Archive for the 'Human Rights Defenders' Category

(ECOWAS) Regional Court of Justice gives historical ruling for media freedom in West Africa

February 15, 2018

On 14 February 2018 the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Regional Court of Justice found that Jammeh-era media laws violated the right to freedom of expression in The Gambia. The Federation of African Journalists and four Gambian journalists filed a case in the court in December 2015. They argued that their rights, including their rights to freedom of expression, had been violated by Gambia through the enforcement of laws criminalising libel, sedition and false news in the country. Two of the journalists were also subject to torture whilst in the custody of the then notorious National Intelligence Agency following their arrests under these laws.

Arguments were heard by the court in October 2016. The case was supported by the Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI). Amnesty International filed an amicus brief in the case along with other freedom of expression organisations. Although press freedom has improved under the new government of President Barrow, who was inaugurated in January 2017, these restrictive laws are still in place.

The ruling will set an important precedent as many countries within West Africa continue to use similar repressive laws to silence freedom of expression, and hinder the vital work of journalists, in violation of international and regional human rights law. The ball is now in the court of the Adama Barrow government to repeal the said laws in order to realign the law to respect media freedoms. Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher has hailed the ruling as a historic day for The Gambian media landscape. “Today is an historic day for Gambia’s journalists and human rights defenders who, for decades, have suffered torture, imprisonment or exile just for exercising their right to freedom of expression,”Sabrina Mahtani said.

(see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/17/gambia-yahya-jammehs-ex-minister-continues-his-detention-in-switzerland/)

http://www.africanews.com/2018/02/15/jammeh-era-media-laws-violated-freedom-of-expression-ecowas-court/

12 human rights NGOs urge Uzbekistan to pick up pace with reforms

February 15, 2018

The Financial Times (amongst others) reports that changes in Uzbekistan are possibly going in the right direction. [“While Mr Mirziyoyev was part of the old system too, as prime minister for 13 years, his ousting of Mr Inoyatov was the boldest in a series of steps apparently designed to start opening the country up. He has freed 18 high-profile political prisoners — even if thousands more remain in jail — and taken nearly 16,000 people off a 17,500-strong security blacklist of potential extremists that stopped them travelling or getting jobs”.]  This echoes what HRW said on 5 September 2017 after delegation had made its first visit to Uzbekistan since the organization was banned there in 2010:  “The key is for the Uzbek government to transform the modest steps it has taken thus far into institutional change and sustainable improvements”. Now (13 February 2018) twelve international NGOs have publicly urged Uzbekistan to release journalists and human rights defenders.

Journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. 
Journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. 

In a joint statement HRW, IPHR, Amnesty International, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, Civil Rights Defenders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Reporters Without Borders, Freedom Now, ARTICLE 19, and the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights have called on Tashkent to “ensure a thorough, impartial, and independent investigation into the alleged torture and other ill-treatment” of independent journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev.

[Abdullaev was detained in September on charges of “conspiracy to overthrow the constitutional regime” and faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. In October, Uzbek authorities arrested well-known economist and blogger Hayot Nasriddinov. They have accused him and others, including Akrom Malikov, an academic who was arrested in 2016, of plotting to overthrow the government.

At a time when the Uzbek government appears to be taking steps to reform the country’s feared security services, reports of a journalist’s torture in their custody should prompt an immediate investigation and decisive, public condemnation,” HRW Central Asia researcher Steve Swerdlow said in the statement.

There is a real opportunity for change in Uzbekistan – and yet we hear of journalists and bloggers still being detained and tortured. This case is a test of whether Uzbekistan’s human rights situation is really improving or not,” Brigitte Dufour, director of International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), said in the rights groups’ statement.

For my earlier posts on Uzbekistan, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/uzbekistan/

https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbekistan-12-rights-watchdogs-urge-tashkent-to-release-journalist-others/29039260.html

https://eurasianet.org/node/84971

https://www.ft.com/content/6c37419c-0cbf-11e8-8eb7-42f857ea9f09

UN Experts urge USA not to deport human rights defenders like Maru Mora Villalpando

February 14, 2018

On 14 February 2018 a group of four UN human rights experts urged the United States Government to respect the rights of human rights defenders, amid concern over action being taken against a Mexican woman who campaigns to protect migrants’ rights. Maru Mora Villalpando, who has been in the US since 1996, is facing deportation proceedings after fronting a high-profile campaign against alleged human rights violations at a US immigrants’ detention centre, operated by a private company on behalf of the US government. [Ms. Villalpando, whose 20-year-old daughter is a US citizen, is co-founder of a group which highlights human rights concerns about the Northwest Detention Centre in Tacoma, Washington.  She has raised the issue with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and with the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, alleging corporate involvement in human rights violations as well as expressing concern over hunger strikes and the deportation of migrants. The UN experts have been in contact with the Government regarding their concerns.]

Ms. Villalpando’s notice to appear at deportation proceedings, received without warning, seems to be related to her advocacy work on behalf of migrant detainees”, the experts said. “We urge the US Government to protect and ensure Ms. Villalpando’s rights as a defender and her right to family life”.

“The authorities should take all necessary measures to guarantee that no action, including detention and deportation, as means of retaliation, is taken against Ms. Villalpando for reporting cases of the detention of immigrants and alleged violations of their human rights, especially in view of the reported conditions in these centres of detention”. The experts said they were concerned that Ms. Villalpando’s case appeared to be part of a pattern. “Giving people notice of deportation proceedings appears to be a part of an increasing pattern of intimidation and retaliation against people defending migrants’ rights in the US”, the experts said.

The UN experts are: Ms. Elina Steinerte, Vice-Chair on Communications of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mr. Felipe González MoralesSpecial Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Ms. Anita Ramasastry, Chair person of UN Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22657&LangID=E

Call for proposals to organize human rights film festivals 2018/19

February 14, 2018

To promote the screenings of human rights cinema worldwide, Movies that Matter offers grants to human rights film events in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, especially in countries with limited resources and freedom of press. These events can take various forms, such as human rights film festivals, LGBT film festivals and mobile cinema projects. Please note that Movies that Matter does not support film production. You can apply on-line. The deadline is 15 April 201§8

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/19/supporting-film-festivals-on-human-rights-in-2018/

https://www.moviesthatmatter.nl/english_index/international/support_programme

Dreams about a referendum to end the mullahs’ regime in Iran?

February 13, 2018

 on 13 February, 2018 carries an article: “Calls in Iran for UN-Sponsored Referendum

Nobel Peace Prize-winning Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi. (AFP)

Following calls by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani to hold a popular referendum to end political gridlock within the country, 15 prominent human rights defenders and activists from several groups issued Monday a statement demanding that a referendum indeed be held in the country , but adding that it should be done under the sponsorship of the United Nations. [Rouhani had originally made the proposal to hold a popular referendum during a speech marking the 39th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution on Sunday.]

One of the signatories, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the activists’ statement is an answer to the popular demands and calls voiced by demonstrators in the last protests that erupted across Iran against the dire internal situation “Iranians want to peacefully transfer authority from a Wilayet el-Faqih regime to a secular parliamentary democratic system,” she said. The activists’ statement had accused the authority of exploiting religion, hiding behind religious concepts, ignoring public opinion, violating people’s rights and freedoms and being greatly incapable of solving the political, social and economic crises in the country. However, Ebadi said that the activists’ statement was “independent” from the president’s speech.

She said that the 15 activists who signed the statement include Iranian film directors Jafar Panahi and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, lawyer Nisreen Stouda, of Iran’s Human Rights Defenders Center in Tehran, lawyer Narges Mohammadi, political activist Hassan Shariatmadari, political figure Abulfadl Qadiani and human rights activist Mohammad Nourizad.

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Interesting to note is that at the same time there was a conference in Tehran (as reported by the Tehran Times) in which Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary of the High Council for Human Rights  in Iran, has said that Iran is seeking close cooperation with the United Nations on issues related to human rights. “Islamic Republic is willing to work with international HR bodies, especially Human Rights Council,” Larijani told the conference attended by a number of foreign diplomats based in Tehran.

According to the newspaper ..”Double standards and selective approaches should be avoided in the area of the human rights. The special rapporteurs are obliged to be professional and neutral and avoid their political motivations affect their mission. Unfortunately, the special rapporteurs to Iran have mostly refrained to respect these principles and made claims far from realities. The special rapporteurs should have methodology and should not simply publish what they receive from unreliable sources. There are impediments to hold a constructive talks on the issue of human rights at the international level. The first impediment is double standards which are destructive. The second is using the human rights as tool to reach political motivations and the third is terrorism and supporting terrorists as defenders of human rights.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/02/02/larijani-brothers-iran-attack-un-rapporteur-and-human-rights-defenders/

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1173806/calls-iran-un-sponsored-referendum
http://www.tehrantimes.com/news/421204/Tehran-says-seeking-co-op-with-UN-on-human-rights

New: the Scottish Human Rights Defender Fellowship launched

February 12, 2018

The Scottish newspaper the National reports that a human rights fellowship has been launched in Scotland:

Equalities Secretary Angela Constance welcomed the move

Equalities Secretary Angela Constance welcomed the move
 Two international human rights defenders will come to Scotland for three months to study under a new research fellowship. Participants will soon be invited to apply for the scheme which will combine study at the University of Dundee with the opportunity to build relationships and share expertise with Scottish human rights and equality organisations. The Scottish Human Rights Defender Fellowship will be a partnership between the Scottish Government and the University of Dundee, supported by the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and campaign groups Front Line Defenders, Amnesty International, Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund and Beyond Borders.

The Scottish Government said it is part of on-going work to promote human rights. Equalities Secretary Angela Constance MSP said: “Across the globe there are people defending basic human rights that everybody should be able to take for granted. From standing against torture, arbitrary detention and discrimination, to campaigning for access to housing, health care, education, food and water. “Often this requires great self-sacrifice in the face of persistent difficulties, abuse and even threats to personal safety. As a country that firmly believes in human rights and equality, we will stand shoulder to shoulder with them and offer practical help where we can. “This fellowship provides a place of safety so participants can carry out research, develop new skills, build networks and return better equipped to continue their work fighting for the fundamental rights we need to demand for each other.”

The initial 2018 fellowship, with two recipients visiting from September, will cost £35,000.

Professor Nick Fyfe, Dean of the School of Social Sciences at the University of Dundee, said: “We are proud to be the host partner for the Human Rights Defenders Fellowship.“With significant expertise in human rights and an interdisciplinary approach championed by our Institute for Social Sciences Research, we are confident that the fellows will find a strong and welcoming community of human rights researchers ready to help them make the most of the three months they will spend working with the Scottish Government, Scottish universities and Scottish civil society organisations.

Asma Jahangir, one of the world’s most outstanding human rights defenders, dies at age 66

February 11, 2018

 

 

 

Prominent Pakistani human rights defender and lawyer Asma Jahangir has died at the age of 66. She reportedly suffered a cardiac arrest and was taken to hospital, where she later died.

She was one of the most recognized and honored human rights defenders with over 17 human rights awards, including the Martin Ennals Award in 1995, whose film on her work shows a much younger Asma, fearless in spite of threats on her life:

I met her for the first time in 1993 at the 2nd World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, where she deeply impressed me by standing up and openly criticizing her fellow NGO representatives for having tried to prevent former President Jimmy Carte from speaking at the NGO forum. This principled stand was a hallmark of her life as Pakistani human rights lawyer and as UN Special Rapporteur. In many instances she was able to give sound advice on cases of other human rights defenders in difficulty. For earlier posts on Asma see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/asma-jahangir/

Asma Jahangir’s career in short:

  • Trained as a lawyer and worked in Pakistan’s Supreme Court from age 30
  • A critic of the military establishment
  • Jailed in 1983 for pro-democracy activities
  • Put under house arrest in 2007 for opposing military leader’s removal of Supreme Court chief justice
  • Co-founder of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and of the first free legal aid centre in Pakistan (together with her sister Hina Jilani)
  • Co-founder of the Women’s Action Forum, set up to oppose law that reduced a woman’s testimony in court to half that of a man’s
  • The first female leader of Pakistan’s Supreme Court bar association
  • Winner of 17 human rights awards and the French Legion of Honour
  • Served twice as UN special rapporteur: on freedom of religion and on later on Human Rights in Iran

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai called Ms Jahangir a “saviour of democracy and human rights”.

A prominent Pakistani lawyer, Salman Akram Raja, tweeted that Ms Jahangir was “the bravest human being I ever knew” and that the world was “less” without her.

A long interview with Asma you can find here: https://asiasociety.org/interview-asma-jahangir,

A 2017 interview can be found on the website of the RLA: https://vimeo.com/225966475

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After 3 year gap, EU and Azerbaijan meet again but human rights remain precarious

February 10, 2018

Federica Mogherini and Elmar Mammadyarov in Brussels on 9 February 2018. [Council]

The weekly program Just Asia, full of news

February 10, 2018

This week’s ‘television programme’ Just Asia (9 February 20018) covers a number of important issues:
Burma: the UN’s Human Rights Commissioner warning that the government’s persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority has the potential to spark regional conflict. “It is sometimes said that today’s human rights violations will become tomorrow’s conflicts.”  Also this week, the Associated Press confirmed at least five mass graves found in Rakhine, through multiple interviews and time-stamped cell phone videos. The graves are the newest piece of evidence suggesting genocide.
Indonesia: the visit of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, ended 7 February. Among the Commissioner’s various meetings, two important ones were the civil society meeting hosted by Indonesia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the meeting with victims of human rights violations hosted by the National Commission on Human Rights. Local groups are hopeful that the high profile visit will significantly influence human rights development in Indonesia. Moreover, Mr. Zeid ended his visit with the announcement that his office would soon send a mission to West Papua to learn about the human rights situation there. (with an interview with Mr. Bedjo Untung, a Survivor of the 1965-1966 massacre)
The Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte’s political allies are proposing to amend the Constitution, to change the country’s presidential form of government to a federal one. While focusing on political changes, the current constitutional debate is silent on constitutional rights. Philippines’1987 Constitution includes the Bill of Rights and many provisions relating to social justice. These are the culmination of a people’s aspirations after suffering for years under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. Any debate on constitutional change must therefore include discussion on the protection of constitutional rights.
Nepal, Plain clothes police arrested 14 year old Sandip Prasai on 1 February, and accused him of being a thief and a drug addict. Sandip was admitted to a hospital on February 4, where the doctors said there are no visible signs of injuries on his body, but he has suffered from panic attacks. Activists are calling on the government to investigate the incident and suitably punish the officers involved in beating a juvenile.
The bulletin can be watched online at www.alrc.asia/justasia and AHRC TV YouTube.
see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/21/just-asia-just-continues-with-its-human-rights-television/
https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/16/amila-sampath-the-man-behind-the-video-service-of-just-asia/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDPQ5KwOu0o&feature=youtu.be

Profile of Yaxue Cao of ChinaChange.org

February 9, 2018

On 9 November 2017 ISHR met Yaxue Cao, the founder and editor of ChinaChange.org, an English-language website devoted to news and commentary related to civil society, rule of law, and human rights activities in China. She works to help the rest of the world understand what people are thinking and doing to effect change in China. Reports and translations on China Change have been cited widely in leading global news outlets and in U.S. Congressional reports. Yaxue Cao grew up in northern China during the Cultural Revolution and studied literature in the US. She lives in Washington, DC.