Posts Tagged ‘human rights movement’

The ‘new normal’: rising attacks on human rights defenders

December 4, 2017

Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer for the global civil society alliance, CIVICUS published the following piece in the context of International Civil Society Week (4-5 December 2017 in Suva, Fiji): Are Rising Attacks On Human Rights Defenders The ‘New Normal’? In the piece the author makes some excellent points on how to try and counter this development, in short:

  1. civil society leaders and their supporters need to proactively challenge the misinformation.
  2. collecting comparable and accumulated data on violations of civil society rights is critical. 
  3. dedicated focus on demonstrable and impeccable internal accountability to counter unwarranted criticism of civil society 
  4. there is a pressing need to have more civil society champions in academia, the media and among business leaders
  5. standing together helps.

Read the rest of this entry »

Amnesty’s Moscow office decries “foreign agents law” together with 148 other NGOs

November 24, 2014

Sergei Nikitin, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, posted a clear and inspiring blog on 21 November about the “foreign agent” label with which the Russian Government is trying to discredit legitimate work by human rights defenders.  [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/foreign-agents/]. In spite of the harassment the writer keeps up hope that justice will ultimately prevail:

“……Two years ago, the law adopted by the State Duma entered into force. It is universally known as the “Foreign Agents” law, despite the fact that it is actually an amendment to an old law “on non-commercial organisations”. The updated law with all its novelties wasn’t put into use at first, but in February 2013 the Russian Prosecutor’s Office began mass inspections of NGOs across the country. These inspections were followed by court hearings. The wide-scale campaign to smear NGOs began.

However, despite the authorities’ demands, human rights activists refused to call themselves foreign agents voluntarily. When all the Russian NGOs united in solidarity and declared, once for all, that they are not “agents”, it prompted widespread admiration.

Russian authorities had to rush to modify the fateful law. Following these amendments, “foreign agents” are now being unilaterally registered, without any judicial review. The leading human rights organizations are on this list too. Registration now consists of a penstroke by the Ministry of Justice. Just this week, two more organizations were put on the register and stigmatized by the “foreign agent” label.

Russian NGOs still reject the insulting stigma – none of the forcibly registered organizations is going to lie to themselves and to society. They are not “agents”. These people, representing various NGOs in different cities around our country are working for the good of our fellow citizens by helping those whose rights have been violated by the Russian authorities.

The past two years of pressure and denigration of civil society activists, the wave of state propaganda and streams of lies and insults have made the lives of human rights defenders, environmentalists and activists very difficult. Their struggle is widely known amongst their NGO colleagues in other countries, evident through numerous solidarity actions that have been conducted abroad in support of Russian civil society over the past two years.

Up to the present day, on the second anniversary of the shameful “Foreign Agents” law, almost 150 NGOs – national and international – have signed a letter to President Putin calling for him to overturn the disgraceful legislation.

Along with my colleagues from Amnesty International, and in the presence of journalists, this week I delivered this letter to the Presidential Administration. Our colleagues from 32 countries that have signed the letter are now waiting for Russian authorities to react.

We brought the letter with six pages of signatures and a 90cm x 150cm poster reprinting the words of the letter. To our great surprise, both were accepted, although the large poster caused some fuss among Presidential Administration employees.

One might say: “Oh, everything is meaningless.” It is nothing like that. More than 50 years of Amnesty International activism in every region of the world suggests the opposite.

There were darker days in the history of our country. We experienced numerous campaigns of lies and slander against individual citizens, groups of citizens and nations. Mudslingers have been always singing from the same song sheet as the authorities.

However, the inexorable course of history teaches us that truth is always restored and justice prevails. It may take years, and sometimes requires a lot of strength.

But we all know that those defamed and stigmatized with the “foreign agent” label are very brave and courageous people. And ultimately, this dark page of history will be remembered with disgust.

A version of this blog originally appeared (in Russian) on Ekho Moskvy’s website.

Open letter to Putin – 148 NGOs slam ‘foreign agents’ law | Amnestys global human rights blog.

Have human rights defenders encountered the end of their shaming powers?

May 25, 2014

It is late in the weekend but perhaps you still find time for an interesting long read by Suzanne Nossel, the Executive Director of the PEN American Center. She wrote this for Foreign Policy and it was reprinted in the Pittsburgh Post of 25 May. The article is a good overview with what has gone wrong recently with an increasing number of world leaders showing not to care much about human rights (accusations), an attitude which she dubs “imperviousness”. I am personally not convinced that this is an unstoppable tendency but we seem indeed to be in quite a dip compared to say a decade ago when it comes to the restraining power of the human rights movement. So the depressive conclusion of this relatively long piece is not too unexpected:  “The traditional tools of human rights activism — exposes, media attention and pressure from mostly credible Western governments — are falling short when it comes to some of the major challenges of the day. It is as if an expanding group of leaders has built up antibodies and these leaders can now resist where they previously would have succumbed. While it’s not time to give up on the traditional treatments, human-rights defenders need to get into the lab quickly and develop some new tactics before the virus of imperviousness spreads even further.” It would be interesting to get views from others on this question.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/2014/05/25/Impervious-to-shame/stories/201405250049#ixzz32l7PrPqD

Why so many rulers are impervious to shame – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

True Heroes Films starts office in Geneva on Monday 10 March

March 7, 2014

There seems to be almost unanimous agreement in the human rights movement that in outreach it will have to focus more on the visual aspects. In my end of year post in 2013 (see below) I tried to show to what extent this is already happening but a lot more systematic work is needed. Therefore it is good to be able to announce that True Heroes Films [THF] has concluded a coöperation agreement with the Geneva-based International Service for Human Rights [ISHR] with the purpose of supporting the visualisation process. As from Monday 10 March 2014 THF will operate a professionally equipped studio in the offices of the ISHR, strategically located close to the UN in Geneva. This will allow THF to provide images-related services, not just to the host but – against preferential fees – to all human rights organisations in the Geneva area.  Read the rest of this entry »

Human Rights TV is coming: here one of the first steps in Asia

December 16, 2013

I have often wondered why there is not a proper human rights (digital) TV channel. Technically is should be possible but it would require the true coöperation from the whole human rights movement to create a global channel. Glad to see that the Asian Human Rights Commission has started at least with a weekly programme. Here is episode 9 on Human Rights Day. Bravo!

Detention of human rights defender Yang Maodong in China

August 20, 2013

On 17 August 2013, it emerged that Guangzhou-based human rights defender Mr Yang Maodong, better known by his pen name Guo Feixiong, had been detained on charges of “assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place”. Although in detention since 8 August 2013, Yang Maodong’s family were only notified by the police of his arrest on 17 August [!]. Yang Maodong is a well known figure in China‘s rights defence movement Read the rest of this entry »

Social Divisions Hinder Saudi Rights Movement explains insider

May 28, 2013

In an interesting blog post for Al-Monitor Bayan Perazzo (a professor in Saudi Arabia) writes on May 27 about the background to the human rights movement in Saudi Arabia. His detailed analysis seems very sound Read the rest of this entry »

UN Watch: simply anti UN and anti Pillay – NGOs should Watch Out

January 23, 2013

Today’s post, praising the Office of the High commissioner for Human Rights, lead a reader to draw my attention to the continuing attacks by UN Watch. In a recent post (9 January this year) I had already urged Human Rights Watch to take more and more publicly distance from this other NGO, but reading the website of UN Watch I realize that in fact all human rights organizations should take distance instead of being lured into signing up for an ad-hoc critical statement that suits them at that moment.

As an example I refer to the statement by UN Watch in May 2012 criticizing the extension of Mrs Pillay’s mandate. In an effort to make it sound as if a whole range of NGOs share UN Watch’s horror of this excellent High Commissioner it makes the assertion that “UN Watch is among more than 38 human rights groups that have “questioned Pillay’s record in taking on the most powerful blocs and repressive regimes“. In fact the questioning was done by a group of mostly unknown groups and – worse – the criticism only related to the High Commissioner’s (admittedly disappointing) decision not to attend the reception in Oslo for Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo back in 2010. I have severe doubts that all of the NGOs agreed with the sweeping statement regarding Pillay’s record!

To get an idea of who the groups in question are I have reproduced the far from impressive the list below. If any feel that they do not want to be associated with this rabid and manipulating anti-UN NGO they should stand up and be counted! The prevalence of pro-Israel and anti-Cuba groups is remarkable in itself.

Hillel C. Neuer
Executive Director
United Nations Watch
Switzerland

Art Kaufman
Director
World Movement for Democracy
United States

Tashi Albertini
President
Associazone TicinoTibet
Switzerland

Abdurashid Abdulle Abikar
Chairman
Center for Youth and Democracy
Somalia

Nguyên Lê Nhân Quyên
Vietnamese League for Human Rights in Switzerland

Ted Brooks
Executive Director
Committee for Peace and Development Advocacy
Liberia

Benjamin Abtan
SOS Racisme

Bernard Schalscha
Secrétaire général
Collectif Urgence Darfour

Ulrich Delius
Asia Desk
Society for Threatened Peoples
Germany

Shomik Chaudhuri
Vice President
Institute of International Social Development
India

Carlos E. Tinoco
Consorcio Desarrollo y Justicia, A.C.
Venezuela

Peter Hesse
Director, Fondation Peter Hesse (www.solidarity.org)
Germany

Logan Maurer
Regional manager
International Christian Concern (www.persecution.org)
United States

Dr. Theodor Rathgeber
Forum Human Rights
Germany

Rene Wadlow
Representative to the UN, Geneva
Association of World Citizens
Switzerland

Natalia Taubina
Director
Public Verdict Foundation
Russia

Sylvia G. Iriondo
President
Mothers and Women against Repression (MAR por Cuba)

Nataliya Gourjii
Executive Director
Charitable Foundation ROKADA
Ukraine

Elena Bevilacqua
Director of Headquarters
International Union of Notaries (U.I.N.L.)

John Suarez
International Secretary
Directorio Democratico Cubano

Omar Lopez
Human Rights Director
The Cuban American National Foundation
United States

Klaus Netter
Main Representative, UN Office in Geneva
Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations
Switzerland

Volodymyr Yavorskyy
Executive Director
Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union

Jean Stoner
NGO Representative
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
United States

Zohra Yusuf
Council Member
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

Heng-Hao (Leo) Chang
Secretary General
International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations

Sharon Gustafson
President
International Council of Jewish Women

Dr. Yael Danieli
Senior Representative to the United Nations
International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

Thomas Leys
President
International Federation of Liberal Youth

Do Hoang Diem
Chairman
Viet Tan
Vietnam

Alim A. Seytoff
Vice-President
Uyghur American Association

Bhawani Shanker Kusum
Secretary and Executive Director
Gram Bharati Samiti
India

Francois Garaï
Representative
World Union of Progressive Judaism

Mamadi Kaba
President
RADDHO
Guinee

Dieudonné Zognong
Fondation Humanus
Cameroon

Dickson Ntwiga
Executive Director
Solidarity House International

Amina Bouayach
President
Moroccan Organization for Human Rights (OMDH)

Amaya Valcarcel
International Advocacy Coordinator
Jesuit Refugee Service
Italy

The website of UN Watch – quite smart, well-organised and with plenty of videos – is there for all to see:  http://blog.unwatch.org/index.php/category/navi-pillay/

Humor as weapon in the human rights arsenal

January 14, 2013

From  Monday 14 – Friday 18 January 2013 Tactical Dialogue and New Tactics in Human Rights are organizing again an on-line conversation on Using Humor to Expose the Ridiculous.

All over the world, human rights activists use humour, irony, satire, parody and lampooning to express dissent and challenge the absurdities of institutional power.

They expose the lies, deceptions and sheer absurdities in their speech.

However, this is not without risks, which are particularly high in times of political turmoil.

So how exactly do activists in different parts of the world use humor to take on institutional power? How do they choose their tactics? What are the challenges they face in their work? And how do they overcome them? This online conversation will be an opportunity to exchange experiences, lessons-learned and ideas among practitioners using humor to challenge regimes and societies, and provoke citizens to reevaluate the way they think, and sometimes even push them to join them in their campaigns.

A few years ago, the same organizations hosted a conversation on a topic similar to this month’s conversation. It was called “Tactical that Tickle: Laughing all the way to the win”. Lessons from that exercise are available on-line via:

Using Humor to Expose the Ridiculous | New Tactics in Human Rights.

HURIDOCS exists 30 years: my interview now on line

November 30, 2012

HURIDOCS

Hans Thoolen talks about the excitement of founding HURIDOCS, why the human rights community nowadays resembles a church with too many priests (and too few believers) and what made Latin American human rights defenders embrace technology before everyone else. Looking back at decades of involvement in human rights work, he also sketches out his idea of a multimedia platform that gives human rights defenders the space to inspire others. 

What was the most exciting idea about founding HURIDOCS?
It started for me and the others at this conference in 1979 near Paris. During this conference we sensed there was space for better cooperation among NGOs, especially with new technology. Mind you: this was 1979, well before the internet, and information technology was hardly used. Our idea was to somewhere, somehow seek some level of agreement among NGOs – or at least to create the tools with which working together would be possible in the future.

in 1982 Quito with Jose Antonio Viera de Gallo from Chile

Hans Thoolen (second from right) at the Quito conference in Spring 1982, the most important conference before HURIDOCS was officially founded a few months later.

How did you move on from there?
That idea survived the meeting and there was some money left over from the Ford Foundation and that was used to have informal consultations. So for a few years, Martin Ennals, who had just stepped down as secretary-general of Amnesty International, Friederike Knabe, Laurie Wiseberg, Bjorn Stormorken and myself (working for the International Commission of Jurists) were the people who worked on the follow-up. We had meetings in London, Brussels, Oslo and Geneva and we were asking NGOs what they thought of the potential of information technology and testing out ideas on information exchange.

That slowly lead to the first big conference, in Quito, Ecuador, in 1982, partly because the Latinos had taken to the use of technology well before the West – in the NGO world, not in the business world, of course. This maybe was surprising, but when you thought about it, not that strange.

Why not? And how did this lead to the founding of HURIDOCS?

…….

………

and the rest you have to read yourself on:

http://www.huridocs.org/2012/11/we-were-breaking-new-ground/