Posts Tagged ‘trade unionists’

Philippines: UN rapporteurs ask for exceptional investigation, while labour rights defender shot dead

June 7, 2019

The ink on the bill for the protection of human rights defenders [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/04/philippines-human-rights-defenders-protection-bill-adopted-in-parliament/] has hardly dried and the following is reported: on 2 June 2019 union organiser Dennis Sequeña was shot dead while meeting with workers. Sequeña was vice-chairperson of labour group Partido Manggagawa; group believes he was murdered for his trade union work. Civil society organisations condemn the killing & demand immediate investigation, as well as action to stop spate of attacks against labour activists.

Also on 7 June a group of UN human rights experts collectively called on the United Nations to establish an independent investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines, citing a sharp deterioration in the situation of human rights across the country, including sustained attacks on people and institutions defending human rights. “Given the scale and seriousness of the reported human rights violations we call on the Human Rights Council to establish an independent investigation into the human rights violations in the Philippines.

We have recorded a staggering number of unlawful deaths and police killings in the context of the so-called war on drugs, as well as killings of human rights defenders. Very few independent and effective investigations have taken place, independent media and journalists are threatened, the law has been weaponised to undermine press freedom, and the independence of the judiciary is undermined,” the experts said. [ndependent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council have raised their concerns with the Government of the Philippines on 33 occasions over the last three years!]

In a statement of 8 May 2019 the ISHR and other NGOs had recalled that: the Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries for human rights defenders. They persevere under harsh conditions, fighting against repression and corruption to make a better society for all. They continue their work so the most vulnerable are protected and their voices are heard.  ISHR – along with CIVICUS, Frontline Defenders, FORUM Asia, FIDH, and the World Organisation Against Torture– released a joint statement denouncing recent death threats addressed to Karapatan Secretary General, Cristina Palabay, and urging the Philippine Government to respond to the threats against human rights defenders by taking genuine and effective measures for their protection.

See also the reactions in the media by the Government: https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2019/06/08/1924735/intellectually-challenged-palace-slams-un-experts-call-probe-staggering-philippines-killings

and https://www.bulatlat.com/2019/06/08/karapatan-to-duterte-allow-un-independent-probe-on-rights-violations-in-ph/

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http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1906/S00047/call-for-independent-probe-into-philippines-violations.htm

https://www.rappler.com/nation/232094-partido-manggagawa-dennis-sequena-killed-cavite-june-2-2019

Philippines: Union organiser Dennis Sequeña shot dead while meeting with workers

http://www.ishr.ch/news/philippines-calling-accountability-violations-against-human-rights-defenders

Plea to see labour rights defenders as human rights defenders

May 21, 2019

Appropriately on  Labour Day, 1 May 2019, Ana Zbona and Sanyu Awori (at the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre). wrote in Open Global Rights “When space closes for labour rights defenders, the situation is far worse for those at the margins. Labour rights are human rights and must be protected“.

Photo: SolidarityCentre/Flickr


…..Several recent examples of human rights movements that have been led and supported by labour rights groups include: coalitions to rebuild democracy in Honduras after a coup; the mobilizing of workers in Tunisia, Egypt and Bahrain during the Arab uprisings; and the pro-democracy movement in Zimbabwe, led by the country’s labour federation…

Distinctions are often made between labour rights defenders and human rights defenders, but as former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association Maina Kiai expressed: these distinctions are artificial. Labour rights are human rights, and any person or organisation defending them is a human rights defender.. As Sharan Burrow, the Secretary General of the ITUC, put it: “Workers and their unions are the defenders of rights and freedoms.” We must be vigilant to any distinctions that try to separate our struggles”.

Labour rights defenders regularly experience violence and restrictions on their rights in various ways, including clamp downs on unions where governments and employers obstruct them from functioning freely and independently, laws that limit collective bargaining, and dismissals. In the past year, the International Trade Union Confederation reported an increase in violence, especially to prevent unionizing, and the safety of trade union leaders remains precarious. In Colombia, 19 trade unionists were killed in 2017; in Cambodia, trade union leaders are criminalized; and in Zimbabwe trade union leaders are regularly harassed by government authorities. With respect to laws that limit labour rights, 81% of countries deny some or all workers the right to collective bargaining and 65% of countries exclude some groups of workers from labour law, such as domestic, agricultural and contract workers, up 5% from 2017. Peaceful protests by workers are often met with heavy handed policy or army responses. In addition, the most common reprisal workers face for speaking up about violations are dismissals, a tactic used by employers to stifle civic action. As one example, over 12,000 garment factory workers in Bangladesh were fired for their protests in December 2018 and January 2019 over wages.

The Business & Human Rights Resource documents attacks against defenders working on corporate accountability, and our database shows that agriculture, food and beverage, and apparel are the most dangerous sectors for labour rights defenders. The most common forms of violence against individual union leaders and workers are arbitrary detentions and lawsuits, followed by intimidation and threats, and killings.

A particularly concerning trend is the use of defamation lawsuits to silence labour rights defenders. As one example, since 2016, Thammakaset Company Limited, a Thai-owned poultry company, filed more than 13 civil and criminal lawsuits against former workers who denounced labour rights violations, as well as against the activists and journalists supporting them. Governments and companies, including international brands, need to ensure such judicial attacks do not happen. As Sutharee Wanasiri, a labour rights defender from Thailand, and one of the people sued by Thammakaset, said: “It is also the responsibility of international brands that buy from Thailand to make sure the companies they are sourcing from are not engaged in judicial harassment that creates a chilling effect on whistle blowers and other defenders. They should establish mechanisms that allow workers and defenders to communicate with the brands directly and ensure that they are protected from any retaliation from suppliers during the investigation. The results should be made public and bring accountability for the abuses.

With long and fragmented supply chains, it is particularly important to ensure that we hear workers’ voices, especially those of the most marginalized at the bottom of economic hierarchies, and guarantee dignified and decent work. This includes people working in the informal economy. Workers and civil society organizations are currently focusing on redefining legal employment terms, and reconsidering union strategy in light of changing labour relations, especially in the gig economy, in which non-conventional workers are not afforded adequate legal protection—either because they do not fall within the definition of a “regular employee” under national laws, or because of gaps in legislation when it comes to regulating new forms of employment. The lack of an applicable legal protection and collectively agreed terms of employment hinders the ability to exercise work-related rights, including the right to organise and collectively bargain.

……..

Labour rights defenders should be seen as critical allies in building equitable and sustainable societies. Several businesses are also beginning to recognise that the protection of human rights defenders and the ability for them to do their work is in their interest, and that an attack on defenders is an attack on responsible business. This is encouraging, as now more than ever we need to be brokering connections and building solidarities across movements and sectors to counter threats to the shared space we all depend upon.

https://www.openglobalrights.org/rising-restrictions-on-labour-rights-threaten-the-heart-of-social-justice/

Two women human rights defenders in the Philippines honored with international awards

April 16, 2019

Joanna Patricia Kintanar Cariño (File photo by Noel Godinez/Northern Dispatch)
Filipina human rights defender, Joanna Patricia Kintanar Cariño, has been named as this year’s recipient of Gwangju Prize for Human Rights. Cariño is the founding secretary general and the current advisory council of Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), regional council member of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and chairperson of SELDA-North Luzon, an organization of former political prisoners. For more on the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/gwangju-prize-for-human-rights

Cariño is among the 600 individuals listed in the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) so-called terror list, which seeks to proscribe the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as terrorist organizations. Cariño, together with other activists who were included in the list, fought for the removal of their names and in January this year, the DOJ has acted by finally removing the names of scores of activists and human rights defenders in the Cordillera region. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/07/women-human-rights-defenders-day-2017-an-anthology/]

The Foundation recognizes Cariño’s track record as human rights defender from the time of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos up to the present. “She has been illegally arrested, detained and harassed for being tireless and vigorous in the indigenous people’s fight against militarization of their communities,” the Foundation said in their statement.

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Trade union worker France Castro was awarded the Arthur Svensson international Prize for Trade Union Rights [for more on this award, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/arthur-svensson-international-prize-for-trade-union-rights]

In its statement, the Svensson Foundation described Castro as a brave leader who defies threats and dangerous condition. “Despite threats and persecution, there are brave people fighting for democracy and human rights. The regime has particularly attacked unionists among teachers and journalists. Some are killed and many imprisoned. Death threats are not uncommon. In recent times, police officers in the Philippines have been running an organized campaign where they are herding and publishing information on unionized teachers,” Svensson Foundation said in a statement referring to the profiling of the public school teachers, particularly the members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) by the Philippine National Police (PNP). Castro was also among those who were detained by the Talaingod police last November 2018, together with former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and Lumad teachers, students and administrator, for defending Lumad’s right to education  The Foundation also took notice of Castro’s role in the fight for public school teachers’ rights and welfare.

https://www.bulatlat.com/2019/04/16/progressive-solon-wins-international-award-for-championing-union-rights/

Video profile of Surendra Pratap, labour rights defender from India

December 7, 2016

Surendra Pratap works for the Centre for Workers’ Education in India. He talked to ISHR about his activities promoting workers’ rights and trade unions. This video clip was published in the ISHR Monitor of December 2016.

Andy Hall, British labour labour rights defender, flees Thailand

November 7, 2016

 

British rights activist Andy Hall leaves the Bangkok South Criminal Court
Andy Hall – Image copyright REUTERS

On 7 November 2016, the BBC, Reuters and other media reported that labour rights defender Andy Hall has left Thailand after a three-and-a-half year legal battle with a pineapple processing company accused, in a report he contributed to, of abusing its workforce. The dismissal of one set of charges against the British activist was confirmed by Thailand’s Supreme Court last week. But he was convicted in September on two other counts under sweeping criminal defamation and computer crimes laws and was given a three-year suspended prison sentence. He also faces civil complaints by the pineapple company, Natural Fruit, which is demanding around $12m in damages.

But it was mostly the prospect of further criminal charges over another group of workers he is supporting that persuaded Mr Hall that he should leave Thailand and not returner the time being. He and the 14 migrant workers from Myanmar – who have alleged abusive treatment at the hands of a farm which supplied the big Thai poultry processor, Betagro, with chickens – recently had defamation lawsuits filed against them. [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/andy-hall/]

Before he left Thailand Mr Hall told the BBC that he felt that the prospect of having to contest continuous lawsuits filed against him would make it impossible for him to defend migrant workers’ rights effectively. The situation for human rights defenders, he said in a statement made as he prepared to depart, has rapidly deteriorated in Thailand, with significantly increased risks.

The challenge confronting Mr Hall is one faced by many Thai activists as well. Defamation is a criminal charge that can carry a two-year prison sentence, often used alongside the even tougher Computer Crimes Act, which mandates a sentence of up to five years in prison.

  • Two years ago, the editors of a small newsletter, Phuketwan, were prosecuted by the Thai navy for an article in which they quoted a Reuters news agency report alleging Thai military involvement in human trafficking. They were finally acquitted last year, but the effort of defending themselves contributed to the newsletter being shut down.
  • In June this year three prominent human rights defenders were prosecuted under the same two laws by a unit of the Thai military over a report they took part in which alleged the use of torture against military detainees in southern Thailand.

On Thursday 3 November, the U.N. Human Rights office in Bangkok issued a statement praising the Supreme Court’s decision. But it also called on the Thai government “to drop charges against all human rights defenders who have been charged with criminal offenses for reporting human rights violations in accordance with its obligations under international human rights law.

On 6 October EU Trade Commissioner Cecilie Malmström had strongly backed the British labour rights activist who helped expose labour abuses in Thailand, for which he received a three-year suspended jail sentence. Andy Hall met Malmström in Strasbourg, where MEPs also passed a strong resolution condemning Hall’s treatment under the military junta now running the country.

Sources:

Thai Supreme Court Dismisses Defamation Claim Against Labor Activist – Malaysia Sun

 Andy Hall, British labour rights activist, flees Thailand – BBC News

Malmström backs EU whistleblower over Thai labour rights

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

Konstantina Kuneva – 5 years after acid attack – elected MEP for Greece

June 3, 2014

Konstantina Kuneva MEP

Konstantina (or Kostadinka) Kuneva – originating from Bulgaria – was severely wounded in December 2008 after a man threw sulphuric acid in her face as she was returning home from work. Kuneva, a history graduate, took up work in the cleaning sector in 2003, two years after moving to Greece with her child. The attack was linked to her union activities in representing cleaning personnel. As a result of the attack she lost her sight in one eye and has limited vision in the other. Her vocal chords and trachea were also seriously damaged. Kuneva received almost 165,000 preferences in the European Parliament election, and is now a Member. In a website statement she said that she is “deeply moved” at being elected and vowed to use her time in the European Parliament to continue her “struggle at another level, from which I will be able to help more people”. There is certainly racism in Greece, but there are also marvelous examples of the contrary.

via Konstantina Kuneva MEP thanks her supporters.

Guatemala: suppression and intimidation of human rights defenders is the norm

May 11, 2014

For the weekend a longer read: On 22 April 2014, human rights defender Dr Yuri Melini in Guatemala discovered that intimidating text had been painted on his front gate. The text names the member of the police provided as personal security to the human rights defender since an assassination attempt was made against him. Yuri Melini is the Director of the Centro de Acción Legal, Ambiental y Social de Guatemala (CALAS) – Legal, Environmental and Social Action Centre of Guatemala. CALAS is an organisation working for the strengthening of environmental issues, community participation and respect for the collective rights of indigenous communities in relation to environmental concerns. The human rights defender was awarded the Front Line Defenders Award in 2009. The human rights defender has previously faced harassment, intimidation, defamation and an attempt on his life as a result of his human rights work, see: http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/23190  [Last year eighteen human rights defenders were assassinated, a 72-percent increase over 2012, even as the country’s general murder rate has decreased.]

To place this incident in context one should read the report by Patricia DAVIS published in Eurasia Review of 28 April 2014:  “GUATEMALA: SUPPRESSING DISSENT AT HOME AND ABROAD – ANALYSIS”

After a lengthy introduction concerning the ad personam attack by Guatemalan President Molina on Tim Rieser, majority clerk on the Senate State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee (for blocking military aid), the article dives into the numerous human rights problems in the country.  Read the rest of this entry »

Important Human Rights Council side event on 11 March (to be followed on internet)

February 14, 2014

The Geneva-based International Service for Human Rights organises an important side event during the upcoming UN Human Rights Council. Under the title “Creating a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders” the event will take place on 11 March 2014, from 12h00 – 14h00 in the Palais des Nations, Geneva (exact room to be determined later). Those who cannot attend in person, can follow the event through a live webcast and ask questions or share comments via Twitter using #HRDs before and during the event. Photos and further details will also be available on Facebook following the event, Read the rest of this entry »

Defending human rights is increasingly dangerous activity in many parts of the world, states latest UN report

January 19, 2014

The most recent report by the UN Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, has been made public and will be officially presented to the Human Rights Council in March 2014. It is the last report by this Rapporteur whose mandate will terminate. The report finds that human rights defenders – especially journalists, lawyers, trade unionists and those who work to promote women’s rights and the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons – face ‘extraordinary risks’. It highlights cases of defamation, attacks, detention, torture and even killings. The report also documents an increased incidence of violations against people and communities opposed to mining, construction and development projects, with protesters attacked both by State and private security forces. Human rights defenders play a crucial role in exposing and seeking accountability for violations by both governments and corporations. Their work is crucial to transparency, good governance and justice for victims,’ commented Phil Lynch of the International Service for Human Rights in Geneva.ISHR-logo-colour-high

The report also documents the worsening ‘use of legislation in a number of countries to refrain the activities of human rights defenders and to criminalise them’, with cited examples including laws to ‘curb the promotion of homosexuality’ and to restrict NGO access to foreign funds. In the last four weeks alone, Nigeria, Russia, Uganda, Malaysia and the Ukraine have enacted or applied laws to criminalise human rights defenders and to silence their critical voice,’ Mr Lynch added.

In addition to documenting violations, the report makes a wide range of recommendations to ensure that human rights defenders are protected and can operate in a ‘safe and enabling environment.

For those too busy to read the whole new UN report [PDF]  here are the

V.    Conclusions and recommendations: Read the rest of this entry »