Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights Watch’

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

The Pope’s visit does not make the UAE a tolerant state

February 5, 2019

Pope Francis is on a visit to the United Arab Emirates. Although the country is considered relatively religiously tolerant for the region, Human Rights Watch’s Wenzel Michalski says it harshly cracks down on dissent. (Deutsche Welle interview)

Papst Franziskus in Abu Dhabi (Reuters/A. Jadallah)

DW: Pope Francis is on a trip to a country that has earned the reputation as a relatively tolerant state, especially in regard to religion. The claims are that different religions get along well with each other and that the coexistence of ethnic groups is peaceful. One could think that all sounds progressive.

Wenzel Michalski: Yes, that is the reputation they have acquired. But is not true, and that they enjoy such a reputation is completely unjustified. The UAE is not a tolerant state. There are massive violations of human rights, especially when it comes to free speech and freedom of assembly. Those who exercise their rights risk landing in jail. Recently two prominent human rights defenders were sentenced to 10 years in prison: One for criticizing Egypt and the other for speaking out against the general human rights situation in the country. The state is taking severe and brutal action against opponents and critics. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/02/happy-new-year-but-not-for-ahmed-mansoor-and-nabeel-rajab-in-the-gulf-monarchies/]

Human Rights Watch is also critical of a law passed in 2014 that gives the state legal grounds to take action against critics and dissidents.

Wenzel Michalski of Human Rights Watch (DW/H. Kiesel)

Wenzel Michalski is the director of Human Rights Watch in Germany

Yes, the state’s fear of criticism must be extreme so that anyone who dares to criticize the political situation or human rights in the country can be now defamed as a “terrorist” and therefore can face correspondingly harsh punishments.

It seems more and more that countries in the region have deliberately blurred laws on the basis of which dissidents can be defamed as “terrorists.”

Unfortunately, this is a trend in many countries in the Middle East, but also increasingly in Southeast Asia, Russia and, of course, China, where nearly identical laws and regulations are used to nip any criticism in the bud.…..

https://www.dw.com/en/human-rights-watch-the-uae-is-not-a-tolerant-state/a-47359439

Human Rights films likely to be nominated for best documentary Oscar on 24 February

January 23, 2019

Human Rights Watch reports that five of the 15 shortlisted films for Best Documentary are human rights films that featured in the 2018 and 2019 Human Rights Watch Film Festivals. [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/15/trailer-for-human-rights-watch-film-festival-2018-in-london/]

Illustrative storm in a Zimbabwean teacup: billionaire vs HRW

January 3, 2019

 Human rights defender … Dewa Mavhinga, the southern Africa director for Human Rights Watch

In a Facebook post the billionaire Econet founder Strive Masiyiwa defended his wife Tsitsi’s philanthropic work ands lashed lashed out at an unnamed human rights defender while also appearing to demand his sacking by his employer. This person was soon identified as Dewa Mavhinga, the Southern Africa Director of Human Rights Watch.

Masiyiwa wrote: “Sadly, one of the foremost bullies is a Zimbabwean who works for an international organisation that is highly respected for its work on human rights. It’s founder, now 95, is a close family friend. I hope my human rights friend is happy now that he has stopped her from using Twitter. Maybe now he and others like him will stop this pathetic misogyny. What about the rights of women like my wife to also express an opinion?

In December, Mavhinga took issue with a post by Tsitsi Masiyiwa, in which she suggested human rights causes should only be supported after establishing the motive of those sponsoring them.“Some outcries and actions in pursuit of justice seem and look so right until you discover the source of the outcry and sponsor of the cause. Take a step back and reflect on some of the things we consider good and just causes,” Tsitsi said in a December 18 tweet. In reply, Mavhinga told Masiyiwa’s wife: “If you are implying that all and any outcry and pursuit of justice is sponsored, then that really is sad. When your husband pursued his fight to be licensed [Econet mobile phone network] it was a just cause. In such position of privilege, you should choose your words more carefully, lest you promote injustice.” Mavhinga was not the only one to see this post an an effort to brush up the government’s human rights record and many others expressed similar dismay. As a result Strive Masiyiwa and his wife wife both felt forced to close their Twitter accounts. 

Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth on Wednesday weighed in on the side of Mavhinga, telling Masiyiwa that their employee “didn’t bully anyone”. Roth said Tsitsi’s comment “closely paralleled the claim of President Mnangagwa and some of his supporters that critics of human rights conditions under his rule are not genuine but are sponsored by outsiders.” He insisted that Mavhinga’s response was “entirely fair – an appropriate way to ensure that your wife’s comment, despite what her intentions might have been, wasn’t understood as an endorsement of the president’s and his allies’ attacks on human rights critics.”

Strive Masiyiwa and his wife

With no further instigation, others took up the theme as well, so your wife chose to close her Twitter account,” he added. “Unlike your statement here, the responder (Mavhinga) didn’t bully anyone – and certainly not your wife – but simply responded to what he feared, whatever her intentions, would be taken as an attack on t he credibility of the human rights movement. That others picked up on this point, without any encouragement or prompting by him, does not make him a bully but speaks to the resonance of his comment,” said Roth. Roth was also dismissive of the claim that Mavhinga was a misogynist, insisting “he would have responded to comments along the lines that your wife made regardless of who had made them.

Zimbabwean lawyer Brighton Mutebuka said he was “thrilled” that Human Rights Watch had backed Mavhinga.  “To seek to use his influence inappropriately to get Dewa fired is unacceptable. Human Rights Watch is a global brand. They would not have taken making such a swift rebuttal and backing Dewa lightly,” Mutebuka said, writing on Facebook. “Whilst Strive and his wife are entitled to their very optimistic views concerning the political trajectory that Mnangagwa’s government is on, they should be aware that a great many people do not share those views. They should also stand ready to be challenged on that, provided that such exchanges are nuanced, proportionate and civil. This is what democracy is founded on.”

Mavhinga and Human Rights Watch had come out of the exchanges as “principled, fearless and uncompromising” whilst Masiyiwa and his wife came across as “petulant, haughty, entitled, patronising and intolerant of divergent views”, he added.

https://www.zimlive.com/2019/01/human-rights-watch-rejects-strive-masiyiwa-bid-to-get-its-southern-africa-director-fired/

Russian human rights defender Ludmila Mikhailovna Alexeeva is no longer

December 10, 2018

https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/12/09/tribute-ludmila-mikhailovna-alexeeva#