Posts Tagged ‘Foreign Policy of the USA’

Patt Derian – the rare politician/human rights defender – no longer

May 30, 2016

Being a leading politician and human rights defender does not always go together well. Patricia Murphy (“Patt”) Derian was one of the exceptions. She passed away on 20 May 2016 at the age of 86. She was an American civil rights and human rights activist, who served under President Carter from 1977 to 1981.DERIAN PATT

After Jimmy Carter won the election, he nominated Derian to be Coordinator for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs and elevated the post to that of Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs effective August 17, 1977, and Derian served in that capacity for the remainder of the Carter administration. In this post she worked to improve policy coordination on humanitarian issues such as human rights, refugees, and prisoners of war.

Derian was a vocal critic of Jeane Kirkpatrick and of the so-called Kirkpatrick Doctrine during the 1980s, which advocated U.S. support of anticommunist governments around the world, including authoritarian dictatorships, if they went along with Washington’s aims —believing they could be led into democracy by example. Kirkpatrick wrote, “Traditional authoritarian governments are less repressive than revolutionary autocracies.” Derian objected to Kirkpatrick’s characterization of some governments as only “moderately repressive,” arguing that this line of thinking allowed the U.S. to support “a little bit of torture” or “moderate” prison sentences for political dissenters. Derian pointed out that, when it comes to human rights, in terms of morality, credibility and effectiveness, “you always have to play it straight.” Read the rest of this entry »

US State Department gives out International Women of Courage Awards 2016

April 8, 2016

Missing in action: Wheelchair-bound human rights advocate Ni Yulan failed to attend the awarding ceremony in the U.S. She told the BBC that her passport was withheld.Photo U.S. Department of State/Flickr

Human rights lawyer and activist Ni Yulan became one of the 2016 recipients of the International Women of Courage Awards conferred by the U.S. Department of State on 29 March. The wheelchair-bound human rights lawyer Ni Yulan from China was not present; she he told the BBC that her passport was withheld.  Yulan Ni won the Dutch Human Rights Tulip in 2011.[https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/chinese-human-rights-defender-ni-yulan-freed/]

She shares the 2016 recognition from the USA with 13 other women: Read the rest of this entry »

China’s New Age of Fear? China File in Foreign Policy

February 19, 2016

In Foreign Policy’s China File of 18 February 2016 there are 3 contributions worth reading about whether the increased repression under Xi Jinping (disappearances, detention of human rights lawyers, televised confessions, and stepped-up surveillance) is the ‘new normal’?

ChinaFile-logo-89h

Source: China’s New Age of Fear | Foreign Policy

Five Years After Tahrir Square, there is “stability” in Egypt but do not ask at what price

January 28, 2016

Five years ago, human rights defender Ahmed Abdullah was among thousands of Egyptians who took to the streets for 18 days of mass protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, eventually forcing then-President Hosni Mubarak to step down and the security forces to retreat. Today, Ahmed is on the run. He dodged arrest by the thinnest of margins on January 9, after plainclothes police in Cairo raided his regular coffee shop. The NGO which he chairs, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, had recently exposed a surge in enforced disappearances, which has seen hundreds vanish at the hands of state security forces over the last year alone. He is not the only one whose activism has put him at risk. In recent weeks, security forces have been rounding up activists linked to protests and journalists critical of the government’s record. This how Amnesty International starts its assessment of the fifth anniversary and it concludes: “Five years since the uprising that ousted Mubarak, Egypt is once more a police state. The country’s ubiquitous state security body, the National Security Agency, is firmly in charge.”

The same sentiment is echoed in the long piece in the Huffington Post of 25 January 2016 by Karim Lahidji, President of FIDH and Bahey eldin Hassan, Director of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

MAHMOUD KHALED VIA GETTY IMAGES

Read the rest of this entry »

5 Myths About the UN Human Rights Council (for US audience)

January 13, 2016

Read the rest of this entry »

Fury about US award for Askarov in Kyrgyzstan: backlash or impact?

July 23, 2015

Awarding the State Department prize for human rights defenders to Azimzhan Askarov in Kyrgyzstan has led to a most interesting follow up. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/07/23/us-state-department-2014-human-rights-defender-award-to-azimjon-askarov-and-foro-penal/]In retaliation Kyrgyzstan has cancelled a coöperation treaty with the USA which has been in force since 1993.

The bilateral agreement that facilitated cooperation between the countries in certain areas was renounced by Kyrgyz Prime Minister Temir Sariev.As a result US aid to Kyrgyzstan will no longer be free of taxes and other custom duties as from August 20. US civil and military aid personnel, working in Kyrgyzstan will be deprived of their near diplomatic status. On Monday, the US warned Kyrgyzstan that if the accord got canceled, it would damage a range of its aid programs in the country.

On 23 July 2015 Tatyana Kudryavtseva of the 24.kg news agency collected a range of reaction from a variety of persons in Kyrgyzstan under the title “Very expensive Azimzhan Askarov“. Interesting to note that almost all ‘expert’ reactions assume that Askarov is guilty with the exception of the Chairwoman of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society. Still, there is almost unanimity that the move by the Kyrgyz Government was ‘unwise’ to say the least. Here follow some excerpts:

Giving the US State Department Award to the human rights activist Azimzhan Askarov has become a real time bomb. It would seem that nothing terrible has happened. But the news about the award was the trigger. It all ended in scandal – Kyrgyzstan’s government denounced the agreement with the USA on cooperation of 1993. Almost all the projects implemented in the country at the expense of American money turned out to be under threat. Read the rest of this entry »

Bahrain: #FreeNabeel campaign more urgent than ever in view of resumption USA security assistance

July 8, 2015

Nedal Al Salman , Head of International Relations and Women & Children’s Rights Advocacy of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights [BCHR], launched today a day of solidarity for the president of the BCHR, Nabeel Rajab, with videos of supportive MEP’s. There is an urgent resolution adopted by the EU Parliament about Bahrain and in particular the case of Nabeel Rajab. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/video-statement-of-troublemaker-nabeel-rajab-who-is-on-trial-today/]

You can join in the campaign by recording your self on video, state your name and the organisation you represent and say a few words about Nabeel Rajab and call for his release. Your video/photo can be shared on twitter under the hashtag #FreeNabeel [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/nabeel-rajab/]

How difficult it is to match human rights diplomacy with geopolitical considerations is shown in the OP-ED in the New York Times of 7 July 2015 by Sayed Alwadaei, the director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy:

“Last week, the State Department announced the resumption of “security assistance” to Bahrain. This ended a four-year ban on the transfer of arms that the United States put into effect in 2011, after the Bahraini government’s harsh crackdown on Arab Spring protests. In a statement, the State Department argued that Bahrain had made enough progress in human rights reform to be rewarded by ending the embargo, even though the human rights situation in Bahrain was not “adequate.” The State Department dedicated 49 pages of its 2014 report on human rights, released last month, to Bahrain.

It is a damning document: detailing arbitrary detention, torture, prison overcrowding, constraints on free speech and more. The decision to renew security assistance — in the words of a State Department spokesman, “armored personnel vehicles, MRAPs, Humvees, TOW missiles, arms and ammunition, that kind of thing” — is not only incongruous but also shortsighted, with potentially disastrous consequences.

Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein of Jordan, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, criticized acts of torture in Bahrain in his opening remarks at a session of the Human Rights Council in June. He called for “an immediate investigation” into allegations of torture in Bahrain’s prisons and for the release of “all those detained in connection with their peaceful activities.”

If Prince Zeid were a Bahraini, he could probably be arrested on charges of “insulting a statutory body” — as happened to the human rights defender Nabeel Rajab after he called for prosecution of officials who committed torture in prison. He now faces at least 10 years in prison on various charges relating to his activism.

I was arrested on March 16, 2011, a day after the government announced a state of emergency, a month after the protests started. A military court sentenced me to prison for protesting and talking to the media. What they did to me in prison will stay with me for life.

On my first day in Jaw Prison, about 20 miles south of the capital, Manama, an officer spat on me, grabbed me by the hair and threw me against a wall. During interrogation, another smacked me in the face and dared me to raise my arms to shield myself. They told me I’d be beaten even more if I did.

While I was in detention, four people were tortured to death, as Human Rights Watch has reported. In the interrogation rooms, we always thought of those who had been killed, wondering who might be the fifth. After my release from prison, I fled Bahrain and in 2012 sought asylum in Britain. This January, Bahrain revoked my citizenship, along with that of 71 others, leaving me stateless.

Bahrain’s situation has not improved since 2011. Last November, an inmate was beaten senseless and thrown into solitary confinement, where he died from his wounds during the night. In March, a prison riot broke out. Prisoners were angry about their treatment in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, and about the unfair trials that had put more than a thousand of them there. Prison authorities are accused by prisoners of responding with excessive force.

What happened next was incomparable to what I was put through. According to a report published last month by a coalition of rights groups, including my own, prisoners said that police officers used birdshot and tear gas against inmates inside corridors and cells. Inmates were rounded up, beaten and held in the courtyards, where they spent weeks sitting in Bahrain’s heat. Former prisoners allege that officers forced inmates to kneel and lick their boots. An imprisoned academic named Abduljalil al-Singace has been on a hunger strike for over 100 days, in protest of the ill treatment suffered by prisoners in March. (There are growing concerns for his health.)

In light of the continuing abuses, the State Department’s praise of the release of the political prisoner Ibrahim Sharif as a sign of “meaningful reform progress” is absurd. Never mind that Mr. Sharif, sentenced to five years in 2011, had served most of his sentence, and that as a political prisoner, he should never have been imprisoned to begin with. And as one political prisoner was released, another, Sheikh Ali Salman, received a four-year sentence for his opposition activities. The police also called in his deputy for questioning last week, after he made a speech against torture in prison.

When the United States expressed concerns a few weeks ago to the Human Rights Council in Geneva about “the continuing criminal cases on grounds of political expression and assembly,” Bahrain rejected them as groundless. It is Bahrain’s prerogative to disregard its American ally’s qualms, but must the United States reward such disrespect by renewing military assistance?

The answer lies in geopolitics. Persian Gulf monarchs are on high alert as the United States nears a nuclear deal with their regional rival, Iran. They want to protect their position as the West’s strategic partners and maintain their influence in the Middle East. At the same time, the rise of the Islamic State is a potent threat to their security, which America seeks to bolster militarily. Resuming arms transfers rekindles not only the American-Bahraini relationship but also the hugely important American-Saudi one.

But these diplomatic considerations come at the cost of relinquishing whatever moral standing the United States had in Bahrain. Ending the suspension of military assistance was a misuse of America’s substantial leverage to bring positive change to the human rights situation in Bahrain and the Gulf, which has only deteriorated since 2011. For Bahrainis striving for a democratic country, America’s move is completely regressive.

President Obama promised a “tough conversation” with the Gulf monarchs when he met them in May. Was this the outcome of that conversation?”

Losing Leverage on Bahrain – The New York Times.

The Emirates: not a Paradise for Human Rights Defenders

April 29, 2015

y, Director of the Human Rights Defenders Program at Human Rights First, wrote a good peace in the Huffington Post about the Emirates which he recently visited : “Trouble in Paradise: How U.S. Ally UAE Crushes Dissent” (28 April 2015). Here some excerpts:
PRINCE SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN ZAYED AL NAHYAN
Backed by an impressively lavish lobbying and PR machine — more expensive than any other middle eastern country — the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is eager to show that it’s a safe and stable business environment, and a dependable U.S. military ally….Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan met with President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Defense Secretary Carter in Washington last Monday to discuss, according to him, “new steps to enhance the already deep security between the U.S. and the UAE.”

Sheikh Mohammed ..is also head of the feared state security system and in recent months, the attacks on dissidents have intensified. In November 2014 the UAE cabinet announced a list of 83 “terrorist organizations.” (these included two American NGOs: the Council on Islamic-American Relations and the Muslim American Society.}

Previously tolerated local civil society organizations have been disbanded, including the Association of Teachers and the Association of Jurists, whose former head, Dr. Mohammed al Roken, is now in prison after being convicted in a mass unfair trial in 2013. Only a tiny handful of dissidents are currently in the country and out of jail including Ahmed Mansoor, just announced as a Final Nominee for the Martin Ennals Human Rights Defender Award 2015. Nearly all peaceful dissent in the UAE is silenced, both on and offline. Abuse of migrant workers’ rights persists, and no labor union is allowed to exist to protect them.

Meeting me in secret this week in the UAE, human rights activists told me there is now a zero tolerance policy for peaceful criticism of the Emirati regime. “It’s got so much worse in the last few years,” said one. “Ten years ago arrests without warrants or disappearances happened but they were rare. Now they’re common.” Even relatives of political prisoners have been targeted in recent months, some hit with arbitrary travel bans that prevent them from leaving the country.

They blame Sheikh Mohammed’s state security for tampering with official government files holding their ID and other information. They said that dates of birth have been changed so that adults are officially registered as children, or other details modified, making it impossible for them to get drivers licenses and other essential documents. This administrative harassment has sent people into an endless bureaucratic loop, preventing them from getting or renewing passports, applying for school, opening bank accounts, and generally operating normal lives. The denial of a security clearance amounts to a denial of a job. Many activists are unable to support themselves financially, some are sleeping rough.

It’s a soft repression but very effective,” one activist told me. “State security basically runs the country, no matter who the official government is. It’s unaccountable, omnipotent, and scares everyone.

Three sisters who were summoned to a police station in Abu Dhabi in mid-February have not been heard from since. The three women are sisters of Issa Khalifa al-Suwaidi, a political prisoner who is serving 10 years in jail. …Crushing dissent in the UAE is typically done in the name of anti-terrorism.

When they meet next month, President Obama should look beyond UAE’s fancy PR campaign and ask Sheikh Mohammed why peaceful critics are in jail, why their lawyers are intimidated from representing them and their witnesses harassed, and why the UAE thinks the best way to fight terrorism is with repression.

Trouble in Paradise: How U.S. Ally UAE Crushes Dissent | Brian Dooley.

The Lemkin Summit: a Gathering of the Next Generation of Human Rights Defenders in the USA

March 23, 2015

In a post of 10 March 2015, Rachel Finn of the Enough Project describes an interesting but in Europe mostly unknown gathering of US student leaders preparing to become human rights defenders:

From 21-13 February 2015, the Lemkin Summit: A National Gathering of the Next Generation of Human Rights Defenders took place in Washington DCDuring the three-days students networked with one another, developed their advocacy and movement-building skills, and engaged with experts on current conflict areas including Burma, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, and Syria. Participants were from 28 States, including D.C., as well as the UK, Canada, India, Rwanda, and South Sudan, with 48 different high schools, colleges, and universities represented.

Students arrived Saturday night for a screening of Watchers of the Sky, as well as two special presentations by community leaders. Sunday’s program included panels on sexual & gender based violence, the financial leverage of combatting atrocities, and conflict-specific overviews; advocacy trainings, communications and storytelling workshops; and an Open Space for students to capitalize on the collective knowledge they brought to the Summit themselves. Sunday’s program included student participation in a Keynote Discussion with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who skyped into the Summit, moderated by John Prendergast.

The final day of the Summit was an advocacy day on Capitol Hill, during which students discussed these ongoing issue areas with various congressional offices, and urged Congress to support the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and additional expert capacity to the Treasury Department to investigate and enforce sanctions on people in the DRC, Sudan, South Sudan, and Central African Republic. Students met with 43 offices in the House, 27 in the Senate, and one at the State Department, with Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region and DRC Russ Feingold.

For a visual representation of the students’ experience over the weekend through social media, check out the Storify below or click here.

via Students Take Action in D.C. as part of The Lemkin Summit: A National Gathering of the Next Generation of Human Rights Defenders | Enough.

Neil Hicks replies to criticism in Al-Monitor on Egypt’s post Morsi human rights situation

February 12, 2014

Howe complex the situation in post-Morsi Egypt is can be illustrated by the letter sent to Al-Monitor by Neil Hicks, one of the most experienced international human rights workers to be found today. As a member of the independent US-based Working Group on Egypt he responds to Wael Nawara’s criticism of the this Working Group’s recommendations on US policy toward Egypt, published on 4 February. Neil Hicks – who works for Human Rights First – in his reply of 7 February neatly outlines the views from an international human rights perspective, under the title: “The US Working Group is right on Egypt”:One of the most perplexing aspects of the months of instability in Egypt that have followed the removal of President Mohammed Morsi from office on July 3, 2013, is the number of prominent Egyptian liberals who have shown themselves to have a somewhat selective commitment to liberal principles, Read the rest of this entry »