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

Overview of recent campaigning for human rights defenders in Vietnam

November 18, 2017

The NOW! campaign, founded by 14 human rights organizations, calls for the immediate release of 165 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam. The campaign has established a comprehensive online database containing information about Vietnam’s prisoners of conscience. According to the database, Vietnam’s prisoners of conscience included bloggers, journalists, environmentalists, students, farmers, and workers who were arrested for their peaceful activism. Together, these men and women are serving 955 years and one month in prison, followed by 204 years under house arrest. Most of them were charged with violating article 79 of the criminal law, “plotting to overthrow the government”, and article 88, “conducting propaganda against the state”. But Civil Rights Defenders, one of the members of the NOW! campaign, said that the number of prisoners of conscience could be higher. [see also earlier post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/14/assaults-on-human-rights-defenders-on-the-rise-in-vietnam/]

A letter signed by 17 civil society organizations urged leaders who attended the 2017 summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Vietnam to raise the issue of human rights violations committed by state forces. The letter informed APEC leaders that Vietnam has detained at least 25 peaceful activists and bloggers since last year. “This crackdown is contrary to the goal of “Creating New Dynamism, Fostering a Shared Future” which is the stated theme of this year’s APEC gathering. Arbitrary detention, censorship, and state-sponsored violence against activists and human rights defenders are not only an affront to our common humanity but a grave violation of international human rights laws and standards. We believe it is in the strong interest of APEC and of the international community to speak out against the widespread and systematic violations of human rights violations in Vietnam.”

Nine human rights groups launched the #StopTheCrackdownVN campaign decrying the crackdown of bloggers and activists in recent months and the harsh prison terms handed out to critics of the state. Don Le, a writer and member of Viet Tan political party, explained how the notorious articles 79 and 88 of the law are used by authorities to silence citizens: The law also allows authorities to filter, block or temporarily shutdown networks on the basis of any information that may be seen to “incite” mass gatherings that disturb national security and order. Given the Vietnamese government’s broad interpretation of national security, we might expect to see more attacks and shutdowns aimed at independent media and bloggers and arrests of peaceful community mobilisers.

But Vietnam is not easily impressed as the recent case of reprisals shows: Front Line Defenders reports that three human rights defenders were briefly arrested after meeting the EU Delegation in Hanoi. [On 16 November 2017, human rights defenders Pham Doan Trang, Bui Thi Minh Hang and Nguyen Quang were arrested by police after attending a meeting with the European Union Delegation in Hanoi to discuss human rights issues ahead of the EU – Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue, scheduled for 1 December 2017. After being kept incommunicado without access to legal representation, the human rights defenders were released. They remain under surveillance.] From Line adds that: Authorities in Vietnam have a habit of tightening the grip over human rights defenders and civil society ahead of international meetings. During the APEC Summit in Danang between 6 and 10 November 2017, and afterwards, during the state visits of U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, several human rights defenders and activists were kept under house arrest and heavy surveillance. Reports also state that human rights defenders were harassed by policemen in plainclothes to prevent them from meeting with international officials or organising demonstrations.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement in July 2017 expressing concern about the detention and persecution of citizen journalists: We urge the Vietnamese authorities to immediately release all those detained in connection with their exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, and to amend the overly broad ill-defined laws that are used – under the pretext of national security – to crack down on dissent.

The kind of blogging that got Mother Mushroom 10 years imprisonment in Vietnam

July 6, 2017

On 20 April 2015 I reported on a Vietnamese blogger nicknamed “Mother Mushroom” being awarded the Civil Rights Defender of the Year award [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/04/20/vietnamese-blogger-mother-mushroom-gets-civil-rights-defender-of-the-year-award-2015/]. Now a long piece by Visen Liu under the title ““Why did the fish die?” goes into detail about  why Vietnam thinks it needs to imprison for 10 years a mom blogger.

Last week, Vietnam convicted and sentenced her to prison for a decade on charges of “conducting propaganda against the state.” The main evidence against her? A body of writing, some 400 Facebook posts about fish deaths, China’s intervention in the South China Sea, and police brutality in Vietnam. Her Facebook posts were described by the police as “a pessimistic, one-sided view that caused public confusion and affected the people’s faith [in the State].”

Nguyen has described her writing differently, saying it was motivated by wanting to leave a better country for her children. She’s part of a wave of environmental activism that is growing in the one-party state where civil liberties and the press are severely restricted; in recent years Vietnam has seen public rallies over harm to marine life and to protect trees. Over years, from posting about parenting, she graduated to impassioned writing about the environment and human rights:

  • The 2016 fish die-off. Nguyen has often posted about the deaths of some 70 metric tons of fish in April 2016 that locals blamed on waste water from a new steel plant in the Ha Tinh province owned by Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, a subsidiary of Taiwan-based Formosa Plastics Group, a major investor in Vietnam. State-media first blamed the firm for the marine crisis, which hurt both fishing and tourism, but then back-tracked. The firm also initially said it was not to blame, sparking anger and protestsWhile heading to an environmental rally last May, Nguyen was assaulted in a hotel lobby, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Later that month, Nguyen made it to another rally and managed to hold up a sign asking “Why did the fish die?” Vietnam eventually officially blamed Formosa, which has promised to pay $500 million for clean-up and compensation. Security authorities cited signs they found in Nguyen’s home, including one that says “Fish need water,” as part of their evidence against her, according to the OHCHR.

  • South China Sea In November 2015, Nguyen called on people to rally against the visit of Chinese president Xi Jinping, citing detentions of fishermen as well as China’s treatment of its ethnic minorities. Vietnam and China have ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea. In an earlier post she criticized Vietnam’s stance with China over the South China Sea.

  • Deaths in detention Nguyen and others compiled reports from state-owned media and put together a file called “Stop police killing civilians” about 31 people who died in police custody. The document was later criticized by the police: “[It] bears a hostile viewpoint against the people’s police force.” ….

    Offline protests Apart from blogging, she also waged her battles in offline protests. She actively participated and advocated for activities to promote a freer political atmosphere and cleaner environment. …

..She was detained and allegedly assaulted by police several times before her current incarceration. One time she faced a $66 fine over her Facebook posts. When Civil Rights Defenders, a Swedish advocacy group, awarded her the title of Defender of 2015, she was not able to receive the prize in person as she was in detention. At the same time as she was becoming an increasingly active blogger, Nguyen continued to support her family, including her two children, 60-year-old mom and 90-year-old grandmother, by working as an independent tour guide.

Things came to a head last year. Nguyen was arrested in October 2016 after she accompanied the mom of an imprisoned online activist to help her see her son. Her daughter, now 11, saw her being hand-cuffed and taken away by numerous police officers. Nguyen’s son was just two at the time of her arrest. In March, the US awarded her its “Women of Courage” award. Numerous rights groups have called for her release, including Human Rights Watch, Civil Rights Defenders and Pen America.

Her activism has been motivated in part by her strong views that her children should inherit a country where human rights, environmental protection, and rule of law are meaningful and part of everyday reality, and not just rhetoric spouted by the ruling Communist Party,” wrote Phil Robertson, of Human Rights Watch….

Source: Mother Mushroom wants to know: The questions and Facebook posts that led Vietnam to imprison a mom blogger — Quartz

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-40439837

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/