Posts Tagged ‘High Commissioner for Human Rights’

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.


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:
  3. Issues in the Special Issue on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in the 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:

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

BBC Outlook talks with Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

April 4, 2013

Français : Logo de la station de radio britann...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Under the heading “Navi Pillay: My fight for Human Rights” Matthew Bannister meets the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay. A bus driver’s daughter from a poor Indian section of Durban in South Africa, Navi grew up and began her human rights work during the apartheid era and became the first non-white woman to establish her own law practice and to be appointed as a High Court Judge in South Africa. She has become on e of the most remarkable personalities in the worldwide human rights movement.

Human Rights Day event on Social media in Geneva

December 6, 2011

On 9 December 2011 the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha Kang, will moderate an event in Geneva event with the theme, Social Media and Human Rights. The guests will canvass the influence of social media, politically, culturally and socially, at the community, national and international levels. The event, which will be broadcast live on the UN webcastat. Participants include:

Frank La Rue (Guatemala) is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. He is the current Director of the Centro-American Institute for Social Democracy Studies in Guatemala. He holds a degree in law from the University of San Carlos, Guatemala, and a postgraduate degree in U.S. foreign policy from Johns Hopkins University. As founding member and Director of the Centre for Legal Human Rights Action, Mr. La Rue was involved in presenting the first Guatemalan human rights case before the Inter-American Court for Human Rights. He also brought the first case of genocide against the military dictatorship in Guatemala. As a human rights activist, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

Wael Abbas (Egypt) is an internationally renowned Egyptian journalist, blogger and human rights activist who blogs at Misr Digital (Egyptian Awareness). He has used his site over the past few years to promote political and social change. Mr. Abbas has been the recipient of many awards acknowledging his efforts as a human rights activist, including being the first blogger to win the International Journalism Award from the International Centre of Journalists in 2007 and the Human Rights Watch’s Hellman/Hammett Award in 2008.

Maite Azuela (Mexico) is a journalist/blogger and activist in social networks. Besides writing for a number of media outlets, including the well-known Mexican daily El Universal, Ms. Azuela is involved in mobilizing local communities through social networks in areas such as education, political reform, transparency and access to information. She has a MA in Public Policy and Administration from Concordia University, Canada and is the founder of movements such as DHP, “On Education”, and a member of the National Citizens’ Assembly (ANCA).

Bassem Bouguerra (Tunisia) describes himself as a “revolutionary by nature and a software engineer by accident.” The 30 year-old Tunisian blogger works as a software architect at Yahoo. Initially, he campaigned for change in his home country from San Francisco but, for the past year, he has split his time between the United States and Tunisia using his blog to advocate for social and political reform. He continues campaigning and has set up an online news site, “The Bouguerra Post”. Mr. Bouguerra plans to return to Tunisia soon.

Ednah Karamagi (Uganda) is a blogger and human rights activist. With a background in community development, she is convinced of the importance of extending appropriate emerging technologies into rural areas. Ms. Karamagi is the Executive Director of BROSDI, a Ugandan non-governmental organization implementing the “Collecting and Exchange of Local Agricultural Content” project. Despite lack of access to the Internet in remote areas, BROSDI uses a variety of media tools – both new and traditional – to improve farmers’ access to information and enhance development and local participation.

Meg Pickard (United Kingdom) is the Head of Digital Engagement for Guardian News & Media, responsible for developing and supporting existing and new social web strategy and interactive experiences. Ms. Pickard comes from a background in social anthropology and in the mid-nineties conducted ethnographic fieldwork into community participation and cultural identity, first in Bolivia and subsequently online. Her particular areas of interest are community engagement and the emergence of new forms of collaborative and participatory media.

Salil Tripathi (United Kingdom) is Policy Director for the Institute for Human Rights and Business, a global centre of excellence and expertise on business and human rights standards. The Indian-born author was earlier a researcher at Amnesty International where he led the organization’s engagement with the Voluntary Principles for Security and Human Rights and the Global Compact. Mr. Tripathi writes on subjects including free speech, politics, economics, and social trends for various blogs and publications including India Today, the Far Eastern Economic Review, The Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune.

The True Heroes Foundation (THF) held a similar meeting in April 2010 when the Icelandic ash cloud prevented most participants from attending. These circumstances forced the organizers to really make use of the new media and the result on their website shows it is possible:

Sri Lanka: one of the worst in respect of disappearances

August 10, 2011

On Friday 29 July the United High Commissioner for Human Rights came out forcefully about the situation of human rights in Sri Lanka. The immediate reason was that the decomposed body of  Human Rights Defender Pattani Razeek (the managing trustee of the Community Trust Fund, a NGO based in Puttalam) was found 17 months after his abduction.

Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called on the Sri Lankan government to conduct a swift investigation into the abduction and murder. “We hope that investigation and prosecution of this crime will now be expedited, and that there will be similar progress in resolving the many thousands of outstanding cases of disappearance in Sri Lanka,” she said. The UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances currently has 5,653 outstanding cases from Sri Lanka in its records. One of the most notable is the disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda, the journalist of the Lanka-e-News website who was known for his antigovernment news and cartoons went missing without a trace just days before the presidential election last year. “We strongly urge the Government of Sri Lanka to expedite investigations and provide information on Mr. Ekneligoda’s whereabouts and fate,” the UN spokesperson added.