Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

Egypt: the ‘foreign-funding’ accusation against human rights defenders goes in overdrive

April 3, 2018

An Egyptian lawyer, Samir Sabry, has requested the Attorney General to bring human right defender Asmaa Mahfouz to court. The reason? Winning the Sakharov Prize in 2011! If Egypt Today had reported it a day earlier (on 1 April), I would have credited it as a good April 1st spoof, but unfortunately it is not. In his complaint, Sabry called for the Attorney General to transfer Mahfouz to a Criminal Court trial and ban her from travelling outside the country. He stated that the prize, worth €50,000  was given to her suddenly, and he did not know why. He asked whether it is funding, a reward, or for certain service, and what the reason is for this award. The complaint from Sabry also claimed that this is a Jewish award [SIC} and questions the award’s links to Zionism. According to Sabry, the answer is that Mahfouz received the prize money, and accepted the award, in return for betraying Egypt.

Asmaa Mahfouz was one of the founding members of the April 6 Youth Movement, which sparked nation-wide demonstrations in April 2008 and was indeed awarded the Sakharov prize in 2011 (sharing it with four other Arab figures).

The prize in question is the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought [http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/sakharov-prize-for-freedom-of-thought], which is of course is not granted by Israeli but by the European Parliament!

However, the issue of foreign funding is a major one in the Egyptian context as demonstrated by the case of two Egyptian woman human rights defenders in the ‘NGO foreign-funding case” (as ISHR reminds us on 29 March 2018):  harassed and targeted Egyptian woman defenders Azza Soliman and Mozn Hassan [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/02/right-livelihood-has-to-go-to-egypt-to-hand-mozn-hassan-her-2016-award/] face life imprisonment if their cases are brought to trial simply for conducting legitimate human rights work.

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Israel at 2018 UPR session denies restricting human rights defenders

January 29, 2018

On Wednesday, 24 January 2018 mwcnews reported on Israel‘s third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session in Geneva.  A large part of the session was devoted to the usual and heated tit-for-tat with UN member states criticizing Israel for failing to abide by human rights laws and UN resolutions (“Israel is the only state in the world that can be called an apartheid state,” the South African delegate stated), while Aviva Raz Shechter, Israeli ambassador to the UN in Geneva, laid out bluntly how Israel was going to receive the recommendations of fellow members. “The continuous discrimination against Israel in the HRC and the unparalleled number of one-sided biased and political resolutions adopted regularly by the automatic majority of its members testifies not only to the unfair treatment of Israel but also to the deficiencies of the council itself and its agenda,” she said.

Shechter listed what she claimed were some areas of improvement in human rights in Israel compared with the last review, which was in 2013. These, she said, included new initiatives and measures taken by Israel to uphold the rights of people with disabilities, minorities, the LGBT community and women. However, Shechter’s minimal references to the situation of Palestinians in the occupied territories left many delegates unimpressed. Emi Palmor, the director-general of the Israeli ministry of justice, stayed on the defensive before highlighting what she called the improvements in the judiciary, from the introduction of some prisoners’ rights and safeguards for juvenile detainees to taking over investigations of complaints against the Israel Security Agency, better known as Shin Bet. “A large part will not listen to what I am saying … this council has not acquired its reputation for equality or impartiality,” she said.

Palmor contended that Israel had made progress with regards to the detention of minors by establishing a dedicated juvenile court, improving its system by which families are notified, as well as authorising courts to appoint attorneys for the minors “if they wished so”. Still, delegates from Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, Madagascar and other UN member states called upon Israel to allow civil society and independent human rights organisations on its territory to work freely. Some called on Israel to allow human rights bodies to conduct fact-finding missions to investigate allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. They expressed concern over the perceived targeting of human-rights defenders and independent nongovernmental organisations in the context of Israel’s NGO Transparency Law and Anti-Boycott Law. The recommendations and concerns were rejected by Palmor, who claimed that Israel places no legal restrictions on human rights associations.

[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/26/israel-denies-work-permit-to-human-rights-watch-and-continues-harassment-of-hrds/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/27/human-rights-watch-granted-israeli-work-permit-in-the-end/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/05/michael-sfardjan-israels-human-rights-activists-arent-traitors/]

Some delegates called upon Israel to ratify the optional protocol to the Convention against Torture and to uphold the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, which prohibits individual or mass forcible transfers and deportations of protected persons from occupied territory. Germany was one of the countries with concerns in this regard.…..

Shechter, the Israeli ambassador, said it was deplorable that UN representatives would use the UPR session as what she called a platform to politicise the human rights discourse. “It is a cynical and hypocritical attitude meant to distort the reality,” she said, adding however that Israel would continue to cooperate with the HRC and take “seriously” the recommendations made at Tuesday’s session.

http://mwcnews.net/news/middle-east/70152-israel-gets-flak-over-human-rights-record.html

Commercial spyware out of control and becoming threat to human rights defenders

December 6, 2017

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Write for Rights again in December 2017

December 4, 2017

Every December, Amnesty International supporters across the globe write millions of letters and take actions for people whose human rights are under attack, in what has become the world’s biggest human rights campaign. Last year at least 4.6 million actions were taken. “For 15 years Write for Rights has given people hope in their darkest moments. Imagine being ill in jail and receiving thousands of letters of support and solidarity; or finding out that people all over the world are behind you in your quest for justice for a murdered relative. Writing letters really can change lives,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General. For last year’s see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/11/04/time-for-the-annual-write-for-rights-campaign/

This year Amnesty International is writing to, among others:

  • The Bangladeshi Home Minister, calling on him to bring the killers of Xulhaz Mannan to justice, without recourse to the death penalty. Xulhaz, a founder of Bangladesh’s only LGBTI magazine, was in his apartment with a colleague when men wielding machetes burst in and hacked them to death in April 2016. Despite ample evidence, the killers have yet to be charged.
  • The Prime Minister of Jamaica, telling him to protect Shackelia Jackson, who has been fighting for justice for her brother Nakiea since he was killed by police in 2014, and has refused to be silenced by police intimidation.  In the past decade around 2,000 men, usually young and poor, have been killed by police in Jamaica.
  • The Prime Minister of Israel, telling him to drop all charges against Farid al Atrash and Issa Amro, Palestinian human rights defenders, who want an end to illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. They brave constant attacks by soldiers and settlers, and are facing ludicrous charges after they joined a peaceful protest march.

 

This year, these 10 people and groups urgently need your support:

Xulhaz Mannan

Xulhaz was a founder of Bangladesh’s only LGBTI magazine, a daring venture in a country where same-sex relations are illegal. He was in his apartment with a colleague when men wielding machetes burst in and hacked them to death. Despite ample evidence, including CCTV footage and eyewitness testimony, one year on the killers have yet to be charged for this brutal murder.

Mahadine

Tadjadine Mahamat Babouri, commonly known as Mahadine, is an online activist from Chad. In September 2016 he posted videos on Facebook criticizing the Chadian government. Within days, he was snatched off the streets, and beaten and chained up for several weeks. He faces a life sentence and is also gravely ill, having caught tuberculosis in prison.

Ni Yulan

A former lawyer, Ni Yulan has supported scores of people forced from their homes by lucrative construction projects. She has braved almost 20 years of violent harassment for defending housing rights, and has been monitored, arrested and repeatedly evicted by the authorities. She was once beaten so badly in detention that she now uses a wheelchair. Ni Yulan continues to help people stand up for their rights

Hanan Badr el-Din

Hanan Badr el Din’s life changed forever when her husband disappeared in July 2013. She last saw him on television, wounded and at a hospital after attending a protest. Hanan’s relentless search for him led her to others whose loved ones were taken by the Egyptian security forces. Now a leading voice exposing Egypt’s hundreds of disappeared, her latest search for information about her husband has seen her arrested on false charges which could result in five years in prison.

Sakris Kupila

Sakris Kupila, a 21-year-old medical student from Finland, has never identified as a woman. Yet he has to endure daily discrimination because his identity documents say he is female – the gender he was assigned at birth. To legally reassign your gender in Finland, you must be diagnosed with a “mental disorder” and sterilised. Sakris opposes this humiliating treatment. And despite threats and open hostility, he continues to demand a change to the law.

MILPAH Indigenous Movement

For the Indigenous Lenca people in Honduras, the land is their life. But huge hydroelectric, mining and other interests are out to exploit that land. MILPAH, the Independent Lenca Indigenous Movement of La Paz, is at the forefront of the struggle against them. They brave smear campaigns, death threats and physical assault to protect their environment, yet their attackers are rarely brought to justice.

Farid and Issa

Farid al-Atrash and Issa Amro are two Palestinian activists who demand an end to Israeli settlements – a war crime stemming from Israel’s 50-year occupation of Palestinian land. Dedicated to non-violence, the two activists brave constant threats and attacks by soldiers and settlers. In February 2016, Issa and Farid marched peacefully against settlements and the Israeli occupation. As a result, they face ludicrous charges apparently designed to obstruct their human rights work.

Shackelia Jackson

Shackelia Jackson will not give up. When her brother, Nakiea, was gunned down by police, she took on Jamaica’s sluggish court system to lead a bold fight for justice for his murder. In doing so, she rallied dozens of families whose loved ones were similarly killed. In response, the police have repeatedly raided and harassed her community. But Shackelia will not be silenced.

Clovis Razafimalala

Clovis is doing everything he can to protect Madagascar’s vanishing rainforest. Its rosewood trees are a precious resource under threat from a network of smugglers, bent on selling them off in what has become a billion dollar illegal trade. Clovis’ efforts to save this rare ruby-coloured tree have brought him unwanted attention. He has been convicted on false charges and could be jailed at any moment

Turkey

Right now, 11 people who have dedicated their lives to defending the human rights of journalists, activists and other dissenting voices in Turkey are themselves in danger. Among them are Amnesty International’s Director, İdil Eser, and its chair, Taner Kılıç, who remains in prison after five months. All are on trial for ‘terrorism’-related crimes, an absurd charge and face a jail sentence of up to 15 years.

Amnesty International’s Brave campaign calls on governments around the world to protect human rights defenders.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/11/amnesty-launches-worlds-biggest-human-rights-campaign/

Human Rights Watch urges Turkey to release Amnesty’s country head

June 9, 2017

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday 8 June 2017 called on Turkish authorities to immediately release Taner Kılıç, chair of the board of Amnesty International’s Turkey section, who has been under detention since June 6. It is heartening to see the two biggest NGOs coming to each other’ rescue from time to time. In February this year AI Israel co-signed a statement deploring the decision not to allow Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch to take on his post [“We stand in solidarity with him and our colleagues at HRW.”  – see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/26/israel-denies-work-permit-to-human-rights-watch-and-continues-harassment-of-hrds/]

The anti-terror unit of the Izmir police on Tuesday detained lawyer and human rights defender Kılıç together with 22 other attorneys as part of a witch-hunt targeting people linked to the Gülen movement. “Turkey should release Taner Kılıç, who is a tireless defender of human rights, known for his support for Amnesty International over many years,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Detaining Kılıç on suspicion of terrorist offenses looks like a tactic aimed at discrediting his legitimate human rights work.”

Kılıç is a founding member of AI Turkey and has been chairman of its board of directors since 2014. He has also played a strong role in advocating for refugee rights as a lawyer and with domestic nongovernmental groups and others working on these issues. The European Union on Thursday expressed concern about the recent detention of Taner Kılıç.

(According to a report by the state-run Anadolu news agency on May 28, 154,694 individuals have been detained and 50,136 have been jailed due to alleged Gülen links since the failed coup attempt.

Source: Human Rights Watch urges Turkey to release Amnesty’s country head | Turkey Purge

US Ambassador Nikki Haley on what has to change in the UN Human Rights Council

June 7, 2017

On 6 June 2017 the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations,  Nikki Haley, made a speech at the the Graduate Institute of Geneva on “A Place for Conscience: the Future of the United States in the Human Rights Council”.  The full text you can find in the link below. Here some of the most relevant parts concerning changes desired by the USA ……
When the Human Rights Council has acted with clarity and integrity, it has advanced the cause of human rights. It has brought the names of prisoners of conscience to international prominence and given voice to the voiceless. At times, the Council has placed a spotlight on individual country violators and spurred action, including convening emergency sessions to address the war crimes being committed by the Assad regime in Syria. The Council’s Commission of Inquiry on North Korea led to the Security Council action on human rights abuses there. The Council is at its best when it is calling out human rights violators and abuses, and provoking positive action. It changes lives. It pushes back against the tide of cynicism that is building in our world. And it reassures us that it deserves our continued investment of time and treasure.

But there is a truth that must be acknowledged by anyone who cares about human rights: When the Council fails to act properly – when it fails to act at all – it undermines its own credibility and the cause of human rights. ……These problems were supposed to have been fixed when the new Council was formed. Sadly, the case against the Human Rights Council today looks an awful lot like the case against the discredited Human Rights Commission over a decade ago. Once again, over half the current member countries fail to meet basic human rights standards as measured by Freedom House. Countries like Venezuela, Cuba, China, Burundi, and Saudi Arabia occupy positions that obligate them to, in the words of the resolution that created the Human Rights Council, “uphold the highest standards” of human rights. They clearly do not uphold those highest standards.

…….

I dedicated the U.S. presidency of the Security Council in April to making the connection between human rights and peace and security. [see also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/20/us-pushes-for-historic-human-rights-debate-at-security-council-but-achieves-little/]

This is a cause that is bigger than any one organization. If the Human Rights Council is going to be an organization we entrust to protect and promote human rights, it must change. If it fails to change, then we must pursue the advancement of human rights outside of the Council.America does not seek to leave the Human Rights Council. We seek to reestablish the Council’s legitimacy.

There are a couple of critically necessary changes.

First, the UN must act to keep the worst human rights abusers from obtaining seats on the Council. As it stands, elections for membership to the Council are over before the voting even begins. Regional blocs nominate slates of pre-determined candidates that never face any competition for votes……Selection of members must occur out in the open for all to see. The secret ballot must be replaced with open voting. Countries that are willing to support human rights violators to serve on the Human Rights Council must be willing to show their faces. They know who they are. It’s time for the world to know who they are.

Second, the Council’s Agenda Item Seven must be removed. This, of course, is the scandalous provision that singles out Israel for automatic criticism. There is no legitimate human rights reason for this agenda item to exist….Since its creation, the Council has passed more than 70 resolutions targeting Israel. It has passed just seven on Iran. ….Getting rid of Agenda Item Seven would not give Israel preferential treatment. Claims against Israel could still be brought under Agenda Item Four, just as claims can be brought there against any other country. Rather, removal of Item Seven would put all countries on equal footing.

These changes are the minimum necessary to resuscitate the Council as a respected advocate of universal human rights……

Source: Ambassador Nikki Haley: Remarks at the Graduate Institute of Geneva » US Mission Geneva

Human Rights Watch granted Israeli work permit in the end

April 27, 2017

On 26 February 2017 I referred to the refusal of a work permit for the HRW office in Israel. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/26/israel-denies-work-permit-to-human-rights-watch-and-continues-harassment-of-hrds/]. Now the Israeli authorities have reversed the Interior Ministry’s decision. They have granted a one year work visa to Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch (HWR), upon his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport.

We welcome this opportunity to work in Israel and Palestine alongside vigorous national human rights organisations,” said Iain Levine, executive deputy director for programme at Human Rights Watch. “Israeli authorities do not always agree with our findings, but, in facilitating the ability of our staff to carry out our research and documentation, they have taken an important step to safeguard the principle of transparency and demonstrate their openness to criticism.”

Source: Ekklesia | Human Rights Watch granted Israeli work permit

“Breaking the Silence” received Danish Poul Lauritzen award

March 2, 2017

The banquet hall at the National Museum in Copenhagen played host to the presentation of the PL Foundation Freedom Award on 12 December 2016, an annual prize given in honour of a Danish resistance fighter that recognises the exercise of human rights in an extraordinary manner. The winner was Breaking the Silence, an Israeli organisation that collects and shares testimonies (some anonymous) from soldiers who have served in the West Bank and Gaza – over a thousand at the last count. “Breaking the Silence shows great personal courage to talk about their own experience in the West Bank” commented the PL Foundation, named after the Danish resistance fighter Poul Lauritzen. Previous winners include Turkish publisher Ragıp Zarakolu and Turkish playwright Ali Tuygan. One of Breaking the Silence’s co founders, Yehuda Shaul, 33, along with spokesperson Achiya Schatz, appeared in person to receive the award, which included a prize of 100,000 kroner, from Poul Søgaard, a leading judge at the Supreme Court.

Founded in 2004, Breaking the Silence initially published the testimonies of the soldiers in an art gallery in Tel Aviv. Today, it publishes them in booklets and articles and shares them in lectures and guided tours of cities like Hebron in the West Bank.

israel1
Achiya Schatz in front of the testimonies at the Breaking the Silence office in Tel Aviv. (all photos: Cornelia Mikaelsson)

Banned by the Israeli authorities from speaking to soldiers or schoolchildren, Breaking the Silence has been accused of spreading mistruths and of betraying the Israeli military. Threats are an occupational hazard. “To remain silent is no longer an option,” explains Achiya Schatz, 31, who did his national service in the Israeli army from 2005-08. Schatz recalls that many of his missions to search Palestinian residences were pointless – commanding officers would throw away the gathered intelligence without reading it. “After completing my service I got time to think. One question led to another and all of a sudden I asked myself: how can you ever occupy morally?”
Over half of Breaking the Silence’s funding comes from abroad (7 million kroner in 2014 alone) and one of its biggest supporters is Danish – Dan Church Aid, the humanitarian NGO. And this has led to extra suspicion in Israel. Earlier this year, the Israeli government passed a transparency bill forcing NGOs that receive more than half of their funding from foreign sources to declare them openly. Those who voted for the bill claimed that it served a democratic purpose. Critics, however, argued that it only was an attempt to target NGOs critical of Israel’s governmental policies. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu wrote a statement on his Facebook page, claiming that the bill aims to “prevent an absurd situation, in which foreign states meddle in Israel’s internal affairs by funding NGOs, without the Israeli public being aware of it”. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/05/michael-sfardjan-israels-human-rights-activists-arent-traitors/]

israel3
Ido Even-Paz, one of the guides on the Breaking the Silence tour of Hebron

Source: Former Israeli soldiers pick up Danish freedom award in Copenhagen – The Post

Israel denies work permit to Human Rights Watch and continues harassment of HRDs

February 26, 2017

Image of Israeli security forces [Issam Rimawi - Anadolu Agency]

Image of Israeli security forces [Issam Rimawi – Anadolu Agency]
The Israeli occupation authorities have denied a work permit for the director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Israel and Palestinian territories, they said on Friday 24 February 2017. Israel accused the organisation of “engaging in politics in the service of Palestinian propaganda, while falsely raising the banner of ‘human rights’.” In response, HRW said that this comes as the Israelis seek to limit the space for local and international human rights groups to operate in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. “This decision and the spurious rationale should worry anyone concerned about Israel’s commitment to basic democratic values,” commented Deputy Executive Director of Programmes at HRW, Lain Levine. “It is disappointing that the Israeli government seems unable or unwilling to distinguish between justified criticisms of its actions and hostile political propaganda.”  The next day sixteen NGOs working in Israel issued a statement deploring the decision not to allow Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch (HRW). “We stand in solidarity with him and our colleagues at HRW.”  “Neither closing Israel’s borders to human rights organizations and activists nor other measures by the Israeli government against organizations that criticize the occupation will deter us from continuing to report human rights violations in the territories controlled by Israel. Attempts to silence the messenger will not suppress our message,” concluded the NGOs that include: Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Akevot, Amnesty International Israel, Bimkom, Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, Coalition of Women for Peace, Emek Shaveh, Gisha, Hamoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual, Haqel-Jews and Arabs in Defense of Human Rights, Human Rights Defenders Fund, Machsom Watch, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and Yesh Din.
Noting that the Israeli Knesset (parliament) passed a law last July that targeted human rights groups and imposed onerous reporting requirements which burden their advocacy, HRW suggested that the permit denial comes amid increasing pressure on human rights defenders operating in Israel and Palestine. “Israeli officials have directly accused Israeli advocacy groups of ‘slander’ and discrediting the state or army.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/13/why-did-so-many-assume-btselem-fire-was-arson/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/05/michael-sfardjan-israels-human-rights-activists-arent-traitors/]
Moreover, Palestinian rights defenders have received anonymous death threats and have been subject to travel restrictions and even arrests and criminal charges.[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/21/palestinian-human-rights-defenders-continue-to-be-persecuted/]. Front Line Defenders reported on 25 January 2017 that Israeli occupation forces arrested human rights defenders Ms Lema Nazeeh and Mr Mohammed Khatib – along with four other peaceful protesters –  near the illegal Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Israeli forces then went on to ill-treat Lema Nazeeh throughout her four days in detention at Al-Maskubiyyah prison in Jerusalem. On 23 January 2017, Israeli occupation forces also arrested human rights defender Mr Abdallah Abu Rahma as he attended the court hearing of the two aforementioned defenders. Lema Nazeeh and Mohammed Khatib were arrested while participating in a peaceful protest against illegal settlement construction in Bab Al-Shams in East Jerusalem, otherwise known as the E1 area/settlement bloc. The protest was also against US President Donald Trump’s suggested plan to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Three days after the protest, Abdallah Abu Rahma was arrested on suspicion that he had also taken part in the peaceful protest. All human rights defenders were released on bail, pending trial. (https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/lema-nazeeh; https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-mohammed-khatib and https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/abdallah-abu-rahma)

Human Rights Watch is an independent, international, nongovernmental organisation and monitors rights violations in more than 90 countries across the world.” It also has staff who work legally in its registered offices in some 24 countries around the world, including LebanonJordan and Tunisia. “While the Israeli government is hardly the only one to disagree with our well-researched findings,” concluded Levine, “its efforts to stifle the messenger signal that it has no appetite for serious scrutiny of its human rights record.

Sources:

Israel denies work permit for Human Rights Watch director – Middle East Monitor

http://english.wafa.ps/page.aspx?id=dJyp7Ba54219464904adJyp7B

Palestinian human rights defenders continue to be persecuted

December 21, 2016

Sources:

Amnesty slams Israel’s detention of Palestinian human rights defender – Middle East Monitor

https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/israel-threatens-expel-reporter-who-asked-apartheid-question

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-palumboliu/israel-puts-celebrated-_b_13590812.html

http://ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21041&LangID=E

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16906&LangID=E