Posts Tagged ‘USA’

Music to our ears: songs for human rights

November 5, 2019

The Speak Up, Sing Out Music Contest 2020 is on. In collaboration with the GRAMMY Museum, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights invites students to write and produce original songs that speak out against human rights abuses. The format is open to any genre of music. The Grand Prize winning songwriter will participate in a GRAMMY-related event. ENTRY DEADLINE: APRIL 20, 2020.

Getting your voice heard can really change your community, society, more than you could ever think.” says the 2019 Speak Up, Sing Out contest winner Tess Lira shares the inspiration behind her empowering song “Solid Gold” and encourages songwriters to trust their voices.

For some of my ealrier posts on music and human rights, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/music/

https://mailchi.mp/rfkhumanrights/calling-all-student-filmmakers-854437?e=99673fdc45

1 million $ Berggruen Prize for Justice Ginsberg for her human rights stance

October 25, 2019

Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/UPI | License Photo
On 23 October 2019 UPI reported that Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg received a $1 million prize for her support of human rights and gender equality. The Berggruen Institute, a non-partisan think tank, presented the fourth annual award to Ginsburg, 86. The institute was founded in 2010 by billionaire philanthropist Nicolas Berggruen.
I am delighted the Jury has chosen to honor such a prolific leader in the field of jurisprudence,Berggruen said. “Throughout her career, Ginsburg has used the law to advance ethical and philosophical principles of equality and human rights as basic tenets of the USA..Her contributions have shaped our way of life and way of thinking and have demonstrated to the world the importance of the rule of law in disabling discrimination.”

The Berggruen Prize for Philosophy & Culture is given each year to someone who has contributed to self-understanding and advancement in the world. Ginsburg chose to donate her winnings to a charity or non-profit organization she has not revealed.

https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2019/10/23/Justice-Ginsburg-awarded-1M-prize-for-support-of-human-rights/7351571852581/

Winners of the 2020 Andrei Sakharov Prize (of the APS) announced:

October 23, 2019

The American Physical Society (APS) on 22 october 2019 announced the Society’s Spring 2020 prize and award recipients. This includes the 2020 Andrei Sakharov Prize [see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/andrei-sakharov-prize-aps] which goes to:

Ayşe Erzan, Istanbul Technical University
For her lifelong commitment to human rights, especially for her steadfast defense of the rights of citizens to criticize those in power, even at great personal cost.

Xiaoxing Xi, Temple University
For his articulate and steadfast advocacy in support of the US scientific community and open scientific exchange, and especially his efforts to clarify the nature of international scientific collaboration in cases involving allegations of scientific espionage.

https://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/updates/spring-prizes20.cfm

Lantos Award Human Rights Prize 2019 to Bill Browder, the instigator of the Magnitsky Sanctions

September 30, 2019

On 27 September 2019 at 10:30 the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice has given its Lantos Human Rights Prize 2019 to Bill Browder, the driving force behind the Magnitsky Sanctions. for more on this award see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/lantos-human-rights-prize.

[In 2008, Sergei Magnitsky, a young Russian lawyer who uncovered massive tax fraud perpetrated by Russian officials, was charged with the very offenses he had uncovered. In an effort to cover up the crimes he had exposed, Magnitsky was sent to prison where he later died from abuse, neglect, and mistreatment. Bill Browder, for whom Magnitsky had worked, vowed to dedicate himself to seeking justice for Sergei and this crusade has made him a global human rights leader. First passed by the US Congress in 2012, the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act authorized sanctions of government officials implicated in serious human rights abuses. ..Since its enactment, the US Government has sanctioned more than 70 officials in over a dozen different countries. Most recently, Magnitsky sanctions were enacted to penalize those Saudi Arabian officials implicated in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.]

Bill Browder’s campaign for justice and accountability did not stop in the United States. Since 2012, similar Magnitsky laws have been enacted in Canada, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Latvia, and Lithuania. Despite fervent opposition from Russia and other lawless regimes that prefer to have their human rights abuses go unnoticed and unpunished, the European Union, Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, Denmark, Italy, and other EU member countries are considering the passage of their own Magnitsky laws.

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/10/patrick-desbois-french-priest-who-uncovered-nazi-killings-awarded-lantos-prize/

https://www.prweb.com/releases/media_advisory_lantos_foundation_to_award_human_rights_prize_to_bill_browder_at_washington_ceremony/prweb16598333.htm

Human Rights Watch takes populist leaders in UN to task

September 25, 2019

World leaders gathering for the United Nations General Assembly should reject the abusive policies of autocratic populists and promote greater respect for human rights worldwide, Human Rights Watch said ton 23 September 2019. Four leaders who have spearheaded aggressive attacks on human rights at home and at times abroad – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, US President Donald Trump, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – will open the annual General Debate at UN headquarters on September 24, 2019.

Andrew Gilmour’s 2019 report on reprisals: it gets worse but response remains mostly rhetoric

September 23, 2019

UN Human Rights Office). The study documents incidents from nearly 50 countries, such as the detention and imprisonment of activists, and the filming of participants at meetings, including on UN premises, without their consent.  Andrew Gilmour, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said there are also cases of authorities threatening and harassing relatives of activists. “Some governments seem prepared to go to almost any lengths to punish people who cooperate with us.  This may actually underscore the justice of the victims’ causes,” he said. The report covers the period from 1 June 2018 to 31 May of this year.  It also notes misuse of online spaces to promote hate speech, cyberbullying and smear campaigns, particularly against women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. Mr. Gilmour expressed concern over the continued trend in the use of national security arguments and counter-terrorism strategies as justification for blocking access to the United Nations. “Reported cases include individuals or organizations being charged with terrorism, blamed for cooperation with foreign entities or accused of damaging the reputation or security of the State. These have also been used to justify restrictions on foreign funding,” he wrote in the report’s conclusions and recommendations. “A disproportionate number of cases of enforced disappearance or detention, many which have been deemed arbitrary by United Nations experts, relate to these national security arguments. This is a worrisome trend that I have addressed publicly, including in my previous report, and, regrettably, it continues.” He said the UN will continue to strengthen its response to these developments, including through improved reporting on allegations.  However, he added, the onus remains on countries as “Member States must be accountable for their own actions and practices, and provide remedy when reprisals occur. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/17/intimidation-and-reprisals-on-un-premises-ngos-ask-for-more-action/%5D

However, the ISHR – which has followed the phenomenon much more systematically, made a more detailed and sombre assessment on 19 September: “Beyond rhetoric – States should step up efforts to prevent reprisals”

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/42nd-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/] and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/17/intimidation-and-reprisals-on-un-premises-ngos-ask-for-more-action/]

It notes that during the second interactive dialogue on reprisals with the Assistant Secretary-General, only Germany and Costa Rica raised specific cases of reprisals in Egypt and Nicaragua, respectively. The Bahamas and the Maldives shared good practices. Other States condemned reprisals rhetorically, expressing particular concern about reprisals and intimidation against women human rights defenders and LGBTIQ defenders, as well as by Council members.

During the dialogue Germany followed up again on the case of Egyptian lawyer Ebrahim Metwally who was arrested on his way to Geneva to attend a meeting with the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances. He was tortured and has been detained since September 2017. During the first interactive dialogue in September 2018, Germany was the only country to raise concern over an individual victim of reprisals. Costa Rica was the only other country to raise a specific situation of reprisals this year: it expressed particular concern about acts of intimidation and reprisals in Nicaragua.

The Bahamas responded to the allegations of intimidation and reprisals against woman human rights defender Alicia Wallace after she engaged with the Committee on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). She and her colleagues were subjected to hate speech by a well-known radio personality, the effect of which was to create an unsafe environment for Ms. Wallace and other women human rights defenders. The Bahamas affirmed its commitment to protect human rights defenders and ensure that they can engage freely with the UN. The delegation told the Council that authorities proactively provided assistance to Ms. Wallace to guarantee her safety.

The Maldives also told the Council that it is investigating the deaths of human rights defender Yameen Rashid and journalist Ahmed Rilwan to bring the perpetrators to justice; that the defamation law providing imprisonment sentences for journalists was repealed in November 2018; and that an amendment to the Human Rights Commission Act is currently considered in parliament, which would guarantee that the Commission can communicate with international organizations. The Maldives agreed with the Assistant Secretary-General that the powerful impact of prevention is through a zero tolerance policy for reprisals and committed to condemn all reprisals as a matter of urgency. The Maldives admitted that that they ‘have seen it first hand and do not want to bear witness to it again!’.

In its statement during the interactive dialogue, ISHR asked the Assistant Secretary-General what steps should be taken to ensure a more comprehensive report to the Council. This came in response to notably missing cases that ISHR submitted implicating Brazil, Russia and the United States.  The Assistant Secretary-General acknowledged ISHR’s leading role in efforts to end reprisals, expressed his concern regarding the situations mentioned, but disagreed with ISHR’s statement that Secretary-General Guterres is pandering to certain States, ignoring victims’ legitimate claims and undermining efforts to protect victims from reprisals. He explained that the particular case raised by ISHR concerning remarks made by the then U.S. National Security Adviser, Mr. John R. Bolton, and the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo did not fall under the reporting mandate of the Secretary-General as the intimidation related to the International Criminal Court. However, ISHR recalls that the Secretary General’s 2018 reprisals report stated that ‘while recognising the independent judicial character of the International Criminal Court, the Court is regarded as a related organisation in the United Nations’ and cases related to the ICC have been included several times previously, for example:

  • The 2018 reprisals report documented that two defenders in Iraq faced reprisals after attending a preparation meeting for a conference aimed at calling on Iraq to join the Court (para 29).
  • The 2017 reprisals report included Israel in the reprisals report regarding incidents of reprisals and intimidation of defenders engaging with or promoting engagement with the International Criminal Court (para 39).

Read ISHR’s full statement at the interactive dialogue here.

UN human rights report shows rise in reprisals against activists, victims

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc42-beyond-rhetoric-states-should-step-efforts-prevent-reprisals

 

 

Statement by western diplomats in Zimbabwe on human rights defenders

August 21, 2019

The Heads of Mission in Zimbabwe of the European Union, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the USA issued the following statement on 20 August 2019:

Intimidation, harassment and physical attacks on human rights defenders, trade union and civil society representatives, and opposition politicians – prior to, during and following the demonstration in Harare on 16 August – are cause for great concern.

The Zimbabwean Constitution guarantees the right to personal security from violence and prohibits physical or psychological torture. The Heads of Mission urge the authorities to respect these fundamental rights, and to hold perpetrators of violence legally responsible.

The Heads of Mission call on the authorities to respect the constitutional rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression as well as to peaceful protest, and urge all political party leaders and supporters to abstain from threats and incitement to violence as well as acts of violence or vandalism. The security forces must adhere to their Constitutional mandate and exercise restraint and proportionality while maintaining public order.

Only by addressing concretely and rapidly these human rights violations will the Government of Zimbabwe give credibility to its commitments to address longstanding governance challenges. The Heads of Mission reiterate their calls for the implementation of the government’s political and economic reform agenda, underpinned by inclusive national dialogue and increased efforts to address the severe social situation.

See also the Government’s reaction: https://allafrica.com/stories/201908210061.html

https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/66559/joint-local-statement-respect-human-rights-and-freedom-assembly_en

https://www.africanews.com/2019/08/20/joint-local-statement-on-respect-for-human-rights-and-freedom-of-assembly/

UN spokesperson on human rights puts a simple question on gun violence

August 9, 2019

Although not directly linked to human rights defenders (but they are often the victims of gun violence) the above statement by the Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, reacting to the weekend mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, raises the straightforward question: why should any civilian anywhere be able to acquire an assult rifle…??

 

See also in this context: https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/un-rights-experts-bigoted-statements-make-politicians-complicit

https://www.mrctv.org/videos/un-rights-official-why-should-any-civilian-anywhere-be-able-acquire-assault-rifle

Former Magsaysay laureate Sandeep Pandey is in two minds about this award

August 5, 2019

Award a protection against autocratic tendencies, but Magsaysay is ‘not infallible” says Sandeep Pandey, a social activist and academic, a Magsasay recipient, who returned his award in 2002.

There could not have been a better choice than Ravish Kumar for this year’s Magsaysay Award. Ravish has demonstrated exemplary courage in questioning the sectarian, communal, jingoistic and irrational politics which has dominated the narrative in this country over the last five years when one by one most of the saner voices were made to disappear, some made compromises or simply surrendered and worst there were others who decided to collaborate with this insidious project of right wing fundamentalism. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/03/magsaysay-awards-2019-honor-4-outstanding-asians/]
..
The Magsaysay Award will definitely bring more credibility to his work and hopefully some of the opposition from right wing forces, who are known to troll in an organised manner any sane voice in support of human rights, democracy, justice, communal harmony, peace and friendship, especially with Pakistan, and who’ve targeted Ravish in the past, will subside.
..
However, the aura of Magsaysay is quite exaggerated in India than other countries of Asia, and outside of Asia very few people have heard of it, probably because there are many well known Indians who have won it. Part of the reason for its popularity in India is that it and its winners feature prominently in most General Knowledge books which are used by students preparing for competitive examinations. But the Magsaysay Foundation itself is not infallible, unlike its reputation.

I went to Manila in 2002 to receive the Magsaysay Award as well as participate in a Peace conference organised at the University there in the wake of impending US attack on Iraq. It was a mere coincidence that both events were happening on same dates. There was a demonstration outside the US Embassy the day after the Award ceremony. The chairperson of the Foundation asked me not to participate in the demonstration as it could tarnish its image. ..
I argued that US was a bigger culprit in the game of warfare and I considered it part of my activism to oppose the US policy. Before landing in Manila I had little idea that the Foundation was completely US funded — by the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations. Obviously the Magsaysay Foundation was quite uncomfortable with my stand. The fears of Magsaysay Foundation came true. Even the Hindi Indian media back home covered the demonstration outside US Embassy in Manila highlighting my participation. An editorial in a Manila newspaper asked me to return the $50,000 Award money to the US Embassy before I returned to India if I was the principled man I wanted them to believe. I returned the cheque from the airport to the Magsaysay Foundation before embarking the plane out of Manila.
..
But the Award is prestigious and definitely is a protection against autocratic tendencies of the state and its cronies in India, especially for human rights defenders and upright journalists like Ravish Kumar. We hope that the right-wing fundamentalists will take his viewpoint more seriously and the media fraternity will start considering him as an ideal rather than an exception. He has now emerged as the hope for a free media in India and by extension a democratic polity. This is a victory of progressive forces, sanity and humanity and we must celebrate it. Most of all it is a victory for truth which has become a casualty in the era of post-truth. The post-truth has created only strife and conflicts. If we have to return to the human endeavour of making this world a better place for everybody, there is no option but to go back to recognizing truth as the most important values. In spite of Nathuram Godse having become a hero for a fringe group in this country, the universal ideal continues to be Mahatma Gandhi.

Abass Amiretezam’s Children Filed an Action Against Government of Iran and IRGC for Alleged 38 Years of Torture, in Federal Court

July 16, 2019

Abass Amiretezam's Children Filed an Action Against Government of Iran and IRGC for Alleged 38 Years of Torture, in Federal Court Under FSIA

On 15 July 2019, the law firm Herischi & Associates LLC issued a press release announcing that the family of Mr. Abbas Amirentezam, former Deputy Prime Minister of Iran in 1979, filed an action against the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) for, allegedly, the almost 40 year unlawful incarceration and house arrest of their father who was subjected to torture, solitary confinement, and lack of medical care that ultimately led to his death in 2018. The complaint is lodged under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA)

Allegedly, Mr. Amirentezam was the longest-held political prisoner and prisoner of conscience in the Islamic Republic of Iran. According to Fariba Amini, as of 2018 he had “been in jail for 17 years and in and out of jail for the twenty one years, altogether for 38 years.” He was Iran’s Ambassador to the five Scandinavian countries and Deputy Prime Minister in the Interim Government of the Islamic Republic. Mr. Amirentezam opposed the Iranian hostage taking of the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and was subsequently arrested. Allegedly for 555 days, he was held in solitary confinement without access to lawyers nor any details of the charges against him before his trial; after Iran released the 52 American hostages in 1981, Amirentezam was tried without access to a lawyer and jury; he was unjustly convicted and condemned to life in prison.

The following is alleged in the complaint:

According to his memoir, “until 1996, while he was incarcerated in Evin prison, Mr. Amirentezam was denied any visitation rights and/or communication with his children. Mr. Amirentezam was routinely tortured and exposed to mock executions. He was refused medical treatment and consequently suffered irreparable damage to his health. His family not only endured his absence but lived in continuous fear of his death. Despite attempting to silence Mr. Amirentezam – he defied and remained as vocal as he could throughout his incredible hardship.”

According to UN Commission on Human Rights Report published on March 1996, Amirentezam interviewed with the UN Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights, Mr. Maurice Copithorne. In his 1996 report to the UN, Mr. Amirentezam alleges that “1,100 political prisoners had been executed in Evin prison during one night at the beginning of the fall of 1981.” Pursuant to Mr. Amirentezam personal website, he alleges that, “despite constant pressure from the Iranian authorities, he never confessed to any erroneous allegations and never asked for mercy. He remained defiant to the end. As a result, he is the recipient the human rights award of Bruno Kreisky Prize in 1998 and the Jan Karski Award for Moral Courage in 2003.”

Mr. Amirentezam died on July 12, 2018 while under house arrest in Tehran. Allegedly until his death, he demanded a fair and public trial. Mr. Amirentezam children claimed in their Complaint that they have suffered significantly by the immense pain intentionally imposed unto their family by the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Complaint further alleges that, “the Amirentezam family is demanding justice by exposing the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the IRGC for all the cruelty and suffering they have endured for almost four decades.”

This case is brought under terrorism exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia through Plaintiffs attorney, Mr. Ali Herischi of Herischi & Associates, LLC. This action is filed on the first anniversary after Mr. Amirentezam’s death. Plaintiffs are asking for compensatory and punitive damages. Mr. Herischi is hopeful that “this case will bring attention to the systematic human rights abuses and domestic terrorism by the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.”

https://www.pr.com/press-release/789605