Posts Tagged ‘Tunisia’

In Memory of Tunisian human rights defender Lina Ben Mhenni

January 29, 2020

On 28 January 2020 The Human Rights Foundation in New York expressed its sadness at the passing of Tunisian activist, journalist, and educator Lina Ben Mhenni, after a long battle with a chronic illness (1983-2020).

Lina was a force who fought tenaciously until her last breath. She fought censorship, corruption, and human rights abuses, all while grappling with serious illness. But nothing stood in her way. Her voice and cause will resonate with generations to come,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF. “She will forever be an inspiration to all of us at HRF and in the Oslo Freedom Forum community to never give up even in the darkest moments. We will truly miss our beloved friend Lina.

Lina was one of the only Tunisians to criticize the repressive government openly on international broadcasts before the Jasmine Revolution began in 2011. She is often described as one of the bravest bloggers in the world, whose work was instrumental in documenting, informing, and mobilizing citizens during the Revolution. Lina’s impactful achievements led her to be nominated for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. She authored and published a book the same year entitled, “Tunisian Girl: A Blogger for an Arab Spring.” Much of her writing was focused on freedom of expression and rights of women and students in Tunisia.

 

 

Lina’s life experiences went beyond her 36 years. Many people know about Lina – whether through the media or different social platforms – but no amount of reporting on her could do justice to the values and principles for which she fought during Tunisia’s era of tyranny and after the Revolution,” said Aymen Zaghdoudi, MENA Legal Advisor at Article 19 in Tunisia. “Lina stood with the weak, the deprived, and the oppressed – even at the expense of her own health – and turned her pain into inspiration and hope for those around her.”

Lina spoke at the 2011 Oslo Freedom Forum, urging the outside world to continue to pay attention to events in Tunisia and other Arab countries where recent revolutions appeared to have ended. Upon joining the HRF community that year, she was actively involved in the discussions unfolding about the Arab Spring.

In recent years, Lina continued to press for human rights and continued democratic reform. In 2016, she started a campaign called “Books to Prison,” to counter extremism within Tunisia’s prisons. She was inspired by her father, who was a political prisoner, and had once told her that prisoners had so little to read to change their minds or be inspired. By November 2019, her campaign had collected more than 45,000 books, helping to free the minds of tens of thousands of people.  Apart from her calls for democratic reform, Lina taught linguistics at a university in Tunisia and was a professional translator. She also brought awareness to the issue of organ donation and after a kidney transplant, amazingly received silver medals in the World Transplant Games.

You can read Lina Ben Mhenni’s blog “A Tunisian Girl” here.

https://mailchi.mp/609e2865ee85/hrf-mourns-the-passing-of-suleiman-bakhit-287648?e=f80cec329e

Today: World Refugee Day 2019

June 20, 2019

Many are the initiatives on this day. UNHCR lists just a few ways that you can take action right now and spread this message even further:

Sometimes good news fall on the right day: a French court acquitted Tom Ciotkowski, a British human rights defender who documented police abuse against migrants and refugees and volunteers who were helping them in Calais. Amnesty International France’s Programme manager on Freedoms, Nicolas Krameyer said: “Today’s decision, delivered on World Refugee Day, is not only a victory for justice but also for common sense. Tom Ciotkowski is a compassionate young volunteer who did nothing wrong and was dragged through the courts on trumped up charges”. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/15/european-governments-should-stop-treating-solidarity-and-compassion-as-a-crime/]

EuroMed Rights focuses on the current practice of stopping people from disembarking ships/boats on the Mediterranean Sea shoreline, particularly in Tunisia. In many aspects, this situation is emblematic of the obstacles faced by refugees in obtaining protection and access to rights in the Euro-Mediterranean region. It is also emblematic of the unfailing solidarity with refugees of local organisations and individuals.

Freedom United issues a call to close Libyan slave markets.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is featuring stories of survival—a collection of video testimonies and first-hand accounts from people who have risked everything for a chance at safety. As an organisation working with refugees and people on the move, we know that nothing—not a wall, or even an ocean—will ever stop people who are simply trying to survive.

———-

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/06/france-acquittal-of-young-man-for-showing-compassion-to-refugees-in-calais-shows-solidarity-is-not-a-crime/

https://mailchi.mp/euromedrights/world-refugee-day-deadlock-at-sea-obstacles-to-the-right-of-asylum-the-tunisian-case?e=1209ebd6d8

https://www.freedomunited.org/

https://www.msf.org/refugees-around-world-stories-survival-world-refugee-day

Breaking news: 2019 Front Line Defenders Award to 5 LGBTI Human Rights Defenders

May 17, 2019

20th anniversary: UN work on human rights defenders assessed by ISHR

April 17, 2018

Since the adoption of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (1998), UN bodies have developed approaches to promoting the work of defenders and ensuring their protection.  However, this response has been insufficiently robust or coordinated, says the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), one of the world’s foremost observers of the UN human rights system, in a piece published on 16 April 2018. Twenty years on, the situation for defenders in many countries around the world remains grave. [For earlier posts re the 20th anniversary of the HRD Declaration see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/20th-anniversary-un-declaration-on-hrds/]

UN country missions and human rights mechanisms have developed some good practice in regard to the protection of human rights defenders (HRDs) but there is still much to be done to ensure a coherent, coordinated and courageous response. ISHR submitted findings on some aspects of the UN’s work on HRDs, to the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) following its call for input. At country level, ISHR – along with partners Colombian Commission of Jurists and Ligue Tunisienne for Human Rights – found positive practice by OHCHR in encouraging the State to implement the Declaration.

In Colombia OHCHR has contributed to a collective understanding of who defenders are and what institutional changes may be needed to counter attacks against them,’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw. ‘While in Tunisia OHCHR has developed a database to systematise the process of follow up on UN recommendations.’  In other contexts, guidelines to steer bodies and representatives in country are often vague, with no mention of the Declaration as a key UN standard.

UN Resident Coordinators need to have an understanding of the Declaration on HRDs so they can ensure the protection of defenders is effectively integrated into their work,’ said Openshaw. ‘There is a gap between developments in key human rights mechanisms and country responses.’

Whilst there have been some positive developments connecting different parts of the UN system – for example the new UN Environment focus on environmental defenders, developed with the Special Rapporteur on HRDs – there is a lack of an informed or coordinated response in others. This points to the need for comprehensive UN-wide policies on the protection of defenders.

Ensuring coherence and effectiveness throughout the UN system in regard to the protection of defenders requires a strong steer from the very top –  the UN Secretary General,’ said ISHR’s Tess McEvoy. ‘We hope Mr Guterres will commit this year – the 20th anniversary of the Declaration–  to providing such leadership.’  The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst has spoken of attacks against defenders ‘multiplying everywhere’.

Openshaw also stated: ‘The dangers for defenders are known. The UN system has good practice to build on – and it must – to fulfil its role in encouraging and demanding States realise their obligations to defenders.

Contacts:  Eleanor Openshaw e.openshawATishr.ch;  Theresa McEvoy t.mcevoyATishr.ch

http://www.ishr.ch/news/promising-patchy-un-work-human-rights-defenders

UN Declaration on HRDs at 20: important event on 19 March in NY

March 8, 2018

The UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders has played an important role in expressly stating the right to defend human rights, and outlines the duties of States in this regard. As it forms the basis of key protection mechanisms, such as national and regional guidelines for the protection of human rights defenders, it has thus legitimated the work of human rights defenders. Twenty years on, women human rights defenders are marking this anniversary year to reflect on the significance of the Declaration to their work, movements and identities.

Therefore a number of NGOs are jointly organizing an event “The UN Declaration on HRDs at 20: Legitimating the work of Women Human Rights Defenders” on 16 March 2018 13:15-14:30 in Conference Room 11, UNHQ, New York

Opening remarks by Ms Ine Eriksen Søreide, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Norway

Evdokia Romanova, Youth Coalition
Weaam Youssef, Gulf Centre for Human Rights
Alma Sinumlag, Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center

Lopa Banerjee, UN Women
Closing remarks by Ms Neziha Labidi, Minister of Women, the Family and Childhood, Tunisia

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/21/breaking-news-un-adopts-key-resolution-on-human-rights-defenders/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/11/good-introduction-to-the-anniversary-of-the-un-declaration-on-hrds-in-2018/

Click to access csw_side_event_flyer-final.pdf

Shackled Freedoms : what space for human rights defenders in the EuroMed?

September 7, 2016

 

cover-en-shackled-freedomThe recent report SHACKLED FREEDOMS : WHAT SPACE FOR CIVIL SOCIETY IN THE EUROMED? depicts the obstacles and repression against civil society in the region and showcases first-hand accounts from Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Syria, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories among others. The report also features recommendations by CSOs for joint action and seeks to influence EU policies to that effect. The report also focuses on the impact of security and anti-terrorist policies and lists the growing arsenal of repressive measures – both in law and practice – that civil society organizations (CSOs) face on a daily basis: judicial harassment, surveillance, arbitrary arrests, torture and assassination.

Despite legal safeguards and the human rights “shared values” rhetoric in the EU, EuroMed Rights argues that European civil society is under increasing pressure. Austerity measures and anti-terrorism laws are increasingly used to legitimise practices that go against individual freedoms and rights of assembly, association and expression, such as in France, Spain or the UK, for instance. The report – published on 7 September 2016 – is the result of a seminar organised in April 2016 as an open dialogue between EU representatives, South Mediterranean activists and Brussels-based CSOs.

 DOWNLOAD THE REPORT


 

Source: Shackled Freedoms : What Space for Civil Society in the EuroMed? – EuroMed Rights – Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network

More on the Tunisian winners of the Nobel Peace Prize

October 13, 2015

My short post on the Nobel Peace Prize for the Tunisian quartet [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/tunisian-national-dialogue-quartet-laureates-of-2015-nobel-peace-prize/] is better understood with the post by Dan Smith: http://dansmithsblog.com/2015/10/13/the-tunisian-spring-and-the-nobel-peace-prize/.

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

Tunisian human rights defender Amira Yahyaoui talks about importance of women and youth

June 18, 2015

At the 2015 Oslo Freedom Forum, on 27 May 2015, Tunisian human rights defender Amira Yahyaoui talks about the global youth as an underrepresented force in many governments. She draws attention to the fact that while the world’s citizenry is increasingly young, the global leadership remains old. She criticizes the lack of representation of women and youth by reminding us that these so-called “minorities” are, in fact, majorities in the world population. If we don’t fix this problem, she argues, more and more young people will be driven to extremist groups like the Islamic State where they are given the opportunity to lead.

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, 21 years old, deserves to be supported

May 11, 2015

Some NGOs of a regional character do not always get the international recognition they deserve. One example is the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies [CIHRS]  which celebrated its 21st anniversary in Tunisia on 23 may in Tunis.

It had a remarkably high level attendance including the Minister of Justice Mohammed Saleh Bin Eissa, the Moroccan ambassador, and diplomats and representatives of the embassies of the US, EU, UK, France, Belgium, Japan, Finland as well as the director of the Tunis bureau of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Dimiter Chalev. Also present were many representatives of international and local civil society, among them Idris al-Yazmi, the head of the National Council for Human Rights in Morocco; al-Mukhtar al-Tarifi, the representative of the International Federation for Human Rights in Tunisia, and Bushra Belhaj, the chair of the rights and liberties committee in the Tunisian parliament.

The occasion was inaugurated with a one-minute silence in tribute to the victims of human rights abuses and terrorism in the Arab region. This was, followed by a note sent by the High Commissioner on Human Rights Zeid Bin Raad al-Husseini, who was unable to attend. In the note, he said that the Arab world was currently facing two related challenges: the transition to more stable democratic societies and the alarming increase in violence in the context of the rise of ISIS and other extremist takfiri groups. This lends even greater importance to rights organizations in the region that can analyze these difficulties, spread a culture of tolerance, promote respect for human rights, and engage in a constructive dialogue on cultures and global human rights standards. For more than two decades, Raad said, the CIHRS has been engaged in these missions, becoming a strong advocate and defender of human rights that has won international recognition and several awards. It also enjoys credibility in the region, having given a voice to those who are afraid to speak and stood up against religious bigotry and hate speech.

Tunisian Minister of Defense Farhat Horchani also sent a note of congratulations to the CIHRS, expressing his regret for being unable to attend. This may be the first time a rights group has received such a missive from a defense minister in the region. Horchani, who has no military background, was the dean of the Faculty of Law and Political Science in Tunis, the chair of the Tunisian Association for Constitutional Law, and a member of several other civic associations. A UN expert, he was also a member of the High Body for the Realization of the Objectives of the Revolution in Tunisia. The Ministry of Women apologized for not attending, but also sent its congratulations and wished the CIHRS the best for its new start in Tunisia.

During the celebration, special tribute was paid to Minister of Constitutional Bodies and Civil Society Kamal Jendoubi, the chair of the CIHRS board of directors.

CIHRS director Bahey eldin Hassan expressed his gratitude to all those who supported CIHRS in its long journey on the regional and international levels, and noted that this is an historic moment for the Arab region, with increased concern for the respect for human rights. It is no coincidence, Hassan added, that the collapsed states (Syria, Libya, and Iraq) in which terrorist chose to settle, were ruled by the worst of the dictatorships for more three decades.

[Founded as a regional organization in 1994 in Cairo, the CIHRS developed its perspective on change and its priorities and strategies based on its vision of the nature of the human rights problem in the Arab world. It began to expand with the goal of strengthening its capacities to defend human rights, establishing an office in Geneva to promote coordination and ties between rights organizations in the Arab world and the OHCHR and the UN Human Rights Council. In 2014, it opened a regional branch office in Tunis and appointed a permanent representative in Brussels; it intends to soon open a branch office in another country.]

CIHRS celebrates its 21st anniversary in Tunisia and honors chair Kamal Jendoubi » Press releases » News – StarAfrica.com – News – StarAfrica.com.