Posts Tagged ‘Armenia’

Nominees for the 2019 Aurora Prize are…

May 1, 2019

On 24 April 2019 the nominees for the Aurora Prize [see http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/aurora-prize-for-awakening-humanity] were announced:

  • Mr. Mirza Dinnayi, Co-Founder and Director of Luftbrücke Irak (Airbridge Iraq), a humanitarian organization that flies Yazidi victims from Iraq to Germany for medical treatment. Mirza Dinnayi has helped several hundred women escape from the territories controlled by ISIS, personally taking part in missions to bring them back to safety, and delivered food and water to the Yazidis in isolated areas. Driven by his passion to save lives, he has found a way to overcome numerous bureaucratic and logistic obstacles to help the most vulnerable. Mr. Dinnayi has nominated three organizations that provide educational opportunities to underserved students and disaster relief: Air Bridge Iraq, SEED Foundation and Shai Fund.
  • Mr. Zannah Bukar Mustapha, lawyer, Director and Founder of Future Prowess Islamic Foundation – a school that provides education to some of the most deprived children in Maiduguri, Nigeria. In October 2016, he secretly traveled to meet with Boko Haram rebels in their Sambisa forest hideout during a media blackout and left with 21 children. Thirteen months later, supported by ICRC, the Swiss government and the Nigerian authorities, he negotiated the additional release of 82 girls. Zannah Bukar Mustapha has nominated three organizations that aim to reduce conflict through strong community effort and good governance: Future Prowess Islamic Foundation, Adab Community Renewal Foundation and Herwa Community Development Initiative.
  • Huda Al-Sarari, lawyer and activist. Huda Al-Sarari is a brave and inspiring Yemeni human rights activist, who singlehandedly investigates, exposes and challenges a clandestine network of secret prisons run by foreign governments in Yemen, where thousands of men and boys have faced arbitrary detention. She has amassed incontrovertible evidence of the abuse that takes place within the prisons and succeeded in convincing Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to take up the cause. She has nominated an international organization that defends victims of extreme human rights abuse and two organizations that combat discrimination and promote equality: Reprieve, Equal Rights Trust and Wethaq Foundation for Civil Orientation.

(The Selection Committee had chosen the three Aurora Humanitarians from 719 nominations for 523 unique candidates submitted from 72 countries)

For last year’s, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/10/1-million-aurora-prize-awarded-to-rohingya-human-rights-defender-kyaw-hla-aung/

The 2019 Aurora Prize ceremony will take place on October 14-21, 2019, in Yerevan, Armenia.

http://www.armradio.am/en/11548

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.

 

 

Russia’s export promotion to Armenia includes the foreign agents law

June 4, 2014

In TransConflict of 4 June 2014, Edgar Khachatryan writes a thoughtful piece on the “foreign agents” law and especially how Russia tries to expert this tool to silence human rights defenders to other countries, such as Armenia. 

I am sure that Russia should declare its presence in the information sphere of Armenia more actively. There is no doubt about it. However, other methods should be used to neutralize the NGOs which stick a wedge in the Armenian-Russian relations. By the way, Russia has adopted a law which clearly defines the activities of NGOs” – announced Russian ambassador to Armenia, Ivan Volinkin. Earlier this year, on 12 April, the same Volinkin announced in Yerevan that Russia will halt any attempts at aggressive intervention of third parties in the domestic affairs of its friendly states “in an effort to instil ideas alien to their mind soul”.

After briefly analyzing the Russian law and its application (at least 3 NGOs have already been affected: ‘Women of the Don’ ‘Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre’ and the ‘Center for Social Policy and Gender Studies’), the author draws the conclusion that it is clear what effective interference the Russian Ambassador to Armenia is referring to. There is no doubt that human rights, democracy and peacebuilding seem alien and dangerous to the Russian authorities. By presenting the activities of human rights defenders as a betrayal of the nation and its values, the authorities are trying to silence those who think differently.

Ambassador Volinkin has called upon the Armenian authorities to use the ‘Russian experience’ in order to appease civil groups in Armenia. Moreover, the Ambassador warns that Russia itself will prevent the spread of such ‘alien’ ideologies in partner countries. A number of NGOs in Armenia qualified Volinkin’s announcements as a violation of accepted diplomatic norms and gross interference in the internal affairs of Armenia.

Claims made by NGOs the Armenian authorities to hold the Russian Ambassador to account fell on a deaf ear: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that they do not see any validity to the claims. Thus, the threat that the civil groups opposed by the authorities will be silenced with the ‘power of law’ is becoming more tangible. The phrase “keep silent or confess that you are a foreign agent!” may soon become an acceptable idea in Armenia too.

Edgar Khachatryan is the director of Peace Dialogue, a member of the Global Coalition for Conflict Transformation.

Russia – keep silent or confess that you are a foreign agent | TransConflict.

For older posts on the foreign agents issue: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/foreign-agent/

Human Rights House Foundation seeks Regional Officer South Caucasus

May 12, 2014

The Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF) in Oslo seeks a Regional Officer for South Caucasus at the Human Rights House Foundation. Deadline Tuesday, 20 May 2014. Location: South Caucasus (majority of work in Armenia during the first 6 months). The position requires frequent travels within South Caucasus region. The position demands, inter alia, excellent English and good Russian and working experience (minimum 2 years) in the human rights field, preferably from a non-governmental or international organization.HRHFlogo

Send your  CV, list of references and letter of support in English to ane.bonde[at]humanrightshouse.org and katerina.spacova[at]humanrightshouse.org.

 

Society Without Violence, in Armenia, could do without the violence

May 5, 2014

Via the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) I received the information that women’s rights organization, Society Without Violence, in Armenia was attacked by extremist groups. The Society Without Violence works on women’s empowerment, peace building, raising public awareness on gender stereotypes and gender based violence, and the protection for women human rights defenders. On 15 April 2014, a roundtable (due to recent threats the event was a closed session) was interrupted by neo-nationalist extremist group members protesting the event. As the extremist groups tried to enter the conference room, some verbally attacked members of Society Without Violence, while others used physical force on human rights defenders and hotel security guards. Members of local and official media who arrived with the extremist protestors filmed the incident, but later falsely claimed that the Society Without Violence initiated the violent attack. This attack seems to be part of an increasing pattern and women human rights defenders in Armenia are targeted with threats and violence for carrying on their human rights works. 

In run-up to meeting with OSCE observers authorities of Nakhichevan threaten local human rights defenders with physical reprisal

October 2, 2013

In the context of reprisals here is a report from Panorama concerning Azerbaijan, admittedly from an Armenian news source: Read the rest of this entry »

In Armenia, Like Father, Like Son

September 12, 2013

On 11 September EurasiaNet published a piece implying that powerful people in Armenia can get away with violence and even murder. At least that is how human rights defenders have reacted to the September 8 decision to drop all murder charges against the son of former strongman governor, Suren Khachatrian. In a shootout near the ex-governor’s mansion in the southeastern town of Goris, Tigran Khachatrian [junior] this June shot dead local businessman Avetik Budaghian. Budaghian’s brother Artak, a military officer, was wounded in the clash with Kachatrian’s son and his bodyguards. Tigran Khachatrian and one of the bodyguards were arrested on murder and illegal weapons possession charges, but were released after the military police, which are handling the case, decided that all the shots fired by Khachatrian were made in self-defense.  Human rights activists, the victims family and the familys lawyer all have condemned the ruling. A local representative of Human Rights Watch alleged in a conversation with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, a former defense minister, may personally have pushed for the ex-gubernatorial son. …It has been widely suggested that this quid-pro-quo relationship kept Kachatrian in office despite his long alleged record of violent behavior. Allegations like assaulting a journalist and a businesswoman had been piling up against Kachatrian, but never resulted in indictments or dismissal. Khachatrian père tendered his resignation after the shooting incident, but, critics say, he can still call in favors with the establishment.

via In Armenia, Like Father, Like Son | EurasiaNet.org.

Armenian HRD says: Hospitals charge extra sums from parents

August 1, 2013

Here an example of what an ‘official’ human rights defender (the Armenian Ombudsman with the somewhat confusing title HRD)  can do in the area of social rights:

Armenia’s Human Rights Defender (HRD) issued a statement saying that the HRD has already examined omissions in the State Child Health Certificate Program in his previous annual report. Under the program children under the age of 7 shall receive free medical care. Yet parents, while having the necessary documents for free health care, often have to pay extra money to some doctors. “A year has passed since the problem was raised, but there has been no progress. Moreover, the Defender continues receiving complaints about such violations, especially complaints about Austrian Mother and Child Hospital of Gyumri CJSC. The Defender officially informed the Health Minister about it, but he has not received any definite answer about whether those guilty were held accountable or not. The Human Rights Defender, Karen Andreasian, calls upon citizens to apply to the HRD Staff in case of encountering such a problem.

via HRD: Hospitals charge extra sums from parents – aysor.am – Hot news from Armenia.

 

Short films contest by UN DPI, High Commissioner in Armenia but where are the others?

November 23, 2012

Young Armenians aged from 17 to 25 can take part in a short (three minute long) film contest on human rights in the digital age by sending their submissions to the United Nations Department of Public Information (UN-DPI) in Armenia by 5 December. The contest is being organised by the UN-DPI, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Population Fund, the OSCE Office in Yerevan, the Council of Europe in Armenia and the EU Delegation to Armenia, with the support of the Human Rights Defenders Office.

The aim of the competition is to promote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to raise awareness among young people about human rights in the digital age, opportunities that the internet and social media offer to defenders of human rights, to give youth the opportunity to tackle this topic from a creative point of view and to promote successes for human rights defenders.  All entries will be posted on the UN Armenia YouTube Channel and the general public will be invited to vote to select the best film. The best films will be screened on Human Rights Day in Yerevan in December 2012. The award ceremony in Armenia will be broadcast live, connecting youth from different countries, who will be able to talk to each other via the internet, promoting international dialogue, building tolerance and sharing their experiences in promotion of human rights.
The Armenian announcement states interestingly that “The same event will simultaneously take place in other UN member states.” but I have not seen  or found any other such announcements !? 

 

Human Rights House and its partners speak out on Human Rights Defenders in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Georgia

November 3, 2011

This is just a quick reference to the excellent work of the Oslo-based Human Rights House Foundation and its network over the last 2 months. They continue to call on the OSCE and the Council of Europe to monitor the situation of HRDs and to react against increasing repression against them. The focus is on Belarus, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia, countries which often stay out of the limelight when it comes to human rights protection.

see; Joint call for better protection of HR defenders in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia – Human Rights House Network.