Posts Tagged ‘USA’

UN Experts urge USA not to deport human rights defenders like Maru Mora Villalpando

February 14, 2018

On 14 February 2018 a group of four UN human rights experts urged the United States Government to respect the rights of human rights defenders, amid concern over action being taken against a Mexican woman who campaigns to protect migrants’ rights. Maru Mora Villalpando, who has been in the US since 1996, is facing deportation proceedings after fronting a high-profile campaign against alleged human rights violations at a US immigrants’ detention centre, operated by a private company on behalf of the US government. [Ms. Villalpando, whose 20-year-old daughter is a US citizen, is co-founder of a group which highlights human rights concerns about the Northwest Detention Centre in Tacoma, Washington.  She has raised the issue with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and with the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, alleging corporate involvement in human rights violations as well as expressing concern over hunger strikes and the deportation of migrants. The UN experts have been in contact with the Government regarding their concerns.]

Ms. Villalpando’s notice to appear at deportation proceedings, received without warning, seems to be related to her advocacy work on behalf of migrant detainees”, the experts said. “We urge the US Government to protect and ensure Ms. Villalpando’s rights as a defender and her right to family life”.

“The authorities should take all necessary measures to guarantee that no action, including detention and deportation, as means of retaliation, is taken against Ms. Villalpando for reporting cases of the detention of immigrants and alleged violations of their human rights, especially in view of the reported conditions in these centres of detention”. The experts said they were concerned that Ms. Villalpando’s case appeared to be part of a pattern. “Giving people notice of deportation proceedings appears to be a part of an increasing pattern of intimidation and retaliation against people defending migrants’ rights in the US”, the experts said.

The UN experts are: Ms. Elina Steinerte, Vice-Chair on Communications of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mr. Felipe González MoralesSpecial Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Ms. Anita Ramasastry, Chair person of UN Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22657&LangID=E

Architect Teddy Cruz: “Can we design human rights?’

February 7, 2018

Teddy Cruz. Photo: The Aspen Institute Central Europe.
The Vilcek Foundation announced on 5 February the winners of its 2018 prize in the arts and humanities, which celebrates the breadth of immigrant contributions to the American arts and sciences. Focusing on the field of architecture, this year’s $100,000 award went to Teddy Cruz, a professor at University of California in San Diego and the director of design at Estudio Teddy Cruz + Fonna Forman, a research-based political and architectural practice.

Marica Vilcek, cofounder and vice chairman of the Vilcek Foundation, said: “With the Vilcek Prizes in Architecture, we are pleased to recognize the many ways in which they have shaped its physical landscape as well—through bold, original designs, and through research that challenges the status quo, both in the building arts and in society.”

Born in Guatemala, Cruz immigrated to California when he was twenty years old…Among his most recent projects completed with his partner Fonna Forman, are cross-border community spaces that host a variety of arts and educational programming on both sides of the US-Mexico border.

Today, we must expose rather than mask the institutional mechanisms driving uneven urban development,” Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman wrote in the 2016 summer issue of Artforum. “Such a revelation requires a corresponding expansion of our understanding of the scope of architecture itself—can we design human rights, for example? Can social justice become an architectural protocol? In other words, the most important materials with which architects must learn to work are not steel and concrete but critical knowledge of the underlying conditions that produce today’s urban crises.

Established in 2000 by Jan and Marica Vilcek, immigrants from the former Czechoslovakia, the Vilcek Foundation aims to honor the contributions of immigrants to the United States and to foster appreciation of the arts and sciences. The foundation awards annual prizes to prominent immigrant biomedical scientists and artists working in the disciplines of music, film, culinary arts, literature, dance, contemporary music, design, fashion, theatre, and fine arts.

https://www.artforum.com/news/architect-teddy-cruz-wins-100-000-vilcek-prize-74148

More annual reports 2017: Freedom House

January 19, 2018

Having just blogged about the annual report of HRW and AI USA (see links below), I hasten to say that there are several other annual reports referring to President Trump’s damaging effect on human rights and democracy. Freedom House, for instance, issued its annual report 2017 which pointed out that Trump’s penchant for attacking civil society groups, the media, and even the courts have a tangible, negative impact, stating that, “the administration’s statements and actions could ultimately leave them weakened, with serious consequences for the health of U.S. democracy and America’s role in the world.” The report noted that under Trump, the United States has seen the sharpest drop in political rights and civil liberties in over 40 years.

Key Findings:

  • With populist and nationalist forces making significant gains in democratic states, 2016 marked the 11th consecutive year of decline in global freedom.
  • There were setbacks in political rights, civil liberties, or both, in a number of countries rated “Free” by the report, including Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, Poland, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Tunisia, and the United States.
  • Of the 195 countries assessed, 87 (45 percent) were rated Free, 59 (30 percent) Partly Free, and 49 (25 percent) Not Free.
  • The Middle East and North Africa region had the worst ratings in the world in 2016, followed closely by Eurasia.

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/19/human-rights-watch-and-kenneth-roth-take-a-stand-against-trumps-dictator-friendly-policies/

and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/19/ai-welcomes-resistance-to-trumps-human-rights-policies/

——

https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/freedom-world-2017

AI welcomes resistance to Trump’s human rights policies

January 19, 2018

Having just posted about HRW’s annual report [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/19/human-rights-watch-and-kenneth-roth-take-a-stand-against-trumps-dictator-friendly-policies/], I wanted to share also the assessment by AI USA on 19 January 2018: “USA: ‘resistance’ to Trump hailed after year of human rights violations”.

President Trump’s regressive policies have led to an upsurge in human rights activism © Amnesty International

Ahead of the one-year anniversary (20 January) of the inauguration of US President Donald Trump, Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said:

“While the policies of the Trump administration presented daunting challenges over the past year, we also saw the rise of a fierce and determined movement of people across the country and around the world standing up to defend human rights.

“Starting with the throngs of people braving the January cold to fill the streets on the very first day of his presidency and continuing throughout the year, we have taken heart in the galvanising spirit of resistance that has swept the world. 

“We have marched alongside both seasoned activists standing up for women’s rights and we have welcomed those who have never actively protested before in denouncing Trump’s discriminatory Muslim ban. 

“We have placed welcome mats for refugees at the foot of Trump Tower, and filled London’s Grosvenor Square with 100 sombre Statues of Liberty standing in silent protest at the US Embassy.  

“From Sydney to Madrid, human rights defenders have made it known that the politics of hate and fear have no place in the world we wish to build for ourselves and our children.

A year of human rights violationsAmong other things in the past year, Amnesty has strongly criticised the Trump administration’s plan (reported earlier this week) to consider using nuclear weapons in response to a cyber-attack in the USA; the ending of “Temporary Protected Status” for over 250,000 people from El Salvador in the USA; the decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, its insistence on pushing ahead with a revised multi-country travel ban; an executive order affecting the Mexico-USA border which allows for the forcible return of people to life-threatening situations;  the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change; the reinstatement of the “global gag rule”affecting funding for international women’s health programmes; its continued sale of military equipment to countries with poor human rights records; and the decision to continue the construction of the Dakota pipeline despite environmental and cultural concerns. 

2017: a year to forget for human rights defenders – but don’t forget the human rights defenders

December 31, 2017

A bad year for human rights defenders comes to an end and it is fitting to so with drawing your attention (again) to Amnesty International‘s BRAVE campaign which has branded 2017 as a “bad year to be brave”. Since the adoption of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in December 1998, at least 3,500 activists have been killed – an average of 180 deaths a year – and the annual death toll shows no sign of diminishing. [e.g. in 2014, Front Line Defenders recorded 136 killings of human rights defenders; in 2016 that number had risen to 281 – and this year is set to be the deadliest year yet – see also my post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/13/stop-the-killings-you-can-help-front-line/].

In the Brave campaign Amnesty highlighted a number of high profile deaths in 2017:

Amnesty warned of a wider “open season” on activists – which has seen alarming numbers of people imprisoned, threatened, beaten and abused in attempts to silence them. [ see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/06/amnesty-just-published-major-report-on-human-rights-defenders/]

Better forget this year and put our hope in 2018, but do not forget the human rights defenders themselves who are willing to pay the price as long as we pay attention…

have a good New Year…

Patrick Desbois, French priest who uncovered Nazi killings, awarded Lantos prize

November 10, 2017

Father Patrick Desbois speaks after being awarded the Lantos Human Rights Prize on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 26, 2017. (Chris Kleponis)

Father Patrick Desbois speaks after being awarded the Lantos Human Rights Prize on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 26, 2017. (Chris Kleponis)

Father Patrick Desbois, a Roman Catholic clergyman, whose work has uncovered millions of previously unknown victims of the Nazi genocide was awarded the Lantos Foundation’s Human Rights Prize. The Lantos Human Rights Prize is an annual award given by the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, an organization founded by Tom and Annette Lantos, who were both Holocaust survivors. For more on the award see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/lantos-human-rights-prize.

Father Patrick Desbois, who teaches at Georgetown University’s Program for Jewish Civilization, was recognized during a reception on Capitol Hill as a “vital voice standing up for the values of decency, dignity, freedom, and justice.” His scholarly reportage on the Holocaust has focused on the Jews who were killed by mass shootings by Nazi units in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Moldova and Romania between 1941 and 1944. In 2004, Desbois founded Yahad-In Unum, a French organization whose sole mission was to locate the mass graves of Jewish victims from Nazi paramilitary death squads. These regiments were responsible for the mass killings of Jews, often by shooting and primarily in the former Soviet Union.

His first book, “Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews,” was based on that work and the culmination of its discoveries. Desbois has another book — a memoir on his life as an anti-genocide activist and Holocaust scholar — due for publication in 2018.

Other than uncovering unknown truths about the Nazi’s killing operation, Desbois has also been working on collecting evidence of the Islamic State’s massacre of the Yazidi people in parts of Iraq and Syria. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/09/collecting-human-rights-prize-yazidi-lawmaker-calls-trumps-travel-ban-unfair/]

Source: French priest who uncovered Nazi killing sites awarded Lantos rights prize | The Times of Israel

Full Trailer for the documentary ‘Quest’ – A Portrait of an American Family

November 6, 2017

Quest Documentary Trailer

“All we can do is roll with the punches…” First Run Features has unveiled a trailer for a documentary titled Quest, described as a “portrait of an American family” filmed over the course of almost a decade. This “epic in scope” documentary follows a couple in North Philadelphia – Christopher “Quest” Rainey, and his wife, Christine’a “Ma Quest” Rainey – as they raise a family in a poverty stricken neighborhood. This premiered at Sundance and has played at tons of festivals all year, picking up numerous awards including Human Rights awards, Jury Prizes, Audience Awards. Not to be confused with the feature film also titled Quest, about the graffiti-loving youngster.  Here’s the official trailer (+ poster) for Jonathan Olshefski’s documentary Quest, in high def on Apple:

https://player.vimeo.com/video/240185573?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0

Quest Documentary Poster

 

Source: Full Trailer for ‘Quest’ Documentary – A Portrait of an American Family | FirstShowing.net

Ceremony for Alfredo Romero, recipient of the 2017 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, on 16 November

October 24, 2017

Alfredo Romero from Venezuela is the winner of the 2017 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/alfredo-romero/]. The ceremony will take place on THURSDAY, 16 NOVEMBER 2017 in the Kennedy Caucus Room | Russell Senate Office Building| Washington, D.C.  Questions can be directed to bethany@taylormadeexperience.com or 412-335-9434.
Alfredo Romero was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and is the Executive Director of human rights organization Foro Penal Venezolano (FPV). FPV was founded in 2005 by Alfredo Romero and three other lawyers to provide pro bono legal assistance to victims of arbitrary detention, due process violations or other human rights violations, including torture or cruel and inhuman treatment. Under Alfredo’s leadership, over 200 lawyers and 1,700 volunteers across the country are providing assistance to victims of human rights violations and their families. To date, FPV has provided assistance to more than 4,000 people.
In addition to his role as Executive Director of FPV, Alfredo was until recently a Fellow with the Carr Center For Human Rights Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He is also currently a partner at Himiob, Romero & Asociados law firm and has been a professor at the Central University of Venezuela and the Andrés Bello Catholic University. Alfredo obtained his Law Degree from the Andrés Bello Catholic University in 1991, and has an M.A in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University (1994) and an LL.M. from the London School of Economics (1997). He is married and is the father of two kids. A marathon runner and an accomplished musician, Alfredo has composed several songs dedicated to the Venezuelan people and to the political prisoners in his country.
For more info on the award: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/robert-f-kennedy-human-rights-award

4 activists receive the ′Alternative Nobel Prize′ 2017

September 30, 2017

This year’s Right Livelihood Awards recipients have fought for greater inclusion for those with disabilities, defended human and health rights, as well as sought to expose governmental corruption.

Winnres of the Right Livelihood Awards (Right Livelihood-Award)

The Right Livelihood Award Foundation announced the three recipients of its 2017 prize on Tuesday 26 September in Stockholm: Ethiopian lawyer Yetnebersh Nigussie, Azerbaijani investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova and Indian attorney Colin Gonsalves were honored for their work “offering visionary and exemplary solutions to the root causes of global problems.” US attorney Robert Bilott received an honorary mention.

The four awardees were selected from a pool of 102 nominations from 51 different countries. An award ceremony will take place on December 1.

Niguissie, Ismayilova and Gonsalves will share a prize of 3 million Swedish kronor (around €314,000).

For more on the award see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest.  for earlier post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/right-livelihood-award/

Source: ′Alternative Nobel Prize′ awarded to 4 global activists | News | DW | 26.09.2017

Nominations sought for the Alexander Human Rights Law Prize

September 30, 2017

Santa Clara University School of Law is seeking nominations of outstanding lawyers who might be candidates for the Alexander Human Rights Law Prize, given annually by the Law School. Now in its 11th year, the “Katharine and George Alexander Law Prize” is intended to bring recognition to lawyers who have used their legal knowledge and skills to help alleviate injustice and inequity. For more information see the recently made public Digest of Human Rights Awards: www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest.
Nominees must be lawyers who have used their skill, knowledge and abilities in the field of law to correct injustice. Selection criteria may include factors such as the:
  • Innovative nature of the programs or other activities undertaken
  • Courage and self-sacrifice required
  • Sustainability of the programs the nominee has implemented
  • Number of people benefited

Nominations should be submitted here. The deadline is 1 October 1, 2017 (although this came from an article published on 29 September).

Previous laureates are:

► 2008 Award Winner: Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama, where he and his colleagues have helped reduce or overturn death sentences in more than sixty cases.

► 2009 Award Winner: Mario Joseph, one of Haiti’s most influential and respected human rights attorneys and Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), which uses prominent human rights cases and a victim-centered approach to force open the doors of Haiti’s justice system for the country’s poor majority.

► 2010 Award Winner: Shadi Sadr, an Iranian lawyer who has risked her life in her efforts to protect the human rights of women, activists, and journalists, and who launched the “End Stoning Forever” campaign and Raahi, a legal center for women which has been forced to close since Ms. Sadr has been in exile.

► 2011 Award Winner: Paul Van Zyl, former Executive Secretary of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, co‐founder of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), and now the CEO of PeaceVentures.

► 2012 Award Winner: Almudena Bernabeau, formerly of the Center for Justice and Accountability and founder of Guernica37, a new human rights law firm litigating on behalf of victims of human rights abuses.

► 2013 Award Winner: Chen Guangcheng, the Chinese civil rights attorney who, although he is blind and had a broken leg at the time, managed to escape house arrest in China. He was targeted for his human rights campaigns, including against forced abortion while China’s one-child policy was in place.

► 2014 Award Winner: Hossam Bahgat, founder and former Executive Director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, whom I featured here when he was detained again for advocating on behalf of the freedom of speech and assembly in Tahrir Square.

2015 Award Winner: Martina E. Vandenberg, founder and president of The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center.

2016 Maria Foscarinis, founder and executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (2016).

2017 Paul Hoffman, partner in Schonbrun Seplow Harris & Hoffman, LLP and ace litigator under the Alien Tort Statute/Torture Victim Protection Act.

Source: Nominations Sought: Alexander Human Rights Prize (Oct. 1 Deadline) | Just Security