Posts Tagged ‘UK’

UK issues call for applications for funding human rights defenders work

May 14, 2019

On 13 May 2019 the UK Mission to the United Nations in New York issued a call for Programme Fund bids for the fiscal year 2019-2020.

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The UK Mission to the United Nations in New York is running an open call for project bids for funding under the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s International Programme in support of the UK Government’s objectives at the UN in New York on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Human Rights Defenders. Funding will be available for ODA-eligible projects running between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020. Bids will be accepted from civil society, including NGOs and think tanks, as well as international organisations, including UN offices, agencies, funds and programmes. As a first step, interested parties must submit a written expression of interest to uk@un.intby Tuesday 21 May.

For more information on the programme, guidance for bidding, and additional deadlines, see the Programme Fund form below.

Anne Gallagher new director-general of Commonwealth Foundation

April 24, 2019

Anne Gallagher
Anne Gallagher

The Commonwealth Foundation, which supports civil society organisations throughout the Commonwealth, has appointed Anne Gallagher as its next director general. Gallagher, president of the International Catholic Migration Commission, will relocate from Australia to take up the London-based role for an initial four-year term from June. She will succeed Vijay Krishnarayan, who is stepping down after completing the maximum of two terms.

Before joining the ICMG, Gallagher, a lawyer by training, worked at the United Nations in roles including special adviser to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. She has also held positions including co-chair of the International Bar Association’s Presidential Task Force Against Human Trafficking and been a member of the Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration.

Gallagher said in a statement “As the civil society voice of the Commonwealth, the foundation has played a vital role in advancing core Commonwealth values of democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law…That role will continue to be critical as we move into a future where truly inclusive multilateral cooperation is becoming ever more urgent.

https://www.thirdsector.co.uk/anne-gallagher-appointed-director-general-commonwealth-foundation/management/article/1582715

Important legal victory for land rights defenders in UK Court

April 11, 2019

Vedanta building in India
Image copyright VEDANTA

On 10 April 2019, BBC and others reported on a landmark judgement in the UK that could have big implications for others cases in which human rights defenders seek compensation from multinationals. Nearly 2,000 Zambian villagers have won the right to sue mining giant Vedanta over alleged pollution, the UK Supreme Court has ruled. The landmark judgement means other communities in developing countries could seek similar redress in the UK.

Zambian villagers have been fighting for the right to seek compensation in British courts for several years. Vedanta had argued that the case should be heard in Zambia. The UK Supreme Court disagreed, saying that the case must proceed in the UK, due to “the problem of access to justice” in Zambia. The case relates to allegations by villagers living near the huge Nchanga Copper mine, owned by Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), a subsidiary of UK-based Vedanta. Vedanta said: “The judgment of the UK Supreme Court is a procedural one and relates only to the jurisdiction of the English court to hear these claims. It is not a judgment on the merits of the claims.

Martyn Day, senior partner at law firm Leigh Day, which is representing the Zambian villagers, said: “I hope this judgment will send a strong message to other large multinationals that their CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility]. policies should not just be seen as a polish for their reputation but as important commitments that they must put into action.

[In 2015, Zambian villagers accused Vedanta of poisoning their water sources and destroying farmland. Leaked documents seen by the BBC appeared to show that KCM had been spilling sulphuric acid and other toxic chemicals into the water sources. …In India’s Tamil Nadu state, a Vedanta-owned copper smelting plant was closed by authorities in May 2018.]

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/23/human-rights-council-recognises-vital-role-of-environmental-human-rights-defenders/

Amnesty UK media awards sets good example

April 9, 2019

Amnesty International UK runs a successful series of (national) media awards. Amnesty’s Media Awards, which have been running annually since 1992, celebrate excellence in human rights journalism and applaud the courage and determination of journalists who often put their lives on the line to report on vital human rights issues. Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said at the 3 April 2019 ceremony: “Media work is vitally important for Amnesty and everything we do. This evening we’ve seen some brilliant journalism that has had enormous human rights impact…Without a free press, it’s extremely difficult to expose wrong-doing and hold leaders to account. But even here in the UK we’re seeing it being threatened – especially with the sinister arrest of Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey in Northern Ireland last year…That’s why our awards are about congratulating the achievements of the media and championing its role in creating a fairer, more open world.” The awards, hosted by Channel 4 News presenter Cathy Newman, held a moment of silence for the approximately 90 journalists imprisoned last year for doing their jobs. Canada and the USA are undertaking similar events.

The winners of the 2019 AI UK Media Awards include:

News (Broadcast)

Features

Regional Media

  • BBC Northern Ireland – Spotlight: Buried Secrets

Documentaries

  • BBC Two – Escape from Dubai: The Mystery of the Missing Princess

Impact Award

Investigation

For jailed Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo this means yet another award for their work as they continue to fight an appeal against their conviction. The men, who have been behind bars in Myanmar since December 2017. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/06/50-human-rights-ngos-address-joint-letter-to-aung-san-suu-kyi-on-reuters-journalists/]

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Giles Duley, on assignment for UNHCR, photographs refugees and migrants in Greece in 2016.  © UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis

Humanitarian photographer Giles Duley won a Media Award for his powerful series depicting the plight and resilience of Congolese female refugees in Angola. His photo essay, “We Are Here Because We Are Strong”, was commissioned by UNHCR and published in Humanity magazine. The subjects of his project were forced to flee the Kasai region of Democratic Republic of the Congo after violence erupted in March 2017, triggering massive displacement.

The full Media Awards 2019 shortlist can be found here.

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/amnesty-media-awards-2019-winners-announced

https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/jailed-reuters-reporters-wa-lone-kyaw-soe-oo-honoured-with-amnesty-media-award-during-appeal/

https://www.unhcr.org/news/latest/2019/4/5ca5ff704/unhcr-photographers-essay-congolese-women-refugees-wins-prestigious-award.html

The “Stansted 15” story ends ‘well’ but not good enough

February 7, 2019

PA WIRE/PA IMAGES

Kate AllenDirector of Amnesty International UK, wrote a blog post on 7 February 2019 in the Huffington post about the ‘Stansted 15’: 

After nearly two long years the news is that the Stansted 15 will not be going to jail. On Wednesday, the 15 arrived at Chelmsford Crown Court with their bags packed for their anticipated prison stints. Given that they were staring down the barrel of a possible life sentence, they were contemplating the worst. ..a happy ending? Well, not really. [see also the recent: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/feb/25/stansted-15-ordered-back-to-court-on-aggravated-trespass-charge]

This group of human rights defenders remain convicted of a serious terrorism-related offence. They were tried in relation to their attempt to prevent the deportation of a group of people at Stansted Airport in 2017. Their actions – which at no point harmed anyone – prevented the flight from leaving. Of the 60 individuals due to have been deported, at least two have since been granted permission to remain in the UK, with others still pursuing their claims.

Initially, we should recall, the Stansted 15 were charged with aggravated trespass, a relatively minor charge of the type that has often been used to prosecute people who have undertaken similar protests. But four months in, this was changed to “endangering safety at aerodromes” – a very serious terrorism-related charge which came onto the books following the Lockerbie bombings – and one which has a maximum penalty of life in prison.

….The way the Stansted 15 have been treated should be a matter of grave concern for anyone who cares about human rights in the UK. This case is a canary in the coalmine and we should be alert for the chilling effect this trial could have on peaceful protest in the UK….It’s easy to see how what has happened to them might give pause to others seeking to stand up against perceived injustice.

Throughout this case it’s been clear these are human rights defenders, motivated by conscience and compassion for their fellow humans. 

 

 

Emma Hughes grew up in Epsom and was one of 15 activists who helped block a charter flight at Heathrow airport in March 2017.  Emma Hughes is a charity worker who recently gave birth to a son, Fen. In December last year before learning of her sentence, she told the Surrey Comet that the trial and subsequent conviction, which she might have faced up to life imprisonment, had severely impacted her pregnancy. Hughes said: “My partner faces not just me going to jail but his first child as well. It’s very scary for everyone’s families as well as us.” 12 of the activists, including Hughes, received community service sentences, while three others were given suspended prison sentences.

Raj Chada, Partner from Hodge Jones & Allen, who represented all 15 of the defendants said: “While we are relieved that none of our clients face a custodial sentence, today is still a sad day for justice. Our clients prevented individuals being illegally removed from the UK and should never have been charged under counter terrorism legislation. We maintain that this was an abuse of power by the Attorney General and the CPS and will continue to fight in the appeal courts to get these wrongful convictions overturned.

Eleven of the people on the halted March 2017 flight are still in the UK and have been able to keep fighting their cases. The Stansted 15 have been described as‘heroes’ by one of those people, a man who has lived in the UK for over a decade. As he sat on the flight, waiting for it to leave, his mother and two children were also in Britain, as well as his pregnant partner. The delay to the flight meant that he was able to successfully appeal against his deportation and be at his partner’s side while she gave birth to their daughter. He wrote for the Guardian: “Without the Stansted 15 I wouldn’t have been playing football with my three-year-old in the park this week. It’s that simple. We now have a chance to live together as a family in Britain – and that is thanks to the people who laid down in front of the plane.”

It will be interesting to see what the UK Government will reply to the UN in a few weeks time. (see Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/07/un-tells-uk-stop-using-terror-charges-against-peaceful-protesters)

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/stansted-15-trial_uk_5c5bfdcee4b09293b20bbfbd

https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/amy-hall/uk-human-rights-defenders-escape-jail-for-stopping-deportation-flight

World Check’s ‘terrorist’ labeling exposed as biased  

January 22, 2019

In a case before a British high court World-Check, a subsidiary of Reuters, was forced to pay compensation and offer an apology to a pro-Palestine organisation which it had listed as a terrorist group on its global online database. The case may have broad ramifications for hundreds of others, both individuals and organisations, that may have been placed on World-Check’s list without their knowledge [In fact there have been several cases including that of a British mosque which also won an apology and compensation after being designated “terrorists” by the risk screening agency].

The Middle East Monitor of 21 January 2019 gives details on the case of Majed Al-Zeer, the chairman of the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC), which have both been classified as “terrorists”.

Majed Al-Zeer, the chairman of the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC)

Majed Al-Zeer (C) the chairman of the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC)

A two-year legal battle concluded with World-Check offering a public apology in open court and a legal settlement of $13,000 plus legal costs. World-Check supplies private information on potential clients for corporations, businesses and even governmental agencies, such as police and immigration. With more than 4,500 clients including 49 of the world’s 50 largest banks and 200 law enforcement and regulatory agencies, World-Check has become essential in satisfying statutory requirements towards due diligence obligations. However their failure to carry out satisfactory checks and independent verification has raised concerns over the misuse and falsification of data that can have severe consequences for victims.

Declaring his victory over World Check service today at a London press conference as “a precedent for those who are on the forefront of human rights and justice” Al-Zeer said he had been a “victim of an organised campaign waged by Israel and its spin machine of propaganda and false information.”

[The PRC has been granted consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council. Over the past 30 years the centre has advocated for Palestinian refugees at international forums like the UN and EU. In addition to producing reports on the situation of Palestinian refugees; hosting conferences to defend their human rights, the UK organisation has been leading parliamentary delegations to refugee camps across the Middle East. Following Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in 2009 during operation “Cast Lead” in which 1,400 Palestinians were killed and thousands more were wounded, the centre organised the largest European parliamentary delegation to the besieged enclave.]

Al-Zeer’s lawyers described the victory as “shedding light into the secretive and unknown world of regulatory agencies” and the potential for their abuse. During their press conference, both expressed the urgent need to develop mechanisms for independent verification of entries that may have a “crippling effect” on people’s lives. “Such a company has a moral and ethical duty (at least from the perspective of the Media) to provide its clients with verified and real information,” said Al-Zeer, “yet, it has chosen to ignore that and stuff its database with merely politically motivated information.”….

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190121-pro-palestine-group-wins-uk-high-court-battle-over-terrorist-label/

Human Rights Day 2018 – anthology part III (the last)

December 18, 2018

Mopping up after International Human Rights Day 2018 here six more ‘events’:

For part I, see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/10/human-rights-day-2018-just-an-anthology/

For part II, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/11/human-rights-day-2018-anthology-part-ii/.

 

  1. Tibetans in Sydney celebrate Nobel Peace Prize Day and Int’l Human Rights Day.
    Tibetans in in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, observe an official function to mark the 29th anniversary of the conferment of Nobel Peace Prize on His Holiness the Dalai Lama, on December 15, 2018. Photo: TPI/Yeshe Choesang

Tibetans in Sydney celebrate Nobel Peace Prize Day and Int’l Human Rights Day

https://www.hongkongfp.com/2018/12/16/best-human-rights-books-october-december-2018/

https://www.adventistreview.org/for-people-of-faith-70-year-old-human-rights-document-holds-special-meaning

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/lord-ahmad-speech-at-amnesty-international-annual-human-rights-day-reception

https://blogs.library.duke.edu/blog/2018/12/12/duke-announces-winner-of-2018-juan-e-mendez-human-rights-book-award/

https://menafn.com/1097819272/Somaliland-HRC-Commemorates-Human-Rights-Day-2018-In-Burao

Emirates (Mansoor) and UK (Hedges): finally someone made the point

December 6, 2018

On 4 December 2018 Jonathan Emmett wrote in a post about something that I had been wondering for weeks: “Are UK authors only prepared to defend the rights of people like themselves?”. Totally correct:

Read the rest of this entry »

The human rights defenders in AI’s 2018 Write For Rights Campaign

November 25, 2018

Human Rights lawyer Louis Blom-Cooper died 19 September 2018

September 27, 2018

Louis Jacques Blom-Cooper, lawyer and writer, born 27 March 1926; died 19 September 2018. Blom-Cooper was involved in the foundation of Amnesty International in 1961, supporting Peter Benenson‘s idea for an appeal for amnesty for political prisoners. He was also a Patron of Prisoners Abroad a registered charity which supports Britons who are held overseas, and was a trustee of the Howard League for Penal Reform. He was a fighter against the death penalty.

….

The enduring value of Louis’s work is likely to lie in his campaigning, supported by astute legal scholarship, against the death penalty, his contribution to the foundation of Amnesty International and his lifelong championship of the cause of penal reform and prisoners’ rights. For half a century he was a courageous advocate, a controversial legal author and journalist, a deputy high court judge and a forthright and radical chairman of numerous public inquiries and bodies. A man of extraordinarily wide intellectual interests, he was generous in his encouragement of younger lawyers and his availability and accessibility to his many prisoner clients.

Louis Blom-Cooper in 2015. He was a prolific, informed and provocative legal journalist, writing for the Guardian and the Financial Times
Pinterest
Louis Blom-Cooper in 2015. He was a prolific, informed and provocative legal journalist, writing for the Guardian and the Financial Times

Born in London, Louis was the son of Alfred Blom-Cooper, a fruit and vegetable trader, and his wife Ella (nee Flesseman), who lived in Mill Hill. After attending Port Regis school in Dorset and Seaford college in West Sussex, Louis joined the East Yorkshire Regiment towards the end of the second world war (1944-47). He studied law at King’s College London, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, and the Municipal University of Amsterdam, where he obtained his doctorate in 1954.

He retained a spirit of inquiry in writing numerous challenging books on the death penalty, penal reform and murder law, notably the imposition of a mandatory life sentence for murder. But he also argued for the abolition of the jury system, because it did not give the convicted offender any reasons for his conviction.

….He was the first to argue for the extension of the principles of natural justice or fairness to the field of immigration and asylum law in cases such as that of the American journalist Mark Hosenball, deported in 1977 as a security risk after revealing the existence of GCHQ in a magazine article. ..

Most of all, Louis was a leading proponent of a general duty to state reasons in administrative law and made a judgment to that effect in his capacity as a high court judge. Rejected at the time as too advanced a position, the duty to give reasons for executive decisions has now been widely accepted.

….

As chairman of the Press Council (1989-90), he supported the principle that there should be a requirement that newspapers accord a right of reply to those they attacked. He also called for a law against the invasion of privacy, introduced changes to give complainants a better hearing and speed up adjudications, and also introduced a code of practice for newspapers. But it proved to be too little, too late.