Archive for the 'awards' Category

Kazakh human rights defender Vadim Kuramshin will probably be granted early release

August 2, 2018

 

Vadim Kuramshin in 2012

Radio Free Europe on 1 August 2018 carried the good news that the prominent Kazakh Rights Defender will new granted parole after 6 years In prison. A lawyer for Vadim Kuramshin, Muratbek Irge, told RFE/RL that a court in the northeastern city of Oskemen agreed on August 1 to parole Kuramshin. He will be released in 15 days if the ruling is not appealed and overturned, Irge said. Kuramshin has become known for his efforts to raise awareness of violations of inmates’ rights in Kazakh penitentiaries, including the one where he served his term. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2012 on an extortion conviction. He denies wrongdoing. His supporters say were politically motivated.

In December 2013, while behind bars, Kuramshin was awarded the Ludovic-Trarieux international human rights prize.[see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/ludovic-trarieux-international-human-rights-prize]

 

Report of MEA’s 25thAnniversary event: Human Rights in a Changing World (30 May 2018)

August 1, 2018

And here is finally the Discussion Summary (in full) of the Martin Ennals Award 25thAnniversary event “Human Rights in a Changing World” [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/05/24/mea-at-25-high-level-anniversary-panel-looks-at-human-rights-in-crisis/].  

 Introduction

On 30 May 2018, the Martin Ennals Foundation convened a meeting of leaders of the ten organizations that make up the Martin Ennals Jury, together with some former MEA laureates, to discuss current human rights priority issues. This, the first such meeting, took place in the context of the 25thanniversary of the Martin Ennals Award for human rights defenders.  The document below attempts to capture the main elements discussed and draws some conclusions.

Discussion

Three issues were scheduled to serve as the agenda:  (1) influencing authoritarians, (2) countering populism, and (3) effective human rights action. We focus on the five main points raised throughout the discussion.

  1. Human rights are increasingly the target of populist and/or authoritarian leaders as they demonize “others” to build support;

Not all authoritarians are populists, and not all populists are authoritarians. The initial discussion looked at the phenomenon of populists who build support by using messages and approaches that give cause for major human rights concerns.  Populist leaders who end up trampling human rights are often those most eager to remove constraints on their own power by weakening the institutions that can challenge them: the judiciary, media, parliaments, and civil society, especially Human Rights Defenders (HRDs).

Authoritarians are increasingly willing to stand up for their approaches, using justifications such as the need for economic development, the rejection of “Western” or “liberal” models, or the protection of national identity.  This is the case for countries where the population have little say in the choice of their leaders (e.g. China); nominal say (e.g.  Russia or Venezuela); or even where the population can vote freely (e.g. Hungary or USA).

The blaming or demonization of marginalised groups is a principal tool in the authoritarians’ arsenal. These groups can include religious or ethnic minorities, or even the targeting of criminals by extrajudicial means. But currently overshadowing all is the way that irregular immigrants have become the focus especially in Europe and the US of attempts to find a scapegoat for the problems that preoccupy the wider population.

The concerns among the population that provide the breeding ground for authoritarian leaders to reject more traditional democratic politics are linked to a variety of issues in the spheres of economic insecurity and law and order, as well as cultural displacement and loss of identity.  Populists have tapped into these concerns, but rather than looking at the deeper complexities they have created resonance with simple, compelling messages that appeal to emotion more than to reason.

The manner in which populists have built support by attacking marginalised groups includes a discourse to deny them certain basic rights. Statements that in the past were seen as reminiscent of fascism and thus politically unacceptable are now part of the political dialogue and supported or at least ‘accepted’  in many countries that were considered “liberal democracies”. Regardless of who is in power, suggesting denial of basic rights to certain groups is now common currency even in many democracies.

Immigration, and in particular “uncontrolled” or “illegal” immigration, is a particular target for populist leaders.  Human rights advocates who stand up for these people’s rights are now more easily accused of working against the national interest. Disconcertingly, blaming such an identifiable “other” time and again appears a simple but effective tool. Politicians focusing on complex causes face an uphill battle. Human rights organizations trying to protect the “other” may find their messages not just ineffective, but providing arguments for populists to use against them.

The result is that human rights, and human rights activists and organizations, are seen by significant numbers of people in many countries as serving effectively to support those who threaten their livelihood, safety and cultural values. Thus, human rights, as a concept, come under attack when associated with protecting “undesirables”.

While “human rights” as a concept may be easily misunderstood, or intentionally manipulated, views tend to be more supportive once specific rights are acknowledged and advanced. This applies particularly to a broad range of economic and social rights issues that resonate with a wider cross-section of the population: corruption, land rights, labour rights, and environmental degradation.  These issues tend to be underrepresented as human rights concerns and more effort should be made to show the connections. It was stressed that young people especially are willing to work on these issues.

A recurring theme in the discussion was that while there may be support for particular rights such as LGBT or land rights, this would not usually be translated into supporting the overarching human rights architecture in general. Messaging by human rights organizations often involves conceptual messages, which have been ineffective in the past. However, the new, and more dangerous, element is rather than just being ineffective, these messages can provide arguments in the opposite direction for populists.

The conclusion that presents itself is that those working on any particular topic will have to be much more aware of the wider context in which they work. While trying to draw attention onto specific issues, it is important to remain credible in the eyes of the wider public. This means that as human rights organizations decide where and how to focus their activities, the balance of issues worked on needs to be considered as part of the perception that the organization wants to build.

For those organizations with very specific mandates, and so a limited choice of issues to focus on, it is even more important to find approaches that do not provide arguments that can be used by those working against them.

  1. Naming and shaming needs to take into account that certain approaches can reinforce populist leaders

 

“Naming and shaming” has long been one of the main tools to press for human rights.  However, given the success of the populist messages, some leaders have been able to justify human rights violations and even use criticism to make their point to supporters. This is particularly so when the criticism associated human rights with the least “desirable”.

Even though authoritarians may feel no compunction to stand behind their methods or even boast about them, they still are sensitive to their reputations. They often mobilize significant resources to thwart or stop human rights defenders, which shows that they still think arguments in favour human rights are important enough to be dangerous for them.

There is no reason to conclude that public shaming is no longer effective, but it needs to be carefully tailored to each situation. Failure to do so can play directly into the hands of the authoritarian leader who may claim the criticism as a badge of honour. Populists are sensitive to being ridiculed; humour at their expense can be powerful. In any case the planned message needs to be carefully analysed to determine how the message could be used to their benefit by those it seeks to challenge.

Sanctions against Individuals

The use of personal sanctions and restrictions on autocrats and their cohorts is increasing and is found often to have considerable impact.   However, where this can trigger counter-measures it is important for unintended consequences such as reprisals against human rights defenders to be factored into the equation.

 

  1. Public communication

There was broad agreement about the importance of moving beyond the traditional ways of communicating human rights concerns and articulating advocacy. The human rights narrative mainly resonates with those most familiar with, and supportive of, the issues.  Messages are often legalistic and technical, limiting their appeal to a wider audience. In the current fractured political dialogue, when the objective is seen as supporting an “other” a new level of hostility can result.

The most effective communications are on issues that the recipient can identify with. This makes normative and conceptual work very hard to get the wider public people excited about. They are more likely to react to messages where they see themselves as potentially affected. This is what makes the demonization of “others” so effective.  Action against migrants or minorities does not strike people as something that can happen to them. Even when talking about civil and political rights, it is still possible to see the most serious violations such as torture and enforced disappearance as something that happens to others.

It may well be easier to mobilise people around social justice issues like corruption, land rights, labour rights, and pollution. There is a general sense that economic, social, and cultural rights are not sufficiently addressed. Countering populists will need messages in language that appeal to populist followers’ values, interests and indeed emotions. Here it is important to offer constructive solutions to move the debate forwards rather than condemning what is wrong. Furthermore, there is a need to work in alliance with broader elements of civil society such as social movements, and so tap into sources of wider support. Effective use of visual and social media is indispensable.

Dialogue with autocrats

Governments are not monoliths. There are different interests and views within autocratic states that can be utilized when dealing with them. It is important to weigh the trade-offs in any such interaction; while dialogue can be opened up it needs to be able to lead to action. There are risks that autocrats could use the fact of dialogue to legitimise their actions. At the same time, they may go along but with no intent to move forward – e.g. dialogue that only involves the foreign ministry is usually a sign that little will happen. As a rule, dialogue should go hand in hand with public communication that creates pressure. The ‘diplomacy’ must have a public component.

 

  1. Non-state actors/business and human rights

Non-state actors can play powerful roles influencing the state primarily for their own benefits, and so contributing directly or indirectly to infringement of human rights. The business sector, notably multinational enterprises, is considered a clear priority in this regard. Effective action to ensure compliance is still limited by gaps in normative rules; where such enterprises may be vulnerable to reputational risk, strengthened regulation should help ensure that they are competing on a level playing field.

There is a multitude of pressure- and leverage points. One that drew particular attention is the notion that the eventual cost to companies resulting from a lack of early engagement with the local population may be exponentially higher than had they consulted at the start. Involvement at the early planning process by all sides can reduce the risk of project failure or excessive costs later on. Other leverage points include banks/financial institutions, shareholder activism, and associated business partners such as suppliers who may have reputational concerns.

Overall, the thrust of engaging with the business sector in the sphere of human rights must be to shift the emphasis from focusing on transparency to seeking accountability.

 

  1. Supporting local action for human rights

Much of the discussion looked at recent changes in the West as to how human rights are viewed, whereas the global South continues to face the challenges it always has.  Furthermore, certain changes that originated in the West such as funding restrictions on political activity, and anti-terrorism legislation have inspired new methods to restricts human rights defenders  in countries with more structural human rights problems.

Reassuringly, experience shows that even in countries with structurally problematic human rights records there are networks of committed human rights activists. While they may be small in numbers, their commitment and drive allow them to keep human rights concerns on the agenda. Many of these activists feel unsupported when facing the resources, restrictions, and wrath of their own governments. However, this commitment to human rights by an engaged minority is a clear counterweight to populism and human rights abuses more widely.

Thus, a key message arising out of the discussion is the importance of supporting local activists and networks. Supporting them is a critical function of the international human rights movement. The work for human rights defenders cannot be seen in isolation from the causes they espouse, which in turn enables international human rights organisations to connect with broader social movements.

Rules vs implementation

While there may still be a need for developing norms and standards in certain areas (as with regard to business and human rights), the overall emphasis must increasingly be on implementation and enforcement of existing rules. This requires a more comprehensive approach that moves from identifying where norms are violated, to a systematic approach to keeping pressure on governments in question until there is change. This will involve increased coordination between international actors and those working locally.

 

In conclusion

Convening the leaders of all the MEA jury organizations together with former laureates was a first. It gave a unique opportunity to discuss the state of human rights and human rights action in today’s rapidly changing and increasingly contested world. The analysis differed in nuance only, the overall findings and conclusions had a large degree of consensus. While these outcomes may not in themselves offer ground-breaking new insights, that fact of the shared orientation and commitment is remarkable and encouraging in the face of the formidable challenges in front of us.

You can see and hear the public debate led by BBC’s Lyse Doucet on the MEA website: http://www.martinennalsaward.org (viewed by hundreds of people)

Senator de Lima – in detention in Philippines – receives her award

July 30, 2018

 PRIZE FOR FREEDOM. Liberal International gives the Prize for Freedom award to detained Senator Leila de Lima. Her son Israel and other members of her family receive the award on her behalf. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler
Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

On Saturday, 28 July 2018 Liberal International has given its ‘Prize for Freedom’ (as announced a year ago) to detained Senator Leila de Lima. Her son Israel and other members of her family receive the award on her behalf.  “Human rights are for all, or they are for nothing. The world is indeed watching, and Leila de Lima’s unjust detention will not be forgotten…. Senator Leila de Lima, you have received this prize for speaking truth to power,” Liberal International (LI) president Juli Minoves said during ceremonies held at the Novotel hotel in Quezon City on Saturday night. Minoves said this is the first time in almost a decade that the Prize for Freedom is being awarded outside of Europe. Fo more on this award and some 20 others with the word ‘freedom” in their name, see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/prize-for-freedom-liberal-intl

On Saturday, De Lima’s brother read her speech on her behalf: “I am extremely and unconditionally blessed, so much so that there is no room in my heart for regrets or second thoughts. No room for could haves, would haves, or should haves. I am where I am because I did the right thing.” Later in her speech, De Lima said that while dictators, oppressors, and abusers come and go, “we, the defenders of the people, can never rest.

In May Amnesty International (AI) Philippines, had recognized the detained Senator as the “Most Distinguished Human Rights Defender” on its first-ever Ignite Awards for Human Rights. Time Magazine listed her as one of its 100 Most Influential People and Foreign Policy. Fortune Magazine in April 2017 ranked her as the 39th out of 50 of the World’s Greatest Leaders.

See also my: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/10/there-seems-to-be-no-limit-to-what-duterte-is-willing-to-say-and-may-get-away-with/

https://www.rappler.com/nation/208371-de-lima-family-receives-prize-for-freedom-award-liberal-international

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1014640/de-lima-2nd-filipino-to-receive-prize-for-freedom-award-after-cory-aquino

http://www.canadianinquirer.net/2018/05/29/ai-names-de-lima-as-most-distinguished-human-rights-defender/

 

Kenyan Lawyer, Allan Maleche, wins 2018 Elizabeth Taylor Human Rights Award

July 26, 2018

The International AIDS Society (IAS), amfAR and The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation have announced that the Elizabeth Taylor Human Rights Award 2018 goes to a Kenyan lawyer, Allan Achesa Maleche, for his role in advancing human rights in the field of HIV and AIDS. Maleche received the award at the 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. For more information on this award: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/elizabeth-taylor-human-rights-award

Allan Maleche knows that the law is a powerful tool to protect human rights,” IAS President Linda-Gail Bekker said. “As a tireless crusader for the rights of people living with and affected by HIV and TB, Allan has achieved legal victories that have not only protected individuals. They have also led to smarter, more effective policies that reject stigma and discrimination and advance more humane and effective approaches to ending the twin epidemics of HIV and TB.”

“This award recognizes how critical rights-based approaches are to the HIV and TB responses. It is a wonderful honour that will inspire me and my colleagues in our continued work to protect the human rights of everyone affected by these epidemics,” the laureate said. He becomes the third winner of the award. The first winners of the award were Iranian physicians Arash and Kamiar Alaei in 2012, then Ugandan Physician and gay rights activist Paul Semugoma in 2014.

https://howafrica.com/kenyan-lawyer-allan-maleche-wins-the-2018-elizabeth-taylor-human-rights-award/

Nominations for the 2019 Dodd human rights prize open

July 23, 2018

The public is being invited to submit nominations for the human rights prize awarded biennially by the University of Connecticut. For more on the Thomas Dodd Human Rights Award see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/thomas-j-dodd-prize-in-international-justice-and-human-rights.

Nominations are being accepted online through 1 October.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/04/physicians-for-human-rights-gets-dodd-human-rights-award/

https://www.theday.com/statenortheast-news/20180721/public-invited-to-submit-nominations-for-dodd-human-rights-prize

Human rights lawyer Felicia Langer died on 21 June 2018

June 24, 2018

Felicia Langer (born 9 December 1930 ) died on 21 June 2018. She was a German-Israeli attorney and human rights defender known for her defence of Palestinian political prisoners in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She authored several books alleging human rights violations on the part of Israeli authorities. She lived in Germany from 1990 and acquired German citizenship in 2008.In her writings, lectures and interviews she criticized the Israeli policy in the occupied Palestinian territories, which she considered equivalent to an annexation. Langer furthermore considered the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank as undermining the possibility of a two-state solution and demands the complete and unconditional retreat of Israel from the territories conquered in 1967 and a right to return for any descendant of the Palestinian refugees. In 1990, Langer received the Right Livelihood Award ” for the exemplary courage of her struggle for the basic rights of the Palestinian people.” In 1991, she was awarded the Bruno Kreisky Award. In July 2009, President of Germany awarded her the Federal Cross of Merit. The bestowal triggered a public controversy because of her attitude towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For more on human rights awards see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/

 on 23 June wrote in an Op ED in EurAsia Review Felicia Langer is highly respected and revered by the Palestinians like no other Israeli-German citizen. Only Yasser Arafat is more adored. Both the Palestinian Authority and the city of Tübingen, where she lived in exile, should set up a memorial place for this great German-Israeli woman…Felicia Langer is one of the few outstanding Israeli-German personalities who have sacrificed themselves to the legitimate concerns of the Palestinian people to the last breath, and whose memory should remember by all three peoples. Their tireless commitment to Palestinian justice and human rights should always be considered an inspiration and a societal obligation to their political actions.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felicia_Langer

https://www.eurasiareview.com/23062018-german-israeli-human-rights-lawyer-felicia-langer-passes-away-oped/

Iranian human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, arrested – again

June 16, 2018

 

Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh next to her husband Reza Khandan | Behrouz Mehri/AFP via Getty Images

 

On 13 June 2018, Nasrin Sotoudeh, the human rights defender was arrested at her home in Tehran, Iran. She was transferred to prosecutor’s office of Evin prison.  Nasrin Sotoudeh https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/nasrin-sotoudeh  is a prominent human rights lawyer who in recent months has acted as the lawyer for women’s rights activists who protested against the compulsory veiling in Iran and were subsequently prosecuted. According to her husband, Reza Khandan, Nasrin Sotoudeh was informed that she will be imprisoned for five years, however neither of them are aware of the charges against her.  

In 2010, Nasrin Sotoudeh was given a prison sentence of eleven years and banned from working as a lawyer or leaving the country for twenty years. Nasrin Sotoudeh remained in prison for three years under charges of ‘spreading propaganda’ and ‘conspiring to harm state security’, designed to force her to stop her legitimate and peaceful human rights activities. Nasrin Sotoudeh was finally released in September 2013 after receiving a pardon. Prior to her detention, Nasrin Sotoudeh represented many human rights defenders opposed to the current regime in Iran, and worked extensively with young prisoners who had been sentenced to death for crimes they committed when they were under 18. In 2012 she won the EU’s Sakharov award {http://thedigestapp.trueheroesfilms.org/publicpage#/awards/BDE3E41A-8706-42F1-A6C5-ECBBC4CDB449/Sakharov-Prize-for-Freedom-of-Thought]

 see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/07/08/portrait-of-nasrin-sotoudeh-in-iran-activism-with-a-defiant-smile/

————- 

https://www.politico.eu/article/nasrin-sotoudeh-european-politicians-call-on-iran-to-release-eu-prize-winner/

https://www.voanews.com/a/iran-re-arrests-human-rights-lawyer-rights-groups-outraged/4438948.html

https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2018/6/14/irans-renowned-rights-lawyer-sotoudeh-arrested-husband

1 Million $ Aurora Prize Awarded to Rohingya Human Rights Defender Kyaw Hla Aung

June 10, 2018

Kyaw Hla Aung

Kyaw Hla Aung Photo: Aurora
The third Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity was awarded to Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung, a lawyer and activist recognized for his dedication to fighting for equality, education and human rights for the Rohingya people in Myanmar, in the face of persecution, harassment and oppression. The award comes with 1 million USD to be given by the Laureate to other organisations. For more on this and other awards see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/aurora-prize-for-awakening-humanity.  See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/25/inaugural-aurora-prize-1-million-goes-to-marguerite-barankitse-founder-of-burundian-orphanage/Vartan Gregorian, Co-Founder of the Aurora Prize and Member of the Selection Committee, commended Mr. Aung, stating: “As we remember the horrors and violence experienced by Armenians – especially women and children – on the deportation route during the Genocide, it is with a great sense of responsibility that we stand ready to support Kyaw Hla Aung’s advocacy work that will hopefully lead one day to the enactment of national and international policies to protect and defend the vulnerable. Kyaw Hla Aung is doing tremendous work, at great risk to himself, and exemplifies the far-reaching impact one person can have to galvanize a movement, and to help individuals transform their lives.

As the 2018 Aurora Prize Laureate, Kyaw Hla Aung will receive a $ 100,000 grant and he will donate $ 1,000,000 award to:
•    Médecins Sans Frontières (London)
•    Malaysian Medical Relief – MERCY Malaysia (Malaysia)
•    International Catholic Migration Commission – ICMC (Switzerland, USA)

Kyaw Hla Aung has been working for decades, using his legal expertise to appeal for basic human rights for the stateless Rohingya people. His commitment to fight for justice for the hundreds of thousands of Muslim refugees in Myanmar persecuted by the government, and for the children who no longer have access to education, remains stronger than ever. He sacrificed a total of 12 years in prison as a result of his mission, at huge personal cost to his own family.  On being named the 2018 Aurora Prize Laureate, Kyaw Hla Aung said: “There are severe restrictions on my people. They have lost their courage and faith in themselves, have become illiterate, and, as a result, are penniless. It has been heartbreaking to see my community suffer from such discrimination. The support of the Aurora Prize serves as important recognition for all of the Muslim victims of human rights violations, as the plight of the Rohingya people continues to become more visible to the international public.”

Kyaw Hla Aung was congratulated by Dr. Tom Catena, who was awarded the 2017 Aurora Prize for his exceptional commitment to providing urgent medical care to the 750,000 people in the war-torn Nuba Mountains of Sudan. He said: “The Aurora Prize has created a true light for our people in Nuba, and has helped rebuild the resilience of our community, ultimately to keep people alive. I am proud to share the Aurora Prize mantle with such a selfless humanitarian as Kyaw Hla Aung. I congratulate him on receiving this award and applaud his incredibly selfless efforts fighting for such a noble cause.”  [see also” https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/28/nominations-are-open-for-the-2018-aurora-prize-for-awakening-humanity/]

Guests of the Aurora Prize Ceremony also honored the contributions of the other two 2018 Aurora Prize Humanitarians: Dr. Sunitha Krishnan, women’s rights advocate and Co-Founder of Prajwala, India, and Father Tomás González Castillo, Founder of La 72, a center that supports Central American migrants in Mexico.

https://mediamax.am/en/news/society/28882/

http://hetq.am/eng/news/89973/$11-million-aurora-prize-for-awakening-humanity-awarded-to-rohingya-human-rights-defender-kyaw-hla-aung.html

Ahmed Mansoor: ten years jail for tweeting and a street named after you

June 7, 2018

Joe Odell's picture Joe Odell (press officer for the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE) wrote on Wednesday 6 June 2018 a long piece in the Middle East Eye about the “UAE‘s shameful imprisonment of Ahmed Mansoor“. As the last dissident voice in the Emirates is silenced, it remains to be seen who is left to speak out about injustice in the UAE, he states rightly. As I have posted regularly on him (see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/04/13/update-on-mansoor-in-uae-after-one-year-detention-appears-in-court/), will only refer to a few highlights in Odell’s article:

“Last week Abu Dhabi’s Supreme Court sentenced the awarded-winning Emirati human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor to 10 years in prison after finding him guilty of using his social media account to “defame the nation” by spreading “rumours and lies about the UAE” and promoting “sectarian feelings and hatred” among its citizens. It is a ruthless ruling for one of the region’s most prominent rights campaigners, who in 2015 won the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders after his tireless struggle for basic political and civil rights in the UAE.……

It was almost as if the UAE wanted to get this news out in a way that created as little fanfare as possible. Many hours were to pass before the UAE state-owned publication the National confirmed that this was indeed Ahmed Mansoor; international media promptly picked up the story within minutes – no doubt to the ire of the UAE government. Emirati authorities, however, are yet to give an official comment on the court decision. More pertinently, Mansoor’s exact whereabouts remains unknown, leaving the 48-year-old father of four at grave risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FMiddleEastEye%2Fvideos%2F1707420759323305%2F&show_text=0&width=476

…..Perhaps, in his heart, Ahmed knew this day would come. But he always refused to place himself above the struggle, telling journalist Bill Law prior to his arrest: “The only way to counter repression is by revealing it. And, yes, there is always that possibility that I will go back to jail. But if activists do not talk, who will?”

This knock-on effect has already begun. In the UK, pressure is now mounting on Manchester mayor Andy Burnham to issue a statement on Ahmed’s case after a coalition of 34 NGOs, including Amnesty International and the European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, demanded intervention. This is a sensitive and fought over issue in a city whose council have burgeoning commercial links with the UAE, and whose football club is owned outright by the Emirates’ deputy prime minister, Sheikh Mansoor bin Zayed al-Nahyan. [see below]

…….Meanwhile, in north London, Arsenal supporters are now questioning their club’s links with the UAE, which began with their move to the Emirates Stadium more than 10 years ago. In response to Ahmed’s sentence, leading Arsenal fan website the Daily Cannon published an editorial calling for a review of the club’s sponsorship deal with Emirates Airline. Perhaps for the first time the UAE’s soft-power project in the UK now lies on contested ground, not only from regional foes, but increasingly from ordinary people across Britain….[ see also my: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/09/15/fly-emirates-if-the-emirs-let-you/]

And indeed on Friday 3 June 2018, campaigners in Manchester, UK, held a “street renaming” ceremony for Ahmed Mansoor and to highlight the city’s close links with the UAE government. Activists raised a banner saying “Ahmed Mansoor Street” in Manchester, to pressure the city’s council to bring up the case of the blogger who was sentenced to a decade in jail by UAE authorities this week.

The protest took place on Thomas Street, in the city’s fashionable Northern Quarter district. Supporters of Mansoor in the UK have asked Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham to help secure the release of the free-speech activist. The campaigners believe one way that could help is for Burnham to name a street after the 2015 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders laureate.

“As the first directly-elected Mayor of Greater Manchester you are in a unique position to show leadership on this issue,” a letter by Mansoor’s supporters to Burnham stated. “Your public support for a street named after Ahmed Mansoor – and calling for his immediate and unconditional release – would demonstrate your commitment to this heritage and these ideals.

Manchester has deep ties with the Gulf state, including companies and investment groups tied to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the de-facto ruler of the UAE. The football club, Manchester City, is also owned by leading Emirati royal Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

——-

Third laureate of the 2018 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent now announced

May 27, 2018

On 27 May 2018 the Human Rights Foundation announced the third of three recipients of the 2018 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent, Vietnamese pop star and democracy advocate Mai Khoi. HRF delayed this announcement for fear that the Vietnamese government would ban Mai from traveling as a result of her pro-democracy activism. Mai will be recognized in a ceremony during the 2018 Oslo Freedom Forum on Wednesday alongside the two other 2018 Laureates, underground group Belarus Free Theatre and South Sudanese musician and former child soldier Emmanuel Jal. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/04/12/havel-prize-for-creative-dissent-2018-two-of-three-winners-announced-today/]

Khoi is an independent artist who is shaping public discourse in Vietnam. She reached stardom in 2010, when she won the highest award for songwriting in Vietnam. As a celebrity, Mai advocated for women’s rights, LGBT rights, and to end violence against women. More recently, she became the focal point of public discourse after nominating herself to run in the 2016 parliamentary elections. Her pro-democracy campaign sparked a nationwide debate about political participation and ultimately led to a meeting with then-U.S. President Barack Obama. Since running for parliament, Mai has had her concerts raided, has been evicted from her house twice, and is effectively banned from singing in Vietnam. In March 2018, she was detained at Hanoi airport on suspicion of “terrorism” after returning from a European tour.

Despite this harassment, Mai continues to find creative ways to spark conversation on art, human rights, and democracy. In February 2018, she released a new album, “Mai Khoi Chem Gio – Dissent.” In a review of the album, The Economist commented, “If music alone could break chains, this would be the music to do it.” Mai’s work aims to counter the authoritarian ways of thinking that justify social control. She is currently the subject of a feature-length documentary that is scheduled to air on Netflix in 2019.

Mai Khoi is outstanding in her commitment to human rights,” said Havel Prize Committee Chairman Thor Halvorssen. “Through her music and her campaigns, she has put civil liberties and democracy on the forefront of public conversation in Vietnam.

The Havel Prize ceremony will be broadcast live at oslofreedomforum.com at 3:00 p.m. Oslo time (GMT+2) on Wednesday, May 30.

https://mailchi.mp/hrf/2018-havel-prize-celebrates-vietnamese-musician-mai-khoi?e=f80cec329e