Posts Tagged ‘Thor Halvorssen’

The Atlantic Council and the Human Rights Foundation at loggerheads over Gabon, Bahrain, Kazakhstan and Eritrea

October 27, 2016

Having reported last month on the Atlantic Council‘s questionable idea of giving an award to Gabon’s leader [https://thoolen.wordGabon’s leaderpress.com/2016/09/20/how-awards-can-get-it-wrong-four-controversial-decisions-in-one-week/], I would be amiss in not referring the big spat that this has developed into between Thor Halvorssen of the Human Rights Foundation and Frederick Kempe of the Atlantic Council. In opinion page in The Hill of 26 October does not mince words. The final paragraph sets the tone: “It’s fair to wonder how Kempe and his staff can look at themselves in the mirror every morning when they spend their days defending dictators like Eritrea’s Afwerki, Gabon’s Bongo, and Kazakhstan’s Nazarbayev. The donations might be juicy, but at some point, Kempe’s colleagues and prestigious board members must stop and realize that they are taking the side of tyrants, betraying the very ideals they set out to promote in the first place.” Some of the juicy excerpts:

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Merry Christmas in Angola: Nicki Minaj performs but not for human rights defenders

December 18, 2015

  Nicki minaj algora.

Nicki Minaj and Jose Eduardo dos Santos. Photo illustration by Sofya Levina. Images by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images and Alexander Joe/Getty Images.

The Human Rights Foundation (through  and ) is asking whether Nicki Minaj will “take the high road or a blood diamond paycheck“?  On Saturday afternoon the American rapper Nicki Minaj will bring her award-winning talent to the Angolan capital of Luanda. It isn’t a world tour stop, but a special engagement at a “Christmas Festival” sponsored by Unitel, a telecommunications company controlled by Angola’s dictatorship.

[Two years ago, Mariah Carey was paid $1 million to perform in Angola at another one of the regime’s holiday parties. Since she had promised to never perform for dictators again after singing for Libya’s Qaddafi family, the public wasn’t forgiving the second time around. The result was a global PR scandal that led Carey to sever ties with Jermaine Dupri, the manager who arranged the visit. – https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/mariah-carey-needs-better-informed-staff-and-donate-her-1-million-fee-to-human-rights-defenders-in-angola/].

The situation of human rights defenders in Angola is most precarious:

15 pro-democracy activists were detained in June 2015 and their trial started only after almost five months of arbitrary detention. The persons on trial include rapper (!) Henrique Luaty Beirão (a.k.a. Brigadeiro Mata-Frakuxz), Manuel Nito Alves, Nuno Alvaro Dala, Nelson Dibango Mendes Dos Santos, Alfonso Jojo Matias (a.k.a. Mbanza Hamza), Sedrick de Carvalho, Fernando António Tómas (a.k.a. Nicola Radical), Hitler Chiconda (a.k.a. Samussuku), Italiano Arante Kivuvu, Benedito Dali (a.k.a. Dito Dali), Albano Bingobingo (a.k.a. Albano Liberdade), José Gomes Hata (a.k.a. Cheik Hata), Inocénio De Brito (a.k.a. Drux), Domingos da Cruz as well as of Osvaldo Caholo. (Ms. Rosa Kusso Conde and Ms. Laurinda Manuel Gouveia are also facing the same charges, but are not detained. [The Angola 15 are youth activists arrested in June 2015 for discussing democratic reforms and peaceful protest. Most of them are known pro-democracy activists, who have been organizing peaceful protests often repressed by the authorities against the 35-year-regime of Angolan President Eduardo Dos Santos since 2011. On September 16, 2015, they were charged with “preparatory acts of rebellion” and “plotting against the President and other institutions”, both of which constitute crimes against the security of the Angolan State. Several experts and international institutions have called for their release, including the European Parliament and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst.]

On 15 December 2015 the Luanda Provincial Tribunal approved the request of the Public Prosecutor to place the pro-democracy activists detained since June 2015 under house arrest as of December 18. According to a public statement made by the General Attorney, this decision precedes the entry into force on December 18, 2015, of a new legislation on preventive measures adopted in September 2015, aimed at reducing prison overcrowding and excessive pre-trial detentions – and thus not the result of international pressure!. “The decision to place the Angola 15 under house arrest is a positive step towards the recognition of their rights. The Angolan authorities must now end all forms of judicial harassment against the activists and put an end to their ordeal by immediately and unconditionally releasing them”, FIDH President Karim Lahidji said

On 18 June 2015 the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders condemned the sentencing of journalist Rafael Marques de Morais to a six month suspended jail term, despite an out of court settlement previously announced. [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/rafael-marques-de-morais/]

Interesting is also to note here how two quasi-NGOs (in the NGO world, called GONGOs – Governmental Non-Governmental Organizations –  masquerading as protectors of the rights of the people while working as the mouthpiece for the government) tried to block a resolution by the NGO forum surrounding the session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in November 2015.

Front Line Defenders also has followed the case of the Angola 15 and other human rights defenders in detail: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/search/node/angola 

Sources:

Nicki Minaj shouldn’t perform for Angolan dictator Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/angola/2015/12/d23533/

https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/angola-the-angola-15-must-be-released-and-their-right-to-a-fair-trial

http://newint.org/blog/2015/12/16/angola-human-rights-trial/

http://allafrica.com/stories/201511051396.html

https://www.fidh.org/en/region/Africa/angola/angola-rafael-marques-de-morais-sentenced-to-a-six-month-suspended

Havel Prize for Creative Dissent awarded to Girifna, Sakdiyah Ma’ruf, and El Sexto

April 16, 2015

On 15 April 2015 the New York based Human Rights Foundation announced that the laureates of its 2015 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent are:

  • the Sudanese nonviolent resistance movement Girifna,
  • the Indonesian stand-up comedian Sakdiyah Ma’ruf, and
  • the Cuban graffiti artist and activist El Sexto.

Girifna, Arabic for “we are fed up,” is a nonviolent resistance movement founded in 2010 by pro-democracy youth activists. Thousands of Girifna members work together to monitor crackdowns on protests and defend dissidents in spite of constant surveillance by the Sudanese authorities. “While the international press focuses its attention on Sudan’s history of armed conflict, Girifna has challenged the al-Bashir regime in novel ways—from producing humorous commercials to teaching citizens the art of nonviolent protest…” said jury chairman Thor Halvorssen.

Sakdiyah Ma’ruf is a stand-up comedian from Indonesia whose comic routine advocates for individual rights and challenges Islamic fundamentalism. She grew up watching U.S.-based comedians and decided to use the same medium to talk about issues plaguing her own country. Television producers have asked her to censor her jokes, but Ma’ruf, who believes comedy mirrors a culture’s hypocrisy, has refused to be silenced. “Sakdiyah Ma’ruf is marshaling the use of parody to challenge oppression and extremism—no small risk for a woman in Muslim culture. She is an inspiration,” said Amnesty International Norway Secretary General John Peder Egenæs.

El Sexto, whose real name is Danilo Maldonado, is a Cuban graffiti artist and activist whose public work has turned him into a formidable dissident, evidenced by the ongoing repression he suffers. This past December, El Sexto was arrested on his way to put on a performance art piece called “Rebelión en la Granja,” with two pigs decorated with the names “Fidel” and “Raúl.” El Sexto was charged with contempt and remains in prison awaiting trial. “Through his art, El Sexto reveals the intolerance of the Cuban regime,” said former Romanian President Emil Constantinescu.

For more information on the award see: http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/václav-havel-prize-creative-dissent

The ceremony on 27 May will be broadcast live online at oslofreedomforum.com beginning at 16:00 CET; for more info contact: Jamie Hancock, (212) 246-8486, jamie@thehrf.org

2015 Havel Prize Awarded to Girifna, Sakdiyah Ma’ruf, and El Sexto | News | The Human Rights Foundation.

Human Rights Defender Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani Assassinated in Yemen

March 19, 2015

Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani

Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani speaking at the Oslo Forum in 2010

Prominent Yemeni journalist, press freedom advocate, and whistleblower Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani was assassinated on 18 March by unknown gunmen outside of his home in Sanaa. Al-Khaiwani was one of Yemen’s most effective journalists.  He endured years of harassment, kidnappings, and death threats in retaliation for his outspoken criticism of Yemen’s 30-year dictatorship and his exposés on government corruption. His son, the writer Mohammed al-Khaiwani, witnessed the attack, in which several men on motorcycles opened fire on his father and then fled the scene.

The murder of Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani is a cowardly and abhorrent display of the evil that so much of the world faces on a daily basis,” said Human Rights Foundation president Thor Halvorssen. “Al-Khaiwani bravely put his life on the line year after year to expose the reality of tyranny and corruption. He will always be remembered for his heroic devotion to use truth and justice.”

Al-Khaiwani is the former editor-in-chief of the pro-democracy online newspaper Al-Shoura. After years of threats and harassment, he was arrested, subjected to a mock trial, and sentenced in 2008 to six years in prison on fabricated charges of conspiring with the leader of an anti-government terrorism cell. and of being a coup-plotter After being tortured during his incarceration, al-Khaiwani received a presidential pardon and was released in 2009.

In June 2008, a week after being sentenced to six years in jail, Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani received the Special Award for Human Rights Journalism under Threat from AI UK.

Oslo Freedom Forum Speaker Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani Assassinated in Yemen | News | The Human Rights Foundation.

Erykah Badu unapologetic about her human rights performance and plans to repeat in the Gambia

May 2, 2014

SXSW Film-Interactive-Music - Day 9

(Erykah Badu performs onstage 15 March 2014 in Austin; Roger Kisby—Getty Images)

The misuse of star power by Erykah Badu referred to in an earlier post got a nice follow up according to the opinion piece posted by Thor Halvorssen and Alex Gladstein in TIME of 2 May 2014. After recalling in detail her singing for the Swazi absolute monarch [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/another-case-of-misused-star-power-erykah-badu-performs-for-swaziland-dictator/], the authors describe Badu’s defensive and sometimes offensive comments in the social media: Read the rest of this entry »

Security Firm Rift Recon teams up with Human Rights Foundation at Oslo Freedom Forum

April 25, 2014

RIFT RECON announced on 16 April that it will join forces with the Human Rights Foundation to present a comprehensive security workshop at the 2014 Oslo Freedom Forum ‘OFF’ from 12-14 May 2014. Read the rest of this entry »