Posts Tagged ‘Antoine Bernard’

Antoine Bernard, former head of FIDH, joins Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

November 18, 2017

I was slow in announcing the departure of Antoine Bernard as head of the FIDH [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/12/antoine-bernard-has-left-fidh-after-26-years/] but am glad to be more on the ball for his next position: On 14 November 2017 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) announced that Antoine Bernard has been appointed RSF’s deputy director-general in charge of programmes. He will start in January 2018.

Bernard, 51, will help RSF secretary-general and director-general Christophe Deloire to consolidate and develop RSF’s work of defending journalistic freedom and independence at a time of great dangers for journalists.

Bernard said: “In a world dominated by opaqueness, propaganda and impunity for the powerful, journalism is in danger and, with it, human rights and democracy. RSF is waging a fight that is absolutely essential and Christophe Deloire has managed to put RSF at the international forefront of the defence of the freedom to inform and the protection of journalists. I am honoured to join Christophe and his team.

[The past five years have seen very rapid growth in RSF’s activities and influence and enhancement of its image. It has launched major campaigns at the UN and in the field, reinforced and professionalized its headquarters in Paris, doubled its personnel worldwide, developed its bureaux in Washington and Tunis, and created new bureaux in Rio de Janeiro, London and Taiwan. It plans to open two new bureaux in 2018, one in San Francisco and one in Africa.]

https://rsf.org/en/news/former-head-fidh-appointed-rsf-deputy-director-general

Antoine Bernard has left FIDH after 26 years

October 12, 2017

For those of you (like me) who missed the rather sudden departure of Antoine Bernard as head of the FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), here is the 12 September statement called “Farewell Antoine” as seen on the FIDH website:

“Antoine Bernard is stepping down as Chief Executive Officer of the FIDH International Secretariat on September 15 after serving the organisation for 26 years. Antoine established and steered the International Secretariat, playing a fundamental role in the development and expansion of FIDH. Under his guidance, the organisation engaged in innovative and pioneering operations in the world of defending human rights. 
The numerous victories he contributed to include the 1998 adoption of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders; the 2002 establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the mobilisation that led to the ICC sentencing of Jean-Pierre Bemba in 2016, which was the first verdict to recognise rape as a crime against humanity and to hold those effectively in command responsible; the identifying of corporate responsibility on the part of economic players and their criminal prosecution as well as dialogue with some companies to encourage them to develop and assume their social responsibility; lastly, his work at FIDH, including in recent months, to usher in digital communication, to counter attacks aimed at delegitimising human rights, to organise the decentralisation of our organisation and to create transparent and faithful partnerships. FIDH is immensely grateful to Antoine for his tireless optimism, his audacity and tenacity, and the passion that he has for our organisation, serving and supporting FIDH member organisations and their defenders. 
He is an iconic figure in the worldwide human rights movement. He embodies the patience that is needed for universal, steadfast commitment to practical and concrete progress, as well as a single-minded pursuit of justice and the audacity that this requires. 
Following the departure of Antoine, a transition management team is being set up headed by Juliane Falloux, FIDH Executive Director.”

Source: Farewell Antoine

UN recognizes that Belarus violated the freedom of association of Ales Bialiatski

November 19, 2014

The UN Human Rights Committee decided on 24 September 2014 that Belarus had violated the freedom of association of Ales Bialiatski, President of Human Rights Centre “Viasna”. This groundbreaking decision is not limited to Belarus but concerns all signatory States that violate the freedom of association. The interpretation could benefit other human rights defenders who are under pressure from political and administrative measures to curtail their right to freedom of association. The text of the press release issued by FIDH (whose Director General represented the victim) on 17 November follows:

Paris-Minsk, 17 November 2014 – In a decision that will go down in history, on 24 September 2014 the UN Human Rights Committee officially recognized that the Republic of Belarus violated the rights of Ales Bialiatski, President of Human Rights Centre “Viasna” and FIDH Vice President. The Committee recognized violations of Article 9 (the right to liberty and security of the person), Article 14 (the right to justice and a fair trial), and Article 22 (freedom of association) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This decision follows an individual communication from Ales Bialiatski’s spouse Natalia Pinchuk, represented by FIDH Director General Antoine Bernard. It sends a strong signal to regimes that manipulate their legislation to stifle critical voices and violate the freedom of association.

After Viasna was deprived of its state registration in 2003, its founders applied for registration at the Ministry of Justice three times between 2007 and 2009. However, the state refused registration every time. As a result, Viasna was unable to open a bank account in its name and receive funding for its activities. According to the Committee, Belarus violated the organization’s right to freedom of association when it denied Viasna registration, basing its decision solely on the argument that the documents submitted by Viasna needed minor adjustments to meet the requirements of the Ministry of Justice which could have been corrected should the Ministry had given it an opportunity to do so. The refusal to register Viasna rendered its activities illegal within Belarus and prevented its members from accessing their rights. Sentencing Ales Bialiatski to a lengthy prison term for actions associated with the receipt and expenditure of funds aimed at carrying out the legitimate activities of his organization was a direct consequence of the violation of freedom of association. The Belarusian courts rejected evidence that these funds were intended and used for these purposes and did not consider the case in a way that would aim to safeguard the freedom of association. Consequently, imposing criminal liability on Ales Bialiatski violated this freedom.

“This decision by the Human Rights Committee, based on international law, recognizes the legitimacy of Viasna’s activities and fully rehabilitates Ales Bialiatski”, rejoiced Valentin Stefanovic, Vice President of Viasna.

The Committee also found that Ales Bialiatski’s detention during the initial investigation was arbitrary, since the decision to arrest him was made by the procurator/prosecutor and not the court and was based solely on the gravity of charges and not on any evidence that this measure was needed or advisable.

The Committee found that over the course of criminal proceedings, Ales Bialiatski’s presumption of innocence was violated, as seen in treatment of the case by state media and statements by the president of Belarus. They presumed Ales Bialiatski’s guilt before the court’s verdict took effect. Also, he was wrongfully kept in a cage during the trial and brought into the courtroom in handcuffs.

The Committee’s decision states that Bialiatski is entitled to legal remedies: reconsideration of Viasna’s application for state registration, clearing of his criminal record, adequate compensation, including reimbursement of fines paid in accordance with judicial decisions. Furthermore, the Committee found that the State should review its laws on associations and bring them into accord with Article 22 of the ICCPR.

“The Committee has communicated the decision to the State, which is now obliged to provide Ales Bialiatski with legal remedies”, said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President. “This decision is crucial for Viasna, other Belarusian human rights organizations and the respect for liberty of association all over the world, as numerous regimes try to stifle critical voices”.

The decision reached by the Committee on this case sets a precedent. It clearly demonstrates that the actions of a state aimed at obstructing the activities of human rights organizations – from refusing to register an association to prosecuting its members for exercising their right to associate—are in violation of international law. No manipulation of internal legislation by individual states can hide these violations from the international community.

Our organizations consider this decision a source of expert legal arguments in the face of ever increasing pressure on human rights defenders and their organizations.

for earlier posts see https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/ales-bialiatski/

UN recognizes that Belarus violated the rights of Ales ….

Assessing Needs of Human Rights Defenders and Strategies for Collaboration: results of a workshop

June 20, 2013

As far back as October 2012 in Lima, Peru, during the 7th Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED – U.S.A) organised a workshop on one of my favorite topics: how the existing efforts for and among human rights defenders (HRDs) could more effectively meet the needs of endangered human rights defenders (HRDs) Read the rest of this entry »

Observatory for HRDs comes out with annual report

October 27, 2011

IPS reported that on Monday 24 October a symbolic empty chair was at the launch of a report on the repression of human rights defenders, a physical reminder that its would-be occupant – Ales Bialiatski, president of Human Rights Centre Viasna in Belarus – has been languishing in prison since August. Bialiatski is charged with tax evasion, but supporters say it is clear that the charges are in retaliation for his long and distinguished career of human rights activism in the country. The chair was also empty for the hundreds of other human rights defenders across the world who have been deprived of their freedom and fundamental rights, leaving a void in the communities they worked to protect.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT), published its 600-page report on individual human rights defenders and organisations that faced repression between January 2010 and April 2011. It covers 70 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, the Middle East, Asia, The Americas and Europe. The abuses cited include the ‘usual’ harassment, threats and arrests, arbitrary detention, defamation campaigns, and restrictions in terms of freedoms of association and expression, but  also notes Antoine Bernard, of FIDH, a trend to the criminalise social protests. “That is a very universal trend, to use the law not as a protecting tool, that is supposed to be its role, but law as a repressive tool to arbitrarily provide the legal basis for silencing human rights defenders”, he said to InterPress Service (IPS).  “A threat to a human rights defender very often transcends beyond the individual case, it carries a shadow to society at large,” concluded Gerald Staberock, secreterary-general of OMCT.

The United Nations special rapporteur on the situation for human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggaya, underscored the importance of implementing the Declaration for Human Rights Defenders that the General Assembly adopted back in 1998, and the importance of disseminating information about it. “It is still an instrument that is not sufficiently known, either to those who should shoulder the main responsibility for its implementation, namely states, or to those whose rights it sets out to protect, human rights defenders,” Sekaggaya said.