Posts Tagged ‘Forum Asia’

The killing of “Randy” Echanis and Zara Alvarez put the Philippines under more pressure

August 22, 2020

The Philippines government’s practice of ” red tagging” – i.e.  labelling HRDs as communists or terrorists – has been repeatedy criticised by human rights defenders, NGOs, government and the UN.  “We are saddened and appalled by the ongoing violence and threats against human rights defenders in the Philippines, including the killing of two human rights defenders over the past two weeks,” said Liz Throssell, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).  Randall “Randy” Echanis, an agrarian reform advocate and peace consultant, was killed in his home in Quezon City, located just outside capital Manila, on 10 August, added the OHCHR spokesperson, noting that reports indicated that he suffered brutal treatment before he died, including blunt force trauma to the head and stab wounds. On 17 August, the day that Mr. Echanis was buried, another long-standing human rights defender, Zara Alvarez, was shot dead in Bacolod City on Negros Island, some 490 kilometres south east of Manila. Investigations into both cases are underway.

According to OHCHR, both Mr. Echanis and Ms. Alvarez had been repeatedly “red-tagged” – labelled as communists or terrorists – in relation to their work. Ms. Alvarez’s name appeared, for example, on a list of 649 people that the Government sought to designate as terrorists on 28 March 2020. “While the list was later truncated, many who were removed from the list, including Ms. Alvarez, continued to report harassment and threats, as highlighted in the High Commissioner’s human rights report on the Philippines published in June this year,” added Ms. Throssell.

Ms. Alvarez’s photo also appeared in a publicly displayed poster purporting to depict terrorists. She was pictured alongside two other human rights defenders who had been killed – Benjamin Ramos Jr. and Bernardino Patigas, both of whose murder cases remain unsolved. She had also spent two years in prison on murder charges before she was acquitted in March for lack of evidence. Following the murder of Ms. Alvarez, her colleague Clarizza Singson, received a death threat on Facebook warning her that she would be next. “This is particularly worrying as Ms. Singson’s name also appeared on the abovementioned list of suspected terrorists and her photo is included in the same poster,” added Ms. Throssell.

We have raised our concerns with the Government and the Commission on Human Rights on these cases, and look forward to continuing to engage with them,” said Ms. Throssell.

Eighty-nine cases involving the deaths of human rights activists from 2017 to 2019 are now being investigated by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), an official said Friday. “The data that we have from 2017 to 2019, we have a total of 89, not to include the ones happening now. We call them human rights defenders,” CHR commissioner Leah Armamento said over ABS-CBN News Channel when asked about the number of killings of activists and members of progressive groups being investigated by the commission.

‘The endless killings of activists in the Philippines have become systematic in Duterte’s regime, and demonstrate the continuing impunity in the country. The government should end these killings immediately and take genuine steps towards ensuring justice for victims and their family members,’ said Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, Executive Director at FORUM-ASIA.

Sri Lanka: Lawyers, Human Rights Defenders, and Journalists Arrested, Threatened, Intimidated

July 30, 2020

In a joint statement published on 29 July 2020 entitled “Sri Lanka: Human Rights Under Attack” by Human Rights Watch and 9 other major NGOs confirms what many have been fearing since the presidential election of November 2019, [See: defenders-in-sri-lanka-fear-return-to-a-state-of-fear/]:

The United Nations, as well Sri Lanka’s partners and foreign donors, should immediately call for full respect, protection and fulfillment of the human rights of all Sri Lankans, and particularly to halt the reversal of fragile gains in the protection of human rights in recent years.

Numerous civilian institutions, including the NGO Secretariat, have been placed under the control of the Defence Ministry. Serving and retired military officers have been appointed to a slew of senior government roles previously held by civilians. The authorities have recently  established military-led bodies such as the Presidential Task Force to build “a secure country, disciplined, virtuous and lawful society,” which has the power to issue directives to any government official. This represents an alarming trend towards the militarization of the state. Many of those in government, including the president, defense secretary, and army chief, are accused of war crimes during the internal armed conflict that ended in 2009.

Dissident voices and critics of the current government, including lawyers, journalists, human rights defenders and victims of past abuses, are being targeted by the police, intelligence agencies and pro-government media.

Since the presidential election in November 2019, anti-human rights rhetoric intended to restrict the space for civil society has been amplified by senior members of government. On 6 July 2020, at an election rally, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stated that “NGOs will be taken into a special attention under the new government formed after the General Election, specifically, how foreign monies and grants are received to the NGOs from foreign countries and further, activities of the international organisations will be observed.” The government has also announced a probe into NGOs registered under the previous government.

In the months following the November 2019 presidential election, a number of organizations reported visits from intelligence officers who sought details of staff, programs and funding, in particular, organizations in the war-affected Northern and Eastern provinces of the country. Such visits are blatant attempts to harass and intimidate Sri Lankan civil society.

In February, the acting District Secretary in the Mullaitivu District (Northern Province) issued a directive that only non-governmental organizations with at least 70 percent of their activities focused on development would be allowed to work, effectively enabling arbitrary interference with and prevention of a broad range of human rights work. A Jaffna-based think-tank was visited several times, including soon after the Covid-19 lockdown, and questioned about its work, funding and staff details.

Lawyers taking on human rights cases have been targeted through legal and administrative processes and have faced smear campaigns in the media. Kumaravadivel Guruparan, a human rights lawyer, was a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law at the University of Jaffna. He appeared as counsel on behalf of victims in the case of 24 Tamil youth who were subjected to enforced disappearance while in military custody at Navatkuli in 1996. In November 2019, Guruparan was banned by the University Grants Commission (UGC) from teaching law while also practicing in court. The ban was following a letter sent by the Sri Lankan army to the UGC questioning why Guruparan was permitted to engage in legal practice while being a member of the faculty. Guruparan resigned from the University on 16 July 2020.[ see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/02/sri-lankan-human-rights-defender-barred-from-legal-practice-appeals-to-supreme-court/

On 14 April, Hejaaz Hizbullah, a lawyer who has represented victims of human rights violations, was arrested under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). He is being held illegally without charge and without being produced before a magistrate for over 90 days. He has had limited access to his lawyers and family members. The day before his arrest, Hizbullah joined others in submitting a letter addressed to President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa criticising the denial of burial rights to the Muslim community under Sri Lanka’s Covid-19 regulations.

Achala Senevirathne, a lawyer who represents families in a case involving the enforced disappearance of 11 youth in 2008, in which senior military commanders are implicated, has been attacked on social media, including with threats of physical violence and sexualized abuse. The police have failed to act on her complaints of threats to her safety.

On 10 June, Swastika Arulingam, a lawyer, was arrested when she inquired about the arrests of people conducting a peaceful Black Lives Matter solidarity protest. Other lawyers, not named here for reasons of security, have also been visited at their homes by security officials, or called in for lengthy interrogations linked to their human rights work.

Journalists and those voicing critical opinions on social media, have been arbitrarily arrested. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed alarm at the clampdown on freedom of expression, including the 1 April announcement by the police that any person criticizing officials engaged in the response to Covid-19 would be arrested. It is unclear whether there is any legal basis for such arrests. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has cautioned against “an increasing number of such arrests since the issuing of a letter dated 1 April 2020”.

Media rights groups have condemned the targeting of journalists since the presidential election, with threats of arrest, surveillance, and lengthy police interrogations linked to their reporting. Dharisha Bastians, former editor of the Sunday Observer newspaper and a contributor to the New York Times, her family, and associates, have been persecuted by Sri Lankan police in retaliation for her work. Since December 2019, authorities have attempted to link Bastians to the disputed abduction of a Swiss Embassy employee in Colombo. The government claims the alleged abduction was fabricated to discredit the government. Since Bastians had reported on the incident as a journalist, the police have obtained and published her phone records, searched her house, and seized her laptop computer.

On 9 April, a social media commentator Ramzy Razeek was arrested under Sri Lanka’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act and the Computer Crimes Act. He approached the Sri Lankan police for protection following online death threats linked to his social media posts condemning all forms of extremism. Instead of receiving protection, he was jailed and denied bail. His hearing has been postponed, despite his failing health and the heightened risk posed by the pandemic in prisons.

The targeting and repression of journalists and human rights defenders is not only an assault on the rights of these individuals, but an attack on the principles of human rights and the rule of law which should protect all Sri Lankans. These policies have a chilling effect on the rights to freedom of expression and association, which are crucial for the operation of civil society and fundamental to the advancement of human rights. Those working on ending impunity and ensuring accountability for past crimes, and especially victims, victim’s families, members of minority communities, and networks in the Northern and Eastern provinces, are particularly at risk of intimidation and harassment.

The Sri Lankan authorities must end all forms of harassment, threats, and abuse of legal processes and police powers against lawyers, human rights defenders and journalists. Ramzy Razeek and Hejaaz Hizbullah must be released immediately. Human rights defenders living and working in Sri Lanka should be able to carry out their peaceful human rights work without fear of reprisals, which requires a safe and enabling environment in which they can organize, assemble, receive and share information.

While the government of Sri Lanka continues to deny Sri Lankans the ability to promote and defend human rights, particularly targeting members of civil society, we call upon the international community, including states and the United Nations, to demand that Sri Lanka live up to its international human rights obligations.

Sri Lankan human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists need to be protected now.

https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/media_2020/07/Final%20-%20Joint%20Statement%20on%20Sri%20Lanka%2029%20July.pdf

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/07/29/sri-lanka-human-rights-under-attack

Rich palette of side events at 41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council

June 21, 2019

The 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council is to start soon. In addition to items of the agenda [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/14/guide-to-human-rights-defenders-issues-at-the-41st-human-rights-council-starting-on-24-june/] there are – as usual – many side events in Geneva, both by States and NGOs, that relate to human rights defenders. You can download the list of NGO events here.

Here a selection:

  • Launch of ISHR joint report on strengthening HRC membership on 1 July at 13:00 at the UN Delegates restaurant. Speakers will introduce the report and highlight some of the key challenges, opportunities and practical recommendations, including with regard to good practice relating to candidacy and membership of the HRC.
  • Promoting and Protecting Civic Space for Migrants and Refugees is organised by CIVICUS and Solidarity Center and will take place on 24 June at 12:00. This event will examine findings on civic space barriers for migrant/refugees in Germany, Jordan, Kenya, Malaysia and Mexico from a new report by Solidarity Center and CIVICUS; provide an analysis of some of the civic space trends for migrants/refugees across the five countries; and hear from civil society activists on the ground.
  • Health impacts for US Asylum is organised by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and will be held on 26 June at 10:00 in Room VIII. PHR will present findings from two reports about the asylum crisis in the United States with research based on forensic evaluations of more than 180 child asylum seekers regarding their trauma exposure in country of origin and reasons for fleeing, and documentation of cases where US immigration enforcement has impeded migrants access to emergency health care.
  • Defending rights online: Challenges facing human rights defenders and a free and open Internet is organised by Article 19 and will be held on 26 June at 15:30 in Room VIII. It will discuss what more States at the Human Rights Council can do to bolster safeguards for the protection of human rights online, while also holding States accountable for violations of those rights. The panelists include the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression and human rights defenders from Russia, Mexico, Tanzania and Tajikistan. https://www.article19.org/resources/event-defending-online-civic-space-challenges-facing-human-rights-defenders/
  • Freedoms of expression, assembly, and association in Asia organised by Forum-Asia and will be held on 26 June 2019 at 15:00. This side event aims to discuss issues related to freedoms of expression, assembly, and association in Asian states.
  • Ending Impunity for Murdered Journalists: Enhancing the role and impact of the UN is organised by Article 19 and will be held on 27 June at 11:30 in Room VIII. The panelists include the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, and Hatice Cengiz, Fiancée of Jamal Khashoggi. It will examine how the UN’s response to cases of murdered journalists might be enhanced.
  • Criminalisation of solidarity in migration organised by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and OHCHR, and will be held on 27 June in  Kazakh Room – Cinema XIV. The event will feature the screening of the movie “The Valley” by Nuno Escudeiro, documenting the situation of human rights defenders and migrants in South of France, with an introductory panel and a discussion session after the movie (THE VALLEY is a coproduction Point du Jour (France), Miramonte Film (Italy) and was awarded the Emerging international filmmaker at the HOT DOCS film festival, Toronto).
  • Women’s rights under attack: the case of Poland, organised by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Human Rights Watch, will take place on 27 June, at 13:00 in Room XV. This side event will expose attempts to erode sexual and reproductive health and rights, campaigns against women’s rights organisations, and targeting of women’s rights activists – against the backdrop of a decline in the rule of law in the country. It will explore how international and regional organisations should address this concern in Poland and in the rest of the continent.
  • Needs, best practices and risks of research and data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity, organised by COC Nederland and sponsored by ISHR will be held on June 27 at 15:30 in Room V.
  • Human Rights in Kashmir is organised by the International Commission of Jurists and will be held on 28 June at 13:00 in Room XXI.
  • The human rights problem of political marginalisation is organised by Salam for Democracy and Human Rights (Bahrain) and CIVICUS, and will take place on 2 July at 12:00. Despite steadily rising levels of social and political marginalization in Bahrain, the government has sought to convey the appearance of political stability. In a context where freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association are severely restricted, what strategies can civil society – in Bahrain and in other countries around the world – bring into play to reduce political marginalisation?
  • The situation of migrants and refugees rights in Brazil is organised by Conectas and will be held on 2 July at 14h in Room VIII. The event will discuss the rights of migrants and refugees in Brazil focusing on the situation of Venezuelans refugees coming to the country, the reasons why they are leaving Venezuela and how Brazil is responding to this situation.
  • Human rights in Myanmar is organised by Physicians for Human Rights, and will be held on 1 July at 12:00 in Room VIII. PHR will provide an in-depth briefing on new research findings that reveal a painful, long-term legacy of the Rohingya Crisis and underscore the urgent need for accountability.
  • Human rights in Myanmar is organised by Forum Asia and will be held on 1 July 2019 at 14:30 in Room VIII. Human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar will provide updates on the situation in the country since the last Council session.
  • Upholding the rule of law: The UN database on businesses operating in the OPT is organised by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and will be held on 5 July at 14:00 in Room VIII. More than three years following the establishment of the Database mandate pursuant to Human Rights Council Resolution 31/36– the results of this process are not being transmitted with the necessary transparency. The side event will focus on the importance of releasing the database as a public online platform of business enterprises engaged in business activities related to Israeli settlements.
  • Human rights in Sudan is organised by DefendDefenders and Physicians for Human Rights. It will be held on 8 July at 13:00 in Room XXIV. This event will bring Sudanese voices to the Council to speak about the situation in Sudan and the ongoing crackdown.
  • Human Rights in Venezuela is organised by the International Commission of Jurists and will be held on 8 July at 14:30 in Room IX.

Any others that come to my attebtion will be reported later.

 

FORUM-ASIA: human rights defenders face severe risks in Asia

June 4, 2019

The latest report by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) found that human rights defenders in Asia are at high risks. “In Asia, we are witnessing more and more human rights defenders being subjected to increasingly severe forms of violations, particularly killing, simply for defending human rights,” said Sejin Kim, Programme Manager of FORUM-ASIA.

The report titled “Defending In Numbers: Resistance in the Face of Repression exposes 688 cases of human rights violations affecting 4,854 people across 18 different countries in Asia, and analyses current and emerging trends of violations against human rights defenders, including journalists, civil society organisations, advocates and their family members, throughout 2017-2018.

Besides that, the report also reveals that “violations have become more extreme, and the safe space in which human rights defenders can work have increasingly shrunk”. State and non-state actors openly threatened these defenders, something which played a key role in creating a dangerous climate for them. In fact, according to the report, there were 164 cases where physical violence was used against human rights defenders, and 61 of these cases resulted in death. The majority of these cases occurred in the Philippines (48 per cent) and India (25 per cent). Concerningly, most of the perpetrators of these killings remain unknown, a reality which perpetuates impunity in the region…. In the period under review, a staggering 327 cases of judicial harassment were recorded across 17 countries which include the (arbitrary) arrest and detention of human rights defenders; the misuse of the law and the passage of repressive laws aimed at criminalising human rights defenders; and the denial of a fair trial.

..

Although threats and harassment endanger all defenders, but certain groups are particularly targeted like prodemocracy defenders, who are vocal critics of state repression; and land and environmental rights defenders, who are targeted by state and non-state actors competing to access natural resources and/or implement mega-development projects. Women human rights defenders, who challenge gender norms and power structures, also ranked high among the most affected groups. Gender-based violence, including online attacks and harassment, were common tactics used against women human rights defenders.

Human rights defenders face severe risks including killing in Asia, says FORUM-ASIA

New NGO launched: International Human Rights Council – Hong Kong (IHRC-HK) but lacks detail

May 8, 2018

On 8 May 2018 a new NGO was launched: the “International Human Rights Council – Hong Kong” (IHRC-HK) based in Hong Kong . The geographical gambit is not totally clear but the press release speaks of the “active participation of the dedicated human rights defenders from the various countries in Asia, specifically from the region of South Asia”, while a footnote states that the IHRC-HK is a “regional human rights” organisation.

Mr. Baseer Naveed, the executive director, while announcing the formation of the IHRC-HK, stated, that it is to “Articulate the voice of the victims, place it in their proper human and legal context, examine the justice delivery system with a view to its reform and the enforcement of the rule of law both for punitive and preventive action”. The IHRC-HK says it will focus on cases of individuals that are subjected to violations by the State and their functionaries exposing also the institutions of justice which have become the tools of injustice and repression. These can be followed by Urgent Responses, Statements, and Reports for sessions of the UN Human Rights Commission and different stakeholders. The purpose of Urgent Response is: To expose the authorities that have turned a blind eye to abuses, press for immediate legal action against perpetrators, redress to the victims and to mobilize civil society response by way of signatures.

The new NGO claims a very broad mission: “the strengthening of democracy and human rights, Constitutional Rights, Legal Empowerment, particularly among Women, Minorities and persons with Special Needs by campaigning for the establishment of the Rule of Law and the strengthening of the institutions of justice…..The IHRC-HK will work for justice, peace by promoting human dignity and equality within the community and in the State institutions. Wherever possible seek ways to promote Sustainable Development thereby guaranteeing the socio-economic rights of the people.

There is preciously little information on the new organisation’s effective capacity, from where it gets its funding and how it distinguishes itself from existing NGOs, such as the Asian Human Rights Commission or Forum-Asia. Time will tell.

http://ihrchk.org/2018/05/08/world-the-international-human-rights-council-hong-kong-ihrc-hk-launched/

International Commission of Jurists joins criticism of Singapore for harassment of human rights defender Jolovan Wham

January 5, 2018

International Commission of Jurists urges Singapore to stop harassment of human rights defender Jolovan Wham

 

https://www.icj.org/singapore-stop-harassment-of-human-rights-defender-jolovan-wham/

https://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2017/12/13/international-commission-of-jurists-urges-singapore-to-stop-harassment-of-human-rights-defender-jolovan-wham/

https://asiancorrespondent.com/2017/12/singapore-human-rights-watch-repression/#CZ3VvbvQq6iQymK5.97

https://www.forum-asia.org/?p=25288

Documenting human rights: standards and practice – side event

September 27, 2017

This side event is announced too late, but still good to know and find out more from the organizing NGOs:

 

Vacancy for intern at FORUM-ASIA’s Human Rights Defenders Programme

August 20, 2017

FORUM-ASIA is hiring an Intern for its Human Rights Defenders (HRD) Programme. The ideal candidate should have at least a Bachelor’s degree or advanced degree in international human rights law, political/social sciences, Asia studies or relevant field; some practical knowledge about international human rights standards, mechanisms and practices; experience in online communications, website management as well as graphic design would be an asset. Click here to download a complete job description.

Interested applicants are requested to fill in the Internship Application Form and return it by email together with a resume and cover letter (both in .pdf files) explaining why you are interested in the position to internship@forum-asia.org before 25 August 2017, midnight Bangkok Time (UTC+7), with subject: HRD Programme Internship Application_NAME (i.e. HRD Programme Internship Application_Your Full Name).

Source: [Vacancy] Human Rights Defenders Programme Internship « FORUM-ASIA

Backsliding on civic space in democracies – important side event on 3 March in Geneva

March 2, 2017

One of the side events in Geneva during the UN Human Rights Council that is of special importance for human rights defenders is held tomorrow, 3 March 2017, from 13:00 – 14:00, in Room XXI, Palais Des Nations, Geneva.

Across the world, well-established principles and standards fundamental to maintaining a safe and enabling environment for civil society are being questioned and threatened in mature and consolidated democracies. In both the global North and global South, governments with vibrant civil societies and constitutional and historical commitments based on their struggles for democracy and freedom are adopting increasingly hostile and corrosive policies and practices to suppress independent civil society voices. The event will provide an opportunity for the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and civil society leaders to reflect on the global climate for civil society operating in mature democracies and articulate key measures these states must take to ensure an enabling environment for civil society and human rights defenders both at home and at the UN Human Rights Council. In advance of their examination under the Universal Periodic Review in May 2017, the event will also bring together civil society leaders from India, Brazil, Poland, and South Africa to examine state backsliding on civic space norms.[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/24/2017-10-need-to-reset-for-h…]

Panelists:

  • Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
  • Camila Asano, Conectas – Brazil
  • Henri Tiphagne, Human Rights Defenders Association – India
  • Maciej Kozłowski, Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD) – Poland
  • Corlett Letlojane, HURISA- South Africa

Moderator: Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research, CIVICUS

The event is co-sponsored by key international NGOs: –Amnesty InternationalCIVICUS, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), International Society for Human Rights (ISHR), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Human Rights Defenders Alert India (HRDA), The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBS)

https://www.forum-asia.org/?p=23168

FORUM-ASIA 25th Anniversary Event in Geneva on 16 November 2016

November 7, 2016

 

flyer-web-geneva

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), together with the Martin Ennals Award and the Right Livelihood Award, will host a panel discussion on the 25th Anniversary of its founding and 10th Anniversary of its presence in Geneva, entitled 50 Years of the International Bill of Human Rights and 10 Years of the UN Human Rights Council – What does this mean for Asia?’,  on 16 November 2016 at 18:30 at the Ivan Pictet Auditorium, Maison de la Paix, in Geneva, Switzerland.

The panelists are:

– Jose Ramos-Horta (Laureate, Nobel Peace Prize)

– Ruth Manorama (Laureate, Right Livelihood Award) [http://www.rightlivelihoodaward.org/laureates/ruth-manorama/]

– Adilur Rahman Khan (Finalist, Martin Ennals Award) [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/bangladesh-human-rights-defender-adilur-accorded-more-awards/]

The panel discussion will be followed by a reception.

If you’re interested in attending, please register on l.forum-asia.org/GenevaRegistration

Source: FORUM-ASIA 25th Anniversary Event in Geneva, Switzerland (16 November 2016) « FORUM-ASIA