Archive for the 'EU' Category

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

EU continues to run a human rights award In the GCC Region

December 10, 2019

The European Union Delegation to the United Arab Emirates announced that the 11th Edition of its Chaillot Prize for the Promotion of Human Rights in the GCC Region – honoring local civil society organisations, public or private institutions, as well as individuals for their efforts in promoting general awareness of human rights and the rights of vulnerable groups in the GCC region – has gone to: the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children (for its tireless efforts in protecting and supporting women and children, victims of domestic violence, child abuse and human trafficking) and the Special Olympics World Games Higher Committee (for its ground-breaking event in Abu Dhabi, promoting a spirit of inclusion and tolerance by raising awareness for persons with disabilities). Ahmed Mansoor (see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/05/massive-call-in-support-of-ahmed-mansoor-at-his-50th-birthday-how-can-emirates-remain-deaf/) was of course NOT mentioned, neither by the EU nor Gulfnews.

https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/60476/announcement-chaillot-prize-2019_hr

https://gulfnews.com/uae/emirati-organisations-win-human-rights-chaillot-prize-1.68350864

Afghanistan: human rights defenders targeted but fearless

November 26, 2019

Afghanistan’s top intelligence agency must immediately release two human rights defenders it detained after they exposed alleged sexual abuse against children. Musa Mahmudi and Ehsanullah Hamidi, both well-known human rights defenders from Logar province, were arbitrarily detained by the National Directorate of Security (NDS) on 21 November 2019 when they were on their way to meet with the European Union ambassador in Kabul.

The two human rights defenders began receiving threats, including from local officials in Logar, on Facebook after they gave interviews to The Guardian and Afghanistan’s TOLO News about the existence of a paedophile ring in the area. The human rights defenders uncovered more than 100 videos of the alleged abuse. Some of the victims of abuse have been murdered, according to The Guardian. “This is the latest case where human rights defenders have been targeted by the authorities for carrying out their important work. Faced with threats from both the state and non-state actors, they are operating in some of the most hazardous conditions anywhere in the world. There is impunity for attacks on these brave defenders, who have little to no protection.”

One day before he disappeared, Musa Mahmudi told a fellow Afghan human rights defender that he feared for his safety and that the NDS was planning to arrest him. He added that he was worried that he was under surveillance. Musa Mahmudi said that he had also received death threats, accusing him of “dishonouring the people of Logar.” In August 2019, Amnesty International published a briefing entitled, Defenceless Defenders: Attacks on Afghanistan’s Human Rights Community,” where the organization detailed how the Afghan government has persistently failed to investigate attacks on human rights defenders – sometimes accusing them of ‘fabricating’ their claims, declining to offer them protection; telling them to arm themselves instead. [on 26 november: https://www.rferl.org/a/afghan-president-orders-probe-into-alleged-pedophile-ring/30293787.html] and then; https://www.rferl.org/a/afghanistan-releases-activists-who-exposed-alleged-pedophile-ring/30294906.html

The same day AI continued with its series of 16 omen human rights defenders from Afghanistan16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” campaign [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/19/16-days-of-activism-against-gender-based-violence-start-on-25-november-2019/]. Untill December 10, their stories will be published one a day.

Day two: Maria Raheen

I am the director of the Journalism and Mass Communication Unit at Balkh University. I also head a non-governmental organization that works on human rights. For 20 years, as a women’s rights activist, I have pushed to address issues that prevent women from accessing their rights, not only in Balkh but also in other neighbouring provinces such as Samangan, Jowzjan, and Faryab.

One of my achievements is the establishment of the first private university in Balkh – Taj Higher Education Institute, which offers medicine, economy and law. Similar to Kabul, Herat and Kandahar, Balkh has some developments and achievements in terms of women’s rights. However, the province is still well known for the presence of armed groups, the local mafia and warlords, who have no respect for human rights. Due to existing challenges and the weak rule of law, self-censorship is embedded in the day-to-day lives of people in Balkh.

I am no stranger to tolerating injustices, especially when it is a matter of saving my life and my family’s lives. It gets challenging especially when it involves former war commanders who are now elected representatives of the area and, who would not hesitate to exert their power to commit crimes.

I hope in future like-minded women will join hands for the women’s revolution in Afghanistan, to reclaim the rights that we are entitled to.

Day one: Khawar Amiri

I am the Head of the Literacy Department of the Directorate of Education in Khost Province and have worked for many years as a mediator for women’s issues. As most women of Khost Province are illiterate, and some districts are yet to establish schools for girls, through the Literacy Department, I have conducted courses for women and girls above the age of 14 to enable their basic reading and writing skills. As a well-known human rights defender, I have worked in solving many of women’s issues through the Committee on Elimination of Violence against Women and tribal Jirgas (councils), with help of the police.

Women in Khost are exposed to discrimination and violence. Girls’ education is till grade six, after which they are sent off to marriage or asked to stay home. Forced marriages, being sold off, physical violence, lack of access to inheritance rights are some of the issues women face on daily basis.  Women don’t work in government posts in Khost, as most of the positions are held by men. Women are discouraged from applying for government positions as their posts are given to men and justified with unlawful reasons for not being appointed.

I have intervened in many cases of women being abused, sometimes solving the case with the help of local elders and at times through direct mediation. One of my biggest successes is organizing a Master’s Degree programme for women in Khost to study in India, funded by the US Embassy. Despite being threatened and attacked, I am continuing my activism.

I hope women are independent, have security, and have equal opportunities for studies, get to live a life free from violence. 

You can send a solidarity message to all of the 16 WHRDs in Afghanistan, or any one of them, and let them know that they are not alone. Please email your thoughts in a personal message to AfghanDefenders@amnesty.org and AI will share them with the activists.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/11/afghanistan-release-hrds-now/

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/11/16-days-of-activism-afghanistan-whrds/

Oleg Sentsov received the Magnitsky Human Rights Award in person

November 18, 2019

On 14 November 2019 Ukraine’s film maker Oleg Sentsov received the Magnitsky Human Rights Award in person [for more this award: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/sergei-magnitsky-human-rights-awards]. The prize was awarded last October, but Sentsov was in jail in Russia. The award was presented in London by Meghan McCain, the daughter of 2008 presidential candidate and U.S. Senator John McCain. Her father was also posthumously given the award in 2018.

https://112.international/video/ukraines-oleg-sentsov-gets-magnitsky-human-rights-award-1332-1332.html

https://www.unian.info/society/10756338-sentsov-gets-magnitsky-human-rights-award-in-person-photo-video.html

Universal human rights apply to Ilham Tohti? China and EU: disagree

October 26, 2019

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his EU counterpart Federica Mogherini in Beijing on Tuesday. Photo: Xinhua
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his EU counterpart Federica Mogherini in Beijing on Tuesday. Photo: Xinhua

Keegan Elmer  in the South China Morning Post of 25/26 October 2019 reports that Chinese officials have told their European counterparts that human rights should be measured by the people’s well-being and rejected the EU’s support for the “universal” values enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The statements issued by both sides after a meeting between the EU’s foreign affairs chief and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi underlined their disagreements on human rights by recording their discussions on the topic in markedly different ways. While the Europeans focused on Mogherini’s support for “universality”, the Chinese statement emphasised her call for mutual respect and comments that there were “different approaches” to the issue.

According China, Mogherini had acknowledged that there are “different approaches to safeguarding and promoting human rights” and accepted that there were “problems with the human rights situation in European countries”. It continued that she had agreed to continue cooperation and exchanges with China “on the basis of mutual respect”, adding: “The EU does not intend to act as the ‘teacher’ of other countries on human rights issues.”

But the EU’s account of the meeting did not refer to Wang’s comments and said Mogherini had “underlined to the Chinese leadership that the EU will continue to stand up for the universality, interdependence and indivisibility of human rights based on the UN Charter and standards”.

China extraordinary sensitivity to ‘interference’ of any level into what it considers its domestic affairs is well-known. I touched upon this hot’ topic’ in my own 2011 article “The international human rights movement: not perfect, but a lot better than many governments think” in the book ‘NGOs in China and Europe’ (exceptionally also published in Chinese!): Yuwen Li (ed), Ashgate, 2011, pp 287-304 (ISBN: 978-1-4094-1959-4).

On the same day that the pair met in Beijing, the European Parliament awarded its 2019 Sakharov Human Rights Prize to human rights defender Ilham Tohti, who is serving a life sentence. The statement announcing the award called for his immediate release and said “for over two decades, he has worked tirelessly to foster dialogue and understanding between Uygurs and other Chinese people”. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/24/lham-tohti-now-also-awarded-the-2019-sakharov-prize/]. Predictably, during a press conference on Friday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said the parliament had “given a prize to a criminal”. “I don’t know how much meaning, value or influence [the prize] has,” said Hua. “I only know Tohti is a criminal that has been sentenced by a Chinese court.

Neither the Chinese nor the EU have said whether Tohti’s case or the situation in Xinjiang – where Beijing is accused of detaining a million mainly Uygur Muslims in re-education camps – had been discussed.

lham Tohti now also awarded the EU’s 2019 Sakharov Prize 

October 24, 2019

Ilham Tohti, renowned Uyghur economist fighting for rights of China’s Uyghur minority, awarded 2019 Sakharov Prize      

Ilham Tohti, renowned Uyghur economist fighting for rights of China’s Uyghur minority, awarded 2019 Sakharov Prize © AP Images/Andy WONG  

It was just accounced that Uyghur human rights defender Ilham Tohti has been awarded this year’s European Parliament Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. European Parliament President David Sassoli announced the laureate in the Strasbourg chamber at noon on Thursday, following an earlier decision by the Conference of Presidents: “I am very pleased to announce that the European Parliament has chosen Ilham Tohti as the winner of the 2019 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Tohti has dedicated his life to advocating for the rights of the Uyghur minority in China. Despite being a voice of moderation and reconciliation, he was sentenced to life in prison following a show trial in 2014. By awarding this prize, we strongly urge the Chinese government to release Tohti and we call for the respect of minority rights in China”. The Sakharov award ceremony will be held in the European Parliament’s hemicycle in Strasbourg on 18 December. For more on the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and similar awards, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/sakharov-prize-for-freedom-of-thought.

This is the 6th major human rights award that Ilham Tohti has picked up:

2014   Freedom to Write Award (PEN)

2016   Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders

2017   Prize for Freedom (Liberal Int’l)

2017   Weimar Human Rights Award

2019   Vaclav Havel Prize for Human Rights (PACE)

2019   Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

It will be interesting to see how the Chinese government is going to react as it tends to be very sensitive on awards for its human rights defenders, think of the Nobel Peace Prize for Liu Xiaobo on 2010 or the reaction of the Chiane government against the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights giving the MEA in 2016 [https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-rights-un-idUSKCN12C0X2]. Another example is: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/11/cyber-attacks-on-city-of-weimar-for-awarding-ilham-tohti/

Extra funds from ProtectDefenders.eu for human rights defenders in Turkey

October 21, 2019

In consideration of the latest developments in Turkey creating an ever less enabling environment for human rights defenders, with the support of ProtectDefenders.eu Secretariat, five international organizations working in the human rights field established a new grant-making program to provide support to human rights defenders in Turkey. The Comprehensive Support to Human Rights Defenders in Turkey program is funded by the European Union. The project aims to protect human rights defenders at risk, support human rights defender organizations in continuing to carry out their work while strengthening their domestic and international networks and increase their capacities in documenting human rights abuses, access to justice mechanisms and advocating for a more enabling environment for their work in Turkey.

Image result for protectdefenders.eu

The project is offering two types of grants in order to meet its objectives and address comprehensively human rights defenders’ needs in the country. Protection grants pay for provisions to improve the security and protection of human rights defenders and their organizations at risk through rapid response measures. Institutional support grants are designed to support human rights defender organizations in their work with two components . Core funding aims to ensure that human rights defenders can continue their daily human rights work. Grants for projects and/or activities aim to increase the capacity of human rights defenders in a broad range of areas. Human rights defenders who can benefit from the grant-making program can be individual human rights defenders, registered civil society organizations and unregistered groups, initiatives or networks who can use financial support for their human rights work. The project will give priority to those who are working in the most difficult situations such as remote areas and small cities, those who are specifically targeted for their area of human rights work and those who face obstacles to access funding to maintain their work including women HRDs, LGBTI HRDs, journalists and bloggers, and those denouncing the use of torture or working with survivors of torture. Human rights defenders are invited to submit their proposals starting from today on our website. The call for applications will remain open and ProtectDefenders.eu will welcome applications on a rolling basis. For more information about our grant-making programme, please visit ProtectDefenders.eu Turkey website

https://protectdefenders.eu/en/turkey.html

 

The EU lists 3 finalists for the 2019 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

October 9, 2019

Following a joint vote by MEPs in the Foreign Affairs and Development committees of the European Parliament on Tuesday, the finalists for the 2019 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought are:

The European Parliament’s Conference of Presidents (President and political groups’ leaders) will select the final laureate on Thursday 24 October. The prize itself will be awarded in a ceremony in Parliament’s hemicycle in Strasbourg on 18 December.

For more on the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and two other awards in the name of Sakharove, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/sakharov-prize-for-freedom-of-thought

For last year’s award see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/27/ukrainian-filmmaker-sentsov-wins-eus-sakharov-prize-for-human-rights/

Several people who spoke to RFE/RL on condition of anonymity expressed surprise that Navalny had not been shortlisted.

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20191008IPR63719/sakharov-prize-2019-meps-choose-the-finalists

https://www.rferl.org/a/russian-activist-navalny-not-on-sakharov-prize-shortlist/30206166.html

Human rights defenders at Gymnich’ meeting in Helsinki

August 30, 2019

Sometimes small announcement are the most interesting: Foreign Ministers from 28 EU countries continue their ‘Gymnich’ meeting in Helsinki today, 30 Augsut 2019. On the agenda they’ll be discussing the situation in the Middle East, hybrid threats, the Arctic and the wildfires in the Amazon rainforest. Over lunch ministers will get the chance to meet with international human rights defenders to hear their stories. …..

 

Morning headlines: Friday 30th August 2019

Statement by western diplomats in Zimbabwe on human rights defenders

August 21, 2019

The Heads of Mission in Zimbabwe of the European Union, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the USA issued the following statement on 20 August 2019:

Intimidation, harassment and physical attacks on human rights defenders, trade union and civil society representatives, and opposition politicians – prior to, during and following the demonstration in Harare on 16 August – are cause for great concern.

The Zimbabwean Constitution guarantees the right to personal security from violence and prohibits physical or psychological torture. The Heads of Mission urge the authorities to respect these fundamental rights, and to hold perpetrators of violence legally responsible.

The Heads of Mission call on the authorities to respect the constitutional rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression as well as to peaceful protest, and urge all political party leaders and supporters to abstain from threats and incitement to violence as well as acts of violence or vandalism. The security forces must adhere to their Constitutional mandate and exercise restraint and proportionality while maintaining public order.

Only by addressing concretely and rapidly these human rights violations will the Government of Zimbabwe give credibility to its commitments to address longstanding governance challenges. The Heads of Mission reiterate their calls for the implementation of the government’s political and economic reform agenda, underpinned by inclusive national dialogue and increased efforts to address the severe social situation.

See also the Government’s reaction: https://allafrica.com/stories/201908210061.html

https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/66559/joint-local-statement-respect-human-rights-and-freedom-assembly_en

https://www.africanews.com/2019/08/20/joint-local-statement-on-respect-for-human-rights-and-freedom-of-assembly/