Posts Tagged ‘profiles’

Two South Sudanese activists who had disappeared two years ago now presumed dead

May 30, 2019

It’s time for Kenya, South Sudan to account for the enforced disappearance of Samuel Dong and Aggrey Idri

As news of the death of Samuel Dong Luak and Aggrey Ezboni Idri circulated recently, I felt extremely saddened.. The enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killing of two outspoken critics of the South Sudanese government, by South Sudanese security services allegedly with the acquiescence of Kenyan authorities, and both states’ continuous denial of responsibilities, signals a worrying trend of disrespect for human life and insecurity for those who dare to speak up and challenge power.

Samuel Dong Luak was a prominent human rights lawyer, Secretary General of the South Sudan Law Society for over ten years, as well as a member of the South Sudan Constitutional Review Commission.

Aggrey Ezboni Idri was an opposition leader, and member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO). In 2013, after receiving death threats for providing legal assistance to the former Secretary General of South Sudan’s governing party, Pagan Amum, who had been accused of “treason” by President Salva Kiir, Dong fled South Sudan and sought refuge in Kenya, where he was granted refugee status. The same year, Aggrey also relocated to Kenya after South Sudan descended into conflict.

The deceased lived with their families in the capital, Nairobi, until they were disappeared on 23 and 24 January 2017, respectively. Amnesty International, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, and other human rights groups called on the governments of Kenya and South Sudan to reveal the fate or whereabouts of the two men, suspected to be held by Kenyan authorities before deportation. The families of the disappeared also mobilised; petitioning Kenya’s High Court to produce the two men in court, but the petition was dismissed as Kenya denied having them in its custody. The family later asked the police to conduct a thorough investigation, but a final judgment in January 2019 confirmed the dismissal of their petition and ended judicial oversight into police action with regard to the case. Yet, the Court had noted that the police investigation fell short of seeking information from South Sudanese authorities and potential key witnesses.

The fate of Dong and Aggrey remained unknown until April 30,2019, when the UN Panel of Experts on South Sudan circulated a report pointing to the likelihood of their death. The report states that “the Panel has corroborated evidence strongly suggesting” that Dong and Aggrey were kidnapped in Kenya by an arm of South Sudan’s National Security Service (NSS), transferred to Juba, and executed in a NSS detention and training facility in Luri, on January 30, 2017.

In a report published in April 2018, DefendDefenders reported on the role of the NSS in limiting free expression and committing violations against human rights defenders (HRDs) in South Sudan. This case further highlights the unchecked power and impunity enjoyed by South Sudanese security services, which jeopardises possibilities for peace in the context of the revitalised peace agreement signed in September 2018. South Sudan’s conduct blatantly violates human rights standards, including the Declaration on the Protection of All persons from Enforced Disappearances. Moreover, South Sudan continues to retain laws that are inimical to their regional and international human rights obligation. This results in shrinking civic space and democratic practice and killing or exiling of journalists and HRDs.

The alleged acquiescence or cooperation of the government of Kenya violates article 3 of the UN Convention Against Torture, which prohibits returning people to places where they risk being tortured or ill-treated. Kenya ratified it. Dong’s confirmed status as a refugee also commits Kenya to the principle of non-refoulement enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention. Worryingly, this does not seem to be an isolated case.

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Against these worrying trends, I add my voice to that of other human rights organisations in calling on South Sudanese and Kenyan authorities to establish swift, impartial, independent, transparent and thorough investigations into Dong and Aggrey’s case. Both Kenya and South Sudan are State parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and must take all necessary measures to uphold their obligations under the African Charter and other international instruments. South Sudanese authorities must allow the UN Panel of Experts on South Sudan and other monitors to access the site where the killing allegedly took place and all relevant witnesses and information. It is necessary to investigate these events fully, including the chain of command that led from Dong and Aggrey’s disappearance in Nairobi to their alleged execution. Those responsible, irrespective of their rank or standing, need to be held accountable, and the families of the victims must have access to adequate remedies for the losses they suffered.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other regional and international organs should collectively and strongly ensure that justice and accountability is served in this case. They must demand that Kenya and South Sudan end all enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.

Denials, impunity, and attempts at diffusing responsibility cannot stand in front of such serious allegations. More than two years after their disappearance, justice and accountability are due to the families and the communities Dong and Aggrey were forced to leave behind.

COMMENT: Disappearance and extrajudicial killing

 

International Civil Society Week: 3 human rights defenders engaging business

May 4, 2019

Sutharee Wannasiri (Thailand)

Sutharee Wannasiri

Sutharee has been supporting the 14 Myanmar workers that have denounced labour rights abuses at the Thammakaset Farm in Thailand. She has actively engaged in public advocacy to demand business accountability on labour rights abuses, and an end to the judicial harassment workers are facing in retaliation for reporting these. To date, Thammakaset Farm has filed more than 13 criminal and civil complaints against the workers and the local CSO staff from Migrant Worker Rights Network and the journalists supporting them, including her – many of them are ongoing. The majority of the cases have been dropped by the courts.

Sutharee said:

“It is also the responsibility of international brands that buy from Thailand to make sure the companies they are sourcing from are not engaged in judicial harassment that creates a chilling effect on whistleblowers and other defenders. They should establish mechanisms that allow workers and defenders to communicate with the brands directly and ensure that they are protected from any retaliation from suppliers during the investigation. The results should be made public and bring accountability for the abuses.”

 

Amanda Segnini (Brazil)

Amanda Segnini

The organization engajamundo focuses on youth empowerment in Brazil, with a particular focus on climate change. Its main goal is to make young people ware of their power to transform their communities. The organization is concerned about how civic freedoms will be negatively affected under the new government of President Jair Bolsonaro. Engajamundo is open to dialogue and ongoing engagement with companies if there is an alignment in values. Amanda believes that companies and civil society could engage more with one another if they find a shared purpose.

Amanda said:

It might be right for companies to say something in support of activists that are under attack – but only if they have been working with the community long-term and have an ongoing relationship with them: for example, if they work with local producers and source responsibly from them. If such a community is under attack, a brand should say or do something in their support. But if they only say something without having that relationship, it’s like they are just ‘riding on the wave’, taking advantage of the buzz. Companies also should not censor civil society they engage with. For example, once we were invited to take part in a corporate event, but they tried to censor what we wanted to say. We decided not to participate in the end.”

 

Sasa Uzelac (from Serbia)

Sasa Uzelac

Sasa is the Solidarity Center‘s Regional Coordinator for South East Europe. Solidarity Center was established by AFL-CIO, and is the biggest international organization supporting trade unions and associations working to protect labour rights in South East Europe. He says trade unions and workers’ associations are increasingly under attack from governments, companies, and far-right political organizations and movements. Sasa says the tide of far-right populism is creating additional problems for organizations and people advocating for labour rights. Workers’ rights are being endangered on a daily basis by “ruthless” employers and “mindless” government officials. Freedom of association, decent working conditions, and human rights in the field of work are at risk due to governments’ failure to sanction unlawful activities by employers.

Sasa said:

“The best thing brands can do is to introduce union practices from their country of origin, rather than exploiting the weaknesses of the local system and local practices in their operations. But sadly they are not doing that to a high enough standard in this region. When big international companies enter the market, they should also make sure that the health and safety standards are brought to the levels of their countries of origin.”

https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/human-rights-defenders-discuss-engaging-with-business-at-international-civil-society-week-in-serbia

Profile of Mexican indigenous defender Romel Rubén Gonzalez Diaz

February 17, 2019

ISHR published on 21 January 2019 this profile of Romel Rubén Gonzalez Diaz from the Indigenous and Popular Regional Council of Xpujil. This organisation works in partnership with the Cooperativa Chac Lol, in the defense of the territory, training in municipal and human collective rights, generating sustainable development alternatives (agriculture, biocultural tourism, sustainable management of natural resources). The main problem in Muna, Yucatan is the proposal to establish a solar park megaproject with 1227,000 solar panels, destroying 700 hectares of tropical forest, by the company Sunpower of the USA.

Azadi about migration defenders

June 26, 2018

“Migration is not a crime. Defending the rights of migrant people should not be criminalised,” said Azadi (pseudonym) in her interview with ISHR. Today, more than 68 million people around the world are refugees or internally displaced as a result of conflict or persecution. They seek a safer life and better future. “Migrant rights defenders want to show people on the move that another Europe exists: it’s the Europe of the civil society that tries to welcome them. The Europe of solidarity”, Azadi concluded.

Breaking news: Five Front Line award winners 2018 announced

May 18, 2018

Front Line Defenders today – 18 May 2018 – announced the five winners of its 2018 Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk, naming Soni Sori (India), Nurcan Baysal (Turkey), the LUCHA movement (Democratic Republic of Congo), La Resistencia Pacífica de la Microregión de Ixquisis (Guatemala), and Hassan Bouras (Algeria) as the Regional Winners. Nurcan Baysal was also named the Global Laureate for 2018, and UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore presented her with the Award during a ceremony at Dublin’s City Hall. 2018 marks an important change in format: instead of one winner Front Line Defenders now recognises defenders from five different countries as Regional Winners. [for 2017: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/05/26/lawyer-wins-front-lines-2017-human-rights-award-for-helping-crimean-tartars/]

The defenders we’re honouring today work in some of the most dangerous areas of the world, sacrificing their own security to peacefully demand justice and human rights for their communities,” said Andrew Anderson, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders, as he announced the winners in Dublin.

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Nurcan Baysal, Turkey – Regional Winner for Europe & Central Asia & Global Laureate

Nurcan is a Kurdish journalist and human rights defender based in Diyarbakir. When the government launched a military offensive in the south-east in 2016, Nurcan spent months visiting Kurdish villages under bombardment, documenting human rights violations, and stopping to help families who’d lost everything in the conflict. Her writings are known for their critical focus on voice women living under the bombardment. When the authorities launched a military operation in Afrin, Nurcan took to social media to demand peace and condemn the violent assault. She was detained for speaking against the violence, and although later released she now faces up to 3 years in jail in a separate case related to her writing. Nurcan, according to authorities’ absurd claims, had “spread propaganda for armed terrorist organizations … and a call for provocative actions.” In addition to her reporting, Nurcan has also co-founded several NGOs, set up a camp to help Yazidi women fleeing the Islamic State, and been a key voice in countless reconciliation programs in the region. [see also: http://bianet.org/english/human-rights/197288-kurdish-journalist-baysal-wins-frontline-defenders-human-rights-prize]

 

Soni Sori, India – Regional Winner for Asia

Soni Sori is an indigenous and women’s rights defender in the militarised Bastar region of Chattisghar, India, where state-backed paramilitary forces are waging a violent campaign against local Adivasi tribes in the name of combating an armed Maoist insurgency. Soni documents and advocates against violence perpetrated by the paramilitary and police forces, which includes razing villages, burning homes, raping local women, and torturing and sexually assaulting tribes people detained without cause. Soni has also defended a number of educational centres from destruction by Maoist groups. In retaliation for her work, security forces detained and tortured Soni, pushing stones inside of her body and assaulting her for hours. Years later, men attacked her with acid and threatened to do the same to her daughter if she did not cease her advocacy on behalf of tribeswomen raped by the security forces. She has refused to stop her work, and continues to travel into the Maoist regions to speak with survivors of the ongoing conflict. [see also: https://feminisminindia.com/2018/05/18/soni-sori-wins-front-line-defenders-award/and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/02/23/human-rights-defenders-in-india-democracy-is-not-enough/

Peaceful Resistance of the Micro-Region of Ixquisis, Guatemala – Regional Winner for the Americas

La Resistencia Pacífica de la Microregión de Ixquisis formed in response to grave rights violations committed in the name of economic advancement in Guatemala. The government has authorised destructive mining and hydroelectric mega-projects in the region despite the widespread opposite from the 59 villages and 7 communities in the municipality. HRDs in the Peaceful Resistance risk their lives to defend the territory. In 2016 alone, there were more than 75 reported attacks against HRDs in the Peaceful Resistance including killings, shootings, harassment, and defamation campaigns.

 

LUCHA, DRC – Regional Winner for Africa

LUCHA is a non-partisan youth movement formed in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo that struggles against chronic corruption and impunity in the DRC. Initially focused on

local issues like access to drinking water, electricity, and youth unemployment, in just 6 years the movement has developed into an extensive national-level network of powerful social organisers. Peaceful protests and demonstrations led by LUCHA are routinely attacked by authorities. In October 2017, 5 young protests were killed during a LUCHA-organised demonstration, and many of their members and leaders having been arrested and detained during peaceful assemblies. The Congolese national intelligence agency has detained several members, who have endured physical and psychological abuse in detention.

Hassan Bouras – Regional Winner for the Middle East & North Africa

Hassan Bouras is a journalist, blogger, leading member of the Algerian League of Human Rights, and founding member of the Rejection Front, a coalition against fracking to extract shale gas in Algeria. His reporting on both corruption and torture in Algeria spans more than two decades and because of this work he has been repeatedly targeted by Algerian authorities. He has continued his writing and advocacy despite years of judicial harassment, arbitrary detentions, violent raids on his home, and imprisonment.

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https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/front-line-defenders-award

Profile of Yaxue Cao of ChinaChange.org

February 9, 2018

On 9 November 2017 ISHR met Yaxue Cao, the founder and editor of ChinaChange.org, an English-language website devoted to news and commentary related to civil society, rule of law, and human rights activities in China. She works to help the rest of the world understand what people are thinking and doing to effect change in China. Reports and translations on China Change have been cited widely in leading global news outlets and in U.S. Congressional reports. Yaxue Cao grew up in northern China during the Cultural Revolution and studied literature in the US. She lives in Washington, DC.

Egyptian human rights defender, Doaa Hassan, speaks about disappearances

October 31, 2017

On 30 October 2017 the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) published this testimony by Doaa Hassan, the criminal justice programme director at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Justice. Doaa is particularly focusing on enforced disappearances which several members of the organisation have been victims of.

For other post on Egypt see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/egypt/

Video portrait of Johan Galtung, ‘father of peace studies’

May 5, 2017

Short but informative film portrait of Norwegian peace specialist Johan Galtung, winner of the 1987 Right Livelihood Award.

Interview with Natasha Latiff about women’s rights in Afghanistan

April 27, 2017

On 30 October 2016 the ISHR published this video interview with Natasha Latiff who is the founder and executive director of Strategic Advocacy for Human Rights (SAHR). Following an ISHR training for human rights defenders held in Geneva in June, she spoke to ISHR about her organisation’s work on women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Video interview with Cleopatra KAMBUGU from Uganda

April 25, 2017

On 24 April 2017 the ISHR published this interview with Cleopatra KAMBUGU, grants administrator at UHAI EASHRI and transgender activist in Uganda. Cleopatra was featured in “Pearl of Africa“, a movie shown at the Geneva international Film Festival and Human Rights Forum and spoke  about the challenges she faces in her struggle to have transgender rights recognised in her country. More information on UHAI-EASHRI: http://www.uhai-eashri.org