Posts Tagged ‘George Floyd’

UN experts address 3 big ones: USA, China and India

June 27, 2020

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Joint statements by groups of UN experts are becoming more frequent, with at least three this month. When it comes to major powers like the USA, China and India – who are rather sensitive when criticised – there must be safety in numbers:

Addressing the USA after George Floyd..

On 5 June 2020 nearly 30 independent experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council called for the United States to reform its criminal justice system in the wake of a recent spate of killings of African Americans, including at the hands of the police. In their statement they urged the US authorities to address systemic racism and racial bias, and to conduct independent investigations into cases of excessive use of force by police officers.

The UN human rights experts charged that these killings involved impunity, disregard or depravity toward human life, and the use of public spaces to assert racial control, with each characteristic of a modern-day lynching. “The latest videos to surface showing white men chase, corner, and execute a young man who was out jogging, or showing an officer kneeling with his weight on a man’s neck for eight minutes shock the conscience and evoke the very terror that the lynching regime in the United States was intended to inspire”, they said.

With millions of Americans taking to the streets, the experts also expressed concern about police response to these protests. They said demonstrations have been marked by violence, arbitrary arrest, militarisation and the detention of thousands of protesters. Journalists of colour have also been targeted and detained, some of whom have faced violence and harassment.

UN Experts Urge India To Release Protest Leaders

On 26 June 2020 13 UN experts jointly called on India to immediately release human rights defenders who have been arrested for protesting against changes to the nation’s citizenship laws. “These defenders, many of them students, appear to have been arrested simply because they exercised their right to denounce and protest against the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act), and their arrest seems clearly designed to send a chilling message to India’s vibrant civil society that criticism of government policies will not be tolerated,” the experts said.

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/03/05/indias-overblown-notion-of-sovereignty-no-to-un-advice-for-supreme-court/]

Authorities should immediately release all human rights defenders who are currently being held in pre-trial detention without sufficient evidence, often simply on the basis of speeches they made criticising the discriminatory nature of the CAA,” they said. (Meeran Haider, Gulfisha Fatima, Safoora Zargar, Asif Iqbal Tanha, Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal, Khalid Saifi, Shifa Ur Rehman, Dr. Kafeel Khan, Sharjeel Imam, Akhil Gogoi.)

The experts also highlighted their concern that the authorities’ response to the protests seemed discriminatory. It appears they have not similarly investigated allegations of incitement to hatred and violence made by CAA supporters, some of whom are reported to have chanted “shoot the traitors” at counter-rallies.

UN experts call for decisive measures to protect ‘fundamental freedoms’ in China

On 26 June 2020 almost 50 UN independent experts on Friday to express their continuing alarm, urging the country to “abide by its international legal obligations”.

After having “repeatedly communicated” their concerns, they highlighted the repression of protests and democracy advocacy in the Hong Kong; impunity for excessive use of force by police; the alleged use of chemical agents against protesters; the alleged sexual harassment and assault of women protesters in police stations; together with the alleged harassment of health care workers.

The experts also raised their “grave concerns” on issues ranging from the collective repression of specific communities – “especially religious and ethnic minorities, in Xinjiang and Tibet” – to the detention of lawyers and prosecution – in addition to disappearances – of human rights defenders across the country. .

They urged China to invite civil and political rights monitors to conduct independent missions “in an environment of confidentiality, respect for human rights defenders, and full avoidance of reprisals” and encouraged the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to urgently monitor Chinese human rights practices. 

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/06/1065722

https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO2006/S00162/un-experts-urge-india-to-release-protest-leaders.htm

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/06/1067312

15 June: the 44th UN Human Rights Council goes ahead in a special way

June 15, 2020

Overview of the session of the Human Rights Council during the speech of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle…

Lisa Schlein reported on 14 June 2020 that the U.N. Human Rights Council will be faced with many important issues left hanging when its 43rd session was suspended in March because of COVID-19. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/24/human-rights-defenders-issues-on-the-agenda-of-43rd-human-rights-council/]  The 44th session, which opens today, will employ a so-called hybrid approach, with a mix of both real and virtual presentations. To ensure the safety of participants during this time of coronavirus, U.N. officials say social distancing measures will be strictly enforced.  Delegations will have a reduced number of representatives attending the session and hundreds of side events by nongovernmental organizations will not take place on U.N. premises.

Presentation of reports and interactive dialogues on human rights issues will involve experts who are either physically present or speaking by video conference.  Countries that will come under review include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Ukraine, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Central African Republic.

One of the highlights of the weeklong meeting will be an urgent debate on institutionalized racism in the United States underlined by the killing of African American George Floyd while in police custody.

The ISHR states on this topic that it is committed to highlighting how the voices of the families of those killed by police in the U.S., including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Michael Brown, and the organisations supporting them are driving the UN to call for action to stop the killings and address deep-seated racism and inequality. This is necessary but not sufficient; we echo the call of the UN independent human rights experts and the Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that ‘this is a time for action and not just talk’.

This is why we’ve joined more than 600 organisations, from the U.S. and around the world, in calling on the UN Human Rights Council to hold a Special Session on the situation of human rights in the U.S.

The international community has a critical role to play in advancing independent, expert inquiry into systemic racism in law enforcement in the U.S., starting with the uprising in Ferguson, Missouri, and the concerns of excessive use of force against protestors and journalists since George Floyd’s murder.

Geneva director of Human Rights Watch John Fisher calls this a moment of reckoning for the United States.  He said the event will likely be used by some countries to advance their own agendas. “We are also very concerned that China is seeking to exploit this moment of global chaos and the disarray within the U.S. to crack down on rights and freedoms in Hong Kong … And, we are calling upon states to take this moment to bring more attention to Hong Kong, as I mentioned.  We feel this is a time when China will be watching the international response, and, if that response is muted, will feel emboldened to go even further down the track,” he said.

At the end of the week, the council will take action on decisions and the adoption of more than 40 resolutions.  They include recommendations on improving human rights in countries such as Libya, Iran, Nicaragua, South Sudan, and Myanmar. 

https://www.ishr.ch/news/ishr-stands-solidarity-all-those-calling-racial-justice-and-radical-reform

https://www.voanews.com/europe/racism-conflict-country-violations-top-un-rights-council-agenda
https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/press/taxonomy/term/175/60215/human-rights-council-holds-urgent-debate-current-racially

https://thehill.com/changing-america/respect/equality/503204-george-floyds-brother-asks-un-for-investigation-into-us

https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2020/06/17/world/asia/ap-human-rights-us-racism.html  

Witness reminds us of the power of images through the Floyd Case

June 13, 2020

The video of the gruesome murder of George Floyd ignited protests around the world in solidarity against racism and white supremacy supported by the government and enforced by police. But we know for every video of police violence, there are many deaths that were not recorded that still deserve our attention and support.

Founded on the power of video to bring attention to the breach of human rights during the Rodney King arrest, beating, filming, and subsequent uprising 28 years ago, WITNESS continues to train and guide people to use their cell phone video camera to record incidents of human rights abuse, then share it with the media and justice system to prosecute wrongdoers. 

Today, the systems and patterns of police abuse are as rampant as ever. What has changed is our collective ability to document these moments. 

We help people document state violence, push for accountability, and implement structural change. In the past few weeks, we’ve seen a spike in demand for our guidance on how to shoot and share footage of police violence safely, ethically, and effectively. Our tips continue to inform ethical and strategic filming of police misconduct and protests.  Video is a tool to show violence. But more importantly, it’s a tool to show patterns. It forces the broader public to pay attention, and authority to change. We have seen commitments from local and state leaders and we encourage more people around the world to break down military and police power.  And to film it.  Ambika Samarthya-Howard Head of Communications WITNESS

https://mailchi.mp/witness.org/the-power-of-video-to-film-injustice?e=e2d40a1193

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/05/policy-response-from-human-rights-ngos-to-covid-19-witness/

The weakness of UN Secretaries General versus Big powers in speaking out

June 10, 2020

UN Chiefs Silenced by Big Powers with vetoes

as demonstrated again by George Floyd’s Killing

Protests in cities across the United States including in New York city. Credit: UN News/Shirin Yaseen
Thalif Deen wrote for the Santiago Times of 9 June a piece based on an IPS study about the lack of repsonse by the UN Secretary General.

…..But will any UN Secretary-General – past or present – have plucked up courage to condemn the political leadership either in the United States or China, two veto-wielding permanent members in the Security Council, in such harsh terms?

For a related issue, see: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/jun/09/what-does-the-un-stand-for-anger-as-staff-told-not-to-join-anti-racism-protests

The piece then considers whether a single 7 year term (instead of a reelection for 5 years) would help?

…The problem is that both Ban Ki-moon and Antonio Guterres have paid no attention to the three most important words that open the Charter of the UN: “We the peoples”…“They both pay homage only to governments; it’s as if ‘the peoples’ of the world don’t exist. As a result, there is neither transparency nor accountability”, said Lewis, who was a UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, and later co-founder and co-director of AIDS-Free World.

Guterres, he said, hides behind the Convention on Privileges and Immunities, or with willful arrogance refuses to answer questions put to him. “Thus, when asked why he’s silent on the turbulence in the United States, and in particular the excessive use of force, he defers to his spokesperson who provides fatuous nonsense in response.”

It was exactly the way Ban never felt the obligation to tell the truth about cholera in Haiti, nor to feel it necessary to explain why the $400 million fund was effectively abandoned, he noted.

Perhaps one of the few exceptions in the 75-year history of the UN was former Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt who paid the supreme penalty of being vetoed out of a second term —even though he garnered an overwhelming 14 of the 15 votes in the UN Security Council. But the US ingloriously vetoed his claims for a second term….

The 1996 study sponsored by two major think tanks implicitly accused some of the world’s big powers of manipulating the election of the Secretary-General so as to ensure that U.N. heads are political creatures with no minds of their own. “It is impossible to escape the impression, that many governments, including some of the most powerful, do not want a strong, independent leader as Secretary-General,” said the study published under the auspices of the New York-based Ford Foundation and the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation of Stockholm. The authors of the study – Brian Urquhart and Erskine Childers, both senior UN officials – said the selection of the Secretary-General is quite literally part of “an old-boy network.” “The United Nations is an intergovernmental organisation, and governments have no intentions of giving up control of it.”

Lewis argued there is no freedom of information in the UN, and that’s what gets governments like Sweden frustrated and thinking of shortening the SG’s term. “The Secretary-General should be required to hold an open press conference at least once, preferably twice a week, with a critical media corps to ask questions. If that were the case, the entire culture of his office would change.” “It’s his behaviour rather than his longevity that needs reform,” declared Lewis.

In a hard-hitting article titled “As Protests Sweep the US, the UN Tweets Platitudes”, Dulcie Leimbach, a former editor at the New York Times and founder of PassBlue, a widely-read web publication covering the United Nations, wrote: “Amid curfews in New York City, constant marches and protests, sirens from the streets and helicopters whirring above, the United Nations top leader, António Guterres, has not appeared before the media to say anything directly about the convulsions exploding across the five boroughs and far beyond. Instead, he has relied on his spokespeople to provide responses.

Leimbach also wrote that the lack of direct reference to the killing of George Floyd, and the turn of events here in the city and elsewhere, extends to the UN Security Council, the General Assembly, the US mission to the UN and other national delegations. Only the UN high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, a Chilean who is based in Geneva, has directly addressed Floyd’s murder….

https://santiagotimes.cl/en/2020/06/09/un-chiefs-silenced-by-big-powers-with-vetoes/

Abuse of nature and people: Environmental and Justice Activists Need to Join Forces

June 7, 2020

Image: Stournsaeh/Shutterstock

Cayte Bosler wrote on 3 June 2020 for the General Earth Institute a blog repeating the often heard warning that “Environmental and Justice Activists Need to Join Forces“. (https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2020/06/03/environmental-justice-activists/). It also relates this to the recent upheavals in the USA started by the killing of George Floyd:

Resistance inspires. Defiance in the face of a violent, oppressive culture can inspire another person’s defiance. Even when an uprising is only beginning, when the path forward is unclear, it is essential to resist. All together. The goal: to defeat a system fundamentally, historically, and intentionally based on mass exploitation in the interest of profit for a privileged few.

The environmental movement can learn from those who come from a tradition of resistance and have organized their struggle in movements like Black Lives Matter and Idle No More, founded by First Nations. The protests enveloping our country today are seeded by centuries of injustice and violence, by underlying power imbalances and inequalities that have never been truly addressed. The founders of these social movements knew then and now that they cannot combat violent oppressors through pure persuasion. So they resist.……….

Environmentalists and justice activists cannot stay isolated in their movements. To be effective at combating climate change and countless other social and environmental injustices, we must acknowledge the links between the abuse of nature and people, and devise strategies to protect the planet, to resist its demise – even when doing so is frightening. Especially then. Ultimately, resisting mass exploitation on all fronts is the only thing that will make us safer.

For many — especially people of color — the impacts of climate change and the degradation of environmental harm are not a future concern. It is life or death, and it’s happening now. If we want to reverse the losses, we need to begin to speak honestly to each other about the long history of abuse that has led to the unrest, rage, and grief that we feel today. We need to confront how power works in society, including in regions where exploitation of indigenous people and the ecosystems they call home go unnoticed by mainstream media….

In addition to poverty, lack of clean air, safe drinking water, health care, and more—all of which lead to “preexisting conditions”—many communities of color are confronted with the threat of coronavirus and are more vulnerable to the pandemic. Reports estimate that people of color are twice as likely to die from COVID-19…….

The author provides several examples from her own field work and experience……

How can we endeavor to protect the planet when its frontline defenders are being killed or intimidated by state-sanctioned violence? How can we expect to solve the climate crisis if our strategies do not include protecting life above corporate, government, and elite interests? Again, environmental advocates can learn from movements born from violent exploitation who are organizing to resist that violence.

Viable movements need supportive cultures to sustain them. They require healthy norms of behavior, processes to handle conflict, and ways to defeat destructive internal divisions and competition that stymie even the best-intentioned efforts toward progress. Horizontal hostility—a concept defined by Florynce Rae Kennedy, an African American lawyer, feminist, civil rights advocate, lecturer, and activist—occurs when activists fight against each other over differences rather than vertically against the oppressor. This behavior leaves relationships, activist networks, and movements in shreds.

A livable planet for all requires solidarity, using our shared principles and humanity to rise together to protect nature and banish injustice.

Cayte Bosler is a student in Columbia’s Sustainability Management masters program.

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/06/environmental-human-rights-defenders-more-deadly-than-being-a-soldier-in-a-war-zone/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/24/land-rights-defenders-are-the-main-target-of-those-destroying-the-environment/

19 of the Most Influential Civil Rights Leaders of the 21st Century in the USA

June 6, 2020

The killing of George Floyd has brought a renewed focus on racial injustices in the American criminal justice system, which include mass incarcerations and excessive  punishment. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/06/civicus-expresses-solidarity-with-us-protesters-in-their-struggle-for-justice/ ]

Today’s civil rights leaders have picked up the mantle once held by Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Roy Wilkins, and Dorothy Height. ……

Hristina Byrnes and John Harrington in 24/7 Tempo of 4 June 2020 have compiled a list of the most important civil rights leaders of the 21st century. They created the list after reviewing biographies and news stories from resource material, websites of organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Nobel Prize website, and media sites.

Click here to see the most important civil rights leaders of the 21st century

Click here to read the detailed findings and methodology

CIVICUS expresses solidarity with US protesters in their struggle for justice

June 6, 2020

On 4 June 2020 Johannesburg-based NGO CIVICUS 2020 issued a statement saying that US law enforcement agencies and decision makers must respect the right to protest.

Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, condemns violence against protesters by law enforcement officials over the past few days, and stands in solidarity with those protesting against deep-rooted racism and injustice…

CIVICUS reaffirms that the right to protest, as enshrined in international law, must be protected. We call for an end to police violence against Black communities. Earlier this week, as law enforcement agencies suppressed protests in Washington DC, President Trump threatened to deploy the National Guard to crush demonstrations:

President Donald Trump is stoking violence by threatening to forcibly deploy military units in states and cities to crush the demonstrations and restore order in a constitutionally questionable manner,” said Mandeep Tiwana, Chief of Programmes at CIVICUS. 

There are reports that over 10,000 protesters have been arrested since protests began. CIVICUS is concerned by the arbitrary arrests of thousands of protesters, including 20 members of the press. There are numerous cases of journalists being deliberately targeted by law enforcement agencies and at least 125 press freedom violations have been reported since the start of the protests.

CIVICUS’ recently released State of Civil Society Report 2020 highlights the importance of people’s movements in demanding change…Civic space in the United States is currently rated as narrowed by the research and ratings platform.

As a matter of urgency, CIVICUS calls on authorities to respect the rights of freedom of assembly and expression. We urge systemic reforms to address police impunity, militarisation and institutional racism. The deliberate targeting of journalists must also end, as must the incendiary language used by President Trump and other politicians. 

We also call on law enforcement agencies to stop using violent methods to disperse protesters and call for an investigation into the unwarranted use of force.

https://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/media-releases/4431-law-enforcement-agencies-and-decision-makers-must-respect-the-right-to-protest-in-the-us