Archive for the 'books' Category

Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, on Human Rights Defenders in Annual Report 2016

April 27, 2017

Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, devoted a short chapter to Human Rights Defenders in his Annual Report covering 2016 (Chapter 3 V p. 59 – 61):

Human rights defenders

The situation of human rights defenders and the responsibility of states to ensure a safe and enabling environment for their work remained at the forefront of the Commissioner’s attention in 2016. The Commissioner organised and participated in round tables and side events, and in two inter-mechanism meetings, related to the role and the situation of human rights defenders in various parts of Europe. He also published thematic documents relating to the important role and contribution of human rights defenders with respect to the protection of human rights. As part of his continued monitoring, the Commissioner published several statements on the situation of human rights defenders in various regions of Europe. Moreover, the Commissioner intervened before the European Court of Human Rights as a third party in three cases relating to human rights defenders: Khadija Ismayilova v. Azerbaijan; Svetlana Khusainovna Estemirova v. the Russian Federation; and Khalid Bagirov v. Azerbaijan (for further information on third party interventions, see chapter 6 of his report). In March, the Commissioner issued statements about a series of violent attacks against journalists, human rights defenders and NGOs in Chechnya and Ingushetia in the North Caucasus. The Commissioner contacted the Russian authorities indicating the need for immediate protection of those who had come under attack, and for a prompt and thorough investigation with a view to holding those responsible to account.

Round table on missing persons and victims of enforced disappearance in Europe

On 30 June and 1 July, the Commissioner organised in Strasbourg a round table with human rights defenders on missing persons and victims of enforced disappearance in Europe. In addition to human rights defenders from more than 20 different European countries, the event was attended by experts in the eld, including the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, and a member of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, Henrikas Mickevičius. During the round table, the participants discussed the recommendations contained in the Commissioner’s Issue Paper Missing persons and victims of enforced disappearance in Europe. The participants also exchanged important information on issues relating to missing persons, victims of disappearances and transitional justice in European countries affected by these issues. In particular, they raised the importance of establishing the truth, instituting efficient and effective domestic legal and institutional frameworks, and combating impunity through prosecution and punishment of those responsible for enforced disappearances, and the necessity to provide support and reparation for victims. The round table was also aimed at reviewing the situation of human rights defenders working on those issues, including obstacles that human rights organisations and defenders face in carrying out their activities and possible ways to overcome them.

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UN archive on North Korean human rights violations to be established in Geneva

April 8, 2017

The 34th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, 2017

An archive of information and evidence on human rights abuses by the North Korean regime is to be established in Geneva. Quoting a report by the UN Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts (OPPBA), VOA explained that the independent archive, to be created in accordance with a North Korean human resolution adopted by the 34th UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), will be established in physically distant Geneva for the security and total confidentiality of sensitive information.The OPPBA was also quoted as saying a legal officer with at least seven years of experience would be needed to integrate and preserve information and evidence in connection with the archive’s establishment at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva, along with another information management officer with at least five years of experience to conduct practical affairs. It also said its UN human rights office in Seoul would require three staffers: one international criminal system expert, one expert in South Korean criminal law, and one expert in interpreting for South Korean law. On 24 March 2017, the UNHRC adopted a North Korean resolution by non-voting agreement that recommends the international community’s cooperation in investigating responsibility in connection with the findings of a Commission of Inquiry (COI) report on crimes against humanity by the North Korean regime.The resolution suggested specific procedures and methods over the next two years for assigning responsibility for North Korea’s human rights abuses, including boosting the capabilities of the North Korean human rights office and OHCHR, establishing the archive, and appointing legal experts to collect and preserve information and evidence needed for procedures in investigating responsibility.

see also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/02/20/north-korea-the-un-report-in-images/

Source: UN archive on N. Korean human rights abuses to be established in Geneva : North Korea : News : The Hankyoreh

Low key launch of 2016 State Department Human-Rights Report raises questions

March 4, 2017

The Voice of America (3/3/17: Tillerson in Background as State Department Issues Human-Rights Report) and other media reported on the low-key way in which the US State Department launched the 2016 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

FILE - U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in Mexico City, Mexico, Feb. 22, 2017.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in Mexico City, Mexico, Feb. 22, 2017.

Sources:

Tillerson in Background as State Department Issues Human-Rights Report

http://gantdaily.com/2017/03/03/tillerson-skips-release-of-annual-human-rights-report/

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders wraps up his first mandate

February 22, 2017

The UN Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, has published his report (A/HRC/34/52) which covers the period of his first mandate:June 2014 and March 2017 [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/mmichel-forst-2015-hrd-rapporteurichel-forst/  ].

In his report Michel Forst, provides a detailed summary of the activities he carried out during his first mandate, including statistics and trends based on the communications that he sent to States, his visits to a number of countries, the dialogues established with the authorities of various States, and the close cooperation developed with key stakeholders in the protection of human rights worldwide. The Special Rapporteur also presents the work in progress and the challenges and issues on which he plans to focus during his next mandate. The report includes suggestions for diversifying working methods, broadening the scope of cooperation with other key actors, and enhancing the visibility and accessibility of his mandate. Human rights defenders and the promotion of their work and their protection will remain at the core of the Special Rapporteur’s work.

After spending the past three years travelling around the world and documenting the situation of human rights defenders, the Special Rapporteur is more appalled than ever to see attacks against them multiplying everywhere, assailing bloggers, indigenous peoples, journalists, community leaders, whistle-blowers and community volunteers. Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur has become convinced that the incidents in question are not isolated acts but concerted attacks against those who try to embody the ideal of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in a world free from fear and want. The Special Rapporteur is concerned by the lack of response to observations that have been made repeatedly since the establishment of the mandate.

We must be bolder and more creative in order to face up to threats that weigh heavily on civil society as a whole and on every individual fighting for fundamental rights and freedoms. The Special Rapporteur has also noted that intolerance thrives in part because people know little about their rights or the role of those who protect them. In that regard, it is more vital than ever to make the language of human rights accessible to all in order to ensure that civil society continues to enforce accountability.

As defenders face unprecedented attacks intended to undermine the legitimacy, credibility and sincerity of their commitment, it seems essential to quickly establish links between the specific actions undertaken by the Special Rapporteur and the pledges made at the United Nations when he was appointed in 2014. As populist, nationalist and fundamentalist movements of all kinds multiply, the Special Rapporteur remains convinced that more can be done under his mandate and that his office must continue to serve as a watchdog, a warning mechanism and a crucial resource for thousands of people. [Here he echoes sentiments expressed by others and referred to in this blog, see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/12/we-must-find-new-ways-to-protect-human-rights-defenders-and-to-counter-the-anti-human-rights-mood/ and the links to other such articles at the end of the post]

The report also identifies those areas in which, in view of the possible renewal of his mandate, the Special Rapporteur intends to become more involved so that his work remains relevant and responds as effectively as possible to defenders’ expectations.

I refer as source here not directly to the UN but draw attention to an excellent documentary service provided by RELIEFWEB:

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (A/HRC/34/52) – World | ReliefWeb

The killing of Oscar Romero – El Salvador’s ‘turbulent priest’ – written up after 36 years

January 18, 2017

Tom Sandborn wrote in the Vancouver Sun of 7 January 2017 review  of the book “Assassination of a Saint: The Plot to Murder Oscar Romero and the Quest to Bring His Killers to Justice“, by Matt Eisenbrandt, published by University of California Press.

Sainthood and civil torts
Book cover: Assassination of a Saint: The Plot to Murder Oscar Romero and the Quest to Bring His Killers to Justice

It took a single bullet to kill Oscar Romero, but his legacy has outlived many who plotted his murder and he may soon be officially named a saint by the Catholic Church. Assassination of a Saint is an exciting, dramatically paced account of his murder by a right wing death squad and the painstaking and eventually successful efforts to expose some of the men behind the Archbishop’s death.

In El Salvador in 1980, Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador, had been elevated to his position in part because the cabal of land owners and politicians that controlled the tortured Central American state saw him as unlikely to pose uncomfortable moral challenges to their power. But Romero was fast becoming a problem for the elites…. he was condemning the war of right wing terror being waged against the Salvadoran people by the army, police and paramilitary death squads, all of whom took orders and funding from the country’s ruling class and inspiration from a particularly bloody minded brand of Cold War anti-Communism….

During the three years he spent as Archbishop, Romero was gradually radicalized by the suffering inflicted on the poor of his country by the official and unofficial death squads. In the end, he condemned the state and ruling class sponsored murders and called on soldiers and policemen to refuse the orders to turn their guns on Salvadorans standing up for their freedom. “No soldier,” he thundered from the altar, “is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God.” That call for conscientious disobedience was the last straw. The decision was made that the “turbulent priest” must die.

On March 24, 1980, a sniper in a van parked outside the church fired a rifle once, striking Romero in the chest as he said mass and killing him. The assassination made the Archbishop a beloved martyr among the poor, and kicked off a new round of civil war and bloodshed. For decades, no one was held to account for the public murder.

The Assassination of a Saint is the compelling story of how a rag-tag band of idealistic lawyers collaborated with Salvadoran exiles to identify one of the killers, Alvaro Saravia. Because the assassin was found to be living in the United States, the legal team, working out of the San Francisco offices of the Center for Justice and Accountability, was able to file a civil suit against him under an obscure American law, the Alien Torts Act, for damages incurred by Romero’s killing. In the course of that effort, they brought to light much of the hidden history of the Romero murder, meeting with witnesses and accomplices in the crime and uncovering much more about the archbishop’s death than had been known before.

Matt Eisenbrandt was a member of the legal team, and he has written a fast paced, informative and dramatic account. …Before they were successful in that effort in 2004, the crusading lawyers experienced a series of dramatic meetings with perpetrators and potential witnesses, tense moments, mysterious phone calls, frightening visits to El Salvador and years of exhaustive research. Their win was a triumph for human rights defenders, and this book is a powerful account of how that victory was won. 

Tom Sandborn lives and writes in Vancouver. He has been involved in human rights activism for over five decades. He welcomes feedback and story tips at tos65@telus.net.

Source: Sainthood and civil torts

Front Line launches its 2016 Report on Human Rights Defenders at Risk

January 9, 2017

 

After a short break, this blog resumes its job of selecting and summarizing events related to Human Rights Defenders. 2016 was a horrible year for HRDs and the launch of the annual report of Front Line Defenders confirms this by reporting that “more than 1000 human rights defenders were killed, harassed, detained, or subjected to smear campaigns and other violations in 2016″.

Download the Report

According to the report, 281 human rights defenders were murdered in 25 countries, 49 percent of whom were defending land, indigenous and environmental rights. Front Line Defenders found that in the vast majority of cases, killings were preceded by warnings, death threats and intimidation which, when reported to police, were routinely ignored. In addition to killings, over half of the cases reported by Front Line Defenders in 2016 concerned criminalisation, a tactic which the organisation calls “the first choice of governments to silence defenders and to dissuade others”.

For other post on Front Line last year, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/category/front-line/page/4/

Online Survey on ISHR communication

November 4, 2016

As the Geneva-based International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) is one of the most important sources of information on HRDs and the UN, I hope that many of you will be able to give them feedback on their various communications and digital publications by filling our the on-line survey in the link below. It indeed takes not more than 5 minutes to complete. ISHR-logo-colour-high

 

Source: ISHR Online Survey

Universal Declaration of Human Rights truly universal: milestone of 500 languages reached

November 4, 2016

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is now accessible in 501 languages and dialects, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights announced on 2 November 2016.

Our goal is to share the UDHR with the entire world, and it’s a great achievement for us to be able to make this important document available in more than 500 languages,” said OHCHR librarian Alfia Gilbert.

The collection constitutes the world’s most translated document according the The Guinness Records.

The growing number of translations underscores the universality of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the power of its words to resonate strongly across cultures and languages,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

 

 

 

Source: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights now available in more than 500 languages and dialects

Today CIVICUS launches its worldwide Monitor to track civil space

October 24, 2016

Today, 24 October 2016, the NGO CIVICS has launched its Monitor. The CIVICS Monitor, in cooperation with 20 global research partners, rates countries based on how well they uphold the three fundamental rights that enable people to act collectively and make change: freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of expression. The CIVICUS Monitor is not the first to try and provide an overview of the human rights situation the world (see links below) but to my knowledge the first to do so online, in real-time on a global scale, making use of new digital possibilities. Read the rest of this entry »

Shackled Freedoms : what space for human rights defenders in the EuroMed?

September 7, 2016

 

cover-en-shackled-freedomThe recent report SHACKLED FREEDOMS : WHAT SPACE FOR CIVIL SOCIETY IN THE EUROMED? depicts the obstacles and repression against civil society in the region and showcases first-hand accounts from Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Syria, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories among others. The report also features recommendations by CSOs for joint action and seeks to influence EU policies to that effect. The report also focuses on the impact of security and anti-terrorist policies and lists the growing arsenal of repressive measures – both in law and practice – that civil society organizations (CSOs) face on a daily basis: judicial harassment, surveillance, arbitrary arrests, torture and assassination.

Despite legal safeguards and the human rights “shared values” rhetoric in the EU, EuroMed Rights argues that European civil society is under increasing pressure. Austerity measures and anti-terrorism laws are increasingly used to legitimise practices that go against individual freedoms and rights of assembly, association and expression, such as in France, Spain or the UK, for instance. The report – published on 7 September 2016 – is the result of a seminar organised in April 2016 as an open dialogue between EU representatives, South Mediterranean activists and Brussels-based CSOs.

 DOWNLOAD THE REPORT


 

Source: Shackled Freedoms : What Space for Civil Society in the EuroMed? – EuroMed Rights – Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network