Posts Tagged ‘security assistance’

Civil Rights Defenders’ Emergency Fund gives insight over 2021

March 18, 2022

Zinaida Muradova, Head of Rapid Response at Civil Rights Defenders

Defending human rights has become increasingly dangerous in many parts of the world. Many of those who do, face numerous risks and threats on a daily basis. When a threat towards a human rights defender escalates, Civil Rights Defenders’ Emergency Fund provides rapid assistance to strengthen the defender’s security as quickly as possible. 

On 7 March 2022 it provided a breakdown of its use. The fund can, for example, provide legal aid or temporarily relocate people who suffer persecution, as well as provide preemptive efforts such as security trainings and digital security solutions. In 2021, the fund supported a total of 1421 human rights defenders in 30 countries. 

Emergency support doubled in 2021

In 2021, Civil Rights Defender’ Emergency Fund has received and processed the largest number of applications since the inception of the fund in 2012. We have supported a total of 1.421 Human Rights Defenders (HRD:s) and/or members of their families at risk through a total of 171 grants in 30 countries. The number of applications and granted support have thus both doubled compared to 2020.  

The world is becoming an increasingly dangerous place for human rights defenders, which is a significant explaining factor behind this increase. The CRD Emergency Fund has seen and reacted to the global backsliding of democracy and a number of emerging conflicts in 2021. The aftermath of the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the military coup in Burma, the spring protests in Colombia, the witch-hunt on civil society in Belarus, the civil war in Ethiopia and the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan are only a few of the conflicts that have deteriorated the security situation for human rights defenders in 2021. Many human rights defenders cannot continue their work for human rights and democracy without the support of the outside world.

Although the number of applications has doubled, so has the number of Emergency Fund applications granted. This increase is much thanks to the additional resources that Civil Rights Defenders has been able to put into processing fund applications. 

We are humbled to have been able to support so many human rights defenders in 2021. The need for emergency support is greater than ever, with the war in Ukraine the number of applicants is likely to keep increasing in the immediate future”, says Zinaida Muradova.

Emergency support to Burma and Asia has significantly increased in 2021, although the majority of human rights defenders who received emergency support continued to be from Africa. Additionally, the Emergency Fund continued to expand its global reach in five more regions – Eurasia, Europe, Africa, Latin America and MENA. In total, support was provided to human rights defenders in 30 countries during the course of 2021. 

Further advancing gender sensitivity 

The Emergency Fund continued to build on gender work started in 2019 to ensure a good gender balance and representation amongst the beneficiaries of support. We have been working to increase the accessibility of the mechanism for the most vulnerable groups. We see an improvement in gender balance, for example the percentage of non-conforming people supported doubled compared to 2020.

An increasing demand for legal aid and psychological support  

Despite the Covid 19 pandemic and continued strict restrictions on travel around the world, temporary relocations, where human rights defenders can reside safely for a short period, remained by far the most requested type of support in 2021. The majority of relocations were related to the major crises in countries mentioned above. Requests for preventive security measures to improve home, office or digital security, such as installing security cameras or digital security software, remained to be in high demand as well. Many HRD:s needed so called combined interventions, meaning a combination of several of the above mentioned support types. 

In 2021 The Emergency Fund has seen a noteworthy increase in requests for humanitarian and psychological support. Many HRDs also request legal aid due to an increasing trend of arbitrary arrests and charges.

Democracy and human rights cannot be achieved without human rights defenders. Through the Emergency Fund we ensure that they feel safe enough to continue their work which ultimately helps ensure that the fight for democracy can continue worldwide”, says Zinaida Muradova. 

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/12/11/civil-rights-defender-of-the-year-award-2020-goes-to-naw-ohn-hla/

Bahrain: #FreeNabeel campaign more urgent than ever in view of resumption USA security assistance

July 8, 2015

Nedal Al Salman , Head of International Relations and Women & Children’s Rights Advocacy of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights [BCHR], launched today a day of solidarity for the president of the BCHR, Nabeel Rajab, with videos of supportive MEP’s. There is an urgent resolution adopted by the EU Parliament about Bahrain and in particular the case of Nabeel Rajab. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/video-statement-of-troublemaker-nabeel-rajab-who-is-on-trial-today/]

You can join in the campaign by recording your self on video, state your name and the organisation you represent and say a few words about Nabeel Rajab and call for his release. Your video/photo can be shared on twitter under the hashtag #FreeNabeel [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/nabeel-rajab/]

How difficult it is to match human rights diplomacy with geopolitical considerations is shown in the OP-ED in the New York Times of 7 July 2015 by Sayed Alwadaei, the director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy:

“Last week, the State Department announced the resumption of “security assistance” to Bahrain. This ended a four-year ban on the transfer of arms that the United States put into effect in 2011, after the Bahraini government’s harsh crackdown on Arab Spring protests. In a statement, the State Department argued that Bahrain had made enough progress in human rights reform to be rewarded by ending the embargo, even though the human rights situation in Bahrain was not “adequate.” The State Department dedicated 49 pages of its 2014 report on human rights, released last month, to Bahrain.

It is a damning document: detailing arbitrary detention, torture, prison overcrowding, constraints on free speech and more. The decision to renew security assistance — in the words of a State Department spokesman, “armored personnel vehicles, MRAPs, Humvees, TOW missiles, arms and ammunition, that kind of thing” — is not only incongruous but also shortsighted, with potentially disastrous consequences.

Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein of Jordan, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, criticized acts of torture in Bahrain in his opening remarks at a session of the Human Rights Council in June. He called for “an immediate investigation” into allegations of torture in Bahrain’s prisons and for the release of “all those detained in connection with their peaceful activities.”

If Prince Zeid were a Bahraini, he could probably be arrested on charges of “insulting a statutory body” — as happened to the human rights defender Nabeel Rajab after he called for prosecution of officials who committed torture in prison. He now faces at least 10 years in prison on various charges relating to his activism.

I was arrested on March 16, 2011, a day after the government announced a state of emergency, a month after the protests started. A military court sentenced me to prison for protesting and talking to the media. What they did to me in prison will stay with me for life.

On my first day in Jaw Prison, about 20 miles south of the capital, Manama, an officer spat on me, grabbed me by the hair and threw me against a wall. During interrogation, another smacked me in the face and dared me to raise my arms to shield myself. They told me I’d be beaten even more if I did.

While I was in detention, four people were tortured to death, as Human Rights Watch has reported. In the interrogation rooms, we always thought of those who had been killed, wondering who might be the fifth. After my release from prison, I fled Bahrain and in 2012 sought asylum in Britain. This January, Bahrain revoked my citizenship, along with that of 71 others, leaving me stateless.

Bahrain’s situation has not improved since 2011. Last November, an inmate was beaten senseless and thrown into solitary confinement, where he died from his wounds during the night. In March, a prison riot broke out. Prisoners were angry about their treatment in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, and about the unfair trials that had put more than a thousand of them there. Prison authorities are accused by prisoners of responding with excessive force.

What happened next was incomparable to what I was put through. According to a report published last month by a coalition of rights groups, including my own, prisoners said that police officers used birdshot and tear gas against inmates inside corridors and cells. Inmates were rounded up, beaten and held in the courtyards, where they spent weeks sitting in Bahrain’s heat. Former prisoners allege that officers forced inmates to kneel and lick their boots. An imprisoned academic named Abduljalil al-Singace has been on a hunger strike for over 100 days, in protest of the ill treatment suffered by prisoners in March. (There are growing concerns for his health.)

In light of the continuing abuses, the State Department’s praise of the release of the political prisoner Ibrahim Sharif as a sign of “meaningful reform progress” is absurd. Never mind that Mr. Sharif, sentenced to five years in 2011, had served most of his sentence, and that as a political prisoner, he should never have been imprisoned to begin with. And as one political prisoner was released, another, Sheikh Ali Salman, received a four-year sentence for his opposition activities. The police also called in his deputy for questioning last week, after he made a speech against torture in prison.

When the United States expressed concerns a few weeks ago to the Human Rights Council in Geneva about “the continuing criminal cases on grounds of political expression and assembly,” Bahrain rejected them as groundless. It is Bahrain’s prerogative to disregard its American ally’s qualms, but must the United States reward such disrespect by renewing military assistance?

The answer lies in geopolitics. Persian Gulf monarchs are on high alert as the United States nears a nuclear deal with their regional rival, Iran. They want to protect their position as the West’s strategic partners and maintain their influence in the Middle East. At the same time, the rise of the Islamic State is a potent threat to their security, which America seeks to bolster militarily. Resuming arms transfers rekindles not only the American-Bahraini relationship but also the hugely important American-Saudi one.

But these diplomatic considerations come at the cost of relinquishing whatever moral standing the United States had in Bahrain. Ending the suspension of military assistance was a misuse of America’s substantial leverage to bring positive change to the human rights situation in Bahrain and the Gulf, which has only deteriorated since 2011. For Bahrainis striving for a democratic country, America’s move is completely regressive.

President Obama promised a “tough conversation” with the Gulf monarchs when he met them in May. Was this the outcome of that conversation?”

Losing Leverage on Bahrain – The New York Times.