Post Brexit trade deals risk to leave human rights out

January 4, 2021

Simon Tisdall – in a strongly-worded opinion piece in the Guardian of 3 January 2021 entitled “‘Global Britain’ is willing to trade away everything. Including scruples” – attacks the UK’s new deal with Turkey which ignores its appalling human rights abuses and should have been scrutinised by parliament

Simon Tisdall
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkey’s ‘strongman’ president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has hailed the trade deal with Britain as the start of a ‘new era’. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Sun 3 Jan 2021 07.00 GMT

The UK’s new trade agreement with Turkey, signed last week, ignores the Turkish government’s continuing human rights abuses, boosts its dangerous president, and undermines ministerial pledges that “global Britain” will uphold international laws and values. The deal took effect on 1 January without even rudimentary parliamentary scrutiny. Here, stripped of lies and bombast, is the dawning reality of Boris Johnson’s scruple-free post-Brexit world.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s “strongman” leader, is pleased as punch. He’s the new, biggest fan of Britain’s international trade secretary, Liz Truss, whose shabby work this is. Erdoğan hailed the deal as the start of a “new era” and a landmark for Turkey. After years of disastrous economic mismanagement and fierce rows with the US and EU over Turkish policy towards Russia, Syria, Libya, Greece and Cyprus, Erdoğan badly needed a win. Hapless Truss delivered….

This rushed deal rides roughshod over widely shared human rights concerns. It may be naive to think that the agreement, which replicates existing EU-Turkey arrangements, would allow matters of principle to imperil £18.6bn in two-way trade. Yet Britain is Turkey’s second-largest export market. Ankara was desperate to maintain tariff-free access. This gave Johnson and Truss leverage. It was a sovereign moment. But they failed to demand that Erdoğan change his ways.

…Selahattin Demirtaş, former leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic party, languishes in jail despite an order to free him – from the European court of human rights.

Alive to these and similar problems relating to other post-Brexit trade partners, the House of Lords amended the government’s Trade Bill last month to require human rights risk assessments when making agreements – to ensure compliance with the UK’s international treaties and obligations. But the government is expected to scrap the amendment when the bill returns to the Commons. The Turkey deal contains no such safeguards.

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/13/uks-human-rights-policy-after-brexit/]

In its scramble to replace lapsed EU arrangements, Johnson’s government has so far “rolled over” about 30 existing trade deals. Like the Turkey deal, they have not faced thorough parliamentary scrutiny. The list includes other countries or entities with contentious human rights records, such as Egypt, Tunisia, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Bilateral deals with notorious rights abusers such as China and Saudi Arabia have not been attempted – yet…

This lucrative business, or the prospect of losing it, may help explain the haste in finalising the Turkey deal. Yet the fact that Erdoğan stands accused of using British-made equipment and technology to repress domestic opponents, attack Syria’s Kurds, intervene in Libya’s civil war, and stoke the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict should have given serious pause. These actions run contrary to British interests, as does Erdoğan’s trouble-making in the eastern Mediterranean. Yet Johnson’s government, ever mindful of its Brexit needs, has kept its head down.

Full and timely parliamentary scrutiny of post-Brexit trade deals would help bring such omissions and contradictions to light – but is sadly lacking, as Emily Thornberry, Labour’s shadow trade secretary, said in November. She accused the government of “sheer bumbling incompetence” after Greg Hands, the trade minister, admitted there was not enough time for MPs to scrutinise trade deals before the 31 December deadline. So much for a sovereign parliament “taking back control” of Britain’s destiny and laws.

The Turkey deal illustrates a bigger, fundamental hypocrisy. Extolling a future “global Britain” in 2019, foreign secretary Dominic Raab promised that “once we’ve left the EU … human rights abusers anywhere in the world will face consequences for their actions”. In January 2020, Raab assured the Commons that “a truly global Britain is about more than just international trade and investment … Global Britain is also about continuing to uphold our values of liberal democracy and our heartfelt commitment to the international rule of law.”

Raab seems to mean well, but ne’er-do-wells such as Erdoğan are laughing fit to burst. Raab’s recent imposition of sanctions on individual rights abusers in Russia, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere does not affect the bigger picture. It is of a British government hellbent on cutting hasty, ill-considered deals with all manner of undesirable customers around the world, without proper regard for the political, legal, strategic and human consequences. And to think Tory aristocrats used to look down on trade.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jan/03/global-britain-is-willing-to-trade-away-everything-including-scruples


New Year, New Charges against Thai Protesters – the Lese-majesty law in Thailand

January 4, 2021

Thai authorities on 1 January 2021 made their 38th arrest of a pro-democracy activist in recent weeks under the country’s tough lèse majesté law as authorities crack down on the country’s unprecedented protest movement. That law, Section 112 of the Thai criminal code, forbids defamation of the king and provides for three to 15 years’ imprisonment for violations.The law had been dormant since King Maha Vajiralongkorn succeeded his father, King  Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in 2016. The Thai government, though, is now using it to try to stamp out continuing protests calling for the government to resign, a new constitution and reform of the monarchy

Thailand’s authorities must stop targeting pro-democracy protesters with draconian legal action and instead enter into dialogue, according to the UN’s special rapporteur for freedom of assembly, who warned the country risks sliding into violence. Clément Voule said he had written to the Thai government to express alarm at the use of the fierce lese-majesty law against dozens of protesters, including students as young as 16.

It is legitimate for people to start discussing where their country is going and what kind of future they want,” Voule said of the protests. “Stopping people from raising their legitimate concerns is not acceptable.

So far, 37 people face charges of insulting the monarchy for alleged offences ranging from wearing traditional dress deemed to be a parody of the royals to giving speeches arguing that the power and wealth of the king should be curbed.

Anti-government protesters flash a three-finger salute – a gesture used adopted by protesters from the Hunger Games films – as they gather in support of people detained under the lese-majesty law at a police station in Bangkok.
Anti-government protesters flash a three-finger salute – a gesture used adopted by protesters from the Hunger Games films – as they gather in support of people detained under the lese-majesty law at a police station in Bangkok. Photograph: Narong Sangnak/EPA

Prominent protest leaders face an unusually high number of charges. This includes the student activists Parit Chiwarak, also known as Penguin, (12 charges) and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul (six charges) and the human rights lawyer Anon Nampa (eight charges), who have given speeches calling for the power of the royals to be curbed.

The pro-democracy protest fundraiser Inthira Charoenpura
The pro-democracy protest fundraiser Inthira Charoenpura speaks from a stage outside Bang Khen police station in Bangkok. Photograph: Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP

Protesters – who have faced various other charges over recent months, including sedition – declined to participate in a government reconciliation panel in November, rejecting it as an attempt to buy time. The recent cases come after months of demonstrations in which protesters have made unusually frank and public calls for reform to the monarchy.

Benja Apan, 21, one of 13 people facing charges over a demonstration outside the German embassy in Bangkok, said legal action was unlikely to deter protesters from coming out in the new year. “I actually think it will bring more people out, because it is not fair,” she said.

The human rights group Amnesty International has launched a campaign calling on PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to drop charges pressed on a number of activists for their role in the pro-democracy movement and to repeal, or at least amend, Thailand’s draconian lèse majesté law. According to the campaign, at least 220 people, including minors, face criminal charges for relating to their actions in the pro-democracy movement. Activists are calling on government and monarchy reform, raising issues considered taboo and unprecedented in Thai society. Thailand must amend or repeal the repressive laws it is using to suppress peaceful assembly and the expression of critical and dissenting opinions.

Amnesty International is calling on people to take action and send a letter to the prime minister, calling on the Thai government to change their approach when handing the ongoing protests to protect human rights. Sample letter by AI’s campaign calls on Prayut to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally drop all criminal proceedings against protesters and others charged solely for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression
  • Cease all other measures, including harassment, aimed at dissuading public participation in peaceful gatherings or silencing voices critical of the government and social issues
  • Amend or repeal legislation in order to ensure it conforms with Thailand’s international human rights obligations on freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, and to train state officials to carry out their duties confirming to Thailand’s obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression.

On Saturday 19 December 2020 Maya Taylor in The Thaiger had already reported that the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights has expressed shock and dismay at Thailand’s use of its strict lèse majesté law against a 16 year old pro-democracy activist. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani has called on Thailand to refrain from using the law against those exercising their right to freedom of speech, as she expressed alarm that a minor was being charged under the law. “It is extremely disappointing that after a period of 2 years without any cases, we are suddenly witnessing a large number of cases, and – shockingly – now also against a minor. We also remain concerned that other serious criminal charges are being filed against protesters engaged in peaceful protests in recent months, including charges of sedition and offences under the Computer Crime Act. Again, such charges have been filed against a minor, among others.

The UN Human Rights Committee has found that detention of individuals solely for exercising the right to freedom of expression or other human rights constitutes arbitrary arrest or detention. We also urge the government to amend the lèse majesté law and bring it into line with Article 19 of the ICCPR on the right to freedom of expression.”

Thailand’s Foreign Ministry spokesman has played down the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ criticisms over the kingdom’s enforcement of the Lese Majeste law.

See also in 2019: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/23/thailand-amnesty-and-un-rapporteur-agree-on-misuse-of-lese-majeste/

https://thethaiger.com/news/national/pro-democracy-movement-making-little-headway-monarchys-powers-remain-untouched

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/27/un-thailand-protesters-royal-insult-law-lese-majesty

https://www.voanews.com/east-asia-pacific/new-year-new-charges-thai-protesters-slapped-royal-defamation-charges


We start 2021 with a long-read about Non-violence and PBI

January 4, 2021


A new year for this blog should start with a bit of transparency: in 2020 there were 35.147 views by 19.777 visitors, which is an increase of approximately 15 % on 2019. Not too bad for a niche blog I think. A theme that does not get enough attention is in my view the principled non-violence of many human rights defenders as illustrated in “Non-violence is always the best choice” by Carl Kline in Brookinsgregister of 29 December 2020:

The year 2021 marks the 40th anniversary of Peace Brigades International. Founded in 1981 at Grindstone Island in Ontario, Canada, PBI has practiced nonviolent accompaniment in numerous countries around the world.

The idea of peace brigades originated with Mahatma Gandhi, concerned about violence in India between various religious factions. Teams of unarmed volunteers would go into conflict situations as nonviolent, non-partisan actors, making contact with all groups to the dispute and helping mediate and resolve the conflict. If necessary, the volunteers were prepared to put their bodies in harm’s way to mitigate or stop the violence.

As the idea of PBI spread in the early ’80s, volunteers stepped forward, the depth of experience increased, more rigorous training developed for those in the field, and an international organization emerged with working groups in 12 countries. In 2020, projects were ongoing in Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Indonesia, Mexico and Nepal.

PBI does not enter any conflict situation unless invited by a human rights organization in the host country. Volunteers spend their initial time in the country identifying their presence to all sides of the conflict and to government officials. They wear identifying clothing. They have an international network of others willing to respond at a moment’s notice with telegrams, email or letters to appropriate persons, letting them know the whole world is watching.

Their primary purpose is accompanying those human rights workers who are under threat of death. A volunteer is with them 24 hours a day. Oftentimes family members are accompanied as well, to school, to market, wherever they happen to go.

Having done this work for 40 years, PBI has compiled solid experiential evidence that nonviolent, non-partisan accompaniment works and violent conflicts can be lessened and sometimes resolved by the intervention of international nonviolent agents. In 40 years of accompaniment, none of the accompanied, or those who accompanied them, have been lost to violence. Many of the human rights defenders in the various countries have attributed their survival to PBI.

The Nonviolent Peaceforce had its beginnings in 2002 with a founding conference in India with representatives from 49 countries present. They began their first project in Sri Lanka in 2003. Today they are active in Iraq, the Phillipines, Myanmar and South Sudan.

Their mission statement reads: “Nonviolent Peaceforce is a global civilian protection agency based in humanitarian and international human rights law. Our mission is to protect civilians in violent conflicts through unarmed strategies, build peace side by side with local communities, and advocate for the wider adoption of these approaches to safeguard human lives and dignity. We are guided by principles of nonviolence, nonpartisanship, primacy of local actors, and civilian-to-civilian action.”

Both organizations, similar at their core, have matured to the point where they have reputations worldwide, especially among those served. They have enough history and experience they are here to stay.

On a more local level, there is a long history of conflict resolution programs in the public schools. Creative Conflict Resolution  began in New York state in 1972, started by a group of Quakers. At the time, it was called Children’s Creative Response to Conflict. As it grew and expanded its programs across the country, it came to Brookings in the early ‘90s and local volunteers established programs in schools across the state. After a training and installment of a peer mediation program in one South Dakota school, the principal lamented with a grin that he never saw problem cases in his office anymore. They all chose to go to mediation.

The spinoffs from these programs of conflict resolution, started early in the schools and homes, are many and long-lasting. It is clear that we can educate our way to a less violent culture, if only we make it as critical an educational mission as the three r’s.

As we begin a new year, it is clear we have choices. We don’t have to add to the war budget every year. It would be far more productive and encouraging to shift some of those funds to nonviolent alternatives, like PBI or the Nonviolent Peaceforce. Or why can’t we have conflict resolution programs in every school in the country.

This year, in 2021, we have a special opportunity to choose between violence and nonviolence. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is 50 years old. The new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons goes into effect on Jan. 22, 2021. 50 countries have now signed it. This treaty prohibits the use, development, testing, production, manufacturing, acquiring, possession, stockpiling, transferring, receiving, threatening to use, stationing, installation or deployment of nuclear weapons. The U.S., along with other nuclear nations, will have a choice: sign on or be a rogue nation.

Can we see the mounting evidence? From our homes and schools to the international community, there is a better way!

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/26/pbis-right-to-defend-a-new-multi-media-awareness-campaign/

https://brookingsregister.com/article/non-violence-is-always-the-best-choice


BEST WISHES FOR 2021

December 31, 2020

Dear Readers

THANK YOU FOR HAVING READ AND SHARED MY POSTS

This is to wish you a very good new year. 2021 is bound to be better in many ways and – with the vaccines – promises to be an improvement. If the corona sceptics would just learn the facts we would all be safer


Felix Vasquez, environmental defender, killed in front of family in Honduras

December 29, 2020

Reuters on 28 December 2020 reported that masked men armed with guns and machetes killed Felix Vasquez, a Honduran environmental rights defender, in front of his family, police said, the latest in a string of such attacks in the Central American country. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/16/two-more-defenders-killed-in-honduras/]

Police authorities immediately decided to initiate a corresponding investigation… we hope to have an answer soon,” police official Kevin Hernandez told journalists.

Honduras is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for activists, with 14 land and environmental defenders killed last year, up from four people in 2018, according to data made available by advocacy group Global Witness. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/29/global-witness-2019-worst-year-ever-for-land-rights-and-environmental-defenders/]

Vasquez, a member of the indigenous Lenca community which lives in the mountainous region near the border with El Salvador, had intended to run for Congress as a member of the opposition LIBRE party in 2021 elections.

Soon after a second land defender was killed: Adan Medina, 46, of the Tolupan indigenous community, was shot and killed by a group of men on Sunday after returning from work in the town of Candelaria, according to Noe Rodriguez, the president of a local indigenous federation. [https://www.reuters.com/article/us-honduras-killing/second-indigenous-activist-killed-in-honduras-in-past-week-idUSKBN29423E]

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-honduras-killing-idUSKBN2921QK


Loujain Al-Hathloul Sentenced to over 5 Years Prison by Saudi Terror Court

December 29, 2020

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) posted on 28 the bad news that after 958 days in detention, Loujain AlHathloul was sentenced to 5 years and 8 months in prison in court today by the Specialised Criminal Court (terrorism court).[see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/11/26/loujain-al-hathlouls-trial-judge-transfers-her-case-to-even-worse-court/].

The sentence includes a suspension of 2 years and 10 months in addition to the time already served (since May 2018) which would see Loujain’s release in approximately two months. Loujain is also required to serve three years of probation during which time she could be arrested for any perceived illegal activity. She will also be placed on a 5 year travel ban.

After nearly three years in pre-trial detention and now 5 weeks of a rushed trial process in the Specialised Criminal Court, my sister Loujain was sentenced to 5 years and 8 months in prison by the Specialised Criminal Court today. She was charged, tried and convicted using counter-terrorism laws. Loujain and my parents (who are her lawyers) were given little time to prepare so it is hard to understand how this trial process is a fair one. My sister is not a terrorist, she is an activist. To be sentenced for her activism for the very reforms that MBS and the Saudi Kingdom so proudly tout is the ultimate hypocrisy. My sister is the bravest person I know, and while we are devastated that she will have to spend even one more day in prison, our fight is far from over. We will not rest until Loujain is free,” said Lina AlHathloul.

The post includes a full timeline of the Specialised Criminal Court.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/28/saudi-rights-activist-loujain-al-hathloul-sentenced-to-almost-six-years-in-jail


Mary Rose Sancelan, victim of Red Tagging in Negros, buried

December 24, 2020

Carla Gomez and Nestor P. Burgos Jr. wrote for the Philippine Daily Inquirer of 24 December, 2020 “Goodbye, ‘people’s doctor” about the burial of Guihulngan City health officer Mary Rose Sancelan and her husband, Edwin. White balloons were released during the couple’s burial.

Our people’s doctor (Mary Rose) dedicated her life to end both the COVID-19 pandemic and the pandemic of injustice. [But] our beloved martyr took eight bullets on our behalf; and her husband, Edwin, took five. Sadly, their son, Red Emmanuel, bears all the pain of the violent demise of his parents. Together, we accompany him in his quest for justice,” San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said during the funeral Mass at the Our Lady of Buensuceso Parish Church.

Mary Rose, Guihulngan’s health officer and chief of the city’s Inter-Agency Task Force Against Emerging Infectious Diseases, and her husband were on board a motorcycle on their way home to Carmeville on 15 Decemeer when they were shot by two men on board another motorcycle that drove alongside them.

The attack came about a year after Mary Rose expressed fears over her safety after she was red-tagged by a group called Kawsa Guihulnganon Batok Komunista (or “Kagubak,” loosely translated as Concerned Guihulnganons against Communists). She was the first on the list of Guihulngan residents whom the anti-communist vigilante group Kagubak accused of being supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (NPA).

The list, which was released in 2018, identified her as Ka JB Regalado, then spokesperson for the Apolinario Gatmaitan Command of the NPA.

Bishop Alminaza appealed to the faithful to wear white on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day “to express our desire for and commitment to peace, sanctity of life, human dignity and human rights, and our collective call to end the killings, the COVID-19 pandemic and the abuse of our common home.”

Alminaza said the International Criminal Court, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other agencies have more reasons to demand from the Philippine government accountability for the rampant human rights violations and the absence of the rule of law.

We can never speak of peace when the bloodbath continues. We are not Christians at all if we use violence in the name of enforced peace. Peace is real when we stop firing our guns, when we refuse to pull the trigger on a person’s life, and when we stop becoming enablers of injustice,” the bishop said. “It is sad that militarization defines our peace and order, not the security of our citizens. We call on our city to seriously work for justice among the citizens living in Guihulngan. We call upon our mayor and city officials to take to heart their utmost duty to protect the people in this city. We challenge our local government to not become a political hostage of this oppressive killing policy,” he added. The Sancelans’ relatives declined to issue any statement, saying they wanted to keep their mourning private.

In a pastoral message, Alminaza reiterated the need to end the killings in Negros. “Our island awaits the day when the blood from the pandemic of violence stops flowing. When will our priests in the diocese end burying victims of these orchestrated acts of terrorism?” he said. The killing of the Sancelan couple is among the 106 cases of extrajudicial killings recorded on Negros Island under the Duterte administration. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/22/the-killing-of-randy-echanis-and-zara-alvarez-put-the-philippines-under-more-pressure/]

As your pastor, I am taking the mantle of the cause of their martyrdom. We stress that merely speaking about this senseless violence in our midst is not enough. Our collective outrage should move us to collectively act against it,” Alminaza said.

https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1375308/goodbye-peoples-doctor#ixzz6hYa2GCLs


Ugandan Human rights defender Nicholas Opiyo arrested like a criminal

December 23, 2020

Colin Stewart posted on December 22, 2020 in 76Crimes.com the story of how on 22 December the Ugandan police seized highly respected human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo from a restaurant where he was eating, forced him into a van and drove away with him. He was recently released on bail: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/uganda-leading-rights-lawyer-released-on-bail/2093856

Nicholas Opiyo is confronted outside a magistrate court in 2018 after attempting to prosecute Uganda’s chief of police. (Photo courtesy of Nicholas Opiyo)

In a message on its Facebook page, the Uganda Police Force stated that Opiyo was arrested by a “Joint Task team of Security and Financial Intelligence, on allegations of money laundering and related malicious acts. The investigations are progressing well and any new developments will be communicated in due course,” the message continued. “He remains in our custody at the Special Investigations Division.”

Opiyo, a strong ally of the LGBTI community in Uganda, is the executive director and lead attorney of Chapter Four Uganda, a human rights advocacy organization. As an attorney, he represented presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine) after Wine’s arrest before a campaign rally on Nov. 18. That arrest sparked widespread violence. Opiyo said Wine was arrested on a coronavirus violation, but “the actual reason really is that it is part of the broader attempt to stifle opposition campaigns.” He noted that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was also holding political rallies during the same period, but without police interference.

The Chimp Reports news site reported:

National Unity Platform Presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Bobi Wine claimed Opiyo was arrested because he was looking into the aftermath of the November 18th protests in which over 50 people were killed. The protests were sparked by the arrest of the candidate. Bobi Wine said Opiyo was “abducted by security from restaurant in Kamwokya [a section of Kampala, the capital of Uganda], alongside other lawyers investigating murders of 18th & 19th, Nov. Thrown into private van with tinted glasses and  driven at breakneck speed to unknown destination.”

The Uganda Police Force message about Opiyo was harshly criticized in hundreds of comments on Facebook, including remarks.

The website of Chapter Four Uganda states about Opiyo:

He is the recipient of German Africa Prize, 2017, Voices for Justice Award from Human Rights Watch, 2015 and the European Union Parliament Sakharov Fellows Prize, 2016. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/08/11/4-human-rights-defenders-receiving-the-alison-des-forges-award-2015/]

He was until March of 2017, a member of the Team of Expert to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Peaceful Assembly and Association. He is also a visiting scholar at the Centre for African Studies, Stanford University, CA, USA and the Global Health Program at the University of San Francisco (UCSF), California, USA.

Nicholas is the Board Chair of Action Aid Uganda, a member of the Human Rights Advisory Board BENETECH, a Silicon Valley human rights and tech company based in Palo Alto in California and African Middle Eastern Leadership Project (AMEL), a Washington, DC-based think and action group.

On 29 December a group of UN experts expressed their concern: https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/12/1081072

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/dec/23/uganda-detains-leading-lawyer-for-lgbt-rights-on-money-laundering-charges


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


2020 Human Rights Day in Myanmar: arrest of human rights defenders

December 22, 2020

Khine Rola in the Irrawaddy of 22 December 2020 relates what happens when you demonstrate peacefully during international human rights day in Myanmar.

Rakhine State police have opened a case against three activists under Article 19 of the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law over a human rights demonstration in the state capital, Sittwe, earlier this month.

The three – Ko Min Bar Chay (also known as Ko Than Hla), Ko Naing Naing Tun and Ma Khaing Mrat Thu from the Rakhine Youth New Generation Network — led other protesters to mark Human Rights Day on Dec. 10. The three were detained as they protested on Strand Road in Sittwe and released on bail later that evening.

However, Sittwe Township police chief, Major Zaw Naing, said the three organized the event without seeking approval from the authorities when he filed the charges on Monday. The three insisted that the event was too important to cancel because the authorities failed to grant approval. At the event, the activists held placards calling for human rights, women’s rights and to end terrorism.

The three suspects leave court on December 21. / Khine Rola / The Irrawaddy

Ma Khaing Mrat Thu said: “It was Human Rights Day and Myanmar has ratified the International Human Rights Declaration. What we organized was not a protest but a campaign. We are very sad that the government filed a lawsuit against us instead of appreciating the citizens who respect human rights.

Ko Zaw Zaw Min, a lawyer at the Arakan Human Rights Defenders and Promoters Association, said: “They just expressed their opinions on Human Rights Day. They should have freedom of expression. They marked the event to protect human rights. Treating such activities as a sensitive issue and taking legal action will only disrupt justice.” The next court hearing is scheduled for December 30.