Posts Tagged ‘attack’

More about MEA finalist Sizani Ngubane from South Africa

January 7, 2020

staff writer on the Christian Science Monitor published on 6 January 2020 a Question and Answer piece with Sizani Ngubane, the South African land rights defender who became a finalist for the Martin Ennals Award [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/26/breaking-news-mea-has-3-women-hrds-as-finalists-for-2020/ ]
The first inkling Sizani Ngubane had that she might grow up to be an activist came when she was just 6 years old. It was the early 1950s, and while her father, a migrant worker, was away from the family home near the eastern city of Pietermaritzburg, his brother evicted her mother from their land. “You’re a woman,” she remembers her uncle telling her mother, “so you have no right to this property if your husband isn’t around. Those were the early years of apartheid, South Africa’s infamous system of white minority rule, and a woman like Ms. Ngubane’s mother had few places to turn. The white government wasn’t likely to be on her side, and neither were the men in charge in her own community. At 6, of course, Ms. Ngubane didn’t know exactly what was happening, but her mother’s humiliation told her all she needed to know. “From that experience I just said to myself, when I grow up I want to be part of the people who are going to correct these wrongs,” she says. 

In the 70 years since, indeed, she has become the voice for tens of thousands of women like her mother. In the late 1990s, Ms. Ngubane was a founding member of the Rural Women’s Movement, which today counts some 50,000 members. Among other work, the organization fights to make sure women have access to, and ownership over, the land on which they live and work. This has been a major challenge in many rural areas under the authority of semi-autonomous traditional chieftaincies that were originally set up by the apartheid and colonial governments. These leaders have often been reticent to give more rights to women. As South Africa’s government mulls over whether to expropriate some land from white owners and return it to the country’s black majority, her work has become all the more urgent – and complicated.

Ms. Ngubane spoke by phone with the Monitor’s Johannesburg bureau chief Ryan Lenora Brown about why land is so important in South Africa, and what keeps her going as an activist.

Since the start of democracy in South Africa, there’s been a program to provide land or money to people who were stripped of their land during the colonial or apartheid periods. But it’s moved slowly, and over the last few years, there’s been a lot of talk about expropriating land – that is to say, redistributing the land, whether current landowners want that or not. What do you think of that idea? And do you think it will really happen?

I support it. A large percentage of South African arable land is still in the hands of white people, even though they are a small minority in this country. How equal is that? How constitutional is that? But the problem now is that our government is not really doing anything about it. They promised us in the 1990s that by 2014 they would have redistributed 30% of land into hands of original users. I say users and not owners because in our culture land is not owned. Mother Nature was not a commodity that could be bought and sold. But only about 10% of that land has been returned to date. So I think those promises were politically motivated to get people to come out and vote in elections. I don’t see real transformation of the land situation happening anytime soon.  

Why is access to land so important for South African women in particular?

When you begin to give land to women, a lot of abuses in society are eliminated. They can feed their own families without fear of being evicted. They can inherit land when their male relatives die. And most importantly, they are not so controlled by the men in their lives. Because when land is the main value of a society and women cannot own land, we are nothing. We are not 100% human beings. It is easy to abuse and abandon us. So the land is the only way out for us.

What is the accomplishment you’re most proud of? 

The thing I’m most proud of isn’t necessarily any legal battle we’ve won. It’s the fact that before we started this movement women in many rural communities were not empowered to speak. Now we see our women speaking up for their rights, even at national and international levels. And no one tells them to shut up, because we have taught them that this is our constitutional right. [The men] know they must listen.

You’ve been an activist for nearly six decades. And there are still more battles to be fought. Right now, for instance, you’re preparing to go to court as part of a challenge against the Ingonyama Trust, an organization run by the Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini that controls an area in eastern South Africa the size of Belgium. I’m wondering what keeps you going through battles like this one. 

It comes from my heart. From when I was 6 years old I knew exactly what I was going to do with my life. Don’t ask me how exactly I knew there was a world outside that rural community where I grew up. The only other place I had ever seen was the city of Pietermaritzburg [10 miles away], where I went once a year with my mother to buy school shoes. But somehow I knew even then I was going to grow up to see the world, and learn from it. And that’s exactly what I’ve done.

——

On 28 November 2019 Kim Harrisberg reports for the Thomson Reuters Foundation about the “Death-Defying South African Nominated for International Human Rights Award“. A South African women’s land rights activist who has been stabbed with a knife, slapped with a gun and hit by a speeding car and those are just a few of the murder attempts on Sizani Ngubane who is currently in hiding to prevent further attempts on her long life of activism.

“We cannot separate women’s land rights from gender based violence in South Africa,” said the 74-year-old activist who frequently champions women’s access to land in rural KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province. “We are celebrating 25 years of democracy, but rural women are still treated like children. It is not in line with our constitution,” Ngubane, founder of the Rural Women’s Movement (RWM) land rights group, said in a phone interview.

Land is a hot topic in South Africa, where President Cyril Ramaphosa last year launched a process to change the constitution with a proposed redistribution of land aimed at addressing high levels of inequality. But in KZN, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini controls 2.8 million hectares of land, a fragmented sub-tropical area the size of Belgium, under an entity called the Ingonyama Trust established in 1994. The Zulu monarch wants President Cyril Ramaphosa to sign an agreement promising to exclude territories that the king controls from land reform.

Land rights activists are challenging the control wielded by such traditional authorities over rural communities, particularly on women who are often evicted once widowed. “The trust has turned communities into tenants by leasing ancestral land to them,” said Ngubane, adding that a compulsory rent, rising 10% every year, had to be paid by community members who otherwise face eviction.

Ngubane, along with rights groups, is challenging the Ingonyama Trust in Pietermaritzburg High Court in March 2020. The work of the Rural Women’s Movement includes finding housing for evicted women and children, helping grow food on communal land for the hungry and sick, campaigning for better legal protection of women’s land rights and more. “We are like one big family,” Ngubane said. “We have now begun to spread our wings into different parts of the country.” Launched in 1998, the Rural Women’s Movement has grown to 50,000 women, said Ngubane.

Ngubane said there was retaliation and danger involved in challenging the traditional authorities, citing burnings, kidnappings and beatings of outspoken women and men. “My dream is that one day KwaZulu-Natal will be like other provinces, where women’s rights are seen as human rights and women are given the same power over land that men are keeping for themselves,” Ngubane said.

https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/2020/0106/A-woman-s-right-to-her-land-Q-A-with-Sizani-Ngubane

Death-Defying South African Nominated for International Human Rights Award

https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/national/2019-11-28-human-rights-award-nominee-in-hiding-as-she-fights-for-womens-land-rights/

Russia: closing offices and attacking human rights defenders

March 17, 2016

An update on the situation human rights defenders in Russia is unfortunately needed too frequently. Recently the Martin Ennals Foundation condemned the attacks on its 2013 Laureate, the Joint Mobile Group (JMG) which is known for its courageous work in opening legal cases on behalf of victims of torture in Chechnya. On March 9th, they were travelling together with journalists and the group was physically attacked, their confidential notes stolen, and the vehicles they were in burned. Their offices in Ingushetia were also attacked. The international and local media have reported (see list at bottom of the post). This is part of an ongoing pattern of threats and intimidation directed against JMG.

Now, Human Rights Watch and others report that yesterday (16 March) Igor Kalyapin, head of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, one of the founders and participants of the Joint Mobile Group, was attacked as he was leaving his hotel in Grozny. They also pelted him with eggs, and threw flour and bright antiseptic liquid on him, which stained his face and clothes.  “The attack on Igor Kalyapin shows again that it’s open season on human rights defenders in Chechnya,” said Hugh Williamson, of Human Rights Watch. “The authorities’ utter failure to hold anyone to account for a series of vicious attacks in recent years is like a bright green light for further attacks.

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Burundi: what more ‘early’ warning does one need?

November 10, 2015

Pierre Claver Mbonimpa is President of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH) in Burundi. He was the Laureate of the MEA 2007 and on 27 October 2015 he received the Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network’s East Africa Shield Award. What happened to him in the last months is telling (for earlier items see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/pierre-claver-mbonimpa/):

MEA Laureate Mbonimpa, Burundi

MEA Laureate Mbonimpa, Burundi

  • On 3 August 2015, prominent human rights defender Pierre Claver Mbonimpa – laureate of the MEA 2007 – was shot in the face and neck. He was forced to seek medical treatment abroad.
  • His son-in-law, Pascal Nshimirimana, was shot dead outside his home in Bujumbura on 9 October.
  • On 6 November, the body of Welly Nzitonda, the son of Mbonimpa, was found dead a few hours after he was arrested in the Mutakura neighborhood of Bujumbura where protests have taken place.
  • Just before that – on 3 November – Mbonimpa spoke out on a video message from the place where is recovering: https://www.defenddefenders.org/2015/11/voices-that-cannot-be-silenced-pierre-claver-mbonimpa-speaks-out-on-burundi/

On 9 November 2015 eleven leading human rights NGOs addressed an Open Letter to the UN Human Rights Council urging them to organize a special session to prevent (further) atrocities in Burundi.

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Mahfooz Saeed, lawyer of Maldives’ ex-president, stabbed

September 7, 2015

It does not rank as the worst human rights violation in the world but the stabbing of the lawyer of the Maldives’ ex-president is a classic case of attacking the defenders. Wonder why not more lawyers organizations have come out in professional solidarity:
On Friday 4 September lawyer Mahfooz Saeed was stabbed in the islands’ capital, Male, ahead of a visit by his international legal team, including human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.  He underwent emergency surgery and is now in a stable condition. “There were many people who saw the incident. The attackers were also caught on CCTV cameras,” Shauna Aminath, a spokeswoman for the MDP, of which Saeed is also a member, told AFP. The party believes the attack was politically motivated, she said.
Amnesty International condemned the assault and called on the Maldivian government to bring the perpetrators to justice.
This vicious attack must not go unpunished — Maldives authorities must ensure that human rights defenders can work free from fear of reprisals and that those responsible are held to account,” the human rights group said in a statement.
Amal Clooney is due to travel to the Maldives this week to meet with Nasheed. She is part of the legal team along with Jared Genser — who has represented Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi — and Ben Emmerson, a judge on international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and former Yugoslavia.

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/10/19/retaliation-now-reaches-even-human-rights-commissioners-in-the-maldives-un-deeply-concerned/

Source: Lawyer for Maldives’ ex-president stabbed in Male | Arab News

Vietnamese blogger and human rights defender Nguyen Chi Tuyen attacked

May 14, 2015

On 11 May 2015, environmental rights defender Mr Nguyen Chi Tuyen was attacked by five unidentified men in Hanoi, Vietnam, according to information received by Front Line Defenders. The human rights defender’s car was halted in the Long Bien District by five masked men, who surrounded the vehicle. The assailants proceeded to beat Nguyen Chi Tuyen with iron bars, and left him unconscious at the scene. Tuyen suffered injuries to his face, head, arms and legs, and received six stitches before being discharged from hospital.

Nguyen Chi Tuyen is an environmental activist, blogger and human rights defender. He provides support to human rights activists facing harassment by police and has played a prominent role in peaceful demonstrations calling for transparency in the development of environmental policies in Hanoi. He promotes environmental and human rights causes through his blog.

[Nguyen Chi Tuyen has previously been subjected to intimidation and harassment as a result of his environmental and human rights works. During the execution by Hanoi city officials of a widely opposed plan to cut down 6708 trees in the city, the environmental rights defender was placed under constant surveillance by police.]

Vietnam – Blogger and environmental rights defender Nguyen Chi Tuyen attacked | Front Line Defenders.

Today official launch of AI’s Panic Button – a new App to fight attack, kidnap and torture

June 23, 2014

Amnesty International launches new open source ‘Panic Button’ app to help activists facing imminent danger.

Today, 23 June 2014, Amnesty International launches its open source ‘Panic Button’ app to help human rights defenders facing imminent danger. The aim is to increase protection for those who face the threat of arrest, attack, kidnap and torture. In short:

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Konstantina Kuneva – 5 years after acid attack – elected MEP for Greece

June 3, 2014

Konstantina Kuneva MEP

Konstantina (or Kostadinka) Kuneva – originating from Bulgaria – was severely wounded in December 2008 after a man threw sulphuric acid in her face as she was returning home from work. Kuneva, a history graduate, took up work in the cleaning sector in 2003, two years after moving to Greece with her child. The attack was linked to her union activities in representing cleaning personnel. As a result of the attack she lost her sight in one eye and has limited vision in the other. Her vocal chords and trachea were also seriously damaged. Kuneva received almost 165,000 preferences in the European Parliament election, and is now a Member. In a website statement she said that she is “deeply moved” at being elected and vowed to use her time in the European Parliament to continue her “struggle at another level, from which I will be able to help more people”. There is certainly racism in Greece, but there are also marvelous examples of the contrary.

via Konstantina Kuneva MEP thanks her supporters.

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. 

Yolanda Oquelí – Guatemalan Human Rights Defender in video testimony

February 24, 2014

This video with testimony by Yolanda Oquelí, human rights defender from Guatemala, was posted last year by AI Canada and recently re-issued in French by AI France.

Since March 2013, activists and members of the local community have held an ongoing protest against the mine development by Radius Gold, a company based in Vancouver, Canada, and its wholly owned Guatemalan subsidiary, Exploración Mineras de Guatemala (EXMIGUA).  Some community members claim that they were not consulted about the opening of the mine and fear it will pollute their water supply and damage land in San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc municipalities. On the evening of 13 June events took a sinister turn. Outspoken anti-mining activist Yolanda Oquelí was driving home from taking part in this ongoing protest when two gunmen on a motorbike cut across in front of her car and fired four shots. Yolanda was hit and a bullet lodged close to her liver. She recovered, continues to be subject to threats.
In February 2011, protesters in north-western Guatemala’s San Marcos region were attacked after speaking out against the local Marlin Mine, owned by Canadian company Goldcorp Inc. Community activist Aniceto López, was taken to the local mayor’s office, where officials allegedly beat him and threatened to kill him if he failed to stop speaking out against the mine.

[In July 2010, another grassroots activist in San Marcos, Deodora Hernández, was shot at close range in her own home by two unknown men. She had spoken out to defend her community’s right to water amidst fears that mining had polluted the local water supply]

When James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples visited Guatemala in June 2010, he received allegations that the Guatemalan government had repeatedly granted licences for the exploration of natural resources in indigenous territories without consulting with local indigenous peoples – or receiving their free, prior and informed consent.

Attempted attack at home of human rights defender Amina Mohamed in Kenya

January 24, 2014

On 21 January 2014, a group of unidentified armed men attempted to break in to the house of human rights defender Ms Amina Mohamed. She was recently warned that a gang, hired by a young man involved in a lawsuit she is working on, was planning to “punish” her and her family for her activism on gender-based violence. Amina Mohamed is a community activist, and member of Bunge la Wamama Mashinani (The Women’s Parliament at the Grassroots), the women’s branch of the Bunge la Mwananchi movement (The People’s Parliament). Amina Mohamed has particularly been vocal on issues of gender-based violence in KenyaFrontline NEWlogo-2 full version - cropped Read the rest of this entry »