Archive for the 'human rights' Category

European Lawyers in Lesvos awarded Pax Christi Peace Prize 2019

August 14, 2019

Pax Christi International honoured the European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL) as the recipient of the 2019 Pax Christi International Peace Prize at a ceremony held in Brussels on Wednesday evening, 26 June.

The prize was accepted by “European Lawyers in Lesvos” (ELIL’s) managing director, Philip Worthington, who delivered a speech on the work of ELIL and their efforts to protect the human rights of migrants and refugees in crisis. The evening began with a speech highlighting the centrality of recognising the human dignity of every person by Bishop Kevin Dowling (Rustenburg, South Africa), Co-President of Pax Christi International. His speech was followed by his counterpart, Ms Marie Dennis, Co-President of Pax Christi International, addressing the importance of the refugee crisis to Pax Christi sections and member organisations around the world and how we are inspired by the work of ELIL. Ms. Greet Vanaerschot, Pax Christi International’s Secretary General, presented the award to Mr Worthington. Attendees were treated to musical interludes by recording artist Zem. A reception followed the one-hour ceremony.

One of the very few providers of legal assistance on the Greek island of Lesvos (also known as Lesbos, a focal point of mass immigration into Europe), ELIL was founded in June 2016 by the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) and the German Bar Association (DAV). Since that time, along with a small permanent staff, almost 150 volunteer asylum lawyers from 17 countries have provided free legal assistance to more than 9,000 people, most of whom are from Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan. ELIL is the largest provider of legal assistance to asylum seekers on Lesvos and is the primary provider of legal assistance to unaccompanied minors who have been incorrectly registered as adults (over 500 cases in total) and asylum seekers in detention (almost 200 cases in total). In addition to other services, ELIL also helps reunite families by assisting with family reunification applications under the Dublin Regulation.

Established in 1988, the Pax Christi International Peace Award is funded by the Cardinal Bernardus Alfrink Peace Fund and honours contemporary individuals and organisations who make a stand for peace, justice and nonviolence in different parts of the world. For text and videos of the speeches, photos of the ceremony & more, please click HERE.

Read more about European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL): www.europeanlawyersinlesvos.eu

Saudi lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair winner of ABA human rights award

August 14, 2019

Waleed Abu al-Khair

Waleed Abu al-Khair.

Saudi human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair, who was convicted on anti-terrorism charges and sentenced to 15 years in prison, is the winner of the 2019 ABA International Human Rights Award. For more on this and other awards for human rights lawyers see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/aba-international-human-rights-award

The ABA Journal states that Abu al-Khair founded Monitor for Human Rights, one of the only human rights organizations in Saudi Arabia, in 2008. He dedicated his legal career to defending human rights and the right to freedom of expression, and pushed for an elected parliament, independent judiciary, constitutional monarchy and other reforms in his country. Abu al-Khair’s 2014 arrest and conviction largely stemmed from comments he made to the media and on social media that criticized Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, discussions of human rights in his home and his defense of activists who were punished for criticizing the government, according to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. The human rights organizations say the specific charges against him included disobeying the ruler and seeking to remove his legitimacy; insulting the judiciary and questioning the integrity of judges; setting up an unlicensed organization; harming the reputation of the state by communicating with international organizations; and preparing, storing and sending information that harms public order.

His full 15-year sentence was upheld by a Saudi appeals court in 2015 after he refused to apologize for the alleged offenses. He is currently in the Dhahban Central Prison in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The United Nations Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has twice reviewed the legitimacy of Abu al-Khair’s detention, and in 2018, declared that Saudi Arabia lacked legal basis and grounds for restricting his freedoms of expression and opinion, the ABA press release says.

Abu al-Khair earlier also received the Olof Palme Prize, Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Rights Prize, Law Society of Ontario’s Human Rights Award and Right Livelihood Award. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/28/saudi-arabia-imprisoned-waleed-abu-al-khair-receives-another-human-rights-award/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/14/right-livelihood-award-urges-freedom-for-3-saudi-laureates/]

http://www.abajournal.com/web/article/imprisoned-saudi-lawyer-receives-this-years-international-human-rights-award

Call for Applications for Civic Space Litigation Surgery, 25-27 September in Nigeria

August 8, 2019

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Open Society Justice Initiative are calling for applications from lawyers and/or members of civil society organizations based in West Africa to participate in a forthcoming litigation surgery on the protection of civic space. The litigation surgery will be held in Abuja, Nigeria from September 25 – 27, 2019. All applicants are required to submit a current or potential case involving the protection of civic space for discussion and workshopping.  The application deadline is 11 August 2019. To apply, please complete the online application form available HERE and send all required documents.
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The proposed strategic litigation surgery is aimed at considering key issues implicated in protecting civic space, particularly the protection of freedom of expression, the right to peaceful protest, assembly and association. This litigation surgery looks to support and strengthen either existing or proposed cases that are focused on defending these rights.

Criteria for participant eligibility: 

  • The litigation surgery is open to lawyers and/or members of civil society organizations working in any member state of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Ivory Coast, Côte d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. Applicants must possess a demonstrated commitment to addressing threats to civic space in their home country through sub-regional and regional human rights litigation. Lawyers currently employed by a government institution or political party are not eligible.
  • The participants must be involved in, or considering, litigating a case or cases that address the suppression of civic space involving a violation of the rights to freedoms of expression, the right to peaceful protest, assembly, and/or association. With their application, they must submit a case that they are litigating or intend to litigate before existing human rights protection mechanisms at the sub-regional or regional levels or the national court system, which could be discussed and workshopped during the litigation surgery.
  • The following non-exhaustive list of themes are a guide for the types of cases that could be submitted with the application:
    • Suppression of peaceful protests — e.g. through excessive use of force against protesters; criminalization of protesters and organizers; legal frameworks that either prevent, restrict and/or chill protest rights generally;
    • Burdensome regulatory restrictions on civil society organizations — e.g. constraints on access to foreign funding and foreign partnerships; obstacles in registering or maintaining registration; restrictive tax laws;
  • Suppression of the media and access to information — e.g. misuse of criminal defamation laws; restricted access to the internet and social media; abuse of cyber-crimes laws; other violations that produce a chilling effect on the freedom of expression, media freedom, citizen journalism, or access to information;
  • Abuse of laws or policies in the context of countering terrorism — e.g. misuse of broad counter-terrorism laws to criminalize and/or chill legitimate activities of civic actors;
  • Impunity for threats, violence, and arbitrary detention against human rights defenders, activists, journalists, media practitioners, bloggers, social media users and other civic actors.
  • While all civic space cases will be considered, we encourage cases that touch on an intersectionality of issues and/or address untested or developing areas of human rights jurisprudence at the national, sub-regional or regional levels respectively, including:
    • Cases that highlight the role of multinational corporations in the suppression of civic space;
    • Cases that link the suppression of civic space to economic, social, and cultural rights, including in particular environmental rights;
    • Cases that demonstrate how the suppression of civic space uniquely affects women, sexual minorities, persons with disabilities, or refugees and internally displaced persons;
    • Cases that address the link between the suppression of civic space and corruption.

Other important details: The working languages for the litigation surgery will be English and French. There will be simultaneous interpretation between the two languages available to all participants. The organizers will cover the cost of airfare, visas, local transportation, accommodation, and a reasonable per diem for expenses not otherwise covered for up to about 8 selected participants.

To apply: HERE. If you have any questions regarding the litigation surgery or the application process, please email advocacy@rfkhumanrights.org.

https://rfkhumanrights.org/news/call-for-applications-civic-space-litigation-surgery-1

New documentary series highlights the struggle of women human rights in Vietnam

August 7, 2019

A new series of video interviews highlights the perspectives and struggles of human rights women in Vietnam.

The 88 Project, an organisation supporting freedom of expression in Vietnam, released the first video of an ongoing interview series with female activists in Vietnam. In the first interview with Pham Doan Trang, a dissident journalist and political activist, she discusses the challenges women face as bloggers and human rights activists: “In general, Vietnamese women are not respected. Not only in democracy activism but in all fields. In democracy activism, female activists are disadvantaged because they get attacked no less than male activists. They get beaten and assaulted. The work they do is no less than their male counterparts. But what they often get from other people is pity. I think it is not respect.” See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/18/overview-of-recent-campaigning-for-human-rights-defenders-in-vietnam/

Other women including social activist and blogger Tran Thi Nga, who is currently serving a nine-year prison sentence, have also been seriously injured following physical attacks, often conducted by hired men. Tran Thi Nga’s attack was documented and posted on Youtube with recordings of her being wheeled into a hospital accompanied by her two young children. According to family reports, Tran Thi Nga has been subjected to both physical and psychological harassment after her arrest, receiving death threats and beatings from a cellmate.

According to the 88 Project database, there are currently more than 200 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam with over 30 identifying as female. Bloggers and journalists are frequently arrested and charged for “activities attempting to overthrow the state” or “conducting propaganda against the state”. According to Amnesty International, the Vietnamese government has been conducting a growing crackdown on freedom of expression and peaceful activism over the past few years.

Nguyen Dang Minh Man, a photojournalist and the woman who has served the longest time in prison so far, is expected to be released at the beginning of August.

Journalist Kabendera in Tanzania: now suddenly held on economic charges

August 6, 2019

On 5 August 2019 prosecutors in Tanzania charged freelance journalist Erick Kabendera with money laundering, tax evasion, and assisting an organized crime racket. When he was detained on July 29, the Dar es Salaam police chief said at a press conference that police were investigating Kabendera’s citizenship status.“It seems that for the past week, authorities have been searching for a way to justify their detention of this critical freelance journalist. First, they claimed Erick Kabendera’s citizenship was in question, today they have leveled drastically different charges, which call into question their motive for holding him,” said CPJ Sub-Saharan Africa Representative Muthoki Mumo. “Prosecutors should immediately drop the charges against Kabendera and Tanzania should end its practice of retaliating against critical voices.”.. Under Tanzania’s Criminal Procedure Act, people accused of money laundering do not qualify for bail. Kabendera could remain in detention for the duration of his trial, Jones Sendodo, one of the lawyers representing the journalist, told CPJ. If convicted of assisting a criminal racket, Kabendera could be jailed for up to15 years.

Since his arrest, authorities have searched the journalist’s home at least twice, confiscated his passport and other documents, and questioned his mother, according to media reports. In addition to being interrogated about his citizenship, Kabendera was also questioned on allegations of sedition and cybercrime offences, according to the BBC and other reports. In a statement last week, the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition said that Kabendera’s rights to due process had been violated, as police moved him from station to station after arrest, denying him access to legal representation and his family. In a video posted to Twitter today, Jebra Kambole, who is also representing Kabendera, said the journalist has not yet been questioned for the crimes on the charge sheet, adding, “It is journalism work that has brought Erick here.” Kabendera will be detained at Segerea prison in Dar es Salaam until August 19, when the next hearing in his case is scheduled, his lawyer, Sendodo, said.

https://cpj.org/2019/08/tanzania-switches-track-charges-kabendera-with-eco.php

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

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/]
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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.
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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.

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

Call for Consultancy for Strategic Plan for AfricanDefenders

July 30, 2019

Call for Consultancy to develop a Strategic Plan for AfricanDefenders.

The scope is to develop Strategic Assessment report recommendations and a five years Strategic Framework for AfricanDefenders for the period of 2020 to 2025. The scope and focus of the assignment is to provide technical, strategic and facilitation support to enable the development of AfricanDefenders’ strategic plan. Develop an analysis framework and work plan to guide the assessment.

The Consultant will conduct a thorough but focused assessment of AfricanDefenders’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as external opportunities and threats, with a view to identifying appropriate strategic options for the 2020 to 2025 operational period. The assessment will include review of relevant documents, in particular the Kampala Plan of Action for Human Rights Defenders+10, the Paris Plan of Action, the Marrakesh Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the Zanzibar 2019 Final Communique. In addition to existing project documents, strategic plans of key partner agencies, donor organizations, and related domestic and international reports.

The consultant will also develop the following:
1. Online/offline survey for AfricanDefenders members and stakeholders and beneficiaries;
2. Conduct individual interviews with key informants; and
3. Facilitate in-depth focus group/facilitated discussions using web-based technologies and/or teleconferencing.

The tasks under this assignment are to be undertaken in a maximum period of 30 working days. A draft as well as final strategy will be presented to the Steering Committee of the AfricanDefenders. The location of the assignment is flexible, but part of the work will be in Kampala, Uganda and most probably the validation in Banjul, The Gambia.

QUALIFICATIONS

The Consultant(s) is expected to:
• Have professional experience of work in the human rights sector in Africa.
• Be Fluent in spoken and written English and French.
• Knowledge in Arabic or Portuguese is a high added advantage.
• Be willing to travel to Kampala and other focal countries and be available to meet with partners.

The Consultant(s) are requested to submit a project proposal (outlining the tools, methods and sampling model to be used) and comprehensive indicative project budget as part of their motivation and application for consideration.

Submitting your application
Please send your application to jobs@defenddefenders.org with the subject line “AfricanDefenders Consultancy” by 30 August 2019. Your application should include your CV and past experience, budget, work-plan and 3 references for similar work undertaken. Do not send copies of certificates or degrees.

Call for Consultancy to develop a Strategic Plan for AfricanDefenders

How Twitter moved from Arab spring to Arab control

July 29, 2019

Social media platforms were essential in the Arab Spring, but governments soon learned how to counter dissent online”, writes
Twitter played an essential role during the Egyptian Revolution and was used to get info to an international audience [File: Steve Crisp/Reuters]
Twitter played an essential role during the Egyptian Revolution and was used to get info to an international audience [File: Steve Crisp/Reuters]

In a series of articles, Al Jazeera examines how Twitter in the Middle East has changed since the Arab Spring. Government talking points are being magnified through thousands of accounts during politically fraught times and silencing people on Twitter is only part of a large-scale effort by governments to stop human rights activists and opponents of the state from being heard. In the next part of this series, Al Jazeera will look at how Twitter bots influenced online conversation during the GCC crisis on both sides of the issue.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/07/exists-demobilise-opposition-twitter-fails-arabs-190716080010123.html