Posts Tagged ‘Newsweek’

Kenneth Roth speaks plainly on international human rights: China a violator and US “unprincipled”

September 29, 2020

In Newsweek of 21 September 2020 did an interview with Kenneth Roth who has spent 27 years as the executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in which he warns that China poses a threat to the global human rights system, that U.S. is no longer to be relied on as a supporter of human rights and how this has left a void, emboldening autocrats who have used the pandemic to undermine democratic societies.

China and the threat it poses to human rights both at home and around the world is a huge issue,” he says, identifying the current period as the darkest in China’s history when it comes to human rights since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. More than a million Uighur Muslims have been put in internment camps in the country’s Xinjiang province, According to the United Nations (U.N.). China says the camps serve as “re-education” centers designed to combat extremism, but those who have managed to escape share stories of forced labor, torture, medical experiments and rape. Roth says: “The Uighurs are the most severe example of worsening repression under Xi Jinping (China’s prime minister). It’s quite clear that this is the darkest moment in China in human rights terms since the massacre of Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989, the Uyghurs have been the most grievous sufferers of that where a million or more have been detained essentially to force them to abandon Islam and their culture.” The worsening repression doesn’t just extend to minorities, it’s something Roth says we can see also occurring in Hong Kong and Tibet as well as against China’s own population more widely.

There is no independent civil society,” he says. “There is no independent media, human rights defenders are routinely imprisoned. There is a complete lockdown on any organized public dissent and that is just across the board, not just minority population areas. China’s also building this so-called social credit system which is designed to condition access to various governmental benefits on one’s social reliability. So it’s using high-tech tools to control the population.“…

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On the human rights challenges facing Europe, Roth expresses particular concern about the situation in Belarus, where the man dubbed “Europe’s last dictator“, Alexander Lukashenko, is facing widespread protests over a disputed election. Lukashenko has been in power since 1994, with the government frequently accused of repressing the opposition….

Kenneth Roth
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch

He also thinks India‘s Prime Minister Modi has got away with what he calls his systematic discrimination against the country’s 172 million Muslims because of the West’s desire to tap into Indian markets and use it as a counterweight against China, which Newsweek will be reporting on in the coming days.

Roth is highly critical of the Trump administration, accusing the president’s foreign policy of being driven by the guiding principle of “self-glorification” and only speaking out in defense of human rights when the offending country is a perceived adversary.

Trump is utterly uninterested in calling out any human rights violation by anybody other than a handful of perceived adversaries, China, Venezuela, Iran, Nicaragua and Cuba and that’s about it, which is a completely unprincipled approach to human rights which does not attract any adherence and greatly weakens the force of US intervention,” he says. “Human Rights Watch has been living with Trump for four years now and we have already stopped relying on the U.S. as anything like a principled supporter of human rights.”

With the U.S. increasingly withdrawing from the world stage and with the European Union not really filling the void, as he says, is there a new approach to the defense of human rights emerging?

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/19/are-human-rights-defenders-making-a-comeback-kenneth-roth-thinks-so/

https://www.newsweek.com/human-rights-china-u-s-foreign-policy-trump-democracy-europe-human-rights-watch-1533239

Trump now starts dismanteling the Open Technology Fund

June 23, 2020

Raphael Mimoun wrote in Newsweek of 22 June 2020 an opinion piece “Dictators are Besieging Internet Freedom—and Trump Just Opened the Gates”. It is a detailed piece but worth reading:

raph-m

Last week, the Trump administration started dismantling one of the US government’s most impactful agencies, the Open Technology Fund, which supports projects to counteract repressive censorship and surveillance around the world.

The Open Technology Fund, or OTF, is relatively new, founded in 2012 as a program of the government-backed Radio Free Asia. In 2019, it became an independent non-profit reporting to the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM). Since its founding, the organization has funded dozens of projects now part of the toolkit of millions of rights advocates and journalists around the world. But OTF is now under attack: the new leadership of USAGM, appointed just weeks ago, fired the leadership of all USAGM entities, including OTF, dismissed OTF’s independent and bipartisan board of directors, and is threatening to hollow out OTF altogether….

Many of those tools help those who most need it, where surveillance, censorship, and repression is most acute. Just last month, Delta Chat declined a request for user data from Russia’s communication regulator—because the security architecture developed with OTF support meant it did not have any data to handover. FreeWechat, which publishes posts censored by the Chinese government on the app WeChat, has been visited over 7 million times by Chinese-speakers. Dozens more OTF-funded tools enable millions to evade surveillance by autocratic governments and access the open internet, from Cuba to Hong Kong and Iran.

OTF’s work is critical to human rights defenders and journalists, but it brings privacy and security far beyond those groups. OTF only supports open-source projects, meaning that the code used must be available for anyone to view and reuse……….

But OTF’s work on internet freedom isn’t limited to funding technology development. The organization takes a holistic approach to internet freedom, providing life-saving training and capacity-building to groups directly targeted by cyberattacks, harassment, and violence: LGBTQI advocates in Indonesia, journalists in Mexico, civic activists in Belarus, or exiled Tibetan organizations. OTF also funds events bringing together researchers, technologists, policy-makers, and advocates. Those gatherings—whether global like the Internet Freedom Festival or focused on specific countries or regions like the Iran Cyber Dialogue, the Vietnam Cyber Dialogue, or the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa–have been transformative. They have helped build a tight community in a space where trust is hard to achieve. Without such events, many of the projects, tools, and collaborations to circumvent censorship and counter surveillance would not exist.

See also: https://www.theverge.com/2020/6/23/21300424/open-technology-fund-usagm-circumvention-tools-china-censorship-michael-pack

https://www.newsweek.com/open-technology-fund-trump-dismantling-1512614

Environmental Human Rights Defenders: “More Deadly Than Being a Soldier in a War Zone”

August 6, 2019

The number of environmental human rights defenders murdered across the world has doubled over the past 15 years, climbing above the number of soldiers killed in some conflict zones, research has revealed. Between 2002 and 2017, as many as 1,558 people across 50 countries were killed while defending the environment, according to a study published in the journal Nature Sustainability,  The supply chain of violence”.

That is more than double the number of U.K. and Australian armed service personnel killed while on active duty in war zones during the same period, the researchers emphasized. Since 2004, the recorded number of environmental defenders dying has risen from two per week to four per week. Most were killed due to conflict over natural resources….

“Environmental defenders currently face a wave of violence that includes threats of physical harm, intimidation and criminalization,” the authors wrote. “Deaths represent the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of the violence that environmental defenders face.”

indigenous woman, Brazil, protest, getty, Brasilia
An indigenous woman holds a Brazilian national flag stained in red representing blood during a march in Brasilia on April 26, 2019, on the last day of a protest to defend indigenous land and rights. CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images

In 2017, at least 185 activists were killed, with Indigenous peoples making up the biggest portion at around 30 percent, down from 40 percent in 2015 and 2016. At 36 percent, most deaths happened in Central America, followed by South American at 32 percent, and Asia at 31 percent. The most indigenous peoples died in the Philippines and Colombia between 2015 and 2017, with 36 and 22 deaths respectively. In 2017, 56 environmental defenders were killed in Brazil and 47 in the Philippines.

And the loved ones of victims struggle to seek justice, the authors said. Just over 10 percent of murders result lead to a conviction each year. This is likely due to corrupt police and authorities, who are sometimes involved in environmental devastation, and because murders are often carried out in remote areas. For instance, military and civil police are the main suspects after 10 land rights activists were killed in the city of Pau D’Arco, Brazil.

The researchers said the elections of populist leaders Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines are a further cause for concern. Bolsonaro has called activists terrorists, and plans to relax gun and environmental protection laws, while the Philippines’ president “has taken a violent stance toward human rights defenders, Indigenous peoples, environmentalists, women, drug users and others,” the authors wrote.

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Companies and consumers also have a responsibility to “investigate the sources of products, publish the results and commit to eliminating violence from supply chains,” the authors said. Co-author Dr. Nathalie Butt, a researcher fellow at the University of Queensland, Australia, School of Biological Sciences commented in a statement: “The number of reported deaths of environmental defenders has increased, as well as the number of countries where they occur.” Butt told Newsweek she was surprised that corruption was the key driver of the deaths, rather than the resources themselves. “As a lot of the resource demand is driven by international markets, consumers in countries in the Global North need to make sure they are aware of where their products come from, and how they were obtained, and demand (through pressure on supply companies) ethical and transparent supply chain processes,” she said.

Butt continued: “In many cases they [environmental defenders] are trying to protect environments that are important for everyone on the planet such as the Amazon, which is critical in terms of buffering climate change and carbon emissions.”

….Christopher Jeffords, associate professor in the department of economics at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, told Newsweek: “These studies help shine a light on known instances of extreme violence committed against environmental defenders and thus help illuminate the notion that there are likely many cases which go unreported.” Eve Bratman, adjunct professorial lecturer at the American University Washington, D.C., School of International Service, told Newsweek: “The study tells us that the most important driving forces behind human rights abuses and the killings of environmental defenders are corruption and rule of law; when governments become more accountable, the benefits will likely be seen across the board. “In Brazil and several other countries, there is reasonable cause for concern that rates of violence will spike even higher given the dangers of today’s political climate.”

https://www.newsweek.com/more-deadly-being-soldier-war-zone-environmental-activists-killed-defending-planet-have-1452277

For the study mentioned see: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-019-0349-4