Posts Tagged ‘Civil Rights Defenders’

The kind of blogging that got Mother Mushroom 10 years imprisonment in Vietnam

July 6, 2017

On 20 April 2015 I reported on a Vietnamese blogger nicknamed “Mother Mushroom” being awarded the Civil Rights Defender of the Year award [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/04/20/vietnamese-blogger-mother-mushroom-gets-civil-rights-defender-of-the-year-award-2015/]. Now a long piece by Visen Liu under the title ““Why did the fish die?” goes into detail about  why Vietnam thinks it needs to imprison for 10 years a mom blogger.

Last week, Vietnam convicted and sentenced her to prison for a decade on charges of “conducting propaganda against the state.” The main evidence against her? A body of writing, some 400 Facebook posts about fish deaths, China’s intervention in the South China Sea, and police brutality in Vietnam. Her Facebook posts were described by the police as “a pessimistic, one-sided view that caused public confusion and affected the people’s faith [in the State].”

Nguyen has described her writing differently, saying it was motivated by wanting to leave a better country for her children. She’s part of a wave of environmental activism that is growing in the one-party state where civil liberties and the press are severely restricted; in recent years Vietnam has seen public rallies over harm to marine life and to protect trees. Over years, from posting about parenting, she graduated to impassioned writing about the environment and human rights:

  • The 2016 fish die-off. Nguyen has often posted about the deaths of some 70 metric tons of fish in April 2016 that locals blamed on waste water from a new steel plant in the Ha Tinh province owned by Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, a subsidiary of Taiwan-based Formosa Plastics Group, a major investor in Vietnam. State-media first blamed the firm for the marine crisis, which hurt both fishing and tourism, but then back-tracked. The firm also initially said it was not to blame, sparking anger and protestsWhile heading to an environmental rally last May, Nguyen was assaulted in a hotel lobby, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Later that month, Nguyen made it to another rally and managed to hold up a sign asking “Why did the fish die?” Vietnam eventually officially blamed Formosa, which has promised to pay $500 million for clean-up and compensation. Security authorities cited signs they found in Nguyen’s home, including one that says “Fish need water,” as part of their evidence against her, according to the OHCHR.

  • South China Sea In November 2015, Nguyen called on people to rally against the visit of Chinese president Xi Jinping, citing detentions of fishermen as well as China’s treatment of its ethnic minorities. Vietnam and China have ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea. In an earlier post she criticized Vietnam’s stance with China over the South China Sea.

  • Deaths in detention Nguyen and others compiled reports from state-owned media and put together a file called “Stop police killing civilians” about 31 people who died in police custody. The document was later criticized by the police: “[It] bears a hostile viewpoint against the people’s police force.” ….

    Offline protests Apart from blogging, she also waged her battles in offline protests. She actively participated and advocated for activities to promote a freer political atmosphere and cleaner environment. …

..She was detained and allegedly assaulted by police several times before her current incarceration. One time she faced a $66 fine over her Facebook posts. When Civil Rights Defenders, a Swedish advocacy group, awarded her the title of Defender of 2015, she was not able to receive the prize in person as she was in detention. At the same time as she was becoming an increasingly active blogger, Nguyen continued to support her family, including her two children, 60-year-old mom and 90-year-old grandmother, by working as an independent tour guide.

Things came to a head last year. Nguyen was arrested in October 2016 after she accompanied the mom of an imprisoned online activist to help her see her son. Her daughter, now 11, saw her being hand-cuffed and taken away by numerous police officers. Nguyen’s son was just two at the time of her arrest. In March, the US awarded her its “Women of Courage” award. Numerous rights groups have called for her release, including Human Rights Watch, Civil Rights Defenders and Pen America.

Her activism has been motivated in part by her strong views that her children should inherit a country where human rights, environmental protection, and rule of law are meaningful and part of everyday reality, and not just rhetoric spouted by the ruling Communist Party,” wrote Phil Robertson, of Human Rights Watch….

Source: Mother Mushroom wants to know: The questions and Facebook posts that led Vietnam to imprison a mom blogger — Quartz

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-40439837

Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award 2017 goes to Edmund Yakani from South Sudan

January 25, 2017

On 24 January the Stockholm-based NGO Civil Rights Defender announced that human rights defender Edmund Yakani from South Sudan is recipient of the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award 2017.
edmund-yakani

Edmund Yakani is the Executive Director of human rights organisation Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (CEPO), based in South Sudan’s capital Juba. He is among the most tenacious and vocal voices in the country when it comes to defending and promoting human rights, democratic transition and justice. He particularly stands out in his effort to ensure respect for rule of law and justice, and the inclusion of civil society in the ongoing peace talks. “For me, this award symbolises motivation and recognition of the efforts and hard work to protect human rights defenders in South Sudan. This is a call for more efforts to engage in further protection for human rights defenders and their families”, said Edmund Yakani to Civil Rights Defenders.

South Sudan, the youngest country in the world, gained its independence as recent as in July 2011. By many social, economic and political standards, the country is among the poorest in the world. Respect for civil and political rights has never been established to the level its citizens wished for at independence. The situation for human rights worsened following the outbreak of inter-ethnic and armed conflicts in 2013. Since then, human rights defenders and outspoken critics have been increasingly targeted by the government, security forces and other armed actors, and Edmund Yakani has himself been threatened on several occasions due to his work. “State authorities see human rights work as part of a politically motivated agenda against them, and hence human rights defenders are seen as enemies of the state. In addition, the rule of law is compromised to the level that impunity has become a norm in the South Sudanese society”, said Edmund Yakani.

Edmund Yakani

Edmund Yakani has, on a countless number of occasions, demonstrated his commitment in promoting genuine dialogue and efforts among social and political actors. He is active in calling for a greater inclusion of civil society in the peace talks. His contribution in promoting human rights and its defenders has been of paramount importance, in particular as he is working in the context of weak institutions and ongoing conflict. I am proud to announce him as this year’s recipient of the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award”, said Robert Hårdh, Executive Director of Civil Rights Defenders.

For last year’s award: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/08/released-intigam-aliyev-azerbaijan-civil-rights-defender-of-the-year-award/

Source: Civil Rights Defender Of The Year Award 2017 – Edmund Yakani > Gurtong Trust > Editorial

2017 (5): With Trump US president, Sweden must stand up for human rights

January 24, 2017

On 24 January 2017, thelocal.se published the English version of an opinion piece originally written in Swedish by Civil Rights Defenders executive director Robert Hårdh for newspaper Dagens Nyheter. Like my post published yesterday about the call for Canada to ‘compensate’ for Trumps election [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/23/2017-4-canadas-year-of-real-human-rights-action/], this piece argues that Sweden, also as a member of the EU and with its current place on the UN Security council, must step forward and take a greater responsibility to protect human rights on a global level: Read the rest of this entry »

Recently released Intigam Aliyev in Azerbaijan receives the Civil Rights Defender Of The Year Award

April 8, 2016

Azerbaijan. Baku. Azerbaijan's Supreme Court has commuted a seven-and-a-half-year prison sentence against prominent human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev, paving the way for his release after nearly a year in prison.

Azerbaijan’s Supreme Court has commuted a seven-and-a-half-year prison sentence against prominent human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev, paving the way for his release after nearly a year in prison

On 7 April 2016 Azerbaijan human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev was awarded the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award in Stockholm by the NGO Civil Rights Defender. Released in March (see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/03/28/human-rights-defender-intigam-aliyev-freed-in-azerbaijan-today/) his son Najmin Kamil came to accept the award and said, “My father dedicated his tireless and selfless work to the promotion and protection of human rights, and sacrificed his freedom for the freedom of others – just because it is important for him to stand strong for what he believes in, no matter the circumstances.

Read the rest of this entry »

Human Rights Awards for Journalists in Moldova

March 29, 2016

The prizes were awarded by the Association for Independent Press in Moldova, with the financial support of Civil Rights Defenders in Sweden.

rferl-moldova-service-reporters-win-accolades
Radio Free Europe reported proudly on 23 March 2016 that their journalists working with RFE/RL’s Moldova Service were recognized for excellence in audio and video reporting on local community and human rights issues. Reporters Mihaela Gherasim and Eugenia Pogor took first and third place in the television program category, with programs on HIV and LGBTI questions. 

Source: RFERL Moldova Service Reporters Win Accolades

Assaults on Human Rights Defenders on the rise in Vietnam

January 14, 2016

The second half of 2015 saw an alarming rise in the number of violent attacks and threats against human rights defenders, petitioners, and their family members in Vietnam. The Stockholm-based NGO, Civil Rights Defenders published an overview:

Skärmavbild 2015-12-16 kl. 09.32.35

Between June and mid December 2015, at least 22 incidents of violent attacks were reported through out the country, affecting at least 42 persons (see timeline below). This is an increase from the January-May period, during which at least 14 attacks affecting 27 persons were recorded. Many of these attacks were perpetrated with impunity in broad daylight by police or plainclothes agents. In some cases, defenders’ family members or their private residence was targeted.

These blatant violations of the right to personal security are leaving behind a blood trail that is shockingly inimical to Vietnam’s status as a member of the UN Human Rights Council and a state party to numerous human rights treaties,” said Marie Månson, Human Rights Defenders at Risk Programme Director at Civil Rights Defenders. Vietnam abstained from a UN General Assembly draft resolution on the recognition and protection of human rights defenders.

There has been an increase of violent attacks against human rights defenders in Vietnam in the second half of 2015.

At least 28 defenders and petitioners are known to have been arbitrarily detained and questioned by police in the same period, including blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, the recipient of the 2015 Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award. [see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/04/20/vietnamese-blogger-mother-mushroom-gets-civil-rights-defender-of-the-year-award-2015/

When its human rights record was reviewed in 2014 under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Vietnam agreed to implement numerous human rights recommendations, including to ensure a “favourable”, “friendly” and “safe and enabling” environment for human rights defenders and civil society actors. In a statement marking International Human Rights Day last week, deputy minister of foreign affairs Ha Kim Ngoc said that Vietnam “steadfastly pursues the policy of ensuring full enforcement of basic rights and freedom for each citizen.”

In addition to violent attacks, scores of human rights defenders and government critics remain in prison after being convicted in unfair trials under broad and vague provisions of the Penal Code. Several activists and bloggers are in detention awaiting trial, including blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Anh BaSam) and his assistant Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, former prisoner of conscience Tran Anh Kim, and blogger Nguyen Dinh Ngoc (aka Nguyen Ngoc Gia).

Seriously flawed provisions often abused to prosecute activists remain intact in the recently revised Penal Code, adopted in late November and effective from 01st July 2016. The National Assembly is considering a draft law on associations that contains highly restrictive provisions and intrusive requirements inconsistent with the right to freedom of association.

Click here to download a timeline of harassments and attacks against human rights defenders in Vietnam.

In a statement released on 6 January, Civil Rights Defenders joins 25 human rights society groups in calling on the Vietnamese authorities to immediately release and drop charges against human rights defenders Mr Nguyễn Vãn Ðài and Ms Lê Thu Hà, who have been in police custody in Hanoi after their arrest three weeks ago. The police have charged Ðài, a former prisoner of conscience, and his colleague Hà with “anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code, which carries a prison sentence of between three and 20 years.

The signatories have also highlighted concerns that the two defenders may be at risk of torture and other ill treatment in detention. Ðài was still recovering from injuries he sustained ten days before his arrest when he and three other activists were viciously attacked by stick-wielding, masked assailants in Nghe An province. The police have reportedly denied Ðài access to his lawyer and family members. Ðài and Hà’s arrests came a month before the 12th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV). Past party congresses were usually preceded by an escalation of crackdown on human rights advocates and dissidents.

Brave human rights defenders like Ðài and Hà do not belong behind bars and must be allowed to freely conduct their legitimate work defending and educating others about the rights guaranteed by the Vietnamese Constitution and by international law,” says Robert Hårdh, Executive Director of Civil Rights Defenders.

Source: Civil Rights Defenders – Assaults on Human Rights Defenders on the Rise in Vietnam

http://www.civilrightsdefenders.org/news/vietnam-must-end-arbitrary-detention-of-human-rights-defenders/

Human Rights Defenders – among the top 10 issues for Business and Human Rights in 2016

December 20, 2015

The Institute for Human Rights and Business has published: Human Rights Defenders and Business – Searching for Common Ground. This is the fourth in a series of Occasional Papers by IHRB to provide independent analysis and policy recommendations about timely subjects on the business and human rights agenda. In this instance, this paper is co-published with Civil Rights Defendersand Front Line Defenders, both organisations with practical research, campaigning, and advocacy experience of the issues raised in the paper.

As cases in this Paper show, journalists exposing corruption, Internet activists demanding accountability, and community activists campaigning for land rights have all faced pressure.

More than sixty governments have passed laws in the last three years to place restraints on the ability of human rights defenders to hold their governments to account. Among those targeted are individuals and organisations who challenge economic policies or business conduct. Human rights defenders’ activities are being criminalised and they face surveillance, intimidation, lawsuits, arrests, and torture – in some cases, even death.

Companies are engaging with civil society, but mutual suspicions remain. Companies share common goals with human rights defenders – accountability, transparency, the rule of law, and due process. Companies should build on these common interests and engage human rights defenders, and where possible, speak out in their defense. To download:

The same institution – to mark International Human Rights Day 2015 – published the seventh annual list of the Top 10 Business & Human Rights Issues for the 2016 (these issues are not ranked in order of importance). The one specific on human rights defenders reads:
Defending Defenders: A Role for Business in Championing Civil Society

More than sixty governments have passed laws in the past three years to place restraints on the ability of human rights defenders to hold their governments to account for actions that undermine respect for international standards. Among those targeted are individuals and organisations who champion alternate economic paradigms or challenge government policies or business conduct. Some have faced intimidation, surveillance, lawsuits, arrests, and torture.

Twenty years ago, after a trial that failed to meet international standards, the Nigerian Government executed Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders who opposed the activities of Shell in the Niger Delta. The case sparked global awareness of business’ human rights responsibilities beyond the factory walls, leading to the development of standardsadvocacyinitiativescodes of conducts, and eventually a comprehensive UN framework and principles for business and human rights.

Despite some progress over the past two decades, suppression of activists too often continues. The UN has passed a resolution recognising the legitimate role of peaceful activists who call out abusive behaviours, including business actions that undermine respect for human rights. Yet a growing number of governments are also passing new laws to restrain civil society activities.

Human rights defenders are like canaries in a mine. When they campaign against abuses, they highlight society’s fundamental problems, such as lack of accountability, transparency, or the rule of law. Courts have jailed journalists exposing corruption, governments have tried Internet activists, authorities have prevented activists from travelling abroad, and states have cracked down on funding sources of non-governmental organisations. International financial institutionsare also under focus. The international community is increasingly paying attention to their cause. At the 2015 UN Forum on Business & Human Rights, there was special focus on human rights defenders and the role of business.  

In the year ahead, some governments, businesses, and NGOs will likely sharpen criticism of states that unjustifiably attack human rights defenders, as well as the companies that benefit from such crackdowns and choose to say nothing. With rising concerns over terrorism and the resulting tendency in many countries to emphasise security threats over protecting human freedoms, the road ahead for those who dissent will not be easy. The combined voice of global business will be critical in effectively promoting the legitimate role of individuals and organisations that champion human rights principles and standards in societies around the world. 

Sources:

Top 10 Business and Human Rights Issues for 2016 – Top 10 Emerging Issues

http://www.ihrb.org/publications/reports/human-rights-defenders.html?utm_source=IHRB+Subscribers&utm_campaign=0e75f77298-eNews_Update_Quarterly_Update_2&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_94694639e6-0e75f77298-120645865

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/business-and-human-rights/

5 June Stockholm: breakfast seminar on the importance of whistleblowers

May 27, 2015

Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders and Svenska PEN are organizing on 5 June 2015 a seminar where , Daniel Ellsberg, and Jesselyn Radack will talk about the importance of whistleblowers, how they are treated and what states and the international community need to do to improve their protection.

Mass surveillance, corruption and human rights violations are all issues that have been brought into light by whistle blowers. Protecting and supporting these individuals is important for any democratic state, but as history tragically has shown, this is not always the case. Today, a state’s treatment of whistle blowers can be considered a democratic litmus test – a way to measure how well-functioning its democracy is.

There is some ‘soft law’ on the protection of whistle blowers in the international arena, such as Resolution 1729 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Draft Recommendation on the Protection of Whistleblowers adopted by the Committee of Ministers of 30 April 2014, and there is binding jurisprudence from the European Court for Human Rights (derived from article 10 and linked to the media), but there is no internationally binding definition of what is a whistleblower and his/her protection.

For earlier posts on this topic: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/whistleblower/

The seminar (5 June from 9.00 – 10.00 am will latched place at Civil Rights Defenders, Stora Nygatan 26, and will be moderated by Ola Larsmo, chair Svenska PEN. The seminar will be conducted in English, and broadcasted live at Civil Rights Defenders’ Bambuser Channel. For more information, please contact Miriam Nordfors: miriam.nordfors@civilrightsdefenders.org

[More about the participants:

Thomas Drake is a former senior executive at the National Security Agency where he blew the whistle on massive multi-billion dollar fraud, waste and the widespread violations of the rights of citizens through secret mass surveillance programs after 9/11. As retaliation and reprisal, the Obama administration indicted Drake in 2010 as the first whistle blower since Daniel Ellsberg charged with espionage, and Drake faced 35 years in prison, turning him into an Enemy of the State for his oath to defend the Constitution. In 2011, the government’s case against him collapsed and he went free in a plea deal.

Daniel Ellsberg is a former U.S. military analyst who served in Vietnam, worked at the RAND Corporation, and then risked decades in prison to release the top-secret Pentagon Papers to The New York Times and other newspapers in 1971 — thereby adding impetus to the movement to end the Vietnam War. Although Ellsberg faced espionage and other felony charges, the case against him was dismissed because of egregious misconduct by the Nixon administration. Ellsberg has been a strong supporter of modern-day NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden and convicted Army whistle-blower Chelsea Manning. Daniel Ellsberg was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 2006.

Jesselyn Radack is the director of National Security & Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project (GAP), the leading U.S. whistle blower organization. Her program focuses specifically on secrecy, surveillance, torture and discrimination. She has been at the forefront of defending against the government’s unprecedented “war on whistle blowers”. She represents national security and intelligence community employees who have been investigated, charged or prosecuted under the Espionage Act for allegedly mishandling classified information, including Edward Snowden. Radack is author of TRAITOR: The Whistleblower & the “American Taliban”.]

Civil Rights Defenders – Breakfast seminar on whistle blowers; their importance and the need for protection.

Vietnamese blogger Mother Mushroom gets Civil Rights Defender of the Year award 2015

April 20, 2015

Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders announced earlier this month that its Civil Rights Defender of the Year award for 2015 has gone to Ms. Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh. She is Coordinator for the Vietnamese Bloggers Network and well-known for her use of social media to speak out against injustices and human rights abuses in Vietnam. Quỳnh has been blogging under the pseudonym of Me Nam (Mother Mushroom) and has openly criticised the Vietnamese government over human rights abuses and corruption. She began blogging in early 2006 when she paid a visit to a hospital and witnessed many poor people in the hot sun desperately waiting for treatment, but ignored because they lacked money to bribe hospital officials.

Civil Rights Defenders reported about bloggers and the human rights movement in Vietnam in: We will not be silenced.

For further information on the award: http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/human-rights-defender-year-award

Civil Rights Defenders – Civil Rights Defender of the Year 2015 – Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh.

Cambodia: Human rights defenders of garment workers released with suspended sentences

June 4, 2014

The 23 defendants, including four human rights defenders, charged in Cambodia were released on 30 May, 2014. Their release comes after the Court which had convicted the defendants but suspended their sentences that ranged from six months to four and half years imprisonment together with heavy fines. They were arrested in early January during a lethal clampdown by security forces charged with bringing an end to mass protests by garment workers and pro-opposition party supporters. Local and international groups have welcomed the release of the 23. However, they express their disappointment regarding the initial convictions and subsequent sentences. The trial was also heavily criticised for lacking due process.

via Civil Rights Defenders – Cambodia: Human rights defenders released with suspended sentences.

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/week-of-action-against-crackdown-on-cambodian-garment-workers-10-january/