Posts Tagged ‘UN’

Recent events make that May 20 elections in Burundi should be postponed

May 18, 2020

IDN-InDepthNews

It is a matter of extreme urgency that Burundi’s presidential, legislative, and local elections, scheduled for May 20, be postponed. Admittedly, it’s the eleventh hour, but the contagion of violence, and the viral contagion of COVID-19, make rescheduling imperative. Three events of the past several days make an incontrovertible  argument:

  • On May 14, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Burundi—investigating alleged crimes against humanity committed by Burundian government forces since September 2016  —released an urgent statement in light of the “numerous acts of violence and human rights violations” occurring during the election campaign. The Commission made clear that accelerating violence and the “shrinking of democratic space” put the electoral process at serious risk.
  • On May 13, the Burundian government expelled the World Health Organization (WHO) team just as the pandemic inexorably spreads in Burundi. The government has done little to address the COVID-19 crisis. Massive campaign events are being held—making a mockery of physical distancing — in blatant defiance of WHO recommendations. And now the government, in a spasm of defensive irrationality, declares the WHO persona non grata.
  • And, on May 8, the Burundian government informed the East African Community that election monitors would be required to quarantine for 14 days, effectively preventing them from entering Burundi before the May 20 vote. The election will thus be held without any international monitoring to ensure that the vote is free and fair.

Pierre Nkurunziza, granted the title of “Supreme Guide of Patriotism,” heads an authoritarian regime. Nkurunziza, who is not standing for re-election, has chosen as his successor a man who is complicit in the alleged crimes against humanity now being investigated by the UN’s COI and the International Criminal Court. His name is Evariste Ndayishimiye, a retired army general who has served as minister of the interior and security. “Do not be afraid,” General Ndayishimiye said of COVID-19 during the campaign. “God loves Burundi, and if there are people who have tested positive, it is so that God may manifest his power in Burundi.”

New reports from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International amply testify that the crisis in Burundi has been worsening as the election nears. Government forces are launching attacks against real and perceived regime opponents. The few remaining independent media outlets are being threatened and harassed. Human rights defenders have either fled the country or been intimidated into silence…………..

[see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/burundi/]

 

https://www.indepthnews.net/index.php/the-world/africa/3544-burundi-threatens-to-deal-a-severe-blow-to-un-reputation

 

In memoriam Leandro Despouy: Argentinean human rights defender at the global level

March 16, 2020

When a good friend and soul mate dies, it is sometimes difficult to write something meaningful. So it was when I learned that Argentine human rights lawyer Leandro Despouy – whom I have known since 1976  – had died on 18 December 2019 in Buenos Aires, after a two-year battle with cancer. He was born on 4 April 1947 in San Luis.

The Argentine media paid quite a bit of attention to his passing but (understandably?) focused on his place in Argentinean politics (in the Radical Party) and his institutional role as Head of the Auditoría General de la Nación from 2002 – 2016.  But Leandro Despouy was of great importance to the international human rights movement as it developed in the last quarter of the 20th century. I hope that this ‘obituary’ does some justice:

He started as a lawyer and university teacher before state terrorism (in the form of the far-right death squad Alianza Anticomunista Argentina, known as Triple A) pushed him into exile in 1975 to France. He stayed a refugee until 1983 when he was able to return to his beloved country where he was appointed Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador for Human Rights by President Alfonsin. More about what he was able to do in that capacity follows below but I wanted to give special attention how remarkably active Leandro was during his exile. He did not succumb to porosity and made the best of his chances. Always upbeat and entrepreneurial he had great social skills.

Friends helped him with a part-time job (between 1975-1977) as professor of Political Economy at the Université de Paris VIII. In order to make ends meet he accepted many different part-time jobs, including (his favorite!) driving around fashion models and their clothes. The models were quickly enamored of this elegant Latino and sometimes donated suits making him the best dressed refugee in Paris. His own work situation improved when he became one of the assistants of well-known parliamentarian Nicole Questiaux for the 13th arrondissement in Paris and as from July 1981 for her replacement, Louis Moulinet.

Interestingly enough his first activist attention while in exile went to the repressive situation in Uruguay (he told me it was easier to keep politics out of it than in the case of his own country) and it was in that context that we set up SIJAU (Secretariat Internationale des Juristes pour l’Amnestie en Uruguay). Leandro – with the help of French lawyers like Joinet and Weil – managed to organise in December 1978 in the French Senate (!) an international conference that helped the opposition to unite and put pressure on Uruguay.

He undertook a similar effort on Paraguay with the creation of SIJADEP (Secretariat Internationale des Juristes pour l’Amnestie et Democratie en Paraguay).

Leandro was regularly in Geneva to follow up with the UN (and sleeping on my couch) and when the first UN mandate for disappearances was created he was briefly hired as a consultant by the then Director Theo van Boven. The Argentine Ambassador got wind of it and with ‘terrorist’ accusations this had to be terminated quickly.  In the summer of 1982 he did a short stint as Professor of Human Rights at the Centre International des Droits de l`Homme, in Strasburg, France.

Then comes the return to Argentina with the slow process of normalisation and the question of how to deal with the crimes of the recent past. From 1984-1989  he is General Director of Human Rights at the Ministry for Foreign Affaires and with it comes a series of opportunities at the international level. Here some examples:

President of the First International Conference of States Parties on the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1987).

In 1983 Leandro becomes a Member of the UN Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities (later reduced to an advisory body for the new Human Rights Council). He plays a very active role, as Chairman and as:

  • Special Rapporteur of the Subcommission on disabled persons and human rights to study the connection between human rights, violations of fundamental human freedoms and disability which resulted in his final report, “Human Rights and Disabled Persons.” Which was adopted by ECOSOC resolution 1992/48 of March 1992
  • Special Rapporteur of the same on extreme poverty and human rights. Interim report adopted on 10 June 1994, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1994/19

In 2000 Leandro heads the Argentine Delegation at the 57th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and from March 2001 to March 2002 he is President of this Commission (currently the United Nations Human Rights Council).

In 2002 in Argentina he becomes the President of the Auditor General’s office (a function reserved for a member of the opposition under the Argentine constitution) but continues to accept assignments of an international nature:

In 2003: he is appointed as Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, United Nations Human Rights Council (until 2009). In that capacity he and four other special rapporteurs asked in 2005 to be admitted to Guantanamo Bay to visit the prisoners held at the US naval base. He and one other was refused permission (see: https://newsarchive.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=608&LangID=E}

He remained a sought-after speaker at courses and conferences, such as those organized by the International Institute of Humanitarian Law of San Remo, the Committee of the International Red Cross, FLACSO Argentina ,Harvard University, the European Society of International Law, and the Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle.

In 1993 he becomes the Assistant Special Representative of the Secretary Generals of the United Nations and Organization of American States, in the context of the UN and OAS joint mission to Haiti.  Between 1999 and 2006 he regularly carried out Expert tasks mandated by a variety of UN agencies for short jobs in e.g.: Brazil, Paraguay, Equatorial Guinea, Colombia, Russia and Ecuador.

This is of course not a complete biography and any additional information would be most welcome. Leandro certainly deserves a lot more recognition at the international level. When Ben Whitaker died in 2014. Leandro was one of the first to honor his contribution [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/07/16/ben-whitaker-died-one-of-the-early-human-rights-defenders-at-the-international-scene/]. I hope this does the same for Leandro.

New academic study of UN human rights treaty system calls for online databases on impact

February 16, 2020

Christof Heyns (University of Pretoria; Member of the UN Human Rights Committee.) and Frans Viljoen (Director, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria) reported on 11 February 2020 in Global Rights on the progress being made in a new, global academic study to answer the question “What difference does the UN human rights treaty system make, and why?”.

An comprehensive research project on the impact of the treaty system, which started some years ago, is now being expanded into a global study….The first steps of the study were taken two decades ago by a team of researchers coordinated from the University of Pretoria, in collaboration with the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR). …..The researchers documented numerous instances of impact, and we were in a position to draw general conclusions, published as a book and an article. This included that the evidence showed that the treaty system has had an enormous impact on the protection of human rights on the ground, in particular through the—recognized or unrecognized—incorporation of treaty norms into domestic law.

The following factors were found to be among those that have enhanced its impact: a strong domestic constituency for specific treaties; national action plans; and the windows of opportunity that comes with a change to democracy. We also laid strong emphasis on a greater emphasis on the role of national human rights institutions in mediating impact, and for them to do follow-up.

Factors found to have limited the impact of the system included the following: concerns for State sovereignty; a lack of knowledge of the system; the absence of a robust domestic human right culture; ineffective coordination between governmental departments; an ad-hoc approach to reporting; federalism; reprisals against human rights defenders; a preference for regional systems; and weak follow-up by treaty bodies.

We reported a rallying cry from many far-flung countries that ‘Geneva is very far’—not only in terms of geography but also in terms of accessibility and psychological ownership. And we proposed that the treaty bodies should consider holding some of their meetings away from  UN headquarters in Geneva.

Now, twenty years later, we are reviewing the same 20 countries, again with the help of researchers based in the respective countries, and again in collaboration with the OHCHR. We are asking the same questions. This study is now nearing completion, and we plan to publish it in the middle of next year, this time, with Professor Rachel Murray from Bristol University as co-editor. The data from the more recent study is still coming in. So far, the results provide further evidence of the strong impact of the system in most countries. However, a systematic analysis will only be possible once all the data has been gathered.

In the meantime, some of the issues identified up in the earlier study have been taken up within the system. There is for example a much stronger recognition of the role of national implementation and monitoring mechanisms. The Disability Rights Convention adopted in 2007, explicitly calls for creation of national ‘focal points’ and the designation of national human rights institutions to promote, protect and monitor implementation of the Convention….

The need to ‘bring the system closer to the ground’  is now recognized by a range of NGOs in preparation for the 2020 review of treaty bodies. The idea of treaty body meetings outside Geneva was advanced again by Heyns and Gravett in a blog two years ago, also on the basis of the regional experience, and the first such meeting for a UN treaty body is now being planned for 2020.

During the course of these two studies, we became very aware of the importance of getting a clear picture of the impact of the system, but also of the limitations of what we were doing. With only 20 countries covered, the sample size is quite limited; and, providing a snapshot at a particular moment in those countries means they are quickly overtaken by events. Following wide consultation, we are currently in the process of setting up an online database, where information on the impact of the system in all UN member states will be posted. The 20 country studies mentioned above, as well as the supporting documentation, will for a start be posted on a website. In the meantime, clinical groups are being formed at universities around the world, where international students are gathering the relevant information on their home countries, to be posted on the website. We anticipate that up to 50 new countries will be covered per year and ones covered earlier will be updated. In an era of crowd-sourcing, contributions from all interested parties—NGOs, individual researchers etc.—will be solicited.

This will be a large-scale and long-term research project, but hopefully it will help to allow the collective wisdom of people anywhere in the world to ensure that the treaty system remains as effective and as responsive to the needs of our time as is possible. It is also intended, in some way, to be a response to the lament that ‘Geneva is very far’ and to ensure that the treaty system is brought closer to the actual rights-holders, even if only virtually.

The treaty system has played a pivotal role in developing the substantive norms of the global human rights project over the last six decades. The future of the treaty system depends on whether it will continue to lead the way on substance, but more is required: it will have to enhance its visibility and broaden its ownership to a global audience, and treaty norms will have to find their way into domestic law and practices. This is the gap that the new study aims to help fill.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/02/17/treaty-bodies-case-law-database-saved-and-resurrected-by-un/

https://www.openglobalrights.org/what-difference-does-un-human-rights-treaty-system-make/

Film “Sergio” (Vieira de Mello): first reviews decidedly mixed

January 31, 2020

This new film directed by Greg Barker [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/01/23/we-are-the-giant-film-about-the-arab-spring-here-is-the-trailer/] and based on his own award-winning documentary, confusingly also called Sergio, is a biographical drama about Sérgio Vieira de Mello, a diplomat from Brazil who worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for most of his life and was briefly High Commissioner for Human Rights. He was celebrated as a pre-eminent humanitarian before tragically dying in the Canal Hotel bombing in Iraq alongside many of his staff in 2003. The fiction film Sergio made its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on 28 January 2020 before heading to Netflix.

Kayleigh Donaldson in Screenrant of 2 january 2020 wrotes perhaps a bit too breathlessly that the film Sergio is “one of the most anticipated Netflix original movies in 2020“.

Now the first two reviews are out and they indicate that it is foremost a romantic story that is well acted but diverts a lot from reality.

Jessica Kiang in Variety of 29 January 2020 is the more critical and – in my view – serious voice:

… handsome, heroic, charismatic de Mello (played with persuasive charm by Wagner Moura) certainly does seem like a man whose present was shaped by …the better, brighter, freer global future he believed the U.N. could be instrumental in achieving and that he personally could help midwife into being. Such noble intentions and such impact on world affairs does render understandable Barker’s rather starry-eyed approach, but [puts] unnecessary length and sentimental emphasis on the man’s romantic life…

..First, we spin forward to the 2003 bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, which was ordered by terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and which claimed at least 22 lives and wounded over 100 people, and here provides a loose framing device. De Mello and close associate Gil Loescher (Brian F. O’Byrne), both critically wounded, were trapped under tons of rubble in the blast, and … screenwriter Craig Borten imagines a borderline delirious de Mello reliving moments of significance from his storied life. Chief among these reminiscences is the tale of his romance with Carolina Larriera.. .an Argentinian U.N. economic adviser whom the married father-of-two met while brokering a peace deal between the rebels and the Indonesian government in East Timor.

In Adrian Teijido’s calm, throughful photography (it’s a refreshing choice to not go the shaky handheld docudrama route), de Armas and Moura make an attractive couple, and de Armas is able to imbue Carolina — whose role seems just a little wispy on the page — with an intelligence and will that makes her more than just de Mello’s romantic foil. But Barker’s emphasis on this love story at the expense of a deeper exploration of the exceptional talents that earned de Mello his reputation for feats of diplmatic wizardry in highly fraught situations where others had tried and failed, also has a curiously flattening effect.

Although the relationship with Larriera was doubtless crucially important to de Mello, it was not the thing that made him extraordinary in the eyes of the world. And so the hesitant courtship, the smouldering looks, and the romancing, including a tasteful but unnecessarily lengthy sex scene over which Fernando Velázquez’ otherwise rather generic political-thriller score crescendos like it’s high drama, all feel like a distraction from the more thorny and politically provocative side of de Mello’s story. That’s especially irksome given that the scenes of geopolitical debate, diplomatic argument and even ego clash between de Mello and the world-wearily witty Loescher … are actually where the film crackles to life.

…But this sentimental approach glosses over much of the potential drama that is set up only to dissipate: de Mello’s prickly relationship with U.S. Envoy Paul Bremer (Bradley Whitford); his association, criticized by Loescher, with war criminals and terrorists if he believed it could achieve his ends; and his fateful decision to send the U.S. Army guards away from the U.N. office in Baghdad in 2003. Sergio Vieira de Mello was, by all accounts, not a man who let fear of making the wrong decision stop him from acting decisively, and it’s a shame that the soft-edged romantic prevarications of “Sergio” prevent the film from embodying that same dynamism.

Courtesy of Sundance
 John DeFore in Hollywood Reporter of 30 January 2020 sees a more than successful transition from documentary to a feature film:

… Rather, it’s one of those rare films .. in which a genuine concern for geopolitics coexists perfectly well with romance and old-fashioned moviegoing pleasures. This portrait of influential U.N. diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello benefits immensely from two magnetic leads, Wagner Moura and Ana de Armas, whose onscreen chemistry is undeniable; but its deft sense of structure is of equal importance, making it an engrossing picture even for those who know next to nothing about its subject or settings.

..Sergio and refugee expert Gil Loescher were trapped alive in the rubble; as a framing device, Sergio sets flashbacks to various points in his career during the hours when two American soldiers (Garret Dillahunt and Will Dalton) worked to extract the pinned men. These episodes help cement the diplomat’s reputation as an idealistic fix-it man for some of the world’s trickiest conflicts. …Sergio is out for a jog during his East Timor assignment when he passes another jogging foreigner, Carolina Larriera (de Armas). The attraction is immediate, but the film savors its development: …While the film plays up Sergio’s attractiveness to the younger woman (shirtless, the 50 year-old man probably bore little resemblance to Moura), it’s not blind to emotional flaws: He’s ignorant of key facts about his two sons’ lives, and he admits he’s most attentive to relationships and projects whose timeframe is finite.

Also on hand in East Timor is Loescher (Brian F. O’Byrne), who will be trapped by his side in Baghdad. The real Loescher, who had two legs amputated in his rescue from the site, was an independent expert who was only in Sergio’s Baghdad office (along with Arthur Helton – see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Helton) to interview him for a column on openDemocracy.net. In Sergio, Loescher is a composite, depicted as Vieira de Mello’s right-hand man for multiple U.N. missions — the conscience who argues against his boldest moves. As a storytelling device, this works quite well; but using Loescher’s real name is an unexpected choice for a documentarian, and confuses the truth for no reason. [my view: INDEED – see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/07/gil-loescher-life-long-defender-of-rights-of-refugees-honored/ and https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0479980/]

Those who know the history intimately may take issue with other condensations that play perfectly well to a layperson: Sergio’s interactions with U.S. diplomat Paul Bremer (Bradley Whitford) are dramatically satisfying, and seem to capture the general nature of U.S./U.N. friction at the time; a question regarding the U.S. Army’s protection of Sergio’s office is probably also finessed for maximum thematic effect. The picture is most vulnerable to Hollywoodisms in scenes set after the bombing, as Carolina looks frantically for Sergio; the latter dreams of a sunny beach in his native Rio de Janeiro; and those soldiers heroically try to extract him despite having none of the necessary rescue equipment. But, coming late in the film as they do, these indulgences feel appropriate to the film’s lionization of its subject and investment in the couple’s relationship. Sergio believes in heroes and big ideals, and hopes we’re capable of the same belief…

Monica Castillo in NBC of 31 January 2020 adds an interview with the star Wagner Moura who “was so intrigued by Vieira de Mello’s story that he signed on as a producer for the movie. In the interview with NBC News, Moura said that this is the first of many stories he’d like to share to address the lack of Latinos on the screen. In the interview he also says “this guy is kind of a personal hero for me, and I’ve been working with the U.N. for a while; I’m a goodwill ambassador for the ILO [International Labour Organization] and the fight against slave labor..[Sergio] was a man who dedicated his life to human rights. When he was killed, he was the high commissioner for human rights; when he started in the U.N., he was the high commissioner for refugees“. Well he was NOT, he worked for the UNHCR.

——
https://variety.com/2020/film/uncategorized/sergio-review-1203473960/
https://screenrant.com/netflix-original-movies-anticipated-2020/
https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/sergio-1274882
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/sergio-narcos-star-wagner-moura-plays-latino-who-doesn-t-n1127341

Colombia: 21 January 2020 civil society begins a much-needed Patriotic March

January 20, 2020

The United Nations’ mission chief told the Security Council on Monday 13 January that Colombia will not achieve peace “if the brave voices of social leaders continue to be silenced” and urged government action. In his address to the council, UN mission chief Carlos Ruiz dismissed President Ivan Duque‘s recent claim that violence against human rights defenders and community leaders dropped 25% last year. In the course of 2020, already 15 social leaders have been assassinated in an exceptional spike in political killings, according to independent think tanks. “On December 23, artist and social leader Lucy Villareal was killed in the Nariño department after conducting an artistic workshop for children and the killings of former FARC-EP combatants resumed on the very first day of the year with the death in the Cauca department of Benjamin Banguera Rosales,” Ruiz highlighted. Ruiz additionally warned that “the pervasive violence in conflict-conflicted areas continues to threaten the consolidation of peace as illustrated by several profoundly worrying developments in the last few weeks.”

According to conflict expert Camilo Gonzalez of think tank Indepaz, 368 community leaders and human rights defenders have been assassinated since Duque took office in August 2018. Gonzalez confirmed social organizations’ claims that “there is an omission or even complicity by elements of the public force, by agents of the state” with illegal armed groups accused of many of the killings. While Duque has blamed drug trafficking for the killings, think tanks and the United Nations have said that also land disputes and mining are among the main motives for the killings.

——-

https://www.plenglish.com/index.php?o=rn&id=50838&SEO=illegal-wiretapping-of-journalists-denounced-in-colombia

https://reliefweb.int/report/colombia/security-council-press-statement-colombia-3

15 community leaders assassinated in Colombia in 2020

UN mission chief says Colombia should ‘urgently’ and ‘fully’ implement peace deal

https://www.newsclick.in/colombia-stories-pain-and-resistance

https://www.batimes.com.ar/news/latin-america/united-nations-envoy-for-colombia-peace-depends-on-stopping-killings.phtml

Colombia’s human rights defender Leyner Palacios threatened by armed group

Malala Yousafzai, a lot more awards than the UN thinks

January 13, 2020

On 27 Pakistani human rights defender Malala Yousafzai has been declared as “the most famous teenager in the world” by the United Nations in the ‘Decade in Review‘ report of the UN. In recognition of her efforts for children’s rights which started before she was shot in the head by Taliban militants, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. According to the UN review reportThe attack made waves around the world and was widely condemned. On Human Rights Day that year, a special tribute to Malala was held at the Paris headquarters of UNESCO, pushing for action to ensure every girl’s right to go to school, and to advance girls’ education as an urgent priority,”.

Malala’s activism and profile have only grown since the assassination attempt. She won several high-profile awards, including the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize (alongside Indian social reformer Kailash Satyarthi), and became a UN Messenger of Peace in 2017, with a special focus on girls’ education,” the report added. Recently the 22-year-old was also chosen by Teen Vogue as its cover person for its last issue of the decade.

Just to make sure the record is correct, Malala has in fact received at least the following 10 awards:

2013   Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards

2013   Index on Censorship Awards

2013   Simone de Beauvoir Prize

2013   Tipperary Peace Prize

2013   Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

2013   Ambassador of Conscience Award

2013   Anna Politkovskaya Award

2014   Franklin Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award

2014   Nobel Peace Prize

2014   Liberty Medal

https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/12/1053481

 

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai declared as “the most famous teenager in the world”: UN

UN seeking out civil society:  on-line consultations from 13 -24 January 2020. 

December 30, 2019

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is inviting civil society globally to assist them in defining guidelines on how the UN can best contribute to promoting and safeguarding civil society space.  The aim is to define guidelines to encourage an effective and consistent approach across UN agencies and inform the methods of work of mechanisms.  This initiative was given a boost by the UN Secretary General who, in a recent audit of the work of the UN in regard to human rights defenders, called for the definition of ‘a system-wide approach to strengthen civil society space’ and ‘guidance on United Nations engagement with and support for human rights defenders.’ The consultation process will be held online from the 13-24 January 2020 on the Global Dev Hub platform.

This is a moment for all civil society players who see the value of greater and more effective engagement with UN agencies and bodies, to provide input on how best this should be done,’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw.There are no national-level consultations being held to our knowledge, but a full week of online consultations will, hopefully, provide many of us with the opportunity to participate,‘ she added.  The UN is seeking thoughts on a series of questions related to three key areas:  partnership and participation, the protection of civil society actors, and the promotion of and advoacy for civic space.

For further information and the key questions, see the UN consultation invitations in  English

Sad end of year message by Andrew Gilmour as he leaves his UN post

December 29, 2019

His assesment of the human rights situation – as laid down in the article ofThe past decade has seen a backlash against human rights on every front, especially the rights of women and the LGBT communities. Andrew Gilmour said the regression of the past 10 years hasn’t equaled the advances that began in the late 1970s — but it is serious, widespread and regrettable. He pointed to “populist authoritarian nationalists” in North America, South America, Europe and Asia, who he said are taking aim at the most vulnerable groups of society, including Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, Roma, and Mexican immigrants, as well as gays and women. He cited leaders who justify torture, the arrests and killing of journalists, the brutal repressions of demonstrations and “a whole closing of civil society space.”

I never thought that we would start hearing the terms ‘concentration camps’ again,” Gilmour told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview. “And yet, in two countries of the world there’s a real question.” He didn’t name them but appeared to be referring to China’s internment camps in western Xinjiang province, where an estimated 1 million members of the country’s predominantly Muslim Uighur minority are being held; and detention centers on the United States’ southern border, where mostly Central American migrants are being held while waiting to apply for asylum. Both countries strongly deny that concentration camp-like conditions exist.

….Despite his dim view of the past decade, Gilmour — a Briton who previously worked in politics and journalism — said he didn’t want to appear “relentlessly negative.” “The progress of human rights is certainly not a linear progression, and we have seen that,” he said. “There was definite progression from the late ’70s until the early years of this century. And we’ve now seen very much the counter-tendency of the last few years.”

He pointed to the fact that in the past eight years or so, many countries have adopted laws designed to restrict the funding and activities of nongovernmental organizations, especially human rights NGOs. And he alleged that powerful U.N. member states stop human rights officials from speaking in the Security Council, while China and some other members “go to extraordinary lengths to prevent human rights defenders (from) entering the (U.N.) building even, let alone participate in the meetings.”…..

The rights of women and gays are also at stake, Gilmour said. He said nationalist authoritarian populist leaders such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have made “derogatory comments” about both groups. He said the U.S. is “aggressively pushing” back against women’s reproductive rights both at home and abroad. The result, he said, is that countries fearful of losing U.S. aid are cutting back their work on women’s rights. Gilmour also pointed out a report issued in September that cited 48 countries for punishing human rights defenders who have cooperated with the U.N. [See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/10/andrew-gilmour-in-the-financial-times-about-reprisals/]

I feel that we really need to do more — everybody … to defend those courageous defenders,” he said. Gilmour said the U.N. should also stand up when it comes to major violations of international law and major violations of human rights, but “I have found it extremely difficult to do so in all circumstances.

..Gilmour said that after his departure from the U.N, he will take a fellowship at Oxford’s All Souls College, where he will focus on the importance of uniting human rights and environmental rights groups. “The human rights impact of climate change — it’s going to be so monumental,” he said.

What gives me hope as we start a new decade is that there will be a surge in youth activism that will help people to get courage, and to stand up for what they believe in,” he said.

https://apnews.com/1d7e80128857308743224aaaf28cd5f8

Vacancies at the International Service for Human Rights in Geneva and New York

December 17, 2019

has some vacancies:

 

Digital Communications Officer – Geneva (Maternity Cover, 60%)

Do you have a passion for changing the world? Are you a fan of new technologies and the opportunities offered by the digital space? Then this might be the right opportunity for you! This temporary position (5-8 months) within ISHR’s communications team offers a unique opportunity to view the United Nations human rights system at work in Geneva. It provides hands-on experience working for an international non-governmental organisation as well as the opportunity to contribute to our work supporting human rights defenders to achieve a world that’s more equal, fair and sustainable. How to apply.

Programme Internships – New York

The internship offers a unique opportunity to view the United Nations human rights system at work in New York. It provides hands-on experience working for an international non-governmental organisation as well as the opportunity to contribute to our work supporting human rights defenders, strengthening human rights systems, building and leading human rights coalitions, and responding to significant and systemic situations of concern. How to apply.

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The ISHR Programme internships offer a unique opportunity to view the United Nations human rights system at work in Geneva. They provide hands-on experience working for an international non-governmental organisation (NGO) as well as the opportunity to contribute to our work supporting human rights defenders, strengthening human rights systems, building and leading human rights coalitions, and responding to significant and systemic human rights concern. How to apply.

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Andrew Gilmour in the Financial Times about reprisals

December 10, 2019

On the occasion of International Human Rights Day 2019, Andrew Gilmour – the UN assistant secretary-general for human rights – wrote an opinion piece in the Financial Times stressing that the UN must protect human rights defenders from government reprisals against them….

Within the global movement, it’s widely accepted that the onslaught on the human rights agenda is more ferocious now than ever before. ……..We estimate that, around the world, several hundred people have been punished for co-operating with the UN since 2016 when I was assigned responsibility for dealing with this issue. Reprisals can take many forms — I’ve been presented with countless stories of travel restriction, threats from security agents, internet abuse, arrest, imprisonment and even torture, rape, disappearance and killing. The aim is punishment and/or deterrence. And it often works. Despite the staggering courage of many human rights defenders, who persist in exposing violations notwithstanding their knowledge of the likely consequences, others understandably self-censor their actions and words.

For his annual report see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/23/andrew-gilmours-2019-report-on-reprisals-it-gets-worse-but-response-remains-mostly-rhetoric/

…..Even though reprisals appear to be on the rise, however, there are grounds for optimism. More countries now take the issue seriously. They condemn such acts and warn against the scope of the problem, which many recognise has an impact on the global discourse on any matter related to human rights — development, the environment, protection of civilians in conflict settings and even preventing terrorism. When people are cowed into silence, governments and inter-governmental organisations are deprived of the full picture, and that makes their actions in any of these spheres less effective. Increased awareness that there is a growing problem with intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders is vital. But so is the courage to speak out on behalf of the victims of such actions, even if the perpetrators are hugely powerful, such as the Chinese authorities, whose efforts to silence almost anyone from speaking out are often draconian and can extend even into UN headquarters. There are many brave people who are ready to withstand the threats of their own governments and provide information to the UN, even when the price for doing so can be horrific. Surely everyone at the world body, starting with its member states, has a moral obligation to show at least a fraction of that courage and speak up in defence of those beleaguered front-line defenders. Such is the nature of the governments that carry out most reprisals that only a firm international response of solidarity can have any chance of halting this ominous trend.

For some of my other posts on reprisals see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/

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https://www.ft.com/content/e339fe22-1a66-11ea-81f0-0c253907d3e0