Archive for the 'Human Rights Defenders' Category

TrialWatch officially launched by Clooneys

April 25, 2019

As announced earlier this year [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/15/star-power-for-good-george-and-amal-clooney-at-least-try-to-tackle-controversial-issues/] on 25 April 2019 the Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ), together with partners Microsoft Corporation, Columbia Law School, the American Bar Association, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), launched their TrialWatch® initiative at an inaugural TrialWatch Conference and launch event.

Clooney Foundation For Justice Logo

Courts around the world are increasingly being used to silence dissidents and target the vulnerable. But so far there has been no systematic response to this,” said Amal Clooney, Co-President, Clooney Foundation for Justice. “The Clooney Foundation for Justice’s TrialWatch program is a global initiative to monitor trials, expose abuses, and advocate for victims, so that injustice can be addressed, one case at a time.”

TrialWatch is an initiative focused on monitoring and responding to trials around the world that pose a high risk of human rights violations. TrialWatch aims to be the first comprehensive global program scrutinizing criminal trials around the world. CFJ will recruit and train trial monitors, including non-lawyers, who can observe and report on criminal trials around the world, and use a specialised app to record the proceedings. The Clooney Foundation for Justice will then work to expose injustice and rally support to secure justice for defendants whose rights have been violated. For each trial monitored, CFJ will work with an eminent legal expert to produce a Fairness Report assessing and grading the fairness of the trial against human rights standards, and, where necessary and possible, will be followed up with legal advocacy to assist a defendant in pursuing remedies in regional or international human rights courts. Ultimately, the data that is gathered will populate a global justice index that measures states’ performance in this area.

TrialWatch will focus on trials involving journalists, LGBTQ persons, women and girls, religious minorities, and human rights defenders. In recent months, TrialWatch monitors have observed proceedings in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America. The cases have involved journalists being prosecuted under a wide variety of laws, including cyber laws, administrative laws, and terrorism laws, in six countries. TrialWatch has covered a trial of individuals being prosecuted under anti-LGBTQ laws in sub-Saharan Africa and proceedings involving a journalist detained under India’s National Security Act for criticizing the government on social media. TrialWatch monitors are also monitoring the trial of a lawyer in Eurasia, who is being prosecuted in connection with his work on behalf of human rights defenders and the trial of a journalist in Nigeria, who is being prosecuted for writing about internal government documents and refusing to reveal his source. Fairness reports are being produced to assess each of these trials, and many more trials will be monitored on an ongoing basis around the world.

CFJ has partnered with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to develop an online training course for monitors. This course was developed by CFJ and approved by OHCHR.

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https://finance.yahoo.com/news/clooney-foundation-justice-convenes-human-rights-leaders-mark-103100664.html?

Report “Indigenous World 2019” launched on 24 April in NY

April 24, 2019

On 24 April 2019, at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York, IWGIA released The Indigenous World 2019, an extensive yearbook presenting a comprehensive, global overview of the developments indigenous peoples experience. The book documents an increasing trend towards the harassment and criminalization of indigenous peoples and communities. It also highlights the rising tensions between states and indigenous peoples, shrinking civil society space, loss of land rights and lack of access to justice for indigenous peoples to enjoy their rights.

“Indigenous peoples make up 5% of the world’s population, yet they represent 15% of the world’s poorest, and in 2017, half of the approximately 400 environmental and human rights defenders killed. The numbers for 2018 are as-yet-unknown, but this troubling trend hasn’t seemed to stop,” Julie Koch, IWGIA Executive Director, says. “We need to do more to protect, learn from and support indigenous peoples and their traditional, sustainable practices as key actors in ensuring a safer and more equitable world.”

In 2018, there has been an increase in the documentation and reporting of illegal surveillance, arbitrary arrests, travel bans preventing free movement, threats, dispossession and killings of indigenous peoples. We have witnessed instruments meant to protect indigenous peoples being turned against them, through the use of legislation and the justice system, to penalize and criminalize indigenous peoples’ assertion of their rights. [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/08/08/9-august-international-day-of-the-worlds-indigenous-peoples-un-experts-see-increasing-murder/]

The intensification and exploitation of natural resources is leading to a global crisis for indigenous peoples’ rights,” Koch says. Many indigenous peoples live in the Earth’s last remaining biodiversity hotspots and are often called the “guardians of the forest”. Several studies have shown that tree cover loss is significantly reduced on indigenous land compared to non-indigenous controlled land.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/15/documenting-the-killings-of-environmental-defenders-guardian-and-global-witness/

Tensions are rising between states and indigenous peoples

In surprise move Bahrain king reinstates citizenship of 551 – 439 to go

April 22, 2019

FILE - In this May 21, 2017 file photo, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa speaks during a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The king reinstated the citizenship of 551 people convicted amid a crackdown on dissent on the island. The surprise royal decree, announced Sunday, April 21, 2019, by the state-run Bahrain News Agency, gave no explanation for his decision. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

The surprise royal order gave no explanation for King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s decision, other than to say that he had the final authority in such cases. “The study and evaluation of the situation of convicts should be based on criteria pertaining to the seriousness, impact and consequences of the crimes, as well as on the danger the convict may pose on national security,” the state-run Bahrain News Agency said in announcing the king’s decision. Authorities later will announce the names of those having their citizenship restored.

[Last week, 138 people lost their citizenship in a mass trial. That drew a rebuke from U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who described the convictions as giving “rise to serious concerns” about the country’s legal system. The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy said last week’s verdict brought to 990 the number of people ordered stripped of their nationality since 2012.]

Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei, the director of advocacy at the institute, said he was surprised by the news. However, he cautioned that those like himself who had their citizenship stripped at the ministerial level, rather than through the courts, likely wouldn’t benefit from the king’s order. “I honestly think there is something going on behind scenes, maybe some diplomatic pressure is applied to the government,” AlWadaei said. “There must be a state behind it, maybe Britain or the United States.

Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jongambrellap.

https://www.wral.com/bahrain-king-reinstates-citizenship-of-551-amid-mass-trials/18339059/

The 2019 World Press Freedom Index launched on 18th of April

April 20, 2019

Published every year since 2002 by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the World Press Freedom Index is an important advocacy tool based on the principle of emulation between states. Because it is well known, its influence over governments is growing. Many heads of state and government fear its annual publication. [for 2018 see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/30/world-press-freedom-index-2018-is-out-colorful-but-disheartening/]

The Index ranks 180 countries and regions according to the level of freedom available to journalists. It is a snapshot of the media freedom situation based on an evaluation of pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country and region. (It does not rank public policies even if governments obviously have a major impact on their country’s ranking. Nor is it an indicator of the quality of journalism in each country or region.)

Along with the Index, RSF calculates a global indicator and regional indicators that evaluate the overall performance of countries and regions (in the world and in each region) as regards media freedom. It is an absolute measure that complements the Index’s comparative rankings. The global indicator is the average of the regional indicators, each of which is obtained by averaging the scores of all the countries in the region, weighted according to their population as given by the World Bank.

The degree of freedom available to journalists in 180 countries and regions is determined by pooling the responses of experts to a questionnaire devised by RSF. This qualitative analysis is combined with quantitative data on abuses and acts of violence against journalists during the period evaluated. The criteria used in the questionnaire are pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information. Click here for more information

The press freedom map, which is distributed in print and digital versions, offers a visual overview of the situation in each country and region in the Index. The colour categories are assigned as follows: good (white), fairly good (yellow), problematic (orange), bad (red) and very bad (black).

https://rsf.org/en/ranking

Israel: Deportation of Human Rights Watch’s staff member again on the table

April 18, 2019

The sea-saw surrounding Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch’ office [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/27/human-rights-watch-granted-israeli-work-permit-in-the-end/] continues with an Israeli court on 16 April 2019 upholding the Israeli government’s order to deport Omar Shakir, the Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine director. The ruling by the Jerusalem District Court comes in response to a lawsuit filed in May 2018 by the organization, and Shakir challenging the government’s decision to revoke Shakir’s work permit and the constitutionality of a 2017 law barring entry to Israel for people who advocate so-called boycotts of Israel or Israeli settlements.

75 human rights defenders in India will monitor violence against Dalits during India elections

April 18, 2019

Caste violence, dalit

Representational Image. (File | EPS)
Ritwika Mitra  reports on 18 April that seventy-five ‘human rights defenders’ will be monitoring elections during elections in identified ‘sensitive’ constituencies across 20 states to monitor any form of violence against Dalits during the voting process, which takes place over the period 11 April to 19 May 2019.

The National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ) — a coalition of Dalit rights organisations — is coordinating with volunteers the move. “If the volunteers notice any violence during the voting, they will immediately inform the electoral officer and the police. These defenders are trained and to spot any form of atrocity against Dalits…” said V A Ramesh Nathan, general secretary, NDMJ.

The focus would be on Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Gujarat. The list, however, is not comprehensive. The coalition recently monitored the situation in Andhra Pradesh and Bihar during the first phase of the polling season. In Andhra Pradesh, there were cases where Dalits were not being allowed to vote, which were taken up by the volunteers and the issue was resolved, said Kamalchand Kispott, policy and advocacy officer, NDMJ.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2019/apr/18/lok-sabha-elections-2019-75-human-rights-defenders-to-monitor-violence-against-dalits-across-states-1965667.html

Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid receives Brennan Human rights award

April 16, 2019

rutgers file.jpg

In his remarks upon receiving the award, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein discussed the history of international politics and cautioned against nationalization, noting that the human rights violations of today are the conflicts of tomorrow. “I worry, like so many others, that what we are seeing now is the decomposition of the international order,” said Ra’ad Al Hussein. “The rules and institutions that uphold international human rights law, international humanitarian law, and international refugee law are under immense pressure.” He shared that he has faith in the efforts of human rights defenders and the human rights movements around the world, “We cannot depend now on much of the leadership at the highest levels. We have to depend on ourselves and we have to have the courage to speak out and say what needs to be said.

Two women human rights defenders in the Philippines honored with international awards

April 16, 2019

Joanna Patricia Kintanar Cariño (File photo by Noel Godinez/Northern Dispatch)
Filipina human rights defender, Joanna Patricia Kintanar Cariño, has been named as this year’s recipient of Gwangju Prize for Human Rights. Cariño is the founding secretary general and the current advisory council of Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), regional council member of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and chairperson of SELDA-North Luzon, an organization of former political prisoners. For more on the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/gwangju-prize-for-human-rights

Cariño is among the 600 individuals listed in the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) so-called terror list, which seeks to proscribe the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as terrorist organizations. Cariño, together with other activists who were included in the list, fought for the removal of their names and in January this year, the DOJ has acted by finally removing the names of scores of activists and human rights defenders in the Cordillera region. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/07/women-human-rights-defenders-day-2017-an-anthology/]

The Foundation recognizes Cariño’s track record as human rights defender from the time of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos up to the present. “She has been illegally arrested, detained and harassed for being tireless and vigorous in the indigenous people’s fight against militarization of their communities,” the Foundation said in their statement.

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Trade union worker France Castro was awarded the Arthur Svensson international Prize for Trade Union Rights [for more on this award, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/arthur-svensson-international-prize-for-trade-union-rights]

In its statement, the Svensson Foundation described Castro as a brave leader who defies threats and dangerous condition. “Despite threats and persecution, there are brave people fighting for democracy and human rights. The regime has particularly attacked unionists among teachers and journalists. Some are killed and many imprisoned. Death threats are not uncommon. In recent times, police officers in the Philippines have been running an organized campaign where they are herding and publishing information on unionized teachers,” Svensson Foundation said in a statement referring to the profiling of the public school teachers, particularly the members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) by the Philippine National Police (PNP). Castro was also among those who were detained by the Talaingod police last November 2018, together with former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and Lumad teachers, students and administrator, for defending Lumad’s right to education  The Foundation also took notice of Castro’s role in the fight for public school teachers’ rights and welfare.

https://www.bulatlat.com/2019/04/16/progressive-solon-wins-international-award-for-championing-union-rights/

Pulitzer prizes for courageous journalists in Myanmar and Philippines

April 16, 2019

82-year old Father Magnis in Indonesia: tough words for a good purpose

April 16, 2019

An adopted son's passion for Indonesian pluralism
German-born Jesuit Father Franz Magnis Suseno has become an Indonesian citizen and an outspoken champion of democracy and interfaith dialogue in Indonesia. (Photo by Siktus Harson/ucanews.com)
Ryan Dagur painted on 15 April 2019 (in UCA News) a portrait of a remarkable man, the Jesuit priest Franz Magnis Suseno, doesn’t mince his words when promoting democracy and dialogue in Indonesia. “An adopted son’s passion for Indonesian pluralism

Not so long ago, Jesuit priest Father Franz Magnis Suseno ..ruffled a few feathers by.. calling people who are threatening to boycott the polls fools, parasites, and psycho freaks.His scathing comments came in an article about the upcoming Indonesian presidential and legislative elections published by Kompas, the country’s bestselling newspaper.Many criticized him for the remarks, some even sent him letters of protest, but many also supported him. The German-born priest, a professor at the Driyarkara School of Philosophy, has apologized for his choice of words but argued the article was a call for all citizens to care for democracy and prevent the worst individuals from being elected to office.

…..The 82-year-old, born into a noble family and who was once called Count von Magnis, is now widely known as a philosopher, human rights defender, and culturalist, with his main area of expertise being Javanese culture. He has written 41 books on philosophy, political ethics, and Christianity, as well as made countless television appearances.During his time in the country, Father Magnis has witnessed a major shift in Indonesia’s political climate from a 32-year dictatorship under Suharto to the reform era that began in 1998 when the tap of democracy was opened.“It’s my moral obligation to speak up when democracy is threatened,” he said.He says he is optimistic that Indonesia will remain a leading democracy in Southeast Asia, but admitted various threats do concern him, especially what he calls the politicization of religion by hard-line Muslims. “Indonesia will only fall to another authoritarian regime if people continue to use religion in politics,” he said. He said it is dangerous because, for many people, religion is more important than democracy. 
…. Father Magnis has built close friendships with several respected Muslim leaders, including the late Abdurahman Wahid, a highly respected figure, and Indonesia’s fourth president, as well as Nurcholish Majid, an avid defender of pluralism in Indonesia. Holding dialogue with extreme elements is also important, he said, especially when conflict occurs.He has met the now exiled Islamic Defenders Front chief, Muhammad Rizieq Shihab, several times when his organization sought to impose its own ban on worshiping activities in a number of churches in Jakarta. In 2011, Father Magnis met Shihab, to discuss the issue of an American pastor burning a Quran in Florida, which angered Muslims all over the world. Following the discussions, Shihab told his angry followers not to take out their anger on Indonesian Christians. In building a relationship with believers of other faiths, it is important for Christians to be humble and sensible and to avoid belittling acts or gestures. “It’s better to be low profile, rather than something fancy,” he said, adding that this philosophy should be especially applied in poor areas. This was why he called the erection of a 46-meter-high Marian statue in Ambarawa, Central Java in 2015, “inappropriate.” ..
Father Magnis is also critical of Christians who measure the success of their work by the number of people they attract to Christianity because it leads to aggressive Christianization. “Our mission is to bring the goodness of Christ into our society and let people decide whether to join us,” he said.He said Indonesia will remain an Islamic country, and what Christians can do is to help them build a better democratic system, where freedom of religion is upheld and interfaith relations are well established. Father Antonius Benny Sustyo, an outspoken activist priest, said Father Magnis’ openness and willingness to communicate with others are among his finest characteristics. “..Achmad Nurcholish, a Muslim activist said Father Magnis had contributed a lot to the progress of humanity in Indonesia, especially through his writings that have an enriched perspective.
Father Magnis’ endeavors have been duly recognized and have earned him a number of awards.In 2015, he received an award from Indonesian President Joko Widodo for his dedication to education and culture. A year later, in 2016, he won the Matteo Ricci International Prize for his commitment to promoting interreligious dialogue from the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan. However, the one that gives him the most pleasure is a so-called “Mud Award”, bestowed on him by communities in East Java whose land and homes were buried by mud caused by the activities of a company belonging to Aburizal Bakrie, a businessman cum politician. It was given in 2007 after the priest refused to accept a Bakrie Award — handed out by Aburizal Bakrie’s family — to show solidarity with people affected by the mud disaster. “I was very happy with that award. I’ll always treasure it,” he said.