Posts Tagged ‘Geneva’

In memoriam Leandro Despouy: Argentinean human rights defender at the global level

March 16, 2020

When a good friend and soul mate dies, it is sometimes difficult to write something meaningful. So it was when I learned that Argentine human rights lawyer Leandro Despouy – whom I have known since 1976  – had died on 18 December 2019 in Buenos Aires, after a two-year battle with cancer. He was born on 4 April 1947 in San Luis.

The Argentine media paid quite a bit of attention to his passing but (understandably?) focused on his place in Argentinean politics (in the Radical Party) and his institutional role as Head of the Auditoría General de la Nación from 2002 – 2016.  But Leandro Despouy was of great importance to the international human rights movement as it developed in the last quarter of the 20th century. I hope that this ‘obituary’ does some justice:

He started as a lawyer and university teacher before state terrorism (in the form of the far-right death squad Alianza Anticomunista Argentina, known as Triple A) pushed him into exile in 1975 to France. He stayed a refugee until 1983 when he was able to return to his beloved country where he was appointed Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador for Human Rights by President Alfonsin. More about what he was able to do in that capacity follows below but I wanted to give special attention how remarkably active Leandro was during his exile. He did not succumb to porosity and made the best of his chances. Always upbeat and entrepreneurial he had great social skills.

Friends helped him with a part-time job (between 1975-1977) as professor of Political Economy at the Université de Paris VIII. In order to make ends meet he accepted many different part-time jobs, including (his favorite!) driving around fashion models and their clothes. The models were quickly enamored of this elegant Latino and sometimes donated suits making him the best dressed refugee in Paris. His own work situation improved when he became one of the assistants of well-known parliamentarian Nicole Questiaux for the 13th arrondissement in Paris and as from July 1981 for her replacement, Louis Moulinet.

Interestingly enough his first activist attention while in exile went to the repressive situation in Uruguay (he told me it was easier to keep politics out of it than in the case of his own country) and it was in that context that we set up SIJAU (Secretariat Internationale des Juristes pour l’Amnestie en Uruguay). Leandro – with the help of French lawyers like Joinet and Weil – managed to organise in December 1978 in the French Senate (!) an international conference that helped the opposition to unite and put pressure on Uruguay.

He undertook a similar effort on Paraguay with the creation of SIJADEP (Secretariat Internationale des Juristes pour l’Amnestie et Democratie en Paraguay).

Leandro was regularly in Geneva to follow up with the UN (and sleeping on my couch) and when the first UN mandate for disappearances was created he was briefly hired as a consultant by the then Director Theo van Boven. The Argentine Ambassador got wind of it and with ‘terrorist’ accusations this had to be terminated quickly.  In the summer of 1982 he did a short stint as Professor of Human Rights at the Centre International des Droits de l`Homme, in Strasburg, France.

Then comes the return to Argentina with the slow process of normalisation and the question of how to deal with the crimes of the recent past. From 1984-1989  he is General Director of Human Rights at the Ministry for Foreign Affaires and with it comes a series of opportunities at the international level. Here some examples:

President of the First International Conference of States Parties on the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1987).

In 1983 Leandro becomes a Member of the UN Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities (later reduced to an advisory body for the new Human Rights Council). He plays a very active role, as Chairman and as:

  • Special Rapporteur of the Subcommission on disabled persons and human rights to study the connection between human rights, violations of fundamental human freedoms and disability which resulted in his final report, “Human Rights and Disabled Persons.” Which was adopted by ECOSOC resolution 1992/48 of March 1992
  • Special Rapporteur of the same on extreme poverty and human rights. Interim report adopted on 10 June 1994, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1994/19

In 2000 Leandro heads the Argentine Delegation at the 57th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and from March 2001 to March 2002 he is President of this Commission (currently the United Nations Human Rights Council).

In 2002 in Argentina he becomes the President of the Auditor General’s office (a function reserved for a member of the opposition under the Argentine constitution) but continues to accept assignments of an international nature:

In 2003: he is appointed as Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, United Nations Human Rights Council (until 2009). In that capacity he and four other special rapporteurs asked in 2005 to be admitted to Guantanamo Bay to visit the prisoners held at the US naval base. He and one other was refused permission (see: https://newsarchive.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=608&LangID=E}

He remained a sought-after speaker at courses and conferences, such as those organized by the International Institute of Humanitarian Law of San Remo, the Committee of the International Red Cross, FLACSO Argentina ,Harvard University, the European Society of International Law, and the Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle.

In 1993 he becomes the Assistant Special Representative of the Secretary Generals of the United Nations and Organization of American States, in the context of the UN and OAS joint mission to Haiti.  Between 1999 and 2006 he regularly carried out Expert tasks mandated by a variety of UN agencies for short jobs in e.g.: Brazil, Paraguay, Equatorial Guinea, Colombia, Russia and Ecuador.

This is of course not a complete biography and any additional information would be most welcome. Leandro certainly deserves a lot more recognition at the international level. When Ben Whitaker died in 2014. Leandro was one of the first to honor his contribution [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/07/16/ben-whitaker-died-one-of-the-early-human-rights-defenders-at-the-international-scene/]. I hope this does the same for Leandro.

International Women’s Day 2020: Joint Statement at 43rd session of UN Human Rights Council

March 9, 2020

Many organisations, especially NGOs, used the occasion of International Women’s Day 2020 to highlight work carried out by women human rights defenders. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/27/women-human-rights-defenders-in-focus-at-43rd-human-rights-council/. Here an example of how 18 NGOs came together for a Joint Statement during the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council

The speaker was: Paola Salwan Daher, Center for Reproductive Rights:

UN cancels all human rights side events because of Covid-19

March 4, 2020

Late last week, Swiss authorities took the unprecedented step of prohibiting large public events in response to a growing number of coronavirus cases. As a consequence, events such as the International Motor Show, which attracts a half-million people and Swiss watch exhibits, which draw enthusiastic crowds of thousands of people, have been canceled.  See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/03/03/another-covid-19-casualty-the-2020-human-rights-film-festival-of-geneva-fifdh/

Human Rights spokesman Rolando Gomez says 200 side events will be canceled until the end of this council session on March 20.  He says that is an unfortunate, but responsible measure to take in order to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.  He tells VOA the meetings generally attract on average 4,000 to 6,000 participants during the course of the session. He says those side events are very important.

I should point out just as a technical note they are not official council side events,” said Gomez. “They take place in parallel and they are important as they inform the discussions in the formal proceedings. Of course, those lobbying efforts will continue unabated, which are important.” Side events are organized by non-governmental organizations and states.  The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights also has spent a lot of time and effort in organizing several gatherings aimed at exploring particular aspects of human rights that demand a more comprehensive hearing and analysis. They will not be held.

https://www.voanews.com/science-health/coronavirus-outbreak/coronavirus-prompts-cancellation-human-rights-events-un

Changes in the governance of the Martin Ennals Foundation

February 23, 2020

Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders

Having just reported on the laureate of the Martin Ennals Award 2020 [ https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/22/huda-al-sarari-is-the-laureate-of-the-2020-martin-ennals-award-for-human-rights-defenders/], I should add that the Martin Ennals Foundation has undergone several changes in its managment. A new Chairman, Philippe Currat, a well-known Geneva lawyer (see: https://www.martinennalsaward.org/boards/philippe-currat/), takes over from Dick Oosting (Oosting is a former Amnesty International staff member who worked closely with Martin Ennals himself as deputy SG). At the same time a new vice-chair was appointed: Barbara Lochbihler, a prominent human rights expert from Germany who last year completed ten years in the European Parliament and is now a member of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances. Since last summer, Isabel de Sola is the new director (see: https://www.martinennalsaward.org/boards/isabel-de-sola/). Together with a new team at the Ville de Genève, good progress was made to redesign the award ceremony of 19 February. This year’s finalists are offered so-called ‘residencies’ to benefit from their presence in Geneva and Switzerland as well as to be able to share their experiences more widely. First steps were taken to open up local educational activities. Communications have been significantly upgraded.

Dick Oosting said that the hand-over marks a broader process of change in the way that the foundation operates. In sharpened its strategy in several ways: by developing activities and profile in Geneva; by exploring the scope for more sustained work with past laureates and finalists; by working more closely with the jury organizations; and by strengthening overall communications.

Philippe Curat was present at the press conference of this year and stated: “The Martin Ennals Foundation is particularly proud to honour and support three resilient women human rights defenders this year, our laureate Huda Al-Sarari, as well as our two finalists Sizani Ngubane and Norma Librada Ledezma for their achievements. We hope that the award will shed a light on their achievements, and strengthen protection mechanisms around them”.

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Martin Ennals Award ceremony on 19 February – in Geneva and on internet

February 10, 2020

The MARTIN ENNALS AWARDS CERMONY 2020 will take place on Wednesday 19 February 2020, 18h00, at the Salle communale de Plainpalais in Geneva. It wil honour three women human rights defenders for their exceptional courage and dedication:

Ms Huda Al-Sarari, Yemen

Ms Norma Ledezma, Mexico

Ms Sizani Ngubane, South Africa

See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/26/breaking-news-mea-has-3-women-hrds-as-finalists-for-2020/

If you are in Geneva on 19 February please REGISTER . If not, note that the event with be live streamed. More information to follow on: https://www.martinennalsaward.org/.

Please spread the message.

Side event preparing the UPR process on Turkey

January 22, 2020

In the framework of the 35th session of the Universal Periodic Review, Press Emblem campaign (PEC) and International Observatory for Human Rights (IOHR) are organising a side event entitled ‘Information meeting on the UPR process in Turkey‘ within the Palais des Nations on Monday, 27 of January, Room XXV from 1 to 2.30 pm.

Key Note Speaker:
Ambassador Stephen Rapp Former United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues in the Office of Global Criminal Justice

Panel 1: Press Freedom
Guest Speakers
Mr Yavuz Baydar: Editor-in-Chief of Ahval
Ms Evin Barış Altıntaş: Journalist & Blogger
Mr Massimo Frigo: Senior Legal Advisor for International Commission for Jurists

Panel 2: Human Rights Defenders
Guest Speakers
Şebnem Korur Fincancı – President of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey
Nurcan Baysal – Award-winning Turkish Human Rights Defender & Journalist [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/05/18/breaking-news-five-front-line-award-winners-2018-announced/]
Anne van Wezel – Former Co-Chair, EESC EU-Turkey Joint Consultative Committee

Moderator: Louise Pyne Jones, Head of Research, IOHR

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/13/press-emblem-campaign-pec-reports-to-human-rights-council-on-media-casualties/

https://www.pressemblem.ch/

Welcoming the New Year with civil society in Geneva

January 1, 2020

ISHR and  HRCnet are hosting a welcome reception for Ambassador Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, the incoming President of the Human Rights Council. On Thursday 16 January 2020, 6:15pm – 7:30pm, Rue de Varembé 1, Geneva, Ground Floor Conference Room. This will be an opportunity for civil society colleagues, human rights experts and diplomats to meet and greet the incoming President and Vice-Presidents and wish farewell to the outgoing Bureau in a relaxed atmosphere. As space is limited, you need to register for this event.

Please click here to register before 12:00 noon on Monday 13 January. And for those who won’t be in Geneva that night: ISHR would love to hear your thoughts about what the Human Rights Council’s priorities for 2020 should be. Feel free to share them on Twitter using #HRC2020 and we’ll share a selection with the incoming HRC President. ISHR thanks the Permanent Mission of Australia for its contribution to the civil society welcome reception.

A HAPPY NEW YOUR TO YOU ALL

“Are You With Me?” – the life of Kevin Boyle

December 23, 2019

One Man’s War for Human Dignity: The Extraordinary Life of Kevin Boyleis the title of a piece by Charles Norchi (law professor) in Global Geneva of 6 December 2019. It is about the new book by Mike Chinoy about the life and work of Kevin Boyle, the Northern Irish human rights activist: “Are You With Me? Kevin Boyle and the Rise of the Human Rights Movement”. It chronicles the life of a man who spanned civil rights in Northern Ireland and the human rights movement from the halls of academia to international organizations and tribunals.

Boyle, a scholar-teacher-advocate-counselor who, like Eleanor Roosevelt, occupied multiple roles in the human rights movement, played a significant role in helping to bring an end to this turmoil which also affected the United Kingdom itself, Ireland, Europe and the United States. Yet he remained an unsung hero, until this book.

…Chinoy delivers the reader to a front row seat of the late 20th Century human rights canvass – the Northern Ireland civil rights movement, advocacy before the European Court of Human Rights, academia, civil society and the flowering human rights movement. Boyle was at the forefront of it all. From his perch at the Queen’s University Law Faculty in Belfast, he drafted proposals for resolving the Northern Irish conflict. He also shone a light upon the abuses perpetrated by the British army and Northern Ireland police in a landmark case to the European Commission on behalf of seven Northern Irish men who were interned without trial, beaten and tortured. He mobilized international law on behalf of victims of torture, unjust imprisonment, discrimination and defended freedom of expression, belief and association.

Boyle with former Irish president Mary Robinson during her stint as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva (1997-2002).

Boyle also guided Amnesty International’s campaign against apartheid in South Africa, and spearheaded efforts to defend Salman Rushdie as Director of Article 19. Yet he never neglected human rights teaching, because students were the future. So he Directed the University of Essex Human Rights Law Centre and was founding Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland at Galway. When President Mary Robinson became United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, she wisely appointed Boyle her chief legal advisor – so he moved to Geneva.

This human rights law professor, advocate and activist died of lung cancer at age sixty-seven. At the time my University of Maine School of Law colleague Orlando Delogu who taught with Boyle at Galway observed, “He was single minded in his defence of oppressed people. The breadth of his interests was quite amazing, but always behind the scenes, the use of law – never violence.” Boyle helped lay the foundation for expanded human rights protections across the planet and inspired generations of scholars and activists.

How did Chinoy choose the title for this book? Boyle was first a university teacher. While lecturing he would pause and ask his students, “Are you with me?” It was a two-fold question. Did they understand the material? And would they be with him on the front line in the fight for human rights? “Are you with me?”

Are You With Me? will be launched at Essex University on 19 March 2020, with book events to follow in Dublin, Belfast, London, Galway and  Oxford. it can be pre-ordered through Lilliput Press: https://www.lilliputpress.ie/product/are-you-with-me

One Man’s War for Human Dignity: The Extraordinary Life of Kevin Boyle

Vacancies at the International Service for Human Rights in Geneva and New York

December 17, 2019

has some vacancies:

 

Digital Communications Officer – Geneva (Maternity Cover, 60%)

Do you have a passion for changing the world? Are you a fan of new technologies and the opportunities offered by the digital space? Then this might be the right opportunity for you! This temporary position (5-8 months) within ISHR’s communications team offers a unique opportunity to view the United Nations human rights system at work in Geneva. It provides hands-on experience working for an international non-governmental organisation as well as the opportunity to contribute to our work supporting human rights defenders to achieve a world that’s more equal, fair and sustainable. How to apply.

Programme Internships – New York

The internship offers a unique opportunity to view the United Nations human rights system at work in New York. It provides hands-on experience working for an international non-governmental organisation as well as the opportunity to contribute to our work supporting human rights defenders, strengthening human rights systems, building and leading human rights coalitions, and responding to significant and systemic situations of concern. How to apply.

Programme Internships – Geneva 

The ISHR Programme internships offer a unique opportunity to view the United Nations human rights system at work in Geneva. They provide hands-on experience working for an international non-governmental organisation (NGO) as well as the opportunity to contribute to our work supporting human rights defenders, strengthening human rights systems, building and leading human rights coalitions, and responding to significant and systemic human rights concern. How to apply.

http://ishr.ch/vacancies

Panel on Human Rights Education: 16 December in Geneva

December 7, 2019

Promoting human rights, tolerance and non-discrimination: role of education

Monday 16 December 2019, 18:30 – 20:00
Auditorium A2 | Maison de la paix, Geneva

Slurs and stereotypes are not only hurtful, but also symptomize ignorance and misunderstanding. Ideologies anchored in hate and prejudice threaten the realization of all peoples’ human rights and attack our common humanity. Technological changes are making it easier for extremists to disseminate their hate and discriminatory propaganda. This has a profound impact on society in a number of ways that are pertinent for education.

Panelists:
•    Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
•    Ahmed Shaheed, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief
•    Herbert Winter, President of Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities and World Jewish Congress Vice PresidentModerator:

•    Davide Rodogno, Professor of International History and Faculty Affiliate of the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy, Graduate Institute, Geneva

The event will be followed by a reception.

REGISTER HERE