Posts Tagged ‘Philippines’

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/

COP25: climate defenders also needed to be shielded

November 28, 2019

Tomorrow, 29 November, 2019, young people will gather at locations around the world for a Fridays for Future Global Climate Strike. On 2 December, United Nations delegates, world leaders, business executives, and activists will meet at the 25th Conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25) in Madrid to discuss ways to protect the environment. Participants in these events should also discuss ways to protect the protectors: the individuals and groups targeted around the world for their efforts on behalf of the planet.

How can the human rights defenders use new information technologies better?

November 28, 2019

(twitter: @mads_gottlieb) wrote in Impakter about Human Rights, Technology and Partnerships and stated that these technologies have the potential to tremendously facilitate human rights defenders in their work, whether they are used to document facts about investigations, or as preventive measures to avoid violations. His main message in this short article is an appeal to the human rights sector at large, to use technology more creatively, to make technology upgrades a top priority, and to engage with the technology sector in this difficult endeavor. The human rights sector will never be able to develop the newest technologies, but the opportunities that technology provides is something they need to make use of now and in collaboration with the technology sector

…Several cases show that human rights are under threat, and that it is difficult to investigate and gather the necessary facts in time to protect them. Duterte in the Philippines, ordered the police to shoot activists who demonstrated against extra-judicial killings. He later tried to reduce the funding of the Philippines National Human Rights Commission to 1 USD a year. This threat followed a period of 15 months of investigating the killings, and Duterte responded with the claim that they were “useless and defended criminal’s rights.” 

Zimbabwe is another country with a difficult environment for human rights defenders. It is not surprising that few people speak out, since the few that dare to demonstrate or voice opposing political views disappear. A famous example is the activist and journalist,  from Occupy Africa Unity Square. He was allegedly beaten in 2014, and in 2015 he went missing and was never found. His disappearance occurred after a period of public demonstrations against Mugabe’s regime. To add to the challenging conditions that call for better tools to defend human rights, is the fact that many European countries digitalise their public services. The newly introduced data platforms store and process sensitive information about the population, such as gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, past health records, etc. Information that can easily be used for discriminative purposes, whether intentionally or not.

Human rights defenders typically struggle to find adequate resources for their daily operations and as a result, investments in technology often come second. It is rare for human rights defenders to have anything beyond the minimum requirements, such as the internally-facing maintenance of an operational and secure internet connection, a case system, or a website. At the same time, global technology companies develop new technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, and advanced data and surveillance techniques. These technologies have the potential to tremendously facilitate human rights defenders in their work, whether they are used to document facts about investigations, or as preventive measures to avoid violations. It is also important to facilitate and empower rights-holders in setting up and using networks and platforms that can help notify and verify violations quickly. 

Collaboration is an excellent problem-solving approach and human rights organizations are well aware of it. They engage in multiple partnerships with important actors. The concern is therefore not the lack of collaboration, but whether they adequately prioritize what is now the world’s leading sector — technology (the top 5 on Forbes list of most valuable brands are all technology companies; Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook). It is not up to the technology sector to engage with the human rights sector (whether they want to or not), but it should be a top priority for the human rights sector to try to reduce their technology gap, in the interest of human rights.

There are several partnership opportunities, and many are easy to get started with and do not require monetary investments. One opportunity is to partner up with tech universities, that have the expertise to develop new types of secure, rapid monitoring systems. Blockchain embraces most of the principles that human rights embraces, such as transparency, equality and accountability, and rapid response times are possible. So why not collaborate with universities? Another opportunity is collaborating with institutions that manage satellite images. Images provide very solid proof regarding changes in landscape, examples include deforestation that threatens indigenous people, and the removal or burning of villages over a short period of time. A third opportunity is to get in dialogue with the technology giants that develop these new technologies, and, rather than asking for monetary donations, ask for input regarding how the human rights sector can effectively leverage technology. 

 

Novelty in the Philippines: National Council of Churches listed as terrorist group

November 24, 2019

On 22 November 2019 the National Council of Churches (NCCP) issued a press release after the Department of National Defense of the Philippines has included the NCCP in the list of “front organizations of local communist terrorist groups”. In adition to the NCCP, a number of humanitarian and service-oriented organizations were placed on this list, which was presented by Major General Reuben Basiao, Armed Forces of the Philippines Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, on 5 November. In the statement, the NCCP “decries the baseless and unfounded inclusion of its name in the list […] and respectfully call on the government to seriously review and revisit the accusations and engage in peace building instead”. “We recognize the clear threat that is now posed to the NCCP staff, member churches, associate members, and other ecumenical partners”, they said in a letter the NCCP sent to its partners last week. The NCCP also warned that “the red-tagging will delay, or even prevent, the delivery of much-needed services to marginalized communities in the midst of disasters. On a larger scale, this will further shrink the already limited civil space”.
In June 2019, the Philippine government rejected the United Nations call for an investigation into human rights violations for the government’s policies against drug trafficking, arguing that it was an “interference”. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/11/un-council-agrees-action-on-philippines-in-spite-of-vehement-objection/]. According to official figures, 5,300 suspects have been killed by the police since 2016. But according to human rights defenders, the figure would be three times higher. The NCCP explained in the letter to its partners that “within the past few days, we have witnessed attacks against civil society organizations that are critical of the government’s policies and programs. There have been raids, illegal arrests, and vilification. Before this of course, there were even killings of activists and human rights defenders”. “The NCCP deems these moves as desperate attempts by the authorities to criminalize dissent and to weaponize the law against the people”, it said.
The government action has been widely condemned by several international Christian leaders. Rev. Olav Fyse Tveit, World Council of Churches General Secretary, said “red tagging in effect gives a green light to harassment and deadly attacks by security forces and militias against those listed”. Similar statements have been released by the Christian Conference of Asia, the Action of Churches Together Alliance, Christian Aid, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Northern Germany, among others. Founded in 1963, the NCCP is an ecumenical federation of churches of non-Roman Catholic denominations.
See more: http://evangelicalfocus.com/world/4916/Philippines_says_National_Council_of_Churches_is_a_terrorist_group

Amnesty’s Write for Rights Campaign 2019 – launched today – focuses on youth activists

November 18, 2019

Amnesty International launched its Write for Rights campaign which this year champions children’s rights and youth activists. “This year Write for Rights, Amnesty’s flagship human rights campaign, champions youth activists who are taking on the world’s biggest crises,” said Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International. “From those campaigning for climate and environmental justice, to those challenging inequality, poverty, discrimination and political repression, young people have emerged as a powerful force for change who deserve the world’s support.”

Every December people around the world write millions of letters, emails, tweets, Facebook posts and postcards for those whose human rights are under attack, in what has become the world’s biggest human rights event.  Amnesty International is hoping to break last year’s Write for Rights record of nearly six million messages of support for activists and individuals from 10 countries whose human rights are under attack. [for last year’s campaign see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/24/amnesty-starts-again-its-write-for-rights-campaign/]

Write for Rights 2019 features youth human rights defenders and individuals from in Belarus, Canada, China, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines and South Sudan.

Launching two days ahead of Universal Children’s Day on 20 November, a day to promote children’s rights, several of the featured activists had their rights violated as children.

They include José Adrián, who was 14 when he was brutally beaten by police on his way home from school in Mexico. He is now demanding reparations for his treatment and for the police to stop arbitrary detentions in the state of Yucatán. Among the other cases are:

  • Grassy Narrows Youth, a group of youth activists from an Indigenous community in north-western Ontario who have suffered one of Canada’s worst health crises. Their community has been devastated by 50 years of mercury contamination of their fish and river system. The Grassy Narrows youth are urging the government to address the mercury crisis once and for all, including by providing specialized health care and compensation for all;
  • Sarah Mardini and Seán Binder, two volunteer rescue workers from in Lesvos, Greece, who face up to 25 years in prison for their humanitarian work helping spot refugee boats in distress;
  • Yasaman Aryani, who defied her country’s discriminatory forced veiling laws and now must serve 10 years behind bars. Amnesty is campaigning for her immediate release;
  • Marinel Ubaldo, a youth activist from the Philippines who is urging her government to declare a climate emergency and protect future generations from the devastating impacts of climate change after her home was destroyed by typhoon Haiyan.

“The Write for Rights campaign epitomizes the ideals that Amnesty International was founded on – it’s about individuals helping other individuals. We are urging people to get behind these incredible young people who are campaigning for justice, equality and freedom,” said Kumi Naidoo.

“As we know from our work over the past five decades, writing letters works. Not only can it help free prisoners of conscience, but it makes a huge emotional difference to the people we support and to their loved ones.”

Monica Benício, the partner of Marielle Franco, a local politician in Brazil who was killed last year and was featured as part of the last Write for Rights, said of the campaign: “It helps me to get up in the morning and see some meaning, knowing that there is this big global network of affection.  All these demonstrations of love and affection are helping us to mobilize, to demand justice, to pressure for investigation and above all to fight so that there will be no more Marielles.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/11/write-for-rights-2019-puts-youth-activism-in-the-spotlight/

Former Magsaysay laureate Sandeep Pandey is in two minds about this award

August 5, 2019

Award a protection against autocratic tendencies, but Magsaysay is ‘not infallible” says Sandeep Pandey, a social activist and academic, a Magsasay recipient, who returned his award in 2002.

There could not have been a better choice than Ravish Kumar for this year’s Magsaysay Award. Ravish has demonstrated exemplary courage in questioning the sectarian, communal, jingoistic and irrational politics which has dominated the narrative in this country over the last five years when one by one most of the saner voices were made to disappear, some made compromises or simply surrendered and worst there were others who decided to collaborate with this insidious project of right wing fundamentalism. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/03/magsaysay-awards-2019-honor-4-outstanding-asians/]
..
The Magsaysay Award will definitely bring more credibility to his work and hopefully some of the opposition from right wing forces, who are known to troll in an organised manner any sane voice in support of human rights, democracy, justice, communal harmony, peace and friendship, especially with Pakistan, and who’ve targeted Ravish in the past, will subside.
..
However, the aura of Magsaysay is quite exaggerated in India than other countries of Asia, and outside of Asia very few people have heard of it, probably because there are many well known Indians who have won it. Part of the reason for its popularity in India is that it and its winners feature prominently in most General Knowledge books which are used by students preparing for competitive examinations. But the Magsaysay Foundation itself is not infallible, unlike its reputation.

I went to Manila in 2002 to receive the Magsaysay Award as well as participate in a Peace conference organised at the University there in the wake of impending US attack on Iraq. It was a mere coincidence that both events were happening on same dates. There was a demonstration outside the US Embassy the day after the Award ceremony. The chairperson of the Foundation asked me not to participate in the demonstration as it could tarnish its image. ..
I argued that US was a bigger culprit in the game of warfare and I considered it part of my activism to oppose the US policy. Before landing in Manila I had little idea that the Foundation was completely US funded — by the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations. Obviously the Magsaysay Foundation was quite uncomfortable with my stand. The fears of Magsaysay Foundation came true. Even the Hindi Indian media back home covered the demonstration outside US Embassy in Manila highlighting my participation. An editorial in a Manila newspaper asked me to return the $50,000 Award money to the US Embassy before I returned to India if I was the principled man I wanted them to believe. I returned the cheque from the airport to the Magsaysay Foundation before embarking the plane out of Manila.
..
But the Award is prestigious and definitely is a protection against autocratic tendencies of the state and its cronies in India, especially for human rights defenders and upright journalists like Ravish Kumar. We hope that the right-wing fundamentalists will take his viewpoint more seriously and the media fraternity will start considering him as an ideal rather than an exception. He has now emerged as the hope for a free media in India and by extension a democratic polity. This is a victory of progressive forces, sanity and humanity and we must celebrate it. Most of all it is a victory for truth which has become a casualty in the era of post-truth. The post-truth has created only strife and conflicts. If we have to return to the human endeavour of making this world a better place for everybody, there is no option but to go back to recognizing truth as the most important values. In spite of Nathuram Godse having become a hero for a fringe group in this country, the universal ideal continues to be Mahatma Gandhi.

In 2018 three murders per week among environmental human rights defenders

July 30, 2019

Taking a stand for environmental justice and protecting natural resources is a dangerous pursuit. A new report from the UK-based NGO Global Witness showed that 164 environmental human rights defenders worldwide were killed for their activism in 2018. That averages to just over three murders per week. And that’s an underestimation.

Global Witness said the true number was likely “much higher, because cases are often not documented and rarely investigated. Reliable evidence is hard to find or verify“. Also, murder is not the only way to quash dissent. Global Witness said, although killings are at a disturbing level, companies and governments were increasingly using other tactics like criminalization, non-lethal violence, harassment and threats, as the Guardian reported. One common tactic is for governments to label activists as terrorists. “Deaths were down last year, but violence and widespread criminalization of people defending their land and our environment were still rife around the world,” said Alice Harrison, a senior campaigner at Global Witness, as the HuffPost reported.

“The drop in killings masks another gruesome reality, ” said Harrison. “Our partners in Brazil and many other countries have noted a spike in other forms of non-lethal attacks against defenders — often attacks so brutal they’re just shy of murder.” [See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/09/global-witness-report-2018-on-environmental-defenders-bad-but-2017-was-worse/]

The bulk of the murders took place in Asia or Central and South America. In fact, more than half were in Latin America and most of the victims were indigenous or rural campaigners standing up for their communities against mining, hydrocarbon development, damming and agribusiness. The mining sector was responsible for one-fourth of the murders.

The Philippines replaced Brazil as the most murderous country, with 30 victims, followed by Colombia with 24, India with 23 and then Brazil with 20. It’s the first time since the annual list began in 2012 that Brazil did not top the list, according to the Guardian. The number of reported murders there dropped from 57 the year before to 20 in 2018.

Guatemala had one of the highest numbers per capita and the sharpest increase with a five-fold increase, bringing the total number to 16 deaths in 2018, which Global Witness attributed to new investments in plantations, mining and energy projects, according to US News and World Report. “In general, the surge in killings is because Guatemala is witnessing a major setback with regard to democracy and human rights,” said Jorge Santos, executive director of the non-profit Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala, to Al Jazeera. His group has documented machete attacks and armed militias opening fire on indigenous people campaigning for land rights in areas that are home to mining operations, oil palm plantations and displacement of the Maya Q’eqchi’ community.

For the role of international financial institutions in al lthis see my post of roday: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/30/uncalculated-risks-attacks-on-human-rights-defenders-in-name-of-development/

https://www.globalwitness.org/en/press-releases/spotlight-criminalisation-land-and-environmental-defenders/

https://www.ecowatch.com/environmental-activists-killed-2639511189.html?rebelltitem=3#rebelltitem3

https://www.euronews.com/2019/07/30/more-than-160-people-killed-for-defending-the-environment-campaign-group

https://timesofoman.com/article/1694919/World/Asia/Philippines-authorities-respond-to-Global-Witness-report

See also: Download the full report: Enemies of the State? (PDF, 3.8MB)

Why Iceland led the UN resolution on the Philippines

July 22, 2019

Despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat to sever diplomatic ties, Iceland expressed hope the Philippines will cooperate with the United Nations Human Rights Council’s investigation into the human rights situation in the country, including the drug war. “Icelandic authorities sincerely hope that the Philippine authorities will engage the UN on this and the resolution,” Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs said in a press statement. The resolution was backed by 18 out of 47 member-countries. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/11/un-council-agrees-action-on-philippines-in-spite-of-vehement-objection/]

President Rodrigo Duterte blasted Iceland for failing to “understand” the Philippines. “Iceland, ano ang problema ng Iceland? Ice lang. (What’s the problem of Iceland? It has only ice.) That’s your problem you have too much ice and there is no clear day or night there,” Duterte said rather unsuitably but then added that – as a country that enjoyed low crime rates – Iceland was unable to comprehend the need for a bloody drug war in the Philippines.

But why did tiny Iceland, of all countries, file the resolution in the first place?’ Sofia Tomacruz in Rappler of 19 July 2019 tried to answer this:

When Iceland led the resolution at the UN Human Rights Council, it did so as a country that puts a high priority on human rights. As one of the most peaceful countries in the world, Iceland also leads by example when it comes to observing human rights. Iceland carried that responsibility when it became a member of the UN rights council last year, taking the place of the United States which left the rights body it called a “cesspool of political bias.” “For a small and peaceful country like Iceland, international law and the multilateral system is our sword, shield and shelter,” Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs said in statement to Rappler.

ICELAND'S FOREIGN MINISTER. Iceland's Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson at the United Nations. Photo from the Government of Iceland website

ICELAND’S FOREIGN MINISTER. Iceland’s Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson at the United Nations. Photo from the Government of Iceland website

In an interview with the Iceland Monitor, Iceland Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson said, “We are fortunate enough to enjoy human rights in Iceland, which we take for granted….It is our duty to contribute to the fight for improving the state of human rights affairs in the world.

According to the Fund for Peace’s 2019 Fragile States Index, Iceland was considered among the most stable countries in the world, enjoying stable observance of human rights and the rule of law among other factors. The Philippines, meanwhile, was described as a state with “high warning” over eroding human rights and higher levels of crime and violence. Aside from this, the 2019 Global Peace Index ranked Iceland as the most peaceful country in the world, while the Philippines was 134th out of a total of 163 countries.

GLOBAL PEACE INDEX. Iceland is ranked as the most peaceful country in the world according to the 2019 Global Peace Index. Screenshot from Visions of Humanity.org

Iceland is ranked as the most peaceful country in the world according to the 2019 Global Peace Index. Screenshot from Visions of Humanity.org

For Human Rights Watch deputy director of Geneva Laila Matar, Iceland’s actions as a new member of the powerful rights body live up to its reputation as a country that champions human rights. “Iceland is a country that takes the Human Rights Council seriously and that takes their membership in the Human Rights Council seriously. The Human Rights Council is meant to ensure that gross violations of human rights are addressed,” Matar said in an interview with Rappler.

https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/iq/235775-why-iceland-led-un-resolution-drug-war-killings-philippines

https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/701688/iceland-hopes-phl-will-cooperate-with-un-probe-on-ejks-drug-war/story/

41st UN Human Rights Council: what the NGOs see as its result

July 16, 2019

On 12 july 2019, ISHR published what key civil society organisations thought of the just finished 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council.

Civil society organisations welcomed significant outcomes of the Human Rights Council’s 41st session, including the extension of the SOGI mandate, adopting the first resolution on the Philippines and extending its scrutiny over Eritrea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Belarus and Ukraine. This session witnessed heightened scrutiny of Council members by shedding light on the situations in Saudi Arabia and China. It missed an opportunity, however, to ensure that human rights are not sidelined in Sudan.

16 leading human rights organisations (see below) expressed regrets that Council members seek to use their seats to shield themselves and others from scrutiny. They called on States to stand with victims of human rights violations. They welcomed the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly association, that the Council stood up to the global backlash against the rights of women and girls, and that it continued to address the threat posed by climate change to human rights. They also welcomed the reports on Venezuela, called on the High Commissioner to immediately release the UN database of businesses engaged with Israeli settlements, and on all States to pursue accountability for victims of intimidation and reprisals.

Full statement below:

By renewing the mandate of the Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), the Council has sent a clear message that violence and discrimination against people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities cannot be tolerated. It reaffirmed that specific, sustained and systematic attention is needed to address these human rights violations and ensure that LGBT people can live a life of dignity. We welcome the Core Group’s commitment to engage in dialogue with all States, resulting in over 50 original co-sponsors across all regions. However, we regret that some States have again attempted to prevent the Council from addressing discrimination and violence on the basis of SOGI.

This Council session also sent a clear message that Council membership comes with scrutiny by addressing the situations of Eritrea, the Philippines, China, Saudi Arabia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This shows the potential the Council has to leverage its membership to become more effective and responsive to rights holders and victims.

The Council did the right thing by extending its monitoring of the situation in Eritrea. The onus is on the Eritrean Government to cooperate with Council mechanisms, including the Special Rapporteur, in line with its membership obligations.

We welcome the first Council resolution on the Philippines as an important first step towards justice and accountability. We urge the Council to closely follow this situation and be ready to follow up with additional action, if the situation does not improve or deteriorates further. We deeply regret that such a resolution was necessary, due to the continuation of serious violations and repeated refusal of the Philippines – despite its membership of the Council– to cooperate with existing mechanisms.

We deplore that the Philippines and Eritrea sought to use their seats in this Council to seek to shield themselves from scrutiny, and those States [1] who stood with the authorities and perpetrators who continue to commit grave violations with impunity, rather than with the victims.

We welcome the written statement by 22 States on China expressing collective concern over widespread surveillance, restrictions to freedoms of religion and movement, and large-scale arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang. We consider it as a first step towards sustained Council attention and in the absence of progress look to those governments that have signed this letter to follow up at the September session with 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.

We welcome the progress made in resolutions on the rights of women and girls: violence against women and girls in the world of work, on discrimination against women and girls and on the consequences of child, early and forced marriage. We particularly welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls under its new name and mandate to focus on the intersections of gender and age and their impact on girls. The Council showed that it was willing to stand up to the global backlash against the rights of women and girls by ensuring that these resolutions reflect the current international legal framework and resisted cultural relativism, despite several amendments put forward to try and weaken the strong content of these resolutions.

However, in the text on the contribution of development to the enjoyment of all human rights, long standing consensus language from the Vienna Declaration for Programme of Action (VDPA) recognising that, at the same time, “the lack of development may not be invoked to justify the abridgment of internationally recognized human rights” has again been deliberately excluded, disturbing the careful balance established and maintained for several decades on this issue.

We welcome the continuous engagement of the Council in addressing the threat posed by climate change to human rights, through its annual resolution and the panel discussion on women’s rights and climate change at this session. We call on the Council to continue to strengthen its work on this issue, given its increasing urgency for the protection of all human rights.

The Council has missed an opportunity on Sudan where it could have supported regional efforts and ensured that human rights are not sidelined in the process. We now look to African leadership to ensure that human rights are upheld in the transition. The Council should stand ready to act, including through setting up a full-fledged inquiry into all instances of violence against peaceful protesters and civilians across the country.

During the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial and summary executions, States heard loud and clear that the time to hold Saudi Arabia accountable is now  for the extrajudicial killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. We recall that women human rights defenders continue to be arbitrarily detained despite the calls by 36 States at the March session. We urge States to adopt a resolution at the September session to establish a monitoring mechanism over the human rights situation in the country.

We welcome the landmark report of the High Commissioner on the situation for human rights in Venezuela; in response to the grave findings in the report and the absence of any fundamental improvement of the situation in the meantime, we urge the Council to adopt a Commission of Inquiry or similar mechanism in September, to reinforce the ongoing efforts of the High Commissioner and other actors to address the situation.

We welcome the renewal of the mandate on freedom of peaceful assembly and association. This mandate is at the core of our work as civil society and we trust that the mandate will continue to protect and promote these fundamental freedoms towards a more open civic space.

We welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus. We acknowledge some positive signs of re-engagement in dialogue by Belarus, and an attempted negotiation process with the EU on a potential Item 10 resolution. However, in the absence of systemic human rights reforms in Belarus, the mandate and resolution process remains an essential tool for Belarusian civil society. In addition, there are fears of a spike in violations around upcoming elections and we are pleased that the resolution highlights the need for Belarus to provide safeguards against such an increase.

We welcome the renewal of the quarterly reporting process on the human rights situation in Ukraine. However, we also urge States to think creatively about how best to use this regular mechanism on Ukraine to make better progress on the human rights situation.

The continued delay in the release of the UN database of businesses engaged with Israeli settlements established pursuant to Council resolution 31/36 in March 2016 is of deep concern.  We join others including Tunisia speaking on behalf of 65 states and Peru speaking on behalf of 26 States in calling on the High Commissioner to urgently and fully fulfill this mandate as a matter of urgency and on all States to  cooperate with all Council mandates, including this one, and without political interference.

Numerous States and stakeholders highlighted the importance of the OHCHR report on Kashmir; while its release only a few days ago meant it did not receive substantive consideration at the present session, we look forward to discussing it in depth at the September session.

Finally, we welcome the principled leadership shown by Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, in pursuing accountability for individual victims of acts of intimidation and reprisals under General Debate Item 5, contrasting with other States which tend to make only general statements of concern. We call on States to raise all individual cases at the interactive dialogue on reprisals and intimidation in the September session.

[1]States who voted against the resolution on the Eritrea: Bahrain, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq, India, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, the Philippines and Pakistan.
States who voted against the resolution on the Philippines: Angola, Bahrain, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Hungary, Iraq, India, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and the Philippines.

*Statement delivered by the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) on behalf of: DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project); Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA); International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH); International Commission of Jurists (ICJ); Center for Reproductive Rights; ARTICLE 19; Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; Human Rights House Foundation; CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation; Franciscans International; Association for Progressive Communications (APC); Amnesty International; Human Rights Watch; International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA).

For the preview of the the 41st session, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/14/guide-to-human-rights-defenders-issues-at-the-41st-human-rights-council-starting-on-24-june/

http://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc41-civil-society-presents-key-takeaways-human-rights-council

Human Rights Defender Ellecer Carlos’ take on Philippines – UN Human Rights Council

July 16, 2019

ABS-CBN News of 16 July 2019 carries an interview with Ellecer Carlos, spokesperson of iDefend or “In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement” under the title: UN rights probe meant to stop ‘would-be tyrants’

Carlos urged the government to exert all means to prevent extrajudicial killings. He said the United Nations Human Rights Council decision to adopt the resolution calling for a report on Manila’s human rights situation, including extrajudicial killings under President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, is “to stop the mini-Dutertes that are here, the mini mayors that are doing the very same thing, and the Duterte likenesses elsewhere in the world–Sri Lanka, Bangladesh–who have praised Duterte, who have praised the war on drugs here in the Philippines and that is put a stop to would be tyrants employing this violent approach for populist means,“. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/11/un-council-agrees-action-on-philippines-in-spite-of-vehement-objection/]

Carlos, meanwhile, welcomed Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jnr’s statement that the Philippines will stay in the United Nations Human Rights Council despite the vote. “This is a good development that they were able to rethink their slip-ups,” Carlos said.

But I find the statement very funny to teach Europeans and other countries manners. After the unbecoming statements, after the derogatory statements, after the behavior of the Philippine delegation led by Undersecretary [Severo] Catura…. Carlos said the Philippine delegation, led by Undersecretary Catura, walked out during the informal session on June 25 to discuss the Iceland resolution on the Philippines at the 41st session of the UNHRC in Geneva, Switzerland. (Duterte hits Iceland after UNHRC Resolution: ‘You have too much ice’). But the Times of Oman reports that President Rodrigo Duterte is “seriously considering” cutting ties with Iceland (https://timesofoman.com/article/1615850)

https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/07/16/19/un-rights-probe-meant-to-stop-would-be-tyrants-rights-group