Archive for the 'HRF' Category

Profile of Denis Mukwege from the Democratic Republic of Congo: an amazingly courageous doctor

April 12, 2016

Dr Denis Mukwege is a surgeon and the most prominent human rights defender from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He won several international awards as detailed in earlier posts [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/congolese-gynecologist-wins-europes-sakharov-prize-in-2014/https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/human-rights-first-honors-doctor-denis-mukwege-in-washington-on-21-october/]. He was in Geneva on the occasion of the 2016 International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights for the screening of the documentary film The Man Who Mends Women. The ISHR met with Mukwege on 31 March 2016 and published the following profile with details of his grassroots activities to defend women’s dignity and of the threats he faces due to his work: Dr. Denis Mukwege

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Call of nominations for Baldwin Medal and Right Livelihood Award

February 2, 2016

Human Rights First announced that nominations are now open for the 2016 Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty Award.  The 2016 award will go to an individual or organization outside of the United States who has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to human rights advocacy in areas such as human trafficking, religious freedom, LGBT rights, refugee protection, and defense of civil society, among others. The winner will be selected by a distinguished jury and will receive a trip to the United States to engage in advocacy and a $25,000 prize. Nominations at http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/call-nominations-2016-roger-n-baldwin-medal-liberty-award are due by 10 March 2016. HRF logo

For more information on the award: http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/roger-n-baldwin-medal-liberty. For further questions about the award or the nomination process, please contact Rebecca Sheff at sheffr@humanrightsfirst.org or (202) 888-7599.

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One Month Until 1 March Nomination Deadline

Just one month remains to nominate candidates for the 2016 Right Livelihood Awards. Deadline: 1 March 2016!

For more on the award see: http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/right-livelihood-awards and/or check out the video to learn more. Anyone – excluding Right Livelihood Award Jury and staff members – can propose anyone (individuals or organisations), apart from themselves, close relatives or their own organisations to be considered for a Right Livelihood Award. Proposals must not be publicised, except to the candidate and possible referees.  Read more about the nomination requirements and procedures.

for earlier posts on this award: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/right-livelihood-award/

Five Years After Tahrir Square, there is “stability” in Egypt but do not ask at what price

January 28, 2016

Five years ago, human rights defender Ahmed Abdullah was among thousands of Egyptians who took to the streets for 18 days of mass protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, eventually forcing then-President Hosni Mubarak to step down and the security forces to retreat. Today, Ahmed is on the run. He dodged arrest by the thinnest of margins on January 9, after plainclothes police in Cairo raided his regular coffee shop. The NGO which he chairs, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, had recently exposed a surge in enforced disappearances, which has seen hundreds vanish at the hands of state security forces over the last year alone. He is not the only one whose activism has put him at risk. In recent weeks, security forces have been rounding up activists linked to protests and journalists critical of the government’s record. This how Amnesty International starts its assessment of the fifth anniversary and it concludes: “Five years since the uprising that ousted Mubarak, Egypt is once more a police state. The country’s ubiquitous state security body, the National Security Agency, is firmly in charge.”

The same sentiment is echoed in the long piece in the Huffington Post of 25 January 2016 by Karim Lahidji, President of FIDH and Bahey eldin Hassan, Director of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

MAHMOUD KHALED VIA GETTY IMAGES

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Closing Civil Society Space – a euphemism for Killing Human Rights Defenders

November 30, 2015

The Huffington Post of 29 November 2015 carried a good piece by Brian Dooley (Human Rights First) under the title “When Closing Civil Society Space Means Killing Human Rights Defenders”. He states that “what sometimes gets overlooked in the discussion around “shrinking civil society space” are direct, violent attacks on human rights defenders.”

He refers to this year’s Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (HRDs) which details killings of HRDs in Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East. And a Note by the UN Secretary-General in July this year included how “defenders also describe their sense that they are often on their own, with the media showing little interest in reporting acts of aggression against them and with little support from political figures…”

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Reprisals against children of Human Rights Defenders in UAE

October 11, 2015

The second case concerning children of human rights defenders is a more general category as described by Rebecca Sheff in a blog on Human Rights First: “Reprisals Against Children of Human Rights Defenders in UAE“.

She reports that on 8 October 2015, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child released a report expressing “concern” about the United Arab Emirates’ treatment of human rights defenders and their families. It noted that the government has been persecuting the children of defenders, restricting their “rights to education, identity documents, to freedom of movement and to keep contact with their detained parents.” The Convention on the Rights of the Child requires the UAE to protect children against discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of their parents. The UAE’s acts of intimidation violate children’s fundamental rights and inhibit the work of defenders. Dozens of political prisoners in the UAE are serving long prison sentences after being convicted in a mass unfair trial in 2013.  ….The Committee on the Rights of the Child also expressed concern “about the reported continuous harassment of human rights defenders in the State party, which greatly undermines the emergence of a vibrant civil society as well as the protection and promotion of children’s rights.” The lack of a robust civil society in the UAE means that children’s rights issues are neglected and violations go unaddressed. Ahmed Mansoor, a prominent human rights defender in the UAE, recently received the 2015 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

Indeed one of the most moving scenes in the film on the work of MEA Laureate Mansoor was when he told how his own child did not recognize him after a stay in detention: (minutes 5.20)

 

Source: Reprisals Against Children of Human Rights Defenders in UAE | Human Rights First

Brian Dooley gets a kind of reply from Bahrain..

May 18, 2015

Under the title “Dooley doodling” appeared a post in the Gulf Daily News of 18 May 2015. It is supposed to a pun on the name of Brian Dooley, the director of Human Rights First’s human rights defenders’ programme. The writer [Duri?] draws fortunately more attention to Dooley’s piece in the Huffington Post of 6 May: ‘How to Sound Like a Washington Expert on Bahrain’.

There is a rather-vaguely worded attack on his work for human rights defenders in Bahrain without ever substantiating any of the claims that he or his organization is receiving money from unnamed sources (Guess who foots the bills?“) or going in any detail on the harassment of the human rights defenders (“Every time Mr Rajab or any of the players happen to be [SIC] behind bars, expect one piece from him attacking the Bahraini government and its institutions.).  Dooley is quite capable of defending himself, but the awards aspect below is worth a bit more attention: Read the rest of this entry »

The Emirates: not a Paradise for Human Rights Defenders

April 29, 2015

y, Director of the Human Rights Defenders Program at Human Rights First, wrote a good peace in the Huffington Post about the Emirates which he recently visited : “Trouble in Paradise: How U.S. Ally UAE Crushes Dissent” (28 April 2015). Here some excerpts:
PRINCE SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN ZAYED AL NAHYAN
Backed by an impressively lavish lobbying and PR machine — more expensive than any other middle eastern country — the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is eager to show that it’s a safe and stable business environment, and a dependable U.S. military ally….Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan met with President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Defense Secretary Carter in Washington last Monday to discuss, according to him, “new steps to enhance the already deep security between the U.S. and the UAE.”

Sheikh Mohammed ..is also head of the feared state security system and in recent months, the attacks on dissidents have intensified. In November 2014 the UAE cabinet announced a list of 83 “terrorist organizations.” (these included two American NGOs: the Council on Islamic-American Relations and the Muslim American Society.}

Previously tolerated local civil society organizations have been disbanded, including the Association of Teachers and the Association of Jurists, whose former head, Dr. Mohammed al Roken, is now in prison after being convicted in a mass unfair trial in 2013. Only a tiny handful of dissidents are currently in the country and out of jail including Ahmed Mansoor, just announced as a Final Nominee for the Martin Ennals Human Rights Defender Award 2015. Nearly all peaceful dissent in the UAE is silenced, both on and offline. Abuse of migrant workers’ rights persists, and no labor union is allowed to exist to protect them.

Meeting me in secret this week in the UAE, human rights activists told me there is now a zero tolerance policy for peaceful criticism of the Emirati regime. “It’s got so much worse in the last few years,” said one. “Ten years ago arrests without warrants or disappearances happened but they were rare. Now they’re common.” Even relatives of political prisoners have been targeted in recent months, some hit with arbitrary travel bans that prevent them from leaving the country.

They blame Sheikh Mohammed’s state security for tampering with official government files holding their ID and other information. They said that dates of birth have been changed so that adults are officially registered as children, or other details modified, making it impossible for them to get drivers licenses and other essential documents. This administrative harassment has sent people into an endless bureaucratic loop, preventing them from getting or renewing passports, applying for school, opening bank accounts, and generally operating normal lives. The denial of a security clearance amounts to a denial of a job. Many activists are unable to support themselves financially, some are sleeping rough.

It’s a soft repression but very effective,” one activist told me. “State security basically runs the country, no matter who the official government is. It’s unaccountable, omnipotent, and scares everyone.

Three sisters who were summoned to a police station in Abu Dhabi in mid-February have not been heard from since. The three women are sisters of Issa Khalifa al-Suwaidi, a political prisoner who is serving 10 years in jail. …Crushing dissent in the UAE is typically done in the name of anti-terrorism.

When they meet next month, President Obama should look beyond UAE’s fancy PR campaign and ask Sheikh Mohammed why peaceful critics are in jail, why their lawyers are intimidated from representing them and their witnesses harassed, and why the UAE thinks the best way to fight terrorism is with repression.

Trouble in Paradise: How U.S. Ally UAE Crushes Dissent | Brian Dooley.

Broad coalition of NGOs at UN condemns Egypt’s treatment of women human rights defenders

March 23, 2015

During the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report on Egypt in the UN Human Rights Council on 20 March 2015 the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (for the composition see below), made a forceful statement about the terrible situation of women human rights defenders in that country.

“The systematic judicial harassment faced by many women human rights defenders is highlighted through the emblematic case of the seven women defenders2 arrested on 21 June 2014 for protesting peacefully against the Protest and Public Assembly Law (No. 107), who faced arduous hassles including prolonged pre-trial detention. Their sentence was finally reduced to two years of imprisonment and two years of surveillance by the appeals court in December 2014. [The seven are: Ms. Sanaa Seif, Ms. Yara Sallam, Ms. Hanan Mustafa Mohamed, Ms. Salwa Mihriz, Ms. Samar Ibrahim, Ms. Nahid Bebo and Rania El-Sheikh]

Furthermore, we strongly condemn the killing of Shaimaa ElSabbagh during a peaceful protest on 24 January 2015. She was taking part in a gathering to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the 25 January revolution. We call on the Egyptian government to ensure a prompt, independent and effective investigation to identify the perpetrator and hold them to account. In this connection, we are deeply concerned that Azza Soliman from the Centre for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA), who was witness to the incident and testified before the Prosecutor’s Office, is now targeted as a suspect and charges have been brought against her under the public assembly law.

Finally, we express our continued dismay over sexual violence against women in online and offline public spaces. Though a national strategy to combat violence against women has been announced, we emphasise the need for it to be comprehensive and holistic with involvement of all relevant ministries and stakeholders, as well as adequate budget allocation. During the UPR, the government highlighted a new amendment to the Penal Code article 306, which addresses sexual harassment. This amendment is far insufficient in its scope as it only considers sexual harassment a crime if the intent of the perpetrator is proven to be related to obtaining sexual benefits…”

The Coalition members:  Amnesty International, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Association for Progressive Communications (APC), Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights, Centre for Reproductive Rights, Centre for Women’s Global Leadership, Coalition of African Lesbians, Front Line Defenders, Human Rights First, Information Monitor (INFORM), International Federation for Human Rights, International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia-Pacific (IWRAW-AP), Isis International, ISIS Women’s International Cross- Cultural Exchange, Just Associates (JASS), The Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights (CLADEM), MADRE, Nazra for Feminist Studies, Peace Brigades International, Rainbow Rights Project Inc, Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights, Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML), Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights, WOmen’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC), World Organisation against Torture (OMCT).

What Human Rights Day means in Bahrain and how the EU made it worse

December 11, 2014

On 9 December, on the eve of Human Rights Day, Zainab Al-Khawaja was sentenced to 4 years and 4 months in two separate court hearings in Bahrain. Front Line, Human Rights First and others have reported extensively on this courageous human rights defenders [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/zainab-al-khawaja/] .

She was sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment for “sabotaging properties belonging to the Ministry of Interior” and “insulting a public official” to three months’ imprisonment and fined 3,000 Bahraini Dinar (approx. 6,400 Euro) for “tearing up a photograph of the King”.

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped also shockingly reports that on the same day as her sentencing, the European Union presented a human rights award to Bahrain’s National Institution for Human Rights and the Ombudsman of the Ministry of the Interior! Although this concerns a relatively unknown regional award (the Chaillot Prize is presented annually by the Delegation of the European Union in Riyadh http://www.ambafrance-bh.org/Press-release-Delegation-of-the.) the state press has been making the best of it [http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/NewsDetails.aspx?storyid=391213] and it is hard to see this as in line with the EU policy on Human Rights Defenders.

Human Rights First annual summit on 9-10 December 2014

October 28, 2014

 

HRF logo organises on 9-10 December 2014 its annual Human Rights Forum. It takes place in the Newseum in Washington DC, USA. Several panels are of direct relevance to human rights defenders, such as:

  • Show Them the Money: What are the Lifelines for Civil Society in a Sea of Restrictions? More and more governments – and not only authoritarian ones – are finding ways to close the space for independent civil society groups, especially those critical of government policies.  As part of this effort, governments have developed sophisticated methods to undermine the credibility of international –especially American – support for local human rights and democracy organizations. Russia and Egypt are leading the way; each has passed laws restricting access by independent civil society groups to foreign funding, which is essential to their existence. How should the U.S. government and other donors respond to these coordinated efforts to restrict human rights and democracy activists? Given the legal landscape, is foreign funding for NGOs even possible anymore?
  • Progress and Backlash in the Global Struggle for LGBT Equality Human rights advocates often describe achieving full equality for LGBT people as the next chapter in the struggle for universal human rights.  For many years, this movement appeared to be one of steady gains, but we are now facing a moment of profound backlash.  LGBT citizens of Russia, India, and Nigeria have seen a sharp curtailment of their rights. In many cases, this is part of a larger attack on civil society, marked by laws and policies aimed at limiting freedom of expression, freedom of association, and other basic rights.  The countries in question may see themselves as in conflict with the West and its values; support for such laws is often driven by anti-Western sentiment.  How can the United States respond to this development in ways that will improve the lives of LGBT people worldwide?
  • NGOs as the Enemy Within? Human rights defenders face particular challenges when their societies mobilize for war.  In such circumstances, questioning government policies can be characterized as disloyalty or siding with the enemy.  Human rights defenders become targets of defamation, persecution, and violence.  The universal values they are seeking to uphold are themselves called into question and undermined. Does the U.S. government have a role in preserving the rights of activists espousing what may be deeply unpopular points of view in times of public fear and conflict?

 

 

For more information and to enroll: http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/event/human-rights-summit