Archive for the 'AI' Category

Chilean human rights defender, José (Pepe) Zalaquett, no more

February 22, 2020

Defending the Monarch Butterfly in Mexico costs lives

February 7, 2020

Mexican authorities are investigating the death of an employee of one of Mexico’s largest butterfly reserves. Raúl Hernández Romero was the second person connected to the reserve found dead in less than a week. The first death was Homero Gómez González — an environmental activist and well-known defender of the Rosario Monarch Butterfly Preserve in the Michoacan state. The deaths have alarmed environmental activists and human rights defenders in the country.

Amnesty International said it is alarmed. Twelve environmental defenders were already killed in Mexico in 2019. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/30/in-2018-three-murders-per-week-among-environmental-human-rights-defenders/]. The World’s host Marco Werman spoke with Erika Guevara Rosas, director of Amnesty International Americas, about the killings. Marco Werman: Homero Gómez González was very well-known for his protection of the monarch butterfly in Michoacán. He administrated sanctuaries to protect the monarch butterfly. But he was also a protector of the environment. He denounced, many times, illegal logging in the area and the increased presence of groups of organized crime that were trying to take over certain territories and land and threatened the environment where these monarch butterflies arrive every year in Mexico. Erika Guevara Rosas: We get a nice sense of his commitment to what he was doing with a video he posted just last month on Twitter. He’s in his butterfly sanctuary and thousands of butterflies are swirling all around him. He’s pretty happy and proudly declares in his tweet that the sanctuary in Michoacan is the biggest in the world. It’s kind of a sad video in retrospect, shot a couple of weeks before Gomez Gonzalez was killed. [https://twitter.com/miblogestublog/status/1222901129199009798]

Hernández Romero’s death, “along with the death of Homero Gómez, demands immediate investigation and full accountability,” tweeted Richard Pearshouse, head of crisis and environment at Amnesty.

‘Horrific’, adding that Raúl Hernández Romero’s family says he received threats regarding his work campaigning against illegal logging in the weeks before he disappeared. El Rosario sanctuary provides a home for millions of migrating monarch butterflies each year and draws thousands of tourists annually. But the reserve has also drawn the ire of illegal loggers in Mexico, who are banned from cutting down trees in the protected area. Before the ban, more than 1,000 acres of the woodland were lost to the industry between 2005 and 2006.

https://www.wvxu.org/post/killing-environmental-activists-has-become-norm-mexico-activist-says#stream/0

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/02/03/horrific-human-rights-advocates-call-investigation-death-second-monarch-butterfly

Law Society of Ontario reflects on how to support human rights lawyers abroad

January 28, 2020

LSO event explores nuances of supporting human rights abroad
Teresa Donnelly, who leads the LSO’s Human Rights Monitoring Group, spoke at the Osgoode Hall event in Toronto commemorating International Day of the Endangered Lawyer 2020.
On 27 January 2020 Anita Balakrishnan wrote in the Canadian Law Times about the International Day of the Endangered Lawyer which in 2020 focused on lawyers in Pakistan [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/17/24-january-day-of-the-endangered-lawye-aba-focuses-on-pakistan/ ]
When supporting colleagues abroad, lawyers should consider offering behind-the-scenes support as well as making public statements, a Pakistan-based journalist told an audience at the Law Society of Ontario last week. “What has to be really kept in mind is how that support is voiced and contextualized,” said Beena Sarwar. “If it takes a simplistic view or plays into anti-Pakistan rhetoric …. it’s so easy to make Pakistan a scapegoat and target.” Sarwar, whose blog has gained international acclaim for its coverage of freedom, human rights, peace and even influential jurists, was one speaker at the Law Society of Ontario’s International Day of the Endangered Lawyer 2020, hosted at Osgoode Hall in Toronto on 24 January by the Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

This year, lawyers organized a protest at the Pakistani embassy at the Hague. Past events focused on Egypt, Turkey, China and Honduras, among others.

The LSO’s Human Rights Monitoring Group has issued several statements about treatment of lawyers in Pakistan over the past few years.  In the aftermath of the Kasi attack, the LSO urged the Pakistani government to “put an end to all acts of violence against lawyers and human rights defenders in Pakistan,” and “ensure that all lawyers can carry out their legitimate activities without fear of physical violence or other human rights violations.

Other incidents that have been condemned by the LSO are the 2015 murder of Samiullah Afridi (a lawyer who defended a doctor that allegedly assisted CIA agents with their hunt for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden); and a suicide bomb attack on the Pakistani judiciary.

Over the past decades, lawyers in Pakistan have been subjected to acts of mass terrorism, murder, attempted murder, assaults, (death) threats, contempt proceedings, harassment and intimidation, as well as judicial harassment and torture in detention, merely for engaging in their professional duties as lawyers,” a letter from Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada said earlier this month. “Their families also have been targeted, and some have even been murdered. Some lawyers have also been threatened with disbarment and/or had their homes and offices raided by the police.

At the event, bencher Teresa Donnelly read a letter the law society had received from a Pakistani lawyer. Lawyers cannot become “heroes,” Donnelly recounted from the email. Instead, she said, the writer felt the role of lawyers was to “focus on their work improving the justice system.”  While support is needed for the Pakistani bar, Sarwar explained that Western organizations must be careful not to jump to issue statements that play into conspiracy theories about Western involvement. Abdul (Hamid) Bashani Khan, a lawyer at the Abdul Hamid Khan Law Office in Mississauga, also spoke on the panel, where speakers highlighted some of the common misunderstandings of the situation in Pakistan, particularly amid anti-Muslim rhetoric publicized in the post-911 era. For example, panelists said the bench and bar are portrayed as both very strong — given the influence of the lawyers’ movement of Pakistan — and also very weak, in the fight for judicial independence and public support. In 2014, a lawyer was killed after representing a high-profile professor charged with blasphemy.

To mark the Day of the Endangered Lawyer, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute released a toolkit to help the legal community navigate the complex task of protecting lawyers at risk. The three-part kit includes supports for risk management, human rights mechanisms, emergency protocols, legal frameworks, international protection, security plans and response chains.

Sri Lankan Government accused of embarking on process to silence critics

January 22, 2020

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MENAFN in the Colombo Gazette of 13 January 2020 reports that the new Government in Sri Lanka, headed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has been accused of embarking on a strategy to “militarize and securatize” Sri Lanka unleashing a chilling process of repression targeting critics and human rights defenders. Two human rights groups, the International Truth and Justice Project – Sri Lanka (ITJP) and Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) said that with the help of activists in Sri Lanka (who cannot be named for their own safety) they have documented 69 incidents of intimidation and threats both before and after the elections which have targetted journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers, plaintiffs, academics and opposition figures. In some cases the threats have been so serious the individuals have fled the country.

The report also illustrates how Gotabaya Rajpaksa has spread his tentacles across the government by appointing many members of his former army regiment to positions of authority and has increasingly militarized the policing and intelligence functions. Those involved in investigating past crimes including fraud have been removed from their posts.

Individuals previously accused of corruption or alleged to be involved in war crimes are now in office again – the ‘deep state’ is out in the open, occupying positions of authority,’ said Bashana Abeywardene of JDS, adding that it’s cast a pall of silence over once outspoken journalists, trades union activists and human rights activists.

On 16 January Amnesty International echoes this in https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa37/1678/2020/en/

Annual reports 2019: Tanzania mostly a bad year

December 31, 2019

And here the last of my selected annual reports of 2019:

..Should the country’s human rights defenders have any New Year resolutions of ensuring some notable rights violations are brought to an end, they must brace to encounter setbacks and frustrations from what is happening on the ground. Concerns on declining press freedom, the ban on political rallies, the push for an arrangement that would ensure a free and fair elections are some of the issues that continued to test the commitment of authorities in ensuring respect for human rights principles…

While it is true that there were many incidents which activists have described as blatant violations of human rights and the rule of law, the most recent is the ‘kidnapping’ of rights activists Tito Magoti and Theodory Faustine. Their earlier absence in the public eyes sent people into a frenzy which forced the police to clarify that it was they who ‘arrested’ the two. Mr Tito Magoti and Mr Theodory Giyan face three counts of leading a criminal gang, possession of a computer programme designed to commit an offence and money laundering. The former is a Public Affairs’ officer with the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) while the latter is associated with a digital solutions company, iPF Softwares. They are both at Segerea Remand prison awaiting their case scheduled on January 7, 2020 for mentioning.

..Journalists and the press, in general, were neither spared from the wreck of 2019 violations of people’s basic freedoms. According to the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT), a local press freedom advocacy group, incidents of violations of press freedom, including threats and interference in editorial independence, increased in Tanzania from eight in 2015 to 28 cases in 2019. [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/06/journalist-kabendera-in-tanzania-now-suddenly-held-on-economic-charges/]

..Perhaps the serious blow to the country’s human rights landscape came from the government’s decision to withdraw its declaration it made under Article 34(6) of the Protocol establishing the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) which gives individuals and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) a direct access to the court once the national judicial mechanisms have been exhausted. The decision came soon after the African Union rights body condemned massive human rights violations by authorities, especially reluctance to investigate serious human rights breaches like that of the disappearance of freelance journalist Azory Gwanda. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/06/tanzania-wants-to-withdraw-right-to-complain-to-african-court/]

..Meanwhile, the political parties continued to raise the alarm; that they were operating under stringent conditions in the past three years as the government’s ban on political rallies remained in force. The year 2019 also witnessed the passing of amendments into the Political Parties Act which Tanzania’s political observers described as draconian.

.. Amidst these negative developments, nonetheless, there was also some positive steps taken by the government to try expressing its commitments to issues pertaining to human rights and good governance. This includes the revival of the State human rights and good governance commission. Since the stepping down of the former chairman, renowned lawyer Bahame Tom Nyanduga and his commissioners, the CHRGG remained inactive, making many of its tasks taken over by independent rights organisations which are blaming authorities over alleged failures to uphold the principles of human rights and the rule of law . President John Magufuli finally sworn-in the new CHRGG commission and asked the officials to go and help people whose rights are violated. President Magufuli’s directives to the commission were timely, to say the least, as they came immediately before Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released scathing reports on the human rights situation in Tanzania. Launched on October 28, 2019, the two organisations expressed concerns the state of human rights in Tanzania.

..Other human rights-related concerns in 2019 were the frequent anti-human rights statements made by senior government officials which are often followed by cracking down on individuals and organisations.

Rights activists have also expressed uneasiness with the rhetoric, often coupled with arbitrary arrests and threats to deregister nongovernmental groups, which they think has stifled independent reporting by journalists and public discussion on human rights violations and abuses including in the context of the upcoming elections. “Tanzania should show true commitment to protecting and fulfilling the rights to freedom of expression and association. The authorities need to put a stop to harassment, intimidation, and arbitrary arrests of activists, journalists, and opposition members,” said Oryem Nyeko, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Annual reports 2019: Amnesty International

December 29, 2019

The 3rd annual report comes from Amnesty International which this year looks at some of the positive highlights, many won by human rights defenders:

[The first two annual reports in this blog are: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/27/annual-reports-2019-civicus-global-report/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/28/annual-reports-2019-huridocs-harnessing-the-power-of-human-rights-information/]

With inequality, injustice and hate speech seemingly ever more prevalent across the globe, you’d be forgiven for thinking 2019 has been a bad year for human rights. Yet, AI says that we have also seen some significant wins. Activists the world over have been galvanised to stand up and fight for our human rights – and thanks to their relentless campaigning we achieved some striking leaps forward. Here are some highlights…

January 

Legal abortion services were finally available to women in Ireland, following an historic referendum in May 2018 that marked a huge victory for women’s rights. It was the result of years of dedicated work by activists, including Amnesty International, to encourage a powerful conversation that helped catalyse the abortion debate in Ireland. This ultimately led to greater protection for those people who need an abortion there, and paved the way for the same inspiring progress in Northern Ireland later in the year.

As a tribute to Julián Carrillo, an environmental rights defender killed in October 2018, we launched Caught between bullets and neglect, a digest on Mexico’s failure to protect environmental human rights defenders. Just a few hours after the launch, two suspects in Julián’s murder were arrested, showing the immediate impact Amnesty’s work can have on justice.

The Angolan Parliament approved a revision of the Criminal Code to remove a provision widely interpreted as criminalizing same-sex relationships. They even took a step further, by criminalizing discrimination against people based on sexual orientation – the first country in 2019 to make this move, and a hearteningly radical move for an African nation.

February

After spending 76 days in detention in Thailand, refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi was able to return to his home in Melbourne on 12 February. The Bahrain-born footballer had been detained upon arrival in Bangkok on 27 November 2018, due to an erroneous Interpol red notice, and faced the threat of extradition to Bahrain. A campaign launched by Amnesty and other groups to free the footballer, who is a peaceful and outspoken critic of the Bahraini authorities, grew into the #SaveHakeem movement. The campaign spanned three continents, engaging footballers, Olympians and celebrities, and drawing the support of more than 165,000 people.

Following international attention and campaigning by Amnesty, Saudi authorities overturned a call by the Public Prosecution to execute Saudi woman activist Israa al-Ghomgham for charges related to her peaceful participation in protests. Israa al-Ghomgham still faces a prison term, and Amnesty continues to campaign for her immediate and unconditional release.

March

In Ukraine, an International Women’s Day rally organized by human rights defender Vitalina Koval in Uzhgorod, western Ukraine, went ahead peacefully, with participants protected by police. The event marked a major change for the region, after similar rallies organised by Koval in previous years had been targeted by far-right groups, with police singularly failing to protect participants from violence.

AFRICOM admitted for the first time that its air strikes have killed or injured civilians in Somalia, after the release of Amnesty’s investigation The Hidden US War in Somalia: Civilian Casualties from Air Strikes in Lower Shabelle. Following this report, US military documents came to light confirming that the US authorities knew of further allegations of civilian casualties resulting from many of their air strikes in Somalia.

Gulzar Duishenova had been championing disability rights in her country Kyrgyzstan for years. In March 2019, her persistence paid off when Kyrgyzstan finally signed up to the Disability Rights Convention. Amnesty supporters wrote nearly a quarter of a million messages backing her.

And in Iraq, just days after Amnesty and other NGOs raised the alarm about a draft cybercrime law that would seriously undermine freedom of expression there, the Iraqi parliament chose to withdraw the bill, confirming to Amnesty that its “concerns have been heard”.

April

In April, love triumphed when a ban on all LGBTI events in Ankara, Turkey, was lifted by the administrative appeals court. “This is a momentous day for LGBTI people in Turkey, and a huge victory for the LGBTI rights activists – love has won once again,” said Fotis Filippou, Campaigns Director for Europe at Amnesty International.

The District Court of The Hague issued an interim ruling in favour of Esther Kiobel and three other women who took on one of the world’s biggest oil companies, Shell, in a fight for justice. Esther has pursued the company for more than 20 years over the role she says it played in the arbitrary execution of her husband in Nigeria. Amnesty has shared over 30,000 solidarity messages with Esther Kiobel, and is supporting her Kiobel vs Shell case in The Hague. As a result of this hearing, the court in October 2019 heard for the first time the accounts of individuals who accuse Shell of offering them bribes to give fake testimonies that led to the ‘Ogoni Nine’ – who included Esther Kiobel’s husband – being sentenced to death and executed.

President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, announced that his government would introduce legislation to abolish the death penalty.

May

Taiwan became the first in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage after passing an historic law on 17 May, with the first same-sex weddings taking place on 24 May. Together with LGBTI rights groups from Taiwan, Amnesty had campaigned for this outcome for many years. We are now working to end all discrimination against LGBTI people in Taiwan.

Qatar promised more reforms to its labour laws ahead of the 2022 World Cup. Human rights pressure also played a role in FIFA’s decision to abandon plans to expand the 2022 Qatar World Cup to 48 teams, which would have involved adding new host countries in the region. Amnesty worked together with a coalition of NGOs, trade unions, fans and player groups, calling attention to the human rights risks of the expansion, including the plight of migrant workers building new infrastructure.

June

Climate change activist Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future movement of schoolchildren were honoured with Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award 2019. The Fridays for Future movement was started by Greta, a teenager from Sweden who in August 2018 decided to miss school every Friday and instead protest outside the Swedish parliament, until it took more serious action to tackle climate change.

In a long overdue move, Greece passed legislation to recognize that sex without consent is rape, and Denmark’s government committed to doing the same. This development is testament to the persistence and bravery of survivors and campaigners for many years, and creates real momentum across Europe following 2018 Amnesty’s review of outdated legislation in 31 European countries and other barriers to accessing justice for rape survivors.

From 1 June 2019, contraceptives and family planning clinic consultations became free of charge in Burkina Faso. The change was seen as a response to our 2015 My Body My Rights petition and human rights manifesto calling for these measures to be put in place. With financial barriers removed, women in Burkina Faso now have better access to birth control, and more choice over what happens to their bodies.

July

In a momentous and inspiring day for human rights campaigners, the UK parliament voted through a landmark bill on 22 July to legalize same sex marriage in Northern Ireland. The bill also forced the UK government to legislate for abortion reform in Northern Ireland, including decriminalization on the basis that a Northern Ireland Executive (government of NI) did not return in three months.

Also in July, in a US Congressional hearing, a senior Google executive gave the clearest confirmation yet that the company has “terminated” Project Dragonfly, its secretive programme to develop a search engine that would facilitate the Chinese government’s repressive surveillance and censorship of the internet. This followed Amnesty’s #DropDragonfly campaign, and hundreds of Google staff speaking out.

On 22 July, 70-year-old human rights defender and prominent Palestinian Bedouin leader Sheikh Sayyah Abu Mdeighim al-Turi was released from prison in Israel, after spending seven months in detention for his role in advocating for the protection of Bedouins’ rights and land. Sheikh Sayyah thanked Amnesty International and all those who took action on his behalf: “I thank you all very much for standing up for the right of my people and the protection of our land. While I was in prison, I felt and heard your support loud and clear, and it meant the world to me.”

August

Mauritanian blogger Mohamed Mkhaïtir, who was sentenced to death and held in arbitrary detention for more than five years after publishing a blog on caste discrimination, finally walked free.

In August, Saudi Arabia announced major reforms easing some of the major restrictions imposed on women under its repressive male guardianship system, including allowing them the right to obtain a passport which should make it possible for them to travel without permission from a male guardian. The changes also grant women in Saudi Arabia the right to register marriages, divorces, births and deaths and to obtain family records. While we welcome these changes, people campaigning for women’s rights remain in prison, and we must do all we can to fight for their freedom.

September

Syrian national Ahmed H. was finally allowed to return home, after being imprisoned and then held in immigration detention in Hungary for more than four years. He had been arrested on terrorism charges after being caught up in clashes on the Hungarian border. At the time he was helping his elderly parents, who were escaping Syria and were crossing into Hungary as refugees. An amazing 24,000 people joined the #BringAhmedHome campaign, calling on Cyprus to allow Ahmed to return to his family.

A court in Tunis acquitted 18-year-old activist Maissa al-Oueslati, after she faced trumped-up charges that could have resulted in her imprisonment for up to four years. Maissa and her 16-year-old brother had been arbitrarily detained by police earlier in the month for filming a protester threatening to set himself on fire in front of a police station.

October

At midnight on Tuesday 22 October 2019, after a last-minute effort by the DUP to overturn the bill, same sex marriage became legal in Northern Ireland, while abortion was decriminalised. All criminal proceedings were dropped, including those against a mother who faced prosecution for buying her 15 year-old daughter abortion pills online.

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Campaign Manager, said it was the beginning of a new era for Northern Ireland, in which the nation was freed from oppressive laws that police people’s bodies and healthcare. “Finally, our human rights are being brought into the 21st century. This will end the suffering of so many people. We can now look forward to a more equal and compassionate future with our choices respected.”

November

Kurdish-Iranian award-winning journalist and refugee Behrouz Boochani arrived in New Zealand to attend a special WORD Christchurch event on a visitor’s visa sponsored by Amnesty International. It was the first time Boochani, known for his work reporting on human rights abuses from within the Australian government’s refugee detention centres, had set foot outside Papua New Guinea since he was detained on the country’s Manus Island in 2014.

Humanitarian volunteer Dr Scott Warren was found not guilty by a court in Arizona of charges linked to helping migrants on the US-Mexico border. In a similar case, Pierre Mumber, a French mountain guide who gave hot tea and warm clothes to four West African asylum seekers in the Alps, and was acquitted of “facilitating irregular entry”.

December

Alberto Fernández is inaugurated as President of Argentina on 10 December. As president-elect, Fernández announced he would push for the legalization of abortion as soon as he took office, saying: “It is a public health issue that we must solve.”

The Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights said that 47 major fossil fuel and carbon-polluting companies could be held accountable for violating the rights of its citizens for the damage caused by climate change. The landmark decision paves the way for further litigation, and even criminal investigations, that could see fossil fuel companies and other major polluters either forced to pay damages, or their officials sent to jail for harms linked to climate change.

The regional Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) Court of Justice rejected a 2015 ban imposed by the government of Sierra Leone preventing pregnant girls from sitting exams and attending mainstream school – and ordered the policy to be revoked with immediate effect.

Colombia and Mexico: problems with national panic button devices for human rights defenders

December 24, 2019

A GPS-enabled “panic button” that Colombia‘s government has issued ito abut 400 persons is supposed to summon help for human-rights defenders or journalists if they are threatened. But it the article claims that it has technical flaws that could let hostile parties disable it, eavesdrop on conversations and track users‘ movements, according to an independent security audit conducted for The Associated Press. There is no evidence the vulnerabilities have been exploited, but are alarmed. “This is negligent in the extreme,” said Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, calling the finding “a tremendous security failure.

Over the past four years, other “distress alarms” and smartphone apps have been deployed or tested around the world, with mixed results. When effective, they can be crucial lifelines against criminal gangs, paramilitary groups or the hostile security forces of repressive regimes. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/06/23/today-official-launch-of-ais-panic-button-a-new-app-to-fight-attack-kidnap-and-torture/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/04/24/the-natalia-gps-alarm-bracelet-wins-golden-egg-awards-in-stockholm/]

The “boton de apoyo,” distributed by Colombia‘s Office of National Protection is a keychain-style fob. Its Chinese manufacturer markets it under the name EV-07 for tracking children, pets and the elderly. The operates on a wireless network, has a built-in microphone and receiver and can be mapped remotely with geo-location software. A button marked “SOS” calls for help when pressed.

A company official, John Chung, acknowledged that Rapid7 notified him of the flaws in December. In keeping with standard industry practice, Rapid7 waited at least two months before publicly disclosing the vulnerabilities to give the manufacturer time to address them. Chung told the AP that Eview was working to update the EV-07‘s webserver software, where Rapid7 found flaws that could allow user and geolocation data to be altered.

Activists have good reason to be wary of public officials in Colombia, where murder rates for land and labor activists are among the world‘s highest, and there is a legacy of state-sponsored crime. The DAS domestic intelligence agency, which provided bodyguards and armored vehicles to high-risk individuals prior to 2011, was disbanded after being caught spying on judges, journalists and activists. Five former DAS officials have been prosecuted for allegedly subjecting Duque and her daughter to psychological torture after she published articles implicating agency officials in the 1999 assassination of Jaime Garzon, a much-loved satirist.

Tanya O‘Carroll of Amnesty International, which has been developing a different kind of “panic button” since 2014 , said the Colombian model is fundamentally flawed. “In many cases, the government is the adversary,” she said. “How can those people who are the exact adversary be the ones that are best placed to respond?”…

In Mexico, the attorney general‘s office has issued more than 200 emergency alert devices to journalists and rights activists since 2013. But there have been multiple complaints . One is unreliability where cell service is poor. Others are more serious: Cases have been documented of police failing to respond or answering but saying they are unable to help.

O‘Carroll of Amnesty International said trials in 17 nations on three continents—including the Philippines, El Salvador and Uganda—show it‘s best to alert trusted parties—friends, family or colleagues. Those people then reach out to trusted authorities. Amnesty‘s app for Android phones is still in beta testing. It is activated with a hardware trigger—multiple taps of the power button. But there have been too many false alarms.

Sweden-based Civil Rights Defenders offers a 300-euro stand-alone panic button first deployed in Russia‘s North Caucasus region in 2013 and now used by more than 70 people in East Africa, Central Asia, the Balkans, Southeast Asia and Venezuela, said Peter Ohlm, a protection officer at the nonprofit. The organization‘s Stockholm headquarters always gets notified, and social media is typically leveraged to spread word fast when an activist is in trouble.

Colombia ‘panic buttons‘ expose activists

Thailand: Amnesty and UN Rapporteur agree on misuse of lese-majeste

December 23, 2019

Thailand: Amnesty International published a special 30-page report “They Cannot Keep Us Quiet” on Wednesday 11 December 2019. It is sub-titled “The criminalization of activists, human rights defenders and others in Thailand.” It was released hours after David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, after meetings on Tuesday launched a scathing attack on what he called misuse of laws prohibiting defamation of the monarchy. “Thai authorities are waging a campaign to criminalise and punish dissent by targeting civil society and political activists who peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly,” the Amnesty report said.

Mr Kaye said at a media briefing: “Lese-majeste provisions have no place in a democratic country. I urge the authorities of Thailand to take steps to revise the country’s Criminal Code and to repeal the law that establishes a justification for criminal prosecution.

And both singled out the refusal of the regime to back bail for dissident Jatupat Boonpatararaksa, better known as Pai Daodin.

https://wellstonjournal.com/un-envoy-amnesty-denounce-regime-ways.html

UN envoy, Amnesty denounce regime ways

Iran: nothing good to report in December 2019

December 20, 2019

The London-based human rights group Amnesty International says more than 300 people were killed in protests in Iran last month. In a report released on 16 December 2019 Amnesty says that according to reports it compiled, at least 304 people were killed and thousands injured between November 15 and 18 as authorities crushed protests with lethal force. The organization interviewed dozens of people inside Iran. It also analyzed video footage obtained by the group, which shows Iranian security forces opening fire on unarmed protesters who did not pose any imminent risk. The report said thousands of journalists and human rights defenders have also been arrested in an attempt to stop them from speaking out about Iran’s repression. Iran has yet to disclose details of the casualties.

On 18 December the European Union extended sanctions against Iran by another year over what the bloc says are serious human rights violations. The EU said in a statement it extended a travel ban and asset freeze against 82 people and also a ban on EU exports that might help in the repression of internal dissent. In 2011, the EU imposed the restrictions over the repression of peaceful demonstrators, journalists, human rights defenders and others. The sanctions also target those involved in torture, inhumane treatment and stonings or hangings. The extension prolongs the sanctions until April 13, 2018.

On 19 December 2019 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said it is “appalled” by a Tehran court’s decision to uphold prison sentences for four journalists from the Gam (Step) online magazine. However, the appeals court in Tehran reduced the length of the jail terms from 18 to five years for each journalist — Amirhossein Mohammadifard, Sanaz Allahyari, Amir Amirgholi, and Assal Mohammadi — for a combined total of 20 years, the Paris-based media freedom watchdog said on December 18. The journalists were arrested a year ago on what Amnesty International called “spurious” national security charges related to their reporting on workers’ rights protests in Khuzestan Province over grievances concerning unpaid wages and poor conditions.

RSF said on December 18 that the same appeals court in Tehran also upheld a prison sentence for Marzieh Amiri, a journalist for the reformist Shargh newspaper, but reduced her sentence from 10 years in prison and 148 lashes to five years in prison. Amiri was arrested in May after covering a demonstration outside parliament in the capital.

On 20 December 2019 UN human rights experts called on the Iranian authorities to release all individuals arbitrarily detained and mistreated during recent protests, and expressed concerns over the hundreds of people who have been killed. “We are shocked at reports of the ill-treatment of those detained during the protests that took place in November 2019, and deeply disturbed that the reported use of excessive force by the Iranian security forces led to an untold number of casualties, including deaths,” the experts said.

——

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20191216_26/

EU extends sanctions on Iran over human rights violations

https://www.voanews.com/press-freedom/rsf-appalled-five-iranian-journalists-get-total-25-years-prison

UN Experts Alarmed at Alleged Mistreatment of Detained Protesters

Rare: involvement by a UK bank in the Write for Rights campaign

December 9, 2019

The Co-operative Bank   Picture: Rui Vieira/PA Wire
The Co-operative Bank Picture: Rui Vieira/PA Wire
Ed Horner of York Press reports that the YORK branch of a nationwide bank is supporting the annual Write for Rights campaign. The Co-Operative Bank is encouraging colleagues and customers to write letters of support for people facing injustice, here in the UK and around the world. Helen Naylor, branch manager in York, will be running an awareness event. The branch has chosen to highlight three issues to support, climate change, migrant women and young trans-people in the UK. There will also be a representative from the local Amnesty International group to support customers. The event will take place on December 10 from 10am-2pm at the Co-Operative Bank York branch in Feasegate. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/18/amnestys-write-for-rights-campaign-2019-launched-today-focuses-on-youth-activists/