Posts Tagged ‘women human rights defenders’

World Press Freedom Day celebrated in Brussels

May 6, 2021

Differenceday.com of 5 May 2021 reports on how World Press Freedom Day was celebrated in Brussels as Difference Day

At a time when independent and free media reporting is more essential than ever, press freedom continues to be under threat. In a declaration ahead of World Press Freedom Day on Monday, EU High Representative Josep Borrell states that journalists continue to experience harsh working conditions with increasing financial and political pressure, surveillance, arbitrary prison sentences or violence for doing their work.

According to the UNESCO Observatory, 76 journalists were killed since 2020, while many more were arrested, harassed or threatened worldwide. Of particular concern is gender-based violence targeting women journalists.

Press freedom is a fundamental value for the European Union underpinned by many recent initiatives. Media freedom and the safety of journalists are key priorities of the new Human Rights and Democracy Action Plan and of the European Democracy Action Plan.

In 2020, more than 400 journalists benefited from the EU mechanism for protection of Human Rights Defenders, while the EU took important actions to support journalists, independent media and the fight against disinformation in the context of the pandemic in many regions.

The EU is determined to do more, in Europe and abroad, the declaration continues. The EU will continue coordinating with international organisations and mechanisms and pioneer new approaches. One example is the European Commission’s proposal for a Digital Services Act aimed at holding the major platforms accountable to make their systems fairer, safer and more transparent.

EU will also continue its action to counter disinformation and seek with all partners effective means to support sustainable business models for independent media.

Press freedom means security for all,” the declaration concludes.

The World Press Freedom Day on 3 May was declared by United Nations General Assembly in 1993. The day raises awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and reminds governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Freedom of expression implies the respect for opinions of others. In Brussels the day is commemorated annually as Difference Day because it recognises the difference in people and their convictions.

“To celebrate freedom of expression is to celebrate diversity,” the Free University of Brussels and other organisers of Difference Day in Brussels stated. In the past, investigative journalism has been in the focus of the event. This year the attention is drawn to women journalists behind the news and on the front line.

The Brussels Times

Winners of the 2021 Cao Shunli Memorial Award for Human Rights Defenders

March 17, 2021

On 12 March 2021 the NGO ‘Chinese Human Rights Defenders‘ announced that human rights defenders Li Yufeng and Li Qiaochu are recipients of the seventh Cao Shunli Memorial Award for Human Rights Defenders. The decision to give this year’s award to both Ms. Li Yufeng and Ms. Li Qiaochu recognizes their long-standing civil society activism to promote protection of human rights in China. Both recipients are currently detained in China for their human rights activism.

The annual award is announced prior to March 14, 2021, which marks the seventh anniversary of Cao Shunli’s death in police custody in Beijing {see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/02/12/cao-shunli-a-profile-and-new-award-in-her-name/].

Cao Shunli died on March 14, 2014, after police denied her adequate medical treatment. Police detained Cao Shunli to prevent her from attending a session of the UN Human Rights Council and an international human rights training in Geneva. Last year on the fifth anniversary of Cao Shunli’s death, several UN independent human rights experts renewed their call for an independent investigation. In calling for justice for Cao, the experts said, “Cao Shunli’s case is emblematic of the struggle that many human rights defenders in China face.” Chinese President Xi Jinping has repeatedly underlined China’s efforts to “safeguard the international system with the UN at its core” and yet the tragic death of Cao Shunli highlights the extraordinary lengths the Chinese government has gone into to stop its own citizens from freely cooperating with the UN human rights operations.

Meet the honorees 

Li Yufeng, 63, human rights defender, is currently detained by the Chinese government for her rights advocacy.  Li began petitioning in the early 2000s, seeking legal accountability for the forced eviction and demolition of her home by government backed developers. The obstacles she encountered and the punishments she experienced over the years led her to join and support actions with other victims and activists to seek justice. Li actively campaigned for the abolition of “re-education through labor”, a  now-defunct system of administrative detention. Li has annually memorialized the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre.

Li Yufeng was seized by police in October 2015 and criminally detained on suspicion of “gathering a crowd to disrupt order of a public place” and subsequently arrested in a clear act of reprisal for her human rights advocacy work. Li was tried in closed-door proceedings and sentenced to 4-year in January 2017. Li was released in February 2019. But soon after, in July 2019, police detained Li again at Jiaozuo Detention Center in Henan Province to punish her for carrying on rights advocacy.                                    

Li Qiaochu, 30, has long been a human rights advocate against gender-based violence, an advocate for labour rights, and for the building of civil society more broadly. Ms. Li graduated from Renmin University, and earned a master’s degree in public policy from the University of York in England in 2015. She went back to China to work as a research assistant at Tsinghua University. 

Li Qiaochu is currently detained at the Linyi City Detention Center in Shandong, after police took her into custody on February 6, 2021. Li Qiaochu had posted many tweets to expose details of torture of detained legal advocate Xu Zhiyong and lawyer Ding Jiaxi. Li Qiaochu is likely targeted in retaliation for her engagement with UN human rights mechanisms.

In 2017, Li Qiaochu volunteered to provide information and resources to affected migrant workers when Beijing authorities forcibly removed them from the city. Li increased visibility of China’s #MeToo movement by compiling data on sexual harassment, garnered greater publicity to combat the exploitative “966” work culture. Li sought to support family members of China’s detained and persecuted prisoners of conscience by speaking out publicly about their plight. When COVID-19 broke out, she participated in online efforts to provide much-needed PPE to sanitation workers in Beijing. On 31 December 2019, Li was summoned by police, and she was subsequently held incommunicado from 16 February 2020 to 19 June 2020.

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/16/human-rights-defender-ji-sizun-in-jail-awarded-5th-cao-shunli-memorial-award-for-human-rights-defenders/

https://www.nchrd.org/2021/03/winners-named-for-the-2021-cao-shunli-memorial-award-for-human-rights-defenders/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=winners-named-for-the-2021-cao-shunli-memorial-award-for-human-rights-defenders

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/prize-03122021091102.html

Five young women human rights defenders to watch

March 16, 2021

Sarah Noble in Geneva Solutions of 15 March 2021 writes about her encounter with five young women activists from around the world who shared their motivation, their pandemic experiences, and advice for future generations:

On International Women’s Day, I was privileged to moderate the conversation, at an event hosted by the EU mission to the UN in Geneva and UN Women. I came away convinced world leaders could learn a lesson or two. They aren’t waiting to be invited to the decision-making table, and are already driving change in their communities and beyond.

The solidarity among them encapsulates a global movement led by female youth, determined in their fight for gender equality, education, eradicating period poverty, and dealing with climate change.

“We do not have to wait for the adults to start campaigning for the action that we want to see,” said Amy Meek of the UK. Along with her younger sister Ella, Amy, 17, launched an award-winning campaign, now a charity, called Kids Against Plastic. The sisters (see picture) were motivated by realising the devastating impact the misuse of plastic was having on the planet and also its potential legacy for future generations.

“I grew up realising how much girls were taught to be weak, were taught to be submissive while boys are taught to be strong and to be leaders. For me it was really puzzling, ”said Yande Banda, a passionate 17-year-old feminist activist and education advocate from Zambia. Yande is the chairperson of Transform Education, a global youth-led coalition hosted by the UN, where she advocates for a gender transformative approach to education. “I began being an advocate and in particular a feminist, ever since I could realise the consequential inequalities within society – so I would say I was around six years old,” “The fight to end the climate crisis has not stopped for the pandemic and as feminist leaders, neither have we”.

İlayda Eskitaşcioğlu, 28, is a human rights lawyer and a PhD student at Koç University in İstanbul. She founded an NGO, We Need to Talk, in 2016, which aims to fight against period poverty and period stigma in Turkey. “Periods do not stop for pandemics! Neither does the fight for gender equality! We are still breaking taboos, step by step – fathers, brothers, romantic partners, co-workers, teachers, those that are not menstruating, period poverty is your problem too! ” We Need to Talk provides sanitary products to three vulnerable target groups: Seasonal agricultural workers, refugees and pre-teens who are going to school in remote rural areas, and tries to start an honest and open conversation around menstruation in the Middle East.

Lucija Tacer is the current UN youth delegate for Slovenia and an advocate for women’s rights. She has made gender equality the priority in her interventions at the world body. “I entered into a workplace where all of the partners and the high level people are men, except one or two women and 100 percent of the secretaries were female and just being in that environment every day really got me thinking, what is going on here ? ”

Julieta Martinez, 17, from Chile is the founder of the TREMENDAS Collaborative Platform, which promotes the empowerment of girls, and young people by putting their skills and talents at the service of the community.

“Amazingly talented girls are all around the world. We have to continue looking for them. We have to continue giving them a space. And we have to continue this fight to actually get to gender equality… Girls, young women and adolescents have the right to raise their voices, to be heard and to take action for their dignity, their integrity and to be agents of social change in a society where human and youth rights must always be defended. ”

Watch the full event on youtube here.

https://genevasolutions.news/peace-humanitarian/five-young-women-activists-to-watch-a-moderator-s-take

Garifuna rights defenders in Honduras should be released.

March 16, 2021
Defensoras garífunas

Sunday March 7 2021 an initial hearing was held in the court at Trujillo, Colón, in which Marianela Solórzano and Jennifer Solórzano, women human rights defenders belonging to the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), are on trial. Both were arrested by the Public Security Force (FUSEP) on March 3rd, and charged with damages, threats, robbery and usurpation of lands. 

In the trial records they are incriminated for the offenses of land usurpation, involving other Garifuna defenders, as well. The charges against them are related to the historic process of resistance by the Garifuna people to the plunder of their lands. Private businesses and governments alike have participated in the illegal appropriation of the ancestral territory of the Garifuna people, particularly the ownership of more than seven thousand hectares of land in the Cristales and Rio Negro communities confirmed by ancestral property deeds.  

Marianela is a defender of the rights of the LGBTI Garifuna community, and Jennifer, a defender of the ancestral Garifuna territories. Their arrests took place in the context of the continuous persecution and attacks against the Garifuna people organized in OFRANEH.

Historically, the communities belonging to OFRANEH have been the target of harassment, threats by armed groups, assassinations, and the disappearance of community leaders, among other highly serious rights violations. During the last ten years, these have only worsened due to the authoritarian criminal government model headed by Juan Orlando Hernández. Eight months ago, five Garifuna comrades were disappeared by armed men wearing uniforms of the Office of Police Investigations (DPI) of Honduras. As of now, their whereabouts are unknown. 

National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders in Honduras, the Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders (IM-Defensoras), and many other groups and networks of women human rights defenders in Mesoamerica, as well as the FIDH call on all feminist and LGBTI social movements and the international community to stay on the alert for developments in this case and to demand a hearing with full guarantees for the rights of the criminalized Garifuna defenders. 

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/25/four-honduran-woman-human-rights-defenders-say-why-funders-need-to-prioritize-social-movmements/

They demand the immediate freedom and point out that Marianela and Jennifer are human rights defenders, not criminals.  

http://im-defensoras.org/2021/03/urgent-alert-honduras-arrested-garifuna-rights-defenders-will-have-hearing-this-sunday-march-7th-the-international-community-demands-their-release/

https://www.fidh.org/es/temas/defensores-de-derechos-humanos/honduras-criminalizacion-de-las-defensoras-garifunas-marianela-y

State Department hands out 21 International Women of Courage Awards 2021

March 9, 2021

At a virtual ceremony on 8 March 2021 (international women’s day) US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken hosted First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden. It was live streamed on www.state.gov. For more on this award and its laureates of previous years, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/A386E593-5BB7-12E8-0528-AAF11BE46695

This year includes an honorary award for seven women leaders and activists from Afghanistan who were assassinated for their dedication to improving the lives of Afghans:

Fatema Natasha Khalil, an official with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission who was killed, along with her driver, in June 2020 by an IED in Kabul, on her way to her office.

General Sharmila Frough, the head of the Gender Unit in the National Directorate of Security (NDS) was one of the longest-serving female NDS officers, having served as chief of the anti-kidnapping division and working undercover combating criminal networks. General Frough was assassinated in an IED explosion targeting her vehicle in March 2020 in Kabul.

Maryam Noorzad, a midwife who served remote locations in Wardak and Bamyan provinces before working for Médecins Sans Frontières Kabul PD13 hospital. On May 12, 2020, three gunmen attacked the maternity ward of the hospital, but Maryam refused to leave her patient, who was in labor. Maryam, her patient, and the newborn baby were killed in the delivery suite.

Fatima Rajabi, a 23-year-old police officer originally from Ghazni province and a member of the anti-narcotics division. She was traveling to her home village in Jaghori district in a civilian minibus in July 2020 when the Taliban stopped the vehicle and took her captive. Two weeks later, the Taliban killed her and sent her remains, which had gunshot wounds and signs of torture, to her family.

Freshta, daughter of Amir Mohamed, a 35-year-old prison guard with the Office of Prison Administration. She was walking from her residence in Kandahar City to a taxi on her way to work when she was murdered by an unknown gunman on October 25, 2020.

Malalai Maiwand, a reporter at Enikas Radio and TV, was shot and killed, along with her driver, by a gunman on December 10, 2020, in an attack on her vehicle in Jalalabad. Malalai was not the first in her family to be targeted. Five years earlier, her mother, an activist, was also killed by unknown gunmen.

Freshta Kohistani, a 29-year-old women’s rights and democracy activist, was assassinated by unknown gunmen near her home in Kapsia province on December 24, 2020. Kohistani regularly organized events advocating for women’s rights in Afghanistan and used social media as a platform for her messaging.

The other 2021 awardees are:

Belarus – Maria Kalesnikava

Ahead of the August 9, 2020, presidential election, Belarusian women emerged as a dominant political force and driver of societal change in Belarus due in no small part to Maria Kalesnikava. After authorities jailed or exiled the three most popular male opposition candidates, Maria and her partners mounted a historic and sustained challenge to the 26-year rule of Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Maria continues to be the face of the opposition inside Belarus, courageously facing imprisonment in the aftermath of the disputed election. Despite her detention, Maria continues to keep the democratic movement alive inside Belarus and serves as a source of inspiration for all those seeking to win freedom for themselves and their countries.

Burma – Phyoe Phyoe Aung

An emerging leader who is likely to play a role in shaping the country in the coming years, Phyoe Phyoe Aung is the co-founder of the Wings Institute for Reconciliation, an organization that facilitates exchanges between youth of different ethnic and religious groups. Her work promotes peacebuilding and reconciliation and enables a vital dialogue on federalism and transitional justice. She organized a 2015 protest march from Mandalay to Yangon that was violently suppressed by the Myanmar Police Force as it neared Yangon, and she and her husband were arrested and imprisoned. Phyoe Phyoe was released in April 2016 after 13 months as part of a broad pardon of political prisoners facing court trials. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/05/11/finalists-runners-up-front-line-defenders-award-human-rights-defenders-2016-announcement/#more-7981

Cameroon – Maximilienne C. Ngo Mbe

Maximilienne C. Ngo Mbe has demonstrated extraordinary leadership, courage, and perseverance through adversity in promoting human rights in Cameroon and Central Africa. She has been an outspoken voice among civil society actors, often sacrificing her personal safety, in the push for a peaceful solution to the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon. She has called for an end to human rights abuses committed by separatists and security forces in the Northwest and Southwest regions and by security forces in the Far North. Maximilienne has also spoken out against the increased constraints placed on civil society, journalists, and political opposition by the Government of Cameroon. Her commitment to promoting human rights has been unwavering despite the intimidation, threats, and assault she has endured.

China – Wang Yu

Wang Yu was one of the country’s most prominent human rights lawyers until her arrest and imprisonment following China’s nationwide persecution of lawyers and rights advocates during the “709 crackdown.” She had taken on multiple politically sensitive cases, representing activists, scholars, Falun Gong practitioners, farmers, and petitioners in cases involving a wide array of issues, including women’s and children’s rights, and the rights to religion, freedom of expression, assembly, and association. She is now under an exit ban and has been harassed, threatened, searched, and physically assaulted by police since she began to take on rights abuse cases in 2011. [see also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/08/02/another-chinese-human-rights-lawyer-wang-yu-spontaneous-video-confession/]

Colombia – Mayerlis Angarita

Mayerlis Angarita has courageously advanced peace and human rights in Colombia, often at great personal risk. Her work has improved the security, livelihoods, and resilience of countless women leaders, conflict victims, and her community. Finding healing in storytelling after her own mother was forcibly disappeared during Colombia’s conflict, she founded the civil society organization “Narrate to Live,” which now serves over 800 women victims of conflict. Additionally, after the most recent attempt on her life, she engaged the highest levels of the Colombian government to advance a comprehensive action plan to prevent violence against women leaders in her community. Her constructive engagement across 27 government entities, civil society, and the international community has been key to the plan’s success and propelled it to become a model for human rights defender protection throughout Colombia.

Democratic Republic of the Congo – Julienne Lusenge

Since 1978, Julienne Lusenge has been the leading female activist in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) fighting against gender-based violence (GBV) and the promotion of the rights of women and girls in conflict situations. In 2000, she created Women’s Solidarity for Peace and Integral Development, the DRC’s foremost organization defending the rights of women and girls against impunity for GBV. Julienne’s vocal testimony has contributed to the adoption of international agreements such as UN 1820, which recognizes sexual violence as a weapon of war. Julienne has touched the lives of millions of women across the DRC, harnessing the attention of the international community to acknowledge and act on the extent of sexual violence shattering DRC’s communities.

Guatemala – Judge Erika Aifan

Judge Erika Lorena Aifan is a trial judge working in the High-Risk Criminal Court with responsibility for high-impact crimes. She has presided over high-profile corruption and war atrocity cases, leading to defamation and threats of violence against her. Despite these challenges, Judge Aifan persisted as a Guatemalan judge independent of political influence. She has demonstrated determination and fortitude in upholding the rule of law in Guatemala. Despite the strong opposition she has faced throughout her tenure, Judge Aifan has become an icon in Guatemala in the fight against corruption, efforts to increase transparency, and actions to improve independence in the justice sector.

Iran – Shohreh Bayat

When Shohreh Bayat boarded her flight on her way to the 2020 Women’s Chess World Championship, she had no idea she might be seeing her native Iran for the last time. Shohreh, the first female Category A international chess arbiter in Asia, was photographed at the Championship without her hijab visible, which is compulsory in Iran. Within 24 hours, the Iranian Chess Federation – which Shohreh had previously led – refused to guarantee Shohreh’s safety if she returned to Iran without first apologizing. Fearing for her safety and unwilling to apologize for the incident, Shohreh made the heart-wrenching decision to seek refuge in the UK, leaving her husband – who lacked a UK visa – in Iran. In that moment, Shohreh chose to be a champion for women’s rights rather than be cowed by the Iranian government’s threats.

Nepal – Muskan Khatun

Muskan Khatun has been instrumental in bringing about new legislation criminalizing acid attacks and imposing strong penalties against perpetrators in Nepal. When Muskan was 15, she was critically injured in an acid attack after she rejected a boy’s romantic propositions. With the help of a social worker, Muskan lobbied for stronger legal action against the perpetrators of acid attacks under duress of threats and the strong social stigma associated with acid attack victims. She went before a parliamentary committee, wrote a letter to Nepal’s Prime Minister, and eventually met with him in person, to request a stronger law. Within a year of her attack, Nepal’s President issued an ordinance with harsh penalties for acid attacks and regulations on the sale of acids, a testament to Muskan’s significant advocacy.

Somalia – Zahra Mohamed Ahmad

For more than 20 years, Zahra Mohamed Ahmad has been at the forefront of defending human rights in Somalia, especially for its most vulnerable groups. As an accomplished lawyer, Zahra began providing legal aid, for sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) survivors, women on remand status, and women in pre-trial detention. Zahra is the founder of and legal advisor for the Somali Women Development Center, an organization that reports on human rights violations and cases of abuse; supports survivors through legal assistance; established Somalia’s first free hotline service to combat SGBV; and operates one-stop centers for SGBV survivors, mobile legal clinics, family care centers, safe spaces for women and girls, and community child protection centers for internally displaced children.

Spain – Sister Alicia Vacas Moro

A registered nurse, Sister Alicia Vacas Moro ran a medical clinic in Egypt for eight years, helping 150 low income patients a day treat their maladies. She then moved to the biblical town of Bethany to help an impoverished Bedouin community, especially women and children. She set up training programs for women that provided them with previously unavailable economic opportunities, and established kindergartens in Bedouin camps, providing an educational foundation for children. In an environment shaped by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Sister Alicia also assisted traumatized refugees and asylum seekers, a job she continues to perform on a larger scale in her current role as the regional coordinator for the Comboni Sisters in the Middle East. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck northern Italy, she flew to Italy to assist and treat fellow sister nuns, undeterred by extreme danger to herself.

Sri Lanka – Ranitha Gnanarajah

Ranitha Gnanarajah, a lawyer, continues to fight for and defend the rights of the marginalized and vulnerable communities in the country, despite threats and challenges by the state. Ranitha has dedicated her career to accountability and justice for victims of enforced disappearances and prisoners detained often for years without charge under Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act by providing free legal aid and related services. As an individual personally affected by the conflict and based on her extensive experience working with victims and their families, Ranitha has demonstrated tremendous passion and dedication to justice and accountability, especially for Sri Lanka’s most vulnerable populations.

Turkey – Canan Gullu

Canan Gullu has been an activist and organizer for 31 years and is the president of the Turkish Federation of Women’s Associations, an umbrella organization of women’s NGOs; she leads186 branches and 52,500 members. Canan has been a steadfast champion of gender equality, working to promote women’s participation in governance, labor force, and education. In 2007, the Turkish Federation of Women Associations established the first emergency hotline for victims of violence in Turkey, which continues its operations. Over the past two years, Canan launched an education and advocacy campaign focused on failures in the Turkish government’s implementation since 2012 of the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe’s Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. Canan’s activism has been critical to educating the public about the convention and reinforcing the need to combat gender-based violence, which quelled some politicians’ calls for Turkey’s withdrawal.

Venezuela – Ana Rosario Contreras

As president of the Caracas Nurses’ Association, Ana Rosario Contreras has been on the front lines in the fight for the rights of healthcare professionals, patients, and labor unions. Contreras’ fierce activism has generated widespread support from the Venezuelan people and is at the center of the civil-political movement pushing for democratic change. In a climate where the government routinely jails, tortures, harasses, threatens, or restricts the movement of its opponents, Contreras defends citizens’ rights at great personal risk. She has advocated for labor rights and has worked tirelessly to ensure that healthcare workers could receive a subsidy through Interim President Juan Guido’s Health Heroes program..

The International Service for Human Rights publishes its Strategic Framework for Human Rights Defenders 2021 – 2025

January 18, 2021

HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS are people who promote and protect the human rights of others, whether individually or in association with others. They are people who act with humanity, serve humanity and bring out the best in humanity. For all of these defenders, international and regional human rights mechanisms can protect and amplify their work and impact on the ground. This strategy has been developed in a context characterised by uncertainty and change, including a worsening climate emergency, a global pandemic and associated financial crisis, deepening inequalities, worsening authoritarianism and populism, as well as the erosion of multilateralism, and the rule of law. It is also a context characterised by increased awareness and action at the local, national, regional and international levels. Human rights defenders are mobilising around issues such as environmental justice, racial justice, gender equality, freedom of For many defenders working in restrictive national contexts, regional and international mechanisms may be the only platforms available. For these mechanisms to be effective, however, they need to be credible, accessible and responsive to defenders, providing them with a safe and influential platform from which to demand justice, push for accountability, and contribute to positive change. freedom of expression and association, access to information, democratic representation and participation, the redistribution of economic and political power, and state and corporate accountability for intersecting human rights violations and abuses.

On many of these issues, we are at an inflection point; a point at which the work of human rights defenders is perhaps more imperilled but more important than ever. For example:

ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISTS AND INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, whose knowledge is vital to live more responsibly and sustainably, are being killed and displaced for their work to prevent exploitation and to protect precious forests and oceans.

STUDENTS AND WORKERS mobilising online and offline to call for democratic freedoms and protest against authoritarianism are being surveilled, harassed and criminalised under abusive counter- terrorism laws.

SOCIAL MOVEMENTS taking to the streets to demand racial justice are being met with disproportionate force from police and security forces.

WOMEN’S RIGHTS ACTIVISTS are being detained and tortured in retaliation for their work to challenge patriarchy and demand an end to discrimination and violence.

AT-RISK MIGRANT ACTIVISTS AND HUMANITARIAN WORKERS who support migrant rights are being criminalised and prosecuted as threats to national security.

The freedom, safety and work of these and many other human rights defenders is vital to build a better future for all. The purpose of this Strategic Framework is to guide the effective pursuit of ISHR’s Vision, Mission and Values, and the achievement of ISHR’s Overall Goals. It articulates Strategic Goals and a framework for identifying priorities, and maps an organisational structure and working methods that will ensure agility and sustainability in a fast changing world. The strategy was developed through a highly consultative process over a 10 month period with extensive and invaluable inputs from human rights defenders, NGOs working at the national, regional and inter-national levels, human rights experts, and diplomatic and financial partners, as well as ISHR Board and staff. It is complemented with a results framework, and implemented through an annual activity plan and budget, and reviewed and updated on a biennial basis to ensure it remains relevant, responsive, ambitious and agenda setting. The framework provides the structure for our planning, monitoring, evaluation and learning process.

3 Women human rights defenders shortlisted for Václav Havel human rights award

January 11, 2021
Vaclav Havel banner above National Museum Prague, VitVit via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0
Vaclav Havel banner above National Museum Prague, VitVit via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

This year’s Václav Havel Human Rights Award has shortlisted three female finalists, The panel nominated Saudi women’s rights defender Loujain al-Hathloul, a group of young Buddhist nuns from a monastery in Nepal and Julienne Lusenge, who documents cases of wartime sexual violence in the Congo.

The winner will be announced at the spring session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on April 19. For more on this award see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/7A8B4A4A-0521-AA58-2BF0-DD1B71A25C8D.

Al-Hathloul heads the opposition to the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia. She has been imprisoned since 2018. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/12/29/loujain-al-hathloul-sentenced-to-over-5-years-prison-by-saudi-terror-court/]

The nuns from the monastery called Amitabha Drukpa constitute a group who promotes gender equality, environmental sustainability, and intercultural tolerance in the Himalayan villages. They gained fame by transporting material help to outlying villages after an earthquake near Kathmandu in 2015. They also teach women’s self-defense and they have biked over 20,000 kilometers in protest against trading in women and girls.

Lusenge is a human rights activist who documents cases of sexual abuse and violence against women in Congo. She has contributed to the conviction of hundreds of perpetrators of acts of sexual violence against women nationwide. She was often threatened for her work.

Michael Žantovský, director of the Václav Havel Library, said: “Last year, we dedicated the autumn Prague conference, which usually takes place on the occasion of the Václav Havel Prize, to women’s rights. We are glad that the jury followed a similar point.”.

https://www.expats.cz/czech-news/article/vaclav-havel-human-rights-prize-to-celebrate-international-female-activists

University of Oslo Human Rights Award 2020 goes to the Congolese agronomist Marcelline Budza.

December 14, 2020

Using coffee to secure women´s rights

The University of Oslo Human Rights Award 2020 [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest] goes to the Congolese agronomist Marcelline Budza. Mrs. Budza is awarded the prize for her work in securing women’s financial rights and increasing their participation in society through the coffee cooperative Rebuild Women’s Hope.

Rebuild Women’s Hope (RWH) is an initiative that ensures financial independence and security for women in eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The women receive training and the opportunity to become financially self-reliant coffee producers.

– In addition to enabling women to take control of their own lives, Mrs. Budza works to provide clean water and health services. We know this is crucial for both women’s and children’s health, and her commitment creates enormous positive ripple effects, said Stølen.

Marcelline is a trained agronomist, and she herself experienced how her mother as a single parent had to struggle to ensure necessary livelihood for the family.

International Women Human Rights Defenders Day: two special events

November 30, 2020

On the occasion of International Women Human Rights Defenders Day (29 November) and marking this year’s 16 Days Campaign to combat gender based violence, Front Line Defenders presents a new edition of Cypher: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/sites/default/files/cypher05.pdf , the digital monthly comic magazine featuring stories of human rights defenders from around the world. This edition features stories of WHRDs working for accountability in the context of the rights of women and girls, with a focus on GBV, from Zimbabwe, Transnistria/Moldova, Tonga and Argentina. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/23/new-cypher-comics-for-human-rights-defenders/]

Also in celebration of International Women Human Rights Defenders Day the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) in Geneva organises an on-line ‘exhibition “The Gaze that Subverts” of pieces by the painter Z.

Each painting tells a story of a woman or women who, in defiance of patriarchal structures and authoritarian repression, occupy public space in China in their fight for justice.

Z’s paintings are both prompted by, and provide – in their embodiment, the bent torso, the flexed muscle – a response to, a central question of rights defence: ‘How do we change unjust power relationships with the all-too-scarce resources we have at our disposal?’

The exhibition runs from 29 November 2020 through March 2021. A public event to close the exhibition will be announced in the coming months. Download the flyer <https://ishr.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=97549cf8cb507607389fe76eb&id=d75b3cecd8&e=d1945ebb90>

Loujain al-Hathloul to stand trial in Saudi Arabia today

November 25, 2020

As I have been following the case of Loujain al-Hathloul regularly [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/loujain-al-hathloul/] I think it is important to report that she will appear in a Saudi court today Wednesday 25 November 2020, more than two years after she was first detained in a crackdown on human rights defenders.

al-monitor Lina al-Hathloul, whose sister Loujain is being held by Saudi authorities, speaks at the 10th Anniversary Women In The World Summit at David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center on April 10, 2019, in New York City. Photo by Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images.

We were just announced that @LoujainHathloul has a trial tomorrow,” her sister, Lina al-Hathloul, tweeted Tuesday.

The conservative Gulf kingdom insists that Hathloul and the others are detained over national security concerns. Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Jubeir told CNN last week that Hathloul’s fate “was up to the courts.” 

The idea that she and her friends were detained because they advocated women’s driving is preposterous,” said Jubeir. 

Hathloul’s court date was scheduled for March but was postponed indefinitely amid what Saudi officials said were coronavirus concerns. On Oct. 26, she began a hunger strike to protest her treatment in prison and lack of regular contact with her parents. 

Amnesty International urged Riyadh to allow diplomats and journalists to attend the trial. The rights group also called for Hathloul to be given access to her parents, and to a lawyer so she can prepare an adequate defense. 

In light of the women rights activists reporting having been tortured or otherwise ill-treated in detention, we also have concerns about the admissibility of any ‘evidence’ that might be submitted in court tomorrow,” Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director, said in a statement. 

The only just outcome for this trial would be the immediate and unconditional release of Loujain al-Hathloul,” Maalouf said.  

On Tuesday, a group of 29 organizations issued a letter to the president of Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Commission, Awwad Al-Awwad, expressing their concern over the “continued arbitrary detention of women’s rights defenders.” 

Hathloul’s expected court appearance comes days after Saudi Arabia wrapped up its hosting duties for this year’s Group of 20 summit, of which women’s empowerment was a theme. Ahead of the virtual gathering, a coalition of human rights organizations sought to draw attention to what they say is an increase in repression under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/11/loujain-al-hathloul-saudi-arabia-trial-jailed-women-activist.html