Posts Tagged ‘environmental issues’

Training initiative for indigenous human rights defenders in Philippines and Bangladesh

May 16, 2017

Amidst reports about the rising toll among human rights defenders around the world, especially in rural areas, this initiative must me welcome. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/01/violence-against-environmental-human-rights-defenders-one-of-the-worst-trends-in-recent-years/]
Rights push launched for Philippine, Bangladesh tribes
Representatives of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Relief International pose for a souvenir picture during the launch of the human rights program in the Philippines. (Photo courtesy of the Rural Missionaries)

On 15 May, 2017 ucanews reports that the NGO Relief International has simultaneously launched a project in the Philippines and Bangladesh aimed at training human rights defenders in tribal communities. In the Philippines, Relief International has partnered with the Rural Missionaries “to scale up” the faith-base group’s human rights intervention for tribal people in Mindanao. “This new initiative will promote and protect human rights of vulnerable indigenous communities,” said Sister Famita Somogod, coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines.

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2017 (4): Canada’s year of real human rights action?

January 23, 2017

Alex Neve and Beatrice Vaugrante (Amnesty International Canada) wrote in the Ottawa Citizen (23 January 2017) a piece entitled: “Why 2017 must be Canada’s year of human rights action”.

Referring to Trump’s election and a number of human rights ‘anniversaries’ they say that there “is no better way to mark 2017’s many anniversaries, and keep a clear Canadian identity, than to make it a year devoted to advancing a strong human rights agenda, at home and abroad. That is the theme of Amnesty International’s most recent Human Rights Agenda for Canada, released today: A Year to Get It Right.”

The need is certainly great….a deeply troubling current of populism, racism, xenophobia and misogyny that has dominated election and referendum campaigns in numerous countries, most notoriously in the United States. The world collectively holds its breath in worried apprehension about the human rights implications of Trump’s presidency. And what of Canada?

Important Canadian government policy changes last year point to a renewed commitment to human rights; not consistently, but certainly sorely needed after years of diminished world standing. That is particularly so when it comes to gender equality, refugee protection and diversity. We have significantly re-engaged with the UN human rights system, including support for institutions that we once helped established, such as the International Criminal Court.

On the home front, the government’s talk of a new relationship with Indigenous peoples is welcome. It has laid the ground for the long-overdue National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which faces challenges and misgivings but is nonetheless underway. However, it is disappointingly evident that inspirational words and gestures are not translating into the concrete measures needed to truly address the decades of human rights abuse at the heart of Canada’s legacy of colonialism. Nowhere is that more obvious than when major resource development projects – be it pipelines, mines or hydroelectricity – are at stake. This is well-evidenced in the continued federal support for British Columbia’s Site C Dam despite a scathing environmental impact assessment, vocal opposition from First Nations, and the government’s own acknowledgement that its Treaty obligations have been sidelined.  …..

It adds up to a year of considerable human rights responsibility and expectation for Canada. Responsibility: to make sure that 2017 is a turning point for Indigenous rights in Canada. No more excuses.  Governments, institutions and Canadian society more broadly must sincerely commit to profound action to ensure that violations against Indigenous peoples will at long last be brought to an end and justice done for those who have borne the burden of this terrible history.

Expectation: to stand up for human rights around the world.  There will be much pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to appease new counterparts, south of the border and elsewhere, who have come to power having fuelled discrimination and division. But there can be no room to waiver. Respect for human rights must be at the heart of what Canada seeks to advance around the world, as never before. 2017 must be a year for human rights.  

Alex Neve is Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada’s English Branch. Béatrice Vaugrante is Director General of Amnesty International Canada’s Francophone Branch.

Source: Why 2017 must be Canada’s year of real human rights action | Ottawa Citizen

Joan Carling – indigenous land rights defender from the Philippines

November 2, 2016

On 1 November 2016 the Reuter Thompson Foundation published an article on a woman human rights defender, Joan Carling, under the title “Malaria, murder and occupational hazards of indigenous activists in the Philippines“.

Joan Carling, a prominent indigenous rights defender from the Kankanaey tribe of the northern Philippines’ Cordillera region. Photo Reuters

A little over a decade ago, indigenous activist Joan Carling from the Philippines Cordillera region lost three colleagues in the space of a few years – all murdered in one of the world’s deadliest countries for land rights defenders. Then came her turn: a relative in the military told Carling’s father his daughter’s name was on the “order of battle”, the Philippines military’s list of people, including activists, who are deemed enemies of the state. “When you are on the order of battle, you are an open target for extrajudicial killings,” said 53-year-old Carling…She kept her head down, hired a bodyguard, then spent several months at a U.S. university having won a fellowship for frontline human rights defenders.

For decades, Carling has been at the forefront of the fight for land and the environment, which London watchdog Global Witness calls “a new battleground for human rights”, with communities worldwide locked in deadly struggles against governments, companies and criminal gangs exploiting land for products like timber, minerals and palm oil.

In 2015, more than three people a week were killed defending land, forests and rivers against industries, said Global Witness. Of the 185 murders it documented in 16 countries, the Philippines ranked among the most dangerous, with 33 deaths last year alone.

Carling, from the Kankanaey tribe of the northern region of Cordillera, grew up on a logging concession where her parents ran a shop. She got her first taste of protest in the mid-1980s while studying at the University of Philippines in Baguio. She spent two months in the Kalinga tribal areas protesting against four World Bank-funded dams along the Chico River, which activists said threatened to inundate 16 towns and villages and displace an estimated 85,000 people. The World Bank ended up withdrawing its funding for the Chico dams, which were never built, and the episode prompted the bank to develop its policy on indigenous peoples, she said.

In the early 1990s, Carling immersed herself in mountainous tribal villages in the Cordillera and worked with the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) fighting for land rights, until the day she fell sick and had to be hauled out on a stretcher. “…..After medical treatment, she went straight back to her duties, hanging her dextrose IV bag on the walls of a building in the town center, where she met indigenous people from remote areas who shared grievances about alleged land grabs.

After working with the CPA to help indigenous peoples at home, she moved on to a regional stage, and nearly eight years ago became head of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Through her work with AIPP, she has helped build a network among indigenous peoples from countries including Indonesia, Nepal, Taiwan and Japan – helping them to feel less isolated. She has turned her attention to the impacts of climate change and solutions such as hydropower, which often have a negative impact on indigenous communities.

Carling expressed concern about the “narrow conservation approach” of taking people out of the environment to protect the environment, instead of allowing indigenous peoples to protect the resources and watersheds on their ancestral land. “Indigenous people are actually the natural conservationists because it’s part of our being – to protect and conserve our natural environment because we need to pass it on to future generations,” Carling said. “That is the wisdom of the indigenous people – we only use what we need.” 

Source: http://news.abs-cbn.com/focus/11/02/16/malaria-murder-and-occupational-hazards-of-indigenous-activists-in-the-philippines

 

Protesters – or (human rights) defenders?

October 29, 2016

The definition of who is a human rights defenders and who is not, is in my view and that of many others not a very fruitful debate [see inter alia” https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/hinah-jilani-on-human-rights-defenders-the-first-report-of-her-maastricht-lecture/] What is more relevant is the question of how they are described in the media. On this topic  has written a clarifying piece in the The Independent of Canada on 28 October 2016, entitled: “Calling Indigenous Peoples ‘land protectors’ or ‘land defenders’ is not loaded language. Calling them ‘protesters’ is.”

Land Protectors shut down work on the $12 billion Muskrat Falls hydro project in a fight to protect their traditional food and way of life. Photo by Justin Brake.

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Mongolia: human rights defender Beejin Khastamur on trial on 8 July

July 5, 2016

According to Front Line Defenders a rather curious case seems to have been construed against a human rights defender in Mongolia. The trial of human rights defender Mr Beejin Khastamur will start on 8 July 2016 at the Songinokhairkhan District Court in Ulan Bator. He was arrested on 16 March 2016 and denied bail on 22 March. He was eventually released pending trial on 31 March. Beejin Khastamur is the founder of a non-governmental organisation Delhiin Mongol Nogoon Negdel (DMNN), which advocates for the protection of environment and the rights of the nomad people of Mongolia. The organisation has exposed many violations of Mongolia’s environmental laws by foreign and domestic mining companies, in which Mongolian politicians had a stake. It has also organised numerous workshops, public gatherings and demonstrations to educate the public on environmental issues. https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/beejin-khastamur

According to the police Beejin Khastamur allegedly attacked the driver of another car using a knife. On 6 February 2016, Beejin Khastamur was indeed involved in a car accident, during which no one was killed or injured and the material damage caused was minimal. The human rights defender was driving in Ulan Bator when a Nissan car tried to pass him on the wrong side twice and eventually hit his vehicle. Its driver got out of the car and attacked Beejin Khastamur kicking him and hitting the human rights defender in his head. Subsequently, during the forensic examination it was revealed that Beejin Khastamur sustained bruises all over his body and had a brain concussion, while the second driver had only small scratches on one of his knees. When police arrived at the scene, they concluded that the accident had been the fault of the second driver and left. However, they subsequently returned and brought Beejin Khastamur to the police station for questioning. The actions of the police have given rise to the suspicion that the accident may have been used as a pretext to target Beejin Khastamur for his human rights work.

[On 21-23 December 2015, Beejin Khastamur organised a sit-down strike protesting the illegal permit given to a Canadian and Mongolian joint company enabling it to mine gold right on Onon River. Since then he has received multiple threats. On several occasions people came to his house, banging on his door at night, cutting his electricity, puncturing his car tires, threatening his wife and children. The human rights defender also received death threats on the phone.]

 

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Ana Mirian Romero, environmental activist from Honduras, wins 2016 Front Line Award

June 10, 2016

It comes too late for murdered human rights defender Berta Caceres [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/berta-caceres/] but perhaps her fellow environmental activist in HondurasAna Mirian Romero, will receive the protective publicity she needs by being selected as the winner of the 2016 Front Line Defenders Award. Ana Mirian Romero had her home burned down and was beaten by police for protesting in her native country. Romero has been active in opposing the installation of the Los Encinos hydro-electric dam on indigenous land of the Lenca people in Honduras. She was presented with the award at a ceremony in Dublin’s City Hall this morning, 10 June 2016.

Environmental activist from Honduras wins 2016 Front Line Defenders Award
Ana Mirian Romero at the ceremony in Dublin’s City Hall with Front Line Director May Lawlor on the left  – Image: Sean Defoe

Sources:

Environmental activist from Honduras wins 2016 Front Line…

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/We-Dont-Fear-Honduran-Indigenous-Defender-Wins-Global-Prize-20160610-0002.html

Human Rights Defender Profile: Pedro Sica from Guatemala

April 21, 2016

Pedro Tzicá (or Sica) is a K’iche’ Guatemalan human rights defender working on human and environmental rights, as well access to justice and the right to development of indigenous peoples. Tzicá spoke to ISHR about his work, including organising community consultations to defend the indigenous peoples’ rights to land and natural resources in the face of mega-projects. The profile appeared in the ISHR Monitor of 7 March 2016. Read the rest of this entry »

500 signatories demand release of Indian filmmaker Sarangi

April 4, 2016

A remarkably large and diversified group of some 500 film makers, writers, professionals in the area of art & culture, academics, activists and social organisations demand the release of Indian filmmaker and human rights defender Deba Rajan Sarangi in an open letter published on 3 April 2016.

They state that they are deeply shocked to hear about his arrest on 18 March, 2016, by plainclothes policemen from the Kucheipadar village of Rayagada District, Odisha. Debaranjan was in Kucheipadar to attend a funeral. He was arrested with a non-bailable warrant issued by the court of JMFC, Kashippur in pursuance of a case registered in Tikri police station of Rayagada district in 2005, when Debaranjan was actively involved in the struggle of the Adivasis in Kashipur to protect their lands from the invasion of the bauxite mining companies…

Deba Ranjan Sarangi has highlighted and critiqued policies of destructive development, unbridled mining practices, displacement, police impunity, atrocities on Dalits, Adivasi issues , growth of communal fascism in Odisha, violence on women and farmers’ suicide in the context of acute agrarian. Deba Ranjan has been put behind bars because he had the courage to show what he witnessed to the world through his expressions of film making, writing and speech. He is neither a Maoist nor a terrorist. We call upon the Odisha government to address the issues raised by the human rights defenders in the State of Odisha rather than imprisoning them and crushing the voices of film makers. We call upon the Odisha government to desist from such disgraceful attempts of violating the Indian Constitution and Indian democracy.
The link below gives a partial list of signatories:

Source: 500 Artists, Activists And Writers Demand Filmmaker Sarangi’s Release

Killing of another human rights defender: FMO suspends all activities in Honduras

March 16, 2016

Bertha Cáceres, daughter of murdered Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres.

 Bertha Cáceres, daughter of murdered Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres. Photograph: Liz Ford for the Guardian

This week, Bertha, who is studying for a masters degree in Latin American studies in Mexico, was in New York to speak at side events during the annual Commission on the Status of Women. Here she said “… I will talk about the situation in Honduras. This is not the first assassination, but one of a series of assassinations of human rights defenders … I don’t want another human rights defender to be assassinated”. Even while she spoke with the Guardian journalist a call came through from COPINH’s lawyer (the NGO her mother worked for) to say another member of the organisation had been shot dead ….

According to a statement by Front Line Defenders today, this human rights defender, Nelson Garcia, was returning home following a violent eviction conducted by the Public Order Military Police and the Cobras Special Force in the municipality of Río Lindo when he was intercepted by unidentified men who shot him in the face four times. Read the rest of this entry »

Classic case of judicial harassment – this time Joel Ogata in Kenya

March 16, 2016

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - croppedreports on the use of fabricated charges against human rights defender Joel Ogata in Kenya. The story serves as a perfect illustration of how extractive industries (or the States on their behalf) keep human rights defenders tied up in court proceedings through judicial harassment and even manage to get them detained. Read the rest of this entry »