Posts Tagged ‘human rights activists’

2015 Front Line Defenders Award to Chinese Guo Feixiong (Yang Maodong)

September 12, 2015

On Friday 11 September the 2015 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk was presented to imprisoned Chinese Human Rights Defender  Guo Feixiong in Dublin City Hall. Irish author and playwright Sebastian Barry presented the award to Guo’s wife, Zhang Qing, and daughter, Yang Tianjiao (Sara), at the award co-presented by the Al-Jazeera Media Network. Guo has been held in Guangzhou’s Tianhe Detention Center for over 750 days, where is currently awaiting sentencing. Sebastian Barry said:“For human rights defenders the struggle is not just to implement rules and regulations and theoretical international standards. It is is about the right to raise your voice without the fear of arbitrary violence, whether by the state or others. Guo Feixiong has defended farmers illegally evicted from their land, Falun Gong practitioners persecuted for their beliefs and journalists who dared to speak out. He is a symbol of the endurance of the human spirit, of the will to survive and of the human need for the free air of ideas, to make life worth living. He is a worthy recipient of the 2015 Front Line Defenders Award.”
Guo Feixiong (pen name of Yang Maodong) is a leading figure in the movement for human rights China – a struggle fraught with danger for human rights defenders seeking civil, political, economic and social rights; accountability; transparency; and an end to corruption. After more than two years in detention, Guo Feixiong’s lawyers now report that during their most recent meeting, his memory, speech, and mental awareness all showed signs of damage.Last week, a coalition of Chinese human rights activists writing at China Change called his detention “a deliberate effort to harm Guo Feixiong and kill him slowly.”Accepting the Award on behalf of her husband, Zhang Qing said:“Guo Feixiong is a faithful idealist. Although he has experienced a wide range of political persecution by the Chinese government including, being sentenced to four prison terms, being the target of a witch hunt, and enduring countless brutal and evil tortures from the Chinese government he still holds a peaceful and pure heart. He shows enduring strength and courage to pursue rights, equality and justice peacefully. We are proud of Guo Feixiong and all the other human rights defenders and lawyers working to the same end in China”.

for info on the finalists: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/03/07/finalists-for-the-2015-front-line-defenders-award-announced/

– See more at: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/29586#sthash.AZYZfOz1.dpufnders Award Presented to Chinese HRD Guo Feixiong | Front Line Defenders

Colombian human rights defender Berenice Celeita talks on 10 June in Washington

June 2, 2015

Wednesday 10 June, 2015 (p.m.) Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Peace Brigades International, and Amnesty International USA organize a “Discussion with Colombian Human Rights Defender Berenice Celeita“. The event will feature Ms. Berenice Celeita, the founder of the Association for Investigation and Social Action (NOMADESC) and winner of the 1998 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. Through NOMADESC, Ms. Celeita advises and accompanies social organizations and unions as well as civic, women’s, indigenous, afro-descendent, and family farmer organizations.

Ms. Celeita will discuss the current human rights situation in Colombia, including the most pressing issues faced by marginalized communities claiming their rights, and will speak about strategies for combating human rights abuses against these populations.

[For years, civil society activists in the Cauca and Valle del Cauca Departments of Colombia have endured incidences of intimidation, harassment, and persecution as a result of their work. While these incidences have recently intensified, they are not new and form part of a long pattern of threats and attacks against the work of human rights defenders and community leaders in Colombia. The internal armed conflict in Colombia generates internally-displaced populations and sexual violence against women, and further marginalizes impoverished populations. Indigenous and afro-descendent leaders who stand up for their rights and defend their lands are acutely at risk of death threats and other forms of intimidation. In this context – characterized by a lack of security and government accountability – the work of human rights defenders and civil society activists is paramount and must be safeguarded, as they serve as the voice and guardians for local populations facing evictions, violence, and persecution.]

To attend contact: rsvp@rfkhumanrights.org before 8 June.

TASS reports without blushing on Putin’s support for human rights defenders

December 5, 2014

Vladimir Putin

(Vladimir Putin (c) Mikhail Metsel)

Russia‘s TASS agency reports on 5 December that today President Vladimir Putin will meet in the Kremlin members of the Russian Presidential Council for Civil Society Development and Human Rights (HRC) and federal and regional ombudsmen. “The meeting participants are planned to tell the head of state about their work in the current year, as well as touch upon most important issues of human rights observance and development of the civil society institutions in regions,” the press service said.

Putin regularly meets with human rights defenders, the piece continues and refers to one held on 14 October with members of the Human Rights Council. The main issues on the agenda were assistance to Ukrainian refugees, support of non-profit organizations, transparency of elections, problems of the law enforcement system and others.

The article continues (without blushing): “Speaking of supporting the civil society institutions, including human rights defenders, Putin promised that the state spending on this in 2015 would be increased to 4.7 billion rubles ($86.47 million), while in 2013 this figure stood at 2.7 billion rubles ($49.67 million).” The president thanked the Russian human rights activists for the attention they pay to numerous facts of violation of human rights in the neighbouring country — Ukraine. “Many international human rights organizations hypocritically turn a blind eye to the developments,” he said.

Many of the proposals voiced by the human rights activists turn into presidential instructions. Thus, on the October meeting results the president has already given a number of instructions on organizing assistance to children affected by the armed conflict in the south-east of Ukraine, on perpetuation of the memory of the victims of political repression, on migration problems, on improving law enforcement activity and a number of others.

TASS: Russia – Putin to discuss with ombudsmen human rights observance issues.

some items that were apparently not discussed: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/foreign-agent/

Malaysia and the EU: NGOs ask for more forthright action

November 25, 2014

An “Advocacy Note” published in November 2014 by FIDH and SUARAM addresses the whole specter of human rights in Malaysia and how the EU should respond. Here are the parts that specifically concern human rights defenders:

FIDH and SUARAM draw the EU’s attention towards the following human rights challenges and call on Brussels to work with Malaysian civil society on the proposed solutions.

1. Publicly challenging Malaysia’s records on human rights

2. Addressing the impacts business activities on human rights

3. Using Treaties’ negotiations to obtain genuine human rights commitments

4. Supporting civil society activities

FIDH and SUARAM believe that the EU has overall been supportive of the work of human rights NGOs in Malaysia. The EU Delegation and Member States’ missions regularly meet with civil society and human rights activists, bilaterally or through the EU’s Human Rights Working Group, to discuss issues such as women’s rights, the elimination of racial discrimination, and freedom of expression. The EU Delegation maintains regular exchanges with NGOs, sends observers to trials against human rights defenders, and promotes the content of the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders.

In recent years, the EU has provided financial support to NGOs working in the field of women’s and children’s rights, non-discrimination, freedom of the media, and indigenous people. With the current reduction of staff in the EU Delegation [7], civil society will now have to turn to Global Calls for Proposals to find support for its activities rather than seeking financial support directly at Delegation level through Country Based Support Schemes (CBSS). FIDH and SUARAM fear that such a change may have consequences on the effectiveness and sustainability of civil society activities. Many NGOs may not have the capacity to respond to the Calls for Proposals or to absorb the important amount of finance offered in calls designed for large- rather than middle-sized projects. It is therefore important for the EU to find alternative ways to support civil society beyond small emergency grants, for example in the form of funds at the regional level or sub-grants to local NGOs.

The EU must also step up its political support to civil society. The EU must push for the amendment of the 1966 Societies Act, which offers no judicial remedy to an association whose registration has been suspended or refused by the authorities. The EU must ensure that FTA provides for a genuine enabling environment for civil society.

Failure to do so would create a democratic gap in terms of monitoring of the agreement. The negotiation process should be an opportunity to hold tripartite discussions between the EU, Malaysian authorities, and civil society. The EU should offer technical advice to Malaysian authorities to reform the Societies Act and ensure the new version complies with international standards.

The fact that Malaysian authorities continue to criminalise peaceful assembly after the Court of Appeals declared a section of the Peaceful Assembly Act as unconstitutional is proof of the political will to repress peaceful assembly. This issue should be addressed by the EU at the highest levels of the political dialogue. The EU should also address the issue of recent calls made by Malaysian government officials to adopt legislation similar to the Indian Foreign Agents Registration Act, which would provide a legal basis for monitoring of foreign funds to civil society organisations.

Recommendations

FIDH and SUARAM call on the EU and its Members States to (inter alia):

• Demand the immediate release of individuals convicted for political reasons, notably under the Sedition Act.

• Establish a human rights roadmap in cooperation with Malaysian authorities and civil society, in order to achieve tangible results before the FTA are agreed.

• Ensure that human rights are included in the negotiations and the structure of the future Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Malaysia. 

• Place the support for civil society, human rights defenders, local communities, and indigenous peoples at the centre of their interactions with Malaysia. EU and its Members States must:
— Urge the Malaysian authorities to ensure that all citizens’ human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and assembly are respected;
— Press Malaysian authorities to amend the Societies Act to bring it in line with international standards, and provide technical support to that effect;
— Press for effective and immediate investigation into serious cases of human rights violations, and the formation of an Independent Police Complaint and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to investigate allegations of torture and deaths in police custody;
— Demand that Malaysian authorities set a date for the country visit of the UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on Freedom of Assembly and Association and extend an invitation to the UNSR on the rights of Indigenous Peoples and the UNSR on Freedom of Religion;
— Organize a civil society seminar before the EU-Malaysia human rights and political dialogues;
— Include civil society in sectoral discussions and in the negotiation process of the FTA;
— Propose alternatives to make up for the end of Country Based Support Schemes in order to ensure financial support to the work of human rights NGO.

Encourage Malaysian authorities and companies to adopt binding regulations and a business investment framework to prevent human rights violations by economic operators and ensure accountability in the case abuses take place. Regulations must be in line with international human rights standards, including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

• Prepare a strategy on business and human rights that ensures that current and future investments by EU-based companies do not negatively affect human rights in Malaysia. This strategy, to be designed with Malaysian authorities, companies, and civil society, should aim at setting up binding regulatory measures corresponding in line with international standards.

• Work with Malaysian authorities to ensure that their development plans do not negatively affect human rights.

Advocacy Note: A committed but too shy EU support to human ….

Amnesty’s Moscow office decries “foreign agents law” together with 148 other NGOs

November 24, 2014

Sergei Nikitin, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, posted a clear and inspiring blog on 21 November about the “foreign agent” label with which the Russian Government is trying to discredit legitimate work by human rights defenders.  [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/foreign-agents/]. In spite of the harassment the writer keeps up hope that justice will ultimately prevail:

“……Two years ago, the law adopted by the State Duma entered into force. It is universally known as the “Foreign Agents” law, despite the fact that it is actually an amendment to an old law “on non-commercial organisations”. The updated law with all its novelties wasn’t put into use at first, but in February 2013 the Russian Prosecutor’s Office began mass inspections of NGOs across the country. These inspections were followed by court hearings. The wide-scale campaign to smear NGOs began.

However, despite the authorities’ demands, human rights activists refused to call themselves foreign agents voluntarily. When all the Russian NGOs united in solidarity and declared, once for all, that they are not “agents”, it prompted widespread admiration.

Russian authorities had to rush to modify the fateful law. Following these amendments, “foreign agents” are now being unilaterally registered, without any judicial review. The leading human rights organizations are on this list too. Registration now consists of a penstroke by the Ministry of Justice. Just this week, two more organizations were put on the register and stigmatized by the “foreign agent” label.

Russian NGOs still reject the insulting stigma – none of the forcibly registered organizations is going to lie to themselves and to society. They are not “agents”. These people, representing various NGOs in different cities around our country are working for the good of our fellow citizens by helping those whose rights have been violated by the Russian authorities.

The past two years of pressure and denigration of civil society activists, the wave of state propaganda and streams of lies and insults have made the lives of human rights defenders, environmentalists and activists very difficult. Their struggle is widely known amongst their NGO colleagues in other countries, evident through numerous solidarity actions that have been conducted abroad in support of Russian civil society over the past two years.

Up to the present day, on the second anniversary of the shameful “Foreign Agents” law, almost 150 NGOs – national and international – have signed a letter to President Putin calling for him to overturn the disgraceful legislation.

Along with my colleagues from Amnesty International, and in the presence of journalists, this week I delivered this letter to the Presidential Administration. Our colleagues from 32 countries that have signed the letter are now waiting for Russian authorities to react.

We brought the letter with six pages of signatures and a 90cm x 150cm poster reprinting the words of the letter. To our great surprise, both were accepted, although the large poster caused some fuss among Presidential Administration employees.

One might say: “Oh, everything is meaningless.” It is nothing like that. More than 50 years of Amnesty International activism in every region of the world suggests the opposite.

There were darker days in the history of our country. We experienced numerous campaigns of lies and slander against individual citizens, groups of citizens and nations. Mudslingers have been always singing from the same song sheet as the authorities.

However, the inexorable course of history teaches us that truth is always restored and justice prevails. It may take years, and sometimes requires a lot of strength.

But we all know that those defamed and stigmatized with the “foreign agent” label are very brave and courageous people. And ultimately, this dark page of history will be remembered with disgust.

A version of this blog originally appeared (in Russian) on Ekho Moskvy’s website.

Open letter to Putin – 148 NGOs slam ‘foreign agents’ law | Amnestys global human rights blog.

JOINT NGO RECOMMENDATIONS ON ENSURING PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN CENTRAL ASIA

May 21, 2014


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From 20-21 May 2014 there was in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, a Regional Workshop on Implementing the Human Dimension Commitments and Enhancing the role of Civil Society. An important contribution was the joint statement by six NGOs containing recommendations to protect human rights defenders in Central Asia.  The text in its totality follows below:  Read the rest of this entry »

Amnesty releases today long-awaited ‘Panic Button’ for human rights defenders

May 2, 2014

Amnesty International is working with activists in 16 countries on how to use "Panic Button".

(AI is now working with HRDs in 16 countries on how to use “Panic Button”. © Amnesty International)

As this blog testifies, across the globe, individuals suspected of posing a threat to state authority are routinely kidnapped, arrested and forcibly disappeared, often without any warning.Amnesty international launches today the easy-to-use app launched by Amnesty International. “Panic Button”, a mobile app for Android, transforms a user’s smart phone into a secret alarm which can be activated rapidly in the event of an emergency, alerting fellow activists and enabling them to respond faster.

Defending human rights is an incredibly dangerous job in large parts of the world, with activists facing anything from threats to imprisonment and even torture as punishment for their legitimate work,” said Tanya O’Carroll, Technology and Human Rights Officer for Amnesty International. “By introducing technology to the fight for human rights ‘Panic Button’ is bringing them a new tool to alert others about the danger they may be facing with a simple click.”

AI is are currently working with HRDs in 16 countries on how to use the tool and on the growing and omnipresent threat of surveillance so they are clear on the risks they take when using a mobile phone in their work,but the official website for the “Panic Button” app is up and running.

[Amnesty International hopes that activists and members of the public will help to improve the tool by downloading and testing Panic Button in their country as part of the beta – or testing – phase. Authorities know that campaigners coordinate meetings, protests and other activities using mobile phones and have ramped up their surveillance capabilities to monitor and track activists, journalists and campaigners. In a bid to mitigate some of these dangers, the “Panic Button” tool uses a screen disguise feature and requires users to enter a pin number before accessing the application. The alarm itself is triggered by rapidly pressing the phone’s power button, after which an SMS message is sent to three pre-entered contacts chosen by the user, alerting them of the distress call. When a GPS function is enabled, this message includes a map link showing the user’s coordinates and the user can pre-set regular location updates so their network is updated every few minutes when active.]

via New ‘Panic Button’ app provides safety net to human rights activists | Amnesty International.

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/technology-to-protect-human-rights-defenders-great-but-should-there-not-be-more-cooperation/

Another human rights defender shot dead in Philippines

March 27, 2014

According to ucanews.com of 26 March 2014, unidentified gunmen shot and killed a human rights defender, whose name had appeared on a military hit list, in the northern Philippine province of Ifugao on Tuesday. Cristina Palabay, secretary general of human rights group Karapatan identified the victim as William Bugatti of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance. She said that Bugatti’s name had appeared on an army list of targeted persons, obtained from undisclosed sources, which included activists and individuals working with farmers’ organizations. Bugatti was described on the list as the “brains” of the New Peoples Army” the military arm of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines. According to Piya Macliing Malayao of the Alliance of Indigenous People of the Philippines, Bugatti was on his way home from the office when he was gunned down. He sustained three gunshot wounds. Malayao said other members of human rights groups in the Cordillera region have also become targets of the military. “Bugatti’s killing sends a gravely disturbing message to members of peoples organizations and human rights defenders in the region,” she said. Last week, Malayao raised concerns about posters that appeared in Ifugao province, bearing the names of tribal leaders and human rights activists who have been tagged as communist rebels. “We now fear for the lives of the others listed on the military’s target catalog,” she said, adding that the list “proves that there are precision strikes being made on unarmed civilians” under the governments anti-insurgency program. Malayao said that during the first 10 weeks of 2014 alone, four indigenous people were killed by government security forces.

via Another activist shot dead in Philippines ucanews.com.

Sri Lankan court order silences two human rights defenders

March 24, 2014

Two human rights defenders in Sri Lanka – on whose arrest and release I reported last week – were banned from speaking to international media and ordered to give their sim cards and computers to police. Police told media personnel that this was because they were under investigation regarding an incident in Killinochi, the details of which cannot be made public [allegedly something to do with terrorism, a commonly used tactic by the Sri Lankan authorities]. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/ruki-fernando/

via SRI LANKA: Court orders to silence two human rights activists — Asian Human Rights Commission.

see also http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/25400  and the subsequent  http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/25435.

Uzbekistan’s Human Rights Defenders risk a lot by helping others

January 27, 2014

Why do people turn to human rights defenders?” asks Vladimir Husainov in this video posted by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting [IPWR] on 27 January 2014. “Because they can at least do something, even though they have no official powers or authority.” Husainov is one of a handful of courageous human rights defenders in Uzbekistan. They investigate various kinds of abuses ranging from the routine practice of torture in detention to the use of child labour in the cotton fields. Read the rest of this entry »