Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Canada and the wisdom of “governmental” human rights awards

March 6, 2017

I have written earlier about the wisdom of having purely governmental human rights awards. Now Canada adds to the discussion:

In my article for Oxford University Press (“Human Rights Awards for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders” J Hum Rights Pract (2013) 5 p552) I wrote: “A word of caution with regard to ‘governmental’ awards is in order. While it is one thing for a government to ‘support’ (e.g. financially) an otherwise independent award with an autonomous jury, the notion that governments (such as the USA, the Netherlands, France, Poland, Sweden, Canada) should run their own awards, select the winner, have the Minister hand it out and promote the award through the diplomatic service, does not sit well with the desire to protect HRDs from the charge of being ‘foreign agents’, a frequent claim by repressive governments trying to depict HRDs as being supported and funded from abroad… A degree of distance would benefit governments and would also serve the laureates themselves who usually want to be seen as spearheading the non-governmental human rights movement. Intergovernmental organizations face similar problems in having awards, as was demonstrated by the controversy surrounding UNESCO’s decision in 2010 to launch an award paid for and named after the president/dictator of Equatorial Guinea, Obiang Nguema.

In a post of 2011 I expressed some doubt about the USA State Department giving an award to Cuba dissidents (see:

A recent article (5 March 2017) by Dean Beeby of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) entitled “Diefenbaker award missing in action after Liberals take over” brings home another aspect, namely that such an award becomes a ‘political tit-for-tat’.  An award created by Stephen Harper’s government, which honoured former Progressive Conservative prime minister John Diefenbaker, was inaugurated in early 2011 and given out for four years running before ‘disappearing’ in 2015 and 2016. Read the rest of this entry »

Submissions on Academic Freedom invited by Scholars at Risk – deadline 11 November

September 26, 2013

university valuesThe Scholars at Risk Network invites submissions for the Winter 2013 edition of University Values: a global bulletin on academic freedom, and the first of its kind around the world. Previous editions of the bulletin can be viewed at:

University Values is an electronic bulletin featuring articles, essays, opinion pieces and announcements promoting discussion and understanding of university values, including values of access, accountability, academic freedom, autonomy and social responsibility.
Submission Requirements
Length: short articles of 500-700 words maximum.
Topic: on an academic freedom related issue of your choice. The article could, alternatively, contain news on important events, situations emerging in your region or specific countries or urgent appeals for scholars or universities in distress.
Deadline: November 11, 2013.
Contact: submit articles by email to Enter “University Values Submission” in the subject line of your email.
The University Values Editing Committee will select up to six articles for publication in the bulletin.  For more information about Scholars at Risk visit


UN High Commissioner hits back in Sri Lankan disinformation campaign – and rightly so

September 22, 2013

Mahinda Rajapaksa, president...

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in a statement which some claim unusual for a top UN official to direct at a UN-member country, took aim at Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, and other government officials, just  after her visit last month to Sri Lanka. During the visit at least three government ministers “joined in an extraordinary array of distortion and abuse” which is continuing now, Pillay’s spokesman, Rupert Colville, told reporters in Geneva: “We consider it deeply regrettable that government officials and other commentators continue what appears to be a coordinated campaign of disinformation in an attempt to discredit the high commissioner or to distract from the core messages of her visit.” Pillay’s office sent a formal complaint to the government demanding that it immediately retract and publicly correct “misinformation”.

In the statement Pillay complained that the defence secretary made widely reported but false claims that she had asked President Rajapaksa during their private meeting to remove a statue of Sri Lanka’s first prime minister from Colombo’s Independence Square. “Firstly, we categorically deny that the high commissioner ever uttered a single word about the statue of Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake at any point during her visit to Sri Lanka, let alone asked the president to remove it. This claim is without a shred of truth,” Colville said. “Secondly, there has been a further distortion concerning comments the high commissioner made to the president concerning a flag in Independence Square.” Pillay asked the president why the flag of one religious community was flying next to the national flag in such a symbolic location, Colville said.

UN rights Chief hits out at senior officials and Gota for waging misinformation campaign.


The full statement is made available on the OCHR website

In Armenia, Like Father, Like Son

September 12, 2013

On 11 September EurasiaNet published a piece implying that powerful people in Armenia can get away with violence and even murder. At least that is how human rights defenders have reacted to the September 8 decision to drop all murder charges against the son of former strongman governor, Suren Khachatrian. In a shootout near the ex-governor’s mansion in the southeastern town of Goris, Tigran Khachatrian [junior] this June shot dead local businessman Avetik Budaghian. Budaghian’s brother Artak, a military officer, was wounded in the clash with Kachatrian’s son and his bodyguards. Tigran Khachatrian and one of the bodyguards were arrested on murder and illegal weapons possession charges, but were released after the military police, which are handling the case, decided that all the shots fired by Khachatrian were made in self-defense.  Human rights activists, the victims family and the familys lawyer all have condemned the ruling. A local representative of Human Rights Watch alleged in a conversation with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, a former defense minister, may personally have pushed for the ex-gubernatorial son. …It has been widely suggested that this quid-pro-quo relationship kept Kachatrian in office despite his long alleged record of violent behavior. Allegations like assaulting a journalist and a businesswoman had been piling up against Kachatrian, but never resulted in indictments or dismissal. Khachatrian père tendered his resignation after the shooting incident, but, critics say, he can still call in favors with the establishment.

via In Armenia, Like Father, Like Son |

Canada’s New Democratic Party honors disappeared Sikh, Jaswant Singh Khalra, as Human Rights Defender

September 9, 2013
Canada: NDP Remembers Defender Of Human Rights Jaswant Singh Khalra

The Sikh wire in Canada reports on an interesting mix of party politics and the officialisation of the term ‘human rights defender’: 

In April 2013, with thunderous applause and support at the federal NDP convention in Montreal, a resolution to recognize Jaswant Singh Khalra [abducted 18 years ago] as a defender of human rights was passed by the membership of Canada’s NDP (New Democrats ). After the adoption of the resolution, Leader of the Official Opposition and Canada’s NDP Tom Mulcair spoke with the daughter of the late Jaswant Singh Khalra, Navkiran Kaur about spreading her father’s message of peace and justice. “Jaswant Singh Khalra spoke on Parliament Hill and delivered his last international speech while he was here in Canada. He came to this country because we had a reputation of being defenders of human rights – we must uphold that” said Marston (Hamilton East—Stoney Creek).   Foreign Affairs Critic Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre) added: “Our resolution sends a clear message – an NDP government will return Canada to the world stage as a nation of neutrality, committed to defending the human rights of all.”

The Sikh Wire – Canada: NDP Remembers Defender Of Human Rights Jaswant Singh Khalra.


Arab human rights court in Bahrain? – a take by the Voice of Russia.

September 6, 2013
бахрейн протест бахрейн столкновения

( Photo: EPA)

The piece below, taken from the Voice of Russia of 6 September 2013, is interesting for a number of reasons:

1. it addresses the almost comical issue of basing the Arab Court of Human Rights in Bahrain

2. it quotes at length the (understandably) sarcastic comments by Brian Dooley of Human Rights First in the Huffington Post

3. it is lovely example of a different but biased geopolitical perspective: Read the rest of this entry »

Edward Snowden portrayed as a Human Rights Defender by US groups

June 28, 2013

In a post on 4 June under the title “Bradley Manning not a Prisoner of Conscience for Amnesty International ?” I related the controversy surrounding the status of human rights defender for Breadly Manning. On 13 June, under title “Snowden a human rights defender?  – Russia seems to think so” I referred to a similar issue with regard Read the rest of this entry »

Pillay discusses 20 years Vienna

June 27, 2013

N. Pillay - © OHCHR

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Thursday 27 June said there had been significant achievements since a historic human rights document was adopted in Vienna 20 years ago, but there have also been many setbacks and “the magnificent construction is still only half built.” Read the rest of this entry »

Nigerian Governor Fashola hails late Dosunmu as Human Rights Defender

June 11, 2013

There is and always will be debate on who is a human rights defender. At a recent meeting in May 2013 at York University, UK, there were several sessions and academic interventions devoted to the topic (when the report is out, I will revert), but in the meantime is interesting to note the use of the term – posthumously – for one of the leading politicians in Nigeria: Read the rest of this entry »

State media in Sri Lanka lead attacks on Human Rights Defenders

June 4, 2013

According to a statement from the Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on 4 June there is an ongoing attack in Sri Lanka on Human Rights Defenders, NGOs & opposition politicians through the Independent Television Network (ITN). The statement give concrete and detailed indications to show that ITN – in spite of its name – has continued to follow the government line and started a fresh round of attacks in May this year. Read the rest of this entry »