Archive for the 'awards' Category

‘Lost Childhoods’ – an interactive graphic novel exposing child abuse in Nigeria – awarded at BAFTA

June 20, 2019

Journalist-photographer Marc Ellison receiving the award in London on Monday evening [One Media World]
Journalist-photographer Marc Ellison receiving the award in London on Monday evening [One Media World]

The winning entry – Lost Childhoods: How Nigeria’s Fear of Child ‘Witchcraft’ Ruins Young Lives – was praised on Monday for its interactive investigation into the practice of branding children and young adolescents as “witches”. “Combining graphic novel imagery with film, this highly accessible piece effectively covers a major human rights issue,” One World Media organisers said from the awards gala at London’s British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA).

Blamed for family illness, sudden financial loss or other misfortunes, the children are often beaten, locked into cages, branded with hot knives or made to undergo costly “exorcisms” performed by so-called “prophets” in local churches. With little choice but to flee, many children end up as drug addicts and living in rubbish dumps or on the streets.

AJLabs teamed up with journalist-photographer Marc Ellison and Nigerian illustrator Samuel Iwunze to unearth the facts of this under-reported story. Working meticulously with local fixers, NGOs and child psychologists, Ellison was able to expose the practice that has taken hold in parts of the Niger Delta and that has partially been fuelled by myths propagated by the Nigerian film industry.

Lost Childhoods employs a mix of visual and textual formats, including comic/graphic novel illustrations to preserve anonymity and portray past events. Carlos Van Meek, Al Jazeera’s director of Digital Innovation and Programming, said, “This story, in particular, is a skilful weave of investigations, videos, photos and illustrations that brings to light disturbing physical, emotional and religious abuse against children. Our goal is – and always will be – to make an impact that leads to positive change at the local and international level.”

As further testament to the production, AJLabs worked with NGOs to translate the graphic novel into local languages for distribution within communities, schools and churches in Nigeria, in an attempt to educate people and end the practice of scapegoating innocent children and branding them as witches.

Nigeria witchcraft

Cartooning in the doldrums? Cartooning Award 2019 seeks nominations!

June 19, 2019

Last week the New York Times announced that it would no longer carry [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/10/business/international-new-york-times-political-cartoons.html] political cartoons in its international edition. The outcry was loud but also accompanied by other voices such as on 16 June 2019 “The point is that globalisation and information technology have changed the business of cartooning. Cartoonists wedded to the old-school, in-house ways of the 20th century can throw tantrums about free speech as much as they like. If they do not recognise the way the world has changed – and is changing – then they will be left behind as their profession moves forward. History is not on their side. Just as 18th-century copperplate engravings were replaced by lithograph prints, and standalone caricatures were replaced by cartoons in 19th-century humour magazines, and they in turn by 20th-century newspaper cartoons, the web cartoon has well and truly arrived in the 21st century.“[http://theconversation.com/the-new-york-times-ends-daily-political-cartoons-but-its-not-the-death-of-the-art-form-118754]

In the meantime, Cartoonists Rights Network International seeks nominations for its twenty-fourth Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award. Read the rest of this entry »

Aziz, MEA Laureate 2019, recognised as refugee in Switzerland from where he promises to continue the struggle

June 10, 2019

On 10 June 2019, RNZ Pacific brought the news that Abdul Aziz Muhamat, the 2019 Laureate of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, has found asylum in Switzerland. From Geneva he posted a video on social media to announce that his claim for asylum had been accepted.

Abdul Aziz Muhamat…”I have everything it takes for me to fight for the freedom of each and everyone.” Image: Amnesty International


See also: Manus Island police chief calls for state action over suicidal refugees

Greta Thunberg becomes Amnesty International’s 2019 Ambassador of Conscience

June 7, 2019

Climate activist Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future movement of schoolchildren have been given Amnesty International’s ‘Ambassador of Conscience’ award for 2019

Climate activist Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future movement of schoolchildren have been given Amnesty International’s ‘Ambassador of Conscience’ award for 2019 © Amnesty International

On 7 June it was announced that climate activists Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future movement are given Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award 2019 [for more on this and other such awards:http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/ambassador-of-conscience-award]. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/10/first-prix-liberte-of-normandy-for-teen-climate-activist-greta-thunberg/.

The Fridays for Future movement was started by Greta Thunberg, a teenager from Sweden who last August began protesting outside the Swedish parliament – skipping school every Friday demanding the Swedish government take more serious action to tackle the climate crisis. Her efforts have inspired a global movement, with the most recent Fridays for Future schools strikes seeing more than one million young people from all over the world take part, with demonstrations in more than 100 countries.

Greta Thunberg, said: “It is a huge honour to receive Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience award on behalf of Fridays for Future. This is not my award, this is everyone’s award. It is amazing to see the recognition we are getting and know that we are fighting for something that is having an impact.  To act on your conscience means that you fight for what you think is right. I think all those who are part of this movement are doing that, because we have a duty to try and improve the world. The blatant injustice we all need to fight against is that people in the global south are the ones who are and will be most affected by climate change while they are the least responsible for causing it.

Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said: “The Ambassador of Conscience award celebrates people who have shown unique leadership and courage in standing up for human rights. I can think of no better recipients this year than Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future climate strike movement.

Greta Thunberg, said: “Human rights and the climate crisis go hand in hand. We can’t solve one without solving the other. Climate change means people won’t be able to grow food, their homes will come under threat and their health will be compromised. Governments have a duty to protect us, so why are they doing nothing to stop climate change from devastating our lives?”

Kananura Irene, a Fridays for Future activist from Kampala, Uganda, said: “Sometimes I feel really sad because some of the people I try to talk to won’t listen. Some people insult us, others think we are politicians, and others ignore us entirely, they tell us maybe we won’t finish what we’ve started.  But I can assure everyone that we are really determined to finish what we have started, because our futures are on the line.

[Around the world, attacks against ordinary people who stand up for freedom, justice and equality are surging. Authorities around the world are misusing their power to crack down on human rights defenders – imprisoning, torturing and even killing them for speaking up. In 2018, 321 defenders in 27 countries were targeted and killed for their work – the highest number ever on record. Amnesty is calling on the UK Government to show the world that protecting human rights defenders is a priority.]

—-

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/greta-thunberg-given-amnestys-2019-ambassador-conscience-award

https://www.dw.com/en/greta-thunberg-fridays-for-future-movement-win-amnesty-human-rights-award/a-49096921

UN secretary-general attacks populists in Charlemagne Prize speech

June 5, 2019

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres in Aachen | Florian Ebener/Getty Image
The human rights agenda is losing ground to nationalist agendas, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned: “Many people are turning inwards looking at a golden age that probably never was,” he said of populists, religious extremists and nationalists.  Accepting the prize for work done in the service of Europe’s unification, the former Portuguese prime minister said that there is no alternative to the European Union, as no country can meet current challenges alone.

..He called on the Continent to come to grips with some serious challenges, such as migration, climate change and the disruption created by technological developments.

While he noted that many societies are today multicultural, multiethnic and multireligious, Guterres stressed that there is work to be done to ensure that each community is respected and that it feels it belongs to society as a whole.

Guterres also praised Europe’s 1-year-old General Data Protection Regulation, which sets rules for how companies and other entities have to deal with data protection and people’s privacy in the current digital world. The law is a testament to how the EU can ensure the protection of human rights, he said.

On how to revigorate the human rights ides, see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/30/positive-communication-is-the-only-way-forward-for-effective-human-rights-work/

Three award-winning Colombian human rights defenders on a European tour to raise awareness

May 29, 2019

Three award-winning Colombian human rights defenders visited the Lutheran World Federation on 27-28 May as part of a European tour to raise awareness of the dangers and difficulties faced by so many people working for justice and peace in the country today. According to the Somos Defensores network which monitors attacks against human rights defenders, 2018 was one of the worst years ever for these activists and social leaders in Colombia, with over 800 attacks and 155 murders reported. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/26/somos-defensores-in-colombia-publishes-annual-report-2018-worst-ever/]

The three are recipients of the 2018 National Human Rights Defenders award, presented by the Church of Sweden and the Swedish faith-based organization Diakonia, with the support of the Swedish government. Its goal is to draw international attention to struggles of those working for human rights, especially those located in isolated, grassroots communities/

Germán Graciano Posso, legal representative of the San José de Apartadó Peace Community in the northwest of Colombia, shared stories of over 300 members and supporters of his community who have been murdered in the past two decades. The small farming community of some 600 people was founded in 1997 at the height of the conflict between the government and members of the two main guerrilla groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN)… Germán said he and the community “had high hopes with the country’s peace process that everything would change for the better” but that has not happened. The paramilitary presence has been growing in the past months, he said, and young people continue to be recruited into their ranks, an issue that has been acknowledged by the Ombudsman office.

Dolis Estela Valencia is a leading member of the Black and Afro-Descendant Community Council of Alto Mira y Fronteras in Tumaco, on the Pacific coast close to the border with Ecuador. The Council represents 42 local communities, working to support the Afro-Colombian people whose collective land rights were recognized by the government in 1993. Despite that legal recognition, Dolis shared her experience of death threats, forced displacements and assassinations of those struggling to defend their land and livelihoods Farmers in this community are trying to grow cocoa beans, bananas and other traditional crops instead of the coca leaves that drive Colombia’s lucrative drug trafficking industry. Her community is included in the government program for the substitution of illegal crops as part of the peace accords.

Genaro de Jesús Graciano is legal representative of a socio-environmental organization, Movimiento Ríos Vivos in Antioquia which includes 15 grassroots communities affected by the giant Ituango hydroelectric dam project. Plans for the 220-meter high dam across the Cauca river were completed a decade ago and construction began in 2011, but Genaro said the project –one of the largest of its kind in Latin America – has been flawed from the start…Genaro and his organization have filed official complaints and requests for compensation from the construction company and shareholders, the Empresas Públicas de Medellin and the regional Government of Antioquia. Besides, the national environment authority (ANLA) has issued official warnings about the dangers of this project which have been disregarded. In the meantime, 5 environmental leaders have been killed, while many others have been the targets of death threats, discrimination and exclusion from public debates about the future of the dam.

As well as sharing stories during an encounter at LWF headquarters and meeting UN special rapporteurs in Geneva, Germán, Dolis and Genaro were also visiting Berlin, Stockholm and Uppsala as part of the 16 to 29 May European tour. A fourth prize winner, 78-year-old community leader Maria Ligia Chaverra, was unable to take part in the tour because of health reasons. All of them underline the importance of the Human Rights Defenders prize in shining a much-needed spotlight on their stories and bringing international attention to the plight of their communities.

https://www.lutheranworld.org/news/dangerous-task-defending-human-rights-colombia

Eren Keskin in Turkey sentenced to prison and more to come..

May 28, 2019

On 28 May 2019 Euromedrights brought out a press release “Sentencing of Eren Keskin: another blow against freedom of expression in Turkey”.

This extremely courageous human rights defender has received attention in this blog recently [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/12/martin-ennals-award-finalist-eren-keskin-honoured-in-ankara/].

On 21 May, at the final hearing of the Özgür Gündem “Editors-in-Chief on Watch” campaign trial, woman human rights defender and co-chair of the Human Rights Association-Insan Hakları Dernerği (IHD), Eren Keskin, was sentenced to 3 years and 9 months prison term for “propaganda for a terrorist organisation” and “openly inciting to commit crime”

As deeply concerning as this sentencing is, it is far from an isolated case: across Turkey, civil society activists struggling to ensure basic human rights and fundamental freedoms are targeted by the judiciary, acting as an extension of the legislative power, for legitimately and peacefully exercising their constitutional rights. EuroMed Rights strongly condemns the judicial harassment against Ms Keskin and her fellow activists. 

EuroMed Rights calls on the Turkish authorities to respect their obligations under international human rights treaties, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Turkish constitution, end the crackdown on critics and halt the persecution of human rights defenders. and release all those detained for peacefully expressing their opinions.

Note The Editors-in-Chief on Watch campaign of Özgür Gündem daily began on May 3, 2016 and ended on August 7, 2016. Daily was closed through the Statutory Decree No. 675 issued under the State of Emergency. At the end of March, Ms. Keskin has been sentenced to 7 years and a half on charges of “insulting the President and State institutions” over three reports published in the newspaper in 2015. On 3 July, she will again stand trial in front of 23th High Criminal Court in Istanbul for the “ Özgür Gündem main trial”.

https://mailchi.mp/euromedrights/sentencing-of-eren-keskin-another-blow-against-freedom-of-expression-in-turkey?e=1209ebd6d8

Thai Anti-Junta Rap group awarded the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent

May 27, 2019

Corrected version: Last week I announced the 3 laureates of the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/15/2019-laureates-of-the-vaclac-havel-prize-for-creative-dissent-announced/] and one of them is Rap Against Dictatorship, which was threatened with legal action for their 2018 hit ‘My Country’s Got’, a viral rap video lambasting Thailand’s junta and justice system. Rap Against Dictatorship said two of its rappers are flying to Norway to attend the award ceremony, which will be held at the Oslo Freedom Forum – the same event which invited junta critic and Khaosod English writer Pravit Rojanaphruk to speak in 2015. “Liberate P and Jacoboi are our representatives to receive the prize. Please keep supporting us,” the group said.

My country preaches morals but has a crime rate higher than the Eiffel Tower. My country’s parliament house is a soldiers’ playground. My country points a gun at your throat,” read some of the lyrics.

Police officials considered filing sedition charges against the rappers, to much ridicule on social media, but no legal action was taken.

http://www.khaosodenglish.com/politics/2019/05/27/anti-junta-rappers-awarded-creative-dissent-prize/

 

The story of Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa: a survivor from Burundi

May 27, 2019

On 24 May 2019 Open Democracy published another long piece on an inspiring human rights defender – in cooperation with the Fund for Global Human Rights.  In “How international solidarity saved an activist’s life in BurundiAntoine Kaburahe describes the story of Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, the laureate of the Martin Ennals Award 2007. [http://www.martinennalsaward.org/hrd/pierre-claver-mbonimpa-2/]. The author was personally involved in the case and the piece is a good example of how international solidairy can save lives.

A man standing beside children in green clothing
Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa visiting minors detained in prison
..Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa was the founder of a human rights organisation, APRODH, in his home country of Burundi, and it had worrying information: the ruling party was secretly distributing weapons to its youth wing. APRODH had also investigated the military training of young Burundians across the border in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where Burundians had been involved in a long-running conflict – without unofficial support from their government. In 2014 Mbonimpa had been imprisoned by the Burundian authorities, which accused him of “smearing the government and lying”. Thanks to an international mobilisation, including a call from Barack Obama, then US president, he had been released on parole, but the regime kept an eye on him…..Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa was used to threats. But that day, the killers meant them. It was in the evening that the news dropped. Pierre-Claver had been shot. Word spread rapidly: ‘Mutama’, the ‘old man’, as he is affectionately called, is well-known and respected for his commitment to human rights in Burundi…

Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa remembers well what had happened. He had been in his car with his driver. “I saw behind us a motorcycle that was riding at a breakneck speed. The bike got to us at a fast pace. The man shot four bullets. The shooting was almost close-range. A bullet hit me on the neck and blood spurted.” Bleeding heavily, he was rushed to hospital in a critical condition. I went there to see what was happening: at the time I was still a journalist in Burundi before being myself forced into exile. The crowd was already at Bujumbura Central Polyclinic.

Security guards sent by various embassies came to ensure my safety at the Polyclinic, because there was a rumour that I was going to be killed in my hospital bed,” says Pierre-Claver. “All the embassies worked in synergy for my evacuation. “Despite my weakness, my pain, I would like to say that I saw a great surge of solidarity at that moment,” says Pierre-Claver. “In my room I saw distinguished individuals such as diplomats of the African Union, those of the European Union and ambassadors.

It was clear to his supporters that Pierre-Claver needed to leave the country immediately. Currently in Belgium as a refugee, [his daughter] Zygène Mbonimpa remembers with overwhelming emotion the support of The Fund for Global Human Rights: “Doctors quickly noticed that Mutama had been seriously affected. He needed care he could not find in Burundi. And then, we were afraid he would be finished off on his hospital bed. I wrote to Tony Tate [programme officer at the Fund] and his reaction was quick. He agreed to pay for flight tickets, and the organisation also contributed to the payment of hospitalisation costs in Burundi.”

Tate confirms Zygène’s account... I immediately sought approval from my directors and board members to make an emergency grant,” he says. “We were able to wire the money to APRODH’s account within 24 hours. After the money arrived, it became clear that Pierre-Claver would receive other money and assistance from other funders as well. The money The Fund provided was combined with others to pay for the travel costs of one of his family members to accompany him to Brussels.

That financial support was critical. The Belgian embassy had agreed to give Pierre-Claver a visa, but the family had to find air fares in a very short time. “Without this support, we would have had a big problem to raise this money while Dad’s life was in a very critical condition,” says Zygène. Tate says he was pleased that the Fund was able to respond to the incident and ensure the safety of one of its long-time partners: “My hope was that the family would see that as an organisation, we stand by our grantees in good times and in bad,” he says. “As a human rights funder, we have an ethical responsibility to provide emergency funding when activists we support are in danger. Human rights work is inherently risky and those who support it must stand ready to respond quickly when defenders are in need.”

In Brussels, Pierre-Claver was quickly operated on. Doctors first fastened a metal frame on his head to hold his skull together. He spent 121 days in hospital, fed by serum and then a kind of porridge, as he could not open his mouth or chew food. He sat in an armchair, unable to lie down, and his weight went down from 82 kg to 54 kg. But his ordeal did not stop there. As they had missed him, those who wanted to kill him went after his family. First, his son-in-law, Pascal Nshirimana, was killed, and while he was still in the hospital, his son Weli, 24, was also killed. [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/11/12/mea-laureate-mbonimpa-has-message-of-hope-at-his-sons-funeral/]

Through all this, the now seventy-year-old activist has remained a man guided by peace and justice. We have never heard him speak of revenge…

Always on the phone, Pierre-Claver continues to encourage teams on the ground. He also travels very often in the sub-region. “It is important that the international community continues to support independent human rights organisations in Burundi,” he says, “because with the closure of UN organisations and the ban on international media including the BBC, there is a risk that human rights violations will be committed behind closed doors. Organisations such as APRODH still have focal points. But they need means to work.”

Pierre-Claver remains modest and accessible despite two honorary doctorates by major Belgian universities and several international awards. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/17/mbonimpa-wins-also-the-2017-civil-courage-prize/]. Asked what he thinks of those who tried to kill him, he simply answers: “I forgave those who shot me and those who killed my son and my son-in-law. But I want justice. If the assassins were arrested, I would be happy to see justice doing its job. For my part, I will not ask for any compensation. What would they give me for the death of my child and my son-in-law?

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/frontline-insights/how-international-solidarity-saved-an-activists-life-in-burundi/

Profile of Sri Lankan Marini de Livera: a lawyer and a ‘Woman Of Courage’

May 23, 2019

REBECCA ELLIS published a profile of Marini de Livera under the title “She’s A Lawyer … A Thespian … And Now A State Department ‘Woman Of Courage‘”

Marini de Livera’s plays are not for the faint of heart. In her home country of Sri Lanka, the pro bono lawyer has found that crimes against women and children often take place behind closed doors — in homes, orphanages and schools. With her traveling theater group, de Livera seeks to shed light on the human rights abuses in her country by putting the violence on stage, front and center. “There are beautiful laws in the law books,” she says. “But when I went out to the slums, to the rural areas, to conflict-ridden areas, I found what is in the law books is not a practical reality.”

A pro bono attorney with a degree in speech and drama from Trinity College London, de Livera has spent her career using theater to ensure that the lofty lessons she learned in law school can be used to assist Sri Lankans who are unlikely to ever see an attorney. Her dedication to helping women and child victims of crime has made her one of the 10 recipients of the 2019 International Women of Courage award [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/11/international-women-of-courage-awards-2019-given-out-at-the-us-state-department/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/12/one-journalist-who-did-not-get-the-women-of-courage-award-but-almost/].

De Livera has served as the chairperson of Sri Lanka’s child welfare agency, the National Child Protection Authority, and now runs Sisters at Law, an advocacy group for impoverished women and children. She spoke with NPR about her creative approach to addressing human rights in her country, and why she’s focusing on using her theater training to better the situation of children in Sri Lanka’s orphanages.

What are some of the legal issues that women and children in Sri Lanka need help with?

Women and children are denied justice if they’re uneducated, and if they live in rural areas. They don’t enjoy the same basket of human rights that privileged people have because they don’t have access to lawyers.

What needs to happen to accomplish that?

There has to be legal literacy. These women and children have to know what the laws in the country are and what their human rights are. If they are educated about their rights, they can go to court and demand them.

You’ve often used theater to promote this legal literacy in Sri Lanka. Can you give me an example of how this works?

One of my favorite plays I put on was about corporal punishment. I went to a Catholic school where a priest was hitting boys every day. I explained to the school that there are different forms of violence – cultural violence, psychological violence, physical violence. Then I asked the boys to make a play about their experiences with violence. And one of the boys reenacted what the priest had done to him. [It helped] these boys find an outlet to say, “We don’t want to kneel down when we come late to school. We don’t want to be beaten by a cane.”

How did you come to see theater as a way to educate the public on their legal rights?

I had been a lecturer in law [in Sri Lanka], and one of the things I had to teach was U.K. law principles. And the students were bored to death. So I said, these are the books, you read, then you tell me what the rule of law and separation of powers are through a performance. I realized if I could use this in the classroom, why not in the village to simplify the law?

What is your theater group working on now?

I’m working on a street theater [program] to create awareness for parents [and encourage them] not to send their children to orphanages. I’m going to show that family is the place for the child. In Sri Lanka, we have a lot of “social orphans” where they have both parents, but the children are suffering in orphanages.

Past reports have found that over 80 percent of the 20,000 children in Sri Lanka’s child-care institutions, including orphanages, have at least one parent. These parents are often unable to provide for their children or the child has a disability and requires extra care. And sometimes the children are sent to such an institution because of a criminal offense.

Orphanages should be the last resort. So I’m promoting alternative care. Some of the mothers are capable of looking after their children, but they’ve handed over their child to an overcrowded orphanage. I’m thinking of giving parenting skills training to these mothers and economically empowering them, finding them a nice home and settling the children with them.

You mentioned earlier that this prize is the first time in your life you felt appreciated for “walking in the opposite direction” from others in the law profession. Do you have hopes other attorneys will follow in your path?

I’m very unhappy to say each time I go to court people come up to me like a swarm of flies and say, “We don’t have a lawyer to appear on behalf of us.” I want to take all the country’s young attorneys and train them to be another Marini – to clone myself. Because I have to hand this on to the younger generation.

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2019/03/08/701212104/shes-a-lawyer-a-thespian-and-now-a-state-department-woman-of-courage