Two Annual Reports on Human Rights covering 2013

February 28, 2014

In this post I draw your attention to two annual reports: The US State Department released its Country Reports 2013 and Front Line Defenders published its 2014 Annual Report” which somewhat confusingly covers 2013. The last one is the most interesting from the perspective of this blog as the focus is of course on Human Rights Defenders.The USA Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – mandated by Congress – are based on reporting from US embassies and posts abroad, and describe the general human rights conditions in almost 200 countries and territories. In his preface the Secretary of State, John Kerry, says: “I have seen firsthand how these reports are used by a wide range of actors – by Congress in its decision-making processes surrounding foreign security sector assistance and economic aid; by the Department of State and other U.S. government agencies in shaping American foreign policy; and by U.S. citizens, international nongovernmental organizations, foreign governments, human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, scholars, and others who are committed to advancing human dignity”.

via Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013.

2014 Front Line Defenders Annual Report

The 2014 Front Line Defenders report highlights developments in the situation of human rights defenders in 2013. It stresses the dangerous environment in which many human rights defenders operate. “While Governments maintain the rhetoric of human rights the sad reality is that the safe space in which human rights defenders can operate is steadily shrinking,” said, Front Line Defenders Executive Director, Mary Lawlor. “Threats, harassment, attempted kidnappings, smear campaigns orchestrated by government officials, restrictive legislation and direct attacks are all part of daily life for human rights defenders in many countries”.

In 2013, Front Line Defenders issued 346 urgent appeals and updates on 426 human rights defenders at risk in 64 countries.

It provided 297 security grants and trained 480 human rights defenders. Overall, more than 1,200 human rights defenders benefited from front line defenders’ protection support in 2013. It documented the killing of 26 HRDs from Cameroon, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Guatemala, Honduras, India, Kenya, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia, and Venezuela. This is a fraction of the hundreds of HRDs killed every year around the world: in Colombia alone, in the first six months of 2013, 37 HRDs were murdered because of their human rights work. [Impunity remains a big problem: Front Line Defenders reviewed the investigations carried out in over 20 killings of HRDs working on economic, social and cultural rights perpetrated in 2012 and 2013 in ten countries: in only 10% of these cases were the perpetrators brought to justice.]

The targeting of HRDs working on issues related to extractive industries, the right to land, clean water and sanitation, and opposing abuses by corporate actors was on the increase again. These cases account for over a third of the assistance provided by Front Line Defenders in 2013, representing a marked increase over previous years.

Restrictive legislation, one of the contemporary trends affecting civil society around the world, was proposed or passed in 2013 in numerous countries. Legislation ranged from laws regulating NGOs and access to funding (Azerbaijan, Ecuador, Egypt, Indonesia, Israel, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, South Sudan), to laws on public assembly (Egypt), media (Burundi, Kenya), public order (Uganda), sexual orientation and gender identity (Russian Federation, Uganda, Ukraine).

In some cases, these laws introduced an outright ban on the publication of materials on a set list of issues (Burundi); introduced disproportionately heavy prison sentences, up to 15 years, for ‘publishing false information’ (The Gambia); or granted the authorities the right to dissolve an organisation for virtually any minor violation of the law (Ecuador) …..

Along with pervasive electronic surveillance (as revealed by Snowden), many HRDs have had their websites or emails hacked, their laptops confiscated and inspected, had malware and spyware installed on their mobile devices or computers, or have seen email or other types of online communication appear as evidence in court .

via 2014 Front Line Defenders Annual Report | Front Line.

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