Posts Tagged ‘enabling environment’

Protection International releases its 2017 FOCUS REPORT on human rights defenders: global trends

October 16, 2017

On 10 October 2017 Protection International (PI) presented the 2017 edition of its Focus Report, monitoring worldwide developments in the field of national protection mechanisms and public policies for the protection of human rights defenders (HRDs). Since the publication of its handbook Protection of human rights defenders: Best practices and lessons learnt (in 2011), the public debate regarding national public policies for HRD protection has evolved: initially only a handful of Latin American governments were addressing systematic attacks against HRDs through national protection mechanisms, and civil society organisations approached the issue with a lot of mistrust and scepticism. In recent years, it has become mainstream with the adoption of national laws and the emergence of draft bills in several countries of Latin America and Africa, while permeating the discussions on HRD protection in countries of Europe, Central and South-East Asia.

Many developments in this field of the HRD protection ecosystem also occurred since the publication of the last edition the Focus Report in 2014. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/12/03/protection-international-focuses-on-national-protection-mechanisms/] This heightened interest nonetheless, the implementation gap remains a big issue and trust is far from assured, especially among groups of HRDs taking the brunt of state repression and violence and those HRDs in remote areas where the presence of state authorities is weak or contested by non-state actors. Research shows that political will and backing is key to overcome these problems.

With the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on HRDs fast approaching, Protection International believes it is now high time to shift the focus of the debate away from adopting laws to protect human rights defenders at risk towards a more comprehensive approach, which addresses the structural violence and repression against them.

Source: New release: 2017 FOCUS REPORT | Public policies for the protection of Human rights defenders: global trends and implementation challenges – Protection InternationalProtection International

Nigeria: NGOs try to prevent the adoption of NGO-unfriendly law

August 1, 2017

Speaker Dogara

In a blog post on Vanguard News it is explained that the appeal dated 28 July 2017 was sent to Ms Annalisa Ciampi, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Mr Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The organization said, “.. If adopted, the bill which is copied from repressive countries like Somalia, Ethiopia and Uganda, would have a chilling effect not only on expressions of peaceful dissent by the citizens but also on the legitimate work of NGOs and individual human rights defenders and activists scrutinizing corruption in the National Assembly and exposing human rights violations by the government.”

The urgent appeal signed by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni read in part: .”.. the bill is by far the most dangerous piece of legislation in the country in terms of its reach and devastating consequences not only for the work of civil society but also the effective enjoyment of constitutionally and internationally recognized human rights of the citizens. The bill will devastate the country’s civil society for generations to come and turn it into a government puppet.”……

SERAP is also concerned that the proposed bill is coming at a time the members of the Senate and House of Representatives are proposing amnesty and immunity for themselves against prosecution for corruption and other economic crimes; and the government is proposing a social media policy to restrict and undermine citizens’ access to the social media ahead of the general elections in 2019.”

……

The provisions of the bill are also not subject to any judicial oversight. SERAP believes that independent groups and activists should have space to carry out their human rights and anticorruption work without fear of reprisals, such as losing their registration or being sent prison.”

 

[The House of Representatives debated the bill known as ‘An Act to provide for the establishment of Regulatory Commission for the Supervision, Coordination and Monitoring of NGOs, CSOs and Communities Based Organizations in Nigeria’. The bill will establish a commission responsible only to the president and the senate. Under section 7, the commission will monitor and supervise these groups supposedly to “ensure that they accomplish their missions according to law” and under section 26, strictly “in line with the programmes of government.” Section 8 of the bill even goes further by empowering the commission to coordinate the work of all national and international NGOs in the country. All groups must register with the commission and submit their annual reports for discussion and governmental approval. The commission may take any punitive action against civil society and “do all such things incidental to its functions” under the Act. Section 10 establishes ‘a documentation center’ to which all civil society groups must submit the list of their activities and other information that may be required or prescribed. Section 11 then requires submission of all proposed activities by civil society for approval. Section 12 requires registration of all civil society organizations on the payment of unspecified fees and other fees as the commission may require or prescribe. But registration may be turned down, as stated under section 13. Registration is valid for only 24 months and renewable, subject to conditions as may be prescribed. Registration may also be denied if the activities of civil society groups are not in line with “national interest”. Operations of the groups will be terminated without any such registration. Under section 19, workers of the groups must apply for work permits. The groups can only appeal to “a minister” if they are dissatisfied with the application of any of the provisions of the Act, as provided for under section 19. The bill in section 24 criminalizes behaviour that is inherently legitimate by prescribing severe criminal penalties, including fines of N500,000 or 18 months imprisonment or both, for operating without registration under the bill. Under section 26, any such person will be banned for 10 years from doing any civil society work. The combined effect of sections 25 and 26 is that no civil society group will be able to carry out any activity without first seeking and obtaining a ministerial approval.]

Source: SERAP drags Dogara to UN over ‘repressive bill to regulate, crackdown on civil society’ – Gistmaster (It appeared first on Vanguard News)

https://guardian.ng/news/serap-drags-dogara-to-un-over-bill-to-crackdown-on-csos/

Fascinating insight: local community can be the leading violators of rights of HRDs

July 6, 2017

Local community leading violators of rights of HRDs

We all assume that the biggest threat to human rights defenders comes from the State or similarly powerful actors. Now a report by the Human Rights Centre Uganda (led by former UN Rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya, pictured above) shows that it can be the local community that is the leading violator of the rights of HRDs. Juliet Kigongo of KFM, reports on 16 June 2017 that – at least in Uganda – 28% of complaints recorded were about members of the community, against 17% about government officials and 16% about politicians. The study was carried out in nine districts of Kasese, Mbarara, Lira, Soroti, Gulu, Mbale, Hoima and Kampala with Arua being the most affected.

[The report compiled by the Human Rights Centre Uganda also raises the red flag over the slow investigations of cases of violations against rights defenders, warning that the “slow pace of investigation could be seen as condoning attacks on Human Rights Defenders. While launching the report Margaret Sekaggya, the center’s Executive Director appealed to parliament to review existing laws that impede the work of human rights defenders and ensure that the legislative framework reflects provisions of the constitution and Uganda’s international commitments to ensure a safe and conducive environment.]
That the danger comes from all sides is clear, see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/30/uganda-killing-of-human-rights-defender-erasmus-irumba-by-security-forces/, but I really wonder what the situation is in other countries and whether other such studies have been carried out.

Source: Local community leading violators of rights of HRDs | KFM

International Service for Human Rights publishes Annual Report

May 16, 2017

The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) has also published its annual report on 2016 (a bit confusingly called Annual Report 2017 as it also contains plans for 2017). Several chapters contain substantive information on the excellent work done for human rights defenders:

Agents of change | Empowering defenders to achieve impact (p 10)

Model Law | Groundbreaking new tool to protect defenders  (p 14)

Strange bedfellows | The role of business in protecting civil society space (p 18)

Reprisals | Ending attacks against those who cooperate with the UN (p 21)

Defending diversity | The struggle for LGBTI dignity and rights.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/supporting-defenders-achieving-change-2017-annual-report

Security and self-care must become part of the culture of human rights defenders

May 10, 2017

HOLLY DAVIS and MAGDA ADAMOWICZ published in Open Democracy of 10 May 2017 an important piece entitled “Security and well-being: two sides of the same coin“.  It states inter alia that by not paying enough attention to self-care, activists are compromising their own security—and that of their organizations. [It is a contribution to the debate on mental health and well-being.]

The authors rightly make the point that.. “in addition to threats against their personal safety and security, defenders face exhaustion and trauma and struggle with burnout.”


Flickr/ CDIH (Some rights reserved) Following the hearing on the human rights situation in Bajo Aguán held on April 5, 2016, a vigil was held by Berta Cáceres, an environmental activist who was murdered on March 3, 2016 in Honduras.

By including and addressing well-being, trainers have a critical role to play in expanding defenders’ understanding of security and increasing their capacity to adopt new habits. These changes can happen only by integrating security and self-care into the everyday work and culture of human rights defenders and organizations.

Each organization and individual will have different needs. They may include:

  • •Allowing time and dedicated funding for staff retreats, peer support groups, psychological or supervision support, or other individual practices.

  • •Creating space to discuss people’s well-being at the team or organizational level.

  • •Connecting activists with peers from other organizations so they can find solidarity and support.

  • •Designing an organizational self-care plan with clear goals, expectations, and boundaries that are transparent and to which teams are accountable. Such a plan might include expectations for work hours and off-hours availability, the option to work from home, time for a true break during the workday, offering activities like stretching and meditation, or simply scheduling a block of quiet time without meetings.

  • •Consistently implementing an organizational self-care plan, with staff supporting each other, and regularly checking-in with each other through meetings that include a well-being status update.

  • •Challenging what is truly a crisis requiring immediate action, breaking a cycle of stress where people feel like they cannot afford to stop working.

Above all, human rights organizations and funders need to remember that prioritizing the safety and health of defenders, preventing burnout, and treating trauma are not self-indulgences. Rather, they are best practices. Individual and organizational attitudes and behavior must evolve. This means mainstreaming security and moving towards organizational cultures in which self-care is inherently understood to be critical to success. The old refrain of “toughen up or leave” is obsolete.

Source: Security and well-being: two sides of the same coin | openDemocracy

We must find new ways to protect human rights defenders…and to counter the anti-human rights mood

December 12, 2016

Almost 20 years ago the UN adopted the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, but they face more danger than ever, say Iva Dobichina and James Savage (resp. of the Open Society Foundations and the Fund for Global Human Rights) in a post on 10 December 2016 in the Guardian. “We must find new ways to protect human rights defenders” say the authors in an excellent article so rich and – in my view correct – in its analysis of the current climate that I reproduce it below in full. What is perhaps missing from the piece is a call for more sustained action by the worldwide human rights movement to improve its ‘performance’ in the battle for public opinion. A lot of the regression in the situation of human rights defenders seems to go hand-in-hand with an increase in public support for rights-averse policies (“Around the globe, a tectonic shift towards autocratic and semi-authoritarian rule by law, and the pernicious influence of corporate, criminal and fundamentalist non-state actors, has put human rights activists on the defensive and let rights violators go on the offence” state the authors correctly). To counter this we have to come up with equally convincing use of the modern media, especially through professional-level visualisation and ideas for campaigns that can broaden and galvanize the human rights movement. Read the rest of this entry »

Shackled Freedoms : what space for human rights defenders in the EuroMed?

September 7, 2016

 

cover-en-shackled-freedomThe recent report SHACKLED FREEDOMS : WHAT SPACE FOR CIVIL SOCIETY IN THE EUROMED? depicts the obstacles and repression against civil society in the region and showcases first-hand accounts from Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Syria, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories among others. The report also features recommendations by CSOs for joint action and seeks to influence EU policies to that effect. The report also focuses on the impact of security and anti-terrorist policies and lists the growing arsenal of repressive measures – both in law and practice – that civil society organizations (CSOs) face on a daily basis: judicial harassment, surveillance, arbitrary arrests, torture and assassination.

Despite legal safeguards and the human rights “shared values” rhetoric in the EU, EuroMed Rights argues that European civil society is under increasing pressure. Austerity measures and anti-terrorism laws are increasingly used to legitimise practices that go against individual freedoms and rights of assembly, association and expression, such as in France, Spain or the UK, for instance. The report – published on 7 September 2016 – is the result of a seminar organised in April 2016 as an open dialogue between EU representatives, South Mediterranean activists and Brussels-based CSOs.

 DOWNLOAD THE REPORT


 

Source: Shackled Freedoms : What Space for Civil Society in the EuroMed? – EuroMed Rights – Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network

Uganda NGO offices regularly ransacked – coincidence?

June 14, 2016

uganda

Ugandan police have been urged to probe incessant attacks on non-governmental organisations and human rights defenders amid the recent killing of security guards on premises. Since April 2016, intruders have broken into the offices of at least three groups in the city: the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), and the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda). At HRAPF, the assailants beat to death security guard. In an earlier attack on the premises of Uganda Land Alliance, another security guard was beaten to death. No one has been arrested for the murders.

The break-ins followed more than two dozen previous break-ins at the offices of non-governmental groups since 2012. Although the police inspector general formed a committee of eight officers to investigate the break-ins in July 2014, no one has yet been brought to justice. [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/human-rights-defenders-offices-in-uganda-suffer-from-lack-of-security/]The groups are all known for their work on sensitive subjects – including corruption, land rights, freedom of expression, and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people – and for criticizing government policies. Maria Burnett, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the lack of accountability for attacks on non-governmental organizations has apparently led to an atmosphere in which attackers felt free to kill a security guard, in order to accomplish their aims.

A 13 June joint letter from 31 Ugandan and international organizations tells it all:

RE: Break-ins targeting offices of Ugandan human rights organizationsPrint

TO: Gen. Kale Kayihura, Inspector General of Police, Uganda

Dear General Kayihura,

We, the undersigned national and international organizations engaged in various ways in work in Uganda, are writing to express our grave concern about a wave of break-ins targeting offices of Ugandan civil society groups.

We are particularly concerned by the manner in which the Uganda Police Force (UPF) has responded – during investigations, and through public statements – regarding these incidents. Recent break-ins appear to form part of a longer-term, systemic, and worsening pattern of attacks on Ugandan civil society organizations targeting their legitimate and valuable work.

Since September 2012, there have been over two dozen break-ins at NGO offices across Uganda. Private security guards have been killed in the course of two break-ins, registered in July 2015 and May 2016. Documents, electronic data, and other confidential and sensitive information has been stolen in many cases, and indeed, appears to have been the objective in cases where expensive technology was left untouched.

The UPF has so far failed to make consistent, meaningful efforts to fulfill its legal obligations under the constitution and international law to investigate such incidents robustly and ensure prosecutors have the best evidence possible to bring perpetrators to justice.

Each incident has been reported to police in a timely fashion. But police efforts to duly investigate and collect evidence such as witness statements, DNA samples, and closed circuit security footage, have been limited and lacked follow-up. In some cases, the UPF has provided no response to the complainant, or more commonly, no substantive update as to the status of investigations. Recent comments from official UPF spokespersons have provided no reassurance that investigations have been robustly carried out or that police are determined to identify and bring to justice perpetrators. Based on discussions with those affected, we are unaware of any instance among the over two dozen break-ins reported to the UPF since September 2012 in which there has been a successful prosecution for any charge.

Recent attacks on human rights organizations include the following:

  • On the early morning of May 22, 2016, intruders broke into the offices of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), an organization that provides legal support and representation to marginalized people. The assailants beat to death the security guard, Emmanuel Arituha, ransacked the offices of the director and the deputy director, and stole documents and a television screen. The assailants did not take computers, laptops and other electronic gadgets.
  • On the night of May 24, 2016, intruders broke into the offices of the Forum for African Women Educationists (FAWE), an organization that promotes gender equity and equality in education. They stole a server, laptop and desktop computers, cameras, and projectors.
  • On the afternoon of April 10, 2016, a visitor to the office of the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) – a network of journalists working to advance human rights – apparently offered the security guard a plate of food containing sedatives. Once he had passed out, four men entered the premises and searched the office, as evidenced by closed circuit television footage.

Organizations broken into in 2014 included Human Rights Network, the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda, the Uganda Land Alliance, Action Group for Health, Human Rights and HIV/Aids, and Lira NGO Forum, all known for undertaking work on sensitive subjects – including corruption, land rights, freedom of expression, and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people – and for voicing criticism of government policies. We recall that you established a committee of eight police officers to investigate the 2014 NGO break-ins; to our knowledge, however, no one has been brought to book.

We call on the police to undertake speedy and thorough investigations in order to bring the perpetrators of these attacks to justice. As a state party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Ugandan government is obligated to ensure the right to life and the right to liberty and security of the person, as well as the right to freedom of association, which are severely impeded when organizations cannot conduct their work in a safe and secure environment.

Under the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, states have a duty to protect human rights defenders “against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action” as a consequence of their work to uphold human rights.[1] According to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders:

States should prevent violations of the rights of defenders under their jurisdiction by taking legal, judicial, administrative and all other measures to ensure the full enjoyment by defenders of their rights; investigating alleged violations; prosecuting alleged perpetrators; and providing defenders with remedies and reparation (A/65/223, para. 34). Examples of actions or omissions which contravene the State´s duty of due diligence include the failure to provide effective protection to defenders at risk who have documented attacks and threats by non-State actors or who have been granted interim protection measures by regional human rights mechanisms (A/65/223, para. 35).[2]

The lack of accountability and persistent impunity for attacks on human rights defenders and their offices sends a message that such attacks are condoned and tolerated by the authorities, which has apparently led to a situation in which attackers are willing to resort to extreme violence, including killing a security guard, in order to accomplish their aims. Ending impunity is essential to ensure a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders.

We kindly request that you provide us a public statement clarifying these concerns:

  • What steps did police undertake to investigate break-ins of non-governmental organizations in 2014 after the establishment of a committee of eight police officers? Did the investigations result in any arrests or prosecutions and what is the status of the committee now?
  • What steps have the police taken to investigate the three most recent attacks and break-ins at the offices of FAWE, HRAPF, and HRNJ?
  • What steps will police take to ensure that human rights defenders who have been victims of attacks, including members of HRPAF, are effectively protected from further acts of violence?

We look forward to hearing from you and to further collaboration with you to advance the security, protection and human rights of all, including human rights defenders, in Uganda.

Yours sincerely,

Amnesty International, Kenya
Centre for Human Rights – University of Pretoria, South Africa
Chapter Four Uganda, Uganda
COC-Netherlands, Netherlands
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, India
Community Development and Child Welfare Initiatives (CODI) Uganda, Uganda
EHAHRDP/Defend Defenders, Uganda
FOKUS – Forum for Women and Development, Norway
Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, Uganda
Freedom House, United States
FRI – The Norwegian Organization for Sexual and Gender Diversity, Norway
Health GAP, United States
Human Dignity Trust, United Kingdom
Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum, Uganda
Human Rights Network for Journalists, Uganda
Human Rights Network, Uganda
Human Rights Watch, United States
Icebreakers, Uganda
International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), Switzerland
Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER), Uganda
Legal Aid Service Providers Network-Laspnet, Uganda
NGO Forum, Uganda
Pan Africa ILGA, South Africa
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, United States
Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), Uganda
The African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV), Uganda
The National Coalition on HRDs, Uganda
Uganda Land Alliance, Uganda
Uganda Network of AIDS Service Organisations (UNASO), Uganda
UHAI-EASHRI, Kenya
Unwanted Witness, Uganda

CC:

Honorable Jeje Odongo, Minister of Internal Affairs, Uganda
Ambassador Deborah Malac, Embassy of the United States of America, Kampala, Uganda
Ambassador Kristian Schmidt, Head of European Union Delegation to Uganda
Ambassador Alison Blackburne, British High Commissioner to Uganda
 


[1] United Nations General Assembly, A/RES/53/144, March 1999, http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Defenders/Declaration/declaration.pdf, article 12.

[2] UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, “Commentary to the Declaration
on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms,” July 2011, http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Defenders/CommentarytoDeclarationo…

 

What the next session of the Human Rights Council will do with Human Rights Defenders

June 9, 2016

The UN Human Rights Council will hold its 32nd regular session at Palais des Nations in Geneva from 13 June to 1 July 2016. The Geneva-based International Service for Human Rights published its preview called “Alert to the Human Rights Council’s 32nd session”. This special issue of the ISHR Monitor is worth reading in full, but for those with special interest in human rights defenders here are some of the highlights:  Read the rest of this entry »

Human Rights Defenders in National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights: Launch of Guide with public debate on 15 June

June 7, 2016

The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) are planning a public discussion about how and why human rights defenders should be consulted in the development of National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights (NAPs) and protected by their provisions. This event will also launch ISHR and ICAR’s new guidance on this subject, situating NAPs in the broader contexts of extreme risks facing human rights defenders taking on business abuses. Wednesday 15 June 2016, 12h30 – 14h00, Palais des Nations, Geneva. (Room to be confirmed) Read the rest of this entry »