Posts Tagged ‘HRW’

Historic Conviction Against Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party

October 8, 2020

Justice Delivered in Greece

Magda Fyssa, the mother of late Greek rap singer Pavlos Fyssas, who was stabbed and killed by a supporter of the extreme right Golden Dawn party in 2013, celebrates immediately after the delivery of the verdict in Athens, October 7, 2020. 
Magda Fyssa, the mother of late Greek rap singer Pavlos Fyssas, who was stabbed and killed by a supporter of the extreme right Golden Dawn party in 2013, celebrates immediately after the delivery of the verdict in Athens, October 7, 2020.  © 2020 AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris

Living in Greece as I do, I can only warmly endorse the reactions of the international human rights community (here Human Rights Watch): In a momentous ruling today, an Athens appeals court found that the far-right neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party was operating as a criminal organization. The court also found that members of the group orchestrated or colluded in the 2013 murder of 34-year-old antifascist activist and rapper Pavlos Fyssas, the 2013 murder of 27-year-old Pakistani national Shehzad Luqman, and numerous brutal attacks against migrants, trade unionists, and human rights defenders.

It’s a landmark victory for the victims, their families, and civil society says HRW. An estimated 20,000 people who gathered in downtown Athens erupted in cheers when they heard the verdict. Magda Fyssa cried out, “You did it, my son!” perhaps finally finding some meaning in the otherwise senseless loss of her son Pavlos.  

People holding a banner depicting Greek rap singer Pavlos Fyssas, who was stabbed and killed by a supporter of the extreme right Golden Dawn party in 2013, gather for a protest outside a court in Athens, Wednesday, October 7, 2020. 
People holding a banner depicting Greek rap singer Pavlos Fyssas, who was stabbed and killed by a supporter of the extreme right Golden Dawn party in 2013, gather for a protest outside a court in Athens, Wednesday, October 7, 2020.  © 2020 AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis

It has been a long time coming. Back in 2010-2013, when Golden Dawn flourished, Greece saw an epidemic of violence. In 2011-2012, we documented dozens of attacks on foreigners, who had been beaten, kicked, and chased down the streets of Athens by gangs of Greeks linked to Golden Dawn. Victims included migrants and asylum seekers, pregnant women, and children. Many attacks went unpunished, with police doing little to intervene and courts to hold perpetrators to account.

In January 2012, Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos sat across a table from us and denied any involvement in violence. Now he and seven other former lawmakers are facing sentences of up to 15 years in jail for leading a violent, criminal organization. Many others await sentencing for membership.

Talking about Golden Dawn, Michaloliakos said to us, “We want Greece to belong to the Greeks … if that makes us racist, then yes we are.

Today’s verdict, along with the massive crowd outside the courtroom, sends the clear message that these hateful ideas, and the violence that Golden Dawn spawned, are not welcome in Greek society anymore.

See also;

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/10/greece-mps-of-golden-dawn-far-right-party-attack-minority-rights-defenders-no-police-action/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/08/28/documentary-exposing-golden-dawn-racism-awarded-in-sarajevo/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/08/16/knife-attack-targets-migrants-in-crete-greece/

—–

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/10/07/justice-delivered-greece

Vietnam detaines human rights defender Pham Doan Trang just after concluding its annual human rights dialogue with the USA

October 8, 2020

Prominent Vietnamese activist Pham Doan Trang was arrested on the night of October 6 [File: Adam Bemma/Al Jazeera]
Prominent Vietnamese activist Pham Doan Trang was arrested on the night of October 6 [File: Adam Bemma/Al Jazeera]

On 7 October 2020 al-jazeera reported that Vietnam has detained prominent human rights defender and writer Pham Doan Trang just hours after the conclusion of its annual human rights dialogue with the United States. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/16/rsfs-press-freedom-award-2019-goes-to-three-women-journalists/]

Trang, a 42-year-old former journalist-turned-activist, was arrested at her home in Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday night, and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda”, an offence that carries a jail term of long as 20 years, Defending the Defenders said in a statement.

So far this year, Vietnam has arrested at least 25 activists as well as 29 land petitioners, bringing the total number of prisoners of conscience to 258, the rights group added. Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch’s Asia deputy director, said Vietnam was taking a “scorched-earth response” to political dissent.

Despite suffering years of systemic government harassment, including severe physical attacks, Trang has remained faithful to her principles of peaceful advocacy for human rights and democracy,” Robertson said. “Her thoughtful approach to reforms and demands for people’s real participation in their governance are messages the Vietnam government should listen to and respect, not repress.

Trang’s writing covers a wide range of issues including LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, the environment, and democratic activism. Most of her work is published clandestinely including the best-selling Politics for the Common People, which is akin to a guide for fledgeling activists.

She is also known for her on-the-ground activism, taking part in rallies in support of imprisoned dissidents, the environment and in response to China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea.

Trang has been on the radar of the security forces for more than 10 years and has been detained and harassed a number of times, including while she was on her way to a meeting with then-US President Barack Obama in 2016, and, a year later, after she met a European Union delegation on a fact-finding mission ahead of its annual human rights dialogue with Vietnam.

Her latest arrest came only a few hours after Vietnam had wrapped up its annual human rights dialogue with the US. The US State Department said in a statement that the virtual meeting lasted three hours and covered a range of rights issues including “continued progress and bilateral cooperation on the rule of law, freedom of expression and association, religious freedom and labor rights”.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/10/7/vietnam-arrests-leading-democracy-activist-after-us-rights-talks

https://thediplomat.com/2020/10/scorched-earth-vietnam-arrests-leading-dissident-activist-and-blogger/

Kenneth Roth speaks plainly on international human rights: China a violator and US “unprincipled”

September 29, 2020

In Newsweek of 21 September 2020 did an interview with Kenneth Roth who has spent 27 years as the executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in which he warns that China poses a threat to the global human rights system, that U.S. is no longer to be relied on as a supporter of human rights and how this has left a void, emboldening autocrats who have used the pandemic to undermine democratic societies.

China and the threat it poses to human rights both at home and around the world is a huge issue,” he says, identifying the current period as the darkest in China’s history when it comes to human rights since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. More than a million Uighur Muslims have been put in internment camps in the country’s Xinjiang province, According to the United Nations (U.N.). China says the camps serve as “re-education” centers designed to combat extremism, but those who have managed to escape share stories of forced labor, torture, medical experiments and rape. Roth says: “The Uighurs are the most severe example of worsening repression under Xi Jinping (China’s prime minister). It’s quite clear that this is the darkest moment in China in human rights terms since the massacre of Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989, the Uyghurs have been the most grievous sufferers of that where a million or more have been detained essentially to force them to abandon Islam and their culture.” The worsening repression doesn’t just extend to minorities, it’s something Roth says we can see also occurring in Hong Kong and Tibet as well as against China’s own population more widely.

There is no independent civil society,” he says. “There is no independent media, human rights defenders are routinely imprisoned. There is a complete lockdown on any organized public dissent and that is just across the board, not just minority population areas. China’s also building this so-called social credit system which is designed to condition access to various governmental benefits on one’s social reliability. So it’s using high-tech tools to control the population.“…

….

On the human rights challenges facing Europe, Roth expresses particular concern about the situation in Belarus, where the man dubbed “Europe’s last dictator“, Alexander Lukashenko, is facing widespread protests over a disputed election. Lukashenko has been in power since 1994, with the government frequently accused of repressing the opposition….

Kenneth Roth
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch

He also thinks India‘s Prime Minister Modi has got away with what he calls his systematic discrimination against the country’s 172 million Muslims because of the West’s desire to tap into Indian markets and use it as a counterweight against China, which Newsweek will be reporting on in the coming days.

Roth is highly critical of the Trump administration, accusing the president’s foreign policy of being driven by the guiding principle of “self-glorification” and only speaking out in defense of human rights when the offending country is a perceived adversary.

Trump is utterly uninterested in calling out any human rights violation by anybody other than a handful of perceived adversaries, China, Venezuela, Iran, Nicaragua and Cuba and that’s about it, which is a completely unprincipled approach to human rights which does not attract any adherence and greatly weakens the force of US intervention,” he says. “Human Rights Watch has been living with Trump for four years now and we have already stopped relying on the U.S. as anything like a principled supporter of human rights.”

With the U.S. increasingly withdrawing from the world stage and with the European Union not really filling the void, as he says, is there a new approach to the defense of human rights emerging?

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/19/are-human-rights-defenders-making-a-comeback-kenneth-roth-thinks-so/

https://www.newsweek.com/human-rights-china-u-s-foreign-policy-trump-democracy-europe-human-rights-watch-1533239

Duterte speech at General Asembly tries to divert attention from killings by discrediting NGOs

September 25, 2020

Human rights watchdog Karapatan decried what they called as vilification against human rights defenders by President Rodrigo Duterte. During his recorded speech at the 75th United Nation’s General (UNGA) Assembly on 23 September Duterte claimed, “A number of interest groups have weaponized human rights; some well-meaning, others ill-intentioned.” He claimed further that “the Philippines will continue to protect the human rights of the Filipino people, only that there are groups trying to discredit the functioning institutions and mechanisms in a democratic country.

In reaction, Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan said that Duterte, “is posturing in making desperate pleas before the international community that is growing increasingly critical of his human rights record and tyrannical rule.” “Duterte’s empty promise to ‘continue’ protecting the rights of Filipinos is betrayed when Duterte himself, just a few seconds later, continued to justify the drug war and the terror-tagging of human rights defenders, reiterating his administration’s distorted reasoning that the said campaigns are in protection of human life and the accusation that human rights groups and advocates are ‘weaponizing’ human rights,” Palabay said in a statement. [see also: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/threats-against-cristina-palabay]

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. said Duterte’s accusations against human rights workers is a blanket denial of human crisis in the Philippines. “Duterte would rather discredit human rights defenders and institutions than acknowledge that there are extrajudicial killings and other violations in the Philippines. He continues to deny what the whole world has already come to recognize,” said Reyes in a statement.

Just last week, the European Parliament expressed support to the human rights defenders in the Philippines. They also condemned the recent killings of activists in the country and called for accountability of the perpetrators. The United Nations Special Procedures also expressed solidarity with Filipino human rights defenders.

Duterte also said in his speech that “To move forward, open dialogue and constructive engagement with the United Nations is the key.” However, Palabay reiterated that the Duterte government did not even allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Special Rapporteurs to conduct an in-country investigation on the killings under the government’s campaign against illegal drugs and other human rights violations. Palabay added, “Their (UN bodies) requests for such are met with threats of violence, wild accusations of foreign meddling, and demeaning insults. The Philippine government even rejected most of the findings and recommendations of the recent report of the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and is currently finding ways to evade independent investigation at the UN Human Rights Council.”

Reyes also said that Duterte’s statement about engaging the UN is “empty rhetoric as it merely aims to blunt international criticism of his human rights record.

Meanwhile, a resolution on the Philippines is now being discussed at the UN Human Rights Council. A draft of the resolution was presented by the Iceland and the Philippines at the HRC 45th regular session according to Civicus, a global alliance of civil society organizations and activists.

Different progressive groups in the Philippines are calling to end all political killings and other rights violations under President Duterte during Martial Law commemoration last Sept. 21. (Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat)

Human rights defenders have been calling for independent investigation on human rights violations in the Philippines. This call was reiterated during an online forum led by Civicus on Tuesday,22 September.

Laila Matar, deputy director for UN at Human Rights Watch said at the minimum, the HRC resolution “need to be stripped of all government propaganda.”It also has to make sure that the OHCHR would continue in monitoring and reporting comprehensively on the human rights situation and report also through interactive dialogues at the HRC so that the international community would have a chance to truly address human rights violations in the country,” Matar said.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/22/the-killing-of-randy-echanis-and-zara-alvarez-put-the-philippines-under-more-pressure/

‘Weaponizing human rights?’ | Rights group refutes Duterte’s ‘lies’ at the UN assembly

Egypt: 15-year term for human rights defender Bahey El-Din Hassan

August 27, 2020

President of the Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies, Bahey El-Din Hassan, 26 August 2020 [thenewkhalij/Twitter]

President of the Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies, Bahey El-Din Hassan, 26 August 2020 [thenewkhalij/Twitter]

The charges levelled against Bahey Hassan, who has been described as the spiritual father of the human rights movement, are familiar. They have been issued, in one form or another, against Egypt’s 60,000 political prisoners, multiple times: spreading false news and insulting the judiciary. The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies condemns the 15-year sentencing of its director, prominent human rights defender Bahey eldin Hassan, and calls for an end to a state security campaign of intimidation and vengeance that has targeted Egyptian rights advocates.

Bahey Hassan left Egypt in 2014 after receiving death threats for his work. Two years later a travel ban was issued against him and his assets were frozen after he and his organisation were targeted by what Amnesty terms a “politically motivated investigation into the work of human rights organisations in case 173”, or the foreign funding case.[see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/18/egypt-court-freezes-assets-of-rights-defenders-and-ngos/]

In 2019 Hassan was sentenced to three years in prison, again in absentia, and fined 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($1,259) for allegedly insulting the judiciary.

Amr Magdi, Egypt’s researcher for Human Rights Watch, has drawn comparisons with Bahey Hassan’s treatment by the Sisi government to how his organisation was allowed to operate under ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Understandbly there have been massive reactions on Twitter and other social media  against the 15-year sentence by Egypt ‘s ‘terror’ court.

 

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/08/egypt-human-rights-defender-bahey-eldin-hassan-handed-outrageous-15-year-prison-sentence/

Twitter ignites as Egypt ‘terror’ court hands 15-year term to human rights defender 

 

 

Egypt: Human rights defender Bahey eldin Hassan sentenced over a tweet

What can we do about the result of the Belarussian “election”? On line discussion

August 13, 2020

The Human Rights House Foundation, in partnership with Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House, will host on THURSDAY, AUGUST 13, 2020 AT 14 PM an on -line  panel discussion with individuals closely following events on the ground. It will investigate what the European Union, United Nations, and individual states must do immediately to prevent further violence and seek a political solution to this growing crisis and how the international community should continue to occupy this space once this crisis moves off of the front pages.
On August 9, Belarusian President Alyasandr Lukashenka claimed a landslide re-election victory. This claim was widely anticipated, condemned by the political opposition, and met with large-scale peaceful protests across the country. Belarusian authorities responded with what international organisations label disproportionate violence against protesters. Since Monday, local human rights organisations report thousands detained, many of them arbitrarily, and facing further violence and abuse while in detention. More than 60 journalists – both domestic and foreign – have been arrested with the whereabouts of several unknown. In many ways, these early days of the post-election environment point towards a more violent crackdown than the country faced following the last presidential elections in 2010.
What can and should the international community do to pressure Belarusian authorities to cease their violent attacks on protesters and human rights defenders?
Speakers:
Anaïs Marin
UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus

Oleg Kozlovsky

Amnesty International
Franak Viačorka
Vice President of the Digital Communication Network
Hanna Liubakova
Journalist, Outriders

Valiantsin Stefanovic

Viasna. Human rights in Belarus

and

Tanya Lokshina
Associate director, Europe and Central Asia, Human Rights Watch
Moderation by Dave Elseroad, Human Rights House Foundation.
Also today, 13 August 2020, 5 UN human rights experts strongly criticised Belarus for police violence against peaceful protesters and journalists and large scale detention following a controversial presidential election, and called on the international community to put pressure on Belarus to stop attacking its own citizens: https://yubanet.com/world/belarus-must-stop-attacking-peaceful-protesters-un-human-rights-experts-say/

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  

Refugees and migrants in camp conditions at high risk of COVID-19

March 30, 2020

UK’s human rights policy after Brexit

February 13, 2020

With Brexit a number of commentaries have appeared about the UK‘s human rights stance in the future. Here two examples:

Maria Arena wrote on 3 February 2020 in Feature about the Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI), saying it will continue to keep a critical eye on the EU’s external policies while playing a constructive role in upholding international law and human rights standards. She is the Chair of the Subcommittee. It reads almost as of no Brexit has taken place……

The issue of business and human rights is currently one of the most high-profile areas of attention, with a focus on moving towards more responsible business conduct globally, through the introduction of new voluntary standards as well as compulsory company due diligence. Compulsory due diligence at EU level was a key European Parliament demand during the previous parliamentary term and we are determined to deliver on this. There is also a clear need to face up to new challenges and threats such as climate change. Migration linked to serious human rights violations and conflicts continues to be a global challenge. DROI members are keen to continue their task of scrutinising all new EU policy developments, particularly the recently announced EU human rights sanctions regime; legislation repeatedly called for by Parliament.

As the Subcommittee’s chair, I am also determined to look for new and more effective ways to protect human rights defenders. I must emphasise right at the outset: the Subcommittee cannot do this alone. This is a task for Parliament as a whole. One of our biggest challenges is upholding European ambitions on universal values and human rights standards, against the backdrop of a weakened multilateral system. We need to work towards safeguarding and improving the EU’s credibility in the world as an actor that recognises human rights and a rules-based international system as a strategic interest, not as a distraction from other foreign policy objectives.

..There can be no progress without injecting human rights into the policy debates about development, empowering women and civil society, as well as contributing to a stable and democratic neighbourhood for the EU….Citizens’ expectations are clear: people across the EU want us to stand up for universal values and deliver active and effective EU external action that protects and promotes human rights. I will never side with those who say that security or economic interest should trump human rights. …“One of our biggest challenges is upholding European ambitions on universal values and human rights standards, against the backdrop of a weakened multilateral system”

……
The EU should not shy away from establishing redress and complaints mechanisms. We need to deliver true and measurable improvements on the ground before granting trade preferences and should raise the bar on implementing international commitments with our partners. I also think we should be more ambitious about understanding the full environmental and human rights impact of our trade relations and perhaps be more vigilant about inward investment to the EU.

Benjamin Ward, UK Director (Acting) & Deputy Director, Europe & Central Asia Division of HRW, wrote in Euronews of 3 February 2020 that “Britain Should Stick To Its Principles For Brexit Success

https://www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/articles/feature/committee-guide-2020-droi-ambitious-and-vigilant

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/02/05/britain-should-stick-its-principles-brexit-success

28 NGOs ask EU Parliament to reject cooperation deal with Vietnam on 11 February

February 10, 2020

The signing NGOs include Human Rights Watch, Defend the Defenders, The 88 Project, and the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam.

There are notable precedents of the European Parliament setting human rights benchmarks to be met before giving their consent to bilateral deals in order to promote human rights progress,” the NGOs claim pointing to a 2016 case in Uzbekistan and the EP’s rejection in March 2019 of the EU-Turkmenistan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. The European Parliament needs to take the exact same strategy with Vietnam, withholding Parliament’s permission and authorizing an identical resolution outlining the civils rights problems that Vietnam must satisfy for MEPs to greenlight the offer,” the NGOs claimed.

Only once a series of human rights concerns have been duly addressed by the state authorities, MEPs should give their consent to the deals.

See however 24 April 2020: https://www.marketscreener.com/news/EU-Vietnam-free-trade-agreement-passes-despite-human-rights-concerns–30471437/

https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/11/04/joint-ngo-letter-eu-vietnam-free-trade-agreement