Posts Tagged ‘DRC’

Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty 2016 to Janvier Murairi Bakihanaye of the DRC

December 15, 2016

On 13 December 2016 Human Rights First convened its annual Human Rights Summit: American ideals. Universal values, at the Newseum in Washington D.C. in the context of International  Human Rights Day. During the Summit Human Rights First awarded the 2016 Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty to anti-slavery activist Janvier Murairi Bakihanaye of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Murairi was selected for his work on behalf of vulnerable rural populations to combat contemporary forms of slavery in the mining sector in the DRC. (The Roger Baldwin Medal  is given in alternating years by the ACLU to US citizens). HRF logo

It also presented the 2016 Beacon Prize, awarded annually to an individual or organization whose work embodies the best in the tradition of American leadership on human rights, to Marilyn Carlson Nelson, former CEO of Carlson Inc., in recognition of her pioneering leadership in the fight to end modern slavery.

Source: Human Rights First Hosts Annual Human Rights Summit | Human Rights First

Profile of Denis Mukwege from the Democratic Republic of Congo: an amazingly courageous doctor

April 12, 2016

Dr Denis Mukwege is a surgeon and the most prominent human rights defender from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He won several international awards as detailed in earlier posts [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/congolese-gynecologist-wins-europes-sakharov-prize-in-2014/https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/human-rights-first-honors-doctor-denis-mukwege-in-washington-on-21-october/]. He was in Geneva on the occasion of the 2016 International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights for the screening of the documentary film The Man Who Mends Women. The ISHR met with Mukwege on 31 March 2016 and published the following profile with details of his grassroots activities to defend women’s dignity and of the threats he faces due to his work: Dr. Denis Mukwege

Read the rest of this entry »

Justin Bahirwe: a lawyer trying to reduce torture in the DRC

December 24, 2015

 

OMCT-LOGOOMCT did the following interview in its series “10 December, 10 Defenders” with Justin Bahirwe , a lawyer from the DRC.

When listening to a soft-spoken, articulate, impeccably dressed 34-year-old Justin, you would think he is promoting human rights in a peaceful, predictable, functioning State. You cannot tell he lives in Bukavu, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a desolate place where the world’s deadliest conflict since WW2 has not relented for over two decades, killing some 5.4 million people, where tens of thousands of children are recruited as soldiers – if they do not die of diarrhoea or malaria – political opponents are killed, corruption is rampant and deeply-rooted, the infrastructure nonexistent and extreme poverty pervasive. Read the rest of this entry »

Human Right Defender Jean-Pierre Okenda, Democratic Republic of Congo

November 29, 2015

On 26 October 2015, the ISHR published a profile of human rights defender Jean-Pierre Okenda, Democratic Republic of Congo. It was conducted on the margins of a meeting of the African Commission. ISHR-logo-colour-high

Jean-Pierre Okenda has taken his own route toward improving human rights impacts of extractives projects in his country. His role, as coordinator for a platform of civil society organisations in the mining sector, involves a great deal of immersion in books and texts, but also with people.

In the context of the DRC, it was absolutely critical that I redirect my work to make clear the connection between human rights and the extractive sector, and that meant research. It means understanding the global stakes of the issue. It meant explaining how bilateral relations and investment treaties really impact ordinary citizens and their rights.” Research for research’s sake is not Mr Okenda’s goal. He aims to develop networks, training, and tools to empower affected communities and other organisations to better document, understand, and evaluate the human rights impacts of a project.  He also emphasises the role of research in strengthening peoples’ understanding of the links between human rights, extractives industries, and taxation, incomes, and other ‘technical’ issues. He also urged legal reforms to help protects human rights at the local level.

Building relationships with the government and enterprises is a challenge – but it is possible, if one understands where they start from. I sent a questionnaire on human rights to local and national authorities, and you know what? There was, aside from a small amount of general familiarity at the central level, a total gap in terms of human rights knowledge. This made it clear that – sometimes – violations arise because of this lack of awareness or training. And yet, they are still responsible for protecting and realising these rights!” It is important,’ he added, ‘that they know what we are looking for when we come and ask for such and such a document’.

With corporations, it is the same. They limit themselves to two things: to the legal framework, and to the business’s internal priorities and policies. If they don’t have an internal policy, it’s likely that they don’t know a thing about human rights. To get them to think about human rights, it is critical to use another language they will understand, the language of professionalism.To further insist on empowering local communities and civil society to act, Mr Okenda noted the critical importance of having decentralized human rights institutions, so that even communities far from Kinshasa could seek resources and assistance to combat violations and abuses. ‘There is a growing global move toward more participation of civil society, in decisions related the politics and planning, in addition to the implementation. We need to see this apply in the area of extractives as well.’ The participation at the global level of local communities in the conversation about human rights and businesses is important. But the ability to participate is limited, says Mr Okenda, and so while human rights are central to the resolution of the issue, they will always be limited by governments’ hypocrisy, by neoliberalism, the financial crisis, and other geostrategic concerns.

Mr Okenda is clear: risks do exist, for all human rights defenders, including intimidation, violent attacks, denunciation, and abusive prosecutions. For those working on investment and extractives issues, the problem is that these might sometimes be the very same individuals or institutions (e.g., government agencies) that are meant to be protecting the people.So, according to Mr Okenda, defenders face every day a personal dilemma – to do what they think is right and defend a community’s interests, or to protect their property and the lives of themselves and their families.  In addition to overt risks, some defenders face pressure from their families themselves, who worry about the impact of rights defence work on safety and security. ‘When the family becomes vulnerable, you are really weakened, too.’ Nonetheless, concludes Mr Okenda: Even if there are risks, even if we human rights defenders face failure or lose patience, it is essential to keep speaking out. Silence is the biggest threat.Mr Okenda remains optimistic in his work. Efforts to encourage the government to recognize human rights defenders, and – along with corporate actors – see defenders as partners as opposed to adversaries, will be key.

Source: Defender Profile: Jean-Pierre Okenda, Democratic Republic of Congo | ISHR

Soraya Aziz Souleymane: a ‘business and human rights defender’ from the DRC

September 3, 2015

On 1 September 2015, the ISHR carried an interview with Soraya Aziz Souleymane, a business and human rights defender from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Soraya holds the role of Deputy Field Office Director in charge of The Carter Center’s Mining Governance Program in the DRC, part of a new generation of young activists and NGO workers dedicated to seeing their country reach its potential.

Soraya started managing grants to affected communities at a large mining company’s foundation. She described her frustrations with the limitations of working within the foundation; she had discovered that many of the decisions about where and how to disburse the funds had already been made as part of the initial negotiations with affected communities. She soon decided to move into the corporate structure itself.

[When I joined the corporation,] it was an exceptional time, because the company was just beginning work in a new area and there was a need for many people… so much so that I was able to create a whole community relations department from the ground up. 

Despite the positive experience of getting the first community relations department off the ground, Soraya said she still wasn’t satisfied. She described the realization of the limitations of working with projects, saying: My impact was limited just to this one small community. I couldn’t take those impacts and apply them to others. Also, all the policies had to be linked to production, to the generation of profit for stakeholders and investors. That’s how companies have always worked, and this was no different.

Feeling sidelined after production began at the mine, she joined The Carter Center’s office in 2014.

Soraya described her transition from private sector to civil society, highlighting both challenges and opportunities:

At the company, it was good – we had resources, support, the voice, we had almost immediate access to the ministries, no problem. A big challenge at The Carter Center is that we don’t have the same financial resources or the same level of influence. But other things are better, at least for me. My primary goal now at work is to change the situation of communities –  all communities – not simply to increase production or placate one group. 

Soraya also uses her new role to engage in direct advocacy with the DRC government.  As she said, the chance to influence the policies of the state is ultimately a great opportunity. She also emphasized the value of gaining perspective through exposure to different sectors, and dismissed the idea that working for a company was ‘treason’. Instead, she noted that this kind of movement back and forth, especially within a sector, can lead to a lot of evolution and changing perspectives. It can also lead to more cooperation. We’ve seen many times when civil society and companies have joined forced against the government to say, “No, that will not fly.” It’s a strategic alliance.

…….

And despite the challenges, Soraya has a passion to do this work, and an optimism about civil society. I think my background, the fact that I am Congolese and that I have worked in the sector means I have real interest in and capacity to influence what my country becomes – my children will grow up here. 

I am very optimistic because there are many young people who are innovators, who are open to new ideas, who are willing to sit down with a range of stakeholders. They are also willing to say to the international community, “No, we don’t need x, we need y.” 

And as for the government, the emphasis is also on frank discussion, even when there is a disagreement. As Soraya says, We must work with them for change – and we must be clear that this is not the same as working for them, as accepting the problem.

-See more at: Soraya Aziz Souleymane: Business and human rights defender from the DRC | ISHR

Human rights defenders in DRC get support from over 200 NGOs

June 18, 2015

On 15 June 2015, 0ver 200 human rights NGOs urge the Democratic Republic of Congo to show respect for freedom of expression and assembly by freeing the “Filimbi activists“.  Expression, Assembly The two activists were arrested three months ago, on 15 March during a pro-democracy youth workshop in the Democratic Republic of CongoFred Bauma and Yves Makwambala were arrested at the workshop organized to launch “Filimbi,” a platform to encourage Congolese youth to peacefully and responsibly perform their civic duties. Read the rest of this entry »

Lassana Koné: an environmental human rights defender in the DRC

May 25, 2015

Koné: We want to support forest dependent communities in the protection of their natural resources and put human rights issues at the heart of forest debates’.

Lassana Koné is a lawyer in Kinshasha, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), working for Forest Peoples Programme, an international NGO working to protect the rights of those who live in the world’s forests. The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) did an interview with him on 8 May 2015 in Banjul:

Lassana’s efforts in the DRC are focused on pushing for policy change regarding land reform and forest governance, seeking to secure community land titles.‘It’s a key moment because the Government is in the process of reforming the land tenure act. It is vital that the human rights of communities be enshrined in this process. It gives us an opportunity to ensure that the free prior and informed manner in which communities ought to be consulted according to international law, is finally ensured by national law’.

Lassana works with a number of local communities in advocating for such policies and, in doing so, shines a light on the abuses taking place around communal land and natural resources. He explains that, for the communities raising their voice can be dangerous.

They face a range of opponents to their demands, and these opponents can become threatening. For example many communities are being evicted for conservation projects and can be threatened by national park guards. Others find themselves face to face with powerful proponents of extractive industries. In both cases, foreign companies are usually working together with the government’.

Whist the majority of the organisation’s work in DRC is currently focused on advocacy and dialogue for policy change, they also monitor human rights abuses in forest communities and are litigating a case before the national court regarding the forced eviction of a community to make way for a national park in Kivu region.

We hope to bring a communication before the ACHPR regarding the Sengwer indigenous people of Kenya, who have suffered a massive forced eviction last year from their ancestral lands, when many thousands of families were evicted, with houses and possessions burned, by the Kenyan Government’s Forest Service. There have been some successful complaints with the World Bank and also statements by UN special procedures, but hope for a response at the regional level.’ But Lassana also sees other opportunities for actions from the ACHPR, particularly around the free prior and informed consultations of communities regarding the development and conservation projects. ‘This is something which the ACHPR Working Group on Extractives and the Environment is working on. We hope they will produce guidelines on this issue. But we are also engaging with the regional system in other ways: for this session we produced a shadow report on the situation facing indigenous Batwa people in Uganda, whilst we are also contemplating how to work with the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders regarding the threats towards communities demanding their rights’.

We believe that local initiatives backed up by international support can ensure that forest peoples have their rights protected too’.

Lassana Koné can be contacted at lassana@forestpeoples.org

Cet article existe également en français .

Lassana Koné: Land and environmental rights defender in the DRC | ISHR.

Congolese gynecologist wins Europe’s Sakharov Prize in 2014

October 22, 2014

The 2014 Sakharov Prize goes to the Congolese physician Denis Mukwege for his treatment of the victims of gang rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Congolese physician Denis Mukwege, will be awarded this year’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, European Parliament President Martin Schulz announced in Strasbourg on Tuesday.

Mukwege has been treating rape victims at a clinic in Bukavu on the Rwandan border for decades. He has performed thousands of surgeries on women to heal their injuries sustained in violent attacks, often by local militias. The 59-year-old founded a gynaecology unit and maternity ward in Bukavu in 1996, the first of its kind in the area. He has since expanded the station to an entire hospital, which he runs. The Second Congo War began in August 1998, ravaging the region. Mukwege is said to have performed over 10,000 operations on rape victims ever since.

The other finalists were Ukraine’s pro-Western Euromaidan movement and Azerbaijani rights defender Leyla Yunus.[https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/more-on-the-sakharov-prize-and-the-arab-nominees/]

For more information on the award see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/sakharov-prize-freedom-thought

The 2014 prize will be awarded at a ceremony in Strasbourg on 26 November.

Congolese gynecologist wins Sakharov Prize | News | DW.DE | 21.10.2014.

for our french speakers: http://www.lemonde.fr/europe/article/2014/10/21/le-docteur-mukwege-recoit-le-prix-sakharov-pour-son-soutien-aux-femmes-violees-en-rdc_4510098_3214.html

 

Kidnappings of human rights defenders in DRC continue unabated

September 16, 2014

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - croppedjust published two recent reports on kidnappings in DRC. The first is that on 13 September 2014, the corpse of human rights defender Mr Mutebwa Kaboko was found in a forest, eight days after he was kidnapped by an armed group. Mutebwa Kaboko was a training facilitator for the organisation Aide Rapide aux Victimes des Catastrophes – ARVC, created in 2008 to help disaster victims, especially women and vulnerable children. Now operating in the territories of Uvira and Fizi Walungu, the association has led a campaign against the phenomenon of forced marriage.  He was abducted by men suspected of belonging to an armed group known as Mayi Mayi Yakutumba. [On 20 June 2014, Mutebwa Kaboko was abducted in a similar way by elements of Mayi Mayi Yakutumba. He had apparently denounced their presence in the locality of Katete. They had held Mutebwa Kaboko in the open forest for five days before releasing him.]

On 14 September two other human rights defenders, Ms Neema Bitu and Mr Jacques Muganga, were found back after being kidnapped and held for two days by members of a rebel group. The two defenders are investigators of l’Action des Femmes Contre la Torture – AFCT (Action for Women Against Torture), an organisation defending the rights of women based in the village of Mwaba Kangando/Kiliba, tens of kilometers from the town of Uvira near the border between Burundi and the DRC. The perpetrators are this time  suspected of belonging to Forces Nationales de Libération du Burundi, a rebel group composed mostly of Burundian combatants and operating in parts of South Kivu in the DRC. On the night of 13 September 2014, the two defenders were able to escape from their captors while they were firing on the government army. Their colleagues found them at dawn on 14 September 2014 at approximately. During their captivity, they reportedly suffered terrible beatings and now require emergency medical treatment.

This follows the abduction and detention on 1 September 2014, of human rights defenders Mr Célestin Bambone, Ms Marie Amnazo and Ms Kongwa Tulinabo [from the Action Paysanne pour le Développement et la Promotion des Droits de l’Homme (Peasant Action for the Development and Promotion of Human Rights – APDPDH), a human rights organisation based in Mugutu, in the South Kivu province and specialising in the monitoring of human rights violations in Mugutu and surrounding villages].

 

THF and ISHR produce new video on reprisals against human rights defenders

August 28, 2014

In this new video produced by ISHR and True Heroes Films [THF] you hear about 4 cases (from Russia, China, Sri Lanka and DRC) of reprisals against human rights defenders who have bravely engaged at the UN. It would seem that the political costs of silencing and intimidating HRDs is not high enough for certain States to desist from this terrible practice. [for more posts on reprisals: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/reprisals/]

ISHR-logo-colour-highTHF_LOGO