Posts Tagged ‘the Guardian’

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:

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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:

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Greek justice minister shows clear signs of homophobia

December 3, 2014

The Guardian of 2 December 2014 reports that Greece’s justice minister, Haralambos Athanasiou, has been accused of homophobia after unequivocally denouncing gay marriage and opposing even same-sex unions, saying they pose dangers to society, especially a society that “respected traditions”.  Complying with EU demands to legalise partnerships for homosexual couples was also problematic, he said, because it was not without potentially adverse consequences for society.

[Athens was fined by the European court of human rights last year for failing to extend protective rights, including domestic partnerships, to gays and lesbians, a move the tribunal described as discriminating to same-sex couples. Following the judgment, the prime minister Antonis Samaras’s conservative-dominated coalition signalled that it would redress the wrong but got cold feet when rightwingers and clerics reacted in fury. Greece and Lithuania stand alone in refusing to grant such rights.]

[This year the Greek Orthodox bishop of Thessaloniki, Anthimos, called homosexuality “a perversion of human existence”.]

Andrea Gilbert, a LGBT activist, said: “Greece wants to present itself to Europe and the rest of the world as a modern democratic country that respects the rights of all its citizens. These are really very shocking statements when the man making them is the minister of justice, the person who is meant to protect citizens, not a crackpot member of Golden Dawn.” [In April, Ilias Panagiotaros of the neo-fascist Golden Dawn party, denounced same-sex relationships as a “sickness”]

Greek justice minister denounces gay marriage | World news | The Guardian.

British human rights investigators held in Qatar freed

September 9, 2014

The Guardian reported today that Krishna Upadhyaya and Gundev Ghimire, the two British human rights investigators detained in Qatar for almost nine days, have been released from custody (but have not yet left the country).

via UK human rights researchers held in Qatar freed | World news | theguardian.com.

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/human-rights-investigators-in-qatar-are-now-confirmed-as-detained/

Iranian human rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh speaks to the Guardian

June 2, 2014

The Guardian of 1 June 2014 contains a long and fascinating interview with Nasrin Sotoudeh, the Iranian lawyer who won the Sacharov Prize and was a Final Nominee of the MEA in 2012. The now freed Iranian human rights lawyer – in an interview with Simon Tisdall – speaks out in a moving way about why she is a human rights defender and how she coped with the separation from her family. The title of the piece: ‘I’ve a bad feeling about the women I left behind’ is telling of her concern for others.
Nasrin Sotoudeh

(Nasrin Sotoudeh with her son, Nima, after being freed from prison last year. Photograph: Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)

“Nasrin Sotoudeh’s seven-year-old son, Nima, wants to go out to play. His mother, the leading Iranian human rights lawyer whose arbitrary imprisonment in 2010 sparked an international campaign to free her, has been talking for ages. Nima is bored. At the door to their apartment in north-west Tehran, Nasrin takes Nima in her arms. The boy stands on tip-toe to embrace his mother. They hold each other for a minute or more. It is as though the two cannot bear to be separated..…….”. For more: Freed Iranian rights lawyer: Ive a bad feeling about the women I left behind | World news | theguardian.com.

other posts on Nasrin: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/nasrin-sotoudeh/

Facebook bad for your health in Iran

May 29, 2014

Facebook

(Photograph: Dave Thompson/PA)

The Guardian reports that eight people have been jailed in Iran on charges including blasphemy and insulting the country’s supreme leader on Facebook. The opposition website Kaleme reported that two of the eight, identified as Roya Saberinejad Nobakht, 47, from Stockport (Iranian/UK national), and Amir Golestani, each received 20 years in prison and the remaining six – Masoud Ghasemkhani, Fariborz Kardarfar, Seyed Masoud Seyed Talebi, Amin Akramipour, Mehdi Reyshahri and Naghmeh Shahisavandi Shirazi – between seven and 19 years. They were variously found guilty of blasphemy, propaganda against the ruling system, spreading lies and insulting Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

[The relevant backdrop is that there is a growing row between President Hassan Rouhani’s administration, which favours internet freedom, and hardliners wary of relaxing online censorship. Last week, Iran’s national TV paraded six young Iranians arrested for performing a version of Pharrell William’s hit song Happy and posting a video of it on the internet. The arrests caused global outrage and prompted Rouhani to react in their support. The performers were soon released, but the video’s director, Sassan Soleimani, remains in jail. The arrests highlighted the challenges Rouhani faces in delivering his promise of allowing people greater access to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, which remain blocked in Iran….In recent weeks Rouhani has stepped up his rhetoric in support of internet freedom. “The era of the one-sided pulpit is over,” he said recently at a conference in Tehran, endorsing social networks and asking his communications minister to improve bandwidth in the country. He intervened when the authorities blocked access to the mobile messaging service WhatsApp, ordering the ban to be lifted. Iran’s judiciary, which is a political institution independent of the government, has since moved to challenge Rouhani’s intervention and orderered WhatsApp to be banned. Until two years ago, Iran’s ministry of information and communications technology was in charge of policing the country’s online community, but in 2012 Khamenei ordered officials to set up the supreme council of virtual space, a body that is closer to the supreme leader than to the government. This means Rouhani is not the sole decision-maker in the future of Iranian web. With help from Iran’s cyberpolice, the judiciary and the Revolutionary Guards have identified and arrested Iranians because of web-related issues, including several employees of the Iranian gadget news website Narenji, who have been in jail since December.]

via Briton among eight jailed in Iran for web insults | World news | The Guardian.