Posts Tagged ‘Civil Rights Defenders’

Internet of things (IoT) connectivity for Natalia

May 28, 2020

Swedish operator Tele2 is to provide IoT connectivity to the Civil Rights Defenders’ Natalia Project, allowing those in the program who feel under threat to use a specially issued wearable device to send a distress signal with a GPS location to nearby local contacts, as well as to the Civil Rights Defenders headquarters in Stockholm. [The Internet of things (IoT) is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction]. In the future, Tele2 will provide IoT connectivity to every unit in the Natalia Project, including roaming on more than 450 networks worldwide

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/04/24/the-natalia-gps-alarm-bracelet-wins-golden-egg-awards-in-stockholm/

The Natalia Bracelet is named in honor of Natalia Estemirova, a human rights activist who was abducted and murdered in Chechnya in 2009.

Phyllis Omido, a Kenyan environmental human rights defender who participates in the Natalia Project, said the scheme has freed her from fear as she knows that someone is watching over her, adding that no tangible change can be achieved when one constantly lives in fear of retribution. 

https://www.telecompaper.com/news/tele2-provides-iot-connectivity-for-civil-rights-defenders-security-alarms–1340142

Policy response from Human Rights NGOs to COVID-19: Civil Rights Defenders

April 10, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many human rights organisations have been formulating a policy response. While I cannot be complete or undertake comparisons, I will try and give some examples in the course of these weeks. Here the one by Anders L. Pettersson, Executive Director of the Stockholm-based human rights organization Civil Rights Defenders (as published in the The Globe Post of 9 April 2020): “COVID-19 Is No Excuse for Governments to Abuse Human Rights”:

……But the COVID-19 pandemic is no ordinary struggle. The world is in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis with far-reaching political, economic, and social consequences. Basic human rights, such as the right to freedom of movement and assembly, are being suspended to contain the virus’ further spread. Put simply, drastic measures have to be taken, and we are entrusting our respective governments to take them.

A member of the military police wears a face mask as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, as he patrols the streets in Bogota, on March 25, 2020. Photo: AFP

This, however, must not be understood as a blank cheque for authoritarian leaders to tighten their grip on power. While most national constitutions, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the U.N.’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights allow for the derogation of certain human and minority rights during a state of emergency, it is “only to the extent strictly required by the situation.”

Across the world, though, numerous examples point to clear overreach of such emergency power and, more depressingly, the abuse of trust vested in governments from civil society.

Abuse of Emergency Powers

  • In Azerbaijan, President Ilham Aliyev said in an address to the nation that his political opponents are trying to use the outbreak to destroy the country, and suggested that measures to “isolate” them might be required. The prominent opposition activist Tofig Yagublu has already been arrested and sentenced to three months of pre-trial detention. He faces up to six years in prison….
  • Meanwhile, Montenegro’s government made the inexplicable move of making public the personal data – including names and home addresses – of all those obliged to be in self-isolation, a gross infringement on the right to privacy.
  • Albania’s Prime Minister, Edi Rama, also wasted no time in flexing his newfound powers. Last weekend, he casually threatened his citizens by posting a video supposedly showing Spanish police beating and chasing people down the streets, with an outrageously inappropriate message “either respect social distancing… or you will also be running.” Except, the video was from a political protest, weeks ago – in Algeria, not Spain.
  • Speaking of “fake news,” we have received reports from partners in Cambodia that over a dozen people have already been jailed, or “re-educated,” for allegedly sharing false social media posts about the pandemic – a measure that we fear is prone to be replicated across the world, not least among E.U. states.
  • Namely, Hungary’s nationalist government recently passed legislation to parliament that would punish anyone who publicizes “fake news” that interferes with the “successful defense” of public health, with up to five years in prison. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/07/good-example-of-authoritarian-abuse-of-covid-19-emergency-hungary/]..

Civil society, therefore, finds itself in an incredibly delicate situation.

On the one hand, there is an understanding that the severity of the crisis calls for certain limitations on our fundamental rights. Only national authorities possess the legitimacy to enforce such constraints and the capacity to tackle the virus through strict health and safety measures. We have no alternative but to trust our respective governments to navigate us, and their intentions to save lives and minimize the virus’ impact. On the other hand, we have a responsibility to protect partners across the world, whose fight for democracy and fundamental human rights will be further strained as emergency powers, enforced curfews, and restrictions on free speech come into place. Some measures may be necessary, but others are clearly not – and all must be removed once this is all over. Further, using the pandemic to harass human rights defenders or abuse the rule of law for political gains, as we are already witnessing, is simply unacceptable. We will monitor your moves, keep you accountable, and call you out when the line has been crossed – this is our duty. Widespread trust that has been vested in governments – all governments – amounts to a historic responsibility. Civil society has reached out its hand; do not let us down.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post._

Good example of authoritarian abuse of COVID-19 emergency: Hungary

April 7, 2020

Hungary has defied calls by human rights defenders to respect human rights standards in tackling the COVID-19 outbreak.  Monday 30 March 2020, Hungary’s parliament passed a controversial Law on Protection against the Coronavirus, allowing Prime Minister Viktor Orban to rule by decree for an indefinite period [!], and to jail anybody deemed to be publishing ‘fake news’ by up to five years. In the days prior, Civil Rights Defenders condemned the bill on the grounds that it is an attack on the rule of law and democracy, and presents numerous threats to human rights in the country (see https://crd.org/2020/03/24/hungary-state-of-emergency-is-no-excuse-for-undermining-rule-of-law/).

In one of its first moves, the government tabled a bill outlawing legal gender recognition which is a serious and permanent attack on the rights of Trans people. The following day, on Tuesday, it hinted it would use emergency powers to push educational reform by perusing an appalling new curriculum that will rewrite history books by promoting national pride, and making anti-Semitic authors compulsory reading. Coupled with the restrictions on media freedoms, the freedom of expression and the indefinite emergency rule, these measures are a clear overreach of emergency powers and a grave threat to democracy.

20 EU Member States have reacted in a joint-statement that they are “deeply concerned about the risk of violations of the principles of rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights arising from the adoption of certain emergency measures”. However, the statement’s authors did not call out countries by name, thus creating a loophole for Hungary to shamelessly became a signatory itself [SIC and SICK].

https://crd.org/2020/04/07/hungary-ignores-calls-for-respect-of-human-rights/

8 March 2020 International Women’s Day

March 9, 2020

This week, the International Women’s Day 2020 (8 March) celebrates the remarkable work carried out by women human rights defenders worldwide. However, the work of women human rights defenders is often accompanied by intimidation, violence, imprisonment, and threats. In the 2019 report on the situation of women human rights defenders by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, it is stated that “women defenders are often perceived as challenging traditional notions of family and gender roles in society, a perception that can generate hostility from State actors, and from the public, the media, and other non-State actors.”

Many organisations, especially NGOs, used the occasion of International Women’s Day 2020 to highlight work carried out by women human rights defenders. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/27/women-human-rights-defenders-in-focus-at-43rd-human-rights-council/. Here one example: Civil Rights Defenders and DefendDefedners:

Collage of five women human rights defenders
Women human rights defenders Diane Bakuraira, Maysaa Osama, Bernadette Ntumba, Maximilienne Ngo Mbe, and Mélanie Sonhaye Kombate. Photos: Civil Rights Defenders.

Civil Rights Defenders and DefendDefenders highlight individual women human rights defenders who, despite threats and challenges, continues their fight for human rights in Africa.

Cuba and EU dialogue: five empty chairs show serious shortcomings

February 9, 2020

Cuban human rights defenders who participated to the project of presenting a report on EU’s agreement with Cuba. [Civil Rights Defenders]

The EU needs to change strategy if it wishes to stand for democracy in Cuba by opening up to independent civil society, write Anders L. Petersson and Erik Jennische (of the NGO Civil Rights Defenders) on 4 February 2020. On Saturday 1 February. five Cuban democracy activists were stopped at the airport in Havana as they were on their way to Brussels to speak at the European Parliament today. They were banned from leaving the country by the Cuban authorities. Instead, the seminar at the European Parliament was held with Cuban activists based outside the country, and five empty chairs – a vivid reminder of the current strategy’s shortcomings. [Instituto Patmos has shown that at least 226 activists were banned from travelling abroad during 2019]. The five democracy activists were supposed to present their ideas on what the EU could do to promote respect for human rights and democratisation in the country. Their proposals form part of a report by Civil Rights Defenders – a total 30 letters from Cuban democracy activists and organisations – as a contribution to the EU’s policy development.

Although the EU and Cuba in their Agreement recall “their commitment to the recognised principles of democracy”, Civil Rights Defenders regrets that the EU remained silent on the sham elections and the transfer of power that followed. Apparently, it was all acceptable under the new Agreement…..When Federica Mogherini visited Cuba for the last time as High Representative for Foreign Affairs in September 2019, she rather perplexingly concluded that “after completing its generational transition and adopting a new Constitution, Cuba now faces major challenges in carrying out its economic modernization”.

….Reflecting on the stories of harassed and imprisoned activists in Cuba, we cannot afford to make such surrender again. The EU needs to change strategy if it wishes to stand for democracy in Cuba. It needs to build a formal and open dialogue with Cuba’s independent civil society. Since the negotiations began on the Agreement in the spring of 2014, the EU has not invited civil society to a single formal discussion on the content of the Agreement or its implementation. When the EU and Cuba held its human rights dialogue in October 2019, the Cuban government took the liberty to decide which European and Cuban organisations could participate. The papers in the report of CRD hold a great number of proposals and ideas – the two core messages being:

  • That both European and Cuban civil societies need to be recognised as formal partners to the EU in its relations to Cuba.
  • That the EU needs to speak out on the absence of democracy in Cuba and denounce all human rights violations.

The EU can never contribute to positive change in Cuba via a dialogue with the Cuban government. The only way is to give legitimacy and support to the civil society that openly and peacefully supports democratisation. It is time for the EU to include civil society in its relations with Cuba.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/15/new-rule-of-law-and-human-rights-in-cuba-and-venezuela-and-eu-engagement/

One of the award-winning Cuban dissident who was detained this week announced that he has been released without charge but barred from a planned trip to Europe for a meeting on human rights. Guillermo Farinas, a 58-year-old psychologist, is a leading voice in the opposition to Cuba’s communist government and won the European Parliament’s Sakharov human rights prize in 2010. Farinas was arrested Tuesday in the central city of Santa Clara, where he lives, as he planned to go to the Spanish Embassy in Havana to pick up travel documents. He had been due to take part in a meeting of the human rights commission of the European Parliament. “The main reason for my arrest was to keep me from traveling to Europe,” Farinas told AFP.

In the meantime a number Cuban and latin solidarity groups in Belgium had a quite different view: “Campaign by MEPs against Cuba rejected in Belgium. Another instance of the Empire’s vulgar and interfering policy of subversion and discredit against the Cuban Revolution. Cuba is sovereign and independent, we won’t yield to anyone”. http://www.cubadebate.cu/noticias/2020/02/04/rechazan-en-belgica-nueva-campana-contra-cuba-de-eurodiputados/#.XjsNg2q23cd 


Five empty chairs remind of Cuba’s regime true nature

https://www.france24.com/en/20200207-cuban-dissident-freed-but-cannot-leave-country

https://www.euronews.com/2020/02/07/cuban-activists-blocked-from-attending-eu-meeting

Turkey defies European Court on Kavala and undergoes UPR review

January 29, 2020

FILE - A journalist stands in front of a poster featuring jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala, during a press conference given by his lawyers, in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct. 31, 2018.
A journalist stands in front of a poster featuring jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala, during a press conference given by his lawyers, in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct. 31, 2018.

Kavala and 15 other civil society activists are accused of supporting anti-government protests in 2013 against then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is now president. The protest action came to be known as the Gezi movement, named after an Istanbul park where the unrest started. Prosecutors are calling for life imprisonment without parole. The ECHR condemned the case, calling for an end to Kavala’s more than two years in prison and describing it as “arbitrary” and “politically motivated.”

The Istanbul court ruled Tuesday the ECHR decision was provisional because Ankara was appealing the verdict and that Kavala should remain in jail. The court’s decision is flawed because the European Court ruling was clear in its call for Kavala’s immediate release,” said Emma Sinclair Webb, Turkey researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch.

We saw multiple signs of how unfair this trial is,” said Webb, speaking after attending Tuesday’s court hearing. “The lawyers for Kavala raised many objections to the way witness evidence is used in this case. The court turns a deaf ear to all objections. It’s a shocking indication that once again, Turkey’s judiciary seems to be under heavy pressure of the executive.”

Tuesday’s court hearing was marred by chaos, with Kavala’s lawyers challenging the judge’s decision to hear some witnesses without their presence, prompting the lawyers to walk out of the room. Ankara strongly rejects the ECHR verdict, maintaining that the judiciary is independent. But observers note the case has strong political undertones. Three months ahead of Kavala’s prosecution, Erdogan accused him of “financing terrorists” and that Kavala was a representative for “that famous Jew [George Soros,] who tries to divide and tear up nations.” Erdogan did not elaborate on the comments about George Soros, who is an international philanthropist. Erdogan’s allegations against Kavala resemble the prosecution case against the jailed activist. Kavala is a pivotal figure in Turkey, using his wealth to help develop the country’s fledgling civil society after a 1980 military coup.

“Osman Kavala is very prominent within the civil society in this country,” said Sinan Gokcen, Turkey representative of Swedish-based Civil Rights Defenders. “He is not a man of antagonism; he is a man of preaching dialogue, a man of building bridges.”….

With the U.N. having few tools to sanction Turkey, the European Union is seen as offering the best hope by human rights advocates of applying pressure on Ankara. Turkey’s EU membership bid is already frozen, in part due to human rights concerns. But Ankara is seeking to extend a customs union, along with visa-free travel for its citizens with the EU. “It’s time all European countries should be speaking out very loud and clear on cases like this [Kavala],” said Sinclair-Webb. But even high-profile cases like Kavala’s have seen Brussels offer only muted criticism of Ankara. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Istanbul Friday for talks with Erdogan saw little criticism of Turkey’s human rights record. Instead, discussions focused on Ankara’s recent deployment of soldiers to Libya and the upholding of an EU-Turkish agreement controlling migrants entering Europe. “There are many issues to talk about with Turkey,” said Sinclair Webb. “Syria, Libya, Turkey, hosting so many refugees from Syria, and this often takes priority over Turkey’s domestic human rights crisis. This means there isn’t sufficient clarity on cases like this. What we are seeing is Turkey defying Europe’s human rights court.” Some analysts suggest Brussels could yet be lobbying behind the scenes for Kavala’s release, tying Ankara’s calls for extra financial assistance for refugees to gestures on human rights.

Pakistan: Release Manzoor Pashteen and his fellow human rights defenders immediately

HRW urges UN to address human rights violations in Turkey

https://www.voanews.com/europe/turkish-court-defies-europe-leaves-philanthropist-behind-bars

Civil Rights Defenders is looking for a controller with experience of working with projects

January 10, 2020

The Stockholm-based NGO Civil Rights Defenders wants to take its Finance Department to the next level and is now looking for a Controller to help develop processes and working methods. As a Controller, you are a key asset in the Finance Department. The main focus is to simplify and improve all financial areas in order to get the very best results out of our new ERP system Maconomy. As a Controller, you will be responsible for a number of departments and act as controller for important projects in close cooperation with your colleagues in Stockholm as well as the rest of the world.

Some of the key activities include

  • Setting up project budgets in consultation with our project and program managers.
  • Financial reporting of our projects to donors and auditors.
  • Supporting department managers in budgeting and forecasting.
  • Responsible for analysing projects and department results in connection with monthly, quarterly and annual reports.
  • Contact person for our departments regarding financial matters.
  • Contributing to our work with new reports and improved controlling processes.
  • Participating in improving the financial work.

We are especially interested in applicants with

  • A Degree of Master of Science in Business and Economics, or similar, with a few years working experience in controlling and project reporting.
  • Experience in a project-based work, preferably from a non-profit organisation or consultancy-driven work.
  • Strong interest in pursuing improvement, big or small.
  • Experience in managing ERP systems, such as Maconomy.
  • Good knowledge of Microsoft Office Suite and a very experienced Excel user.
  • Very good knowledge of Swedish and English, both written and verbal.

About the position

  • Permanent employment (100%) with an initial six months probation period.
  • The position is based at Civil Rights Defenders’ head office in Stockholm, Sweden.
  • The position may include some travel to Civil Rights Defenders’ local offices.

Application

To apply, submit your cover letter and CV to info@crd.org no later than 30 January 2020. Please state “Controller” in the subject line. Interviews will be conducted on an ongoing basis, meaning the position could be filled ahead of the deadline. Welcome with your application! For questions about this position, please contact Karin Ancker, CFO. Civil Rights Defenders has a local union club connected to Unionen. The union can be reached at crdunionclub@crd.org.

Civil Rights Defenders is Looking for a Controller with experience of working with projects

Colombia and Mexico: problems with national panic button devices for human rights defenders

December 24, 2019

A GPS-enabled “panic button” that Colombia‘s government has issued ito abut 400 persons is supposed to summon help for human-rights defenders or journalists if they are threatened. But it the article claims that it has technical flaws that could let hostile parties disable it, eavesdrop on conversations and track users‘ movements, according to an independent security audit conducted for The Associated Press. There is no evidence the vulnerabilities have been exploited, but are alarmed. “This is negligent in the extreme,” said Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, calling the finding “a tremendous security failure.

Over the past four years, other “distress alarms” and smartphone apps have been deployed or tested around the world, with mixed results. When effective, they can be crucial lifelines against criminal gangs, paramilitary groups or the hostile security forces of repressive regimes. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/06/23/today-official-launch-of-ais-panic-button-a-new-app-to-fight-attack-kidnap-and-torture/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/04/24/the-natalia-gps-alarm-bracelet-wins-golden-egg-awards-in-stockholm/]

The “boton de apoyo,” distributed by Colombia‘s Office of National Protection is a keychain-style fob. Its Chinese manufacturer markets it under the name EV-07 for tracking children, pets and the elderly. The operates on a wireless network, has a built-in microphone and receiver and can be mapped remotely with geo-location software. A button marked “SOS” calls for help when pressed.

A company official, John Chung, acknowledged that Rapid7 notified him of the flaws in December. In keeping with standard industry practice, Rapid7 waited at least two months before publicly disclosing the vulnerabilities to give the manufacturer time to address them. Chung told the AP that Eview was working to update the EV-07‘s webserver software, where Rapid7 found flaws that could allow user and geolocation data to be altered.

Activists have good reason to be wary of public officials in Colombia, where murder rates for land and labor activists are among the world‘s highest, and there is a legacy of state-sponsored crime. The DAS domestic intelligence agency, which provided bodyguards and armored vehicles to high-risk individuals prior to 2011, was disbanded after being caught spying on judges, journalists and activists. Five former DAS officials have been prosecuted for allegedly subjecting Duque and her daughter to psychological torture after she published articles implicating agency officials in the 1999 assassination of Jaime Garzon, a much-loved satirist.

Tanya O‘Carroll of Amnesty International, which has been developing a different kind of “panic button” since 2014 , said the Colombian model is fundamentally flawed. “In many cases, the government is the adversary,” she said. “How can those people who are the exact adversary be the ones that are best placed to respond?”…

In Mexico, the attorney general‘s office has issued more than 200 emergency alert devices to journalists and rights activists since 2013. But there have been multiple complaints . One is unreliability where cell service is poor. Others are more serious: Cases have been documented of police failing to respond or answering but saying they are unable to help.

O‘Carroll of Amnesty International said trials in 17 nations on three continents—including the Philippines, El Salvador and Uganda—show it‘s best to alert trusted parties—friends, family or colleagues. Those people then reach out to trusted authorities. Amnesty‘s app for Android phones is still in beta testing. It is activated with a hardware trigger—multiple taps of the power button. But there have been too many false alarms.

Sweden-based Civil Rights Defenders offers a 300-euro stand-alone panic button first deployed in Russia‘s North Caucasus region in 2013 and now used by more than 70 people in East Africa, Central Asia, the Balkans, Southeast Asia and Venezuela, said Peter Ohlm, a protection officer at the nonprofit. The organization‘s Stockholm headquarters always gets notified, and social media is typically leveraged to spread word fast when an activist is in trouble.

Colombia ‘panic buttons‘ expose activists

Human Rights HACKATHON in Kosovo: Equalitech

September 8, 2019

Hackathon in Kosovo

Civil Rights Defenders, in partnership with Innovation Centre Kosovo (ICK) is hosting the first ever regional hackathon to tackle human rights issues – ‘EqualiTECH 2019’ – on 27-29 September 2019.

..there is a clear shortage in the interplay of technological investments around human rights issues, frequently materialising as a roadblock for its advocates. In an effort to reduce this gap, the organisers invite participants with various backgrounds, skill sets, and creative abilities to form multidisciplinary teams and invent unique digital products to hack Human Rights challenges pertaining to 3 thematic areas:

1). Justice and Equality; 2). Freedom of Expression; 3). Access to Information.

This signature event challenges participants to place humanity at the forefront of design thinking and innovation. It aims to fuse the power of technological innovation with the generative capacities of human rights defenders and activists, in building ICT solutions as part of diverse teams, to support human rights work in the Western Balkan countries. Under expert mentoring, the competitors of different backgrounds will have 40 hours to design innovative products that will elevate the work for human rights protection and advocacy. ‘EqualiTech 2019’ kicks off on the 27- 29 September, taking place at ICK’s event hub. All interested candidates can apply here. The deadline for application is 17 September, 11:59 pm.

The challenges

Justice and equality

Design a solution that helps increase justice and equality. Conceptualize and develop a digital product that will help increase justice and equality as well as promote inclusiveness for all. For example, think of tools (i.e. platform) that can connect state bodies responsible for providing free legal aid, private pro-bono lawyers/law firms, legal aid organizations and citizens in need of legal aid and advice; or tools that can help identify public and private places of interest and service providers (bars, restaurants, hotels, parks, etc) that are friendly, inclusive and non-discriminatory, particularly to vulnerable and marginalized communities in the Western Balkans.

Freedom of expression To complete this challenge, you should design a tool that will help facilitate and/or increase freedom of expression and reduce various forms of online harassment. The objective is to invent digital products (i.e. platforms) that can enable citizens, activists and journalists from the Western Balkans to connect with each other; identify and report violations of human rights; enable user-friendly reporting mechanisms that help increase their safety and security, etc.

Access to information is increasingly limited in the Western Balkans. Proliferation of unprofessional media, increasing number of fake and manipulative information, limits citizens abilities to make informed decisions. Conceptualize and design a digital product that will help increase access to reliable and useful information sources. This product (i.e. platform) should support citizens, progressive media outlets and independent journalists, fact-checking and other issues relating to ‘fake news’.

(Please note that this is not an exhaustive list.

Competition eligibility criteria?

To participate, you must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • All individuals must be between 18-35 years of age.
  • Must work (HR activists or advocates) or have an interest (tech candidates) in combating discrimination, upholding human rights for minorities and underrepresented groups, and ensuring freedom of expression.
  • Tech candidates must be skilled in using programming language or tools and/or graphic design software.
  • All candidates must be able to collaborate within a team.
  • Must have a passion for problem-solving and analytical thinking.
  • Preference will be given to individuals with proven experience or passion in combating human rights violations.

Awards for the winning products

We will award three cash prizes, each in the amount of 1000 euros for the winning product prototypes in the respective challenge category.

For a similar event see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/02/24/diplohack-event-on-human-rights-to-be-held-in-geneva-on-26-27-february/

EqualiTECH 2019 Human Rights Hackathon to Launch in Kosovo

Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award 2019 goes to Hungarian Márta Pardavi

April 5, 2019

Hungarian human rights lawyer Márta Pardavi has been awarded the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award 2019. As an outspoken critic of the Hungarian government and its policies, Márta is often smeared and her work discredited. The award is a recognition of her work of many years, fighting against the attempts to systematically dismantle democracy, normalisation of xenophobia and hate crimes in Hungary.

Márta Pardavi is the Co-chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, one of Hungary’s leading human rights organisations. The Hungarian Helsinki Committee is a watchdog organisation that protects human dignity and the rule of law through legal and public advocacy methods. Being both vocal and successful in its activities, and particularly because of their work to support asylum seekers, the organisation has become a prime target of the government’s toxic campaigns.

“Democracy is under threat all over the world and now we see what authoritarians do when they get to power. They target critics, human rights defenders and treat marginalised groups as threats to society. We see this happening in Hungary, but also in other countries such as Poland. This award sends a very strong message, that our work is recognised, and that we as civil society organisations will continue to defend democratic values”, said Márta Pardavi.

Márta Pardavi, Civil Rights Defender of The Year 2019

“For many years, human rights lawyer Márta Pardavi has courageously defended civil and political rights in Hungary. She is leading the Hungarian Helsinki Committee’s work in the field of refugee protection, and with dignity and professionalism, confronts those who attempt to systematically dismantle civil society and normalise xenophobia and hate crimes. For her dedication and exceptional contribution to resist inhumane treatment of the most vulnerable, Márta is awarded the Civil Rights Defender of the Year 2019”, , said the Board of Civil Rights Defenders in its motivation.

During the first two decades of Hungary’s post-communist history, the country was a young but stable democracy, and a role-model of successful transition from authoritarianism to democracy. Today, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has been in power almost a decade, a period during which Hungary has undergone dramatic changes. Too many posts in this blog have been devoted to this, see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/hungary/.

….But despite this climate, human rights defenders and human rights organisations continue to challenge state policies and propaganda, and the public support for their activities is growing.

“Many civil society organisations are working to address this and while it was probably both unwanted and unintended, the Hungarian government’s pressure has made us better at working together, making us stronger. And the same is true for the government’s anti-NGO campaigns – we have seen that civil society support is growing as an unintended consequence of the state propaganda”, said Márta Pardavi.

For  more on the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/civil-rights-defender-of-the-year-award

https://crd.org/2019/04/04/civil-rights-defender-of-the-year-2019-marta-pardavi/