Posts Tagged ‘Libya’

Today: World Refugee Day 2019

June 20, 2019

Many are the initiatives on this day. UNHCR lists just a few ways that you can take action right now and spread this message even further:

Sometimes good news fall on the right day: a French court acquitted Tom Ciotkowski, a British human rights defender who documented police abuse against migrants and refugees and volunteers who were helping them in Calais. Amnesty International France’s Programme manager on Freedoms, Nicolas Krameyer said: “Today’s decision, delivered on World Refugee Day, is not only a victory for justice but also for common sense. Tom Ciotkowski is a compassionate young volunteer who did nothing wrong and was dragged through the courts on trumped up charges”. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/15/european-governments-should-stop-treating-solidarity-and-compassion-as-a-crime/]

EuroMed Rights focuses on the current practice of stopping people from disembarking ships/boats on the Mediterranean Sea shoreline, particularly in Tunisia. In many aspects, this situation is emblematic of the obstacles faced by refugees in obtaining protection and access to rights in the Euro-Mediterranean region. It is also emblematic of the unfailing solidarity with refugees of local organisations and individuals.

Freedom United issues a call to close Libyan slave markets.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is featuring stories of survival—a collection of video testimonies and first-hand accounts from people who have risked everything for a chance at safety. As an organisation working with refugees and people on the move, we know that nothing—not a wall, or even an ocean—will ever stop people who are simply trying to survive.

———-

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/06/france-acquittal-of-young-man-for-showing-compassion-to-refugees-in-calais-shows-solidarity-is-not-a-crime/

https://mailchi.mp/euromedrights/world-refugee-day-deadlock-at-sea-obstacles-to-the-right-of-asylum-the-tunisian-case?e=1209ebd6d8

https://www.freedomunited.org/

https://www.msf.org/refugees-around-world-stories-survival-world-refugee-day

Human Rights Foundation announces its first 10 Freedom Fellows

May 22, 2019

Yesterday I referred to the new look of the Human Rights Foundation [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/21/human-rights-foundation-uses-2019-oslo-freedom-forum-for-rebranding/], here is a substantive new proframme. On 21 May 2019 the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) announced the creation of the Freedom Fellowship, a program that awards 10 human rights defenders, social entrepreneurs and non-profit leaders from authoritarian countries around the world with the unique opportunity to increase the impact of their work. HRF is partnering with the Center for Applied Nonviolent Tactics and Strategies (CANVAS), founded by Srdja Popovic. The fellows will work with HRF staff and a team of specialists to improve leadership, movement building, fundraising, marketing, and digital security.
The first ‘class’ comprises:

  • Rania Aziz , Sudanese activist organizing professional and youth groups in the country against the dictatorship of Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir. She is part of the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), an outlawed group of unions currently leading protests in the country.
  • Fred Bauma. Congolese human rights activist also known as “Congo’s Gandhi”. He is the leader of the pro-democracy youth group LUCHA, which advocates for nonviolent, community-level change and governmental reform in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[ see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/11/30/amnesty-internationals-annual-write-for-rights-campaign-focuses-on-freedom-of-expression/]
  • Vanessa Berhe, Eritrean free-speech and democracy activist. She is the founder of One Day Seyoum, a human rights organization that campaigns for the release of jailed Eritrean journalist Seyoum Tsehaye, and raises awareness around a continued crackdown on democratic ideals in Eritrea.
  • Andrei Bystrov, lawyer, historian and democratic activist from Moscow. He is a co-founder of the December 5 Party, a pro-democracy political party that was born out of the 2011 anti-Putin protests.
  • Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal is a student activist, publisher, and author who advocates for education reform in Thailand. He founded Education for Liberation of Siam, a student group that challenges the Thai military junta’s unjust actions in the country’s education system.
  • Rodrigo Diamanti, Venezuelan human rights activist and nonviolence expert. He founded the international NGO, Un Mundo Sin Mordaza, which has coordinated creative protests against Nicolas Maduro’s dictatorship in more than 52 countries.
  • Edipcia Dubón, Nicaraguan pro-democracy and women’s rights advocate. She is the coordinator of Dialogue of Women for Democracy, a think tank that promotes open discussions about the challenges faced by women in Nicaragua.
  • Asma Khalifa, Libyan activist and researcher who has worked on human rights, women’s rights, and youth empowerment since 2011. She is the co-founder of Tamazight Women’s Movement, an organization working on gender equality and research on the indigenous women of Libya and North Africa.
  • Farida Nabourema, Togolese writer and democracy activist who began her career in activism when she was 13 years old. She co-founded the Faure Must Go movement, a hallmark of the Togolese struggle against Faure Gnassingbé’s oppressive rule.
  • Johnson Yeung, Hong Kong human rights advocate who works on freedom of assembly and expression, protection to HRDs, and capacity building to right-based CSOs. He is the chair of the board of the Hong Kong Civil Hub, which produces regular briefings on Hong Kong shrinking civic space, and builds solidarity around international rule of law and human rights communities.


In partnership with CANVAS, HRF launched the Freedom Fellowship in 2018 with a pilot opportunity for Jhanisse Vaca Daza, a civil society activist from Bolivia. During her Freedom Fellowship experience, Vaca Daza co-founded the Bolivian movement: Ríos de Pie (Standing Rivers), which has quickly gained a national following, becoming one of the leading nonviolent resistance movements in response to Evo Morales’ authoritarian regime. Vaca Daza will provide her insights from the past year as the manager for the Fellowship. “This is a truly diverse class of fellows, and they are going to learn as much from each other as from their mentors,” said Vaca Daza. “Anyone running a non-profit or civil society organization or start-up needs help and guidance with personal leadership, movement building, marketing and media strategy, fundraising, and digital security. My own experience was transformative, and I’m looking forward to bringing world-class expertise in each of these areas to 10 new Fellows.”

The Fellows will meet one another as a group for the first time at this year’s Oslo Freedom Forum, which will be held from 27-29 May in Norway. There will be special programming curated to begin their Freedom Fellowship experience starting May 25. If you would like more information about the program, please contact: jhanisse@hrf.org.

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Filippo Grandi in Security Council denounces ‘toxic language of politics’ aimed at refugees, migrants

April 10, 2019

Dissecting the term “refugee crisis” itself, Mr. Grandi asked the Security Council to consider to whom, exactly, that applied: “It is a crisis for a mother with her children fleeing gang violence; it is a crisis for a teenager who wants to flee from war, human rights violations, forced conscription; it is crisis for governments in countries with few resources that, every day, open their borders to thousands. For them, it is a crisis.

UN Photo/Evan Schneider. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, briefs the Security Council. (9 April 2019)

But it is wrong, he continued, to portray the situation as an unmanageable global crisis: with political will and improved responses, as enshrined by the Global Compact for Refugees, adopted last December, it can be addressed, and the Security Council has a critical role to play, particularly in terms of solving peace and security crises, supporting countries that are hosting refugees, and working to remove obstacles to solutions.

Conflicts, Mr. Grandi pointed out, are the main drivers of refugee flows: of the nearly 70 million people that are displaced, most are escaping deadly fighting. However, from the point of view of the UN High Commission for Refugees, approaches to peace-building are fragmented; addressing the symptoms, rather than the causes.

..[he goes into more detail on the Libyan situation]…

The UN refugee chief went on to exhort the Security council to step up support for the developing countries that host 85 per cent of the world’s refugees, to avoid leaving governments politically exposed, and refugees destitute. With regards to the return of refugees and migrants to their countries of origin, Mr. Grandi countered the misconception that UNHCR blocks returns: refugees have both a right to return, and also a right to not return, he said, in the absence of security and basic support. The informed choice of refugees must be respected, and returns must be dignified.

Mr. Grandi concluded by returning to the consequences of the toxic language surrounding refugees and migration, citing the example of the recent mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand in March, which left 49 dead. The response of the New Zealand Government should, he said, be seen as an good example of effective leadership and how to respond to such toxicity, in a firm and organized manner, restating solidarity with refugees, and reaffirming the principle that our societies cannot be truly prosperous, stable and peaceful, if they do not include everyone.

https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/04/1036391

Human Rights Council: Reprisals instead of responses is the answer by many States

March 21, 2019

Room XX of the Human Rights Council

In two statements delivered to the 40th Session of the Human Rights Council, ISHR and Amnesty International reacted to the latest Joint Communications Report of the UN Special Procedures – independent human rights experts, appointed to monitor and report on human rights violations and to advise and assist in promoting and protecting rights. The report cites nine cases of reprisals against human rights defenders cooperating with the UN, and reveals that 95 states have not responded to letters from the UN experts concerning human rights violations.

There are two, related issues at stake here: (1) non-response to letters from the UN, and even worse (2) reprisals against human rights defenders who cooperate with the UN.

When I started my blog in 2010 (and one of the motivations) a main concern was the lack of response and enforcement [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2011/03/20/taking-on-non-response-this-bloggers-lone-response/ and : https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140603192912-22083774–crime-should-not-pay-in-the-area-of-international-human-rights ].

As Helen Nolan of ISHR explains, 35 States have recently failed to respond to two or more of these letters. 13 of these nations are members of the Council. ‘Repeat offenders are a particular concern,’ says Nolan. India has failed to reply to a staggering 8 communications, Mexico 6, Italy 5, and Bangladesh and Nepal 4 each.’ Nolan emphasises that a failure to reply is a failure to cooperate, and welcomes the fact that the recently published report of the Annual Meeting of Special Procedures focuses on non-cooperation, including ‘more subtle forms’, such as selective cooperation with particular mandates. ‘To encourage cooperation, the Council must make non-cooperation more costly,’ says Nolan. ‘We urge the President of the Council to work closely with the Coordinating Committee of the Special Procedures to find ways to do this,‘ adds Nolan.

ISHR and Amnesty International’s second statement noted that under GA Resolution 60/251, Council members must ‘fully cooperate with the Council.’ Yet, the report cites nine cases of reprisals involving these members:

  • China sought to revoke the Society for Threatened Peoples’ ECOSOC status after vexatiously alleging that a person accredited by them, Dolkun Isa, participated in incitement and funding of separatism and terrorism, in retaliation for cooperation with the UN;
  • Egypt carried out forced evictions, and violations of the rights to physical integrity, liberty and security against individuals who cooperated with the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing during her recent visit;
  • Iraq carried out unlawful arrest, enforced disappearance and torture against Imad Al Tamimi and intimidated and threatened Israa Al Dujaili for cooperating with the UN;
  • Libya arrested an individual in retaliation for taking steps to clarify the fate and whereabouts of his father, including with UN mechanisms;
  • The Philippines labeled defenders “terrorists” in reprisal for their engagement with the UN;
  • Russia surveilled, intimidated and harassed Yana Tannagasheva and her husband, for speaking out about impacts of coal mining on indigenous people in Siberia and in possible reprisal for their communication with UN mechanisms;
  • Turkmenistan carried out reprisals against a defender and her husband for her cooperation with the UN; and
  • In Yemen, forces loyal to President Hadi and the Saudi-led coalition detained human rights defenders Radhya Al-Mutawakel and Abdulrasheed Al-Faqih for cooperating with the UN.

‘We call on the President of the Council to request updates on the cases from Iraq, Libya, Russia, Turkmenistan and Yemen, as there has been no response from the States concerned,’ said Nolan. For an older post on reprisals, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/03/13/zero-tolerance-for-states-that-take-reprisals-against-hrds-lets-up-the-ante/

Full text of the first statement (on failure to reply) available here.

Full text of the second statement (on cases of reprisals) available here.

You can also watch the videos of the statements via the link below:

Awards given at the 16th Human Rights Film Festival in Geneva

March 19, 2018

The FIFDH just announced the OFFICIAL AWARDS of its 16th festival (2018) in Geneva. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/27/16th-international-film-festival-and-forum-on-human-rights-starts-on-9-march/]. Here a summary: Read the rest of this entry »

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.