Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights First’

Trans defender’s Karla Avelar’s life is under constant threat

May 16, 2017

Brian Dooley of Human Rights First, wrote the following piece “Karla Avelar’s Life Of Constant Threats” in the Huffington Post of 13 May 2017 (in full below). Karla (El Salvador) is one of the three finalists of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/26/breaking-news-three-human-rights-defenders-selected-as-finalists-for-the-2017-martin-ennals-award/].  An rise in deadly violence against transgender women in El Salvador prompted the United Nations on Friday to call for an investigation into crimes against sexual minorities in the conservative Central American country. So far this year, seven transgender women have been killed in El Salvador, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights [http://www.reuters.com/article/us-elsalvador-violence-lgbt-idUSKBN189018]

CARLOS CRUZ, COMCAVIS TRANS
Karla Avelar, advocating despite the danger.

Six times in two years. Human rights activist Karla Avelar has been forced to move home six times in the last two years after being physically threatened by individuals she believes are gang members and for her work as a human rights defender in El Salvador.

She’s a leading advocate for the human rights of LGBT people, founder and head of COMCAVIS TRANS, an organization known for its work for transgender people for nearly a decade. It’s dangerous, unpopular work, and Avelar is regularly targeted and threatened.

A couple of weeks ago she was forced to move home when people tried to extort from her possible prize money for the Martin Ennals Human Rights Defender Award, for which she is a finalist. The award’s winner will be decided and announced in October, but news of her nomination has prompted these latest threats.

It hasn’t been an easy life. She was shot in two separate incidents, spent five traumatic years in jail and has been a constant target of abuse for being a transgender woman. Avelar told my colleague Mariel Perez-Santiago at her office in San Salvador last year how she had been raped by more than a hundred men on her first day in prison, and that the attacks continued with the complicity of prison staff.

She became a formidable advocate for the rights of trans people in and out of prison, helping to win important reforms in the prison where she used to be an inmate. Thanks to her campaigning, transgender women are now separated from men in different wards, and human rights organizations are allowed access to the prisoners to educate them about their rights. She also represented El Salvador’s LGBT civil society at the country’s 2014 Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations in Geneva.

Her advocacy has led to international recognition including becoming a finalist for this year’s Martin Ennals Award. “Transgender persons, and the wider LGBT community, face widespread hostility and social rejection in El Salvador,” said the Martin Ennals organization in a statement. “Crimes against them are almost never brought to justice, which results in a climate of impunity. Sadly, this treatment of transgender people can be seen well beyond El Salvador. We aim to highlight Ms. Avelar’s bravery in continuing her work. We are encouraged that the authorities contacted her after the media coverage of the latest threats. This needs to be followed up with judicial proceedings against those responsible and, most importantly, effective protection for Karla Avelar.”

Her profile has meant that the threats against her are receiving attention, and the Attorney General’s office has been in touch with her to discuss issues of her safety. But for Avelar and others in El Salvador’s LGBT community the risks are daily and grave. She estimates around 600 cases of unsolved murders of LGBT people in the country over the last 25 years.

“Sadly, these most recent threats against me are not surprising and are part of a broader and systematic pattern of persecution of members of the LGBT community in El Salvador,” said Avelar. “I will not be silenced by these threats, but the Salvadoran government must guarantee my safety and that of all human rights defenders and activists, who work tirelessly to monitor and urge respect for the human rights of the most vulnerable.”

Forced to leave her home again and again, she’s asking for protection as well as international visibility. Making her more famous won’t guarantee her safety but we can try to help by sharing her story with whoever we know, by showing that we’re watching, and by saying that she should be protected and never be forced to move again.

Source: Karla Avelar’s Life Of Constant Threats | HuffPost

Trump Administration would like to delegate security checks to dictators?

February 11, 2017

Trump’s executive order may be stalled in the courts for the moment but at some point in time a more restrictive policy towards refugees will come into being. One feature that is worrisome is that the administration expects to make more use of vetting by the very governments the refugees are trying to flee: “we look at how well these various countries can vet people.”  That is what B. Shaw Drake of Human Rights First points out in his piece “Under Trump’s “Extreme Vetting,” Should Dictators Vet the Refugees they Create?“(10 February 2017):HRF logo

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Bahrain to continue executions in spite of serious torture allegations

February 3, 2017

On 31 January 2017 Human Rights Watch published this video:

Two Bahrainis appear to be at imminent risk of execution despite the authorities’ failure to properly investigate their allegations of torture. Both Mohamed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa have disavowed confessions that they allege were the result of torture and that were used as evidence in a trial that violated international due process standards.

The January 15, 2017 executions of three other Bahrainis in a similar case have raised concerns that King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa will approve the executions of Ramadan and Moosa, who face the death penalty for a February 2014 bombing that resulted in the death of a policeman. Human Rights Watch analysis of their trial and appeal judgments found that their convictions were based almost exclusively on their confessions, which both men retracted.

See also: http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/human-rights-first-s-dooley-testifies-bahrain-congressional-committee

 

Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty 2016 to Janvier Murairi Bakihanaye of the DRC

December 15, 2016

On 13 December 2016 Human Rights First convened its annual Human Rights Summit: American ideals. Universal values, at the Newseum in Washington D.C. in the context of International  Human Rights Day. During the Summit Human Rights First awarded the 2016 Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty to anti-slavery activist Janvier Murairi Bakihanaye of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Murairi was selected for his work on behalf of vulnerable rural populations to combat contemporary forms of slavery in the mining sector in the DRC. (The Roger Baldwin Medal  is given in alternating years by the ACLU to US citizens). HRF logo

It also presented the 2016 Beacon Prize, awarded annually to an individual or organization whose work embodies the best in the tradition of American leadership on human rights, to Marilyn Carlson Nelson, former CEO of Carlson Inc., in recognition of her pioneering leadership in the fight to end modern slavery.

Source: Human Rights First Hosts Annual Human Rights Summit | Human Rights First

Bodies of disappeared human rights lawyer Kimani and his client found in Kenya

July 3, 2016

A lawyer, Willie Kimani, his client, Josphat Mwenda and their taxi driver, Joseph Muiruri, were last seen returning from a traffic court hearing at Mavoko Law Courts on 23 June 2016. Many feared that they were abducted. Now, on 1 July 2016 their bodies have been found. Kimani was a lawyer with NGO International Justice Mission in Kenya. Kimani had been representing Mwenda in a case he had brought against the police after he was shot by them during a traffic stop.

Kenyan lawyers held a protest http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2000207020/lawyers-stage-protest-outside-ig-boinnet-s-office-over-missing-lawyer-client-and-taxi-driver-civil-societies-condemn-disappearance on 30 June, and petitioned the police inspector general for information regarding the men’s whereabouts.

We are deeply saddened by reports of the murders of Kimani, his client, and his taxi driver, and offer our condolences to their families and colleagues who continue to incur great risk fighting for justice and accountability,” said Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino. “It’s vital for the future of Kenya that its human rights lawyers are able to operate without fear of violence, and that the killers be swiftly brought to justice.”

Police should not hesitate to interrogate and arrest their own officers when there is cause,” said Namwaya of HRW. “This case stands as a clear threat to the legal profession and all those who push for police accountability in Kenya.”

http://www.hrw.org/africa/kenya

[http://www.knchr.org/Portals/0/PressStatements/Joint%20Press%20Release%20-Disappearance%20of%20Willie%20Kimani%20et%20al.pdf]

http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/human-rights-first-demands-justice-murder-human-rights-lawyer-kenya

Call of nominations for Baldwin Medal and Right Livelihood Award

February 2, 2016

Human Rights First announced that nominations are now open for the 2016 Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty Award.  The 2016 award will go to an individual or organization outside of the United States who has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to human rights advocacy in areas such as human trafficking, religious freedom, LGBT rights, refugee protection, and defense of civil society, among others. The winner will be selected by a distinguished jury and will receive a trip to the United States to engage in advocacy and a $25,000 prize. Nominations at http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/call-nominations-2016-roger-n-baldwin-medal-liberty-award are due by 10 March 2016. HRF logo

For more information on the award: http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/roger-n-baldwin-medal-liberty. For further questions about the award or the nomination process, please contact Rebecca Sheff at sheffr@humanrightsfirst.org or (202) 888-7599.

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One Month Until 1 March Nomination Deadline

Just one month remains to nominate candidates for the 2016 Right Livelihood Awards. Deadline: 1 March 2016!

For more on the award see: http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/right-livelihood-awards and/or check out the video to learn more. Anyone – excluding Right Livelihood Award Jury and staff members – can propose anyone (individuals or organisations), apart from themselves, close relatives or their own organisations to be considered for a Right Livelihood Award. Proposals must not be publicised, except to the candidate and possible referees.  Read more about the nomination requirements and procedures.

for earlier posts on this award: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/right-livelihood-award/

Five Years After Tahrir Square, there is “stability” in Egypt but do not ask at what price

January 28, 2016

Five years ago, human rights defender Ahmed Abdullah was among thousands of Egyptians who took to the streets for 18 days of mass protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, eventually forcing then-President Hosni Mubarak to step down and the security forces to retreat. Today, Ahmed is on the run. He dodged arrest by the thinnest of margins on January 9, after plainclothes police in Cairo raided his regular coffee shop. The NGO which he chairs, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, had recently exposed a surge in enforced disappearances, which has seen hundreds vanish at the hands of state security forces over the last year alone. He is not the only one whose activism has put him at risk. In recent weeks, security forces have been rounding up activists linked to protests and journalists critical of the government’s record. This how Amnesty International starts its assessment of the fifth anniversary and it concludes: “Five years since the uprising that ousted Mubarak, Egypt is once more a police state. The country’s ubiquitous state security body, the National Security Agency, is firmly in charge.”

The same sentiment is echoed in the long piece in the Huffington Post of 25 January 2016 by Karim Lahidji, President of FIDH and Bahey eldin Hassan, Director of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

MAHMOUD KHALED VIA GETTY IMAGES

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Closing Civil Society Space – a euphemism for Killing Human Rights Defenders

November 30, 2015

The Huffington Post of 29 November 2015 carried a good piece by Brian Dooley (Human Rights First) under the title “When Closing Civil Society Space Means Killing Human Rights Defenders”. He states that “what sometimes gets overlooked in the discussion around “shrinking civil society space” are direct, violent attacks on human rights defenders.”

He refers to this year’s Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (HRDs) which details killings of HRDs in Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East. And a Note by the UN Secretary-General in July this year included how “defenders also describe their sense that they are often on their own, with the media showing little interest in reporting acts of aggression against them and with little support from political figures…”

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Reprisals against children of Human Rights Defenders in UAE

October 11, 2015

The second case concerning children of human rights defenders is a more general category as described by Rebecca Sheff in a blog on Human Rights First: “Reprisals Against Children of Human Rights Defenders in UAE“.

She reports that on 8 October 2015, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child released a report expressing “concern” about the United Arab Emirates’ treatment of human rights defenders and their families. It noted that the government has been persecuting the children of defenders, restricting their “rights to education, identity documents, to freedom of movement and to keep contact with their detained parents.” The Convention on the Rights of the Child requires the UAE to protect children against discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of their parents. The UAE’s acts of intimidation violate children’s fundamental rights and inhibit the work of defenders. Dozens of political prisoners in the UAE are serving long prison sentences after being convicted in a mass unfair trial in 2013.  ….The Committee on the Rights of the Child also expressed concern “about the reported continuous harassment of human rights defenders in the State party, which greatly undermines the emergence of a vibrant civil society as well as the protection and promotion of children’s rights.” The lack of a robust civil society in the UAE means that children’s rights issues are neglected and violations go unaddressed. Ahmed Mansoor, a prominent human rights defender in the UAE, recently received the 2015 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

Indeed one of the most moving scenes in the film on the work of MEA Laureate Mansoor was when he told how his own child did not recognize him after a stay in detention: (minutes 5.20)

 

Source: Reprisals Against Children of Human Rights Defenders in UAE | Human Rights First

Brian Dooley gets a kind of reply from Bahrain..

May 18, 2015

Under the title “Dooley doodling” appeared a post in the Gulf Daily News of 18 May 2015. It is supposed to a pun on the name of Brian Dooley, the director of Human Rights First’s human rights defenders’ programme. The writer [Duri?] draws fortunately more attention to Dooley’s piece in the Huffington Post of 6 May: ‘How to Sound Like a Washington Expert on Bahrain’.

There is a rather-vaguely worded attack on his work for human rights defenders in Bahrain without ever substantiating any of the claims that he or his organization is receiving money from unnamed sources (Guess who foots the bills?“) or going in any detail on the harassment of the human rights defenders (“Every time Mr Rajab or any of the players happen to be [SIC] behind bars, expect one piece from him attacking the Bahraini government and its institutions.).  Dooley is quite capable of defending himself, but the awards aspect below is worth a bit more attention: Read the rest of this entry »