Posts Tagged ‘death’

Liu Xiaobo: a giant human rights defender leaves a lasting legacy for China and the rest of the world

July 13, 2017

USA AI then mentions some of the many other HRDs who under the leadership of President Xi Jinping have suffered persecution:

Ilham Tohti, an economics professor at Minzu University of China in Beijing, was sentenced to life imprisonment for “separatism”. Amnesty International believes that he is in prison for writings posted on the Internet.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/11/hot-news-ilham-tohti-chinas-mandela-wins-2016-martin-ennals-award/]

Women’s rights activist Su Changlan was sentenced in March 2017 to three years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power.”[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/08/amnesty-international-campaigns-with-7-women-who-refuse-to-wait-for-their-rights/]

Human rights lawyers like Jiang Tianyong have been detained, arrested and harassed by government authorities in the last several years. He was formally arrested for “subverting state power” after being detained in an unofficial detention facility for over six months. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/01/human-rights-defenders-issues-on-the-agenda-of-the-next-35th-human-rights-council/]

The reaction of the Chinese government to criticism from abroad over Liu Xiaobo’s treatment is by the way typical. See e.g. in the Strait Times of 14 July: “Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang also said China had lodged protests with “certain countries” for interfering in its “judicial sovereignty”…….”Conferring the prize to such a person goes against the purposes of this award. It’s a blasphemy of the peace prize”. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/12/06/china-and-its-amazing-sensitivity-on-human-rights-defenders/]

Source: Liu Xiaobo: A giant of human rights who leaves a lasting legacy for China and the world – Amnesty International USA

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/china-says-awarding-nobel-peace-prize-to-liu-xiaobo-was-blasphemy

In memoriam Gladys Lanza: one of Honduras finest human rights defenders

September 21, 2016

On 20 September 2016 Gladys Lanza (), one of Honduras most outstanding human rights defenders, passed away. With this video Front Line wants to help her struggle to continue. Honduras remains in the top list of places where human rights defenders are persecuted and attacked. See: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/honduras-one-of-the-worst-places-to-be-a-human-rights-defender/

www.frontlinedefenders.org

 

Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laureate 1986, dies at the age of 87

July 3, 2016

ASSOCIATED PRESS Holocaust survivor and writer Elie Wiesel died on Saturday aged 87.

Activist and writer Elie Wiesel, the World War Two death camp survivor who won the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize for becoming the life-long voice of millions of Holocaust victims, has died, Israel’s Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem said on Saturday 2 July 2016.  Wiesel, a philosopher, speaker, playwright and professor who also campaigned for the tyrannized and forgotten around the world, was 87.

The Romanian-born Wiesel lived by the credo expressed in “Night,” his landmark story of the Holocaust – “to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”

In awarding the Peace Prize, the Nobel Committee praised Wiesel as a “messenger to mankind” and “one of the most important spiritual leaders and guides in an age when violence, repression and racism continue to characterize the world.” Elie Wiesel went on to receive another 6 human rights awards, including one named after himself.

Source: Elie Wiesel, Holocaust Survivor And Nobel Laureate, Dead At 87

First MEA Laureate, Harry Wu from China, dies at age of 79

April 27, 2016

While waiting for the breaking news of who will be the Final Nominees of the 2016 Martin Ennals Award (in 2 hours) I received the sad news that the first winner of the MEA in 1994, Chinese human rights defender Harry Wu has died at the age of 79.

1994 march Harry Wu first MEA Laureate

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wu at the official award dinner in March 1994

His short bio and a film on his work can be viewed at: http://www.martinennalsaward.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=87&Itemid=120&lang=en

Horn of Africa specialist Martin Hill passes away: great loss to human rights community

January 13, 2015

Martin Hill, for 32 years a senior researcher at AI on the Horn of Africa, has died. He wrote “No redress: Somalia’s forgotten minorities” for the Minority Rights Group and was a founding member of East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network in 2005 in Uganda. Hassan Shire Sheikh, who knew him well personally, published the In Memoriam below:
dr-Hill(Martin Hill on the left, his wife Dawn and the author Hassan Shire Sheikh)

We have lost a figure-father, mentor, a dear friend, and an admired advocate who consistently shed light on human wrongs in the Horn of Africa and sided with those whose rights were violated. Dr. Martin Hill passed away on Friday 9 January 2015. Dr. Hill worked at the Amnesty Secretariat office in London, as a researcher and a campaigner on the Horn of Africa in the human rights field for over 32 years. I first met Dr. Hill in 1989 when he led the first Amnesty International delegation to Somalia during the period of military dictatorship. At sub-regional level where many human rights violations and suffering for the past three decades and lack of attention globally, Dr. Hill brought human rights issues and concerns in the limelight and earned the admiration and love of many people particularly Ethiopians, Eritreans and Somalis. Dr. Hill was a friend to me and to my late uncle, Dr. Ismail Jumale Ossoble, (the only human rights lawyer who consistently defended prisoners of conscience in the dreaded national security court). Dr. Ossoble was a prisoner of conscience himself and was Amnesty International’s principle research contact in Somalia during the 80s and 90s. We subsequently established Dr. Ismail Jumale Human Rights Centre in 1996 and I co-directed the centre for 6 years starting in 1996 before I went into exile. During this period, I was the principle Somali contact for Amnesty International and I worked very closely with Dr. Hill. Dr. Hill worked with us on the protection and promotion of human rights for Somalis including a sign up campaign during the 50th UDHR anniversary celebrations where Dr. Ismail Jumale Centre was able to garner over 1.5 million signatures including first signature by the founding first President, the late Aden Abdulle Osman at his farm in Shalambood District of lower Shabale region, former Prime Ministers, faction leaders, and civil society groups among others. I particularly remember the first human rights defenders training for Somalis that Dr. Hill organized in 1997 in Kenya and I was part of that training. He was instrumental in organizing sub-regional networks consultation meetings to the run up of the All Africa Human Rights Defenders Conference I 1998 and subsequently the global human rights summit in Paris in December 1998. He also supported our research initiative during our initial mission, Africa Human Rights Defenders Project in the East and Horn of Africa while I was at York University. Dr. Hill was present as founding member of East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network in 2005 in Entebbe, Uganda. Dr. Hill will be remembered for his ardent support to human rights in the Horn of Africa. He inspired and mentored so many human rights activists who are now working with prominent human rights organizations around the world. He contributed to the fight against human rights violations and ending the culture of impunity in the sub-region. Our thoughts, and those of the wider human rights community, are with his family and many friends around the world. The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project staff, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network and the Pan Africa Human Rights Defenders Network, extend our sincerest condolences to his wife, Dawn Hill and children.”

Great Loss to the Human Rights Community as Legendary Dr. Martin Hill Passes On | Mareeg Media.

In Memoriam Chan Soveth, Cambodian human rights defender

December 11, 2014

On Human Rights Day, FIDH reports that Chan Soveth, a prominent Cambodian human rights defender, has died at the early age of 51. He was a senior investigator at the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC, a member organization of FIDH). “Chan Soveth was a voice for the voiceless. For decades, he selflessly worked for victims of human rights violations and abuses, in particular the poor and those living in remote areas, which ADHOC managed to reach out to”, said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President. “Soveth’s death is a great loss for his family, his colleagues and Cambodia’s human rights community, but the heritage of courage and commitment he left will last for generations”.

On many occasions, Soveth’s human rights work and personal commitment had caused him to be subjected to threats, intimidation and reprisals in the form of judicial harassment. In 2012, he had been forced to stay outside his country for several months. Upon his return, despite receiving another summon to appear before Cambodia’s flawed judicial system, and thus, despite the risk of being arbitrarily detained, he had decided to stay in Cambodia, amongst his fellow countrymen. Soveth relentlessly fought against human rights violations – from land grabbing and violations of people’s and communities’ rights to food, water or housing, to extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, torture, and violations of the rights to free expression and free assembly. He was not only a great investigator, trainer and human rights advocate, but also an inspiration to many. He was always eager to improve his impressive human rights and professional skills and to celebrate successes.logo FIDH_seul

Cambodia and the community of human rights defenders lose a (…).

more details in: http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/rights-warrior-passes-age-51

Ben Whitaker died: one of the early human rights defenders at the international scene

July 16, 2014

Ben (Benjamin) Whitaker died on 8 June 2014. The memory of the human rights world being notoriously short, there will be many who do not recognize the name of one of the early human rights defenders in the international arena. A UK citizen, in 1965 he spoke out forcefully against detention camps in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), became one of the most activist members of the UN SubCommission in the mid seventies and lead the struggle to have the Armenian Genocide recognised. His 1985 final report on the question of genocide – which only had a brief but controversial mention of the Armenia – was for that reason blocked at the Commission level by Turkey and could not be distributed as such. I was at that time Director of the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights (SIM) and we agreed to publish a few thousand copies of the complete text under his own name.

As his link with the Armenian community was and remained strong, it should not surprise that one of the obituaries was published in DIARIO ARMENIA in Argentina. It was written by Leandro Despouy, President of the Argentine Audit Office and Former president of the SubCommission as well as the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations. Below is the English translation of this piece:

http://www.diarioarmenia.gov.ar:

Benjamin Whitaker, the Argentine dictatorship and the acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide by the United Nations

Ben Whitaker died on June 8th. Predictably, an Armenian friend gave me the news. Whitaker’s name will forever be consistently associated to the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the United Nations. It happened after extensive and difficult sessions, sabotaged by Turkey during fifteen years, which finally materialized in 1985 with the approval of the document that carries his name, the Whitaker Report.

He was a man of remarkable virtues, but two of these: coherence and sense of humour, were present in each and every one of the multiple activities he undertook during his life. Born into an aristocratic family, he made his first political incursions in the north London borough of Hampstead: he won the Hampstead seat for the Labour Party, a seat that had traditionally gone to the Tories for the previous 81 years. He had already graduated from Oxford to the bar, and spoken out vehemently against the local police regime in his book The Police.

Ben remained faithful to his neighbourhood football club throughout his life. An “argumentative idealist” –as he liked to describe himself-, who intensified the campaign for the enforcement of Human Rights worldwide, he battled against discrimination, the death penalty, the criminalization of homosexuality, against the outlawing of adultery and abortion, in favour of environmental care and all the issues that were surfacing with enormous force during the sixties and the seventies of the past century, an era which produced an unprecedented cultural change.

His condemnation, in 1965, of the clandestine detention camps of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) is well-known. He served as consultant for Labour governments and became executive director of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, created by an Armenian in Portugal, which is dedicated to the advancement of the arts, sciences and education. There is no doubt, however, that his better known activity took place in the United Nations, where he was appointed Special Rapporteur of the United Nations SubCommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities -a competent area of independent expertise-, by David Owen, the British Minister of Foreign Affairs of the seventies.

During his time at the SubCommission, after multiple attempts at public accusation, Whitaker, the French ambassador Nicole Questiaux and Theo van Boven managed to unfetter the restraints that the diplomacy of the Argentine dictatorship (Gabriel Martínez, Mario Amadeo) had used to muzzle the accusations – presented  before the United Nations since 1976 -, of murders and disappearances in our country. In 1979, Whitaker delivered a clear message to the effect that countries who exercised terrorism within their territories should not try to use the same methods in the United Nations.

In 1983, the SubCommission and the Human Rights Commission (nowadays Council) entrusted Benjamin Whitaker with a study and revision of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and its relation to the Convention of the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity, in order to insure that Governments would comply with these directives. Whitaker was chosen for this research because of his intellectual stature and his proven integrity; nevertheless, one of the female experts advised him to add a bullet-proof vest to his wardrobe.

In point of fact, two preliminary studies (1973 and 1975) developed by the Rwandan expert Ruhashiankiko, included a paragraph , number 30, which would become renowned because it labeled the Armenian Massacres of 1915 and 1923 as “the first genocide of the twentieth century”. This paragraph raised a storm of great proportions, conducted by the Turkish diplomacy, and had to be suppressed from the final report in 1979. The Rwandan expert vanished from the international arena.

We met at the SubCommission. We were 26 experts. Alfonsin’s administration was just getting started, as was the revolution of the cause of Human Rights. When I was appointed General Rapporteur of the SubCommission in 1984, the project of Whitaker’s excellent Report was being debated. It contained the definition of the Armenian Genocide. I agreed entirely with its contents, but found it difficult, from a political standpoint, to show signs of support and proximity to an Englishman, when the wounds of the Malvinas War were still so fresh. Concurrently, the investigation of the Argentine dictatorship’s crimes and the legal summons issued to the Juntas drew us closer, so we established an undercurrent of mutual sympathy in an almost clandestine fashion, sometimes mediated by the French judge Louis Joinet who was also an expert in the SubCommission. I told him I supported him. By 1985 we already enjoyed a fluid relationship and though the context was not simple, we were able to overcome that contingency; we shared a profound dialogue, and we both had knowledge of the world of the United Nations and Human Rights.

The situation was also very complicated for Whitaker; Margaret Thatcher ruled in Great Britain, her government did not endorse his condition of Rapporteur, and he had to receive the backing of a British NGO in order to finish his mandate at the United Nations. A committed socialist, Whitaker did not support the policies of Thatcher’s administration, and although these circumstances weakened him personally, the forcefulness of his Report made him stronger. That situation was taken advantage of by the Turkish diplomacy, who tried to erase from his Report the paragraph about the Armenian Genocide. During the debate of this issue, I brought up the changes which had taken place in Argentina, our solidarity with the victims of genocides and openly declared that the controversial paragraph must be kept.

In 1985, Whitaker reported to the SubCommission the theft of documents which he was never to recover. In that same session, as General Rapporteur, I pointed out that the expression “genocide” had been replaced by “Armenian question”. In those days, Whitaker received the visit of two Turkish diplomats who tried to dissuade him from continuing with his investigation. But Whitaker was a man of principles, not easily swayed by political pressure. The final approval in 1985 of the historical Report, which has become part of the patrimony of the United Nations, is the culmination of an unprecedented diplomatic battle that produced an important judicial and political impact throughout the world.

Whitaker ended his Report stating that it was necessary to close that chapter of History in an honourable way, and that if the experts did not have the courage to tell the truth, then participating in the SubCommission’s work would be useless, since it was the duty of the SubCommission to protect the victims from the governments and not the other way round.  For ethical reasons and in an act of chivalry, Whitaker abstained from voting for his own Report. When we met again in 1986, during his visit to Buenos Aires, he declared that the approval of the Report had been a good example of Anglo Argentine cooperation. Unknown to the media, he met with Dante Caputo and president Raúl Alfonsín.

He dedicated his last years to painting, and he campaigned to have a statue of George Orwell installed in front of the BBC, where it stands today.

 

 

Russian human rights defender Andrei Mironov meets his death in Ukraine

May 27, 2014

Picture taken May 25 shows the domestic and foreign passports of Russian rights defender Andrei Mironov, who was reportedly killed with Italian journalist, Andrea Rocchelli, near the eastern Ukrainian town of Slavyansk. AFP

(Picture taken May 25 shows the domestic and foreign passports of Russian rights defender Andrei Mironov, reportedly killed near Ukrainian town of Slavyansk. AFP POOL-/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

“It’s hard for me to believe that Andrei Mironov is dead” writes  Olivia Ward, Foreign Affairs Reporter of the Toronto Star on 25 May 2014. Indeed a terrible shock. I met him for the first time in 2004 when he accompanied the MEA Laureate Lida Yusupova of Memorial to the ceremony in Geneva. According to an Agence France- Presse report from Slavyansk, Ukraine, the veteran Russian human rights defender and sometime war zone fixer, used up the last of his nine lives on Sunday. He was acting as a translator for Italian photojournalist Andrea Rocchelli, who was also killed. According to a French photographer who escaped with leg wounds, the two men were hit by shrapnel from mortar shells as government troops and pro-Russian separatists continued to battle for territory in eastern Ukraine.

Olivia Ward describes Andrei as a “slight, self-effacing man of 60, with a puckish sense of humour, he belied his frail appearance with an iron will to do good in the world. In 1986, that got him a year in a Soviet labour camp as an “anti Soviet dissident” – a time he used to channel his talent for languages, including French and Italian. Nor did he let up on government abuses after the fall of the Soviet Union. As a human rights campaigner linked with the venerable rights organization Memorial , he snapped at the heels of Boris Yeltsin’s and Vladimir Putin’s governments, especially during the two bloody wars when Russian troops battled Chechen separatist fighters…..“You don’t understand,” he rasped. “I have to go and witness what is happening. If I don’t, who will?

Andrei dodged so many bullets in his decades of battling impunity that it is hard to believe he is gone. It would be harder still if the truth were buried along with him” concludes Olivia Ward, who covered the former Soviet Union as bureau chief and correspondent from 1992 to 2002. For the full story see:  Death in Ukraine: bitter end for Russian human rights hero | Toronto Star.

 

 

Sudan Human Rights Defender Osman Hummaida passes away

April 23, 2014

On 21 April 2014, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network announced the loss of its founding member, Osman Hummaida. Mr Hummaida, who died of natural causes on Thursday 17th April 2014, was a leading Sudanese human rights defender and an inspiration to countless activists in the international and African human rights community. He advocated for human rights in Sudan, challenging the impunity of those responsible for atrocities carried out against civilians. Forced to leave Sudan, having been detained and tortured on account of his work, Mr Hummaida founded the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies in exile. The Centre’s success and strength in documenting and reporting ongoing human rights violations in the country and advocating for justice is a living testament to Mr Hummaida’s vision and determination.

via Human Rights Defenders Mourn the Loss of Osman Hummaida – East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project.

Death in detention of human rights lawyer Maen Al-Ghoneimi in Syria

April 2, 2014

On 26 March 2014, the family of human rights defender Mr Maen Al-Ghoneimi was informed by the Damascus Military Police in Syria that he had died in detention two months earlier, on 14 January 2014. The police declared that he died of heart failure and delivered to the family the personal possessions of the human rights defender, but refused to disclose where he had been buried. Maen Al-Ghoneimi was a human rights lawyer and a member of the lawyers’ syndicate in Damascus. The human rights defender was an active participant in lawyers’ peaceful protests and sit-ins and provided legal aid to internally displaced people in Syria. Maen Al-Ghoneimi was arrested on 20 May 2013, and was then kept incommunicado until news of his death emerged. No charges had been brought against him. The family stated that he was in good health at the time of the arrest, and therefore believes that he may have been tortured or have become ill and denied medical treatment while in detention.

Front Line Defenders rightly demands a thorough, impartial and immediate investigation into the deaths of detained human rights defenders, including also Ayham Mostafa Ghazzoul https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/21602

Sadly, this fits too well with the special campaign I mentioned on 16 March https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/the-silenced-voices-of-syria-special-campaign-aimed-at-human-rights-defenders/