Posts Tagged ‘Burma’

Myanmar: time for Aung San Suu Kyi to return (at least some of) her many human rights awards?

September 3, 2017

While receiving sharply worded emails and social media messages that the Rohingyas in Myanmar do not exist or have been ‘invented by the Saudis’, other more sober contributions put the serious question – whether with hindsight – Aung San Suu Kyi should not give back the many international awards she has received.  Aung San Suu Kyi is the recipient of at least 15 international awards (e.g. Nobel Peace Prize, Rafto, Sakharov, AI’s Ambassador of Conscience, Vaclav Havel Price for Creative Dissent). The UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence (SIC) seems especially awkward.

Almost a year ago I referred in a blog post [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/20/how-awards-can-get-it-wrong-four-controversial-decisions-in-one-week/] to “a serious expression of concern by an ethnic minority: Prensa Latina reported on 19 September that hundreds of Muslim students demonstrated against the Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award 2016 given to Minister of State of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi by the Harvard Foundation. According to the website of the Harvard Foundation recent prizes of that foundation were given to education activist Malala Yousafzai, Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-Moon. According to the Mizzima news agency, the young people consider that Aung San Suu Kyi does nothing to handle the persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority. According to the local press, Suu Kyi herself considered, while receiving the prize, that in her country there is still a long way to go before saying that the people are free and safe.

Now Reuters reports that about 120,000 people – mostly displaced and stateless Rohingya Muslims – in Rakhine camps are not receiving food supplies or healthcare after contractors for the World Food Program suspended operations following the government accusations. Staff have been too afraid to show up for work. “As a result of the disruption of activities in central Rakhine state, many people are not receiving their normal food assistance and primary healthcare services have been severe disrupted,” said Pierre Peron, a spokesman for the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs.

Suu Kyi’s government refuses to allow UN investigators and the media access to parts of Rakhine where rights monitors fear a campaign of ethnic cleansing is underway.

Suu Kyi was idolised while spending 15 years as a prisoner of Myanmar’s army generals. Now she refuses to speak up for 1.1 million stateless and long persecuted Rohingya. She may not control her country’s armed forces but, since taking high office, Suu Kyi has refused to acknowledge the plight of the Rohingya in any meaningful way. She deflects questions about the persecution of Rohingya, saying only the “rule of law” must apply in Rakhine. She also dismisses the independent UN inquiry as “not suitable for the situation of our country.”

……Some human rights activists who campaigned for years for Suu Kyi’s release when she was a political prisoner now feel a deep sense of betrayal from the woman they formerly saw as a heroine. Perhaps it is time for her to hand back her Noble Peace Prize. (The story The ‘human catastrophe’ that betrays Suu Kyi’s Nobel prize first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.)

Front line Defenders reported on 2 August that human rights defender Ko Swe Win was prevented from travelling and detained in connection with defamation charges on 30 July 2017,  at Yangon International Airport as he was trying to fly  to Bangkok. He was reportedly taken into police custody in relation to a defamation case brought by a follower of extremist Buddhist monk U Wirathu, who told the police he believed Ko Swe Win was attempting to flee the country. Despite the defamation lawsuit filed against him, no travel restrictions were issued against Ko Swe Win. The human rights defender was released on bail on 31 July 2017. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/11/23/burma-continued-prosecution-of-human-rights-defenders-and-peaceful-demonstrators/

Sources:

http://sea-globe.com/myanmar-war-on-terror/

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/ko-swe-win

Arakan and traces of blood on Nobel Prize – Saadet Oruç – Daily Sabah

http://www.northerndailyleader.com.au/story/4896812/the-human-catastrophe-that-betrays-suu-kyis-nobel-prize/?cs=4141

Runners up for Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders 2016 announced

May 11, 2016

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped has announced that the finalists for its 2016 award are human rights defenders from Azerbaijan, Burma/Myanmar, Colombia, Honduras, Palestine, and Tanzania. For more information on the annual Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Riskhttp://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/front-line-defenders-award.

 

 

The 6 finalists for 2016 are Read the rest of this entry »

Wai Wai Nu: Profile of a Human rights defender from Myanmar/Burma

February 15, 2016

If you threaten human rights defenders, you break the eyes, mouths, legs, and arms of the people’, said the Wai Wai Nu, Director of Women Peace Network Arakan in Myanmar/Burma.

Ms Wai Wai Nu is a Burmese human rights defender committed to working for peace and justice in her country. She is the Director the Women Peace Network Arakan, which she founded in 2012 upon her and her family’s release from prison after seven years of detention.  ‘When I was released, I saw some positive changes in cities but not in rural areas:  not in areas where ethnic minorities lived.  It was then I took responsibility to work for my people’.

The Women Peace Network Arakan carries out civic education and works for the empowerment of women and young people. The Network also encourages interfaith dialogue to build much-needed trust between religious communities. Ms Nu – herself a member of the Rohinga Muslim community – is vocal about the rights of minorities  in Burma. She stresses that the notion of democracy needs to be understood beyond a strict notion of parliamentary democracy where the majority rules. Upholding the rights of the many minority communities in the country requires commitment to democratic processes that respect and protect rights, including land rights.

There are so many human rights violations occurring in Burma – from land grabbing, and sexual violence in conflict areas, to media restrictions, and attacks against human rights defenders. We work with young people, who tend to be open-minded, encouraging them to engage with the spirit of democracy, to work for the promotion of justice and human rights for all’.

Ms Nu is also co-founder of ‘Justice for Women’, which works to promote women’s rights, raises awareness about sexual harassment and discrimination and provides basic legal education.

With the political reforms in Burma since 2011, opportunities for human rights defenders to operate in the country have opened up. However, the environment for defending rights remains restricted and attacks against defenders numerous.  The changing political landscape has seen a rapid increase in foreign companies operating in the country and with it  reported threats against HRDs working in the field of economic, social, and cultural rights. Human rights defenders have experienced arbitrary arrest and former detainees report the fear of re-arrest.

We have to be very careful. Defenders feel they are being watched.  I make sure I speak in terms of the international human rights legal framework, and don’t directly confront the government. I adopt a very diplomatic approach’.

The protection of human rights defenders remains a crucial component of securing the respect of rights in Burma. Ms Nu is clear that when human rights defenders are threatened, there is no protection of the population as a whole, and there can be no progress towards a truly democratic country or economic development. The UN has focused specific attention on Myanmar through the work of the Special Advisor of the Secretary General and the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar. There are also several UN bodies working in the country.

This comes from an interview with ISHR on 10 November 2014.   

Source: Wai Wai Nu: Human rights defender from Burma | ISHR

8 Must-Read Stories from the US Human Rights Reports selected by Catherine Russell

July 2, 2015

Catherine Russell, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, wrote in the Huffington Post of 1 July 2015 a piece which highlights 8 stories about women taken from the State Department’s annual human rights reports, that she says would not reach the evening news but are a must. Here is her selection:

2015-07-01-1435772655-6505904-HRRblog.jpg

[Photo: Gustave Deghilage ]

In Nepal, a mother may be denied the ability to confer her Nepali citizenship to her children if the father’s identity is unknown or he is not Nepali. This is not uncommon: 27 countries discriminate against women in their ability to pass citizenship on to their children. Too often this results in a child who is stateless, meaning he or she may not be able to access basic services like health care and education.

In Afghanistan, a survey found that 39 percent of Afghan women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before the age of 18 — making them part of a global trend where one in three girls in the developing world is married as a child — and Afghan women who marry later in life often don’t have a choice in their marriage. These stories and statistics exist despite laws against early and forced marriage.

A story in the Nigerian report highlights the case of a college student who reported that a soldier lured her to a police station and raped her repeatedly. The soldier was reportedly “disciplined” for leaving his post, but as of December nothing else had happened.

In Burma, there is an effort underway to enact legislation that would mandate that women can’t have children more than once every three years. There are obvious questions as to how such a law would be enforced. Many are concerned that it would only be enforced in areas where many members of minority groups live.

Fortunately, the news is not all bad.

In Afghanistan, the national electoral commission’s gender unit focused on women’s political participation in the 2014 election, and increased the number of women who helped determine their country’s future.

In Brazil, the federal government operates a toll-free nationwide hotline for women to report intimate partner violence, while in India, a partnership between state government and civil society led to the launch of a crisis center for survivors of rape, dowry harassment, and domestic violence.

Another partnership — between government and civil society in Guinea — is helping to educate Guinean health workers on the dangers of female genital mutilation. The report says that more than 60 health facilities have integrated FGM/C prevention into their services thanks to this effort.

 

You can follow Catherine Russell on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AmbCathyRussell

8 Must-Read Stories From the Human Rights Reports | Catherine Russell.

Student human rights defenders under pressure in Myanmar/Burma

April 27, 2015

Since November 2014, student organizations including the All Burma Federation of Student Union (ABFSU) have been protesting against the National Education Bill, which student activists claim restricts academic freedom. Enacted by Parliament on 30 September 2014, the National Education Law was intended to reform the country’s education system, but the ABFSU claim the government did not seek adequate student input in its formation. The new restrictions outlaw independent student and teacher unions, and erase ethnic languages, cultures and literatures from university syllabi.

Students opposed to the National Education Law staged a peaceful protest in Letpadan on 10 March 2015. Police responded violently to the movement. They arrested approximately 126 students, including student leaders Po Po, Nanda Sitt Aung and Phyo Phyo Aung. Three others, Myat Thu Aung, Kyaw Ko Ko (the Chairman) and Ye Yint Kyaw (spokesperson), managed to escape in March, but today they face criminal charges of unlawful assembly, rioting, incitement, and causing harm to a public servant. The charges carry penalties of up to three years in prison. Robert San Aung, who leads the Myanmar Lawyers’ Network team and is one the 3 Final Nominees of the MEA this year, said he believes the Court would not begin hearing the charges against those students currently detained, until police had apprehended those still in hiding.

The ABFSU is a student union with a long tradition and as far back as 2001 it won the Norwegian Student Peace Prize.

Myanmar/Burma – Student human rights defenders Myat Thu Aung, Kyaw Ko Ko and Ye Yint Kyaw facing charges | Front Line Defenders.

BREAKING NEWS: FINAL NOMINEES MARTIN ENNALS AWARD 2015 JUST ANNOUNCED

April 22, 2015


new MEA_logo with text

Being the award of the global human rights community (for Jury see below) today’s announcement (22 April 2015) deserves special attention:

The Final Nominees of Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders 2015 are:

Robert Sann Aung (Myanmar)

Since his first year of University in 1974, Robert Sann Aung has courageously fought against human rights abuses. He has been repeatedly imprisoned in harsh conditions, physically attacked as well as regularly threatened. His education was interrupted numerous times and he was disbarred from 1993 – 2012. In 2012 he managed to regain his license to practice law. Since then he has represented jailed child soldiers, those protesting at a contested copper mine, peaceful political protesters, those whose land has been confiscated by the military, as well as student activists. Throughout his career he has provided legal services, or just advice, often pro bono, to those whose rights have been affected.

Upon receiving the news of his selection, he stated, “I feel humble and extremely honored to be nominated for this prestigious award. This nomination conveys the message to activists, human rights defenders and promoters who fight for equality, justice and democracy in Myanmar that their efforts are not forgotten by the world. And this is also the nomination for the people in Myanmar who stand together with me, who struggle with me, for the betterment of citizens so that they can live in dignity, under the just law, in conformity with the principles of UN human rights declaration.”

Asmaou Diallo (Guinea)

Her human rights work started following the events of 28 September 2009 when the Guinean military attacked peaceful demonstrators. Over 150 were killed, including her son, and over 100 women raped. Hundreds more were injured. She and l’Association des Parents et Amis des Victimes du 28 septembre 2009 (APIVA), which she founded, work to obtain justice for these crimes and to provide medical and vocational support to victims of sexual assault, many of whom cannot return to their homes. She has worked to encourage witnesses to come forward and supported them as they provided information and testimony to court proceedings. As a result, eleven people have been charged, including senior army officers.

Upon receiving the news of her selection, she stated, “As a human rights defender in Guinea, I am very comforted to be among the nominees for the Martin Ennals Foundation, this prize encourages me to continue my fight for the protection and promotion of human rights in Guinea. I trust that this award will have a positive effect on the legal cases concerning the events of the September 28, 2009, and will be a lever for all defenders of human rights in Guinea

 Ahmed Mansoor (United Arab Emirates)

Since 2006, he has focussed on initiatives concerning freedom of expression, civil and political rights. He successfully campaigned in 2006-2007 to support two people jailed for critical social comments. They were released and the charges dropped. Shortly after, the Prime Minister of UAE issued an order not to jail journalists in relation to their work. He is one of the few voices within the United Arab Emirates who provides a credible independent assessment of human rights developments. He regularly raises concerns on arbitrary detention, torture, international standards for fair trials, non-independence of the judiciary, and domestic laws that violate international law. He was jailed in 2011 and since then has been denied a passport and banned from travelling.

Upon receiving the news of his selection, he stated, “I’m very pleased to be nominated for the Martin Ennals award. This recognition indicates that we are not left alone in this part of the world and that our voices resonate and our efforts are appreciated by a well-informed people. I hope this nomination sheds further light on the human rights issues in the UAE. It is not just full of skyscrapers, big malls and an area attractive to businesses, but there are other struggles of different sorts beneath all of that.”

The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) is a unique collaboration among ten of the world’s leading human rights organizations to give protection to human rights defenders worldwide. The Jury is composed of:

  • Amnesty International,
  • Human Rights Watch,
  • Human Rights First,
  • Int’l Federation for Human Rights,
  • World Organisation Against Torture,
  • Front Line Defenders
  • International Commission of Jurists,
  • EWDE Germany,
  • International Service for Human Rights
  • HURIDOCS

An electronic version with Bios, Photos, and Video can be found at: http://bit.ly/1DYqlFn

For last year’s nominees see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/announcement-ceremony-of-the-martin-ennals-award-2014-on-7-october/

For further information: Michael Khambatta +41 79 474 8208, khambatta@martinennalsaward.org or visit http://www.martinennalsaward.org

What the Human Rights Council did on HRDs in March 2015

April 7, 2015

For those (few, I hope) who do not regularly read the Human Rights Monitor of the ISHR, here is a wrap-up of the 28th session of the Human Rights Council in relation to human rights defenders:ISHR-logo-colour-high

5 Resolutions adopted: Read the rest of this entry »

ASEAN human rights defenders formulate demands ahead of People’s Forum later this month

April 1, 2015

ASEAN People's Forum

Casey Hynes reports on 26 March that human rights defenders are preparing to bring up strongly the case of their missing Laotian colleague Sombath Somphone at the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum that convenes in Kuala Lumpur on 21-24 April 2015. Sombath was kidnapped in Vientiane, Laos, in 2013 [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/laos-un-experts-on-two-year-old-disappearance-of-human-rights-defender-sombath-somphone/].

The ACSC/APF allows civil society activists from all the ASEAN countries to voice their concerns about rights violations in their countries, and become empowered by the strength in numbers there. In countries such as Laos and Vietnam, dissent is often suppressed with jail time or enforced disappearances, which makes it extremely dangerous for activists to speak out. Jerald Joseph, chair of the APF’s Regional Steering Committee, said that by coming to the forum, activists who face risks in their home countries find a safer space to voice their concerns.

ACSC/APF organizers recently condemned the crackdown on protesters in Burma, where 100 people were arrested for speaking out against a new education law. They also pointed to a spate of political arrests in Malaysia and the murder of Indonesian farmer and lands rights activist Indra Pelani, who was allegedly shot to death by “security guards of a subsidiary company of Asia Pulp and Paper”.

There are numerous cases where human rights defenders have just disappeared. Somchai Neelapaijit in Thailand, Sombath Somphone in Laos, and Jonas Burgos in the Philippines—where are they?” said Mugiyanto, a member of the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development.

The Laos government is notorious for restricting civil society activism, and for routinely committing human rights abuses. However, Laos is set to take over the ASEAN chairmanship in 2016, and Joseph said they’ll have to answer for some of their abuses when that happens. Already, civil society actors have been discussing the rights situation in Laos with activists and government officials there. “The conversation has started, and the pressure is up already,” he said in a phone interview.

Participating organizations sent a letter on behalf of the ACSC/APF to all the ASEAN member governments in January, highlighting their priorities for “reclaiming the ASEAN community for the people.”

The letter stated:

While ASEAN governments are heading towards developing the ASEAN Community’s Post-2015 Vision, the people of ASEAN continue to suffer from authoritarian and military regimes, increased militarisation, violence and armed conflicts, unlawful foreign interference, lack of fundamental freedoms and human rights violations, undemocratic processes, corruption and poor governance, development injustice, discrimination, inequality, and religious extremism and intolerance. …

The failure of ASEAN to meaningfully address the people’s issues is deeply rooted in the organisation’s continued adherence to a neo-liberal model that prioritizes corporate interests and elite groups, including state-owned enterprises, over the interests of the people. Our engagement with the ASEAN process is therefore anchored on a critique and rejection of deregulation, privatisation, government and corporate-led trade and investment policies that breed greater inequalities, accelerate marginalization and exploitation, and inhibit peace, democracy, development, and social progress in the region.

The authors identified four priorities for ASEAN governments to focus on: development justice; democratic processes, governance, and fundamental rights and freedoms; peace and security; and discrimination and inequality.

ASEAN rights activists demand change ahead of People’s Forum | Asian Correspondent.

The Lemkin Summit: a Gathering of the Next Generation of Human Rights Defenders in the USA

March 23, 2015

In a post of 10 March 2015, Rachel Finn of the Enough Project describes an interesting but in Europe mostly unknown gathering of US student leaders preparing to become human rights defenders:

From 21-13 February 2015, the Lemkin Summit: A National Gathering of the Next Generation of Human Rights Defenders took place in Washington DCDuring the three-days students networked with one another, developed their advocacy and movement-building skills, and engaged with experts on current conflict areas including Burma, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, and Syria. Participants were from 28 States, including D.C., as well as the UK, Canada, India, Rwanda, and South Sudan, with 48 different high schools, colleges, and universities represented.

Students arrived Saturday night for a screening of Watchers of the Sky, as well as two special presentations by community leaders. Sunday’s program included panels on sexual & gender based violence, the financial leverage of combatting atrocities, and conflict-specific overviews; advocacy trainings, communications and storytelling workshops; and an Open Space for students to capitalize on the collective knowledge they brought to the Summit themselves. Sunday’s program included student participation in a Keynote Discussion with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who skyped into the Summit, moderated by John Prendergast.

The final day of the Summit was an advocacy day on Capitol Hill, during which students discussed these ongoing issue areas with various congressional offices, and urged Congress to support the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and additional expert capacity to the Treasury Department to investigate and enforce sanctions on people in the DRC, Sudan, South Sudan, and Central African Republic. Students met with 43 offices in the House, 27 in the Senate, and one at the State Department, with Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region and DRC Russ Feingold.

For a visual representation of the students’ experience over the weekend through social media, check out the Storify below or click here.

via Students Take Action in D.C. as part of The Lemkin Summit: A National Gathering of the Next Generation of Human Rights Defenders | Enough.

Myanmar: backsliding by prosecuting human rights defenders instead of perpetrators

March 19, 2015

Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar Yanghee Lee. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

On 18 March 2015 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar (Burma), Ms. Yanghee Lee, called on the country’s authorities to address ongoing challenges to the democratic reform process “before they undermine the success achieved so far.

I was very disturbed by reports on 10 March that excessive and disproportionate force had been used against students and other civilians and that 127 people were subsequently arrested,” Ms. Yanghee Lee said during the presentation of her first report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. She welcomed the release of some detainees but also called for the immediate release of all the others. Further, Ms. Lee drew attention to the pressure on human rights defenders, including prosecutions under outdated defamation and national security laws, which have a “chilling effect on civil society activities.” I am concerned journalists are still being interrogated and arrested, and that 10 journalists were imprisoned in 2014. This needs to stop if Myanmar wants to create a meaningful democratic space,.

..More needs to be done to address the underlying issues at the heart of the conflicts, including discrimination against ethnic minorities. Four bills currently before Parliament risk increasing tension, she emphasized.

During my last visit in January 2015, I witnessed how dire the situation has remained in Rakhine state. The conditions in Muslim IDP [internally displaced persons] camps are abysmal and I received heart-breaking testimonies from Rohingya people telling me they had only two options: stay and die or leave by boat,” she said. Mrs Lee was verbally abused by a radical monk during her last visit, as reported on 21 January: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/u-n-rapporteur-on-myanmar-called-whore-by-radical-buddhist-monk/ 

Read the rest of this entry »