Posts Tagged ‘diplomatic pressure’

Why Costa Rica should be in the UN Human Rights Council rather than Venezuela

October 6, 2019

Venezuela’s abusive government is unfit to serve on the United Nations Human Rights Council, and UN member states should defeat its candidacy, Human Rights Watch said on 4 October 2019. For years, Venezuela’s authorities have led a vicious crackdown on dissent and failed to address a self-inflicted humanitarian emergency that has sent more than 4.3 million Venezuelans fleeing the country.

Statement by western diplomats in Zimbabwe on human rights defenders

August 21, 2019

The Heads of Mission in Zimbabwe of the European Union, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the USA issued the following statement on 20 August 2019:

Intimidation, harassment and physical attacks on human rights defenders, trade union and civil society representatives, and opposition politicians – prior to, during and following the demonstration in Harare on 16 August – are cause for great concern.

The Zimbabwean Constitution guarantees the right to personal security from violence and prohibits physical or psychological torture. The Heads of Mission urge the authorities to respect these fundamental rights, and to hold perpetrators of violence legally responsible.

The Heads of Mission call on the authorities to respect the constitutional rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression as well as to peaceful protest, and urge all political party leaders and supporters to abstain from threats and incitement to violence as well as acts of violence or vandalism. The security forces must adhere to their Constitutional mandate and exercise restraint and proportionality while maintaining public order.

Only by addressing concretely and rapidly these human rights violations will the Government of Zimbabwe give credibility to its commitments to address longstanding governance challenges. The Heads of Mission reiterate their calls for the implementation of the government’s political and economic reform agenda, underpinned by inclusive national dialogue and increased efforts to address the severe social situation.

See also the Government’s reaction: https://allafrica.com/stories/201908210061.html

https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/66559/joint-local-statement-respect-human-rights-and-freedom-assembly_en

https://www.africanews.com/2019/08/20/joint-local-statement-on-respect-for-human-rights-and-freedom-of-assembly/

Equatorial Guinean human rights defender Alfredo Okenve gets house arrest instead of award ceremony

March 17, 2019

Alfredo Okenve, a leading rights activist in Equatorial Guinea, was arrested at Malabo's airport on Friday night

AFP reported on 16 March 2019 that Alfredo Okenve, a leading human rights defender in Equatorial Guinea was arrested in the capital Malabo after travelling there to receive an award for his work, his NGO and a police source said Saturday. Okenve had arrived in Malabo on Thursday, a day ahead of a ceremony at the French Institute where he was to receive the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law from French and German ambassadors. He was arrested at Malabo airport on Friday night when he was about to board a flight to Madrid after the cancellation of the awards ceremony earlier in the day.

A leading figure in the country’s civil society movement, Okenve is one of the leaders of the Center for Studies and Initiatives for the Development of Equatorial Guinea (CEID-GE), which said he had been flown back home to the port city of Bata and placed under house arrest. The authorities “prevented him from flying to Spain,” said Mariano Nkogo, who is also a senior figure within the NGO. He said a military plane had been chartered to fly Okenve back to Bata.

His arrest was also confirmed by a police officer at the airport and by the opposition Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS) whose members have been previously targeted in a crackdown by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who has ruled the West African state for 39 years.

Friday afternoon’s award ceremony was cancelled after the Guinean government sent a formal note to the envoys’ representatives saying it did not recognise the award, a regional diplomatic source said. “Due to the lack of transparency in the awarding of this prize, the government of Equatorial Guinea cannot recognise its validity,” said the note, a copy of which was seen by AFP. The French and German embassies then postponed the ceremony. [for more on this award – authorities take note! – see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/franco-german-prize-for-human-rights-and-the-rule-of-law]

In late October, Okenve was seized and beaten by unidentified men who left him in a remote area of Bata. He then went to Madrid to seek medical care, only returning home in mid-February.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/08/cartoonist-ramon-esono-ebale-freed-in-equatorial-guinea/

Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) reports to Human Rights Council on media casualties

March 13, 2019

Press Emblem Campaign (PEC), a nongovernmental organization presented a statement on press freedom and journalist killings duringUnited Nations Human Rights Council 40th session in Geneva on 13 March 2019.

The Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) documented last year the killing of 117 journalists, an increase of 17 percent in media casualties compared to the previous year. In five countries journalists paid an unacceptable toll: Afghanistan with 17 killed, Mexico also with 17 killed, Syria with 11 killed, Yemen and India, with 8 journalists killed in each of those countries. The PEC urged the Members of the Human Rights Council to fight more firmly impunity and to bring the responsible of those crimes to justice.

The PEC is also worried by the large number of arrests among journalists in the recent turmoilin Sudan, the repression of press freedom in Nicaragua and Venezuela, the statement reads. PEC expressed itsspecial concern with the continuous judicial harassment of journalists in Turkey in the statement.

PEC was one of the organizers of the panel discussion on human rights violations in Turkey, which the Turkish government mobilized its entire diplomatic corps to prevent during 40th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council on 5 March. The move prompted an outcry from human rights defenders.[see: https://stockholmcf.org/erdogan-govt-fails-to-cancel-un-human-rights-council-event-on-turkey/%5D

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF (Stockholm Centre for Freedom) show that 211 journalists and media workers were in jail as of March 11, 2019, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 134 were under arrest pending trial while only 77 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 167 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey. The government also closed down some 200 media outlets.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/20/european-parliament-rapporteur-on-turkey-kati-piri-it-makes-no-sense-to-continue-talks-on-eu-membership/

Does G7 set a precedent with Sotoudeh for inviting human rights defenders?

March 11, 2019

Radio Farda on 8 March 2019 reported that France’s President Macron has decided to invite jailed Iranian Human Rights Defender Nasrin Sotoudeh to the G7 Council. This is an excellent idea that deserves follow-up in other such forums. There are quite a few laureates of human rights awards who are in detention or subject to a travel ban. An invitation from a group of important world leaders is hard to ignore!

My first suggestions are:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/29/eren-keskin-mea-nominee-2019-speaks-out-fearlessly-turkey-more-oppressive-today-than-ever/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/10/breaking-news-egyptian-defender-mohammed-zaree-laureate-of-the-martin-ennals-award-2017/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/09/15/fly-emirates-if-the-emirs-let-you/


Imprisoned Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh adjusts her scarf at her house in Tehran, September 18, 2013
Imprisoned Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh adjusts her scarf at her house in Tehran, September 18, 2013

French President Emmanuel Macron has invited jailed Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh to take part in the G7 gender equality forum. Sotoudeh’s husband Reza Khandan told Radio Farda on Friday that Macron’s invitation has been given to him in Tehran on Thursday March 7, one day before the International Women’s Day.[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/16/iranian-human-rights-lawyer-nasrin-sotoudeh-arrested-again/]

Ms. Sotoudeh is to be a member of the consultative council for gender equality in Group 7. Khandan said Iranian women should be proud of Soutoudeh’s membership in the G7 council. Copies of the invitation have been handed to the Iranian Foreign Ministry and Bar Association.

Nasrin Sotoudeh has been in Jail since June 2018 with a five-year imprisonment sentence and is facing more charges for defending human rights activists in Iran. She is an outspoken opponent of the death penalty and compulsory hijab.  Sotoudeh, 55, is the winner of numerous international awards, including PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write (2011), Southern Illinois University School of Law Rule of Law Citation (2011) and Sakharov Prize (2012). On 21 September 2018, she was awarded the 23rd Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Rights Prize.

https://en.radiofarda.com/a/france-s-macron-invites-jailed-iranian-human-rights-lawyer-to-g7-council-/29811115.html

Macron’s meeting with human rights defenders in Egypt and follow up

January 31, 2019

Emmanuel Macron lunched with Egyptian human rights defenders in Cairo on 29 January at the end of a three-day visit (for names see below). On Monday, the French president had visibly annoyed his Egyptian counterpart Abdul Fattah al-Sisi at a press conference, by saying that Sisi ought to restore civil rights and liberties for the good of his country. “Stability and lasting peace in Egypt go hand in hand with respecting individual rights and liberties within a state of law,” Macron said. “A dynamic, active, civil society remains the best rampart against extremism.” In response, President Sisi that “Egypt will not rise up with bloggers… Egypt will develop with efforts and patience.

The French leader was even more forthright with French journalists in Cairo on Sunday night. He had given Sisi a list of political opponents including “journalists, homosexuals, men and women who have convictions” when Sisi visited Paris in October 2017. “Only two of them were freed,” Macron said. “That’s not enough. And things have got worse since.”

On Tuesday, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies issued a statement providing details about the meeting. It said that Mohamed Zaree told Macron that “France must ensure that French weapons and communication technologies are not being used in Egypt against rights activists and peaceful political dissidents.”  Zaree also told Macron that he and 30 of his colleagues are banned from travel and ” stressed that it was vital for the international community to refuse to sanction any attempt to amend the Egyptian constitution to eliminate presidential term limits, on any pretext.” [see also: https://www.voanews.com/a/human-rights-honor-goes-to-egyptian-banned-from-travel/4064632.html; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/10/breaking-news-egyptian-defender-mohammed-zaree-laureate-of-the-martin-ennals-award-2017/]

That the State does not have to do all the criminalisation of HRDs itself was shown a day after the meeting with the HRDs, when Egyptian lawyer Tarek Mahmoud filed a legal complaint against the heads of four of Egypt’s human rights organizations for “threatening national security”, according to local media reports. The complaint was filed on Wednesday against Mohamed Zaree, the director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Gamal Eid, the executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, Mohamed Lotfy, the executive director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, and Gasser Abdel-Razek, the executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). Tarek Mahmoud said in the complaint that the four men “provided French officials with false information on the political conditions in Egypt”. Mahmoud added that they were “insulting the Egyptian state and undermining the country’s national security, and collaborating with the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood group to achieve its goals of bringing down the Egyptian state.

The Irish human rights group Frontline Defenders has presented a report on Egypt’s Attack on Labour Rights Defenders to French media in the run-up to Macron’s visit (with focus on the ill-treatment of workers at the Alexandria shipyard.).

——

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/macron-pivots-towards-focus-on-human-rights-abuses-in-egypt-1.3775181

https://egyptianstreets.com/2019/01/31/human-rights-advocates-accused-of-spreading-false-news-after-meeting-with-macron/

Where is the international support for Canada in its row with Saudi Arabia

August 27, 2018

The tension between Saudi Arabia and Canada began when Canada’s Global Affairs Twitter account tweeted this 3 August 2018 statement concerning human rights abuses: Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in , including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful activists.

The excessive response by Saudi Arabia and the various issues at stake have been sufficiently described  in the media (see several links below) but what is most disturbing is what one commentator called “Not a shred of solidarity was on offer anyway: it was all just a dispute between “friends” and “allies.” Weak EU response with obviously no support from the Trump government, has left the Canadian government close to mulling a kind of apology “Canada will of course continue to “speak out,” Trudeau said last Wednesday, but he also said this of Saudi Arabia: “This is a country that has some importance around the world. It is making progress when it comes to human rights.” There is no need for mediation,” said Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. “…Canada has made a mistake and needs to fix it.” Al-Jubeir’s views were then immediately expanded by former Conservative foreign affairs minister John Baird in an interview broadcast by the Saudis’ own Al-Arabiya network.

On 9 August a number of Canadian organizations expressed their support to Canada for its recent position on the detention of women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia. “and urged the international community to join Canada in calling for the unequivocal respect of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.”

With Russia and quite of few other countries coming out openly to express solidarity with Saudi Arabia it is time to ask where the like-minded solidarity is and what international NGOs do to support courageous Canada??

[with exception for HRW https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/08/08/saudi-arabia-punishes-canada-criticizing-human-rights-defenders-arrests and AI https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/08/saudi-arabia-international-community-must-speak-up-for-human-rights-defenders-after-canadian-ambassador-expelled/]

———

http://www.mediafiledc.com/saudi-canadian-duel-takes-place-on-multiple-platforms/

https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2018/08/11/saudi-arabia-picks-a-pointless-fight-with-canada

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-canada-owes-no-apology-to-the-saudis/

https://www.macleans.ca/politics/worldpolitics/the-trudeau-government-is-losing-its-human-rights-battle-with-the-saudis-and-missing-a-huge-opportunity/

https://interpares.ca/news/joint-statement-canadas-support-women-human-rights-defenders-saudi-arabia

 

China and the UN Human Rights Council: really Win-Win?

March 7, 2018

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated on Wednesday 7 March that China’s actions on human rights did not match its words and the level of respect for basic liberties remained low in the country. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein did so in his annual report on human rights in the world to the UN Human Rights Council, “President Xi Jinping has called for ‘people-centred development for win-win outcomes as part of a community of shared future for mankind’, a commendable ambition. Sadly, China’s global ambitions on are seemingly not mirrored by its record at home,” he said.

My office continues to receive urgent appeals regarding arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, ill-treatment and discrimination, emanating from defenders, lawyers, legislators, booksellers, and members of communities such as Tibetans and Uyghurs,” he added. Hussein said many of the cases involved people fighting against economic, social and cultural injustices such as corruption, illegal seizure of land and forced evictions or destruction of cultural sites.

Before the start of  the current session of the UN Human Rights Council twenty NGOs had called on all member states to hold China accountable at the UN Human Rights Council, appears from a piece by the ISHR on 26 February 2018

In a private letter sent to select UN Member States, the NGOs called for clear and concrete actions to denounce China’s current rollback in respect for human rights at the UN Human Rights Council.

The organisations highlight five cases of human rights defenders that would benefit from further pressure being brought to bear on the Chinese government. They include:

  • Liu Xia, a poet kept under house arrest after the death of her husband, Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, in July 2017
  • Wang Quanzhang, a rights lawyer held incommunicado since 9 July 2015
  • Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen arbitrarily detained in China since he vanished from Thailand in October 2015
  • Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan cultural rights and education advocate who has been detained more than two years on charges of inciting separatism (a press release by a group of UN experts on 21 February)
  • Yu Wensheng, a prominent human rights lawyer disbarred, then arbitrarily detained, in January 2018.

The organisations urge the governments to:

….This year is particularly important, as human rights defenders inside and outside China prepare for the country’s next Universal Periodic Review, scheduled for November 2018. The letter to governments concludes: ‘For human rights defenders to have the courage to engage in this important process, with all the risks that it entails, it’s critical that they know that they are not alone’.

(Amnesty International, China Labour Bulletin, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Human Rights in China, Human Rights Watch, the International Campaign for Tibet, the International Commission of Jurists,  the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, the International Service for Human Rights, Lawyers for Lawyers, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, PEN America, Swedish PEN, the Tibet Advocacy Coalition (comprised of the International Tibet Network Secretariat, Students for a Free Tibet, Tibet Initiative Deutschland, Tibet Justice Center, and Tibetan Youth Association in Europe), and the World Uyghur Congress.)

https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/03/05/chinas-win-win-resolution-anything

http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/china-shows-little-respect-for-human-rights-un-high-commissioner-118030701132_1.html

https://www.ishr.ch/news/china-ngos-call-states-hold-china-accountable-un-human-rights-council

Cyber attacks on City of Weimar for awarding Ilham Tohti

November 11, 2017

9 November, 2017 Photo courtesy of World Uyghur Congress

The website of the German city of Weimar – since the announcement that they would award this year’s Human Rights Prize to Ilham Tohti – continues to face attacks (likely) by Chinese hackers who, among other things, deleted all of the website’s content on Ilham Tohti. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/05/uyghur-human-rights-defender-ilham-tohti-wins-also-weimar-human-rights-prize/]

(The information below is based on an article published by ChinaChange.org) 

 The city of Weimar announced on June 30 2017 that they were awarding this year’s Weimar Human Rights Prize to Ilham Tohti in recognition of his work upholding the rights of the Uighur people and promoting understanding between Uighurs and Han Chinese. In accordance with tradition, the Prize is awarded every year on December 10—International Human Rights Day. In September 2014, Ilham Tohti was sentenced to life in prison for “separatist activities,” and his real “crimes” though were his efforts to build bridges between different ethnic minorities and his speaking out bluntly about China’s draconian, unproductive policies in Xinjiang. The Weimar City Council hopes that by awarding the Human Rights Prize to Ilham Tohti, “his advocacy for peace and dialogue will not be forgotten, and support for his release will be strengthened.”

Mr. Oehme is in charge of the Weimar Human Rights Prize. He told Radio Free Asia that, starting in early July and shortly after the prize was announced, the city’s official website was attacked and continues to be until now. All news about the award and the December 10 prize ceremony has been removed. Mr. Oehme said that the Weimar government deeply regrets that hackers have deleted the content from the webpage that has been three years in the making. Mr. Oehme also revealed that the City Council’s Human Rights Prize Committee received a telephone call in July from a self-identified “Ms. Li” from the Chinese Embassy in Berlin, alleging that Ilham Tohti’s work had nothing to do with human rights and freedom of speech. She protested Weimar giving the human rights prize to a “Chinese criminal.” The Weimar municipal government also learned that, after the announcement of the prize, Beijing had protested to Berlin through diplomatic channels.

The Weimar government asked the police to conduct a criminal investigation into the hacking. It’s not yet clear where the cyber attacks originated. But Isa Dolkun, current General Secretary of the World Uyghur Congress based in Munich, believes that this attack is undoubtedly being carried out by China.

Mr. Oehme said that no matter what happens, there will be no change in awarding this year’s human rights prize to Ilham Tohti.

In 2016 Ilham Tohti was nominated for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, and he won the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, known as the “Nobel Prize for Human Rights.” The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein gave the award to Ilham Tohti’s daughter. The Chinese government subsequently attacked the High Commissioner for “interfering with China’s internal affairs and judiciary sovereignty.”

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/ilham-tohti/

 

http://unpo.org/article/20443

Azerbaijan releases human rights defenders bit by bit: Khadijah Ismayilova now free

May 27, 2016

Khadija IsmayilovaOn Wednesday 25 May 2016 Azerbaijan finally released investigative journalist Khadijah Ismayilova [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/azerbaijan-khadija-ismayilova-remains-in-jail-but-council-of-europe-takes-exceptional-step/] after a number of other human rights defenders were released bit by bit over the last months. Ismayilova was serving a seven-and-a-half year sentence on charges which included embezzlement, illegal business activities and tax evasion. The Supreme Court has now amended her imprisonment to 3 1/2 years of suspended sentence and released her from prison. She vowed to continue to fight to clear her name. “I will continue to fight until complete acquittal,” Ismayilova told reporters after her release. “I will also continue to work as a journalist.” The British-Lebanese lawyer Amal Clooney is representing Khadija Ismayilova at the European Court of Human Rights.

As an independent reporter and journalist of the Azerbaijani radio Azadliq (“Radio Freedom”) she has shown great courage (see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/khadija-ismayilova-azerbaijan-is-not-deterred/), and received several international prizes, such as the 2015 Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism (HRW), the 2015 Freedom to Write Award, the 2012 Fritt Ord/Zeit Press Prize, and the 2012 Courage of Journalism Award by the Washington-based International Women’s Media Foundation.

Although there are still human rights defenders and journalists in prison, Azerbaijan provides a fine example of how awards and the combined international pressure from a variety of sources (States, NGOs and international organizations) can have an impact:

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/azerbaijan-pardon-jafarov-ismayilova-aliyev/

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/04/08/released-intigam-aliyev-azerbaijan-civil-rights-defender-of-the-year-award/

Source:

Reuters – Azerbaijan frees journalist whose case raised outcry in West

https://www.cpj.org/2016/05/-azerbaijani-reporter-khadija-ismayilova-ordered-r.php