Archive for the 'EU' Category

EU Council approves conclusions on the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024

November 20, 2020

The Council has approved conclusions on the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024. The Action Plan sets out the EU’s level of ambition and priorities in this field in its relations with all third countries.

See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/03/27/new-eu-action-plan-for-human-rights-and-democracy-2020-2024/

The conclusions acknowledge that while there have been leaps forward, there has also been a pushback against the universality and indivisibility of human rights. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its socio-economic consequences have had an increasingly negative impact on all human rights, democracy and rule of law, deepening pre-existing inequalities and increasing pressure on persons in vulnerable situations.

In 2012, the EU adopted the Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy which set out the principles, objectives and priorities designed to improve the effectiveness and consistency of EU policy in these areas. To implement the EU Strategic Framework of 2012, the EU has adopted two EU Action Plans (2012-2014 and 2015-2019).

The new Action Plan for 2020-2024 builds on the previous action plans and continues to focus on long-standing priorities such as supporting human rights defenders and the fight against the death penalty.

By identifying five overarching priorities: (1) protecting and empowering individuals; (2) building resilient, inclusive and democratic societies; (3) promoting a global system for human rights and democracy; (4) new technologies: harnessing opportunities and addressing challenges; and (5) delivering by working together, the Action Plan also reflects the changing context with attention to new technologies and to the link between global environmental challenges and human rights.

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2020/11/19/council-approves-conclusions-on-the-eu-action-plan-on-human-rights-and-democracy-2020-2024/

EU law on corporate due diligence and SLAPPs: crucial and urgent matters

November 19, 2020

European Parliament is deciding its position on what an EU law on corporate due diligence should look like. Richard Gardiner (a Senior Campaigner for Corporate Accountability at Global Witness) on 2 September  2020 explains more and more recently (11 November 2020) a group of 87 organisations and media freedom groups call on the EU to to protect journalists against gag lawsuits (SLAPPs)

As the European Parliament begins developing proposals for a new – and momentous – law to hold business to account for its impact on people and planet, Richard Gardiner sets out how this process came about and what needs to happen now to ensure this really delivers results.

Where are we now?

Following the publication of the European Commission study on due diligence requirements through the supply chain earlier this year, in April, European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders announced to the European Parliament Responsible Business Conduct Working Group that he will introduce EU rules on corporate accountability and corporate due diligence in early 2021.

In response to this announcement, Members of the European Parliament are now starting work to develop a European Parliament position on what an EU law on corporate due diligence could look like. This work will take place within the European Parliament Legal Affairs Committee and will be led by MEP Lara Wolters.

The goal of this work is to influence the final Commission legislative proposal and ensure that the Commissioner follows through on his commitment to present an ambitious framework for this law.

Potential to be a real game changer?

Global Witness has long advocated for mandatory corporate accountability rules to tackle corporate abuse against people and planet.

Our recently published report ‘Defending Tomorrow’ shows that while land and environmental defenders continue to act as the first line of defence against climate breakdown, far too many businesses, financiers and governments either fail to protect them or – in the worst examples – can be complicit in the violence they face.

These brave people play a vital role challenging companies operating recklessly, rampaging unhampered through virgin forests, protected wetlands, indigenous territories and biodiversity hotspots. They are on the frontline of our global, collective fight against climate change. However, despite their importance to the preservation of our planet, our report shows that 212 land and environmental defenders were murdered in 2019 – the bloodiest on record, with the deadliest sectors for this violence being mining, agribusiness and logging.

Our findings show that an average of four land and environmental defenders are killed every week since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2016. These are reinforced by our previous investigations on continued deforestation, minerals that fuel and fund conflict, and grand-scale corruption.

There is clearly a legislative gap when governments and citizens have no legal means to hold corporations accountable for their human rights and environmental abuses. As the world’s largest trading bloc, the EU is now looking to lead the global debate on corporate accountability and this new law will shape not only corporate behaviour within the EU but also globally.

What needs to be in this new law?

Civil society united in their calls for the EU to introduce legislation on corporate due diligence. We have consistently pointed to the fact that voluntary measures have proved to be vastly insufficient and new legislation is urgently needed to establish clear, robust and enforceable cross-sectoral requirements on all business enterprises, including financial institutions, to respect human rights and the environment.

As the European Parliament begins to discuss the details of corporate accountability legislation, Global Witness is part of a coalition of NGOs that has published its call to action for the key elements needed to hold businesses to account:

  • The new law must apply to all businesses, including finance, of all sizes and sectors acting in the EU.
  • Business must have a duty to address all the adverse human rights, environmental and governance impacts in their global supply chains.
  • Businesses must conduct Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) Due Diligence to identify, cease, prevent, mitigate, monitor and account for their adverse risks.
  • Businesses must engage and consult with all relevant stakeholders, including human rights defenders and indigenous peoples, as part of their RBC due diligence.
  • Businesses must be made liable for the human rights, environmental and governance adverse impacts in their global value chains.

You can read the full paper here.

So what happens next?

The months between now and the end of the year promise to be extremely interesting on the topic of corporate accountability across all the EU institutions. Firstly, the European Parliament will aim to finalise its advice to the Commission by end 2020 in order to ensure that it can be taken into account in the Commission proposal. Secondly, the Commission has draft plans to release a public consultation on the new due diligence legislation in Autumn 2020 to get public input on how to draft their proposal.

And finally, the German Presidency of the European Council have indicated that due diligence is a key political priority for their Presidency and they will aim to have Council conclusions on this topic by the end of the year. At Global Witness, we will continue to engage with all the European institutions to ensure that EU policy makers live up to their commitments to introduce a meaningful and impactful new law.

SLAPPs: More and more journalists and civil society organisations are being sued by powerful businessmen and politicians. The International Press Institute (IPI) has joined a group of 87 organisations and media freedom groups calling on the EU to ensure those with a watchdog role are protected from gag lawsuits.

‘SLAPP’ stands for Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation. It’s a form of legal harassment designed to intimidate critical voices into silence. Expensive and unscrupulous law firms market this attack-dog service to powerful and wealthy individuals who can afford to drag on abusive proceedings for years just to shield themselves from unwanted public scrutiny. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/28/ngos-demand-that-rules-against-strategic-lawsuits-against-public-participation-slapp-are-upgraded/]

This scrutiny is the lifeblood of healthy democratic societies. The European Court of Human Rights and other national and regional courts have consistently and explicitly recognised in their judgments the important role a free press, and more broadly civil society, plays in holding the powerful to account. Their judgments reaffirm the obligation states have to create an environment that is conducive to free speech. Because without this, democracy weakens and dies.

The holes in our laws that allow powerful people to hammer their critics into submission are a hole in European democracy. Cases of abuse pepper the continent. Poland’s second-biggest daily newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, has received over 55 legal threats and lawsuits by a number of actors, including from Poland’s ruling party, since 2015.

French businessman Vincent Bolloré and companies affiliated with the Bollore Group have blanketed journalists and NGOs in libel suits to stop them covering his business interests in Africa. In Spain, meat producer Coren is demanding €1 million in damages from an environmental activist for criticising its waste management practices, having previously threatened activists and scientists who were researching nitrate levels in its local waters.

The people we depend on for information about what is happening around us are being distracted, impeded, or entirely blocked from pursuing their work by these costly and resource-intensive legal attacks. The situation is becoming skewed beyond recognition. When it comes to certain people, governments, companies and topics, it’s not writers, film makers or journalists who decide what we read, watch and talk about.

It’s not even the courts, for SLAPPs rarely make it to a hearing, let alone a court judgment. Rather, it’s the oligarchs and their associates in politics, through the lawyers they pay, who are shaping the narrative and preventing the truth from emerging.

We’ve seen a worrying pattern emerge in Europe of government officials or beneficiaries of large public contracts adopting the tactics of celebrities and oligarchs to shield themselves from the heightened level of scrutiny that their positions or financial links to government warrant. The fact that the threats are often cross-border ratchets up the costs for journalists and activists, who find themselves summoned to court far from home in Europe’s most expensive legal jurisdictions.

Awareness of this problem is growing. European Commission Vice-President Věra Jourová has promised to ‘look into all possible options’ to counter the threat SLAPPs pose to European democracy. One promising solution lies in the institutions of the European Union, and it could help realter the balance between pursuers of SLAPPs and the public’s right to be informed of matters in the public interest.

EU-wide legislation should be adopted to protect people across the European Union from SLAPPs. This has to be a priority. As in other parts of the world, rules should be in place across the EU to allow SLAPP suits to be dismissed at an early stage of proceedings, to sanction SLAPP litigants for abusing the law and the courts, and to provide measures to allow victims to defend themselves.

When we consider the importance of public watchdogs such as investigative journalists, activists, and whistleblowers to the rule of law and the fight against corruption, the absence of safeguards is a threat not only to press freedom but to the proper functioning of Europe’s internal market and, increasingly, to Europe’s democratic life.

The reality is that for every journalist or activist threatened with violence in Europe, a hundred more are silenced discreetly by letters sent by law firms, perverting laws meant to protect the reputations of the innocent from attacks by the powerful.

SLAPPs are a far less barbaric means of silencing someone than a car bomb or a bullet to the head, but their silencing effect is often just as destructive.

Signatories

Torture in Nicaragua

October 25, 2020

On 25 October 2020 Mariana Castro published on Polygraph.info an overview article showing that despite official denials torture does occur in Nicaragua’s Prisons.

NICARAGUA – Anti-government demonstrators take part in a vigil to demand the release of political prisoners and justice for the victims of protests against President Daniel Ortega, outside the Metropolitan Cathedral of Managua on October 3, 2019.
NICARAGUA – Anti-government demonstrators take part in a vigil to demand the release of political prisoners and justice for the victims of protests against President Daniel Ortega, outside the Metropolitan Cathedral of Managua on October 3, 2019.

“There are always prisoners who make up that they’re being tortured. …They invent things simply to create a negative image on Nicaragua before international organizations run by the yanquis…

On October 15, the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) publicly denounced persistent human rights violations in Nicaragua and urged the government to release political prisoners, restore fundamental freedoms and respect the separation of powers and rule of law: “The government’s has refused to comply with the recommendations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and to fulfill its duties under the Inter-American Democratic Charter.”

Four days later, Nicaragua’s president, Daniel Ortega, dismissed allegations that political prisoners made of being tortured, calling them “lies” and an attempt to taint the country’s image.

There are always prisoners who make up that they’re being tortured … they invent things simply to create a negative image on Nicaragua before international organizations run by the yanquis [referring to the United States], like the OAS,” Ortega said during a speech. (Source: El 19 Digital, October 19, 2020)

Based on multiple published reports, Ortega’s claim that torture accusations are invented is false.

Nicaragua under Ortega has faced extensive international scrutiny for violations of human rights. These include “targeting civil society, human rights defenders, including women human rights defenders, community and religious leaders, journalists and other media workers, students, victims and their family members, and individuals expressing critical views of the Government,” according to the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC).

In April 2018, protests broke out in Nicaragua as fiscal reforms slashed social security. Protestors were met with a violent and lethal response from the government, fueling a civil uprising demanding Ortega’s resignation. More than 100,000 Nicaraguans have since fled the country.

Between the start of the protests and September 2019, 651 people died, nearly 5,000 were injured, 516 were kidnapped and 853 have gone missing, according to the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights (ANPDH). Twenty-two police officers died, as stated by the U.N.

According to Human Rights Watch, many of those detained during the protests were subjected torture, including electric shocks, asphyxiation and rape. Detainees were also reportedly denied care in public hospitals.

The organization interviewed 12 former detainees, 11 of whom described suffering one of more forms of abuse, and seven who said they witnessed 39 detainees suffering abuses. It also interviewed three doctors and a psychologist who treated some detainees. They reported that many “showed signs of physical harm consistent with physical abuse and torture similar to that described by the 12 detainees.”

This week, Monitoreo Azul y Blanco (Blue and White Monitoring), a group that since 2018 registers and consolidates complaints of human rights violations in Nicaragua, published a video by Expediente Publico (an investigative journalism magazine in Honduras and Nicaragua) with testimonies from former political prisoners about their experiences of ill treatments and torture while incarcerated.

The testimonies mentioned the details of the event that resulted in the death of Eddy Montes, a Nicaraguan-American and U.S. Navy veteran who was shot dead in La Modelo prison in May 2019 after “a serious disturbance” inside of the prison, according to Nicaragua’s interior ministry.

The magazine also published an article on October 20 detailing testimonies of victims of abuse by the Nicaraguan police. They tell the story of J, an opposition protestor who between May 6 and May 13, 2019, was subjected to “constant questioning” and abuse by the police. Her complaint is one of dozens of cases.

Between April 2018 and June 2020, the Nicaraguan Human Rights Collective Never Again (Colectivo de Derechos Humanos Nicaragua Nunca+) registered complaints of five rapes, eight sexual abuses, seven threats of rape to detainees or their family members and three witnesses of rape to one or more fellow inmates, the article reported.

NICARAGUA – Members of the organization Mothers of April (AMA) hold portraits of their late loved ones outside the Cathedral in Managua on February 23, 2020.
NICARAGUA – Members of the organization Mothers of April (AMA) hold portraits of their late loved ones outside the Cathedral in Managua on February 23, 2020.

On June 19, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a resolution to promote and protect human rights in Venezuela, and requesting the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to “enhance monitoring” and “continue to report on the situation of human rights in Nicaragua.”

Amid increased international pressure, Ortega’s government has released some political prisoners, including 91 people whose sentences were converted to house arrest in December 2019. But some 100 political prisoners (estimates vary slightly) remain in jails.

On September 30, more than 50 political prisoners went on a hunger strike as part of protests demanding their freedom. At least three of them sewed their mouths as part of protests and were then transferred to maximum security cells at the Jorge Navarro prison complex known as La Modelo. Amnesty International has described the complex as “one of the main destinations for those detained and punished for reporting human rights violations in the country.”

During his October 19 speech, Ortega said prison doors were open to those calling out the government, including relatives of prisoners, for them “to visit them when they say they’re being tortured, they are saying, they have sown their lips.”

But on the following day, representatives from the Permanent Commission on Human Rights (CPDH), one of Nicaragua’s oldest rights groups, went to visit the prison and were not allowed in, as La Prensa reported.

Allan Gomez, a member of the Union of Political Prisoners (UPPN), told Nicaragua Investiga that the denial of abuses is nothing new, “but human rights violations are fully visible.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. imposed its latest round of sanctions on top Nicaraguan officials, including the attorney general. According to The Associated Press, about two dozen people close to Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, have been sanctioned – including Murillo and three of the couple’s children – since late 2017.

The European Union also recently renewed sanctions on Nicaragua – introduced in October 2019 – for another year, citing the “deteriorating political and social situation in Nicaragua.”

————

https://www.polygraph.info/a/factcheck-ortega-denies-torture-in-nicaragua-prisons-he-is-wrong/30909488.html

Mary Lawlor condemns ‘criminalization’ of those saving lives in the Mediterranean

October 9, 2020

Carola Rackete, the former captain of the rescue vessel Sea-Watch 3, and the ‘Iuventa 10’ crew members are human rights defenders and not criminals,” said Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders on 8 October 2020.

“I regret that the criminal proceedings against them are still open and they continue to face stigmatization in connection with their human rights work protecting the human rights of migrants and asylum seekers at risk in the Mediterranean Sea.

In September 2016, a criminal investigation was opened against some crew members of the Iuventa rescue ship. Charges against them included aiding and abetting in the commission of a crime of illegal immigration, an offence that carries a jail term of between five and 20 years, and a fine of 15,000 euros. On 18 June 2019, a motion for the dismissal of the preliminary criminal investigation against the ‘Iuventa 10’ crew members was filed, but a formal decision is still pending. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/31/absurd-prosecution-of-the-crew-of-the-ship-iuventa-continues-in-italy/

Ms. Rackete was arrested by Italian authorities on 29 June 2019 for docking her rescue ship, with 53 migrants on board, without permission. At the beginning of this year, acting upon appeal, the Italian Supreme Court ruled that she should not have been arrested. Despite this, Ms. Rackete continues to face charges, including aiding and abetting in the commission of a crime of illegal immigration. She risks up to 20 years of imprisonment , and various fines of up to 50,000 euros.

Since 2014, at least 16,000 migrants have lost their lives in the Mediterranean, according to the IOM’s ‘Missing Migrants’ project. “The Italian Government must publicly recognise the important role of human rights defenders in protecting the right to life of migrants and asylum seekers at risk in the Mediterranean and must end the criminalization of those who defend their human rights,” Lawlor said.

The expert’s call has been endorsed by: Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity, Mr. Obiora Okafor, Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Dubravka Šimonovic, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Elizabeth Broderick, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls.

Ms Mary Lawlor, (Ireland) is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/07/mary-lawlor-takes-up-post-as-un-special-rapporteur-for-human-rights-defenders/

The same day Human Rights Watch came out with an initial assessment by civil society of the legislative and non-legislative proposals contained in European Commission’s Pact on Migration and Asylum.: The commitment to a more human approach to protection and the emphasis on the fact that migration is needed and positive for Europe with which the European Commission launched the Pact on Migration and Asylum is welcome. However, this rhetoric is reflected only sparsely in the related proposals. Instead of breaking with the fallacies of the EU’s previous approach and offering a fresh start, the Pact risks exacerbating the focus on externalisation, deterrence, containment and return.


https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/10/08/pact-migration-and-asylum

Three nominees for European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize announced

September 21, 2020

Last year’s winner Jewher Ilham receives the Prize on behalf of her father, Ilham Tohti. © European Parliament

The European Parliamenthas announced its long-list of nominees for the annual Sakharov Prize. The nominees for this year’s prize, announced at last week’s plenary session of the Parliament, are:

  • Two nominations for the democratic opposition in Belarus, represented on the one hand by the Coordination Council, an initiative of political and civil society figures, and on the other by Sviatlana Tsikhanouska, an activist and politician whose defeat in this year’s presidential election led to accusations of fraud against the winner, Alexander Lukashenko. Tsikhanouska is also a member of the Coordination Council.
  • Monsignor Najeeb Moussa Michaeel, Archbishop of Mosul in Iraq who ensured the evacuation of Christians, Syriacs and Chaldeans to Iraqi Kurdistan when Islamic State arrived in the city in 2014, and who safeguarded more than 800 historic manuscripts dating from the 13th to the 19th century.
  • Guapinol activists and Berta Caceres in Honduras. The Guapinol activists have been imprisoned after taking part in a peaceful protest against a polluting mining company in Tocoa, Honduras. Berta Caceras was assassinated in 2016, and was a land-rights activist and protestor against illegal logging and land-grabbing from indigenous peoples in Honduras.
  • Finally, Polish LGBTI activists Jakub Gawron, Paulina Pajak, Paweł Preneta and Kamil Maczuga who founded the website Atlas of Hate, monitoring the implementation by local municipalities to the anti-LGBTI legislation introduced by the national government. This year five of the municipalities sued Gawron, Pajak and Preneta, demanding financial compensation for loss of reputation.

For more on this and similar awards, see:https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/BDE3E41A-8706-42F1-A6C5-ECBBC4CDB449

At the end of the month, the foreign affairs and development committees and the human rights subcommittee of the Parliament will announce their shortlist of three finalists. On 22 October the Conference of Presidents – consisting of the President of the European Parliament and the leaders of the political groups – will announce the winner.

The Prize itself will be awarded at a ceremony in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 16 December.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/26/universal-human-rights-apply-to-ilham-tohti-china-and-eu-disagree/

Nominees for European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize announced

Procedural wrangling by dicatorships does not stop Human Rights Council adopting resolution in Belarus

September 19, 2020

Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya speaks via video message to an urgent debate of the UN Human Rights Council / © AFP
AFP reports from Geneva on 19 September how Belarus and several allies tried Friday to block a video message from opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya at the UN Human Rights Council, where she urged “the strongest” international response to Minsk’s abuses. Her short video message, in a rare urgent debate at the council, had barely begun before Belarus Ambassador Yuri Ambrazevich demanded it be switched off. He repeatedly interrupted the screening, raising procedural objections and insisting her words had “no relevance on the substance… on the events that are taking place today.”

He was overruled by council president Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger. The debate on the rights situation in Belarus, requested by the European Union, focused on violations and the crackdown on the unprecedented demonstrations which broke out after disputed August 9 elections. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/27/16-ngos-call-on-un-to-convene-special-session-on-crackdown-in-belarus/]

Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet state for 26 years and on Thursday warned of a possible “war” with some neighbouring countries, has turned to Russia for support.

Tikhanovskaya’s message was repeatedly interrupted by objections from Belarus Ambassador Yuri Ambrazevich / © AFP

We have witnessed a brutal crackdown on peaceful protests,” said German ambassador Michael Freiherr von Ungern-Sternberg on behalf of the EU. He raised concerns at “reports of attacks on — and torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of — peaceful protesters as well as harassment, intimidation and detentions of opposition leaders.”

Minsk’s envoy Ambrazevich meanwhile slammed the “lopsided picture of reality presented by the losers in the election,” rejecting allegations of abuse by authorities. He insisted that protesters had been violent and had injured numerous police officers. Ambrazevich and his counterparts from Russia, Venezuela and China also voiced multiple objections to statements by the UN deputy rights chief Nada Al-Nashif and Anais Marin, the UN special rapporteur on the rights situation in Belarus, saying they had no place in the debate.

Marin told the council that more than 10,000 people had been “abusively arrested for taking part in peaceful protests”, and lamented that “over 500 cases of torture, committed by state agents, have been reported to us.” “I have been informed of allegations of rape, electrocution, and other forms of physical and psychological torture,” she told the council via video link, adding that the perpetrators appeared to be acting with “impunity“.

Friday’s debate ended with a vote approving a resolution submitted by the EU insisting that the vast array of serious abuses urgently require “independent investigation.”

The voting process was slowed down by Russia, which proposed 17 amendments to the text, all of which were rejected, and in the end the resolution was adopted unchanged by the 47-member council, with 23 in favour, 22 abstentions and only Venezuela and Eritrea voting against. The text calls on Belarusian authorities to “enable independent, transparent and impartial investigations into all allegations of human rights violations in the context of the election.” It also calls on Minsk to “guarantee access to justice and redress for victims as well as full accountability of the perpetrators.” And it calls on the office of UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet to closely monitor the situation in the country and to present her conclusions in a report during the next council session in March 2021.

The discussions mark only the sixth time in the council’s 14-year history that it has agreed to hold an “urgent debate” — a special debate within a regular session of the council.

https://today.rtl.lu/news/world/a/1582022.html

Human rights defender Ebru Timtik dies in Istanbul hospital after 238 days hungerstrike

August 29, 2020

Ebru Timtik, 42, died in an Istanbul hospital late Thursday 27 August 2020, the Progressive Lawyers’ Association said. She had been fasting for 238 days. The lawyer and 17 of her colleagues were accused of links to the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front, or DHKP/C, a militant group designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. She was convicted in March 2019 and sentenced to 13 years and six months in prison. Her case was under review by an appeals court.

Timtik started the hunger strike in February to protest alleged unfair proceedings during the trial, along with another colleague, Aytac Unsal, who is reported to be in a critical condition. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/06/online-conference-for-ebru-timtik-and-aytac-unsal-on-11-august-2020/]

On Friday, police tried to prevent a crowd of her supporters from gathering outside the Istanbul Bar Association for a memorial, the Evrensel newspaper reported. Later, riot police used tear gas and rubber bullets to block a protest march. At least one lawyer was detained, the paper said. “Ebru Timtik is immortal” and “Aytac Unsal is our honor,” some of the mourners chanted, according to Evrensel.

European Commission spokesman Peter Stano said: “Ebru Timtik’s hunger strike for a fair trial and its tragic outcome painfully illustrate the urgent need for the Turkish authorities to credibly address the human rights situation in the country and the serious shortcomings observed in the Turkish judiciary,” Stano said.

Ms. Timtik’s death is a tragic illustration of the human suffering caused by a judicial system in Turkey that has turned into a tool to silence lawyers, human rights defenders and journalists,” said Dunja Mijatovic, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner.

Hunger strikers in Turkey traditionally refuse food but consume liquids and take vitamins that prolong their protests. Timtik’s death comes months after two members of a left-wing popular folk group that is banned in Turkey also died of a hunger strike. They had also been accused of links to the DHKP/C.

https://www.startribune.com/turkish-lawyer-dies-on-hunger-strike-demanding-fair-trial/572249512/

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/08/turkey-ebru-timtik-hunger-strike-dies-lawyer-kurdish-prison.html

European MPs want EU to become serious about linking Corona virus payments to human rights

August 27, 2020

Political leaders in the European Parliament will insist that the EU’s massive budget payouts be dependent on countries meeting human rights and media freedom standards, they said on Wednesday.26 August 2020.  Targeted, but not named, were Hungary and Poland, countries that receive massive subsidies from the EU budget, but flout calls by Brussels to meet commitments on fundamental freedoms.

The time has come to accelerate the fight against the erosion of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in the very heart of the EU,” said the letter, signed by leaders from the centre-right, centre-left, centrist and green parties.

The letter was addressed to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, as well as Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the commission, the EU’s executive arm that hands out the cash. Unless there are changes, the European Parliament has already vowed to veto the multi-year, one-trillion-euro budget — along with a massive pandemic recovery fund — that was thrashed out between heads of government at a summit in July.

Parliament members are due to sit down with representatives from the member states on Thursday to seek a compromise, with MEPs insisting on stricter conditions around civil rights.  The summit deal in July was seen by some as not putting enough pressure on countries to respect core EU values, especially after Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban hailed a “huge victory” against conditionality after the talks.

In their letter on Wednesday, the MEPs insisted that EU member states approve a parliament proposal from April 2019 which would firmly link EU spending to the rule of law, which they vetoed at the time. Without its formal approval, “it will be impossible for us to move forward” on the EU budget, the group leaders said.

The EU budget is deeply intertwined with the 750 billion euro post-virus recovery fund, that parliament does not have a say over.  But given the historic recession afflicting Europe, member states are under huge pressure to implement the plan and the budget as soon as possible, hopefully by the end of the year.

Recent events in Hungary and Poland suggest the countries have little intention of addressing EU concerns over attacks on media freedom, LGBTI rights and the independence of the courts. A day after the summit in July, the editor of Hungary’s top independent news site was fired, seen as another sign of the Orban government’s attacks on opposition media. In Poland, the UN’s AIDS programme this month voiced deep concern about the “intensifying persecution” of LGBTI people, as well as crackdowns on human rights defenders.

Top Euro MPs to Merkel: No EU budget without rule of law

New EU Toolkit on Women Human Rights Defenders

July 8, 2020

On 7 July 2020 Front Line Defenders made public the toolkit on woman HRDs, a companion to the EU Guidelines of Human Rights Defenders (2004) which provide practical actions for EU staff in Brussels and in human rights defenders’ (HRDs) home countries to support and protect HRDs.

While useful, the Guidelines do not contain recommendations or actions that consider the varied experiences of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) with regard to gender, sexuality, race, class, family life, etc. This EU Toolkit on WHRDs provides practical steps for the EU to better meet the needs of WHRDs, from a gendered, intersectional perspective.

You can Download the EU Toolkit on WHRDs here.

As outlined in the UN Resolution on Women Human Rights Defenders, WHRDs experience violence in differentiated ways because of the work they do and who they are, as women. The UN Special Rapporteur on HRDs reports that “women defenders often face additional and different risks and obstacles that are gendered, intersectional and shaped by entrenched gender stereotypes and deeply held ideas and norms about who women are and how women should be.” In addition, there are many economic, social, cultural and geographical factors that affect how WHRDs experience violations. These factors include class, religion, age, language, sexual orientation, location, race and ethnicity. The UN calls all actors to develop specific gendered protection measures, and the inclusion of WHRDs in their design and implementation. The need for the toolkit has arisen because many protection measures are difficult to access for WHRDs as they face not only societal barriers to their work, but also in accessing the international community. The toolkit will help bridge that divide.

Following consultations with international WHRD networks, the EU Office of Front Line Defenders drafted a Toolkit for diplomats on how to address the specific protection needs of women human rights defenders at risk. It was presented to the EU Council Working Group on Human Rights, bringing together the EU institutions and diplomats from the 28 Member States, in Helsinki in October 2019, and shared again on occasion of the preparation of the Guidance Note for Delegations and Embassies by the EU Council Working Group on Human Rights. There are plans to have it tested in collaboration with WHRDs and diplomats in one or two countries per continent; the goal is to have this Toolkit adopted as an annex to the EU Guidelines on HRDs.

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/resource-publication/eu-toolkit-whrds

EU’s Ugandan Human Rights Defenders Award 2020 to Aimé Moninga

June 19, 2020

The EU and Norway – on 18 June 2020 – presented their annual Human Rights Defenders Award in Uganda to Mr. Aimé Moninga, in recognition of his ground-breaking work with male survivors of conflict-related sexual violence and abuse. Although it is a national award and therefoe does not figure in THF’s Digest of international human rights awards [see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest], I always refer to them as they are an example of ‘good practice’ by diplomatic missions [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/05/23/two-ugandans-get-eu-human-rights-award-in-uganda/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/01/13/quick-reminder-of-the-eu-guidelines-on-human-rights-defenders/].

Aimé Moninga was nominated for the Human Rights Defenders Award due to his work in support of male survivors of conflict-related sexual violence and his leadership of Men of Hope, a survivors’ association. He has put this difficult and sensitive issue on the policy agenda in an unprecedented way, both on a national and international level, and he is developing a generation of survivors who are prepared to testify in public to their experiences. He was chosen as this year’s award winner from among 50 nominations received from members of the public in Uganda.

Only a few years ago, the problems faced by male victims of sexual violence were barely discussed, even in human rights circles. Being a refugee and a violence survivor himself, Aimé Moninga has managed to mobilise many other survivors to speak. His advocacy efforts have also yielded results. For example, the Ugandan Police Force training curricula now includes references to both female and male victims of sexual abuse and violence. He is also advocating for further legislative changes.

Responding to the announcement, Aimé Moninga said, “This prize is for me and all the survivors of sexual violence, a consideration and a recognition of our struggle against impunity.”

Being an activist is not easy but being a refugee human rights activist in an area of rights that sometimes is not even recognised or acknowledged is indeed the sharp end of activism”, said Mr. Per Lindgärde, the Ambassador of Sweden to Uganda speaking at today’s award ceremony in Kampala.

Mr Attilio Pacifici, Ambassador of the European Union to Uganda also spoke at this morning’s award ceremony. “Human rights are not advanced by themselves, it takes the courage and dedication of women and men, organisations and institutions to advance this agenda and ensure that rights become a lived reality for everyone in society”.

The Human Rights Defenders Award is presented every year by the European Union and Norway to recognise an outstanding contribution by a human rights defender active in Uganda. This year’s award, which is in its 9th year, is also given in memory of the late Hon. Med Kaggwa [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/24/ugandan-human-rights-commissioner-med-kaggwa-dies/].

Press Release: Conflict survivor Aimé Moninga wins EU Human Rights Defenders Award 2020