Archive for the 'MEA' Category

​​Martin Ennals Award Finalists 2021 announced

January 18, 2021

Today 18 January 2021, the Martin Ennals Foundation announced that three outstanding human rights defenders based in authoritarian states are nominated for the 2021 Martin Ennals Award.

In isolated Turkmenistan, Soltan Achilova documents human rights violations and abuses through photojournalism.

Imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, Loujain AlHathloul is a leading advocate for gender equality and women’s rights.

A lawyer, Yu Wensheng defended human rights cases and activists before his conviction and imprisonment in China.

The Finalists distinguish themselves by their bravery and deep commitment to the issues they defend, despite the many attempts to silence them by respective governmental authorities. The 2021 Martin Ennals Award Ceremony will celebrate their courage on 11 February during an online ceremony hosted jointly with the City of Geneva which, as part of its commitment to human rights, has for many years supported the AwardEvery year thousands of human rights defenders are persecuted, harassed, imprisoned, even killed. The Martin Ennals Foundation is honored to celebrate the 2021 Finalists, who have done so much for others and whose stories of adversity are emblematic of the precarity faced by the human rights movement today”, says Isabel de Sola, Director of the Martin Ennals Foundation.

For more on this and similar awards, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/043F9D13-640A-412C-90E8-99952CA56DCE

Authoritarian states tend to believe that by jailing or censoring human rights defenders, the world will forget about them. During the COVID-pandemic, it seemed like lockdowns would successfully keep people from speaking out. This year’s Finalists are a testament to the fact that nothing could be further from the truth, says Hans Thoolen, Chair of the Jury.

  • In Turkmenistan, one of the world’s most isolated countries, freedom of speech is inexistent and independent journalists work at their own peril. Soltan Achilova (71), a photojournalist, documents the human rights abuses and social issues affecting Turkmen people in their daily lives. Despite the repressive environment and personal hardships, she is one of the very few reporters in the country daring to sign independent articles.
  • In Saudi Arabia, women still face several forms of gender discrimination, so much so, that the Kingdom ranks in the bottom 10 places according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020. Loujain AlHathloul (31) was one of the leading figures of the Women to drive movement and advocated for the end of the male guardianship system. She was imprisoned in 2018 on charges related to national security together with several other women activists. Tortured, denied medical care, and subjected to solitary confinement, Loujain was sentenced to 5 years and 8 months in prison on 28 December 2020. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/loujain-al-hathloul/]
  • In China, more than 300 human rights activists and lawyers disappeared or were arrested in 2015 during the so called 709 Crackdown. A successful business lawyer, Yu Wensheng (54) gave up his career to defend one of these detained lawyers, before being arrested himself. Detained for almost three years now, Yu Wensheng’s right hand was crushed in jail and his health is failing. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/26/lawyers-key-to-the-rule-of-law-even-china-agrees-but-only-lip-service/]

Online Award Ceremony on 11 February 2021

The 2021 Martin Ennals Award will be given to the three Finalists on 11 February 2021 at an online ceremony co-hosted by the City of Geneva (Switzerland), a long-standing supporter of the Award. “The City of Genevareaffirmsits support to human rights, especially during these times of crisis and upheaval. Human rights are the foundation of our society, not even the pandemic will stop us from celebrating brave persons who have sacrificed so much”, says Member of the executive Alfonso Gomez.

For more information:

Chloé Bitton
Communications Manager
Martin Ennals Foundation
cbitton@martinennalsaward.org
media@martinennalsaward.org
Office: +41.22.809.49.25
Mobile: +41.78.734.68.79

Media focal point for Loujain AlHathloul
Uma Mishra-Newberry
FreeLoujain@gmail.com  
https://www.loujainalhathloul.org
+41.78.335.25.40 (on signal)

Press release

Press release (English)

Press release (French)

Press release (Chinese)

Press release (Russian)

Press release (Arabic)

MEA 2020 finalist Sizani Ngubane Dies

December 23, 2020

NGO CSW/NY/YouTube Sizani Ngubane, founder of the Rural Women’s Movement land rights group in South Africa. 23 December 2020 allAfrica.com

South African women’s land rights activist Sizani Ngubane (also known as uGogo) has died, according to the Rural Women’s Movement (RWM) – an organisation of which she was the director and founder. This sad news was brought by AllAfrica.com on 23 December.

There were several attempts on Ngubane’s life during her 40 years of activism. At the time of her death she and her organisation , along with rights groups, were challenging the Ingonyama Trust in Pietermaritzburg High Court, Thomson Reuters reported in November 2020. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/07/more-about-mea-finalist-sizani-ngubane-from-south-africa/]

Their work so far includes finding housing for evicted women and children, helping grow food on communal land for the hungry and sick, and campaigning for better legal protection of women’s land rights. Ngubane said the movement, which was launched in 1998, has now grown to 50,000 women.

She was in 2020 one of three finalists for the 2020 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, which is referred to as the Nobel Prize for human rights.

The RWM statement, released via their Twitter account, read:

We are saddened to share that our Founder and Director, uGogo Sizani Ngubane has passed on. She transformed countless lives. A lifelong freedom fighter, first against the brutal apartheid regime, uGogo, alongside other rural women, would later charge forward towards the promises of democracy.

“Tirelessly working for women’s land rights and equality, uGogo also laboured against gender-based violence and other challenges facing rural women. Originating in a non-partisan, women-led peace building movement, we have become a leader-full movement inspiring countless across KZN, South Africa, and the globe.
She was really beyond a special person. Fearless. Creative. Kind. Determined like no other. An unwavering belief in others and an endless reservoir of empathy and ubuntu.

She will be missed deeply by all. Hamba kahle, Gogo.”

This tribute was followed by one from Nomboniso Gasa, in which she wrote: ” Mam’ Sizani Ngubane has died. She was a gentle giant. My heart’s breaking. Last time I spoke to her, she was fatigued from a govt hell-bent on destructive Bills, TCB & TKLB.
Can’t imagine Rural Women’s movement – which she found in 1990 – without her energy, courage and vision
.”

The Ennals Award ceremony was to be streamed live from Geneva on February 19, 2020, and the Martin Ennals Foundation said about Ngubane after it decided to recognise her work with a nomination: ” In South Africa, women face discrimination, the worst expression of which is widespread gender violence. In rural communities, they frequently have their land expropriated and are deprived of access to education and justice. Sizani Ngubane founded an organisation of more than 50,000 women from rural areas in her country and has fought successfully for over 40 years for the recognition of their rights.”

On hearing of her death, the MEA tweeted: ” A lifetime #HumanRights giant is gone. #SouthAfrica #WomenRights champion and #MartinEnnals finalist #SizaniNgubane has passed away. Generous, determined, loving, resilient, she was the very essence of a #HRD . She will be dearly missed.

https://allafrica.com/stories/202012230793.html

MEA 2019 laureate Abdul Aziz Muhamat wants refugees themselves to be heard

November 9, 2020

Geneva Solutions of 7 November 2020 published a call to give “a voice back to the voiceless: a call to empower refugees” written by Abdul Aziz Muhamat, who is a human rights advocate for migrants and refugees now based in Geneva. He is the 2019 Martin Ennals Award Laureate for Human Rights Defenders (see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/30/flight-from-manus-the-inside-story-of-an-exceptional-case/),

He is currently a UN fellow at OHCHR, and the former recipient of the ISHR Human Rights Defenders Fellowship. He is involved in social work, advocacy, and is authoring in collaboration with other refugees offshore and inshore ( They Can’t Take The Sky):

I’m tired of hearing celebrities saying they are  “voices of the voiceless.” Unfortunately, I hear it often from celebrities with our pictures and stories, rather than from refugees themselves.

The so-called “voiceless” are individuals living in poverty and conflict zones, and were forced to leave their countries while they were muffled, hushed, pushed down and left out. But they are not voiceless. They do not need your voices but they do need you to put them behind the microphone, make room at the table, and give them a chance to speak up. If we want to find lasting and sustainable solutions for the refugee and migrant crisis, then stop speaking for the so-called voiceless, and start working alongside them to make sure their powerful voices are heard.

Media, the arts and celebrities often say they strive to “give voice to the voiceless”. While this can empower, it can also be a potentially harmful tool for them too. It makes me feel like an object, it discourages me from speaking for myself and most importantly, it is dehumanising because someone else is speaking on my behalf. Being a refugee means more than being an alien, no right, no voice; this can sound trite, clichéd, even patronising. Speaking on our behalf can take the real voices of the concerned people away and replace them with a slogan, “Voice of the Voiceless”. Are they really voiceless? If so, then who took their voices?

What refugees urgently need, besides food and water, medical care, and a roof over their heads, is hope! And prospects of a homeland, friends, and a sense of security. Unfortunately, reality presents a completely different picture to many of them. Here is a call for reflection.

Protests and public ceremonies at least remind us of the problem, even if they do not solve them. Anyone who has never been part of a refugee trek has little idea of everything that happens along the way. These people have just turned their backs on violence, persecution, and human rights violations only to walk into hopelessness, hunger, and cold! It is a vicious cycle of evil that has been set in motion. People with a permanent home and a roof over their heads can barely imagine this. There are millions of fates and stories that tell of violence, human abysses, but some also of hope and courage.

Why is it easy to listen to someone who speaks out on behalf of victims but not to the victims directly? Is it also time to question this invisibility? The fact is that no-one is listening and no-one is offering them a platform to express their concerns on their own, so it doubles their suffering. We hide them in detention centres or camps, away from us, making it harder for them to connect with reality. But it also prevents the truth from coming out as it is, and that’s part of the complexity. The majority of these refugees are coming from countries that are torn apart by wars, extreme poverty, lack of freedom of speech, human rights abuses etc.

The media are not interested in listening to the people concerned. Instead they listen to the rich and famous, and this makes them complicit. It is on journalists and the media’s shoulders to seek out the stories of those who would be left out of the public record, like refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. If we aim “to give voice to the voiceless,” it requires more than asking for sound-bite quotes, taking pictures in refugee camps or using them to sell newspapers. No, it is bigger than that, it means listening to their stories, offering them a safe platform to speak for themselves rather than to speak on their behalf, no-one was born without a voice.

No media so far asks the refugees about the impact of the US election or the EU migration policy, why? Because we don’t have a voice and our point of view is not considered as valuable. The Trump administration, but also the Democratic party, have largely dismantled the US asylum seekers and refugees resettlement programme. It became a model for the EU member States and Australia, and even questioned the refugees convention of 1951.

The actions of the US government over the last four years shaped the dichotomy of “Us-vs-Them”. It has also created social and economical inequality among the refugee communities: some were seen as vulnerable and others not, and this in turn has increased tensions within refugee communities. As an example, in 2017 when the US government made a deal with the Australians to take refugees from offshore detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru several countries were banned and it created big tensions between the refugees. These actions show a lack of compassion for the victims of armed violence and persecution and abdicates US leadership and support for countries struggling to cope with refugee crises. The Trump administration turned a cold shoulder to countries on the frontlines of conflict, many of which are close US allies and bear the burden of caring for and protecting the overwhelming majority of the world’s refugees. Even at its most robust, US refugee resettlement only directly benefits a small fraction of the world’s 26 million refugees. But when used strategically, and in combination with humanitarian assistance and technical support, it can have enormous benefits beyond helping the relatively few people rescued.

The US refugee resettlement program has traditionally aimed to identify the most vulnerable refugees, often those who are not only persecuted in their home country but also unwelcome in the country of first arrival, such as members of religious minorities or LGBT.  The American refugee policies have inspired many countries such as Australia, Europe, the UK, and especially after the domination of the right-wing in Europe. In Australia, refugees are forcibly sent to remote islands and detained for almost seven years, in Europe especially Greece became the EU warehouse for asylum seekers and migrants, and some were forcibly pushed back by some EU member States to Libya or left to drown off the coast of Libya.

Europe’s humanity is lost at sea when it comes to refugees and no-one knows when or how will the EU get it back.

————-

https://genevasolutions.news/peace-humanitarian/giving-a-voice-back-to-the-voiceless-a-call-to-empower-refugees

Re-issued: Passionate plea for help in Open Letter by Mona Seif from Egypt about targeting of her family

August 6, 2020

It seems that this post of 27 July 2020 was corrupted; for some reason or another many people could not see the text of the letter itself. So here it is again in full. Please read and tke action on it. Mona Seif – MEA finalist of 2013 – and her family have been targeted by the authorities many times [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/08/21/an-exceptional-egyptian-family-of-human-rights-defenders/]

This is an open letter from MONA SEIF asking for your solidarity and support. It is long, but contains crucial details:
My name is Mona Seif, I am an Egyptian HRD. Over the past few weeks the Egyptian regime has been escalating violent targeting of my family. If you are following the news from this art of the world then you know how most of the media platforms have been blocked and many journalists detained, harassed, or pushed into exile. So I am writing to you, hoping you will carry my voice and that of everyone facing injustice here.  

Mona Seif, Egypt – Final Nominee MEA 2013

My brother Alaa Abdel Fattah has been in jail since last September. He was rearrested only 6 months after he got out of prison after completing a full five-years sentence. He has been in maximum security prison for 10 months in horrific conditions and daily violations of his rights, Egyptian laws and prison regulations. For the past months we have filed numerous official complaints, appealed to all sorts of entities here that have jurisdiction over the prison authorities, but none of them made any move to stop the violations or start a serious investigation. None of them made any attempt to bring us just a small bit of our rights. 

On the night of Alaa’s arrival to Tora Maximum security prison 2 he was stripped of his clothes, blind folded, beaten and threatened that “He will never get out of here“, we have submitted an official report to the general prosecutor, we have repeatedly met with the head of his Human Rights adminstration, Alaa went on record in state security prosecution while reviewing his pretrial detention and testified in details on the torture he endured. Until now, not one serious move was taken regarding this horrific incident, and it was an intro to the kind of prison he will be locked in. 

Since the crisis of Covid19 started, the Egyptian MOI has used it as an excuse to tighten the isolation of all prisoners, increase intimidation of prisoners and their families, and escalate in their deprivation of their basic rights. Since March 9th all visits have been completely banned in all prisons all over Egypt, however the families were not offered any alternative form of communication. We were not allowed phone calls with the prisoners, and most prisons are not allowing letters, even though both are explicit rights by the law, not to mention worrying times like these. Some prisoners were trying to get the word out about the deterioration of their health, about fear of Corona in prisons, the lack of proper information to help them understand the toll of the crisis and lack of sanitary measures indifferent  Egypt, the only response the MOI had was clamping down even harder on those prisoners, punishing those who voiced out their concerns, all this while the arrests of more activists is ongoing and the arrest of doctors who talk publicly about their needs, problems and the reality of managing Covid19 within our health system. 

With Alaa in particular, state security seems intent on preventing any sort of communication between us and him, even at times when they are allowing letters from other prisoners. Alaa went on a hunger strike on April12th and they did not even inform us. For a whole month during the covid19 emergency, my brother was on full hunger strike, my mother spent every morning at the prison’s gate and they did not allow us one letter to assure us of his well being.
For every letter received we as a family paid a heavy price. We received a letter after Alaa ended his hunger strike on May 18th, and another on June 6th after my mother camped daily by Tora prison. Then the last one we got was on June 25th after we were violently assaulted and robbed right infront of Tora prison on the watch of their guards,  and only after my younger sister Sanaa was abducted by plainclothed officers while entering the general prosecutor’s office- with her lawyer- to report the violent assault and officially document her injuries. Sanaa is now detained, and we haven’t been allowed any letters from her as well. 

I think I’ve seen alot, I’ve witnessed so many violations committed by the current and previous regimes, but somehow I would have never imagined that a victim of a violent assault would be kidnapped by state security from the gates of the general prosecutor’s office as they are trying to seek his protection and file an official complaint regarding a very public incident like the one we were part of. And it definitely wouldn’t have occured to me that not only the general prosecutor would turn a blind eye on such a grave crime committed at his doorstep, but actually enable them to “legalize”  her detention afterwards. 

Both Sanaa and Alaa are in prison They, and thousands of prisoners, are at risk facing the combined danger of an epidemic and a brutal senseless regime. 
Please speak up on their behalf.. write about them, share their stories, add your name to the petition, or you can directly write a letter to Judge Hany Georgy the Head of Human rights administration at the general prosecutor’s office  hanyfathy70@yahoo.com

 
Every voice counts,
Many thanks
Mona Seif

Links:

Video right after sanaa’s abduction (En subtitles) https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=40727036690138

Petition FreeAlaa

FreeSanaa

Re-issued: Passionate plea for help in Open Letter by Mona Seif from Egypt about targeting of her family

July 27, 2020

It seems that this post of 27 July 2020 was corrupted; for some reason or another many people could not see the text of the letter itself. So here it is again in full. Please read and tke action on it. Mona Seif – MEA finalist of 2013 – and her family have been targeted by the authorities many times [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/08/21/an-exceptional-egyptian-family-of-human-rights-defenders/]

This is an open letter from MONA SEIF asking for your solidarity and support. It is long, but contains crucial details:
My name is Mona Seif, I am an Egyptian HRD. Over the past few weeks the Egyptian regime has been escalating violent targeting of my family. If you are following the news from this art of the world then you know how most of the media platforms have been blocked and many journalists detained, harassed, or pushed into exile. So I am writing to you, hoping you will carry my voice and that of everyone facing injustice here.  

Mona Seif, Egypt – Final Nominee MEA 2013

My brother Alaa Abdel Fattah has been in jail since last September. He was rearrested only 6 months after he got out of prison after completing a full five-years sentence. He has been in maximum security prison for 10 months in horrific conditions and daily violations of his rights, Egyptian laws and prison regulations. For the past months we have filed numerous official complaints, appealed to all sorts of entities here that have jurisdiction over the prison authorities, but none of them made any move to stop the violations or start a serious investigation. None of them made any attempt to bring us just a small bit of our rights. 

On the night of Alaa’s arrival to Tora Maximum security prison 2 he was stripped of his clothes, blind folded, beaten and threatened that “He will never get out of here“, we have submitted an official report to the general prosecutor, we have repeatedly met with the head of his Human Rights adminstration, Alaa went on record in state security prosecution while reviewing his pretrial detention and testified in details on the torture he endured. Until now, not one serious move was taken regarding this horrific incident, and it was an intro to the kind of prison he will be locked in. 

Since the crisis of Covid19 started, the Egyptian MOI has used it as an excuse to tighten the isolation of all prisoners, increase intimidation of prisoners and their families, and escalate in their deprivation of their basic rights. Since March 9th all visits have been completely banned in all prisons all over Egypt, however the families were not offered any alternative form of communication. We were not allowed phone calls with the prisoners, and most prisons are not allowing letters, even though both are explicit rights by the law, not to mention worrying times like these. Some prisoners were trying to get the word out about the deterioration of their health, about fear of Corona in prisons, the lack of proper information to help them understand the toll of the crisis and lack of sanitary measures indifferent  Egypt, the only response the MOI had was clamping down even harder on those prisoners, punishing those who voiced out their concerns, all this while the arrests of more activists is ongoing and the arrest of doctors who talk publicly about their needs, problems and the reality of managing Covid19 within our health system. 

With Alaa in particular, state security seems intent on preventing any sort of communication between us and him, even at times when they are allowing letters from other prisoners. Alaa went on a hunger strike on April12th and they did not even inform us. For a whole month during the covid19 emergency, my brother was on full hunger strike, my mother spent every morning at the prison’s gate and they did not allow us one letter to assure us of his well being.
For every letter received we as a family paid a heavy price. We received a letter after Alaa ended his hunger strike on May 18th, and another on June 6th after my mother camped daily by Tora prison. Then the last one we got was on June 25th after we were violently assaulted and robbed right infront of Tora prison on the watch of their guards,  and only after my younger sister Sanaa was abducted by plainclothed officers while entering the general prosecutor’s office- with her lawyer- to report the violent assault and officially document her injuries. Sanaa is now detained, and we haven’t been allowed any letters from her as well. 

I think I’ve seen alot, I’ve witnessed so many violations committed by the current and previous regimes, but somehow I would have never imagined that a victim of a violent assault would be kidnapped by state security from the gates of the general prosecutor’s office as they are trying to seek his protection and file an official complaint regarding a very public incident like the one we were part of. And it definitely wouldn’t have occured to me that not only the general prosecutor would turn a blind eye on such a grave crime committed at his doorstep, but actually enable them to “legalize”  her detention afterwards. 

Both Sanaa and Alaa are in prison They, and thousands of prisoners, are at risk facing the combined danger of an epidemic and a brutal senseless regime. 
Please speak up on their behalf.. write about them, share their stories, add your name to the petition, or you can directly write a letter to Judge Hany Georgy the Head of Human rights administration at the general prosecutor’s office  hanyfathy70@yahoo.com

 
Every voice counts,
Many thanks
Mona Seif

Links:

Video right after sanaa’s abduction (En subtitles) https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=40727036690138

Petition FreeAlaa

FreeSanaa

Former MEP Barbara Lochbihler about her human rights work

July 13, 2020

On 10 July 2020 the Martin Ennals Foundation published an interview with new Board member Barbara Lochbihler, former Secretary General of Amnesty International Germany and Member of the European Parliament (2009-2019):

  1. What motivated you to join the Martin Ennals Foundation?

During the past thirty years, in my role as Secretary General of Amnesty International Germany and before with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in Geneva, and then later on as Member of the European Parliament, with a focus on human rights, the work and expertise of human rights defenders were and became central to me. The increasing challenges and threats they face demanding better protection of the rights of their fellow human beings is still very worrisome and needs all our attention and solidarity. 

  1. Why did you choose to join the UN Committee against Enforced Disappearance?

After ending my mandate in the European Parliament in Brussels, I was looking for a way to continue my human rights engagement. The United Nations human rights work in Geneva is at the centre of developing international protection mechanisms and norms.
Since a year now, I’m an independent expert in the UN Committee against Enforced Disappearance. It monitors the implementation of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and takes up individual cases. I’m enjoying the great teamwork with colleagues in an international context.

  1. 2020 has been so far a year of global upheaval. What is your advice to human rights defenders across the world?

The work of human rights defenders is essential to improve the situation on the ground, by factual reporting of cases, by analysing the root causes of human rights violations, by demanding political change and proposing better legal protection mechanisms. In 2019, Front Line Defenders registered 304 cases of human rights defenders who were killed. Increasingly human rights defenders are under threat, they experience violence and oppression. It is urgent to continue our international support and solidarity with human rights defenders, in order to counter and defend the space for civil society actors.

https://www.martinennalsaward.org/barbara-lochbihler-interview/

Martin Ennals Award 2021 Nominations: deadline approaching

June 8, 2020

Nominations for the Martin Ennals Award 2021 are currently accepted. The deadline for nominations is June 12th 2020. Please forward this message to whomever you can.

The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders honours individuals and organizations who have shown exceptional commitment to defending human rights, despite the risks involved, and who are in need of protection. [see also: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/martin-ennals-award-for-human-rights-defenders]

In addition to the achievements of the nominee, several criteria are taken into consideration for the Award:

• Nominees must be currently active in the promotion and protection of human rights. The Award does not consider defenders who are deceased.

• The nominee should not employ or advocate violence.

• Self -nominations are not accepted.

• Defenders who are no longer in need of protection (e.g. because they are now in a safe environment) will normally not be considered.

Three finalists will be selected by the Jury and announced in October/November 2020. The Laureate will be announced in February 2021.

To submit a candidate use the form

Cambodian Monk Council defrocks “video monk’ Luon Sovath

June 6, 2020

0n 4 June 2020 Sun Narin for the VOA reported that The Monk Council in Siem Reap province, Cambodia, expelled prominent activist monk and human rights defender Venerable Luon Savath based on leaked audio recordings purportedly between the monk and a group of women.

Venerable Loun Sovath, an award-winning human rights activist, attends the commemoration of the sixth anniversary of the violent crackdown on garment workers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, January 3, 2020. (Hul Reaksmey/VOA Khmer)
Venerable Loun Sovath, an award-winning human rights activist, attends the commemoration of the sixth anniversary of the violent crackdown on garment workers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, January 3, 2020. (Hul Reaksmey/VOA Khmer)

This in not the first time that Loun Sovath is in trouble with the ‘authorities’ be they secular or religious, so there could be reasonable doubt about the veracity of the recordings. See:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/11/05/cambodian-mea-laureate-2012-luon-sovath-charged-with-incitement/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/11/22/martin-ennals-award-jury-expresses-its-concern-about-loun-sovath-martin-ennals-award-laureate-2012/

The leaked audio recordings are purportedly between the monk and a group of women. In a decision dated June 3, head of the Monk Council in Siem Reap, Chum Kimleng, alleged that Luon Sovath had conversations about “deep love” with women, which were shared on Facebook. The statement added that the conversations were between the monk, a woman and her daughters, alleging that Luon Sovath indulged in sexual activity.

If Luon Sovath wears monk robes from now on, related authorities take legal actions,” read the announcement, which defrocked the monk effective Wednesday.

The Monk Council claimed to have investigated the video recordings, but did not provide any evidence or forensic analysis with the statement to show the voice in the recordings belonged to Luon Sovath or if he had acted in violation of religious norms. VOA Khmer attempted to reach Luon Sovath on the phone and his social media accounts on Thursday, but the activist monk did not respond to requests for comment.

There are four videos circulating on Facebook, and seem to originate from one account, called Srey Da Chi-Kraeng that was created on May 30. The videos, according to the accompanying text on Facebook, are recordings with four women – a mother and three daughters.

The video recordings are of an unidentified person, or persons, sitting in a dimly-lit room and having Facebook audio conversation, ranging seven to 10 minutes each. The video is shot so that only the person’s hand holding the smartphone can be seen.

The Facebook account involved in the alleged call has a male voice and uses the image of Luon Sovath and his name in Khmer script. The conversations are flirtatious in nature and include discussions about giving each other massages.

VOA Khmer could identify two Facebook accounts and one page used by Luon Sovath in the past. One of the accounts, which seems to belong to the venerable monk was created in 2017, it has the same display picture as that seen in the videotaped Facebook calls.

However, VOA Khmer found another Facebook account, called Luon Sovath, using the same display picture and was created on May 29, a day before the Srey Da Chi-Kraeng account was created.

The Monk Council in Siem Reap could not be reached on Thursday to provide details of their investigation into the recordings.

Bor Bet, a monk and member of Independent Monk Network for Social Justice, received a call from Luon Sovath last week, with the activist monk alleging that “people wanted to mistreat me.”

“He told me that they want to frame him,” Bor Bet said. “[Luon Sovath said] it is a political case and done because we are human right defenders.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Culture and Religion, Seng Somony, said the ministry had received the decision to defrock Luon Sovath, rejecting the accusation that the development was politically motivated…

Luon Sovath has been internationally recognized for his work in documenting land rights abuses in Cambodia and was featured in the documentary, A Cambodian Spring. [https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/may/20/cambodian-spring-review] In 2012, he received the Martin Ennals Award.

https://www.voacambodia.com/a/monk-council-expels-activist-monk-luon-sovath-for-alleged-intimate-relationship/5448949.html

Martin Ennals Award laureates rally to demand freedom for their imprisoned fellow award-winners

April 24, 2020

On 21 April 2020, – for the first time – a group of 14 former winners of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders rallied around their follow laureates lingering in jail.  They signed a joint letter to the Permanent Representatives to the UN of Bahrain, China, Iran and the United Arab Emirates:

Your Excellencies:

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, we the undersigned, winners of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, are calling for the release of all imprisoned human rights defenders around the world, who are at tremendous risk due to the virus. We add our voices to the calls of international leaders, of hundreds of civil society organizations and thousands of mobilized citizens, to grant clemency towards vulnerable prisoners during this health crisis, including our fellow award-winners who are imprisoned for their defense of human rights in four countries:

…..

Today we are deeply concerned about the continued imprisonment of defenders across the world, despite their exposure to and high risk of contracting COVID-19. Numerous health authorities and human rights organisations have denounced the risks of COVID-19 for prisoners held in crowded conditions. …[ See e.g. also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/23/civicus-and-600-ngos-dont-violate-human-rights-while-responding-to-covid-19/; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/14/un-guidelines-for-use-of-emergency-powers-in-time-of-covid-19-pandemic/%5D

Despite the tragedy of lives lost and significant economic damage, we believe this crisis will also present opportunities for a better world. Now is the time to remedy the unjust detention of these individuals. By releasing our brothers and sisters – Ilham, Ahmed, Nabeel, Abdullah, and Nasrin – the leaders of your nations would demonstrate their capacity for mercy and responsibility. We therefore call on your government to free our fellow Martin Ennals Award winners immediately, as well as all human rights defenders in detainment, so that their physical integrity is ensured, and they can receive appropriate medical and psychological support.

 Signed:

Huda al-Sarari
Yemen, Laureate 2020

Norma Librada Ledezma
Mexico, Finalist 2020

Sizani Ngubane
South Africa, Finalist 2020

Abdul Aziz Mohamat
Sudan, Laureate 2019

Eren Keskin
Turkey, Finalist 2019

Marino Córdoba
Colombia, Finalist 2019

Mohamed Zaree
Egypt, Laureate 2017

Karla Avelar
El Salvador, Finalist 2017

Asmaou Diallo
Guinea, Finalist 2015

Adilur Rahman Khan
Bangladesh, Finalist 2014

Mona Seif
Egypt, Finalist 2013

Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Finalist 2012

Arnold Tsunga
Zimbabwe, Laureate 2006

Clement Nwankwo
Nigeria, Laureate 1996

—-

https://www.martinennalsaward.org/the-mea-winners-are-calling-for-the-release-of-imprisoned-hrd-including-their-fellow-award-winner/

Changes in the governance of the Martin Ennals Foundation

February 23, 2020

Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders

Having just reported on the laureate of the Martin Ennals Award 2020 [ https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/22/huda-al-sarari-is-the-laureate-of-the-2020-martin-ennals-award-for-human-rights-defenders/], I should add that the Martin Ennals Foundation has undergone several changes in its managment. A new Chairman, Philippe Currat, a well-known Geneva lawyer (see: https://www.martinennalsaward.org/boards/philippe-currat/), takes over from Dick Oosting (Oosting is a former Amnesty International staff member who worked closely with Martin Ennals himself as deputy SG). At the same time a new vice-chair was appointed: Barbara Lochbihler, a prominent human rights expert from Germany who last year completed ten years in the European Parliament and is now a member of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances. Since last summer, Isabel de Sola is the new director (see: https://www.martinennalsaward.org/boards/isabel-de-sola/). Together with a new team at the Ville de Genève, good progress was made to redesign the award ceremony of 19 February. This year’s finalists are offered so-called ‘residencies’ to benefit from their presence in Geneva and Switzerland as well as to be able to share their experiences more widely. First steps were taken to open up local educational activities. Communications have been significantly upgraded.

Dick Oosting said that the hand-over marks a broader process of change in the way that the foundation operates. In sharpened its strategy in several ways: by developing activities and profile in Geneva; by exploring the scope for more sustained work with past laureates and finalists; by working more closely with the jury organizations; and by strengthening overall communications.

Philippe Curat was present at the press conference of this year and stated: “The Martin Ennals Foundation is particularly proud to honour and support three resilient women human rights defenders this year, our laureate Huda Al-Sarari, as well as our two finalists Sizani Ngubane and Norma Librada Ledezma for their achievements. We hope that the award will shed a light on their achievements, and strengthen protection mechanisms around them”.

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