Posts Tagged ‘in memoriam’

Remembering Suha Jarrar, young Palestinian Rights Defender

July 13, 2021

Omar Shakir wrote an obituary for Suha Jarrar, research and advocacy officer at Palestinian human rights organization al-Haq, who died at her home in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Over her 31 years, Suha made an indelible impact on human rights advocacy in Palestine. He added that the Israeli Authorities should allow the detained mother, Parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar, to attend the funeral

A picture of Suha Jarrar and flowers prepared by the staff of the Palestinian human rights group al-Haq and displayed at a commemoration for Jarrar in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on July 12, 2021 
A picture of Suha Jarrar at a commemoration for Jarrar in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on July 12, 2021 © 2021 al-Haq

Suha conducted innovative research on the environmental impacts of the Israeli occupation, including a 2019 report arguing that discriminatory Israeli policies and practices impede the ability of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank to adapt to climate change. As point person on gender issues for al-Haq, she represented the organization when the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women deliberated on the situation of women in Palestine. She researched, advocated, and fearlessly pushed to mainstream within Palestinian civil society the full range of rights issues related to gender and sexuality, even where perilous and proscribed.

Suha died without her mother nearby, since Khalida Jarrar sits in an Israeli jail. For most of the last six years, Israeli authorities have detained Khalida, a 58-year-old elected member of the Palestine Legislative Council, over her political activism with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). One of the more than 400 organizations that Israeli authorities have outlawed, the PFLP includes both a political party and an armed wing. The armed wing has attacked Israeli soldiers and civilians. Israeli authorities have never charged Khalida with involvement in armed activities.

Khalida spent long stretches, including between July 2017 and February 2019, in administrative detention without trial and charge. In March 2021, an Israeli military court sentenced her to two years in prison for “membership in an unlawful association,” based on a plea deal, with Israeli military authorities acknowledging that she “did not deal with the organizational or military aspects of the organization.” Detaining Khalida over her political activism violates her freedom of association, as Human Rights Watch has documented. The suspension of civil rights to the millions of Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is a central part of the Israeli government’s crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.

Suha’s infectious smile never faded, even though for much of her adult life, her mother was unjustly behind bars. Israeli authorities have reportedly denied a request for Khalida to attend Suha’s funeral. Having repeatedly detained Khalida in violation of her rights, Israeli authorities should at minimum allow her to say goodbye to her daughter.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/07/12/remembering-suha-jarrar-trailblazing-palestinian-rights-defender

Carmel Budiardjo: human rights defender from Indonesia dies

July 12, 2021

A leading human rights advocate and former political prisoner in Indonesia, Carmel Budiardjo, has died, aged 96.

Carmel Budiardjo played a leading role in reporting human rights violations in Indonesia, including in West Papua, Timor-Leste, and Aceh province. She had herself been jailed without trial in 1968 for three years under the government of General Suharto, while her Indonesian husband was jailed for twelve years. They had been caught up in an anti-communist purge led by Suharto, having been arrested in 1965 on charges of involvement in an attempted coup against his predecessor President Sukarno. See: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/3BDAA6C3-CFA6-444F-7F15-77D914ACFA8B

After being released she was deported to England, where in 1973 she founded TAPOL, which stands for ‘tahanan politik’ or ‘political prisoners’ in Bahasa Indonesian.

For decades, the NGO has campaigned for the release of poilitical prisoners in Indonesia, including many who have been incarcerated in Papua merely for exercising their basic rights such as to freedom of expression or assembly.

Over the next three decades, TAPOL’s work widened to also address broader wider issues of human and environmental rights, peace and democracy in Indonesia.

According to prominent journalist John Pilger, Budiardjo’s “tireless work saw the release of political prisoners in Indonesia and gave crucial support to the heroic (independence and human rights) struggles in East Timor and West Papua“.

Despite the brutal repression of human rights activism by Suharto’s New Order regime, Budiardjo and TAPOL built an extensive network and collaborated with brave human rights defenders and pro-democracy campaigners in Indonesia.

Budiardjo raised international attention towards the 2004 assasination of Indonesian human rights campaigner, Munir Said Thalib, after whose death a lethal dose of arsenic was identified in his body.

Around the same time she launched a campaign demanding an international embargo against the British government selling arms to Indonesia when Indonesian militrary forces had launched a major offensive to crush the Free Papua movement.

She remained an active campaigner well into her 90s, concerned with the plight of political prisoners in Papua and throughout the Indonesian republic

The author of several books, Carmel Budiardjo is remembered as an inspirational defender of human rights.

https://www.rnz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/446720/carmel-budiardjo-rights-defender-who-shone-a-light-on-papua

Father Stan’s death: callousness that amounts to murder

July 5, 2021

What many feared has happened, jailed Indian tribal rights activist Stan Swamy has died of a cardiac arrest in Mumbai city. He was 84. He was jailed last year under draconian anti-terror law UAPA in connection with the Elgar Parishad case – his death has triggered a flood of messages on social media from political leaders, intellectuals and other activists. Swamy, the oldest person to be accused of terrorism in India, was arrested in October 2020.

Members of the civil society on Sunday 4 July 2021 had urged the chief justice of the Bombay High Court to intervene and provide relief to ailing activist Stan Swamy. They demanded that the 84-year-old, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease and had been put on ventilator support, should be granted bail immediately and allowed to return to Jharkhand.

Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders shared a similar Tweet, saying it was “horrible news” that Swamy was put on a ventilator: “He’s spent 9 months in jail on unfounded charges. I’m deeply saddened and expect that every possible specialist treatment will be provided to him.”

Mr Gilmore – the European Union’s Special Representative for Human Rights, – re-tweeted Ms Lawlor’s post and added: “India: I am very saddened to hear that Father Stan Swamy has passed away. A defender of indigenous peoples’ rights. He was held in detention for the past 9 months. The EU had been raising his case repeatedly with authorities.”

The Jesuit priest, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, was moved to a private hospital in May after he tested positive for Covid. As he was very belatedly released on bail into hospital and was denied critical treatment in detention, he should be considered a death in the custody of the state.

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren stated on Monday: Shocked to learn about the demise of Father Stan Swamy. He dedicated his life working for tribal rights. I had strongly opposed his arrest & incarceration. The Union Govt should be answerable for absolute apathy & non provision of timely medical services, leading to his death.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/11/the-indomitable-father-stan-swamy-defending-the-adivasis-and-the-dalits-a-cause-of-arrest/

I understand there will be likely a virtual memorial tomorrow, but no details known yet.

A joint statement by important international NGOs (Amnesty International, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, CSW, FIDH, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Front Line Defenders, International Commission of Jurists, International Dalit Solidarity Network, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders)) was issued on 5 July: https://www.fidh.org/en/region/asia/india/india-joint-statement-on-the-death-of-human-rights-defender-father

The Government keeps insisting that all was ‘legal’: https://www.mangalorean.com/govt-rebuts-un-says-stan-swamys-detention-was-lawful/

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-57718356

https://scroll.in/latest/999322/as-activist-stan-swamys-heath-worsens-civil-society-members-call-for-bail-specialised-treatment

https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-stan-swamys-death-marks-a-tragic-moment-for-indian-democracy-akhil-gogoi/387163

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/elgar-parishad-case-stan-swamys-death-devastating-eu-un-human-rights-reps-on-stan-swamys-death-2479792

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/activists-opposition-call-out-custodial-murder-of-stan-swamy-101625494111357-amp.html

https://www.fidh.org/en/region/asia/india/india-joint-statement-on-the-death-of-human-rights-defender-father

https://www.indialegallive.com/column-news/stan-swamy-uapa-unlawful-activities-prevention-act-kanchan-nanaware-varavara-rao-binayak-sen/

https://www.miragenews.com/death-in-custody-of-priest-stan-swamy-is-596431/

In memory of Emirati human rights defender Alaa Al-Siddiq

June 23, 2021
Alaa Al-Siddiq, ALQST for Human Rights, https://www.alqst.org/en/post/ALQST-mourns-the-death-of-its-executive-director-alaa-al-siddiq

On 21 June 2021 the Gulf Centre for Human Rights pays tribute to prominent Emirati human rights defender Alaa Al-Siddiq who died in a tragic car accident in the UK, and joins the growing calls for an investigation into the circumstances of her death.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is deeply saddened by the loss of courageous Emirati human rights defender Alaa Al-Siddiq, Executive Director of ALQST for Human Rights and a Senior Researcher at Wejha Centre for Studies, who died tragically in a car accident in Oxfordshire, the United Kingdom on 19 June 2021.

We would like to pay tribute to her unique courage, her kind heart, her wonderful personality, and her tireless work to defend human rights in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. We will remember the anniversary of her loss as the Day of the Gulf Women Human Rights Defenders.

Alaa was a forceful and determined 33-year-old woman. She was outspoken and always defended her father, Sheikh Mohammed Abdul Razzaq Al-Siddiq, a prisoner of conscience who is a member of the “UAE 94”. In 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison in a show trial based on trumped-up charges, that violated international standards.

Documenting human rights violations in the UAE and other Gulf countries comes at a price. Despite all the challenges and threats she faced, Alaa never stopped fighting for freedom for her father and other wrongfully detained prisoners of conscience, hoping for a country that respects human rights including freedom of speech.

Alaa’s role as Executive Director of ALQST, a leading organisation in documenting human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, didn’t make things easier. Alaa was always receiving threats on her Twitter account: https://twitter.com/alaa_q, yet she dealt with the e-flies with patience, civility and respect.

Her relationship with GCHR was a very strong and fruitful one that produced a report, Torture in the United Arab Emirates: The Tolerance Charade“, published in March 2021 with the Wejha Centre for Studies. She also contributed to several successful online events using Zoom and Clubhouse, including a side event during the 45th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in October 2020.

In December 2020, Alaa was among the WHRDs in the MENA region that GCHR celebrated via a Twitter campaign during the #16DaysofActivism against gender-based violence (GBV). (See the main image above.)

It is a very big loss, and no one will be able to fill her empty place,” said Khalid Ibrahim, GCHR Executive Director, who added, “It is a very sad day for me as we have lost a wonderful woman, a true courageous, independent, hardworking and ever-patient advocate.

I cannot believe that we lost Alaa. She was very courageous! She carried on in the fight against oppression despite all the hardships. Alaa was a genuine voice in a country where everything is built on lies,” said Salma Mohammad, GCHR Project Coordinator.

According to the police and local authorities, the circumstances of the car crash were an accident, but they are still looking for witnesses to find out exactly what happened. GCHR calls on the UK police to publicise the information about the incident which took the life of Alaa Al-Siddiq and injured four others.

Human rights lawyer I.A. Rehman passes away in Lahore

April 12, 2021

In Dawn.com of 12 April, 2021 it is reported that Dawn columnist and human rights advocate I.A. Rehman passed away in Lahore on Monday at the age of 90.

See: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/F99462B1-2F8B-DFA2-A10E-7D0319CD0706

He was a founding member of the Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy. As director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), he contributed to raising awareness about rights and fundamental freedoms. Rehman started working at a young age, according to human rights activist and former chairperson of the HRCP Zohra Yusuf. She said that Rehman worked as editor of the Pakistan Times before joining the HRCP in the early 90s, first as director and later as secretary general.

Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari also expressed her condolences, saying Rehman was a “unique personality … who stood by & struggled steadfastly for what he believed in“.

He was an icon of integrity, standing steadfast for every single fundamental right, every single democratic value in the worst of times. Pakistan will not be the same without him,” PPP Senator Sherry Rehman said.

In a statement, the HRCP called Rehman a “titan of human rights” and said that his “conscience and compassion were unparalleled“. “Even after his retirement from the HRCP, he remained a constant source of wisdom and advice, and a mentor to many. We will carry his legacy forward as he would have wished us to” .

Journalist Syed Talat Hussain said Rehman was to journalism what “constitutions are to civilised countries”. “Every time we needed guidance we looked him up and he showed us the way. A beautiful soul, a great man,” he said.

Journalist Asad Hashim said Rehman was one of Pakistan’s “foremost human rights defenders and a key part of all of the incredible work that the HRCP does”. “A tremendous loss for all Pakistanis, not just progressives and those who work in the human rights space,” he said.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1617819

https://thewire.in/south-asia/pakistan-human-rights-advocate-i-a-rehman-passes-away

Ramsey Clark, US attorney general and civil rights activist dies at 93

April 11, 2021

Ramsey Clark, who was attorney general in the Johnson administration before becoming an outspoken activist for unpopular causes and a harsh critic of US policy, has died. He was 93. see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/6790030F-0B3B-2518-90DF-DD16787FCA9F

After serving in President Lyndon B Johnson’s cabinet in 1967 and 1968, Clark set up a private law practice in New York in which he championed civil rights, fought racism and the death penalty and represented declared foes of the US including former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic and Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. He also defended former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

“The progressive legal community has lost its elder dean and statesman,” civil rights attorney Ron Kuby said. “Over many generations, Ramsey Clark was a principled voice, conscience and a fighter for civil and human rights.”

Clark defended antiwar activists. In the court of public opinion, he charged the US with militarism and arrogance, starting with the Vietnam war and continuing with Grenada, Libya, Panama and the Gulf war. When Clark visited Iraq after Operation Desert Storm and returned to accuse the US of war crimes, Newsweek dubbed him the Jane Fonda of the Gulf

Clark said he only wanted the US to live up to its ideals. “If you don’t insist on your government obeying the law, then what right do you have to demand it of others?” he said.

The Dallas-born Clark, who was in the US Marine corps in 1945 and 1946, moved his family to New York in 1970 and set up a pro bono-oriented practice. He said he and his partners were limiting their annual personal incomes to $50,000, a figure he did not always achieve.

Clark’s client list included such peace and disarmament activists as the Harrisburg seven and the Plowshares eight. Abroad, he represented dissidents in Iran, Chile, the Philippines and Taiwan, and skyjackers in the Soviet Union.

He was an advocate for Soviet and Syrian Jews but outraged many Jews over other clients. He defended a Nazi prison camp guard fighting extradition and the Palestine Liberation Organization in a lawsuit over the killing of a cruise ship passenger by hijackers.

“We talk about civil liberties,” he said. “We have the largest prison population per capita on Earth. The world’s greatest jailer is the freest country on Earth?”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/apr/11/ramsey-clark-attorney-general-critic-us-policy-saddam-hussein-dies-aged-93

Obituary for Innocent Chukwuma, a great human rights defender from Nigeria

April 6, 2021

Wole Ojewale (former Assistant Program Manager at the CLEEN Foundation) wrote on 5 April 2021 in saharareporters a very warm obituary for Innocent Chukwuma who fought for a liberated and egalitarian Nigeria.

“Like many friends, comrades and associates of Innocent Chukwuma; I received the cold message from my former colleague by 12:33am on Sunday morning about the shocking exit of a man considered by many as an iroko tree and a big masquerade in the organized civil society and democracy struggle in Nigeria. My initial contact with Innocent was sometimes in June 2015…[and led to] an extremely impactful relationship I have had with Innocent in the last six years. Innocent represents many things to the diverse individuals and groups he has worked with from his days as a courageous student union activist in the pro-democracy struggle at the University of Nigeria; to his adventure in the human rights movement and the Civil Liberty Organization where he possibly developed strong interest in police reform- a cause that led him to establish CLEEN Foundation in 1998 and a field where he would later emerge as a global thought leader, who is widely respected and sought after. See also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/1bc54e6a-4a3a-40f4-b8a3-b0c83af62631

Innocent typified an exceptional breed of change agents imbued with the character, audacity, selflessness, humility and intellectual inspiration to transform a system and lead the society in an upward trajectory. Few stories would suffice to narrate these traits which Innocent was known for. Raised from a very humble beginning in Imo state. Innocent would pass as a typical child that would have been advised and warned by parents to face his study alone and “stay away from trouble”. However, he chose an alternative path to fight for the rights of the common man right from his secondary school days as a house prefect. He once narrated a story about how he led a protest against the school authority at the Holy Ghost College, Umuahia over poor meals served to the students. The heroic act led to his suspension with other students who participated in that protest. This and other daring experiences would later forge him as a gallant human rights activist with many confrontations with military dictators and their brutal state agents. Innocent risked his life many times and suffered wanton harassment alongside other critical voices as they fought steely against dictatorship in the grotesque days of military rule in Nigeria. Highly urbane, cosmopolitan and nationalistic in his intellectual devotion to state building in Nigeria; Innocent’s enduring impacts would be felt in his broader contributions to police reform in Nigeria and his unalloyed commitment to youth development in the country.

I often consider him as the dean of police studies due to his sheer contributions to knowledge production in police research and practice in Nigeria. One only needs to engage him for a few minutes to perceive his depth of knowledge on the subject. I recall two vivid examples that gave credence to this assertion. One of my learned friends who is also an emerging scholar in the field of criminal justice once confided in me that he found out from his literature review that “Innocent and Professor Alemika have permanently defined the research agenda on police research in Nigeria”. Another more profound instance came when I was approached by a senior police officer to seek my advice on his research topic for a strategic course at the National Defense College in Abuja. Having discussed the topic with me; I advised him to seek an audience with Innocent and interview him.

I graciously obliged him his contact and he travelled to Lagos to meet Innocent. The senior officer returned to Abuja and came to recount his experience to me at the CLEEN Office in Abuja. In summary, he noted Innocent was recommending books and research papers on police and policing to him at the maximum of five minutes intervals in the course of the interview. He said, ‘Wole, I concluded Innocent knows policing more than me- even as a police officer”. The senior officer would later retire as a Deputy Inspector General of Police. This account attests to Innocent’s profound intellectual exertion on diverse subjects ranging from policing to security, human rights and democracy.

Innocent also made a significant impact in youth development in Nigeria. Virtually all of us who have had opportunities to be trained by him in many ways had contact with him mostly in our twenties and early thirties. Innocent knew what everyone would need to succeed in the global development profession and encouraged us individually. My Ph.D. research benefitted immensely from such a generous scheme he put in place in CLEEN Foundation. On his twitter handle, Innocent prides himself as a lifelong learner and specialist in identifying gaps and opportunities to solving wicked problems! He piloted this idea and demonstrated how to innovate for radically greater social goods in the society. He challenged bad governance as a human rights activist, and also established Oluaka Academy- a social enterprise and world class centre for innovation, business incubation, skills and enterprise development with a mission to support development of technologies for solving social problems, growth of small businesses and vocational skills in partnership with private, public and social sectors.

Innocent left indelible footprints on the sand of time and many would continue to benefit from the shades of trees he planted. He maintained national impact and global relevance. From Southern America to the Middle East, Western countries, Africa and Asia, he maintained strong alliances with other human rights activists and scholars. In many instances, when  I have interacted with him, I found out that the intelligentsia I have probably read about are close allies whom he called friends and regularly compared notes with. The enigma around this aura is that most people who admire him have not even met him! But they all have great stories to share about him. Sometimes mentioning his name in international fora automatically confers respect and honour on me. I recall such experience I had in a meeting organized by the World Organisation Against Torture in Geneva in 2019 where I represented Nigeria in a working group meeting of human rights defenders. The Secretary General of the OMCT walked to me at the coffee stand and started a conversation about police brutality and human rights abuse in Nigeria. We discussed extensively and he alluded to the profound respect he has for Innocent albeit they have not met before! Such is the latitude of his impact and the scope of his sphere of influence. Innocent personified humility and dignity. He was highly strategic and inspirational in his approach to life. He was many things to some of us: a mentor, a senior friend and a comrade in the struggle for a better Nigeria. I will treasure the text message he sent to me on the 20th of December, 2020 as the last advice from a general. The text also came as an encouragement- an ideal he represented so well.

Innocent Chukwuma fought for a liberated and egalitarian Nigeria. The responsibility lies with us to pick the baton from him and complete the race he and his comrades started in their prime.

Rest in peace and power, Innocent Chukwuma- our departed hero!

http://saharareporters.com/2021/04/05/tribute-innocent-chukwuma-when-great-souls-die-wole-ojewale

Human rights lawyer Christof Heyns dies unexpectedly: tributes pour in

March 30, 2021

On 28 March 2021, respected human rights lawyer Professor Christof Heyns passed away, unexpectedly, aged 62.  

Most recently, Professor Heyns was the was the Director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa at the University of Pretoria, and had also served as United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions from 2010 to 2016. See: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/dfa7df54-3cb2-465c-9655-d139b5486591.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/30/christof-heyns-discusses-new-un-comment-on-right-of-peaceful-assembly/

His friends and colleagues pay tribute to a giant of global human rights: 

The Centre for Human Rights CHR, in its tribute, called him their “founding father, a trail-blazer, and a constant source of inspiration and encouragement. He was our dynamic initiator-in-chief. He played a pioneering role in positioning the Centre as a pan-African centre of excellence. Constantly brimming with new ideas and grand schemes, plans and projects, he propelled the Centre into new directions and challenged it to explore different dimensions.  “To Christof, if something could be conceived, it could be achieved.”

On Monday, the CHR created a memorial page on Facebook in his memory which, within hours, contained hundreds of entries from all over the world. The reactions registered on Facebook, on WhatsApp groups and emails speak volumes about how highly Heyns the man, the mentor, the “rock star” and the lawyer was regarded.

Arnold Tsunga, chairperson of the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network

“The sudden demise of Professor Christof Heyns is a real tragedy to us as a community of human rights activists in southern Africa. As a member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee his contribution to production of General Comment Number 37 on the right to peaceful assembly is invaluable at a time when we are experiencing democratic regression and authoritarian consolidation globally. He is irreplaceable and shall be sorely missed. May his soul rest in eternal peace.”

Raenette Taljaard, former politician and independent analyst

“Prof Christof Heyns was one of South Africa and the world’s great thought leaders and moral authorities on human rights. Beyond his contribution to academia, his work as a UN Special Rapporteur stands as a towering tribute to the right to life in a world where algorithms and lethal autonomous weapons can make life and death decisions that are core to who we are as humanity. His work will live on in the many principled human rights fighters and public intellectuals that have had the privilege to encounter him and to be mentored by him. He will be greatly missed.”

Jason Brickhill, human rights lawyer and former director of the Constitutional Litigation Unit at the Legal Resources Centre 

“So very shocked and sad to hear that Christof Heyns has passed on. Such a gentle, wise and self-deprecating soul. I was lucky to be taught by him (about the African regional human rights system) and he supervised my master’s dissertation just over a decade ago.  “He did so much to advance human rights in very real, meaningful ways, especially with his work on the African regional system (he was a true pan-Africanist!) and on the right to life at the UN.  “He shared with me and other classmates his ‘struggle approach’ to human rights, which is still the foundation for how I think about the law’s role in the world. We will remember you, Christof, and carry with us the ideas that you shared.”

Faranaaz Veriava, head of the Basic Education Rights programme at SECTION27

“Around 1995 I was young and green in my first job, working in the Idasa Pretoria office. Ivor Jenkins, our director, talked me into meeting with a Moroccan delegation visiting the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria to discuss human rights law. Prof Christof Heyns hosted the delegation. I was probably terrible in that meeting but Prof Heyns was warm and encouraging and I became very interested in the work of the Centre. The next year I registered in the LLM programme at the centre which was a pioneering programme at the time for students all over Africa interested in human rights law. Later I would teach annually in that same programme. Much later, complete my doctorate through the UP law school and then teach at the law school myself. If Ivor Jenkins had not thrown me in at the deep end that day, I wonder if I would have any history with UP – a historically Afrikaans university – and that is now such a positive part of my life. RIP Prof Heyns, a warm and inspiring man and pioneer in human rights law.”

Alice Brown, former resident coordinator, Ford Foundation

“What sad news. I met Christof in the late 1980s through my work with the Ford Foundation. Christof was an innovative human rights academic who was a trailblazer for a number of important rights-focused training programs. In addition, in all my interactions with him over the years, I found him to be a very decent human being.”

Thuli Madonsela, former Public Protector, current law trust chair in social justice, University of Stellenbosch

“What a sad occasion. He was such a mensch, resolutely devoted to developing leaders to advance democracy and human rights in this continent. “The news of the passing of Christof Heyns hit me like a ton of bricks. I have known Christof for all my grown-up life.  “A quintessential professional, Christoff invested a lot in developing leaders that are anchored in a sound knowledge and values system regarding human rights and democracy. He was passionate about the African continent and building scholarship in the continent on human rights, democracy and the rule of law.  “The country, the continent and the entire world is poorer because of Christof Heyns’ untimely passing, yet richer because of the legacy he leaves behind. It is said leaders do not die, they multiply. Christof leaves pieces of himself among the many scholars he nurtured and policymakers he touched. May his great soul Rest In Peace.” Christof Heyns and the Outlaws — the rock and roll band of the Faculty of Law at the University of Pretoria. Formed in 2007, they always played at the annual Faculty Festival. (Photo: Yolanda Booyzen)

Bongani Majola, Chairperson of the SA Human Rights Commission

“We deeply mourn the untimely passing of Prof Christof Heyns, a giant in the promotion of human rights. Empowering young people has always been his passion. I first met him in the late 1980s/early 1990s when he and I ran a project that sought to open opportunities for final-year law students from the then historically black universities to find placements in commercial law firms. At the time, it was hard for many black law graduates to be admitted to articles of clerkship and even harder – almost impossible to get placed in commercial law firms. 

“Another empowerment project that Christof Heyns employed significantly to empower the youth was the moot court competitions that he and his colleagues took beyond the borders of South Africa, the borders of SADC and beyond the boundaries of the African continent. Recently, he had taken the promotion of human rights to schools in the basic education environment, a project that he passed on to the South African Human Rights Commission once it had taken a firm hold among basic education schools. 

“He was a visionary who believed in investing in the youth in order to build a strong human rights culture. The country has lost a true human rights activist. He will be sorely missed.”

Edwin Cameron, former Constitutional Court judge

Really terribly shocked and saddened by Christof’s sudden death yesterday. He was a meticulous, conscientious, persistent, courageous fighter for justice and human rights.

Rose Hanzi, director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

“Very very sad. Prof Heyns raised the African continent high with his contributions at the ACHPR [African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights] and UN.”

Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International 

“So saddened to learn of the death of Prof Christof Heyns. Many of you may know him. He was my teacher and I suspect a few others on this group. What a dedicated Human Rights Activist he was. Beyond teaching, he will be remembered for drafting the General Comment on Freedom of Assembly … he was until his death after a heart attack while hiking a member of the HRC. MHSRIP”

Steven LB Jensen, Danish Institute for Human Rights

“Oh no, this is so sad and shocking news. I met him twice – first in Lund for a two-hour conversation just the two of us and again at the Danish Institute for a meeting on collaborations between our institutions. He was a wonderful person and so easy to engage with. He will be sorely missed by many all around the world.” DM/MC

From Amnesty International staff:

Dr. Agnès Callamard, the new Secretary General of Amnesty International, said: “Christof Heyns was a brilliant human rights lawyer and thinker, gentle person…He leaves behind such an extraordinary legacy.” 

Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa, said: “A mighty baobab has fallen! The untimely death of renowned human rights law expert, Professor Christof Heyns, is a devastating loss. In Africa the Baobab Tree is considered a symbol of power, longevity, presence, strength and grace. Professor Heyns was a baobab in the human rights world. A giant in his field, he fought hard for a just world. As Director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa, he was involved in a number of critical initiatives. His contributions included: Chair of the UN independent investigation on Burundi, leading on the drafting of UN human rights guidelines on peaceful assembly and the use of less lethal weapons. He also served as the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions. Hamba Kahle Professor Heyns, Ke a Leboga, Enkosi, Ngiyabonga, Thank you for your service to humanity. You have left indelible footprints and we salute you!”

Sam Dubberley, Amnesty International’s Head of Crisis Evidence Lab, said: “Christof’s support for establishing a hub of Amnesty’s Digital Verification Corps at the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria was unequivocal. He gave time, advice and space for this project to emerge, and welcomed the Amnesty team on every visit to Pretoria despite his always frantic schedule. Christof made everyone feel valued, and was a source of energy and sage advice. How he will be missed.” 

Netsanet Belay, Research and Advocacy Director of Amnesty International, said: “Words fail me to express the profound sense of loss with the sudden passing of Professor Heyns. Like many, I had the privilege of working with him and benefited much from his wisdom, mentorship and guidance. He was a rare breed, one of Africa’s great legal minds, a passionate human rights defender and a kind, passionate, humble person. He nurtured and cultivated a cadre of human rights experts and activists in Africa, including by transforming the human rights centre at the University of Pretoria into a world class institution that produced Africa’s leading human rights scholars and practitioners. His publications on various human rights issues in leading academic journals are testament to his brilliance, wisdom and dedication. He was a true pan-Africanist, as exemplified in his work to champion and strengthen the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. His passing is also a great loss to Amnesty International. As [recently] as last week we were working with Professor Heyns on the draft report by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the use of force by law enforcement officials in Africa. We shall strive to ensure his last vision [is seen] to fruition. Rest in peace dear brother!”

Rasha Abdul-Rahim, Director of Amnesty Tech, said: “It was devastating to hear of the passing of Professor Heyns. All my thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. Not only was Christof a renowned human rights expert, he was fiercely justice-focused and an absolute joy and pleasure to work with. Christof wrote the seminal Human Rights Council report that put the human rights risks of autonomous weapons systems on the agenda. He was always extremely generous with his expertise and time. This is a huge loss for the human rights movement, and we will miss him deeply.” 

Avner Gidron, Senior Policy Adviser on Amnesty International’s Law and Policy Programme, said: “I worked most closely with Professor Heyns on The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death in 2016. It’s a practical tool for human rights defenders and advocates around the world seeking accountability for unlawful killings; and it is now a small, but important, part of Christof’s vast legacy. As well as his importance as a brilliant legal mind, scholar and activist, I will remember Christof for actually embodying human rights values: being an incredibly warm, generous and considerate human being. His death is a tremendous loss for the human rights movement, and an unimaginable tragedy for his family and friends.”

Simon Crowther, legal advisor at Amnesty International, said: “Christof was a legal giant who approached his work with kindness, humility, humour and immense intelligence. He will be greatly missed.” 

Anja Bienert, Senior Programme Officer at Amnesty International Netherlands, said: “I first met Christof in 2013 and immediately felt connected to him: his sharp mind, the careful and perfectly articulated thoughts on the many pressing human rights issues, but more importantly, his warm and welcoming personality, with whom it was a pleasure to discuss. Since then, he was an ongoing source of inspiration to me and a great ally in the fight for greater protection of human rights. He constantly strove not just to write excellent publications, but to have a real impact for the respect of human rights across the world. We will miss him incredibly. It will be our mission to uphold his great legacy in the field of human rights.”

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/03/christof-heyns-tribute/

MEA 2020 finalist Sizani Ngubane Dies

December 23, 2020

NGO CSW/NY/YouTube Sizani Ngubane, founder of the Rural Women’s Movement land rights group in South Africa. 23 December 2020 allAfrica.com

South African women’s land rights activist Sizani Ngubane (also known as uGogo) has died, according to the Rural Women’s Movement (RWM) – an organisation of which she was the director and founder. This sad news was brought by AllAfrica.com on 23 December.

There were several attempts on Ngubane’s life during her 40 years of activism. At the time of her death she and her organisation , along with rights groups, were challenging the Ingonyama Trust in Pietermaritzburg High Court, Thomson Reuters reported in November 2020. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/07/more-about-mea-finalist-sizani-ngubane-from-south-africa/]

Their work so far includes finding housing for evicted women and children, helping grow food on communal land for the hungry and sick, and campaigning for better legal protection of women’s land rights. Ngubane said the movement, which was launched in 1998, has now grown to 50,000 women.

She was in 2020 one of three finalists for the 2020 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, which is referred to as the Nobel Prize for human rights.

The RWM statement, released via their Twitter account, read:

We are saddened to share that our Founder and Director, uGogo Sizani Ngubane has passed on. She transformed countless lives. A lifelong freedom fighter, first against the brutal apartheid regime, uGogo, alongside other rural women, would later charge forward towards the promises of democracy.

“Tirelessly working for women’s land rights and equality, uGogo also laboured against gender-based violence and other challenges facing rural women. Originating in a non-partisan, women-led peace building movement, we have become a leader-full movement inspiring countless across KZN, South Africa, and the globe.
She was really beyond a special person. Fearless. Creative. Kind. Determined like no other. An unwavering belief in others and an endless reservoir of empathy and ubuntu.

She will be missed deeply by all. Hamba kahle, Gogo.”

This tribute was followed by one from Nomboniso Gasa, in which she wrote: ” Mam’ Sizani Ngubane has died. She was a gentle giant. My heart’s breaking. Last time I spoke to her, she was fatigued from a govt hell-bent on destructive Bills, TCB & TKLB.
Can’t imagine Rural Women’s movement – which she found in 1990 – without her energy, courage and vision
.”

The Ennals Award ceremony was to be streamed live from Geneva on February 19, 2020, and the Martin Ennals Foundation said about Ngubane after it decided to recognise her work with a nomination: ” In South Africa, women face discrimination, the worst expression of which is widespread gender violence. In rural communities, they frequently have their land expropriated and are deprived of access to education and justice. Sizani Ngubane founded an organisation of more than 50,000 women from rural areas in her country and has fought successfully for over 40 years for the recognition of their rights.”

On hearing of her death, the MEA tweeted: ” A lifetime #HumanRights giant is gone. #SouthAfrica #WomenRights champion and #MartinEnnals finalist #SizaniNgubane has passed away. Generous, determined, loving, resilient, she was the very essence of a #HRD . She will be dearly missed.

https://allafrica.com/stories/202012230793.html

In memoriam Diallo Abdul Gadiry from Guinea

October 29, 2020

On Wednesday 28 October 2020 Hassan Shire Sheikh, Executive Director of DefendDefenders, wrote the following obituary in memory of Diallo Abdul Gadiry

On behalf of AfricanDefenders (Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network) & DefendDendefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) I would like to pay a tribute to a friend we honour and respect. His great love of people was rooted in his faith.

As African human rights defenders fraternity, our hearts are filled with sorrow as we mourn Diallo’s death. Loosing someone we love is nothing easy, Diallo’s passing is even more painful to us. Knowing that we were part of his life, we can realize that we were blessed to have been able to share in his life.

Diallo was a founding member of the West African Human Rights Defenders Network, a Steering committee member of AfricanDefenders and the Forum for the Participation of NGOs to the ACHPR Sessions. We can’t weigh the energy he invested, the enthusiasm and dedication he put to promote and protect human rights in West Africa. Given the difficulties of travelling within the continent, Diallo would often times cross rivers or ocean move through the desert, and use many inter-regional connections to attend sessions of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to raise awareness or simply for solidarity with others.

We note numerous sacrifices and risks he made for the protection of the vulnerable. This courageous intellectual was an investigative journalist in West Africa who never shied away from controversial topics. Diallo leaves behind a legacy of enriched human rights defenders across West Africa and his loss will be felt deeply by many, especially those for whom he secured justice.

May the soul of our departed friend rest in eternal peace.

https://www.seneweb.com/news/Necrologie/guinee-deces-du-president-des-droit-de-l_n_332120.html