Posts Tagged ‘Martin Ennals Award’

Report of MEA’s 25thAnniversary event: Human Rights in a Changing World (30 May 2018)

August 1, 2018

And here is finally the Discussion Summary (in full) of the Martin Ennals Award 25thAnniversary event “Human Rights in a Changing World” [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/05/24/mea-at-25-high-level-anniversary-panel-looks-at-human-rights-in-crisis/].  

 Introduction

On 30 May 2018, the Martin Ennals Foundation convened a meeting of leaders of the ten organizations that make up the Martin Ennals Jury, together with some former MEA laureates, to discuss current human rights priority issues. This, the first such meeting, took place in the context of the 25thanniversary of the Martin Ennals Award for human rights defenders.  The document below attempts to capture the main elements discussed and draws some conclusions.

Discussion

Three issues were scheduled to serve as the agenda:  (1) influencing authoritarians, (2) countering populism, and (3) effective human rights action. We focus on the five main points raised throughout the discussion.

  1. Human rights are increasingly the target of populist and/or authoritarian leaders as they demonize “others” to build support;

Not all authoritarians are populists, and not all populists are authoritarians. The initial discussion looked at the phenomenon of populists who build support by using messages and approaches that give cause for major human rights concerns.  Populist leaders who end up trampling human rights are often those most eager to remove constraints on their own power by weakening the institutions that can challenge them: the judiciary, media, parliaments, and civil society, especially Human Rights Defenders (HRDs).

Authoritarians are increasingly willing to stand up for their approaches, using justifications such as the need for economic development, the rejection of “Western” or “liberal” models, or the protection of national identity.  This is the case for countries where the population have little say in the choice of their leaders (e.g. China); nominal say (e.g.  Russia or Venezuela); or even where the population can vote freely (e.g. Hungary or USA).

The blaming or demonization of marginalised groups is a principal tool in the authoritarians’ arsenal. These groups can include religious or ethnic minorities, or even the targeting of criminals by extrajudicial means. But currently overshadowing all is the way that irregular immigrants have become the focus especially in Europe and the US of attempts to find a scapegoat for the problems that preoccupy the wider population.

The concerns among the population that provide the breeding ground for authoritarian leaders to reject more traditional democratic politics are linked to a variety of issues in the spheres of economic insecurity and law and order, as well as cultural displacement and loss of identity.  Populists have tapped into these concerns, but rather than looking at the deeper complexities they have created resonance with simple, compelling messages that appeal to emotion more than to reason.

The manner in which populists have built support by attacking marginalised groups includes a discourse to deny them certain basic rights. Statements that in the past were seen as reminiscent of fascism and thus politically unacceptable are now part of the political dialogue and supported or at least ‘accepted’  in many countries that were considered “liberal democracies”. Regardless of who is in power, suggesting denial of basic rights to certain groups is now common currency even in many democracies.

Immigration, and in particular “uncontrolled” or “illegal” immigration, is a particular target for populist leaders.  Human rights advocates who stand up for these people’s rights are now more easily accused of working against the national interest. Disconcertingly, blaming such an identifiable “other” time and again appears a simple but effective tool. Politicians focusing on complex causes face an uphill battle. Human rights organizations trying to protect the “other” may find their messages not just ineffective, but providing arguments for populists to use against them.

The result is that human rights, and human rights activists and organizations, are seen by significant numbers of people in many countries as serving effectively to support those who threaten their livelihood, safety and cultural values. Thus, human rights, as a concept, come under attack when associated with protecting “undesirables”.

While “human rights” as a concept may be easily misunderstood, or intentionally manipulated, views tend to be more supportive once specific rights are acknowledged and advanced. This applies particularly to a broad range of economic and social rights issues that resonate with a wider cross-section of the population: corruption, land rights, labour rights, and environmental degradation.  These issues tend to be underrepresented as human rights concerns and more effort should be made to show the connections. It was stressed that young people especially are willing to work on these issues.

A recurring theme in the discussion was that while there may be support for particular rights such as LGBT or land rights, this would not usually be translated into supporting the overarching human rights architecture in general. Messaging by human rights organizations often involves conceptual messages, which have been ineffective in the past. However, the new, and more dangerous, element is rather than just being ineffective, these messages can provide arguments in the opposite direction for populists.

The conclusion that presents itself is that those working on any particular topic will have to be much more aware of the wider context in which they work. While trying to draw attention onto specific issues, it is important to remain credible in the eyes of the wider public. This means that as human rights organizations decide where and how to focus their activities, the balance of issues worked on needs to be considered as part of the perception that the organization wants to build.

For those organizations with very specific mandates, and so a limited choice of issues to focus on, it is even more important to find approaches that do not provide arguments that can be used by those working against them.

  1. Naming and shaming needs to take into account that certain approaches can reinforce populist leaders

 

“Naming and shaming” has long been one of the main tools to press for human rights.  However, given the success of the populist messages, some leaders have been able to justify human rights violations and even use criticism to make their point to supporters. This is particularly so when the criticism associated human rights with the least “desirable”.

Even though authoritarians may feel no compunction to stand behind their methods or even boast about them, they still are sensitive to their reputations. They often mobilize significant resources to thwart or stop human rights defenders, which shows that they still think arguments in favour human rights are important enough to be dangerous for them.

There is no reason to conclude that public shaming is no longer effective, but it needs to be carefully tailored to each situation. Failure to do so can play directly into the hands of the authoritarian leader who may claim the criticism as a badge of honour. Populists are sensitive to being ridiculed; humour at their expense can be powerful. In any case the planned message needs to be carefully analysed to determine how the message could be used to their benefit by those it seeks to challenge.

Sanctions against Individuals

The use of personal sanctions and restrictions on autocrats and their cohorts is increasing and is found often to have considerable impact.   However, where this can trigger counter-measures it is important for unintended consequences such as reprisals against human rights defenders to be factored into the equation.

 

  1. Public communication

There was broad agreement about the importance of moving beyond the traditional ways of communicating human rights concerns and articulating advocacy. The human rights narrative mainly resonates with those most familiar with, and supportive of, the issues.  Messages are often legalistic and technical, limiting their appeal to a wider audience. In the current fractured political dialogue, when the objective is seen as supporting an “other” a new level of hostility can result.

The most effective communications are on issues that the recipient can identify with. This makes normative and conceptual work very hard to get the wider public people excited about. They are more likely to react to messages where they see themselves as potentially affected. This is what makes the demonization of “others” so effective.  Action against migrants or minorities does not strike people as something that can happen to them. Even when talking about civil and political rights, it is still possible to see the most serious violations such as torture and enforced disappearance as something that happens to others.

It may well be easier to mobilise people around social justice issues like corruption, land rights, labour rights, and pollution. There is a general sense that economic, social, and cultural rights are not sufficiently addressed. Countering populists will need messages in language that appeal to populist followers’ values, interests and indeed emotions. Here it is important to offer constructive solutions to move the debate forwards rather than condemning what is wrong. Furthermore, there is a need to work in alliance with broader elements of civil society such as social movements, and so tap into sources of wider support. Effective use of visual and social media is indispensable.

Dialogue with autocrats

Governments are not monoliths. There are different interests and views within autocratic states that can be utilized when dealing with them. It is important to weigh the trade-offs in any such interaction; while dialogue can be opened up it needs to be able to lead to action. There are risks that autocrats could use the fact of dialogue to legitimise their actions. At the same time, they may go along but with no intent to move forward – e.g. dialogue that only involves the foreign ministry is usually a sign that little will happen. As a rule, dialogue should go hand in hand with public communication that creates pressure. The ‘diplomacy’ must have a public component.

 

  1. Non-state actors/business and human rights

Non-state actors can play powerful roles influencing the state primarily for their own benefits, and so contributing directly or indirectly to infringement of human rights. The business sector, notably multinational enterprises, is considered a clear priority in this regard. Effective action to ensure compliance is still limited by gaps in normative rules; where such enterprises may be vulnerable to reputational risk, strengthened regulation should help ensure that they are competing on a level playing field.

There is a multitude of pressure- and leverage points. One that drew particular attention is the notion that the eventual cost to companies resulting from a lack of early engagement with the local population may be exponentially higher than had they consulted at the start. Involvement at the early planning process by all sides can reduce the risk of project failure or excessive costs later on. Other leverage points include banks/financial institutions, shareholder activism, and associated business partners such as suppliers who may have reputational concerns.

Overall, the thrust of engaging with the business sector in the sphere of human rights must be to shift the emphasis from focusing on transparency to seeking accountability.

 

  1. Supporting local action for human rights

Much of the discussion looked at recent changes in the West as to how human rights are viewed, whereas the global South continues to face the challenges it always has.  Furthermore, certain changes that originated in the West such as funding restrictions on political activity, and anti-terrorism legislation have inspired new methods to restricts human rights defenders  in countries with more structural human rights problems.

Reassuringly, experience shows that even in countries with structurally problematic human rights records there are networks of committed human rights activists. While they may be small in numbers, their commitment and drive allow them to keep human rights concerns on the agenda. Many of these activists feel unsupported when facing the resources, restrictions, and wrath of their own governments. However, this commitment to human rights by an engaged minority is a clear counterweight to populism and human rights abuses more widely.

Thus, a key message arising out of the discussion is the importance of supporting local activists and networks. Supporting them is a critical function of the international human rights movement. The work for human rights defenders cannot be seen in isolation from the causes they espouse, which in turn enables international human rights organisations to connect with broader social movements.

Rules vs implementation

While there may still be a need for developing norms and standards in certain areas (as with regard to business and human rights), the overall emphasis must increasingly be on implementation and enforcement of existing rules. This requires a more comprehensive approach that moves from identifying where norms are violated, to a systematic approach to keeping pressure on governments in question until there is change. This will involve increased coordination between international actors and those working locally.

 

In conclusion

Convening the leaders of all the MEA jury organizations together with former laureates was a first. It gave a unique opportunity to discuss the state of human rights and human rights action in today’s rapidly changing and increasingly contested world. The analysis differed in nuance only, the overall findings and conclusions had a large degree of consensus. While these outcomes may not in themselves offer ground-breaking new insights, that fact of the shared orientation and commitment is remarkable and encouraging in the face of the formidable challenges in front of us.

You can see and hear the public debate led by BBC’s Lyse Doucet on the MEA website: http://www.martinennalsaward.org (viewed by hundreds of people)

MEA reopens call for nominations due to change in cycle

March 14, 2018

Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders

The Martin Ennals Award (MEA) will change its annual award cycle starting with the next Laureate announcement and ceremony. In recent years, the three finalists have been announced in April and the ceremony announcing the Laureate has been held in October. The annual cycle will shift forward by four months. The next Laureate will be announced at the ceremony in February 2019. The three finalists will be announced in October/November 2018.

Thus, the MEA will be reopening nominations with a new deadline of 26 March 2018. Nominations already submitted for October 2018 will be considered for February 2019 and do not have to be resubmitted.

The new schedule will allow for better advocacy opportunities between the finalist and laureate announcements. It will also come just before the most important session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which is held in March.

This change occurs in year that the MEA is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Fo more on this and other awards see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/martin-ennals-award-for-human-rights-defenders

FORUM-ASIA 25th Anniversary Event in Geneva on 16 November 2016

November 7, 2016

 

flyer-web-geneva

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), together with the Martin Ennals Award and the Right Livelihood Award, will host a panel discussion on the 25th Anniversary of its founding and 10th Anniversary of its presence in Geneva, entitled 50 Years of the International Bill of Human Rights and 10 Years of the UN Human Rights Council – What does this mean for Asia?’,  on 16 November 2016 at 18:30 at the Ivan Pictet Auditorium, Maison de la Paix, in Geneva, Switzerland.

The panelists are:

– Jose Ramos-Horta (Laureate, Nobel Peace Prize)

– Ruth Manorama (Laureate, Right Livelihood Award) [http://www.rightlivelihoodaward.org/laureates/ruth-manorama/]

– Adilur Rahman Khan (Finalist, Martin Ennals Award) [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/bangladesh-human-rights-defender-adilur-accorded-more-awards/]

The panel discussion will be followed by a reception.

If you’re interested in attending, please register on l.forum-asia.org/GenevaRegistration

Source: FORUM-ASIA 25th Anniversary Event in Geneva, Switzerland (16 November 2016) « FORUM-ASIA

Apple tackles iPhone one-tap spyware flaws after MEA Laureate discovers hacking attempt

August 29, 2016

Ahmed Mansoor, the Laureate of the Martin Ennals Award 2015, was the target of a major hacking attempt. Fortunately it received global coverage on 26 and 27 August 2016 and Apple has immediately issued a security update to address the vulnerabilities. [For those with Iphones/Ipads, you may want to update your IOS software to 9.3.5!]


Ahmed MansoorImage copyrightAP – human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor

The flaws in Apple’s iOS operating system were discovered by Mansoor who alerted security researchers to unsolicited text messages he had received on 10 and 11 August. They discovered three previously unknown flaws within Apple’s code that meant spyware could be installed with a single tap. Apple has since released a software update that addresses the problem. The two security firms involved, Citizen Lab and Lookout, said they had held back details of the discovery until the fix had been issued.

The texts promised to reveal “secrets” about people allegedly being tortured in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s jails if he tapped the links. Had he done so, Citizen Lab says, his iPhone 6 would have been “jailbroken”, meaning unauthorised software could have been installed. “Once infected, Mansoor’s phone would have become a digital spy in his pocket, capable of employing his iPhone’s camera and microphone to snoop on activity in the vicinity of the device, recording his WhatsApp and Viber calls, logging messages sent in mobile chat apps, and tracking his movements,” said Citizen Lab. The researchers say they believe the spyware involved was created by NSO Group, an Israeli “cyber-war” company.

Text message
The spyware would have been installed if Mansoor had tapped on the links. Image copyright CITIZENLAB

For more on Mansoor: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/ahmed-mansoor/

Sources:

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-37185544

https://citizenlab.org/2016/08/million-dollar-dissident-iphone-zero-day-nso-group-uae/  (from the researchers who identified the vulnerabilities. Good summary followed by full technical analysis)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3758671/Apple-boosts-iPhone-security-Mideast-spyware-discovery.html

Russia: closing offices and attacking human rights defenders

March 17, 2016

An update on the situation human rights defenders in Russia is unfortunately needed too frequently. Recently the Martin Ennals Foundation condemned the attacks on its 2013 Laureate, the Joint Mobile Group (JMG) which is known for its courageous work in opening legal cases on behalf of victims of torture in Chechnya. On March 9th, they were travelling together with journalists and the group was physically attacked, their confidential notes stolen, and the vehicles they were in burned. Their offices in Ingushetia were also attacked. The international and local media have reported (see list at bottom of the post). This is part of an ongoing pattern of threats and intimidation directed against JMG.

Now, Human Rights Watch and others report that yesterday (16 March) Igor Kalyapin, head of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, one of the founders and participants of the Joint Mobile Group, was attacked as he was leaving his hotel in Grozny. They also pelted him with eggs, and threw flour and bright antiseptic liquid on him, which stained his face and clothes.  “The attack on Igor Kalyapin shows again that it’s open season on human rights defenders in Chechnya,” said Hugh Williamson, of Human Rights Watch. “The authorities’ utter failure to hold anyone to account for a series of vicious attacks in recent years is like a bright green light for further attacks.

Read the rest of this entry »

Martin Ennals Award: ceremony 2015 and nominations for 2016

October 1, 2015

Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders

Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders

  • For those wanting to submit candidates for the 2016 MEA, please note that the nominations deadline is one month earlier than in the past, i.e. 9 November 2015. Nominations can be submitted electronically at  www.martinennalsaward.org

The Jury of the Award is composed of the following NGOs:

OMCT

ISHR

International Commission of Jurists

HURIDOCS

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights First

Front Line Defenders

FIDH

EWDE Germany

Amnesty International

 

BREAKING NEWS: FINAL NOMINEES MARTIN ENNALS AWARD 2015 JUST ANNOUNCED

April 22, 2015


new MEA_logo with text

Being the award of the global human rights community (for Jury see below) today’s announcement (22 April 2015) deserves special attention:

The Final Nominees of Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders 2015 are:

Robert Sann Aung (Myanmar)

Since his first year of University in 1974, Robert Sann Aung has courageously fought against human rights abuses. He has been repeatedly imprisoned in harsh conditions, physically attacked as well as regularly threatened. His education was interrupted numerous times and he was disbarred from 1993 – 2012. In 2012 he managed to regain his license to practice law. Since then he has represented jailed child soldiers, those protesting at a contested copper mine, peaceful political protesters, those whose land has been confiscated by the military, as well as student activists. Throughout his career he has provided legal services, or just advice, often pro bono, to those whose rights have been affected.

Upon receiving the news of his selection, he stated, “I feel humble and extremely honored to be nominated for this prestigious award. This nomination conveys the message to activists, human rights defenders and promoters who fight for equality, justice and democracy in Myanmar that their efforts are not forgotten by the world. And this is also the nomination for the people in Myanmar who stand together with me, who struggle with me, for the betterment of citizens so that they can live in dignity, under the just law, in conformity with the principles of UN human rights declaration.”

Asmaou Diallo (Guinea)

Her human rights work started following the events of 28 September 2009 when the Guinean military attacked peaceful demonstrators. Over 150 were killed, including her son, and over 100 women raped. Hundreds more were injured. She and l’Association des Parents et Amis des Victimes du 28 septembre 2009 (APIVA), which she founded, work to obtain justice for these crimes and to provide medical and vocational support to victims of sexual assault, many of whom cannot return to their homes. She has worked to encourage witnesses to come forward and supported them as they provided information and testimony to court proceedings. As a result, eleven people have been charged, including senior army officers.

Upon receiving the news of her selection, she stated, “As a human rights defender in Guinea, I am very comforted to be among the nominees for the Martin Ennals Foundation, this prize encourages me to continue my fight for the protection and promotion of human rights in Guinea. I trust that this award will have a positive effect on the legal cases concerning the events of the September 28, 2009, and will be a lever for all defenders of human rights in Guinea

 Ahmed Mansoor (United Arab Emirates)

Since 2006, he has focussed on initiatives concerning freedom of expression, civil and political rights. He successfully campaigned in 2006-2007 to support two people jailed for critical social comments. They were released and the charges dropped. Shortly after, the Prime Minister of UAE issued an order not to jail journalists in relation to their work. He is one of the few voices within the United Arab Emirates who provides a credible independent assessment of human rights developments. He regularly raises concerns on arbitrary detention, torture, international standards for fair trials, non-independence of the judiciary, and domestic laws that violate international law. He was jailed in 2011 and since then has been denied a passport and banned from travelling.

Upon receiving the news of his selection, he stated, “I’m very pleased to be nominated for the Martin Ennals award. This recognition indicates that we are not left alone in this part of the world and that our voices resonate and our efforts are appreciated by a well-informed people. I hope this nomination sheds further light on the human rights issues in the UAE. It is not just full of skyscrapers, big malls and an area attractive to businesses, but there are other struggles of different sorts beneath all of that.”

The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) is a unique collaboration among ten of the world’s leading human rights organizations to give protection to human rights defenders worldwide. The Jury is composed of:

  • Amnesty International,
  • Human Rights Watch,
  • Human Rights First,
  • Int’l Federation for Human Rights,
  • World Organisation Against Torture,
  • Front Line Defenders
  • International Commission of Jurists,
  • EWDE Germany,
  • International Service for Human Rights
  • HURIDOCS

An electronic version with Bios, Photos, and Video can be found at: http://bit.ly/1DYqlFn

For last year’s nominees see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/announcement-ceremony-of-the-martin-ennals-award-2014-on-7-october/

For further information: Michael Khambatta +41 79 474 8208, khambatta@martinennalsaward.org or visit http://www.martinennalsaward.org

2nd Werner Lottje Lecture on 10 November in Berlin with Alejandra Ancheita and Michel Forst

October 18, 2014

2000 appr Werner LottjeOn 10 November 2014 will take place the 2nd Werner Lottje Lecture. This annual event – organised by Bread for the World and the German Institute for Human Rights – honors one of Germany’s most influential and visionary human rights defenders, who died in 2004 [see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/werner-lottje/]. As Werner Lottje was one of the founders of the Martin Ennals Award, the organisers have in mind to invite every year one of the Final Nominees of the MEA as main speaker. The theme this year is again directly linked to Human Rights Defenders (“Current challenges in the Protection of HRDs”) . The main elements in the programme are: Read the rest of this entry »

Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders 2015: nominations until 9 December

October 16, 2014

Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders

Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders

The Martin Ennals Foundation is accepting nominations for the 2015 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.The goal of the program is to extend recognition and protective publicity to those who are currently involved in frontline work involving the promotion and protection of human rights. Recent recipients include individuals and organizations from Bangladesh, China, Chechnya, Cambodia, Uganda, Syria, Iran, Uzbekistan, Burundi, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe. The award is granted annually to an individual or, in exceptional cases, an organization in recognition of their commitment and ongoing efforts in the defense and promotion of human rights. Nominees must currently be involved in work for the promotion and protection of human rights. Priority is given to those who are at risk and have demonstrated an active record of combating human rights violations by courageous and innovative means. The program aims to encourage and promote the work of individuals or organizations, particularly if they are working in conditions hostile to fundamental human rights and are in need of protection.No posthumous awards are given except when a candidate has already passed the first round [as happened this year with Cao Shunli]. The candidate should not use or advocate violence. Anybody can nominate an individual or organization. Neither individuals nor organizations may nominate themselves. The present value of the annual award is 20,000 Swiss francs, which should be used for further work in the field of human rights. All 3 Final Nominees will be invited to the award ceremony which is hosted by the City of Geneva in late 2015.

The deadline is 9 December 2014

Program guidelines in English, French, and Spanish, FAQ, online nomination form, and information about previous recipients are available at the website: www.martinennalsaward.org

via Martin Ennals Foundation Invites Nominations for Human Rights Defenders Award | RFPs | PND.

High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, to hand out MEA on 7 October

October 3, 2014

Reminder: Martin Ennals Award 2014 to be announced at Ceremony in Geneva on 18:00, 7 October, at Uni Dufour. Watch live on: www.martinennalsaward.org

2014 poster MEA Geneva

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

for more detail on the nominees: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/announcement-ceremony-of-the-martin-ennals-award-2014-on-7-october/