Posts Tagged ‘minority rights’

Joint letter by 22 States to Human Rights Council re China’s Uighurs

July 12, 2019

A Chinese flag behind razor wire at a housing compound in Yangisar, south of Kashgar, in China’s western Xinjiang region
China is reportedly holding one million people, mostly ethnic Uighurs, in internment camps in Xinjiang Photograph: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

UN ambassadors  – including Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany and Japan – co-signed the letter released Wednesday and sent to the Human Rights Council president, Coly Seck, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.

Rights groups and former inmates describe them as “concentration camps” where mainly Muslim Uighurs and other minorities are being forcefully assimilated into China’s majority ethnic Han society. The letter expresses concern “about credible reports of arbitrary detention… as well as widespread surveillance and restrictions, particularly targeting Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.” It calls on China to stop arbitrary detention and allow “freedom of movement of Uighurs and other Muslim and minority communities in Xinjiang.” The authors, who include ambassadors from across the EU as well as Switzerland, requested that the letter become an official document of the Human Rights Council, which ends its 41st session in Geneva on Friday. Chinese officials describe the camps as voluntary “vocational education centres” where Turkic-speaking Uighurs receive job training.

The letter may have been the only available option with China having enough support in the UN Council to vote down a formal resolution. See also: ttps://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-xinjiang-rights-idUSKCN1U721X?utm_campaign=trueAnthem:+Trending+Content&utm_content=5d28c3e00ca7240001cb2eef&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=twitter

On the same day Human Rights Watch commented: Most importantly, the joint letter sends a strong message that we are moving beyond the era of selectivity, and that no country, large or small, is exempt from the scrutiny of this Council. We understand that the joint letter remains open for additional signatures, and we encourage those delegations that have not yet signed to do so. We are particularly disappointed that OIC member states have not yet engaged meaningfully or credibly with the human rights situation affecting Muslims in Xinjiang, while they have spoken out on other situations. This risks fueling perceptions of double standards and politicization; supporting the constructive joint statement would be a useful step towards addressing such perceptions.

We also welcome China’s acceptance of a UPR recommendation to respond positively to a country visit request by the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.

We would suggest that China could benefit from technical assistance by drawing on the expertise of other UN Special Rapporteurs, such as the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of human rights while countering terrorism. Given that China has advanced the need to counter terrorism as its rationale for mass programs directed at Uyghurs and others in Xinjiang, the Special Rapporteur could offer useful guidance on whether there are more rights-respecting ways to counter terrorism than mass surveillance, detaining over a million Muslims, and stripping an entire population of its rights to freedom of religion, privacy, culture and expression.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/11/hot-news-ilham-tohti-chinas-mandela-wins-2016-martin-ennals-awad/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/11/more-than-20-ambassadors-condemn-chinas-treatment-of-uighurs-in-xinjiang

https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/07/11/independent-reporting-xinjiang-abuses-requires-unfettered-access-not-stage-managed

What ‘Jokowi 2.0’ means for human rights in Indonesia

April 21, 2019

In anticipation of the final result of the Indonesian presidential election on 22 May, which seems to have been won by sitting President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (now with a senior Islamic cleric Ma’ruf Amin as his vice president), Asmin Fransiska, Abdil Mughis Mudhoffir, and Lailatul Fitriyah give in EconoTimes of 21 April 2019 their views on what that means for human rights:

Asmin Fransiska, Lecturer in Human Rights Law, Universitas Katolik Indonesia Atma Jaya

In 2014, Jokowi won the presidential election by promising to respect, protect and fulfil human rights. For four and a half years the Jokowi government failed to keep this promise. Jokowi should use his second victory to keep his promises.Indonesia’s 2017 Universal Periodic Review by the UN , shows that the government must address a number of human rights issues, for example, violence carried out by security forces, especially in remote areas, such as Papua, and cases of torture, and violence against women, children and minority groups.

…..As a first step, Jokowi and his new vice president, Ma’ruf Amin, must evaluate the Attorney General’s performance who for four years failed to bring human rights criminals to justice as recommended by the National Human Rights Commission….

Jokowi needs to balance the priorities of infrastructure development with environmental protection and corruption eradication. These two things are a prerequisite for development that values human rights. Indicators of human rights-friendly development include environmental preservation, protection of indigenous peoples and vulnerable communities, and high public participation in the development process from the beginning to the end.

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Abdil Mughis Mudhoffir, PhD Candidate in Politics, University of Melbourne, Lecturer in Sociology, Universitas Negeri Jakarta

In my opinion not much will change in terms of civil liberties protection in Jokowi’s second term if the constellation of power supporting the Jokowi government remains the same. …..The existence of retired generals allegedly involved in human rights violations as well as those connected with mining companies in Jokowi’s circle of power will hinder efforts to resolve not only past atrocities but also agrarian conflicts. The number of land conflict victims from agriculture, mining and infrastructure development activities will likely increase. State repression and civilian violence against discussions, film screenings and meetings that criticise the business relationships of people around Jokowi as well as those advocating for the interests of marginalised groups will continue.

Meanwhile, civil society efforts to prevent the military from intervening in civilian matters will continue to face challenges. The case of Robertus Robet, an activist and academic who was recently arrested during a rally for singing a song that criticised the military, for example, is likely to be left unresolved but will serve as a warning. The use of identity politics will still be dominant given that the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and Gerindra seemed to gain significant votes and will remain in opposition. Moreover, they also have strong candidates, such as current Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan, Sandiaga Uno or other PKS officials for the 2024 presidential election. The two parties will likely continue using religious identity narratives that will reproduce and sharpen polarisation in society to consolidate their power. As before, Jokowi’s camp will also respond to the attacks using similar narratives, with minority groups taking the brunt.

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Lailatul Fitriyah, PhD Candidate in Theology, University of Notre Dame

……..In other words, in the context of human rights, voters choose Jokowi on the principle of ‘the best of the worst’. Jokowi was elected because he did not have any record of human rights abuse, that’s all. Another aspect of Jokowi 2.0 era, which human rights activists will closely monitor, is his running mate, Ma’ruf Amin. Ma’ruf Amin’s popularity does not come from his commitment to inclusiveness, but his traditional support base as the senior cleric of the Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Muslim organisation. In the long term, Ma’ruf Amin must serve not only his Muslim base, but also other segments of Indonesian society, especially those from marginal groups.

Ma’ruf should change his perspective. In his role as an Islamic scholar, he has alienated minority groups, including, Syi’ah, Ahmadiyah and LGBTIQ. As Vice President, Ma’ruf must act as a public official with the obligation to protect the rights of all Indonesian people, irrespective of race, ethnicity, sexuality or religion/non-religion. For Jokowi’s second term, the sacrificing of minority rights to gain popular votes will no longer be acceptable. Jokowi should protect minority groups who, although they had lived within the structure of systemic violence under his first term, have shown they still trusted him for a second term in office.

See also my recent: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/16/82-year-old-father-magnis-in-indonesia-tough-words-for-a-good-purpose/

https://www.econotimes.com/Jokowi-wins-Indonesias-election-polls-indicate–what-does-that-mean-for-human-rights-1527148

HRD Marija Mitrovic, Serbia, in the series of videos by European External Action Service

October 6, 2018

This video of Human Rights Defender Marija Mitrovic from Serbia, focusing on the right of Roma, is another of the profiles recently published by European External Action Service (EEAS) in the context of the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/04/chia-wei-chi-first-in-series-of-videos-by-european-external-action-service/].

Today Ilham Tohti completes his fourth year in Chinese detention

January 15, 2018

Rightly Front Line Defenders reminds us that today, 15 January 2018, Ilham Tohti completed his fourth year in Chinese detention. The human rights defender, economics professor and advocate for the rights of China’s Uyghur minority was arrested following a raid on his home on 15 January 2014. In the course of his incarceration, Ilham Tohti has been subjected to recurring violations of international human rights standards with regard to detention conditions such as limitations of family visits, intercepted communication, solitary confinement, deprivation of food and intimidation. Ilham Tohti’s family and colleagues have also been subjected to judicial harassment. 

Ilham Tohti <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/fr/profile/ilham-tohti>  formerly lectured as a professor at the Central University for Nationalities in Beijing. He has researched, taught, and written numerous articles on topics related to human rights violations in China’s northwestern Xinjiang Province, the homeland of China’s sharply repressed Uyghur minority. In 2006, the human rights defender founded Uyghur Online, a Chinese-language website for the dissemination of  Uyghur-centric news. Across these platforms, Ilham Tohti regularly criticised the exclusion of China’s Uyghur population from Chinese development, and encouraged greater awareness of Uyghur status and treatment in Chinese society. For these actions, Ilham Tohti was declared a “separatist” by the Chinese state and ultimately given a life sentence in prison.

Following his arrest on 15 January 2014, Ilham Tohti was tried at the Urumqi City Intermediate People’s Court on 23 September 2014. He was found guilty of “separatism” and sentenced to life in prison. Seven of the human rights defender’s students were arrested in the same year, and his niece was arrested in early 2016 for possessing photos of and articles written by the defender on her phone. On 10 October 2016, Ilham Tohti was granted the Martin Ennals Human Rights Award. {see earlier posts on Ilham https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/ilham-tohti/]

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.

Where is the beef? In tolerance..

April 13, 2017

Living in Greece where the big feast of Orthodox Easter is preceded by various fasting habits, especially in the last week, the issue of tolerance of other religions or customs came up. Especially when the Greek Atheists Association organizes a Meat Supper event on Good Friday, the day when Greek Orthodox are supposed to keep a very strict Lent avoiding to consume even oil. They call the event “The Disclosed Supper” in opposition to the Last Supper which in Greek is “Secret Supper.” Although church representatives and several news outlets commented negatively on the ‘counter celebration’, I am not aware of any official sanction or threat of violence.

Then I read that human rights activist Bondita Acharya in India said she has been threatened by some Bajrang Dal activists and individuals ‘propagating Hindutva’ for expressing her opinion about eating beef on the social media.
Acharya said she has already lodged a complaint with the CID and Jorhat Police. As a resident of Jorhat district, Acharya said Bajrang Dal has also demanded a public apology from her for hurting the sentiments of the Hindus through her comments on the recent arrest of three persons in Jorhat for carrying beef. “After the incident, I spoke to some people from the minority community who were shocked. Many of us were sharing our views on beef and I expressed my opinion. The arrests were made to target the Muslims only and so I wrote that I am from Jorhat and I eat beef. Then all of us should be put in jail,” added Acharya, the northeast coordinator of Human Rights Defenders Alert (HRDA). She is also associated with rights organization Women in Governance (WinG)-India. WinG-India’s statement said, “She was criminally intimidated and defamed with threats of death, gang rape and acid attack.” Bajrang Dal, however, denied issuing such threats. But it said it strongly opposed Acharya’s comments on beef as cows are worshipped as ‘gau mata’ by the Hindus.  “…. Through her comments, she wanted to divide society and also hurt the sentiments of 130 crore Hindus. We will keep opposing comments which hurt the Hindu sentiments,” said Assam Bajrang Dal assistant convener Dhrubajyoti Kalita.

Happy Easter….

 

Greece: MPs of Golden Dawn far-right party attack minority rights defenders – no police action

January 10, 2017

On 6 January 2017 the International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) requested urgent intervention in the following situation in Greece.

OMCT-LOGO Read the rest of this entry »

Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Mexican scholar on indigenous and minority rights, passed away

November 7, 2016

It is good to remember not only the front-line human rights defenders but also those who struggled on the side of the oppressed contributing their academic and diplomatic talents. One of those is certainly Rodolfo Stavenhagen (born 29 August 1932) who died on 5 November 2016. He was a Mexican sociologist,a professor-researcher at El Colegio de México and former Deputy Director General of UNESCO. From 2001 – 2008 he was the first United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people through Resolution 2001/57. Read the rest of this entry »

Hot News: Ilham Tohti – China’s Mandela – wins 2016 Martin Ennals Award

October 11, 2016

A moderate Uighur intellectual, who was jailed for life after opposing China’s draconian policies in its violence-stricken west, has been named the winner of a prestigious award known as the “human rights Nobel” in a move likely to infuriate Beijing. Ilham Tohti, who has been called ‘China’s Mandela’, was announced as the winner of the annual Martin Ennals Award for human rights defenders on Tuesday.”  writes the Guardian after the AP news agency broke accindentally the embargo on the press release. Ilham Tohti‘s daughter will indeed receive tonight the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders from the hands of the UN High Commisioner for Human Rights during a ceremony organized by the City of Geneva. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/martin-ennals-award-mea-ceremony-streaming-11-october-2016/]

Ilham TohtiIlham Tohti is renowned Uyghur intellectual in China, who has worked for two decades to foster dialogue and understanding between Uyghurs and Han Chinese. He has rejected separatism and violence, and sought reconciliation based on a respect for Uyghur culture, which has been subject to religious, cultural and political repression in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

In 1994 he began to write about problems and abuses in Xinjiang, which led to official surveillance. From 1999 to 2003 he was barred from teaching. Since then the authorities have also made it impossible for him to publish in normal venues. As a response, he turned to the Internet and in 2006 he established Uyghurbiz.net. Over the course of its existence, it has been shut down periodically, and people writing for it have been harassed.

In 2009, he was arrested for several weeks after posting information on Uyghurs who had been arrested, killed and “disappeared” during and after protests. In the following years he was periodically subjected to house arrest, and in 2013, while bound to take up a post as a visiting scholar at Indiana University, USA, he was detained at the airport and prevented from leaving China.

On January 15, 2014, Ilham Tohti was arrested on charges of separatism and sentenced to life imprisonment, after a two-day trial. Numerous statements were issued by Western governments and the European Union condemning his trial and sentence, and in early 2016 several hundred academics petitioned the Chinese leadership for his release.

Upon his nomination as a Finalist for the Martin Ennals Award earlier this year, his daughter stated: “My father Ilham Tohti has used only one weapon in his struggle for the basic rights of the Uyghurs of Xinjiang: Words; spoken, written, distributed, and posted. This is all he has ever had at his disposal, and all that he has ever needed. And this is what China found so threatening. A person like him doesn’t deserve to be in prison for even a day.” 

But according to the Washington Post of today China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said his case had nothing to do with human rights. “In the classroom, Ilham Tohti openly made heroes of terrorist extremists that conducted violent terror attacks”

Martin Ennals Foundation Chair Dick Oosting stated “The real shame of this situation is that by eliminating the moderate voice of Ilham Tohti the Chinese Government is in fact laying the groundwork for the very extremism it says it wants to prevent”.

Two other finalists receive Martin Ennals Prizes”:

Razan ZaitounehRazan Zaitouneh (Syria)
Razan has dedicated her life to defending political prisoners, documenting violations, and helping others free themselves from oppression. She founded the Violations Documentation Center (VDC), which documents the death toll and ill-treatment in Syria’s prisons. She had started to cover all sides in the conflict when she was kidnapped, alongside with her husband and two colleagues, on 9 December 2013. Her whereabouts remain unknown.

ZONE9_BLOGGERS_14Zone 9 Bloggers (Ethiopia) Kality prison in Ethiopia, has 8 zones and holds many journalists and political prisoners. 9 young activists called themselves ‘Zone 9’ as a symbol for Ethiopia as a whole. They document human rights abuses and shed light on the situation of political prisoners in Ethiopia. Six of its members were arrested and charged with terrorism. Although they have now been released, three are in exile while four of the six remaining in in Ethiopia are still facing charges and are banned from travel.

Sources:

http://www.martinennalsaward.org/?p=1078

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/11/ilham-tohti-uighur-china-wins-nobel-martin-ennals-human-rights-award

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/09/21/china-wants-us-to-forget-ilham-tohti-but-we-will-not/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/to-beijings-dismay-jailed-uighur-scholar-wins-human-rights-award/2016/10/11/d07dff8c-8f85-11e6-81c3-fb2fde4e7164_story.html

 

Uyghur human rights defender Dolksun Isa takes visa rejection by India in stride

May 13, 2016

Uyghur human rights defender and democracy activist Dolksun Isa is disappointed with India’s cancellation of his visa after issuing it. In an interview to Tehelka Correspondent Riyaz Wani on 12 May 2016, Isa says he is a strictly non-violent campaigner for Uyghur rights and China‘s attempt to label him a terrorist is to delegitimize the human rights work that he does to support the Uyghur community. Very much in one with the work of MEA 2016 nominee Ilham Tohti [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/breaking-news-final-nominees-2016-martin-ennals-award-tohti-zone-9-bloggers-razan-zaitouneh-annoucement/] Read the rest of this entry »