Posts Tagged ‘migrants’

Profile of migrants rights defender Mariana Zaragoza from Mexico

December 18, 2018

On 13 December 2018 ISHRGlobal published this interview with Mariana Zaragoza. Our countries are restricting migrants’ rights, and there is always something we can do to demand full protection of people“, says Mariana Zaragoza in her interview. Mariana works in the immigration programme at the Ibero-American University of Mexico and she advocates for migrants and refugees’ rights.

UN Experts consider human rights defenders in Italy under threat

December 2, 2018

In Europe it is not just in Hungary where human rights defenders are under pressure [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/07/26/some-facts-about-refugee-flows-which-hungary-seems-not-to-know/]. On 21 November 2018 a group of UN experts  – including Michel Forst, the UN Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders – expressed concern that amidst Italy’s proposed tightening of immigration rules HRDs are the subject of smear campaigns.

Since coming into power in June 2018, the new Italian Government has implemented the anti-migrant and exclusionary measures it campaigned upon. “Removing protection measures from potentially thousands of migrants and limiting their ability to regularise their stay in Italy will increase their vulnerability to attacks and exploitation. They will be at greater risk from traffickers and other criminal groups, and many will have no means to meet their basic needs through lawful means”.

While acknowledging the challenges Italy faces due to the absence of an effective European-wide system of solidarity, the UN experts said this did not justify violations of human rights. “The government must adhere to the values enshrined in the Italian constitution, and the international commitments it signed up to,” they said in an appeal to the government to reconsider the legislative changes.

During the most recent electoral campaign, some politicians fuelled a public discourse unashamedly embracing racist and xenophobic anti-immigrant and anti-foreigner rhetoric. Such speech incites hatred and discrimination,” the experts said. ……“We are also concerned about the continuing smear campaigns against civil society organisations engaged in search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the criminalisation of the work of migrant rights defenders, which have become more widespread in Italy,”.

The UN experts urge the Italian government to combat incitement to hatred and discrimination, racism and xenophobia. “Perpetrators of hate crimes must be held accountable and justice provided to the victims. Italian authorities should implement the national and relevant European legal framework and provide the needed responses to hate crime and the use of hate speech.”

The experts have contacted the government about their concerns and await a reply.

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23908&LangID=E

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

Michel Forst: “Empowering defenders on the move is crucial to the prevention of further tragedy”

February 20, 2018

The ISHR in a piece of 16 February 2018 draws attention to tow complementary reports on the situation of human rights defenders in a migration context. They fit admirably with the outcry of 250 NGOs concerning Hungary referred to in my earlier post of today [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/20/250-ngos-address-letter-to-hungarian-parliament-regarding-restriction-on-the-work-of-human-rights-defenders/].

The first is the report, by UN Special Rapporteur Michel Forst, which examines the many ways in which human rights defenders are impacted by the current environment related to migrant and refugee flows. For example, defenders may become migrants or refugees as a result of the harassment and violence they face in their own communities or countries. ‘Empowering defenders on the move is crucial to the prevention of further tragedy‘.

The second is the OHCHR Principles and Practical Guidance for the protection of the Human Rights of Migrants in Vulnerable Situations, especially Principle 18 which states that ‘States must respect and support the activities of human rights defenders who promote and protect the human rights of migrants’.

Both document will be considered at the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The two documents are fully complementary’, Sarah Brooks of the ISHR says. ‘The recommendations of the OHCHR and the UN expert have no daylight between them – their message is quite simple. In order for lives to be saved, States must ensure that human rights defenders and civil society can operate safely and without hindrance.’

Migrants – including migrant workers – who seek to stand up for their rights and those of others face unique threats, including deportation.  The case of Sujana Rana and Rose Limu Jee, two migrant domestic workers from Nepal who were detained and deported after advocating for freedom of association in Lebanon, is a prime example. And defenders in countries of destination – whether the Gulf, the United States, or many Member States of the European Union (e.g. Hungary) – find that their own governments may rollback protections or even funding for civil society and defenders when migration-related issues are the focus, or in the worst cases criminalise assistance to migrants and refugees.

Main challenges

  • Limits on access to migrant and refugee populations. This can appear as overt limits on physical presence in border areas or due to the remote nature of some areas where populations on the move are concentrated. This includes securitised border zones and offshore facilities.  In both cases, the real impact is to increase physical and financial barriers to access, preventing people on the move from accessing independent services and much-needed legal counsel.
  • Criminalisation. Some defenders struggle against risks of criminal prosecution both nationally and as a result of local bylaws, particularly registration requirements (based on geographic areas of work, for example). The overzealous application of existing law has also been sued to accuse people of harbouring or smuggling, when in reality the individual was engaged in humanitarian activity. This threat of criminal charges has a chilling effect, as does the decrease in funding for organisations working in this area (both anti-racism work and traditional legal aid centres).
  • The growing role of non-state actors.  Especially in some parts of Latin America, organised crime poses significant threats to defenders, as well as to States should they try to protect them. Businesses are also implicated, as the report notes particular types of private employment contracts which ‘gag’ service providers and impose outsized fines or criminal penalties for discussing the situation.  Finally, in cases where governments have outsourced certain services, tools like access to information requests (normally directed at public authorities) are no longer available.

http://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc37-global-community-must-recognise-defenders-people-move-says-un-expert

http://www.ishr.ch/sites/default/files/article/files/201802_ohchr_principles_and_practical_guidance.pdf

UN Experts urge USA not to deport human rights defenders like Maru Mora Villalpando

February 14, 2018

On 14 February 2018 a group of four UN human rights experts urged the United States Government to respect the rights of human rights defenders, amid concern over action being taken against a Mexican woman who campaigns to protect migrants’ rights. Maru Mora Villalpando, who has been in the US since 1996, is facing deportation proceedings after fronting a high-profile campaign against alleged human rights violations at a US immigrants’ detention centre, operated by a private company on behalf of the US government. [Ms. Villalpando, whose 20-year-old daughter is a US citizen, is co-founder of a group which highlights human rights concerns about the Northwest Detention Centre in Tacoma, Washington.  She has raised the issue with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and with the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, alleging corporate involvement in human rights violations as well as expressing concern over hunger strikes and the deportation of migrants. The UN experts have been in contact with the Government regarding their concerns.]

Ms. Villalpando’s notice to appear at deportation proceedings, received without warning, seems to be related to her advocacy work on behalf of migrant detainees”, the experts said. “We urge the US Government to protect and ensure Ms. Villalpando’s rights as a defender and her right to family life”.

“The authorities should take all necessary measures to guarantee that no action, including detention and deportation, as means of retaliation, is taken against Ms. Villalpando for reporting cases of the detention of immigrants and alleged violations of their human rights, especially in view of the reported conditions in these centres of detention”. The experts said they were concerned that Ms. Villalpando’s case appeared to be part of a pattern. “Giving people notice of deportation proceedings appears to be a part of an increasing pattern of intimidation and retaliation against people defending migrants’ rights in the US”, the experts said.

The UN experts are: Ms. Elina Steinerte, Vice-Chair on Communications of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mr. Felipe González MoralesSpecial Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Ms. Anita Ramasastry, Chair person of UN Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22657&LangID=E

Killing of minority rights defender Lafiqul Islam Ahmed in Assam State, India

August 14, 2017

On 1 August 2017, two unidentified gunmen shot and killed minority rights defender Lafiqul Islam Ahmed in Kokrajhar district, Assam state. Lafiqul Islam Ahmed <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/lafiqul-islam-ahmed>  was a human rights defender and a student leader. He was the president of All Bodoland Minority Students’ Union (ABMSU), a student group working to defend the rights of migrant Muslim communities in Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD), an autonomous administrative division in northern Assam. ABMSU have protested against the forceful eviction of Muslims from government land across the state, and demanded compensation and rehabilitation for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Assam. Under Lafiqul Islam Ahmed’s leadership, the union has also campaigned to end child marriage, child labour and dowry and have worked on women’s empowerment. Lafiqul Islam Ahmed was also vocal against corruption, smuggling and arbitrary anti-Muslim policies and harassment.

The human rights defender had previously been subjected to threats. The Superintendent of Police in Kokrajhar has opened an investigation into the murder and two persons were arrested in connection to the case on 2 August 2017. Lafiqul Islam Ahmed, along with the ABMSU, was to lead a march on 2 August 2017 to protest against the discrimination of Muslims through the  “D voters” system. This is a category of voters in Assam whose citizenship rights, entitlements and privileges are withheld until they can prove their citizenship. Many members of the Muslim community in the state have allegedly been arbitrarily categorized as such, making them second-class citizens and severely restricting their civil and political rights.

World Refugee Day 2017: Seven must-read stories by IRIN

June 21, 2017

 
 Yesterday, 20 June, was World Refugee Day 2017. Kristy Siegfried, IRIN’s Migration Editor, wrote an excellent ‘summary’ with a selection of 7 short stories ensuring that the problem is not viewed from a euro-centric position.

In recent years, it’s become an annual ritual on World Refugee Day for the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, to declare that levels of forced displacement have reached an “unprecedented high”.  This year is no exception. As of the end of 2016, there were 65.6 million people worldwide forcibly displaced from their homes by war, violence, or persecution. That figure encompasses 40.3 million people displaced within their countries’ borders (IDPs) and 2.8 million asylum seekers, as well as 22.5 million refugees. While 2016 was another record year for forced displacement, the increase from 2015 was only 300,000. That may not sound like cause for celebration, but when you consider that the figure in 2015 jumped by 5.8 million from the previous year, it is something of an improvement.

……

In 2016, just as in 2015, more than half of refugees (55 percent) came from just three countries, but South Sudan has replaced Somalia as one of those countries. Syria and Afghanistan remain in the top two spots. Contrary to public perceptions in the West, the vast majority of refugees (84 percent) are still being hosted in the developing world. The top three host countries at the end of 2016 were Turkey, Lebanon, and Pakistan (although Uganda is likely to enter the top three this year as it continues to absorb the majority of South Sudanese refugees).

IRIN’s coverage of refugees and forced displacement is year-round and not dependent on how many boats arrive in Italy or Greece. Below is a selection of our 2017 work designed to highlight more recent developments and the wide range of issues facing refugees around the globe today:

Fleeing a broken Venezuela

Blocked by Trump, unwanted by Kenya, Somali refugees face new crisis as famine looms

Closure of conflict camps test CAR reconciliation

Barefoot flight from Mosul

Jordan looks to turn refugee crisis into economic boom

Pushed out of Pakistan into worn-torn Afghanistan, refugees are told to be ‘patient’

Hardening European policies keep refugee children apart from their families

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/06/17/unhcr-launches-2015-world-refugee-day-with-celebrity-support/

Source: IRIN | Seven must-read stories this World Refugee Day

Principles on the Role of Judges and Lawyers in relation to Refugees and Migrants

June 11, 2017

An interesting and timely document that deserves more attention than it is getting:

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has published a set of Principles on the Role of Judges and Lawyers in relation to Refugees and Migrants.

The Principles were developed by the ICJ on the basis of consultations with senior judges, lawyers, and legal scholars working in the field of international refugee and migration law (including at the 2016 Geneva Forum of Judges & Lawyers), as well consultations with States and other stakeholders on a draft version during the March 2017 Human Rights Council session, and other feedback.

The Principles seek to help judges and lawyers, as well as legislators and other government officials, better secure human rights and the rule of law in the context of large movements of refugees and migrants. They are intended to complement existing relevant legal and other international instruments, including the New York Declaration, as well as the Principles and practical guidance on the protection of the human rights of migrants in vulnerable situations within large and/or mixed movements being developed by the OHCHR.

The Principles address the role of judges and lawyers in relation to, among other aspects:

  • determinations of entitlement to international protection;
  • deprivation of liberty;
  • removals;
  • effective remedy and access to justice;
  • independence, impartiality, and equality before the law;
  • conflicts between national and international law.

The Principles, together with commentary, can be downloaded in PDF format by clicking here: ICJ Refugee Migrant Principles 2017.

The ICJ formally launched the published version of the Principles at a side event to the June 2017 session of the Human Rights Council (click here for details), where their importance and utility were recognised by the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, as well as representatives of UNHCR and the OHCHR. The ICJ had earlier released the final text in connection with the Thematic Session on “Human rights of all migrants” for the UN General Assembly Preparatory Process for the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration to be held in Geneva 8-9 May 2017, where in an oral statementthe ICJ was able to highlight the potential utility of the Principles in the development of the Compact.

More information about the process of development of the Principles, including the list of participants to the 2016 Geneva Forum, is available here. The consultations, preparation and publication of the Principles was made possible with the financial support of the Genève Internationale office of the Republic and Canton of Geneva. For further information, please contact ICJ Senior Legal Adviser Matt Pollard, matt.pollard(a)icj.org

Source: Principles on the Role of Judges and Lawyers in relation to Refugees and Migrants | ICJ

UN Human Rights Commissioner speaks out over Katie Hopkins ‘cockroaches’ column in the Sun

April 27, 2015

I hope that this reaction by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was widely disseminated. For those who missed it – and to illustrate why an independent Office is needed [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/04/07/joint-inspection-unit-on-human-rights-not-so-innocent-as-it-sounds/] – here is how Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has criticised the UK tabloid Sun for allowing Katie Hopkins to describe migrants as ‘cockroaches‘ in a recent column. Read the rest of this entry »

Alejandra Ancheita on the challenges for women defenders working on business and human rights

December 2, 2014

(Photo credit: Martin Ennals Foundation)

For the 3rd UN Forum on Business and Human Rights (going on at the moment), ISHR published also an article by Alejandra Ancheita, 2014 Martin Ennals Award Laureate and Executive Director of ProDESC. Women defenders and those working on business and human rights represent two groups facing particular risks yet, in Mexico, the State’s response is falling short, concludes Alejandra Ancheita in her article:

“The challenges and risks that human rights defenders (HRDs) are facing in Mexico and other Latin American countries are diverse and growing daily in the absence of comprehensive State action to address this situation. The inadequate response of the Mexican government to the hundreds of cases of attacks and intimidation has become evident in various spaces. For instance in the recent Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations, the Mexican State received 24 recommendations on the situation of human rights defenders and journalists in the country, whilst the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists,  in the Interior Ministry, has received 130 applications for protection. Its response has been insufficient, particularly for those groups of defenders who face particular and heightened risks. As a woman human rights defender who works on issues related to business and the environment, I ought to know.……

Importantly, the fact that women human rights defenders face specific threats has been well established. However, existing protection mechanisms have not yet adjusted to incorporate this reality into their functioning, thus leaving women defenders vulnerable to gender-specific threats and aggressions. This is a global phenomenon and, in over 15 years as a human rights defender in Mexico, I have personally suffered violations of my human rights because of my gender and numerous colleagues have found themselves in the same situation.….

Integral security for women defenders must also seek to transform public opinion to understand and support our work. The first step in this regard is for States to recognize that working to defend certain rights can make women HRDs particularly vulnerable, for example by working on indigenous land rights in Latin America. Public statements made by public officials on the importance of our role and the legitimacy of our work are key. Authorities must investigate and punish those responsible for statements that seek to defame or attack defenders or delegitimize their work, even when such statements are made by non-State actors like community leaders or company representatives. Given the severe impact inflammatory statements have on women defenders’ work and wellbeing, they must be treated as aggressions in and of themselves.…..

In the vast majority of countries there are no specific mechanisms in place to protect human rights defenders. Where mechanisms have been created they are often hindered by operational failings, a lack of financial or human resources, the absence of gender-sensitivity, limited options for collective or community measures, and absent political will…..

As my work is based in Mexico, and due to my incorporation into the Federal Protection Mechanism for human rights defenders and journalists last year, this is the Mechanism I am best-placed to comment on. One very positive aspect of the mechanism is that four of the nine members of the decision-making body come from civil society. However, the Mechanism is also faced with several challenges.

The Mechanism falls short in the preventative aspect. Recently, various actors including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the CEDAW Committee have highlighted impunity for violations against women defenders as the greatest obstacle in improving their safety. In spite of this concern, the law establishing the Mechanism does not guarantee the adequate investigation and prosecution of perpetrators.

The Mechanism also fails to incorporate a gender perspective to better understand the situation facing women HRDs. I believe that the Mexican authorities have the opportunity to set best practices in this regard, by providing gender-sensitive training to staff and by developing gender indicators to guide the granting, planning and implementation of protection measures.

Mexican authorities responsible for the Mechanism must also effectively involve defenders in the design and implementation of protection measures, as well as conducting risk assessments in a more transparent way. This is particularly important in the case of defenders working on issues that impact upon private actors such as business, or those defending land rights in isolated communities. Finally, cooperation and coordination between federal, state and local authorities in the implementation of protection measures need to drastically improve……..”

Read the rest of this entry »