Posts Tagged ‘the Guardian’

The assault on human rights in the UN is starting to hurt

April 1, 2018

Success in passing the “win-win resolution” in the UN Human Rights Council [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/26/chinas-win-win-resolution-gets-the-votes-in-the-un-council/], is just the visible part of a larger and more ominous assault on the human rights system as it has been built up (however incomplete and painstaking) over the last decades. Julian Borger in the Guardian of 27 March 2018 (“China and Russia accused of waging ‘war on human rights’ at UN”) describes how the two countries lobbied to cut funding for human rights monitors and for a senior post dedicated to human rights work. This all seems to fit very well with the trend started in 2016 and which I tried to describe in early 2017 in a series of posts, of which the last one was: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/24/2017-10-need-to-reset-for-human-rights-movement/.

The funding of the office of the high commissioner for human rights in Geneva has also been cut. The current high commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Hussein, has announced that he will be stepping down this year and not seeking another term in the post, explaining to his staff that the lack of global support for protecting human rights made his job untenable. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/22/bound-to-happen-but-still-high-commissioner-zeid-announces-he-will-not-seek-second-term/]

Last week, Zeid was due to address the UN security council on plight of civilians in Syria but before he began, Russia called a procedural vote to stop him speaking on the grounds that the council was not the proper forum for discussing human rights. “The fifth committee has become a battleground for human rights,” Louis Charbonneau, the UN director for Human Rights Watch, was quoted in the Guardian. “Russia and China and others have launched a war on things that have human rights in their name.”

China has real political momentum at the UN now,” Richard Gowan, a UN expert at the European Council for Foreign Relations, said. “It is now the second biggest contributor the UN budget after the US, and is increasingly confident in its efforts to roll back UN human rights activities. It is also pushing its own agenda – with an emphasis on ‘harmony’ rather than individual rights in UN forums. And a lot of countries like what they hear.”

A western diplomat at the UN conceded that human rights were losing ground at the UN, in part because China had become a more assertive voice, prepared to lead lobbying campaigns, and because Beijing is increasingly leveraging its vast and growing investments in the developing world to win votes for its agenda at the UN.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/27/china-and-russia-accused-of-waging-war-on-human-rights-at-un

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/03/a-new-low-for-the-un-security-council-as-russia-takes-syrian-human-rights-off-the-table/

Why does MP Tulip Siddiq not want to speak out on Bangladesh?

December 5, 2017

Michael Polak, a human rights lawyer in the UK , wrote in the Guardian of 4 December 2017 “Why will Tulip Siddiq not speak out on Bangladesh’s ‘disappeared’ innocents?”. Behind this title is a serious matter. Ahmad bin Quasem is among the hundreds abducted by state forces in Bangladesh, the country of which this British MP’s  aunt happens to be the prime minister. The author points out that the excuse that the MP has “no sway over Bangladeshi politics” is far from convincing as:.. “And yet earlier this week the Bangladeshi cabinet adopted a resolution “greeting” the Hampstead and Kilburn MP for winning an award in Westminster. Siddiq accompanied the Bangladeshi prime minister during bilateral talks between Russia and Bangladesh in January 2013. Her paternal uncle is Tarique Ahmed Siddique, security adviser to the prime minister. Her mother and brother are both on the ruling party’s council and it is said that her brother is being groomed to be a future leader of Bangladesh. It is clear that Tulip Siddiq has a close relationship with various government figures in Bangladesh, including the prime minister.

Why this MP feels so reluctant to use her influence and to speak out on this and other cases is a mystery. The details of the case of Mir Ahmad bin Quasem, or Arman as he is known to friends and family, a British-trained Bangladeshi lawyer who was abducted in August 2016 by state security forces, follows below.
tulip siddiq
Tulip Siddiq. Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty

Last year the family of one such victim approached me to press their case. Mir Ahmad bin Quasem, or Arman as he is known to friends and family, is a British-trained Bangladeshi lawyer who was abducted in August 2016 by state security forces. They knocked on his door and, in front of his wife and young children, dragged him away. This abduction followed the exact modus operandi of other abductions by the security forces in Bangladesh. Since this incident there has been no confirmation of his whereabouts, but we believe that he is still alive.

Mir Ahmad was on the defence team for his father, Quasem Ali, who was prosecuted by Bangladesh’s self-styled “international crimes tribunal”, set up by the ruling party in Bangladesh to try crimes committed during the country’s war of liberation against Pakistan.

The tribunal has been widely criticised internationally, including by groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as the United Nations high commissioner for human rights and eminent British lawyers. Along these lines, Mir Ahmad decided to join his father’s defence team but was abducted a month before his father’s execution, while the appeal procedure was still under way.

Mir Ahmad has not been charged with any offence and his abduction and continued detention by the Bangladeshi government is contrary to the Bangladeshi constitution and the country’s obligations under international law. Forced disappearances are common in Bangladesh under the current government: more than 320 people have been disappeared since 2009.

Mir Ahmad is one of three sons of former politicians who were abducted at around the same time, one of whom has been released. In a secret recordingobtained by Swedish radio, it is claimed by a high-ranking government security officer that the fate of those seized is decided by those “high up”. Astonishingly, as reported in these pages, Sheikh Hasina recently claimed that such forced disappearances also occur in Britain and the US, saying “275,000 British citizens disappeared” in the UK each year.

Last week Channel 4 News raised the issue and put the matter to Siddiq. The interaction now has become a matter of public record. Siddiq complained that Mir Ahmad was not her constituent, that she had no sway over Bangladeshi politics and that in any case she was a British MP focusing on Britain…..Even if we are to take Siddiq at her word that she has no sway over Bangladeshi politics, what is preventing her from at least speaking out? My client may not be Siddiq’s constituent, but nor is he the constituent of Shabana Mahmood MP, who raised an official parliamentary question on the matter earlier this year.

Before and since the Channel 4 News report was aired, the family of Mir Ahmad bin Quasem have been visited by state security forces who have reportedly warned them that “if there is any such news, come next time we will not be good like this time and you will not get to see our face like today”.

Since it has come to this, I earnestly hope that Siddiq can speak out to try to help ensure that Mir Ahmad’s mother, sister, wife and two young daughters are not intimidated by the Bangladeshi security services or face enforced disappearance themselves. This is an urgent matter and I ask Tulip Siddiq, as I have done many times before, to speak to me so it can be resolved.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/04/tulip-siddiq-bangladesh-disappeared-abducted-prime-minister

 

Documenting the Killings of Environmental Defenders (Guardian and Global Witness)

July 15, 2017

Last Friday I asked attention for Front Line’s project Memorial that tries to honor all human rights defenders who have been killed since 1998 [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/13/stop-the-killings-you-can-help-front-line/]. Now the Guardian announces that this year, in collaboration with Global Witness, it will attempt to record all of the deaths of people who are killed while defending their land, forests, rivers or wildlife – most often against the harmful impacts of industry. The project will also document the stories of some of the land and environmental defenders still under attack

Activists, wildlife rangers and indigenous leaders are dying violently at the rate of about four a week, with a growing sense around the world that ‘anyone can kill environmental defenders without repercussions’

Environmental defenders being killed in record numbers globally, new research reveals.

    • The Guardian pieces addresses also the crucial question of methodology.” Environmental defenders: who are they and how do we decide if they have died in defence of their environment?” [see:

      https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/13/environmental-defenders-who-are-they-and-how-do-we-decide-if-they-have-died-in-defence-of-their-environment]

      Amazon rainforest activists José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife Maria do Espírito Santo were murdered by gunmen in Brazil’s Pará state in May 2011
      Amazon rainforest activists José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife Maria do Espírito Santo who were murdered by gunmen in Brazil’s Pará state in May 2011. Photograph: Stringer, Brazil/Reuters

      Some excerpts:

      Who are land and environmental defenders?

      Land and environmental defenders are people who take peaceful action, either voluntarily or professionally, to protect the environment or land rights. They are often ordinary people who may well not define themselves as “defenders”. Some are indigenous or peasant leaders living in remote mountains or isolated forests, protecting their ancestral lands and traditional livelihoods from business projects such as mining, dams or luxury hotels. Others are park rangers tackling poaching or illegal logging. They could even be lawyers, journalists or NGO staff working to expose environmental abuse and land grabbing.

      How does Global Witness document killings of defenders?

      Global Witness uses online searches and its extensive network of local contacts to source evidence every time a land or environmental defender is reported as murdered, or as having been abducted by state forces. A number of criteria must be fulfilled for a case to be verified and entered into the Global Witness database. A credible online source of information is required with the victim’s name, details of how they were killed or abducted (including the date and location), and evidence that s/he was a land or environmental activist. In some cases, specialised local organisations are able to investigate and verify the case in-country, meaning that an online source is not necessary. Global Witness includes the friends, colleagues and family of defenders if either they appear to have been killed as a reprisal for the defender’s work, or because they were killed in an attack which also left the defender dead. While Global Witness endeavours to keep its database updated in real-time, verification of cases can be time-consuming, meaning that the names of some individuals are added weeks, or even months, after their death.

      Honduras: Julia Francisco Martinez, widow of indigenous activist Francisco Martinez Marquez who was killed in January 2015
      Honduras: Julia Francisco Martinez, widow of indigenous activist Francisco Martinez Marquez who was killed in January 2015 after months of death threats. His killers have not been brought to justice. Photograph: Giles Clarke/Global Witness

      Why does Global Witness say that its data is incomplete? There are a number of reasons why the information in Global Witness’s database is likely to be incomplete. Many killings go unreported, and very few are investigated by the authorities, which is part of the problem itself. Suppression of the media and restrictions on human rights in some countries reduces the number of organisations and outlets documenting killings. In high-conflict countries it can be difficult to verify that a killing was linked to somebody’s activism. Some countries are likely to be under-represented because principal searches are currently limited to English, Spanish, Portuguese and French. Global Witness’s network of local sources is also stronger in some regions than others.

      For full details of Global Witness’s methodology, visit globalwitness.org/defenders/methodology

      see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/01/violence-against-environmental-human-rights-defenders-one-of-the-worst-trends-in-recent-years/

 

Source: The defenders | The Guardian

 

We must find new ways to protect human rights defenders…and to counter the anti-human rights mood

December 12, 2016

Almost 20 years ago the UN adopted the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, but they face more danger than ever, say Iva Dobichina and James Savage (resp. of the Open Society Foundations and the Fund for Global Human Rights) in a post on 10 December 2016 in the Guardian. “We must find new ways to protect human rights defenders” say the authors in an excellent article so rich and – in my view correct – in its analysis of the current climate that I reproduce it below in full. What is perhaps missing from the piece is a call for more sustained action by the worldwide human rights movement to improve its ‘performance’ in the battle for public opinion. A lot of the regression in the situation of human rights defenders seems to go hand-in-hand with an increase in public support for rights-averse policies (“Around the globe, a tectonic shift towards autocratic and semi-authoritarian rule by law, and the pernicious influence of corporate, criminal and fundamentalist non-state actors, has put human rights activists on the defensive and let rights violators go on the offence” state the authors correctly). To counter this we have to come up with equally convincing use of the modern media, especially through professional-level visualisation and ideas for campaigns that can broaden and galvanize the human rights movement. Read the rest of this entry »

Murdered British MP Jo Cox ‘always fought against the hate that killed her’

June 17, 2016

As you will all have read Jo Cox, Labour MP for Batley and Spen in West Yorkshire, UK, died on Thursday 16 June after she was shot and stabbed in Birstall in her constituency. She had previously spoken out against the “racism and fascism” of Britain First, an anti-Islam Right-wing group. There are strong indications that she was killed by the hate she fought against.[Her attacker is reported to have shouted “put Britain first” at least twice. A 52-year-old man, named locally as Tommy Mair, has been arrested, the BBC has reported.]. She showed that politician can be human rights defenders.

Colleague MP Cat Smith said in the Lancaster Guardian: “Her life was cut short at 41 but she didn’t waste a day of it…To stand up for human rights, the campaign on behalf of Syria and child refugees, and making sure we don’t forget about people who are suffering.”   “Before she became an MP she worked for Oxfam and was passionate about international development and childrens’ human rights in war zones.” “She did a lot of work on human rights in Gaza.” She spoke out in the House of Parliament on several human rights issues.

Her husband Brendan, with whom she had two young children, Cuillin and Lejla, released a statement after her death. He said: “Today is the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. More difficult, more painful, less joyful, less full of love. I and Jo’s friends and family are going to work every moment of our lives to love and nurture our kids and to fight against the hate that killed Jo”

Previously unreleased photo dated 06/06/16 of Labour MP Jo Cox, who died today after being shot and stabbed in the street outside her constituency advice surgery in Birstall, West Yorkshire. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday June 16, 2016. See PA story POLICE MP. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Previously unreleased photo dated 06/06/16 of Labour MP Jo Cox, who died after being shot and stabbed in Birstall, West Yorkshire. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday June 16, 2016. See PA story POLICE MP. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire

 

Sources:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/16/labour-mp-jo-cox-shot-in-leeds-witnesses-report/

Lancaster MP: Jo Cox ‘always fought against the hate that killed her’ – Lancaster Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/16/the-guardian-view-on-jo-cox-an-attack-on-humanity-idealism-and-democracy

Killing of another human rights defender: FMO suspends all activities in Honduras

March 16, 2016

Bertha Cáceres, daughter of murdered Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres.

 Bertha Cáceres, daughter of murdered Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres. Photograph: Liz Ford for the Guardian

This week, Bertha, who is studying for a masters degree in Latin American studies in Mexico, was in New York to speak at side events during the annual Commission on the Status of Women. Here she said “… I will talk about the situation in Honduras. This is not the first assassination, but one of a series of assassinations of human rights defenders … I don’t want another human rights defender to be assassinated”. Even while she spoke with the Guardian journalist a call came through from COPINH’s lawyer (the NGO her mother worked for) to say another member of the organisation had been shot dead ….

According to a statement by Front Line Defenders today, this human rights defender, Nelson Garcia, was returning home following a violent eviction conducted by the Public Order Military Police and the Cobras Special Force in the municipality of Río Lindo when he was intercepted by unidentified men who shot him in the face four times. Read the rest of this entry »

Tunisian national dialogue quartet laureates of 2015 Nobel peace prize

October 9, 2015

The Tunisian national dialogue quartet, a coalition of civil society organisations, has won the 2015 Nobel peace prize.  The quartet is comprised of four NGOs in Tunisian civil society: the Tunisian General Labour Union, the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, the Tunisian Human Rights League [the national affiliate of the FIDH – see press link below] and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers.

Kaci Kullmann Five, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel committee, said the quartet had formed an alternative peaceful political process in 2013 when the country was on the brink of civil war and subsequently guaranteed fundamental rights for the entire population. Committee says the prize awarded for quartet’s decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the 2011 Jasmine Revolution

The Tunisia director of Human Rights Watch, Amna Guellali said the prize was being seen in the country as a reward for sticking with democratic principles. “The Quartet enabled the democratic process to go ahead, it was a political crisis that could have led to civil war,” she said. “People here will hope the award is not just a token celebration, but will bring Tunisia real help.

https://www.fidh.org/en/region/north-africa-middle-east/tunisia/national-dialogue-quartet-in-tunisia-2015-peace-nobel-prize-mabrouk
(French:) https://www.fidh.org/fr/regions/maghreb-moyen-orient/tunisie/le-quartet-tunisien-prix-nobel-de-la-paix-2015-mabrouk

Source: Tunisian national dialogue quartet wins 2015 Nobel peace prize | World news | The Guardian

MI5 spying on Martin Ennals: what’s new?

August 21, 2015

On Friday, 21 August, the Guardian reported on MI5 spying on Dorris Lessing but also on Martin Ennals. [“The files released on Friday reveal that MI5 also kept a close watch on prominent figures of the left who were never members of the Communist party. They include the brothers David and Martin Ennals..the latter became general secretary of the National Council of Civil Liberties, a founder member of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and secretary general of Amnesty International…. [Shortly after the end of the second world war] MI5 replied that its files on the Ennals brothers had been “in great demand recently”. MI5 was concerned that UN groups, in which it said both brothers were involved, might be infiltrated by the Communist party. MI5 noted that Martin was “well known to Special Branch for his activities in the Anti-Apartheid Movement”.

However, nine months ago (25/26 October, 2014) the Daily Mail had already referred to this issue under the title: “Revealed: How Special Branch spied on leading anti-apartheid activist“.

The Government is facing calls to reveal the truth about a spying operation on one of Britain’s most respected human rights activists. Previously secret documents show the late Martin Ennals was put under years of surveillance by Special Branch. He was a key figure at Amnesty International and the National Council for Civil Liberties – now known as Liberty – and a leading campaigner against apartheid. Details of his marriage, family and holiday destinations were recorded. His luggage was also regularly searched as he made trips to and from Britain. But the files, released by the Metropolitan Police under the Freedom of Information Act, have been heavily redacted.

His son Marc, who is mentioned in the files, added: ‘If they were doing this to him, they must have been doing this to millions of others who were essentially much more of a threat. He was just fighting for human rights.’” Marc Ennals said it was ‘frustrating’ that so much material from the files had been redacted and the freedom of expression group Article 19, which Martin Ennals helped found in the 1980s, called on the Government to ‘come clean’.

Whether that is now the case I cannot judge, but as founder of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights and a close personal friend of Martin Ennals, I can hardly be surprised by the ‘revelations’. Martin told me from the first day we met that I would alway have to assume that conversations and documents would be overheard or read. That he was accused of communist sympathies was also not a secret as he had taken a very public anti-McArthy stand in UNESCO as explained in the biography I wrote for the Encyclopedia of Human Rights, OUP, 2009, Vol 2, pp 135-138 (ed. David P. Forsythe). Perhaps the most ‘shocking’ is the normalcy of the assumption that anti-apartheid activities are (were) a valid source of concern!

http://www.martinennalsaward.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=98&Itemid=74&lang=en

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2807885/How-Special-Branch-spied-leading-anti-apartheid-activist.html

MI5 spied on Doris Lessing for 20 years, declassified documents reveal | Books | The Guardian.

Baku Games starting today with avalanche of human rights criticism

June 12, 2015

It is encouraging to see the range of human rights actors that have taken to using the Baku Games, starting today, as an occasion to draw attention to the human rights record of Azerbaijan. One of the more creative is the FIDH‘s launch of “REAL BAKU 2015,” an online video game, to denounce the arbitrary imprisonment of dozens of human rights defenders:

Read the rest of this entry »

Hear and read about women human rights defenders under threat

April 3, 2015

If you want to hear rather than read about women human rights defenders, go to the podcast of 2 April 2015 organized by  and  for the Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/audio/2015/apr/02/women-human-rights-defenders-podcast
Twenty years after the Beijing Platform made promising pronouncements, it is sobering to hear from women human rights defenders who are under attack for their work:
  • Daysi Flores, JASS Honduras country director, talks about the situation in Honduras, where the imprisonment of Gladys Lanza, one of the country’s most respected feminists, marks a fresh low.
  • Nimalka Fernando, president of the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism in Sri Lanka, talks about the misogynist attacks that she has faced.
  • Maryam Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, co-director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, looks at the situation for women in Bahrain.
  • Khouloud Mahdhaoui, a human rights activist in Tunisia, discusses LGBT attacks in her home country.
  • Phumzile Mlambo Nguka, the executive director of UN Women, explains how the wave of extremism around the world has affected anyone standing up for women’s rights.
  • Tania Branigan, the Guardian’s China correspondent, talks about the five women who were arrested in the days before International Women’s Day in China, over their plans to highlight sexual harassment.

In the same vein is the following statement: Statement of Caribbean women, women’s organizations and other civil society organizations on the occasion of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) 59, Beijing + 20 – Stabroek News – Georgetown, Guyana.

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/women-human-rights-defenders/