Archive for the 'Civil Rights Defenders (NGO)' Category

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

2017 (5): With Trump US president, Sweden must stand up for human rights

January 24, 2017

On 24 January 2017, thelocal.se published the English version of an opinion piece originally written in Swedish by Civil Rights Defenders executive director Robert Hårdh for newspaper Dagens Nyheter. Like my post published yesterday about the call for Canada to ‘compensate’ for Trumps election [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/23/2017-4-canadas-year-of-real-human-rights-action/], this piece argues that Sweden, also as a member of the EU and with its current place on the UN Security council, must step forward and take a greater responsibility to protect human rights on a global level: Read the rest of this entry »

Recently released Intigam Aliyev in Azerbaijan receives the Civil Rights Defender Of The Year Award

April 8, 2016

Azerbaijan. Baku. Azerbaijan's Supreme Court has commuted a seven-and-a-half-year prison sentence against prominent human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev, paving the way for his release after nearly a year in prison.

Azerbaijan’s Supreme Court has commuted a seven-and-a-half-year prison sentence against prominent human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev, paving the way for his release after nearly a year in prison

On 7 April 2016 Azerbaijan human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev was awarded the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award in Stockholm by the NGO Civil Rights Defender. Released in March (see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/03/28/human-rights-defender-intigam-aliyev-freed-in-azerbaijan-today/) his son Najmin Kamil came to accept the award and said, “My father dedicated his tireless and selfless work to the promotion and protection of human rights, and sacrificed his freedom for the freedom of others – just because it is important for him to stand strong for what he believes in, no matter the circumstances.

Read the rest of this entry »

Human Rights Awards for Journalists in Moldova

March 29, 2016

The prizes were awarded by the Association for Independent Press in Moldova, with the financial support of Civil Rights Defenders in Sweden.

rferl-moldova-service-reporters-win-accolades
Radio Free Europe reported proudly on 23 March 2016 that their journalists working with RFE/RL’s Moldova Service were recognized for excellence in audio and video reporting on local community and human rights issues. Reporters Mihaela Gherasim and Eugenia Pogor took first and third place in the television program category, with programs on HIV and LGBTI questions. 

Source: RFERL Moldova Service Reporters Win Accolades

Human Rights Defenders – among the top 10 issues for Business and Human Rights in 2016

December 20, 2015

The Institute for Human Rights and Business has published: Human Rights Defenders and Business – Searching for Common Ground. This is the fourth in a series of Occasional Papers by IHRB to provide independent analysis and policy recommendations about timely subjects on the business and human rights agenda. In this instance, this paper is co-published with Civil Rights Defendersand Front Line Defenders, both organisations with practical research, campaigning, and advocacy experience of the issues raised in the paper.

As cases in this Paper show, journalists exposing corruption, Internet activists demanding accountability, and community activists campaigning for land rights have all faced pressure.

More than sixty governments have passed laws in the last three years to place restraints on the ability of human rights defenders to hold their governments to account. Among those targeted are individuals and organisations who challenge economic policies or business conduct. Human rights defenders’ activities are being criminalised and they face surveillance, intimidation, lawsuits, arrests, and torture – in some cases, even death.

Companies are engaging with civil society, but mutual suspicions remain. Companies share common goals with human rights defenders – accountability, transparency, the rule of law, and due process. Companies should build on these common interests and engage human rights defenders, and where possible, speak out in their defense. To download:

The same institution – to mark International Human Rights Day 2015 – published the seventh annual list of the Top 10 Business & Human Rights Issues for the 2016 (these issues are not ranked in order of importance). The one specific on human rights defenders reads:
Defending Defenders: A Role for Business in Championing Civil Society

More than sixty governments have passed laws in the past three years to place restraints on the ability of human rights defenders to hold their governments to account for actions that undermine respect for international standards. Among those targeted are individuals and organisations who champion alternate economic paradigms or challenge government policies or business conduct. Some have faced intimidation, surveillance, lawsuits, arrests, and torture.

Twenty years ago, after a trial that failed to meet international standards, the Nigerian Government executed Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders who opposed the activities of Shell in the Niger Delta. The case sparked global awareness of business’ human rights responsibilities beyond the factory walls, leading to the development of standardsadvocacyinitiativescodes of conducts, and eventually a comprehensive UN framework and principles for business and human rights.

Despite some progress over the past two decades, suppression of activists too often continues. The UN has passed a resolution recognising the legitimate role of peaceful activists who call out abusive behaviours, including business actions that undermine respect for human rights. Yet a growing number of governments are also passing new laws to restrain civil society activities.

Human rights defenders are like canaries in a mine. When they campaign against abuses, they highlight society’s fundamental problems, such as lack of accountability, transparency, or the rule of law. Courts have jailed journalists exposing corruption, governments have tried Internet activists, authorities have prevented activists from travelling abroad, and states have cracked down on funding sources of non-governmental organisations. International financial institutionsare also under focus. The international community is increasingly paying attention to their cause. At the 2015 UN Forum on Business & Human Rights, there was special focus on human rights defenders and the role of business.  

In the year ahead, some governments, businesses, and NGOs will likely sharpen criticism of states that unjustifiably attack human rights defenders, as well as the companies that benefit from such crackdowns and choose to say nothing. With rising concerns over terrorism and the resulting tendency in many countries to emphasise security threats over protecting human freedoms, the road ahead for those who dissent will not be easy. The combined voice of global business will be critical in effectively promoting the legitimate role of individuals and organisations that champion human rights principles and standards in societies around the world. 

Sources:

Top 10 Business and Human Rights Issues for 2016 – Top 10 Emerging Issues

http://www.ihrb.org/publications/reports/human-rights-defenders.html?utm_source=IHRB+Subscribers&utm_campaign=0e75f77298-eNews_Update_Quarterly_Update_2&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_94694639e6-0e75f77298-120645865

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/business-and-human-rights/

Vietnamese blogger Mother Mushroom gets Civil Rights Defender of the Year award 2015

April 20, 2015

Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders announced earlier this month that its Civil Rights Defender of the Year award for 2015 has gone to Ms. Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh. She is Coordinator for the Vietnamese Bloggers Network and well-known for her use of social media to speak out against injustices and human rights abuses in Vietnam. Quỳnh has been blogging under the pseudonym of Me Nam (Mother Mushroom) and has openly criticised the Vietnamese government over human rights abuses and corruption. She began blogging in early 2006 when she paid a visit to a hospital and witnessed many poor people in the hot sun desperately waiting for treatment, but ignored because they lacked money to bribe hospital officials.

Civil Rights Defenders reported about bloggers and the human rights movement in Vietnam in: We will not be silenced.

For further information on the award: http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/human-rights-defender-year-award

Civil Rights Defenders – Civil Rights Defender of the Year 2015 – Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh.

Azerbaijan: a hot summer in summary

August 18, 2014

An array of international human rights organisations have over the last weeks focused on Azerbaijan. These four reports together give a shocking picture of the kind of repression that awaits human rights defenders: Read the rest of this entry »

Cambodia: Human rights defenders of garment workers released with suspended sentences

June 4, 2014

The 23 defendants, including four human rights defenders, charged in Cambodia were released on 30 May, 2014. Their release comes after the Court which had convicted the defendants but suspended their sentences that ranged from six months to four and half years imprisonment together with heavy fines. They were arrested in early January during a lethal clampdown by security forces charged with bringing an end to mass protests by garment workers and pro-opposition party supporters. Local and international groups have welcomed the release of the 23. However, they express their disappointment regarding the initial convictions and subsequent sentences. The trial was also heavily criticised for lacking due process.

via Civil Rights Defenders – Cambodia: Human rights defenders released with suspended sentences.

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/week-of-action-against-crackdown-on-cambodian-garment-workers-10-january/

The Natalia (GPS Alarm) Bracelet wins Golden Egg Awards in Stockholm

April 24, 2014

The Natalia Project [http://www.nataliaproject.org], the assault alarm for human rights defenders which I referred to in previous posts, won two gold and one silver at the 53rd annual Guldägget Awards in Stockholm. Guldägget [Golden Egg] is Sweden’s oldest and most prestigious competition in creative communication. The Natalia Project earned recognition for using innovative technology to safeguard individuals at risk. In his acceptance speech, Robert Hårdh of Civil Rights Defenders said, “This campaign is for real, it saves lives.” The Natalia Project was launched in April 2013 as a security solution for human rights activists at risk. In the case of an assault, a wearer can directly notify the Civil Rights Defenders, as well as the world through social media. PFO Tech developed the assault alarm bracelet, GPS tracking system and social media integration behind the Natalia Project. The bracelet and system, which is easily integrated into individual company security platforms, now protects journalists and human rights defenders around the world.

via PFO tech AB: GPS Alarm Bracelet Wins Big at Golden Egg Awards – MarketWatch.

for previous posts see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/natalia-project/

Cambridge Activists Train Human Rights Defenders in Sweden

April 8, 2014

On 8 April 2014 Sarah Cortes posted a short report on Cambridge Community Television about how Cambridge internet freedom advocates trained human rights defenders at the recent Civil Rights Defenders Conference in Stockholm.

Civil Rights Defenders [CRD] brought 121 human rights defenders from over 30 countries together last weekend to share their stories and participate in training by legal, security and technology specialists. One of them is Andrew Lewman from Cambridge-based Tor who provided training in internet and digital security to help activists who may be under surveillance from governments whose policies and activities they protest. “Activists may not realize the extent to which their governments may monitor their computers, cellphones and other devices,” said Lewman. “Learning to improve digital security may save their life, in some cases“. CRD itself has not yet published a general report.

The post describes also the Natalia Project, named in memory of Natalia Estemirova, a Russian activist murdered in 2009.  See my earlier posts via: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/natalia-project/

via Cambridge Activists Train International Civil Rights Defenders in Sweden | Cambridge Community Television.