Posts Tagged ‘investigation’

Two years after murder of Salwa Bugaighis in Libya, still no investigation

June 28, 2016

Salwa Bugaighis was the first woman to call for the ouster of Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi. After she cast her ballot in the 2014 election, men in hoods and military uniforms stormed into her home and killed her on 25 June.[]

Two years later, her killers remain at large and the article by BANISH AHMED in Thinkprogress of 28 June 2015 “Activists Inspired By Libyan Human Rights Lawyer Want To Know Why No One Is Investigating Her Murder” remains as valid as it was last year.

Salsa Bugaighis CREDIT: KARAMA

The fear of violence made voters in Libya cautious about heading to the polls during elections last June, but Salwa Bugaighis, a human rights lawyer who returned to the country to fight for its democratic future after the fall of Muammar Qaddafi, insisted that the risk was worth it.

“My people, I beg of you, there are only three hours left,” she wrote to her Facebook followers at about 5:45 in the evening to urge Libyans to head to the polls before they closed.

Members of the armed militants groups vying for power stormed through her neighborhood. Gunshots from a skirmish between militants and the army troops sent to protect a polling station were audible in a telephone interview she gave to a Libyan TV network from her home.

Still, Bugaighis was not shaken.

“These are people who want to foil elections,” she told the al-Nabaa network of the militants. “Benghazi has been always defiant, and always will be despite the pain and fear. It will succeed.”

Despite these risks, Bugaighis ventured out to the polls, and, while there, posted an image of herself casting her ballot on Facebook.

It was back at her home after voting that the dangers she well knew caught up with her. Men in hoods and military uniforms stormed into Bugaighis’ home and opened fire on her. Shot several times, she was taken to a hospital in critical condition where she died.

There was an immediate outcry against her death, and scores of women inspired by Bugaighis’ fight for justice, stability, and gender equality in her homeland took to the streets.

While Hibaaq Osman was not among those who braved the violent streets of Benghazi to honor Bugaighis, she has continued to carried the torch for her friend and fellow activist.

“When the protests against Qaddafi started in Benghazi, it was Salwa who was with the first women to join the demonstrations in front of the courthouse,” Osman, who heads Karama, a Cairo-based rights organization, said in an email to ThinkProgress. “That was everything about Salwa — fearless, ready to go against the grain and do what she believed was right.”

Only two weeks after the ouster of Qaddafi in April 2011, Libya held its first conference on women’s rights, organized by Bugaighi. She landed a seat on the governing body established to steer the country towards democracy, and used it push for an electoral quota that would guarantee women’s inclusion in the legislative bodies that followed. She helped found organizations dedicated to human and women’s rights. Her mission was clear: Bugaighis wanted Libya to emerge as a true democracy, one in which women would have a voice, until then, been allowed only a marginalized role in their society.

All that she had worked for seemed to be falling apart in June 2014, however. Rival militant and political groups, plus a renegade general, were the cause of violent, and many Libyans were skeptical of that their country’s fledgling government could provide security – or that it would effectively manage the country’s wealth.

The growing disillusionment was evident at the polls: more than a million fewer had registered to vote than in country’s first election in 2012, and only half of them actually cast ballots. Five people were killed and 30 injured when Islamist militant attacked a security agency in Benghazi.

In the attack on Bughaighis’ home, her husband, an elected member of a local municipal council, was abducted during the attack on their home and is still missing.

No investigation has yet been conducted into the attack on Bughaighis, although rights groups including Amnesty International called one for one soon after her death.

“We believe that Salwa Bugaighis may have been targeted for both her political activism and her role in promoting women’s rights,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, the organization’s Middle East and North Africa Director said in a statement at the time. “Attacks on security personnel and state institutions pose severe obstacles to the functioning of the justice system, but that is no excuse for Libya’s failure to protect activists. The authorities must put in place protective measures to prevent other critical voices being brutally silenced.”

The Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace made similar appeals. In an interview with the BBC, Zahra Langhi, with whom Bugaighis founded the organization, said that that her colleague had received pointed threats that forced her to leave the country for three months before the election.

“She had to evacuate all of her sons and take them to a safe place in Amman,” Langhi said, “because she was too much involved in the political process she had to pay a very high price, which she was aware of.”

Still, Langhi said she urged Bugaighis to try to protect herself.

“When I said, ‘Be careful, Salwa,’ she said, ‘We have to struggle inside Libya until the last moment. They will not threaten us and shut us all up. We will have to struggle for it.’” Langhi recalled. “And she was calling on everybody, until the last moment, [saying] ‘Please participate and protect the ballots.’”

When asked who she thought killed Bugaighis, Langhi said, “I think everybody is involved. Those who don’t want a peaceful Libya, who want Libya to continue as a militarized society. Those who do not want to see a democratic Libya are a part of it. Even if they’re against each other.”

One year later, various rights’ organizations have renewed their calls for an independent investigation into who killed Bugaighis.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has taken note of the case, and will send a fact-finding mission to investigate human rights violations in Libya.

“That’s a good sign, but it needs to happen,” Shelby Quast of Equality Now said in a phone interview, adding that the delay in justice “is promoting impunity.”

According to Libya Body Count, which tracks the numbers of those killed by armed groups in Libya, nearly 900 people have been violently killed so far in June. More than 2,800 were killed in 2014.

While Bughaighis’ case is one of thousands, it stands out as a particularly egregious one.

“It [shows] the impunity with which people are acting,” Quast said, “because they can come in and so brutally assassinate someone who was a public figure, who did have a following. While we’re pushing for justice for Salwa, she represents a growing number of women and human rights defenders who are being targeted, threatened, and murdered.”

In May, Mark SImonoff, the Minister Counselor for Legal Affairs for the U.S. Mission to the U.N. said at a meeting of the U.N. Security Council, pointed to Bughaigis’ death as evidence of a broader phenomenon.

“Many of the individuals and institutions with the most critical roles to play in exposing and preventing violence against civilians –- including journalists, human rights defenders, judges and prosecutors, female activists, and the country’s human rights commission –- have been singled out for intimidation and brutal violence for simply attempting to provide key services to the Libyan people,” he said. “Other murders, such as the killing of prominent human rights leader Salwa Bugaighis last June on the day of national elections, have a clear political purpose, even as it has been impossible to identify those responsible.”

In investigating Bughaigis’ murder, many hope that similar cases can also see justice.

Hibaaq Osman poses with Salma Bugaighis at UN Commission on the Status of Women conference held in March 2014 in New York, NY.

Hibaaq Osman poses with Salma Bugaighis at UN Commission on the Status of Women conference held in March 2014 in New York, NY. CREDIT: KARAMA

“The pressure that the Justice For Salwa campaigns has exerted is now building the political will to find not just Salwa’s killers, but to investigate and prosecute the many more politically motivated murders that Libya has suffered,” Hibaaq Osman said. “That is why we say that justice for Salwa is justice for all.”

Osman and many others continue the fight Bugaighis died fighting, though Libya has only become more unstable since its last elections. Militant groups have only promulgated in the last year and become more brazen in their attacks. ISIS, the Islamist group that calls itself the Islamic State, has gained a foothold in the country. Rule of law is in no better a state, with two parliaments vying for power against one another. A dramatic loss in oil revenue has put Libya “on the verge of economic and financial collapse,” according to one U.N. official.

And yet, those who worked alongside or were inspired by Salwa Bugaighis’ bravery and mission continue her fight.

The attack on her life made “Salwa a martyr to the cause of a free and just Libya,” according to Osman. “It showed the world the depths to which her killers would stoop – to murder in cold blood a women who had urged her supporters to ‘fight peacefully by using their votes.’ It has left me and Salwa’s colleagues more determined to work for her ideals in Libya and across the region, to honor her memory.”

Source: Activists Inspired By Libyan Human Rights Lawyer Want To Know Why No One Is Investigating Her Murder | ThinkProgress

A symposium on the 1965 massacre in Indonesia is not enough to address impunity

April 23, 2016

As the main author of a book on “Indonesia and the Rule of Law” published as far back as 1987 (Pinter Publishers ISBN 0-86187-919-8; International Commission of Jurists) I cannot be but very interested in the way the Indonesian government deals with the mass atrocities that took place in 1965. It had promised in the elections (Nawacita) to investigate and this is also laid down in its National Medium Term Development Plan (RPJMN) 2015-2019. Under the title “Indonesia: What next after symposium on 1965 massacre, Mr. President?” the Asian Human Rights Commission on 21 April comments on the half hearted start the Government made with a symposium held on 18 and 19 April 2016 in Jakarta. The government, represented by the President’s advisory body, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), the Press Council, and also representatives from other government institutions attended the symposium. Read the rest of this entry »

Exceptional response from NGO world on killing of Berta Cáceres

March 7, 2016

A group of over 50 international organizations has written to the President of Honduras to express their shock over the recent killing of Berta Cáceres [], to demand an international investigation and the immediate protection of Gustavo Castro Soto, a Mexican activist, who witnessed her assassination. Here is the letter and signatories in full: Read the rest of this entry »

Laos: UN experts on two-year-old disappearance of human rights defender Sombath Somphone

December 24, 2014

Wouldn’t it be a truly nice Christmas gift if the Laos government would finally undertake a serious investigation into the disappearance of  human rights defender Sombath Somphone, who was last seen in December 2012. That is what a group of United Nations independent experts urged today, 23 December 2014:

It is high time for the authorities of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic to voluntarily request international assistance with the aim of shedding light on Mr. Somphone’s fate and whereabouts, two years after his disappearance,” the experts said in a news release. “International law makes clear that the Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic has the duty to carry out an independent, thorough, credible and effective investigation,” they added. []

(The situation of human rights in Laos is due to be assessed next month through the Universal Period Review process, which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. Under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, the process provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve their human rights situation.)

Along with Mr. Kiai, the experts speaking out on Laos today include the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst; and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and the protection of the right to freedom of expression and opinion, David Kaye.

United Nations News Centre – Laos: UN experts appeal for help to probe two-year-old disappearance of rights defender.

Remembering Clyde Snow, unusual human rights defender

September 26, 2014


Only now did I see the tribute paid by filmmakers Paco de Onis and Pamela Yates to the American forensic anthropologist turned human rights defender Clyde Snow who passed away on 16 May 2014.  Clyde was a tall Texan with an easygoing manner that masked a tenacious commitment to finding the truth and advancing justice through the science of forensic anthropology, applied to the exhumation of victims of mass atrocities. As Clyde often said, “the bones tell stories.”  And these were stories that often helped land the perpetrators of heinous crimes in prison, from Argentina to Guatemala, the Balkans, Rwanda and beyond.

Clyde’s work lives on through the crack forensic anthropology teams he formed in Argentina, Guatemala and Peru, two of which are featured in the films “State of Fear” (Peru) and “Granito: How to Nail a Dictator” (Guatemala).

This Saturday 27 September there is a memorial service in Norman, Oklahoma, where he lived with his wife Jerry.


Sri Lanka reprisals against human rights defenders who cooperate with the UN continue

September 17, 2014

A UN Human Rights Council mandated inquiry is currently investigating alleged violations of international humanitarian law, as well as gross and systematic human rights abuses, committed by the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which led to estimated 40,000 civilian deaths in 2009 alone. In a joint letter dated 25 August to the President of the UN Human Rights Council and to the Ambassador of Sri Lanka, a coalition of NGOs outline an alarming trend of intimidation, threats and reprisals in Sri Lanka against people engaging with UN human rights mechanisms, including the Commission of Inquiry.

This pattern has been brought many times to the attention of the UN Human Rights Council by civil society, human rights experts and States, and even by the UN Secretary-General and High Commissioner. ‘The Government of Sri Lanka has the primary responsibility for protecting people from threats, intimidation and reprisal, and must condemn all such acts immediately and unequivocally as well as take all necessary lawful steps to affirm and uphold the right of all persons to free communication with the UN, safe from hindrance or insecurity’ said ISHR Director Phil Lynch. See also on reprisals:

Still on 13 September 2014, human rights defenders Mr Namal Rajapakshe and Mr Manjula Pathiraja in Sri Lanka were threatened with death in connection to their work as defence lawyers, reported Front Line on 15 September. Namal Rajapakshe and Manjula Pathiraja are leading human rights lawyers who have frequently appeared (often pro bono) in public interest litigation representing victims of human rights violations across Sri Lanka.

[On 13 September 2014, two unidentified men wearing jackets and helmets covering their faces entered the office of Namal Rajapakshe and threatened that he and Manjula Pathiraja would be killed should they appear in any more “unnecessary cases”.  This is not the first time that Namal Rajapakshe and Manjula Pathiraja have been targeted. On 4 August 2014, the human rights defenders were intimidated, along with another lawyer, while they were making representations on behalf of their clients. They were harassed by a group of thugs inside the Maradana Police station – in front of the local Inspector.]

via Sri Lanka: End reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN | ISHR.

Human rights investigators in Qatar: “being followed by the police here. Looks like they will give me troubles now”

September 4, 2014

Two British human rights workers investigating the plight of migrant labourers constructing facilities for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup have disappeared and are feared to be held incommunicado by the Gulf state’s security forces reports the Independent. Krishna Upadhyaya and Ghimire Gundev vanished on Sunday 31 August after sending texts to colleagues saying they were being followed by plain clothes police officers and feared they arrest as they tried to leave Qatar on flights that day. The two men, who are of Nepalese extraction and both carry British passports, had been in the Qatari capital Doha to record interviews with Nepali labourers and investigate conditions in accommodation camps. They were working in cooperation with Nepalese diplomats in the city.

The Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD), employing the men, said it believed its employees were being held by the Qatari police and were at risk of maltreatment or torture: “We are deeply concerned that our employees, both British citizens, may have been subjected to enforced disappearance and are currently at risk of torture.”

[Qatar has been strongly criticised for the working conditions of its 1.4m migrant labourers as it races to spend £123bn on new infrastructure ahead of the 2022 World Cup. More than 400 Nepalese, the vast majority of them in Qatar to work on construction projects, died in the Gulf state between January 2012 and this May – a death rate of one worker per day. Qatar has insisted that none of the deaths occurred on World Cup sites. Qatar has been criticised for routinely holding detainees incommunicado for weeks or months at a time. Amnesty International has described the tactic as “standard practice” and said it can be followed by lengthy further detention without charge or trial.]


British human rights investigators disappear in Qatar, after being followed by plain clothes police – Middle East – World – The Independent.

NGOs urge Sri Lanka to stop intimidating human rights defenders

August 27, 2014

Sri Lankan flag

(Sri Lankan flag)

A joint letter by 6 international NGOs (International committee of Jurists, Amnesty International, Asia Forum for Human Rights and Development, CIVICUS, the International Movement Against Discrimination and All Forms of Racism, and the International Service for Human Rights) to the UN Human Rights Council and the Sri Lankan government cites a number of recent incidents in which human rights defenders in the country were intimidated. Sri Lanka has vowed not to cooperate with the UN probe saying it infringed on the country’s sovereignty. Sri Lanka has rejected a UNHRC resolution in March that called for an international investigation into allegations that 40,000 civilians were killed in the final months of the civil war that ended in 2009.

The government spokesman and media minister, Keheliya Rambukwella, has reportedly threatened all those who intend to provide information to the UN investigation and promised to “take appropriate action based on the evidence the detractors give“. “We stress that threats, harassment, intimidation and reprisals against persons who engage with the UN are prohibited by international human rights law,” the letter said. “While we affirm the importance of exercising the right to free expression by journalists and others, we stress that the exercise of speech that serves to significantly risk inciting violence, hostility or discrimination against persons is unacceptable“.

via Rights groups ask Sri Lanka to stop intimidating them.

see my earlier:

Sri Lanka: champion retaliator against human rights defenders

March 17, 2014

Today, 17 March 2014, the Asian Human Rights Commission, comes out with a statement that makes Sri Lanka look like one the worst offenders when it comes to retaliation and reprisals against human rights defenders.  My feelings about reprisals are well-known and were recently  expressed in: 

A draft resolution promoting reconciliation, accountability, and human rights in Sri Lanka is being discussed at the United Nations Human Rights Council. The proposed resolution calls for, among other things, the Office of the High Commissioner, “To lead a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka and establish the facts and circumstances of such violations and of the crimes committed with the view to avoiding impunity and ensuring accountability with assistance from relevant experts”. 

The statement of the AHRC reads: Read the rest of this entry »

North Korea: the UN report in images

February 20, 2014

There was considerable attention in the media for the new United Nation report that has found that crimes against humanity are occurring in North Korea and calls for an international tribunal to investigate and hold perpetrators to account, but you may have missed the 14-minute video produced by Human Rights Watch on 17 February 2014. The report, by a UN Commission of Inquiry appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2013, recommends that the UN Security Council refer the situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights carry out investigations. The three person commission, which was chaired by Australian jurist Michael Kirby, will formally present its findings to the Human Rights Council on or around March 17, 2014. The council will then consider a resolution to act on the commission’s recommendations.