Posts Tagged ‘killings’

United Nations’ Andrew Gilmour: HRDs are like “the canary in the coalmine, bravely singing until they are silenced..”

September 22, 2017

Andrew Gilmour, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights (file). UN Photo/Manuel Elias

On 20 September 2017 the UN reported that a  growing number of human rights defenders around the world are facing reprisals and intimidation for cooperating with the United Nations, ranging from travel bans and the freezing of assets to detention and torture, says a new report issued by the world body.

“It is frankly nothing short of abhorrent that, year after year, we are compelled to present cases of intimidation and reprisals carried out against people whose crime – in the eyes of their governments – was to cooperate with UN institutions and mechanisms,” said Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour“We should see these individuals as the canary in the coalmine, bravely singing until they are silenced by this toxic backlash against people, rights and dignity – as a dark warning to us all,” Mr. Gilmour told the Human Rights Council in Geneva, as he presented the Secretary-General’s report.

The report, the eighth of its kind, names 29 countries where cases of reprisal and intimidation have been documented; this is higher than the previous highest number of 20. Eleven of the States are current members of the Human Rights Council, a news release pointed out. Some have featured in the annual report on reprisals nearly every year since it was instituted in 2010. [see my earlier: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/23/reprisals-at-the-un-more-calls-for-action-no-action/]

Mr. Gilmour told the Council that the problem was much more widespread than presented in the report. “Since this report is limited to reprisals against people cooperating with the UN, the cases covered in it represent only a small portion of a far more generalized backlash against civil society and others challenging State authorities, especially human rights defenders”. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/21/assistant-secretary-general-for-human-rights-andrew-gilmour-speaks-very-freely-at-the-united-nations-association-of-the-usa/]

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Amnesty International has launched a campaign to publicize what it says is a worsening situation for human rights activists throughout the world. The group hopes its “Brave” campaign will persuade governments to keep the promises they made in United Nations treaties to protect defenders of human rights. The organization Front Line Defenders says 281 people were killed in 2016 for defending human rights. In 2015, the number was 156.

Guadalupe Marengo, head of Amnesty’s Human Rights Defenders Program, told the VOA that “In the current context of us-versus-them, of demonization, of full frontal attack actually I would say on human rights, it is crucial that we take stock and that we call on the authorities to stop these attacks immediately.” …….Amnesty says human rights defenders are arrested, kidnapped and killed around the world. It says they are also attacked using online technology. Surveillance tools are used to study their activity. Marengo says campaigns launched on social media tell lies about the activists in an attempt to cause others to oppose them. “They are accused of being terrorists; they are accused of being criminals, they are accused of defending ‘immorality.’” Amnesty International hopes the “Brave” program will show the worsening situation for human rights activists worldwide.

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To underscore the point the NGO CIVICUS made a statement to the same (36th) UN Human Rights Council based on a panel discussion on the rights of indigenous people. 

“I read this statement on behalf of 39 human rights defenders and civil society organisations working on indigenous, land and environmental rights from 29 countries who met in Johannesburg, South Africa from 7-9 August 2017 to discuss strategies to advance the protection of indigenous, land and environmental rights activists. Mr. President, 2016 surpassed 2015 as the deadliest year on record for those stood up against land grabbing, natural resource exploitation and environmental destruction. Worryingly, the number of killed has risen to 200 from 185 in 2016 and spread to several countries across the world.

In the current global climate, where repression of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly is becoming the norm rather than the exception, environmental and land defenders are particularly vulnerable. When we express concerns over the collusion between States and corporate actors, we face opposition – dissent is stifled and criminalised, and our lives are threatened. Often our work is discredited and we are labelled ‘anti-national’ and ‘anti-development’.

When we protest peacefully against this attack on our resources and livelihoods, we face violence from state authorities, private security groups and state-sponsored vigilante groups. When we stand up to defend the rights of our communities, we face unfounded criminal charges, unlawful arrests, custodial torture, threats to life and liberty, surveillance, judicial harassment and administrative hurdles, among other actions.

Mr. President, our families are threatened into silence and many of us have had to make the difficult decision to flee our homes and go into exile, retreating from a fight that has become too dangerous. We need global action to counter the threats we face.

We ask the panellists to urge the Council to emphasise the need for all states to ensure that affected communities are adequately consulted, including securing their full consent prior to the development of infrastructure and extractive industries projects. “

Sources:

United Nations News Centre – Growing number of rights defenders facing reprisals for cooperating with UN

http://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/news/united-nations/geneva/2953-joint-statement-on-the-rights-of-indigenous-peoples

https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/amnesty-human-rights-campaign/3861696.html

9 August: International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples – UN experts see increasing murder

August 8, 2017

Ahead of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on 9 August 2017, IPS publishes a statement by Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine (Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues), Albert K. Barume (chairman of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz (Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples). The group of experts warns that he world’s indigenous peoples still face huge challenges a decade after the adoption of an historic declaration on their rights. The killing of environmental defenders has been the topic of several recent reports (see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/15/documenting-the-killings-of-environmental-defenders-guardian-and-global-witness/).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women from Nepal’s indigenous tribe. Credit: Mallika Aryal/IPS

They state that States must put words into action to end discrimination, exclusion and lack of protection illustrated by the worsening murder rate of human rights defenders. The full text of the short statement follows here: Read the rest of this entry »

Documenting the Killings of Environmental Defenders (Guardian and Global Witness)

July 15, 2017

Last Friday I asked attention for Front Line’s project Memorial that tries to honor all human rights defenders who have been killed since 1998 [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/13/stop-the-killings-you-can-help-front-line/]. Now the Guardian announces that this year, in collaboration with Global Witness, it will attempt to record all of the deaths of people who are killed while defending their land, forests, rivers or wildlife – most often against the harmful impacts of industry. The project will also document the stories of some of the land and environmental defenders still under attack

Activists, wildlife rangers and indigenous leaders are dying violently at the rate of about four a week, with a growing sense around the world that ‘anyone can kill environmental defenders without repercussions’

Environmental defenders being killed in record numbers globally, new research reveals.

    • The Guardian pieces addresses also the crucial question of methodology.” Environmental defenders: who are they and how do we decide if they have died in defence of their environment?” [see:

      https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/13/environmental-defenders-who-are-they-and-how-do-we-decide-if-they-have-died-in-defence-of-their-environment]

      Amazon rainforest activists José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife Maria do Espírito Santo were murdered by gunmen in Brazil’s Pará state in May 2011
      Amazon rainforest activists José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife Maria do Espírito Santo who were murdered by gunmen in Brazil’s Pará state in May 2011. Photograph: Stringer, Brazil/Reuters

      Some excerpts:

      Who are land and environmental defenders?

      Land and environmental defenders are people who take peaceful action, either voluntarily or professionally, to protect the environment or land rights. They are often ordinary people who may well not define themselves as “defenders”. Some are indigenous or peasant leaders living in remote mountains or isolated forests, protecting their ancestral lands and traditional livelihoods from business projects such as mining, dams or luxury hotels. Others are park rangers tackling poaching or illegal logging. They could even be lawyers, journalists or NGO staff working to expose environmental abuse and land grabbing.

      How does Global Witness document killings of defenders?

      Global Witness uses online searches and its extensive network of local contacts to source evidence every time a land or environmental defender is reported as murdered, or as having been abducted by state forces. A number of criteria must be fulfilled for a case to be verified and entered into the Global Witness database. A credible online source of information is required with the victim’s name, details of how they were killed or abducted (including the date and location), and evidence that s/he was a land or environmental activist. In some cases, specialised local organisations are able to investigate and verify the case in-country, meaning that an online source is not necessary. Global Witness includes the friends, colleagues and family of defenders if either they appear to have been killed as a reprisal for the defender’s work, or because they were killed in an attack which also left the defender dead. While Global Witness endeavours to keep its database updated in real-time, verification of cases can be time-consuming, meaning that the names of some individuals are added weeks, or even months, after their death.

      Honduras: Julia Francisco Martinez, widow of indigenous activist Francisco Martinez Marquez who was killed in January 2015
      Honduras: Julia Francisco Martinez, widow of indigenous activist Francisco Martinez Marquez who was killed in January 2015 after months of death threats. His killers have not been brought to justice. Photograph: Giles Clarke/Global Witness

      Why does Global Witness say that its data is incomplete? There are a number of reasons why the information in Global Witness’s database is likely to be incomplete. Many killings go unreported, and very few are investigated by the authorities, which is part of the problem itself. Suppression of the media and restrictions on human rights in some countries reduces the number of organisations and outlets documenting killings. In high-conflict countries it can be difficult to verify that a killing was linked to somebody’s activism. Some countries are likely to be under-represented because principal searches are currently limited to English, Spanish, Portuguese and French. Global Witness’s network of local sources is also stronger in some regions than others.

      For full details of Global Witness’s methodology, visit globalwitness.org/defenders/methodology

      see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/01/violence-against-environmental-human-rights-defenders-one-of-the-worst-trends-in-recent-years/

 

Source: The defenders | The Guardian

 

STOP THE KILLINGS: you can help Front Line

July 13, 2017

At the end of last year I announced the new Front Line project to remember human rights defenders who have been killed [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/02/new-on-line-memorial-to-remember-killed-human-rights-defenders/] and now I am asking you for your cooperation. If you yourself do not know any cases to be included, you could still forward the post to any person or organization you think could be helpful.  The main parameters of the project are:


The HRD Memorial – http://www.hrdmemorial.org

The the aim is to commemorate all human rights defenders who have been killed for their peaceful work in defense of human rights since the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders came into effect in 1998.

The criteria for inclusion is simply that the person targeted was a HRD killed because of their peaceful human rights work. (The HRD Memorial doesn’t include disappearance cases because of the difficulty in documenting the cases and trying to determine if the person is alive or dead.)

Front Line Defenders have taken a policy decision to only include a case with the permission of the family because of the risk of re-victimisation.

Any inputs (as well questions) can be sent straight to , Head of HRD Memorial Project at Front Line Defenders [jimATfrontlinedefenders.org>]

Repressive governments continue to kill human rights defenders because they think human rights defenders are expendable people, that the killings will have no consequences and that the HRDs will soon be forgotten. The Memorial would be an important tool in the fight against impunity and to keep the flame alive. The Memorial and the participation of national and international NGOs will provide the basis for an international campaign with the theme “Stop the Killings”, which will be launched in the first quarter of 2018. 

Amnesty report big rise in number of human rights defenders killed in 2016

May 16, 2017

Amnesty International said there an 80% rise in the number of human rights activists killed around the world in 2016. https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/brave/

Amnesty International said 281 people were killed in 2016 while working to defend human rights. The organisation said it is part of a growing trend of intimidation and persecution of activists. Amnesty also pointed out that oppressive measures are not just happening far afield – with abuses reported in countries like Hungary and Turkey. This is how the Executive Director of Amnesty International, Ireland Colm O’Gorman described it: “We’re seeing an unparallelled global assault on the work of human rights defenders, so laws that are brought in to inhibit human rights work, whether it be the foreign agent laws we’ve seen in Russia, bans of foreign funding for NGOs in Hungary and other countries or indeed mass surveillance techniques being used against human rights defenders.”

Colm O’Gorman.

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/09/front-line-launches-its-2016-report-on-human-rights-defenders-at-risk/

Source: Amnesty report huge rise in number of human rights activists killed in 2016 | BreakingNews.ie

Trans defender’s Karla Avelar’s life is under constant threat

May 16, 2017

Brian Dooley of Human Rights First, wrote the following piece “Karla Avelar’s Life Of Constant Threats” in the Huffington Post of 13 May 2017 (in full below). Karla (El Salvador) is one of the three finalists of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/26/breaking-news-three-human-rights-defenders-selected-as-finalists-for-the-2017-martin-ennals-award/].  An rise in deadly violence against transgender women in El Salvador prompted the United Nations on Friday to call for an investigation into crimes against sexual minorities in the conservative Central American country. So far this year, seven transgender women have been killed in El Salvador, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights [http://www.reuters.com/article/us-elsalvador-violence-lgbt-idUSKBN189018]

CARLOS CRUZ, COMCAVIS TRANS
Karla Avelar, advocating despite the danger.

Six times in two years. Human rights activist Karla Avelar has been forced to move home six times in the last two years after being physically threatened by individuals she believes are gang members and for her work as a human rights defender in El Salvador.

She’s a leading advocate for the human rights of LGBT people, founder and head of COMCAVIS TRANS, an organization known for its work for transgender people for nearly a decade. It’s dangerous, unpopular work, and Avelar is regularly targeted and threatened.

A couple of weeks ago she was forced to move home when people tried to extort from her possible prize money for the Martin Ennals Human Rights Defender Award, for which she is a finalist. The award’s winner will be decided and announced in October, but news of her nomination has prompted these latest threats.

It hasn’t been an easy life. She was shot in two separate incidents, spent five traumatic years in jail and has been a constant target of abuse for being a transgender woman. Avelar told my colleague Mariel Perez-Santiago at her office in San Salvador last year how she had been raped by more than a hundred men on her first day in prison, and that the attacks continued with the complicity of prison staff.

She became a formidable advocate for the rights of trans people in and out of prison, helping to win important reforms in the prison where she used to be an inmate. Thanks to her campaigning, transgender women are now separated from men in different wards, and human rights organizations are allowed access to the prisoners to educate them about their rights. She also represented El Salvador’s LGBT civil society at the country’s 2014 Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations in Geneva.

Her advocacy has led to international recognition including becoming a finalist for this year’s Martin Ennals Award. “Transgender persons, and the wider LGBT community, face widespread hostility and social rejection in El Salvador,” said the Martin Ennals organization in a statement. “Crimes against them are almost never brought to justice, which results in a climate of impunity. Sadly, this treatment of transgender people can be seen well beyond El Salvador. We aim to highlight Ms. Avelar’s bravery in continuing her work. We are encouraged that the authorities contacted her after the media coverage of the latest threats. This needs to be followed up with judicial proceedings against those responsible and, most importantly, effective protection for Karla Avelar.”

Her profile has meant that the threats against her are receiving attention, and the Attorney General’s office has been in touch with her to discuss issues of her safety. But for Avelar and others in El Salvador’s LGBT community the risks are daily and grave. She estimates around 600 cases of unsolved murders of LGBT people in the country over the last 25 years.

“Sadly, these most recent threats against me are not surprising and are part of a broader and systematic pattern of persecution of members of the LGBT community in El Salvador,” said Avelar. “I will not be silenced by these threats, but the Salvadoran government must guarantee my safety and that of all human rights defenders and activists, who work tirelessly to monitor and urge respect for the human rights of the most vulnerable.”

Forced to leave her home again and again, she’s asking for protection as well as international visibility. Making her more famous won’t guarantee her safety but we can try to help by sharing her story with whoever we know, by showing that we’re watching, and by saying that she should be protected and never be forced to move again.

Source: Karla Avelar’s Life Of Constant Threats | HuffPost

Sunny Maldives: Murder of human rights defender and blogger Yameen Rasheed tip of the iceberg

April 25, 2017

The Maldives normally create images in our mind of luxury holidays. This is a false image [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/maldives/]. On Sunday, 23 April 2017, a prominent blogger and social media activist, Yameen Rasheed, was found in the stairwell of his residence in the country’s capital Malé with multiple stab wounds to his head, neck and body. Mr. Rasheed died of his injuries. The UN, Front Line and others expressed deep alarmed by Mr. Rasheed’s killing and urge the authorities to ensure that the investigation into the murder is prompt, thorough and that the perpetrators are brought to justice. Mr. Rasheed had in December reported to the Maldives Police Service that he was receiving targeted death threats following the publication of his photo along with those of others on an anonymous Facebook page, but he complained that he had to follow up for three days just to get a confirmation that his complaint had been registered. Mr. Rasheed’s killing comes in the context of what appears to be an upsurge in arrests and prosecutions of the political opposition.

Yameen Rasheed [see his profile: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/yameen-rasheed]  was a prominent human rights defender and social media activist in Maldives. Through his blog The Daily Panic, he was an outspoken critic of government corruption and was vocal against impunity for crimes against journalists and attacks of freedom of expression  committed by radical Islamist groups. Yameen Rasheed was a close friend of Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla, another well known Maldivian journalist, blogger and human rights advocate, who was abducted and disappeared in 2014. Since 2014, Yameen Rasheed had been working to obtain justice for Rilwan, and was recently coordinating with Rilwan’s family to file a case against the Maldives police on the investigation of Rilwan’s death. In 2015, he was arrested along with 200 other activists and imprisoned for three weeks after taking part in a pro-democracy rally in the capital.

Maldives has a troubling history of attacks targeting human rights defenders, journalists and bloggers. On 5 June 2012, blogger, LGBT activist and journalist Ismail Khilath Rasheed, also known as Hilath, was stabbed by radical Islamists. On 8 August 2014, prominent HRD Ahmed Rilwan went missing and has not been heard of since then. On 4 September 2015, human rights lawyer Mahfooz Saeed [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-mahfooz-saeed] was brutally attacked by two unidentified men, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/09/07/mahfooz-saeed-lawyer-of-maldives-ex-president-stabbed/. 

It would seem therefore that the groundbreaking legal proceedings (October 2016), which the ISHR has brought to the UN Human Rights Committee have a lot of merit. It was requested to rule that the Maldives violated international law by restricting human rights defenders from submitting information to the UN.

In what is the first case filed with the UN on behalf of former members of a national human rights institution, ISHR has asked the UN Human Rights Committee to authoritatively rule that there is a legal right to submit information, evidence and reports to the UN and that restrictions on this right, or reprisals for exercising this right, amount to serious breaches of international law. The case could have wide-ranging implications, as a number of countries seek to criminalise or prosecute people to prevent them from exposing human rights violations at the UN.

Assisted by ISHR, Ahmed Tholal and Jeehan Mahmood, former Commissioners of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), have filed a communication with the UN’s Human Rights Committee to highlight the Maldives’ failure to ensure their right to share information freely with the UN without reprisal. The HRCM was prosecuted in 2015 by the Supreme Court in the Maldives following a submission made by the HRCM on human rights in the Maldives to the UN’s Universal Periodic Review….The Court ruled that the HRCM’s report was unlawful, biased and undermined judicial independence, and ordered the HRCM to follow a set of guidelines designed to restrict the HRCM’s work and its ability to communicate with the UN.

Ahmed Tholal and Jeehan Mahmood said they were seeking a ruling from the Committee because they want the HRCM’s right to freely communicate with international human rights mechanisms to be firmly preserved in law and practice. ‘If the HRCM is not able to communicate freely with the UN, its ability to carry out its mandate is severely undermined. This case isn’t just about the HRCM of 2010. Rather it’s about the far reaching implications such reprisals will have on the independence and integrity of NHRI’s everywhere,’ they said.

‘The decision of the Supreme Court to restrict the activities and independence of the Commission is incompatible with the right of safe and unhindered communication with UN bodies, and the prohibition against reprisals for exercising that right. Such a decision by an arm of government is a clear breach of international law,’ Ms Sinclair of ISHR said. Background to the case can be found here.

A copy of the Communication can be found here.

Source: OHCHR Press Briefing Notes – South Sudan, Maldives | Scoop News

https://www.ishr.ch/news/reprisals-groundbreaking-legal-proceedings-filed-against-maldives

ProtectDefenders.eu launches new alert website but no single stop yet!!

April 3, 2017

On 30 March ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders mechanism implemented by international civil society, launched its Index of attacks and threats against Human Rights Defenders, featuring a monitoring of alerts concerning violations perpetrated against individuals promoting Human Rights around the globe. The Index of attacks and threats against Human Rights Defenders is available on: ProtectDefenders.eu website.

It could be a most useful tool as quite a few key information providers coöperate (but not AI, HRW?). However, to be really useful as a single stop for this kind of information it is paramount that the site is as complete as possible (otherwise one would still have to go back to the websites of the individual organizations cooperating in the project). This is apparently not yet the case (or maybe definitions still differ from NGO to NGO). Front Line e.g. in its 2017 report (covering 2016) states that  281 HRDs were killed around the world [https://hrdmemorial.org/front-line-defenders-017-annual-report-highlights-killing-of-281-hrds-in-2016/], while a search on the new site shows only 39 killed in 2016 [https://protectdefenders.eu/en/stats.php?yearFilter=2016&regionFilter=&countryFilter=#mf]. That is 242 killings missing (without checking the annual reports of other cooperating partners) ! This issue is important as the announcement claims that the site wants to become “a source of reliable and updated information that should allow the identification of worrying trends and  encourage the coordination of adequate responses by decision-makers and authorities to counter the violations faced by defenders”. Read the rest of this entry »

The Situation of Human Rights Defenders – Amnesty International’s Statement to the UN Human Rights Council 2017

February 15, 2017

The document “The Situation of Human Rights Defenders – Item 3: Amnesty International’s Written Statement to the 34th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (27 February- 24 March 2017)” could of course be obtained directly from AI. However, I do it via: http://www.refworld.org/docid/58a195034.html, in order to highlight this very useful service provided by the documentation service of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which regularly gives links to documentation concerning countries of origin of refugees. The entry will look like this:

Title The Situation of Human Rights Defenders – Item 3: Amnesty International’s Written Statement to the 34th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (27 February- 24 March 2017)
Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 13 February 2017
Topics Human rights activists | Human rights and fundamental freedoms
Reference IOR 40/5647/2017
Cite as Amnesty International, The Situation of Human Rights Defenders – Item 3: Amnesty International’s Written Statement to the 34th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (27 February- 24 March 2017), 13 February 2017, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/58a195034.html %5Baccessed 13 February 2017]
Disclaimer

In their submission AI states in part:

In 1998 the international community adopted, by consensus, the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms thereby recognising the importance that civil society actors play in the defence of the values that underpin human rights. The Declaration stresses that we all have a role to fulfil as human rights defenders and urges States particularly to protect human rights defenders from harm as a consequence of their work.

However, almost two decades after that historical moment human rights defenders continue to be harassed, tortured, jailed and killed for speaking out against injustice. During the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in the USA last year, the security forces used excessive and unnecessary force when arresting members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other Indigenous communities who oppose its construction.

Over 3,500 human rights defenders have been killed since the Declaration was adopted in 1998 and according to recent figures released by Frontline Defenders, the number of killings in 2016 marked an increase in the number reported in the previous year.

These killings usually occur after threats and warnings. Berta Cáceres, the leading indigenous, environmental and women’s rights defender from Honduras was killed in March 2016 despite enjoying a high national and international profile. In the aftermath of her killing, Honduras was under increased pressure to protect its human rights defenders, nonetheless, in October 2016, José Ángel Flores and Silmer Dionisio George of the Unified Movement of the Aguán were murdered, and currently international organization Global Witness, along with Honduran organizations MILPAH, COPINH and CEHPRODEC are facing a smear campaign against them for their work defending land, territory and environmental rights.

Amnesty International also continues to receive reports of human rights defenders being subjected to unfounded criminal proceedings, arbitrary detention and judicial harassment, which prevents them from speaking up against injustice, delegitimizes their causes and creates a chilling effect on activities that promote human rights. Human rights defender Narges Mohammadi is serving 22 years’ imprisonment after being convicted of national security related charges in Iran. Her conviction stems from her peaceful human rights activities, including her work to end the death penalty and her 2014 meeting with the former European Union (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

In Egypt civil society has been subjected to an unprecedented crackdown. In 2016, the authorities intensified a criminal inquiry into NGOs’ registration and foreign funding that could lead to criminal prosecution and sentences reaching up to life imprisonment. The authorities have also subjected NGO personnel to interrogation, freezing of personal and organizational assets, preventing leading human rights defenders from foreign travel, arbitrary arrest and detention.

Amnesty International notes with concern that the organisations, networks and methods people rely on to stand up for their communities are also attacked. Unions are threatened. Lawyers and activists in China have been ill- treated and sometimes tortured in detention. In Pakistan, human rights defenders are labeled as ‘foreign-agents’. In Viet Nam, attacks against human rights defenders are common, and include beatings and daily harassment and surveillance.

In other parts of the world, newspapers are closed down. Social media are banned and digital conversations monitored. Taking to the streets to protest is impossible.

In Turkey, against the backdrop of the failed military coup in 2016, unfair criminal prosecutions under criminal defamation and counter-terrorism laws targeted political activists, journalists and other critics of public officials or government policy. Over 180 media outlets have been arbitrarily shut down and 80 journalists remain in pre-trial detention.

States also repeatedly interfere with human rights defenders’ ability to communicate safely and expose human rights violations to regional and international human rights mechanisms, including this Council and its mechanisms. Recently the Special Rapporteur on the situation on the situation of human rights defenders noted, with great concern, the number of human rights defenders that received social media threats simply for meeting with him on his visit to Mexico at the beginning of this year.

In Burundi in January 2017, the Bujumbura Court of Appeal ruled to disbar three lawyers and suspend another. Each had contributed to a civil society report to the UN Committee against Torture prior to its review of the country in July 2016. The permanent closure of five human rights organizations and the suspension of five others was ordered in October 2016 on the allegation that they tarnished the image of the country. One of the suspended organizations was later banned following publication of a controversial report.

……..Amnesty International urges the Human Rights Council to:

  1. Renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and cooperate fully with it, including by encouraging swift and comprehensive responses to communications from the Special Rapporteur and acceptance of requests for country visits.
  2. Reaffirm that protecting human rights is necessary for individuals to live in dignity, and that deepening respect for these fundamental freedoms lays the foundation for stable, safe and just societies;
  3. Recognize the legitimacy of human rights defenders and applaud the role they play in the advancement of human rights, and urge States to facilitate and publicly support their work;
  4. Urge States to adopt and implement legislation which recognises and protects human rights defenders;
  5. Stress the urgent need for all States to establish national protection mechanisms for human rights defenders at risk;
  6. Urge States effectively to address threats, attacks, harassment and intimidation against human rights defenders, including, where applicable, by thoroughly, promptly and independently investigating human rights violations and abuses against them and bringing alleged perpetrators to justice in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty, and providing effective remedies and adequate reparations to the victims;
  7. Urge States to ensure that the criminal justice system or civil litigation is not misused to target nor harass human rights defenders;
  8. Refrain from bringing criminal charges or, other judicial proceedings or taking administrative measures against human rights defenders because of the peaceful exercise of their rights;
  9. Ensure that those who challenge injustice peacefully are not portrayed as threats to security, development or traditional values;
  10. Emphasize the fact that human rights defenders who work on gender equality, women’s rights or LGBTIQ rights face particular risk of being subjected to certain forms of violence and other violations that need to be particularly addressed;
  11. Pay particular attention to other groups who may be at risk, such as those who work for economic, social and cultural rights, defenders who work in the area of business and human rights; in an area exposed to internal conflict or a natural disaster; defenders living in isolated regions or conflict zones; and defenders working on past abuses, such as the families of victims of enforced disappearance;
  12. Condemn any acts of intimidation or reprisals against human rights defenders who cooperate or seek to cooperate with international human rights mechanism;
  13. Urge States to cooperate fully with the recently mandated Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights to prevent, end and redress acts of reprisal and intimidation.

Source: Refworld | The Situation of Human Rights Defenders – Item 3: Amnesty International’s Written Statement to the 34th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (27 February- 24 March 2017)

Front Line launches its 2016 Report on Human Rights Defenders at Risk

January 9, 2017

 

After a short break, this blog resumes its job of selecting and summarizing events related to Human Rights Defenders. 2016 was a horrible year for HRDs and the launch of the annual report of Front Line Defenders confirms this by reporting that “more than 1000 human rights defenders were killed, harassed, detained, or subjected to smear campaigns and other violations in 2016″.

Download the Report

According to the report, 281 human rights defenders were murdered in 25 countries, 49 percent of whom were defending land, indigenous and environmental rights. Front Line Defenders found that in the vast majority of cases, killings were preceded by warnings, death threats and intimidation which, when reported to police, were routinely ignored. In addition to killings, over half of the cases reported by Front Line Defenders in 2016 concerned criminalisation, a tactic which the organisation calls “the first choice of governments to silence defenders and to dissuade others”.

For other post on Front Line last year, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/category/front-line/page/4/