Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights Defenders’

Saudi sports washing continues with tennis exhibition

November 11, 2022

The Guardian of 9 November 2022 reports on the Diriyah Tennis Cup which is a ‘sport swashing’ event according to Amnesty UK

Cameron Norrie and other top men’s players appearing at the Diriyah Tennis Cup in Saudi Arabia have been urged by Amnesty International to use their platforms to speak out against the country’s human rights abuses. “Everyone playing in Diriyah will surely realise that this tennis tournament is yet another example of Saudi Arabia trying to sportswash its bloody human rights record,” said Amnesty International in a statement.

With Saudi Arabia currently throwing sizeable bundles of money at everything from golf and Grand Prix to boxing and football, it’s really important that top sporting figures use their high profiles to speak out about Saudi human rights abuses.” See e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/sports-washing/

Novak Djokovic in action during the Paris Masters.

The exhibition tournament Diriyah Tennis Cup represents Saudi Arabia’s latest attempt to enter the world of professional tennis. There has been interest from the country in hosting an officially sanctioned Women’s Tennis Association event, which the WTA has not yet pursued. A slew of current and former top players have already committed to the lucrative exhibition in December during the short off-season, including Norrie, who is the British No 1, Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev of Russia, Alexander Zverev of Germany, Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland and Austria’s Dominic Thiem. The inaugural edition was held in December 2019, which also featured Medvedev and Wawrinka.

In a statement, Norrie said “I’m not a politician and I don’t feel it’s right for me to get involved with individual government politics,” said Norrie. Amnesty International UK’s Felix Jakens suggested Norrie and others could use their presence in Saudi Arabia to show solidarity with Salma al-Shehab, the Leeds University student jailed for 34 years there for using Twitter.

We were never going to be telling people like Cameron Norrie where they should or shouldn’t play tennis, but by appearing in Diriyah Cameron should realise he’s effectively being deliberately hired in to take part in the latest jamboree of Saudi sportswashing,” said Jakens. “Cameron has a big platform and genuine influence, and he should use this to show solidarity with people like Salma al-Shehab who are being cruelly persecuted in Saudi Arabia. What Saudi Arabia appears to look for with these competitions is a smiling high-profile sports star who will studiously avoid talking about human rights – Cameron should speak out.”

Up to seven-figure appearance fees have been offered to some top tennis players since the inaugural event in 2019, but not all have entertained them. Matt Gentry, Andy Murray’s agent, revealed at the beginning of the year that he had turned down an offer to compete in the 2019 edition, which Murray echoed at Wimbledon.

“I know a number of the other guys on the tour were offered to play there. I don’t think the player field that went was what they were hoping. A lot of the, I would say, top players and bigger names turned it down. And I personally wouldn’t go and play there,” said Murray.

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2022/nov/09/diriyah-tennis-cup-cameron-norrie-amnesty-human-rights-sportswashing

The right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment (R2E) – further steps and historical decision in the Case of Torres Strait Islanders

November 9, 2022

Following the Human Rights Council and General Assembly resolutions recognising the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment (R2E), adopted in 2021 and 2022 respectively (HRC/RES/48/13 and A/RES/76/300), people have started to consider appropriate next steps in advancing the legal recognition, implementation, and monitoring of this right. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/10/11/new-right-to-healthy-environment-ngos-urge-action/

A blog post of the Universal Rights Group on 7 November 2022 reports on meeting on 18 October hosted by the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica in Geneva, UNEP, and the Universal Rights Group bringing together over 20 human rights experts from Geneva Permanent Missions in a non-attributable setting designed to promote open and forward-looking debate on appropriate next steps. The discussion was informed by an ‘options paper’ prepared by the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, Dr David Boyd, detailing three possible ways to advance the R2E, which he argued can and should be carried out concurrently.

In the meantime, a more operational development was the historic decision, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee found on Friday 23 September that Australia’s failure to adequately adapt to climate change violates the human rights of Torres Strait Islanders.   

Karin M Frodé, Andrea Olivares Jones and Joanna Kyriakakis reported on the case:

The Committee, which oversees the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) received a complaint by eight Torres Strait Islanders and six of their children in 2019. The group called for the Committee to recognise that the Australian Government had violated their human rights by failing to reduce carbon emissions, and introduce measures to adapt to climate change.

The Committee’s decision makes clear that inadequate responses to climate change can result in the violation of human rights. It is a landmark victory worth celebrating as part of a broader trend in climate change litigation which has seen human rights arguments put forward to hold both states (ie, the NetherlandsPakistan and Belgium) and corporations (ie, Shell and other Carbon Majors) accountable. It is also an example of a rise in cases where Indigenous actors are central. 

The Committee’s decision: The Committee found that Australia has violated the Torres Strait Islanders’ rights to private life, home and family and their enjoyment of culture. In doing so, the Committee noted Australia’s efforts to construct a seawall, but found it to be an inadequate response to the alarming threats that had been raised by Torres Strait Islanders since the 1990s, due to its delay initiating the project ([8.12], [8.14]).

While decisions by UN bodies are not automatically binding in Australian law, they are persuasive opinions by independent experts that outline Australia’s international obligations and analyse whether they are complied with. The relationship between climate change impacts and human rights is an emerging area, so the clarity that decisions such as in the present case bring is critical. This decision is therefore important not only to the complainants but for other climate justice advocates. 

The present decision follows other climate related decisions by human rights bodies. In Teitiota, a case brought against New Zealand, the same Committee made important observations about state obligations and climate change in the context of asylum seekers and refugees, though it stopped short of finding a violation. Another complaint brought by young climate activists against five states for climate inaction before the Committee on the Rights of the Child, focused on child-centric impacts of climate change. Although dismissed for technical reasons, that decision made important findings that children fall within the jurisdiction of states where transboundary harm originates, following the approach of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/03/02/human-rights-high-commissioner-bachelet-urges-support-for-environmental-defenders/

https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2022/09/australia-violated-torres-strait-islanders-rights-enjoy-culture-and-family

Independent Commission of Inquiry hears Palestinian complaints

November 9, 2022
Members of the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry attend a press briefing at the UN headquarters in New York

Members of the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory and in Israel, Navanethem Pillay, Miloon Kothari and Chris Sidoti attend a press briefing at the United Nations headquarters in New York, U.S., October 27, 2022. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo

On 7 November 2022 Emma Farge reported for Reuters how a Palestinian human rights group told a U.N. panel on Monday 7 November it had been subject to threats and “mafia methods” during a campaign of harassment organised by Israel to silence groups documenting alleged Israeli rights violations.

The independent Commission of Inquiry, established by the Human Rights Council, the U.N. top human rights body, last year, plans five days of hearings which it says will be impartial and examine the allegations of both Israelis and Palestinians. Israel dismissed the process overseen by the panel as a sham while it declined comment on the specific allegations.

In the opening session, the commission heard from representatives of Palestinian organisations shuttered by Israel in August and designated as “terrorist” entities. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/10/23/assault-by-israel-on-palestinian-human-rights-ngos/

Shawan Jabarin, General Director of human rights group Al-Haq, denied the terrorism charge and called the closure an “arbitrary decision“, saying Israeli security forces had used “mafia methods” against it in a years-long harassment campaign. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2011/11/30/israel-refuses-to-let-hrd-shawan-jabarin-travel-to-receive-award-in-denmark/

They used all means, I can say. They used financial means; they used a smear campaign; they used threats,” he said, saying his office was sealed with a metal door on Aug. 18.

Asked to detail the threats mentioned to the panel, Jabarin told Reuters after the hearing that he had received a phone call from somebody he identified as being from “Shabak”, or the Israel Security Agency, two days after the raid. They threatened him with detention, interrogation or “other means” if he continued his work, he added.

https://www.reuters.com/world/un-hearings-probing-alleged-israeli-rights-abuses-open-geneva-2022-11-07/

Capacity Building for Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) Living in Exile – applications open for 2023 course

November 9, 2022

IDREAM:  Capacity Building for Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) Living in Exile

CVT is accepting applications from Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) living in exile to participate in a dynamic capacity development and mentoring fellowship called “IDREAM.”

IDREAM (Incubator for Defenders Remaining in Exile to Advance Movements) is a collaborative and global capacity development project designed to help address the unique needs of HRDs living in exile. IDREAM will provide training and networking activities with the goals of: advancing advocacy efforts, promoting HRD’s psychosocial resilience and well-being, and improving exiled HRD’s physical and digital security. At the end of the selection process, 10 partner HRDs living in exile around the world will be invited to join IDREAM. The project’s main capacity building activities will take place from approximately April 2023 through November 2024. HRDs selected for IDREAM will receive up to $31,000 in financial assistance to support their work in the project.

The Call for Applications is available in English, French, Mandarin, Arabic, and Spanish. All activities of the IDREAM project will take place in English, and applicants must be proficient in English.

IDREAM invites interested HRDs living in exile outside of their home country or internally displaced within their home country to apply online for this fellowship before the deadline at 11:00 pm CST on 30 November 2022.

Applicants are highly encouraged to read all background materials including the Call for Applications below, the Guidelines and Instructions for Applicants and Questions for Applicants.

For earlier course see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/08/idream-project-training-support-to-displaced-or-exiled-human-rights-defenders/

GUIDELINES AND INSTRUCTIONS:

To apply to IDREAM, click “APPLY HERE.”

https://www.cvt.org/HRDapp

Report on the 51st session of the Human Rights Council

October 14, 2022

The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and 12 other NGOs gave a joint assessment of the 51st session of the Human Rights Council which was held from Monday 12 September to Friday 7 October 2022. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/09/20/human-rights-defenders-at-the-51st-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/]

We welcome that for the first time, the Council heard from two representatives of directly impacted communities from the podium in the enhanced interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner and the International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement: Collette Flanagan of Mothers against Police Brutality (MAPB) whose son was killed by United States‘ police in 2013; and Jurema Werneck, director of Amnesty International in Brazil. As highlighted in the HC’s report, States are continuing to deny the existence and impact of systemic racism, especially institutional racism. Our view is that States actively protect the interests of police institutions in order to maintain the status quo which is designed to oppress Africans and people of African descent.  We call on States to fully implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA), to fully cooperate with the International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in the context of Law Enforcement including accepting country visits, implement the recommendations from their report and the High Commissioner’s Agenda towards Transformative Change for Racial justice and Equality.

We welcome the ‘from rhetoric to reality: a global call for concrete action against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance’ resolution. The resolution, interalia,  strongly condemns the discriminatory treatment, unlawful deportations, excessive use of force and deaths of African migrants and migrants of African descent, including refugees and asylum-seekers, at the hands of law enforcement officials engaged in migration and border governance. It calls on States to ensure accountability and reparations for human rights violations at borders and to adopt a racial justice approach, including by adopting policies to address structural racism in the management of international migration. It reiterates that the Transatlantic Trade in Enslaved Africans and colonialism were grave violations of international law that require States to make reparations proportionate to the harms committed and to ensure that structures in the society that are perpetuating the injustices of the past are transformed, including law enforcement and administration of justice and to dispense reparatory justice to remedy historical racial injustices…..

We welcome the resolution on the “human rights implications of new and emerging technologies in the military domain” and its request for a study examining these implications. The adoption of the resolution adds to the growing attention that UN human rights mechanisms are paying to the negative human rights impacts of arms, including new technologies that can be weaponised.  It is undoubtable that concerns relating to the military domain should not be seen as only relevant to disarmament fora. In response to comments from some States on whether international humanitarian law (IHL) falls within the remit of HRC, we recall that international human rights law and IHL are complementary and mutually reinforcing, as the HRC itself has reiterated on several occasions in past resolutions. We welcome the inclusion of paragraph on the responsibility to respect human rights of business enterprises, and in this regard, we recall the Information Note by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights on the Arms Industry (“Responsible business conduct in the arms sector: Ensuring business practice in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights”) published in August 2022. While we welcome the reference in the resolution to the role of human rights defenders and civil society organisations in raising awareness about the human rights impacts of the use of new and emerging technologies in the military domain, we regret that it does not include a specific mention of the risks that the use of these technologies can pose for human rights defenders and civil society organisations.

We welcome the resolution on arbitrary detention and especially the inclusion of a new paragraph on the necessity to fully implement the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. The resolution recognises the role of HRDs, peaceful protesters, journalists and media workers in safeguarding the prohibition of arbitrary deprivation of liberty and calls upon States to make sure that they are not arbitrarily detained as a result of their activities. We further commend the main sponsor, France, for having rejected any language that could have weakened the resolution, especially on the right to legal assistance.

We welcome the adoption of the safety of journalists resolution. It has now been a decade since the first resolution on this topic, and the HRC has since created an elaborate and robust set of international standards to protect journalists. This iteration of the resolution adds new strong commitments on multiple new and emerging issues affecting journalists, from strategic lawsuits against public participation to extraterritorial attacks. It also strengthens language on investigations into attacks against journalists, calling on authorities to exhaust lines of enquiry that determine whether such attacks are linked to their journalistic work. We now urge States to implement these commitments to their full extent.

We welcome the approval by consensus by the Council of the resolution on terrorism and human rights, that has been updated with important paragraphs related to the centrality of the rule of law and human rights to counter terrorism, international human rights obligations in transfers of terrorist suspects, profiling of individuals, detention, the right to a fair trial and other due process guarantees, the right to privacy and freedom of expression, and in relation to children rights and civil society. We regret that paragraphs stemming from security based concerns have increased even though they are unrelated to the competence of the Council to promote human rights.

We warmly welcome the adoption of the resolution on the human rights situation in the Russian Federation, mandating a Special Rapporteur on Russia for the first time. …The Russian Federation’s growing repressive policies, combined with the country’s exclusion from the Council of Europe – victims of new human rights violations committed by the Russian Federation from 17 September lost protection under the European Convention on Human Rights– and its diplomatic isolation from those States which have been supportive of human rights and civil society in Russia, have made it increasingly difficult for Russian human rights defenders, activists, and civil society organisations to engage with the international community. Russian civil society had been vocal in calling for a Special Rapporteur’s mandate, strongly believing it will help to create a bridge between the United Nations and Russian civil society and the wider general public in Russia at an acute moment of widespread domestic human rights violations, both ensuring their voice is heard at an international level, and that the United Nations can further develop its understanding and analysis of the deterioration in Russia’s domestic human rights situation and the implications that has had – and continues to have – for Russia’s foreign policy decisions.

We welcome the extension and strengthening of the OHCHR capacity to collect, consolidate, analyse and preserve evidence and information and to develop strategies for future accountability, as well as to extend the mandate for enhanced monitoring and reporting by the OHCHR on Sri Lanka. Given the complete lack of any credible avenues for accountability at the national level, the OHCHR’s Sri Lanka Accountability Project remains the only hope of justice, more than thirteen years after the war, for thousands of victims of war time atrocities and their families.

We welcome the UN Secretary General’s report on missing people in Syria; and urge States to support and implement the report’s findings, in line with resolution A/HRC/51/L.18 which underscored “the report’s finding that any measure towards addressing the continuing tragedy of missing persons in the Syrian Arab Republic requires a coherent and holistic approach going beyond current efforts, which must be inclusive and centered on victims”. Addressing the issue of missing persons in Syria requires a “new international institution” mandated to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing persons, to “work in cooperation and complementarity with existing mechanisms”, the body having “a structural element that ensures that victims, survivors and their families […] may participate in a full and meaningful manner in its operationalization and work” as recommended in the study of the Secretary General.

The Council has taken a vitally important step in renewing the mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela and of the reporting mandate of OHCHR for a further two years. In its most recent report, A/HRC/51/43, the Fact-Finding Mission deepened its investigation of alleged crimes against humanity, making clear that alleged perpetrators remain in power. The ongoing accountability drive through the work of the Mission allied with the work of OHCHR, is key to providing victims of violations with hope for justice. It is also key to the prevention of ongoing violations, particularly in the context of upcoming elections, and of encouraging political processes that respect human rights.

We regret that the Council failed to respond adequately to several human rights situations including Afghanistan, China, Philippines, and Yemen.

We welcome the extension and strengthening of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan. However, this in no way makes up for the Council’s repeated failure to respond to the calls from Afghan human rights defenders, especially women human rights defenders, and civil society for an independent accountability mechanism with a mandate and resources to investigate the full scope of violations abuses that continue to be committed in Afghanistan by all parties and to preserve evidence of these violations for future accountability. It is particularly concerning that despite the overwhelming evidence of gross violations and abuses in Afghanistan that the Council failed to muster consensus on even the bare minimum.

We deplore that this Council was unable to endorse the proposal for a debate on Xinjiang, after the UN identified possible crimes against humanity committed by the Chinese government against Uyghurs and Turkic peoples. Dialogue is a pillar of multilateralism, and is fundamental, even on the hardest issues. Despite the leadership of the core group and all 18 States who voted in favour, this Council looked the other way. We strongly condemn the 19 countries who blocked this proposal, and regret all the abstentions that enabled it. We particularly regret that leading OIC States Indonesia and Qatar, as well as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, the UAE, Côte d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Sudan, Gabon, Cameroon and Eritrea, decided to abandon Uyghurs and Muslim minorities in China. We command Somalia for being the only Muslim Council member to stand up for Muslim minorities. Uyghur and international human rights groups won’t give up efforts to hold China accountable. We urgently call on current and future Council members to support efforts to prevent the continuation of atrocity crimes in Xinjiang, and uphold this Council’s credibility and moral authority. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/10/05/uyghur-issue-at-the-un-human-rights-council-will-there-be-even-a-debate/]

We are deeply disappointed that despite the High Commissioner’s clear recommendation and demands by victims and their families as well as civil society from the Philippines, the Council has failed to put forward a resolution mandating the High Commissioner to continue monitoring and reporting on the situation, allowing the Philippines to use the rhetoric of cooperation and the UN Joint Programme for Human Rights to window-dress its appalling human rights record without any tangible progress or scrutiny.

We are dismayed by an Item 10 resolution that will not allow for reporting to the HRC on the human rights situation in Yemen.   Despite a truce that now looks in danger of collapsing, the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Yemen has not ended.  …Lasting peace in Yemen requires a sustained commitment by the international community to ensure accountability and redress for the millions of victims in Yemen. We call on UN member states to give meaning to the pledges they have made and begin to work toward the establishment of an international independent investigative mechanism on Yemen.

On 10 October 2022 a Blog post of the Universal Rights NGO gave the following quick summary of this session of the Human Rights Council

With Ms. Michelle Bachelet’s mandate as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights having come to an end on 31 August 2022, and the incoming UN High Commissioner, Mr. Volker Türk, not taking up his official functions until 17 October 2022, Ms. Nada Al-Nashif, opened, as Acting High Commissioner, by presenting a global update on the situation of human rights around the world.

Four new Special Procedures mandate-holders were appointed to the following mandates: the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (India), the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (Colombia), the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers (United States of America), and one member of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (from Eastern European States).

9 expert members were elected to the Human Rights Council’s Advisory Committee (from Algeria, Angola, China, Qatar, Slovenia, Spain, Uruguay, Bahamas, Brazil).

42 texts (39 resolutions, one decision, and one statement by the President) were considered by the Council. This represents a 52% increase in the number of adopted texts compared to one-year prior (HRC48). Of the 41 adopted texts, 30 were adopted by consensus (73%), and 11 by a recorded vote (27%).

The Council rejected a draft decision to hold a debate on the situation of human rights in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China by vote (17 votes in favour, 19 against, and 11 abstentions).

Following the adoption by vote of a draft resolution on the situation of human rights in the Russian Federation (17 votes in favour, 6 against, and 24 abstentions), the Council created a new Special Procedure mandate on the situation of human rights in the Russian Federation for a period of one year, and requested the mandate holder to make recommendations and to present a comprehensive report to the Council at its 54th session and to the General Assembly at its 78th session, while calling upon the Russian authorities to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur.

The Council further extended the mandates of 8 thematic Special Procedures (i.e., the Independent Expert on older persons; the Special Rapporteurs on the right to development, on contemporary forms of slavery, on the rights to water and sanitation, on Indigenous Peoples, and on the right to health, as well as the Working Groups on arbitrary detention, and on mercenaries), and 7 country-specific mechanisms (i.e., the Special Rapporteurs on Afghanistan, and on Burundi; the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia; the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the International Team of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo; the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic; and the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia).

25 written amendments were tabled by States ahead of the consideration of texts by the Council but 14 were withdrawn by the main sponsor prior to voting. The remaining 11 amendments were rejected by a vote. Additionally, one oral amendment was brought forward by China during voting proceedings.

31 of the texts adopted by the Council (79%) had Programme Budget Implications (PBI) and required new appropriations not included in previous Programme Budgets. 

https://ishr.ch/latest-updates/hrc51-civil-society-presents-key-takeaways-from-human-rights-council/

https://www.universal-rights.org/urg-human-rights-council-reports/report-on-the-51st-session-of-the-human-rights-council/

The 2022 “Human Rights Defenders Movement at a Crossroad” video report published

October 11, 2022

In September 2022, more than thirty human rights defenders from all over the world took the floor in a moment of a global backlash against the grass-roots movement for human rights and democracy. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/04/20/2021-protectdefenders-eu-annual-report/

The conference “The Human Rights Defenders’ Movement at a Crossroad“ featured the testimonies and experiences of a great diversity of grassroots activists coming from all backgrounds, including Yvette Mushigo (Synergie des Femmes pour la Paix et la Réconciliation des Peuples des Grands Lacs d’Afrique, DRC); Ukei Muratalieva (Nazik Kyz, Kyrgyzstan); Rocío Walkiria Santos Reyes (CEHPRODEC, Honduras); Yasmine Shurbaji (Families for Freedom, Syria); and Monika Maritjie Kailey (Komunitas Masyarakat Adat Marafenfen, Aru Islands, Indonesia).

With the participation of the United Nations Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor; the French Ambassador at Large for Human Rights, Delphine Borione; the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Rapporteur on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders and Justice Operators, Commissioner Joel Hernández García; the Human Development, Migration, Governance, and Peace Unit Acting Director at the European Commission, Chiara Adamo.

“We call on the EU and the Member States to ensure the effective, timely, relevant and comprehensive implementation of the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders”.

Read the keynote by Cristina Palabay (KARAPATAN Alliance, The Philippines)

Look around this room and you will see so many different nationalities full of patient, committed, resilient people working to defend human rights. That is hope” – UNSR on HRDs, Mary Lawlor.

You can see all the photos of the conference “The Human Rights Defenders Movement at a Crossroad” in the gallery here.

https://mailchi.mp/protectdefenders/bulletin-pdeu-conference-2022?e=ccacd47b1a

Nobel Peace Prize 2022 goes to well-recognised human rights defenders

October 7, 2022

On 7 September 2022 The Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2022 to one individual and two organisations, who represent civil society in their home countries. They have for many years promoted the right to criticise power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens. They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power. Together they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy.

This year’s Peace Prize is awarded to human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, the Russian human rights organisation Memorial and the Ukrainian human rights organisation Center for Civil Liberties. The first two are well-known and received many important human rights awards.

Ales Bialiatski was the winner of 11 other awards, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/72682FFF-628F-4A5D-B6B3-52A776FF0E47, while Memorial got 7 awards earlier [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/BD12D9CE-37AA-7A35-9A32-F37A0EA8C407], Oleksandra Matviichuk, the chair of the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties received a few days ago the Right livelihood award [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/75690f04-7a51-4591-8e18-0826b93959b3]

Ales Bialiatski founded the organisation Viasna (Spring) in 1996 in response to the controversial constitutional amendments that gave the president dictatorial powers and that triggered widespread demonstrations. In the years that followed, Viasna evolved into a broad-based human rights organisation that documented and protested against the authorities’ use of torture against political prisoners. Government authorities have repeatedly sought to silence Ales Bialiatski. He was imprisoned from 2011 to 2014. Following large-scale demonstrations against the regime in 2020, he was again arrested. He is still detained without trial. Despite tremendous personal hardship, Mr Bialiatski has not yielded an inch in his fight for human rights and democracy in Belarus. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/viasna-human-rights-centre/

The human rights organisation Memorial was established in 1987 by human rights activists in the former Soviet Union who wanted to ensure that the victims of the communist regime’s oppression would never be forgotten. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov and human rights advocate Svetlana Gannushkina were among the founders. Memorial is based on the notion that confronting past crimes is essential in preventing new ones. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Memorial grew to become the largest human rights organisation in Russia. In addition to establishing a centre of documentation on victims of the Stalinist era, Memorial compiled and systematised information on political oppression and human rights violations in Russia. Memorial became the most authoritative source of information on political prisoners in Russian detention facilities. The organisation has also been standing at the forefront of efforts to combat militarism and promote human rights and government based on rule of law. During the Chechen wars, Memorial gathered and verified information on abuses and war crimes perpetrated on the civilian population by Russian and pro-Russian forces. In 2009, the head of Memorial’s branch in Chechnya, Natalia Estemirova, was killed because of this work. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/15/ngos-remember-10th-anniversary-of-natalia-estemirovas-murder/]

Civil society actors in Russia have been subjected to threats, imprisonment, disappearance and murder for many years. As part of the government’s harassment of Memorial, the organisation was stamped early on as a “foreign agent”. In December 2021, the authorities decided that Memorial was to be forcibly liquidated and the documentation centre was to be closed permanently. The closures became effective in the following months, but the people behind Memorial refuse to be shut down. In a comment on the forced dissolution, chairman Yan Rachinsky stated, “Nobody plans to give up.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/12/29/russias-supreme-court-orders-closure-emblematic-memorial/]

The Center for Civil Liberties was founded in Kyiv in 2007 for the purpose of advancing human rights and democracy in Ukraine. The center has taken a stand to strengthen Ukrainian civil society and pressure the authorities to make Ukraine a full-fledged democracy. To develop Ukraine into a state governed by rule of law, Center for Civil Liberties has actively advocated that Ukraine become affiliated with the International Criminal Court. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Center for Civil Liberties has engaged in efforts to identify and document Russian war crimes against the Ukrainian civilian population. In collaboration with international partners, the center is playing a pioneering role with a view to holding the guilty parties accountable for their crimes.

By awarding this Nobel Peace Prize for 2022 the Norwegian Nobel Committee is honouring outstanding champions of human rights and consistent efforts in favour of humanist values, anti-militarism and principles of law.

https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/2022/press-release/

Global Witness report 2021: continued disaster

October 5, 2022

Stuti Mishra in the Independent of 29 September 2022 summarises and analyses the report “A Decade of Defiance: Ten years of reporting land and environmental activism worldwide” by Global Witness

<img src="https://static.independent.co.uk/2022/09/27/13/10185902.jpg?quality=75&width=982&height=726&auto=webp&quot; alt="<p>A mural of environmental defender Roberto Pacheco assassinated in 2020 while guarding his land, in Puerto Maldonado, Peru

A mural of environmental defender Roberto Pacheco assassinated in 2020 while guarding his land, in Puerto Maldonado, Peru (EPA)

More than 1,700 environmental defenders have been killed around the world in the last decade with one death reported every other day on average…The report titled A Decade of Defiance: Ten years of reporting land and environmental activism worldwide, released by Global Witness, reveals the increasing threats environmental activists are facing as the climate and biodiversity crisis worsens.

The research states that a total of 1,733 people have been killed over the past 10 years trying to protect their land and resources. That is an average of one defender killed approximately every two days over 10 years.

The report shows Brazil has been the deadliest country for environmental defenders with 342 lethal attacks reported since 2012 with over 85 per cent of killings within the Brazilian Amazon.

The data found within the report also shows that over half of the attacks over the 10-year period have taken place in three countries — Brazil, Colombia, and the Philippines — with around 300 killings reported in these countries.

Mexico and Honduras witnessed over 100 killings while Guatemala and India saw 80 and 79 respectively, remaining one of the most dangerous countries. The report also reports 12 mass killings, including three in India and four in Mexico.

Mexico was the country with the highest recorded number of killings in 2021, totalling 54 killings, up from 30 the previous year. Almost half of those killed were again Indigenous people while over a third were forced disappearances, including at least eight members of the Yaqui community.

The report also reveals that over three-quarters of the attacks recorded in 2021 took place in Latin America. In Brazil, Peru and Venezuela, a big majority of 78 per cent of these attacks occurred in the Amazon.

Meanwhile, the biggest increase in lethal attacks was witnessed in Brazil and India in 2021 with 26 deaths reported in Mexico, up from 20 and 14 in India, up from four.

Both Colombia and the Philippines saw a drop in killings to 33 in 2021 from 65, and 19 from 30 in 2021 respectively. Yet overall they remain two of the countries with the highest numbers of killings in the world since 2012.

2021 Highlights from Global Witness report

  • Around 200 Land and Environmental Defenders were killed in 2021 – nearly four people a week
  • Over three-quarters of the attacks recorded in 2021 took place in Latin America
  • Nearly 40 per cent of all attacks reported were against Indigenous people
  • Mexico recorded the highest number of killings in 2021
  • Brazil and India both saw a rise in lethal attacks in 2021
  • 50 of the victims killed in 2021 were small-scale farmers
  • Around 1 in 10 of the defenders recorded killed in 2021 were women, nearly two-thirds of whom were Indigenous [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/13/global-witness-2020-the-worst-year-on-record-for-environmental-human-rights-defenders/]

In Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo remained the country with the highest number of attacks — eight defenders were killed there in 2021. All eight of these killings were in Virunga National Park, which remains extremely dangerous for the park rangers protecting it.

The organisation began collecting data on attacks against those defending land and the environment in 2012 and found that the control and use of land and territory is a central issue in countries where defenders are threatened. Much of the increasing killing, violence and repression is linked to territorial conflicts and the pursuit of economic growth based on the extraction of natural resources from the land, it states. The research has also highlighted that Indigenous communities in particular face a disproportionate level of attacks — nearly 40 per cent — even though they make up only 5 per cent of the world’s population.

However, the research found that the figures also do not capture the true scale of the problem, as tightened control on media has led to severe underreporting in some countries where environmental defenders are most vulnerable. Research has also found that few perpetrators of killings are rarely ever brought to justice due to the failures of governments to properly investigate these crimes.

While a majority of these attacks are not properly investigated or reported on, a big proportion of these attacks were linked to sectors like mining and infrastructure, including large-scale agribusiness and hydroelectric dams.

Many authorities ignore or actively impede investigations into these killings often due to alleged collusion between corporate and state interests, the report says.

All over the world, Indigenous peoples, environmental activists and other land and environmental defenders risk their lives for the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss.

They play a crucial role as a first line of defence against ecological collapse, yet are under attack themselves facing violence, criminalisation and harassment perpetuated by repressive governments and companies prioritising profit over human and environmental harm.

a spokesperson for Global Witness said

With democracies increasingly under attack globally and worsening climate and biodiversity crises, this report highlights the critical role of defenders in solving these problems,” a spokesperson for Global Witness said, adding that the organisation makes an “urgent appeal for global efforts to protect and reduce attacks against them.”

Apart from killings, the report also reveals a number of tactics being used to silence them, like death threats, surveillance, sexual violence, or criminalisation – and that these kinds of attacks are even less well reported.

https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/environmental-activists/decade-defiance/

https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/global-witness-report-environment-defenders-threat-b2176247.html

2022 Right Livelihood Laureates announced

September 30, 2022

Recipients of the 2022 Right Livelihood Award show that systems change is not only possible but outright necessary in the face of failing governance and the breakdown of international order. For more on this and other awards, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/97238E26-A05A-4A7C-8A98-0D267FDDAD59

Hailing from Somalia, Ukraine, Venezuela and Uganda, the 2022 Laureates have each created new models for human and societal interactions that challenge the status quo. With crises stemming from authoritarian governance, international aggression, profit-seeking economic systems and political inertia to take action against a planetary climate breakdown, these change-makers have imagined a better world and work tirelessly to make it a reality.

The 2022 Laureates are:

Fartuun Adan and Ilwad Elman “for promoting peace, demilitarisation and human rights in Somalia in the face of terrorism and gender-based violence.” Among them they won quite a few awards, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/80cc3d15-775d-40bd-8591-fa921fc45f25 and https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/9D4A093D-1276-6907-739B-23CABBB12158

Oleksandra Matviichuk and the Center for Civil Liberties (CCL) “for building sustainable democratic institutions in Ukraine and modelling a path to international accountability for war crimes.” See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/03/14/side-event-on-the-ukraine-on-17-march/

Cecosesola of Venezuela “for establishing an equitable and cooperative economic model as a robust alternative to profit-driven economies.”

Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) “for their courageous work for climate justice and community rights violated by extractivist energy projects in Uganda.”

The 2022 Right Livelihood Laureates are grassroots actors dedicated to strengthening their communities. In the face of failing governance and a breakdown of order – including wars, terrorism, extractivism, massive displacement and economic crises – they have established new, human-centric systems. Their successes demonstrate how we can build societies on the principles of justice rather than exploitation,” said Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director at Right Livelihood.

Find more information in our Press Kit.

Find more information on the Laureates here.

https://rightlivelihood.org/2022-announcement/

Call for an EU Visa framework for At-Risk Human Rights Defenders

September 24, 2022

ProtectDefenders.eu and the great many undersigned NGOs are convinced that with political will and clear guidelines, the EU can and should return to its political mandate in favour of human rights and human rights defenders, and lead on the implementation of concrete initiatives, good practises, and policy changes to ensure that at-risk human rights defenders can access European Union visas with guarantees, security, and predictability.

More specifically, they call on the EU stakeholders to:
i) propose a specific facilitated procedure for human rights defenders within the EU Visa Code, setting common criteria and defining the elements of a facilitated procedure;
ii) include instructions in the EU Visa Handbook on granting facilitations to HRDs and their family members,
iii) work towards amending the legal instruments on visas, particularly the Visa Code, and
iv) introduce amendments to the Temporary Protection Directive that allow temporary protection status in the EU to be granted to defenders at risk.


Furthermore, they call on the EU Member States to implement consistent policies and guidelines to recognise the right of human rights defenders to access visas; as well as to promote the exhaustive use of their current prerogatives to urgently guarantee access to visas for those facing severe threats and risks.


ProtectDefenders.eu is the European
Union Human Rights Defenders
mechanism, led by a Consortium of 12
NGOs active in the field of Human Rights:
• Asian Forum for Human Rights and
Development (FORUM-ASIA)
• DefendDefenders – East and Horn of Africa
Human Rights Defenders Project
• Euro-Mediterranean Foundation Of
Support To Human Rights Defenders
(EMHRF)
• ESCR-Net
• Front Line Defenders
• ILGA World
• Peace Brigades International
• Protection International
• Reporters Without Borders
• The International Federation for Human
Rights (FIDH)
• The World Organisation Against Torture
(OMCT)
• Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human
Rights (UAF)
This initiative is supported by:
• AfricanDefenders
• Amnesty International
• Araminta
• Artist Protection Fund
• Artists at Risk (AR)
• Asociación Zehar-Errefuxiatuekin
• Brot für die Welt
• Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
• Center for Applied Human Rights (CAHR),
University of York
• Civil Rights Defenders
• Comissió Catalana d’Ajuda al Refugiat
(CCAR)
• Defenders in Dordrecht (DiD)
• Docip (Indigenous Peoples’ Center for
Documentation, Research and Information)
• European Center for Press and Media
Freedom (ECPMF)
• Fédération internationale des ACAT /
International Federation of ACAT (FIACAT)
• Freedom House
• Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
• Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
• Hamburg Foundation for politically
persecuted persons
• Heinrich-Boell-Stiftung (hbs)
• Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF)
• Human Rights House Tbilisi
• Humanists International
• Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Mujeres
Defensoras de Derechos Humanos
• International Arts Rights Advisors (IARA)
• International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN)
• International Partnership for Human
Rights (IPHR)
• International Service for Human Rights
(ISHR)
• Justice & Peace
• Mundubat
• Open Society Foundations (OSF)
• PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC)
• Pen International
• Réseau de Défenseurs des Droits Humains
de l’Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)
• Scholars at Risk
• Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders
Network
• Tbilisi Shelter City
• Un Ponte Per
• Unit for the Protection of Human Rights
Defenders of Guatemala