Posts Tagged ‘Philippines’

41st session Human Rights Council: Opening statement by High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet

June 25, 2019

On 24 June, 2019, the 41st session of the Human Rights Council started with an opening statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. I refer to the guide to human rights defenders issues published earlier: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/14/guide-to-human-rights-defenders-issues-at-the-41st-human-rights-council-starting-on-24-june/

The High Commissioner’s speech contained many topics including these:

……
I regret Saudi Arabia‘s dismissal of last week’s report by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. I also reiterate my strong condemnation of the mass execution of 37 men in April. Some were children when the alleged crimes occurred.

Iran continues to sentence children to death. I was appalled that the authorities sentenced and executed two boys under the age of 18 in April. I remain particularly concerned about the high number of child offenders on death row – possibly more than 85 individuals – with some at risk of imminent execution.

I take this opportunity to note and commend global progress with respect to the death penalty in this year, which marks the 30th anniversary of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. The advances include recent ratifications by Gambia and State of Palestine; removal of the death penalty from the penal codes of Benin and Burkina Faso; and declarations of moratoria in Malaysia and the State of California.

..The inspiring and peaceful popular uprising in Sudan, with its call for democratic governance and justice, has been met with a brutal crackdown by the security forces this month. I regret that the Government has not responded to our request for access to investigate allegations of serious human rights violations by the joint security forces during the crackdown. They include reports that more than 100 protestors were killed, and many more injured, during and following the assault by security forces on a peaceful sit-in on 3 June. In addition, hospitals and clinics were reportedly raided, and medical staff assaulted. We have received allegations of rape and sexual abuse of both women and men during the crackdown, as well as information alleging that hundreds of protestors may be missing. I urge Sudan to grant access to my Office; to put an end to the repression of the people’s human rights; and to immediately end the Internet shutdown. The Sudanese people are entitled to express their opinions, and – like people everywhere – they have a right to live in freedom and at peace, enjoying the rule of law and the conditions necessary to dignity.

In Myanmar, evidence indicates continuing persecution of the remaining Rohingya people in northern Rakhine State, with little or no effort by the authorities to create conditions for the voluntary, safe and sustainable return of refugees. Although restrictions on humanitarian and media access in both Rakhine and in Chin State limit our access to information, the ongoing conflict there has included use of heavy weaponry, airstrikes and helicopter gunships by the military, with significant loss of life on all sides and severe impact on civilians. Based on allegations received, we fear that the conflict is being used as a pretext to carry out attacks against Rohingya civilians, and to cause further displacement. Some 35,000 ethnic Rakhine, Rohingya, Mro, Daignet and Khamee civilians have been internally displaced by fighting. The suspension of humanitarian aid by the government means at least 95,000 people have been cut off from life-saving assistance.

….
My Office is following the situation of human rights in the Philippines very closely. The extraordinarily high number of deaths – and persistent reports of extrajudicial killings – in the context of campaigns against drug use continue. Even the officially confirmed number of 5425 deaths would be a matter of most serious concern for any country. I welcome the recent statement by Special Rapporteurs calling for action by the Council. There should also be comprehensive and transparent information from the authorities on the circumstances around the deaths, and investigations related to allegations of violations. These could dispel any false allegations and help regain trust for the authorities.Human rights defenders, including activists for land rights and the rights of indigenous peoples; journalists; lawyers; members of the Catholic clergy; and others who have spoken out – notably the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples – have received threats, sometimes publicly, from senior Government officials. This creates a very real risk of violence against them, and undermines rule of law, as well as the right to freedom of expression.

In Portugal, where I attended an encouraging conference on drug policies and harm reduction, I also benefited from informative discussions on migration. Portugal’s open and forward-looking migrant policy aims to offer migrants easy access to social and legal assistance and encourages migrants to access the labour market. I visited a centre in Lisbon which offered free pre-school classes, alongside training courses and other support to migrant women aiming to set up their own companies. Ensuring that migrants are included and integrated brings many benefits for host communities, including net financial contributions: Portugal’s High Commissioner for Migration informed me that in 2017, migrants contributed 510 million euros more to the social security system than they took out. I invite all countries to consider learning from this example. Despite extensive disinformation campaigns regarding the supposedly damaging impact of migration on destination countries, close attention to the facts indicates that when their dignity and rights are respected, migrants can be strong drivers of successful economies and societies. We should recognize and cherish these contributions.

Instead, I observe a deeply unfortunate trend towards the criminalisation of basic human compassion for migrants, including those in situations of great vulnerability. The NGO Open Democracy reported last month that over 100 ordinary people in Europe have been arrested or prosecuted this year for acts such as feeding hungry migrants; helping them find shelter; or even assisting a pregnant woman to get to hospital to give birth. Similar prosecutions of ordinary people seeking to help individuals in distress have also taken place in the United States and elsewhere. Moreover, in several countries, new legal measures aim to penalise NGOs which rescue people drowning at sea.

Measures such as these clearly put the lives of children, women and men at risk. But they also put our societies at risk. They violate ancient and precious values that are common to us all, by penalizing compassion. Those who seek to help people in need should be honoured, not prosecuted. Caring should not be considered a crime, and this criminalisation of acts of basic human decency must be resisted. We have, all of us, a right – and even a duty – to help each other.

https://ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?LangID=E&NewsID=24724

Guide to Human Rights Defenders issues at the 41st Human Rights Council starting on 24 June

June 14, 2019

Thanks to the – as always very complete and timely – “Alert to the Human Rights Council’s 41st session” (from 24 June to 12 July 2019) issued by the International Service for Human Rights. I am able to give a short guide to the main items that relate to human rights defenders. To Read the full Alert to the session online click here and stay up-to-date with @ISHRglobal and #HRC41 on Twitter.

Thematic areas of interest:

Sexual orientation and gender identity: The interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) will be held on Monday 24 June at 11:00. The Council will consider the new thematic report of the mandate holder as well as the report of the country visits he made to Georgia and Mozambique. The Council will also consider the renewal of the mandate.

Business and human rights: The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with and consider several reports of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises on 26 June. The Working Group will present a report on the gender dimensions of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the reports of country visits to Thailand and Kenya. The Working Group’s report on the gender dimensions of the Guiding Principles integrates clear recognition that women human rights defenders play a vital role in challenging business-related human rights abuses as well as in promoting and protecting human rights in relation to business activity, including the right to an effective remedy. As a result of this work, women human rights defenders often face gender-specific risks including sexual violence, misogynist public shaming and online harassment. Among its recommendations, the Working Group calls on business enterprises to ensure the meaningful participation of women’s organisations, women human rights defenders and gender experts in all stages of human rights due diligence.

Women human rights defenders and women’s rights: The annual full day discussion on the human rights of women will take place on 27 and  28 June. The discussions will focus this year on violence against women in the world of work, the rights of older women and their economic empowerment. A panel focused on women’s rights and climate change will also be organised, focusing on climate action, best practices and lessons learned. States should place due consideration on the role of women human rights defenders and social movements in this regard, in line with the Human Rights Council resolution focused on environmental human rights defenders adopted in March 2019…
The Council will also hold an interactive dialogue with the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice which focuses on women deprived of liberty (including women human rights defenders in detention, facing travel bans, among other situations), and will consider their reports including a report on the country visits to Honduras and Poland. The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences on 27 June and will consider her report including the report of her visits to Canada and Nepal.

Reprisals:  In spite of a number of measures, reprisals not only continue, but grow. Item 5 of the Human Rights Council’s agenda provides a key opportunity for States to raise concerns about reprisals, including specific cases, and for relevant governments to provide updates on cases to the Council on any investigation or action taken toward accountability. During the organisational meeting held on 7 June, the President of the Council stressed the importance of ensuring the safety of those participating in the Council’s work, and the obligation of States to prevent intimidation or reprisals. In line with previous calls, ISHR expects the President of the Human Rights Council to publicly identify and denounce specific instances of reprisals by issuing formal statements, conducting press-briefings, corresponding directly with the State concerned, publicly releasing such correspondence, and insisting on undertakings from the State concerned to investigate, hold the perpetrators accountable and report back to the Council on action taken. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/13/ishr-on-reprisals-un-and-states-must-do-more-to-address-reprisals/]

Other key thematic reports: The Council will hold dedicated debates and consider reports of several mandates relating to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and the role of human rights defenders in that work area, in some instances involving the renewal of the mandate:

  • The Special Rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers and on the right to health (including country visits report to Canada and Kyrgyzstan) on 24 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association (mandate renewal, reports include country visits to Tunisia and Armenia) on 25 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and right to education on 26 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression (including thematic report on surveillance companies and country visit report to Ecuador) on 25 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (including country visits reports to the UK and Laos) on 28 June

In addition, the Council will hold dedicated debates on rights of specific groups including with:

  • The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants (and country visit report to Niger) on 24 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons on 28 June (mandate renewal)
  • The Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons (and country visit to Nigeria) on 27 June
  • The Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members on 24 June

Country-specific developments:

China: For more than a year, the international community has had access to credible reports and first-hand testimony of the harassment, surveillance, and mass detention of more than one million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang. Despite the consistent work of the UN human rights mechanisms to review China, ask questions, and make recommendations, there has been no serious or effective response. The Council should take urgent action to seek access, monitoring and reporting of the situation to inform future actions. ..ISHR urges States to act collectively to advance a resolution calling for China to allow access to the region to independent human rights experts and to end country-wide the arbitrary detention of individuals based on their religious beliefs or political opinions.

Sudan: In response to the gross and systematic human rights violations occurring in Sudan, ISHR andother NGOs have urged Council Member States to urgently hold a Special Session on the human rights situation in Sudan. The Council should urgently establish an international fact-finding mission to document violations, identify perpetrators and push for accountability, in line with calls made by a group of Special Procedures including the Independent Expert on Sudan. Since 3 June, Rapid Security Forces, riot police and national security officers violently dispersed peaceful protesters in Khartoum as well as in different cities across Sudan. The MENA Women Human Rights Defenders’ Coalition reported that at least 113 people have died including women human rights defenders. Civil society documented cases of rape, attacks on hospitals, with hundreds injured and missing.  The Transitional Military Council is enforcing a ban on communication causing an internet black out. The High Commissioner has deplored the killings and proposed ‘the rapid deployment of a UN human rights monitoring team’ to Sudan.

Saudi Arabia: The June session provides an important opportunity for the Council to follow up on the joint statement delivered on behalf of 36 States [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/08/saudi-arabia-for-first-time-openly-criticized-in-un-human-rights-council/] .. Seven women’s rights activists have been provisionally released, but they are still facing trial, and other women human rights defenders are still in detention, with the human rights situation on the ground deteriorating markedly on other fronts, including through increased use of the death penalty and the authorities’ continuing crackdown on freedom of expression.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/28/3-saudi-women-human-rights-defenders-released-but-for-how-long-and-what-about-the-others/]
The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions will present her findings of the investigation into the killing of Khashoggi. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/26/other-members-of-the-uns-khashoggi-investigation-team-named/%5D…..ISHR calls on States to advance a Human Rights Council resolution establishing a monitoring mechanism over the human rights violations in the country and calling explicitly for the immediate and unconditional release of all human rights defenders including the detained women human rights defenders and to drop all charges against them, including those provisionally released. ISHR considers the March joint statement as a first step towards more sustained and dedicated review by the Council in its efforts to hold its members accountable.

The Philippines: The Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries for human rights defenders. Several NGOs callied on the Council to advance accountability for human rights violations by adopting a resolution establishing an independent international investigation into extrajudicial killings and this call was strongly endorsed by a group of independent UN experts who condemned a ‘sharp deterioration in the situation of human rights across the country, including sustained attacks on people and institutions defending human rights.’ [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/07/philippines-labour-rights-defender-dennis-sequena-shot-dead-while-meeting-with-workers/]

Egypt: Despite the Egyptian government’s assurances to the African Commission civil society faced restrictions, reprisals and intimidation for engaging or seeking to engage with the Commission. These restrictions and reprisals happened in a context where the Government of Egypt crushes dissent, discourages public participation in public affairs and punishes people who dare to claim basic human rights. Individuals and communities who engaged with the Special Rapporteur on the right to housing during her visit in September 2018 faced systematic reprisals. All other scheduled visits by the Special Procedures have been postponed as a result. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/07/egypt-denounced-for-reprisals-against-human-rights-defenders-who-talked-to-visiting-un-delegation/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/12/reprisal-against-egyptian-human-rights-defender-mohamed-soltan/]. ISHR calls on States to condemn the acts of intimidation and reprisals for civil society engaging with the African Commission and with the Special Procedures, and recall Egypt’s obligations to prevent acts of intimidation and reprisals, investigate the allegations and provide victims with effective remedy.

Burundi: The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi will present its oral briefing on 2 July. The closing of the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is regrettable and worrying. In addition, ISHR remains seriously concerned over the breaches to due process observed in all of human rights defender Germain Rukuki’s legal proceedings since his arrest without warrant on 13 July 2017. [See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/29/ngo-statement-condemns-new-irregularities-in-the-case-of-germain-rukuki-burundi/]. For more information on the situation of human rights defenders in Burundi, check ISHR Briefing Paper for the UPR here.

Other country situations: The High Commissioner will present her oral update to the Council on 24 June. The Council will hear reports on and is expected to consider resolutions addressing a range of country situations, in some instances involving the renewal of the relevant expert mandates. These include:

  • Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus (mandate renewal) on 1 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea (mandate renewal) on 2 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi and the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar on 2 July
  • Enhanced interactive dialogue with the government of Sudan and OHCHR on 9 July
  • Enhanced interactive dialogue on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo and interactive dialogue with the team of experts on the situation in the Kasai region on 9 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on the situation in Ukraine on 10 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Central African Republic on 10 July
  • Enhanced interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on Venezuela on 10 July
  • Interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on the situation of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar on 10 July
  • First oral update and enhanced interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on Nicaragua on 11 July
  • Oral update by the High Commissioner on cooperation with Georgia on 11 July

Adoption of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) reports: During this session, the Council will adopt the UPR working group reports on New Zealand, Afghanistan, Chile, Viet Nam, Uruguay, Yemen, Vanuatu, North Macedonia, Comoros, Slovakia, Eritrea, Cyprus, Dominican Republic and Cambodia.

Resolutions to be presented to the Council’s 41st session: At the organisational meeting resolutions were announced (States sponsoring the resolution in brackets); it is possible that more resolutions could be presented at this session. These include:

  • The human rights situation in Belarus (European Union)
  • Human rights of internally displaced persons (Austria, Honduras, Uganda)
  • Human rights and climate change (Bangladesh, Philippines, Viet Nam)
  • Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Uruguay).
  • Elimination of discrimination against women and girls (Colombia, Mexico)
  • Rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association (Czech Republic, Indonesia, Lithuania, Maldives, Mexico)
  • New and emerging and digital technologies and human rights (Republic of Korea, Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Morocco, Singapore)
  • Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women(Canada)
  • The human rights situation in Syria (France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Netherlands, Qatar, Turkey, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)

There wil be again many side events at the Council, on which I will report separately.

Read here the three year programme of work of the Council with supplementary information.
Read here ISHR’s recommendations on the the key issues that are or should be on the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council in 2019.

Philippines: UN rapporteurs ask for exceptional investigation, while labour rights defender shot dead

June 7, 2019

The ink on the bill for the protection of human rights defenders [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/04/philippines-human-rights-defenders-protection-bill-adopted-in-parliament/] has hardly dried and the following is reported: on 2 June 2019 union organiser Dennis Sequeña was shot dead while meeting with workers. Sequeña was vice-chairperson of labour group Partido Manggagawa; group believes he was murdered for his trade union work. Civil society organisations condemn the killing & demand immediate investigation, as well as action to stop spate of attacks against labour activists.

Also on 7 June a group of UN human rights experts collectively called on the United Nations to establish an independent investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines, citing a sharp deterioration in the situation of human rights across the country, including sustained attacks on people and institutions defending human rights. “Given the scale and seriousness of the reported human rights violations we call on the Human Rights Council to establish an independent investigation into the human rights violations in the Philippines.

We have recorded a staggering number of unlawful deaths and police killings in the context of the so-called war on drugs, as well as killings of human rights defenders. Very few independent and effective investigations have taken place, independent media and journalists are threatened, the law has been weaponised to undermine press freedom, and the independence of the judiciary is undermined,” the experts said. [ndependent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council have raised their concerns with the Government of the Philippines on 33 occasions over the last three years!]

In a statement of 8 May 2019 the ISHR and other NGOs had recalled that: the Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries for human rights defenders. They persevere under harsh conditions, fighting against repression and corruption to make a better society for all. They continue their work so the most vulnerable are protected and their voices are heard.  ISHR – along with CIVICUS, Frontline Defenders, FORUM Asia, FIDH, and the World Organisation Against Torture– released a joint statement denouncing recent death threats addressed to Karapatan Secretary General, Cristina Palabay, and urging the Philippine Government to respond to the threats against human rights defenders by taking genuine and effective measures for their protection.

See also the reactions in the media by the Government: https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2019/06/08/1924735/intellectually-challenged-palace-slams-un-experts-call-probe-staggering-philippines-killings

and https://www.bulatlat.com/2019/06/08/karapatan-to-duterte-allow-un-independent-probe-on-rights-violations-in-ph/

——-

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1906/S00047/call-for-independent-probe-into-philippines-violations.htm

https://www.rappler.com/nation/232094-partido-manggagawa-dennis-sequena-killed-cavite-june-2-2019

Philippines: Union organiser Dennis Sequeña shot dead while meeting with workers

http://www.ishr.ch/news/philippines-calling-accountability-violations-against-human-rights-defenders

Philippines: Human Rights Defenders Protection bill adopted in parliament

June 4, 2019

The House of Representatives in the Philippines on 2 June 2019 passed the proposed Human Rights Defenders Protection bill that should prevent human rights violations and abuses committed against HRDs. Surprsingly all 183 congressmen present at last night’s session voted for House Bill 9199, a consolidation of bills filed by Rep. Edcel Lagman (LP, Albay) and Makabayan Reps. Carlos Isagani Zarate, Antonio Tinio, Emmi de Jesus, Arlene Brosas, Ariel Casilao, and Sarah Jane Elago. A badly needed bill as the Philippines is one of the worst places for HRDs [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/08/and-in-the-philippines-the-killing-of-human-rights-defenders-also-continues-with-benjamin-ramos/]. As always the real question is what wil happen in practice.

The bill guarantees HRD rights and freedoms; mandates the State and public authorities to respect, protect, and fulfill these rights and freedoms; and imposes appropriate sanctions to counter impunity. Lagman said Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of Human Rights recorded the killing of 697 human rights defenders in the country for the period 2001-2018 while Task Force Detainees of the Philippines documented 76 human rights violations affecting 333 HRDs from September 2013 to September 2016 alone.

IF signed into law, the bill will also create a Human Rights Defenders Protection Committee chaired by a commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and six members who will be jointly nominated by concerned civil society organizations. HB 9199 is based on the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the Model National Law on the Recognition and Protection of Human Rights Defenders drafted by the International Service for Human Rights.

The bill grants the following rights and freedom to human rights defenders:

  • Right to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms
  • Right to form groups, associations, and organizations
  • Right to solicit, receive, and utilize resources
  • Right to seek, receive, and disseminate information
  • Right to develop and advocate for human rights ideas
  • Right to communicate with non-governmental, governmental, and intergovernmental organizations
  • Rights against vilification
  • Right to access, communicate, and cooperate with international and regional human rights bodies and mechanisms
  • Right to participate in public affairs
  • Right to peaceful assembly
  • Right to represent and advocate
  • Right to freedom movement
  • Right to privacy
  • Freedom from intimidation or reprisal
  • Right to establish a sanctuary for human rights victims and or their families
  • Freedom from defamation and stigmatization
  • Right to exercise cultural rights and to development of personality
  • Right to effective remedy and full reparation

The bill penalizes those who will violate the rights and freedom. Human right defender’s obligations, meanwhile, include conducting investigation; adopting human rights based governance; strengthening protection program; promoting and facilitating human rights education, among others.

http://tempo.com.ph/2019/06/03/house-oks-human-rights-defenders-bill/

https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2019/6/3/house-of-representatives-human-rights-defenders-protection-bill.html

Misconceptions about indigenous peoples and their defenders explained

May 22, 2019

In a piece of 21 May 2019, called “4 common misconceptions about indigenous peoples and local communities explained”, Lai Sanders of the Rights and Resources Initiative points to common misconceptions re indigenous peoples who have a ‘juggernaut role’ in the global fight against climate change. Why are they conspicuously absent from many national and international agendas, as well as from societal discourse at large? At the recent UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York, six indigenous activists and leaders from across the world spoke to the often unrecognized and under-appreciated contributions made by their communities for the betterment of society, and to address some of the most widespread and harmful misconceptions about Indigenous Peoples and local communities. The following interviews (excerpts) come with beautiful portrait pictures.

..

Indigenous Peoples and local communities customarily own over 50 percent of the world’s land, yet only have secure legal rights to 10 percent. “One of the most generalized misconceptions is that society, especially decision-makers, sees us as a people almost without rights,” says Levi Sucre, head of the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB) and an indigenous native of Costa Rica

Rayanne Maximo Franca. Photo: Rights and Resources Initiative

Rayanne Maximo Franca left her community at 17 to attend college in Brasilia, where she was one of a handful of indigenous students. Now 27, she is a seasoned organizer with the Indigenous Youth Network of Brazil and a representative of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus. “Every day, being indigenous in a society that is so prejudiced, so racist, so discriminatory,” she says, “the fact that people affirm themselves as indigenous—in the society we live in today—is already an act of activism. It is already an act of self-defense.”

For Emberá activist Dayana Urzola Domicó, youth coordinator for the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) the erasure of indigenous identities and narratives from mainstream culture is also a major issue. “… we are not those Indigenous Peoples who look beautiful in museums. We are not of the past. All those things that are articulated in the care of Mother Earth, of you as a person, your territory, your thought, your law of origin—those things are still alive. We are still here.

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, coordinator of the Indigenous Women and Peoples Association of Chad describes how Mbororo pastoralist communities, who are indigenous to Chad, use their nomadic lifestyles to conserve the natural environment: “We use one place to stay for two days, and another place for three days. That allows the natural resources to get regenerated in the natural way.”

Joan Carling, co-convener of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development, grew up in the mountains of the Philippines’ Cordillera region, where she spent her childhood playing in the forests. An indigenous Kankanaey, she has fought at the forefront of environmental justice for two decades. “Indigenous Peoples have been engaging in the climate change process because we believe we have something to contribute,” she says. “We have the solutions. We have the resilience. We have the knowledge that has been accumulated through time. Our elders know how to read the rivers, the behavior of animals. They use this to predict what’s happening in the environment.”

This traditional knowledge, explains Maximo Franca, is what has kept the world’s remaining forests standing. “It maintains biodiversity, it maintains the fauna, the flora, the animals… everything that the nature has, we are maintaining. And we are countering climate change.

..The struggle to dispel a particularly harmful narrative—that Indigenous Peoples are blindly opposed to development projects, or an impediment to economic progress—is a universal one. “The biggest misconception about Indigenous Peoples is that we are anti-development,” says Carling. “That comes from the western view of development, that mining, dams, agribusiness are good for the people. But look: It has caused a lot of inequality. It is unsustainable. It has severely destroyed nature. It has severely polluted our lands and resources.

…Echoes Sucre on environmentally destructive projects: “In the short term, it looks like a development; but in the medium and long term, it will be the destruction of humanity.”

2017 and 2018 have been among the deadliest years on record for environmental defenders, particularly indigenous and community activists, who are increasingly being targeted, harassed, criminalized, and even murdered for defending their lands from exploitation. “They are not fighting for their ego, or to get economic benefits,” says Ibrahim. “They are fighting for the identity, the survival of the peoples—the protection of the planet.

For Rukka Sombolinggi, the head of AMAN, the largest indigenous organization in Indonesia and the world, learning about the struggles of indigenous communities outside her own was like “baptism by fire,” she recalls. “Twenty years ago, I realized that Indigenous Peoples were facing criminalization. Land grabbings were happening everywhere. The eviction of Indigenous Peoples—from protected areas, from national parks, from protected forests, from wildlife sanctuaries—took place in Indonesia. Today, that is still happening.”

For Carling, the issue of criminalization is deeply personal: less than a year ago, she was falsely labeled a terrorist by the Philippine government alongside hundreds of other human rights activists. Though her name was later struck from the list, the threat remains.

….

Increasingly, governments, multilateral institutions, and other important stakeholders are heeding the urgent call to action to protect those who defend the world’s forests and lands. New campaigns, projects, and funds are underway to support initiatives to strengthen Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’ rights to their lands. And the next generation of young indigenous leaders is joining the fight: “In Colombia, there is so much conflict that you have two options,” says Urzola Domicó. “One is that they kill your family and you are left without anything, and you die with your family. And the other option is that you go out and see how to defend your people, your nation.”

Gwangju Human Rights Award 2019 to Philippine Carino and Indonesian choir

May 19, 2019

For those – like me – who missed the announcement  of the winners of the Gwangju human rights awards 2019, here a belated post.  [For more on this award see:http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/gwangju-prize-for-human-rights]. The winner is the Philippine human rights defender Joanna Carino.

This undated photo, released by the May 18 Memorial Foundation on April 15, 2019, shows Joanna Carino, a Philippine activist championing the rights of indigenous peoples. (Yonhap)

The Jury said “Carino has created a great sensation for her unyielding strife and sacrifice in fighting against suppression and made a favorable impression on many citizens and activists today.

The biennial special award went to Indonesia’s Dialita Choir, made up of women whose parents, relatives and friends were captured, tortured and exiled during the 1965-1966 communist purge in the Southeast Asian country. The members of Dialita co-initiate social change through singing performances. The award ceremony was on 18 May 2019 as part of events to mark the 39th anniversary of the democratic uprising. Hundreds of citizens were killed in the southwestern city during protests against the military junta of Gen. Chun Doo-hwan in May 1980.

Right-wing Nationalism Undermines Human Rights work by UN

May 12, 2019

Under the title “Rise of Right-wing Nationalism Undermines Human Rights Worldwide”

The rise of right-wing nationalism and the proliferation of authoritarian governments have undermined human rights in several countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. As a result, some of the international human rights experts – designated as UN Rapporteurs – have either been politically ostracized, denied permission to visit countries on “fact-finding missions” or threatened with expulsion, along with the suspension of work permits.

The Philippines government, a vociferously authoritarian regime, has renewed allegations against Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/02/duterte-there-is-no-war-on-human-rights-defenders-only-on-criminals/]

…Anna-Karin Holmlund, Senior UN Advocate at Amnesty International, told IPS “We have witnessed several deeply worrying personal attacks by UN Member States against the independent experts, including personal attacks, threats of prosecution, public agitation and physical violence in the past year”…

Meanwhile, the Government of Burundi has closed down the UN Human Rights Office triggering a protest from Michelle Bachelet, the UN Human Rights Commissioner in Geneva. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/07/final-step-burundi-closes-down-un-office/ ]

And under the Trump administration, the US has ceased to cooperate with some of the UN Rapporteurs, and specifically an investigation on the plight of migrants on the Mexican border where some of them have been sexually assaulted—abuses which have remained unreported and unprosecuted. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/16/us-ngos-react-furiously-to-visa-restrictions-imposed-on-icc-investigators-by-trump-administration/]

The government of Myanmar has barred a UN expert from visiting the country to probe the status of Rohingya refugees.

In March, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Diego García-Sayán, postponed an official visit to Morocco because the government “has not been able to ensure a programme of work in accordance with the needs of the mandate and the terms of reference for country visits by special procedures.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/21/special-rapporteur-diego-garcia-sayan-not-swayed-by-moroccan-assurances-for-his-visit/]

Referring to the situation in Colombia, Robert Colville, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said May 10: “We are alarmed by the strikingly high number of human rights defenders being killed, harassed and threatened in Colombia, and by the fact that this terrible trend seems to be worsening”…

And last month, Israel revoked the work permit for Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine Director of Human Rights Watch, prompting a protest from the United Nations……According to a report in the New York Times March 10, Leilana Farha, the UN Special Envoy for Housing was “shocked” to discover that some of the Egyptians she interviewed in Cairo’s poor areas “had suffered reprisals for talking to her.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/18/israel-deportation-of-human-rights-watchs-staff-member-again-on-the-table/%5D

..

Urmila Bhoola of South Africa, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, told IPS she has visited Niger, Belgium, Nigeria, El Salvador, Mauritania, Paraguay and, lastly Italy, in October 2018. She pointed out that “country visits are only conducted upon invitation from governments”. “I have issued requests for country-visits to many countries but due to the mandate’s name and focus, member states are often reluctant to invite the mandate on contemporary forms of slavery, to conduct a visit”. In this sense, she pointed out, member states may not openly refuse a visit but may not reply to country visit requests….

http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/05/rise-right-wing-nationalism-undermines-human-rights-worldwide/

 

Michel Forst addressed the International Civil Society Week 2019

May 3, 2019

For the International Civil Society Week (ICSW), held  in Belgrade from 8-12 April 2019,  (Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders) contributed through IPS the
following piece: “Human Rights Defenders Need to be Defended as Much as they Defend our Rights”:

They are ordinary people – mothers, fathers, sisters, sons, daughters, brothers, friends. But for me they are extraordinary people – the ones who have the courage to stand up for everyone else’s rights. They are the human rights defenders. Last year, according to reliable sources, 321 of them were killed, in 27 countries. Their murders were directly caused by the work they do to ensure the rest of us enjoy the rights we claim as purely because we are human. Countless others were tortured, raped and threatened, also for the work they do protecting their, and others’ human rights.

In fact, 2018 was deadliest year for human rights defenders since the UN began monitoring the challenges they face through the establishment of a mandate for a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. It shouldn’t be like this.

Last year we marked 70 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and 20 since the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. The latter Declaration provides for the practical support and protection of human rights defenders as they go about their work. It is addressed not just to states and to human rights defenders, but to everyone. It tells us that we all have a role to fulfil as human rights defenders and emphasises that there is a global human rights movement that involves us all. This is a task we are not performing well.

Human rights should not need defenders, and human rights defenders should not need protection from the might of oppressive governments, corrupt multinationals and crooked legal systems. But this is an imperfect, human world.

Since 2000, when we UN Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights defenders began our monitoring work, much progress has been made. There has been extensive discussion on how these courageous people should be protected, and there is a Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists in a limited number of countries. Sadly, it is often not properly implemented, or funded. It is impossible to canvass each defender’s particular treatment or mistreatment by the authorities they face, or even that of communities of defenders. There are, however, trends.

  • On 23 October last year, Julián Carrillo, an indigenous rights defender from Mexico’s state of Chihuahua told a friend by phone that he believed he was being watched and that he was going into hiding. On the evening of 25 October, his body was found. He had been shot several times.
  • On 22 August last year, Annaliza Dinopol Gallardo, a Filipina land rights defender known to her community as “Ate Liza”, was shot dead outside Sultan Kudarat State University in Tacurong City. She had four children.

Mr Carillo’s murder is indicative of the largest trend. More than two-thirds – a full 77% – of the total number of defenders killed were defending land, environmental or indigenous peoples’ rights, often in the context of extractive industries and state-aligned mega-projects.

Ms Gallardo’s murder represents another trend – the number of attacks on women and girls who are defenders is increasing. In the recent report that I have presented to the UN Human Rights Council I have highlighted that, in addition to the threats experienced by their male colleagues, women human rights defenders face gendered and sexualised attacks from both state and non-state actors, as well as from within their own human rights movements.

This includes smear campaigns questioning their commitment to their families; sexual assault and rape; militarised violence; and the harassment and targeting of their children.

Changing all this is our task for the future. Protection Mechanisms for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists need to be properly implemented and funded, at national level.

We need to empower defenders and increase the abilities of those who are responsible for their protection to keep them safe. We also need to improve the accountability mechanisms these officials operate under.

To properly defend the defenders, we also need to recognise their diversity, and that each one of them faces challenges particular to their individual circumstances. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to ensuring each defender is able to do their work unfettered.

We need to acknowledge that defenders, just like all of us, live in this modern, interconnected world.

Protecting them means covering all aspects of their safety: physical, psychological and digital. It means doing so with flexibility. It also means that our protection needs to extend to their families, and the groups and organisations they belong to. We need to speak to them about what they need to feel safe.

In recent years the world has taken a worrying turn away from respect for human rights. Increasingly, groups are becoming inward-looking, and nations nationalistic. We need human rights defenders now more than ever. They also need us.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/2019-international-civil-society-week/

http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/04/human-rights-defenders-need-defended-much-defend-rights/

Two women human rights defenders in the Philippines honored with international awards

April 16, 2019

Joanna Patricia Kintanar Cariño (File photo by Noel Godinez/Northern Dispatch)
Filipina human rights defender, Joanna Patricia Kintanar Cariño, has been named as this year’s recipient of Gwangju Prize for Human Rights. Cariño is the founding secretary general and the current advisory council of Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), regional council member of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and chairperson of SELDA-North Luzon, an organization of former political prisoners. For more on the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/gwangju-prize-for-human-rights

Cariño is among the 600 individuals listed in the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) so-called terror list, which seeks to proscribe the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as terrorist organizations. Cariño, together with other activists who were included in the list, fought for the removal of their names and in January this year, the DOJ has acted by finally removing the names of scores of activists and human rights defenders in the Cordillera region. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/07/women-human-rights-defenders-day-2017-an-anthology/]

The Foundation recognizes Cariño’s track record as human rights defender from the time of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos up to the present. “She has been illegally arrested, detained and harassed for being tireless and vigorous in the indigenous people’s fight against militarization of their communities,” the Foundation said in their statement.

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Trade union worker France Castro was awarded the Arthur Svensson international Prize for Trade Union Rights [for more on this award, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/arthur-svensson-international-prize-for-trade-union-rights]

In its statement, the Svensson Foundation described Castro as a brave leader who defies threats and dangerous condition. “Despite threats and persecution, there are brave people fighting for democracy and human rights. The regime has particularly attacked unionists among teachers and journalists. Some are killed and many imprisoned. Death threats are not uncommon. In recent times, police officers in the Philippines have been running an organized campaign where they are herding and publishing information on unionized teachers,” Svensson Foundation said in a statement referring to the profiling of the public school teachers, particularly the members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) by the Philippine National Police (PNP). Castro was also among those who were detained by the Talaingod police last November 2018, together with former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and Lumad teachers, students and administrator, for defending Lumad’s right to education  The Foundation also took notice of Castro’s role in the fight for public school teachers’ rights and welfare.

https://www.bulatlat.com/2019/04/16/progressive-solon-wins-international-award-for-championing-union-rights/

Pulitzer prizes for courageous journalists in Myanmar and Philippines

April 16, 2019