Posts Tagged ‘Human rights defender’

Mona Seif’s letter: a cry for help for Alaa

July 7, 2022

On 7 July 2022, Egyptian Human Rights Defender Mona Seif [https://www.martinennalsaward.org/hrd/mona-seif/] wrote the following letter asking for your help:

Dear Friends, colleagues and human rights defenders 

As I write this, I am on day 25 of my hunger strike, and Alaa, my brother, is on day 96 of his.

Alaa is a British-Egyptian prisoner of conscience and pro-democracy activist imprisoned in Egypt for most of the past decade.I decided to go on this hunger strike right after I last saw my brother in prison, on June 12th. He has lost a lot of weight, there was a very frail air about him, his hands looked thin and so pale that I could see the blue veins, and he was livid with anger. He kept on telling me to get over the notion that he can be rescued, he will never make it out of prison. “Focus on making the political price of my death the highest possible”, he said. It was an incredibly intense visit. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/12/21/alaa-abdel-fattah-and-two-others-receive-heavy-prison-sentences-in-egypt/]

I stepped out of prison and decided I will join his hunger strike. I was frustrated with how all officials seemed to take his strike lightly. The Egyptian government was blatantly denying his hunger strike on national TV  and all official meetings, while making sure no one sees Alaa but his family, so they blocked his lawyer from visiting, the national council for human rights from seeing him, and they have been blocking his British consular visit for months. On the other hand the British officials while sharing their genuine concern with us as a family in meetings, in their public official communication seemed to tip toe around Alaa’s hunger strike and how critical his situation is. 

Things have changed over the course of the past weeks. 

On June 21st the British Foreign Secretary confirmed to parliament that she is “working very hard to secure his release.” On July 4th a letter written by MP David Lammy, my MP and shadow foreign minister to the foreign secretary Liz Truss stressing on the importance of her intervention for Alaa’s release and highlighting his hunger strike. Another letter signed by 35 MPs and Lords was sent to the Egyptian minister for foreign affairs, Sameh Shoukry, on the same day.

And finally Sameh Shoukry arrived in London this week and my brother’s case was brought up during the bilateral meetings he attended, we are still waiting for an update about these meetings and if any agreement has been reached between both governments with regards to Alaa.

Accordingly I have decided to put an end to my strike, mostly because I feel I am growing too weak and tired to carry out my most important role right now: advocating for my brother’s life and freedom. But Alaa, being a prisoner, has no way of voicing out his frustration and anger at the continued injustice he is trapped in, except through his body, and depriving himself of the comfort of food. So he continues with his hunger strike, and next Sunday will be his 100th day!

Things seem to be moving but it worries us that the pace is very slow given how critical and life-threatening Alaa’s situation is.

So I am writing asking for your help, and asking you to believe that no help is too little. Every small action at this point really helps in building more awareness, sympathy and pressure to help us save my brother and with him the possibility of any happy future for my family. I will share some suggestions but please feel free to reach out, or organize any kind of action you think might help.

– Write to the Egyptian ambassador in your respective countries, address the urgency of Alaa’s case and situation.

– Write to your parliament representatives asking them to write to their counterparts in the UK and Egypt discussing Alaa’s case. If they could also issue any solidarity public statements it’d help immensely. Only today the German MP Tobias B. Bacherle published this statement in solidarity

– With the coming UN Climate conference #COP27 taking place in Egypt this year, all participating governments can influence and help in improving the human rights situation in Egypt prior to their attendance. So accordingly you have a chance to write to your government’s representatives who might be taking part in it and urge them to raise Alaa’s case with their Egyptian counterparts, and stress on how devastating it’d be if they allowed a British/Egyptian activist to die in prison after years of unjust detention. – Statements of solidarity by Human Rights defenders and organizations, and any solidarity vigils are always welcome

Feel free to share this email with anyone you think could help. For more resources and info regarding Alaa : check https://freealaa.net/, and on twitter @FreedomForAlaa

I urge you to carry my brother’s case as yours and help me in every possible way. I am exhausted and scared we’d lose him, but I also think this is the first time in years his release seems like an actual possibility not just a dream.

Much love Mona Seif #FreeAlaa,

Lee Ming-che free and back in Taiwan

May 10, 2022

HUIZHONG WU for Associated Press on 10 May 2022 reports that a Taiwanese human rights activist, who served five years in jail in China, said that international pressure and the tireless advocacy by his wife worked to ensure his safe return to Taiwan. “I know that my life’s safety and security was defended by many people, thanks to everyone, I have never felt abandoned or alone,” Lee Ming-che said at a press conference Tuesday in his first public appearance since being released from prison.Lee Ming-che was arrested by Chinese authorities in 2017 and charged with subversion of state power. His arrest was China’s first criminal prosecution of a non-profit worker since Beijing passed a law tightening controls over foreign non-governmental organizations in 2016.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/04/china-and-its-willingness-to-detain-anyone-anytime-should-generate-more-reaction/

His arrest marked a turning point as China showed that it would not hesitate to prosecute Taiwanese individuals for political activism, regardless of the harm it would bring to cross-Strait relations.

Lee had given online lectures on Taiwan’s democratization and managed a fund for families of political prisoners in China that some friends had set up.

I did what I could do, using my credit card to buy some books,” he said, which he would send to friends in China. He would also give donations to the families of political prisoners. “This is not to interfere with the country’s internal affairs. All of this was simply a way of humanitarian caring.”Lee is the son of parents who were both born in China and had come to Taiwan with the ruling Nationalist Party. He had always thought of himself as a Chinese person growing up. That changed in high school with a history teacher who taught the students to learn about local history.

While Lee was able to come home, another prisoner, Lee Meng-chu, remains trapped in China. Lee Meng-chu has been accused of being a spy by Chinese authorities and is now serving the two years as part of his sentence which deprived him of “political rights.” Meng-chu had been in Hong Kong in 2019, during the massive anti-government protests that rocked the city, according to the semi-official Central News Agency. He disappeared after crossing the border into Shenzhen.

It’s uncertain how many Taiwanese are being held in Chinese prisons, as many families have chosen to remain quiet in the hopes of getting their loved ones’ release. This stands in contrast with Lee, the human rights activist’s case. In the last five years, Lee’s wife, Ching-yu worked with local nonprofit organizations to raise awareness about her husband’s case. .. That continued effort, both said, paid off. “International support can truly have a concrete change on the treatment of a political prisoner in China,” said Lee Ching-yu.

https://buffalonews.com/news/national/govt-and-politics/taiwan-activist-released-from-china-says-global-help-worked/article_159bb09e-b8f7-53fb-a959-2f96714c4e24.html

RFK Human Rights Award 2022 goes to two Cameroonians

May 9, 2022
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Logo (PRNewsfoto/RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights)

On 5 May 2022 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights announced Cameroonian human rights defenders Maximilienne C. Ngo Mbe and Felix Agbor Nkongho (Balla) as the 2022 recipients of its annual Human Rights Award. A ceremony honouring the two laureates will take place Tuesday, 7 in Washington, D.C.

For more on the RFK Human Rights Award and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/69FD28C0-FE07-4D28-A5E2-2C8077584068.

A Cameroonian human rights defender with over 30 years of experience, Ngo Mbe is Executive Director of the Central African Human Rights Defenders Network (REDHAC). Since 2010, she has led REDHAC in its efforts to promote civic space and protect fundamental freedoms throughout Central Africa through investigations of human rights abuses, advocacy before regional human rights bodies, monitoring of democratic processes, and demanding state accountability. She was previously named an International Woman of Courage in 2021 by the U.S. Department of State [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/03/09/state-department-hands-out-21-international-women-of-courage-awards-2021/] and received the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law in 2016.

Receiving the RFK Human Rights Award 2022 still feels like a dream,” said Ngo Mbe. “I am humbled by this recognition and dedicate it to my family, my colleagues at REDHAC, the members of the REDHAC Board of Directors, in particular Me Alice Nkom, and the Human Rights Defenders who have been my source of strength over the years. I look forward to working alongside Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights as we continue our struggle for justice, human rights, and peace in Cameroon and Central Africa.

Nkongho is a Cameroonian lawyer and human rights defender. He is the director of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) and a leading advocate for human rights of Cameroonians in the conflict-stricken Anglophone region. Nkongho’s work focuses on the promotion of democracy, good governance, access to justice, and rule of law. His reputation as a devoted human rights defender is evidenced by his tireless work for human rights in Cameroon and throughout Africa, despite state sanctioned pushback, including his arbitrary detention in 2017. In 2019 he won the African Human Rights Defenders Shield Award.

When I got news of the award, I was staring at portraits of my late parents and crying tears of joy. This is the best gift I could ever offer them, and I am sure they will be celebrating in heaven,” said Nkongho. “I am truly honored, and I sincerely thank Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights for considering me worthy of this award. It is dedicated to all those who advocate for the promotion and protection of human rights, to all the human rights defenders who continue to put their lives and liberty on the line to fight against injustice.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/10/29/haitian-guerline-jozef-wins-robert-f-kennedy-human-rights-award-2021/

https://rfkhumanrights.org/awards/human-rights-award-2022.

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/robert-f-kennedy-human-rights-announces-2022-human-rights-award-laureates-301541320.html

Human Rights Defender Vladimir Kara-Murza arrested in Russia

April 14, 2022

Vladimir Kara-Murza, the Russian democracy activist, historian, twice-poisoned critic of Vladimir Putin’s regime, and a senior advisor to Human Rights First, was reportedly arrested near his Moscow residence on 11 April 2022.  Kara-Murza’s arrest came just days after his return to Russia and shortly after CNN broadcasted an interview with him. He is the winner of 3 human rights awards, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/34e43b60-3236-11ea-b4d5-37ffeeddd006

We are deeply concerned for our friend Vladimir Kara-Murza’s personal safety, and we call on Russian authorities to release him immediately,” said Michael Breen, President and CEO of Human Rights First.  “Putin and his regime have shown themselves to be willing to break any law, domestic or international, to suppress political opposition at home and subjugate neighboring countries like Ukraine.  We call on all of democracy’s allies to oppose criminal behavior like this to protect human rights in Russia, Ukraine, and around the world.

Having been targeted for assassination twice before, Kara-Murza knew his return to Russia put him in danger.  In his recent CNN interview, Kara-Murza said, “The biggest gift we could give…to the Kremlin would be just to give up and run…that’s all they want from us.

https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/russian-human-rights-activist-vladimir-kara-murza-arrested-moscow

Naty Castro freed by Philippine court order

March 31, 2022
Philippine court frees human rights doctor

Photo: Rappler.com

On 30 March, 2022, the good news arrived: A human rights activist and doctor arrested in the Philippines last month on rebellion and kidnapping charges has been freed from detention after a court dismissed the case against her and condemned the manner of her arrest. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/03/10/naty-castro-human-rights-defender-in-the-philippines-arbitrarily-detained/]

Dr. Maria Natividad (“Naty”) Castro, 53, walked free from detention on March 30 after the Bayugan City Regional Trial Court ordered her release on March 25. The judge called the arrest ‘repugnant to her right to liberty’

She had been held since her arrest in Manila on Feb. 18 for allegedly being a fundraiser for the Communist Party’s armed wing, the New People’s Army. She was also accused of being involved in the kidnapping of a government-backed militia member in 2018 while helping indigenous communities in Mindanao.

https://www.ucanews.com/news/philippine-court-frees-human-rights-doctor/96721

http://davaotoday.com/main/human-rights/agusan-sur-court-dismisses-charges-vs-red-tagged-community-doctor/

Helen Nolan on Human Rights Defenders

March 28, 2022

On March 25, 2022 the Stimson Centre published a wide-ranging piece by Helen Nolan on Human Rights Defenders and what their possibilities are in an international environment: “Protecting Those Who Protect Human Rights: Opportunities and Risks for Action at the UN

The extensive article starts with the adoption by the UN General Assembly of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in 1998. Then it examines possibilities for further state action at the UN to increase the safety and security of human rights defenders. It outlines major trends, gives an overview of UN efforts, and sets out key instruments and state commitments in relation to human rights defenders. It then explores key risks and opportunities for strengthening UN action, offering recommendations for member states to advance this agenda and better ensure that human rights defenders everywhere are able to freely and safely undertake their vital work.

Helen Nolan is an international human rights lawyer. Through the International Service for Human Rights and ILGA World, as well as working for Front Line Defenders and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Helen Nolan has expertise in human rights defender protection. Helen Nolan has in-depth knowledge of the UN human rights system and advocacy before its mechanisms. She worked most recently with the United Nations Development Programme in Viet Nam. Helen Nolan holds degrees from Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, and Essex University, United Kingdom.

See the full article in the link below:

Sudanese Fadia Khalaf, Defender of the Month of March

March 25, 2022

DefendDefenders’ regulary chooses a Defender of the Month. Here an example:

Fadia Khalaf was not meant to be an activist. By her own admission, she was born into a conservative Muslim family – the first of six siblings. In Saudi Arabia where she was born and raised, the ruling ideology in the Kingdom was wahabbism – a puritanical version of Islam in which women are strictly expected to stay in the background and not play any public role. Yet even in that conservative setting, she managed to nurture a political consciousness:

“I think reading at young age helped build my awareness on concepts like justice and rights in general. I was exposed to concepts around human freedom, and that nurtured the rebel in me,” she says. Fadia Khalaf Tweet

Now aged 25, Fadia is the Co-founder of Missing Initiative, a volunteer, youth organization dedicated to documenting all persons that are reported missing during Sudan’s ongoing political crisis. The initiative was started in the aftermath of the Khartoum massacre, when armed forces of the Sudanese Transitional Military Council attacked a protest outside the country’s military headquarters, killing at least 127 people.

From the start of protests to remove Bashir (Sudan’s long-serving President deposed in April 2019), we would always report people who we would realize never returned home after the protests. This was our way of looking out for each other. But after 3 June 2021 (the day of the Khartoum massacre), the situation was terrible. People were killed, women were raped, while many others were disappeared. All of a sudden, because of our past work, I started getting tens of phone-calls of people letting me know that their persons were missing, asking me to do something about it. I had to post all these missing cases on my social media platforms(Twitter & Instagram via @SlayKaiii) in addition to reporting to police, to try to find them. It was from that crisis that I and five other friends decided to start Missing initiative to continue searching for these people,” Fadia Khalaf Tweet

The initiative helps document persons announced missing, liaises with the police to conduct a search process, follows up on those in police detention to ensure the progress of their cases and helps some of those arrested find legal representation. To date, Missing Initiative has documented over 100 cases of missing persons, and helped locate about 60, from prisons to hospitals. Among these, at least five were found dead in city morgues.

“It’s horrifying, the conditions in which we find some of these people, if we find them at all. Some are in urgent need of medical attention from all forms of torture, others are imprisoned without charge. Others, we find, have died. But at least, it gives closure to their families,” she says. Fadia Khalaf Tweet

As a result of their work, Fadia says that Sudanese now recognise forced disappearances as a state crime, and have gradually developed a consciousness and vigilance to look out for each other against state-inspired violence.

These efforts have not been without consequences. Fadia says she and her colleagues have been threatened together with their families, and that she continues to be randomly followed and her phones tapped. She says as women human rights defenders (WHRDs) in a deeply patriarchal society, they’re even more endangered because the society does not believe they should have any rights at all, much less a voice.

“The day women rise in Sudan, patriarchy will fall because it thrives on subjugating women. And that’s why those like us are harassed because the system fears that we will awaken and empower other women to rise up and refuse to be dominated,” she says. Fadia Khalaf Tweet

Nonetheless, Fadia is optimistic, the growing women and youth agitation is unstoppable: “This spirit and desire for change, I have never seen it before. Young people are willing to die for a better country every day!  It is inspiring. All they need is to be empowered more,” she notes.

Saudi human rights defender Raif Badawi freed after 10 years!

March 12, 2022

On Friday 11 March 2022, AFP reported that Saudi blogger Raif Badawi has been released from prison in Saudi Arabia after serving a 10-year sentence for advocating an end to religious influence on public life.

Raif called me. He is free,” his wife, Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Canada with their three children and had been advocating for his release, told AFP. Badawi’s release was also confirmed by a Saudi security official who said on condition of anonymity that Badawi “was released today”. “I jumped when I found out. I couldn’t believe it. I can’t wait to see my dad, I’m so excited,” one of his daughters, Nawja Badawi, 18, told AFP. Badawi’s son Terad Raif Badawi tweeted: “After 10 years my father is free!

Badawi won 5 international awards according to THF’s digest: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/33454B83-61A6-180A-27D6-7FFDEC25D330

Raif Badawi, human rights defender in Saudi Arabia, has finally been released!” Amnesty International tweeted. “Thousands of you have mobilized alongside us in the defense of Raif Badawi for 10 years. A big thank you to all of you for your tireless support.

Every Friday for almost seven years, Haidar – who fled to Canada after Badawi’s arrest and has since become a Canadian citizen – had held a public vigil for him. Quebec has paved the way for Raif Badawi to come to the country if he chooses by placing him on a priority list of possible immigrants for humanitarian reasons.

No details of his release conditions were immediately available. But Amnesty noted that the Saudi blogger could still face a 10-year ban on all travel outside Saudi Arabia following his release.

Raif Badawi’s sister, Samar Badawi, as well as activist Nassima al-Sadah, released in 2021, remain stranded in the kingdom. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/13/saudi-arabia-arrest-of-human-rights-defender-samar-badawi/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/11/raif-badawi-saudi-blogger-freed

https://mailchi.mp/hrf.org/hrf-welcomes-release-of-saudi-writer-and-activist-raif-badawi?e=f80cec329e

Breaking news: MEA laureate Yu Wensheng released

March 3, 2022

On 1 March 2022, EFE reported that Chinese human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng, sentenced to 4 years in 2020 for “inciting subversion of state power,” was released Tuesday from prison in the eastern city of Nanjing, according to a Twitter post by his wife Xu Yan. Yu Wensheng was on a train bound for Beijing according to his wife, who awaits him at a hotel in the capital.

Could it be that campaigns help? See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/17/campaign-to-free-chinese-human-rights-lawyer-yu-wensheng/ and https://mailchi.mp/3165601cacf1/749qlxejj6-33417?e=d1945ebb90

Yu, winner of the Martin Ennals Award in 2021 for championing human rights, had been in prison since his arrest in January 2018 while taking his son to school. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/02/11/breaking-news-yu-wensheng-chinese-human-rights-lawyer-is-martin-ennals-laureate-2021/

During the few meetings with his lawyer, Yu has claimed to have suffered torture and mistreatment during his confinement that may have caused him to lose part of the mobility of his right hand.

Human Rights High Commissioner Bachelet urges support for environmental defenders

March 2, 2022
United Nations
Protect the defenders of the planet, UN rights chief urges
Poyowari Piyãko, a young activist, poses in his home in the Apiwtxa village, which belongs to the Ashaninka indigenous people, in northern Brazil.

Poyowari Piyãko, a young activist, poses in his home in the Apiwtxa village, which belongs to the Ashaninka indigenous people, in northern Brazil. © UNICEF/Alécio Cézar

The world must be made a safer place for people working to protect the planet, who sometimes pay with their own lives for their activism, UN Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said on Tuesday 1 March 2022.  Protecting the environment goes hand-in-hand with protecting the rights of those who defend it, she told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, which is holding its annual month-long session. 

Ms. Bachelet revealed how speaking out and standing up for environmental rights can come at enormous cost as activists have been killed or subjected to abuse, threats and harassment.   

At particular risk are people who speak out against deforestation, extractives, loss of cultural heritage or identity, or large scale-agribusinesses and development projects – including those intended to produce clean energy, such as mega dams,she said.  Many environmental human rights defenders are also indigenous peoples, or members of local communities or minority groups – or those representing them.   Berta Caceres, an environmental activist from Honduras, was assassinated in March 2016.  She was recognized posthumously as a UN Champion of the Earth laureate for her tireless campaign for the rights of indigenous people.

Berta Caceres, an environmental activist from Honduras, was assassinated in March 2016. She was recognized posthumously as a UN Champion of the Earth laureate for her tireless campaign for the rights of indigenous people. © UNEP

She said entire communities may face threats and intimidation when someone speaks out on their behalf.  Ms. Bachelet underlined that States have an obligation to respect and protect the rights of environmental human rights defenders, and the communities they represent.  Authorities must also prevent and ensure accountability for attacks.  These actions are in line with a Council resolution adopted last year which upholds the right to a healthy environment, she said.  See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/10/26/aarhus-convention-gets-new-mechanism-to-protect-environmental-defenders/ and

“In addition, it is critical that States effectively regulate businesses and hold them accountable for human rights violations,” she said, while corporations also have a similar duty, as outlined in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

Ms. Bachelet advised that prior to undertaking any climate project, both governments and businesses must carry out human rights risk assessments.  

If indigenous peoples’ rights are at risk of being adversely affected by such projects, it is crucial that their free, prior and informed consent is obtained,” she said. 

The UN rights chief also reported on some of the global work of her staff.  “All around the world, my Office is committed to supporting States, businesses and environmental human rights defenders in all of their efforts to protect our planet,” she said. 

For example, over 200 human rights defenders in the Pacific region have been trained to help boost sustainable development, business and human rights in the context of climate change.  

In Southeast Asia, OHCHR is monitoring cases of harassment, arrest, killings and disappearances of environmental human rights defenders, while

https://yubanet.com/world/protect-the-defenders-of-the-planet-un-rights-chief-urges/working with governments towards ending punitive measures levelled against activists. 

https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/03/1113022