Posts Tagged ‘Rwanda’

The Human Rights Foundation announces three recipients of the 2020 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent. 

September 18, 2020

On 17 September 2020 the Human Rights Foundation announced the three recipients of the 2020 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent. 

The 2020 Havel laureates are Chinese visual artist Badiucao, Saudi political satirist Omar Abdulaziz, and the late Rwandan gospel musician and peace and reconciliation activist Kizito Mihigo, who is the first posthumous recipient since the inception of the prize in 2012. This year’s laureates will receive their awards at 11:45 a.m. EDT on Friday, 25 September, during the 2020 Oslo Freedom Forum.

Badiucao is an exiled Chinese dissident artist based in Australia. His political artwork has unmasked the lies of the Chinese regime, raised awareness for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, and exposed the Chinese Communist Party’s censorship of the coronavirus pandemic. Badiucao is the creator of the Lennon Flag, which became a powerful protest symbol that inspired and mobilized the global community to stand in solidarity with Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. The Chinese regime has tried to silence Badiucao by intimidating his family in China.

Omar Abdulaziz is an exiled Saudi political satirist and activist based in Canada. His satirical news show on YouTube has uncovered the lies of the Saudi regime. His activism has raised awareness about ongoing repression and human rights abuses in the kingdom, where freedom of expression is nonexistent and political satire is a crime. The Saudi regime has tried to silence his activism by intimidating his family, offering bribes, and making him a target of surveillance.

Kizito Mihigo was a Rwandan catholic gospel singer, songwriter, organist, and the founder of the Kizito Mihigo Peace Foundation, which promoted peace, reconciliation, and nonviolence in schools and prisons through concerts, plays, and poetry. An ethnic Tutsi, he showed tremendous courage in a 2014 song in which he called for compassion for all civilians killed by Paul Kagame’s Tutsi-dominated ruling Rwandan Patriotric Front forces after Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. The regime quickly banned the song as it contradicted its official narrative, which presents ethnic Tutsis as the sole victims of Rwanda’s tragedy. Mihigo released the song with full knowledge that it would lead to terrible consequences. “The message is sometimes more important than the messenger,” he said. He was detained in order to be paraded as a conspirator in a violent anti-government plot and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was released on pardon after serving three years, but he was arrested again while attempting to leave the country and died in police custody in February 2020. The regime claimed it was a suicide, but Mihigo told friends weeks before his death that he had been under government harassment and pressure to provide false testimony against political opponents.

For more information on the award: https://thedigestapp-public.trueheroesfilms.org/award/438F3F5D-2CC8-914C-E104-CE20A25F0726

for last year, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/27/anti-junta-rap-group-awarded-the-vaclav-havel-prize-for-creative-dissent/

https://mailchi.mp/5abc37c73aa7/2020-oslo-freedom-forum-program-details-sep-24-287847?e=f80cec329e

Human Rights Day 2019: anthology part II

December 17, 2019

As always a lot of reports on 10 December 2019 came in after the posting of my anthology [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/11/human-rights-day-10-december-2019-an-ant]. So here a second collection:

Zimbabwe:

In a statement to mark International Human Rights Day, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) said young people have a significant role to play in the protection and promotion of human rights. The ZHRC said rights come with certain responsibilities and obligations and young people should exercise their rights responsibly. “For instance, young people must shun all forms of violence and refrain from being used to oppress other people, engaging in political violence and other acts inconsistent with human rights principles and values of respect for human dignity, honesty, justice, fairness and equality,” reads the ZHRC statement. The commission said it is advocating for youths across the political divide to push their parties towards embracing human rights. ZHRC said youths should positively change the national narrative towards enjoyment of rights.

The Bahamas Weekly used the occasion of International Human Rights Day to publish a statement by the OAS Secretary General: ..As Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), I have dedicated myself above all else to promoting a strong vision: more rights for more people. ..This year I particularly want to express my concern about the violence suffered by people who defend human rights in the Americas. Unfortunately, all too often we are forced to remember what should be obvious: the human rights of social leaders are, as are the human rights of all citizens of the Hemisphere, inviolable. I want to recognize these leaders and defenders of human rights throughout the Hemisphere. For the OAS, it has been and remains imperative to accompany and support their efforts to promote, assert, respect and protect human rights. This work constitutes a central axis for social transformation and the consolidation of peace, democracy and the validity of human rights in the region. It is fair to make a special mention of all those women leaders defending human rights, for transforming their realities, for being peace-building agents, for opening spaces that historically have been denied them, making way for more women to exercise their rights every day with a powerful agenda of equality and peace.

The New Times of Rwanda focused on people with disabilities.

…..Despite political will and legal guarantees, persons with disabilities are generally denied many of their rights and dignity across the world. This is often due to discrimination and stigma in society. We see this discrimination and stigma in the way people relate to persons with disability and in the language that is used towards them, their parents and their siblings. We also see it in the names people give them, the way people look at them and the manner in which they are often dismissed, excluded and marginalized in schools and businesses etc.

This is why we must work hard on changing mindsets and improving awareness. We need the current and the next generation to realize that people with disabilities are still people, who think and dream and feel the same way we do. And they have abilities, as much as the rest of us, but they sometimes need some assistance to realize their full potential.

The Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda 2030) calls for the empowerment of persons with disabilities in all spheres of life. Disability is referenced in various parts of this Agenda and specifically in parts related to education, economic growth and employment, inequality, accessibility of human settlements, access to services, as well as data collection and monitoring. The 2030 Agenda encourages us to focus on providing fair and equitable opportunities to all, including persons with disabilities……How often do we stop to ask, “How accessible are our homes, schools, hospitals, public transport, churches, public offices, entertainment buildings to persons with disabilities?” Do we include sign language in meetings and television? Do we welcome persons with disabilities in our workshops and on our panels to discuss important topics pertinent to all? In our families, study and work environments, in our churches and communities, are we having conversations about the needs and rights and abilities of persons with disability?

Finally, empowerment is about equipping persons with disabilities with skills and facilities, including assistive devices, which allow them to actively and independently contribute to the development of themselves, their families, communities and countries. It is about not giving them a fish to survive on for a day but teaching them to fish to create a better future and, and also contribute to Rwanda’s development.

Yemen:

Over 17 NGOs wrote to the leaders of all warring parties in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UAE:

We write to you on Human Rights Day to call on you to take meaningful steps to end detentionrelated abuse in Yemen. Steps taken in recent weeks by both the Ansar Allah armed group (Houthis) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to unilaterally release hundreds of detainees were positive. There remains an urgent need to address rampant, ongoing detention-related abuse that continues to affect tens of thousands of Yemenis across the country. The impact of detention-related abuse goes beyond the person detained – it impacts their family members, their loved ones and wider society. In addition to ending the suffering of victims and their families, ending and redressing detention-related abuses also would contribute towards reaching a just and sustainable resolution of the conflict in Yemen.

We specifically write to ask you to build on recent positive steps by using your authority and influence to help ensure the release of all those arbitrarily detained, an end to enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment, the improvement of conditions of detention, including the facilitation of family visits, and full cooperation with efforts to ensure that individuals reasonably suspected of responsibility for war crimes and serious human rights violations, including torture and hostage-taking, are prosecuted in fair trials that preclude the death penalty.

……. While the recent unilateral release of prisoners – mostly fighters – by both the Houthis and KSA, may help build confidence between the parties, more extensive and comprehensive steps must be taken to address rampant detention-related rights abuse, regardless of the state of political talks. To that end, we call on you to use your influence and good offices to help bring about an end to ill-treatment, torture, arbitrary detention and forced disappearances by all parties to the conflict. We urge you to help secure the release of those arbitrarily detained, human rights defenders, journalists and peaceful activists; and that anyone deprived of their liberty is granted regular access to their families and lawyers; and that international monitors are allowed immediate access to all detention facilities, unofficial and official.

Nigeria: Lawyers and activists have used this year’s International Human Rights Day to assess the human rights situation in Nigeria. Marking the event last week in Abuja, the activists were of the view that the human rights situation has dropped since the return of democracy in 1999. Speaking at the event organised by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), and civil society groups, senior lawyers and rights defenders called on legal practitioners and citizens to defend liberty. In his remark, Jibrin Okutepa (SAN) said “until the legal profession begins to take objection to every violations of human rights, including self-violations, and begin to apply sanctions, the government will continue to violate human rights with such impunity and audacity of arrogance.” Speaking on the topic ‘The State of Human Rights in Nigeria’, a civil society activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), criticised the Social Media Regulation Bill and Hate Speech Bill before the National Assembly as a breach of the provisions of Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution which grants freedom of expression. “When you get to a situation in a country where the leader says people should not talk, then they are afraid of something. It is either we are getting set for a third term agenda or getting set for a full blown civilian dictatorship,” he said. Also commemorating the day, the Avocats Sans Francaise France (ASFF) otherwise known as Lawyers Without Borders, called on security agencies to adhere to the rule of law and due process in the discharge of their duties.

Heinrich Boell Foundation: used the occasion to publish a article by ISHR’s Salma El Hosseiny the 20th anniversary (in 2020) of the creation of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. For the full article follow the link below.   All UN agencies should treat the Declaration on human rights defenders as a ‘guiding star’ for their work. UN agencies working on promoting the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should integrate the protection of defenders as a vital component of contributing to implementation of the SDGs and the prevention of human rights violations. At a time where people across the globe are demanding more inclusive, sustainable and fairer societies, defenders are acting as leaders and agents of change to ensure that the world’s leaders have no choice but to listen.


 

Youths urged to defend human rights

http://www.thebahamasweekly.com/publish/oas-media-releases/Secretary_General_on_International_Human_Rights_Day64244.shtml

https://www.newtimes.co.rw/news/featured-human-rights-day

https://news.pngfacts.com/2019/12/eu-recognizes-five-civil-society.html

https://reliefweb.int/report/yemen/joint-letter-detention-yemen

https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/lawyers-activists-assess-human-rights-situation.html

https://www.boell.de/en/2019/12/10/protecting-those-who-defend-our-human-rights

International Women’s Day 2017: honoring, defending and watching women human rights defenders

March 8, 2017

International Women’s Day focuses on many different aspects of the struggle for the human rights of women. I have selected three special actions this year:

(1) a short piece honoring woman who are land rights defenders;

(2) a digital protection tool for women human rights defenders (Cyberwomen);

(3) a documentary film on how rape was made into a international war crime.

[Of course this blog has had many earlier posts on women human rights defenders: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/women-human-rights-defenders/ ] Read the rest of this entry »

How awards can get it wrong: four controversial decisions in one week!

September 20, 2016

This blog regularly covers human rights awards [e.g. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/human-rights-awards/]. Most of the awards end up with the right people or – if needed – decisions get corrected [e.g. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/07/10/russian-protest-artist-pavlensky-stripped-of-havel-prize-over-support-for-violent-partisans/]. This week four controversial cases have come to the fore although they ‘fortunately’ concern more political kind of awards given to more political kind of people. Still instructive for those who consider giving awards: Read the rest of this entry »

“Writing Human Rights and Getting It Wrong” – revealing piece by Alex de Waal

June 10, 2016

Alex de Waal {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_de_Waal} published on 6 June 2016 a long piece entitled “Writing Human Rights and Getting It Wrong” in the Boston Review. There is no way I can give you a summary but reading the whole article is certain worth the time. It is bound to be controversial – especially within the international human rights movement – and stands out by being critical and mostly self-critical about the role of human rights monitors. The focus of the narrative is on Africa (Sudan, Rwanda) and genocide but the former HRW staff reaches out to the general questions of context and impartiality that human rights defenders struggle with, still today.  READ IT!

Read the rest of this entry »

Laurent Munyandilikirwa paints a bleak picture of Rwanda’s human rights situation

March 18, 2016

During the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report of Rwanda at the UN Human Eights Council, Laurent Munyandilikirwa, former President of the Ligue Rwandaise pour la Promotion et la Défense des Droits de l’homme, delivered on 16 March 2016 a statement (on behalf of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project):.
Mr President, for the vast majority of my professional and personal life, I have proudly dedicated myself to protecting and promoting fundamental human rights in Rwanda.  As the former President of LIPRODHOR, one of Rwanda’s only independent human rights monitoring organisations, I had the great privilege of supporting my fellow citizens to secure and claim their rights.  However, despite the severe human rights deficits which continue to undermine Rwanda’s democratic consolidation, the important work LIPRODHOR and other human rights groups undertook in Rwanda is now largely untenable and fraught with danger.
Since Rwanda’s last UPR examination in 2011, the government has strengthened its long-term and systematic campaign to completely stifle freedom of association, by replacing the leadership of human rights organisations with those sympathetic to the government. As a result, there are now very few freely functioning and entirely independent human rights organisations left that can meaningfully challenge government policies and advocate for reforms, without well-founded fear of reprisals. In addition, since Rwanda’s last examination, independent civil society organisations, NGOs, and individual human rights defenders have continued to face escalating intimidation and reprisals in the course of their work. A number of defenders, including myself, have either been imprisoned or forced into exile. Increasingly, human rights defenders and the NGOs for which they work have been subjected to administrative harassment smear campaigns and public denouncement in pro-government media.
We therefore strongly urge the Government of Rwanda to take effective and meaningful steps to operationalize the important recommendations put forward during this examination in support of the creation of a safe and enabling environment for civil society and human rights defenders.

This is line with e.g. Front Line Defenders’ report of 10 September 2015 about the Rwandan police disrupting the general assembly organised by LIPRODHOR  . [On 5 September 2015, Rwandan police officers disrupted a general assembly that had gathered several dozen members of the League for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights in Rwanda. The purpose of the general assembly was to elect a new independent board of directors.[LIPRODHOR is one of the few human rights organisations in Rwanda, which has continuously endeavoured to hold the government accountable for a wide range of human rights abuses. After numerous human rights groups based in Rwanda were either co-opted or forced into silence, LIPRODHOR stood out as the sole Rwandan organisation committed to being independent. In 2004, the government targeted its leaders and accused them on fabricated charges of “propagating genocide ideology.” The outgoing members of the board of directors of LIPRODHOR have allegedly been acting on behalf of the government.  The general assembly which took place on 5 September 2015 had been convened by the outgoing board, whose term ended in July 2015, in order for a new board to be elected. During the assembly, participants elected three board members, namely the chair, the vice-chair and the secretary general. Following this, a number of participants, led by the chair of the outgoing board, reportedly stood up and caused a commotion as they claimed that the vote had been rigged. Soon after the incident, these participants reportedly called the police, who intervened and disrupted the assembly. A senior police officer informed the participants who had remained inside that he had to put an end to the meeting as it was “causing insecurity”. Members of the organisation have contacted the authorities about the incident, but, to date, no measures have been taken to assure the organisation’s rights to conduct its activities. It remains unclear whether LIPRODHOR’s members will be allowed to convene again and complete the election of the new board which will allow them to carry out their legitimate human rights work without restriction.  

In November 2014, several members of LIPRODHOR attempted to convene a similar assembly in order to address the ongoing problem. However, local authorities thwarted the initiative, informing them that the gathering would be deemed illegal. Thereafter, Messrs Evariste Nsabayezu and Daniel Uwimana, respectively LIPRODHOR’s vice chair and provincial representative at the time, were arrested and detained over allegations that they were involved in organising the assembly using what the police claimed were “falsified documents.” They were later released without trial. Several other members of LIPRODHOR were also reportedly threatened with arrest.]

 

Events in memory of Alison Des Forges at Buffalo University

April 19, 2015

Alison Des Forges (1942-2009) was a well-known human rights defender and one of the world’s leading experts on the Rwandan genocide. She was senior adviser of Human Rights Watch at the time of her death in the crash of Continental flight 3407. HRW named its human rights award after her [see: http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/alison-des-forges-award-extraordinary-activism]. Now the Alison L. Des Forges Memorial Committee in her native Buffalo (NY) is organizing three events in Buffalo on 23 and 24 April 2015 with as focus “Islam, Islamism, and Human Rights in Africa”:
  • An international symposium on April 23 featuring talks by university researchers and representatives of human rights organizations working in Africa. This event is free and open to the public.
  • A scholarship dinner and discussion on April 23. [reservation is required, and tickets are $100 per person. Proceeds go to the Alison Des Forges Memorial Scholarships]
  • A community roundtable on April 24, where university researchers will reflect on the previous day’s symposium topics: “The Interplay of Politics, Religion, Terrorism, Modernity and Human Rights”.

In an effort to address issues of intense public concern, these events will explore in depth the recent rise of violent extremist groups in Africa,” said Dussourd, co-chair of the Alison L. Des Forges Memorial Committee. “In so doing, we will go beyond sensational media headlines to the historical roots of this phenomenon as we examine groups such as Boko Haram, Seleka and Al-Shabaab.”

For information about the events contact Ellen Dussourd  dussourd@buffalo.edu)

Events in memory of Alison Des Forges will focus on Islam and human rights in Africa – University at Buffalo.

Adama Dieng speaks on prevention of mass atrocity on 10 October

October 3, 2014

Prevention of mass atrocity crimes:Achievements, current trends and challenges” is the topic on which Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide ( former Registrar of the Rwanda Tribunal and former Secretary General of the International Commission of Jurists) will speak on Friday, 10 October 2014, from 10h30 to 11h45, in Bundesgasse 28, Room BGA 12, Bern, Switzerland.

There are only a limited number of seats available, so please book your seat by e-mail to nathan.broquet[at]eda.admin.ch before Wednesday 8 October 2014.

‘Rights up Front’ presented by Jan Eliason: “It is irrefutable that serious human rights violations are the best early warning of atrocities”

December 26, 2013

(Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras)

Still haunted by its failure to forestall genocide in Rwanda and Srebrenica nearly 20 years ago and confronted by ongoing bloodshed in Syria and the Central African Republic (CAR), the United Nations is revamping its preventive strategies under a new initiative called ‘Rights up Front.’ “The need for early action, and the crucial role of responding early to human rights violations, is at the heart of theRights up Front’ initiative,” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told an informal session of the General Assembly on 17 December 2013 – as he presented a six-point action plan.

It includes training UN staff on the world body’s core purpose of promoting respect for human rights; providing Member States with the information needed to respond to human rights violations; and ensuring that UN personnel around the world are more attuned to situations where there is a risk of serious human rights abuses and are equipped for the responsibilities that such potential crises entail.

The strategy, initiated by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, also includes achieving a more coherence by strengthening engagement with the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council and providing earlier and more coherent support to teams on the ground before a crisis emerges; and better organization of human rights staff so that they can identify risks of serious violations of human rights that could lead to atrocities.

Finally, underpinning all these activities will be better information management on threats and risks to populations for planning operational activities and for sharing with Member States.

“. ..It is irrefutable, and needs repeating, that serious human rights violations are the best early warning of impending atrocities.” Eliasson said. “If we fail to act early, the human, political and economic costs can be devastating as we know far too well. This calls for a more alert, flexible and coordinated UN System, both on the ground and at headquarters.”

Horrendous events led us all to say ‘never again’, Mr. Eliasson said. “We said we would have to do more to prevent serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Despite much effort, since 1995 hundreds of thousands of people have died as a result of mass atrocities and tens of millions have been displaced.” But steps forward have been taken. “World leaders endorsed the ‘responsibility to protect in 2005. And Member States have over the years articulated an increasingly detailed agenda for the protection of civilians,” he said. Yet, the crises in Syria, where over 100,000 people have now been killed and 8 million driven from their homes in the nearly three-year civil war, and in CAR, where thousands have been killed and over 600,000 displaced in a conflict increasingly marked by inter-communal clashes between Christians and Muslims, are reminders that serious human rights abuses are often the clearest early warning of emerging conflict, he added.

“When people in today’s world are at risk or subject to serious violations, they expect and request the United Nations to act – and we do,” Mr. Eliasson declared. “However, in practice, our response to crisis often comes when a situation has deteriorated to the point where only a substantial political or peacekeeping mission can deal with the problems.”

via United Nations News Centre – New UN ‘Rights up Front’ strategy seeks to prevent genocide, human rights abuses.

 

Situation of human rights defenders in Africa – overview by Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

November 6, 2013

The OMCT and the FIDH, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, made an intervention under agenda item 9: “Situation of human rights defenders” at the at the 54th session of African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights [ACHPR] on 5 November.logo FIDH_seulOMCT-LOGO

Human rights defenders were attacked, received threats or were slandered in the DRCSenegal and Tunisia. In some cases they were even killed, as in the DRC and in Cameroonin a climate of impunity. Defenders, and in particular defenders of economic, social and cultural rights, also continued to be subjected to arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment in AngolaCameroon, the DRCEgyptMauritania and Tunisia. Obstacles to freedom of association were also recorded, as for instance in AngolaEgypt and Rwanda. A summary is as follows: Read the rest of this entry »