Posts Tagged ‘The Independent’

Global Witness report 2021: continued disaster

October 5, 2022

Stuti Mishra in the Independent of 29 September 2022 summarises and analyses the report “A Decade of Defiance: Ten years of reporting land and environmental activism worldwide” by Global Witness

<img src="https://static.independent.co.uk/2022/09/27/13/10185902.jpg?quality=75&width=982&height=726&auto=webp&quot; alt="<p>A mural of environmental defender Roberto Pacheco assassinated in 2020 while guarding his land, in Puerto Maldonado, Peru

A mural of environmental defender Roberto Pacheco assassinated in 2020 while guarding his land, in Puerto Maldonado, Peru (EPA)

More than 1,700 environmental defenders have been killed around the world in the last decade with one death reported every other day on average…The report titled A Decade of Defiance: Ten years of reporting land and environmental activism worldwide, released by Global Witness, reveals the increasing threats environmental activists are facing as the climate and biodiversity crisis worsens.

The research states that a total of 1,733 people have been killed over the past 10 years trying to protect their land and resources. That is an average of one defender killed approximately every two days over 10 years.

The report shows Brazil has been the deadliest country for environmental defenders with 342 lethal attacks reported since 2012 with over 85 per cent of killings within the Brazilian Amazon.

The data found within the report also shows that over half of the attacks over the 10-year period have taken place in three countries — Brazil, Colombia, and the Philippines — with around 300 killings reported in these countries.

Mexico and Honduras witnessed over 100 killings while Guatemala and India saw 80 and 79 respectively, remaining one of the most dangerous countries. The report also reports 12 mass killings, including three in India and four in Mexico.

Mexico was the country with the highest recorded number of killings in 2021, totalling 54 killings, up from 30 the previous year. Almost half of those killed were again Indigenous people while over a third were forced disappearances, including at least eight members of the Yaqui community.

The report also reveals that over three-quarters of the attacks recorded in 2021 took place in Latin America. In Brazil, Peru and Venezuela, a big majority of 78 per cent of these attacks occurred in the Amazon.

Meanwhile, the biggest increase in lethal attacks was witnessed in Brazil and India in 2021 with 26 deaths reported in Mexico, up from 20 and 14 in India, up from four.

Both Colombia and the Philippines saw a drop in killings to 33 in 2021 from 65, and 19 from 30 in 2021 respectively. Yet overall they remain two of the countries with the highest numbers of killings in the world since 2012.

2021 Highlights from Global Witness report

  • Around 200 Land and Environmental Defenders were killed in 2021 – nearly four people a week
  • Over three-quarters of the attacks recorded in 2021 took place in Latin America
  • Nearly 40 per cent of all attacks reported were against Indigenous people
  • Mexico recorded the highest number of killings in 2021
  • Brazil and India both saw a rise in lethal attacks in 2021
  • 50 of the victims killed in 2021 were small-scale farmers
  • Around 1 in 10 of the defenders recorded killed in 2021 were women, nearly two-thirds of whom were Indigenous [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/13/global-witness-2020-the-worst-year-on-record-for-environmental-human-rights-defenders/]

In Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo remained the country with the highest number of attacks — eight defenders were killed there in 2021. All eight of these killings were in Virunga National Park, which remains extremely dangerous for the park rangers protecting it.

The organisation began collecting data on attacks against those defending land and the environment in 2012 and found that the control and use of land and territory is a central issue in countries where defenders are threatened. Much of the increasing killing, violence and repression is linked to territorial conflicts and the pursuit of economic growth based on the extraction of natural resources from the land, it states. The research has also highlighted that Indigenous communities in particular face a disproportionate level of attacks — nearly 40 per cent — even though they make up only 5 per cent of the world’s population.

However, the research found that the figures also do not capture the true scale of the problem, as tightened control on media has led to severe underreporting in some countries where environmental defenders are most vulnerable. Research has also found that few perpetrators of killings are rarely ever brought to justice due to the failures of governments to properly investigate these crimes.

While a majority of these attacks are not properly investigated or reported on, a big proportion of these attacks were linked to sectors like mining and infrastructure, including large-scale agribusiness and hydroelectric dams.

Many authorities ignore or actively impede investigations into these killings often due to alleged collusion between corporate and state interests, the report says.

All over the world, Indigenous peoples, environmental activists and other land and environmental defenders risk their lives for the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss.

They play a crucial role as a first line of defence against ecological collapse, yet are under attack themselves facing violence, criminalisation and harassment perpetuated by repressive governments and companies prioritising profit over human and environmental harm.

a spokesperson for Global Witness said

With democracies increasingly under attack globally and worsening climate and biodiversity crises, this report highlights the critical role of defenders in solving these problems,” a spokesperson for Global Witness said, adding that the organisation makes an “urgent appeal for global efforts to protect and reduce attacks against them.”

Apart from killings, the report also reveals a number of tactics being used to silence them, like death threats, surveillance, sexual violence, or criminalisation – and that these kinds of attacks are even less well reported.

https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/environmental-activists/decade-defiance/

https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/global-witness-report-environment-defenders-threat-b2176247.html

Mary Robinson and the case of the Arab Princess

February 16, 2021

There’s a saying in show business that you can spend 20 years becoming an overnight star. In politics, the same is true in reverse, as the sad case of Mary Robinson and Princess Latifa of Dubai shows. Mary Robinson as former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and a widely-honored human rights defender [with 9 awards to her name, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/4E44A265-DF1A-45E2-8C6A-3294577EA211] was a much admired personality. For that reason I was reluctant to highlight her role in the sad case back in December 2018, although many human rights NGOs (including AI and HRW) did criticise her.

The former UN human rights Commissioner has been criticised for describing the daughter of Dubai’s ruler as “troubled” after she was reportedly forcibly returned to the kingdom after fleeing months earlier. Mary Robinson met with Sheikha Latifa on 15 December and photos released showed the two women smiling together in what appears to be a home. Ms Robinson, the former president of Ireland, told BBC’s Radio 4 the princess was a “vulnerable” woman with a “serious medical situation” for which she was receiving psychiatric care.

Immediately the highly publicised and bizarre meeting in December was panned by rights groups for being stage-managed by the Emirati ruling family (Ms Robinson is a personal friend of Sheikha Haya, a wife of the Dubai ruler.) Defending her comments, Ms Robinson released a statement saying: “I am dismayed at some of the media comments on my visit and I would like to say I undertook the visit and made an assessment, not a judgement, based on personal witness, in good faith and to the best of my ability.”

Toby Cadman, a barrister instructed by Detained in Dubai to act on behalf of the princess, told Review: “I am extremely disappointed that she would lend herself to what has been interpreted as a whitewash. We have requested an independent assessment of [Princess Latifa’s] state of mind and her physical well-being. It’s up to the United Nations to be satisfied that she is not being detained against her will.” Then in January 2019 Mrs Robinson stated that she contacted Michelle Bachelet, UN high commissioner for human rights. On 18/02/2019 Former Irish president Mary Robinson said she has no regrets over getting involved in the case of a Dubai princess who had tried to flee the UAE.

Exactly one year on from Latifa’s dramatic capture at sea, rights groups told The Independent they were deeply concerned about her welfare and still had no knowledge of what happened to her between her March 2018 capture and December when she reappeared in Dubai. Pleas to the UAE for an independent delegation to be granted access to the royal to assess her, have gone unanswered. “Human Rights Watch is still calling for her to be able to travel to a third country where we and other monitors can be assured she is able to speak freely and independently without fear of retaliation,” Hiba Zayadin of HRW told The Independent.Ms Robinson is not equipped to make an evaluation of Latifa, who was in the presence of people who allegedly forcibly disappeared her,” she added.

Amnesty International put out a similar call. “There has been no reply from the UAE, which has never responded to anything regarding domestic human-rights abuses that Amnesty International has attempted to raise with them,” said Amnesty’s Devin Kenney.

Now, 16 February 2021, after new footage was shared by BBC Panorama, in which the 35-year-old daughter of the ruler of Dubai has confirmed that commandos drugged her as she tried to flee by boat and flew her back to detention and accused her father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, of holding her “hostage”, Mrs Robinson has stated that she feels “horribly tricked” by the family of Princess Latifa Al Maktoum, and has joined in calls for immediate international action in order to establish Princess Latifa’s current condition and whereabouts

Fortunately some of the worst rumours turn out not to be true e.g.that  Sheikha Latifa was killed during early 2019 through extreme physical torture by the female maids inside the palace.[https://www.weeklyblitz.net/news/fraud-racket-plays-new-trick-centering-a-murdered-princess/].

Robinson is rightly revered for her life’s work, and that work is not invalidated by her unacceptable interference in the case of Princess Latifa. But her reputation has been tarnished by this.

And on 25 February followed this https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/25/princess-latifa-letter-uk-police-investigate-sister-shamsa-cambridge-abduction

For those interested in the many articles about his case:

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/ireland/dubai-paid-for-robinson-to-visit-runaway-princess-c3gnrv8cj
https://www.irishcentral.com/news/politics/former-irish-president-defends-decision-to-meet-princess-allegedly-detained-against-will
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/the-mysterious-story-of-princess-latifa-her-reported-escape-from-dubai-and-her-meeting-with-mary-robinson-37679044.html
https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/mary-robinson-visit-to-dubai-a-private-family-matter-says-princess-haya-895790.html
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/robinson-writes-to-un-human-rights-chief-wp2z8vc9j
http://www.midwestradio.ie/index.php/news/28421-mary-robinson-s-address-to-ireland-s-diplomats-today-will-take-place-behind-closed-doors
https://www.wsj.com/articles/mrs-robinson-and-the-missing-princess-11547078838
https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/mary-robinson-dubai-princess-latifa-escape-uae-sheikh-mohammed-haya-a8717081.html
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6586191/UAE-swaps-British-arms-consultant-centre-bribery-scandal-Dubai-princess.html was there a swap? https://scroll.in/latest/909621/christian-michels-family-to-move-un-after-claims-that-he-was-extradited-in-swap-for-dubai-princess
https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/mary-robinson-cancels-appearance-dubai-festival-over-jailed-uae-activist-840835552
https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/01/17/uae-injustice-intolerance-repression
https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/former-president-mary-robinson-has-no-regrets-over-dubai-princess-visit-905272.html
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/letter-robinson-sent-to-un-about-princess-latifa-visit-is-not-for-public-distribution-37833996.html
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6925547/Lisa-Bloom-calls-Dubai-rulers-HORSE-banned-Kentucky-derby-protest.html
https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190629-reports-dubai-princess-left-crown-prince-husband-fled-uae/
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/feb/18/uae-release-latifa-shamsa-women-rights

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/feb/28/the-tourists-who-flock-to-dubai-seem-happy-to-overlook-a-few-missing-princesses

Too sad for words: 11-year-old boy receives death threat

January 28, 2021
<img src="https://static.independent.co.uk/2021/01/27/10/Screenshot%202021-01-27%20at%2010.18.59.png?width=982&height=726&auto=webp&quality=75&quot; alt="<p>Francisco Vera

Francisco Vera (Reporter’s screenshot)

Clea Skopeliti reports in the Independent of 27 January 2021 that an 11-year-old environmental and children’s rights activist in Colombia has received death threats after he urged the government to improve children’s access to remote education during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Francisco Vera was sent a death threat from an anonymous Twitter account in mid-January after posting a video calling on the government to better internet connection for pupils learning from home during the coronavirus crisis.  The child activist has since been awarded with a letter of congratulations from the UN for his work, personally delivered by a UN representative who also expressed solidarity with the 11-year-old for the intimidation he has faced.

Francisco’s mother, Ana María Manzanare was the first to noticed  the threatening messages. Ms Manzanare told Columbian newspaper El Tiempo: “I was the one who noticed that message because I checked all of Francisco’s networks. He had already received many ridicules, criticism and insults for his activism in defence of life and the environment, but he had never been threatened with death.”

Colombian President Ivan Duque condemned the threats of violence, and ordered the police to “find those bandits” who threatened Francisco. Police say the investigation is ongoing.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/child-activist-death-threats-climate-activism-b1793364.html

UK criticised for selling spyware and wiretaps to 17 repressive regimes including Saudi Arabia and China

July 13, 2020

Jon Stone in the Independent of 13 july 2020 wrote about the UK Government being urged to explain £75m exports to countries rated ‘not free’. The British government is providing more than a dozen repressive regimes around the world with wiretaps, spyware and other telecommunications interception equipment they could use to spy on dissidents, public records show. Despite rules saying the UK should not export security goods to countries that might use them for internal repression, ministers have signed off more than £75m in such exports over the past five years to states rated “not free” by the NGO Freedom House.

The 17 countries include China, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, as well as the United Arab Emirates, which was the biggest recipient of licences totalling £11.5m alone since 2015….One such beneficiary of the UK’s exports is Hong Kong, which had a £2m shipment approved last year despite ongoing repression of pro-democracy protests. The Philippines, where police extrajudicial killings are rampant, has also provided steady business for British firms hawking surveillance systems.,,

A government spokesperson said blandly : “The government takes its export responsibilities seriously and assesses all export licences in accordance with strict licensing criteria. We will not issue any export licences where to do so would be inconsistent with these criteria.” But Oliver Feeley-Sprague, Amnesty International UK’s programme director for military, security and police affairs, said the UK did not seem to be undertaking proper risk assessments when selling such equipment and said the government’s controls were becoming “notorious” for their “faulty decision-making”

With numerous human rights defenders arrested and jailed in countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Turkey in the past five years, there’s a greater need than ever for the UK to be absolutely scrupulous in assessing the risk of UK telecoms technology being used unlawfully against human rights activists, journalists, and peaceful opposition figures.

“It’s just not clear that the UK is undertaking proper risk assessments when selling this equipment, and it’s not clear whether UK officials are making any effort to track how the equipment is used in one, two or three years’ time.

This week international trade secretary Liz Truss announced the UK would be resuming arms exports to Saudi Arabia, after a court had previously ordered that they were suspended. The government said it had reviewed claims that Saudi forces in Yemen had breached international humanitarian law and said any possible breaches were “isolated incidents” because they had happened in different places and different ways.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said the sale of the spying equipment raised “serious questions and concerns”.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/14/beyond-whatsapp-and-nso-how-human-rights-defenders-are-targeted-by-cyberattacks/

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/uk-spyware-wiretaps-saudi-arabia-china-bahrain-uae-human-rights-a9613206.html

27 January Holocaust Memorial Day 2018: 3 heroes from the past

January 27, 2018

The Independent uses 27 January 2018 “Holocaust Memorial Day 2018″ to draw attention to three unsung heroes and human rights defenders who helped Europe’s Jews escape the Nazis.

The piece states that:“While some like Oskar Schindler and Nicholas Winterton are well known, here are the tales of three less-heralded saviours to whom thousands owe their lives“. That may be true for the first two, but not Raoul Wallenberg who has an Institute in Lund, Sweden and three human rights awards [http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest] named after him.

Irena Sendler

irena-sendler.jpg
Irena Sendler (Wikimedia Commons)

Polish nurse Irena Sendler (1910-2008), often known as “Jolanta”, served as head of the children’s department of Zegota, the Polish Council to Aid Jews. It was operated by underground resistance fighters in German-occupied Warsaw between 1942 and 1945. She is credited with smuggling 2,500 Jewish children out of the Polish capital’s ghetto…. “Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this earth and not a title to glory,” she once said.

Frank Foley

frank-foley.jpg
Frank Foley (Wikimedia Commons)

A British Secret Intelligence officer who became known as “the Scarlet Pimpernel”, Frank Foley (1884-1958) became known for “bending the rules” while working undercover at a passport control office in Berlin and allowing Jews to escape Germany….So he stamped passports and issued visas allowing fleeing Jews to escape to Britain and Palestine in defiance of the authorities during the Kristallnacht pogrom. ..Although he had died aged 74, three years earlier, it was said at Adolf Eichmann’s trial in 1961 that Foley was responsible for saving “tens of thousands” of lives.

Raoul Wallenberg

raoul-wallenberg.jpg
Raoul Wallenberg (Wikimedia Commons)

Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg (born 1912) played a similarly pivotal role in rescuing Jews from Hungary.  There, he issued protective passports recognising them as Swedish citizens. He also sheltered those victimised by the Nuremburg Race Laws (imposed by Germany in 1935) in 32 government buildings across Budapest, which he had designated Swedish territory.

What awaits Xi Jinping in London when it comes to human rights defenders?

October 20, 2015

Today’s state visit by the Chinese President Xi Jinping to the UK has led to considerable attention to the issue of human rights defenders.

Under the nice title “Man Threatens State Banquet” former AI staff member Richard Reoch posted a blog on the Huffington Post (UK) on 19 October 2015:

The Queen will host the President of China as her guest of honour. Some 170 guests will attend in full formal attire and raise their glasses to welcome him. But the gracious decorum has been threatened by one of those who will attend. He attaches great importance to British values, and is proposing to talk about them during the banquet. The Daily Mail this week warned: “Jeremy Corbyn may embarrass the Queen by raising human rights abuses with the Chinese president at a state banquet next week“.

Human rights are no longer a “top priority” for the government, Sir Simon McDonald, Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office, told MPs just before Chancellor George Osborne visited China. Leading a trade delegation, the chancellor remained mute on the country’s human rights record. Sir Simon said that human rights no longer had the “profile” within his department that they had “in the past”.

 

It is these [Magna Carta] values that Jeremy Corbyn, now Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, is seeking to raise with the Chinese President during his state visit to London next week.

…China’s human rights record, not only in Tibet, but across its territory remains a cause for deep concern. A recent Amnesty International report cited continuing violations on freedoms of religious belief, expression, association and assembly. It also cited the the use of torture and the country’s lucrative trade in torture equipment. The death penalty remains in place; last year alone 2,400 people were executed. At particular risk were “human rights defenders” it said. They “continued to risk harassment, arbitrary detention, imprisonment, and torture and other ill-treatment for their legitimate human rights work.”

So what do those courageous Chinese citizens who are challenging their government — one of the most powerful states in the world – expect from us in Britain, the home of Magna Carta? That we would be afraid of embarrassing the Queen and her guest – their president – by using rude words like “torture” and “ill-treatment” over dinner?

Jeremy Corbyn’s answer is clear. He has been an embarrassing figure most of his life, speaking out on human rights issues worldwide, as seen below.

2015-10-16-1445018027-332881-croppedfullsizerender.jpg

“I have huge admiration for human rights defenders all over the world. I’ve met hundreds of these very brave people during my lifetime working on international issues,” Jeremy Corbyn told the recent Labour Party conference.

“I’ve been standing up for human rights, challenging oppressive regimes for 30 years as a backbench MP. Just because I’ve become the leader of this party, I’m not going to stop standing up on those issues or being that activist,” he declared.

Mr Corbyn’s office has confirmed that he is seeking a meeting with the Chinese delegation and has not ruled out bringing the issue up at the state dinner.

He may be standing up for a set of centuries’ old British values that are no longer the currency of government.

Recently, the Prime Minister agreed not to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama “in the foreseeable future” after he angered the Chinese by meeting the Tibetan leader in 2012. Last week, His Holiness was asked by The Spectator magazine what he would say to Mr Cameron if the two did meet. “Money, money, money,” said His Holiness. “That’s what this is about. Where is morality?

You can follow Richard Reoch on Twitter

The Independent refers to the open letter (signed by Amnesty International UK, the Tibet Society and Tibet Relief Fund, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Students for a Free Tibet, Uighur activists and other Tibetan and human rights organisations) sent to Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss Chinese human rights violations in a “principled, forceful, and specific way”. Downing Street have pledged that “nothing would be off the table” when Cameron welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping amid accusations that ministers are playing down worries about the Beijing government.

The Prime Minister’s official spokeswoman insisted that China’s record on human rights and claims it initiated cyber-attacks on other countries would be on the agenda during detailed talks this week. The Prime Minister has also pledged to personally raise the issue of subsidized Chinese steel during talks with the Chinese leader.

Click here for full version of the Open Letter.

A blog post written by AI staff (Two Versions of China: Repression and Resistance). The repression is represented by the government and the Party and the post metes out details on that.

The resistance aspect in the this post is represented by a human rights defender. Her name was Cao Shunli. She died in police custody on 14 March 2014.  For more on her, see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/cao-shunli/

Today, the UK is faced with two versions of China. Choosing Xi Jinping’s China, the UK will be bought and fooled on its knees. Choosing Cao Shunli’s China, the UK will stand in solidarity with the people of China, which will eventually also benefit the people of Britain.

http://www.amnesty.org.uk/blogs/countdown-china/two-versions-china-repression-and-resistance

Human rights investigators in Qatar: “being followed by the police here. Looks like they will give me troubles now”

September 4, 2014
Two British human rights workers investigating the plight of migrant labourers constructing facilities for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup have disappeared and are feared to be held incommunicado by the Gulf state’s security forces reports the Independent. Krishna Upadhyaya and Ghimire Gundev vanished on Sunday 31 August after sending texts to colleagues saying they were being followed by plain clothes police officers and feared they arrest as they tried to leave Qatar on flights that day. The two men, who are of Nepalese extraction and both carry British passports, had been in the Qatari capital Doha to record interviews with Nepali labourers and investigate conditions in accommodation camps. They were working in cooperation with Nepalese diplomats in the city.

The Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD), employing the men, said it believed its employees were being held by the Qatari police and were at risk of maltreatment or torture: “We are deeply concerned that our employees, both British citizens, may have been subjected to enforced disappearance and are currently at risk of torture.”

[Qatar has been strongly criticised for the working conditions of its 1.4m migrant labourers as it races to spend £123bn on new infrastructure ahead of the 2022 World Cup. More than 400 Nepalese, the vast majority of them in Qatar to work on construction projects, died in the Gulf state between January 2012 and this May – a death rate of one worker per day. Qatar has insisted that none of the deaths occurred on World Cup sites. Qatar has been criticised for routinely holding detainees incommunicado for weeks or months at a time. Amnesty International has described the tactic as “standard practice” and said it can be followed by lengthy further detention without charge or trial.]

 

British human rights investigators disappear in Qatar, after being followed by plain clothes police – Middle East – World – The Independent.

Saudi Arabia criticises Norway over human rights record: that is news..

April 30, 2014

Saudi Arabia has criticised Norway’s human rights record, accusing the country of failing to protect its Muslim citizens and not doing enough to counter criticism of the prophet Mohammed. The gulf state and other islamic countries called for all criticism of religions and of prophet Mohammed to be made illegal  in Norway. It also expressed concern at “increasing cases of domestic violence, rape crimes and inequality in riches” and noted a continuation of hate crimes against Muslims in the country. Russia also called for Norway to clamp down on expressions of religious intolerance and and criticised the country’s child welfare system. They also recommended that Norway improve its correctional facilities for those applying for asylum status. All this happened when Norway submitted itself to scrutiny during the current session of the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review.

The criticism may sound incongruent for those who know how often Russia and Saudi Arabia figure in reports from human rights defenders, including ib this blog, but – as the Norwegian Foreign Minister, Børge Brende, in Geneva told Norway’s NTB newswire prior to the hearing –  “… that is the United Nations.

Saudi Arabia criticises Norway over human rights record – News – The Independent.