Posts Tagged ‘Pussy Riot’

2014 Oslo Freedom Forum wants to defeat Dictators

October 20, 2014

As from tomorrow, 21 October, you can follow the 2014 Oslo Freedom Forum [OFF] in real time at www.oslofreedomforum.com. This year’s theme—“Defeating Dictators”—will explore nonviolent ways to challenge these regimes and stop other countries from falling under the rule of a strongman. Panel discussions are on “Tyrants and Technology” and “Dangerous Words”

OFF speakers include Egyptian comedian and TV host Bassem Youssef; Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez; Ukrainian pro-democracy activist Yulia Marushevska; North Korean refugee and rights activist Hyeonseo Lee; Mexican journalist Marcela Turati Muñoz; and Jordanian comic book artist Suleiman Bakhit.  The forum will conclude on Wednesday, October 22, with the presentation of the Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent to Turkish performance artist and “Standing Man” Erdem Gunduz, Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen (represented by his wife Lhamo Tso), and Nadezdha Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, members of the Russian feminist punk rock collective Pussy Riot [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/vaclav-havel-prize-for-creative-dissent/]

Interesting novelty (to get more people to follow the forum on-line) is a social media contest on how the speakers inspire the audience. One winner will join the 2015 Oslo Freedom Forum in person.

The full program can be viewed here: 2014 Oslo Freedom Forum | Events | Oslo Freedom Forum.

Russian NGO Agora wins Rafto prize but has to refuse the money

September 25, 2014

The Russian human rights group Agora, which played a key role in defending one of the jailed members of Pussy Riot, has won Norway’s Rafto Prize for human rights defenders. [An Agora lawyer, Irina Khrunova, helped secure the release of Yekaterina Samutsevich, who was sentenced to two years in jail in 2012 for the feminist group’s “punk prayer” protest against President Vladimir Putin].”The award is a recognition of their relentless and professional work to defend the right to fair trial and other human rights in a Russia where organisations and individuals are subjected to increasing pressure from the country’s authorities” the Bergen-based Rafto Foundation said on Thursday. The Agora Association – a network of 35 lawyers across Russia – was founded by human rights lawyer Pavel Chikov in 2005. It provides legal help to mainly human rights defenders, bloggers and journalists.

The group was forced to turn down $20,000 in prize money, according to the Rafto foundation due to a 2012 law – which Agora has challenged in the courts – that requires organisations with international funding to register as “foreign agents”.

via Russian lawyers win Norwegian rights prize.

for more info on the award: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/rafto-prize

2014 Havel Prize for Creative Dissent awarded to Erdem Gunduz, Pussy Riot, and Dhondup Wangchen

May 5, 2014

On 2 May 2014 the Human Rights Foundation announced as the recipients of its 2014 Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent the Turkish performance artist Erdem Gunduz, Russian punk protest group Pussy Riot, and imprisoned Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen. They will be honored at a ceremony during the Oslo Freedom Forum on Wednesday, May 14. Read the rest of this entry »

Pussy Riot freed in Russia but the bigger issue is blasphemy laws everywhere

December 24, 2013

Demonstrators wear "Free Pussy Riot" balaclavas as they protest at the security fence surrounding the G8 Summit at Lough Erne in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland June 17, 2013

(Pussy Riot’s members with their distinctive coloured balaclavas)

The two remaining members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot, whose incarceration sparked a global outcry, have been released under an amnesty law, but Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina dismissed the amnesty as a publicity stunt before the Sochi Winter Olympics in February.They both promised to continue their vocal opposition to the government. The women were jailed in August 2012 after performing a protest song in Moscow’s main cathedral. Alyokhina’s first words and actions after being freed serve as a sign that this fight is likely to go on. The case divided Russia with many feeling the women were being too harshly treated and made examples of as part of attempts to clamp down on opposition to the government. But others felt their actions were a gross offence to the Orthodox faith. The act was seen as blasphemous by many others e.g. in Greece here and was condemned by several Orthodox Churches. However, their conviction for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” was criticised by rights groups [AI declared them prisoners of conscience], celebrities [such as Sting, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Madonna and Yoko Ono ], anti-Putin activists and foreign governments.

This should make us look again a the issue of blasphemy in general. The crime of criticizing a religion is not always called blasphemy; sometimes it is categorized as hate speech (even when it falls well below any sensible standard of actually inciting hatred or violence) because it supposedly insults the followers of a religion. These crimes—of expressing ‘blasphemy’ or offending religious feelings—are still a crime in 55 countries, can mean prison in 39 of those countries, and are punishable by death in six countries.

Recently, Ireland and the Netherlands started the process of removing some or part of their blasphemy laws. The arguments in these debates have universal validity.

Human Rights First and other NGOs have reported on human rights abuses caused by the use of blasphemy laws around the world.  These laws are often vague and can be subject to abuse, either by the authorities or citizens who can accuse a fellow citizen of blasphemy with a personal complaint to the prosecutor. The concept is inconsistent with universal human rights standards, which protect the rights of individuals rather than abstract ideas or religions. Those accused of blasphemy are frequently threatened or attacked even before any investigation. People take to the streets and violence stoked by religious extremists ensues. Blasphemy laws have been used to justify violence and oppression against minorities. Blasphemy laws enable governments to restrict freedom of expression, thought, and religion. Application of the laws can result in devastating consequences for religious minorities. This has been the case for Christians in Pakistan and Egypt, Ahmadi followers in Indonesia, and non-believers in Turkey and Saudi Arabia. In many instances, officials fail to condemn abuses or to hold the perpetrators of violence accountable. And the police often fail to stop violence against religious minorities or to protect those endangered on account of such laws.

In the past few years, several bodies of the United Nations have examined the relationship between freedom of expression and hate speech, especially in relation to religious issues. After extensive consultation with governments and civil society, the Rabat Plan of Action was published by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in October 2012. This document outlines how blasphemy laws are problematic.  Since 2011, a new process dubbed the Istanbul Process was launched as a result of resolutions adopted at the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. The idea is to combat religious intolerance without restricting freedom of speech but whether that is possible is a big question.

Lessons of the Debate Over Ireland’s Blasphemy Law | Human Rights First

http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/Blasphemy_Cases.pdf.

http://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2013/12/netherlands-scraps-blasphemy-law–but-seeks-a-way-to-replace-it

BBC News – Pussy Riot: Russia frees jailed punk band members.

Bradley Manning not a Prisoner of Conscience for Amnesty International ?

June 4, 2013


480px-bradley_manning_us_army_0

(Bradley Manning – (c) US Army)

With the trial of Bradley Manning coming up, there is a wide-ranging and not always educating discussion raging on LinkedIn and other fora about why he is not a ‘prisoner of conscience’ for AI. Two of the few more substantive but not very flattering statements – in the absence of a formal reply by AI of course – are reported here, but I should point out that the authors are even more scathing about HRW or other large NGOs: Read the rest of this entry »