Posts Tagged ‘argentina’

#BringBackOurGirls gets Argentinian Emilio Mignone award

December 6, 2016

The Government of Argentina has awarded the Nigeria#BringBackOurGirls movement the International Human Rights Prize ‘Emilio F. Mignone’ for work in advocacy towards respect for human rights worldwide. A statement on Monday 5 December in Abuja by the BBOG spokesman, Sesugh Akume, said the award ceremony would take place at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Buenos Aires. It added that the coalition would be represented at the event by two members of the Movement, Aisha Yesufu, who is the Chairperson of the  Strategic Team, and Dr. Chinwe Madubuike.
The group stated “While in Argentina, they will as part of the award ceremonies, meet with the human rights group– Las Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo … …It is made up of grandmothers, mothers and other citizens who have since 1977 been advocating for the return of an estimated 500 children abducted or born in detention during the military era and illegally adopted, with their identities hidden.

The statement noted that like the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, which has advocated weekly in the last 39 years, the Chinwe Madubuike has been on a daily campaign since April 30, 2014 for the rescue of now 196 out of the 219 ChibokGirls abducted from their school on 14 April 2014 by Boko Haram.

Source: BBOG wins Argentine rights award – Punch Newspapers

Patt Derian – the rare politician/human rights defender – no longer

May 30, 2016

Being a leading politician and human rights defender does not always go together well. Patricia Murphy (“Patt”) Derian was one of the exceptions. She passed away on 20 May 2016 at the age of 86. She was an American civil rights and human rights activist, who served under President Carter from 1977 to 1981.DERIAN PATT

After Jimmy Carter won the election, he nominated Derian to be Coordinator for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs and elevated the post to that of Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs effective August 17, 1977, and Derian served in that capacity for the remainder of the Carter administration. In this post she worked to improve policy coordination on humanitarian issues such as human rights, refugees, and prisoners of war.

Derian was a vocal critic of Jeane Kirkpatrick and of the so-called Kirkpatrick Doctrine during the 1980s, which advocated U.S. support of anticommunist governments around the world, including authoritarian dictatorships, if they went along with Washington’s aims —believing they could be led into democracy by example. Kirkpatrick wrote, “Traditional authoritarian governments are less repressive than revolutionary autocracies.” Derian objected to Kirkpatrick’s characterization of some governments as only “moderately repressive,” arguing that this line of thinking allowed the U.S. to support “a little bit of torture” or “moderate” prison sentences for political dissenters. Derian pointed out that, when it comes to human rights, in terms of morality, credibility and effectiveness, “you always have to play it straight.” Read the rest of this entry »

Santiago Canton leaves RFK to become Secretary for Human Rights in Buenos Aires

January 16, 2016

Santiago Canton will be leaving his post as Executive Director of RFK Partners for Human Rights at the end of this week as he has accepted the position of Secretary for Human Rights for Buenos Aires in Argentina. He started in 2012.Santiago Canton
[Santiago Canton is also an Adjunct Professor at American University’s Washington College of Law, the Georgetown University Law Center, and the Universidad de Buenos Aires. In 2013, Mr. Canton served as a member of the World Bank Panel of Experts on Human Rights, part of a process that reviewed the bank’s environmental and social safeguard policies. From 2001 to 2012, Mr. Canton was the Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In 1998, he was elected as the first Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression in the Inter-American System. From 1994 to 1998, Mr. Canton was Director for Latin America and the Caribbean for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. Mr. Canton was a political assistant to President Carter in democratic development programs in countries in Latin America. In 2005, Mr. Canton was awarded the Chapultepec Grand Prize for freedom of expression throughout the Americas.]

Argentina: reunification of mother and disappeared son after 4 decades

December 3, 2015

It is understandable that many people doubt the usefulness of pressing for the case of disappearances in Argentina after almost four decades, but this case shows that one should never give up hope: Mario Bravo and the mother he never knew, from whom he was snatched at birth in a jail by Argentina’s military, hugged, laughed and wept on Tuesday 1 December 2015, together at last. “We cried a lot. We are talking about 38 years of searching,” Bravo told a news conference after meeting his mother, Sara, thanks to help from the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo human rights group. “It was a miracle to have found my mom alive. “She heard my wail (as a newborn) and now she is hearing my voice, 38 years later.

During the junta regime, from 1976 to 1983, the Argentine military plucked people off the streets and detained leftists and even suspected leftists, and gave away the babies born to mothers they were holding in jail. Some of the women who experienced this horror of the so-called “Dirty War” were raped in prison, and others were detained while pregnant. While Bravo said he suspected something was strange about his identity as a child, it was after his adoptive mother died that he started searching in earnest, registering with a DNA database of families with missing and abducted children.
The Grandmothers group has worked for 20 years trying to bring about such reunions. Of the hundreds of missing, Bravo was their “Missing grandchild No. 119.”

http://www.ndtv.com/topic/agence-france-presse

http://www.ndtv.com/world-news/4-decades-on-victims-of-argentine-dirty-war-reunite-1250003

Remembering Clyde Snow, unusual human rights defender

September 26, 2014

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Only now did I see the tribute paid by filmmakers Paco de Onis and Pamela Yates to the American forensic anthropologist turned human rights defender Clyde Snow who passed away on 16 May 2014.  Clyde was a tall Texan with an easygoing manner that masked a tenacious commitment to finding the truth and advancing justice through the science of forensic anthropology, applied to the exhumation of victims of mass atrocities. As Clyde often said, “the bones tell stories.”  And these were stories that often helped land the perpetrators of heinous crimes in prison, from Argentina to Guatemala, the Balkans, Rwanda and beyond.

Clyde’s work lives on through the crack forensic anthropology teams he formed in Argentina, Guatemala and Peru, two of which are featured in the films “State of Fear” (Peru) and “Granito: How to Nail a Dictator” (Guatemala).

This Saturday 27 September there is a memorial service in Norman, Oklahoma, where he lived with his wife Jerry.

 

Human Rights Defender Charles Harper Honoured by Argentinian Government

September 19, 2014

(From left to right — Charles Harper, Estela Barnes de Carlotto, Ambassador Alberto D’Alotto and Bishop-emeritus Aldo Etchegoyen. Photo: Argentinian mission in Geneva)

A former World Council of Churches (WCC) official from Brazil, Rev. Charles Harper, has been honoured with the Order Comendador de Mayo, a high decoration of the Argentine government for his emblematic legacy of struggles for human rights in the ecumenical movement. Harper, was WCC’s director of the Human Rights Resource Office for Latin America from 1973 to 1992. He received this honour in a ceremony held on 16 September in Geneva, Switzerland. Harper, born to an American missionary father working in Brazil, joined the anti-colonial struggle through the Committee for Assistance to Evacuees (CIMADE). At CIMADE, he worked with young people and Algerian immigrants in Marseille, France, in the early 1960s. With CIMADE and later as director of the John Knox International Reformed Centre, Harper supported church leaders persecuted in Mozambique, Angola and Cape Verde. Many of those become key actors in the independence struggles of their countries. At the WCC, Harper coördinated a number of systematic international initiatives denouncing human rights violations in Latin America. He created strong networks to protect the persecuted, imprisoned and tortured people in the region.

Accompanying human rights movements in the 1970s, the WCC was able to respond to the calls for solidarity at regional and global levels. Harper’s work at the WCC was initiated by the WCC member churches in Latin America, following a dialogue held with the WCC’s Commission on International Affairs, chaired then by the renowned jurist Dr Theo van Boven, who also received an honour from the Argentine government in 2012.

In his speech Harper pointed out the current global challenges that a new generation of human rights advocates has to deal with. “Thirty years later – today – the challenges facing the world community of nations, both as international and ecumenical family, not only persist but become more intense: The World Council of Churches, an instrument of unity and service to humanity, strives to accompany churches and groups related to them in critical situations to defend human rights and human dignity, fighting impunity, demanding punitive justice, and building just and peaceful societies.”

At the ceremony, Ambassador Alberto D’Alotto said, “Protestant churches have played an important role in defending human rights and in starting movements for human rights in my country. They helped in founding human rights organizations and sponsored their consolidation, and managed international financing much needed in the beginning…..The churches helped to find ways to overcome the information blockade imposed by the military authorities, giving international visibility to what was happening in Argentina and denouncing the military repression in international forums,” he said.

via Human Rights Defender Charles Harper Honoured by Argentinian Government – Standard Newswire.

Ben Whitaker died: one of the early human rights defenders at the international scene

July 16, 2014

Ben (Benjamin) Whitaker died on 8 June 2014. The memory of the human rights world being notoriously short, there will be many who do not recognize the name of one of the early human rights defenders in the international arena. A UK citizen, in 1965 he spoke out forcefully against detention camps in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), became one of the most activist members of the UN SubCommission in the mid seventies and lead the struggle to have the Armenian Genocide recognised. His 1985 final report on the question of genocide – which only had a brief but controversial mention of the Armenia – was for that reason blocked at the Commission level by Turkey and could not be distributed as such. I was at that time Director of the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights (SIM) and we agreed to publish a few thousand copies of the complete text under his own name.

As his link with the Armenian community was and remained strong, it should not surprise that one of the obituaries was published in DIARIO ARMENIA in Argentina. It was written by Leandro Despouy, President of the Argentine Audit Office and Former president of the SubCommission as well as the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations. Below is the English translation of this piece:

http://www.diarioarmenia.gov.ar:

Benjamin Whitaker, the Argentine dictatorship and the acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide by the United Nations

Ben Whitaker died on June 8th. Predictably, an Armenian friend gave me the news. Whitaker’s name will forever be consistently associated to the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the United Nations. It happened after extensive and difficult sessions, sabotaged by Turkey during fifteen years, which finally materialized in 1985 with the approval of the document that carries his name, the Whitaker Report.

He was a man of remarkable virtues, but two of these: coherence and sense of humour, were present in each and every one of the multiple activities he undertook during his life. Born into an aristocratic family, he made his first political incursions in the north London borough of Hampstead: he won the Hampstead seat for the Labour Party, a seat that had traditionally gone to the Tories for the previous 81 years. He had already graduated from Oxford to the bar, and spoken out vehemently against the local police regime in his book The Police.

Ben remained faithful to his neighbourhood football club throughout his life. An “argumentative idealist” –as he liked to describe himself-, who intensified the campaign for the enforcement of Human Rights worldwide, he battled against discrimination, the death penalty, the criminalization of homosexuality, against the outlawing of adultery and abortion, in favour of environmental care and all the issues that were surfacing with enormous force during the sixties and the seventies of the past century, an era which produced an unprecedented cultural change.

His condemnation, in 1965, of the clandestine detention camps of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) is well-known. He served as consultant for Labour governments and became executive director of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, created by an Armenian in Portugal, which is dedicated to the advancement of the arts, sciences and education. There is no doubt, however, that his better known activity took place in the United Nations, where he was appointed Special Rapporteur of the United Nations SubCommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities -a competent area of independent expertise-, by David Owen, the British Minister of Foreign Affairs of the seventies.

During his time at the SubCommission, after multiple attempts at public accusation, Whitaker, the French ambassador Nicole Questiaux and Theo van Boven managed to unfetter the restraints that the diplomacy of the Argentine dictatorship (Gabriel Martínez, Mario Amadeo) had used to muzzle the accusations – presented  before the United Nations since 1976 -, of murders and disappearances in our country. In 1979, Whitaker delivered a clear message to the effect that countries who exercised terrorism within their territories should not try to use the same methods in the United Nations.

In 1983, the SubCommission and the Human Rights Commission (nowadays Council) entrusted Benjamin Whitaker with a study and revision of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and its relation to the Convention of the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity, in order to insure that Governments would comply with these directives. Whitaker was chosen for this research because of his intellectual stature and his proven integrity; nevertheless, one of the female experts advised him to add a bullet-proof vest to his wardrobe.

In point of fact, two preliminary studies (1973 and 1975) developed by the Rwandan expert Ruhashiankiko, included a paragraph , number 30, which would become renowned because it labeled the Armenian Massacres of 1915 and 1923 as “the first genocide of the twentieth century”. This paragraph raised a storm of great proportions, conducted by the Turkish diplomacy, and had to be suppressed from the final report in 1979. The Rwandan expert vanished from the international arena.

We met at the SubCommission. We were 26 experts. Alfonsin’s administration was just getting started, as was the revolution of the cause of Human Rights. When I was appointed General Rapporteur of the SubCommission in 1984, the project of Whitaker’s excellent Report was being debated. It contained the definition of the Armenian Genocide. I agreed entirely with its contents, but found it difficult, from a political standpoint, to show signs of support and proximity to an Englishman, when the wounds of the Malvinas War were still so fresh. Concurrently, the investigation of the Argentine dictatorship’s crimes and the legal summons issued to the Juntas drew us closer, so we established an undercurrent of mutual sympathy in an almost clandestine fashion, sometimes mediated by the French judge Louis Joinet who was also an expert in the SubCommission. I told him I supported him. By 1985 we already enjoyed a fluid relationship and though the context was not simple, we were able to overcome that contingency; we shared a profound dialogue, and we both had knowledge of the world of the United Nations and Human Rights.

The situation was also very complicated for Whitaker; Margaret Thatcher ruled in Great Britain, her government did not endorse his condition of Rapporteur, and he had to receive the backing of a British NGO in order to finish his mandate at the United Nations. A committed socialist, Whitaker did not support the policies of Thatcher’s administration, and although these circumstances weakened him personally, the forcefulness of his Report made him stronger. That situation was taken advantage of by the Turkish diplomacy, who tried to erase from his Report the paragraph about the Armenian Genocide. During the debate of this issue, I brought up the changes which had taken place in Argentina, our solidarity with the victims of genocides and openly declared that the controversial paragraph must be kept.

In 1985, Whitaker reported to the SubCommission the theft of documents which he was never to recover. In that same session, as General Rapporteur, I pointed out that the expression “genocide” had been replaced by “Armenian question”. In those days, Whitaker received the visit of two Turkish diplomats who tried to dissuade him from continuing with his investigation. But Whitaker was a man of principles, not easily swayed by political pressure. The final approval in 1985 of the historical Report, which has become part of the patrimony of the United Nations, is the culmination of an unprecedented diplomatic battle that produced an important judicial and political impact throughout the world.

Whitaker ended his Report stating that it was necessary to close that chapter of History in an honourable way, and that if the experts did not have the courage to tell the truth, then participating in the SubCommission’s work would be useless, since it was the duty of the SubCommission to protect the victims from the governments and not the other way round.  For ethical reasons and in an act of chivalry, Whitaker abstained from voting for his own Report. When we met again in 1986, during his visit to Buenos Aires, he declared that the approval of the Report had been a good example of Anglo Argentine cooperation. Unknown to the media, he met with Dante Caputo and president Raúl Alfonsín.

He dedicated his last years to painting, and he campaigned to have a statue of George Orwell installed in front of the BBC, where it stands today.

 

 

Who can speak for NGOs in the UN? A precedent set in 1982

March 21, 2014

Yesterday, 20 March 2014, there was a fierce debate in the UN Council of Human Rights where the issue of the right of NGOs to speak came up, more precisely whether accredited NGOs had the right to let speakers mention other NGOs who do not have such accreditation. In this case it was China taking exemption to the FIDH letting its member NGOs (including a pro Tibetan group) take the floor in its name. For more context see my post of yesterday: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/china-in-the-un-human-rights-council-manages-to-silence-cao-shunli-as-well-as-ngos/.

The Chair and Secretariat rightly spoke of a standing practice in this regards. One such precedent is 30 years old and probably lost to most observers, so I give here my own recollection of this story in the hope that someone with access to the UN files or a better memory can confirm or correct the details.

It is 1982 and the Working group on Disappearances (created in 1980 after a long struggle and with the active support from the then Director Theo van Boven)) is reporting to the Commission on Human Rights (the predecessor of the Council). The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), of which I was the Executive Secretary at the time, has lined up to speak. Read the rest of this entry »

Theo van Boven honored with film and debate in Geneva side event 14 March

March 5, 2014

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Theo van Boven (c) Dovana

With the start of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, there is also a plethora of side events scheduled. I will focus only on those that have Human Rights Defenders as a central theme (e.g. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/important-human-rights-council-side-event-on-11-march-to-be-followed-on-internet/). Another one that promises to be interesting is organised by the Permanent Missions of the Netherlands and Argentina on 14 March 2014 from 13h00 – 15h:00 in Room XXI of the Palais des Nations. The main ingredient is the screening of a documentary:  Theo van Boven: a tribute”.

[Theo van Boven was Director of Human Rights in the UN in the early 80’s and was instrumental in creating what are now called the special procedures. How he was “hired and fired” by the UN in 1982 for the same reason – his deep concern for the right of people – is described in my collection of speeches by Theo van Boven: People Matter: Views on International Human Rights Policy (Meulenhoff: Amsterdam 1982)]

The film is introduced by Kees Flinterman (member of the Human Rights Committee) and Ms Flavia Pansieri, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights. The screening is followed by a panel discussion with:

  • Roderick van Schreven, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (moderator)
  • Alberto Pedro D’Alotto, Ambassador of the Argentine Republic
  • Tom McCarthy, former senior officer of the UN Centre for Human Rights/OHCHR
  • Bertrand Ramcharan, former acting High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Adrien-Claude Zoller, founder of human rights NGOs

Finally Theo himself will give some closing remarks.

For those who want to know more about his academic work there is an anthology that brings together a selection of his writings from 1966 to 1998:  http://www.brill.com/human-rights-exclusion-inclusion-principles-and-practice. And to show how he continues to contribute in practical terms see his explanation of why the Theo van Boven fund has been established and what the goals are, on You Tube:

WORLD HUMAN RIGHTS FORUM initiated by Brasil and to be continued in Morocco and Argentina

January 20, 2014

 

For those who think that large international human rights meetings tend to take place in the ‘western’, you should check out the programme and website of the WORLD HUMAN RIGHTS FORUM which was held in Brasilia from 10 – 13 December 2013: http://www.fmdh.sdh.gov.br/index.php/en/program [representatives from 74 countries, more than 500 different activities and over 9.000 participants].

One such activity was the seminar “Comparative experiences for the protection of human rights defenders at the international level” chaired by Luciana García, director of the Department of Defence of Human Rights, from the Brazilian Human Rights Secretariat. Luis Enrique Eguren, President of Protection International, shared the table (picture above) with experts from other organisations, such as: Andrea Rocca of Front Line Defenders, Laura Tresca of Article 19, and Michelle Morais de sa Silva, General Coordinator for Accompaniment in Projects of International Cooperation.

The WFHR is an initiative of the Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidency of the Brazilian Republic, whose main objective is to promote a space for the public debate on Human Rights in which the progress and challenges are addressed with respect for the differences and social participation, with the aims of reducing inequalities and fighting against human rights violations…The Minister Maria do Rosário, from the Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic of Brazil: “We organise this forum in Brazil because we think governments must always be opened to dialogue with civil society, precisely because this strengthens democracy …..We learn with Mandela that it is ourselves who must be the actors for the promotion of peace”.

At the closing ceremony of the World Human Rights Forum it was announced which countries will host the next events: Morocco in 2014 and Argentina in 2015.

via PI INVITED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE WORLD HUMAN RIGHTS FORUM CELEBRATED IN BRASILIA | | Protection InternationalProtection International.