Posts Tagged ‘High Commissioner for Human Rights’

Myanmar: time for Aung San Suu Kyi to return (at least some of) her many human rights awards?

September 3, 2017

While receiving sharply worded emails and social media messages that the Rohingyas in Myanmar do not exist or have been ‘invented by the Saudis’, other more sober contributions put the serious question – whether with hindsight – Aung San Suu Kyi should not give back the many international awards she has received.  Aung San Suu Kyi is the recipient of at least 15 international awards (e.g. Nobel Peace Prize, Rafto, Sakharov, AI’s Ambassador of Conscience, Vaclav Havel Price for Creative Dissent). The UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence (SIC) seems especially awkward.

Almost a year ago I referred in a blog post [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/20/how-awards-can-get-it-wrong-four-controversial-decisions-in-one-week/] to “a serious expression of concern by an ethnic minority: Prensa Latina reported on 19 September that hundreds of Muslim students demonstrated against the Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award 2016 given to Minister of State of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi by the Harvard Foundation. According to the website of the Harvard Foundation recent prizes of that foundation were given to education activist Malala Yousafzai, Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-Moon. According to the Mizzima news agency, the young people consider that Aung San Suu Kyi does nothing to handle the persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority. According to the local press, Suu Kyi herself considered, while receiving the prize, that in her country there is still a long way to go before saying that the people are free and safe.

Now Reuters reports that about 120,000 people – mostly displaced and stateless Rohingya Muslims – in Rakhine camps are not receiving food supplies or healthcare after contractors for the World Food Program suspended operations following the government accusations. Staff have been too afraid to show up for work. “As a result of the disruption of activities in central Rakhine state, many people are not receiving their normal food assistance and primary healthcare services have been severe disrupted,” said Pierre Peron, a spokesman for the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs.

Suu Kyi’s government refuses to allow UN investigators and the media access to parts of Rakhine where rights monitors fear a campaign of ethnic cleansing is underway.

Suu Kyi was idolised while spending 15 years as a prisoner of Myanmar’s army generals. Now she refuses to speak up for 1.1 million stateless and long persecuted Rohingya. She may not control her country’s armed forces but, since taking high office, Suu Kyi has refused to acknowledge the plight of the Rohingya in any meaningful way. She deflects questions about the persecution of Rohingya, saying only the “rule of law” must apply in Rakhine. She also dismisses the independent UN inquiry as “not suitable for the situation of our country.”

……Some human rights activists who campaigned for years for Suu Kyi’s release when she was a political prisoner now feel a deep sense of betrayal from the woman they formerly saw as a heroine. Perhaps it is time for her to hand back her Noble Peace Prize. (The story The ‘human catastrophe’ that betrays Suu Kyi’s Nobel prize first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.)

Front line Defenders reported on 2 August that human rights defender Ko Swe Win was prevented from travelling and detained in connection with defamation charges on 30 July 2017,  at Yangon International Airport as he was trying to fly  to Bangkok. He was reportedly taken into police custody in relation to a defamation case brought by a follower of extremist Buddhist monk U Wirathu, who told the police he believed Ko Swe Win was attempting to flee the country. Despite the defamation lawsuit filed against him, no travel restrictions were issued against Ko Swe Win. The human rights defender was released on bail on 31 July 2017. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/11/23/burma-continued-prosecution-of-human-rights-defenders-and-peaceful-demonstrators/

Sources:

http://sea-globe.com/myanmar-war-on-terror/

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/ko-swe-win

Arakan and traces of blood on Nobel Prize – Saadet Oruç – Daily Sabah

http://www.northerndailyleader.com.au/story/4896812/the-human-catastrophe-that-betrays-suu-kyis-nobel-prize/?cs=4141

Navi Pillay reflects on 50 years as a defender of human rights

April 14, 2016

I have had quite a few post on Navi Pillay as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/navi-pillay/]  before and after her term [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/navanethem-pillay-finishes-her-term-as-un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-a-great-lady/]. So when the Toronto Star ( Immigration reporter) did an interview with this remarkable woman on 12 April 2016, I am happy to bring it to your attention. She was the recipient of the 2003 Gruber Prize for Women’s Rights and the 2010 Stockhom Human Rights Award.

“Navi Pillay reflects on 50 years as a champion for human rights”

Navi Pillay, who grew up under apartheid in South Africa, is the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Navi Pillay, who grew up under apartheid in South Africa, is the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Read the rest of this entry »

Important and wide-ranging statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on 10 March 2016

March 11, 2016

There is a lot happening in Geneva (where I am for a few days) in relation to human rights defenders. The best I can do for the moment is to provide in full the very rich text of the UN High Commissioner’s statement in the debate in the UN Human Rights Council on 10 March: Read the rest of this entry »

What is Burundi doing in the UN Human Rights Council?

February 8, 2016

Burundi is still one of the basket cases in Africa and since my lats post nothing has improved [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/burundi-what-more-early-warning-does-one-need/].  The Special Session of the Human Rights Council in December 2015 mandated the High Commissioner for Human Rights to put together an expert mission to Burundi, to investigate abuses and make recommendations to the Council and the Burundian government on ways of ending serious human rights violations. But the follow-up is below par: Read the rest of this entry »

Less veto in mass atrocities can save lives including those of human rights defenders

September 29, 2014

In an important statement to a Ministerial meeting of the General Assembly on Regulating the veto in the event of mass atrocities, the new High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Husseinmade some crucial points. He said that in recent years, the Security Council‘s “inability to take decisive action regarding a number of appalling crises has led to enormous, avoidable, human suffering. It has shaken confidence in our own institutions. It has granted time and space to the perpetrators to commit more violations, and made them far less likely to provide access to UN officials or to respond to their concerns.” Therefore, he added, “From the human rights perspective, the adoption of a code of conduct on use of the veto, in very specific circumstances where well-founded facts demonstrate that international crimes are occurring or about to occur, would demonstrate on the part of the permanent members of the Council that quality of leadership and responsibility which our world so badly needs.

Full text: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15103&LangID=E 

ISIL kills human rights defender Sameera Salih Ali Al-Nuaimy

September 26, 2014

 

Sameera Salih Ali Al-Nuaimy

The United Nations human rights High Commissioner for human rights today condemned the recent brutal, cold-blooded slaying by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) of Iraqi human rights defender Sameera Salih Ali Al-Nuaimy, as well as the continuing detention, sexual exploitation and sale of hundreds of women and girls in areas captured by the militant group. Read the rest of this entry »

Navanethem Pillay finishes her term as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: a great lady

July 9, 2014

In September 2014, Navanethem (Navi) Pillay will finish her term as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Since her appointment in 2008, she has been a principled and dedicated advocate for universal human rights, the protection of human rights defenders, accountability for perpetrators of human rights violations, and access to justice for victims. She has encouraged her staff to speak out and has done so herself courageously. Unanimity about her performance should not be expected – for that the topics she had to deal with are too controversial – but the human rights world generally has seen her as a ‘champion’ and one of them.
To get some idea of the scope of her involvement in favour of human rights defenders, see some of my 20 previous posts: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/navi-pillay/

Read the rest of this entry »

Two more side events on Human Rights Defenders on 10 and 12 March

March 5, 2014

In a post earlier in the day I mentioned that I would restrict myself to announcing Side Events to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that are specially focused on Human Rights Defenders, but that seems not be much of a restriction with two more interesting events scheduled for next week:

1.Human Rights Defenders and the Shrinking Space for Civil Society” on Monday 10 March 2014 from 14 to 15h00 in Room XX Palais des Nations. Speakers:

  • Navi Pillay UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Halah Eldoseri – Saudi Arabia [researcher on women’s health services; blogs (Saudi women’s rights) to educate women about the country’s  international obligations towards women; writes and organises lectures and workshops in Saudi Arabia for activists and the public]
  • Maksym Butkevych – Ukraine [radio and TV journalist working with “Hromadske Radio” (“Public Radio”) in Kiev; Co-Founder of “No Borders” project of the NGO “Social Action Centre”, which works on anti-discrimination issues;  organised an independent radio station to directly cover the events in Ukraine; Co-Ordinator of the Independent Civic human rights violations Investigation Commission]
  • Mary Lawlor Director of Front Line Defenders [Chair]Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped

Co sponsors: Troicare, International Commission of Jurists, Permanent Mission of Ireland.

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2. “Global Trends for Human Rights Defenders” on Wednesday 12 March from 09h30 -12h00 in the office of International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), Rue de Varembé 1.  This Roundtable brings together human rights defenders, practitioners, academic scholars, intergovernmental officials, government representatives, and donors to discuss innovation and the way forward to improve understanding and protection of HRDs, specially to foster an enabling environments for human rights defenders. This discussion will draw upon:

  1. Recommendations made in the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders  to the Human Rights Council on 10 March 2014,
  2. Ideas shared in the Side Eventof the Human Rights Council on ‘Creating a Safe and Enabling Environment for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders’ on 11 March 2014 (see my post:https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/important-human-rights-council-side-event-on-11-march-to-be-followed-on-internet/)
  3. Issues in the Special Issue on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in the Journal of Human Rights Practice (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/special-issue-on-human-rights-defenders-of-the-oup-journal-of-human-rights-practice/).

To attend this event, please register by Friday March 7 at 12:00 noon by completing this on-line form:
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/19rJ44GM_VQybtestvtH8gH26vn9B2TLCBQ0VVftpobs/viewform

Jacob Blaustein Institute for Human Rights publishes book on UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

December 21, 2013

On 19 December 2013 it was announced that the AJCs Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights  on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights released a unique volume entitled: “The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: Conscience for the World”. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Dutch Sinterklaas celebration racist?

October 20, 2013

Two Zwarte Pieten [660x300]

(Two blackfaced white Dutch girls walking the streets during the Sinterklaas/Zwarte Piet celebration)

Although not directly related to human rights defenders, as a Dutchman I feel obliged to alert readers to the issue of whether the longstanding tradition of ‘Zwarte Piet’ (black Peter) is an innocent cultural exception or an expression of deeply ingrained racism. It has become a hot potato in the Dutch media after a letter by four UN Special Rapporteurs asked for a clarification from Dutch authorities on whether a Dutch caricature called “Black Pete” who accompanies Saint Nicholas during a traditional children’s festival is racist. “Please indicate to which extent your government has involved Dutch society, including African people… in the discussions regarding the choice of ‘Santa Claus and Black Pete’ as expression of cultural significance in the country,” it said. According to information we have received… the character and image of Black Pete perpetuate a stereotyped image of African people and people of African descent as second-class citizens, said the letter, dated January this year and published Saturday on the NRC’s website.

In the Netherlands itself emotions are flaring over the sensitive issue. The big majority of Dutch people clearly feel that a marvelous old tradition (I certainly have very fond memories of the Dutch Sinterklaas festivities) is being sacrificed on the altar of political correctness ( according to the Dutch newspaper the Telegraph some 66 percent said they would prefer that the entire Saint Nicholas festival be dropped rather than stripping it of the Black Pete character).  On the other hand, when Amsterdam held a public hearing on Thursday, 21 complaints about Black Pete were filed asking the Dutch capital to revoke the permit for this year’s festival. Mayor Eberhard van der Laan is to rule on the permit in early November, his spokeswoman Tahira Limon said.

But Black Pete’s supporters called for the children’s Saint Nicholas festival to go ahead, arguing that it has been part of a Dutch tradition dating as far back as the 16th century, with the Black Petes first appearing around the 1850s.

Seen from outside the Netherlands the tradition argument seems not get much track. A blog post in the UK Telegraph makes strong arguments against its continuation and refers to a a piece in This Is Africa, where the journalist Siji Jabaar mounts a “formidable evisceration of the tradition, in which he forensically lays bare the history and evolution of Zwarte Piet, and demolishes one by one the arguments in favour of the practice“, which has this nugget of a question:  “If the Dutch government thinks that Zwarte Piet is correct, just invite Barack Obama over for dinner on the 5th of December. But we all know they ain’t gonna do that; they ain’t that dumb.”.

Judge for yourself by reading the full references below:

But please note that the phrase: ‘In the United stated you have Santa Claus, in the UK he’s Father Christmas, and in the Netherlands he’s called Sinterklaas” is not fully correct. Sinterklaas is celebrated on 5 December not 25 December and the Dutch now also embrace a different Santa ClausRelated articles