Posts Tagged ‘Philippines’

Global Witness: 2019 worst year ever for land rights and environmental defenders

July 29, 2020

On Wednesday 29 July 2020 Global Witness revealed the highest number of land and environmental defenders murdered on record in a single year, with 212 people killed in 2019 for peacefully defending their homes and standing up to the destruction of nature. 2019 is thus the deadliest year since the advocacy group began compiling data in 2012. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/30/in-2018-three-murders-per-week-among-environmental-human-rights-defenders/]

More than half the killings were in Colombia and the Philippines and indigenous people made up 40% of the victims, the Britain-based group said inn its report. It was a significant rise on 2018, when 164 killings were recorded.

The threat from mining and large-scale agriculture caused the most number of deaths, with these sectors also responsible for worsening climate change impacts, Global Witness said.

Insecure land tenure, irresponsible business practices and government policies that prioritise extractive economies at the cost of human rights are putting people, and their land, at risk,” said Rachel Cox, a campaigner at Global Witness.

Land and environmental defenders play a vital role in protecting climate-critical forests and ecosystems. When they take a stand against the theft of their land, or the destruction of forests, they are increasingly being killed,” she said.

Latin America accounted for more than two-thirds of all victims last year, with Colombia the deadliest country of all, with 64 killings.

In Asia, the Philippines had 43 killings compared to 30 the previous year, with six in India, three in Indonesia and one in Cambodia, according to Global Witness.

Many more were attacked, arrested, threatened and sued, said Global Witness, which recorded killings in 21 countries.

In the Philippines – which was the deadliest country in 2018 – “relentless vilification” of activists by the government and impunity for attackers may be spurring an increase in killings, it said.

A spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte did not respond to requests for comment.

At least 119 activists and farmers have been killed since Duterte took office in 2016, according to Global Witness, while local campaign groups put the figure at about 200.

Dozens of United Nations experts last month called for an independent investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines, including killings of farmers and indigenous people.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the “downward spiral of the human rights situation”, and a new anti-terrorism bill could be used to target activists, they said.

“Days after the act was signed, the harassment of human rights defenders has visibly worsened,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Philippine human rights advocacy group Karapatan.

“While rural communities, including indigenous peoples, grapple with the impact of COVID-19, they are constantly hounded by military operations that benefit mining corporations encroaching on their ancestral land,” she said.

Two of the country’s biggest agribusiness brands – Dole Philippines and Del Monte Philippines – earlier this year said they would review their processes to better protect land rights.

But attacks against activists during coronavirus lockdowns signalled more violence worldwide, Cox said.

“Governments around the world have used the crisis to strengthen draconian measures to control citizens and roll back hard-fought environmental regulations,” Cox told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“This a more worrying time than ever.”

ttps://www.globalwitness.org/en/press-releases/global-witness-records-the-highest-number-of-land-and-environmental-activists-murdered-in-one-year-with-the-link-to-accelerating-climate-change-of-increasing-concern/

https://news.trust.org/item/20200728231459-86pra

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/07/dangerous-day-land-rights-defenders-killings-surge-200729022143251.html

#HoldTheLine Coalition comes out for Maria Ressa

July 11, 2020

On behalf of the #HoldTheLine Coalition, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), and the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) are calling for public support for Maria Ressa and independent media in the Philippines.

On 15 June 2020, Ressa was convicted of “cyber-libel,” alongside former Rappler colleague Reynaldo Santos Jr — a criminal charge for which they face up to six years in prison. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/15/ressas-cyber-libel-conviction-in-the-philippines-shocks/

Ressa and Santos could be imprisoned if the cyber-libel case is not overturned on appeal.  Ressa is facing at least six other cases and charges. Guilty verdicts in all of these cases could result in her spending nearly a century in jail.  

Rappler is also implicated in most of these cases, with several involving criminal charges related to libel, foreign ownership, and taxes.  For independent media in the Philippines, these targeted attacks and legal threats pose a clear and present danger to press freedom.

As a matter of urgency, please sign this petition calling on the Philippine government to drop all cases against Ressa, Santos, and Rappler and cease attacks on independent media in the country. Share this appeal using the #HoldTheLine hashtag!

Credit image : Maria TAN / AFP

I sign the petition

https://rsf.org/en/free-mariaressa

Nordic countries take up the human rights torch?

July 11, 2020

In an interesting article published on 10 july 2020, Bruno Stagno Ugarte – Deputy Executive Director for Advocacy of Human Rights Warch sees encouraging signs of a revival of the leading role of the Nordic countries when it comes to international human rights policy.

…There are encouraging signs these countries might be ready to re-engage in denouncing grave abuses and lead international efforts for country-specific scrutiny and accountability.

And it all started with the smallest of the lot, Iceland. [Philippines, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/22/why-iceland-led-the-un-resolution-on-the-philippines/ and Saudi Arabia, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/08/saudi-arabia-for-first-time-openly-criticized-in-un-human-rights-council/ ]…..

..If Iceland with a population of 365,000, found the bandwidth to lead on two issues simultaneously, its larger Nordic neighbors can surely match both its courage and performance.

There are reasons to be encouraged on that front. In June, Finland supported the creation of a Libya investigation by the Human Rights Council to document violations committed by all parties and preserve evidence. Denmark, currently a member of the Council, is considering addressing ongoing rights violations by Saudi Arabia. And now that Norway has been elected to a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council for the 2021-22 term, we hope it will become a principled voice for human rights and lead on country-specific situations.

In the absence of leadership by larger states, it is incumbent on smaller states, individually and collectively, to ensure that multilateral tools remain relevant to address dire human rights situations. The Nordic countries have done so in the past; it is time for them to do so again.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/07/10/nordic-comeback-human-rights

Aileen Bacalso’s account of the case of the Phillippines at the 44th session of the UN human Rights Council

July 8, 2020

Verafiles of 6 July 2020 carries the personal impression of human rights defender Mary Aileen D. Bacalso who attended the 44th seesion of the UN Human Rights Council where the Philippines was on the agenda.

Participation to the 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council was mostly online. Inset photo on the left is UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. Inset photo on the right is Philippine Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

During the last two and a half decades, ..I would never have believed that I should see the UN session hall almost empty as it was during the 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council, which opened on 30th June 2020. Participation was online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Republic of the Philippines, one of the founding members of the United Nations, was yet again subjected to international scrutiny at the outset of the 44th session. The UN High Commissioner of Human Rights said that according to her office’s report the Philippine situation is “near impunity.” This from the first female Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet, a woman who survived torture during the Pinochet dictatorship: she was referring to Philippine laws and policies directed at the drugs business and threats to national security, whose implementation has led to the killing of 248 human rights defenders – lawyers, journalists, trade unionists – between 2015 and 2019.

….Yet barely a week after the start of the UNHRC session, the bill has already been signed into law, on 3 July 2020. This draconian law, which introduces warrantless arrests among other curtailments of fundamental freedoms, is vehemently opposed by civil society….

At the 44th session, members of the European Union, part of the Western European and Other Groups, expressed profound concern about the direction of the Philippines, emphasizing the consequences for human rights of the Duterte administration’s “war on drugs” and censuring its failure to implement recommendations made during the Philippines’ Third Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review.

ASEAN on the other hand, and other members of the Asia and the Pacific Group, as well as some states in other regions such as Venezuela, Cuba and Belarus, expressed their unequivocal support for the Philippines, noting in particular its collaboration with the UNHRC, its robust NGO community and its efforts in reducing poverty. China conspicuously praised the Philippines’ progress in human rights……

Philippine non-government organizations (NGOs) condemned their country’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court; the arrest and detention of Maria Ressa; the endless implementation of extrajudicial executions; the shutdown of the largest television network, ABS-CBN; continuing enforced disappearances and torture; the red-tagging of Sister Mary John Mananzan OSB and of a number of NGOs; the shoot-to-kill order against COVID-19 lockdown violators; and the then-imminent enactment of what is now the 2020 Anti-Terror Law.

Towing President Duterte’s line, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra responded that transparency and constructive cooperation characterized the country’s engagement with the UN, while the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, which Duterte tried to eliminate in 2018 by giving it a budget of PhP 1,000 ($20), asserted the vital importance of accountability. Commissioner Karen Dumpit said that the past failure to protect human rights had directly led to the current climate of impunity, and there was an obligation on the Government to pursue social justice and uphold human rights.

The Philippines prides itself as a founding member of the community of nations, though to become a model of human rights promotion and defense remains a distant hope.

Mary Aileen D. Bacalso is former secretary-general of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances. For her work against enforced disappearances, the Argentinian Government conferred on her the Emilio F. Mignone International Human Rights Prize in 2013, and she was awarded the 2019 Franco-German Ministerial Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law.

See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/12/23/filippines-hrd-wins-emilio-mignone-award-for-work-against-enforced-disappearances/

https://verafiles.org/articles/shame-such-lonely-word

Ressa’s ‘cyber libel’ conviction in the Philippines shocks

June 15, 2020

Several international and national outlets (here Christia Marie Ramos in INQUIRER.net of 15 June 2020) have reported with dismay on the conviction of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and former research-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. in a cyber libel case in the Philippines. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/16/pulitzer-prizes-for-courageous-journalists-in-myanmar-and-philippines/

In a statement, Senator Francis Pangilinan said “The silencing of critics and the attacks on the media has been going on for three years now,” he said. “And unless we stand up, speak out, and vigorously oppose the tyranny in our midst, their conviction will not be the last” he added… Ressa and Santos are the first journalists to be found guilty of cyber libel.

In this context ABS-CBN was forced off the air after its television and radio broadcast operations nationwide were ordered shut a day after its 25-year-franchise expired.

Detained Senator Leila de Lima joined her colleagues in condemning Ressa and Santos’ conviction, saying it was “another demonstration” of the Duterte administration’s “weaponization of law against those who dare speak truth to power.” “Jailing me for over three years now is only one of the thousand sinister ways they are causing fear in the hearts of Filipinos who fight for what is just and right,” the senator said in a dispatch from Camp Crame. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/07/30/senator-de-lima-in-detention-in-philippines-receives-her-award/]

Meanwhile, former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said the guilty verdict against the Rappler CEO was an “obvious attack” against press freedom and an “attack against our democracy itself.” “We are now but a few steps away from Martial Law,” Trillanes, who has been critical of the Duterte administration, said in a statement.

Meanwhile in June 2020 a film on Maria Ressa won a film award:

http://Maria Ressa Film ‘A Thousand Cuts’ Wins Top Prize at New Zealand’s Doc Edge Festival

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Read more: https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1291753/pangilinan-hontiveros-slam-ressas-libel-conviction-urge-people-to-speak-out#ixzz6PQEJOfS1
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How a Philipines website does the reporting on the UN findings on human rights violations

June 5, 2020

There has been quite a bit of media interest in the UN investigation into impunity in the Philippines [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/22/why-iceland-led-the-un-resolution-on-the-philippines/]. Could be interesting to see how a Philippines site reported on the outcome on 5 June 2020, showing both the UN and Government reaction:

The Philippines government has dismissed a UN human rights report which had claimed that the country had acted with impunity during its war on drugs, as “unfounded”. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said the report found “deep-seated impunity for serious human rights violations, and victims have been deprived of justice for the killings of their loved ones. Their testimonies are heartbreaking“, reports Efe news.

The report said President Rodrigo Duterte’s tough anti-drugs campaign had led to human rights abuses including “credible accusations of extrajudicial killings”. In response, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said on Thursday that impunity had no place in the Philippines. “Law enforcers operate on strict protocols and transgressors of the law are made accountable,” he said in a statement.

The UN report also highlighted the issue of official language used by Duterte in the implementation of his war on drugs, noting the use of vocabulary such as “neutralization”.

Such ill-defined and ominous language, coupled with repeated verbal encouragement by the highest level of State officials to use lethal force, may have emboldened police to treat the circular as permission to kill,” the report said. Roque dismissed the accusations. “We remain a nation that takes pride in protecting our people’s rights and freedoms, among which is the freedom of expression,” he said.

According to the UN, at least 8,633 people have been killed since the Philippines government launched its anti-drug campaign, while rights groups claim the tolls is more than 12,000. It added that among those killed between 2014-19 were 248 human rights defenders, social leaders, journalists, lawyers and union members.

http://www.daijiworld.com/news/newsDisplay.aspx?newsID=716146

see also:

https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2020/06/05/2018893/intl-rights-watchdogs-call-un-launch-investigative-body-ejks-philippines

https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/741407/gov-t-should-address-un-findings-on-police-planting-evidence-drug-war-killings/story/

PCIJ and Luistro receive Filipino human rights defenders award

May 29, 2020

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On 28 May 2020 Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) reported that Amnesty International Philippines has recognized the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and Br. Armin Luistro for exposing inequalities and standing up for the vulnerable sectors of the society.

PCIJ—an independent, non-profit media agency—was named as the Ignite Awards’ most distinguished human rights defender in the group category. It produced investigative reports on President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement of assets, liabilities and net worth, election spending of senatorial candidates, the government’s brutal drug war, the country’s congested jails, among others.

Luistro was conferred the most distinguished human rights defender in the individuals category. Aside from PCIJ and Luistro, Lorenzo Miguel Relente and Michael David Tan were the recipients of Young Outstanding Human Rights Defender and Art that Matters for Literature, respectively.

This season’s recipients come from varying rights backgrounds, from press freedom and right to education to gender equality and SOGIESC rights but they share one dedication, that is to the fight for basic rights of Filipinos,” Butch Olano, Amnesty International Philippines section director, said.

Faces of Hope Campaign: Human Rights Defenders Imprisoned Worldwide

May 25, 2020

Defending the right to housing for vulnerable communities, exposing corruption and torture, speaking up against injustice, raising their voices for the rights of indigenous peoples or of minorities, upholding miners’ rights, peacefully demonstrating against discrimination or for access to clean water. All are legitimate ways to affirm our common rights. And yet, such activities have led many human rights defenders around the world to prison.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, detention may come with serious risks. Like other inmates, defenders face overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions, with basic protective measures a distant dream. Worse, they may be denied access to health care as a form of punishment. These brave people are among the most exposed to contracting the virus, and among the least likely to receive proper treatment.

Following UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s call to governments to “release every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners, and those detained for critical, dissenting views” to prevent catastrophic rates of COVID-19 infection, OMCT launched in May 2020 a global campaign calling for the release of all human rights defenders detained worldwide, including those in pre-trial detention.

See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/29/un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-bachelet-calls-for-restraint-in-governments-covid-emergency-powers/

Human Rights Defenders work to ensure journalists are free to keep us informed about how our governments are responding to the pandemic and about the effects of quarantine measures; they denounce the abuse of power and police violence that can result from the state of emergency; they champion the needs of discriminated communities; they call on States to protect our housing and labour rights as jobs disappear; they demand that women’s sexual and reproductive rights not be neglected as healthcare systems focus on the virus. In short, human rights defenders make sure no one is left behind.

…..Let’s bring this solidarity to all the arbitrarily detained human rights defenders whose lives are at risk. Join our campaign and ask for their release using #FacesOfHope. They need us. And we need them too.

Meet the #FacesOfHope:

PHILIPPINES: Teresita Naul

EGYPT: Ibrahim Ezz El-Din

GUATEMALA: Jorge Coc Coc and Marcelino Xol Cucul

INDIA: Safoora Zargar

CAMEROON: Mancho Bibixy Tse

PERU: Walter Aduviri Calisaya

TURKEY: Selçuk Kozağaçlı

AZERBAIJAN: Elchin Mammad

https://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/statements/2020/05/d25823/

Monthly list of major threats to press freedom includes Covid-19 cases

April 2, 2020

One Free Press Coalition logo

There is a list – updated monthly – by the One Free Press Coalition of nearly 40 news organizations, which identifies the 10 most urgent cases threatening press freedom around the world. Understanding the COVID-19 requires unbiased journalists, whose work requires protection. Not only does the act of informing the public carry risk to one’s own health but, in many countries, risk of retaliation. In China, freelance video journalist Chen Quishi disappeared on February 6 after informing family of plans to report on a temporary hospital in Wuhan, where the virus originated. Beijing has since expelled journalists from outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Washington Post and demanded personnel information from Voice of America and TIME. Mohammad Mosaed, a reporter in Iran who criticized the government’s response to the pandemic, has been barred from practicing journalism and suspended from social media. Family members of imprisoned Egyptian journalist Alaa Abdelfattah were detained for protesting on behalf of prisoners who are vulnerable to the spread of the virus. An Azerbaijani journalist freed in mid-March described detention conditions allowing one shower per week, without soap, he told CPJ

 

See the full list below:

1. Mohammad Mosaed (Iran)

Journalist, who warned about pandemic, banned from work and social media.

Freelance economic reporter Mohammad Mosaed awaits a court date, after intelligence agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) arrested and interrogated him in February regarding social media accounts critical of government. The criticism included lack of preparedness to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. Until trial, authorities bar him from practicing journalism and suspended his social media accounts. Last year he endured 16 days in Evin prison for his tweets and was released on bail.

2. Maria Ressa (Philippines)

Editor facing potential detention, arrested again March 28.

Rappler editor Maria Ressa is scheduled for trial April 24, expecting a verdict on a cyber-libel charge brought by local businessman Wilfredo Keng regarding a May 2012 story. The relevant law took effect four months after the story in question was published. Depending how judges interpret the 2012 Cybercrime Prevention Act, Ressa could face six years in prison.

3. Alaa Abdelfattah (Egypt)

Family of jailed journalist protests prisons’ inaction to prevent COVID-19 threat.

While blogger Alaa Abdelfattah is held in Cairo’s Tora Prison, three of his family members face charges of unlawful protest, illegal assembly and obstructing traffic in their call to protect prisoners from the spread of coronavirus. They were released on bail exceeding $300 apiece. After reporting about politics and human rights violations, Abdelfattah has endured threats and been told he will never go free if he speaks of guards’ abuse.

4. Chen Qiushi (China)

Journalist covering coronavirus disappeared more than six weeks ago.

Freelance video journalist Chen Quishi has not been seen since February 6, when he informed family of plans to report on a temporary hospital. In late January, he had traveled from Beijing to the city of Wuhan in Hubei province and began filming and reporting on the coronavirus health crisis, according to his posts on YouTube. Friends running his Twitter account believe he is likely held in residential surveillance.

5. Claudia Julieta Duque (Colombia)

Journalist fears for her life, amid government-orchestrated threats.

After 19 years of persecution and legal censorship, award-winning journalist Claudia Julieta Duque told IWMF that she learned on February 29 about an ongoing criminal threat against her life. According to Duque, agents of the state institution in charge of protecting human rights defenders and at-risk journalists, called the National Protection Unit (UNP), were reportedly ordered to carry out intelligence activities to infiltrate Duque’s security scheme and threaten her welfare.

6. Martin Doulgut (Chad)

Imprisoned publisher undertook hunger strike while awaiting appeal.

No date has been set, following postponement of a March 12 appeal in the case of Martin Inoua Doulguet, publisher of Salam Info. He was found guilty on criminal charges of defamation and conspiracy in September, and sentenced to three years in prison. The privately owned quarterly newspaper reports on crime and politics in Chad, and Doulguet’s penalty includes a $1,675 fine and paying part of $33,514 in plaintiff damages.

7. Azimjon Askarov (Kyrgyzstan)

Journalist serving life sentence prepares for final appeal.

On April 6, a Kyrgyz court is scheduled to hear the final appeal in the case of award-winning journalist Azimjon Askarov. The ethnic Uzbek, who reported on human rights, has spent more than nine years imprisoned on trumped-up charges that included incitement to ethnic hatred and complicity in the murder of a police officer. The decade-long case has drawn persistent international condemnation, and Kyrgyzstan’s only imprisoned journalist’s health deteriorates.

8. Roberto Jesús Quiñones (Cuba)

Journalist subject to inhumane prison conditions.

Cuban journalist Roberto Jesús Quiñones has spent more than six months behind bars, experiencing worsening treatment. Staff listen to all of his phone calls, have served him food containing worms, and upon learning of his secretly publishing from prison, suspended family visits and put him in solitary confinement. A municipal court in Guantánamo sentenced him to serve one year as a result of “resistance” and “disobedience” when police beat and detained him for covering a trial as a CubaNet contributor last April and his refusal to pay a fine imposed on him following this incident.

9. Ignace Sossou (Benin

Reporter experiences repeated retaliation for his work. 

On two different occasions last year, Benin courts delivered prison sentences to Ignace Sossou, a reporter for privately owned site Web TV. First was a one-month imprisonment and fine of $850 for publishing “false information” about local business dealings. Then an 18-month sentence and fine of $337 for defamation and disinformation in his reporting public statements made by Public Prosecutor Mario Mètonou.

10. Jamal Khashoggi (Saudi Arabia)

Turkish and U.S. leaders continue pressuring for murdered journalist’s justice.

On March 25 Turkish officials indicted 20 Saudi nationals in the ongoing pursuit for answers surrounding Jamal Khashoggi’s brazen killing in Istanbul in 2018 and the Saudi crown prince’s role. That follows a March 3 news conference with U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, Representative Tom Malinowsk, and The Washington Post columnist’s fiancé, Hatice Cengiz, announcing that they are invoking procedures within the Senate Intelligence Committee to provide a congressional release of information from intelligence agencies.

https://time.com/5813095/press-freedom-threats-coronavirus-april-2020/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/katherinelove/2020/04/01/coronavirus-calls-for-journalists-safety-frontline-reporters-top-list-of-10-most-urgent-press-freedom-cases/?ss=leadership-strategy#29d1805e2bfc

Human Rights Day 10 December 2019: an anthology

December 11, 2019

International Human Rights Day, 10 December 2019, was celebrated or observed all around the world and there is no way to report on every event. Stil to add flavour here a selection of some 14 smaller and bigger events – for more details follow the links provided (and for last year’s anthology see references at the end):

There was of course the annual statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet Rightly, these young people are pointing out that it is their future which is at stake, and the future of all those who have not yet even been born. It is they who will have to bear the full consequences of the actions, or lack of action, by the older generations who currently run governments and businesses, the decision-makers on whom the future of individual countries, regions and the planet as whole depends…We have a duty to ensure young people’s voices are heard. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948, was a firm commitment by States to protect the rights of everyone – and that includes making it possible for future generations to uphold human dignity, equality and rights…..Climate harms will not be halted by national borders – and reactions based on hostile nationalism, or short-term financial considerations, will not only fail: they will tear our world apart. The struggles for climate justice and human rights are not a political quarrel. This is not about left or right: it is about rights – and wrongs… We need to mobilise across the world – peacefully and powerfully – to advance a world of rights, dignity and choice for everyone. The decision-makers understood that vision very clearly in 1948. Do they understand it now? I urge world leaders to show true leadership and long-term vision and set aside narrow national political interests for the sake of everyone, including themselves and all their descendants.

Pakistan: Human Rights Defenders asked the government to make serious efforts to provide fundamental rights. Human rights, labour rights and civil society activists called upon the government to make serious efforts for the provision of fundamental human rights and freedoms, especially the freedoms of association and expression, enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Addressing a joint press conference at the Karachi Press Club to mark International Human Rights Day, PILER joint director Zulfiqar Shah, human rights activists Naghma Shaikh and Saeed Baloch representing the Sindh Human Rights Defenders Network said the government should ensure the restoration of the freedom of expression and the freedom to association. They demanded that the government should bring in a law to protect the rights of human rights defenders as they stood up for the voiceless people…. They also demand fully restoring the freedom of expression, as it was a constitutional right of the people to express their thought. Access to the information right must be ensured, they said.

India: Activists say NHRC urgently needs to protect human rights defenders. The National Human Rights Commission should proactively protect the rights of ‘human rights defenders’, said activists at the national convention on rights of Dalit and Adivasi rights defenders in the capital on Tuesday. Human Rights Defenders appealed to the commission to proactively intervene in cases where the works of Dalit and Adivasi organisations were being obstructed. Activists said there were a growing attack on human rights defenders in India and said the need of the hour was collective action….On Human Rights Day, the convention highlighted the importance of the work of human rights defenders. Despite the country having national human rights institutions and over 160 state human rights institutions dealing with human rights, women, children, minorities, SCs, STs, right to information, persons with disabilities, and safai-karamcharis, these institutions have often failed to protect the human rights defenders, activists said. In addition to the usual challenges, women human rights defenders face gender-specific violations, such as rape and sexual violence which are used as tools for harassment, said activists. Caste discrimination has also presented a greater danger for women rights defenders belonging to the Dalit and Adivasi communities.

Cambodia: The Khmer Times reported that very differing opinions on the status of human rights in the Kingdom became apparent as various groups marked Human Rights Day at two venues in the capital. About 400 government officials and youth group members marked the day’s 71st anniversary at the Cambodia-Korea Cooperation Centre, while about 2,000 unionists and members of the public marked the day at Freedom Park.

Keo Remy, president of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, at the CKCC said the government has always paid attention to the rights of citizens. “Our leaders prioritise peace and stability,” Mr Remy said. “Youths can make the country chaotic because of the words democracy and human rights. That is why we focus on youths and stability.” while..

Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, at Freedom Park said respecting the rights of workers has decreased over the years and it is a source of concern for many. “We see that respecting workers’ rights has decreased – investors do not pay attention to workers,” Mr Thorn said. “Investors need to consider the rights of workers.” He said garment factory workers are faced with decreasing salaries, overtime work, discrimination, short-term contracts, violence and imprisonment. The Cambodian Centre for Human Rights in a statement said the government has taken action to curb issues surrounding human rights, but it has not done enough. “We call on the government to encourage the celebration of Human Rights Day in Cambodia and acknowledge the benefit human rights have on society as a whole,” it said. “We implore the government to cease all arbitrary action and targetting of human rights defenders.” The CCHR also called for the charges against two former Radio Free Asia journalists and Kem Sokha to be dropped.

Palestine: the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association reported that Palestinians marked International Human Rights Day following a year of nonstop violence and widespread human rights violations by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), against the Palestinian population used, as a form of collective punishment and a method to control Palestinian society. These consistent and systematic policies by the occupation include, extrajudicial executions and issuance of discriminatory legislations, mass arrests campaigns, torture, administrative detention, and medical negligence against Palestinian political prisoners…..In 2019, the (IOF) continued its crackdown and repression of human rights defenders. Currently, Addameer faces gag orders against around 40 of the cases they represent, who are in interrogation. The gag order prohibits us from releasing any information to the public regarding their detention status, or face grave consequences.

Philippines: Groups under the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (Ecuvoice) has submitted its first wave of reports on the human rights situation in the Philippines to United Nations Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Monday, Dec. 9. This is in line with Resolution 41/2 which was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in July this year. “With the intensifying transgressions on the Filipinos people’s political rights and civil liberties, we are participating in this report-making process of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to pursue justice and accountability,” the convenor of Ecuvoice, Edita Burgos, said.

while

the international trade union movement was using international human rights day to call attention to the alarming attacks on human and labour rights defenders in the Philippines. The government’s targeting of trade unionists has been ramped up recently with fresh waves of arrests and violence. The international trade union movement is united in calling on the government to stop the attacks. The government is targeting labour activists through a practice known as red-tagging. By falsely identifying people who speak out against the government as associated to armed militia groups, the government purposely targets them with harassment and arrests and exposes them to violence and even murder….The International Labour Organization (ILO) has resolved to send a High-Level Tripartite Mission to the Philippines to investigate the human rights situation, but despite the urgency, the government has yet to receive the Mission. The international labour movement is undertaking solidarity events across the world to demand an end to the human rights abuses and the targeting of trade unionists. The ITUC has requested to meet with the representative of the Philippines to the EU on Human Rights Day and has outlined three key demands.

Turkey. Amnesty International Turkey and MetroPOLL Strategic and Social Research Center have jointly conducted a Survey on Perception of Human Rights. The results of the survey have shown that when they hear the expression of “human rights”, 65.2 percent of the participants think of “right to life” first. While “freedom of expression” comes to the minds of 33.5 percent, the right to a fair trial ranks third with 22.1 percent. According to the survey participated by 2,651 people from 28 cities and conducted in a face-to-face manner, 82.1 percent of the society think that fundamental rights and freedoms are violated in Turkey. Of these people, 58 percent say that fundamental rights are occasionally violated and 42 percent say that they are frequently violated. 62.6 percent of the participants are of the opinion that fundamental rights and freedoms are restricted in Turkey. While 72 percent of the young participants think that fundamental rights and freedoms are restricted, this rate falls as the age of the participant gets older. For more detials see the full report.

China:  posted an interesting piece in China Digital Times on how the Chinese government defends if record on human rights and how others see this. Here one excerpt out of manY:

On Tuesday, International Human Rights Day, spokesperson Hua Chunying mounted a familiar defense of China’s rights record at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ regular press conference …and went on to note that the MoFA and State Council Information Office would host the “2019 South-South Human Rights Forum” this week “with a view to adding new dimensions and injecting impetus into exchange and cooperation in the field of human rights.” ….. At Hong Kong Free Press, the Uyghur Human Rights Project’s Omer Kanat commented on the ‘South-South Human Rights Forum’ hailed by Hua Chunying,…… Among the enablers of Xi Jinping’s repression are states with disreputable recor[ds attracted to a possible exemption from universal standards that ‘human rights with Chinese characteristics’ affords. And again, if we could freely ask the populations who reside in these states how they feel about such a concept, there would be few advocates. Therefore, on Human Rights Day, we have a responsibility to defend those who defend universal values and be clear ‘never again’ has meaning. There is injustice everywhere and we must fight it. Uyghurs are among them, for example, the imprisoned Ilham Tohti, and in exile , Nury Turkel, Rushan Abbas, and Gulchehra Hoja, whose families have been detained and disappeared in East Turkestan because of their advocacy. The second ‘South-South Human Rights Forum’ is opening in Shanghai for this year’s Human Rights Day. The dangerous fiction of the ‘Beijing Declaration’ that there are exceptions to the universality of rights should be firmly resisted.

Afghanistan ‘Human Rights’ should be more focused during peace talks. MENAFN (Afghanistan Times) reported that UN Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, Tadamichi Yamamoto, in a gathering has expressed concerns regarding the human rights achievements, saying that these gains should be saved in the ongoing negotiation with the Taliban. He called on the National Security Council to consider perseverance of human and civil rights in talks with the Taliban, adding ‘Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission’s role is very important in the peace process, every voice that raise should be heard and rights of the victims should be observed.‘.. Moreover, head of AIHRC, Shaharzad Akbar has called on the Taliban to legislatively recognize the values of human rights. …There are massive concerns about the violation of achievements of human rights and freedom of speech in the peace negotiation with the Taliban militants. The Taliban has back in 1990 ruled Afghanistan with the sever restriction on girls and school students. The cultural Taboos and less freedom of women are one of the other key issues that have brought sever concerns from Afghan and foreign officials.

The NGO WITNESS used the occasion to publish its ANNUAL REPORT which looks at key successes from July 2018-June 2019 (fiscal year 2019). See the video clip:

Malaysia. “What happened to Harapan’s vow to improve human rights?” asks Jasmine Cho in an open letter:…’When Pakatan Harapan won a dramatic victory in the GE14 elections, they vowed to steer the country forward with human rights as one of their top priorities. However, since their win, we have seen a heavy regression in the area. The kind of regression that has gotten us worried about our present and our future as a modern, fair, and humane nation. From the Suaram 2019 report, several areas of abuse were glaring. One was the treatment of prisoners. The government has yet to abolish the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, the Prevention of Crime Act 2015 and the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985……….The list of human rights abuse is getting longer and the frustration we feel with our government is reaching boiling point. Malaysia is considered a modern and democratic country, so why are we so far behind when it comes to human rights? The government should stop pandering to the religious majority and stop focusing on external matters. The rights of the rakyat are being abused.

Netherlands/Sri Lanka. The Dutch Ambassador Gonggrijp spoke at an event for Human Rights Day 2019 organized by Equal Grounds Sri Lanka saying inter alia:

Sri Lanka has recently known a long period of conflict, during which human rights were under pressure. The reconciliation process after the end of the war has been slow. And I hear people say: what is the point of looking back, let’s move forward. To my opinion it is about recognition and human dignity. To that respect we should also recognize the progress that has been made: the Office on Missing Persons has been mandated to restore the rights of every Sri Lankan of any background, language or religion, to know what happened to their loved ones. And the work of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission, as an independent entity, mirrors the country’s commitment to uphold human rights and civil freedoms. The Netherlands supports this and stands ready to help Sri Lankan institutions like these with capacity building and technical expertise…..

The policy of Netherlands is aimed at 1) abolishing the criminalization of homosexuality, 2) opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and 3) achieving wider social acceptance of gay people. In the Netherlands we have taken the first step of decriminalization a long time ago, but we are also still working on stopping discrimination and promoting acceptance. As I hope Sri Lanka will also take this first step in the near future, I also recognize that this will not solve all issues the LGBTI community is facing. It is key to inform people about the rights they have, regardless of their sexual orientation. To empower them to take responsibility, stand up or seek justice. It is also key to educate and make people from outside the community aware of the harassment and discrimination that people from the LGBTI community face. In order to also empower them to show solidarity and to take action if necessary. Every form of emancipation has been and still is a struggle. It starts with a ‘fight for your rights’. This is why this initiative of Equal Ground is so important, because – and allow me to quote again:

Mongolia / EU: Montsame reported that on the occasion of International Human Rights Day the Delegation of the European Union to Mongolia together with the Embassies of France and Italy presented European Union Human Rights Defenders’ Award (a national award!) to nine people, who are making their efforts to human rights protection…..Unfortunately, we are still observing human rights violations in many countries, especially gender and racial discrimination and discrimination in sexual orientation. Therefore, the EU Delegation to Mongolia, the Embassies of France and Italy and the Embassies of other countries are showing respect to human rights activists in Mongolia. Protection of human rights is one of main principles of the European Union, which defines its internal, and foreign policies and it is belonged to everyone. We will ever protect and encourage the people who endeavor for human rights, “ Ambassador of the European Union to Mongolia Traian Laurentiu Hristea said at the opening of the award presenting ceremony. The Ambassador also highlighted that the event will be traditionally held in the future.

MEXICO An indigenous activist who documented and denounced abuse committed by the military in Guerrero is this year’s winner of the National Human Rights Prize. Obtilia Eugenio Manuel was awarded the prize at Tuesday’s presidential press conference by National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) president Rosario Piedra Ibarra. The human rights chief said that among the military abuses that have been documented by Eugenio are the forced sterilization, sexual assault and sexual torture of indigenous women. Piedra also said the activist has received numerous threats and noted that she was abducted for four days earlier this year. ..“We don’t want one more rapist in our way,” Eugenio said, making a reference to the Chilean feminist anthem that has been performed around the world in recent weeks. Also at Tuesday’s press conference, Piedra recognized the human rights work of Margarito Díaz González and presented an award to his widow, Modesta Chávez de la Rosa. A former member of the Wirikuta security council and an advocate for environmental and indigenous rights, Díaz was murdered in Nayarit last year. Piedra recalled that the activist opposed the construction of a dam and other projects in San Luis Potosí and the development of Canadian-owned mines on sacred sites of the Huichol people.

 


If you are interested to compare with last year, see:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/10/human-rights-day-2018-just-an-anthology/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/11/human-rights-day-2018-anthology-part-ii/

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http://bianet.org/english/human-rights/216920-82-1-percent-of-society-think-that-fundamental-rights-and-freedoms-are-violated
https://chinadigitaltimes.net/2019/12/china-defends-record-on-international-human-rights-day/
https://menafn.com/1099401711/Afghanistan-Human-Rights-should-be-more-focused-during-peace-talks
https://ar2019.witness.org/
https://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/503280
https://www.netherlandsandyou.nl/latest-news/news/2019/12/11/human-rights-day-2019
https://akipress.com/news:630675:EU_Human_Rights_Award_presented_to_nine_people_in_Mongolia/
https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/human-rights-prize-winner-documented-abuse-by-military/