Posts Tagged ‘Deutsche Welle’

German Africa Prize 2021 goes to Ethiopian lawyer Daniel Bekele

September 28, 2021

Ethiopian lawyer Daniel Bekele is the winner of the 2021 German Africa Prize. The human rights defender is being honored for his unceasing commitment to monitoring and speaking out against injustice.

Daniel Bekele, currently Chief Commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), will receive the German Africa Award for his fight for democracy and human rights. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/08/human-rights-defender-daniel-bekele-now-commissioner-of-the-ethiopian-human-rights-commission/

For more on this prize and its laureates see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/7bdd4070-5958-11e9-90d9-57c8733f3136

I am delighted that the independent jury has selected an outstanding human rights defender,” said Uschi Eid, President of the German Africa Foundation, which presents the prize.

“[Daniel Bekele] deserves this prize for his lifelong advocacy of human rights. I sincerely hope that the award will encourage [him] and his colleagues at the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission to be fearless and impartial advocates for human rights in Ethiopia,” she added. 

Daniel told DW he was “truly excited and humbled to be the first Ethiopian to receive this prestigious German award.”

I know it will go a long way to encourage and inspire my colleagues at the EHRC, as well as human rights defenders in my country Ethiopia and Africa, who work for the promotion and protection of human rights in increasingly challenging environments,” he said.

As a human rights defender, Daniel Bekele has also fought for women’s rights

Daniel Bekele began his dedication to human rights early in his career.

He started representing non-government organizations as a 23-year-old lawyer, quickly becoming a much sought-after expert on democracy and human rights.

In 2004, Daniel became the Head of Policy Research and Advocacy for Ethiopia at the international charity ActionAid. At the same time, he was also highly involved in the Global Call to Action Against Poverty, a network of thousands of organizations promoting an end to poverty.

As a civil society representative, Daniel assumed a leading role in monitoring Ethiopia’s 2005 parliamentary elections, marked by flawed counting and repeated incidents of post-election violence.

A critic of the election process, Daniel was attacked and injured by armed men in October 2005. He was subsequently arrested, imprisoned, and convicted on charges of trying to “overthrow the government and the constitution.”

He remained in jail from November 2005 until March 2008.

Daniel Bekele’s determination to stand up for political rights, especially those of disadvantaged groups, remains undiminished by his prison sentence.

“The human rights defender believes that economic and social recovery fails to lead to sustainable development without the enforcement of human and political rights,” Eid from the German Africa Foundation said.

“As such, [Daniel Bekele] doesn’t shy away from criticizing donor countries in the North for their cooperation with authoritarian regimes.”

Ethiopia has started a democratic opening under Prime Minister Ahmed

In the wake of Ethiopia’s democratic opening under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who came to power in 2018, the country’s parliament elected Daniel to lead the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission in 2019.

Daniel has not only transformed the commission, but has also successfully advocated for its greater independence, with parliament passing an amendment in 2020 strengthening the commission’s operational and financial autonomy.

The German Africa Foundation acknowledges, however, that Ethiopia’s political crisis and the civil war in the country’s northern Tigray province have cast a shadow over Bekele’s work at the Human Rights Commission. Watch video 01:52

The EHRC is currently conducting an investigation, together with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, into human rights violations committed by all sides in the Tigray conflict.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/07/german-africa-prize-goes-to-kenyan-ushahidi-it-pioneer/

https://www.dw.com/en/german-africa-prize-2021-goes-to-ethiopian-rights-activist/a-59189323

UAE’s new human rights institute: sounds like a joke

September 3, 2021

On 2 September 2021 Deutsche Welle reports on “UAE’s new human rights institute: Real change or ‘image washing’?” State media has trumpeted the creation of a new human rights body set to work in line with global principles. But the UAE’s critics say the move is audacious and a joke.

THe UAE has been heavily criticized for the way it treats international laborers and human rights defenders [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/06/15/mary-lawlor-calls-again-on-uae-to-release-prominent-human-rights-defenders/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/09/02/vloggers-selling-their-souls-to-boost-image-of-arab-regimes/]

The United Arab Emirates announced earlier this week that it would set up an independent national human rights organization. The new institution will open an office in Abu Dhabi and, according to the UAE’s state media, “aims to promote and protect human rights and freedoms” in accordance with the local and international laws and guidelines.

The new organization — official name: UAE National Human Rights Institution — already has a hotline that anyone can call if they wish to report human rights abuses.

DW tried calling the number over two days this week. Even though local media said the hotline was active, several attempts failed. Either the calls were not answered or the connection was dropped. DW has reached out to the UAE Embassy in Berlin for further information on the new institution, but has yet to receive a response.

This is just another tactic, part of the UAE’s decade-long whitewashing campaign to make themselves look like a tolerant, respectful and open country,” said Hiba Zayadin, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, who focuses on abuses in the Gulf states.

But the situation on the ground is very different,” she told DW. “In fact, there is absolutely no room for dissent in the UAE. There have been no independent civil society groups there since 2012 and so many people have been jailed. There is a lot of fear of retaliation for speaking out and a high level of censorship, even amongst UAE-based international journalists and academics.” 

Other human rights organizations and media watchdogs have come to similar conclusions.

Reporters Without Borders has highlighted the lack of independent media and the UAE’s draconian cybercrime law from 2012. It ranks the country 131st in the world for press freedom out of 180.

UAE activist Ahmed Mansoor (was arrested in 2017 [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/074ACCD4-A327-4A21-B056-440C4C378A1A]

Amnesty International maintains a long list of “prisoners of conscience” in the UAE, “including well-known human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor,” who is serving a 10-year prison sentence for posts on social media about human rights violations in the UAE.

In June, the UN’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders called on the UAE to release a number of people who had been imprisoned since 2013 for speaking out against the government.

“They should have never been detained in the first place for legitimately exercising the freedoms that all people are entitled to,” said Mary Lawlor.

Social media users in the Middle East were also critical about the announcement of the human rights organization. “The UAE and human rights don’t really go together,” one Twitter user wrote.

This is the joke of the season,” UK-based researcher Fahad al-Ghofaili, quipped on the same website.

The UAE has said the new body will be set up in line with the so-called Paris Principles.

Those standards, officially adopted by the United Nations in 1993, essentially outline how a national human rights institution’s leadership should be selected, how it will be funded and staffed and how it can cooperate with both civil society organizations and the government, but also remain independent.

Alexis Thiry, a legal adviser at Geneva-based legal advocacy organization MENA Rights Group, told DW it was too early to know if the new UAE organization would be sticking to the Paris Principles, as promised. This was because the rights group had not yet been able to read a publicly available version of the law, UAE Federal Law number 12 of 2021, that enabled the creation of the institution, said Thiry.

It is difficult to have an opinion about the forthcoming independence of the [institution] and its compliance with the Paris Principles,” he explained. “At this stage, it is also too early to comment on the performance of the institution since its members have yet to be appointed, to our knowledge.”

Despite its modern outward appearance, the UAE is regularly criticized about its human rights record

When a new institution like this is formed, it often applies for accreditation with the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions to see if it is adhering to the Paris Principles. The MENA Rights Group often provides assessments to the Global Alliance, which has 118 member organizations from around the world.

From the information the legal advisory group did have, it seemed that the UAE’s new law would be similar to those in neighbouring countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain. All of these countries already have national human rights institutions. But according to the Geneva-based lawyers, none of the national human rights institutions in Bahrain, Oman, Qatar or Saudi Arabia fully comply with the Paris Principles.

However, if the UAE’s attempts at creating this institution are really genuine, then organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty would welcome that, activists said. In promotional materials, UAE media said the institution “would seek to cooperate and deal with the UN and concerned international bodies.”

It will be interesting to see if the UAE are now willing to engage with external organizations,” Human Rights Watch researcher Zayadin noted.

Despite multiple attempts asking UAE authorities to respond to allegations of abuse inside the country, and to get access to prisoners there, Zayadin said her organization has never received any response from the government.

A very first step towards a genuine commitment to improving human rights in the country would be to allow international, independent monitors access to the country,” said Zayadin. “An even more important step would be to release from prison all those who have been unjustly detained simply for exercising their right to free expression and association.”

https://www.dw.com/en/uaes-new-human-rights-institute-genuine-or-joke/a-59061415

Climate defense suffers from on-line abuse of Environmental Defenders

October 30, 2020

Deutsche Welle carries a long but interesting piece on “What impact is hate speech having on climate activism around the world?”

From the Philippines to Brazil and Germany, environmental activists are reporting a rise in online abuse. What might seem like empty threats and insults, can silence debate and lead to violence.

Hate speech online

Renee Karunungan, an environmental campaigner from the Philippines, says being an activist leaves you “exposed” and an easy target for online hate. And she would know.  “I’ve had a lot of comments about my body and face,” she says, “things like ‘you’re so fat’ or ‘ugly’,” she says. “But also, things like ‘I will rape you‘.”  Such threats were one reason she decided to leave the country.  

There isn’t much data on online abuse against environmentalists. But Karunungan is one of many saying it’s on the rise.  

As it becomes woven into the fabric of digital life, we sometimes forget the impact a single comment can have, Karunungan says: “The trauma that an activist feels – it is not just ‘online’, it is real. It can get you into a very dark place.”  

Platforms like TikTok and Facebook have begun responding to calls for stricter regulation for stricter regulations.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/03/more-on-facebook-and-twitter-and-content-moderation/]..

“There is also a huge gray zone,” says Josephine Schmitt, researcher on hate speech at the Centre for Advanced Internet Studies, and definitions can be “very subjective.”  ..

While no international legal definition exists, the UN describes hate speech as communication attacking people or a group “based on their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, color, descent, gender or other identity factor.” 

According to several researchers and activists, environmental campaigning also serves as an identifying factor that attracts hate.  

Environmental defenders are attacked because they serve as a projection surface for all kinds of group-based enmity,” says Lorenz Blumenthaler of the anti-racist Amadeu Antonio Foundation. 

Blumenthaler says his foundation has seen an “immense increase” in hate speech against climate activists in Germany – and particularly against those who are young and female.  This year Luisa Neubauer, prominent organiser of Germany’s Fridays for Future movement, won a court case regarding hateful comments she received online. This came after far-right party Alternative für Deutschland’s criticisms of Greta Thunberg included likening her to a cult figure and mocking her autism

In Bolsonaro’s Brazil, for example, Mary Menton, environmental justice research fellow at Sussex University, says in there is often a fine line between hate speech and smear campaigns.  She has seen an increase in the use of fake news and smear campaigns – on both social and traditional media – aiming to discredit the character of Indigenous leaders or make them look like criminals. Coming from high-level sources, as well as local lobbies and rural conglomerates, these attacks create an atmosphere of impunity for attacks against these Indigenous activists, Menton says, while for activists themselves, “it creates the sense there is a target on their backs.“.. 

Some of it comes from international “climate trolls” calling climate change a hoax or the activists too young and uninformed. But the most frightening come from closer to home. “Some people outrightly say we are terrorists and don’t deserve to live,” Mitzi says.  In Philippines, eco-activists are targets for “red-tagging” – where government and security forces brand critics as “terrorists” or “communists.” 

Global Witness ranks it the second most dangerous place in the world for environmental defenders, with 46 murders last year, and Mitzi believes there is a clear link between hate speech online and actual violence. 

Online hate can delegitimize certain political views and be the first step in escalating intimidation. Mitzi says many environmental groups are frightened of having their offices raided by the police and have experienced being put under surveillance.

Ed O’Donovan, of Irish-based human rights organization Frontline Defenders says in contrast to the anonymous targeting of human rights defenders by bots, attacks on climate activists “often originate with state-controlled media or government officials.” 

And they can serve a very strategic purpose, dehumanizing activists so that there is less outrage when they are subject to criminal process, or even attacked and killed.  Extractive industries and businesses are also involved, he adds, highlighting how “very calculated” hate speech campaigns are used to divide local communities and gain consent for development projects.  

Indigenous people protesting against large-scale projects, like these activists against a mine in Peru, are particular targets for hate campaigns For those invested in suppressing climate activism, Wodtke says hate speech can be a low-cost, high-impact strategy. For environmental defenders, it diverts their “attention, resources and energy,” forcing them into a position of defence against attacks on their legitimacy.  …

https://www.dw.com/en/what-impact-is-hate-speech-having-on-climate-activism-around-the-world/a-55420930

Right Livelihood Award 2019 lauds ‘practical visionaries’

September 26, 2019

On its 40th anniversary, the Right Livelihood Award is honoring the efforts of an activist, a lawyer, a rainforest protector and Greta Thunberg. Deutsche Welle takes a closer look at the people who have inspired others.

German-Swedish writer Jakob von Uexküll thought there weren’t enough Nobel Prize categories to truly address the challenges faced by humanity. So in 1980, he founded the Right Livelihood Award [see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/right-livelihood-award]

This year, the recipients hail from Western Sahara, China, Sweden and Brazil. “With the 40th Right Livelihood Awards we honor four people whose leadership inspires millions of people to defend their rights and fight for a livable future on planet Earth,” said Ole von Uexküll, Jakob von Uexküll’s nephew and the current executive director of the Right Livelihood Foundation.

Aminatou Haidar speaks at a podium (Right Livelihood Foundation)

Aminatou Haidar spent four years in a secret prison, isolated from the outside world

By the time she was a teenager, Aminatou Haidar was already an activist. She has continued to campaign peacefully for the independence of her home country, Western Sahara, ever since. Haidar has become the face of a movement that is committed to Sahrawi self-determination, and fights for their fundamental human rights to be respected. She is also co-founder and president of the Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA) humanitarian organization. Haidar has organized demonstrations, documented torture and gone on a hunger strike to draw attention to the plight of her people. These actions are often not tolerated by Moroccan authorities: Haidar has been imprisoned without being charged or tried many times. She even spent four years in a secret prison isolated from the outside world. Yet in the face of harassment, attacks and death threats — including against her children — she continues to fight tirelessly for a solution to the long-standing conflict in Western Sahara. Her enduring stamina and nonviolent protests earned her the moniker “Gandhi of Western Sahara.” The jury said she was chosen to for her “steadfast nonviolent action, despite imprisonment and torture, in pursuit of justice and self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/10/30/saharawis-human-rights-defender-aminatou-haidar-awarded-bremen-solidarity-award/].

 

Guo Juanmei (Right Livelihood Foundation)

Guo Juanmei has been working for women’s rights in China for 25 years

It wasn’t until 2014, when official figures were released, that it became known just how endemic domestic violence is in China: one in four married Chinese women is beaten by their husbands. It was a topic that had long been hushed up. Two years later, the Chinese government passed a law against domestic violence, an achievement owing to the tireless efforts of women’s rights activists like Guo Jianmei. Guo is one of China’s most prominent women’s rights lawyers. Over the past 25 years, she and her team have provided free legal advice to 120,000 women. She is the first lawyer in the country to work full-time in non-profit legal assistance. Guo supports campaigns on issues such as unequal pay, sexual harassment and widespread employment contracts that prohibit pregnancy across the country. In rural areas, Guo helps women who are denied land rights where patriarchal systems leave women dependent on their husbands. She founded an association of more than 600 lawyers that handles cases in the country’s most remote regions. Guo received this year’s award “for her pioneering and persistent work in securing women’s rights in China.”

 

Davi Kopenawa Yanomami (Right Livelihood Foundation)

Davi Kopenawa Yanomami has long been committed to protecting indigenous rights and land

The Amazon is burning, and the world is worried about the effects the burning rainforest will have on the climate. But local inhabitants are feeling the immediate impact. The award organizers wanted to draw attention to the plight of the indigenous people of Brazil by jointly recognizing Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, one of Brazil’s most respected advocates for the indigenous peoples, and the Hutukara Yanomami Association, which he founded in 2015. Kopenawa belongs to the Yanomami tribe, one of Brazil’s most populous indigenous tribes with some 35,000 members. The well-known Hutukara Yanomami Association is committed to protecting the rights, culture and lands of the indigenous people of the Amazon region. Increasing destruction and deforestation for agricultural purposes poses a threat to the environment, but also to the livelihood of the indigenous people. In the 1980s and 1990s, gold miners destroyed villages, shot people and spread diseases. Now such attacks are on the increase again. In 1992, Kopenawa was instrumental in ensuring that a 96,000 square kilometer (37,000 square mile) area in Brazil became Yanomami protected area. He also plays a crucial role in bringing different indigenous groups together to protect themselves from exploitation. It was for this purpose that he founded the Hutukara Yanomami Association, which represents different Yanomami communities. Kopenawa and the Yanomami Hutukara Association have been jointly awarded “for their courageous determination to protect the forests and biodiversity of the Amazon, and the lands and culture of its indigenous peoples.”

Greta Thunberg in the USA (picture-alliance/S. Reynolds)

Greta Thunberg has become the face of a generation fighting climate change

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is without a doubt the most well-known of the 2019 laureates. In August 2018, the then 15-year-old started a solitary school strike in front of the parliament building in Stockholm a few weeks before elections. She has since become the face of a generation who view climate change as an enormous threat to their future. Her campaign has pushed for worldwide political action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit). See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/17/greta-thunberg-receives-amnestys-ambassador-of-conscience-award/

Around the world, millions of young people have joined her in skipping school and taking to the streets for the “Fridays for Future” demonstrations, which culminated in a huge global climate strike last Friday. Thunberg speaks at major conferences and meets with world leaders. Her message is clear: Humanity must acknowledge climate change, the urgency of the crisis and act accordingly. Thunberg has been awarded “for inspiring and amplifying political demands for urgent climate action reflecting scientific facts.” The jury added that she is “the powerful voice of a young generation that will have to bear the consequences of today’s political failure to stop climate change,” and that her efforts have inspired millions of people to take action.”

For last year see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/09/24/laureates-of-the-2018-right-livelihood-award-announced/

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https://www.dw.com/en/right-livelihood-award-2019-lauds-practical-visionaries/a-50554572

DW Freedom of Speech Award goes to Turkish ′Hürriyet′ journalist Sedat Ergin

June 10, 2016

The Deutsche Welle (DW) Freedom of Speech Award 2016 goes to Turkish ‘Hürriyet’ journalist Sedat Ergin. The DW prize is awarded annually to journalists who stand out in their fight for human rights and free speech. The award ceremony will on 13 June 2016 at the Global Media Forum in Bonn, Germany. Read the rest of this entry »

Russian human rights defender Tanya Lokshina continues against all odds | Globalization | DW.DE | 12.06.2013

June 12, 2013

In the series Storytellers, Deutsche Welle gives the floor to Tanya Lokshina of HRW who has worked for 15 years in of the most difficult regions: Russia itself and conflict-ridden volatile areas like Chechnya and Dagestan as well as South Ossetia.

At first glance, Tanya Lokshina may not be the kind of person you would expect to travel to some of Russia’s most dangerous areas on a regular basis. But Read the rest of this entry »

Deutsche Welle reflects on Germany’s human rights policy

December 17, 2012

In this piece there are some interesting reflections on Germany’s human rights policy, which the broadcaster says is quite successful, but not very influential.

The program talks to some persons directly involved in the policy making and addresses an interesting question: “Apart from ethical considerations, human rights defenders face another, more practical key question: how to convince politicians in countries with difficult human rights track records to respect them more closely in the future? Put differently, does respecting human rights lead to a concrete political, social, or economic advantage?”

In its policy, Germany feels bound by ethical concerns as well as its free and democratic order, says Markus Löning, the German government special representative for human rights. Germany emphasises the benefits to strengthening human rights, Löning says. Establishing democracy and the rule of law improve a country’s standing in international relations. Germany’s relationship with eastern European countries after 1989 is a good example, Löning says. “Consider the relationship with Poland 25 years ago,” he says. “Today, Poland is one of our closest friends. The fact alone that a country is democratic makes establishing close, trusting relations so much easier.”

Human rights and the economy. First and foremost, human rights are based on ethics, Imke Dierßen, an advisor on Europe for Amnesty International, agrees. But adhering to human rights does have many advantages, she told Deutsche Welle – including better economic ties. Businesses need a reliable framework, so they usually set up in countries that offer these basic requirements, Dierßen says: countries with “sound legal systems and courts.” Both are prerequisites for long-term investment. Hence, Dierßen is convinced, businesses should have an interest in human rights. The West has a vested interest in standing up for human rights, Imke Dierßen from Amnesty International says. When human rights are neglected for a longer period, pressures build up that can erupt in violence. She points to Syria and Egypt, two countries which have yet to be pacified. “Of course, that also affects the EU,” the human rights expert says, pointing out their geographic proximity. “From a security policy and a geostrategic point of view, it is important to take a preventive approach. That’s where human rights play a great role.”

Eberhard Sandschneider, research director at the German Council on Foreign Relations, is convinced that human rights speak for themselves. While the West tends to underestimate the attractiveness of its own values, he says, other countries are closely watching the consequences of adhering to human rights. “If you make clear that human rights policies in Europe resulted in significant political stabilization, human rights acquire a completely new function and weight in the target countries,” he says.

Dierßen is confident that human rights concerns voiced by the German government are in fact taken seriously by governments. They also send encouraging signals to people suffering from human rights abuses. “Dissidents, mainly in China and East Europe, are always telling me how important the criticism is,” Dierßen says. “Again and again, they tell me: it is very good that you clearly address the issues. The fact alone that you make statements benefits and protects us.” Eberhard Sandschneider, however, believes that Germany’s human rights policies face a dilemma: Germany deals with states whose governments take an opposed stance when it comes to human rights. Dealing with these countries requires good diplomatic skill, the political scientist says. Dealings with them can taint Germany’s credibility, but that makes those relationships all the more important, he says. “Whether we want to or not, we have to work with the bad guys,” Sandschneider says. “Without that cooperation, stabilizing certain regions would not be possible.”

Creativity is called for. German special representative Markus Löning notes that people living in “bad guys” regimes have high expectations of Western human rights policies – which can’t always be implemented. These expectations are also voiced in the respective country’s media, Löning says – where they can take on accusatory or polemic forms. Western human rights policies can be influential, but the potential is limited. They can not perform miracles, which makes the challenge even greater to find creative ways to give human rights a better chance of a breakthrough.