Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

Pakistani Lawyer Mary Gill Wins Anna Lindh Prize 2020

August 26, 2020

Pakistani Lawyer Mary Gill Wins Anna Lindh Prize for her campaign '#SweepersAreSuperheroes'
Pakistan’s Human Rights activist and lawyer Mary Gill has been honored with this year’s Anna Lindh Prize.

Komal Fatima Web Editor of BolNews on 25th August, 2020 reports that Pakistani Lawyer Mary Gill has won the Anna Lindh Prize for her campaign ‘#SweepersAreSuperheroes’

Mary Gill is a former MPA and a member of Women in Law. Gill was nominated by WaterAid Sweden. Lena Hjelm-Wallen, the chairman of Anna Lindh’s Memorial Fund and former foreign minister in Sweden, stated: “As a lawyer and activist, Mary James Gill connects human rights, health, and working conditions not least thorough the Sweepers are Superheroes campaign. Mary’s insistent work for the most vulnerable groups, based on human rights is entirely in line with the values Anna Lindh stood for. Therefore, we are very proud to award Anna Lindh prize 2020 to Mary James Gill.

For more on this and similar awards see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/anna-lindh-memorial-fund-prize

Mary Hill has run a successful campaign. Her motive ‘Sweepers are Superheroes’ launched in 2017 has gained international recognition as well. Through this campaign, she became a voice of garbage collectors who work in vulnerable working conditions. She spoke for the rights and safety of sanitation workers.

Pakistani Lawyer Mary Gill Wins Anna Lindh Prize for her campaign ‘#SweepersAreSuperheroes’

Tabassum Adnan from Swat, Pakistan, tries to work within the Jirga system

July 31, 2020

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Khalida Niaz in MENAFN (Tribal News Network) of 29 July 2020 tells the story of Tabassum Adnan from Swat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who has been nominated for the Women Building Peace Award in the US.

Tabassum is working for human rights, with particular emphasis on women rights, in Swat since 2010. He has the honour of being the founder of first women Jirga of Pakistan. For this effort, she won Nelson Mandela Award, International Woman of Courage Award and several other awards.

Tabassum said in a special interview with TNN that she has worked a lot on human smuggling, Swara, early marriages and share of women in ancestral property. She said she is now planning to work on the use of ice and other drugs by children to save their future.

‘When I arranged a sitting with women of my area, I realised that they are being denied their rights and they must have representation in the Jirga. Earlier, Jirgas only had male members and no one listened to the problems of women. A woman can better understand the problems of other women. I also used to raise voice for women’s rights by attending Jirgas of men,’ she told TNN.

Tabassum is the first woman in Pakhtun history who was invited to a Jirga of men which was hearing a case about alleged sexual abuse of a child in Swat. She said once a case of Swara (giving a girl in marriage to rival family as compensation to settle dispute) was given to her in which all the accused Jirga members were arrested. She said the family members of the arrested people were requesting her to forgive them, but she asked them to approach the court for this purpose. She said if the girl’s father has committed a crime then he, and not his daughter, must be punished for it. She said she also has a daughter and she can understand how the girls suffer due to this obsolete tradition.

The rights activist said she initially included eight such women in the Jirga who had the ability of public speaking and decision making. She said the number of women in the Jirga has increased now. She said her Jirga has resolved about 2,000 cases so far and many other cases are in process of being resolved.

About her personal life, Tabassum said she was born in Swat and then went to Qatar with her father. She said she returned to Swat for marriage and settled there. She said she started working for women’s rights after her divorce and set up Khwendo Jirga platform for women for resolution of their problems. She said she has three sons and a daughter.

Tabassum faced many hardships while carrying out her mission for women’s rights. Besides problems on local level, Jamia Ashrafia of Lahore also issued a fatwa (edict) against her by accusing her of spreading obscenity.

I never asked any woman to uncover herself. I only want to give them confidence to fight for their rights. There is no harm if a woman sitting in her home decides to raise voice for her rights,’ she said.

Tabassum said now men have also started contacting Khwendo Jirga for resolution of their domestic disputes involving women. She said men feel comfortable in discussing problems of women with women members of the Jirga. She said she is also the first woman member of Dispute Resolution Council of Swat Police Station where many women arrive for resolution of their problems. She said she also encourages young girls not to afraid and speak up for their rights.

The rights activist enjoys full support of family for her work, but she sometimes receives threats from those affected by the Jirga decisions. About major problems of women in Swat, she said the ratio of divorce is increasing and prostitution has also increased besides the property disputes. She said the practice of Swara has reduced significantly.

Tabassum said she gets more recognition abroad as compared to Pakistan. Although she got a certificate from the district police chief, but she complains of not receiving much encouragement from the government.

https://menafn.com/1100562913/Pakistan-How-Swats-Tabassum-got-nominated-for-international-award

NEW: “Cypher”: Comics for Human Rights Defenders

July 23, 2020

On 23 July 2020 Front Line Defenders launched the first edition of a very interesting new Monthly Digital Magazine: Cypher – Comics as Eyewitness”.

This project advances the organization’s storytelling and narrative framing work in collaboration with and in support of human rights defenders (HRDs). Working with artists from around the world, including the awardwinning visual storyteller, Beldan Sezen, as creative director, the Magazine will be a monthly publication featuring 3 or 4 stories of HRDs and the challenges they face.
Each month, Front Line Defenders will collaborate with comics artists
from around the world, pairing them with HRDs to develop stories
that portray their work and the challenges, risks and threats they
face. The first edition features stories from:
Kenya (artist: Nomes Dee) – a profile of Ruth Mumbi’s efforts to defend the rights of evicted families in the Kairobangi neighborhood of Nairobi as the COVID-19 pandemic spread; [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/01/22/human-rights-defenders-in-york-programme-tell-their-story-ruth-mumbi/]
Pakistan (artist: anonymous for security reasons) – the story of the abduction enforced
disappearance of Pakistani HRD Idris Khattak, as told from the perspective of his daughter;
Lebanon (artist: Pascale Ghazaly) – with COVID-19 hitting, ongoing street protests against political and economic corruption and the collapse of the economy, Ethiopian domestic workers found themselves kicked out and abandoned, as even the embassy refused to help; a collective of domestic workers organized critical support;
Brazil (artist: Lyvia Emanuelly ) – transvesti HRD Rosa Luz is a social media and YouTube influencer and rap/hip hop musician; when she used her art to criticize political leaders, she faced intense backlash in the media and from politicians, including death threats, only returning to her public role after a hiatus to ensure her security.

Front Line Defenders comes to this project following a four-year process of developing, producing and disseminating the critically-acclaimed nonfiction graphic novel, La Lucha: The Story of Lucha Castro and Human Rights in Mexico.[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/04/04/la-lucha-the-story-of-lucha-castro-and-human-rights-in-mexico-new-comics-book-out/

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/sites/default/files/cypher01final.pdf

UN Experts Appalled by the Enforced Disappearance of Idris Khattak even though now re-appeared

June 30, 2020

UN experts no only jointly addressed three big countries [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/27/un-experts-address-3-big-ones-usa-china-and-india/] but on 30 june 2020 a group of experts also spoke out on the re-appearance of Idris Khattak, a human rights defender who went missing last year (https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/25/how-human-rights-defender-idris-khattak-went-missing-in-pakistan/)

While welcoming of course the disclosure by the Pakistani Government of the whereabouts of Khattak, they strongly condemned his enforced disappearance. On 16 June 2020, the Pakistani authorities acknowledged for the first time that he has been in the custody of law enforcement authorities and detained incommunicado since then.

“The enforced disappearance of Mr. Khattak, which began over seven months ago, is an intolerable attack on his legitimate work of monitoring, documenting and advocating against a range of human rights and minority violations in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Pakistan,” the independent experts said.

Even today, Mr. Khattak remains deprived of the most basic protections of the law, and his enforced disappearance subjected him and his family to severe and prolonged suffering, that could amount to torture,” the experts said. “Given the arbitrariness of Mr. Khattak’s arrest and detention, and the very serious violations of his integrity and procedural rights, we call on the Government of Pakistan to immediately release Mr. Khattak and to provide him and his family with adequate redress and rehabilitation,” said the experts..

The experts stressed that there can be no justification for the Government’s failure to end enforced disappearances and that any such violation must be investigated, prosecuted and punished.

Truth and justice must be served, both in the case of Idris Khattak and for countless other victims and their families in Pakistan. State-sponsored disappearances and related impunity may amount to a crime against humanity and must end now,” they said.

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26010&LangID=E

International Women’s Day 2020: Dad, a digital warrior in Pakistan

March 9, 2020

With her “Hack the patriarchy” laptop stickers, Nighat Dad is a digital warrior. But this human rights award winner and founder of Pakistan”s first cyber-harassment helpline still tears up as she describes receiving calls from women afraid of being killed by male relatives for using the internet. Nighat Dad established the help line in 2016 with prize money (100,000 euros) from the Dutch human rights award, the Tulip

Much of Pakistani society lives under the patriarchal, outdated code of so-called “honour” that systemises the oppression of women by preventing them from, for example, choosing their own husband or working outside the home. Activists have denounced pervasive, sometimes deadly violence by men — usually male relatives — against women who break those taboos. The situation is dire enough in the offline world.

But Pakistan is only just beginning to grapple with what violent notions of honour mean for women online, in a country where internet penetration is at 22 percent and growing, but digital literacy is low.

Much of the work the helpline does is to explain to women what recourse they have. Social media companies are playing ball, Dad says — some have even agreed to establish “escalation channels” for getting content off the internet quickly when a woman”s life is in immediate danger. But she warns that community guidelines developed by such companies, usually US-based, are not appropriate in Pakistan. “I think they need to do more,” Dad says. More than three years on, the Tulip money has run out. Now the helpline survives only by the grace of small grants from groups such as the Netherlands-based Digital Defenders Partnership, which supports rights activists.

…. She cites last year”s International Women”s Day march in Pakistan, which saw women turn out in unprecedented numbers loudly celebrating divorce and periods, among other things. The response was swift and shocking in its intensity, with Dad describing mullahs making rape and death threats against the march organisers in videos widely distributed online. The 2016 murder of social media star Qandeel Baloch has also impacted her, she says. Baloch divided Pakistan with her videos and selfies, tame by Western standards but provocative in Pakistan. She was strangled by her brother in 2016 in what has been called the country”s most high-profile “honour” killing.

She was a hero for me… she did what she wanted to do, and not every woman can do this in Pakistan,” Dad says.

Dad says she cannot help but see the similarities between herself and Baloch. They are from similar backgrounds, both left abusive marriages, and both have gained fame by loudly challenging social taboos online — though admittedly not in quite the same way. Her murder “shook me badly,” she tells AFP. “It was enough to shake us all.”

……

https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/nighat-dad-pakistans-digital-warrior-battling-the-patriarchy/1755905

https://www.rferl.org/a/pakistani-lawyer-fights-abuse-of-women-who-dare-to-go-online/30469845.html

2020 International Women of Courage Awards by the U.S. State Department

March 4, 2020

Today, Wednesday 4 March 2020, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo hosts the Annual International Women of Courage Awards at the U.S. Department of State to honor 12 women from around the world.  The First Lady of the United States Melania Trump will deliver remarks to recognize the accomplishments of these women. For more on this and 7 other international awards that have word COURAGE in their name, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/international-women-of-courage-award.

The 2020 announcement comes remarkably quickly on the heels of last year’s, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/18/usas-international-women-of-courage-awards-for-2019/

This year will bring the total to 146 awardees from 77 countries. U.S. diplomatic missions overseas nominate one woman of courage from their respective host countries. The finalists are selected and approved by senior Department officials. Following the IWOC ceremony, the 12 awardees will participate in an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) visiting various cities throughout the country, before reconvening in Los Angeles for the conclusion of their program on March 16. The 2020 awardees are:

Zarifa Ghafari (Afghanistan) After successfully launching and operating a women-focused radio station, Afghanistan’s Zarifa Ghafari became mayor of Maidan Shar, in conservative Wardak province, at the age of 26.  When she showed up to start work, a male mob appeared and she was forced to flee.  Despite death threats, Ms. Ghafari came back, defying her conservative critics and their narrative that a woman is unfit to lead.  She then withstood a walkout by all of the male members of her office.  She later demonstrated ability and courage in tackling her town’s problems.  Despite fierce opposition from vested interests, she successfully launched a “Clean City, Green City” campaign that reduced littering.  Ghafari’s courage has inspired girls and women not only in her community and the wider province, but across the country.  In her capacity as a trail-blazer and door-opener for a new generation of young women, she has helped empower the women of Afghanistan.

Lucy Kocharyan (Armenia) Using her platform as a journalist, Kocharyan has championed children with mental health issues and has emerged as a leading voice in the fight against psychological, physical, and domestic violence against women and children.  Through her dedication and resolve, Kocharyan became famous for launching “Voices of Violence” in August 2018.  She has become a spokesperson on gender-based violence in Armenia and has continued to speak out despite harsh criticism – from people on the street who yell “shame” as she passes by, to parliamentarians speaking out against her and threatening her with lawsuits.  She successfully started a conversation about domestic and sexual violence that is slowly leading to some action. Gender-based violence is a pervasive problem throughout Armenia, where traditional social norms regarding masculinity, femininity, gender equality, and the division of household tasks remain rigid, making her achievements and impact all the more impressive.

Shahla Humbatova (Azerbaijan) Shahla Humbatova has worked as a defense lawyer in Azerbaijan since 2013, and is one of a handful of legal advocates who have been consistently willing to defend individuals facing punishment for exercising their fundamental freedoms.  She has bravely defended human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers, youth activists, members of the political opposition, and others.  Her example has inspired other lawyers to better advocate for their clients in politically sensitive cases, and her courage in representing LGBT clients in a conservative culture has pushed civil society further down the path to tolerance.  She is one of only two female lawyers to take these cases on in a difficult environment in which human rights lawyers have regularly been harassed and threatened in social media, suspended from practicing law, and disbarred. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/20/annual-reports-2019-azerbaijan-in-review-muted-hope-for-2020/]

Ximena Galarza (Bolivia) Ximena Galarza is a Bolivian journalist with over 25 years of experience. She has worked as a reporter, a television presenter, and news editor on some of Bolivia’s most important news channels including Red UNO, Cadena A, and TVU. Across her extensive career, Galarza has interviewed hundreds of politicians, academics, intellectuals, artists, and experts. She has also trained journalists to better inform the public of their rights and obligations. Galarza’s work has supported democracy in Bolivia and exposed corruption and violations of democratic freedoms. Since 2015, Galarza has hosted the program Jaque Mate (Check Mate) on TVU, one of Bolivia’s most prestigious news programs. In 2019, two of Galarza’s interviews impacted Bolivia’s history by demonstrating fraud in the October 20 presidential elections.  The electoral irregularities were later confirmed by an independent analysis from the Organization of American States.

Claire Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso) Claire Ouedraogo is the President of the Songmanegre Association for Women’s Development (Association féminine songmanegre pour le développement), an organization she founded that focuses on eliminating female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and promoting female empowerment through family planning education, vocational training, and micro-credit for women in the rural and underserved Center North region of Burkina Faso. She also serves as a senior advisor on the National Council to Combat Female Genital Mutilation. She is an active member of the Burkinabe Movement for Human and People’s Rights. In 2016, the prime minister of Burkina Faso nominated her as an Ambassador of Peace for her work in empowering rural women. Despite the increased threat of terrorist attacks and violent acts against civilians in Bam Province, Mrs. Ouedraogo continues her courageous work on behalf of vulnerable women threatened both by FGM/C and terrorism.

Sayragul Sauytbay (China) Sayragul Sauytbay was born in Ele Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, Xinjiang, China.  She attended medical university and worked as a doctor, teacher, education director, and headmaster. In July 2016, Sayragul and her family attempted to move to Kazakhstan but the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) confiscated her passport and prevented her from going with her husband and children.  From November 2017 to March 2018, Sayragul was forced by the CCP to teach Chinese to ethnic minority people in a detention camp.  In March 2018, Sauytbay fled to Kazakhstan to avoid being sent back to the camps, where she feared she would die.  Subsequently, Sauytbay become one of the first victims in the world to speak publicly about the CCP’s repressive campaign against Muslims, igniting a movement against these abuses.  Her testimony was among the first evidence that reached the broader international community of the CCP’s repressive policy, including both the camps and the coercive methods used against Muslim minorities.  Sayragul and her family received asylum in Sweden, where they now live.

Susanna Liew (Malaysia) Following the February 2017 abduction of her husband, Christian pastor Raymond Koh, allegedly by state agents, Susanna Liew has fought on behalf of members of religious minorities who disappeared in Malaysia under similar circumstances—including Amri Che Mat, Joshua Hilmy, and Ruth Sitepu—or who face persecution for their beliefs.  Susanna actively pursued justice for her husband and others during the Malaysian Human Rights Commission’s (SUHAKAM) 2018-2019 public inquiry into enforced disappearances and continues to push the government to investigate these cases and prosecute those responsible.  Despite police harassment and death threats, she continues to advocate for her husband and others, not because of her faith or theirs, but because of their rights as Malaysians.  Susanna and Raymond founded Hope Community in 2004, a non-profit organization that works with the poor, needy, and marginalized.  She previously served as a school principal and educator.

Amaya Coppens (Nicaragua) Coppens is one of the leaders of the 19th of April Student Movement in Nicaragua. She participated in numerous protests against the Sandinista government and the violent, repressive tactics deployed by its security forces. In September 2018, she was abducted by Nicaraguan police from her residence after participating in a peaceful protest. She was released in June and continued to speak out against the regime in Nicaragua. She had the opportunity to repatriate to Belgium during her first captivity, but refused. On November 14, Coppens was imprisoned again when she and 12 other activists attempted to bring water to mothers of political prisoners on hunger strike. She and other political prisoners were released by the regime on December 30, 2019.

Jalila Haider (Pakistan) Known as the Iron Lady of Balochistan, Jalila Haider is a human rights attorney and founder of “We the Humans – Pakistan”, a non-profit organization to lift local communities by strengthening opportunities for vulnerable women and children. She specializes in defending women’s rights and provides free counseling and legal services to poverty-affected women. The first female attorney of her Hazara community, Haider led a peaceful hunger strike to recognize the right to life for the Hazara following a series of targeted attacks. Ms. Haider has taken up the cause of many other vulnerable communities. As Balochistan’s President of the Women Democratic Front and Balochistan’s branch of the Aurat (Woman’s) March, she fought against violence against women in public spaces, at work, and at home.

Amina Khoulani (Syria) Khoulani is a survivor of the Assad regime’s detention and torture centers, which have arbitrarily detained over 140,000 Syrians, and has dedicated her life to helping the families of forcibly disappeared Syrians.   A long-time civil society activist, she fled Syria in 2014 after her release from prison. She was imprisoned for six months for “peaceful activism” and her husband detained for two and a half years at the notorious Sadnaya Prison. They survived, but her three brothers died while in regime custody.  From this devastating experience, Khoulani rededicated her life to seeking information and justice for the families of the disappeared. She is a founding member of “Families for Freedom”, a women-led movement launched in 2017 by families who’s loved ones have been detained and disappeared in Syria. Forced from her home and country, living under constant threat as a refugee without government representation, she continues to advocate for human rights, democracy, and peace in Syria.

Yasmin al Qadhi (Yemen) After obtaining her journalism degree, Yasmin Al-Qadhi was one of the first women to write articles for local newspapers during the Arab Spring pro-democracy protests in Sanaa’a.  When the civil war broke out in Yemen in 2015, Yasmine and her sister Entisar established the Marib Girls Foundation.  Through the foundation, she works with senior army officials to combat child recruitment and obtained the military’s commitment to release any child recruited or detained.  She fostered support for women displaced by the conflict by coordinating with the local and international community.  She also raised awareness by co-producing a film about the negative effects of displacement on women and children. Yasmine still resides in Yemen, a tribal society where women are discouraged from working in public spaces. She is working to change social norms and has become a role model in her society.  Both at home and abroad, she encourages women’s empowerment and meaningful participation in civil society and the UN-led peace process.

Dr. Rita Nyampinga (Zimbabwe) Rita Nyampinga has been a human rights defender for more than 35 years, fighting for gender equality in the workplace since she joined a trade union in 1983.  She is also a trained mediator, and a mentor for girls and young women in leadership.  Her experiences during detention led her to form the Female Prisoners Support Trust to support women and children in detention and raise awareness of the appalling conditions they face. Dr. Nyampinga continues to serve on several boards including Women Coalition of Zimbabwe, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Women Academy on Political Leadership Excellence, and Women AIDS Support Network.  Her goal is to see a world that protects and respects the rights of prisoners through a just and fair legal system that is nondiscriminatory based on gender.  In 2010 she became the Social and Economic Justice Ambassador for Zimbabwe’s Coalition on Debt and Development.  Dr. Nyampinga won the Female Human Rights Activist of the Year in 2014 from Alpha Media House.

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2020 International Women of Courage Award Recipients Announced

Asma Jahangir memorial lecture at second anniversary of her death

February 12, 2020

At the second anniversary of her death, an ‘Asma Jahangir memorial lecture’ was held in Islamabad [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/11/asma-jahangir-one-of-the-worlds-most-outstanding-human-rights-defenders-dies-at-age-66/].

Human rights defender Rehman presented an overview of the human rights situation in Pakistan at the first ‘Asma Jahangir Memorial Lecture’ held on Tuesday 12 February 2020. On this occasion he warmly recalled HRCP’s co-founder, remembering her as the ‘voice of sanity and compassion’. Rehman spoke about people’s fundamental right to ‘economic justice’. Citing examples ranging from bonded labourers and small farmers to lady health workers and journalists, he said that people’s economic rights – the ‘right to employment, and just and equitable conditions of work’ should not be subject to the “availability of resources.” He also reminded the government of their international commitments for political and civil rights.While the Constitution protected people’s social and economic wellbeing, said Rehman, it was critical to secure the substance of these rights, their availability to all citizens and their incremental expansion. “Economic justice must not, therefore, be sacrificed at the altar of national security,” he said. He reminded the audience that ‘all citizens of Pakistan’ had the right to economic justice, and that Asma Jahangir would not have stood quietly by in such a situation.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Secretary-General Harris Khalique announced that the Commission was instituting the Asma Jahangir Award for Human Rights Defenders, and resuming the Nisar Osmani Award for Courage in Journalism and the I. A. Rehman Research Grant in Human Rights.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/612817-asma-jahangir-memorial-lecture-held

Forgotten Kashmir: something has to be done

February 9, 2020

...After more than 70 years of terror, killings, torture, and disappearances, the international community must renew its efforts to end the conflict in Kashmir. In 2018 and 2019, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released reports that documented a wide range of abuses – including kidnappings, the killing of civilians, and sexual violence – perpetrated by both sides in the conflict. The UN needs to take the lead in stopping Kashmir’s torment. ……The conflict has consumed resources that should have been used for development; instead, they were channeled to arms purchases or a regional race to develop weapons of mass destruction. Everyone, regardless of age, religion, or ethnicity, has suffered, whether as a result of displacement, family separation, loss of property, the death or disappearance of friends and close relatives, grinding poverty, or simply the prospect of a future as bleak and constricted as the present.The international community has, at times, attempted to mediate between India and Pakistan. The UN has adopted resolutions demanding a referendum on Kashmir’s future status. But, even though it has long been evident that there is no military solution to the conflict – temporary ceasefire initiatives have never resulted in a lasting agreement – India to this day has resisted a plebiscite. In 2003, Pakistan’s then-president, Pervez Musharraf, formulated a four-step approach to a political solution. Without insisting on a referendum, India and Pakistan would begin a dialogue; recognize Kashmir as the main source of bilateral hostility; identify and eliminate what was unacceptable to each side; and strive for a solution acceptable to both countries – and especially to the people of Kashmir. Subsequently, a ceasefire was declared, and high-level meetings took place, but, following a terrorist attack, India terminated the talks. In 2012, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tried unsuccessfully to revive the process.

I have been personally engaged with the Kashmir issue for some time. Last year, I held meetings with senior politicians in Pakistan and India. I am well aware that India wants to treat the Kashmir conflict solely as a bilateral issue. But in that case, it should take the initiative in starting talks with Pakistan. If that does not happen, the international community must demand that the parties come together to negotiate a peaceful solution.

Again, it is not up to the UN or anyone else to impose a solution on the parties. The current situation is rooted in a highly complex mix of history and politics, and any viable settlement must reflect Kashmir’s unique circumstances. A major issue to be addressed is the “line of control” separating Indian- and Pakistani-administered Kashmir, which hinders the free movement of people, divides families, and impedes business and trade. And, of course, Kashmir’s future status is the main question that must be resolved. During my last visit to Kashmir, I saw firsthand the level of violence and the severity of human-rights violations. Conditions have deteriorated further since India repealed Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in October 2019, dissolved it as a state, and reorganized it as two “union territories” – all enforced by the security forces with a wave of arrests, a ban on assembly, and an Internet and media blackout.At a time of war in Syria and Yemen, and heightened tensions between the United States and Iran, it is difficult to get the international community to focus on Kashmir. But it is crucial that the conflict not be allowed to spiral out of control, especially given that both countries are nuclear powers. Above all, the people of Kashmir deserve a ceasefire, reconciliation, and stability, and it is the duty of the UN to advance this goal. I urge the UN to appoint a special envoy to Kashmir. And I appeal to UN Secretary-General António Guterres to seize the initiative and help deliver a long-overdue and lasting peace to this region…

“The Indian government must immediately end all draconian restrictions on fundamental freedoms in Jammu & Kashmir, and fully reinstate communications”, FIDH and its member organization People’s Watch urged on 5 February 2020. In conjunction with its call, FIDH released a briefing note that highlights some of the human rights concerns that have remained unaddressed since 5 August 2019. For the past six months, the people of Jammu & Kashmir have been living under siege and denied their fundamental rights under the most draconian of measures. These grave violations of human rights must come to an end, and accountability must be established for the serious violations that have occurred since 5 August.Adilur Rahman Khan, FIDH Secretary-General
Since the evening of 4 August 2019, internet communications, and initially telephone lines, have been cut in Jammu & Kashmir, effectively isolating residents from the rest of the world. Although phone lines were gradually reinstated and internet access restored in certain places, personal internet connections are limited to 301 government-approved websites through a very slow 2G connection. Although accurate figures are unavailable, thousands of arbitrary detentions have been reported since 5 August 2019, including hundreds of detentions under the abusive 1978 Public Safety Act (PSA). Many detainees, particularly youth and low-ranking political activists, have been transferred to jails outside of Jammu & Kashmir, the location of which is unknown in many cases. There have also been numerous reports of excessive use of force by army and police forces, including reports of deaths and injuries as a result of the improper use of pellet guns and teargas. The reorganization of Jammu & Kashmir has also resulted in a number of measures that will have long-term implications for the human rights situation in the region, including the disbanding of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) of Jammu & Kashmir – one of the few avenues for justice available to local people – at the end of October 2019. More than 500 cases of alleged enforced disappearances were pending before the SHRC at the time of its disbandment. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/17/fidh-dares-to-publish-a-report-on-key-human-rights-issues-of-concern-in-kashmir/]

Human rights violations of the gravest nature are nothing new in Jammu & Kashmir, and have gone unpunished for decades. But taking away the little autonomy the state had will only make the situation worse, especially when the people most affected by these changes have been denied their right to express their opinions. added Henri Tiphagne, People’s Watch Executive Director

On 5 February the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requested an urgent intervention in the case of Mr. Miyan Abdul Qayoom, a human rights lawyer and President of Jammu & Kashmir High Court Bar Association. Mr. Qayoom, 70,  suffers from multiple health conditions, including diabetes, double vessel heart disease, and kidney problems.
According to the information received, during the evening of January 29, 2020, Mr. Qayoom’s family received a phone call from Agra Central Jail’s authorities, in Uttar Pradesh State, informing them that Mr. Qayoom had been transferred to Sarojini Naidu Medical College after complaining of chest pain, breathlessness and his pulse rate had significantly gone down to 44pm, and asking them to visit him. On January 30, 2020, upon reaching Agra Central Jail, Mr. Qayoom’s relatives discovered that Mr. Qayoom had been taken back to the jail’s dispensary, even though his health condition had not improved.  On February 3, 2020, Jammu & Kashmir High Court Srinagar bench, after hearing the final arguments, reserved its judgement regarding Mr. Qayoom’s habeas corpus request. The scheduled date of the judgement was not known as of the publication of this Urgent Appeal…..
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https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/united-nations-must-mediate-political-solution-in-kashmir-by-kjell-magne-bondevik-2020-02

Law Society of Ontario reflects on how to support human rights lawyers abroad

January 28, 2020

LSO event explores nuances of supporting human rights abroad
Teresa Donnelly, who leads the LSO’s Human Rights Monitoring Group, spoke at the Osgoode Hall event in Toronto commemorating International Day of the Endangered Lawyer 2020.
On 27 January 2020 Anita Balakrishnan wrote in the Canadian Law Times about the International Day of the Endangered Lawyer which in 2020 focused on lawyers in Pakistan [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/17/24-january-day-of-the-endangered-lawye-aba-focuses-on-pakistan/ ]
When supporting colleagues abroad, lawyers should consider offering behind-the-scenes support as well as making public statements, a Pakistan-based journalist told an audience at the Law Society of Ontario last week. “What has to be really kept in mind is how that support is voiced and contextualized,” said Beena Sarwar. “If it takes a simplistic view or plays into anti-Pakistan rhetoric …. it’s so easy to make Pakistan a scapegoat and target.” Sarwar, whose blog has gained international acclaim for its coverage of freedom, human rights, peace and even influential jurists, was one speaker at the Law Society of Ontario’s International Day of the Endangered Lawyer 2020, hosted at Osgoode Hall in Toronto on 24 January by the Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

This year, lawyers organized a protest at the Pakistani embassy at the Hague. Past events focused on Egypt, Turkey, China and Honduras, among others.

The LSO’s Human Rights Monitoring Group has issued several statements about treatment of lawyers in Pakistan over the past few years.  In the aftermath of the Kasi attack, the LSO urged the Pakistani government to “put an end to all acts of violence against lawyers and human rights defenders in Pakistan,” and “ensure that all lawyers can carry out their legitimate activities without fear of physical violence or other human rights violations.

Other incidents that have been condemned by the LSO are the 2015 murder of Samiullah Afridi (a lawyer who defended a doctor that allegedly assisted CIA agents with their hunt for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden); and a suicide bomb attack on the Pakistani judiciary.

Over the past decades, lawyers in Pakistan have been subjected to acts of mass terrorism, murder, attempted murder, assaults, (death) threats, contempt proceedings, harassment and intimidation, as well as judicial harassment and torture in detention, merely for engaging in their professional duties as lawyers,” a letter from Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada said earlier this month. “Their families also have been targeted, and some have even been murdered. Some lawyers have also been threatened with disbarment and/or had their homes and offices raided by the police.

At the event, bencher Teresa Donnelly read a letter the law society had received from a Pakistani lawyer. Lawyers cannot become “heroes,” Donnelly recounted from the email. Instead, she said, the writer felt the role of lawyers was to “focus on their work improving the justice system.”  While support is needed for the Pakistani bar, Sarwar explained that Western organizations must be careful not to jump to issue statements that play into conspiracy theories about Western involvement. Abdul (Hamid) Bashani Khan, a lawyer at the Abdul Hamid Khan Law Office in Mississauga, also spoke on the panel, where speakers highlighted some of the common misunderstandings of the situation in Pakistan, particularly amid anti-Muslim rhetoric publicized in the post-911 era. For example, panelists said the bench and bar are portrayed as both very strong — given the influence of the lawyers’ movement of Pakistan — and also very weak, in the fight for judicial independence and public support. In 2014, a lawyer was killed after representing a high-profile professor charged with blasphemy.

To mark the Day of the Endangered Lawyer, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute released a toolkit to help the legal community navigate the complex task of protecting lawyers at risk. The three-part kit includes supports for risk management, human rights mechanisms, emergency protocols, legal frameworks, international protection, security plans and response chains.

24 January, Day of the Endangered Lawye: ABA focuses on Pakistan

January 17, 2020

Pakistan is the focus of this year’s Day of the Endangered Lawyer (January 24) and the American Bar Association is organising a teleconference, in which panelists will provide a report of the current state of attacks on the judiciary, bar and other human rights defenders in Pakistan, as well as offering suggestions for how the ABA and other outside organizations can lend support. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/22/24-january-2018-day-of-the-endangered-lawyer-focus-on-egypt/]

Moderator:

  • Sara Sandford, Immediate Past Co-Chair, International Human Rights Committee

Speakers:

  • Jalila Haider, Founder of We the Humans
  • Farahnaz Ispahani, Senior Fellow, Religious Freedom Institute; Global Fellow, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
  • Hussain Haqqani, Former Ambassador to US
  • Raza Rumi, Director of the Park Center for Independent Media, Ithaca College; Visiting Faculty at Cornell Institute for Public Affairs; and Editor of Daily Times