Posts Tagged ‘Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’

Call for Applications for Civic Space Litigation Surgery, 25-27 September in Nigeria

August 8, 2019

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Open Society Justice Initiative are calling for applications from lawyers and/or members of civil society organizations based in West Africa to participate in a forthcoming litigation surgery on the protection of civic space. The litigation surgery will be held in Abuja, Nigeria from September 25 – 27, 2019. All applicants are required to submit a current or potential case involving the protection of civic space for discussion and workshopping.  The application deadline is 11 August 2019. To apply, please complete the online application form available HERE and send all required documents.
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The proposed strategic litigation surgery is aimed at considering key issues implicated in protecting civic space, particularly the protection of freedom of expression, the right to peaceful protest, assembly and association. This litigation surgery looks to support and strengthen either existing or proposed cases that are focused on defending these rights.

Criteria for participant eligibility: 

  • The litigation surgery is open to lawyers and/or members of civil society organizations working in any member state of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Ivory Coast, Côte d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. Applicants must possess a demonstrated commitment to addressing threats to civic space in their home country through sub-regional and regional human rights litigation. Lawyers currently employed by a government institution or political party are not eligible.
  • The participants must be involved in, or considering, litigating a case or cases that address the suppression of civic space involving a violation of the rights to freedoms of expression, the right to peaceful protest, assembly, and/or association. With their application, they must submit a case that they are litigating or intend to litigate before existing human rights protection mechanisms at the sub-regional or regional levels or the national court system, which could be discussed and workshopped during the litigation surgery.
  • The following non-exhaustive list of themes are a guide for the types of cases that could be submitted with the application:
    • Suppression of peaceful protests — e.g. through excessive use of force against protesters; criminalization of protesters and organizers; legal frameworks that either prevent, restrict and/or chill protest rights generally;
    • Burdensome regulatory restrictions on civil society organizations — e.g. constraints on access to foreign funding and foreign partnerships; obstacles in registering or maintaining registration; restrictive tax laws;
  • Suppression of the media and access to information — e.g. misuse of criminal defamation laws; restricted access to the internet and social media; abuse of cyber-crimes laws; other violations that produce a chilling effect on the freedom of expression, media freedom, citizen journalism, or access to information;
  • Abuse of laws or policies in the context of countering terrorism — e.g. misuse of broad counter-terrorism laws to criminalize and/or chill legitimate activities of civic actors;
  • Impunity for threats, violence, and arbitrary detention against human rights defenders, activists, journalists, media practitioners, bloggers, social media users and other civic actors.
  • While all civic space cases will be considered, we encourage cases that touch on an intersectionality of issues and/or address untested or developing areas of human rights jurisprudence at the national, sub-regional or regional levels respectively, including:
    • Cases that highlight the role of multinational corporations in the suppression of civic space;
    • Cases that link the suppression of civic space to economic, social, and cultural rights, including in particular environmental rights;
    • Cases that demonstrate how the suppression of civic space uniquely affects women, sexual minorities, persons with disabilities, or refugees and internally displaced persons;
    • Cases that address the link between the suppression of civic space and corruption.

Other important details: The working languages for the litigation surgery will be English and French. There will be simultaneous interpretation between the two languages available to all participants. The organizers will cover the cost of airfare, visas, local transportation, accommodation, and a reasonable per diem for expenses not otherwise covered for up to about 8 selected participants.

To apply: HERE. If you have any questions regarding the litigation surgery or the application process, please email advocacy@rfkhumanrights.org.

https://rfkhumanrights.org/news/call-for-applications-civic-space-litigation-surgery-1

Call for Nominations for the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award 2017

February 8, 2017

2016 Human Rights Award Laureates: Andrea James and Glenn E. Martin (United States)

The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award invites nominations of human rights defenders who are leading efforts to secure dignity for all people, especially those who have demonstrated an ongoing commitment to bringing justice and human rights to the people who need them the most, despite serious personal risk or sacrifice. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights often forges strategic partnerships with the recipients of the Award and for this reason it is important to nominate someone who could find the support of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights useful. For last year’s award see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/14/2016-rfk-human-rights-award-went-to-two-criminal-reform-advocates-in-the-usa/ Read the rest of this entry »

Annual human rights video contest for students across America opens

January 30, 2017

There is a lot of attention on current and feared loss of human rights attention in Trump-led USA. It is no reason to overlook positive events that continue. E.g. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, in partnership with the American Federation of Teachers and the Tribeca Film Institute, has launched on 25 January 2017 the 6th Annual Speak Truth to Power Video Contest. The short-video contest invites middle and high school students from around the country to create a three-minute video examining a human rights issue or violation while profiling human rights defenders fighting to restore justice. The deadline for entries is March 6, 2017. Participants must be in grades 6 through 12. No prior filmmaking experience is required.

The lesson that we all have a responsibility to stand up and speak out against inequality and injustice is so important. This video contest will engage students in what it means to be a defender of human rights.”, said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (which is also producing an online webinar to share how teachers can use the contest to help students demonstrate independence, judgment and creativity about key human rights issues).

“Past winners demonstrated the transformative impact this contest has on those who participate,” said John Heffernan, Director of the Speak Truth To Power program. “We are thrilled to be able to expand our reach by partnering with the AFT in key cities throughout the US—inspiring even more students to identify with some of the most courageous people on the planet.

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/10/12/rfk-center-expands-human-rights-video-contest-to-students-from-the-whole-usa/

Last year’s grand prize went to a filmmaker from Farmingdale, NJ whose satire “How to Be an American Muslim” asks the audience to reflect on the challenges of being a Muslim in America today, and highlights the work of human rights defender Dalia Mogahed. (http://www.ted.com/talks/dalia_mogahed_what_do_you_think_when_you_look_at_me)

Additional details can be found at http://www.speaktruthvideo.com. Winning videos will be featured on the Speak Truth To Power website and the grand prize video will be shown at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.

Contact: Eric Duncan, eduncan(at)aft.org

Source: Annual Human Rights Short-Video Contest Open to Students and Schools Across America

2016 RFK Human Rights Award went to two criminal reform advocates in the USA

December 14, 2016

 

A bit belatedly here is the ‘news’ that on 17 November 2016, Andrea James and Glenn E. Martin, leading human rights defenders working to reform the criminal justice system in the United States, received the 2016 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.  “Andrea and Glenn are precisely the moral leaders our country needs to solve one of our most pressing human rights problems here at home: a broken criminal justice system that unjustly targets communities of color and the poor,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “This is the civil and human rights issue of our time. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights is proud to recognize Andrea’s and Glenn’s remarkable achievements with this award, and to partner with them moving forward on this important work.

Read the rest of this entry »

Colombian human rights defender Berenice Celeita talks on 10 June in Washington

June 2, 2015

Wednesday 10 June, 2015 (p.m.) Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Peace Brigades International, and Amnesty International USA organize a “Discussion with Colombian Human Rights Defender Berenice Celeita“. The event will feature Ms. Berenice Celeita, the founder of the Association for Investigation and Social Action (NOMADESC) and winner of the 1998 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. Through NOMADESC, Ms. Celeita advises and accompanies social organizations and unions as well as civic, women’s, indigenous, afro-descendent, and family farmer organizations.

Ms. Celeita will discuss the current human rights situation in Colombia, including the most pressing issues faced by marginalized communities claiming their rights, and will speak about strategies for combating human rights abuses against these populations.

[For years, civil society activists in the Cauca and Valle del Cauca Departments of Colombia have endured incidences of intimidation, harassment, and persecution as a result of their work. While these incidences have recently intensified, they are not new and form part of a long pattern of threats and attacks against the work of human rights defenders and community leaders in Colombia. The internal armed conflict in Colombia generates internally-displaced populations and sexual violence against women, and further marginalizes impoverished populations. Indigenous and afro-descendent leaders who stand up for their rights and defend their lands are acutely at risk of death threats and other forms of intimidation. In this context – characterized by a lack of security and government accountability – the work of human rights defenders and civil society activists is paramount and must be safeguarded, as they serve as the voice and guardians for local populations facing evictions, violence, and persecution.]

To attend contact: rsvp@rfkhumanrights.org before 8 June.

Morocco: military turned HRD sentenced to 6 months, while UN does still not monitor human rights in Western Sahara

April 16, 2015

Easter is over and we resume our human rights defenders coverage with the story of Mbarek Daoudi in Morocco who was sentenced to 6 months. What makes it remarkable is that this human rights defender served loyally for 30 years in the Moroccan army. On 15 April 2015 Frontline posted this update:

On 9 April 2015, Mbarek Daoudi was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment by the Court of Appeal in Agadir. The decision came after the Public Prosecutor appealed the initial court decision [3 months imprisonment] against Mbarek Daoudi, and called for the stricter punishment of the human rights defender.

Since retiring from the Moroccan army in 2008, Mbarek Daoudi has peacefully advocated for the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination. On 21 December 2014, the human rights defender ended a seven-week hunger strike he had began in protest at his conditions of detention and the delays in scheduling his trial.

 

In the meantime the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights came out on the same day with a statement urging the UN to add a human rights monitoring mechanism to the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), the only active peacekeeping mission established after 1978 without a human rights monitoring mechanism! The Security Council must vote to extend the mandate by April 30, 2015.

It is shameful that a small group of countries are denying the people of Western Sahara a basic human rights protection mechanism. The reports of abuses are undeniable, and the United Nation’s Security Council needs to respond by expanding MINURSO’s mandate,” said Kerry Kennedy. “The international community must not turn its back on reports of torture in detention, medical negligence towards ailing prisoners, unmonitored landmine blasts, violent dispersal of peaceful protests, and constraints on entry and travel within the region.

In February 2015, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights released a report tracking reported human rights abuse in Western Sahara.

Update: Morocco – Mbarek Daoudi sentenced to six month’s imprisonment | Front Line Defenders.

IACHR Hearing on the Bahamas : “great step forward” or “defamation”?

March 27, 2015

The Bahamas are not the most talked about nation when it comes to human rights but this story is a marvelous lesson in effective diplomacy by human rights defenders.

ICHRA-meeting.jpg

A group of NGOs [i.c. the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association (GBHRA), the Caribbean Institute for Human Rights, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, and and the Haitian Organization for the Prevention of HIV/AIDS and STDS] managed to get a hearing on Friday 20 March 2015 before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IACHR) about the treatment of migrants in the country. In short: The main concern was that the Government has put into effect new immigration restrictions without any amendments to the relevant law. It was claimed that Haitians had been targeted and there had been unlawful detention as well as mistreatment. To its credit the government of the Bahamas participated in the hearing and was represented by Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez. He refuted the allegations made by the group. [“Indeed, our support of Haiti and its people in the attainment of economic, political and social stability emanates from an abiding and unflinching belief in the dignity of our shared human condition”] Gomez added that the Government received intelligence that Haitians were being smuggled to his country for as much as US$5,000. Still, Gomez invited the IAHRC to conduct an on-site visit to the Carmichael Road Detention Centre. “We have invited them to do an onsite visit. They have indicated a willingness to accept that invitation and act on it and the ball is within their court with respect to indicating to us when they wish to come. They’ve also given us some questions at the hearing which will be answered in the course of things within the next fortnight or so, though we have no deadline within which to answer them.

 

Mitchell: Activists Defamed Country

However his colleague the Minister of Immigration, Fred Mitchell, reacted very differently a few days later when he called on the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association to explain why it is attempting to “defame” the country’s name through “irresponsible” efforts. “These people who went to Washington – Bahamians – making these exaggerated claims about abuse of migrants to this country must answer the question to the Bahamian public,” he said at a press conference. “What they are doing will aid and comfort people who are trying to sabotage this country through a criminal enterprise. They have to answer that question. Their actions are irresponsible.” He added: “You can disagree with policy. There are domestic remedies for people to take if you have a difficulty with the policy. If there are specific abuses, there are domestic remedies but to actually go and defame the country in another country, I want to describe that as a particular thing, but I’ll just stay my hand for the moment. But they do have to account to the Bahamian public for their conduct, knowing what we know.”

Compare this with the tone of the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association (GBHRA) in a statement of 24 March, which thanked the government for participating in the hearing and for “sharing the view” that the Immigration Bill should be reviewed. The letter is such a beauty that I copy it below in full.  Diego Alcalá, deputy director of the Caribbean Institute for Human Rights, also used positive language and called the invitation “a great first step”.

But then the issue of reprisals..

During the hearing, petitioners also requested that the IACHR assist The Bahamas in designing and implementing a training protocol on Human Rights for State agents, including the role of human rights defenders and their protection. In his contribution, Mr Alcalá said: “Human rights defenders in The Bahamas are confronting a hostile environment that put their security and work at risk. Members of our delegation have been threatened for expressing their opinions against recent changes in migration policies. Also, high-level government officials have made expressions against them, minimising their work or even depicting it as ‘alarmist and inflammatory’.” Mr Alcalá referred to threats against GBHRA executive members Fred Smith and Joe Darville with charges of criminal libel and sedition, and pointed to the cancellation of the Kreyol Connection radio show following critical statements by the government.

Mr Smith, the GBHRA president, told The Tribune that he has made numerous complaints to the Commissioner of Police over verbal and physical attacks he has experienced due to his environmental and human rights activism. However, he did not feel the concerns are taken seriously given the government’s own proclamation against his organisation: “Joe Darville and I have been called social terrorists. Fred Mitchell (the Minister for Foreign Affairs) has threatened to have us prosecuted for criminal libel, sedition. On social media, we have had horrific accusations made against us, that we’re traitors against The Bahamas and that we should be deported.

During Friday’s hearing, commissioner and country rapporteur Tracy Robinson responded by saying: “In relation to human rights defenders, the commission is always concerned when there are allegations of either threats or stigmatisation of human rights defenders and we ask the state to pay close attention to the allegations made. The commission has very clear rules and principles about the use of criminal laws, including criminal libel laws, in a context where human rights defenders are exercising their rights to protect the interest of others.

The GBHRA’s reaction was coolly that it hoped Friday’s hearing would foster closer working ties with human rights groups and the government!

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Full text of the letter by the GBHRA:

“The Grand Bahama Human Rights Association (GBHRA) would like to publicly thank the government for participating in the recent international hearings in Washington D.C. concerning the country’s new immigration policy. 

The hearings before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IACHR), convened at the request of the GBHRA and its international partners, we hope will serve as an opportunity for government and human rights defenders to work together closely on reforming current immigration policy and law, specifically the proposed amendments to the Immigration Act, currently before the Senate.

Considering the reaffirmation of its commitment to human rights best practices and international law during the hearings, we are confident the government shares our view that the Bill should be reviewed in light of the comments of the IAHCR commissioners.

The GBHRA looks forward to contributing to this effort in any way it can, and more generally speaking, stands prepared to partner with government to enhance respect for individual rights, strengthen the rule of law and prevent official actions which could pose a risk to our international reputation in the long run.

We likewise thank the government for extending an invitation to the commissioners to conduct an on-site visit to The Bahamas, and have expressed our avid support for such a visit to the Commission.

The GBHRA would also like to express our formal gratitude to the commissioners, the IAHCR and the Organization of American States (OAS) as a whole, for the careful attention currently being paid to human rights issues in The Bahamas.

The commissioners performed a great service to our country during the hearings, reminding us of the expectations of international law on the question of immigration enforcement.

Specifically, their comments affirmed: that detention must be a measure of last resort, not a general rule; that children should not be detained under any circumstances; that the impact of policies on women and children must be a matter of special consideration; that due process, the presumption of innocence and access to justice must be guaranteed for all migrants; and that the government has a duty to address violence and abuse during immigration enforcement exercises.

With regard to this last point, the commissioners made it clear that the government has a responsibility to not only prosecute those who would commit violence or abuse, but also do all in its power to prevent such attacks in the first place.

The commission asked for a report in writing on the extent to which the current policy conforms with the above requirements, and the GBHRA is confident the government will promptly comply with this formal request.

Finally, the GBHRA also welcomes the commission’s offer of help in revising and redrafting the current Bill. We are sure the government will be receptive to this offer, particularly with a view to better clarifying where immigration policy ends and law begins – another issue raised by the commissioners during the hearing.”