Archive for the 'HRW' Category

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/

China and the UN Human Rights Council: really Win-Win?

March 7, 2018

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated on Wednesday 7 March that China’s actions on human rights did not match its words and the level of respect for basic liberties remained low in the country. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein did so in his annual report on human rights in the world to the UN Human Rights Council, “President Xi Jinping has called for ‘people-centred development for win-win outcomes as part of a community of shared future for mankind’, a commendable ambition. Sadly, China’s global ambitions on are seemingly not mirrored by its record at home,” he said.

My office continues to receive urgent appeals regarding arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, ill-treatment and discrimination, emanating from defenders, lawyers, legislators, booksellers, and members of communities such as Tibetans and Uyghurs,” he added. Hussein said many of the cases involved people fighting against economic, social and cultural injustices such as corruption, illegal seizure of land and forced evictions or destruction of cultural sites.

Before the start of  the current session of the UN Human Rights Council twenty NGOs had called on all member states to hold China accountable at the UN Human Rights Council, appears from a piece by the ISHR on 26 February 2018

In a private letter sent to select UN Member States, the NGOs called for clear and concrete actions to denounce China’s current rollback in respect for human rights at the UN Human Rights Council.

The organisations highlight five cases of human rights defenders that would benefit from further pressure being brought to bear on the Chinese government. They include:

  • Liu Xia, a poet kept under house arrest after the death of her husband, Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, in July 2017
  • Wang Quanzhang, a rights lawyer held incommunicado since 9 July 2015
  • Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen arbitrarily detained in China since he vanished from Thailand in October 2015
  • Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan cultural rights and education advocate who has been detained more than two years on charges of inciting separatism (a press release by a group of UN experts on 21 February)
  • Yu Wensheng, a prominent human rights lawyer disbarred, then arbitrarily detained, in January 2018.

The organisations urge the governments to:

….This year is particularly important, as human rights defenders inside and outside China prepare for the country’s next Universal Periodic Review, scheduled for November 2018. The letter to governments concludes: ‘For human rights defenders to have the courage to engage in this important process, with all the risks that it entails, it’s critical that they know that they are not alone’.

(Amnesty International, China Labour Bulletin, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Human Rights in China, Human Rights Watch, the International Campaign for Tibet, the International Commission of Jurists,  the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, the International Service for Human Rights, Lawyers for Lawyers, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, PEN America, Swedish PEN, the Tibet Advocacy Coalition (comprised of the International Tibet Network Secretariat, Students for a Free Tibet, Tibet Initiative Deutschland, Tibet Justice Center, and Tibetan Youth Association in Europe), and the World Uyghur Congress.)

https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/03/05/chinas-win-win-resolution-anything

http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/china-shows-little-respect-for-human-rights-un-high-commissioner-118030701132_1.html

https://www.ishr.ch/news/china-ngos-call-states-hold-china-accountable-un-human-rights-council

Trailer for Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2018 in London

February 15, 2018

Trailer for Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London. From 7-16  March, 2018, in London.

For information and tickets: https://ff.hrw.org/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/05/27/trailer-of-the-human-rights-watch-film-festival-new-york-10-june/

12 human rights NGOs urge Uzbekistan to pick up pace with reforms

February 15, 2018

The Financial Times (amongst others) reports that changes in Uzbekistan are possibly going in the right direction. [“While Mr Mirziyoyev was part of the old system too, as prime minister for 13 years, his ousting of Mr Inoyatov was the boldest in a series of steps apparently designed to start opening the country up. He has freed 18 high-profile political prisoners — even if thousands more remain in jail — and taken nearly 16,000 people off a 17,500-strong security blacklist of potential extremists that stopped them travelling or getting jobs”.]  This echoes what HRW said on 5 September 2017 after delegation had made its first visit to Uzbekistan since the organization was banned there in 2010:  “The key is for the Uzbek government to transform the modest steps it has taken thus far into institutional change and sustainable improvements”. Now (13 February 2018) twelve international NGOs have publicly urged Uzbekistan to release journalists and human rights defenders.

Journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. 
Journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. 

In a joint statement HRW, IPHR, Amnesty International, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, Civil Rights Defenders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Reporters Without Borders, Freedom Now, ARTICLE 19, and the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights have called on Tashkent to “ensure a thorough, impartial, and independent investigation into the alleged torture and other ill-treatment” of independent journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev.

[Abdullaev was detained in September on charges of “conspiracy to overthrow the constitutional regime” and faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. In October, Uzbek authorities arrested well-known economist and blogger Hayot Nasriddinov. They have accused him and others, including Akrom Malikov, an academic who was arrested in 2016, of plotting to overthrow the government.

At a time when the Uzbek government appears to be taking steps to reform the country’s feared security services, reports of a journalist’s torture in their custody should prompt an immediate investigation and decisive, public condemnation,” HRW Central Asia researcher Steve Swerdlow said in the statement.

There is a real opportunity for change in Uzbekistan – and yet we hear of journalists and bloggers still being detained and tortured. This case is a test of whether Uzbekistan’s human rights situation is really improving or not,” Brigitte Dufour, director of International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), said in the rights groups’ statement.

For my earlier posts on Uzbekistan, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/uzbekistan/

https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbekistan-12-rights-watchdogs-urge-tashkent-to-release-journalist-others/29039260.html

https://eurasianet.org/node/84971

https://www.ft.com/content/6c37419c-0cbf-11e8-8eb7-42f857ea9f09

After 3 year gap, EU and Azerbaijan meet again but human rights remain precarious

February 10, 2018

Federica Mogherini and Elmar Mammadyarov in Brussels on 9 February 2018. [Council]

Update on Turkey: Taner Kılıç released but what about all the others?

January 31, 2018

Following a decision by a court in Istanbul to conditionally release the Chair of Amnesty International Turkey, Taner Kılıç, after nearly eight months in detention, Gauri van Gulik, AI’s Europe Director said: “It is an enormous relief that Taner will soon be back with his wife and daughters, sleeping in his own bed for the first time in almost eight months. But we cannot forget that many other innocent people remain behind bars without a shred of evidence in Turkey.” “Today we take a brief moment to celebrate, but tomorrow we will continue our struggle to have all charges dropped against Taner, the Istanbul 10, and all other innocent victims wrongfully caught up in this vicious crackdown.”

NOTE:  1 February update in http://gkmen.com/2018/02/01/turkey-court-reverses-release-of-amnesty-head-taner-kilic/: “Andrew Gardner, a senior Amnesty researcher on Turkey, tweeted that Kılıç was transferred from prison custody to gendarmerie custody late Wednesday. While the Istanbul court rejected the appeal, it nonetheless sent the application to another court for a decision on Kilik’s detention. “This is devastating for Taner’s family and a disgrace to justice”, he added. The group said the next hearing in his trial has been set for June 21.

While Kılıç has now been released, the trial against him, director of Amnesty International Turkey İdil Eser, and the other nine human rights defenders on trumped-up terrorism related charges continues. [Kılıç was detained on June 6, 2017 and sent to jail three days later, where he has been ever since. Ten other activists “the Istanbul 10”, including Eser, were detained a month later. Eight of them were held for almost four months before being released on bail at their first hearing in October. The Istanbul 10 were accused of “membership of a terrorist organization,” a baseless allegation for which the prosecution has yet to provide any concrete evidence that would stand up to scrutiny. – https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/22/celebrities-come-out-to-support-taner-kilic-amnesty-turkeys-chair-on-trial-today/ ]

Over 570 lawyers arrested in Turkey in last 18 months

Turkish police wrestle a lawyer to the ground outside of a courthouse in Turkey. (Photo: Social Media)
 Ari Khalidi (Kurdistan24.net) reported on 30 January 2018 that an opposition lawmaker in Turkey revealed on Tuesday that authorities had arrested 572 lawyers during the one and a half year-long state of emergency in place since a failed military coup to topple the administration of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Senal Sarihan told a press conference at the Turkish Parliament that of the lawyers arrested, 488 faced maltreatment in police custody, as 79 of them were given prison sentences.

..Last week, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) urged the Turkish government to stop persecuting lawyers.

This situation demonstrates a flagrant disregard for the rule of law and is a deliberate attack on human rights defenders and legal professionals. We call on the Turkish government to bring an end to this deplorable situation and to adhere to international instruments,” IBAHRI’s Co-Chair Hans Corell said. According to IBAHRI, 1,488 lawyers were prosecuted, and 34 bar associations were shut down in Turkey.

http://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/dc830090-68a9-4f8f-a766-d4725d5f9e6a

https://www.amnestyusa.org/press-releases/turkish-court-releases-amnesty-chair-after-nearly-8-months-in-jail/

https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/01/18/turkey-media-activists-political-opposition-targeted

https://www.ft.com/content/797ff3d2-f228-11e7-b220-857e26d1aca4

Saudi Terrorism court hands down heavy sentences for starting a human rights group

January 26, 2018

Background: The two men received a phone call on October 20, 2016 informing them that there was a case against them in the SCC, the Saudi court that handles terrorism cases, and informing them of the date of the first hearing. The first session of the trial took place in the SCC on October 30, 2016. The two men were charged with offences relating to their peaceful activism and freedom of expression, the main charge being the founding of a human rights organisation, the Union for Human Rights. They were accused of publishing statements about human rights, which the Public Prosecutor considered an infringement of the jurisdiction of government-sponsored civil society institutions like the Saudi Human Rights Commission and the National Society for Human Rights. The Public Prosecutor regarded publishing human rights reports, contacting the media and human rights organisations, being guests of the detained activist Abdullah al-Hamid, and retweeting posts on Twitter to be crimes deserving punishment. The first hearing ended with December 26, 2016 being set as the date for the next session.

In March 2017, Mohamed al-Oteibi left the country and travelled to Qatar, where he managed to obtain the right of asylum in Norway. As he set off for Norway, he was apprehended at Doha’s Hamad International Airport on May 24, 2017 and handed over to the Saudi authorities the following day. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/01/qatar-extradited-human-rights-defender-otaibi-to-saudi-arabia-ignoring-norways-grant-of-asylum/] Mohamed bin Abdullah al-Oteibi is a prominent defender of human rights in Saudi Arabia. He had been arrested previously in Saudi Arabia while engaging in legitimate civic activity without committing any criminal act. On January 1, 2009 he was arrested along with other activists and charged with taking part in a peaceful demonstration. On that occasion he spent about four months in prison, including two months in solitary confinement, isolated from the outside world. Given that the activity Oteibi had engaged in and for which he was punished was a legitimate civic activity, in 2011 the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a formal opinion to the effect that Oteibi’s arrest breached Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; that there was no legal basis to justify depriving Oteibi of his freedom; and that in the view of the Working Group his detention was essentially an arbitrary measure with no basis in law that contravened and breached a number of his basic legal rights.

Oteibi and Atawi were once again brought before the SCC, the court that handles terrorism cases, in December 2016. All of the charges against them violated their basic legal rights. The main charge was that of helping to set up an association concerned with human rights (the Union for Human Rights), despite the fact that Oteibi, Atawi and their colleagues had already closed down the group and suspended its activities, in exchange for undertakings that they would not face any penalty…

https://alqst.org/eng/terrorism-court-hands-seven-14-year-jail-sentences-starting-human-rights-group/

http://www.arabianbusiness.com/politics-economics/384249-new-saudi-law-to-fight-terrorism-criticised

Human Rights Watch and Kenneth Roth take a stand against Trump’s dictator friendly policies

January 19, 2018

In its annual report on the state of human rights around the world for 2017, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said growing intolerance in states like the US represented “an enormous threat” to minority groups in those countries. Donald Trump‘s public admiration for strongman leaders and breaking of “taboos against racism and xenophobia” have encouraged oppression around the world.

Its executive director, Kenneth Roth, struck out at the US President who he said “displays a disturbing fondness for rights-trampling strongmen”. He cited Russian President Vladimir Putin and Rodrigo Duterte, of the Philippines, as examples, saying: “This makes it much more difficult to stigmatise these authoritarian leaders when Trump says these are great guys.”

Mr Roth added in a post accompanying HRW’s 2018 world report that in the past year, ”Secretary of State Rex Tillerson largely rejected the promotion of human rights as an element of US foreign policy while more broadly reducing the role of the US abroad by presiding over an unprecedented dismantling of the State Department.” “He refused to fill many senior posts, dismissed several veteran diplomats, slashed the budget, and let the department drift. Many career diplomats and mid-level officials resigned in despair,” .

The report urges democratic governments to address the problems that allowed populism to prosper in 2017, such as income inequality, fears of terrorism and growing migration. HRW hailed Emmanuel Macron’s victory in France’s elections as a “turning point”, saying he had “openly embraced democratic principles” on his way to defeating the far-right Marine Le Pen.  HRW also criticised the “hesitancy” of the EU to intervene in specific cases of rights abuse: “President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan decimated Turkey’s democratic system as the EU focused largely instead on enlisting his help to stem the flight of refugees to Europe and security cooperation. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi crushed public dissent in Egypt with little interference from the US or the EU, which accepted his claim that he was providing stability.

In the USA, HRW’s report said, “civic groups, journalists, lawyers, judges, many members of the public, and sometimes even elected members of Trump’s own party” had reacted against what it called the President’s “regressive” outlook.

(The Trump administration did make interventions in support of human rights in a limited number of countries such as Iran and Cambodia.)

Helas, the HRW report confirms what many feared earlier in 2017, see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/24/2017-10-need-to-reset-for-human-rights-movement/.

———-

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/donald-trump-human-rights-watch-world-report-hrw-oppression-encourage-news-media-a8165381.html

http://fp-reg.onecount.net/onecount/redirects/index.php?action=get-tokens&js=1&sid=b8ofn3rfd1a65vca5imc12g270&return=http%3A%2F%2Fforeignpolicy.com%2F2018%2F01%2F18%2Fhow-to-stand-up-for-human-rights-in-the-age-of-trump%2F

Human Rights Defenders slowly gaining recognition in climate talks

November 20, 2017

World Health Organization reconsidering Mugabe as “goodwill ambassador”

October 22, 2017

he head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is rethinking his decision to name Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, as a goodwill ambassador.  The move provoked global outrage. WHO member states and activists alike noted that Zimbabwe’s health care system, like many of its public services, has collapsed under Mugabe’s regime. I’m listening. I hear your concerns. Rethinking the approach in light of WHO values. I will issue a statement as soon as possible,” Tedros, a former Ethiopian health minister, tweeted on Saturday night.

The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, came closest when he said he thought Mugabe’s appointment “was a bad April Fool’s joke”. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/10/23/mugabe-wins-chinese-peace-prize-this-time-for-real/]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it was an embarrassment to give the ambassador role to Mr Mugabe, because his “utter mismanagement of the economy has devastated health services”. The main opposition party in Zimbabwe, MDC, described the appointment as “laughable”…“Mugabe trashed our health delivery system. He and his family go outside of the country for treatment in Singapore after he allowed our public hospitals to collapse.”

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) also condemned the decision by the World Health Organization (WHO): “The irony of the World Health Organization’s decision to praise Robert Mugabe is staggering. This a strongman infamous for seeking medical attention for himself abroad. His recent visits to Singapore for medical treatment have cost Zimbabwean taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. Mugabe can’t get adequate treatment in his own country because his kleptocratic regime has left Zimbabwe’s hospitals and health industry in a state of ruin,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen. “Dr. Tedros should nullify Mugabe’s appointment immediately and also issue a strong public condemnation of his repressive rule”.

Sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/21/un-lambasted-after-naming-mugabe-goodwill-ambassador

HRF condemns World Health Organization for appointing Robert Mugabe as “goodwill ambassador”