Posts Tagged ‘exile’

Maldives’ Mohamed Nasheed: from human rights defender to president to exile

June 26, 2017

On 23 Jun 2017 the Human Rights Foundation published the above video from its May Oslo Freedom Forum. Former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed was first arrested for founding an underground newspaper when he was just 17 years old. This, however, wasn’t the last time the former president would be punished for his activism. Describing his journey from democracy dissident to president of the Maldives to ousted leader championing human rights in exile, President Nasheed shares how he perseveres despite the many challenges he has faced. Although the fight for freedom is difficult, he tells us not to give up – because that’s exactly what the dictators want you to do: “Giving up is exactly what the dictators want you to do. It’s why they jail, beat, and torture. It’s why they fine newspapers and murder people who speak out. We can only beat them by not giving in.”
https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/10/16/amal-clooney-speaks-about-the-maldives-at-ai-side-event/
see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/maldives/

Interpol headed by Chinese police official, human rights defenders fearsome

April 20, 2017

meng-hongwei.jpg
Meng Hongwei takes charge of Interpol

‘Old’ but underreported news is that Meng Hongwei – a top Chinese police official – has been elected president of Interpol, which worries some human rights NGOs. The Independent had an article on 10 November 2016.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has waged a four-year campaign against corruption, which includes a push to return former officials and other suspects who fled abroad. China filed a list of 100 of its most-wanted suspects with Interpol in April 2014, about one third of which have since been repatriated. The country’s police and judicial systems have been routinely criticised for abuses, including eliciting confessions under torture and the disappearance and detention without charges of political dissidents and their family members.  Many Western nations have been reluctant to sign extradition treaties with China or return suspects wanted for non-violent crimes.

Given those circumstances, Mr Meng’s election is an “alarming prospect“, said Maya Wang, Hong Kong-based researcher at Human Rights Watch. “While we think it’s important to fight corruption, the campaign has been politicised and undermines judicial independence,” Ms Wang added. Mr Meng’s election “will probably embolden and encourage abuses in the system,” she said, citing recent reports of close Chinese ally Russia’s use of Interpol to attack President Vladimir Putin’s political opponents.

This is extraordinarily worrying given China’s longstanding practice of trying to use Interpol to arrest dissidents and refugees abroad,” Nicholas Bequelin, east Asia director at Amnesty International wrote on Twitter.

Recently, 5 April 2017, Wei Jingsheng, a well-known human rights defender in exile, said while visiting Lyon (the HQ of Interpol) that the election of Meng Hongwei as chief of the global police organisation could give Beijing new leverage over its critics. “The Chinese government’s message to all political opponents like me or party officials who have fled the country is: ‘Wherever you are, the international police work with us and we will find you’,” “That’s frightening,” he said, adding that Meng “is still vice-minister of public security in China. He has led the secret police.”

While Interpol’s charter officially bars it from undertaking “any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character,” critics say some governments, primarily Russia and Iran, have abused the system to harass and detain opponents of their regime.

Sources:

Chinese state official named head of Interpol, raising fears for political opponents | The Independent

http://www.france24.com/en/20170405-china-dissident-sees-threat-new-interpol-chief

Lessons from the Pinochet regime by Andrés Velasco

June 2, 2015

At the 2015 Oslo Freedom Forum on 26 May Chilean economist, Andrés Velasco, in highly personal account describes how political, economic, and social unrest led to the collapse of Chilean democracy in the 1970s. Growing up under Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship, Velasco is familiar with stories of political prisoners, torture, intimidation, and exile. Velasco argues that the extreme brutality of the military dictatorship became too difficult for most Chileans to face, allowing the violence to continue unhindered. As Velasco reminds us, however, Chilean civil society eventually united behind an incredibly creative political campaign, and succeeded in voting Pinochet out of power. Velasco ends his speech on an optimistic note, arguing that the common sense of Chileans will prevent another democratic collapse.

Mutabar far from her Uzbekistan continues her struggle

March 27, 2015

Today , 27 March 2015, the FIDH published a moving portrait of Mutabar Tadjibaeva, the well-known Uzbek human rights defender, under the title “If I were told that I only have one day left to live, I would spend it fighting for human rights.” A statement that in her case is not an exaggeration!

mutabar in berlin zoo Duco oct 2008

“If I were told that I only have one day left to live, I would spend it fighting for human rights,” says Mutabar Tadjibaeva, President of the organization Fiery Hearts Club. The 52-year-old Uzbek journalist and activist arrived in France in 2009 as a political refugee. She is no longer welcome In her native country, which has been governed for a quarter of a century by the dictator Islam Karimov. In Uzbekistan, Mutabar investigated drug trafficking, corruption and human rights violations. She endured threats, prison, torture and rape; her fight came at a high price.

In 2002, while this activist was fighting to make publicly known the case of Alimuhammad Mamadaliev, who had been tortured and killed by the police, she herself ended up behind bars for several days. In April 2005, was kidnapped by secret service agents and subjected to horrific treatment. These men would never worried about having to answer for their deeds. But even in the face of such injustice, Mutabar Tadjibaeva continued her activism and journalism until she was imprisoned three years later, on 7 October 2005, just before boarding a plane headed for Dublin where she was to participate in an international conference on human rights. She was arrested by police and, a year later, sentenced to eight years in prison, where she was subjected to torture. She was accused of engaging in illegal activities against the State during demonstrations where several hundred people had lost their lives in May 2005 in Andijan, an industrial city. It is clear to Mutabar that her arrest was for purely political reasons. She was one of many victims of State repression that followed the events of 2005.

“I know very well what prison in Uzbekistan is like and the torture. That is why I have decided to devote me life to fighting for human rights. When I was in jail, I dreamt that one day I would be free. I would tell the prison guards that I would get out of there and write a book on what I had lived through,” she recalls. On 18 May 2008, while still in prison, she was granted the Martin Ennals Award for human rights defenders. She was released a few months later and, on 10 December of that same year, Mutabar Tadjibaeva came to Paris where she accepted the Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité Award on behalf of the Fiery Hearts Club. Banned from Uzbekistan for almost ten years, the organisation took shelter in France in 2011. It will celebrate the 15th year of its existence this year. Every day, dozens of people come to her in search of assistance. She seeks out lawyers and funding, prepares reports and files individual complaints to the UN. Despite the modest means at her disposal and a state of health weakened by the torture she suffered, Mutabar wants to help those who are in same situation as she was in ten years earlier. Her wish is that human rights defenders take more of an interest in the situation in Uzbekistan. Mutabar Tadjibaeva has enjoyed the support of FIDH, and her organisation is now officially a member. “It is thanks to the support of the FIDH that I was able to keep my promise, that is, write my book entitled “Prisoner of the Island of Torture.” I worked with an Uzbek journalist and it is thanks to those recordings that I was able to tell my story. Otherwise, it would have been too hard psychologically,” Mutabar recalls. In the book, which has been published in Uzbek, Russian, French, and English, she shares her memories of prison and decries the cruelty of the regime.

For Mutabar, the challenge lies not in Karimov’s departure, but in regime change. “His departure could set off a war among the clans. The country is corrupt, there is no respect for the law. Karimov the dictator is not the only one to blame for the fact that people are being killed in prisons and tortured; the politicians who support the regime are also to blame. I want Uzbekistan to become a democratic country and dissidents like me to be able to return there and live,” she said. However, as Mutabar sees it, a return to her country is not within the realm of the possible.

On 29 March, Islam Karimov will be running for President for the fourth time, thereby violating Article 90 of the Constitution, which does not allow more than two terms. Mutabar Tadjibaeva and her friends have set up a virtual electoral commission to organise a vote on the Internet. This alternative platform has rejected the candidacy of the president.
 
“When I decided to come to France as a political refugee,” she concluded, “I was afraid that I would not be able to do anything for my country remotely. But, now I see that if you are motivated and supported, anything is possible.”

“If I were told that I only have one day left to live, I would (…).

 

for more on Mutabar, see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/mutabar-tadjibayeva/

Rehana Hashmi, woman human rights defender from Pakistan

January 14, 2015

Still taken from "Notes to our Sons and Daughters" Project © 2015 Alexis Dixon

Still taken from “Notes to our Sons and Daughters” Project © 2015 Alexis Dixon

Last December, Brussels-based Protection International launched a new campaign, ‘The Women Who Defend Human Rights.’ In this series of monthly interviews, figure talks with Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) about their work, challenges and every-day-life.

This month, the interview is with Rehana Hashmi from Pakistan. Rehana has been a defender of human rights since a young age. She is also the founder of two national networks that support women and helps them to take charge of their rights. Due to her work, she has received threats to the point that she has had to flee her native Pakistan. You can now read her full story on PI’s website: http://protectioninternational.org/2015/01/14/the-women-who-defend-human-rights-rehana-hashmi/

Friends wouldn’t pick up their phone when I would call..

Peace Brigades International officially launches its country chapter in Ireland

November 28, 2014

Interesting to note that Peace Brigades International (PBI), in spite of a large number of Irish volunteers working for it, officially launched its local chapter in Ireland only now, Wednesday 26 November 2014. PBI is known for sending teams of international volunteers to areas of conflict at the request of local human rights defenders who are threatened and the volunteers provide protective accompaniment backed up by political support networks around the world.

Peace Brigades International are active in Colombia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the launch, three visiting human rights defenders from countries where PBI works – Colombia, Kenya and Honduras – spoke about the risks facing human rights defenders in their countries. Honduran lawyer Donald Hernández Palma joined Colombian activist Yomaira Mendoza and Ruth Mumbi Meshack.

[Ms Mendoza’s husband was shot dead in front of her and her family’s land was taken from her illegally. After talking to Colombia’s attorney general about the progress of her case, she was subjected to death threats. After months of trying to reduce her risk in Colombia and re-location attempts within the country, she is now living in exile in Spain.]

[Mr Hernández Palma has been subject to threats and harassment in his work in criminal and environmental law, with a particular focus on mining in Latin America.]

[Ms Meshack is a community mobiliser, and founder and current National Coordinator of Bunge la Wamama, a women’s chapter a movement for social justice and accountability in different parts of Kenya. She has been imprisoned for her work defending human rights.]

Human rights NGO launches in Ireland – RTÉ News.

Sudan Human Rights Defender Osman Hummaida passes away

April 23, 2014

On 21 April 2014, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network announced the loss of its founding member, Osman Hummaida. Mr Hummaida, who died of natural causes on Thursday 17th April 2014, was a leading Sudanese human rights defender and an inspiration to countless activists in the international and African human rights community. He advocated for human rights in Sudan, challenging the impunity of those responsible for atrocities carried out against civilians. Forced to leave Sudan, having been detained and tortured on account of his work, Mr Hummaida founded the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies in exile. The Centre’s success and strength in documenting and reporting ongoing human rights violations in the country and advocating for justice is a living testament to Mr Hummaida’s vision and determination.

via Human Rights Defenders Mourn the Loss of Osman Hummaida – East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project.

Imam Baba Leigh writes impressively how opposing the death penalty in Gambia forced him into exile

November 5, 2013

Imam Baba Leigh

A huge social media campaign was mounted on behalf of Imam Baba Leigh during his incarceration [Twitter].

Just a few days ago, on 22 October, I was given an award from the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network. I was not expecting it, which makes me all the more happy and appreciative. Sadly, I was not allowed to go and receive it in my home country, The Gambia, because there was a chance I could be arrested there. My responsibility, as a Muslim and as a scholar, is to ensure people enjoy their human rights, regardless of colour, race, gender, religion, tradition, economic status or anything else. We are all human beings at the end of the day. As a human rights activist receiving such a prestigious award is wonderful. You feel your work is recognised and encouraged.

Problems for me started when, in August 2012, our head of state President Jammeh promised to execute several inmates. So I went to talk to The Standard newspaper and urged the President to forgive them. “Forgiveness is part of faith and they are no longer a threat to the security of the nation,” I said quoting the holy Qur’an. A week after the executions, the Islamic Council of The Gambia made a declaration that the executions were Islamic. I gave a Friday sermon at the mosque and replied the executions had nothing to do with Islam. They were un-Islamic. Even though the holy Qur’an mentions executions, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) valued forgiveness. My comments caused a lot of commotion. The newspaper was shut down. I started receiving intimidating calls…

On 3 December, I was arriving home after a funeral when I found two men from the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) there waiting for me. “You are wanted [at the NIA offices] to answer some questions,” they said…I was then put in a jail until around 1.00am. Then they started beating, hitting and kicking me. For nine days I suffered a lot. You never know how important and valuable freedom is until it is taken from you. I used to struggle trying to get people out of jail. Trying to bring peace. Trying to bring peaceful coexistence. I didn’t know this is the way things are until the day I was detained. You can understand ending up in prison if you commit a crime, if you are taken to a judge and sentenced. At least then you would know why you are being held, and for how long. I was abducted and then held incommunicado – I couldn’t see anybody, I couldn’t hear anybody.

I had not committed any crime and my conscience was clean. After nine days, they told me I was going home and they put me in another car. The man taking me said “we are taking you home”, but they drove to a hidden place called Bambadinka, which means “hole of dragons”. There I was put in a very small, very filthy, dirty room. I spent five months there. I was kept in a dark, small room where I couldn’t see or hear anything, only rats and spiders. After five months and 17 days, I was released. Some people say that I am now free. But this is not freedom. Freedom is to be able to go home when you want to. I’m just in a bigger jail.

My ambition is to speak for those who have no pulpit, no opportunity for themselves. And to pass the peaceful message of Islam and other religions. I’m urging people in position of authority, presidents and kings alike, to embrace the freedom of their people and to protect it. You can be a president today, you can be a leader today, you can be an authority today, but things change very quickly. You can find yourself fall from the presidency into prison. Then you will need the work of Amnesty International.”

[Imam Baba Leigh is currently in the USA where he has been receiving medical treatment] 

‘This is Not Freedom … I’m Just in a Bigger Jail’: Imam Baba Leigh Takes us into his Gambian Nightmare – IBTimes UK.