Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights Defenders’

Turkey: Our hearts remain in prison again this new year

January 4, 2021

On 2 January 2021 Nurcan Baysal – the winner of the 2018 Front line award [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/05/18/breaking-news-five-front-line-award-winners-2018-announced/] wrote a moving piece in Ahval about her friends and colleagues who are forced to spend their New Year in prison:

“OK,” I say to the children, “We are all overwhelmed in these corona days. Let’s decorate the house, the new year is coming. Down with the corona and with 2020. Let’s enter 2021 with hope. Come on, let’s make popcorn.” While I make the popcorn, I think of my dear friend Osman Kavala, who remains in prison.

I think back to an afternoon when a few human rights defenders had gathered. Whose turn was it to host us that day? “It’s me,” said Şeyhmus. “I’ll even buy you coffee.” Şeyhmus Gökalp, member of the Turkish Medical Association’s honorary board, is now in prison.

I know a walk would do me good. I go outside to get some air. I pick up pace as Leonarda Cohen sings – “Dance with me…” It’s cold outside, but the sun is shining, and I enjoy the birds on trees. I look at the beautiful sky.

I think of novelist Ahmet Altan’s second book written in prison, where he said he would never see the sky without prison walls. The very sky devastates me.

I walk through Diyarbakır’s Bağlar district. Gentrification will begin here soon. I walk up to the building that used to host Kardelen Women’s Centre. I think back to the early 2000s, and the enthusiastic inauguration of Kardelen – literally translates to English as “snow piercer,” refers to the flower snowdrop.

After the opening, we grab a bite in a corner with the then-mayor of Diyarbakır, Gültan Kışanak, and Çağlar, a young employee of the centre. We look at the endless row of coffeehouses that have put their tables on the sidewalk, making it harder for women to walk down that street. “We will change this male-dominated mentality,” Kışanak says proudly. Çağlar is also hopeful for the future.

Both Kışanak and Çağlar Demirel are now in prison.

What should I cook tonight? I open a jar of canned vegetables I prepared with my loving mother. I’ll sauté them, and make some rice on the side.

“Mum, should we put out pickles too?” asks my son. Let’s do it. My pickles have been good this year. I open the lid and I pop one in my mouth.

Nedim wrote in a letter that he liked pickles. Journalist Nedim Türfent and dozens more are in prison.

I go to Diyarbakır’s Sur district. I go in and out of the streets of my hometown, which get stranger every day. Ruins on one street, upscale cafés on the next. A Starbucks a few yards from abject poverty and hunger.

Along the Hevsel Gardens a nice walking path has been put up. I find myself thinking about whose dream that was. “There will be days when we will walk along the Tigris,” says Selçuk.

Selçuk Mızraklı, elected co-mayor of Diyarbakır, will not be able to see his beloved hometown for 9 years, 4 months and 15 days, he is in prison.

With the coronavirus… I feel like I’ve been home for years. The feeling of being trapped and its friend despair surround me. I feel like I haven’t been able to breathe for a long time. I make coffee and go out to the yard. I look at the sky, the stars. I remember my childhood, us sleeping on the roof under the stars, how much hope we had.

Meanwhile, the former leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş whispers something from his prison cell.

“When you lose hope, look up at the sky, the stars are still there.”

May 2021 bring good health, but also bring back our loved ones. Let it bring freedom to thousands of people who are imprisoned unlawfully. Let this new year bring us hope, and hope for my hometown that has been destroyed.

https://ahvalnews.com/turkey-kurds/our-hearts-remain-prison-again-new-year

2020 Human Rights Day: 6 Human rights defenders highlighted by NHRF

December 22, 2020

On December 10th the Norwegian Human Rights Fund celebrated Human Rights Day. Many have been heavily impacted by the #COVID19 pandemic, and others face even more risks for defending their #rights now than before. In this video, six human rights defenders (such as Ruki Fernando, Norma Ledezma and Asha Kowtal) from different countries (India, Sri lanka, Thailand, Mexico and Colombia) share their thoughts on the importance of the fight for human rights.

Tech giants join legal battle against NSO

December 22, 2020

Raphael Satter reports on 22 December 2020 for Reuters that tech giants Google, Cisco and Dell on Monday joined Facebook’s legal battle against hacking company NSO, filing an amicus brief in federal court that warned that the Israeli firm’s tools were “powerful, and dangerous.”

The brief, filed before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, opens up a new front in Facebook’s lawsuit against NSO, which it filed last year after it was revealed that the cyber surveillance firm had exploited a bug in Facebook-owned instant messaging program WhatsApp to help surveil more than 1,400 people worldwide. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/20/the-ups-and-downs-in-sueing-the-nso-group/

NSO has argued that, because it sells digital break-in tools to police and spy agencies, it should benefit from “sovereign immunity” – a legal doctrine that generally insulates foreign governments from lawsuits. NSO lost that argument in the Northern District of California in July and has since appealed to the Ninth Circuit to have the ruling overturned.

Microsoft, Alphabet-owned Google, Cisco, Dell Technologies-owned VMWare and the Washington-based Internet Association joined forces with Facebook to argue against that, saying that awarding soverign immunity to NSO would lead to a proliferation of hacking technology and “more foreign governments with powerful and dangerous cyber surveillance tools.”

That in turn “means dramatically more opportunities for those tools to fall into the wrong hands and be used nefariously,” the brief argues.

NSO – which did not immediately return a message seeking comment – argues that its products are used to fight crime. But human rights defenders and technologists at places such as Toronto-based Citizen Lab and London-based Amnesty International have documented cases in which NSO technology has been used to target reporters, lawyers and even nutrionists lobbying for soda taxes.

Citizen Lab published a report on Sunday alleging that NSO’s phone-hacking technology had been deployed to hack three dozen phones belonging to journalists, producers, anchors, and executives at Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera as well as a device beloning to a reporter at London-based Al Araby TV.

NSO’s spyware was also been linked to the slaying of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. Khashoggi’s friend, dissident video blogger Omar Abdulaziz, has long argued that it was the Saudi government’s ability to see their WhatsApp messages that led to his death.

NSO has denied hacking Khashoggi, but has so far declined to comment on whether its technology was used to spy on others in his circle.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-facebook-nso-cyber/microsoft-google-cisco-dell-join-legal-battle-against-hacking-company-nso-idUSKBN28V2WX?il=0

China’s continuing crackdown on human rights lawyers ‘shocking’ say UN experts

December 18, 2020

The Hong Kong Free Press comes on 17 December 2020 with the AFP story that the UN Special Raporteur Mary Lawlor slammed a years-long crackdown on rights defenders and lawyers in China, highlighting the case of one attorney who disappeared after revealing he was tortured in detention.

Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, warned in a statement endorsed by seven other UN rights experts, that a clampdown that began more than five years ago aimed at courtroom critics of Communist authorities was continuing unabated.

Since the so-called 709 crackdown began on 9 July 2015, the profession of human rights lawyer has been effectively criminalised in China,” she said. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/12/china-five-years-after-major-crackdown-international-community-must-support-to-human-rights-lawyers/]

In her statement, Lawlor pointed to the recent arrest and “enforced disappearance” of activist and attorney Chang Weiping as emblematic of Beijing’s efforts to silence lawyers who speak out about the deterioration of human rights in the country.

chang weiping FLD front line defenders china rights lawyer human rights
Chang Weiping. Photo: Front Line Defenders.

The lawyer, she said, was placed by security officials in Baoji city in a form of secret extrajudicial detention typically used against dissidents, known as “residential surveillance in a designated location” (RSDL), for 10 days last January. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/10/more-on-residential-surveillance-in-a-designated-location-rsdl-in-china/]

He was held on suspicion of “subversion of state power” and his licence was annulled, she said. Just days after he posted a video online in October describing the torture and ill-treatment he was allegedly subjected to during his detention, he was detained again and returned to RSDL in retaliation for his video. “Since then, the defender’s whereabouts remain unknown, his lawyers have been unable to contact him and no charges have been brought against him,” Wednesday’s statement said.

Fundamental human rights are not a threat to any government or society, and neither are the individuals who defend those rights,” she added. “I urge the Chinese authorities to release at once Chang Weiping and all other detained and disappeared human rights defenders.”

Not surprisingly The reaction by China was swift and tough: “By using misinformation, relevant (UN) mandate holders blatantly smear China,” Liu Yuyin, a spokesman at the Chinese mission in Geneva, said in a statement issued 16 December. As for Chang’s case, Liu insisted his “legitimate rights were fully protected.” Chang “was subject to criminal coercive measures by the public security organ in Shanxi Province on October 22, 2020, on suspicion of criminal offences.”

The remarks by Lawlor and other UN experts about the lawyer’s case, Liu warned, “seriously (violate) the spirit of the rule of law and fully exposes their bias against China.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/world/2020/12/17/china-slams-un-experts-erroneous-criticism-of-lawyer-crackdown/1932866

https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198840534.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780198840534-e-42

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/world/2020/12/21/eu-urges-china-to-free-rights-lawyers-ahead-of-investment-pact/

OSCE message for Human Rights Day: human rights defenders will lead in 2021

December 15, 2020

(Alex Tait/ Creative Commons 4.0)

On 10 December 2020, Human Rights Day, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) issued a statement “The brave people strengthening human rights in 2020 will lead us out of adversity“. A bit belatedly. I reproduce here OSCE paying “tribute to human rights defenders and many organizations across the OSCE region that have protected our rights throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and will have a key role to play if the global recovery is to put respect for human rights at its core

OSCE states have long recognized the important role played by human rights defenders in ensuring full respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law.  Throughout the pandemic, numerous organizations, initiatives and activists have worked hard to lessen the suffering caused by the health crisis. They have exposed gaps in responses to the health emergency and drawn attention to the undermining of human rights standards and democratic values in the name of public safety.​​

As public emergencies were introduced across the OSCE region and human rights and freedoms of millions of people were restricted, national human rights institutions (NHRIs) as well as civil society organizations were swift to hold accountable those states that were using vaguely defined regulations to bypass human rights obligations and lower standards. In addition to their regular monitoring activities, NHRIs were often quick and resourceful in developing solutions and disseminating key information to the public when it was needed. 

A spirit of dialogue and compromise, the ability to combat systematic inequality and exclusion, and the will to overcome ever-deepening polarization, are hard to imagine without a strong and vibrant civil society. But in many places across the OSCE region, pressure on civic space is increasing. This takes many forms, from legislation restricting the activities of civil society to smear campaigns against human rights defenders and journalists.

Despite their commitment – or because of it – many courageous human rights defenders across the OSCE region have been the brunt of attacks in 2020. They have faced threats and intimidation, frequently initiated by national authorities, as well as funding cuts and risks to their data security and privacy.

Two years ago, ODIHR launched its first ever targeted assessments on the situation of human rights defenders. Early next year, ODIHR will publish trends and recommendations based on an analysis of almost 250 discussions across five OSCE countries. The report will identify gaps and challenges in the protection of human rights defenders, as well as highlighting good practices so countries can learn from each other as they seek to rebuild societies overwhelmed by the challenges of the pandemic. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/12/11/human-rights-day-2014-odihr-director-link-wants-to-move-from-words-to-deeds-for-human-rights-defenders-in-the-osce/]

Today, ODIHR wants to thank all those brave people across the OSCE region who are committed to safeguarding the human rights of us all. The Office will continue to support and work with them towards this ultimate goal.

https://www.osce.org/odihr/473352

Legal fund in Malaysia to protect freedom of expression of human rights defenders

December 10, 2020

Centre for Independent Journalism executive director Wathshlah Naidu said the fund will be financed by a number of international groups. (Facebook pic)

Imran Ariff – on 9 December 2020 reports that a coalition of NGOs has joined forces to launch a legal defence fund to protect individuals who speak out on issues of human rights. This is to ensure their freedom of expression is not suppressed. Organised by the CSO cluster on Freedom of Expression (FOE), the fund is the first of its kind in Malaysia. It is currently being financed by a number of international groups which have funded similar overseas initiatives, including hosting crowdfunding efforts

At a press conference to announce the launch, Centre for Independent Journalism executive director Wathshlah Naidu said the fund comes at an important time as she believes the government has allowed the reform agenda to “take a backseat” to prioritise its own “political survival at all costs”.

She added that “what we have seen for the last eight to nine months is a government that is focused primarily on initiating all efforts to silence dissent or those who are critical and completely shutdown alternate discourses or narratives that challenge or question their positions and policies.”

The fund will cover legal fees and other expenses incurred by human rights defenders and members of the public facing investigation or prosecution due to them exercising their right to free speech.

Applications will go to a committee which will rule on the eligibility of the individuals and decide on the amount of assistance that needed to be meted out..

In addition to the fund, the CSO cluster called for the Sedition Act 1948, the Official Secrets Act 1972 and the Printing Presses and Publications Act to be repealed and for the Finas Act 1981, Film Censorship Act 2002 and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 to be reviewed.

They said these legal reforms will allow for greater freedom of expression across various mediums. These will allow the public to better hold the government accountable for their actions and policies.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/23/zambian-ngo-establishes-fund-to-assist-human-rights-defenders/

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/12/09/legal-fund-to-protect-freedom-of-expression-of-human-rights-defenders/

Right Livelihood Awards ceremony to be livestreamed on 3 December 2020

December 2, 2020

The Right Livelihood Awards ceremony 2020 will be live-streamed on 3 December 2020.

For the winners see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/01/four-well-known-human-rights-defenders-are-the-2020-right-livelihood-laureates/

WEBINAR: Situation of Indigenous Human Rights Defenders in the Asian region

November 26, 2020

One often thinks that indigenous issues play mostly in the Americas but the Webinar on Strengthening the Protection of Indigenous Peoples in Asia: “Situation of Indigenous Human Rights Defenders in the Asian region and the responsibility of Business Enterprises to respect Human Rights” show another picture.

Date and time: 26 November 2020, 14.00 -15.30 ICT
Location: Virtual
Duration: 1 hour and 30 minutes

“Suppression of the right to freedom of association and attacks against and criminalization of indigenous human rights and environmental defenders across the region are closely linked to large-scale development projects and, in certain subregions, to conservation efforts. Threats against indigenous human rights defenders are exacerbated by the intensifying global competition over natural resources and by increasing militarization where State and non-State actors collude to grab indigenous lands for profit.”
– Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples Regional consultation on the rights of indigenous peoples in Asia September 2020

Download for more details information

See also: https://aippnet.org/joint-statement-asia-indigenous-peoples-pact-foundation-networks-indigenous-women-asia-silenced-issues-violence-against-indigenous-women-time-covid-pandemic/

Strengthening the Protection of Indigenous Peoples in Asia: “Land rights, Environment and Climate change in the Asian region”

New call for applications for Human Rights Defenders at risk to participate in Shelter City Netherlands

November 24, 2020

Justice and Peace Netherlands is launching a new call for applications for at risk Human Rights Defenders to participate in Shelter City. The deadline for applications is 10 December 2020. Please be aware that special conditions apply because of the COVID-19 situation.

Shelter City provides temporary safe and inspiring spaces for human rights defenders (HRDs) at risk where they re-energise, receive tailor-made support and engage with allies. Shelter City offers the HRD a shelter for three months, during which they will rest, gain new skills, extend their network and raise awareness about the situation in their country. At the end of the programme, participants are expected to return with new tools and energy to carry out their work at home.
From March 2021 onwards, several cities in the Netherlands will receive HRDs for a period of three months.

  • Participants might be requested to self-quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in the Netherlands (Shelter City programme will be adapted accordingly) and to take other preventive measures due to COVID-19 (including a COVID-19 test before travelling to the Netherlands.
  • Applicants must fulfil the following conditions in order to be eligible for Shelter City:
  • They implement a non-violent approach in their work;
  • They are threatened or otherwise under pressure due to their work;
  • They should be able to be relocated for a period of maximum 3 months. Limited spots are available for people who are not able to stay for the full 3 months;
  • They are willing and able to return to their country of origin after 3 months;
  • They are willing to speak publicly about their experience or about human rights in their country to the extent that their security situation allows;
  • They have a conversational level* of English (limited spots are available for French or Spanish speaking HRDs);
  • They are willing and able to come to The Netherlands without accompaniment of family members;
  • They have a valid passport (with no less than six months of validity) or be willing to carry out the procedures for its issuance. Justice and Peace covers the costs of issuing a passport and / or visa (if applicable);
  • They are not subjected to any measure or judicial prohibition of leaving the country;
  • They are willing to begin their stay in The Netherlands around March 2021.
    To apply or submit the application of a human rights defender: <https://form.jotform.com/JPNL/SC2021-01_EN. An independent commission will select the participants. For more information, please contact us at sheltercityATjusticeandpeace.nl.
  • For last year’s call, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/shelter-city-program/

75th Anniversary UN: Phil Lynch of the ISHR reflects

November 24, 2020

Our shared quest for equality, dignity and a healthy planet continues

On 20 October 2020 Phil Lynch, who as director of the International Service for Human Rights has enormous experience, reflects on the important role the UN still plays in making the world a better and fairer place:

We are all part of the one human family. We share a common humanity and strive to meet common needs – we all want to learn, to have peace and good health, to provide for our families and loved ones, and to live free and dignified lives, without discrimination on any grounds. We might not always agree on how to achieve these things, but there is far more that unites us than divides us.

That’s why it’s so important that we have places like the United Nations, where we can come together to talk, work through our differences and find solutions to our shared challenges. 

This week marks the 75th anniversary of when the UN Charter entered into effect and the United Nations officially came into being.

In the decades that have followed, the UN has played a vital role in maintaining peace and security by helping to resolve conflict and harnessing our collective knowhow to confront everything from health and humanitarian emergencies to gender inequality. The UN has also been a vital space for civil society and communities to testify against injustice, confront power, challenge impunity, demand accountability, and push for change. 

It’s by no means a perfect organisation, but without a shadow of a doubt the world today is a far better, fairer, healthier and safer one than it would be without the UN. This is due in no small part to the importance the UN places on the protection and promotion of human rights.

No matter who we are or where we live, our lives are better when we treat each other fairly and with respect. That’s what human rights are all about – making sure that values like freedom, equality and solidarity are at the heart of our decisions and are reflected in behaviours and laws around the world.

Unfortunately, sometimes  laws passed by governments are repressive or not sufficiently protecting us, in particular the most vulnerable among us. And companies may act in ways that put their profit first, at the expense of human rights. . Often it takes people and communities to hold powerful politicians and corporations to account and make sure that everyone can benefit from the human rights and freedoms that we are all meant to share.

Human rights defenders are the people that work to make this happen. 

These are the people that speak out against injustices like systemic racism, sexism or the climate crisis and who work on the frontlines with communities to find solutions and advocate for better ways of doing things. These are the people who make sure that, as humanity advances, no one is left behind.

It’s of the utmost importance that human rights defenders have a seat at the table so they can give voice to the concerns and ideas of the people impacted by the very policies, practices and objectives being discussed at the UN.

Unfortunately, some governments – concerned about facing criticism – try to lock human rights defenders out of the conversations. Worse still, in some countries, the government or groups with powerful vested interests harass or discredit people who defend human rights. In some countries, they are beaten up, imprisoned and even killed.

As the UN’s Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, recently told the General Assembly, the UN is only as strong as its members’ commitment to its ideals and each other. 

There is no way we can advance the UN’s noble aims if we continue to let members get away with human rights violations and reprisals against people who defend human rights. The duty falls to all member States and their diplomats to uphold the very principles at the heart of the UN’s mission – peace, equality, dignity and healthy planet –  and the promise that their country has made to support that mission.

At the International Service for Human Rights, we help human rights defenders access the UN system so their voices are heard. We build their capacity on the frontlines and at the UN. We work to strengthen the UN’s human rights systems and we seek justice and accountability for human rights violations.

As we celebrate 75 years of the UN, we know the world is facing many challenges, but as we’ve done so many times in the past, we can, we must and we will find our way through them – and that is always done best when we do it together acting with care and solidarity.

The pursuit of peace, equality, dignity and a healthy planet continues. Thanks for being a part of it.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/75-years-united-nations-our-shared-quest-equality-dignity-and-healthy-planet-continues