Posts Tagged ‘interview’

Sergio Pinheiro, UN human rights veteran, speaks out

September 21, 2020

Jamil Chade in Geneva spoke with Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, 25 years with the UN, recently as Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria. Swissinfo published the result on 20 September 2020 under the title UN human rights veteran is a target in his native Brazil

swissinfo.ch: After 25 years of service at the UN, what role do you believe the international body can actually play to protect human rights? 

Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro: If we think of the United Nations as a whole, from the very beginning human rights have been at its core, starting with the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They are present in decisions at the General Assembly and the Security Council. All UN agencies protect human rights around the world. But the most important body that ensures this is the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, with its special rapporteurs [in place] since 1979 examining the human rights situation in various countries, assisted by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro (centre) listens to an official while visiting the Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar, during his visit to the Asian country in November 2007 as an independent rights investigator. Keystone / Str

Have you experienced any frustrations because of the limits of the international role?

Only the victims – whom I prefer to call survivors – of human rights violations can feel frustration. Those of us who try to bring rights violations to light and seek justice are only frustrated by UN bodies that don’t function as they should. After more than 10 years of human rights violations and war crimes [in Syria, for example], the malfunctioning of the Security Council means that these crimes are not being tried at the International Criminal Court. This is not only frustrating but also inexplicable for survivors of the war.

In Burundi, in your first assignment in 1995, there was a real expectation that progress would be made. Did it work out?

The special rapporteur has no magic wand to change the situation in a particular country. But it makes a difference that there were special rapporteurs and, after 2016, a commission of inquiry. Local civil society is stronger, and the government feels empowered in the area of human rights. My best interlocutor there was the human rights minister Eugene Nindorera, who later became a UN director of human rights for missions in Ivory Coast and South Sudan.

You also spent years dealing with Myanmar and its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, when she was still under house arrest. What were those meetings like?

Myanmar was an exceptional case, because it was a military government that wanted to get closer to UN human rights bodies and civil society. During the first four years, I got access to all the places and institutions I requested. But neither I nor the other UN representatives in the country responded satisfactorily to this openness. The government therefore was not able to justify our presence to the military junta [which effectively ruled the country] and was eventually ousted. I did not go back until four years later, in 2007, when there was an uprising by the [Buddhist] monks and civil society.

The war in Syria is now nearly ten years old, and the inquiry you are leading has gathered an unprecedented amount of information on the crisis. What can you do with this information? 

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic is not a court, and it doesn’t have any competence in political negotiations. The aim of these commissions is to investigate and document human rights violations, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. We work to address the right to truth of the Syrian people.

Our database has been used in investigations into human rights perpetrators of the conflict that were opened in several countries. Our data has also been used by the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism on Syria, which is preparing criminal cases to be brought before the courts in the future.

2020 also marks the 75th anniversary of the UN. What is there to celebrate? 

There is more to commemorate than there is to regret. Let’s imagine that the UN did not exist. International conflicts would be much more intense, humanitarian crises would not be addressed, and there would be even fewer guarantees of economic and social rights. And the application, even if flawed, of the principles of the Universal Declaration and the human rights conventions would be even less effective. My assistant when I was working in Burundi, Brigitte Lacroix, said to me when she left: “Paulo, what really matters is what you will do for the victims. From the perspective of the survivors, we must be glad because they are at the centre of our actions.”

The UN and multilateralism are at a crossroads, and the response to the pandemic is showing that. Is there a real risk to the system?

The pandemic has clearly exposed the inequality, the concentration of income, and the racism that continue to prevail in almost all societies, both in the North and the South. No one has escaped. Those who were poor are getting poorer, the healthcare situation of the poor has gotten worse, not only in the lack of care for those affected by Covid-19, but in the right to healthcare in general.

I don’t think that after the pandemic there will automatically be greater solidarity […] or better care for the disenfranchised. For this to happen, UN member states, instead of denying resources to the system – as they did with the WHO – have to increase their political support and financial resources to the UN.

Has your Brazilian citizenship helped you in your international work over the last 25 years?

Latin America, as a former French ambassador to Brazil, Alain Rouquié, says in one of his books, is the “Far West”, a category apart from the western world. Because they are in this group, Brazilians are perceived as being independent. After the return to democracy in 1985 and until the Dilma Rousseff administration [in 2016], Brazil was considered an honest broker – a reliable negotiator. Because during this period we never denied serious human rights violations in Brazil. Every country wanted to be in the picture with Brazil – until the coup against President Dilma Rousseff took place. At the UN Human Rights Council, Brazil was always present for the most sensitive resolutions, such as on homosexuality, racism, and violence against women and children. I think that Brazil’s aura has certainly been of benefit to me.

You were included in a list [of so-called “anti-fascists”] prepared by the Ministry of Justice in Brazil this summer – a dossier of sorts of those who question the government.

It was a strange honour to have been included, when it would have been enough to open Google to see what I think, say and do in Brazil, in UN bodies and around the world. It was a regrettable initiative to resurrect the abhorrent political espionage dossiers of the military dictatorship.

Fortunately, the Federal Supreme Court made a historic decision – in a 9-1 vote on August 21 – to prohibit the Ministry of Justice from distributing these reports on what certain citizens think and do.

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/un-human-rights-veteran-is-a-target-in-his-native-brazil/46025454

Bill Browder speaks about “his’ Global Magnitsky Act

August 29, 2020

The Human Rights Foundation published on 27 August this interview with Bill Browder in which international legal associate Michelle Gulino speaks with Browder about just how and why he’s become a thorn in Putin’s side, what makes the Kremlin such a threat to democracy and why Magnitsky legislation is so critical to address this threat, and finally, Sergei’s legacy and his message of resilience.On November 16, 2009, Sergei Magnitsky, the lawyer of global financier Bill Browder, was murdered for uncovering a $230 million corruption scheme by officials within Russia’s Interior Ministry. Bill became a thorn in Putin’s side after he began a campaign to seek justice for Sergei through the Global Magnitsky Act, which implements visa bans and asset freezes against serious human rights abusers and corrupt officials.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/29/european-court-rules-on-sergei-magnitskys-death/ and

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/05/08/the-case-for-smart-sanctions-against-individual-perpetrators/

 

Former MEP Barbara Lochbihler about her human rights work

July 13, 2020

On 10 July 2020 the Martin Ennals Foundation published an interview with new Board member Barbara Lochbihler, former Secretary General of Amnesty International Germany and Member of the European Parliament (2009-2019):

  1. What motivated you to join the Martin Ennals Foundation?

During the past thirty years, in my role as Secretary General of Amnesty International Germany and before with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in Geneva, and then later on as Member of the European Parliament, with a focus on human rights, the work and expertise of human rights defenders were and became central to me. The increasing challenges and threats they face demanding better protection of the rights of their fellow human beings is still very worrisome and needs all our attention and solidarity. 

  1. Why did you choose to join the UN Committee against Enforced Disappearance?

After ending my mandate in the European Parliament in Brussels, I was looking for a way to continue my human rights engagement. The United Nations human rights work in Geneva is at the centre of developing international protection mechanisms and norms.
Since a year now, I’m an independent expert in the UN Committee against Enforced Disappearance. It monitors the implementation of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and takes up individual cases. I’m enjoying the great teamwork with colleagues in an international context.

  1. 2020 has been so far a year of global upheaval. What is your advice to human rights defenders across the world?

The work of human rights defenders is essential to improve the situation on the ground, by factual reporting of cases, by analysing the root causes of human rights violations, by demanding political change and proposing better legal protection mechanisms. In 2019, Front Line Defenders registered 304 cases of human rights defenders who were killed. Increasingly human rights defenders are under threat, they experience violence and oppression. It is urgent to continue our international support and solidarity with human rights defenders, in order to counter and defend the space for civil society actors.

https://www.martinennalsaward.org/barbara-lochbihler-interview/

Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid, speaks freely

June 28, 2020

Imogen Foulkes

Imogen Foulkes – who regularly reports from Geneva – wonders whether being UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is it the toughest job at the UN? On 27 June 2020 she published a lengthy interview with Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who was UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 2014-2018.

Zeid, as he likes to be known, is from a privileged background. He is a member of Jordan’s royal family, but never seems to have been comfortable with the term ‘prince’. His career with the UN began, he told me, almost by accident, when he accompanied his brother on a trip to the United States. He ended up in New York, where a friend at the United Nations told him the UN was recruiting for its work during the conflict in former Yugoslavia.….

Almost 20 years later, in 2014, Zeid was approached to become UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. His initial reaction, perhaps based on his experience in former Yugoslavia, and his knowledge that the UN could at times be frustratingly ineffective, was to refuse. But he took a walk around New York’s Central Park to think about it. “That was probably fatal,” he remembers with a laugh. “If I had just said no, that would have been the end of it, but once I had thought about it I couldn’t say no.”

.…His maiden speech to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in September 2014 contained a withering attack on Islamic State, warning that any territory it controlled would be ‘a harsh, mean-spirited house of blood’. He also turned his attention to Europe’s rightwing populist leaders, calling the UK’s Nigel Farage and Geert Wilders of the Netherlands ‘demagogues’. And when Donald Trump was running for office, Zeid described him as a ‘bigot’, and suggested it would be dangerous for him to get elected.

Clearly this is not a strategy designed to win friends in governments, but Zeid is unapologetic. Trying to keep governments on side, whatever their actions, is, he believes, a mistake the UN makes far too often.’…[see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/15/not-so-diplomatic-diplomat-of-the-year-zeid/]..

Rather than worry what the reactions of government leaders might be to the words and deeds of UN officials, Zeid believes it is governments who should have a wary respect for the UN.

And while we may remember Zeid most for his outspoken comments about Donald Trump, in fact during his four years in office, he and the UN Human Rights Office were hard at work, often quietly behind the scenes, investigating human rights violations around the world. ,(Syria, investigations into the conflict in Ukraine, into the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar, …..He described the violence as containing ‘elements of genocide’, and, in a final interview before leaving office, told me Aung San Suu Kyi should have resigned rather than preside over such atrocities.

Nowadays, Zeid is Professor of Law and Human Rights at the University of Pennsylvania, and a member of The Elders [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/25/two-human-rights-personalities-join-the-elders/]

But he remains a keen observer of the United Nations,and thinks to key to progress is persuading the permanent members of the UN Security Council to give up their veto when atrocity crimes are taking place. “That would unlock the possibility for collective action… and we can see the Security Council operating in the way it ought to be operating,” he said……

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/09/former-u-n-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-zeid-warns-about-the-moral-collapse-of-global-leadership/

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/is-it-the-toughest-job-at-the-un-/45863026

Meet Marisa Hutchinson of the Association EQUALS in Barbados

November 10, 2019

On 22 October 2019 ISHR published this interview with Marisa Hutchinson, Board member of the Association EQUALS in Barbados

Lina al-Hathloul speaks out for her sister Loujain imprisoned in Saudi Arabia

October 7, 2019

MSMAGAZINE of 27 September 2019 published a long interview with Lina al-Hathloul, the younger sister of Loujain al-Hathloul. It ws done by Uma Mishra-Newbery, the Executive Director of Women’s March Global.

Over the past week, Women’s March Global has been working with the other members of the Free Saudi Women Coalition to continue fighting for the immediate and unconditional release of Saudi activists. As part of its advocacy efforts, the Coalition invited Lina al-Hathloul—the younger sister of Loujain al-Hathloul, who is currently imprisoned in Saudi Arabia—to attend the 42nd Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

[ see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/25/saudi-arabia-in-the-spotlight-at-the-42nd-sesstion-of-the-council-hits-back-wildly/]

I spent nearly three days with Lina, each day more intense and rigorous than the last. What I witnessed was nothing short of extraordinary. Lina is only 24 years old, and yet her determination and commitment to fight for her sister’s freedom is relentless. During her stay, I had the opportunity to sit down with Lina for a conversation about the convening and her new life as an activist.

Left to right: Salma El Hosseiny (ISHR), Kate Gilmore (Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights), Lina al-Hathloul, Uma Mishra-Newbery (Women’s March Global).

Lina, it’s been a busy two and a half days in Geneva at the UN, and you’ve done a tremendous amount. How do you feel?

I feel good, but the thing is I never know if what I’m doing is the right thing. So it’s a mixture of good feelings and bad feelings and stress. We will see what happens and I hope it’s the right thing I’ve done. I don’t know if what I am doing will make a difference—all I have is hope that it will.

You said yesterday that you have no choice but to do what you’re doing right now, whereas the rest of us, who are activists in the movement space, we have a choice in how, when, where we show up. 

Yeah. It’s a very personal issue for me. Because of this I think my heart is always more involved in what I’m doing—compared to other activists—because it’s directly linked to my family. There is a lot of pressure because my family is still in Saudi Arabia while I’m trying to save my sister, but maybe [what I am doing] would harm the rest of my family.

When our family didn’t do anything and we remained silent [when Loujain was first imprisoned], nothing changed and things got worse. So now I have no choice but to speak up. We have seen that when we have spoken up, the torture stopped. So being public is needed, and I need to continue.

You are 24 years old and the resilience that you have, it’s humbling for me to witness. At what age did Loujain start speaking out?

I think Loujian was my age actually, or maybe a year younger. When she started she was in Canada during her studies and she started with the videos. Then she went back to Saudi Arabia and continued, and then started working in the UAE [United Arab Emirates] and never stopped. Even her first imprisonment, she was 24 years old. It was in 2014. I’m speaking out when I’m 24 years old, but she was imprisoned when she was 24 years old. My journey is nothing compared to what she has been through.

I know that doing everything that you’re doing takes a toll mentally and physically. But for you, do you see forward movement? Do you see progress in this?

Yes, I think I do see progress in the sense that her treatment is much better. They allow more visits for my parents. I do see progress because every time… I mean, when we speak up, I see that they don’t mistreat her as much as before and that they truly stick with their engagement [setting up] the visits and calls. When there are no voices anymore for her, the treatment goes down. I clearly see that when we speak up, things go better.

Lina al-Hathloul with Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders. 

What do you want the other 24 year olds of the world to know? You’re fighting for your sister, but this is not just about Loujain. This is also about the other women, human rights defenders, that are in prison right now. What would you say to some 24 year old that says, “I’m not affected by this issue?”

I think I understand them, because before Loujain, I thought that all the problems were really far from me—but now that my sister is in prison, I understand that injustice is everywhere.

I think people don’t really realize the power we have with our voices. Speaking up once makes maybe three or four of your friends speak up afterwards and it’s a domino [effect] that really goes fast. If they just make the effort to be in solidarity with this woman once or twice, I really think things could change really fast. I think they have to take the time to read about it and be brave and just speak up.

I can promise things will change for the better if they act

Interview with Kenyan human rights defender Okiya Omtatah

September 3, 2019

The Kenyan newspaper the Daily Nation of 1 September 2019 carries a long profile of the human rights defender Okiya Omtatah. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/03/human-rights-defenders-in-kenya-honored-with-national-awards/

Okiya Omtatah

Activist Okiya Omtatah at Milimani Law Courts on September 14, 2018. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

1. The many petitions you have presented in court on behalf of Kenyans and the fact that you have succeeded in many of them points to a void in our public life as ordinary citizens created by the government through its many agencies. Sir, who is sleeping on the job that has prompted you to step in? How can we hold these public servants or institutions responsible as taxpayers for sustainable quality service delivery? Komen Moris, Eldoret

My activism is anchored on the Constitution of Kenya, 2010. My overriding objective is to the immense power of the Constitution to have the Judiciary entrench constitutionalism and the rule of law in the conduct of public affairs.

Hence, all the petitions I have filed concern public law, and they fall in three broad categories: motions challenging decisions of law-making institutions where I contest the constitutionality of statutes by Parliament or by county assemblies, and both the constitutionality and legality of subsidiary legislation; motions contesting the constitutional and legal validity of policy decisions and other administrative actions of the executive at both national and county levels, and motions seeking to protect public property from thieving public officials and private individuals.

From my experience, the struggle is against contemptuous disregard of the constitutionally prescribed limits and powers of government, and affirmation that Kenyans are not subjects but sovereign citizens with their rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights. From the above, it follows that the solution to our problems is to uphold the Constitution. However, it is clear our political leadership has failed in its duty to whip us as a nation into fully implementing the Constitution so as to realise its great promise.

2. Not long ago you called on Kenyans to contribute towards instituting a suit against all the MPs over house allowances they had awarded themselves. How did this initiative go and how much were you able to raise? Githuku Mungai

The initiative was not for instituting the case but to pay for the costs of serving the petition on the MPs through full page adverts published in the Daily Nation and Standard newspapers as ordered by the High Court. I required at least a million shillings but only raised some Sh130,000.

3. Over the course of your public life, you have largely been plastered with two labels: a defender of public interest by many and a rebel to a few. This can be attributed to the many cases you have argued out in the corridors of justice, among them bank capping rates, judges retirement age, most recently the CBA-NIC tax waiver. These cases largely touch on the crucial interests of the ordinary citizen. I can’t help but ask, what is the philosophy behind what you do? Do you feel intimidated or shaken by the weight of cases you take on considering the fact that in many cases you take them on your own? Kagwera Raphael, Kisii

The philosophy behind what I do is the Gospel of Christ, who preached about God’s love and divine mercy, and continues to reveal that the Kingdom of God is among us and therefore we must do right. At creation time, God gave Adam and Eve the power over all that he had created, but He did not give them the power over themselves; He gave them the law.

And when they broke that law they lost the Garden of Eden. Hence, the rule of men is doomed since it is anathema to the will of God. Only the rule of law works. Hence, humanity cannot rule itself and prosper except by the laws anchored on promoting the rights and fundamental freedoms of all people – and that includes obeying the Constitution of Kenya, which largely mirrors the Gospel of Christ. I don’t feel threatened or intimidated by the cases I take on since I take them up as part of my apostolate. And for as long as God wants to use me to call upon all Kenyans to obey the law, I will be available to do so.

4. Having had a peaceful, respectful, issue-based and effective campaign for the Busia senatorial race during the 2017 elections, one which didn’t turn out as most of us had expected, what is your objective opinion on Kenyan politics and campaigns? Kagwera Raphael, Kisii

My Busia senatorial race was a very rewarding experience for me. Though I vied on a Ford-Kenya ticket in an ODM stronghold and, literally, I had no money to match what the incumbent unleashed, I chose the route of civic and political education to agitate for resource-based leadership and it worked very well. It was a neck and neck race where I got more than 100,000 votes, and the difference between me and the Senator wasn’t much. But even though we can’t cap the amounts of money candidates spend on campaigns, the amounts and their sources must be disclosed to law enforcement. That way, it will at least reduce the distortion illicit money has on the democratic process, especially on poverty-stricken populations scavenging for basics. We must also eradicate mass poverty at the grassroots.

5. Your nature of work in the areas of human rights demands that you really need a good and reliable sponsorship so to speak, or stable source of income from where you can get resources to mount the kind of legal challenges you undertake. What is the source of your income? What is your reaction to allegations that you are often paid to institute the cases you do? Francis Njuguna, Kibichoi

First of all I don’t need a lot of money because I don’t hire lawyers to research, draft and prosecute my cases. I do so myself. Second, I lead a very simple lifestyle which is basically a source of income through the savings I make. I have seen people who earn much more than I do lead very miserable lives due to reckless lifestyles. As for allegations, they are just that. It is human nature to speculate where you have no facts. And it is written in the Holy Book that John the Baptist ate not and he was called a madman; Christ ate and drunk and He was called a glutton.

6. Our history is full of examples of good human rights activists including yourself, Kepta Ombati, Cyprian Nyamwamu, Boniface Mwangi, among others who tried to unsuccessfully run for political office. No doubt, political office is an expansion of activism and movement work. What should good activists do to win elections and continue their good work as politicians? Raphael Obonyo, Nairobi

They should not give up and I don’t think they have. The society is changing and, soon, we will have issue-based politics and one’s ethnicity or capacity to give handouts will not be trump cards at elections. While still at it, I point out that Prof Kivutha Kibwana, the Makueni Governor who has performed exceptionally well, was and is an activist who was elected into office and has delivered on his convictions.

7. There is a popular joke in Kenya about the Judiciary: ‘Why hire a lawyer when you can buy a judge?’ Former Chief Justice Dr Willy Mutunga began ambitious efforts to transform Kenya’s courts and earn back the people’s trust. What is your assessment of the transformation at the Judiciary given that you frequently interact with them? Raphael Obonyo, Nairobi

The joke is just a joke. Whereas one or two judges may not be up to scratch, most judges and other judicial officers are very hard working individuals who deliver for Kenyans in very difficult situations. The Kenyan Judiciary is the only arm of government that retains and espouses Kenya’s republican character. We cannot compare the Judiciary to the Executive and the Legislature, at both national and county levels, which are totally captive to ethnicity and corruption

8. Due to the nature of your work, sometimes you challenge decisions of the powerful and mighty. Don’t you ever fear for your life when making such challenges? Have you ever received threats to have you drop the matter you are pursuing? Emmanuel Lesikito

Though I take precaution, I know that there are no human beings who are mighty and powerful. Only God is mighty and powerful. So I have no fear of any man and their threats, since God is my shield. No man can destroy my soul.

9. Of all the advocacy and litigation cases that you have undertaken in the interest of the public good, explain the one case that posed the greatest challenge and possibly a danger to your life. Nyongesa Chris Makhanu, Nairobi

A 2012 petition where I challenged the flawed procurement of the BVR kits which failed to work on Election Day. I was offered a bribe of Sh9 million to drop the case but I refused. I then applied to court for police protection but Justice Majanja dismissed my application. Two days later I was attacked by two men who hit my head with metal bars and left me for dead. As they were clobbering me, I could hear them say something to the effect that “Ulikataa pesa sasa utakufa na kesi yako pia itakufa” (You refused our offer; we are going to kill you and your case is going to collapse). But God saved me.

10. Do you really always read Kenyan’s mood before you move to court? I am referring to the case on the new currency, which by and large has been welcomed by a majority of Kenyans. Bernard Nyang’ondi, Mombasa

No, I am driven by fidelity to the law and the public interest.

11. Thank you for fighting for the common person. My question is: Fresh job seekers are required to produce a Certificate of Good Conduct and clearance certificate from Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission, among others. These requirements make me wonder, do jobseekers have to pay for not committing crime? Do they have to pay for not being corrupt? Why have you never gone to court to challenge these primitive requirements? Evans Muteti, Mombasa

Justice Odunga declared those requirements to be unconstitutional in the case that was filed by Justice GBM Kariuki. I also filed another case on the same — but it is pending at the High Court — to allow the Supreme Court to determine whether it will allow the High Court to proceed or it will hear an advisory reference on the same issue that was filed by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR).

12 Sir, you are known to be one of the most relentless and leading human rights defenders in Kenya. You are no guest in our courts and all these court cases require resources. What motivates you? Geoffrey Oyoo, Embakasi East

The Holy Scripture, especially the teachings on the salt and light of the world; the Good Samaritan, and the call to be witnesses of Christ.

13. Recently, a young woman died at KNH after she developed maternal complications due to negligence by staff on duty. Of course many other preventable deaths occur in public hospitals due to negligence. Don’t you think it is more worthwhile to fight for the rights of such helpless victims as opposed to, say, pursuing elitist court cases like the one on new currency notes? Stephen Kathurima, Nairobi

There are no elites under the law. All are equal. Secondly, I believe in draining the swamp not waiting to kill every snake and mosquito that escapes from the swamp. The mess in our hospitals and other institutions is a rule of law problem. Let’s drain the swamp by implementing the Constitution and upholding the rule of law.

https://www.nation.co.ke/news/One-on-one-with-activist-Okiya-Omtatah/1056-5256164-l8pfwyz/index.html

 

Interview with Guadalupe Marengo (“Guada”) of Amnesty International

August 2, 2019

Guadalupe Marengo: Human Rights Defender at Amnesty International

On 1 August 2019 of Geographical in the UK published an inteview with Guadaloupe Marengo (aka “Guada”), head of the Human Rights Defenders Team at Amnesty International:

..A 2017 Amnesty International report submitted to the UN points to the use of smear campaigns to delegitimise human rights defenders and undermine their work. In particular the report notes the stigmatisation of individuals and communities in Guatemala, Honduras, Peru and Paraguay who are fighting to protect their access to water and land, stating that ‘their work is delegitimised through public statements and false rumours’ and that they ‘face unfair and unfounded criminal proceedings’. In response to this issue, Amnesty International set up its Human Rights Defenders team, which works globally to highlight violence against HRDs and campaign for their rights. Geographical caught up with the head of the team, Guadeloupe Marengo, following a screening of Aruanas, a new drama focusing on environmental defenders in the Amazon. [for Aruanas see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/17/aruanas-human-rights-defenders-in-fiction-series-playing-in-amazon/]. Aruanas is now available at aruanas.tv on vimeo

Aruanas

Aruanas has helped raise public awareness of the dangers faced by those working in human rights

How did you come to lead the Human Rights Defenders team at Amnesty?

I’m Mexican and I’ve been in Britain now for about 24 years. I previously worked with women ex-prisoners here in this country, and then I moved to Amnesty to work mainly on Latin America. For many years I worked researching race-relations and running campaigns on human rights violations. Then, in 2016, I became head of the global Human Rights Defenders programme.

Why did Amnesty deem it necessary to set up the HRD team?

Human rights defenders work at the forefront, so they are the ones that get attacked. Here we are, 20 years on from the UN Declaration, and statistics on how many human rights defenders have been killed, from many human rights organisations, are at least one every other day. So there’s still a lot to do.

Where are the biggest risk areas?

The HRDs who are the most marginalised are those working on sexual and reproductive rights, those working on the climate crisis and those working on Indigenous people’s rights, land rights, and migration in Europe. These are the topics of the moment and because there is an intersectional type of discrimination, depending on where you are, they are even more at risk. In particular, the world is getting far more aware of climate issues, so those in power are actually attacking human rights defenders more. I think we’re at a tipping point, the world is suddenly realising that actually, we need to do something about this. I’m hoping that series such as Aruanas are going to help win more hearts and minds. The fact is Amnesty can’t make a series like that because it’s too expensive. So it’s good that those with the money are trying to contribute positively to humanity.

Who are the perpetrators of this kind of violence?

A combination of businesses with a vested interests and also governments, which should be the ones sending a very clear signal that intimidation of human rights defenders isn’t going to be tolerated. It’s is the mix of those in power – state and non-state actors.

How does Amnesty work to protect HRDs?

What we do is show the world what’s going on. We then approach government and businesses, either lobbying through letters, or through conversations with them, or at the UN. Through our international offices we interview rights workers, we interview victims, we go to the places, we double check the information and then we publish reports.

Are there any HRD cases that stand out to you in particular?

The issue in the UK of the Stansted 15 stands out to me – how the UK accused 15 people who stopped a plane that was going to deport LGBT+ people. One, for example, was going to be deported to Nigeria – she was a lesbian, her ex-partner was waiting and was going to kill her. The UK accused the 15 of terrorism-related offences for stopping the plane. I couldn’t believe the UK was doing that. Some of the 15 were given community service. Two were given suspended sentences and they are appealing that because even though they didn’t go to prison, the charges stand.

What are your goals for the time you are head of the HRD team?

One thing I would like to do is work more in coalition with other charities, to open up to others and ensure that we’re all working together towards campaigning instead of in silos. We have more in common than we don’t. If we all work together on these issues, I think we will have more impact.

https://geographical.co.uk/people/development/item/3308-guadalupe-marengo-amnesty-international

Interview with Nfor Hanson Nchanji, human rights defender from Cameroon

July 24, 2019

ISHR interviewed Nfor Hanson Nchanji, award winning Human Rights Journalist from Cameroon. Published on 16 July 2019.

Interview with Cédric Herrou, migrants rights defender who is the central person in the film Libre

July 18, 2019

ISHR had the chance to meet with Cédric Herrou for the Geneva premiere of movie ‘Libre’ where director Michel Toesca follows him in his endeavours in France‘s Roya Valley. During our interview, Herrou, a migrant rights defender and president of association ‘Défends Ta Citoyenneté’, shared his testimony, challenges, aspirations and calls to action.  The interview was published on 22 March 2019.