Posts Tagged ‘India’

Gauri Lankesh and Gulalai Ismail win 2017 Anna Politkovskaya Award

October 6, 2017

Thursday 5 October 2017, RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in WAR – <http://www.rawinwar.org) celebrated the courage of Gauri Lankesh, an Indian journalist and human rights campaigner, and Gulalai Ismail, a Pakistani human rights and peace activist by according them the 2017 Anna Politkovskaya Award for their courage to speak out and to defy extremism in the context of violence and armed conflict in their countries, for which they suffered death threats and Gauri paid for it with her life. Gulalai opposes Islamic extremism in Pakistan and Gauri – the Hindu extremism in India. A month ago today, on 5th September 2017, she was murdered when entering her home, in an attempt to silence her voice. For more on the award see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/anna-politkovskaya-award

On Gulalai Ismail and Gauri Lankesh receiving the 2017 Anna Politkovskaya Award, as well as the special tribute to Jamalida Begum (Myanmar/Bangladesh)Baron Judd of Portsea, a member of the 2017 Award Nominations Committee, said:  “Amidst all the disturbing violence and repression, not least of journalists, which is increasingly prevalent, Anna Politkovskaya remains a heroic example of courage and integrity.  I am glad to salute Gulalai Ismail and the late Gauri Lankesh together with Jamilida Begum as brave champions of Anna’s cause.  In doing this I also salute the countless individuals who are victims of oppression, tyranny, torture, sexual abuse and disappearances, wherever this occurs.”

Gulalai Ismail, at the age of 16 in 2002, founded Aware Girls , with her sister Saba Ismail, aiming to challenge the culture of violence and the oppression of women in the rural Khyber Pakhtunkhwa  area in the north west of Pakistan. Driven by a passion to challenge the inequality, intolerance and extremism, they began running workshops to provide girls and young women with leadership skills to challenge oppression and fight for their rights to an education and equal opportunities. Malala Yousafzai was an attendee of Aware Girls programmes in 2011.
Gauri Lankesh Gauri Lankesh, 55, an outspoken Indian newspaper editor, was shot dead outside her home by unidentified assailants in the southern city of Bengaluru, at a time of rising nationalism and intolerance of dissent in the country. She was a major figure in India, critic of right-wing Hindu extremism, campaigner for women’s rights, fiercely opposed to the caste system, campaigning for rights of Dalits and so on. With mixed feelings, Kavitha Lankesh, Gauri’s sister, told media persons here on Thursday that the Anna Politkovskaya Award was a morale booster for people who want to write and continue to fight against injustice. It was an honour not only for the members of Gauri’s family, but also to “huge family” that loved Gauri for her commitment to the cause of secular ideals, justice, equality and women rights. “In fact, the award honours what Gauri stood for throughout her life… that ‘you cannot silence me’”.

Sources: Gauri Lankesh & Gulalai Ismail Win 2017 RAW in War Anna Politkovskaya Award for Women HRDs | NewsClick

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/gauri-lankesh-posthumously-honoured-with-anna-politkovskaya-award/article19802238.ece

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-journalist-award/award-honors-slain-indian-journalists-courage-to-write-and-fight-idUSKBN1CA01U

4 activists receive the ′Alternative Nobel Prize′ 2017

September 30, 2017

This year’s Right Livelihood Awards recipients have fought for greater inclusion for those with disabilities, defended human and health rights, as well as sought to expose governmental corruption.

Winnres of the Right Livelihood Awards (Right Livelihood-Award)

The Right Livelihood Award Foundation announced the three recipients of its 2017 prize on Tuesday 26 September in Stockholm: Ethiopian lawyer Yetnebersh Nigussie, Azerbaijani investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova and Indian attorney Colin Gonsalves were honored for their work “offering visionary and exemplary solutions to the root causes of global problems.” US attorney Robert Bilott received an honorary mention.

The four awardees were selected from a pool of 102 nominations from 51 different countries. An award ceremony will take place on December 1.

Niguissie, Ismayilova and Gonsalves will share a prize of 3 million Swedish kronor (around €314,000).

For more on the award see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest.  for earlier post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/right-livelihood-award/

Source: ′Alternative Nobel Prize′ awarded to 4 global activists | News | DW | 26.09.2017

Parveena Ahangar and Parvez Imroz in Kashmir awarded Rafto Prize 2017

September 30, 2017

Several newspapers (here the Indian Express) referred to the announcement of the RAFTO award 2017. On Thursday the Bergen-based group announced that the award has gone to human rights defenders Parveena Ahangar and Parvez Imroz for their campaign “to expose human rights violations, promote dialogue and seek peaceful solutions to the intractable conflict in Kashmir that has inspired new generations across communities.” The Rafto Foundation noted “Parveena Ahangar and Imroz Parvez have long been at the forefront of the struggle against arbitrary abuses of power in a region of India that has borne the brunt of escalating violence, militarisation and international tension.” For more on the Rafto award, see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest

Terming the award an acknowledgement from Europe, Imroz, human rights lawyers and the founder of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) said, “This helps to remind us that the international community has taken note of our struggles and our work.” “The state extends its control over every aspect of this conflict…. Speaking truth to power is not easy in these circumstances. This award is a recognition of the civil society in Kashmir” [see also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/01/human-rights-defender-khurram-parvez-reluctantly-released-in-india/

Source: J&K activist, lawyer awarded Rafto Prize | The Indian Express

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.

Reprisals at the UN: more calls for action – no action

June 23, 2017

The UN and States must take visible and sustained action against acts of intimidation and reprisal against those engaging or seeking to engage with the UN“, says the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) in two reports issued on 22 June 2017.  Unfortunately, the NGO community (the main victims of the practice of reprisals) finds it difficult to come up with new ideas on how counter the trend while States continue to block the participation and input by human rights defenders. [ see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/03/13/zero-tolerance-for-states-that-take-reprisals-against-hrds-lets-up-the-ante/and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/]

ISHR’s latest report to the UN Secretary-General demonstrates again the need for the UN and States to act to prevent and ensure accountability for intimidation and reprisals against those cooperating or seeking to cooperate with the UN, and lays out a series of recommendations in that regard. The report documents a disturbing pattern of reprisals against human rights defenders seeking to cooperate with the UN. It includes alleged cases of travel bans in Bahrain in the context of the Universal Period Review this May; disappearances and detention of defenders and lawyers, as well as intimidation of their families in China; and restrictions imposed on NGOs in Egypt.The report welcomes recent positive steps such as the appointment of Assistant Secretary General Andrew Gilmour as the first high-level official on reprisals against those cooperating with the UN on human rights, but highlights that more needs to be done. ‘In the overwhelming majority of cases, steps taken by the State to prevent, investigate or ensure accountability for reprisals have been inadequate or non-existent, and in many States there has been a high-level of impunity’ said ISHR’s Programme Coordinator and Legal Counsel, Tess McEvoy. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/05/assistant-secretary-general-andrew-gilmour-appointed-as-the-uns-focal-point-to-combat-reprisals-against-human-rights-defenders/]

The primary duty to prevent and remedy reprisals lies with States. However the UN itself also has a duty to step up. ‘Where States fail to adequately investigate and ensure accountability in relation to credible allegations of intimidation and reprisals, the UN should ensure an international, independent investigation into the case‘, said McEvoy. In the report ISHR called on UN bodies to take a more proactive role in combating reprisals and intimidation, and among other things, urged:

  • The Human Rights Council President and Bureau to clearly outlines steps the Council will take on receipt of information about credible risks of reprisals.
  • Treaty bodies to fully adopt and implement the San Jose guidelines.
  • The Assistant Secretary-General to ensure that rights holders and victims are kept regularly appraised of the status of their case.

     

    On the same day ISHR published a statement to the 35th session of the Human Rights Council, ISHR calling for a stronger focus on the implementation of Universal Periodic Review recommendations and the development of processes to ensure civil society can freely engage without fear of intimidation and reprisal. ‘Civil society is not only necessary for developing recommendations, but is essential for the working towards the implementation of these recommendations. The role of civil society must therefore be protected and enhanced’, said ISHR.

    While recommendations received are often accepted at ‘Geneva level’, implementation of these recommendations on the ground remains patchy. Item 6 on the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council provides a opportunity for dialogue on implementation.

    Alleged cases of intimidation and reprisals of human rights defenders engaging or seeking to engage in the UPR have escalated. ISHR received reports of cases in Egypt, India and Venezuela in the past year. Ongoing reprisals in Bahrain  are particularly concerning, including the imposition of travel bans on 27 defenders during the 27th UPR pre-session – including Sayed Hadi Al Musawi – as well as the interrogation of Abtisam Alsayegh in relation to her UN engagement. ISHR’s statement reiterated calls for States to ask advance questions, and make recommendations about the prevention, investigation, prosecution and remediation of reprisals.

    Reprisals against human rights defenders for their engagement with the UPR remain worryingly prevalent,’ said McEvoy. Given civil socity’s fundamental role in the UPR, we call on the President, Bureau and Secretariat to establish an institutionalised reprisals mechanism to prevent, investigate, remedy and promote accountability for reprisals associated with the UPR’, McEvoy continued. These calls form part of ISHR’s broader strategy to strengthen the UPR  which can be accessed hereContact: Tess McEvoy, Programme Coordinator and Legal Counsel, and focal point for ISHR’s UPR advocacy, on: t.mcevoy@ishr.ch.

    http://www.ishr.ch/news/report-sg-un-and-states-must-do-more-prevent-and-ensure-accountability-reprisals-0

Where is the beef? In tolerance..

April 13, 2017

Living in Greece where the big feast of Orthodox Easter is preceded by various fasting habits, especially in the last week, the issue of tolerance of other religions or customs came up. Especially when the Greek Atheists Association organizes a Meat Supper event on Good Friday, the day when Greek Orthodox are supposed to keep a very strict Lent avoiding to consume even oil. They call the event “The Disclosed Supper” in opposition to the Last Supper which in Greek is “Secret Supper.” Although church representatives and several news outlets commented negatively on the ‘counter celebration’, I am not aware of any official sanction or threat of violence.

Then I read that human rights activist Bondita Acharya in India said she has been threatened by some Bajrang Dal activists and individuals ‘propagating Hindutva’ for expressing her opinion about eating beef on the social media.
Acharya said she has already lodged a complaint with the CID and Jorhat Police. As a resident of Jorhat district, Acharya said Bajrang Dal has also demanded a public apology from her for hurting the sentiments of the Hindus through her comments on the recent arrest of three persons in Jorhat for carrying beef. “After the incident, I spoke to some people from the minority community who were shocked. Many of us were sharing our views on beef and I expressed my opinion. The arrests were made to target the Muslims only and so I wrote that I am from Jorhat and I eat beef. Then all of us should be put in jail,” added Acharya, the northeast coordinator of Human Rights Defenders Alert (HRDA). She is also associated with rights organization Women in Governance (WinG)-India. WinG-India’s statement said, “She was criminally intimidated and defamed with threats of death, gang rape and acid attack.” Bajrang Dal, however, denied issuing such threats. But it said it strongly opposed Acharya’s comments on beef as cows are worshipped as ‘gau mata’ by the Hindus.  “…. Through her comments, she wanted to divide society and also hurt the sentiments of 130 crore Hindus. We will keep opposing comments which hurt the Hindu sentiments,” said Assam Bajrang Dal assistant convener Dhrubajyoti Kalita.

Happy Easter….

 

Backsliding on civic space in democracies – important side event on 3 March in Geneva

March 2, 2017

One of the side events in Geneva during the UN Human Rights Council that is of special importance for human rights defenders is held tomorrow, 3 March 2017, from 13:00 – 14:00, in Room XXI, Palais Des Nations, Geneva.

Across the world, well-established principles and standards fundamental to maintaining a safe and enabling environment for civil society are being questioned and threatened in mature and consolidated democracies. In both the global North and global South, governments with vibrant civil societies and constitutional and historical commitments based on their struggles for democracy and freedom are adopting increasingly hostile and corrosive policies and practices to suppress independent civil society voices. The event will provide an opportunity for the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and civil society leaders to reflect on the global climate for civil society operating in mature democracies and articulate key measures these states must take to ensure an enabling environment for civil society and human rights defenders both at home and at the UN Human Rights Council. In advance of their examination under the Universal Periodic Review in May 2017, the event will also bring together civil society leaders from India, Brazil, Poland, and South Africa to examine state backsliding on civic space norms.[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/24/2017-10-need-to-reset-for-h…]

Panelists:

  • Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
  • Camila Asano, Conectas – Brazil
  • Henri Tiphagne, Human Rights Defenders Association – India
  • Maciej Kozłowski, Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD) – Poland
  • Corlett Letlojane, HURISA- South Africa

Moderator: Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research, CIVICUS

The event is co-sponsored by key international NGOs: –Amnesty InternationalCIVICUS, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), International Society for Human Rights (ISHR), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Human Rights Defenders Alert India (HRDA), The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBS)

https://www.forum-asia.org/?p=23168

Five Asian human rights defenders speak about anti-torture work in their region

February 2, 2017

The weekly video service of Just Asia of 26 January 2017 is a special focus on the regional meeting of Asian Parliamentarians & Human Rights Defenders Against Torture, held in Hong Kong in December. During the meeting focusing on modernizing criminal institutions, Just Asia interviewed several parliamentarians and human rights defenders.

Just Asia speaks to Dr. P. M. Nair, Chair Professor at the TATA Social Sciences Institute. According to Dr. Nair, institutions need to work together in India to combat torture, and he is confident that once this occurs, things will improve quickly. Dr. Nair also noted the importance of persons implementing laws and regulations to have a human rights perspective, which would particularly help vulnerable and marginalized sections of society.

Just Asia interviews Pakistani Member of National Assembly Imran Zafar Laghari, to learn his views on the rising incidents of torture and corruption in the policing and judicial systems.

In Nepal, the February 2017 deadline for the transitional justice commissions to complete their work is fast approaching. However, other than collecting over 60,000 complaints and starting preliminary investigations, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) have not succeeded in anything meaningful. Meanwhile, Nepal’s Anti-torture legislation is pending in the Parliament. With Colonel Kumar Lama being released by the UK court, there are nominal chances for the Parliament to pass the anti-torture legislation and put it into practice. Just Asia speaks to Mr. Dipendra Jha, a practicing lawyer at the Supreme Court of Nepal, for his views.

Indonesia also faces a rise in executions and the use of the death penalty. At the same time, the revision of the country’s penal code has been ongoing for over a decade. Member of the drafting committee and parliamentarian Mr. Arsul Sani speaks about his views on the penal code revision process and rule of law in Indonesia.

Bangladesh has seen considerable violence and political manipulation in the last year. Dr. Badiul Alam Majumdar, secretary of Citizens for Good Governance shares with Just Asia his views on free and fair elections and the Bangladesh electoral system.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/16/amila-sampath-the-man-behind-the-video-service-of-just-asia/

For comments write to: news@ahrc.asia.

Video profile of Surendra Pratap, labour rights defender from India

December 7, 2016

Surendra Pratap works for the Centre for Workers’ Education in India. He talked to ISHR about his activities promoting workers’ rights and trade unions. This video clip was published in the ISHR Monitor of December 2016.

Human rights defender Khurram Parvez (reluctantly) released in India

December 1, 2016

On 23 September 2016 I reported on the arrest of  human rights defender Khurram Parvez [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/khurram-parvezs-re-arrest-in-kashmir-illustrates-draconian-use-of-public-safety-act/#more-8476] in Jammu and Kashmir. A great many interventions by human rights NGOs focused on this case which highlights the draconian use of India’s Public Safety Act (PSA).

On 30 November 2016, Khurram Parvez was released from jail but even this was not done without wrangling by the police as reported by Front Line on 30 November: On 25 November 2016, the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir in Srinagar quashed the order of detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA) and ordered the immediate release of Khuram Parvez.  Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar in his order said Khuram Parvez’s detention was “illegal”. However, in the judge’s order there was a small clerical error, so the police at Jammu’s Kot Balwal jail decided to keep Khurram Parvez in detention until a corrigendum could be issued. On 29 November 2016 at 3 pm the Jammu’s Kot Balwal jail received the corrigendum, but did not release Khurram Parvez. Instead, at around 5 pm of the same day, he was taken to the joint interrogation centre at Meeran Sahib, Jammu. No reasons were provided for his continued detention to the human rights defender or his legal counsel. Khurram Parvez was released on the morning of 30 November. 

[Khurram Parvez is the Chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), a collective of 13 non-governmental organizations from ten Asian countries, that campaign on the issue of enforced disappearances. He is also the Programme Coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), which is a coalition of various campaign, research and advocacy organisations based in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, which monitor and investigate human right abuses. See: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/khurram-parvez]

Note that Khurram’s Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) won the 2016 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/11/11/anti-disappearances-ngo-wins-asian-human-rights-award/]

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