Posts Tagged ‘France’

European governments should stop treating solidarity and compassion as a crime

May 15, 2019

Two recent cases of criminalization of human rights defenders in Europe helping people at sea:

Iuventa crew
Iuventa crew

On 13 May 2019 MarEx  reported that the crew of the rescue ship Iuventa operated by the German NGO Jugend Rettet has received the Swiss Paul Grüninger human rights award for saving the lives of around 14,000 of men, women and children in the central Mediterranean. For more on this award, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/paul-grueninger-award

The award is seen as a statement against the criminalization of those helping people at sea and comes whilst the crew is under criminal investigations in Italy for “aiding and abetting illegal immigration.” They face up to 20 years in prison and fines of 15,000 Euro ($16,900) per saved person. The prize money of 50,000 Swiss francs contributes to the defense.

The Iuventa was the first rescue vessel seized in Italy in August 2017. Captain Dariush was master of the Iuventa for three voyages off the Libyan coast: “We’re being charged for saving lives. This is absurd,” he said. “It is European politicians who block any safe way for people in need, so we had to act.

The crew says: “Although we have to stand trial, it is us who accuses Europe. We accuse European politicians of turning their backs on people in need. We accuse the E.U. of collaborating with regimes who violate human rights.” The Italian public prosecutor’s office has been investigating the crew for almost two years. Covert investigators claim to have observed the Iuventa crew cooperating with smugglers. However, the NGO claims that scientists at Goldsmiths, University of London have said there is no evidence for this. “They have compared the accusations of the Italian police with all available data, meteorological measurements, logbooks and recordings of the Reuters agency. In their study for Forensic Architecture, they conclude that the allegations are false.” The trial is expected to begin in autumn, and it is expected that charges will be brought against the 10 crew members. It is a precedent for Europe, says lead lawyer Nicola Canestrini: “This trial will show whether Europe can continue to stand for fundamental rights and solidarity in the world.

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Tom Ciotkowski is facing up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 7,500 Euros on trumped up charges. In July 2018, he was observing French riot police preventing volunteers from distributing food to migrants and refugees in Calais. He was charged with contempt and assault after he challenged the violent actions of a policeman against another volunteer. “Tom Ciotkowski is a compassionate young volunteer who was taking action to support migrants and refugees when he was arrested. He has committed no crime and is being unjustly targeted for documenting the abusive behaviour of the police in Calais,” said Amnesty International’s Senior Campaigner on Migration Maria Serrano.

Tom’s case is sadly emblematic of the harassment, intimidation and attacks that human rights defenders supporting migrants and refugees face at the hands of police in Calais. His case also reflects a wider European trend of criminalizing acts of solidarity, as a way of discouraging others from standing up for human rights. We need courageous, compassionate people like Tom more than ever

[BACKGROUND At the end of July 2018, Tom Ciotkowski was observing French riot police ID-checking volunteers who were trying to distribute food to migrants and refugees. He recorded on his mobile phone an official pushing and kicking a volunteer. When Tom complained about the behaviour of the police, an officer approached him and another female volunteer, who he hit with a baton. When Tom asked the officer for his identification number and told the policeman not to hit women, he was pushed hard by an officer and fell backwards over a metal barrier separating the pavement from the road. As Tom fell backwards, a passing lorry narrowly missed him. He was then arrested, put in custody for 36 hours and charged with contempt and assault (“outrage et violence”). In May 2019, Tom filed a complaint against the police officer who pushed him and against other officers who provided reports stating false facts against Tom to support his arrest and prosecution.]

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/02/un-experts-consider-human-rights-defenders-in-italy-under-threat/

First ‘Prix Liberté of Normandy” for teen climate activist Greta Thunberg

April 10, 2019

Greta Thunberg
The activist is making waves globally (Photo: Anders Hellberg)

Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg – who is a vegan – has won the newly created Prix Liberté, launched last year by the Region of Normandy in France, reports  in Plantbasednews. Thunberg, 16, is the first recipient of this new award, which was designed to honor a young person ‘engaged in a fight for peace and freedom’. The award comes with prize money of  €25,000. [see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/prix-libert-normandy ] The campaigner has made global headlines through her efforts, which includes encouraging students to attend demonstrations demanding political action on climate change while ‘on strike’ from school. Her influence has spread beyond her native Sweden throughout Europe and beyond

“I am very grateful and honoured to have won the Prix Liberté!” Thunberg said in a post on social media. “The other final nominees have stood up for human rights in a way that I can’t even imagine. We must constantly be reminded of the sacrifices they have made. Lu Guang and Raif Badawi are true heroes of our time.”

Thunberg said she will be splitting all of the prize money between four organizations dedicated to climate justice: These include CARE, which helps women and girls in the global south to cope with the effects of rising temperatures and a changing climate, and  The Adaptation Fund – which helps vulnerable communities in developing countries adapt and build resilience to climate change, 350.org and Greenpeace International who in Thunberg’s words ‘both fight for climate justice, the environment, and to keep the fossil fuels in the ground’, will also receive donations. Thunberg will receive her award on June 4, 2019, at the Normandy International Forum for Peace.

See also my old post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/03/11/link-between-protecting-the-environment-and-human-rights-asserted-by-un-expert-knox/

https://www.plantbasednews.org/post/vegan-climate-activist-greta-thunberg-wins-prix-liberte

Macron’s meeting with human rights defenders in Egypt and follow up

January 31, 2019

Emmanuel Macron lunched with Egyptian human rights defenders in Cairo on 29 January at the end of a three-day visit (for names see below). On Monday, the French president had visibly annoyed his Egyptian counterpart Abdul Fattah al-Sisi at a press conference, by saying that Sisi ought to restore civil rights and liberties for the good of his country. “Stability and lasting peace in Egypt go hand in hand with respecting individual rights and liberties within a state of law,” Macron said. “A dynamic, active, civil society remains the best rampart against extremism.” In response, President Sisi that “Egypt will not rise up with bloggers… Egypt will develop with efforts and patience.

The French leader was even more forthright with French journalists in Cairo on Sunday night. He had given Sisi a list of political opponents including “journalists, homosexuals, men and women who have convictions” when Sisi visited Paris in October 2017. “Only two of them were freed,” Macron said. “That’s not enough. And things have got worse since.”

On Tuesday, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies issued a statement providing details about the meeting. It said that Mohamed Zaree told Macron that “France must ensure that French weapons and communication technologies are not being used in Egypt against rights activists and peaceful political dissidents.”  Zaree also told Macron that he and 30 of his colleagues are banned from travel and ” stressed that it was vital for the international community to refuse to sanction any attempt to amend the Egyptian constitution to eliminate presidential term limits, on any pretext.” [see also: https://www.voanews.com/a/human-rights-honor-goes-to-egyptian-banned-from-travel/4064632.html; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/10/breaking-news-egyptian-defender-mohammed-zaree-laureate-of-the-martin-ennals-award-2017/]

That the State does not have to do all the criminalisation of HRDs itself was shown a day after the meeting with the HRDs, when Egyptian lawyer Tarek Mahmoud filed a legal complaint against the heads of four of Egypt’s human rights organizations for “threatening national security”, according to local media reports. The complaint was filed on Wednesday against Mohamed Zaree, the director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Gamal Eid, the executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, Mohamed Lotfy, the executive director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, and Gasser Abdel-Razek, the executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). Tarek Mahmoud said in the complaint that the four men “provided French officials with false information on the political conditions in Egypt”. Mahmoud added that they were “insulting the Egyptian state and undermining the country’s national security, and collaborating with the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood group to achieve its goals of bringing down the Egyptian state.

The Irish human rights group Frontline Defenders has presented a report on Egypt’s Attack on Labour Rights Defenders to French media in the run-up to Macron’s visit (with focus on the ill-treatment of workers at the Alexandria shipyard.).

——

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/macron-pivots-towards-focus-on-human-rights-abuses-in-egypt-1.3775181

https://egyptianstreets.com/2019/01/31/human-rights-advocates-accused-of-spreading-false-news-after-meeting-with-macron/

Tang Jitian receives his French Republic Human Rights prize in Beijing

January 31, 2019

On 10 December, 2018, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the French National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (La Commission nationale consultative des droits de l’homme) has awarded the annual French Republic Human Rights Prize to six personalities or organizations that have distinguished themselves in their country for the defense and promotion of human rights, and Chinese human rights lawyer Tang Jitian was one of them. He was unable to travel to France to receive the prize. On January 14, 2019, the French Ambassador to China, Mr. Jean-Maurice Ripert, presented him the award in Beijing. For more on this another awards: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/prix-des-droits-de-lhomme-de-la-republique-francaise.

Excerpts from his Acceptance Speech:

Ladies and Gentlemen: 

……Since entering the legal profession, especially after coming to Beijing in 2007, I was determined to use the law to help those who had suffered injustices. In addition to handling human rights cases, I also participated extensively in social actions, one of which was an effort in 2008-09, together with a cohort of lawyers to promote direct elections of the Beijing Lawyers’ Association. This action infuriated the Chinese government, and in April 2010, my license to practice law was revoked. Even though I suffered this blow of losing my normal legal practitioner’s identity, it didn’t stop me from engaging in rights defense work. On the contrary, I threw myself into the work even more actively, including the struggle for lawyers’ own rights and interests. And despite having suffered numerous rounds of forced disappearance and arbitrary detention, accompanied by torture, I nonetheless still had the same intention as before –– to continue to be active in the field of rights defense in China.

Although I’ve been restricted from exiting the country for nearly 10 years, making it impossible for me to fully communicate and work together with the outside world, my view was not completely limited. I still have friends from certain countries who have facilitated my work to varying degrees.

……..Contemporary mainland China has reached a critical juncture: whether to embrace civilization or choose barbarism; whether to practice universal values ​​or push the rules of the jungle; whether to preserve and strengthen the outdated totalitarianism or move toward a new democratic politics –– there is not much time left to waver.  

As a member of civil society, I look forward to China getting on the right track as soon as possible, but those selfish and greedy officials in the government are trying to pull the people back into barbarism. It is difficult to imagine what things would be like to have a China with 1.3 billion people suspended alone for a long period of time outside the civilized world: the deteriorating human rights situation in mainland China is not only a nightmare for the Chinese, but will also be a misfortune for all of humanity.

In the face of this grim situation, groups upon groups of Chinese people eager to live with dignity have fought for their rights and interests in various ways, so that future generations can live in a normal environment, and the Chinese nation will not become a burden to the world. Human rights defenders, including human rights lawyers, are to some extent shouldering a historical responsibility. As one of them, I hope they will receive more understanding, attention, support, and assistance from the international community.

……I will work together with other human rights defenders, from a new starting point, to make a due contribution to the protection of human rights and the advancement of the rule of law...

 

https://chinachange.org/2019/01/30/acceptance-speech-for-the-2018-french-republic-human-rights-prize/

Goldman environmental prizes in 2018 go to women human rights defenders

April 23, 2018

On 23 April the Guardian and other papers announced the laureates of the 2018 Goldman environmental prize and note that most of the winners are women. They are grassroots activists who have taken on powerful vested interests. For more on this award: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/goldman-environmental-prize.
Goldman environment prizewinners 2018: (clockwise from top left) Manny Calonzo, Francia Márquez, Nguy Thi Khanh, LeAnne Walters, Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid, Claire Nouvian.
Goldman environment prize winners 2018: (clockwise from top left) Manny Calonzo, Francia Márquez, Nguy Thi Khanh, LeAnne Walters, Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid, Claire Nouvian. Photograph: 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize

This year’s Goldman environmental prizes celebrate six remarkable success stories, five of them driven by women.

In Latin America, the winner is Francia Márquez, an Afro-Colombian community leader who led a 10-day, 350-mile march of 80 women from the Amazon to Bogotá that prompted the government to send troops to remove illegal miners who were polluting rivers with cyanide and mercury. [The dangers of environmental activism have been evident in the murder of two Goldman-prize recipients in the past two years: the 2015 winner Berta Cáceres and the 2005 winner Mexican activist Isidro Baldenegro López]  “The first thing we need is to be more aware of the historical moment in which we find ourselves: the planet is being destroyed, it’s that simple, and if we do nothing to avoid it we will we will be part of that destruction,” Francia Márquez said. “Our time has come, we must act, we have a responsibility to future generations to leave a better world, in which taking care of life is more important than producing cumulative wealth.

South African anti-nuclear activists Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid, [see: anti-nuclear court ruling against former South African president Jacob Zuma]

Vietnamese clean-energy advocate Nguy Thi Khanh,

USA clean-water defender LeeAnne Walters, and

French marine-life champion Claire Nouvian.

Philippines anti-lead campaigner Manny Calonzo.

– see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/19/goldman-environmental-prizes-awarded-san-francisco-activists/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/03/berta-caceres-human-rights-defender-assassinated-today-in-honduras/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/23/unprecedented-win-for-women-in-top-global-environment-awards-goldman-prize

 

Antoine Bernard, former head of FIDH, joins Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

November 18, 2017

I was slow in announcing the departure of Antoine Bernard as head of the FIDH [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/12/antoine-bernard-has-left-fidh-after-26-years/] but am glad to be more on the ball for his next position: On 14 November 2017 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) announced that Antoine Bernard has been appointed RSF’s deputy director-general in charge of programmes. He will start in January 2018.

Bernard, 51, will help RSF secretary-general and director-general Christophe Deloire to consolidate and develop RSF’s work of defending journalistic freedom and independence at a time of great dangers for journalists.

Bernard said: “In a world dominated by opaqueness, propaganda and impunity for the powerful, journalism is in danger and, with it, human rights and democracy. RSF is waging a fight that is absolutely essential and Christophe Deloire has managed to put RSF at the international forefront of the defence of the freedom to inform and the protection of journalists. I am honoured to join Christophe and his team.

[The past five years have seen very rapid growth in RSF’s activities and influence and enhancement of its image. It has launched major campaigns at the UN and in the field, reinforced and professionalized its headquarters in Paris, doubled its personnel worldwide, developed its bureaux in Washington and Tunis, and created new bureaux in Rio de Janeiro, London and Taiwan. It plans to open two new bureaux in 2018, one in San Francisco and one in Africa.]

https://rsf.org/en/news/former-head-fidh-appointed-rsf-deputy-director-general

Patrick Desbois, French priest who uncovered Nazi killings, awarded Lantos prize

November 10, 2017

Father Patrick Desbois speaks after being awarded the Lantos Human Rights Prize on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 26, 2017. (Chris Kleponis)

Father Patrick Desbois speaks after being awarded the Lantos Human Rights Prize on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 26, 2017. (Chris Kleponis)

Father Patrick Desbois, a Roman Catholic clergyman, whose work has uncovered millions of previously unknown victims of the Nazi genocide was awarded the Lantos Foundation’s Human Rights Prize. The Lantos Human Rights Prize is an annual award given by the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, an organization founded by Tom and Annette Lantos, who were both Holocaust survivors. For more on the award see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/lantos-human-rights-prize.

Father Patrick Desbois, who teaches at Georgetown University’s Program for Jewish Civilization, was recognized during a reception on Capitol Hill as a “vital voice standing up for the values of decency, dignity, freedom, and justice.” His scholarly reportage on the Holocaust has focused on the Jews who were killed by mass shootings by Nazi units in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Moldova and Romania between 1941 and 1944. In 2004, Desbois founded Yahad-In Unum, a French organization whose sole mission was to locate the mass graves of Jewish victims from Nazi paramilitary death squads. These regiments were responsible for the mass killings of Jews, often by shooting and primarily in the former Soviet Union.

His first book, “Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews,” was based on that work and the culmination of its discoveries. Desbois has another book — a memoir on his life as an anti-genocide activist and Holocaust scholar — due for publication in 2018.

Other than uncovering unknown truths about the Nazi’s killing operation, Desbois has also been working on collecting evidence of the Islamic State’s massacre of the Yazidi people in parts of Iraq and Syria. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/09/collecting-human-rights-prize-yazidi-lawmaker-calls-trumps-travel-ban-unfair/]

Source: French priest who uncovered Nazi killing sites awarded Lantos rights prize | The Times of Israel

UN rapporteurs urge France to protect fundamental freedoms while combatting terrorism

January 20, 2016

A group of five United Nations human rights experts have joined the debate in France on security. Yesterday, 19 January it warned that the current state of emergency in France and the country’s law on surveillance of electronic communications impose excessive and disproportionate restrictions on fundamental freedoms.

UN SG Ban Ki-moon pays tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November. 6 December 2015. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
As France debates the strengthening of measures in the fight against terrorism, and considers a reform of the criminal procedure, we call on the authorities to revise the provisions and possible reforms adopted to that end, to ensure they comply with international human rights law,” the UN experts said in a press statement.

In a list of concerns to the French Government, the independent experts stressed a lack of clarity and precision on provisions regarding several state of emergency and surveillance laws that relate to the legitimate rights of privacy and freedoms – of expression, peaceful assembly and association.

To guarantee the rule of law and prevent arbitrary procedures, the experts recommended the adoption of prior judicial controls over anti-terrorism measures. Since the recent terrorist attacks in France, the state of emergency law in force, which temporarily expands the executive powers in the fight against terrorism, only allows judicial review a posteriori.

The UN experts also noted that the November 2015 law on surveillance of international electronic communications expands the executive power over the collection, analysis and storage of communications content or metadata – without requiring prior authorization or judicial review.

The UN experts also expressed alarm that environmental activists in France have been under house arrest in connection with the state of emergency invoked following the November attacks. “These measures do not seem to adjust to the fundamental principles of necessity and proportionality,” they said, highlighting the risks faced by fundamental freedoms in the fight against terrorism.

Calling on France not to extend the state of emergency beyond 26 February 2016, they said, that: “While exceptional measures may be required under exceptional circumstances, this does not relieve the authorities from demonstrating that these are applied solely for the purposes for which they were prescribed, and are directly related to the specific objective that inspired them.”

The independent experts – David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression; Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Ben Emmerson, Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; and Joseph Cannataci, Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy – expressed their solidarity and deepest sympathy to the victims of the terrorist attacks committed in France and many other places in the world.

Source: United Nations News Centre – UN experts urge France to protect fundamental freedoms while combatting terrorism

Martine Anstett honored with own human rights award

October 16, 2015

Martine Anstett (born on 15 March 1969) was a French human rights defender who worked for a variety of organizations. For NGOs such as APT and AI, for the UN and the French diplomatic service. Her last post was with the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie. She died at a young age on 29 April, 2015

Friends of hers decided to create an association to remember Martine and honor her memory so that her outstanding commitment should not be lost. The main activity of the association is to award every year – on 29 April – a remarkable human rights defender who deserves to be noticed and supported with the Martine Anstett Prize. The award comes with a prize of a minimum 1,500 euros.  The website http://www.prixmartineanstett.org/En-PrixModeEmploi.html gives ample instructions on how to apply and on the life and work of Martine Anstett.

Algerian government fails to prove accusation against human rights defenders held in Italy

September 17, 2015

On 15 September 2015, the Turin Court of Appeal ruled to release Algerian human rights defender Mr Rachid Mesli, who has been under house arrest since 22 August 2015, and to allow him to leave the country, as reported by Front Line Defenders.

 

The human rights defender was released before the end of the 40 day period during which the Algerian government could submit a formal request for extradition. The Court recognised Rachid Mesli’s important and peaceful work in the defence of human rights, as well as the high risk of torture he would face if returned to Algeria. While the court is yet to make its final decision on the extradition warrant, the release order highlighted that, according to the information received, Rachid Mesli’s human rights activities were not in any way related to terrorism.

On 22 August, the Italian court placed the human rights defender under house arrest following three days in detention in Aosta prison. Rachid Mesli was arrested on 19 August 2015 (https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/29390) as he travelled to Italy on holiday with his wife and son. The arrest occurred as a result of an arrest warrant issued by the Algerian authorities in April 2002 on terrorism-related charges.

[Rachid Mesli is the Legal Director of Alkarama, an independent human rights organisation based in Geneva that works to assist victims of extra-judicial executions, disappearances, torture and arbitrary detention in Arab states. And this is not first effort by the Algerian government see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/mourad-dhina-algerian-head-of-the-human-rights-organization-alkarama-detained-in-france/]

Interesting tot note Front Line Defenders’ call on Interpol to ensure the legitimacy of all warrants issued by its members and to put in place safeguards so that the system cannot be abused in order to target human rights defenders.