Posts Tagged ‘worldwide human rights movement’

For human rights “winter is coming”

August 24, 2017

CREDIT: HBO

Even if you haven’t seen Game of Thrones, you know the iconic, sinister saying. In the TV show, it is muttered meaningfully as a warning not only that after a long summer a harsh winter is ahead, but that winter brings with it an existential threat to the world—an army of the dead. This threat makes all the vicious scheming, treachery and feuding look insignificant and petty.

As a human rights defender watching leaders around the world scapegoating and dividing to score political points, I can’t help thinking that winter may be coming for all of us—a dark future where protection of human rights won’t mean much anymore.

The “summer” was long and fruitful. Seventy years ago the world came together in 1948 and adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stated for the first time that human rights must be protected across “all peoples and all nations.”

This unprecedented commitment to protect human rights everywhere was made by the survivors of a long night of horror that humanity had just endured. They joined forces to ensure that the gas chambers, the extermination of the entire peoples, and the suffering of civilian population at such scale never happen again.

Since then, people around the world have claimed remarkable victories: securing rights for women and LGBT communities, standing up to abusive governments, removing seemingly indestructible totalitarian regimes and bringing heads of states to account. People have created a society that would be unrecognizable to those who emerged from the darkest moments in human history determined that it should never be repeated.

Yet now it seems that we are going back in time. I have no illusions that the past 70 years were rosy. We human rights defenders have been like the brothers of the Night’s Watch, a bit closer to the chilly winds, warning, sounding the alarm and guarding against the worst abuses. The basic principle that kept the winds of winter at bay, that all governments must respect certain universal rights, has never felt more threatened than it does today. The inhabitants of Westeros may act as if summer will last for ever, but we cannot afford to do the same.

We are no longer fending off attacks on the rights of individuals or communities. We are no longer dealing with a few rogue governments while relying on others as allies. We are up against the assault on the entire system of human rights protection. Like Jon Snow, we must rally everyone together for our own existential fight.

This creeping assault did not start yesterday. Within just a few recent years, xenophobia, misogyny, and dehumanisation of “others” have become the slogans that brought victories to politicians who blatantly exploited their electorates’ sense of insecurity and disenfranchisement. But not only that, it has increasingly become a call for action, leading to discrimination, hate crimes, violence and deaths, as we have just seen in Charlottesville.

Vaguely defined “security concerns” are being used as justification for deviation from human rights, such as the prohibitions of torture and summary executions, in countries as different as the United States, Russia, Egypt, Nigeria, Turkey, and the Philippines.

States like Russia and China, which have consistently challenged the very notion of universality of human rights, have become emboldened and manage to increasingly dominate or stall the debate at the international level.

What is worse, countries like the United States or the United Kingdom, who have been, at least in rhetoric, the champions of human rights, have dramatically changed their positions. Like Cersei Lannister, they unashamedly pursue narrow self-interests, and in doing so pedal despicable arguments that human rights should be sacrificed for national interest.

Their position makes it all too easy for other states, with less established traditions of democracy and respect for human rights, to follow this path.

There is no denying it – the system of human rights protection built in the aftermath of some of darkest times in modern history, is descending into the dusk again. And, to use another sinister Game of Thrones quote, the night, when it comes, will be “dark and full or terrors.” Anyone who hopes to stay untouched by being far from the frontlines of this battle, has simply forgotten the previous “winters” too quickly.

The only way to protect our core common human values against such powerful forces, is to unite and act: to resist the attempts to divide us along any lines; to bring our own governments to account—to speak out, loudly and persistently, using all available means of communication, from megaphones to social media, against assault on our rights and the rights of others; to open our hearts and homes to those in need of protection; and to show our support and solidarity with every individual or community facing injustice or persecution.

In the world of Game of Thrones, a long, cold winter is quickly descending. But for human rights it does not have to be that way. If together we keep the candle of the human rights protection alight, darkness will retreat.

Source: For human rights, winter is coming | HuffPost

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 »

2017 (10): need to ‘reset’ for human rights movement

February 24, 2017

This is the last post in my “2017 series“.

Amnesty International (AI) on Tuesday 21 February 2017 released its Annual Report 2016/17. It contains a summary of an international human rights survey that discusses the role “rhetoric of fear, blame and hate” have played in rolling back human rights around the world. AI analyzed major political leaders that identify as anti-establishment, such as US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan, arguing that their rhetoric has led to dangerous impacts on policy. AI’s conclusion is for individuals to come together and push governments to respect human rights, stating, “we cannot rely on governments to protect our freedoms, and so we have to stand up ourselves.” AI said that inspiration should be found in the “civil rights activists in the USA, anti-apartheid activists in South Africa,” or things as recent as the International Women’s March and pro-democracy protests in Gambia. Beyond localized efforts, AI said that “global solidarity is crucial if we are to protect each other from those governments quick to portray dissent as a threat to national security and economic development.”

Last month the 2017 World Report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that a surge in populist leaders in Europe and the US threatens human rights while inviting autocratic abuse in other nations [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/20/2017-3-hrw-reminds-world-of-continuing-repression-of-minorities-and-their-defenders/].

In September UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein unleashed a scathing criticism of Western “demagogues,” accusing them of spreading populist xenophobia and racism.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/14/un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-states-may-shut-my-office-out-but-they-will-not-shut-us-up/]

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/26/2017-6-predictions-on-trump-and-the-un-prophets-or-cassandras/

Source: JURIST – Amnesty: global politics threatening human rights

We must find new ways to protect human rights defenders…and to counter the anti-human rights mood

December 12, 2016

Almost 20 years ago the UN adopted the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, but they face more danger than ever, say Iva Dobichina and James Savage (resp. of the Open Society Foundations and the Fund for Global Human Rights) in a post on 10 December 2016 in the Guardian. “We must find new ways to protect human rights defenders” say the authors in an excellent article so rich and – in my view correct – in its analysis of the current climate that I reproduce it below in full. What is perhaps missing from the piece is a call for more sustained action by the worldwide human rights movement to improve its ‘performance’ in the battle for public opinion. A lot of the regression in the situation of human rights defenders seems to go hand-in-hand with an increase in public support for rights-averse policies (“Around the globe, a tectonic shift towards autocratic and semi-authoritarian rule by law, and the pernicious influence of corporate, criminal and fundamentalist non-state actors, has put human rights activists on the defensive and let rights violators go on the offence” state the authors correctly). To counter this we have to come up with equally convincing use of the modern media, especially through professional-level visualisation and ideas for campaigns that can broaden and galvanize the human rights movement. Read the rest of this entry »

BREAKING NEWS: FINAL NOMINEES MARTIN ENNALS AWARD 2015 JUST ANNOUNCED

April 22, 2015


new MEA_logo with text

Being the award of the global human rights community (for Jury see below) today’s announcement (22 April 2015) deserves special attention:

The Final Nominees of Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders 2015 are:

Robert Sann Aung (Myanmar)

Since his first year of University in 1974, Robert Sann Aung has courageously fought against human rights abuses. He has been repeatedly imprisoned in harsh conditions, physically attacked as well as regularly threatened. His education was interrupted numerous times and he was disbarred from 1993 – 2012. In 2012 he managed to regain his license to practice law. Since then he has represented jailed child soldiers, those protesting at a contested copper mine, peaceful political protesters, those whose land has been confiscated by the military, as well as student activists. Throughout his career he has provided legal services, or just advice, often pro bono, to those whose rights have been affected.

Upon receiving the news of his selection, he stated, “I feel humble and extremely honored to be nominated for this prestigious award. This nomination conveys the message to activists, human rights defenders and promoters who fight for equality, justice and democracy in Myanmar that their efforts are not forgotten by the world. And this is also the nomination for the people in Myanmar who stand together with me, who struggle with me, for the betterment of citizens so that they can live in dignity, under the just law, in conformity with the principles of UN human rights declaration.”

Asmaou Diallo (Guinea)

Her human rights work started following the events of 28 September 2009 when the Guinean military attacked peaceful demonstrators. Over 150 were killed, including her son, and over 100 women raped. Hundreds more were injured. She and l’Association des Parents et Amis des Victimes du 28 septembre 2009 (APIVA), which she founded, work to obtain justice for these crimes and to provide medical and vocational support to victims of sexual assault, many of whom cannot return to their homes. She has worked to encourage witnesses to come forward and supported them as they provided information and testimony to court proceedings. As a result, eleven people have been charged, including senior army officers.

Upon receiving the news of her selection, she stated, “As a human rights defender in Guinea, I am very comforted to be among the nominees for the Martin Ennals Foundation, this prize encourages me to continue my fight for the protection and promotion of human rights in Guinea. I trust that this award will have a positive effect on the legal cases concerning the events of the September 28, 2009, and will be a lever for all defenders of human rights in Guinea

 Ahmed Mansoor (United Arab Emirates)

Since 2006, he has focussed on initiatives concerning freedom of expression, civil and political rights. He successfully campaigned in 2006-2007 to support two people jailed for critical social comments. They were released and the charges dropped. Shortly after, the Prime Minister of UAE issued an order not to jail journalists in relation to their work. He is one of the few voices within the United Arab Emirates who provides a credible independent assessment of human rights developments. He regularly raises concerns on arbitrary detention, torture, international standards for fair trials, non-independence of the judiciary, and domestic laws that violate international law. He was jailed in 2011 and since then has been denied a passport and banned from travelling.

Upon receiving the news of his selection, he stated, “I’m very pleased to be nominated for the Martin Ennals award. This recognition indicates that we are not left alone in this part of the world and that our voices resonate and our efforts are appreciated by a well-informed people. I hope this nomination sheds further light on the human rights issues in the UAE. It is not just full of skyscrapers, big malls and an area attractive to businesses, but there are other struggles of different sorts beneath all of that.”

The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) is a unique collaboration among ten of the world’s leading human rights organizations to give protection to human rights defenders worldwide. The Jury is composed of:

  • Amnesty International,
  • Human Rights Watch,
  • Human Rights First,
  • Int’l Federation for Human Rights,
  • World Organisation Against Torture,
  • Front Line Defenders
  • International Commission of Jurists,
  • EWDE Germany,
  • International Service for Human Rights
  • HURIDOCS

An electronic version with Bios, Photos, and Video can be found at: http://bit.ly/1DYqlFn

For last year’s nominees see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/announcement-ceremony-of-the-martin-ennals-award-2014-on-7-october/

For further information: Michael Khambatta +41 79 474 8208, khambatta@martinennalsaward.org or visit http://www.martinennalsaward.org

AI animation to galvanise support for human rights defenders

April 15, 2014

We have a tendency to take for granted that there is a worldwide human rights movement to support all the actions and campaigns in favor of human rights defenders. But, this movement needs to be created and galvanised. One tool is the use of animated images with a simple message: that a loud voice can save lives. The example above (animated by Cesare Davolio) is a “commercial’ commissioned by Amnesty Netherlands for the “Use your power” campaign, explaining what the Amnesty urgent action network can accomplish. This short film – published on You Tube on 8 April – explains how the Urgent Action Network works, from receiving news of a human rights defender being arrested to news being sent out to AI activists and members all over the world via text messages (SMS), email etc to individuals taking action. Shows how effective these individual acts can be when coördinated to produce a ‘louder voice’.