Posts Tagged ‘Non-governmental organization’

Treat Human Rights Defenders seeking information better says Indian National Human Rights Commission

December 20, 2013

On 19 December 2013, DHNS reported an excellent action by the Indian National Human Rights Commission [NHRC] which should be an example to national institutions worldwide: Peeved at the way state authorities treat human rights defenders, the NHRC has shot off a letter to all State governments asking them to sensitise their officers while dealing with human rights defenders who are making use of their Right to seek Information (RTI users as they are called in India). In his communication NHRC Secretary General, Parvinder Sohi Behuria, said the activists have been complaining that the States treat them as nuisance and take actions to harass them. “It would be of immense help if state government functionaries are sensitised about the problems being faced by NGOs and Human Rights defenders. They should be treated as partners in bringing about a positive change,” Behuria said.

via Treat RTI users as rights defenders.

Human rights defender Ou Virak: a lonely voice in Cambodia against all discrimination

December 20, 2013

Human rights activist Ou Virak talks to the media outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court last year.

(Human rights activist Ou Virak talks to the media outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court last year. Vireak Mai)
A vicious backlash on social media (including death threats) has started against human rights activist Ou Virak in reaction to his call for opposition leader Sam Rainsy to stop inciting discrimination against the Vietnamese. Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, has been attacked on his Facebook page in comments ranging from disappointment to outright vulgar abuse. In a statement released on Wednesday, Virak clarified that Rainsy singled out the Vietnamese in speeches, inciting discrimination against them. Virak said the virulent reaction against him reaffirmed his concerns about using anti-Vietnamese sentiment as a campaign platform in the first place. David Boyle in the Phom Penh Post reports on 19 December 2013 more on how thin and important the line is between opposition and human rights defenders.

Read the rest of this entry »

Russian court declares ADC Memorial formally as “foreign agent” – others to follow

December 16, 2013

 

On December 12, 2013, the Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC) “Memorial was officially declared a “foreign agent” by the Leninsky District Court of St Petersburg, and was ordered to register as such with the Ministry of Justice, according to  information received by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. Today, the court unexpectedly established that all the activities of ADC “Memorial” fall under the definition of “performing the functions of a foreign agent”. Accordingly, for the first time, a court has directly labelled a human rights NGO a “foreign agent”, and did not just order it to register as such. This decision could pave the way to increased harassment of all human rights organisations in the Russian Federation. Read the rest of this entry »

Guatemalan Human Rights Defenders Unit gets a Human Rights Award from the Guatemala Human Rights Commission

December 5, 2013

The Alice Zachmann Human Rights Defenders Award recognizes an individual, organization or community from Guatemala who has demonstrated a commitment to the defense of human rights through non-violent methods, and for which he/she has been exposed to threats, violence and/or other attacks. The award serves as a means to highlight the struggle of the recipient on an international level and represents a commitment by GHRC to provide ongoing support.

The award giver, the Guatemala Human Rights Commission [GHRC] presented the 2013 Award to the Guatemalan Human Rights Defenders Unit (UDEFEGUA) Read the rest of this entry »

AI and Jody Williams on today’s elections in Honduras: Will Human Rights Defenders fare any better?

November 24, 2013

Bertha Isabel Cáceres Flores, human rights defender from the Honduran NGO COPINH.

(Bertha Isabel Cáceres Flores, human rights defender from the Honduran NGO COPINH. © COPINH)

There’s hardly a moment when Honduran human rights defender Bertha Cáceres is not worrying about what may happen to her for defending the rights of her community, the Lenca Indigenous People. The risk is so high that she’s been forced into hiding. “They want to terrorize us,” she told Amnesty International.  “I cannot live my life like before. I cannot go to the office, take part in our campaign, or leave the country to denounce our situation in international forums. I can’t even go swimming in the Río Blanco, which is very important to me because it is sacred to our people,” she said. Read the rest of this entry »

Human rights defenders in Russia should be proud to be ‘Foreign Agents’

November 22, 2013

Image

This blog has on several occasions made mention of the dangerous developments in Russia where the ‘foreign agents’ law is being used to delegitimize human rights defenders. Front Line just came with an update showing that the legal aspect of this issue (is the law legally permissible under the Russian Constitution or the European Convention Human Rights?) is coming under scrutiny. On 18 November 2013, the Zamoskvoretsky District Court in Moscow heard the cases of 3 NGOs – Human Rights Centre ‘Memorial’, GOLOS, and the Public Verdict Foundation – which challenge the ‘Foreign Agents’ law. Following the presentation of their arguments, the court accepted their request to postpone the hearings until 4 February 2014. Significant, as it was taken in order to await for the rulings of the European Court on Human Rights (ECtHR) or the Russian Constitutional Court, whichever comes first:

  • On 6 February 2013, eleven Russian NGOs lodged a complaint with the ECtHR alleging that the ‘Foreign Agents’ law violates four articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, namely Article 10 (Freedom of Expression), Article 11 (Freedom of Association and Assembly), Article 14 (Prohibition of Discrimination), and Article 18 (Limitations on Rights).
  •  On 13 August 2013, Kostroma Centre for Civic Initiatives Support lodged a complaint with the Russian Constitutional Court arguing that the ‘Foreign Agent’ law violates five articles of the Russian Constitution, namely Article 19 (Equality before the law), Article 29 (Freedom of ideas and speech), Article 30 (Right of Association), Article 32 (Right to participate in managing state affairs), and Article 51 (right not to give incriminating evidence against oneself).
  •  On 30 August 2013, the Russian Human Rights Ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, also lodged a complaint with the Constitutional Court against certain provisions of the ‘Foreign Agents’ law. In particular, the Ombudsman argued that the definition of terms ‘foreign agent’ and ‘political activities’, as provided by the law, are politically and legally incorrect.

Still, one wonders whether the battle should not be fought also in the public domain as the ‘foreign agent campaign’ by the authorities is clearly not about financial control (there is enough of that already to satisfy any suspicious prosecutor) or political control (in which case registration as simple lobbyist would suffice) but about  ‘framing’ the human rights defenders as traitors, unpatriotic people. The requirement to identify oneself as foreign agent on every paper or poster is a clear indication of what the Government wants to achieve. This kind of action by governments (not just Russia) is a deliberate (mis)information effort that should be fought in the same arena of public perception. Admittedly far from easy and costly but there are things that COULD be done, I think:

  • bumper stickers and T-shirts with “I am a foreign agent” (in Russian of course, but supporters abroad could have it in English)
  • well-known Russian celebrities could make statements such as:  “IF …is a foreign agent ,in that case I am also one!”
  • production of video clips that poke fun at the idea, etc

As a concrete example: on 21 November 2013, a year after the law came into effect, Amnesty International Norway, LLH (the Norwegian LGBT Organisation) and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee called themselves for one day foreign agents in solidarity with Russian organisations who struggle to keep their work going (see also in Norwegian: http://www.amnesty.no/agent). Of course, people on the ground know best what will work, but I think some form of ‘counter-defamation’ should be tried. It would benefit Russia and could de-motivate the authorities in other countries watching what happens in Russia.

 

Developing a model national law to protect human rights defenders – major project by the ISHR

November 21, 2013

The legal recognition and protection of human rights defenders is crucial to ensuring that they can work in a safe, supportive environment and be free from attacks, reprisals and unreasonable legal restrictions. Despite this, governments in all regions are increasingly enacting laws which restrict and even criminalise the work of human rights defenders and NGOs. In response the Geneva-based  International Service for Human Rights [ISHR] in partnership with regional, sub-regional and national human rights defender groups from around the world announces its plan to develop a model national law on human rights defenders to be enacted locally.ISHR-logo-colour-high  Read the rest of this entry »

New laws are being introduced in Kenya to restrict Human Rights Defenders

November 19, 2013

The Information and Communications Amendment Bill of 2013 was passed in Kenya by parliament on October 31, 2013, but has not yet been signed by the president. Another problematic draft law, the Media Council Bill, is due to

HRW_logobe debated in parliament in the coming weeks. Moreover, on October 30 the attorney general also proposed controversial new provisions regulating the work of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including a proposed cap at 15 percent of foreign funding. “These new laws are an attempt to undermine freedoms of expression and association in Kenya,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director of Human Rights Watch on 12 November.Kenya’s leaders should act swiftly to prevent these bills from becoming law and focus on the country’s real challenges, like police reform and accountability.”
The new idea of restricting (foreign) funding follows similar efforts by an increasing number of other countries, signaling a dangerous trend:

On October 30, the office of the attorney published in the official gazette – the mandatory first step before a bill is introduced to parliament – the Miscellaneous Amendment Bill of 2013. This bill includes provisions that would grant broad discretionary powers to a new government body to regulate nonprofit organizations and would limit access to foreign funding for these groups. The amendment would empower a new government body, the Public Benefits Organizations Authority, to “impose terms and conditions for the grant of certificates of registration, permits of operation, and public benefit organization status.” The chairperson would be appointed by the president, increasing executive powers over nongovernmental groups. Critics of the law fear that the wide powers vested in the executive branch could be used to restrict nongovernmental organizations or even penalize organizations that fall out of favor with the Kenyan authorities.

The amendment would also introduce new limits on funding for nongovernmental organizations. It states that “a public benefit organization shall not receive more than 15 percent of its total funding from external donors,” unless otherwise approved by the minister for finance. Funding to nonprofits would be channeled through a new Public Benefits Organizations Federation rather than directly from donors – which could create new operational difficulties for nongovernmental organizations and delays in their projects.

“This new law requiring nongovernmental organizations to raise 85 percent of their funding locally may well have the effect of weakening independent voices,” Bekele said. “As we have seen elsewhere in the region, including in Ethiopia, these laws are an assault on basic freedoms and Kenya’s citizens and leadership should soundly reject them.”

Kenya: New Laws Would Undermine Basic Rights | Human Rights Watch.

Irish Foreign Minister announces review of foreign policy; believes that values and economic dynamism are compatible

November 18, 2013

Eamon Gilmore made the announcement at the 13th annual NGO Forum on Human Rights, which is taking in Dublin Castle today.

(Minister Eamon Gilmore at the 13th annual NGO Forum on Human Rights, on 13 November)

Irish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore, announced at the 13th annual NGO Forum on Human Rights in Dublin [this year’s forum was on “Ideals and Interests: the place of human rights in foreign policy] that he had initiated a complete review of Ireland’s foreign policy and external relations – the first such audit to be carried out in nearly two decades. This is important as Ireland – although a small nation – is one of the few with an explicit policy to support human rights defenders.

Read the rest of this entry »

Call for more moderate Muslim voices in Malaysia’s human rights debate

November 18, 2013

An interesting example of how human rights defenders should tackle the pernicious issue of islamic opposition to human rights progress comes from Malaysia:

According to Bar Council member Andrew Khoo, Muslim-majority countries were among those which have asked Malaysia to obey international human rights standards in the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR) last month. “These are not Western, European-centric recommendations… For anyone to attempt to say this is a Western agenda, sorry you’re barking up the wrong tree,” said Khoo, who is the co-chairman of the Bar Council’s Human Rights Committee.  Read the rest of this entry »