Archive for the 'Human Rights Defenders' Category

Angelina Jolie extolls women human rights defenders in new essay

August 6, 2019

On 5 August 2019, Annie Martin wrote that “Angelina Jolie sends love to ‘wicked women‘ (women breaking rules and pushing boundaries) in new essay”

Angelina Jolie reflected on women’s rights and societal expectations in the September issue of Elle. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
The 44-year-old actress reflected on women’s rights and societal expectations in an essay for the September issue of Elle published Monday. Jolie began by asking the question, “What is it about the power of a woman free in mind and body that has been perceived as so dangerous throughout history.” She recounted how accusations of witchcraft have ben used “to control and silence women” in many societies throughout the centuries….”Since time immemorial, women who rebel against what is considered normal by society — even unintentionally — have been labeled as unnatural, weird, wicked, and dangerous. What is surprising is the extent to which this kind of myth and prejudice has persisted throughout the centuries and still colors the world we live in”Jolie discussed how modern women across the globe are considered “wicked” for such behaviors as dancing or singing in public, running for political office, or fighting for human rights. These women are sometimes met with violence, imprisonment or social ostracism. “Female human rights defenders across the world are incarcerated for their political views or for defending themselves or others, with courage I can hardly imagine. For all our modern advances, the independence and creative energy of women is still frequently seen as a dangerous force to be controlled, often in the name of religion, tradition, or culture,” Jolie wrote.

“Looked at in this light, ‘wicked women’ are just women who are tired of injustice and abuse,” she said. “Women who refuse to follow rules and codes they don’t believe are best for themselves or their families. Women who won’t give up on their voice and rights, even at the risk of death or imprisonment or rejection by their families and communities.” “If that is wickedness, then the world needs more wicked women,” the star declared.

For more on Angelina Jolie and her human rights work, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/angelina-jolie/

https://www.upi.com/Entertainment_News/2019/08/05/Angelina-Jolie-sends-love-to-wicked-women-in-new-essay/1591565015424/

Environmental Human Rights Defenders: “More Deadly Than Being a Soldier in a War Zone”

August 6, 2019

The number of environmental human rights defenders murdered across the world has doubled over the past 15 years, climbing above the number of soldiers killed in some conflict zones, research has revealed. Between 2002 and 2017, as many as 1,558 people across 50 countries were killed while defending the environment, according to a study published in the journal Nature Sustainability,  The supply chain of violence”.

That is more than double the number of U.K. and Australian armed service personnel killed while on active duty in war zones during the same period, the researchers emphasized. Since 2004, the recorded number of environmental defenders dying has risen from two per week to four per week. Most were killed due to conflict over natural resources….

“Environmental defenders currently face a wave of violence that includes threats of physical harm, intimidation and criminalization,” the authors wrote. “Deaths represent the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of the violence that environmental defenders face.”

indigenous woman, Brazil, protest, getty, Brasilia
An indigenous woman holds a Brazilian national flag stained in red representing blood during a march in Brasilia on April 26, 2019, on the last day of a protest to defend indigenous land and rights. CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images

In 2017, at least 185 activists were killed, with Indigenous peoples making up the biggest portion at around 30 percent, down from 40 percent in 2015 and 2016. At 36 percent, most deaths happened in Central America, followed by South American at 32 percent, and Asia at 31 percent. The most indigenous peoples died in the Philippines and Colombia between 2015 and 2017, with 36 and 22 deaths respectively. In 2017, 56 environmental defenders were killed in Brazil and 47 in the Philippines.

And the loved ones of victims struggle to seek justice, the authors said. Just over 10 percent of murders result lead to a conviction each year. This is likely due to corrupt police and authorities, who are sometimes involved in environmental devastation, and because murders are often carried out in remote areas. For instance, military and civil police are the main suspects after 10 land rights activists were killed in the city of Pau D’Arco, Brazil.

The researchers said the elections of populist leaders Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines are a further cause for concern. Bolsonaro has called activists terrorists, and plans to relax gun and environmental protection laws, while the Philippines’ president “has taken a violent stance toward human rights defenders, Indigenous peoples, environmentalists, women, drug users and others,” the authors wrote.

..

Companies and consumers also have a responsibility to “investigate the sources of products, publish the results and commit to eliminating violence from supply chains,” the authors said. Co-author Dr. Nathalie Butt, a researcher fellow at the University of Queensland, Australia, School of Biological Sciences commented in a statement: “The number of reported deaths of environmental defenders has increased, as well as the number of countries where they occur.” Butt told Newsweek she was surprised that corruption was the key driver of the deaths, rather than the resources themselves. “As a lot of the resource demand is driven by international markets, consumers in countries in the Global North need to make sure they are aware of where their products come from, and how they were obtained, and demand (through pressure on supply companies) ethical and transparent supply chain processes,” she said.

Butt continued: “In many cases they [environmental defenders] are trying to protect environments that are important for everyone on the planet such as the Amazon, which is critical in terms of buffering climate change and carbon emissions.”

….Christopher Jeffords, associate professor in the department of economics at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, told Newsweek: “These studies help shine a light on known instances of extreme violence committed against environmental defenders and thus help illuminate the notion that there are likely many cases which go unreported.” Eve Bratman, adjunct professorial lecturer at the American University Washington, D.C., School of International Service, told Newsweek: “The study tells us that the most important driving forces behind human rights abuses and the killings of environmental defenders are corruption and rule of law; when governments become more accountable, the benefits will likely be seen across the board. “In Brazil and several other countries, there is reasonable cause for concern that rates of violence will spike even higher given the dangers of today’s political climate.”

https://www.newsweek.com/more-deadly-being-soldier-war-zone-environmental-activists-killed-defending-planet-have-1452277

For the study mentioned see: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-019-0349-4

LWF rolls out Advocacy Handbook in Central America

August 5, 2019

Participants at the LWF advocacy training workshop in San José, Costa Rica, 14-16 July. Photo: LWF/F. Wilches
Participants at the LWF advocacy training workshop in San José, Costa Rica, 14-16 July. Photo: LWF/F. Wilches

The persecution and killing of human rights defenders in Central America, as well as obstacles to the exercise of religious freedom in the region were under the spotlight at an advocacy training workshop in San José, Costa Rica, 14 -16 July.  The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) event was attended by 21 participants from six of the communion’s member churches in Central America and North America and from the World Service regional program.

The training facilitated by the LWF Office for International Affairs and Human Rights was an important opportunity for participants to share experiences of advocacy in their local and national contexts, hear about good practices and learn basic guidelines for effective advocacy work from a rights-based approach including gender analysis. The main tool used was the recently published LWF Advocacy Handbook, which is available in English, French and Spanish.

Participants talked about their concerns for the plight of human rights’ defenders who risk their lives on a daily basis in pursuit of justice and peace in their countries. They also discussed other human rights issues including limitations to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, the rights of indigenous peoples, the challenges facing those living with HIV and  the importance of a critical approach to the role of the churches in the public space. “What makes this handbook special is its attempt to equip human rights defenders with a wide range of practical strategies that link local and global advocacy actions for meaningful impact at grass roots level” stated Dr Ojot Miru Ojulu, LWF Assistant General Secretary for International Affairs and Human Rights

The training is expected to be replicated in the other LWF regions over the coming years with the goal of helping the member churches, country programs and communities to strengthen their capacity to work on advocacy and human rights. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/29/three-award-winning-colombian-human-rights-defenders-on-a-european-tour-to-raise-awareness/

LWF Advocacy Handbook

https://www.lutheranworld.org/news/lwf-rolls-out-advocacy-handbook-central-america

Amnesty International’s Global Assembly 2019 deserves more attention: big shifts coming up

August 5, 2019

This weekend Amnesty International’s 2019 Global Assembly (GA) took place on the edge of Johannesburg. In a world where all news should be equal, or a world less fixated on Busi Mkhwebane or Donald Trump, global gatherings of human rights activists ought to be headline news. Their debates and decisions should be reported; their accountability structures scrutinised. But the media was visible by its absence. This is what the Daily Maverick of 4 August 2019 wrote and its is worth reading in its totality!:

Amnesty International (AI) is probably the largest international human rights organisation in the world. It has more than eight million members and each of its 69 country sections sent three elected delegates to the GA, one of whom had to be a young person under 25. AI is worth watching because its membership is largely unpaid volunteers, people prepared to get on the streets to realise their hopes for a fairer world. Unlike many other civil society organisations it doesn’t take funding from governments or private corporations. And it’s still hungry for change. But in addition to the GA taking place in South Africa, our country lent some of its most famous sons to the deliberations. The keynote opening address was delivered by Justice Dikgang Moseneke, who movingly recalled how letters from Amnesty International sent to his mother began arriving within a month of the start of his 10-year sojourn on Robben Island. “It was an abiding lesson in global solidarity,” he told delegates, who gave him three standing ovations. He was complemented by seasoned South African activist Kumi Naidoo, who is entering his second year as AI’s secretary-general. Amid the buzz of arriving delegates, last-minute preparations and a pre-conference of its youth members, I persuaded Naidoo to surrender 45 minutes of his time for a short conversation about the challenges AI faces on making itself relevant and ready for some of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced. Naidoo started our conversation by saying that AI understands that this is a watershed time for human rights activism. He pointed out that the movement is midway through developing a new strategy that aims to help it become “a bigger, bolder and more inclusive human rights movement”. “Bigger” because AI knows it needs numbers to have political clout – it aims to increase its membership to 25 million people in the next few years. “Bolder” because many of the methods activists have used successfully in the past have been tamed. In his address to the assembly, he warned that “Our ability to raise the political cost of human rights violations simply by exposing them and naming them is receding.” He talked of the need for widespread “civil disobedience”. This might come as a shock to many of AI’s traditional members who are more used to writing protest letters. “More inclusive”, because AI’s centre of gravity has to shift south and its demographic has to quickly encompass millions more young people and black people. These are big asks, but Naidoo argues that this is a critical moment for introspection by human rights activists. In the face of galloping climate change, rising populism and “Big Men” leaders with their fingers on weapons of mass destruction, it has to be an introspection on the run. In 2019 and the years ahead we cannot afford a demobilisation of civil society as it takes time out to think. This is because, warns Naidoo, “Humanity is at a critical point. The world in which AI was created in 1961 is now very, very different.” He talks a lot, in this regard, about the climate crisis, about how real the threat of human extinction is becoming. “The Special Report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in October 2018 said we have 12 years to drastically reduce carbon emissions.” (The report said that to limit climate change to 1.5°C it will be necessary to reduce carbon emissions by 45% globally by 2030). As a result, Naidoo believes, Amnesty now needs “to climatise all our existing work”. Hear, hear, I thought, there’s a lesson for South African civil society there. For example, one pillar of AI’s core business has always been campaigning against the death penalty. And it has done very well. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says that only 23 out of its 193 member states still carry out the death penalty. But now, Naidoo says, “Humanity is facing a mass death penalty as a result of climate change.” Bearing out the importance AI attaches to this “existential threat to civilization” AI’s 2019 Ambassador of Conscience Award has been given to Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for the Future movement. AI hopes it will be handed over by the US politician and activist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Washington during the week of the great climate strike planned for 20 September.

Yet, Naidoo says, “The core DNA of Amnesty – defending human rights defenders – will continue.” The fact that the very notion of human rights is under attack makes them all the more important to defend. Thus, “Whilst last year the United Nations marked the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with the necessary aplomb, if the UN were to try and pass such a declaration today it would not get out of the starting blocks.”

Sadly, with the current crop of leaders like Trump, Modi, Putin, Bolsanero, Johnson we know he’s right. Once again it falls to civil society to stand up and make the case for human rights. But that can’t mean just more of the same. Civil society’s methods, tactics and strategies have to adapt. For example, although AI was formed to protect what are known as first generation rights (exposing torture and the death penalty, supporting prisoners of conscience etc), Naidoo told the conference that it is socio-economic or second generation rights that matter most to billions of people – access to food, health services, basic education or water. And these days it is most often community protests to demand the fulfilment of these rights that leads corrupt and fragile states to unleash new waves of violations on the rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression or association. A recent report by Global Witness records the killing of three environmental or land activists a week in 2018. In this context the climate crisis again serves to hammer home the need for change. “If people think human beings currently treat each other badly, you haven’t seen anything yet,” Naidoo muses, echoing conclusions made in a recently published UN report on Climate Change and Human Rights. So in addition to gazing at its DNA, AI also discussed its campaign methods, and it’s here perhaps that it required the deepest introspection: “At best we are winning the battles, but losing the war.” “We have access to power, without influence.” “We have to get out of our silos.”… “The catastrophic error we made at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 was to frame climate change as an environmental issue.” In fact, it’s an everything issue. Much the same can be said about many of the other fronts on which civil society wages its war for dignity. Health is an education issue. Education is a gender equality issue. Water is a dignity issue. Preventable hunger is a torture issue. Nutrition is a children’s rights issue, and so on. It’s time to rethink how we articulate rights and freedoms. At the end of 45 minutes, a polite young AI staffer ushered us out of the room. Naidoo looked tired even though the day was just beginning. We are living in what philosopher Slavoj Zizek calls “the end-times” and Kumi Naidoo is the captain of one of the few human rights movements that has to find it within itself to pull us back from the brink. And that’s why the Amnesty Global Assembly should have been in the news.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2019-08-04-bolder-and-more-inclusive-amnesty-international-holds-global-assembly-in-sa/

Former Magsaysay laureate Sandeep Pandey is in two minds about this award

August 5, 2019

Award a protection against autocratic tendencies, but Magsaysay is ‘not infallible” says Sandeep Pandey, a social activist and academic, a Magsasay recipient, who returned his award in 2002.

There could not have been a better choice than Ravish Kumar for this year’s Magsaysay Award. Ravish has demonstrated exemplary courage in questioning the sectarian, communal, jingoistic and irrational politics which has dominated the narrative in this country over the last five years when one by one most of the saner voices were made to disappear, some made compromises or simply surrendered and worst there were others who decided to collaborate with this insidious project of right wing fundamentalism. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/03/magsaysay-awards-2019-honor-4-outstanding-asians/]
..
The Magsaysay Award will definitely bring more credibility to his work and hopefully some of the opposition from right wing forces, who are known to troll in an organised manner any sane voice in support of human rights, democracy, justice, communal harmony, peace and friendship, especially with Pakistan, and who’ve targeted Ravish in the past, will subside.
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However, the aura of Magsaysay is quite exaggerated in India than other countries of Asia, and outside of Asia very few people have heard of it, probably because there are many well known Indians who have won it. Part of the reason for its popularity in India is that it and its winners feature prominently in most General Knowledge books which are used by students preparing for competitive examinations. But the Magsaysay Foundation itself is not infallible, unlike its reputation.

I went to Manila in 2002 to receive the Magsaysay Award as well as participate in a Peace conference organised at the University there in the wake of impending US attack on Iraq. It was a mere coincidence that both events were happening on same dates. There was a demonstration outside the US Embassy the day after the Award ceremony. The chairperson of the Foundation asked me not to participate in the demonstration as it could tarnish its image. ..
I argued that US was a bigger culprit in the game of warfare and I considered it part of my activism to oppose the US policy. Before landing in Manila I had little idea that the Foundation was completely US funded — by the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations. Obviously the Magsaysay Foundation was quite uncomfortable with my stand. The fears of Magsaysay Foundation came true. Even the Hindi Indian media back home covered the demonstration outside US Embassy in Manila highlighting my participation. An editorial in a Manila newspaper asked me to return the $50,000 Award money to the US Embassy before I returned to India if I was the principled man I wanted them to believe. I returned the cheque from the airport to the Magsaysay Foundation before embarking the plane out of Manila.
..
But the Award is prestigious and definitely is a protection against autocratic tendencies of the state and its cronies in India, especially for human rights defenders and upright journalists like Ravish Kumar. We hope that the right-wing fundamentalists will take his viewpoint more seriously and the media fraternity will start considering him as an ideal rather than an exception. He has now emerged as the hope for a free media in India and by extension a democratic polity. This is a victory of progressive forces, sanity and humanity and we must celebrate it. Most of all it is a victory for truth which has become a casualty in the era of post-truth. The post-truth has created only strife and conflicts. If we have to return to the human endeavour of making this world a better place for everybody, there is no option but to go back to recognizing truth as the most important values. In spite of Nathuram Godse having become a hero for a fringe group in this country, the universal ideal continues to be Mahatma Gandhi.

Magsaysay Awards 2019 honor 5 outstanding Asians

August 3, 2019

The Ramon Magsaysay Award, one of Asia’s best known prizes, celebrates transformative leadership. In the past five decades, the award has been bestowed on over three hundred men, women and organizations whose selfless service has offered their societies, Asia, and the world successful solutions to some of the most intractable problems of human development. For more on this regional award, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/ramon-magsaysay-award-for-community-leadership] The trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation annually select the awardees. The Award is presented to them in formal ceremonies in Manila, Philippines on August 31st, the birth anniversary of the much-esteemed Philippine President whose ideals inspired the Award’s creation in 1957.

The winners for 2019 are:

Kim, Jong-ki, South Korea

  • In 1995, Kim Jong-ki was a highly successful businessman handling market operations in China for a giant Korean electronics company.  Married, with a son and daughter, he was at the height of his career when tragedy struck.
  • In the year his son died, Jong-ki established the Foundation for Preventing Youth Violence (FPYV), the first organized effort in South Korea to address school violence as a systemic social problem affecting students, families, schools, and the community-at-large.
  • The impact of Jong-ki and FPYV on Korean society has been profound, establishing a nationwide presence and creating collective action on a social problem hitherto neglected.
  • In electing Kim Jong-ki to receive the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes his quiet courage in transforming private grief into a mission to protect Korea’s youth from the scourge of bullying and violence, his unstinting dedication to the goal of instilling among the young the values of self-esteem, tolerance, and mutual respect, and his effectively mobilising all sectors of the country in a nationwide drive that has transformed both policy and behaviours towards building a gentler, non-violent society.

Kumar, Ravish, India

  • In 1996, he joined New Delhi Television Network (NDTV), one of India’s leading TV networks and worked his way up from being a field reporter. After NDTV launched its 24-hour Hindi-language news channel — NDTV India — targeting the country’s 422 million native speakers of Hindi, he was given his own daily show, “Prime Time.”
  • As an anchor, Ravish is sober, incisive, and well-informed.  He does not dominate his guests but affords them the chance to express themselves.  He does not balk, however, at calling the highest officials to account or criticizing media and the state of public discourse in the country; for this reason, he has been harassed and threatened by rabid partisans of one kind or another.
  • Ravish has been most vocal on insisting that the professional values of sober, balanced, fact-based reporting be upheld in practice.
  • In electing Ravish Kumar to receive the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes his unfaltering commitment to a professional, ethical journalism of the highest standards; his moral courage in standing up for truth, integrity, and independence; and his principled belief that it is in giving full and respectful voice to the voiceless, in speaking truth bravely yet soberly to power, that journalism fulfills its noblest aims to advance democracy.

Neelapaijit, Angkhana, Thailand

  • In 2006, with the help of non-government organizations and her own family, Angkhana founded Justice for Peace Foundation (JPF), a network of human rights and peace advocates that has done important work in documenting the human rights situation in southern Thailand, thus raising public awareness and putting pressure on government to act on human rights cases, providing legal assistance to victims; and training women on human rights and the peace process.
  • In 2015, Angkhana was named commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand,  the only Commission member with grassroots human rights experience.
  • In her soft-spoken and measured tone she asserts: “Most women experience conflict and violence in a different way than men.
  • In electing Angkhana Neelapaijit to receive the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes her unwavering courage in seeking justice for her husband and many other victims of violence and conflict in southern Thailand; her systematic, unflagging work to reform a flawed and unfair legal system, and the shining proof she is that the humblest ordinary person can achieve national impact in deterring human rights abuses.

Ko Swe Win, Myanmar

https://www.rmaward.asia/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/KSW-Official-2-300x300.png

  • Such a journalist is 41-year-old Ko Swe Win.  Born to a poor family in Yangon, he grew up in politically turbulent times and fell victim to state repression early on.
  • In 2017, he criticized a powerful, ultranationalist Buddhist monk, Ashin Wirathu, for purveying “hate speech” and publicly commending the killer of a Muslim human rights activist.  Wirathu, Swe Win wrote, had desecrated Buddhism and should be punished for endorsing assassination and fomenting hate.
  • Swe Win and Myanmar Now draw strength from the fact that they are making a difference.  With a current readership of 350,000, the news service is highly regarded for the quality, balance, and depth of its reporting on high-impact issues, including land grabbing, child labor, and abuse of domestic workers.
  • In electing Ko Swe Win to receive the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership, the board of trustees recognizes his undaunted commitment to practice independent, ethical, and socially engaged journalism in Myanmar; his incorruptible sense of justice and unflinching pursuit of the truth in crucial but under-reported issues; and his resolute insistence that it is in the quality and force of media’s truth-telling that we can convincingly protect human rights in the world. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/09/03/myanmar-time-for-aung-san-suu-kyi-to-return-at-least-some-of-her-many-human-rights-awards/]

The fifth award winner is Mr Cayabyab, 65, who was recognised for “his compositions and performances that have defined and inspired Filipino popular music across generations”.

http://festival.rmaf.org.ph/?page_id=35

Interview with Guadalupe Marengo (“Guada”) of Amnesty International

August 2, 2019

Guadalupe Marengo: Human Rights Defender at Amnesty International

On 1 August 2019 of Geographical in the UK published an inteview with Guadaloupe Marengo (aka “Guada”), head of the Human Rights Defenders Team at Amnesty International:

..A 2017 Amnesty International report submitted to the UN points to the use of smear campaigns to delegitimise human rights defenders and undermine their work. In particular the report notes the stigmatisation of individuals and communities in Guatemala, Honduras, Peru and Paraguay who are fighting to protect their access to water and land, stating that ‘their work is delegitimised through public statements and false rumours’ and that they ‘face unfair and unfounded criminal proceedings’. In response to this issue, Amnesty International set up its Human Rights Defenders team, which works globally to highlight violence against HRDs and campaign for their rights. Geographical caught up with the head of the team, Guadeloupe Marengo, following a screening of Aruanas, a new drama focusing on environmental defenders in the Amazon. [for Aruanas see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/17/aruanas-human-rights-defenders-in-fiction-series-playing-in-amazon/]. Aruanas is now available at aruanas.tv on vimeo

Aruanas

Aruanas has helped raise public awareness of the dangers faced by those working in human rights

How did you come to lead the Human Rights Defenders team at Amnesty?

I’m Mexican and I’ve been in Britain now for about 24 years. I previously worked with women ex-prisoners here in this country, and then I moved to Amnesty to work mainly on Latin America. For many years I worked researching race-relations and running campaigns on human rights violations. Then, in 2016, I became head of the global Human Rights Defenders programme.

Why did Amnesty deem it necessary to set up the HRD team?

Human rights defenders work at the forefront, so they are the ones that get attacked. Here we are, 20 years on from the UN Declaration, and statistics on how many human rights defenders have been killed, from many human rights organisations, are at least one every other day. So there’s still a lot to do.

Where are the biggest risk areas?

The HRDs who are the most marginalised are those working on sexual and reproductive rights, those working on the climate crisis and those working on Indigenous people’s rights, land rights, and migration in Europe. These are the topics of the moment and because there is an intersectional type of discrimination, depending on where you are, they are even more at risk. In particular, the world is getting far more aware of climate issues, so those in power are actually attacking human rights defenders more. I think we’re at a tipping point, the world is suddenly realising that actually, we need to do something about this. I’m hoping that series such as Aruanas are going to help win more hearts and minds. The fact is Amnesty can’t make a series like that because it’s too expensive. So it’s good that those with the money are trying to contribute positively to humanity.

Who are the perpetrators of this kind of violence?

A combination of businesses with a vested interests and also governments, which should be the ones sending a very clear signal that intimidation of human rights defenders isn’t going to be tolerated. It’s is the mix of those in power – state and non-state actors.

How does Amnesty work to protect HRDs?

What we do is show the world what’s going on. We then approach government and businesses, either lobbying through letters, or through conversations with them, or at the UN. Through our international offices we interview rights workers, we interview victims, we go to the places, we double check the information and then we publish reports.

Are there any HRD cases that stand out to you in particular?

The issue in the UK of the Stansted 15 stands out to me – how the UK accused 15 people who stopped a plane that was going to deport LGBT+ people. One, for example, was going to be deported to Nigeria – she was a lesbian, her ex-partner was waiting and was going to kill her. The UK accused the 15 of terrorism-related offences for stopping the plane. I couldn’t believe the UK was doing that. Some of the 15 were given community service. Two were given suspended sentences and they are appealing that because even though they didn’t go to prison, the charges stand.

What are your goals for the time you are head of the HRD team?

One thing I would like to do is work more in coalition with other charities, to open up to others and ensure that we’re all working together towards campaigning instead of in silos. We have more in common than we don’t. If we all work together on these issues, I think we will have more impact.

https://geographical.co.uk/people/development/item/3308-guadalupe-marengo-amnesty-international

Following threats to NGO offices in Israel, human rights defenders demand investigation

August 1, 2019

On Wednesday, death threats were found spray-painted outside the offices of Amnesty International in Tel Aviv and ASSAF, an organization which advocates for refugees and asylum seekers in Israel. (Photo: @AmnestyIsrael/Twitter)

Human rights defenders in Israel linked recent threats at three civil society organizations to the rhetoric and policies of the country’s government, which has worked to intimidate and suppress groups critical of its treatment of Palestinians and other marginalized people. Staff members at Amnesty Israel in Tel Aviv and the Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel (ASSAF) on Wednesday found death threats written in spray paint on walls outside the organizations’ offices. A box containing death threats and a dead mouse was found around the same time at the Elifelet Children’s Activity Center, which cares for refugee children.

“We have filed a complaint with the police and we see this as the result of the ongoing campaign of incitement against aid and human rights organizations, led by the government,” tweeted Amnesty Israel. Amnesty International denounced the threats as “deplorable and malicious acts” which must be investigated and unequivocally condemned by the government.

The Israeli authorities should take a strong stand by publicly condemning these acts and making clear that attacks against NGOs will not be tolerated,” said Philip Luther, the group’s research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa. “The Israeli authorities must also take steps to ensure that human rights defenders and civil society organizations more generally are effectively protected and can carry out their work free from threats, intimidation, or harassment.

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/18/israel-deportation-of-human-rights-watchs-staff-member-again-on-the-table/ ]

…………”This is not the first time we are being threatened,” ASSAF wrote in a post on Twitter. “This is the result of the ongoing incitement campaign against aid and human rights organizations in Israel—with the encouragement and backing of politicians and public figures.” “You have to make sure this is the last time,” the group added, addressing authorities.

Amnesty asks Myanmar to drop charges against detained filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi

August 1, 2019

In response to the opening of the trial of filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi on 1 August 2019, Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Director for East and South East Asia said: “Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi should be celebrated for his human rights work, not wallowing in prison without appropriate care.

Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi is the latest in a long line of Myanmar activists targeted for criticising the Myanmar military. Peaceful comments on Facebook are not a crime, even if they criticise officials, and his is yet another politically motivated trial. Authorities should drop these vindictive charges, and Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi must be immediately and unconditionally released. “We remain deeply concerned about his health in detention, as he recovers from his battle with liver cancer. Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi should be celebrated for his human rights work, not wallowing in prison without appropriate care. “As the 2020 elections draw near, the clock is ticking for the NLD-led government to repeal the abusive legislation repeatedly used against peaceful critics like Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi.

Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi is a prominent filmmaker and founder of the Human Dignity Film Institute and the Human Rights, Human Dignity International Film Festival in Myanmar in 2013 [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/06/06/burmamyanmar-to-have-first-international-human-rights-film-festival-in-june/#more-2975. He was arrested on 12 April 2019 after a Myanmar military official accused him of defamation for a series of Facebook posts critical of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution and the military’s role in politics. He was initially accused of “online defamation” under Section 66(d) of the 2013 Telecommunication Act. Several days later, the same officer who had lodged the initial proceedings filed a second complaint under Section 505(a) of Myanmar’s Penal Code, which prohibits the circulation of statements or reports which could cause a solider or other member of the Myanmar military to “mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty.” If found guilty and convicted of the 505(a) charge, Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi faces a maximum sentence of two years in prison. The complaint under Section 66(d) – which also carries a maximum of two years in prison – remains pending.

Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi is being detained in Yangon’s Insein prison, where he has been held for more than three months since his arrest. He has been denied bail, despite battling liver cancer and undergoing a major operation earlier this year.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/08/myanmar-drop-charges-detained-filmmaker/

Uncalculated Risks: attacks on human rights defenders in name of development

July 30, 2019

The Campaign is made up of defenders and those who work with them on issues of development and human rights – community organizations, human rights and environmental groups, defender security organizations, transparency and accountability NGOs, and indigenous peoples and women’s networks. It is hosted by the Coalition for Human Rights in Development. You can find the Campaign Declaration and list of participant organizations here. In June, the Coalition for Human Rights in Development (CHRD) launched a landmark report with the Defenders in Development Campaign, exposing the risks of mega-infrastructure  and other ill-planned development projects on human rights defenders (HRDs). The report laid out 25 case studies demonstrating that HRDs are facing increasing threats and attacks in the context of their resistance to activities undertaken in the name of development, including harassment, physical violence, criminalisation, arbitrary detention and murder.

The Findings:

  • Threats and attacks against human rights defenders in the context of development activities are widespread.
  • Though they take many different forms, the threats and attacks often start with the labeling of communities, groups, and individuals as “anti-development.”
  • The imposition of development activities without the consent or meaningful consultation of local communities and marginalized groups is one of the key root causes of threats for defenders in development.
  • Development finance institutions have a duty to respect human rights and to ensure that their investments are not putting people at risk.
  • Yet too often, development interventions exacerbate risks for defenders due to lack of adequate attention to the rights and interests of local communities and marginalized populations, and to the contextual risks and power imbalances that may cause them to bear negative impacts or to be made vulnerable.
  • Early warning signs of potential threats to defenders are often missed or ignored.
  • DFIs have a wide range of resources and influence that can be utilized to change the risk equation for defenders under threat, but often fail to proactively develop this leverage or are reluctant to utilize the leverage they have.
  • DFIs often remain silent in the face of threats and attacks, or responses come too little, too late and defenders and communities are left without protection or remedy for harm.
  • Several DFIs are beginning to grapple with threats to defenders in development, but much more is needed.

Effectively addressing the shrinking space for participation in development processes and the growing threats to defenders will require not only a change in policy and practice, but a fundamental shift that places human rights and local communities at the center of how development is conceived and implemented.

Landmark report finds attacks on human rights defenders in name of ‘development’ on the rise