Posts Tagged ‘Geneva’

Danny Ocean sings for Nansen award winner Azizbek Ashurov and refugees on 7 October in Geneva

October 2, 2019

Venezuelan singer Danny Ocean is one of the performers who will be honouring the winner of the 2019 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award at a ceremony in Geneva on 7 October. “I know how hard it is to leave behind family, friends and everything you know to build a life again somewhere new,” said Ocean, who rose to global fame with his hit Me Rehuso, in which he sings about the love he left behind when he moved from his native Venezuela to the United States of America. “Millions of people each year are forced into making this decision to protect themselves and their families. For those refugees who have lost everything, the humanity and support of others is their only lifeline. For many years the winners of the Nansen Refugee Award have been that lifeline. It is an honour for me to play a part in celebrating their extraordinary achievement.”

The ceremony will also feature a keynote address by Nadine Labaki, the Lebanese director of the Cannes Jury Prize winner, and Oscar-nominated film, Capernaum, and will be hosted by award-winning South African TV presenter Leanne Manas. Other performers joining them on the night will be Swiss musician Flèche Love and German poets and stage performers Babak Ghassim and Usama Elyas.

Last year’s winner: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/02/south-sudanese-doctor-wins-2018-nansen-medal/.

https://www.unhcr.org/news/press/2019/9/5d91b9434/danny-ocean-perform-global-humanitarian-award-ceremony.html

Flight from Manus: the inside story of an exceptional case

September 30, 2019

The journalist Michael Green produced for Earshot a fascinating story on the long trip of Abdul Aziz Muhamat from Manus Island to Geneva. Green followed Aziz closely for years and came to Geneva with him for the Martin Ennals Award ceremony where I met them both. Now the story is complete with beautiful pictures, insights and sound tracks. Flight from Manus cannot really be summarised and the best is to see the whole story for yourself (link below).

One day, he’s in a detention centre. The next he’s in Geneva, where his face is on billboards and he’s celebrated as a champion of human rights. Aziz was in an incongruous situation, burdened with a heavy choice….

…..With some delays and complications, he made it to Switzerland, but he was only given permission to stay for two weeks. Then, he’d have to return to Manus Island — back to the situation he was being celebrated for campaigning against.

After he accepted the award, a meeting frenzy ensued. Over the following days, Aziz met with a slew of diplomats, dignitaries, politicians and UN bodies. He made speeches at universities and at the United Nations Human Rights Council….[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/02/mea-laureate-abdul-aziz-addresses-un-human-rights-council-on-off-shore-refugee-policy/]

One day, when he arrived for an event at a university, I noticed he was sporting a brand new navy blue overcoat. That morning, someone who had attended the awards ceremony recognised Aziz at the train station. The man said he’d been following Aziz on Twitter and noticed that he was always wearing the same flimsy, zip-up top. He wanted to buy Aziz a proper winter coat — and took him into a nearby store to do just that. Aziz never even got his name.

And yet, despite the all interest and adulation, he still wasn’t free…

..Aziz started getting headaches every day. In his meetings, people were telling him he should not go back to Manus Island. His friends back there were saying it wasn’t safe to return. Despite his doubts, and a crushing sense of guilt and duty towards the people he left behind, Aziz decided he would be a more effective advocate if he could remain in Europe. On the day he was due to leave Switzerland, in early March, Aziz instead sought asylum. He submitted himself to a new detention centre — and to a new uncertain, indefinite future…

…The months went by. ……Finally, in June, Aziz received a phone call from his lawyer that changed everything. Switzerland granted him asylum and permanent residency. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/10/aziz-mea-laureate-2019-recognised-as-refugee-in-switzerland-from-where-he-promises-to-continue-the-sttuggle/]

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The sound bites were turned into a podcast, The Messenger, co-produced by Behind the Wire and The Wheeler Centre.

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For those in Geneva on Wednesday 2 October 2019 (18:15 – 19:30) in Auditorium A2 of the Maison de la paix, Geneva, Abdul Aziz Muhamat will be speaking about “Surviving Manus Island detention Centre:  A testimony” Moderator: Vincent Chetail  A staunch defender of human rights and dignity, Abdul Aziz Muhamat will share his experience and offer his insight into what lies ahead.

https://www.facebook.com/events/2720741894616336/

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https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-30/refugee-abdul-aziz-muhamat-manus-to-geneva/11539314

see also: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-09/un-bachelet-criticises-australia-asylum-seeker-policies/11588084

‘Bertxit’: ..Bert Verstappen leaves HURIDOCS after 32 years

September 27, 2019

The SIM team in 1984, Bert Verstappen on the right

It is usually not a compliment when somebody is described as ‘furniture’. But Bert Verstappen, senior documentalist at HURIDOCS, is the exception. And the furniture in mind is an expensive, solid oak Dutch cupboard where all valuables are kept. Bert Verstappen – an historian by education – started working as a conscientious objector doing alternative service in the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights (SIM) in approximately 1983, soon after I became the founding director.

He proved his value immediately by working on themes such as documenting human rights violations and together we started a long term research project on the practice of fact finding by NGOs, which resulted in the first-of-its-kind publication of Human Rights Missions, a  Study of the Fact‑Finding Practice of Non‑governmental Organizations, published in 1986 by Martinus Nijhoff Publishers (ISBN: 90 247 3355 3). Morever, as SIM had become the initial ‘secretariat’ of the new HURIDOCS network created in 1982, Bert gave a lot of support to the fledgling unit. In 1987 HURIDOCS moved to Oslo and Bert moved with it, learned Norwegian very quickly and kept the flame burning for many years. He moved to Geneva with HURIDOCS after the big Crete conference in 1992.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bert (l.) 1993 in Geneva with Theo van Boven and Oldrich Andrysek

There he continued to coordinate the work of different task forces and co-authored essential HURIDOCS publications. He was involved in many capacity building projects, providing expertise mainly from the documentation angle.  As from 1 October 2019 he goes into retirement but will remain involved in some HURIDOCS projects on a part-time basis until the end of the year, ensuring a “soft bertxit”.

The development of new tools deeply changed HURIDOCS’ work throughout the years. We renew ourselves constantly. I have committed my career to this exciting challenge because I want to feel useful to human right defenders. Their courage is a source of inspiration for all of us” says Bert Verstappen on the HURIDOCS website

If you want to know more about the history of HURIDOCS in which Bert has played such an important role, see:

“We were breaking new ground”

and about the organnisation today: https://www.huridocs.org/who-we-are/

International Commission of Jurists tries fundraising Gala in Geneva

September 25, 2019

The ICJ is organizing its first fundraising Gala concert on Monday 14 October at 7:30pm in the Palais Eynard, 4 rue de la Croix Rouge, Geneva. The event will support the ICJ and its fight for the defense of the Rule of Law in the world and marks the end of the series of events we organized for our 60th anniversary in the city of human rights. The theme of our Gala will be: “Geneva, the Defense of the Rule of Law: What can I do?

After a welcome from the Mayor of Geneva and an introduction from Me Pierre de Preux, former Bâtonnier of the Geneva Bar, ICJ Commissioners including Sir Nicolas Bratza (former President of the European Court of Human Rights), Dame Silvia Cartwright (former Judge and Governor General of New Zealand), Professor Bob Goldman (ICJ President and former President of the Inter-american Commission on Human Rights) and Ms Roberta Clarke (ICJ Executive Chair, UN Women’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific) will give concrete answers to this question. The evening is also to enjoy a Concert of the ‘Soloists of the Menuhin Academy’ and the cocktail after that.

https://www.facebook.com/events/511460076090161/

Intimidation and Reprisals on UN premises – NGOs ask for more action

September 17, 2019

On 23 August 2019, 23 NGOs wrote to the United Nations to raise concerns over the alarming pattern of intimidation and reprisals faced by members of civil society during sessions of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Bodies. The letter calls on the ASG to raise this issue during his speech before the HRC on 19 September 2019, and urges the OHCHR to take measures to ensure that such acts of reprisals are not repeated in the future. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/05/human-rights-defenders-issues-at-the-42nd-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/

Below is the original text of the letter, as sent to the UN representatives in question:

To: Mr Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights; H.E. Mr Coly Seck, Permanent Representative of Senegal and President of the Human Rights Council; Mr Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Mr Gilmour, 

We, the undersigned organisations, write to raise deep concerns about a consistent pattern of intimidation and reprisals faced by members of civil society from around the world during sessions of the Human Rights Council (HRC) and the Treaty Bodies. We are particularly concerned by acts of intimidation perpetrated by representatives of and individuals affiliated with government parties. 

During the 41st session of the HRC, staff of Permanent Missions and individuals wearing non-diplomatic badges, who were later verified as working with UN Member and Observer States, attended our side-events, and blatantly eavesdropped on our conversations, recorded our comments, took photos and videos of the audience, and made threatening gestures and remarks. 

We are all the more concerned as this is not the first time that human rights defenders and other individuals engaging with the HRC have faced acts of harassment and intimidation. Rather, these tactics are part of a consistent and systematic pattern of behaviour that we have unfortunately come to anticipate and expect at every session of the HRC. 

Furthermore, HRDs engaging with the Treaty Bodies also face intimidation and reprisals perpetrated by representatives of and individuals affiliated with government parties. There have been multiple instances of so-called “GONGOs” – governmental non-governmental organisations – registering for confidential and closed briefings with Treaty Bodies’ members. This allows them to know exactly who among civil society is present during these briefings. There has also been cases of briefings that have been filmed without the permission of NGOs. 

What is more, governments’ support given to GONGOs means that they are often granted consultative status with the UN. On the contrary, independent NGOs continue to be denied the ECOSOC status, demonstrating that reprisals against HRDs also occur within the UN system. In addition, the proliferation of GONGOs both at the HRC and Treaty Bodies, allows them to influence the discourse about human rights in a particular state or region, thus minimising the real issues at stake. 

The aforementioned acts of harassment and intimidation are concerning not only because they create an atmosphere of fear and self-censorship, but also because numerous human rights defenders who have travelled to Geneva to participate in HRC or Treaty Body sessions have faced reprisals upon their return to their countries as a direct result of this. As such, we take these acts of intimidation very seriously and submit that they may result in further acts of retaliation.

We note with appreciation that the current president of the HRC, his Excellency Mr Coly Seck, Permanent Representative of Senegal, addressed some of the issues raised in this letter during the final meeting of the 41st session of the HRC. He expressed his concern that “civil society organisations continue to face intimidation and reprisals” and pointed out that a number of cases had been reported to him, including of verbal harassment and unauthorised photographs taken during side-events. He emphasised that “any acts of intimidation against any individual or group that attempts to cooperate with the Human Rights Council is unacceptable”, and reminded Member and Observer States of their responsibility to ensure that civil society operate in a safe space. 

In addition, in July 2019, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation, working in conjunction with the University of Oxford, Tibet Justice Centre and the Economic and Social Research Council launched the report “Compromised Space for Unrepresented Peoples at the United Nations”. Based on interviews and testimonies from 77 HRDs working on behalf of minorities, indigenous communities and other unrepresented peoples, it identifies a systematic attack on the UN human rights system by certain governments. This is characterised by “blocking tactics […] including deferring ECOSOC status decisions, and intervening in plenary statements, to more overt instances of harassment, intimidation and outright violence, which constitute state reprisals”. Such challenges are compounded for HRDs from minority, indigenous and marginalised groups.

While we acknowledge that HRC presidents, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (OHCHR) reprisals team, the Treaty Bodies’ focal points for reprisals and yourself have all previously raised awareness on this issue, we strongly believe that there is a need to draw further attention to such acts of intimidation and harassment. We further note that to date, the OHCHR has not developed a systematic and practical response to the practices outlined in this letter. 

It is our contention that failure to sanction reprisals on UN premises will only embolden such acts elsewhere. Therefore, we call on you to raise this grave pattern during the presentation of the UNSG annual report on reprisals during the 42nd session of the HRC. We also call on you to urge the OHCHR to take measures to ensure that such acts of intimidation do not happen in the future. 

Yours sincerely, 

  1. Access Now 
  2. ALQST 
  3. Association for Victims of Torture in the UAE 
  4. Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain 
  5. Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy
  6. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  7. CCPR Centre 
  8. Committee for Justice 
  9. European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights 
  10. Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights
  11. MENA Rights Group 
  12. The Omani Centre for Human Rights
  13. OMCT
  14. Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion 
  15. International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE 
  16. International Centre for Justice and Human Rights 
  17. International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism 
  18. Right Livelihood Foundation 
  19. Rights Realization Centre 
  20. Salam for Democracy and Human Rights
  21. Statelessness Network Asia Pacific 
  22. Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization
  23. World Uyghur Congress 

https://unpo.org/article/21663

 

Ending reprisals: side event in Geneva on 18 September

September 13, 2019

I provided already a list of side events at the 42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/09/42nd-session-of-the-human-rights-council-list-of-side-events/]. Here is one that is really crucial: Ending reprisals: Discussion with human rights defenders and experts.

It takes place on Wednesday, 18 September 2019, 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm in Room VIII, Palais des Nations, Geneva

The event seeks to provide a space for human rights defenders and experts to shed light on the nature and extent of reprisals and intimidation against those cooperating with the UN; discuss and expand on the Secretary-General’s report; and consider efforts to date to address reprisals and intimidation against those cooperating with the UN as well as ways to further develop and strengthen policies and practices to prevent and address reprisals.

Panellists:

Moderator:  Phil Lynch, ISHR Director

For some of my earlier posts on reprisals (among many): https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/

 

https://mailchi.mp/ishr/alert-to-the-human-rights-councils-35th-session-32381?e=d1945ebb90

42nd session of the Human Rights Council: list of side events

September 9, 2019

The 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council started today, 9 September 2019, and as usual is surrounded by a large number of side events. Here a selection with special relevance for human rights defenders:

  • Monday 9 September at 14:30 in Room VIII, Why is a Commission of Inquiry on Venezuela needed? organised by Amnesty International, ISHR, ICJ and Human Rights Watch.
  • Tuesday 10 September at 15:30-16:30 in Room XXII, Situation of the Right to Memory, Truth in Brazil: From the Transitional Policies to Denial organised by Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales, Conselho Federal da Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil, Instituto Vladimir Herzog and Centro de Estudos sobre Justiça de Transição.
  • Wednesday 11 September, Privacy in the Digital Age: Priorities for Protecting Rights Online organised by Article19.
  • Wednesday 11 September 10:00-11:30, Room XXV. Human Rights Council Elections 2019: discussions of candidate States’ visions for membership, The event is co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of the Czech Republic, Denmark and Fiji. It is intended to give candidates an opportunity to present their visions for Council membership and to respond to questions from a range of stakeholders on how they propose to realise the pledges and commitments they may have made in seeking election.
  • Thursday 12 September at 12:30-13:30 in Room XVI Ensuring credible HRC action on Sudan organised by Defendefenders.
  • Thursday 12 September at 13:30 to 14:30 in Room XVI Investigating Unlawful Deaths, organised by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the panel will include the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (by video link).
  • Monday 16 September at 13:00 in Room IVCivic space restrictions as an early warning of a deteriorating human rights situation organised by CIVICUS.
  • Tuesday 17 September, 10:00-11:00, Room IV, Rule of law in China,  organised by ISHR, International Bar Association, World Uyghur Congress and Tibet Advocacy Coalition.
  • Tuesday 17 September at 13:00-14.30 in Room VIII Indigenous Justice and Human Rights co-organised by the UN Special Rapporteur on Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).
  • Tuesday 17 September at 16:00-17:00, in Room IV Human rights in Myanmar organised by Forum-Asia.
  • Wednesday 18 September, 16:30-17:30, Room VIII, Ending Reprisals,  co-sponsored by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and Forum-Asia. The panel will include the Assistant Secretary General Andrew Gilmour and human rights defenders. It will discuss and expand on the Secretary-General’s report on cooperation with UN mechanisms, the nature and extent of reprisals and consider efforts to date to address the issue.
  • Thursday 19 September at 13:30 in Room VIII, The situation of human rights in Brazil organised by Conectas.
  • Thursay 19 September at 16:30 in Room XXII Access to Information organised by Article 19 and the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
  • Thursday 19 September at 12:00 to 13:00 in Room XXI, The First Year of the Transitional Justice System in Colombia organised by the Colombian Commission of Jurists and the ICJ.
  • Friday 20 September from 15:00 to 16:30 Libya: How to advance accountability for Human Rights Violations and Abuses in Libya, organised by the Netherlands, the International Commission of Jurists, the Cairo Institute, Human Rights Watch and Lawyers for Justice in Libya.
  • Tuesday 24 September 13:00-14:00 in Room XXV, Human rights in Cambodia, organised by Forum-Asia.
  • Thursday 26 September, 09:30 in Room XXIV, The Continued Silencing and Imprisonment of Saudi women’s rights activists on  organised by CIVICUS, ISHR, Women’s March Global and the Gulf Center for Human Rights. The panel will share the experiences of Saudi women human rights defenders, reflect on the reality they face in prison, and discuss what further efforts can be taken to ensure their immediate release and provide guarantees for a safe and enabling environment for them to continue their work.

You can download the list of NGO events here.

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/05/human-rights-defenders-issues-at-the-42nd-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc42-key-issues-agenda-september-2019-session

750 NGOs in Geneva: dynamic ecosystem for international governance work

August 29, 2019

On 29 August 2019, the Département présidentiel (PRE) of the Ville de Genève published “Un écosystème dynamique de plus de 750 ONG à Genève” in which – for the first time – researchers of the University of Geneva have made a survey of the NGO world in Geneva.  The study – in French – has some fascinating key findings:

Read the rest of this entry »

Public conference on the UN Human Rights Council on 4 September

August 20, 2019

In an environment where short-term and national interests are taking over, UN institutions are under attack….Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Coly Seck , President of the Human Rights Council, will discuss the importance and contribution of UN institutions to ensure that each country upholds and promotes human rights. WEDNESDAY 4 SEPTEMBER, 18h00 – 19h30 in Auditorium Ican Pictet, Maison de la Paix, Geneva, organised by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studie.

 

Michelle Bachelet has been the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights since September 2018. She was the first female President of Chile and elected for two terms (2006–2010 and 2014–2018). She also served as the first Director of UN Women, Health Minister of Chile, and was Chile’s and Latin America’s first woman Defense Minister.

Coly Seck is President of the 13th Cycle of the Human Rights Council, serving a one-year term beginning 1 January 2019. He is the Permanent Representative of Senegal to the United Nations Office in Geneva since October 2016.

This discussion will be moderated by Vincent Chetail, Professor of International Law, Head of the International Law Department and Director of the Global Migration Centre at the Graduate Institute, and will then be followed by a Q&A with the public. This conference is organised in partnership with the Club Diplomatique de Genève.

REGISTER HERE

 

Interview with Cédric Herrou, migrants rights defender who is the central person in the film Libre

July 18, 2019

ISHR had the chance to meet with Cédric Herrou for the Geneva premiere of movie ‘Libre’ where director Michel Toesca follows him in his endeavours in France‘s Roya Valley. During our interview, Herrou, a migrant rights defender and president of association ‘Défends Ta Citoyenneté’, shared his testimony, challenges, aspirations and calls to action.  The interview was published on 22 March 2019.