Posts Tagged ‘Brian Dooley’

Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders in US Foreign Policy

January 19, 2022

On 13 January 2022 Brian Dooley devoted a blog post for Human Rights First to the US’ State Department’s efforts to draft HRD Guidelines:

Ten years ago, I testified in the US Congress for Human Rights First on why the US government should issue guidelines to its embassies on engaging with human rights defenders.

We then spoke to State Department bureaucrats in many months of negotiations too soporific to recount here, and by March 2013 they finally produced some useful guidelines for US diplomats, modelled largely on those adopted by European countries a decade before.

It’s a great idea – US government officials were offered specific advice on how and why to engage with Human Rights Defenders, and the hope was that the guidelines would set minimum standards for US embassies all over the world. 

Engagement with human rights defenders by US diplomats tends to patchy – some embassies do it well, others hardly do it at all. HRDs in countries which are antagonistic to Washington tend to enjoy relatively easy access to US diplomats who share their criticism of the local government, whereas HRDs in countries ruled by dictators who are allies of the US complain about a lack of support from US embassies.

The guidelines encouraged officials to maintain regular contact with HRDs, or possibly to attend their trials or visit them in detention, and otherwise explore ways to support and protect them. All good in principle, but the State Department failed to adequately encourage its embassies to implement the suggestions. 

So five years ago I was back in the US Congress, testifying that the guidelines “haven’t been properly promoted or widely translated …[and that] protecting HRDs is too important a job to do half-heartedly.”

Those US guidelines were pretty good, but the problem was so few people ever heard about them. When I mentioned them to human rights NGO staff, to officials of other governments, to human rights defenders, to people in the UN, to American ambassadors in the Middle East, even to State Department officials in the Bureau of Democracy, Rights and Labor, I was generally met with a “Huh?”

The good news is that, after more years of advocacy by ourselves, Earthrights, and others, the State Department has now released updated guidelines, complete with an assurance that “The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to putting human rights and democratic principles at the center of our foreign policy.” All nice enough, though these commitments to support HRDs should be institutionalized long term and not dependent on a particular administration.

The content is strong, advising sensible courses of action including that US officials “Encourage investigations and prosecution of those who harass and attack human rights defenders,” and that US officials  “seek the consent of human rights defenders before taking any actions on their behalf and take precautions in communicating with them online and offline.”

The guidelines could act a great starting point for US officials at any embassy who want to connect with local civil society and activists. The challenge is to prevent these new standards from getting left on the shelf like the last ones. 

To guard against that, we and others are hoping Congress will pass legislation aimed at keeping the State Department focused on protecting HRDs, including requiring US embassies to post the guidelines on their websites in relevant languages in an invitation to local HRDs to engage with them.

This engagement and support is currently horribly inconsistent. For instance, last week the US embassy in Niger issued a short public statement in support of local HRDs, which is great. But the US embassy in Cairo has for years been mortifyingly silent about the extensive attacks on local HRDs by Egyptian authorities.

The US government should use its power much more often to protect human rights defenders, not least at a  local level where its embassies can offer much more consistent support to human rights defenders, and not just in countries that are adversaries of the US, but with its allies too.

See e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/06/11/osce-publishes-guidelines-on-the-protection-of-human-rights-defenders/

https://www.government.nl/topics/human-rights/human-rights-worldwide/supporting-human-rights-defenders

https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/blog/state-department-s-second-chance-get-hrd-guidelines-right

Brian Dooley on What’s Happening Behind the UAE’s Public Relations Mask

November 1, 2021

In a podcast of 29 October, 2021 Brian Dooley [see also:https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/13/brian-dooley-to-advice-mary-lawlor/] takes to task the Emirates who continue to hold Ahmed Mansoor in detention. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/ahmed-mansoor/]

For many years, the United Arab Emirates has been one of Washington’s most repressive military allies. Its brutal targeting of human rights defenders, its leadership role with Saudi Arabia in the war on Yemen, and its crushing of any internal political dissent has made it a focus of Human Rights First’s advocacy for a decade. 

I visited the Emirates for Human Rights First in 2015 to research how bad things were, and things have only become worse — the few activists who weren’t intimidated into silence in 2015 have now been pushed into exile or sentenced to long terms in prison.  

Washington continues to enable the Emirates’ dictatorship with weapons and political support; in April the Biden administration confirmed it would proceed with a $23 billion arms deal. But having powerful friends in Washington, and pushing Dubai’s glitzy image of tourism and shopping, can’t hide the reality of what really happens in the UAE. 

Click below or listen here to my appearance on a podcast by the European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) for more on what’s happening in the UAE behind their PR mask. 

https://open.spotify.com/embed/episode/4ax316cIyNvRqKdeBM6EuT?utm_source=generator&theme=

UK outdoes Pinochet with proposed amnesty

September 13, 2021

On 10 September 2021 Brian Dooley blogged for Human Rights First: “British Government Proposes Amnesty for Killings That’s Worse Than Pinochet’s”:

In a startling move, in July 2021, the British government announced a proposal to end all Troubles-era prosecutions, granting amnesty to its soldiers for any crimes they committed during this time. While the proposal has yet to be introduced as a bill, its mere introduction has already received a strong reaction.

Last week, I visited Belfast and Derry where I met with human rights NGOs and families of those killed during the Troubles. Human Rights First has been active on these issues for decades, with a focus on past abuses and on supporting the human rights lawyers helping families bring prosecutions against those who committed them.

This recently introduced proposal is a significant setback to the families whose loved ones were killed by British forces during those years. Many of which have spent decades looking for the truth about what happened to those who were killed. During my time with them, some of the family members said that this proposal, which would eliminate any potential for accountability, has left them exasperated and angry.

Some of the killings from this period, like those on Bloody Sunday in Derry or Ballymurphy in Belfast, are well known and have received international attention. Others, such as the Springhill-Westrock shootings and many others, have had less attention. Overall, during the Troubles (1969-1998), 3,350 people were killed, including 1,840 civilians, and 47,500 were injured.

In many cases of killings, there was no real investigation done at the time. Local human rights NGO, the Pat Finucane Centre, has recently published declassified documents showing how some soldiers evaded prosecutions. The new proposal would remove any possibility of the families having any possibility for legal recourse or bringing the killers to justice.

The wide scope of the UK government’s proposed amnesty is breathtaking.

Human Rights First has for many years worked with Belfast-based human rights NGO the Committee for the Administration of Justice (CAJ). This week, with a team of experts from Queen University, Belfast, the CAJ produced an analysis of the proposed amnesty laws, measuring the British government’s proposals “against binding international and domestic human rights law, the Good Friday Agreement and other international experiences of amnesties to deal with past human rights violations.”

This study found that the proposal would create an amnesty more sweeping than that of General Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator who introduced a policy to shield human rights violators from prosecution, which is often regarded as the worst. However, unlike the UK proposal, which excludes no crimes and has no temporal limits, Pinochet’s amnesty excluded certain crimes, such as sexual violence, and applied only to the first five years of the 17-year dictatorship. Additionally, Pinochet’s amnesty excluded criminal cases already before the courts and applied only to criminal prosecutions. The UK proposal on the other hand would close cases already in the system and apply to both civil and criminal cases.

Professor Louise Mallinder, one of the experts on the report and a world-renowned scholar of transitional justice who has examined roughly 300 amnesties relating to various conflicts around the world from 1990 until 2016, says the UK’s proposed amnesty “would offer the broadest form of impunity of all the amnesties surveyed.”

Yes, the British government’s standard for addressing past human rights violations by its soldiers, including murders, appears to be lower than that of General Pinochet’s.

The plan is so bad that all major political parties in Ireland, north and south, have united in rejecting it. Members of the U.S. Congress are reportedly signing a letter objecting to it.

The British government got many things wrong over the course of The Troubles. This proposed amnesty for its former soldiers is another huge mistake and should be rejected immediately.

Instead, a real process of justice should be followed, along the lines of that outlined in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement. Dealing with The Troubles’ past is difficult but not impossible. The families of those killed – and of victims of human rights violations in other post-conflict situations that a new UK precedent might influence – deserve much better than what the British government has proposed.

https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/blog/british-government-proposes-amnesty-killings-s-worse-pinochet-s

Albert Ho wins Baldwin Medal 2020

December 10, 2020

Human Rights First announced today that it will award the 2020 Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty to Hong Kong human rights defender Albert Ho. The award will be presented today 10 December in a virtual event that will include a conversation between Ho and Human Rights First Senior Advisor Brian Dooley.

Albert Ho is a veteran Hong Kong lawyer and advocate whose career in human rights and political activism stretches back almost four decades. A leading figure in the pro-democracy movement for many years, he remains prominent in the protest movement that energized Hong Kong in 2019 and 2020.

No dictatorship is too big or too strong to take on,” said Vladimir Vladimir Kara-Murza, Senior Advisor for Human Rights Accountability at Human Rights First and 2020 Baldwin Award jury member. “This decision shows who is right and wrong, and Albert Ho is in the right. There are no lost causes, and the cause of democracy in China is not lost.

Ho is now facing a dozen charges related to those peaceful protests and his law firm continues to represent many others who have protest-related charges.

I’m honored to accept this award,” said Ho, “but I do it on behalf of many colleagues who have shared the case of human rights in Hong Kong with me for so many years.”

Ho is the co-founder and senior partner of Ho, Tse, Wai and Partners (HTW), a Hong Kong law firm renown for advocacy on landmark human rights cases.  Ho and HTW have represented many arrested pro-democracy protestors and challenged many of the Hong Kong government’s dubious actions, such as the banning of face masks under a colonial-era law and the disqualification of numerous pro-democracy lawmakers.

Ho has also done extensive advocacy for human rights lawyers in mainland China. He founded the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group in 2007 to provide humanitarian assistance to detained human rights lawyers and their families, advocate on behalf of detained lawyers, and share knowledge and experience with Chinese lawyers.

Despite surveillance and threats by Chinese authorities, Ho has maintained his steadfast support for his peers in mainland China in the face of the government’s crackdown on human rights lawyers, the “709 crackdown” known for the day it began – July 9, 2015. Placing the pursuit of justice before his own safety, Ho continues to raise awareness of the plight of human rights lawyers in China to see that the world holds the Chinese Communist Party accountable for human rights abuses.

For more on the Baldwin Medal of Liberty see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/F23B5465-6A15-4463-9A91-14B2977D9FCE.

https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/human-rights-first-honors-hong-kong-human-rights-defender-albert-ho-baldwin-medal

Brian Dooley to advice Mary Lawlor

May 13, 2020
Further to the announcement of Mary Lawlor as Special Rapporteur on HRDs [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/07/mary-lawlor-takes-up-post-as-un-special-rapporteur-for-human-rights-defenders/]. Human Rights First on 12 May 2020 proudly announced that Brian Dooley, its senior advisor on human rights movements and the risk of persecution and reprisal they face, will also serve as an advisor to Mary Lawlor. Dooley will advise the special rapporteur on a range of issues facing human rights defenders while continuing his work at Human Rights First.

We are incredibly proud Brian was chosen for such a distinguished and important role,” said Mike Breen, president and CEO of Human Rights First. “Brian has been critical to the success of numerous campaigns to support human rights defenders in Bahrain, Egypt and Hong Kong over the last ten years. He will be an asset to the UN Special Rapporteur’s team and his work will undoubtedly increase the visibility of the threats that human rights defenders face, and hopefully, lead to better protections for those doing the vital work of advancing human rights.”  For some of my older posts referring to Brian Dooley: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/brian-dooley/.

See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_J._Dooley

Bahrain practices hospitality for Formula One: stuck in airport

April 5, 2018

Human rights defender Brian Dooley and Danish MP Rasmussen were not only refused entry into Bahrain but kept in the airport without a passport, reports the Irish Independent on 4 April 2018.

Brian Dooley has been held alongside Danish MP Lars Aslan Rasmussen for more than 12 hours in Bahrain International Airport after they travelled there to visit jailed Bahraini-Danish human rights defender Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a prominent pro-democracy campaigner in Bahrain, who founded the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and worked  for the Dublin-based group Front Line Defenders. He received a life sentence in April 2011 for charges of terrorism and attempting to overthrow the government.

Brian Dooley is in Bahrain alongside Danish MP Lars Aslan Rasmussen (L)
Brian Dooley in Bahrain alongside Danish MP Lars Aslan Rasmussen (L)

Mr Dooley, who is from Dingle in Co Kerry and is now based in the UK, told Independent.ie: “Formula One fans planning to arrive this week should know what they’re getting into. Bahrain has become an out and out police state.” See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/11/30/closing-civil-society-space-a-euphemism-for-killing-human-rights-defenders/

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/irish-human-rights-campaigner-refused-entry-to-bahrain-36774371.html

 

Trans defender’s Karla Avelar’s life is under constant threat

May 16, 2017

Brian Dooley of Human Rights First, wrote the following piece “Karla Avelar’s Life Of Constant Threats” in the Huffington Post of 13 May 2017 (in full below). Karla (El Salvador) is one of the three finalists of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/26/breaking-news-three-human-rights-defenders-selected-as-finalists-for-the-2017-martin-ennals-award/].  An rise in deadly violence against transgender women in El Salvador prompted the United Nations on Friday to call for an investigation into crimes against sexual minorities in the conservative Central American country. So far this year, seven transgender women have been killed in El Salvador, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights [http://www.reuters.com/article/us-elsalvador-violence-lgbt-idUSKBN189018]

CARLOS CRUZ, COMCAVIS TRANS
Karla Avelar, advocating despite the danger.

Six times in two years. Human rights activist Karla Avelar has been forced to move home six times in the last two years after being physically threatened by individuals she believes are gang members and for her work as a human rights defender in El Salvador.

She’s a leading advocate for the human rights of LGBT people, founder and head of COMCAVIS TRANS, an organization known for its work for transgender people for nearly a decade. It’s dangerous, unpopular work, and Avelar is regularly targeted and threatened.

A couple of weeks ago she was forced to move home when people tried to extort from her possible prize money for the Martin Ennals Human Rights Defender Award, for which she is a finalist. The award’s winner will be decided and announced in October, but news of her nomination has prompted these latest threats.

It hasn’t been an easy life. She was shot in two separate incidents, spent five traumatic years in jail and has been a constant target of abuse for being a transgender woman. Avelar told my colleague Mariel Perez-Santiago at her office in San Salvador last year how she had been raped by more than a hundred men on her first day in prison, and that the attacks continued with the complicity of prison staff.

She became a formidable advocate for the rights of trans people in and out of prison, helping to win important reforms in the prison where she used to be an inmate. Thanks to her campaigning, transgender women are now separated from men in different wards, and human rights organizations are allowed access to the prisoners to educate them about their rights. She also represented El Salvador’s LGBT civil society at the country’s 2014 Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations in Geneva.

Her advocacy has led to international recognition including becoming a finalist for this year’s Martin Ennals Award. “Transgender persons, and the wider LGBT community, face widespread hostility and social rejection in El Salvador,” said the Martin Ennals organization in a statement. “Crimes against them are almost never brought to justice, which results in a climate of impunity. Sadly, this treatment of transgender people can be seen well beyond El Salvador. We aim to highlight Ms. Avelar’s bravery in continuing her work. We are encouraged that the authorities contacted her after the media coverage of the latest threats. This needs to be followed up with judicial proceedings against those responsible and, most importantly, effective protection for Karla Avelar.”

Her profile has meant that the threats against her are receiving attention, and the Attorney General’s office has been in touch with her to discuss issues of her safety. But for Avelar and others in El Salvador’s LGBT community the risks are daily and grave. She estimates around 600 cases of unsolved murders of LGBT people in the country over the last 25 years.

“Sadly, these most recent threats against me are not surprising and are part of a broader and systematic pattern of persecution of members of the LGBT community in El Salvador,” said Avelar. “I will not be silenced by these threats, but the Salvadoran government must guarantee my safety and that of all human rights defenders and activists, who work tirelessly to monitor and urge respect for the human rights of the most vulnerable.”

Forced to leave her home again and again, she’s asking for protection as well as international visibility. Making her more famous won’t guarantee her safety but we can try to help by sharing her story with whoever we know, by showing that we’re watching, and by saying that she should be protected and never be forced to move again.

Source: Karla Avelar’s Life Of Constant Threats | HuffPost

Monday 25 April: what will happen in Egypt?

April 25, 2016

Brian Dooley, Director of Human Rights First’s Human Rights Defenders Program, wrote in the Huffington Post that today, Monday 25 April 2016, could be a watershed day for Egypt‘s military leader. This day is a national holiday Egypt which marks the 1982 withdrawal of Israeli troops from Sinai. President Sisi‘s agreement to hand over the two uninhabited islands of Tiran and Sanafir in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia may put a spark into the constantly simmering discontent in the human rights movement.

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“Witness Bahrain” a film to be seen

January 26, 2016

The 2014 film “Witness Bahrain” follows “J”, a female investment banker turned activist as she travels to villages and towns all over Bahrain, uncovering the stories of Bahrainis who have been most deeply impacted by the crisis, including doctors who were arrested and tortured under trumped-up charges, Sunni opposition activists (poking a hole in the portrayal of Bahrain’s political crisis as being Shi’a versus Sunni), nurses treating injured protesters at underground clinics risking arrest and possibly torture, the family of a fourteen year old boy killed by a teargas canister shot to the back of his head, the recently released eleven year old boy who was arrested while playing soccer with his friends and was imprisoned for a month, and an interview with human rights defender Nabeel Rajab before being taken to prison for a critical Tweet that he sent. [The filmmaker Jen Marlowe filmed while hiding upstairs in the home Nabeel Rajab as the police came to take him to prison.]

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Closing Civil Society Space – a euphemism for Killing Human Rights Defenders

November 30, 2015

The Huffington Post of 29 November 2015 carried a good piece by Brian Dooley (Human Rights First) under the title “When Closing Civil Society Space Means Killing Human Rights Defenders”. He states that “what sometimes gets overlooked in the discussion around “shrinking civil society space” are direct, violent attacks on human rights defenders.”

He refers to this year’s Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (HRDs) which details killings of HRDs in Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East. And a Note by the UN Secretary-General in July this year included how “defenders also describe their sense that they are often on their own, with the media showing little interest in reporting acts of aggression against them and with little support from political figures…”

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