Posts Tagged ‘Germany’

Women Nobel Laureates ask to fight fundamentalism in all its guises

May 18, 2017

On 16 May 2017 Jennifer Allsopp reported for 50.50 from the second day of the Nobel Women’s Initiative conference at the historic Kaiser-Friedrich-Halle in Mönchengladbach, Germany. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/04/20/nobel-womens-initiative-defending-the-defenders-24-26-april-2015/]

Women human rights defenders meet at the 2017 Nobel Women's Initiative Conference. Credit: author.

Women human rights defenders meet at the 2017 Nobel Women’s Initiative Conference. Credit: author.

Jody Williams, Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Shirini Ebadi and Tawakkol Karman have come to address the 900 attendees about their work fighting totalitarianism and fundamentalism in its many global guises in order to build a more peaceful just and equal world. The public event took place on the final evening of the sixth international conference of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. Over the last three days, more than 50 women human rights defenders have been in Mönchengladbach to discuss the future of the feminist movement in collaboration with Initiativikreis Mönchengladbach.

….

The global response to refugees has been a key theme of the conference over the past three days and is a concern of all the laureates. One of the reasons the delegates decided to hold the conference in Germany was to come and congratulate Germany for its policies, explained Tawakko Karman, Yemeni human rights activist and 2011 Nobel Peace laureate. Since the beginning of the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ in Europe, Germany has welcomed more than one million refugees, more than any other country in Europe. For 2016 and 2017 alone, the government has set aside 28.7 billioneuros of funding for their accommodation and integration.

….Many of the young people here have been politicised to defend human rights more broadly because of personal experiences of getting to know refugees in Germany. It heartens me because I know this experience will stay with them for life. I saw the same transformation time and time again myself as a national coordinator with the UK NGO Student Action for Refugees which supports students to set up volunteering and campaigning projects in their local communities. But unlike Germany, the UK – and other countries who are now turning their backs on refugees – are training the next generation to look inwards rather than out. They’re turning away from fostering international consciousness among citizens. This Jody Williams, who won the 1997 Nobel Peace prize for her work to ban antipersonnel landmines, has repeated over the last three days, is “the real fake news”.

Germany’s decision to welcome refugees has nevertheless not come without challenges, especially in terms of the far right explains Brigitte Schuster, a German teacher who has come along to hear the Nobel laureates speak. She teaches as part of a network of state funded programmes run by BAMF (the Federal for Migration and Refugees). Despite some “teething problems” in the provision of services, Bridgette insists, people are nevertheless now moving forward with their lives. They are contributing a lot to the community, she explains, including through sharing their stories and fostering consciousness of totalitarianism in other parts of the world.

After the event in the foyer the laureates message appears to have got through. Attendees have been issued a call to action. The laureates have thanked the German people for welcoming refugees but also asked them to keep up the pressure on the totalitarian regimes that they have fled and to fix the gaps in their own democracies. Tawakkol Karman, Yemeni human rights activist has called on those present not to victimise people but to “be close to people’s dreams, their aspirations and their suffering.” And she’s issued an order. “You will fight for a society of equal citizenship for men and women.

Five boys, all aged 15, jump over one another to tell me what they found most inspiring when I ask them in the foyer after the event. They’ve been brought along by their English teacher Meike Barth from the Gymnasium an der Gartenstraße which has around 900 students. They are also curious to learn about human rights struggles other parts of the world and how they can support them, in part because of the new refugee friends they have made at their school.

Ahmet says he was especially touched when Shirin Ebadi, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts to promote human rights in Iran, mentioned the Berlin wall: “She said that that physical wall and the wall Trump wants to build is like the Berlin wall and we can bring it down,” he recounts. But Ahmet’s also struck by her message about breaking down the walls between people ideologically. “It’s not just physical walls but walls in our hearts. People can always find ways to talk across physical walls, but what’s more hard is what she said about solidarity and people, the politicians trying to stop that connection. Actually,” he reflects, “I was thinking of this different metaphor of a different kind of wall we all build together with that hope, like bricks but you also need cement….It’s a metaphor in progress!”

Ahmet is also inspired by Jody William’s work to erase landmines. “There are still landmines in Vietman”, he tells me, “actually I read about that just last week and I was sat there thinking we need to do something about that.” I ask him what he’s going to do: he’s going to organise a local event and write to politicians.

Sebastian meanwhile tells me what stuck with him was the message advanced by Northern Irish peace activist and 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laurate Mairead Maguire to use academic studies to advance the cause of peace, whatever the discipline. He enjoys chemistry, biology and maths and wants to help tackle climate change. “People thing human rights is just a subject but it’s actually about everything, the whole environment. It’s not just politicians saying this and that.” He’s been inspired by the public meeting tonight to organise his own event. Benjamin, another student, wants to get active on social media and says he is going to help him.

 

Source: Fight fundamentalism in all its guises: a call to action from Yemen to Germany | openDemocracy

Relief for threatened scholars: the Philipp Schwartz Initiative of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

May 10, 2017

Some support structures suffer from a lack of general knowledge. Here is one that I came across recently.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH), in conjunction with the Scholars at Risk (SAR) Germany Section, convened the 3rd Workshop on the Philipp Schwartz Initiative (PSI) in Berlin, bringing together SAR staff, Philipp Schwartz Fellows, representatives of universities and research institutions in Germany supporting threatened scholars, and representatives from partner organizations.

As a part of AvH and supported by the German Federal Foreign Office and other private funders, the PSI provides universities and research institutions in Germany with the means to host at-risk foreign researchers with two-year, fully funded fellowships. Since the summer of 2016, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation has invited applications to the PSI on behalf of scholars regardless of country of origin, current location, or academic field, as long as a demonstrable threat can be confirmed. The PSI is currently sponsoring more than 60 researchers, 34 of whom are SAR scholars. This number will undoubtedly grow, as the PSI has recently confirmed funding for an additional 30 grants.  Applications in the context of the Philipp Schwartz Initiative cannot be submitted at this time. Applicants in the 3rd round will be informed of the outcome by 30 June 2017.

For more information about the important work being done, visit the Philipp Schwartz Initiative’s homepage and consult the most recent issue of AvH’s magazine, Humboldt Kosmos.

Who can apply?  Please note that researchers cannot apply on an individual basis only through host institutions in Germany.

Research-performing institutions in Germany in the following categories may apply:

  • public and state-recognised universities, including universities of applied sciences (“Fachhochschulen”)
  • Max Planck Institutes, Helmholtz Institutes, Leibniz Institutes, Fraunhofer Institutes
  • Federal and State Research Institutes
  • other research-performing institutions that can convincingly demonstrate their research focus and infrastructures

Successful applicants will be able to grant a Philipp Schwartz Fellowship to a threatened researcher. In detail:

  • institutions that were successful in the 1st or 2nd call for applications (no submission of support concepts in 3rd call; only nomination of researcher)
  • institutions that applied but were not successful in the 1st or 2nd call for applications
  • institutions that have not applied for Philipp Schwartz funding before

Who is eligible for a Philipp Schwartz fellowship?

Threatened researchers from any academic field and any country of origin who

  • have completed their doctorate or a comparable academic degree (PhD, CSc or equivalent)
  • have not been resident outside their own country for more than three years; researchers who hold German university entrance qualifications (“Bildungsinländer”) are not eligible
  • possess the language skills required to successfully conduct their research projects
  • possess academic qualifications (e.g. publications)
  • possess potential to be integrated into the (research-related) job market
  • who have not yet been funded in the context of the Philipp Schwartz Initiative
  • persons that have access to residence in safe countries due to multiple citizenship and German citizens are not eligible for nomination
  • multiple nominations of one person by several institutions are not permitted

The Humboldt Foundation imposes no restrictions with regard to country of origin or current location if the threat can be confirmed in accordance with the programme guidelines.

What does the funding include?

  • fellowship funds including subsidies of 3,500 EUR/month for up to 24 months
  • a one-off lump sum of 12,000 EUR for the host institution

How can a threat to a researcher be confirmed in the context of the Philipp Schwartz Initiative?

In the context of the Philipp Schwartz Initiative, a pertinent threat of researchers who are demonstrably threatened in their countries can be confirmed in two ways:

  • by way of a residence status in the context of an asylum-granting procedure that confirms a recognised threat
  • by way of a credible threat assessment from a third party, such as the Scholars at Risk Network, the Scholar Rescue Fund, or the Council for At-Risk Academics

 

Source: Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation – The Philipp Schwartz Initiative of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation supported by the Federal Foreign Office

Refugee Olympic Teams and Turkish pianist are given human rights awards

December 19, 2016

Human rights awards – one of my favorite topics [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/?s=human+rights+awards] – come  in many shapes and forms. Here two special ones: the first concerns a handicapped swimmer from Syria and other refugee related recipients (in Madrid) and the second a Turkish pianist (in Bonn).

Ibrahim Al Hussein - Human Rights Award Spain
Ibrahim Al Hussein receiving the Human Rights Award from the Spanish General Council the Bar © • IPC

Read the rest of this entry »

Scholarships for the 2017 Legal Training Program of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights

December 9, 2016

The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and the Kreuzberger Kinderstiftung, a foundation working to secure educational justice, recognize that starting a career in international human rights work can sometimes require more just having the requisite passion, motivation and skills. There can be certain barriers to entry into the profession, i.e. when economic or social considerations prevent potential participants from taking part in our programs. With this in mind, the Kreuzberger Kinderstiftung scholarship for ECCHR’s Legal Training Program offers young people with limited financial means and/or from underrepresented geographic and social backgrounds the chance to gain professional experience in human rights work. Read the rest of this entry »

Why ‘lecturing’ China on human rights should be continued

March 30, 2016

German President Joachim Gauck (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping are shown during the former's recent visit to Chna. Photo: Reuters

German President Joachim Gauck (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping are shown during the former’s recent visit to China. Photo: Reuters

Stephen Vines published a piece in EJ Insight on 29 March 2016 under the title “Why China acquiesced to German leader’s human rights lecture”. I think it is an excellent read that makes the case for continued ‘human rights interference” in China and not just there. I save you the trouble of finding it by copying it below:

Read the rest of this entry »

German Amnesty International Human Rights Award 2016 goes to Henri Tiphagne from India

February 2, 2016

Indian lawyer and human rights defender Henri Tiphagne has been awarded the 8th Human Rights Award by Amnesty International Germany. The award is a recognition of Henri Tiphagne’s exceptional commitment to human rights. “For many decades now, Henri Tiphagne has been tirelessly and bravely standing up for human rights. His organisation’s invaluable work includes campaigning against discrimination and the use of torture in India,” Amnesty International said in a statement on 25 January 2016.Amnesty-Internationa
Henri Tiphagne is the founder of the organisation People’s Watch, one of the most notable human rights organisations in India. People’s Watch has been researching and documenting human rights violations, as well as providing legal representation to those affected, for over 20 years. The organisation also actively supports human rights education: In 1997, Henri Tiphagne founded an institute offering training for teachers as well as mentoring around school human rights education programmes. So far, they have managed to reach out to around 500,000 children in 18 Indian states.
In recent years, many organisations have come under intense pressure by the Indian government, and People’s Watch is no exception. The organisation’s bank accounts have been frozen repeatedly since 2012. This meant that some employees had to be dismissed and many programmes needed to be abandoned. The Delhi government in power at the time used the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act to justify this kind of harassment. A complaint filed by People’s Watch against these government actions is still pending. The same legal framework is being instrumentalised for political ends by the current government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Those targeted by the authorities include non-governmental organisations as well as activists and local protest groups campaigning, for example, against forced evictions to make way for new coal mining projects. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/india-should-end-funding-restraints-on-human-rights-defenders-says-hrw/]

Henri Tiphagne and his organisation People’s Watch, while fighting to ensure the rights of others, are themselves being harassed and hampered in their work by the authorities. And there are other civil society organisations in India that are in a similar position. The award is therefore meant to send a strong signal of support to the whole of the Indian human rights movement,” adds Selmin Çalışkan, Director of Amnesty International Germany.

Award ceremony to be held on April 25 at the Maxim Gorki Theatre in Berlin, Germany. For more information about Henri Tiphagne’s personal background and the situation in India please contact the Press Office mailto:presse@amnesty.de of Amnesty Germany.

Filipino nun wins Weimar human rights award 2015 for fight against mining excesses

August 11, 2015

<p>Sister Stella Matutina explains the threats of large-scale mining in Mindanao during a conference in Manila in early August. (Photo by Leon Dulce)</p>

Sister Stella Matutina explains the threats of large-scale mining in Mindanao during a conference in early August (Photo by Leon Dulce)

A Benedictine nun, Stella Matutina, is the recipient of Germany’s “Weimar Award for Human Rights” 2015 for her anti-mining advocacy in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao.

Sister Stella Matutina has been recognized for “[engaging] herself extraordinarily for the rights of the native population, despite being exposed to permanent threats to her safety due to her engagements”. “This highlights the situation of Mindanao and the Philippines in general where the poor, the farmers, the indigenous peoples, the human rights activists and defenders of the environment endure harassment and face risks and death,” the 47-year-old nun told ucanews.com (Jefry Tupas, 7 August 2015) . More than a personal recognition, Matutina said the award acknowledges the “collective sacrifices” of freedom and environment defenders in the face of a “systematic effort to limit democratic space and security threats”.

Matutina has been a vocal opponent of attempts to convert the farmlands in Mindanao to plantation crops like palm oil, pineapples, and bananas. She has also led a campaign against the entry of large-scale mining companies in tribal communities in Mindanao. In 2012, the Philippine military labeled Matutina a “fake nun” and accused her of being a communist New People’s Army guerrilla. In 2009, soldiers detained Matutina and two other anti-mining activists in the town of Cateel in Mindanao for giving a lecture on environmental awareness to residents of an upland village. Early this year, authorities charged Matutina, other Church leaders and human rights activists with kidnapping, human trafficking, and illegal detention for taking care of displaced tribal people in the provinces of Davao del Norte and Bukidnon.

These are proof that helping the oppressed, the poor, the abused comes with great risks,” said Matutina, chairwoman of the Sisters Association of Mindanao and secretary-general of the environment protection group Panalipdan.

Since 1995, the Weimar Award has honored individuals or groups engaged in the fight for freedom and equality, the prevention and condemnation of genocide, the right to free speech, and the respect and preservation of political, ethnic, cultural and religious rights of minorities, among others. The award comes with a 2500,00 Euro stipend.

The same Weimar Human Rights Award went in 2000 to Father Shay Cullen of the Peoples Recovery Empowerment Development Assistance (PREDA) Foundation for his work defending the rights of children and women, victims of human trafficking, sexual abuse and exploitation in the Philippines.

via Filipino nun wins German human rights award ucanews.com.

worth noticing also is the language of Radio Vatican used in its own announcement:

http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/08/07/philippine_nun_honoured_with_german_human_rights_award/1163662

Egypt’s al-Sisi’s visits Berlin: speaking notes for Angela Merkel

June 2, 2015

Angela Merkel
Egypt’s Abdel Fattach El Sisi is due to meet German chancellor Wednesday 3 June

On the eve of the visit to Germany by Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi a number of leading international human rights organisations (AI, HRW, EMHRH, OMCT and Front Line) wrote an open letter to the German chancellor Ms Angela Merkel. It reads in essence: Read the rest of this entry »

The fight against impunity starts at home: US and torture

December 17, 2014

The issue of impunity is pertinent to the protection of human rights defenders. For that reason I refer to an interesting development that follows the disclosures on torture and abduction by the CIA in the courageous Senate report. If only more countries were willing to investigate so publicly their own records (China, Russia?).

The Federal Prosecutor must investigate former CIA boss Tenet, former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and others – and should not wait until they are on German soil.  Read the rest of this entry »

United Nations declares again that mass surveillance threatens the right to privacy.

November 27, 2014

Several newspapers have reported on this matter but perhaps not many  in the US (see at the end). In an excellent blog post on 26 November 2014 Peter Micek and Javier Pallero give the background to this UN Declaration, for the second straight year, which states that government communications surveillance poses a threat to the right to privacy. I quote liberally from it:

Passed unanimously on Tuesday by the Third Committee, the resolution on “The right to privacy in the digital age” this time also calls for a permanent ‘office’ on the right to privacy. For that to happen, the Human Rights Council in Geneva will have to take action in March 2015 by creating a new “special rapporteur” on the right to privacy.

Background

In response to mass surveillance revelations in 2013, including news that their political leaders had been spied on, Brazil and Germany co-authored a unanimous resolution in the General Assembly. The resolution called for a report by the then High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, who came with a scathing critique in July 2014 that cited the need for immediate reform of surveillance laws and practices in line with international human rights norms. The report’s finding that mass surveillance inherently violates human rights spoke directly to the “five eyes” countries – the US, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, and Australia – who are responsible for weakening technical standards, collecting untold reams of data, and thwarting public debate over their practices.

Brazil and Germany again teamed up to lead this year’s effort, gathering more than 60 cosponsors. The resolution finds that surveillance must be “consistent with international human rights obligations and must be conducted on the basis of a legal framework, which must be publicly accessible, clear, precise, comprehensive and non-discriminatory.” It smartly calls for greater access to remedy for victims — a too-often ignored pillar of rights frameworks — and for increased attention to the role of private companies in government surveillance. In oral statements, the US and its allies in the “Five Eyes” drew attention to the resolution’s acknowledgment of “threats and harassment” that human rights defenders face along with privacy violations. And the resolution invites the Human Rights Council to “consider the possibility of establishing a special procedure” regarding the promotion and protection of the right to privacy.

Shortcomings

  • The resolution does not specifically call for governments to extend protections to users abroad.  Although expressing concern is important, governments must do much more to provide an effective solution to cross-border violations.
  • The resolutions language on restrictions is unnecessarily general (“non-arbitrary and lawful”) but it could have used findings by multiple courts and international experts more precisely defining how privacy rights should be handled – that surveillance and other privacy restrictions should only be prescribed by law, necessary to achieve a legitimate aim, and proportionate to the aim pursued. These concepts are further articulated in the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance, which High Commissioner Pillay said in her report can be considered interpretive guidance of Article 17 of the ICCPR that establishes the right to privacy.
  • While the resolution notes that metadata can, when aggregated, “reveal personal information and can give an insight into an individual’s behaviour, social relationships, private preferences and identity,” it stops short of calling for an end to bulk metadata collection by governments, which the Human Rights Council has an opportunity to push for in March.

Summarizing, the authors of the post think that this resolution is a step in the right direction and “Access” will continue working to ensure the Council follows through on the General Assembly’s suggestion, and creates the Special Rapporteur.

https://www.accessnow.org/blog/2014/11/26/new-un-resolution-shifts-momentum-on-privacy-to-human-rights-council

In a related piece in ‘The Local’ one can read how Germany – at the heart of moves to limit the power of US web companies and their involvement in surveillance – is pressured by American companies and politicians.

 

http://www.thelocal.de/20141126/germany-denies-accusations-of-google-bashing