Posts Tagged ‘international community’

Human rights defenders in Afghanistan: crucial role

March 3, 2020

While uncertainty about the status of a peace accord in Afghanistan continues to feature in the main media, this opinion piece by Samira Hamidi in Khaama, Afghanistan/ of Wednesday, 26 February 2020 is most timely: “Human rights defenders strategy: From commitments to action”. Samira Hamidi is Regional Campaigner for Amnesty International’s South Asia Regional Office. She was the former Country Director for Afghan Women’s Network and has also chaired the board of AWN and Human Rights Defenders Committee.

Wherever there is injustice in Afghanistan, you will find some of the bravest people fighting against it. They are lawyers and activists supporting women who have suffered violence and discrimination. They are teachers who are supporting the right to education of girls and boys. They are journalists who advance the right to freedom of expression. They are whistleblowers who expose allegations of corruption and other abuses of government and its officials. They are all human rights defenders, as they work to contribute to the protection and promotion of human rights in the country

Human rights defenders in Afghanistan have played a crucial role in bridging the gap between the government and the people. They have been key actors in protecting and promoting human rights and strengthening the rule of law, often at great risk to themselves, their families and communities, and to the organizations and movements they represent. For decades, they have advocated humanity’s core values of equality, justice, fairness and non-discrimination. They have not only contributed to the development and progress of communities and the country but have also paid a high price for the work they do.

Despite the positive contributions they make, human rights defenders face hostility from different state and non- state actors. They have been subjected to threats, intimidation, harassment, violence and even death. The human rights defenders and women human rights defenders are questioned for their human rights work, labeled as ‘anti-religion’ and ‘anti-culture’ and are targeted for challenging injustices. There have been systematic attacks on human rights defenders in Afghanistan in the last couple of years, which notably increased in 2019.

In May last year, a female journalist and activist, Mena Mangal was shot dead in Kabul. In July, Saeed Karim Musawi a well-known human rights defender and civil society activist was shot and killed by two gunmen who were riding on a motorbike and escaped the scene in Kunduz province. … Abdul Samad Amiri, a human rights defender and head of the Ghor provincial office for Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission was kidnapped and killed on his way to Ghor province. In November, two prominent human rights defenders from Logar province were forcibly disappeared and then detained for exposing alleged sexual abuse against children. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/26/afghanistan-human-rights-defenders-targeted-but-fearless/]

These attacks on human rights defenders, and many more that are yet to be documented,…There are also examples where human rights defenders were advised to silence themselves, claiming officials are not capable enough to provide them protection. In certain cases, human rights defenders were even told to acquire weapons to protect themselves.

….Over recent months, the human rights community with the support of Amnesty International collaborated in devising a protection strategy for human rights defenders in Afghanistan. This maiden effort addresses the protection of human rights defenders, the need for investigations of threats, calls for bringing suspected perpetrators to justice and encourages collaboration between the government and international community specifically for the protection of human rights defenders.….The international community has a key role to play here as well. For years, human rights defenders have worked with these actors to provide first-hand information about violations taking place in Afghanistan. The international community has encouraged them to speak out against human rights violations and abuses and to promote human rights values. When these same human rights defenders are at risk, the international community has a responsibility to stand up for them – as the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders demands.…..As human rights defenders emphasized during the launch of the human rights defenders protection strategy, it is time for the Afghan government and the international community to put their commitments to action.


 

Human rights defenders strategy: From commitments to action

Major study: Do UN Communications Make a Difference for Human Rights Defenders?

March 28, 2019

Do UN Communications Make a Difference for Human Rights Defenders? asked Janika Spannagel in her new study on the “The Effectiveness of Individual Casework on Human Rights Defenders: An Empirical Study of the UN Special Procedure Cases 2004-2015

After her first study [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/26/first-quantitative-analysis-of-16-years-outgoing-communications-by-special-rapporteurs-on-human-rights-defenders/], the University of York has now made public this follow up, which makes fascinating reading for anyone with serious interest in the protection of human rights defenders. Thew full paper is downloadable (see link below) and clarifies many of the tricky issues that this study has to cover. While the highest impact for intervention is always desirable, there remains the ethical and ‘political’ question of intervening even when there is little hope of improvement because the offending regime does not seem to care..’crime should not pay after all’ [On 3 June 2014, that question became the motivation for continuing my blog: https://gr.linkedin.com/in/hans-thoolen-b6648b7]

Despite a growing body of literature on the UN special procedures, we still know very little about the effectiveness of one of its core instruments, namely the use of communications to raise individual cases of human rights abuse with the government concerned. Focusing on the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, this working paper explores new data to answer the controversially discussed question of whether or not communications generally make a difference in the situations of individual defenders.

The first part of this paper analyses data obtained from a survey of involved advocates, assessing the UN mandate’s impact on a random sample of cases among the Special Rapporteur’s communications between 2004 and 2015. The second part is concerned with external factors that may impact the further development of a case, suggesting alternative explanations of – but also possible conditions for – the medium term effectiveness of communications. For this purpose, the author uses a logistic regression to analyse a sample of almost 500 cases in order to investigate possible explanations for improvement or deterioration among cases addressed by the Special Rapporteur.

The systematic analysis of impact assessments provided by involved advocates convincingly suggests that individual casework is very often effective in providing protection to defenders whose cases are raised. However, the study of predictors of positive case developments also shows that the effectiveness of individual casework is highly contextual and therefore requires strategic adaptation and creative responses.

Implications for Practice
  • In considering only direct impact, the finding that the Special Rapporteur’s individual casework very often positively influences defenders’ situations provides an important argument for continued, or even increased, support for the special procedures’ communications activity.
  • Based on the sample cases, it can be concluded that international attention paid to cases with business involvement did not result in any substantial improvements in the medium term. The recently increased efforts by the Special Rapporteur to raise cases with companies directly, rather than only through the government concerned, may prove more effective.
  • Regime type matters with regard to case development, although only as an indirect effect on the predictive value of certain variables. This includes the previous violations, a country’s aid dependency, and a forthcoming UPR process. Such variables should be taken into account when considering the potential impact of a communication on a certain case.
  • The Special Rapporteur often refers to ‘follow-up’ on cases, however, rarely if ever does this reflect repeat communications regarding the same violation against a given defender. In reality, further communications serve instead to highlight new violations against the individual involved. The data suggests that these – often ‘high profile’ – defenders have a very low chance of seeing their situation improved. This finding makes the case for a more detailed assessment of the likely added value that repeated mentions by the Special Rapporteur can or cannot provide.
  • The main leverage in terms of possible impact relies on the selection of cases. However, both the ethical implications and multiple purposes of casework should be acknowledged and respected. While a focus on increased impact can be useful, the documentation function and more indirect protection effects should also be taken into account during case selection.
  • What remains unclear in the dataset is the extent to which ‘improvements’ in a defender’s situation following a communication also reflect a restored ability to carry out their work, and to what extent the experience of violations, or the continued threat thereof, inhibits this. Further research into the effects of case-specific improvement on defenders’ ability to effect change is needed.

https://www.gppi.net/2019/03/26/do-un-communications-make-a-difference-in-the-situations-of-human-rights-defenders

This working paper is available for download from the University of York Human Rights Defenders Hub.

Civil Society sends letter to new High Commissioner for human rights Bachelet

September 8, 2018

A large group of international and regional NGOs have agreed on the following letter to the new High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet; sent on 1 September 2018 [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/08/22/change-of-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-at-the-un-optimism-warranted/]. The tone is totally right for the difficult years ahead:

Dear High Commissioner Bachelet,

As local, national, regional, and international civil society organizations from every corner of the world, we offer warm congratulations on your appointment as United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights.
We are committed to a world in which every person enjoys human rights and dignity and in which our communities are fair, just and sustainable. We consider that a strong High Commissioner, working in strategic partnership with independent civil society, can contribute significantly to the realization of this vision.

You take up office at a time when human rights are under attack and when we risk the reversal of many of the achievements of the modern human rights movement. We look to you in these troubled times to be an unwavering voice in the defence of human rights, and of victims, rights-holders and human rights defenders around the world.

On every continent, the rights of individuals, communities and peoples are being violated and abused by governments and non-state actors, often with complete impunity. Civil society, peaceful dissidents, and the media are often brutally silenced. The role of your Office in ensuring robust monitoring of, and reporting on, such situations is essential for curbing violations and deterring further abuse, as well as for ensuring justice and accountability. Technical-assistance and capacity building by the OHCHR is also critical and, to be effective, should be approached holistically alongside a rigorous assessment of the rights challenges in the country, including through key indicators to measure progress and assess the degree of engagement and cooperation by the State.

As High Commissioner, you have a unique role to play in bringing country situations of concern to the attention of the UN Human Rights Council and other UN bodies, particularly situations that may not be on their agenda or which receive limited attention, often because of political pressure. This role should extend to providing briefings to the Security Council on situations either on its agenda or that, if left unattended, could represent a threat to international peace and security. Monitoring missions and inter-sessional briefings to the HRC can be initiated at the High Commissioner’s prerogative, on the basis of your Office’s universal mandate, bringing attention to neglected country situations and contributing towards the achievement of the Council’s mandate to prevent human rights violations.

We are aware that the position of High Commissioner comes with its own challenges. Many States will insist you avoid “naming and shaming” and push you to engage in “quiet diplomacy” and to respect national sovereignty. Often, those most intolerant of criticism and most forceful in suppressing dissent will speak the loudest in seeking to mute your voice. Survivors, victims and defenders on the front line in countries where their rights are being violated will rely on you as a human rights champion, to have the courage and conviction to call out violators clearly and publicly, even when it’s challenging or unpopular with governments.

Globally, the rights essential to civic space are being systematically undermined. Civil society and human rights defenders face severe daily risks in their struggle to defend human rights on the ground, including imprisonment, asset-freezes, defamatory campaigns, torture, enforced disappearance, and even death. Risks are also present in the UN context, where individuals frequently face intimidation, harassment or reprisals for their engagement with the UN. We urge you to be a staunch defender of the rights of defenders both on the ground and at the UN, to publicly call out violators, and to undertake or push for investigations into attacks and reprisals. We also encourage you to take full advantage of the distinct, often innovative complementary role of civil society to the work of the OHCHR, and ensure the Office works closely with civil society as a strategic partner at the national, regional, and international levels.

Currently, the human rights framework itself is under unparalleled attack. Authoritarian populists are attacking the universality of human rights, disproportionately and unlawfully restricting rights in the purported interests of “national security,” often tacitly or openly encouraging attacks by their followers or vigilantes on rights defenders as well as the vulnerable and poor, while selectively interpreting human rights and seeking to co-opt or subvert human rights mechanisms to suit their political agendas. Safeguarding and strengthening universal human rights norms and mechanisms should be a core responsibility of the High Commissioner.

The current climate highlights the need for a strong public advocacy role for your mandate in the defence of international human rights law and the international human rights system, as well as a strong role internally within the UN to mainstream respect for human rights throughout the work of UN organs and agencies, and within the Sustainable Development Agenda.

Once again, we congratulate you on your new role, and stand ready to support you and your Office in the fulfilment of your vital mandate.

With assurances of our highest consideration,

Video statement of ‘troublemaker’ Nabeel Rajab who is on trial today

January 20, 2015

Today, 20 January, a verdict is expected in the trial of Nabeel Rajab, an internationally recognized human rights defender in Bahrain. President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and a member of Human Rights Watch’s Advisory Board, Rajab is charged with insulting public institutions via Twitter. A huge number of NGOs (see below) strongly condemn the politically motivated prosecution of Nabeel Rajab and call on the Government of Bahrain to drop all charges against the peaceful human rights defender. The video statement was prepared by True Heroes Films (THF).

On 1 October 2014, Rajab was arrested after hours of interrogation regarding one of his tweets. Rajab had just returned to Bahrain from a months-long advocacy tour, which included appearances at the 27th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and the European Parliament in Brussels, as well as meetings with foreign ministries throughout Europe. Charged with insulting public institutions under article 216 of Bahrain’s penal code, Rajab was granted bail on 2 November 2014, but was banned from leaving the country.

[Rajab is one of many Bahrainis who have been victimized by the government’s intensified campaign to silence dissent: On 28 December, Sheikh Ali Salman, General-Secretary of Bahrain’s largest opposition party Al-Wefaq, was arrested for his political and human rights activism. Earlier in December, human rights defender Zainab al-Khawaja was sentenced to four years in prison for insulting the king and ripping up his picture, while her sister Maryam al-Khawaja, Director of Advocacy of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, was sentenced to one year in prison for allegedly assaulting a police officer during her arrest in August 2014. – https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/bahrain-travails-of-a-family-of-human-rights-defenders/

Signatories:

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Association for Civil Rights
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Bytes for All
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Cartoonists Rights Network International
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility 
Centre for Independent Journalism – Malaysia
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Freedom Forum
Freedom House
Globe International Center
Independent Journalism Center – Moldova
International Press Institute 
Maharat Foundation
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Media Watch
National Union of Somali Journalists
Pakistan Press Foundation
Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms – MADA
PEN American Center
PEN International
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters – AMARC
Activists Organisation For Development And Human Rights
American for Democracy and Human rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Africa Freedom Of Information Centre
Albadeel Center For Studies And Research
Alliance For Tunisia’s Women
Aman Network For Rehabilitation & Defending Human Rights
Bahrain 19
Bahrain Press Association
Bahrain Salam For Human Rights
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR)
Chokri Belaid Foundation To Combat Violence
European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR)
European Saudi Organisation For Human Rights
Gulf Center For Human Rights (GCHR)
Initiative For Freedom Of Expression – Turkey
International Centre For Supporting Rights And Freedom
Jordanian Commission For Culture And Democracy
Khiam Rehabilitation Center For Victims Of Torture
Kuwait Human Right Institute
Kuwait Human Right Society
Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC)
MENA Monitoring Group
Nidal Tagheer Organisation For Defending Rights (Yemen)
No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ – Italy)
Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational And Transparty (NRPTT – Italy)
Réseau Avocats Sans Frontières
Shia Right Watch
Sudanese Development Imitative
Syrian Nonviolence Movement
Tunisian Association For The Rehabilitation Of Prisoners
Tunisian Centre For Transitional Justice
Tunisian National Council For Liberties
UN Ponte Per (Italy) 

Mary Lawlor: Making attacks on human rights defenders a “red line”

December 1, 2013

(Nasrin Sotoudeh was recently released from prison in Iran – EPA)

On 1 December Mary Lawlor, Executive Director of Ireland-based Front Line Defenders, published an opinion piece in Al-Jazeera on the place of human rights defenders in the recent developments concerning Iran and Syria. In order not to lose the coherence of the argument I give it here in full: Read the rest of this entry »

BREAKING NEWS: LAUREATE MEA 2013 JUST ANNOUNCED: JOINT MOBILE GROUP, Russia

October 8, 2013

 new MEA_logo with textThe Joint Mobile Group was selected by the International Human Rights Community (See Jury Below) as the Laureate 2013 of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.  Read the rest of this entry »

20th MEA ceremony broadcast live on 8 October 18h00

October 5, 2013

The 20th Ceremony of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders will take place  on Tuesday 8 October and can be followed live on www.martinennalsaward.org as from 18h00 Central European (Geneva) time.  The moment of the announcement of the laureate will be approximately  18:30.

 

poster 2013 nominees MEA English

As a reminder, the 3 Final Nominees are: Read the rest of this entry »

Vacancy announcement for Coordinator of Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition

April 10, 2013

The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) is a resource and advocacy network for the protection and support of women human rights defenders worldwide, which is looking to recruit a full-time Coordinator to liaise with members, represent the Coalition, carry out fundraising activities and facilitate and steer the WHRD IC in meeting its strategic objectives.  The position will be primarily based in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Salary and conditions will be commensurate with skills, experience and cost of living in the host country (with current funding until the end of 2013). Deadline for applications: 23rd April

To apply:
 send CV and a letter of interest to:  whrd@apwld.org (with the names and contact details of two referees who will not be contacted without permission).
For more information on the WHRD- IC and its work:  http://www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/index.php

Concrete steps towards better protection of human rights defenders

March 15, 2012

On March 8 and 9, 2012, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), organised the fourth “inter-mechanisms” meeting, which was hosted by the Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva, Switzerland. This is a unique informal platform where under Chatham House Rules key actors meet to fine tune standards and mechanisms for Human Rights Defenders.

On this occasion, international and regional mechanisms and programmes for the protection of human rights defenders – operating within the United Nations, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the Council of Europe, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights(IACHR) and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights – joined by representatives of the European Union, the International Organisation of the Francophonie and various NGOs, discussed the drafting of a joint report on existing standards and recommendations related to the protection of human rights defenders at the international and regional levels. IACHR offered to take a coordinating role in drafting the report, with the back up of the Observatory. This report would be inspired by the 2011 Commentary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and the IACHR Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders. Such a document, the first of its kind, will not only be a useful tool to human rights defenders, States and other relevant stakeholders, but will also demonstrate a unity of approaches among mechanisms.

Participants also shared their experiences and lessons learnt in order to identify possible ways tostrengthen the coordination and cooperation among existing mandates on the protection of human rights defenders. In particular, action-oriented discussions focused on how to ensure accountability for human rights violations against human rights defenders, which is a central issue for all mechanisms and programmes in order to combat impunity.

Participants also discussed core policy challenges affecting the protection of human rights defenders in relation to freedom of association, as well as possibilities of cooperation with the newly appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. A specific focus on the right to receive and access funding, including foreign funding was discussed, reflecting renewed preoccupations by mechanisms on restrictions by States in this regard. These issues should be further discussed during a future inter-mechanisms meeting, to be organised by the Observatory.

For more information, please contact :

• OMCT : Delphine Reculeau : + 41 22 809 49 39
• FIDH : Karine Appy / Arthur Manet : + 33 1 43 55 25 18

Concrete steps towards better protection of human rights defenders / March 15, 2012 / Urgent Interventions / Human rights defenders / OMCT.

Iran ‘continues’ its good cooperation with the UN………

August 8, 2011

According to the official iranian students news agency (ISNA) on 6 August, Iran continues to work with the UN Human Rights Council and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as it used to do. “We have good relations with the UN Human Rights Council and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. We are sorry that some countries use the issue of human rights as an instrument and this time the US and some western states have employed human rights as an instrument to press Iran, but these pressures will go nowhere,” said Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi in a press conference referring to reports that a special United Nations human rights reporter has called for travel to Iran.

see: ISNA – 08-06-2011 – 90/5/15 – Service: / Foreign Policy / News ID: 1821676.

On 20 July I reported already in this blog that Mohammad Javad Larijani, Iran’s secretary general of the high council for human rights, had rejected the appointment of a rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran and that  Iran “will not accept the decision”; so the Minister of Foreign Affairs is not totally aware of the position taken by the SG of the High Council for Human Rights.