Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights Watch’

Human Rights in Africa in 2019: rage

January 16, 2020

There was rage across the African continent last year, says Human Rights Watch in its annual report, with no sign of cooling down in 2020. In Sudan and Guinea, there were manifestations of frustration with entrenched leadership.  In Zimbabwe, protests mostly about economic conditions.  While in rural Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, they were about the rights of communities displaced by conflict. But the public outrage is good to see, said Human Rights Watch (HRW) at its Johannesburg report unveiling. Africa Advocacy director for HRW Carine Kaneza Nantulya says ordinary citizens took the spotlight this year.v”We’ve seen, I think, the average men and women of the African continent taking agency, being agents for their own for the changes they wanted to see, which we saw an increase of peaceful protest in different countries,” she said. “The second takeaway is that we’ve also seen a backsliding from government in terms of political and civic space.”

That has taken the form of outright police aggression and repression, as seen in Southern Africa, says the group’s Southern Africa researcher, Dewa Mavhinga. “We expected more from southern African leaders, including President Ramaphosa of South Africa, based on their commitment and promises to fulfill people’s rights across the region, “ he said.   “But we saw that there was a constriction of space for human rights defenders in countries like Zimbabwe,” Mavhinga told VOA.

But there was also a glimmer of hope, as Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize for his reform agenda and for his reconciliatory moves with arch-enemy Eritrea, noted HRW’s Africa deputy advocacy director, Babatunde Olugboji. “He’s done quite a few great things in Ethiopia, he’s released political prisoners and is actually reforming some repressive laws,” he said. “He sort of made peace with Eritrea. So things are moving in the right direction, mostly,” said Olugboji.   “There’s still a lot to be done in Ethiopia,” he added.

He pointed to an event few people could have predicted at this time last year: the popular uprising that led to the ouster of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir after a 30-year rule marked by oppression,  human rights abuses, and  attempted genocide in the Darfur region.

Human Rights Watch issues World Report 2020 (covering 2019)

January 15, 2020

On 14 January 2020 Human Rights Watch published it 30th annual World Report (entitled 2020 but covering events in 2019). From the preface:

It summarizes key human rights issues in more than 100 countries and territories worldwide, drawing on events from late 2018 through November 2019. In a keynote essay, Human Rights Watch Director Kenneth Roth examines the increasingly dire threat to the global system for protecting human rights posed by the Chinese government under President Xi Jinping. Deepening and increasingly sophisticated domestic repression show that China’s leaders view human rights at home as an existential threat. That, in turn, has led Beijing to see international laws and institutions for the defense of human rights as an existential threat. As a result, Chinese authorities seek to censor criticism of China overseas, mute attention to human rights in its global engagements, and weaken global rights mechanisms. At stake is a system of governance built on the belief that every person’s dignity deserves respect—that regardless of official interests, limits exist on what states can do to people. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/19/are-human-rights-defenders-making-a-comeback-kenneth-roth-thinks-so/]

Noting that global institutions are built in part “on the belief that every person’s dignity deserves respect, that regardless of the official interests at stake, there are limits to what states can do to people,” Roth concludes that China is not simply a new and emerging power finding its place, but a country that poses an existential threat to the international human rights system.

The rest of the volume consists of individual country entries, each of which identifies significant human rights abuses, examines the freedom of local human rights defenders to conduct their work, and surveys the response of key international actors, such as the United Nations, European Union, African Union, United States, China, and various regional and international organizations and institutions.

The book reflects extensive investigative work that Human Rights Watch staff undertook in 2019, usually in close partnership with human rights activists and groups in the country in question. It also reflects the work of its advocacy team, which monitors policy developments and strives to persuade governments and international institutions to curb abuses and promote human rights.  As in past years, this report does not include a chapter on every country where Human Rights Watch works, nor does it discuss every issue of importance. The absence of a country or issue often simply reflects staffing or resource limitations and should not be taken as commentary on the significance of the problem. There are many serious human rights violations that Human Rights Watch simply lacks the capacity to address.

The factors we considered in determining the focus of our work in 2019 (and hence the content of this volume) include the number of people affected and the severity of abuse, access to the country and the availability of information about it, the susceptibility of abusive forces to influence, and the importance of addressing certain thematic concerns and of reinforcing the work of local rights organizations.

The World Report does not have separate chapters addressing our thematic work but instead incorporates such material directly into the country entries. Please consult the Human Rights Watch website for more detailed treatment of our work on children’s rights; women’s rights; arms and military issues; business and human rights; health and human rights; disability rights; the environment and human rights; international justice; terrorism and counterterrorism; refugees and displaced people; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people’s rights; and for information about our international film festivals.

(The book was edited by Danielle Haas, senior editor at Human Rights Watch, with assistance from Naimah Hakim, Program associate. Grace Choi, director of publications and information design, oversaw production of visual elements and layout.)

COP25: climate defenders also needed to be shielded

November 28, 2019

Tomorrow, 29 November, 2019, young people will gather at locations around the world for a Fridays for Future Global Climate Strike. On 2 December, United Nations delegates, world leaders, business executives, and activists will meet at the 25th Conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25) in Madrid to discuss ways to protect the environment. Participants in these events should also discuss ways to protect the protectors: the individuals and groups targeted around the world for their efforts on behalf of the planet.

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/].  In the meantime his expulsion is immenent: https://imemc.org/article/human-rights-watch-director-expelled-today/

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/