Farewell message from Amnesty’s Salil Shetty

July 17, 2018

I announced Salil’s successor on 22 December [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/22/amnesty-announces-kumi-naidoo-as-next-secretary-general-effective-august-2018/]. The farewell message by the departing Secretary General, Salil Shetty, is worth sharing as it contains some general thoughts on the state of the human rights movement:

..

As some of you would know, after eight great years with Amnesty International, I am moving on. My time as Secretary General formally drew to a close on 8 July after the annual gathering of our global leadership in Poland. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your important and generous support through this period – a turbulent time in the world at large, and a crucial transformation process internally.
 
It is difficult to sum up eight years in a pithy way, but as we look back on the so-called Arab Spring, the Syrian conflict, spiralling refugee numbers, the social impact of government policies in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, and the rise of popular authoritarians in many countries, it is clear that we have lived – and continue to live – through very challenging times. The voices of those who stand up against oppression and the abuse of power are more isolated but more important than ever. And Amnesty has played a vital role in supporting these voices.
 
We have seen much fruit from the work in virtually every region of the world we have done together during this period – from the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty to some important breakthroughs on corporate accountability, from another 10 countries abolishing the death penalty to the release of innumerable prisoners unjustly detained. We have built a new body of work on technology and human rights, ready to confront important new challenges ahead. We have also seen some crucial steps forward on women’s rights and have good reason to hope for much more progress in the coming months and years. Above all, it has been a privilege to work with so many extraordinary people from every part of the world. I will treasure the memories of so many courageous activists I have met during my time with Amnesty.
 
For me, the biggest source of hope has always been people at the local level who refuse to accept injustice. During the past eight years we have had a strong focus on building a truly global human rights movement, particularly by rebalancing the centre of gravity from our traditional strongholds in the richer countries of the world towards a more distributed centre with a much stronger voice for the global south. The growth of Amnesty’s membership in key southern powerhouses such as Brazil, India, Indonesia, Egypt and Nigeria, has been very encouraging, and gives us stronger foundations for the future.
 
……..
I am delighted to hand over to my successor, Kumi Naidoo from South Africa, who will take up the reins on 15 August. Kumi is a well-respected activist and leader in the international NGO sector, having previously led Greenpeace International and CIVICUS. …


Best,

Salil Shetty


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


Human Rights Defender Profile: Iván Madero from Colombia

June 30, 2018

2018 is the year of the Human Rights Defenders! The Norwegian Human Rights Fund (NHRF) celebrates its 30th anniversary by showcasing some of the brave human rights defenders it supports through out the year. Iván Madero is a human rights defender from Colombia. Iván Madero Vergel is the director of CREDHOS, an organization that documents violations and accompanies human rights defenders. For him becoming a human rights defender was a natural response to the difficult circumstances in his hometown Barrancabermjea. For more than three decades he has been a leader that stands up for the rights of others. In this video, he tells  how it is to work in a country where people who stand up for human rights are risking their lives:

Azerbaijan: example of ‘sophisticated’ harassment of human rights lawyers

June 29, 2018

Om 29 June 2018 Front Line Defenders reported on the case of disbarment of human rights lawyer Irada Javadova in Azerbaijan. It shows how seemingly ‘neutral’ procedures within the Bar Association are used to silence human rights defenders.

Irada Javadova <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/irada-javadova> is a human rights lawyer who was involved in many resonant cases, including working on numerous violations of citizens’ property rights and violations against political activists and human rights defenders. She is the former head of NGO “Human Rights Education”. The procedure was initiated upon the complaint of an anonymous citizen, who stated that Irada Javadova wrote a letter to the Interior Ministry about her illegal detention in the Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and reported the incident to the press, without the citizen’s consent. According to reports, the citizen stated that Irada Javadova spread false information, defamed her, and requested that the Bar Association take action against the human rights defender. On 11 June 2018, the Presidium of the Bar Association announced the termination of her authority.

Irada Javadova denied the allegations, stating that she had an agreement with her client and that she had legitimately defended her and acted within the law. She had submitted the agreement with the complainant to the Bar Association, but her colleagues expressed doubts about the authenticity of the client’s signature. She was disbarred on 11 June 2018. On 12 June, she met with the chairman of the Presidium of the Bar Association and presented additional evidence, but she was told that there will be an appeal to Baku Administrative Economic Court No. 1, where she will have the opportunity to defend her rights. Irada Javadova believes that the disciplinary commission was biased and erroneous.  On 14 June 2018, human rights lawyer Irada Javadova appealed the Presidium of the Bar Association’s decision to disbar her.

[In recent years, Azeri authorities have been pursuing those lawyers who defend political activists and who speak before the European Court of Human Rights. Officials have dismissed such well-known and active lawyers as Namizad Safarov, Khalid Baghirov <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/khalid-bagirov> , Aslan Ismayilov, Alaif Hasanov, Elchin Namazov, Yalchin Imanov <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/yalchin-imanov> , Farhad Mehdiyev, Muzaffar Bakhshaliyev, Annaghi Hajibeyli, and Intigam Aliyev <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/intigam-aliyev>.  For some earlier posts on Azerbaijan: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/azerbaijan/page/4/

PS In 2018, Irada Javadova was the only member of Presidium of the Bar Association to vote against the disbarment of human rights lawyer Yalchin Imanov. It is believed that she lost her place in the Presidium following her defence of Yalchin Imanov.

 


Inventivity of evil: how states restrict HRDs access to the UN in 10 case studies

June 27, 2018

In a new report entitled “The Backlash Against Civil Society Access and Participation at the United Nations” the ISHR outlines the many different ways States employ to keep critical voices out of multilateral spaces. ISHR’s new report provides a road map for States and UN representatives to prevent and counter restrictions on civil society participation in UN processes.

Civil society has the right to ‘unhindered access to and communication with international bodies. However, that right is not being respected.  ISHR’s new report documents a broad range of obstacles faced by human rights defenders, from opaque bureaucracies and procedures to reprisals, physical threats and attacks. ‘States decide who gets through the door,’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw.  ‘States that fear calls for accountability and justice do what they can to prevent civil society access to and participation in UN spaces’.

Click on the video below to get an insight into the report:

Opaque practices and procedures provide covers for States seeking to block NGO entry.  An NGO seeking to participate in a UN high-level event can be a victim of the ‘no-objection’ procedure.  This is the means by which any State can veto their participation without being named or providing any justification. ‘The no-objection procedure is poorly defined, and provides no formal criteria for objections to NGO participation,’ said ISHR’s John Indergaard. ‘It’s carte blanche to exclude legitimate NGOs for illegitimate reasons.’

Even when civil society representatives make it into an actual UN building, they have been thrown out without explanation or asked to leave while events were ongoing. At some high-level events and committee meetings, NGO representatives have been barred from giving statements or bringing in documents related to their work. Physical attacks and intimidation against those seeking to cooperate with the UN are well documented.  ‘These restrictions and reprisals are all aimed at dissuading civil society participation,’ said Openshaw. ‘They need to be challenged in each and every case.’

For some of my earlier posts on reprisals: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/


To say it again clearly: assaults on human rights defenders are incompatible with international human rights treaties

June 27, 2018

In a ground-breaking joint statement on 23 May 2018, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and representatives from all of the UN human rights treaty bodies have affirmed that all forms of abuse or undue restrictions against human rights defenders constitute violations of States’ parties obligations towards the realisation of rights set out in the Treaties. The statement was adopted on the eve of the 30th annual meeting of Treaty Body chairs on the occasion of a consultation initiated by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and ISHR in New York.

This pronouncement constitutes a major step forward in the protection of human rights defenders and lays the ground for substantial enhancement of treaty body recommendations and jurisprudence in that area” says ISHR head of treaty body advocacy Vincent Ploton.

The statement reiterates the vital and central role played by human rights defenders to promote and support the application of the fundamental rights enshrined in the core international human rights treaties. It further contextualises the importance and relevance of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders which “reaffirms, is underpinned by, and elaborates binding human rights obligations, including rights set out in the Treaties, and is relevant to the interpretation and implementation of the Treaties”.

The Committee on economic, social and cultural rights (CESCR) was the first to adopt in 2016 a statement affirming that threats and violence against human rights defenders amount to violations of the Covenant. “We are delighted that fellow Treaty Bodies are now following suit with the adoption of this new joint statement”, says ISHR’s New York Director Madeleine Sinclair.

Marking the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders, the statement confirms that the core international human rights treaties and the Declaration prohibit discrimination against individuals and groups who champion such human rights norms and standards. It reaffirms that all individuals should be able to engage with treaty bodies free from all forms of interference, intimidation, abuse, threat, violence, reprisal, or undue restriction. It concludes with a series of practical measures that States ought to take to guarantee the protection of human rights defenders, including the adoption of specific legislation to protect and recognise defenders, and the revocation of legislation which restricts or hinders their work.

Read the full statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23154&LangID=E

[The statement was endorsed by the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, and the following Treaty Body members in their individual capacity: Virginia Brás-Gomes, CESCR Chair; Dalia Leinarte, CEDAW Chair; Noureddine Amir, CERD Chair; Ahmadou Tall, CMW Chair; Danlami Basharu, CRPD Vice-Chair; Felice Gaer, CAT Vice-Chair; Marcia Kran, HRCttee member; Olga Khazova, CRC Vice-Chair and Satyabhooshun Gut Domah, SPT member.]

https://www.ishr.ch/news/treaty-bodies-threats-and-assaults-human-rights-defenders-incompatible-core-international-human


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

June 27, 2018


Azadi about migration defenders

June 26, 2018

“Migration is not a crime. Defending the rights of migrant people should not be criminalised,” said Azadi (pseudonym) in her interview with ISHR. Today, more than 68 million people around the world are refugees or internally displaced as a result of conflict or persecution. They seek a safer life and better future. “Migrant rights defenders want to show people on the move that another Europe exists: it’s the Europe of the civil society that tries to welcome them. The Europe of solidarity”, Azadi concluded.


US withdraws from UN Human Rights Council: NGOs make clear their position

June 26, 2018

A group of 18 NGOs sent a joint letter to US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley in response to a letter sent by Haley to the organisations after the US withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council. On 17 May 2018, 18 NGOs had sent private letters to Member States urging them to not support the US proposal to reopen the Council’s institutional framework at the General Assembly.  Read the joint letter below.

Dear Ambassador Haley,

We write in response to your letter of 20 June 2018, in which you suggest that NGOs are somehow responsible for your decision to withdraw from the Human Rights Council. The decision to resign from the Council was that of the US administration alone. We had legitimate concerns that the US’s proposal to reopen the Council’s institutional framework at the General Assembly would do more harm than good. We see it as our responsibility to express those concerns and would do so again.

Although the Human Rights Council is not perfect, it does play an essential role. It makes a significant contribution to strengthening human rights standards, providing protection and justice to victims, and promoting accountability for perpetrators. The Council and its mechanisms have played a key role in securing the freedom of detained human rights defenders, and investigating rights violations in Syria, Yemen, Burundi, Myanmar, South Sudan, Sri Lanka and North Korea, to name but a few. It continues to address thematic issues of global concern including non-discrimination, freedom of expression online and offline, freedom of assembly, housing, migration, counterterrorism, and the protection of the rights of women, rights of LGBTI people, and rights of people with disabilities.

As you know, we are independent organizations that do not work on behalf of any government. We focus on building support for policies we believe will better the lives of those most affected by abuse –  which does mean we are sometimes opposed to proposals laid out by certain governments, or the proposed means of pursuing them, especially when we believe such an initiative could be more harmful than not.  With regard to the Council, our goal continues to be strengthening and supporting reform efforts that are ongoing in Geneva to ensure that they are informed by the experience and expertise of national and regional level actors, including rights-holders, human rights defenders and other civil society actors, victims, survivors (and their representatives).

We are committed to the international system, including the Human Rights Council, and to ensuring the system is fit for the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights. We will continue to work towards those goals.

Signatories:

  1. Amnesty International
  2. ARTICLE 19
  3. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia)
  4. Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC)
  5. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  6. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
  7. Child Rights Connect
  8. Conectas Direitos Humanos
  9. DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  10. Human Rights Watch
  11. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
  12. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  13. International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU)
  14. International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)
  15. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  16. International Women’s Health Coalition
  17. OutRight Action International
  18. Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights

Atlas of Torture: a new and timely project

June 25, 2018

A global cooperation platform has been launched to advance the fight against torture and ill-treatment worldwide: https://www.startnext.com/atlas-of-torture.
The Atlas of Torture – developed by Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights in Austria together with HURIDOCS – aims at providing the largest database on torture and ill-treatment, a map of organisations and activities as well as a learning and exchange platform for states, researchers, human rights defenders and the general public. Thereby they want to raise awareness, improve the access to information, strengthen cooperation and empower people worldwide. The project has already been endorsed by many human rights experts (from the UN SPT, Council of Europe, NGOs, academics and medical professionals). You will be able to view their testimonials over the coming weeks on the project’s Facebook <https://www.facebook.com/Atlas-of-Torture-115526871812308/> and Twitter <https://twitter.com/AtlasofTorture> channels.

A concept note with more details is available from: contact@atlas-of-torture.org 

http://atlas-of-torture.org/