Posts Tagged ‘EU’

European judges demonstrate in Poland against the ‘muzzle law”

January 13, 2020

Not many of us would expect to see European judges demonstrating in the streets, but Al Jazeera reports that on Saturday 11 January 2020 many joined their Polish peers in protest against the ‘muzzle law’, a bill which proposes strict disciplinary measures against Polish judges critical of the government’s judicial overhaul.

The latest escalation came when the government introduced a bill to discipline judges who question its changes [Anadolu]
The latest escalation came when the government introduced a bill to discipline judges who question its changes [Anadolu]

The office of Warsaw’s mayor said some 30,000 people took part in Saturday’s march to denounce a bill that would allow the Law and Justice (PiS) government to discipline judges who question its judicial changes. The introduction of the measure in December is the latest episode in a years-long squabble over courts reform in the country that has triggered a feud with the European Union. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/08/polish-judges-have-become-human-rights-defenders/]

Judges from more than 20 other European countries, many wearing judicial robes over their thick winter coats, carried placards with their countries’ names. As each delegation was announced, chants of “Thank you, thank you” rose from the crowd. About 1,000 Polish judges also joined the rally, with many travelling to Warsaw from all corners of the country.

We want to feel that we are safe at work. A judge cannot fear that if a ruling they hand down is inconvenient for the government, they will bear consequences. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to that,” said judge Halina Musial.

Background: Despite protests in some 200 towns and cities when first announced, the draft law passed the PiS-dominated lower house in late December. It is now being considered by the opposition-controlled Senate, which may delay its passage, but is unlikely to stop it. The draft law, which makes it easier to dismiss or fine uncooperative judges, is seen as a response to an earlier blow to the government’s reforms.  In early December, the Supreme Court ruled that its own disciplinary chamber, a body created by the government, is “not a court within the meaning of EU and national law”. The court also found that the constitutional body nominating judges, the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), which has been reformed to be mostly appointed by parliament rather than other judges, is “not an impartial and independent body”. When first introduced in December, Małgorzata Gersdorf, Supreme Court chief justice, warned that the changes would “infringe EU treaties” and risked driving Poland out of the bloc. For its part, the government claims that the bill is necessary to stop judges from “undermining” the legal system.  Since taking power in 2015, PiS has been at loggerheads with the EU over its judicial meddling, including installing allies in the constitutional court, trying to force Supreme Court judges into retirement and politicising lower-level appointments.  The European Commission’s vice-president, Vera Jourova, has urged Poland to halt work on the legislation until it had been properly consulted, echoing calls by the Council of Europe and the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights

At Saturday’s protest, Irish Supreme Court judge John MacMenamin carried letters of support from Irish Chief Justice Frank Clarke and the Association of Judges of Ireland, according to the Irish Times. Murat Arslan, an imprisoned Turkish judge and winner of the 2017 Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, also sent a note of support to the protesters, Polish website OKO.press reported. At the request of the opposition Senate speaker, the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe, visited Warsaw this week to prepare its “urgent opinion”, but the government declined to meet the representatives. Deputy Prime Minister Jacek Sasin responded that “Poland is a sovereign country and shapes its own legal system, including the judiciary. These are not issues governed by European law”.

Iran: nothing good to report in December 2019

December 20, 2019

The London-based human rights group Amnesty International says more than 300 people were killed in protests in Iran last month. In a report released on 16 December 2019 Amnesty says that according to reports it compiled, at least 304 people were killed and thousands injured between November 15 and 18 as authorities crushed protests with lethal force. The organization interviewed dozens of people inside Iran. It also analyzed video footage obtained by the group, which shows Iranian security forces opening fire on unarmed protesters who did not pose any imminent risk. The report said thousands of journalists and human rights defenders have also been arrested in an attempt to stop them from speaking out about Iran’s repression. Iran has yet to disclose details of the casualties.

On 18 December the European Union extended sanctions against Iran by another year over what the bloc says are serious human rights violations. The EU said in a statement it extended a travel ban and asset freeze against 82 people and also a ban on EU exports that might help in the repression of internal dissent. In 2011, the EU imposed the restrictions over the repression of peaceful demonstrators, journalists, human rights defenders and others. The sanctions also target those involved in torture, inhumane treatment and stonings or hangings. The extension prolongs the sanctions until April 13, 2018.

On 19 December 2019 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said it is “appalled” by a Tehran court’s decision to uphold prison sentences for four journalists from the Gam (Step) online magazine. However, the appeals court in Tehran reduced the length of the jail terms from 18 to five years for each journalist — Amirhossein Mohammadifard, Sanaz Allahyari, Amir Amirgholi, and Assal Mohammadi — for a combined total of 20 years, the Paris-based media freedom watchdog said on December 18. The journalists were arrested a year ago on what Amnesty International called “spurious” national security charges related to their reporting on workers’ rights protests in Khuzestan Province over grievances concerning unpaid wages and poor conditions.

RSF said on December 18 that the same appeals court in Tehran also upheld a prison sentence for Marzieh Amiri, a journalist for the reformist Shargh newspaper, but reduced her sentence from 10 years in prison and 148 lashes to five years in prison. Amiri was arrested in May after covering a demonstration outside parliament in the capital.

On 20 December 2019 UN human rights experts called on the Iranian authorities to release all individuals arbitrarily detained and mistreated during recent protests, and expressed concerns over the hundreds of people who have been killed. “We are shocked at reports of the ill-treatment of those detained during the protests that took place in November 2019, and deeply disturbed that the reported use of excessive force by the Iranian security forces led to an untold number of casualties, including deaths,” the experts said.

——

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20191216_26/

EU extends sanctions on Iran over human rights violations

https://www.voanews.com/press-freedom/rsf-appalled-five-iranian-journalists-get-total-25-years-prison

UN Experts Alarmed at Alleged Mistreatment of Detained Protesters

International Migrants Day: the story of the Ocean Viking

December 18, 2019

THE Ocean Viking, a refugee rescue ship operated jointly by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), saved the lives of 60 people from a watery grave in the Mediterranean last week. The European Union — having ignored the refugees’ initial distress calls as they attempted to escape war-torn Libya in an unseaworthy boat on the evening of November 28 — refused to provide the Ocean Viking with a port of safety. It wasn’t until Palermo mayor Leoluca Orlando called on Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte to end the five-day standoff on Twitter that the ship was allowed to dock.,,,

SOS Mediterranee and MSF originally began operating refugee rescue missions in the central Mediterranean onboard the Aquarius. But after a series of legal threats from EU member states, the charities were forced to abandon it.

In 2016-7 when we started operations, we were celebrated as heroes. The Aquarius rescued nearly 30,000 people,” Starke says. “But then in June 2018, the escalations started. We were the first ship to be refused access to harbours in Italy. We had to bring the rescued all the way from Italy to Valencia. That was the first really significant standoff, which by now has become the norm.”..

In November 2018, while the Aquarius was docked in Marseilles, the Panamanian government — under pressure from Italy — withdrew its flag from the ship. ….

“We tried Switzerland, Germany and France. These would have been robust flags — meaning that if there was political pressure then they would not give in so easily to the Italian government. But none of the governments granted them to us” and we had to give up.

It’s maritime law to rescue people in distress at sea. All we do is follow existing laws. And according to those laws, a rescue is only completed once the rescued have reached land: once they’re put in a port of safety. At the moment, it is European countries that have the nearest port of safety to our rescues and the only countries that can be considered safe. The fact is our work is hampered by European governments.

Despite abiding by refugee and maritime law, it is often the Ocean Viking’s crew (and the entire civil refugee rescue fleet in general) that are portrayed as the criminals or as human traffickers. “All we do is save people’s lives. We are human-rights defenders. However, if you talk to to some politicians, if you read some newspapers, if you read some of the nasty emails we receive, they say we smuggle people. They say we’re criminals.

Despite the EU’s willingness to allow refugees escaping Libya to die crossing the world’s deadliest border and the demonisation of those trying to prevent that, Starke says that he is optimistic. “I’m optimistic the situation will change, simply because it has to change.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/15/european-governments-should-stop-treating-solidarity-and-compassion-as-a-crime/

https://www.un.org/en/observances/migrants-day

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/w/it-shouldnt-be-civil-society-versus-european-governments

Human Rights Day 2019: anthology part II

December 17, 2019

As always a lot of reports on 10 December 2019 came in after the posting of my anthology [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/11/human-rights-day-10-december-2019-an-ant]. So here a second collection:

Zimbabwe:

In a statement to mark International Human Rights Day, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) said young people have a significant role to play in the protection and promotion of human rights. The ZHRC said rights come with certain responsibilities and obligations and young people should exercise their rights responsibly. “For instance, young people must shun all forms of violence and refrain from being used to oppress other people, engaging in political violence and other acts inconsistent with human rights principles and values of respect for human dignity, honesty, justice, fairness and equality,” reads the ZHRC statement. The commission said it is advocating for youths across the political divide to push their parties towards embracing human rights. ZHRC said youths should positively change the national narrative towards enjoyment of rights.

The Bahamas Weekly used the occasion of International Human Rights Day to publish a statement by the OAS Secretary General: ..As Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), I have dedicated myself above all else to promoting a strong vision: more rights for more people. ..This year I particularly want to express my concern about the violence suffered by people who defend human rights in the Americas. Unfortunately, all too often we are forced to remember what should be obvious: the human rights of social leaders are, as are the human rights of all citizens of the Hemisphere, inviolable. I want to recognize these leaders and defenders of human rights throughout the Hemisphere. For the OAS, it has been and remains imperative to accompany and support their efforts to promote, assert, respect and protect human rights. This work constitutes a central axis for social transformation and the consolidation of peace, democracy and the validity of human rights in the region. It is fair to make a special mention of all those women leaders defending human rights, for transforming their realities, for being peace-building agents, for opening spaces that historically have been denied them, making way for more women to exercise their rights every day with a powerful agenda of equality and peace.

The New Times of Rwanda focused on people with disabilities.

…..Despite political will and legal guarantees, persons with disabilities are generally denied many of their rights and dignity across the world. This is often due to discrimination and stigma in society. We see this discrimination and stigma in the way people relate to persons with disability and in the language that is used towards them, their parents and their siblings. We also see it in the names people give them, the way people look at them and the manner in which they are often dismissed, excluded and marginalized in schools and businesses etc.

This is why we must work hard on changing mindsets and improving awareness. We need the current and the next generation to realize that people with disabilities are still people, who think and dream and feel the same way we do. And they have abilities, as much as the rest of us, but they sometimes need some assistance to realize their full potential.

The Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda 2030) calls for the empowerment of persons with disabilities in all spheres of life. Disability is referenced in various parts of this Agenda and specifically in parts related to education, economic growth and employment, inequality, accessibility of human settlements, access to services, as well as data collection and monitoring. The 2030 Agenda encourages us to focus on providing fair and equitable opportunities to all, including persons with disabilities……How often do we stop to ask, “How accessible are our homes, schools, hospitals, public transport, churches, public offices, entertainment buildings to persons with disabilities?” Do we include sign language in meetings and television? Do we welcome persons with disabilities in our workshops and on our panels to discuss important topics pertinent to all? In our families, study and work environments, in our churches and communities, are we having conversations about the needs and rights and abilities of persons with disability?

Finally, empowerment is about equipping persons with disabilities with skills and facilities, including assistive devices, which allow them to actively and independently contribute to the development of themselves, their families, communities and countries. It is about not giving them a fish to survive on for a day but teaching them to fish to create a better future and, and also contribute to Rwanda’s development.

Yemen:

Over 17 NGOs wrote to the leaders of all warring parties in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UAE:

We write to you on Human Rights Day to call on you to take meaningful steps to end detentionrelated abuse in Yemen. Steps taken in recent weeks by both the Ansar Allah armed group (Houthis) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to unilaterally release hundreds of detainees were positive. There remains an urgent need to address rampant, ongoing detention-related abuse that continues to affect tens of thousands of Yemenis across the country. The impact of detention-related abuse goes beyond the person detained – it impacts their family members, their loved ones and wider society. In addition to ending the suffering of victims and their families, ending and redressing detention-related abuses also would contribute towards reaching a just and sustainable resolution of the conflict in Yemen.

We specifically write to ask you to build on recent positive steps by using your authority and influence to help ensure the release of all those arbitrarily detained, an end to enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment, the improvement of conditions of detention, including the facilitation of family visits, and full cooperation with efforts to ensure that individuals reasonably suspected of responsibility for war crimes and serious human rights violations, including torture and hostage-taking, are prosecuted in fair trials that preclude the death penalty.

……. While the recent unilateral release of prisoners – mostly fighters – by both the Houthis and KSA, may help build confidence between the parties, more extensive and comprehensive steps must be taken to address rampant detention-related rights abuse, regardless of the state of political talks. To that end, we call on you to use your influence and good offices to help bring about an end to ill-treatment, torture, arbitrary detention and forced disappearances by all parties to the conflict. We urge you to help secure the release of those arbitrarily detained, human rights defenders, journalists and peaceful activists; and that anyone deprived of their liberty is granted regular access to their families and lawyers; and that international monitors are allowed immediate access to all detention facilities, unofficial and official.

Nigeria: Lawyers and activists have used this year’s International Human Rights Day to assess the human rights situation in Nigeria. Marking the event last week in Abuja, the activists were of the view that the human rights situation has dropped since the return of democracy in 1999. Speaking at the event organised by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), and civil society groups, senior lawyers and rights defenders called on legal practitioners and citizens to defend liberty. In his remark, Jibrin Okutepa (SAN) said “until the legal profession begins to take objection to every violations of human rights, including self-violations, and begin to apply sanctions, the government will continue to violate human rights with such impunity and audacity of arrogance.” Speaking on the topic ‘The State of Human Rights in Nigeria’, a civil society activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), criticised the Social Media Regulation Bill and Hate Speech Bill before the National Assembly as a breach of the provisions of Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution which grants freedom of expression. “When you get to a situation in a country where the leader says people should not talk, then they are afraid of something. It is either we are getting set for a third term agenda or getting set for a full blown civilian dictatorship,” he said. Also commemorating the day, the Avocats Sans Francaise France (ASFF) otherwise known as Lawyers Without Borders, called on security agencies to adhere to the rule of law and due process in the discharge of their duties.

Heinrich Boell Foundation: used the occasion to publish a article by ISHR’s Salma El Hosseiny the 20th anniversary (in 2020) of the creation of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. For the full article follow the link below.   All UN agencies should treat the Declaration on human rights defenders as a ‘guiding star’ for their work. UN agencies working on promoting the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should integrate the protection of defenders as a vital component of contributing to implementation of the SDGs and the prevention of human rights violations. At a time where people across the globe are demanding more inclusive, sustainable and fairer societies, defenders are acting as leaders and agents of change to ensure that the world’s leaders have no choice but to listen.


 

Youths urged to defend human rights

http://www.thebahamasweekly.com/publish/oas-media-releases/Secretary_General_on_International_Human_Rights_Day64244.shtml

https://www.newtimes.co.rw/news/featured-human-rights-day

https://news.pngfacts.com/2019/12/eu-recognizes-five-civil-society.html

https://reliefweb.int/report/yemen/joint-letter-detention-yemen

https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/lawyers-activists-assess-human-rights-situation.html

https://www.boell.de/en/2019/12/10/protecting-those-who-defend-our-human-rights

Kenya’s Human Rights Defender of 2019 is Wilfred Olal of the Social Justice Working Group

December 13, 2019

The Defenders’ Coalition and HRD Working Group in Kenya announced the winners of the Human Rights Defender of the Year 2019. The awards are a local initiative to honour, promote and protect the work of HRDs in the Kenya.

Wilfred Olal and the Social Justice Working Group are the winners of the Human Rights Defender of the Year 2019. Wilfred is the coordinator of the Dandora Community Justice Centre and Convener of the Social Justice Centres Working Group. He began his work in human rights in 2005 when he joined The Bunge la Mwananchi social movement. He started as a member then rose to the position of national coordinator. The movement is an advocacy for the expansion of civic space and a campaign on the right to protest against corruption and impunity. In 2014, Wilfred and other HRDs decided to set up social justice centres to advocate for social justice and human rights in informal settlements of Nairobi. He started the Social Justice Centres Working Group (SJCWG) in Mathare, then later Dandora. SJCWG advocates and fights for the promotion of human rights in all spheres through documentation, monitoring, reporting of cases of human rights violations and holding community dialogues within their areas of advocacy. Today, SJCWG is a consortium of 28 social justice centers mainly based in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa’s informal settlements.

Benazir Mohammed and the Intersex Persons Society of Kenya won Upcoming Human Rights Defender of the Year while Denis Nzioka, Peninah Mwangi and the late Onyango Oloo won the Munir Mazrui Lifetime Achievement Award. The Human Rights Defenders Awards ceremony was hosted by the French Embassy in Nairobi, with the support from the Belgian, Dutch, German and Swedish Embassies and Haki Africa – a national human rights NGO based in Mombasa, Kenya.

https://www.peacebrigades.org/en/news/human-rights-defenders-awards-kenya

Human Rights Day 10 December 2019: an anthology

December 11, 2019

International Human Rights Day, 10 December 2019, was celebrated or observed all around the world and there is no way to report on every event. Stil to add flavour here a selection of some 14 smaller and bigger events – for more details follow the links provided (and for last year’s anthology see references at the end):

There was of course the annual statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet Rightly, these young people are pointing out that it is their future which is at stake, and the future of all those who have not yet even been born. It is they who will have to bear the full consequences of the actions, or lack of action, by the older generations who currently run governments and businesses, the decision-makers on whom the future of individual countries, regions and the planet as whole depends…We have a duty to ensure young people’s voices are heard. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948, was a firm commitment by States to protect the rights of everyone – and that includes making it possible for future generations to uphold human dignity, equality and rights…..Climate harms will not be halted by national borders – and reactions based on hostile nationalism, or short-term financial considerations, will not only fail: they will tear our world apart. The struggles for climate justice and human rights are not a political quarrel. This is not about left or right: it is about rights – and wrongs… We need to mobilise across the world – peacefully and powerfully – to advance a world of rights, dignity and choice for everyone. The decision-makers understood that vision very clearly in 1948. Do they understand it now? I urge world leaders to show true leadership and long-term vision and set aside narrow national political interests for the sake of everyone, including themselves and all their descendants.

Pakistan: Human Rights Defenders asked the government to make serious efforts to provide fundamental rights. Human rights, labour rights and civil society activists called upon the government to make serious efforts for the provision of fundamental human rights and freedoms, especially the freedoms of association and expression, enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Addressing a joint press conference at the Karachi Press Club to mark International Human Rights Day, PILER joint director Zulfiqar Shah, human rights activists Naghma Shaikh and Saeed Baloch representing the Sindh Human Rights Defenders Network said the government should ensure the restoration of the freedom of expression and the freedom to association. They demanded that the government should bring in a law to protect the rights of human rights defenders as they stood up for the voiceless people…. They also demand fully restoring the freedom of expression, as it was a constitutional right of the people to express their thought. Access to the information right must be ensured, they said.

India: Activists say NHRC urgently needs to protect human rights defenders. The National Human Rights Commission should proactively protect the rights of ‘human rights defenders’, said activists at the national convention on rights of Dalit and Adivasi rights defenders in the capital on Tuesday. Human Rights Defenders appealed to the commission to proactively intervene in cases where the works of Dalit and Adivasi organisations were being obstructed. Activists said there were a growing attack on human rights defenders in India and said the need of the hour was collective action….On Human Rights Day, the convention highlighted the importance of the work of human rights defenders. Despite the country having national human rights institutions and over 160 state human rights institutions dealing with human rights, women, children, minorities, SCs, STs, right to information, persons with disabilities, and safai-karamcharis, these institutions have often failed to protect the human rights defenders, activists said. In addition to the usual challenges, women human rights defenders face gender-specific violations, such as rape and sexual violence which are used as tools for harassment, said activists. Caste discrimination has also presented a greater danger for women rights defenders belonging to the Dalit and Adivasi communities.

Cambodia: The Khmer Times reported that very differing opinions on the status of human rights in the Kingdom became apparent as various groups marked Human Rights Day at two venues in the capital. About 400 government officials and youth group members marked the day’s 71st anniversary at the Cambodia-Korea Cooperation Centre, while about 2,000 unionists and members of the public marked the day at Freedom Park.

Keo Remy, president of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, at the CKCC said the government has always paid attention to the rights of citizens. “Our leaders prioritise peace and stability,” Mr Remy said. “Youths can make the country chaotic because of the words democracy and human rights. That is why we focus on youths and stability.” while..

Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, at Freedom Park said respecting the rights of workers has decreased over the years and it is a source of concern for many. “We see that respecting workers’ rights has decreased – investors do not pay attention to workers,” Mr Thorn said. “Investors need to consider the rights of workers.” He said garment factory workers are faced with decreasing salaries, overtime work, discrimination, short-term contracts, violence and imprisonment. The Cambodian Centre for Human Rights in a statement said the government has taken action to curb issues surrounding human rights, but it has not done enough. “We call on the government to encourage the celebration of Human Rights Day in Cambodia and acknowledge the benefit human rights have on society as a whole,” it said. “We implore the government to cease all arbitrary action and targetting of human rights defenders.” The CCHR also called for the charges against two former Radio Free Asia journalists and Kem Sokha to be dropped.

Palestine: the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association reported that Palestinians marked International Human Rights Day following a year of nonstop violence and widespread human rights violations by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), against the Palestinian population used, as a form of collective punishment and a method to control Palestinian society. These consistent and systematic policies by the occupation include, extrajudicial executions and issuance of discriminatory legislations, mass arrests campaigns, torture, administrative detention, and medical negligence against Palestinian political prisoners…..In 2019, the (IOF) continued its crackdown and repression of human rights defenders. Currently, Addameer faces gag orders against around 40 of the cases they represent, who are in interrogation. The gag order prohibits us from releasing any information to the public regarding their detention status, or face grave consequences.

Philippines: Groups under the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (Ecuvoice) has submitted its first wave of reports on the human rights situation in the Philippines to United Nations Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Monday, Dec. 9. This is in line with Resolution 41/2 which was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in July this year. “With the intensifying transgressions on the Filipinos people’s political rights and civil liberties, we are participating in this report-making process of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to pursue justice and accountability,” the convenor of Ecuvoice, Edita Burgos, said.

while

the international trade union movement was using international human rights day to call attention to the alarming attacks on human and labour rights defenders in the Philippines. The government’s targeting of trade unionists has been ramped up recently with fresh waves of arrests and violence. The international trade union movement is united in calling on the government to stop the attacks. The government is targeting labour activists through a practice known as red-tagging. By falsely identifying people who speak out against the government as associated to armed militia groups, the government purposely targets them with harassment and arrests and exposes them to violence and even murder….The International Labour Organization (ILO) has resolved to send a High-Level Tripartite Mission to the Philippines to investigate the human rights situation, but despite the urgency, the government has yet to receive the Mission. The international labour movement is undertaking solidarity events across the world to demand an end to the human rights abuses and the targeting of trade unionists. The ITUC has requested to meet with the representative of the Philippines to the EU on Human Rights Day and has outlined three key demands.

Turkey. Amnesty International Turkey and MetroPOLL Strategic and Social Research Center have jointly conducted a Survey on Perception of Human Rights. The results of the survey have shown that when they hear the expression of “human rights”, 65.2 percent of the participants think of “right to life” first. While “freedom of expression” comes to the minds of 33.5 percent, the right to a fair trial ranks third with 22.1 percent. According to the survey participated by 2,651 people from 28 cities and conducted in a face-to-face manner, 82.1 percent of the society think that fundamental rights and freedoms are violated in Turkey. Of these people, 58 percent say that fundamental rights are occasionally violated and 42 percent say that they are frequently violated. 62.6 percent of the participants are of the opinion that fundamental rights and freedoms are restricted in Turkey. While 72 percent of the young participants think that fundamental rights and freedoms are restricted, this rate falls as the age of the participant gets older. For more detials see the full report.

China:  posted an interesting piece in China Digital Times on how the Chinese government defends if record on human rights and how others see this. Here one excerpt out of manY:

On Tuesday, International Human Rights Day, spokesperson Hua Chunying mounted a familiar defense of China’s rights record at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ regular press conference …and went on to note that the MoFA and State Council Information Office would host the “2019 South-South Human Rights Forum” this week “with a view to adding new dimensions and injecting impetus into exchange and cooperation in the field of human rights.” ….. At Hong Kong Free Press, the Uyghur Human Rights Project’s Omer Kanat commented on the ‘South-South Human Rights Forum’ hailed by Hua Chunying,…… Among the enablers of Xi Jinping’s repression are states with disreputable recor[ds attracted to a possible exemption from universal standards that ‘human rights with Chinese characteristics’ affords. And again, if we could freely ask the populations who reside in these states how they feel about such a concept, there would be few advocates. Therefore, on Human Rights Day, we have a responsibility to defend those who defend universal values and be clear ‘never again’ has meaning. There is injustice everywhere and we must fight it. Uyghurs are among them, for example, the imprisoned Ilham Tohti, and in exile , Nury Turkel, Rushan Abbas, and Gulchehra Hoja, whose families have been detained and disappeared in East Turkestan because of their advocacy. The second ‘South-South Human Rights Forum’ is opening in Shanghai for this year’s Human Rights Day. The dangerous fiction of the ‘Beijing Declaration’ that there are exceptions to the universality of rights should be firmly resisted.

Afghanistan ‘Human Rights’ should be more focused during peace talks. MENAFN (Afghanistan Times) reported that UN Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, Tadamichi Yamamoto, in a gathering has expressed concerns regarding the human rights achievements, saying that these gains should be saved in the ongoing negotiation with the Taliban. He called on the National Security Council to consider perseverance of human and civil rights in talks with the Taliban, adding ‘Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission’s role is very important in the peace process, every voice that raise should be heard and rights of the victims should be observed.‘.. Moreover, head of AIHRC, Shaharzad Akbar has called on the Taliban to legislatively recognize the values of human rights. …There are massive concerns about the violation of achievements of human rights and freedom of speech in the peace negotiation with the Taliban militants. The Taliban has back in 1990 ruled Afghanistan with the sever restriction on girls and school students. The cultural Taboos and less freedom of women are one of the other key issues that have brought sever concerns from Afghan and foreign officials.

The NGO WITNESS used the occasion to publish its ANNUAL REPORT which looks at key successes from July 2018-June 2019 (fiscal year 2019). See the video clip:

Malaysia. “What happened to Harapan’s vow to improve human rights?” asks Jasmine Cho in an open letter:…’When Pakatan Harapan won a dramatic victory in the GE14 elections, they vowed to steer the country forward with human rights as one of their top priorities. However, since their win, we have seen a heavy regression in the area. The kind of regression that has gotten us worried about our present and our future as a modern, fair, and humane nation. From the Suaram 2019 report, several areas of abuse were glaring. One was the treatment of prisoners. The government has yet to abolish the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, the Prevention of Crime Act 2015 and the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985……….The list of human rights abuse is getting longer and the frustration we feel with our government is reaching boiling point. Malaysia is considered a modern and democratic country, so why are we so far behind when it comes to human rights? The government should stop pandering to the religious majority and stop focusing on external matters. The rights of the rakyat are being abused.

Netherlands/Sri Lanka. The Dutch Ambassador Gonggrijp spoke at an event for Human Rights Day 2019 organized by Equal Grounds Sri Lanka saying inter alia:

Sri Lanka has recently known a long period of conflict, during which human rights were under pressure. The reconciliation process after the end of the war has been slow. And I hear people say: what is the point of looking back, let’s move forward. To my opinion it is about recognition and human dignity. To that respect we should also recognize the progress that has been made: the Office on Missing Persons has been mandated to restore the rights of every Sri Lankan of any background, language or religion, to know what happened to their loved ones. And the work of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission, as an independent entity, mirrors the country’s commitment to uphold human rights and civil freedoms. The Netherlands supports this and stands ready to help Sri Lankan institutions like these with capacity building and technical expertise…..

The policy of Netherlands is aimed at 1) abolishing the criminalization of homosexuality, 2) opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and 3) achieving wider social acceptance of gay people. In the Netherlands we have taken the first step of decriminalization a long time ago, but we are also still working on stopping discrimination and promoting acceptance. As I hope Sri Lanka will also take this first step in the near future, I also recognize that this will not solve all issues the LGBTI community is facing. It is key to inform people about the rights they have, regardless of their sexual orientation. To empower them to take responsibility, stand up or seek justice. It is also key to educate and make people from outside the community aware of the harassment and discrimination that people from the LGBTI community face. In order to also empower them to show solidarity and to take action if necessary. Every form of emancipation has been and still is a struggle. It starts with a ‘fight for your rights’. This is why this initiative of Equal Ground is so important, because – and allow me to quote again:

Mongolia / EU: Montsame reported that on the occasion of International Human Rights Day the Delegation of the European Union to Mongolia together with the Embassies of France and Italy presented European Union Human Rights Defenders’ Award (a national award!) to nine people, who are making their efforts to human rights protection…..Unfortunately, we are still observing human rights violations in many countries, especially gender and racial discrimination and discrimination in sexual orientation. Therefore, the EU Delegation to Mongolia, the Embassies of France and Italy and the Embassies of other countries are showing respect to human rights activists in Mongolia. Protection of human rights is one of main principles of the European Union, which defines its internal, and foreign policies and it is belonged to everyone. We will ever protect and encourage the people who endeavor for human rights, “ Ambassador of the European Union to Mongolia Traian Laurentiu Hristea said at the opening of the award presenting ceremony. The Ambassador also highlighted that the event will be traditionally held in the future.

MEXICO An indigenous activist who documented and denounced abuse committed by the military in Guerrero is this year’s winner of the National Human Rights Prize. Obtilia Eugenio Manuel was awarded the prize at Tuesday’s presidential press conference by National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) president Rosario Piedra Ibarra. The human rights chief said that among the military abuses that have been documented by Eugenio are the forced sterilization, sexual assault and sexual torture of indigenous women. Piedra also said the activist has received numerous threats and noted that she was abducted for four days earlier this year. ..“We don’t want one more rapist in our way,” Eugenio said, making a reference to the Chilean feminist anthem that has been performed around the world in recent weeks. Also at Tuesday’s press conference, Piedra recognized the human rights work of Margarito Díaz González and presented an award to his widow, Modesta Chávez de la Rosa. A former member of the Wirikuta security council and an advocate for environmental and indigenous rights, Díaz was murdered in Nayarit last year. Piedra recalled that the activist opposed the construction of a dam and other projects in San Luis Potosí and the development of Canadian-owned mines on sacred sites of the Huichol people.

 


If you are interested to compare with last year, see:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/10/human-rights-day-2018-just-an-anthology/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/11/human-rights-day-2018-anthology-part-ii/

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http://bianet.org/english/human-rights/216920-82-1-percent-of-society-think-that-fundamental-rights-and-freedoms-are-violated
https://chinadigitaltimes.net/2019/12/china-defends-record-on-international-human-rights-day/
https://menafn.com/1099401711/Afghanistan-Human-Rights-should-be-more-focused-during-peace-talks
https://ar2019.witness.org/
https://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/503280
https://www.netherlandsandyou.nl/latest-news/news/2019/12/11/human-rights-day-2019
https://akipress.com/news:630675:EU_Human_Rights_Award_presented_to_nine_people_in_Mongolia/
https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/human-rights-prize-winner-documented-abuse-by-military/

EU continues to run a human rights award In the GCC Region

December 10, 2019

The European Union Delegation to the United Arab Emirates announced that the 11th Edition of its Chaillot Prize for the Promotion of Human Rights in the GCC Region – honoring local civil society organisations, public or private institutions, as well as individuals for their efforts in promoting general awareness of human rights and the rights of vulnerable groups in the GCC region – has gone to: the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children (for its tireless efforts in protecting and supporting women and children, victims of domestic violence, child abuse and human trafficking) and the Special Olympics World Games Higher Committee (for its ground-breaking event in Abu Dhabi, promoting a spirit of inclusion and tolerance by raising awareness for persons with disabilities). Ahmed Mansoor (see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/05/massive-call-in-support-of-ahmed-mansoor-at-his-50th-birthday-how-can-emirates-remain-deaf/) was of course NOT mentioned, neither by the EU nor Gulfnews.

https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/60476/announcement-chaillot-prize-2019_hr

https://gulfnews.com/uae/emirati-organisations-win-human-rights-chaillot-prize-1.68350864

Afghanistan: human rights defenders targeted but fearless

November 26, 2019

Afghanistan’s top intelligence agency must immediately release two human rights defenders it detained after they exposed alleged sexual abuse against children. Musa Mahmudi and Ehsanullah Hamidi, both well-known human rights defenders from Logar province, were arbitrarily detained by the National Directorate of Security (NDS) on 21 November 2019 when they were on their way to meet with the European Union ambassador in Kabul.

The two human rights defenders began receiving threats, including from local officials in Logar, on Facebook after they gave interviews to The Guardian and Afghanistan’s TOLO News about the existence of a paedophile ring in the area. The human rights defenders uncovered more than 100 videos of the alleged abuse. Some of the victims of abuse have been murdered, according to The Guardian. “This is the latest case where human rights defenders have been targeted by the authorities for carrying out their important work. Faced with threats from both the state and non-state actors, they are operating in some of the most hazardous conditions anywhere in the world. There is impunity for attacks on these brave defenders, who have little to no protection.”

One day before he disappeared, Musa Mahmudi told a fellow Afghan human rights defender that he feared for his safety and that the NDS was planning to arrest him. He added that he was worried that he was under surveillance. Musa Mahmudi said that he had also received death threats, accusing him of “dishonouring the people of Logar.” In August 2019, Amnesty International published a briefing entitled, Defenceless Defenders: Attacks on Afghanistan’s Human Rights Community,” where the organization detailed how the Afghan government has persistently failed to investigate attacks on human rights defenders – sometimes accusing them of ‘fabricating’ their claims, declining to offer them protection; telling them to arm themselves instead. [on 26 november: https://www.rferl.org/a/afghan-president-orders-probe-into-alleged-pedophile-ring/30293787.html] and then; https://www.rferl.org/a/afghanistan-releases-activists-who-exposed-alleged-pedophile-ring/30294906.html

The same day AI continued with its series of 16 omen human rights defenders from Afghanistan16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” campaign [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/19/16-days-of-activism-against-gender-based-violence-start-on-25-november-2019/]. Untill December 10, their stories will be published one a day.

Day two: Maria Raheen

I am the director of the Journalism and Mass Communication Unit at Balkh University. I also head a non-governmental organization that works on human rights. For 20 years, as a women’s rights activist, I have pushed to address issues that prevent women from accessing their rights, not only in Balkh but also in other neighbouring provinces such as Samangan, Jowzjan, and Faryab.

One of my achievements is the establishment of the first private university in Balkh – Taj Higher Education Institute, which offers medicine, economy and law. Similar to Kabul, Herat and Kandahar, Balkh has some developments and achievements in terms of women’s rights. However, the province is still well known for the presence of armed groups, the local mafia and warlords, who have no respect for human rights. Due to existing challenges and the weak rule of law, self-censorship is embedded in the day-to-day lives of people in Balkh.

I am no stranger to tolerating injustices, especially when it is a matter of saving my life and my family’s lives. It gets challenging especially when it involves former war commanders who are now elected representatives of the area and, who would not hesitate to exert their power to commit crimes.

I hope in future like-minded women will join hands for the women’s revolution in Afghanistan, to reclaim the rights that we are entitled to.

Day one: Khawar Amiri

I am the Head of the Literacy Department of the Directorate of Education in Khost Province and have worked for many years as a mediator for women’s issues. As most women of Khost Province are illiterate, and some districts are yet to establish schools for girls, through the Literacy Department, I have conducted courses for women and girls above the age of 14 to enable their basic reading and writing skills. As a well-known human rights defender, I have worked in solving many of women’s issues through the Committee on Elimination of Violence against Women and tribal Jirgas (councils), with help of the police.

Women in Khost are exposed to discrimination and violence. Girls’ education is till grade six, after which they are sent off to marriage or asked to stay home. Forced marriages, being sold off, physical violence, lack of access to inheritance rights are some of the issues women face on daily basis.  Women don’t work in government posts in Khost, as most of the positions are held by men. Women are discouraged from applying for government positions as their posts are given to men and justified with unlawful reasons for not being appointed.

I have intervened in many cases of women being abused, sometimes solving the case with the help of local elders and at times through direct mediation. One of my biggest successes is organizing a Master’s Degree programme for women in Khost to study in India, funded by the US Embassy. Despite being threatened and attacked, I am continuing my activism.

I hope women are independent, have security, and have equal opportunities for studies, get to live a life free from violence. 

You can send a solidarity message to all of the 16 WHRDs in Afghanistan, or any one of them, and let them know that they are not alone. Please email your thoughts in a personal message to AfghanDefenders@amnesty.org and AI will share them with the activists.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/11/afghanistan-release-hrds-now/

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/11/16-days-of-activism-afghanistan-whrds/

Universal human rights apply to Ilham Tohti? China and EU: disagree

October 26, 2019

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his EU counterpart Federica Mogherini in Beijing on Tuesday. Photo: Xinhua
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his EU counterpart Federica Mogherini in Beijing on Tuesday. Photo: Xinhua

Keegan Elmer  in the South China Morning Post of 25/26 October 2019 reports that Chinese officials have told their European counterparts that human rights should be measured by the people’s well-being and rejected the EU’s support for the “universal” values enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The statements issued by both sides after a meeting between the EU’s foreign affairs chief and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi underlined their disagreements on human rights by recording their discussions on the topic in markedly different ways. While the Europeans focused on Mogherini’s support for “universality”, the Chinese statement emphasised her call for mutual respect and comments that there were “different approaches” to the issue.

According China, Mogherini had acknowledged that there are “different approaches to safeguarding and promoting human rights” and accepted that there were “problems with the human rights situation in European countries”. It continued that she had agreed to continue cooperation and exchanges with China “on the basis of mutual respect”, adding: “The EU does not intend to act as the ‘teacher’ of other countries on human rights issues.”

But the EU’s account of the meeting did not refer to Wang’s comments and said Mogherini had “underlined to the Chinese leadership that the EU will continue to stand up for the universality, interdependence and indivisibility of human rights based on the UN Charter and standards”.

China extraordinary sensitivity to ‘interference’ of any level into what it considers its domestic affairs is well-known. I touched upon this hot’ topic’ in my own 2011 article “The international human rights movement: not perfect, but a lot better than many governments think” in the book ‘NGOs in China and Europe’ (exceptionally also published in Chinese!): Yuwen Li (ed), Ashgate, 2011, pp 287-304 (ISBN: 978-1-4094-1959-4).

On the same day that the pair met in Beijing, the European Parliament awarded its 2019 Sakharov Human Rights Prize to human rights defender Ilham Tohti, who is serving a life sentence. The statement announcing the award called for his immediate release and said “for over two decades, he has worked tirelessly to foster dialogue and understanding between Uygurs and other Chinese people”. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/24/lham-tohti-now-also-awarded-the-2019-sakharov-prize/]. Predictably, during a press conference on Friday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said the parliament had “given a prize to a criminal”. “I don’t know how much meaning, value or influence [the prize] has,” said Hua. “I only know Tohti is a criminal that has been sentenced by a Chinese court.

Neither the Chinese nor the EU have said whether Tohti’s case or the situation in Xinjiang – where Beijing is accused of detaining a million mainly Uygur Muslims in re-education camps – had been discussed.

Extra funds from ProtectDefenders.eu for human rights defenders in Turkey

October 21, 2019

In consideration of the latest developments in Turkey creating an ever less enabling environment for human rights defenders, with the support of ProtectDefenders.eu Secretariat, five international organizations working in the human rights field established a new grant-making program to provide support to human rights defenders in Turkey. The Comprehensive Support to Human Rights Defenders in Turkey program is funded by the European Union. The project aims to protect human rights defenders at risk, support human rights defender organizations in continuing to carry out their work while strengthening their domestic and international networks and increase their capacities in documenting human rights abuses, access to justice mechanisms and advocating for a more enabling environment for their work in Turkey.

Image result for protectdefenders.eu

The project is offering two types of grants in order to meet its objectives and address comprehensively human rights defenders’ needs in the country. Protection grants pay for provisions to improve the security and protection of human rights defenders and their organizations at risk through rapid response measures. Institutional support grants are designed to support human rights defender organizations in their work with two components . Core funding aims to ensure that human rights defenders can continue their daily human rights work. Grants for projects and/or activities aim to increase the capacity of human rights defenders in a broad range of areas. Human rights defenders who can benefit from the grant-making program can be individual human rights defenders, registered civil society organizations and unregistered groups, initiatives or networks who can use financial support for their human rights work. The project will give priority to those who are working in the most difficult situations such as remote areas and small cities, those who are specifically targeted for their area of human rights work and those who face obstacles to access funding to maintain their work including women HRDs, LGBTI HRDs, journalists and bloggers, and those denouncing the use of torture or working with survivors of torture. Human rights defenders are invited to submit their proposals starting from today on our website. The call for applications will remain open and ProtectDefenders.eu will welcome applications on a rolling basis. For more information about our grant-making programme, please visit ProtectDefenders.eu Turkey website

https://protectdefenders.eu/en/turkey.html