Posts Tagged ‘human rights violations’

Annual reports 2019: CIVICUS Global Report

December 27, 2019

The end of a year usually means looking back and many human rights NGOs issue reports of this kind. Here is the first by CIVICUS, through its Monitor:

Civic space – space for civil society – is the bedrock of any open and democratic society. When civic space is open, citizens and civil society organisations (CSOs) are able to organise, participate and communicate without hindrance. When people are free to participate, they are able to claim their rights and influence the political and social structures around them. This can only happen when a state holds by its duty to protect its citizens and respectsand facilitates their fundamental rights to associate, assemble peacefully and freely express their views andopinions. These are the three key rights that civil society depends upon.

The CIVICUS Monitor analyses the extent to which these three civil society rights are being respected and upheld, and the degree to which states areprotecting civil society. In an attempt to capture these dynamics on a global scale, over 20 organisations from around the world have joined forces on the CIVICUS Monitor to provide an evidence base for action to improve civic space. In order to draw comparisons at the global level and track trends over time, the CIVICUS Monitor produces civic space ratings for 196 countries. Each country’s civic space is rated in one of five categories – open, narrowed, obstructed, repressed, or closed – based on a methodology that combines several sources of data on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression. Civic space updates from our research partners contain qualitative, narrative information related to the situation for civil society in a country. This qualitative information is directed by a set of guiding questions and the resulting data is gathered from a variety of primary and secondary sources. In many cases, country-specific updates have come directly from national civil society themselves. (Methodology: In countries where it does not have a research partner, the CIVICUS Monitor relies on a variety of other sources produced at the national, regional and international levels to arrive at country ratings. These civic space updates are then triangulated, verified and tagged by the CIVICUS team. Together, the research partners posted 536 civic space updates from 1 October 2018 to 11 November 2019 which form the basis for the analysis presented in this report. For the time period assessed, these civic space updates cover 153 countries. This report analyses trends and developments since its previous report, published in November 2018. As well as global-level trends, it analyses trends in five regions: Africa, Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Central Asia and Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Following an update of ratings in November 2019, the CIVICUS Monitor continues to tell a worrying story. The data shows that there are 24 countries with closed civic space, 38 countries with repressed space and 49 with obstructed space. Just 43 countries receive an open rating, and 42 countries are rated narrowed. Since our previous report, published in November 2018, space for activism has reduced: only three per cent of the world’s population now live in countries with open civic space. Nine countries have changed their civic space rating since our November 2018 update: two have improved their ratings, while seven have worsened. This indicates that repression of peaceful civic activism continues to be a widespread crisis for civil society in most parts of the world. Worrying signs for civic space continue to be seen in Asia, where two countries, Brunei and India, dropped their rating from obstructed to repressed. Given the size and global role of India, the decline in the quality of its civic space must be of particular concern. One country in the Pacific – Australia – dropped from an open to narrowed rating, partially due to increased restrictions on the freedom of expression and government surveillance

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/06/20-human-rights-defenders-under-attack-one-for-each-year-of-the-declaration/

https://civicus.contentfiles.net/media/assets/file/GlobalReport2019.pdf

The Dictator Hunter works from home

February 21, 2017

This blog tries to stick as much as possible to the core issue of human rights defenders and leaves general activism (even when inspired by human rights concerns) to other blogs. Now I want to make an exception for a personal Call for Action issued on 12 February 2017 by my good friend and well-known human rights defender, Reed Brody [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reed-brody/], who has earned his nickname The Dictator Hunter:

He passionately feels that we should all do more to stop Trump (and his admirers in Europe). Here the full text:

A letter from America to my friends abroad

Many of you are watching events in the United States and asking what is going on – and what you can do. 

Yes, this is the most dangerous moment for the US and for the world in my lifetime. A US president with total disregard for the foundations of a constitutional democracy – checks and balances, the independence of the judiciary, freedom of the press, the protection of minorities, reasoned debate – has near-complete control over the official levers of power: the executive branch (including the CIA, FBI, NSA), both houses of Congress, and perhaps soon the judiciary. 

On the other hand, I have never witnessed in my country the kind of mobilization we are seeing today. The nationwide Women’s Marches were the largest demonstrations in US history, but it was only the beginning. Each day brings new acts of resistance. When the “Muslim ban” was announced (a crude and cruel measure only designed to stoke fear and portray the president as the people’s protector), people spontaneously flooded the airports around the country, New York taxi drivers went on strike. When Uber tried to profit from the strike, 200,000 customers deleted their Uber accounts. Bodegas in New York closed to protest the ban. All around the country, citizens are packing elected officials’ town hall meetings, flooding Congress with petitions, postcards, and phone calls. The premier legal organization challenging Trump’s actions, the American Civil Liberties Union, raised $24 million in the days following the Ban. This week, 1,200 people crowded into my neighborhood synagogue to organize the next stages of the resistance in Brooklyn, and the same thing is happening all over the country. Everything is political. Sports. Oscars. Consumer choices. Companies are being forced to take stands, and many of them, particularly in high-tech and globalized industries, are opposing the president. 

It’s important to remember that WE are the majority. We are also the large majority in the places that matter most to the economy – New York, California, Washington DC, in almost all the nation’s cities.

This epic battle for the soul of my country is just beginning. The outcome is uncertain. The next terrorist attack, and the one after, will surely test us even more.

Ultimately it will be Americans who decide the fate of the US but there are many ways you can help.

-Protest, protest protest! People marched around the world marched with us on January 21, but it can’t stop there. The more organized protests at US embassies and symbols of US power the better. 

– Don’t give Trump the respect he doesn’t deserve. This week, the speaker of the House of Commons said that he would oppose having Trump address Parliament. Over 1.8 million Brits have signed a petition against any Trump visit. When Trump visits the UK, or anywhere, let him know how the people of the world feel. 

-Demand that your leaders stand up to Trump. Angela Merkel reminded Trump of the US’s obligations under the Refugee Convention. François Hollande has been outspoken. (Unlike Spain’s Rajoy who offered to be an “intermediary” for Trump in Europe and Latin America). 

-Like Canada’s Justin Trudeau, leaders should publicly welcome all people from all countries and specifically assure nationals of the 7 “banned” countries that they will be allowed in.

-Ask your country to rebuke Trump’s measures which violate international law such as the Muslim ban in international fora such as the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. The ACLU and other groups are already challenging these actions before the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights.

-Remind non-US companies that they also have obligations, as US law professors did when they wrote to European air carriers https://www-cdn.law.stanford.edu/…/Stanford-Law-Professors-… to ensure the rights of travelers. 

-Academics, experts, companies and even countries can join litigation in the US with “amicus curaie,” or “friends of the court” briefs. The legal attack on the Muslim ban has been joined https://lawfareblog.com/litigation-documents-resources-rela… by hundreds of technology companies, professors, cities and states, but it would be important for foreign voices to be heard on this and (probably) forthcoming cases.

-Boycott Trump products. Like a third-word kleptocratic dictator (and I know a thing or two) Trump is openly mixing the public and the private. Hit him where it hurts – his brand, his ego and his pocketbook. Phone numbers of his hotels are here  https://twitter.com/billmckibb…/…/829412430157602816/photo/1 A list with retailers that do business with the Trump family and whose boycott is sought by #GrabYourWallet ( as in Grab her Pussy) here
https://grabyourwallet.org/Boycott%20These%20Companies.html

-Join the over 5 million people who have signed Avaaz’s Global Open Letter to Donald Trump. https://secure.avaaz.org/cam…/…/president_trump_letter_loc/…

-Watch the daily TV show Democracy Now on the internet – it’s where progressives in the US get their news and connect to all the struggles here and abroad. https://www.democracynow.org/

Even if you live abroad, you can join and give your support to the groups that are defending our liberties like the Center for Constitutional Rights, Planned Parenthood, Democracy Now, the ACLU. The Nation’s Katha Politt lists some groups here https://www.thenation.com/…/you-might-not-be-in-the-mood-t…/ Here is a longer list http://www.advocate.com/…/24-trump-fighting-charities-need-… – 

-If the travel ban, or some version of it, is reinstated, we will need volunteers and volunteer lawyers at airports around the world to help stranded travelers and to communicate with volunteers at US airports .

Trump (“Only America first”) doesn’t care about what the rest of the world thinks, but the US political and economic establishment on whose acquiescence he depends does care. Make clear that a racist islamophobic US government will not enjoy the same status and goodwill. 

Most important, don’t let what happened in the US happen in your country!! Trump “won” the US election (just as Brexit prevailed) by building the fear of foreigners and because too many people (white working class) did not see the political system as working for them. The Democratic Party essentially imposed a candidate who many saw as the embodiment of an out-of-touch elite. The same thing now threatens to happen in France, the Netherlands and elsewhere. Please don’t let it. We need you to make a better world together.

In Solidarity

Reed Brody
reedbrody@gmail.com
twitter @reedbrody

 

TRIAL at 14 has a FACELIFT

June 13, 2016

TRIAL InternationalThe NGO TRIAL came into being on 6 June 2002. That day, its members met for their first General Assembly, laying out the organization’s mission which still constitute its cornerstones today: fighting impunity, supporting victims in their quest for justice and redress, building an international network of committed lawyers, advocating for fairer laws and policies.

Since then, TRIAL has never stopped expanding: it is now present on three continents and recognized as a key actor in the worldwide fight against impunity. It was therefore time for TRIAL’s identity to evolve and reflect this broader scope of action. For the past three years the  staff has worked on an important makeover.

TRIAL’s new identity includes a new name, a new visual identity and a new website:

TRIAL International will from now on be the organization’s official name. [“We have outgrown the names ‘Swiss association against impunity’ and ‘Track Impunity Always’, which will no longer be used”, explained Director Philip Grant“We believe that TRIAL International will better reflect our international scope, while remaining faithful to who we are”]

The new logo combines a spunky orange with a powerful black & white doors symbol.

The main facelift is TRIAL International’s new website. [“We wanted the navigation to be very intuitive, hence the simplified sitemap, the shorter texts and the refined search function. We also wished to bring to light the human aspect of our work, with victims’ stories at the forefront”, said Kevin Karlen, the organization’s Web Project Officer.]

Source: TRIAL turns fourteen and change is in the air – TRIAL

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/05/07/more-on-impunity-guatemalas-ex-police-chief-jailed-for-life-in-appeal-before-swiss-court/

How utterly wrong a Chinese newspaper commentary can be…

May 14, 2015

Zhu Junqing, writing in the Shanghai Daily of 13 May 2015, is the prime example of how distorted the Chinese government’s view of the international human rights regime is. Under the title: “U.S. needs to work on own human rights record first before blaming others“, the author quite rightly points to the UN Human Rights Council findings on 11 May and the comments by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, which conclude that there a lot of human right problems remain unresolved in the USA (including excessive use of force by law enforcement agencies, racial, religious and sex discrimination, Guantanamo Bay detention, migrant rights, environmental issues and counterterrorism practices). Also he recalls correctly that the United States is one of the two countries in the world that have not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and is reluctant on other international instruments.

But then the article draws exactly the wrong conclusion. Instead of appreciating the UN’s courage to tackle a superpower, it call the USA the “ultimate human rights judge” (why??) and concludes that this “self-proclaimed human rights watchdog, needs to examine itself critically and improve its own human rights record before [!] blaming other countries for their violations”. Since “no country is perfect in its human rights record,” as Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying put it, “any country with human rights defects should work hard to resolve its own problems and improve its own human rights record before casting the first stone”.

Yep, that it the solution! Nobody criticizes anybody and we are all happy. The more obvious and consistent solution does not even get mentioned: IF the USA can be criticized, WHY is China so fearful and retaliates regularly against human rights defenders? [e.g. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/china-in-the-un-human-rights-council-manages-to-silence-cao-shunli-as-well-as-ngos/ ].

China’s own extraordinary sensitivity to ‘interference’ of any level into what it considers its domestic affairs is well-known. I touched upon this hot’ topic’ in my own 2011 article “The international human rights movement: not perfect, but a lot better than many governments think” in the book ‘NGOs in China and Europe’ (exceptionally also published in Chinese!): Yuwen Li (ed), Ashgate, 2011, pp 287-304 (ISBN: 978-1-4094-1959-4).

Commentary: U.S. needs to work on own human rights record first before blaming others | Shanghai Daily.

Chief Registrar of Kenya promises action on 15,000 human rights complaints

March 4, 2015

Judiciary chief registrar Anne Amadi gestures while she appeared before PAC to shed light on the spending of the judiciary on June 10, 2014.pic\file

Judiciary chief registrar Anne Amadi on June 10, 2014.pic\file
If true, the news in The Star of 3 March 2015 is good news for human rights defenders in Kenya. The chief registrar Anne Amadi said that the judiciary is set to prosecute more than 15,000 cases on human rights violations across the country, adding that the backlog and delay of cases over the years have greatly affected administration of justice, especially affecting human rights defenders.

It is very unfortunate that the judiciary has never had clear policy frameworks to urgently deal with cases surrounding human rights violations and defenders,” Amadi said. Importantly, she added that the State has for years viewed human rights defenders’ pleas as criticisms and unpatriotic, hence used threats and physical surveillance to intimidate the human rights champions.

Amadi was speaking during the launch of a report on the situation of human rights defenders in Busia, Kwale and Marsabit counties.

Judiciary to prosecute 15,000 human rights cases, says Amadi | The Star.

Amnesty International’s annual report 2014/15 is out with video introduction

February 27, 2015

In case you missed it, AI‘s annual report came out some days ago. The video above gives a short summary.

As usual the report provides a comprehensive overview of the state of human rights in 160 countries over the course of 2014. Amnesty-Internationa

In its annual assessment of the world’s human rights, AI says that without urgent action and a fundamental shift in approach, there is strong reason to believe the next few years could see:

  • more civilian populations forced to live under the quasi-state control of armed groups, subject to abuse, persecution and attacks
  • deepening threats to freedom of expression and other rights, including violations caused by new draconian anti-terror laws and intrusive mass surveillance
  • a worsening humanitarian and refugee crisis with even more people displaced by conflict as governments continue to block borders and the international community fails to provide assistance and protection

If lessons are not learned – if governments continue to ignore the relationship between the current security crisis and the rights failures which have led us here – then what was a bad year for rights in 2014 could get even worse in the years to come,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

Human rights defender Kalimuthu Kandhasamy in Tamil Nadu arrested for using the word human rights!

February 26, 2015

HRD Alert – India (a Forum of Human Rights Defenders) and Front Line Defenders have called for the release of Mr Kalimuthu Kandhasamy who was arrested in the morning of 26 February 2015.

[Kalimuthu Kandhasamy is the District Organizer of Citizens for Human Rights Movement (CHRM), which provides legal counsel and assistance to victims of human rights violations in Tamil Nadu, including by providing assistance in complaints before courts, human rights institutions, law enforcement officials and other relevant bodies. The organisation was founded by People’s Watch, an NGO that monitors human rights violations and provides legal assistance to victims in Tamil Nadu. The human rights defender also works as an assistant to a lawyer providing legal representation in People’s Watch’s cases.]

The accusations against Kalimuthu Kandhasamy include, ‘impersonating a public servant’, cheating, and improper use of emblems. And here comes the almost funny part: the charges against Kalimuthu Kandhasamy are reportedly in relation to the fact that CHRM contains the words “human rights” in its title. It is claimed that this is in violation of the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, which reportedly states that no non-governmental institution should have the terms “human rights” in its name (this amendment was made on the recommendation of the Tamil Nadu State Human Rights Commission [SIC] that no non-governmental institution should have the terms “human rights” in its name! Would seem a clear violation of the right to association). The accusations are being brought under sections 170 and 420 of the Indian Penal Code, and Section 5 of the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act 1950.

The human rights defender denies that either he or CHRM have posed as a public authority.

Mexico Activists Convene First People’s Constitutional Assembly

February 11, 2015

Catholic priest, human rights defender and key organizer, Raul Vera, addressing the assembly.

Catholic priest, human rights defender and key organizer, Raul Vera, addressing the assembly. | Photo: Victor Figueroa / teleSUR

Marking the anniversary of the signing of Mexico’s 1917 constitution, activists, intellectuals and citizens participated in the first national ‘Citizen’s and Popular Constituent Assembly’ to propose a ‘bottom-up’ revision of Mexico’s Magna Carta. So reports teleSur on 5 February.  The assembly, held in Mexico City and attended by nearly 1000 people, proposes to develop a new constitution that prioritizes social, political and economic rights.

One of the assembly’s key organizers, catholic bishop and social activist, Raul Vera, said that the current state and crisis of violence as well as political and economic corruption in Mexico is a primary driving force behind the initiative.“Justice and rights have disappeared for the mass majority of the Mexican multitude of poor and the small number of middle class that remains…thus, the idea of forming a new constitution in Mexico comes from the idea, finality, objective that we Mexican citizens can be become subjects of the country’s historical construction,”said the human rights defender in his address to the crowd.

Participating in the assembly were families of the disappeared 43 Ayotzinapa students, their fellow classmates, as well as human rights defenders, writers, artists, priests, students and labor leaders.

The Catholic priest and respected migrant rights defender, Alejandro Solalinde, exclaimed that the assembly and its objectives rule out the participation of political parties in the process, declaring that legislators “do not represent anybody.” Solalinde went on to send a message to Mexico’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto, that the work of the assembly will move forward to push for peaceful systemic political and social change. “It depends on you [Pena Nieto] that the changes will be pacific, we are going to carry them out no matter what, but if you repress or use force and violence, you will be the only one responsible … you will be guilty,” Solalinde stated.

Although it remains unclear as to how the assembly’s findings and declarations will be implemented legally, organizers say that the grassroots work and proposals of viable alternatives will carry on beyond 2017, marking 100 years of the original constitutional assembly of the Mexican Revolution.

Mexico Activists Convene First People’s Constitutional Assembly | News | teleSUR.

Human Rights Defenders and Anti-Corruption campaigners should join hands

January 29, 2015

Jamil Nasir, a graduate of Columbia University, wrote on 10 December 2014 a short piece on the link between human rights and corruption: “The corruption link”. The author concludes that “Human rights defenders should not consider themselves just as activists; similarly anti-corruption champions should also not limit themselves like that. A bridge needs to be built between human rights and anti-corruption activists.” The article follows below in full:
The world celebrates ‘Anti-corruption Day’ and ‘Human Rights Day’ on December 9 and 10, respectively. Corruption and human rights are inextricably linked, but these linkages are not emphasised much in literature or discourse on corruption. The detrimental impact of corruption on economic growth and development is now well documented. It is a fact that corruption kills the incentive system, distorts technology choices, misallocates talent, promotes tax evasion and retards economic growth.And how does corruption impact human rights? First, it reduces the capacity of the state to protect, respect, and enforce its obligations with regard to the fundamental human rights enshrined in the social contract between the citizens and the state. For example, ‘access to justice’ and ‘security of life, property and honour’ are fundamental human rights. Can these rights be protected with a corruption-ridden judicial and police system? Our own current system is a pertinent example.Corruption in the judiciary and the police is not a secret in our country. When we talk of corruption in the judicial system, it does not mean prismatic decisions and judgements only. Granting adjournments to benefit one of the parties to a dispute is also corruption. When it comes to the police, corruption is not about flawed investigations but also non-submission of challans in the court on time. Consequently, the weaker party gets so disillusioned that it either does not pursue the case or enters into forced compromise.

Thus corruption affects fundamental rights as well as procedural rights like due process – the. right not to have undue delay in court proceedings and the right to a fair trial. Is it not corruption that has reduced the capacity of our state to enforce fundamental human rights? Have the court and police systems not become dysfunctional? Are these institutions not making the people poor rather than providing them quick justice?

This corruption lowers economic development and undermines poverty alleviation. The social contract obligates that the state should provide an environment where people can realise their full potential. Is such an environment possible without adequate resources with the state? Corruption reduces the level of revenues which consequently reduce the capacity of the state to fund basic social services. Again, Pakistan is a pertinent case. Due to corruption, tax evasion is rampant. Corruption also affects targeting of social programmes. If corrupt practices are pervasive, leakages in such programmes will usually be high. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the money allocated for various social spending and poverty alleviation programmes have not reached the intended targets. A substantial percentage of such funding was squandered away during the process of distribution. Further, targeting of the poor was riddled with nepotism and patronage.

Moreover, corruption enhances the operating costs of the government and reduces the resources available for social spending. The budget for the health and education sectors gets squeezed. It is an open secret now that the major chunk of the funds allocated for development of infrastructure like roads, schools and hospital buildings is eaten into by corruption in the form of commissions and kickbacks by the engineers, contractors and construction companies. And so corruption undermines development, deepens poverty and exacerbates other human rights violations.

Corruption can also violate human rights directly. If a corrupt judge takes a bribe to decide a case against an individual or a corrupt police officer takes a bribe not to properly investigate, that corruption directly violates human rights like the right to a fair trial. Corruption can manifest itself as the worst abuse of human dignity and rights.

One of the reports of Transparency International mentions a local public hospital in Zimbabwe whose nurses charged $5 every time the mother screamed while giving birth to a baby. This amount was charged as a penalty for raising alarm. Those women who were unable to pay the delivery fee were detained at the hospital until they had settled the debt. In this way, they were held hostage by the corruption prevalent in the hospital.

Corruption particularly targets the poor. For example, if a rickshaw driver or a street vendor pays a meagre amount of bribe (assume Rs100) to a policeman to avoid harassment, the impact on these poor chaps will be deep and severe since even Rs100 constitutes a major chunk of their daily income. It is not a big amount in absolute terms but it eats into their already tight budget. Compared with the daily income of the wage earners, the impact of this seemingly little amount can be well imagined on the household budget of the poor.

On the other hand, if a businessman pays – assume Rs100,000 – to a tax collector, he will get enormous personal benefit. But due to this collusion of the tax evader and the tax collector, millions of rupees will be dribbled through corruption. The taxes evaded due to this under the table deal, if properly collected, could be utilised for developing infrastructure, transfer payments or spent on poverty alleviation programmes.

This simple illustration shows that corruption adversely affects the poor. Second, it may also benefit the rich which is perhaps one explanation of the tolerance of the rich and the elite towards corruption in society. According to Professor Pranab Bardhan, corruption feeds on itself due to a variety of reasons. First, it is beneficial for the payer and the payee. Second, it is so entrenched that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Third, once corruption takes root in society, it is exceedingly difficult to eliminate.

It is time the discourse on corruption included the human rights perspective. A clear understanding between corruption and human rights can empower both human rights activists and those working against corruption. If linkages between corruption and rights become part of the narrative on corruption, attitudes will change. When people become more aware of the damage corruption causes to their fundamental rights, they are more likely to support campaigns against corruption. This new discourse can persuade key actors like judges, parliamentarians, lawyers, media and the public at large to take a strong stand against corruption. Connecting corruption to human rights violations means that acts of corruption can be challenged in a court of law as violation of fundamental human rights.

Weak human rights protection creates possibilities for corruption which also means that the promotion of human rights can be one of the tools against corruption. For example, promotion of the right to freedom of expression and information can go a long way in combating corruption in society. The right to information is critical in the fight against corruption.

Human rights defenders should not consider themselves just as activists; similarly anti-corruption champions should also not limit themselves like that. A bridge needs to be built between human rights and anti-corruption activists. This will be possible once the dots are connected and linkages between corruption and human rights are consciously explored for a joint struggle. Both human rights organisations and anti-corruption agencies should make a resolve to work together. The fight against corruption and the promotion of human rights are too important to be left to disjointed endeavours.”

The corruption link – Jamil Nasir.

Round up of 2014 in human rights images

December 30, 2014

What better way for a blog that is interested in the power of images for human rights than this overview – courtesy of Witness – which published this compilation on 10 December 2014. To see the original videos used in this montage and more about them, as well as a map of videos curated on the Human Rights Channel in 2014, an accompanying article by the curator, and more, click on the following link: http://bit.ly/HRC-2014

The music is from: We Always Thought the Future Would Be Kind of Fun by Chris Zabriskie.

http://hrc.witness.org

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OF YOU.