Archive for the 'Human Rights Defenders' Category

Lawyers key to the rule of law – even China agrees but only lip service

June 26, 2019

Lawyers have an essential role in upholding the Constitution and realising the rule of law – at the Human Rights Council 41st session this week, even China agreed. So why does the Chinese government continue to harass, intimidate and persecute lawyers who defend human rights ask 4 NGOs on 25 June 2019: Lawyers for Lawyers, International Bar Association, International Service for Human Rights and Lawyer’s Rights Watch Canada. In a joint statement the NGOs call on the UN expert on independence of judges and lawyers, and the Council and its members, to press for accountability.

‘The Chinese delegation recognised the need for balance in regulation between lawyers’ and judges’ rights, on the one hand, and their professional responsibilities, on the other hand’, says Sarah M Brooks, Asia Advocate at ISHR. ‘But it is hard to take this claim seriously, as Chinese authorities continue to adopt  abusive laws and measures, using them as a “sledgehammer” to restrict fundamental freedoms’.

This includes in particular lawyer Jiang Tianyong, who – since his nominal release from prison on 28 February 2019 – has been subject to invasive surveillance, restrictions on his freedom of movement, and refusal of independent medical exams. Worse, he is unnecessarily and inhumanely kept from joining his family in the U.S. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/21/jiang-tianyong-chinese-defender-of-defenders-sentenced-to-2-years-jail/]

The statement draws on research conducted by Chinese Human Rights Defenders and other partners into two ‘administrative measures’ that have had far-reaching consequences for lawyers on the ground.  The Measures on the Administration of Law Firms and Administrative Measures for the Practice of Law by Lawyers of Law Firms call on lawyers, law firms and regional bar associations not only to take measures to ensure that lawyers’ freedom of speech, both online and off, in professional and personal capacities, is not critical of the government. Furthermore, language added to one of the measures in 2018 specifically states that  ‘Law firms shall adhere to guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, adhere to and strengthen the comprehensive leadership of the Party over the work of lawyers, persist in preserving the authority and uniform leadership of the Party with Comrade Xi Jinping as its core, make support for the Party’s leadership and support for socialist rule of law basic requirements for the profession, and increase the conscientiousness and resoluteness with which lawyers as a group walk the path of socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics’.

As a result of making comments that were deemed critical of the Chinese Communist Party, from January 2017 to January 2019, groups have documented cases of at least 26 lawyers and three law firms that have been punished for their opinion or expression, or by association with lawyers. This includes well-known rights lawyers such as Yu Wensheng, Wang Yu, Xie Yanyi and, just last week, Liu Xiaoyuan. 

[for the massive crackdown in 2015, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/07/29/the-remarkable-crackdown-on-lawyers-in-china-in-july-2015/]

 

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Full statement

Joint statement under Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers and the Independent Expert on SOGI

24 June 2019

Mr. Vice President,

We thank the Special Rapporteur for his report. We wish to highlight that many of the trends of restriction he notes also apply to lawyers. For example, across China, repression of human rights lawyers and legal activists continues. They are disappeared, detained, and denied basic rule of law guarantees.

Lawyer Jiang Tianyong is one example. Although he served his sentence for ‘inciting subversion of the State’, he now lives under constant police surveillance and with a serious medical condition.

What was his so-called ‘crime’? Representing fellow lawyers in court, investigating black jails, speaking out for victims of human rights violations and meeting with UN officials.

Mr Special Rapporteur, we are concerned about Chinese government actions to imprison and disbar lawyers who do not adhere to official ideology. The Chinese delegation raised earlier the need to uphold the Constitution – we couldn’t agree more. But problematic regulations passed in 2016 allow authorities to, inter alia, shut down law firms if they refuse to dismiss lawyers who express critical views, or who advocate for clients or causes unpopular with the Communist Party of China.

China’s claims to ‘faithfully uphold the rule of law’ are true only in relation to national laws created to authorize such government action. Chairman Xi has stressed the Communist Party’s control over the legal system, and has used the law to repress and punish those mandated to uphold and protect rights.

Yu Wensheng, Sui Muqing, Zhou Shifeng, Xie Yanyi, Li Heping, Wang Yu, Liu Zhengqing and Liu Xiaoyuan are only 8 out of at least 27 documented cases of human rights lawyers whose licenses have been invalidated or revoked since 2016, simply for fulfilling their professional duties.

In her UPR follow-up letter to the government, the High Commissioner identified key areas for improvement, including ‘guaranteeing an independent judiciary, fair trials, and access to legal counsel, releasing all human rights defenders, including lawyers’.

We call on you, Mr Special Rapporteur, and on this Council, to insist that China immediately stop all forms of harassment and persecution of human rights lawyers, including through administrative means, and unconditionally release those arbitrarily deprived of their liberty.

Thank you.

41st session Human Rights Council: Opening statement by High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet

June 25, 2019

On 24 June, 2019, the 41st session of the Human Rights Council started with an opening statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. I refer to the guide to human rights defenders issues published earlier: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/14/guide-to-human-rights-defenders-issues-at-the-41st-human-rights-council-starting-on-24-june/

The High Commissioner’s speech contained many topics including these:

……
I regret Saudi Arabia‘s dismissal of last week’s report by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. I also reiterate my strong condemnation of the mass execution of 37 men in April. Some were children when the alleged crimes occurred.

Iran continues to sentence children to death. I was appalled that the authorities sentenced and executed two boys under the age of 18 in April. I remain particularly concerned about the high number of child offenders on death row – possibly more than 85 individuals – with some at risk of imminent execution.

I take this opportunity to note and commend global progress with respect to the death penalty in this year, which marks the 30th anniversary of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. The advances include recent ratifications by Gambia and State of Palestine; removal of the death penalty from the penal codes of Benin and Burkina Faso; and declarations of moratoria in Malaysia and the State of California.

..The inspiring and peaceful popular uprising in Sudan, with its call for democratic governance and justice, has been met with a brutal crackdown by the security forces this month. I regret that the Government has not responded to our request for access to investigate allegations of serious human rights violations by the joint security forces during the crackdown. They include reports that more than 100 protestors were killed, and many more injured, during and following the assault by security forces on a peaceful sit-in on 3 June. In addition, hospitals and clinics were reportedly raided, and medical staff assaulted. We have received allegations of rape and sexual abuse of both women and men during the crackdown, as well as information alleging that hundreds of protestors may be missing. I urge Sudan to grant access to my Office; to put an end to the repression of the people’s human rights; and to immediately end the Internet shutdown. The Sudanese people are entitled to express their opinions, and – like people everywhere – they have a right to live in freedom and at peace, enjoying the rule of law and the conditions necessary to dignity.

In Myanmar, evidence indicates continuing persecution of the remaining Rohingya people in northern Rakhine State, with little or no effort by the authorities to create conditions for the voluntary, safe and sustainable return of refugees. Although restrictions on humanitarian and media access in both Rakhine and in Chin State limit our access to information, the ongoing conflict there has included use of heavy weaponry, airstrikes and helicopter gunships by the military, with significant loss of life on all sides and severe impact on civilians. Based on allegations received, we fear that the conflict is being used as a pretext to carry out attacks against Rohingya civilians, and to cause further displacement. Some 35,000 ethnic Rakhine, Rohingya, Mro, Daignet and Khamee civilians have been internally displaced by fighting. The suspension of humanitarian aid by the government means at least 95,000 people have been cut off from life-saving assistance.

….
My Office is following the situation of human rights in the Philippines very closely. The extraordinarily high number of deaths – and persistent reports of extrajudicial killings – in the context of campaigns against drug use continue. Even the officially confirmed number of 5425 deaths would be a matter of most serious concern for any country. I welcome the recent statement by Special Rapporteurs calling for action by the Council. There should also be comprehensive and transparent information from the authorities on the circumstances around the deaths, and investigations related to allegations of violations. These could dispel any false allegations and help regain trust for the authorities.Human rights defenders, including activists for land rights and the rights of indigenous peoples; journalists; lawyers; members of the Catholic clergy; and others who have spoken out – notably the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples – have received threats, sometimes publicly, from senior Government officials. This creates a very real risk of violence against them, and undermines rule of law, as well as the right to freedom of expression.

In Portugal, where I attended an encouraging conference on drug policies and harm reduction, I also benefited from informative discussions on migration. Portugal’s open and forward-looking migrant policy aims to offer migrants easy access to social and legal assistance and encourages migrants to access the labour market. I visited a centre in Lisbon which offered free pre-school classes, alongside training courses and other support to migrant women aiming to set up their own companies. Ensuring that migrants are included and integrated brings many benefits for host communities, including net financial contributions: Portugal’s High Commissioner for Migration informed me that in 2017, migrants contributed 510 million euros more to the social security system than they took out. I invite all countries to consider learning from this example. Despite extensive disinformation campaigns regarding the supposedly damaging impact of migration on destination countries, close attention to the facts indicates that when their dignity and rights are respected, migrants can be strong drivers of successful economies and societies. We should recognize and cherish these contributions.

Instead, I observe a deeply unfortunate trend towards the criminalisation of basic human compassion for migrants, including those in situations of great vulnerability. The NGO Open Democracy reported last month that over 100 ordinary people in Europe have been arrested or prosecuted this year for acts such as feeding hungry migrants; helping them find shelter; or even assisting a pregnant woman to get to hospital to give birth. Similar prosecutions of ordinary people seeking to help individuals in distress have also taken place in the United States and elsewhere. Moreover, in several countries, new legal measures aim to penalise NGOs which rescue people drowning at sea.

Measures such as these clearly put the lives of children, women and men at risk. But they also put our societies at risk. They violate ancient and precious values that are common to us all, by penalizing compassion. Those who seek to help people in need should be honoured, not prosecuted. Caring should not be considered a crime, and this criminalisation of acts of basic human decency must be resisted. We have, all of us, a right – and even a duty – to help each other.

https://ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?LangID=E&NewsID=24724

NGOs demand the release of Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir in Mauretania

June 24, 2019

Award for human rights defenders by PBI UK to Kenyan and Colombian defenders

June 23, 2019

Kenyan social justice activist Naomi Barasa and Colombian human rights lawyer Daniel Prado have won the first annual Henry Brooke Awards for Human Rights Defenders, created in 2018 by PBI UK and pro bono legal network the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk.

These awards are in honour of the life and legacy of Sir Henry Brooke – barrister at Fountain Court Chambers, founder of the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk and patron of PBI UK – who passed away in January 2018. They are presented annually to defenders who encapsulate the qualities Sir Henry most admired and reflected in his own life: selflessness, courage, and commitment to seeking justice for the oppressed and the marginalised. The award winners were selected by a panel of leading figures from the UK legal and human rights communities. For more on this award, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/henry-brooke-awards-for-human-rights-defenders

Naomi Barasa was selected for the award in recognition of her remarkable determination and commitment to grassroots human rights work in the most disadvantaged social circumstances. Born in an informal settlement on the outskirts of Nairobi, Naomi was a close witness to street violence, police brutality, impunity and the overwhelming inequality of the slums. Her journey as a human rights defender has embedded her in the struggle to improve living conditions for Nairobi’s 2.5 million slum dwellers. Naomi was instrumental in the campaign that led to the passage of the Sexual Offences Act in 2006, and has acted as Campaigns Manager for the Right to Adequate Housing with Amnesty International since 2009. She has contributed to the adoption of legislation such as the Housing Bill 2011, the Evictions and Resettlement Bill and the Slum Upgrading & Prevention Policy. What motivates her work, she says, is “the resilience of the suffering people and the desire to see a different world. A world that has a mathematics of justice, not of inequality.

Daniel Prado was selected as an example of a lawyer who has defied huge personal risk in order to pursue justice for the victims of human rights violations, oppose impunity and defend the rights of marginalised communities against powerful interests. He began his career by providing legal support to the family members of victims of enforced disappearance in the early 1990s and currently works with the Colombian NGO the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (CIJP). Among other emblematic cases, Daniel represents victims of paramilitarism in the case of Los Doce Apóstoles (The Twelve Apostles), in which Santiago Uribe, brother of former President and Senator Alvaro Uribe Velez, stands accused of creating paramilitary groups responsible for more than 500 murders. Daniel’s involvement in this and other high-profile cases has seen him exposed to death threats, harassment and a public campaign of defamation and slander. Speaking of his work, he has said: “The risks in Colombia are unstoppable. I have taken many cases that have had consequences for a lot of people… we live in a constant state of anxiety about what can happen to us.

PBI provides security and advocacy support to both Naomi Barasa and Daniel Prado, to help mitigate the risks they face as a result of their human rights work.

 

 

2019 edition of the Africa Shield Awards by AfricanDefenders

June 21, 2019

On 14 June 2019, AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network) awarded distinguished five human rights defenders on the African continent [for more on this and other regional awards, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/african-human-rights-defenders-shield-awards]The winners are Beatrice Mtetwa, Felix Agbor Aniyor, Donald Deya, Fatou Jagne Senghor, and the Sudan Women Protest. The Shield Awards highlight the positive impact of their outstanding human rights work and their unwelding motivation.
The Shield Awards comprise five sub-regional awards and an overall Africa Shield Award. For this third edition, a jury composed of Hon. Commissioner Soyata Maiga, Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR); Hon. Commissioner Rémy Ngoy, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa; Margaret Sekaggya, former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders; and Hassan Shire, Chairperson of AfricanDefenders, acknowledged that Sudan Women Protest should be granted the overall Africa Shield Award – also the winner of the North African Regional Award. Sudan Women Protest is a community of Sudanese women activists at the frontline of the Sudanese revolution since December 2018 – bringing to the fore women voices and rights. “This is for all the women, mothers, daughters who stood up to mobilise the people and to ensure that their rights are not forgotten – we all stand in solidarity with them,” said Walaa Salah, a Sudanese activist living in Kenya, who received the award on behalf of the community, as the women activists on the ground are immobilised due to the ongoing violence. “I hope I will be able to travel to Sudan, and bring this shield as a testimony to your solidarity.”
Beatrice Mtetwa, Shield Award winner for Southern Africa, is a Zimbabwean human rights lawyer Mtetwa has protected and promoted human rights for years, with a focus on HRDs and journalists, by representing on pro-bono hundreds of HRDs facing harassment and abusive detention in Zimbabwe. As a founding member and board member of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), she continues to nurture leaders on the continent who carry her visionary mission of establishing a blue chip human rights lawyer’s organisation in Zimbabwe that has made access to justice for HRDs facing judicial persecution a reality in her home country. “This means a lot, particularly because it comes from my fellow African HRDs,” she said while receiving the award from Sekaggya. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/11/06/human-rights-documentary-beatrice-mtetwa-the-rule-of-law-on-television-and-internet/].
The Central African Shield Award was presented to Felix Agbor Anyior Nkongho, a Cameroonian lawyer and the founder of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa. He has provided pro bono legal services to hundreds of victims. While seeking social justice and equality in the Anglophone region of Cameroon, he was arrested, charged, and tried at a ilitary tribunal for terrorism, rebellion to incite civil war, revolution, contempt against the State, and secession, which carries the death penalty. He was thrown into a cell with 12 alleged members of the Boko Haram terrorist group, later transferred to solitary confinement for 45 days, and was not allowed to attend his father’s funeral. Today, he is documenting and reporting systematic human rights violations committed by both government security forces and the armed separatist groups in the Anglophone region of Cameroon. “We, HRDs, defend the rights of others, so I thank you for protecting us,” he said.
Fatou Jagne Senghor, Executive Director of Article 19 West Africa, received the Shield Award for West Africa for her engagement on freedom of expression and media freedom. The award recognises Senghor’s longstanding human rights work in West Africa in general, and in The Gambia in particular. She plays an important role in regards to ensuring accountability on human rights violations, building the capacity of civil society, and strengthening the reforms in The Gambia. “Freedom of expression is increasingly under attack, and we need defenders like Fatou to protect us,” emphasised George Morara, Commissioner of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, while handing Senghor her shield.Donald Deya received the Shield Award for the East and Horn of Africa sub-region. Deya is an international human rights lawyer who represent and support victims of human rights abuses on the African continent. He represented numerous victims before the ACHPR, , the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the East African Court of Justice, and several national High courts. Deya is also the head of the Secretariat of the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU), chair of the Boards of the Centre for Citizens’ Participation on the African Union (CCPAU) and the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP). He dedicated the award to all African HRDs who suffer from persecution.
Through their human rights work, the awardees have faced harassment, intimidation, arbitrary detention, and even the threat of death – but they have never abandoned their tenacious commitment to human rights protection and promotion. Expressing her appreciation to their efforts, Hon. Maiga said: “I congratulate all the winners for their courage, and acknowledge the risks they take, and their strength that enables them to stand up for the rights of others.”

On a special note, Hassan Shire  presented the Shield of Africa award to Hon. Commissioner Maiga Soyata. This special award is presented by AfricanDefenders to valuable dignitaries  who have demonstrated longstanding contributions to protecting and promoting the rights of African citizens. Hon. Maiga dedicated 12 years of her life to protecting the rights of Africans across the continent, notably promoting the rights of women in Africa through the Maputo Protocol. “This is a coronation for her outstanding role in the protection of the rights of African citizens,’’ said Hassan Shire.

 

 

Rich palette of side events at 41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council

June 21, 2019

The 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council is to start soon. In addition to items of the agenda [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/14/guide-to-human-rights-defenders-issues-at-the-41st-human-rights-council-starting-on-24-june/] there are – as usual – many side events in Geneva, both by States and NGOs, that relate to human rights defenders. You can download the list of NGO events here.

Here a selection:

  • Launch of ISHR joint report on strengthening HRC membership on 1 July at 13:00 at the UN Delegates restaurant. Speakers will introduce the report and highlight some of the key challenges, opportunities and practical recommendations, including with regard to good practice relating to candidacy and membership of the HRC.
  • Promoting and Protecting Civic Space for Migrants and Refugees is organised by CIVICUS and Solidarity Center and will take place on 24 June at 12:00. This event will examine findings on civic space barriers for migrant/refugees in Germany, Jordan, Kenya, Malaysia and Mexico from a new report by Solidarity Center and CIVICUS; provide an analysis of some of the civic space trends for migrants/refugees across the five countries; and hear from civil society activists on the ground.
  • Health impacts for US Asylum is organised by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and will be held on 26 June at 10:00 in Room VIII. PHR will present findings from two reports about the asylum crisis in the United States with research based on forensic evaluations of more than 180 child asylum seekers regarding their trauma exposure in country of origin and reasons for fleeing, and documentation of cases where US immigration enforcement has impeded migrants access to emergency health care.
  • Defending rights online: Challenges facing human rights defenders and a free and open Internet is organised by Article 19 and will be held on 26 June at 15:30 in Room VIII. It will discuss what more States at the Human Rights Council can do to bolster safeguards for the protection of human rights online, while also holding States accountable for violations of those rights. The panelists include the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression and human rights defenders from Russia, Mexico, Tanzania and Tajikistan. https://www.article19.org/resources/event-defending-online-civic-space-challenges-facing-human-rights-defenders/
  • Freedoms of expression, assembly, and association in Asia organised by Forum-Asia and will be held on 26 June 2019 at 15:00. This side event aims to discuss issues related to freedoms of expression, assembly, and association in Asian states.
  • Ending Impunity for Murdered Journalists: Enhancing the role and impact of the UN is organised by Article 19 and will be held on 27 June at 11:30 in Room VIII. The panelists include the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, and Hatice Cengiz, Fiancée of Jamal Khashoggi. It will examine how the UN’s response to cases of murdered journalists might be enhanced.
  • Criminalisation of solidarity in migration organised by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and OHCHR, and will be held on 27 June in  Kazakh Room – Cinema XIV. The event will feature the screening of the movie “The Valley” by Nuno Escudeiro, documenting the situation of human rights defenders and migrants in South of France, with an introductory panel and a discussion session after the movie (THE VALLEY is a coproduction Point du Jour (France), Miramonte Film (Italy) and was awarded the Emerging international filmmaker at the HOT DOCS film festival, Toronto).
  • Women’s rights under attack: the case of Poland, organised by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Human Rights Watch, will take place on 27 June, at 13:00 in Room XV. This side event will expose attempts to erode sexual and reproductive health and rights, campaigns against women’s rights organisations, and targeting of women’s rights activists – against the backdrop of a decline in the rule of law in the country. It will explore how international and regional organisations should address this concern in Poland and in the rest of the continent.
  • Needs, best practices and risks of research and data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity, organised by COC Nederland and sponsored by ISHR will be held on June 27 at 15:30 in Room V.
  • Human Rights in Kashmir is organised by the International Commission of Jurists and will be held on 28 June at 13:00 in Room XXI.
  • The human rights problem of political marginalisation is organised by Salam for Democracy and Human Rights (Bahrain) and CIVICUS, and will take place on 2 July at 12:00. Despite steadily rising levels of social and political marginalization in Bahrain, the government has sought to convey the appearance of political stability. In a context where freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association are severely restricted, what strategies can civil society – in Bahrain and in other countries around the world – bring into play to reduce political marginalisation?
  • The situation of migrants and refugees rights in Brazil is organised by Conectas and will be held on 2 July at 14h in Room VIII. The event will discuss the rights of migrants and refugees in Brazil focusing on the situation of Venezuelans refugees coming to the country, the reasons why they are leaving Venezuela and how Brazil is responding to this situation.
  • Human rights in Myanmar is organised by Physicians for Human Rights, and will be held on 1 July at 12:00 in Room VIII. PHR will provide an in-depth briefing on new research findings that reveal a painful, long-term legacy of the Rohingya Crisis and underscore the urgent need for accountability.
  • Human rights in Myanmar is organised by Forum Asia and will be held on 1 July 2019 at 14:30 in Room VIII. Human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar will provide updates on the situation in the country since the last Council session.
  • Upholding the rule of law: The UN database on businesses operating in the OPT is organised by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and will be held on 5 July at 14:00 in Room VIII. More than three years following the establishment of the Database mandate pursuant to Human Rights Council Resolution 31/36– the results of this process are not being transmitted with the necessary transparency. The side event will focus on the importance of releasing the database as a public online platform of business enterprises engaged in business activities related to Israeli settlements.
  • Human rights in Sudan is organised by DefendDefenders and Physicians for Human Rights. It will be held on 8 July at 13:00 in Room XXIV. This event will bring Sudanese voices to the Council to speak about the situation in Sudan and the ongoing crackdown.
  • Human Rights in Venezuela is organised by the International Commission of Jurists and will be held on 8 July at 14:30 in Room IX.

Any others that come to my attebtion will be reported later.

 

Business association amfori publishes statement in support of human rights defenders

June 21, 2019

 amfori is the leading global business association for open and sustainable trade, it brings together over 2,000 retailers, importers, brands and associations from more than 40 countries. On 20 June 2019 it announced that it had recently released a statement in support of human rights defenders. With the space for civil society to operate shrinking, and defenders of human rights increasingly under threat, amfori is taking steps to proactively advocate for the support of these actors. As a business association with a mission to support its member organisations ‘Trade with Purpose’, addressing human rights concerns linked to business operations and supply chains is a vital part of our work.

Its purpose is to express the collective support for the important work being done by human rights defenders, raise awareness on the growing challenges they face, and push both public and private authorities to protect and back human rights defenders. Amfori also continues to advance advocacy on related issues including child labour, due diligence, gender equality and climate change and build relations and engagement with state and non-state actors in this space.

See also my: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/21/davos-businesses-need-strong-human-rights-defenders/

https://www.amfori.org/news/supporting-human-rights-defenders

Today: World Refugee Day 2019

June 20, 2019

Many are the initiatives on this day. UNHCR lists just a few ways that you can take action right now and spread this message even further:

Sometimes good news fall on the right day: a French court acquitted Tom Ciotkowski, a British human rights defender who documented police abuse against migrants and refugees and volunteers who were helping them in Calais. Amnesty International France’s Programme manager on Freedoms, Nicolas Krameyer said: “Today’s decision, delivered on World Refugee Day, is not only a victory for justice but also for common sense. Tom Ciotkowski is a compassionate young volunteer who did nothing wrong and was dragged through the courts on trumped up charges”. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/15/european-governments-should-stop-treating-solidarity-and-compassion-as-a-crime/]

EuroMed Rights focuses on the current practice of stopping people from disembarking ships/boats on the Mediterranean Sea shoreline, particularly in Tunisia. In many aspects, this situation is emblematic of the obstacles faced by refugees in obtaining protection and access to rights in the Euro-Mediterranean region. It is also emblematic of the unfailing solidarity with refugees of local organisations and individuals.

Freedom United issues a call to close Libyan slave markets.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is featuring stories of survival—a collection of video testimonies and first-hand accounts from people who have risked everything for a chance at safety. As an organisation working with refugees and people on the move, we know that nothing—not a wall, or even an ocean—will ever stop people who are simply trying to survive.

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https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/06/france-acquittal-of-young-man-for-showing-compassion-to-refugees-in-calais-shows-solidarity-is-not-a-crime/

https://mailchi.mp/euromedrights/world-refugee-day-deadlock-at-sea-obstacles-to-the-right-of-asylum-the-tunisian-case?e=1209ebd6d8

https://www.freedomunited.org/

https://www.msf.org/refugees-around-world-stories-survival-world-refugee-day

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 »

Controversial spyware company promises to respect human rights…in the future

June 19, 2019

This photo from August 25, 2016, shows the logo of the Israeli NSO Group company on a building in Herzliya, Israel. (AP Photo/Daniella Cheslow)

This photo from August 25, 2016, shows the logo of the Israeli NSO Group company on a building in Herzliya, Israel. (AP Photo/Daniella Cheslow)

Newspapers report that controversial Israeli spyware developer NSO Group will in the coming months move towards greater transparency and align itself fully with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the company’s owners said over the weekend. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/19/novalpina-urged-to-come-clean-about-targeting-human-rights-defenders/]

Private equity firm Novalpina, which acquired a majority stake in NSO Group in February, said that within 90 days it would “establish at NSO a new benchmark for transparency and respect for human rights.” It said it sought “a significant enhancement of respect for human rights to be built into NSO’s governance policies and operating procedures and into the products sold under licence to intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

The company has always stated that it provides its software to governments for the sole purpose of fighting terrorism and crime, but human rights defenders and NGOs have claimed the company’s technology has been used by repressive governments to spy on them. Most notably, the spyware was allegedly used in connection with the gruesome killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year and whose body has never been found.

Last month London-based Amnesty International, together with other human rights activists, filed a petition to the District Court in Tel Aviv to compel Israel’s Defense Ministry to revoke the export license it granted to the company that Amnesty said has been used “in chilling attacks on human rights defenders around the world.”

On Friday the Guardian reported that Yana Peel, a well-known campaigner for human rights and a prominent figure in London’s art scene, is a co-owner of NSO, as she has a stake in Novalpina, co-founded by her husband Stephen Peel. Peel told the Guardian she has no involvement in the operations or decisions of Novalpina, which is managed by my husband, Stephen Peel, and his partners and added that the Guardian’s view of NSO was “quite misinformed.”

And Citizen Lab is far from re-assured:  https://citizenlab.ca/2019/06/letter-to-novalpina-regarding-statement-on-un-guiding-principles/…

https://www.timesofisrael.com/controversial-nso-group-to-adopt-policy-of-closer-respect-for-human-rights/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/18/whatsapp-spyware-israel-cyber-weapons-company-novalpina-capital-statement