Posts Tagged ‘Agnes Callamard’

Davos’ annual meeting starts on 22 May under human rights cloud

May 22, 2022
Agnès Callamard at a press conference

Agnès Callamard at a press conference © Amnesty International

Ahead of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos that starts today, Sunday 22 May 2022, Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said: 

This year’s Davos conference takes place amid a gathering storm of human rights crises. Russia’s mounting war crimes in Ukraine, the terrifying rollback on abortion rights in the US, the still-neglected climate emergency, the ongoing failure to secure universal vaccine access – these are just a few examples of what happens when human rights are sacrificed for power and profit.  

“Many of the political and business leaders attending Davos are directly responsible for these catastrophes, whether through their explicit pursuit of anti-human rights agendas or through their contemptible inaction and failure to implement solutions.  

“The Davos guestlist includes some of the richest and most powerful people in the world, and they have a moral obligation to put respect for human rights at the top of the agenda. They must use their vast wealth and influence to change the status quo and end the rampant inequality which has been the root cause of so much recent suffering.

The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting will take place in Davos, Switzerland, between 22 and 26 May.

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/global-rich-and-powerful-meet-davos-amid-gathering-storm-human-rights-crises

Major NGO offices in Russia now closed

April 9, 2022

On 8 April 2022, the Russian government closed the offices of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and several other NGOs such as Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, Friedrich Ebert Foundation. This decision has been taken “in connection with the discovered violations of the Russian legislation.

On 11 March, Russia’s media regulator had already blocked access to Amnesty International’s Russian-language website.

Human Rights Watch had maintained an office in Russia for 30 years. The action was announced just days after an appeals court upheld the liquidation of Russia’s human rights giant, Memorial. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/11/12/it-had-to-happen-russian-authorities-move-to-shut-down-memorial/]

Human Rights Watch has been working on and in Russia since the Soviet era, and we will continue to do so,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “This new iron curtain will not stop our ongoing efforts to defend the rights of all Russians and to protect civilians in Ukraine.”

Reacting to the news, Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said: “Amnesty’s closing down in Russia is only the latest in a long list of organizations that have been punished for defending human rights and speaking the truth to the Russian authorities. In a country where scores of activists and dissidents have been imprisoned, killed or exiled, where independent media has been smeared, blocked or forced to self-censor, and where civil society organizations have been outlawed or liquidated, you must be doing something right if the Kremlin tries to shut you up.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/04/08/russia-government-shuts-down-human-rights-watch-office

https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2022/04/08/moscow-shutting-down-amnesty-human-rights-watch-in-russia-a77290

Annual Report Amnesty 2021 is out

March 29, 2022

The human rights organisation looks back on 2021, “a year of dashed hopes“. According to Amnesty International, the digital sphere is increasingly becoming a space for activism — and repression.

Despite promises and pledges to the contrary, at almost every turn, leaders and corporations opted for a non-transformative path, choosing to entrench rather than overturn the systemic inequalities behind the pandemic. Yet, people the world over have made it abundantly clear that a more just world, grounded in human rights, is what they want

Agnès Callamard SG AI

Here is how Deutsche Welle summarized it:

Every year, Amnesty International looks at developments around the world and compiles an analysis of the most important global trends in human and civil rights. In its latest annual report, Amnesty Middle East and North Africa research and advocacy director Philip Luth says: “2021 was a year of really quite significant promises. … The reality was completely otherwise.”

There had been hope that the world might emerge from the pandemic equitably, Luther told DW, but richer countries in particular have prevented the widespread manufacture and distribution of vaccines. The annual report cites the facts: Fewer than 8% of the 1.2 billion people in Africa were fully vaccinated at the end of 2021 — the lowest rate in the world and far from the WHO’s 40% vaccination target…..The study also found that many governments have used the pandemic to suppress opposition and civil society. “It’s across regions and that’s one of the reasons we highlighted it in our global analysis,” Luther said. “Some governments very specifically used the smoke screen of the pandemic to restrict freedom of expression.” Examples of countries where protests have been broken up and human rights defenders are at risk include Cambodia, Russia, China and others.

According to Amnesty and other international organizations, the pandemic is also having an effect on civil society. “There are various strategies that are making it increasingly difficult for civil society to operate in different regions of the world,” Silke Pfeiffer, head of the department for human rights and peace at the Christian-affiliated aid organization Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World), told DW. “This is quite specifically directed at individual activists, who are discriminated against, threatened, persecuted and in some cases murdered.” In many countries, Pfeiffer said, governments cultivate a hostile environment. “It becomes increasingly difficult for civil society organizations to work,” she said. “That goes as far as the closure of NGOs; we see that again and again.” To cite just one example: In late March, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega had 25 nongovernmental organizations closed. One of them is the Nicaraguan partner organization to Brot für die Welt.

Governments and NGOs are increasingly doing their work online. Luther describes the development as a “double-edged sword.” Authorities clandestinely use technology in ways that have a negative impact on people’s human rights, he said: “Governments in many cases were also then trying to shut down and disrupt tools that enable civil society to better communicate with each other and spread information.”

Amnesty International’s annual report cites multiple examples of this: the internet shutdown from August 4, 2019, to February 5, 2021, in the India-controlled regions of Jammu and Kashmir; the use of facial recognition technology at protests in Moscow; and the use of Israel’s Pegasus spyware against journalists, opposition figures and human rights activists. Pfeiffer said the internet was an important way for civil society to organize and mobilize. But she added that, around the world, “governments and other actors have completely upgraded digitally and are now also taking very strong action against freedom on the internet — through censorship, by shutting down internet services, through mass surveillance.”

Across the world, Amnesty noted, people took to the streets to fight for their rights and the rights of others in 2021 — in Russia, India, Colombia, Sudan, Lebanon and at least 75 other countries. in the words of AI Secretary General: “The palpable and persistent resistance offered by people’s movements the world over is a beacon of hope. Uncowed and undaunted, theirs is a clarion call for a more equal world. If governments won’t build back better – if they seemingly are intent on building back broken – then we are left with little option. We must fight their every attempt to muzzle our voices and we must stand up to their every betrayal. It is why, in the coming weeks, we are launching a global campaign of solidarity with people’s movements, a campaign demanding respect for the right to protest. We must build and harness global solidarity, even if our leaders won’t.”

She also said:

Global trends to stifle independent and critical voices gathered steam in 2021 as governments deployed a widening gamut of tools and tactics. Human rights defenders, NGOs, media outlets and opposition leaders were the targets of unlawful detention, torture and enforced disappearance, many under the smokescreen of the pandemic.

At least 67 countries introduced new laws in 2021 to restrict freedom of expression, association or assembly. In the USA, at least 36 states introduced more than 80 pieces of draft legislation limiting freedom of assembly, whilst the UK government proposed the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would drastically curtail the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, including by expanding police powers.

Global trends to stifle independent and critical voices gathered steam in 2021 as governments deployed a widening gamut of tools and tactics. Human rights defenders, NGOs, media outlets and opposition leaders were the targets of unlawful detention, torture and enforced disappearance, many under the smokescreen of the pandemic.

At least 67 countries introduced new laws in 2021 to restrict freedom of expression, association or assembly. In the USA, at least 36 states introduced more than 80 pieces of draft legislation limiting freedom of assembly, whilst the UK government proposed the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would drastically curtail the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, including by expanding police powers.

https://www.dw.com/en/amnesty-international-2021-was-the-year-of-broken-promises/a-61285728

Impressive list of speakers at Oslo Freedom Forum 23-25 May 2022

March 10, 2022

Every year, human rights defenders bring their stories to the Oslo Freedom Forum stage to shed light on the struggle for freedom around the world.

The 2022 theme, CHAMPION OF CHANGE, captures the idea that celebrates both activists – who are themselves champions – and their causes, to promote positive change.

At the Oslo Konserthus, you’ll listen to talks that will expose you to a breadth of human rights issues, pro-democracy causes, and inspiring stories of nobility and triumph against monumental odds.

OFF 2022 Speakers

Areej al-Sadhan Activist & Sister of Jailed Saudi Dissident and Humanitarian Worker Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan

Bektour Iskender Kyrgyz Journalist & Free Speech Activist

Chemi Lhamo Tibetan Activist & Community Organizer

Roman Dobrokhotov Russian Investigative Journalist

Carine Kanimba Daughter of Imprisoned “Hotel Rwanda” Hero Paul Rusesabagina

Matthew Caruana Galizia Director of the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation

see https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/840cf16d-c095-4033-b931-c1533f87e665

Zarifa Ghafari Exiled Afghan Activist & Politician [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/154a0717-54d4-448c-8055-cbb2bb7b7a85]

Omar Alshogre Director of Detainee Affairs at the Syrian Emergency Task Force

Agnès Callamard Secretary General of Amnesty International

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/03/30/new-sg-for-amnesty-international-agnes-callamard/

Filmon Debru Eritrean Human Trafficking Survivor

Glacier Kwong Hong Kong Political & Digital Rights Activist

More details about the speakers on https://oslofreedomforum.com/oslo-freedom-forum-2022/?mc_cid=a33c5d0c01&mc_eid=f80cec329e#2022speakers

International Women’s Day 2022

March 8, 2022

International Women’s Day is today 8 March and celebratory events are being held around the world. This year’s theme is #BreakTheBias, aimed at imagining “a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.” While this special day offers hope for gender equity, it is also a reminder of the omnipresent phenomenon of violence against women, which exists regardless of the day, and needs to be addressed in a fundamental way.

See also: https://www.humanrightscareers.com/issues/why-international-womens-day-is-important/

There is too much to choose from (as usual); for last year’s see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/03/08/celebrating-international-womens-day-in-2021/]

Still, here some concrete samples:

Upasana Rana reports Global Voices of 7 March on Nepal [https://globalvoices.org/2022/03/07/this-international-womens-day-lets-come-together-against-violence/]

On the same site Njeri Wangari tells us about how Feminist music icons from around Africa to celebrate this International Women’s Day. See her Spotify playlist with hits from artists like Fatoumata Diawara, Cesária Évora, Shishani Vranckx, Thandiswa Mazwai, and more.

Amnesty International issued a statement “International Women’s Day: Dramatic deterioration in respect for women’s rights and gender equality must be decisively reversed

  • Alarming assaults on women’s rights around the world in 2021/22. 
  • Legal protections dismantled, and women human rights defenders now at unprecedented risk.
  • Protection and promotion of women’s and girls’ rights and support for women human rights defenders crucial, including for Covid-19 recovery. 
  • Governments must act decisively to reverse regressions and uphold human rights for women and girls. 

Catastrophic attacks on human rights and gender equality over the past twelve months have lowered protection for and upped threats against women and girls across the globe.  On International Women’s Day, the organization called for bold action to reverse erosions of human rights for women and girls.   

 “Events in 2021 and in the early months of 2022 have conspired to crush the rights and dignity of millions of women and girls.  The world’s crises do not impact equally, let alone fairly. The disproportionate impacts on women’s and girls’ rights are well-documented yet still neglected, when not ignored outright.  But the facts are clear. The Covid-19 pandemic, the overwhelming rollback on women’s rights in Afghanistan, the widespread sexual violence characterizing the conflict in Ethiopia, attacks on abortion access in the US and Turkey’s withdrawal from the landmark Istanbul Convention on Gender Based Violence: each is a grave erosion of rights in its own terms but taken together? We must stand up to and stare down this global assault on women’s and girls’ dignity,” said Amnesty’s Secretary General, Agnès Callamard. [see https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/03/international-womens-day-dramatic-deterioration-in-respect-for-womens-rights-and-gender-equality-must-be-decisively-reversed/]

Human Rights Watch focuses on Afghanistan: On International Women’s Day, we should remember Afghanistan, and consider what the state of women’s rights there means for the struggle for gender equality worldwide. The Taliban were notorious for violating women’s rights when they ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. So, when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan again on August 15 last year, Afghan women’s rights defenders were deeply skeptical that the new rulers would be any different from the Taliban that controlled the country before, despite their pledges to respect women’s rights. They were right.

In less than seven months since taking over, the Taliban have:

  • closed most girls’ secondary schools;
  • created barriers to women and girls pursuing higher education;
  • banned women from most paid employment;
  • abolished the Ministry of Women’s Affairs;
  • restricted women’s movement including blocking them from leaving the country alone;
  • dismantled Afghanistan’s system that provided protection from gender-based violence;
  • created barriers to women and girls accessing health care;
  • beaten and abducted women’s rights protesters;
  • silenced female journalists;
  • banned women’s sports; and
  • appointed a men-only administration.

Afghanistan is not the only country where women’s rights are under attack this International Women’s Day. But the speed and extent of the obliteration of women’s rights in Afghanistan is a warning to women around the world about the fragility of progress toward equality, how quickly it can vanish, and how few will defend it. We should all be in solidarity with Afghan women; their fight is a fight for women’s rights everywhere. [See: https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/03/08/standing-afghan-women-and-girls-international-womens-day]

Caitlin Fitzsimmons in the Sydney Morning Herald of 6 March argues that “International Women’s Day highlights climate justice as a feminist issue”. Women are on the front lines of the global climate crisis, making up 80 per cent of the 21.5 million people displaced every year by climate-related events. [See: https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/international-women-s-day-highlights-climate-justice-as-a-feminist-issue-20220303-p5a1ba.html]

On International Women’s Day, UN Human Rights stands with women and girls human rights defenders of all ages, backgrounds & identities leading our collective struggle to protect our climate and environment. See.g.:

Meet Brianna Frueran, a Pacific climate change activist fighting for her native Samoan islands’ survival.

Meet Mya Pol, a content creator from the United States who advocates for disability rights and educates people about environmentalism on her social media platform.

https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/03/1113872

International abductions are becoming ‘mainstream’ human rights defenders find

July 15, 2021

Shawn Utley reports in the Madison Leader Gazette of July 14, 2021 on a Freedom House “webinar” about the alleged Iranian plot to kidnap Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad.

A newly released Justice Department indictment charging four Iranian intelligence operatives with plotting to kidnap a New York-based journalist who had criticized the Iranian regime, dramatically underscores how transnational abductions are becoming the new “normal” for repressive regimes around the world, two human rights activists said Wednesday.

“It’s a horrific attempt to silence dissent,” Saudi activist Lina Alhathloul said during a Freedom House “webinar” about the alleged Iranian plot to lure Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad to a third country so she could be forcibly rendered to Iran.

Her sister, prominent women’s rights activist Loujain Alhathloul, was abducted in Dubai in 2018 and flown to Saudi Arabia, where she was thrown in prison and tortured under the direction of a top aide to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS, according to U.S. officials and the accounts from the Alhathloul family.

This is very much a moment when we see this phenomenon is becoming mainstream,” added Nate Schenkkan, director of research strategy at Freedom House, “It’s becoming something that dozens of governments around the world use to control exiles and diaspora members. Countries do it because they can get away with it and because the consequences are not there.”

The comments came during a Freedom House-sponsored panel dedicated to the growing threat of the transnational repression trend, as detailed in a recent report and video from the group, and to the new season of Yahoo News “Conspiracy land” an eight-episode podcast that uncovered new details about the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

As was noted in the panel discussion, there are striking parallels between the Saudi plot to assassinate Khashoggi and the alleged Iranian plot to kidnap Alinejad. Both targeted journalists who, after criticizing their governments, had moved to the United States to live in exile. Khashoggi had excoriated the harsh crackdowns by MBS, including the detention of Loujain Alhathloul. Alinejad had criticized the corruption and repressive measures of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

A general manager of Alarab TV, Jamal Khashoggi, looks on during a press conference in the Bahraini capital Manama, on December 15, 2014. (Mohammed Al-Shaikh/AFP via Getty Images)
Jamal Khashoggi. (Getty Images)

Both plots involved extensive surveillance on U.S. soil. In Khashoggi’s case, Saudi operatives recruited spies inside Twitter to steal personal data about regime critics and later used sophisticated spyware to hack the phones of one of those critics who was in extensive contact with the Saudi journalist. In Alinejad’s case, Iranian intelligence operatives used private investigators to follow, photograph and video-record the Iranian-American journalist and members of her family in Brooklyn, according to federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, who on Tuesday brought the indictment against the Iranian operatives, all of whom reside in Iran..

https://wmleader.com/general-other/103482/iranian-kidnapping-plot-shows-that-transnational-abductions-are-becoming-mainstream-human-rights-activists-say/

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/08/today-the-reach-of-repressive-leaders-knows-no-bounds-borders-or-country-lines/

https://freedomhouse.org/article/iran-plot-kidnap-american-writer-highlights-threat-transnational-repression

https://nltimes.nl/2021/08/14/attack-pakistani-human-rights-activist-foiled-rotterdam

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/

Human rights lawyer Christof Heyns dies unexpectedly: tributes pour in

March 30, 2021

On 28 March 2021, respected human rights lawyer Professor Christof Heyns passed away, unexpectedly, aged 62.  

Most recently, Professor Heyns was the was the Director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa at the University of Pretoria, and had also served as United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions from 2010 to 2016. See: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/dfa7df54-3cb2-465c-9655-d139b5486591.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/30/christof-heyns-discusses-new-un-comment-on-right-of-peaceful-assembly/

His friends and colleagues pay tribute to a giant of global human rights: 

The Centre for Human Rights CHR, in its tribute, called him their “founding father, a trail-blazer, and a constant source of inspiration and encouragement. He was our dynamic initiator-in-chief. He played a pioneering role in positioning the Centre as a pan-African centre of excellence. Constantly brimming with new ideas and grand schemes, plans and projects, he propelled the Centre into new directions and challenged it to explore different dimensions.  “To Christof, if something could be conceived, it could be achieved.”

On Monday, the CHR created a memorial page on Facebook in his memory which, within hours, contained hundreds of entries from all over the world. The reactions registered on Facebook, on WhatsApp groups and emails speak volumes about how highly Heyns the man, the mentor, the “rock star” and the lawyer was regarded.

Arnold Tsunga, chairperson of the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network

“The sudden demise of Professor Christof Heyns is a real tragedy to us as a community of human rights activists in southern Africa. As a member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee his contribution to production of General Comment Number 37 on the right to peaceful assembly is invaluable at a time when we are experiencing democratic regression and authoritarian consolidation globally. He is irreplaceable and shall be sorely missed. May his soul rest in eternal peace.”

Raenette Taljaard, former politician and independent analyst

“Prof Christof Heyns was one of South Africa and the world’s great thought leaders and moral authorities on human rights. Beyond his contribution to academia, his work as a UN Special Rapporteur stands as a towering tribute to the right to life in a world where algorithms and lethal autonomous weapons can make life and death decisions that are core to who we are as humanity. His work will live on in the many principled human rights fighters and public intellectuals that have had the privilege to encounter him and to be mentored by him. He will be greatly missed.”

Jason Brickhill, human rights lawyer and former director of the Constitutional Litigation Unit at the Legal Resources Centre 

“So very shocked and sad to hear that Christof Heyns has passed on. Such a gentle, wise and self-deprecating soul. I was lucky to be taught by him (about the African regional human rights system) and he supervised my master’s dissertation just over a decade ago.  “He did so much to advance human rights in very real, meaningful ways, especially with his work on the African regional system (he was a true pan-Africanist!) and on the right to life at the UN.  “He shared with me and other classmates his ‘struggle approach’ to human rights, which is still the foundation for how I think about the law’s role in the world. We will remember you, Christof, and carry with us the ideas that you shared.”

Faranaaz Veriava, head of the Basic Education Rights programme at SECTION27

“Around 1995 I was young and green in my first job, working in the Idasa Pretoria office. Ivor Jenkins, our director, talked me into meeting with a Moroccan delegation visiting the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria to discuss human rights law. Prof Christof Heyns hosted the delegation. I was probably terrible in that meeting but Prof Heyns was warm and encouraging and I became very interested in the work of the Centre. The next year I registered in the LLM programme at the centre which was a pioneering programme at the time for students all over Africa interested in human rights law. Later I would teach annually in that same programme. Much later, complete my doctorate through the UP law school and then teach at the law school myself. If Ivor Jenkins had not thrown me in at the deep end that day, I wonder if I would have any history with UP – a historically Afrikaans university – and that is now such a positive part of my life. RIP Prof Heyns, a warm and inspiring man and pioneer in human rights law.”

Alice Brown, former resident coordinator, Ford Foundation

“What sad news. I met Christof in the late 1980s through my work with the Ford Foundation. Christof was an innovative human rights academic who was a trailblazer for a number of important rights-focused training programs. In addition, in all my interactions with him over the years, I found him to be a very decent human being.”

Thuli Madonsela, former Public Protector, current law trust chair in social justice, University of Stellenbosch

“What a sad occasion. He was such a mensch, resolutely devoted to developing leaders to advance democracy and human rights in this continent. “The news of the passing of Christof Heyns hit me like a ton of bricks. I have known Christof for all my grown-up life.  “A quintessential professional, Christoff invested a lot in developing leaders that are anchored in a sound knowledge and values system regarding human rights and democracy. He was passionate about the African continent and building scholarship in the continent on human rights, democracy and the rule of law.  “The country, the continent and the entire world is poorer because of Christof Heyns’ untimely passing, yet richer because of the legacy he leaves behind. It is said leaders do not die, they multiply. Christof leaves pieces of himself among the many scholars he nurtured and policymakers he touched. May his great soul Rest In Peace.” Christof Heyns and the Outlaws — the rock and roll band of the Faculty of Law at the University of Pretoria. Formed in 2007, they always played at the annual Faculty Festival. (Photo: Yolanda Booyzen)

Bongani Majola, Chairperson of the SA Human Rights Commission

“We deeply mourn the untimely passing of Prof Christof Heyns, a giant in the promotion of human rights. Empowering young people has always been his passion. I first met him in the late 1980s/early 1990s when he and I ran a project that sought to open opportunities for final-year law students from the then historically black universities to find placements in commercial law firms. At the time, it was hard for many black law graduates to be admitted to articles of clerkship and even harder – almost impossible to get placed in commercial law firms. 

“Another empowerment project that Christof Heyns employed significantly to empower the youth was the moot court competitions that he and his colleagues took beyond the borders of South Africa, the borders of SADC and beyond the boundaries of the African continent. Recently, he had taken the promotion of human rights to schools in the basic education environment, a project that he passed on to the South African Human Rights Commission once it had taken a firm hold among basic education schools. 

“He was a visionary who believed in investing in the youth in order to build a strong human rights culture. The country has lost a true human rights activist. He will be sorely missed.”

Edwin Cameron, former Constitutional Court judge

Really terribly shocked and saddened by Christof’s sudden death yesterday. He was a meticulous, conscientious, persistent, courageous fighter for justice and human rights.

Rose Hanzi, director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

“Very very sad. Prof Heyns raised the African continent high with his contributions at the ACHPR [African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights] and UN.”

Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International 

“So saddened to learn of the death of Prof Christof Heyns. Many of you may know him. He was my teacher and I suspect a few others on this group. What a dedicated Human Rights Activist he was. Beyond teaching, he will be remembered for drafting the General Comment on Freedom of Assembly … he was until his death after a heart attack while hiking a member of the HRC. MHSRIP”

Steven LB Jensen, Danish Institute for Human Rights

“Oh no, this is so sad and shocking news. I met him twice – first in Lund for a two-hour conversation just the two of us and again at the Danish Institute for a meeting on collaborations between our institutions. He was a wonderful person and so easy to engage with. He will be sorely missed by many all around the world.” DM/MC

From Amnesty International staff:

Dr. Agnès Callamard, the new Secretary General of Amnesty International, said: “Christof Heyns was a brilliant human rights lawyer and thinker, gentle person…He leaves behind such an extraordinary legacy.” 

Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa, said: “A mighty baobab has fallen! The untimely death of renowned human rights law expert, Professor Christof Heyns, is a devastating loss. In Africa the Baobab Tree is considered a symbol of power, longevity, presence, strength and grace. Professor Heyns was a baobab in the human rights world. A giant in his field, he fought hard for a just world. As Director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa, he was involved in a number of critical initiatives. His contributions included: Chair of the UN independent investigation on Burundi, leading on the drafting of UN human rights guidelines on peaceful assembly and the use of less lethal weapons. He also served as the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions. Hamba Kahle Professor Heyns, Ke a Leboga, Enkosi, Ngiyabonga, Thank you for your service to humanity. You have left indelible footprints and we salute you!”

Sam Dubberley, Amnesty International’s Head of Crisis Evidence Lab, said: “Christof’s support for establishing a hub of Amnesty’s Digital Verification Corps at the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria was unequivocal. He gave time, advice and space for this project to emerge, and welcomed the Amnesty team on every visit to Pretoria despite his always frantic schedule. Christof made everyone feel valued, and was a source of energy and sage advice. How he will be missed.” 

Netsanet Belay, Research and Advocacy Director of Amnesty International, said: “Words fail me to express the profound sense of loss with the sudden passing of Professor Heyns. Like many, I had the privilege of working with him and benefited much from his wisdom, mentorship and guidance. He was a rare breed, one of Africa’s great legal minds, a passionate human rights defender and a kind, passionate, humble person. He nurtured and cultivated a cadre of human rights experts and activists in Africa, including by transforming the human rights centre at the University of Pretoria into a world class institution that produced Africa’s leading human rights scholars and practitioners. His publications on various human rights issues in leading academic journals are testament to his brilliance, wisdom and dedication. He was a true pan-Africanist, as exemplified in his work to champion and strengthen the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. His passing is also a great loss to Amnesty International. As [recently] as last week we were working with Professor Heyns on the draft report by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the use of force by law enforcement officials in Africa. We shall strive to ensure his last vision [is seen] to fruition. Rest in peace dear brother!”

Rasha Abdul-Rahim, Director of Amnesty Tech, said: “It was devastating to hear of the passing of Professor Heyns. All my thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. Not only was Christof a renowned human rights expert, he was fiercely justice-focused and an absolute joy and pleasure to work with. Christof wrote the seminal Human Rights Council report that put the human rights risks of autonomous weapons systems on the agenda. He was always extremely generous with his expertise and time. This is a huge loss for the human rights movement, and we will miss him deeply.” 

Avner Gidron, Senior Policy Adviser on Amnesty International’s Law and Policy Programme, said: “I worked most closely with Professor Heyns on The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death in 2016. It’s a practical tool for human rights defenders and advocates around the world seeking accountability for unlawful killings; and it is now a small, but important, part of Christof’s vast legacy. As well as his importance as a brilliant legal mind, scholar and activist, I will remember Christof for actually embodying human rights values: being an incredibly warm, generous and considerate human being. His death is a tremendous loss for the human rights movement, and an unimaginable tragedy for his family and friends.”

Simon Crowther, legal advisor at Amnesty International, said: “Christof was a legal giant who approached his work with kindness, humility, humour and immense intelligence. He will be greatly missed.” 

Anja Bienert, Senior Programme Officer at Amnesty International Netherlands, said: “I first met Christof in 2013 and immediately felt connected to him: his sharp mind, the careful and perfectly articulated thoughts on the many pressing human rights issues, but more importantly, his warm and welcoming personality, with whom it was a pleasure to discuss. Since then, he was an ongoing source of inspiration to me and a great ally in the fight for greater protection of human rights. He constantly strove not just to write excellent publications, but to have a real impact for the respect of human rights across the world. We will miss him incredibly. It will be our mission to uphold his great legacy in the field of human rights.”

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/03/christof-heyns-tribute/

As Iran prepares to execute Ahmadreza Djalali, the world reacts

November 26, 2020

Around the world, shock and outrage has been the reaction to the news that Iran is preparing to execute Swedish-Iranian emergency medicine specialist Dr Ahmadreza Djalali. In a call from Evin Prison on 24 November, Ahmadreza told his wife Vida, who lives in Sweden, that he believed he may be executed in less than a week. He has been transferred into solitary confinement and it has been reported that he will shortly be sent to Rajai Shahr Prison where this draconian death sentence would be delivered.

Dr Djalali has been used as a bargaining chip as part of Iran’s hostage diplomacy. A dual national, illegally detained in solitary confinement with no access to a lawyer before being sentenced to death in October 2017. The court based their sentence for “corruption on earth” on “confessions” elicited after torture, threats to kill Ahmadreza Djalali’s wife and two young children, solitary confinement and his prolonged ill treatment.

The UN, EU, Council of Europe, European governments, worldwide academic institutions, civil society and thousands of individuals have all called for Dr Djalali’s release.

UN experts Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran and Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions issued a statement saying: “We are horrified by the reports that Mr. Djalali is soon to be executed by the Islamic Republic of Iran. His torture, arbitrary detention, death sentence and now reported imminent execution are unconscionable acts that should be condemned by the international community in the strongest terms. We urge the Iranian authorities to take immediate action to reverse this decision before it is too late.

Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Diana Eltahawy, said:

“We call on members of the international community to immediately intervene, including through their embassies in Tehran, to save Ahmadreza Djalali’s life before it is too late.”

Valerie Peay, Director of the International Observatory of Human Rights said: “We stand in support of Dr Djalali and his family. Ahmadreza has already suffered gross injustice, pain and the cruel separation from his wife and two children. For three years he has faced a baseless death sentence while Iran has used him as a bargaining chip and sought to gain leverage with the international community by unjustly incarcerating Dr Djalali and other dual nationals. Now is the moment for the Islamic Republic to act to cease this action to execute Dr Djalali and instead, release him to return his life in Sweden with his family.

https://researchprofessionalnews.com/rr-news-europe-universities-2020-11-academic-groups-sound-alarm-over-djalali-death-sentence/embed/#?secret=xEX33rLMOr

Agnes Callamard calls overturned verdict in Khashoggi case “parody of justice”

September 9, 2020

An independent UN human rights investigator called the overturned verdict of Saudi Arabia’s prosecutor in the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi a “parody of justice” that spared “high-level” plotters.  At a regular press briefing on Tuesday, Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, (OHCHR), quoted Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, in saying, “they came at the end of a process which was neither fair nor just, or transparent“. [for earlier posts on Khashoggi, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/jamal-khashoggi/]

In October 2018, the 59-year-old columnist for The Washington Post was killed and dismembered at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. Saudi prosecutors in Riyadh had convicted eight people for the brutal murder. However, on Monday, a Saudi court overturned five death sentences in a final ruling that jailed eight defendants for between seven and 20 years, according to Saudi State media.

The press briefing came on the heels of a series of tweets from the independent UN expert who reacted disparagingly to Monday’s verdict. “The five hitmen are sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, but the high-level officials who organized and embraced the execution of Jamal Khashoggi have walked free from the start – barely touched by the investigation and trial,” Ms. Callamard tweeted.

As for the individual responsibility of the person on top of the State”, the independent UN expert upheld, “the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, he has remained well protected against any kind of meaningful scrutiny in his country“. She stated that “the Saudi Prosecutor performed one more act today in this parody of justice”, adding “but these verdicts carry no legal or moral legitimacy”.