Posts Tagged ‘European Parliament’

United Arab Emirates: Dubai Expo continues whitewashing – EU Parliament call for boycott

October 4, 2021

Expo 2020 On 1 October 2021. Human Right Watch published “UAE: Tolerance Narrative a Sham Censorship; Surveillance; Prison or Barred Entry for Critics”. It stated that the United Arab Emirates authorities are using Expo 2020 Dubai to promote a public image of openness that is at odds with the government’s efforts to prevent scrutiny of its rampant systemic human rights violations. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/03/uaes-new-human-rights-institute-sounds-like-a-joke/

Expo 2020 is a prominent global cultural event built on the free exchange of ideas. Domestic critics are routinely arrested and, since at least 2015, UAE authorities have ignored or denied requests for access to the country by United Nations experts, human rights researchers, and critical academics and journalists. The government’s pervasive domestic surveillance has led to extensive self-censorship by UAE residents and UAE-based institutions; and stonewalling, censorship, and possible surveillance of the news media by the government. “Dozens of UAE peaceful domestic critics have been arrested, railroaded in blatantly unfair trials, and condemned to many years in prison simply for trying to express their ideas on governance and human rights,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Expo 2020 is yet another opportunity for the UAE to falsely present itself on the world stage as open, tolerant, and rights-respecting while shutting down the space for politics, public discourse, and activism.” Expo 2020 is being held from October 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022, with the theme, “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.”

This event, as with other expensive entertainment, cultural, sports, and educational events before it, is designed to promote a public relations image of the UAE as an open, progressive, and tolerant country while its abusive authorities forcefully bar all peaceful criticism and dissent, Human Rights Watch said.

…. Major international human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have also faced increased restrictions on their ability to visit and engage with government officials on human rights issues. Staff of both organizations were refused access to prisons and high-profile trials, and eventually admission to the country. UAE authorities have rarely responded to either organization’s requests for information or meetings.

The UAE has embarked on a decades-long effort to whitewash its reputation on the international stage. These efforts were made explicit in the government’s 2017 Soft Power Strategy, which includes cultivating “cultural and media diplomacy” as a central pillar and has a stated objective “to establish [the UAE’s] reputation as a modern and tolerant country that welcomes all people from across the world.” Expo 2020 is the latest in a long list of investments in ambitious cultural and educational projects that seek to further that goal, Human Rights watch said. Others include the acquisition of the Louvre, the Guggenheim, and New York University outposts, establishing Dubai as a luxury tourism destination, and hosting global cultural events such as the 2019 Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi and the upcoming World Expo in Dubai.  

While leading international academic and cultural institutions first established a presence in the UAE with the promise to serve the public good by promoting “ideas, discourse, and critical thinking,” they have since remained silent in the face of increasing repression of basic rights. … Some of those whose communications and devices were targeted by the government surveillance and who are residents of the UAE, were subsequently arrested and abused in detention.Among them is the prominent Emirati human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor. [See also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/074ACCD4-A327-4A21-B056-440C4C378A1A] A UAE court sentenced Mansoor to 10 years in prison in May 2018 following a grossly unfair trial, partly based on private email exchanges and WhatsApp conversations. A 2016 Citizen Lab report demonstrated five other cases where arrests or convictions of users followed malware attacks against their Twitter accounts from 2012 to 2015. This repressive environment, coupled with the authorities’ use of advanced spyware to target anyone deemed a threat to the country, has led citizens, residents, and even journalists, academics, businessmen, and others who frequent the UAE to warily restrict their public criticism of the authorities. As one journalist said about their office based in Dubai, “The head of office is shit scared of the authorities … There is a practice of holding back stories if they can’t get official comment – which they often can’t. They don’t go hard on the UAE.” Governments and businesses have a human rights responsibility to avoid contributing to UAE authorities’ efforts to whitewash its abuses. As countries prepare to showcase their pavilions at the Dubai EXPO, they should help prevent the UAE’s whitewashing attempts by either advocating for the UAE to unconditionally release all those unjustly detained for exercising their right to free expression and to regularly open up the country, including its jails and its courts, to scrutiny by independent researchers and monitors, or not participate in the EXPO, Human Rights Watch said. “With widespread arrests, intimidation, surveillance, and retaliation that citizens and residents face for speaking out, Expo participants and other countries should raise concerns about rights abuses in the UAE,” ..The HRW report contains a lot more detail about the media repression.

The European Parliament has called on the United Arab Emirates to immediately release three prominent human rights defenders and urged EU member states to boycott next month’s Dubai Expo in order to “signal their disapproval” of rights violations. In a resolution adopted on Thursday, the parliament demanded the “unconditional release” of Ahmed Mansoor, Mohammed al-Roken, and Nasser bin Ghaith, as well as all other Emirati political activists and dissidents. Mansoor was arrested in 2017 on charges of publishing false information and rumours, and using social media to “damage the country’s reputation”.

According to letters that were published online in July, the 52-year-old said he had been held in solitary confinement since his arrest, cut off from the outside world as well as fellow prisoners.

Roken, a university professor and human rights lawyer, was arrested in July 2012, and convicted in July 2013 over charges of “establishing an organisation seeking to bring about the government’s overthrow”. He was sentenced to 10-years in prison and stood trial as part of a group that became known as the “UAE 94”. Former US intelligence officials admit to hacking for UAE at hearing in Virginia. See also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/7B69B1D9-E359-444A-B448-02E8B9C0750C

Meanwhile, Ghaith, an economist, and human rights defender was arrested in August 2015 and jailed in March 2017 for 10 years over tweets that criticised Egypt, a key ally of the Gulf country. Ghaith had tweeted a picture of a burnt building in Cairo on 11 August 2015, a few days before the anniversary of the killing of hundreds of protesters in Rabaa square. 

In the resolution, which passed with 383 votes in favour, 47 towards and with 259 abstentions, the parliament criticised Mansoor’s prolonged detention and urged member states to boycott the upcoming World Fair in Dubai.

“In order to signal their disapproval of the human rights violations in the UAE, [the European Parliament] invites the international companies sponsoring Expo 2020 Dubai to withdraw their sponsorship and encourages member states not to participate in the event,” the resolution said.

Dubai has poured billions of dollars into Expo 2020, hoping the exhibition will generate new business and spur its economy amid a slowdown in growth due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Thursday’s strongly-worded resolution also condemned the role the UAE played in the extradition of women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul. Hathloul was kidnapped in the UAE in 2018 and flown into Saudi Arabia against her will, where she faced a trial based on a loosely worded terror law often used to prosecute activists. She was released in February after almost three years in prison but is subject to a five-year travel ban and other restrictions.

On 15 September 2021 the Middle East Monitor has reported that the UAE had placed an additional 4 human rights defenders on its terror list:

Authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have placed 38 individuals and 15 companies on a terrorism list, saying they are “keen to target networks linked to the financing of terrorism.”

The updated list, issued by the Council of Ministers under Ministerial Resolution No. 83 of 2021, includes the names of four Emirati opposition figures living in exile: Ahmed Al Shaiba Al Nuaimi, Muhammad Saqr Al Zaabi, Hamad Al Shamsi and Saeed Al Tunaiji.

The UAE seeks to curb the political and legal activities of these activists who document human rights violations in the Emirates, WAM reported.

The four opposition activists are believed to be part of a small group that survived the state security apparatus’ 2012 arrest campaign of dozens of academics, lawyers, community leaders and students calling for political reform. However, they were outside the country and then tried in absentia in a case known as the “UAE94”.

The four opposition figures had announced the formation of the “Emirati League Against Normalisation” more than a year ago and issued a statement calling the normalisation agreement with the Israeli occupation a departure from the principles on which the UAE was founded.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/10/01/uae-tolerance-narrative-sham-0

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/uae-european-parliament-release-political-prisoners-boycott-dubai-expo

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20210915-uae-puts-4-human-rights-defenders-on-terror-list/

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/uae-ahmed-mansoor-activist-former-un-official-urges-release

The nominees for the EU’s Sakharov Prize 2021

September 29, 2021
Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought Award Ceremony 2020
Last year’s Sakharov Prize ceremony  

This year’s nominations for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought were presented in a joint meeting of the foreign affairs and development committees and the human rights subcommittee in Brussels on 27 September 2021. They are:

Alexei Navalny, nominated by the EPP and Renew Europe for his courage in fighting for freedom, democracy and human rights, is a Russian opposition politician, anti-corruption activist and major political opponent of the country’s president Vladimir Putin. Known through his LiveJournal blog, YouTube and Twitter, where he has millions of followers he came to international prominence by organising demonstrations, running for office and advocating reforms against corruption in Russia, Putin and his government. In August 2020, while on a trip to Siberia, he was poisoned. He spent months recovering in Berlin, but returned to Moscow in January 2021 where he was arrested. In February he was sentenced to 2½ years in prison. Now incarcerated in a high-security penal colony, he went on a 23-day hunger strike in April to protest the lack of medical care. In June 2021, a Russian court banned Navalny’s regional offices and his Anti-Corruption Foundation.

Afghan women, nominated by S&D and the Greens/EFA for their brave fight for equality and human rights. Under the previous Taliban regime, women experienced forced marriage, high maternity mortality, low literacy, forced virginity tests and couldn’t travel without a male. Following the Taliban’s return to power, women are again excluded from government and education and their rights and freedoms are threatened. The women included in the nomination are:

  • Shaharzad Akbar – chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC)
  • Mary Akrami – head of the Afghan Women’s Network [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/C78046E0-F42F-8A60-205C-CC55E54281CD]
  • Zarifa Ghafari – mayor of Maidan Shar since 2018
  • Palwasha Hassan – activist and the director of the Afghan Women Educational Centre (AWEC)
  • Freshta Karim – founder of a mobile library and advocate for education and learning
  • Sahraa Karimi – first female president of the Afghan state film company
  • Metra Mehran – women empowerment and education advocate and co-founder of the Feminine Perspectives Movement
  • Horia Mosadiq – human and women’s rights activist
  • Sima Samar – human rights advocate, former Minister of Women’s Affairs and former chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/4AEEBC97-C788-49F5-8DE1-33F7855D2192]
  • Habiba Sarabi – member of the negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
  • Anisa Shaheed – political reporter


Jeanine Áñez,
nominated by the ECR, is a Bolivian politician and symbol of repression against dissidents and deprivation of due process and rule of law in Latin America. She became interim president in November 2019, after alleged electoral fraud by incumbent Evo Morales. In November 2020, after free and fair elections there was a peaceful transfer of power. However, on 13 March 2021 she was arrested on charges of “terrorism, sedition and conspiracy”. Accused of plotting a coup d’état against Morales, she has been imprisoned ever since.

Sultana Khaya, nominated by The Left, is a Sahrawi activist and human rights defender based in the Western Sahara, promoting the right to self-determination for the Sahrawi people. She is the president of the organisation League for the Defence of Human Rights and against Plunder of Natural Resources in Boujdour/Western Sahara and member of the Saharawi Organ against the Moroccan Occupation (ISACOM). She has been under de facto house arrest without a warrant since 19 November 2020. Since 2005, she has suffered physical attacks, death threats, torture and sexual assaults. Over the last year, the Moroccan authorities have intensified repression against Saharawi activists and journalists, who are subjected to ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests and harassment in order to silence or punish them for non-violent action against the occupation of Western Sahara. On 1 July 2021, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor strongly condemned the reprisals against Sultana Khaya.

Global Witness, nominated by Marie Toussaint and other 42 MEPs, is a UK-based NGO, which for more than 25 years has investigated and exposed environmental and human rights abuses in the oil, gas, mining and timber sectors, tracking money and influence through the global financial and political system. Nowadays, it also focuses on the issue of the climate emergency, attacks on public space and civic freedoms and the protection of environmental defenders throughout the world. Since 2011, Global Witness and its 22 local partners have addressed abuses of power to protect human rights, verifying and publishing each year the number of defenders killed worldwide. Sewe also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/13/global-witness-2020-the-worst-year-on-record-for-environmental-human-rights-defenders/

For more on the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/BDE3E41A-8706-42F1-A6C5-ECBBC4CDB449 

https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/eu-affairs/20210916STO12702/sakharov-prize-2021-the-nominees

https://www.aninews.in/news/world/asia/european-group-nominates-11-afghan-women-for-human-rights-award20210928181723/

https://www.reuters.com/world/russias-navalny-nominated-eu-rights-prize-2021-09-27/

China – EU investment deal off the rail

May 21, 2021
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Beijing's sanctions were a 'necessary and justified response'
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Beijing’s sanctions were a ‘necessary and justified response’ GREG BAKER AFP

As earlier reported human rights defenders objected to the proposed EU-China investment deal {https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/01/06/china-eu-deal-what-about-human-rights], now the European Parliament has rejected it. HRW said: “On May 21, only a few months after the conclusion of the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI), a trade deal between the EU and China, the European Parliament adopted a resolution to freeze its ratification. The deal has been controversial in the Parliament given concerns about forced labor in China, its rushed conclusion, and its lack of human rights protections and redress mechanisms. Beijing’s counter-sanctions against several European lawmakers and institutions managed to unite the European Parliament on CAI like nothing else has, and will now prevent any movement on ratification as long as they remain in place“.

But the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly Thursday to refuse any consideration of the EU-China investment deal as long as Chinese sanctions against MEPs and scholars were in place. France24 on 212 May gives China’s expected angry reaction:

China slammed the European Union’s “confrontational approach” after MEPs voted to block a landmark investment deal over Beijing’s tit-for-tat sanctions against EU lawmakers. Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Beijing’s sanctions were a “necessary and justified response” to previous EU measures against Chinese officials over human rights concerns in Xinjiang.

China has imposed sanctions on relevant institutions and personnel of the EU who spread Xinjiang-related lies and false information and who have seriously damaged China’s sovereignty and interests,” Zhao said at a regular press briefing.

He urged the EU to “immediately stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, abandon its confrontational approach” and push EU-China relations “back to the right track of dialogue and cooperation”.

Defenders of the pact see it as a much-needed opening of China’s economy to European companies, but it is set to face a difficult ratification process among the 27 member states and European Parliament.

The investment deal aims to open China’s market and eliminate discriminatory laws and practices preventing European companies from competing on an equal footing, according to the European Commission.

EU foreign direct investment in China since 2000 — excluding Britain — amounted to $181 billion. The corresponding sum from China is $138 billion.

Ties between the EU and China soured suddenly in March after an angry exchange of sanctions over human rights concerns.

The EU sanctioned four Chinese officials over suspected human rights violations in China’s far northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Beijing responded by imposing its own sanctions against European politicians, scholars and research groups.

Adding to the pressure, about 50 human rights defenders from China who have gone into exile in Europe — including the artist Ai Weiwei — asked the EU on Thursday to suspend extradition treaties with Beijing.

In an open letter to EU leaders, they asked Brussels to freeze or revoke arrangements made by 10 EU member states, including France, Belgium and Spain.

These bilateral treaties “not only present a potential threat to our freedom of movement within the European Union, but to our freedom of association and freedom of expression, as Beijing may seek our extradition for statements we make in Europe”, it said.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/05/20/european-parliament-freezes-trade-deal-china

https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20210521-china-slams-eu-s-confrontational-approach-after-investment-deal-blocked

Turkey finally starts paying a prize for its authoritarianism

May 20, 2021

Ahval on 20 May 2021 reports that the European Parliament said the EU’s membership talks with Turkey should be formally suspended unless the country reverses its democratic backsliding.

Parliamentarians said they were alarmed by the “authoritarian nature of the presidential system” in Turkey in a report adopted on Wednesday. The resolution was probably the toughest and most critical yet of Turkey, said rapporteur Nacho Sánchez Amor.

 “It reflects all that has unfortunately happened in the country in the last two years, in particular in the fields of human rights and rule of law, which remain the main concern for the European Parliament, and in its relations towards the EU and its members,” Amor said.

EU institutions should now make any positive agenda on Turkey conditional on democratic reform, he said.

Turkey began membership talks with the EU in October 2005. The negotiations were partly frozen a year later due to Turkey’s refusal to open its ports to ships from the Greek part of Cyprus. The EU informally approved a freeze in the membership process in 2016 citing a deterioration in democracy.

Turkey reacted angrily to the report, saying it was unacceptable in a period when relations with the EU were based on a positive agenda and a membership perspective.

The text contains “false allegations regarding human rights, democracy, the rule of law, our governmental system and political parties; and views Turkey’s effective, solution-oriented, humanitarian and enterprising foreign policy as a threat,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement. See also my recent: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/03/22/turkey-arrests-and-backsliding-on-femicide/

EU lawmakers pointed to a “continued hyper-centralisation of power in the presidency” and called on Turkey’s relevant authorities to release all imprisoned human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, academics and others, who it said the government had detained on unsubstantiated charges.

Turkey adopted a full presidential system of government at elections in 2018, awarding President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vast executive powers, including the ability to rule by decree.

MEPS also highlighted Turkey’s “hostile” foreign policy, including towards Greece and Cyprus, and over its involvement in Syria, Libya, and the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which they said consistently collided with the EU’s priorities.

Lawmakers also urged Turkey to recognise the Armenian Genocide, which they said would pave the way for genuine reconciliation between the Turkish and Armenian people.

https://ahvalnews.com/eu-turkey/eu-parliament-highlights-authoritarianism-turkey-call-halt-talks

China-EU deal – what about human rights?

January 6, 2021

A long-awaited deal, the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment includes provisions for settling disputes and outlines clear rules against the forced transfer of technologies — a practice in which a government requires foreign investors to share their technology in exchange for market access.

The EU previously said the agreement should increase the transparency of Chinese state subsidies and make sustainable development a key element of the relationship between the two trading blocs.

China’s Ministry of Commerce said “both sides had made tremendous efforts” at a press conference following Wednesday’s meeting and that they had “overcome difficulties” to conclude talks. It said the deal focuses on institutional opening up with market access as the key principle of the deal, which will mean more investment opportunities for businesses on both sides and “a better business environment”.

But the EU expressed concerns about “the restrictions on freedom of expression, on access to information, and intimidation and surveillance of journalists, as well as detentions, trials and sentencing of human rights defenders, lawyers, and intellectuals in China.” The EU’s diplomatic agency, the European External Action Service, has called for the immediate release of Zhang Zhan, a former lawyer who reported on the early stage of the coronavirus outbreak in China and has been sentenced to four years in prison.

The issue of human rights could prove to be a sticking point for the deal clearing the EU Parliament, with critics drawing attention to reports of forced labour in some regions of China.

The stories coming out of Xinjiang are pure horror. The story in Brussels is we’re ready to sign an investment treaty with China,” Guy Verhofstadt, a Belgian MEP for Renew Europe, said on Twitter. “Under these circumstances, any Chinese signature on human rights is not worth the paper it is written on”.

There could also be friction with the new US President-elect Joe Biden and his administration, as just weeks ago the EU proposed a trans-Atlantic dialogue to address “the strategic challenge presented by China’s growing international assertiveness.”

Amid concerns about the human rights situation in China, the EU said the seven-year-long negotiations were concluded in “principle” during a video conference involving Mr Xi, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council president Charles Michel. German chancellor Angela Merkel – whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU – and French president Emmanuel Macron also took part in the discussions with the Chinese president, the EU said. Macron highlighted the “concerns” of EU countries regarding human rights and called for the “closure of internment camps”, according to the speech given by his office. He also pleaded in favor of “measures to ban forced labor” and called for “a visit of independent United Nations experts”.

According to the EU, the deal was negotiated after China pledged to continue ratifying the International Labor Organization’s rules on forced labor. “We are open for business but we are attached to reciprocity, level playing field and values,” Ms von der Leyen said.

French president Emmanuel Macron attends an EU-China video conference along with Chinese president Xi Jinping, German chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and president of the European Council Charles Michel, at the Fort de Bregancon in Bormes-les-Mimosas, southern France
French president Emmanuel Macron attends an EU-China video conference at the Fort de Bregancon in Bormes-les-Mimosas, southern France (Sebastien Nogier, Pool via AP)

The video conference launches a ratification process that will take several months. To enter into force, the agreement will need to be ratified by the European Parliament, and the issue of human rights could be a sticking point.

https://www.chesterstandard.co.uk/news/national-news/18976931.leaders-eu-china-seal-long-awaited-investment-deal/

https://www.euronews.com/2020/12/30/eu-and-china-set-to-sign-historic-investment-deal-but-could-human-rights-concerns-scupper-

Bernd Lange sees breakthrough for human rights in EU dual-use export

December 12, 2020


On 11 December 2020 Bernd Lange, Vice-chair of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, wrote in New Europe the following piece about how after 6 years there has come an European agreement on stricter rules for the export of dual-use goods, which can be used for both civilian and military ends.


All good things are worth waiting for. After long six years negotiators from the European Parliament, the Commission and member states finally agreed on stricter rules for the export of dual-use goods, which can be used for both civilian and military ends. Parliament’s perseverance and assertiveness against a blockade by some of the European Union member states has paid off in the sense that as of now respect for human rights will become an export standard.

Up until now, export restrictions applied to aerospace items, navigation instruments or trucks. From now on, these rules will also apply to EU produced cyber-surveillance technologies, which demonstrably have been abused by authoritarian regimes to spy on opposition movements; for instance, during the Arab Spring in 2011.

This is a breakthrough for human rights in trade by overcoming years of various EU governments blocking the inclusion of cyber-surveillance technology in the export control rules for dual-use goods. Without a doubt: Technological advances, new security challenges and their demonstrated risks to the protection of human rights required more decisive action and harmonised rules for EU export controls.

Thanks to the stamina of the Parliament, it will now be much more difficult for authoritarian regimes to abuse EU produced cybersecurity tools such as biometric software or Big Data searches to spy on human rights defenders and opposition activists. Our message is clear: economic interests must not take precedence over human rights. Exporters have to shoulder greater responsibility and apply due diligence to ensure their products are not employed to violate human rights. We have also managed to increase transparency by insisting on listing exports in greater detail in the annual export control reports, which will make it much harder to hide suspicious items.

In a nutshell, we are setting up an EU-wide regime to control cyber-surveillance items that are not listed as dual-use items in international regimes, in the interest of protecting human rights and political freedoms. We strengthened member states’ public reporting obligations on export controls, so far patchy, to make the cyber-surveillance sector, in particular, more transparent. We increased the importance of human rights as licensing criterion and we agreed on rules to swiftly include emerging technologies in the regulation.

This agreement on dual-use items, together with the rules on conflict minerals and the soon to be adopted rules on corporate due diligence, is establishing a new gold standard for human rights in EU trade policy.

I want the European Union to lead globally on rules and values-based trade. These policies show that we can manage globalisation to protect people and the planet. This must be the blueprint for future rule-based trade policy.

Three nominees for European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize announced

September 21, 2020
Last year’s winner Jewher Ilham receives the Prize on behalf of her father, Ilham Tohti. © European Parliament

The European Parliamenthas announced its long-list of nominees for the annual Sakharov Prize. The nominees for this year’s prize, announced at last week’s plenary session of the Parliament, are:

  • Two nominations for the democratic opposition in Belarus, represented on the one hand by the Coordination Council, an initiative of political and civil society figures, and on the other by Sviatlana Tsikhanouska, an activist and politician whose defeat in this year’s presidential election led to accusations of fraud against the winner, Alexander Lukashenko. Tsikhanouska is also a member of the Coordination Council.
  • Monsignor Najeeb Moussa Michaeel, Archbishop of Mosul in Iraq who ensured the evacuation of Christians, Syriacs and Chaldeans to Iraqi Kurdistan when Islamic State arrived in the city in 2014, and who safeguarded more than 800 historic manuscripts dating from the 13th to the 19th century.
  • Guapinol activists and Berta Caceres in Honduras. The Guapinol activists have been imprisoned after taking part in a peaceful protest against a polluting mining company in Tocoa, Honduras. Berta Caceras was assassinated in 2016, and was a land-rights activist and protestor against illegal logging and land-grabbing from indigenous peoples in Honduras.
  • Finally, Polish LGBTI activists Jakub Gawron, Paulina Pajak, Paweł Preneta and Kamil Maczuga who founded the website Atlas of Hate, monitoring the implementation by local municipalities to the anti-LGBTI legislation introduced by the national government. This year five of the municipalities sued Gawron, Pajak and Preneta, demanding financial compensation for loss of reputation.

For more on this and similar awards, see:https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/BDE3E41A-8706-42F1-A6C5-ECBBC4CDB449

At the end of the month, the foreign affairs and development committees and the human rights subcommittee of the Parliament will announce their shortlist of three finalists. On 22 October the Conference of Presidents – consisting of the President of the European Parliament and the leaders of the political groups – will announce the winner.

The Prize itself will be awarded at a ceremony in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 16 December.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/26/universal-human-rights-apply-to-ilham-tohti-china-and-eu-disagree/

Nominees for European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize announced

EU human rights committee condemns India’s arrest of human rights defenders

June 1, 2020
Maria Arena is the chairperson of the Subcommittee of Human Rights of the European Parliament member of Socialist and Democrats parliamentary group. Photo: Reporter

20 May 2020 the chairperson of the Subcommittee of Human Rights of the European Parliament sent a letter to Indian Home Minister Amit Shah, condemning the arrest of human rights defenders under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

In her letter, Maria Arena said the European body has been closely following the arrests of human rights defenders Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha by the National Investigative Agency in India.

Academic and Dalit author Teltumbde and human rights defender Navlakha had surrendered to the police last month after exhausting their possible legal remedies.

Nine other defenders have been in jail since 2018 in the Bhima Koregaon case, where the charges relate to caste violence around an Ambedkarite event and an alleged Maoist plot to foment armed revolution and possibly assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In 2018, the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had issued a statement against terror charges being invoked against the activists.

It is particularly alarming to note that human rights defenders cannot conduct advocacy activities, notably in favor of India’s poorest and most marginalised communities, without becoming subject to intimidation and harassment,” Arena said in her letter.

Equally worrying is the fact that terrorism charges, including under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) have been used to silence them,” she noted pointing out that by United Nations Special Procedures, this clearly represents a violation of international human rights standards.

The letter further stated that to date, the European Parliament had noted that various forms of legitimate peaceful protests against laws, policies and governmental actions, including the Citizenship Amendment Act, had been portrayed as terrorist activities under this legislation, resulting in a number of arrests. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/07/india-attacks-on-human-rights-defenders-abound-under-unlawful-activities-prevention-act/]

This is notably the case for human rights activists such as Safoora Zargar, Gulfisha Fatima, Khalid Saifi, Meeran Haider, Shifa-Ur-Rehman, Dr Kafeel Khan, Asif Iqbal and Sharjeel Imam, who were recently arrested by the police,” the letter noted.

Against this background, there are also increased fears that the legislation might confer discretionary powers upon state agencies. India, she said, should do much more to ensure a safe and conducive environment for civil society working in the country and consider enacting a law on the protection and promotion of human rights defenders.

In a similar vein, ProtectDefenders on May 26 2020 reports “Increasing attacks against human rights defenders in India and Guatemala”. …..

Over the past month, ProtectDefenders.eu has received a considerable and growing number of reports regarding attacks, threats, and alerts affecting human rights defenders in India. This information alerts to the numerous acts of police and judicial harassment in the repression of legitimate activities in favor of human rights. Among other incidents, police harassment and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders were reported in Manipur State, in relation to statements made to criticise the management of the current COVID-19 pandemic by local authorities.

Safoora Zargar, a 27-years old student and woman human rights defender unjustly detained since 10 April, is one of the OMCT’s campaign #FacesOfHope

For the OMCT campaign see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/25/faces-of-hope-campaign-human-rights-defenders-imprisoned-worldwide/

Moreover, the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah terming the detentions of several Indian human rights activists ‘arbitrary’. It says the activists have been arrested for “their participation in peaceful protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA)” in the last few months.

The letter highlights the cases of Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, student activists who have been associated with the anti-CAA protests in Delhi and were arrested recently by the Delhi police.

https://www.geo.tv/latest/290529-eu-human-rights-subcommittee-condemns-indias-arrest-of-human-rights-activists

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/europe-flags-rights-concern/cid/1777254

https://thewire.in/rights/ifhr-anti-caa-activists-arrests-release

28 NGOs ask EU Parliament to reject cooperation deal with Vietnam on 11 February

February 10, 2020

The signing NGOs include Human Rights Watch, Defend the Defenders, The 88 Project, and the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam.

There are notable precedents of the European Parliament setting human rights benchmarks to be met before giving their consent to bilateral deals in order to promote human rights progress,” the NGOs claim pointing to a 2016 case in Uzbekistan and the EP’s rejection in March 2019 of the EU-Turkmenistan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. The European Parliament needs to take the exact same strategy with Vietnam, withholding Parliament’s permission and authorizing an identical resolution outlining the civils rights problems that Vietnam must satisfy for MEPs to greenlight the offer,” the NGOs claimed.

Only once a series of human rights concerns have been duly addressed by the state authorities, MEPs should give their consent to the deals.

See however 24 April 2020: https://www.marketscreener.com/news/EU-Vietnam-free-trade-agreement-passes-despite-human-rights-concerns–30471437/

https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/11/04/joint-ngo-letter-eu-vietnam-free-trade-agreement

EU Parliament ‘improves’ proposed Terrorist Content Regulation

April 18, 2019

After my earlier piece about the risks in the draft EU regulation on terrorism content [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/31/ngos-express-fear-that-new-eu-terrorist-content-draft-will-make-things-worse-for-human-rights-defenders/], I am happy to report that some NGOs have welcomed the changes now made in the latest version.

On 17 April 2019 eub2 reports that “EU Parliament deletes the worst threats to freedom of expression proposed in the Terrorist Content Regulation”: Read the rest of this entry »