Posts Tagged ‘access’

Last straw?: U.N. Human Rights Rapporteur Barred By Myanmar

December 21, 2017

 Yanghee Lee, U.N. human rights special rapporteur to Myanmar, talks to journalists during a news briefing in Yangon, Myanmar, in July 2017.

Yanghee Lee, the U.N. special rapporteur on Myanmar, says she has been told that the Myanmar government will neither cooperate with her nor grant her access to the country for the remainder of her tenure. Lee was scheduled to visit Myanmar in January to assess human rights in the country, particularly in western Rakhine state, where the Rohingya are concentrated.

I am puzzled and disappointed by this decision by the Myanmar Government,she said in a statement.This declaration of non-cooperation with my mandate can only be viewed as a strong indication that there must be something terribly awful happening in Rakhine, as well as in the rest of the country.” “Only two weeks ago, Myanmar’s Permanent Representative informed the Human Rights Council of its continuing cooperation with the UN, referencing the relationship with my role as Special Rapporteur,” Lee said. Amnesty International called Myanmar’s decision to bar Ms Lee “outrageous”. James Gomez, the group’s director for Asia and the Pacific, said: “It is a further indication that authorities will do anything they can to avoid international scrutiny of their human rights record.”  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/01/murder-of-human-rights-defender-ko-ni-in-myanmar/]

The U.N. says more than 630,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar since ongoing military attacks that began in August. Doctors Without Borders estimates that 6,700 Rohingya were killed in the first month of the crackdown. Refugees streaming into neighboring Bangladesh have brought with them tales of rape and murder at the hands of Myanmar’s soldiers.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussain told the BBC this week that Myanmar’s nominal leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and the head of the country’s armed forces could potentially face charges of genocide for their role in the crackdown. “Given the scale of the military operation, clearly these would have to be decisions taken at a high enough level,” he told the BBC. “And then there’s the crime of omission. That if it came to your knowledge that this was being committed, and you did nothing to stop it, then you could be culpable as well for that.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/09/03/myanmar-time-for-aung-san-suu-kyi-to-return-at-least-some-of-her-many-human-rights-awards/]

Myanmar’s refusal to cooperate with the U.N. comes as the country set up a joint working committee for the return of Rohingya refugees with Bangladesh — where hundreds of thousands are housed in squalid border camps. Under an agreement signed last month in Dhaka, a 30-member working group is to be set up for the voluntary repatriation of Rohingya.

The authorities last week arrested Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, Reuters journalists who have been covering the Rohingya crisis, and the men are being held incommunicado at an undisclosed location. They were arrested after being invited to dine with police officers on the outskirts of Yangon, the commercial capital.  After the arrests, the ministry of information released a picture of the men in handcuffs and alleged they had “illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media”.

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/12/20/572197324/u-n-human-rights-investigator-barred-by-myanmar

https://www.ft.com/content/6f0674ec-e57d-11e7-97e2-916d4fbac0da

HURIDOCS launches RightDoc to improve access to UN human rights documents

February 25, 2016

huridocs-signature-logo launches its new RightDocs tool with a Demo on 29 February 2016, from 18:00-19:30 in the Palais des Nations, Delegates Restaurant, Geneva.

RightDocs is a new tool to search, sort, filter, and discover resolutions of the UN Human Rights Council online and public.

 

The RightDocs tool is supported by the Permanent Mission of Denmark to the UN in Geneva.  Read the rest of this entry »

Lithuanians better educated about their access to human rights defenders

December 8, 2014

It doesn’t always have to be gloom in this blog:  Petras Vaida, from Vilnius, reports on 8 December 2014 that a survey shows that more than half Lithuanians would know where to address in case they think their rights were violated (against 27,9% of respondents  in 2012.)

141208_ombudsm_lit.jpg
Each year the Seimas Ombudsmen ask Lithuanians whether they have enough information about the human rights defenders who may help them in case their rights are violated in municipal and governmental institutions. This year’s survey based showed that fifty-four% of respondents would know where to request help in case their rights were violated, including 42% who would address the Seimas Ombudsmen. The researchers observed that younger, more educated, urban and richer respondents knew better where to address in case their rights were violated.

More than half Lithuanians would know where to address in case their rights were violated :: The Baltic Course | Baltic States news & analytics.

United Nations declares again that mass surveillance threatens the right to privacy.

November 27, 2014

Several newspapers have reported on this matter but perhaps not many  in the US (see at the end). In an excellent blog post on 26 November 2014 Peter Micek and Javier Pallero give the background to this UN Declaration, for the second straight year, which states that government communications surveillance poses a threat to the right to privacy. I quote liberally from it:

Passed unanimously on Tuesday by the Third Committee, the resolution on “The right to privacy in the digital age” this time also calls for a permanent ‘office’ on the right to privacy. For that to happen, the Human Rights Council in Geneva will have to take action in March 2015 by creating a new “special rapporteur” on the right to privacy.

Background

In response to mass surveillance revelations in 2013, including news that their political leaders had been spied on, Brazil and Germany co-authored a unanimous resolution in the General Assembly. The resolution called for a report by the then High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, who came with a scathing critique in July 2014 that cited the need for immediate reform of surveillance laws and practices in line with international human rights norms. The report’s finding that mass surveillance inherently violates human rights spoke directly to the “five eyes” countries – the US, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, and Australia – who are responsible for weakening technical standards, collecting untold reams of data, and thwarting public debate over their practices.

Brazil and Germany again teamed up to lead this year’s effort, gathering more than 60 cosponsors. The resolution finds that surveillance must be “consistent with international human rights obligations and must be conducted on the basis of a legal framework, which must be publicly accessible, clear, precise, comprehensive and non-discriminatory.” It smartly calls for greater access to remedy for victims — a too-often ignored pillar of rights frameworks — and for increased attention to the role of private companies in government surveillance. In oral statements, the US and its allies in the “Five Eyes” drew attention to the resolution’s acknowledgment of “threats and harassment” that human rights defenders face along with privacy violations. And the resolution invites the Human Rights Council to “consider the possibility of establishing a special procedure” regarding the promotion and protection of the right to privacy.

Shortcomings

  • The resolution does not specifically call for governments to extend protections to users abroad.  Although expressing concern is important, governments must do much more to provide an effective solution to cross-border violations.
  • The resolutions language on restrictions is unnecessarily general (“non-arbitrary and lawful”) but it could have used findings by multiple courts and international experts more precisely defining how privacy rights should be handled – that surveillance and other privacy restrictions should only be prescribed by law, necessary to achieve a legitimate aim, and proportionate to the aim pursued. These concepts are further articulated in the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance, which High Commissioner Pillay said in her report can be considered interpretive guidance of Article 17 of the ICCPR that establishes the right to privacy.
  • While the resolution notes that metadata can, when aggregated, “reveal personal information and can give an insight into an individual’s behaviour, social relationships, private preferences and identity,” it stops short of calling for an end to bulk metadata collection by governments, which the Human Rights Council has an opportunity to push for in March.

Summarizing, the authors of the post think that this resolution is a step in the right direction and “Access” will continue working to ensure the Council follows through on the General Assembly’s suggestion, and creates the Special Rapporteur.

https://www.accessnow.org/blog/2014/11/26/new-un-resolution-shifts-momentum-on-privacy-to-human-rights-council

In a related piece in ‘The Local’ one can read how Germany – at the heart of moves to limit the power of US web companies and their involvement in surveillance – is pressured by American companies and politicians.

 

http://www.thelocal.de/20141126/germany-denies-accusations-of-google-bashing

UN General Assembly votes today on Iran: Joint appeal by NGOs

November 18, 2014

Today – 18 November 2014 – the General Assembly is due to vote on a Resolution concerning Iran. Although the human rights situation in Iran has shown some slight improvements since Rouhani became president, it seems that hardliners keep firm control over the judiciary and thus over the life and well-being of human rights defenders. Also Iran continues to deny access to the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran. The Joint Letter to the Member States of the UN General Assembly signed by numerous NGOs makes the point quite clearly:

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/iran/

Text of Letter:

Your Excellency:

We, the undersigned human rights and civil society organizations, write to urge your government to vote in favor of Resolution A/RES/69/L on the promotion and protection of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This vote will take place during the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly, scheduled to take place in the Third Committee this Tuesday, 18 November 2014.

This resolution provides a crucial opportunity to reiterate ongoing human rights concerns identified by members of the international community and Iranian civil society. Sixteen months into the presidency of Hassan Rouhani, who won the election after promising to improve the human rights situation, those living in Iran continue to suffer violations at the hands of the authorities. Indeed, during last month’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Iran at the UN Human Rights Council, several UN member states expressed dismay at Iran’s lack of progress over the last four years, including on many of the recommendations Iran had accepted during the first UPR cycle in 2010.

Human rights abuses are deeply rooted in Iran’s laws and policies, both of which pose serious obstacles for much-needed rights reforms to take place. On 28 October 2014, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, reported that human rights in the country “remain of concern” and detailed violations of the rights to life, the rights to freedom from torture and discrimination based on gender, religion, and ethnicity, the rights to education, health, fair trial, freedom of expression, association, assembly, religion and belief, as well as limits on the press. Despite its 2005 standing invitation to the United Nations’ Special Procedures, Iran remains unwilling to accept their repeated requests to visit the country. Furthermore, the authorities have systematically worked to undermine the efforts of civil society in the country to promote and protect international human rights standards.

The continued attention of the international community is required if the Islamic Republic of Iran is to end this pattern of abuse and noncooperation. UN member states must continue to express their concern about these abuses. In doing so, member states provide support to civil society as well as to those in the Iranian government who wish to see improvements in the human rights situation. By voting in favour of the resolution, states will encourage Iran’s government to prioritize human rights and to advance and protect the rights of Iran’s population.

Since the beginning of 2014, Iran has executed at least 600 people. This figure includes juvenile offenders and individuals who may have been executed for peacefully exercising their rights including the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly. Death sentences in Iran are often imposed without any regard to internationally prescribed safeguards. Authorities executed Reyhaneh Jabbari on 25 October 2014, despite repeated calls from UN human rights mechanisms, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to stay the execution out of concern that her prosecution had failed to meet international fair trial standards. Moreover, the vast majority of executions in Iran are implemented for offenses, such as drug-related offenses, that do not meet the threshold of the “most serious crimes.” Iranian law maintains the death penalty for consensual sexual relations between adults, including for adultery and same-sex relations, and for financial crimes. Iran continues to execute in public despite calls by the UN Secretary-General on authorities to halt the practice.

Executions based on national security-related charges that may be politically motivated appear to be carried out disproportionately against members of Iran’s ethnic minority communities, including Ahwazi Arabs, Kurds, and Baluchis. Rights groups are concerned about the situation of 33 Sunni Kurds, most of whom are held in Raha’i Shahr Prison in Karaj and face imminent risk of execution. The men were sentenced to death following grossly unfair trials during which basic safeguards, such as the right to defense, were disregarded, in contravention of international fair trial standards.

The Special Rapporteur and human rights organizations continue to express grave concerns for scores of activists, journalists, human rights defenders, women’s rights activists, trade unionists, students, and members of ethnic and religious minorities currently languishing in arbitrary detention. Iranian detainees and prisoners consistently face the risk of torture or other ill-treatment, including prolonged solitary confinement and denial of medical treatment. They are regularly denied access to legal counsel or fair trials. Many detainees are prosecuted under vaguely defined national security charges, which are regularly used to silence peaceful expression, association, assembly, and religious activity. In July 2014, for example, journalist Sajedeh Arabsorkhi began serving a one-year imprisonment sentence on the charge of “spreading propaganda against the system.” It appears that the charge is related to her open letters to her father, Feyzollah Arabsorkhi, a former deputy trade minister and a senior member of a reformist political party, during the time he was imprisoned.

Systematic discrimination against women in law and practice also merits serious concern. In the past few years, the authorities have increasingly put in place discriminatory measures aimed at restricting women’s access to higher education, including gender quotas, and have adopted new population policies resulting in women’s restricted access to sexual health and family planning programs. The authorities continue to persecute those protesting such discriminatory laws and practices, often by accusing them of vaguely worded national security offences. This month, for example, Ghoncheh Ghavami learned of her one-year prison sentence and two-year travel ban by a Tehran court on the charge of “spreading propaganda against the system”. She was arrested after she protested a ban on women watching matches at sports stadium during a game played by Iran’s national volleyball team.

This resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights in Iran of the 69th UNGA is a vital opportunity for the international community to give expression to human rights concerns. The resolution welcomes recent positive statements by Iranian officials, while effectively drawing attention to the broad range of ongoing violations. Moreover, the resolution calls on authorities to cooperate with all UN Special Procedures, including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Substantive cooperation with UN mechanisms and tangible rights improvements in line with Iran’s international legal obligations are the real measures of progress. By voting in favor of this resolution on 18 November, the UN General Assembly will send a strong signal to the government and all Iranians that the world is invested in genuine human rights improvements in the country.

Letter to the Member States of the UN General Assembly.

Human Rights Defender Maryam Al Khawaja stopped at Bahrain airport; may appear in court tomorrow

September 1, 2014

HRF logo today (1 September 2014) expressed fears for leading human rights defender Maryam Al Khawaja, who landed at Bahrain airport last night on a visit home and has been held by Bahraini authorities. Reports state that al Khawaja, a Danish citizen, was immediately detained and will be held at the airport until tomorrow. Bahrain is consistently revealing itself as a place where voices on human rights are not welcome,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “In the last two months, a U.S. diplomat, a member of Congress, and the NGO Human Rights First have either been kicked out of or not allowed into the country. Now Maryam has been taken into custody and will appear in court tomorrow after trying to visit her family, including her father who is on hunger strike in prison there. Lets hope the United States, United Kingdom, and other governments  will respond to whats happening to her with more than just an awkward silence.

For more information please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at bowsersoderb[at]humanrightsfirst.org.

via Leading Bahrain Human Rights Defender Stopped at Airport, May Appear in Court Tomorrow | Human Rights First.

Philippines activist deported from India for working on disappearances

August 20, 2014

MARY AILEEN DIEZ BACALSO
The Kashmir Reader on 20 August 2014 reported that Mary Aileen Diez Bacalso, the Secretary General of Manila-based Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), was deported after her arrival at the Mumbai International Airport, India. “I’m sure that I was prevented from entering the country because of my work for the AFAD,  and for the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) on the issue of enforced disappearances, on the mass graves, and  on the persecution of human rights defenders in Kashmir,” Bacalso told over phone from Manila.Bacalso said it was not the first time that India denied a visa to an AFAD official from visiting the country. She said that the matter was reported to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced Disappearances and to the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances.
“And India ironically signed the International Convention for the Protection of all the persons from enforced disappearance. And in that convention it states that the families of the disappeared have the right to organize themselves and also to work for truth and justice…” she added.

The AFAD Secretary General explained that she was not on an official but a personal visit to Mumbai on her friend’s invitation.  “I was going to stay in Mumbai as a tourist for only four days. …I was not planning to go to Kashmir.”
Upon her arrival at the Mumbai airport on August 17 the officials told her that she had done something ‘bad’ during her five-day visit to India in November 2009. [Prior to her visit, the Indian embassy in Philippines told her travel agent that Philippine nationals can obtain a 20-day visa upon arrival

via HR activist says barred from India for working on Kashmir disappearances | Kashmir Reader.

Swedish Ice Hockey President presses case of human rights defender detained at Minsk airport and scores…

May 12, 2014

Swedish human rights activist detained at Minsk airport

On 12 May 2014 Charter97 brings a story that shows that Belarus finds it awkward to let human rights defenders into the country but it equally that high-level intervention by sports officials can help. According to Christer Englund, the President of the Swedish Ice Hockey Association, the detention of Paulina Kluge and the earlier detention of Martin Uggla are obvious violations of the arrangements between the International Ice Hockey Federation and the Belarusian authorities. “No visas are needed for those having a ticket for a hockey match. It shouldn’t matter what your name is,” Christer Englund said. “The issue is now being discussed on the level of Lukashenka and Fasel.” Paulina  Kluge was allowed to enter Belarus in the end he said in interview with SVD sport.

Human rights defender Martin Uggla, who had been deported from Belarus earlier, wrote on Facebook: “Another Swedish human rights activist from Östgruppen – Paulina Kluge – was detained at the airport in Minsk on May 9. She was waiting for the deportation. My case was being discussed at the highest level (Fasel and Lukashenka) at that time. They began to discuss both issues. As a result, Paulina was allowed to enter the country! They said it was a ‘technical error’. As for my status, there’s no new information so far”. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/human-rights-defenders-call-for-release-political-prisoners-during-ice-hockey-world-championship-in-belarus/

[About 30 opposition activists have been detained by the police in the last two weeks]

Swedish human rights activist detained at Minsk airport – Charter97 :: News from Belarus – Belarusian News – Republic of Belarus – Minsk.

Ukrainian Security Service lifts entry ban on Russian human rights defender Andrei Yurov

February 26, 2014

Interfax-Ukraine reports today that the Ukrainian Security Service has lifted an entry ban it had earlier imposed on a number of foreign activists and human rights defenders, including journalist Yury Barabash and human rights defender Andrei Yurov, both Russian citizens. As I reported earlier Yurov, a member of the Russian presidential Human Rights Council and a Moscow Helsinki Group expert, had been barred from entering Ukraine to take part in an international conference in Kiev (Kyiv): https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/andrei-yurov/ [The head of the Human Rights Council, Mikhail Fedotov, had called on the new Ukrainian authorities on Sunday to lift the entry ban.]

via Ukrainian Security Service lifts entry ban from some foreign activists, rights defenders.

Algeria and Egypt: more non-cooperation and less access

February 13, 2014

Here two recent examples of non-cooperation in relation to requests for access by international human rights mechanisms:

  • On 11 February 2014 five international human rights organisations issued a statement decrying Algeria’s lack of cooperation in allowing UN human rights experts and international human rights organizations to visit the country. Algeria may have joined the UN Human Rights Council in January 2014, but it  has not agreed to visits by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, despite their repeated requests. Similarly the Algerian authorities have refused to grant visas to nongovernmental  human rights organizations for several years. “Algeria remains the only country among its neighbors that generally restricts access to human rights organizations,” said Eric Goldstein, of Human Rights Watch. [The 5 NGOs making the appeal are Amnesty International, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, Human Rights Watch and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint program of the International Federation for Human Rights FIDH, and the World Organization Against Torture OMCT].
  • Today, 14 February it became known that the European Union Special Representative for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, was denied a request to visit prisoners during his visit to Egypt [he announced this on Twitter after meeting with Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat.] Lambrinidis described the refusal as a “direct contradiction” to the Ministry of Interior’s “press release promising greater openness to such visits”. Only two days earlier – amid mounting allegations of torture inside places of detention – the Ministry of Interior had issued a statement welcoming requests from NGOs wishing to visit prisons. [Lambrinidis held an open discussion with 30 human rights defenders  from local and international NGOs earlier this week, stating that the Egyptian government must respect peaceful free expression and human rights communities.]

via:

http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2014/02/13/eu-human-rights-envoy-denied-access-prisoners/#sthash.hEciHx9r.dpuf

Algeria: Allow Rights Groups to Visit – No Response from Algiers to Requests from UN Bodies / February 11, 2014 / Urgent Interventions / Human rights defenders / OMCT.