Posts Tagged ‘restrictions’

Human rights defenders in Asia suffer reprisals says Gilmour

May 18, 2018

On 18 May 2018 several newspapers – such as The Guardian and Scoop (NZ) – carried a piece by Andrew Gilmour, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights based in New York, which describes with great frankness how human rights defenders in Asia are under attack. To quote liberally:

In February, hundreds of Filipino participants in the peace process, environmental activists and human rights defenders were labeled “terrorists” by their own government. The security of the individuals on this list is at stake, and some have fled the Philippines. The UN independent expert on the rights of indigenous peoples – Victoria Tauli-Corpuz – was on this list. This followed the vilification only months before of another UN independent expert – Agnès Callamard – who deals with extra-judicial executions. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared that he wanted to slap her, and later announced that he would like to throw other UN human rights officials to the crocodiles. The national Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines was threatened with a zero budget and its former chair, Senator Leila de Lima, is in detention for her advocacy. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/10/there-seems-to-be-no-limit-to-what-duterte-is-willing-to-say-and-may-get-away-with/]

…..If governments in the region can target high profile human rights defenders and those associated with the UN with impunity, what is the message to others at community level who are not afforded the same visibility? ..

In the run up to the 2018 national elections in Cambodia, the Government has cracked down on the opposition, independent media and civil society. ..

In Myanmar, there were reports of violent reprisals by Tatmadaw, the armed forces, against civilians who met with Yanghee Lee, UN independent expert on Myanmar, following her visit to Rakhine State. …..

Bogus accusations of abetting terrorism are a common justification that we hear from governments to defend the targeting of the UN’s important civil society partners. We have countless cases of advocates charged with terrorism, blamed for cooperation with foreign entities, or accused of damaging the reputation or security of the state.

I recently met with a group of human rights defenders from across South-East and South Asia about their experiences, which in some cases have been made worse by speaking out or if they share information with the UN. The stories about these reprisals were common – they have been charged with defamation, blasphemy and disinformation. They are increasingly threatened and targeted for their work, indeed some have been labeled as terrorists. There were also accusations of activists being drug addicts or mentally unwell.

Some governments feel threatened by any dissent. They label human rights concerns as “illegal outside interference” in their internal affairs; or as an attempt to overthrow regimes; or as an attempt to impose alien “Western” values.

Opposition to economic development and investment projects seems to incite particular ire. Agribusiness, extractive industries, and large-scale energy initiatives, including those that involve indigenous peoples’ land, often bear the brunt of the backlash.

Women’s rights activists and advocates of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons seem to be particularly targeted. Many are ostracized by their communities, labelled as outcasts, or branded as immoral. Sexual violence is part of this backlash, including rape threats.

Those working for religious freedom have been called ‘anti-Islam’, they and their families threatened or harassed. When advocacy for religious tolerance intersects with that of women’s rights and sexual freedom, the stakes can be even higher.

……

We are taking these allegations seriously, and addressing particular incidents of reprisals with governments. Civil society has to be heard – for the sake of us all.


For more of my posts on reprisals: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1805/S00115/human-rights-advocates-in-asia-under-attack.htm

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/may/18/imprisoned-threatened-silenced-human-rights-workers-across-asia-are-in-danger

 

German Amnesty International Human Rights Award 2016 goes to Henri Tiphagne from India

February 2, 2016

Indian lawyer and human rights defender Henri Tiphagne has been awarded the 8th Human Rights Award by Amnesty International Germany. The award is a recognition of Henri Tiphagne’s exceptional commitment to human rights. “For many decades now, Henri Tiphagne has been tirelessly and bravely standing up for human rights. His organisation’s invaluable work includes campaigning against discrimination and the use of torture in India,” Amnesty International said in a statement on 25 January 2016.Amnesty-Internationa
Henri Tiphagne is the founder of the organisation People’s Watch, one of the most notable human rights organisations in India. People’s Watch has been researching and documenting human rights violations, as well as providing legal representation to those affected, for over 20 years. The organisation also actively supports human rights education: In 1997, Henri Tiphagne founded an institute offering training for teachers as well as mentoring around school human rights education programmes. So far, they have managed to reach out to around 500,000 children in 18 Indian states.
In recent years, many organisations have come under intense pressure by the Indian government, and People’s Watch is no exception. The organisation’s bank accounts have been frozen repeatedly since 2012. This meant that some employees had to be dismissed and many programmes needed to be abandoned. The Delhi government in power at the time used the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act to justify this kind of harassment. A complaint filed by People’s Watch against these government actions is still pending. The same legal framework is being instrumentalised for political ends by the current government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Those targeted by the authorities include non-governmental organisations as well as activists and local protest groups campaigning, for example, against forced evictions to make way for new coal mining projects. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/india-should-end-funding-restraints-on-human-rights-defenders-says-hrw/]

Henri Tiphagne and his organisation People’s Watch, while fighting to ensure the rights of others, are themselves being harassed and hampered in their work by the authorities. And there are other civil society organisations in India that are in a similar position. The award is therefore meant to send a strong signal of support to the whole of the Indian human rights movement,” adds Selmin Çalışkan, Director of Amnesty International Germany.

Award ceremony to be held on April 25 at the Maxim Gorki Theatre in Berlin, Germany. For more information about Henri Tiphagne’s personal background and the situation in India please contact the Press Office mailto:presse@amnesty.de of Amnesty Germany.

Latin America, Philippines most dangerous places for Human Rights Defenders

January 6, 2016

The latest statistical report released by Front Line Defenders revealed the appalling reality that human rights defenders all over the world are at great risk to be victims of extreme forms of violence. And based on the organization’s annual report, 157 human rights activists were killed or died in detention in 25 countries in 2015. Latin America, Philippines are named as most dangerous places for Human Rights Defenders. Read the rest of this entry »

China’s new foreign NGO law bound to make things worse for ‘sensitive’ human rights defenders

April 8, 2015

Maya Wang (twitter @wang_maya), a China researcher at Human Rights Watch, published on 8 April 2105 an interesting post under the title “China’s new foreign NGO law will help silence critics“.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Willem Velthoven.

Some years back I participated in an interesting meeting with Chinese academics in Beijing about exactly this issue of the status of NGOs in China. The meeting resulted in a book ‘NGOs in China and Europe’ (exceptionally also published in Chinese!) edited by Yuwen Li and published by Ashgate in 2011 (ISBN: 978-1-4094-1959-4). Although almost all participants agreed that the current regime for establishing associations is too cumbersome and too heavy-handed for Chinese civil society to flourish, the Government made clear that its main concern remained with what Maya calls ‘sensitive’ NGOs. Those working on issue that are even faintly related to human rights or smack of possible activism, especially when funded from abroad, are seen as a danger and should be subject tot maximum control. That seems to be born out by the draft of the long-awaited ‘Foreign NGOs Administration Law’, likely to be adopted this year and of which Human Rights Watch obtained a copy.

As Maya states, it has never been easy to run an independent organisation in China. The risks of being arbitrarily shut down or harassed are high, as shown by the arrest on 8 March of five women’s rights activists and a 24 March raid on an NGO that supports their work in Beijing. But the absence of a national law governing NGOs, coupled with differences in attitudes towards NGOs by regional leaders, have afforded some leeway for those with creative strategies. It has been common for ‘sensitive’ NGOs to register as a business to bypass the wary eyes of the state, or not register at all. And over the years, some international funding to these organisations in China has been tolerated.

 

Especially ‘sensitive’ NGOs have been unable to access domestic funding sources because they are not legally registered as a nonprofit and anyway those who did want to fund would receive official harassment. The new Foreign NGOs Administration Law is bound to end the funding lifeline that allowed more outspoken NGOs to operate.

The draft law is likely to significantly tighten the Government’s control over civil society says Maya: “If approved, the Ministry of Public Security (not the Ministry of Civil Affairs) will now have the power to supervise and approve registration of foreign NGOs. That ‘supervision’ can entail entering the premises of the foreign NGO at any point, questioning its staff, and copying or seizing any document, all tactics more commonly reserved for a criminal investigation. Foreign NGOs will have to submit for approval annual work plans and funding allocations, and will be prohibited from engaging in a range of peaceful activities, from raising funds or accepting donations in-country to recruiting volunteers or trying to recruit members ‘directly or indirectly.’” Violations of these prescriptions mean that an NGO’s representative in China would be liable to punishments, including a 15-day detention.

“The draft law is another step towards the Chinese Government’s ‘differentiated management’ model of NGOs, in which domestic groups working on issues approved by the state, such as charities for people with disabilities, can register easily and are considered for increased state funding and support.  But those engaged on rights or lobbying are stifled. The draft explicitly prohibits activities that ‘endanger…national security, unity and solidarity’ or that ‘go against China’s social morality’. These are vague terms, but ones frequently used to silence peaceful government critics and activists.”

China’s new foreign NGO law will help silence critics.

Russia now tries to cut CAT under ‘Foreign Agents’ Law

May 2, 2013

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - croppedreports that on 22 April 2013 the Committee Against Torture (CAT) is the next NGO received a letter of warning from the local Prosecutor’s Office. The letter alleges that CAT is violating the controversial new ‘Foreign Agents’ Law, which states that any Russian NGO involved in political activity and receiving foreign funding must register as a foreign agent.

CAT processes complaints about torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, carries out public investigations, represents the victims’ interests in court and before investigative bodies, and provides assistance with obtaining compensation.  The letter from the Prosecutor’s Office states that CAT receives funds from sources outside of Russia, information which is freely available on CAT’s website. The letter also states that CAT has taken part in certain public events, unidentified in the letter, which the authorities consider to be political. According to the authorities, therefore, CAT should have registered as a foreign agent.  Read the rest of this entry »

Human Rights Watch video on Russian civil society under Putin

April 29, 2013

This video accompanies a new 78-page report, “Laws of Attrition: Crackdown on Russia’s Civil Society after Putin’s Return to the Presidency,  which describes some of the changes since Putin returned to the presidency in May 2012. The authorities have introduced a series of restrictive laws, begun a nationwide campaign of invasive inspections of nongovernmental organizations, harassed, intimidated, and – in a number of cases – imprisoned political activists, and sought to cast government critics as clandestine enemies. The report analyzes the new laws, including the so-called “foreign agents” law, the treason law, and the assembly law, and documents how they have been used. Many of the new laws and the treatment of civil society violate Russia’s international human rights commitments, Human Rights Watch said.HRW_logo

https://www.hrw.org/node/115102

Egypt restricts freedom of Association of Human Rights Defenders

February 24, 2013

Amnesty-InternationaA move by Egyptian authorities to prohibit national NGOs’ contact with foreign organizations without prior permission from security bodies represents a new low for freedom of association, said Amnesty International.  In a letter to an NGO (Egyptian Organization for Human Rights) Egypt’s Ministry of Social Affairs stated that no “local entity” is permitted to engage with “international entities” in any way without the permission of the “security bodies”, referring to instructions issued by the Prime Minister.

Read the rest of this entry »