Posts Tagged ‘impunity’

ICJ says human rights defenders alarmed over election results in Sri Lanka

November 19, 2019

Sri Lanka’s newly elected president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his Government must demonstrate that they will uphold human rights and rule of law, and ensure that Sri Lanka sustains its international obligations and commitments to justice and accountability, said the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) on 19 November 2019. “The election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, after a highly polarizing campaign, has alarmed human rights defenders in Sri Lanka and abroad, who have little reason to believe that someone facing such serious allegations of perpetrating human rights violations can be relied upon to meet the country’s obligations under international law,” said Frederick Rawski, ICJ Asia Pacific Director.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who won the presidency with 52.25% of votes, served as Sri Lanka’s Secretary of the Ministry of Defence from 2005 to 2015 during the tenure of his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, at the height of the armed conflict against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Gotabaya Rajapaksa faces credible allegations of involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity that took place during the country’s armed conflict.

International condemnation of atrocities committed during the conflict led to the UN Human Rights Council demanding that the Sri Lankan government commit to a process of transitional justice, in view of the systematic failures of accountability mechanisms in Sri Lanka in the past, as documented by the ICJ in its submission to the Human Rights Council, and others. Despite commitments from the Sri Lankan government, the transitional justice process has effectively stalled and impunity has prevailed.

The ICJ is deeply concerned that even the limited strides made over the past five years in Sri Lanka on transitional justice, positive constitutional amendments and institutional reform will be reversed,” said Rawski. The ICJ urged the Government to deliver on its commitment to the transitional justice process, including by holding those responsible for human rights violations and abuses accountable, and complying with the obligations set out in United Nations Human Rights Council Resolutions 30/1, 34/1 and 40/1.

Panel against impunity for abuses against human rights defenders. New York on 16 October

October 9, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, 16 October 2019
1:15 pm – 2:30 pm
UN Headquarters, New York
Room CR-11

This event is organised by Amnesty International and the International Service for Human Rights with the kind sponsorship of the Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations.

Event with panellists:

  • Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
  • Radya Al-Mutawakel, Mwatana Organization for Human Rights, Yemen
  • Khin Ohmar, Progressive Voice Myanmar, Myanmar

Moderated by:

  • Sherine Tadros, Amnesty International

Welcoming remarks by:

  • Ambassador Mona Juul, Permanent Representative of Norway

Please RSVP by 11 October.

Download the flyer here

In memoriam Louis Joinet: a great human rights defender who deserves more recognition outside France

September 25, 2019

Louis Joinet (born in Nevers on He was a French magistrate, independent expert to the United Nations Human Rights Committee and very active in the NGO human rights world in particular with regard to the dictatorships in Latin America (he was named illustrious citizen of Montevideo).

He co-founded the Union of the Judiciary (Syndicat de la magistrature) in 1968.  At the beginning of his career, he was interested in the early stages of computer sciences in order to evaluate the impact of these technologies on the law. He represented France in the Council of Europe. His report will gave birth to the Data Protection Act. He then participated actively in the drafting of the law relating to computers, files and freedoms of 6 January 1978. He was an adviser on human rights to the succesive Prime Ministers of François Mitterrand between 1981 and 1993.

In the UN context he was the author, in 1997, of the principles against impunity of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights , also known as the “Joinet Principles” , which are part of the principles of transitional justice. .

He published his memoirs in 2013 (Mes raisons d’État : mémoires d’un épris de justice, Éditions La Découverte). One of the characters of the French television series Sanctuaire , broadcast in 2015, which addresses in particular the role of France in the attempt to negotiate, in the mid-1980s between ETA and Spain, is inspired by Louis Joinet  (“Avec “Sanctuaire” j’ai voulu faire un film sur une gauche qui se perd” [archive], teleobs.nouvelobs.com, 2 mars 2015).

His wife Germaine Joinet, doctor and activist in various associations, died in 2008.

 

Ciné-ONU and the Goethe Institute screened  “Un certain monsieur Joinet” (52 mn) on 24 October 2012 at the Goethe Institute in Brussels. According to Amnesty International, “the documentary gives an insight into the fifty years of struggle by Louis Joinet for human rights, from the war in Algeria to Pinochet’s Chile, from enforced disappearances to the fight against impunity”.  Language: French with English subtitles. Directed by: Frantz Vaillant. Only the trailer is on the internet and information on how to get hold of the full film is missing.

There is also an interview with him from 2012:

https://www.lemonde.fr/disparitions/article/2019/09/23/la-mort-de-louis-joinet-cofondateur-du-syndicat-de-la-magistrature_6012734_3382.html

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Joinet

https://www.unbrussels.org/invitation-to-the-screening-of-un-certain-monsieur-joinet/

European Court rules on Sergei Magnitsky’s death

August 29, 2019

Environmental Human Rights Defenders: “More Deadly Than Being a Soldier in a War Zone”

August 6, 2019

The number of environmental human rights defenders murdered across the world has doubled over the past 15 years, climbing above the number of soldiers killed in some conflict zones, research has revealed. Between 2002 and 2017, as many as 1,558 people across 50 countries were killed while defending the environment, according to a study published in the journal Nature Sustainability,  The supply chain of violence”.

That is more than double the number of U.K. and Australian armed service personnel killed while on active duty in war zones during the same period, the researchers emphasized. Since 2004, the recorded number of environmental defenders dying has risen from two per week to four per week. Most were killed due to conflict over natural resources….

“Environmental defenders currently face a wave of violence that includes threats of physical harm, intimidation and criminalization,” the authors wrote. “Deaths represent the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of the violence that environmental defenders face.”

indigenous woman, Brazil, protest, getty, Brasilia
An indigenous woman holds a Brazilian national flag stained in red representing blood during a march in Brasilia on April 26, 2019, on the last day of a protest to defend indigenous land and rights. CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images

In 2017, at least 185 activists were killed, with Indigenous peoples making up the biggest portion at around 30 percent, down from 40 percent in 2015 and 2016. At 36 percent, most deaths happened in Central America, followed by South American at 32 percent, and Asia at 31 percent. The most indigenous peoples died in the Philippines and Colombia between 2015 and 2017, with 36 and 22 deaths respectively. In 2017, 56 environmental defenders were killed in Brazil and 47 in the Philippines.

And the loved ones of victims struggle to seek justice, the authors said. Just over 10 percent of murders result lead to a conviction each year. This is likely due to corrupt police and authorities, who are sometimes involved in environmental devastation, and because murders are often carried out in remote areas. For instance, military and civil police are the main suspects after 10 land rights activists were killed in the city of Pau D’Arco, Brazil.

The researchers said the elections of populist leaders Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines are a further cause for concern. Bolsonaro has called activists terrorists, and plans to relax gun and environmental protection laws, while the Philippines’ president “has taken a violent stance toward human rights defenders, Indigenous peoples, environmentalists, women, drug users and others,” the authors wrote.

..

Companies and consumers also have a responsibility to “investigate the sources of products, publish the results and commit to eliminating violence from supply chains,” the authors said. Co-author Dr. Nathalie Butt, a researcher fellow at the University of Queensland, Australia, School of Biological Sciences commented in a statement: “The number of reported deaths of environmental defenders has increased, as well as the number of countries where they occur.” Butt told Newsweek she was surprised that corruption was the key driver of the deaths, rather than the resources themselves. “As a lot of the resource demand is driven by international markets, consumers in countries in the Global North need to make sure they are aware of where their products come from, and how they were obtained, and demand (through pressure on supply companies) ethical and transparent supply chain processes,” she said.

Butt continued: “In many cases they [environmental defenders] are trying to protect environments that are important for everyone on the planet such as the Amazon, which is critical in terms of buffering climate change and carbon emissions.”

….Christopher Jeffords, associate professor in the department of economics at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, told Newsweek: “These studies help shine a light on known instances of extreme violence committed against environmental defenders and thus help illuminate the notion that there are likely many cases which go unreported.” Eve Bratman, adjunct professorial lecturer at the American University Washington, D.C., School of International Service, told Newsweek: “The study tells us that the most important driving forces behind human rights abuses and the killings of environmental defenders are corruption and rule of law; when governments become more accountable, the benefits will likely be seen across the board. “In Brazil and several other countries, there is reasonable cause for concern that rates of violence will spike even higher given the dangers of today’s political climate.”

https://www.newsweek.com/more-deadly-being-soldier-war-zone-environmental-activists-killed-defending-planet-have-1452277

For the study mentioned see: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-019-0349-4

Human rights defenders of minorities having a hard time in the UN finds UNPO

July 19, 2019

On 17 July 2019 the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) is launched a report, Compromised Space: Bullying and Blocking at the UN Human Rights Mechanisms, with its partners at the University of Oxford and Tibet Justice Centre which details how China, Russia, Iran and other repressive regimes are manipulating the United Nations Human Rights System to block and attack those seeking to hold them accountable for gross human rights violations perpetrated against minorities, indigenous communities and other unrepresented peoples…

The report is based on three years of study conducted by the UNPO and its partners at the University of Oxford and the Tibet Justice Center, supported by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council. It is based largely on interviews and testimonies from 77 human rights defenders working on behalf of minorities, indigenous communities and other people living in nation states whose political systems do not create governance structures representative of all. It identifies a systemic attack on the United Nations human rights system by these governments, led largely by China, Russia and Iran, designed to shield them from accountability for human rights violations and crimes against humanity. This includes efforts to deny civil society groups participatory status at the UN (so called “ECOSOC status”), to bully and block them when they are able to access the UN, to crowd out the UN space with “GONGOs” – government-sponsored organisations posing as NGOs – and to harass, intimidate and take reprisals against activists and their families, whether at home or abroad.

Among the indicative findings of the report are the facts that:

China has regularly detained or imprisoned activists from its Southern Mongolian, Uyghur and Tibetan communities who have sought to travel to the UN, with such success that, for example, no Tibetan from Tibet who is acting independently of the Chinese government has ever managed to leave Chinese- occupied Tibet to testify at the UN in Geneva or New York, and then return safely;

Russia, in order to shield itself from accountability for its crimes in Russian-occupied Crimea, has asked for rules of participation in forums, such as the UN Minority Forum, to be changed to restrict NGO participation to groups acceptable to Russia, and its Crimea occupation authorities have attacked Crimean Tatar activists and destroyed or confiscated their passports in order to prevent their travel;

Iran regularly engages in practices designed to intimidate activists from their minority communities, even while they are operating within the United Nations buildings, and have taken out reprisals against the family members of these activists still living within the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The story of Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress and Vice President of the UNPO, is indicative of all of these actions. Mr. Isa and his organization have regularly been denied ECOSOC status at the United Nations, his access to the UN buildings and events have been restricted due to Chinese demands, he and his supporters have been followed and harassed in the UN building, his mother was held in China’s anti-Muslim concentration camps as a result of his work and for many years his ability to travel freely around the world was frustrated by Chinese efforts to involve European and other states in his persecution by falsely labelling him a “terrorist”.

Reacting to the launch of the report, UNPO’s General Secretary, Ralph Bunche, stated that “the report presents the disturbing finding that the United Nations Human Rights system, which is the only outlet for many peoples living under repressive regimes to seek accountability for crimes committed against them, is being systemically undermined by perpetrator regimes. Unfortunately, democratic states are not doing nearly enough to push back against this phenomenon and in some instances are even adopting the conduct that we see from the repressive states. The withdrawal of the USA from the UN’s Human Rights Council has certainly not helped matters, but other states are simply not doing enough to counter this problem and protect human rights defenders.

DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT HERE

https://unpo.org/article/21583

NGOs remember 10th Anniversary of Natalia Estemirova’s murder

July 15, 2019

On the 10th anniversary of the murder of Natalia Estemirova, Chechnya’s most prominent human rights defender, nine international and two Russian human rights groups, jointly with FIDH and its member organization, Human Rights Centre “Memorial,” call on the Russian authorities to finally fulfil their obligation to conduct a thorough, impartial and effective investigation into her killing, bring the perpetrators to justice in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts, and end impunity for human rights violations in Chechnya.

The never ending quest for the protection of journalists

July 14, 2019

Media (here the dailysabah of 13 July 2019) have referred to a Global Conference for Media Freedom, co-organized by the British and Canadian foreign ministries. The two-day conference, held at the Printworks event center in London, was joined by over a thousand guests from 100 countries, including journalists, academics, politicians and diplomats. The conference was held to trigger a global initiative to safeguard journalists and fortify global media freedom. Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered last October and Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed in a bomb attack in 2017, were widely mentioned and marked by the panelists and participants.

One of the panel discussions placed a lot of importance on efforts to bring to justice those who have killed journalists, review national attempts to resolve cold cases and examine attempts to affect change in U.N. member states to prevent impunity. In addition to these topics and media-government interactions; the increasing relations between the media and investors in digital media also brought about new debates, such as ethical journalism and sustainability of the media.

One of the key proposals of the conference was creating an international judicial committee for journalists which will include judges, lawyers, academics and human rights defenders from all over the world. Also, to reduce pressure against journalists and media on a global scale, prevent journalist murders, attacks, kidnappings and ensure the safety of journalists; a new initiative based on international and civil society pressure to hold the governments accountable is to be created. In my personal opinion I doubt that there is really a need for creating new entities in an area where there are already so many NGOs, coalitions, campaigns and awards, but the severity of the situation perhaps justifies it (2018 was the worst year on record for violence and abuse against journalists – in 2018, at least 99 journalists were killed, a further 348 imprisoned and 60 held hostage. Beyond that, almost 1,000 journalists and media workers have been killed in the past decade. Among them, 93 percent of those killed were local journalists and 7 percent are foreign correspondents).  See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/journalists/

Another finding of the research conducted by these institutions is that the impunity for crimes against journalists remains the norm, with justice in only one in 10 cases.

https://www.dailysabah.com/politics/2019/07/13/murdered-journalists-highlighted-in-global-media-forum-in-london

Third Anniversary of Kem Ley’s Murder in Cambodia: the real culprit?

July 12, 2019

Mourners observe Kem Ley's funeral procession in Phnom Penh, July 24, 2016.

Mourners observe Kem Ley’s funeral procession in Phnom Penh, July 24, 2016.- AP Photo

Two dozen nongovernmental organizations on Tuesday 9 jult 2019 demanded that Cambodia’s government establish an independent and impartial commission to investigate the murder of prominent political commentator and rights campaigner Kem Ley, a day ahead of the third anniversary of his death. Kem Ley was shot to death in broad daylight on July 10, 2016 while having a morning coffee at a Caltex gas station in the capital Phnom Penh, days after publicly criticizing Prime Minister Hun Sen and his family for abuse of power.

Authorities charged a former soldier named Oeuth Ang with the murder and sentenced him to life in prison in March 2017, but many in Cambodia do not believe the government’s story that Kem Ley was killed by the man over a debt. In May, Cambodia’s Supreme Court rejected Oeuth Ang’s appeal for reduction of sentence and upheld his life imprisonment term. The day of Oeuth Ang’s sentencing, Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), New York-based Human Rights Watch and London-based Amnesty International highlighted multiple issues they said had not been adequately investigated during his trial and called for a probe into Kem Ley’s killing that adheres to international standards.

On Tuesday, 21 other groups joined the three NGOs in reiterating that call and questioning why the government had failed to take meaningful action in the case. “It has been three years since significant gaps were highlighted in the investigation and trial of Kem Ley’s case, which need to be remedied through an independent, impartial and effective investigation,” said Frederick Rawski, ICJ’s director for Asia and the Pacific.

The 24 NGOs noted in Tuesday’s statement that 164 organizations had signed a joint letter to Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng calling for the creation of an independent Commission of Inquiry into Kem Ley’s case, citing the “flawed investigation” into his killing and “lack of progress in subsequent investigations” of suspected accomplices.

Soon after Kem Ley’s funeral, and fearing for their safety, his wife Bou Rachana—then pregnant—fled with her children from Cambodia to neighboring Thailand to seek asylum in a third country. They spent over a year and a half in Thailand before being granted permission to settle in Australia in February last year.

Debbie Stothard, the secretary-general of Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), said: “The Cambodian authorities’ ongoing failure to identify and prosecute the masterminds behind Kem Ley’s murder shows that an independent investigation is urgently needed to deliver justice to his family and to make progress towards ending impunity for the killing of human rights defenders in Cambodia,” she said.

Tuesday’s statement called Kem Ley’s killing “an alarming reminder of Cambodia’s culture of impunity” in cases of killings and harassment of rights defenders, labor leaders, journalists, members of the political opposition and others critical of Hun Sen’s regime.

Sok Ey San, spokesman of Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), dismissed Tuesday’s statement as “politically motivated” and said it was “filled with groundless allegations.”

The call by the 24 NGOs came as police in Phnom Penh charged youth activist Kong Raiya and three of his family members with “incitement of social unrest” after arresting them for selling T-shirts bearing Kem Ley’s portrait and urging people to wear them on Wednesday to mark the anniversary of his murder. Am Sam Ath, deputy director of the Cambodian rights group LICADHO, told RFA’s Khmer Service that police arrested Kong Raiya, his wife and his parents-in-law on Tuesday along with his six-month-old baby, who was later released to family members.

See also Global Voices of 17 July: : https://globalvoices.org/2019/07/17/cambodian-activists-arrested-for-commemorating-the-anniversary-of-political-analyst-kem-leys-death/

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/cambodia/probe-07092019170518.html

Bangladesh policeman ‘escapes’: a tale of incompetence that amounts to impunity

June 10, 2019

web-Moazzem Hossain Officer-in-Charge of Sonagazi police station in Feni

File photo of Moazzem Hossain Dhaka Tribune

Former Officer-in-Charge (OC), Moazzem Hossain, stands accused of having had a role in the murder of Feni madrasa student Nusrat Jahan Rafi. The way the authorities bumbled his arrest warrant is told in more detail below by the Dhaka Tribune on 9 June 2019. Understandably human rights defenders raise questions about the role of the police and criticize the home minister who has confirmed that the officer in question is ‘on the run’.

…It took over a week for the authorities concerned to send copies of the arrest warrant for the former Sonagazi OC, to Feni and Rangpur police stations. But dilly dallying over sending the warrants to concerned police ranges was ‘just to help the OC flee,’ claimed some human rights defenders.

Deputy inspector of police of the Rangpur range, Debdas Bhattacharya, yesterday said they have received the warrant and OC Moazzem remains absent from his office without any prior permission. The top police official also said proper procedure was not followed in sending the warrant to Rangpur police and that he would speak to Feni police about acting according to procedure. It also took over a week for the Feni police to receive the warrant from the tribunal in Dhaka even though the warrant was issued on May 27. Kazi Moniruzzaman, superintendent of Feni Police, said the last location of OC Moazzem was in Rangpur. “Upon receiving the warrant on June 3, it was sent to the Rangpur range,” he saidd….

Noted human rights defenders slammed the government and police authorities for ‘indirectly allowing’ OC Moazzem to go into hiding, and accused the police of helping him flee the country. “When people like OC Moazzem go into hiding, a police official accused of negligence in duty in a sensational murder case that shook the whole nation,  some quarter has surely assisted him by dragging out his arrest procedure,” said Dr Mizanur Rahman, former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission. “With his statement that Moazzem is on the run, the home minister is trying to make fools of the people. Action should be taken against everyone involved in the process, for negligence, if Moazzem is not arrested and is not placed on trial immediately,” he said.

Former Ain O Salish Kendra director Nur Khan Liton also found the slow process of delivering the arrest warrant, to be a bid to help Moazeem flee. “When an official of a law enforcement agency gets involved in a crime and we see  authorities slowing down the process of apprehending him, instead of meting out strict and speedy punishment, it indicates the process has been slowed down to help him/her flee from being put behind bars,” he said.

……
Supreme Court lawyer Syedul Haque Sumon, who filed the case against Moazzem, said Moazzem has fled taking advantage of police procrastination. “If he flees the country, police will have to take responsibility for that, ” he said, adding: “The inspector general of police should have initiated the required actions himself, considering the sensitivity of the case, but he did not. Since the warrant has now been received by police in both Feni and Rangpur, it is their responsibility to arrest Moazzem and produce him in court.”

[Case proceedings: According to the case details, Nusrat went to Sonagazi model police station to file a case against Sonagazi Islamia Fazil (Degree) Madrasa Principal Sirajuddaula on March 27 for sexually assaulting her the day before. Moazzem recorded a video of her statement without her consent, asking her offensive and insulting questions. The video then surfaced on various social media platforms. It was alleged that Moazzem had put up the video. Moazzem, whose voice was heard on the video, had also appeared unconcerned about Nusrat’s complaints and said the sexual assault was not a major incident. He asked Nusrat to go home, and assured her of taking steps in accordance with her written complaint. However, no action was taken against Sirajuddaula. Nusrat, 18, an Alim examinee, was set on fire by Sirajuddaula’s followers on April 6 for refusing to withdraw the rape attempt case her family had filed against him. She died from the injuries four days later.

On April 10, Moazzem was withdrawn from his post as OC and transferred to the Armed Police Battalion, after Nusrat’s family said he had not been cooperating with them. On April 11, Supreme Court lawyer Syedul Haque Sumon saw the video on social media, which prompted him to file a petition against Moazzem for breaking the law. Barrister Sumon then filed a case against Moazzem under the Digital Security Act on May 15. The Dhaka Cyber Tribunal ordered the OC’s arrest on May 27 when the PBI found the allegations against him to be true. Later, OC Moazzem filed a bail petition with the High Court. The hearing for the case is scheduled for June 11.]

https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/dhaka/2019/06/09/home-minister-oc-moazzem-on-the-run-arrest-taking-time