Posts Tagged ‘Mediterranean’

New Amnesty report on human rights defenders helping migrants

March 4, 2020

Amnesty accuses European law enforcement agencies of using trafficking and terrorism laws
Human rights group Amnesty has warned that concerned citizens across Europe are facing prosecution for offering help and assistance to refugees and migrants.

In a new report published on 3 March 2020, Amnesty International said European law enforcement authorities and prosecutors are “misusing already flawed” laws intended to prevent people smuggling and terrorism to target members of the public who offer migrants shelter and warm clothing, or attempt to rescue them at sea. Amnesty examined several cases that took place in Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain, Switzerland and the UK between 2017 and last year, during which human rights defenders who attempted to help refugees and migrants were targeted under legislation intended to tackle organised immigration crime networks. Amnesty’s report comes as world media attention has once again turned to the Mediterranean migrant crisis after Turkey opened its border with Greece to thousands of Syrian refugees.

In one such case, Frenchman Pierre Mumber was charged with “facilitating irregular entry” into France when he was caught offering tea and warm clothing to four west African asylum seekers before being acquitted on appeal. The report also notes that Swiss citizens have faced prosecution for providing migrants and refugees with shelter or helping them access services and protection. Elsewhere, the agency revealed that people in Italy who have worked to rescue migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean on unseaworthy vessels have been subjected to smear campaigns and criminal investigations. See also:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/18/international-migrants-day-the-story-of-the-ocean-viking/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/02/un-experts-consider-human-rights-defenders-in-italy-under-threat/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/12/luventa10-sea-rescue-group-gets-ai-germanys-human-rights-award/

Commenting on the contents of the report, Elisa De Pieri, Regional Researcher at Amnesty International, said: “The increased focus on limiting and deterring arrivals in Europe has meant that making refugees or migrants feel safer or welcomed is seen as a threat. “The failure of European states to fulfil the basic needs of refugees and migrants means it is often left to ordinary people to provide essential services and support. “By punishing the people who step up to fill the gaps, European governments are putting people on the move at even greater risk.”

https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/EUR0118282020ENGLISH.PDF

Amnesty accuses European police of targeting ‘human rights defenders’ who help refugees and migrants

International Migrants Day: the story of the Ocean Viking

December 18, 2019

THE Ocean Viking, a refugee rescue ship operated jointly by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), saved the lives of 60 people from a watery grave in the Mediterranean last week. The European Union — having ignored the refugees’ initial distress calls as they attempted to escape war-torn Libya in an unseaworthy boat on the evening of November 28 — refused to provide the Ocean Viking with a port of safety. It wasn’t until Palermo mayor Leoluca Orlando called on Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte to end the five-day standoff on Twitter that the ship was allowed to dock.,,,

SOS Mediterranee and MSF originally began operating refugee rescue missions in the central Mediterranean onboard the Aquarius. But after a series of legal threats from EU member states, the charities were forced to abandon it.

In 2016-7 when we started operations, we were celebrated as heroes. The Aquarius rescued nearly 30,000 people,” Starke says. “But then in June 2018, the escalations started. We were the first ship to be refused access to harbours in Italy. We had to bring the rescued all the way from Italy to Valencia. That was the first really significant standoff, which by now has become the norm.”..

In November 2018, while the Aquarius was docked in Marseilles, the Panamanian government — under pressure from Italy — withdrew its flag from the ship. ….

“We tried Switzerland, Germany and France. These would have been robust flags — meaning that if there was political pressure then they would not give in so easily to the Italian government. But none of the governments granted them to us” and we had to give up.

It’s maritime law to rescue people in distress at sea. All we do is follow existing laws. And according to those laws, a rescue is only completed once the rescued have reached land: once they’re put in a port of safety. At the moment, it is European countries that have the nearest port of safety to our rescues and the only countries that can be considered safe. The fact is our work is hampered by European governments.

Despite abiding by refugee and maritime law, it is often the Ocean Viking’s crew (and the entire civil refugee rescue fleet in general) that are portrayed as the criminals or as human traffickers. “All we do is save people’s lives. We are human-rights defenders. However, if you talk to to some politicians, if you read some newspapers, if you read some of the nasty emails we receive, they say we smuggle people. They say we’re criminals.

Despite the EU’s willingness to allow refugees escaping Libya to die crossing the world’s deadliest border and the demonisation of those trying to prevent that, Starke says that he is optimistic. “I’m optimistic the situation will change, simply because it has to change.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/15/european-governments-should-stop-treating-solidarity-and-compassion-as-a-crime/

https://www.un.org/en/observances/migrants-day

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/w/it-shouldnt-be-civil-society-versus-european-governments

Rasmus Alenius Boserup new Executive Director of EuroMed Rights

May 21, 2019

On 16 May 2019 the NGO EuroMed Rights announced that it has appointed Rasmus Alenius Boserup as its new Executive Director. He will assume the position on 1 June, 2019, succeeding Marc Schade-Poulsen, who will take up a position as consultant and research fellow at the University of Roskilde.

A Danish national, Rasmus Alenius Boserup has a background in social science research and organisation management. Until 2019, he worked as Senior Researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies focusing on power and politics in the Middle East and North Africa. Prior to this, he served as Executive Director of the Danish-Egyptian Dialogue Institute in Cairo from 2008 to 2011. An expert and opinion writer in Danish and international media, Boserup holds a doctoral degree in culture and civilisation from École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris and a PhD degree in Arabic Studies from the University of Copenhagen.

Boserup said: “I look forward to take up the position with EuroMed Rights. I have followed the network since its creation in 1997 and have collaborated with several of its outstanding member organisations in the South and in the North.”  “Today we face numerous worrying trends in the Euro-Mediterranean region. The crumbling of the liberal order and rise of international authoritarianism add fuel to populism and illiberalism in Europe. And it further emboldens repressive and autocratic leaders in the Middle East and North African. Under these urgent conditions, I look forward to engage fully in promoting and defending human rights and democracy as a part of a prestigious organisation like EuroMed Rights.”

EuroMed Rights President Wadih Al-Asmaradded: “We are pleased to have Rasmus on board and look forward to leveraging his expertise in steering EuroMed Rights forward. Our network has grown to occupy a strategically important position while Marc Schade-Poulsen held the position of Executive Director and we are eager to capitalise on this with Rasmus Alenius Boserup”.

https://mailchi.mp/euromedrights/euromed-rights-appoints-new-executive-director?e=1209ebd6d8

First MAJALAT Civic Forum launched in Brussels

November 16, 2018

Euromed Rights announced on 15 November 2018 that representatives from over 150 civil society organisations, the majority of which coming from the South of the Mediterranean region, will gather in Brussels on November 20-21 for the First Majalat Civic Forum in order to debate four regional themes: Good Governance; Security and Countering Violence; Migration; Economic Development and Social Dialogue.

After its launch in Jordan last September, Majalat will move to the heart of the European Union in order to initiate a three-year cycle of regional dialogues, in the presence of the Commissioner at the European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn.

Majalat is thus the first civil society run process of this kind. The word itself stands for ‘spaces, opportunities, fields and domains’. Supported by the EU, the project aims at promoting structured dialogue between civil society in the South Mediterranean region and the EU institutions. It also aims at enhancing regional exchanges between civil society in the region.

The project has been coordinated and set up by six partner organisations: Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), Arab Trade Union Confederation (ATUC), EuroMed Network France (REF), EuroMed Rights, Forum for Alternatives Morocco (FMAS) and SOLIDAR.

The whole process will be facilitated by an Interactive Digital Platform.

In addition to the six partners, six organisations with a regional scope are invited to sit in the Steering Committee: Arab Campaign for Education for All, Arab Network for Human Rights Information, Disabled People International, Maghreb Observatory on Migration Transparency International and Syrian Citizens’ League.

For the programme see: Programme

https://mailchi.mp/euromedrights/majalat-first-ever-eu-south-mediterranean-forum-with-civil-society-in-lead-to-be-launched-in-brussels-enarfr?e=1209ebd6d8

Nominees for the 2018 Sakharov Prize announced by European Parliament

September 30, 2018

The nominees for the 2018 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought have been announced on 27 September (Nominations can be made by political groups and groups of at least 40 MEPs – remarkable is the more active role played by right-wing groups in the EP, see the last two nominees):

Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian film director, convicted to 20 years in prison for “plotting terrorist acts” against the Russian “de facto” rule in Crimea. Amnesty International has described the court process as “an unfair trial before a military court”. He has become a symbol for the approximately 70 Ukrainian citizens illegally arrested and convicted to long prison sentences by the Russian occupation forces in the Crimean peninsula. He has been on hunger strike since May 2018. Nominated by EPP.

NGOs protecting human rights and saving migrant lives across the Mediterranean Sea. Since 2015, NGOs from across the EU have launched search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean to try and save the lives of refugees struggling to reach EU shores. The NGOs are: Boat Refugee Foundation, Jugend Rettet, Lifeline Rescue Boat, Médecins Sans Frontières International, MOAS, Proactiva Open Arms, PROEM-AID, Save the Children, Sea Eye, Sea Watch, and SOS Mediterranée. Nominated by S&D and the Greens/EFA.

Seyran Ateş, a German lawyer of Turkish origin, fighting against political and religious extremism and the oppression of women. She was behind the establishment of the Ibn Rushd Goethe Mosque in Berlin, where men and women can pray together and has received numerous death threats and has to have round the clock protection. She was nominated by ECR, Hans-Olaf Henkel and 40 other MEPs for her “commitment to the protection of human rights and her devotion to a modern and open Islam”.

Caesar is the code name of a former Syrian military photographer who smuggled more than 55,000 pictures out of Syria exposing the war atrocities. Their authenticity is confirmed by the Human Rights Watch. Caesar’s photographs will play a vital role in building criminal and civil cases against those responsible for the crimes documented. Nominated by ALDE.

Nasser Zefzafi is the leader of Hirak, a mass protest movement in the Rif region, Morocco, fighting corruption, oppression and abuse of power. He was arrested in May 2017 and sentenced to 20 years in prison for “conspiracy against the security of the state”. On August 2018, King Mohammed VI pardoned 188 Hirak activists, but Zefzafi was not among them. At the end of August he went on hunger strike to denounce his conditions of detention. Nominated by GUE, Kati Piri, Judith Sargentini, Marie-Christine Vergiat and 39 other MEPs for his fight “against oppression and abuse of power”.

Dewayne Johnson is a former groundskeeper from the US who has just won a landmark case against Monsanto. He was the first person to take Monsanto to trial over allegations that the chemicals sold by the company under the herbicide brand Roundup cause cancer. At the end of the process Dewayne had just months to live, yet he took the stand and described his pain and suffering. Nominated by EFDD as an inspiration “for those afraid to go to court and defend their rights”.

AfriForum is an NGO that aims to protect the rights of minorities in South Africa, with a specific focus on the rights of Afrikaners. It focuses on raising national and international awareness about farm attacks, murders and the expropriation of farm land without compensation, which threatens property rights, food supply and food security. Nominated by ENF.

Mary Wagner is a Canadian activist who has been arrested on multiple occasions and accused of “disturbing the business” of an abortion clinic in Toronto. She remained in prison for not complying with a probation order to stay away from abortion clinics. She was nominated by Marek Jurek and 41 other MEPs for her work “safeguarding the rights of those who cannot speak for themselves”.

For more information this award and 2 others with Sakharov in the name: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest

Euromed Rights announces its General Assembly for 23-24 June 2018

June 20, 2018

Euromed Rights [formerly known as the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN)] announced that on 23 and 24 June, 2018, more than a hundred representatives from 80 organisations working on Human Rights on the two shores of the Mediterranean are expected to head to Brussels to attend the 11th General Assembly of EuroMed Rights. As the Euro-Mediterranean region is consumed by the migrants’ impasse, a deep social-economic crisis, the deterioration of international conflicts and the restauration of authoritarian regimes, meetings like this one are more meaningful than ever. Being the only regional organisation that gathers human rights defenders and organisations from both sides of the Mediterranean, EuroMed Rights has a crucial role to play in order to tackle the deterioration of human rights in the region with a strong, common voice.

{The General Assembly is the supreme body of EuroMed Rights and gathers every three years to elect the new President and the new Executive Committee members. The President and the Executive Committee are elected for a period of three years which could be renewed for two further terms. The Executive Committee members are also appointed as political referents for different focus areas.}

https://euromedrights.org

 

Shackled Freedoms : what space for human rights defenders in the EuroMed?

September 7, 2016

 

cover-en-shackled-freedomThe recent report SHACKLED FREEDOMS : WHAT SPACE FOR CIVIL SOCIETY IN THE EUROMED? depicts the obstacles and repression against civil society in the region and showcases first-hand accounts from Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Syria, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories among others. The report also features recommendations by CSOs for joint action and seeks to influence EU policies to that effect. The report also focuses on the impact of security and anti-terrorist policies and lists the growing arsenal of repressive measures – both in law and practice – that civil society organizations (CSOs) face on a daily basis: judicial harassment, surveillance, arbitrary arrests, torture and assassination.

Despite legal safeguards and the human rights “shared values” rhetoric in the EU, EuroMed Rights argues that European civil society is under increasing pressure. Austerity measures and anti-terrorism laws are increasingly used to legitimise practices that go against individual freedoms and rights of assembly, association and expression, such as in France, Spain or the UK, for instance. The report – published on 7 September 2016 – is the result of a seminar organised in April 2016 as an open dialogue between EU representatives, South Mediterranean activists and Brussels-based CSOs.

 DOWNLOAD THE REPORT


 

Source: Shackled Freedoms : What Space for Civil Society in the EuroMed? – EuroMed Rights – Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network

The EU and freedom of expression as seen by Index on Censorship

January 16, 2014

Index on Censorship is basing a series of articles on its larger report by Mike Harris, Time to Step Up: The EU and freedom of expression.

On 14 January 2014 came the one the ‘southern neighbourhood’ arguing that the credibility of the EU’s swing in focus from economic development towards human rights (after the outbreak of the Arab spring) is low.

The EU’s  communication “A partnership for democracy and shared prosperity with the southern Mediterranean“ (published on 8 May 2011) addresses the EU’s commitment to financially support transition to democracy and civil society and heralds the creation of the Civil Society Facility for the neighbourhood (covering both the southern and eastern neighbourhoods), while the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) deployed a number of operations in the region to protect and promote freedom of expression, often without the consent of the host country. Still, the article argues, european countries are often still seen as former allies of repressive regimes.

http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/01/eu-freedom-expression-southern-neighbourhood/

The one of 15 January, entitled ‘The EU and free expression: Human rights dialogues’, looks at the situation that the EU runs 30 human rights dialogues across the globe, with the key dialogues taking place in China, Kazakhstan,  Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Georgia and Belarus. It also has a dialogues with the African Union. The article is more detailed on China 

The article concludes: “With criticism of the effectiveness and openness of the dialogues, the EU should look again at how the dialogues fit into the overall strategy of the Union and its member states in the promotion of human rights with third countries and assess whether the dialogues can be improved.

The EU and free expression: Human rights dialogues – Index on Censorship | Index on Censorship.