Posts Tagged ‘in memoriam’

In memoriam Kofi Annan – laureate of 10 human rights awards

August 20, 2018

Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan died on Saturday 18 August 2018 at the age of 80. “Kofi Annan was a global statesman and a deeply committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer and more peaceful world. During his distinguished career and leadership of the United Nations, he was an ardent champion of peace, sustainable development, human rights and the rule of law,” the Kofi Annan Foundation and Annan family said in a statement. His wife Nane and their children Ama, Kojo and Nina were by his side during his last days.

Born on April 8, 1938, in Ghana, Annan took his first job with the U.N. in 1962,and became its seventh secretary-general serving between 1997 and 2006.

It has been pointed out by many media that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (jointly with the United Nations) in 2001 but few mention the other 9 human rights awards that he received before, such as

2001   Liberty Medal

2003   Indira Gandhi Prize

2003   Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

2004   Franklin Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award

2006   Olof Palme Prize

2007   MacArthur Award for International Justice

2007   Bruno Kreisky Award

2007   North South Prize

2008   Freedom Award (refugees).

For more on these awards, see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest

The current U.N. secretary-general, António Guterres, called Annan “a guiding force for good. … In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations. He rose through the ranks to lead the organization into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination,” he said in a statement.

Refugee defender Barbara Harrell-Bond died on 18 July 2018

July 25, 2018

Laura Hammond – Professor of Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London – wrote in IRIN the following obituary of Barbara Harrell-Bond who died on 18 july 2018. She was one of the most  prolific advocates of the rights of refugees all over the world. Tireless is often used but in her case an understatement. 

In the current international climate, refugees can use all the supporters they can get. But last week, refugees around the world lost an irreplaceable champion with the passing of Dr. Barbara Harrell-Bond.

Barbara worked tirelessly for more than 35 years to improve protections for refugees, to ensure that their voices were heard not only in academic research but in real-world policy debates.

Barbara was never short of outrage at how badly refugees were being treated throughout the world. To her, fighting that injustice was the most important thing – it was all-consuming. Her research and teaching were inspirational to generations of scholars and practitioners of refugee and forced migration studies. Most memorably, she never shied away from speaking truth to power, taking on donor governments, UN bodies, large non-governmental organisations, and host governments alike. Indeed, her bold criticisms, backed by robust evidence, have inspired generations of scholars to follow her example and hold to account officials charged with assisting refugees.

I first met Barbara in 1988 while studying anthropology at the University of Oxford. I had spent the whole year studying subjects like witchcraft and totemism – things that can make people seem more exotic than understood – and I wanted to use my training in a more useful way. My tutor sent me along to meet Barbara. I stepped into her office and found a wonderful, diverse world of people who were doing exactly what I wanted to be doing – using academic research to try to make a positive difference in the world.

Trained as a legal anthropologist, she studied at Oxford under the supervision of eminent anthropologist Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard.

Her engagement with refugees and African studies came later, but her commitment to social justice was clear even from her 1967 dissertation, an ethnography of a deprived housing estate in the Oxford suburbs, Blackbird Leys. She went on to research law and dispute resolution in traditional courts in Sierra Leone.

Barbara’s work on refugees began in the early 1980s. She established the Refugee Studies Programme at Oxford (now known as the Refugee Studies Centre). Run by a tiny but dedicated team, this institution quickly became a crucial resource and meeting point for academics, practitioners, and refugees themselves. Barbara led the way in establishing refugee studies as an interdisciplinary academic field. At its centre: an agenda for influencing policy and bringing a refugee-centred focus to debates about asylum policy, social integration, and refugee assistance.

Barbara’s seminal 1986 book Imposing Aid: Emergency Assistance to Refugeeswas based on research she and a band of Oxford students and local researchers conducted in what is now South Sudan. In it, she makes the very simple argument – she was the first to agree it should not have to be made – that refugees are not helpless victims, but always and everywhere have agency, resilience, and dignity, and that this must be the starting point for any assistance. Showing how badly wrong things can go when they fail to keep this basic truth in mind, this book – as well as Rights in Exile: Janus-Faced Humanitarianism (which she co-authored) – called to account those acting to aid and protect refugees. Her criticisms were always sharp, direct, and – most embarrassingly for their targets – meticulously substantiated with evidence. She did not suffer fools or egos gladly.

I worked for Barbara in 1989-1990, helping to put together material for training courses for people working with refugees. She had me working late into the night and on weekends. I remember working on New Year’s Day, stepping outside the office only to buy bread, salami, and Barbara’s cigarettes. When my work permit expired after a year, she somehow managed to get it extended through a connection in the British government’s Home Office – much to my surprise, as that was a regular target (along with the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR) of her strident criticism.

These days I am less surprised; these organisations are sprinkled with people who were influenced by her, who carry with them a streak of critical boldness even as they work inside the belly of the beast.

Many years later, when we started a master’s degree in ‘Migration, Mobility and Development’ at SOAS, she told me that she was sorry we had focused on migrants of all kinds rather than focus exclusively on refugees, as she thought that the latter needed greater protection. She picked fights over this issue with many people, and she was not easy to get along with. At the same time, she was fiercely loyal to her friends, and we remained in regular contact over three decades, up to just a few weeks ago.

Barbara’s research and teaching were inspirational to generations of scholars and practitioners of refugee and forced migration studies. She was crucial in the founding of the Journal of Refugee Studies and the Forced Migration Review – respectively the world’s leading academic and practitioner publications on refugees and displacement. She also set up the Rights in Exile web portal that provides essential information and a network of experts who provide pro bono legal assistance to asylum seekers.

Barbara was also a founder of the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration, the leading professional association for scholarship on forced migration. The association will meet next week in Thessaloniki, Greece, where she was to have received yet another lifetime achievement award, and seen the launch of a new film about her life, Barbara Harrell-Bond: A Life Not Ordinary.

Barbara’s vision of refugee studies demanded being close to the regions and people with whom it is engaged. Disturbed by the idea of a refugee studies centre isolated in the ivory tower of Oxford, she worked with colleagues to establish the Refugee Law Project at the University of Makerere, Uganda, and refugee studies centres at Moi University in Kenya, the American University in Cairo, and others. Out of these centres have come many of the strongest and most interesting voices in refugee studies today, including academics who are or have been refugees themselves.

Her home in north Oxford was a hive of activity – every guest was pressed into voluntary service to contribute to scholarship or advocacy on refugee issues. Refugees found safe haven there. Stray academics found purpose in her fierce commitment to social justice.

When I now think about Barbara’s legacy, I realise that almost everyone I have collaborated with or respected in the field of refugee studies has a Barbara connection. In some cases she introduced us to each other. In other cases I feel a connection to someone and only find out much later that Barbara touched their lives in some way, in some part of the world – Uganda, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, India… Whether she introduced us to each other or not, having been in her orbit changed all of us and made us into a strong, subversive, passionate clan.

A few years ago I went to visit her again. She sat in her living room, which continued to be a cottage industry for refugee protection. Three student interns sat at computers. A fourth was cheerfully preparing lunch for everyone. They had all, like me all those years before, been seduced by Barbara’s passion.

http://www.irinnews.org/feature/2018/07/18/appreciation-barbara-harrell-bond-refugee-advocate-and-researcher-1932-2018?utm_source=IRIN+-+the+inside+story+on+emergencies&utm_campaign=194a685f7e-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_WEEKLY_ENGLISH&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d842d98289-194a685f7e-75444053

https://www.rsc.ox.ac.uk/news/barbara-harrell-bond-obe-1932-2018

Human rights lawyer Felicia Langer died on 21 June 2018

June 24, 2018

Felicia Langer (born 9 December 1930 ) died on 21 June 2018. She was a German-Israeli attorney and human rights defender known for her defence of Palestinian political prisoners in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She authored several books alleging human rights violations on the part of Israeli authorities. She lived in Germany from 1990 and acquired German citizenship in 2008.In her writings, lectures and interviews she criticized the Israeli policy in the occupied Palestinian territories, which she considered equivalent to an annexation. Langer furthermore considered the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank as undermining the possibility of a two-state solution and demands the complete and unconditional retreat of Israel from the territories conquered in 1967 and a right to return for any descendant of the Palestinian refugees. In 1990, Langer received the Right Livelihood Award ” for the exemplary courage of her struggle for the basic rights of the Palestinian people.” In 1991, she was awarded the Bruno Kreisky Award. In July 2009, President of Germany awarded her the Federal Cross of Merit. The bestowal triggered a public controversy because of her attitude towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For more on human rights awards see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/

 on 23 June wrote in an Op ED in EurAsia Review Felicia Langer is highly respected and revered by the Palestinians like no other Israeli-German citizen. Only Yasser Arafat is more adored. Both the Palestinian Authority and the city of Tübingen, where she lived in exile, should set up a memorial place for this great German-Israeli woman…Felicia Langer is one of the few outstanding Israeli-German personalities who have sacrificed themselves to the legitimate concerns of the Palestinian people to the last breath, and whose memory should remember by all three peoples. Their tireless commitment to Palestinian justice and human rights should always be considered an inspiration and a societal obligation to their political actions.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felicia_Langer

https://www.eurasiareview.com/23062018-german-israeli-human-rights-lawyer-felicia-langer-passes-away-oped/

Professor Kavous Seyed-Emami, Iranian environmentalist, dies in prison under suspicious circumstances

March 7, 2018

On 6 March, 2018 Scholars at Risk (SAR) reported the death in custody of Professor Kavous Seyed-Emami, a scholar of sociology and an environmentalist in Iran who was arrested in January 2018 on charges of espionage.

Professor Seyed-Emami was a professor of sociology at Imam Sadiq University and a co-founder of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation. A dual Canadian-Iranian national, he was an environmentalist who led camping trips for Iranian youth in his spare time. SAR understands that, on January 24, 2018, Iranian authorities arrested Professor Seyed-Emami, along with at least seven others, who Iranian authorities claimed were “collecting classified information about the country’s strategic areas under the guise of carrying out scientific and environmental projects.” The information released by authorities does not make clear what classified information Professor Seyed-Emami and others were alleged to have collected, who they were allegedly working for, or what evidence supports these allegations.

On February 9, authorities reportedly notified Professor Seyed-Emami’s wife of her husband’s death. The following day, authorities announced the arrests and Professor Seyed-Emami’s death, claiming it was a suicide. SAR understands that Professor Seyed-Emami’s family was pressured to bury him quickly. Human rights groups have called for an autopsy and investigation, pointing to the suspicious circumstances of his death. Professor Seyed-Emami’s death follows two other recent incidents in Evin Prison in which activists died and authorities later ruled their deaths suicides.

SAR demands an investigation of Professor Seyed-Emami’s deeply troubling death and generally that the ability of intellectuals in Iran to exercise their right to academic freedom be guaranteed. To join the action, follow the link below:

http://salsa4.salsalabs.com/o/50943/p/dia/action4/common/public/?action_KEY=24470

See also my post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/08/23/rouhanis-iran-disappoints-massively-on-human-rights/

Asma Jahangir, one of the world’s most outstanding human rights defenders, dies at age 66

February 11, 2018

 

 

 

Prominent Pakistani human rights defender and lawyer Asma Jahangir has died at the age of 66. She reportedly suffered a cardiac arrest and was taken to hospital, where she later died.

She was one of the most recognized and honored human rights defenders with over 17 human rights awards, including the Martin Ennals Award in 1995, whose film on her work shows a much younger Asma, fearless in spite of threats on her life:

I met her for the first time in 1993 at the 2nd World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, where she deeply impressed me by standing up and openly criticizing her fellow NGO representatives for having tried to prevent former President Jimmy Carte from speaking at the NGO forum. This principled stand was a hallmark of her life as Pakistani human rights lawyer and as UN Special Rapporteur. In many instances she was able to give sound advice on cases of other human rights defenders in difficulty. For earlier posts on Asma see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/asma-jahangir/

Asma Jahangir’s career in short:

  • Trained as a lawyer and worked in Pakistan’s Supreme Court from age 30
  • A critic of the military establishment
  • Jailed in 1983 for pro-democracy activities
  • Put under house arrest in 2007 for opposing military leader’s removal of Supreme Court chief justice
  • Co-founder of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and of the first free legal aid centre in Pakistan (together with her sister Hina Jilani)
  • Co-founder of the Women’s Action Forum, set up to oppose law that reduced a woman’s testimony in court to half that of a man’s
  • The first female leader of Pakistan’s Supreme Court bar association
  • Winner of 17 human rights awards and the French Legion of Honour
  • Served twice as UN special rapporteur: on freedom of religion and on later on Human Rights in Iran

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai called Ms Jahangir a “saviour of democracy and human rights”.

A prominent Pakistani lawyer, Salman Akram Raja, tweeted that Ms Jahangir was “the bravest human being I ever knew” and that the world was “less” without her.

A long interview with Asma you can find here: https://asiasociety.org/interview-asma-jahangir,

A 2017 interview can be found on the website of the RLA: https://vimeo.com/225966475

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https://www.economist.com/news/obituary/21736994-pakistans-loudest-voice-democracy-and-human-rights-was-66-obituary-asma-jahangir-died

In memoriam Oby Theodora Nwankwo, Nigerian activist for the International Criminal Court (ICC) and women’s rights

January 24, 2018

In memoriam: Corinne Dufka remembers Peter Takirambudde

December 1, 2017

On 1 December 2017 Corinne Dufka of Human Rights Watch wrote a column aboutPeter Takirambudde who passed away on 16 November in his native Uganda. He was head of HRW’s Africa division from 1996 to 2008 during multiple crises, including in Sudan, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. After leaving Human Rights Watch, Peter founded and directed the Botswana-based African Human Rights Consortium, which helped train members of civil society from across the continent in human rights investigation and advocacy. Peter was also a lawyer and a well-respected law professor, including at the University of Botswana-Gaborone, where he served as head of social sciences, and at the University of Lund in Sweden. He received a bachelor’s degree from Makerere University in Uganda and a doctoral degree from Yale University.

As noted by Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch’s executive director, “We remember him fondly for his deep intellectual engagement with African human rights issues, his always-incisive analysis, and his principled and passionate defense of the rights of people throughout the continent. He made a very important mark establishing Human Rights Watch in Africa, and we remain deeply indebted to him.

The full text below:

Read the rest of this entry »

In memoriam human rights lawyer Rudolph Jansen in South Africa

November 27, 2017

Human rights lawyer Rudolph Jansen has died.
THE legal fraternity is mourning the death of human rights lawyer Rudolph Jansen, who fought against injustice on behalf of the poor and marginalised for more than three decades, including with respect to the abolition of the death penalty, prison reform and land reform in South Africa. He was a long-standing member and former national director of Lawyers for Human Rights.Van Garderen, the head of Lawyers for Human Rights, Pretoria, wrote this obituary (excerpts):

Jansen, who leaves his wife Mariana, and two sons Rudolph and Gustav, died on Saturday in Limpopo, 53 years old. He completed his law studies at the University of Pretoria, and as a young advocate with the Pretoria Bar, quickly turned his attention to combating issues of inequality and injustice that were a hallmark of the apartheid state. His early and extensive pro bono work for Lawyers for Human Rights was representative of his commitment to the realisation of human rights in South Africa, which defined his career.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s Jansen joined other Lawyers for Human Rights to prevent the execution of political activists who were facing the death penalty. In those days Lawyers for Human Rights aimed at delaying executions, hopefully for long enough until the death penalty was eventually abolished. With its abolition in 1995, Jansen assisted Lawyers for Human Rights to expand its focus to unaddressed issues, including the awful conditions in prisons. With fellow human rights lawyers, Jansen challenged overcrowding, abusive practices like indefinite solitary confinement and other violations.

In 2003, Jansen took over as national director of Lawyers for Human Rights. He led the organisation for five years through a challenging period of transition and growth. Throughout, he remained a tireless champion of under-served communities in South Africa, inspiring the same commitment from his colleagues. When his tenure ended, Jansen resumed his practice at the Pretoria Bar, achieving senior status in 2014.

He developed a wide-ranging practice centred on human rights and public interest law, representing landless communities, unlawfully evicted people, and human rights defenders, among many others. Jansen’s work in recent years focused increasingly on the furtherance of South African land reform and restitution, to which he made an immeasurable contribution. His commitment to the successful implementation and achievement of this constitutional project saw him involved in ground-breaking cases addressing issues like post-settlement support and market-related pricing within the government’s willing-seller, willing-buyer policies.

Jansen’s advocacy in many of South Africa’s ground-breaking housing cases helped to ensure fair process and entrenched the right of dignity for many of the country’s marginalised. His latest involvement in legal challenges seeking to ensure the equitable distribution of the country’s mining benefits to affected communities represented the next step in his personal and professional quest for justice on behalf of those whose voices have historically been muted. He was an inspiration to many activists and human rights lawyers over the course of his life, and leaves behind a legion of individuals committed to taking forward his work and vision for a just and equal society.

 

The legacy of his work to quietly push for a more just society will continue to the next generation of human rights lawyers. Hamba kahle, Comrade Jansen.

https://www.iol.co.za/pretoria-news/top-city-human-rights-lawyer-dies-12164274

Killing of minority rights defender Lafiqul Islam Ahmed in Assam State, India

August 14, 2017

On 1 August 2017, two unidentified gunmen shot and killed minority rights defender Lafiqul Islam Ahmed in Kokrajhar district, Assam state. Lafiqul Islam Ahmed <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/lafiqul-islam-ahmed>  was a human rights defender and a student leader. He was the president of All Bodoland Minority Students’ Union (ABMSU), a student group working to defend the rights of migrant Muslim communities in Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD), an autonomous administrative division in northern Assam. ABMSU have protested against the forceful eviction of Muslims from government land across the state, and demanded compensation and rehabilitation for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Assam. Under Lafiqul Islam Ahmed’s leadership, the union has also campaigned to end child marriage, child labour and dowry and have worked on women’s empowerment. Lafiqul Islam Ahmed was also vocal against corruption, smuggling and arbitrary anti-Muslim policies and harassment.

The human rights defender had previously been subjected to threats. The Superintendent of Police in Kokrajhar has opened an investigation into the murder and two persons were arrested in connection to the case on 2 August 2017. Lafiqul Islam Ahmed, along with the ABMSU, was to lead a march on 2 August 2017 to protest against the discrimination of Muslims through the  “D voters” system. This is a category of voters in Assam whose citizenship rights, entitlements and privileges are withheld until they can prove their citizenship. Many members of the Muslim community in the state have allegedly been arbitrarily categorized as such, making them second-class citizens and severely restricting their civil and political rights.

Human Rights Defender Heather Heyer murdered in protest against hate in Charlottesville

August 14, 2017

GOFUNDME
Heather Heyer 

20-year-old James Fields Jr. was arrested over the incident and charged with murder. Fields was one of thousands of members of the so-called “alt right” who were in Charlottesville attending Saturday’s “Unite The Right” march. The rally became violent after the white supremacists were confronted by anti-fascist groups.

Source: Heather Heyer ‘Murdered While Protesting Against Hate’ In Charlottesville, Friends Say | HuffPost

https://www.economist.com/news/obituary/21726701-legal-assistant-killed-far-right-rally-charlottesville-was-32-obituary-heather