Posts Tagged ‘Malaysia’

ICJ calls on Malaysia to finally abolish laws restricting freedom of expression and assembly

March 5, 2020

Malaysiakini wrote on the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) on the authorities to stop their investigations against activists engaging in peaceful protests. The call came after police today probed Ambiga Sreenevasan, Marina Mahathir, and numerous others over peaceful assemblies in Dataran Merdeka and outside the Sogo shopping centre over the weekend. The protests were held over the political turmoil which saw the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan government. “These investigations have the effect of harassing and intimidating human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists, and look worryingly like a new crackdown on dissent,” said ICJ Asia Pacific director Frederick Rawski. Read the rest of this entry »

2020 International Women of Courage Awards by the U.S. State Department

March 4, 2020

Today, Wednesday 4 March 2020, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo hosts the Annual International Women of Courage Awards at the U.S. Department of State to honor 12 women from around the world.  The First Lady of the United States Melania Trump will deliver remarks to recognize the accomplishments of these women. For more on this and 7 other international awards that have word COURAGE in their name, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/international-women-of-courage-award.

The 2020 announcement comes remarkably quickly on the heels of last year’s, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/18/usas-international-women-of-courage-awards-for-2019/

This year will bring the total to 146 awardees from 77 countries. U.S. diplomatic missions overseas nominate one woman of courage from their respective host countries. The finalists are selected and approved by senior Department officials. Following the IWOC ceremony, the 12 awardees will participate in an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) visiting various cities throughout the country, before reconvening in Los Angeles for the conclusion of their program on March 16. The 2020 awardees are:

Zarifa Ghafari (Afghanistan) After successfully launching and operating a women-focused radio station, Afghanistan’s Zarifa Ghafari became mayor of Maidan Shar, in conservative Wardak province, at the age of 26.  When she showed up to start work, a male mob appeared and she was forced to flee.  Despite death threats, Ms. Ghafari came back, defying her conservative critics and their narrative that a woman is unfit to lead.  She then withstood a walkout by all of the male members of her office.  She later demonstrated ability and courage in tackling her town’s problems.  Despite fierce opposition from vested interests, she successfully launched a “Clean City, Green City” campaign that reduced littering.  Ghafari’s courage has inspired girls and women not only in her community and the wider province, but across the country.  In her capacity as a trail-blazer and door-opener for a new generation of young women, she has helped empower the women of Afghanistan.

Lucy Kocharyan (Armenia) Using her platform as a journalist, Kocharyan has championed children with mental health issues and has emerged as a leading voice in the fight against psychological, physical, and domestic violence against women and children.  Through her dedication and resolve, Kocharyan became famous for launching “Voices of Violence” in August 2018.  She has become a spokesperson on gender-based violence in Armenia and has continued to speak out despite harsh criticism – from people on the street who yell “shame” as she passes by, to parliamentarians speaking out against her and threatening her with lawsuits.  She successfully started a conversation about domestic and sexual violence that is slowly leading to some action. Gender-based violence is a pervasive problem throughout Armenia, where traditional social norms regarding masculinity, femininity, gender equality, and the division of household tasks remain rigid, making her achievements and impact all the more impressive.

Shahla Humbatova (Azerbaijan) Shahla Humbatova has worked as a defense lawyer in Azerbaijan since 2013, and is one of a handful of legal advocates who have been consistently willing to defend individuals facing punishment for exercising their fundamental freedoms.  She has bravely defended human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers, youth activists, members of the political opposition, and others.  Her example has inspired other lawyers to better advocate for their clients in politically sensitive cases, and her courage in representing LGBT clients in a conservative culture has pushed civil society further down the path to tolerance.  She is one of only two female lawyers to take these cases on in a difficult environment in which human rights lawyers have regularly been harassed and threatened in social media, suspended from practicing law, and disbarred. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/20/annual-reports-2019-azerbaijan-in-review-muted-hope-for-2020/]

Ximena Galarza (Bolivia) Ximena Galarza is a Bolivian journalist with over 25 years of experience. She has worked as a reporter, a television presenter, and news editor on some of Bolivia’s most important news channels including Red UNO, Cadena A, and TVU. Across her extensive career, Galarza has interviewed hundreds of politicians, academics, intellectuals, artists, and experts. She has also trained journalists to better inform the public of their rights and obligations. Galarza’s work has supported democracy in Bolivia and exposed corruption and violations of democratic freedoms. Since 2015, Galarza has hosted the program Jaque Mate (Check Mate) on TVU, one of Bolivia’s most prestigious news programs. In 2019, two of Galarza’s interviews impacted Bolivia’s history by demonstrating fraud in the October 20 presidential elections.  The electoral irregularities were later confirmed by an independent analysis from the Organization of American States.

Claire Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso) Claire Ouedraogo is the President of the Songmanegre Association for Women’s Development (Association féminine songmanegre pour le développement), an organization she founded that focuses on eliminating female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and promoting female empowerment through family planning education, vocational training, and micro-credit for women in the rural and underserved Center North region of Burkina Faso. She also serves as a senior advisor on the National Council to Combat Female Genital Mutilation. She is an active member of the Burkinabe Movement for Human and People’s Rights. In 2016, the prime minister of Burkina Faso nominated her as an Ambassador of Peace for her work in empowering rural women. Despite the increased threat of terrorist attacks and violent acts against civilians in Bam Province, Mrs. Ouedraogo continues her courageous work on behalf of vulnerable women threatened both by FGM/C and terrorism.

Sayragul Sauytbay (China) Sayragul Sauytbay was born in Ele Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, Xinjiang, China.  She attended medical university and worked as a doctor, teacher, education director, and headmaster. In July 2016, Sayragul and her family attempted to move to Kazakhstan but the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) confiscated her passport and prevented her from going with her husband and children.  From November 2017 to March 2018, Sayragul was forced by the CCP to teach Chinese to ethnic minority people in a detention camp.  In March 2018, Sauytbay fled to Kazakhstan to avoid being sent back to the camps, where she feared she would die.  Subsequently, Sauytbay become one of the first victims in the world to speak publicly about the CCP’s repressive campaign against Muslims, igniting a movement against these abuses.  Her testimony was among the first evidence that reached the broader international community of the CCP’s repressive policy, including both the camps and the coercive methods used against Muslim minorities.  Sayragul and her family received asylum in Sweden, where they now live.

Susanna Liew (Malaysia) Following the February 2017 abduction of her husband, Christian pastor Raymond Koh, allegedly by state agents, Susanna Liew has fought on behalf of members of religious minorities who disappeared in Malaysia under similar circumstances—including Amri Che Mat, Joshua Hilmy, and Ruth Sitepu—or who face persecution for their beliefs.  Susanna actively pursued justice for her husband and others during the Malaysian Human Rights Commission’s (SUHAKAM) 2018-2019 public inquiry into enforced disappearances and continues to push the government to investigate these cases and prosecute those responsible.  Despite police harassment and death threats, she continues to advocate for her husband and others, not because of her faith or theirs, but because of their rights as Malaysians.  Susanna and Raymond founded Hope Community in 2004, a non-profit organization that works with the poor, needy, and marginalized.  She previously served as a school principal and educator.

Amaya Coppens (Nicaragua) Coppens is one of the leaders of the 19th of April Student Movement in Nicaragua. She participated in numerous protests against the Sandinista government and the violent, repressive tactics deployed by its security forces. In September 2018, she was abducted by Nicaraguan police from her residence after participating in a peaceful protest. She was released in June and continued to speak out against the regime in Nicaragua. She had the opportunity to repatriate to Belgium during her first captivity, but refused. On November 14, Coppens was imprisoned again when she and 12 other activists attempted to bring water to mothers of political prisoners on hunger strike. She and other political prisoners were released by the regime on December 30, 2019.

Jalila Haider (Pakistan) Known as the Iron Lady of Balochistan, Jalila Haider is a human rights attorney and founder of “We the Humans – Pakistan”, a non-profit organization to lift local communities by strengthening opportunities for vulnerable women and children. She specializes in defending women’s rights and provides free counseling and legal services to poverty-affected women. The first female attorney of her Hazara community, Haider led a peaceful hunger strike to recognize the right to life for the Hazara following a series of targeted attacks. Ms. Haider has taken up the cause of many other vulnerable communities. As Balochistan’s President of the Women Democratic Front and Balochistan’s branch of the Aurat (Woman’s) March, she fought against violence against women in public spaces, at work, and at home.

Amina Khoulani (Syria) Khoulani is a survivor of the Assad regime’s detention and torture centers, which have arbitrarily detained over 140,000 Syrians, and has dedicated her life to helping the families of forcibly disappeared Syrians.   A long-time civil society activist, she fled Syria in 2014 after her release from prison. She was imprisoned for six months for “peaceful activism” and her husband detained for two and a half years at the notorious Sadnaya Prison. They survived, but her three brothers died while in regime custody.  From this devastating experience, Khoulani rededicated her life to seeking information and justice for the families of the disappeared. She is a founding member of “Families for Freedom”, a women-led movement launched in 2017 by families who’s loved ones have been detained and disappeared in Syria. Forced from her home and country, living under constant threat as a refugee without government representation, she continues to advocate for human rights, democracy, and peace in Syria.

Yasmin al Qadhi (Yemen) After obtaining her journalism degree, Yasmin Al-Qadhi was one of the first women to write articles for local newspapers during the Arab Spring pro-democracy protests in Sanaa’a.  When the civil war broke out in Yemen in 2015, Yasmine and her sister Entisar established the Marib Girls Foundation.  Through the foundation, she works with senior army officials to combat child recruitment and obtained the military’s commitment to release any child recruited or detained.  She fostered support for women displaced by the conflict by coordinating with the local and international community.  She also raised awareness by co-producing a film about the negative effects of displacement on women and children. Yasmine still resides in Yemen, a tribal society where women are discouraged from working in public spaces. She is working to change social norms and has become a role model in her society.  Both at home and abroad, she encourages women’s empowerment and meaningful participation in civil society and the UN-led peace process.

Dr. Rita Nyampinga (Zimbabwe) Rita Nyampinga has been a human rights defender for more than 35 years, fighting for gender equality in the workplace since she joined a trade union in 1983.  She is also a trained mediator, and a mentor for girls and young women in leadership.  Her experiences during detention led her to form the Female Prisoners Support Trust to support women and children in detention and raise awareness of the appalling conditions they face. Dr. Nyampinga continues to serve on several boards including Women Coalition of Zimbabwe, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Women Academy on Political Leadership Excellence, and Women AIDS Support Network.  Her goal is to see a world that protects and respects the rights of prisoners through a just and fair legal system that is nondiscriminatory based on gender.  In 2010 she became the Social and Economic Justice Ambassador for Zimbabwe’s Coalition on Debt and Development.  Dr. Nyampinga won the Female Human Rights Activist of the Year in 2014 from Alpha Media House.

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2020 International Women of Courage Award Recipients Announced

ICJ Report on freedom of information in South East Asia especially on-line

December 23, 2019

Malaysian cartoonist Zunar helps launch a report by the International Commission of Jurists at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand.  (Photo by Osama Motiwala/ICJ))
Malaysian cartoonist Zunar helps launch a report by the International Commission of Jurists at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand.  (Photo by Osama Motiwala/ICJ))

On 16 December 2019 Dave Kendall wrote in the Bankok Post about the International Commission of Jurists(ICJ), having released a report called Dictating the internet: Curtailing free expression, opinion and information online in Southeast Asia. The report was presetned at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand, where some of the human rights defenders featured in the case studies participated in a panel discussion. The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/18/fight-through-cartoons-zunar/] drew a cartoon live on stage; it showed a government figure placing handcuffs around the two ‘O’s in the word Google.

The ICJ has a slightly different take from other non-governmental organisations that seek to protect freedom of speech. For the ICJ, the law is both the problem and the solution: Southeast Asian governments use existing laws and draft new ones to stifle dissent, violating international statutes upholding freedom of expression that they themselves have signed onto. The report calls for governments in Southeast Asia to “repeal, amend or otherwise rectify existing legal and regulatory frameworks to bring them in line with their international obligations” — and argues that “legislation framed in human rights terms is also the best and most effective way to protect against the very real threats posed by the spread of hate speech, disinformation online, cyber-attacks and other cybercrimes.

From left: ICJ director of Asia and the Pacific Frederick Rawski, Myanmar surgeon Ma Thida, human rights defender Sutharee Wannasiri, Singaporean activist Jolovan Wham and Malaysian cartoonist Zunar (Photo by Dave Kendall)

“It’s not a pretty picture,Frederick Rawski, ICJ director of Asia and the Pacific told the forum. “Laws are used to harass and threaten human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and others…New legal frameworks are being seen as an opportunity to consolidate and protect political power.” Corporations, too, have joined the party. “Businesses are using strategic lawsuits to avoid criticism, claiming they are protecting their businesses interests,Sutharee Wannasiri told the audience. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/04/international-civil-society-week-3-human-rights-defenders-engaging-business/]. The human rights activist is out on bail.

Governments have often cited vague concepts of “national security” and “public order” to justify using disproportionate means to shut down opposing views, sometimes even when privately expressed. “I was sentenced to 23 years in prison in 1993,” said Dr Ma Thida, a Myanmar surgeon, writer, and human rights activist. “The first charge was ‘endangering national serenity’.” She said the use of speech-suppressing colonial-era laws such as the National Secrets Act has actually increased since Aung San Suu Kyi joined the Myanmar government.

Governments across Southeast Asia vary in the subtlety — or otherwise — they employ in using the law to stifle dissent. “The police were very nice to me,” recalled Jolovan Wham, a Singaporean civil and labour rights activist [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/24/human-rights-defender-jolovan-wham-in-singapore-sentenced-ngos-dismayed/]. “They asked me, ‘Is the room too cold? Would you like some biscuits?’ Singapore introduced its Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act this year. “Singapore has a very good PR machine… they use democratic processes for authoritarian ends,” said Mr Wham. “They made a show of democratic consultation to justify this repressive law.

The ICJ report was welcomed by Sutawan Chanprasert, the founder of DigitalReach, a new organisation campaigning to protect digital rights in Southeast Asia. “The report shows that while technology gives more opportunities for people to express themselves on social media, the state is moving to control the online space too,” she told the Bangkok Post. “Under repressive ‘fake news’ laws, any content can be interpreted as ‘fake’, ‘false’ and ‘misleading’. And tech has provided a new kind of threat to freedom of expression– digital surveillance of political dissidents.

Human Rights Day 10 December 2019: an anthology

December 11, 2019

International Human Rights Day, 10 December 2019, was celebrated or observed all around the world and there is no way to report on every event. Stil to add flavour here a selection of some 14 smaller and bigger events – for more details follow the links provided (and for last year’s anthology see references at the end):

There was of course the annual statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet Rightly, these young people are pointing out that it is their future which is at stake, and the future of all those who have not yet even been born. It is they who will have to bear the full consequences of the actions, or lack of action, by the older generations who currently run governments and businesses, the decision-makers on whom the future of individual countries, regions and the planet as whole depends…We have a duty to ensure young people’s voices are heard. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948, was a firm commitment by States to protect the rights of everyone – and that includes making it possible for future generations to uphold human dignity, equality and rights…..Climate harms will not be halted by national borders – and reactions based on hostile nationalism, or short-term financial considerations, will not only fail: they will tear our world apart. The struggles for climate justice and human rights are not a political quarrel. This is not about left or right: it is about rights – and wrongs… We need to mobilise across the world – peacefully and powerfully – to advance a world of rights, dignity and choice for everyone. The decision-makers understood that vision very clearly in 1948. Do they understand it now? I urge world leaders to show true leadership and long-term vision and set aside narrow national political interests for the sake of everyone, including themselves and all their descendants.

Pakistan: Human Rights Defenders asked the government to make serious efforts to provide fundamental rights. Human rights, labour rights and civil society activists called upon the government to make serious efforts for the provision of fundamental human rights and freedoms, especially the freedoms of association and expression, enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Addressing a joint press conference at the Karachi Press Club to mark International Human Rights Day, PILER joint director Zulfiqar Shah, human rights activists Naghma Shaikh and Saeed Baloch representing the Sindh Human Rights Defenders Network said the government should ensure the restoration of the freedom of expression and the freedom to association. They demanded that the government should bring in a law to protect the rights of human rights defenders as they stood up for the voiceless people…. They also demand fully restoring the freedom of expression, as it was a constitutional right of the people to express their thought. Access to the information right must be ensured, they said.

India: Activists say NHRC urgently needs to protect human rights defenders. The National Human Rights Commission should proactively protect the rights of ‘human rights defenders’, said activists at the national convention on rights of Dalit and Adivasi rights defenders in the capital on Tuesday. Human Rights Defenders appealed to the commission to proactively intervene in cases where the works of Dalit and Adivasi organisations were being obstructed. Activists said there were a growing attack on human rights defenders in India and said the need of the hour was collective action….On Human Rights Day, the convention highlighted the importance of the work of human rights defenders. Despite the country having national human rights institutions and over 160 state human rights institutions dealing with human rights, women, children, minorities, SCs, STs, right to information, persons with disabilities, and safai-karamcharis, these institutions have often failed to protect the human rights defenders, activists said. In addition to the usual challenges, women human rights defenders face gender-specific violations, such as rape and sexual violence which are used as tools for harassment, said activists. Caste discrimination has also presented a greater danger for women rights defenders belonging to the Dalit and Adivasi communities.

Cambodia: The Khmer Times reported that very differing opinions on the status of human rights in the Kingdom became apparent as various groups marked Human Rights Day at two venues in the capital. About 400 government officials and youth group members marked the day’s 71st anniversary at the Cambodia-Korea Cooperation Centre, while about 2,000 unionists and members of the public marked the day at Freedom Park.

Keo Remy, president of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, at the CKCC said the government has always paid attention to the rights of citizens. “Our leaders prioritise peace and stability,” Mr Remy said. “Youths can make the country chaotic because of the words democracy and human rights. That is why we focus on youths and stability.” while..

Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, at Freedom Park said respecting the rights of workers has decreased over the years and it is a source of concern for many. “We see that respecting workers’ rights has decreased – investors do not pay attention to workers,” Mr Thorn said. “Investors need to consider the rights of workers.” He said garment factory workers are faced with decreasing salaries, overtime work, discrimination, short-term contracts, violence and imprisonment. The Cambodian Centre for Human Rights in a statement said the government has taken action to curb issues surrounding human rights, but it has not done enough. “We call on the government to encourage the celebration of Human Rights Day in Cambodia and acknowledge the benefit human rights have on society as a whole,” it said. “We implore the government to cease all arbitrary action and targetting of human rights defenders.” The CCHR also called for the charges against two former Radio Free Asia journalists and Kem Sokha to be dropped.

Palestine: the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association reported that Palestinians marked International Human Rights Day following a year of nonstop violence and widespread human rights violations by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), against the Palestinian population used, as a form of collective punishment and a method to control Palestinian society. These consistent and systematic policies by the occupation include, extrajudicial executions and issuance of discriminatory legislations, mass arrests campaigns, torture, administrative detention, and medical negligence against Palestinian political prisoners…..In 2019, the (IOF) continued its crackdown and repression of human rights defenders. Currently, Addameer faces gag orders against around 40 of the cases they represent, who are in interrogation. The gag order prohibits us from releasing any information to the public regarding their detention status, or face grave consequences.

Philippines: Groups under the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (Ecuvoice) has submitted its first wave of reports on the human rights situation in the Philippines to United Nations Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Monday, Dec. 9. This is in line with Resolution 41/2 which was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in July this year. “With the intensifying transgressions on the Filipinos people’s political rights and civil liberties, we are participating in this report-making process of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to pursue justice and accountability,” the convenor of Ecuvoice, Edita Burgos, said.

while

the international trade union movement was using international human rights day to call attention to the alarming attacks on human and labour rights defenders in the Philippines. The government’s targeting of trade unionists has been ramped up recently with fresh waves of arrests and violence. The international trade union movement is united in calling on the government to stop the attacks. The government is targeting labour activists through a practice known as red-tagging. By falsely identifying people who speak out against the government as associated to armed militia groups, the government purposely targets them with harassment and arrests and exposes them to violence and even murder….The International Labour Organization (ILO) has resolved to send a High-Level Tripartite Mission to the Philippines to investigate the human rights situation, but despite the urgency, the government has yet to receive the Mission. The international labour movement is undertaking solidarity events across the world to demand an end to the human rights abuses and the targeting of trade unionists. The ITUC has requested to meet with the representative of the Philippines to the EU on Human Rights Day and has outlined three key demands.

Turkey. Amnesty International Turkey and MetroPOLL Strategic and Social Research Center have jointly conducted a Survey on Perception of Human Rights. The results of the survey have shown that when they hear the expression of “human rights”, 65.2 percent of the participants think of “right to life” first. While “freedom of expression” comes to the minds of 33.5 percent, the right to a fair trial ranks third with 22.1 percent. According to the survey participated by 2,651 people from 28 cities and conducted in a face-to-face manner, 82.1 percent of the society think that fundamental rights and freedoms are violated in Turkey. Of these people, 58 percent say that fundamental rights are occasionally violated and 42 percent say that they are frequently violated. 62.6 percent of the participants are of the opinion that fundamental rights and freedoms are restricted in Turkey. While 72 percent of the young participants think that fundamental rights and freedoms are restricted, this rate falls as the age of the participant gets older. For more detials see the full report.

China:  posted an interesting piece in China Digital Times on how the Chinese government defends if record on human rights and how others see this. Here one excerpt out of manY:

On Tuesday, International Human Rights Day, spokesperson Hua Chunying mounted a familiar defense of China’s rights record at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ regular press conference …and went on to note that the MoFA and State Council Information Office would host the “2019 South-South Human Rights Forum” this week “with a view to adding new dimensions and injecting impetus into exchange and cooperation in the field of human rights.” ….. At Hong Kong Free Press, the Uyghur Human Rights Project’s Omer Kanat commented on the ‘South-South Human Rights Forum’ hailed by Hua Chunying,…… Among the enablers of Xi Jinping’s repression are states with disreputable recor[ds attracted to a possible exemption from universal standards that ‘human rights with Chinese characteristics’ affords. And again, if we could freely ask the populations who reside in these states how they feel about such a concept, there would be few advocates. Therefore, on Human Rights Day, we have a responsibility to defend those who defend universal values and be clear ‘never again’ has meaning. There is injustice everywhere and we must fight it. Uyghurs are among them, for example, the imprisoned Ilham Tohti, and in exile , Nury Turkel, Rushan Abbas, and Gulchehra Hoja, whose families have been detained and disappeared in East Turkestan because of their advocacy. The second ‘South-South Human Rights Forum’ is opening in Shanghai for this year’s Human Rights Day. The dangerous fiction of the ‘Beijing Declaration’ that there are exceptions to the universality of rights should be firmly resisted.

Afghanistan ‘Human Rights’ should be more focused during peace talks. MENAFN (Afghanistan Times) reported that UN Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, Tadamichi Yamamoto, in a gathering has expressed concerns regarding the human rights achievements, saying that these gains should be saved in the ongoing negotiation with the Taliban. He called on the National Security Council to consider perseverance of human and civil rights in talks with the Taliban, adding ‘Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission’s role is very important in the peace process, every voice that raise should be heard and rights of the victims should be observed.‘.. Moreover, head of AIHRC, Shaharzad Akbar has called on the Taliban to legislatively recognize the values of human rights. …There are massive concerns about the violation of achievements of human rights and freedom of speech in the peace negotiation with the Taliban militants. The Taliban has back in 1990 ruled Afghanistan with the sever restriction on girls and school students. The cultural Taboos and less freedom of women are one of the other key issues that have brought sever concerns from Afghan and foreign officials.

The NGO WITNESS used the occasion to publish its ANNUAL REPORT which looks at key successes from July 2018-June 2019 (fiscal year 2019). See the video clip:

Malaysia. “What happened to Harapan’s vow to improve human rights?” asks Jasmine Cho in an open letter:…’When Pakatan Harapan won a dramatic victory in the GE14 elections, they vowed to steer the country forward with human rights as one of their top priorities. However, since their win, we have seen a heavy regression in the area. The kind of regression that has gotten us worried about our present and our future as a modern, fair, and humane nation. From the Suaram 2019 report, several areas of abuse were glaring. One was the treatment of prisoners. The government has yet to abolish the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, the Prevention of Crime Act 2015 and the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985……….The list of human rights abuse is getting longer and the frustration we feel with our government is reaching boiling point. Malaysia is considered a modern and democratic country, so why are we so far behind when it comes to human rights? The government should stop pandering to the religious majority and stop focusing on external matters. The rights of the rakyat are being abused.

Netherlands/Sri Lanka. The Dutch Ambassador Gonggrijp spoke at an event for Human Rights Day 2019 organized by Equal Grounds Sri Lanka saying inter alia:

Sri Lanka has recently known a long period of conflict, during which human rights were under pressure. The reconciliation process after the end of the war has been slow. And I hear people say: what is the point of looking back, let’s move forward. To my opinion it is about recognition and human dignity. To that respect we should also recognize the progress that has been made: the Office on Missing Persons has been mandated to restore the rights of every Sri Lankan of any background, language or religion, to know what happened to their loved ones. And the work of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission, as an independent entity, mirrors the country’s commitment to uphold human rights and civil freedoms. The Netherlands supports this and stands ready to help Sri Lankan institutions like these with capacity building and technical expertise…..

The policy of Netherlands is aimed at 1) abolishing the criminalization of homosexuality, 2) opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and 3) achieving wider social acceptance of gay people. In the Netherlands we have taken the first step of decriminalization a long time ago, but we are also still working on stopping discrimination and promoting acceptance. As I hope Sri Lanka will also take this first step in the near future, I also recognize that this will not solve all issues the LGBTI community is facing. It is key to inform people about the rights they have, regardless of their sexual orientation. To empower them to take responsibility, stand up or seek justice. It is also key to educate and make people from outside the community aware of the harassment and discrimination that people from the LGBTI community face. In order to also empower them to show solidarity and to take action if necessary. Every form of emancipation has been and still is a struggle. It starts with a ‘fight for your rights’. This is why this initiative of Equal Ground is so important, because – and allow me to quote again:

Mongolia / EU: Montsame reported that on the occasion of International Human Rights Day the Delegation of the European Union to Mongolia together with the Embassies of France and Italy presented European Union Human Rights Defenders’ Award (a national award!) to nine people, who are making their efforts to human rights protection…..Unfortunately, we are still observing human rights violations in many countries, especially gender and racial discrimination and discrimination in sexual orientation. Therefore, the EU Delegation to Mongolia, the Embassies of France and Italy and the Embassies of other countries are showing respect to human rights activists in Mongolia. Protection of human rights is one of main principles of the European Union, which defines its internal, and foreign policies and it is belonged to everyone. We will ever protect and encourage the people who endeavor for human rights, “ Ambassador of the European Union to Mongolia Traian Laurentiu Hristea said at the opening of the award presenting ceremony. The Ambassador also highlighted that the event will be traditionally held in the future.

MEXICO An indigenous activist who documented and denounced abuse committed by the military in Guerrero is this year’s winner of the National Human Rights Prize. Obtilia Eugenio Manuel was awarded the prize at Tuesday’s presidential press conference by National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) president Rosario Piedra Ibarra. The human rights chief said that among the military abuses that have been documented by Eugenio are the forced sterilization, sexual assault and sexual torture of indigenous women. Piedra also said the activist has received numerous threats and noted that she was abducted for four days earlier this year. ..“We don’t want one more rapist in our way,” Eugenio said, making a reference to the Chilean feminist anthem that has been performed around the world in recent weeks. Also at Tuesday’s press conference, Piedra recognized the human rights work of Margarito Díaz González and presented an award to his widow, Modesta Chávez de la Rosa. A former member of the Wirikuta security council and an advocate for environmental and indigenous rights, Díaz was murdered in Nayarit last year. Piedra recalled that the activist opposed the construction of a dam and other projects in San Luis Potosí and the development of Canadian-owned mines on sacred sites of the Huichol people.

 


If you are interested to compare with last year, see:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/10/human-rights-day-2018-just-an-anthology/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/11/human-rights-day-2018-anthology-part-ii/

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http://bianet.org/english/human-rights/216920-82-1-percent-of-society-think-that-fundamental-rights-and-freedoms-are-violated
https://chinadigitaltimes.net/2019/12/china-defends-record-on-international-human-rights-day/
https://menafn.com/1099401711/Afghanistan-Human-Rights-should-be-more-focused-during-peace-talks
https://ar2019.witness.org/
https://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/503280
https://www.netherlandsandyou.nl/latest-news/news/2019/12/11/human-rights-day-2019
https://akipress.com/news:630675:EU_Human_Rights_Award_presented_to_nine_people_in_Mongolia/
https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/human-rights-prize-winner-documented-abuse-by-military/

FIGHT THROUGH CARTOONS – ZUNAR

July 18, 2019

Zunar’s latest book (July 2019), entitled Fight through Cartoons: My Story of Harassment, Intimidation & Jail (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2019) is a stark departure from his previous books. Indeed, this is not a collection of cartoons, but a narration of his creative process, a reflection on the impact of his cartoons, as well as a contemplation of his journey as a political cartoonist in Malaysia, particularly during the critical political era between 2009 and 2019. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/04/satire-as-a-weapon-malaysian-cartoonists-showed-the-way/]

Organized in a chronological manner, this book presents the development of the artist’s works on the background of the important events, issues and political crises that have influenced his creativity.. threats, intimidation and imprisonment, for himself and his assistants; arrests; the confiscation of his books; the rummaging of his office by the authorities; pressure placed on his publisher and printer; as well as the mental and physical attacks led by supporters of the previous government on his exhibitions, his works and his person.

Starting with an introductory chapter about Malaysian politics by Sukhbir Cheema, the writer, cartoonist and co-founder of Eksentrika who helped Zunar to publish this book, readers are exposed to important issues in Malaysia such as the history of government, laws related to the media and publication, such as the Printing Presses and Publication Act and the Sedition Act, self-censorship as well as the Malaysian political background as the context of Zunar’s works and its impact on freedom of speech in this country…

In the following chapters, Zunar describes his creative process in detail by focusing on the publication of several political cartoon magazines with his cartoonist friends, such as Gedung Kartun (2009); Perak Darul Kartun (2009);and Isu Dalam Kartun (2010)as well as his major books 1 Funny Malaysia (2009); Cartoon-O-Phobia (2010); Even My Pen Has A Stand! (2011); Pirates of the Carry-BN (2012); The Conspiracy to Imprison Anwar (2014); Lawak & Lawan (2012); Ini-Kartun’Lah(2013); Ros in Kangkong Land (2015); Wasabi (2016); Sapuman: Man of Steal (2015); and his most popular book to date,  Ketawa Pink Pink (2018) Beforehand, he briefly mentions his previous jobs, revealing that he once worked as a construction labourer, a factory worker and a laboratory assistant in a government hospital before finding success as a political cartoonist.

……the book describes in detail how each of his cartoons and books became controversial as a result of actions taken by the authorities, who stopped their distribution and their sale, despite early titles such as Gedung Kartun (2009) having received permission to be published by the Home Ministry. His other books have received the same treatment, because his cartoons expose the corruption scandals that are rampant in the country, involving in particular former Prime Minister Najib Razak and his extravagantly rich wife Rosmah Mansor. They also touched on critical issues such as the mysterious death of opposition activist Teoh Beng Hock; Anwar Ibrahim’s imprisonment; the murder of Altantuya, and the 1MDB scandal. Zunar’s cartoons have been considered a threat to public order. They were therefore declared illegal and he was dragged to the police station, detained, sentenced in court and thrown into jail. All of this is described carefully by Zunar in this book…Just as he is detailed and systematic in his creative process, Zunar also adopts the same attitude to overcome all the threats and obstacles he and his assistants had to face as a result of his cartoons. Just as he prepared his cartoons carefully, he also prepared his strategy and faced each arrest with calm, contacting his friends in the media in order to publicize his arrests, especially through the Internet and the social media. Zunar’s case shows the importance and power of the Internet and social media to influence the new political scenario in a global world, and in this country. Zunar’s strategy can serve as a guide for any cartoonists, writers or artists facing similar threats and situations.

Zunar’s philosophy is captured in the sentence: “How can I be neutral?  Even my pen has a stand”…..Zunar’s book also shows that he is not alone in his fight. His assistants, his friends, his supportive wife, his lawyers, the media, international cartoonist associations and his faithful supporters from all around the world have all contributed to Zunar’s success and played a role in his “fight through cartoons”.

The book can be purchased here.

FIGHT THROUGH CARTOONS – A book with historical fight and smartly cartooning strategy

Cartooning in the doldrums? Cartooning Award 2019 seeks nominations!

June 19, 2019

Last week the New York Times announced that it would no longer carry [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/10/business/international-new-york-times-political-cartoons.html] political cartoons in its international edition. The outcry was loud but also accompanied by other voices such as on 16 June 2019 “The point is that globalisation and information technology have changed the business of cartooning. Cartoonists wedded to the old-school, in-house ways of the 20th century can throw tantrums about free speech as much as they like. If they do not recognise the way the world has changed – and is changing – then they will be left behind as their profession moves forward. History is not on their side. Just as 18th-century copperplate engravings were replaced by lithograph prints, and standalone caricatures were replaced by cartoons in 19th-century humour magazines, and they in turn by 20th-century newspaper cartoons, the web cartoon has well and truly arrived in the 21st century.“[http://theconversation.com/the-new-york-times-ends-daily-political-cartoons-but-its-not-the-death-of-the-art-form-118754]

In the meantime, Cartoonists Rights Network International seeks nominations for its twenty-fourth Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award. Read the rest of this entry »

George Clooney: one man shows also carry risks..

May 14, 2019

I mentioned in a positive way George Clooney’s action in the human rights area, recently re Brunei [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/04/brunei-back-to-the-middle-ages-will-hotel-boycott-work/]. I believe his ‘instincts’ are good but there is always a danger with basically a ‘one-person’ outfit that there is insuffcient networking/research and that individual words trump wise statements. Michael Taylor for Reuters reports on 14 May 2019 that “George Clooney misfires among LGBT+ activists over ‘warning shot’ to Brunei neighbours“.  The key issue is that some Indonesian and Malaysian human rights defenders think that their countries – which have a modicum of democratic process compared to Brunei – should not be tarred with the same brush.

Oscar-winning actor George Clooney was criticised by LGBT+ activists after he called a boycott of luxury hotels owned by Brunei a “warning shot” to Indonesia and Malaysia should they consider introducing similar anti-gay laws.  “It sends a warning shot over to countries like Indonesia and Malaysia – who are also considering these laws – that the business people, the big banks, those guys are going to say ‘don’t even get into that business’.

But Clooney’s remarks sparked an online backlash as critics and regional LGBT+ activists pointed out major differences between Brunei and its Islamic neighbours. “I call on George Clooney and Hollywood to listen and work together with local activists and human rights defenders on the ground,” Numan Afifi, president of the LGBT+ advocacy PELANGI Campaign in Malaysia, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Local activists have been putting their lives at risk on the ground working, for years,” Afifi said. “His statement, while well-meaning, might also be counterproductive for our case.”

Dede Oetomo, one of Indonesia’s most prominent LGBT+ activists and founder of LGBT+ rights group GAYa NUSANTARA, also questioned Clooney’s comments. “Malaysia and Indonesia are larger entities and have some democratic processes that although not perfect, they work,” Oetomo said. “Pressure from within is more possible in both countries, though it is frustratingly slow and protracted.”

http://news.trust.org//item/20190514105512-1ox5t/

 

Profile of human rights defender Rizal Rozhan from Malaysia.

May 12, 2019

Interview with Rizal Rozhan, Advocacy and Capacity-Builder Officer of EMPOWER in Malaysia, published by ISHR back in December 2018.

On 26 April Numan Afifi must report to the police in Malaysia – smells like reprisal

April 24, 2019

On 16 April 2019, human rights defender Numan Afifi was asked by the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) to present himself on 26 April at the federal police headquarters in Bukit Aman in relation to an investigation into a speech that he had delivered at the United Nations in Geneva last month.

According to the information received from  Front Line Defenders, Numan Afifi is a human rights defender who has advocated for LGBT+ rights in Malaysia. He has actively contributed to issues ranging from democracy to HIV advocacy through his involvement in the Pelangi Campaign, the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs in the UPR Process (COMANGO) and Challenger.

On 16 April 2019, the human rights defender was contacted by an inspector from the Classified Crimes Investigation Unit, which investigates cases that fall under the Sedition Act. Numan Afifi has been asked to present himself at the federal police headquarters in Bukit Aman on 26 April 2019 to provide a statement regarding a speech presented at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva during the Consideration of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Outcome of Malaysia on 14 March 2019. The human rights defender has not been told whether the police investigation concerns his speech alone or if other civil society organisations present at the conference are involved as well. To date, no official charges have been lodged against him.

In Geneva, Numan Afifi read out a statement on the situation of LGBT+ rights in Malaysia. The statement, which was a response to Malaysia’s UPR submission, had been prepared by a coalition of 12 Malaysian organisations working on gender identity and sexual orientation. It commended the government on its acceptance of one of the recommendations regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, and raised concerns about the rejection of the other 10. The statement also called for the government and civil society to have a dialogue on sexual orientation and gender identity.

[On 17 April 2019, a smear campaign has been launched against him by pro-government groups on social media, alleging that the statement he had presented at the UN conference contained inaccurate information. The human rights defender is being pressured to retract his claims regarding the existence of state-sponsored violence against LGBT+ people in Malaysia. In June 2017, Numan Afifi was barraged with online criticism, harassment and death threats after organising a “gay breaking fast” event during the month of Ramadan to show solidarity to the LGBT+ community.]

For some of many posts on reprisals: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/numan-afifi-summoned-questioning-police-over-speech-delivered-un

Satire as a weapon: Malaysian cartoonists showed the way

April 4, 2019

Having blogged about cartoonists as human rights defenders (se e.g.https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/05/19/urgent-award-winning-cartoonist-zunar-threats-malaysia-support/), it is a pleasure to refer to a long piece in CNN  written by James Griffiths on 29th March 2019: “The cartoonists who helped take down a Malaysian prime minister”. The story is enriched by many of the cartoons that landed the cartoonists in trouble.
For Malaysians, the figure pictured (below) is instantly recognizable as Rosmah Mansor, wife of disgraced former Prime Minister Najib Razak and — according to prosecutors in the US and Malaysia — a modern day Imelda Marcos who accrued luxury goods worth millions of dollars using money embezzled from the state investment fund, 1MDB.
A cartoon of former Malaysian first lady Rosmah Mansor by Zunar is seen in a gallery in Kuala Lumpur.

A cartoon of former Malaysian first lady Rosmah Mansor by Zunar is seen in a gallery in Kuala Lumpur. Credit: James Griffiths/CNN
Zunar‘s work welcomes visitors to “Democracy in Action,” a recent exhibition that would have been impossible to stage only a year ago.
Malaysian cartoonist Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque, popularly known as Zunar, poses with handcuffs prior to a book-launch event in Kuala Lumpur on February 14, 2015.
Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, poses with handcuffs prior to a book-launch event in Kuala Lumpur on February 14, 2015. Credit: MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
..Just last year, it seemed almost certain that Zunar would end up in prison. A number of his books had been banned, and while his work was still widely shared online, the artist faced multiple charges of sedition and committing acts deemed “detrimental to parliamentary democracy.” Unknown assailants attacked him at a gallery show, police seized his works and he was banned from leaving the country. Then, in a shock election result, a coalition of opposition parties turfed Najib out of office, promising to clamp down on corruption and reverse the country’s turn toward authoritarianism. Now Zunar is watching as his the political figures who were once his nemeses and muses face decades behind bars themselves — in part because artists like him helped bring attention to their alleged corruption and disdain for the rule of law. “The medium of cartooning is (a) very powerful medium,” Zunar told CNN at his small studio in a Kuala Lumpur suburb. “Everywhere, in any country you go, (cartoonists) get killed. Cartoonists, get arrested, put in jail everywhere because of the medium.
Fellow artist Fahmi Reza, who also faced prosecution under Najib, said this is partly because of cartoons’ unique ability to poke fun at those in power. “Using satire and humor is effective because it breaks the fear barrier,” he said in a phone interview. “People had always been afraid to speak out. The culture of fear is always there; the culture of self-censorship is always there. That’s where satire and humor can be the most effective tool, it makes people less afraid.
In June 2016, Fahmi Reza was charged with two counts of violating section 233(1) of the Communications and Multimedia Act, which forbids disseminating online content deemed to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass others. Fahmi had depicted Najib as a clown with big red lips and arched, thick eyebrows. The image quickly caught on with Malaysians sick of the widespread allegations of corruption, and it soon became a common sight at anti-government protests.
A caricature of Malaysian Prime Minister by artist Fahmi Reza. The artwork almost landed Fahmi in prison.
A caricature of Malaysian Prime Minister by artist Fahmi Reza. The artwork almost landed Fahmi in prison. Credit: MOHD RASFAN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Like Zunar, Fahmi had a record of trouble with the authorities. ….. “One sign that whatever you’re doing is effective is when the authorities and people in power react,” he added. “If they ignore it, then there’s no impact. That’s how the whole clown thing became a symbol of protest — because of the overreaction by the authorities.
Both cartoonists’ arrests made international headlines, helping to highlight Najib’s growing authoritarianism to the outside world. Protesters also delighted in using the caricatures of Najib and Rosmah on posters and placards after it was revealed how much the artists had irritated them. As Malaysia’s opposition grew ever more determined to oust Najib — with many observers warning that 2016’s general election might be their last chance to do so — the government passed new legislation to control what people could say about it.
Activists hold up caricatures of Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor (center). Political art became a key tool of protest in Malaysia during Najib's rule.

Activists hold up caricatures of Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor (center). Political art became a key tool of protest in Malaysia during Najib’s rule. Credit: MOHD RASFAN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
In early 2018, it introduced a new law to crack down on “fake news” that critics said was so broadly defined that it could easily be used to shut down and criminalize criticism of Najib.
Eventually however, the wave of dissent was too great for Najib to overcome. ….Since Najib’s downfall, charges against Zunar and Fahmi have been dropped, though the latter is still fighting to have an earlier conviction overturned. Both men said that, while they felt considerably freer under the new government, true reform has yet to be delivered.
For some other posts on cartoons, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/cartoons/