Posts Tagged ‘Turkey’

Eren Keskin, human rights defender from Turkey. receives 2018 Anna Lindh Prize

May 26, 2018

Eren Keskin

The Swedish-based Anna Lindh Memorial Fund has named pro-Kurdish human rights lawyer from Turkey Eren Keskin as the recipient of the 2018 Anna Lindh Prize. “She has worked tirelessly to help … girls and women as well as LGTBQ people and [displaced] Syrians in Turkey,” said Lena Hjelm-Wallén, chairman of the memorial fund’s board. “Even when her work led to imprisonment, she still stood up for human rights without regard to political or religious background. Keskin’s brave voice is needed today more than ever and is a work entirely in Anna Lindh’s spirit.

The prize will be awarded at a ceremony in Stockholm on June 19.

The prize is awarded in memory of slain Swedish politician Anna Lindh since 2004 and aims “to encourage primarily women and youth who, in Anna Lindh’s spirit, show the courage to work against indifference, prejudice, oppression and injustice in order to stimulate a society where human rights are respected.” See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/10/27/the-anna-lindh-lecture-2014-focused-on-human-rights-defenders/

Breaking news: Five Front Line award winners 2018 announced

May 18, 2018

Front Line Defenders today – 18 May 2018 – announced the five winners of its 2018 Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk, naming Soni Sori (India), Nurcan Baysal (Turkey), the LUCHA movement (Democratic Republic of Congo), La Resistencia Pacífica de la Microregión de Ixquisis (Guatemala), and Hassan Bouras (Algeria) as the Regional Winners. Nurcan Baysal was also named the Global Laureate for 2018, and UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore presented her with the Award during a ceremony at Dublin’s City Hall. 2018 marks an important change in format: instead of one winner Front Line Defenders now recognises defenders from five different countries as Regional Winners. [for 2017: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/05/26/lawyer-wins-front-lines-2017-human-rights-award-for-helping-crimean-tartars/]

The defenders we’re honouring today work in some of the most dangerous areas of the world, sacrificing their own security to peacefully demand justice and human rights for their communities,” said Andrew Anderson, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders, as he announced the winners in Dublin.

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Nurcan Baysal, Turkey – Regional Winner for Europe & Central Asia & Global Laureate

Nurcan is a Kurdish journalist and human rights defender based in Diyarbakir. When the government launched a military offensive in the south-east in 2016, Nurcan spent months visiting Kurdish villages under bombardment, documenting human rights violations, and stopping to help families who’d lost everything in the conflict. Her writings are known for their critical focus on voice women living under the bombardment. When the authorities launched a military operation in Afrin, Nurcan took to social media to demand peace and condemn the violent assault. She was detained for speaking against the violence, and although later released she now faces up to 3 years in jail in a separate case related to her writing. Nurcan, according to authorities’ absurd claims, had “spread propaganda for armed terrorist organizations … and a call for provocative actions.” In addition to her reporting, Nurcan has also co-founded several NGOs, set up a camp to help Yazidi women fleeing the Islamic State, and been a key voice in countless reconciliation programs in the region. [see also: http://bianet.org/english/human-rights/197288-kurdish-journalist-baysal-wins-frontline-defenders-human-rights-prize]

 

Soni Sori, India – Regional Winner for Asia

Soni Sori is an indigenous and women’s rights defender in the militarised Bastar region of Chattisghar, India, where state-backed paramilitary forces are waging a violent campaign against local Adivasi tribes in the name of combating an armed Maoist insurgency. Soni documents and advocates against violence perpetrated by the paramilitary and police forces, which includes razing villages, burning homes, raping local women, and torturing and sexually assaulting tribes people detained without cause. Soni has also defended a number of educational centres from destruction by Maoist groups. In retaliation for her work, security forces detained and tortured Soni, pushing stones inside of her body and assaulting her for hours. Years later, men attacked her with acid and threatened to do the same to her daughter if she did not cease her advocacy on behalf of tribeswomen raped by the security forces. She has refused to stop her work, and continues to travel into the Maoist regions to speak with survivors of the ongoing conflict. [see also: https://feminisminindia.com/2018/05/18/soni-sori-wins-front-line-defenders-award/and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/02/23/human-rights-defenders-in-india-democracy-is-not-enough/

Peaceful Resistance of the Micro-Region of Ixquisis, Guatemala – Regional Winner for the Americas

La Resistencia Pacífica de la Microregión de Ixquisis formed in response to grave rights violations committed in the name of economic advancement in Guatemala. The government has authorised destructive mining and hydroelectric mega-projects in the region despite the widespread opposite from the 59 villages and 7 communities in the municipality. HRDs in the Peaceful Resistance risk their lives to defend the territory. In 2016 alone, there were more than 75 reported attacks against HRDs in the Peaceful Resistance including killings, shootings, harassment, and defamation campaigns.

 

LUCHA, DRC – Regional Winner for Africa

LUCHA is a non-partisan youth movement formed in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo that struggles against chronic corruption and impunity in the DRC. Initially focused on

local issues like access to drinking water, electricity, and youth unemployment, in just 6 years the movement has developed into an extensive national-level network of powerful social organisers. Peaceful protests and demonstrations led by LUCHA are routinely attacked by authorities. In October 2017, 5 young protests were killed during a LUCHA-organised demonstration, and many of their members and leaders having been arrested and detained during peaceful assemblies. The Congolese national intelligence agency has detained several members, who have endured physical and psychological abuse in detention.

Hassan Bouras – Regional Winner for the Middle East & North Africa

Hassan Bouras is a journalist, blogger, leading member of the Algerian League of Human Rights, and founding member of the Rejection Front, a coalition against fracking to extract shale gas in Algeria. His reporting on both corruption and torture in Algeria spans more than two decades and because of this work he has been repeatedly targeted by Algerian authorities. He has continued his writing and advocacy despite years of judicial harassment, arbitrary detentions, violent raids on his home, and imprisonment.

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https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/front-line-defenders-award

World Press Freedom Day: a good time for honoring journalists

May 4, 2018

Yesterday, 3 May 2018, was World Press Freedom Day and many noteworthy activities took place. The Economist and many other newspapers of course paid attention with grisly statistics from the Committee to Protect Journalists and other sources. It was also a time to award courageous journalists and cartoonist; just to mention a few:

Musa Kart was announced as the 2018 laureate of the International Press Cartoon Prize by Cartooning for Peace.

The 2018 International Press Cartoon (or Drawing) Prize, presented biannually in Geneva, was awarded to the Turkish cartoonist who was recently sentenced to almost four years in prison for “aiding terrorism”. He is a 64-year-old artist working with the Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet and was described as a “free spirit and a remarkable artist” by Swiss cartoonist Chappatte, a member of the jury.

It was also the day of the presentation of the first Ari Rath Prize for Critical Journalism (established to honour journalists who have rendered outstanding services to critical reporting on immigration, expulsion and asylum, committed to respect for human rights, in the spirit of the former editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post, who died in January 2017). Austrian journalist Alexandra Föderl-Schmid was the laureate.

Alexandra Föderl-Schmid who helped shape the daily newspaper “Der Standard” for almost three decades. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / Franz Johann Morgenbesser.

For more on the many human rights awards for the media and journalists see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/

The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) partnered with the London-based International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR) to commemorate World Press Freedom Day in Stockholm with an event focused on Turkey, which leads the world in the highest number of journalists in jail. According to SCF data, 258 journalists and media workers were in jail as of today, with 59 of them already convicted on dubious charges of terrorism, defamation and coup plotting. In addition, 142 Turkish journalists who were forced to go into exile or still remain at large in Turkey are wanted for arrest by authorities.

 

Nine NGOs wrote on World Press Freedom Day a joint letter expressing deep concern over the continued arbitrary detention of Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan language advocate arrested in 2016 after giving an interview to the New York Times. Tashi Wangchuk has since been tried for “inciting separatism,” a politically motivated charge that violates his rights to freedom of expression and association. [Tashi Wangchuk began raising public concern for the lack of rightful Tibetan-language education …In late 2015, he spoke with the New York Times in an interview about his attempts to promote the teaching of Tibetan; he insisted the interview be on the record. A journalist from the New York Times also accompanied him to Beijing, where Tashi Wangchuk attempted to file a lawsuit to ensure local authorities guarantee the provision of Tibetan language education. The result was an article and video documentary featured in the New York Times in November 2015.

In his article, Tashi Wangchuk insisted that his language advocacy was peaceful and non-political. His attempts to persuade the Chinese government to guarantee Tibetan language instruction were conducted through official channels and he made it clear that he was not advocating Tibetan independence. Instead, his main focus was ending the destruction of Tibetan language and culture. Despite taking these precautions, Tashi Wangchuk was arrested on 27 January 2016, held in an unknown location and later stood trial in a closed session. See also:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/07/china-and-the-un-human-rights-council-really-win-win/

 Tashi Wangchuk press freedom day ngos

 

And then there were many smaller events all around the globe that also deserves attention, such as Amnesty International Nepal voicing support to journalists as human rights defenders (such as Charan Kumar Prasai and Subodh Pyakurel and Rajan Prasad Kuikel).

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https://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2018/05/daily-chart-0 
http://www.myrepublica.com/news/41038/?categoryId=81
http://www.cartooningforpeace.org/en/
https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/business/world-press-freedom-day_imprisoned-turkish-caricaturist-awarded-geneva-cartoon-prize/44092346

 

https://stockholmcf.org/scf-iohr-partner-to-celebrate-world-press-freedom-day-with-a-focus-on-turkey/
https://www.vindobona.org/article/presentation-of-the-first-ari-rath-prize-for-critical-journalism
https://www.hongkongfp.com/2018/05/03/world-press-freedom-day-xi-jinping-release-tibetan-tashi-wangchuk-charged-nytimes-report/

European Commission states that Turkey is taking “major steps” away from the EU

April 18, 2018

On Tuesday 17 April 2018 the European Commission released its most critical report on talks with Turkey since the country launched its bid to join the EU over a decade ago. The European Commission has warned that Turkey is taking “major steps” in the wrong direction and also warned that years of progress are being lost.

The report stated that “The state of emergency declared in the wake of the attempted coup of 15 July 2016 remains in force, aiming at dismantling the Gülen movement, designated by the government as a terror organisation responsible of the coup attempt, as well as at supporting the fight against terrorism, against the background of repeated attacks in Turkey, overall a traumatic period in Turkey.” The EU, while recognising Turkey’s legitimate need to take swift and proportionate action, said “However, the broad scale and collective nature, and the disproportionality of measures taken since the attempted coup under the state of emergency, such as widespread dismissals, arrests, and detentions, continue to raise serious concerns. Turkey should lift the state of emergency without delay.”

Turkish National Security Council (MGK)’s advice to extend the state of emergency will likely be approved by parliament. The state of emergency has so far been approved six times since the attempted coup in July 2016. ..Turkey “continues to take huge strides away from the EU, in particular in the areas of rule of law and fundamental rights,” European Commissioner Johannes Hahn in charge of negotiations told a news conference. “The Commission has repeatedly called on Turkey to reverse this negative trend as a matter of priority and makes very clear the recommendations on this in today’s report,” he said.

Among the key findings of the European Commission’s 2018 Report on Turkey are the following:

..

Since the introduction of the state of emergency, over 150 000 people were taken into custody, 78 000 were arrested and over 110 000 civil servants were dismissed whilst, according to the authorities, some 40 000 were reinstated of which some 3 600 by decree.

A State of Emergency Appeal Commission became operational and received altogether some 107 000 appeal requests. This Commission only started to take decisions in December 2017 and it has so far provided redress to only few applicants. Its decisions are open to judicial review. It still needs to develop into an effective and transparent remedy for those unjustly affected by measures under the state of emergency.

Beyond the Appeal Commission, the capacity of Turkey to ensure an effective domestic legal remedy in the sense of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has been further undermined by a number of unfortunate precedents. In one instance a lower court refused to observe a ruling of the Constitutional Court regarding an emblematic case; a follow up ruling by the Constitutional Court for one of the defendants was eventually abided with by a lower court. Several court rulings favorable to prominent defendants, including Human Rights Defenders, were swiftly reversed by another or even by the same court, in some instances following comments from the executive.

Key recommendations of the Council of Europe and its bodies are yet to be addressed by Turkey. Allegations of wrongdoing need to be established by transparent procedures and on an individual basis. Individual criminal liability can only be established with full respect for the separation of powers, the full independence of the judiciary and the right of every individual to a fair trial. Turkey should lift the state of emergency without delay.

……

Civil society came under increasing pressure, notably in the face of a large number of arrests of activists, including human rights defenders, and the recurrent use of bans of demonstrations and other types of gatherings, leading to a rapid shrinking space for fundamental rights and freedoms. Many rights‑based organisations remained closed as part of the measures under the state of emergency and an effective legal remedy has not been available with respect to confiscations…

The situation in the south-east has continued to be one of the most acute challenges for the country. The deteriorated security situation has in part shifted to rural areas. The government’s pledge to continue security operations, against the background of recurrent violent acts by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which remains on the EU list of persons, groups and entities involved in acts of terrorism, remained as a defining element of the situation in the region.While the government has a legitimate right to fight against terrorism, it is also responsible for ensuring the respect for human rights, rule of law, fundamental freedoms and the proportionate use of force. The government’s investment plan for the reconstruction of damaged areas in the south-east has resulted in the ongoing construction of thousands of dwellings but only few internally displaced persons received compensation so far. There were no developments on the resumption of a credible political process which is needed to achieve a peaceful and sustainable solution.

Turkey’s judicial system is at an early stage of preparation. There has been further serious backsliding in the past year, in particular with regard to the independence of the judiciary. The Constitutional amendments governing the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (CJP) entered into force and further undermined its independence from the executive. The CJP continued to engage in large-scale suspensions and transfers of judges and prosecutors. No efforts were made to address concerns regarding the lack of objective, merit‑based, uniform and pre-established criteria in the recruitment and promotion of judges and prosecutors.

The Turkish legal framework includes general guarantees of respect for human and fundamental rights, which have however been further challenged and undermined by a number of emergency decrees. The serious backsliding on the freedom of expressioncontinued, an area where Turkey is at an early stage of preparation. The scope of actions taken under the state of emergency has been extended over time to many critical voices, in media and academia amongst others, in contradiction with the principle of proportionality.

Criminal cases against journalists – more than 150 of them remain detained – human rights defenders, writers, or social media users, withdrawal of press cards, as well as the closure of numerous media outlets or the appointment by the government of trustees to administer them, are of serious concern and are mostly based on selective and arbitrary application of the law, especially provisions on national security and the fight against terrorism.

The Internet Law and the general legal framework continue to enable the executive to block online content without a court order on an inappropriately wide range of grounds. There was also serious backsliding in the areas of freedom of assembly, freedom of association, procedural and property rights. Freedom of assembly continues to be overly restricted, in law and practice. Measures adopted under the state of emergency also removed crucial safeguards protecting detainees from abuse thereby augmenting the risk of impunity, in a context where allegations of ill-treatment and torture have increased.

Emergency decrees imposed additional restrictions to procedural rights including on the rights of defence. The enforcement of rights is hindered by the fragmentation and limited mandate of public institutions responsible for human rights and freedoms and by the lack of an independent judiciary. Extreme poverty and a lack of basic necessities remain common among Roma households in Turkey. The rights of the most vulnerable groups and of persons belonging to minorities should be sufficiently protected. Gender-based violence, discrimination, hate speech against minorities, hate crime and violations of human rights of LGBTI persons are still a matter of serious concern.

Turkey made good progress in the area of migration and asylum policy and remained committed to the implementation of the March 2016 EU-Turkey Statement effective management of migratory flows along the Eastern Mediterranean route. As regards the implementation of the Visa Liberalisation Roadmap, at the beginning of February, Turkey submitted to the European Commission a work plan outlining how Turkey plans to fulfil the seven outstanding visa liberalisation benchmarks. The Commission is assessing Turkey’s proposals and further consultations with the Turkish counterparts will follow

..

Turkey needs to commit itself unequivocally to good neighbourly relations, international agreements, and to the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the United Nations Charter, having recourse, if necessary, to the International Court of Justice. In this context, the EU has expressed serious concern and urged Turkey to avoid any kind of threat or action directed against a Member State, or source of friction or actions that damages good neighbourly relations and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

https://stockholmcf.org/report-by-european-commission-urges-turkish-govt-to-lift-state-of-emergency-without-delay/#prettyPhoto

Turkey’s Academics for Peace to Receive 2018 Courage to Think Defender Award

April 16, 2018

On 16 April 2018 the NGO-network Scholars at Risk (SAR) announced that Turkey’s Academics for Peace is the recipient of its 2018 Courage to Think Defender Award, for their extraordinary efforts in building academic solidarity and in promoting the principles of academic freedom, freedom of inquiry, and the peaceful exchange of ideas. The award, which will be presented at the Scholars at Risk Network 2018 Global Congress, will be accepted on behalf of the group by Muzaffer Kaya, of Technische Universität Berlin, and Tebessüm Yılmaz, of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

Rose Anderson, SAR’s Director of Protection Services stated: “By connecting their threatened colleagues both inside and outside of Turkey to resources, opportunities, and support, they are working to ensure that Turkey’s vibrant higher education community can continue to pursue scholarship, and be free to think, question and share ideas. The solidarity of the Academics for Peace community is an inspiration for all of us who work on behalf of threatened scholars and academic freedom worldwide.”

Fo more on the SAR’s Courage to Think and other awards see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/courage-to-think-award. For last year’s: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/06/09/scholars-at-risk-gives-its-courage-to-think-defender-award-to-egypts-detained-scholars-and-students/

For more information about the Courage to Think Award and the Global Congress, including registration information, the Congress program and speaker bios, visit https://www.con-gressa.de/gc2018.

https://www.scholarsatrisk.org/2018/04/2018-courage-to-think/

New Shahnoush Award for women human rights defenders in prison

January 26, 2018

Ayşenur Parıldak, a 27-year-old reporter from Turkey’s now-closed Zaman newspaper who has been behind bars for 13 months, was named the recipient of the first Shahnoush Award by the Oslo-based Vigdis Freedom Foundation (VFF). [for more on this and other awards: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/shahnoush-award]

I was subjected to violence and sexual abuse. I was interrogated day and night for eight days. They [police officers] were questioning me while they were under the influence of alcohol […] I am afraid of being forgotten here,” Parıldak said in a letter to the Cumhuriyet newspaper in October 2016.

The Shahnoush Award will be given every year to a female prisoner of conscience whose courage has not been internationally acknowledged. By doing so, Vigdis brings attention to the suffering of women who languish behind bars for speaking out and whose human rights have been violated. They are not forgotten; they are not alone. Hope is sometimes the difference between life and death. May the [Shahnoush] Award give hope to those who need it most.” said Marina Nemat, a board member of VFF.

Parıldak, also a law student at Ankara University’s faculty of law, was detained while taking exams on Aug. 11, 2016. She was released by the court on May 2, 2017 but was later rearrested by the same court before being freed since a prosecutor objected to the initial ruling. During her trial, she told judges that she had thought of committing suicide several times while in prison. Behind bars since last year, Parıldak faces 15 years in jail under Turkey’s broad anti-terror laws based on her tweets and alleged use of the ByLock mobile app. Turkish authorities believe ByLock indicates links to the Gülen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding the abortive coup last year. The movement denies all involvement.

 

 

https://turkeypurge.com/jailed-journalist-aysenur-parildak-given-courage-award-by-norwegian-rights-group

2017 was a grim year for imprisoned technologists

December 29, 2017

Prison Hands

Since its founding, EFF has highlighted and defended cases of injustice and fearmongering perpetrated against innocent technologists. We advocate for unjustly imprisoned technologists and bloggers with our Offline project. In 2017, we continue to see fear being whipped up against those who oppose oppression with modern tools—as well as those who have done nothing more than teach and share technology so that we can all use and understand it better:

Dmitry Bogatov, software developer and math lecturer at Moscow’s Finance and Law University. Bogatov ran a volunteer Tor relay, allowing people around the world to protect their identities as they used the Internet. It was one part of his numerous acts of high-tech public service, which include co-maintaining Xmonad and other Haskell software for the Debian project. For his generosity, Bogatov has now spent over a hundred days in pretrial detention, wrongfully accused of posting extremist materials that were allegedly sent via through Tor server. Law enforcement officials around the world understand that data that appears to originate from a particular Tor machine is, in fact, traffic from its anonymised users. But that didn’t stop Bogatov’s prosecutors in Russia from accusing him of sending the data himself, under a pseudonym, to foment riots—and added new charges of “inciting terrorism” when a judge suggested the earlier charge was too weak to hold Bogatov in pre-trial detention.

Ahmed Mansoor, of the United Arab Emirates. Mansoor has been a tireless voice for victims of human rights abuses in the United Arab Emirates. In 2011, amidst the Arab uprisings, he was one of five Emirati citizens to be sentenced to prison for his social media postings. That case provoked international condemnation, and the group was soon pardoned. Mansoor was subsequently targeted with sophisticated government spyware on his iPhone; he recognised and passed on the malware link to experts, which led to the discovery of three previously unknown vulnerabilities in Apple’s iOS. In April, Mansoor was seized by the UAE authorities again. On the day of his arrest, the UAE’s official news agency saying that he had been arrested on the orders of the Public Prosecution for Cybercrimes and accused of using social media to promote sectarianism and hate, among other charges. Mansoor’s family did not hear from him for two weeks, and he has been denied access to a lawyer. Just a year ago, Apple was able to roll out a security fix to their users because of Mansoor’s swift, transparent, and selfless actions. Millions of people are safer because of Ahmed’s actions, even as his family fears for his own physical and mental safety. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/28/ahmed-mansoor-under-arrest-emirates-under-pressure/]

Alaa abd el-Fattah ran Linux installfests across the Middle-East and was a key online voice in the Egyptian uprising. Since then he has been jailed, in turn, by the democratically elected Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, and then when Morsi was overthrown in a coup, by incoming President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. Alaa’s appeal against a five year prison sentence for protesting—widely seen as a means to silence him on social media—was refused in November of this yearAmnesty and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have both condemned Alaa’s continuing imprisonment.

Another long-term case is that of Saeed Malekpour, who has been in jail in Iran since 2008. Malekpour returned from Canada to visit his sick Iranian father in October of that year, at a time when the Iranian Revolutionary Guard was starting to target technologists and Internet experts. As an open source coder, Malekpour had written a free front-end image management utility for websites. The Guard found this software on a Farsi pornography site, and used it to as a pretext to seize Malekpour from the streets of Tehran, charge him with running the web site, and sentencing him to death. Malekpour’s death sentence has been anulled twice following international pressure, but a change of government in his home country of Canada risked reducing the level of support for Malekpour. A campaign to encourage the new Trudeau administration to continue to advocate for Malekpour, even as Canada seeks to normalize relations with Iran, seems to be working. One of Malekpour’s advocates, former Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, has said that the Canadian government is now working on the case. The continuing monitoring of Malekpour’s life sentence is a small consolation, but better than the alternative.

Peter Steudtner and Ali Gharavi travel the world, teaching and advising Internet users on how to improve their privacy and digital security online (Ali was an advisor for EFF’s Surveillance Self-Defence project). The two were arrested in a raid by Turkish police on a digital security workshop in July in Istanbul, along with Amnesty Turkeys’ director, Idil Eser, and eight other human rights defenders. The two technology consultants have been accused of aiding terrorists, despite the long history of both as peaceful advocates for secure online practices. After months of detention, concentrated diplomatic and public pressure led to both being released to join their families in Germany and Sweden. We’re delighted that they are free, but their unjust prosecution—and that of their Turkish colleagues—continues in the Turkish courts. 

Bassel Khartabil, the Syrian free culture advocate. Before his arrest and torture in 2012, Bassel was the driving force behind countless projects to turn technology for the public good in his country. He founded a hackerspace in Damascus, translated Creative Commons into a Middle Eastern context, and built out Wikipedia and Mozilla for his fellow Syrians. Bassel’s generosity brought him notability and respect. His prominence and visibility as a voice outside the divided political power-bases of Syria made him an early target when the Syrian civil war became violent. Bassel was killed by the Syrian government in 2015, shortly after he was removed from a civilian prison and sent into the invisibility of Syria’s hidden security complexes.

 

https://personalliberty.com/grim-year-imprisoned-technologists-2017-review/

Human Rights Day 2017 in Asia: MIND THE GAP

December 11, 2017

International Human Rights Day 2017 was celebrated all over the world by governmental and non-governmental entities alike. Here some cases of MIND THE GAP as reported in the media in Asia:

Cambodia:

The government celebrated Human Rights Day under the theme of ‘peace’, but 103 civil society groups spoke out against state ‘attacks’. KT/Mai Vireak

The government yesterday celebrated the 69th anniversary of International Human Rights Day under the theme of peace, while 103 civil society groups called for more protection for human rights defenders. Prime Minister Hun Sen posted on his Facebook page to say how the rights and freedoms of Cambodian people have been restored since the end of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979: “December 10 is International Human Rights Day, which people all over the world celebrate. On January 7, 1979, the rights and freedoms of the Cambodian people were restored and have been until this day.”

Civil society meanwhile marked the day at different locations around Phnom Penh and in other provinces. A group of 103 civil society organisations issued a joint statement calling for justice and respect for human rights from the government. “On the occasion of International Human Rights Day, we, the undersigned members of Cambodian civil society, call for an end to government attacks on human rights defenders and civil society groups and the lifting of unjustifiable restrictions on fundamental freedoms,” the statement said.

Philippines:

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque INQUIRER PHOTO/JOAN BONDOC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the observance of the International Human Rights Day, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque reiterated President Rodrigo Duterte’s commitment to uplift the lives of Filipinos, especially the poor, marginalized and vulnerable. Noting that the Philippines is an active member of the United Nations Human Rights Council and that respect for human rights is enshrined in the 1987 Constitution, Roque assured that the Duterte administration “works hard with the best interest of every Filipino.” ..“That direction is what inspires the government’s compliance with its human rights obligations. As a Nobel Peace Prize winner once said, ‘poverty is the absence of human rights” .

The Philippines has experienced a precipitous drop in basic human rights standards since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power last year, resulting in large, mass mobilizations across the country for the occasion of December 10, Human Rights Day. At least 12 rallies were held across the archipelago on Sunday, with human rights group KARAPATAN and progressive alliance BAYAN taking the lead alongside a range of like-minded groups calling for an end to what they describe as the U.S.-Duterte regime. In addition to over 13,000 small-time drug dealers and addicts killed during Duterte’s “war on drugs,” Karapatan has documented 113 victims of political killings, 81 victims of torture, 54,573 victims of threat, harassment, and intimidation, 364,617 who have suffered due to indiscriminate firing and aerial bombing, and 426,170 internally displaced who were subject to forced evacuation.  

Turkey:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: AA
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: AA

Respect for human rights based on the principles of equality and non-discrimination of individuals before the law is the irreplaceable nature of the Republic of Turkey,” said Erdogan, according to state-run Anadolu Agency, on the occasion of Human Rights Day on Sunday. Erdogan specifically referenced Turkey’s commitment to “all oppressed people and victims from Palestine to Syria and Asia to Africa.”

Turkey has been cited by several international organizations for human rights violations, namely in its justice system, freedom of speech and Internet communications, treatment of minorities, and political censorship. See inter alia: https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/europe-and-central-asia/turkey/report-turkey/and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/22/celebrities-come-out-to-support-taner-kilic-amnesty-turkeys-chair-on-trial-today/.

Thailand:

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) commissioner and human rights defender Angkhana Neelaphaijit said that despite the government’s claim that it cherished human rights and had made them a priority, in reality it had done nothing to do so.
Angkhana Neelaphaijit
Angkhana Neelaphaijit
Thailand is still far from its goal of valuing human rights since the junta’s policies and actions have eroded rights, while many people do not even understand the principle. Prominent Thai campaigners marked Human Rights Day yesterday to lament that the country was still far from its professed goal of ensuring everyone was accorded the freedoms they deserve. The nation’s most severe human rights violation was the lack of freedom of expression, they said in an appeal to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to restore democracy to truly guarantee human rights for every citizen. They also said Thailand faced many serious human rights crises. For instance, social movements across the country continued to be suppressed by authorities, the justice system was being used against human rights defenders, and many people in society still did not understand human rights and harmed others. National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) commissioner and human rights defender Angkhana Neelaphaijit said that despite the government’s claim that it cherished human rights and had made them a priority, in reality it had done nothing to do so. On the contrary, Angkhana said the government was doing the very opposite, enforcing many laws and regulations that violated human rights and curbing the activities of campaigners, both through law enforcement and by force. In effect, the regime was deepening Thailand’s human rights crisis, she said.

Pakistan:

Message by Foreign Minister of Pakistan : ”On behalf of the people and Government of Pakistan, I wish to reiterate our strong commitment to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as needs. Pakistan has demonstrated its resolve by enacting wide ranging legislation, establishing strong institutional machinery and putting in place robust policy measures in the field of human rights. Pakistan’s Constitution serves as an anchor and guarantor of fundamental freedoms and human rights of all Pakistanis.  The Government of Pakistan accords high priority to advancing mutually reinforcing objectives of development, human rights and democracy…This year is also significant for Pakistan in the field of human rights. Pakistan actively engaged with the UN human rights institutions and partners through regular submission of national reports, participation in review processes and implementation of recommendations arising from such mechanisms. Pakistan filed reports and participated in the review mechanism of three international treaty bodies, namely CAT, ICESCR and ICCPR. Pakistan also successfully presented its third national report on Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 13 November 2017. This level of engagement, participation and contribution demonstrates Pakistan’s commitment as well as actions to advance the cause of human rights.  Pakistan’s success as the newly elected member of the Human Rights Council (HRC) this year is a testimony to the confidence reposed in Pakistan by the international community as a consensus builder within the international human rights policy framework.

The struggle against enforced disappearance was seen in Sindh alone while though there have been cases of missing persons in other provinces but Sindh has dared to raise voice against such violations of human rights.  These views were expressed at a seminar on occasion of Human Rights Day organized here by SAFWCO and Social Change. Noted Human Rights activist and lawyer Faisal Siddiqui said only voice against forced disappearances was being heard from Sindh while voice of Balochistan has been crushed with force. Though many persons were missing in KPK and Punjab but from there no voice is heard.  He said our judiciary has come out of colonization era and was giving right decisions. He said it was he who had filed petition in SHC for IG Sindh A.D.Khwaja. He said he was harassed for being advocate against Baldia Factory burning of 258 persons, Shahzeb Jatoi case and other cases for which he was harassed and could not open his office for many months. He said now powerful forces were active human rights.  The gathering paid tributes to Pubhal Saryo, convener of missing persons forum who was whisked away by agencies and released after more than 2 months. Punhal Saryo said it has become very difficult to work for human rights in situation where human rights defenders were also not safe.
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http://www.khmertimeskh.com/5095119/civil-society-decries-attacks-nation-marks-human-rights-day/

https://www.telesurtv.net/english/multimedia/Human-Rights-Day-Marked-In-Philippines-Amid–All-Out-Repression-Drug-War-Martial-Law-20171210-0021.html & https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/951114/human-rights-day-roque-duterte-palace-poor-marginalized-un-rights-council

http://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/turkey/101220171

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/national/30333640

http://www.mofa.gov.pk/pr-details.php?mm=NTY5Mw,, and http://www.pakistanchristianpost.com/detail.php?hnewsid=6705

Write for Rights again in December 2017

December 4, 2017

Every December, Amnesty International supporters across the globe write millions of letters and take actions for people whose human rights are under attack, in what has become the world’s biggest human rights campaign. Last year at least 4.6 million actions were taken. “For 15 years Write for Rights has given people hope in their darkest moments. Imagine being ill in jail and receiving thousands of letters of support and solidarity; or finding out that people all over the world are behind you in your quest for justice for a murdered relative. Writing letters really can change lives,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General. For last year’s see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/11/04/time-for-the-annual-write-for-rights-campaign/

This year Amnesty International is writing to, among others:

  • The Bangladeshi Home Minister, calling on him to bring the killers of Xulhaz Mannan to justice, without recourse to the death penalty. Xulhaz, a founder of Bangladesh’s only LGBTI magazine, was in his apartment with a colleague when men wielding machetes burst in and hacked them to death in April 2016. Despite ample evidence, the killers have yet to be charged.
  • The Prime Minister of Jamaica, telling him to protect Shackelia Jackson, who has been fighting for justice for her brother Nakiea since he was killed by police in 2014, and has refused to be silenced by police intimidation.  In the past decade around 2,000 men, usually young and poor, have been killed by police in Jamaica.
  • The Prime Minister of Israel, telling him to drop all charges against Farid al Atrash and Issa Amro, Palestinian human rights defenders, who want an end to illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. They brave constant attacks by soldiers and settlers, and are facing ludicrous charges after they joined a peaceful protest march.

 

This year, these 10 people and groups urgently need your support:

Xulhaz Mannan

Xulhaz was a founder of Bangladesh’s only LGBTI magazine, a daring venture in a country where same-sex relations are illegal. He was in his apartment with a colleague when men wielding machetes burst in and hacked them to death. Despite ample evidence, including CCTV footage and eyewitness testimony, one year on the killers have yet to be charged for this brutal murder.

Mahadine

Tadjadine Mahamat Babouri, commonly known as Mahadine, is an online activist from Chad. In September 2016 he posted videos on Facebook criticizing the Chadian government. Within days, he was snatched off the streets, and beaten and chained up for several weeks. He faces a life sentence and is also gravely ill, having caught tuberculosis in prison.

Ni Yulan

A former lawyer, Ni Yulan has supported scores of people forced from their homes by lucrative construction projects. She has braved almost 20 years of violent harassment for defending housing rights, and has been monitored, arrested and repeatedly evicted by the authorities. She was once beaten so badly in detention that she now uses a wheelchair. Ni Yulan continues to help people stand up for their rights

Hanan Badr el-Din

Hanan Badr el Din’s life changed forever when her husband disappeared in July 2013. She last saw him on television, wounded and at a hospital after attending a protest. Hanan’s relentless search for him led her to others whose loved ones were taken by the Egyptian security forces. Now a leading voice exposing Egypt’s hundreds of disappeared, her latest search for information about her husband has seen her arrested on false charges which could result in five years in prison.

Sakris Kupila

Sakris Kupila, a 21-year-old medical student from Finland, has never identified as a woman. Yet he has to endure daily discrimination because his identity documents say he is female – the gender he was assigned at birth. To legally reassign your gender in Finland, you must be diagnosed with a “mental disorder” and sterilised. Sakris opposes this humiliating treatment. And despite threats and open hostility, he continues to demand a change to the law.

MILPAH Indigenous Movement

For the Indigenous Lenca people in Honduras, the land is their life. But huge hydroelectric, mining and other interests are out to exploit that land. MILPAH, the Independent Lenca Indigenous Movement of La Paz, is at the forefront of the struggle against them. They brave smear campaigns, death threats and physical assault to protect their environment, yet their attackers are rarely brought to justice.

Farid and Issa

Farid al-Atrash and Issa Amro are two Palestinian activists who demand an end to Israeli settlements – a war crime stemming from Israel’s 50-year occupation of Palestinian land. Dedicated to non-violence, the two activists brave constant threats and attacks by soldiers and settlers. In February 2016, Issa and Farid marched peacefully against settlements and the Israeli occupation. As a result, they face ludicrous charges apparently designed to obstruct their human rights work.

Shackelia Jackson

Shackelia Jackson will not give up. When her brother, Nakiea, was gunned down by police, she took on Jamaica’s sluggish court system to lead a bold fight for justice for his murder. In doing so, she rallied dozens of families whose loved ones were similarly killed. In response, the police have repeatedly raided and harassed her community. But Shackelia will not be silenced.

Clovis Razafimalala

Clovis is doing everything he can to protect Madagascar’s vanishing rainforest. Its rosewood trees are a precious resource under threat from a network of smugglers, bent on selling them off in what has become a billion dollar illegal trade. Clovis’ efforts to save this rare ruby-coloured tree have brought him unwanted attention. He has been convicted on false charges and could be jailed at any moment

Turkey

Right now, 11 people who have dedicated their lives to defending the human rights of journalists, activists and other dissenting voices in Turkey are themselves in danger. Among them are Amnesty International’s Director, İdil Eser, and its chair, Taner Kılıç, who remains in prison after five months. All are on trial for ‘terrorism’-related crimes, an absurd charge and face a jail sentence of up to 15 years.

Amnesty International’s Brave campaign calls on governments around the world to protect human rights defenders.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/11/amnesty-launches-worlds-biggest-human-rights-campaign/

Celebrities come out to support Taner Kılıç, Amnesty Turkey’s chair, on trial today

November 22, 2017

Taner Kılıç, Amnesty Turkey’s Chair, has been behind bars for nearly six months
As the trial of ‘Istanbul 10’ and the Chair of Amnesty Turkey resumes today 22 November 2017, more than 70 persons signed an open letter calling for the case against the 11 human rights activists to be dropped. As quite a few celebrities make missteps in the human rights area [see recently: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/10/helen-hunt-joins-list-of-celebrities-that-show-insensitivity-on-human-rights/ ], it is heartening to see names such as Ai Weiwei, Edward Snowden, Anish Kapoor, Catherine Deneuve, Angélique Kidjo, Indira Varma, Tim Farron, Bianca Jagger, Canon Mark Oakley, Hilary Benn, Juliet Stevenson, and Sting among the signatories.In the AI UK letter (see full text and list of signatories below), the group say they’re “proud” to add their voices to “the global demand to end this gross injustice”.

[Amnesty’s Turkey Chair, Taner Kılıç, was arrested on 6 June, jail three days later and remains in detention. Meanwhile, ten other activists, including İdil Eser, the Director of Amnesty Turkey, were detained a month later. Seven of them were remanded in Turkey’s high-security Silivri Prison for almost four months, with one remanded in Ankara’s Sincan Prison. The eight were held for almost four months and released last month at their first hearing. They are all accused of “membership of a terrorist organisation”.] See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/12/many-birthday-parties-for-jailed-human-rights-defender-in-turkey/ 

OPEN LETTER AHEAD OF TRIAL OF TANER KILIC AND ISTANBUL 10

On Wednesday the trial of 11 human rights defenders including including Taner Kılıç, and İdil Eser the chair and director of Amnesty International Turkey, will resume in Istanbul. 

The 11 face outlandish “terrorism” charges in what can only be described as a politically-motivated prosecution aimed at silencing critical voices within the country. If convicted they could face jail terms of up to 15 years. This sends a chilling message not just to people in Turkey but around the world. 

With many people unfairly imprisoned as part of the crackdown following the bloody coup attempt in Turkey – including journalists, lawyers and civil society leaders – some may ask: why focus on these 11 people? The answer is simple: when human rights defenders are silenced, all our rights are put at risk. They are the ones that stand up for us. Now we must stand up for them.

We are proud to add our voices to the global demand to end this gross injustice and to immediately and unconditionally release Taner Kılıç from jail.

The Turkish authorities must know that the eyes of the world will be on Istanbul’s central court for this trial. We will not stay silent. Defending human rights is not a crime. 

Signed:

Edward Snowden, human rights activist
Catherine Deneuve, actor 
Ai Weiwei, artist
Angélique Kidjo, musician
Anish Kapoor, artist
Peter Gabriel, musician
Francois Morel, actor 
Elif Shafak, author
Bianca Jagger, human rights activist
Juliet Stevenson, actor
Indira Varma, actor 
Mogens Lykketoft MP, ex-President of the UN General Assembly
Nacho Sanchez Amor, OSCE Human Rights Committee Chair
Mirosław Wyrzykowski, Constitutional judge, Poland
Dr. Shashi Tharoor MP (former UN Under-Secretary General)
Ryan Gage, actor
Pasha Bocarie, actor 
Nazanin Boniadi, actor 
HK, musician
Sting, musician
Anti-Flag, musicians
C 215, artist 
Lucas Belvaux, film maker 
Laurent Gaudé, writer 
El Moustach/Hicham Gaoua, artist  
Said Salhi, Vice president of LADDH (Algeria)
Salil Shetty, Amnesty International Secretary General
Ken Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch
Claude Rolin MP (Belgium)
Tanita Tikaram, musician
Mohamed Fahmy, journalist
Peter Greste, journalist
Mark Oakley, Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral
Peter Tatchell, human rights defender
Natacha Régnier, actor  
Franck Pavloff, writer 
Emily Loizeau, musician 
Romain Goupil, film director 
Nicolas Lambert, comedian 
Clotilde Courau, comedian 
David Lammy MP
Caroline Lucas MP
Stephen McCabe MP
Tom Brake MP
Catherine West MP
Carol Monaghan MP
Joan Ryan MP
Christopher Stephens MP
Clive Lewis MP
Jo Stevens MP
Kerry McCarthy MP
Richard Burden MP
Kevin Brennan MP
Jim Cunningham MP
Rosie Cooper MP
Eleanor Smith MP
Wes Streeting MP
Stephen Doughty MP
Daniel Zeichner MP
Stephen Kinnock MP
Geraint Davies MP
Marie Rimmer MP
Grahame Morris MP
Antoinette Sandbach MP
Madeleine Moon MP
Tonia Antoniazzi MP
Preet Gill MP
Phillipa Whitford MP
Sarah Wollaston MP
Gareth Thomas MP
Emma Dent Coad MP
Hilary Benn MP
Tommy Sheppard MP
Olivier Py, France 
Paul Rondin, France
Monika Płatek, President of the Polish Association for Legal Education
Adam Bodnar, former board of United Nations Fund for Victims of Torture
Mikołaj Pietrzak, former Chair of the Human Rights Council of the Polish Bar Council
Krzysztof Śmiszek, co-founder of Polish Society of Anti-Discrimination Law

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/ai-weiwei-catherine-deneuve-bianca-jagger-and-peter-greste-among-those-calling-end