Archive for the 'Front Line' Category

Front Line Defenders Global Analysis 2019 is out: 304 HRDs killed

January 14, 2020

The most dangerous and deadly sector of human rights defenders remains land, environmental and indigenous rights, according to the Global Analysis report 2019 by Front Line Defenders. 304 people across 31 countries were targeted and killed last year and the document starts by listing their names.

Front Line Defenders said this was due to “the profit driven exploitation of natural resources, combined with corruption, weak governments and poverty“. Speaking to RTÉ News, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders, Andrew Anderson, described the scale of the killings as “horrific” ..almost one person a day is being killed around the world because they are working “peacefully to defend land rights, environmental rights” and to “hold the powerful to account”.  “The true scale of the problem is probably much higher” he said.

In the cases for which the data is available, the report found:

  • 85% of those killed last year had previously been threatened either individually or as part of the community or group in which they worked
  • 13% of those reported killed were women
  • 40% of those killed worked on land, indigenous’ peoples and environmental issues

Last year saw mounting pressure on activists defending LGBTI rights, as well as women’s rights and migrants’ rights. Female activists faced online smear campaigns, trolling and defamation to intimidate, shame or harass in order to push women activists out of online spaces. The statistics show that 13% of human rights defenders killed in 2019 were women. The report also notes some positive developments, including the male guardianship system being revoked in Saudi Arabia, women from the Sulaliyat tribe in Morocco being able to inherit and own land, and Sudan removing a law where women could be arrested if found dancing, wearing trousers or mixing with men who were not their relatives.

With massive protests in Iran, Hong Kong and Chile, Front Line Defenders said that 2019 was characterised by waves of public uprisings of “remarkable magnitude”, which demanded change of how people are governed. However, it said there were restrictions on freedom of expression and authorities often invoked “security” as a justification to ban all peaceful demonstrations Physical assaults, defamation campaigns and digital attacks were major issues.

Internet shutdowns, restricting access or blocking communication tools, such as social media, were common. Messaging app WhatsApp, which is popular for organising and communications, became a “serious threat” when it was used against human rights defenders in a number of cases.

As the role of human rights defenders ranged from organising and mobilising to monitoring and documenting human rights violations, the human rights organisation said it provided more than 620 protection grants to activists at risk in 2019.

For last year’s report see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/09/front-line-defenders-says-record-number-of-activists-killed-in-2018/

https://www.rte.ie/news/ireland/2020/0114/1107280-front-line-defenders/

https://www.theguardian.com/law/2020/jan/14/300-human-rights-activists-killed-2019-report

Egyptian human rights defender Gamal Eid assaulted

December 31, 2019

On 30 December 2019 Front Line Defenders and others reported that Egyptian human rights defender Gamal Eid was assaulted outside his home on Sunday, 29 December 2019 by up to a dozen men. They beat him and when neighbors tried to intervene, they were threatened at gunpoint. After, the men dumped paint on Gamal Eid and threatened him to stop his human rights work. The human rights defender recognized one of the men as a “state security officer” who was with the men “giving orders and saying this is that he should be ‘disciplined’.”

Gamal Eid is a renowned lawyer and advocate of freedom of expression in Egypt. He is the founder and director of the Arab Network of Human Rights Information (ANHRI), which was established in 2003 to promote freedom of expression, campaign against censorship in the Middle East and North Africa, and provide legal assistance to journalists and internet activists.

According to the ANHRI website, this is the fourth attack on Gamal Eid this year and comes amidst a wider crackdown on Egyptian civil society and human rights defenders. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/18/egypt-court-freezes-assets-of-rights-defenders-and-ngos/]

Following the attack, Gamal Eid released a statement: “I think they do not want to repeat the scandal of torturing Julio Regeni to death, so they resorted to attacking me one time after another, to punish me, silence me and stop me from doing human rights work and my frequent criticism of the gruesome human rights violations, but again, silence and collusion are not our choices.”

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/gamal-eid-assaulted-outside-his-home

Egypt: Rights activist Gamal Eid brutally attacked by security forces

Algerian human rights defender Halim Feddal sent to preventive detention

November 26, 2019

Front Line Defenders reports that on 20 November 2019, the Public Prosecution in Chlef ordered the preventive detention of human rights defender Halim Feddal, after he was arbitrarily arrested on 17 November 2019. He had been taking part in a peaceful demonstration demanding the release of a number of Algerian political prisoners.

Halim Feddal is the founder and secretary general of the Algerian National Association Against Corruption (ANLC) which works on exposing and fighting corruption in Algeria. He is also a member of the Hirak Movement, which is a grassroots human rights movement that calls for the promotion of civil and political rights in Algeria. The human rights defender frequently participates in peaceful demonstrations in the city of Chlef.

On 17 November 2019, Halim Feddal was arrested by security forces in plain clothes from a peaceful demonstration that he was attending in front of the court in Chlef. The protesters were demonstrating against the politically motivated detention of some members of the Hirak movement. Halim Feddal was taken to a local police station where he spent three days under interrogation and was not allowed to contact his lawyer or his family. On 20 November 2019, the Public Prosecution charged him with “threatening the unity of the country” and “incitement of an illegal gathering”. The Public Prosecution ordered preventive detention for Halim Feddal without scheduling a date for his court hearing.

Human rights defenders in Algeria are continually harassed and arbitrarily detained by the authorities. Halim Feddal has frequently been called to the police station and interrogated about his human rights work. Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned about the detention and harassment of Halim Feddal, and finds the general crackdown on human rights defenders in Algeria increasingly worrying. Front Line Defenders believes that Halim Feddal is being detained solely as a result of his peaceful and legitimate human right work.

Download the Urgent Appeal

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/halim-feddal-sent-preventive-detention

2019 Dublin Platform opens with 120 HRDs but five not able to attend

October 2, 2019

The 3-day 2019 Dublin Platform for Human Rights Defenders at Risk was opened on 2 October by Irish Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. Over 120 human rights defenders (HRDs) from more than 80 countries are attending. Front Line Defenders Executive Director, Andrew Anderson, said that five human rights defenders were prevented from traveling to Dublin – Khadija Ismayilova (Azerbaijan), Oyub Titiev (Russia), Said Boudour (Algeria), Michel Matos (Cuba) and Marivic Danyan (Philippines). See more below.

The opening ceremony featured a testimony by Bahraini woman human rights defender (WHRD) Ebtisam Alsaegh, who was finally able to leave Bahrain and attend Dublin Platform years after first being invited. Speaking in Dublin, she called for an immediate end to gendered and sexualized attacks against women human rights defenders around the world.

Over three days, human rights defenders will share tactics and strategies for their protection and security, while learning from each other about their struggles, protests, resistance movements and victories. On Thursday evening, the HRDs will march in a procession to Christchurch Cathedral as part of the “Set Them Free” campaign, calling for the release of HRDs facing multi-decade prison sentences around the world. The campaign includes former Front Line Defenders Protection Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, Bahraini HRD Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, now serving a life sentence for his role in the peaceful pro-democracy uprising of 2011.

Four human rights defenders were either prevented from leaving their countries – or decided not to risk it due to pending charges. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/18/repressive-governments-and-ophelia-compete-to-prevent-hrds-to-travel-to-dublin/]

On 26 September, Cuban cultural rights defender Michel Matos was banned from travelling from José Martí International Airport in Havana while en route to attend the event in Ireland. Michel is an activist for cultural rights in Cuba. He, along with other artists, musicians and performers, has taken a stand against the controversial Decree 349, signed by Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel in April 2018, which grants the Ministry of Culture disproportionate power to control, cancel and sanction artistic expression, while containing vague and overly broad restrictions. While being processed at passport control, officials informed him he was not permitted to board the plane as he is on an automatic travel ban list. He was not shown any documents or given any further details on the ban, other than being told that the officials “were following orders”.

Due to his work advocating for the rights of political prisoners in Algeria, Said Boudour has been informed that he is currently being sought by the Algerian authorities. As he prepared to travel to Ireland to attend the Platform, he received advice from his lawyer that should he attempt to leave the country he would almost certainly be arrested at the airport. Said is a member of the Algerian League for Human Rights. He works on a range of civil and political rights in Algeria, with a particular focus on the rights of prisoners in the context of the ongoing anti-government demonstrations, and on democracy in Algeria. The human rights defender has been frequently harassed by the Algerian authorities; he has been previously detained three times and has been under regular police surveillance.

Khadija Ismayilova, a woman human rights defender and journalist from Azerbaijan, was also unable to accept her invite to the Dublin Platform due to a travel ban imposed against her following her release from prison in 2016. In 2018 the Baku Court of Appeal refused for the third time to lift the ban. Khadija is well known for her investigative reports on corruption in Azerbaijan, including the President’s family’s involvement.

Oyub Titiev, a human rights defender from Chechnya, was similarly prevented from travelling due to a travel ban stemming from his conditional release from prison in June 2019. He was detained in January 2018 on fabricated drug charges in retaliation for his work with Human Rights Center Memorial in Chechnya. Both Oyub and Front Line Defenders had written without success to the Russian authorities seeking permission for him to allowed travel to attend the Dublin Platform.

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/2019-dublin-platform

Malawi: threats against human rights defenders

July 14, 2019

This is to draw attention to a long-runing battle between civil society and the authorities in Malawi.

The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) says it will not be intimidated by arrests of its members. The coalition said on Friday it will continue demanding the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission Chairperson Justice Dr Jane Ansah. Speaking at a press briefing at the HRDC Offices in Lilongwe, Vice Chairperson for HRDC Gift Trapence said his arrest has reinvigorated the coalition. “We will continue to fight for justice. They are not going to win and suppress this justice,” he explained. Trapence who was arrested for K7 million fraud on Tuesday and released on bail on Friday refused to comment on the case saying it is in court. The activist was arrested together with HRDC member Macdonald Sembereka. Trapence revealed that that HRDC members have been receiving threats from people who say they will torch the activists’ houses. He however stated that the HRDC will continue with plans to demonstrate two days a week until Ansah resigns. The coalition therefore encouraged people to join the protests in large numbers on Tuesdays and Fridays.

HRDC wants Ansah to resign saying she mismanaged the 2019 presidential elections in which President Peter Mutharika was declared winner.

See also: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/cases/location/malawi

 

We will not be intimidated – HRDC  

Court releases Malawi activists Trapence and Sembereka on bail

HRDC women says anti-Ansah demos not gender issue

NGOs ask EU to intervene for human rights defender Azimjon Askarov in Kyrgyzstan

July 10, 2019

On 11 June 2019 NGOs wrote a joint Letter to High Representative Mogherini regarding detained Human Rights Defender Azimjon Askarov in Kyrgyzstan. His is a wellknown case, see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/07/23/fury-about-us-award-for-askarov-in-kyrgyzstan-backlash-or-impact/

Front Line Defenders seeks events organiser for 12-months

May 30, 2019

is currently seeking an individual demonstrating extensive events, communications and marketing experience to work as part of its Events and Promotions Team in the lead up to the 2019 Dublin Human Rights Festival and the 2019 Dublin Platform for Human Rights Defenders, and to provide maternity cover for the permanent post-holder.

 

Key tasks (July – October 2019, full-time);

  • manage the 2019 Dublin Human Rights Festival (planning, implementation and managing logistics; maintaining partner relations and building the Festival audience through extensive marketing and promotion; and managing staff and volunteers to support the event);
  • deputise to the International Events & Promotions Coordinator on all aspects of the 2019 Dublin Platform;
  • supporting 200+ delegate visa and travel arrangements;
  • coordination of airport transfers;
  • management at hotel and conference venue;
  • management of conference agenda, registration, interpretation, social programme and all conference administration;
  • task delegation and support to colleagues and volunteers as appropriate; and
  • supporting team in achieving all deliverables related to the 2019 Dublin Platform;
  • updating and maintaining Front Line Defenders database and working documents; and
  • offer coordination and support to the organisation as required.

Key tasks Maternity Cover (October 2019 – August 2020, part-time @ 4 days per week / 28 hours per week):

  • organise the 2020 Front Line Defenders Award including coordinating nomination process, liaising with colleagues and jury members, planning and managing award ceremony logistics and developing programme for the regional award winners and advocacy tour for global laureate;
  • make timely preparations for the 2021 Dublin Platform;
  • organise HRD speakers tours and other promotional events;
  • conduct public outreach and engagement with Irish public and specific groups;
  • maintain positive working relationships with vendors and venues; and
  • offer coordination and support to the organisation as required.

The successful candidate will be able to demonstrate inter alia:

  • extensive event management experience (essential);
  • a proven track record of success developing and executing marketing strategies for event promotion;
  • experience working with graphic designers;
  • experience preparing and managing event budgets with strict adherence;
  • excellent oral and written communication skills;
  • strong computer literacy (database, mailouts, spreadsheets etc); and

The role will be based at the organisation’s headquarters in Blackrock, Dublin. Candidates must be legally entitled to work in Ireland at time of application. The salary will be equivalent to Clerical Officer Higher on the civil service scale (EUR 30,089 pro rata) This is a fixed-term contract for the period 22 July 2019 to 28 August 2020.

Applications comprising a cover letter (1 page) and CV (2 page max.) should be sent to Michelle Foley, International Events & Promotions Coordinator at recruit@frontlinedefenders.org by Friday, 21 June 2019. Please put the name of the role you are applying for in the subject title of the email.

Shortlisted applications should be available for interview in the week commencing the 1 July 2019, and the successful applicant will begin in the position on Monday, 22 July 2019.

For more info: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/international-events-promotions-coordinator-part-maternity-cover-12-months

Also in USA helping migrants is criminalised: Scot Warren in court on 29 May 2019

May 29, 2019

Not just in Italy [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/15/european-governments-should-stop-treating-solidarity-and-compassion-as-a-crime/]. Front LIne Defenders on 28 May 2019 reports that in the United States Scott Warren is facing 20-year prison sentence for “harbouring” migrants.

On 29 May 2019, Scott Warren is due to face a felony trial at the District Court for the District of Arizona. The human rights defender is charged with two counts of “harbouring” migrants in Ajo, Arizona, and one count of “conspiracy to transport and harbour” migrants. If found guilty, he might be sentenced to up to 20 years of imprisonment.

Dr. Scott Warren [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/scott-warren] is a human rights defender working on migration issues in Ajo, Arizona. For over ten years, he has provided humanitarian aid to migrants and asylum seekers who attempt crossing the United States – Mexico border through the Sonora desert. He helped establish the humanitarian aid group No More Deaths or No Más Muertes which provides water and medical aid on migration routes, and documents the deaths of migrants in the desert.

On 29 May 2019 at 9:30am, Scott Warren is due to be tried at the District Court for the District of Arizona for two counts of “harbouring” migrants and one count of “conspiracy to transport and harbour” migrants. On 21 May 2019, the judge assigned to the case rejected a motion to dismiss the indictment. Scott Warren’s lawyers argued that his arrest “arose from selective enforcement of the laws by the Border Patrol” and that he was being targeted specifically for his work in defence of migrants’ rights.

On 17 January 2018, Scott Warren was arrested at a volunteer gathering point known as the “Barn”, located in Ajo, by a convoy of U.S. Border Patrol agents from a specialised anti-smuggling unit. The agents were wearing plain clothes and did not present the human rights defender with a warrant. Earlier on that day, No More Deaths had published a report denouncing the involvement of Border Patrol officers in the destruction of water gallons left by volunteers for migrants crossing the desert. After the publication of the report, Scott Warren gathered evidence of surveillance activities carried out against him by the U.S. Border Patrol.

The arrest of Scott Warren represents an escalation of existing patterns of harassment against humanitarian volunteers and human rights defenders in Arizona. In 2018, officers of the Fish and Wildlife Services cited Scott Warren and other volunteers of No More Deaths for entering the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, one of the most deadly migrant corridors along the Mexico-US border, to provide life-saving aid, including water, food and medical supplies, to migrants crossing the desert.

…..
On recent country visits, Front Line Defenders found that defamation and criminalisation of humanitarian activity is increasing along the migrant caravan routes. Human rights defenders in Mexico and the United States have been detained, harassed and criminalised for the provision of humanitarian aid, including distributing food, water and medical supplies, and operating emergency shelters for migrant families. Moreover, the authorities in the United States have increased efforts towards the criminalisation of all forms of immigration, including through coordinated action with other states in the region.

Front Line Defenders condemns the criminalisation of Scott Warren, as it is believed to be directly motivated by his humanitarian work assisting migrants and documenting their deaths. Front Line Defenders is further concerned about the increased use of the judiciary to target human rights defenders and organisations who assist migrants at the United States – Mexico border, including by selective enforcement of the law.

See latest: https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/human-rights-first-statement-new-trial-against-arizona-human-rights-defender

Breitbart tries its hands on the Italian migration situation

May 24, 2019

The screamng headline “Italian media has alleged that pro-migrant activists and leftist politicians are behind an attack by the United Nations on the immigration of policy of populist Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.” is a give away. It is indeed from Breitbart News (24 May 2019). I will not often refer to this source but thought that it would good to see what kind of nonsense is produced and effectivley reaches a lot of people. I will let the piece below speak for itself, including the almost comical notion that UN Rapporteur Michel Forst should not work with Front Line Defedners.

For the migration defenders context in Italy see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/15/european-governments-should-stop-treating-solidarity-and-compassion-as-a-crime/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/02/un-experts-consider-human-rights-defenders-in-italy-under-threat/. Read the rest of this entry »

Andrew Anderson: “The Dangerous Game of Sportswashing”

May 22, 2019

On 26 April 2019 Andrew Anderson of Front Line Defenders did – rightly – not mince his words in a piece drawing attention to the growing phenomenon of sports washing. In February 2019 I drew already attention to this in a post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/01/sports-and-human-rights-focus-on-sports-washing-big-names-play-for-big-money/.

Anderson’s “Gloss, Not Glory: The Dangerous Game of Sportswashing” says it more eloquently:

Brutal and corrupt dictatorships trying to use sport to improve their image is nothing new, as The Guardian noted in February when it compared club ownership and the Champions League to Mussolini and the 1934 World Cup. However, the absurd news that the Dakar Rally will take place in Saudi Arabia in 2020 – compounded by reports that an offer is under consideration to bring the Spanish Super Cup to the same country in a €30 million per year, 6-year deal- brings blood drenched sportswashing to new depths.


Protest graffitti against the Formula One race in Bahrain.

As the International Federation for Human Rights reported the Dakar Rally announcement comes not only in the wake of the murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi and amidst Saudi war crimes in Yemen, but as women human rights defenders are being tortured in detention for campaigning, amongst other things, for the right of women to drive. The same Saudi rulers who order the killings and torture are seeking to buy positive coverage through sport. “The same Saudi rulers who order the killings and torture are seeking to buy positive coverage through sport.”

As someone who was at Wembley in 1992 to see Barcelona lift their first European Cup, it is particularly galling to contemplate the Cruyff-inspired masters of the beautiful game being dragged into the sportswashing of Mohammad bin Salman. The Barcelona slogan is “More Than a Club” and is explicitly linked to both values and social change. It is difficult to reconcile these noble aspirations with a PR exercise for a misogynist regime, itself the antithesis of those values.

We are, of course, already far down the slippery slope. The rulers of the UAE have also long-used sport as part of their self-promotion. The owners of Manchester City and the sponsors of Real Madrid are similarly involved in war crimes in Yemen, and routinely detain and torture those who dare to speak out for human rights. Ahmed Mansoor, winner of the Martin Ennals Prize in 2015 for his peaceful work for human rights, is currently on hunger strike in protest against prison conditions and his sentencing to 10 years in prison after an unfair trial. Front Line Defenders is gravely concerned for his health and is calling for his release.

Sunday, 28th April, Formula One will hold the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku. The Azeri dictator, Ilham Aliyev, who routinely detains human rights defenders and journalists, is also President of the country’s Olympic committee. He has embraced sportswashing enthusiastically. Azerbaijan hosted the European Games in 2015 under the auspices of the European Olympic Committees. The 2019 European Games are to be in Belarus. The Formula One calendar also includes Bahrain, Abu Dhabi (UAE) and China, all countries where Front Line Defenders is campaigning for the release of unjustly detained human rights defenders.


Protest against first European Games in Baku in 2015.

Many sports fans will shrug their shoulders and say that money is awash in international sport, and what can you do? The International Olympic Committee and football’s world governing body FIFA have been mired in corruption scandals and the use of international sporting events and national Olympic committees have long been seen by dictators, authoritarians and fascists as tools for advancing propaganda. But it is surely time to draw a line in the sand, and where better to do it than Saudi Arabia? The Dakar Rally should not take place there while women human rights defenders like Lujain Al-Hathloul are detained and tortured. And the Spanish Football authorities must reject the proposed Saudi deal in spite of the vast sums of money on the table.

Sportswashing is more than a game, it is a corrupt exercise of cover-up and repression. And sport must reject the tyrants.

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/blog/post/gloss-not-glory-dangerous-game-sportswashing