Posts Tagged ‘dictatorship’

Human rights defenders in Zimbabwe rejoice but realize still long away to go

November 23, 2017

With Mugabe’s departure there is light at the end of the tunnel but there is a lot of cleaning up to do. Two recent opinion pieces make the point:

'Mugabe’s departure offers Zimbabwe an opportunity to make a break from its past,' writes Deprose Muchena (Zinyange Auntony, AFP)
‘Mugabe’s departure offers Zimbabwe an opportunity to make a break from its past,’ (Zinyange Auntony, AFP)

Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s regional director for Southern Africa, wrote a piece in the Mail & Guardian of 23 November 2017 under title From reconciliation to repression: Mugabe’s painful legacy“.

Muchena traces first Robert Mugabe’s political career that saw early successes ultimately wiped out by a litany of human rights abuses.

Mugabe started well in his early years as leader of Zimbabwe following the transition from British colonial rule. He oversaw heavy investment in Zimbabwe’s social services. Areas including health and education saw dramatic improvements, with the country still enjoying one of the highest literacy rates in Africa. The results of this significant investment in education are there for everyone to see. But Mugabe later undermined his own legacy. During his 37 years in power, he presided over the brutal repression of political opponents, established a culture of impunity for himself and his cronies, and his government implemented a series of policies that have had disastrous consequences for Zimbabweans…Mugabe began his political life fighting against injustice. Imprisoned, and later exiled for his political activities, he was one of more than 900 prisoners of conscience in Zimbabwe adopted by Amnesty International between 1965 and 1979.

After independence political opponents, (repression of Joshua Nkomo’s Zimbabwe Africa People’s Union, military crackdown across Matabeleland and Midlands provinces) ……With nobody held accountable for the killings, a dangerous precedent of impunity was set early on in Mugabe’s reign. It was one he went on to exploit time and again.

Throughout his presidency, general elections were characterised by spikes of serious human rights violations and abuses by state security agents and Zanu-PF activists. Opposition supporters suffered torture, harassment, intimidation and death…A wave of violence unleashed by the army against those suspected of voting for the MDC ensured that Mugabe won by a comfortable margin after the second round of votes was counted.

An increasing reliance on security services to suppress dissenting voices in and outside his party became a hallmark of Mugabe’s rule. Human rights defenders, journalists, those with dissenting views and opposition party activists were locked up on politically motivated charges or under draconian laws. Some were tortured or “disappeared”. Much early progress made on economic, social and cultural rights was wiped out by a series of disastrous government policy decisions. Carried out in 2005, Operation Murambatsvina — a Shona word for “drive out trash” — was one of the most devastating forced evictions in Zimbabwean history…

Although land reform was clearly needed and resulted in some legitimate large-scale redistribution, it was also used as a system of patronage. It rewarded Mugabe’s supporters with land but denied it to those considered supporters of opposition parties. Escaping repression and a shrinking economy, three million Zimbabweans have left the country since 2000…

 

Mugabe’s departure offers Zimbabwe an opportunity to make a break from its past. Zimbabwe’s future lies in renouncing impunity, addressing the human rights violations of the past, ensuring reparations for the victims and respecting the rule of law. The next generation of leaders must commit to upholding the Constitution and live up to Zimbabwe’s international and regional human rights obligations.

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Supporters of Zimbabwe’s former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa await his arrival in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 22, 2017. PHILIMON BULAWAYO/ REUTERS

Mandipa Ndlovu says that “during Mugabe’s reign, over one-third of the population (4-million people) was forced to relocate to abroad to seek better opportunities for them and their families, as well as escape the iron-fisted rule of the former president. The end of an era marked the beginning of a newfound hope that released dormant life in the Zimbabwean community both in the country and around the world.

That long-time Mugabe ally, Emmerson Mnangagwa, will become the new president.. has been welcomed in regards to change for the southern African country, but must be engaged with from a nuanced position regarding the sustainability of human rights and good governance in the country…Zimbabweans are past bitterness and anger, we just want recognition and acknowledgement of past wrongs. This is the only way the country can move forward.

The fact is that Britain’s and the West’s policy was that of turning a blind eye to the black Zimbabwean persecutions of 1980 to 1987 and only reacted with economic sanctions when white-occupied farms were invaded in 2000. Moreover, the legacy of colonialism up until this point had remained one which the Zimbabwean people now realise was exploitative. This, for many Zimbabweans, highlights the interests of which demographic of the Zimbabwean population they seek to strengthen. This lack of historical recognition remains a sticking point to the black population of Zimbabwe, who have both lived through and experienced the effect of economic sanctions placed on the country as a result of Mugabe’s rule. One which needs to be rectified…

It would therefore be a disservice to the future of human rights to disregard the need to address this. Zimbabweans need to have these fears allayed through the initiation of both restorative and distributive justice in order to legitimise real change. In this, however, it is imperative to note that Zimbabweans are past bitterness and anger, we just want recognition and acknowledgement of past wrongs. This is the only way the country can move forward.

.. We have not forgotten people such as Itai Dzamara, whose whereabouts still need to be accounted for. It is not enough to remove the face of fear and violence when the potential for the re-engagement with the system still exists under untainted structures of governance. It is imperative that the narrative of ‘Operation Restore Legacy’ under the new regime does not gloss over the grief of loss (material, physical and in time) as linked to trauma and its subsequent memory..

In the new Zimbabwe, there should not be room to romanticise about the past and its legacies. The culture that tip-toes around the acceptability of violence within the public sphere for the perpetuation of political gain must be thwarted. This can be particularly translated to the politics of grief in reconciling the “violence” narrative…Regardless of what reforms are dormant in Mnangagwa’s hat as he ascends to the presidency, the sentiments of cooperation and the respect of human rights expressed in his press statement on November 21 will go a long way in legitimising bodies. These are the ideals to which the Zimbabwean people must continue to hold him and his administration to account.

For some of my earlier posts on Zimbabwe: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/zimbabwe/

Sources:

https://mg.co.za/article/2017-11-23-from-reconciliation-to-repression-mugabes-painful-legacy

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.za/mandipha-ndlovu/is-there-a-future-of-sustainable-peace-and-human-rights-for-zimbabwe_a_23286098/

The Dictator Hunter works from home

February 21, 2017

This blog tries to stick as much as possible to the core issue of human rights defenders and leaves general activism (even when inspired by human rights concerns) to other blogs. Now I want to make an exception for a personal Call for Action issued on 12 February 2017 by my good friend and well-known human rights defender, Reed Brody [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reed-brody/], who has earned his nickname The Dictator Hunter:

He passionately feels that we should all do more to stop Trump (and his admirers in Europe). Here the full text:

A letter from America to my friends abroad

Many of you are watching events in the United States and asking what is going on – and what you can do. 

Yes, this is the most dangerous moment for the US and for the world in my lifetime. A US president with total disregard for the foundations of a constitutional democracy – checks and balances, the independence of the judiciary, freedom of the press, the protection of minorities, reasoned debate – has near-complete control over the official levers of power: the executive branch (including the CIA, FBI, NSA), both houses of Congress, and perhaps soon the judiciary. 

On the other hand, I have never witnessed in my country the kind of mobilization we are seeing today. The nationwide Women’s Marches were the largest demonstrations in US history, but it was only the beginning. Each day brings new acts of resistance. When the “Muslim ban” was announced (a crude and cruel measure only designed to stoke fear and portray the president as the people’s protector), people spontaneously flooded the airports around the country, New York taxi drivers went on strike. When Uber tried to profit from the strike, 200,000 customers deleted their Uber accounts. Bodegas in New York closed to protest the ban. All around the country, citizens are packing elected officials’ town hall meetings, flooding Congress with petitions, postcards, and phone calls. The premier legal organization challenging Trump’s actions, the American Civil Liberties Union, raised $24 million in the days following the Ban. This week, 1,200 people crowded into my neighborhood synagogue to organize the next stages of the resistance in Brooklyn, and the same thing is happening all over the country. Everything is political. Sports. Oscars. Consumer choices. Companies are being forced to take stands, and many of them, particularly in high-tech and globalized industries, are opposing the president. 

It’s important to remember that WE are the majority. We are also the large majority in the places that matter most to the economy – New York, California, Washington DC, in almost all the nation’s cities.

This epic battle for the soul of my country is just beginning. The outcome is uncertain. The next terrorist attack, and the one after, will surely test us even more.

Ultimately it will be Americans who decide the fate of the US but there are many ways you can help.

-Protest, protest protest! People marched around the world marched with us on January 21, but it can’t stop there. The more organized protests at US embassies and symbols of US power the better. 

– Don’t give Trump the respect he doesn’t deserve. This week, the speaker of the House of Commons said that he would oppose having Trump address Parliament. Over 1.8 million Brits have signed a petition against any Trump visit. When Trump visits the UK, or anywhere, let him know how the people of the world feel. 

-Demand that your leaders stand up to Trump. Angela Merkel reminded Trump of the US’s obligations under the Refugee Convention. François Hollande has been outspoken. (Unlike Spain’s Rajoy who offered to be an “intermediary” for Trump in Europe and Latin America). 

-Like Canada’s Justin Trudeau, leaders should publicly welcome all people from all countries and specifically assure nationals of the 7 “banned” countries that they will be allowed in.

-Ask your country to rebuke Trump’s measures which violate international law such as the Muslim ban in international fora such as the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. The ACLU and other groups are already challenging these actions before the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights.

-Remind non-US companies that they also have obligations, as US law professors did when they wrote to European air carriers https://www-cdn.law.stanford.edu/…/Stanford-Law-Professors-… to ensure the rights of travelers. 

-Academics, experts, companies and even countries can join litigation in the US with “amicus curaie,” or “friends of the court” briefs. The legal attack on the Muslim ban has been joined https://lawfareblog.com/litigation-documents-resources-rela… by hundreds of technology companies, professors, cities and states, but it would be important for foreign voices to be heard on this and (probably) forthcoming cases.

-Boycott Trump products. Like a third-word kleptocratic dictator (and I know a thing or two) Trump is openly mixing the public and the private. Hit him where it hurts – his brand, his ego and his pocketbook. Phone numbers of his hotels are here  https://twitter.com/billmckibb…/…/829412430157602816/photo/1 A list with retailers that do business with the Trump family and whose boycott is sought by #GrabYourWallet ( as in Grab her Pussy) here
https://grabyourwallet.org/Boycott%20These%20Companies.html

-Join the over 5 million people who have signed Avaaz’s Global Open Letter to Donald Trump. https://secure.avaaz.org/cam…/…/president_trump_letter_loc/…

-Watch the daily TV show Democracy Now on the internet – it’s where progressives in the US get their news and connect to all the struggles here and abroad. https://www.democracynow.org/

Even if you live abroad, you can join and give your support to the groups that are defending our liberties like the Center for Constitutional Rights, Planned Parenthood, Democracy Now, the ACLU. The Nation’s Katha Politt lists some groups here https://www.thenation.com/…/you-might-not-be-in-the-mood-t…/ Here is a longer list http://www.advocate.com/…/24-trump-fighting-charities-need-… – 

-If the travel ban, or some version of it, is reinstated, we will need volunteers and volunteer lawyers at airports around the world to help stranded travelers and to communicate with volunteers at US airports .

Trump (“Only America first”) doesn’t care about what the rest of the world thinks, but the US political and economic establishment on whose acquiescence he depends does care. Make clear that a racist islamophobic US government will not enjoy the same status and goodwill. 

Most important, don’t let what happened in the US happen in your country!! Trump “won” the US election (just as Brexit prevailed) by building the fear of foreigners and because too many people (white working class) did not see the political system as working for them. The Democratic Party essentially imposed a candidate who many saw as the embodiment of an out-of-touch elite. The same thing now threatens to happen in France, the Netherlands and elsewhere. Please don’t let it. We need you to make a better world together.

In Solidarity

Reed Brody
reedbrody@gmail.com
twitter @reedbrody

 

How the mighty fall in Uzbekistan: Gulnara Karimova asks human rights protection

August 22, 2014

Gulnara Karimova

Gulnara Karimova (pictured above), the glamorous daughter of Uzbekistan’s president, used to be one of the more powerful people in Central Asia. But now, in secret recordings obtained by the BBC, she says she and her teenaged daughter are being treated “worse than dogs” and need urgent medical help since she has fallen out with her dictator father President Islam Karimov. The BBC news correspondent Natalia Antelava on 21 August reports on this exceptional story.  Natalia Antelava reports that in March 2014, she received and authenticated a handwritten letter from Karimova, in which she said she and her daughter had been placed under house arrest and now the short audio recordings were smuggled out of Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan has a history of human rights violations and Karimova has fully played her role in this sorry state of affairs (see e.g. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/daughter-of-uzbek-dictator-loses-defamation-case-in-paris/. Stroehlein of Human Rights Watch (which will publish next month a report on wrongfully imprisoned people in the country) is understandably cautious when it comes to Karimova’s recent concern for human rights in Uzbekistan, since it follows a decade-long period when the woman known as “Googoosha” wielded immense power in the country. “She almost certainly had top-level regime access to critical information regarding serious and systematic rights abuses in Uzbekistan, and she has had many opportunities to hand that information over to journalists and human rights groups,” he says . “She hasn’t.” 

Read the rest of this entry »

Erykah Badu unapologetic about her human rights performance and plans to repeat in the Gambia

May 2, 2014

SXSW Film-Interactive-Music - Day 9

(Erykah Badu performs onstage 15 March 2014 in Austin; Roger Kisby—Getty Images)

The misuse of star power by Erykah Badu referred to in an earlier post got a nice follow up according to the opinion piece posted by Thor Halvorssen and Alex Gladstein in TIME of 2 May 2014. After recalling in detail her singing for the Swazi absolute monarch [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/another-case-of-misused-star-power-erykah-badu-performs-for-swaziland-dictator/], the authors describe Badu’s defensive and sometimes offensive comments in the social media: Read the rest of this entry »

Mariah Carey needs better-informed staff and donate her 1 million fee to Human Rights Defenders in Angola

December 19, 2013

Mariah Carey Celebrates Angola’s Dictator, his Family, and Their Ill-Gotten Wealth

Mariah Carey poses with José Eduardo dos Santos, the 34-year dictator of Angola, his wife, and his daughter Isabel—Angola’s only billionaire

 

 

 

The Human Rights Foundation has lately been targeting celebrities who give their voice and reputation to bad causes and I think it is an excellent idea. Some celebrities do good work (think of Barbara Hendricks or Angelina Jolie), most are not interested but there is no reason why some should go out of their way to give support to dictators. There is no financial or diplomatic necessity. So, it is good to highlight Mariah Carey‘s concert on 15 December during a gala for the Angolan Red Cross, which was sponsored by Unitel (President José Eduardo dos Santos billionaire daughter Isabel owns Unitel and is also president of the Angolan Red Cross). “Mariah Carey can’t seem to get enough dictator cash, reportedly more than $1 million dollars this time. Read the rest of this entry »

Dictators in Central Asia like music – some musicians like the dictators

September 4, 2013

Jennifer Lopez at ISC Miami.

Kanye West

On 28 May 2012 I congratulated Loreen – the Swedish winner of the Eurovision song festival – as she was the only of the contesting artists who stood up for human rights. During her visit to Baku she visited human rights defenders at risk during a meeting the NGO Civil Rights Defenders arranged. The Government of Azerbaijan tried to downplay the issue by saying that music and human rights have to be separate, but it is shocking that a number of musicians seem to agree with this position.

The New-York based Human Rights Foundation, on 3 September 2013,  reports that the American musician Kanye West performed at the wedding of President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s grandson last Saturday night in Kazakhstan. He reportedly received $3 million for the private engagement in the oil-rich former Soviet state, which has been autocratically since 1991. West’s lucrative private performance comes on the heels of a similar concert given by Jennifer Lopez for the dictator of neighboring Turkmenistan earlier this summer, which sparked a worldwide media interest. At the time, Lopez claimed ignorance of Turkmenistan’s notorious human rights abuses. West is not the first global celebrity to be approached to play in Kazakhstan: in 2011, Sting refused to play a private concert there, citing concern over the repression of workers in the country.

Historic tribute to Human Rights Defenders by Uruguay

December 13, 2012

This blog – understandably – published a lot information critical of Governments. It is with pleasure to report something positive done by a State. On 12 December 2012, the Mission of Uruguay to the Organization of American States (OAS) hosted a public and ceremonial tribute to the Human Rights Defenders who took part in the struggle for human rights in the South American country during the military dictatorship that took place between 1973 and 1985. The public recognition – by name – of human rights defenders even 30 years later sets an example worth following by other countries with similar experience.

“We have some debts. Among them one of a moral order with the citizens of the United States as well as our Latin America. Today we want to express a heartfelt appreciation for the generous, lucid and courageous actions of solidarity in defense of human rights, in our country´s darkest hour,” said the Ambassador of Uruguay to the OAS, Milton Romani, who led the ceremony, held in the Patio Azteca of the hemispheric organization’s main building in Washington, DC.

The event was called “Teacher Elena Quinteros Day,” referring to the Uruguayan teacher who was abducted by the Uruguayan military inside the Embassy of Venezuela in Uruguay in June 1976 and whose arrest led to the severance of diplomatic relations between Montevideo and Caracas. The people honored by the Uruguayan mission to the OAS were: the Reverend Joe Eldridge, former Director of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and who lead the campaign by Julio Castro (first official case of a “disappeared” person presented before the OAS ); Doctor Robert Goldman and Jo Marie Griesgraber, who took part in the first humanitarian mission to Uruguay to confirm the allegations of human rights violations; Louise Popkin, who accompanied the former Uruguayan legislator Zelmar Michelini (murdered in Argentina in 1976) in his complaints and (former leader of the National Party of Uruguay) Wilson Ferreira Aldunate in his complaint to the U.S. Congress; Juan Mendez of Americas Watch (predecessor to Human Rights Watch); and Patricia “Polly” Pittman for their support of the exiles.

The Uruguayan mission to the OAS also paid tribute to the now deceased Julio Ramos, former Ambassador of Venezuela in Uruguay. The current Permanent Representative of Venezuela to the OAS, Roy Chaderton received the distinction on his behalf. In their addresses, Ambassador Chaderton and the rest of the honorees recalled their ties with Uruguay. http://www.flickr.com/photos/oasoea/8268180860/

“The lessons of this chapter are part of our guiding principles. These are not things of the past. They are present as a challenge to all of humanity facing injustice. Our ability to be outraged, to be supportive of one another, because inequalities are committed in the name of noble principles. In the name of peace, freedom and of democracy or revolution, or invoking reasons of state or religious reasons,” said Ambassador Romani. The Permanent Representative of Uruguay to the OAS said the victims’ perspective is “the only one that allows us to remember that “all human beings, born free and equal in dignity and rights and endowed as they are with reason and conscience, should act in a brotherly way toward one other.”

At the end of his speech, the Uruguayan diplomat said: “We have a strong commitment to the strengthening of the Inter-American Human Rights System. We affirm that making the system universal is urgent so that all states be equal before the law, that the autonomy and independence of all the organs are its fortresses.”

The video of the event is available on VIMEO: here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org