Posts Tagged ‘Geneva’

ISHR’s Human Rights Defenders Advocacy Programme 2017 starts on Monday

May 27, 2017

ISHR‘s Human Rights Defenders Advocacy Programme begins on Monday 29 May, with 17 human rights defenders from around the globe travelling to Geneva to learn about strategic engagement with the UN mechanisms.

HRDAP 2016 Participants

The programme equips defenders with the knowledge and skills to make strategic use of the international human rights system. It also provides an opportunity for participants to directly engage in lobbying and advocacy activities at the UN level to effect change on the ground back home. ISHR’s Training and Advocacy Support Manager, Helen Nolan, explains that this year’s HRDAP participants were selected from a pool of 380 applicants – the highest number yet.

We’re incredibly excited to be collaborating with 17 committed human rights defenders working on women’s rights, business and human rights, the rights of LGBTI persons, and human rights defender protection,’ said Nolan. ‘These defenders are travelling from around the globe – including Argentina, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ecuador, Egypt, Fiji, India, Nigeria, Peru, Russia and Sierra Leone – to spend two highly intense weeks gaining practical advocacy experience in Geneva.’

HRDAP coincides with the 35th Session of the Human Rights Council, and well as receiving training modules on all the UN human rights mechanisms from a range of experts, participants will have the opportunity to build networks in Geneva and around the world, carry out lobbying of UN member States and UN staff, and learn from peers from a range of regions working on a range of human rights issues.

Crucially, we know the programme works,’ said Nolan. ‘Last year, 100% of our participants were either very satisfied or satisfied with the programme, with 96% of them having at least partially achieved their key advocacy and learning objectives.’ In 2016, HRDAP enabled:

  • corporate accountability activist Alexandra Montgomery to provide frst hand testimony to state representatives and experts about the violence faced by land rights defenders in Brazil
  • Tehmina Zafar to sound the alarm in the UN Human Rights Council about proposed laws which could dramatically restrict the operation and independence of NGOs in Pakistan
  • Karen Mejía to inform a UN expert body about the need to defend women’s rights activists and decriminalise abortion in Honduras.
  • several participants to contribute substantially to the historic campaign to appoint the first ever UN expert on LGBTI rights

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/11/12/ishr-2017-training-course-for-human-rights-defenders-now-open-for-applications/

http://www.ishr.ch/news/supporting-defenders-ishrs-human-rights-defender-advocacy-programme-kicks

Psychiatric treatment can amount to torture

May 12, 2017

Psychiatric patients are often placed into situations of particular vulnerability, which can qualify as torture. And the use of forced psychiatric treatment on human rights defenders is unfortunately an ongoing affair [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/forced-psychiatric-treatment/]

So, Jean-Jacques Gautier National Preventive Mechanism Symposium 2016, organised by the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT), provided a platform to discuss on how devise recommendations for monitoring psychiatric institutions. The video – produced by THF – above gives an impression.  To learn more about the symposium, visit: goo.gl/7Jlv6R�

Association for the Prevention of Torture: http://www.apt.ch/en

Tomorrow, 26 April, MEA will announce its three Finalist for 2017

April 25, 2017

The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) will announce its three Finalists for 2017 on Wednesday 26 April at 11:00 Geneva time. If you want to find out while on the go see: Social media
@martinennals
#Ennals 2017
https://www.facebook.com/MartinEnnals/

Please share this widely.

For last yea’s announcement see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/27/breaking-news-final-nominees-2016-martin-ennals-award-tohti-zone-9-bloggers-razan-zaitouneh-annoucement/

HRCnet seeks Geneva based coordinator

April 11, 2017

The Human Rights Council Network (HRCnet) is seeking a Coordinator based at the International Service of Human Rights in Geneva. For details on the post see below:
HRCnet is a 10-year old coalition of national, regional and international NGOs engaging with the UN Human Rights Council. Its current members are:
in Africa: African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (The Gambia), DefendDefenders (East and Horn of African Human Rights Defenders Network) (Uganda), Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network (Zimbabwe), West African Human Rights Defenders Network (Togo),
in Asia: Asian Legal Resource Centre (Hong Kong, China), Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM ASIA) (Thailand), Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (India),
in Latin America: Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) (Argentina), Conectas Direitos Humanos (Brazil),
in the Middle East and North Africa: Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (Egypt), Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (Egypt),
and the following  International NGOs: Human Rights Watch (USA), International Service for Human Rights (Switzerland), Open Society Foundations (USA).

Read the rest of this entry »

UN archive on North Korean human rights violations to be established in Geneva

April 8, 2017

The 34th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, 2017

An archive of information and evidence on human rights abuses by the North Korean regime is to be established in Geneva. Quoting a report by the UN Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts (OPPBA), VOA explained that the independent archive, to be created in accordance with a North Korean human resolution adopted by the 34th UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), will be established in physically distant Geneva for the security and total confidentiality of sensitive information.The OPPBA was also quoted as saying a legal officer with at least seven years of experience would be needed to integrate and preserve information and evidence in connection with the archive’s establishment at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva, along with another information management officer with at least five years of experience to conduct practical affairs. It also said its UN human rights office in Seoul would require three staffers: one international criminal system expert, one expert in South Korean criminal law, and one expert in interpreting for South Korean law. On 24 March 2017, the UNHRC adopted a North Korean resolution by non-voting agreement that recommends the international community’s cooperation in investigating responsibility in connection with the findings of a Commission of Inquiry (COI) report on crimes against humanity by the North Korean regime.The resolution suggested specific procedures and methods over the next two years for assigning responsibility for North Korea’s human rights abuses, including boosting the capabilities of the North Korean human rights office and OHCHR, establishing the archive, and appointing legal experts to collect and preserve information and evidence needed for procedures in investigating responsibility.

see also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/02/20/north-korea-the-un-report-in-images/

Source: UN archive on N. Korean human rights abuses to be established in Geneva : North Korea : News : The Hankyoreh

New magazine “Global Geneva” puts “Civitas Maxima” in the limelight

March 21, 2017

Global Geneva is a new English language magazine for the international hub that Geneva want to be. In the issue of 15 March 2017. William Thatcher Dowell discusses the work of ‘CIVITAS MAXIMA’A Tiny Swiss Group of Lawyers Takes on War crimes and Crimes Against Humanity“.

The International Criminal Court at the Hague was created in 2002 to hold individuals responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The concept was good, but the international tribunal was almost immediately paralyzed by politics (See article in the latest edition of Global Geneva on justice must be seen to be done). As William Dowell writes, Alain Werner, who created Civitas Maxima in 2012, has a different idea: “represent the victims and fight the cases in domestic courts if need be

Rather than depend exclusively on international tribunals, Werner believes that it is worth shifting the focus to the actual victims of war crimes, and working with them to compile the solid evidence that is needed to enable a prosecution to stand up in any court of law. Once the evidence is there, the cases can be prosecuted in any court that expressly outlaws crimes against humanity. It does not matter if the court is an international tribunal, a specially constituted war crimes court or even an ordinary domestic court.

The name, Civitas Maxima, which translates roughly as “the greater state”, is reference to the legal term in Latin that captures the notion that all civilized societies hold certain values in common.  The implication is that any society, which considers itself civilized, will instinctively condemn international crimes such as crimes against humanity and war crimes. So far, Werner’s group has been investigating well over 10 cases, and at least three have led to actual arrests by national authorities since 2014. That may not seem much, but in fact, it represents a third of the extra-territorial arrests by national states for international crimes in 2014 and 2015. During that period, only eight extra territorial arrests by national authorities took place world-wide. One of Werner’s cases is currently being prosecuted in Switzerland; two are in Belgium. One of the accused, a naturalized American who held Belgian nationality and was arrested in Spain, died while in jail awaiting trial this spring.  This was the first time ever a Western businessman was arrested for the trade of so-called blood diamonds. Werner did this in conjunction with a local Sierra Leone partner, the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL). Most of the current public cases involve militia leaders who were responsible for atrocities during civil wars in Liberia.

Alain Werner as a lawyer is also representing victims of Hissène Habré, who was president of Chad from 1982 until 1990. The Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal, convicted Habré last May on charges of rape, sexual slavery, and slaughtering members of opposing tribes. Werner had been working on the case since 2008, and it was typical of the kind of case that the ICC would have particular difficulty in dealing with, even if it had jurisdiction. …….“One of the major issues in international justice,” Werner says, “is the fact that politics always affects the process. The International Criminal Court tries to create the impression that it is independent, but so far it has been mainly driven by political factors.” The answer to this conundrum, Werner feels, is for more independent organizations with legal expertise similar to that of Civitas Maxima to take the lead in building convincing cases that will stand up in court, and which cannot be ignored. “Organizations that advocate and write reports, like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, are doing a great job,” he says. “But in the end, you badly need independent lawyers and trained investigators who can compile evidence that meets international standards.”

A key requirement, of course, is funding. Werner says, “If you work independently you have to come up with the funds on your own, and in our case that is complicated by the fact that we do not accept funding from governments.”  

[Werner’s own involvement in prosecuting war crimes started with his work for the Special Court for Sierra Leone in 2003, including the trial of the former president of Liberia Charles Taylor…… In 2009, he went to Cambodia to represent victims in the case of the Khmer Rouge who had run the infamous S-21 concentration camp that fed into the “killing fields.”  After that he joined an independent group, the Aegis Trust, which also runs the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda , and which had a small programme focused on helping victims gather evidence.  The initiative ran out of funding after about two years, but by then Werner was already heavily involved in a number of cases involving victims of Charles Taylor’s operations in Liberia.  Werner decided that he couldn’t abandon the work, and so he created Civitas Maxima]

Werner is also collecting evidence from victims of Ivory Coast’s current president, Alassane Ouattara, whose forces are accused of committing atrocities during the post-electoral violence of 2010 and 2011. His predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo, is the first head of state to be tried for war crimes at the ICC for atrocities committed during the same period by his own forces.  With both current and past president accused of war crimes, Ivory Coast is a particularly sensitive area…..

We need to grow the concept,” he says. “Will Civitas Maxima continue to be successful, or will another independent take the idea and make it grow? I don’t know, but I am convinced that we really need this innovative approach. In the United States, you have a head of state saying that torture is fine and in the Philippines another one boasting about the fact that he has killed criminals. The climate is getting crazy. We absolutely need more fiercely independent lawyers to use their expertise to counter impunity for mass crimes.

Source: CIVITAS MAXIMA—A Tiny Swiss Group of Lawyers Takes on War crimes and Crimes Against Humanity | Global Geneva

True Heroes Films organises training workshop in filming and interviewing

March 15, 2017

 is organizing a hands-on workshop to learn how to produce film portraits and testimonies on human rights and humanitarian issues. 
28 March 2017 (14h00 to 17h00) & 29 March (09h00 to 17h00) at CAGI, Route de Ferney 106, Genève 1202. By the end of the 1.5 day course you should be able to film and direct your own interviews. Cost 350CHF. For more information, contact Jo Maxwell Scott:  jo[at]trueheroesfilms.org

REGISTER ONLINE: http://trueheroesfilms.org/training/

Independence of the Legal Profession subject of side event on 16 March 2017

March 9, 2017

Lawyers for Lawyers and The Law Society of England & Wales organize a UN side event on the “The Independence of the Legal Profession” on Thursday 16 March 2017, 3 – 5 pm in Room XXIII of the Palais des Nations, Geneva.

Keynote speaker: Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers

 

Panelists:

·        Khalid Baghirov, lawyer (Azerbaijan)

·        Ayse Bingol Demir, lawyer (Turkey) [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/01/23/persecution-of-lawyers-and-journalists-in-turkey-side-event-in-geneva-on-27-january/]

·         Michel Togué, lawyer (Cameroon) [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/02/13/death-threats-against-human-rights-defenders-alice-nkom-and-michel-togue-in-cameroon/]

The panelists will share their experiences, obstacles faced by members of  the legal profession in their respective countries, and possible ways to improve the safety of lawyers who work in challenging contexts.

The event is co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Australia and Paraguay as well as the following NGOs: – Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC),- Union Internationale des Avocats (UIA), – Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC), – International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), – Avocats Sans Frontières Suisse (ASF Switzerland), – International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), – Judges for Judges (J4J), – Human Rights House Foundation and- Peace Brigades International (PBI, UK)

To register (for those without passes, until 12 March 2017): S.deGraaf@lawyersforlawyers.nl

For enquiriesRoberta.Taveri@lawsociety.org.uk

 

 

 

 

 

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

Parallel Event on Asian Justice Institutions and HRDs on 2 March 2017 in Geneva

February 27, 2017

Parallel event on Asian Justice Institutions and Human Rights Defenders to be held on 2 March 2017 2:00 PM in Room: XXIII, Palais de Nations, Geneva, SwitzerlandModerator/Chair: Mr. Bijo Francis, Executive Director, Asian Legal Resource Centre

Speakers in the Panel:
1. Mr. Basil Fernando, Director, Policy and Programme, Asian Human Rights Commission
2. Mr. Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research, CIVICUS
3. Mr. Sharan Srinivas, Director, Research and Advocacy, Right Livelihood Award Foundation
contact: Md. Ashrafuzzaman, Main Representative, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Cell: +41 (0) 766 38 26 59, Email: zaman@ahrc.asia .
Background: Human rights defenders across the world today have to overcome restrictive and challenging circumstances to undertake their mandate. These challenges could be broadly classified into three categories. They are: (i) restrictions imposed through statutes or regulatory processes; (ii) false accusations and fabricated cases registered by the state against HRDs and their organisations; and (iii) threats presented against HRDs by non-state actors, including fundamentalist religious forces.

Of the above three categories, the first and second could be overcome to a large degree at the national level, had the criminal justice institutions in Asian states been independent, and are able to decide upon cases that these institutions are called upon to engage upon.

Asian states today often enact legislations to restrict the operations of HRDs and the organisations they represent. China for instance, has legislations that directly impede the operation of HRDs . Indeed, the law does not prohibit the operation of ‘foreign’ NGOs, but stipulates obtaining permissions from different state agencies before commencing work, and has cast a broad net that prohibits organisations from engaging in activities otherwise considered to be human rights work, including: advocacy, legal assistance, labour, religion, and ethnic minority affairs. State agencies are given unbridled powers to interpret an activity as one under any of these prohibited criteria. The situation of domestic NGOs, including lawyers is worse in China even before the enactment of the new ‘foreign NGO’ law. The government has imposed heavy scrutiny and restrictions upon domestic NGOs, and often detain HRDs and lawyers on criminal charges.

China however is not an exception in the Asian region. Thailand for instance has legislations in place even prior to the military coup that restricts HRDs and civil society work. Thai state has spared no resources to oppress HRDs, often using the law against defamation that has penal provisions, interpreted at the will of the state by the country’s courts. After the coup, the National Peace and Reconciliation Council has promulgated ordinances that literally restrict all forms of freedom. HRDs who campaigned against the military’s version of the current Thai constitution, and the namesake referendum that was organised by the military, were arrested and imprisoned.

Bangladesh, against all its obligations under domestic and international law detains HRDs, forces closure of civil society organisations by repeatedly raiding their offices and seizing office equipment and documents, and does not allow these organisations to operate their bank accounts. India too engages in similar tactics against civil society organisations that openly criticise the government and its policies. Similar circumstances exist in most other states in the region, including Singapore, Myanmar, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

In Pakistan, the state is engaged in a shadow war against the civil society using right-wing religious forces, including right-wing media, that has systematically targeted HRDs who have advocated for democratic governance, and in particular urged the country\’s military from illegally and arbitrarily intervening in civilian administration.

In all the above circumstances, what is witnessed is the increasing role played by the entire criminal justice apparatus in Asian states that collide with the state in repressing HRDs and civil society work. Asian states liberally use their agencies like the police, prosecutor\’s office and other specialised agencies to obstruct HRDs in their work, often alleging false criminal charges against organisations or the staff members of these organisations. On the other hand, Asian judiciary has repeatedly failed to intervene in these cases despite the civil society reaching out to the courts for justice.

In instances where restrictive legislations are enacted or executive orders issued, restricting civil society freedom, the judiciary has the responsibility to intervene, and if necessary, annul the law or the executive order holding it as one against constitutional rights and the state\’s obligation under international human rights law. Instead, the Asian judiciary often support state actions. Instances where cases are adjourned without a decision being made are common.

Improving Asia’s human rights standards is not possible without radical reforms brought into the region’s justice delivery framework, particularly of the criminal justice procedures. The absence of independence and professionalism of Asia’s justice architecture is the cornerstone upon which impunity is built in the region. Asian states are aware of this and has consciously kept their justice institutions under direct control. Today Asian HRDs and the entire civil society in the region suffers due to this. Effective judicial intervention in instances where the state exceeds its mandate and stifle civil society work is an exception than a norm.

The side event organised by the Asian Legal Resource Centre, along with The Right Livelihood Award Foundation is an attempt to expose the dubious role played by Asia’s justice institutions in stifling civil society work in the region. The event is also an attempt to raise awareness about this scenario in the global human rights community and to seek support to address this problem.

www.humanrights.asia.