Posts Tagged ‘diplomatic action’

Patt Derian – the rare politician/human rights defender – no longer

May 30, 2016

Being a leading politician and human rights defender does not always go together well. Patricia Murphy (“Patt”) Derian was one of the exceptions. She passed away on 20 May 2016 at the age of 86. She was an American civil rights and human rights activist, who served under President Carter from 1977 to 1981.DERIAN PATT

After Jimmy Carter won the election, he nominated Derian to be Coordinator for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs and elevated the post to that of Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs effective August 17, 1977, and Derian served in that capacity for the remainder of the Carter administration. In this post she worked to improve policy coordination on humanitarian issues such as human rights, refugees, and prisoners of war.

Derian was a vocal critic of Jeane Kirkpatrick and of the so-called Kirkpatrick Doctrine during the 1980s, which advocated U.S. support of anticommunist governments around the world, including authoritarian dictatorships, if they went along with Washington’s aims —believing they could be led into democracy by example. Kirkpatrick wrote, “Traditional authoritarian governments are less repressive than revolutionary autocracies.” Derian objected to Kirkpatrick’s characterization of some governments as only “moderately repressive,” arguing that this line of thinking allowed the U.S. to support “a little bit of torture” or “moderate” prison sentences for political dissenters. Derian pointed out that, when it comes to human rights, in terms of morality, credibility and effectiveness, “you always have to play it straight.” Read the rest of this entry »

ISHR starts campaign to monitor Committee that throttles NGO access to the UN

May 4, 2016

I have written earlier about the worrying trends in the ‘obscure’ “ECOSOC Committee on NGOs”  (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/ecosoc/) which is supposed to consider applications by NGOs for ECOSOC accreditation and, as such, is a key gateway for NGOs to gain access to the UN.

The International Service of Human Rights (ISHR) – which issued earlier a guide [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/practical-guide-to-the-un-committee-on-ngos/] -has now come out with a statement that the “practice of the Committee is wholly unacceptable and must change”.

 

It has addressed a letter to ECOSOC – the parent body of the Committee – and copied to all Member States, the UN Secretary General, President of the General Assembly, and the President of the Human Rights Council. The letter expresses concern regarding the practice of the Committee. It intends to signal the level of concern NGOs feel about restrictions on civil society participation at the UN. The ISHR hopes that a large number of others will sign.

 

In addition to the letter, on Tuesday 24 May the ISHR encourages all NGOs to join in the public gallery at the upcoming Committee session in New York. Although the sessions are public, few NGOs attend and the sessions are not webcast. It is important that Committee members are aware the sessions are being monitored and reported on.

If you have any questions, please contact the International Service for Human Rights: information@ishr.chISHR-logo-colour-high

 

Civil society calls on EU to intensify support for human rights defenders in the new EU Action Plan

December 16, 2014

Seven major NGOs (Amnesty International, Frontline Defenders, International Federation for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, PBI, Protection International and the World Organisation Against Torture) have made a joint appeal to the EU to improve the European Union‘s support to human rights defenders. This is done in the form of comments on the new EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy. That there is a need for more cohesion was demonstrated by the recent faux pas of the EU in giving a human rights award to Bahrain which can hardly be in line with the recommendations [see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/what-human-rights-day-means-in-bahrain-and-how-the-eu-made-it-worse/].

Effective and meaningful support to HRDs by the EU and its member states should aspire to [excerpts]: I draw attention especially to number 6!

1. Better protect

The EU can achieve better protection of HRDs – including better prevention of the risks associated with their work:

1. Institute a system for the centralised follow-up of all human rights defenders’ cases, and their treatment by the EU and Member states at headquarters and in delegations.

2. Ensure all staff in Delegations in diplomatic missions, and at headquarters, including at the highest level, are aware of the importance of working with and for HRDs, of the EU Guidelines and of the necessity to implement them fully, and of reporting back. Systematically train EU and member states’ staff at all levels on the full implementation of the EU HRD Guidelines;

3. Facilitate emergency measures such as relocation and emergency visas for HRDs, and ensure all staff are aware of procedures. Ensure the facilitation of visas for HRDs visiting decision-makers in the EU and member states in order to reinforce meaningful exchanges on how to support their vital work;

4. Monitor and provide systematic feedback to HRDs, civil society and the public on EU and member states’ actions on HRDs, encouraging meaningful public debate on how to reinforce their vital efforts;

5. Assist and support governments and promote participation of local civil society in developing and implementing public policies and mechanisms for the protection of HRDs; and/or in advocating for the amendment or abrogation of restrictive laws; and in the fight against impunity for human rights violations committed against HRDs;

6. Ensure that an annual Foreign Affairs Council meeting is dedicated to discussing EU efforts to pursue the release of HRD, journalists and others who exercise their rights peacefully. Foreign Ministers should adopt conclusions naming jailed rights advocates from around the world and call for their immediate and unconditional release.  Every three months PSC Ambassadors should take stock, in close collaboration with civil society, of EU efforts to pursue the release of jailed HRDs. EU delegations should be requested to clarify efforts they have undertaken, ahead of these meetings;

7. In the spirit of the EU Guidelines on HRDs, the EU and its member states should commit to documenting and reporting on effective best practices in support of HRDs, and working to reproduce them where relevant in future; organise annual regional workshops with civil society to exchange best practices and lessons learned, and build the capacity of HRDs, and of senior EU and member states’ diplomatic staff.

2. Reach out

EU policies in support of HRDs must also go beyond addressing their protection in emergency situations on an ad hoc basis. This means considering HRDs not only as victims of repression, but as key actors of change in their own country who can likewise provide a valuable contribution to the design of both EU and national policies and decision-making…

8. Implement burden-sharing between the EU and Member states, to ensure that human rights defenders in all regions of a country have access to, and contact with, the EU; that the responsibility for particularly logistically challenging tasks such as trial observation, prison visits or contacts with rural areas does not fall only on one diplomatic mission, and that continued buy-in on human rights issues by all is possible;

9. Actively support HRDs through a flexible combination of concrete actions and public diplomacy, on the basis of effective consultation with concerned HRDs, including public intervention whenever this can improve the security of HRDs at risk;

10. Conduct regular visits to HRDs outside large urban centres, and increase outreach to vulnerable, marginalised HRDs and women HRDs;

11. Clearly communicate the human rights priorities of EU country strategies to local HRDs to facilitate their work.

12. Systematically include meetings with HRDs when planning high level visits to third countries (including visits by member states’ representatives and Members of the European Parliament);

13. Translate the Guidelines on HRDs into local languages, and disseminate them amongst civil society, including different ethnic minority groups and indigenous communities.

3. Do no harm

The EU and its member states should evaluate all actions taken in regard to their compliance with human rights, and concretely monitor trade and development policies and programming to ensure they are consistent with EU and member states’ human rights commitments. The EU should offer HRDs recourse in case their human rights or those of the people they defend are violated. The ‘do no harm’ principle should be integrated in other actions foreseen in the revised Strategic Framework and Action Plan (under ‘trade’, ‘development’ etc…), which is why only key actions are proposed here:

14. Ensure the meaningful consultation/participation of HRDs, possibly through the development of a specific format for regular exchanges, in the preparation of EU and member states’ human rights dialogues, strategies, development programming, and in the context of EU trade and investment policy;

15. When debating national policy with third country governments, the EU should strive to facilitate dialogue between governments and HRDs (for example on security, development, health, etc), and ensure inclusion of HRDs and social organisations in decision-making on these issues;

16. Set up a complaint mechanism for HRDs who have become victims of human rights violations in the context of EU and member states’ policies and investments.

Intensifying the European Union‘s support to human rights defenders: Civil society proposals for the new EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy / December 16, 2014 / Statements / Human rights defenders / OMCT.

‘Unsung Heroes’ – EU Tribute to Human Rights Defenders on 2 December in Geneva

November 28, 2014

Under the title “Unsung Heroes” the EU Delegation to the UN in  Geneva is organizing a Tribute to Human Rights Defenders on 2 December 2014 at 13h00 in the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

In light of the 10th anniversary of the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders and ahead of the Human Rights Day, Stavros Lambrinidis, EU Special Representative for Human Rights, will discuss interactively with NGOs, Human Rights Defenders and International Organisations the challenges of speaking up for human rights. The event will also include the Geneva launch of a study conducted by the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation on Women Human Right Defenders’ exposure to threats and violence.

The debate on questions such as “What does it take to stand up for human rights?”, “What risks do human rights defenders face, in particular if they are women?” and “What can we do to provide better support?” will be followed by the screening of the film documentary “Six Days”, portraying three women in three different countries, fighting for change in the wake of war and conflict.

I should add that the choice of the title ‘Unsung Heroes’ leaves to be desired as it has been used a lot by different organisations, including the US State Department, the Carter Foundation, the Martin Ennals Foundation for its 2001 study, the OHCHR, PBI, Freedom etc.

See also my post from two days ago: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/11/26/tribute-remembering-women-human-rights-defenders/

 

Group of Governments and Agencies formulate policies on LGBTI issues and human rights defenders

November 21, 2014

On the Occasion of the Annual Conference to Advance the Human Rights of and Promote Inclusive Development for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Persons held in Washington from 12-14 November 2014, the governments of Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uruguay, as well as the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, the European Union, UNAIDS – the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, and the United Nations Development Programme, adopted a communiqué, which is relevant to human rights defenders in particular through the following paragraphs:

Introduction

…..

We further recognize the work of civil society organizations and human rights defenders from whom we have heard over the last three days. We commend their tremendous dedication and resolve to bring about a world free from violence and discrimination. We are gravely concerned by the serious challenges, difficult circumstances, and in some instances violent attacks that human rights defenders and organizations face as they work to achieve this important goal. We are inspired by their commitment, and recognize their rich diversity and unique views from different regions and across different cultures and traditions.

Together we affirm the following:

….

6. We dedicate ourselves to exploring ways to strengthen our international assistance and diplomacy efforts to promote and protect the human rights of LGBTI persons, through cooperating with additional governments and identifying new sources of funding and engagement, including from the private sector;

7. We will strive to ensure flexible and timely support, especially to meet the needs of the most vulnerable persons worldwide, including LGBTI persons;

8. We intend to guide our assistance and diplomacy efforts on the basis of need and when possible on the basis of needs assessments. We also recall the importance of co-ownership of assistance and diplomatic efforts with host governments as we work to advance the human rights of LGBTI persons;

9. We underline that governments, funders, civil society organizations and other implementing organizations should ensure involvement of local LGBTI communities and their allies in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of human rights and development cooperation efforts as appropriate;

…….

12. To further strengthen cooperation, coordination and communication of assistance and diplomatic efforts, we plan to continue to meet annually to discuss implementation of this communiqué and other relevant issues. The next meeting is expected to be organized by the Netherlands in early 2016.

For further information, please contact Chanan Weissman at WeissmanC[at]state.gov.

for full text: Joint Government and Multilateral Agency Communique From Conference to Advance the Human Rights of and Promote Inclusive Development for LGBTI Persons.

MEA Laureate Mutabar continues to press for diplomatic action on Uzbekistan

November 7, 2014

Mutabar Tadjibayeva, MEA Laureate 2008 and now living in exile in Paris has as President of International Human Rights Association “Fiery Hearts Club” wrote an Open Letter in advance of the meeting between the French and Uzbek Ministers of Foreign Affairs in France. Here follows the full text of the letter:

Mr. Laurent Fabius, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs
37, Quai d’Orsay
F – 75351 PARIS

Members of the French Senate and National Assembly
Palais du Luxembourg
15, rue de Vaugirard
75291 PARIS Cedex 06

Dear Minister Laurent Fabius, Dear Members of the Senate and National Assembly:

In advance of your meeting with Mr. Abdulaziz Kamilov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan, we write to encourage you to urge the Uzbek government to sincerely address the serious, systematic and ongoing human rights violations of the Uzbek people, including the situation of civil society activists, religious prisoners, transparency and openness in France-Uzbekistan dialogue, the recent undemocratic initiatives of president Karimov to amend the Uzbek Constitution, and state-orchestrated forced labour of children and adults during annual cotton harvesting season.

The situation of civil society

In your meeting with Mr. Kamilov we urge you to raise the situation of imprisoned civil society activists who make up one of the most vulnerable categories of inmates in the Uzbek penitentiary system. The number of imprisoned civil society activists has remained almost unchanged for many years because of two reasons: there are not so many independent civil society activists operating in Uzbekistan because of the government’s continued repressive policy and ongoing persecutions against the activists, and in place of one released imprisoned activist the government tends to send to jail two more civil society activists. Different independent observers and international rights groups mention from 15 to 30 civil society activists who remain in prison.

Our organization has studied well the cases of at least the following civil society activists who were sent to jail under trumped up criminal cases and who are serving their lengthy prison terms: Murod, Juraev, Solijon Abdurakhmonov, Azam Farmonov, Mehriniso Hamdamova, Zulkhumor Hamdamova, Isroiljon Kholdorov, Nosim Isakov, Gaybullo Jalilov, Abdurasul Khudoynazarov, Erkin Kuziev, Ganikhon Mamatkhonov, Zafarjon Rakhimov, Yuldash Rasulov, Dilmurod Saidov and Akzam Turgunov. Whereabouts of journalist Jamshid Karimov who has been kept forcedly in a psychiatric clinic for five years and then released in 2011 is unknown. Soon after his release from the psychiatric clinic he has disappeared. His colleagues suggest he has been forcedly placed into the psychiatric clinic again.

We urge you to raise the issue of the above mentioned political prisoners in your talks with the Uzbek Minister and call on the Uzbek government to immediately release those civil society activists from prison out of urgent humanitarian concerns. But specifically we urge you to request immediate release of the following imprisoned civil society activists who are elderly and experiencing dire health problems: Murod Juraev, Dilmurod Saidov, Solijon Abdurakhmonov, Agzam Turgunov, Ganihon Mamatkhonov and Mehriniso Hamdamova. In February several human rights defenders from Uzbekistan were allowed by the authorities to visit Murod Juraev, Dilmurod Saidov, Solijon Abdurakhmonov and Agzam Turgunov in prison. The visits have confirmed their poor health conditions and lack of access to proper medical treatment in prison. The fact that the Uzbek activists were allowed by the authorities to visit the imprisoned colleagues is unprecedented but we don’t yet what underlying reasons have pushed the Uzbek authorities to do so. Nevertheless we can accept this fact as a good sign.

Ganikhon Mamatkhonov, another elderly human rights activist, who was convicted under trumped up criminal charges in 2009 to 4,5 years was expected to leave the prison on March 10, 2014 because his prison term ended. But on the eve of his release the prison administration has accused him of disobeying orders and rules of prison administration and put into a solitary confinement. Mamatkhonov has experienced heart attack three times, the last time it happened during his detention. We think the Uzbek authorities have deliberately accused Mamatkhonov of disobeying prison orders and rules and sent him to a solitary confinement in order to prolong his prison sentence. This is a popular method used by the Uzbek authorities to keep “unwanted” inmates in prison under prolonged sentences. For instance, an opposition activist Murod Juraev was convicted to 12 years in prison in 1995, but his sentences ever since been prolonged up to four years each time in 2006, 2009 and 2012. An inmate accused of disobeying prison orders and rules becomes automatically non eligible for annual amnesty acts. Mehriniso Hamdamova is a women religious scholar and activist convicted to 7 years in prison in April 2010. She has hysteromyoma and needs an urgent surgery. This type of surgery and post-surgery medical treatment can’t be provided in prison.

During your talks with Minister Kamilov we urge you to call on the Uzbek authorities to immediately release the above mentioned small group of political prisoners out of humanitarian concerns. We also take this opportunity to stress that the Uzbek authorities keep sending more civil society activists to prison under clearly trumped up charges. In 2013 Bobomurod Razzakov of “Ezgulik” Human Rights Society was sent to prison. In March 2014 two members of “Erk” political opposition party Fakhriddin Tilloev and Nuriddin Jumaniyozov were convicted to 8 years and 3 months in prison.

Religious prisoners

Under religious prisoners or prisoners of conscience we understand those inmates who are convicted for religious extremism, fundamentalism, terrorism, crimes against the constitutional system. Today religious prisoners are the most vulnerable massive group of inmates in Uzbekistan. Numerous accounts of independent observers point out that the vast majority of the religious prisoners were convicted to lengthy prison terms as a result of self-incriminating confessions extracted under torture and similar ill-treatment. Among them there are many family members and close relatives.

The government policy against religious extremism targets in most cases peaceful religious practice and is based on a primitive maxim that if there is one religious extremist in the family, then all members are automatically labeled as extremists. For most religious prisoners torture and similar ill-treatment continues even when after they are convicted and sent to prison facilities for serving their sentences. They rarely fall under annual amnesties, in most cases the authorities accuse them of disobeying prison orders and rules and prolong their sentences. Independent observers think there are from 6.000 to 10.000 religious prisoners but this data can’t be corroborated because the penitentiary system in Uzbekistan is completely closed. The issue of religious prisoners and gross human rights violations they are facing does rarely become a subject of discussions between Uzbekistan and its international interlocutors because of its sensitive character but we think France should be concerned with this issue as well if the bloc cares about the security situation and human rights in this Central Asian nation.

France – Uzbekistan dialogue

In its dialogue with the Uzbek government France should be careful to be dragged too much to different ends affected by the various views among the EU member-states. This trend could continuously affect the implementation of the EU strategy towards Uzbekistan because of the lack of precise set of benchmarks which makes independent monitoring / evaluation difficult. Moreover, we are afraid that the whole process of the dialogue between France as well as the EU and Uzbekistan has mostly been an “insiders’ game” and elite driven, neither France and the EU nor the Uzbek government have consulted members of the civil society organizations (CSOs) in Uzbekistan. Lack of public information over France’s and the EU’s strategy and relations with Uzbekistan logically leads into a virtually non-existent public awareness of it in Uzbekistan. Information on the France and the EU – Uzbekistan dialogue is kept behind closed doors meetings.

While pointing to human rights, democracy, good governance and rule of law as one of the first priority issues, senior EU officials (e.g. the EUSR and his staff) are at the same time careful in avoiding “double standards” by singling out less criticism on human rights record in Uzbekistan. This, however, from local viewpoint means that in terms of democracy and human rights even longer patience is needed as the strategy does neither pressure the Uzbek regime nor advises to ease the social tension by adopting new practices. Such an attitude merely allows Tashkent choosing among priorities what fits to their own policy path, Thus Tashkent can continue playing

its own regular role in a new framework as well: each time an important international interlocutor (e.g. the UN or EU) adopts a set of specific recommendations addressed to the Uzbek government, the Uzbek authorities respond by adopting a National Action Plan on the implementation of the recommendations. No practice changes in the end.

In advance of elections Uzbek president aims at amending the Constitution again

In advance of expected parliamentary and presidential elections in December 2014 and March 2015 Uzbek president Karimov has initiated amendments to articles 32, 78, 93, 98, 103 and 117 of the Constitution. The government controlled mass media reported about the president’s initiative on March 14, 2014 but the substance of suggested amendments to the constitutions was missing in publications. However quick analysis of the suggested amendments demonstrate that the president is most probably aiming at amending the constitution to allow himself to be appointed as a life-time president through a referendum.
Moreover, he has already used such tactic of entrenching himself in the power in the past several times during presidential elections and referendums he has himself orchestrated in the past. There is also a bad precedent in the Central Asian region – Nazarbaev of neighboring Kazakhstan has appointed himself a life-time leader through similar constitutional amendments without any hesitation several years ago.

We think the EU should be concerned seriously with such trends in the political life of Uzbekistan which further entrenches an authoritarian system in the country and further increases political uncertainty with security situation in this Central Asian nation.

Forced labor

Despite continuous international protests and criticism the Uzbek authorities keep on practicing massive state-orchestrated forced labour of children and adults during annual cotton harvest season. In the fall of 2014 as well the Uzbek authorities forced more than million of different groups of citizens, including schoolchildren, students, teachers, personnel of medical facilities, owners of small and medium businesses, to harvest cotton in abusive conditions under the threat of punishment. As in the previous years during 2014 cotton harvest season independent observers have again documented over 10 cases of death in the cotton fields of the people forced to this type of labor mainly because of failing technical and labor security standards, incidents and lack of proper medical treatment. The Uzbek authorities kept harassing local activists and journalists who tried to report on the issue.

We appreciate your attention to these matters and welcome the opportunity to discuss them with you.

Sincerely,
Mutabar Tadjibayeva
President of International Human Rights
Association “Fiery Hearts Club”

Swiss Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders analyzed by civil society

November 2, 2014

In December 2013, the Swiss Government became one of the few countries to issue specific Guidelines on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (http://www.humanrights.ch/en/switzerland/foreign-affairs/human-rights-foreign-policy/multilateral-policy/switzerland-guidelines-protection-human-rights-defenders). As in the case of all guidelines, the real test is in the implementation and on 12 June 2014, the Centre for Peacebuilding (KOFF) at Swisspeace organized a conference on the protection of HRDs, which brought together HRDs from Guatemala, Honduras, Serbia, Russia and Sri Lanka, Swiss government officials and representatives of Swiss civil society in order to give consideration to the different challenges that exist when it comes to HRD protection and, in particular, implementation of the Swiss guidelines.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ganji: Human rights in Iran improved, but still short of expectations

March 26, 2014

 

Remise du Prix Martin Ennals 2006

(Ganji – second from the right – at the MEA ceremony of 2006, where he received the award from UN High Commissioner Louise Arbour)

Al-Monitor of 25 March carries a lengthy interview with MEA Laureate Akbar Ganji in which Jahandad Memarian records many interesting insights, especially on the issue of sanctions and support to human rights defenders. The whole interview is certainly worth reading; here follow some long excerpts:

It is not an exaggeration to say that Akbar Ganji is the most celebrated dissident within the ranks of Iranian journalists since the inception of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979. A former supporter of the revolution, Ganji became disenchanted and turned into one of its most vocal critics. He is best known for his work as a journalist covering the 1998 murders of Iranian dissidents in Reformist newspapers, a series which came to be known as “the chain murders” that implicated top governmental officials. For his work revealing the murders of dissidents and attending a conference in Berlin that was condemned by hard-liners who were reeling after a Reformist victory in parliament, Ganji was arrested and served time in Tehran’s Evin Prison from 2001 to 2006. During his final year in prison, he went on a hunger strike that doctors urged him to end for concerns he would suffer permanent brain damage.

Ganji has won several international awards, including the World Association of Newspapers’ Golden Pen of Freedom Award, the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression’s International Press Freedom Award, the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders and the Cato Institute Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty. In an exclusive interview via email with Al-Monitor, Ganji, based in New York, shared his thoughts about human rights and democracy in the context of President Hassan Rouhani’s administration.

Al-Monitor:  The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, has sharply criticized the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, saying, “He has not made any significant improvement” in ending human rights abuses since taking office. Nevertheless, Mahmoud Sadri — Iranian professor of sociology at the Federation of North Texas Area Universities — is optimistic about the new administration and has asked Iranian dissidents and intellectuals to take advantage of this historic opportunity. How do you evaluate the Rouhani administration?

Ganji:  The situation has improved from various aspects compared with the [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad administration. However, it falls short of the expectations of democracy advocates and human rights activists. The Rouhani administration truly seeks to improve the state of human rights, but it has faced obstacles in Iran’s power hierarchy, including organizations that [Supreme Leader] Ayatollah [Ali] Khamenei oversees, such as the judiciary, law enforcement, etc., in addition to the Majles [parliament] that is controlled by the conservatives and some radical reactionaries.

…….Since his administration came to power, Rouhani has spoken with the supreme leader about freeing the Green Movement’s leaders (former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi and former Majles speaker Mehdi Karoubi) and political prisoners, guaranteeing that nothing would happen, if they were freed.

Al-Monitor:  In January, you wrote a Huffington Post article titled “The Iran Nuclear Accord Is Good for Human Rights.” It seems to me whenever international pressure on the Iranian government increased, Iran improved its record. For example, Tehran released political prisoners ahead of Hassan Rouhani’s UN speech, including prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. Don’t you think such actions stem from international pressure? In the absence of this leverage — i.e., international pressure — Iran would continue human rights violations.

Ganji:  With regard to “external pressure on an undemocratic regime and improvement of human rights or increased oppression,” there is no law/rule that would address the cause-reaction relationships. At most, one can speak of “correlation.”[…] we need to know the following:

First, economic sanctions represent the collective punishment of a country’s people and do not necessarily lead to dictatorships’ downfall.

Second, long-term sanctions destroy the internal infrastructure of societies. ..Consequently, trust that is the basis of social capital is destroyed. Because of the sanctions, the oppressive regime’s increasing level of oppression, the internal destruction of society, is not visible. It is only in the aftermath of the dictatorship’s downfall that we will witness the visible spread of a wave of hatred, revenge and violence.

Third, in a life and death situation, the state of human rights, democracy and freedom completely falls by the wayside.

Fourth, consider Iraq’s example again. Before, the invasion al-Qaeda forces did not exist in Iraq, but they were born and bred as a result of the US sanctions and the US attack on Iraq. This story has been repeated in Libya and Syria. …..Iranian, US and European officials have professed that economic sanctions against Iran have affected Iran’s economy negatively. Last year, the economic growth rate fell to -5.8%. The inflation rate rose to 40%. The corruption rate climbed, and other negative outcomes followed. We should ask ourselves, what is the impact of recession on ordinary people’s lives?

The middle class, as a vehicle of democracy, has been transformed to the impoverished class, and its democratic movement may lose its agents. Democracy is the product of the balance of power between the government and civil society.

The transformation of the nuclear agreement from temporary to permanent, improvement of Iran’s relationship with Western governments, rekindling of ties between Iran and the United States, lifting of all the economic sanctions and alleviation of foreign threats can help empower the people through their mobilization and expansion of civil society. In that sense, the regime’s focus and its supporters will not be on discovering conspiracies of foreign governments and military attacks to destroy the regime. Let’s not forget that democracy and human rights have a direct relationship with economic development.

Al-Monitor:  You have opposed US aid to Iranian dissidents and human rights activists. What are your key criticisms against such aid? What actions should foreign countries.. take or avoid ?

Ganji:  The opposition that I have spoken about consists of groups and people that advocate regime change in Iran, so they can come to power. It is not possible for the leaders of a country to be indebted to other foreign governments, including the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Russia and China. In that case, they will become the greater powers’ pawns. Look at the groups that have received financial aid from foreign governments in the past 35 years. What have they done? Do their terrorist and espionage activities constitute human rights activism, or are such activities considered criminal in all countries, including the United States and Israel, and are they strongly punished?

However, I support educational financial aid, including student scholarships and research fellowships for scholars. Just think about what would have happened if the $1.5 trillion that was spent on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would have been used toward education and development of the Middle East, and how that would have changed the region. Why do Western governments, the United States included, not grant scholarships to tens of thousands of talented and smart Iranian youth as students in social sciences?

Western governments should protest all human rights violations; they should give ethical and spiritual support to pro-democracy and human rights activists; they should file complaints at the UN Human Rights Council and ease the process of bringing perpetrators to justice. Moreover, Western powers should stop selling weapons of torture and oppression to dictatorial regimes. Ultimately, they should allocate financial resources to form independent labor unions and improve the state of human rights.

Ganji: Human rights improved, still short of expectations in Iran – Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East.

Read more:

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/iran/

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/03/rouhani-reform-nuclear-iran-politics-student-human-rights.html#ixzz2x3K4G8RK

The EU and freedom of expression as seen by Index on Censorship

January 16, 2014

Index on Censorship is basing a series of articles on its larger report by Mike Harris, Time to Step Up: The EU and freedom of expression.

On 14 January 2014 came the one the ‘southern neighbourhood’ arguing that the credibility of the EU’s swing in focus from economic development towards human rights (after the outbreak of the Arab spring) is low.

The EU’s  communication “A partnership for democracy and shared prosperity with the southern Mediterranean“ (published on 8 May 2011) addresses the EU’s commitment to financially support transition to democracy and civil society and heralds the creation of the Civil Society Facility for the neighbourhood (covering both the southern and eastern neighbourhoods), while the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) deployed a number of operations in the region to protect and promote freedom of expression, often without the consent of the host country. Still, the article argues, european countries are often still seen as former allies of repressive regimes.

http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/01/eu-freedom-expression-southern-neighbourhood/

The one of 15 January, entitled ‘The EU and free expression: Human rights dialogues’, looks at the situation that the EU runs 30 human rights dialogues across the globe, with the key dialogues taking place in China, Kazakhstan,  Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Georgia and Belarus. It also has a dialogues with the African Union. The article is more detailed on China 

The article concludes: “With criticism of the effectiveness and openness of the dialogues, the EU should look again at how the dialogues fit into the overall strategy of the Union and its member states in the promotion of human rights with third countries and assess whether the dialogues can be improved.

The EU and free expression: Human rights dialogues – Index on Censorship | Index on Censorship.

 

Stephane Hessel – an exceptional Human Rights Defender – dies at 95

February 28, 2013

Stéphane Hessel, a hero of the French Resistance, diplomat and activist (what a rare combination) died on Tuesday 27 February in Paris at the age of 95. His life and works are described in detail by the mainstream press, so I only single out here his strength of conviction that made him publish at a very advanced age – in October 2010 –  “Indignez-Vous!”, a short pamphlet that urged young people to revive the flame of resistance to injustice that burned in himself during World War II, this time in peaceful rebellion against what he termed the dictatorial forces of international capitalism, and to reassert the ideal that the privileged must help the less fortunate rise. Read the rest of this entry »