Posts Tagged ‘HRW’

Olympic Games in future bound by human rights standards

March 14, 2017

On 2 February this year I wrote about human rights coming to football [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/02/fifa-governance-committee-starts-dealing-with-a-human-rights-policy/]. Now there is some progress to note on the Olympics: The Sports and Rights Alliance (SRA) reports that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has moved to incorporate human rights principles in its Host City Contract. This could help prevent major abuses by future Olympic hosts. The revised Host City Contract, developed with recommendations from a coalition of leading rights, athletes’ and transparency organizations, was finalized in January 2017, and will first apply to the 2024 Summer Olympics. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/02/26/coalition-of-human-rights-defenders-and-others-call-on-olympic-committee-to-change-its-ways/]

For the first time, the IOC has included explicit reference to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP), which outline the human rights responsibilities of businesses, as well as references to anti-corruption standards. The Guiding Principles explain how commercial enterprises should assess human rights risks, take effective steps to avoid human rights problems, and ensure a remedy for abuses that occur in spite of those efforts.

2014_IOC_Bach
IOC President Thomas Bach in Lausanne 9 July, 2014. © 2014 Reuters

“This is an important step by the IOC for the future,” said Sharan Burrow, International Trade Union Confederation general secretary. “Implementing the UN Guiding Principles across all major global sporting events could help break the cycle of human rights abuses, and this example from the IOC should be applied to all such events, starting now.”

The SRA’s mission is to ensure that sports bodies and mega-sporting events respect human rights, the environment, and anti-corruption requirements at all stages of the process. “Time after time, Olympic hosts have gotten away with abusing workers building stadiums, and with crushing critics and media who try to report about abuses,” said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch. “The right to host the Olympics needs to come with the responsibility not to abuse basic human rights.

The revised contract requires host cities to “protect and respect human rights and ensure any violation of human rights is remedied in a manner consistent with international agreements, laws and regulations applicable in the Host Country and in a manner consistent with all internationally-recognized human rights standards and principles, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, applicable in the Host Country.

If implemented, the revised Host City Contract will help ensure that Olympic hosts respect ‘human dignity’ as required by the Olympic Charter,” said Brendan Schwab, head of UNI World Athletes. “This should have a ripple effect across all mega-sporting events such as the World Cup, and wherever abuses tied to sport still occur.”

[Key provisions of the revised Olympic Host City Contract include:

13. Respect of the Olympic Charter and promotion of Olympism

13.1. The Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG undertake to abide by the provisions of the Olympic Charter and the IOC Code of Ethics and agree to conduct their activities related to the organisation of the Games in a manner which promotes and enhances the fundamental principles and values of Olympism, as well as the development of the Olympic Movement.

13.2. Pursuant to their obligations under §13.1, the Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG shall, in their activities related to the organisation of the Games:

a. prohibit any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status;

b. protect and respect human rights and ensure any violation of human rights is remedied in a manner consistent with international agreements, laws and regulations applicable in the Host Country and in a manner consistent with all internationally-recognised human rights standards and principles, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, applicable in the Host Country; and

c. refrain from any act involving fraud or corruption, in a manner consistent with any international agreements, laws and regulations applicable in the Host Country and all internationally-recognised anti-corruption standards applicable in the Host Country, including by establishing and maintaining effective reporting and compliance.

13.3. The IOC, through its Coordination Commission referred to in §27, shall establish a reporting mechanism to address the obligations referred to in §13.1 and §13.2 in connection with the activities of the Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG related to the organisation of the Games.

15. Sustainability and Olympic legacy

15.1. The Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG undertake to carry out all activities foreseen under the HCC in a manner which embraces sustainable development and contributes to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.]

Source: Olympics: Host City Contract Requires Human Rights | Human Rights Watch

Low key launch of 2016 State Department Human-Rights Report raises questions

March 4, 2017

The Voice of America (3/3/17: Tillerson in Background as State Department Issues Human-Rights Report) and other media reported on the low-key way in which the US State Department launched the 2016 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

FILE - U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in Mexico City, Mexico, Feb. 22, 2017.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in Mexico City, Mexico, Feb. 22, 2017.

Sources:

Tillerson in Background as State Department Issues Human-Rights Report

http://gantdaily.com/2017/03/03/tillerson-skips-release-of-annual-human-rights-report/

Saudi Arabia: Imprisoned Waleed Abu al-Khair receives another human rights award

February 28, 2017

2014_Saudi_WaleedAbuKhair
Waleed Abu al-Khair, prominent lawyer and human rights activist, speaks to Human Rights Watch over Skype from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on September 19, 2013.

Saudi courts have convicted at least 20 prominent peaceful activists and dissidents since 2011. Many, like Abu al-Khair, have faced sentences as long as 10 or 15 years on broad, catch-all charges – such as “breaking allegiance with the ruler” or “participating in protests” – that do not constitute recognizable crimes. “Every day Waleed Abu al-Khair spends in prison compounds the injustice Saudi Arabia has imposed on him and his family,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

[Abu al-Khair has been one of Saudi Arabia’s leading human rights advocates for years. In July 2014, the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC), Saudi Arabia’s terrorism tribunal, convicted him on a number of broad and vaguely worded charges, including for comments to news outlets and on Twitter criticizing Saudi human rights violations. In addition to sentencing him to prison, the court banned him from traveling abroad for another 15 years. Abu al-Khair played no active part in his trial. He refused to recognize the legitimacy of the court or to defend himself. He also refused to sign a copy of the trial judgment or to appeal either his conviction or sentence. In January 2015, an appeals tribunal within the SCC overturned part of the earlier ruling following a prosecution appeal of the court’s suspension of five years of his term, and ruled instead that Abu al-Khair should serve all 15 years in prison.]

Saudi human rights activists gather outside the Criminal Court of Riyadh following a hearing in the trial of fellow activists Abdullah al-Hamid and Mohammed al-Qahtani.
Saudi human rights activists gather outside the Criminal Court of Riyadh following a hearing in the trial of fellow activists Abdullah al-Hamid and Mohammed al-Qahtani. Sulaiman al-Rashoodi (second from right), Mohammed al-Qahtani (third from right), Waleed Abu al-Khair (center, fourth from right) and Abdullah al-Hamid (fifth from right) © 2013 Private

 

Saudi authorities regularly pursue charges against human rights activists based on their peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, in violation of international human rights obligations. Other Saudi activists and dissidents currently serving long prison terms based solely on their peaceful activism include Mohammed al-QahtaniAbdullah al-HamidFadhil al-ManasifSulaiman al-RashoodiAbdulkareem al-KhodrFowzan al-HarbiRaif Badawi, Saleh al-Ashwan, Abdulrahman al-Hamid, Zuhair KutbiAlaa Brinji, and Nadhir al-Majed. Saudi authorities arrested activists Issa al-Nukheifi and Essam Koshak in December 2016 and January 2017 respectively, and they may face trial. Others, including Abdulaziz al-Shubaily and Issa al-Hamid, are free while appealing long sentences the SCC handed down in 2016. Mohammed al-Oteibi and Abdullah Attawi are currently on trial for forming a human rights organization in 2013.

Essam Koshak
Essam Koshak © Private

Source: Saudi Arabia: Imprisoned Activist Earns Human Rights Award | Human Rights Watch

Israel denies work permit to Human Rights Watch and continues harassment of HRDs

February 26, 2017

Image of Israeli security forces [Issam Rimawi - Anadolu Agency]

Image of Israeli security forces [Issam Rimawi – Anadolu Agency]
The Israeli occupation authorities have denied a work permit for the director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Israel and Palestinian territories, they said on Friday 24 February 2017. Israel accused the organisation of “engaging in politics in the service of Palestinian propaganda, while falsely raising the banner of ‘human rights’.” In response, HRW said that this comes as the Israelis seek to limit the space for local and international human rights groups to operate in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. “This decision and the spurious rationale should worry anyone concerned about Israel’s commitment to basic democratic values,” commented Deputy Executive Director of Programmes at HRW, Lain Levine. “It is disappointing that the Israeli government seems unable or unwilling to distinguish between justified criticisms of its actions and hostile political propaganda.”  The next day sixteen NGOs working in Israel issued a statement deploring the decision not to allow Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch (HRW). “We stand in solidarity with him and our colleagues at HRW.”  “Neither closing Israel’s borders to human rights organizations and activists nor other measures by the Israeli government against organizations that criticize the occupation will deter us from continuing to report human rights violations in the territories controlled by Israel. Attempts to silence the messenger will not suppress our message,” concluded the NGOs that include: Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Akevot, Amnesty International Israel, Bimkom, Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, Coalition of Women for Peace, Emek Shaveh, Gisha, Hamoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual, Haqel-Jews and Arabs in Defense of Human Rights, Human Rights Defenders Fund, Machsom Watch, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and Yesh Din.
Noting that the Israeli Knesset (parliament) passed a law last July that targeted human rights groups and imposed onerous reporting requirements which burden their advocacy, HRW suggested that the permit denial comes amid increasing pressure on human rights defenders operating in Israel and Palestine. “Israeli officials have directly accused Israeli advocacy groups of ‘slander’ and discrediting the state or army.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/13/why-did-so-many-assume-btselem-fire-was-arson/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/05/michael-sfardjan-israels-human-rights-activists-arent-traitors/]
Moreover, Palestinian rights defenders have received anonymous death threats and have been subject to travel restrictions and even arrests and criminal charges.[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/21/palestinian-human-rights-defenders-continue-to-be-persecuted/]. Front Line Defenders reported on 25 January 2017 that Israeli occupation forces arrested human rights defenders Ms Lema Nazeeh and Mr Mohammed Khatib – along with four other peaceful protesters –  near the illegal Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Israeli forces then went on to ill-treat Lema Nazeeh throughout her four days in detention at Al-Maskubiyyah prison in Jerusalem. On 23 January 2017, Israeli occupation forces also arrested human rights defender Mr Abdallah Abu Rahma as he attended the court hearing of the two aforementioned defenders. Lema Nazeeh and Mohammed Khatib were arrested while participating in a peaceful protest against illegal settlement construction in Bab Al-Shams in East Jerusalem, otherwise known as the E1 area/settlement bloc. The protest was also against US President Donald Trump’s suggested plan to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Three days after the protest, Abdallah Abu Rahma was arrested on suspicion that he had also taken part in the peaceful protest. All human rights defenders were released on bail, pending trial. (https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/lema-nazeeh; https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-mohammed-khatib and https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/abdallah-abu-rahma)

Human Rights Watch is an independent, international, nongovernmental organisation and monitors rights violations in more than 90 countries across the world.” It also has staff who work legally in its registered offices in some 24 countries around the world, including LebanonJordan and Tunisia. “While the Israeli government is hardly the only one to disagree with our well-researched findings,” concluded Levine, “its efforts to stifle the messenger signal that it has no appetite for serious scrutiny of its human rights record.

Sources:

Israel denies work permit for Human Rights Watch director – Middle East Monitor

http://english.wafa.ps/page.aspx?id=dJyp7Ba54219464904adJyp7B

2017 (10): need to ‘reset’ for human rights movement

February 24, 2017

This is the last post in my “2017 series“.

Amnesty International (AI) on Tuesday 21 February 2017 released its Annual Report 2016/17. It contains a summary of an international human rights survey that discusses the role “rhetoric of fear, blame and hate” have played in rolling back human rights around the world. AI analyzed major political leaders that identify as anti-establishment, such as US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan, arguing that their rhetoric has led to dangerous impacts on policy. AI’s conclusion is for individuals to come together and push governments to respect human rights, stating, “we cannot rely on governments to protect our freedoms, and so we have to stand up ourselves.” AI said that inspiration should be found in the “civil rights activists in the USA, anti-apartheid activists in South Africa,” or things as recent as the International Women’s March and pro-democracy protests in Gambia. Beyond localized efforts, AI said that “global solidarity is crucial if we are to protect each other from those governments quick to portray dissent as a threat to national security and economic development.”

Last month the 2017 World Report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that a surge in populist leaders in Europe and the US threatens human rights while inviting autocratic abuse in other nations [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/20/2017-3-hrw-reminds-world-of-continuing-repression-of-minorities-and-their-defenders/].

In September UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein unleashed a scathing criticism of Western “demagogues,” accusing them of spreading populist xenophobia and racism.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/14/un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-states-may-shut-my-office-out-but-they-will-not-shut-us-up/]

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/26/2017-6-predictions-on-trump-and-the-un-prophets-or-cassandras/

Source: JURIST – Amnesty: global politics threatening human rights

2017 (3): HRW reminds world of continuing repression of minorities and their defenders

January 20, 2017

On 12 January 2017, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released its World Report on global human rights violations in 2016 and on the dangers the world will be facing in 2017. HRW shines its spotlight on the global rise of authoritarian populism and the concomitant toughening and broadening of anti-terrorism legislation around the world, which endangered throughout 2016 – and must be expected to keep challenging in 2017 – the very foundations of human rights law and the personal dignity inherent in every human being just as much as the despicable extremist attacks, to which they are a direct reaction.

Below the UNPO‘s (stand for the UNREPRESENTED NATIONS AND PEOPLES ORGANIZATION) reading of the report which notes with satisfaction that HRW does not neglect to emphasize in its country reports the persisting human rights abuses directed against indigenous peoples and ethnic and religious minorities around the world, but also sees some shortcomings (from its own perspective): Read the rest of this entry »

Fake news also in the human rights arena: who would give a Human Rights award to Duterte?

December 21, 2016

Republished as some readers could not properly see the post: This blog has a special interest in human rights awards, so I noted with dismay that according to some obscure sources President Duterte of the Philippines had been given an international human rights award.  The announcement looked like this:

“International Human Rights Committee to Award President Duterte = AUGUST 18, 2016

DUTERTE AWARD

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has been named as one of the honorees in the annual Human Rights Award by the International Human Rights Committee.”

Unable to find any confirmation elsewhere I wrote to the American Bar Association which has an award and an ‘International Human Rights Committee’. No reply received yet but in the meantime I saw yesterday the “Fake news alert!” published on December 14, 2016 in Busted. And indeed it seems that fake news has also entered the human rights awards arena:

Various Facebook Duterte supporter groups such as “Duterte Warriors”, “Duterte News Global”, and “Duterte Media” have been sharing news of President Duterte being awarded by the International Human Rights Committee. According to the news article sourced from Trending News PH, President Rodrigo Duterte was named as one of the honorees in the annual Human Rights Award held by the International Human Rights Committee. This “committee” was said to have bestowed this award to Duterte for his “exemplary service in the promotion of human rights.” However, the said article is not linked to any other source and no major news outlets have reported on the headline. Furthermore, upon closer inspection, there are numerous inconsistencies on the dates the groups posted the article. The article itself was posted 4 months ago while the groups posted on September and October, with the “Duterte Warriors” group sharing the post twice, once in August and another in September. What was the point of posting the same news article more than once and on different months?

Moreover, the photo used in the article was originally a photo taken during LPU’s Quality Awards Convocation wherein Duterte, still a mayor that time, was awarded as the Most Outstanding Alumnus of Lyceum of the Philippines University in 2015. [http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/677750/duterte-is-lpus-outstanding-alumnus]

Even if it would turn out that some biased or incompetent committee did bestow a minor award, it does not change the fact that Duterte has  issues with human rights defenders for the way he is conducting his war on drugs. In fact, recently, Human Rights Watch and other NGOs demanded that Duterte should renounce his earlier statement that seemed to threaten the lawyers of alleged drug dealers. “Duterte’s threats against lawyers and human rights defenders constitute a dangerous extension of his abusive ‘war on drugs’ that has already resulted in more than 5,000 killings,” HRW deputy Asia director Phelim Kine said. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/11/02/duterte-is-wrong-human-rights-defenders-are-beautiful/

See also Front Line Defenders on 1 December: “On 28 November 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened (<http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/848933/duterte-threatens-to-kill-human-rights-activists-if-drug-problem-worsens)> to kill human rights defenders in the Philippines in his speech in Malacañang. “The human rights (defenders) said I ordered the killings. I told them, ‘OK Let’s stop. We’ll let them (drug users) multiply so that when it’s harvest time, more people will die, I will include you  because you are the reason why their numbers swell,” referring to human rights defenders.`

Sources:

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/12/03/1649760/duterte-urged-retract-kill-threat-vs-hr-activists

http://www.vocativ.com/379354/philippines-online-army/

Busted: International Human Rights award given to Duterte? Fake news alert!

Surprise: Russia loses seat on UN Human Rights Council by 2 votes

October 29, 2016

Russia was defeated in its bid to be re-elected as a member of the UN’s Human Rights Council. But only just: Russia lost to Croatia by just two votes with Hungary claiming the Eastern Europe region’s other remaining seat. Many human rights groups had campaigned against the membership of Russia, China and others such as Saudi Arabia, but the problem is that the UN General Assembly only has a choice when the regional allotment has more candidates than seats. Saudi Arabia was re-elected as one of the four Asia-Pacific region countries to run for that region’s four allocated slots. Human Rights Watch’s UN director, Louis Charbonneau said that the vote “also shows how important it is to have competitive slates in UN elections. Countries should have a chance to reject those whose candidacies are so severely compromised, as they did today.

Read the rest of this entry »

Violence against Environmental Human Rights Defenders: one of the worst trends in recent years

September 1, 2016

The chilling trend of attacking human rights defenders working on environment and land rights continues. The help keep an overview here a summary of a number of relevant items:
On 26 August 2016 Patricia Schaefer of the Center for International Environmental Law posted a blog in the NonProfitQuarterly website under the Title “International Collaboration Reports on Violence against Environmental Activists”, summarizing two recent reports (On Dangerous Ground by Global Witness and a more recent “Deadly Shade of Green” by Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), British NGO Article 19, and Vermont Law School).

Read the rest of this entry »

African human rights defenders defend the ICC against attacks by their governments

July 6, 2016

Human rights defenders from across Africa clarify misconceptions about the International Criminal Court (ICC) and highlight the need for African governments to support the court in a video released on 6 July 2016 by 21 African and international nongovernmental organizations. [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/the-fight-against-impunity-for-international-crimes-in-africa-no-free-pass-for-leaders-say-human-rights-defenders/]

In January 2016, the African Union (AU) gave its Open-Ended Committee of African Ministers on the ICC a mandate to develop a “comprehensive strategy” on the ICC, including considering the withdrawal of African member countries from the court. The committee met in April and agreed on three conditions that needed to be met by the ICC in order for the AU to agree not to call on African countries to withdraw from the court. These include a demand for immunity from ICC prosecution for sitting heads of state and other senior government officials – which is contrary to a fundamental principle of the court.

Human rights defenders from across Africa highlight the need for African governments to support the International Criminal Court in a video by 21 African and international nongovernmental organizations. The video features 12 African activists who raise concerns about AU actions toward the ICC.

It is not clear if the AU will consider any of the open-ended committee’s assessments and recommendations at its upcoming summit in Kigali, Rwanda, from 10 – 18 July.

The reasons why we supported the establishment of a permanent court as Africa have not changed,” says Stella Ndirangu of the International Commission of Jurists-Kenya. “The only thing that has changed is that now leaders are being held to account.”

To say that the ICC is targeting Africa, I think, is a misrepresentation of the situation,” says Angela Mudukuti of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre. “It’s more Africans making use of the court they helped to create.”

Six out of the nine African situations under ICC investigation came about as a result of requests or grants of jurisdictions by African governments – Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Uganda, and the Central African Republic twice. Two other investigations in Africa, the Darfur region of Sudan and Libya, were referred to the court by the United Nations Security Council. In Kenya, the ICC prosecutor received the authorization of an ICC pretrial chamber to open investigations after Kenya repeatedly failed to investigate the 2007-08 post-election violence domestically. In January, the ICC prosecutor opened the court’s first investigation outside Africa, into Georgia, and is conducting several preliminary examinations of situations outside Africa – including in Afghanistan, Colombia, Palestine, and alleged crimes attributed to the armed forces of the United Kingdom deployed in Iraq.

The recommendations from the open-ended committee are the latest development in a backlash against the ICC from some African leaders, which has focused on claims that the ICC is “unfairly targeting Africa.” The backlash first intensified following the ICC’s 2009 arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan for serious crimes committed in Darfur. While blanket immunity for sitting heads of state is available in some domestic jurisdictions, it has never been available before international criminal courts dealing with grave crimes. The AU, in 2015, adopted a protocol to give its continental court authority to prosecute grave crimes, but also, in a controversial provision, grants immunity for sitting heads of states and other senior government officials. That protocol will need 15 ratifications before coming into force, but has yet to be ratified by any country.

The video is endorsed by the following organizations that are part of an informal group that works to promote support for justice for grave crimes in Africa and beyond:

Africa Center for International Law and Accountability (Ghana)
African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (Uganda)
Africa Legal Aid
Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (Sierra Leone)
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (Malawi)
Children Education Society (Tanzania)
Club des Amis du Droit du Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo)
Coalition for the International Criminal Court (Burundi)
Coalition for the International Criminal Court (Global)
DefendDefenders – East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project
Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme
Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (Uganda)
Human Rights Watch
International Commission of Jurists (Kenya)
Kenya Human Rights Commission
Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice
Legal Defense and Assistance Project (Nigeria)
Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court
Réseau Justice Et Développement (Togo)
Southern Africa Litigation Centre
Southern Africa Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (Zambia)

 

Source: AU: Activists Challenge Attacks on ICC | Human Rights Watch