Posts Tagged ‘human rights abuses’

Vietnamese blogger Mother Mushroom gets Civil Rights Defender of the Year award 2015

April 20, 2015

Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders announced earlier this month that its Civil Rights Defender of the Year award for 2015 has gone to Ms. Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh. She is Coordinator for the Vietnamese Bloggers Network and well-known for her use of social media to speak out against injustices and human rights abuses in Vietnam. Quỳnh has been blogging under the pseudonym of Me Nam (Mother Mushroom) and has openly criticised the Vietnamese government over human rights abuses and corruption. She began blogging in early 2006 when she paid a visit to a hospital and witnessed many poor people in the hot sun desperately waiting for treatment, but ignored because they lacked money to bribe hospital officials.

Civil Rights Defenders reported about bloggers and the human rights movement in Vietnam in: We will not be silenced.

For further information on the award: http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/human-rights-defender-year-award

Civil Rights Defenders – Civil Rights Defender of the Year 2015 – Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh.

Coalition of human rights defenders and others call on Olympic Committee to change its ways

February 26, 2015

The IOC Executive Committee is meeting in Rio de Janeiro these days (26-28 February) to discuss implementation of Agenda 2020, its “strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement”. The IOC’s adopted agenda requires Olympic host countries to respect anti-discrimination measures and labor standards, improve transparency, and promote good governance.

The new Sport and Rights Alliance (SRA see below for membership) addressed a letter to the IOC saying that too often major sports events have seen people forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for infrastructure, workers exploited, campaigners locked up, the environment damaged beyond repair and notoriously opaque bidding processes,” … “The recommendations in the IOC’s Agenda 2020 are a chance to change that and ensure human rights, the environment and anti-corruption measures are central to all stages of the Olympic Games, from bidding, through to the development and delivery phase to final reporting.Read the rest of this entry »

Documentary Filmmakers and Human Rights Defenders: the Impact Awards

November 22, 2014

A blog that pride itself to follow with special interest what is happening in the area of film making and human rights defenders, cannot pass up this post by Queen Noor of Jordan in the Huffington Post of 21 November 2014: “Today, as the winners of the 2014 Impact Award are announced, is a good day to honour the work of documentary filmmakers everywhere. In particular, their role in documenting, highlighting and explaining human rights abuses and human rights protests even in places that western journalists cannot reach.” The growing availability of cheap small recording devices over the past years has been a major development for filmmakers and human rights defenders, allowing stories to emerge even from ‘difficult’ countries.

no fire zone

(No Fire Zone – one of the winners of BRITDOC Impact Award 2014)

Four years ago, when I was part of the first Impact Award jury, we gave a special mention to the film Burma VJ. I was struck by the bravery of the Burmese video journalists who were able to capture the striking images of the Saffron Revolution. 

This year, the Impact Award is honouring No Fire Zone, which examines the closing days of the Sri Lankan civil war against the Tamil Tigers, a deeply shocking account of an assault against civilians, which premiered at the United Nations Human Rights Council and played a crucial role in the Council’s decision this year to finally order an independent review of the death of 70,000 civilians. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/11th-human-rights-film-festival-starts-1st-march-in-geneva-with-a-bang-that-upsets-sri-lanka/]

Other films being awarded this year are: GranitoBlackfishAmerican Promise and The House I Live In.

Documentary Filmmakers Piece Together The Truth | Queen Noor of Jordan.

UN expert group on business and human rights on timely visit to Azerbaijan

August 18, 2014

In relation to my post this morning about the hot summer in Azerbaijan [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/azerbaijan-a-hot-summer-in-summary/] it is relevant to note that the UN expert group on business and human rights is visiting this country for the first time. The information provided by the different NGOs clearly points to a huge problem in preventing and protecting against business-related human rights abuses.

 

The United Nations group of independent experts undertakes its first official visit to Azerbaijan from 18 to 27 August 2014 to examine the impact of business activities on human rights in the country. [The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, unanimously endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, offer clarity and guidance for authorities and companies to prevent and address adverse impacts of business activities on human rights. They re-affirm States’ existing obligations to protect against human rights abuse by third parties, including businesses. They also clarify the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and the need to ensure that victims have access to effective remedy.]

They group will hold a press conference to share with the media preliminary observations from their visit at 13h30 on Wednesday 27 August 2014 at UN House, UN 50th Anniversary Street 3, Baku. The official report is to be presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2015.

(The Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises was established by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011. The five members are Mr. Michael Addo (Ghana), Ms. Alexandra Guáqueta (Colombia), Ms. Margaret Jungk (USA), Mr. Puvan Selvanathan (Malaysia) and Mr. Pavel Sulyandziga (Russian Federation). The Working Group is independent from any government or organization. Its members serve in their personal capacities. They are not UN staff members and do not receive a salary for their work.)

See: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/WGHRandtransnationalcorporationsandotherbusiness.aspx

 

Journalists get training in Africa: examples from Tanzania and South Sudan

April 9, 2014

Like other people, journalists have personal interest in the rights that allow them to live in freedom and to be free from fear or oppression…” said Onesmo Olengurumwa, National Coordinator of  Tanzania Human Rights Defenders – Coalition (THRD-C).  He was speaking recently in Dar es Salaam at a 3-day seminar for journalists meant to train them in Security Management and Risk Assessment. Similar trainings will be conducted periodically to ensure journalists are equipped with the knowledge on how to best respond and tackle volatile and potentially dangerous situations. “Media owners, editors, journalists, human rights NGOs, community and the government should take security and protection issues for journalists much more seriously,” said Olengurumwa. He also reminded journalists that their personal behaviour, lifestyle and how they approach their work may place them at risk. “Investing on security management and protection for journalists should be undertaken by all media owners,”

Journalists, CSOs, Human Rights and CBOs representatives posing for a group photo during the two-day training on Human rights in NBGS. [Gurtong| Abraham Agoth]

group photo of training on Human rights in NBGS. [Gurtong| Abraham Agoth]

On 28 March 2014 Abraham Agoth in “Oye! News from Africa” reported that Journalists and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has completed a Human Rights Defenders training course organised by the Human Rights Protection and Civil Affairs Departments of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Speaking at the closing ceremony, the acting UNMISS state coordinator, Numa Shams urged the participants to apply what they learnt during the training in their daily work so that human rights abuses are minimized. “We hope this work will be incorporated into your daily activities of monitoring human right in your respective working locations and within your communities,” he said. I have seen your participation and commitments in this training. It clearly shows that you have learnt something and are eager to learn more,” said Mary Makelele, the director general in the state ministry of Information, “My appeal to everyone is that; do not take these skills for granted but instead use them to educate others.” During the training, it was generally observed that human rights have been mostly violated due to negligence and ignorance.

Journalists, CSOs Complete Human Rights Defenders Training | Oye Times.

Ganji: Human rights in Iran improved, but still short of expectations

March 26, 2014

 

Remise du Prix Martin Ennals 2006

(Ganji – second from the right – at the MEA ceremony of 2006, where he received the award from UN High Commissioner Louise Arbour)

Al-Monitor of 25 March carries a lengthy interview with MEA Laureate Akbar Ganji in which Jahandad Memarian records many interesting insights, especially on the issue of sanctions and support to human rights defenders. The whole interview is certainly worth reading; here follow some long excerpts:

It is not an exaggeration to say that Akbar Ganji is the most celebrated dissident within the ranks of Iranian journalists since the inception of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979. A former supporter of the revolution, Ganji became disenchanted and turned into one of its most vocal critics. He is best known for his work as a journalist covering the 1998 murders of Iranian dissidents in Reformist newspapers, a series which came to be known as “the chain murders” that implicated top governmental officials. For his work revealing the murders of dissidents and attending a conference in Berlin that was condemned by hard-liners who were reeling after a Reformist victory in parliament, Ganji was arrested and served time in Tehran’s Evin Prison from 2001 to 2006. During his final year in prison, he went on a hunger strike that doctors urged him to end for concerns he would suffer permanent brain damage.

Ganji has won several international awards, including the World Association of Newspapers’ Golden Pen of Freedom Award, the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression’s International Press Freedom Award, the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders and the Cato Institute Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty. In an exclusive interview via email with Al-Monitor, Ganji, based in New York, shared his thoughts about human rights and democracy in the context of President Hassan Rouhani’s administration.

Al-Monitor:  The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, has sharply criticized the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, saying, “He has not made any significant improvement” in ending human rights abuses since taking office. Nevertheless, Mahmoud Sadri — Iranian professor of sociology at the Federation of North Texas Area Universities — is optimistic about the new administration and has asked Iranian dissidents and intellectuals to take advantage of this historic opportunity. How do you evaluate the Rouhani administration?

Ganji:  The situation has improved from various aspects compared with the [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad administration. However, it falls short of the expectations of democracy advocates and human rights activists. The Rouhani administration truly seeks to improve the state of human rights, but it has faced obstacles in Iran’s power hierarchy, including organizations that [Supreme Leader] Ayatollah [Ali] Khamenei oversees, such as the judiciary, law enforcement, etc., in addition to the Majles [parliament] that is controlled by the conservatives and some radical reactionaries.

…….Since his administration came to power, Rouhani has spoken with the supreme leader about freeing the Green Movement’s leaders (former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi and former Majles speaker Mehdi Karoubi) and political prisoners, guaranteeing that nothing would happen, if they were freed.

Al-Monitor:  In January, you wrote a Huffington Post article titled “The Iran Nuclear Accord Is Good for Human Rights.” It seems to me whenever international pressure on the Iranian government increased, Iran improved its record. For example, Tehran released political prisoners ahead of Hassan Rouhani’s UN speech, including prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. Don’t you think such actions stem from international pressure? In the absence of this leverage — i.e., international pressure — Iran would continue human rights violations.

Ganji:  With regard to “external pressure on an undemocratic regime and improvement of human rights or increased oppression,” there is no law/rule that would address the cause-reaction relationships. At most, one can speak of “correlation.”[…] we need to know the following:

First, economic sanctions represent the collective punishment of a country’s people and do not necessarily lead to dictatorships’ downfall.

Second, long-term sanctions destroy the internal infrastructure of societies. ..Consequently, trust that is the basis of social capital is destroyed. Because of the sanctions, the oppressive regime’s increasing level of oppression, the internal destruction of society, is not visible. It is only in the aftermath of the dictatorship’s downfall that we will witness the visible spread of a wave of hatred, revenge and violence.

Third, in a life and death situation, the state of human rights, democracy and freedom completely falls by the wayside.

Fourth, consider Iraq’s example again. Before, the invasion al-Qaeda forces did not exist in Iraq, but they were born and bred as a result of the US sanctions and the US attack on Iraq. This story has been repeated in Libya and Syria. …..Iranian, US and European officials have professed that economic sanctions against Iran have affected Iran’s economy negatively. Last year, the economic growth rate fell to -5.8%. The inflation rate rose to 40%. The corruption rate climbed, and other negative outcomes followed. We should ask ourselves, what is the impact of recession on ordinary people’s lives?

The middle class, as a vehicle of democracy, has been transformed to the impoverished class, and its democratic movement may lose its agents. Democracy is the product of the balance of power between the government and civil society.

The transformation of the nuclear agreement from temporary to permanent, improvement of Iran’s relationship with Western governments, rekindling of ties between Iran and the United States, lifting of all the economic sanctions and alleviation of foreign threats can help empower the people through their mobilization and expansion of civil society. In that sense, the regime’s focus and its supporters will not be on discovering conspiracies of foreign governments and military attacks to destroy the regime. Let’s not forget that democracy and human rights have a direct relationship with economic development.

Al-Monitor:  You have opposed US aid to Iranian dissidents and human rights activists. What are your key criticisms against such aid? What actions should foreign countries.. take or avoid ?

Ganji:  The opposition that I have spoken about consists of groups and people that advocate regime change in Iran, so they can come to power. It is not possible for the leaders of a country to be indebted to other foreign governments, including the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Russia and China. In that case, they will become the greater powers’ pawns. Look at the groups that have received financial aid from foreign governments in the past 35 years. What have they done? Do their terrorist and espionage activities constitute human rights activism, or are such activities considered criminal in all countries, including the United States and Israel, and are they strongly punished?

However, I support educational financial aid, including student scholarships and research fellowships for scholars. Just think about what would have happened if the $1.5 trillion that was spent on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would have been used toward education and development of the Middle East, and how that would have changed the region. Why do Western governments, the United States included, not grant scholarships to tens of thousands of talented and smart Iranian youth as students in social sciences?

Western governments should protest all human rights violations; they should give ethical and spiritual support to pro-democracy and human rights activists; they should file complaints at the UN Human Rights Council and ease the process of bringing perpetrators to justice. Moreover, Western powers should stop selling weapons of torture and oppression to dictatorial regimes. Ultimately, they should allocate financial resources to form independent labor unions and improve the state of human rights.

Ganji: Human rights improved, still short of expectations in Iran – Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East.

Read more:

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/iran/

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/03/rouhani-reform-nuclear-iran-politics-student-human-rights.html#ixzz2x3K4G8RK

“Human rights lectures are little more than a joke” but so is this article in the Herald Sun

February 27, 2014

People hold candles at Light the Dark - a vigil in response to tragic turn of events on M

(People hold candles at Light the Dark – a vigil in response to tragic turn of events on Manus Island that left one person dead and 77 injured. Source: News Corp Australia)

On 26 February the Australian Herald Sun contained an article by Rita Panahi under the provocative title: “Human rights lectures are little more than a joke. In it she hits hard at some countries that criticize Australia’s interception and detention policy of refugees. “Being lectured to by China and Iran about human rights abuses is a bit like taking advice on etiquette from Miley Cyrus. It’s not just the pot calling the sparkly stainless steel kettle black, but then accusing it of racial profiling.” Quite rightly she points to the irony that Iran feels “emboldened to attack, despite the fact the young man killed was supposedly fleeing that country.”[The riots in Manus Island detention centre escalated into a riot on Monday and 23-year-old Iranian Reza Berati was killed’]

Even China, with its record of silencing dissidents, felt entitled to question Australia’s record. China’s Foreign Affairs Vice-Minister, Li Baodong, criticised our asylum policy and expressed concern for “the protection of refugees and asylum seekers and the right of the children of refugees”. He said: “We have also asked about whether these refugees will be illegally repatriated to other countries.”

In looking at the China’s own human rights record the author then states: “Of course, China’s human rights abuses are not restricted to terrorising pregnant women. According to Amnesty International, “harassment, surveillance, house arrest and imprisonment of human rights defenders are on the rise and censorship of the internet and other media has grown. Repression of minority groups, including Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongolians, and of Falun Gong practitioners and Christians who practise their religion outside state-sanctioned churches, continues”. China and Iran indeed also execute more people than any other country.

However, to conclude now that these nations have “no right to question any country, let alone one with values of freedom and fairness, such as Australia” is a bit much. If only ‘sparkly’ clean countries are allowed to address human rights issues, it is going to be extremely silent. Would it not be preferable to have a substantive discussion of human rights issues? One that would include – in the case of Rita Pahani – at least a mention of the statement by Amnesty International – so eagerly quoted on above on China – on Australia’s refugee policy. It should not have escaped the author as the Amnesty statement came just two days before her own writing.

To help in her research: On Monday 24 February, Amnesty International in a report took a swipe at Australia for the way the country has responded to the global refugee crisis. Amnesty said Canberra should have accepted more refugees fleeing the bloody crisis in Syria.  The group said the country had the capability to take in seven thousand five hundred Syrian refugees. The rights group also called on Canberra not to send and detain vulnerable refugees on Islands in Papua New Guinea and the Republic of Nauru.” http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/02/24/352094/aussies-under-fire-over-refugee-stance/

Human rights lectures are little more than a joke | Herald Sun.

Amnesty International India goes into elections with 14 point human rights programme

February 27, 2014

On 27 February 2014 it was reported by TwoCircles.net that Amnesty International India is asking political parties contesting the 2014 parliamentary elections to commit to and adopt as part of their manifestoes 14 key goals to improve India’s human rights record. … India’s political parties need to show their commitment to respect, protect and fulfill fundamental human rights. Amnesty representatives are meeting leaders from various political parties with the following 14 points of the ‘Human Rights Charter’:

  1. Protecting the rights of communities affected by corporate-led projects.
  2. Ending torture, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances.
  3. Ending arbitrary detention and reducing excessive under-trial detention.
  4. Protecting the rights of all persons in custody.
  5. Ending the use of the death penalty.
  6. Ensuring justice for marginalized communities who have suffered abuses.
  7. Reforming the criminal justice system to better tackle violent crime.
  8. Tackling all forms of violence against women more effectively.
  9. Holding armed forces accountable for human rights abuses.
  10. Protecting people’s rights to privacy and freedom of expression.
  11. Protecting the rights of migrant workers and domestic workers.
  12. Strengthening human rights institutions and protecting human rights defenders.
  13. Building a culture of respect for human rights through education.
  14. Adopting a more principled approach to human rights abuses around the world.

via Amnesty International puts forward 14 human rights charter for coming election | TwoCircles.net.

Archiving video should not be a dirty word for Human Rights Defenders

January 22, 2014

This blog has often referred to the growing role of images in the protection of human rights. The Activists Guide to Archiving Video produced by the NGO Witness is one tool that can greatly help those who want to be part of this development. The term “archive” may turn off many human rights defenders as something boring or at least not deserving priority but to neglect it would be a big error. As the Witness guide explains very clearly:

  • Do you want your videos to be available in the future?
  • Do you want your videos to serve as evidence of crimes or human rights abuses?
  • Do you want your videos to raise awareness and educate future generations?

The risks of not archiving are big:

  1. Your videos may exist somewhere, but no one can find them.
  2. Someone may find your videos, but cannot understand what they are about.
  3. Your videos cannot be sufficiently authenticated or corroborated as evidence.
  4. Your videos’ quality may become so degraded that no one can use them.
  5. Your videos may be in a format that eventually no one can play.
  6. Your videos may be accidentally or deliberately deleted and lost forever.

In further sections the Guide help to understand how videos can be made accessible (shared) and brings clarity to tricky issues such as the different formats and copyright.

Worth a visit!!

Activists Guide to Archiving Video | archiveguide.witness.org.

‘Rights up Front’ presented by Jan Eliason: “It is irrefutable that serious human rights violations are the best early warning of atrocities”

December 26, 2013

(Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras)

Still haunted by its failure to forestall genocide in Rwanda and Srebrenica nearly 20 years ago and confronted by ongoing bloodshed in Syria and the Central African Republic (CAR), the United Nations is revamping its preventive strategies under a new initiative called ‘Rights up Front.’ “The need for early action, and the crucial role of responding early to human rights violations, is at the heart of theRights up Front’ initiative,” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told an informal session of the General Assembly on 17 December 2013 – as he presented a six-point action plan.

It includes training UN staff on the world body’s core purpose of promoting respect for human rights; providing Member States with the information needed to respond to human rights violations; and ensuring that UN personnel around the world are more attuned to situations where there is a risk of serious human rights abuses and are equipped for the responsibilities that such potential crises entail.

The strategy, initiated by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, also includes achieving a more coherence by strengthening engagement with the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council and providing earlier and more coherent support to teams on the ground before a crisis emerges; and better organization of human rights staff so that they can identify risks of serious violations of human rights that could lead to atrocities.

Finally, underpinning all these activities will be better information management on threats and risks to populations for planning operational activities and for sharing with Member States.

“. ..It is irrefutable, and needs repeating, that serious human rights violations are the best early warning of impending atrocities.” Eliasson said. “If we fail to act early, the human, political and economic costs can be devastating as we know far too well. This calls for a more alert, flexible and coordinated UN System, both on the ground and at headquarters.”

Horrendous events led us all to say ‘never again’, Mr. Eliasson said. “We said we would have to do more to prevent serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Despite much effort, since 1995 hundreds of thousands of people have died as a result of mass atrocities and tens of millions have been displaced.” But steps forward have been taken. “World leaders endorsed the ‘responsibility to protect in 2005. And Member States have over the years articulated an increasingly detailed agenda for the protection of civilians,” he said. Yet, the crises in Syria, where over 100,000 people have now been killed and 8 million driven from their homes in the nearly three-year civil war, and in CAR, where thousands have been killed and over 600,000 displaced in a conflict increasingly marked by inter-communal clashes between Christians and Muslims, are reminders that serious human rights abuses are often the clearest early warning of emerging conflict, he added.

“When people in today’s world are at risk or subject to serious violations, they expect and request the United Nations to act – and we do,” Mr. Eliasson declared. “However, in practice, our response to crisis often comes when a situation has deteriorated to the point where only a substantial political or peacekeeping mission can deal with the problems.”

via United Nations News Centre – New UN ‘Rights up Front’ strategy seeks to prevent genocide, human rights abuses.