Human Rights Defender Charles Harper Honoured by Argentinian Government

September 19, 2014

(From left to right — Charles Harper, Estela Barnes de Carlotto, Ambassador Alberto D’Alotto and Bishop-emeritus Aldo Etchegoyen. Photo: Argentinian mission in Geneva)

A former World Council of Churches (WCC) official from Brazil, Rev. Charles Harper, has been honoured with the Order Comendador de Mayo, a high decoration of the Argentine government for his emblematic legacy of struggles for human rights in the ecumenical movement. Harper, was WCC’s director of the Human Rights Resource Office for Latin America from 1973 to 1992. He received this honour in a ceremony held on 16 September in Geneva, Switzerland. Harper, born to an American missionary father working in Brazil, joined the anti-colonial struggle through the Committee for Assistance to Evacuees (CIMADE). At CIMADE, he worked with young people and Algerian immigrants in Marseille, France, in the early 1960s. With CIMADE and later as director of the John Knox International Reformed Centre, Harper supported church leaders persecuted in Mozambique, Angola and Cape Verde. Many of those become key actors in the independence struggles of their countries. At the WCC, Harper coördinated a number of systematic international initiatives denouncing human rights violations in Latin America. He created strong networks to protect the persecuted, imprisoned and tortured people in the region.

Accompanying human rights movements in the 1970s, the WCC was able to respond to the calls for solidarity at regional and global levels. Harper’s work at the WCC was initiated by the WCC member churches in Latin America, following a dialogue held with the WCC’s Commission on International Affairs, chaired then by the renowned jurist Dr Theo van Boven, who also received an honour from the Argentine government in 2012.

In his speech Harper pointed out the current global challenges that a new generation of human rights advocates has to deal with. “Thirty years later – today – the challenges facing the world community of nations, both as international and ecumenical family, not only persist but become more intense: The World Council of Churches, an instrument of unity and service to humanity, strives to accompany churches and groups related to them in critical situations to defend human rights and human dignity, fighting impunity, demanding punitive justice, and building just and peaceful societies.”

At the ceremony, Ambassador Alberto D’Alotto said, “Protestant churches have played an important role in defending human rights and in starting movements for human rights in my country. They helped in founding human rights organizations and sponsored their consolidation, and managed international financing much needed in the beginning…..The churches helped to find ways to overcome the information blockade imposed by the military authorities, giving international visibility to what was happening in Argentina and denouncing the military repression in international forums,” he said.

via Human Rights Defender Charles Harper Honoured by Argentinian Government – Standard Newswire.


Canadian human rights museum in Winnipeg opens after 14 years

September 19, 2014

Human rights museum a journey into light

(The Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg is set to open later this month – today is the ‘soft opening’ Photograph by: JOHN WOODS , THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Light and dark is the dominant theme repeated during the 800-metre climb through 10 permanent and one temporary gallery in the new Canadian Human Rights Museum, through the constant play between translucent alabaster walkways and dark concrete and steel, through the juxtaposition of horrid abuses of human rights and the [Canadian]  human rights defenders who have played a role in addressing those wrongs. “If you think about the great promise of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, it is to inspire the next generation of human rights defenders,” said museum CEO Stuart Murray.

Its critics, and there have been and remain many, argue that its makeup was wrong-headed; its origin and focus too centred on the Holocaust; its handling of the Holodomor and aboriginal issues too offhanded. It would be too heavy on the dark, too light on the light, they said.

When it comes to the topic of human rights, individuals and communities are incredibly passionate about it,” said Murray. “It may have been their own experience or the experience of a parent or a grandparent. Their desire, of course, is to have their story front and centre. What I think we’ve been able to do … is reach out to other human rights experts and academics to ensure we were bringing balance…..I think we’ve come close, but I’m very realistic. The public will decide.”

Questions remain: Was it worth $351 million, and those $21-million annual operating costs? How can Winnipeg be the right place for a national museum? Will it draw the 250,000 annual visitors being touted by museum proponents? Does Canada even need such a monument?

Human rights museum a journey into light.

see previously: http://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/a-white-elephant-or-a-quintessentially-canadian-museum/


Sri Lanka reprisals against human rights defenders who cooperate with the UN continue

September 17, 2014

A UN Human Rights Council mandated inquiry is currently investigating alleged violations of international humanitarian law, as well as gross and systematic human rights abuses, committed by the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which led to estimated 40,000 civilian deaths in 2009 alone. In a joint letter dated 25 August to the President of the UN Human Rights Council and to the Ambassador of Sri Lanka, a coalition of NGOs outline an alarming trend of intimidation, threats and reprisals in Sri Lanka against people engaging with UN human rights mechanisms, including the Commission of Inquiry.

This pattern has been brought many times to the attention of the UN Human Rights Council by civil society, human rights experts and States, and even by the UN Secretary-General and High Commissioner. ‘The Government of Sri Lanka has the primary responsibility for protecting people from threats, intimidation and reprisal, and must condemn all such acts immediately and unequivocally as well as take all necessary lawful steps to affirm and uphold the right of all persons to free communication with the UN, safe from hindrance or insecurity’ said ISHR Director Phil Lynch. See also on reprisals: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/reprisals/

Still on 13 September 2014, human rights defenders Mr Namal Rajapakshe and Mr Manjula Pathiraja in Sri Lanka were threatened with death in connection to their work as defence lawyers, reported Front Line on 15 September. Namal Rajapakshe and Manjula Pathiraja are leading human rights lawyers who have frequently appeared (often pro bono) in public interest litigation representing victims of human rights violations across Sri Lanka.

[On 13 September 2014, two unidentified men wearing jackets and helmets covering their faces entered the office of Namal Rajapakshe and threatened that he and Manjula Pathiraja would be killed should they appear in any more “unnecessary cases”.  This is not the first time that Namal Rajapakshe and Manjula Pathiraja have been targeted. On 4 August 2014, the human rights defenders were intimidated, along with another lawyer, while they were making representations on behalf of their clients. They were harassed by a group of thugs inside the Maradana Police station – in front of the local Inspector.]

via Sri Lanka: End reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN | ISHR.


Human rights defender Htin Kyaw in Myanmar keeps walking in spite of 11 convictions

September 16, 2014

Aye Aye Win, of Associated Press, describes in an interesting way the changes in Myanmar (Burma): human rights defender Htin Kyaw is ‘free’ to march and protest in public but in every city where he passes he is being sentenced for disturbing public order. He has now accumulated 11 of such sentences and is slated to spend the next 12 years and four months behind bars, according to his wife, Than Than Maw.

 

 

 

 

 

 

via: 1 march, 11 sentences for Myanmar rights activist :: WRAL.com. (1 September 2014)


Kidnappings of human rights defenders in DRC continue unabated

September 16, 2014

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - croppedjust published two recent reports on kidnappings in DRC. The first is that on 13 September 2014, the corpse of human rights defender Mr Mutebwa Kaboko was found in a forest, eight days after he was kidnapped by an armed group. Mutebwa Kaboko was a training facilitator for the organisation Aide Rapide aux Victimes des Catastrophes – ARVC, created in 2008 to help disaster victims, especially women and vulnerable children. Now operating in the territories of Uvira and Fizi Walungu, the association has led a campaign against the phenomenon of forced marriage.  He was abducted by men suspected of belonging to an armed group known as Mayi Mayi Yakutumba. [On 20 June 2014, Mutebwa Kaboko was abducted in a similar way by elements of Mayi Mayi Yakutumba. He had apparently denounced their presence in the locality of Katete. They had held Mutebwa Kaboko in the open forest for five days before releasing him.]

On 14 September two other human rights defenders, Ms Neema Bitu and Mr Jacques Muganga, were found back after being kidnapped and held for two days by members of a rebel group. The two defenders are investigators of l’Action des Femmes Contre la Torture – AFCT (Action for Women Against Torture), an organisation defending the rights of women based in the village of Mwaba Kangando/Kiliba, tens of kilometers from the town of Uvira near the border between Burundi and the DRC. The perpetrators are this time  suspected of belonging to Forces Nationales de Libération du Burundi, a rebel group composed mostly of Burundian combatants and operating in parts of South Kivu in the DRC. On the night of 13 September 2014, the two defenders were able to escape from their captors while they were firing on the government army. Their colleagues found them at dawn on 14 September 2014 at approximately. During their captivity, they reportedly suffered terrible beatings and now require emergency medical treatment.

This follows the abduction and detention on 1 September 2014, of human rights defenders Mr Célestin Bambone, Ms Marie Amnazo and Ms Kongwa Tulinabo [from the Action Paysanne pour le Développement et la Promotion des Droits de l'Homme (Peasant Action for the Development and Promotion of Human Rights – APDPDH), a human rights organisation based in Mugutu, in the South Kivu province and specialising in the monitoring of human rights violations in Mugutu and surrounding villages].

 


Documentary The Rights of Others shows Human Rights Defenders in Cambodia against evictions

September 16, 2014

On 22 September 2014 will be shown the film “The Rights of Others” by Chris Kelly [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/chris-kelly/] on work done by human rights defenders in Cambodia, especially those who fight against forced evictions, a common feature of Cambodia’s ‘development model’ as demonstrated also by the work of  the monk Luon Sovath who became the Laureate of the Martin Ennals Award 2012. Read the rest of this entry »


Protecting civil society space and preventing reprisals: side event by ISHR on 19 September; also as webcast

September 15, 2014

Protecting civil society space and preventing reprisals: National and international developments and next steps” is side event that will be held on Friday, 19 September 2014 from 9.15 to 10.45 am in the Palais des Nations, Geneva, Room XXIV.

Opening remarks Olivier de Frouville, member of the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances and member-elect of the UN Human Rights Committee

Panelists:

  • Reine Alapini-Gansou, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights
  • Stephania Kulaeva, Director, Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial, Russia
  • Patricia OBrien, Ambassador of Ireland to the UN
  • Eleanor Openshaw, Reprisals Advocacy Manager, International Service for Human Rights
  • Mothusi Bruce Rabasha Palai, Ambassador of Botswana to the UN TBC

Moderator: Michael Ineichen, Human Rights Council Advocacy Director, ISHR

The event will be webcast at www.ishr.ch/webcast. You can also follow the event on Twitter @ISHRGlobal, using the hashtag #ProtectCSS.

If you would like to attend but do not have UN accreditation, please email information[at]ishr.ch before 12 noon on 16 September.

via Protecting civil society space and preventing reprisals: National and international developments and next steps | ISHR.

for earlier posts on reprisals, see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/reprisals/


The rich history of the Asian Human Rights Commission in video

September 15, 2014

On 11 September 2014 the Asian Human Rights Commission [AHRC] published a documentary telling the story of 30 years of commitment produced by Josefina Bergsten, which traces 30 years of work of the Asian Human Rights Commission and its sister organisation the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC). Both the AHRC and the ALRC are based in Hong Kong, and work in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea, Hong Kong, and China, in addition to its important role in regional institution building. As is to be expected in this kind of NGO film it contains quite a bit of ‘talking head’ (in particular the well-spoken Director Basil Fernando) but on the other hand the human rights movement has so little in visual memory and the richly illustrated stories told by Basil are so persuasive that it is a 50 minutes well spent for those who want to know more about the development of the human rights movement in Asia.

 


Kirk-Rubio Bill in US Senate risks to undermine Human Rights Defenders in Iran

September 14, 2014

A marvelous example of how (bellicose) sanctions can harm human rights defenders is to be found in this piece of 10 September by

Tyler CullisTyler CullisJamal Abdi.

Under the title Kirk-Rubio Bill Would Undermine Human Rights in Iran, Torpedo Nuclear Talks”, they argue that a new Senate bill (fortunately still pending) that purports to support human rights in Iran would actually ratchet up broad sanctions on the Iranian population, bolster Iranian hardliners, and even directly target some Iranian human rights defenders. The bill would impose new sanctions under the guise of human rights and threaten to derail the nuclear talks while undermining human rights defenders inside Iran. Considering that Senator Kirk has previously called on the US to collectively punish and “take the food out of the mouths” of Iranians, this charade of human rights concern is especially callous.

As Iranian human rights defenders [including MEA Laureate Emad Baghi] continue to speak out against sanctions and in support of current diplomatic efforts, the Kirk-Rubio bill would escalate Iran’s isolation through broad sanctions and risk torpedoeing nuclear talks. If passed, the legislation would be a gift to hardline political factions in Iran, who themselves are widely suspected of  ratcheting up abuses to gain the upper-hand against moderates seeking to implement internal reforms and secure a diplomatic deal with world powers.

 

Kirk-Rubio Bill Would Undermine Human Rights in Iran, Torpedo Nuclear Talks – National Iranian American Council NIAC.


B’Tselem awarded the 2014 Stockholm Human Rights Award

September 14, 2014

The Israeli group of human rights defenders, B’Tselem, has been awarded the 2014 Stockholm Human Rights Award by the International Legal Assistance Consortium, the Swedish Bar Association and the International Bar Association [for more information on the Stockholm Human Rights Award see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/stockholm-human-rights-award].

The press release of 14 September states: “Promoting human rights standards from inside one’s country requires an unwavering willingness to endure criticism from within, regardless of potential repercussions. Maintaining integrity and dignity is at the core of human rights defense. B’Tselem has shown international light on human rights violations in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, providing a voice to victims and calling for accountability. It is commendable that B’Tselem has so tirelessly fought to uphold human rights in an environment where its criticism has not always been welcome.” 

via BTselem awarded the 2014 Stockholm Human Rights Award | BTselem.


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