Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights Day’

What Human Rights Day means in Bahrain and how the EU made it worse

December 11, 2014

On 9 December, on the eve of Human Rights Day, Zainab Al-Khawaja was sentenced to 4 years and 4 months in two separate court hearings in Bahrain. Front Line, Human Rights First and others have reported extensively on this courageous human rights defenders [see also:] .

She was sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment for “sabotaging properties belonging to the Ministry of Interior” and “insulting a public official” to three months’ imprisonment and fined 3,000 Bahraini Dinar (approx. 6,400 Euro) for “tearing up a photograph of the King”.

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped also shockingly reports that on the same day as her sentencing, the European Union presented a human rights award to Bahrain’s National Institution for Human Rights and the Ombudsman of the Ministry of the Interior! Although this concerns a relatively unknown regional award (the Chaillot Prize is presented annually by the Delegation of the European Union in Riyadh the state press has been making the best of it [] and it is hard to see this as in line with the EU policy on Human Rights Defenders.

Human Rights Day: a selection of articles from Asian media that you may have missed

December 10, 2014

 I call on states to honour their obligation to protect human rights every day of the year. I call on people to hold their governments to account. And I call for special protections for the human rights defenders who courageously serve our collective cause,” UN Secretary-General stated in his message for Human Rights Day.  There is so much to report on this day, that I decided to focus on stories from 4 Asian countries (China (Hong Kong), India, Thailand, Bangladesh) which give an impression (not more than that) of how Human Rights Day is reflected in the media.
The first article “Responsibility for the protection of human rights is in our hands” appeared in the South China Morning Post of Tuesday, 09 December, 2014

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Somali Journalists mark Human Rights Day with call for more protection including executions

December 10, 2014

Somali News on 7 December reports on a meeting of the National Union of Somali Journalists ahead of the International Human Rights Day 2014 to highlight the violations against the Human Rights Defenders, especially the attacks against the press in Somalia including harassment, intimidation, unlawful or arbitrary arrest and detention. That thinking about the death penalty differs greatly in the world is shown by the satisfaction expressed about the death penalty meted out to the killer of a journalist.

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Human Rights Day: exceptional chance to put questions to 3 women human rights defenders

December 9, 2014

To mark Human Rights Day tomorrow, Wednesday 10 December, the Guardian organises a live chat with three women human rights defenders who will answer your questions on their campaigning work and the challenges they face in uncovering abuses. The panel looks most promising:

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Video clip from 2010 by the UN focuses on Human Rights Defenders

February 20, 2014

As I had only just started my blog “Thoolen on Human Rights Defenders” in 2010, I must have missed a number of interesting things, such as this video uploaded to You Tube by the UN on 1 December 2010. Against the background music of Stand Up for Your Rights by Bob Marley, this video give the floor to some ‘ordinary human rights defenders’ from various parts of the world. Human Rights Day of 10 December 2010 was dedicated to human rights defenders who battle against discrimination. For the record.

The use of SMS against torture in Egypt highlighted

December 10, 2013

In the context of 10 December, Human Rights DayCurt Goering of the Centre for Victims of Torture posts in the Huffington Post a piece on the value of information technology to prevent torture. .. Read the rest of this entry »

International Human Rights Day celebrated in Geneva on 5 December with Tim Berners-Lee

December 3, 2013

International Human Rights Day this year marks the 20th anniversary of the UN Human Rights Office and will be celebrated with events around the world throughout the week, including a day of discussions on 5 December in Geneva on a range of pressing human rights issues. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web and founder of the World Wide Web Foundation, will join UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in a discussion over access to the Web and the balance between security and privacy online. Sir Tim Berners-Lee has been working to ensure that the World Wide Web is made freely available to all, and to establish the Web as a global public good and a basic right. The discussion will be moderated by prominent TV presenter Tim Sebastian, former host of the BBCs Hardtalk programme. The High Commissioner and the President of the Human Rights Council, Remigiusz Achilles Henczel will also deliver speeches at the opening of the event. Hina Jilani, former Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and Christof Heyns, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, will lead panel discussions on protecting the space for human rights defenders and building a vision for an effective human rights system over the next 20 years and beyond. Panelists will also engage on the importance of ensuring the participation and inclusion of all individuals, regardless of their background or status, in the economic and political life of a State. The panels will be moderated by journalist Ghida Fakhry Khane, who was until recently one of the primary anchors for Al Jazeera English. Civil society representatives from Zimbabwe, Colombia, Tunisia and Norway will also lend their perspectives and rich experience to the discussions. The day will end with a performance by renowned musician Salif Keita, from Mali. Known as the “Golden Voice of Africa“, Mr. Keita was born with albinism and, in 2005, founded the Salif Keita Global Foundation to raise awareness about albinism.

The event will be held on Thursday, 5 December 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Room XX, from 9h30 to 17h00. The full programme and biographies of the participants can be found on

via Human Rights Day – 20 years of working for your rights – World News Report.


Today Woman Human Rights Defenders in Nepal launch national campaign against rape

September 21, 2013

The Himalayan Times of 20 September reports that the National Alliance of Women Human Rights Defenders in collaboration with more than two dozen other organisations working for the rights of women and children is all set to launch a ‘National Campaign Against Rape’ today.  The campaign will continue till December 10 when the Human Rights Day is observed.  The main objective of the campaign Read the rest of this entry »

Nobel Prize is for Peace not necessarily Human Rights

October 12, 2012

As this is post number 300 in my blog, I decided to write a more substantive piece and the news of the EU getting the Nobel Peace Prize is an excellent trigger:

The awarding of the 2012 Noble Peace Prize to the European Union has at least made clear that it is really a peace award and not a human rights award as is often assumed. With hindsight, it would have been more appropriate if Alfred Nobel had died on 21 September instead of 10 December 1896. Much later, the United Nations declared 10 December to be International Human Rights Day and designated 21 September as the International Day of Peace. The curious result is that the Nobel Peace Prize – intended for contributions to ‘peace’, not necessarily ‘human rights’ – is given every year in Oslo on 10 December, International Human Rights Day. On quite a few occasions the Peace Prize has been awarded to individuals who can safely be said to belong to the category of human rights defenders (HRDs), but in other cases it was awarded ‘merely’ because they stopped violating human rights (think of Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, Begin and Arafat or de Klerk) or to encourage leaders to continue their conflict resolution work (Obama and now the EU).

Awards for Human Rights Defenders are a different matter!

At the international diplomatic level human rights may nowadays receive a lot of attention in a myriad of procedures and mechanisms, but when it comes to the actual implementation at the grassroots level it is still the dedication of individual human beings that counts most. Fortunately, there are many such persons: some lobbying discreetly for improvements, others demonstrating loudly. However, some have to take tremendous personal risks when publicly challenging the powers that be. These heroes often have to sacrifice more than their time and energy, too many having been arrested, tortured and even killed.

Without the individual human rights defender, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights law risks to remain a dead letter. It is for this reason that almost all human rights organisations have some degree of mandate to come to the succour of threatened colleague human rights defenders. Many organisations at both the local and international level have some kind of human rights award. However, ten international human rights organisations, including the most influential, have set their differences aside to join in a common award for such courageous individuals: the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA), which next year exists 20 years.

A pertinent question is whether awards are really effective. To answer that, one has to know in which way human rights awards intend to help human rights defenders. In the first place, almost all awards want to give recognition and encouragement at the moral and psychological level. This goal should not be trivialized, as activists often have to work in environments that are not appreciative of their efforts, and the causes they defend can be unpopular even within their own social circles. Secondly, many awards come with a measure of direct financial support, which can be of great importance as even relatively small amounts go far in cash-strapped organisations, often based in developing countries.

Finally, the most ambitious but also the most elusive goal is to provide protection. The latter is not really possible without a fair degree of publicity. The problem is that much of the publicity generated by human rights awards tends to be in the country where the award is given, while from the protection point of view the most crucial publicity is in the country of the human rights activist in question. The award givers may want to see the name of their organisation or sponsor referred to in the media of their own country (usually in the West), but the recipients of the award are better served by attention and recognition in their own countries, often in the South with a low-level of literacy and limited independent press. Hence the importance of the use of the mass media, in particular radio and television and the internet. The freshly-crowned Nobel laureate, the EU, makes a major contribution to the protection of Human Rights Defenders, including a promise to give every year a reception in honor of the MEA laureate in the country of the winner.

The notoriety of the Nobel Peace Prize gives it great impact and we all would like to emulate it but it does not make it a human rights award. The number of human rights prizes can be  confusing, but individually and collectively they do have the potential to bring human rights defenders ‘from the front line to the front page’. contains many stories of HRDs and the links to the websites of the 10 NGOs on the Jury give a lot more information.

HRDs is the success story of the UN’s social media

January 16, 2012

United Nations Human Rights Council logo.

Image via Wikipedia

Alex Fitzpatrick sat down with Nancy Groves, social media manager at UN headquarters in New York. Groves is part of the Secretariat, the UN body charged with carrying out the day-to-day work of the organization. She maintains an active presence on FacebookTwitterGoogle+YouTubeTumblr and other networks.

Interesting enough she mentions in the interview that the ‘Be a Human Rights Defender’ campaign was in fact the UN’s most successful social effort to date. Under the “Be a Human Rights Defender” campaign, created to celebrate Human Rights Day, Groves’s team pushed out 30 different articles on human rights, each centered around one article in the Declaration of Human Rights. People that shared the articles were titled “Human Rights Defenders.” Groves said it was an excellent way to spread knowledge about rights that a lot of people aren’t aware they have.