Posts Tagged ‘corruption’

Allard Prize for International Integrity 2019: nominations close on 15 January

January 2, 2019

The Allard Prize for International Integrity (CAD $100,000) goes to an individual, movement or organization that has demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in combating corruption or protecting human rights, especially through promoting transparency, accountability and the Rule of Law. For more information on this and other awards see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/allard-prize-for-international-integrity

The deadline is on January 15, 2019.

Visit the Submissions Page to apply.

You can visit the official page of the Allard Prize for more information

Democracy activist Nurul Izzah Anwar talks about Malaysia

May 31, 2015

On 26 May 2015, Nurul Izzah Anwar, Malaysian MP and daughter of imprisoned opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, spoke at the Oslo Freedom Forum. In this video he describes how she was drawn into the opposition movement in Malaysia. She tells us about rampant government corruption, the country’s defunct judicial system, and how the government targets dissidents and attempts to limit change. Anwar explains how the lack of genuine parliamentary immunity prevents Malaysian politicians from speaking against the government. She reminds us that “Malaysia’s most wanted” are the activists that challenge the government, and expresses the hope that Malaysia’s future belongs to those seeking a more democratic and fair country.

Human Rights Defenders and Anti-Corruption campaigners should join hands

January 29, 2015

Jamil Nasir, a graduate of Columbia University, wrote on 10 December 2014 a short piece on the link between human rights and corruption: “The corruption link”. The author concludes that “Human rights defenders should not consider themselves just as activists; similarly anti-corruption champions should also not limit themselves like that. A bridge needs to be built between human rights and anti-corruption activists.” The article follows below in full:
The world celebrates ‘Anti-corruption Day’ and ‘Human Rights Day’ on December 9 and 10, respectively. Corruption and human rights are inextricably linked, but these linkages are not emphasised much in literature or discourse on corruption. The detrimental impact of corruption on economic growth and development is now well documented. It is a fact that corruption kills the incentive system, distorts technology choices, misallocates talent, promotes tax evasion and retards economic growth.And how does corruption impact human rights? First, it reduces the capacity of the state to protect, respect, and enforce its obligations with regard to the fundamental human rights enshrined in the social contract between the citizens and the state. For example, ‘access to justice’ and ‘security of life, property and honour’ are fundamental human rights. Can these rights be protected with a corruption-ridden judicial and police system? Our own current system is a pertinent example.Corruption in the judiciary and the police is not a secret in our country. When we talk of corruption in the judicial system, it does not mean prismatic decisions and judgements only. Granting adjournments to benefit one of the parties to a dispute is also corruption. When it comes to the police, corruption is not about flawed investigations but also non-submission of challans in the court on time. Consequently, the weaker party gets so disillusioned that it either does not pursue the case or enters into forced compromise.

Thus corruption affects fundamental rights as well as procedural rights like due process – the. right not to have undue delay in court proceedings and the right to a fair trial. Is it not corruption that has reduced the capacity of our state to enforce fundamental human rights? Have the court and police systems not become dysfunctional? Are these institutions not making the people poor rather than providing them quick justice?

This corruption lowers economic development and undermines poverty alleviation. The social contract obligates that the state should provide an environment where people can realise their full potential. Is such an environment possible without adequate resources with the state? Corruption reduces the level of revenues which consequently reduce the capacity of the state to fund basic social services. Again, Pakistan is a pertinent case. Due to corruption, tax evasion is rampant. Corruption also affects targeting of social programmes. If corrupt practices are pervasive, leakages in such programmes will usually be high. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the money allocated for various social spending and poverty alleviation programmes have not reached the intended targets. A substantial percentage of such funding was squandered away during the process of distribution. Further, targeting of the poor was riddled with nepotism and patronage.

Moreover, corruption enhances the operating costs of the government and reduces the resources available for social spending. The budget for the health and education sectors gets squeezed. It is an open secret now that the major chunk of the funds allocated for development of infrastructure like roads, schools and hospital buildings is eaten into by corruption in the form of commissions and kickbacks by the engineers, contractors and construction companies. And so corruption undermines development, deepens poverty and exacerbates other human rights violations.

Corruption can also violate human rights directly. If a corrupt judge takes a bribe to decide a case against an individual or a corrupt police officer takes a bribe not to properly investigate, that corruption directly violates human rights like the right to a fair trial. Corruption can manifest itself as the worst abuse of human dignity and rights.

One of the reports of Transparency International mentions a local public hospital in Zimbabwe whose nurses charged $5 every time the mother screamed while giving birth to a baby. This amount was charged as a penalty for raising alarm. Those women who were unable to pay the delivery fee were detained at the hospital until they had settled the debt. In this way, they were held hostage by the corruption prevalent in the hospital.

Corruption particularly targets the poor. For example, if a rickshaw driver or a street vendor pays a meagre amount of bribe (assume Rs100) to a policeman to avoid harassment, the impact on these poor chaps will be deep and severe since even Rs100 constitutes a major chunk of their daily income. It is not a big amount in absolute terms but it eats into their already tight budget. Compared with the daily income of the wage earners, the impact of this seemingly little amount can be well imagined on the household budget of the poor.

On the other hand, if a businessman pays – assume Rs100,000 – to a tax collector, he will get enormous personal benefit. But due to this collusion of the tax evader and the tax collector, millions of rupees will be dribbled through corruption. The taxes evaded due to this under the table deal, if properly collected, could be utilised for developing infrastructure, transfer payments or spent on poverty alleviation programmes.

This simple illustration shows that corruption adversely affects the poor. Second, it may also benefit the rich which is perhaps one explanation of the tolerance of the rich and the elite towards corruption in society. According to Professor Pranab Bardhan, corruption feeds on itself due to a variety of reasons. First, it is beneficial for the payer and the payee. Second, it is so entrenched that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Third, once corruption takes root in society, it is exceedingly difficult to eliminate.

It is time the discourse on corruption included the human rights perspective. A clear understanding between corruption and human rights can empower both human rights activists and those working against corruption. If linkages between corruption and rights become part of the narrative on corruption, attitudes will change. When people become more aware of the damage corruption causes to their fundamental rights, they are more likely to support campaigns against corruption. This new discourse can persuade key actors like judges, parliamentarians, lawyers, media and the public at large to take a strong stand against corruption. Connecting corruption to human rights violations means that acts of corruption can be challenged in a court of law as violation of fundamental human rights.

Weak human rights protection creates possibilities for corruption which also means that the promotion of human rights can be one of the tools against corruption. For example, promotion of the right to freedom of expression and information can go a long way in combating corruption in society. The right to information is critical in the fight against corruption.

Human rights defenders should not consider themselves just as activists; similarly anti-corruption champions should also not limit themselves like that. A bridge needs to be built between human rights and anti-corruption activists. This will be possible once the dots are connected and linkages between corruption and human rights are consciously explored for a joint struggle. Both human rights organisations and anti-corruption agencies should make a resolve to work together. The fight against corruption and the promotion of human rights are too important to be left to disjointed endeavours.”

The corruption link – Jamil Nasir.

Azerbaijan: a hot summer in summary

August 18, 2014

An array of international human rights organisations have over the last weeks focused on Azerbaijan. These four reports together give a shocking picture of the kind of repression that awaits human rights defenders: Read the rest of this entry »

BANGLADESH: Chains of Corruption Strangle Nation — Asian Human Rights Commission

May 12, 2014

To better understand the climate of lawlessness in which the Final Nominee of the MEA 2014, Adilur of ODHIKAR, has to operate, please read the detailed statement below by the Asian Human Rights Commission. It tells how seven men, including a lawyer and city councillor, have been murdered in cold blood, mostly likely by the infamous Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) in Bangladesh. I decided not to shortened it:

“The rule of law does not exist in Bangladesh. The way the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) abducted seven men, including a senior lawyer and a member of the mayoral panel of the Narayanganj City Corporation (NCC), on 27 April 2014, and murdered them, allegedly on behalf of a feuding faction of the ruling party, in exchange for a 60 million Taka (US$ 774,000) bribe, is proof yet again of this fact. The role of family members of a cabinet minister in masterminding the operation, police inaction in the face of knowledge of the abduction, and eyewash gestures at the highest levels of government confirm fears. The politics of blood and wealth reign supreme in Bangladesh; there is no space for the rule of law. A ‘chain of corruption’ has replaced the ‘chain of command’ in Bangladesh’s law-enforcement system, and the people are forced to pay more to the law enforcers than they do their government (For further details, please see an earlier statement on the subject).

On 27 April 2014, Mr. Md. Nazrul Islam, a Councillor of the NCC, approached the district’s Sessions Court to seek permanent bail in a case filed against him and his followers by political opponents, the Bangladesh Awami League, i.e. the ruling party.

At the court premises, Nazrul was under constant surveillance by plain-clothed members of the RAB. Nazrul’s associates caught one of the plain-clothed men, who happened to be armed, and handed him to the on-duty police officers at the court. The police released the man following intervention by a uniformed RAB officer, who came to rescue his colleague. Vehicles with “‘RAB-11’ signs were also noticed parked in front of the court.

By 12:30 p.m., Nazrul and fifteen more persons, who were all accused in the same case, managed to get bail from the court. After a while, Nazrul, along with three associates and his car driver, left the court. Their car began heading towards Dhaka through the Dhaka-Narayanganj Link Road. Mr. Chandan Kumar Sarker, a senior lawyer of the Narayanganj Bar Association, whose car followed that of Nazrul, left the court for lunch at his home, located adjacent to the Dhaka-Narayanganj Link Road.

The RAB team abducted Nazrul and his associates, allegedly from a place called Lamapara. Chandan’s car is reported to have arrived at the scene right when Nazrul and his associates were being abducted by the RAB. So there would be not witnesses to the abduction, the RAB team abducted Chandan and his car driver too.

Within 24 hours of the abduction, Chandan’s car was found at the Gulshan Niketan area of Dhaka, while the car carrying Nazrul and his associates was found at Rajendrapur, Gazipur District, where a cantonment is situated. After three days, on 30 April, dead bodies of six of the seven men were found floating in the Shitalakkhaya river, adjacent to Narayanganj. The seventh body was found in the same river on 1 May. Each dead body had 24 bricks fastened to it, 12 in the front and 12 in the back. The bricks were placed in ration bags, similar to those distributed among security forces.

The Civil Surgeon of Narayanganj district, who headed the team that conducted the autopsy on the dead bodies, told the media that all the seven victims were hit in the head before they were strangulated. The injuries on most bodies appeared similar; Nazrul’s body had additional injury marks. The abdomens of all seven bodies were perforated, so that the bodies would not float. However, the jute ropes used in fastening the dead bodies rotted under water and gave way. As a result, the dead bodies surfaced. The Civil Surgeon said that he believed “only professional, skilled and trained people could have carried out such an act.

The police officers later admitted to the media and local human rights defenders that they came to know about the abduction of seven people, including Nazrul Islam and Chandan Sarker, soon after the incidents occurred. However, the police did not take any action. The police did not include the names of any RAB officers in the complaint regarding Nazrul’s disappearance. This is the kind of immunity enjoyed by criminals in the RAB, and the goons of the ruling parties of Bangladesh. The deliberate avoidance of the police, other units of RAB and all the agencies in rescuing the abducted men alive also indicates the level of lawlessness that plagues the country.

Lt. Col. Tareque Sayeed Mohammad, Commander of RAB-11, based in Narayanganj, is married to a daughter of Mr. Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury (Maya), a cabinet minister of the incumbent regime. The RAB-11 Commander and his brother-in-law, Mr. Sajedul Islam Chowdhury, also known as Dipu Chowdhury (son of Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury), who is a business partner of NCC Councillor Nur Hossain, allegedly planned the abduction and disappearance of Nazrul, as a result of enmity between Nazrul and Nur, with Nur, allegedly, being a goon of Mr. Shamim Osman.

Mr. Shamim Osman, a Member of Parliament from Narayanganj district won his seat uncontested in the January 5th fake parliamentary election (For further details, please seeAHRC’s statement on the fake general elections in Bangladesh here). Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina backs Mr. Osman; he has even claimed, in a press briefing, that he informed the Sheikh Hasina over telephone within ten minutes of the RAB abduction. Sheikh Hasina, who also happens to be the nation’s Home Minister, has not denied Shamim’s version of events.

The Prime Minister and Home Minister Sheikh Hasina took no action to save the lives of the abducted seven. Her hands are stained with the blood of these seven victims. Following continued public protest, the government withdrew top officials from Narayanganj district two days after the disappearance of the seven men. The officers include the Deputy Commissioner (DC), the Superintendent of Police (SP), and three officers of the RAB-11, namely Lt. Col. Tareque Sayeed Mohammad, Major Arif Hossain, and Lt. Commander SM Masud Rana. The three military officers were deputed back to their original units in the army and navy. On 5 May, the government announced that these three military officers had been given forced retirements. The government has, however, not frozen their bank accounts or arrested any of the officers.

Since the abduction and disappearance of the seven men, a number of people took to the streets around Narayanganj and other parts of the country. The district Bar Association continuously staged protests demanding the return of their member, Mr. Chandan Kumar Sarker. The lawyers called for a general strike in the district, which was supported by different Bar Associations in Bangladesh. Public protests have not stopped.

The Narayanganj Bar Association, along with another organisation and the son-in-law of slain lawyer Chandan Kumar Sarker, has filed a writ petition with the High Court Division demanding the arrest of the military officers.

On 11 May 2014, a High Court Bench has directed the government and the Inspector General of Bangladesh Police to arrest the three military officers. Two of the officers are reportedly being housed in the Logistic Area of the Dhaka Cantonment. The High Court has also asked the authorities to explain why they would not be directed to “effectively consider an amendment to the existing law(s) regulating professional activities of the police, RAB and other law enforcement agencies aiming at updating their various legal provisions relating to their duties and responsibilities towards ensuring effective enjoyment of the citizens’ rights enshrined Article 31, 32, 36, 42 and 44 of the constitution.

The court has reportedly asked the authorities to explain why the government would not be directed to ensure ‘uninfluenced’ and ‘unbiased’ investigation into the murders. The authorities have also been asked why the government would not be directed to “oversee the performance of the law enforcement agencies in view of human rights“. Secretaries to the home, law, and public administration ministries, the National Human Rights Commission chairman, and the Inspector General of Police have been asked to reply in four weeks. The police have not yet identified all the alleged RAB perpetrators and no RAB official has yet been accused in the cases filed regarding the seven victims.

Could this abduction and murder of seven men have been committed by but three officers? It is likely that more than a dozen RAB personnel were involved in the crime; this is something the government has been trying ignore. Bangladeshis know that the officers of the military and paramilitary forces – such as the Bangladesh Army, the RAB, and the police – enjoy impunity for the crimes they commit. Officers of the armed forces and ruling politicians and their associates and families are understood to be above Bangladesh’s Constitution and other domestic laws while the party is in power.

Everyday, citizens are abducted by plain clothed men claiming to be the officers of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and the Detective Branch (DB) of Police. No such incident has been met with a credible investigation. Citizen questions about the abductions, which are followed by either disappearance or the recovery of dead bodies, have not been answered.

In few incidences the abductees have been found alive, following temporary disappearance. These victims and their families are usually more scared than ever. Nobody dares to share the true stories of their abduction, either publicly or privately, on fear of extrajudicial execution, and with an understanding that an official complaint will come to nothing. On the other hand, law-enforcement agencies continue to blame ‘criminals’ for such abductions and disappearances.

The people of Bangladesh have been demanding that the RAB be disbanded immediately for its utter failure in acting under the purview of the laws of the land. Instead, the RAB, which claims to be an ‘elite force’, has always blamed ‘criminals’ for gross violation of human rights, such as the extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances. If the RAB’s job is to blame ‘criminals’ for committing crimes like abduction and disappearance, criminals that use similar uniforms, vehicles, and mien across the country, then what kind of elite force is the RAB? The Asian Human Rights Commission and its sister organisation the Asian Legal Resource Centre recommended in 2006 that the government of Bangladesh disband the RAB. At that time, a Special Report titled “Lawless law-enforcement and the parody of judiciary in Bangladesh” was published in article2. The AHRC reiterates that the RAB should be disbanded, immediately, joining voices in Bangladesh making this demand at present.

The discourse regarding abduction, disappearance, and extrajudicial executions should not focus on only the seven victims of Narayanganj, i.e. on event reporting. There are so many names like Mohammad Salim Mian, Imam Hossain Badal, Chowdhury Alam, M. Ilias Ali, who have been victim to enforced disappearance. In last eight years, hundreds of people have been disappeared. The discourse must include all these victims. None of their families have received any answer from the government or justice through the judiciary. The people have to find a way to bring the rule of law to Bangladesh. Presently, law-enforcement agencies do not comply with the system of rule of law. It is the chains of corruption that are being complied with. And, it is these chains of corruption that are strangling the nation and mangling the fate of rule of law, against the people’s aspirations.”

 

BANGLADESH: Chains of Corruption Strangle Nation — Asian Human Rights Commission.

Human Rights Defenders in Goa take on illegal Russian business in tourism

February 23, 2014

An interesting illustration of what kind of issues human rights defenders could get involved in can be found in the Times of India of 23 February 2014:  The local NGO “Human Rights Defenders ” accuses the authorities of turning a blind eye on Russians who are operating several illegal travel agencies and wedding companies in Goa.  Despite numerous complaints, government authorities are not taking any action thereby causing loss of revenue to the state and affecting the livelihoods of locals. In a recent complaint to the tourism director, the Human Rights Defenders cited the names of several travel agencies allegedly run by Russians without registering with the tourism department and without complying with the laws. Briefing journalists, John Mascarenhas, President of the Human Rights Defenders South Goa district, accused tourism minister Dilip Parulekar of failing to keep his promise to stop all illegalities.

via Tourism dept supporting illegal Russian business: NGO – The Times of India.

UN criticises China’s rights record at Geneva UPR meeting

October 23, 2013

On 22 October the BBC and others reported that many member states of the UN Human Rights Council expressed concern at the arrest of dissidents, the continued use of the death penalty and the use of torture in prison, but Chinese officials maintained major progress had been made in improving social and economic rights.  Julie de Rivero, of Human Rights Watch, told the BBC that China’s focus on economic progress was a way of avoiding the real issues: “The question is why does China continue to torture people in prisons and why is it systematic? Why do they not allow human rights defenders to raise questions that party members are even raising, about corruption? When it comes from the mouth of a human rights defender it earns them a place in prison”. Members of the UN panel also expressed concern about the treatment of a number of Chinese human rights activists in recent weeks.

Students for a Free Tibet banner
(Activists from Students for a Free Tibet defied security to display a banner
on scaffolding in front of the United Nations (via BBC))

Under the UPR system, all UN member states undergo the review by the UN once every four years. [The UN panel – with a rotating membership of 47 states that does not currently include China – has no binding powers.]  The report on China is expected later this week.

via BBC News – UN criticises Chinas rights record at Geneva meeting.

 

Asian Human Rights Commission calls on India to ensure safety of HRDs in Madhya Pradesh

March 8, 2013

The local NGO Samaj Chetna Adhikar Manch has been working in 20 villages in Madhya Pradesh, India, and has been in the forefront of the struggles to end malnutrition from the area as well as widespread corruption in welfare schemes that defeats all attempts of snatching the children away from the death trap of absolute poverty induced malnutrition. The organisation has earned the ire of the local goons because of its complaint to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) that led to an enquiry and consequent dismissal of those responsible for irregularities. The relatives of those dismissed are now harassing and threatening the activists with dire consequences.

The continuing harassment and brazen attacks on the activists of the organisation despite the local administration being aware of the threats is akin to criminal negligence and points to complicity with the accused. T

A call for action and further details you can find in: Urgent Appeal of 8 March 2013 http://www.humanrights.asia/news/urgent-appeals/AHRC-UAC-039-2013

 

Honduras in video: “The Law of the Strongest” screening on 6 March in Geneva

March 1, 2013

Protection International – based in Brussels – announces the launch of its new documentary, The Law of the Strongest, an in-depth account of the work of Honduran human rights defenders and the many challenges they face. You can watch it now at http://vimeo.com/58640439 (Spanish version with English subtitles). On 6 March 2013, The Law of the Strongest will be screened in Geneva.

“In this country, everything is being sold : water, earth and even oxygen” says Salvador Zúñiga, leader of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) standing on a muddy road. Behind him, a no-trespassing sign bars the way to a dam construction project. This project will not benefit the local population, but only the private interests”.

Like other members of his organization, Salvador Zuñiga denounces judicial harassment, threats and attempted corruption aimed at putting an end to their peaceful resistance to these mega projects.

Pascale Boosten and Eric Juzen, directors at the PI video team, met with COPINH representatives and other human rights defenders in order to produce the documentary, The Law of the Strongest.

Contact : Pascale Boosten, pboosten@protectioninternational.org

Ugandan Human Rights Defenders of TLC: from the frying pan into the fire

January 25, 2013

In January 2013, detained human rights defenders and Twerwaneho Listeners Club (TLC) members Messrs Gerald Kankya, Simon Amanyire and Gilbert Kayondo were released on bail following a decision by the Public Prosecutor that no evidence existed of defamatory statements made by the individuals against Uganda’s First Family.  However,  the human rights defenders immediately faced new charges and are scheduled to report to the Fort Portal Police Station on 30 January 2013 for interrogation. The charges include inciting violence, disseminating harmful propaganda, while other charges relate to funding and the operation of programmes of the organisation. TLC is a non-governmental organisation based in Fort Portal that carries out human rights advocacy and monitoring work, including through radio programmes, with a view to holding public leaders more accountable.

On the afternoon of 22 January 2013, police conducted searches of the offices of TLC and of the residences of Gerald Kankya and Simon Amanyire. Two computers were confiscated from the TLC offices, while during the search of Gerald Kankya’s residence, police barricaded the gate of the residence with their vehicle, blocking Gerald Kankya’s wife from gaining access to her home.  While searching Simon Amanyire’s residence, police confiscated a number of documents.

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped

For more information on this case, see Front Line Defenders’ appeal http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/21363  issued on 23 January 2013, as well as previous urgent appeals and updates documenting instances of harassment of TLC members.