Posts Tagged ‘Supreme Court’

Human Rights Watch’ Omar Shakir loses his appeal in Israeli Supreme Court

November 6, 2019

On 5 November 2019, the Israeli Supreme Court dismissed the appeal against the Jerusalem District Court’s decision to uphold a deportation order against Human Rights Watch (HRW) representative in Israel and Palestine, Omar Shakir, who is accused by the State of supporting the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement. The Court ruled that Shakir must leave the country in 20 days. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/18/israel-deportation-of-human-rights-watchs-staff-member-again-on-the-table/]

HRW stated “Omar Shakir’s Expulsion Would Send Chilling Message“. The Israeli NGO “Human Rights Defenders Fund” issued the following statment on the case:

The Court dismissed the claim raised by Shakir’s lawyers Michael Sfard and Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man, according to which he did not violate the law that authorizes the exclusion from Israel of those who call for or support boycotting Israel or an area under its control (Amendment no. 28 to the Entry into Israel Law, 2017). The Court also rejected a request to suspend proceedings until a new Israeli government is formed following the September elections and could consider whether to proceed with the deportation.

The constitutional claims raised in the appeal were not directly addressed by the Court, which stated that the constitutionality of Amendment no. 28 to the Entry into Israel Law will be examined in a separate petition currently pending before the High Court of Justice.

The Court further dismissed the claim that Shakir did not call to boycott Israel, but was merely fulfilling HRW’s long-held mandate in calling businesses not to contribute to human rights violations in the OPT. Head of the panel of judges, Justice Neal Hendel, adopted the State’s position and asserted that Shakir’s Tweets throughout the years, including the ones he posted on behalf of HRW regarding corporate responsibility in the OPT, all amount to active and consistent promotion of boycott activity.

One of the more disconcerting aspects of the Court’s decision is the conflation of Shakir’s independent activities prior to joining HRW with actions taken more recently in his capacity as a researcher at HRW, such as HRW reports shared on his social media, as indication that there is “enough evidence to show substantial, coherent and consistent involvement of Shakir in promoting boycott, in violation of the law.” 

The most disturbing component of the ruling is the Court’s holding that the law’s application extends to those who use boycott to promote the protection of human rights in the OPT, in accordance with international law:

“[…] the subjective aim of Amendment no. 28 […] validates that a call to boycott Israel may be included within the meaning of the law, even if its reasoning is founded on the protection of human rights or on the norms of international law. In fact, it seems that the possibility of disguising a call for boycott under a human rights discourse will devoid Amendment no. 28 of its content and harm its objective aim — fighting the boycott movement. These aims demonstrate that [the text of the law] is not only limited to boycott that is based on political opposition to Israel’s control of the territories, but also includes boycott that is based on the identification of the Israeli control in the territories as a violation of international law.”   
Following that statement, the Court held that since Shakir’s activity regarding corporate responsibility in the OPT is based on his entire opposition to the legitimacy of the Israeli settlements in the OPT, his work constitutes illegal support of boycott in violation of Israeli law.

In addition, the Court stated that HRW is not considered to be a “BDS organization” and reassured that its activity will not be harmed by the decision to deport one of his representatives. Furthermore, the Court dismissed the petitioners’ concerns by stating that the current decision will not affect other human right defenders and organizations who will want to enter Israel.

Nonetheless, HRDF views this ruling as a dangerous precedent that reflects the shrinking space for human rights advocates who defend human rights in the context of the occupation.

Following the decision, Adv. Sfard stated: “Today, Israel has joined countries like Syria, Iran and North Korea, who have also deported Human Rights Watch representatives in attempt to silence criticism against human rights abuses committed in their territory. The Supreme Court’s decision gives Israel a dangerous and anti-democratic veto power over the identity of the representatives of international organizations operating in Israel and in the OPT. Today they deport Omar, and tomorrow they will deport other representatives, foreign journalists and anyone who opposes the government policies in the occupied territories.”

Adv. Schaeffer Omer-Man added: “Today’s Supreme Court ruling not only lends legitimacy to Israel’s attempts to mask its disapproval of Human Rights Watch’s activities condemning settlement activity in the OPT by deporting Omar Shakir, but it threatens to deepen the already pervasive self-censorship by Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders who are more vulnerable than ever to persecution for legitimate advocacy against Israeli violations of international law.”

Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth stated: “The Supreme Court has effectively declared that free expression in Israel does not include completely mainstream advocacy for Palestinian rights. If the government now deports Human Rights Watch’s researcher for asking businesses to respect rights as we do across the world, there is no telling whom it will throw out next.”
 
HRDF stands in solidarity with Omar Shakir and Human Rights Watch. The decision to deport Shakir on grounds of support for boycott is only one measure in the ever-growing efforts of the Israeli authorities in recent years to delegitimize human rights defenders, silence political expression and shut down the work of human rights organizations who report human rights abuses in the OPT.

The law on which the Court’s ruling relies is only one of a long line of legislation passed in recent years designed to delegitimize and sanction human rights defenders and organizations, block their funding, impose obstacles to their work, and create a chilling effect on Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights organizations.

The State’s and the Court’s insistence on separating Shakir’s work from HRW is artificial and its purpose is solely to conceal the harsh and far-reaching ramifications of this decision, which will enable the state to dictate and censor the work of human rights organizations who monitor and report human rights abuses in Israel and in the OPT. The international community must not be affected by this attempt to separate between HRW and its employee, Omar Shakir, as giving in to such tactics would harm the solidarity and support that all human rights defenders deserve.

(contact the HRDF team with any questions you might have: noa@hrdf.org.il)

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https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/11/05/israel-supreme-court-greenlights-deporting-human-rights-watch-official

https://mailchi.mp/18f35a27e33d/update-israeli-supreme-court-dismisses-appeal-against-the-deportation-of-human-rights-watch-israel-and-palestine-director-omar-shakir?e=51113b9c0e

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/10/israel-opt-amnesty-staff-member-faces-punitive-travel-ban-for-human-rights-work/

Israel: deportation of Omar Shakir must be halted and the work of human rights defenders protected

 

1 million $ Berggruen Prize for Justice Ginsberg for her human rights stance

October 25, 2019

Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/UPI | License Photo
On 23 October 2019 UPI reported that Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg received a $1 million prize for her support of human rights and gender equality. The Berggruen Institute, a non-partisan think tank, presented the fourth annual award to Ginsburg, 86. The institute was founded in 2010 by billionaire philanthropist Nicolas Berggruen.
I am delighted the Jury has chosen to honor such a prolific leader in the field of jurisprudence,Berggruen said. “Throughout her career, Ginsburg has used the law to advance ethical and philosophical principles of equality and human rights as basic tenets of the USA..Her contributions have shaped our way of life and way of thinking and have demonstrated to the world the importance of the rule of law in disabling discrimination.”

The Berggruen Prize for Philosophy & Culture is given each year to someone who has contributed to self-understanding and advancement in the world. Ginsburg chose to donate her winnings to a charity or non-profit organization she has not revealed.

https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2019/10/23/Justice-Ginsburg-awarded-1M-prize-for-support-of-human-rights/7351571852581/

Swaziland NGO welcomes release of HRDs with new hope for independence of the Judiciary

July 2, 2015

As many international NGOs (e.g.: Human Rights First, Front Line, the Human Rights Foundation, ISHR and several trade unions) have already welcomed the release of two human rights defenders in Swaziland, it is perhaps interesting to give the local take on it through an article in the Swaziland Observer of 2 July 2015 at hand of Noxolo Nkabinde: “Bheki, Thulani sacrifice not in vain SCCCO”.

The Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO) says the sacrifices made by Nation Magazine Editor Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko were not in vain..“When they wrote those articles, Bheki and Thulani could not have imagined the events that were to follow. They, as concerned members of the public and as human rights defenders, were simply articulating the sentiments of a nation, frustrated and rapidly losing faith in the justice system. As we continue to stand with them, we believe the pain they and their families have gone through is another building-block towards freedom – their sacrifice has not been in vain,” SCCCO said in their statement. They added that their charge, arrest, conviction and imprisonment were never justified and believed they were vindicated.

Interestingly the NGO gives big credits to the judiciary “We commend the judges of the Supreme Court for this ruling. We welcome this, amongst their first acts in office, as a sign that perhaps our judiciary is turning a corner towards the better path of justice. The past few years have increasingly eroded our confidence in the judiciary – the impeachment proceedings of the former chief justice exposed but a fragment of the rot that had set in the judiciary.  But as we all know, that situation has been created and nurtured over time, and it’s predilection  for injustice has its roots in an environment that is hostile to free speech, in particular the speech that dissents with the status  quo. And so our rejoicing is bitter-sweet:  this is not about the individuals who previously occupied and abused judicial office; nor is it about their heinous conduct during this and other cases – the problem of the judiciary, just as with the other structures of governance, is systemic, and our new judges and their successors will remain vulnerable to outside influence as long as the structural flaws are not addressed.

This was also an opportunity to restore both the dignity of and confidence in the judiciary.  It could also serve as an opportunity to develop and grow the country’s jurisprudence in a way that promotes a culture of human rights and good democratic governance.

The SCCCO anticipates an era of respect for the rule of law under the new Supreme Court Judges Qinisile Mabuza and Mbutfo Mamba: “We note in the appointments the presence of judges such as Qinisile Mabuza and Mbutfo Mamba who have a proven track record of fairness and we look forward to an era where such judges are not punished for being principled…We call on all the judicial officers, even as they have taken the judicial oath/affirmation of office, to also recall the following constitutional provisions: Whereas all the branches of government are the Guardians of the Constitution, it is necessary that the Courts be the ultimate Interpreters of the Constitution”.
The article adds with a sad note that in the meantime the Swaziland Office of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has been closed due to lack of funding.

See background in: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/swaziland-should-immediately-release-two-human-rights-defenders-arrested-on-17-march/

Observer.

Family of human rights defender Corrie decry dismissal by Israeli Supreme Court

February 13, 2015

The family of Rachel Corrie arrive at an Israeli court before hearing the verdict in her civil suit in August 2012. (Photo: Getty Images)

The family of Rachel Corrie arrive at an Israeli court before hearing the verdict in her civil suit in August 2012. (Photo: Getty Images)

Mondoweiss Editors on 12 February 2015 disseminated the following statement by the family of Rachel Corriea 23-year-old American peace activist from Olympia, Washington, who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer on 16 March 2003, while protecting the home of a Palestinian family from demolition:

Today we received word from our attorneys that the Supreme Court of Israel dismissed our appeal in the wrongful death case of our daughter and sister Rachel Corrie.  Our family is disappointed but not surprised. We had hoped for a different outcome, though we have come to see through this experience how deeply all of Israel’s institutions are implicated in the impunity enjoyed by the Israeli military.

It will take some time before we have ability to read the decision in English and to process all the court has said. Nevertheless, it is clear that this decision, affirming the August 2012 lower court finding, amounts to judicial sanction of immunity for Israeli military forces when they commit injustices and human rights violations.

The Supreme Court decision ignores international law arguments regarding the protection of civilians and human rights defenders in armed conflict and grossly violates the internationally recognized right to effective remedy.

The court has determined that our separate case against Dr. Yehuda Hiss and Abu Kabir Institute, regarding inappropriate ways in which Rachel’s autopsy was conducted, may go forward in the lower court. We continue to be appalled that it requires a lawsuit to have a truthful accounting of what occurred, and complete repatriation of Rachel’s remains. Decisions as to next steps will be made by the family in consultation with our attorneys.

Despite the verdict, our family remains convinced we were correct in bringing this case forward.  The day after Rachel was killed, Prime Minister Sharon promised President Bush a thorough, credible and transparent investigation. Clearly, that standard was not met. The U.S. government continues to call for such an investigation by Israel.  A civil lawsuit cannot substitute for an impartial investigation, but it is the only process through which a family can discover more information and move forward when governments fail to act.

Rachel’s case provides yet another example of how the Israeli justice system is failing to provide accountability. We urge the international community, and not least the U.S. government, to stand with victims of human rights violations and against impunity, and to uphold fundamental tenants of international justice.

We are immensely grateful to our attorney Hussein Abu Hussein and to his entire legal team for the decade of work they have contributed to Rachel’s case, and continue to provide.  We are grateful to all of our friends in Palestine, Israel, and elsewhere, who in so many different ways have supported our efforts.

We have taken this path for Rachel, the daughter and sister we love, lost, and miss. Her spirit lives. She has inspired all of our actions and will continue to do so.

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For more information about the trial visit: http://rachelcorriefoundation.org/trial

Corrie statement on Israeli Supreme Court dismissal: ‘this decision amounts to judicial sanction of immunity for Israeli military forces’.

Russia: The Supreme Court rejects a lawsuit filed against “Memorial”

February 9, 2015

On  6 February 2015, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, an OMCT-FIDH joint programme, welcomed the decision of 28 January of the Russian Supreme Court to reject the complaint filed by the Ministry of Justice against the Society “Memorial”.

[Since its foundation in the final years of the Soviet Union, the network “Memorial”, consisting in a number of independent NGOs under the same society, is known for exposing Soviet-era repression, commemorating victims of violations and monitoring the current human rights situation in the Russian Federation and other post-Soviet countries.]

The complaint filed by the Justice Ministry, was a clear attempt to harass and discredit the Society “Memorial”, undermine its tremendous human rights work and expeditiously lead to its closure. It followed years of harassment, in the form of defamation through slandering media campaigns and acts of vandalism targeting the group’s headquarters in Moscow.Russian civil society organisations are facing a deep and systematic clampdownsaid OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.OMCT-LOGO

[Human Rights Center “Memorial” is currently fighting a separate battle against an official move to label it a “foreign agent” under the controversial law targeting NGOs that receive foreign funding. Moreover, under a newly proposed piece of legislation, currently debated in the State Duma of the Russian Federation, foreign organisations would face being labelled as “undesirable” and closure and local NGOs engaged in cooperation with such bodies would face criminal charges.]

While the decision of the Supreme Court dismissing the complaint against the Society “Memorial” should be welcomed, we remain deeply concerned by the constant threats to human rights defenders in the Russian Federation in the context of an ever increasing repressive legal framework and frequent attacks targeting human rights defenders”, said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.

logo FIDH_seul


The Observatory recalls in this context the recent brutal attack on lawyer Mourad Magomedov, who works with the Human Rights Centre Memorial in Daghestan, by five unknown men in Makhachkala, Dagestan.

Russian Federation: The Supreme Court rejects the lawsuit filed against the renowned Historical, Educational, Human Rights and Charitable Society “Memorial” (Society “Memorial”) / February 6, 2015 / Statements / Human rights defenders / OMCT.

Turkey: after 16 years finally Justice for human rights defender Pınar Selek

December 20, 2014

Yesterday, 19 December 2014, the Istanbul High Criminal Court acquitted Ms. Pınar Selek, an academic known for her commitment towards the rights of the most vulnerable communities in Turkey. She was prosecuted for allegedly causing a bomb to explode in Istanbul’s Egyptian bazaar on July 9, 1998, and for membership in a terrorist organisation.

Previously, the Istanbul Special Heavy Penal Court No. 12 had acquitted her on three occasions: in 2006, 2008, and 2011. Notwithstanding, the Supreme Court quashed the first two acquittal decisions and requested the lower court to convict her. In, 2013, the Istanbul Special Heavy Criminal Court No. 12 deferred to the Supreme Court’s request and sentenced Ms. Pınar Selek to life imprisonment, while the case was still pending before the Supreme Court. On June 11, 2014, the Criminal Chamber No. 9 of the Supreme Court decided to overturn the conviction on procedural grounds[https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/pinar-selek-case-in-turkey-the-supreme-court-overturns-life-sentence-against-pinar-selek/]

Countless procedural irregularities have been observed during the trial. She should have never been prosecuted in the first place. This decision should now become final, recalled Martin Pradel, Lawyer at the Paris Bar, who has been observing the legal process for the Observatory since 2011.

The Observatory (a coöperation between FIDH and OMCT) has been particularly mobilised on this case, through the publication of nine urgent alerts, six trial observations and demarches towards the Turkish authorities and the international community at the highest level. For more information see Observatory mission report published in April 2014, available in English on the following web links: http://www.omct.org/files/2014/04/22642/turkey_mission_report_pinar_selek_2014.pdf

Turkey: Justice at last! Pınar Selek acquitted after 16 years of judicial harassment / December 19, 2014 / Statements / Human rights defenders / OMCT.

Retaliation now reaches even Human Rights Commissioners in the Maldives: UN deeply concerned

October 19, 2014


(Ravina Shamsadani, Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Photo: UN Multimedia)

On 17 October 2014 the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights felt duty bound to express deep concern about a criminal case initiated by the Supreme Court of the Maldives against members of the country’s own official Human Rights Commission!

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), noted that five members of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives were now facing “serious criminal charges” following the submission of their written contribution to their country’s second Universal Periodic Review (UPR), presented to the UN Human Rights Council (the actual UPR of the Maldives is scheduled to be held between April and May 2015). “The Government has a responsibility to ensure a safe operating space for the Commission and for civil society actors in the country, so that they are able to coöperate with UN human rights mechanisms without fear of reprisals.” the spokesperson stated.

[It is not the first time the Supreme Court of the Maldives has come under rebuke from OHCHR. In 2013, former High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for reforms to the judiciary to safeguard the rule of law following the Supreme Court’s repeated interventions in the presidential election process in the Maldives which, she said, were undermining the country’s democracy. In that specific case, the Court had nullified the first round of the election on the basis of irregularities in the process, despite conclusions by national and international observers that the election was free and fair.]

United Nations News Centre – Maldives: UN ‘deeply concerned’ as Supreme Court prosecutes rights advocates.

Intimidation against human rights defender Nasrullah Baloch in Pakistan

April 7, 2014

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - croppeddescribes a classical but fearsome case of intimidation of a human rights defender, Nasrullah Baloch, who is assisting the Supreme Court in Pakistan with cases of disappearances.

Nasrullah Baloch is the Chairperson of Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) and has come to prominence for his work on cases of missing persons and extrajudicial killings. The human rights defender is also assisting the Supreme Court in the context of an investigation into mass graves in Balochistan. Nasrullah Baloch took part in the Supreme Court hearings concerning a number of disappeared persons on 25 March 2014. He also met with the head of the Norwegian Mission to discuss the cases. The hearings were attended by officers of the military and intelligence, who observed the exchange with the Norwegian diplomat Read the rest of this entry »

Conflicting views on proposed secular charter in Canada

February 8, 2014

Although not directly related to human rights defenders, I thought this article interesting because two top judges taken such openly opposing views. Also interesting to note – at least in this short piece – is the absence of references to international case law on the same topic e.g. by the European Court on Human Rights, which has pronounced itself on Turkey and France:

“Two former Supreme Court of Canada justices delivered conflicting views on Friday on whether Quebec’s proposed secular charter would hold up in court. Louise Arbour, a member of Canada’s highest court from 1999 to 2004, wrote in a letter to Montreal La Presse she firmly believes the Parti Quebecois government’s proposed charter violates the right to freedom of religion. Arbour, who also served as the UN high commissioner for human rights, wrote that the prohibition of wearing so-called conspicuous religious symbols will mainly target Muslim women who wear a head scarf. “It is particularly odious to make women, who are already marginalized, pay the price,” Arbour wrote. “Women, for whom access to employment is a key factor for their autonomy and integration. “Meanwhile in Quebec City, Claire LHeureux-Dube offered her unconditional support for the proposed charter during hearings at the legislature. The former justice said the charter should withstand any court challenge. And if necessary, the government could use the notwithstanding clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, she added. LHeureux-Dube, a Supreme Court justice between 1987 and 2002, said she sees no discrimination in the most controversial aspect of the proposed charter — a ban on state employees from wearing conspicuous religious symbols. The proposed legislation would ban public-sector employees, including teachers and daycare workers, from displaying or wearing religious symbols at work. It would also forbid public employees from wearing other visible religious symbols such as turbans, kippas and bigger-than-average crucifixes. LHeureux Dube said the wearing of religious symbols is not a fundamental right. And, she adds, no right is absolute.  Religious symbols “are part of the display of religious beliefs and not the practice of a religion,” LHeureux-Dube said. She finds it perfectly reasonable for the state to impose restrictions on its employees, comparing it to the state’s restriction on political expression. LHeureux-Dube also took the opportunity to lash out at Quebec Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard, accusing him of breaking from what she described as his past position as a defender of secularism and women’s rights. She expressed dismay the party had drifted away from its roots. She noted the Liberals frequently battled with the Roman Catholic Church, notably during the right to vote for women in 1940. “I wonder how one can deny that great tradition of secularism,” she said….” 

via mysask.com – News.

Forced psychiatric treatment still alive in parts of Europe

August 13, 2013

For those who think that the phenomenon of forced psychiatric treatment of human rights defenders has disappeared with the end of the cold war, here are two reminders from Front Line that this is unfortunately still continuing:Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped

The first case is in the Ukraine and had at least a ‘happy’ ending: Read the rest of this entry »