Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights Watch’

Human Rights Watch’ Omar Shakir loses his appeal in Israeli Supreme Court

November 6, 2019

On 5 November 2019, the Israeli Supreme Court dismissed the appeal against the Jerusalem District Court’s decision to uphold a deportation order against Human Rights Watch (HRW) representative in Israel and Palestine, Omar Shakir, who is accused by the State of supporting the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement. The Court ruled that Shakir must leave the country in 20 days. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/18/israel-deportation-of-human-rights-watchs-staff-member-again-on-the-table/]

HRW stated “Omar Shakir’s Expulsion Would Send Chilling Message“. The Israeli NGO “Human Rights Defenders Fund” issued the following statment on the case:

The Court dismissed the claim raised by Shakir’s lawyers Michael Sfard and Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man, according to which he did not violate the law that authorizes the exclusion from Israel of those who call for or support boycotting Israel or an area under its control (Amendment no. 28 to the Entry into Israel Law, 2017). The Court also rejected a request to suspend proceedings until a new Israeli government is formed following the September elections and could consider whether to proceed with the deportation.

The constitutional claims raised in the appeal were not directly addressed by the Court, which stated that the constitutionality of Amendment no. 28 to the Entry into Israel Law will be examined in a separate petition currently pending before the High Court of Justice.

The Court further dismissed the claim that Shakir did not call to boycott Israel, but was merely fulfilling HRW’s long-held mandate in calling businesses not to contribute to human rights violations in the OPT. Head of the panel of judges, Justice Neal Hendel, adopted the State’s position and asserted that Shakir’s Tweets throughout the years, including the ones he posted on behalf of HRW regarding corporate responsibility in the OPT, all amount to active and consistent promotion of boycott activity.

One of the more disconcerting aspects of the Court’s decision is the conflation of Shakir’s independent activities prior to joining HRW with actions taken more recently in his capacity as a researcher at HRW, such as HRW reports shared on his social media, as indication that there is “enough evidence to show substantial, coherent and consistent involvement of Shakir in promoting boycott, in violation of the law.” 

The most disturbing component of the ruling is the Court’s holding that the law’s application extends to those who use boycott to promote the protection of human rights in the OPT, in accordance with international law:

“[…] the subjective aim of Amendment no. 28 […] validates that a call to boycott Israel may be included within the meaning of the law, even if its reasoning is founded on the protection of human rights or on the norms of international law. In fact, it seems that the possibility of disguising a call for boycott under a human rights discourse will devoid Amendment no. 28 of its content and harm its objective aim — fighting the boycott movement. These aims demonstrate that [the text of the law] is not only limited to boycott that is based on political opposition to Israel’s control of the territories, but also includes boycott that is based on the identification of the Israeli control in the territories as a violation of international law.”   
Following that statement, the Court held that since Shakir’s activity regarding corporate responsibility in the OPT is based on his entire opposition to the legitimacy of the Israeli settlements in the OPT, his work constitutes illegal support of boycott in violation of Israeli law.

In addition, the Court stated that HRW is not considered to be a “BDS organization” and reassured that its activity will not be harmed by the decision to deport one of his representatives. Furthermore, the Court dismissed the petitioners’ concerns by stating that the current decision will not affect other human right defenders and organizations who will want to enter Israel.

Nonetheless, HRDF views this ruling as a dangerous precedent that reflects the shrinking space for human rights advocates who defend human rights in the context of the occupation.

Following the decision, Adv. Sfard stated: “Today, Israel has joined countries like Syria, Iran and North Korea, who have also deported Human Rights Watch representatives in attempt to silence criticism against human rights abuses committed in their territory. The Supreme Court’s decision gives Israel a dangerous and anti-democratic veto power over the identity of the representatives of international organizations operating in Israel and in the OPT. Today they deport Omar, and tomorrow they will deport other representatives, foreign journalists and anyone who opposes the government policies in the occupied territories.”

Adv. Schaeffer Omer-Man added: “Today’s Supreme Court ruling not only lends legitimacy to Israel’s attempts to mask its disapproval of Human Rights Watch’s activities condemning settlement activity in the OPT by deporting Omar Shakir, but it threatens to deepen the already pervasive self-censorship by Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders who are more vulnerable than ever to persecution for legitimate advocacy against Israeli violations of international law.”

Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth stated: “The Supreme Court has effectively declared that free expression in Israel does not include completely mainstream advocacy for Palestinian rights. If the government now deports Human Rights Watch’s researcher for asking businesses to respect rights as we do across the world, there is no telling whom it will throw out next.”
 
HRDF stands in solidarity with Omar Shakir and Human Rights Watch. The decision to deport Shakir on grounds of support for boycott is only one measure in the ever-growing efforts of the Israeli authorities in recent years to delegitimize human rights defenders, silence political expression and shut down the work of human rights organizations who report human rights abuses in the OPT.

The law on which the Court’s ruling relies is only one of a long line of legislation passed in recent years designed to delegitimize and sanction human rights defenders and organizations, block their funding, impose obstacles to their work, and create a chilling effect on Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights organizations.

The State’s and the Court’s insistence on separating Shakir’s work from HRW is artificial and its purpose is solely to conceal the harsh and far-reaching ramifications of this decision, which will enable the state to dictate and censor the work of human rights organizations who monitor and report human rights abuses in Israel and in the OPT. The international community must not be affected by this attempt to separate between HRW and its employee, Omar Shakir, as giving in to such tactics would harm the solidarity and support that all human rights defenders deserve.

(contact the HRDF team with any questions you might have: noa@hrdf.org.il)

———-

https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/11/05/israel-supreme-court-greenlights-deporting-human-rights-watch-official

https://mailchi.mp/18f35a27e33d/update-israeli-supreme-court-dismisses-appeal-against-the-deportation-of-human-rights-watch-israel-and-palestine-director-omar-shakir?e=51113b9c0e

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/10/israel-opt-amnesty-staff-member-faces-punitive-travel-ban-for-human-rights-work/

Israel: deportation of Omar Shakir must be halted and the work of human rights defenders protected

 

Kenya: human rights defenders active in outreach during October 2019

November 2, 2019

Human Rights Watch sees a tiny light at the end of the Uzbek tunnel

October 13, 2019

Human Rights Watch takes populist leaders in UN to task

September 25, 2019

World leaders gathering for the United Nations General Assembly should reject the abusive policies of autocratic populists and promote greater respect for human rights worldwide, Human Rights Watch said ton 23 September 2019. Four leaders who have spearheaded aggressive attacks on human rights at home and at times abroad – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, US President Donald Trump, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – will open the annual General Debate at UN headquarters on September 24, 2019.

European Court rules on Sergei Magnitsky’s death

August 29, 2019

Ahmed Reda Benchemsi, HRW staff member, expelled from Algeria

August 21, 2019

Former Moroccan journalist Ahmed Reda Benchemsi. / Ph. DR

On 20 August 2019 Human Rights Watch (HRW) denounced Algeria’s expulsion of former Moroccan journalist Ahmed Reda Benchemsi, who acts as its Middle East communications and advocacy director. In a statement, the NGO recalled that Benchemsi arrived in Algeria on August 1 on behalf of the organization. Police arrested him on August 9 around 2 pm, while he «was observing the 25th consecutive Friday pro-democracy demonstration in downtown Algiers». Authorities confiscated his phone and laptop and «ordered him to provide his passwords to unlock both devices, which he refused to do».

«Ahmed Benchemsi was in Algiers simply doing his job observing human rights conditions», executive director of Human Rights Watch Kenneth Roth said. «His arbitrary arrest and mistreatment send the message that authorities don’t want the world to know about the mass protests for more democracy in Algeria», Roth added.

Benchemsi lawfully entered Algeria and revealed his professional affiliation at the request of the authorities, said HRW, recalling that the Moroccan had already made three trips to Algeria since 2017 on behalf of the organization. The Algerian authorities have not, at any time, informed Benchemsi of the charges he could be facing or the legal basis to confiscate and keep his passports, his telephone and his laptop, or to demand that he provides the passwords of the devices, he denounces. «Benchemsi’s mistreatment is a sobering reminder of the risks faced every day by Algerian human rights defenders exposing and reporting on government abuses», Roth concluded.

https://en.yabiladi.com/articles/details/82356/denounces-arrest-mistreatment-ahmed-reda.html

https://allafrica.com/stories/201908200439.html

One-day dialogue on Human Rights Council membership on 1 july 2019

June 12, 2019

ISHR, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch organise a meeting on STRENGTHENING AND LEVERAGING HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL MEMBERSHIP on Monday 1 July 2019, 13h00-14h30 Restaurant des Délégués, 8th Floor, Palais des Nations, Geneva.The composition of the HRC has captured significant public attention over the past year – with people around the world rightly asking: how can States accused of gross and systematic human rights violations become members of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council? And what does that mean for the credibility and effectiveness of this body? Clearly, for the HRC to be effective, and to be credible and relevant to the wider human rights community, and the wider public, it needs members committed to the promotion and protection of human rights at home and abroad in its 47 seats, as foreseen by UNGA resolution 60/251. Of course, no State has a perfect human rights record, and a wide and diverse range of States should be encouraged to address their shortcomings and enhance their commitment to human rights through HRC participation and engagement. While the argument does not apply to candidates that are in clear breach of the membership criteria, HRC membership may be an important incentive for national-level change, particularly where States, as candidates, make voluntary pledges and commitments, and are willing and able to implement them. The framing and implementation of those pledges and commitments is, however, rarely discussed at national or international level. Against this backdrop, in February 2019, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and HRC-net convened a one-day dialogue bringing together national and regional actors – including human rights defenders and NHRIs – with a cross-regional group of State representatives, OHCHR officials and international civil society, to address two important and interlinked questions regarding HRC membership: 1) how can we encourage greater respect and application of the membership criteria clearly set out in GA resolution 60/251; and 2) how can a State’s membership of the HRC be leveraged for positive change on human rights at national level? Drawing on good practices and lessons learned, participants identified a range of challenges, opportunities and practical recommendations. A report of the one-day dialogue will be presented during a lunch time reception at the Restaurant des Délégués on 1 July, in the side-lines of the 41st session of the Human Rights Council. The reception will provide an opportunity for the presentation of some of the key challenges, opportunities and practical recommendations identified in the report, including with regards to good practice relating to candidacy and membership of the HRC.

Speakers:

  • Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the UN
  • Salma El Hosseiny, ISHR’s Human Rights Council Advocate
  • Hilary Power, Amnesty International’s Senior UN Advocate

Please RSVP by clicking here <https://crm.ishr.ch/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=884&qid=111418> by 19 June 2019 to confirm your participation at this event.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/09/02/hrc-elections-how-do-the-candidates-for-2018-rate-11-september-events/

Robert Bernstein, publisher and human rights advocate, dies at 96

May 29, 2019


Robert L. Bernstein was the publisher of Random House and founding chairman of Human Rights Watch. (Elisabeth D. Bernstein)

Standing at 6 foot 3, with freckled features and a low-key leadership style, Mr. Bernstein began his career as a junior office boy at Simon & Schuster and rose to become the president, chief executive and chairman of America’s most renowned publishing house…


Mr. Bernstein’s memoir, “Speaking Freely: My Life in Publishing and Human Rights,” was published in 2016. (Courtesy of the New Press)

For decades, he spent what few free hours he had promoting human rights, a passion that deepened in the 1970s when he visited Moscow with a delegation of American publishers. His meetings with dissidents such as Andrei Sakharov, the nuclear physicist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, led him to create the Fund for Free Expression, a group of writers, editors and other literary figures concerned with rights abuses around the world. In the aftermath of the 1975 Helsinki Accords, he also formed Helsinki Watch to monitor the protection of basic freedoms behind the Iron Curtain. It was followed by similar organizations centered on the Americas, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, which merged in 1988 to form Human Rights Watch.

Mr. Bernstein sometimes held board meetings for the organization out of Random House’s headquarters in Manhattan and participated in its research activities firsthand. In 1985 he flew to Nicaragua and drove “to within 20 miles of the Honduran border,” according to a Times report, “to investigate charges that acts of terrorism were being waged by the contras against unarmed civilians.”

Combining his interests, Mr. Bernstein published works by dissidents around the world, including Sakharov and his wife, Yelena Bonner; Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet political prisoner; Jacobo Timerman, who was tortured by Argentina’s military government in the 1970s; and Vaclav Havel, the Czech statesman and playwright.

Mr. Bernstein shifted his focus to Human Rights Watch, which was active in 70 countries by the time he stepped down as chairman in 1998. That same year, President Bill Clinton honored him as one of the first recipients of the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights, calling Mr. Bernstein “a pathbreaker for freedom of expression and the protection of rights at home and abroad.”..

In 2009, he took the unusual step of criticizing the organization he had founded, writing in an op-ed column for the Times that Human Rights Watch had issued reports “on the Israeli-Arab conflict that are helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.”

The group, he argued, was better served focusing on closed authoritarian states such as Iran than condemning violations of international law in Israel. (Two chairs of the organization disagreed with his reasoning, writing in a letter to the Times that “it is essential to hold Israel to the same international human rights standards as other countries.”)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/robert-bernstein-random-house-publisher-and-human-rights-advocate-dies-at-96/2019/05/28/6b85f126-8153-11e9-bce7-40b4105f7ca0_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.bd940d7ef530

In memoriam human rights defender Tejshree Thapa of Human Rights Watch

April 3, 2019

Iran cracks down on Nasrin Sotoudeh and other human rights defenders

March 12, 2019

Nasrin Sotoudeh

Sotoudeh was charged with spying, spreading propaganda and insulting Iran’s supreme leader. Photograph: Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images

Only yesterday I hoped that Nasrin Sotoudeh‘s invitation to the G7 would set a good precedent [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/11/does-g7-set-a-precedent-with-sotoudeh-for-inviting-human-rights-defenders/], now Reuters reports that she has been handed a new sentence that her husband said was 38 years in prison and 148 lashes! The news comes days after Iran appointed a hardline new head of the judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, who is a protege of Ali Khamenei. The appointment is seen as weakening the political influence of the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani. (NOTE: Her husband clarified later that she will be serving 10 years of the 33 he had announced on his Facebook page and in an interview with Radio Farda)

In the meantime AI reports that a series of videos shared on social media in recent weeks have shed light on the daily harassment and violent attacks women in Iran face at the hands of morality police and pro-government vigilantes seeking to enforce the country’s forced hijab (veiling) laws. The videos show members of the public or plain-clothes morality police aggressively confronting or attacking women for defying Iran’s degrading forced hijab laws, in the name of defending “public decency”. Perpetrators of such attacks appear to be getting bolder in their assaults in response to efforts by women to film the violence they face and share the videos on social media. “The video footage that has emerged in recent weeks demonstrates the shocking levels of abuse women in Iran face on a daily basis from morality police or pro-government thugs simply for daring to defy the country’s abusive forced hijab laws,” said Philip Luther of Amnesty International.  Iranian women’s rights defenders have courageously filmed these incidents as part of the My Camera My Weapon campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the constant harassment and assault that women and girls face in Iran’s streets as a result of forced hijab laws.

Amnesty added:…..The charges on which Nasrin Sotoudeh was convicted include “inciting corruption and prostitution” and “openly committing a sinful act… by appearing in public without a hijab”. Some of the activities that the authorities have cited as “evidence” against her include: opposing forced hijab; removing her headscarf during prison visits; defending women who peacefully protested against forced hijab; giving media interviews about the violent arrest and detention of women protesting against forced hijab; and placing flowers at the scene where a woman protester was violently arrested.

The UN Human Rights Council also was dealing with Iran this week: Worrying patterns of intimidation, arrest, prosecution, and ill-treatment of human rights defenders, lawyers, and labour rights activists in Iran signal an increasingly severe State response to protests and strikes in the country, Javaid Rehman, the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, said on 12 March 2019. “Today, the people of Iran face a myriad of challenges,” he told the Human Rights Council in Geneva. “Many have voiced their concern through protests, demonstrations, and strikes. People from diverse sections of society – from truck drivers to teachers to factory workers – across the country have protested.” “It is in this context of increased challenges that concerns are mounting about human rights, including the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and to association in Iran,” he said, calling on the Government to release all those detained for exercising such rights. Presenting his first report to the Council, Rehman said the re-imposition of secondary sanctions by the United States of America had further increased concerns for the welfare of ordinary Iranians.

The Special Rapporteur also highlighted the alarming health situations of numerous imprisoned individuals such as human rights defender Arash Sadeghi [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/30/iran-shameful-sentences-for-narges-mohammadi-issa-saharkhiz-arash-sadeghi-no-detente-in-human-rights/]. Rehman also highlighted the situation of prominent woman human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh who was reportedly convicted last week of charges related to her work and could face a lengthy prison sentence. Other issues raised in his report include concerns regarding the right to life and to fair trial, the situation of detained foreign and dual nationals, and the treatment of religious and ethnic minorities.

Human Rights Watch commented that the Iranian judiciary’s draconian sentence for a prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was an “appalling travesty of justice“.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/11/human-rights-lawyer-nasrin-sotoudeh-jailed-for-38-years-in-iran

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/03/iran-pro-government-vigilantes-attack-women-for-standing-up-against-forced-hijab-laws/

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1903/S00091/iran-un-expert-concerned-by-crackdown-on-protests.htm

https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/03/12/iran-decades-long-sentence-womens-rights-defender

https://en.radiofarda.com/a/jail-term-ambiguity-clarified-for-iran-rights-defender—eu-protests/29817359.html