Posts Tagged ‘genocide convention’

Human Rights Day 2018 – anthology part II

December 11, 2018

Yesterday I published a small selection of events related to International Human Rights Day [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/10/human-rights-day-2018-just-an-anthology/] but things keep coming in so here is the follow-up with another 10 items:

  1. in the UN family: ReliefWeb published an overview of how the UN family has been making sure that this year’s Human Rights Day succeeds in raising awareness of the principles enshrined in the document, which are as important and relevant today, as they were in 1948. It refers to SG António Guterres and UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet in Marrakesh for global migration pact on Monday…..

Threats to human rights were also being highlighted at UN headquarters in New York on Monday, where charities, non-governmental organizations and members of civil society were joined by Andrew Gilmour, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, for a discussion about the ways that modern challenges, unforeseen 70 years ago, are impacting rights. The talk covered digital technologies, which have led to many benefits, but also brought about new risks which could replicate, and even exacerbate existing threats to human rights; and climate change, which risks making much of the planet uninhabitable.

Defending human rights in conflict zones:

..In Afghanistan, the UN Assistance Mission (UNAMA) renewed its call for human rights and fundamental freedoms to be respected in the country, welcoming breakthroughs such as the work of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, new laws empowering the media, a new Penal Code reflecting the country’s commitment to promote fundamental freedoms, and the presence of women in civil service positions and in the private sector. Meanwhile, in South Sudan, commuters in the capital, Juba, got the chance to see their military in a different light on Monday: as athletes. Hundreds of military personnel – as well as police and prison officers, fire-fighters and members of the wildlife services – took part in a 10-kilometre race around the streets of the capital, organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), to promote awareness of human rights and the need for peace in the conflict-affected country. Speaking on Monday, David Shearer, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMISS, said that “the only way that South Sudan is going to recover is by having peace and respect for human rights. If respect for human rights is there, then there is peace. If there is peace, it involves respect for human rights and people’s ethnicity and political persuasion. The two things go hand in hand.

 

2. The Phnom Penh Post of 10 December () reports that the Cambodian authorities used the occasion to a ban march for Human Rights Day

Phnom Penh authorities have banned a planned march as local NGOs and workers’ unions gear up to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Monday, with a youth group leader saying they would march nonetheless….In a letter issued on Saturday, Mean Chanyada, Phnom Penh’s deputy governor, said the NGOs concerned had been told that they could celebrate the anniversary at Freedom Park but marching was prohibited. “If [you] gather at a location outside the permitted area and continue to march on the street, which would affect security, safety and public order, the representatives will face the law,” Chanyada said. Sar Mory, the deputy chief of the Cambodian Youth Network (CYN) said on Sunday that he was concerned that important messages would not reach the public if they were to celebrate the anniversary without marching. “The reason we want to march is that we want to get our messages heard, ……

 

3. The winners of the “Kids for Human Rights” international drawing competition were announced on 10 December 2018. Nine young, creative artists from Australia, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Canada, Iran, Portugal, Thailand and the United States have won the top prizes in the “Kids for Human Rights” international drawing competition, launched earlier this year by the United Nations and the Gabarron Foundation. The call generated more than 17,000 entries. The full list winners is available hereThe international jury was presided by internationally known Spanish artist Cristóbal Gabarrón and included Hani Abbas, a Syrian-Palestinian cartoonist who won the 2014 Editorial Cartoon International Prize awarded by Cartooning for Peace, Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Susanna Griso, Spanish journalist and television presenter, Jenna Ortega, a young American actress, Tomas Paredes, President of the Spanish chapter of the International Association of Art Critics, and Jayathma Wickramanayake, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Youth.

 

4. The International Policy Digest used the occasion to draw attention to another international document that celebrates its 70th anniversary: the Genocide Convention which was signed into life a day before the UDHR, 9 December.,, It was the Polish-Jewish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin, who advocated for an international law for the crime of genocide. Before 1944, there was no law. However, in the wake of the Holocaust, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 260 (III) A on December 9, 1948 outlawing genocide. On January 12, 1951, the Convention came into force. …The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has argued that genocide continues to remain a “threat and reality.” She urged nations to act based on the “warning signs” often preceding genocide. She added that the crime of genocide is as real today as it was at the time of its signing. There are still 45 UN Member States who yet to ratify or agree to the Convention...

 

5. In Zimbabwe, a prominent human rights defender reminded Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa that he had termed the abduction of journalist activist Itai Dzamara “barbaric” and called on him to follow his words with actions to prevent and punish rights abuses. [Dzamara has been missing since March 2015].  Zimbabwe Peace Project director Jestina Mukoko said: “With all due respect, I call upon the President to return to the words and show that it is barbaric. Such things are not expected from civilised people, inflicting pain on another person and the constitution clearly states that.”….Lawyer Jeremiah Bhamu, who has represented many abduction victims, called on the Zimbabwean government to ratify the convention on torture…The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association said while the adoption of the new constitution with a modern Declaration of Rights, enshrined in chapter four, in 2013 has been an important milestone, a lot needed to be done to align laws, respect its provisions and establish a culture of constitutionalism. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/08/jestina-mukokos-150-000-triumph-in-zimbabwe-gives-hope-to-all-torture-victims/]

 

6. “As human rights declaration turns 70, development banks have a way to go to respect and protect rights defenders” writes Olexi Pasyuk in Bankwatch. To coincide with this milestone, Bankwatch together with more than 200 organisations globally has called on international financiers to ensure that these institutions support the realisation of human rights, avoid causing or contributing to rights abuses, promote an enabling environment for public participation, and safeguard rights defenders.

 

7.  

Today, on the occasion of the Human Rights Day – 20 years on from the first UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and on the 70th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights – The Human Rights Defenders World Summit 2018 published the final document of the action plan for the protection and the promotion of the work of human rights defenders. This action plan proposes a concrete set of measures and calls for a lasting commitment from States and other key actors to act to protect human rights defenders and to take concrete actions to offer better protection and create a more enabling environment for their work. We trust that this document will become a key reference for advocacy work at national, regional and international levels for the years to come. The action plan is available to download in five languages on the Summit’s website https://hrdworldsummit.org/action-plan/ It will be presented at the United Nations in New York on December 18th during the high level panel of experts on the situation of HRDs at the initiative of Norway. More information soon on the summit facebook page and website. See also  Summit’s Facebook page, and on the website. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/07/24/announcement-of-the-human-rights-defenders-world-summit-in-paris-october-2018/]

 

8. Democracy without Borders writes on the occasion that Human rights defenders continue to face onerous challenges. In response to these challenges, Democracy Without Borders joined more than 900 other civil society organizations from across the world in supporting a global statement that urges governments “to create an enabling environment for HRDs to operate in line with regional and international human rights obligations and standards.”

Supporters of the Yellow Umbrella human rights and democracy movement in Hong Kong face state persecution. Source: Studio Incendo/Flickr
…..Unfortunately, as is evident from the monitoring of the situation of HRDs, those at the forefront of defending, promoting and protecting human rights are prime targets of attacks perpetrated by state and non-state actors. HRDs are often victims of physical assaults, and arbitrary and unlawful detention is the number one tactic of repression used by states. It is the increasingly threatening situation for HRDs that motivates the current global statement. [CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation,. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/07/global-statement-on-the-20th-anniversary-of-the-un-declaration-on-human-rights-defenders/]

9.  In the Philippines, in line with the country’s celebration of Human Rights Day, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) opened on Monday a freedom park to honor those who fought against human rights violation. Dubbed as the Liwasang Diokno, the CHR commemorated the heroic act of late Senator Jose ‘Ka Pepe’ Diokno, whom the agency tagged as a “symbol of freedom, democracy, and human rights.” Diokno was one of those individuals who fought to attain democracy in the country during the Martial Law era under the Marcos administration. a statue of Diokno was also installed inside the park with the approval of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.With the opening of the Liwasang Diokno at the central office of CHR in Quezon City, the human rights group urged the public to continue to be more active in defending the human rights. The freedom park has a 30-tier fountain in its center, symbolizing the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

 

10.  A lights projection showing the faces of imprisoned, threatened and at-risk human rights defenders (HRDs) from around the world will shine at Dublin City Hall to mark the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The faces will be projected on December 10th and 11th during a public reception, hosted by the Lord Mayor of Dublin Nial Ring with Front Line Defenders, Dublin City Council and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

———

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/worldwide-un-family-celebrates-enduring-universal-values-human-rights

https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/phnom-penh-authorities-ban-march-human-rights-day

https://www.unog.ch/unog/website/news_media.nsf/(httpNewsByYear_en)/7C0D10EB243EC1FEC125835F003D589B?OpenDocument

https://intpolicydigest.org/2018/12/10/two-important-days-on-the-un-calendar-warranting-greater-attention/

https://citizen.co.za/news/news-africa/2048178/human-rights-defenders-urge-mnangagwa-to-walk-the-talk-on-rights-abuses/

https://bankwatch.org/blog/as-human-rights-declaration-turns-70-development-banks-have-a-ways-to-go-to-respect-and-protect-rights-defenders?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Bankwatch-blog+%28Bankwatch+blog%29

Evîn Bagdu, international human rights expert, discusses Kurdish genocide claims

May 13, 2015

Rudaw is a Kurdish media network funded and supported by Rudaw Company. The network aims to impart news and information about Kurdistan and the Middle East in a professional manner.  Evîn Bagdu is  being interviewed about the issue of genocide and how the Kurdish case fits into this. A long but interesting read:

Evîn Bagdu, an international human rights  law expert.
Evîn Bagdu, an international human rights law expert.

“Rudaw: Why did the Halabja and Garmiyan mass murders not get the attention from the international community as much as the recently discovered Yezidi mass graves did?

Bagdu: In the history of the human rights movement, the issue of not getting enough attention for the suffering of victims of gross violations has always been a challenge, regardless of the character of the groups or scale of the suffering.  For instance, in Sierra Leone, the news items on the widely practiced mutilation of limbs by the child soldiers couldn’t make it to the big news agencies as it “was too difficult to watch.”

On the other hand, in many cases—historically speaking—while these gross violations and atrocities took place, the victims sometimes have been isolated from the rest of the world as the matter was considered an “internal issue.” So, the doctrine of state sovereignty is frequently used as a shield in such cases.  Examples include the Armenian case in 1915, Jewish case in 1940s, Kurdish case in the Saddam Era—all have this factor in common.

This was the case when the world was unaware of what was happening in these cases. Once a case does become known, the next challenge is how to get a reaction to stop the atrocities.  And, this is the part that is immensely frustrating not only to the human rights defenders alone, but to every human being with a clear conscience. The arguments often put forward are typically:

-The reaction would aggravate the situation and cause more severe suffering for the victims;

-It would be futile;

-It is not the right time for a reaction to the event in question;

-It is not in the national interest of state actors, or against the security of their people.

In fact, prior to the Nuremberg Trials, such systematic and purposeful killings did not even have the name “genocide,” let alone codification of it, as an international crime.

At this point, I believe it is necessary to see the difference between a couple concepts which are important to consider when discussing widespread human rights abuses.  Do the issues pose a moral, political or legal challenge?  As the nature of the issue is gravely inhumane, the first instinct is to approach the issue from the moral stand point.  This usually leads to a disappointment mentioned earlier.

In comparison of the Anfal campaign of 1986-89 to the recent atrocities of 2015 against the Yezidi population, we may also consider the political dimension.  There are undeniable political aspects at stake. But, when we think of other similar incidents of such massacres, the political environment surrounding the situations always differs.

In the Saddam era, there was an Iran/Iraq War, Saddam was a head of state enjoying certain immunities, and holding immense power to control any communication with the outside world.  Today, however, Iraq has a lot more international presence in the country, and media coverage is much more widespread. Therefore, flow of information regarding the facts of the case is easier.

In the Yezidi case, there is an international conflict carried out by a non-state actor against more than one state and the citizens thereof.  It is a conflict that many of the nations of the world see as a global threat to their common peace and security. So, the attention of the international community is more intense in the Yezidi case.  But this was the case in Srebrenica as well.

This brings us to the last concept; the legality.  There is a historic lesson for the Kurds too that needs to be taken from each one of the past gross human rights violations against civilian populations. Other nations have used international legal mechanisms to address the harm done in the past.  It of course is important to get political recognition by states, and in the Anfal case Iraq itself recognized the case as genocide.

But genocide is a crime under international law and such recognition must come from the international courts.  It needs to be investigated, evidence that could clearly substantiate the facts needs to be obtained and then utilized by the court.   But if not proven through the standard, fair, legal processes, by impartial courts, all these events will continue to be referred to as alleged “atrocities,” “campaigns,” and “gross human rights and humanitarian law violations.”  If not thoroughly dealt with, the perpetrators will go free and there will always be a lesson for them that they could get away with it.  The phrase “never again” will turn into “always possible.” This is important, because it relates to the rule of law commitments, it sheds unbiased light on history and more importantly it brings justice therefore some closure to the survivors of such horrible events.
   
Rudaw: Could these mass graves serve as something Kurds could use to get attention to their identity and issues revolving around recognition of their identity?

Bagdu: I will hold my criticism of the usage of terms such as “mass graves” or “martyrs” to refer to certain topics in Iraq for another time (I am saying in Iraq because such usage is not specific to the Kurds only).  What you are asking me is I believe, if Kurds could change the game in their favor by bringing these issues to international attention.  My answer is, absolutely yes! 

The reason there is such an emphasis on proving the genocide is that it is an internationally recognized form of a crime that could only be committed against a group because of the group’s identity.  It does provide a picture to the background of these identity issues, for example: 
 
-how difficult it is to have such identity under regimes which violate their citizens’ human rights (and especially minorities’ rights);

-how to properly observe rights based on group identity;

-to what degree safeguards are provided and needed for the protection and continuity of these identities, and so on and so forth.
 
The current conflict itself is telling so much about this.  While the whole world “absolutely again” is watching or passing resolutions, or in better cases “providing support” while this armed group was making advances into what is called “Iraqi cities,” in the north, it was the Peshmerga and the Kurdish fighters that were defending the civilians and the land. Other armed forces in Iraq simply fled, leaving even their arms behind.

When studying the subject of “indigenous populations’ rights,” the idea of attachment to the land was one element that captured my attention that differed from the ties citizens of modern states hold to the land they live on. To me, these things we have seen in the most recent conflict have demonstrated this phenomenon very well.

Rudaw: Jewish people were also the victims of the genocide by the Nazis and this helped them to get support from the world to help realize their cause.  Why couldn’t the Kurds turn these mass murders into an element to help their suffering get recognition?

Bagdu: To be fair to the Kurds, once there was an opportunity to act, they have done almost everything in their capacity to address their issues.  For instance, regarding Anfal and Halabja after the fall of Saddam, and the emergence of post-Saddam Iraq, Kurds have invested in every aspect of addressing the mass killings and the missing person issue throughout Iraq as a whole. At the time of the Coalition Provisional Authority, they assisted with reconnaissance and exhumation of mass graves and the identification of remains. 

There was a law necessary to address the issue, and they drafted a simpler version of the missing persons law (The Law on Protection of Mass Graves).  A ministry needed to serve as a leading institution, and they held two important ministry seats (namely, the human rights ministry and the foreign ministry) in the national parliament.  They worked with the leading international organization on missing persons issues to duplicate successful practices around the world, (a work still in progress as we speak).

But since you are making a comparison between the Kurdish efforts and the Jewish efforts in addressing the mass murders against their populations, allow me to highlight a couple differences. 

The Jewish Diaspora consisted of very well educated, very committed individuals who did everything in their personal capacity to inform the world of what happened to their people.  In fact, it was because of work done by a Jewish lawyer that genocide took a codified form in statutes.  Even the word genocide was pioneered by Raphael Lemkin. Also, after the atrocities ceased, many of the survivors personally got involved in the hunt for concentration camp guards, military commanders and decision makers in the Nazi army in order for them to be tried before national and international tribunals.

Kurds also have a diaspora scattered around the world.  So, in this sense I believe while the Kurds on the ground are fighting to stop the atrocities, the Kurdish diaspora must assume responsibility to inform the world of the wrong done to their people, as well as documenting and investigating the cases as much as possible.  In the Kurdish case it is worth noting that such efforts have been undermined in the past by states that oppressed their Kurdish populations, and neighboring countries where Kurds live in large numbers. This might remain the case for future attempts as well.”

Rudaw interview with Evîn Bagdu, an international human rights.