Posts Tagged ‘Civil Rights Defenders’

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/

 

Human Rights Defender Yared Hailemariam back in his homeland Ethiopia after 13 years

February 12, 2019

Human Rights Activist Yared Hailemariam Yared Hailemariam

Yared Hailemariam is the Executive Director of the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE), a non-governmental and non-partisan organisation based in Brussels and Geneva, founded by activists that fled the country and other members of the Ethiopian diaspora. He served as a lead investigator at the Ethiopia Human Rights Council (HRCO) for seven years before being forced into exile in the aftermath of the heavily contested 2005 election in the country.

The post-2005 period saw a massive crackdown on civil society through the enactment of draconian legislation, and the implementation of two states of emergency that allowed for the brutal repression of thousands of demonstrators, journalists, and HRDs. During this time, AHRE, based in exile, focused on advocacy, protection and capacity-building for Ethiopian HRDs, and producing research highlighting the deteriorating situation in Ethiopia.

However, when the reformist agenda of the new Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed began to manifest itself in 2018, Hailemariam decided it was safe to head home after more than 13 years in exile. In January 2019, he helped organise a civil society meeting and workshop in Addis Ababa which brought together national and international civil society organisations (CSOs) to forge a path forward after years of restrictions and repression. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/09/un-human-rights-council-urged-to-address-situation-in-ethiopia/]

This is a huge chance for civil society. Because of bad laws and the previous government, our work was totally crippled and paralysed, but there are many good signs that our presence is welcome like it wasn’t before. It’s a bright future for civil society as a result of these changes.

Hailemariam hopes to help rebuild civil society in Ethiopia by bringing together HRDs returning from exile with the few CSOs that were able to remain in the country and weather the storm. He says that while the new reforms are positive, these changes must trickle down to institutions and the general citizenry for them to be real and long lasting.

The head is moving, but the legs are not. Civic reforms don’t affect the real day to day situations like unemployment or access to healthcare, so the government needs to act quickly to make real institutional reforms. Unless the whole body starts moving together, it will seriously affect the political reform.

He acknowledges that the real struggle will be to rebuild the capacity of a civil society sector decimated by brain drain and financial insecurity. However, he hopes that with a bit of tenacity and good networking, HRDs in the country can come together before the planned 2020 elections and engage in civic education to prepare Ethiopia for a brighter, more democratic future.

https://www.satenaw.com/human-rights-defenders-month-january-2018-yared-hailemariam/

 

Anders Pettersson: Civil Rights Defenders’ ‘new’ director

November 5, 2018

Already on 9 March 2018 Robert Hårdh was succeeded as Executive Director of the Stockholm-based NGO Civil Rights Defenders [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/civil-rights-defenders/] by Anders Pettersson. An oversight on my part that I am glad to correct. Anders has had a variety of international jobs of which the latest was head of Ecpat Sweden.

 

https://novare.se/anders-l-pettersson-ny-chef-civil-rights-defender/

FIFA expresses concern about Chechen human rights defender, but to whom?

May 24, 2018

In less than a month, millions of people will turn their eyes upon Russia as the 2018 Football World Cup kicks off. On 23 May 2018, the NGO Civil Rights Defenders published FIFA’s reply to an open letter it and and 13 other international and Russian human rights groups sent to FIFA, urging the association to start engaging with the Russian authorities on the human rights crisis in Chechnya, especially the case of Oyub Titiev [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/15/chechen-human-rights-defender-oyub-titiev-arrested-on-trumped-up-charges/].

 

Oyub Titiev in Memorial’s local office in Grozny, Chechnya. In the background a portrait of his murdered colleague, Natalia Estemirova.

[In January 2018, Chechen authorities started a campaign against the leading Russian human rights organisation Memorial, by jailing prominent human rights defender and head of Memorial’s local office, Oyub Titiev, on fabricated charges. In February, it was announced that the capital of Chechnya, Grozny, was confirmed by FIFA as the team base for Egypt.]

Such engagement is consistent with FIFA’s responsibility to respect human rights under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,” the letter addressed to Mr. Infantino, President of FIFA, read. “It is also consistent with the commitment in article 3 of FIFA’s statutes to promote the protection of international human rights, and would demonstrate determination to implement its new Human Rights Policy”. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/02/fifa-governance-committee-starts-dealing-with-a-human-rights-policy/]

FIFA has now replied (follow link for full text) to the letter, thanking the rights groups for raising concern about the detention of Oyub Titiev: “… FIFA values the important work done by human rights defenders such as Mr. Titiev and yourselves and is, in accordance with paragraph 11 of its human rights policy, committed to respect and help protect the rights of everyone who is working to advance human rights in relation to FIFA’s activities.” 

This is quite a change from the traditional view that politics and sport have nothing to do with each other, but it does not say WHAT and with WHOM in Russia FIFA has taken up the case. That will probably remain confidential.

Jigsaw designed software (“Outline”) for self-controlled VPNs

March 21, 2018

HOTLITTLEPOTATO

A VIRTUAL PRIVATE NETWORK (VPN), that core privacy tool that encrypts your internet traffic and bounces it through a faraway server, has always presented a paradox: Sure, it helps you hide from some forms of surveillance, like your internet service provider’s snooping and eavesdroppers on your local network. But it leaves you vulnerable to a different, equally powerful spy: Whoever controls the VPN server you’re routing all your traffic through.

To help solve that quagmire, Jigsaw, the Alphabet-owned Google sibling that serves as a human rights-focused tech incubator, will now offer VPN software that you can easily set up on your own server—or at least, one you set up yourself, and control in the cloud. And unlike older homebrew VPN code, Jigsaw says it’s focused on making the setup and hosting of that server simple enough that even small, less savvy organizations or even individual users can do it in minutes.

Jigsaw says that the free DIY proxy software, called Outline, aims to provide an alternative to, on the one hand, stronger anonymity tools like Tor that slow down web browsing by bouncing connections through multiple encrypted hops around the world and, on the other hand, commercial VPNs that can be expensive, and also put users’ private information and internet history at risk.

The core of the product is that people can run their own VPN,” says Santiago Andrigo, the Jigsaw product manager who led Outline’s development. “You get the reassurance that no one else has your data, and you can rest easier in that knowledge.”

..A Swedish NGO, Civil Rights Defenders, has been testing Outline since last fall with the group of sensitive internet users it works to protect, who include journalists, lawyers, human rights defenders and LGBT communities in 18 repressive regimes around the world. ..

https://www.wired.com/story/alphabet-outline-vpn-software/

https://www.androidauthority.com/outline-censorship-vpn-847999/

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/10/security-without-borders-offers-free-security-help-to-human-rights-defenders/

Job Opening at Civil Rights Defenders’ Sarajevo Office

January 18, 2018

Civil Rights Defenders (www.crd.org) seeks a Project Assistant at its Sarajevo Office.

Qualifications and skills required:

  • B.A. in Economy, Social Sciences, Law, Political Science, International Relations or related fields/areas, including  understanding of international human rights mechanisms;
  • Minimum of one year of working/volunteering experience in the field of human rights;
  • Documented experience of work in the civil society, and/or advocacy work;
  • Excellent computer skills, proficient in Microsoft office, and the ability to learn new systems.
  • Flexibility and willingness to work simultaneously on a wide range of tasks and projects independently, as well as the ability to work collaboratively as a member of a small team.
  • Ability to plan independent and collaborative work and to deliver outputs on time.
  • Fluency in BCHS (!) and English are a must (spoken and written).

Only selected candidates will be contacted for a test and first round of interviews. Tests and interviews shall be conducted face-to-face in the Civil Rights Defenders Office in Sarajevo.

Start date: February/March 2018. This is a full time position, with a 6-month trial period.

CV and short motivation letter not later than the 28th of January 2018, via e-mail to Sarajevo.Office@civilrightsdefenders.org.

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 »