Posts Tagged ‘in memoriam’

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

Liu Xiaobo: a giant human rights defender leaves a lasting legacy for China and the rest of the world

July 13, 2017

USA AI then mentions some of the many other HRDs who under the leadership of President Xi Jinping have suffered persecution:

Ilham Tohti, an economics professor at Minzu University of China in Beijing, was sentenced to life imprisonment for “separatism”. Amnesty International believes that he is in prison for writings posted on the Internet.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/11/hot-news-ilham-tohti-chinas-mandela-wins-2016-martin-ennals-award/]

Women’s rights activist Su Changlan was sentenced in March 2017 to three years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power.”[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/08/amnesty-international-campaigns-with-7-women-who-refuse-to-wait-for-their-rights/]

Human rights lawyers like Jiang Tianyong have been detained, arrested and harassed by government authorities in the last several years. He was formally arrested for “subverting state power” after being detained in an unofficial detention facility for over six months. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/01/human-rights-defenders-issues-on-the-agenda-of-the-next-35th-human-rights-council/]

The reaction of the Chinese government to criticism from abroad over Liu Xiaobo’s treatment is by the way typical. See e.g. in the Strait Times of 14 July: “Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang also said China had lodged protests with “certain countries” for interfering in its “judicial sovereignty”…….”Conferring the prize to such a person goes against the purposes of this award. It’s a blasphemy of the peace prize”. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/12/06/china-and-its-amazing-sensitivity-on-human-rights-defenders/]

Source: Liu Xiaobo: A giant of human rights who leaves a lasting legacy for China and the world – Amnesty International USA

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/china-says-awarding-nobel-peace-prize-to-liu-xiaobo-was-blasphemy

Uganda: Killing of human rights defender Erasmus Irumba by security forces

June 30, 2017

 reports that on 23 June 2017, Erasmus Irumba was shot and wounded during an alleged altercation with a commanding officer of the local Uganda People’s Defence Forces and other security officials in Ntoroko District, western Uganda. He was then driven to a more rural area where he was shot again at close range and killed. Erasmus Irumba <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/erasmus-irumba>  was the coordinator of Twerwaneho Listeners Club (TLC) in Ntoroko District. TLC is a non-governmental organisation based in Fort Portal, in western Uganda. TLC carries out human rights advocacy through weekly radio programmes centred on human rights education, capacity building of human rights defenders, civic education, the monitoring and documentation of human rights violations and the challenging of unlawful government actions in court. TLC radio programmes generally aim at holding public leaders and corporations more accountable. Erasmus Irumba was particularly active in TLC’s Village Budget Clubs, a project that sought to scrutinise the allocation and implementation of district budgets and ensure proper management of public funds at the local level.

[On 23 June 2017, at approximately 7.30pm, Erasmus Irumba was reportedly summoned to go to Butungama trading centre for a meeting with senior security officials in his region, including the Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Richard Muhangi of Uganda People’s Defence Forces 3rd Mountain Battalion, with two of his escorts, the Ntoroko District Police Commander and the District Internal Security Organ Officer. During this meeting, Erasmus Irumba and another civilian who was with him were shot in the leg in an altercation that has been this far presented as arising from his attempt to resist arrest. Whilst still alive, but severely bleeding, Erasmus Irumba and his colleague were put in the boot of a private car and driven to a more rural area where they were shot dead. Erasmus Irumba’s body, which presented a gun wound in the forehead, was later taken to Buhinga Regional Referral Hospital in Fort Portal. In response to the killings, it is reported that some senior security officials including Lt. Col. Richard Muhangi and the Ntoroko District Police Commander have been arrested.]

Front Line Defenders is concerned that the killing of Erasmus Irumba is linked to the corruption of the security officials involved and believes he was targeted due to his peaceful and legitimate work at TLC.

 

 

Silencing of Miriam Rodriguez Martinez in Mexico: a loud voice for the disappeared

June 21, 2017

Since December 2012, on average two human rights defenders have been killed every month in Mexico. During his recent visit to Mexico (25 January 2017), United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, highlighted the particular dangers faced by indigenous rights defenders and those campaigning to protect the environment from the impact of mega development projects. The situation of human rights defenders in Mexico is conditioned by the criminalisation of their activities through the deliberate misuse of criminal law and the manipulation of the state’s punitive power by both state and non-state actors, to hinder and even prevent the legitimate activities of defenders to promote and protect human rights,” said Forst. “The failure to investigate and sanction aggressors has signaled a dangerous message that there are no consequences for committing such crimes. This creates an environment conducive to the repetition of violations”Two major contributory factors are the impunity enjoyed by organised criminal gangs and the failure by state authorities to provide protection to HRDs or to bring the perpetrators of attacks to justice. Nothing demonstrates the problem better than the work and life of Miriam Rodriguez Martinez, who was gunned down on 10 May 2017.

The obituary in the Economist of 20 May 2017 tells the sad story of this enormously courageous woman in detail: http://www.economist.com/news/obituary/21722139-campaigner-mexicos-disappeared-was-50-obituary-miriam-rodr-guez-mart-nez-died-may

see also: https://socialistworker.org/2017/05/18/justice-for-miriam-rodriguez

and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/02/27/alarming-criminalisation-of-human-rights-defenders-in-latin-america/