Posts Tagged ‘Agnès Callamard’

Disappointment with UN High Commissioner’s visit to Xinjiang boils over

June 9, 2022

Many have been the reactions to the UN High Commissioner’s visit to China, some even expressing doubt BEFORE the visit took place [see: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/24/what-will-the-un-human-rights-commissioner-see-in-xinjiang and https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/05/20/un-rights-chiefs-credibility-stake-china-visit]. The open referred to in the Guardian of 9 June 2022 was signed by academics in wake of Michelle Bachelet’s China visit and demands release of UN report on human rights abuses.

Agnes Callamard, the secretary general of Amnesty International, said on 28 June that Bachelet should condemn human rights violations in Xinjiang, and call on China to release people arbitrarily detained and end systematic attacks on ethnic minorities in the region. “The high commissioner’s visit has been characterized by photo opportunities with senior government officials and manipulation of her statements by Chinese state media, leaving an impression that she has walked straight into a highly predictable propaganda exercise for the Chinese government,“.

Dozens of scholars have accused the UN human rights chief of having ignored or contradicted academic findings on abuses in Xinjiang with her statements on the region. In an open letter published this week, 39 academics from across Europe, the US and Australia called on Michelle Bachelet to release a long-awaited UN report on human rights abuses in China.

The letter, published online, included some academics with whom Bachelet had consulted prior to her visit to Xinjiang. The letter’s signatories expressed gratitude for this, but said they were “deeply disturbed” by her official statement, delivered at a press conference in Guangzhou at the end of her six-day tour. They said her statement “ignored and even contradicted the academic findings that our colleagues, including two signatories to this letter, provided”.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights visits China.

It is rare that an academic field arrives at the level of consensus that specialists in the study of Xinjiang have reached,” the letter said. “While we disagree on some questions of why Beijing is enacting its atrocities in Xinjiang, we are unanimous in our understanding of what it is that the Chinese state is doing on the ground.”.

Rights organisations and several governments have labelled the campaign a genocide or crime against humanity. Beijing denies all allegations of mistreatment and says its policies are to counter terrorism and religious extremism.

At the end of her visit Bachelet said she had urged the Chinese government to review its counter-terrorism policies in Xinjiang and appealed for information about missing Uyghurs. She was quickly criticised by some rights groups for giving few details or condemnation of China while readily giving long unrelated statements about US issues in response to questions from Chinese state media.

The academics’ letter is among growing criticism of Bachelet for not speaking out more forcefully against Chinese abuses after her visit, as well as a continued failure to release the UN report, which is believed to have been completed in late 2021. On Wednesday dozens of rights groups, predominately national and local chapters of organisations associated with Uyghur and Tibetan campaigns, demanded her resignation. See: http://www.phayul.com/2022/06/09/47195/

The 230 organisations accused Bachelet of having “whitewashed the Chinese government’s human rights atrocities” and having “legitimised Beijing’s attempt to cover up its crimes by using the Chinese government’s false ‘counter-terrorism’ framing”.

“The failed visit by the high commissioner has not only worsened the human rights crisis of those living under the Chinese government’s rule, but also severely compromised the integrity of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in promoting and protecting human rights globally,” the statement said.

They also decried that she had repeatedly referred to the detention camps in Xinjiang by the Chinese government’s preferred term: “vocational education and training centres”.

All this led to speculation that Mrs Bachelet’s decision not to seek a second term was related to the critcism [see: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jun/13/un-human-rights-chief-michelle-bachelet-no-second-term-china]

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jun/09/fury-at-un-human-rights-chief-over-whitewash-of-uyghur-repression

https://www.ohchr.org/en/statements/2022/05/statement-un-high-commissioner-human-rights-michelle-bachelet-after-official

https://www.npr.org/2022/05/29/1101969720/un-human-rights-chief-asks-china-to-rethink-uyghur-policies?t=1654771491735

Rights Arcade – a game to help human rights education

January 24, 2022

This International Day of Education, Amnesty International has launched Rights Arcade, a free human rights game app which aims to educate the next generation of human rights defenders about rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.

Rights Arcade is designed to strengthen the human rights movement through action-oriented education. The games will boost players’ knowledge about human rights and encourage people to take action on human rights issues.  

One of Rights Arcade’s key features is a self-paced approach that allows players to learn, reflect and take action at their own pace while navigating through the game’s stories.

This game has been designed to empower and encourage people everywhere, but especially younger audiences, to learn about human rights in an engaging manner,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

Young people are pivotal in setting the human rights agenda, today and for the future. Reaching them in the spaces they inhabit, or with which they engage regularly, is key to enabling new generations of activists and empowering them to fight for, and protect, human rights – now and in the future.”

The players take a human rights journey through the experiences of three real-life people: Ahmed Kabir Kishor, a cartoonist unjustly charged under the Digital Security Act in Bangladesh [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/16/30-information-heroes-honored-by-reporters-without-borders/] Zhang Zhan, a citizen journalist sentenced to four years in prison for reporting about Covid-19 in China [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/11/06/chinese-journalist-zhang-zhan-at-imminent-risk-of-death/]; and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, a student activist facing more than 25 charges for protesting in Thailand [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/01/04/new-year-new-charges-against-thai-protesters-the-lese-majesty-law-in-thailand/].

The game’s stories, which are fictionalized experiences inspired by real world events, are driven by a player’s choices.

The player gets to play the role and navigate the experiences of the three central characters, making decisions based on their own understanding of human rights and unpacking how human rights concepts apply in daily life.

People around the world will be able to access a collection of three games currently available in four languages: English, Simplified Chinese, Thai and Korean.

Rights Arcade can be downloaded on iOS and Android devices, ensuring its accessibility in regions with poor internet connectivity.

Rights Arcade will be regularly updated to accommodate learning in more languages, and with new game offerings in the months and years to come.

New SG for Amnesty International: Agnès Callamard

March 30, 2021

On 29 March 2021 Amnesty International announced the appointment of Dr. Agnès Callamard, a leading international human rights expert, as its new Secretary General, effective immediately. 

Dr. Callamard has recently been the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. In that role, she led ground-breaking investigations including into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/09/09/agnes-callamard-calls-overturned-verdict-in-khashoggi-case-parody-of-justice/]

As Secretary General, Dr. Callamard will be the Chief Executive of Amnesty’s International Secretariat and the principal spokesperson of the global Amnesty movement, which has some 10 million supporters, and offices in more than 70 countries.

At a time when human rights are under unprecedented threat around the world, Dr. Callamard will lead, excite and rally the entire Amnesty movement to meet these challenges head-on,” said Sarah Beamish, Chair of the International Board, in announcing the appointment.  “The combination of her intellectual acuity, her deep global human rights experience, and her courageous voice makes her highly qualified to front our movement. We are delighted she has accepted this challenge to take us boldly into our next phase.

Where governments and corporations seek to silence those who speak out against their abuses, to obfuscate the truth, and to undermine or reject human rights norms, the rigorous investigations and uncompromising campaigns of Amnesty International are more vital than ever.” Agnès Callamard

  “I am honoured to take up the post of Secretary General and work alongside Amnesty’s supporters around the world so that together we defend and demand respect for all human rights for all,” Dr Callamard said. 

Dr. Callamard, a French national, has built a highly distinguished career in the international human rights and humanitarian sectors, working across NGOs, academia, and the United Nations. Alongside her role as a United Nations independent human rights expert, she held the role of Director of the Global Freedom of Expression Project at Columbia University. Previously, she has been the Executive Director of the Freedom of Expression organization ARTICLE 19 and was the founder and Executive Director of HAP International (the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership).

Dr. Callamard worked with Amnesty International from 1995-2001, including as Chef de Cabinet for then-Secretary General Pierre Sané.  She has led human rights investigations in more than 30 countries and published extensively on human rights, women’s rights, freedom of expression, refugee movements, and the methodology of human rights investigations.

See also 7 April interview: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/4/7/leaders-of-the-world-have-failed-us-qa-with-agnes-callamard

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/03/dr-agnes-callamard-appointed-as-secretary-general-of-amnesty-international/