Posts Tagged ‘NGOs’

UN and NGOs denounce ODHIKAR’s deregistration in Bangladesh

June 16, 2022

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and 11 international and regional rights organisations have demanded that the government must immediately cancel its decision to deregister rights organisation Odhikar and allow the rights organisation to function without fear of reprisal.

Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a press briefing in Geneva statement on Friday, ‘We are concerned by the Government of Bangladesh’s decision not to approve the renewal of registration for Odhikar, a prominent and respected human rights organisation in the country’.

She said, ‘We urge the government to immediately reconsider this decision, and to ensure that Odhikar has the ability to seek full judicial review of any such determination. We are further concerned that this decision will have a chilling effect on the ability of civil society organisations to report serious human rights violations to UN human rights mechanisms.’

Odhikar has documented and reported on rights violations for many years to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Special Procedures mandate holders and human rights treaty bodies, she mentioned in the briefing available on the website of the UN body.

Intimidation and reprisals against Odhikar have been documented since 2013, and appear to have intensified, with accusations of ‘anti-state’ and ‘anti-government’ activities, she added.

‘There has been increased surveillance of its activities in recent months. The UN Secretary-General has also raised concerns about reprisals against Odhikar over the past decade for cooperating with the UN,’ she said.

On June 5, 2022, the bureau sent a letter to Odhikar, denying its application for renewal of registration. Odhikar’s application for renewal of its registration with the NGO Affairs Bureau under the Prime Minister’s Office has been pending since 2014, she said, adding that Odhikar’s bank account was also frozen in 2014. ‘We call for Odhikar to be permitted access to its banked funds pending reconsideration of the renewal application,’ said the UN official.

Eleven international and regional human rights organisations, meanwhile, in a joint statement called on the government to immediately reverse the decision to deregister Odhikar.

Human rights defenders should be allowed to conduct their work without fear of reprisals, intimidation, and harassment from the authorities,’ read the statement issued by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances, Capital Punishment Justice Project, Elios Justice at Monash University, Human Rights First, International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearance, International Federation for Human Rights, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Robert F Kennedy Human Rights and World Organisation Against Torture. {See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/03/17/un-experts-urge-bangladesh-to-end-reprisals-against-human-rights-defenders/]

The rights organisation in the statement said this latest development appeared to be part of a pattern of reprisals by the government against human rights organisations groups and defenders following the US sanctions against the Rapid Action Battalion on December 10, 2021. [See https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/03/21/bangladesh-sanctions-seem-to-work/]

On 14 June 2022 Forum Asia in a strong statement said: FORUM-ASIA expresses its solidarity with Odhikar and calls on the Bangladeshi authorities to immediately recall the decision of rejecting Odhikar’s renewal application thereby ensuring it to carry on their human rights work. FORUM-ASIA reiterates its earlier call to repeal the Foreign Donation (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act, 2016 as it imposes restrictions on civil society organisations’ ability to access resources.

The same day, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation said they “are extremely alarmed by the decision of the government to arbitrarily revoke the registration of Odhikar, a leading human rights organisation in Bangladesh. This move is another blow to civil society and human rights defenders who have been facing systematic repression by the Sheikh Hasina regime.

http://www.humanrights.asia/opinions/AHRC-ETC-004-2022/

https://www.newagebd.net/article/172898/un-11-intl-orgs-slam-odhikar-deregistration

Disappointment with UN High Commissioner’s visit to Xinjiang boils over

June 9, 2022

Many have been the reactions to the UN High Commissioner’s visit to China, some even expressing doubt BEFORE the visit took place [see: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/24/what-will-the-un-human-rights-commissioner-see-in-xinjiang and https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/05/20/un-rights-chiefs-credibility-stake-china-visit]. The open referred to in the Guardian of 9 June 2022 was signed by academics in wake of Michelle Bachelet’s China visit and demands release of UN report on human rights abuses.

Agnes Callamard, the secretary general of Amnesty International, said on 28 June that Bachelet should condemn human rights violations in Xinjiang, and call on China to release people arbitrarily detained and end systematic attacks on ethnic minorities in the region. “The high commissioner’s visit has been characterized by photo opportunities with senior government officials and manipulation of her statements by Chinese state media, leaving an impression that she has walked straight into a highly predictable propaganda exercise for the Chinese government,“.

Dozens of scholars have accused the UN human rights chief of having ignored or contradicted academic findings on abuses in Xinjiang with her statements on the region. In an open letter published this week, 39 academics from across Europe, the US and Australia called on Michelle Bachelet to release a long-awaited UN report on human rights abuses in China.

The letter, published online, included some academics with whom Bachelet had consulted prior to her visit to Xinjiang. The letter’s signatories expressed gratitude for this, but said they were “deeply disturbed” by her official statement, delivered at a press conference in Guangzhou at the end of her six-day tour. They said her statement “ignored and even contradicted the academic findings that our colleagues, including two signatories to this letter, provided”.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights visits China.

It is rare that an academic field arrives at the level of consensus that specialists in the study of Xinjiang have reached,” the letter said. “While we disagree on some questions of why Beijing is enacting its atrocities in Xinjiang, we are unanimous in our understanding of what it is that the Chinese state is doing on the ground.”.

Rights organisations and several governments have labelled the campaign a genocide or crime against humanity. Beijing denies all allegations of mistreatment and says its policies are to counter terrorism and religious extremism.

At the end of her visit Bachelet said she had urged the Chinese government to review its counter-terrorism policies in Xinjiang and appealed for information about missing Uyghurs. She was quickly criticised by some rights groups for giving few details or condemnation of China while readily giving long unrelated statements about US issues in response to questions from Chinese state media.

The academics’ letter is among growing criticism of Bachelet for not speaking out more forcefully against Chinese abuses after her visit, as well as a continued failure to release the UN report, which is believed to have been completed in late 2021. On Wednesday dozens of rights groups, predominately national and local chapters of organisations associated with Uyghur and Tibetan campaigns, demanded her resignation. See: http://www.phayul.com/2022/06/09/47195/

The 230 organisations accused Bachelet of having “whitewashed the Chinese government’s human rights atrocities” and having “legitimised Beijing’s attempt to cover up its crimes by using the Chinese government’s false ‘counter-terrorism’ framing”.

“The failed visit by the high commissioner has not only worsened the human rights crisis of those living under the Chinese government’s rule, but also severely compromised the integrity of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in promoting and protecting human rights globally,” the statement said.

They also decried that she had repeatedly referred to the detention camps in Xinjiang by the Chinese government’s preferred term: “vocational education and training centres”.

All this led to speculation that Mrs Bachelet’s decision not to seek a second term was related to the critcism [see: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jun/13/un-human-rights-chief-michelle-bachelet-no-second-term-china]

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jun/09/fury-at-un-human-rights-chief-over-whitewash-of-uyghur-repression

https://www.ohchr.org/en/statements/2022/05/statement-un-high-commissioner-human-rights-michelle-bachelet-after-official

https://www.npr.org/2022/05/29/1101969720/un-human-rights-chief-asks-china-to-rethink-uyghur-policies?t=1654771491735

Many NGOs join to demand release of human rights defenders in Algeria

May 23, 2022

38 NGOs, including HRW and AI, ask Algeria to end the repression of human rights and the “immediate” release of detainees. They have launched a campaign calling on Algeria to end the repression of Human Rights and demand the immediate release of people detained in the country for exercising their freedom of expression. “The campaign calls on all relevant individuals, organizations and parties to contribute to collectively demanding an end to the criminalization of the exercise of fundamental freedoms in Algeria using the label At least 300 people have been arrested since the beginning of 2022, and until April 17, in the country for exercising their right to free expression, peaceful assembly or association, according to human rights defender Zaki Hannache. “The arrests and sentences of peaceful activists, independent trade unionists, journalists and human rights defenders have not decreased, even after the protest movement was closed,” they said in a statement. The organizations have given the example of the hunger strike of the Algerian activist, Hadi Lassouli, to protest against his arbitrary imprisonment, as well as the case of Hakim Debazi, who died in custody on April 24 after being placed in preventive detention on April 22. February for social media posts. “Those suspected of criminal responsibility for serious human rights violations must be brought to justice in trials with due guarantees, and the authorities must provide victims with access to justice and effective reparations,” they have requested. This awareness campaign will be carried out until the anniversary of the death of Kamel Eddine Fejar, a human rights defender who died in custody on May 28, 2019 after a 50-day hunger strike. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, was “concerned” last March at the increase in fundamental restrictions in the country, including an increase in arrests and detentions of human rights defenders, as well as members of civil society and political opponents. “I call on the government to change course and take all necessary measures to guarantee the rights of its people to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” she said in a statement from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

https://www.indonewyork.com/breaking/38-ngos-including-hrw-and-ai-ask-algeria-to-end-the-repression-of-human-h30616.html

Call for applications: funding from USAID for human rights

May 16, 2022

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Bureau for Development, Democracy, and Innovation, Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance (DDI/DRG) Center is inviting applications for the Justice, Rights, and Security (JRS) Annual Program Statement (APS). Deadline: 11 May 2023

The purpose of the JRS APS is to empower USAID and its Missions to seek solutions to JRS-related challenges, to engage new and underutilized partners, to solve problems not adequately addressed by other USAID investments, and to offer USAID Missions and USAID/Washington Offices a mechanism through which such work can be innovatively accomplished with dedicated support and expertise from USAID Washington DRG Center’s JRS team.

Objectives
  • Promote Justice, including the following objectives:
    • To ensure the independent, efficient, and open administration of justice.
    • To enhance the quality and accessibility of justice.
    • To guarantee impartial application of the law and due process.
    • To improve justice seeker experiences and outcomes.
    • To strengthen effective checks and balances and accountable institutions as foundations of democratic governance.
  • Protect Rights, including the following objectives:
    • To improve enabling environments for the protection and advancement of human rights.
    • To facilitate, develop, and implement effective remedies to address human rights violations and abuses to ensure non-recurrence.
    • To promote equal and equitable enjoyment of human rights by all.
    • To empower people to know, use, and shape the law in their daily lives to protect and advance human rights.
    • To facilitate the work of all types of human rights defenders and activists.
  • Promote Security, including the following objectives:
    • To constrain the arbitrary exercise of power and tempering the use of force by civilian law enforcement.
    • To strengthen the accountability, professionalism, capacity, and integrity of police and other civilian law enforcement actors.
    • To safeguard all members of society from crime and violence, including gender-based violence, so they may live safely and recognize their full potential.
Both U.S. and Non-U.S. Non-Profit Organizations NGOs) are eligible to apply for this APS

Historic vote: Russia also out of ECOSOC NGO Committee

May 13, 2022

On Wednesday, 13 April, members of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) elected 19 members to the UN Committee on NGOs, a body frequently criticised for restricting civil society participation at the UN. See my earlier posts on this topic: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/ngo-committee/

Members of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) voted to elect 19 members for the next 4 year term (2022-2025) of the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs. The 19 members of the Committee, elected from five regional groups, are the gatekeepers for civil society at the UN as they decide which NGOs receive UN accreditation participation rights.

In the election, the Eastern European States was the only regional group which presented a competitive slate, as three candidates, Armenia, Georgia and Russia, contested for the two available seats. Armenia, Georgia and Russia received 47, 44 and 15 votes respectively. As a result, Russia,  a member of the Committee since its establishment in 1947, has been voted out. This result comes one week after a historic resolution of the UN General Assembly to suspend Russia’s Human Rights Council membership. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/04/08/suspension-of-membership-un-human-rights-council-finally-operationalised/

Despite Russia’s departure, the incoming NGO Committee still includes members with deeply problematic records on safeguarding human rights and civil society participation. According to the CIVICUS Monitor, 60% of the incoming members are currently characterised as being ‘closed’ or ‘repressed’ civic spaces. This includes all members for the Asia-Pacific region. Civic space is ‘obstructed’ or ‘narrowed’ within the remaining 40%.

Members of the NGO Committee are the primary decision makers on which NGOs can access UN bodies and processes,” said Maithili Pai, Programme Officer and ISHR focal point for civil society access and participation. “States must fulfil their fundamental mandate under ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31 by acknowledging the breadth of NGO expertise and their capacity to support the work of the UN, and ensuring just, balanced, effective and genuine involvement of NGOs around the world.” she added.

ISHR is aware of 352 currently deferred organisations seeking UN accreditation, at least 40 which have faced over four years of deferrals, and one that has been deferred for 14 years. In response, ISHR sought to campaign for states to engage in competitive and meaningful elections that could produce positive outcomes for civil society. We urge incoming members of the Committee to open the doors of the UN to civil society groups from around the world.

https://ishr.ch/latest-updates/ecosoc-committee-on-ngos-elections-russia-voted-out-for-first-time-in-75-years/

After almost 30 years Kenneth Roth will leave Human Rights Watch

April 27, 2022
Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth speaks during an interview
Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth speaks during an interview with Reuters in Geneva, Switzerland, April 9, 2018. © 2018 Reuters/Pierre Albouy

Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth has announced that he plans to step down at the end of August 2022, Human Rights Watch said on 26 April. Roth has led the organization since 1993, transforming it from a small group of regional “watch committees” to a major international human rights organization with global influence.

I had the great privilege to spend nearly 30 years building an organization that has become a leading force in defending the rights of people around the world,” Roth said. “I leave Human Rights Watch with confidence that a highly talented and dedicated staff will carry on that defence with great energy, creativity, and effectiveness.

Under Roth’s leadership, Human Rights Watch grew from a staff of about 60 with a $7 million budget, to 552 covering more than 100 countries and a nearly $100 million budget.

Roth began his human rights career as a volunteer, working on nights and weekends while serving as an attorney and a federal prosecutor. He joined Human Rights Watch in 1987 as deputy director. At the time, the organization consisted of Helsinki Watch, formed in 1978 to support dissident movements in Eastern Europe; Americas Watch, founded in 1981; and Asia Watch, formed in 1985. Shortly after Roth joined, the organization created Middle East Watch and Africa Watch. Early in his tenure, Roth moved the organization toward a single identity as Human Rights Watch…

Roth recognized the need for real time documentation of atrocities to generate immediate pressure to end them. That led to the creation of a group of specially trained researchers who could provide a surge capacity to the organization’s regular country researchers.

Roth also embraced new possibilities to bring perpetrators to justice. As Human Rights Watch researchers meticulously documented abuses, the organization pressed the United Nations Security Council, then in a more cooperative moment, to create international war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Human Rights Watch research was used to build some of the cases, and staff testified at both UN tribunals. Human Rights Watch also played a prominent role in establishing the International Criminal Court, fending off pressure from the US government seeking to ensure immunity for its own forces.

Ken’s fearless passion for justice, his courage and compassion towards the victims of human rights violations and atrocity crimes was not just professional responsibility but a personal conviction to him,” said Fatou Bensouda, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. “He has indeed been a great inspiration to me and my colleagues.”

Today, amid the horrific abuse taking place in Ukraine, an infrastructure is in place to hold perpetrators accountable.

Roth also created special teams to address the needs of certain marginalized people, including women, children, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, refugees, people with disabilities, and older people. He also oversaw the development of specialized programs on poverty and inequality, climate change, technology, and corporate social responsibility. In addition, he initiated a program to address human rights in the United States.

Roth changed the way that Human Rights Watch directed its advocacy. The organization began focusing mainly on US foreign policy. Roth globalized the organization’s advocacy, establishing offices in Brussels, London, Paris, Berlin, Stockholm, Tokyo, Sao Paolo, Johannesburg, and Sydney. He also spearheaded the organization’s work with the United Nations, with dedicated advocates in New York and Geneva.

After the 9/11 attacks, Human Rights Watch documented and exposed the use of “black sites” where US officials interrogated and tortured terrorism suspects. Under Roth, Human Rights Watch pressed the US government to investigate and prosecute those responsible for issuing the orders. Eventually the US Senate issued the Torture Report confirming Human Rights Watch’s findings and denouncing the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of torture.

Ken Roth turned Human Rights Watch into a juggernaut for justice,” said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “He has inspired a generation of human rights defenders to fight for a better world. During the so-called ‘war on terror,’ Ken went to Guantanamo and brought to bear his acumen and stature in exposing the farce of the military commission process. No organization and no leader have had a greater impact in human rights on a global scale.

Human Rights Watch’s communication strategy evolved dramatically under Roth. The organization began by writing reports. Over time, it also began producing shorter and quicker reports and built a strong multimedia capacity, so that videos, photos, and graphics now routinely accompany the organization’s publications and sometimes are the publication itself. The organization also embraced social media. The organization has amassed nearly 14 million followers on the major social media platforms. Roth himself has more than half a million Twitter followers.

In his nearly 30 years at the helm of Human Rights Watch, Roth traveled the world, pressing government officials of all stripes to pay greater respect to human rights. He met with more than two dozen heads of state and government along with countless ministers and made investigative or advocacy trips to more than 50 countries. Whenever he could, he also met with communities affected by human rights violations. During his early years with the organization, he conducted fact-finding investigations himself, including in Haiti, Cuba, Israel-Palestine, Kuwait after the Iraqi invasion, and Serbia after the US bombing. In recent years, he has been especially concerned with addressing atrocities during the Syrian war as well as Chinese government repression in Xinjiang.

Roth inevitably earned many enemies. Despite being Jewish (and having a father who fled Nazi Germany as a 12-year-old boy), he has been attacked for the organization’s criticism of Israeli government abuses. The Rwandan government was particularly vitriolic in its criticism of Roth after Human Rights Watch, which had issued a definitive account of the genocide, also reported on atrocities and repression under President Paul Kagame.

The Chinese government imposed “sanctions” on him and expelled him from Hong Kong when he traveled there to release the annual World Report in January 2020, which spotlighted Beijing’s threat to the global human rights system. Roth responded to these and many other criticisms by noting that the organization employs the same fact-finding methodology and applies the same human rights principles in every country where it works.

Roth has written extensively on a range of human rights issues. In addition to writing the introduction to the World Report since 1990, he has published more than 300 articles including in the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The New York Review of Books, Foreign Policy, and Foreign Affairs. I quoted him often in this blog: see e.g. : https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/kenneth-roth/

Roth plans to write a book drawing on his personal experiences about the most effective strategies for defending human rights. “I am leaving Human Rights Watch but I am not leaving the human rights cause,” Roth said.

Human Rights Watch will conduct an open search for Roth’s successor. Tirana Hassan, chief programs officer, will serve as interim executive director.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/04/26/kenneth-roth-step-down-human-rights-watch

https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2022-04-26/head-of-human-rights-watch-to-resign-after-nearly-3-decades

Israeli Court backs Oded Goldreich who wants to donate Israel Prize money to human rights NGOs

April 15, 2022
Israel Prize winner in mathematics and computer science Professor Oded Goldreich will be donating his prize money to five left-wing human rights organisations [@WeizmannScience/Twitter]

Times of Isrel (TOI ) on 14 April 2022 reports on Professor Oded Goldreich, a recent recipient of the Israel Prize in mathematics, wants to donate his NIS 75,000 ($23,350) in prize money to five human rights organizations, including Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem.

Goldreich, a professor of computer science at Israel’s Weizmann Institute, received the Israel Prize at the offices of the Education Ministry Monday, despite opposition from some government ministers and following a nearly year-long political saga over his alleged support for anti-Israel boycotts.

The five groups that will receive the prize money are Breaking the Silence, Standing Together, Kav LaOved, B’Tselem, and Adalah.

Breaking the Silence collects and publicizes mostly anonymous testimony of alleged IDF mistreatment of Palestinians. The organization has riled Israelis, and drawn ire from officials, who have challenged the authenticity of its anonymous claims and decried its work in international forums.

Standing Together supports and donates supplies to soldiers; Kav LaOved is a legal aid group for disadvantaged workers; B’Tselem documents alleged human rights violations in the West Bank; and Adalah is a legal center for Palestinians.

Last month, the High Court of Justice ruled that Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton must hand over the prize to Goldreich, following a petition against her refusal to give him the award filed by the members of the prize committee. The committee had initially awarded the honor to Goldreich last year.

The court ruling was a majority decision, with Justices Yael Willner and Yitzhak Amit siding with the appeal and Justice Noam Sohlberg opposing it.

Shasha-Biton had claimed that an academic boycott of Israel, which she said Goldreich supports, impacts freedom of speech. Amit ruled that “the harm to academic freedom of speech by withholding the prize from professor Goldreich is much worse.”

Denying the honor to a recognized academic over comments he made is “an invitation to monitor, track, and persecute academics in Israel,” Amit said. Shasha-Biton said at the time that she regretted the justices’ decision, but would respect it. She noted that since the court had previously said the education minister should decide the matter, it should have respected her decision.

“A person who calls for a boycott of an Israeli academic institution is not worthy of a state prize, no matter what his achievements or political views are,” she said.

Likud MK and former intelligence minister Eli Cohen tweeted that “Goldreich is the symptom. The root of the problem is the High Court of Justice.”

https://www.timesofisrael.com/controversial-israel-prize-winner-to-donate-grant-money-to-human-rights-ngos/

https://www.ynetnews.com/article/skrb3h4eq

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20220414-israel-prize-winner-to-donate-award-money-to-groups-fighting-to-end-the-occupation/

Norway’s NGOs furious about Telenor’s data ending up in the hands of Myanmar’s junta

March 31, 2022
Former Minister of Trade and Industry Monica Mæland visiting Myanmar in 2014. Photo: Trond Viken, Ministry of Trade and Industry

On 25 March, Telenor announced that the telecom giant had transferred the operational activities of Telenor Myanmar to M1 Group. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/10/26/norways-telenor-in-myanmar-should-do-more-than-pull-out-it-should-not-hand-sensitive-data-to-the-regime/] In a release following the announcement, the Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment (ForUM) condemns the sale, and Kathrine Sund-Henriksen, ForUM’s general manager calls it a dark day for Telenor and for Norway as a human rights nation.

ForUM is a network of 50 Norwegian organizations within the development, environment, peace, and human rights with a vision of a democratic and peaceful world based on fair distribution, solidarity, human rights, and sustainability. ForUM writes that together with transferring the operational activities of Telenor Myanmar to M1 Group, Telenor also sells sensitive personal data of 18 million former Telenor customers, and there is an imminent danger that this information will soon be in the hands of the country’s brutal military dictatorship. ForUM is furious at the news that the sale has been completed.

Ever since the sale was announced last summer, we have worked to prevent it because there is a big risk that the military junta will have access to sensitive personal information and use it to persecute, torture, and kill regime critics. Incredibly, Telenor is going through with a sale that has been criticized by human rights experts, civil society, Myanmar’s government in exile, and even their own employees in the country,” says Kathrine Sund-Henriksen.

Telenor has admitted that since October last year they have known that the junta uses the M1 Group as an intermediary and that the data will soon end up in the hands of Shwe Byain Phy Group, a local conglomerate with close ties to the junta. Kathrine Sund-Henriksen believes it is only a matter of time before the sale has tragic consequences for human rights activists in the country.

When metadata is transferred, the junta will be able to know who a user has called, how long the call has lasted, and where the call was made. All of this can be used to expose activist groups operating in secret for the junta. According to the UN, the junta has killed more than 1,600 people and more than 12,000 have been arrested since last year’s coup. Those numbers will continue to increase, and Telenor has given the junta all the information they need to expose human rights defenders,” Kathrine Sund-Henriksen says.

https://www.forumfor.no/nyheter/2022/forum-for-utvikling-og-miljo-fordommer-salget-av-telenor-myanmar

Myanmar: no impunity for the military leaders

March 23, 2022

On 23 March 2022 the above-mentioned NGOs issued a Joint Press Release: “Hold the Myanmar military accountable for grave crimes”

UN must explore all possible ways to prosecute Myanmar military leaders and hold them accountable for genocide and atrocity crimes” said Human Rights Defenders from Myanmar in an online event as they engaged with the UN Human Rights Council following a series of reporting on Myanmar during the Council’s 49th Regular Session.

Nearly 14 months after the military launched its nationwide campaign of violence and terror in an attempt to illegally seize power, the military has killed over 2,000 people, including women and children and detained over 12,000. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/02/myanmar-one-year-after-the-coup-only-getting-worse/

Having so far failed to impose its rule over the territory and population, the military continues to intensify its cruel and brutal attacks against the people of Myanmar with indiscriminate airstrikes, shelling, massacres, burning down of villages, torture, and sexual and gender-based violence. In addition, the military continues to block humanitarian aid to over 880,000 displaced people across the country while attacking medical facilities and medical and humanitarian workers.

Despite the brutal violence, the Myanmar people have continued to resist the military, steadfastly demonstrating their courageous will and defense of their democracy.

Over 400,000 civil servants who have joined the Civil Disobedience Movement refuse to work under the military, while others carryout general strikes and street protests. Boycott of military products and refusal to pay electricity bills continues and self-defense forces and formation of new autonomous local administrations alongside the existing parallel administrations in ethnic areas mar the military’s desperate attempts to assert administrative and territorial control.

Responding to calls made by civil society organizations for the UN to explore avenues to prosecute Myanmar military leaders and hold them accountable for grave crimes in Myanmar, His Excellency Aung Myo Min, National Unity Government’s Minister for Human Rights expressed his support during the online event, stating, ‘The UN Secretary-General should explore the feasibility of the establishment by the General Assembly or the Human Rights Council of an ad hoc tribunal to support accountability for alleged violations of international law in Myanmar.’

Following Minister Aung Myo Min’s remarks, Marzuki Darusman of Special Advisory Council for Myanmar and Former Chairperson of the Indpendent International UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar stated during the event, ‘To complement the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, that has been in operation for the last few years, it is only logical that an entity needs to be set up that is precisely a jurisdiction that would allow the IIMM – that was established by the Human Rights Council – to undertake its next step, and that is, on the basis of preparing the ground for criminal prosecution, for the Council to decide on a jurisdiction where those prosecutions can take place.’

Human Rights Defenders also called on the UN to seek pathways for accountability.
‘International community must rally to end cycle of impunity enjoyed by the military, and call on the Human Rights Council to explore all options to establish a jurisdiction to prosecute Myanmar military for committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and stand with the people of Myanmar in their defense of democracy,’ said Khin Ohmar of Progressive Voice.

‘We welcome US designating the brutal violence committed against the Rohingya as genocide, but this must translate into action to hold the perpetrators accountable. Failure to act on the grave crimes being committed against the people of Myanmar, past and present, will only serve to embolden the military junta,’ said Razia Sultana of RW Welfare Society.

‘The military junta continues to conduct fierce airstrikes against civilians in Karen State, as well as in Karenni, Chin, and Sagaing with total impunity. CSOs and other human rights organizations have already provided, and continue to provide, the necessary evidence of atrocity crimes committed by the Myanmar military to UN bodies. It is time for active steps to be taken by the Human Rights Council to ensure that justice mechanisms move forward without delay.’ said Naw Htoo Htoo of Karen Human Rights Group.

‘Myanmar military is burning villages to the ground, conducting mass scorched earth campaigns in towns such as Thantlang, Chin State and using rape as a weapon of war. Without concrete action to stop this military’s campaign of terror, including an arms embargo and targeted sanctions, whole villages will continue to be reduced to ashes,’ said Salai Za Uk of Chin Human Rights Organization.

‘The price of inaction is surely clear to the Members of the Human Rights Council, which has documented military’s crimes for over 15 years. Through its various mandates and mechanisms such as the Fact-Finding Mission and Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, the Council has amassed vast amounts of evidence of Myanmar military’s atrocities including the genocide against Rohingya. It is time for the Council to build on this work and explore all possible avenues to hold the military leaders accountable through criminal prosecutions,” said FORUM-ASIA.

The online Side Event during the 49th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council “Justice and Accountability for Myanmar: Expectations and Possibilities”, which took place on 22 March 2022 can be viewed here: https://www.facebook.com/progressivevoice/videos/2137679243064231

***

For a PDF version of this press release, click here

100 NGOs join Amnesty International’s call for Biden to pardon Steven Donziger

March 16, 2022
Amnesty International Logotype

For more than two years, human rights lawyer Steven Donziger – currently serving the remainder of a six month sentence on house arrest – has been arbitrarily detained in apparent retaliation for his work to hold Chevron accountable for its deliberate dumping of more than 16 billion gallons of toxic oil waste into the Amazon rainforest. Despite repeated calls from human rights advocates and governmental authorities for Donziger’s release, the Department of Justice has refused to respond or take any action to remedy this human rights violation. Today, over 100 human rights and environmental organizations from around the world joined Amnesty International, Greenpeace USA, Amazon Watch, Global Witness, Rainforest Action Network, HEDA Resource Center, ReCommon, and the Pachamama Alliance to call on President Biden to exercise his clemency powers to pardon Steven Donziger as a way to ensure his immediate release.

In a letter to President Biden, the organizations state: “More than four months since a discerning opinion by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that found Steven Donziger’s detention to be arbitrary, U.S. judicial authorities have thus far failed to take any action to remedy the situation and implement the Working Group’s call to ensure Mr. Donziger’s  immediate release.”  See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/17/steven-donziger-speaks-out-himself-about-being-targetted-by-chevron

In a statement in October 2021, President Biden promised the U.S. would “stand in solidarity with, and continue to work tirelessly in support of, the activists, human rights defenders, and peaceful protestors on the front lines of the struggle between freedom and tyranny.”All the while, the administration has failed to side with the brave human rights defenders within the United States and respond to the demand of the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Congress, and the international community to free Steven Donziger. 

Steven Donziger is a human rights defender that bravely stood up against one of the most powerful corporations in the world,” said Daniel Joloy of Amnesty International. “In response, he has endured years of harassment, intimidation, smear campaigns and more than two years in arbitrary detention. President Biden must now listen to the over 100 human rights and environmental organizations calling to pardon Steven Donziger and ensure he is released immediately and unconditionally. Allowing this ordeal to continue only sends a chilling message that corporations around the world can continue attacking human rights defenders without consequences.”

Paul Paz y Miño of Amazon Watch said “Instead of supporting the people of Ecuador who were poisoned by Chevron’s admitted deliberate dumping of billions of gallons of toxic waste, Biden has turned a blind eye to the persecution of a key lawyer who worked to win a historic judgment against Chevron. The U.S. government’s responsibility should be to make Chevron clean up its waste and support efforts to hold the fossil fuel company accountable, not allow the appointment of a private prosecutor with ties to the very same oil company to imprison human rights lawyer Steven Donziger. This travesty has gone on for over two years, and Biden has ignored members of the E.U. parliament, members of the House and Senate, and even the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Well over 100 organizations are now demanding action, and Biden’s lack of action continues to be a dark stain on his alleged claims to respect human rights. Oil companies do not prosecute and imprison people in the U.S. This must end now.”

Chevron’s legal attack on Donziger is not the first, nor will it be the last case of its kind. Right now, the right to dissent is being repressed by both our government and corporations

Annie Leonard, co-Executive Director Greenpeace USA

Simon Taylor, Co-Founder & Director, Global Witness said “I have spent much of the past 25 years seeking accountability of the fossil fuel industry for its gross human rights abuses and other crimes. Amongst the judicial authorities we have liaised with during this time, the Southern District of New York has stood as a beacon in this fight against criminality. Shockingly, just as Biden gears up this struggle, New York’s judicial authorities seem instead intent on destroying their reputation, thanks to their apparent complicity in the unprecedented corporate prosecution and judicial harassment of Steven Donziger. These acts, in my experience, are more what I would expect from one of the ‘Banana Republics’ we have investigated around the world. These are shameful acts. If Biden is serious about tackling the climate crisis, he cannot allow the fossil fuel industry to weaponise the US judicial system to go after its detractors – Biden must act now and release Steven Donziger.”

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2022/03/15/100-groups-urge-biden-pardon-human-rights-lawyer-steven-donziger