Posts Tagged ‘OMCT’

Egypt: crackdown and new NGO law dont augur well

July 25, 2019

On 23 July 2019 FIDH, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) denounce the new crackdown and call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately end any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against all peaceful activists, in particular political opponents and human rights defenders in Egypt, such as former member of Parliament and human rights lawyer Zyad al-Elaimy. At least 83 persons, including political opposition activists, journalists and human rights defenders, have been arrested in Egypt over terrorist charges since June 25 for their alleged implication in a plot against the State.Human Rights Watch published the next day an elaborate report on Egypt’s New NGO Law which renews draconian restrictions and imposes disproportionate fines and bans links with foreign groups. Here some key elements but the ful lreport should be read:

Saudi Arabia for first time openly criticized in UN Human Rights Council

March 8, 2019

Whether by intent or by coincidence, the very critical statement of the UN Human Rights Council on Saudi Arabia came on International Women’s Day 2019. There was considerable media attention. Interesting to note is the difference in emphasis between the NYT and the Washington Post:

By Nick Cumming-Bruce wrote for the NYT on 7 March 2019:

“Dozens of Western countries rebuked Saudi Arabia for its aggressive crackdown on free expression in a landmark initiative on Thursday in the United Nations’ top human rights body. It was the first time states had ever confronted the kingdom over its human rights record in the United Nations Human Rights Council, where Saudi Arabia is one of 47 members. The rebuke came in a statement signed by 36 nations — including every member of the European Union — that condemned Saudi Arabia’s “continuing arrests and arbitrary detentions of human rights defenders” and its use of counterterrorism laws to silence peaceful dissent. The statement pointed in particular to the treatment of Saudi women who have challenged the kingdom’s strict rules. The nations also called on Saudi Arabia to cooperate fully with investigations into the death of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist who was killed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. The statement specifically named 10 people, all arrested last year in a crackdown that started shortly before Saudi Arabia introduced reforms allowing women to drive: Loujain Al-Hathloul, Eman Al-Nafjan, Aziza Al-Yousef, Nassima Al-Sadah, Samar Badawi, Nouf Abdelaziz, Hatoon Al-Fassi, Mohammed Al-Bajadi, Amal Al-Harbi and Shadan al-Anezi. The statement drew applause from human rights groups, which said it broke Saudi Arabia’s apparent impunity from condemnation in the council.

“It sends a strong signal that Saudi Arabia is not untouchable, and that council members should be held to a higher level of scrutiny,” said Salma El Hosseiny, an advocate for the Geneva-based International Service for Human Rights.

——-

Ishaan Tharoor wrote for the Washington Post of 8 March 2019 :”The West’s rebuke of Saudi Arabia won’t change its course”


(Anjum Naveed/AP)

The rhetorical attacks keep coming at Saudi Arabia from the West. On Thursday, the European Union signed on to a rare rebuke of the kingdom. …The statement was the first collective reprimand of Riyadh issued at the council since it was founded in 2006…Both the Trump administration and Saudi officials have sought to shield Mohammed from scrutiny, but that hasn’t dimmed the outrage of a host of Western governments and lawmakers. In Washington, Congress is still battling the White House over the latter’s flouting of a legal requirement to report to the Senate on the crown prince’s role in Khashoggi’s death. Though U.S. politicians remain bitterly divided on most issues, they have found an unusual consensus in their antipathy toward Riyadh……..

But the Saudis’ response has so far been categorical and unrepentant. “Interference in domestic affairs under the guise of defending human rights is in fact an attack on our sovereignty,” said Abdul Aziz Alwasil, the kingdom’s permanent representative in Geneva, in reaction to the European Union’s statement. Similar bullish statements came from the Saudi Foreign Ministry this year as members of Congress weighed the passage of a punitive bill.

That Riyadh has endured only the slightest course corrections amid months of controversy speaks, firstly, to the durability of the monarchy’s economic ties with a host of major powers. International political and business elites have shown themselves all too willing to overlook a regime’s record when it suits their interests. But it also speaks to the fact that despite their concerns over Khashoggi’s death, insiders in Washington cheer the Saudi push toward a more “normal” and secular modernity encouraged by Mohammed’s ambitious economic and social reform agenda. Movie theaters have sprung up, and women can now learn to drive — no matter that key female activists who clamored for these rights are still in prison.

Mohammed has championed these reforms by inculcating a new spirit of nationalism. “Saudi Arabia’s undergoing an aggressive nationalist rebranding, downplaying an austere religious doctrine associated abroad with terrorism, and promoting veneration of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he pursues an economic overhaul,” noted Bloomberg News this week, exploring the extent to which overt nationalism is supplanting the kingdom’s traditional religious orthodoxy. “Amid efforts to maintain domestic support while redesigning the contract between state and citizen, traitors, not infidels, are the enemy.”

The lecturing from Western capitals, too, plays into this dynamic, deepening national feeling among many patriotic Saudis who have rallied around their prince in the face of “unbalanced” criticism from abroad, said Ali Shihabi, founder of the Arabia Foundation, a Washington think tank with close ties to Riyadh. He added that “inspiring nationalism is an objective” of Mohammed’s reform agenda.

Critics of the crown prince view him as a fundamentally destabilizing leader. Other experts argue that he’s here to stay. “It’s impossible to not see how much the country has changed” under Mohammed’s watch, said former U.S. diplomat Dennis Ross at a panel hosted by the Arabia Foundation last week, saying that though the crown prince may be “reckless,” the United States has much to gain from a “successful transformation” from Wahhabism to nationalism in Saudi Arabia.

—–See also this video clip by OMCT:

https://twitter.com/i/status/1103696655906492417

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/07/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-human-rights-abuses.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/03/08/wests-rebuke-saudi-arabia-wont-change-its-course/?utm_term=.5e411da39e34

Awards given at the 16th Human Rights Film Festival in Geneva

March 19, 2018

The FIFDH just announced the OFFICIAL AWARDS of its 16th festival (2018) in Geneva. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/27/16th-international-film-festival-and-forum-on-human-rights-starts-on-9-march/]. Here a summary: Read the rest of this entry »

Can the media help promote human rights and fight torture in Russia and elsewhere?

November 5, 2017

The World Organisation Against Torture <http://www.omct.org> (OMCT) and the Committee Against Torture from Nizhny Novgorod <http://pytkam.net/eng> organize  a panel discussion on 9 November 2017 from 6:30–8:30 p.m.

The topic is “Can the media help promote human rights and fight torture in Russia and elsewhere?

Panellists:

Ms. Olga Sadovskaya, Committee Against Torture from Nizhny Novgorod, Deputy Director

Ms. Therese Obrecht Hodler, journalist and former President of Reporters sans frontières <https://rsf.org>

Mr. MaksimKurnikov, Editor-in-Chief of radio EkhoMoskvy

Mr. Protsenko Nikita, Editor at Mediazone  <zona.media>

Moderator: Mr. Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General

—————

The panel discussion will be followed by a cocktail

Free entrance. Maison international des associations, Salle Gandhi, Rue des Savoises, 15. Geneva

Contact: +41 78 733 9595

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 »

Two remarkable women rights defenders from Mexico: Olga Guzmán and Stephanie Brewer

December 15, 2016

OMCT-LOGOpublishes a series of 10 profiles human rights defenders to commemorate International Human Rights Day, 10 December 2016. Here two women HRDs from Mexico: Olga Guzmán and Stephanie Brewer: Read the rest of this entry »

Pakistani human rights defender Hina Jilani is the new President of OMCT

November 30, 2016

On 29 November 2016 OMCT announced that Hina Jilani, a prominent Pakistani human rights defender, is the newly elected President of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).hina-jilani-biography-1_940x430

Ms. Jilani was elected to a four-year term on Saturday 26 November at the organization’s General Assembly meeting held every four years. Addressing OMCT partners and members of its SOS-Torture network of more than 200 non-governmental organizations around the world, she said she would focus on boosting its cohesion to make its voice louder. “We can’t just condemn points of view; we have to convince people,” she said. “We have to show them that these values did not come out of nothing, that they are worth being preserved.  We have to show that undermining these values is not in the best interest of humanity.

Hina Jilani created Pakistan’s first all-women law firm and co-founded Pakistan’s first legal aid centre in 1986. In 1991 helped set up a shelter for women fleeing violence and abuse and presented one of the first cases of domestic violence in the country. Ms. Jilani was also one of the founders of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an NGO promoting human rights in Pakistan. She also created Pakistan’s Women Action Forum, a prominent women’s rights group whose campaigns have been at the heart of the democracy movement in the country. Ms. Jilani has been a lawyer at the Supreme Court of Pakistan since 1992.

At the international level, she was the first United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of Human Rights Defenders from 2000 to 2008. She was appointed in 2006 and 2009, respectively, to the UN International Fact-Finding Commissions on Darfur and on the Gaza Conflict.

Her expertise and lifelong dedication to human rights has earned her international recognition. In 2013, she joined The Elders, a group of statesmen, peace activists and human rights advocates, brought together by Nelson Mandela.  In 2000 she was honoured with the Amnesty International Ginetta Sagan Award for Women’s Rights, just a year after she was awarded the Human Rights Award by the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. In 2008 she received the human rights award of the American Bar Association.

For more posts on Hina see: (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/hina-jilani/OMCT-LOGO

She spoke after a two-day forum organized on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of OMCT and its SOS-Torture network, along with UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, who shared concern that many countries were “returning to authoritarianism”, human rights defenders around the world were under “enormous pressure”, and that reprisals and arbitrary detentions were increasingly done under the pretext of fighting terrorist activities. The High Commissioner said he feared that declarations such as United States President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign declarations (condoning ill treatment such as “waterboarding”, for instance) might inspire other Governments to resume resorting to torture, hence exacerbating the practice around the world.

She also seemed undeterred by the consequent risks of wavering support of multilateral institutions, since the US election and the British “Brexit” vote triggered a wave of speculation as to a possible shift in funding priorities away from international aid, and since the withdrawal by several States such as South AfricaBurundiGambia and Russia from the International Criminal Court, triggered concerns over the deconstruction of a system built up to protect victims of serious human rights violations. “This is not an easy time for human rights defenders, but when has it been for us? We keep our determination despite all the challenges,” she told activists. “The global donors must understand that if there is hesitation in supporting these human rights defenders and their networks it will only reduce our outreach. But we did it before we had money. We have no reason to believe that this is a favour to any one organization or community.”

Ms. Jilani said that OMCT was one of the organizations best placed to uphold human rights and combat torture, adding: “It has the experience, the capacity, and the knowledge to take this challenge forward.”

Source: Prominent Pakistani human rights defender Hina Jilani becomes new OMCT President / November 29, 2016 / Statements / OMCT

Statement on Human Rights Defenders that the Observatory would have delivered orally to the UN (if time had allowed)

March 4, 2016

Severe time restraints made that several NGOs could not make their oral statement on 4 March 2016 during the Interactive Dialogue with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the UN Human Rights Council [see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/preview-of-the-upcoming-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/].

Here follows the text of the statement that the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, would have delivered:

Read the rest of this entry »

Alarming criminalisation of human rights defenders in Latin America

February 27, 2016

The criminalization of human rights defenders in the context of the extraction of natural resources and megaprojects is becoming a very worrisome phenomenon in Latin America, denounces the Observatory in a report published today in Mexico. Entitled “The criminalization of human rights defenders in the context of industrial projects: a regional phenomenon in Latin America”, this document points to the role of businesses, civil servants, public prosecutors, judges, and the State. The report issued by OMCT and FIDH (in the context of their Observatory for Human Rights Defenders) on 25 February 2016 describes the specific cases of human rights defenders criminalized in eight Latin American countries (Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru).

 

The report especially stresses two core issues common to all the countries studied: Read the rest of this entry »

Profile of Paul Mambrasar: defender of indigenous Papuans

December 28, 2015

OMCT, in its series “10 December – 10 Defenders”, carried the story of Paul Mambrasar from West Papua, the least populous province of Indonesia, where is torture used to crush and silence. Home to the world’s largest gold and third-largest copper mines, West Papua has abundant natural resources including timber and palm oil that make it a coveted region. This has generated continuing conflict and made it one of Asia’s sorest spots in terms of human rights violations. From the 1960s on, Indonesia has maintained heavy military presence, resorting to extrajudicial killings, torture and abuse to crack down on activists in an attempt to crush the Papuan independence movement, whether peaceful or violent, leaving locals deeply resentful and suspicious of the national Government.OMCT-LOGO

Indigenous Papuans marginalized in their homeland, suffer state violence and stigma, while their natural resources are exploited by others and compromise their ancestral way of living. The on-going conflict with separatists merely exacerbates discrimination against Papuans, who have been repressed by decades of institutional racism and Indonesian occupation. This is the vicious cycle of violence that Paul has to deal with in his daily fight for the respect of the human rights. “Torture worsens the distrust West Papuans have in the State which, by failing to uphold the rule of law, merely fuels more separatist sentiments,” sums up Paul, Secretary of the Institute of Human Rights Studies and Advocacy (Elsham), a non-governmental organization defending human rights in Wet Papua.

Paul’s challenging working environment is the result of decades of quasi-institutionalized abuses resulting in many layers of deep-felt and pervasive grievances of West Papuans against the Indonesian Government. He is, however, gradually managing to build networks in his country, also thanks to support from organizations such as OMCT, and gradually drawing attention to the regular violations committed.

Discrimination and marginalization of Papuan have therefore worsened the situation. Government policies have also contributed to the problem. The arrival of migrants, fostered by transmigration programmes, has upset the demographics and social and cultural heritage of the people of West Papua and exacerbated competition over land and resources. Compounded with the socially and environmentally destructive development projects pushed in the region by Indonesia, this has caused widespread social disruption and environmental damage, forcing Papuan tribal groups to relocate, according to researchers from Yale Law School cited by Elsham in a 2003 Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights session.

Unreported exactions keep occurring as foreign eyes and independent international observers are barred from West Papua. It is therefore only thanks to the work of local organizations and human rights defenders such as Paul, who runs Elsham’s office in West Papua and attends international advocacy meetings at the Human Rights Council in Geneva communicating regularly with donors, that the world can know what is happening there.

“Impunity has allowed the security force, the police and the army, free access to inflict fear and terror through torture and other physical abuses,” Paul explains his motivation. “In order for torture to end the Indonesia State must take a strong action to punish those involved in its practice.”

Despite these odds and the many challenges of his job including being under Indonesian intelligence surveillance as an “independence sympathizer”, Paul, 51, trusts that the human rights conditions in West Papua will improve.

[When the Dutch Government granted independence to Indonesia in 1949, Papua was not part of it. At the end of the Dutch colonial rule, Papua was first administered, and then absorbed, by Indonesia in 1969, following a sham “referendum” requested by the United Nations. This so‑called “Act of Free Choice” was in fact a vote by just over a thousand selected Papuans (out of a population of 800,000 at the time) who had been pressured to agree to integration within Indonesia. This vote has been the bone of contention between Papuans and the Republic of Indonesian. Papuans have ever since agitated for independence, and have been conducting a still ongoing, low-level guerrilla warfare against Indonesian forces, in turn engaged in bloody repression and unpunished human rights violations. Papuans – who are Melanesian and whose ancestors arrived in the New Guinea region tens of thousands of years ago – do not identify culturally with the Asians. They see their Papuan identity and indigenous culture based on customary subsistence-based agriculture threatened by the arrival of migrants who, in turn, see the traditional Papuan way of life as backward.]

In this context see also the CNN report on the closure of NGO offices: http://freewestpapua.org/2015/12/13/indonesian-government-forces-all-ngos-to-leave-west-papua/

— by Lori Brumat in Geneva

Source: Indonesia: Meet Paul: Restoring the human rights of indigenous Papuans amid on-going conflict / December 10, 2015 / Links / Human rights defenders / OMCT