Archive for the 'EU' Category

Urgently seeking professors to stop the Anti-Soros bill in Hungary

May 9, 2018

On 9 May 2018, Hungary’s (remaining) civil society issued the Professors Solidarity Call below, signed by 77 professor until now and asking for more signatories. It concerns the so-called “Stop Soros” bill, to be voted by the Hungarian parliament very soon, which will have a devastating impact on both Hungarian civil society and the asylum seekers and refugees that are already in a dire state. That Victor Orban is behind an ‘anti-Soros bill’ is the more remarkable as he himself was the beneficiary of a Soros scholarship [in 1988 a dissident Hungarian university graduate wrote a letter to George Soros, a billionaire philanthropist, asking for help obtaining a scholarship to Oxford University. In the letter, which has recently resurfaced, the young Viktor Orban said he wanted to study the “rebirth of civil society”. He got the scholarship.– the Economist 7 April 2018].

(see also my earlier: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/20/250-ngos-address-letter-to-hungarian-parliament-regarding-restriction-on-the-work-of-human-rights-defenders/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/19/ahmed-h-personifies-the-real-danger-of-populist-anti-terror-measures/)

PROFESSORS’ SOLIDARITY DECLARATION AND CALL FOR ACTION IN DEFENCE OF THE HUNGARIAN HELSINKI COMMITTEE AND THE HUNGARIAN CIVIL SOCIETY

We, 77 university professors and academics from 28 countries around the world, express our solidarity with the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and the independent Hungarian civil society, which currently faces an imminent existential threat.

The so-called “Stop Soros” bill, to be voted by the Hungarian Parliament in mid-May 2018, will have a devastating impact on both Hungarian civil society and those vulnerable human beings that cannot count on anyone else’s support. The new legislation will allow the government to simply ban the activities of organizations assisting refugees and migrants in a fast and arbitrary process. Activities such as legal aid to asylum-seekers, reporting to the UN or the EU, holding university lectures about refugee law or recruiting volunteers will be rendered illegal, if these are performed by civil society actors who dare to criticise government practices. Practices, which are equally condemned by the EU and the international community.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) is an outstanding human rights organization, well-known and respected for its professionalism around the world, not only by civil society, but by academia, state authorities and the judiciary as well. The HHC has massively contributed to the promotion of refugee law education and legal clinics on various continents. We all personally know and highly respect their work. States should be proud of such NGOs, instead of aiming to silence them.

Strong and independent civil society organisations are as indispensable for democracy and the rule of law as strong and independent universities. If NGOs such as the Hungarian Helsinki Committee are threatened, democracy is threatened. If a prestigious organization, winner of various international human rights awards, can simply be banned from providing legal aid to refugees, if a globally reputed voice of human rights can be silenced with an administrative measure in an EU member state, then further dramatic anti-democracy measures are likely to follow. There is a real risk that the Hungarian example will be increasingly copied elsewhere, and soon it may be too late to stop the domino effect.

We call on our governments to express, without delay, their vivid discontent with Hungary’s legislation aiming at annihilating independent civil society. We call on universities around the world to do the same and actively demonstrate their solidarity with the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and the entire threatened Hungarian civil sector. We call on the European Union to prove to the world its credibility as a guardian and global promoter of fundamental rights, and immediately take action to prevent this flagrant human rights violation from happening on its own territory.

Signatures (in alphabetical order) at the end of the document: https://www.helsinki.hu/wp-content/uploads/Professors-solidarity-call-HHC-HU-NGOs-2018.pdf

https://www.economist.com/news/europe/21739968-election-april-8th-hungarys-prime-minister-looks-unbeatable-viktor-orban-set

European Commission states that Turkey is taking “major steps” away from the EU

April 18, 2018

On Tuesday 17 April 2018 the European Commission released its most critical report on talks with Turkey since the country launched its bid to join the EU over a decade ago. The European Commission has warned that Turkey is taking “major steps” in the wrong direction and also warned that years of progress are being lost.

The report stated that “The state of emergency declared in the wake of the attempted coup of 15 July 2016 remains in force, aiming at dismantling the Gülen movement, designated by the government as a terror organisation responsible of the coup attempt, as well as at supporting the fight against terrorism, against the background of repeated attacks in Turkey, overall a traumatic period in Turkey.” The EU, while recognising Turkey’s legitimate need to take swift and proportionate action, said “However, the broad scale and collective nature, and the disproportionality of measures taken since the attempted coup under the state of emergency, such as widespread dismissals, arrests, and detentions, continue to raise serious concerns. Turkey should lift the state of emergency without delay.”

Turkish National Security Council (MGK)’s advice to extend the state of emergency will likely be approved by parliament. The state of emergency has so far been approved six times since the attempted coup in July 2016. ..Turkey “continues to take huge strides away from the EU, in particular in the areas of rule of law and fundamental rights,” European Commissioner Johannes Hahn in charge of negotiations told a news conference. “The Commission has repeatedly called on Turkey to reverse this negative trend as a matter of priority and makes very clear the recommendations on this in today’s report,” he said.

Among the key findings of the European Commission’s 2018 Report on Turkey are the following:

..

Since the introduction of the state of emergency, over 150 000 people were taken into custody, 78 000 were arrested and over 110 000 civil servants were dismissed whilst, according to the authorities, some 40 000 were reinstated of which some 3 600 by decree.

A State of Emergency Appeal Commission became operational and received altogether some 107 000 appeal requests. This Commission only started to take decisions in December 2017 and it has so far provided redress to only few applicants. Its decisions are open to judicial review. It still needs to develop into an effective and transparent remedy for those unjustly affected by measures under the state of emergency.

Beyond the Appeal Commission, the capacity of Turkey to ensure an effective domestic legal remedy in the sense of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has been further undermined by a number of unfortunate precedents. In one instance a lower court refused to observe a ruling of the Constitutional Court regarding an emblematic case; a follow up ruling by the Constitutional Court for one of the defendants was eventually abided with by a lower court. Several court rulings favorable to prominent defendants, including Human Rights Defenders, were swiftly reversed by another or even by the same court, in some instances following comments from the executive.

Key recommendations of the Council of Europe and its bodies are yet to be addressed by Turkey. Allegations of wrongdoing need to be established by transparent procedures and on an individual basis. Individual criminal liability can only be established with full respect for the separation of powers, the full independence of the judiciary and the right of every individual to a fair trial. Turkey should lift the state of emergency without delay.

……

Civil society came under increasing pressure, notably in the face of a large number of arrests of activists, including human rights defenders, and the recurrent use of bans of demonstrations and other types of gatherings, leading to a rapid shrinking space for fundamental rights and freedoms. Many rights‑based organisations remained closed as part of the measures under the state of emergency and an effective legal remedy has not been available with respect to confiscations…

The situation in the south-east has continued to be one of the most acute challenges for the country. The deteriorated security situation has in part shifted to rural areas. The government’s pledge to continue security operations, against the background of recurrent violent acts by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which remains on the EU list of persons, groups and entities involved in acts of terrorism, remained as a defining element of the situation in the region.While the government has a legitimate right to fight against terrorism, it is also responsible for ensuring the respect for human rights, rule of law, fundamental freedoms and the proportionate use of force. The government’s investment plan for the reconstruction of damaged areas in the south-east has resulted in the ongoing construction of thousands of dwellings but only few internally displaced persons received compensation so far. There were no developments on the resumption of a credible political process which is needed to achieve a peaceful and sustainable solution.

Turkey’s judicial system is at an early stage of preparation. There has been further serious backsliding in the past year, in particular with regard to the independence of the judiciary. The Constitutional amendments governing the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (CJP) entered into force and further undermined its independence from the executive. The CJP continued to engage in large-scale suspensions and transfers of judges and prosecutors. No efforts were made to address concerns regarding the lack of objective, merit‑based, uniform and pre-established criteria in the recruitment and promotion of judges and prosecutors.

The Turkish legal framework includes general guarantees of respect for human and fundamental rights, which have however been further challenged and undermined by a number of emergency decrees. The serious backsliding on the freedom of expressioncontinued, an area where Turkey is at an early stage of preparation. The scope of actions taken under the state of emergency has been extended over time to many critical voices, in media and academia amongst others, in contradiction with the principle of proportionality.

Criminal cases against journalists – more than 150 of them remain detained – human rights defenders, writers, or social media users, withdrawal of press cards, as well as the closure of numerous media outlets or the appointment by the government of trustees to administer them, are of serious concern and are mostly based on selective and arbitrary application of the law, especially provisions on national security and the fight against terrorism.

The Internet Law and the general legal framework continue to enable the executive to block online content without a court order on an inappropriately wide range of grounds. There was also serious backsliding in the areas of freedom of assembly, freedom of association, procedural and property rights. Freedom of assembly continues to be overly restricted, in law and practice. Measures adopted under the state of emergency also removed crucial safeguards protecting detainees from abuse thereby augmenting the risk of impunity, in a context where allegations of ill-treatment and torture have increased.

Emergency decrees imposed additional restrictions to procedural rights including on the rights of defence. The enforcement of rights is hindered by the fragmentation and limited mandate of public institutions responsible for human rights and freedoms and by the lack of an independent judiciary. Extreme poverty and a lack of basic necessities remain common among Roma households in Turkey. The rights of the most vulnerable groups and of persons belonging to minorities should be sufficiently protected. Gender-based violence, discrimination, hate speech against minorities, hate crime and violations of human rights of LGBTI persons are still a matter of serious concern.

Turkey made good progress in the area of migration and asylum policy and remained committed to the implementation of the March 2016 EU-Turkey Statement effective management of migratory flows along the Eastern Mediterranean route. As regards the implementation of the Visa Liberalisation Roadmap, at the beginning of February, Turkey submitted to the European Commission a work plan outlining how Turkey plans to fulfil the seven outstanding visa liberalisation benchmarks. The Commission is assessing Turkey’s proposals and further consultations with the Turkish counterparts will follow

..

Turkey needs to commit itself unequivocally to good neighbourly relations, international agreements, and to the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the United Nations Charter, having recourse, if necessary, to the International Court of Justice. In this context, the EU has expressed serious concern and urged Turkey to avoid any kind of threat or action directed against a Member State, or source of friction or actions that damages good neighbourly relations and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

https://stockholmcf.org/report-by-european-commission-urges-turkish-govt-to-lift-state-of-emergency-without-delay/#prettyPhoto

Unfortunately Europe is not stepping up its human rights policy in US absence

March 22, 2018

There is no doubt that Europe is doing more than other regions to support individual human rights defenders and their organisations. The statement issued on 27 February 2018 to mark World NGO Day by EU High Representative Fedrica Mogherini says all the right things: “Civil society organisations are a voice for those who are too often not heard. They have the courage to stand up against injustices, even if sometimes with risks for themselves”. She noted that the EU’s annual support worth two billion Euros represents 73 percent of the world’s support to local civil society organisations. “The European Union will never leave human rights defenders and civil society organisations alone; it’s the most invaluable partnership we can rely on to protect rights and build opportunities.”
Still, there are also critical voices concerning what Europe is doing or not doing e.g. with regard to the increasingly harsh treatment of migrants (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on 7 March).[see recent post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/19/ahmed-h-personifies-the-real-danger-of-populist-anti-terror-measures/]
Moreover, there is growing disappointment over the region’s unwillingness to stand up for human rights in its foreign policy, especially from those who had hoped that Europe would be able step up when the USA is no longer leading. Two lengthy pieces attest to this:
The first is by on 21 March 2018 under the title “The European Union has decided that it’s time to cuddle up to dictators’ in the Washington Post

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (in green tie) meets with other officials in Brussels on Wednesday. (Olivier Hoslet/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, has just set a new low for Europe’s standing in the world. In the wake of Russia’s sham presidential election on Sunday, Juncker sent the victorious Vladimir Putin a message of unctuous praise. “Congratulations on your re-election,” Juncker tweeted. ……..Just like the United States’ President Trump, who was widely criticized this week for congratulating Putin on the Russian election’s outcome while failing to mention its flagrantly undemocratic character, Juncker had nothing to say about the brazen ballot stuffing, the intimidation of independent candidates, the unexplained deaths of activists, the role of state media, or a host of other irregularities leading up to the poll.

This latest failure of moral courage once again shows the growing indifference of European leaders and governments to the defense of human rights. At a time when the Trump administration seems uninterested in advancing the cause of democracy overseas and has just chosen Gina Haspel, who is closely linked with the George W. Bush administration’s policies on torture, to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, Europe should be at the forefront in taking a united stand against the flagrant abuse of human rights. But it isn’t. Dissidents and activists pushing for civil rights and democracy outside the E.U., and who once looked to Europe as a beacon for the values of freedom, can count on little support from Brussels these days. Authoritarian regimes have every cause to be overjoyed.

…When Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, took the floor at last month’s annual Munich Security Conference, he was, once again, treated with kid gloves. Forget about the torture, the executions, the flogging, the deaths during detention.

…French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have rolled out the red carpet for Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sissi — despite a crackdown on opposition that in its harshness has left the Hosni Mubarak regime far behind. Disappearances, torture, police brutality, detentions without trial: None of this seems to bother the French or German leaders. “Disgraceful policies of indulgence” was the term human rights activists used in connection with Sissi’s visit to Paris in October.

On China, the E.U. has completely discredited itself in the eyes of reformers and those struggling for human rights. It has criticized neither the Communist Party’s state-of-the art mass surveillance of its citizens nor the constant harassment and imprisonment of dissidents. Indeed, in June the E.U. failed, for the first time ever, to make a statement about China’s crackdown on dissidents and activists at the United Nation’s Human Rights Council in Geneva. The 28 member states couldn’t agree. (Greece blocked the statement. ..Athens didn’t want to offend Beijing). Hungary, which has also benefited from Chinese investments, has repeatedly blocked E.U. statements criticizing China’s rights record under Communist President Xi Jinping, according to diplomats.

….But there can be no hiding the shameful reality. Europe has lost its moral compass. Its current enthusiasm for interests and “stability” will one day come back to haunt it.

The second piece is by FLORIAN IRMINGER on 22 March 2018 in Open Democracy under the title Council of Europe: don’t compromise on human rights in Russia!”

After congratulating Vladimir Putin on re-election, the COE must hold Russia accountable and require the same respect for fundamental freedoms as it does from other countries. In the past year, Russia has seen numerous violations of freedom of assembly, as well as politically motivated criminal investigations dogged by poor evidence and procedure. While Vladimir Putin won the recent presidential election, he made his country fail a much more important test: the test of human rights, freedoms, and space for civil society and independent voices. So why has Thorbjørn Jagland and the Council of Europe welcomed him as a winner? …This came shortly after the OSCE election observation mission concluded that the presidential election took place in an “overly controlled legal and political environment marked by continued pressure on critical voices.”

…Instead of abiding by his mission to defend the Convention and therefore highlighting the shortcomings during election day and the generally repressive climate, the Secretary General “hoped” for active engagement with Russia. He spoke of “our common duty to work together in order to consolidate and strengthen our common European legal and human rights space.” 

The Council of Europe must hold Russia accountable and require the same respect for fundamental freedoms as it does from other countries

Since Vladimir Putin’s re-accession to the presidency in 2012 – and the fully devoted Duma elected in 2011 – 50 laws have been adopted “designed to strangle opposition voices and raise the level of fear and self-control in the society,” as reported by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/18/fidh-collected-russias-50-anti-democracy-laws/]

In light of President Putin’s internal policies, we need a Council of Europe that stands firm on its values and upholds the human rights obligations enriched in the European Convention for Human Rights. What we see instead is a Secretary General “touring European capitals [since November 2017] warning of a serious risk that Moscow could withdraw… unless its demands are met.”

 

..Russia has now said it will stop contributing financially to the Council of Europe. At the Council of Europe, just like at the United Nations with President Trump’s administration, we see that governments are willing to defund the structures with which they disagree. In other words, they institute a relativism in such mechanisms and threaten their ability to continue working independently and serve the purpose they were set up for: holding governments accountable to their own commitments. 

Yes, we must fight for the European Convention to apply to as many citizens as possible in Europe. However, we must not shy away from saying that the cost of withdrawing from the Council of Europe is high for the Russian state, for its credibility at home and abroad. The Council of Europe is worth something. If states can be members at no cost – not even the cost of showing respect and cooperation to the organisation – it will soon be worth nothing….

—–

https://www.kuna.net.kw/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=2697509&language=en

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-un/u-n-rights-chief-attacks-eu-and-u-s-over-migrants-and-dreamers-idUSKCN1GJ1IZ

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/democracy-post/wp/2018/03/21/the-european-union-has-decided-that-its-time-to-cuddle-up-to-dictators/?utm_term=.f50fe466fd4f

https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/florian-irminger/do-not-compromise-on-russian-human-rights

Feed industry ‘in violation of pledges’ say indigenous human rights defenders

March 6, 2018

From a somewhat unusual source comes this interesting insight that the “Feed industry ‘in violation of pledges’ (by Lynda Searby on feednavigator.com 26 February 2018).
Animal feed is one of the industries that has been accused of being in violation of pledges made “at both ends of the supply chain” by lobbyists calling for political action on deforestation and indigenous and human rights protection. On 15 February, a delegation of indigenous and human rights defenders from 11 forest nations issued a warning to the EU and its member states that the global trading system continues to sell products – among them animal feed – that are “destroying the lives and livelihoods of forest peoples in forest countries”​.

Invited by two NGOs – the UK-based Forest Peoples Program and Both Ends in Amsterdam – the lobbyists issued the call for action following a three-day forum in Amsterdam on sustainable trade, indigenous and human rights and deforestation. “Even the so-called legal industries are often linked to corruption, violation of communal land rights and impunity for environmental and human rights impacts, weakening local democratic institutions,”​ read the statement from a delegation made up of leaders and human rights defenders from Colombia, Peru, Paraguay, Guyana, Suriname, Argentina, Liberia, Cameroon, DRC, Malaysia and Indonesia.

In its recommendations, the delegation called on the EU to introduce legislation that would close legal loopholes and require companies to complete strengthened human and land rights due diligence. For example, it would like to see agri-business development proposals having to include indigenous and local communities and apply solid protection for their rights – giving forest populations a say in the fate of their lands and resources.

It singled out the soybean industry for falling short of its responsibilities to protect communities and forests impacted by its activities.

“Countries like the Netherlands are major importers of soybeans and soy products, yet industrial soybean farming in my country is linked to forced displacement of communities, mass fumigation of rural communities by soy farmers, illegal deforestation and damage to aquatic ecosystems,”​ said one of the delegates – Franco Segesso of the Land Workers Union in Argentina.

The soybean industry is no stranger to being criticized for unethical practices. Last May, not-for-profit Mighty Earth published a report linking companies like Cargill and Bunge to massive deforestation activities in Brazil’s Cerrado and Bolivia’s Amazon basin.

At the time, Mighty Earth said the revelations cast doubt on the sustainability commitments of Cargill and Bunge, and highlighted “once again, the need for them to establish an effective industry-wide mechanism to stop deforestation”​.

In response to the accusations made this month by the 11 forest nations that the feed industry is in violation of its pledges, a Cargill spokesperson provided FeedNavigator with this statement: “Cargill does not condone violence or violations of human rights. We support the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests to protect human rights and advance national food security. We also endorsed the New York Declaration on Forests to halt deforestation in our supply chains and are working diligently to meet our goal. We adhere to our Statement on Human Rights and we expect farmers, producers, manufacturers, and others to work with us according to our Supplier Code of Conduct– ethically and in compliance with applicable laws.”

The delegation arrived in Europe at a time when the EU faces stiff opposition from Malaysia and Indonesia to its proposal to ban palm oil for biofuel. The delegation made clear it supported the ban, and said that without it, meeting global demand would result in the loss of 45,000 sq km of forests – an area the size of the Netherlands – by 2030.

https://www.feednavigator.com/Article/2018/02/26/Feed-industry-in-violation-of-pledges-say-human-and-indigenous-rights-defenders

After 3 year gap, EU and Azerbaijan meet again but human rights remain precarious

February 10, 2018

Federica Mogherini and Elmar Mammadyarov in Brussels on 9 February 2018. [Council]

Human Rights NGOs in Europe no longer the standard to follow!

January 27, 2018

In January 2018 the EU Fundamental Rights Agcncy (FRA) published a Report “Challenges facing civil society organisations working on human rights in the EU“. Its conclusion is that the situation is getting more difficult. Also, on 26 January 2018, the Thomson Reuters Foundation published an interview with Michel Forst, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders said that the EU are setting a bad example by allowing some of its members to stifle human rights groups, which is encouraging crackdowns elsewhere in the world.

In the interview done by Umberto Bacchi, Michel Forst said that the EU has historically done a good job supporting and protecting rights advocates worldwide but the bloc’s authority is now being undermined from within. Officials in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Israel and other countries pointed at recent laws in Hungary and Poland to justify their own regulations which may curb the independence of non-governmental organisations.

There is a need for European countries to be more coherent … not to teach human rights outside of Europe and then not respecting human rights inside Europe,” said Forst, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders. Charities in dozens of countries, from Angola to India and Tajikistan have faced restrictions targeting their funding and operations over the past two years, according to an EU report. The trend is part of a global backlash on civil society that has seen rights activists in some parts of the world criminalised or branded as troublemakers, Forst stated.

Last year, Hungary introduced a measure requiring NGOs that get money from abroad to register with the state, a bill that NGOs say stigmatizes them and is intended to stifle independent voices. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/06/13/human-rights-defenders-in-hungary-not-yet-foreign-agents-but-getting-close/]. Poland instead introduced legislation to set up a centralised authority controlling charities’ funding. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/02/backsliding-on-civic-space-in-democracies-important-side-event-on-3-march-in-geneva/%5D. As countermeasure, the EU should boost direct funding of rights groups operating within its borders, Forst said. “What is absurd for me is that the EU is funding organisations in Latin America, in Africa – which is good – but there is no more funding for EU NGOs,” he said. Money should be allocated from a dedicated fund and not channelled through governments, he said.

Besides Europe, Forst also singled out Australia for its treatment of asylum seekers held in offshore camps, adding it was “not a safe place” for human rights defenders due to pressure from the government. A December report by Pro Bono Australia and the Human Rights Law Centre, two rights groups, found Australian NGOs were often pressured into “self-silencing” their advocacy work fearing funding cuts and political retribution.

(Global civil society) space is shrinking because it is shrinking in Europe, because it is shrinking in the Americas, in Australia,” said Forst.

—-

The FRA’s report finds that civil society organisations in the European Union play a crucial role in promoting fundamental rights, but it has become harder for them to do so – due to both legal and practical restrictions. This report looks at the different types and patterns of challenges faced by civil society organisations working on human rights in the EU. While challenges exist in all EU Member States, their exact nature and extent vary. Data and research on this issue – including comparative research – are generally lacking. The report also highlights promising practices that can counteract these worrying patterns.

European Parliament votes to restrict exports of surveillance equipment

January 22, 2018

Members of the European Parliament have voted to curb export of surveillance equipment to states with poor human rights records, following mounting evidence that equipment supplied by companies in Europe has been used by oppressive regimes to suppress political opponents, journalists and campaigners. MEPs in Strasbourg agreed on 17 January to extend EU export controls to include new restrictions on the export of surveillance equipment, including devices for intercepting mobile phones, hacking computers, circumventing passwords and identifying internet users. The proposals also seek to remove encryption technologies from the list of technologies covered by EU export controls, in a move which aims to make it easier for people living in oppressive regimes to gain access to secure communications which can circumvent state surveillance.

Dictators spy on their citizens using EU cyber-surveillance. This must stop. The EU cannot contribute to the suffering of courageous activists, who often risk their lives for freedom and democracy,” said MEP Klaus Buchner, European Parliament rapporteur. “We are determined to close dangerous gaps in the export of dual-use goods and call on member states to follow suit.”

The proposed changes to the EU dual use export control regime are likely to face opposition from the defence industry and governments, as the European Parliament, and the European Commission prepare to negotiate their implantation with Europe’s 28 member states.

European technology companies, including UK firms, have supplied equipment that  has been used for arresting, torturing, and killing people in Iran, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Morocco, according to the European Parliament. An investigation by Computer Weekly revealed that the UK government had approved export licences to Gamma International (UK) to supply mobile phone interception equipment, known as IMSI catchers, to Macedonia, when the regime was engaged in a massive illegal surveillance operation against the public and political opponents.

And the UK’s largest arms manufacturer, BAE Systems, has exported equipment capable of mass internet surveillance to countries that campaigners say regularly commit human rights abuses, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Morocco and Algeria. An overwhelming majority of MEPs supported reforms to the EU’s export control regime, which will require member states to deny export licences if the export of surveillance technology is likely to lead to a serious impact on human rights in the destination country. The proposed changes, backed by 571 votes to 29 against, with 29 abstentions, will impose tough requirements for EU governments.

Member states will be required to assess the likely impact of surveillance technology on citizens’ right to privacy, freedom of speech, and freedom of association, in the destination country before they grant  export licences – a significant step up from current levels of scrutiny.

The proposed rules contain safeguards, however, that will allow legitimate cyber-security research to continue. Companies exporting products that are not specifically listed will be expected to follow the OECD’s “due diligence” guidelines, if there is a risk they could support human-rights violations.

Improved transparency measures will require member states to record and make data on approved and declined export licences publicly available, opening up the secretive global trade in surveillance technologies to greater public scrutiny.

http://www.computerweekly.com/news/252433519/European-Parliament-votes-to-restrict-exports-of-surveillance-equipment

ProtectDefenders.eu held its annual meeting 2017

December 28, 2017

The Newsletter of December 2017 of ProtectDefenders.eu contains a report of the 2017 Annual Meeting. The highlights:

On the 8th of November, ProtectDefenders.eu held its second annual meeting, under the motto “Champions of change – Human rights defenders at the forefront of development and democracy“. More than 30 human rights defenders at risk from all regions of the world who have benefited from the project gathered in Brussels with representatives of international NGOs and European institutions. This unique meeting has successfully brought together grassroots activists working on the frontlines for change and leading experts on the protection of human rights defenders, universal and regional protection mechanisms, and representatives of various EU institutions implicated in the protection of human rights defenders and current development agenda.

The meeting highlighted the crucial role and impact of human rights defenders around the world as promoters of a sustainable development and engaged development actors in how to integrate the protection of human rights defenders as part of an effective development and protection agenda. The widespread attempts to de-legitimise human rights’ discourse and human rights defenders’ work worldwide were addressed, by promoting a positive narrative grounded on the universality and indivisibility of human rights and its contribution to more advanced and developed societies. Human rights defenders and high-level speakers shared strategies to enhance the protection of those who strive to defend human rights, and to develop a positive narrative on the human rights’ work, legitimising their work at the local level and taking back the human rights discourse to the centre of the international agenda.

To conclude the meeting, the twelve partner organisations of ProtectDefenders.eu have issued a public statement urging all national authorities to “publicly recognise the crucial role played by human rights defenders and protect them in all circumstances from any form of judicial harassment“. As stressed by Antoine Madelin, FIDH Director for International Advocacy and Chair of the Board of ProtectDefenders.eu, “Human Rights Defenders are the pillars of democracy and of the rule of law but are too often subjected to unfair criminal prosecution, in an effort to undermine their work in the defence of human rights.”

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/24/video-of-the-defending-human-rights-is-not-a-crime-meeting-now-available/

https://www.protectdefenders.eu/en/newsletter.html

European Parliament’s Sakharov prize awarded to Venezuela opposition

October 27, 2017

Only a week ago I mentioned the curiously collective award given to the South-Korean people [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/18/korean-people-win-friedrich-ebert-human-rights-award-for-candlelight-rallies/], and now the European Parliament has awarded its Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Venezuela‘s opposition-dominated National Assembly, as well as to political prisoners in the country.

Opposition MP Freddy Guevara in Caracas (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Cubillos)

The National Assembly in Venezuela was nominated for the award by the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) parliamentary grouping along with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE group). MEP Jose Ignacio Salafranca said “they are brave people who, despite being beaten or imprisoned, are not afraid and do not give up, but fight for their freedom and for their dignity.” Fellow MEP Guy Verhofstadt said the award supported “the fight of democratic forces in favor of a democratic Venezuela and against the Maduro regime.”

For more on the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought: http://thedigestapp.trueheroesfilms.org/publicpage#/awards/BDE3E41A-8706-42F1-A6C5-ECBBC4CDB449/Sakharov-Prize-for-Freedom-of-Thought, where you can also learn more about the other two awards named after Sakharov.

Previous winners of the Sakharov Prize include Yazidi women [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/11/01/sakharov-prize-2016-went-ultimately-to-two-yazidi-women/] and Saudi blogger Raif Badawi [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/10/29/saudi-blogger-raif-badawi-awarded-europes-sakharov-prize/].

Source: Sakharov prize awarded to Venezuela opposition | News

Rouhani’s Iran disappoints massively on human rights

August 23, 2017

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

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