Posts Tagged ‘legitimate’

COP25: climate defenders also needed to be shielded

November 28, 2019

Tomorrow, 29 November, 2019, young people will gather at locations around the world for a Fridays for Future Global Climate Strike. On 2 December, United Nations delegates, world leaders, business executives, and activists will meet at the 25th Conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25) in Madrid to discuss ways to protect the environment. Participants in these events should also discuss ways to protect the protectors: the individuals and groups targeted around the world for their efforts on behalf of the planet.

Novelty in the Philippines: National Council of Churches listed as terrorist group

November 24, 2019

On 22 November 2019 the National Council of Churches (NCCP) issued a press release after the Department of National Defense of the Philippines has included the NCCP in the list of “front organizations of local communist terrorist groups”. In adition to the NCCP, a number of humanitarian and service-oriented organizations were placed on this list, which was presented by Major General Reuben Basiao, Armed Forces of the Philippines Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, on 5 November. In the statement, the NCCP “decries the baseless and unfounded inclusion of its name in the list […] and respectfully call on the government to seriously review and revisit the accusations and engage in peace building instead”. “We recognize the clear threat that is now posed to the NCCP staff, member churches, associate members, and other ecumenical partners”, they said in a letter the NCCP sent to its partners last week. The NCCP also warned that “the red-tagging will delay, or even prevent, the delivery of much-needed services to marginalized communities in the midst of disasters. On a larger scale, this will further shrink the already limited civil space”.
In June 2019, the Philippine government rejected the United Nations call for an investigation into human rights violations for the government’s policies against drug trafficking, arguing that it was an “interference”. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/11/un-council-agrees-action-on-philippines-in-spite-of-vehement-objection/]. According to official figures, 5,300 suspects have been killed by the police since 2016. But according to human rights defenders, the figure would be three times higher. The NCCP explained in the letter to its partners that “within the past few days, we have witnessed attacks against civil society organizations that are critical of the government’s policies and programs. There have been raids, illegal arrests, and vilification. Before this of course, there were even killings of activists and human rights defenders”. “The NCCP deems these moves as desperate attempts by the authorities to criminalize dissent and to weaponize the law against the people”, it said.
The government action has been widely condemned by several international Christian leaders. Rev. Olav Fyse Tveit, World Council of Churches General Secretary, said “red tagging in effect gives a green light to harassment and deadly attacks by security forces and militias against those listed”. Similar statements have been released by the Christian Conference of Asia, the Action of Churches Together Alliance, Christian Aid, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Northern Germany, among others. Founded in 1963, the NCCP is an ecumenical federation of churches of non-Roman Catholic denominations.
See more: http://evangelicalfocus.com/world/4916/Philippines_says_National_Council_of_Churches_is_a_terrorist_group

Debate in Kenya: are human rights defenders always credible?

May 17, 2019

In Kenya (and other countries) there have been efforts in the media to cast doubt on credibility of human rights defenders, sometimes implying that they are just ‘guns for hire’, seek advantages for themselves or are bought to demonstrate. On 15 May2019  the Star in Kenya run an article on the topic:

Activists protest outside Kibos Sugar and Allied Industries over pollution

Activists protest outside Kibos Sugar and Allied Industries over pollution  Image: MAURICE ALAL

…However, sector players told the Star that while there are a few elements doing activism with ulterior motives and pursuing self-gratification, the movement in the country is sound, focused, selfless and professional. Popular activist Boniface Mwangi told the Star that “Kenyans suffer from Stockholm syndrome, falling in love with their oppressors and attacking those that fight for them”. “I find the notion of celebrity activism, mostly thrown at me, very offensive. I’m a pretty young person who is a photojournalist. I have been shot at, beaten, tortured and harassed many times while doing activism for causes that I don’t even benefit from,” he said on phone. He added, “In my latest arrest, the National Intelligence Service tracked me using my phone. That means they have all the information about me, including that of my alleged sponsors. They could have unleashed all this. All serious people who caused impact through their activism like Martin Luther King and Wangari Maathai were denigrated but praised later.”

Ndung’u Wainaina, a veteran human rights and governance activist, told the Star that rights activism in the country in the modern times is largely not based on foundational philosophy as was the case in the 80s and 90s. “It is true there are briefcase entities and individuals in the human rights defence world whose actions are not based on any value system or persuasion. They are out for self-gain,” Wainaina said. “There is a need for strong visionaries grounded on firm principles for effective activism,” he said. For example, he said, Prof Wangari Maathai became renowned as a crusader for environmental justice because of her consistency and ability to carve a niche for herself in that area.

But Al Amin Kimathi acknowledged that a pocket of dubious activism exists “but they are fringe, in a minority.” He said there are countless genuine activists pursuing issues that improve people’s lives at great personal cost. “Most of us earn our living doing all sorts of other things and put the earnings in our activism. That’s my situation. I work far away from media most of the time, giving myself as an example of so many colleagues,” he said, adding that the notion of celebrity activism is “a creation of the media obsessed with the stars.”

Hussein Khalid, the executive director of Haki Africa, a Coast-based human rights organisation, told the Star that the majority of activists in the country are driven by a passion for justice to the helpless rather than money and fame. “As a lawyer, I could make much more money and be more famous taking up big, high-profile cases. But I choose to remain at Haki Africa to serve the meek and poor in society,” he said. He dismissed the notion that most activists are shallow with a huge appetite for money and media attention.

Kenya National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders chairman Kamau Ngugi told the Star that like every sector, there are always rogue elements but “who are very few“. He said there has been a systematic agenda targeted at denigrating and criminalising the place of human rights activism and journalists in the country.

Demas Kiprono, campaign manager at Amnesty International, told the Star that genuine activism has been the cog for positive change and reforms in the country “which detractors are not happy about”. “The celebrity narrative is a counter-narrative created by those opposed to human rights in order to de-legitimise human rights work. They conveniently leave out the fact that activists have secured justice, dignity and a voice for the downtrodden in society,” he said.

https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2019-05-15-celebrity-activists-tainting-image-say-human-rights-defenders/

Campaign to give the Nobel Peace Prize 2018 to the global community of Human Rights Defenders

September 18, 2018

Over 200 organisations from all over the world have signed on to an open letter endorsing the idea of giving the Nobel Peace Prize 2018 to the global community of Human Rights Defenders.


12 September 2018

Dear Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee,

9 December 2018 will mark the 20th anniversary of the UN’s Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (HRDs). It is an ideal and opportune moment to recognise and celebrate the efforts of these extraordinary individuals who despite threats of violence and unlawful imprisonment, harassment, intimidation, torture and assassination, continue to peacefully challenge injustice and call for the implementation and strengthening of the rule of law. Since 1998, over 3000 human rights defenders have been killed for defending the fundamental values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN.

In recognising the increasingly hostile environments globally, in which human rights defenders must work, the late Former Secretary-General to the United Nations, Kofi Annan, recently said:

“To stand up for human rights requires courage, perseverance, vigilance and a strong foundation of knowledge and evidence. We need to be vigilant in the protection of human rights defenders, for when the defenders’ rights are violated, all our rights are injured.”

In the same vein and emphasising the critical role that human rights defenders play in promoting and fostering stable democracies and sustainable peace, Permanent Representative of Norway to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Ambassador Steffen Kongstad said: “Threats and attacks against human rights defenders may hamper the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights, undermining social cohesion, and ultimately stability and development.”

Despite this recognition and respect at the highest levels of the international community, human rights defenders are killed every day. HRDs who suffer disproportionately are those activists working at grassroots and community levels, in isolated regions and from marginalised populations, who lack networks and resources to command international attention. Human rights defenders can be community leaders, lawyers, journalists, environmental activists, victims of abuse, trade unionists and teachers.

It is for these urgent reasons that Peace Brigades International with the support of the UK All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group has nominated the global community of HRDs for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. It is the highest humanitarian achievement through which to recognise HRDs and celebrate their commitment to advocating for and building societies that are peaceful, safe, inclusive, tolerant, just and sustainable for all. The nomination is currently supported by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of HRDs and some governments, diplomats and parliamentarians around the world.

We believe that awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the global community of HRDs will mark a milestone in legitimising the crucial work they undertake to protect humanity and bring the trends of persecution they suffer to the public eye.

Furthermore, this collective award would mark a world first. By nominating a community rather than individuals or organisations, we emphasise that the trends making the defence of human rights ever more risky and ever more admirable, are global. We seek to highlight that the community itself is integral to the defence of human rights and it is the idea of community that motivates people to take enormous risks defending the rights of others and advancing peace.


For some of my earlier post on the Declaration: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/20th-anniversary-un-declaration-on-hrds/

The release of the open letter is accompanied by a public petition: Human Rights Defenders for the Nobel Peace Prize, which can be signed here.

https://peacebrigades.org.uk/open-civil-society-letter-support-nobel-peace-prize-human-rights-defenders

UN Declaration on HRDs at 20: important event on 19 March in NY

March 8, 2018

The UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders has played an important role in expressly stating the right to defend human rights, and outlines the duties of States in this regard. As it forms the basis of key protection mechanisms, such as national and regional guidelines for the protection of human rights defenders, it has thus legitimated the work of human rights defenders. Twenty years on, women human rights defenders are marking this anniversary year to reflect on the significance of the Declaration to their work, movements and identities.

Therefore a number of NGOs are jointly organizing an event “The UN Declaration on HRDs at 20: Legitimating the work of Women Human Rights Defenders” on 16 March 2018 13:15-14:30 in Conference Room 11, UNHQ, New York

Opening remarks by Ms Ine Eriksen Søreide, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Norway

Evdokia Romanova, Youth Coalition
Weaam Youssef, Gulf Centre for Human Rights
Alma Sinumlag, Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center

Lopa Banerjee, UN Women
Closing remarks by Ms Neziha Labidi, Minister of Women, the Family and Childhood, Tunisia

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/21/breaking-news-un-adopts-key-resolution-on-human-rights-defenders/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/11/good-introduction-to-the-anniversary-of-the-un-declaration-on-hrds-in-2018/

https://www.ishr.ch/sites/default/files/documents/csw_side_event_flyer-final.pdf

ProtectDefenders.eu held its annual meeting 2017

December 28, 2017

The Newsletter of December 2017 of ProtectDefenders.eu contains a report of the 2017 Annual Meeting. The highlights:

On the 8th of November, ProtectDefenders.eu held its second annual meeting, under the motto “Champions of change – Human rights defenders at the forefront of development and democracy“. More than 30 human rights defenders at risk from all regions of the world who have benefited from the project gathered in Brussels with representatives of international NGOs and European institutions. This unique meeting has successfully brought together grassroots activists working on the frontlines for change and leading experts on the protection of human rights defenders, universal and regional protection mechanisms, and representatives of various EU institutions implicated in the protection of human rights defenders and current development agenda.

The meeting highlighted the crucial role and impact of human rights defenders around the world as promoters of a sustainable development and engaged development actors in how to integrate the protection of human rights defenders as part of an effective development and protection agenda. The widespread attempts to de-legitimise human rights’ discourse and human rights defenders’ work worldwide were addressed, by promoting a positive narrative grounded on the universality and indivisibility of human rights and its contribution to more advanced and developed societies. Human rights defenders and high-level speakers shared strategies to enhance the protection of those who strive to defend human rights, and to develop a positive narrative on the human rights’ work, legitimising their work at the local level and taking back the human rights discourse to the centre of the international agenda.

To conclude the meeting, the twelve partner organisations of ProtectDefenders.eu have issued a public statement urging all national authorities to “publicly recognise the crucial role played by human rights defenders and protect them in all circumstances from any form of judicial harassment“. As stressed by Antoine Madelin, FIDH Director for International Advocacy and Chair of the Board of ProtectDefenders.eu, “Human Rights Defenders are the pillars of democracy and of the rule of law but are too often subjected to unfair criminal prosecution, in an effort to undermine their work in the defence of human rights.”

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/24/video-of-the-defending-human-rights-is-not-a-crime-meeting-now-available/

https://www.protectdefenders.eu/en/newsletter.html