Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

Russia before the European Court for limiting NGOs communication with international bodies

August 8, 2017

In an intervention to the European Court of Human Rights in a case against Russia, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) has called on the Court to explicitly rule that that the rights to freedom of expression and association include the right to unhindered access and communication with international human rights bodies.

A law in Russia requires that an NGO receiving foreign funding and engaging in ‘political activity’ register as a ‘foreign agent‘. ‘Foreign agents’ not only have to comply with cumbersome financial and reporting requirements, but the negative stigma associated with this label have been described as debilitating. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/12/16/russian-court-declares-adc-memorial-formally-as-foreign-agent-others-to-follow/]

After submitting a report to the UN Committee Against Torture, Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC) Memorial – an NGO at that time operating in Russia – was required to register as a foreign agent on the basis that submitting the report constituted ‘political activity’. Following this, ADC Memorial brought a case against Russia in the European Court of Human Rights alleging that the administrative consequences associated with being labeled a foreign agent violate the rights to freedom of expression and association protected by the European Convention of Human Rights. ‘This case raises issues regarding meaningful protection the European Convention on Human Rights provides individuals exercising their right to freedom of expression and association with international human rights bodies and mechanisms’, says ISHR’s Legal Counsel Tess McEvoy. ‘It also demonstrates a serious and systematic human rights problem of reprisals and intimidation against those cooperating with the UN.’

ISHR submitted a third party intervention in the case of ADC Memorial. ‘The intervention is designed to assist the Court by providing an extended analysis of the scope of the rights to freedom of expression and association in international law to inform the interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights’, McEvoy states. The analysis concluded that accessing and communicating with the UN is protected under the rights to freedom of expression and association enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, and that reprisals and intimidation against those cooperating with the UN would violate those rights. ‘It is vital that human rights defenders have the ability to communicate, publish and disseminate information to international human rights institutions to effectively promote and protect human rights. We call on the European Court to ensure that right is protected’.

For more information contact: Tess McEvoy, t.mcevoy@ishr.ch.

Source: Reprisals | ISHR calls on European Court to protect the right to communicate with international bodies | ISHR

Lawyer wins Front Line’s 2017 human rights award for helping Crimean Tartars

May 26, 2017

On 31 March this year  I announced the 5 nominees for Front Line’s human rights award [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/31/finalists-for-the-2017-front-line-defenders-award-come-from-ukraine-nicaragua-vietnam-south-africa-and-kuwait/] and today the organization announced that the winner is Emil Kurbedinov, a lawyer who is helping ethnic Tartars in Crimea.

Emil Kurbedinov said 'Winning an acquittal for my clients is almost impossible - but what I can do is show them that, despite the risks, I will not abandon them'

Emil Kurbedinov was at the ceremony in Dublin’s City Hall this morning to receive the Human Rights Defender At Risk award for 2017. According to Front Line Defenders, which has its global headquarters in Blackrock in Dublin, defending human rights activists and political prisoners in Crimea is some of the most dangerous work that any lawyer can undertake. Despite those risks, Mr Kurbedinov has spent years providing emergency legal response for the Crimean Tartar minority, which it maintains has been persecuted by Russian authorities.

In January of this year, Mr Kurbedinov was detained by representatives of Crimea’s Centre for Counteracting Extremism while on his way to represent a client whose house had been raided by police. A district court later sentenced him to ten days in detention on a charge of “propagandising for extremist organisations“.

The Executive Director, Andrew Anderson, said: “In the midst of a global crackdown on human rights defenders, the five finalists demonstrate the will to persist in the face of severe, often life-threatening risks.

Source: Lawyer wins human rights award for helping Tartars

Interpol headed by Chinese police official, human rights defenders fearsome

April 20, 2017

meng-hongwei.jpg
Meng Hongwei takes charge of Interpol

‘Old’ but underreported news is that Meng Hongwei – a top Chinese police official – has been elected president of Interpol, which worries some human rights NGOs. The Independent had an article on 10 November 2016.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has waged a four-year campaign against corruption, which includes a push to return former officials and other suspects who fled abroad. China filed a list of 100 of its most-wanted suspects with Interpol in April 2014, about one third of which have since been repatriated. The country’s police and judicial systems have been routinely criticised for abuses, including eliciting confessions under torture and the disappearance and detention without charges of political dissidents and their family members.  Many Western nations have been reluctant to sign extradition treaties with China or return suspects wanted for non-violent crimes.

Given those circumstances, Mr Meng’s election is an “alarming prospect“, said Maya Wang, Hong Kong-based researcher at Human Rights Watch. “While we think it’s important to fight corruption, the campaign has been politicised and undermines judicial independence,” Ms Wang added. Mr Meng’s election “will probably embolden and encourage abuses in the system,” she said, citing recent reports of close Chinese ally Russia’s use of Interpol to attack President Vladimir Putin’s political opponents.

This is extraordinarily worrying given China’s longstanding practice of trying to use Interpol to arrest dissidents and refugees abroad,” Nicholas Bequelin, east Asia director at Amnesty International wrote on Twitter.

Recently, 5 April 2017, Wei Jingsheng, a well-known human rights defender in exile, said while visiting Lyon (the HQ of Interpol) that the election of Meng Hongwei as chief of the global police organisation could give Beijing new leverage over its critics. “The Chinese government’s message to all political opponents like me or party officials who have fled the country is: ‘Wherever you are, the international police work with us and we will find you’,” “That’s frightening,” he said, adding that Meng “is still vice-minister of public security in China. He has led the secret police.”

While Interpol’s charter officially bars it from undertaking “any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character,” critics say some governments, primarily Russia and Iran, have abused the system to harass and detain opponents of their regime.

Sources:

Chinese state official named head of Interpol, raising fears for political opponents | The Independent

http://www.france24.com/en/20170405-china-dissident-sees-threat-new-interpol-chief

Women human rights defenders and their films at Movies That Matter 2017

April 10, 2017

Beth Murphy (Filmmaker/Journalist) wrote in the Huffington Post of 31 March 2017 under the title “The world’s human rights movement would look very different ‘if it weren’t for women’” a piece that highlights women human rights defenders in the context of the Movies That Matter Film Festival which took place in the Netherlands earlier this year [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/15/movies-that-matter-film-festival-in-the-hague-from-24-march-to-1-april-2017/]. Movies that Matter, the Amnesty International film festival celebrated nine human rights defenders and screened films that share their powerful stories. Here some of these defenders: Read the rest of this entry »

Human Rights Council extends mandate on human rights defenders – after considerable wrangling

March 24, 2017

On Thursday 23 March 2017 the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution in which it extended, for a period of three years, the mandate of the Special Rapporteurs on human rights defenders. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/22/un-special-rapporteur-on-human-rights-defenders-wraps-up-his-first-mandate/]

The press statement by the UN (see below) explains that there was quite a bit of wrangling on wording, but in the end the draft resolution (A/HRC/34/L.5) on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michael Forst, was adopted without a vote as orally revised, in the same terms as provided for by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 16/5. It urges again all States to cooperate with and assist the Special Rapporteur in the performance of his tasks, to provide all information and to respond to the communications transmitted to them by the Special Rapporteur without undue delay; and calls upon States to give serious consideration to responding favourably to the requests of the Special Rapporteur to visit their countries.

(here the detailed report on the failed efforts – mainly by Russia and China – to weaken the text:) Read the rest of this entry »

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Russian democracy defender, speaks at Oslo Freedom Forum 2016

January 29, 2017

On 24 May 2016  Vladimir Kara-Murza spoke at the Oslo Freedom Forum. As the Human Rights Foundation states: “The Russian government doesn’t love activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, but he loves Russia. That’s why he is devoting his life to the fight for democracy in Russia, even though it might get him killed.

2016 Oslo Freedom Forum

2017 (5): With Trump US president, Sweden must stand up for human rights

January 24, 2017

On 24 January 2017, thelocal.se published the English version of an opinion piece originally written in Swedish by Civil Rights Defenders executive director Robert Hårdh for newspaper Dagens Nyheter. Like my post published yesterday about the call for Canada to ‘compensate’ for Trumps election [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/23/2017-4-canadas-year-of-real-human-rights-action/], this piece argues that Sweden, also as a member of the EU and with its current place on the UN Security council, must step forward and take a greater responsibility to protect human rights on a global level: Read the rest of this entry »

Surprise: Russia loses seat on UN Human Rights Council by 2 votes

October 29, 2016

Russia was defeated in its bid to be re-elected as a member of the UN’s Human Rights Council. But only just: Russia lost to Croatia by just two votes with Hungary claiming the Eastern Europe region’s other remaining seat. Many human rights groups had campaigned against the membership of Russia, China and others such as Saudi Arabia, but the problem is that the UN General Assembly only has a choice when the regional allotment has more candidates than seats. Saudi Arabia was re-elected as one of the four Asia-Pacific region countries to run for that region’s four allocated slots. Human Rights Watch’s UN director, Louis Charbonneau said that the vote “also shows how important it is to have competitive slates in UN elections. Countries should have a chance to reject those whose candidacies are so severely compromised, as they did today.

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Right Livelihood Awards 2016 to Syrian, Egyptian, Russian and Turkish human rights defenders

September 22, 2016

 

Right Livelihood logoThe Laureates of this year’s Right Livelihood Award have been announced today – 22 September 2016 – in Stockholm, Sweden:

SYRIA CIVIL DEFENCE (Syria)

Syria Civil Defence (The White Helmets), ‘for their outstanding bravery, compassion and humanitarian engagement in rescuing civilians from the destruction of the Syrian civil war’. It is the first time that a Right Livelihood Award goes to a Laureate from Syria.…for their outstanding bravery, compassion and humanitarian engagement in rescuing civilians from the destruction of the Syrian civil war.

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Russian protest artist Pavlensky stripped of Havel Prize over support for violent ‘Partisans’

July 10, 2016

On 5 May 2016 I reported on the Havel Prize winners [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/05/05/2016-havel-prize-of-the-human-rights-foundation-goes-to-atena-farghadani-petr-pavlensky-and-umida-akhmedova/], including the ‘protest artist’ Pyotr Pavlensky. Now that he has been stripped of this award two months later, this should also be reported. The choice may have seemed a bit shaky from the beginning, but the more important is to recognize the decisive action by the award giver, the Human Rights Foundation.

Pyotr Pavlensky
Pyotr Pavlensky
Pavlensky told RFE/RL on July 8 that HRF President Thor Halvorssen had informed him of the formal decision to revoke his prize in an e-mailed letter. The letter, which has been seen by RFE/RL, states that HRF regrets the decision as “unfortunate and unprecedented” but says the prize’s selection criteria disqualify those who have “advocated the use of violence as a valid method to fight government oppression.” Speaking to RFE/RL on July 8, Halvorssen confirmed that the organization had revoked Pavlensky’s prize but said HRF had nothing to add beyond the text of the letter sent to the artist.
Dissident artist Pyotr Pavlensky talked to RFE/RL [Tom Balmforth] about what prompted him to take up political art, and how he sees his political stunts as a rejection of a pervasive “clerical” ideology. He does not take the cancellation lightly and accused the organizers of the Vaclav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent of essentially “acknowledging their support for police terror” by withdrawing the award after he pledged to devote the $42,000 in prize money to the legal defense of convicted police killers in Russia’s Far East.

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