Posts Tagged ‘South Africa’

10 women human rights defenders in cartoon images

March 23, 2017

10 December is obviously International Human Rights Day, but there are several countries that have a different or additional Human Rights Day of their own. One of them is South Africa where 21 March is historically linked with 21 March 1960 and the events of Sharpeville (on that day 69 people died and 180 were wounded when police fired on a peaceful crowd that had gathered in protest against the Pass laws – https://www.parliament.gov.za/project-event-details/2)

Boipelo Mokgothu in Traveller24 used the occasion on 20 March 2017 to publish  a compilation of the 10 most inspirational women from historical figures till today:

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Amnesty International campaigns with “7 women who refuse to wait for their rights”

March 8, 2017

Also in the light of International Women’s Day 2017…….here are the seven Women Human Rights Defenders whom AI UK are profiling in their campaign of women who “refuse to wait in the face of injustice, and often paying the price of freedom in the process”..:

Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng – She won’t wait… while women are still denied abortions 

Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng

Tlaleng is a medical doctor in South Africa. She fearlessly advocates for sexual health as a radio presenter, spreading her message far and wide.  ‘I won’t stop until the right of women to have an abortion is respected and provided for safely,’ she says. ‘In South Africa, women die every year due to unsafe abortions, yet politicians think they can use women’s reproductive rights as a political ping pong ball.‘ Tlaleng is also challenging rape culture, and championing the drive to get health practitioners to treat patients with respect and without discrimination.

Karla Avelar – She won’t wait… while refugees are denied safety

Karla Avelar

Karla Avelar is a survivor. She’s made it through gang attacks, murder attempts and prison in El Salvador. Today, she heads Comcavis Trans, which supports LGBTI people, all of whom face threats and violence in El Salvador. Their situation is so difficult in the country that many flee as refugees. Through Comcavis, Karla provides information and other support to help them on what is often a treacherous journey that normally takes them to the USA or Mexico. But the US’s hardline stance on refugees and migrants entering the country has thrown these LGBTI refugees into even greater jeopardy – something Karla is now tackling with energetic defiance.

Su Changlan – She won’t wait … to reunite another child bride with her parents

Sue Changlan

Former school teacher Su Changlan’s story is not unique. One of her closest friends says that hers is the story of many women in China. She couldn’t stand by when she heard about girls trafficked as brides or parents whose children had gone missing. She did her best to help them and many others, her activism extending to land rights issues and support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. She did all this knowing that she might have to sacrifice her freedom in the process. Sadly, this is just what happened. She has been detained by the authorities since 2015. ‘I hope that parents do not despair about searching for their missing children. We, civil society, should work together to help them reunite with their children. The government should also invest more in these efforts instead of hindering our work!

Samira Hamidi – She won’t wait… while women are excluded from government

Samira Hamidi

Since 2004, Samira Hamidi has been blazing a trail for women in Afghanistan. As Chairperson of the Afghan Women’s Network (AWN) she has actively tried to ensure that women’s voices and concerns are represented at the highest levels of government. At the same time, she is a staunch advocate in the international arena, reminding governments and potential aid donors that promoting and securing women’s rights in Afghanistan must be part of any conversation they may have with the country’s leaders. She faces a steep road, but she remains undaunted, championing other women human rights defenders, ensuring that their concerns are amplified. Women should be given an equal opportunity to make a better Afghanistan.

Jeanette John Solstad Remø – She won’t wait… for the right to be recognised as a woman

Jeanette John Solstad Remo

Until recently, she was John Jeanette, her name signifying the dual identity she was forced to accept every day in Norway. Although this former submarine commander felt her future could only be female, Norwegian law did not allow her to change her legal gender without undergoing a compulsory ‘real sex conversion’. This would have involved having her reproductive organs removed, as well as a psychiatric diagnosis. She refused to put herself through any of this. As a result, her driving license, passport, medical prescriptions, even her library card, still referred to her as male. She campaigned hard against Norway’s abusive law and her actions, alongside those of her supporters – including Amnesty – scored a huge victory. In 2016, Norway finally adopted a new law on legal gender recognition, which allows transgender people to choose their gender. Today, in acknowledgement of this milestone, she has changed her name to Jeanette John.

Loujain al-Hathloul – She won’t wait… for the right to drive a car 

180Loujain%20al-Hathloul.png

Fearless and formidable, Loujain defied Saudi Arabia’s driving ban and faced the consequences. In November 2014, she was detained for 73 days for live-tweeting herself driving into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates. Released in February 2015, she went on to stand for election in November that year – the first time women were allowed to both vote and stand in elections in the state. However, despite finally being recognised as a candidate, her name was never added to the ballot. Today, she continues her fight to create a better future for her fellow Saudis – one where women enjoy their rights as full citizens of their nation. ‘I will win. Not immediately, but definitely.’

Connie Greyeyes – She won’t wait… for another sister to be stolen

Connie Greyeyes

Connie Greyeyes is an ‘accidental’ activist. An Indigenous Cree woman living in the province of British Columbia in Western Canada, she realised that a shocking number of Indigenous women in her community had gone missing or had been murdered. She began organising to support the families of these women and took the demand for a national inquiry to the Canadian capital in Ottawa. According to official figures, more than 1,000 Indigenous women have gone missing or been murdered in Canada in the last three decades. The efforts of Connie and many other Indigenous women across Canada have borne fruit, with the Canadian government finally announcing an inquiry in 2016. ‘When we’re together, there’s so much strength. Being able to smile even after finding out that your loved one was murdered. How can you not be inspired by women who have been to hell and back over their children? How can you not be inspired and want to continue fighting?

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/blogs/campaigns/international-womens-day

Backsliding on civic space in democracies – important side event on 3 March in Geneva

March 2, 2017

One of the side events in Geneva during the UN Human Rights Council that is of special importance for human rights defenders is held tomorrow, 3 March 2017, from 13:00 – 14:00, in Room XXI, Palais Des Nations, Geneva.

Across the world, well-established principles and standards fundamental to maintaining a safe and enabling environment for civil society are being questioned and threatened in mature and consolidated democracies. In both the global North and global South, governments with vibrant civil societies and constitutional and historical commitments based on their struggles for democracy and freedom are adopting increasingly hostile and corrosive policies and practices to suppress independent civil society voices. The event will provide an opportunity for the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and civil society leaders to reflect on the global climate for civil society operating in mature democracies and articulate key measures these states must take to ensure an enabling environment for civil society and human rights defenders both at home and at the UN Human Rights Council. In advance of their examination under the Universal Periodic Review in May 2017, the event will also bring together civil society leaders from India, Brazil, Poland, and South Africa to examine state backsliding on civic space norms.[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/24/2017-10-need-to-reset-for-h…]

Panelists:

  • Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
  • Camila Asano, Conectas – Brazil
  • Henri Tiphagne, Human Rights Defenders Association – India
  • Maciej Kozłowski, Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD) – Poland
  • Corlett Letlojane, HURISA- South Africa

Moderator: Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research, CIVICUS

The event is co-sponsored by key international NGOs: –Amnesty InternationalCIVICUS, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), International Society for Human Rights (ISHR), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Human Rights Defenders Alert India (HRDA), The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBS)

https://www.forum-asia.org/?p=23168

Navi Pillay reflects on 50 years as a defender of human rights

April 14, 2016

I have had quite a few post on Navi Pillay as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/navi-pillay/]  before and after her term [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/navanethem-pillay-finishes-her-term-as-un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-a-great-lady/]. So when the Toronto Star ( Immigration reporter) did an interview with this remarkable woman on 12 April 2016, I am happy to bring it to your attention. She was the recipient of the 2003 Gruber Prize for Women’s Rights and the 2010 Stockhom Human Rights Award.

“Navi Pillay reflects on 50 years as a champion for human rights”

Navi Pillay, who grew up under apartheid in South Africa, is the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Navi Pillay, who grew up under apartheid in South Africa, is the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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UN General Assembly adopts Resolution on human rights defenders with increased majority

December 18, 2015

For the record, the Resolution on the protection of human rights defenders was adopted by the plenary of the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday 17 December 2015, with 127 States voting in favour (i.e 10 more than in the Third Committee!). See: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/12/05/follow-up-on-the-human-rights-defenders-resolution-in-the-un/.

127 States supported the resolution, including South Africa, which had voted against it in the Third Committee, while 14 States (Burundi, Cambodia, China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Sudan, Syria and Zimbabwe) continue to vote against it. This list is not surprising (they figure regularly in this blog), although one would have hoped that Myanmar (after the elections) would have had a change of heart while Nigeria’s position remains a mystery.

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South Africa does ‘about-turn’ on UN resolution on human rights defenders

November 30, 2015

In relation to my post of 26 November [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/11/26/unfortunately-the-un-voted-on-the-resolution-on-human-rights-defenders/] there is an interesting development. South-African media, NGOs and human rights defenders (e.g. http://www.timeslive.co.za/thetimes/2015/11/27/We-join-the-bullies) criticized heavily the position taken by Government in voting against. Today Barry Bateman reports that the South African government appears to have done an about-turn on its position and will now support the resolution when the matter is referred to the full General Assembly in the next few days.  The Department of International Relations says the Africa group of members’ states had about 39 proposed amendments to the resolution following intense negotiations. The department raised concerns around the definition of a human rights defender, the responsibilities placed on sovereign parliaments and issues of NGO funding.  It says the resolution’s main sponsor introduced oral amendments at the last-minute without informing South Africa.  These amendments rendered the country’s concerns redundant.

India‘s Yes-vote was circumscribed by its statement that “stressed” that it does not feel it necessary to not create “any new obligations at national level”. Counterview  of 28 November takes issue with this citing examples of where human rights defenders in India are still missing protection. [see also: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/blogs/yes-minister-it-human-rights-issue/india-uk-narendra-modi-david-cameron-visit-human-rights]

In the meantime Khoo Ying Hooi writing in a post in the Malaysian Insider of 30 November welcomes the Yes-vote by Malaysia, but shares the skepticism of many local human rights defenders that it is mostly window-dressing way. (“Malaysia has in many instances not walked the talk when it comes to international commitments on human rights affairs. One glaring example is their lack of commitment to the peer-review mechanism, Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in the United Nations Human Rights Council. At this point of time, Malaysia’s adoption of the UN resolution in protecting human rights defenders does not reflect the reality back home. It was obvious that it is, at least for now, nothing more than diplomatic window dressing. While a UN resolution such as this would help in many ways, human rights protection must start at home.“)

Sources: Govt does ‘about-turn’ on its human rights defenders position

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/opinion/khoo-ying-hooi/article/malaysias-vote-on-protecting-human-rights-defenders-diplomatic-window-dress

http://www.counterview.net/2015/11/india-doesnt-need-new-legal-mechanism.html

Czechs set example: an activist human rights foreign policy

January 23, 2015

Vaclav Havel. Picture: EPA

Vaclav Havel. Picture: EPA
In an opinion piece in BDLive of 22 January 2015, John Stremlau, discusses the outcome of an International Conference “Foreign Policy on Human Rights for the 21st Century” held in Prague, Czech Republic, and draws lessons for other countries , especially South Africa. Although the article implicitly overstates the human rights credentials of the BRICS nations, it makes interesting weekend reading:

“SOUTH Africans are not the only ones debating the role of human rights in foreign policy. Twenty-five years after Czechs achieved their peaceful democratic revolution, they too are debating whether their foreign policy is contrary to the ideals of Vaclav Havel and the others who risked their lives to secure freedom at home and influence abroad as a human rights leader.

To air these issues, the Czech foreign ministry recently convened an international conference, titled Foreign Policy on Human Rights for the 21st Century. Several hundred Czechs attended and there was extensive national media coverage. Eighteen foreign human rights activists and practitioners were invited as panellists, from the US, European Union, Africa, Latin America and Asia.

In his opening address, the foreign minister suggested there could be alternative and attractive ways to frame Czechs’ post-Havel human rights foreign policy — one, he said, that would be less identified with US selective use of force to secure human rights. As an alternative, he suggested closer alignment with Brics nations, which he suggested were wisely emphasising social and economic over political and civil rights.

Overall, the proceedings revealed no disagreement over the enduring universality of basic human rights, with political and civil rights as necessary preconditions for realising all other rights and frequent references to the importance of the Czech example as an inspiration to others and the basis for its international influence and leadership.

Surprisingly little was said about the advantages or dangers for human rights of Chinese autocratic capitalism. The sharpest criticisms were of the threats to Czech national security from Russia, including abetting of human rights abuses in nearby former Soviet republics.

The controversial role of human rights in US foreign policy, however, got the most attention.

Several speakers complained about US “double standards” in human rights interventions; an over-reliance on military means; the disregard for human rights in the use of torture, drones, and detention without trial in combating terrorism; and a culture of impunity that allows even those found guilty to avoid punishment.

On this, too, Czech and South African foreign policies converge.

South African participants would have likely found the final panel most relevant, especially the views of former struggle veterans, who showed dismay over the present government’s less assertive defence of human rights defenders, in China and elsewhere.

SA does not, of course, face a security threat comparable to the one the Czechs face from Russia, but the panellists still hold that a more activist human rights foreign policy is a better political defence than accommodation.

With the US absorbed with overcoming the consequences of its past misadventures in Iraq and the Middle East, the Czechs seek partners beyond Western Europe.

The Czech foreign ministry may have envisioned a different outcome, but most Czech speakers appear to be seeking, above all, compatible and reliable democratic partners, whose human rights foreign policies are more in line with those of the human rights heroes who once risked their lives to transform the then Czechoslovakia. Such partnerships would be valuable in shoring up national commitments to human rights in domestic and foreign policy. But it was argued that government policies in support of human rights lacked sufficient coherence at home and abroad.

SA and the Czech Republic may have different national interests but they do share vital values and are facing challenges in adapting them to conditions at home and abroad.

Perhaps the Department of International Relations and Co-operation should consult the Czech foreign ministry about convening in Pretoria a 2015 sequel to the international conference just held in Prague, and with a similar agenda, although instead of focusing on a dialogue between Europe and the US, SA might include a topic on the Brics in human rights dialogue.

The Czechs set a good example by adopting a broad agenda and inviting a diverse array of opinions, and allowing a free-wheeling debate, attributes South Africans appreciate and which might advance a debate here of the importance of foreign policy on human rights.”

John Stremlau is visiting professor in the Department of International Relations at Wits University.

Czechs set example for SA on human rights | Opinion & Analysis | BDlive.

India and South Africa in UN Human Rights Council remain reluctant towards civil society

October 1, 2014

Under the title “India dissociates itself from UN Human Rights Council resolution favouring pluralistic civil society“, Counterview of 30 September 2014, expresses its disappointment with the position taken by India (and other States such as South Africa) who one would normally expect to come out in support of a vibrant civil society, including specifically human rights defenders. They did not call for a vote – so the resolution passed – but expressed strong opposition. This is in line with earlier behaviour in the Council [see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/india-and-south-africa-forsaking-their-human-rights-credentials/]. Here some extracts: Read the rest of this entry »

International Service for Human Rights rings alarm bell over composition of UN Committee on Civil society

May 1, 2014

Civil society loses as repressive States win election to regulate NGO access to UN” is the headline of a rightly alarming report on 23 April 2014 by the New York desk of the International Service for Human Rights [ISHR]. It calls on States that value and respect a vibrant civil society should do more to support non-governmental organisations to have their voices heard at the United Nations. The call comes after very few such States stood for election to an important UN committee that regulates civil society access to the UN, leaving the field to repressive States whose intolerance for civil society at home looks set to further restrict NGO access to the UN.ISHR-logo-colour-high Read the rest of this entry »

India and South Africa forsaking their human rights credentials

April 12, 2014

Mandeep Tiwana posted on 10 April in the Mail & Guardian a piece that – sadly – needed to be written. On how South Africa and India increasingly find themselves siding with Russia, China in votes concerning human rights in the UN Human Rights Council. Mandeep recalls that “Mandela was acutely aware of the role that international solidarity played in supporting anti-apartheid activists as they mobilised on the streets. As president, he made a compelling speech at the Southern African Development Community’s periodic conference in 1997 in Blantyre, Malawi. He urged that national sovereignty and non-interference in the affairs of other countries could not blunt the common concern for democracy, human rights and good governance in the regional grouping. Mandela called upon his fellow leaders to recognise the right of citizens to “participate unhindered in political activities”. Under title : “India, SA risk forsaking their proud histories on human rights” the piece makes good reading for your weekend: Read the rest of this entry »