Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Profile of human rights defender Tuisina Ymania Brown, a Fa’afafine from Samoa

June 2, 2016

Samoa does not figure often in this blog. So, courtesy of the International Service for Human Rights (Monitor 2 May 2016), here is the profile of Tuisina Ymania Brown of the Samoa Fa’afafine Association which represents and promotes the rights of indigenous lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in Samoa.  Read the rest of this entry »

Course on Security and Protection for human rights defenders, on the internet

June 16, 2011

E-learning course: Security and protection for human rights defenders and social organisations is designed for NGOs, social organisations and individuals. It lasts for 60 hours over 3 months approximately 5 hours per week and is hosted by Protection International training staff protection experts with extensive training experience in many countries. The first course, in Spanish, is to due to start in mid 2011, English and French courses will follow.

Education and training for Human Rights Defenders is a broad subject with different needs. One such crucial need  is security.  The present course aims for human rights defenders to develop various skills, capacities and strategies to allow them to improve the level of security and protection, both for themselves and also for the people they work with.

Proof of experience working in these fields is required, along with the existence, or possible existence, of a risk to their security, because of their work activities. Armed conflict or political repression, due to their activities as human rights defenders, could be examples of suitability. The admission criteria will give priority to those people having the largest potential impact on human rights defenders’ security. The enrolment fee will depend on various factors – such as country of origin or residence, the institution the participant is involved with, the course duration, etc. For more information visit: or write to:

I received this via E-learning course: Security and protection for human rights defenders and social organisations | HURIDOCS.

Tiananmen Commemoration by the Visual Arts Guild Highlights Modern Rights Defenders

June 14, 2011

Tiananmen Commemoration Highlights Modern Rights Defenders 22 years later. Victims and witnesses of the 1989 TiananmenMassacre shared the way they saw and experienced the demonstrations, the massacre, and the long-term effect it has had on the Chinese psyche at a commemoration held by the Visual Arts Guild. Two contemporary rights defenders, Ai Weiwei and Zhao Lianhai, both currently detained in China, were honored at the event. 

One of those recognized was Ai Weiwei. The world-renowned artist/activist is currently detained by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for his political expressions, which include a recent video (Without Fear or Favor by Ai Weiwei on TED).  Zhao Lianhai was also recognized for his efforts in bringing to light the melamine-tainted milk scandal in 2008. Zhao was sentenced by the CCP to 2 1/2 years in prison after he set up a website, Kidney Stone Babies, to advise parents of the toxic milk after his own child suffered from kidney illness from the tainted dairy. He was released on medical parole last December, then again taken into custody on May 26, apparently because of his public demand for the release of Ai Weiwei that same week.

The keynote speaker, Perry Link, a professor of Comparative Literature and Foreign Languages at UC Riverside, is one of the West’s top experts on China, its language, culture, and people. His report on how China is good at “forgetting” massacres and how also the media quickly lose interest in worth reading in full on

Tools for Human Rights Defenders: New Tactics offers on-line dialogue on Being Well and Staying Safe

May 24, 2011

Human Rights defenders are often in a weak position standing up against powerful interests (as this and other blogs often illustrate). Still they are not without their own resources and support as shown by e.g. New Tactics. This organisation, with the help of Jane Barry and other practitioners, is offering an online dialogue on Being Well and Staying Safe from June 22 to 28, 2011:
The nature of their work exposes human rights defenders to distressing and threatening situations.  The need to take care of one’s self is extremely important, as is the need to take care of, protect and support each other.  Human rights defenders cannot be well without being safe.  Likewise, they cannot truly be safe without being well.  Often, security is thought of as a stand-alone concept, rooted in the set, militaristic concepts of war and conflict.  Human rights defenders are defining a new concept of security – one that comes from a feminist and anti-militarist standpoint.  Women in Black have defined security as including: freedom from constant threats, economic security, political security, environmental security, and health security.  How would a new, more integrated and holistic definition of security impact the human rights community?
This online dialogue is an opportunity to further explore the ways in which well-being and security are mutually inclusive for human rights defenders.  This is a space to discuss how these issues and concepts relate to gender, identity, human rights work, budgeting and fundraising.

Front Line expresses grave concern about disappearance of human rights lawyers in Syria

March 31, 2011

Yesterday, Wednesday  30 March, Front Line – one of the 10 NGOs in the Jury of the MEA –  issued an urgent appeal concerning a number of human rights lawyers that have been disappeared amid the upheaval of the last weeks. Between 5 and 27 March 2011, a number of human rights lawyers may have been arrested and remain detained in undisclosed locations in Syria, including Messrs Hussain ‘Issa and Tamer Al-Jahmani, Sulayman Nahili, Nidal Al-Shaykh Hammoud and Muhammad Ibrahim ‘Issa. It is believed that they are at risk of torture and ill treatment.

Front Line notes that “these arrests reflect an ongoing and widescale crackdown by the Syrian authorities against human rights defenders, pro-democracy and political activists across Syria in response to ongoing protests calling for democratic reforms and improved observance of civil and political rights. As part of this crackdown, which has also involved violent attacks on protesters including through the use of live ammunition by security forces, a large number of human rights defenders have been subjected to arrests, detentions and charges solely as a result of exercising their fundamental rights to free assembly and expression”. For more detail see:

Chinese Human Rights Defender Liu Xianbin heavily punished

March 31, 2011
On Friday 25 March, a court in Sichuan province sentenced Liu Xianbin to ten years in prison for writing articles calling on human rights and democracy, which is considered inciting ‘subversion’. His wife, Chen Mingxian, said the court did not allow Liu to defend himself. His lawyer, Chen Wei, was also charged on Monday with inciting subversion (as were two other persons  from Sichuan: Yunfei and Ding Mao).
Many human rights organisations from around the world  – including Hong Kong – have criticised the trial and are calling on the Chinese authorities to immediately release Liu (e.g. Amnesty International’s Catherine Baber says the ten-year sentence is “appalling” and a travesty of justice). Liu is a veteran of the human rights movement and has been imprisoned several times for his work. He served 2 years for taking part in the 1989 democracy movement and in 1999 he was sentenced to 13 years after helping to establish the China Democratic Party. He was released early in 2008, but arrested again in June 2010.
This tenacious and courageous HRD deserves admiration and support.

Syria: will al-Hassani finally be freed?

March 26, 2011

As you will know, on Wednesday 16 March a group of about 150 protestors – including relatives of the 21 political prisoners whose release the protest was designed to secure – gathered outside the Interior Ministry in Damascus to present a petition calling for the prisoners’ release. The 21 include MEA 2010 Laureate Muhannad al-Hassani, the president of the Syrian Human Rights Organization.

Forty of the protestors were seized and interrogated by the security services; several were detained on the usual charges of bringing the State is disrepute. Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a news release, “Like many of the political prisoners whose release they were calling for, protestors appear to have been arrested simply for the peaceful expression of their views. The Syrian authorities must immediately release all those arrested in the last two days for merely attending peaceful protests, and stop these attacks on freedom of expression and assembly.”

Today- Saturday 26 March – it was reported that under pressure from the various on-going demonstrations, the Government would have decided to release 200 political prisoners. Is this true? Will al-Hassani finally be allowed to return to his family and his human rights work?

Belarus refuses access to human rights monitors

March 20, 2011

And to add immediately a second instance in the series ‘response to non-response” here is the case of Belarus as reported by HRW:

On March 17, 2011, Belarusian authorities ordered Andrei Yurov, a leading Russian human rights defender visiting Belarus, to leave the country within 24 hours. He is the second human rights activist the government has banned from the country this month as on March 9, another member of the International Observation Mission, Maxim Kitsyuk, a Ukrainian national, was refused entry at the border while entering Belarus via train from Kyiv.

Both Russia and Ukraine have a no-visa regime with Belarus. Belarusian authorities did not charge Yurov or Kitsyuk with a crime or other offense, nor did they explain the grounds on which they effectively being expelled or would be denied entry to Belarus in the future. For more information see the website of HRW.


Human Rights Watch office in Uzbekistan closed: HRDs made more vulnerable

March 20, 2011

As a first contribution in the series “response to non-response“, here  is what happened to Human Rights Watch office in Uzbekistan, the home of the 2008 MEA Laureate Mutabar Tadjibaeva:

On 17 March 2011 Human Rights Watch reported that the Uzbek government has forced it to close its Uzbekistan office. For years the government has obstructed the organization’s work by denying visas and work accreditation to staff, but has now officially ended the presence in Tashkent after 15 years. “With the expulsion of Human Rights Watch, the Uzbek government sends a clear message that it isn’t willing to tolerate critical scrutiny of its human rights record,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “but let me be clear, too: we aren’t going to be silenced by this. We are as committed as ever to report on abuses in Uzbekistan.”

HRW added that the Uzbekistan authorities’ move is the culmination of years of harassment and an attack not just on the organisation but on all human rights defenders in the country.  It is urging the West to finally stand up to Uzbekistan’s president Islam Karimov and condemn the closure or risk making the same mistakes it did in backing autocratic regimes in the Middle East.  Steve Swerdlow, a researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW) who spent two months in Uzbekistan at the end of last year before being forced out of the country, told IPS: “The West needs to stand up and give its support for human rights and show Uzbekistanis that it is on the right side of history.”  He added: “Our closure just leaves what human rights defenders there are in Uzbekistan even more isolated and under threat”.  According to IPS the only registered local human rights monitoring group in Uzbekistan, Ezgulik, has said the regime’s move to shut down HRW would “isolate” Uzbekistan, while Uzbek human rights activist Abdurahmon Tashanov told local media that with HRW no longer in the country local rights defenders had lost their “moral support”.

taking on non-response: this blogger’s lone response

March 20, 2011

One of my first posts – almost a year ago (28 April 2010) – dealt with the weakness of enforcement of internationally recognized human rights. It stated, only half-jokingly, that “the best advice one can give a tyrannical regime is to simply ignore all international condemnations, refuse to answer any queries, do not let any UN Rapporteurs or NGOs in, and after a while – usually quite quickly – the furor, if any, will dampen and the media will shine their light elsewhere, most likely where there is some degree of cooperation and access”.  It concluded with some ideas on how to counter trend:

  • Every year on 10 December, Human Rights Day, the human rights movement – through a coalition of major and representative NGOs – makes public a list of the top 10 ‘refusniks’ (countries that stand out in ‘non-cooperation’)
  • Non-enforcement of decisions by any of the UN treaty bodies will have to be strengthened (report to the General Assembly is not enough). The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights could be asked to compile annually a list of non-enforced decisions and give it the widest possible dissemination, including to the meetings of the States Parties. Persistent non-compliance should be routinely followed by inter-state complaints.
  • A business company struck of the list of the Global Compact MUST make this known in the same media and publications in which its joining was announced and with same emphasis (this should be made this part of the code). Non-compliance with this requirement should lead to an active campaign by the UN to explain why the company was struck off the list.

On the LinkedIn platform there were some encouraging reactions, but the truth is that most of the the ideas proposed could only be carried out by large groups of individuals or NGOs. However, there is one thing I can do as a lone small-time blogger, which is to highlight incidents of ‘non-response’ by States to actions concerning HRDs, such as refusing to receive missions, answer specific queries, closing offices, forbid showing of films or publications etc.; all things that tend to get less media attention than they deserve. To keep it manageable, I will limit myself – for the time being – to survey Laureates of the MEA, products of the True Heroes Foundations or actions by the 10 international NGOs on the Jury of the MEA. It may not help a lot but it is within my means to draw attention to the more hidden attacks on human rights and perhaps make that crime pay less.

Any cases you come across are most welcome.