Posts Tagged ‘in memoriam’

Aktham Naisse no more

February 7, 2022

Aktham Naisse was a Syrian lawyer and human rights activist. He was president of the Committees for the Defence of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights (CDDL-HR), which he helped found in 1989.

He was first arrested in February 1982, when he was held for four months and tortured. In 1989 the CDDL-HR formed an underground publication, Sawt al-Dimuqratiyya (The voice of democracy). In 1991 the group called for free elections, leading to Naisse’s arrest in December 1991. In 1992 he was tried and sentenced to 9 years imprisonment in Sednaya prison. Released in July 1998, Naisse was not subsequently permitted to practice law.

In August 2003 Naisse was questioned and threatened by military security. The committee posted a public letter on the Internet, calling for the lifting of the state of emergency. On 8 March 2004 they led around 700 demonstrators in a peaceful sit-in in front of the Syrian parliament building in Damascus. Naisse and one hundred others presented the parliament with a petition against the state of emergency, signed by over 7,000 people.

On 13 April 2004 Naisse was arrested and returned to Sednaya prison. There he suffered a stroke, leaving him partially paralysed. He began a hunger strike, and was released on bail pending trial on 16 August 2004. After international appeals on his behalf, the court acquitted him on 26 June 2005.

Naisse won the Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Rights Award in October 2004and the 2005 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. [https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/96EB3030-144D-204E-3C6C-31CD4CA4501C]

Desmond Tutu, human rights champion par excellence, is no more

December 29, 2021

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who was post-apartheid South Africa’s moral compass and the driver of its troubled reconciliation process, has died. He was 90 years old.

He is the laureate of at least 10 human rights awards: For the complete list, see:

https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/3E4065ED-420D-D94E-ECB1-4A2C91FE3BE6

Andrew Donaldson in News24 of 26 December 2021 published an interesting obituary: A tireless social activist and human rights defender, Tutu not only coined the term “Rainbow Nation” to describe the country’s ethnic diversity but, after the first democratic elections in 1994, went on to become its conscience, using his international profile in campaigns against HIV/Aids, tuberculosis, poverty, racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia and transphobia, among others…

His was a powerful, forthright voice, one that irked both the Nationalist government and its successor, the African National Congress and its allies. He was, an activist noted, “given to expressing his opinion in ways that are guaranteed to be outside the realm of comfortable politics”. As Tutu himself put it, in 2007, “I wish I could shut up, but I can’t, and I won’t.“..

Both at home and abroad, Tutu’s opposition to apartheid, which he often likened to Nazism, was vigorous and unequivocal. The Nationalists twice revoked his passport, and he was briefly jailed in 1980 after a protest march. Many felt that his increasing international reputation and his advocacy of non-violence had spared Tutu from more harsh treatment by the government…

He was a born orator and, according to the journalist Simon Hattenstone, “a natural performer [with] his hands and eyes flying all over the place, his voice impassioned and resonant; a tiny ball of love.”

Tutu would often play down such adulation. “I was,” he once said of his reputation, “this man with the big nose and the easy name who personalised the South African situation.”…

Following the Soweto riots in 1976, Tutu became an increasingly vocal supporter of economic sanctions and a vigorous opponent of US president Ronald Reagan’s “constructive engagement” with the Nationalist government.

In 1978, he was appointed general secretary of the SACC, a position he used to further rally support, both local and international, against apartheid. He was just as harsh in his criticism of the violent tactics later used by some anti-apartheid activists, and was unequivocal in his opposition to terrorism and communism.

Tutu’s finest hour came when he chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was set up to bear witness to, record and in some cases grant amnesty to the perpetrators of apartheid-relation human rights violations, as well as rule on reparation and the rehabilitation of victims…

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/07/30/desmond-tutu-chooses-hell-over-homophobic-heaven/

He is survived by his wife, four children, seven grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Desmond Tutu was responsible for countless notable quotes throughout his life as an activist and elder. TimesLive (Ernest Mabuza) of 26 December 2021 in “In his own words: Desmond Tutu’s unwavering stance on human rights” published 12 of his best:

https://www.news24.com/news24/Obituaries/obituary-desmond-tutu-tenacious-charismatic-and-a-thorn-in-the-national-party-and-ancs-side-20211226

https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2021-12-26-in-his-own-words-desmond-tutus-unwavering-stance-on-human-rights/

Michel Tubiana passed away

October 4, 2021

On 2 October 2021 EuroMed Rights announed with great sadness the passing of Michel Tubiana.

Born in 1952 and a lawyer by training, Michel Tubiana was first and foremost a human rights activist, a cause he had been committed to since university. Alternately Secretary General, then Vice-President and President of the League of Human Rights in France, Michel Tubiana put his knowledge, practice of law and pugnacity at the service of the fight against racism and the respect of human rights.

Michel Tubiana was President of the EuroMed Rights Network from 2012 to 2018 before becoming its Honorary President.

The EuroMed Rights Network expresses their most sincere condolences to his family and friends in their grief.

https://euromedrights.org/publication/passing-of-michel-tubiana-euromed-rights-honorary-president/

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

In memoriam John Ruggie, father of “Business and Human Rights”

September 28, 2021

On 22 September 2021, Harvard announced the death of Professor John Gerard Ruggie, last week.

A post by Gerald L. Neuman describes him as a major figure in international relations and human rights. Ruggie was the Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  In the human rights field he is most famous for establishing a viable foundation for addressing the human rights responsibilities of business corporations, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (2011).  A brilliant strategist, Ruggie engaged in extensive consultation, study, analysis and persuasion to rescue the business-and-human-rights project from the polarized confrontation that had brought it to an impasse.  His invaluable book Just Business:  Multinational Corporations and Human Rights (2013) provides a model for the multi-dimensional negotiations that enable such achievements. John’s unique blend of kindness, rigour, insight, and attentive listening will be sorely missed.

Photo of John G. Ruggie sitting in his office.
John G. Ruggie is the Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/07/11/more-on-un-process-toward-contentious-treaty-on-business-and-human-rights/

Human right defender Sergei Kovalev died

August 19, 2021

One of Russia’s most famous human rights defenders and former Soviet dissident, Sergei Kovalev, died aged 91 on Monday 9 August 2021 his family said. He won 9 international human rights awards, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/7B15D0E9-FDB2-4727-B94F-AA261BDB92D9

Kovalev was a biologist who became one of the leading members of the USSR’s pro-democracy movement. He was held for years in Soviet labour camps for his activism. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, he became a fierce critic of Moscow’s war in Chechnya and warned against democratic backsliding when President Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000.

His son Ivan Kovalev said on Facebook that his father died “in his sleep” in the early hours of Monday morning.

Russian rights group Memorial, which Kovalev co-founded, said he was “faithful to the idea of human rights always and in everything — in war and peace, in politics and every day life”.

The leading rights organisation — which has been labelled a “foreign agent” by Russian authorities under a controversial law — said Kovalev had campaigned for human rights since the 1960s. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/04/26/russia-pursues-its-policy-of-labeling-human-rights-defenders-as-foreign-agents/

As a biology student, Kovalev had dreamed of devoting himself exclusively to science.

But he changed his mind after the arrests of dissident writers Yuli Daniel and Andrei Sinyavsky.

“I then understood that it was not possible to only be in science,” he said. “It would have been shameful.”

In 1968, Kovalev was fired from his job at a Moscow university laboratory for joining the Action Group for the Defence of Human Rights in the USSR — considered to be the Soviet Union’s first rights group.

He then grew close to the dissident academic Andrei Sakharov.

Kovalev was part of a group of dissidents writing the “Chronicle of Current Events”, an underground typed bulletin that reported on human rights violations in the USSR.

It reported the arrests and psychiatric internments of the Soviet regime’s opponents and on the situation in its labour camps.

He was arrested in 1974, accused of spreading “anti-Soviet propaganda” and sentenced to seven years in a Gulag camp, followed by three years of house arrest in the icy Siberian region of Kolyma.

He was only allowed to return to Moscow in 1987, thanks to the perestroika reforms launched by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

He went on to help found Memorial, which recorded testimonies of Soviet political repression.

Kovalev was one of the few Soviet dissidents that entered post-USSR politics.

He contributed to writing Russia’s new constitution and was elected a parliamentary deputy twice.

In 1994, he was appointed as chairman of President Boris Yeltsin’s human rights commission in 1994. But he was forced to give up the post two years later for his outspoken criticism of Russia’s brutal intervention in the Chechen conflict.

Kovalev also criticised the political system created by Putin, from the beginning of the former KGB spy’s long rule. “A controlled democracy is being created in our country that seeks to create problems for ‘enemies inside as well as outside’,” he said in 2001, a year after Putin was inaugurated as president.

In 2014, he called on Western countries to “stop Russian expansion” into Ukraine after Moscow annexed Kiev’s Crimea peninsula.

According to Kovalev, the West had made “too many concessions” to Russia.

He also criticised Russian opposition leaders, whom he accused of being pragmatists without strong moral convictions. “I belong to the camp of idealists in politics,” he said.

https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20210809-soviet-dissident-sergei-kovalev-dies

https://today.rtl.lu/news/world/a/1768110.html

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/08/09/human-rights-watch-mourns-death-sergei-kovalev

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/aug/09/sergei-kovalev-soviet-dissident-who-clashed-with-yeltsin-putin-dies-aged-91

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/

On 25 November 2021 this: https://thewire.in/rights/bombay-hc-asks-jesuit-group-to-file-new-plea-if-they-want-stan-swamys-name-cleared

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/

https://www.ucanews.com/news/book-tells-story-of-indian-jesuit-who-died-in-custody/94104#

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