Closing Civil Society Space – a euphemism for Killing Human Rights Defenders

November 30, 2015

The Huffington Post of 29 November 2015 carried a good piece by Brian Dooley (Human Rights First) under the title “When Closing Civil Society Space Means Killing Human Rights Defenders”. He states that “what sometimes gets overlooked in the discussion around “shrinking civil society space” are direct, violent attacks on human rights defenders.”

He refers to this year’s Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (HRDs) which details killings of HRDs in Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East. And a Note by the UN Secretary-General in July this year included how “defenders also describe their sense that they are often on their own, with the media showing little interest in reporting acts of aggression against them and with little support from political figures…”

Murderous attacks on HRDs are too often left out of the closing civil society discussion, sanitizing the conversation and reducing it to one about legislation and policy, Dooley says. Earlier this month, HRD NGO Front Line Defenders gathered over 160 at risk HRDs together in Dublin. Many at the Dublin Platform spoke of physical threats, including death threats, against them.

These include Juan Francisco Martinez in Honduras, Chai Bunthongiek in Thailand, Sabeen Mahmud in Pakistan, Francela Mendez in El Salvador. Three HRDs in the Philippines — Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos, and Bello Sinzo — were murdered on the same September day. No one really knows how many HRDs are killed every year, and these figures are only a fraction of the likely number. Too many go unrecorded, unreported by the media and unpunished by governments.
But HRDs remain under enormous threat. This week the UN General Assembly passed a resolution recognizing the need for the protection of HRDs. While 117 countries – including the United States — voted for the resolution, 54 refused to support it, including key U.S. military allies Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Washington’s close friend Saudi Arabia actually voted against it. As did Kenya, apparently ignoring President’s Obama’s defense of civil society when in Nairobi this year. The U.S. government needs to push its allies to end impunity for those who attack or murder human rights defenders, and ensure that its own discussions about closing civil society space are always open to include the killings of HRDs. [see also:]

For the full piece: When Closing Civil Society Space Means Killing Human Rights Defenders | Brian Dooley

3 Responses to “Closing Civil Society Space – a euphemism for Killing Human Rights Defenders”

  1. […] 30 November I referred to the systematic killing of human rights defenders in 2015 […] and mentioned the annual report by Front Line for 2015 listing Latin America and the Philippines […]

  2. […] Radical social change – the kind that undermines dictatorships, dismembers racist populist tides, secures indigenous peoples’ rights to their land – has always been born out of collective struggle. It is clear that in preventing our human rights defender colleagues from Bahrain, Kuwait, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Cameroon, Syria, and Bolivia from traveling, the respective authorities are not only vindictive, they are terrified of activists. Authoritarians think that if they lock human rights defenders away – behind bars or travel bans or physical attacks – that we will stop listening, that we will forget them. Authoritarians are wrong……….When governments work hard to silence activists, we must work harder to hear them.” [see also:…] […]

  3. […] Mr Dooley, who is from Dingle in Co Kerry and is now based in the UK, told “Formula One fans planning to arrive this week should know what they’re getting into. Bahrain has become an out and out police state.” See also:… […]

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