Archive for the 'AI' Category

US pushes for ‘historic’ human rights debate at Security Council but achieves little

April 20, 2017

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, with Liu Jieyi, China’s ambassador, before the April 18 Security Council meeting. Rick Bajornas/UN Photo

The United States led on Tuesday 18 April what it (and not many others) dubbed a ‘historicU.N. Security Council meeting on the link between rights abuses and conflict, but it had to drop a push for the broad issue of human rights to become a fixed item of the Security Council’s agenda when it appeared that at least six members would oppose it [Russia, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Bolivia were against the move and Senegal’s support was uncertain]. The United States, council president for April, did not risk the measure being put to a rare procedural vote, which requires nine in favour, and vetoes cannot be used. The opposing council members say rights discussion should be confined to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council – which Washington accuses of being anti-Israel and has threatened to quit – and the 193-member U.N. General Assembly third committee. Here is some of the analysis:

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Interpol headed by Chinese police official, human rights defenders fearsome

April 20, 2017

meng-hongwei.jpg
Meng Hongwei takes charge of Interpol

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

April 10, 2017

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

Europe also sees shrinking space for human rights defenders

April 4, 2017

On 4 April 2017 Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, wrote about “The Shrinking Space for Human Rights Organisations“. The new EU ‘alert site I referred to yesterday [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/03/protectdefenders-eu-launches-new-alert-website-but-no-single-stop-yet/] showed in 2016 some 86 reported violations in the European (and Central Asian) region, mostly detention and judicial harassment. Also the recent CIVICUS findings of the narrowing space for civil society points in this direction. An example could be Hungary as illustrated by reports of Human Rights Watch (2016), Human Rights First (2017) and Amnesty International (2016/17); the issue of academic freedom is not directly related but part of the restrictive trend [see links below].

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UAE: it is not just Ahmed Mansoor – academic Nasser Bin Ghaith gets 10 year for tweets

March 31, 2017

Middle East Eye reported on 31 March 2017 that the Emirates (UAE) had sentenced human rights defender Nasser Bin Ghaith to 10 years for ‘offensive online posts‘ (i.e. that criticised Egypt).

Dr Nasser bin Ghaith speaking at a conference (ADHRB)

After all the attention on the recent arrest of MEA Laureate, Ahmed Mansoor [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/ahmed-mansoor/], it is good to point out that he is not the only one being silenced in the UAE. On Wednesday Nasser Bin Ghaith was sentenced to 10 years in jail. Ghaith told the court he had been beaten and deprived of sleep for up to a week at a time by prison guards. The court did not specify which social media posts the charge related to or what they said. The authorities said he had published “photos and articles that are offensive to the state’s symbols and values, its internal and foreign policies and its relations with an Arab state,” which is understood to refer to Egypt. Ghaith is an Emirati economist who has lectured at the Abu Dhabi campus of the Paris-based Sorbonne University. He also worked as an economic and legal consultant to the UAE army.”By imposing this ludicrous sentence in response to his peaceful tweets, the authorities have left no room for doubt: those who dare to speak their minds freely in the UAE today risk grave punishment,” declared Lynn Maalouf, deputy director for research at Amnesty International. Amnesty called Ghaith “a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned for the peaceful expression of his conscientiously held beliefs.”  See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/05/18/uae-emirates-human-rights-defender-nasser-bin-ghaith-ngos-censorship/

For background see the older links:
Amnesty International: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/08/uae-press-release/ Amnesty International: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde25/2299/2015/en/
Human Rights Watch: https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/08/24/uae-reveal-whereabouts-academic

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/detention-nasser-bin-ghaith

Source: 10 years for a tweet: UAE jails academic for criticising Egypt | Middle East Eye

34th Session of UN Human Rights Council ended: the summing up by civil society

March 28, 2017

On 24 March 2017 a group of important NGOs that are active at the UN Human Rights Council made a joint statement at the end of the 34th session. These are: International Service for Human Rights, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM ASIA), Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, Human Rights House Foundation, CIVICUS, International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch. They:

….. welcome the renewal of key Special Procedures mandates, and in particular that of the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders. At a time when defenders are under an unprecedented attack and killings of defenders are on the rise, the united stance of the Human Rights Council is key. While we welcome the restoring of consensus to this key resolution, we deeply regret the fracturing of the same on the right to food resolution, particularly given the increasing interrelationship of food insecurity, conflict and human rights violations.

At the outset of this session, High Commissioner Zeid has described 2017 as a pivotal year for the Council, and has diagnosed an attack on the entire rights-based system. To be a credible part of this system, and rise to the world’s challenges, the Council must – while appropriately engaging the concerned States – respond firmly to human rights violations and victims’ demands for accountability Some actions at this session have struck this balance in part; others – such as the decision hastily ending the mandate on Haiti – have not. The Council still fails to bring needed attention to a range of violations in countries such as Azerbaijan, Bahrain, China, Egypt, Philippines, Turkey and others.

The urgent dispatch of a Fact-Finding Mission [FFM] on Myanmar is a welcome step. We now look to you, President, to consult, including with civil society, on the appointment of the FFM’s members. But we regret the dissociation of Myanmar from the resolution, and call on Myanmar to fully cooperate with the FFM. We look to all States, including in particular those with investment, trade and business relationships with Myanmar, to fully facilitate the work of the FFM. We commend the Council for recognising the fundamental relationship between violations of human rights and the commission of mass atrocities, including by advancing accountability for such crimes in the DPRK, South Sudan, Sri Lanka and Syria.

Finally, Mr President, we are again concerned about allegations of intimidation and reprisals against defenders from Myanmar, Bahrain and Sri Lanka, including during the current session. In line with your legal obligation, we urge you to take these cases seriously, follow-up thoroughly on the allegations, and ensure that all those who engage with the body you preside over can do so safely.

Ahmed Mansoor under arrest – Emirates under pressure

March 28, 2017

The importance of Ahmed Mansoor – MEA Laureate 2015 – as human rights defender and as the most important source of information on human rights in the Emirates (UAE) has been demonstrated by the international response to his sudden arrest [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/21/ahmed-mansoor-mea-laureate-2015-arrested-in-middle-of-the-night-raid-in-emirates/ ]. In addition to many newspaper and social media, there have been two important statements this morning:

The UN Special Procedures have called for Ahmed Mansoor’s release:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21449&LangID=E,

And so has the Chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the EU Parliament  http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/20170328IPR68805/droi-chair-calls-on-uae-to-unconditionally-release-ahmed-mansoor 

In view of the link between Manchester and UAE airlines (Emirates and Ethiad) it is specially interesting to note that AI Manchester has joined the campaign to free Ahmed Mansoor:

Even landmark UN decision does not change Cambodia’s treatment of human rights defenders

March 11, 2017

I was reading (belatedly) about the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Rhona Smith, who in January 2017 intervened strongly in the case of the 5 Cambodian human rights defenders of ADHOC (#FreeThe5KH) who have been in detention since April last year. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/05/04/civil-society-condemns-charges-human-rights-defenders-cambodia/] Only then did I realize that the case had led a few months earlier to a landmark decision by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD): the first time that any UN body has referred to HRDs as a protected group.

 

 

On 21 November 21, 2016, the WGAD ruled that the ongoing detention of Mr. Ny ChakryaDeputy Secretary-General of the National Election Committee (NEC), and four staff members of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Messrs. Ny SokhaYi SoksanNay Vanda, and Ms. Lim Mony, was “arbitrary.” Following a submission made by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OMCT-FIDH partnership), the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) in June 2016, the WGAD’s Opinion No. 45/2016 ruled that the five human rights defenders (HRDs) have been discriminated against based on their status as human rights defenders, and in violation of their right to equality before the law and equal protection of the law under article 26 of the ICCPR.” This is the first time ever that the WGAD – or any other UN mechanism receiving individual complaints – has referred to HRDs as a protected group that is entitled to equal legal protection under Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ruling also recognised the violation of the five HRDs’ “rights to offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance and other relevant advice and assistance in defending human rights.”

 In addition, the WGAD found that the targeting of ADHOC staff members for having provided “legitimate legal advice and other assistance” violated the five HRDs’ right to freedom of association. It ruled that violations of fair trial rights (including the fact that the five were denied legal counsel from the beginning of their questioning), unjustified pre-trial detention, and statements made by the Cambodian authorities which denied the five the presumption of innocence – all of which contravene Cambodia’s international human rights obligations in respect to the right to a fair trial – are also serious enough to consider their ongoing detention as arbitrary. The WGAD concluded that “the deprivation of liberty of Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan, Lim Monyand Ny Chakrya, being in contravention of articles 7, 9, 10, 11 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of articles 9, 10, 14, 22 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is arbitrary.”

That Cambodian authorities are not impressed is shown by the continued detention of the 5 ADHOC HRDs and by the press release of 7 February 2017 calling for the cessation of the politically motivated criminal investigation of human rights defenders Am Sam-at and Chan Puthisak. Amnesty International, Civil Rights Defenders, Human Rights Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists signed the statement.

Phnom Penh 20170207 PHTO
Cambodian police detain protesters during a protest to free jailed activists in Phnom Penh, Cambodia May 9, 2016.© Reuters/Samrang Pring

Cambodian officials have accused Sam-at, a respected human rights monitor at the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) for nearly 20 years, and Puthisak, a land rights activist from Boeung Kak Lake and former prisoner of conscience, of instigating violence at an October 10, 2016 demonstration. Para-police forces, who are regularly used to suppress demonstrations, violently dispersed what had been a peaceful protest in Phnom Penh. When Puthisak attempted to prevent para-police from confiscating a drum that was being used by a demonstrator, four or five para-police attacked him, repeatedly beating him on the head with their fists, according to a video of the incident. When Sam-at tried to stop the assault, the para-police attacked him, also beating him on the head. Both men sustained injuries that needed medical attention.

The investigation of Sam-at and Puthisak by the Cambodian authorities is a typically absurd and undisguised case of judicial harassment,” said Champa Patel, Southeast Asia and Pacific director at Amnesty International. “As usual, unnecessary and excessive use of force by the para-police goes unpunished, and those who work to promote and protect human rights find themselves subject to criminal proceedings.”

 

Sources:

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56036#.WMP0Dhhh2V4

Cambodia: In landmark decision, UN body declares the detention of five human rights defenders arbitrary #FreeThe5KH / December 18, 2016 / Urgent Interventions / Human rights defenders / OMCT

https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/02/07/cambodia-drop-farcical-investigation-human-rights-defenders

Amnesty International campaigns with “7 women who refuse to wait for their rights”

March 8, 2017

Also in the light of International Women’s Day 2017…….here are the seven Women Human Rights Defenders whom AI UK are profiling in their campaign of women who “refuse to wait in the face of injustice, and often paying the price of freedom in the process”..:

Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng – She won’t wait… while women are still denied abortions 

Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng

Tlaleng is a medical doctor in South Africa. She fearlessly advocates for sexual health as a radio presenter, spreading her message far and wide.  ‘I won’t stop until the right of women to have an abortion is respected and provided for safely,’ she says. ‘In South Africa, women die every year due to unsafe abortions, yet politicians think they can use women’s reproductive rights as a political ping pong ball.‘ Tlaleng is also challenging rape culture, and championing the drive to get health practitioners to treat patients with respect and without discrimination.

Karla Avelar – She won’t wait… while refugees are denied safety

Karla Avelar

Karla Avelar is a survivor. She’s made it through gang attacks, murder attempts and prison in El Salvador. Today, she heads Comcavis Trans, which supports LGBTI people, all of whom face threats and violence in El Salvador. Their situation is so difficult in the country that many flee as refugees. Through Comcavis, Karla provides information and other support to help them on what is often a treacherous journey that normally takes them to the USA or Mexico. But the US’s hardline stance on refugees and migrants entering the country has thrown these LGBTI refugees into even greater jeopardy – something Karla is now tackling with energetic defiance.

Su Changlan – She won’t wait … to reunite another child bride with her parents

Sue Changlan

Former school teacher Su Changlan’s story is not unique. One of her closest friends says that hers is the story of many women in China. She couldn’t stand by when she heard about girls trafficked as brides or parents whose children had gone missing. She did her best to help them and many others, her activism extending to land rights issues and support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. She did all this knowing that she might have to sacrifice her freedom in the process. Sadly, this is just what happened. She has been detained by the authorities since 2015. ‘I hope that parents do not despair about searching for their missing children. We, civil society, should work together to help them reunite with their children. The government should also invest more in these efforts instead of hindering our work!

Samira Hamidi – She won’t wait… while women are excluded from government

Samira Hamidi

Since 2004, Samira Hamidi has been blazing a trail for women in Afghanistan. As Chairperson of the Afghan Women’s Network (AWN) she has actively tried to ensure that women’s voices and concerns are represented at the highest levels of government. At the same time, she is a staunch advocate in the international arena, reminding governments and potential aid donors that promoting and securing women’s rights in Afghanistan must be part of any conversation they may have with the country’s leaders. She faces a steep road, but she remains undaunted, championing other women human rights defenders, ensuring that their concerns are amplified. Women should be given an equal opportunity to make a better Afghanistan.

Jeanette John Solstad Remø – She won’t wait… for the right to be recognised as a woman

Jeanette John Solstad Remo

Until recently, she was John Jeanette, her name signifying the dual identity she was forced to accept every day in Norway. Although this former submarine commander felt her future could only be female, Norwegian law did not allow her to change her legal gender without undergoing a compulsory ‘real sex conversion’. This would have involved having her reproductive organs removed, as well as a psychiatric diagnosis. She refused to put herself through any of this. As a result, her driving license, passport, medical prescriptions, even her library card, still referred to her as male. She campaigned hard against Norway’s abusive law and her actions, alongside those of her supporters – including Amnesty – scored a huge victory. In 2016, Norway finally adopted a new law on legal gender recognition, which allows transgender people to choose their gender. Today, in acknowledgement of this milestone, she has changed her name to Jeanette John.

Loujain al-Hathloul – She won’t wait… for the right to drive a car 

180Loujain%20al-Hathloul.png

Fearless and formidable, Loujain defied Saudi Arabia’s driving ban and faced the consequences. In November 2014, she was detained for 73 days for live-tweeting herself driving into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates. Released in February 2015, she went on to stand for election in November that year – the first time women were allowed to both vote and stand in elections in the state. However, despite finally being recognised as a candidate, her name was never added to the ballot. Today, she continues her fight to create a better future for her fellow Saudis – one where women enjoy their rights as full citizens of their nation. ‘I will win. Not immediately, but definitely.’

Connie Greyeyes – She won’t wait… for another sister to be stolen

Connie Greyeyes

Connie Greyeyes is an ‘accidental’ activist. An Indigenous Cree woman living in the province of British Columbia in Western Canada, she realised that a shocking number of Indigenous women in her community had gone missing or had been murdered. She began organising to support the families of these women and took the demand for a national inquiry to the Canadian capital in Ottawa. According to official figures, more than 1,000 Indigenous women have gone missing or been murdered in Canada in the last three decades. The efforts of Connie and many other Indigenous women across Canada have borne fruit, with the Canadian government finally announcing an inquiry in 2016. ‘When we’re together, there’s so much strength. Being able to smile even after finding out that your loved one was murdered. How can you not be inspired by women who have been to hell and back over their children? How can you not be inspired and want to continue fighting?

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/blogs/campaigns/international-womens-day

International Human Rights Arts Festival in New York: 3-5 March 2017

March 3, 2017

International Human Rights Arts Festival to Feature HAMILTON Dancer, Bessie Winner and More

2016 Bessie Award-winning choreographer Joya Powell brings her Movement of the People Dance Company to the premiere International Human Rights Art Festival, New York City‘s first arts-advocacy festival of its kind. The Festival, presented by The Institute of Prophetic Activist Art, co-sponsored and housed at Dixon Place (161A Chrystie St, NYC), will take place 3-5 March, 2017. As part of the Dance portion of the festival, Jessica Chen of J Chen Dance project is working with three additional dance companies to create human rights-oriented dance. Jacqueline Dugal will also create a piece incorporating human rights texts.

Tickets are $10-25 and are now available online with full schedule and participant information at www.dixonplace.org.

Dance can help translate unspoken fears and emotions…” noted Jessica Chen, of the J CHEN PROJECT, “the nuances of a leg held up, a body launched into space, a gesture of yearning is immensely powerful. For this festival, we will use movement and choreography to enhance the conversation about critical human rights issues.”

J CHEN PROJECT Commissions: Jessica Chen of JChen Dance Project comissioned works will be based in and incorporate a specific textual inspiration, ranging from the words of great human rights defenders (such as MLK Jr. or Gandhi) to a bland recitation of statistics on refugees, civilian war deaths, famine due to autocratic governments etc. The four pieces, comprising an hour of dance, will run both Saturday and Sunday, and be previewed at the opening festivities. Saturday, March 4, at 10:00 pm; Sunday, March 5, at 4 pm (see below for full lineup)…

 

The International Human Rights Art Festival will bring together more than 70 artists producing more than 40 events, all of them oriented toward advocacy. Artistic media will include theatre, performance, dance, spoken word, painting, photography, music, literary arts, workshops, panel discussions, a kidsfest (hands-on activities to introduce children to using art for socially-transformative purpose), film and others. Rigorously curated for quality as well as content, the event includes some of New York’s most passionate rising artist-activists. It will raise social, cultural and political issues, as well as offering gentle, positive responses through thoughtful beauty and political and social thinking.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS:

Producer Tom Block, a 20-year activist painter, author, playwright and arts producer, as well as creator of the Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival (MD, 2010) is bringing the concept to NYC, with the 2017 International Human Rights Art Festival. The event is part of the growing number of initiatives of the Institute of Prophetic Activist Art, which Mr. Block founded last year to teach, learn from, and work with New York’s activist artist community. www.tomblock.com