Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights Defenders’

BIG question: what to do with long-term detention of Human Rights defenders?

May 21, 2022

Event on 1 June 2022, 12:00-14:00: “Don’t forget about us: Strategies for resisting long-term detention of Human Rights Defenders”. Location: Cassese Room,  Villa Moynier, 120B Rue de Lausanne, Geneva (and online)

Figure of a person in a prison hallway

Logo Ennals

In 2021, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders published a report on cases of long-term detention of activists, which were estimated to number hundreds or thousands worldwide. This report confirms the terrible treatment and conditions many defenders bear in prison. However, while an objective of long-term detention may be to discourage defenders, many cases result in perennial campaigns and increased publicity for the defenders themselves.

How can governments, civil society and international mechanisms work together to keep the pressure on long-term detention cases? What strategies have proven successful in improving respect for defenders’ rights and physical integrity while imprisoned?

This event is co-organized by Geneva Human Rights Platform and the Martin Ennals Awards, which has a long experience with its laureates being detained. This year, two of its three winners are in prison! See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/04/20/save-the-date-and-come-to-the-mea-ceremony-2022-or-watch-online/

Opening

  • Gloria Gaggioli, Director, Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Moderation

  • Brian Dooley, Senior advisor on human rights, Human Rights First

Panelists

  • Maryam Al-Khawaja, Human Rights defender and daughter of Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja, detained in Bahrain since 2011
  • Quynh Vi Tran, Journalist and colleague of Pham Doan Trang, detained in Vietnam since 2020
  • Fr. Xavier Soreng SJ, Lecturer, Ranchi Social Sciences Institute, on behalf of Father Stan Swamy (1937-2021), India
  • Gerald Staberock, Secretary-General, World Organisation Against Torture
  • Tor Hodefield, Vuka! Coalition Coordinator, CIVICUS

Registration

This event will take place in a hybrid format:

  • Register here to attend the event at Villa Moynier (places are limited and will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis) until 26 May 2022
  • Register here to join online via Zoom.

https://www.geneva-academy.ch/event/all-events/detail/336-don-t-forget-about-us-strategies-for-resisting-long-term-detention-of-human-rights-defenders

Better “business and human rights” starts with better understanding

May 17, 2022

Andrés Zaragoza in Open Global Rights of 16 May 2022 hits the nail by arguing that “If we want to constructively engage companies, business associations or investors on human rights issues, we must recognize who our interlocutor is.

..Building trust and a common narrative to engage in a constructive conversation is extremely difficult. Some would argue that a trusting relationship between civil society and private companies is not only impossible but also not desirable; that good faith is nowhere to be found in business sectors where human rights abuses can and do take place.

It has already been 10 years since the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights…..The enactment of legislation at the regional and national levels requiring companies to carry out human rights due diligence, such as the newly proposed EU Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence, as well as negotiations on a binding international treaty on business and human rights, creates a window of opportunity for NGOs to be creative, ambitious, and innovative in testing new advocacy strategies to change corporate conduct and advance human rights.

Despite an understandably dogged legacy of mistrust between civil society and corporations, there is a momentum for human rights organizations to engage productively with businesses, responsible investors, and other private actors that hold increasing market power, leverage, and are subject to new human rights legislation. As we write, global corporations are becoming increasingly relevant actors in international conflicts. In other words, businesses could become powerful allies in advancing human rights’ agendas with governments or in regards to public opinion.  

It’s no mystery that businesses and civil society speak different languages and engage from radically distinct perspectives when referring to human rights issues.

It is true that corporate activism is on the rise, with some companies supporting important causes and campaigns such as LGBTQ+ rights, anti-racism, equality, and non-discrimination. However, companies are not founded for promoting and protecting human rights, even if we may wish it otherwise. Instead, corporations see human rights issues through the lens of their productive and business models. This does not mean that workers or companies do not care about human rights. They do care, especially in certain sectors and business cultures. 

As civil society, we need to identify and understand how to best engage our strategic targets and audiences. If we want to constructively engage companies, business associations or investors on human rights issues, we must recognize who our interlocutor is. Businesses’ core activity is the starting point to analyse any human rights issue: their business, people, customers, and supply chain

Businesses tend to focus on risk identification and mitigation. There is growing recognition that human rights defenders can play a vital role in sounding the alarm on problems within an organization’s operations or supply chain. Generally, ‘UN speak’ does not work with businesses. Civil society should avoid jargon when engaging with business circles. Business representatives seek examples and clarity on which human rights issues are of concern and how they are relevant to their operations. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/21/davos-businesses-need-strong-human-rights-defenders/

Civil society should not automatically feel good about the fact that a company has a person with “human rights” written in their title. Unfortunately, this often means that a position was created for compliance or reputational management purposes, to deal discreetly with human rights issues, or engage (read: manage) civil society relations. By contrast, companies that take human rights seriously embed the topic across functions and departments, working towards including human rights within the company’s ethos. 

To achieve change, civil society should make every effort to better understand the complexity of a particular company, its economic sector, activity, internal governance, corporate values, and culture. Each company has its own systems and structure, progressing through their human rights journey differently. 

On a micro level, the individual background, connections, and motivations of the human rights personnel within the company have great bearing on how issues are pushed through a company. At the systemic level, NGOs must understand the functioning of international business, economics, investment and trade.  

Lessons learnt and scars taken 

..Civil society should understand and use the market. As companies need to comply with human rights and sustainability regulations, NGOs and defenders can become key in risk assessment or due diligence processes, influencing directly the behavior of companies. We need to know the “enemy” and know ourselves. As civil society, we should build our technical capacity to understand and leverage international business, economics, investment and trade. We will not change business dynamics if we do not understand them.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/18/business-network-on-civic-freedoms-and-human-rights-defenders-launches-new-website/

https://www.openglobalrights.org/what-it-takes-to-bridge-the-divide-between-the-business-sector-and-human-rights/

Sad symbolic number reached in Mexico: 100,000 disappeared.

May 17, 2022

The 100,000 officially registered disappearances in Mexico illustrate a long-standing pattern of impunity in the country, indicating the tragedy continues daily, UN human rights experts warned.

The Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) on 17 May 2022 expressed grave concern about the growing numbers registered by Mexico’s National Register of Disappeared Persons

There are now over 100,000 people in Mexico’s national register of the “disappeared.” The UN says organized crime is among the leading causes of missing people in the country. Human rights organizations and relatives of the missing have called on the government to step up investigations and conduct searches more effectively

In the last two years the numbers have spiked from about 73,000 people to more than 100,000 — mostly men.

Mexico has seen spiralling violence since the war on drugs began in 2006, with over 350,000 people having died since then. Last year, the country of more than 129 million people saw 94 murders a day on average.

It’s incredible that disappearances are still on the rise,” Virginia Garay, whose son went missing in 2018 in the state of Nayarit, told news agency Reuters. “The government is not doing enough to find them,” said Garay, who works in a group called Warriors Searching for Our Treasures that seeks to locate missing loved ones.

Civil society groups that help try and locate missing people stress that many families do not report disappearances because of distrust in the authorities. The actual figure of missing people is therefore believed to be much higher than the official data.

Organized crime has become a central perpetrator of disappearance in Mexico, with varying degrees of participation, acquiescence or omission by public servants,” a report by the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances, released last month, said.

“State parties are directly responsible for enforced disappearances committed by public officials, but may also be accountable for disappearances committed by criminal organizations,” the report added.

The missing people include human rights defenders, some of whom went missing because of their own involvement in the fight against disappearances.

According to the UN committee, over 30 journalists have also disappeared in Mexico between 2003 and 2021. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/01/31/more-killings-of-journalists-in-mexico-in-2022/

https://www.ohchr.org/en/statements/2022/05/mexico-dark-landmark-100000-disappearances-reflects-pattern-impunity-un-experts

https://www.dw.com/en/mexicos-number-of-disappeared-people-rises-above-100000/a-61820055

Call for applications: funding from USAID for human rights

May 16, 2022

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Bureau for Development, Democracy, and Innovation, Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance (DDI/DRG) Center is inviting applications for the Justice, Rights, and Security (JRS) Annual Program Statement (APS). Deadline: 11 May 2023

The purpose of the JRS APS is to empower USAID and its Missions to seek solutions to JRS-related challenges, to engage new and underutilized partners, to solve problems not adequately addressed by other USAID investments, and to offer USAID Missions and USAID/Washington Offices a mechanism through which such work can be innovatively accomplished with dedicated support and expertise from USAID Washington DRG Center’s JRS team.

Objectives
  • Promote Justice, including the following objectives:
    • To ensure the independent, efficient, and open administration of justice.
    • To enhance the quality and accessibility of justice.
    • To guarantee impartial application of the law and due process.
    • To improve justice seeker experiences and outcomes.
    • To strengthen effective checks and balances and accountable institutions as foundations of democratic governance.
  • Protect Rights, including the following objectives:
    • To improve enabling environments for the protection and advancement of human rights.
    • To facilitate, develop, and implement effective remedies to address human rights violations and abuses to ensure non-recurrence.
    • To promote equal and equitable enjoyment of human rights by all.
    • To empower people to know, use, and shape the law in their daily lives to protect and advance human rights.
    • To facilitate the work of all types of human rights defenders and activists.
  • Promote Security, including the following objectives:
    • To constrain the arbitrary exercise of power and tempering the use of force by civilian law enforcement.
    • To strengthen the accountability, professionalism, capacity, and integrity of police and other civilian law enforcement actors.
    • To safeguard all members of society from crime and violence, including gender-based violence, so they may live safely and recognize their full potential.
Both U.S. and Non-U.S. Non-Profit Organizations NGOs) are eligible to apply for this APS

NGOs condemn arbitrary arrest of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong

May 15, 2022

NOGs (such as Human Rights Watch and the Human Rights Foundation) have condemned the arrest of Cardinal Joseph Zen, as well as the lawyer Joseph Zen, the singer Denise Ho and the scholar Hui Po-Keung, for having maintained contacts with foreign forces in Hong Kong.

HRW Senior China researcher Maya Wang, said that “the arrest of a 90-year-old cardinal is the latest example of the city’s human rights freefall in recent years.

The four, along with former lawmaker Cyd Ho, who is already in jail, were part of the 612 Humanitarian Aid Fund, which provided medical, legal and psychological help to protesters arrested during the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Kong.

Denise Ho, Margaret Ng, and others affiliated with Stand News, an independent pro-democracy online publication, were previously arrested by national security police in December 2021 under allegations of publishing “seditious” and “inflammatory” materials. Denise Ho formerly served on the board of Stand News, but stepped down in November 2021. Meanwhile, the 612 Humanitarian Support Fund ceased operations in October 2021 after national security police and Chinese state-backed media requested information on its beneficiaries and donors.

Maya Wang has specified that Hong Kong has “long been a regional leader in openness and respect for the rule of law, but now competes for the first places in Asia for repression and political prisoners.”

The people of Hong Kong have been unequivocal in their demand for human rights, and governments around the world should be unequivocal in their response to that call,” concluded the HRW researcher.

https://mailchi.mp/hrf.org/hong-kong-hrf-condemns-arbitrary-arrest-of-denise-ho-and-colleagues?e=f80cec329e

Floribert Chebeya: DR Congo policeman sentenced to death for murder

May 13, 2022
Floribet Chebeya
Floribert Chebeya, murdered in 2010, received regular threats in his 20-year career

On 12 May 2022 – via the BBC – came the welcome news that finally a Congolese military court has sentenced a high-ranking policeman to death for his role in the 2010 murder of human rights activist Floribert Chebeya, which caused national outrage. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/02/12/dr-congo-should-reopen-inquiry-into-murder-of-floribert-chebeya/

Commissioner of police Christian Ngoy Kenga Kenga was found guilty of murder, desertion and misappropriation of weapons and ammunition. Mr Chebeya’s body was found bound and gagged in his car in Kinshasa.

There is a moratorium on capital punishments in DR Congo. However, the death penalty has not been abolished and military courts continue to hand down such sentences.

Another policeman, Jacques Migabo, was also sentenced to 12 years during the trial. He admitted to having strangled Mr Chebeya and his driver, Fidèle Bazana.

Police commissioner Paul Mwilambwe, who had been a key witness in the trial, was acquitted, UN-sponsored Radio Okapi says.

Mr Mwilambwe, who had been a fugitive since the murder and was only repatriated last year, named ex-President Joseph Kabila and the former head of police General John Numbi, as having ordered the killing. Neither Mr Kabila nor Gen Numbi have commented publicly, but a military court has charged the general with the murder of Mr Chebeya and his driver. He has fled the country and his current whereabouts are not known.

Kenga, Migabo and Mr Mwilambwe were initially sentenced to death in 2011, with Kenga arrested in 2020 in the southern city of Lubumbashi before the case was re-opened last September. Floribert Chebeya led the Congolese charity Voice of the Voiceless, and as a prominent critic of the government received regular death threats during his career of more than 20 years. See also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/BA601D45-292F-61CB-530A-17FE52D5F974

He went to the police headquarters to meet the then head of the national police force, Gen Numbi, on the day he was killed. His driver Mr Bazana also went missing that day with authorities later pronouncing him dead.

See also: https://www.news24.com/news24/africa/news/widow-of-slain-drc-human-rights-defender-urges-drc-to-try-alleged-mastermind-who-fled-20220516

https://au.news.yahoo.com/floribet-chebeya-dr-congo-policeman-112444817.html

Call for applications for the Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism

May 10, 2022

The Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism was launched on 16 October 2020 as a tribute to the Maltese anti-corruption investigative journalist and blogger who was assassinated in a car bomb attack in 2017. [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/ea7f958d-a957-4495-9ab4-9550741a8a58]

The Prize, with the support of the European Parliament, will be awarded annually to in-depth journalism pieces undertaken by EU-based professional journalists. The Prize is open to individual professional journalists or teams of professional journalists of any nationality. Applications may be submitted by authors themselves or by professional media organisations and associations on their behalf.

Applications must be submitted via the online platform by  31 July 2022, 12 AM (CEST).

The Prize aims to recognise outstanding in-depth journalism work on topics that are relevant for the European Union (EU) as a whole or some of its Member States, and contribute to the promotion of principles and values of the EU, as enshrined in the European Charter of Human Rights

https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/pt/press-room/20220502IPR28408/premio-de-jornalismo-d-caruana-galizia-convite-a-apresentacao-de-candidaturas

International Service for Human Rights: annual report 2022 (2021)

May 8, 2022

The last 18 months have been deeply challenging from a human rights perspective, with the COVID pandemic exposing and exacerbating inequalities, human rights defenders continuing to face deadly threats and choking restrictions to their work, and some governments working to undermine the accessibility and effectiveness of human rights mechanisms and multilateral processes.  But it’s also been a period over which sparks have been lit on key issues which we must now nurture and ensure fires of progress that long burn bright. 

ISHR invites you to discover our latest annual report, outlining our key impacts during the last year and our vision for 2022 and the years ahead.

What did we achieve in 2021?

Here are just a few examples of our collective impact:  Together with human rights defenders fighting racism, we celebrated the establishment of a historic expert mechanism to advance racial justice and equality in law enforcement, as well as a commission to inquire into the root causes of conflict and violence against the Palestinian people. Together with defenders promoting women’s rights, we were inspired by the widespread mobilisation and calls for accountability in cases of sexual harassment and assault, as well as the release from arbitrary detention of a number of prominent women human rights defenders. Together with defenders working on the environment and the climate crisis, we commended the landmark recognition under international human rights law of the right to a healthy and sustainable environment, as well as the mandating of a new UN Special Rapporteur on Climate Change. Together with defenders working to make governments accountable, we rejoiced in seeing an increased number and diversity of persons prepared to speak up and take action against widespread and systemic violations in States including China, Egypt, Nicaragua, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, while in other States in Africa, Asia and Latin America progress was made in the legal recognition and protection of defenders. See more achievements by clicking on the two videos below and visiting our website!

For other annual reports of 2021, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/annual-report-2021/

Announcing the launch of its 2022 Annual Report

Colombia: 52 activists killed in 3 months

April 29, 2022

In Summary:

• Most of the victims are targeted because they clash with the interests of illegal armed groups, including drug trafficking gangs, according to Colombia’s human rights ombudsman.

• The victims include 28 land rights and community rights activists, nine indigenous activists and four farming activists, Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reports. 

A total of 52 Colombian human rights activists and community leaders have been killed in the first three months of this year, authorities say.

It is a significant increase from 2021, which saw 145 murders all year.

Most of the victims are targeted because they clash with the interests of illegal armed groups, including drug trafficking gangs, according to Colombia’s human rights ombudsman.

The country is one of the world’s most dangerous for activists, monitors say.

The victims include 28 land rights and community rights activists, nine indigenous activists and four farming activists, Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reports. Of the victims, 48 ​​were men and four were women.

One of the most shocking cases was that of Breiner David Cucuñame, a 14-year-old indigenous activist who was shot dead in January while on patrol with an unarmed group that seeks to protect indigenous lands.

Colombia is officially at peace after signing a deal with the largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), in 2016. But other armed gangs continue to operate in the country, the world’s largest cocaine producer.

Violence started increasing towards the end of last year due to disputes over territory and resources involving dissident Farc rebels and members of another Marxist guerrilla group – the National Liberation Army (ELN) – as well as right-wing paramilitary groups and criminal gangs such as the Gulf Clan.

“The homicides against social leaders and human rights defenders seriously affect the foundations of democracy,” said Carlos Camargo, the human rights ombudsman.

https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/world/2022-04-27-colombia-reports-52-activists-killed-in-three-months/

Press Freedom Awards in Hong Kong cancelled

April 29, 2022

Oiwan Lam on 26 April 2022 reported that Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club has canceled its Human Rights Awards for fear of “legal risks”

Image created by Oiwan Lam.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong (FCC HK), a press freedom watchdog, announced they would cancel their 2022 Human Rights Press Awards (HRPA) on April 25.  Eight members of the Club’s Press Freedom Committee have resigned in protest over the decision. 

Many foreign correspondents were shocked by the decision. Launched in 1995,  the HRPA has been one of the most important platforms to celebrate and honour human rights journalism from around Asia. The Club normally announces the winners on May 3, World Press Freedom Day.

Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) quoted sources from FCC HK that the cancellation was related to the legal risks in presenting awards to the now-defunct Stand News. Two former senior staff members of the independent news outlet have been charged with conspiring to publish “seditious publications” pending trial. 

Stand News was forced to shut down last December after security police raided its office. The police authorities accused the news site of publishing “seditious materials” with the intent to cause hatred towards the government and the judiciary. 

An FCC member told the HKFP that Stand News would receive four awards and five merits in this year’s award, but “certain items” would pose a legal risk. 

In a letter to the Club’s members, the president of FCC HK Keith Richburg said the decision was made in the organization’s board meeting on April 23:

Over the last two years, journalists in Hong Kong have been operating under new “red lines” on what is and is not permissible, but there remain significant areas of uncertainty and we do not wish unintentionally to violate the law. This is the context in which we decided to suspend the Awards.

The letter also says that “recent developments might also require changes to our [FCC HK’s] approach” in the promotion of press freedom.

As the city’s incoming Chief Executive John Lee has vowed to apply the “strictest measures” to clamp down on “anyone who tries to use journalistic work as a shield to engage in crimes endangering national security” in response to the crackdown on Apple Daily, FCC HK’s anticipation of legal risks is valid.

Yet, as a press freedom watchdog, many see the choice to ax the awards as an act of self-censorship antithetical to the organization’s purpose, as independent journalist Ilaria Maria Sala wrote on Twitter:

Eight members of the Club’s press freedom committee have resigned in protest over the decision. Shibani Mahtani, Washington Post’s Southeast Asia and Hong Kong Bureau Chief, is one of the resignees. As one of the winners of the Human Rights Press Awards in 2020, Shibani Mahtani expressed her regrets about the decision and explained, in a Twitter thread, the significance of the annual occasion in Asia: See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/01/rsfs-press-freedom-prize-2016-goes-to-the-64-tianwang-website-in-china/

For more on the real, unannounced winners: https://hongkongfp.com/2022/04/27/in-full-winners-of-the-axed-fcc-human-rights-press-awards-revealed/

see also for future editions:

https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3176537/american-university-taking-over-hong-kong-press-groups