Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights Watch’

World Health Organization reconsidering Mugabe as “goodwill ambassador”

October 22, 2017

he head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is rethinking his decision to name Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, as a goodwill ambassador.  The move provoked global outrage. WHO member states and activists alike noted that Zimbabwe’s health care system, like many of its public services, has collapsed under Mugabe’s regime. I’m listening. I hear your concerns. Rethinking the approach in light of WHO values. I will issue a statement as soon as possible,” Tedros, a former Ethiopian health minister, tweeted on Saturday night.

The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, came closest when he said he thought Mugabe’s appointment “was a bad April Fool’s joke”. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/10/23/mugabe-wins-chinese-peace-prize-this-time-for-real/]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it was an embarrassment to give the ambassador role to Mr Mugabe, because his “utter mismanagement of the economy has devastated health services”. The main opposition party in Zimbabwe, MDC, described the appointment as “laughable”…“Mugabe trashed our health delivery system. He and his family go outside of the country for treatment in Singapore after he allowed our public hospitals to collapse.”

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) also condemned the decision by the World Health Organization (WHO): “The irony of the World Health Organization’s decision to praise Robert Mugabe is staggering. This a strongman infamous for seeking medical attention for himself abroad. His recent visits to Singapore for medical treatment have cost Zimbabwean taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. Mugabe can’t get adequate treatment in his own country because his kleptocratic regime has left Zimbabwe’s hospitals and health industry in a state of ruin,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen. “Dr. Tedros should nullify Mugabe’s appointment immediately and also issue a strong public condemnation of his repressive rule”.

Sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/21/un-lambasted-after-naming-mugabe-goodwill-ambassador

HRF condemns World Health Organization for appointing Robert Mugabe as “goodwill ambassador”

Human Rights Watch granted Israeli work permit in the end

April 27, 2017

On 26 February 2017 I referred to the refusal of a work permit for the HRW office in Israel. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/26/israel-denies-work-permit-to-human-rights-watch-and-continues-harassment-of-hrds/]. Now the Israeli authorities have reversed the Interior Ministry’s decision. They have granted a one year work visa to Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch (HWR), upon his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport.

We welcome this opportunity to work in Israel and Palestine alongside vigorous national human rights organisations,” said Iain Levine, executive deputy director for programme at Human Rights Watch. “Israeli authorities do not always agree with our findings, but, in facilitating the ability of our staff to carry out our research and documentation, they have taken an important step to safeguard the principle of transparency and demonstrate their openness to criticism.”

Source: Ekklesia | Human Rights Watch granted Israeli work permit

Israel denies work permit to Human Rights Watch and continues harassment of HRDs

February 26, 2017

Image of Israeli security forces [Issam Rimawi - Anadolu Agency]

Image of Israeli security forces [Issam Rimawi – Anadolu Agency]
The Israeli occupation authorities have denied a work permit for the director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Israel and Palestinian territories, they said on Friday 24 February 2017. Israel accused the organisation of “engaging in politics in the service of Palestinian propaganda, while falsely raising the banner of ‘human rights’.” In response, HRW said that this comes as the Israelis seek to limit the space for local and international human rights groups to operate in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. “This decision and the spurious rationale should worry anyone concerned about Israel’s commitment to basic democratic values,” commented Deputy Executive Director of Programmes at HRW, Lain Levine. “It is disappointing that the Israeli government seems unable or unwilling to distinguish between justified criticisms of its actions and hostile political propaganda.”  The next day sixteen NGOs working in Israel issued a statement deploring the decision not to allow Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch (HRW). “We stand in solidarity with him and our colleagues at HRW.”  “Neither closing Israel’s borders to human rights organizations and activists nor other measures by the Israeli government against organizations that criticize the occupation will deter us from continuing to report human rights violations in the territories controlled by Israel. Attempts to silence the messenger will not suppress our message,” concluded the NGOs that include: Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Akevot, Amnesty International Israel, Bimkom, Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, Coalition of Women for Peace, Emek Shaveh, Gisha, Hamoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual, Haqel-Jews and Arabs in Defense of Human Rights, Human Rights Defenders Fund, Machsom Watch, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and Yesh Din.
Noting that the Israeli Knesset (parliament) passed a law last July that targeted human rights groups and imposed onerous reporting requirements which burden their advocacy, HRW suggested that the permit denial comes amid increasing pressure on human rights defenders operating in Israel and Palestine. “Israeli officials have directly accused Israeli advocacy groups of ‘slander’ and discrediting the state or army.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/13/why-did-so-many-assume-btselem-fire-was-arson/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/05/michael-sfardjan-israels-human-rights-activists-arent-traitors/]
Moreover, Palestinian rights defenders have received anonymous death threats and have been subject to travel restrictions and even arrests and criminal charges.[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/21/palestinian-human-rights-defenders-continue-to-be-persecuted/]. Front Line Defenders reported on 25 January 2017 that Israeli occupation forces arrested human rights defenders Ms Lema Nazeeh and Mr Mohammed Khatib – along with four other peaceful protesters –  near the illegal Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Israeli forces then went on to ill-treat Lema Nazeeh throughout her four days in detention at Al-Maskubiyyah prison in Jerusalem. On 23 January 2017, Israeli occupation forces also arrested human rights defender Mr Abdallah Abu Rahma as he attended the court hearing of the two aforementioned defenders. Lema Nazeeh and Mohammed Khatib were arrested while participating in a peaceful protest against illegal settlement construction in Bab Al-Shams in East Jerusalem, otherwise known as the E1 area/settlement bloc. The protest was also against US President Donald Trump’s suggested plan to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Three days after the protest, Abdallah Abu Rahma was arrested on suspicion that he had also taken part in the peaceful protest. All human rights defenders were released on bail, pending trial. (https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/lema-nazeeh; https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-mohammed-khatib and https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/abdallah-abu-rahma)

Human Rights Watch is an independent, international, nongovernmental organisation and monitors rights violations in more than 90 countries across the world.” It also has staff who work legally in its registered offices in some 24 countries around the world, including LebanonJordan and Tunisia. “While the Israeli government is hardly the only one to disagree with our well-researched findings,” concluded Levine, “its efforts to stifle the messenger signal that it has no appetite for serious scrutiny of its human rights record.

Sources:

Israel denies work permit for Human Rights Watch director – Middle East Monitor

http://english.wafa.ps/page.aspx?id=dJyp7Ba54219464904adJyp7B

Bahrain to continue executions in spite of serious torture allegations

February 3, 2017

On 31 January 2017 Human Rights Watch published this video:

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

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

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

 

HRW expresses human right concerns to the UK Parliament following Brexit

October 18, 2016

While the majority of NGO interventions indeed concern developing countries, this is a good example of a statement on a western country. In October 2016 Human Rights Watch made the following Submission to the UK Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights: “The Human Rights Implications of Brexit“.    Human Rights Watch is very concerned about human rights developments in the United Kingdom since the referendum vote, and about the risks of a further deterioration of human rights protections as the UK moves towards exiting the EU. Here some excerpts:

Climate of Xenophobia and Hate Crimes

Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned at the current climate of xenophobia in the United Kingdom and increase in hate crimes since the Brexit vote. The climate of xenophobia was evident in the latter stages of the referendum campaign with the killing of the MP Jo Cox and has been acute since the vote…..It is manifest in the increase in hate crimes reported to police, including those expressing hostile sentiment or carrying out hostile acts towards EU citizens, among them assaults and arson attacks. There was a 60 percent increase in hate crimes after the referendum compared to the same period a year before, according to the National Council of Police Chiefs. By August, the number of incidents had decreased but was still 14 percent higher than the same period a year before. The killing of Arek Jóźwik in Harlow in September is being investigated as a possible hate crime.

..  The UN CERD committee recommended in August that UK “public officials not only refrain from such [hate] speech but also formally reject hate speech and condemn the hateful ideas expressed so as to promote a culture of tolerance and respect”.

…We welcome the commitment in the government’s new action plan on hate crimes to prevent them “by challenging the beliefs and attitudes that can underlie such crimes.” This philosophy needs to be applied to the government’s own policy proposals and the rhetoric of government ministers.

Risk to Family Life 

Human Rights Watch welcomes recent media reports suggesting that the government is committed to allowing all EU citizens residing in the UK to remain after Brexit. This is consistent with the duty of the government to uphold its obligations to protect the right to family life. The government should now confirm without delay that this is the case, and make clear that such rights will not depend on reciprocity for UK citizens living in other EU member states…

Risk to Human Rights Protected by EU Law

EU law protects critical areas of rights affecting millions of people in the United Kingdom. ….

It is of significant concern that these rights have received very little attention during and since the campaign and in particular in discussions concerning the form of Brexit. The UK’s departure from the European Union and the jurisdiction of the EU Court of Justice could remove crucial human rights protections. It would be the first time that a significant international legal framework to protect rights, which binds the UK government and parliament, was removed from UK citizens and residents.

There is a risk that the UK government could seek to weaken the anti-discrimination and employment rights protection in UK law that arise from EU legislation. While many EU law protections would remain binding during any transitional or permanent arrangement involving EEA status, if the UK cuts itself off entirely from the EU, including from jurisdiction of the EU Court of Justice, there would be scope for the government to adopt laws that weaken those protections, subject to parliamentary approval and to the extent permissible under other UK human rights obligations, including the Human Rights Act.

It is important that the committee and parliament as a whole is vigilant about this risk, particularly in relation to weakening of employment rights protections. The UK should also look to strengthen its commitments in related areas in other international mechanisms, in particular by ratifying Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights, which would directly strengthen anti-discrimination protections in domestic law.  

Risks to UK Participation in the Council of Europe

Human Rights Watch is concerned that the hostility to supranational oversight that drove much of the support for Brexit could lead to renewed calls for the UK to withdraw from the Council of Europe. We recognize that the Prime Minister has stepped away from her call during the referendum campaign for the UK to leave the Council of Europe, and welcome the decision by UK to seek to renew its membership of the UN Human Rights Council. Set against that is the ongoing climate of hostility towards human rights in some sections of the media and parts of the government, and the manifesto commitment by the government to replace the Human Rights Act with a British bill of rights that would give the Supreme Court, rather than European Court of Human Rights, final interpretation over violations. Leaving the Council of Europe would significantly weaken human rights protection in the UK, removing a key safeguard, in the form of the European Court of Human Rights. It could weaken the court and Council of Europe system in ways that would harm human rights protection across the Council of Europe region.

Source: Submission to the UK Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights | Human Rights Watch

China wants us to forget Ilham Tohti, but we will not

September 21, 2016

It’s been two years since Ilham Tohti, [sometimes spelling Ilam Totti] a well-regarded ethnic Uyghur economist and peaceful critic of the Chinese government, was sentenced to life in prison by the Xinjiang People’s High Court for alleged “separatism” after a grossly unfair trial. Tohti and his family had already endured years of harassment and periods of house arrest by state agents, but in September 2014 Beijing evidently felt it necessary to take him off the grid permanently.”
Ilham Tohti speaks to students at Beijing’s Minzu University of China in 2009.
Ilham Tohti speaks to students at Beijing’s Minzu University of China in 2009. © 2009 Associated Press

Since then, human rights defenders and the rule of law in China have been under sustained attack from President Xi Jinping’s government. But the dynamics in Xinjiang – a region synonymous with gross discrimination against the predominantly Muslim Uyghur population, restrictions on religion and speech, economic development plans that favor Han Chinese over Uyghurs, and now a highly politicized counterterrorism campaign to stem violence – provide fertile ground for further serious human rights violations.

The signs are ominous: restrictions on observing Ramadan are now an annual reality, and some Uyghurs are now being required to give DNA samples and other biodata in order to obtain passports. China’s state media reports on counterterrorism operations when it’s politically convenient to do so, but we don’t know how many local residents die in these raids, how those detained in connection with the operations are treated, or even whether the state is responding to a credible threat. Hundreds – perhaps thousands – of Uyghurs have fled the country, some of whom have been forcibly returned under Chinese government pressure.

The Martin Ennals Foundation [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/breaking-news-final-nominees-2016-martin-ennals-award-tohti-zone-9-bloggers-razan-zaitouneh-annoucement/] and the European Parliament [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/09/16/european-parliaments-sakharov-prize-2016-nominees-announced/] have recently announced that Professor Tohti is a finalist for their human rights awards this year. “But if Beijing was actually serious about stability, economic development, and respect for human rights in Xinjiang, it would give itself and many others the most important prize: Ilham Tohti’s freedom.”

For more posts on Ilham: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/ilham-tohti/

Source: China Wants You to Forget Ilham Tohti | Human Rights Watch

Burundian human rights defender Mbonimpa wins Alison des Forges Award 2016

September 3, 2016

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Trailer of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival: New York 10 June

May 27, 2016

From 10 – 19 June, 2016, the annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival takes place in New York City [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/02/20/human-rights-watch-film-festival-2016/]
For information and tickets: http://ff.hrw.org

Human Rights Watch film festival 2016

February 20, 2016

From 9 – 18 March there will be the 2016 human rights film festival of Human Rights Watch in London, and from there it will travel to Toronto (30 March – 7 April), New York (10 – 19 June) and Nairobi (14-18 November). Read the rest of this entry »

On Assange: there is more to the decision than knee-jerk reactions

February 7, 2016

The recent ruling by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has created quite a storm in and outside the human rights world. At first sight it would indeed seem almost ridiculous to maintain that Julian Assange, who is in ‘sel-imposed’ exile in the Ecuadorian Embassy, is being arbitrary detained. But a bit of reflection (which is not what the UK, Sweden practiced) would in order, especially as the countries involved still have a chance to comment the decision.

The General Council of the US-based NGO Human Rights Watch, Dinah PoKempner, wrote a clarifying piece on 5 February 2016 under the title: “On Assange, Following the Rules or Flouting Them?“. It does certainly help to see the decision in this context, in particular the consideration that Assange (whether one likes it or not) was recognized as a refugee by Ecuador and thus should be free to move.

It should not have been terribly surprising to Sweden or the United Kingdom that the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that the various forms of confinement suffered by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange violate his human rights. The Working Group has many times warned that it is unlawful to force someone to choose between liberty and a fundamental right, such as asylum, which Assange now enjoys only so long as he stays inside the walls of the Ecuadorean embassy.

What is news are the deplorable rhetorical parries from the UK and Swedish governments, who both stated not just disagreement, but that the Working Group opinion would have absolutely no effect on their actions. This is not what one expects from democratic governments who usually support the UN mechanisms and international law.

“This changes nothing,” declared the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The foreign secretary diplomatically called the ruling “frankly ridiculous,” disparaging the Working Group as “a group of laypeople, not lawyers” (in fact, many of the experts are professors of law or human rights or both – see below). Sweden managed to avoid imprecation, but was no less unreceptive. The Foreign Ministry declared that the Working Group had no right to “interfere in an ongoing case handled by a Swedish public authority” and continued to insist that “Mr. Assange is free to leave the Embassy at any point.” As for the Prosecutor’s Office, it declared the UN body’s opinion “has no formal impact on the ongoing investigation, according to Swedish law.”

While the Working Group does not have the authority to force governments to heed its decisions, it is the authoritative voice of the UN on the issue of arbitrary detention, and its opinions are given great weight as interpretations of binding international law obligations. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights today attempted to remind Sweden and the UK of that in a discrete Note to Editors, saying the opinions should be taken into consideration as they are based on international human rights law that binds the relevant states.

Not much consideration appears to be happening. The UK has said that it will arrest Assange if he leaves the shelter of the embassy, either because of the European arrest warrant the Swedish prosecutor issued to investigate allegations of sexual offenses, or because he violated the conditions of his house arrest by going directly from his last UK court appearance to the Ecuadorean embassy in London to apply for asylum.

The Working Group found that Assange’s confinement – first in a UK prison, then under house arrest, and now in the embassy – violated his human rights. Given that Assange has claimed political asylum, a claim Ecuador recognizes but the UK and Sweden have not taken into account, the Working Group said his freedom of movement and security as a refugee should be respected, and compensation awarded.

Both Sweden and the UK are parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the treaty on which much of the decision rests, and are bound by other customary international law against returning refugees to locations where they risk persecution. Their failure to give due consideration to these international rights and obligations is what drove the conclusion that Assange’s confinement is “arbitrary.”

Let’s be clear: the issue is not Assange fleeing Swedish justice; he has continually expressed his willingness to be investigated by Sweden. What he won’t do is risk eventual extradition to the United States, which would like to prosecute him under the Espionage Act.

That is because WikiLeaks revealed the embarrassing diplomatic cables that Chelsea Manning leaked. And if you look at Manning’s fate, Assange has plenty to fear. Manning was abused in pretrial detention, denied the defense that the public interest justified her disclosures, and sentenced to 35 years. A secret US grand jury has been investigatingAssange on related Espionage Act charges for close to five years. Neither Sweden nor the UK will promise Assange he won’t be extradited, and both are close US allies in national security and intelligence affairs.

So who are the losers? Assange, who has already been confined longer than the maximum term he would serve in a Swedish prison were he found guilty, and the Swedish women who made the original allegations, and whose government won’t pursue the matter if it means protecting Assange from extradition to the US.

And now the UK and Sweden are big losers as well. Their fatuous dismissal of the Working Group won’t impugn this necessary and neutral body that was established by the world’s governments to uphold rights. But both have severely damaged their own reputation for being so ready to dismiss upholding inconvenient human rights obligations and their credibility as global advocates for rights by refusing to respect the institution of asylum.

Source: On Assange, Following the Rules or Flouting Them? | Human Rights Watch

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2016/02/06/un-arbitrary-detention-panel-opinionated-toothless.html