Posts Tagged ‘EU’

Turkey, not a good place to be a lawyer or a judge

February 7, 2019

On 6 February 2019 is became known that a public prosecutor has sought the maximum prison sentence of 15 years for each of 33 lawyers on charges of membership in a terrorist organization due to their alleged links to the faith-based civic Gülen movement, the T24 news website reported on Tuesday. On Tuesday the trial of 53 defendants, 52 of whom are lawyers, continued at the Ankara 22nd High Criminal Court.

[Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government launched a massive crackdown as a result of which more than 150,000 people were removed from state jobs while in excess of 50,000 others were jailed and some 600,000 people have been investigated on allegations of terrorism.]

According to data compiled by independent monitoring site The Arrested Lawyers’ Initiative, 555 lawyers have been arrested since July 15, 2016 and 1,546 were under prosecution as of January 24, 2019. Two hundred sixteen lawyers have been sentenced to a total of 1,361 years in prison. Some of the arrested lawyers were reportedly subjected to torture and ill treatment. Fourteen of the detained or arrested lawyers are presidents or former presidents of provincial bar associations.

A report titled “Incarceration of Turkish Lawyers: En Masse Arrests and Convictions (2016-2018)” previously revealed that lawyers have particularly been targeted simply due to the identity or affiliations of their clients, all this spite of the basic principles of the independence of lawyers. [see e.g. https://lawyersforlawyers.org/en/basic-principles/ and also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/09/independence-of-the-legal-profession-subject-of-side-event-on-16-march-2017/]

Judiciary

And it is not limited to lawyers. A Turkish court sentenced a judge who previously won an award for human rights to 10 years in prison over links to the network Ankara says orchestrated an attempted coup in 2016, the state-owned Anadolu news agency said on Friday. Murat Arslan, who has been detained for 22 months, was convicted of membership in an armed terrorist organisation, after prosecutors charged him with use of the encrypted messaging app ByLock, Anadolu said. Arslan has denied the charges and said any evidence that he had used the app was “fabricated”, Anadolu said.

The government says the outlawed app was widely used by followers of the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom it blames for the attempted coup that saw rogue soldiers commandeer tanks and aircraft, attacking parliament and killing some 250 unarmed civilians. The Council of Europe human rights body in 2017 gave Arslan, who was detained at the time, the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, a decision that prompted Turkey to say it would cut back its funding to the body. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/18/turkey-angry-after-pace-havel-prize-is-awarded-to-jailed-judge/]

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/04/18/european-commission-states-that-turkey-is-taking-major-steps-away-from-the-eu/

Torture

In the meantime Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, the 2018 winner of the Hessian Peace Prize for her work documenting human rights abuses in Turkey, said torture had become systematic. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/05/turkish-human-rights-defender-and-forensic-doctor-sebnem-korur-fincanci-honoured/]

Korur Fincancı was one of more than 1,000 Turkish academics who signed a 2016 petition calling for peace after a two-year ceasefire between the government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) broke down and security forces used tanks and artillery to crush attempts by the militants to seize towns and cities across the mainly Kurdish southeast. Now the head of Turkey’s Human Rights Foundation has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for signing the petition and for her contribution to a report prepared by her foundation on the Turkish military’s activities in the southeastern town of Cizre. 

……The figures show an alarming trend that Korur Fincancı said pointed to systematic rights violations. “In the year 2017, more than 5,000 people across Turkey applied for legal aid from the Human Rights Association on the basis that they’d been tortured. More than 500 applied to representatives of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey to be diagnosed … for torture,” she said.  The number of applicants remained high in 2018, with more than 2,600 people who said they had been tortured applying for legal aid and 558 applying for treatment in the first 11 months of the year.

Fincancı

….Korur Fincancı she said the fight against torture must extend beyong medical treatment to preventative measures, and that means educating the public.

…Meanwhile, security forces have opened 26,000 cases against suspects they say resisted arrest. “After police launch cases against them, people become hesitant to open (torture) cases … or the withdraw them. Thus the judiciary protects the police, the use of torture with legal repercussions becomes more entrenched, and the police believe they are doing their duty under this protection,” said the doctor.

With the introduction of emergency rule after the coup, the purge and arrest of public officials has come to be counted as part of a struggle against terrorism, providing another layer of protection for security officers who commit torture and other infractions. “And this arrangement applies to civilians – it’s the same as telling security officers we are in a state of civil war and their actions will be ignored,” Korur Fincancı said. “And that’s a very dangerous situation.

State of emergency

Anyway, ending the state of emergency in Turkey has not ended repressive rule under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Human Rights Watch observed on 17 January 2019 in its World Report 2019. Prolonged and arbitrary jailing of critics on bogus terrorism charges has become the norm in Turkey. Turkey’s parliamentary and presidential elections in June 2018 took place in a climate of media censorship and with some members of parliament and one presidential candidate jailed. Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) retained control of a weakened parliament through a coalition. And with the election, in which Erdoğan was reelected, Turkey’s presidential system of governance, approved in a 2017 constitutional referendum, entered fully into force. “Any hope that the end of the state of emergency six month ago would mark a return to respect for human rights has been dashed,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Erdoğan government’s hounding of its critics and opponents has dismantled Turkey’s rule of law framework and turned justice on its head.

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/turkey-sentences-detained-judge-who-won-human-rights-award-to-10-years–anadolu-says-11141758
https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/01/17/turkey-state-emergency-ends-not-repression
https://ahvalnews.com/torture/award-winning-rights-activist-says-torture-systematic-turkey

NGOs express fear that new EU ‘terrorist content’ draft will make things worse for human rights defenders

January 31, 2019

On Wednesday 30 January 2019 Mike Masnick in TechDirt published a piece entitled: “Human Rights Groups Plead With The EU Not To Pass Its Awful ‘Terrorist Content’ Regulation“. The key argument is that machine-learning algorithms are not able to distinguish between terrorist propaganda and investigations of, say, war crimes, It points out that as an example that Germany’s anti-“hate speech” law has proven to be misused by authoritarian regimes. Read the rest of this entry »

European Parliament wants more funding for NGOs and civil society to defend human rights and democracy

January 18, 2019

The EU should do more to promote democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights across the EU, including through support to civil society organisations, says an article in the European Sting of 18 January 2019.

MEPs endorsed on Thursday the position of the Civil Liberties Committee to triple the funds allocated in the long-term EU budget (2021-2027) for the Rights and Values Programme, up to 1.834 billion euros (the European Commission had proposed €642 million). Parliament’s mandate to start negotiations with EU ministers was approved with 426 votes to 152 and 45 abstentions. With a general objective to protect and promote the rights and values enshrined in Article 2 of the EU Treaty through support to civil society organisations at local, regional, national and transnational level, the Programme seeks to promote equality and non-discrimination, encourage citizens’ engagement and participation in the democratic process, and fight violence.

MEPs decided to specifically mention the protection and promotion of democracy and the rule of law as the main aim, as these are a prerequisite for protecting fundamental rights and for ensuring mutual trust among member states and of citizens’ trust in the European Union, says the text.

Regarding the activities to be funded with EU money, Parliament suggests awareness-raising campaigns on European core values and the rights and obligations derived from EU citizenship. Initiatives to reflect on the factors that lead to totalitarian regimes occurring and to commemorate their victims were also suggested. MEPs also want to support town-twinning projects, human rights defenders and whistle-blowers, measures countering hate-speech and misinformation, and protection of victims of violence, among others.

MEPs agreed that, in exceptional cases, when there is a serious and rapid deterioration of the situation in a member state and the founding values are at risk, the European Commission may open a call for proposals, under a fast-track procedure, to fund civil society organisations to facilitate and support the democratic dialogue in the country.

Promoting rule of law and fundamental rights in the EU

Front Line Defenders seeks advocacy officer for its EU office

January 14, 2019


 

 

 

FRONT LINE DEFENDERS has an opening at its EU OFFICE for an Advocacy Officer at Front Line Defenders’ EU office in Brussels

Contract: Full time position, indefinite (permanent) contract under Belgian law

Responsibilities

The Advocacy Officer helps develop the work of Front Line Defenders at European Union level as part of a small 2-person team in Brussels. This work includes the following tasks:

  • Responsibility for sending appeals on cases of human rights defenders at risk to EU/Member State authorities and to Norway/Switzerland to press them for action in accordance with the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders and beyond;
  • Tracking results achieved, and compiling detailed data on responses for analysis and for reporting to headquarters;
  • Analysis, in coordination with Front Line Defenders’ Protection Coordinators, on the impact of EU action on Human Rights Defenders, and development and updating of strategies on maximising EU/MS response and impact on HRDs;
  • Preparing, in coordination with Front Line Defenders’ Protection Coordinators, briefings on HRDs for input into EU meetings;
  • By delegation of the Head of Office, participating in EU briefing and debriefing meetings, and advocate on HRD issues and individual cases;
  • In coordination with the Head of Office, initiating and undertaking advocacy actions, in particular through the development of contacts with EU/Member State officials;
  • Organising and coordinating events, including visits of human rights defenders, awareness-raising workshops, etc.;
  • Leading and participating in coordination activities with other NGOs;
  • Assist with fundraising and advocacy on financial matters;

Desired profile and required qualifications

  • Minimum two years of relevant experience as advocacy/political officer, and sound knowledge of the functioning of the EU Institutions, EU human rights instruments, policy and practice, and international human rights standards;
  • Dedication to the protection of human rights defenders and to the promotion of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders;
  • Knowledge of civil society and experience of human rights NGO work and/or work within the EU institutions (EEAS, Devco, EP) preferable;
  • Experience of advocacy and campaigning;
  • Strong organisation and time-management skills;
  • Excellent communication, relational and diplomatic skills, both oral and written in English and French;
  • Computer skills (office applications, database updating);

Salary €3050 per month gross. Conditions are according to Belgian legislation including the legal ability to live and work in Belgium.

If you feel you meet our criteria, and feel inspired by the objectives and challenges of the position, please send a letter of motivation and a CV to euoffice@frontlinedefenders.org by midnight on Sunday 27 January 2018 (strict deadline).

Interviews are planned to take place on 11-18 February. The position will start on 15 May.

Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted – thank you for your understanding.

http://jobs.euractiv.com/job/advocacy-officer-179212

Human Rights Day 2018: just an anthology

December 10, 2018

There is so much going on on this day – International Human Rights Day – that I can only give a cursory overview of some highlights in 2018 like I did in previous years [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/09/sampling-international-human-rights-day-2016-be-a-human-rights-defender/, and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/11/human-rights-day-2017-in-asia-mind-the-gap/]. Here is my selection of 10: Read the rest of this entry »

Ukrainian filmmaker Sentsov wins EU’s Sakharov prize for human rights

October 27, 2018

Video by Claire PRYDE

The European Parliament on Thursday awarded the Sakharov human rights prize to Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, jailed in Russia for opposing its annexation of Crimea and described as a “symbol of the struggle” to free political prisoners. {https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/09/30/nominees-for-the-2018-sakharov-prize-announced-by-european-parliament/}

“Through his courage and determination, by putting his life in danger, the filmmaker Oleg Sentsov has become a symbol of the struggle for the release of political prisoners held in Russia and around the world,” European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said.

Sentsov, is serving a 20-year sentence in a Russian penal colony north of the Arctic Circle. The 42-year-old was convicted of an alleged arson plot in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 and triggered sanctions from the European Union.

Sentsov’s cousin Natalya Kaplan, who lives in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, said she hopes the prize will raise his morale when he finally hears about it. “I hope (this) will help Oleg to further stay strong and of course I am happy for him. He deserved this,” Kaplan told AFP in written remarks.

Sentsov started a hunger strike on May 14 demanding the release of all Ukrainian prisoners in Russia, and his deteriorating health provoked an outcry from the international community. Sentsov called off the protest after 145 days to avoid being force-fed.

https://www.france24.com/en/20181025-jailed-ukrainian-filmmaker-oleg-sentsov-wins-eus-sakharov-prize-human-rights

Kazakh Human Rights Defender Yelena Semyonova not allowed to travel to Strasbourg

October 10, 2018

Kazakh rights activist Yelena Semyonova (file photo)
Kazakh rights activist Yelena Semyonova (file photo)

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Announcement of the Human Rights Defenders World Summit in Paris, October 2018

July 24, 2018

ProtectDefenders.eu, the EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism, is organising the HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS WORLD SUMMIT 2018 – to be held in Paris, October 29-31 2018 at Palais de Chaillot (Espace Niemeyer). The event is organised with a coalition of international NGOs and human rights defenders networks – including Amnesty International, AWID, the International Service for Human Rights, and ProtectDefenders.eu’ board members FIDH, Front Line Defenders, OMCT, and RSF -, with the support of the European Union.

On the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Human Rights Defenders World Summit 2018 will constitute an opportunity to review the progress made in the defence of human rights and in the protection of all those that defend these rights in all their diversity since the adoption of the Declaration. By creating a unique platform for the human rights defenders’ voices to be heard, this Summit will also call for the international community to reinforce its commitments to protect human rights defenders, celebrate the essential work HRDs carry out in the most difficult environments, and raise awareness about the threats, obstacles and restrictions HRD are constantly confronted with. The Summit intends to shape the upcoming human rights defenders’ agenda, showing the way forward to the international community engaged in the protection of human rights defenders and the promotion of a safer and more enabling environment.

To learn more about the Human Rights Defenders World Summit 2018, and meet the HRDs who are confirming their participation, check for updates at the Summit’s website.

Open call for human rights defenders

The  Human  Rights  Defenders  World  Summit  2018 will bring together a diverse group of over 150 HRDs, from around the world, for three days of meetings, panel discussions, networking and workshopping. These HRDS who are at the forefront of the struggles for social, political and environmental changes will have the opportunity to connect, work and debate together and engage with regional and international human rights organisations, global leaders from governments, the United  Nations, and the private sector. In addition to a focus on those HRDs who are most vulnerable and at risk, the Summit will be a unique space to convene marginalised groups, including ethnic and religious minorities, diverse gender identity activists, indigenous peoples and other defenders who are geographically remote from centres of power, media and international attention.

For achieving this goal, the World Summit is launching an open call for human rights defenders to present their candidacies. The aim of this call is to reach out to the most isolated and less connected defenders, traditionally underrepresented, members of less visible categories and groups or profiles of special concern. This call is, thus, very important to ensure and reinforce the representativeness, inclusiveness and diversity of the Summit’s participants.

This call will be open until 1st September, and is available in the HRD World Summit website, in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, and Russian. Please, share it widely within your network!

Communication and coordination

Louise Levayer – llevayer@amnesty.fr

Javier Roura – jroura@protectdefenders.eu

Website

https://hrdworldsummit.org

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/hrdworldsummit2018

Twitter

https://twitter.com/HRDWorldSummit

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Iranian human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, arrested – again

June 16, 2018

 

Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh next to her husband Reza Khandan | Behrouz Mehri/AFP via Getty Images

 

On 13 June 2018, Nasrin Sotoudeh, the human rights defender was arrested at her home in Tehran, Iran. She was transferred to prosecutor’s office of Evin prison.  Nasrin Sotoudeh https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/nasrin-sotoudeh  is a prominent human rights lawyer who in recent months has acted as the lawyer for women’s rights activists who protested against the compulsory veiling in Iran and were subsequently prosecuted. According to her husband, Reza Khandan, Nasrin Sotoudeh was informed that she will be imprisoned for five years, however neither of them are aware of the charges against her.  

In 2010, Nasrin Sotoudeh was given a prison sentence of eleven years and banned from working as a lawyer or leaving the country for twenty years. Nasrin Sotoudeh remained in prison for three years under charges of ‘spreading propaganda’ and ‘conspiring to harm state security’, designed to force her to stop her legitimate and peaceful human rights activities. Nasrin Sotoudeh was finally released in September 2013 after receiving a pardon. Prior to her detention, Nasrin Sotoudeh represented many human rights defenders opposed to the current regime in Iran, and worked extensively with young prisoners who had been sentenced to death for crimes they committed when they were under 18. In 2012 she won the EU’s Sakharov award {http://thedigestapp.trueheroesfilms.org/publicpage#/awards/BDE3E41A-8706-42F1-A6C5-ECBBC4CDB449/Sakharov-Prize-for-Freedom-of-Thought]

 see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/07/08/portrait-of-nasrin-sotoudeh-in-iran-activism-with-a-defiant-smile/

————- 

https://www.politico.eu/article/nasrin-sotoudeh-european-politicians-call-on-iran-to-release-eu-prize-winner/

https://www.voanews.com/a/iran-re-arrests-human-rights-lawyer-rights-groups-outraged/4438948.html

https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2018/6/14/irans-renowned-rights-lawyer-sotoudeh-arrested-husband

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Two Ugandans get EU human rights award in Uganda

May 23, 2018

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Peter Sewakiryanga (left) and Margret Arach Orech after receiving their awards at a function in Bugolobi. Photo by Ashraf Kasirye

The 2018 Human Rights Defenders Award went to Margaret Arach Orech, the founder of Uganda Landmine Survivors’ Association and Peter Sewakiryanga, the founder of Kyampisi Childcare Ministries, an organisation that supports child victims of sacrifice.

Arach, who lost her leg to a landmine during an attack by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in 1998, uses her organisation to solicit for support for fellow survivors and persons with disabilities.

Sewakiryanga, a pastor now takes care of 80 child survivors of trafficking and human sacrifice has built an extensive network linking communities and security to track suspected cases. In 2017, Sewakiryanga travelled to Oman to rescue six victims of child trafficking. He is credited for championing research and spearheading an awareness campaign in communities to stop the crime.

https://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1478305/ugandans-eu-human-rights-awards

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