Posts Tagged ‘Mary Lawlor’

The 2022 “Human Rights Defenders Movement at a Crossroad” video report published

October 11, 2022

In September 2022, more than thirty human rights defenders from all over the world took the floor in a moment of a global backlash against the grass-roots movement for human rights and democracy. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/04/20/2021-protectdefenders-eu-annual-report/

The conference “The Human Rights Defenders’ Movement at a Crossroad“ featured the testimonies and experiences of a great diversity of grassroots activists coming from all backgrounds, including Yvette Mushigo (Synergie des Femmes pour la Paix et la Réconciliation des Peuples des Grands Lacs d’Afrique, DRC); Ukei Muratalieva (Nazik Kyz, Kyrgyzstan); Rocío Walkiria Santos Reyes (CEHPRODEC, Honduras); Yasmine Shurbaji (Families for Freedom, Syria); and Monika Maritjie Kailey (Komunitas Masyarakat Adat Marafenfen, Aru Islands, Indonesia).

With the participation of the United Nations Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor; the French Ambassador at Large for Human Rights, Delphine Borione; the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Rapporteur on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders and Justice Operators, Commissioner Joel Hernández García; the Human Development, Migration, Governance, and Peace Unit Acting Director at the European Commission, Chiara Adamo.

“We call on the EU and the Member States to ensure the effective, timely, relevant and comprehensive implementation of the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders”.

Read the keynote by Cristina Palabay (KARAPATAN Alliance, The Philippines)

Look around this room and you will see so many different nationalities full of patient, committed, resilient people working to defend human rights. That is hope” – UNSR on HRDs, Mary Lawlor.

You can see all the photos of the conference “The Human Rights Defenders Movement at a Crossroad” in the gallery here.

https://mailchi.mp/protectdefenders/bulletin-pdeu-conference-2022?e=ccacd47b1a

Human rights defenders in Greece, my adopted country: not doing well

July 28, 2022
OHCHR | Ms Mary Lawlor

Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, conducted an official visit to Greece from 13 to 22 June 2022, to assess the government’s efforts towards creating an enabling environment for those seeking to protect and promote human rights.

Human rights defenders in Greece, particularly those working on migration, operate in an environment of pervasive fear and insecurity, concluded Mary Lawlor. “I am concerned about the increasing criminalization of humanitarian assistance in Greece. Solidarity should never be punished and compassion should never be put on trial,” she said while presenting her preliminary findings at the end of a 10-day mission in the country.

With Greece facing intense international criticism over unlawful pushbacks of migrants at its borders and wider human rights concerns related to migration and asylum, the Greek government has moved to silence groups and individuals documenting these abuses. While acknowledging Greece’s migration challenges and government efforts to address them, Lawlor criticized burdensome rules for the registration of nongovernmental organizations working on migration, introduced in 2019, calling them discriminatory and in violation of Greece’s international human rights obligations. See my earlier: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/11/17/greeces-mistaken-deterrence-migrants-and-aid-workers-facing-heavy-prison-sentences/

The UN expert noted that human rights defenders not only face criminal sanctions for their activities, but are operating in an increasingly hostile environment where the general public is influenced by negative rhetoric from high-ranking officials and their unfavorable portrayal in the media, which often conflates their activities with traffickers and criminal networks.

Greece fell 38 positions within a year in Reporters Without Borders’ 2022 report on the Press Freedom Index, with the organization marking it the lowest-ranked European Union country for press freedom. “Journalists who counter the government’s narrative on the management of migration flows are often under pressure and lack access to mainstream media outlets.… Journalists reporting on corruption are sometimes facing threats and even charges,” Lawlor said. She noted that journalists have very limited or no access to facilities where migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers are being held, further contributing to a general lack of transparency regarding the government’s policies in this area.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/18/greek-court-fails-human-rights-defenders-on-antisemitism/

Lawlor will present a detailed report with her findings at the March 2023 session of the UN Human Rights Council. The government should listen to what the UN expert has to say and champion human rights defenders. The European Commission, which noted in July last year the narrowing space in Greece for groups working with migrants and asylum seekers, should step up its engagement on the issue and press Greece to stop harassing civil society groups and activists.

https://www.ohchr.org/en/media-advisories/2022/06/un-human-rights-expert-visit-greece-assess-situation-human-rights

https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2022/06/greece-migration-policy-having-suffocating-effect-human-rights-defenders

https://www.amnesty.org/en/location/europe-and-central-asia/greece/report-greece/

see also later:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/aug/31/greece-should-face-more-checks-over-asylum-seeker-treatment-eu-official

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/aug/31/i-was-close-to-death-syrian-man-tells-how-greek-officials-pushed-refugees-back-out-to-sea

And on 7 November : https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/11/07/greeces-surveillance-scandal-puts-rights-risk

Karla Avelar speaks out in Diversity in Adversity campaign

April 28, 2022

Episode 4: People who work to end violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) face multiple forms of risk. They can be targeted for their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, and for being human rights defenders as well.

Karla Avelar is trans woman human rights defender from El Salvador who has been working since the 1990s to defend the rights of LGBTI persons, people with HIV and other marginalised groups. After being subjected to two and a half years in prison, where she was tortured, sexual assaulted and denied access to medical treatment, she began to work more intensely for the rights of LGBTI persons. She began by calling for appropriate provision of HIV medications and greater access to justice within El Salvador. In 2008 she founded COMCAVIS trans, El Salvador’s first organisation for trans women with HIV. In 2013, she was the first trans woman to appear before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. After multiple threats to her own life and that of her mother, she applied for asylum in Switzerland in 2017, where she now lives and continues her work. She was a finalist of the MEA in 2017 [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/05/16/trans-defenders-karla-avelars-life-is-under-constant-threat/]

Diversity in Adversity is a joint campaign by Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, and Victor Madrigal-Borloz, UN Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity. It will feature interviews with 10 SOGI rights defenders from all over the world; ordinary people engaged in extraordinary work. For more on this campaign, visit: https://www.ohchr.org/en/special-proc…

Late alert: Panel on gender rights: 24 March

March 23, 2022

On Thursday 24 March 2022, from 1:30pm – 2:30pm (CET) will take place the panel “Fighting for equality: Working together to combat violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity

Over the last two decades, UN human rights bodies and mechanisms have been at the forefront of promoting equality and fair treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, gender-diverse and intersex (LGBTI) people.

These contributions have led to considerable progress regarding decriminalisation of same-sex consensual acts and diverse gender identities, enactment of progressive laws and the promotion of international standards on the rights of LGBTI persons.

While these advances have been, and continue to be, integral in the promotion and protection of equal rights for LGBTI persons, the stories of those relentlessly fighting for that progress often remain untold. Indeed, everywhere around the world human rights defenders working on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE) play a central role in the fight for equality for LGBTI persons.

This side event aims to shed light on the success stories of human rights defenders working to combat violence and discrimination based on SOGIE, bringing together defenders as well as two UN mandate holders that focus on human rights defenders and on SOGIE. The panel will reflect on opportunities and risks for LGBTI human rights defenders, nation-level developments towards equality for LGBTI persons, progress of the current UN standards on these issues, and what can be done to address challenges.
SPEAKERS: 

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity

Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Other speakers will be confirmed soon

Welcoming and closing remarks by the Permanent Mission of the Netherlands and the Permanent Mission of Mexico

MODERATOR: Julia Ehrt, ILGA World’s Executive Director 

You are welcome to join this discussion, which will be held in English with simultaneous interpretation in Spanish. Click here to register to the event. 

https://mailchi.mp/ishr/749qlxejj6-33453?e=d1945ebb90

Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders

March 12, 2022

The Human Rights Council on 11 March held an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. With thanks to Reliefweb, here an extract:

Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said last year she had presented a report detailing the shocking scale of killings of human rights defenders across the world – in almost a third of the Member States of the United Nations. Words of support had been heard from States at her presentation, saying they would work with her to stop this scourge – to date, she had received no invitations from any States as to ways to discuss how to stop these killings, and she had received more communications on killings. Human rights defenders who worked against corruption were often attacked for exposing or researching abuse of power, graft, bribery, fraud and other related malpractices, and these attacks took many forms. Governments and business targeted anti-corruption fighters as they feared exposure. Corruption was deeply rooted in some societies and could not be rooted out overnight, but States needed to publicly recognise the work of human rights defenders, and openly combat attacks against them.

In the ensuing dialogue, speakers said the international community should work to better support human rights defenders and protect them from retaliation. Human rights defenders played a vital role all across the globe. States should end impunity for those seeking to stifle the voices of human rights defenders, and work better to protect them, amplifying their voices in the United Nations system. Human rights defenders protected and fought for the core values of the international community; they should be given an enabling environment. Corruption was, as the Special Rapporteur’s report said, a human rights issue, and national legislators were obliged to defend those investigating it. Work needed to continue to create an environment where human rights defenders and all civil society workers could operate without fear of violence and reprisals, which would further reinforce democratic and legislative institutions.

Speaking in the dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders were European Union, Lithuania (on behalf of a group of countries), Australia (on behalf of a group of countries), Liechtenstein, Germany, Paraguay, Philippines, Egypt, UN Women, Norway (on behalf of a group of countries), Sierra Leone, Montenegro, Slovenia, Iraq, Cuba, France, Venezuela, Luxembourg, China, Burkina Faso, India, Namibia, Marshall Islands, Lesotho, Armenia, Netherlands, Switzerland, Russian Federation, Cambodia, Indonesia, Peru, Morocco, Algeria, Togo, Ireland, Belarus and Uruguay. Tunisia, United States, Belgium, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Côte d’Ivoire, United Kingdom, Niger, Czech Republic, Albania, Botswana, Malta, Vanuatu, Italy, Georgia, Mauritania, Kazakhstan, Colombia, Republic of Moldova, Saudi Arabia, Viet Nam, Iran and Pakistan.

Also speaking were SUHAKAM, Morocco National Human Rights Institution, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, American Association of Jurists, Sociedade Maranhense de Direitos Humanos, International Service for Human Rights, Dominicans for Justice and Peace – Order of Preachers, World Organisation Against Torture, Oidhaco, Bureau International des Droits Humains – Action Colombie, Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND), Peace Brigades International, and Il Cenacolo.

Speaking in right of reply were Armenia, Israel, Lithuania, China, Indonesia, Cambodia, Cuba, Azerbaijan and Bahrain.

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/human-rights-council-holds-interactive-dialogue-special-rapporteur-situation-human

Animated video clip on work of UN Special rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

March 8, 2022

On 7 February 2022, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders released an animated video explaining how to raise concerns about threats to HRDs and human rights abuses by governments and businesses.

Communications are the main tool used to addressed attacks, such as criminalization, smear campaign, threats and killings. Communications will remain confidential for up to 60 days, giving governments and businesses the time to respond to the allegations. The SR also makes two official country visit every year, and writes two thematic reports.

The UN Special Rapporteur has a mission to promote and protect the work of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs). Find out how she does this, and how you can send information about a Human Rights Defender at risk.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/05/20/special-rapporteur-mary-lawlor-starts-new-website/

Visit: https://srdefenders.org/

Follow: https://twitter.com/MaryLawlorhrds

Women human rights defenders in conflict and post-conflict situations; side event 8 March

March 2, 2022

Women human rights defenders are crucial agents and leaders of change. However, due to their gender, they face particular obstacles and security risks. What are these gendered obstacles and risks? How can women human rights defenders best be supported and protected by States and other actors?
ISHR, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and the Permanent Mission of Norway invite you to join a virtual event on the side of the Human Rights Council’s 49th session: 
Supporting women human rights defenders in conflict and post-conflict situations” takes place on Tuesday 8 March 2022 11:30am – 12:30pm (CET)
See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/03/roadmap-to-women-peace-and-security-wps-agenda-2020/

Opening statement:  Pekka Haavisto, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Finland

Panellists: 

Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders

Ilwad Elman, Director of Program & Development, Elman Peace & Human Rights Centre [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/09/17/fartuun-adan-and-ilwad-elman-from-somalia-named-2020-aurora-prize-winners/]

Horia Mosadiq, Human rights activist and Executive Director, Conflict Analysis Network (CAN)

Pooja Patel, Programme Director, International Service for Human Rights

Moderation:  Heidi Hautala, Vice-President, Member of Parliament, European Parliament.

Download the flyer here and click here to join the event.

More about the contributions of women human rights defenders to peace and security: ISHR report.

See also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.com/themes/

https://mailchi.mp/ishr/749qlxejj6-33413?e=d1945ebb90

China now badgers Ireland about its human rights stand

February 24, 2022
Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress, was labelled a "terrorist" by the Chinese Embassy in Ireland on Monday. Photo: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse.

Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress, was labelled a “terrorist” by the Chinese Embassy in Ireland on Monday. Photo: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse.

Eoghan Moloney in the Irish Independent of 22 February 2022 describes another case of undue pressure by the Chinese authorities on a nation that differs from their view on human rights. For other such behaviour, see my earlier post;

  • Ireland has been urged to “respect China’s sovereignty” and to “stop interfering in China’s internal affairs” after an Uyghur leader attended a meeting in the Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday.

Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), urged Ireland to “take action on Uyghur genocide” when he met with UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor and with officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

In response, the Chinese Embassy in Dublin said they “strongly condemn the anti-China separatist activities of the so-called ‘World Uyghur Congress’ in Ireland, and firmly oppose Irish government officials’ meeting with Dolkun Isa”.

The Embassy also accused “a few” Irish politicians of spreading “lies on Xinjiang and support for terrorist and separatist activities” and jumping “on the bandwagon of dirty political farce against China”.

The Chinese Embassy labelled the WUC as an “extremist organisation” and said its leader Dolkun Isa is a “terrorist” who is suspected of “organising and committing a series of violent terrorist activities and serious crimes in China”.

“The issues concerning Xinjiang are not about human rights, nationality or religion, but about fighting terrorism, separatism and religious extremism. The so-called “genocide”, “cultural extermination” or “forced labour” in Xinjiang, which are based on flat lies and disinformation, are political manipulations with hidden motives,” a statement from the Chinese Embassy said.

“We urge the Irish side to respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and stop interfering in China’s internal affairs under the guise of “human rights”. For those Irish politicians who have jumped on the bandwagon of dirty political farce against China, we urge them to stop parroting disinformation,” the statement continued.

https://www.independent.ie/world-news/asia-pacific/china-warns-ireland-to-stop-interfering-as-leader-of-persecuted-uyghurs-attends-meeting-with-irish-officials-in-dublin-41370665.html

Human Rights Defenders and the EU’s mandatory due diligence initiative

February 21, 2022

Since Mary Lawlor took up her mandate of Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders, she has been paying close attention to the EU’s legislative initiative on sustainable corporate governance, and in particular to the proposed creation of binding obligations for companies to carry out due diligence to identify and address human rights and environmental risks linked to their activities. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/07/un-experts-urge-eu-to-take-the-lead-on-protecting-human-rights-defenders-in-context-of-business/

The reason is that defenders who draw attention to the human rights and environmental risks associated with business projects, including of EU companies, and who seek accountability where violations and harms actually occur, are often at high risk of retaliation for their actions, in particular where they themselves are from the communities directly affected.

With this in mind, in September 2021, she issued the public statement referred to above calling on the EU Commission to seize the moment and craft a powerful, progressive proposal which would include safeguards for Human Rights Defenders highlighting corporate harms. She followed this up in November with a series of meetings with key EU Commissioners and their teams in Brussels, during which she outlined what she believes to be the key provisions to include in their proposal on due diligence for it to empower human rights defenders. This position has now become public through the paper below:

Human Rights Defenders at Polish-Belarus border under pressure

February 18, 2022

Poland must probe into harassment of human rights defenders at Belarus border

Poland must investigate all allegations of harassment of human rights defenders, including media workers and interpreters, at the border with Belarus, and grant access to journalists and humanitarian workers to the border area ensuring that they can work freely and safely, UN human rights experts* said on 16 February 2022.

I am receiving several reports of harassments from human rights defenders who assist migrants and document human rights violations against them at the Polish-Belarusian border, and I am deeply concerned at this practice,” said Mary Lawlor, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

Jakub Sypiański, a volunteer interpreter assisting migrants and asylum-seekers, was reportedly stopped by armed soldiers when driving home in November 2021. The soldiers, who were in an unmarked vehicle, did not identify themselves nor explain their actions. They forced open the car door, took the keys out of the ignition and tried pulling him out by his legs.

“Most of the migrants at the border do not speak Polish,” said Mary Lawlor. “Interpreters play a vital role in ensuring their human rights are protected both at the border and in immigration detention centres.”

At around the same time, armed soldiers reportedly harassed journalists covering the arrival of migrants and asylum seekers. Soldiers who did not identify themselves stopped, searched and handcuffed photojournalists Maciej Moskwa and Maciej Nabrdalik outside a military camp. The soldiers searched their equipment, scrutinising their photos, and documented their phone messages and incoming calls.

Journalists Olivia Kortas and Christoph Kürbel, along with two local Polish residents, were allegedly harassed by soldiers while filming a documentary about the human rights situation of migrants at the border.

Reports that these journalists are being persecuted for documenting such human rights violations are appalling,” said Irene Khan, the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression. “Their work is crucial for everyone’s access to information about the situation unfolding at the border. If they are not allowed to do their job, there are very serious consequences for the human rights of migrants”.

“Interpreters and journalists, along with medics, lawyers and others who peacefully work for the protection of human rights or who provide humanitarian aid, are human rights defenders, according to the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Poland should bear this in mind and ensure that they are able to carry out their legitimate work in a safe and enabling environment and with full access to the border area,” said Lawlor.

The experts are in contact with the Polish authorities on the matter.

The experts’ call was endorsed by: Mr. Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, and Ms. Elina Steinerte (Chair-Rapporteur), Ms. Miriam Estrada-Castillo (Vice-Chair), Ms. Leigh Toomey, Mr. Mumba Malila, and Ms. Priya Gopalan, Working Group on arbitrary detention.

https://www.devdiscourse.com/article/law-order/1924185-poland-must-probe-into-harassment-of-human-rights-defenders-at-belarus-border

https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/02/1112032