Posts Tagged ‘Libya’

Amnesty and HRW trying to get Saudi Arabia suspended from the UN Human Rights Council

July 5, 2016

I have long argued that we should take another look at the possibility of using the suspension clause when members of the UN Human Rights Council go too far (see e.g. in the case of persistent reprisals https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/zero-tolerance-for-states-that-take-reprisals-against-hrds-lets-up-the-ante/in the  reprisals ). On Wednesday 29 June 2016, the two leading human rights NGOs, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have urged UN member-states to suspend Saudi Arabia from the UN Human Rights Council over the killing of civilians in Yemen and repression at home. It will be a long shot but worth seeing how it works out: Read the rest of this entry »

Two years after murder of Salwa Bugaighis in Libya, still no investigation

June 28, 2016

Salwa Bugaighis was the first woman to call for the ouster of Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi. After she cast her ballot in the 2014 election, men in hoods and military uniforms stormed into her home and killed her on 25 June.[ https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/human-rights-lawyer-salwa-bugaighis-killed-in-libya/]

Two years later, her killers remain at large and the article by BANISH AHMED in Thinkprogress of 28 June 2015 “Activists Inspired By Libyan Human Rights Lawyer Want To Know Why No One Is Investigating Her Murder” remains as valid as it was last year.

Salsa Bugaighis CREDIT: KARAMA

The fear of violence made voters in Libya cautious about heading to the polls during elections last June, but Salwa Bugaighis, a human rights lawyer who returned to the country to fight for its democratic future after the fall of Muammar Qaddafi, insisted that the risk was worth it.

“My people, I beg of you, there are only three hours left,” she wrote to her Facebook followers at about 5:45 in the evening to urge Libyans to head to the polls before they closed.

Members of the armed militants groups vying for power stormed through her neighborhood. Gunshots from a skirmish between militants and the army troops sent to protect a polling station were audible in a telephone interview she gave to a Libyan TV network from her home.

Still, Bugaighis was not shaken.

“These are people who want to foil elections,” she told the al-Nabaa network of the militants. “Benghazi has been always defiant, and always will be despite the pain and fear. It will succeed.”

Despite these risks, Bugaighis ventured out to the polls, and, while there, posted an image of herself casting her ballot on Facebook.

It was back at her home after voting that the dangers she well knew caught up with her. Men in hoods and military uniforms stormed into Bugaighis’ home and opened fire on her. Shot several times, she was taken to a hospital in critical condition where she died.

There was an immediate outcry against her death, and scores of women inspired by Bugaighis’ fight for justice, stability, and gender equality in her homeland took to the streets.

While Hibaaq Osman was not among those who braved the violent streets of Benghazi to honor Bugaighis, she has continued to carried the torch for her friend and fellow activist.

“When the protests against Qaddafi started in Benghazi, it was Salwa who was with the first women to join the demonstrations in front of the courthouse,” Osman, who heads Karama, a Cairo-based rights organization, said in an email to ThinkProgress. “That was everything about Salwa — fearless, ready to go against the grain and do what she believed was right.”

Only two weeks after the ouster of Qaddafi in April 2011, Libya held its first conference on women’s rights, organized by Bugaighi. She landed a seat on the governing body established to steer the country towards democracy, and used it push for an electoral quota that would guarantee women’s inclusion in the legislative bodies that followed. She helped found organizations dedicated to human and women’s rights. Her mission was clear: Bugaighis wanted Libya to emerge as a true democracy, one in which women would have a voice, until then, been allowed only a marginalized role in their society.

All that she had worked for seemed to be falling apart in June 2014, however. Rival militant and political groups, plus a renegade general, were the cause of violent, and many Libyans were skeptical of that their country’s fledgling government could provide security – or that it would effectively manage the country’s wealth.

The growing disillusionment was evident at the polls: more than a million fewer had registered to vote than in country’s first election in 2012, and only half of them actually cast ballots. Five people were killed and 30 injured when Islamist militant attacked a security agency in Benghazi.

In the attack on Bughaighis’ home, her husband, an elected member of a local municipal council, was abducted during the attack on their home and is still missing.

No investigation has yet been conducted into the attack on Bughaighis, although rights groups including Amnesty International called one for one soon after her death.

“We believe that Salwa Bugaighis may have been targeted for both her political activism and her role in promoting women’s rights,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, the organization’s Middle East and North Africa Director said in a statement at the time. “Attacks on security personnel and state institutions pose severe obstacles to the functioning of the justice system, but that is no excuse for Libya’s failure to protect activists. The authorities must put in place protective measures to prevent other critical voices being brutally silenced.”

The Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace made similar appeals. In an interview with the BBC, Zahra Langhi, with whom Bugaighis founded the organization, said that that her colleague had received pointed threats that forced her to leave the country for three months before the election.

“She had to evacuate all of her sons and take them to a safe place in Amman,” Langhi said, “because she was too much involved in the political process she had to pay a very high price, which she was aware of.”

Still, Langhi said she urged Bugaighis to try to protect herself.

“When I said, ‘Be careful, Salwa,’ she said, ‘We have to struggle inside Libya until the last moment. They will not threaten us and shut us all up. We will have to struggle for it.’” Langhi recalled. “And she was calling on everybody, until the last moment, [saying] ‘Please participate and protect the ballots.’”

When asked who she thought killed Bugaighis, Langhi said, “I think everybody is involved. Those who don’t want a peaceful Libya, who want Libya to continue as a militarized society. Those who do not want to see a democratic Libya are a part of it. Even if they’re against each other.”

One year later, various rights’ organizations have renewed their calls for an independent investigation into who killed Bugaighis.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has taken note of the case, and will send a fact-finding mission to investigate human rights violations in Libya.

“That’s a good sign, but it needs to happen,” Shelby Quast of Equality Now said in a phone interview, adding that the delay in justice “is promoting impunity.”

According to Libya Body Count, which tracks the numbers of those killed by armed groups in Libya, nearly 900 people have been violently killed so far in June. More than 2,800 were killed in 2014.

While Bughaighis’ case is one of thousands, it stands out as a particularly egregious one.

“It [shows] the impunity with which people are acting,” Quast said, “because they can come in and so brutally assassinate someone who was a public figure, who did have a following. While we’re pushing for justice for Salwa, she represents a growing number of women and human rights defenders who are being targeted, threatened, and murdered.”

In May, Mark SImonoff, the Minister Counselor for Legal Affairs for the U.S. Mission to the U.N. said at a meeting of the U.N. Security Council, pointed to Bughaigis’ death as evidence of a broader phenomenon.

“Many of the individuals and institutions with the most critical roles to play in exposing and preventing violence against civilians –- including journalists, human rights defenders, judges and prosecutors, female activists, and the country’s human rights commission –- have been singled out for intimidation and brutal violence for simply attempting to provide key services to the Libyan people,” he said. “Other murders, such as the killing of prominent human rights leader Salwa Bugaighis last June on the day of national elections, have a clear political purpose, even as it has been impossible to identify those responsible.”

In investigating Bughaigis’ murder, many hope that similar cases can also see justice.

Hibaaq Osman poses with Salma Bugaighis at UN Commission on the Status of Women conference held in March 2014 in New York, NY.

Hibaaq Osman poses with Salma Bugaighis at UN Commission on the Status of Women conference held in March 2014 in New York, NY. CREDIT: KARAMA

“The pressure that the Justice For Salwa campaigns has exerted is now building the political will to find not just Salwa’s killers, but to investigate and prosecute the many more politically motivated murders that Libya has suffered,” Hibaaq Osman said. “That is why we say that justice for Salwa is justice for all.”

Osman and many others continue the fight Bugaighis died fighting, though Libya has only become more unstable since its last elections. Militant groups have only promulgated in the last year and become more brazen in their attacks. ISIS, the Islamist group that calls itself the Islamic State, has gained a foothold in the country. Rule of law is in no better a state, with two parliaments vying for power against one another. A dramatic loss in oil revenue has put Libya “on the verge of economic and financial collapse,” according to one U.N. official.

And yet, those who worked alongside or were inspired by Salwa Bugaighis’ bravery and mission continue her fight.

The attack on her life made “Salwa a martyr to the cause of a free and just Libya,” according to Osman. “It showed the world the depths to which her killers would stoop – to murder in cold blood a women who had urged her supporters to ‘fight peacefully by using their votes.’ It has left me and Salwa’s colleagues more determined to work for her ideals in Libya and across the region, to honor her memory.”

Source: Activists Inspired By Libyan Human Rights Lawyer Want To Know Why No One Is Investigating Her Murder | ThinkProgress

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salwa_Bughaighis

Salah Abu Shazam keeps hope for redress amid civil war in Libya

December 7, 2015

Torture is certainly practised in all societies, but the problem in Libya is the frequency of its occurrence,” explains Salah Abu Khazam, who founded and heads the Libyan Network for Legal Aid. “That’s because the Government is only concerned with its own security.” This comes from OMCT’s profile “Libya: Meet Salah: Keeping hope for redress in the absence of a State, amid a civil war“.

Salah doesn’t have it easy. He works in a country with two governments, non-existent police force, a defunct judicial system and no rule of law, where human rights defenders like him, prime targets of scores of armed groups, regularly get kidnapped or killed. Two volunteer human rights lawyers working for his organization were directly threatened, and chances are he himself is on the black list for promoting democratic ideals, gender equality, or any value opposed to those upheld by Islamist armed groups. Yet, he still gets up every morning thinking that Libya is going to become a better place: “The day will come when the culprits will be held accountable for their crimes and victims will receive reparation,”.

While most of his peers are in exile, Salah, 31, holds onto his country. He is proud to say he has rescued two people from death under torture, and a third one from a death sentence for having stolen a military vehicle. He is convinced no one can enjoy any wellbeing or lead a proper life while such violations are tolerated by the social and political system, until the universal values of human rights are enforced in Libya. One has to say, though, that the light at the end of the tunnel still seems very far at this stage.

After the 2011 attacks and uprising that led to the downfall of the Qadhafi regime after 24 years of dictatorship, many Libyan intellectuals and lawyers such as Salah engaged in the defence of human rights. With the backing of international NGOs including OMCT, Amnesty International, and the Red Cross a number of local networks and civil society organizations sprung up to better protect citizens from routine human rights violations. Yet this hopeful period of building up democratic institutions and restoring civil rights was short-lived as another wave of widespread violence overtook the country, home to the world’s 10th-largest oil-reserves, as numerous belligerents fuelled political, racial, ethnic, religious and interregional conflicts.

The country has been divided since June 2014, when a number of factions refused to accept the legislative election results and the establishment of a new Parliament, leaving Libya with two Governments: one recognized by the international community based in al-Bayda, and another loyal to the former General National Congress based in Tripoli. To make things worse, many regions have ties to Islamist groups while other areas are self-governing, and rival armed groups have spread across the territory, creating additional lines of fracture.

The result was complete chaos, with a collapse of state institutions and deteriorating economic, social and health conditions, which forced the European Union and United Nations Support Mission to Libya to leave the country. The escalation of violence since in August 2014 – when Islamist militias took over Tripoli and its civilian airport – was so ferocious that the UN Security Council called for the application of sanctions against violators of humanitarian and human rights law. The violence also led to at least 400,000 internally displaced Libyans and to hundreds of thousands migrant workers fleeing the country.

It is in this improbable context that Salah’s organization, founded in 2014 with OMCT’s help, has documented 90 torture cases, forced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and abuses. It has filed 15 complaints with local courts for torture, detention and extra-judiciary executions. It is working with other partners on how to use international mechanisms to seek redress for victims of torture in the face of an incompetent national judicial system. Society must free itself from passivity and dependence and participate collectively to demand the respect of its rights,” explains Salah.

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/12/01/10-december-10-defenders-profiles-of-human-rights-defenders-against-torture/

– By Lori Brumat in Geneva

Source: Libya: Meet Salah: Keeping hope for redress in the absence of a State, amid a civil war / December 5, 2015 / Links / Human rights defenders / OMCT

Voice of Libyan Women founder on how to break the cycle of violence

June 4, 2015

Canadian-born Libyan activist Alaa Murabit speaking at 2015 Oslo Freedom Forum (26 May) shows how ongoing conflict has affected daily life in Libya. She stresses the importance of acknowledging and integrating local communities in peaceful solutions, and focuses on the key role women in particular should play in peacebuilding. Murabit shares how her organization, the Voice of Libyan Women, organized the largest grassroots campaign in the country to address security issues, the cycle of violence, and the rights of women. She emphasizes that by creating cohesive and cooperative societies, rather than ones divided into factions, Libya can achieve peace and stability.

Six female human rights defenders Samah Hamid wants you to know

March 5, 2015

Samah Hadid – a human rights activist from Australia – writes on 6 March that the following women human rights defenders are worth knowing more about. I have abridged her text a bit:

Human rights activist Samah Hadid.

Human rights activist Samah Hadid. Photo: Supplied

This year’s International Women’s Day [IWD] is dedicated to women who ‘Make it Happen’, and plenty of women come to mind who embody this theme. As attacks on women human rights activists and defenders continue to rise, I think this IWD is a perfect time to celebrate the women who are champions for the freedom of others.

Salwa Bugaighis- lawyer and political activist from Lybia

Salwa was shot dead in 2014 and her assassination left me and many worldwide devastated. Salwa was a courageous lawyer who from a young age pushed for democracy in Libya. She was actively involved in Libya’s revolution and has been described as the “Libyan human rights activist who took on Gaddafi”. Salwa was also actively involved in Libya’s post-revolution transition, calling for the inclusion of women in this process. At every chance, she pushed for national reconciliation in the troubled country. We can all take inspiration from Salwa’s courageous activism. Her commitment to peace and freedom is a legacy we should all aspire to.[see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/human-rights-lawyer-salwa-bugaighis-killed-in-libya/]

 

Mu Sochua- politician and women’s rights advocate from Cambodia

Mu Sochua grew up during the reign of the brutal Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. She was forced into exile and returned to rebuild her country.  As the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Mu advocated to end human trafficking and the exploitation of female workers, and drafted crucial laws on ending violence against women. Standing strongly behind her principles, Mu stepped down as minister and decided to become an opposition figure in light of government corruption and repression. As a result, Mu has faced, and continues to be threatened with, imprisonment for criticising the government and Prime Minister.

Gillian Triggs- president of the Australian Human Rights Commission and legal expert

The head of Australia’s Human Rights Commission has recently faced an onslaught of politically driven attacks and abuse from leading politicians, including the Australian Prime Minister, for her human rights advocacy. Triggs, a highly accomplished lawyer and academic, has been unfairly targeted for promoting and protecting human rights, particularly on the issue of asylum seeker children locked up in immigration detention. Yet in the face of political pressure and relentless attacks by the government, she remains determined to fulfil her mission of protecting human rights in Australia.

Rebiya Kadeer- Uyghur activist and leader

Rebiya is many things: businesswoman, mother of eleven children, political leader and, let’s face it, one of China’s fiercest freedom fighters. As a member of the persecuted ethnic Uyghur minority in China’s Xinjiang region, Rebiya has spent her life campaigning for the rights of Uyghurs. Her activism has come at a price; Chinese authorities sentenced her to eight years in prison for her work and she was later forced to live in exile. Despite this, Rebiya – who is known as the ‘Mother of the Uyghur nation’ – has not been silenced by Chinese authorities and continues her activism at the age of 60! [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/challenges-for-human-rights-education-at-side-event-council-on-25-september/]

Yara Sallam- feminist activist and human rights lawyer from Egypt

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the age of 28, Yara is a leading human rights activist in Egypt. Her commitment to defending human rights, especially women’s rights in Egypt, is inspiring for a fellow young Arab woman like myself . As a feminist, she has championed greater space for women to exercise their civil and political rights and to be free from sexual violence. Yara was recently sentenced to two years in prison for attending a protest in Egypt, where it is now illegal for citizens to effectively exercise their right to protest. Even from prison, Yara continues to champion the causes of vulnerable women who have been detained and imprisoned.[for more on her: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/yara-sallam/]

Nimko Ali- anti-FGM campaigner in the UK

Nimko is survivor of female genital mutilation and a fierce campaigner who leads the anti-FGM campaign in the UK. She has propelled the issue onto the front pages of newspapers and into the halls of parliament, advocating for stronger legislation and policy changes. She is a co-founder and director of Daughters of Eve, a not-for-profit raising awareness about FGM and providing support to survivors of FGM. Nimko has faced verbal and physical attacks for speaking out and yet her advocacy remains steadfast. Nimko considers herself a survivor, not a victim. Her fighting spirit is one we can all learn from. I certainly have.

Six female human rights defenders you should know.

Another killing of a human rights defender in Libya: Intissar Al Hasairi

February 26, 2015

In the morning of 24 February 2015, the bodies of human rights defender Ms Intissar Al Hasairi and her elderly aunt were discovered in the boot of the human rights defender’s car in Tripoli, Libya, by security forces. The human rights defender and her aunt had allegedly been shot by members of an armed group.  The human rights defender had been missing since the previous evening.  Read the rest of this entry »

OHCHR gives preview of new report on Libya in 2014

February 10, 2015

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [OHCHR] published today (10 February) a report, which will be formally presented to the Human Rights Council only in March, describing the situation of human rights in Libya during 2014. It paints a bleak picture of increasing turmoil and lawlessness, fanned by a multitude of heavily armed groups amid a broadening political crisis. Rampant violence and fighting, including in the country’s two biggest cities, Tripoli and Benghazi, as well as many other cities and towns across the country, is badly affecting civilians in general and particularly cases of harassment, intimidation, torture, numerous abductions, and summary executions of human rights defenders, civil society activists, journalists and other media professionals, as well as members of the judiciary, politicians and law enforcement officers.

The report, produced in conjunction with the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), also describes numerous incidents of violence against women over the past year, including reports of threats, attacks and killings of female human rights defenders, politicians and other women in public positions. Minority groups, including Egyptian Coptic Christians, have also been increasingly targeted. The report also highlights the extremely vulnerable situation of migrants.

Thousands of people remain in detention – mostly under the effective control of armed groups – with no means of challenging their situation as prosecutors and judges are unable or unwilling to confront the armed groups. UN human rights staff have received reports of torture or other ill-treatment in many places of detention. The deteriorating security environment has impacted heavily on the justice system, which is no longer functioning in parts of the country. Prosecutors and judges have frequently been subjected to intimidation and attacks, in the form of court bombings, physical assaults, abduction of individuals or family members and unlawful killings.

The report highlights the need to strengthen State institutions, ensure accountability for human rights violations and support the ongoing political dialogue.

The full report can be found here: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session28/Documents/A_HRC_28_51_ENG.doc

via: OHCHR PRESS BRIEFING NOTES – (1) Libya, (2) Malaysia, (3) Thailand, (4) Venezuela – Press releases – News – StarAfrica.com.

Human Rights Defenders in the News

July 9, 2014

Even this blog cannot keep up with all the news on individual human rights defenders. For those who want to see more, there is also: “HRDs in the News“. It is a regular news round-up in which Front Line draws together news about human rights defenders who have been appearing in the world media. In the latest edition, you can find amongst others:

  • The Independent report on the detention of Egyptian HRD Yara Sallam;
  • Al-Ahram Online report on the assassination of Salwa Bugaighis in Libya;
  • The Guardian and The Independent report on the threats faced by environmental rights defenders in Peru

via HRDs in the News | Front Line.

Human Rights lawyer Salwa Bugaighis killed in Libya

June 29, 2014

Salwa-Bugaighis-Anderson.jpg

(Salwa Bugaighis in March 2014. – Photograph: National Dialogue Preparatory Commission/AP)
On 25 June 2014, the human rights lawyer, Salwa Bugaighis was killed in the Libyan city of Benghazi,, reports Jon Lee Anderson in the New Yorker of 27 June. NDERSON. Bugaighis, fifty years old, was fighting for a democratic, open society. “Along with her husband, Issam, and her sister Iman, she was at the forefront of the uprising against Muammar Qaddafi; later, she sat on the hastily declared transitional council that sought to bring order to the excited anarchy that followed Qaddafi’s fall. As that anarchy turned to bedlam, Bugaighis worked to reconcile Libya’s feuding groups—even as her life was threatened, and as other critics of the militias were murdered. She had been spending time abroad, because of such threats, but came home for the elections.Yesterday, just after she returned from voting in parliamentary elections, gunmen surprised her at her house and shot her to death. Issam, who was abducted in the incident, is still missing. 

The documentary “E-TEAM” goes really public via Netflix

May 14, 2014

Yesterday I referred to the upcoming Human Rights Watch Film Festival in June. One of the films shown there will also appear on Netflix and therefore be able to reach a much larger audience. Interesting development for human rights films!!