Posts Tagged ‘Mary Lawlor’

China’s continuing crackdown on human rights lawyers ‘shocking’ say UN experts

December 18, 2020

The Hong Kong Free Press comes on 17 December 2020 with the AFP story that the UN Special Raporteur Mary Lawlor slammed a years-long crackdown on rights defenders and lawyers in China, highlighting the case of one attorney who disappeared after revealing he was tortured in detention.

Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, warned in a statement endorsed by seven other UN rights experts, that a clampdown that began more than five years ago aimed at courtroom critics of Communist authorities was continuing unabated.

Since the so-called 709 crackdown began on 9 July 2015, the profession of human rights lawyer has been effectively criminalised in China,” she said. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/12/china-five-years-after-major-crackdown-international-community-must-support-to-human-rights-lawyers/]

In her statement, Lawlor pointed to the recent arrest and “enforced disappearance” of activist and attorney Chang Weiping as emblematic of Beijing’s efforts to silence lawyers who speak out about the deterioration of human rights in the country.

chang weiping FLD front line defenders china rights lawyer human rights
Chang Weiping. Photo: Front Line Defenders.

The lawyer, she said, was placed by security officials in Baoji city in a form of secret extrajudicial detention typically used against dissidents, known as “residential surveillance in a designated location” (RSDL), for 10 days last January. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/10/more-on-residential-surveillance-in-a-designated-location-rsdl-in-china/]

He was held on suspicion of “subversion of state power” and his licence was annulled, she said. Just days after he posted a video online in October describing the torture and ill-treatment he was allegedly subjected to during his detention, he was detained again and returned to RSDL in retaliation for his video. “Since then, the defender’s whereabouts remain unknown, his lawyers have been unable to contact him and no charges have been brought against him,” Wednesday’s statement said.

Fundamental human rights are not a threat to any government or society, and neither are the individuals who defend those rights,” she added. “I urge the Chinese authorities to release at once Chang Weiping and all other detained and disappeared human rights defenders.”

Not surprisingly The reaction by China was swift and tough: “By using misinformation, relevant (UN) mandate holders blatantly smear China,” Liu Yuyin, a spokesman at the Chinese mission in Geneva, said in a statement issued 16 December. As for Chang’s case, Liu insisted his “legitimate rights were fully protected.” Chang “was subject to criminal coercive measures by the public security organ in Shanxi Province on October 22, 2020, on suspicion of criminal offences.”

The remarks by Lawlor and other UN experts about the lawyer’s case, Liu warned, “seriously (violate) the spirit of the rule of law and fully exposes their bias against China.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/world/2020/12/17/china-slams-un-experts-erroneous-criticism-of-lawyer-crackdown/1932866

https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198840534.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780198840534-e-42

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/world/2020/12/21/eu-urges-china-to-free-rights-lawyers-ahead-of-investment-pact/

UN human rights experts ‘alarmed’ by treatment of human rights defenders in Cambodia.

November 17, 2020

Voicing concerns over increasing restrictions on civil society in Cambodia, a group of independent UN human rights experts have called for an immediate end to the systematic detention and criminalization of human rights defenders. 

In a statement on 16 November 2020 Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said she was “alarmed” by credible reports that at least 21 human rights defenders have been subjected to threats, arbitrary arrests and detentions in the past three months. 

I have reviewed publicly available footage where excessive force has been used by the security forces to prohibit human rights defenders, many of them women, from exercising their rights to peaceful assembly. Promotion and protection of human rights through peaceful means is not a crime,” she said. 

Ms. Lawlor referred to several cases in which detention has reportedly been used to punish human rights defenders for carrying out their work.  

Rights defender Rong Chhun was arrested on 31 July after taking up the case of farmers in Tbong Khmom province who had their land taken in connection with a border demarcation between Cambodia and Viet Nam.  

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/16/even-simply-remembering-kem-ley-is-forbidden-in-cambodia/

Subsequently, several other human rights defenders who protested his detention were also arrested. Twelve remain in pre-trial detention, have been denied bail, and are facing charges punishable by up to two years in prison. 

Human rights defenders should never be criminalized for their courageous efforts to protect the rights of others … I am increasingly concerned by the circular pattern of detaining them for advocating against the detention of or violations against fellow defenders,” said Ms. Lawlor. 

There seems to be no limit to who the authorities will target, making their actions in recent months appear as a concerted attempt to erode civic space and stifle the work of human rights defenders,” she added. 

Rhona Smith, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, also voiced concerns over the restrictions, urging the authorities to end “this harmful approach to human rights defenders and facilitate freedom of expression and assembly, for the benefit of all members of society in Cambodia.” [see also; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/11/even-landmark-un-decision-does-not-change-cambodias-treatment-of-human-rights-defenders/]

The statement was also endorsed by the special rapporteurs on the rights of peaceful assembly and association, and on the freedom of opinion and expression, and the members of Working Group on discrimination against women and girls

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/11/1077702  

Mary Lawlor’s first report to the Third Committee of General Assembly

November 16, 2020

On 20 October 2020 (sorry for the delay) the ISHR reported on the new Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor, presenting her first report to the General Assembly’s Third Committee. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/07/mary-lawlor-takes-up-post-as-un-special-rapporteur-for-human-rights-defenders/].

The Special Rapporteur appealed to States to help stop the killing of human rights defenders, which she identified as the mandate’s core priority. Defenders, she said, are ‘ordinary people doing extraordinary things to make all of our lives better‘ and shared her hope that all would work together to find ways to protect them. 

The Special Rapporteur’s report outlined how she intends to approach and develop the subject of her mandate in the coming years. Her priorities include: those defenders most exposed to killings and other violent attacks, with attention paid to the most marginalised and vulnerable, among them women defenders, those defending the rights of LGBTI persons, defenders who are children, defenders with disabilities, defenders working on the rights of migrants, the climate crisis, defenders working in isolated and remote areas, defenders serving long terms in prison, reprisals against defenders who cooperate with the UN, the issue of impunity for those who attack defenders, the role of businesses and financial institutions in both harming and protecting the work of defenders, and strengthening follow-up to individual cases brought to her attention. 

As the Third Committee continues to grapple with the difficulties of moving its work online, the dialogue was plagued by a number of IT issues, including not being webcast for the first 35 minutes, and several statements remained muted in the archived video made available later. 

A large number of States took the floor to welcome the Special Rapporteur’s report and echo her concerns and priorities. Many of the States that spoke touched on the need to address the worrying deterioration of civic space brought on by the COVID 19 pandemic. The UK delivered a joint statement on reprisals on behalf of 75 States, following up on its initiative last year when it delivered the first ever such statement.

The US raised a number of individual cases and country situations: Nasrin Sotoudeh in Iran; China’s systematic persecution and imprisonment of human rights defenders, including those from Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, naming Ilham Tohti and Joshua Wong in particular; in Zimbabwe, opposition leader Job Sikhala, parliamentarian Joana Mamombe and activists Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova. China used its time to question the notion of a human rights defender arguing there is no accepted definition of the term and that defenders are not ‘above the law’. China also accused the US of suppressing civil society during the pandemic. 

In her concluding remarks, the Special Rapporteur touched on the need for the UN’s human rights work to be properly funded and for States to cooperate fully with Special Procedures through standing invitations and positive responses to requests for visits. She emphasised her desire to cooperate with States, to have an open dialogue, and cited recent talks with Bahrain, Burundi and Iran in that regard. She indicated she hoped these talks would result in releases of defenders soon. The Special Rapporteur also emphasised that her approach would include specifically highlighting positive changes in each of her reports.  

https://www.ishr.ch/news/unga75-un-expert-urges-protection-defenders-ordinary-people-doing-extraordinary-things?fbclid=IwAR1j9EqgUZ4RKAcMH7nWp7AIAZUL3HqrAq_k8M9epUtlF_ECrNAaLCrbrJ0

4 December 2020: seminar on Norwegian support to human rights defenders.

November 13, 2020

The Norwegian Center for Human Rights and the Norwegian Human Rights Fund invite you to a seminar addressing the Norwegian and international support to human rights defenders.

This seminar will focus on the role of human rights defenders in creating sustainable, peaceful and just societies, in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goal 16. It will look at the role and support of the Norwegian government, Oslo Municipality, the University of Oslo and Norwegian civil society in the protection of individuals and organisations working for human rights and peaceful and just societies. How can these institutions collectively – and individually – meet the needs of the day, both during and after COVID-19?

Program

13:00-13:10: Welcome by the Rector of the University of Oslo, Svein Stølen.

Welcome by the organizers: NHRF (Executive Director Sandra Petersen) and NCHR (Head of Department Gentian Zyberi).

Short introduction of the panels by the facilitators.

13:10-14:25: Panel 1: The current situation of Human Rights Defenders and protection work.

Key speakers:

Asha Kowtal, Dalit Human Rights Defender, India

Idil Eser, “Scholars at Risk” and former Director of Amnesty International Turkey [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/06/istanbul-court-jails-four-human-rights-defenders-on-terror-charges-seven-acquitted/]

Luciana Peri, Coordinator of Shelter Initiatives, ProtectDefenders.eu

John Peder Egenæs, Director of Amnesty International Norway

Moderator:Nora Sveaass, Professor Emeritus (University of Oslo), member of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) and member of NHRF’s Advisory Board.

14:25 – 14:45: BREAK.

14:45 – 16:00: Panel 2: The role of international, national and local support to Human Rights Defenders

Short video messages from human rights defenders from different countries with recommendations to Norwegian and international actors supporting human rights defenders.

Key note: Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders (digital participation)

Panel:

Ine Eriksen Søreide, Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs

Raymond Johansen, Governing Mayor of Oslo

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

Moderator: Sandra Petersen, Executive Director of the NHRF.

Concluding remarks by the NCHR.

The seminar will be streamed.

https://nhrf.no/event/norwegian-and-international-support-to-human-rights-defenders-under-and-after-covid-19

UN rapporteur calls on Spain to release jailed Catalan activist Jordi Cuixart

October 17, 2020

Jordi Cuixart is the head of Omnium Cultural, a Catalonian cultural association

Jordi Cuixart is the head of Omnium Cultural, a Catalonian cultural association

THE UN’s special rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor, has called for jailed Catalonian independence activist Jordi Cuixart to be freed.

Yesterday marked the third anniversary of the civic leader’s imprisonment for his role in the 2017 independence referendum. Writing in The National, Cuixart reveals the grim reality of life in a Spanish prison, saying that he’s forced to spend 23 hours a day in a room measuring just eight square metres. However, the father of two young children makes clear that he would make the same choices as before.”

He was handed a nine-year sentence after being convicted of sedition. Unlike the other eight imprisoned, Cuixart is not a politician, he is the head of Omnium Cultural, a Catalonian cultural association.

Taking to Twitter, Lawlor said it was time for Cuixart to be freed. “In 2019, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found his detention to violate both the [Universal Declaration of Human Rights] and [the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] and deemed it arbitrary. He should be released.”

https://www.thenational.scot/news/18801415.jordi-cuixart-un-rapporteur-calls-spain-release-jailed-catalan-activist/

Mary Lawlor condemns ‘criminalization’ of those saving lives in the Mediterranean

October 9, 2020

Carola Rackete, the former captain of the rescue vessel Sea-Watch 3, and the ‘Iuventa 10’ crew members are human rights defenders and not criminals,” said Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders on 8 October 2020.

“I regret that the criminal proceedings against them are still open and they continue to face stigmatization in connection with their human rights work protecting the human rights of migrants and asylum seekers at risk in the Mediterranean Sea.

In September 2016, a criminal investigation was opened against some crew members of the Iuventa rescue ship. Charges against them included aiding and abetting in the commission of a crime of illegal immigration, an offence that carries a jail term of between five and 20 years, and a fine of 15,000 euros. On 18 June 2019, a motion for the dismissal of the preliminary criminal investigation against the ‘Iuventa 10’ crew members was filed, but a formal decision is still pending. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/31/absurd-prosecution-of-the-crew-of-the-ship-iuventa-continues-in-italy/

Ms. Rackete was arrested by Italian authorities on 29 June 2019 for docking her rescue ship, with 53 migrants on board, without permission. At the beginning of this year, acting upon appeal, the Italian Supreme Court ruled that she should not have been arrested. Despite this, Ms. Rackete continues to face charges, including aiding and abetting in the commission of a crime of illegal immigration. She risks up to 20 years of imprisonment , and various fines of up to 50,000 euros.

Since 2014, at least 16,000 migrants have lost their lives in the Mediterranean, according to the IOM’s ‘Missing Migrants’ project. “The Italian Government must publicly recognise the important role of human rights defenders in protecting the right to life of migrants and asylum seekers at risk in the Mediterranean and must end the criminalization of those who defend their human rights,” Lawlor said.

The expert’s call has been endorsed by: Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity, Mr. Obiora Okafor, Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Dubravka Šimonovic, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Elizabeth Broderick, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls.

Ms Mary Lawlor, (Ireland) is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/07/mary-lawlor-takes-up-post-as-un-special-rapporteur-for-human-rights-defenders/

The same day Human Rights Watch came out with an initial assessment by civil society of the legislative and non-legislative proposals contained in European Commission’s Pact on Migration and Asylum.: The commitment to a more human approach to protection and the emphasis on the fact that migration is needed and positive for Europe with which the European Commission launched the Pact on Migration and Asylum is welcome. However, this rhetoric is reflected only sparsely in the related proposals. Instead of breaking with the fallacies of the EU’s previous approach and offering a fresh start, the Pact risks exacerbating the focus on externalisation, deterrence, containment and return.


https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/10/08/pact-migration-and-asylum

Geneva Roadmap for environmental defenders

September 25, 2020

This session aims to explore how civil society organizations can use the UN Resolution A/HRC/40/L.22/. The session also intends to discuss the “ Road Map to Geneva” which was created in April of this year to facilitate international engagement on processes that support defenders at the national and international level. Join us as we highlight the work of the new Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and her vision as well as provide a practical list of events that can move the agenda forward.

Speakers

  • Ms. Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
  • Peter Bille Larsen, University of Geneva
  • Enteng Bautista, National coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, Philippines

https://www.wri.org/events/2020/09/implementation-human-rights-council-resolution-ahrc40

Five UN rapporteurs raise concern on harassment of journalist Dharisha Bastians

September 15, 2020

The Colombo Gazette on 15 September reported that a group of five UN special rapporteurs have expressed their serious concerns to the Government of Sri Lanka on the continued harassment of journalist Dharisha Bastians, the former editor of Sunday Observer and reporter for the New York Times in Colombo. [The joint letter was issued by David Kaye Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Agnes Callamard,  Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions,  Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and Joseph Cannataci,  Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy.]

In a joint letter to the Government dated 13th July 2020 the Special Rapporteurs said Bastians’ was being targeted for her writing and her work to defend human rights in Sri Lanka. The letter said the rapporteurs were concerned that the continued harassment of Bastians and the seizure of her computer and exposure of her phone records could endanger and compromise her sources and deter other journalists from reporting on issues of public interest and human rights. “We are particularly concerned that these measures may be aimed at discrediting her work, in an effort to stop her reporting on Sri Lankan political and human rights affairs,” the special rapporteurs letter to the Government noted.

In June 2020 the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) entered the home of Ms. Bastians in Colombo and seized her personal computer in connection with an ongoing investigation carried out over the alleged abduction of a Swiss embassy staffer in Colombo in November 2019. Bastians said the CID had arrived at her residence on two previous occasions to seize her laptop without a court order. The joint letter also noted that “pro-government media have reportedly conducted a smear campaign against Ms. Bastians and her family, supported by attacks on social media, labelling her as a traitor and a criminal.”

CLICK HERE FOR FULL LETTER

Five UN rapporteurs raise concerns on harassment of Dharisha Bastians

Mary Lawlor calls death of human rights defender Askarov a stain on Kyrgyzstan’s reputation,

July 31, 2020

The death in prison of human rights defender Azimjan Askarov, who for 10 years had unsuccessfully challenged his life sentence, shows a cruel disregard for human rights in Kyrgyzstan, says said Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.[see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/26/kyrgyzstan-activist-askarov-dies-in-prison-after-decade-battling-tainted-conviction/

I was deeply saddened to hear the news of Mr. Askarov’s death, despite multiple requests for his release on humanitarian grounds as his health deteriorated significantly in prison,”

Although the Kyrgyz Government shared detailed information on court proceedings and medical care afforded to Askarov, she criticized the government for not taking concerns about his health seriously.

“We learned in June that, in the midst of COVID-19, and despite his age and pre-existing conditions, Mr. Askarov did not qualify for early release under Kyrgyz law,” Lawlor said. “I now question whether more could have been done to protect his health.”

In the days before Askarov’s death, his lawyer made a number of urgent medical appeals to authorities after the 69-year-old fell ill with a cough, fever, aches and pains, and had difficulty eating and walking. It was only on 24 July 2020, when he had already been sick for 10 days, that he was transferred to a prison medical facility, where he died the following day.

“Mr. Askarov’s case should act as a reminder to all states of the serious and grave threat that prisoners in at-risk categories face during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. She stressed that human rights defenders and all those detained without sufficient legal basis, or most at risk of the virus, should be released…

Lawlor’s call has been endorsed by the Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes; the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Diego García-Sayán; and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Nils Melzer.

https://akipress.com/news:646397:Death_of_human_rights_defender_Azimjan_Askarov_a_stain_on_Kyrgyzstan_s_reputation,_says_UN_expert/

Even Costa Rica has serious problem with protection of indigenous defenders

July 1, 2020

On 8 June qcostarica.com reported that a UN expert expressed grave concern for the lives of indigenous human rights defenders being attacked in Costa Rica, saying that impunity and lack of accountability are fuelling a continuation of violence against defenders in the country despite some positive steps by the Government.

Costa Rica has experienced an upsurge in attacks on indigenous leaders since the March 2019 killing of indigenous Bribri leader Sergio Rojas, who worked for decades defending the rights of indigenous peoples against the illegal occupation of their territories. “Now, over 14 months later, it is still not clear whether the authorities are any closer to identifying the perpetrators,” said Mary Lawlor, the new Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

The expert said other attacks against human rights defenders had gone fully or partially unpunished, and “until there are proper investigations and accountability for these crimes, we may witness further intimidation, injury and death”.

A change in Costa Rican law in 1977 established a legal framework for the redistribution of ancestral indigenous land occupied by non-indigenous persons but the law’s implementation has been slow, and indigenous leaders have carried out peaceful requisitions of lands back to indigenous peoples. This has caused significant violent backlash from non-indigenous illegal land occupants.

While the Costa Rican Government has increased police presence in affected communities, police investigations have been inadequate or inconclusive. As a result, both the victims and their family members continue to be threatened by the suspected perpetrators.

Since the February killing of indigenous leader Yehry Rivera, for example, his family has been repeatedly threatened and intimidated by the family of the perpetrator, who regularly passes close to their land holding a machete.

Pablo Sibar, a human rights defender of the same Broran tribe as Rivera has also been intimidated and subjected to arson attacks that have still not been investigated. Minor Ortíz Delgado, an indigenous land defender from the same Bribri community as Rojas, was shot in the leg in March. The perpetrator, who was released and handed down restraining measures, has since sent death threats to Ortíz and his family.

The expert’s call has been endorsed by the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Francisco Cali Tzay.

The experts are in a dialogue with Costa Rican authorities and will continue to closely monitor the situation.

On 5 October 2020 came this: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/statement-report/international-organisations-call-end-violence-and-impunity-against-indigenous-human

Swee also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/22/misconceptions-about-indigenous-peoples-and-their-defenders-explained/

https://qcostarica.com/costa-rica-ongoing-impunity-prevents-effective-protection-of-indigenous-defenders-says-un-expert