Archive for the 'books' Category

Major study: Do UN Communications Make a Difference for Human Rights Defenders?

March 28, 2019

Do UN Communications Make a Difference for Human Rights Defenders? asked Janika Spannagel in her new study on the “The Effectiveness of Individual Casework on Human Rights Defenders: An Empirical Study of the UN Special Procedure Cases 2004-2015

After her first study [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/26/first-quantitative-analysis-of-16-years-outgoing-communications-by-special-rapporteurs-on-human-rights-defenders/], the University of York has now made public this follow up, which makes fascinating reading for anyone with serious interest in the protection of human rights defenders. Thew full paper is downloadable (see link below) and clarifies many of the tricky issues that this study has to cover. While the highest impact for intervention is always desirable, there remains the ethical and ‘political’ question of intervening even when there is little hope of improvement because the offending regime does not seem to care..’crime should not pay after all’ [On 3 June 2014, that question became the motivation for continuing my blog: https://gr.linkedin.com/in/hans-thoolen-b6648b7]

Despite a growing body of literature on the UN special procedures, we still know very little about the effectiveness of one of its core instruments, namely the use of communications to raise individual cases of human rights abuse with the government concerned. Focusing on the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, this working paper explores new data to answer the controversially discussed question of whether or not communications generally make a difference in the situations of individual defenders.

The first part of this paper analyses data obtained from a survey of involved advocates, assessing the UN mandate’s impact on a random sample of cases among the Special Rapporteur’s communications between 2004 and 2015. The second part is concerned with external factors that may impact the further development of a case, suggesting alternative explanations of – but also possible conditions for – the medium term effectiveness of communications. For this purpose, the author uses a logistic regression to analyse a sample of almost 500 cases in order to investigate possible explanations for improvement or deterioration among cases addressed by the Special Rapporteur.

The systematic analysis of impact assessments provided by involved advocates convincingly suggests that individual casework is very often effective in providing protection to defenders whose cases are raised. However, the study of predictors of positive case developments also shows that the effectiveness of individual casework is highly contextual and therefore requires strategic adaptation and creative responses.

Implications for Practice
  • In considering only direct impact, the finding that the Special Rapporteur’s individual casework very often positively influences defenders’ situations provides an important argument for continued, or even increased, support for the special procedures’ communications activity.
  • Based on the sample cases, it can be concluded that international attention paid to cases with business involvement did not result in any substantial improvements in the medium term. The recently increased efforts by the Special Rapporteur to raise cases with companies directly, rather than only through the government concerned, may prove more effective.
  • Regime type matters with regard to case development, although only as an indirect effect on the predictive value of certain variables. This includes the previous violations, a country’s aid dependency, and a forthcoming UPR process. Such variables should be taken into account when considering the potential impact of a communication on a certain case.
  • The Special Rapporteur often refers to ‘follow-up’ on cases, however, rarely if ever does this reflect repeat communications regarding the same violation against a given defender. In reality, further communications serve instead to highlight new violations against the individual involved. The data suggests that these – often ‘high profile’ – defenders have a very low chance of seeing their situation improved. This finding makes the case for a more detailed assessment of the likely added value that repeated mentions by the Special Rapporteur can or cannot provide.
  • The main leverage in terms of possible impact relies on the selection of cases. However, both the ethical implications and multiple purposes of casework should be acknowledged and respected. While a focus on increased impact can be useful, the documentation function and more indirect protection effects should also be taken into account during case selection.
  • What remains unclear in the dataset is the extent to which ‘improvements’ in a defender’s situation following a communication also reflect a restored ability to carry out their work, and to what extent the experience of violations, or the continued threat thereof, inhibits this. Further research into the effects of case-specific improvement on defenders’ ability to effect change is needed.

https://www.gppi.net/2019/03/26/do-un-communications-make-a-difference-in-the-situations-of-human-rights-defenders

This working paper is available for download from the University of York Human Rights Defenders Hub.

“The Boy At The Back Of The Class” gets upgraded

March 24, 2019

The founder of a London human rights organisation (Making Herstory) has won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2019 for her story about a Syrian child refugee. Onjali Q. Raúf won the award for her The Boy At The Back Of The Class, which tells the story of Ahmet, a nine-year-old Syrian boy who moves to a new school after fleeing his war-torn homeland, won best story.

The Boy At The Back Of The Class was inspired by the children she met while working in refugee camps. The story follows the arrival of Ahmet, separated from his family, in a strange new world. When none of the grown-ups seem to be able to help him, Ahmet’s new school friends “come up with a daring plan, embarking on a seemingly madcap adventure”. The Waterstones prize judges said: “Told with heart and humour, it’s a child’s perspective on the refugee crisis, highlighting the importance of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn’t always make sense”.  James Daunt, Waterstones Managing Director, said: “It is, notwithstanding its urgent contemporary relevance, a book that is funny, generous and vivid. It is a joy to read, and we recommend it unreservedly.”

Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/culture/arts/syrian-child-refugee-story-wins-waterstones-childrens-book-prize-2019/

FIDH dares to publish a report on ‘key human rights issues of concern’ in Kashmir

March 17, 2019

On 15 March 2019 the International Federation for Human Rights and its partner organizations Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) published a briefing note detailing key human rights issues of concern in Indian-administered Jammu & Kashmir. I use the term dare in the title as wading in to the issue of Jammu and Kashmir is always tricky and leads rot furious reactions from governments and media.

Human rights violations began to be formally reported in Indian-administered Jammu & Kashmir in 1990 in the midst of counter-insurgency operations by the Indian Army to contain an armed struggle against Indian rule. These military operations were marked by excessive and disproportionate use of force. Since 1990, more than 70,000 people have been killed, more than 8,000 have been subjected to enforced disappearances, several thousands have been arrested and detained under repressive laws, and torture and other acts of inhuman and degrading treatment against protestors and detainees have been routinely used by Indian security forces.

ILLUSTRATION: MIR SUHAIL QADRI.

The NGOs have demanded full and unfettered access to Jammu & Kashmir to UN bodies and representatives, foreign and domestic human rights organizations, and foreign and local journalists. The groups also called for establishing a Commission of Inquiry to investigate allegations of all human rights violations perpetrated in Jammu & Kashmir, as recommended in the report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the establishment of a mechanism to monitor the human rights situation in Jammu & Kashmir through diplomatic missions in New Delhi and Islamabad.

The note details “continuing crime of enforced disappearance, extrajudicial killings, torture used as punitive action, systematic impunity for grave crimes, use of arbitrary and administrative detentions to curb dissent, military operations threatening human rights, rights to freedoms of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of religion or belief being curbed, human rights defenders under threat, sexual violence used a tool of repressions, lack of safeguards continue to place children in danger,” among other crimes.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/09/30/parveena-ahangar-and-parvez-imroz-in-kashmir-awarded-rafto-prize-2017/

CIVICUS publishes report on Women Human Rights Defenders and the struggle against silencing

March 16, 2019

WHRDs PolicyBrief

Defence of Humanity: Women Human Rights Defenders and the struggle against silencing”

In recent years, combined with existing threats, the rise of right-wing and nationalist populism across the world has led to an increasing number of governments implementing repressive measures against the space for civil society (civic space), particularly affecting women human rights defenders (WHRDs). The increasingly restricted space for WHRDs presents an urgent threat, not only to women-led organisations, but to all efforts campaigning for women’s rights, gender equality and the rights of all people. In spite of these restrictions, WHRDs have campaigned boldly in the face of mounting opposition: movements such as #MeToo #MenAreTrash, #FreeSaudiWomen, #NiUnaMenos, #NotYourAsianSideKick and #AbortoLegalYa show how countless women are working to advance systemic change for equality and justice. More WHRDs across the world are working collectively to challenge structural injustices and promote the realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Their power has been in the collective, despite constant attempts at silencing them. Furthermore, there have been WHRDs recognized for their invaluable contributions to opening civic space and protecting human rights in India, Poland, and Ireland. In the United States, WHRDs have won awards for the environmental activism, and in Iraq for their work in calling for greater accountability for sexual violence during war time.

This policy brief responds to this context and highlights how the participation of WHRDs in defending and strengthening the protection of human rights is critical for transforming traditional gender roles, embedded social norms and patriarchal power structures. WHRDs are leading actions to advance sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR), socioeconomic justice, labour rights and environmental rights. Moreover, WHRDs work to ensure that women are included in political and economic decision-making processes, making clear the disproportionate effects that socioeconomic inequalities have on women and gender non-conforming people.

Download the Report

My blog contains many posts about woman human rights defenders and especially about awards given to them. see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog and use “woman human rights defenders” as search term.

Gulf Center publishes 2018 survey of human rights in the Middle East

March 12, 2019

A Bahraini woman sits near portraits of jailed political activists, in the village of Sitra, 12 February 2016
A Bahraini woman sits near portraits of jailed political activists, in the village of Sitra, 12 February 2016  MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP/Getty Images

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) released its seventh annual report on human rights activism in 2018, entitled Breaking Boundaries. It remembers the women and men human rights defenders imprisoned for their work across the region, particularly in Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

The report features a summary and case updates of 145 women and men human rights defenders across the Gulf and neighbouring countries as well as the legal and political developments relevant to human rights in these countries. Additionally, it summarises GCHR’s research, advocacy and capacity-building activities with regional and international partners. [for my earlier post on the GCHR, see:  https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/gulf-centre-for-human-rights/]

In this 2018 report, GCHR recognises that despite increased restrictions on civic space and aggressive prosecution of human rights defenders, the boundaries crumbling since 2011 are worth celebrating. In the act of breaking these boundaries, solidarity networks nationally, regionally, and internationally have been nurtured and strengthened. With continued activism of journalists, human rights defenders and civil society, GCHR foresees that governments’ disrespect for human rights and freedoms in the region will be increasingly overturned.

The main focus of the report is to shed light on human rights activism. While governments intensified their harassment and prosecution of journalists, human rights defenders, online activists, and civilians, through the advocacy efforts of civil society on different fronts, the defence of human rights in the region has been met with international recognition, including many international awards for human rights defenders from across the Gulf and neighbouring countries.

The spotlight on governments, especially in the Gulf, unveiled the extent to which governments reject accountability to their people and commitment to human rights internationally. To mention a few examples: Bahrain denied the entry of United Nations experts along with extending travel bans on human rights defenders so they continue to miss UN Human Rights Council sessions. In Iraq, peaceful assembly was met with tear gas and live bullets to disperse the protests, leaving dozens killed and hundreds arrested. In Iran, well-known lawyers were among those sentenced to prison for defending women’s rights to reject forced hijab. And notoriously, Saudi Arabia arbitrarily arrested over 20 men and women who defend and advocate for women’s rights, even after the Kingdom formally lifted the driving ban on women.

Khalid Ibrahim, Executive Director of GCHR, says: “It is hard work to support human rights defenders and ensure their safety and security. Yet a success such as having the European Parliament formally and publicly denounce human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia in May 2018 and again in February 2019 shows the importance of diligence, solidarity and commitment to research- and evidence-based advocacy in the pursuit of defending human rights. Not to mention the attention facing Saudi Arabia at the UN Human Rights Council this month, where 36 States, including all EU Member States, called on 7 March 2019 for the release of detained women human rights defenders, sending a strong message to the Saudi authorities that the Council will hold its members accountable.

GCHR presented a number of recommendations at the end of this report to governments, and the international community. Emphasis is placed on guarantees of a legal framework grounded in respect for human rights, especially for the freedom of expression and opinion, to protect the safety of journalists, media workers and online activists whom governments across the region relentlessly harassed, targeted, or prosecuted. Other recommendations are made to ensure the safety of civilians such as in conflict-zones, as well as in countries in transition where respect for freedom of association and assembly are essential for peace and justice.
To download the full report, follow the link.

https://www.ifex.org/middle_east_north_africa/2019/03/11/human-rights-activism/

New book on Theo van Boven’s crucial role in the development of the UN human rights system

March 7, 2019

cover
The Advent of Universal Protection of Human Rights – Theo van Boven and the Transformation of the UN Role

In this ‘biography’ Bertie Ramcharan tells the story of Theo van Boven’s dynamic and courageous leadership to develop UN protection. Van Boven has been a life-long scholar and practitioner of human rights. He served in the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, represented The Netherlands in the UN Commission on Human Rights, served as an expert in its Sub-Commission on Human Rights, and also on the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. He was the Director of the UN Human Rights secretariat from 1977 to 1982, and later served as Registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, and as UN Special Rapporteur against Torture.

As Director of the UN Human Rights secretariat, Professor van Boven built up the protection capacity of the United Nations piece by piece and thereby transformed the UN’s role. He initiated every protection mechanism in use at the United Nations today. He was thus ‘the father‘ of the contemporary system of United Nations protection.

This book is a study of leadership and strategy. If one is to be able to deepen the protection capacity of the UN in the future, it is crucial to understand how the foundations were laid. This book, based on the personal papers of Professor van Boven and of the author, who was his Special Assistant, tells the story of his remarkable leadership of the UN Human Rights secretariat. Published by Springer – ISBN 978-3-030-02221-1

 

In 1982 Meulenhoff published Theo’s speeches on the occasion of his forced departure from the UN. In the preface I tried to explain the how and why.

https://www.springer.com/gb/book/9783030022204#aboutBook

Duterte: there is no ‘war’ on human rights defenders – only on criminals

March 2, 2019

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News, reported on 28 February 2019 that the Malacañang Palace on Thursday slammed as a “rehash of old issues” the latest report of The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders alleging that President Rodrigo Duterte was waging war against human rights defenders: While it is true that the President’s words may be hurtful to some quarters, including human rights defenders, they are actually zeroed in on those who mock and derail the President’s efforts towards creating a society free from drugs, crime and corruption,” ,,,,”We reiterate that there is no such thing as a war against human rights defenders. There is only one against criminals, including drug pushers, and their protectors.”

In its 40-page report, the Observatory said at least 76 land and environmental rights defenders, 12 journalists, and 8 labor rights activists were murdered from July 2016, when Duterte ascended to power, to November 2018. The title is: “Philippines: I’ll kill you along with drug addicts – President Duterte’s war on human rights defenders in the Philippines”. [see also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/10/there-seems-to-be-no-limit-to-what-duterte-is-willing-to-say-and-may-get-away-with/]

The report also cited government’s alleged harassment of the Commission on Human Rights and the justice department’s pursuit of criminal charges against a number of Duterte’s political opponents who have taken strong pro-human rights views, such as Sen. Leila de Lima, currently detained on drug charges.

Spokesperson Panelo urged the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) to file their cases against the Philippine government to “settle this matter once and for all.” “File all cases and let’s be done with it. In the absence of this, the allegations will remain unfounded and politically motivated untruths aimed at shaming the Philippine government before the international community,” he said. “Sans this, the report is but recycled rubbish based on information peddled by the usual critiques of government, such as Karapatan, who must do so to remain relevant and to generate funds to exist from gullible sources abroad.

The President is facing complaints at the International Criminal Court over the drug war killings. He has ordered the country’s withdrawal from the tribunal.

http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/reports-and-publications/philippines/2019/02/d25257/

:https://thedailyguardian.net/opinion/red-tagging-a-vicious-form-of-fake-news/

https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/02/28/19/palace-no-such-thing-as-war-vs-human-rights-defenders

https://aliran.com/civil-society-voices/casualties-rise-in-dutertes-war-on-rights-defenders-new-report/

Amnesty launches report on Laws designed to silence human rights defenders

February 21, 2019

The report lists 50 countries worldwide where anti-NGO laws have been implemented or are in the pipeline
Governments around the world are stepping-up their attacks on civil society organisations and human rights defenders, according to a new Amnesty International report. On 21 February 2019 RTE Ireland summarizes it as follows: It says governments are creating laws that subject non-governmental organisations and their staff to surveillance, bureaucratic hurdles and the threat of imprisonment. The international human rights group says the global assault on NGOs has reached a crisis point as new laws curb vital human rights work. The report, Laws Designed to Silence: The Global Crackdown on Civil Society Organisations, lists 50 countries worldwide where anti-NGO laws have been implemented or are in the pipeline.
Amnesty International says these laws commonly include implementing ludicrous registration processes for organisations, monitoring their work, restricting their sources of resources and, in many cases, shutting them down if they do not adhere to the unreasonable requirements imposed on them.
[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/07/global-statement-on-the-20th-anniversary-of-the-un-declaration-on-human-rights-defenders/]
We documented how an increasing number of governments are placing unreasonable restrictions and barriers on NGOs, preventing them from carrying out crucial work,” said Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International. “In many countries, organisations who dare to speak out for human rights are being bullied into silence. Groups of people who come together to defend and demand human rights are facing growing barriers to working freely and safely. Silencing them and preventing their work has consequences for everyone.”  SEE ALSO NAIDOO’S OP-ED: http://news.trust.org//item/20190220144717-jcwuf/
https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/02/global-assault-on-ngos-reaches-crisis-point/

https://www.rte.ie/news/2019/0221/1031852-amnesty_assault_on_ngos/

Latest report by Special Rapporteur on (women) human rights defenders is now available

February 17, 2019

“My report on women human rights defenders is out and will be officially presented on 28/02! All over the world women fight so human rights can be a reality for all of us. As a result, they face attacks. Leaders must recognize and protect them....”said UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Michel Forst on Twitter on 11 February 2019

Human Rights Council 40th session
25 February–22 March 2019 Agenda item 3

A/HRC/40/60 – Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Situation of women human rights defenders

Summary: In the present report, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, reviews the situation of women human rights defenders, covering the period since the issuance, in 2011, of the last report by the mandate holder on this topic (A/HRC/16/44 and Corr.1). He focuses in particular on the additional gendered risks and obstacles women human rights defenders face and recognizes their important role in the promotion and protection of human rights. The Special Rapporteur refers to the relevant normative framework for the work of women human rights defenders, describes the challenging environments in which they operate and analyses the impact of patriarchy and heteronormativity, gender ideology, fundamentalisms, militarization, globalization and neoliberal policies on the rights of such defenders. He also refers to the situation of specific groups of women human rights defenders.

The report contains recommendations and examples of good practices to support the building of diverse, inclusive and strong movements of women human rights defenders, and recommendations addressed to all stakeholders to ensure that women defenders are supported and strengthened to promote and protect human rights.

https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G19/004/97/PDF/G1900497.pdf?OpenElement

For some of my other posts on women human rights defenders see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/women-human-rights-defenders/page/5/

26 February: lecture on populism and human rights by Michael Ignatieff in Geneva

February 10, 2019

The populist upsurge in the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe and in established democracies like the United States has exposed the political vulnerability of rule of law as a cornerstone of liberal democracy. It is not just in authoritarian populist states that the independence of judges and the authority of law have come under attack in the name of a majoritarian conception of democracy. This suggests that the rule of law has always stood in a relation of tension with other principles of democracy, including majority rule and an independent media. The lecture explores these renewed political pressures on rule of law using contemporary examples drawn from the US, the UK and Hungary. [for some of my posts on populism, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/populism/]

Tuesday 26 February 2019, 18:30 – 20:00 in the Auditorium IVAN PICTET | Maison de la Paix, Geneva

Michael Ignatieff is the Rector and President of Central European University in Budapest. His major publications are The Needs of Strangers (1984), Scar Tissue (1992), Isaiah Berlin (1998), The Rights Revolution (2000), Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry (2001), The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror (2004), Fire and Ashes: Success and Failure in Politics (2013), and The Ordinary Virtues: Moral Order in a Divided World (2017). [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/08/11825/]

The lecture will be moderated by Shalini Randeria, Professor of Social Anthropology and Sociology at the Graduate Institute, Director of the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy and Rector of the Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen Institute (IWM) in Vienna.

This event is organised by the Graduate Institute’s Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy.

To register: http://graduateinstitute.ch/home/research/centresandprogrammes/hirschman-centre-on-democracy/events-1/past-events.html/_/events/hirschman-centre-on-democracy/2019/law-populism-and-liberal-democra