Archive for the 'Human Rights Defenders' Category

Breaking news: three Human Rights Defenders selected as Finalists for the 2017 Martin Ennals Award.

April 26, 2017

Today, 26 April 2017, the Martin Ennals Foundation announced that the following 3 human rights defenders have been selected as the Finalists for the  2017 Martin Ennals Award. This award is considered to be the main of award of the whole international human rights movement as the Jury (see below) is composed of leading human rights NGOs.

FreeThe5KH (Cambodia)

FreeThe5KH are five Human Rights Defenders who have been in pre-trial detention for almost one year. This is linked to their work with the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC). International bodies like the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and UN Special Rapporteurs have repeatedly called for their immediate and unconditional release, and a stop to judicial harassment of human rights defenders in Cambodia based on their legitimate human rights work. This comes in the context of an increasingly severe crackdown on civil society and the political opposition in Cambodia.

On behalf of the Khmer Five, Thun Saray, President of (ADHOC) comments: “It is an immense honour for the five HRDs to be selected as finalists. 28 April will mark their one year in arbitrary detention on the basis of their legitimate human rights work. The increased attacks against HRDs and activists has had a tremendous impact on those working to promote and protect human rights in Cambodia. This Award is symbol of encouragement for every courageous Cambodian, who continues to speak out against injustices and human rights violations. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to everyone that has supported the nomination.

Karla Avelar (El Salvador)

Karla Avelar, a transgender woman in El Salvador, grew up on the streets of San Salvador, suffering discrimination, violence, exploitation, and rape. She was imprisoned when she defended herself, and then regularly abused by fellow prisoners with the knowledge and even participation of the prison authorities. These terrible experiences have forged her into a powerful advocate. With three others, she founded COMCAVIS TRANS, which was created to represent, defend, and promote the human rights of LGBTI persons, with a focus on those living with HIV, as she does. She works to change legislation and the authorities’ practices, by holding them publicly to account. Notably her advocacy helped prompt the authorities to segregate LGBTI prisoners for their own safety, and allow for the standard HIV treatments provided by the Ministry of Health.

She said,” I want to thank Martin Ennals, the jury, and those who nominated me for this important award. Although today I am in danger, and sure that my struggle is risky, my eagerness for justice and equity motivates me. I will continue to push the State to accept reforms and legislation proposed by civil society to allow the LGBTI community to fully enjoy their human rights.”

Mohamed Zaree (Egypt)

Mohamed Zaree is the Egypt Country Director for the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), responsible for CIHRS’s legal research, media outreach and national advocacy. CIHRS’s work was influential in the Arab world particularly Egypt, which resulted in death threats to its director. This forced the CIHRS executive director and regional staff to move abroad to continue their work. Mohamed chose to stay and is now banned from travel. He is a legal scholar coordinating research to challenge laws designed to limit NGOs activities working on human rights, such as freedom of expression and assembly. He is widely seen a unifying figure bringing together the human rights community in Egypt to advocate with a common approach.

He stated “Our hopes were high following the Egyptian revolution in 2011; we don’t know how the situation has instead deteriorated to such an extent. Today, we are battling human rights violations that are worse than before 2011, and challenging the normalization and acceptance of these atrocities. Killing almost 1000 citizens in few hours, arresting almost 40,000 others, innocents dying in Egyptian prisons; is not the norm and we will not allow it to become so. We human rights defenders are fighting these abuses at risk of indefinite imprisonment. 

The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) is a unique collaboration among ten of the world’s leading human rights organizations to give protection to human rights defenders worldwide. The Jury is composed of the following NGOs:

  • Amnesty International,
  • Human Rights Watch,
  • Human Rights First,
  • FIDH – Int’l Federation for Human Rights,
  • World Organisation Against Torture,
  • Front Line Defenders,
  • International Commission of Jurists,
  • EWDE Germany,
  • International Service for Human Rights,
  • HURIDOCS

The Award will be presented on October 10th 2017 at a ceremony hosted by the City of Geneva.

For further information, please contact: Michael Khambatta +41 79 474 8208 khambatta[at]martinennalsaward.org or visit www.martinennalsaward.org

Sunny Maldives: Murder of human rights defender and blogger Yameen Rasheed tip of the iceberg

April 25, 2017

The Maldives normally create images in our mind of luxury holidays. This is a false image [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/maldives/]. On Sunday, 23 April 2017, a prominent blogger and social media activist, Yameen Rasheed, was found in the stairwell of his residence in the country’s capital Malé with multiple stab wounds to his head, neck and body. Mr. Rasheed died of his injuries. The UN, Front Line and others expressed deep alarmed by Mr. Rasheed’s killing and urge the authorities to ensure that the investigation into the murder is prompt, thorough and that the perpetrators are brought to justice. Mr. Rasheed had in December reported to the Maldives Police Service that he was receiving targeted death threats following the publication of his photo along with those of others on an anonymous Facebook page, but he complained that he had to follow up for three days just to get a confirmation that his complaint had been registered. Mr. Rasheed’s killing comes in the context of what appears to be an upsurge in arrests and prosecutions of the political opposition.

Yameen Rasheed [see his profile: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/yameen-rasheed]  was a prominent human rights defender and social media activist in Maldives. Through his blog The Daily Panic, he was an outspoken critic of government corruption and was vocal against impunity for crimes against journalists and attacks of freedom of expression  committed by radical Islamist groups. Yameen Rasheed was a close friend of Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla, another well known Maldivian journalist, blogger and human rights advocate, who was abducted and disappeared in 2014. Since 2014, Yameen Rasheed had been working to obtain justice for Rilwan, and was recently coordinating with Rilwan’s family to file a case against the Maldives police on the investigation of Rilwan’s death. In 2015, he was arrested along with 200 other activists and imprisoned for three weeks after taking part in a pro-democracy rally in the capital.

Maldives has a troubling history of attacks targeting human rights defenders, journalists and bloggers. On 5 June 2012, blogger, LGBT activist and journalist Ismail Khilath Rasheed, also known as Hilath, was stabbed by radical Islamists. On 8 August 2014, prominent HRD Ahmed Rilwan went missing and has not been heard of since then. On 4 September 2015, human rights lawyer Mahfooz Saeed [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-mahfooz-saeed] was brutally attacked by two unidentified men, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/09/07/mahfooz-saeed-lawyer-of-maldives-ex-president-stabbed/. 

It would seem therefore that the groundbreaking legal proceedings (October 2016), which the ISHR has brought to the UN Human Rights Committee have a lot of merit. It was requested to rule that the Maldives violated international law by restricting human rights defenders from submitting information to the UN.

In what is the first case filed with the UN on behalf of former members of a national human rights institution, ISHR has asked the UN Human Rights Committee to authoritatively rule that there is a legal right to submit information, evidence and reports to the UN and that restrictions on this right, or reprisals for exercising this right, amount to serious breaches of international law. The case could have wide-ranging implications, as a number of countries seek to criminalise or prosecute people to prevent them from exposing human rights violations at the UN.

Assisted by ISHR, Ahmed Tholal and Jeehan Mahmood, former Commissioners of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), have filed a communication with the UN’s Human Rights Committee to highlight the Maldives’ failure to ensure their right to share information freely with the UN without reprisal. The HRCM was prosecuted in 2015 by the Supreme Court in the Maldives following a submission made by the HRCM on human rights in the Maldives to the UN’s Universal Periodic Review….The Court ruled that the HRCM’s report was unlawful, biased and undermined judicial independence, and ordered the HRCM to follow a set of guidelines designed to restrict the HRCM’s work and its ability to communicate with the UN.

Ahmed Tholal and Jeehan Mahmood said they were seeking a ruling from the Committee because they want the HRCM’s right to freely communicate with international human rights mechanisms to be firmly preserved in law and practice. ‘If the HRCM is not able to communicate freely with the UN, its ability to carry out its mandate is severely undermined. This case isn’t just about the HRCM of 2010. Rather it’s about the far reaching implications such reprisals will have on the independence and integrity of NHRI’s everywhere,’ they said.

‘The decision of the Supreme Court to restrict the activities and independence of the Commission is incompatible with the right of safe and unhindered communication with UN bodies, and the prohibition against reprisals for exercising that right. Such a decision by an arm of government is a clear breach of international law,’ Ms Sinclair of ISHR said. Background to the case can be found here.

A copy of the Communication can be found here.

Source: OHCHR Press Briefing Notes – South Sudan, Maldives | Scoop News

https://www.ishr.ch/news/reprisals-groundbreaking-legal-proceedings-filed-against-maldives

Video interview with Cleopatra KAMBUGU from Uganda

April 25, 2017

On 24 April 2017 the ISHR published this interview with Cleopatra KAMBUGU, grants administrator at UHAI EASHRI and transgender activist in Uganda. Cleopatra was featured in “Pearl of Africa“, a movie shown at the Geneva international Film Festival and Human Rights Forum and spoke  about the challenges she faces in her struggle to have transgender rights recognised in her country. More information on UHAI-EASHRI: http://www.uhai-eashri.org

Tomorrow, 26 April, MEA will announce its three Finalist for 2017

April 25, 2017

The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) will announce its three Finalists for 2017 on Wednesday 26 April at 11:00 Geneva time. If you want to find out while on the go see: Social media
@martinennals
#Ennals 2017
https://www.facebook.com/MartinEnnals/

Please share this widely.

For last yea’s announcement see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/27/breaking-news-final-nominees-2016-martin-ennals-award-tohti-zone-9-bloggers-razan-zaitouneh-annoucement/

Video of the “Defending Human Rights is not a Crime” meeting now available

April 24, 2017

This 5 minute video of the ProtectDefenders.eu 2016 Annual Beneficiaries’ Meeting, held in Brussels on the 29 November 2016 is now available on Your Tube. The motto was “Defending Human Rights is not a crime – #DefendersNotCriminals”.

Interpol headed by Chinese police official, human rights defenders fearsome

April 20, 2017

meng-hongwei.jpg
Meng Hongwei takes charge of Interpol

‘Old’ but underreported news is that Meng Hongwei – a top Chinese police official – has been elected president of Interpol, which worries some human rights NGOs. The Independent had an article on 10 November 2016.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has waged a four-year campaign against corruption, which includes a push to return former officials and other suspects who fled abroad. China filed a list of 100 of its most-wanted suspects with Interpol in April 2014, about one third of which have since been repatriated. The country’s police and judicial systems have been routinely criticised for abuses, including eliciting confessions under torture and the disappearance and detention without charges of political dissidents and their family members.  Many Western nations have been reluctant to sign extradition treaties with China or return suspects wanted for non-violent crimes.

Given those circumstances, Mr Meng’s election is an “alarming prospect“, said Maya Wang, Hong Kong-based researcher at Human Rights Watch. “While we think it’s important to fight corruption, the campaign has been politicised and undermines judicial independence,” Ms Wang added. Mr Meng’s election “will probably embolden and encourage abuses in the system,” she said, citing recent reports of close Chinese ally Russia’s use of Interpol to attack President Vladimir Putin’s political opponents.

This is extraordinarily worrying given China’s longstanding practice of trying to use Interpol to arrest dissidents and refugees abroad,” Nicholas Bequelin, east Asia director at Amnesty International wrote on Twitter.

Recently, 5 April 2017, Wei Jingsheng, a well-known human rights defender in exile, said while visiting Lyon (the HQ of Interpol) that the election of Meng Hongwei as chief of the global police organisation could give Beijing new leverage over its critics. “The Chinese government’s message to all political opponents like me or party officials who have fled the country is: ‘Wherever you are, the international police work with us and we will find you’,” “That’s frightening,” he said, adding that Meng “is still vice-minister of public security in China. He has led the secret police.”

While Interpol’s charter officially bars it from undertaking “any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character,” critics say some governments, primarily Russia and Iran, have abused the system to harass and detain opponents of their regime.

Sources:

Chinese state official named head of Interpol, raising fears for political opponents | The Independent

http://www.france24.com/en/20170405-china-dissident-sees-threat-new-interpol-chief

Human Rights Defender “v.” Freedom of Expression

April 19, 2017

On 4 April 2017 the European Court of Human Rights rendered a judgment1 in the case of Milisavljević v. Serbia (application no. 50123/06) in which it unanimously held that there had been a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights. What makes the case particularly interesting is that it concerns Natasa Kandic a well-known human rights defender who has won several awards including the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) in 1999. [see also : https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/04/07/serbian-natasa-kandic-receives-first-civil-rights-defender-of-the-year-awar/] Nothing is simple when it comes to human rights……

A journalist, Ms Milisavljević, had published in September 2003 an article in Politika about Kandic in which this journalist quoted another journalist who said that Kandic had been called a witch and a prostitute. Natasha Kandic sued for libel and the Serbian courts held that by failing to put one particular sentence – “Ms Kandić [had] been called a witch and a prostitute” – in quotation marks the journalist had tacitly endorsed the words as her own.

The European Court found that it was evident, even without the quotation marks, that that sentence, written by another journalist and previously published in a different magazine, had not been Ms Milisavljević’s personal opinion of Ms Kandić, but that she had merely been transmitting how Ms Kandić was perceived by others. Moreover, the domestic courts, limiting their reasoning to the lack of quotation marks, had completely failed to balance Ms Kandić’s right to reputation against Ms Milisavljević’s freedom of expression and duty, as a journalist, to impart information of general interest.

 CASE OF MILISAVLJEVIĆ v. SERBIA – Application no. 50123/06)

HRCnet seeks Geneva based coordinator

April 11, 2017

The Human Rights Council Network (HRCnet) is seeking a Coordinator based at the International Service of Human Rights in Geneva. For details on the post see below:
HRCnet is a 10-year old coalition of national, regional and international NGOs engaging with the UN Human Rights Council. Its current members are:
in Africa: African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (The Gambia), DefendDefenders (East and Horn of African Human Rights Defenders Network) (Uganda), Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network (Zimbabwe), West African Human Rights Defenders Network (Togo),
in Asia: Asian Legal Resource Centre (Hong Kong, China), Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM ASIA) (Thailand), Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (India),
in Latin America: Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) (Argentina), Conectas Direitos Humanos (Brazil),
in the Middle East and North Africa: Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (Egypt), Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (Egypt),
and the following  International NGOs: Human Rights Watch (USA), International Service for Human Rights (Switzerland), Open Society Foundations (USA).

Read the rest of this entry »

Women human rights defenders and their films at Movies That Matter 2017

April 10, 2017

Beth Murphy (Filmmaker/Journalist) wrote in the Huffington Post of 31 March 2017 under the title “The world’s human rights movement would look very different ‘if it weren’t for women’” a piece that highlights women human rights defenders in the context of the Movies That Matter Film Festival which took place in the Netherlands earlier this year [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/15/movies-that-matter-film-festival-in-the-hague-from-24-march-to-1-april-2017/]. Movies that Matter, the Amnesty International film festival celebrated nine human rights defenders and screened films that share their powerful stories. Here some of these defenders: Read the rest of this entry »

Cataloger of Khmer Rouge Atrocities wins Judith Lee Stronach Award

April 8, 2017

Chang Youk, director of DC-Cam, talks to VOA Khmer about national reconciliation at his office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, August 08th, 2016. (Neou Vannarin/VOA Khmer)
Chhang Youk, director of DC-Cam, talks to VOA Khmer about national reconciliation at his office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, August 08th, 2016. (Neou Vannarin/VOA Khmer)

Chhang was a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime. He fled to the United States as a refugee, but memories of the suffering he endured brought him back to his homeland in the early 1990s. He founded DC-Cam and has led the organization since 1995, creating a national genocide education program. Nushin Sarkarati, a senior attorney at CJA, said that without Chhang’s dedication there would be little justice for the victims and survivors.

In this photo taken on Aug. 20, 2012, Director of Documentation Center of Cambodia, Youk Chhang arranges photos, a part of about a thousand of newly-discovered photo collection of detainees at the former Khmer Rouge main prison S-21, in his office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

In this photo taken on Aug. 20, 2012, Director of Documentation Center of Cambodia, Youk Chhang arranges photos, a part of about a thousand of newly-discovered photo collection of detainees at the former Khmer Rouge main prison S-21, in his office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Beth Van Schaack, a Stanford law professor who advises DC-Cam, said the group’s orientation towards victims made Chhang a natural choice for the award. “What CJA really admires about DC-Cam is it also has a very victim centered approach, working-hard to help Cambodian victims, experience justice before the ECCC [Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia] and DC-Cam has become in many ways a model for other documentation centers around the world that are collecting information that can be submitted to justice processes where human rights are concerned,” she said.

Nate Thayer, a journalist who has reported on Cambodia for some three decades, said without Chhang’s work, the Khmer Rouge perpetrators would have gotten away with their crimes. “Youk Chhang was a one-man army fighting for justice for those who suffered in Cambodia and his personal passion and devotion bringing those who responsible for mass murder to justice, to face the music, to answer for their crime.

Peter Maguire, a law professor and an author of “Facing Death in Cambodia,” called Chhang a “Cambodian national treasure” whose efforts bring more truth and reconciliation to the Cambodian people than the combined efforts of the United Nations and ECCC.

Youk Chhang, a leading Cambodian genocide researcher, shows a copy of the Cambodian version of a Khmer Rouge history textbook to teachers in Takeo province, July 3, 2012.

Youk Chhang, a leading Cambodian genocide researcher, shows a copy of the Cambodian version of a Khmer Rouge history textbook to teachers in Takeo province, July 3, 2012.

Neth Pheaktra, ECCC spokesman, told VOA Khmer that DC-Cam deserved the award as it had uncovered valuable evidence that could be used at the court. “The work that DC-Cam has done helps the ECCC save time in finding evidence by ourselves, and it shows us the way, brings us information as well as some historical documents we needed for the trials.”

Chhang is currently working on developing the Sleuk Rith Institute, a permanent hub for genocide studies in Asia based in Phnom Penh.

Source: Cataloger of Khmer Rouge Crimes Wins Prestigious Human Rights Award