Archive for the 'AI' Category

Many birthday parties for jailed human rights defender in Turkey

October 12, 2017

human rights defenders in Turkey, still in jail after 100 days

Ten activists, including İdil Eser, the Director of Amnesty International Turkey, were arrested on 5 July. İdil’s 54th birthday is on 14 October, which she will spend imprisoned on baseless and trumped-up charges. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/12/turkey-detention-of-human-rights-defenders-further-extended/] (Amnesty International Turkey’s Chair, Taner Kılıç, was also arrested a month earlier. On 4 October a prosecutor filed an indictment calling for jail terms of up to 15 years for all 11 human rights defenders on absurd terrorism charges.)

After three months the investigation has unsurprisingly failed to provide any incriminating evidence to substantiate the prosecutor’s fantastical charges. .. The activists are accused of assisting a variety of “armed terrorist organisations” with diametrically opposing ideologies. They face maximum sentences of 15 years. The charges against them include outlandish claims that standard human rights activities – such as appealing to stop the sale of tear gas, making a grant application or campaigning for the release of hunger striking teachers – were carried out on behalf of terrorist organizations. Some of the claims against İdil are based on Amnesty International documents and public communications that predate her appointment at the organisation.

To mark İdil’s 54th birthday, Amnesty International will hold more than 200 parties and actions globally, starting with a public, pop-up, Turkish-themed birthday party on 13 October in Auckland. Elsewhere around the world there will be a birthday party in the European Parliament and a press conference in a makeshift prison in Madrid. The parties will feature full-size paper cutouts of Idil to highlight her absence, along with Turkish food, music, decorations and more.

I am ready to pay the price for my choice to work on human rights and I am not scared. My time in jail has made me even more committed to standing up for my values. I will not compromise them.” Idil Eser (8/19/17).

 

United Nations’ Andrew Gilmour: HRDs are like “the canary in the coalmine, bravely singing until they are silenced..”

September 22, 2017

Andrew Gilmour, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights (file). UN Photo/Manuel Elias

On 20 September 2017 the UN reported that a  growing number of human rights defenders around the world are facing reprisals and intimidation for cooperating with the United Nations, ranging from travel bans and the freezing of assets to detention and torture, says a new report issued by the world body.

“It is frankly nothing short of abhorrent that, year after year, we are compelled to present cases of intimidation and reprisals carried out against people whose crime – in the eyes of their governments – was to cooperate with UN institutions and mechanisms,” said Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour“We should see these individuals as the canary in the coalmine, bravely singing until they are silenced by this toxic backlash against people, rights and dignity – as a dark warning to us all,” Mr. Gilmour told the Human Rights Council in Geneva, as he presented the Secretary-General’s report.

The report, the eighth of its kind, names 29 countries where cases of reprisal and intimidation have been documented; this is higher than the previous highest number of 20. Eleven of the States are current members of the Human Rights Council, a news release pointed out. Some have featured in the annual report on reprisals nearly every year since it was instituted in 2010. [see my earlier: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/23/reprisals-at-the-un-more-calls-for-action-no-action/]

Mr. Gilmour told the Council that the problem was much more widespread than presented in the report. “Since this report is limited to reprisals against people cooperating with the UN, the cases covered in it represent only a small portion of a far more generalized backlash against civil society and others challenging State authorities, especially human rights defenders”. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/21/assistant-secretary-general-for-human-rights-andrew-gilmour-speaks-very-freely-at-the-united-nations-association-of-the-usa/]

———

Amnesty International has launched a campaign to publicize what it says is a worsening situation for human rights activists throughout the world. The group hopes its “Brave” campaign will persuade governments to keep the promises they made in United Nations treaties to protect defenders of human rights. The organization Front Line Defenders says 281 people were killed in 2016 for defending human rights. In 2015, the number was 156.

Guadalupe Marengo, head of Amnesty’s Human Rights Defenders Program, told the VOA that “In the current context of us-versus-them, of demonization, of full frontal attack actually I would say on human rights, it is crucial that we take stock and that we call on the authorities to stop these attacks immediately.” …….Amnesty says human rights defenders are arrested, kidnapped and killed around the world. It says they are also attacked using online technology. Surveillance tools are used to study their activity. Marengo says campaigns launched on social media tell lies about the activists in an attempt to cause others to oppose them. “They are accused of being terrorists; they are accused of being criminals, they are accused of defending ‘immorality.’” Amnesty International hopes the “Brave” program will show the worsening situation for human rights activists worldwide.

——–

To underscore the point the NGO CIVICUS made a statement to the same (36th) UN Human Rights Council based on a panel discussion on the rights of indigenous people. 

“I read this statement on behalf of 39 human rights defenders and civil society organisations working on indigenous, land and environmental rights from 29 countries who met in Johannesburg, South Africa from 7-9 August 2017 to discuss strategies to advance the protection of indigenous, land and environmental rights activists. Mr. President, 2016 surpassed 2015 as the deadliest year on record for those stood up against land grabbing, natural resource exploitation and environmental destruction. Worryingly, the number of killed has risen to 200 from 185 in 2016 and spread to several countries across the world.

In the current global climate, where repression of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly is becoming the norm rather than the exception, environmental and land defenders are particularly vulnerable. When we express concerns over the collusion between States and corporate actors, we face opposition – dissent is stifled and criminalised, and our lives are threatened. Often our work is discredited and we are labelled ‘anti-national’ and ‘anti-development’.

When we protest peacefully against this attack on our resources and livelihoods, we face violence from state authorities, private security groups and state-sponsored vigilante groups. When we stand up to defend the rights of our communities, we face unfounded criminal charges, unlawful arrests, custodial torture, threats to life and liberty, surveillance, judicial harassment and administrative hurdles, among other actions.

Mr. President, our families are threatened into silence and many of us have had to make the difficult decision to flee our homes and go into exile, retreating from a fight that has become too dangerous. We need global action to counter the threats we face.

We ask the panellists to urge the Council to emphasise the need for all states to ensure that affected communities are adequately consulted, including securing their full consent prior to the development of infrastructure and extractive industries projects. “

Sources:

United Nations News Centre – Growing number of rights defenders facing reprisals for cooperating with UN

http://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/news/united-nations/geneva/2953-joint-statement-on-the-rights-of-indigenous-peoples

https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/amnesty-human-rights-campaign/3861696.html

Four young women human rights defenders speak out

September 21, 2017

Millennials often get a bad rap, accused of being politically apathetic and selfie-obsessed, says SARA VIDA COUMANS in Open Democracy of 15 September 2017, but around the world, young people who are sick of government inaction are stepping up to speak passionately on behalf of their communities. These four young women live in different continents and have had diverse experiences. Each is involved in Amnesty International campaigns, fighting for human rights from Australia to Peru. Here they talk about their local struggles, and what motivates them. (“We’re not just here to learn – we can lead too”)


Madeline Wells, indigenous rights activist in Tasmania.

Madeline Wells.

Madeline Wells. Photo: Lara Van Raay. All rights reserved.

“As a First Nations person, I have always felt I have a duty to fight for the rights of my people, a feeling of being part of something much bigger than me,” she said. “Activism can come in many different forms. It doesn’t have to be rallies or marches.” Climate change disproportionately impacts indigenous communities, and indigenous youth “face many other injustices: deaths in custody, high rates of youth detention, racism and discrimination, high suicide rates, and poor healthcare,” she added. “Activism can come in many different forms. It doesn’t have to be rallies or marches – art, music and dance are equally powerful ways of speaking out, and social media has had a huge impact.”


Nancy Herz, student and author from Norway.

Nancy Herz.

Nancy Herz. Photo: Vincent Hansen. All rights reserved.

In 2016 Herz wrote an article entitled “We Are the Shameless Arab Women and Our Time Starts Now” – and a movement of women reclaiming the word “shameless” subsequently started in Norway. “We don’t want to have our identities defined by others,” she said. “We don’t want to have our identities defined by others.” “I feel so proud when I receive messages from young girls who say I have encouraged them to speak out – that because I dare to be myself, they do too,” said Herz. “This is what fighting against injustice is about. By using our voices, we can make the space for freedom of expression bigger…it’s an ongoing struggle, but I believe that we have to keep pushing towards a world in which everyone can enjoy their basic right of living freely.”


Sandra Mwarania, youth activist from Kenya.

Sandra Mwarania.

Sandra Mwarania. Photo: Kenneth Kigunda / Amnesty International Kenya. All rights reserved.

Mwarania co-founded the Student Consortium for Human Rights Advocacy. “Young people are brilliant creatives, strategic thinkers, problem solvers, innovative communicators and active doers,” she said. “It is unfortunate that we are yet to be taken seriously by decision-makers who still perceive us as inexperienced and rowdy.” “We’re not just here to learn – we can lead too.” “As well as being well-informed on human rights issues, students and young people need the skills to address the pressing socio-political issues around them,” Mwarania added. “When young people are engaged at every level of the decision making process, the results can be amazing. We’re not just here to learn – we can lead too.”


Fabiola Arce, women’s rights defender from Peru.

Fabiola Arce (holding megaphone).

Fabiola Arce (holding megaphone) in #NiUnaMenos protest in Lima, Peru, 2016. Photo: Andrick Astonitas / Amnesty International Peru.

Arce has campaigned to pressure her government to investigate cases of forced sterilisation of women in the 1990s. “This serious human rights violation mostly targeted indigenous women, and caused a huge amount of pain and suffering,” she said. “Peru has a huge historical debt to women, and that’s part of what motivates me.” “We are determined not to let the injustices of the past go unaccounted for. Peru has a huge historical debt to women, and that’s part of what motivates me to work towards shaping a different future.”

Amnesty International’s BRAVE campaign works with young women human rights defenders like these and fights for their recognition and protection. Find out more.

Source: “We’re not just here to learn – we can lead too”: young women human rights defenders speak out | openDemocracy

HRC elections – How do the candidates for 2018 rate? 11 September events.

September 2, 2017

In advance of the Human Rights Council elections that will take place this October for the membership term 2018-2020, Amnesty International and the International Service for Human Rights will hold pledging events for candidate States in Geneva and New York on 11 September 2017. The events, which will be co-sponsored by a cross-regional group of Permanent Missions, are intended to give candidates an opportunity to present their vision for Council membership and to respond to questions from a range of stakeholders on how they would realise the pledges and commitments they may have made in seeking election.
If you can’t make it, you can follow the event live on ISHR YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/ISHRGlobal and submit questions to the candidates via Twitter using #HRCPledging.

Make sure to also check out the scorecards, for an ‘at-a-glance’ comparison of the candidates, focusing on their coöperation with the Council, their support for civil society, their engagement with UN treaty bodies and special procedures, whether they have spoken out in concern about reprisals, and whether they have established a national human rights institution:

please RSVP by 4 September using the following links:

  • New York event RSVP 
  • Geneva event RSVP 

Source: HRC elections | How do the candidates for 2018 rate? | ISHR

For human rights “winter is coming”

August 24, 2017

CREDIT: HBO

Even if you haven’t seen Game of Thrones, you know the iconic, sinister saying. In the TV show, it is muttered meaningfully as a warning not only that after a long summer a harsh winter is ahead, but that winter brings with it an existential threat to the world—an army of the dead. This threat makes all the vicious scheming, treachery and feuding look insignificant and petty.

As a human rights defender watching leaders around the world scapegoating and dividing to score political points, I can’t help thinking that winter may be coming for all of us—a dark future where protection of human rights won’t mean much anymore.

The “summer” was long and fruitful. Seventy years ago the world came together in 1948 and adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stated for the first time that human rights must be protected across “all peoples and all nations.”

This unprecedented commitment to protect human rights everywhere was made by the survivors of a long night of horror that humanity had just endured. They joined forces to ensure that the gas chambers, the extermination of the entire peoples, and the suffering of civilian population at such scale never happen again.

Since then, people around the world have claimed remarkable victories: securing rights for women and LGBT communities, standing up to abusive governments, removing seemingly indestructible totalitarian regimes and bringing heads of states to account. People have created a society that would be unrecognizable to those who emerged from the darkest moments in human history determined that it should never be repeated.

Yet now it seems that we are going back in time. I have no illusions that the past 70 years were rosy. We human rights defenders have been like the brothers of the Night’s Watch, a bit closer to the chilly winds, warning, sounding the alarm and guarding against the worst abuses. The basic principle that kept the winds of winter at bay, that all governments must respect certain universal rights, has never felt more threatened than it does today. The inhabitants of Westeros may act as if summer will last for ever, but we cannot afford to do the same.

We are no longer fending off attacks on the rights of individuals or communities. We are no longer dealing with a few rogue governments while relying on others as allies. We are up against the assault on the entire system of human rights protection. Like Jon Snow, we must rally everyone together for our own existential fight.

This creeping assault did not start yesterday. Within just a few recent years, xenophobia, misogyny, and dehumanisation of “others” have become the slogans that brought victories to politicians who blatantly exploited their electorates’ sense of insecurity and disenfranchisement. But not only that, it has increasingly become a call for action, leading to discrimination, hate crimes, violence and deaths, as we have just seen in Charlottesville.

Vaguely defined “security concerns” are being used as justification for deviation from human rights, such as the prohibitions of torture and summary executions, in countries as different as the United States, Russia, Egypt, Nigeria, Turkey, and the Philippines.

States like Russia and China, which have consistently challenged the very notion of universality of human rights, have become emboldened and manage to increasingly dominate or stall the debate at the international level.

What is worse, countries like the United States or the United Kingdom, who have been, at least in rhetoric, the champions of human rights, have dramatically changed their positions. Like Cersei Lannister, they unashamedly pursue narrow self-interests, and in doing so pedal despicable arguments that human rights should be sacrificed for national interest.

Their position makes it all too easy for other states, with less established traditions of democracy and respect for human rights, to follow this path.

There is no denying it – the system of human rights protection built in the aftermath of some of darkest times in modern history, is descending into the dusk again. And, to use another sinister Game of Thrones quote, the night, when it comes, will be “dark and full or terrors.” Anyone who hopes to stay untouched by being far from the frontlines of this battle, has simply forgotten the previous “winters” too quickly.

The only way to protect our core common human values against such powerful forces, is to unite and act: to resist the attempts to divide us along any lines; to bring our own governments to account—to speak out, loudly and persistently, using all available means of communication, from megaphones to social media, against assault on our rights and the rights of others; to open our hearts and homes to those in need of protection; and to show our support and solidarity with every individual or community facing injustice or persecution.

In the world of Game of Thrones, a long, cold winter is quickly descending. But for human rights it does not have to be that way. If together we keep the candle of the human rights protection alight, darkness will retreat.

Source: For human rights, winter is coming | HuffPost

Rouhani’s Iran disappoints massively on human rights

August 23, 2017

Those who held hopes that with the re-election of the ‘moderate’ President, Hassan Rouhani, things would also improve in Iran for the large number of human rights defenders in detention will be disappointed. In fact many of his supporters are frustrated by his failing to enact numerous reforms he promised, including the release of HRDs. Here some of the recent developments:

Read the rest of this entry »

Liu Xiaobo: a giant human rights defender leaves a lasting legacy for China and the rest of the world

July 13, 2017

USA AI then mentions some of the many other HRDs who under the leadership of President Xi Jinping have suffered persecution:

Ilham Tohti, an economics professor at Minzu University of China in Beijing, was sentenced to life imprisonment for “separatism”. Amnesty International believes that he is in prison for writings posted on the Internet.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/11/hot-news-ilham-tohti-chinas-mandela-wins-2016-martin-ennals-award/]

Women’s rights activist Su Changlan was sentenced in March 2017 to three years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power.”[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/08/amnesty-international-campaigns-with-7-women-who-refuse-to-wait-for-their-rights/]

Human rights lawyers like Jiang Tianyong have been detained, arrested and harassed by government authorities in the last several years. He was formally arrested for “subverting state power” after being detained in an unofficial detention facility for over six months. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/01/human-rights-defenders-issues-on-the-agenda-of-the-next-35th-human-rights-council/]

The reaction of the Chinese government to criticism from abroad over Liu Xiaobo’s treatment is by the way typical. See e.g. in the Strait Times of 14 July: “Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang also said China had lodged protests with “certain countries” for interfering in its “judicial sovereignty”…….”Conferring the prize to such a person goes against the purposes of this award. It’s a blasphemy of the peace prize”. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/12/06/china-and-its-amazing-sensitivity-on-human-rights-defenders/]

Source: Liu Xiaobo: A giant of human rights who leaves a lasting legacy for China and the world – Amnesty International USA

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/china-says-awarding-nobel-peace-prize-to-liu-xiaobo-was-blasphemy

Sudan: award-winning human rights defenders under pressure

July 12, 2017

Amal Habani
AFP reported on 10 July from Khartoum that a court found that the journalist Amal Habani, winner of Amnesty International’s Ginetta Sagan Award, was ordered to pay 10,000 Sudanese pounds ($1,430) or face a jail term of four months. The court found her guilty in a case filed by a security officer who accused her of preventing him from doing his job during the March trial of three rights activists. “This is injustice. I was covering a trial of human rights activists when the security officer beat me,” Habani told AFP by telephone from the court on Monday. “When I complained against him, he filed a case against me. I will not pay the fine but rather go to jail.”
Her lawyer Ahmed Elshukri said he will file an appeal against the court’s order. Habani, who writes for online Sudanese newspaper Al-Taghyeer, said the incident with the security officer occurred when she was taking pictures on her mobile phone outside a court during the March trial.

An even more serous case is that of Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/dr-mudawi-ibrahim-adam] an internationally recognised human rights defender who was the winner of the inaugural 2005 Front Line Defenders Award for human rights defenders. Ibrahim Adam Mudawi and his colleague Idris Eldoma Hafiz face six serious charges such as “undermining the constitutional system” and “waging war against the state”. Rights groups have denounced the allegations as trumped up and linked to their human rights advocacy. The trial is underway in the capital Khartoum. “Human rights work is not a crime, so Dr Mudawi and Hafiz must be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s regional director. “Their arrest and continued incarceration is a miscarriage of justice, plain and simple.” Mudawi has continuously been harassed for his human rights work in Darfur and across Sudan for more than a decade. See also: https://www.defenddefenders.org/2017/07/sudan-human-rights-defenders-detained-face-death-penalty/

Sudan regularly ranks near the bottom of international press freedom rankings. International NGOs have accused Sudan’s powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) of detaining human rights workers, opposition politicians and journalists.

Sources:

http://www.enca.com/africa/sudanese-human-rights-defenders-face-death-sentence

Sudan court fines award-winning journalist

for the Ginetta Sagan award see: https://www.amnestyusa.org/press-releases/amnesty-international-usa-honors-sudanese-journalist-amal-habani-with-annual-award-for-womens-human-rights-defenders/

26 June: Torture issues in Hong Kong and Thailand

June 26, 2017

This week, to mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, celebrated annually on 26 June, Just Asia has a special report on Hong Kong’s plan [not sure but still…] to withdraw from the UN Convention against Torture.  The reason for such a withdrawal is a misguided attempt to address the rise in torture protection claimants in Hong Kong and block “fake” refugees, as well as solve the issue of illegal workers. In the video report Just Asia speaks to three prominent persons in the city to discuss their views. Puja Kapai is the Director of Hong Kong University’s Centre for Comparative and Public Law; Mark Daly is a human rights lawyer with Daly and Associates; as is Patricia Ann Ho. The three discuss how such a withdrawal will impact Hong Kong’s international standing, Hong Kong’s human rights protections, and whether it will truly make a difference to the city’s numerous torture claimants. [for other Just Asia posts: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/just-asia/]

In the same context of anti-torture work in Asia, Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists issued today a statement calling on Thailand to finally follow through on commitments to prevent torture and ill-treatment. They regret repeated delays to the finalisation and passage of Thailand’s Draft Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act……Similarly, Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists urge Thailand to move ahead with its commitment to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which obligates authorities to establish a National Preventive Mechanism.. as well as to allow such visits by an international expert body. Such independent scrutiny is critical to prevent torture and other ill-treatment, including through implementing their detailed recommendations based on visits. Authorities should also act immediately on the commitment made at Thailand’s Universal Periodic Review before the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2016, to inspect places of detention in line with the revised UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules….

Acts of torture and other ill-treatment in Thailand have rarely been investigated in a prompt, impartial, independent and efficient manner, as required by the Convention against Torture, and perpetrators of such acts have seldom been held to account. Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists urge authorities to ensure that such investigations are undertaken into all credible reports of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The scope, methods and findings of such investigations should be made public. Where sufficient, admissible evidence is gathered, perpetrators should be prosecuted in fair trials in civilian courts.

Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists also notes with concern the criminal prosecution or threats of prosecution—often under criminal defamation provisions—of victims of torture, their family members, and human rights defenders who have raised allegations of torture, including with a view to seeking redress. The organizations urge that such threats, investigations, charges, prosecution or other proceedings against these persons be are withdrawn and charges dropped, and that authorities take steps to create an enabling environment for freedom of expression in which people are able to seek redress and raise concerns about torture publicly without fear of reprisal or recrimination….

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/thailand/]

http://reliefweb.int/report/thailand/thailand-amnesty-international-and-international-commission-jurists-call-thailand

 

Human Rights Watch urges Turkey to release Amnesty’s country head

June 9, 2017

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday 8 June 2017 called on Turkish authorities to immediately release Taner Kılıç, chair of the board of Amnesty International’s Turkey section, who has been under detention since June 6. It is heartening to see the two biggest NGOs coming to each other’ rescue from time to time. In February this year AI Israel co-signed a statement deploring the decision not to allow Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch to take on his post [“We stand in solidarity with him and our colleagues at HRW.”  – see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/26/israel-denies-work-permit-to-human-rights-watch-and-continues-harassment-of-hrds/]

The anti-terror unit of the Izmir police on Tuesday detained lawyer and human rights defender Kılıç together with 22 other attorneys as part of a witch-hunt targeting people linked to the Gülen movement. “Turkey should release Taner Kılıç, who is a tireless defender of human rights, known for his support for Amnesty International over many years,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Detaining Kılıç on suspicion of terrorist offenses looks like a tactic aimed at discrediting his legitimate human rights work.”

Kılıç is a founding member of AI Turkey and has been chairman of its board of directors since 2014. He has also played a strong role in advocating for refugee rights as a lawyer and with domestic nongovernmental groups and others working on these issues. The European Union on Thursday expressed concern about the recent detention of Taner Kılıç.

(According to a report by the state-run Anadolu news agency on May 28, 154,694 individuals have been detained and 50,136 have been jailed due to alleged Gülen links since the failed coup attempt.

Source: Human Rights Watch urges Turkey to release Amnesty’s country head | Turkey Purge