Archive for the 'HRW' Category

And in the Philippines the killing of human rights defenders also continues with Benjamin Ramos

November 8, 2018

FOR THE PEOPLE. Benjamin Ramos is hailed for his work as a lawyer for marginalized sectors. Photo from the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers' Facebook page

Benjamin Ramos is hailed for his work as a lawyer for marginalized sectors. Photo from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers’ Facebook page

On Wednesday, 7 November many NGOs condemned the murder of human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos, which comes amid continuous violence against human rights defenders in the Philippines.  Ramos, the secretary-general of the Negros Occidental arm of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), was shot dead by riding-in-tandem assailants on Tuesday night, 6 November in Kabankalan City. A known human rights defender, Ramos represented political prisoners, farmers, and other members of marginalized sectors in his career as a pro-bono lawyer. Among those he worked with were the Mabinay 6, including youth leader and University of the Philippines Cebu alumna Myles Albasin. They were arrested in March 2017 in Mabinay, Negros Oriental, following an alleged clash with government troops.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) expressed concern that Ramos’ death is the latest in the “growing incidents of injustices reported.’ We call on the government to act with urgency in pinning down the perpetrators of this violence and proceed with active measures that would protect the safety of human rights defenders who continue to serve this country’s most vulnerable and marginalized,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said.

NUPL, in a statement, said “beastly attacks by treacherous cowards cannot go on.” Not a few of our members have been attacked and killed before while literally practicing their profession and advocacies in the courts, in rallies, in picket lines, in urban poor communities, and in fact-finding missions,” NUPL said.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), meanwhile, tagged the incident as “a blow to the human rights movement in the country” which has suffered from threats, including from President Rodrigo Duterte himself. We demand an impartial investigation into Ramos’ murder and the many other attacks against lawyers in the Philippines and that the authorities bring the perpetrators to justice,” said Carlos Conde of HRW Asia Division.

I condemn the murder of a fellow member of the Bar. I am outraged at the thought that his advocacy could have caused his own murder or might justify it. His murder is inexcusable and must be investigated, and the perpetrators, brought to justice,” Chel Diokno national chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG)said in a statement.

In 2017 alone, Ireland-based Front Line Defenders recorded 60 deaths in the Philippines. Since 2001, there have been at least 613 documented killings. To see some of my earlier posts on the Philippines, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/philippines/

Facing death threats, human rights groups have repeatedly called on the government to recognize their role in society by passing the human rights defenders’ protection bill

https://www.rappler.com/nation/216116-groups-condemn-lawyer-benjamin-ramos-murder-attack-against-human-rights-movement

In spite of or because of the US’ absence, the 39th Human Rights Council considered a relative success

September 29, 2018

Civil society organisations welcomed significant outcomes of the Human Rights Council’s 39th session, including the creation of independent investigative mechanism on Myanmar, the renewal of the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen and the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, and a dedicated space on the Council’s agenda in 2019 to discuss the human rights situation in Venezuela. [see alsohttps://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/09/08/many-hrd-issues-at-the-39th-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/]

In a joint statement, several NGOs (ISHR The African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), Amnesty International, Article 19, Center for Reproductive Rights. CIVICUS, DefendDefenders, FIDH, Forum Asia, Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF), Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists) welcomed the Council’s adoption of landmark resolutions on several country situations:

On Myanmar, the creation of the independent investigative mechanism is an important step towards accountability for the horrific crimes committed in Myanmar, as elaborated in the Fact Finding Mission’s report to this session. The overwhelming support for the resolution, notwithstanding China’s shameful blocking of consensus, was a clear message to victims and survivors that the international community stands with them in their fight for justice. 

On Yemen, the Council demonstrated that principled action is possible, and has sent a strong message to victims of human rights violations in Yemen that accountability is a priority for the international community, by voting in favor of renewing the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts to continue international investigations into violations committed by all parties to the conflict. 

Furthermore, the leadership by a group of States, including Latin American countries, on the landmark resolution on Venezuela, was as an important step for the Council applying objective criteria to address country situations that warrant its attention. The resolution, adopted with support from all regions, sends a strong message of support to the Venezuelan people. By opening up a space for dialogue at the Council, the resolution brings scrutiny to the tragic human rights and humanitarian crisis unfolding in the country.  

The renewal of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Burundi will enable it to continue its critical investigation and work towards accountability. However, the Council failed to respond more strongly to Burundi’s record of non-cooperation and attacks against the UN human rights system. [see alsohttps://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/26/enough-is-enough-ngos-call-for-burundi-suspension-from-un-human-rights-council/]

The Council also adopted a resolution on Syria, which among other things condemns all violations and abuses of international human rights law and all violations of international humanitarian law committed by all parties to the conflict.

However, on other country situations including China, Sudan, Cambodia and the Philippines, the Council failed to take appropriate action. 

On Sudan, the Council adopted a weak resolution that envisions an end to the Independent Expert’s mandate once an OHCHR office is set up; a “deal” Sudan has already indicated it does not feel bound by, and which is an abdication of the Council’s responsibility to human rights victims in Sudan while grave violations are ongoing. At a minimum, States should ensure the planned country office monitors and publicly reports on the human rights situation across Sudan, and that the High Commissioner is mandated to report to the Council on the Office’s findings.  

The Council failed to take action on the Philippines, in spite of the need to establish independent international and national investigations into extrajudicial killings in the government’s ‘war on drugs’, and to monitor and respond to the government’s moves toward authoritarianism. 

In addition, the Council continued with its weak response to the deepening human rights and the rule of law crisis in Cambodia, failing to change its approach even when faced with clear findings by the Special Rapporteur demonstrating that the exclusive focus on technical assistance and capacity building in the country, is failing.

Many States, NGOs and the High Commissioner, raised concerns about China’s human rights record, specifically noting serious violations of the rights of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province. It is regrettable that States did not make a concrete and collective call for action by China to cease the internment of estimates ranging up to 1 million individuals from these communities. 

On thematic resolutions, the Council adopted by consensus a resolution on equal participation in political and public affairs, as well as a resolution on the safety of journalists. The latter sets out a clear roadmap of practical actions to end impunity for attacks.  

The Council also adopted by consensus a resolution on preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights in humanitarian settings. Women and girls affected by conflict have been denied accountability for too long. The implementation of this resolution will ensure that their rights, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights, are respected, protected and fulfilled. 

Finally, the Council’s first interactive dialogue on acts of reprisals and intimidation was an important step to ensure accountability for this shameful practice. More States need to have the courage and conviction to stand up for human rights defenders and call out countries that attack and intimidate them. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/]

Read the full statement here.

Where is the international support for Canada in its row with Saudi Arabia

August 27, 2018

The tension between Saudi Arabia and Canada began when Canada’s Global Affairs Twitter account tweeted this 3 August 2018 statement concerning human rights abuses: Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in , including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful activists.

The excessive response by Saudi Arabia and the various issues at stake have been sufficiently described  in the media (see several links below) but what is most disturbing is what one commentator called “Not a shred of solidarity was on offer anyway: it was all just a dispute between “friends” and “allies.” Weak EU response with obviously no support from the Trump government, has left the Canadian government close to mulling a kind of apology “Canada will of course continue to “speak out,” Trudeau said last Wednesday, but he also said this of Saudi Arabia: “This is a country that has some importance around the world. It is making progress when it comes to human rights.” There is no need for mediation,” said Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. “…Canada has made a mistake and needs to fix it.” Al-Jubeir’s views were then immediately expanded by former Conservative foreign affairs minister John Baird in an interview broadcast by the Saudis’ own Al-Arabiya network.

On 9 August a number of Canadian organizations expressed their support to Canada for its recent position on the detention of women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia. “and urged the international community to join Canada in calling for the unequivocal respect of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.”

With Russia and quite of few other countries coming out openly to express solidarity with Saudi Arabia it is time to ask where the like-minded solidarity is and what international NGOs do to support courageous Canada??

[with exception for HRW https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/08/08/saudi-arabia-punishes-canada-criticizing-human-rights-defenders-arrests and AI https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/08/saudi-arabia-international-community-must-speak-up-for-human-rights-defenders-after-canadian-ambassador-expelled/]

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http://www.mediafiledc.com/saudi-canadian-duel-takes-place-on-multiple-platforms/

https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2018/08/11/saudi-arabia-picks-a-pointless-fight-with-canada

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-canada-owes-no-apology-to-the-saudis/

https://www.macleans.ca/politics/worldpolitics/the-trudeau-government-is-losing-its-human-rights-battle-with-the-saudis-and-missing-a-huge-opportunity/

https://interpares.ca/news/joint-statement-canadas-support-women-human-rights-defenders-saudi-arabia

 

Some good news from Cambodia: Tep Vanny and three other human rights defenders pardoned

August 22, 2018

Tep Vanny, second from left, gestures upon arrival at her home in Phnom Penh, Aug. 20, 2018.

Tep Vanny, second from left, gestures upon arrival at her home in Phnom Penh, Aug. 20, 2018. – AP Photo

Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihamoni on 20 August 2018 granted royal pardons to prominent land rights activist Tep Vanny and three others convicted for their roles in a protest over a land grab in the capital Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak Lake community. Tep Vanny, 38, was arrested on 15 August 2016 after participating in a demonstration, handed six days in prison for “insulting a public official” and, instead of being released when the sentence was served, charged with “aggravated intentional violence” for a protest she held more than three years earlier in front of the home of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

On Feb. 23, 2017, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Tep Vanny of assaulting two security officers during the 2013 protest at Hun Sen’s home, sentencing her to 30 months in prison and making her pay 9 million riels (U.S. $2,250) in compensation to the officers. Three other female activists—Heng Mom, Bo Chhorvy, and Kong Chantha—were also convicted for “obstructing public officials” during the protest, but released on bail.

On Monday, King Sihamoni issued a royal decree at the behest of Hun Sen, overturning the convictions of all four activists without providing any reason for the decision. Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service, Tep Vanny said: “I was given no prior notice that I would be released,”“The prison guards came to inform me just before 8:30 p.m. that I would be freed soon and said I should get my things ready. I told them they had come to tell the wrong person.”  Although I am happy tonight for the freedom to meet with my family, relatives, and community members, my pain remains with me, as I have spent over two years in jail,”.

Tep Vanny was awarded the 2013 Vital Voices Global Leadership Award for her work campaigning on behalf of the community evicted from Boeung Kak Lake, which was later filled with sand to make way for a development project with ties to Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). On Monday, she appealed to Hun Sen to release all of the country’s remaining political prisoners, including former RFA reporters Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin, who have spent nine months behind bars on “espionage” charges.

Various rights groups had demanded Tep Vanny’s release in the lead up to the 15 August anniversary marking her two years in prison, with New York-based Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director Phil Robertson calling her conviction “just one of many outrageous cases in which the authorities have misused Cambodia’s justice system to harass and imprison peaceful land rights activists.” On Monday, London-based Amnesty International’s senior director of global operations Minar Pimple welcomed Tep Vanny’s release in a statement, but called it “long overdue.”

re Boeung Kak Lake case see my older: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/06/20/boeung-kak-lake-women-sentenced-for-peaceful-protest-in-cambodia/

Still this is only SOME good news as in the meantime Front Line reported that on 12 August 2018, human rights defender Nay Vanda received a court summon dated 9 August 2018 issued by the Vice Prosecutor of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, summoning him to attend a trial at 7:30am on 27 August 2018 at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Subsequently, human rights defender Ny Chakrya also received the same court summons. These summons are related to charges brought against five human rights defenders on 2 May 2016. Nay Vanda, Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan and Lim Mony were charged  <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/five-adhoc-members-detained#case-update-id-3050&gt; with bribing a witness under Article 548 of the Criminal Code, and Ny Chakrya was charged as an accomplice to bribery of a witness in accordance with Articles 28 and 548 of the Criminal Code. If convicted, they face between five to ten years imprisonment. It is anticipated that the three human rights defenders who have not received the court summons will receive them in the coming days. 

The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/adhoc&gt;  is a human rights organisation founded in December 1991 by a group of former political prisoners aiming to address violations of rights and freedoms. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/adhoc/

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Many links including: https://www.rfa.org/english/news/cambodia/pardons-08202018162801.html

China, Russia and Pakistan in UN fail at attempt to muzzle human rights defenders (for now)

July 7, 2018

On 6 July 2018 Stephanie Nebehay reported for Reuters that China, Russia and Pakistan lost their bid on Friday to weaken a U.N. resolution upholding the crucial rule of human rights defenders. The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution calling on all states to protect civil society groups from threats and intimidation, and prosecute reprisals against them. Chile presented the resolution text on behalf of more than 50 countries on the final day of a three-week session. Amendments proposed by China, Pakistan and Russia – declaring that civil society groups must respect “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states” and that their funding must be “legal and transparent” – were soundly defeated. So, in spite of increasing retaliation against human right defenders and pressure on civil society in many countries [see recently: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/08/ishr-new-report-on-reprisals-and-restrictions-against-ngo-participation-in-the-un/ ], the UN is still able to resist some of the more blatant attempt to silence critics.

China and Russia are often the least tolerant of civil society at home. They are now seeking to introduce similar restrictions at the international level,” John Fisher of Human Rights Watch told Reuters. Their attempts to place national sovereignty above international human rights law “would turn guarantees of peaceful assembly and association on their heads”.

“These amendments were a swing and a miss for China and its allies on the Council,” Sarah Brooks of the International Service for Human Rights told Reuters, using an American baseball term. “Their efforts to limit civil society’s independence and shut down civil society voices were rebuffed by a strong message – from member states across the globe – about the importance of keeping defenders’ voices at the table”.

[At the current session, China tried unsuccessfully to block the accreditation of Uighur activist Dolkun Isa, U.N. sources said. China’s delegation publicly challenged activists speaking on behalf of Uighur and Tibetan ethnic minorities. Council president Vojislav Suc, Slovenia’s ambassador, said allegations of intimidation and reprisals had emerged during the session and urged “all necessary measures” to prevent such acts.]

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-un-rights/china-russia-fail-to-curb-activists-role-at-u-n-rights-forum-campaigners-idUSKBN1JW2EM

New Global Center for Sport and Human Rights created to address abuses

June 27, 2018

Saudi Arabia still steering in the wrong direction

May 19, 2018

Saudi authorities detained seven women human rights defenders since 15 May 2018, say Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights. “Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s ‘reform campaign’ has been a frenzy of fear for genuine Saudi reformers who dare to advocate publicly for human rights or women’s empowerment,” HRW Middle East Director, Sarah Leah Whitson, said in a statement. Among the detained women are Eman al-Nafjan, a Saudi blogger, and Lujain al-Hathloul, a women right’s activist who had been arrested previously and held for 75 days for attempting to drive back into Saudi Arabia from neighbouring United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Rothna Begum, a women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the government is trying to silence critics, particularly those who champion women’s rights reforms.  “While it’s not clear why they were arrested, today we have seen Saudi press reports come to suggest that these women are traitors and have been arrested because they are undermining the national unity of the country,” Begum told Al Jazeera.

Amnesty International condemned the commentary of the arrests as a “chilling smear campaign” and an “extremely worrying development for women human rights defenders” in the country.

[Since 2011, nearly 30 activists and dissidents have been convicted in Saudi courts, many of whom received sentences of up to 15 years, according to HRW.]

https://www.i24news.tv/en/news/international/middle-east/175098-180519-saudis-detain-women-s-advocates-ahead-of-driving-ban-lift

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/05/saudi-arabia-arrests-women-rights-activists-180519075533018.html

For some of my earlier posts: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/saudi-arabia/

later: http://www.thesundaily.my/news/2018/05/24/saudi-driving-activist-released-after-crackdown-say-campaigners

Poland and Israel: human rights defenders not welcome

May 9, 2018

For those who think that muzzling human rights defenders is an exclusively non-western affair, look at these examples: Poland and Israel.

On 9 May 2018 Katharina Rall, environment researcher at Human Rights Watch, critically looks at Poland‘s efforts to hamper the freedom of expression and demonstration by human rights defenders at the forthcoming climate summit, known as the COP24. It will bring together state parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and thousands of experts, journalists, businesses and nongovernmental groups.  UN experts cite concerns about the ban on spontaneous assemblies in Katowice during the talks, which will make it difficult for groups to respond to developments at the negotiations. In a letter sent to the Polish government last month they said that by “curtail[ing] the possibility of spontaneously expressing views about the unfolding of the climate talks and organizing peaceful assemblies to this effect”, the new law appears to go beyond the rights restrictions necessary to ensure security and safety at the conference. The UN experts also noted that the law “appears to give sweeping surveillance powers to the police and secret services to collect and process personal data about all COP24 participants”. This is a serious issue for the safety of climate activists at the summit. [The Polish government has yet to respond to the UN rights experts. But a reply from the Polish environment minister to similar concerns raised by the Bureau of the Aarhus Convention, a regional human rights and environmental body, has done little to dispel them.]

Just the day before, 8 May 2018, AP reported that Israel’s Interior Minister, Arieh Deri, has ordered the head of the local office of Human Rights Watch to leave the country within 14 days for allegedly supporting boycotts of Israel. HRW responded that it stands by Omar Shakir, a U.S. citizen of Iraqi descent, and accused Israel of trying to muzzle criticism of its human rights record. It says neither it nor Shakir support boycotts, and that it will challenge the decision in court. Iain Levine, a Human Rights Watch official, says Israel’s actions, such as compiling a dossier on Shakir, and “deporting human rights defenders is a page out of the Russian or Egyptian security services’ playbook.” [In April last year his appointment had already let to controversy, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/27/human-rights-watch-granted-israeli-work-permit-in-the-end/]

http://news.trust.org//item/20180509072953-izwk3/

https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/israel-expel-human-rights-watch-rep-boycott-claims-55019948

UN Human Rights Council should strengthen impact on the ground, say NGOs

April 24, 2018

The assault on human rights in the UN is starting to hurt

April 1, 2018

Success in passing the “win-win resolution” in the UN Human Rights Council [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/26/chinas-win-win-resolution-gets-the-votes-in-the-un-council/], is just the visible part of a larger and more ominous assault on the human rights system as it has been built up (however incomplete and painstaking) over the last decades. Julian Borger in the Guardian of 27 March 2018 (“China and Russia accused of waging ‘war on human rights’ at UN”) describes how the two countries lobbied to cut funding for human rights monitors and for a senior post dedicated to human rights work. This all seems to fit very well with the trend started in 2016 and which I tried to describe in early 2017 in a series of posts, of which the last one was: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/24/2017-10-need-to-reset-for-human-rights-movement/.

The funding of the office of the high commissioner for human rights in Geneva has also been cut. The current high commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Hussein, has announced that he will be stepping down this year and not seeking another term in the post, explaining to his staff that the lack of global support for protecting human rights made his job untenable. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/22/bound-to-happen-but-still-high-commissioner-zeid-announces-he-will-not-seek-second-term/]

Last week, Zeid was due to address the UN security council on plight of civilians in Syria but before he began, Russia called a procedural vote to stop him speaking on the grounds that the council was not the proper forum for discussing human rights. “The fifth committee has become a battleground for human rights,” Louis Charbonneau, the UN director for Human Rights Watch, was quoted in the Guardian. “Russia and China and others have launched a war on things that have human rights in their name.”

China has real political momentum at the UN now,” Richard Gowan, a UN expert at the European Council for Foreign Relations, said. “It is now the second biggest contributor the UN budget after the US, and is increasingly confident in its efforts to roll back UN human rights activities. It is also pushing its own agenda – with an emphasis on ‘harmony’ rather than individual rights in UN forums. And a lot of countries like what they hear.”

A western diplomat at the UN conceded that human rights were losing ground at the UN, in part because China had become a more assertive voice, prepared to lead lobbying campaigns, and because Beijing is increasingly leveraging its vast and growing investments in the developing world to win votes for its agenda at the UN.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/27/china-and-russia-accused-of-waging-war-on-human-rights-at-un

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/03/a-new-low-for-the-un-security-council-as-russia-takes-syrian-human-rights-off-the-table/