Posts Tagged ‘Human rights defender’

Gui Minhai: 10 years jail sentence in China

February 25, 2020

Members of the pro-democracy Civic party carry portraits of Gui Minhai and Lee Bo during a protest in Hong Kong.
Members of the pro-democracy Civic party carry portraits of Gui Minhai and Lee Bo during a protest in Hong Kong. Photograph: Bobby Yip/Reuters

A court in Ningbo said on Tuesday that Gui had been found guilty and would be stripped of political rights for five years in addition to his prison term. The brief statement said Gui had pleaded guilty and would not be appealing against his case. The Swedish foreign minister, Ann Linde, told Radio Sweden: “We have always been clear that we demand that Gui Minhai be released so he is able to reunite with his daughter, his family and that demand remains…We demand immediate access to our Swedish citizen in order to give him all consular support that he is entitled to.

Gui appears to have been tried and convicted in secret, denying him any chance of a fair trial,” said Patrick Poon, a China researcher at Amnesty International, calling the verdict “deplorable” and based on unsubstantiated charges.

For previous posts on this shocking story:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/10/sweden-charges-ex-ambassador-to-china-over-pressure-on-daughter-of-gui-minhai/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/19/sweden-defies-chinese-threats-after-award-to-book-publisher-gui-minhai/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/21/confessions-abound-on-chinese-television-first-gui-minhai-and-now-peter-dahlin/

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https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/25/gui-minhai-detained-hong-kong-bookseller-jailed-for-10-years-in-china

Chilean human rights defender, José (Pepe) Zalaquett, no more

February 22, 2020

Brazil remembers Sister Dorothy Stang murdered 15 years ago

February 13, 2020

Sister Dorothy Stang, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, is pictured in a 2004 file photo in Belem, northern Brazil.  (CNS/Reuters)

12 February 2020 was the 15th anniversary of Sr. Dorothy Stang‘s assassination in the Amazon region of Brazil. The nun was 73 when she was murdered on 12 February, 2005, on an isolated road near the Brazilian town of Anapu. She had lived in the country for nearly four decades and was known as a fierce defender of a sustainable development project for the Amazon forest. The U.S.-born nun is remembered as a crusader for the poor and the landless and for her love of the land and the Amazon forest.

Lise Alves, for the Catholic News Service, wrote about her on 12 February 2020:

She taught me how to be a missionary in Brazil; she was my mentor,” Sr. Rebeca Spires told Catholic News Service. Spires, who, like Stang, is a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur, said the first thing Stang gave her was Brazil’s land statute. “She was all about doing things within the law,” said Spires.

…She said that, in the early 2000s, Stang started to pressure public officials to combat land invasions by ranchers and large landowners, who wanted to take away areas occupied by smaller farms. The officials “became extremely irritated with her, with her persistence,” Spires said. “Although threatened with death, Dorothy never failed in her life’s mission, to fight for the poor of the land, so that they had their rights guaranteed and a dignified life,” read the statement issued by the Brazilian bishops’ Pastoral Land Commission to mark Stang’s death.Mary Cohen, a lawyer in Belem and a member of the Brazilian bishops’ justice and peace commission, was president of the human rights commission at Brazil’s lawyer association when Stang was in Anapu. Cohen remembered Stang’s determination, as the nun pushed and pressured government agencies into taking action. “She once slept on the steps of the INCRA (Institute for Agrarian Reform) so they would talk to her. She had a lot of determination, and that invigorated all of us,” said the lawyer. That determination made many people in the region angry. Trying to reduce the tension between landowners and peasants and their advocates, the lawyer’s association gave Stang a human rights award two months before she was killed.

We thought that more media attention and recognition of her work would keep her safe, that they (landowners and ranchers) would be deterred. We were wrong,” said the lawyer. And although Stang’s assassination made international headlines and caused worldwide commotion, those who continue her work say the threats today to the landless and their advocates are even greater. “There are still a lot of people being threatened, and I wouldn’t want to jeopardize anyone’s life,” Sr. Jane Dwyer, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur who worked closely with the murdered nun, told CNS.

Dwyer, who still lives in Anapu, told CNS she was uneasy about giving interviews over the telephone. She said that, since 2015, 19 landless, small-scale farmers had been assassinated over land conflicts in the area. “Nineteen in the last five years,” she said. “Of the 19 assassinations, in only one did authorities bring someone to justice,” added Spires, who works with the Brazilian bishops’ Indigenous Missionary Council in Belem. Cohen said those who speak out today against the rich and powerful in the region continue to be threatened. “Her successor, Father Amaro (Jose Amaro Lopes de Souza), continues to be threatened, and when they were unable to scare him off, they accused him of extortion and inciting violence among landless peasants,” she said…

“The synod document is titled ‘Querida Amazonia’ (Beloved Amazonia), which … embodies what Sister Dorothy spoke of her entire life: ‘Dear Amazon, we are here to defend you, to protect you. Dear people of the Amazon, we are here to help you in your fight, in your resistance, in the recognition of your rights.'”

Egyptian human rights defender Gamal Eid assaulted

December 31, 2019

On 30 December 2019 Front Line Defenders and others reported that Egyptian human rights defender Gamal Eid was assaulted outside his home on Sunday, 29 December 2019 by up to a dozen men. They beat him and when neighbors tried to intervene, they were threatened at gunpoint. After, the men dumped paint on Gamal Eid and threatened him to stop his human rights work. The human rights defender recognized one of the men as a “state security officer” who was with the men “giving orders and saying this is that he should be ‘disciplined’.”

Gamal Eid is a renowned lawyer and advocate of freedom of expression in Egypt. He is the founder and director of the Arab Network of Human Rights Information (ANHRI), which was established in 2003 to promote freedom of expression, campaign against censorship in the Middle East and North Africa, and provide legal assistance to journalists and internet activists.

According to the ANHRI website, this is the fourth attack on Gamal Eid this year and comes amidst a wider crackdown on Egyptian civil society and human rights defenders. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/18/egypt-court-freezes-assets-of-rights-defenders-and-ngos/]

Following the attack, Gamal Eid released a statement: “I think they do not want to repeat the scandal of torturing Julio Regeni to death, so they resorted to attacking me one time after another, to punish me, silence me and stop me from doing human rights work and my frequent criticism of the gruesome human rights violations, but again, silence and collusion are not our choices.”

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/gamal-eid-assaulted-outside-his-home

Egypt: Rights activist Gamal Eid brutally attacked by security forces

“Are You With Me?” – the life of Kevin Boyle

December 23, 2019

One Man’s War for Human Dignity: The Extraordinary Life of Kevin Boyleis the title of a piece by Charles Norchi (law professor) in Global Geneva of 6 December 2019. It is about the new book by Mike Chinoy about the life and work of Kevin Boyle, the Northern Irish human rights activist: “Are You With Me? Kevin Boyle and the Rise of the Human Rights Movement”. It chronicles the life of a man who spanned civil rights in Northern Ireland and the human rights movement from the halls of academia to international organizations and tribunals.

Boyle, a scholar-teacher-advocate-counselor who, like Eleanor Roosevelt, occupied multiple roles in the human rights movement, played a significant role in helping to bring an end to this turmoil which also affected the United Kingdom itself, Ireland, Europe and the United States. Yet he remained an unsung hero, until this book.

…Chinoy delivers the reader to a front row seat of the late 20th Century human rights canvass – the Northern Ireland civil rights movement, advocacy before the European Court of Human Rights, academia, civil society and the flowering human rights movement. Boyle was at the forefront of it all. From his perch at the Queen’s University Law Faculty in Belfast, he drafted proposals for resolving the Northern Irish conflict. He also shone a light upon the abuses perpetrated by the British army and Northern Ireland police in a landmark case to the European Commission on behalf of seven Northern Irish men who were interned without trial, beaten and tortured. He mobilized international law on behalf of victims of torture, unjust imprisonment, discrimination and defended freedom of expression, belief and association.

Boyle with former Irish president Mary Robinson during her stint as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva (1997-2002).

Boyle also guided Amnesty International’s campaign against apartheid in South Africa, and spearheaded efforts to defend Salman Rushdie as Director of Article 19. Yet he never neglected human rights teaching, because students were the future. So he Directed the University of Essex Human Rights Law Centre and was founding Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland at Galway. When President Mary Robinson became United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, she wisely appointed Boyle her chief legal advisor – so he moved to Geneva.

This human rights law professor, advocate and activist died of lung cancer at age sixty-seven. At the time my University of Maine School of Law colleague Orlando Delogu who taught with Boyle at Galway observed, “He was single minded in his defence of oppressed people. The breadth of his interests was quite amazing, but always behind the scenes, the use of law – never violence.” Boyle helped lay the foundation for expanded human rights protections across the planet and inspired generations of scholars and activists.

How did Chinoy choose the title for this book? Boyle was first a university teacher. While lecturing he would pause and ask his students, “Are you with me?” It was a two-fold question. Did they understand the material? And would they be with him on the front line in the fight for human rights? “Are you with me?”

Are You With Me? will be launched at Essex University on 19 March 2020, with book events to follow in Dublin, Belfast, London, Galway and  Oxford. it can be pre-ordered through Lilliput Press: https://www.lilliputpress.ie/product/are-you-with-me

One Man’s War for Human Dignity: The Extraordinary Life of Kevin Boyle

Algerian human rights defender Halim Feddal sent to preventive detention

November 26, 2019

Front Line Defenders reports that on 20 November 2019, the Public Prosecution in Chlef ordered the preventive detention of human rights defender Halim Feddal, after he was arbitrarily arrested on 17 November 2019. He had been taking part in a peaceful demonstration demanding the release of a number of Algerian political prisoners.

Halim Feddal is the founder and secretary general of the Algerian National Association Against Corruption (ANLC) which works on exposing and fighting corruption in Algeria. He is also a member of the Hirak Movement, which is a grassroots human rights movement that calls for the promotion of civil and political rights in Algeria. The human rights defender frequently participates in peaceful demonstrations in the city of Chlef.

On 17 November 2019, Halim Feddal was arrested by security forces in plain clothes from a peaceful demonstration that he was attending in front of the court in Chlef. The protesters were demonstrating against the politically motivated detention of some members of the Hirak movement. Halim Feddal was taken to a local police station where he spent three days under interrogation and was not allowed to contact his lawyer or his family. On 20 November 2019, the Public Prosecution charged him with “threatening the unity of the country” and “incitement of an illegal gathering”. The Public Prosecution ordered preventive detention for Halim Feddal without scheduling a date for his court hearing.

Human rights defenders in Algeria are continually harassed and arbitrarily detained by the authorities. Halim Feddal has frequently been called to the police station and interrogated about his human rights work. Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned about the detention and harassment of Halim Feddal, and finds the general crackdown on human rights defenders in Algeria increasingly worrying. Front Line Defenders believes that Halim Feddal is being detained solely as a result of his peaceful and legitimate human right work.

Download the Urgent Appeal

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/halim-feddal-sent-preventive-detention

How human-rights defender Idris Khattak went ‘missing’ in Pakistan

November 25, 2019

On 23 November 2019 Francesca Marino, in a personal blog post in the New Kerala wrote a short story “How human-rights activist Idris Khattak went ‘missing’ in Pakistan“. It reads like the scenario for a film but it is the horrible truth:

November 13, on the Islamabad-Peshawar motorway. It is around five o’clock in the afternoon, there’s a long queue at the toll plaza. The man and his driver are stuck in the queue like many others. An ordinary afternoon in an ordinary day, it seems. But there’s nothing ordinary in what’s going to happen. The moment the car stops at the toll plaza to pay the fare, a couple of guys in plain clothes approach the car forcing the two men to go out. The man and his driver are handcuffed, their faces covered with masks and they are thrown into another car. Nobody complains nobody says anything. The people at toll plaza let the car go without any payment. An ordinary afternoon, in an ordinary day. In a couple of minutes, the void replaces the space occupied by the two men. The void, an ordinary entity in today’s Pakistan. The man taken by the ‘unknown’ people in plain clothes is Idris Khattak, and is not an ordinary man. Because fighting for the rights of citizens, in Pakistan, is not an ordinary thing to do. Not anymore.

Idris had worked for Amnesty International and for Human Rights Watch on various human rights issues including, ironically, the issue of enforced disappearances in the country. His last post on Facebook, before he disappeared, was in fact on disappearances that, according to Amnesty International and other international organisations has become a common practice in Pakistan in the last few years.

Idris is an easy target. He has been an active member of left-wing politics and progressive circles since his student days and an important member of the Democratic Student Federation. Lately, he joined the National Party, serving as its General Secretary in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The usual ‘unknowns’ had called him many times in the past threatening him and ‘gently advising’ him not to cross the limits in criticising the military.

A couple of days later, another lot of people in plain clothes shows up at Idris’ house. They tell the family they are children of Idris’ friends and need to take his laptop and his hard disk. They call a number Idris is on the phone, telling his family to give laptop and hard disks to the guys. Just this and the call is cut.

Meanwhile, after three days, the driver reappeared. He is shaken and terrified. He has been kept for three days in a basement, with his warden telling him he was clear and would be released soon. During those three days, he never saw Idris and has no idea of what happened to him.

An FIR and a habeas corpus have been filed in Peshawar High Court by Latif Afridi Advocate, but unfortunately is not going to make any difference. The rule of law, in this case like in many other cases before Idris, counts nothing.
 Reading from the latest Amnesty Report “The groups and individuals targeted in enforced disappearances in Pakistan include people from Sindhi, Baloch, Pashtun ethnicities, the Shia community, political activists, human rights defenders, members and supporters of religious and nationalist groups, suspected members of armed groups, and proscribed religious and political organisations in Pakistan. In some cases, persons are openly taken into custody by the police or intelligence agencies, and families trying to find out where they are held are denied information by the authorities. Some victims are eventually released or their whereabouts are disclosed to their families but they continue to be held in arbitrary detention including in internment camps. Those forcibly disappeared are also at risk of torture and death during captivity.”

The bloggers, who disappeared a few years ago, have been brutally tortured and still carry physical and mental symptoms related to their detention. According to Amnesty International “The disappeared are at risk of torture and even death. If they are released, the physical and psychological scars endure. Disappearances are a tool of terror that strikes not just individuals or families, but entire societies. Enforced disappearance is a crime under international law and, if committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack, they constitute a crime against humanity”.

Defence of Human Rights, a non-governmental organisation working for the recovery of disappeared people, laments that more than 5,000 cases of enforced disappearance have remained unresolved till date in Pakistan.
 According to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearance established in 2011 under international pressure hasn’t made any significant progress. The ICJ says the practice of enforced disappearances in Pakistan is no longer restricted to conflict zones alone. “It has become a tactic for suppressing dissenting voices wherever they are present.” Adding that “The practice has now become a national phenomenon” in Naya Pakistan.

Ironically, Imran Khan had committed to criminalise the practice of enforced disappearances under his government; useless to say, nothing has been done. And to add insult to irony, the Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari has stated that the government wants to sign the International Convention for Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. Meanwhile, the practice continues and the impunity and the arrogance of ISI and its thugs grow every day. Grows like the void, the void left where they were people once. And dreams, and hopes. The dreams and hopes to live in a civilised country, where dissent and protests are part of the democratic process and citizens have civil and human rights. An ordinary country.

https://www.newkerala.com/news/read/252635/how-human-rights-activist-idris-khattak-went-missing-in-pakistan.html

Prominent Russian human rights defender Sergei Sharov-Delone dies at 63

November 10, 2019

Sergei Sharov-Delone
Sergei Sharov-Delone
RFE/RL’s Russian Service reported on 8 November 2019 that one of Russia’s most prominent human rights defenders, Sergei Sharov-Delone, has died at the age of 63. Sharov-Delone’s son, Aleksandr Sharov, and the chairwoman of the Russia Behind Bars rights organization, Olga Romanova, said that Sharov-Delone had died late in the night on November 7 after suffering from cancer. Sharov-Delone was a member of the May 6 Committee that investigated police brutality against protesters during demonstrations in Moscow in May 2012 ahead of Vladimir Putin’s inauguration for a third term as president.

He actively assisted imprisoned activists via the Russian Behind Bars group and coordinated operations of the Moscow-based Public Defenders’ School. Sharov-Delone was a cousin of Soviet-era dissident Vadim Delone — one of seven Soviet dissidents who openly protested on Moscow’s Red Square against the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968.

In 2017, RFE/RL released a documentary about Sharov-Delone’s life and activities entitled Defender.

https://www.rferl.org/a/sergei-sharov-delone-/30260023.html

https://www.bignewsnetwork.com/news/263008507/prominent-russian-rights-defender-sergei-sharov-delone-dies-at-63

Universal human rights apply to Ilham Tohti? China and EU: disagree

October 26, 2019

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his EU counterpart Federica Mogherini in Beijing on Tuesday. Photo: Xinhua
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his EU counterpart Federica Mogherini in Beijing on Tuesday. Photo: Xinhua

Keegan Elmer  in the South China Morning Post of 25/26 October 2019 reports that Chinese officials have told their European counterparts that human rights should be measured by the people’s well-being and rejected the EU’s support for the “universal” values enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The statements issued by both sides after a meeting between the EU’s foreign affairs chief and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi underlined their disagreements on human rights by recording their discussions on the topic in markedly different ways. While the Europeans focused on Mogherini’s support for “universality”, the Chinese statement emphasised her call for mutual respect and comments that there were “different approaches” to the issue.

According China, Mogherini had acknowledged that there are “different approaches to safeguarding and promoting human rights” and accepted that there were “problems with the human rights situation in European countries”. It continued that she had agreed to continue cooperation and exchanges with China “on the basis of mutual respect”, adding: “The EU does not intend to act as the ‘teacher’ of other countries on human rights issues.”

But the EU’s account of the meeting did not refer to Wang’s comments and said Mogherini had “underlined to the Chinese leadership that the EU will continue to stand up for the universality, interdependence and indivisibility of human rights based on the UN Charter and standards”.

China extraordinary sensitivity to ‘interference’ of any level into what it considers its domestic affairs is well-known. I touched upon this hot’ topic’ in my own 2011 article “The international human rights movement: not perfect, but a lot better than many governments think” in the book ‘NGOs in China and Europe’ (exceptionally also published in Chinese!): Yuwen Li (ed), Ashgate, 2011, pp 287-304 (ISBN: 978-1-4094-1959-4).

On the same day that the pair met in Beijing, the European Parliament awarded its 2019 Sakharov Human Rights Prize to human rights defender Ilham Tohti, who is serving a life sentence. The statement announcing the award called for his immediate release and said “for over two decades, he has worked tirelessly to foster dialogue and understanding between Uygurs and other Chinese people”. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/24/lham-tohti-now-also-awarded-the-2019-sakharov-prize/]. Predictably, during a press conference on Friday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said the parliament had “given a prize to a criminal”. “I don’t know how much meaning, value or influence [the prize] has,” said Hua. “I only know Tohti is a criminal that has been sentenced by a Chinese court.

Neither the Chinese nor the EU have said whether Tohti’s case or the situation in Xinjiang – where Beijing is accused of detaining a million mainly Uygur Muslims in re-education camps – had been discussed.

Congo’s Hip-Hop artist Moses Kabaseke Defender of the Month for DefendDefenders

October 23, 2019

Human Rights Defender of the Month (September 2019): Moses Kabaseke 

Moses Kabaseke, a talented hip-hop artist and activist from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was forced to flee to Uganda in 2013 only 16 years old. Kabaseke, known by his stage name Belidor, has produced music since he was a child. “I use music as a weapon – music has power. I use music to promote human rights.

Moses Kabaseke refers to DRC as the rich country with the poor people. “Back home a life means nothing. In Congo, life is something that can be taken from human beings easily – there’s no justice,” he states. “It’s difficult for people that have not experienced atrocities to understand how that feels like. With my music, I try to capture the trauma and injustices experienced by so many.” When he was only seven years old, his father was killed. “Every night when my mother was crying, I felt so bad. Since that age, I decided to fight for what was right.” In 2012, history repeated itself when his stepfather was killed before his eyes. At that point his mother had to make the difficult decision to leave home. In a quest to find safety, she brought her four children to Uganda.

“We don’t want to be here, but we are forced to be here,” he stresses, pointing out that life in exile is difficult. Being away from home, without external support and regular income, they face many challenges. “We need to look for ways to pay our bills. However, my siblings and I all have the blood of our father, so the thing we know how to do is music; so, we perform.”

In Uganda, Kabaseke continued his human rights promotion by composing music. After five years of hard work, often performing in Kampala’s bars, restaurants, and churches to finance his music, he recently finished his first autobiographical album. The album, ‘Les Mille Cris’ (Thousands of Cries), which contains ten songs written and produced by himself, conveys messages about human rights violations and injustices in DRC, and life as a refugee, among others. “Les Mille Cris is about breaking down the truth, sensitising Africans and victims of violations, and giving a voice to the voiceless.”

Through his music, he encourages people to tell their story, and moreover, urges the world to listen. Speaking the truth can come at a high cost. “As the number of my followers increase, my personal insecurity increase. Personal safety is essential as an artist talking about human rights,” he says. When asked what inspires him to continue despite the many challenges he is faced with, he states that “I promote human rights because I have been a victim of the system […] we are the main actors in the process of change. We have to stand for our rights.” Moses Kabaseke has partaken in several trainings organised by DefendDefenders, and performed at DefendDefenders’ events.

Check out Moses Kabaseke’s music:

Human Rights Defender of the Month (September 2019): Moses Kabaseke