Posts Tagged ‘disappearances’

Garifuna rights defenders in Honduras should be released.

March 16, 2021

Defensoras garífunas

Sunday March 7 2021 an initial hearing was held in the court at Trujillo, Colón, in which Marianela Solórzano and Jennifer Solórzano, women human rights defenders belonging to the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), are on trial. Both were arrested by the Public Security Force (FUSEP) on March 3rd, and charged with damages, threats, robbery and usurpation of lands. 

In the trial records they are incriminated for the offenses of land usurpation, involving other Garifuna defenders, as well. The charges against them are related to the historic process of resistance by the Garifuna people to the plunder of their lands. Private businesses and governments alike have participated in the illegal appropriation of the ancestral territory of the Garifuna people, particularly the ownership of more than seven thousand hectares of land in the Cristales and Rio Negro communities confirmed by ancestral property deeds.  

Marianela is a defender of the rights of the LGBTI Garifuna community, and Jennifer, a defender of the ancestral Garifuna territories. Their arrests took place in the context of the continuous persecution and attacks against the Garifuna people organized in OFRANEH.

Historically, the communities belonging to OFRANEH have been the target of harassment, threats by armed groups, assassinations, and the disappearance of community leaders, among other highly serious rights violations. During the last ten years, these have only worsened due to the authoritarian criminal government model headed by Juan Orlando Hernández. Eight months ago, five Garifuna comrades were disappeared by armed men wearing uniforms of the Office of Police Investigations (DPI) of Honduras. As of now, their whereabouts are unknown. 

National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders in Honduras, the Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders (IM-Defensoras), and many other groups and networks of women human rights defenders in Mesoamerica, as well as the FIDH call on all feminist and LGBTI social movements and the international community to stay on the alert for developments in this case and to demand a hearing with full guarantees for the rights of the criminalized Garifuna defenders. 

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/25/four-honduran-woman-human-rights-defenders-say-why-funders-need-to-prioritize-social-movmements/

They demand the immediate freedom and point out that Marianela and Jennifer are human rights defenders, not criminals.  

http://im-defensoras.org/2021/03/urgent-alert-honduras-arrested-garifuna-rights-defenders-will-have-hearing-this-sunday-march-7th-the-international-community-demands-their-release/

https://www.fidh.org/es/temas/defensores-de-derechos-humanos/honduras-criminalizacion-de-las-defensoras-garifunas-marianela-y

Celebrating International Women’s Day in 2021

March 8, 2021

This day leads to a plethora of statements and actions. Here a small selection focusing on women human rights defenders:

Credit: UN Women/Yihui Yuan.

Joan Kuriansky – a volunteer with The Advocates For Human Rightswrites: “Celebrating International Women’s Day in 2021 compels us to pause and examine the lessons of the past year- the COVID pandemic, economic distress and the surging mandate of Black Lives Matter. Each phenomenon has made so more visible the challenges that historically face women across the globe. Importantly, these forces have also made it clear how connected we are to each other whether in neighborhoods within miles of our home or across a continent and the extraordinary role that women play in making lives better and more just in every corner of the world. The UN and UNDP estimate that the pandemic will push 47 million more women and girls below the poverty line. Our upcoming workshop at the NGO CSW65 Virtual Forum will highlight the economic and other inequalities women face as a result of the pandemic. Register here: https://bit.ly/3dmVgSk Event link: https://bit.ly/2NhPoiL

Women have been in the forefront of promoting peaceful solutions to conflict -conflict that has often included the rape and violation of women, the death of those in combat and the destruction of communities. Women have been in the forefront of promoting peaceful solutions to conflict -conflict that has often included the rape and violation of women, the death of those in combat and the destruction of communities. The Soldiers Mother’s Committee in Russia and Chechnya [[https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/3371DC1A-42AE-44BF-E349-26987BF98314], or the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace founded by Leymah Gbowe or the 3 co-founders of Black Lives Matter have inspired all of us. And as we documented in our work with the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, women have a key role to play in the post-conflict and peacebuilding process.], or the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace founded by Leymah Gbowe or the 3 co-founders of Black Lives Matter [https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/4f840e00-be5d-11e7-b953-f7f66015c2f3]have inspired all of us. And as we documented in our work with the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, women have a key role to play in the post-conflict and peacebuilding process.

Women's World Summit Foundation (WWSF)

The WWSF introduces 60 Heroes out of 462 Laureates awarded with the WWSF Prize for Women’s Creativity in Rural Life (1994-2020)

UN Women this year is celebrating women’s leadership in all its forms and calling for women and feminists across the world to claim their space in leadership and decision-making. Presently, only 7.4 per cent of Fortune 500 companies are run by women. Despite progress and many broken records, women continue to be excluded in certain sports. Systemic barriers, gender bias, discrimination and gender stereotypes continue to hold women back from rising in STEM careers. Women and girls have been leading climate action and environmental movements, but men occupy 67 per cent of climate-related decision-making roles. 119 countries have never had a woman leader. Just 25 per cent of national parliamentary seats are held by women.

Around the world, the space for civil discourse and movements is shrinking. The media plays a critical role in amplifying women’s voices and stories and drawing attention to key issues. But, with women holding only 27 per cent of top management jobs in media organizations, More than one-third of women’s employment is in agriculture, increasing women’s access to land and providing better support for women farmers is, therefore, essential. The majority of negotiators, mediators, and signatories in peace processes are still men.

In news media, only 24 per cent of the persons heard, read about or seen in newspaper, television and radio news are women. In global news coverage of COVID-19, only one in five expert sources counsulted were women.

Amnesty International stated that across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), despite some limited reforms, women continue to face entrenched discrimination and daily violence amid the abject failure of governments to stamp out arbitrary arrests, abductions, assassinations, so-called “honour” killings and other forms of gender-based violence, said Amnesty International, marking International Women’s Day. ..Inadequate government action to protect women from gender-based violence and address impunity has long perpetuated this form of abuse.  As a first step, authorities must publicly condemn all forms of gender-based violence and dismantle discriminatory structures that facilitate such abuse – such as male guardianship,” said Heba Morayef.   “They must also ensure that the rights of survivors are protected, that survivors can safely access justice and that perpetrators are held to account. Survivors must be able to access adequate shelter, psycho-social support as well as legal and other services.”

All over the world, a female-driven political awakening is taking place. But this is met with prosecution by the State and persecution by self-vigilante groups. Their experiences are marred with patriarchal subordination, sexualised violence, threat and harassment. They face severe retribution and systematic abuse, even at the hands of the State. It is important to have an enabling environment for these soft targets who face heightened risks as compared to their male counterparts. International obligation requires the State to stop criminalising women defenders, write SHRUTIKA PANDEY & MRINALINI MISHRA in The Leaflet of 8 March 2021.

MRT of 8 March 2021 states that International Women’s Day is not celebrated, a struggle is commemorated – that has not ended- in favor of justice, peace and freedom of each one of them. In a strict sense, feminism seeks make gender issues visible. Under that idea, there should be no censorship or exclusion. Nevertheless, What about trans women? While it is true that some people do not agree that they are part of the feminist movement, the reality is that they also suffer from violence, harassment and discrimination. Therefore, they are in the same fight. With that said, we present to you 8 recognized trans women in history

The Media Line of 7 March writes that “Women face uphill climb to equality in the MENA region” Activists and human rights groups paint a daunting portrait of the equality landscape between the genders in the MENA region, as they prepare to mark International Women’s Day, March 8. The coronavirus epidemic, certainly, did not help the plight of women this past year. Still, going forward, the largest issues facing women in the Middle East were entrenched long before the pandemic hit.

In the Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) countries, women’s rights defenders have it tough. While prominent Saudi women’s activist Loujain al-Hathloul was freed last month after almost three years in prison [see https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/1a6d84c0-b494-11ea-b00d-9db077762c6c], Samar Badawi [https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/eaed8641-4056-4130-a5ff-fb7bf289cece], Nassima al-Sadah, Nouf Abdelaziz and Maya’a al-Zahrani remain in jail after their 2018 arrests on charges of advocating for women’s rights. “Those who are behind bars are the champions for the change that took place,” Khalid Ibrahim, executive director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, told The Media Line, referring to women driving.

In UCANews of 8 March 2021 Mary Aileen D. Bacalso, Manila writes that “Millions of women the world over suffer from discrimination, abuse, poverty, gender-based violence and human rights violations, of which enforced disappearance is one of the most cruel forms. Enforced disappearance, which motivated the international community to establish the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, especially affects women.  On this significant occasion, I remember the faces and voices of women I personally encountered from 50 countries that I visited during my almost three decades of advocacy for the cause of the disappeared. Many of them carried pictures of their loved ones. Some gave me every bit of information with the hope against hope to find light amidst the dark night of the disappeared.”

Euromed uses the occasion for a series of podcast. For our first episode, the story you are about to hear is that of Mozn Hassan, a woman human rights defender and the founder and executive director of Nazra for Feminist Studies, a feminist organisation working in Egypt and the MENA region on gender equality and combatting violence against women. See: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/38B5C337-72F5-C4DE-BC95-95094B9E3939

[https://open.spotify.com/episode/0BLcZcwdDrab9guLW6fHVo]

https://www.woman.ch/campaign-17-days/meet-60-heroes-out-of-462-laureates-awarded-with-the-wwsf-prize-for-womens-creativity-in-rural-life-1994-2020/

https://un-women.medium.com/claiming-womens-space-in-leadership-6acc13946e2

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/03/mena-gender-based-violence-continues-to-devastate-lives-of-women-across-region/

https://www.ucanews.com/news/women-turn-grief-into-courage/91671#

For 30 years Parveena Ahangar has fought for justice against disappearances in Kashmir

November 30, 2020

Parveena Ahangar
Parveena Ahangar

Several weeks ago authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir raided the home and offices of Parveena Ahangar, a local human rights defender, over alleged “terrorist funding,” sending shockwaves in NGOs operating in the region. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/09/30/parveena-ahangar-and-parvez-imroz-in-kashmir-awarded-rafto-prize-2017/]

The “iron lady of Kashmir” said that in 30 years of activism, the October raid by the Indian National Investigation Agency was the first time such brazen action was taken against her, calling it “saddening.”

On the eve of International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, Anadolu Agency spoke with Ahangar, who is chair and founder of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), a group seeking justice for victims of enforced disappearances in the Indian-administered region.

“For the last three decades, nobody has raised questions on my work and integrity. This is for the first time that the Indian Investigating Agency wants to prove otherwise, but I will not budge what I am committed to before my God,” Ahangar said in her office in Srinagar.

In 2017, the Indian National Investigation Agency started pursuing a case against pro-freedom activists and groups, claiming that they were getting money from undisclosed sources and using it to fund terrorist activities Since then, many raids have been carried out across the region..

Ahangar’s son, Javed Ahmed Ahangar, was abducted Aug. 18, 1990, by the Indian army and consequently disappeared. He was a Class 11 student at the time. Overtaken with grief, she looked long and hard to find him, but to no avail. She took the legal route and filed various petitions, but that did not help.

In 1994, she formed the association of Parents of Disappeared Persons when the government and every other institution failed to deliver justice in her son’s case and other victims.

I am myself a sufferer. My 18-year-old son who was abducted by the Indian Army in 1990 has not been returned to me, and there are hundreds of mothers who are still waiting for their sons but have not been returned. I’m fighting for the return of our sons,” said Ahangar.

She said for four years she fought the legal battle to find his whereabouts. “I saw hundreds of mothers waiting at the doors of these institutions pleading for the same but the reply used to come ‘untraced’ with no accountability. Where are our sons, I am asking the Indian government.”

According to APDP figures, 8,000-10,000 people in the disputed region have disappeared with no trace.

In an in-depth peer-reviewed study, Lubna Mohiuddin (1997) observed that despite no formal declaration of a state of emergency, the presence of Indian troops in the region shot up from 0.15 million in 1990 to 0.7 million by 1997, which aggravated human rights abuses in the region.

“Despite India being a signatory of multiple international covenants, charters and declarations, violence in Kashmir continues to occur in the form of extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests, tortures, burning of houses, and gang-rapes,” the study said.

On Aug. 5, 2019, when India scrapped the limited autonomy of the Jammu and Kashmir region, the APDP documented the Kashmir region as going through one of the worst forms of state authoritarianism and high handedness.

“The Indian Government has continuously asserted that ‘normalcy’ has been returned to Kashmir. But, the testimonies and ground level reports indicate the contrary, as there are still severe restrictions and curtailment of basic human rights of the residents of the Kashmir region,” according to the report.

Ahangar says if India thinks “by taking out raids at my home or at my office will stop me from doing what I have been doing for the last 30 years, it will not happen. I have been hardened by the pain and grief after hearing thousands of stories of people who have been trampled under the foot of oppression for so long.

If I am asking for protection of my and their rights, what wrong I am committing?” she said. “It is a long battle to go. If I have to stand alone, I will and nothing by the grace of God can deter me from doing that.”

On the tenth of every month, the APDP used to hold a sit-in-protest to demand justice against enforced disappearances but after the abrogation of special status and the current pandemic crisis, it has been suspended.

——

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/parveena-ahangar-a-story-of-courage-from-kashmir/2059667

https://www.yenisafak.com/en/world/parveena-ahangar-a-story-of-courage-from-kashmirs-iron-lady-3555432

Sri Lankan priest Father Nandana Manatunga cares for relatives of disappeared

October 19, 2020

Quintus Colombage, for UCANEWS of 16 October 2020, reports on the role of Father Nandana Manatunga:

Sri Lankan priest gives succor to relatives of disappeared

Father Nandana Manatunga, a human rights defender and director of the Human Rights Office, was awarded the 2018 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights. (Photo: HRO)

Sri Lanka has the dubious distinction of having the second-highest number of disappearances in the world. Thousands went missing during the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) insurrection of 1987-89. About 60,000 people were killed or disappeared during the youth-led insurrection.  Thousands were killed and disappeared during the 26-year civil war that ended in 2009 when the country’s army defeated Tamil rebels. 

According to the UN, the war claimed the lives of at least 40,000 civilians in its final days alone, while other independent reports estimated the number of Tamil civilian deaths at more than 100,000. Both sides were accused of serious human rights violations.

Father Nandana Manatunga, 60, a well-known human rights defender and director of the Human Rights Office (HRO) in Kandy, has played an instrumental role in giving succor to the families of victims and providing a channel for them to tell their stories. His work has been internationally recognized and he was awarded the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights in 2018.

Among those who attend monthly meetings of relatives of victims of enforced disappearances at Father Nandana’s office is D.G. Yashohammy, 78, a Buddhist from Wattegama. Her 22-year-old son was abducted by a group of men in military uniforms during the JVP insurrection.

This is the same story for all of us. Father Nandana has created a platform for all of us to tell our stories.

Ashoka Weerasinghe, whose son was abducted in 1989, said families could speak about their disappeared loved ones and release their trauma during the regular meetings and workshops. “These fairs and other programs have brought us together. We thank Father Nandana for giving us the opportunity to alleviate our grief. He spends at least half of his life on the work. The priest is a very happy person who is pleased to see us happy,” she said.

Tamils from the north and east join the program once a year. On the first Friday of the month, women gather at the HRO in Kandy. The teams from Kandy, Jaffna and Mannar gather in their own places. A revolving fund has been set up for each of these groups, providing financial assistance for those in need or who require legal aid.

The HRO was started in 2008 to work with people of different faiths. The office provides protection, legal aid, security, health and trauma counseling to victims of rape, torture, abduction and other serious rights violations. Father Nandana, who was ordained in 1986, said all these programs are implemented to heal the serious wounds of their minds.

We want to keep all these stories alive, otherwise the next generation will want to know what happened to them,” Father Nandana told UCA News.

“We have empowered victims and their families from different parts of the country and have challenged religious leaders to stand by the victims and campaign for reform of the police and the judiciary.

As a priest, I protect, promote and safeguard the rights of the victims of all human rights violations. It is my mission following the teachings of Christ. All religious leaders have a moral obligation to advocate for human rights.” 

———

https://www.ucanews.com/news/sri-lankan-priest-gives-succor-to-relatives-of-disappeared/89909

New shocking report by AI re prisoners’ abuse in Iran

September 3, 2020

Iran’s police, intelligence and security forces, and prison officials have committed, with the complicity of judges and prosecutors,  a catalogue of shocking human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment, against those detained in connection with the nationwide protests of November 2019, said Amnesty International in a new report published today.

The report, Trampling humanity: Mass arrests, disappearances and torture since Iran’s 2019 November protests, documents the harrowing accounts of dozens of protesters, bystanders and others who were violently arrested, forcibly disappeared or held incommunicado, systemically denied access to their lawyers during interrogations, and repeatedly tortured to “confess”. They are among the 7,000 men, women and children arrested by the Iranian authorities within a matter of days during their brutal repression of the protests.

Victims include children as young as 10 and injured protesters and bystanders arrested from hospitals while seeking medical care for gunshot wounds, as well as human rights defenders including minority rights activists, journalists, and individuals who attended ceremonies to commemorate those killed during the protests. Hundreds have since been sentenced to prison terms and flogging and several to the death penalty following grossly unfair trials which were presided over by biased judges behind closed doors, frequently lasted less than an hour, and systematically relied on torture-tainted “confessions”.

“In the days following the mass protests, videos showing Iran’s security forces deliberately killing and injuring unarmed protesters and bystanders sent shockwaves around the world. Much less visible has been the catalogue of cruelty meted out to detainees and their families by Iranian officials away from the public eye,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Instead of investigating allegations of enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment and other crimes against detainees, Iranian prosecutors became complicit in the campaign of repression by bringing national security charges against hundreds of people solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, while judges doled out guilty verdicts on the basis of torture-tainted ‘confessions’. This litany of crimes and violations, committed with total impunity, has been accompanied by a wave of forced televised ‘confessions’ in state propaganda videos and grotesque statements from top officials who have praised intelligence and security forces as heroes for their role in the brutal crackdown.

Amnesty International has recorded the names and details of more than 500 protesters and others, including journalists and human rights defenders, who have been subjected to unfair criminal proceedings in connection with the protests.

Prison terms meted out to those convicted have ranged from between one month and 10 years for vague or spurious national security charges such as “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security”, “spreading propaganda against the system”, “disrupting public order” and “insulting the Supreme Leader”.

Of these, at least three, Amirhossein Moradi, Mohammad Rajabi and Saeed Tamjidi, were sentenced to death for “enmity against God” (moharebeh) through acts of vandalism, and another, Hossein Reyhani, is awaiting trial on a charge carrying the death penalty.

More than a dozen known to Amnesty International have received flogging sentences, in addition to prison terms, and at least two have had their flogging sentences implemented.

The organization believes that the real number of individuals prosecuted and sentenced in connection with the November 2019 protests is far higher, given the large number of arrests carried out and the patterns of prosecution and sentencing in the country in cases of arbitrary arrests and detention involving intelligence and security bodies.

Amnesty International is urging member states of the UN Human Rights Council and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to address the prolonged, systematic impunity for gross violations of human rights in Iran, including by supporting the establishment of a UN-led inquiry with a view to ensuring accountability and guarantees of non-repetition.

The organization is also urging all UN member states to forcefully call on the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release anyone who continues to be imprisoned solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly in connection with the November 2019 protests; quash all convictions resulting from unfair trials, including those that relied on statements obtained through torture or other ill-treatment; and hold those responsible to account.

Torture epidemic

Amnesty International’s research found that there was widespread use of torture and other ill-treatment by police, intelligence and security agents and prison officials against men, women and children, both during arrest and later in detention.

Prosecution and judicial authorities failed in their legal obligations to conduct independent and impartial inspections of detention facilities, including those run by security and intelligence bodies, and to ensure that legal provisions banning the use of secret detention and torture and other ill-treatment against detainees are respected.

Torture was used to punish, intimidate and humiliate detainees. It was also routinely used to elicit “confessions” and incriminating statements, not just about their involvement in the protests, but also about their alleged associations with opposition groups, human rights defenders, media outside Iran, as well as with foreign governments.

The organization’s research found that victims were frequently hooded or blindfolded; punched, kicked and flogged; beaten with sticks, rubber hosepipes, knives, batons and cables; suspended or forced into holding painful stress positions for prolonged periods; deprived of sufficient food and potable water; placed in prolonged solitary confinement, sometimes for weeks or even months; and denied medical care for injuries sustained during the protests or as a result of torture.

Other documented methods of torture included stripping detainees and spraying them with cold water, and subjecting detainees to extreme temperatures and/or bombardment of light or sound; forcible extraction of the nails from fingers or toes; pepper spraying; forced administration of chemical substances; using electric shocks; waterboarding; and mock executions.

Information received by Amnesty International from primary sources also reveals that interrogators and prison officials perpetrated sexual violence against male detainees, including through stripping and forced nakedness, sexual verbal abuse, pepper spraying the genital area, and administering electric shocks to the testicles.

One victim from Khorasan Razavi province who was subjected to waterboarding told Amnesty International:

“They [my interrogators] would drench a towel in water and place it over my face. Then they would pour water slowly over the towel, which made me feel like I was suffocating… They would stop… until I started to feel better and then they would start torturing me this way again. They also punched, kicked and flogged me on the soles of my feet with a cable.”

One man who was subjected to electric shocks recounted:

“The electric shocks were the worst form of torture… It felt like my entire body was being pierced with millions of needles. If I refused to answer their questions, they would raise the voltage levels and give me stronger electric shocks. I would shake violently and there would be a strong burning sensation coursing through my whole body…. The torture has had lasting effects on my mental and physical health. To this day, I still can’t sleep at night.”

A victim from Tehran province who was suspended from his hands and feet from a pole in a painful method his interrogators referred to as “chicken kebab” told the organization:

“The pain was excruciating. There was so much pressure and pain in my body that I would urinate on myself… My family know that I was tortured, but they don’t know how I was tortured. I feel choked with tears because there is no one here I can speak to.”

In all cases documented by Amnesty International, victims reported various forms of psychological torture to give forced “confessions”, including the use of degrading verbal insults and profanities; the intimidation and harassment of their family members; threats to arrest, torture, kill or otherwise harm their family members, including elderly parents or spouses; and threats to rape detainees or their female family members.

Enforced disappearances

Amnesty International’s research shows that many detainees were subjected to enforced disappearance for weeks or even months while held in undisclosed locations run by the security and intelligence bodies including the ministry of intelligence or the Revolutionary Guards. Other detainees were held in overcrowded prisons or police stations, military barracks, sports venues and schools.

Distressed relatives told the organization that they visited hospitals, morgues, police stations, prosecution offices, courts, prisons and other known detention centres to enquire about the fate or whereabouts of their loved ones, but the authorities refused to provide them with information and threatened them with arrest if they kept seeking information or publicly spoke out about them.

In one case documented by Amnesty International, the authorities arrested a family member of two people who were forcibly disappeared for enquiring about their fate and whereabouts.

Amnesty International is aware of three ongoing cases of enforced disappearance, where the authorities continue to conceal their fate and whereabouts from their families. They include brothers Mehdi Roodbarian and Mostafa Roodbarian from Mahshahr, Khuzestan province.

On 11 September followed this: https://en.radiofarda.com/a/human-rights-organizations-call-for-un-investigation-into-suppressing-iranian-protesters/30833918.html

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/09/iran-detainees-flogged-sexually-abused-and-given-electric-shocks-in-gruesome-post-protest-crackdown-new-report/

 

Turkey engages in abduction of Turkish nationals living abroad through secret agreements with other states according to UN letter

July 11, 2020

Turkish nationals who were abducted in Kosovo were kept for a time at the Turkish embassy premises.

On 9 July 9, 2020 the Nordic Monitor higlighted the shocking news that the Turkish government has signed bilateral security cooperation agreements with multiple states that were phrased ambiguously to allow for the expulsion or abduction of Turkish nationals living abroad, This is based on a joint UN letter on 5 May 2020.

Four UN rapporteurs/experts sent a joint letter to the Turkish government to express their concern about the “systematic practice of state-sponsored extraterritorial abductions and forcible return of Turkish nationals from multiple States to Turkey.

Joint UN letter on systematic practice of state-sponsored extraterritorial abductions and forcible return of Turkish nationals from multiple States to Turkey, see: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=25209

The Government of Turkey, in coordination with other States, is reported to have forcibly transferred over 100 Turkish nationals to Turkey, of which 40 individuals have been subjected to enforced disappearance, mostly abducted off the streets or from their homes all over the world, and in multiple instances along with their children,” the letter said.

Nordic Monitor previously reported how the content of Turkey’s security agreements has changed in parallel to the transformation of national legislation and that the new documents contained ambiguous copy-paste phrases designed to suppress government opponents outside the country.

[The Turkish] Government has signed bilateral security co-operation agreements with multiple States allegedly containing broad and vague references to combatting terrorism and transnational crime. Sources claim that the agreements have been phrased ambiguously to allow for expulsion or abduction of anyone deemed to be a ‘security risk’ from third countries party to the agreements. There appears to be a clear link in the timing of the alleged operations – most, if not all, have been carried out within two years since the agreements entered into force. For instance, allegations are made that Turkey has signed secret agreements with several States, including Azerbaijan, Albania, Cambodia and Gabon, where several operations are reported to have taken place,” the letter stated….

Furthermore, rapporteurs, with reference to statements by Turkish officials, exposed the fact that over 100 alleged members of the Gülen movement have been abducted abroad by Turkish intelligence and brought back to Turkey as part of the Turkish government’s systematic global manhunt.

“Turkish authorities have not only acknowledged direct responsibility in perpetrating or abetting abductions and illegal transfers, but have also vowed to run more covert operations in the future. On September 21, 2018, it is alleged that Turkey’s Presidential Spokesperson stated during a press conference that the Government would continue its operations against the Hizmet Movement, similar to the one in Kosovo (March 29, 2018).”….

We note in this respect that deprivation of nationality for the sole purpose of facilitating expulsion or removal goes against international law norms and standards. Finally, we wish to highlight that violations of international human rights obligations resulting from these agreements engage Turkey’s responsibility under international law as well as the third countries parties to the agreements” the letter said….

https://www.nordicmonitor.com/2020/07/turkey-signed-secret-agreements-with-several-states-to-conduct-state-sponsored-extraterritorial-abductions-a-joint-un-letter-underlines/

That Turkey takes an aggressive stand on anything that smacks like terrorism was made clear again on 7 July 2020 when Turkey’s Foreign Ministry slammed recent remarks by Sweden’s foreign minister against Turkey’s military operation in northeastern Syria while meeting via videolink with members of the PYD/YPG/PKK terrorist organization.  

Essentially this meeting was not the first in which Ann Linde came into contact with members of the terrorist organization. She previously held talks with members of the terrorist organization and participated in activities organized by people associated with the terrorist organization,” the ministry said late Thursday in a statement.

It is a shame that so-called human rights defenders, who are becoming an instrument to the terrorist organization’s smear campaign, ignore the massacres, crimes and oppression…committed by these terrorists in Syria,” it stressed. [what the term “human rights defenders” here means is not clear] – https://www.aa.com.tr/en/turkey/turkey-slams-swedish-fm-for-meeting-with-terror-group/1905510

Aileen Bacalso’s account of the case of the Phillippines at the 44th session of the UN human Rights Council

July 8, 2020

Verafiles of 6 July 2020 carries the personal impression of human rights defender Mary Aileen D. Bacalso who attended the 44th seesion of the UN Human Rights Council where the Philippines was on the agenda.

Participation to the 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council was mostly online. Inset photo on the left is UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. Inset photo on the right is Philippine Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

During the last two and a half decades, ..I would never have believed that I should see the UN session hall almost empty as it was during the 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council, which opened on 30th June 2020. Participation was online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Republic of the Philippines, one of the founding members of the United Nations, was yet again subjected to international scrutiny at the outset of the 44th session. The UN High Commissioner of Human Rights said that according to her office’s report the Philippine situation is “near impunity.” This from the first female Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet, a woman who survived torture during the Pinochet dictatorship: she was referring to Philippine laws and policies directed at the drugs business and threats to national security, whose implementation has led to the killing of 248 human rights defenders – lawyers, journalists, trade unionists – between 2015 and 2019.

….Yet barely a week after the start of the UNHRC session, the bill has already been signed into law, on 3 July 2020. This draconian law, which introduces warrantless arrests among other curtailments of fundamental freedoms, is vehemently opposed by civil society….

At the 44th session, members of the European Union, part of the Western European and Other Groups, expressed profound concern about the direction of the Philippines, emphasizing the consequences for human rights of the Duterte administration’s “war on drugs” and censuring its failure to implement recommendations made during the Philippines’ Third Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review.

ASEAN on the other hand, and other members of the Asia and the Pacific Group, as well as some states in other regions such as Venezuela, Cuba and Belarus, expressed their unequivocal support for the Philippines, noting in particular its collaboration with the UNHRC, its robust NGO community and its efforts in reducing poverty. China conspicuously praised the Philippines’ progress in human rights……

Philippine non-government organizations (NGOs) condemned their country’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court; the arrest and detention of Maria Ressa; the endless implementation of extrajudicial executions; the shutdown of the largest television network, ABS-CBN; continuing enforced disappearances and torture; the red-tagging of Sister Mary John Mananzan OSB and of a number of NGOs; the shoot-to-kill order against COVID-19 lockdown violators; and the then-imminent enactment of what is now the 2020 Anti-Terror Law.

Towing President Duterte’s line, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra responded that transparency and constructive cooperation characterized the country’s engagement with the UN, while the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, which Duterte tried to eliminate in 2018 by giving it a budget of PhP 1,000 ($20), asserted the vital importance of accountability. Commissioner Karen Dumpit said that the past failure to protect human rights had directly led to the current climate of impunity, and there was an obligation on the Government to pursue social justice and uphold human rights.

The Philippines prides itself as a founding member of the community of nations, though to become a model of human rights promotion and defense remains a distant hope.

Mary Aileen D. Bacalso is former secretary-general of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances. For her work against enforced disappearances, the Argentinian Government conferred on her the Emilio F. Mignone International Human Rights Prize in 2013, and she was awarded the 2019 Franco-German Ministerial Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law.

See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/12/23/filippines-hrd-wins-emilio-mignone-award-for-work-against-enforced-disappearances/

https://verafiles.org/articles/shame-such-lonely-word

How a Philipines website does the reporting on the UN findings on human rights violations

June 5, 2020

There has been quite a bit of media interest in the UN investigation into impunity in the Philippines [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/22/why-iceland-led-the-un-resolution-on-the-philippines/]. Could be interesting to see how a Philippines site reported on the outcome on 5 June 2020, showing both the UN and Government reaction:

The Philippines government has dismissed a UN human rights report which had claimed that the country had acted with impunity during its war on drugs, as “unfounded”. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said the report found “deep-seated impunity for serious human rights violations, and victims have been deprived of justice for the killings of their loved ones. Their testimonies are heartbreaking“, reports Efe news.

The report said President Rodrigo Duterte’s tough anti-drugs campaign had led to human rights abuses including “credible accusations of extrajudicial killings”. In response, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said on Thursday that impunity had no place in the Philippines. “Law enforcers operate on strict protocols and transgressors of the law are made accountable,” he said in a statement.

The UN report also highlighted the issue of official language used by Duterte in the implementation of his war on drugs, noting the use of vocabulary such as “neutralization”.

Such ill-defined and ominous language, coupled with repeated verbal encouragement by the highest level of State officials to use lethal force, may have emboldened police to treat the circular as permission to kill,” the report said. Roque dismissed the accusations. “We remain a nation that takes pride in protecting our people’s rights and freedoms, among which is the freedom of expression,” he said.

According to the UN, at least 8,633 people have been killed since the Philippines government launched its anti-drug campaign, while rights groups claim the tolls is more than 12,000. It added that among those killed between 2014-19 were 248 human rights defenders, social leaders, journalists, lawyers and union members.

http://www.daijiworld.com/news/newsDisplay.aspx?newsID=716146

see also:

https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2020/06/05/2018893/intl-rights-watchdogs-call-un-launch-investigative-body-ejks-philippines

https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/741407/gov-t-should-address-un-findings-on-police-planting-evidence-drug-war-killings/story/

Daughter’s murder motivated Norma Ledezma to hunt for Mexico’s disappeared

December 5, 2019

The former factory worker, who left school at 11 but has completed a law degree since becoming a campaigner and founded her organization Justice for our Daughters in 2002. She succeeded in getting the government to name a justice center for women was named after Paloma, who was 16 when she went missing. She has also helped locate some victims alive, including several who were being trafficked. Most, however, are never found.

…Collectives of mothers who have lost children have scoured the Mexican countryside armed with shovels following tips of where mass graves might hold their loved ones. About one in four of those listed as missing are women, though the government said earlier this year it was reviewing the data. Ledezma said the government had no strategy to fix the issue. The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Earlier this year it said it would allow the United Nations to review reports on cases of disappearances.When her body was found, authorities did not run DNA tests on her, instead relying on clothing samples and the color of her nail polish. Ledezma could not bring herself to go into the room where her body lay. It was on the day of Paloma’s funeral that Ledezma decided to help those who seek justice for similar cases and she has pressed on despite threats from organized criminals. “I haven’t left the country because I have a debt to my daughter… I’ll be here until the last day”, she said.

The ‘Van Boven Principles’: short video

July 23, 2019

This short video dates back to 17 November 2015 but is now available as UN VIDEO. It is a short version of a full-length documentary film on Theo van Boven who was head of the UN Human Rights Division in the late seventies/early eighties when in Latin America hundreds of thousands were tortured, killed and disappeared. Theo was one of the few courageous UN leaders to speak out:  “It is inexplicable and indefensible for the United Nations not to react urgently to situations of gross violations of human rights”.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/07/new-book-on-theo-van-bovens-crucial-role-in-the-development-of-the-un-human-rights-system/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/12/16/theo-van-boven-reflects-on-70-years-united-nations/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/03/05/theo-van-boven-honored-with-film-and-debate-in-geneva-side-event-14-march/

https://videos.un.org/en/2015/11/17/the-van-boven-principles/