Posts Tagged ‘protests’

“to the streets” – the new battlecry of the human rights movement?

December 22, 2019

The Economist of 14 November 2019 contains a timely article on “Economics, demography and social media only partly explain the protests roiling so many countries today“. Two pieces published more or less simultaneously this month go into this question in relation to the human rights movement. Is #TakeToTheStreets the ‘new’ tool for human rights defenders?

The first is by Cate Brown in Open Democracy of 11 December “The era of state mobilization is over: Welcome to the streets”, – ss civilian protesters take to the streets to demand their rights, human rights leaders consider a future of citizen-led activism.

Protestors in Hong Kong gather against emergency anti-mask legislation, passed in response to months of demonstrations. Photo: Etan Liam/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0).

States are no longer trusted as representatives of popular interests or reliable guarantors of human rights, even in democracies. In response, civilian protesters have flooded the streets of major global capitals to demand immediate government action.

In Baku, demonstrators rallied for their right to assembly. In Beirut, citizens are calling for an end to government corruption. In Baghdad, protesters demand electoral reform, despite the deadly response of Iraqi security forces. In Santiago, dissent against a four percent increase in metro fares became a rallying cry for larger social reforms. And in Hong Kong, citizens have vowed to make ‘weekday chaos’ the new normal, adapting their tactics after six months of unanswered calls for political autonomy. Search the trending hashtag #TakeToTheStreets and you’ll find citizen-led anti-Trump and anti-Brexit movements in the United States and the UK. Search the #GiletsJaunes and you’ll find France’s infamous Yellow Vest movement celebrating their protest anniversary one year on.

…..quick concessions have failed to quiet broader calls for political reform. Instead, the single-issue protest movements have metastasized, gained momentum, and demonstrated staying power in the streets. Social media videos, like clips of Madi Karimeh, Lebanon’s ‘DJ of the Revolution’, or of the 170,000-person human chain linking protesters from Lebanon’s northern capital in Tripoli to its southern capital in Tyre, have helped build a sense of unity and vision among city-level protest movements…“Citizens are again claiming their rights in the streets, but there’s an important difference this year,” says Blavatnik School Professor of Practice of Public Integrity Chris Stone. “Citizen protesters are asking a new question: can we create a notion of rights enforcement that doesn’t depend on states?” It’s important for human rights organizations to consider this question. For years, the human rights movement has relied on parallel actions by frontline human rights defenders and global advocacy organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Frontline activists have played a central role in documenting incidents of abuse, convening civil society and amplifying messages across social networks. Groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International then strengthened their campaigns with rigorous investigation and documentation, and provided an important bridge to pliable state leaders and UN representatives.

But with a cadre of autocratic leaders like Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, or populist leaders like US President Donald Trump, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, and Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro leading some of the world’s most influential states, Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth suggests a tactical pivot towards nontraditional human rights allies and coalitions of smaller or midsize states.

“We used to look towards Geneva, New York, DC, and Brussels,” confirms a senior researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), “But the allies that we used to take for granted are no longer there.” Without reliable allies at the state level, the fundamental architecture of the human rights movement could be forced to change. “We need to invest in networks that are more grassroots-oriented,” continues the EIPR research lead, speaking on account of anonymity. “Local networks will help us diversify our allies and introduce us to arenas of mobilization that the Egyptian human rights movement knows nothing about.”

My generation of millennial protestors needs to recognize this opportunity: in the absence of reliable state allies, global rights organizations are ready to partner with us. Of course, groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have always worked with frontlines activists, but young civilian protesters may have a new opportunity to lead the way.

First, protesters need to invest in relationships that will strengthen their movements and amplify their demands. Next, protesters must look beyond the trending hashtags and the size of the crowds in the street: In a 2017 op-ed, Turkish scholar Zeynep Tufekci, author of Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest, warns that social media networks may make it much easier to pull off a large protest than it used to be, but “the significance of a protest depends on what happens afterwards.”

Protesters gathered in Beirut, Baghdad, Santiago, Port au Prince, Barcelona and Hong Kong must organize their crowds and identify next steps for collective action. With an agenda in hand, international rights organizations can extend their support. And together, we can push for more participatory, safe and inclusive states. For now, the hashtag #TakeToTheStreets is still trending. We’ll see how far people-power can go.

https://www.openglobalrights.org/era-of-state-mobilization-is-over-welcome-to-the-streets/

—–

The second piece is by in Foreign Policy in Focus of 10 December 2019: “As the Decade Closes, the Power of Protest Endures” –Despite the dashed hopes of the early 2010s, social movements are still winning important fights — and building a framework for human survival.

..as we mark the final Human Rights Day of this decade, we are ending the way we began — in the streets. In Hong Kong, Nicaragua, in Algeria, Sudan, Lebanon, Iran, and elsewhere, people have been on the march, facing bullets, beatings, and prison to demand an end to repressive and unaccountable government, to reject corrupt elites, and secure their rights. Are they naïve? Or do they know something important and powerful?

And what of the lawyers and communities challenging injustice in court, the investigators building meticulous records of human rights crimes, the journalists dragging into public view the buried facts, the advocates and activists pressuring and cajoling governments, companies, and other powerful actors to defend human dignity? They persist because they know the power of protest and resistance, and the efficacy of the human rights ideal, even if the tally of the past decade offers little encouragement.

From 2010 through 2012, protest movements swept across Iran and much of the Arab world. But in 2019, Tunisia stands alone among the countries of the Arab Spring in making the transition to democracy, and among its neighbors renewed repression and brutal wars have followed the uprisings. Hundreds of thousands have died, millions have been injured, and tens-of-millions have been displaced. The cost in lives, resources, and squandered potential is incalculable. Ten years ago, the smart phones and social platforms that helped to enable the protests were celebrated as vectors of positive change, opening avenues for speech and organizing beyond the control of authoritarian governments. They are now more often seen as fueling division, empowering surveillance, invading our privacy, and eviscerating the economic underpinnings of a free press.

Those who have sought refuge from obliterating violence and repression have met a rising tide of xenophobia, as politicians long confined to the margins of power ride a narrative of cultural, economic, and security threat, often focused on Muslims, refugees, LGBT people — anyone  seen as the “other” — to its center. They have sometimes been buoyed by hyper-partisan and often fraudulent media operations.

In the world’s biggest democracies — India, Brazil and the United States — the gravest threats to human rights and democracy come from elected presidents who openly praise dictators, demonize minorities, and undercut the rule of law, putting vulnerable populations at even greater risk. It would be easy to make a longer list of reversals: the promise of South Sudan, newly independent in 2011, now mired in war; Myanmar, where the pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has emerged as an apologist for ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity; Tanzania, where the media and civil society face ever tighter controls, arrests, and killings. And in Russia, a protest movement in 2011 held out hope for change, but instead Vladimir Putin increased his grip domestically, and enhanced his influence globally. Perhaps nowhere exemplifies the retreat more starkly than China, where once some Western analysts breezily promised that rising prosperity would bring progress on human rights and democracy. Instead, President Xi Jinping has put the fruits of development to work to build an algorithmically enhanced authoritarianism unrivaled in the scope of its ambition for control.

And yet. The protesters taking to the streets in Lebanon and elsewhere are not looking to a global scoresheet and calculating their chances. They are demonstrating that power without legitimacy can be checked in local struggles rooted in the demand for accountability, and ultimately for human rights. Ethiopia’s initial opening toward greater democratic space under President Abiy Ahmed tells us that some leaders appear to have learned this lesson, despite the crowing autocrats on the world stage.

And it isn’t only in street protest or in national struggle that we see the tools and values of human rights successfully at work. The millions of women and girls who bravely stepped forward to publicly shared their stories in response  to Tarana Burke’s #MeToo call built a global movement demanding an end to sexual violence. Persistent journalists turned accounts of Harvey Weinstein’s predation from Hollywood gossip into international news, and across the world, investigative reporting exposed the misogynistic abuses of other powerful figures.

They did so in the face of a U.S. president whose misogyny is proudly on display. Trade unions and women’s rights groups successfully fought for a new international treaty protecting against violence and harassment at work. Unevenly perhaps, but unstoppably, court cases, new regulations, a resetting of workplace norms, and sustained activism are creating new protections for women’s basic right to be free of harassment and violence. Spurred by litigation, culture change, and legislators responding to social movements, the rights of LGBT people are expanding around the world. A rearguard action by opponents in Russia and the United States decrying “gender ideology” and battling the spread of both women’s reproductive rights and LGBT rights is meeting both energized defense, and deep shifts in public opinion.

In a thousand smaller struggles, the embedding of human rights standards in domestic and international law is helping to bring the perpetrators of war crimes to justice, to secure land and environmental rights for communities threatened by development, and forcing companies to respect their human rights responsibilities. Local human rights defenders around the world don’t rely solely on the courage of their own conviction, or even the force of local law, rooted in their own experience, cultures and struggles, they are also part of a global ecosystem of shared norms, institutions, strategic collaboration, and communication that forms a resilient mesh that should be fostered and sustained. …

But a new global social movement is growing, in schools and on the streets. And existing norms around water, health, humanitarian disasters, and livelihoods offer a rich framework for building the accountability that is needed to spur action from wanton governments and companies. If we are back where we started the decade, we know the task, we have the tools — and like the protesters, we know the value of sticking to it.

UN experts launch practical advice on how to implement the freedom to demonstrate

March 28, 2016

At the latest session of the Human Rights Council, States and NGOs reacted to the new compilation of advise and recommendations on how to protect the right to assembly (‘freedom to demonstrate’). UN human rights experts have launched a major new report on the proper management of assemblies. The compilation of practical recommendation, which seeks to ensure that the management of assemblies and protests comply with international law through which to apply international law, was drafted by the Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Association and Assembly (Maina Kiai) and on Extrajudicial Executions (Christoph Heyns), after a series of consultations with multiple stakeholders including civil society.

An interactive dialogue with the Rapporteurs followed the report’s presentation, and several States – including Norway, Egypt and Ireland – reiterated the responsibilities of business. Whilst a broad range of States – including Costa Rica, Turkey and Tunisia – acknowledged the report’s importance, others used their interventions to emphasise the responsibilities of protesters. In response to Russia, Botswana and Cuba amongst others, Mr Heyns was clear: ‘Rights come before responsibilities. The report does not challenge that responsibilities are an inherent component of human rights, but one must come before the other.’ Maina Kiai underlined that ‘requiring authorisation for a protest dilutes a right to a mere privilege’.

ISHR’s statement reiterated that free assembly is a vital component of a safe and enabling environment for human rights defence, and highlighted how vague laws such as the Ley de Tumulos in Guatemala, repressive clampdowns on protest such as in Gezi Park in Turkey, and the imprisonment of protesters such as the Bahrain 13 are being used to hamper the work of human rights defenders.

 

ISHR welcomed the report’s emphasis on the responsibilities of business. ‘We hear increasingly of abuses by private security firms against protesters, as well as strategic lawsuits against public participation brought by companies and the enactment, by States, of laws which specifically target and restrict protests against business operations,’ said ISHR’s Ben Leather. ‘States should take heed of the recommendations made in the report to reverse these trends’.

For other posts on this topic: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/freedom-to-demonstrate/

Source: UN experts launch practical advice on management of protests | ISHR

Hunger Games 3-finger sign not welcome in Thailand

November 22, 2014

(Police stand inside the theatre in Bangkok where two student activists were arrested in connection with the showing of ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Photo by Pattarachai Prechapanich)

If there was any evidence needed that symbols from films travel fast, the Bangkok Post reports that on Thursday 20 November three students outside two Bangkok theatres. They were released without charges, but in the meantime the discussion had already started. On Friday Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha of Thailand said he felt unthreatened by The Hunger Games’ three-fingered protest against totalitarian rule, but nonetheless warned people against using it. “I don’t know whether it is illegal or not but it could jeopardise their futures,” Gen Prayut told reporters at Government House. “I appreciate their courage but they should use their courage in the right ways”.

His comments came as the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Southeast Asia criticised the authorities for a recent spate of instances in which people were led away for questioning after making the salute that has become a symbol of defiance for anti-coup protesters. The United Nations on Friday criticised the country’s military leaders for arresting students flashing the signature protest gesture from The Hunger Games while the film’s makers said they are concerned for the young activists. Director of  The Hunger Games, Francis Lawrence, felt honoured that the film has become an inspiration but added: “My goal is not for kids to be out there doing things that are getting them arrested,” (in a Friday interview with Buzzfeed). “”In a sense, part of it is an honour that there (are) ideas in the movies that we’re making that (have) become so important to people that they are willing to risk something and use that symbol,” he continued. “But it’s so scary.”

I didn’t want to punish [the students] so they were merely reprimanded, released and told not to do it again because it’s of no benefit to anyone,” Gen Prayut told reporters. The general also denied any role in Apex’s decision to pull the film from its Scala and Lido theatres.

Three-finger fallout continues | Bangkok Post: news.

China detains activists for supporting Hong Kong protests

October 1, 2014

If there was any doubt that the Chinese regime fears contamination from Hong Kong, today’s (1 October) report by the NGO China Human Rights Defenders [CHRD] makes clear that any expressions of support are dealt with harshly. Authorities are reported to have detained a dozen activists across China and threatened several others who expressed support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests in recent days….They include activist Wang Long, who was detained by police in the southern boomtown of Shenzhen on Monday for “creating a disturbance” after he posted messages about the protests online, CHRD said. The 25-year-old Wang made headlines last month with his decision to sue a state-owned telecom operator for denying him access to US search engine Google. Another activist, Shanghai-based Shen Yanqiu, posted online photos of herself with a shaved head in support for the Hong Kong protesters on Sunday, CHRD said. She was detained on Tuesday and is “being held in an unknown location”, according to the group. A group of “up to 20 citizens” were seized by police on Tuesday in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou, near Hong Kong, after gathering in a city park to voice support the pro-democracy camp, according to CHRD. At least two activists – Huang Minpeng and Liu Hui – were detained by police and “denied food” while in custody before they were released in the afternoon, the group said. Other areas where activists have reportedly been detained or threatened include Beijing, the southwestern mega-city of Chongqing and central China’s Jiangxi province. (AFP/nd)

via China detains activists for supporting Hong Kong protests: Rights group – Channel NewsAsia.