Posts Tagged ‘Human rights defender’

Killing of minority rights defender Lafiqul Islam Ahmed in Assam State, India

August 14, 2017

On 1 August 2017, two unidentified gunmen shot and killed minority rights defender Lafiqul Islam Ahmed in Kokrajhar district, Assam state. Lafiqul Islam Ahmed <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/lafiqul-islam-ahmed>  was a human rights defender and a student leader. He was the president of All Bodoland Minority Students’ Union (ABMSU), a student group working to defend the rights of migrant Muslim communities in Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD), an autonomous administrative division in northern Assam. ABMSU have protested against the forceful eviction of Muslims from government land across the state, and demanded compensation and rehabilitation for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Assam. Under Lafiqul Islam Ahmed’s leadership, the union has also campaigned to end child marriage, child labour and dowry and have worked on women’s empowerment. Lafiqul Islam Ahmed was also vocal against corruption, smuggling and arbitrary anti-Muslim policies and harassment.

The human rights defender had previously been subjected to threats. The Superintendent of Police in Kokrajhar has opened an investigation into the murder and two persons were arrested in connection to the case on 2 August 2017. Lafiqul Islam Ahmed, along with the ABMSU, was to lead a march on 2 August 2017 to protest against the discrimination of Muslims through the  “D voters” system. This is a category of voters in Assam whose citizenship rights, entitlements and privileges are withheld until they can prove their citizenship. Many members of the Muslim community in the state have allegedly been arbitrarily categorized as such, making them second-class citizens and severely restricting their civil and political rights.

Human Rights Defender Heather Heyer murdered in protest against hate in Charlottesville

August 14, 2017

GOFUNDME
Heather Heyer 

20-year-old James Fields Jr. was arrested over the incident and charged with murder. Fields was one of thousands of members of the so-called “alt right” who were in Charlottesville attending Saturday’s “Unite The Right” march. The rally became violent after the white supremacists were confronted by anti-fascist groups.

Source: Heather Heyer ‘Murdered While Protesting Against Hate’ In Charlottesville, Friends Say | HuffPost

Profile of Father Rosaleo Romano who disappeared 30 years ago in the Philippines

August 6, 2017

Human rights defender Mary Aileen Bacalso in the Philippines published a blog post in La Croix International of 3 August 2017 entitled “The imperative of more shepherds for the Lord’s flock“. It describes the case of  Redemptorist Father Rosaleo Romano who disappeared 3 decades ago and makes the point that pastors like him are now needed more than ever.
Victims of enforced disappearances in the Philippines, including Redemptorist Father Rosaleo Romano, are remembered during a memorial in Manila. (Photo by Rob Reyes)

The Philippine human rights community has not forgotten Father Rosaleo Romano more than three decades after his disappearance during the dark years of the dictatorship. A “man of the cloth”, Father Romano, “Rudy” to his friends, one of the staunchest human rights defenders during those years, was forcibly made to disappear by the military…Father Rudy did not live his spirituality in the confines of convent walls. He meaningfully lived it out through his apostolate with poor farmers, with striking factory workers, with the poor whose shanties were demolished in the name of development, and with students struggling for academic freedom. The priests consequently suffered persecution during that most obscure time of the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

In his white cassock, Father Rudy would confront soldiers with their batons and shields. He would link arms with protesters, and suffered arrest and stayed behind the bars of prisons several times. The persecutions did not cow him from following the footsteps of the “Most Holy Redeemer”. It strengthened his resolve to fully embrace the consequences of his actions. “If I die, you will know who killed me,” he told his parents from the province of Samar. He paid the price for concretizing the church’s teaching of preferential option for the poor. He became, and remains to be, one of the more than 2,000 documented cases of disappearances during the Marcos years. The disappearance of the Redemptorist priest brought thousands of people in the central Philippine province of Cebu out in the streets during those years. The perpetrators’ act of cowardice of abducting a committed pastor resulted in an outrage not only among the organized masses in the country but even among international solidarity groups.

More than three decades have passed. There is no trace of Father Rudy’s whereabouts. In a country battered by burning human rights issues, and with the silence of Filipinos who continue to place their trust in a president who openly attacked human rights defenders, the Catholic Church in the Philippines needs to relive the example of Father Rudy. It is sad that there seems to be a dearth of people with the Redemptorist’s zeal and commitment these days. Have we given justice to Father Rudy’s very ideals that earned for him the status of one of the most well-known desaparecidos during the Marcos era? Have his sacrifices in opting for the poor, the deprived, and the oppressed borne fruits for freedom and democracy? Has his exemplary life multiplied a hundredfold through the proliferation of people who are following his footsteps?

Father Rudy’s name is carved on the “Flame of Courage” built by the Redemptorist congregation in Manila in 1994. With hundreds of names of Filipino desaparecidos, the monument of a mother holding a torch and a child holding a picture of his disappeared father manifests the never-ending hope against hope that one day, the long-awaited reunification of families will be realized.

The dream of a “new heaven and a new earth” is far from being realized in this predominantly Catholic country where the teachings of love and justice are blatantly ignored. The “people of God” need, more than ever, pastors who are willing to offer their lives so that others may live.

[Mary Aileen Bacalso is secretary-general of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/12/23/filippines-hrd-wins-emilio-mignone-award-for-work-against-enforced-disappearances/]

Source: The imperative of more shepherds for the Lord’s flock – La Croix International

Mexican bishop Raul Vera ‘s continues his dangerous battle against organized crime

August 3, 2017

La Croix International carried a story on the work of bishop Raul Vera: “A Mexican bishop’s dangerous battle against organized crime“. Samuel Lieven described on 14 July, 2017 the priest as “an indefatigable defender of human rights in one of the most violent countries on earth,..[who] … has for thirty years denounced collusion between the Mexican government and the drug cartels. He has stood up to drug lords, traffickers and paramilitaries despite narrowly escaping death several times.” Bishop Vera, a Dominican who was awarded the Rafto Prize for human rights in 2010, has often taken risks in denouncing endemic corruption in Mexico, where the violence has reached record levels. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/02/11/mexico-activists-convene-first-peoples-constitutional-assembly/]
Archbishop Raul Vera arrives at the basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City on December 26, 2016. / Alfredo Estrella / Afp

At a press conference on Tuesday, 11 July, Bishop Raul Vera of Saltillo in Coahuila province in northern Mexico directly accused the Mexican government of complicity in organized crime by facilitating the crimes committed by the drug cartels “by terror”. Bishop Vera’s statement accompanied a complaint lodged on July 6 with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for crimes committed by Mexican security forces in collaboration with the powerful Las Zetas cartel. For Bishop Vera, this violence, particularly the violence that has spread in Coahuila province, “is not due to chance”.

In order to establish his complaint with the ICC, Bishop Vera drew on the work of more than 100 civil society organizations as well as reports prepared by the Legal Clinic of the University of Texas. He made particular reference to prosecutions under way against “members of organized crime in American courts which illustrated close collaboration with the government of Coahuila”. In addition, there were dozens of testimonies from victims of crimes committed by Mexican forces between 2009 and 2012 as well as by armed groups of Las Zetas. Overall, 32 recorded cases illustrated the links between the authorities and the cartel with a total of 562 victims involved.

A longstanding and indefatigable defender of indigenous people, prostitutes, homosexuals, prisoners and all oppressed minorities in his own country, Bishop Raul Vera is no beginner in the field of denouncing injustice. In testimony published in 2014, he highlighted the difficulties faced by a bishop standing up to the daily pressure and death threats from local drug lords, paramilitaries or traffickers who respect neither law or religion… Bishop Vera has narrowly escaped death several times….. In the space of ten years, more than forty have been killed. Priests, seminarians, deacons and religious have all become targets. According to an observatory established by the Mexican bishops, violence against the clergy increased by 275% between 1990 and 2015. Mexico also figures along with India, Pakistan or Turkey among the countries where religious freedom is most regularly violated.

Source: A Mexican bishop’s dangerous battle against organized crime – La Croix International

Eulogy of Pakistan’s Abdul Sattar Edhi, “the richest poor man”

July 11, 2017

edhi

Farah Jamil published on 10 July 2017 a blog post “The Richest Poor Man” recalling the life of the great humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi from Pakistan. Leading humanitarian and the most endearing person in the country. ‘Edhi’ left us at the age of 88 last year on July 8. He had been suffering from kidney failure since 2013 and was on dialysis. Edhi dedicated his life for the welfare of the poor irrespective of their caste, class and creed and that’s what makes him an asset for the whole universe. “He was not only an asset for this country but for the whole humanity because of his selfless work”.

It was in 1974 when a formal institution by the name of Edhi Foundation was set up. …..with more than 1,800 ambulances stationed across Pakistan, the Edhi Foundation is Pakistan’s largest welfare organization.  In 1997, the foundation entered the Guinness World Records as the “largest volunteer ambulance organization”. The Edhi Foundation’s slogan is: “Live and help live”.….

Edhi Sahab received many national and international awards included the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, Lenin Peace Prize, Hamdan Award for volunteers, Peace and Harmony Award (Delhi), Peace Award (Mumbai), Gandhi Peace Award (Delhi), UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize.

Throughout his life, Edhi sahab set examples for the world to follow through his actions. He was a simple man with a heart of gold. He slept in a windowless room adjoining the office of his foundation furnished with just a bed, a sink and a hotplate.…..

His last words were:

–Bury me in same clothes, donate all my body parts, and make sure my clothes are distributed among others.

—Take care of the poor people of my country.

…….Edhi sahib, you indeed were the richest poor man!

Source: #MainEdhiHun: The Richest Poor Man | SAMAA TV

Uganda: Killing of human rights defender Erasmus Irumba by security forces

June 30, 2017

 reports that on 23 June 2017, Erasmus Irumba was shot and wounded during an alleged altercation with a commanding officer of the local Uganda People’s Defence Forces and other security officials in Ntoroko District, western Uganda. He was then driven to a more rural area where he was shot again at close range and killed. Erasmus Irumba <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/erasmus-irumba>  was the coordinator of Twerwaneho Listeners Club (TLC) in Ntoroko District. TLC is a non-governmental organisation based in Fort Portal, in western Uganda. TLC carries out human rights advocacy through weekly radio programmes centred on human rights education, capacity building of human rights defenders, civic education, the monitoring and documentation of human rights violations and the challenging of unlawful government actions in court. TLC radio programmes generally aim at holding public leaders and corporations more accountable. Erasmus Irumba was particularly active in TLC’s Village Budget Clubs, a project that sought to scrutinise the allocation and implementation of district budgets and ensure proper management of public funds at the local level.

[On 23 June 2017, at approximately 7.30pm, Erasmus Irumba was reportedly summoned to go to Butungama trading centre for a meeting with senior security officials in his region, including the Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Richard Muhangi of Uganda People’s Defence Forces 3rd Mountain Battalion, with two of his escorts, the Ntoroko District Police Commander and the District Internal Security Organ Officer. During this meeting, Erasmus Irumba and another civilian who was with him were shot in the leg in an altercation that has been this far presented as arising from his attempt to resist arrest. Whilst still alive, but severely bleeding, Erasmus Irumba and his colleague were put in the boot of a private car and driven to a more rural area where they were shot dead. Erasmus Irumba’s body, which presented a gun wound in the forehead, was later taken to Buhinga Regional Referral Hospital in Fort Portal. In response to the killings, it is reported that some senior security officials including Lt. Col. Richard Muhangi and the Ntoroko District Police Commander have been arrested.]

Front Line Defenders is concerned that the killing of Erasmus Irumba is linked to the corruption of the security officials involved and believes he was targeted due to his peaceful and legitimate work at TLC.

 

 

Breaking: Liu Xiaobo released from Chinese prison with late-stage cancer

June 26, 2017

China’s best-known human rights defender and Nobel peace prize winner Liu Xiaobo, has been released on medical parole after he was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. Liu, 61, is in the late stages of the disease. Apparently he was diagnosed in May already but no announcement was made then. China has experience with such late intervention, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/15/remember-2nd-anniversary-of-the-death-of-cao-shunli/

[Liu was arrested in 2008 after penning a pro-democracy manifesto called Charter 08, where he called for an end to one-party rule and improvements in human rights. Following a year in detention and a two-hour trial, he was sentenced in December 2009 to 11 years in prison for inciting subversion of state power. Little has been heard from him since. When he was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2010 he was represented by an empty chair.]

Liu Xia, his wife, has been under house arrest since her husband won and has reportedly suffered from depression due to her isolation.

Source: Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo released from Chinese prison with late-stage cancer | World news | The Guardian

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/12/06/china-and-its-amazing-sensitivity-on-human-rights-defenders/

Human Rights Watch urges Turkey to release Amnesty’s country head

June 9, 2017

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday 8 June 2017 called on Turkish authorities to immediately release Taner Kılıç, chair of the board of Amnesty International’s Turkey section, who has been under detention since June 6. It is heartening to see the two biggest NGOs coming to each other’ rescue from time to time. In February this year AI Israel co-signed a statement deploring the decision not to allow Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch to take on his post [“We stand in solidarity with him and our colleagues at HRW.”  – see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/26/israel-denies-work-permit-to-human-rights-watch-and-continues-harassment-of-hrds/]

The anti-terror unit of the Izmir police on Tuesday detained lawyer and human rights defender Kılıç together with 22 other attorneys as part of a witch-hunt targeting people linked to the Gülen movement. “Turkey should release Taner Kılıç, who is a tireless defender of human rights, known for his support for Amnesty International over many years,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Detaining Kılıç on suspicion of terrorist offenses looks like a tactic aimed at discrediting his legitimate human rights work.”

Kılıç is a founding member of AI Turkey and has been chairman of its board of directors since 2014. He has also played a strong role in advocating for refugee rights as a lawyer and with domestic nongovernmental groups and others working on these issues. The European Union on Thursday expressed concern about the recent detention of Taner Kılıç.

(According to a report by the state-run Anadolu news agency on May 28, 154,694 individuals have been detained and 50,136 have been jailed due to alleged Gülen links since the failed coup attempt.

Source: Human Rights Watch urges Turkey to release Amnesty’s country head | Turkey Purge

Qatar extradited human rights defender Otaibi to Saudi Arabia ignoring Norway’s grant of asylum

June 1, 2017

IMG_1127
On 31 May 2017 ALQST reported that Qatar has extradited the prominent Saudi human rights defender Mohammed bin Abdullah al-Otaibi to Saudi Arabia, even after Norway accepted his application for political asylum.  Otaibi was arrested at Doha International Airport on Wednesday 24 May, 2017 as he was about to travel with his wife to Norway, on travel documents provided by the Norwegians.  Days later, on Sunday, 28 May 28 3 a.m., Otaibi was deported overland to Saudi Arabia via the Salwa border crossing and delivered to the Saudi authorities, who sent him with an escort of Saudi security vehicles to the Dammam Prisons Department.
For more details see the piece referred to below:

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Watch Live: 2017 Oslo Freedom Forum starts

May 23, 2017

Source: Watch Live: Talks Begin at the 2017 Oslo Freedom Forum