst reports about the rising toll among human rights defenders around the world, especially in rural areas, this initiative must me welcome. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/01/violence-against-environmental-human-rights-defenders-one-of-the-worst-trends-in-recent-years/]
Rights push launched for Philippine, Bangladesh tribes
Representatives of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Relief International pose for a souvenir picture during the launch of the human rights program in the Philippines. (Photo courtesy of the Rural Missionaries)

On 15 May, 2017 ucanews reports that the NGO Relief International has simultaneously launched a project in the Philippines and Bangladesh aimed at training human rights defenders in tribal communities. In the Philippines, Relief International has partnered with the Rural Missionaries “to scale up” the faith-base group’s human rights intervention for tribal people in Mindanao. “This new initiative will promote and protect human rights of vulnerable indigenous communities,” said Sister Famita Somogod, coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines.

Read the rest of this entry »


Amnesty report big rise in number of human rights defenders killed in 2016

May 16, 2017

Amnesty International said there an 80% rise in the number of human rights activists killed around the world in 2016. https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/brave/

Amnesty International said 281 people were killed in 2016 while working to defend human rights. The organisation said it is part of a growing trend of intimidation and persecution of activists. Amnesty also pointed out that oppressive measures are not just happening far afield – with abuses reported in countries like Hungary and Turkey. This is how the Executive Director of Amnesty International, Ireland Colm O’Gorman described it: “We’re seeing an unparallelled global assault on the work of human rights defenders, so laws that are brought in to inhibit human rights work, whether it be the foreign agent laws we’ve seen in Russia, bans of foreign funding for NGOs in Hungary and other countries or indeed mass surveillance techniques being used against human rights defenders.”

Colm O’Gorman.

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/09/front-line-launches-its-2016-report-on-human-rights-defenders-at-risk/

Source: Amnesty report huge rise in number of human rights activists killed in 2016 | BreakingNews.ie