Archive for the 'human rights' Category

International Women’s Day 2020: Council of Europe on gender equality

March 9, 2020

Let us all rise to the challenge of making a world where gender equality is a reality

For International Women’s Day 2020, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović issued the following statement: [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/09/council-of-europes-dunja-mijatovic-presents-her-first-annual-report/]

“.. it is saddening to note that most of the challenges identified 25 years ago are still present in Europe today. In some areas progress has stalled due to persistent structural obstacles and an increasing backlash, combined with the lack of a sufficient and robust state response.

Violence against women as a serious human rights violation remains a bitter reality for too many women in all Council of Europe member states. Notwithstanding the recent movements against sexual violence, huge challenges still lie along the path towards obtaining justice for women victims who have the courage to speak out. They may even face disbelief and stigmatisation by the very people who should be providing them with assistance and protection. With the rising popularity of social media platforms, sexist hate speech has acquired a worrying dimension, providing a new breeding ground for violence against women. Furthermore, the backlash against women’s rights, upheld by ultra-conservative movements, is particularly disturbing as it endangers the progress towards gender equality that has been achieved so far. This has a particularly negative impact on girls’ and women’s autonomous and informed decision-making about their bodies, health and sexuality and hinders their access to affordable, safe and good-quality reproductive health services. We have to remain vigilant to prevent any such rolling back of women’s rights. Special attention should also be given to the protection and promotion of the rights of girls and women who may experience multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination, such as women living in poverty, rural women, migrant women, Roma women, women with disabilities and LBTI women.

This dark picture is, however, brightened by the image of thousands of women of all ages and backgrounds who, regardless of the attacks, the threats and the harassment they may face, stand up against violence and for the full realisation of gender equality. Vigilance against stagnation and retrogression in women’s rights is ensured by their mobilisation as they peacefully demonstrate throughout Europe. I firmly stand by them and salute their courage and determination. In this respect, I reiterate the essential role played in the upholding of women’s rights by women human rights defenders, who are often at the core of such mobilisation. Not only do they provide assistance and shelter to victims of gender-based violence and combat discrimination against women, they also constantly monitor the situation, while holding authorities accountable for fulfilling their human rights obligations.

However, the fight for the realisation of women’s rights also relies on each of us. I invite society as a whole, from youth to the elderly, women and men, all acting together, to speak up against violence and discrimination. We all have a key role to play as agents of change.

Whilst I perceive society’s mobilisation as vital, we should not forget that citizens’ initiatives cannot in themselves remedy the continuous lack of a strong and official response by state authorities to the challenges currently affecting the full enjoyment of women’s rights. Council of Europe member states have the primary obligation to effectively uphold women’s rights. Against this background, I urge member states to support this civic mobilisation by taking concrete action. To this end they should: firstly, ensure the ratification and full and effective implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention); secondly, promote gender equality and combat sexism in all spheres of life; and thirdly, provide an enabling environment for all women human rights defenders by removing all obstacles to their work. We should all strongly advocate for the full realisation of women’s rights and rise to the challenge of making a world where gender equality is a reality. Fighting for women’s rights is fighting for everybody’s human rights and benefits society as a whole.

https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/let-us-all-rise-to-the-challenge-of-making-a-world-where-gender-equality-is-a-reality

International Women’s Day 2020: Lutheran leaders on gender justice

March 9, 2020

Gender Justice is “a matter of life or death”, so both men and women must work together “to break the silence” about gender-based violence and commit to work toward gender justice. Rev Elitha Moyo, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe and Rev. Dr Martin Junge, General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation. Photo: LWF/A. Danielsson

Lutheran leaders say churches must continue to raise awareness, promote action and demand accountability from all their members around the crucial issue of gender justice. Speaking at the conclusion of a visit to Zimbabwe, Lutheran World Federation (LWF) General Secretary, Rev. Dr Martin Junge and Rev. Elitha Moyo, Gender Justice coordinator for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe (ELCZ) underlined the urgency of this work by recalling the recent murder of a women’s rights activist in Madagascar. The 63-year-old theologian, Ms Hélène Ralivao, was assaulted and killed after she left a church on 23 February.

Calling on all Christians to break the silence, Junge said: “I want to see, and hope and pledge from my end, a much stronger participation of men in the quest for gender justice. This is not a women’s issue, this is an issue of men and women working together so that relationships are just, and that both men and women can flourish in their full potential and dignity that God has given them.” Paying tribute to the murdered mother and grandmother, Moyo said: “We will continue with our struggle for [….] gender justice in the church and in the community.” She noted that her own church has been working hard with pastors, with village chiefs and with school children to break the silence around gender-based violence.

Supporting grass-roots movements, women’s human rights activists, and encouraging men to be more involved in gender equality work was also the focus of a meeting organized by the LWF in Geneva ahead of International Women’s Day. LWF staff and members of other organizations met at the Ecumenical Center for a discussion with a gender specialist from the UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights. Highlighting ways of countering the current global pushback against women’s human rights, the discussion underscored the importance of education to challenge patriarchal attitudes and gender stereotypes which breed discrimination and violence.

A quarter of a century on from the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, it is vital to recreate the momentum of integrating a gender perspective into all aspects of legislation, policy and programs at national and international levels, remarked Rev. Judith Van Osdol, LWF Program Executive for Gender Justice and Women’s Empowerment.

We need to ask why there has not been another World Conference on Women for 25 years; to analyze and understand the global push-back on women’s human rights and gender justice will help us to formulate a strategy for moving forward” said the LWF Program Executive.This will empower us to raise awareness, call to action, and ensure accountability that will benefit and transform couples, family relationships, churches and society.

https://www.lutheranworld.org/news/mens-voices-vital-quest-gender-justice

 

8 March 2020 International Women’s Day

March 9, 2020

This week, the International Women’s Day 2020 (8 March) celebrates the remarkable work carried out by women human rights defenders worldwide. However, the work of women human rights defenders is often accompanied by intimidation, violence, imprisonment, and threats. In the 2019 report on the situation of women human rights defenders by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, it is stated that “women defenders are often perceived as challenging traditional notions of family and gender roles in society, a perception that can generate hostility from State actors, and from the public, the media, and other non-State actors.”

Many organisations, especially NGOs, used the occasion of International Women’s Day 2020 to highlight work carried out by women human rights defenders. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/27/women-human-rights-defenders-in-focus-at-43rd-human-rights-council/. Here one example: Civil Rights Defenders and DefendDefedners:

Collage of five women human rights defenders
Women human rights defenders Diane Bakuraira, Maysaa Osama, Bernadette Ntumba, Maximilienne Ngo Mbe, and Mélanie Sonhaye Kombate. Photos: Civil Rights Defenders.

Civil Rights Defenders and DefendDefenders highlight individual women human rights defenders who, despite threats and challenges, continues their fight for human rights in Africa.

India’s overblown notion of sovereignty: NO to UN advice for Supreme Court

March 5, 2020

The Wire (India) and other news outlets have written about the controversy ‘created’ around the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ intervention (Amicus Brief) in the Indian Supreme Court against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). In response, the Indian government has claimed that no foreign party has “locus standi” on CAA as it pertains to Indian sovereignty.

In a statement on Tuesday, ministry of external affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that India’s permanent mission in Geneva was informed “yesterday evening by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that her Office had filed an Intervention Application in the Supreme Court of India in respect to the 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)”. The CAA, passed by the Indian parliament in December 2019, seeks to grant fast-track citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who arrived in India on or before December 31, 2014. The CAA had led to widespread protests in India, starting with northeastern states. The UN human rights commissioner has highlighted several times that CAA would be discriminatory and violates India’s commitments made under international law. The UN stated that the High Commissioner has “has great respect for the Indian Supreme Court’s independence and importance, and in accordance with similar interventions in domestic jurisdictions by the High Commissioner and her predecessors, the amicus curiae  will focus on providing an overview of relevant and applicable international human rights standards and norms to support the Court’s deliberations in the context of its review of the CAA”.

After India was informed about OHCHR’s intention, Kumar asserted CAA was an “internal matter of India and concerns the sovereign right of the Indian Parliament to make laws”. “We strongly believe that no foreign party has any locus standi on issues pertaining to India’s sovereignty,” he added.

That reaction seems rather overblown. The Supreme Court is hearing a total of 143 petitions seeking to examine the constitutional validity of the Citizenship Amendment Act. Foreign governments and nationals have been parties to several legal cases in the Indian court system. (The Supreme Court is currently hearing a petition filed in 2017 against the Indian government’s plan to deport all Rohingya Muslims, estimated to be around 40,000, back to Myanmar. On January 10, UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance E. Tendayi Achiume filed an application seeking to intervene in the ongoing case, which is being heard by a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde. Earlier in the Italian marines case, the Italian ambassador had filed a petition challenging the jurisdiction of the Indian police after the arrests of the marines for the killing of Indian fishermen off the coast of India.)

In her draft application, Bachelet sought to intervene as an amicus curiae “by virtue of her mandate to inter aria protect and promote all human rights and to conduct necessary advocacy in that regard, established pursuant to the United Nations General Assembly resolution 48/141”. She noted that the office of the UN human right chief had filed amicus curiae briefs within proceedings before diverse jurisdictions, including International Criminal Court, US Supreme Court and final appeal courts in Asia and Latin America.

—–

https://thewire.in/diplomacy/un-human-rights-chief-intervention-application-supreme-court-caa

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/rights-or-wrong-the-hindu-editorial-on-un-rights-body-moving-supreme-court-against-caa/article30984751.ece

IOC continues its cautious work on human rights and takes first steps on a strategy

March 4, 2020

Executive Board IOC
HRH Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Rachel Davis, Vice-President of Shift – a leading non-profit centre of expertise on business and human rights – formally presented their joint “Recommendations for an IOC Human Rights Strategy” to IOC President Thomas Bach in February. IOC/Greg Martin
Recommendations for a strategic framework on human rights were commissioned by the IOC in March 2019 and developed over the course of a year, in which Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Rachel Davis, Vice-President of Shift, evaluated the IOC’s current approach, including through consultation with key internal staff and expert civil society stakeholders. A range of recommendations made in the confidential report by Prince Zeid and Rachel Davis will need to be consulted on internally, and will be further considered in the development of the new strategy. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/03/olympic-committee-tries-its-hands-on-human-rights-cautiously/.
Continuing – still cautiously !! – in March 2020 the IOC Executive Board, welcoming the overarching recommendation, confirmed its commitment to develop a comprehensive and cohesive human rights strategy for the IOC. As immediate next steps towards the implementation of this approach, the IOC EB has agreed to:
  • develop and adopt a detailed overarching strategy on human rights, encompassing the IOC’s human rights responsibilities in its own operations (including the activities of the IOC administration as well as the IOC’s role as organiser of the Olympic Games), and setting out its role to advance respect for human rights as the leader of the Olympic Movement, in cooperation with the National Olympic Committees and the International Federations;
  • establish a Human Rights Unit with expert leadership to elaborate and drive the detailed strategy in practice, in close collaboration with key departments that will be essential to delivering on the IOC’s commitment;
  • continue to strengthen human rights due diligence, the use of leverage and engagement with affected stakeholders in existing areas of work, including the IOC’s efforts on the prevention of harassment and abuse in sport, engagement with Olympic Games and Youth Olympic Games Organising Committees on human rights impacts, and in the IOC’s own procurement; and
  • establish the previously announced IOC Human Rights Advisory Committee once the human rights strategy – as the basis for its work – is further elaborated and internal resources and cross-functional structures are in place to make the IOC’s human rights commitment fully operational.

Shift has provided advisory support to the IOC on human rights since early 2018, and will continue to provide operational support and expertise during the transition to the IOC’s new internal human rights capacities.

https://www.olympic.org/news/ioc-continues-working-on-human-rights-and-takes-first-steps-on-a-strategy

https://www.insidethegames.biz/index.php/articles/1091429/ioc-delay-human-rights-committee

Human rights defenders in Afghanistan: crucial role

March 3, 2020

While uncertainty about the status of a peace accord in Afghanistan continues to feature in the main media, this opinion piece by Samira Hamidi in Khaama, Afghanistan/ of Wednesday, 26 February 2020 is most timely: “Human rights defenders strategy: From commitments to action”. Samira Hamidi is Regional Campaigner for Amnesty International’s South Asia Regional Office. She was the former Country Director for Afghan Women’s Network and has also chaired the board of AWN and Human Rights Defenders Committee.

Wherever there is injustice in Afghanistan, you will find some of the bravest people fighting against it. They are lawyers and activists supporting women who have suffered violence and discrimination. They are teachers who are supporting the right to education of girls and boys. They are journalists who advance the right to freedom of expression. They are whistleblowers who expose allegations of corruption and other abuses of government and its officials. They are all human rights defenders, as they work to contribute to the protection and promotion of human rights in the country

Human rights defenders in Afghanistan have played a crucial role in bridging the gap between the government and the people. They have been key actors in protecting and promoting human rights and strengthening the rule of law, often at great risk to themselves, their families and communities, and to the organizations and movements they represent. For decades, they have advocated humanity’s core values of equality, justice, fairness and non-discrimination. They have not only contributed to the development and progress of communities and the country but have also paid a high price for the work they do.

Despite the positive contributions they make, human rights defenders face hostility from different state and non- state actors. They have been subjected to threats, intimidation, harassment, violence and even death. The human rights defenders and women human rights defenders are questioned for their human rights work, labeled as ‘anti-religion’ and ‘anti-culture’ and are targeted for challenging injustices. There have been systematic attacks on human rights defenders in Afghanistan in the last couple of years, which notably increased in 2019.

In May last year, a female journalist and activist, Mena Mangal was shot dead in Kabul. In July, Saeed Karim Musawi a well-known human rights defender and civil society activist was shot and killed by two gunmen who were riding on a motorbike and escaped the scene in Kunduz province. … Abdul Samad Amiri, a human rights defender and head of the Ghor provincial office for Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission was kidnapped and killed on his way to Ghor province. In November, two prominent human rights defenders from Logar province were forcibly disappeared and then detained for exposing alleged sexual abuse against children. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/26/afghanistan-human-rights-defenders-targeted-but-fearless/]

These attacks on human rights defenders, and many more that are yet to be documented,…There are also examples where human rights defenders were advised to silence themselves, claiming officials are not capable enough to provide them protection. In certain cases, human rights defenders were even told to acquire weapons to protect themselves.

….Over recent months, the human rights community with the support of Amnesty International collaborated in devising a protection strategy for human rights defenders in Afghanistan. This maiden effort addresses the protection of human rights defenders, the need for investigations of threats, calls for bringing suspected perpetrators to justice and encourages collaboration between the government and international community specifically for the protection of human rights defenders.….The international community has a key role to play here as well. For years, human rights defenders have worked with these actors to provide first-hand information about violations taking place in Afghanistan. The international community has encouraged them to speak out against human rights violations and abuses and to promote human rights values. When these same human rights defenders are at risk, the international community has a responsibility to stand up for them – as the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders demands.…..As human rights defenders emphasized during the launch of the human rights defenders protection strategy, it is time for the Afghan government and the international community to put their commitments to action.


 

Human rights defenders strategy: From commitments to action

Former climate change chief Christiana Figueres awarded Sydney Peace Gold Medal for Human Rights

March 3, 2020

The Sydney Peace Foundation said that it had decided to recognise Figueres for her efforts as a climate change diplomat, recognising both the success of facilitating a new global agreement, as well as the pressing international issue of climate change and its relevance to global human rights. For more on this award, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/sydney-peace-foundations-gold-medal-for-human-rights.

“Figueres is one of the world’s top negotiators having done what many said was impossible, she brought the world to the table to sign the Paris Agreement. She is now challenging governments, business and civil society to work together to stop the climate from rising to catastrophic levels,” Sydney Peace Foundation director Susan Biggs said.

Figueres recently criticised the Australian government’s response to climate change, saying that Australia had to demonstrate leadership in reducing emissions if it expected other countries to act on climate change. “Australia needs all other countries to help in solving what is a global problem, not a national problem. If Australia doesn’t put a firm foot forward, it stands in no position to actually ask all other countries to also put their best foot forward,” Figueres said in an interview with Triple J Hack.

Former UN climate chief receives human rights award from Sydney Peace Foundation

Jackie Smith sees a world that prioritizes people over economic growth

March 3, 2020

Jackie Smith, a professor of sociology at the University of Pittsburgh and the editor of the Journal of World Systems Research, published a piece called “Human rights, not corporate rights” in Open Democracy of 26 February 2020. It is an excerpt of an essay published as part of a series by the Great Transition Initiative. To view the full series, click here. Jackie Smith argues that human rights offer a powerful framework for challenging corporate hegemony and creating a more just and sustainable world.

The growth and concentration of corporate power is one that deserves far more attention and critical analysis than it has received in academic and policy circles.

Capitalist globalization policies over recent decades have helped corporations grow and consolidate wealth on a global scale, which they have used to further concentrate market and political influence. The number of transnational corporations in the top 100 economic entities – including both corporations and governments – jumped to 69 in 2015 from around 50 at the turn of the twenty-first century. National governments are no longer the most powerful entities, and their position is continuing to slide as corporations grow. Alarmingly, among the leading industries are those most in need of governance for the sake of the common good: namely, those dependent on the perpetuation of our carbon-intensive economy, financial speculation, wasteful consumption, and the commodification of health care.

While corporate power has grown, the power of workers and communities has been steadily eroded by neoliberal globalization. The decline of trade unions and the growth of precarious work, fueled by the evangelization of neoliberal principles by economists and political leaders in governments and global institutions like the World Bank, have reduced the ability of people and communities to come together to advance a different vision of how the world could be organized. Cities have been hamstrung by budget constraints as they contend with effects of neoliberal globalization such as rising housing costs, effects of climate change, and social polarization. At the same time, critics of corporate globalization in the academy have been neutralized by the corporatization of universities and the polarization and commodification of political and media discourses. Indeed, we might say that today, global hegemony is exercised not by a national state or collection of states, but by the owners and managers of global corporations.

It is imperative, then, that scholars and activists do far more to focus on this critical issue and help find ways to challenge more directly the role of corporations in society today. Corporate concentration and market monopolization – enabled by US international economic policies, weak antitrust laws and implementation, corporate taxation, campaign financing, and other – undermine human rights in cities and communities worldwide.

By supporting human rights globalization as a counter-movement to corporate globalization, we can advance people-centered policies and build upon earlier work of transformative movements worldwide.

The United Nation’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process gives local human rights defenders one way of fighting back. US human rights defenders have recently challenged predatory corporate practices in a report to the United Nations. The report highlighted the impacts of corporations on local human rights, democratic political participation, housing, health, and racial and gender equity. It documented at great length the extent to which corporate practices violate government commitments in both national and international legal instruments.

While the UN process is limited in its ability to change behaviors of recalcitrant governments, what is powerful about international human rights treaties and institutional processes like the UPR is their ability to help social movements come together across various divides and promote a shared vision of the world we wish to see. Paraphrasing Frederick Douglass, human rights activists like to remind skeptics that those in power have never ceded power without popular pressure: “Human rights don’t trickle down, they rise up!”

The process of compiling UPR reports and then working to follow up with them helps groups and activists articulate shared priorities and visions of justice that account for global and historical omissions in local and national discourses. The UPR does not simply track violations but centers concrete remedies in the formal reports it makes to national governments. It is here that local activists have found opportunities to forge alliances with local government officials, who see value in using the international stage to amplify their pleas for federal funding to support social welfare needs. Thus, the UPR process helps build new community collaborations and foster public discourse and consciousness-raising around human rights as an alternative framework.

Corporate hegemony has constrained the political discourse and the political imagination we need to envision and fight for a world that prioritizes people and communities over economic growth and endless consumption. Although the odds seem daunting, global ideals and institutions that have been slowly and steadily advanced by human rights advocates over centuries may provide tools for advancing new projects and strategies that can realize human-centered policies and a more just and sustainable world.

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/oureconomy/human-rights-not-corporate-rights/

Egyptian writer Ahdaf Soueif shines spotlight on human rights at UAE’s inaugural Hay festival

February 29, 2020

Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif brought up the cases of Egyptian and Emirati political prisoners during her talk at the Hay festival in Abu Dhabi on 26 February (Facebook/@AhdafSoueif)

A letter signed by the festival’s president Stephen Fry, and more than 40 public figures and organisations castigated Emirati authorities for continuing to incarcerate citizens for expressing their views. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/26/hay-festival-in-emirates-promotes-freedom-of-expression-but-not-for-its-citizens/.

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/ahdaf-soueif-declares-solidarity-political-prisoners-uae-cultural-festival

Call for nominations for Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press goes ahead in MENA region

February 28, 2020

The European Union launched a call for nominations for the “Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press” at the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon. During the press conference, Ambassador Ralph Tarraf reaffirmed the European Union’s commitment to pursue Samir Kassir’s struggle for free speech and an independent free press. [for more on this and many other awards relating to freedom of the press, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/samir-kassir-award-for-freedom-of-the-press]
The contest is open to candidates from North Africa, the Middle East, and the Gulf until 1 April, 2020, and three awards will be granted for: the best opinion article, investigative article, and audiovisual news report. The contributions must be centered on subjects relating to rule of law, human rights, good governance, fight against corruption, freedom of expression, democratic development and citizen participation. The jury will be composed of seven voting members from Arab and European media and one observer representing the European Union. The names of the jury members will be communicated during the prize-awarding ceremony, which will take place on 2 June 2020 in Beirut, marking the 15th memorial of Samir Kassir’s assassination.

https://en.annahar.com/article/1131572-european-union-launches-the-15th-editionon-of-the-samir-kassir-award-for-freedom