Posts Tagged ‘human rights awards’

Gwangju Human Rights Award 2019 to Philippine Carino and Indonesian choir

May 19, 2019

For those – like me – who missed the announcement  of the winners of the Gwangju human rights awards 2019, here a belated post.  [For more on this award see:http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/gwangju-prize-for-human-rights]. The winner is the Philippine human rights defender Joanna Carino.

This undated photo, released by the May 18 Memorial Foundation on April 15, 2019, shows Joanna Carino, a Philippine activist championing the rights of indigenous peoples. (Yonhap)

The Jury said “Carino has created a great sensation for her unyielding strife and sacrifice in fighting against suppression and made a favorable impression on many citizens and activists today.

The biennial special award went to Indonesia’s Dialita Choir, made up of women whose parents, relatives and friends were captured, tortured and exiled during the 1965-1966 communist purge in the Southeast Asian country. The members of Dialita co-initiate social change through singing performances. The award ceremony was on 18 May 2019 as part of events to mark the 39th anniversary of the democratic uprising. Hundreds of citizens were killed in the southwestern city during protests against the military junta of Gen. Chun Doo-hwan in May 1980.

Aachen Peace Prize to Ukrainian journalist Kotsaba severely contested

May 19, 2019

Ruslan Kotsaba Photo Mykola Vasylechko, RIA Novosti

This piece express grave doubt on the decision to award the 2019 Aachen Peace Prize to Ukrainian journalist and  blogger Ruslan Kotsaba because of a shocking anti-Semitic video posted by Kotsaba in 2011. People interested should judge for themselves, so here the full article:

The video certainly contains deeply offensive hate speech, yet it is by no means the only reason why the choice of Kotsaba seems bafflingly inappropriate. The award might possibly have seemed a little more understandable had it been given back in 2015, shortly after Kotsaba was arrested on ‘state treason’ charges.  His claim to a peace prize would still have been doubted by those familiar with his highly misleading reports on the war in Donbas, however his unwarranted prosecution and 14 months’ imprisonment  were over a video opposing mobilization.

It seems he was first nominated in 2015, but was not chosen.  In 2019, however, the Aachen Peace Prize general assembly decided that Kotsaba was an appropriate laureate for a prize given to a person or group “who campaigns for peace and a civic resolution of conflict”.

According to Lea Heuser, a member of the Peace Prize Executive Committee, Kotsaba was nominated by one of its members “who is familiar with the situation in Ukraine”.  This was almost certainly Andrej Hunko, a Bundestag deputy from the Linke Party, known for his ‘humanitarian mission’ to the self-proclaimed  ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and very one-sided statements about the conflict in Donbas. Hunko also campaigns actively for closer German relations with Russia and for recognition of Crimea as ‘Russian’.

Heuser explained that Kotsaba was first nominated on the basis of his claim to have become a pacifist after what he saw at the front (in Donbas).  She asserts that “he does not take one side in the conflict and advocates for concessions and dialogue”. It is also claimed on the peace prize’s website that Kotsaba “unlike most of his colleagues tried to objectively cover events in the east of Ukraine which he has called “a civic war and fratricidal”.

This has been the standard line taken by Hunko and other politicians, from various European far-right or left-wing parties, when visiting the so-called Donbas ‘republics’ or Russian-occupied Crimea.   Such visits are invariably used by their official hosts and by Russia as propaganda.  This is unsurprising since their guests can be relied upon to only criticize the Ukrainian Armed Forces and Kyiv.

While Kotsaba’s position is more complex, it would be very hard to describe his presentation of events in Donbas, Odesa, Crimea or in Ukraine in general as objective.

In some cases, he pushes toxic lies which are known to have prompted young men to go and fight in Donbas.  He invariably follows Russia’s lead in claiming that the people who died in the Trade Union building fire in Odesa on 2 May 2014 were deliberately burned to death by “Ukrainian radicals”.  Russia has repeatedly demonstrated that it is aware of the substantial research refuting such claims carried out by the 2 May Group, a respected bipartisan initiative formed by journalists, scientists and civic activists, and presented here in RussianEnglish and in German, as well as by the Council of Europe’s International Advisory Panel.  It is impossible to believe that Kotsaba is not aware that he is presenting a story that has been debunked.

Kotsaba’s coverage of the war in Donbas is equally one-sided.  He is certainly entitled to his own opinion on the conflict, however his claim that he is objectively presenting two sides of the story is simply untrue.

One of the most contentious areas is, of course, Kotsaba’s repeated assertion (for example, here)  that the conflict in Donbas is a civil war, and denial of Russia’s and Russians’ active role. Speaking on the Russian state-controlled Rossiya 24 channel on 27 June 2014,  Kotsaba claimed that he had not seen any Chechen fighters and assumes there are none. He does stress that he personally did not see any and this cannot be either proven nor refuted.  The problem is that, by the time he was saying this, there was ample video footage and witness accounts making it quite clear that there were a suspiciously large number of Chechens and other Russian citizens fighting in this alleged ‘civil war’.  Kotsaba has also chosen to ignore the fact that the war essentially began after heavily armed and trained fighters seized control of Sloviansk on 12 April 2014 under the leadership of (officially) former Russian military intelligence officer Igor Girkin.  He later admitted that his men had provoked the conflict in Donbas.  “The first shots, albeit in the air, were from the rebels, carried out by our unit”.  Girkin and the leader of ‘DPR’ were only hurriedly replaced by Ukrainians after the downing of Malaysian airliner MH17 by a Russian BUK missile on 17 July 2014.

Kotsaba’s claim to Rossiya 24 that he had been invited by a local Luhansk television channel which was trying to follow journalist standards, sounds admirable but deviates seriously from the truth.  The first thing that happened when militants seized control of an area was that all Ukrainian channels were replaced by Russian, or pro-Russian channels.   Later in the interview, Kotsaba was asked why other Ukrainian journalists were not in these areas.  He claimed that this was that they still needed to develop to reach world standards and “tell the truth”.   Although some of the many journalists seized, tortured and / or imprisoned by the militants (Yehor Vorobyov; Dmytro Potekhin; Serhiy Sakadynskyv;  Nastya Stanko; Maria Varfolomeyeva and many others) post-dated this interview, there were already multiple accounts of other abductions, such as that of Viacheslav Bondarenko and Maxim Osovsky.  Two journalists Stanislav Aseyev and Oleh Halaziuk remained imprisoned now in ‘DPR’ precisely because they wrote the truth about life in the supposed ‘republic’.  Kotsaba is silent about them, as he is about other people held hostage.

Unlike Kotsaba, there are very many journalists and activists who have repeatedly given the lie to Kotsaba’s claim that the conflict in Donbas is a civil war.  These are only a few of the many indications of Russia’s major involvement that Kotsaba never addresses.

In August 2014, Wojciech Bojanowski from the Polish TVN 24 posted huge amounts of footage in Russia’s Rostov oblast, close to the militants-controlled part of the border with Ukraine. It clearly shows Russian armed personnel carriers, artillery and anti-aircraft weapons turning onto a road leading to the border.  Artyleria, wozy opancerzone i broń przeciwlotnicza. Ruchy Rosjan przed kamerą TVN24  (four separate clips)

Bojanowski acknowledges that there are no photos of the actual crossing, however there is a steady flow of vehicles to the border and shots taken by the militants where you can see, for example, a BTR-80a transporter which the Ukrainian military do not have.  The next day, Aug 19 Bojanowski reported further movement towards the border, with many trucks this time carrying tanks.  On Aug 22, NATO reported  that the Russian military had moved artillery units manned by Russian personnel inside Ukrainian territory and had been using them to fire at Ukrainian forces.

In 2018, the OSCE’s Monitoring Mission in Ukraine reported multiple examples of Russian military equipment being transported into Ukraine by night on dirt roads away from any border crossing (details here and in the links provided).

It was just days after the TV24 footage in August 2014 that the Russian newspaper Vedomosti asked: “Is Russia fighting in Ukraine, and if so, on what grounds?  If not, then who is lying in the freshly-dug graves, and who is giving testimony to the Ukrainian Security Service?”

More information about those first Russian military deaths here.  It is believed that an entire Russian paratrooper regiment from Pskov was probably killed in late August.

While Moscow has always denied this, young Russian soldiers have preferred to be imprisoned for having gone absent without leave rather than agree to fight in Donbas.

The amount of evidence confirming Russia’s decisive military role in the war is overwhelming.  Dr Igor Sutyagin, in a briefing paper for the Royal United Services Institute [RUSI] on Russian forces in Ukraine writes that the “first phase of large-scale incursions by regular Russian troops commenced on 11 August 2014 and has involved a substantial array of forces (see Table 1)”.  He put the figure for direct Russian military personnel as up to “10 thousand at the peak of direct Russian involvement in the middle of December 2014.”  All of this is on another country’s territory without any declaration of war.

Considerable evidence of shelling from Russia is mentioned by Sutyagin, and has since been set out in a report by the International Partnership for Human Rights, and also by Bellingcat in a report entitled ‘Putin’s undeclared war’.

Kotsaba does not mention or try to challenge any of the above-mentioned facts.  His narrative about civil war and the need for ‘dialogue’ is, accordingly, based on manipulation and deceit.

German peace prize to Ukrainian journalist Kotsaba is discredited by the Russian lies he parrots, not just his anti-Semitism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/StopFake

European governments should stop treating solidarity and compassion as a crime

May 15, 2019

Two recent cases of criminalization of human rights defenders in Europe helping people at sea:

Iuventa crew
Iuventa crew

On 13 May 2019 MarEx  reported that the crew of the rescue ship Iuventa operated by the German NGO Jugend Rettet has received the Swiss Paul Grüninger human rights award for saving the lives of around 14,000 of men, women and children in the central Mediterranean. For more on this award, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/paul-grueninger-award

The award is seen as a statement against the criminalization of those helping people at sea and comes whilst the crew is under criminal investigations in Italy for “aiding and abetting illegal immigration.” They face up to 20 years in prison and fines of 15,000 Euro ($16,900) per saved person. The prize money of 50,000 Swiss francs contributes to the defense.

The Iuventa was the first rescue vessel seized in Italy in August 2017. Captain Dariush was master of the Iuventa for three voyages off the Libyan coast: “We’re being charged for saving lives. This is absurd,” he said. “It is European politicians who block any safe way for people in need, so we had to act.

The crew says: “Although we have to stand trial, it is us who accuses Europe. We accuse European politicians of turning their backs on people in need. We accuse the E.U. of collaborating with regimes who violate human rights.” The Italian public prosecutor’s office has been investigating the crew for almost two years. Covert investigators claim to have observed the Iuventa crew cooperating with smugglers. However, the NGO claims that scientists at Goldsmiths, University of London have said there is no evidence for this. “They have compared the accusations of the Italian police with all available data, meteorological measurements, logbooks and recordings of the Reuters agency. In their study for Forensic Architecture, they conclude that the allegations are false.” The trial is expected to begin in autumn, and it is expected that charges will be brought against the 10 crew members. It is a precedent for Europe, says lead lawyer Nicola Canestrini: “This trial will show whether Europe can continue to stand for fundamental rights and solidarity in the world.

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Tom Ciotkowski is facing up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 7,500 Euros on trumped up charges. In July 2018, he was observing French riot police preventing volunteers from distributing food to migrants and refugees in Calais. He was charged with contempt and assault after he challenged the violent actions of a policeman against another volunteer. “Tom Ciotkowski is a compassionate young volunteer who was taking action to support migrants and refugees when he was arrested. He has committed no crime and is being unjustly targeted for documenting the abusive behaviour of the police in Calais,” said Amnesty International’s Senior Campaigner on Migration Maria Serrano.

Tom’s case is sadly emblematic of the harassment, intimidation and attacks that human rights defenders supporting migrants and refugees face at the hands of police in Calais. His case also reflects a wider European trend of criminalizing acts of solidarity, as a way of discouraging others from standing up for human rights. We need courageous, compassionate people like Tom more than ever

[BACKGROUND At the end of July 2018, Tom Ciotkowski was observing French riot police ID-checking volunteers who were trying to distribute food to migrants and refugees. He recorded on his mobile phone an official pushing and kicking a volunteer. When Tom complained about the behaviour of the police, an officer approached him and another female volunteer, who he hit with a baton. When Tom asked the officer for his identification number and told the policeman not to hit women, he was pushed hard by an officer and fell backwards over a metal barrier separating the pavement from the road. As Tom fell backwards, a passing lorry narrowly missed him. He was then arrested, put in custody for 36 hours and charged with contempt and assault (“outrage et violence”). In May 2019, Tom filed a complaint against the police officer who pushed him and against other officers who provided reports stating false facts against Tom to support his arrest and prosecution.]

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/02/un-experts-consider-human-rights-defenders-in-italy-under-threat/

Essex university uses human rights award to raise awareness among youth

May 15, 2019

Students from Manningtree High School after winning the Human Rights Prize with Emma Berry, gallery manager at Art Exchange and Katya Al Khateeb from the university's Human Rights Centre
Students from Manningtree High School after winning the Human Rights Prize with Emma Berry, gallery manager at Art Exchange and Katya Al Khateeb from the university’s Human Rights Centre

Nothing world shocking but good to see how human rights awards can be used at the national level to inspire students:

The University of Essex’s annual Human Rights Prize is open to secondary schools and sixth form colleges and aims to highlight human rights issues and empower young people to stand up for others. Manningtree High School students spent a day on campus in December as part of the project. They heard bite-size lectures from human rights experts, visited a marketplace in the Hex – staffed by representatives from Amnesty International, Hope Not Hate and Refugee Action Colchester – and brainstormed ideas with visual artist Jane Frederick and poet Luke Wright.

They then split into smaller groups to develop their creative projects over the next ten weeks. The students’ final presentations, delivered to an audience at Essex Business School, showcased the campaigns staged in their own schools, which featured videos, photography, dance and poetry. A spokesman for Manningtree High School said: “As part of their work, the group planned in detail and decided to visit Highfields Primary to work with Year 5’s on human rights.,,On our return to the university, loaded with props and a well-rehearsed presentation, our students excelled.

https://www.harwichandmanningtreestandard.co.uk/news/17638711.manningtree-school-scoops-human-rights-award/

Winners of the 2019 Goldman Environmental Prize

May 13, 2019

This year is the 30th anniversary of the Goldman Environmental Prize which honors grassroots environmental heroes from six continental regions: Europe, Asia, North America, Central and South America, Africa, and island nations. For more more on this and other awards, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/goldman-environmental-prize .This year’s winners are Alfred Brownell from Liberia, Bayarjargal Agvaantseren from Mongolia, Ana Colovic Lesoska from North Macedonia, Jacqueline Evans from the Cook Islands, Alberto Curamil from Chile, and Linda Garcia from the United States. The winners were honored at the San Francisco Opera House in California, U.S., on 29 April 2019

https://news.mongabay.com/2019/04/meet-the-winners-of-the-2019-goldman-environmental-prize/

Goldman Prize winner survives armed attack on Afro-Colombian social leaders

#MeToo movement leaders win Sydney Peace Prize 2019

May 6, 2019

Activist Tarana Burke speaks during the during the TIME 100 Summit, April 23, 2019,
Activist Tarana Burke founded the #MeToo movement in 2006. Source: AAP

SBS reports that the founder of the global #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke, and one of the leading faces of the Australian movement, Tracey Spicer, have been jointly awarded the Sydney Peace Prize for their work in the #MeToo movement. [For more on this and other awards: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/sydney-peace-prize]. The two human rights defenders have received the award for their work in revealing and protesting against sexual harassment, particularly the widespread 2017 investigations into sexual harassment in the media industry.

Tracey Spicer addresses the UsToo lunch at the Westin Hotel in Perth, 2018.

Tracey Spicer has been one of the spearheads of Australia’s movement against sexual harassment. AAP

Ms Burke said that receiving the peace prize highlights the prevalence of sexual violence and strengthens belief that the issue can be eradicated.  “The #MeToo movement will continue this work until we shift the culture to one that believes that every person, no matter their identity or circumstance, has the right to consent and safety,” Ms Burke said.

Ms Spicer greatly contributed to revealing sexual harassment in the Australian media industry, through work investigating multiple allegations of sexual harassment and bullying by Australian TV personality Don Burke.  Ms Spicer expressed her “tremendous honour” in accepting the Sydney Peace Prize alongside Ms Burke. “I dedicate this prize to everyone who is a survivor of sexual violence: your voices are being heard.” Ms Spicer also created Now Australia in 2018 to support survivors who have been sexually harassed, and to support the National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment being led by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/16/civicus-publishes-report-on-women-human-rights-defenders-and-the-struggle-against-silencing/

Nominees for the 2019 Aurora Prize are…

May 1, 2019

On 24 April 2019 the nominees for the Aurora Prize [see http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/aurora-prize-for-awakening-humanity] were announced:

  • Mr. Mirza Dinnayi, Co-Founder and Director of Luftbrücke Irak (Airbridge Iraq), a humanitarian organization that flies Yazidi victims from Iraq to Germany for medical treatment. Mirza Dinnayi has helped several hundred women escape from the territories controlled by ISIS, personally taking part in missions to bring them back to safety, and delivered food and water to the Yazidis in isolated areas. Driven by his passion to save lives, he has found a way to overcome numerous bureaucratic and logistic obstacles to help the most vulnerable. Mr. Dinnayi has nominated three organizations that provide educational opportunities to underserved students and disaster relief: Air Bridge Iraq, SEED Foundation and Shai Fund.
  • Mr. Zannah Bukar Mustapha, lawyer, Director and Founder of Future Prowess Islamic Foundation – a school that provides education to some of the most deprived children in Maiduguri, Nigeria. In October 2016, he secretly traveled to meet with Boko Haram rebels in their Sambisa forest hideout during a media blackout and left with 21 children. Thirteen months later, supported by ICRC, the Swiss government and the Nigerian authorities, he negotiated the additional release of 82 girls. Zannah Bukar Mustapha has nominated three organizations that aim to reduce conflict through strong community effort and good governance: Future Prowess Islamic Foundation, Adab Community Renewal Foundation and Herwa Community Development Initiative.
  • Huda Al-Sarari, lawyer and activist. Huda Al-Sarari is a brave and inspiring Yemeni human rights activist, who singlehandedly investigates, exposes and challenges a clandestine network of secret prisons run by foreign governments in Yemen, where thousands of men and boys have faced arbitrary detention. She has amassed incontrovertible evidence of the abuse that takes place within the prisons and succeeded in convincing Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to take up the cause. She has nominated an international organization that defends victims of extreme human rights abuse and two organizations that combat discrimination and promote equality: Reprieve, Equal Rights Trust and Wethaq Foundation for Civil Orientation.

(The Selection Committee had chosen the three Aurora Humanitarians from 719 nominations for 523 unique candidates submitted from 72 countries)

For last year’s, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/10/1-million-aurora-prize-awarded-to-rohingya-human-rights-defender-kyaw-hla-aung/

The 2019 Aurora Prize ceremony will take place on October 14-21, 2019, in Yerevan, Armenia.

http://www.armradio.am/en/11548

Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid receives Brennan Human rights award

April 16, 2019

rutgers file.jpg

In his remarks upon receiving the award, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein discussed the history of international politics and cautioned against nationalization, noting that the human rights violations of today are the conflicts of tomorrow. “I worry, like so many others, that what we are seeing now is the decomposition of the international order,” said Ra’ad Al Hussein. “The rules and institutions that uphold international human rights law, international humanitarian law, and international refugee law are under immense pressure.” He shared that he has faith in the efforts of human rights defenders and the human rights movements around the world, “We cannot depend now on much of the leadership at the highest levels. We have to depend on ourselves and we have to have the courage to speak out and say what needs to be said.

Two women human rights defenders in the Philippines honored with international awards

April 16, 2019

Joanna Patricia Kintanar Cariño (File photo by Noel Godinez/Northern Dispatch)
Filipina human rights defender, Joanna Patricia Kintanar Cariño, has been named as this year’s recipient of Gwangju Prize for Human Rights. Cariño is the founding secretary general and the current advisory council of Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), regional council member of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and chairperson of SELDA-North Luzon, an organization of former political prisoners. For more on the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/gwangju-prize-for-human-rights

Cariño is among the 600 individuals listed in the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) so-called terror list, which seeks to proscribe the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as terrorist organizations. Cariño, together with other activists who were included in the list, fought for the removal of their names and in January this year, the DOJ has acted by finally removing the names of scores of activists and human rights defenders in the Cordillera region. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/07/women-human-rights-defenders-day-2017-an-anthology/]

The Foundation recognizes Cariño’s track record as human rights defender from the time of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos up to the present. “She has been illegally arrested, detained and harassed for being tireless and vigorous in the indigenous people’s fight against militarization of their communities,” the Foundation said in their statement.

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Trade union worker France Castro was awarded the Arthur Svensson international Prize for Trade Union Rights [for more on this award, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/arthur-svensson-international-prize-for-trade-union-rights]

In its statement, the Svensson Foundation described Castro as a brave leader who defies threats and dangerous condition. “Despite threats and persecution, there are brave people fighting for democracy and human rights. The regime has particularly attacked unionists among teachers and journalists. Some are killed and many imprisoned. Death threats are not uncommon. In recent times, police officers in the Philippines have been running an organized campaign where they are herding and publishing information on unionized teachers,” Svensson Foundation said in a statement referring to the profiling of the public school teachers, particularly the members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) by the Philippine National Police (PNP). Castro was also among those who were detained by the Talaingod police last November 2018, together with former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and Lumad teachers, students and administrator, for defending Lumad’s right to education  The Foundation also took notice of Castro’s role in the fight for public school teachers’ rights and welfare.

https://www.bulatlat.com/2019/04/16/progressive-solon-wins-international-award-for-championing-union-rights/

Reuters journalists in Myanmar jail receive UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Press Prize

April 13, 2019

Two Reuters journalists who are currently serving seven-year prison sentences in Myanmar are to be awarded the 2019 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize (for more on this and other media awards see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/unesco-guillermo-cano-world-press-freedom-prize). In the press release, president of the jury Wojciech Tochman explained the decision to honor Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, stating the choice “pays a tribute to their courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression,” and that the men “symbolize their country’s emergence after decades of isolation.”

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are two journalists who had been working on stories about a military crackdown and alleged human rights violations in Rakhine state in Myanmar when they were arrested. Their investigation was published by Reuters while they were awaiting trial in February 2018, and included graphic photography and detailed accounts providing evidence that state security forces were implicated in carrying out extrajudicial killings of 10 Rohingya at the village of Inn Din. The Myanmar government has been accused of ethnic cleansing and genocide of Rohingya Muslims by the U.N. and various human rights organizations since 2016. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/06/50-human-rights-ngos-address-joint-letter-to-aung-san-suu-kyi-on-reuters-journalists/]

They were named as TIME’s Person of the Year last December. Earlier this month they received AI UK media awards [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/09/amnesty-uk-media-awards-sets-good-example/.]

For last year’s laureate see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/04/20/3-may-world-press-freedom-day-awards-for-journalists/.

The award will be presented on UNESCO’s celebration of World Press Freedom Day in Addis Ababa on 2 May.

http://time.com/5568605/myanmar-journalists-jailed-unesco-press-freedom/