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CIVICUS STATE OF CIVIL SOCIETY REPORT 2022

June 29, 2022

This year’s report published at the halfway point of 2022 shines a light on a time of immense upheaval and contestation. The report finds hope, however, in the many mobilisations for change around the world: the mass protests, campaigns and people’s movements for justice, and the many grassroots initiatives defending rights and helping those most in need.

The report identifies five key current trends of global significance:

  1. Rising costs of fuel and food are spurring public anger and protests at economic mismanagement
  2. Democracy is under assault but positive changes are still being won
  3. Advances are being made in fighting social inequality despite attacks
  4. Civil society is keeping up the pressure for climate action
  5. Current crises are exposing the inadequacies of the international governance system.
  1. Governments around the world are failing to protect people from the impacts of massive price rises worsened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Public anger at a dysfunctional economic system, poverty and economic inequality and corruption is rising. Mass protests are the result. In Sri Lanka, widespread protests against economic mismanagement led to resignation of the prime minister. In Iran people are demanding fundamental change as food prices soar. In Kazakhstan over 200 people were killed with impunity following protests over fuel price rises. But people will continue to protest out of necessity even in the many countries where fundamental freedoms are repressed and state violence is inevitable.
  1. Institutions and traditions of democracy are under increasing attack. Coups are imperilling hard-fought gains. The military has gained power in multiple countries, including Burkina Faso and Sudan. In several others, including El Salvador and Tunisia, elected presidents are removing democratic checks on power. Entirely fraudulent elections have been held in countries as different as Nicaragua and Turkmenistan. Autocratic nationalists have triumphed in elections in countries including Hungary and the Philippines. But at the same time there have been successful mobilisations to defend democracy, not least in theCzech Republic and Slovenia, where people voted out political leaders who fostered divisiveness in favour of fresh and broad-based alternatives. Progressive leaders promising to advance social justice have won power in countries such as Chile and Honduras. In many contexts, including Costa Rica andPeru, a prevailing sentiment of dissatisfaction is leading to a rejection of incumbency and willingness to embrace candidates who run as outsiders and promise disruption.
  1. In politically turbulent times, and despite severe pushback by anti-rights groups, progress has been achieved in advancing women’s and LGBTQI+ rights. The USA, where neoconservative forces are emboldened, is ever more isolated on sexual and reproductive rights as several other countries in the Americas, including Colombia and Mexico, have eased abortion restrictions following civil society advocacy. Opportunistic politicians continue to seek political advantage in vilifying LGBTQI+ people, but globally the normalisation of LGBTQI+ rights is spreading. Most recently, the people of Switzerland overwhelmingly voted in favour of an equal marriage law. Even in hostile contexts such as Jamaica important advances have come through civil society’s engagement in regional human rights systems. But when it comes to fighting for migrants’ rights, only Ukrainian refugees in Europe are being received with anything like the kind of compassion all such people deserve, and otherwise the dominant global sentiment is hostility. Nonetheless, a new generation is forging movements to advance racial justice and demand equity for excluded people.
  1. A young and diverse generation is the same social force that continues to make waves on climate change. As extreme weather gets more common, the brunt of the climate crisis continues to fall disproportionately on the most excluded populations who have done the least to cause the problem. Governments and companies are failing to act, and urgent action on emissions cuts to meet the size of the challenge is being demanded by civil society movements, including through mass marches, climate strikes and non-violent civil disobedience. Alongside these, climate litigation is growing, leading to significant legal breakthroughs, such as the judgment in the Netherlands that forced Shell to commit to emissions cuts. Shareholder activism towards fossil fuel firms and funders is intensifying, with pension funds coming under growing pressure to divest from fossil fuels.
  1. Russia’s war on Ukraine is the latest crisis, alongside recent conflicts in the Sahel, Syria and Yemen, among others, to expose the failure of global institutions to protect people and prevent conflict. The UN Security Council is hamstrung by the veto-wielding role of Russia as one of its five permanent members, although a special session of the UN General Assembly yielded a resolution condemning the invasion. Russia has rightly been suspended from the UN Human Rights Council, but this peak human rights body remains dominated by rights-abusing states. If the UN is to move from helping to prevent crises rather than trying to react to them, effective civil society engagement is needed. The world as it stands today, characterised by crisis and volatility, needs a UN prepared to work with civil society, since civil society continues to seek and secure vital progress for humanity.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/05/26/10th-edition-of-civicuss-state-of-civil-society-report-2021/

See also the IPS post: https://www.ipsnews.net/2022/06/five-takeaways-2022-state-civil-society-report/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=five-takeaways-2022-state-civil-society-report

New report: You Tube also needs scrutiny

June 22, 2022

In June 2022, Paul M. Barrett and Justin Hendrix of NYU’s STERN Centre for Business and Human Rights came with a very timely report: “A Platform ‘Weaponized’: How YouTube Spreads Harmful Content— And What Can Be Done About It“. We know less about YouTube than the other major social media platforms. YouTube, with more than 2 billion users, is the most popular social media site not just in the United States, but in India and Russia as well. But because of the relative difficulty of analyzing long-form videos, as compared to text or still images, YouTube has received less scrutiny from researchers and policymakers. This in-depth report addresses the knowledge gap.

Like other major platforms, You Tube has a dual nature: It provides two billion users access to news, entertainment, and do-it-yourself videos, but it also serves as a venue for political disinformation, public health myths, and incitement of violence.

——————————————————————-

YouTube’s role in Russia illustrates this duality. Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, YouTube has offered ordinary Russians factual information about the war, even as the Kremlin has blocked or restricted other Western-based social media platforms and pressured foreign journalists in the country to silence themselves. But for years before the brutal incursion, YouTube served as a megaphone for Vladimir Putin’s disinformation about Ukraine and its relations with the West. Despite its heft and influence, less is known about YouTube than other major social media sites.

Does YouTube send unwitting users down a ‘rabbit hole’ of extremism?

In response to reports that the platform’s own recommendations were “radicalizing” impressionable individuals, YouTube and its parent, Google, altered its recommendation algorithm, apparently reducing the volume of recommendations of misinformation and conspiratorial content. But platform recommendations aren’t the only way people find potentially harmful material. Some, like the white 18-year-old accused of shooting and killing 10 Black people in a Buffalo, N.Y., grocery store, seek out videos depicting violence and bigotry. These self-motivated extremists can find affirmation and encouragement to turn their resentments into dangerous action.

A social media venue with global reach

Roughly 80% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the United States, and because of language and cultural barriers, the platform’s content moderation efforts are less successful abroad than at home. The report explores how YouTube is exploited by Hindu nationalists persecuting Muslims in India, right-wing anti-vaccine advocates in Brazil, and supporters of the military junta in Myanmar.


In Part 2, we examine YouTube’s role as the internet’s vast video library, one which has contributed to the spread of misinformation and other harmful content. In 2019, for example, YouTube reacted to com-
plaints that its recommendations were pushing impressionable users toward extremist right-wing views.
The company made a series of changes to its algorithms, resulting in a decline in recommendations of conspiratorial and false content. But recommendations are not the only way that people find videos on YouTube. A troubling amount of extremist content remains available for users who search for it. Moreover, YouTube’s extensive program for sharing advertising revenue with popular creators means that purveyors of misinformation can make a living while amplifying the grievances and resentments that foment partisan hatred, particularly on the political right.

In Part 3, we turn our attention to YouTube’s role in countries outside of the U.S., where more than 80%
of the platform’s traffic originates and where a profusion of languages, ethnic tensions, and cultural variations make the company’s challenges more complicated than in its home market. Organized misogynists in South Korea, far-right ideologues in Brazil, anti-Muslim Hindu nationalists, and supporters of Myanmar’s oppressive military regime have all exploited YouTube’s extraordinary reach to
spread pernicious messages and rally like minded users. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/11/02/bbc-podcast-on-the-framing-of-video-monk-luon-sovath/]


Recommendations to the U.S. government

Allocate political capital to reduce the malign side effects of social media: President Biden’s off-the-
cuff expressions of impatience with the industry aren’t sufficient. He ought to make a carefully considered statement and lend his authority to legislative efforts to extend federal oversight authority. Former President Obama’s recent speech at Stanford about disinformation provided a helpful foundation.
Enhance the FTC’s authority to oversee social media: Some of the issues raised in this report could
be addressed by a proposal we made in a February 2022 white paper—namely, that Congress should
authorize the Federal Trade Commission to use its consumer protection authority to require social media companies to disclose more data about their business models and operations, as well as provide procedurally adequate content moderation.

To YouTube:
Disclose more information about how the platform works: A place to start is explaining the criteria
algorithms use to rank, recommend, and remove content—as well as how the criteria are weighted relative to one another.
Facilitate greater access to data that researchers need to study YouTube: The platform should ease
its resistance to providing social scientists with information for empirical studies, including random samples of videos.
Expand and improve human review of potential harmful content: YouTube’s parent company, Google,
says that it has more than 20,000 people around the world working on content moderation, but it declines to specify how many do hands-on review of YouTube videos. Whatever that number is, it needs to grow, and outsourced moderators should be brought in-house.
Invest more in relationships with civil society and news organizations: In light of their contribution to the
collapse of the advertising-based business model of many U.S. news-gathering organizations, the platforms should step up current efforts to ensure the viability of the journalism business, especially at the local level.

The NYU Center for Business and Human Rights began publishing reports on the effects of social media on democracy in the wake of Russia’s exploitation of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. We initially advocated for heightened industry self-regulation, in part to forestall government intervention that could lead to First Amendment complications. As the inadequacy of industry reforms has become clear, we have supplemented our calls for self-regulation with a proposal for enhancement of the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer protection
authority to oversee the industry.

In Part 4, we offer a concise version of the FTC proposal, as well as a series of recommendations to YouTube itself. The report does not address the problem of YouTube hosting potentially harmful videos aimed at children and teenagers. This persistent phenomenon deserves continued scrutiny but is beyond the scope of our analysis.

VIEW FULL REPORT

https://bhr.stern.nyu.edu/blogs/2022/6/10/report-a-platform-weaponized-how-youtube-spreads-harmful-content-and-what-can-be-done-about-it

Emirates’ claim to improve its legal system are nonsense

June 7, 2022

Human Rights Watch on 5 June 2022 published a detailed piece showing that wide-ranging legal changes introduced by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in late 2021 fail to address the long-standing and systematic restrictions on citizens’ and residents’ civil and political rights. The new laws maintain previous provisions and include new ones that pose grave threats to fundamental human rights.

As reported by the state news agency WAM in November, the legal changes include amendments to over 40 laws including on crime and punishment, cybercrimes, and drugs, aiming “to strengthen economic, investment and commercial opportunities, in addition to maximizing social stability, security and ensuring the rights of both individuals and institutions.” While the changes allow for a moderate broadening of personal freedoms, the new legal framework retains severe restrictions on the rights to free expression, association, and assembly.

While the UAE government and its state-controlled media outlets trumpeted these new legislative changes as a massive step forward for economic and social freedoms, they will further entrench government-imposed repression,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The UAE government has chosen to squander an opportunity to improve freedoms across the board and instead has doubled down on repression.”

Human Rights Watch conducted a comprehensive legal analysis of two of the new laws, the crime and punishment law and the cybercrimes law, to identify any changes related to the rights to free expression and free assembly. Both laws went into effect in January 2022.

The laws continue to prohibit criticism of rulers and speech that is deemed to create or encourage social unrest, imposing severe penalties for vaguely defined charges. They maintain provisions that criminalize defamation and both verbal and written insults, whether published or made in private, as prosecutable offences. New provisions criminalize “false” and “misleading” information, sharing information with foreign groups or countries, and “offending foreign states.” Protests and demonstrations would still be prohibited.

UAE authorities have also spied on international journalists, activists, and even world leaders using sophisticated Israeli and EU-produced spyware, or with the help of former US intelligence officials. Some of those whose communications and devices were targeted by the government surveillance and who are residents of the UAE, were subsequently arrested and abused in detention. Among them is the prominent Emirati human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/08/29/apple-tackles-iphone-one-tap-spyware-flaws-after-mea-laureate-discovers-hacking-attempt/]. A UAE court sentenced Mansoor to 10 years in prison in May 2018 following a grossly unfair trial, partly based on private email exchanges and WhatsApp conversations. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/05/massive-call-in-support-of-ahmed-mansoor-at-his-50th-birthday-how-can-emirates-remain-deaf/ and https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/074ACCD4-A327-4A21-B056-440C4C378A1A

The UAE authorities should take immediate steps to bring the penal code and cybercrime law into line with international and regional standards on free speech and individual freedoms, Human Rights Watch said. The UAE has not ratified the ICCPR, article 19 of which outlines the right to freedom of opinion and expression. But it is a state party to the Arab Charter on Human Rights. Article 32 of the Arab Charter ensures the right to information, freedom of opinion and freedom of expression, and article 24 guarantees the right to freedom of political activity, the right to form and join associations, and the right to freedom of assembly and association.

The UAE cannot market itself as a reformist and tolerant state while introducing new laws that increase its already alarming levels of repression and censorship,” Page said….

The piece further provides a detailed analysis of penal and Cybercrimes Law.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/06/05/uae-sweeping-legal-reforms-deepen-repression

International Service for Human Rights: annual report 2022 (2021)

May 8, 2022

The last 18 months have been deeply challenging from a human rights perspective, with the COVID pandemic exposing and exacerbating inequalities, human rights defenders continuing to face deadly threats and choking restrictions to their work, and some governments working to undermine the accessibility and effectiveness of human rights mechanisms and multilateral processes.  But it’s also been a period over which sparks have been lit on key issues which we must now nurture and ensure fires of progress that long burn bright. 

ISHR invites you to discover our latest annual report, outlining our key impacts during the last year and our vision for 2022 and the years ahead.

What did we achieve in 2021?

Here are just a few examples of our collective impact:  Together with human rights defenders fighting racism, we celebrated the establishment of a historic expert mechanism to advance racial justice and equality in law enforcement, as well as a commission to inquire into the root causes of conflict and violence against the Palestinian people. Together with defenders promoting women’s rights, we were inspired by the widespread mobilisation and calls for accountability in cases of sexual harassment and assault, as well as the release from arbitrary detention of a number of prominent women human rights defenders. Together with defenders working on the environment and the climate crisis, we commended the landmark recognition under international human rights law of the right to a healthy and sustainable environment, as well as the mandating of a new UN Special Rapporteur on Climate Change. Together with defenders working to make governments accountable, we rejoiced in seeing an increased number and diversity of persons prepared to speak up and take action against widespread and systemic violations in States including China, Egypt, Nicaragua, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, while in other States in Africa, Asia and Latin America progress was made in the legal recognition and protection of defenders. See more achievements by clicking on the two videos below and visiting our website!

For other annual reports of 2021, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/annual-report-2021/

Announcing the launch of its 2022 Annual Report

State of human rights in Pakistan 2021

May 7, 2022

On 2 May 2022 – for the 30th year – the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has put forward its review of the state of human rights in the country and the measures that should be taken to reduce human rights violations in the country. The main takeaway from the report is that there were blatant and unrelenting attempts to crack down on dissent, with at least nine journalists having faced harassment in an attempt to silence them in their work. As happens every year, violence against women took every possible form: from rape to domestic abuse to horrific murders to honour killings. The report has noted that 478 honour killings were reported in the country in 2021, although the number is almost certainly much higher with many never reaching the press, and over 5000 cases of rapes were reported by the media. Overall, violence in the country appeared to have increased quite dramatically. The HRCP has especially noted the case of Nazim Jokhio, and the mob lynching of Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara in Sialkot. These are but just a few examples of the disturbing trend of increased violence in the country. Just a few months back, research had revealed how many of these cases of violence are perpetrated by young people. The past few years we have watched in horror as Pakistani society has increasingly grown more violent — bringing nightmare-inducing optics straight to our phones. This is a direct result of the extremist tendency prevalent in society, an inevitable consequence of consistent state policies.

The report has also noted the way the previous government used ordinances to push through laws, some of them highly detrimental to freedom of expression. The HRCP has also noted that religion was used multiple times over the years to try and stop various acts of legislation from being passed. One of the most difficult issues human rights defenders in Pakistan have faced over a number of years has been that of missing persons or enforced disappearances. In 2021, says the HRCP, the highest number of enforced disappearances was reported to have been in Balochistan, with the government having failed to resolve concerns of families of the missing despite sit-ins in Islamabad.

From missing persons to the Gujjar and Korangi nullah evictions to sectarian violence to violence against transgender persons — the HRCP’s State of Human Rights 2021 is a timely reminder to the current government that it must do better on all these counts and more. It is on the Shehbaz Sharif led government to ensure that media freedom is upheld, there are no more arbitrary anti-journalism laws, and journalists are not harassed for doing their jobs. The incumbent government must not make the mistake of taking human rights issues lightly during its tenure. This report card on human rights by the HRCP comes out every year but each successive government has failed to take suggestions from rights activists seriously. It is hoped that with a change in government there will finally be a change in how citizens’ rights are treated and that all citizens from all communities and regions in the country can feel safe and less vulnerable to injustice and state or non-state violence.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/12/asma-jahangir-memorial-lecture-at-second-anniversary-of-her-death/

The Chair of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) is Hina Jilani.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/954916-state-of-human-rights
https://www.latestly.com/agency-news/world-news-address-human-rights-violations-seriously-hina-jilani-to-pak-government-3654179.html

European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) 2021 Annual Report

May 1, 2022

In the face of the multiple crises of our time, ECCHR continues to stand for human rights and climate justice. To outline the scope of our aims, Joshua Castellino, a member of the ECCHR Advisory Board, authored a piece for its Annual Report that clearly emphasizes how we must think collectively about the future. For us, “collectively” means that our actions as human rights lawyers are to be guided by global solidarity and cooperation.

In her series Contagion – Colour on the Front Line (whose pieces she and the Autograph Gallery allowed us to reproduce in this report), Aida Silvestri uses cocoa, tea, tobacco, sugar and coffee to draw a connection between colonial exploitation and those who were carelessly exposed to danger during the pandemic while providing largely low-paid services with almost no protection.

This post follows other references to annual reports 2021: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/annual-report-2021/

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FIFA World Cup: the human rights plans of host cities

April 17, 2022

On 5 April 2022, the Centre for Sport and Human Rights (CSHR) and a leading international law firm (Clifford Chance) have released a report that provides a perspective on the human rights plans of the cities vying to host the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup matches. The Promise of a Positive Legacy: The 2026 FIFA World Cup Host City Candidates’ Human Rights Plans provides an overview of the diverse and wide-ranging plans published by the cities to address the human rights impact of hosting the international event for each of 22 candidate cities in Canada, Mexico and the United States.

The collaborative work by CSHR [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/27/new-global-center-for-sport-and-human-rights-created-to-address-abuses/] and Clifford Chance is an independent report recognising highlights from each city’s human rights strategy, providing a view across numerous human rights factors addressed by the cities, including anti-discrimination, human rights-related environmental impact, and workers’ and housing rights. The report recognises proposed initiatives to advance human rights promotion and protection at a city-by-city level, highlighting commitments made in the respective candidate city bids. It also identifies opportunities for ongoing dialogue and peer-learning within and among the cities and stakeholders.

CSHR experts worked with a team of 13 Clifford Chance lawyers from New York, Washington, DC and London to review and analyse submissions from all 22 cities, from three countries, over nearly a three-month period. The report’s release comes in the run up to FIFA, the world’s governing body of football, selecting the host cities and will complement FIFA’s assessment of the cities’ human rights plans.

The Promise of a Positive Legacy includes a compelling colour-coded heatmap that offers an at-a-glance view of where cities have placed the greatest emphasis on human rights issues most salient to their own contexts.

United26 Istock 464570479 Final Square

The report: The Promise of a Positive Legacy: The 2026 FIFA World Cup Host City Candidates’ Human Rights Plans

Download Here

https://www.sporthumanrights.org/news/cshr-and-clifford-chance-release-report-on-2026-fifa-world-cup-host-city-candidates-human-rights-plans/

US State Department’s report 2021 is out

April 14, 2022

On 12 April, 2022, the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices was made public. The Human Rights Reports 2021 cover internationally recognized individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements. The U.S. Department of State submits reports on all countries receiving assistance and all United Nations member states to the U.S. Congress in accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Trade Act of 1974. For nearly five decades, the United States has issued the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, – in 2021, covering 198 countries and territories.  The preface states that: “The Biden Administration has put human rights at the center of U.S. domestic and foreign policy.  We have also recognized our nation has not always succeeded in protecting the dignity and rights of all Americans, despite the proclamations of freedom, equality, and justice in our founding documents.  It is through the continued U.S. commitment to advance human rights, both domestically and internationally, that we best honor the generations of Americans who are Black, Brown, or other people of color, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, LGBTQI+ persons, immigrants, women and girls, and other historically marginalized groups whose advocacy for their rights and for others has pushed America toward a “more perfect union.

President Biden has called the defense of democracy and human rights the defining challenge of our time.  By convening the first Summit for Democracy in December 2021 – bringing together representatives from 100 governments as well as civil society and the private sector – he sparked global attention and vigor toward democratic renewal and respect for human rights.  Participating governments made significant commitments to revitalize democracy at home and abroad at the first Summit on which we expect meaningful progress during the current Year of Action and before the time of a second Summit.

The reports paint a clear picture of where human rights and democracy are under threat.  They highlight where governments have unjustly jailed, tortured, or even killed political opponents, activists, human rights defenders, or journalists, including in Russia, the People’s Republic of China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nicaragua, and Syria.  They document abuses of peaceful protestors demanding democracy and fundamental freedoms in countries such as Burma, Belarus, Cuba, Hong Kong, and Sudan.  They highlight worrying cases of transnational repression – where governments reach across borders to harass, intimidate, or murder dissidents and their loved ones – as exemplified in the dangerous forced diversion by Belarus of an international commercial flight for the sole purpose of arresting a critical independent journalist.

But they also contain signs of progress and glimmers of hope, as the indomitable will to live freely can never be extinguished.  In Iraq, people cast their votes to shape the future of their country in more credible and transparent parliamentary elections than in 2018.  In Botswana, a court advanced the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons by upholding the decriminalization of same-sex relations.  In Turkmenistan, all imprisoned Jehovah’s Witnesses conscientious objectors to military service were pardoned, a win for freedom of religion or belief.  The stability, security, and health of any country depends on the ability of its people to freely exercise their human rights – to feel safe and included in their communities while expressing their views or gender, loving who they love, organizing with their coworkers, peacefully assembling, living by their conscience, and using their voices and reporting from independent media to hold governments accountable.  There is much progress to be made, here in the United States and globally.  But I know that by working together in the Year of Action and using resources like the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, we can come closer to building a world where respect for human rights is truly universal.

In a reaction on the report human rights activists focused on China said theat they want the State Department to reboot the report’s format to address documentation blind spots and connect it to policy and initiatives to stop the violations and provide accountability for victims.

“It’s a descriptive, objective document but largely of human rights developments that had been already extensively reported by the media, by NGOs, and by human rights bodies within the UN and in many cases at greater detail and length. … It is essentially a recap,” said Sharon Hom, executive director of the New York City-based nonprofit Human Rights in China. “Since it appears to take quite a bit of resources to produce each year, I’d say that going forward, they reference and aggregate some of the developments within three very important, bigger trends like digital authoritarianism, [foreign] influence operations, and [China’s] growing extraterritorial reach.” [from https://www.politico.com/news/2022/04/13/china-activists-state-dept-human-rights-00024876]

https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/embed/#?secret=ICAePzAuB5#?secret=IVCGC9q7rK

Clean energy will not automatically be good for indigenous land defenders

April 7, 2022

Emily Pontecorvo a reporter for GRIST published on 6 April 2022 a piece about a new report by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre which states that the renewable energy sector is unprepared for the protection of land rights defenders.

In April of last year, José de Jesús Robledo Cruz and his wife Maria de Jesús Gomez Vega were found dead in the desert in Sonora, Mexico. In July, Fernando Vela, a doctor in Coqueta, Columbia, was shot to death by two men on a motorcycle while he was in his truck. In September, Juan Macababbad, an attorney in the Philippines was shot dead outside his home.

In each case, the victims were prominent human rights defenders, known in particular for defending their communities’ natural resources from mining, deforestation, water contamination, and other threats. These were just three of at least 76 such murders that occured in 2021. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/03/02/human-rights-high-commissioner-bachelet-urges-support-for-environmental-defenders/]

Business and Human Rights Resource Centre tracks attacks on people who protest or otherwise raise concerns about business-related human rights abuses. It has documented more than 3,800 attacks, including killings, death threats, beatings, arbitrary arrests and detention, and lawsuits, since January 2015, with 615 occurring in 2021 alone.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/13/global-witness-2020-the-worst-year-on-record-for-environmental-human-rights-defenders/ as well as: https://news.mongabay.com/2022/04/more-than-half-of-activists-killed-in-2021-were-land-environment-defenders/]

Our data shows almost the tip of the iceberg,” Christen Dobson, senior program manager for the BHRRC and an author of the new report. “Many attacks are not publicly reported. And so we know the problem is much more severe than these figures indicate.”

According to the report, human rights defenders who spoke out against mining projects consistently experienced the greatest number of attacks over the past seven years. The authors say this is especially concerning considering the expansion of mineral production required by a transition to clean energy. All those batteries, solar panels, and wind turbines are going to require a lot of cobalt, nickel, zinc, lithium, and other minerals.

We’re already seeing this level of attack, and we’re not seeing major producers of transition minerals have strong policies or practices in place about protecting defenders,” said Dobson. “There’s a real risk there and I think it’s an area that we’re very concerned about.

The report urges investors to publish a human rights policy and require that companies begin disclosing human rights and environmental-related risks. But Dobson said that voluntary actions from companies and investors was not enough. She said there was some momentum building behind mandating that companies report on measures they are taking to respect human rights, including legislation proposed in the European Union and Canada.

“It is concerning to see a vast majority of companies and investors, including major renewable energy companies, do not have policies expressing zero-tolerance against reprisals in their operations, supply chains and business relationships,” said Dobson in a statement. “It’s time for companies and investors to recognise the energy transition cannot be effective if it is not also rights-respecting.”

https://grist.org/international/land-defenders-face-violence-and-repression-clean-energy-could-make-it-worse

Annual Report Amnesty 2021 is out

March 29, 2022

The human rights organisation looks back on 2021, “a year of dashed hopes“. According to Amnesty International, the digital sphere is increasingly becoming a space for activism — and repression.

Despite promises and pledges to the contrary, at almost every turn, leaders and corporations opted for a non-transformative path, choosing to entrench rather than overturn the systemic inequalities behind the pandemic. Yet, people the world over have made it abundantly clear that a more just world, grounded in human rights, is what they want

Agnès Callamard SG AI

Here is how Deutsche Welle summarized it:

Every year, Amnesty International looks at developments around the world and compiles an analysis of the most important global trends in human and civil rights. In its latest annual report, Amnesty Middle East and North Africa research and advocacy director Philip Luth says: “2021 was a year of really quite significant promises. … The reality was completely otherwise.”

There had been hope that the world might emerge from the pandemic equitably, Luther told DW, but richer countries in particular have prevented the widespread manufacture and distribution of vaccines. The annual report cites the facts: Fewer than 8% of the 1.2 billion people in Africa were fully vaccinated at the end of 2021 — the lowest rate in the world and far from the WHO’s 40% vaccination target…..The study also found that many governments have used the pandemic to suppress opposition and civil society. “It’s across regions and that’s one of the reasons we highlighted it in our global analysis,” Luther said. “Some governments very specifically used the smoke screen of the pandemic to restrict freedom of expression.” Examples of countries where protests have been broken up and human rights defenders are at risk include Cambodia, Russia, China and others.

According to Amnesty and other international organizations, the pandemic is also having an effect on civil society. “There are various strategies that are making it increasingly difficult for civil society to operate in different regions of the world,” Silke Pfeiffer, head of the department for human rights and peace at the Christian-affiliated aid organization Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World), told DW. “This is quite specifically directed at individual activists, who are discriminated against, threatened, persecuted and in some cases murdered.” In many countries, Pfeiffer said, governments cultivate a hostile environment. “It becomes increasingly difficult for civil society organizations to work,” she said. “That goes as far as the closure of NGOs; we see that again and again.” To cite just one example: In late March, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega had 25 nongovernmental organizations closed. One of them is the Nicaraguan partner organization to Brot für die Welt.

Governments and NGOs are increasingly doing their work online. Luther describes the development as a “double-edged sword.” Authorities clandestinely use technology in ways that have a negative impact on people’s human rights, he said: “Governments in many cases were also then trying to shut down and disrupt tools that enable civil society to better communicate with each other and spread information.”

Amnesty International’s annual report cites multiple examples of this: the internet shutdown from August 4, 2019, to February 5, 2021, in the India-controlled regions of Jammu and Kashmir; the use of facial recognition technology at protests in Moscow; and the use of Israel’s Pegasus spyware against journalists, opposition figures and human rights activists. Pfeiffer said the internet was an important way for civil society to organize and mobilize. But she added that, around the world, “governments and other actors have completely upgraded digitally and are now also taking very strong action against freedom on the internet — through censorship, by shutting down internet services, through mass surveillance.”

Across the world, Amnesty noted, people took to the streets to fight for their rights and the rights of others in 2021 — in Russia, India, Colombia, Sudan, Lebanon and at least 75 other countries. in the words of AI Secretary General: “The palpable and persistent resistance offered by people’s movements the world over is a beacon of hope. Uncowed and undaunted, theirs is a clarion call for a more equal world. If governments won’t build back better – if they seemingly are intent on building back broken – then we are left with little option. We must fight their every attempt to muzzle our voices and we must stand up to their every betrayal. It is why, in the coming weeks, we are launching a global campaign of solidarity with people’s movements, a campaign demanding respect for the right to protest. We must build and harness global solidarity, even if our leaders won’t.”

She also said:

Global trends to stifle independent and critical voices gathered steam in 2021 as governments deployed a widening gamut of tools and tactics. Human rights defenders, NGOs, media outlets and opposition leaders were the targets of unlawful detention, torture and enforced disappearance, many under the smokescreen of the pandemic.

At least 67 countries introduced new laws in 2021 to restrict freedom of expression, association or assembly. In the USA, at least 36 states introduced more than 80 pieces of draft legislation limiting freedom of assembly, whilst the UK government proposed the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would drastically curtail the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, including by expanding police powers.

Global trends to stifle independent and critical voices gathered steam in 2021 as governments deployed a widening gamut of tools and tactics. Human rights defenders, NGOs, media outlets and opposition leaders were the targets of unlawful detention, torture and enforced disappearance, many under the smokescreen of the pandemic.

At least 67 countries introduced new laws in 2021 to restrict freedom of expression, association or assembly. In the USA, at least 36 states introduced more than 80 pieces of draft legislation limiting freedom of assembly, whilst the UK government proposed the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would drastically curtail the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, including by expanding police powers.

https://www.dw.com/en/amnesty-international-2021-was-the-year-of-broken-promises/a-61285728