Archive for the 'Human Rights Defenders' Category

Mbonimpa wins also the 2017 Civil Courage Prize

October 17, 2017

On 18 October 2017, Burundi’s most prominent human rights defender, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, will be awarded the Train Foundation’s 2017 Civil Courage Prize. The Civil Courage Prize recognizes individuals who demonstrate “steadfast resistance to evil at great personal risk.” Mbonimpa has won the prize for his work with the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH), an organization that records the abuses committed by Burundi’s authoritarian regime, in its effort to crush dissent and advocates for justice for its victims. Mbonimpa, who currently lives in exile, has earned a reputation as the most vocal advocate pushing the regime to end its violent campaign against its political opponents. In August 2015, he survived an assassination attempt that left him severely wounded. During that same year, both his son and son-in-law were found dead shortly after being arrested during anti-government protests.

MEA Laureate Mbonimpa, Burundi

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/11/12/mea-laureate-mbonimpa-has-message-of-hope-at-his-sons-funeral/].

Mbonimpa won earlier the 2007  Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, the 2015  African Human Rights Defenders Awards and in 2016 the Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism (HRW). For more on all these the award see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest

 

Protection International releases its 2017 FOCUS REPORT on human rights defenders: global trends

October 16, 2017

On 10 October 2017 Protection International (PI) presented the 2017 edition of its Focus Report, monitoring worldwide developments in the field of national protection mechanisms and public policies for the protection of human rights defenders (HRDs). Since the publication of its handbook Protection of human rights defenders: Best practices and lessons learnt (in 2011), the public debate regarding national public policies for HRD protection has evolved: initially only a handful of Latin American governments were addressing systematic attacks against HRDs through national protection mechanisms, and civil society organisations approached the issue with a lot of mistrust and scepticism. In recent years, it has become mainstream with the adoption of national laws and the emergence of draft bills in several countries of Latin America and Africa, while permeating the discussions on HRD protection in countries of Europe, Central and South-East Asia.

Many developments in this field of the HRD protection ecosystem also occurred since the publication of the last edition the Focus Report in 2014. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/12/03/protection-international-focuses-on-national-protection-mechanisms/] This heightened interest nonetheless, the implementation gap remains a big issue and trust is far from assured, especially among groups of HRDs taking the brunt of state repression and violence and those HRDs in remote areas where the presence of state authorities is weak or contested by non-state actors. Research shows that political will and backing is key to overcome these problems.

With the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on HRDs fast approaching, Protection International believes it is now high time to shift the focus of the debate away from adopting laws to protect human rights defenders at risk towards a more comprehensive approach, which addresses the structural violence and repression against them.

Source: New release: 2017 FOCUS REPORT | Public policies for the protection of Human rights defenders: global trends and implementation challenges – Protection InternationalProtection International

Antoine Bernard has left FIDH after 26 years

October 12, 2017

For those of you (like me) who missed the rather sudden departure of Antoine Bernard as head of the FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), here is the 12 September statement called “Farewell Antoine” as seen on the FIDH website:

“Antoine Bernard is stepping down as Chief Executive Officer of the FIDH International Secretariat on September 15 after serving the organisation for 26 years. Antoine established and steered the International Secretariat, playing a fundamental role in the development and expansion of FIDH. Under his guidance, the organisation engaged in innovative and pioneering operations in the world of defending human rights. 
The numerous victories he contributed to include the 1998 adoption of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders; the 2002 establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the mobilisation that led to the ICC sentencing of Jean-Pierre Bemba in 2016, which was the first verdict to recognise rape as a crime against humanity and to hold those effectively in command responsible; the identifying of corporate responsibility on the part of economic players and their criminal prosecution as well as dialogue with some companies to encourage them to develop and assume their social responsibility; lastly, his work at FIDH, including in recent months, to usher in digital communication, to counter attacks aimed at delegitimising human rights, to organise the decentralisation of our organisation and to create transparent and faithful partnerships. FIDH is immensely grateful to Antoine for his tireless optimism, his audacity and tenacity, and the passion that he has for our organisation, serving and supporting FIDH member organisations and their defenders. 
He is an iconic figure in the worldwide human rights movement. He embodies the patience that is needed for universal, steadfast commitment to practical and concrete progress, as well as a single-minded pursuit of justice and the audacity that this requires. 
Following the departure of Antoine, a transition management team is being set up headed by Juliane Falloux, FIDH Executive Director.”

Source: Farewell Antoine

Many birthday parties for jailed human rights defender in Turkey

October 12, 2017

human rights defenders in Turkey, still in jail after 100 days

Ten activists, including İdil Eser, the Director of Amnesty International Turkey, were arrested on 5 July. İdil’s 54th birthday is on 14 October, which she will spend imprisoned on baseless and trumped-up charges. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/12/turkey-detention-of-human-rights-defenders-further-extended/] (Amnesty International Turkey’s Chair, Taner Kılıç, was also arrested a month earlier. On 4 October a prosecutor filed an indictment calling for jail terms of up to 15 years for all 11 human rights defenders on absurd terrorism charges.)

After three months the investigation has unsurprisingly failed to provide any incriminating evidence to substantiate the prosecutor’s fantastical charges. .. The activists are accused of assisting a variety of “armed terrorist organisations” with diametrically opposing ideologies. They face maximum sentences of 15 years. The charges against them include outlandish claims that standard human rights activities – such as appealing to stop the sale of tear gas, making a grant application or campaigning for the release of hunger striking teachers – were carried out on behalf of terrorist organizations. Some of the claims against İdil are based on Amnesty International documents and public communications that predate her appointment at the organisation.

To mark İdil’s 54th birthday, Amnesty International will hold more than 200 parties and actions globally, starting with a public, pop-up, Turkish-themed birthday party on 13 October in Auckland. Elsewhere around the world there will be a birthday party in the European Parliament and a press conference in a makeshift prison in Madrid. The parties will feature full-size paper cutouts of Idil to highlight her absence, along with Turkish food, music, decorations and more.

I am ready to pay the price for my choice to work on human rights and I am not scared. My time in jail has made me even more committed to standing up for my values. I will not compromise them.” Idil Eser (8/19/17).

 

breaking news: Egyptian defender Mohammed Zaree laureate of the Martin Ennals Award 2017

October 10, 2017

Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders

The Jury of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, the highest accolade in the international human rights moment, has just announced that Mohamed Zaree, a human rights lawyer from Egypt, has been selected as the 2017 Laureate. The announcement was made on 10 October at 18h30, during the annual ceremony in Geneva. You can still follow it through live streaming at this very moment: via: https://www.facebook.com/villegeneve.ch/.

Mohamed Zaree is a human rights activist and legal scholar whose work focuses on human rights advocacy around freedom of expression and association. He is also known for his role as the Egypt Country Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), which works throughout the Arabic speaking world. He assumed this role after government pressure on CIHRS prompted them to relocate their headquarters to Tunis in 2014.

The Egyptian government has been escalating its pressure on the human rights movement. Human rights NGOs and defenders are confronted with a growing wave of threats, harassment, and intimidation, legal and otherwise. Despite this, Zaree continues to lead CIHRS’ research, human rights education, and national advocacy initiatives in Egypt and is shaping the media debate on human rights issues. During this critical period for civil society, he is also leading the Forum of Independent Egyptian Human Rights NGOs, a network aiming to unify human rights groups in advocacy. Zaree’s initiatives have helped NGOs to develop common approaches to human rights issues in Egypt. Within the context of the renewed crackdown on Egyptian human rights organizations, he has become a leading figure in Egypt’s human rights movement. Zaree is currently facing investigation under the “Foreign Funding Case” and is at high risk of prosecution and life imprisonment. The “Foreign Funding Case” highly restricts NGO activities. Despite this, Zaree continues to engage the authorities in dialogue wherever possible, arguing that respect for human rights will increase stability in Egypt. Zaree has been under a travel ban since May 2016.

Martin Ennals Foundation Chair Dick Oosting stated: “Severe restriction of civil society’s space to express itself is what led Mohamed Zaree to advocate for human rights and fight for the freedom of association. He is still paying the price for his courageous acts, and we urge his government to lift the travel ban.”

The unique composition of the Jury of the MEA [a coöperation by 10 global human rights organizations, see www.martinennalsaward.org for more detail] makes this award the most important prize in the human rights world. It is supported by the City of Geneva.

The two other finalists also received Martin Ennals prizes:

Karla Avelar (El Salvador)

FreeThe5KH (Cambodia)                                                            

For more on the award see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/09/18/ceremony-of-the-24th-martin-ennals-award-coming-up-on-10-october.  and

http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/martin-ennals-award-for-human-rights-defenders

Urgent: Martin Ennals Award 2017 – live streaming of ceremony on 10 October

October 9, 2017

The 2017 ceremony of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders will take place on 10 October in Geneva at 18h15 CET. For the many people who cannot attend in person, there is the possibility of following the event on screen via: https://www.facebook.com/villegeneve.ch/

The ceremony is in English and French and features 3 short documentaries on the finalists as well as the announcement of the Laureate 2017 which the Jury of the MEA decided on this morning.

For more info see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/28/save-the-date-10-october-2017-ceremony-martin-ennals-award-for-human-rights-defenders-in-geneva/

Gauri Lankesh and Gulalai Ismail win 2017 Anna Politkovskaya Award

October 6, 2017

Thursday 5 October 2017, RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in WAR – <http://www.rawinwar.org) celebrated the courage of Gauri Lankesh, an Indian journalist and human rights campaigner, and Gulalai Ismail, a Pakistani human rights and peace activist by according them the 2017 Anna Politkovskaya Award for their courage to speak out and to defy extremism in the context of violence and armed conflict in their countries, for which they suffered death threats and Gauri paid for it with her life. Gulalai opposes Islamic extremism in Pakistan and Gauri – the Hindu extremism in India. A month ago today, on 5th September 2017, she was murdered when entering her home, in an attempt to silence her voice. For more on the award see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/anna-politkovskaya-award

On Gulalai Ismail and Gauri Lankesh receiving the 2017 Anna Politkovskaya Award, as well as the special tribute to Jamalida Begum (Myanmar/Bangladesh)Baron Judd of Portsea, a member of the 2017 Award Nominations Committee, said:  “Amidst all the disturbing violence and repression, not least of journalists, which is increasingly prevalent, Anna Politkovskaya remains a heroic example of courage and integrity.  I am glad to salute Gulalai Ismail and the late Gauri Lankesh together with Jamilida Begum as brave champions of Anna’s cause.  In doing this I also salute the countless individuals who are victims of oppression, tyranny, torture, sexual abuse and disappearances, wherever this occurs.”

Gulalai Ismail, at the age of 16 in 2002, founded Aware Girls , with her sister Saba Ismail, aiming to challenge the culture of violence and the oppression of women in the rural Khyber Pakhtunkhwa  area in the north west of Pakistan. Driven by a passion to challenge the inequality, intolerance and extremism, they began running workshops to provide girls and young women with leadership skills to challenge oppression and fight for their rights to an education and equal opportunities. Malala Yousafzai was an attendee of Aware Girls programmes in 2011.
Gauri Lankesh Gauri Lankesh, 55, an outspoken Indian newspaper editor, was shot dead outside her home by unidentified assailants in the southern city of Bengaluru, at a time of rising nationalism and intolerance of dissent in the country. She was a major figure in India, critic of right-wing Hindu extremism, campaigner for women’s rights, fiercely opposed to the caste system, campaigning for rights of Dalits and so on. With mixed feelings, Kavitha Lankesh, Gauri’s sister, told media persons here on Thursday that the Anna Politkovskaya Award was a morale booster for people who want to write and continue to fight against injustice. It was an honour not only for the members of Gauri’s family, but also to “huge family” that loved Gauri for her commitment to the cause of secular ideals, justice, equality and women rights. “In fact, the award honours what Gauri stood for throughout her life… that ‘you cannot silence me’”.

Sources: Gauri Lankesh & Gulalai Ismail Win 2017 RAW in War Anna Politkovskaya Award for Women HRDs | NewsClick

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/gauri-lankesh-posthumously-honoured-with-anna-politkovskaya-award/article19802238.ece

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-journalist-award/award-honors-slain-indian-journalists-courage-to-write-and-fight-idUSKBN1CA01U

Geneva: the right place for the world’s human rights award

October 5, 2017

Global Geneva published today, 4 October 2017, an article by me called “[Geneva] The right place for the world’s human rights award“. Rather than summarizing it, here is the full article. There are lots of other interesting pieces in the issue, see: http://www.global-geneva.com.

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The 2017 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders will be announced on Tuesday, 10 October, 2017 at the University of Geneva (UniDufour) in Geneva, Switzerland. For further information, go to MEA: This article also appears in the Oct-Nov 2017 edition of Global Geneva magazine.

WITHOUT INDIVIDUAL HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS (HRDs), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights law risk being a dead letter. Almost all human rights organisations have a mandate to come to the succour of threatened colleagues via urgent appeals and other campaigns. Some 150 now run an award and the number keeps growing – half were created since the beginning of the 21st century.

Curiously, however, the best known of these awards, the Nobel Peace Prize, is given out annually in Oslo and not in Geneva, the international hub for human rights. Alfred Nobel died on 10 December. Decades later, the United Nations declared 10 December as International Human Rights Day and designated 21 September as the International Day of Peace. The strange result is that the Nobel Peace Prize – intended for contributions to ‘peace’, not necessarily ‘human rights’ – is awarded every year in Oslo on 10 December, which is ‘Nobel Day’ in Sweden and Norway, and International Human Rights Day for the rest of the world.

In 1992, I became involved in the creation of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA). Originally, this was meant to keep alive the memory of the first Secretary General of Amnesty International and a key figure behind the creation of the modern human rights movement. In recognition of his work, 10 global human rights organisations, (Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), Front Line Defenders, Evangelisches Werk für Diakonie und Entwicklung, HURIDOCS, Human Rights First, the International Commission of Jurists, the International Service for Human Rights, and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), all agreed to form the Jury. Later, a panel of regional NGOs joined the common effort.

The small volunteer secretariat operated out of Geneva, but many of the first award ceremonies were held abroad in places where the laureates are active. In 2001, it was decided to make Geneva the permanent location for the annual ceremony. By 2008, the lakeside city started offering serious support by making the award part of its “International Geneva” plan, an effort to galvanize the private and public sectors, including the rest of Switzerland, with regard to the region’s crucial importance as a hub for critical global issues. Since then, cooperation has grown into an admirable win-win partnership with the award run on a fully independent basis, while Geneva provides the infrastructure for the ceremony.

This suits all parties. The actual decisions are made by an autonomous jury of experts enabling the city to avoid having to deal with controversial aspects.

Mohamed Zaree of the Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) is one of the three finalists, and is subject to a travel ban to Geneva where he is supposed to attend the 10 October 2017 Martin Ennals Award Ceremony. Despite requests directly to Egyptian President Al-Sisi, the ban – at this time of writing – has yet to be lifted.

Presenting the awards: a matter of protection – and courage

The wisdom of this separation was reiterated in 2016 when the MEA went to an imprisoned scholar belonging to the Uyghur minority. China reacted furiously, but its target ended up being the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who courageously persisted in presenting the award at the ceremony as his predecessors have done over the years.

How effective are human rights awards? To answer this, one needs to know in which way they are intended to help human rights defenders. In the first place, all awards seek to offer recognition and encouragement at the psychological level. This goal should not be trivialized as activists often have to work in difficult environments. Furthermore, they may prove unpopular even within their own social circles.

Secondly, many awards come with some financial support. Even relatively small amounts go far in cash-strapped organizations, many based in developing countries.

Finally, the most important but also elusive goal is protection. The latter is not really possible without a fair degree of publicity. An example: On 13 May 2008, Mutabar Tajibaeva, a detained human rights activist in Uzbekistan, was announced as that year’s MEA Laureate. A few weeks later, on 2 June, she was released from prison on medical grounds, and a few months later, was allowed to travel abroad. She came to Geneva to receive the MEA in person, declaring publicly that the award saved her life. However, one cannot state categorically that her release was a direct result of the award; many other actors contributed to the pressure that resulted in her release from prison.

Karla Avelar 2017 FINALIST – EL SALVADOR: Karla Avelar has dedicated her life to defending, nationally and internationally, the Human Rights of LGBTI persons, HIV affected persons, migrants, persons deprived of liberty in situations of vulnerability as well as victims of discrimination due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

For human rights abusers: embarrassment fueled by global press coverage 

That such impact cannot be taken for granted is shown by the case of Ahmed Mansoor from the United Arab Emirates, the 2015 Laureate. The government did not lift his travel ban and he had to address the audience via a video link.

His case received further global coverage in August 2016. Flaws in Apple’s iOS operating system were discovered by Mansoor who alerted security researchers to unsolicited text messages he had received. Apple has since released a software update that addresses the problem. Then, on 20 March, 2017, around midnight, Ahmed Mansoor was arrested at his home in a raid by a large team of the Emirates’ security forces.

His importance as a human rights defender was demonstrated by the international response to this sudden arrest. In addition to many newspapers and social media, the UN Special Procedures and the EU Parliament quickly called for his release. But today, six months later, he continues to linger in jail.

FreeThe5KH 2017 FINALIST = CAMBODIA: Mr Ny Sokha, Mr Yi Soksan, Mr Nay Vanda, Ms Lim Mony and Mr Ny Chakrya, the “Khmer 5” are Cambodian human rights defenders who face judicial harassment and had spent 427 days in pre-trial detention, as a result of their legitimate human rights work.

Some believe that human rights awards can endanger the lives of laureates. Clearly, this is a danger, but the best judge of the balance between increased risk and greater protection remains the human rights defender in question. And generally, they seem to regard public exposure foremost as a form of protection, reflecting the increased importance of the media even in tense situations. The biggest problem with seeking increased protection through publicity is perhaps that the media are not automatically interested in all human rights awards.

That the media are increasingly referring to the MEA as the “Nobel prize for human rights” is perhaps the best sign that after almost 25 years, the award has found its status and place in Geneva. With the delivery of the 2017 prize on 10 October in Geneva, it will again be in the hope to go ‘from the front line to the front page’.

Hans Thoolen is a Dutch national who has worked for various NGOs and inter-governmental organizations, including 12 years in Geneva. He is now retired but not tired. Read his blog: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/

Source: The right place for the world’s human rights award | Global Geneva

2017 Right Livelihood Laureates announcement in video

October 4, 2017

The 2017 Right Livelihood Laureates (Robert Bilott from the USA (Honorary Award), Colin Gonsalves from India, Khadija Ismayilova from Azerbaijan, and Yetnebersh Nigussie from Ethiopia) are announced in a short video clip. For more information about the Laureates, please visit www.rightlivelihoodaward.org. For more info on this and other awards:  www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest .
see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/09/30/4-activists-receive-the-′alternative-nobel-prize′-2017/

DIGEST of international human rights awards: correction!

October 4, 2017

This post from 27 September 2017, is re-issued with the correct link to the website of the new Digest of Human Rights Awardswww.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest If you tried the link before without success please try again. And more importantly, if you shared the link please forward also this correction.

The Awards Digest is the first phase of a larger project that foresees also a Digest of Laureates (i.e. over 1900 award winners included in the Awards Digest). This second phase is still under preparation and its completion is planned for 2018, subject to funding.

The Digest is also accessible on any device including mobiles and tablets.

The Digest has been made possible with the support of Brot für die Welt and the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Geneva and other international organizations in Geneva.

For further information contact me at: thedigest[at]trueheroesfilms.org.