Archive for the 'HRW' Category

Policy response from Human Rights NGOs to COVID-19: Human Rights Watch

April 10, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many human rights organisations have been formulating a policy response. While I cannot be complete or undertake comparisons, I will try and give some examples in the course of these weeks. Here the one by Human Rights Watch, as submitted during the Informal Dialogue with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on 9 April 2020

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Internet shutdowns in times of COVID-19 could cost lives

April 2, 2020

Intentionally shutting down or restricting access to the internet violates multiple rights and can be deadly during a health crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Human Rights Watch said on 31 March 2020. Governments that are currently imposing an internet shutdown, such as Bangladesh, Ethiopia (it just announced restoring service), India, and Myanmar, should lift them immediately to save lives. During a health crisis, access to timely and accurate information is crucial. People use the internet for updates on health measures, movement restrictions, and relevant news to protect themselves and others.

Refugees and migrants in camp conditions at high risk of COVID-19

March 30, 2020

International Women’s Day 2020: Joint Statement at 43rd session of UN Human Rights Council

March 9, 2020

Many organisations, especially NGOs, used the occasion of International Women’s Day 2020 to highlight work carried out by women human rights defenders. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/27/women-human-rights-defenders-in-focus-at-43rd-human-rights-council/. Here an example of how 18 NGOs came together for a Joint Statement during the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council

The speaker was: Paola Salwan Daher, Center for Reproductive Rights:

UK’s human rights policy after Brexit

February 13, 2020

With Brexit a number of commentaries have appeared about the UK‘s human rights stance in the future. Here two examples:

Maria Arena wrote on 3 February 2020 in Feature about the Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI), saying it will continue to keep a critical eye on the EU’s external policies while playing a constructive role in upholding international law and human rights standards. She is the Chair of the Subcommittee. It reads almost as of no Brexit has taken place……

The issue of business and human rights is currently one of the most high-profile areas of attention, with a focus on moving towards more responsible business conduct globally, through the introduction of new voluntary standards as well as compulsory company due diligence. Compulsory due diligence at EU level was a key European Parliament demand during the previous parliamentary term and we are determined to deliver on this. There is also a clear need to face up to new challenges and threats such as climate change. Migration linked to serious human rights violations and conflicts continues to be a global challenge. DROI members are keen to continue their task of scrutinising all new EU policy developments, particularly the recently announced EU human rights sanctions regime; legislation repeatedly called for by Parliament.

As the Subcommittee’s chair, I am also determined to look for new and more effective ways to protect human rights defenders. I must emphasise right at the outset: the Subcommittee cannot do this alone. This is a task for Parliament as a whole. One of our biggest challenges is upholding European ambitions on universal values and human rights standards, against the backdrop of a weakened multilateral system. We need to work towards safeguarding and improving the EU’s credibility in the world as an actor that recognises human rights and a rules-based international system as a strategic interest, not as a distraction from other foreign policy objectives.

..There can be no progress without injecting human rights into the policy debates about development, empowering women and civil society, as well as contributing to a stable and democratic neighbourhood for the EU….Citizens’ expectations are clear: people across the EU want us to stand up for universal values and deliver active and effective EU external action that protects and promotes human rights. I will never side with those who say that security or economic interest should trump human rights. …“One of our biggest challenges is upholding European ambitions on universal values and human rights standards, against the backdrop of a weakened multilateral system”

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The EU should not shy away from establishing redress and complaints mechanisms. We need to deliver true and measurable improvements on the ground before granting trade preferences and should raise the bar on implementing international commitments with our partners. I also think we should be more ambitious about understanding the full environmental and human rights impact of our trade relations and perhaps be more vigilant about inward investment to the EU.

Benjamin Ward, UK Director (Acting) & Deputy Director, Europe & Central Asia Division of HRW, wrote in Euronews of 3 February 2020 that “Britain Should Stick To Its Principles For Brexit Success

https://www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/articles/feature/committee-guide-2020-droi-ambitious-and-vigilant

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/02/05/britain-should-stick-its-principles-brexit-success

28 NGOs ask EU Parliament to reject cooperation deal with Vietnam on 11 February

February 10, 2020

The signing NGOs include Human Rights Watch, Defend the Defenders, The 88 Project, and the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam.

There are notable precedents of the European Parliament setting human rights benchmarks to be met before giving their consent to bilateral deals in order to promote human rights progress,” the NGOs claim pointing to a 2016 case in Uzbekistan and the EP’s rejection in March 2019 of the EU-Turkmenistan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. The European Parliament needs to take the exact same strategy with Vietnam, withholding Parliament’s permission and authorizing an identical resolution outlining the civils rights problems that Vietnam must satisfy for MEPs to greenlight the offer,” the NGOs claimed.

Only once a series of human rights concerns have been duly addressed by the state authorities, MEPs should give their consent to the deals.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/11/04/joint-ngo-letter-eu-vietnam-free-trade-agreement

NGOs Ask EU Parliament to Vote Against EU-Vietnam FTA And IPA Over Human Rights Issues

Burundi elections start with convicting 4 journalists

February 5, 2020

Turkey defies European Court on Kavala and undergoes UPR review

January 29, 2020

FILE - A journalist stands in front of a poster featuring jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala, during a press conference given by his lawyers, in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct. 31, 2018.
A journalist stands in front of a poster featuring jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala, during a press conference given by his lawyers, in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct. 31, 2018.

Kavala and 15 other civil society activists are accused of supporting anti-government protests in 2013 against then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is now president. The protest action came to be known as the Gezi movement, named after an Istanbul park where the unrest started. Prosecutors are calling for life imprisonment without parole. The ECHR condemned the case, calling for an end to Kavala’s more than two years in prison and describing it as “arbitrary” and “politically motivated.”

The Istanbul court ruled Tuesday the ECHR decision was provisional because Ankara was appealing the verdict and that Kavala should remain in jail. The court’s decision is flawed because the European Court ruling was clear in its call for Kavala’s immediate release,” said Emma Sinclair Webb, Turkey researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch.

We saw multiple signs of how unfair this trial is,” said Webb, speaking after attending Tuesday’s court hearing. “The lawyers for Kavala raised many objections to the way witness evidence is used in this case. The court turns a deaf ear to all objections. It’s a shocking indication that once again, Turkey’s judiciary seems to be under heavy pressure of the executive.”

Tuesday’s court hearing was marred by chaos, with Kavala’s lawyers challenging the judge’s decision to hear some witnesses without their presence, prompting the lawyers to walk out of the room. Ankara strongly rejects the ECHR verdict, maintaining that the judiciary is independent. But observers note the case has strong political undertones. Three months ahead of Kavala’s prosecution, Erdogan accused him of “financing terrorists” and that Kavala was a representative for “that famous Jew [George Soros,] who tries to divide and tear up nations.” Erdogan did not elaborate on the comments about George Soros, who is an international philanthropist. Erdogan’s allegations against Kavala resemble the prosecution case against the jailed activist. Kavala is a pivotal figure in Turkey, using his wealth to help develop the country’s fledgling civil society after a 1980 military coup.

“Osman Kavala is very prominent within the civil society in this country,” said Sinan Gokcen, Turkey representative of Swedish-based Civil Rights Defenders. “He is not a man of antagonism; he is a man of preaching dialogue, a man of building bridges.”….

With the U.N. having few tools to sanction Turkey, the European Union is seen as offering the best hope by human rights advocates of applying pressure on Ankara. Turkey’s EU membership bid is already frozen, in part due to human rights concerns. But Ankara is seeking to extend a customs union, along with visa-free travel for its citizens with the EU. “It’s time all European countries should be speaking out very loud and clear on cases like this [Kavala],” said Sinclair-Webb. But even high-profile cases like Kavala’s have seen Brussels offer only muted criticism of Ankara. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Istanbul Friday for talks with Erdogan saw little criticism of Turkey’s human rights record. Instead, discussions focused on Ankara’s recent deployment of soldiers to Libya and the upholding of an EU-Turkish agreement controlling migrants entering Europe. “There are many issues to talk about with Turkey,” said Sinclair Webb. “Syria, Libya, Turkey, hosting so many refugees from Syria, and this often takes priority over Turkey’s domestic human rights crisis. This means there isn’t sufficient clarity on cases like this. What we are seeing is Turkey defying Europe’s human rights court.” Some analysts suggest Brussels could yet be lobbying behind the scenes for Kavala’s release, tying Ankara’s calls for extra financial assistance for refugees to gestures on human rights.

Pakistan: Release Manzoor Pashteen and his fellow human rights defenders immediately

HRW urges UN to address human rights violations in Turkey

https://www.voanews.com/europe/turkish-court-defies-europe-leaves-philanthropist-behind-bars

Law Society of Ontario reflects on how to support human rights lawyers abroad

January 28, 2020

LSO event explores nuances of supporting human rights abroad
Teresa Donnelly, who leads the LSO’s Human Rights Monitoring Group, spoke at the Osgoode Hall event in Toronto commemorating International Day of the Endangered Lawyer 2020.
On 27 January 2020 Anita Balakrishnan wrote in the Canadian Law Times about the International Day of the Endangered Lawyer which in 2020 focused on lawyers in Pakistan [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/17/24-january-day-of-the-endangered-lawye-aba-focuses-on-pakistan/ ]
When supporting colleagues abroad, lawyers should consider offering behind-the-scenes support as well as making public statements, a Pakistan-based journalist told an audience at the Law Society of Ontario last week. “What has to be really kept in mind is how that support is voiced and contextualized,” said Beena Sarwar. “If it takes a simplistic view or plays into anti-Pakistan rhetoric …. it’s so easy to make Pakistan a scapegoat and target.” Sarwar, whose blog has gained international acclaim for its coverage of freedom, human rights, peace and even influential jurists, was one speaker at the Law Society of Ontario’s International Day of the Endangered Lawyer 2020, hosted at Osgoode Hall in Toronto on 24 January by the Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

This year, lawyers organized a protest at the Pakistani embassy at the Hague. Past events focused on Egypt, Turkey, China and Honduras, among others.

The LSO’s Human Rights Monitoring Group has issued several statements about treatment of lawyers in Pakistan over the past few years.  In the aftermath of the Kasi attack, the LSO urged the Pakistani government to “put an end to all acts of violence against lawyers and human rights defenders in Pakistan,” and “ensure that all lawyers can carry out their legitimate activities without fear of physical violence or other human rights violations.

Other incidents that have been condemned by the LSO are the 2015 murder of Samiullah Afridi (a lawyer who defended a doctor that allegedly assisted CIA agents with their hunt for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden); and a suicide bomb attack on the Pakistani judiciary.

Over the past decades, lawyers in Pakistan have been subjected to acts of mass terrorism, murder, attempted murder, assaults, (death) threats, contempt proceedings, harassment and intimidation, as well as judicial harassment and torture in detention, merely for engaging in their professional duties as lawyers,” a letter from Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada said earlier this month. “Their families also have been targeted, and some have even been murdered. Some lawyers have also been threatened with disbarment and/or had their homes and offices raided by the police.

At the event, bencher Teresa Donnelly read a letter the law society had received from a Pakistani lawyer. Lawyers cannot become “heroes,” Donnelly recounted from the email. Instead, she said, the writer felt the role of lawyers was to “focus on their work improving the justice system.”  While support is needed for the Pakistani bar, Sarwar explained that Western organizations must be careful not to jump to issue statements that play into conspiracy theories about Western involvement. Abdul (Hamid) Bashani Khan, a lawyer at the Abdul Hamid Khan Law Office in Mississauga, also spoke on the panel, where speakers highlighted some of the common misunderstandings of the situation in Pakistan, particularly amid anti-Muslim rhetoric publicized in the post-911 era. For example, panelists said the bench and bar are portrayed as both very strong — given the influence of the lawyers’ movement of Pakistan — and also very weak, in the fight for judicial independence and public support. In 2014, a lawyer was killed after representing a high-profile professor charged with blasphemy.

To mark the Day of the Endangered Lawyer, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute released a toolkit to help the legal community navigate the complex task of protecting lawyers at risk. The three-part kit includes supports for risk management, human rights mechanisms, emergency protocols, legal frameworks, international protection, security plans and response chains.

Human Rights in Africa in 2019: rage

January 16, 2020

There was rage across the African continent last year, says Human Rights Watch in its annual report, with no sign of cooling down in 2020. In Sudan and Guinea, there were manifestations of frustration with entrenched leadership.  In Zimbabwe, protests mostly about economic conditions.  While in rural Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, they were about the rights of communities displaced by conflict. But the public outrage is good to see, said Human Rights Watch (HRW) at its Johannesburg report unveiling. Africa Advocacy director for HRW Carine Kaneza Nantulya says ordinary citizens took the spotlight this year.v”We’ve seen, I think, the average men and women of the African continent taking agency, being agents for their own for the changes they wanted to see, which we saw an increase of peaceful protest in different countries,” she said. “The second takeaway is that we’ve also seen a backsliding from government in terms of political and civic space.”

That has taken the form of outright police aggression and repression, as seen in Southern Africa, says the group’s Southern Africa researcher, Dewa Mavhinga. “We expected more from southern African leaders, including President Ramaphosa of South Africa, based on their commitment and promises to fulfill people’s rights across the region, “ he said.   “But we saw that there was a constriction of space for human rights defenders in countries like Zimbabwe,” Mavhinga told VOA.

But there was also a glimmer of hope, as Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize for his reform agenda and for his reconciliatory moves with arch-enemy Eritrea, noted HRW’s Africa deputy advocacy director, Babatunde Olugboji. “He’s done quite a few great things in Ethiopia, he’s released political prisoners and is actually reforming some repressive laws,” he said. “He sort of made peace with Eritrea. So things are moving in the right direction, mostly,” said Olugboji.   “There’s still a lot to be done in Ethiopia,” he added.

He pointed to an event few people could have predicted at this time last year: the popular uprising that led to the ouster of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir after a 30-year rule marked by oppression,  human rights abuses, and  attempted genocide in the Darfur region.