Posts Tagged ‘Zimbabwe’

Human Rights Day 2018 – anthology part II

December 11, 2018

Yesterday I published a small selection of events related to International Human Rights Day [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/10/human-rights-day-2018-just-an-anthology/] but things keep coming in so here is the follow-up with another 10 items:

  1. in the UN family: ReliefWeb published an overview of how the UN family has been making sure that this year’s Human Rights Day succeeds in raising awareness of the principles enshrined in the document, which are as important and relevant today, as they were in 1948. It refers to SG António Guterres and UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet in Marrakesh for global migration pact on Monday…..

Threats to human rights were also being highlighted at UN headquarters in New York on Monday, where charities, non-governmental organizations and members of civil society were joined by Andrew Gilmour, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, for a discussion about the ways that modern challenges, unforeseen 70 years ago, are impacting rights. The talk covered digital technologies, which have led to many benefits, but also brought about new risks which could replicate, and even exacerbate existing threats to human rights; and climate change, which risks making much of the planet uninhabitable.

Defending human rights in conflict zones:

..In Afghanistan, the UN Assistance Mission (UNAMA) renewed its call for human rights and fundamental freedoms to be respected in the country, welcoming breakthroughs such as the work of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, new laws empowering the media, a new Penal Code reflecting the country’s commitment to promote fundamental freedoms, and the presence of women in civil service positions and in the private sector. Meanwhile, in South Sudan, commuters in the capital, Juba, got the chance to see their military in a different light on Monday: as athletes. Hundreds of military personnel – as well as police and prison officers, fire-fighters and members of the wildlife services – took part in a 10-kilometre race around the streets of the capital, organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), to promote awareness of human rights and the need for peace in the conflict-affected country. Speaking on Monday, David Shearer, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMISS, said that “the only way that South Sudan is going to recover is by having peace and respect for human rights. If respect for human rights is there, then there is peace. If there is peace, it involves respect for human rights and people’s ethnicity and political persuasion. The two things go hand in hand.

 

2. The Phnom Penh Post of 10 December () reports that the Cambodian authorities used the occasion to a ban march for Human Rights Day

Phnom Penh authorities have banned a planned march as local NGOs and workers’ unions gear up to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Monday, with a youth group leader saying they would march nonetheless….In a letter issued on Saturday, Mean Chanyada, Phnom Penh’s deputy governor, said the NGOs concerned had been told that they could celebrate the anniversary at Freedom Park but marching was prohibited. “If [you] gather at a location outside the permitted area and continue to march on the street, which would affect security, safety and public order, the representatives will face the law,” Chanyada said. Sar Mory, the deputy chief of the Cambodian Youth Network (CYN) said on Sunday that he was concerned that important messages would not reach the public if they were to celebrate the anniversary without marching. “The reason we want to march is that we want to get our messages heard, ……

 

3. The winners of the “Kids for Human Rights” international drawing competition were announced on 10 December 2018. Nine young, creative artists from Australia, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Canada, Iran, Portugal, Thailand and the United States have won the top prizes in the “Kids for Human Rights” international drawing competition, launched earlier this year by the United Nations and the Gabarron Foundation. The call generated more than 17,000 entries. The full list winners is available hereThe international jury was presided by internationally known Spanish artist Cristóbal Gabarrón and included Hani Abbas, a Syrian-Palestinian cartoonist who won the 2014 Editorial Cartoon International Prize awarded by Cartooning for Peace, Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Susanna Griso, Spanish journalist and television presenter, Jenna Ortega, a young American actress, Tomas Paredes, President of the Spanish chapter of the International Association of Art Critics, and Jayathma Wickramanayake, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Youth.

 

4. The International Policy Digest used the occasion to draw attention to another international document that celebrates its 70th anniversary: the Genocide Convention which was signed into life a day before the UDHR, 9 December.,, It was the Polish-Jewish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin, who advocated for an international law for the crime of genocide. Before 1944, there was no law. However, in the wake of the Holocaust, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 260 (III) A on December 9, 1948 outlawing genocide. On January 12, 1951, the Convention came into force. …The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has argued that genocide continues to remain a “threat and reality.” She urged nations to act based on the “warning signs” often preceding genocide. She added that the crime of genocide is as real today as it was at the time of its signing. There are still 45 UN Member States who yet to ratify or agree to the Convention...

 

5. In Zimbabwe, a prominent human rights defender reminded Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa that he had termed the abduction of journalist activist Itai Dzamara “barbaric” and called on him to follow his words with actions to prevent and punish rights abuses. [Dzamara has been missing since March 2015].  Zimbabwe Peace Project director Jestina Mukoko said: “With all due respect, I call upon the President to return to the words and show that it is barbaric. Such things are not expected from civilised people, inflicting pain on another person and the constitution clearly states that.”….Lawyer Jeremiah Bhamu, who has represented many abduction victims, called on the Zimbabwean government to ratify the convention on torture…The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association said while the adoption of the new constitution with a modern Declaration of Rights, enshrined in chapter four, in 2013 has been an important milestone, a lot needed to be done to align laws, respect its provisions and establish a culture of constitutionalism. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/08/jestina-mukokos-150-000-triumph-in-zimbabwe-gives-hope-to-all-torture-victims/]

 

6. “As human rights declaration turns 70, development banks have a way to go to respect and protect rights defenders” writes Olexi Pasyuk in Bankwatch. To coincide with this milestone, Bankwatch together with more than 200 organisations globally has called on international financiers to ensure that these institutions support the realisation of human rights, avoid causing or contributing to rights abuses, promote an enabling environment for public participation, and safeguard rights defenders.

 

7.  

Today, on the occasion of the Human Rights Day – 20 years on from the first UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and on the 70th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights – The Human Rights Defenders World Summit 2018 published the final document of the action plan for the protection and the promotion of the work of human rights defenders. This action plan proposes a concrete set of measures and calls for a lasting commitment from States and other key actors to act to protect human rights defenders and to take concrete actions to offer better protection and create a more enabling environment for their work. We trust that this document will become a key reference for advocacy work at national, regional and international levels for the years to come. The action plan is available to download in five languages on the Summit’s website https://hrdworldsummit.org/action-plan/ It will be presented at the United Nations in New York on December 18th during the high level panel of experts on the situation of HRDs at the initiative of Norway. More information soon on the summit facebook page and website. See also  Summit’s Facebook page, and on the website. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/07/24/announcement-of-the-human-rights-defenders-world-summit-in-paris-october-2018/]

 

8. Democracy without Borders writes on the occasion that Human rights defenders continue to face onerous challenges. In response to these challenges, Democracy Without Borders joined more than 900 other civil society organizations from across the world in supporting a global statement that urges governments “to create an enabling environment for HRDs to operate in line with regional and international human rights obligations and standards.”

Supporters of the Yellow Umbrella human rights and democracy movement in Hong Kong face state persecution. Source: Studio Incendo/Flickr
…..Unfortunately, as is evident from the monitoring of the situation of HRDs, those at the forefront of defending, promoting and protecting human rights are prime targets of attacks perpetrated by state and non-state actors. HRDs are often victims of physical assaults, and arbitrary and unlawful detention is the number one tactic of repression used by states. It is the increasingly threatening situation for HRDs that motivates the current global statement. [CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation,. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/07/global-statement-on-the-20th-anniversary-of-the-un-declaration-on-human-rights-defenders/]

9.  In the Philippines, in line with the country’s celebration of Human Rights Day, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) opened on Monday a freedom park to honor those who fought against human rights violation. Dubbed as the Liwasang Diokno, the CHR commemorated the heroic act of late Senator Jose ‘Ka Pepe’ Diokno, whom the agency tagged as a “symbol of freedom, democracy, and human rights.” Diokno was one of those individuals who fought to attain democracy in the country during the Martial Law era under the Marcos administration. a statue of Diokno was also installed inside the park with the approval of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.With the opening of the Liwasang Diokno at the central office of CHR in Quezon City, the human rights group urged the public to continue to be more active in defending the human rights. The freedom park has a 30-tier fountain in its center, symbolizing the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

 

10.  A lights projection showing the faces of imprisoned, threatened and at-risk human rights defenders (HRDs) from around the world will shine at Dublin City Hall to mark the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The faces will be projected on December 10th and 11th during a public reception, hosted by the Lord Mayor of Dublin Nial Ring with Front Line Defenders, Dublin City Council and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

———

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/worldwide-un-family-celebrates-enduring-universal-values-human-rights

https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/phnom-penh-authorities-ban-march-human-rights-day

https://www.unog.ch/unog/website/news_media.nsf/(httpNewsByYear_en)/7C0D10EB243EC1FEC125835F003D589B?OpenDocument

https://intpolicydigest.org/2018/12/10/two-important-days-on-the-un-calendar-warranting-greater-attention/

https://citizen.co.za/news/news-africa/2048178/human-rights-defenders-urge-mnangagwa-to-walk-the-talk-on-rights-abuses/

https://bankwatch.org/blog/as-human-rights-declaration-turns-70-development-banks-have-a-ways-to-go-to-respect-and-protect-rights-defenders?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Bankwatch-blog+%28Bankwatch+blog%29

Jestina Mukoko’s 150.000 $ triumph in Zimbabwe: gives hope to all torture victims

October 8, 2018

In a rare case of triumph over impunity, the Zimbabwean High Court, on 27 September 2018, ordered the state to pay $150 000 to Jestina Mungareva Mukoko, a pro-democracy campaigner and Director of Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP). In a Deed of Settlement endorsed by the High Court, the defendants have been ordered to pay $100.000 to Jestina in respect of her claims while a further $50.000 will be paid as a contribution towards her legal costs (before 31 October 2018).

This exceptional decision was welcomed by many NGOs, including the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).

My good friend and long-time Zimbabwean human rights defender Arnold Tsunga said the following: “I think it’s a very good resolution of the case. The damages are significant but the case was also quite serious including the torture meted out on Jestina that the damages seem to fit the case. In a way it’s a double benefit in that the abduction and torture resulted in criminal case against her collapsing and on top of that she gets paid. Hopefully the security sector have learnt a lesson. It is also good that the judiciary is getting stronger and confident to pronounce itself this way“. Especially the latter is an important outcome!

ackground Information (Jestina Mukoko Triumph: The Facts):
Jestina was abducted by some unidentified armed men from her home in Norton on 3 December 2008, and her whereabouts together with two ZPP employees Broderick Takawira and Pascal Gonzo, who were also abducted later in December 2008 remained unknown until December 24, 2008, when they first appeared before the Harare Magistrates Court, after weeks of being held incommunicado and being tortured. In court, Jestina and her colleagues and dozens of other pro-democracy campaigners were accused by government of plotting to topple Robert Mugabe’s administration through recruiting people to undergo military training in neighbouring Botswana. After her release from a torturous three months stay in prison, Mukoko with the assistance of her lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, a member of ZLHR, took legal action against the state.

In September 2009, the Supreme Court granted a permanent stay of prosecution in favour of Jestina due to the violation of several of her fundamental rights by state security agents as she had been subjected to torture and inhuman and degrading treatment including simulated drowning, being locked in a freezer and being subjected to physical assaults as her tormentors tried to make her confess to plotting to overthrow the administration of Zimbabwe’s former leader Robert Mugabe.

In 2017, the High Court ruled that those who had illegally arrested her could be held liable in their own individual capacities and the case culminated in lengthy protracted negotiations that have led to this outcome. During this time, Jestina was called different names such as ‘regime change agent, reactionary and other unprintable words in a bid to delegitimise her legitimate human rights activism. She was portrayed as a criminal, a tag which remains today but this settlement in the court vindicates her and her work in defending human rights.

Jestina Mukoko herself added the following piece on the Significance of my case” (which I reproduce almost in full as it is such a good lessons learnt):

..The patrimonial settlement cannot atone for the trauma and suffering that I suffered and went through at the hands of the state security agents who were ruthless, merciless and very evil. It will not make for lost time as my liberty and all other human rights accorded to me by virtue of my being human was unjustifiably curtailed nor will it provide solace for my traumatised family – my mother, son, brothers, sisters in law, extended family, friends and other peace loving citizens.

However, it is a victory for the rule of law, constitutionalism and a mortal blow to impunity. The High Court’s decision is proof that the justice system is still able to prove the involvement of the state and its representatives in gross human rights violations, and bring them to account, with justice being done for the victims like myself.

It sets a landmark precedent and shows that the state actors can be held accountable for their illegal conduct. It also sends a message to the overzealous enforcers of orders and in this case very illegal orders to violate a plethora of my rights that they will be held responsible for their actions and this can even be in their personal capacity.

I hope my story will inspire many other victims. To some extent, justice has now been done and this case will stand as an example in the continuing fight against impunity for state crimes and excesses.

My resort to litigation and the subsequent victory in court sends a strong signal that state sponsored crimes cannot go unpunished.

It is also an encouragement to human rights defenders that the dangers of their work will not be in vain. I hope this case will embolden younger activists to pursue social justice in the comfort that they can rely on this case to hold the state or anyone accountable who may threaten their liberties. It is also a vindication of the advocacy work done by all human rights activists and those who have invested in promoting and protecting human rights that even though the fruits of this cumbersome and often arduous journey may come late , they eventually come. This is a victory for everyone who has been in the trenches with me and who has walked this risky journey of human rights work.

I hope that this victory will set an example, particularly to the Zimbabwean authorities, who must now prosecute the perpetrators of abductions and enforced disappearances which is a heinous crime.

The High Court’s decision sends a clear signal to the Zimbabwean authorities, who must do everything in their power to guarantee victims access to impartial justice and to put an end to the endemic impunity that is enjoyed by torturers and the perpetrators of serious human rights violations.

This settlement comes at a time when the Commission of Inquiry into Post Election Violence set by President Emmerson Mnangagwa has started its work to establish the facts around the circumstances that led to the death of six people on 1 August 2018 in Harare after members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces opened fire against protesters. It must be established whether the force used by members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces was proportionate to the threat posed by unarmed protesters. It must also be established whether in doing so they overstepped their mandate and therefore should be held liable or the state vicariously liable. This case must form the basis for national rejection of all forms of impunity and the same principles must be followed by the Commission of Inquiry into Post Election Violence.

In conclusion, I, Jestina through the Zimbabwe Peace Project, which plays a critical role in documenting human rights abuses, will continue to join hands with other civil society organisations such as ZLHR to champion human rights in the post-Robert Mugabe era without fear or favour. The journey to full implementation of the Constitution and compliance with the supreme law of the land continues.

https://www.zoomzimbabwe.com/2018/10/05/high-court-awards-jestina-mukoko-150000-in-damages-for-state-torture/

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/03/08/zimbabwe-celebrates-by-arresting-2-women-per-day-over-the-last-two-years/

Human rights defenders in Zimbabwe rejoice but realize still long away to go

November 23, 2017

With Mugabe’s departure there is light at the end of the tunnel but there is a lot of cleaning up to do. Two recent opinion pieces make the point:

'Mugabe’s departure offers Zimbabwe an opportunity to make a break from its past,' writes Deprose Muchena (Zinyange Auntony, AFP)
‘Mugabe’s departure offers Zimbabwe an opportunity to make a break from its past,’ (Zinyange Auntony, AFP)

Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s regional director for Southern Africa, wrote a piece in the Mail & Guardian of 23 November 2017 under title From reconciliation to repression: Mugabe’s painful legacy“.

Muchena traces first Robert Mugabe’s political career that saw early successes ultimately wiped out by a litany of human rights abuses.

Mugabe started well in his early years as leader of Zimbabwe following the transition from British colonial rule. He oversaw heavy investment in Zimbabwe’s social services. Areas including health and education saw dramatic improvements, with the country still enjoying one of the highest literacy rates in Africa. The results of this significant investment in education are there for everyone to see. But Mugabe later undermined his own legacy. During his 37 years in power, he presided over the brutal repression of political opponents, established a culture of impunity for himself and his cronies, and his government implemented a series of policies that have had disastrous consequences for Zimbabweans…Mugabe began his political life fighting against injustice. Imprisoned, and later exiled for his political activities, he was one of more than 900 prisoners of conscience in Zimbabwe adopted by Amnesty International between 1965 and 1979.

After independence political opponents, (repression of Joshua Nkomo’s Zimbabwe Africa People’s Union, military crackdown across Matabeleland and Midlands provinces) ……With nobody held accountable for the killings, a dangerous precedent of impunity was set early on in Mugabe’s reign. It was one he went on to exploit time and again.

Throughout his presidency, general elections were characterised by spikes of serious human rights violations and abuses by state security agents and Zanu-PF activists. Opposition supporters suffered torture, harassment, intimidation and death…A wave of violence unleashed by the army against those suspected of voting for the MDC ensured that Mugabe won by a comfortable margin after the second round of votes was counted.

An increasing reliance on security services to suppress dissenting voices in and outside his party became a hallmark of Mugabe’s rule. Human rights defenders, journalists, those with dissenting views and opposition party activists were locked up on politically motivated charges or under draconian laws. Some were tortured or “disappeared”. Much early progress made on economic, social and cultural rights was wiped out by a series of disastrous government policy decisions. Carried out in 2005, Operation Murambatsvina — a Shona word for “drive out trash” — was one of the most devastating forced evictions in Zimbabwean history…

Although land reform was clearly needed and resulted in some legitimate large-scale redistribution, it was also used as a system of patronage. It rewarded Mugabe’s supporters with land but denied it to those considered supporters of opposition parties. Escaping repression and a shrinking economy, three million Zimbabweans have left the country since 2000…

 

Mugabe’s departure offers Zimbabwe an opportunity to make a break from its past. Zimbabwe’s future lies in renouncing impunity, addressing the human rights violations of the past, ensuring reparations for the victims and respecting the rule of law. The next generation of leaders must commit to upholding the Constitution and live up to Zimbabwe’s international and regional human rights obligations.

———————–

Supporters of Zimbabwe’s former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa await his arrival in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 22, 2017. PHILIMON BULAWAYO/ REUTERS

Mandipa Ndlovu says that “during Mugabe’s reign, over one-third of the population (4-million people) was forced to relocate to abroad to seek better opportunities for them and their families, as well as escape the iron-fisted rule of the former president. The end of an era marked the beginning of a newfound hope that released dormant life in the Zimbabwean community both in the country and around the world.

That long-time Mugabe ally, Emmerson Mnangagwa, will become the new president.. has been welcomed in regards to change for the southern African country, but must be engaged with from a nuanced position regarding the sustainability of human rights and good governance in the country…Zimbabweans are past bitterness and anger, we just want recognition and acknowledgement of past wrongs. This is the only way the country can move forward.

The fact is that Britain’s and the West’s policy was that of turning a blind eye to the black Zimbabwean persecutions of 1980 to 1987 and only reacted with economic sanctions when white-occupied farms were invaded in 2000. Moreover, the legacy of colonialism up until this point had remained one which the Zimbabwean people now realise was exploitative. This, for many Zimbabweans, highlights the interests of which demographic of the Zimbabwean population they seek to strengthen. This lack of historical recognition remains a sticking point to the black population of Zimbabwe, who have both lived through and experienced the effect of economic sanctions placed on the country as a result of Mugabe’s rule. One which needs to be rectified…

It would therefore be a disservice to the future of human rights to disregard the need to address this. Zimbabweans need to have these fears allayed through the initiation of both restorative and distributive justice in order to legitimise real change. In this, however, it is imperative to note that Zimbabweans are past bitterness and anger, we just want recognition and acknowledgement of past wrongs. This is the only way the country can move forward.

.. We have not forgotten people such as Itai Dzamara, whose whereabouts still need to be accounted for. It is not enough to remove the face of fear and violence when the potential for the re-engagement with the system still exists under untainted structures of governance. It is imperative that the narrative of ‘Operation Restore Legacy’ under the new regime does not gloss over the grief of loss (material, physical and in time) as linked to trauma and its subsequent memory..

In the new Zimbabwe, there should not be room to romanticise about the past and its legacies. The culture that tip-toes around the acceptability of violence within the public sphere for the perpetuation of political gain must be thwarted. This can be particularly translated to the politics of grief in reconciling the “violence” narrative…Regardless of what reforms are dormant in Mnangagwa’s hat as he ascends to the presidency, the sentiments of cooperation and the respect of human rights expressed in his press statement on November 21 will go a long way in legitimising bodies. These are the ideals to which the Zimbabwean people must continue to hold him and his administration to account.

For some of my earlier posts on Zimbabwe: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/zimbabwe/

Sources:

https://mg.co.za/article/2017-11-23-from-reconciliation-to-repression-mugabes-painful-legacy

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.za/mandipha-ndlovu/is-there-a-future-of-sustainable-peace-and-human-rights-for-zimbabwe_a_23286098/

World Health Organization reconsidering Mugabe as “goodwill ambassador”

October 22, 2017

he head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is rethinking his decision to name Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, as a goodwill ambassador.  The move provoked global outrage. WHO member states and activists alike noted that Zimbabwe’s health care system, like many of its public services, has collapsed under Mugabe’s regime. I’m listening. I hear your concerns. Rethinking the approach in light of WHO values. I will issue a statement as soon as possible,” Tedros, a former Ethiopian health minister, tweeted on Saturday night.

The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, came closest when he said he thought Mugabe’s appointment “was a bad April Fool’s joke”. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/10/23/mugabe-wins-chinese-peace-prize-this-time-for-real/]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it was an embarrassment to give the ambassador role to Mr Mugabe, because his “utter mismanagement of the economy has devastated health services”. The main opposition party in Zimbabwe, MDC, described the appointment as “laughable”…“Mugabe trashed our health delivery system. He and his family go outside of the country for treatment in Singapore after he allowed our public hospitals to collapse.”

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) also condemned the decision by the World Health Organization (WHO): “The irony of the World Health Organization’s decision to praise Robert Mugabe is staggering. This a strongman infamous for seeking medical attention for himself abroad. His recent visits to Singapore for medical treatment have cost Zimbabwean taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. Mugabe can’t get adequate treatment in his own country because his kleptocratic regime has left Zimbabwe’s hospitals and health industry in a state of ruin,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen. “Dr. Tedros should nullify Mugabe’s appointment immediately and also issue a strong public condemnation of his repressive rule”.

Sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/21/un-lambasted-after-naming-mugabe-goodwill-ambassador

HRF condemns World Health Organization for appointing Robert Mugabe as “goodwill ambassador”

Havel Prize for Creative Dissent recognizes Human Rights Defenders in Bahrain, Venezuela and Zimbabwe

May 7, 2017

On 5 May 2017 the Human Rights Foundation in New York announced as the recipients of the 2017 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent the Zimbabwean activist and playwright Silvanos Mudzvova, Venezuelan satirical media project El Chigüire Bipolar, and Bahraini poet and activist Aayat Alqormozi.

the “Goddess of Democracy,” the iconic statue erected by Chinese students during the Tiananmen Square protests of June 1989.

Silvanos Mudzvova is a Zimbabwean actor, playwright, and activist known for challenging the country’s dictator, Robert Mugabe, in daring theatrical productions. Silvanos works with the protest group Tajamuka (“We are rising up”) and serves as the director of Vhitori Entertainment Trust, a theater group created to protest Zimbabwe’s democracy crisis, human rights abuses, and poor governance. Silvanos has directed several controversial performances including “The Final Push,” a political satire; “Missing Diamonds, I Need My Share;” a play on corruption in the diamond industry; and “Protest Revolutionaries,” a play that encourages Zimbabweans to plan their own Arab Spring. Silvanos has been detained and arrested several times. To avoid government persecution, Silvanos now performs what he calls “hit-and-run” performances in public spaces. Silvanos has been awarded an Artist Protection Fund (APF) Fellowship and is currently in-residence for this at The University of Manchester. “Silvanos Mudzvova’s persistence in using art and performance to challenge dictatorship is an inspiration. The persecution of Silvanos illustrates Robert Mugabe’s cruelty, intolerance, and cowardice,” said Havel Prize Committee Chairman Thor Halvorssen.

El Chigüire Bipolar is a Venezuelan satirical media project created in 2008 by Elio Casale, Oswaldo Graziani, and Juan Andrés Ravell. The website, most famous for mocking former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, is often described as a mix of the Onion and John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight. El Chigüire Bipolar’s popularity in Venezuela grows as the government increases pressure on independent news outlets. “El Chigüire Bipolar is playing an increasingly crucial role in resisting Maduro’s campaign to stifle free speech. Its raw humor and exacting analysis demonstrates the great power that satire has in criticizing authoritarian regimes,” said Havel Prize Committee member Garry Kasparov.

 Aayat Alqormozi is a Bahraini poet who uses her craft to advocate for the equal rights of Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims, and to express her opposition to Bahrain’s monarchy. In 2011, Aayat recited poetry during a protest at Pearl Square as a part of the Bahraini uprising. In response, she was expelled from university and imprisoned for “insulting the King and encouraging hatred of the ruling regime.” Nevertheless, Aayat’s poetry and peaceful defiance have made her a symbol of resistance against the al-Khalifa regime. “Aayat’s methods for peaceful resistance are motivating the next generation of artists and political dissidents in Bahrain. Her commitment to poetry as a vehicle for social and political change is worthy of recognition and encouragement,” said Havel Prize Committee member Amir Ahmad Nasr.

Past laureates include Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, Russian punk protest group Pussy Riot, North Korean democracy activist Park Sang Hak, Saudi women’s rights advocate Manal al-Sharif, and Cuban graffiti artist El Sexto. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/05/05/2014-havel-prize-for-creative-dissent-awarded-to-erdem-gunduz-pussy-riot-and-dhondup-wangchen/]The Havel Prize ceremony will be broadcast live at oslofreedomforum.com beginning at10:00 a.m. Central European Time on Wednesday, May 24. The event will take place at the Oslo Nye Theater. Contact: Prachi Vidwans, (212) 246-8486, prachi@hrf.org.

Source: Havel Prize for Creative Dissent Recognizes Efforts in Bahrain, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe | Human Rights Foundation Home Page

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

March 8, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Lifetime Achievements in Human Rights: 4 Human Rights Defenders

February 24, 2017

Anna Neistat, Senior Director of Research at Amnesty International, writes in the Huffington Post of 23 February 2017 about 4 Human Rights Defenders who deserve a “Lifetime Achievements” Oscar. Since it’s awards season, Amnesty International is paying tribute to four human rights heroes whose dramatic stories could – and should – be made into movies:

Itai Peace Dzamara

It’s been almost two years since Zimbabwean journalist and activist Itai Peace Dzamarawas dragged from a barbers’ chair by five armed men while he was getting a haircut.  Dzamara, the leader of a pro-democracy movement called “Occupy Africa Unity Square”, had long been considered an enemy of the state by the Zimbabwean government. Just two days before his abduction he had delivered a speech at an opposition rally in Harare, calling for mass action against the deteriorating economic conditions in Zimbabwe. If this were a movie, justice would have been done long ago. Dzamara would have been returned to his wife and children, and the men who abducted him held accountable. But this isn’t Hollywood. This is Zimbabwe, where basic rights and freedoms have been trampled on throughout the long years of Robert Mugabe’s reign. As Itai Peace Dzamara and his family know, anyone who dares to speak out is a target for intimidation, harassment and arrest, and there’s no happy ending in sight. Despite a court ruling ordering state security agents to investigate Dzamara’s disappearance, there were gaps in the investigation and his whereabouts remains a mystery. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/05/05/itai-dzamaras-disappearance-worrying-for-all-human-rights-defenders-in-zimbabwe/]

Berta Cáceres 

GOLDMAN ENVIRONMENTAL FOUNDATION
 

Like the audience of a horror movie, the people around Berta could see that terrible danger was coming her way – but they were powerless to stop it. Honduras has the highest number of killings per capita of environmental and land activists in the world. The vast majority of these killings go unsolved and unpunished. One story that really stands out in this deadly context is that of Berta Cáceres. Berta was the leader and co-founder of an organisation that was campaigning against the construction of a hydroelectric project on the ancestral lands of indigenous communities in Honduras.  In the early hours of 2 March 2016, she was murdered in her own home. Berta knew that she was putting her life in danger, but she was willing to take the risk to stand up for indigenous communities.  Like the audience of a horror movie, the people around Berta could see that terrible danger was coming her way – but they were powerless to stop it. Despite the stark warning that her death served, environmental activists in Honduras say that stopping their work is not an option – no-one else will defend their communities and rights. They continue Berta’s work every day, reminding us that we should never take freedom for granted. It is essential that Berta’s assassination is solved, to show that there is a price to pay for attacking and killing environmental activists. Berta’s story ended in tragedy, but we will not stop fighting until we are sure that other activists will not meet the same fate. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/07/exceptional-response-from-ngo-world-on-killing-of-berta-caceres/]

Sirikan Charoensiri

Sirikan Charoensiri, also known as “June”, is a young lawyer who has bravely stood up for human rights during a dark period of military rule in Thailand. In June 2015, she was on hand at a peaceful protest by pro-democracy student activists in Bangkok to monitor the situation and provide legal representation, if necessary.  She now finds herself facing sedition charges and a potential trial in a military court alongside her clients. She also faces charges in two additional cases relating to her defence of the student activists and could be imprisoned for up to 15 years. As the Thai authorities have escalated their crackdown in the name of security, people who stand up for human rights in the country are increasingly falling foul of a government intent on silencing dissent. As June herself put it: “There is now an environment where risk is visible and imminent.” [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/01/international-day-of-women-human-rights-defenders-agents-of-change-under-pressure/]

Narges Mohammadi

Narges is a prisoner of conscience who should be lauded, not locked up, for her human rights work. In Iran, human rights defenders and other peaceful critics are subject to relentless harassment. Over the past year, those jailed after shockingly unfair trials before Revolutionary Courts including lawyers, bloggers, students, women’s rights activists, filmmakers and even musicians.  Human rights defender Narges Mohammadi knows better than most how vengeful the Iranian authorities can be towards anyone who dissents. She is currently serving a total of 22 years in prison for speaking out against issues such as Iran’s prolific use of the death penalty and acid attacks on women. What makes her situation even worse is that she is critically ill and cannot receive proper medical care in prison. Just as cruelly, the authorities have at times denied her access to her young children, who had to leave Iran to live with their father in France after she was jailed. Narges is a prisoner of conscience who should be lauded, not locked up, for her human rights work. We will continue to fight until she is free.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/06/12/retaliation-against-iranian-human-rights-defender-for-meeting-with-ashton/]

Itai, Berta, Sirikan and Narges are just a handful of the outstanding human rights defenders around the world who deserve recognition, but have instead been silenced by forces of cruelty, injustice and repression.

Source: Lifetime Achievements: Paying Tribute to 4 Human Rights Heroes | The Huffington Post

Line-up of speakers for Oslo Freedom Forum 22-24 May 2017 – Zimbabwean speaker detained

February 2, 2017

Oslo Freedom Forum

The New York based Human Rights Foundation has announced the initial speaker lineup for its 2017 Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF), taking place 22-24 May 2017 in Oslo. It includes quite a few well-known human rights defenders [the names are linked to short CVs]: Read the rest of this entry »

Sampling International Human Rights Day 2016: be a human rights defender. .

December 9, 2016

International Human Rights Day commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1950, the Assembly passed resolution 423 (V), inviting all States and interested organisations to observe 10 December as Human Rights Day. The theme this year is: Stand up for someone’s rights today, in other words: be a human rights defender. .

There is a lot going on during this period, so I just give a small sample (10!) from different parts of the world: Read the rest of this entry »

The magical number 92 in Zimbabwe!

February 25, 2016

Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe turned 92 this month. Public Domain photo by the U.S. Air Force.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe. Public domain photo by the U.S. Air Force.

Two recent items on Zimbabwe showed an interesting link with the number 92 – coincidence?:

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, nicknamed ‘Uncle Bob’, turned 92 on 21 February 2016.

Human rights defenders have been arrested while doing their work and in 92% of the cases the arrests were unjustified and victims acquitted. We have 224 cases of human rights defenders including lawyers, members of civic society organisations, journalists and student activists arrested and charged,” said Dzimbabwe Chimbga of  Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) appearing before the Parliamentary Thematic Committee on Human Rights on 26 February.

Amnesty International’s and Human Rights Watch’s annual reports of 2015 contain enough information to make the 92% a good estimate

For earlier posts on Zimbabwe see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/zimbabwe/

Sources

https://globalvoices.org/2016/02/23/worlds-oldest-president-zimbabwes-robert-mugabe-turns-92/

‘Increasing cases of human rights violations worrisome’ – NewsDay Zimbabwe