Posts Tagged ‘lobbying’

Magnitsky law spawns cottage industry of sanctions lobbying

February 13, 2020

Congress passed the Magnitsky Act in 2012 to punish Russian officials accused of beating to death a whistleblower who publicized government corruption. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/29/european-court-rules-on-sergei-magnitskys-death/]

A decade later, the law has unwittingly spawned a multimillion-dollar lobbying cottage industry. Predictably, a number of lobbyists are gunning to remove Magnitsky penalties on their questionable clients, just as with other such sanctions laws. President Donald Trump’s impeachment lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, for example, is defending an Israeli billionaire accused of pillaging Africa, while Trump’s 2016 Tennessee state director, Darren Morris, has joined with New York law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in representing an Iraqi businessman sanctioned for allegedly bribing politicians.

But a unique facet of the Magnitsky law and subsequent amendments has created a whole new opening for more creative lobbying. Unlike similar laws blocking sanctioned parties’ US assets and banning travel to the United States, Magnitsky requires that US officials consider information from credible human rights organizations when weighing whether to apply sanctions. “That’s a pretty revolutionary provision,” said Rob Berschinski, the senior vice president for policy at Human Rights First. “Effectively, the US government has created an open inbox in which literally anyone can petition for sanctions — no matter what their motive is, no matter what the credibility of their information is.

Berschinski’s organization is among those taking advantage of the provision, lobbying for additional Magnitsky sanctions on Saudi officials responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The Trump administration designated 17 Saudi officials in November 2018, but not Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is believed by the CIA and UN investigators to have ordered the crime.

Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (click above to read the law)

“The point here is, yes, 17 people were designated under Global Magnitsky,” said Berschinski, who served as deputy assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor under President Barack Obama. “No, they are not the people who were ultimately responsible for directing the crime, and the people who were ultimately responsible need to be held accountable.”

Saudi Arabia isn’t the only Gulf target of sanctions lobbying. In recent months, lawyers for Kuwaiti private equity firm KGL Investment and its former CEO, Marsha Lazareva, have launched a multimillion-dollar campaign to threaten Kuwait with Magnitsky sanctions if it does not drop embezzlement charges against her. Working on the account are big names, including President George H.W. Bush’s son, Neil Bush; former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif.; former FBI Director Louis Freeh; and ex-Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, until she joined Trump’s impeachment team. But the Lazareva camp has also consistently sought to portray her defenders as “human rights activists,” notably working with Washington nonprofit In Defense of Christians and former human rights lawyer Cherie Blair, the wife of ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in its efforts.

Recent Magnitsky Act lobbying
Lobbying to remove sanctions Lobbying to add sanctions
Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan for Israeli businessman Dan Gertler Crowell & Moring and others on behalf of KGL Investment (sanctions on Kuwait)
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman / Morris Global Strategies for Iraqi businessman Khamis Khanjar Human Rights First (sanctions for killers of Jamal Khashoggi)
Venable / Sonoran Policy Group for Serbian arms dealer Slobodan Tesic (Sonoran terminated December 2018) Schmitz Global Partners / Jefferson Waterman International (JWI) on behalf of fugitive Bulgarian businessman Tzvetan Vassilev (JWI terminated August 2019)
Source: Department of Justice / Congress

Lazareva’s champions insist she was railroaded by a corrupt judicial system and that lobbying for human rights sanctions — even if it’s spearheaded by corporate interests with deep pockets — is perfectly legitimate. To date, at least five US lawmakers have also joined the call for an investigation into Kuwait under the Magnitsky law.

“The global Magnitsky sanctions are a critical tool available to human rights NGOs to hold foreign governments accountable in cases of corruption and injustice,” said Peter Burns, government relations director for In Defense of Christians, or IDC. “IDC has advocated for their implementation in a variety of human rights and religious freedom contexts. One such case is that of Orthodox Christian businesswoman Marsha Lazareva, who is imprisoned in Kuwait on bogus corruption charges. The United States must become more effective at holding our friends, like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait, accountable for religious freedom violations.”

“Are there actors out there that I’m aware of that may not have kind of the purest motives in bringing case files? Sure. But I have confidence in the integrity of the underlying decision-making system within the US government.”

IDC said it’s not getting paid for its Lazareva advocacy. But the army of lobbyists urging sanctions on Kuwaiti officials has, however, raised concerns about the integrity of the Magnitsky process.

“Are there actors out there that I’m aware of that may not have kind of the purest motives in bringing case files? Sure,” Berschinski told Al-Monitor. “But I have confidence in the integrity of the underlying decision-making system within the US government.”

This isn’t the first time lobbyists have sought to use Magnitsky in such a fashion. Back in 2017, lobbyists for fugitive Bulgarian businessman Tzvetan Vassilev sought sanctions on Bulgaria after being charged with money laundering and embezzlement. At the time, Lloyd Green, a Justice Department official under President George H. W. Bush, warned against potential abuses of the law. The Magnitsky Act … was not designed to become a sword and shield for those alleged to have committed crimes in systems that afford due process,” he wrote in an op-ed for The Hill at the time. It “should not be allowed to become a cudgel wielded by non-citizens as they seek to beat our allies into submission.

Berschinski said Human Rights First was aware of both the Vassilev and Lazareva campaigns and had declined to get involved. He declined to speculate, however, on whether such lobbying campaigns undermine the voices of traditional human rights organizations. “My sense is that at the end of the day, the US government officials who are actually making the call are making the decision on whether to designate or not on the basis of a solid evidentiary basis,” he said.

Read more: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/01/magnitsky-sanctioned-lobbying-hire-cottage-industry.html#ixzz6Cc6LK5Tp

Dutch government critical of pro-Israel lobby “NGO Monitor”

January 17, 2020

Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok

The Israeli government’s attacks on human rights defenders are aided by organisations such as NGO Monitor, which in particular lobby European authorities to cease funding such human rights groups. The Dutch minister added that “the government is familiar with the accusations by NGO Monitor against a broad group of Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations, as well as with criticism of the conduct of NGO Monitor itself”, citing a September 2018 report by the Policy Working Group. “This research shows that many of NGO Monitor’s accusations are based on selective citations, half-facts and insinuations, but not necessarily on hard evidence”, Minister Blok added. “These accusations have contributed to a climate in which human rights organisations have come under increasing pressure”. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/01/following-threats-to-ngo-offices-in-israel-human-rights-defenders-demand-investigation/]

In response to a separate question, the Dutch foreign minister noted that, “to the best of the government’s knowledge, NGO Monitor…focuses exclusively on organisations and donors who are critical of Israeli policy in the territories occupied by Israel”.

 

Dutch government criticises pro-Israel lobby group NGO Monitor’s ‘half-facts and insinuations’

42nd session of the Human Rights Council: list of side events

September 9, 2019

The 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council started today, 9 September 2019, and as usual is surrounded by a large number of side events. Here a selection with special relevance for human rights defenders:

  • Monday 9 September at 14:30 in Room VIII, Why is a Commission of Inquiry on Venezuela needed? organised by Amnesty International, ISHR, ICJ and Human Rights Watch.
  • Tuesday 10 September at 15:30-16:30 in Room XXII, Situation of the Right to Memory, Truth in Brazil: From the Transitional Policies to Denial organised by Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales, Conselho Federal da Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil, Instituto Vladimir Herzog and Centro de Estudos sobre Justiça de Transição.
  • Wednesday 11 September, Privacy in the Digital Age: Priorities for Protecting Rights Online organised by Article19.
  • Wednesday 11 September 10:00-11:30, Room XXV. Human Rights Council Elections 2019: discussions of candidate States’ visions for membership, The event is co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of the Czech Republic, Denmark and Fiji. It is intended to give candidates an opportunity to present their visions for Council membership and to respond to questions from a range of stakeholders on how they propose to realise the pledges and commitments they may have made in seeking election.
  • Thursday 12 September at 12:30-13:30 in Room XVI Ensuring credible HRC action on Sudan organised by Defendefenders.
  • Thursday 12 September at 13:30 to 14:30 in Room XVI Investigating Unlawful Deaths, organised by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the panel will include the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (by video link).
  • Monday 16 September at 13:00 in Room IVCivic space restrictions as an early warning of a deteriorating human rights situation organised by CIVICUS.
  • Tuesday 17 September, 10:00-11:00, Room IV, Rule of law in China,  organised by ISHR, International Bar Association, World Uyghur Congress and Tibet Advocacy Coalition.
  • Tuesday 17 September at 13:00-14.30 in Room VIII Indigenous Justice and Human Rights co-organised by the UN Special Rapporteur on Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).
  • Tuesday 17 September at 16:00-17:00, in Room IV Human rights in Myanmar organised by Forum-Asia.
  • Wednesday 18 September, 16:30-17:30, Room VIII, Ending Reprisals,  co-sponsored by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and Forum-Asia. The panel will include the Assistant Secretary General Andrew Gilmour and human rights defenders. It will discuss and expand on the Secretary-General’s report on cooperation with UN mechanisms, the nature and extent of reprisals and consider efforts to date to address the issue.
  • Thursday 19 September at 13:30 in Room VIII, The situation of human rights in Brazil organised by Conectas.
  • Thursay 19 September at 16:30 in Room XXII Access to Information organised by Article 19 and the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
  • Thursday 19 September at 12:00 to 13:00 in Room XXI, The First Year of the Transitional Justice System in Colombia organised by the Colombian Commission of Jurists and the ICJ.
  • Friday 20 September from 15:00 to 16:30 Libya: How to advance accountability for Human Rights Violations and Abuses in Libya, organised by the Netherlands, the International Commission of Jurists, the Cairo Institute, Human Rights Watch and Lawyers for Justice in Libya.
  • Tuesday 24 September 13:00-14:00 in Room XXV, Human rights in Cambodia, organised by Forum-Asia.
  • Thursday 26 September, 09:30 in Room XXIV, The Continued Silencing and Imprisonment of Saudi women’s rights activists on  organised by CIVICUS, ISHR, Women’s March Global and the Gulf Center for Human Rights. The panel will share the experiences of Saudi women human rights defenders, reflect on the reality they face in prison, and discuss what further efforts can be taken to ensure their immediate release and provide guarantees for a safe and enabling environment for them to continue their work.

You can download the list of NGO events here.

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/05/human-rights-defenders-issues-at-the-42nd-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc42-key-issues-agenda-september-2019-session

750 NGOs in Geneva: dynamic ecosystem for international governance work

August 29, 2019

On 29 August 2019, the Département présidentiel (PRE) of the Ville de Genève published “Un écosystème dynamique de plus de 750 ONG à Genève” in which – for the first time – researchers of the University of Geneva have made a survey of the NGO world in Geneva.  The study – in French – has some fascinating key findings:

Read the rest of this entry »

One-day Training Workshop on lobbying for HRD protection in the EU context

June 3, 2019

Chris Collier, Human Rights Consultant, is organising a Training Workshop “Lobbying for HRD protection by the EU, EU member states and like-minded countrie”.  The date is 18 June 2019, 09:30 – 17:00 at EuroMed Rights, Rue des Comédiens 22, 1000 Brussels.

This is a one-day, participatory training workshop for HRDs and staff of European and international human rights organizations.

Participants will:

  • Discuss current guidelines and (good) practices of the EU, EU member states and like-minded countries (Norway, Canada, Switzerland) in HRD protection
  • Learn what kind of action to ask the EU, EU MS and like-minded countries to take in different situations and how to approach them to take such action
  • Create action plans to get the EU, EU MS and like-minded countries to take action on specific HRD issues or cases they are dealing with

The training addresses situations in which HRDs face stigmatization, threats, physical attacks, trumped-up charges, unfair trials and other violations.  It covers action by EU/like-minded countries such as public statements, trial observation, raising cases with authorities, public recognition, visits to HRDs offices/areas of work and visas/temporary relocation. [see also an earlier course: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/24/training-workshop-on-protection-of-hrds-by-foreign-governments/]

The language of the workshop is English.  The workshop fee is €300.  Participants are responsible for all costs of participating in the workshop such as travel, accommodation and meals.  The maximum number of participants in the workshop is 10.

Please contact Chris Collier directly if you would you be interested in participating in this workshop or in receiving further information:  tel. +31-(0)6-34936026
mail@chriscollier.nl
http://www.chriscollier.nl

20th anniversary of UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders starts with crucial draft resolution in the GA

November 1, 2017

9 December 2018 will mark the 20th anniversary of the ‘UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms‘ (in short the UN Declaration on HRDs).  The General Assembly and the Human Rights Council have over the years adopted annual resolutions, informed by reports by the Secretary-General and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. However, as this blog and many others can testify, human rights defenders continue to face severe risks and are increasingly targets of actions taken by state and/or non-state actors in violation of the Declaration.  As we approach the 20th anniversary of the Declaration, the Norwegian delegation has just now tabled a draft resolution at the 72nd session of the General Assembly. The text is not officially out yet but the main new elements in the draft resolution are:

  • a high level meeting on HRDs in the General Assembly in New York next year, and
  • a request to the UN Secretary General/OHCHR to put together a comprehensive report on what UN can do to assist States.

Secretary-General Guterres should have no problem accepting such a request as he stated in the Human Rights Council on 27 February this year: “…To human rights defenders, I say: thank you for your courage. The United Nations is on your side. And I am on your side. I remind Member States of their responsibility to ensure that human rights defenders can operate without fear of intimidation.” [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/28/new-secretary-general-at-human-rights-council-tells-human-rights-defenders-and-i-am-on-your-side/]

The UN Mission of Norway is as usual in the lead in getting this resolution adopted, while facing the danger of hostile amendments. [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/23/norwegian-resolution-un-human-rights-council-defenders-amendments/]. They have their work cut out and any help in lobbying for this new draft would be most welcome. The text of the draft resolution as tabled follows below (it should be issued soon as an “L” document) in which I have highlighted operative paragraphs 14-17.

Draft resolution – version for tabling Read the rest of this entry »

ISHR 2018 training for human rights defenders is now open for application

October 31, 2017

 If you are – or know – a human rights defender keen to increase interaction with the UN system, apply now for the 2018 edition of ISHR’s Human Rights Defenders Advocacy Programme !

The training will take place in Geneva between 11 and 22 June 2018 and provides defenders with opportunities to put their advocacy skills directly into action at the 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council. Get a taste of the programme here.

ISHR’s Human Rights Defender Advocacy Programme (HRDAP) equips defenders with the knowledge and skills to make strategic use of the international human rights system. It also provides an opportunity for participants to directly engage in lobbying and advocacy activities at the UN level to effect change on the ground back home.

As well as receiving training modules on all the UN human rights mechanisms from a range of experts, participants will also have the opportunity to build networks in Geneva and around the world, carry out lobbying of UN member States and UN staff, and learn from peers from a range of regions working on a range of human rights issues.

At the end of last year’s training, 100% of participants were either “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with the overall programme, and they all also felt that they would be able to apply what they learnt to their own day-to-day work. ISHR will look to build upon this success in 2018.

Participants will take part in:

  1. A short online learning component, prior to face-to-face training, to enable you to consolidate your existing knowledge and develop your advocacy objectives;
  2. Intensive training in Geneva during June, to coincide with the 38th session of the Human Rights Council. The training will focus on ways to effectively use international human rights mechanisms and to influence outcomes;
  3. Specific advocacy at Human Rights Council sessions and other relevant meetings, with regular feedback and peer education to learn from the experiences, including expert input from leading human rights advocates.

This programme is directed at experienced human rights defenders in non-governmental organisations, with existing advocacy experience at the national level and some prior knowledge of the international human rights system.

If you are interested in applying for ISHR’s training programme, please read the call for applications to check that you comply with the requirements, and apply before midnight Geneva time on 11 December 2018. The link to the online application form can be found in the call for applications. For more information, write to hrdap2018@ishr.ch.

for 2017 see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/05/27/ishrs-human-rights-defenders-advocacy-programme-2017-starts-on-monday/

Source: HRDAP | ISHR 2018 training for human rights defenders: apply now! | ISHR

Front Line seeks advocacy officer for its Brussels office

June 29, 2017

is looking for an Advocacy Officer for its EU office in Brussels, Belgium

 

The Advocacy Officer helps develop the work of Front Line Defenders at European Union level as part of a small 2-person team in Brussels. This work includes the following tasks:

  • Responsibility for sending appeals on cases of human rights defenders at risk to EU/Member State authorities and to Norway/Switzerland to press them for action in accordance with the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders and beyond;
  • Tracking results achieved, and compiling detailed data on responses for analysis and for reporting to headquarters;
  • Analysis, in coordination with Front Line Defenders’ Protection Coordinators, on the impact of EU action on Human Rights Defenders, and development and updating of strategies on maximising EU/MS response and impact on HRDs;
  • Prepare, in coordination with Front Line Defenders’ Protection Coordinators, briefings on HRDs for input into EU meetings;
  • By delegation of the Head of Office, participate in EU briefing and debriefing meetings, and advocate on HRD issues and individual cases;
  • In coordination with the Head of Office, initiate and undertake advocacy actions, in particular through the development of contacts with EU/Member State officials;
  • Organise and coordinate events, including visits of human rights defenders, awareness-raising workshops, etc.;
  • Assist with fundraising;
  • Assist the Head of Office in administrative tasks, as appropriate.

Desired profile and required qualifications

  • Relevant academic background;
  • At least two years of relevant experience, and sound knowledge of the functioning of the EU Institutions, the EU human rights instruments and the international human rights standards;
  • Dedication to the protection of human rights defenders and to the promotion of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders;
  • Strong organisation and time-management skills;
  • Excellent communication, relational and diplomatic skills, both oral and written in English and French;
  • Very good computer skills (office applications, database updating);
  • Experience of fundraising;
  • Availability for meetings early in the morning or late in the afternoon once or twice a week, upon coordination with the Head of Office. The position also requires very occasional international travel.

Salary €3050 per month gross. Conditions are according to Belgian legislation including the legal ability to live and work in Belgium.

Please send a letter of motivation and a CV to emma@frontlinedefenders.org by midnight on Monday 10 July 2017.

Interviews are planned to take place on 24-25th July. Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted – thank you for your understanding.

 

http://www.eurobrussels.com/job_display/130644/Advocacy_Officer_Front_Line_Defenders_Brussels_Belgium

ISHR’s Human Rights Defenders Advocacy Programme 2017 starts on Monday

May 27, 2017

ISHR‘s Human Rights Defenders Advocacy Programme begins on Monday 29 May, with 17 human rights defenders from around the globe travelling to Geneva to learn about strategic engagement with the UN mechanisms.

HRDAP 2016 Participants

The programme equips defenders with the knowledge and skills to make strategic use of the international human rights system. It also provides an opportunity for participants to directly engage in lobbying and advocacy activities at the UN level to effect change on the ground back home. ISHR’s Training and Advocacy Support Manager, Helen Nolan, explains that this year’s HRDAP participants were selected from a pool of 380 applicants – the highest number yet.

We’re incredibly excited to be collaborating with 17 committed human rights defenders working on women’s rights, business and human rights, the rights of LGBTI persons, and human rights defender protection,’ said Nolan. ‘These defenders are travelling from around the globe – including Argentina, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ecuador, Egypt, Fiji, India, Nigeria, Peru, Russia and Sierra Leone – to spend two highly intense weeks gaining practical advocacy experience in Geneva.’

HRDAP coincides with the 35th Session of the Human Rights Council, and well as receiving training modules on all the UN human rights mechanisms from a range of experts, participants will have the opportunity to build networks in Geneva and around the world, carry out lobbying of UN member States and UN staff, and learn from peers from a range of regions working on a range of human rights issues.

Crucially, we know the programme works,’ said Nolan. ‘Last year, 100% of our participants were either very satisfied or satisfied with the programme, with 96% of them having at least partially achieved their key advocacy and learning objectives.’ In 2016, HRDAP enabled:

  • corporate accountability activist Alexandra Montgomery to provide frst hand testimony to state representatives and experts about the violence faced by land rights defenders in Brazil
  • Tehmina Zafar to sound the alarm in the UN Human Rights Council about proposed laws which could dramatically restrict the operation and independence of NGOs in Pakistan
  • Karen Mejía to inform a UN expert body about the need to defend women’s rights activists and decriminalise abortion in Honduras.
  • several participants to contribute substantially to the historic campaign to appoint the first ever UN expert on LGBTI rights

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/11/12/ishr-2017-training-course-for-human-rights-defenders-now-open-for-applications/

http://www.ishr.ch/news/supporting-defenders-ishrs-human-rights-defender-advocacy-programme-kicks

ISHR 2017 training course for human rights defenders now open for applications

November 12, 2016

 The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) is calling for applications for its flagship Human Rights Defenders Advocacy Program in 2017 – the extensive training programme for human rights defenders. The training will take place in Geneva between 29 May and 9 June 2017 and provides defenders with opportunities to put their advocacy skills directly into action at the 35th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

ISHR’s Human Rights Defender Advocacy Programme (HRDAP) equips defenders with the knowledge and skills to make strategic use of the international human rights system. It also provides an opportunity for participants to directly engage in lobbying and advocacy activities at the UN level to effect change on the ground back home. As well as receiving training modules on all the UN human rights mechanisms from a range of experts, participants will also have the opportunity to build networks in Geneva and around the world, carry out lobbying of UN member States and UN staff, and learn from peers from a range of regions working on a range of human rights issues.

Participants will take part in:

  1. A short online learning component, prior to face-to-face training, to enable you to consolidate your existing knowledge and develop your advocacy objectives;
  2. Intensive training in Geneva during June, to coincide with the 35th session of the Human Rights Council. The training will focus on ways to effectively use international human rights mechanisms and to influence outcomes;
  3. Specific advocacy at Human Rights Council sessions and other relevant meetings, with regular feedback and peer education to learn from the experiences, including expert input from leading human rights advocates.

This programme is directed at experienced human rights defenders in non governmental organisations and national human rights institutions, with existing advocacy experience at the national level and some prior knowledge of the international human rights system. If you are interested in applying for ISHR’s training programme, please read the call for applications to check that you comply with the requirements. The link to the online application form can be found under point 5 of the call for applications.

The call for applicants can be found here. For more information, write to hrdap2017@ishr.ch.

Source: ISHR 2017 training for human rights defenders: now open for applicants! | ISHR