Posts Tagged ‘Saudi Arabia’

Jamal Khashoggi murder: the plot thickens

March 18, 2019

On 17 March 2019, the New York Times reported that the Crown Prince (MBS) authorised a clandestine campaign against Saudi dissenters and human rights defenders well before Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.

The Rapid Intervention Group was authorised by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and overseen by Saud al-Qahtani, a royal court insider, US officials told the NYT [File: Reuters]
The Rapid Intervention Group was authorised by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman US officials told the NYT [File: Reuters]

More than a year before the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, approved a secret campaign to silence dissenters, the New York Times has reported. The campaign included surveillance, kidnapping, detention and torture of Saudis, said the report published on Sunday citing the US officials who have read classified intelligence reports about the effort. American officials referred to it as the Saudi Rapid Intervention Group, the Times said. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/08/saudi-arabia-for-first-time-openly-criticized-in-un-human-rights-council/]

…..At least some of the clandestine missions were carried out by the members of the team that killed and dismembered Khashoggi in October at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, suggesting his murder was part of a wider campaign against dissidents, the report said, citing the US officials and associates of some Saudi victims. These members were involved in at least a dozen operations beginning in 2017, the officials said, including forcibly repatriating Saudis from other Arab countries.

According to the New York-based newspaper, the Rapid Intervention Group has been involved in the harassment of arrested prominent human rights activists and women’s rights defenders, including Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef and Iman al-Najfan.

Alia al-Hathloul says that al-Qahtani attended several such sessions to torture her sister. He also threatened to kill Loujain and throw her body into the sewers, Alia says. According to the newspaper, the women were beaten, subjected to electric shocks, waterboarding, and threatened with death and rape during the interrogations. Loujain’s sister says that at first the Saudi authorities did not send the arrested women to jail, but in a secret location in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. According to US intelligence assessment, the brutal interrogations prompted university professor al-Najfan to attempt suicide. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/13/saudi-arabia-persist-with-trial-for-women-human-rights-defenders/]

Saudi officials declined to confirm or deny that such a team existed, or answer questions from the Times about its work.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/03/mbs-approved-intervention-dissidents-nyt-report-190318075621971.html

Three Saudi human rights defenders honored with PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award

March 15, 2019

Nouf Abdulaziz, Loujain al-Hathloul and Eman al-Nafjan have won the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, the literary and human rights organization announced Thursday. The award was established in 1987 and is given to writers imprisoned for their work, with previous recipients coming from Ukraine, Egypt and Ethiopia among other countries. [for more the award and the change of name in 2015 see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/freedom-to-write-award-pen]

In custody for working to “undermine the security” of the kingdom, Abdulaziz, Al-Hathloul and Al-Nafjan have openly opposed such government policies as a ban on women driving and the restriction of women’s travel, education and other rights without approval from a male guardian. On Wednesday, al-Hathloul and al-Nafjan were among those at a closed-door hearing in Riyadh, according to Amnesty International. Reporters were not allowed in. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/13/saudi-arabia-persist-with-trial-for-women-human-rights-defenders/]

The fleeting hope that generational transition in the Saudi leadership would open the door toward greater respect for individual rights and international law has collapsed entirely, with individuals paying the highest price as the government resorts to rank barbarism as a blunt means to suppress and deter dissent,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement. “These gutsy women have challenged one of the world’s most notoriously misogynist governments, inspiring the world with their demand to drive, to govern their own lives, and to liberate all Saudi women from a form of medieval bondage that has no place in the 21st century.

PEN officials have not determined who will accept the Freedom to Write Award on behalf of the three winners at the annual PEN gala, being held in Manhattan on May 21. Others receiving prizes — and able to collect them in person — include Bob Woodward of Watergate fame and the CEO of Scholastic, Richard Robinson.

PEN has long highlighted the Freedom to Write Award as a way of turning advocacy into concrete action, noting that 37 of the 43 previous winners have since been freed, at least in part because of the attention raised by the prize. “It helped me to survive while I was in prison,” said the 2016 winner, Ahmed Naji, an author and journalist who had been imprisoned in Egypt and now lives in Washington, D.C. …

Al-Nafjan is a blogger and linguistics professor who has written for The Guardian and CNN among other publications. Al-Hathloul is a prominent opponent of the driving ban, lifted shortly after her arrest last year, and was arrested in 2014 and detained for 73 days. Abdulaziz is a journalist and blogger who has written for years about human rights violations. After her arrest, fellow women’s rights activist Mayya al-Zahrani posted online a letter Abdulaziz had written in case she was captured.

“I usually sum up myself with a few characteristics: a writer, a reading addict since I was six years old, my father tells me that I am intelligent; I am a quiet girl except for the questions that storm my mind,” Abdulaziz wrote. “I will talk to you and share some of the questions that overcome my mind: Why is our homeland so small and tight, and why am I considered a criminal or an enemy that threatens it! I was never but a good citizen that loved her country and wished the best for it, a loving daughter and a hardworking student and a devoted worker, who never demeaned hated or envied anyone.

http://www.startribune.com/3-saudi-women-activists-receive-pen-freedom-to-write-award/507137352/

Saudi Arabia persist with trial for women human rights defenders

March 13, 2019

In spite (or perhaps because) of an exceptional statement in the UN Human Rights Council last week [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/08/saudi-arabia-for-first-time-openly-criticized-in-un-human-rights-council/] and the backlash from the Khashoggi murder [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/07/peter-nkanga-awarded-with-inaugural-jamal-khashoggi-award-for-courageous-journalism/], Saudi Arabia intends to put the detained women’s rights activists on trial. Read the rest of this entry »

Saudi Arabia for first time openly criticized in UN Human Rights Council

March 8, 2019

Whether by intent or by coincidence, the very critical statement of the UN Human Rights Council on Saudi Arabia came on International Women’s Day 2019. There was considerable media attention. Interesting to note is the difference in emphasis between the NYT and the Washington Post:

By Nick Cumming-Bruce wrote for the NYT on 7 March 2019:

“Dozens of Western countries rebuked Saudi Arabia for its aggressive crackdown on free expression in a landmark initiative on Thursday in the United Nations’ top human rights body. It was the first time states had ever confronted the kingdom over its human rights record in the United Nations Human Rights Council, where Saudi Arabia is one of 47 members. The rebuke came in a statement signed by 36 nations — including every member of the European Union — that condemned Saudi Arabia’s “continuing arrests and arbitrary detentions of human rights defenders” and its use of counterterrorism laws to silence peaceful dissent. The statement pointed in particular to the treatment of Saudi women who have challenged the kingdom’s strict rules. The nations also called on Saudi Arabia to cooperate fully with investigations into the death of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist who was killed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. The statement specifically named 10 people, all arrested last year in a crackdown that started shortly before Saudi Arabia introduced reforms allowing women to drive: Loujain Al-Hathloul, Eman Al-Nafjan, Aziza Al-Yousef, Nassima Al-Sadah, Samar Badawi, Nouf Abdelaziz, Hatoon Al-Fassi, Mohammed Al-Bajadi, Amal Al-Harbi and Shadan al-Anezi. The statement drew applause from human rights groups, which said it broke Saudi Arabia’s apparent impunity from condemnation in the council.

“It sends a strong signal that Saudi Arabia is not untouchable, and that council members should be held to a higher level of scrutiny,” said Salma El Hosseiny, an advocate for the Geneva-based International Service for Human Rights.

——-

Ishaan Tharoor wrote for the Washington Post of 8 March 2019 :”The West’s rebuke of Saudi Arabia won’t change its course”


(Anjum Naveed/AP)

The rhetorical attacks keep coming at Saudi Arabia from the West. On Thursday, the European Union signed on to a rare rebuke of the kingdom. …The statement was the first collective reprimand of Riyadh issued at the council since it was founded in 2006…Both the Trump administration and Saudi officials have sought to shield Mohammed from scrutiny, but that hasn’t dimmed the outrage of a host of Western governments and lawmakers. In Washington, Congress is still battling the White House over the latter’s flouting of a legal requirement to report to the Senate on the crown prince’s role in Khashoggi’s death. Though U.S. politicians remain bitterly divided on most issues, they have found an unusual consensus in their antipathy toward Riyadh……..

But the Saudis’ response has so far been categorical and unrepentant. “Interference in domestic affairs under the guise of defending human rights is in fact an attack on our sovereignty,” said Abdul Aziz Alwasil, the kingdom’s permanent representative in Geneva, in reaction to the European Union’s statement. Similar bullish statements came from the Saudi Foreign Ministry this year as members of Congress weighed the passage of a punitive bill.

That Riyadh has endured only the slightest course corrections amid months of controversy speaks, firstly, to the durability of the monarchy’s economic ties with a host of major powers. International political and business elites have shown themselves all too willing to overlook a regime’s record when it suits their interests. But it also speaks to the fact that despite their concerns over Khashoggi’s death, insiders in Washington cheer the Saudi push toward a more “normal” and secular modernity encouraged by Mohammed’s ambitious economic and social reform agenda. Movie theaters have sprung up, and women can now learn to drive — no matter that key female activists who clamored for these rights are still in prison.

Mohammed has championed these reforms by inculcating a new spirit of nationalism. “Saudi Arabia’s undergoing an aggressive nationalist rebranding, downplaying an austere religious doctrine associated abroad with terrorism, and promoting veneration of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he pursues an economic overhaul,” noted Bloomberg News this week, exploring the extent to which overt nationalism is supplanting the kingdom’s traditional religious orthodoxy. “Amid efforts to maintain domestic support while redesigning the contract between state and citizen, traitors, not infidels, are the enemy.”

The lecturing from Western capitals, too, plays into this dynamic, deepening national feeling among many patriotic Saudis who have rallied around their prince in the face of “unbalanced” criticism from abroad, said Ali Shihabi, founder of the Arabia Foundation, a Washington think tank with close ties to Riyadh. He added that “inspiring nationalism is an objective” of Mohammed’s reform agenda.

Critics of the crown prince view him as a fundamentally destabilizing leader. Other experts argue that he’s here to stay. “It’s impossible to not see how much the country has changed” under Mohammed’s watch, said former U.S. diplomat Dennis Ross at a panel hosted by the Arabia Foundation last week, saying that though the crown prince may be “reckless,” the United States has much to gain from a “successful transformation” from Wahhabism to nationalism in Saudi Arabia.

—–See also this video clip by OMCT:

https://twitter.com/i/status/1103696655906492417

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/07/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-human-rights-abuses.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/03/08/wests-rebuke-saudi-arabia-wont-change-its-course/?utm_term=.5e411da39e34

High Commissioner Bachelet presents her annual report: quite a list of problem areas

March 7, 2019

In the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council, in presenting her annual report and oral update, High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet focused on explaining how inequalities in income, wealth, access to resources, and access to justice constituted fundamental challenges to the principles of equality, dignity and human rights for every human being. Inequalities affected all countries. Even in prosperous States, people felt excluded from the benefits of development and deprived of economic and social rights, leading to alienation, unrest and sometimes violence. To achieve the 2030 Agenda, the world’s States needed to advance on tackling inequalities – inequalities of resources, income, power, access to justice and with respect to the basic conditions for human dignity.

Inequalities were a driver of several of the global trends which were of greatest concern to the Human Rights Council and other inter-governmental bodies, the High Commissioner stressed. Involuntary and precarious migration was a case in point. She underlined that inequalities and the failure to give equal weight and respect to all human rights had the power to erode all three pillars of the United Nations: peace and security, development, and human rights. However, human rights provided hope. They bound humanity together with shared principles and a better future, in sharp contrast to the divisive, destructive forces of repression, exploitation, scapegoating, discrimination and inequalities. She then listed many specific situations:

In Sudan, for the past several months, people protesting harsh economic conditions, and bad governance, have been violently dispersed by security forces, sometimes using live ammunition…

In Zimbabwe, protests against austerity measures have also been met with unacceptable violence by security forces. The Government’s effort to launch a dialogue process in recent days is encouraging, but I am worried by reports of door-to-door raids, as well as intimidation and harassment of activists, human rights defenders, and lawyers representing those arrested.

In Haiti, protests also broke out last month over rising food prices and corruption. At least 41 people were killed and 100 injured. The government has announced measures to curb high prices, raise wages and fight corruption. Ensuring accountability – including for alleged cases of excessive use of force by police – and a constructive dialogue will also be essential.

In France, the “Gilets Jaunes” have been protesting what they see as exclusion from economic rights and participation in public affairs. We encourage the Government to continue dialogue – including follow-up to the national discussions which are currently underway – and urge full investigation of all reported cases of excessive use of force.

She then turned to:

The situation in Venezuela clearly illustrates the way violations of civil and political rights – including failure to uphold fundamental freedoms, and the independence of key institutions – can accentuate a decline of economic and social rights. ..

In the context of Nicaragua‘s very serious social and political crisis, the resumption of national dialogue could constitute a significant step to address the grave problems facing the country. These include increasing restrictions to civic space; persecution of dissenting voices; and crackdowns on press freedom, as well as austerity measures, and unemployment. ..

In the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the devastating impact of the occupation on economic and social rights is closely interlinked with violations of civil and political rights. …

..

I am shocked by the number of killings of human rights defenders around the world – some, reportedly, by State agents, and others, insufficiently protected by the State from attack by economic or other interests. Attacks on journalists, and media freedoms, are becoming increasingly widespread. Sound, independent information is the foundation of public participation in democratic governance. Restrictions on the civic space are being enacted by numerous States, across several regions. I remain very concerned about reprisals against victims, human rights defenders and non-governmental organisations who cooperate with the UN.

Today, allow me to voice my concern at the apparently arbitrary arrest and detention, and alleged ill-treatment or torture, of several women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia. The persecution of peaceful activists would clearly contradict the spirit of the country’s proclaimed new reforms. We urge that these women be released.

In Turkey, I call on the authorities to view critical or dissenting voices – including human rights defenders, academics and journalists – as valuable contributors to social dialogue, rather than destabilizing forces. The recent prosecution of 16 civil society activists for “attempting to overthrow the government,” for their alleged roles during protests in 2013, is emblematic of many other trials lacking international due process standards.

In China, rapid development has lifted millions of people out of poverty – and yet in some areas, communities and individuals have been left behind. My Office seeks to engage on this issue with the Government for full access to carry out an independent assessment of the continuing reports pointing to wide patterns of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions, particularly in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region…

In India, where there has also been significant poverty reduction in overall terms, inequality remains a serious issue. In addition, we are receiving reports that indicate increasing harassment and targeting of minorities – in particular Muslims and people from historically disadvantaged and marginalised groups, such as Dalits and Adivasis. It appears that narrow political agendas are driving the further marginalisation of vulnerable people. I fear that these divisive policies will not only harm many individuals, but also undermine the success of India’s economic growth story.

….The continuing movement of people from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to the United States is a result of failure to ensure that development reaches everyone – with persistent violations of rights leading to profound inequalities. The comprehensive development plan being developed by Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and ECLAC is a welcome response to this challenge, very much in line with the Global Compact for Migration. In Mexico, too, the government is making efforts to move from an approach focused on detention and deportation of migrants to a new focus on protection of the rights of migrants, including opportunities for regularization, and alternatives to detention. In the United States of America, the new Migrant Protection Protocols which restrict access to asylum and other forms of human rights protection – and push migrants back across the border to wait for their proceedings without due process or safeguards– are a source of concern. A recent report by the Inspector General for the United States Department of Health and Human Services indicates that thousands more migrant children have been separated from their families than had been previously reported.

The Office has raised concerns with Australia about the imminent transfer of migrants from Manus Island and Nauru to new detention centres. Those people have been suffering for more than six years; more humane policies could, and should, be implemented….

I commend Germany‘s successful programmes to help migrants integrate into the economy and society, as well as legislation in several countries – including Finland, Portugal and Spain – which enable the entry and stay of migrants in vulnerable situations, based on human rights grounds. I am troubled about other aspects of European migration policies, particularly the number of fatalities in the Mediterranean. Another 226 deaths were recorded in the first two months of this year. With several NGO vessels forced to suspend operations by measures that essentially criminalise solidarity, the ancient responsibility of rescue at sea is increasingly falling on merchant vessels – which are often ill-suited to such a task. In addition, some governments have refused entry to ships.

..

In the Sahel, the Office has been implementing an innovative approach aimed at reducing the risk of harm to civilians during counter-terrorism operations. OHCHR is working with the G5 Sahel Joint Force operating in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger to establish a Compliance Framework to guide military operations. A training programme is underway; standard operating procedures are being developed which aim to reduce civilian harm and ensure sensitivity to gender issues; and a network of legal advisors is being established within the Joint Force to ensure the operational application of international human rights and humanitarian law…I encourage Cameroon to also consider the benefits of such an approach….

In Myanmar, economic interests and activities appear to be a key factor driving both violence and displacement by the Myanmar military, together with the dehumanisation of the Rohingya, and long-term discrimination. I am concerned by the failure to take any meaningful measures towards the safe, dignified, voluntary and sustainable return of the Rohingya and others – in compliance with their rights to citizenship and other rights. …..

……

In Yemen, I am deeply concerned by the suffering of civilians, despite the current ceasefire. This remains the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The conflict has not just killed and injured thousands of civilians.

Amid these negative trends, there are some hopeful areas, in which far-sighted leadership seeks to advance civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, to ensure a convergence of positive and constructive forces.

In Ethiopia, reforms have sought to address a wide spectrum of human rights issues, including benefit to sustainable development. The depth and pace of Prime Minister Abiy’s political and economic reforms, and the appointment of women to senior positions, could open the path to a more inclusive and effective development model, providing hope for Ethiopia’s young population. My Office will continue to assist the Government to devise sound laws, mend grievances, and set up measures to prevent violence in areas of the country.

………

At this session, the Council’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders presents a report on the rising attacks on, and repression of, women’s human rights defenders in the context of today’s backlash against women’s human rights. It makes clear that women defenders face the same risks as men, but with additional threats shaped by a view that women should be bound to the service of a male-dominated society. Physical and sexual violence, public shaming – including on the Internet – and attacks on their families and children are among the tactics increasingly used to silence women activists.

Recently a group of 30 women leaders issued an Open Letter emphasising the “urgency and peril” of the current roll-backs to hard-won rights and freedoms. I fully share their concerns, and will continue to work against gender inequalities with all the energy and principle that I can muster.

….. Before closing today, I would like to add a few additional situations of increasing concern.

In Libya, escalating violence since the beginning of the year – in particular, hostilities in the city of Derna and in the south of the country – could spark an even more chaotic situation, given the increasingly fragmented political context and continuing lawlessness. Armed groups which fall outside of effective State command and control structures, but which are integrated into State institutions, continue to commit grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law throughout the country, in almost complete impunity. The number of civilians killed and injured in 2018, as documented by UNSMIL and OHCHR, was 40% higher than in 2017. Prevention measures should be considered a matter of urgency.

I remain concerned about the ongoing tensions in Kashmir, as shelling and firing on both sides of the Line of Control continue to contribute to loss of life and displacement. I encourage both India and Pakistan to invite my Office to monitor the situation on the ground, and to assist both States to address the human rights issues that must be part of any solution to the conflict.

In the Philippines, …..  I encourage the Philippines to adopt a public health approach, and harm reduction initiatives, that comply with human rights standards, as recommended to the 2016 General Assembly Special Session.  ……. The drug policies in place in the Philippines, and its lack of respect for rule of law and international standards, should not be considered a model by any country.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet takes her place to present her annual report before the UN Human right council members in Geneva. March 6, 2019.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet takes her place to present her annual report before the UN Human right council members in Geneva. March 6, 2019. (AFP)

Many media have picked on one more aspects of her speech. E.g. TRT World focused on:

Bachelet renewed her request to access China‘s Xinjiang region, where large numbers of the Uighur ethnic minority are reportedly being held in re-education camps. She also re-issued her requests for “full access to carry out an independent assessment of the continuing reports pointing to wide patterns of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions, particularly in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.” (A UN panel of independent experts has said there are credible reports that nearly one million Uighurs and other Turkic language-speaking minorities are being held in Xinjiang, known as ‘East Turkistan’ by Uighurs who want a homeland separate from China. Beijing at first denied the allegation, but later admitted putting people into “vocational education centres”) [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/29/three-ngos-urge-you-to-nominate-ilham-tohti-for-the-rafto-prize/]

Bachelet also called on Saudi Arabia to release women activists allegedly tortured in detention after authorities accused them of harming the country’s interests. Human rights defenders have named 10 Saudi women held for their campaigning, voicing fears that they could face harsh sentences. Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor is preparing the trials of detainees, identified by watchdog groups as women’s rights activists, after completing its investigations, state news agency SPA said last Friday. “Today, allow me to voice my concern at the apparently arbitrary arrest and detention, and alleged ill-treatment or torture, of several women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia,” Bachelet said.

(European countries will urge Saudi Arabia on Thursday to release activists and cooperate with a UN-led probe into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in the first rebuke of the kingdom at the Human Rights Council, diplomats and campaigners told Reuters.) [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/jamal-khashoggi/]

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights also urged the Philippine government to comply with international human rights standard in its brutal drug war, which she said lacks respect for the rule of law. Bachelet encouraged the Duterte administration to “adopt a public health approach, and harm reduction initiatives, that comply with human rights standards.” “The drug policies in place in the Philippines, and its lack of respect for the rule of law and international standards should not be considered a model by any country,” she said.


https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24265&LangID=E

https://www.trtworld.com/europe/un-human-rights-chief-paints-bleak-picture-in-annual-report-24708

https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1092840/un-human-rights-chief-urges-govt-to-respect-rule-of-law-in-drug-war?utm_expid=.XqNwTug2W6nwDVUSgFJXed.1

UN Panel debated death penalty with focus on human rights

February 26, 2019

Today, 26 February 2019, the UN Human Rights Council held its biennial high-level panel discussion on the question of the death penalty, with a focus on human rights violations in the context of the death penalty, in particular with respect to the rights to non-discrimination and equality.  A report was distributed by the APO Group on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Here some highlights:

..In her opening statement, Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, reminded that death rows were disproportionately populated by the poor and economically vulnerable; members of ethnic minorities; people with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities; foreign nationals; indigenous persons; and other marginalized members of society.  Condemning people to death for conduct that should not be criminalized in the first place was never compatible with a State’s human rights obligations.  The High Commissioner encouraged all States to take a stand on the right side of history and join the international trend towards abolition.  

The panellists were Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nepal; Melinda Janki, Director of the Justice Institute Guyana; and Fatimata M’Baye, Lawyer and Co-Founder of the Mauritanian Human Rights Association.  Yuval Shany, Chair of the Human Rights Committee, acted as the discussion moderator.

Mr. Shany drew attention to the adoption by the Human Rights Committee of the General Comment No. 36 on the right to life, according to which the death penalty could not be “reconciled with full respect for the right to life.”  The General Comment made particular reference to the problem of inequality in the application of the death penalty.  

….

FATIMATA M’BAYE, Lawyer and Co-Founder of the Mauritanian Human Rights Association, said that there had been a moratorium on the death penalty in Mauritania since 1987, though there were still death penalty rulings handed down.  She drew attention to the case of Mohamed Ould Mkheitir, a blogger who had posted an article about social discrimination in Mauritania, which meant he was accused of blasphemy.  When he was arrested, he was asked to repent and quickly withdraw the article, but unfortunately, he was still prosecuted quickly by the police.  This case had given rise to a great deal of violence and hatred within the local community.  Mohamed was sentenced to death in 2015 by the penal court of the country, which was confirmed in 2016.  There was an appeal launched, and a two-year sentence was later handed down.  Ms. M’Baye said that the blogger was currently being held in a secret location.  The source of law in Mauritania was Islamic law, and women were often sentenced to the death penalty, many times accused of infanticide.  The death penalty was an egregious practice that was humiliating and degrading.  The United Nations could play a role in ending the death penalty by asking those States that still practiced it to abandon this punishment in the name of the right to life. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/08/us-state-department-international-women-of-courage-awards-2016-yulan/]

In the ensuing discussion, speakers expressed belief that the abolition of the death penalty and torture had elevated human dignity and advanced human rights.  The death penalty was a human right violation.  They hailed the adoption in the United Nations General Assembly of a resolution on a moratorium on the death penalty in December 2018, but noted that around the world capital punishment continued to be imposed in violation of major international standards.  Speakers expressed deep concern that the death penalty was imposed in a disproportionate and discriminatory manner to juvenile offenders, women victims of domestic violence, minorities, foreign nationals, persons with disabilities, and poor and economically vulnerable populations.  Some, however, noted that every State had the right to choose its legal and criminal justice systems, without external interference, and that the rights of defendants always had to be weighed against the rights of victims and their families, and the broader rights of the community and society.    

Speaking were Iceland on behalf of a group of countries, Montenegro, Luxembourg, Italy, Mexico, Singapore on behalf of a group of countries, Chile on behalf of a group of countries, Brazil on behalf of a group of countries, European Union, New Zealand, Pakistan, Australia, Malaysia, Fiji, Slovenia, Ecuador, France, Iraq, Iran, Bangladesh, Argentina, India, Saudi Arabia, and Greece. 

Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations: Friends World Committee for Consultation, Centre for Global Nonkilling, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Together against the death penalty, and International Federation of ACAT (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture), and the National Human Rights Institution: Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines. ….. 

Iran respected those who had abolished the death penalty, but it could not accept any universal prescription to that effect.  Iran remained committed to observing the rule of law and due process in the criminal justice system, while continuing to study the best ways to serve justice.  Bangladesh stressed that its application of the death penalty was restricted to very selective cases of the most heinous crimes.  No child or pregnant woman could be sentenced to death.  Argentina believed that the abolition of the death penalty and torture had elevated human dignity and advanced human rights.  The death penalty was a human rights violation.

India reiterated its stance that it was a simplistic approach to characterize the death penalty as a human rights issue in the context of the right to life of the convicted prisoner.  This approach was deeply flawed and controversial.  There should be no external interference in the criminal justice system of any sovereign State. ….  Saudi Arabia stated that it used the death penalty for only for most serious crimes and in the most serious circumstances, after a fair trial had been guaranteed.  All procedures were in accordance with international standards as Islamic Sharia lay down the provisions of the punishments to guarantee the supreme rights of the people.  All States had the sovereign right to bring justice through their own procedures.  Greece opposed the death penalty in all cases and circumstances and highlighted the death penalty’s negation of the reformative function that any punishment should bare.  It was particularly concerned that the death penalty disproportionately affected women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, and human rights defenders and therefore urged States to do their utmost to ensure a fair trial. ..

YUVAL SHANY, Chair of the Human Rights Committee, noted that many delegates had commended the trend towards the abolition of the death penalty.  However, a concern around what some had termed as a backlash against abolition in this field was also noted.  A number of representatives had also noted the irreversibility of the death penalty.  It was also noted that there was an increasing consensus that the death penalty if applied should only be applied for the most serious crimes.  There was also a strong concern from all corners of the room about the problem of discrimination in regard to poverty, sexual orientation, women, psychosocial disability and other issues.  The panel was asked: how could all address biases, racial biases, gender biases and other biases in the application of the death penalty, and identify good practices so the death penalty was applied in a non-discriminatory fashion? 

…..

Human Rights Defenders’ issues in the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council

February 20, 2019

Based on the – as usual – excellent briefing by the International Service for human Rights on the key issues on the agenda of the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council (starting on 25 February 2019), I am focusing on the items that concern human rights defenders most.

The UN Human Rights Council (the Council) will hold its 40th regular session at Palais des Nations in Geneva from 25 February 2019 to 22 March 2019.

Here are some highlights of the session’s thematic discussions.

Protection of human rights defenders including women human rights defenders

The Council will consider a resolution, presented by Norway, on the situation of human rights defenders working on rights related to land and environment, in particular the specific risks faced by women human rights defenders, to combat impunity for attacks against them, and ensure full civil society participation in development and the management of natural resources. The resolution should call on States to commit to conditioning the provision of diplomatic support to business – such as export credit guarantees and trade support – on companies’ commitment to respect, consult and protect defenders. It should also acknowledge the increasing willingness of some companies to speak out against threats and attacks on human rights defenders, and to raise the bar on accountability for companies who don’t.

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders will present his report on women human rights defenders on 28 February. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/17/latest-report-by-special-rapporteur-on-women-human-rights-defenders-is-now-available/]

Reprisals

Reports of cases of intimidation and reprisal against those cooperating or seeking to cooperate with the UN not only continue, but grow. [I did almost too many posts on this, see recent ones: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/]

The UN has taken action towards addressing this critical issue including:

  • Establishing a dedicated dialogue under item 5 to take place every September;
  • Affirmation by the Council of the particular responsibilities of its Members, President and Vice-Presidents to investigate and promote accountability for reprisals and intimidation; and
  • The appointment of UN Assistant Secretary General on Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, as the Senior Official on addressing reprisals.

However, ISHR and most NGOs remains deeply concerned about reprisals against defenders who try to engage with UN mechanisms, and consistently with previous calls, urges all States and the Council to do more to address the situation. Item 5 of the Human Rights Council’s agenda provides a key opportunity for States to raise concerns about reprisals, and for governments involved in existing cases to provide an update to the Council on any investigation or action taken toward accountability to be carried out. (In line with previous calls, ISHR expects the President of the Human Rights Council to publicly identify and denounce specific instances of reprisals)

Country-specific:

China

The past year was marked by vitally important monitoring and review of China’s human rights situation by the United Nations human rights system. The upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council provides a key opportunity for States to reinforce the issues raised over the last year, and express collective concern about worsening rights abuse in China and the government’s failure to follow through on its obligations and commitments.

ISHR and almost 40 other organisations are calling on the Council to adopt a resolution addressing human rights in China, with particular focus on Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic and religious minority groups, over a million of whom are being interned and detained in Xianjiang region alone. [see: https://www.ifex.org/china/2019/02/19/xinjiang-resolution/]

Saudi Arabia

If the international community is serious about contributing to advancing women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, it should recognise Saudi women human rights defenders as agents of change and urge the Saudi authorities to take all necessary measures to guarantee a safe and enabling environment for them to continue their vital work. ISHR recalls that in November 2018, Saudi Arabia underwent its Universal Periodic Review where at least 23 States called for the protection of human rights defenders and journalists in the kingdom. Over 170 organisations from across the globe have previously called for the Council to hold an inquiry into human rights abuses in the country. [see also how Saudi Arabia is trying to cover up its violations: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/01/sports-and-human-rights-focus-on-sports-washing-big-names-play-for-big-money/%5D

Burundi

At last Council session, the Council renewed the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, who will present its oral briefing on 12 March at 12:00. ISHR continues to remain highly concerned about the human rights situation in Burundi and its refusal to cooperate with the Council’s mechanisms. For more information on the situation of human rights defenders in Burundi, check ISHR Briefing Paper for the UPR here. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/07/final-step-burundi-closes-down-un-office/]

Other thematic reports and country situations

The Council will also consider the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism on several occasions. The High Commissioner will present a report on the issue and the Special Rapporteur will present her annual report focused on national security restrictions on civic space, as well as reports of the visits to TunisiaSaudi Arabia, Sri Lanka,  France and Belgium. [see inter alia: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/anti-terrorism-legislation/]

The Council will consider several reports on torture, including the annual report of the Special Rapporteur, the reports from his visits to Serbia and Kosovo, Ukraine, and Argentina, and two reports by the Secretary General on the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture and the Special Fund established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

At this 40th session, the Council will discuss a range of economic, social and cultural rights in depth through dedicated debates with mandate holders alongside the annual report of the Secretary-General on the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights globally.

Country situations

The High Commissioner will present her first annual report to the Council on 6 March at 10:00. In addition, the Council will consider reports by the High Commissioner and mandate holders on several country situations. The Council is also expected to consider resolutions addressing a range of country situations, in some instances involving the renewal of the relevant expert mandates. The country-specific debates include:

  • Interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria
  • Interactive dialogue with the Commission on human rights on South Sudan 
  • Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Iran
  • Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
  • Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar
  • Enhanced interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea
  • Interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur and the Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territories
  • Enhanced interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report on the Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on Mali 
  • High-level interactive dialogue on the Central African Republic
  • Interactive dialogue on the OHCHR report on Sri Lanka
  • Interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s oral report on Ukraine 
  • High Commissioner oral briefings and Secretary General reports on the following countries: Colombia, Cyprus, Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela, Yemen and Afghanistan

Adoption of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) reports

During this session, the Council will adopt the UPR working group reports on several countries and provides an opportunity for Saudi Arabia, China, Nigeria and Chad to accept recommendations made in relation to human rights defenders, as proposed in ISHR’s briefing papers.

Resolutions

During the organisational meeting for the 40th session held on 11 February 2019, the President of the Human Rights Council presented the programme of work. It includes four panels of discussion and 108 reports. States also announced at least 15 resolutions but more can resolutions can be expected. These include:

  • Rights of Child (GRULAC and the EU)
  • Human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (EU, Japan)
  • Human rights situation in Myanmar (EU)
  • Human rights, democracy and the rule of law (Morocco, Norway, Peru, Romania, Republic of Korea, Tunisia)
  • Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka (UK, Germany, Macedonia)
  • Human rights situation in South Sudan (UK)
  • Human rights situation in Syria (France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Kingdom)
  • Human rights defenders (Norway)
  • Human rights situation in Iran (Macedonia, Moldova, UK, Sweden)

Panel discussions

During each Council session, panel discussions are held to provide member States and NGOs with opportunities to hear from subject-matter experts and raise questions. All panel discussions will be broadcast live and archived onhttp://webtv.un.org. These panel discussions include:

  • Annual high-level panel discussion on human rights mainstreaming titled “Human rights in the light of multilateralism: opportunities, challenges and the way forward” which will take place on 25 February at 16:00.
  • Biennial high-level panel discussion on the question of the death penalty, titled “Human rights violations related to the use of the death penalty, in particular with respect to the rights to non-discrimination and equality” which will take place on 26 February at 09:00.
  • Debate on the mitigation and countering of rising nationalist populism and extreme supremacist ideologies (for the Commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination), which will take place on 15 March at 16:00. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/05/24/mea-at-25-high-level-anniversary-panel-looks-at-human-rights-in-crisis/]

Side events

Many side event will be organized by NGOs (you can download the draft list of NGO events here). the ISHR is organizing at least 3 that are of particular interest to human rights defenders:

  • Protection of women human rights defenders, 1 March from 11:30 to 13:00 in Room XXV
  • Can the UPR advance Freedom of Expression in China?, 13 March from 13:30 to 14:30 in Room XXIII
  • 20 years after the adoption of the HRD Declaration: The positive experience of West Africa on the development of national laws protecting defenders, 20 March 15:00 to 16:00 in Room XXIII

Also relevant are:

  • Reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, organised by Forum-Asia, will take place on 28 February, at 14:00 (time and location TBC). This side event aims to provide the international community with information on the Government’s implementation of the resolution 30/1 from the perspectives of civil society, and share proposals for further action by the Human Rights Council.
  • Counter terrorism laws and civic space, organised by the Civic Space Initiative (A19, CIVICUS, ICNL and WMD) and will take place on 1 March at 10:30 (time and location TBC).
  • Escazu and Beyond: Strengthening the global normative framework on protecting environmental defenders, organised by CIVICUS and will take place on 5 March at 11:00 (time and location TBC). The side event aims to bring together civil society representatives, UN bodies and State representatives to discuss their intersecting role in promoting and protecting civic space for environmental defenders.
  • Saudi Arabia : Time for accountability, organised by the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, to take place on 4 March.
  • Film screening of the Long Haul: a documentary tribute to human rights activist and professor Sir Nigel Rodley, organised by the International Commission of Jurists and the Permanent Mission of the UK. It will take place on 7 March from 13:00 to 15:00.
  • South Sudan: No sustainable peace without justice, organised by DefendDefenders. It will highlight ongoing grave violations in South Sudan despite the signing of the Revitalised Peace Agreement, lack of domestic accountability, and the need to renew the mandate of the UN Commission on Human Rights (CoHR) in South Sudan. It will take place on 8 March from 13:00-14:00 in Room XXIV (time and location TBC).
  • Human rights in Myanmar, organised by Forum Asia, will take place on 11 March at 16:00 (time and location TBC). Defenders from Myanmar will present their perspectives on the next steps the Human Rights Council should take to ensure justice and accountability for mass atrocity crimes, to address root causes, and provide support for victims.
  • Human rights in Malaysia, organised by Forum Asia, will take place on 13 March at 13:00 (time and location TBC). Following Malaysia’s UPR in November 2018, civil society from the country will suggest steps for the government to implement its UPR recommendations, while engaging with civil society and the national human rights institution in the process.

Read here ISHR’s recommendations on the key issues that are or should be on the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council in 2019. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/09/ishr-sets-out-the-priorities-for-the-human-rights-council-in-2019/]

If you want to stay up-to-date: Follow @ISHRglobal and #HRC40 on Twitter, and look out for our Human Rights Council Monitor.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc40-key-issues-agenda-march-2019-session-0

ISHR sets out the priorities for the Human Rights Council in 2019

February 9, 2019

On 28 January 2019 ISHR presented a blueprint for States with recommendations to some of the key issues the Human Rights Council should address in 2019. 

In 2018, the Council adopted some landmark decisions

  • an independent investigative mechanism on Myanmar
  • Yemen, renewing the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts
  • Burundi, extending the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry.

At the same time, several situations of gross rights violations escaped Council scrutiny for political reasons.[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/04/general-assemblys-3rd-committee-concludes-2018-session/]

The annual “High Level Segment” in March 2019 is a critical opportunity to set the agenda for the year. The Human Rights Council’s three regular sessions in March, June/July and September are further opportunities to advance priorities.

Here is ISHR’s checklist on the human rights situations and issues which should be advanced in 2019.

States should commit to strengthening the Council by demonstrating leadership, principled action and sustained follow through.

All regional groups presented the same number of candidates as seats for the 2018 Council elections and several States with terrible human rights records and with poor records of cooperation with UN mechanisms were elected, turning the elections into more of an appointment process, and going against the vision of the Council’s founding document.

States should collectively express concern about China’s failure to uphold human rights principles and protect the rights of its citizens, especially ethnic Uyghurs and Tibetans and those involved in the defence of human rights. China’s rejection of critical dialogue and universal principles is especially worrying as the Chinese government becomes increasingly active in the Council – a space dedicated to those same values.

States should also collectively press for the immediate and unconditional release of detained women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia. If the international community is serious about contributing to advancing women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, it should recognise Saudi women human rights defenders as agents of change and urge the Saudi authorities to take all necessary measures to guarantee a safe and enabling environment for them to continue their vital work.

States should also initiate Council action to address recent cases of reprisals in Egypt as reported by the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing after her visit in September 2018. These attacks come amidst a context of wide-scale repression against civil society through intimidation, arbitrary arrests, unfair prosecutions and travel bans.

States should collectively denounce the ongoing judicial harassment and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders in Bahrain, including reprisals for engaging or attempting to engage with UN mechanisms. As a minimum, States should call on the Bahraini authorities to immediately release all those detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, such as Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al Khawaja.

At the 40th session:

The Council will consider a resolution on the situation of human rights defenders working on rights related to land and environment. ISHR calls on States to address the particular threats and attacks against this group of defenders, in particular the specific risks faced by women human rights defenders, to combat impunity for attacks against them, and ensure full civil society participation in development and the management of natural resources. The draft resolution should call on States who prioritise the protection of human rights defenders to condition their provision of diplomatic support to business – such as export credit guarantees and trade support – on companies’ commitment to respect, consult and protect defenders. ..The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders will present his report on the situation of women human rights defenders. States should publicly recognise the specific risks and threats women defenders face and commit to taking further measures to enhance their protection, underline the legitimacy of their work, their specific protection needs and adequate remedies to the specific violations they face.

At the 41st session:

Thanks to the sustained efforts by civil society and supportive UN Member States, the mandate of the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) was established in 2016. At the 41st session, ISHR urges States to renew the mandate and ensure that it is not weakened, so that it continues its vital work in capturing good practices and assisting States in ending discrimination and violence based on SOGI. The mandate continues to work with a diverse range of States from all geographical regions. Defenders from across the globe have affirmed that the mandate has contributed to their protection and recognition of their work. ..The Council will also consider a resolution on migrants and human rights. States should ensure that the text reiterates their obligations to support and not restrict defenders’ in their vital work and to protect migrant rights defenders in the face of rising intolerance, xenophobia and illiberalism. ISHR recalls Principle 18, from the OHCHR Principles and Guidelines on the human rights protection of migrants in vulnerable situations, which sets out measures States can take to respect and support the activities of migrant rights defenders.

At the 42nd session:

Human rights defenders must be able to access the UN freely and safely so that the UN can do its crucial work of monitoring countries’ compliance with human rights obligations and protecting victims from abuses. At the 42nd session in September 2019, States should not miss the opportunity to cite specific cases of reprisals at the second interactive dialogue on the Secretary-General’s annual report on reprisals….Finally, the accessibility of the Council to rights holders, victims and defenders is both a key contributor to, and indicator of, the Council’s relevance and success.  As discussions on enhancing the efficiency of the Council resume, States should continue to support and guarantee that any proposed measures do not restrict or limit civil society participation at the Council.

Sports and human rights: focus on ‘sports washing’ – big names play for big money

February 1, 2019

Sports and human rights (or as some like to say ‘sports and politics‘) remains a hotly disputed topic. While the organized sport world (FIFA, IOC) is slowly coming around to take these matters more seriously [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/03/fifas-second-report-on-human-rights-misses-sustainable-approach/  and  https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/03/olympic-committee-tries-its-hands-on-human-rights-cautiously/], it seems that less progress is made with sports events organized by repressive regimes simply to boost their image. Recently called ‘sports washing‘ [The term was coined in relation to a planned tennis exhibition match in Jeddah last December between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, – https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/19/novak-djokovic-and-rafael-nadal-have-a-chance-to-score-a-point-for-human-rights-defenders/. It never went ahead due to an injury of Nadal.]. Azerbaijan in 2015 tried to make good use of sporting events (see e.g.    https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/06/12/baku-games-starting-today-with-avalanche-of-human-rights-criticism/; and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/04/21/azerbaijan-a-formula-for-combining-sports-and-repression/).

Now the regime of Saudi Arabia hopes that it can buy its way to a better image with hosting sport events and Amnesty International has warned sports stars not to become a propaganda tool. Saudi Arabia said it has hired the former England captain, David Beckham, to lead an exhibition team against his former Real Madrid teammate Zinedine Zidane.  The game, to be held later this year, is part of a £60-billion re-launch of the entertainment industry in Saudi Arabia, called the National Transformation Programme. According to an article in the Sun, it would earn Beckham an estimated £1million. [Beckham also has a lifetime endorsement deal worth £120million with Adidas which I think doesn’t sit well with Adidas’ claimed stance in favor of human rights – see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/13/first-time-major-companies-say-that-human-rights-defenders-are-essential-for-profitable-business/].

Announcing the match in front of big screen images of the football legends, Saudi sports minister Turki Al-Sheikh said: “This is an exhibition match including two big worldwide stars – Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham playing against each other…If God wills, you will see it this year in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The UN children’s aid group UNICEF, for whom Beckham is a goodwill ambassador, has criticised the Saudi-led coalition saying its bombing attacks there have had catastrophic consequences for the local population. Saudi Arabia has detained more than a dozen women’s rights activists such as Loujain al-Hathloul who once appeared in a Vanity Fair.  Loujain’s sister, Alia, has criticised US singer Mariah Carey for playing a concert on Thursday at the King Abdullah Economic City. She said: “My own baby sister said she is being whipped, beaten, electrocuted and harassed on a frequent basis.” She stated: “Remember, thanks to my sister @LoujainHathloul, you r able to perform in Saudi Arabia. I wish she can attend your concert. But she’s locked behind bars because she tried to improve women’s condition. Don’t forget to thank her on stage,” she wrote to Carey on Twitter. [but Mariah Carey is an old hand when it comes to selling her soul: see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/12/19/mariah-carey-needs-better-informed-staff-and-donate-her-1-million-fee-to-human-rights-defenders-in-angola/].

My post yesterday was about golfershttps://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/31/amnesty-international-calls-on-golfers-not-to-play-the-saudi-propaganda-game/] who were being paid $ 1million when the European Tour staged a tournament in Saudi Arabia. While Paul Casey decided not to take part on human rights grounds, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter did play.

How difficult if not impossible it is to try and separate sports and politics can be illustrated by the recent case of soccer player, Hakeem al-Araibi, a Bahrain-born soccer player for a team in Australia has been held in detention in Thailand [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/02/craig-foster-australian-footballer-and-human-rights-defender/].  Hannah Beech in the NYT on 31 January 2019 puts the question “Can Big Global Sports Come Around to Human Rights Advocacy?

Hakeem al-Araibi, center, a former member of Bahrain’s national soccer team who has refugee status in Australia, at court in Bangkok in December.CreditCreditAthit Perawongmetha/Reuters

The global sports market is worth hundreds of billions of dollars a year. Now, this powerful industry is coming together to promote an unlikely cause: human rights. Since late November, a Bahrain-born soccer player for a minor team in Australia has been held in detention in Thailand. The player, Hakeem al-Araibi, 24, is not a famous athlete. He has no lucrative sponsors. But he has spoken out against one of the most powerful men in international soccer, who is also a member of the ruling family of Bahrain. His testimony of torture at the hands of Bahrain’s repressive government earned him refugee status in Australia, which determined that he faced credible threats of persecution should he return to the Gulf state. Still, over the past week, Mr. Araibi has collected an impressive list of supporters in the world of international sports.

  • Fatma Samoura, the secretary general of FIFA, has called for Thailand to return him to Australia “as a matter of urgency.”
  • Thomas Bach, the head of the International Olympic Committee, raised the issue with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
  • Praful Patel, of the Asian Football Confederation, issued a statement asking the Prime Minister of Thailand to ensure Mr. Araibi’s return to his adopted home.

[By the way, the head of the Asian Football Confederation is Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, the Bahraini official whom Mr. Araibi accused of not stopping the persecution of athletes in his charge. Sheikh Salman also serves as a FIFA vice president.!]

Mary Harvey, the chief executive of the Center for Sports and Human Rights, said:  “Hakeem is a historic test case, because it’s the first time that we’ve seen these big, powerful sports bodies all come together publicly to address the fate of a single person”. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/12/mary-harvey-her-goal-is-now-human-rights/]. The court ordered al-Araibi, who is in the Bangkok Remand Prison, to appear before it at 8.30am on Monday to answer whether or not he is willing to be extradited,  lawyer Bergman said.

—–

Amnesty International calls on golfers not to play the Saudi propaganda game

January 31, 2019

Rose during the pro-am at Royal GreensRose during the pro-am at Royal Greens
Golf’s world number one Justin Rose should use his profile to highlight human rights issues and counter the “propaganda value” of this week’s Saudi International, according to Amnesty International.

The tournament has attracted a star-studded field despite the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/jamal-khashoggi/]

Rose has defended his participation by the lame response: “I’m not a politician, I’m a pro golfer“. Human rights violating countries are well aware of the ‘sports-washing’ value of international sporting events, and the players need to understand this too. [ just see some the posts: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/sports-and-politics/]

AI UK’s director Kate Allen said. “We haven’t called on golfers to pull out of the Royal Greens event and it’s not for us to say who should be playing in these tournaments or whether countries like Saudi Arabia should be hosting them“.

The point with this, like other sporting events in countries with atrocious human rights records, is to fully understand the context…By hosting the European Tour, Saudi Arabia is almost certainly hoping to use the glamour of elite golf and the lush panorama of the Royal Greens course to subtly rebrand the country.” 

AI makes the concrete suggestion:”If each member of the European Tour tweeted their support for Loujain al-Hathloul and the other jailed women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia, they could go a long way to countering their propaganda value to the Saudi government.”

Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by the Saudi regime

 

See also my: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/19/novak-djokovic-and-rafael-nadal-have-a-chance-to-score-a-point-for-human-rights-defenders/

 

https://www.rte.ie/sport/golf/2019/0130/1026532-amnesty-calls-golfers/