Selection of what happened at the local level on Human Rights Day 2015

December 13, 2015

International human rights day is an occasion for a multitude of local activities, some denouncing violations others quietly remembering, some (trying to) march in the streets, others issuing statements. This anthology of 10 such events is far from complete but gives an idea of the variety, from human rights defenders speaking out to governmental institutions ‘celebrating’ ….

1. Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee observed international human rights day in Hyderabad by organzing a seminar on Standards of Human and Civil Rights

Human rights defender K.G. Kannabiran pointed out: “The movement for human rights is a struggle against misrule and unconstitutional governance. Like all human rights activists, I am not unmindful of the group violence perpetuated by various ‘extremists’ or ‘terrorists’, leading to mindless killing and destruction. But the answer to this can’t be the abandonment of governance and civilized conduct on the part of the state. Impunity is never the answer. This sanction of impunity throws into question of the legitimacy of governance and order and points to decay in the system. It is a matter that calls for a national debate. Unless human rights become part of political activity, unless human rights discourse forms part of the substrata of our political arrangements, we will have no road to civilized governance.

IMG_4519                        IMG_4522

On this occasion also happens to be late Prof. Rehana Sultana, former president of CLMC, death anniversary and the organization released a book on her life and struggles to commemorate her fight to defend Human and Civil Rights of the most oppressed sections of Indian society.

On this occasion CLMC issued a statement which expressed its concern on the continuous degradation of human and Civil rights at International level, here in India and especially in the state of Telangana“Indian has a far better Constitution than rest of its contemporaries when it comes to giving protection of rights of its citizens. But when the Government which sworn to the office on the same Constitution, does every act to subvert its very soul, it’s not just become a matter of concern but a frightening scenario. The infamous Dadri lynching and killing of rationalists ignited the debate on increasing intolerance in the country. The fact is Dadri is not the first and unfortunately was not the last incident one in our recent times where minorities, dalits and independent thinkers were systematically targeted. In reality the whole intolerance debate is wide of the mark, this slaughter of Human beings and the increasing anxiety of minorities and Dalits in this country is way beyond society’s state of mind, and it points out to a rotten establishment of governance which is surviving on perpetrating and encouraging crimes by subverting the constitution.” (TwoCircles.net reporting)

2. Several Cuban dissidents were arrested in Havana for taking part in a human rights demonstration on International Human Rights Day.

Only a handful of people were able to make it to the planned site of the unauthorized protests. Shouting “freedom” and “long live human rights,” they were barely able to disrupt traffic before they were hauled away by police. The human rights group Amnesty International said that many members of the protest group, called the Ladies in White, were “arbitrarily restricted” on Wednesday to prevent them from participating in a protest. The activist Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation estimated that at least 100 people were arrested nationwide Thursday. Amnesty had warned that protesters were at an increased risk of detention this year, after 1,477 people were arrested in November. Amnesty said it was “the highest monthly total in many years.”

A supporter of the Ladies in White dissident group looks on as he is detained by Cuban security personnel during a protest on International Human Rights Day, Havana, December 10, 2015.
A supporter of the Ladies in White dissident group looks on as he is detained by Cuban security personnel on 10 December, 2015.

3.  Proyecto Libertad in the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley focused on immigrant rights

4. International Human Rights Day Marked with Appeals to China, Scrutiny of North Korea as reported by Radio Free Asia

international-human-rights-day-marked-with-appeals-to-china-scrutiny-of-north-korea

Activists across Asia marked International Human Rights Day by calling for greater freedom in China and other authoritarian and repressive states, joining foreign diplomats in urging the release of political prisoners, bloggers, and others imprisoned for the peaceful expression of dissent.The day saw a hunger strike by an ethnic Mongolian dissident (Hada) and his family in China, rallies in the capitals of Cambodia and Myanmar and – by a coincidence of the calendar – a hearing on North Korea’s dire human rights situation in the United Nations Security Council that proceeded despite China’s efforts to block it. In Beijing, U.S. ambassador Max Baucus marked the day with a call on China to ease up on its long campaign of suppressing lawyers, human rights defenders and other activists. He cited the cases of detained human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang and jailed Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti as high-profile prisoners of conscience, as did the German embassy, which warned in a strongly worded statement of its own that “serious problems persist with regard to freedom of opinion in China.”

Rights abuses, especially toward China‘s minority populations, have also been made worse by China’s “failed environmental policies,” according to a joint statement released by Han Chinese, Tibetan, Uyghur, and Southern Mongolian activists.

Meanwhile, in Myanmar, the Southeast Asian nation formerly known as Burma, activists gathered to celebrate at the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters Network (HRDP) office in Myanmar’s commercial capital, Yangon.  Any government formed by Myanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD), which won national elections in a landslide victory in November, will have to confront human rights violations in the formerly military-ruled country as its “biggest challenge,” Khin Ohnmar, coordinator for Burma Partnership, said.

In the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, thousands of people rallied at several sites under the slogan “Upholding and Respecting Human Rights and Justice for the Country”?and some petitioned with the Ministry of Justice for reform of the justice and legal system. Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator with the Cambodian rights group Licadho said that Cambodians who protested against land grabs by corrupt officials, businessmen and soldiers have “suffered a continuous series of unjust events.”

The Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (CHRNK) marked International Human Rights Day with briefings for UN missions in New York and a call for Council action. “It is well past the time to take a direct, meaningful stand on accountability, as we have seen throughout history the tragic consequences of inaction and impunity by the international community for millions of victims,” ,” CHRNK Executive Director Greg Scarlatoiu said in a statement.

5. Zimbabwe Human Rights Defenders Honored

Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
Ntungamili Nkomo reports on 11 December that on international human rights day Zimbabwe human rights advocates who excelled this year were honored for their work.  The 2015 Human Rights Lawyer of the Year Awards were issued by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights in conjunction of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum. Winners include Brian Dube, Tanaka Muganji, Langton Mhunga, Tonderai Bhatasara, Marufu Mandevere, Kudzai Kadzere and Gift Mtisi. Mtisi said he was grateful for the recognition, adding he will continue pushing for civil liberties. “I’m happy for the appreciation because when I was working, I was not working for that recognition. I was just doing my job,” said Mtisi.

6. While in Nigeria Human Rights Commission conferred the Grand Commander of Human Rights Defenders award

Popoola Babalola reported that at an award night was held on Human Rights Day in Abuja (also to mark the 20th anniversary of the national human rights commission).

Gani Fawehinmi

The National Human Rights Commission has conferred the award of “Grand Commander of Human Rights Defenders” on late Chief Gani Fawehinmi for his contributions to the promotion of human rights in Nigeria. The News Agency of Nigeria reports that 15 other Nigerians were also honoured for their contributions to the advancement of the rule of law, and defence of fundamental human rights. They included Femi Falana, Maryam Uwais, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, retired General Theophilus Danjuma, Zaaki Azzay and Senator Rabi’u Kwakwanso, among others.
Prof. Bem Angwe, the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, said the recipients were honoured to encourage other Nigerians to recognise, respect and support the rights of others.

7. Sri Lankan Foreign Affairs Minister spoke on Human Rights Day

Following are some of the remarks to media by Mangala Samaraweera, Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Affairs on Human Rights Day at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 10 December 2015.
 “..But this year, Sri Lanka’s commemorations will not only be symbolic – it will also be substantive. So I am very pleased to announce that Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, will today, this morning in New York, in fact, will be signing the International Convention on Enforced Disappearances……

As you know, during the last decade or so, in Sri Lanka, human rights were always spoken as an alien concept. The universal values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law were made out to be alien concepts or western values as the previous government called it and they used to say it’s western values and infringing on our country’s sovereignty.  But, on the 8th of January, we changed all that. The people of this country, upholding the best traditions of democracy, used the power of the ballot to vote for change and through that ballot, the people of Sri Lanka acknowledged that each and every human being, not only in this country, but all over the world, irrespective of race, creed, gender or income level – are bound by common and inalienable rights that we all share as human beings. By just this singular act alone, Sri Lanka took the world by surprise and captured the attention of the world community. …

So it was in this background, that just last night, the Cabinet of Ministers, in keeping with the mandate and vision of our Government to promote and protect the human rights of all citizens and ensure non-recurrence, took an extremely important and decisive step to sign the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which demonstrates the seriousness of which the Government considers this issue. In keeping with this decision taken last night, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative in New York will today, I believe this morning in New York, will sign this Convention. In fact, the Cabinet of Ministers also authorised the Legal Draftsman to undertake the drafting of necessary legislation to give effect to the provisions of the Convention, and the ratification of the Convention once enabling legislation is passed by Parliament, which we hope to do in January next year. 

In fact, we all know that this is an issue that has plagued and pained our nation for long years. All, irrespective of race, religion, language or geographic location, have been affected by this crime for several decades, even in situations that are unrelated to conflict or unrest. The criminalization of enforced disappearance will provide protection to each and every citizen of this country and will help ensure that the terror of the White Van culture does not reign in our society ever again.

We must also remember that the alleged opposition between security and human rights is also a false one. …..And as a Government, we are dedicated to strengthen the human rights of all, strengthen the rule of law and the national Human Rights Commission. 

And, we all know that there can be no lasting peace, no prosperity in our land unless all enjoy freedom and justice as equals. Therefore, we must, as a nation, dedicate ourselves, to not resort, as in the past, to defending the human rights ‘records’ of our Governments but to instead stand up always to defend human rights as a mature and responsible nation. Stand up, speak and act at all times in defence of the human rights of all our citizens. This, I believe, is in our own interest as a nation and there is no need to be defensive about granting to our people, the rights which are due to them. There is no need to fear having a frank and honest dialogue with human rights defenders and UN Special Procedures or our bilateral partners….

8. Statement of the General Secretariat in Al Wefaq on Bahrain

alwefaq flag

On 10 December 2015 the General Secretariat in Al Wefaq National Islamic Society highlighted the following points:

  1. ……
  2. On International Human Rights Day member states in the United Nations with a record of rights violations, including Bahrain, are urged to respect human rights. However, Bahrain has been seeing widening and unprecedented human rights violations, especially after February 2011. This has been documented by international human rights organizations as well as the UN Human Rights Council that issued 176 recommendations in May 2012 on the human rights situation in Bahrain. This is besides the authorities’ unjustifiable delay to respond to the country visit requests of a number of UN Special Rapporteurs, including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.
  3. The General Secretariat in Al Wefaq came across the amendments to the decree of law to protect the society from terror. This law is a setback that takes Bahrain a decade back into history as the amendments contradict international standards, especially the two international rights covenants which Bahrain is signatory of making them essential bases for national legislation. Furthermore, they do not go in line with the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) which revealed serious human rights violations in its report. Legislations that give such power lead to further deterioration in security and human rights.
  4. ..
  5. The General Secretariat stresses that the impunity that is protecting torturers and officials from accountability remains to be a systematic policy of serious concern. This appalling situation carries further encouragement of torture. At the same time, state establishments formed to address the human rights situation have played a shameful role in the entrenchment of the “culture of impunity” and the continuation of systematic torture in Bahrain.
  6. As to the new law that forbids clerics, who are a category of citizens, from exercising their constitutional right to association, we stress that clerics, like all other citizens, must enjoy all political and civil rights. Depriving them of their rights opens doors to deprive other categories on the row, and comes within the tightening policies to expropriate the right to the freedom of political activism in Bahrain, a right already caught in an iron fist.
  7. The continued detention on Al Wefaq’s Secretary General, Sheikh Ali Salman, despite the fact that all accusations against him have collapsed with the absence of real evidence leaves no justification for the detention. Along with the international calls to release Sheikh Ali Salman, Al Wefaq renews its demand for his release immediately.
  8. Bahrain will very soon complete one whole year on the ban of peaceful protest and demonstration. The government continues to illegally ban this right in attempt to hide the nationwide political movement demanding democratic transition.

9. Human Rights House Tbilisi, Georgia, lists achievements and setbacks

Human Rights House Tbilisi joined the celebration of the World Human Rights Day with the publication of a brief on progress in the project “Human Rights in the Regions,” which involves the HRHT member organizations: Human Rights Center, Article 42 of the Constitution, Georgian Center for Psycho-Social and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims, Union Safari, Institute of Human Rights and Conflict Studies – Kavkasia and Media Institute.

The mobile group of human rights defenders addressed several significant issues during one year period. Among them were high-profile cases like: case of the lawyer Giorgi Mdinaradze, who was beaten by police officers, case of Zviad Peikrishvili, beaten by police officers in Kaspi, case of underage G. K, case of M.G vs Company Desheli, cases of the Jehovah Witnesses, etc.

Some of the HRHT processed cases were successfully finalized; proceedings into some cases were suspended for unknown time and alleged perpetrators remain unpunished.

  • ……….

HRHT’s mobile group of human rights defenders continues identification of the facts of human rights violation and advocates them. Every individual can apply to the organization for legal aid in the following address: 11a Meliton Kantaria street (formerly Gagarini street second lane), Tbilisi

10. Sierra Leone: Human Rights Commission marks International Human Rights Day

Ibrahim Tarawallie reports how the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone joined the international community to commemorate human rights day with a ceremony held at the Caritas Hall, St. Edwards Secondary School, Kingtom….

Speaking at the ceremony, chairman for the occasion, Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai said state institutions should be held responsible for the violation of human rights. He said the theme for this year’s celebration, ‘Our rights, our freedoms always’, was pertinent to the Sierra Leonean context where poverty is the greatest challenge, and called for the constitutionalisation of economic, social and cultural rights.

Sources:

Book on Prof. Rehana Sultana released on Human Rights Day | TwoCircles.net

http://www.voanews.com/content/human-rights-day-demonstrators-detained-cuba/3098429.html

http://www.themonitor.com/news/immigration/rio-grande-valley-residents-celebrate-national-human-rights-day/article_1d2adc82-9fbe-11e5-bf54-b736431c4042.html

http://www.bignewsnetwork.com/news/239336739/international-human-rights-day-marked-with-appeals-to-china-scrutiny-of-north-korea

http://www.voazimbabwe.com/content/zimbabwe-human-rights-defenders-honored/3099278.html

http://theeagleonline.com.ng/human-rights-commission-honours-fawehinmi-falana-others/

http://www.news.lk/fetures/item/11273-sl-foreign-affairs-minister-speaks-on-human-rights-day

http://alwefaq.net/cmsen/2015/12/11/45100/

http://humanrightshouse.org/noop/page.php?p=Articles/21355

http://allafrica.com/stories/201512111592.html

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