Posts Tagged ‘solidarity action’

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.

Star power and human rights: a difficult but doable mix

February 10, 2014

RED-FACED. Jennifer Lopez performing for the leader of 'one of the world's most repressive regimes,' according to Human Rights Watch. Photo by Agence France-Presse/Igor Sasin

 (Jennifer Lopez performing for the leader Turkmenistan. (c) Agence France-Presse/Igor Sasin)

In quite a few earlier posts in this blog I have drawn attention to stars and celebrities who either support dictators or simply do not care that their actions do. So, I was quite happy to see a thoughtful piece by Jo Biddle of Agence France-Presse on 9 February 2014 analyzing this issue a bit more in-depth, with actress Scarlett Johansson as the “poster girl of Israeli apartheid”, Dennis Rodman in North Korea, and Kim Kardashian expressing her love of Bahrain. I would add, Mariah Carey who thinks nothing of singing for Gaddafi or the Angolan President, while Jennifer Lopez (picture above) did the same in Turkmenistan.

The author rightly states that when celebrities wander into complex foreign policy issues, it can be a minefield, leaving diplomats and human rights campaigners scrambling for damage control. The article mentions exceptions such as Bob Geldof, Bono, George Clooney or Angelina Jolie Read the rest of this entry »

12 human rights defenders who are not on the slopes of Sochi

February 9, 2014

FLD launches Olympics campaign on 12 human rights defenders

Front Line Defenders launched an online and social media campaign to focus attention on the plight of 12 human rights defenders (HRDs) from Eastern Europe and Central Asia coinciding with the launch of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The ‘Rights. Risks. Change!’ campaign (www.sportshrd.org) calls on the public to take solidarity action to support these 12 defenders and to pressure local officials to respect the work of HRDs.

All 12 of the HRDs highlighted in the campaign have displayed great courage and integrity in their work on a range of human rights issues. Read the rest of this entry »

Alba Viotto – a lifelong human rights defender from Switzerland

December 6, 2013

On 7 December 2013, Satur C. Ocampo wrote in the Philippine Star a remarkable tribute to a Swiss woman, Alba Viotto, who died recently. After a short context of the human rights scene in his country, he then describes the work of a Swiss human rights defender that most of us will never have heard of. Read the rest of this entry »