Posts Tagged ‘land rights’

Duterte is wrong: Human rights defenders are beautiful !

November 2, 2016

The Philippines seems to get most of its attention nowadays because of the ranting of its President rather than the human rights situation on the ground. That is why wrote a reply in the  of 1 November 2016 under the title “Human rights defenders are beautiful“.

The intruiging title is linked to a recent episode in which President Duterte complimented the Filipino beauty queen, Kylie Verzosa, on her international recognition by saying “You see, Filipinas are beautiful”,  and then added gratuitously “Pero kayong lahat diyan sa human rights commission, mga pangit (But all of you there at the Commission on Human Rights, you are all ugly)”. It would be a mistake to think that this was just another jest. Since the CHR, under then chair Leila de Lima, investigated him in 2009 for possible human rights violations in relation to the killings attributed to the so-called Davao Death Squad, he has harbored a sense of resentment against the constitutional agency which has dared question the rising casualty toll in his so-called war on drugs..
The writer then says: But we should all ask: What have human rights advocates done to deserve such hostility, such cavalier treatment, from the President? Human rights advocates, including those identified with the National Democratic Front, including those who have served and are serving in the CHR, were among those who tried to hold the Marcos regime accountable during the dictatorship itself, and are among those leading the fight to bring the Marcos family to justice. Mr. Duterte’s own mother, who was a leader of the anti-Marcos movement in Davao City, would have recognized them as kindred spirits……….A devout and disciplined Catholic, she would have understood the sacrifice these advocates made, in choosing the less lucrative, much more dangerous career of human rights work. I daresay she would have recognized in them the dignity, the beauty, of the saints: They are doing not only the right, but the beautiful, thing.

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Protesters – or (human rights) defenders?

October 29, 2016

The definition of who is a human rights defenders and who is not, is in my view and that of many others not a very fruitful debate [see inter alia”] What is more relevant is the question of how they are described in the media. On this topic  has written a clarifying piece in the The Independent of Canada on 28 October 2016, entitled: “Calling Indigenous Peoples ‘land protectors’ or ‘land defenders’ is not loaded language. Calling them ‘protesters’ is.”

Land Protectors shut down work on the $12 billion Muskrat Falls hydro project in a fight to protect their traditional food and way of life. Photo by Justin Brake.

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Showing of the film The Opposition about land rights in Papua New Guinea cancelled until further notice

April 14, 2016

As feared (see the showing of the documentary film

 ,which was planned for 19 April in Geneva, had to be cancelled until further notice due to the controversy it has created including a court case.ISHR-logo-colour-high

Killing of land rights defender John Waweru in Nairobi decried

April 13, 2016

The National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Kenya (NCHRD-K) and DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) expressed their outrage over the killing of human rights defender John Waweru on Monday 11 April 2016 in Zimmerman, Nairobi. John Waweru was the director of Githunguri Constituency Ranching Company and a committed human rights defender working towards the promotion and protection of economic and social rights. He was at the forefront of advocacy against forced evictions of individuals residing on contested land in Kiambu County.

The killing of John Waweru comes cynically shortly after the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on the protection of human rights defenders addressing economic, social and cultural rights in March 2016 [see:]

The NCHRD-K and DefendDefenders recall other cases against human rights defenders in Kenya, such as:

Joel Ogada, a human rights defender in Kilifi County who has been a leading advocate for land rights against the neighbouring Salt farms has faced three criminal charges, one of which resulted in him being sentenced to two years in prison after appeal. He was released in September 2015 and barely six months after his release, in March 2016, he was rearrested and charged with attempting to kill.

In 2013, Hassan Guyo, the Programme Director for Strategies for Northern Development (SND), an organisation that promotes human rights for women and children and works on refugee and human trafficking issues in Moyale was killed by security forces.

In 2009, HRDs Oscar Kingara and Paul Oulu of Oscar Foundation were shot dead in Nairobi.

In all of these matters, no one has been held to account and police investigations have been inconclusive.

For more information, contact Hassan Shire  Executive Director, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project:

A lot more on the protection of Defenders of economic social and cultural rights

March 16, 2016

On 7 March 2016 the ISHR held a joint side event on the protection needs of human rights defenders working on economic, cultural and social (ESC) rights []. Here a report and some more:

Panellists spoke about the crucial work of ESC rights defenders in their countries, including defenders in Ethiopia protesting illegal land grabs to prevent the displacement of communities; defenders in Malaysia working towards inclusive and sustainable development and to oppose corruption; and defenders in Guatemala working to protect indigenous rights and ensuring that companies consult with affected communities.

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Side event on Protection of human rights defenders in economic, social and cultural rights

March 1, 2016

ISHR-logo-colour-highOn Monday 7 March 2016, from 13h30-15h00 in Room XVIII, Palais des Nations, Geneva, there will be a side event:Protection needs of human rights defenders working on economic, social and cultural rights: Challenges and good practice. (see my previous post:

The current and previous Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights defenders have emphasised the specific risks that defenders working on economic, social and cultural rights face. Whether they are activists fighting corruption or promoting transparency, working on land and environment rights, or defending their right to housing, ESC-rights defenders are among the most isolated and stigmatised defenders. This side event hopes to shed light on the risks faced by economic, social and cultural rights defenders, and draw on the report of the Special Rapporteur presented to the 31st session of the Human Rights Council to present good practices in furthering their protection.


Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Navi Pillay, former High Commissioner for Human Rights

Allo Awol, human rights defender from Eritrea

Arutchelvan Subramaniams, human rights defender from Malaysia

Pedro Tzicá, human rights defender from Guatemala

Moderator: Ms Catarina de Albuquerque, Executive Chair of Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) and former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation.

Interpretation in English and Spanish will be provided. The event will be webcast live at

Source: Protection needs of human rights defenders working on economic, social and cultural rights | ISHR

Environmental Human Rights Defender Muhammad Dairyman Indonesia

November 23, 2015

In the series Human Rights Defender Profiles [ISHR] this time: Muhammad Darisman, from West Java, Indonesia:

In the context of breakneck pace of economic development Muhammad Dairyman stands out. He currently partners with U.S.-based Worker Rights Consortium to monitor and improve working conditions in garment factories, but he is also the founder, since 2009, of a local NGO that raises awareness of occupational disease and victim’s rights. He has led campaigns to highlight the ongoing (and legal) use of asbestos in Indonesia and across the Asian region, and to raise awareness about the negative health impacts on workers and communities. Read the rest of this entry »

Killings of environmental human rights defenders up again compared to last year!

April 24, 2015

Jeremy Hance – writing in Mongabay on 20 April, under the title “Killings of environmental activists jumped by 20 percent last year confirms again the terrible truth that it is in the countryside, away from monitors, and in disputes over land issues that the most gruesome repression takes place and the leader is..Brazil! [for last year’s report see:]

Soy field in the Brazilian Amazon. Again this year, Brazil has the highest number of murders of environmental and land defenders. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Soy field in the Brazilian Amazon.  Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

The assassination, murder, and extrajudicial killing of environmental activists rose by 20 percent last year, according to a new grim report by Global Witness. The organization documented 116 killings in 2014 across 17 countries with the highest number in Brazil, which saw 29 environmental and land defenders killed. Still, the report is a major understatement of the problem as data across much of Africa, China, the Middle East, and Central Asia remains scarce to non-existent.

Across the world environmental defenders are being shot dead in broad daylight, kidnapped, threatened, or tried as terrorists for standing in the way of so-called ‘development’,” said Billy Kyte, a campaigner with Global Witness. “The true authors of these crimes—a powerful nexus of corporate and state interests—are escaping unpunished. Urgent action is needed to protect citizens and bring perpetrators to justice.

Most of the deaths last year—116 of them—were related to disputes over land. But mining was linked to 25 deaths, and hydroelectric dams and agribusiness to 14 each. Indigenous people also remain among the most targeted.

In 2014, 47 indigenous people were killed defending their natural resources, 40 percent of the total deaths of environmental and land defenders,” reads Global Witness’s new report, entitled How Many More?. This year’s report follows a landmark document last year that tracked environmental activist killing—all 908 of them—over a dozen years.

Environmental activist killings by sector. Image courtesy of Global Witness.
Environmental activist killings by sector. Image courtesy of Global Witness.

Human rights defenders are stigmatized (as ‘anti-development’) and criminalized in order to silence their opposition.

While Brazil had the highest number of environmental activist murders in 2014, the most dangerous place to be an environmental activist was actually Honduras, according to Global Witness. During the last five years (2010-2014), Honduras lost 101 activists, giving it the highest rate of environmental activist killings per capita.

“A UN Human Rights Council resolution addressing the heightened risk posed to environmental and land defenders would be a start,” Kyte said. “But, in the end, governments themselves have to take responsibility and ensure impartial, exhaustive investigations into killings of these activists. And they have to bring perpetrators to account. Many targeted assassinations of activists are being passed off as ‘common’ murders and are going unnoticed.

Environmental activist killings by country. Those in red were indigenous people. Image courtesy of Global Witness.
Environmental activist killings by country. Those in red were indigenous people. Image courtesy of Global Witness.

Read more:


Killings of environmental activists jumped by 20 percent last year.

In Memoriam Chan Soveth, Cambodian human rights defender

December 11, 2014

On Human Rights Day, FIDH reports that Chan Soveth, a prominent Cambodian human rights defender, has died at the early age of 51. He was a senior investigator at the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC, a member organization of FIDH). “Chan Soveth was a voice for the voiceless. For decades, he selflessly worked for victims of human rights violations and abuses, in particular the poor and those living in remote areas, which ADHOC managed to reach out to”, said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President. “Soveth’s death is a great loss for his family, his colleagues and Cambodia’s human rights community, but the heritage of courage and commitment he left will last for generations”.

On many occasions, Soveth’s human rights work and personal commitment had caused him to be subjected to threats, intimidation and reprisals in the form of judicial harassment. In 2012, he had been forced to stay outside his country for several months. Upon his return, despite receiving another summon to appear before Cambodia’s flawed judicial system, and thus, despite the risk of being arbitrarily detained, he had decided to stay in Cambodia, amongst his fellow countrymen. Soveth relentlessly fought against human rights violations – from land grabbing and violations of people’s and communities’ rights to food, water or housing, to extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, torture, and violations of the rights to free expression and free assembly. He was not only a great investigator, trainer and human rights advocate, but also an inspiration to many. He was always eager to improve his impressive human rights and professional skills and to celebrate successes.logo FIDH_seul

Cambodia and the community of human rights defenders lose a (…).

more details in:

Vietnam Rights Conference Goes Ahead Despite Police Harassment of Human Rights Defenders

December 5, 2014

vietnam rights conference goes ahead despite police harassment

Radio Free Asia reported on 27 November that Vietnamese human rights defenders and foreign diplomats went ahead with a planned human rights conference in Hanoi on Wednesday, defying efforts by police to harass and intimidate. The conference, titled “U.N. Protection Mechanisms for Human Rights Defenders in Vietnam,” was held at the Thai Ha church in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi, and was attended by over 70 members of civil society groups, together with representatives of the United Nations and embassies of Australia, the U.S., the UK, and the European Union.After being warned by police that the rare gathering was considered “illegal” by authorities, event organizer Nguyen Quang A was repeatedly blocked in his efforts to arrive at the church, he told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Wednesday. It took him 4 hours to reach the meeting place after having been blocked several times from taking public transport.

Vietnam Rights Conference Goes Ahead Despite Police Harassment.