Posts Tagged ‘migrants rights defender’

Absurd prosecution of the crew of the ship Iuventa continues in Italy

July 31, 2020

AI has started a campagiun to call on the Italian prosecutor to drop the absurd investigation against the crew of the rescue ship “Iuventa 10”. Despite having saved more than 14,000 lives, they are accused of “facilitating the irregular entry” of migrants into Italy, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years. The criminalization of rescue at sea has hampered vital lifesaving activities in the Central Mediterranean, and it is part of a wider crackdown on acts of solidarity across Europe

Three years after the baseless criminal investigation began, the Iuventa 10 crew remain in limbo with the threat of long jail terms hanging over them,” said Maria Serrano, Amnesty campaigner on migration.

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

The criminalization of rescue at sea has hampered vital lifesaving activities in the Central Mediterranean, and it is part of a wider crackdown on acts of solidarity across Europe. Wrapped up with the fate of these ten men and women are the fates of hundreds of others and thousands of refugees and migrants they are helping.” .

We could no longer stand by and watch people disappearing in the Mediterranean mass grave. We chose to use our privilege to be eyewitnesses, reporters, and a safe harbour for thousands of people on the move,” said one of the Iuventa10

“It was, still is and will remain the task of all of to save human lives wherever possible, to offer protection to those who need it, to treat everyone with dignity and to fight with them for the world in which we want to live.”

Forensic Architecture reconstructionhttps://forensic-architecture.org/investigation/the-seizure-of-the-iuventa

BACKGROUND:

The Iuventa case is not an isolated one. Across Europe people standing in solidarity or assisting refugees and migrants have been threatened, smeared, intimidated, harassed and dragged through the courts simply for helping others. Authorities have misused and abused anti-smuggling laws to criminalize human rights defenders and punish solidarity.  https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur01/1828/2020/en/

Fewer rescue assets had led to an increase of the death rate in 2018 and 2019. Since 2016 more than 50,000 women, men and children have been intercepted at sea by the Libyan Coast Guard and returned to Libya, where they are exposed to arbitrary detention, torture, extortion and rape.

The Iuventa case was the first judicial proceeding launched against a rescue NGO in Italy, following a smear campaign in which NGOs were stigmatized.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/07/italy-crew-of-rescue-ship-face-20-years-in-jail-on-third-anniversary-of-smuggling-investigation/

Film “USA v Scott”: Humanitarian Aid Is Not a Crime

July 8, 2020

Murat Oztaskin – a member of The New Yorker’s editorial staff – wrote on 8 july 2020 a rich piece on the case of Scott Warren who was prosecuted for bringing water to migrants in the desert [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/29/also-in-usa-helping-migrants-is-criminalised-scot-warren-in-court-on-29-may/ ] He does so in reaction to the short documentary “USA v Scott”…

Warren was charged with one count of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens and two counts of harboring, and faced up to twenty years in prison. The lead-up to his first trial, in May, 2019, is chronicled in the short documentary “USA v Scott.”….

“USA v Scott” is directed by Ora DeKornfeld, a twenty-nine-year-old filmmaker, and Isabel Castro, a thirty-year-old multimedia journalist who was born in Mexico. “I think we were both fundamentally inspired” to make the film, Castro told me, “because we saw it as such a seminal case.” In 2017 and early 2018, several No More Deaths volunteers, including Warren, were charged with federal misdemeanors for “littering” and “trespassing”—that is, for leaving water and other supplies along crossing routes in federal wildlife areas. But Warren’s arrest at the Barn proved a turning point in immigration enforcement. In early 2017, Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s first Attorney General, directed federal prosecutors to use the law against harboring unauthorized migrants as a tool to help enforce the Administration’s zero-tolerance immigration agenda—until then, the law had been used almost exclusively against smugglers who trafficked migrants for profit. Warren was charged by Michael Bailey, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, a Trump appointee.

The film, which has screened at the Tribeca and Mountainfilm festivals, largely skirts politics, focussing instead on how the situation raised “moral questions for people who were living in Arizona,” Castro said. Warren frequently hosts roundtable discussions on immigration in Ajo, and the film opens on one such meeting. “Borders are supposed to keep us safe,” one member of the community says. “And now I have fear.” Another says, “My thing is, they wanna come here, they wanna come here for a better life so badly, but then they also wanna say, ‘Well, do it my old-country way.’ ” Warren listens patiently, nods. “Thank you for sharing that,” he says. The film also shows individual interviews with residents of Ajo. “To us, it’s normal,” one man says. “We’ve lived with [crossing migrants] all of our lives. It was never a big deal. And then the government stepped in and made a big deal out of it.”

Warren’s felony trial began in May, 2019. The documentary shows the tense months leading up to it, as he remains calm and diligently continues his work with No More Deaths. “We saw in Scott . . . someone who was doing very radical work but who was carrying himself in a very open and mild-mannered way,” DeKornfeld told me—someone who “could potentially connect not only with people who already agree with his politics but also those who don’t.” The trial ended, in June, in a hung jury.

Because the prosecution declined to drop all charges against Warren, the case went to a second trial, in November, where Warren was tried on the harboring charges. (The conspiracy charge was dropped, and the judge ruled that no mention of the Trump Administration’s policies could be included in the arguments.) The jury found him not guilty. After the verdict, Warren said, “The government failed in its attempt to criminalize basic human kindness.” Although Warren was vindicated, the fate of Sacaria-Goday and Perez-Villanueva remains unknown.

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/the-new-yorker-documentary/usa-v-scott-and-the-fight-to-prove-that-humanitarian-aid-is-not-a-crime

Oak Human Rights Fellow is migrants’ rights defender Nasim Lomani

June 13, 2020

On 12 June 2020 the Oak Institute for Human Rights announced as the 2020 Oak Human Rights Fellow: Nasim Lomani, a human rights defender and migrants’ rights activist, who has been working in Greece and across the EU for over a decade.

As a then 16-year-old Afghanistani, Lomani left for Greece nearly two decades ago. Upon arrival, he was arrested and charged with illegal crossing of the Greek border, ultimately serving a two-year prison sentence. During the process of appealing to the court for having his rights as a refugee abused and violated, he learned about the bureaucratic difficulties that all migrants face while trying to enter Europe. He joined a number of solidarity groups, such as the Network for Social Support to Immigrants and Refugees and the Migrants’ Social Center in Athens, where he coordinated free language classes and the Athens Anti-racist Festival. He also engaged in solidarity work that involved lawyers, human rights defenders, as well as refugees and migrants.
 Nasim Lomani

Nasim Lomani © Marios Lolos

In Greece, Lomani, founded City Plaza – Refugees Accommodation Solidarity Space in Athens – where he organized daily life for migrants, managed media communication, coordinated international volunteers, and served as the public representative to researchers, students, and academics. City Plaza, once one of the largest solidarity migrant accommodations in Athens, was an abandoned hotel in central Athens repurposed to offer migrants the right to live in dignity in the urban space with access to social, economic, and political rights. Lomani lived inside the now-closed City Plaza for the entirety of its existence. Over almost three and half years, it welcomed 3,000 people, lodging up to 400 at a time.  The story of City Plaza is known as an example of self-organization, self-management, and everyday processes to help empower refugees. In essence, it was a political statement against Europe’s use of militarized borders, repression, and systematic violation of human rights and refugees’ rights.

Lomani was also involved in organizing the largest NoBorder refugee and migrant solidarity camp to date, leading to the closure of the Pagani Detention Center on Lesvos island in 2009. 

Lomani is at increasing risk, as migration solidarity work and defending human rights in Greece, and Europe at large has been criminalized in recent years. Helping refugees and criticizing the human rights violations by authorities is now a major offense by both national and European law. In Greece, this has led to large-scale evictions of housing sites for refugees and asylum seekers and to increasing arrests and trials of activists on the ground. 

Lomani has been active in the human rights field since he was a child, so the Oak Fellowship will come as a much-needed respite.

Established in 1997 by a grant from the Oak Foundation, the Oak Institute for Human Rights hosts a Fellow each year. The fellowship offers an opportunity to spend the fall semester in residence at Colby, where they teach, conduct research, and raise awareness about important global human rights issues.

http://www.colby.edu/news/2020/06/12/migrants-rights-activist-to-be-2020-oak-human-rights-fellow/

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.”

Click to access 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

Interview with Cédric Herrou, migrants rights defender who is the central person in the film Libre

July 18, 2019

ISHR had the chance to meet with Cédric Herrou for the Geneva premiere of movie ‘Libre’ where director Michel Toesca follows him in his endeavours in France‘s Roya Valley. During our interview, Herrou, a migrant rights defender and president of association ‘Défends Ta Citoyenneté’, shared his testimony, challenges, aspirations and calls to action.  The interview was published on 22 March 2019.

Also in USA helping migrants is criminalised: Scot Warren in court on 29 May 2019

May 29, 2019

Not just in Italy [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/15/european-governments-should-stop-treating-solidarity-and-compassion-as-a-crime/]. Front LIne Defenders on 28 May 2019 reports that in the United States Scott Warren is facing 20-year prison sentence for “harbouring” migrants.

On 29 May 2019, Scott Warren is due to face a felony trial at the District Court for the District of Arizona. The human rights defender is charged with two counts of “harbouring” migrants in Ajo, Arizona, and one count of “conspiracy to transport and harbour” migrants. If found guilty, he might be sentenced to up to 20 years of imprisonment.

Dr. Scott Warren [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/scott-warren] is a human rights defender working on migration issues in Ajo, Arizona. For over ten years, he has provided humanitarian aid to migrants and asylum seekers who attempt crossing the United States – Mexico border through the Sonora desert. He helped establish the humanitarian aid group No More Deaths or No Más Muertes which provides water and medical aid on migration routes, and documents the deaths of migrants in the desert.

On 29 May 2019 at 9:30am, Scott Warren is due to be tried at the District Court for the District of Arizona for two counts of “harbouring” migrants and one count of “conspiracy to transport and harbour” migrants. On 21 May 2019, the judge assigned to the case rejected a motion to dismiss the indictment. Scott Warren’s lawyers argued that his arrest “arose from selective enforcement of the laws by the Border Patrol” and that he was being targeted specifically for his work in defence of migrants’ rights.

On 17 January 2018, Scott Warren was arrested at a volunteer gathering point known as the “Barn”, located in Ajo, by a convoy of U.S. Border Patrol agents from a specialised anti-smuggling unit. The agents were wearing plain clothes and did not present the human rights defender with a warrant. Earlier on that day, No More Deaths had published a report denouncing the involvement of Border Patrol officers in the destruction of water gallons left by volunteers for migrants crossing the desert. After the publication of the report, Scott Warren gathered evidence of surveillance activities carried out against him by the U.S. Border Patrol.

The arrest of Scott Warren represents an escalation of existing patterns of harassment against humanitarian volunteers and human rights defenders in Arizona. In 2018, officers of the Fish and Wildlife Services cited Scott Warren and other volunteers of No More Deaths for entering the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, one of the most deadly migrant corridors along the Mexico-US border, to provide life-saving aid, including water, food and medical supplies, to migrants crossing the desert.

…..
On recent country visits, Front Line Defenders found that defamation and criminalisation of humanitarian activity is increasing along the migrant caravan routes. Human rights defenders in Mexico and the United States have been detained, harassed and criminalised for the provision of humanitarian aid, including distributing food, water and medical supplies, and operating emergency shelters for migrant families. Moreover, the authorities in the United States have increased efforts towards the criminalisation of all forms of immigration, including through coordinated action with other states in the region.

Front Line Defenders condemns the criminalisation of Scott Warren, as it is believed to be directly motivated by his humanitarian work assisting migrants and documenting their deaths. Front Line Defenders is further concerned about the increased use of the judiciary to target human rights defenders and organisations who assist migrants at the United States – Mexico border, including by selective enforcement of the law.

See latest: https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/human-rights-first-statement-new-trial-against-arizona-human-rights-defender