Posts Tagged ‘legal restrictions’

Parallel Event on Asian Justice Institutions and HRDs on 2 March 2017 in Geneva

February 27, 2017

Parallel event on Asian Justice Institutions and Human Rights Defenders to be held on 2 March 2017 2:00 PM in Room: XXIII, Palais de Nations, Geneva, SwitzerlandModerator/Chair: Mr. Bijo Francis, Executive Director, Asian Legal Resource Centre

Speakers in the Panel:
1. Mr. Basil Fernando, Director, Policy and Programme, Asian Human Rights Commission
2. Mr. Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research, CIVICUS
3. Mr. Sharan Srinivas, Director, Research and Advocacy, Right Livelihood Award Foundation
contact: Md. Ashrafuzzaman, Main Representative, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Cell: +41 (0) 766 38 26 59, Email: zaman@ahrc.asia .
Background: Human rights defenders across the world today have to overcome restrictive and challenging circumstances to undertake their mandate. These challenges could be broadly classified into three categories. They are: (i) restrictions imposed through statutes or regulatory processes; (ii) false accusations and fabricated cases registered by the state against HRDs and their organisations; and (iii) threats presented against HRDs by non-state actors, including fundamentalist religious forces.

Of the above three categories, the first and second could be overcome to a large degree at the national level, had the criminal justice institutions in Asian states been independent, and are able to decide upon cases that these institutions are called upon to engage upon.

Asian states today often enact legislations to restrict the operations of HRDs and the organisations they represent. China for instance, has legislations that directly impede the operation of HRDs . Indeed, the law does not prohibit the operation of ‘foreign’ NGOs, but stipulates obtaining permissions from different state agencies before commencing work, and has cast a broad net that prohibits organisations from engaging in activities otherwise considered to be human rights work, including: advocacy, legal assistance, labour, religion, and ethnic minority affairs. State agencies are given unbridled powers to interpret an activity as one under any of these prohibited criteria. The situation of domestic NGOs, including lawyers is worse in China even before the enactment of the new ‘foreign NGO’ law. The government has imposed heavy scrutiny and restrictions upon domestic NGOs, and often detain HRDs and lawyers on criminal charges.

China however is not an exception in the Asian region. Thailand for instance has legislations in place even prior to the military coup that restricts HRDs and civil society work. Thai state has spared no resources to oppress HRDs, often using the law against defamation that has penal provisions, interpreted at the will of the state by the country’s courts. After the coup, the National Peace and Reconciliation Council has promulgated ordinances that literally restrict all forms of freedom. HRDs who campaigned against the military’s version of the current Thai constitution, and the namesake referendum that was organised by the military, were arrested and imprisoned.

Bangladesh, against all its obligations under domestic and international law detains HRDs, forces closure of civil society organisations by repeatedly raiding their offices and seizing office equipment and documents, and does not allow these organisations to operate their bank accounts. India too engages in similar tactics against civil society organisations that openly criticise the government and its policies. Similar circumstances exist in most other states in the region, including Singapore, Myanmar, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

In Pakistan, the state is engaged in a shadow war against the civil society using right-wing religious forces, including right-wing media, that has systematically targeted HRDs who have advocated for democratic governance, and in particular urged the country\’s military from illegally and arbitrarily intervening in civilian administration.

In all the above circumstances, what is witnessed is the increasing role played by the entire criminal justice apparatus in Asian states that collide with the state in repressing HRDs and civil society work. Asian states liberally use their agencies like the police, prosecutor\’s office and other specialised agencies to obstruct HRDs in their work, often alleging false criminal charges against organisations or the staff members of these organisations. On the other hand, Asian judiciary has repeatedly failed to intervene in these cases despite the civil society reaching out to the courts for justice.

In instances where restrictive legislations are enacted or executive orders issued, restricting civil society freedom, the judiciary has the responsibility to intervene, and if necessary, annul the law or the executive order holding it as one against constitutional rights and the state\’s obligation under international human rights law. Instead, the Asian judiciary often support state actions. Instances where cases are adjourned without a decision being made are common.

Improving Asia’s human rights standards is not possible without radical reforms brought into the region’s justice delivery framework, particularly of the criminal justice procedures. The absence of independence and professionalism of Asia’s justice architecture is the cornerstone upon which impunity is built in the region. Asian states are aware of this and has consciously kept their justice institutions under direct control. Today Asian HRDs and the entire civil society in the region suffers due to this. Effective judicial intervention in instances where the state exceeds its mandate and stifle civil society work is an exception than a norm.

The side event organised by the Asian Legal Resource Centre, along with The Right Livelihood Award Foundation is an attempt to expose the dubious role played by Asia’s justice institutions in stifling civil society work in the region. The event is also an attempt to raise awareness about this scenario in the global human rights community and to seek support to address this problem.

www.humanrights.asia.

 

PBI marks 35th anniversary with conference on Human Rights Defenders at Risk: 17 Jun 2016

June 2, 2016

On its 35th Anniversary, Peace Brigades International is holding a conference to celebrate human rights defenders’ contributions to democracy and the rule of law, discuss their protection needs, and explore good practice and obstacles to enabling environments. Keynote speakers include the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, human rights defenders from Latin America, Nepal and Kenya, UK government officials, NGOs, legal experts & donors There will be four panels:

1: Rule of Law: Uses and Abuses of the Law in relation to Human Rights Defenders

2: Access to Justice: Human Rights Defenders’ Fight for Justice

3:  Business and Human Rights:  Challenges and Developments

4: Strategies for Confronting Repressive Environments for Land and Environmental Rights Defenders

On Friday 17 June 2016, from 09:00 to 18:00 (BST) – at Canada House ,Trafalgar Square, London

For more information, tickets follow the link below:

Source: Building Enabling Environments for Human Rights Defenders at Risk Tickets, Fri, 17 Jun 2016 at 09:00 | Eventbrite

UN experts launch practical advice on how to implement the freedom to demonstrate

March 28, 2016

At the latest session of the Human Rights Council, States and NGOs reacted to the new compilation of advise and recommendations on how to protect the right to assembly (‘freedom to demonstrate’). UN human rights experts have launched a major new report on the proper management of assemblies. The compilation of practical recommendation, which seeks to ensure that the management of assemblies and protests comply with international law through which to apply international law, was drafted by the Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Association and Assembly (Maina Kiai) and on Extrajudicial Executions (Christoph Heyns), after a series of consultations with multiple stakeholders including civil society.

An interactive dialogue with the Rapporteurs followed the report’s presentation, and several States – including Norway, Egypt and Ireland – reiterated the responsibilities of business. Whilst a broad range of States – including Costa Rica, Turkey and Tunisia – acknowledged the report’s importance, others used their interventions to emphasise the responsibilities of protesters. In response to Russia, Botswana and Cuba amongst others, Mr Heyns was clear: ‘Rights come before responsibilities. The report does not challenge that responsibilities are an inherent component of human rights, but one must come before the other.’ Maina Kiai underlined that ‘requiring authorisation for a protest dilutes a right to a mere privilege’.

ISHR’s statement reiterated that free assembly is a vital component of a safe and enabling environment for human rights defence, and highlighted how vague laws such as the Ley de Tumulos in Guatemala, repressive clampdowns on protest such as in Gezi Park in Turkey, and the imprisonment of protesters such as the Bahrain 13 are being used to hamper the work of human rights defenders.

 

ISHR welcomed the report’s emphasis on the responsibilities of business. ‘We hear increasingly of abuses by private security firms against protesters, as well as strategic lawsuits against public participation brought by companies and the enactment, by States, of laws which specifically target and restrict protests against business operations,’ said ISHR’s Ben Leather. ‘States should take heed of the recommendations made in the report to reverse these trends’.

For other posts on this topic: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/freedom-to-demonstrate/

Source: UN experts launch practical advice on management of protests | ISHR

Dissertation on social rights and austerity wins Thoolen-NJCM award 2015

March 3, 2016

False modesty should not prevent one from announcing a truly excellent piece written by Janneke Allers. She is the winer of the bi-annual Thoolen NJCM Dissertation Prize 2015 (sixth edition) with her dissertation ‘Cuts in the light of fundamental social rights. To what extent do treaties constrain the space for regressive measures?
Three dissertations made the final cut and were assessed on the following criteria: the originality of the chosen human-rights based theme, the development thereof; the academic level; the degree of innovative insight; and accessibility.
The results were: Read the rest of this entry »

Russian Foreign Agents Law starts to affect monitoring in detention centers

February 4, 2016

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped

reports that on 26 January 2016, the Russian Duma (lower chamber of Parliament) adopted at first reading amendments to the law regulating the work of Public Monitoring Commissions (PMCs). There is serious concern that if passed, the draft  amendments will put an end to the independent and effective monitoring of places of detention by excluding the many human rights defenders labeled as foreign agents.  Read the rest of this entry »

Human Rights First annual summit on 9-10 December 2014

October 28, 2014

 

HRF logo organises on 9-10 December 2014 its annual Human Rights Forum. It takes place in the Newseum in Washington DC, USA. Several panels are of direct relevance to human rights defenders, such as:

  • Show Them the Money: What are the Lifelines for Civil Society in a Sea of Restrictions? More and more governments – and not only authoritarian ones – are finding ways to close the space for independent civil society groups, especially those critical of government policies.  As part of this effort, governments have developed sophisticated methods to undermine the credibility of international –especially American – support for local human rights and democracy organizations. Russia and Egypt are leading the way; each has passed laws restricting access by independent civil society groups to foreign funding, which is essential to their existence. How should the U.S. government and other donors respond to these coordinated efforts to restrict human rights and democracy activists? Given the legal landscape, is foreign funding for NGOs even possible anymore?
  • Progress and Backlash in the Global Struggle for LGBT Equality Human rights advocates often describe achieving full equality for LGBT people as the next chapter in the struggle for universal human rights.  For many years, this movement appeared to be one of steady gains, but we are now facing a moment of profound backlash.  LGBT citizens of Russia, India, and Nigeria have seen a sharp curtailment of their rights. In many cases, this is part of a larger attack on civil society, marked by laws and policies aimed at limiting freedom of expression, freedom of association, and other basic rights.  The countries in question may see themselves as in conflict with the West and its values; support for such laws is often driven by anti-Western sentiment.  How can the United States respond to this development in ways that will improve the lives of LGBT people worldwide?
  • NGOs as the Enemy Within? Human rights defenders face particular challenges when their societies mobilize for war.  In such circumstances, questioning government policies can be characterized as disloyalty or siding with the enemy.  Human rights defenders become targets of defamation, persecution, and violence.  The universal values they are seeking to uphold are themselves called into question and undermined. Does the U.S. government have a role in preserving the rights of activists espousing what may be deeply unpopular points of view in times of public fear and conflict?

 

 

For more information and to enroll: http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/event/human-rights-summit

Joint NGO Letter to Russian President to stop clampdown on human rights defenders

October 22, 2014

If there was any doubt on where civil society stands on the issue of reprisals and repression of NGO activity in Russia, the letter below and the enormous number and variety of organizations having signed it should put the doubt to rest: [see also: https://plus.google.com/+HansThoolen/posts/2nWSsUBuCJw]

Dear President,

We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations, are writing to urge you to stop the clampdown on the right to freedom of association and end reprisals against independent non- governmental organizations (NGOs) in Russia.

We are deeply concerned that under the legislation on “foreign agents”, hundreds of NGOs have been subjected to unannounced inspections by government officials which have interrupted and obstructed their legitimate work with dozens currently embroiled in lengthy court hearings. Several NGOs and their leaders have had to pay prohibitive fines, and some were forced to close down because they refused to brand themselves as “foreign agents” – an expression akin to spying. Recent legislative changes now give the Ministry of Justice powers to register organizations as “foreign agents” without their consent and without a prior court decision. More than a dozen of leading Russian rights groups have already been branded by the Ministry. These NGOs are not foreign spies or “agents”, and have worked in the interest of the people of Russia. Many more face the same fate.

Under the previous legislation, NGOs in Russia were already accountable to the government and the public, having to report on their activities and finances. It is difficult to avoid concluding that the only purpose of the legislation on “foreign agents” is to publicly discredit and stigmatise them.

We believe that NGOs are essential to the healthy functioning of society. They play an important role in providing much needed services to the public. They help keep officials accountable and improve policies in the interests of the people.

We are calling on you as the President of the Russian Federation and the guarantor of its Constitution and of the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined therein, to take all necessary steps to ensure that the “foreign agents” law is repealed and NGOs in Russia are able to do their work without hindrance, harassment, stigmatisation or reprisals. 


• Action des chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture (ACAT) (France)
• Agir ensemble pour les droits de l’homme (AEDH) (France)
• Amnesty International
• ARTICLE 19 (UK)
• Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (Bulgaria)
• Bunge la Mwananchi (Kenya)
• Centre de recherche et d’information pour le développement (CRID) (France) • Centrum Kształcenia Liderów i Wychowawców im. Pedro Arrupe (Pologne)
• CIVICUS
• Comité catholique contre la faim et pour le développement – Terre solidaire (CCFD) (France)
• Committee on the Administration of Justice Ltd (CAJ) (Northern Ireland, UK)
• Cordaid (Pays-Bas)
• Danny Sriskandarajah, our Secretary General
• English PEN (UK)
• European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) (UK)
• Emmaüs International (France)
• Finnish PEN (Finlande)
• Foundation Max van der Stoel (Pays-Bas)
• Free Press Unlimited (Pays-Bas)
• Front Line Defenders (Irlande) • Fundacja Edukacja dla Demokracji (Pologne)
• Fundacja im. Stefana Batorego (Pologne)
• Gevalor (France)
• Greenpeace Spain (Spain) • Helsińska Fundacja Praw Człowieka (Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights) (Pologne)
• Hivos (Pays-Bas)
• Human Rights Commission (Kenya)
• Human Rights House Foundation (Norway)
• Human Rights House Foundation HRHF (Switzerland)
• Human Rights Watch
• Index on Censorship (UK) • INPRIS – Instytut Prawa i Społeczeństwa (Pologne) • Instytut Spraw Publicznych (Pologne)
• International Service for Human Rights
• Kansalaisjärjestöjen ihmisoikeussäätiö KIOS (Finlande)
• Kenya Human Rights Commission (Kenya)
• Koalicja Karat (Pologne)
• La lliga del drets dels pobles (Spain)
• Ligue des droits de l’Homme (France) • Małopolskie Towarzystwo Oświatowe (Pologne)
• MEMORIAL Deutschland e.V. (Germany)
• Milieudefensie (Pays-Bas)
• MONIKA – Naiset liitto ry (Finlande)
• Movies that Matter (Pays-Bas)
• Naisten Linja Suomessa ry (Finlande)
• Netherlands Helsinki Committee (Pays-Bas)
• Nederlands Juristen Comité voor de Mensenrechten (NJCM)
• Nederlandse Vereniging van Journalisten (NVJ) (Pays-Bas)
• NGO Working Group OSCE (Switzerland)
• Observatoire pour la protection des défenseurs des droits de l’Homme (joint program FIDH and OMCT) (France/Switzerland)
• Pakolaisneuvonta ry (Finlande)
• Pat Finucane Centre, (Irlande)
• Queer Youth Norway (Norway)
• REDRESS (UK)
• Reporters sans frontières (RSF) (France)
• Russie-Libertés (France)
• Sadankomitea (Finlande)
• Society for Threatened Peoples (Switzerland)
• Stiftung Haus der Demokratie und Menschenrechte (Germany) 
• Stowarzyszenie Wschodnioeuropejskie Centrum Demokratyczne (Pologne)
• The Bellona Foundation (Norvège)
• The Norwegian LGBT Association (Norvège)
• UNITED for Intercultural Action (Pays-Bas)
• XENION Psychsoziale Hilfen für politisch Verfolgte e.V. (Allemagne)
• Автономная некоммерческая правозащитная организация «Молодежный центр консультации и тренинга» (Russie)
• Автономная некоммерческая организация «Правозащитная организация «МАШР» (Russie)
• Благотворительный фонд развития города Тюмени (Russie)
• Общественная правозащитная организация «Солдатские матери Санкт-Петербурга» (Russie)”

 

Russian Federation: Joint NGO Letter to the President of the Russian Federation: To stop clampdown on freedom of association / October 21, 2014 / Statements / Human rights defenders / OMCT.

Ukraine follows Russia’s example again: human rights defenders labeled as “foreign agents”

January 21, 2014

The ‘eastern’ pull of Ukraine is now also reflected in its repressive legislation on human rights defenders. On January 16, 2014, Ukrainian Parliament unexpectedly and hurriedly adopted a comprehensive restrictive bill, which punishes protests, criminalises libel, restricts civic organisations receiving foreign funding and labels them as “foreign agents”. The bill, entitled “On Amendments to the Law on Judicial System and Status of Judges and Procedural Laws on Additional Measures for Protecting Citizens’ safety”, was introduced on January 14, 2014 and voted only two days after, with no legal assessment, no parliamentary hearings, and no consultation. The text was swiftly adopted by show of hands, backed by 235 out of 450 parliamentarians, before it was immediately signed it into law by the President. According to the bill, all civic organisations receiving funds from foreign sources must include in their title the term “foreign agents”, register as such, submit monthly reports regarding the organisations, publish quarterly reports on their activities in the official media and may not benefit from a tax-exempt status. The bill specifies that all organisations taking part in political actions, defined as actions aimed at influencing decision-making by state bodies, a change in the state policy which those bodies have defined as well as forming public opinion for those purposes, are deemed civic organisations. Organisations failing to register may be closed by court decision.

There were quite a few other restrictions passed in the same bill as can be seen from the Open Letter of 20 January 2014 sent to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and Parliamentary Speaker Volodym, signed by Karim Lahidji, FIDH President, and Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General:

Ukraine: Call to repeal highly restrictive law on so-called “foreign agents”, libel and extremism, which blatantly violates Ukraines international obligations / January 20, 2014 / Urgent Interventions / Human rights defenders / OMCT.

Three UN Rapporteurs call on Uganda to repeal new bill restricting public assembly

September 3, 2013

(Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peacful assembly and of association Maina Kiai. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré)
On 9 August 2013 three independent United Nations Rapporteurs jointly called on the Government of Uganda to repeal a new bill that places restrictions on the freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and to prepare a new version that complies with the country’s international human rights obligations. Read the rest of this entry »

Russian NGO KHRC Memorial attacked after being labeled foreign agent

May 28, 2013

On 18 May 2013, a meeting of the Komi Human Rights Commission Memorial (KHRC Memorial) was aggressively interrupted by members of the radical nationalist group “Rubezh Severa” (Northern Border). Members of KHRC Memorial had gathered in a local cafeteria in Syktyvkar, the capital of the Komi Republic, Russia, to report on their work and financial situation for the period 2011-13. The meeting was public, and several journalists had been invited. As soon as the meeting began, members of the radical right group entered the room, calling the group foreign agents and waving banners, one of which read “Motherland for Sale, Reasonable Price”. Members of the human rights group managed to force the intruders out of the café and called the police, but not before two leaders, Igor Sazhin and Pavel Andreyev had ketchup thrown at their heads. The police detained the intruders and released them after administrative protocol had been completed. The incident comes just a few weeks after the KHRC Memorial received a warning from the Prosecutor’s Office on 27 April 2013, stating that some of its activities, such as its participation in protest actions were ‘political activity’. As such, the organisation is required to register as a ‘foreign agent‘ under the controversial ‘Foreign Agents’ Law, as it also receives funds from abroad. Front Line Defenders believes the attack is a possible effect of the new ‘Foreign Agents’ Law.