Posts Tagged ‘the Guardian’

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/

Homegrown African decision promotes press freedom and protects human rights defenders

February 5, 2015

A court has ruled that criminal defamation laws cannot include custodial sentences or sanctions that are disproportionate, such as excessive fines. (Gallo)

Simon Delaney, a media lawyer and advisor to the Decriminalisation of Expression Campaign, in The Guardian of 4 February reports on an important judgement by the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights on press freedom by ruling that criminal defamation laws cannot include custodial sentences or sanctions that are disproportionate, such as excessive fines.

[In 2012, Lohé Issa Konaté, the editor of a weekly newspaper in Burkina Faso, was found guilty of criminal defamation and sentenced to 12 months in prison after he published two articles accusing a public prosecutor of abusing his power. Konaté‘s paper was shut down for six months and he was ordered to pay an exorbitant fine, plus compensation and costs. Konaté argued that he was wrongfully punished for legitimate investigative journalism and his rights to freedom of expression were violated. A coalition of 18 media and human rights organisations added that criminal defamation laws undermine the democratic rights of the media and citizens to hold their governments to account. The court found that, although the Burkinabé law served the legitimate objective to protect the honour and reputation of public officials, the penalty of imprisonment was a disproportionate interference in the exercise of freedom of expression by Konaté and journalists in general. The court ordered Burkina Faso to change its criminal defamation laws and pay compensation to Konaté.]

The judgment is significant not so much because of the content of the decision (which is in line with international standards] but because it is homegrown ‘African’ decision.

The judgment, which is binding on African Union member states, gives impetus to the continent-wide campaign to decriminalise defamation. It also paves the way for the decriminalisation of ubiquitous laws prohibiting “the publication of matter with intent to bring the president into hatred, ridicule or contempt” and “the publication of false news with intent to cause fear and alarm to the public”.

Homegrown African decision promotes press freedom | Opinion | Analysis | Mail & Guardian.

Human Rights Day: exceptional chance to put questions to 3 women human rights defenders

December 9, 2014

To mark Human Rights Day tomorrow, Wednesday 10 December, the Guardian organises a live chat with three women human rights defenders who will answer your questions on their campaigning work and the challenges they face in uncovering abuses. The panel looks most promising:

Read the rest of this entry »