Posts Tagged ‘remembrance’

Kazakh human rights defenders sentenced for just remembering Dulat Aghadil

August 29, 2020

Dulat Aghadil died in mysterious circumstances in February.
Dulat Aghadil died in mysterious circumstances in February.
According to RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service of 28 August 2020 dozens of Kazakh human rights defenders were given short jail sentences or fines for attending a commemoration of prominent civil rights campaigner Dulat Aghadil, who died in custody in February this year.

At least seven people were found guilty for attending an unsanctioned rally and sentenced to up to 15 days in detention this week, relatives and rights defenders said.

Among those jailed were activists Alma Nurysheva and Alsan Hasanonov, who were sentenced by a court in Aqmala Province on August 27. Their trials took place via a video link. The same court ordered several other activists to pay fines ranging between $200 and $400. Kazakh human rights defenders say “dozens” of activists from Nur-Sultan, Almaty, Aqtau, Oskemen, and Semei cities have gone on trial in recent days.

At least 100 people attended the commemoration on August 8 in Aghadil’s home village of Talapker in the Aqmola Province. Aghadil, 43, died under mysterious circumstances while being held in pretrial detention in the capital, Nur-Sultan, in late February, just one day after being arrested for failing to comply with a court order to report to local police. Authorities said Aghadil died from a heart attack, but his family and fellow rights defenders say he had no history of heart issues. Rallies were held in Nur-Sultan and other cities in February and March to demand a thorough investigation into his death.

https://www.rferl.org/a/kazakh-activists-punished-for-attending-commemoration-of-civil-rights-figure-who-died-in-custody/30809396.html

Remembering Russian activists Stanislav Markelov and Baburova

January 20, 2020

19 January rally, Moscow, 2012 CC BY NC 2.0 Vladimir Varfolomeev / Flickr. Some rights reserved.
Thomas Rowley Giuliano Vivaldi wrote in Open Democracy of 18 January 2020: “To remember is to fight: the legacy of Russian human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov“. The authors argue that his legacy remains important to this day. They do this with a selection of his articles and interviews in English.

The news broke: Russian human rights advocate and journalist killed in central Moscow. On 19 January 2009, Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova were shot by a Russian ultranationalist, Nikita Tikhonov. Markelov, a lawyer from Moscow, died at the scene. Baburova, an activist and journalist from Sevastopol who reported on Markelov’s work, died several hours later. As evidenced in the investigations and trials that followed, there was more to this tragic double murder than many western observers recognised at the time.

Eleven years on, 19 January is an important date for left-wing groups in Russia and Ukraine. Activists hold marches in memory of Markelov, Baburova and dozens of other people who have fallen victim to Neo-Nazi terror. But they also refer to issues that are often off-limits at other demonstrations. 19 January is one of the rare occasions where, particularly in Moscow, a whole range of groups — leftists, LGBT+, anti-racism campaigners, liberals, human rights activists, independent trade unionists, anarchists — come together to fill the streets with anti-militarist, anti-racist and anti-capitalist slogans for one day a year.

Screen Shot 2020-01-17 at 15.14.39.pngStanislav Markelov | Source: YouTube / Grani

In the years before Markelov’s murder, the streets of Russia’s big cities became a battleground as ultra-nationalists took aim at two targets: Russia’s migrant workers and anti-fascist activists. Protests, fights, murders and fabricated criminal cases flicked through headlines and news segments. “The moderate section of the nationalist movement has broken down,” Markelov said at a press conference after the murder of Alexey Krylov, a 21-year-old man who was killed on his way to an anti-fascist concert in 2008. “They have consciously gone underground… and are trying to provoke war itself.”

The investigation into the murder of Markelov and Baburova revealed that the end beneficiaries of Kremlin political technologists’ plans could be unpredictable. In the mid-2000s, Nikita Tikhonov and his accomplices in the revolutionary terror group BORN (Combat Organisation of Russian Nationalists) carried out 11 politically-motivated murders — migrant workers, anti-fascists, a federal judge being their targets. They also had deep connections to Russian Image, a magazine-turned-movement that aimed to rebrand far-right nationalism as intellectual and glamourous. In turn, Russian Image not only collaborated with pro-government youth organisations as it sought to out-position others in the competitive world of far-right activists. It also had connections in high-ranking Russian politics. With help from contacts in the police, they collected extensive personal information on Russian anti-fascists.

But while BORN and its competitors may have had their roots in the nexus of street-level and intellectual nationalism that began to emerge in Russia in the 1980s and 1990s, there was also a constellation of counter-movements developing, comprising environmental, social and political initiatives, that continued into the new decade and animated fresh protests under new conditions. It was in this milieu that Markelov, a Moscow law student, came of age politically in the long perestroika of the early 1990s — and perhaps where the pluralism of his political concerns was born. In the “October days” of 1993, Markelov served in a volunteer medical unit comprised of socialists and anarchists that patrolled the conflict zone which erupted in central Moscow as pro-government forces attacked the Supreme Soviet and the anti-Yeltsin movements. “He helped the wounded. Then he helped carry and load the dead,” Pyotr Ryabov, a Russian anarchist historian, recalled. “A real test for a 19-year-old boy.”

In 1994-1995, Markelov was involved in the radical left wing of the Student Defence trade union. This saw Russia’s student movement break, if briefly, into carnavalesque but deeply serious politics with major demonstrations on Moscow streets. The agenda ranged from higher student grants to ending the war in Chechnya and fighting big business. Indeed, in today’s light the work of Stanislav Markelov — both his legal defence and writings — appears as a vital missing link between human rights defence and critiques of Russian capitalism.

As a self-described left social-democrat, Markelov also stands out for his engagement — albeit far from uncritical — with anarchists. In the mid-1990s, he began visiting the Pryamukhino anarchist workshop in Tver, as well as participating in the Protectors of the Rainbow anarcho-ecological movement (which spanned Russia, Belarus and Ukraine), organising protest camps against new nuclear power stations in Rostov and Mogilev, Belarus. The horizontal elements of these anarchist-influenced milieu were attractive to Markelov. Looking back on the Pryamukhino workshop in 2007, he recalled: “This was a utopia made reality. […] It was here that a system of the free organisation of labour began to work.”

In distinction to many of the Russian liberal crowd, Markelov wanted to knit social and economic rights into human rights work, in order to give voice to a society being left behind in the transition. “In the 1990s, a paradoxical situation emerged,” he wrote in 2007, “you could organise hunger strikes, public demonstrations with thousands of people, even block roads, but that didn’t interest anybody.” For Markelov, a series of left-wing bomb attacks on public monuments carried out at the end of the 1990s (and whose participants he defended) suggested that Russian citizens’ desire for social justice had reached a breaking point — and had been frustrated by a dogmatic focus on liberal human rights.

Events at the Vyborg Paper Factory near the Finnish border are instructive. In the late 1990s, workers at this newly-privatised factory gave up waiting for their new owner, seized the plant, issued a single share and began working under the direction of a worker-led trade union. In an attempt to restore owner-control, riot police brutally stormed the plant on three occasions, eventually pressing riot charges against active workers. According to Markelov, who defended the employees, the reaction of the Russian liberal press was telling: demands by journalists to bring the workers to account was driven by a “fear of reevaluating the results of privatisation”. He didn’t have much time for certain sections of the human rights community, either. “You can sum up the attitude of rights defenders to [the workers at Vyborg] who came under threat of serious prison time, and who came to them for help, like this: we don’t defend these rights, they’re outside the sphere of human rights,” he wrote in 2007.

In this sense, Markelov is important as a consistent, if not widely known, critic of Russia’s new capitalism. “We were told that we can’t speak about society’s interests, collective interests, that we have individual interests which are above them,” he said at a conference in 2008. “Well sure, society’s interests were spat on in the Soviet times, but we at least had the system of Soviet paternalism. […] If something new is to emerge, then it will be in the spirit of socialist paternalism — when Soviet [social] guarantees are mixed with, well, less than democratic tendencies.”

Indeed, the left-wing human rights lawyer was invested in the idea of creating a new left tradition in Russia — one informed by the mistakes of the 1990s and the country’s earlier revolutionary history. “The main myth, which the Narodniki and Social Democrat-Mensheviks took from western social democrats,” he said at the same conference in 2008, “and which we felt on our own skin in the 1990s, is that after the fall of the cruel totalitarian Soviet system, the ordinary people, accustomed to social guarantees, a stabile social-welfare society, will be open to the ideas of democratic socialism. This was a very serious mistake.”

But while the late 1990s and early 2000s encompassed Markelov’s socio-economic interests, he shifted increasingly to defending the rights of people affected by the actions of Russian law enforcement, and Neo-Nazis. Residents of Blagoveshchensk brutalised at the hands of riot police. Relatives of anti-fascist activists killed by Neo-Nazis on Russian streets. The families of people tortured and murdered by a policeman in Khanty-Mansiisk. A journalist brutally beaten for his role in protesting the construction of a highway through a forest outside Moscow.

His bravery, courage and sheer drive were impressive. He worked extensively in Russia’s North Caucasus. In particular, Markelov represented the family of Elza Kungayeva, who was murdered by Russian soldiers during the second Chechen campaign. It was here that he gained the respect and trust of local rights defenders in an unimaginably hostile environment.

In what turned out to be the final years of his life, Markelov spent a significant amount of time defending the interests of Russian anti-fascists and their families. As political repression picks up in Russia, this year’s 19 January events will pay particular attention to repression faced by left-wing activists.

To show western readers how active and in flux Russian society was during the 1990s and 2000s – and to showcase the strategic thought of an under-appreciated and historic figure – the authors, Giuliano Vivaldi and Thomas Rowley, collect and present a selection of Markelov’s texts and interviews in English translation for the first time here. These texts span Markelov’s reflection on trade union and student activism, Soviet nostalgia, Russia’s place in the global economy, corrosive patriotism and the state and revolutionary maximalism.

Undoubtedly, Markelov would have been at the forefront of the solidarity and defence campaigns for all whose lives are touched by political repression in Russia today.

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/odr/remember-fight-legacy-russian-activist-lawyer-stanislav-markelov/

‘FOR THOSE WHO DIED TRYING’ Photo Exhibit on human rights defenders in Thailand by Protection International

January 16, 2017

exhibit 2

Protection International opened the photo exhibition, ‘For those who died trying’ on the Place des Nations in Geneva on Monday, 9 May 2016. The exhibition run from 9-11 May and presented the photographs of 37 murdered or abducted human rights defenders in Thailand. It has toured or will be touring various countries (e.g. Thailand, Brussels, Pamplona) and as from 22 January 2017 a small town in the Netherlands, Dordrecht (www.defendersindordrecht.org), houses the images.

The project looks to remember those who died defending human rights and protecting the environment by placing a portrait of the human rights defender, where possible, at the exact place he or she was murdered or abducted. It is vital, for the victims and their families, that their fight and their death is not forgotten and left un-recognised. Ultimately, those responsible must be brought to justice. Recognising those who died trying as HRDs and a better administration of justice are critical steps to end these killings.

More information can be downloaded here: ‘For those who died trying’ photo exhibition.

see related: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/02/new-on-line-memorial-to-remember-killed-human-rights-defenders/amp/

 

Remember: 2nd anniversary of the death of Cao Shunli

March 15, 2016

Yesterday, 14 March 2016 was the second anniversary of the death of Cao Shunli, a Chinese human rights defender who was detained and denied adequate medical treatment in police custody for five months, before dying in a military hospital in Beijing in 2014. This happened shortly after she was shortlisted for the Martin Ennals Award in that year. [see also https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/02/12/cao-shunli-a-profile-and-new-award-in-her-name/]. Has the situation improved…? Read the rest of this entry »

Remembering Malaysian human rights defender Irene Fernandez

April 4, 2014

The NGO Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower) is deeply saddened by the passing of Irene Fernandez. This is how her colleagues reacted:

Many of us knew her as a comrade and friend, stretching back years to the beginnings of our lives as activists and human rights defenders Irene Fernandez has had a long and vibrant engagement with human rights since the 1970s. She worked tirelessly for the rights of people whose causes were unpopular even among more sympathetic Malaysians: migrant workers, domestic workers, sex workers, and people living with HIV. She was there at the birth of the women’s movement in Malaysia in the 1980s and became a founder member of All Women’s Action Society (Awam) as well as Women’s Development Collective. Empower and Tenaganita, under her direction, collaborated on a one-year project in 2010. We were looking forward to many more such collaborations with Irene before her unexpected passing.

Irene was a hero to many for her deep commitment to her principles. She could be stern and unyielding, but these were qualities that served her well in fighting against relentless State persecution. Neither the 13-year criminal trial nor the 2012 sedition case succeeded in breaking her will. Empower regrets that should her harassers be one day brought to account for their actions, she did not live to witness it. We must believe, as she did, that the struggle to reaffirm our democratic rights is universal. It is our right and our responsibility to stand up for justice and equality. No human being is unimportant, no matter the gender, ethnicity, wealth, or social status. In carrying her legacy to the future, we must find in ourselves the courage she showed in standing up to those who deny the common humanity of our brothers and sisters.

 

via: Malaysiakini.

South Africa disappoints terribly in the Human Rights Council: support for China’s silencing the silence

March 27, 2014

A column in the South African City Press under the title “A chilling point of order for SA” written by Juliette De Rivero on 26 March 2014 makes a punchy statement about the disappointment felt all though the human rights movement when South Africa opted to support China’s point of order in the UN Council of Human Rights. In my post about this ‘court drama’ (reference below) I did not list all the countries coming out against allowing a moment of silence for the deceased Chinese human rights defender Cao Shunli and indeed the position of South Africa was in many way the most surprising, in de Rivero’s words: “…The South African delegate took the floor and warned that allowing the activists to proceed with the moment of silence would “create a dangerous precedent” that the council would not be able to sustain in the future.He noted that the action was “irregular and incompatible with the rules of procedure of this council”.South Africa’s choice to stand with the government that prevented Cao Shunli from participating in the UN came as a blow to the activist community – a community that was willing to stand up for Cao just as it had been willing to denounce the injustice of apartheid.South Africa’s concern that the moment of silence – not the death of the activist – was setting a bad precedent in the UN body sent such a chilling message to the human rights community that it should not be ignored…”

Let me add: That silence is a way of speaking should be clear to all, including South Africa, e.g. when on 6 December 2013 the General Assembly held a moment of silence to honour the memory of Nelson Mandela (“Madiba”).

full piece in:  A chilling point of order for SA – City Press.

background in: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/china-in-the-un-human-rights-council-manages-to-silence-cao-shunli-as-well-as-ngos/

Tiananmen remembrance doesn’t stop in spite of Government’s efforts

June 5, 2013

Twenty-four years after the bloodshed of Tiananmen, China’s Communist Party is exercising its traditional response to the unwelcome anniversary: detaining and silencing dissidents and blocking bereaved families who hope to observe the day with mourning from the graveyards; mobilizing extra police officers to ensure that no protests break out around Tiananmen Square; and scrubbing Chinese Internet sites of any references and images that refer to or even hint at the upheavals of 1989.

English: Tiananmen (front) 1901 中文: 1901年的天安门(正面)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On 4 June the police in China blocked the gate of a cemetery housing victims of the Tiananmen crackdown on its 24th anniversary. More than a dozen security officials deployed outside the stone gate at the Wanan graveyard near the hills of western Beijing, which mothers of the victims visit each year, and told AFP journalists to leave the area. Read the rest of this entry »