Posts Tagged ‘solidarity action’

Martin Ennals Award laureates rally to demand freedom for their imprisoned fellow award-winners

April 24, 2020

On 21 April 2020, – for the first time – a group of 14 former winners of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders rallied around their follow laureates lingering in jail.  They signed a joint letter to the Permanent Representatives to the UN of Bahrain, China, Iran and the United Arab Emirates:

Your Excellencies:

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, we the undersigned, winners of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, are calling for the release of all imprisoned human rights defenders around the world, who are at tremendous risk due to the virus. We add our voices to the calls of international leaders, of hundreds of civil society organizations and thousands of mobilized citizens, to grant clemency towards vulnerable prisoners during this health crisis, including our fellow award-winners who are imprisoned for their defense of human rights in four countries:

…..

Today we are deeply concerned about the continued imprisonment of defenders across the world, despite their exposure to and high risk of contracting COVID-19. Numerous health authorities and human rights organisations have denounced the risks of COVID-19 for prisoners held in crowded conditions. …[ See e.g. also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/23/civicus-and-600-ngos-dont-violate-human-rights-while-responding-to-covid-19/; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/14/un-guidelines-for-use-of-emergency-powers-in-time-of-covid-19-pandemic/%5D

Despite the tragedy of lives lost and significant economic damage, we believe this crisis will also present opportunities for a better world. Now is the time to remedy the unjust detention of these individuals. By releasing our brothers and sisters – Ilham, Ahmed, Nabeel, Abdullah, and Nasrin – the leaders of your nations would demonstrate their capacity for mercy and responsibility. We therefore call on your government to free our fellow Martin Ennals Award winners immediately, as well as all human rights defenders in detainment, so that their physical integrity is ensured, and they can receive appropriate medical and psychological support.

 Signed:

Huda al-Sarari
Yemen, Laureate 2020

Norma Librada Ledezma
Mexico, Finalist 2020

Sizani Ngubane
South Africa, Finalist 2020

Abdul Aziz Mohamat
Sudan, Laureate 2019

Eren Keskin
Turkey, Finalist 2019

Marino Córdoba
Colombia, Finalist 2019

Mohamed Zaree
Egypt, Laureate 2017

Karla Avelar
El Salvador, Finalist 2017

Asmaou Diallo
Guinea, Finalist 2015

Adilur Rahman Khan
Bangladesh, Finalist 2014

Mona Seif
Egypt, Finalist 2013

Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Finalist 2012

Arnold Tsunga
Zimbabwe, Laureate 2006

Clement Nwankwo
Nigeria, Laureate 1996

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https://www.martinennalsaward.org/the-mea-winners-are-calling-for-the-release-of-imprisoned-hrd-including-their-fellow-award-winner/

Policy response from Human Rights NGOs to COVID-19: CIVICUS’ Protocol

April 10, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many human rights organisations have been formulating a policy response. While I cannot be complete or undertake comparisons, I will try and give some examples in the course of these weeks. Here the one by CIVICUS which has published a Protocol, that is open for endorsment by other NGOs. The Protocol (online<https://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/news/4367-protecting-our-co-workers-during-covid-19-a-social-security-protocol-for-civil-society>) has been endorsed by over 60 civil society leaders from across the globe, including Greenpeace International.

The 6 point Protocol proposes practical measures and actions that civil society groups can take to help workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is aimed at protecting employees from any adverse health, social or economic issues that will arise during this challenging period.

The 6 proposed measures:

  1. Systems to enable social distancing and other precautions
  2. Support for COVID-19 testing and treatment
  3. Protection of pay and jobs during the COVID-19 lockdown and escalation period
  4. Flexibility and support for home and care-related responsibilities
  5. Extending our community of care to our collaborators and constituencies
  6. Acting in solidarity with workers and other vulnerable communities

In a letter to civil society allies CIVICUS Secretary General Lysa John <https://civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/news/3484-lysa-john-announced-as-new-civicus-sg> says,

“The ‘COVID-19 Social Security Protocol for Civil Society <https://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/news/4367-protecting-our-co-workers-during-covid-19-a-social-security-protocol-for-civil-society> ’ is first and foremost a call for us to recognise that the people we work with and alongside need to be assured of our support for their well-being if we are to remain resilient and relevant in the context of a dire and desperately uncertain future. Without the solid foundations of trust and authenticity, our organisations are not equipped to withstand the formidable challenges that all agencies – large and small – will need to respond to in the coming months.”

Recommendations:

1. Systems to ensure physical distancing and other precautions

What it involves:
  • Procedures to enable physical distancing are explicitly adopted and communicated alongside an overarching call to social solidarity
  • Transition to virtual ways of working wherever   possible, provision of protective gear and guidelines for frontline workers whose efforts are needed to ensure the continuation of critical and essential services (e.g. non-transferable support services to vulnerable populations)
  • Ensuring that pay and benefits for personnel who are unable to perform their duties virtually are not reduced at this time
Why is this important?
  • In keeping with WHO guidelines and corresponding national government regulations, all agencies are required to take active measures to protect their personnel from contracting or transmitting the virus
  • If relevant government authorities have not provided effective guidelines on social distancing, we can be proactive in implementing the WHO guidelines for our teams, and support advocacy efforts to ensure relevant   regulations are put in place.

 

2. Support for COVID-19 testing and related treatment

What it involves: Access to COVID-19 testing differs across countries. A few essential steps that we can take to support our teams in this context are:

  • Mapping and providing active information on testing procedures
  • Covering costs of testing procedures where these are not covered by health insurance.
  • Supporting the return of personnel located outside their home countries who request or require to be repatriated for health and/or family reasons
  • Fully paid sick leave for personnel needing to rest and recuperate; flexible arrangements in relation to time needed to care for family members and dependents. This could include ‘record-free’ leave provisions so personnel do not need to utilise their annual sick leave quota to cover illness related to the COVID19 outbreak
  • Full or partial support for costs of related treatment through existing group medical insurance plans; in case these are not available, explore organisation-supported reimbursements
  • Psycho-social support to deal with the mental health impacts of the pandemic, including with adverse effects of the outbreak within family and communities
Why is this important?
  • Ensuring access to basic health care for employees is an important responsibility for all organisations. For many organisations however, support to core costs that enable social security benefits for   employees is hard to negotiate and organise.
  • More ideas on how donors and intermediaries can support civil society groups to address core costs in this period are available in this Open Letter to Donors

 

3. Protection of jobs and pay across the COVID-19 lockdown and escalation period

What it involves: In anticipation of the adverse economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have an important role to play in protecting our co-workers from reduction of pay and loss of employment. Some measures that can be considered include:

  • Extending employment contracts, till December 2020 for instance, as an immediate measure of protection. This should ideally include personnel who work part-time, such as consultants, fellows and interns.
  • In the event that an employment contract must end in this period, ensuring a source of income is available to support transition is a helpful measure. National regulations on allowances linked redundancy and unemployment, for instance, can be used to benchmark this and activate government-backed programs in this regard
  • Coordinating with donors and intermediaries to redirect costs for new positions that were to be proposed in this period towards costs for staff retention
  • Coordinating with Boards to approve the use of organisation’s reserves, if available, and requesting their support for costs related to employment protection measures
Why is this important?
  • The implementation of this recommendation is directly related to donor flexibility and proactive measures adopted by governance bodies of civil society organisations.
  • Ensuring an open conversation with donors to reallocate expenses related to activities that cannot be undertaken in this period, such as budgets linked to travel and in-person meetings, is one possibility in this regard.

 

4. Flexibility and support for home and care related responsibilities

What it involves: In order to support staff to cope with the added pressure of familial duties, while also taking care of their own needs, we can consider the following:

  • Flexible or reduced work hours for personnel (without affecting levels of pay)
  • Reduction of work related deliverables for staff who have responsibility for children and other dependents, including the elderly and disabled
  • Additional measures (economic and psycho-social) to support single parents, staff who live alone and those who risk violence and abuse within their homes
Why is this important?
  •  Working from home places significant demands on staff who are primary caregivers within their families. Women are often burdened with additional responsibilities in this time

 

5. Extending our community of care to our collaborators and constituencies

What it involves:
  • Disseminating information on necessary protection protocols advised by the WHO and, where possible, translating these into relevant languages and making them accessible in multiple formats
  • Providing information on support and services provided by our organizations in this time
  • Ensuring that contingency plans for critical services are in place and shared with them
  • Identifying and calling out public measures that are being used to restrict and intimidate civil society
Why is this important?
  • As we conduct our duty of care to our employees, we have the opportunity to extend care and share knowledge with the communities we serve and networks we work with.
  • Civil society across the world often works to respond to and fill critical gaps in service delivery, access to justice and government accountability. Taking steps to ensure that our collaborators and constituencies are informed helps to ensure transparent flows of information and mediate continuity for critical services where possible.

 

6. Acting in solidarity with workers and other vulnerable communities

What it involves: We have the opportunity to act in solidarity by:

  • Adding our voice and organisational support to campaigning for improved employment protections by organised labour, and for the most vulnerable casual workers and gig-economy workers
  • Supporting campaigns where there is an opportunity to advance progressive social welfare policies, including wage & income protection, universal social protection, access to healthcare and childcare support for frontline workers who are holding up essential public services.
  • Getting behind the bold, systemic reforms that challenge and change the fundamental inequities that have been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic
Why is this important?
  • Adding our collective weight and support right now, may help secure both immediate relief, as well as pivotal longer-term wins for progressive campaigns

 

A list of resources to help determine and action relevant measures is available here.

For more information: | @CIVICUSalliance | https://www.facebook.com/CIVICUS/


For other posts like this see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/covid-19/

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https://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/news/4367-protecting-our-co-workers-during-covid-19-a-social-security-protocol-for-civil-society

Amnesty starts again its Write For Rights campaign

November 24, 2018

Write for Rights event in Amsterdam, 2015

Write for Rights event in Amsterdam, 2015 © Amnesty International

Every year, Amnesty International runs its Write For Rights, a campaign over November and December where it encourages you to write messages of support to people around the world who have suffered injustice, and show you how to support their campaigns for justice. And the yearly campaign seems to work. For last year’s campaign see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/04/write-for-rights-again-in-december-2017/

There is plenty of material for those who want to support:

Get the campaign booklet Download the campaign booklet (PDF). It introduces you to each case and sets out how you can write to them, and how to write to the authorities on their behalf. This is the main resource for Write For Rights.

Three ways to join in Write For Rights:

1. Write a message of solidarity

This is where Write For Rights began: writing to people who are wrongly punished, to show them that they’re not alone. If writing letters isn’t for you, you can send a message of solidarity online.

2. Write an appeal letter

In a world of petitions, physical post does get noticed! As well as writing to the people suffering human rights abuses, we also ask you to write to the authorities who can bring them justice. All the details of how to write to authorities are in our campaign booklet.

You can download pre-printed ‘appeal’ address labels to make it easier to send multiple letters.

3. Hold an event

Write for Rights events come in all shapes and sizes – from stalls in outdoor markets, to intimate gatherings in a local pub. See UK AI’s tips for putting together a successful Write for Rights event. Don’t forget to add your event to the website once you’ve got the date and location confirmed!

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/write-rights-getting-started

Mahfooz Saeed, lawyer of Maldives’ ex-president, stabbed

September 7, 2015

It does not rank as the worst human rights violation in the world but the stabbing of the lawyer of the Maldives’ ex-president is a classic case of attacking the defenders. Wonder why not more lawyers organizations have come out in professional solidarity:
On Friday 4 September lawyer Mahfooz Saeed was stabbed in the islands’ capital, Male, ahead of a visit by his international legal team, including human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.  He underwent emergency surgery and is now in a stable condition. “There were many people who saw the incident. The attackers were also caught on CCTV cameras,” Shauna Aminath, a spokeswoman for the MDP, of which Saeed is also a member, told AFP. The party believes the attack was politically motivated, she said.
Amnesty International condemned the assault and called on the Maldivian government to bring the perpetrators to justice.
This vicious attack must not go unpunished — Maldives authorities must ensure that human rights defenders can work free from fear of reprisals and that those responsible are held to account,” the human rights group said in a statement.
Amal Clooney is due to travel to the Maldives this week to meet with Nasheed. She is part of the legal team along with Jared Genser — who has represented Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi — and Ben Emmerson, a judge on international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and former Yugoslavia.

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/10/19/retaliation-now-reaches-even-human-rights-commissioners-in-the-maldives-un-deeply-concerned/

Source: Lawyer for Maldives’ ex-president stabbed in Male | Arab News

Easter cards to christian human rights defenders

March 17, 2015

Fra Angelico

This blog does not often carry religious paintings. This time it is to illustrate the action by Bishop Declan Lang, Chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference Department of International Affairs, who is encouraging to contact Christian prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders with a message of hope this Easter. For the first time, Action by Christians Against Torture has published an Easter greetings list containing details of Christians including a teacher imprisoned on political charges in Indonesia, a priest facing threats because of his human rights advocacy in Cuba and an MP risking her safety by speaking out on behalf of religious minorities in Pakistan.

Bishop Declan stated: “Pope Francis has called on us to support Christians facing persecution wherever they are in the world. Sending an Easter message to Christian prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders is a practical yet powerful way to give hope and encouragement. Showing that they are not forgotten can also lead to better treatment by the authorities. I strongly welcome the work of Action by Christians Against Torture, and hope that Catholics throughout England and Wales will join me in sending a message of solidarity this Easter.

The Action by Christians Against Torture Easter greetings list is available at: www.acatuk.org.uk/EastercardList2015.pdf

Bishop endorses campaign to send Easter cards to persecuted Christians – Independent Catholic News.

Monday 2 March, start of the #idefend campaign

February 28, 2015

On Monday 2 March 2015 starts the “#idefend – Making sure civil society has its voice” campaign. It is an initiative of the Delegation of the European Union to the UN in Geneva in partnership with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Permanent Missions of Brazil, the Republic of Korea and Tunisia.

The #idefend campaign takes a public stance to support the voices of civil society.#idefend aims at expressing solidarity with all those human rights defenders and civil society actors, whose dedication and everyday work improve the human rights of people in every corner of the world. Join the campaign and help empower those who speak up for human rights!

Human rights defenders are not violent seditionists, criminals, nor bloody revolutionaries, as so many governments like to portray them. They are the best of us, all of us. And they have a message. To all governments, we say: focus on their message. Listen to what they are saying. Understand the message, talk to them about it, be persuaded or persuade, without violence, instead of silencing them, punishing them, their families, and their communities.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Sadly, over the past years, we have observed a worrying trend at the Human Rights Council: Human Rights Defenders and civil society representatives are hampered from speaking at the Council, sometimes they are harassed upon their arrival to Geneva, or subject to reprisals in their home country upon their return. This is not acceptable.
Peter Sørensen, Head of the EU Delegation to the United Nations

#idefend | Making sure civil society has its voice.

Over 1000 muslims formed ring of peace around a synagogue in Oslo

February 23, 2015

From the blog “News You May Have Missed” I picked up this interesting news item showing how each person can be a human rights defender when they want to:

Photo from Muslim Public Affairs Council's Facebook pagePhoto from Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Facebook page

More than 1000 Muslims formed a human shield around a synagogue in Oslo, Norway on February 21  in response to the attack on a synagogue in Denmark last weekend.  Chanting “No to anti-Semitism, no to Islamophobia,” an estimated 1200-1400 Norwegian Muslims formed a “ring of peace” around the synagogue, offering symbolic protection for the city’s Jewish community.  See video coverage on the NRK website here.  One of the speakers in the video is 17-year-old Hajrah Asrhad, one of the event’s organizers.

News You May Have Missed (15-21 February 2015) – The Human Rights Warrior.

Local AI Group to read stories from Afghan women human rights defenders

May 17, 2014

The cast in rehearsal SUS-140705-113925001

(The cast in rehearsal SUS-140705-113925001)

Sometimes it is good to look at how people can support human rights defenders elsewhere. Here an example from West Sussex, UK, where – using a script compiled exclusively from the first-hand accounts of Afghan women human rights defendersCrawley’s Pitchy Breath Theatre Group voices testimony, underlining the risks to women’s freedom posed by any resurgence of the Taliban. The reading – on Monday 19 May – will be followed by an opportunity to ask questions and discuss the issues raised with Chris Usher, Amnesty International UK’s Country Co-ordinator for Afghanistan. There will also be the opportunity to take part in actions in support of Afghan women. This event forms part of Amnesty International UK’s campaign on women’s rights in Afghanistan. The local AI Group are hoping that “Even If We Lose Our Lives” can inspire the local community and contribute to more action protecting these women and the rights they are fighting fight for.

[Afghan women are too often portrayed as faceless, passive victims who are powerless to change the grave human rights abuses which regularly affect them. The script is based on the actual accounts of three women – Parween, whose teenage son was kidnapped and killed because she runs a girls’ school, Dr D, a gynaecologist whose son was injured in a bomb blast, and Manizha, who runs the largest Afghan organisation working on violence against women and girls at great personal cost.]

via Group to read stories from Afghan women – West Sussex County Times.

Human rights defenders participate in MP4Freedom campaign

April 2, 2014

US-based NGO Freedom House, in cooperation with the Lithuanian Parliament and Belarusian human rights defenders, launched on 26 March 2014 the MP4Freedom initiative inviting Lithuanian MPs to become “godparents” of political prisoners in Belarus.As neighbors, Lithuanians should care about the future of the Belarusian nation,” said Petras Austrevicius, deputy speaker of the Seimas, who championed the initiative on behalf of the Lithuanian Parliament.  “The idea behind this initiative is to encourage Lithuanian MPs to engage on the issue personally by becoming ‘godparents’ of political prisoners in Belarus.”

To make this initiative effective, Lithuanian MPs should address the Belarusian authorities and demand the release of political prisoners,” said Marina Lobava, the mother of a political prisoner Eduard Lobau. “MPs can write to the heads of detention facilities requesting information about the health of a particular political prisoner. They can also help by contacting the International Red Cross and facilitating its visits to prisons. International advocacy in the EU to keep the political prisoners issue on the foreign policy agenda towards Belarus is also necessary.”

Under this campaign, the participating Lithuanian parliamentarians, who represent the governing and opposition political parties alike, take the responsibility to follow the cases of particular political prisoners in Belarus, meet with their relatives, and speak publicly both at Lithuanian and international venues on human rights violations in Belarus. There are currently 10 political prisoners in Belarus, according to the Human Rights Center Viasna.

Freedom House, the Lithuanian Parliament and human rights defenders launch initiative to support Belarusian political prisoners | Belarus: civil society under attack | Freeales.fidh.net.

IM-Defensoras: women human rights defenders in Central America support each other

February 25, 2014

MDG : Women activists in Latin America  : protest against violence in Mexico

(A woman protesting against violence (c) Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)

An excellent piece in the Guardian of 25 February by Jo Tuckman describes the impact of the Mesoamerican Human Rights Defenders’ Initiative [IM-Defensoras] which through solidarity tries to protect woman human rights defenders. The Honduran Berta Cáceres – who has been under threat for years because of her campaign against extractive industries – says that without solidarity from her peers, it could all be over. “The solidarity is why I am alive and why I am here,” she told a recent meeting of the IM-Defensoras in the Mexican capital. “And, of course, we are committed to continue.” (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/berta-caceres/)

IM-Defensoras is a three-year-old effort to provide women rights defenders in the Central American region with protection mechanisms that are gender-sensitive and adapted to different contexts, and that go beyond traditional options. The organisers of IM-Defensoras say activists in Central America are increasingly being targeted and governmental protection is rarely effective and difficult to trust. The initiative documented 414 attacks on women activists between 2010 and 2012, a period in which it says 38 women were killed, with the vast majority of their deaths blamed on the state.

The initiative is built around the creation of national networks of activists. So far, these have been set up in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua, with about 360 members. The plan is to expand these networks and set up new ones in Costa Rica and Panama. The importance of the networks stems partly from the recognition that women activists are usually less able to rely on family and organisational support than men. For example, a female leader in danger is much likelier to face pressure from her family, or even from male colleagues, to withdraw from activism. “The gender perspective means recognising that women defenders have already broken the rules“.

The networks are the basis of most of the work of IM-Defensoras. In times of emergency, the networks may draw attention to a credible death threat or organise temporary exile, for example. They devise strategies that take into account complications such as whether an activist also has children.

The Guardian article also draws attention to an often overlooked aspect of support networks: fighting stress. The initiative also encourages activists to pay attention to the stress they accumulate from sustained threats, attacks, sexual harassment and smear campaigns. The risk of burnout is increased further by the fact that most women activists receive no salary and so also undertake paid work, at the same time as spending several hours a day on domestic chores. After getting supportive messages, Lolita Chávez, a Guatemalan K´iche’ (Mayan language) human rights defender is quoted as saying:  “I said to myself: ‘Maybe others think I am a terrorist but there are sisters telling me I am a defender of human rights’,”… “It was a counterbalance.” Chávez also spent three weeks in Mexico at a workshop to help her look after her own mental and physical health, which, like most women activists, she had neglected for years. “The initiative has filled me with life, but there are many sisters out there who are still waiting for this kind of support,” Chávez told the Mexico City meeting. “It is possible to do what we do and not be a martyr.” (see also: http://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/lolita-chavez-about-land-and-life-in-peril-in-guatemala/)

 

Central American women put their lives on the line for human rights | Global development | theguardian.com.