Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

Two Italians don’t want a French Legion d’Honneur if el-Sissi has one

December 15, 2020

PAOLO SANTALUCIA and NICOLE WINFIELD – based on an Associated Press item of 14 December 2020 – report that two prominent Italians announced they were returning their Legion of Honor awards to France to protest that Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was given the prize despite his government’s human rights abuses.

Corrado Augias, a long-time journalist for La Repubblica daily and one-time European Parliamentarian for Italy’s center-left, returned his prize to the French Embassy on Monday. Giovanna Melandri, a former Italian culture minister and the president of Rome’s Maxxi contemporary art museum, announced she would follow suit.

Both cited Egypt’s role in the 2016 kidnapping, torture and killing of an Italian doctoral research student in Cairo, as well as the regime’s other human rights violations.

French President Emmanuel Macron last week awarded the Egyptian President the highest French honor during a closed-door ceremony Sept. 7 that only became public after the Egyptian presidency published photos of it.

Also last week, Rome prosecutors formally placed four high-ranking members of Egypt’s security forces under investigation over the death of Giulio Regeni, whose 2016 killing strained relations between Rome and Cairo and galvanized Italy’s human rights community. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/25/monday-25-april-what-will-happen-in-egypt/]

Speaking outside the French Embassy, Augias said he returned his 2007 prize out of “a sense of indignation,” given that the award was bestowed on el-Sissi at the same time that Rome prosecutors were detailing the torture that Regeni suffered to a parliamentary committee. “The two things together were too strong,” he told reporters. “I couldn’t refrain from reacting.

Melandri said in a Facebook post Monday that she too would return the honor she received in 2003, saying it was sad but necessary to make clear that “honor” should mean something.

I hope that this gesture can help open a frank and friendly confrontation in our two countries on which values ​​should be that we want to defend, strengthen and continue to ‘honor’ in a democratic Europe and a globalized world,” she wrote.

El-Sissi’s state visit had sparked protests by human rights activists incensed that France was welcoming el-Sissi despite the heaviest crackdown on dissent in Egypt’s modern history. At the time, it wasn’t known that Macron had awarded el-Sissi the highest distinction of the Legion of Honor order of merit, the Grand-Croix, or Grand-Cross. The award ceremony was held without the press before dinner at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris. The event was not listed on Macron’s official agenda. The French presidency said such a ceremony is usually part of the protocol during state visits.

The French ambassador to Italy, Christian Masset, said he respected Augias and defended the government’s human rights record.

France is on the front lines for human rights and makes no compromises,” he tweeted after Augias returned his prize. “Many cases were discussed during President el-Sissi’s visit to Paris, in the most appropriate and efficient way.

The Legion of Honor has been given to French war heroes, writers, artists and businessmen. But it has also been given to leaders with questionable human rights records, including Syrian President Bashar Assad (though he returned it in 2018) and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

France has on occasion also stripped people of the honor, including Harvey Weinstein in 2017, in the wake of the #MeToo sexual misconduct accusations against him.

https://www.startribune.com/italians-return-french-legion-awards-after-el-sissi-gets-one/600001488/

Mary Lawlor condemns ‘criminalization’ of those saving lives in the Mediterranean

October 9, 2020

Carola Rackete, the former captain of the rescue vessel Sea-Watch 3, and the ‘Iuventa 10’ crew members are human rights defenders and not criminals,” said Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders on 8 October 2020.

“I regret that the criminal proceedings against them are still open and they continue to face stigmatization in connection with their human rights work protecting the human rights of migrants and asylum seekers at risk in the Mediterranean Sea.

In September 2016, a criminal investigation was opened against some crew members of the Iuventa rescue ship. Charges against them included aiding and abetting in the commission of a crime of illegal immigration, an offence that carries a jail term of between five and 20 years, and a fine of 15,000 euros. On 18 June 2019, a motion for the dismissal of the preliminary criminal investigation against the ‘Iuventa 10’ crew members was filed, but a formal decision is still pending. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/31/absurd-prosecution-of-the-crew-of-the-ship-iuventa-continues-in-italy/

Ms. Rackete was arrested by Italian authorities on 29 June 2019 for docking her rescue ship, with 53 migrants on board, without permission. At the beginning of this year, acting upon appeal, the Italian Supreme Court ruled that she should not have been arrested. Despite this, Ms. Rackete continues to face charges, including aiding and abetting in the commission of a crime of illegal immigration. She risks up to 20 years of imprisonment , and various fines of up to 50,000 euros.

Since 2014, at least 16,000 migrants have lost their lives in the Mediterranean, according to the IOM’s ‘Missing Migrants’ project. “The Italian Government must publicly recognise the important role of human rights defenders in protecting the right to life of migrants and asylum seekers at risk in the Mediterranean and must end the criminalization of those who defend their human rights,” Lawlor said.

The expert’s call has been endorsed by: Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity, Mr. Obiora Okafor, Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Dubravka Šimonovic, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Elizabeth Broderick, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls.

Ms Mary Lawlor, (Ireland) is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/07/mary-lawlor-takes-up-post-as-un-special-rapporteur-for-human-rights-defenders/

The same day Human Rights Watch came out with an initial assessment by civil society of the legislative and non-legislative proposals contained in European Commission’s Pact on Migration and Asylum.: The commitment to a more human approach to protection and the emphasis on the fact that migration is needed and positive for Europe with which the European Commission launched the Pact on Migration and Asylum is welcome. However, this rhetoric is reflected only sparsely in the related proposals. Instead of breaking with the fallacies of the EU’s previous approach and offering a fresh start, the Pact risks exacerbating the focus on externalisation, deterrence, containment and return.


https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/10/08/pact-migration-and-asylum

Absurd prosecution of the crew of the ship Iuventa continues in Italy

July 31, 2020

AI has started a campagiun to call on the Italian prosecutor to drop the absurd investigation against the crew of the rescue ship “Iuventa 10”. Despite having saved more than 14,000 lives, they are accused of “facilitating the irregular entry” of migrants into Italy, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years. The criminalization of rescue at sea has hampered vital lifesaving activities in the Central Mediterranean, and it is part of a wider crackdown on acts of solidarity across Europe

Three years after the baseless criminal investigation began, the Iuventa 10 crew remain in limbo with the threat of long jail terms hanging over them,” said Maria Serrano, Amnesty campaigner on migration.

[see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/15/european-governments-should-stop-treating-solidarity-and-compassion-as-a-crime/

The criminalization of rescue at sea has hampered vital lifesaving activities in the Central Mediterranean, and it is part of a wider crackdown on acts of solidarity across Europe. Wrapped up with the fate of these ten men and women are the fates of hundreds of others and thousands of refugees and migrants they are helping.” .

We could no longer stand by and watch people disappearing in the Mediterranean mass grave. We chose to use our privilege to be eyewitnesses, reporters, and a safe harbour for thousands of people on the move,” said one of the Iuventa10

“It was, still is and will remain the task of all of to save human lives wherever possible, to offer protection to those who need it, to treat everyone with dignity and to fight with them for the world in which we want to live.”

Forensic Architecture reconstructionhttps://forensic-architecture.org/investigation/the-seizure-of-the-iuventa

BACKGROUND:

The Iuventa case is not an isolated one. Across Europe people standing in solidarity or assisting refugees and migrants have been threatened, smeared, intimidated, harassed and dragged through the courts simply for helping others. Authorities have misused and abused anti-smuggling laws to criminalize human rights defenders and punish solidarity.  https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur01/1828/2020/en/

Fewer rescue assets had led to an increase of the death rate in 2018 and 2019. Since 2016 more than 50,000 women, men and children have been intercepted at sea by the Libyan Coast Guard and returned to Libya, where they are exposed to arbitrary detention, torture, extortion and rape.

The Iuventa case was the first judicial proceeding launched against a rescue NGO in Italy, following a smear campaign in which NGOs were stigmatized.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/07/italy-crew-of-rescue-ship-face-20-years-in-jail-on-third-anniversary-of-smuggling-investigation/

New Amnesty report on human rights defenders helping migrants

March 4, 2020

Amnesty accuses European law enforcement agencies of using trafficking and terrorism laws
Human rights group Amnesty has warned that concerned citizens across Europe are facing prosecution for offering help and assistance to refugees and migrants.

In a new report published on 3 March 2020, Amnesty International said European law enforcement authorities and prosecutors are “misusing already flawed” laws intended to prevent people smuggling and terrorism to target members of the public who offer migrants shelter and warm clothing, or attempt to rescue them at sea. Amnesty examined several cases that took place in Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain, Switzerland and the UK between 2017 and last year, during which human rights defenders who attempted to help refugees and migrants were targeted under legislation intended to tackle organised immigration crime networks. Amnesty’s report comes as world media attention has once again turned to the Mediterranean migrant crisis after Turkey opened its border with Greece to thousands of Syrian refugees.

In one such case, Frenchman Pierre Mumber was charged with “facilitating irregular entry” into France when he was caught offering tea and warm clothing to four west African asylum seekers before being acquitted on appeal. The report also notes that Swiss citizens have faced prosecution for providing migrants and refugees with shelter or helping them access services and protection. Elsewhere, the agency revealed that people in Italy who have worked to rescue migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean on unseaworthy vessels have been subjected to smear campaigns and criminal investigations. See also:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/18/international-migrants-day-the-story-of-the-ocean-viking/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/02/un-experts-consider-human-rights-defenders-in-italy-under-threat/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/12/luventa10-sea-rescue-group-gets-ai-germanys-human-rights-award/

Commenting on the contents of the report, Elisa De Pieri, Regional Researcher at Amnesty International, said: “The increased focus on limiting and deterring arrivals in Europe has meant that making refugees or migrants feel safer or welcomed is seen as a threat. “The failure of European states to fulfil the basic needs of refugees and migrants means it is often left to ordinary people to provide essential services and support. “By punishing the people who step up to fill the gaps, European governments are putting people on the move at even greater risk.”

Click to access EUR0118282020ENGLISH.PDF

Amnesty accuses European police of targeting ‘human rights defenders’ who help refugees and migrants

New Amnesty report: Governments failing women human rights defenders

December 1, 2019

Women in Lahore, Pakistan, march to mark International Women's Day 2019
Women in Lahore, Pakistan, march to mark International Women’s Day 2019 © Ema Anis for Amnesty International

Governments around the world are failing to protect women human rights defenders from increasing attacks, Amnesty International said on 29 November 2019, International Women Human Rights Defenders Day. In a new report –Challenging power, fighting discrimination” – based on interviews with 23 activists across 21 countries, Amnesty highlights how women human rights defenders continue to be assaulted, threatened, intimidated, criminalised and even killed for their campaigning.

Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said: “Women human rights defenders are attacked because of who they are and what they do. The risks are even greater for those facing intersecting forms of discrimination: if you are a woman and from a racial minority, indigenous, poor, lesbian, bisexual, trans, or a sex worker, you have to fight so much harder to have your voice heard by those in power…All over the world, women human rights defenders are speaking out against injustice, abuse and discrimination, often because they have experienced it first-hand…..They are central to human progress: they fight for human rights and against patriarchy and racism, while pushing for ground-breaking reforms on so many fronts. Governments must live up to their commitment to ensure these activists can operate freely and safely.

In recent years, campaigners working on the rights of women, LGBTI people and other marginalised groups have come under growing pressure from politicians, religious leaders and violent groups. Women campaigning on these issues tend to be the first to be targeted in increasingly frequent backlashes against a more inclusive, fairer world.

Sexual violence

The report highlights several cases in which violence, including sexual violence as a form of torture, was used against women human rights defenders to silence them. In Bahrain, Ebtisam El-Saegh, an activist with the human rights organisation SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights, was sexually assaulted, badly beaten, kicked in the stomach and kept standing for most of the seven hours she was being interrogated while in detention in 2017. El-Saegh told Amnesty: “I was threatened that they would harm my family and that they would bring my husband and torture and electrocute him. The men told me ‘no one can protect you’.”

In Egypt, Malak al-Kashef, a 19-year-old transgender woman human rights defender was arrested in March this year following her involvement in peaceful protests in Cairo. She faced trumped-up charges of ‘aiding a terrorist organisation’ and ‘misusing social media to commit a crime punishable by law.’ While in detention, she was subjected to a forced anal examination and other forms of sexual assault. Even though she was undergoing gender affirming treatment, Malak was placed in an all-male detention facility which put her at increased risk of sexual violence. She was eventually released in July this year.

Smear campaigns

Women activists are often subjected to smear campaigns which vilify their “deviant behaviour” and are designed to fuel hostility against them. After rescuing migrants from the central Mediterranean Sea in June 2019, Carola Rackete, the Italian captain of the rescue boat Sea-Watch 3, was repeatedly insulted by the Italian Minister of Interior who called her a pirate and a criminal. His slurs were followed by vicious verbal attacks by others who incited sexual violence against her while also targeting her gender and appearance.

In Mauritania, Mekfoula Brahim, a woman human rights defender who has campaigned for an end to female genital mutilation, was branded an apostate in 2016 Facebook posts after defending a blogger sentenced to death for criticising those who use religion to discriminate against minorities. The slur exposed her to the risk of being prosecuted and sentenced to death.

Click to access ACT3011392019ENGLISH.PDF

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/governments-failing-protect-women-activists-increasing-attacks-new-report

http://www.voxy.co.nz/politics/5/353494

Profile of Widad Akreyi, Iraqi human rights defender

November 5, 2019

Dr. Widad Akreyi at the award ceremony for the 2018 International Woman Harmony Award, Cortona, Italy, Nov. 23, 2018.

Nansen Refugee Award Regional Winners for 2019 are…

September 18, 2019

On 18 September UNHCR announced the five 2019 Nansen Refugee Award Regional Winners. For more on the Nansen Award and 8 more awards in the refugee area, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/unhcr-nansen-refugee-award.

These are the every-day heroes going to extraordinary lengths to help forcibly displaced people in great need, who have been chosen as the regional winners of the UNHCR 2019 Nansen Refugee Award. The regional winners for Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Middle East were short-listed from more than 450 nominees.

They are:

  • Africa: Evariste Mfaume, the founder of NGO Solidarité des Volontaires pour l’Humanité in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who champions the rights of Congolese people displaced by conflict and also refugees and their host communities.
  • Americas: Bianka Rodriguez from El Salvador, a young trans woman and executive director of NGO COMCAVIS TRANS, who advocates for the rights of forcibly displaced LGBTI people in the country.
  • Asia: Alberto Cairo, a physiotherapist in Afghanistan and head of the International Committee of the Red Cross orthopaedic programme, who has dedicated almost 30 years of his life to providing prosthetic limbs and helping find jobs for injured Afghans.
  • Europe: Humanitarian Corridors, a ground-breaking cross-border initiative established with the Italian Government in 2015 to enable particularly vulnerable refugees to start a new life in safety in Italy.
  • Middle East: Abeer Khreisha, a community volunteer in Jordan, known as ‘the mother of Syrians’ for her work helping refugees.

The overall winner of the Nansen Refugee Award – who is not among those honoured today – will be revealed on 2 October in Geneva. For last year’s winner see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/02/south-sudanese-doctor-wins-2018-nansen-medal/

https://www.unhcr.org/nansen-refugee-award.html

Carmignac Photojournalism Award for covering human rights violations – in 2019: the Amazon

September 15, 2019

Grajaú, Brazil—A deforested area in the southern Maranhão state seen from a helicopter belonging to IBAMA, Brazil’s national environmental agency [Photo: © Tommaso Protti for Fondation Carmignac]

The Carmignac Photojournalism Award is an annual prize given to investigative photojournalists covering human rights violations [see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/carmignac-photojournalism-award]. Each year, a team of environmental and political leaders selects a region to focus on and then selects a recipient, who uses the foundation’s $55,000 prize money to shoot the project they proposed. The annual award, now in its 10th year, focuses on a different region and associated human rights topic each year. For 2019 the jury chose to call for project proposals around deforestation and the Amazon. Evan Nicole Brown writing in Fact Company of 12 September 2019 notes that “in an ironic twist, the recipient of the prize money was announced as the rain forest was being obscured by plumes of smoke from the unprecedented fires.

The winner, Tommaso Protti, is an Italian-born photographer who has lived in Brazil for the past five years. ..the prize money supported the production of his photojournalism work, which began in January of this year and wrapped up in July. His reportage, developed in tandem with British journalist Sam Cowie, was revealed at the Visa pour l’Image festival in France on September 4.

……

“There’s a big problem with impunity inside the region because of the state—it leads directly to killing the environment and indigenous leaders,” Protti says. “The people there don’t have the protection [like most of us] experiencing climate collapse. The majority of the people I’ve met try to make a living with what the forest offers them.”

Kayapó Indigenous Land—Kayapo children play behind a waterfall in the Kubenkrãnken indigenous village, in southern Pará state. The Kayapo have only been in contact with nonindigenous society since the 1960s. Their land serves as a crucial barrier to deforestation advancing from the south. [Photo: © Tommaso Protti for Fondation Carmignac]

Poor environmental health in the Amazon is, in part, responsible for poverty and violence in surrounding favelas too. Rural agricultural workers, who depend on the forest for a living, have been forced to leave the Amazon now that it is less dense and farming has been modernized. The only place left for them to go are Brazil’s cities, resulting in a crowding of favelas and the tension that results from a government pushing disparate communities into close proximity.

One of Protti’s selected photographs depicts members of the Guajajara forest guard beating an indigenous man accused of collaborating with illegal loggers. Over the course of his time photographing the rain forest and its native people, Protti was able to observe how seasonal changes affect the Amazon’s health, during the dry season (July through October) and the rainy season too. The joint work between Protti and Cowie explores the humanitarian crises plaguing the region—from Venezuelan refugee groups to agrarian and religious conflicts—and the ongoing deforestation too. “It’s a really complex award from my point of view. [The Amazon] is a national treasure,” Protti says about his win. “It’s nothing new, fires happen every year . . . but at the same time, the fires are consequences of the social [situation].”

Protti’s photographs and the accompanying reportage will be presented in London and at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP) in Paris starting December 4. They will also be included, concurrently, in a monograph copublished with Reliefs Éditions.

https://www.fastcompany.com/90399868/a-photographers-race-to-document-the-destruction-of-the-amazon-rain-forest

One of the Balzan prizes 2020 will focus on human rights

September 10, 2019

The aim of the Balzan prizes is to foster culture, the sciences and the most outstanding humanitarian initiatives of peace and brotherhood among peoples, regardless of nationality, race or creed. The four subject areas for the awards change every year. As stipulated in the Articles of the Balzan Foundation, they are selected from among “literature, the moral sciences and the arts” and “the physical, mathematical and natural sciences and medicine”. Rotating the subjects ensures that new or emerging research gets recognition, while at the same time it supports important fields of study that may have beenoverlooked by other great international awards. Since 2001, the rules of procedure of the Foundation’s General Prize Committee have stipulated that Prizewinners must destine half of the Prize to finance research projects that are preferably carried out by young scholars or scientists. The International Balzan Foundation, founded in 1957, operates through two separate institutions. The International Balzan Foundation “Prize” in Milan, chaired by Enrico Decleva, selects the subjects to be awarded and the candidates through its General Prize Committee. The Balzan Foundation “Fund” in Zurich, chaired by Gisèle Girgis-Musy,administers the estate left by Eugenio Balzan, so as to place at the disposal of the International Balzan Foundation”Prize,” the financial means necessary to realize its objective. The amount of each of the four 2020 Balzan Prizes will be CHF 750 000. Every year, the four Balzan Prizes are awarded to scholars and scientists who are distinguished in their fields on an international level.

At the conclusion of the announcement of the 2019 Balzan Prizewinners, the President of the General Prize Committee, Professor Luciano Maiani, informed the public that the 2020 Balzan Prizes will be awarded in the following fields:

  • Human Rights
  • Earth System Dynamics

As a further testimonial to the interdisciplinary mission of the Balzan Prize, for the first time in its history, the two general subject areas of the awards, the sciences and the humanities, will share a common theme that is fundamental and highly pertinent to today’s concern with the future of the planet: Environmental Challenges, which will in turn be divided into these two areas:

  • Responses from the Social Sciences and the humanities
  • Materials Science for Renewable Energy

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-09/gc-tfn090919.php

Also in USA helping migrants is criminalised: Scot Warren in court on 29 May 2019

May 29, 2019

Not just in Italy [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/15/european-governments-should-stop-treating-solidarity-and-compassion-as-a-crime/]. Front LIne Defenders on 28 May 2019 reports that in the United States Scott Warren is facing 20-year prison sentence for “harbouring” migrants.

On 29 May 2019, Scott Warren is due to face a felony trial at the District Court for the District of Arizona. The human rights defender is charged with two counts of “harbouring” migrants in Ajo, Arizona, and one count of “conspiracy to transport and harbour” migrants. If found guilty, he might be sentenced to up to 20 years of imprisonment.

Dr. Scott Warren [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/scott-warren] is a human rights defender working on migration issues in Ajo, Arizona. For over ten years, he has provided humanitarian aid to migrants and asylum seekers who attempt crossing the United States – Mexico border through the Sonora desert. He helped establish the humanitarian aid group No More Deaths or No Más Muertes which provides water and medical aid on migration routes, and documents the deaths of migrants in the desert.

On 29 May 2019 at 9:30am, Scott Warren is due to be tried at the District Court for the District of Arizona for two counts of “harbouring” migrants and one count of “conspiracy to transport and harbour” migrants. On 21 May 2019, the judge assigned to the case rejected a motion to dismiss the indictment. Scott Warren’s lawyers argued that his arrest “arose from selective enforcement of the laws by the Border Patrol” and that he was being targeted specifically for his work in defence of migrants’ rights.

On 17 January 2018, Scott Warren was arrested at a volunteer gathering point known as the “Barn”, located in Ajo, by a convoy of U.S. Border Patrol agents from a specialised anti-smuggling unit. The agents were wearing plain clothes and did not present the human rights defender with a warrant. Earlier on that day, No More Deaths had published a report denouncing the involvement of Border Patrol officers in the destruction of water gallons left by volunteers for migrants crossing the desert. After the publication of the report, Scott Warren gathered evidence of surveillance activities carried out against him by the U.S. Border Patrol.

The arrest of Scott Warren represents an escalation of existing patterns of harassment against humanitarian volunteers and human rights defenders in Arizona. In 2018, officers of the Fish and Wildlife Services cited Scott Warren and other volunteers of No More Deaths for entering the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, one of the most deadly migrant corridors along the Mexico-US border, to provide life-saving aid, including water, food and medical supplies, to migrants crossing the desert.

…..
On recent country visits, Front Line Defenders found that defamation and criminalisation of humanitarian activity is increasing along the migrant caravan routes. Human rights defenders in Mexico and the United States have been detained, harassed and criminalised for the provision of humanitarian aid, including distributing food, water and medical supplies, and operating emergency shelters for migrant families. Moreover, the authorities in the United States have increased efforts towards the criminalisation of all forms of immigration, including through coordinated action with other states in the region.

Front Line Defenders condemns the criminalisation of Scott Warren, as it is believed to be directly motivated by his humanitarian work assisting migrants and documenting their deaths. Front Line Defenders is further concerned about the increased use of the judiciary to target human rights defenders and organisations who assist migrants at the United States – Mexico border, including by selective enforcement of the law.

See latest: https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/human-rights-first-statement-new-trial-against-arizona-human-rights-defender