Posts Tagged ‘European Union’

Assault by Israel on Palestinian human rights NGOs

October 23, 2021

As if the fight against terrorists is not already complex enough, Israel has muddied the water more by accusing six prominent Palestinian human rights groups of being terrorist organisations, saying they have undercover links to a militant movement. Not surprisingly. most of the groups document alleged human rights violations by Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The six are Al-Haq, a human rights group founded in 1979, [and the winner of 5 human rights awards, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/0F74BF45-72C4-9FDD-F96D-2B87BF6C7728] Addameer, Defence for Children International – Palestine, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees.

The Israeli defence ministry said they were linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a secular political movement with an armed wing that in the past carried out attacks against Israel. The groups “were active under the cover of civil society organisations, but in practice belong and constitute an arm of the [PFLP] leadership, the main activity of which is the liberation of Palestine and destruction of Israel”, the defence ministry said. It claimed they were “controlled by senior leaders” of the PFLP and employed its members, including some who had “participated in terror activity”. The groups serve as a “central source” of financing for the PFLP and had received “large sums of money from European countries and international organisations”, the defence ministry said.

The groups, well known for their human rights work, have indeed quite openly received funding from EU member states, the United Nations and other donors.

Shawan Jabarin, the director of Al-Haq, said the move was an attempt to stifle criticism. “They may be able to close us down. They can seize our funding. They can arrest us. But they cannot stop our firm and unshakeable belief that this occupation must be held accountable for its crimes,he told the Times of Israel.

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem called the government’s declaration “an act characteristic of totalitarian regimes, with the clear purpose of shutting down these organisations”. It added: “B’Tselem stands in solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues, is proud of our joint work over the years and is steadfast to continue so.”

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, who work closely with many of these groups, said in a joint statement:

This appalling and unjust decision is an attack by the Israeli government on the international human rights movement. For decades, Israeli authorities have systematically sought to muzzle human rights monitoring and punish those who criticize its repressive rule over Palestinians. While staff members of our organizations have faced deportation and travel bans, Palestinian human rights defenders have always borne the brunt of the repression. This decision is an alarming escalation that threatens to shut down the work of Palestine’s most prominent civil society organizations. The decades-long failure of the international community to challenge grave Israeli human rights abuses and impose meaningful consequences for them has emboldened Israeli authorities to act in this brazen manner.

How the international community responds will be a true test of its resolve to protect human rights defenders. We are proud to work with our Palestinian partners and have been doing so for decades. They represent the best of global civil society. We stand with them in challenging this outrageous decision.

The US Department of State spokesperson Ned Price said his office had not been given advance warning of the designation. “We will be engaging our Israeli partners for more information regarding the basis for the designation,” Price said on a telephone briefing with reporters in Washington.

The move by the Israeli government represents a challenge for the many European countries that provide financing to the six organizations, European governments, .. now risk being accused of funding terrorism if they continue financing the six groups. One senior European official working in the region admitted the move was likely aimed at putting pressure on donors’ decision-making but said there needed to be an analysis of any evidence put forward by Israel, said CNN Europe.

See also the 4 November post by Just Security: https://www.justsecurity.org/78884/the-downstream-effects-of-israels-terrorist-designation-on-human-rights-defenders-in-the-us/

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/27/al-haq-named-2019-recipient-of-human-rights-and-business-award/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/oct/22/israel-labels-palestinian-human-rights-groups-terrorist-organisations

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/10/22/israel-palestinian-human-rights-groups-terrorism

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/stars-sign-letter-criticising-israel-s-move-to-label-palestinian-charities-as-terror-organisations/ar-AAQNM7q

https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/10/1103982

Joint Letter to EU ahead of meeting with Bahraini Delegation on 10 February 2021

February 8, 2021

On 7 the ADHRB published a joint letter by 20 major NGOs to the EU about the EU-Bahrain Cooperation Agreement, which they say must Depend on Human Rights Improvements.

TO: Joseph Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the European Commission and Eamon Gilmore, EU Special Representative for Human Rights

Your Excellencies,

In light of the meeting between Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and the European External Action Service currently scheduled to take place in Brussels on 10 february 2021, we are writing to raise concerns about the deterioration of the human rights situation in Bahrain, following a year in which Human Rights Watch reports that the Bahraini government has “escalated repression” against critics. As the informal EU-Bahrain Human Rights Dialogue originally scheduled for November 2020 has been indefinitely postponed, it is vital that human rights concerns are placed at the center of your conversations with Bahraini officials during this upcoming meeting.

Bahrains Crackdown on Political Opposition and Civil Society

Bahrain’s February 2011 Arab Spring uprising was an event which many hoped would herald a new era of democracy in the country. However, since the government’s violent suppression of the protests, promised reforms have failed to materialise. The leaders of the protest movement, some of them now elderly, continue to languish in prison.

Since 2017, authorities have outlawed all independent media and dissolved all political opposition parties. Among the most prominent prisoners currently incarcerated are high-profile political opposition leaders, activists, bloggers and human rights defenders sentenced to life imprisonment for their roles in the 2011 pro-democracy protests. These include Hassan Mushaima, Abduljalil AlSingace, Abdulhadi AlKhawaja,[see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/4d45e316-c636-4d02-852d-7bfc2b08b78d] Sheikh Mohammed Habib AlMuqdad and Abdulwahab Husain. In 2018, the leader of Bahrain’s largest opposition bloc, Sheikh Ali Salman, was sentenced to life in prison following trials on speech charges and spurious accusations of espionage.

Over the last four years, political activists have borne the full brunt of political repression in Bahrain, facing arbitrary arrest and lengthy prison terms, and in some cases torture, for opposing the government. Hundreds have been arbitrarily stripped of citizenship, while activists and journalists who continue their work from exile risk reprisals against family members who remain in the country.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least six journalists are currently imprisoned for their work in Bahrain, while the country has fallen to a lamentable 169/180 on the Reporters Without Borders 2020 World Press Freedom Index. Bahrain scored a paltry 1/40 for political rights in Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2020 report.

In addition, Bahrain’s government has increasingly turned to repressive cyber crime legislation to further restrict civic space, with prominent defence lawyers, opposition leaders and human rights defenders prosecuted over their social media activity since 2018. As Amnesty International has reported, Bahrain’s authorities have used the COVID-19  pandemic as a pretext “to further crush freedom of expression.”

Medical Negligence and Mistreatment in Jau Prison

Bahrain’s prisons remain overcrowded and unsanitary, and human rights groups have called on the government to release those imprisoned solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression in light of the threat posed by COVID-19. Prisoners are frequently subjected to humiliating treatment and denied adequate medical care, in violation of Bahrain’s international human rights obligations. These include Hassan Mushaima and Dr Abduljalil AlSingace, who suffer from a range of chronic medical conditions, as well as human rights activists Ali AlHajee and Naji Fateel.

Other prominent prisoners include two European-Bahraini dual citizens, the Danish-Bahraini Abdulhadi AlKhawaja and the Swedish-Bahraini Sheikh Mohammed Habib AlMuqdad, both of whom are considered prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International, having been prosecuted and sentenced to life imprisonment for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and subjected to torture and other ill-treatment including denial of medical care.

In April 2011, security forces violently arrested Al-Khawaja and broke his jaw, leading to surgery for four broken bones in his face. Security officers tortured Al-Khawaja directly after his major jaw surgery, while blindfolded and restrained to a military hospital bed, which forced the doctor to ask the security officers to stop as it would undo the surgical work. Almost ten years later he still suffers from chronic pain and requires additional surgery to remove the metal plates and screws that were used to reattach his jaw. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/01/27/over-100-ngos-write-to-prime-minister-of-denmark-to-pressure-bahrain-to-release-abdul-hadi-al-khawaja/]

AlMuqdad, who was tortured by methods including severe beating and electrocution, suffers from multiple health problems, including a hernia likely caused by his torture, but is being denied proper health care. As of January 2021, in addition to the need for urgent surgery to repair the hernia, AlMuqdad is in need of heart surgery to unblock his coronary arteries and examination by a urologist to diagnose a prostate problem. The prison administration continues to delay the surgeries and specialist appointments, blaming the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Death Penalty and Arbitrary Killings

In 2017, Bahrain abandoned a de facto moratorium on the death penalty and has since conducted six executions, five of which were condemned as arbitrary by UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Agnes Callamard, in 2017 and 2019 respectively. According to recent research by the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and Reprieve, 26 death row inmates currently face imminent execution in the country, nearly half of whom were convicted on the basis of confessions allegedly extracted under torture in cases related to political unrest.

These include Mohammed Ramadhan and Husain Moosa, whose death sentences were upheld in July 2020 despite credible evidence that both men were convicted on the basis of confessions obtained under torture. Independent experts at the International Committee for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims concluded that investigations by Bahrain’s human rights oversight bodies into the torture of the two men “fail[ed] to meet the minimum professional standards and the minimum international legal standards”, while the Bar Human Rights Council of England and Wales warned that “upholding the convictions would be wholly inconsistent with Bahrain’s international obligations”. Both men are at risk of imminent execution. Three UN human rights experts warned on 12 February 2020 that carrying out these death sentences would constitute an arbitrary killing.

Our Requests

Bahraini authorities have engaged in widespread violations of human rights enshrined in both Bahrain’s national legal system as well as in multiple international human rights treaties to which Bahrain is a state party.

Furthermore, a prevailing culture of impunity has allowed suspected perpetrators of serious human rights violations to avoid accountability. In light of the continued deterioration of the human rights situation in Bahrain, we therefore ask that during the meeting the EEAS:

  • Urges the unconditional and immediate release of all those imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, including Hassan Mushaima, Abduljalil AlSingace, Abdulwahab Husain and Sheikh Ali Salman;
  • Urges for the unconditional and immediate release of Danish-Bahraini Abdulhadi AlKhawaja and Swedish-Bahraini Sheikh AlMuqdad;
  • Calls for an independent review of the cases involving those facing the death penalty, including the cases of Mohammed Ramadhan and Husain Moosa; as well as for the ultimate revocation of their death sentences;
  • Urges Bahraini authorities to reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty;
  • Pressures Bahrain to end the use of torture and other -ill-treatment and to tackle the culture of impunity by holding suspected perpetrators accountable and ensuring effective mechanisms for victims to receive justice and restitution;
  • Urges Bahrain to rescind its arbitrary bans on opposition parties, civil society groups and independent media and encourage the development of civic space in Bahrain;
  • Urges the Bahraini Government to ensure its respect to, and protection of, the right to freedom of expression, and to take necessary steps to ensure freedom of the press; and
  • Persuades Bahrain’s government to take concrete and measurable steps towards justice reform and respect for human rights.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/bahrain/

Sincerely,

  1. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
  2. Amnesty International
  3. Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK
  4. ARTICLE 19
  5. Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
  6. CIVICUS
  7. Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  8. Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)
  9. European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
  10. Freedom House
  11. Global Legal Action Network (GLAN)
  12. Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
  13. Human Rights Watch (HRW)
  14. Index on Censorship
  15. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  16. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  17. PEN International
  18. Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  19. Reprieve
  20. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2019

June 16, 2020

Courtesy of Reliefweb of 15 Jun 2020, here the introduction to the EU’s annual report on human rights

1. INTRODUCTION

The 2019 EU annual report on human rights and democracy in the world marks the final phase of implementation of the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2015-2019) 1 . It presents the progress achieved to date, by means of a comprehensive set of actions taken by the European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Commission and EU delegations and offices around the world. In 2019, the EU demonstrated once again that it is a reliable, cooperative and principled global player, working for a better world where all human rights are fully protected and respected.

However, in many parts of the world, challenges remain. Human rights defenders (HRDs), journalists and media workers are under threat and attack because of their daily work, civic and democratic space continues to be restricted, women’s and girls’ human rights are being violated, and vulnerable groups are often left behind and exposed to further discrimination and inequality.

Against this background, the international community celebrated in 2019 the 10th anniversary of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 70th anniversary of the Council of Europe and the 100th anniversary of the International Labour Organisation. These anniversaries gave great impetus to the EU’s continuous efforts to translate its legal and policy frameworks on human rights into reality. The EU worked with all partners to turn challenges into opportunities for all human beings, at any time, in any place.

The 21st EU-NGO Forum on Human Rights, held in Brussels on 3-4 December, put the human rights and environment nexus in the spotlight as an emerging challenge and gained unprecedented traction. On 9 December 2019, the Foreign Affairs Council agreed on the political appropriateness of establishing an EU global human rights sanctions regime to tackle serious human rights violations worldwide committed by state and non-state actors.

In 2019, the first ever EU guidelines focusing on economic, social and cultural rights were adopted: the EU Human Rights Guidelines on safe drinking water and sanitation. These guidelines opened new horizons in promoting the indivisibility of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. The Council also adopted Guidelines on non-discrimination in external action and revised Guidelines on EU policy towards third countries on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Moreover, the Council conclusions on Democracy adopted in October provided a comprehensive framework to advance democratic governance.

This report focuses on thematic issues, using a number of country-specific examples, and aims to be a practical tool for all stakeholders. Reporting on human rights and democracy at country level can be found on the EEAS2 and EU delegations’ webpages.

Download report (PDF | 1.13 MB)

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/eu-annual-report-human-rights-and-democracy-world-2019

New EU Action Plan for Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024

March 27, 2020

Since the adoption of the EU strategic framework on human rights and democracy in 2012, the EU has adopted two EU Action Plans (2012-2014 and 2015-2019). The new proposal follows up on this, setting out the priorities for the period of 2020-2024.

This Action Plan identifies priorities around five mutually reinforcing lines of action:

  • Protecting and empowering individuals;
  • Building resilient, inclusive and democratic societies;
  • Promoting a global system for human rights and democracy;
  • New technologies: harnessing opportunities and addressing challenges;
  • Delivering by working together.

What is new in this Action Plan?

The new Action Plan builds on the previous action plans and continues to focus on some long-standing priorities, such as supporting human rights defenders and the fight against death penalty. More importance is given to empower people and defeat discrimination on all grounds. It also addresses more prominently the accountability gap, the erosion of rule of law and access to justice. This Action Plan takes account of today’s world new challenges and therefore focuses in particular on:

  • environmental challenges and climate change;
  • leveraging the benefits of digital technologies and minimising the risks of misuse in line with EU’s commitment to lead the transition to a new digital world;
  • stepping up economic, social and cultural rights;
  • more emphasis on democracy, including on the misuse of online technologies and shrinking civic and political space;
  • a stronger focus on human rights defenders;
  • strategic communication and public diplomacy.

How will the Action Plan be implemented?

The objectives under the Action Plan will be implemented at country, regional and multilateral level, taking account of local circumstances and specificities. The EU will leverage the broad range of policies, tools and political and financial instruments at its disposal to implement it, such as:

  • political, human rights and sectoral policy dialogues;
  • EU trade policies, including the EU’s generalised scheme of preferences;
  • thematic and geographical instruments under the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework;
  • actions in multilateral and regional human rights fora;
  • communication activities and awareness‑raising campaigns;
  • public statements, démarches;
  • observing trials of human rights defenders;
  • the implementation of 13 EU human rights guidelines;
  • election observation and its follow-up;
  • dialogue with civil society, human rights organisations and the business sector.

The EU Action Plan provides guidance to over 140 EU Delegations and Offices as well as Member States embassies for targeted initiatives and actions at country level all over the world.

How will the Commission and the High Representative follow up on and monitor the implementation of this Action Plan?

Actions apply to all regions in the world taking into consideration local needs and specificities. The EU’s 142 Delegations and Offices will take a lead in reflecting the priority actions in initiatives at the country level including through the adoption of tailored-made strategies at a local level. The EU will also engage with different stakeholders on the overall implementation, and organise an annual meeting with civil society. The public EU annual report on Human rights and democracy in the worldis another effective tool to monitor the progress made in a transparent manner. A mid-term review of the implementation is foreseen.

What has the EU achieved on human rights and democracy worldwide so far?

  • Since 2015, more than 30 000 human rights defenders were protected by the EU via the dedicated mechanism ProtectDefenders.eu. In 2019 alone, the EU raised Human Rights Defenders cases in dialogues and consultations with over 40 countries.
  • The EU advocated for abolition of death penalty.
  • Between January 2015 and October 2019, the EU supported over 3 350 actions relevant to children’s rights in 148 third countries and territories. For example, under the global programme on Female Genital Mutilation (€11 million), 16 countries adopted action plans and 12 established national budget lines to put an end to Female Genital Mutilation.
  • In 2014-2019, the EU supported democracy in more than 70 partner countries with €400 million aiming at, for instance, contributing to the organisation of elections and supporting oversight bodies, independent media, parliaments and political parties to play their essential role in democratic societies. 98 EU Election Observation Missionswere deployed worldwide.
  • The General System of Preference contributed to the implementation of human rights and labour Conventions, including through monitoring missions in 11 countries in the last year. For example, this contributed to a reduction of child labour to 1% in Sri Lanka through pioneering ‘Child Labour Free Zones’.

 

Joint Proposal

…Article 22 of the Treaty on the European Union offers the European Council the possibility to adopt a unanimous Decision setting out the EU’s strategic interests and objectives in specific areas of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). Once the European Council sets the strategic objectives, the Council would then be able to adopt by qualified majority (QMV) decisions implementing the European Council’s strategic decisions.

Why is this proposed now? In 2018, the Commission has proposed to move from unanimity to QMV in certain areas of the CFSP. The Von Der Leyen Commission recognises that to be a global leader, the Union needs to take decisions in a faster and more effective way and overcome unanimity constraints that hamper our foreign policy, as set out in the High Representative/Vice-President’s mission letter. The Joint Proposal adopted by the College today offers such a possibility, by proposing to take decision related to the implementation of the Action Plan by QMV.

For more information:

Press release

Joint Communication EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024

EU Action Plan 2020-2024

Joint Proposal for a recommendation of the Council to the European Council

Annex to the Joint Proposal for a recommendation of the Council to the European Council

 

Polish judges have become human rights defenders

April 8, 2019
Barbora Cernusakova (Amnesty International’s Poland researcher) posted in Euronews on 4 April 2019 a piece entitled “When Polish judges become human rights defenders”

“There is a danger when politics enters the judiciary,” warned Judge Sławomir Jęksa in his summing up of his decision to accept the appeal of a woman who had been charged for using offensive language at a rally. She had, he reasoned, not only been entitled to express herself in the way that she did, especially since she was expressing genuine concerns about the encroachment on human rights in Poland. Days after his ruling, Judge Jęksa found himself at the receiving end of just the sort of political interference of which he had warned. The Disciplinary Prosecutor started proceedings against him on the grounds that his ruling was an “expression of political opinions” and “an offence against the dignity of the office of the judge.”

Judge Jęksa does not have much faith in the disciplinary procedure which will take place in the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court. The Disciplinary Chamber is a special body whose members were chosen by a body formed of politicians from the governing party. He is just one of several judges facing similar pressures. More than a dozen judges have faced disciplinary proceedings since last autumn. These may result in sanctions, including their dismissal from office.

Some of the more outspoken judges who publicly expressed their opposition to the government’s interference with the judiciary have even received death threats…..

This is all happening in the context of a wider smear campaign against judges that have upheld decisions in defence of human rights that began in 2017. Judges are constantly portrayed as “enemies of the people” who “damage the interests of Poland.” Pro-government media and social media accounts have gone as far as invading their privacy by regularly publishing their personal information, including details about their sick leave and their trips abroad.

Despite this, judges in Poland continue to organise and collectively resist the pressures from the government. “For the first time in our careers we have to stand our ground and show we are not just civil servants, but the authority that protects legal order,” Judge Dorota Zabłudowska told me.

But the ongoing struggle over the independence of the judiciary in Poland is not only about them. It is a fight for human rights that ultimately affects everyone in the country and indeed in Europe. In a significant move yesterday, the European Commission launched an infringement procedure to protect judges in Poland from political control. …The chilling effect of the abuse of this already flawed disciplinary system is real and this has now been called out by the Commission. Member states should back this step and call on Poland in the General Affairs Council next week to end the harassment and intimidation of judges.

This decision draws an important line in the sand and makes clear that interfering with the independence of the judiciary cannot and will not be tolerated. Allowing one member state to operate outside the rule of law would be to allow the entire system to be contaminated…

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/09/27/polish-ombudsman-adam-bodnar-winner-of-2018-rafto-award/

https://www.euronews.com/2019/04/04/when-polish-judges-become-human-rights-defenders-view

European Commission states that Turkey is taking “major steps” away from the EU

April 18, 2018

On Tuesday 17 April 2018 the European Commission released its most critical report on talks with Turkey since the country launched its bid to join the EU over a decade ago. The European Commission has warned that Turkey is taking “major steps” in the wrong direction and also warned that years of progress are being lost.

The report stated that “The state of emergency declared in the wake of the attempted coup of 15 July 2016 remains in force, aiming at dismantling the Gülen movement, designated by the government as a terror organisation responsible of the coup attempt, as well as at supporting the fight against terrorism, against the background of repeated attacks in Turkey, overall a traumatic period in Turkey.” The EU, while recognising Turkey’s legitimate need to take swift and proportionate action, said “However, the broad scale and collective nature, and the disproportionality of measures taken since the attempted coup under the state of emergency, such as widespread dismissals, arrests, and detentions, continue to raise serious concerns. Turkey should lift the state of emergency without delay.”

Turkish National Security Council (MGK)’s advice to extend the state of emergency will likely be approved by parliament. The state of emergency has so far been approved six times since the attempted coup in July 2016. ..Turkey “continues to take huge strides away from the EU, in particular in the areas of rule of law and fundamental rights,” European Commissioner Johannes Hahn in charge of negotiations told a news conference. “The Commission has repeatedly called on Turkey to reverse this negative trend as a matter of priority and makes very clear the recommendations on this in today’s report,” he said.

Among the key findings of the European Commission’s 2018 Report on Turkey are the following:

..

Since the introduction of the state of emergency, over 150 000 people were taken into custody, 78 000 were arrested and over 110 000 civil servants were dismissed whilst, according to the authorities, some 40 000 were reinstated of which some 3 600 by decree.

A State of Emergency Appeal Commission became operational and received altogether some 107 000 appeal requests. This Commission only started to take decisions in December 2017 and it has so far provided redress to only few applicants. Its decisions are open to judicial review. It still needs to develop into an effective and transparent remedy for those unjustly affected by measures under the state of emergency.

Beyond the Appeal Commission, the capacity of Turkey to ensure an effective domestic legal remedy in the sense of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has been further undermined by a number of unfortunate precedents. In one instance a lower court refused to observe a ruling of the Constitutional Court regarding an emblematic case; a follow up ruling by the Constitutional Court for one of the defendants was eventually abided with by a lower court. Several court rulings favorable to prominent defendants, including Human Rights Defenders, were swiftly reversed by another or even by the same court, in some instances following comments from the executive.

Key recommendations of the Council of Europe and its bodies are yet to be addressed by Turkey. Allegations of wrongdoing need to be established by transparent procedures and on an individual basis. Individual criminal liability can only be established with full respect for the separation of powers, the full independence of the judiciary and the right of every individual to a fair trial. Turkey should lift the state of emergency without delay.

……

Civil society came under increasing pressure, notably in the face of a large number of arrests of activists, including human rights defenders, and the recurrent use of bans of demonstrations and other types of gatherings, leading to a rapid shrinking space for fundamental rights and freedoms. Many rights‑based organisations remained closed as part of the measures under the state of emergency and an effective legal remedy has not been available with respect to confiscations…

The situation in the south-east has continued to be one of the most acute challenges for the country. The deteriorated security situation has in part shifted to rural areas. The government’s pledge to continue security operations, against the background of recurrent violent acts by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which remains on the EU list of persons, groups and entities involved in acts of terrorism, remained as a defining element of the situation in the region.While the government has a legitimate right to fight against terrorism, it is also responsible for ensuring the respect for human rights, rule of law, fundamental freedoms and the proportionate use of force. The government’s investment plan for the reconstruction of damaged areas in the south-east has resulted in the ongoing construction of thousands of dwellings but only few internally displaced persons received compensation so far. There were no developments on the resumption of a credible political process which is needed to achieve a peaceful and sustainable solution.

Turkey’s judicial system is at an early stage of preparation. There has been further serious backsliding in the past year, in particular with regard to the independence of the judiciary. The Constitutional amendments governing the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (CJP) entered into force and further undermined its independence from the executive. The CJP continued to engage in large-scale suspensions and transfers of judges and prosecutors. No efforts were made to address concerns regarding the lack of objective, merit‑based, uniform and pre-established criteria in the recruitment and promotion of judges and prosecutors.

The Turkish legal framework includes general guarantees of respect for human and fundamental rights, which have however been further challenged and undermined by a number of emergency decrees. The serious backsliding on the freedom of expressioncontinued, an area where Turkey is at an early stage of preparation. The scope of actions taken under the state of emergency has been extended over time to many critical voices, in media and academia amongst others, in contradiction with the principle of proportionality.

Criminal cases against journalists – more than 150 of them remain detained – human rights defenders, writers, or social media users, withdrawal of press cards, as well as the closure of numerous media outlets or the appointment by the government of trustees to administer them, are of serious concern and are mostly based on selective and arbitrary application of the law, especially provisions on national security and the fight against terrorism.

The Internet Law and the general legal framework continue to enable the executive to block online content without a court order on an inappropriately wide range of grounds. There was also serious backsliding in the areas of freedom of assembly, freedom of association, procedural and property rights. Freedom of assembly continues to be overly restricted, in law and practice. Measures adopted under the state of emergency also removed crucial safeguards protecting detainees from abuse thereby augmenting the risk of impunity, in a context where allegations of ill-treatment and torture have increased.

Emergency decrees imposed additional restrictions to procedural rights including on the rights of defence. The enforcement of rights is hindered by the fragmentation and limited mandate of public institutions responsible for human rights and freedoms and by the lack of an independent judiciary. Extreme poverty and a lack of basic necessities remain common among Roma households in Turkey. The rights of the most vulnerable groups and of persons belonging to minorities should be sufficiently protected. Gender-based violence, discrimination, hate speech against minorities, hate crime and violations of human rights of LGBTI persons are still a matter of serious concern.

Turkey made good progress in the area of migration and asylum policy and remained committed to the implementation of the March 2016 EU-Turkey Statement effective management of migratory flows along the Eastern Mediterranean route. As regards the implementation of the Visa Liberalisation Roadmap, at the beginning of February, Turkey submitted to the European Commission a work plan outlining how Turkey plans to fulfil the seven outstanding visa liberalisation benchmarks. The Commission is assessing Turkey’s proposals and further consultations with the Turkish counterparts will follow

..

Turkey needs to commit itself unequivocally to good neighbourly relations, international agreements, and to the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the United Nations Charter, having recourse, if necessary, to the International Court of Justice. In this context, the EU has expressed serious concern and urged Turkey to avoid any kind of threat or action directed against a Member State, or source of friction or actions that damages good neighbourly relations and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

https://stockholmcf.org/report-by-european-commission-urges-turkish-govt-to-lift-state-of-emergency-without-delay/#prettyPhoto

Greece prevents EU criticism of human rights in China

June 20, 2017

The European Union – when criticizing countries by name in the UN Human Rights Council – does so with unanimity. It was the first time that the European Union did not make a statement in the Human Rights Council regarding rights violations in specific countries, including China as it was blocked by one of its member countries: Greece! A spokesman for the Greek Foreign Ministry in Athens called it “unproductive criticism.” The NYT reports that a spokesman for the Greek Foreign Ministry (who requested anonymity) said in a telephone interview:  “When the stability of a country is at stake, we need to be more constructive in the way we express our criticism” …“because if the country collapses, there will be no human rights to protect.” It was an odd explanation, commented the NYT, considering that China’s stability does not appear to be at risk. Unless the stability at stake was referring to Greece?!

In its struggle for economic recovery, Greece is indeed increasingly courting Chinese trade and investment. China’s largest shipping company, known as China COSCO Shipping, bought a majority stake last year in the Greek port of Piraeus. The Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has visited China twice in two years. And China will be the “country of honor” at Greece’s annual international business fair in September in the port of Thessaloniki.

In the previous Human Rights Council session in March, the European Union statement pointed to China’s detention of lawyers and human rights defenders [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/19/letter-from-legal-experts-on-detained-lawyers-in-china/]. Human Rights Watch said it was “shameful that Greece sought to hold the E.U. hostage to prevent much-needed attention to China’s human rights crackdown.”

 

What Human Rights Day means in Bahrain and how the EU made it worse

December 11, 2014

On 9 December, on the eve of Human Rights Day, Zainab Al-Khawaja was sentenced to 4 years and 4 months in two separate court hearings in Bahrain. Front Line, Human Rights First and others have reported extensively on this courageous human rights defenders [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/zainab-al-khawaja/] .

She was sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment for “sabotaging properties belonging to the Ministry of Interior” and “insulting a public official” to three months’ imprisonment and fined 3,000 Bahraini Dinar (approx. 6,400 Euro) for “tearing up a photograph of the King”.

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped also shockingly reports that on the same day as her sentencing, the European Union presented a human rights award to Bahrain’s National Institution for Human Rights and the Ombudsman of the Ministry of the Interior! Although this concerns a relatively unknown regional award (the Chaillot Prize is presented annually by the Delegation of the European Union in Riyadh http://www.ambafrance-bh.org/Press-release-Delegation-of-the.) the state press has been making the best of it [http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/NewsDetails.aspx?storyid=391213] and it is hard to see this as in line with the EU policy on Human Rights Defenders.

EU foreign ministers confirm backing and supporting human rights defenders

May 20, 2014

Yesterday, 19 May 2014, EU foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels for the Foreign Affairs Council on Development, reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to promoting all human rights, whether civil and political, or economic, social and cultural, in all areas of its external action without exception, as part of working towards a rights-based approach to development coöperation.  “The implementation of a rights-based approach to development cooperation should be based on the universality and indivisibility of human rights and the principles of inclusion and participation in decision-making processes; non-discrimination, equality and equity; transparency and accountability. The application of these principles should be central to EU development cooperation, thereby also ensuring the empowerment of the poorest and most vulnerable, in particular of women and girls, which in turn contributes to poverty reduction efforts,” said the Council conclusions. The Council also stressed the need for continued EU support for human rights defenders, capacity-building of local civil society organisations and promoting a safe and enabling environment in both law and practice that maximizes their contribution to development. Being closer to citizens and interacting with civil society, local authorities also play a crucial role in the effective implementation of a rights-based approach.
Moreover, the Council underlined that investment and business activities in partner countries should respect human rights and adhere to the principles of corporate social and environmental responsibility and accountability.
EU foreign ministers back human rights-based approach to all development cooperation.

Russian court declares ADC Memorial formally as “foreign agent” – others to follow

December 16, 2013

 

On December 12, 2013, the Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC) “Memorial was officially declared a “foreign agent” by the Leninsky District Court of St Petersburg, and was ordered to register as such with the Ministry of Justice, according to  information received by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. Today, the court unexpectedly established that all the activities of ADC “Memorial” fall under the definition of “performing the functions of a foreign agent”. Accordingly, for the first time, a court has directly labelled a human rights NGO a “foreign agent”, and did not just order it to register as such. This decision could pave the way to increased harassment of all human rights organisations in the Russian Federation. Read the rest of this entry »