Posts Tagged ‘USA’

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award 2017 to Venezuela’s Alfredo Romero

August 20, 2017

On 7 August 2017 RFK Human Rights announced that Venezuelan human rights defender and Alfredo Romero has been named the 2017 laureate of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. Romero has been fearless in his resistance to the increasing repression of the Venezuelan government. He has dedicated his life to protect all Venezuelans from arbitrary detention and other human rights violations through his work as Executive Director of Foro Penal Venezolano (FPV), a non-governmental organization that brings together over 200 pro-bono lawyers and 1,700 volunteers. The NGO won in 2015 already an award from the US State Department.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/07/23/us-state-department-2014-human-rights-defender-award-to-azimjon-askarov-and-foro-penal/]

I am very grateful for this Award, which I accept in honor of the struggle to achieve freedom for all Venezuelans,” Romero said. “The Award is a tribute to my family at Foro Penal Venezolano, which is united in its enduring commitment, conviction and heart, and above all, I accept it on behalf of the victims of repression by the Venezuelan government”.”

Even as we celebrate Alfredo’s honor, Venezuelans are suffering under a repressive regime that is increasingly eroding all democratic principles,” Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights President Kerry Kennedy said. “Alfredo’s work is a testament to the optimism and hope that will ultimately triumph over violence and repression.”

Source: | Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

Human Rights Defender Heather Heyer murdered in protest against hate in Charlottesville

August 14, 2017

GOFUNDME
Heather Heyer 

20-year-old James Fields Jr. was arrested over the incident and charged with murder. Fields was one of thousands of members of the so-called “alt right” who were in Charlottesville attending Saturday’s “Unite The Right” march. The rally became violent after the white supremacists were confronted by anti-fascist groups.

Source: Heather Heyer ‘Murdered While Protesting Against Hate’ In Charlottesville, Friends Say | HuffPost

Ode to US senator: “Why human rights defenders love John McCain”

August 1, 2017

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), center, shakes hands with Syrian refugees at a camp in Yayladagi, Turkey, in 2012. (Umit Bektas/Pool/Associated Press)

On 28 July 2017 – just after it was announced that US Senator John McCain suffers from brain cancer – I came across this post (“Why human rights defenders love John McCain“) by Turkish journalist Berivan Orucoglu, who is the program coordinator of the Supporting Human Rights Defenders program at the McCain Institute for International Leadership (although writing on a personal title). Worth reading as a whole: Read the rest of this entry »

Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, speaks very freely at the United Nations Association of the USA

June 21, 2017

In a little-noted speech at the Leadership Summit of the United Nations Association of the USA (Washington, D.C., 12 June 2017) Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, tackles populism and does not mince his words.  After viewing a Chaeli video [see e.g. https://www.worldofchildren.org/honoree/michaela-chaeli-mycroft/] to illustrate the message that “we can all make a difference for human rights. Every day, everywhere, at school or the workplace, commuting, or on holiday. It starts with each of us taking concrete steps to exercise our rights and our responsibility to protect and defend the rights of others“, Gilmour describes how after 3 decades of progress for human rights we have come up against a serious backlash, one that takes many forms but all of them counter to the values of rights, freedoms and tolerance. The text is worth reproducing as a whole: Read the rest of this entry »

Putting the ‘record straight’ on the UN Human Rights Council

June 19, 2017

Earlier this month I referred to a speech by Ms Haley about the USA considering withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/07/us-ambassador-nikki-haley-on-what-has-to-change-in-the-un-human-rights-council/]. A lot has been written about this but a good, concise piece was in the Economist of 3 June 2017. In particular getting the ‘facts’ right about the relative improvements in recent years:

..Yet the council is a lot better than the commission was, and is still improving. The most important difference is the system of “universal periodic reviews” that all members of the UN are subjected to, at a rate of about 40 a year. The number of special rapporteurs, most of them truly independent, has risen, too. Since 2011 there have been investigations into human-rights abuses in Burundi, the Central African Republic, Eritrea, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Libya and North Korea, as well as Gaza. The council has steadfastly monitored the horrors in Syria and played a helpful role in Myanmar, Colombia and (after a poor start) Sri Lanka.

The disproportionate focus on Israel is lessening. From 2010 to 2016 only one special session was held on Israel/Palestine, down from six in the previous four years, says the council’s spokesman. The share of time spent on Item 7 has halved, to 8%.

The quality of members may improve, too, as regional groups are a bit less willing to shield their own. Last year Russia lost its seat, receiving 32 votes fewer than Hungary, and two fewer than Croatia. In the past few years Belarus, Iran, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Syria have failed to be elected or have withdrawn their candidacies. None of the nine worst human-rights offenders, as ranked by Freedom House, a Washington-based NGO, (Syria, Eritrea, North Korea, Uzbekistan, South Sudan, Turkmenistan, Somalia, Sudan and Equatorial Guinea) has ever been elected to the council. In a telling moment in 2014, a forcefully critical resolution on Sri Lanka was passed.

Things started to change in 2010, says Marc Limon, a British former official in the council, who now heads the Universal Rights Group, a Geneva-based think-tank, when a clutch of independent-minded countries, including Mauritius, Mexico and Morocco, began to vote more freely, often for American-backed resolutions. Before then, members of the 57-strong Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) and the African Group (whose members often overlapped and later reconfigured as the Like-Minded Group) “virtually controlled the council”, he says. Anti-Westerners have recently been defeated or forced to compromise on several issues. A resolution to exempt blasphemy from free-speech protections was fended off against the wishes of the Like-Minded. The same group failed to block a resolution to appoint an independent expert to investigate discrimination against gay and transgender people.

American diplomacy under Barack Obama was a big reason for the shift….

Source: The UN Human Rights Council will be weaker if America leaves

US Ambassador Nikki Haley on what has to change in the UN Human Rights Council

June 7, 2017

On 6 June 2017 the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations,  Nikki Haley, made a speech at the the Graduate Institute of Geneva on “A Place for Conscience: the Future of the United States in the Human Rights Council”.  The full text you can find in the link below. Here some of the most relevant parts concerning changes desired by the USA ……
When the Human Rights Council has acted with clarity and integrity, it has advanced the cause of human rights. It has brought the names of prisoners of conscience to international prominence and given voice to the voiceless. At times, the Council has placed a spotlight on individual country violators and spurred action, including convening emergency sessions to address the war crimes being committed by the Assad regime in Syria. The Council’s Commission of Inquiry on North Korea led to the Security Council action on human rights abuses there. The Council is at its best when it is calling out human rights violators and abuses, and provoking positive action. It changes lives. It pushes back against the tide of cynicism that is building in our world. And it reassures us that it deserves our continued investment of time and treasure.

But there is a truth that must be acknowledged by anyone who cares about human rights: When the Council fails to act properly – when it fails to act at all – it undermines its own credibility and the cause of human rights. ……These problems were supposed to have been fixed when the new Council was formed. Sadly, the case against the Human Rights Council today looks an awful lot like the case against the discredited Human Rights Commission over a decade ago. Once again, over half the current member countries fail to meet basic human rights standards as measured by Freedom House. Countries like Venezuela, Cuba, China, Burundi, and Saudi Arabia occupy positions that obligate them to, in the words of the resolution that created the Human Rights Council, “uphold the highest standards” of human rights. They clearly do not uphold those highest standards.

…….

I dedicated the U.S. presidency of the Security Council in April to making the connection between human rights and peace and security. [see also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/20/us-pushes-for-historic-human-rights-debate-at-security-council-but-achieves-little/]

This is a cause that is bigger than any one organization. If the Human Rights Council is going to be an organization we entrust to protect and promote human rights, it must change. If it fails to change, then we must pursue the advancement of human rights outside of the Council.America does not seek to leave the Human Rights Council. We seek to reestablish the Council’s legitimacy.

There are a couple of critically necessary changes.

First, the UN must act to keep the worst human rights abusers from obtaining seats on the Council. As it stands, elections for membership to the Council are over before the voting even begins. Regional blocs nominate slates of pre-determined candidates that never face any competition for votes……Selection of members must occur out in the open for all to see. The secret ballot must be replaced with open voting. Countries that are willing to support human rights violators to serve on the Human Rights Council must be willing to show their faces. They know who they are. It’s time for the world to know who they are.

Second, the Council’s Agenda Item Seven must be removed. This, of course, is the scandalous provision that singles out Israel for automatic criticism. There is no legitimate human rights reason for this agenda item to exist….Since its creation, the Council has passed more than 70 resolutions targeting Israel. It has passed just seven on Iran. ….Getting rid of Agenda Item Seven would not give Israel preferential treatment. Claims against Israel could still be brought under Agenda Item Four, just as claims can be brought there against any other country. Rather, removal of Item Seven would put all countries on equal footing.

These changes are the minimum necessary to resuscitate the Council as a respected advocate of universal human rights……

Source: Ambassador Nikki Haley: Remarks at the Graduate Institute of Geneva » US Mission Geneva

Gil Loescher, life long defender of rights of refugees, honored

June 7, 2017

Lawrence University will recognize Gil Loescher, a visiting professor at the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford, with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree during commencement ceremonies coming Sunday. Loesher’s also received an honorary doctorate of law in 2006 from the University of Notre Dame.

In a career spanning more than 40 years, Loescher has established himself as an authority on refugee policy. Prior to joining Oxford’s Refugee Studies Centre in 2008, Loescher held appointments as Senior Fellow for Forced Migration and International Security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London and as senior researcher at the European Council on Refugees and Exiles. According to Loescher, containing refugees in camps prevents them from contributing to regional development and state-building. In August 2003, Loescher was in the office of Sérgio Vieira de Mello, then the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, at the Canal Hotel in Baghdad when a suicide bomber detonated a truck bomb outside the building. The blast killed more than 20 people and injured more than 100. Loescher was among nine people in the office at the time of the explosion, seven of whom were killed instantly. Loescher and Vieria de Mello were trapped in the debris of the collapsed building as American soldiers spent more than three hours trying to rescue them. Vieria de Mello died before he could be extricated. Loescher survived, although his legs were crushed and had to be amputated by the soldiers.  A moving film, “Pulled from the Rubble,” was directed by Loescher’s daughter, Margaret, about this episode. [Beguiled Eye Productions [gb]]

He has been recognized with numerous honors and research grants from organizations ranging from the Ford Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation to the Fulbright Program and the British Academy.

Source: Lawrence University honors refugee expert at 168th commencement

https://al.nd.edu/news/latest-news/daughters-film-on-bomb-survivor-nd-professor-gil-loescher-to-be-shown/

Assange’s persecution or prosecution? Marjory Cohen knows the answer

May 31, 2017

Marjorie Cohn – professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers – wrote a perhaps controversial but clear piece about the case of Assange under the title:  The Meaning of Assange’s Persecution. In Consortiumnews of 29 May 2017 you will find the full piece.  She concludes that the long legal ordeal of Julian Assange – and the continuing threats against the WikiLeaks founder – make a mockery of the West’s supposed commitment to press freedom and the public’s right to know. Here some excerpts:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. (Photo credit: Espen Moe)

….Although the Swedish investigation has now been dropped, the threat of arrest persists. The London police have indicated they will arrest Assange for failure to appear in a London Magistrates Court if he leaves the embassy. Britain would then likely extradite Assange to the United States for possible prosecution.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared in April that arresting Assange is a “priority” for the Department of Justice, even though the New York Times indicated that federal prosecutors are “skeptical that they could pursue the most serious charges, of espionage.” The Justice Department is reportedly considering charging Assange with theft of government documents. A decision to prosecute Assange would mark a 180-degree change of direction for President Trump. During the 2016 presidential campaign Trump declared, “I love WikiLeaks” after it published confidential emails from the Democratic National Committee that some U.S. intelligence agencies claim were obtained by Russian hackers (although Assange denies getting the material from Russia).

In March, WikiLeaks published CIA documents containing software and methods to hack into electronics. This was the beginning of WikiLeaks’ “Vault 7” series, which, Assange wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post, contained “evidence of remarkable CIA incompetence and other shortcomings.” The publication included “the agency’s creation, at a cost of billions of taxpayer dollars, of an entire arsenal of cyber viruses and hacking programs – over which it promptly lost control and then tried to cover up the loss,” Assange added. “These publications also revealed the CIA’s efforts to infect the public’s ubiquitous consumer products and automobiles with computer viruses.”

CIA Director Michael Pompeo called WikiLeaks “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.” Pompeo said, “We have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.” Pompeo declared, “Julian Assange has no First Amendment privileges. He is not a U.S. citizen.” But, the Supreme Court has long held that the Constitution applies to non-Americans, not just U.S. citizens. And, when the Obama Justice Department considered prosecuting WikiLeaks, U.S. officials were unable to distinguish what Wikileaks did from what the Times and Guardian did since they also published documents that Manning leaked. WikiLeaks is not suspected of hacking or stealing them.

…….

As Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, wrote at Just Security, Comey was drawing the line “not between leaking classified information and publishing it, but between publishing it for ‘good’ reasons and publishing it for ‘bad’ ones.” And, “[a]llowing the FBI to determine who is allowed to publish leaked information based on the bureau’s assessment of their patriotism would cross a constitutional Rubicon,” Goitein wrote.

Other advocates for civil liberties also defended WikiLeaks as a news organization protected by the First Amendment. “The U.S. government has never shown that Assange did anything but publish leaked information,” Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, told the Times. Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, stated in an interview with the Times, “Never in the history of this country has a publisher been prosecuted for presenting truthful information to the public.”

Assange’s Detention Called Unlawful [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/02/07/on-assange-there-is-more-to-the-decision-than-knee-jerk-reactions/]

In 2016, following a 16-month investigation, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that Assange’s detention by Britain and Sweden was unlawful. It stated, “[A] deprivation of liberty exists where someone is forced to choose between either confinement, or forfeiting a fundamental right – such as asylum – and thereby facing a well-founded risk of persecution.”….Thus, the U.N. group concluded that Assange’s continued stay in the embassy “has become a state of an arbitrary deprivation of liberty,” in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

….Even some mainstream news organizations that have been critical of WikiLeaks for releasing classified U.S. information have objected to the idea of criminal prosecution. A Washington Post editorial in 2010 entitled “Don’t Charge Wikileaks” said: “Such prosecutions are a bad idea. The government has no business indicting someone who is not a spy and who is not legally bound to keep its secrets. Doing so would criminalize the exchange of information and put at risk responsible media organizations that vet and verify material and take seriously the protection of sources and methods when lives or national security are endangered.”

In the U.S. government’s continued legal pursuit of WikiLeaks, there is much more at stake than what happens to Julian Assange. There are principles of press freedoms and the public’s right to know. By publishing documents revealing evidence of U.S. war crimes, emails relevant to the U.S. presidential election and proof of CIA malfeasance, Assange did what journalists are supposed to do – inform the people about newsworthy topics and reveal abuses that powerful forces want concealed. Assange also has the right to freedom of expression under both U.S. and international law, which would further argue for Great Britain dropping the failure-to-appear warrant and allowing Assange to freely leave the embassy and to finally resume his life.

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her most recent book is Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. Visit her website at http://marjoriecohn.com/ and follow her on Twitter https://twitter.com/marjoriecohn.

Source: The Meaning of Assange’s Persecution – Consortiumnews

US pushes for ‘historic’ human rights debate at Security Council but achieves little

April 20, 2017

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, with Liu Jieyi, China’s ambassador, before the April 18 Security Council meeting. Rick Bajornas/UN Photo

The United States led on Tuesday 18 April what it (and not many others) dubbed a ‘historicU.N. Security Council meeting on the link between rights abuses and conflict, but it had to drop a push for the broad issue of human rights to become a fixed item of the Security Council’s agenda when it appeared that at least six members would oppose it [Russia, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Bolivia were against the move and Senegal’s support was uncertain]. The United States, council president for April, did not risk the measure being put to a rare procedural vote, which requires nine in favour, and vetoes cannot be used. The opposing council members say rights discussion should be confined to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council – which Washington accuses of being anti-Israel and has threatened to quit – and the 193-member U.N. General Assembly third committee. Here is some of the analysis:

Read the rest of this entry »

International Women’s Day 2017: honoring, defending and watching women human rights defenders

March 8, 2017

International Women’s Day focuses on many different aspects of the struggle for the human rights of women. I have selected three special actions this year:

(1) a short piece honoring woman who are land rights defenders;

(2) a digital protection tool for women human rights defenders (Cyberwomen);

(3) a documentary film on how rape was made into a international war crime.

[Of course this blog has had many earlier posts on women human rights defenders: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/women-human-rights-defenders/ ] Read the rest of this entry »