Posts Tagged ‘human rights lawyers’

Li Wenzu – wife of Wang Quanzhang – wins 2018 Edelstam award

December 5, 2018

On 27 November, 2018 Li Wenzu, Chinese ‘709’ campaigner won the Edelstam human rights award [see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/edelstam-prize]

Li is barred from leaving the country, so at Tuesday night’s ceremony, the organisers could only air a recorded video message from Li and present the award on Li’s behalf to Yuan Weijing, wife of the exiled and blind Chinese legal campaigner Chen Guangcheng. It was the first time the Edelstam Prize, named after Swedish diplomat Harald Edelstam, was awarded to a Chinese person.
Li Wenzu is the wife of detained human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang. She was barred from  leaving China after her high-profile 170km march from Beijing to Tianjin in April, when she petitioned to visit the husband she has not seen since his arrest in the summer of 2015. Wang, now 42, was among the 300 lawyers and legal activists taken by the Chinese government during a crackdown that began on July 9, 2015. Critics said the campaign was an effort to silence China’s human rights defenders. In the aftermath of what became known as the “709” crackdown, Li and other spouses of detainees formed a support group and began campaigning for their release. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/07/29/the-remarkable-crackdown-on-lawyers-in-china-in-july-2015/]

When I heard the news of the award, I was nervous because I felt that in China there were so many people who worked hard for the 709 case, and their achievements were far greater than mine. Everything that I’ve done is just what I should do. I don’t deserve this award. So thanks to everyone for the encouragement and recognition,” Li said on Wednesday. “Every 709 family is now facing problems,” she said. “For example, the lawyers who have been released are still strictly controlled by the authorities. They are almost unable to work normally. Without income, family life is a big problem.

Second, the released lawyers need a long time to recover because of the torture, the physical and mental damage [they have suffered]. In the process, I think it was very important for lawyers to be reunited with their family members. Therefore, the 709 families and wives did not return to an easy life when their husbands came home,” she said.

Most of the 709 detainees were released, but several were jailed. Only Wang, who was charged with subverting state power in February 2017, remains behind bars in Tianjin awaiting trial. In her video message for the Edelstam ceremony, Li voiced her fears for her husband: “Only Wang Quanzhang remains in extended detention. I am really worried and afraid that he might never leave jail in his lifetime”. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/30/rsdl-chinas-legalization-of-disappearances/]

Caroline Edelstam, the founder and president of the Edelstam Foundation, said Li “has continued advocating, beyond her personal interest, for the principles of rule of law and democracy in China, and campaigned not only for her husband’s release but also for the freedom of all the victims of violations of human rights in China”.

14 major NGOs call for immediate release of Chinese human rights defender Huang Qi

November 6, 2018

Chinese authorities must immediately and unconditionally release citizen journalist and human rights defender Huang Qi, a group of 14 NGOs (and not the least, see below) said on November 5, 2018. Huang Qi (黄琦), the founder and director of 64 Tianwang Human Rights Center, is not receiving adequate medical care in detention and his health has seriously deteriorated, according to his lawyer who visited him on October 23. Huang’s condition is so serious that there is an immediate threat to his life. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/01/rsfs-press-freedom-prize-2016-goes-to-the-64-tianwang-website-in-china/]

The Chinese government must immediately and unconditionally release Huang, who has been detained solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression, and end its policy of denying prompt medical treatment to prisoners of conscience. Several human rights defenders and ethnic and religious minorities have died in detention in recent years due to a lack of prompt medical treatment, including Liu Xiaobo, Cao Shunli [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/03/27/china-or-the-un-must-ensure-independent-investigation-into-death-of-cao-shunli/], Yang Tongyan, and Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, intensifying fears that Huang Qi might suffer the same fate without urgent intervention.

Authorities have repeatedly rejected applications for release on medical bail despite Huang’s heath condition continuing to deteriorate. He faces charges of “illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities” and “leaking state secrets” due to his work with 64 Tianwang Human Rights Center, which documents and publishes reports on enforced disappearances, trafficking, human rights violations and complaints against government officials. Huang faces the possibility of life imprisonment. His 85-year-old mother has been campaigning for his release, fearing he may die in prison. Last month two of his associates received suspended prison sentences and were released, but authorities have continued to hold Huang. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued an opinion in April 2018 that declared Huang’s detention arbitrary, but the Chinese government continues to ignore the Working Group’s recommendation that Huang be released and compensated.

Lawyers representing Huang Qi have also faced retaliation. One of his lawyers, Sui Muqing, was disbarred in February 2018 for defending human rights defenders, such as Huang. [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/human-rights-lawyer-sui-muqing-disbarred] Huang’s current lawyer, Liu Zhengqing, received a notice in October that he is under investigation for giving Huang cigarettes during a meeting in July. Liu faces suspension of his law license or a large fine.

http://rsdlmonitor.com/immediately-unconditionally-release-huang-qi/

In this context also relevant is: https://mailchi.mp/ishr/alert-to-the-human-rights-councils-35th-session-31901?e=d1945ebb90

 India: attacks on human rights defenders abound under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act

October 7, 2018

I recently wrote about India’s shameful place in the list of countries that practice reprisals [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/09/22/attack-on-human-rights-defenders-in-india-are-an-attack-on-the-very-idea-of-india/]. On 5 October 2018 this was followed by a joint statement by a large number of UN experts (Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Ms. Fionnuala D. Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Mr. Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Ms. Ivana Radacic (Chair), Ms. Meskerem Geset Techane (Vice Chair), Ms. Elisabeth Broderick, Ms. Alda Facio, Ms. Melissa Upreti, Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice; Ms. E. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Mr. Seong-Phil Hong (Chair), Ms. Leigh Toomy (Vice-Chair), Ms. Elina Steinerte (Vice-Chair), Mr. José Guevara, Mr. Setondji Adjovi, Working group on arbitrary detention) saying that India uses terrorism charges as a pretext to silence human rights defenders

The UN human rights experts did so in the context of terrorism charges – under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) – laid against 10 human rights defenders working with India’s poorest and most marginalised communities, including the Dalits, and urged authorities to ensure their cases are promptly heard in line with international law. All were arrested in June in connection with investigations into a public meeting organised a day before the 200th anniversary of the commemoration of a battle at Bhima-Koregaon, an important cultural event and a symbol of Dalit empowerment. Police subsequently claimed that the human rights defenders had links with ‘unlawful organisations’. “We are concerned that terrorism charges brought in connection with the commemoration of Bhima-Koregaon are being used to silence human rights defenders who promote and protect the rights of India’s Dalit, indigenous, and tribal communities,” the UN experts said. “We are very concerned about the charges against the human rights defenders and the continuing detention of nine of them,” the UN experts said. “All have been active in peacefully defending human rights, including those of marginalised and minority communities, political prisoners, and women, and their arrests appear to be directly related to their human rights work.

 

In June2018 Front Line Defenders listed as some of these:

 

 

Surendra Gadling <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/surendra-gadling> a human rights lawyer and General Secretary of the Indian Association of Peoples’ Lawyers (IAPL).

Rona Wilson <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/rona-wilson&gt;  is a member of the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP), which has campaigned against the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and other repressive laws.

Sudhir Dhawale <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/sudhir-dhawale&gt;  is a Dalit rights activist and the editor of the Marathi magazine ‘Vidrohi’.

Shoma Sen <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/shoma-sen&gt;  is a professor at Nagpur University and a long time Dalit and women’s rights activist.

Mahesh Raut  <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/mahesh-raut&gt; is a land rights activist working with Gram Sabhas in the mining areas of Gadhchiroli.

On 5 July 2018, Front Line reported that human rights lawyer Advocate Sudha Bhardwaj released a statement refuting the false allegations and defamatory statements levelled against her by Arnab Goswami, news anchor and managing director of Republic TV. In a program that aired on 4 July 2018, Arnab Goswami alleged that the human rights defender was linked to Maoists. (https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/sudha-bhardwaj). Sudha Bhardwaj firmly denied that the letter was written by her, and refuted the false allegations as defamatory and hurtful. She also expressed incredulity at the fact that the source of the letter had not been revealed, and that the letter had surfaced at the studio. She believes that the malicious and fabricated attack on her is a result of a press conference she had addressed in Delhi on 6 June 2018, condemning the arrest of Advocate Surendra Gadling. Front Line adds that This smear campaign comes as a part of an ongoing crackdown against human rights lawyers in India, especially those who work with Adivasi people and Dalits. Front Line Defenders condemns the smear campaign against human rights defender Sudha Bhardwaj, which it considers to be in retaliation to her legitimate and peaceful human rights work. Front Line Defenders expresses its concern for the security of Sudha Bhardwaj, particularly as the inflammatory allegations may motivate judicial harassment or other forms of retaliation.  

—–

https://www.jurist.org/news/2018/10/un-experts-decry-india-terrorism-charges-against-human-rights-defenders/

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23686&LangID=E

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org

 

 

Israel bars human rights lawyers from the USA

May 4, 2018

Two U.S. human rights lawyers were detained Sunday 29 April 2018 for 14 hours at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport before being deported back to the United States. Columbia University’s professor of law, gender and sexuality studies Katherine Franke and Center for Constitutional Rights’ executive director Vincent Warren were repeatedly questioned about their associations with groups critical of Israel. They were part of a delegation of American human rights defenders heading to Israel and Palestine to learn about the human rights situation and meet with local activists. They arrived back in New York City early Monday. Hear the interview with Vincent Warren and Katherine Franke via:

Update on Turkey: Taner Kılıç released but what about all the others?

January 31, 2018

Following a decision by a court in Istanbul to conditionally release the Chair of Amnesty International Turkey, Taner Kılıç, after nearly eight months in detention, Gauri van Gulik, AI’s Europe Director said: “It is an enormous relief that Taner will soon be back with his wife and daughters, sleeping in his own bed for the first time in almost eight months. But we cannot forget that many other innocent people remain behind bars without a shred of evidence in Turkey.” “Today we take a brief moment to celebrate, but tomorrow we will continue our struggle to have all charges dropped against Taner, the Istanbul 10, and all other innocent victims wrongfully caught up in this vicious crackdown.”

NOTE:  1 February update in http://gkmen.com/2018/02/01/turkey-court-reverses-release-of-amnesty-head-taner-kilic/: “Andrew Gardner, a senior Amnesty researcher on Turkey, tweeted that Kılıç was transferred from prison custody to gendarmerie custody late Wednesday. While the Istanbul court rejected the appeal, it nonetheless sent the application to another court for a decision on Kilik’s detention. “This is devastating for Taner’s family and a disgrace to justice”, he added. The group said the next hearing in his trial has been set for June 21.

While Kılıç has now been released, the trial against him, director of Amnesty International Turkey İdil Eser, and the other nine human rights defenders on trumped-up terrorism related charges continues. [Kılıç was detained on June 6, 2017 and sent to jail three days later, where he has been ever since. Ten other activists “the Istanbul 10”, including Eser, were detained a month later. Eight of them were held for almost four months before being released on bail at their first hearing in October. The Istanbul 10 were accused of “membership of a terrorist organization,” a baseless allegation for which the prosecution has yet to provide any concrete evidence that would stand up to scrutiny. – https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/22/celebrities-come-out-to-support-taner-kilic-amnesty-turkeys-chair-on-trial-today/ ]

Over 570 lawyers arrested in Turkey in last 18 months

Turkish police wrestle a lawyer to the ground outside of a courthouse in Turkey. (Photo: Social Media)
 Ari Khalidi (Kurdistan24.net) reported on 30 January 2018 that an opposition lawmaker in Turkey revealed on Tuesday that authorities had arrested 572 lawyers during the one and a half year-long state of emergency in place since a failed military coup to topple the administration of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Senal Sarihan told a press conference at the Turkish Parliament that of the lawyers arrested, 488 faced maltreatment in police custody, as 79 of them were given prison sentences.

..Last week, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) urged the Turkish government to stop persecuting lawyers.

This situation demonstrates a flagrant disregard for the rule of law and is a deliberate attack on human rights defenders and legal professionals. We call on the Turkish government to bring an end to this deplorable situation and to adhere to international instruments,” IBAHRI’s Co-Chair Hans Corell said. According to IBAHRI, 1,488 lawyers were prosecuted, and 34 bar associations were shut down in Turkey.

http://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/dc830090-68a9-4f8f-a766-d4725d5f9e6a

https://www.amnestyusa.org/press-releases/turkish-court-releases-amnesty-chair-after-nearly-8-months-in-jail/

https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/01/18/turkey-media-activists-political-opposition-targeted

https://www.ft.com/content/797ff3d2-f228-11e7-b220-857e26d1aca4

24 January 2018: Day of the Endangered Lawyer – focus on Egypt

January 22, 2018

I did not know about this special Day for Endangered Lawyers which is meant to call for the attention of lawyers all over the world for colleagues who are being harassed, silenced, pressured, threatened, persecuted, tortured, killed and disappeared.  Although relatively unknown, it has the support of several lawyers’ organizations such as:

The Association European Democratic Lawyers www.aeud.org
The European Association of Lawyers for Democracy & World Human Rights www.eldh.eu
Vereniging Sociale Advocatuur Nederland www.vsanadvocaten.nl
Lawyers for lawyers www.lawyersforlawyers.nl
Colombia Caravana UK Lawyersgroup www.colombiancaravana.org.uk
European Bar Human Rights Institute www.idhae.org
Avocats sans Frontières www.asf-network.org

The Foundation has devoted its attention to the situation in Iran, Turkey, Basque Country, Columbia and the Philippines in the past. In 2016 the focus was on the situation in Honduras. Detailed information and reports are available at www.aeud.org.

The UK Law Society president Joe Egan said: ‘We honour the courage and commitment of lawyers around the world who uphold justice, often despite considerable risk to themselves, their colleagues and their families.’ The country focus for the Day of the Endangered Lawyer 2018 is Egypt, where lawyers and human rights defenders face prosecution and travel bans for carrying out professional duties.

For other posts see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/human-rights-lawyers/

http://dayoftheendangeredlawyer.eu/backgrounds/#EstablishingTheFoundation

RSDL: China’s legalization of disappearances

December 30, 2017

It would nice – for a change – to be able to report improvements in the situation of human rights defenders but as feared at the beginning of this year that has not happened. Here the case of China:

On 15 December 2017 China itself issued a White Paper hailing its ‘remarkable progress’ in the ‘law-based protection of human rights’ over the last five years. NGOs such as Human Rights Watch called it ‘hollow’ and a ‘self-congratulatory report’. Here some recent developments especially linked to the tactic of temporary disappearance RSDL:

There is a very informative blog post by Peter Dalin[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/21/confessions-abound-on-chinese-television-first-gui-minhai-and-now-peter-dahlin/] about his friend Wang Quanzhang  in the Hong Kong Free Press (30 December) under the title “The last missing lawyer: a victim of China’s new willingness to flout international human rights norms“. The piece details the system of Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL) and points to its increasing use and danger that it may spread. (See below in green.)

One example of this practice came this week when a court sentenced Wu Gan to eight years in prison. Using social media and outlandish performance art, he went by the online handle “Super Vulgar Butcher” and likened himself to a meat cutter who was making short work of those who violate human rights. After the harsh sentence was imposed in Tianjin, Wu delivered an eloquent statement through his lawyers, speaking with clarity and courage. “For those living under a dictatorship,” he declared, “being given the honourable label of one who ‘subverts state power’ is the highest form of affirmation for a citizen. It’s proof that the citizen wasn’t an accomplice or a slave, and that at the very least he went out and defended, and fought for, human rights.” The authorities, he said, attempted to force him to plead guilty and co-operate in propaganda videos in exchange for a suspended sentence. “I rejected it all. My eight-year sentence doesn’t make me indignant or hopeless. This was what I chose for myself: when you oppose the dictatorship, it means you are already walking on the path to jail.”

This in contrast to the decision the same day in the case of human rights lawyer Xie Yang who was not sentenced to prison after he pleaded guilty to charges of “inciting subversion of state power.”
Xie was released on bail in May after what critics described as a show trial. He had previously claimed that police used “sleep deprivation, long interrogations, beatings, death threats, humiliations” on him. But on Tuesday he denied he had been tortured, according to a video on the court’s official Weibo social media account. “On the question of torture, I produced a negative effect on and misled the public, and I again apologize,” he told judges. The court said he would face no criminal penalties following his full confession. (Xie Yang is one of China’s “709 lawyers”, taken into custody in 2015 during an extensive government crackdown see: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/xie-yang). See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/07/29/the-remarkable-crackdown-on-lawyers-in-china-in-july-2015/

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, has also told China that it wrongfully arrested three prominent human rights activists accused of subversion and called on the government to release and compensate them. The panel, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, made up of five independent experts, said the three activists, Hu Shigen, Zhou Shifeng and Xie Yang, had been punished for promoting human rights. It said their treatment did not conform with China’s obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and urged Beijing to consider amending its laws to bring them into conformity with international norms. “The appropriate remedy would be to release Hu Shigen, Zhou Shifeng and Xie Yang immediately, and accord them an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations,” the working group concluded. (The findings were contained in a 12-page document that was first reported in October by The Guardian)——–

Peter Dalin’s post:

Some five years ago my friend Wang Quanzhang – China’s last missing lawyer – came over to my Beijing apartment for a Swedish-style Christmas. By this time he had learned to tolerate, if not appreciate, the meatballs, as it was his second Christmas at my house. Since then, I’ve been deported from China and banned for ten years under the Espionage Act.

wang quanzhang

Wang Quanzhang. File photo: RFA.

I am unlikely to spend any more Christmases in China. Wang might never be allowed to spend any Christmas anywhere, outside of prison. Wang disappeared on 5 August 2015. For two and a half years his family, wife Li Wenzu and their young son, and the lawyers Wang had chosen for himself should he ever be detained, have not seen nor heard from him. There’s no trial in sight. It may strike anyone reading this that his case is simply another victim’s story. Frankly, there are so many that it’s hard to keep track or become engaged. However, his case represents something far worse, and is a window into the new China envisioned by Xi Jinping and the CCP.

China’s attempts to weaken UN mechanisms put in place to monitor how countries implement or follow basic rules and rights are well documented. What is happening in China now – an unprecedented disappearing of critics, lawyers and human rights defenders – goes far beyond being just another crackdown on civil society. It is another step towards weakening a core part of the international law system. One of the first major changes under Xi Jinping’s rule was to extend the power of the state even further by legalizing the use of Enforced Disappearances. For a Party usually known for its abysmal public relations management, it did so with a stroke of marketing “genius”, referring to it as a procedure known as Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location, or RSDL. At first, its use was limited to central government targeting key rights defenders, claiming they threatened national security. People would be secretly detained and placed in hotel rooms and government-run guesthouses. Slowly, they started using special custom-built secret prisons. In 2016, the procedure was adopted by local police. Now it’s being used to target critics of any sort, and for any type of “crime”, and not only those accused of threatening national security. Its use, by any measure, is expanding rapidly.

Rights activist Wu Gan and rights lawyer Xie Yang were sentenced the day after Christmas. Wu Gan will spend the next eight years in prison. Both men were disappeared for significant lengths of time before entering the normal judicial process; they were in RSDL. RSDL allows the state to simply take anyone it wishes, no court approval is needed, and disappear them for up to six months. The victim’s family does not need be notified of the victims’ whereabouts, they are denied access to legal counsel, and even more preposterously the prosecutor’s office is almost always barred from visiting the secret facility or victim – despite its nominal role to make sure rampant torture is not practiced. In fact, despite knowing many victims of RSDL myself, I have never heard of someone having had such a visit, and I myself certainly never met anyone from the Prosecutor’s office during my brief stay in RSDL.

In China, exceptions quickly become norms. The exceptions allowing all this have quickly become the norm. With these “exceptions”, RSDL becomes enforced disappearance. Enforced disappearances is not only a crime in international law, but a most severe one. It is even prohibited in war-time. If used systematically, or in a widespread manner, it qualifies as a crime against humanity.

The West’s tepid response to enforced disappearances, even of their own citizens, who have been kidnapped outside of mainland China, such as British citizen Lee Bo in Hong Kong and Swedish citizen Gui Minhai in Thailand, only encourages China to keep expanding its use. Why not, when there are no consequences. My only hope, or wish, for this Christmas season is that the further exposure of RSDL, through the first ever book on the subject, The People’s Republic of the Disappeared, edited by my former coworker Michael Caster, will help shed light on what is going on in China.

This should make the West realize that China’s legalization of what may constitute a crime against humanity is a blow to the whole UN system, and a threat to the West itself, and the rules-based system it advocates. Without a response, how long will it be before Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and other countries in the Asia-Pacific, all with some history of using Enforced Disappearance themselves, realize the effectiveness of the system in silencing critics, and move to legalize their own versions?….It’s hard to say what 2018 has in store for Wang. His case is testament to the breakdown of any rule of law in China. Despite holding all the cards, China does not have the courage to try him in a court of law. He will, for now and who knows for how long, simply be disappeared.

https://www.hongkongfp.com/2017/12/30/last-missing-lawyer-victim-chinas-new-willingness-flout-international-human-rights-norms/

The People’s Republic of the Disappeared

https://www.thespec.com/opinion-story/8028958-the-clarity-and-courage-of-wu-gan/

http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?id=39930&t=1

For China, Christmas is the best time of year to put human-rights activists on trial

New coalition of Human Rights Defenders in the Philippines tries to deal with killings

November 4, 2017

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Nominations sought for the Alexander Human Rights Law Prize

September 30, 2017

Santa Clara University School of Law is seeking nominations of outstanding lawyers who might be candidates for the Alexander Human Rights Law Prize, given annually by the Law School. Now in its 11th year, the “Katharine and George Alexander Law Prize” is intended to bring recognition to lawyers who have used their legal knowledge and skills to help alleviate injustice and inequity. For more information see the recently made public Digest of Human Rights Awards: www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest.
Nominees must be lawyers who have used their skill, knowledge and abilities in the field of law to correct injustice. Selection criteria may include factors such as the:
  • Innovative nature of the programs or other activities undertaken
  • Courage and self-sacrifice required
  • Sustainability of the programs the nominee has implemented
  • Number of people benefited

Nominations should be submitted here. The deadline is 1 October 1, 2017 (although this came from an article published on 29 September).

Previous laureates are:

► 2008 Award Winner: Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama, where he and his colleagues have helped reduce or overturn death sentences in more than sixty cases.

► 2009 Award Winner: Mario Joseph, one of Haiti’s most influential and respected human rights attorneys and Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), which uses prominent human rights cases and a victim-centered approach to force open the doors of Haiti’s justice system for the country’s poor majority.

► 2010 Award Winner: Shadi Sadr, an Iranian lawyer who has risked her life in her efforts to protect the human rights of women, activists, and journalists, and who launched the “End Stoning Forever” campaign and Raahi, a legal center for women which has been forced to close since Ms. Sadr has been in exile.

► 2011 Award Winner: Paul Van Zyl, former Executive Secretary of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, co‐founder of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), and now the CEO of PeaceVentures.

► 2012 Award Winner: Almudena Bernabeau, formerly of the Center for Justice and Accountability and founder of Guernica37, a new human rights law firm litigating on behalf of victims of human rights abuses.

► 2013 Award Winner: Chen Guangcheng, the Chinese civil rights attorney who, although he is blind and had a broken leg at the time, managed to escape house arrest in China. He was targeted for his human rights campaigns, including against forced abortion while China’s one-child policy was in place.

► 2014 Award Winner: Hossam Bahgat, founder and former Executive Director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, whom I featured here when he was detained again for advocating on behalf of the freedom of speech and assembly in Tahrir Square.

2015 Award Winner: Martina E. Vandenberg, founder and president of The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center.

2016 Maria Foscarinis, founder and executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (2016).

2017 Paul Hoffman, partner in Schonbrun Seplow Harris & Hoffman, LLP and ace litigator under the Alien Tort Statute/Torture Victim Protection Act.

Source: Nominations Sought: Alexander Human Rights Prize (Oct. 1 Deadline) | Just Security

Funders should help HRDs to withstand legal onslaughts by corporations

July 7, 2017

Otto Saki of the Ford Foundation contributed a piece  How companies are using law suits to silence environmental activists—and how philanthropy can help”. On 30 June 2017, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre provided the following summary:

…While extrajudicial killings…[of human rights defenders] attract immediate condemnation, corporate interests are using other, less obviously violent means to undermine the important work of these activists: Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) are used to intimidate, harass, and silence activists who are working to expose corporate injustices and human rights violations. As intended, such lawsuits have a clear chilling effect on activism, silencing critical voices and stifling accountability…

…While there are strong laws aimed at protecting people’s rights, those laws too often fail to be applied. At the same time, big businesses have amassed great power and influence; they are armed literally and figuratively with high-value law firms, auditors, security experts, and investigators to defend their interests. Facing that kind of arsenal, it is difficult for individuals and organizations to fight back.

The use of SLAPP suits in South Africa is becoming a trend…

…South Africa needs to revise court procedures to make it easier for judges to scrutinize frivolous lawsuits without dragging the defendants into court. Second, civil society must recognize that SLAPP lawsuits are not isolated, but are part of a broad and purposeful strategy to distract and disable environmental activists and empower corporate interests.

…As philanthropy considers how to best support and build resilience for social justice activists and institutions, it is critical to consider their ability to withstand this kind of legal pressure…As funders, we need to have open conversations with our grantees about how they can be prepared before a crisis erupts…

Read the full post here

Source: Commentary: Philanthropy should consider how best to support human rights defenders when companies use lawsuits to silence them | Business & Human Rights Resource Centre