Posts Tagged ‘civil society activists’

Have a smartphone – become a human rights defender!

August 10, 2017

Witness’ Asia-Pacific team adapted this video from WITNESS’ tip sheet on Filming Hate – a primer for using video to document human rights abuses. “Filming Hate” guides activists through documenting abuses safely, providing context, verifying footage, and sharing that footage responsibly. It may help millions of bystanders become witnesses, and hence human rights defenders, spurred to combat hatred by wielding a powerful weapon: their smartphone. Published on 6 August 2017. Full tipsheet available on our Library at: https://library.witness.org/product/f…     Music credit: ‘India’ — http://www.bensound.com Creative Commons Attribution licence (reuse allowed)

Nigeria: “Human rights activists of today are cowards, they are afraid to die for the course they are pursuing”

February 20, 2017

This rather shocking statement comes from Nigeria. Two newspapers sources (Vanguard.com and The Anchor on Line) report on events held to mark ’50 years activism’ by the Agbaakin Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oloye Rasheed Olalekan Alabi, where such hyperbolic language was employed. One was held on 21 January 2017 at the Nigeria Union of Journalists’ Press Centre, Ibadan. The other on 20 February in the Excellence Hotel, Lagos State. Other strong language was used there to make Nigerian youth more aware and committed…read of yourself…:

Agbaakin Olubadan, Oloye ‘Lekan Alabi Marks 50 Years of Human Rights Activism

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Why do Gandhi and Martin Luther King scare the Angolan government?

March 29, 2016

On 28 March 2016 the New York based Human Rights Foundation strongly condemned the convictions and sentences handed down by a court in Angola against a group of 17 youth activists for reading a book that advocates nonviolent resistance to dictatorship. The court declared the activists — including prominent Angolan rapper Luaty Beirão — guilty of “rebellion against the president” and “planning a coup,” sentencing them to prison terms that range from two to eight years. Beirao, also known by his stage name Ikonoklasta, has been an outspoken critic of the government, calling for a fairer distribution of the southern African state’s oil wealth. His term is five-and-a-half years.

Angola: HRF Condemns Convictions and Demands Release of Youth ActivistsSource: Vice News

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Side event on Protection of human rights defenders in economic, social and cultural rights

March 1, 2016

ISHR-logo-colour-highOn Monday 7 March 2016, from 13h30-15h00 in Room XVIII, Palais des Nations, Geneva, there will be a side event:Protection needs of human rights defenders working on economic, social and cultural rights: Challenges and good practice. (see my previous post: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/regional-update-for-asia/)

The current and previous Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights defenders have emphasised the specific risks that defenders working on economic, social and cultural rights face. Whether they are activists fighting corruption or promoting transparency, working on land and environment rights, or defending their right to housing, ESC-rights defenders are among the most isolated and stigmatised defenders. This side event hopes to shed light on the risks faced by economic, social and cultural rights defenders, and draw on the report of the Special Rapporteur presented to the 31st session of the Human Rights Council to present good practices in furthering their protection.

panelists:

Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Navi Pillay, former High Commissioner for Human Rights

Allo Awol, human rights defender from Eritrea

Arutchelvan Subramaniams, human rights defender from Malaysia

Pedro Tzicá, human rights defender from Guatemala

Moderator: Ms Catarina de Albuquerque, Executive Chair of Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) and former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation.

Interpretation in English and Spanish will be provided. The event will be webcast live at www.ishr.ch/webcasts

Source: Protection needs of human rights defenders working on economic, social and cultural rights | ISHR

‘The Interview’ Sequel plays at the Korean Border

April 21, 2015

The Hollywood Reporter (THR) of 20 April 2015 contains an interesting and detailed piece by Paul Bond who went with the Human Rights Foundation on a trip to South Korea, to see how defector send films, television shows, books, and offline versions of Wikipedia into North Korea. The experience inspired nine articles, all of them published on THR’s website, but the centerpiece is this one: ‘The Interview’ Sequel: Inside the Frightening Battle Raging on the North Korean Border’.  The articles all together give an interesting picture of the powerful role that film can play in the case of closed societies where there is hardly any internet (here North Korean), but also how the South Korean authorities out of fear for retaliation limit the human rights defenders’ actions.

Left: U.S. resident Thor Halvorssen filled bags with The Interview,leaflets and American music to be ballooned into North Korea but was stopped April 9 by South Korean police. Right: Lee Min Bok prepared a balloon with Interview,Zero Dark Thirtyand U.S. dollars but was prevented from launching it by two guards.

 

To trick North Korean authorities, Interview begins with state propaganda clips before switching abruptly to a 12-minute subtitled edit of Interview — a bit from the beginning, middle and end, with the more vulgar parts removed.

For the full article please go to: ‘The Interview’ Sequel: Inside the Frightening Battle Raging on the North Korean Border – Hollywood Reporter.

 

Joseph Bikanda, Coordinator of Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network, has the floor

April 16, 2015

The Newsletter of International Service for Human Rights in Geneva gave on 2 April 2015 the floor to Joseph Bikanda, the Coordinator of the Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network (PAHRDN), a Network made up of 5 sub-regional networks of human right defenders (HRDs), including the East and Horn of Africa, the Central, the West, the Southern and the North African HRDs Networks.

Joseph first became involved in human rights as a university student. A group of students needed a voice to advocate on their behalf. Joseph became that voice. In doing so, Joseph learnt about human rights mechanisms existing at the time. ‘I found myself surrounded by the human rights world and knew that it was the right place for me. Since then I have been working in human rights in various capacities.

Joseph stated that PAHRDN’s key focus is to strengthen the capacity and provide support to regional networks, civil society organisations and HRDs. ‘You are always stronger working together in a network, and if each element of the network is more capable and works together – you are even stronger’

..Regional and international human rights mechanisms support HRDs, but networks such as PAHRDN are essential to create local supporting mechanisms for HRDs’.. Joseph explains that PAHRDN has established local mechanisms to ‘fill the gap as best we can’. These mechanisms include providing emergency support, lawyers, trial observation and practical support for HRDs.

One of our key roles is to provide support for HRDs in emergency situations when they are being harassed, targeted or when their lives are in danger. We have also created urgent mechanisms which apply pressure to perpetrators of human rights abuses.’

Joseph commented on the essential role that HRDs played in initiating the development of the law for the protection of HRDs in Côte d’Ivoire. He shared his hope that each African country develops similar laws in the near future and, in particular, that each of those laws is effectively implemented. ‘I hope to see HRDs develop further as key actors combatting corruption and promoting transparency. Involving HRDs in decisions ensures that the views of civil society are raised and considered.’

In his discussion with ISHR, Joseph identified that his primary objectives of attending the March session of the Human Rights Council were to raise awareness of – the horrific situation in Burundi, in particular the persecution of journalists and HRDs; the continued fighting in South Sudan and the abduction of children for combat; and the concerning counter terrorism laws in Cameroon and Ethiopia, which lack differentiation between defenders and terrorists.

You can follow Joseph Bikanda on Twitter at @Bikjo.

Joseph Bikanda: Coordinator of Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network | ISHR.

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.

Call for the release human rights defender Mohamed Mchangama in Comoros

February 17, 2015

The New York based Human Rights Foundation on 11 February 2015 called on the government of the Comoros to release Mohamed Said Abdallah Mchangama, President of the Federation of Comorian Consumers (FCC).
HRF to the Comoros: Release Activist Mohamed Mchangama and Drop Incitement Charges Against Him

Mchangama is one of the leaders of the “Madji Na Mwendje” (power and water) movement, formed by the FCC and other civil society organizations to protest the government’s inability to resolve the frequent power blackouts and water shortages plaguing the island. The movement called on all Comorian civil society groups to engage in a three-day general strike scheduled for February 9-11. The Sunday before the strike was set to start, Mchangama was summoned to appear at the police station of Moroni where he was immediately arrested and is currently being held.

Civil society leaders like Mchangama are a threat to competitive authoritarian regimes because of their ability to channel people’s frustration at corrupt and incompetent governments. By arresting him, the government seeks to quash a legitimate demand from hundreds of thousands of Comorians living below the poverty line. He must be released immediately,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of the Human Rights Foundation. “We have seen similar instances of repressing freedom of expression in the region. In Burundi, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa was arrested for criticizing the ruling party during a radio interview; and in Swaziland Thulani Maseko and Bhaki Makubu were both arrested for questioning the independence of the judicial system. These are all legitimate concerns in any democratic society. It is these abusive governments that are at fault here, not the people,” said Halvorssen.

For more information contact: Jamie Hancock at jamie[at]thehrf.org or see the original piece:

HRF to the Comoros: Release Activist Mohamed Mchangama and Drop Incitement Charges Against Him | News | The Human Rights Foundation.

Mexico Activists Convene First People’s Constitutional Assembly

February 11, 2015

Catholic priest, human rights defender and key organizer, Raul Vera, addressing the assembly.

Catholic priest, human rights defender and key organizer, Raul Vera, addressing the assembly. | Photo: Victor Figueroa / teleSUR

Marking the anniversary of the signing of Mexico’s 1917 constitution, activists, intellectuals and citizens participated in the first national ‘Citizen’s and Popular Constituent Assembly’ to propose a ‘bottom-up’ revision of Mexico’s Magna Carta. So reports teleSur on 5 February.  The assembly, held in Mexico City and attended by nearly 1000 people, proposes to develop a new constitution that prioritizes social, political and economic rights.

One of the assembly’s key organizers, catholic bishop and social activist, Raul Vera, said that the current state and crisis of violence as well as political and economic corruption in Mexico is a primary driving force behind the initiative.“Justice and rights have disappeared for the mass majority of the Mexican multitude of poor and the small number of middle class that remains…thus, the idea of forming a new constitution in Mexico comes from the idea, finality, objective that we Mexican citizens can be become subjects of the country’s historical construction,”said the human rights defender in his address to the crowd.

Participating in the assembly were families of the disappeared 43 Ayotzinapa students, their fellow classmates, as well as human rights defenders, writers, artists, priests, students and labor leaders.

The Catholic priest and respected migrant rights defender, Alejandro Solalinde, exclaimed that the assembly and its objectives rule out the participation of political parties in the process, declaring that legislators “do not represent anybody.” Solalinde went on to send a message to Mexico’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto, that the work of the assembly will move forward to push for peaceful systemic political and social change. “It depends on you [Pena Nieto] that the changes will be pacific, we are going to carry them out no matter what, but if you repress or use force and violence, you will be the only one responsible … you will be guilty,” Solalinde stated.

Although it remains unclear as to how the assembly’s findings and declarations will be implemented legally, organizers say that the grassroots work and proposals of viable alternatives will carry on beyond 2017, marking 100 years of the original constitutional assembly of the Mexican Revolution.

Mexico Activists Convene First People’s Constitutional Assembly | News | teleSUR.

MEA Laureate Mutabar continues to press for diplomatic action on Uzbekistan

November 7, 2014

Mutabar Tadjibayeva, MEA Laureate 2008 and now living in exile in Paris has as President of International Human Rights Association “Fiery Hearts Club” wrote an Open Letter in advance of the meeting between the French and Uzbek Ministers of Foreign Affairs in France. Here follows the full text of the letter:

Mr. Laurent Fabius, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs
37, Quai d’Orsay
F – 75351 PARIS

Members of the French Senate and National Assembly
Palais du Luxembourg
15, rue de Vaugirard
75291 PARIS Cedex 06

Dear Minister Laurent Fabius, Dear Members of the Senate and National Assembly:

In advance of your meeting with Mr. Abdulaziz Kamilov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan, we write to encourage you to urge the Uzbek government to sincerely address the serious, systematic and ongoing human rights violations of the Uzbek people, including the situation of civil society activists, religious prisoners, transparency and openness in France-Uzbekistan dialogue, the recent undemocratic initiatives of president Karimov to amend the Uzbek Constitution, and state-orchestrated forced labour of children and adults during annual cotton harvesting season.

The situation of civil society

In your meeting with Mr. Kamilov we urge you to raise the situation of imprisoned civil society activists who make up one of the most vulnerable categories of inmates in the Uzbek penitentiary system. The number of imprisoned civil society activists has remained almost unchanged for many years because of two reasons: there are not so many independent civil society activists operating in Uzbekistan because of the government’s continued repressive policy and ongoing persecutions against the activists, and in place of one released imprisoned activist the government tends to send to jail two more civil society activists. Different independent observers and international rights groups mention from 15 to 30 civil society activists who remain in prison.

Our organization has studied well the cases of at least the following civil society activists who were sent to jail under trumped up criminal cases and who are serving their lengthy prison terms: Murod, Juraev, Solijon Abdurakhmonov, Azam Farmonov, Mehriniso Hamdamova, Zulkhumor Hamdamova, Isroiljon Kholdorov, Nosim Isakov, Gaybullo Jalilov, Abdurasul Khudoynazarov, Erkin Kuziev, Ganikhon Mamatkhonov, Zafarjon Rakhimov, Yuldash Rasulov, Dilmurod Saidov and Akzam Turgunov. Whereabouts of journalist Jamshid Karimov who has been kept forcedly in a psychiatric clinic for five years and then released in 2011 is unknown. Soon after his release from the psychiatric clinic he has disappeared. His colleagues suggest he has been forcedly placed into the psychiatric clinic again.

We urge you to raise the issue of the above mentioned political prisoners in your talks with the Uzbek Minister and call on the Uzbek government to immediately release those civil society activists from prison out of urgent humanitarian concerns. But specifically we urge you to request immediate release of the following imprisoned civil society activists who are elderly and experiencing dire health problems: Murod Juraev, Dilmurod Saidov, Solijon Abdurakhmonov, Agzam Turgunov, Ganihon Mamatkhonov and Mehriniso Hamdamova. In February several human rights defenders from Uzbekistan were allowed by the authorities to visit Murod Juraev, Dilmurod Saidov, Solijon Abdurakhmonov and Agzam Turgunov in prison. The visits have confirmed their poor health conditions and lack of access to proper medical treatment in prison. The fact that the Uzbek activists were allowed by the authorities to visit the imprisoned colleagues is unprecedented but we don’t yet what underlying reasons have pushed the Uzbek authorities to do so. Nevertheless we can accept this fact as a good sign.

Ganikhon Mamatkhonov, another elderly human rights activist, who was convicted under trumped up criminal charges in 2009 to 4,5 years was expected to leave the prison on March 10, 2014 because his prison term ended. But on the eve of his release the prison administration has accused him of disobeying orders and rules of prison administration and put into a solitary confinement. Mamatkhonov has experienced heart attack three times, the last time it happened during his detention. We think the Uzbek authorities have deliberately accused Mamatkhonov of disobeying prison orders and rules and sent him to a solitary confinement in order to prolong his prison sentence. This is a popular method used by the Uzbek authorities to keep “unwanted” inmates in prison under prolonged sentences. For instance, an opposition activist Murod Juraev was convicted to 12 years in prison in 1995, but his sentences ever since been prolonged up to four years each time in 2006, 2009 and 2012. An inmate accused of disobeying prison orders and rules becomes automatically non eligible for annual amnesty acts. Mehriniso Hamdamova is a women religious scholar and activist convicted to 7 years in prison in April 2010. She has hysteromyoma and needs an urgent surgery. This type of surgery and post-surgery medical treatment can’t be provided in prison.

During your talks with Minister Kamilov we urge you to call on the Uzbek authorities to immediately release the above mentioned small group of political prisoners out of humanitarian concerns. We also take this opportunity to stress that the Uzbek authorities keep sending more civil society activists to prison under clearly trumped up charges. In 2013 Bobomurod Razzakov of “Ezgulik” Human Rights Society was sent to prison. In March 2014 two members of “Erk” political opposition party Fakhriddin Tilloev and Nuriddin Jumaniyozov were convicted to 8 years and 3 months in prison.

Religious prisoners

Under religious prisoners or prisoners of conscience we understand those inmates who are convicted for religious extremism, fundamentalism, terrorism, crimes against the constitutional system. Today religious prisoners are the most vulnerable massive group of inmates in Uzbekistan. Numerous accounts of independent observers point out that the vast majority of the religious prisoners were convicted to lengthy prison terms as a result of self-incriminating confessions extracted under torture and similar ill-treatment. Among them there are many family members and close relatives.

The government policy against religious extremism targets in most cases peaceful religious practice and is based on a primitive maxim that if there is one religious extremist in the family, then all members are automatically labeled as extremists. For most religious prisoners torture and similar ill-treatment continues even when after they are convicted and sent to prison facilities for serving their sentences. They rarely fall under annual amnesties, in most cases the authorities accuse them of disobeying prison orders and rules and prolong their sentences. Independent observers think there are from 6.000 to 10.000 religious prisoners but this data can’t be corroborated because the penitentiary system in Uzbekistan is completely closed. The issue of religious prisoners and gross human rights violations they are facing does rarely become a subject of discussions between Uzbekistan and its international interlocutors because of its sensitive character but we think France should be concerned with this issue as well if the bloc cares about the security situation and human rights in this Central Asian nation.

France – Uzbekistan dialogue

In its dialogue with the Uzbek government France should be careful to be dragged too much to different ends affected by the various views among the EU member-states. This trend could continuously affect the implementation of the EU strategy towards Uzbekistan because of the lack of precise set of benchmarks which makes independent monitoring / evaluation difficult. Moreover, we are afraid that the whole process of the dialogue between France as well as the EU and Uzbekistan has mostly been an “insiders’ game” and elite driven, neither France and the EU nor the Uzbek government have consulted members of the civil society organizations (CSOs) in Uzbekistan. Lack of public information over France’s and the EU’s strategy and relations with Uzbekistan logically leads into a virtually non-existent public awareness of it in Uzbekistan. Information on the France and the EU – Uzbekistan dialogue is kept behind closed doors meetings.

While pointing to human rights, democracy, good governance and rule of law as one of the first priority issues, senior EU officials (e.g. the EUSR and his staff) are at the same time careful in avoiding “double standards” by singling out less criticism on human rights record in Uzbekistan. This, however, from local viewpoint means that in terms of democracy and human rights even longer patience is needed as the strategy does neither pressure the Uzbek regime nor advises to ease the social tension by adopting new practices. Such an attitude merely allows Tashkent choosing among priorities what fits to their own policy path, Thus Tashkent can continue playing

its own regular role in a new framework as well: each time an important international interlocutor (e.g. the UN or EU) adopts a set of specific recommendations addressed to the Uzbek government, the Uzbek authorities respond by adopting a National Action Plan on the implementation of the recommendations. No practice changes in the end.

In advance of elections Uzbek president aims at amending the Constitution again

In advance of expected parliamentary and presidential elections in December 2014 and March 2015 Uzbek president Karimov has initiated amendments to articles 32, 78, 93, 98, 103 and 117 of the Constitution. The government controlled mass media reported about the president’s initiative on March 14, 2014 but the substance of suggested amendments to the constitutions was missing in publications. However quick analysis of the suggested amendments demonstrate that the president is most probably aiming at amending the constitution to allow himself to be appointed as a life-time president through a referendum.
Moreover, he has already used such tactic of entrenching himself in the power in the past several times during presidential elections and referendums he has himself orchestrated in the past. There is also a bad precedent in the Central Asian region – Nazarbaev of neighboring Kazakhstan has appointed himself a life-time leader through similar constitutional amendments without any hesitation several years ago.

We think the EU should be concerned seriously with such trends in the political life of Uzbekistan which further entrenches an authoritarian system in the country and further increases political uncertainty with security situation in this Central Asian nation.

Forced labor

Despite continuous international protests and criticism the Uzbek authorities keep on practicing massive state-orchestrated forced labour of children and adults during annual cotton harvest season. In the fall of 2014 as well the Uzbek authorities forced more than million of different groups of citizens, including schoolchildren, students, teachers, personnel of medical facilities, owners of small and medium businesses, to harvest cotton in abusive conditions under the threat of punishment. As in the previous years during 2014 cotton harvest season independent observers have again documented over 10 cases of death in the cotton fields of the people forced to this type of labor mainly because of failing technical and labor security standards, incidents and lack of proper medical treatment. The Uzbek authorities kept harassing local activists and journalists who tried to report on the issue.

We appreciate your attention to these matters and welcome the opportunity to discuss them with you.

Sincerely,
Mutabar Tadjibayeva
President of International Human Rights
Association “Fiery Hearts Club”