Posts Tagged ‘court’

Important legal victory for land rights defenders in UK Court

April 11, 2019

Vedanta building in India
Image copyright VEDANTA

On 10 April 2019, BBC and others reported on a landmark judgement in the UK that could have big implications for others cases in which human rights defenders seek compensation from multinationals. Nearly 2,000 Zambian villagers have won the right to sue mining giant Vedanta over alleged pollution, the UK Supreme Court has ruled. The landmark judgement means other communities in developing countries could seek similar redress in the UK.

Zambian villagers have been fighting for the right to seek compensation in British courts for several years. Vedanta had argued that the case should be heard in Zambia. The UK Supreme Court disagreed, saying that the case must proceed in the UK, due to “the problem of access to justice” in Zambia. The case relates to allegations by villagers living near the huge Nchanga Copper mine, owned by Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), a subsidiary of UK-based Vedanta. Vedanta said: “The judgment of the UK Supreme Court is a procedural one and relates only to the jurisdiction of the English court to hear these claims. It is not a judgment on the merits of the claims.

Martyn Day, senior partner at law firm Leigh Day, which is representing the Zambian villagers, said: “I hope this judgment will send a strong message to other large multinationals that their CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility]. policies should not just be seen as a polish for their reputation but as important commitments that they must put into action.

[In 2015, Zambian villagers accused Vedanta of poisoning their water sources and destroying farmland. Leaked documents seen by the BBC appeared to show that KCM had been spilling sulphuric acid and other toxic chemicals into the water sources. …In India’s Tamil Nadu state, a Vedanta-owned copper smelting plant was closed by authorities in May 2018.]

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/23/human-rights-council-recognises-vital-role-of-environmental-human-rights-defenders/

World Check’s ‘terrorist’ labeling exposed as biased  

January 22, 2019

In a case before a British high court World-Check, a subsidiary of Reuters, was forced to pay compensation and offer an apology to a pro-Palestine organisation which it had listed as a terrorist group on its global online database. The case may have broad ramifications for hundreds of others, both individuals and organisations, that may have been placed on World-Check’s list without their knowledge [In fact there have been several cases including that of a British mosque which also won an apology and compensation after being designated “terrorists” by the risk screening agency].

The Middle East Monitor of 21 January 2019 gives details on the case of Majed Al-Zeer, the chairman of the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC), which have both been classified as “terrorists”.

Majed Al-Zeer, the chairman of the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC)

Majed Al-Zeer (C) the chairman of the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC)

A two-year legal battle concluded with World-Check offering a public apology in open court and a legal settlement of $13,000 plus legal costs. World-Check supplies private information on potential clients for corporations, businesses and even governmental agencies, such as police and immigration. With more than 4,500 clients including 49 of the world’s 50 largest banks and 200 law enforcement and regulatory agencies, World-Check has become essential in satisfying statutory requirements towards due diligence obligations. However their failure to carry out satisfactory checks and independent verification has raised concerns over the misuse and falsification of data that can have severe consequences for victims.

Declaring his victory over World Check service today at a London press conference as “a precedent for those who are on the forefront of human rights and justice” Al-Zeer said he had been a “victim of an organised campaign waged by Israel and its spin machine of propaganda and false information.”

[The PRC has been granted consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council. Over the past 30 years the centre has advocated for Palestinian refugees at international forums like the UN and EU. In addition to producing reports on the situation of Palestinian refugees; hosting conferences to defend their human rights, the UK organisation has been leading parliamentary delegations to refugee camps across the Middle East. Following Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in 2009 during operation “Cast Lead” in which 1,400 Palestinians were killed and thousands more were wounded, the centre organised the largest European parliamentary delegation to the besieged enclave.]

Al-Zeer’s lawyers described the victory as “shedding light into the secretive and unknown world of regulatory agencies” and the potential for their abuse. During their press conference, both expressed the urgent need to develop mechanisms for independent verification of entries that may have a “crippling effect” on people’s lives. “Such a company has a moral and ethical duty (at least from the perspective of the Media) to provide its clients with verified and real information,” said Al-Zeer, “yet, it has chosen to ignore that and stuff its database with merely politically motivated information.”….

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190121-pro-palestine-group-wins-uk-high-court-battle-over-terrorist-label/

Ahmed H. personifies the real danger of populist anti-terror measures!!

March 19, 2018

During an electoral campaign dominated by anti-migrant rhetoric, a Hungarian court has upheld a shocking verdict of terrorism against a Syrian citizen (Ahmed H.) and the symbolism is lost on no one [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/28/un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-in-last-council-statement-does-not-mince-words/]. On 19 March 2018, Maxim Edwards (a journalist writing on Central and Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet space – currently assistant editor at OCCRP in Sarajevo) published a fascinating insight into how ill-defined terrorism laws and anti-immigrant hype (in Hungary in this case) can lead to upholding a verdict of terrorism against a Syrian refugee.

Ahmed H. in the courtroom during the second-instance trial. Photo courtesy of Amnesty International / Anna Viktória Pál.

For Hungary to achieve anything in the next four years, we must not let in a single migrant” began Viktor Orbán in a speech earlier this month. ..

For Budapest, migration means terrorism — a commonsensical link reinforced daily by pro-government media and initiatives such as the state’s Public Consultation on Immigration and Terrorism. Leaflets for the May 2015 referendum on acceptance of refugees featured maps of “no go areas” across western Europe and shocking statistics about “murder by migrant.”

And now, the government has its very own case study. Last Wednesday, a Hungarian court upheld a verdict against a Syrian citizen accused of a terrorist act carried out at the Serbian border in 2015. After already spending two and a half years behind bars, Ahmed H. has been sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment and a ten year ban on entering Hungary.

 .

……

This was due to the elastic definition of terrorist acts in the Hungarian criminal code. Article 314A defines terrorism as, among other things, “coercing a government agency, state, or international body to do or not to do something”. Consequently, Ahmed’s alleged demand by megaphone that the Hungarian border police open the gates was enough to convict him of an act of terrorism.

(Ahmed was also charged with illegal entry into Hungary as part of a mass riot, an administrative violation which carries a minimum sentence of five years. He did not contest the charge that he threw objects at the police, which alone cannot constitute a terrorist threat even in the most elastic of interpretations.)

….
In a final twist to this story, Ahmed’s other relatives made it to an EU country, where they now live in safety. Ahmed H. himself, probably one of the only people in the crowd at Röszke who could legally enter Hungary, had succeeded in his errand — at the cost of over ten years of his life.

Please read the full story that contains lots of interesting detailshttp://neweasterneurope.eu/2018/03/19/trials-ahmed-h/

Columbia University opens prize nominations for “court rulings” and “legal services” supporting freedom of expression

October 24, 2017

Columbia University has opened 2018 prize nominations for judicial services and legal decisions supporting freedom of expression. What is a bit special about these awards is that they go to ‘court rulings” and “legal services” in the area of freedom of expression.

The Global Freedom of Expression initiative at Columbia University in New York City has opened nominations for its 2018 global prizes, which recognize judicial decisions and legal services strengthening freedom of expression through the promotion of international standards.

The initiative “seeks to advance understanding of the international and national norms and institutions that best protect the free flow of information and expression in an inter-connected global community with major common challenges to address.” It awards the Global Freedom of Expression Prizes, which began in 2014, every two years. “We believe that at a time when freedom of expression is threatened at a global level, there is a particular need to celebrate the victories in defense of this fundamental right”. Individuals and organizations, particularly jurists, academics and non-governmental organizations dedicated to freedom of expression, are invited to nominate court decisions or legal services from anywhere around the globe that “have had a recognizable impact on freedom of expression.” There will be separate prizes for “Court decision” and “Legal Service.” In the Legal Service Category, the awards will consider legal briefs, amicus briefs, academic or other publications.

See also: http://thedigestapp.trueheroesfilms.org/publicpage#/awards/c94fef00-b8a0-11e7-a2a0-d7e205af50d9/Columbia-Global-Freedom-of-Expression-Prizes

Nominations will close Jan. 31, 2018 and winners will be announced March 13. Forms are available in both English and Spanish.

Members of the Awards Committee are: Lee C. Bollinger, President of Columbia University; Catalina Botero, former Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States; Nicolas Bratza, former President of the European Court of Human Rights; Lydia Cacho, journalist, human rights defender and author; Agnes Callamard, Director of the Columbia Global Freedom of Expression initiative; Sarah Cleveland, Louis Henkin Professor of Human and Constitutional Rights and member of the UN Human Rights Committee; and Irene Khan, Director-General of the International Development Law Organization.

The winners of the 2016 prize for Excellence in Legal Services were Professor Yaman Akdeniz, Assistant Professor Kerem Altiparmak and Attorney at Law Serkan Cengiz for fighting a court order blocking access to YouTube in Turkey. That same year, the prize for a Significant Legal Ruling was awarded for Supreme Court of Norway, Rolfsen and Association of Norwegian Editors v. the Norwegian Prosecution Authority. The court backed broad protection against journalists being forced to expose their sources.

Source: Columbia University opens 2018 prize nominations for judicial services and legal decisions supporting freedom of expression | Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas

Cambodian MEA Laureate 2012 Luon Sovath charged with incitement

November 5, 2014

 
cambodia-luon-sovath-award-oct-2012.jpg

(Luon Sovath after receiving the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in Geneva on 2 October 2012; left myself.  AFP)
 On 4 November Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports that two outspoken critics of Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen are called to court this month on vague charges of “incitement to commit a crime,” but the defendants say they have done nothing illegal. It concerns the human rights defender and monk Luon Sovath (MEA Laureate 2012) and dissident Sourn Serey Ratha (based in the USA). They received summons dated 22 October (!) signed by Phnom Penh Municipal Court deputy prosecutor Meas Chanpeseth accusing then of “incitement to commit crimes in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and abroad” in 2011, under Penal Code article 495, but the summonses, which ordered the two men to appear in court together in the capital on 25 November, do not specify what crimes they had incited or how their cases were linked.

[Under the Penal Code, incitement is vaguely defined in article 495 as directly provoking the commission of a crime or an act that creates “serious turmoil in society” through public speech, writings or drawings, or audio-visual telecommunication. Luon Sovath faces up to five years in prison if convicted, while Sourn Serey Ratha faces a total maximum punishment of 15 years.]

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Judicial harassment of human rights defender Dimitras in Greece

February 1, 2014

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), a member of OMCT SOS-Torture network, about the ongoing judicial harassment against Panayote Dimitras, GHM Spokesperson. According to the information received, on 14 January 2014, Mr. Panayote Dimitras received an indictment from the Misdemeanours Prosecutor of Athens, summoning him on 27 February 27 before the Court to stand trial on charges of “perjury” and “defamation” of Mr. Konstantinos Plevris, a member lawyer of the Athens Bar Association.

The  accusation relates Panayote Dimitras’ statement as a witness before the First Chamber of the Five Members Appeals Court of Athens on 23 January  2009, during a hearing of a case against Mr. Konstantinos Plevris, who then stood accused of racial discrimination”. During the hearing, Mr. Dimitras testified that “during the last two months Mr. Plevris ha[d]threatened [his] life”. Yet the indictment accuses Mr. Dimitras of making a false statement that could harm the honour and reputation of Mr. Plevris while knowing that it was untrue.

The International Secretariat of OMCT is concerned that Mr. Panayote Dimitras received this indictment merely one week before the charges become time-barred. Although the events took place in January 2009 and a preliminary investigation took place in February 2010, suddenly charges are pressed. The prescription period is now extended by three years.

OMCT is concerned about these new acts of harassment against Mr. Panayote Dimitras, which seems to merely aim at sanctioning his human rights activities, and in particular his activities against discrimination, anti-Semitism and minority rights in Greece, and calls upon the Greek authorities to ensure that he is able to carry out his legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.  OMCT recalls that this is not the first time that Panayote Dimitras is facing judicial harassment by Konstantinos Plevris, who has been referred to trial several times for, among others, violation of [anti-racism] Law 927/79, concurrent aggravated defamation, and false accusation following GHM complaints.

For more on this procedurally complex but interesting case see:

Greece: Ongoing judicial harassment against human rights defender Mr. Panayote Dimitras / January 30, 2014 / Urgent Interventions / Human rights defenders / OMCT.

In Kenya two women human rights defenders WANT to go to court on 26 February

February 25, 2013

This interesting story starts in February 2011 with a peaceful demonstration against deaths of pregnant women at the Huruma Nursing Home, a hospital serving Huruma, one of the major slums in Nairobi. Two human rights defenders, Ruth Mumbi and Ms Victoria Atieno, were accused of incitement to violence. Their case has dragged on for 2 years with at least 5 adjournments triggered by the absence at the trial of the administrator of Huruma Nursing Home, both a key witness and complainant. During the latest hearing on 21 February 2013, the administrator of Huruma Nursing Home turned up at the Court. However, this was a new administrator who replaced the person who managed the establishment at the time when the protest took place. As the judge raised questions about this change of witness, the administrator responded that the sole purpose of his presence at Makadara Law Courts was to present Huruma Nursing Home’s desire that the case be dismissed! The judge interestingly decided to allow the accused human rights defenders to express their opinion on it. On 26 February 2013 (tomorrow), Ruth Mumbi and Victoria Atieno hope to tell how they were victims of malicious prosecution and file a lawsuit to claim damages. And on top of this a great occasion to alert the public about poor health services!

The case against Ruth Mumbi and Victoria Atieno was referred to in an urgent appeal http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/20473 on 30 October 2012. Frontline NEWlogo-2 full version - cropped

 

Human Rights Groups Welcome Spanish Court’s Decision to Acquit Judge Baltasar Garzón

February 28, 2012

On 27 February 2012 an impressive array of international NGOs welcomed the decision by the Criminal Chamber of the Spanish Supreme Court to acquit the judge and human rights defender Baltasar Garzón. The organizations include: the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC), the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), Asociación pro Derechos Humanos de España (APDHE), Asociación Española para el Derecho Internacional de los Derechos Humanos (AEDIDH), the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF) and Rights International Spain (RIS). The stated: “… We have previously issued a statement https://docs.google.com/file/d/0ByBM8_x9YdxiOTllZTE4YzYtNGQ1Mi00NGQ1LWJlNTgtMDhjNDliMDE4MzYx/edit?pli=1 warning the international community and Spanish society of the danger that the process posed to both judicial independence and access to justice for victims of crimes committed during the Spanish Civil War and the Franco regime. We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to finally acquit Judge Baltasar Garzón of the malfeasance charges against him. However, at the same time, we strongly reaffirm that grave damage has been done to both Judge Garzón and judicial independence more broadly. Judge Garzón should never have been prosecuted for complying with the clear obligation under international law to investigate grave violations of human rights.”

 

The organizations added that the critical question that motivated the prosecution of Judge Garzón has not been adequately answered: “Who has the legal authority to investigate crimes committed during the Spanish Civil War and the Franco regime?” “We remind the Supreme Court of its obligation to rule on this issue of legal authority or competency raised before it. Determination of this pressing issue was inexplicably subordinated to the malfeasance prosecution against Judge Garzón and as a result has unjustifiably remained pending for over two years. Our organizations call on the Supreme Court to consider and determine, in accordance with its constitutional mandate and principles of international law, what courts have the authority to investigate and provide effective remedy for the 114,266 enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings committed during the Civil War and Franco regime that followed. We also call on the Court to confirm the applicability of national and international law to the investigation and redress of these and other serious crimes against international law.”

 

Along with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Committee, the NGOs call on Spain to repeal its 1977 Amnesty Law as it violates the international law obligations Spain has assumed since that year and the Spanish Constitution itself (articles 1.1, 9, 10.2, 95 and 96).  

Spain: Human Rights Groups Welcome Spanish Court’s Decision to Acquit Judge Baltasar Garzón / February 27, 2012 / Urgent Interventions / Human rights defenders / OMCT.