Tribute: Remembering Women Human Rights Defenders

November 26, 2014

As part of the 16 Days Campaign Against Gender Based Violence (November 25 – December 10, 2014) AWID is honoring Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) Who Are No Longer With Us.

The tribute was first launched at AWID’s 12th International Forum on Women’s Rights in Development, held in April 2012 in Istanbul, Turkey. The new version of the tribute takes the form of an online photo exhibition launched on 25 November, Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and ends on 10 December, International Human Rights Day with a special slide show featuring 16 WHRDs from around the world. The tribute features photographs and biographies of rights leaders from around the world. Each day of the campaign AWID will share the story of a WHRD(s) on its website as well as through Facebook and Twitter using hashtags #16days and #AWIDMembers and link back to the full online exhibit which will commemorate and celebrate the work and lives of WHRDs who have passed away since January 2011.

An example is Sunila Abeyesekera a lifelong women human rights defender from Sri Lanka, who played a lead role in the global women’s rights movement for over 40 years to be honored on 29 November which is International Women Human Rights Defenders’ Day. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/sri-lankan-hrd-sunila-abeysekera-dies-tribute-by-a-paper-bird/]

About one third of those honored in this tribute were killed or disappeared due to their activism. Women like Agnes Torres, from Mexico, Cheryl Ananayo, from the Philippines who was assassinated as she struggled against a mining company; Colombian women’s human rights defender Angelica Bello who died in suspicious circumstances; and Petite Jasmine, board member of Swedish sex worker’s rights organization Rose Alliance who was murdered by the father of her children, who had threatened and stalked her on numerous occasions.

WHRD Tribute / Women Human Rights Defenders / Our Initiatives / Homepage – AWID.


OMCT launches again its 10 days campaign for and with Human Rights Defenders

November 26, 2014

OMCT-LOGOAs from 1 December the Geneva-based NGO OMCT will launch, for the 3rd year in a row, its Campaign “10 Days of Activism against torture and ill-treatment“(coinciding this year with the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention against torture). Through 10 videos, 10 human rights defenders will speak out against torture and discuss the importance of the UN Convention against Torture and its implementation in their respective countries under the slogan: “Nothing Can Justify Torture Under Any Circumstances!”. I will try and cover most of them, but you can also go to the OMCT website:

via 10 Days of Activism against torture and ill-treatment / November 25, 2014 / Events / Human rights defenders / OMCT.


Defending Human Rights – Online Programme by York University

November 26, 2014

Defending Human Rights” is a part-time distance learning programme delivered wholly online in a fully supported environment by the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the
University of York in the UK. The programme was piloted successfully last year, with the support of the Sigrid Rausing Trust and Open Society Foundation. Students can take one, two or three modules as a continuing professional development student, without academic credit, or complete all three modules as a postgraduate student, with academic credit. Postgraduate students who complete all three credit-bearing modules are awarded a Postgraduate Certificate in Defending Human Rights.

  • Scholarships available to cover 50% of fees (especially several people sign up from one organisation).
  • Online teaching by tutors and guest lecturers with practical field experience
  • Modules in International Human Rights Law and Advocacy, Working Safely: Managing Risk and Strengthening Protection, and Leading and Managing Effective Human Rights Organisations.

The Centre is now accepting applications for the Post Graduate Certificate, commencing in January 2015.  For more details, see http://www.york.ac.uk/cahr/studying/online/#tab-1


Special Rapporteur in Burundi: respect the work of Human Rights Defenders like Mbonimpa!

November 25, 2014

(Independent Expert on Human Rights Michel Forst. Photo: Jean-Marc Ferré)

On 25 November 2014 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, expressed regret today that defenders in Burundi are deemed to be political opponents, saying that in reality they are activists working to promote and protect human rights and civil liberties. In a press release issued by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michel Forst, emphasized that threats and defamation campaigns by certain media outlets weigh on human rights defenders, who also report a high number of cases of physical threats, anonymous phone calls, assaults, arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment.

Read the rest of this entry »


Malaysia and the EU: NGOs ask for more forthright action

November 25, 2014

An “Advocacy Note” published in November 2014 by FIDH and SUARAM addresses the whole specter of human rights in Malaysia and how the EU should respond. Here are the parts that specifically concern human rights defenders:

FIDH and SUARAM draw the EU’s attention towards the following human rights challenges and call on Brussels to work with Malaysian civil society on the proposed solutions.

1. Publicly challenging Malaysia’s records on human rights

2. Addressing the impacts business activities on human rights

3. Using Treaties’ negotiations to obtain genuine human rights commitments

4. Supporting civil society activities

FIDH and SUARAM believe that the EU has overall been supportive of the work of human rights NGOs in Malaysia. The EU Delegation and Member States’ missions regularly meet with civil society and human rights activists, bilaterally or through the EU’s Human Rights Working Group, to discuss issues such as women’s rights, the elimination of racial discrimination, and freedom of expression. The EU Delegation maintains regular exchanges with NGOs, sends observers to trials against human rights defenders, and promotes the content of the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders.

In recent years, the EU has provided financial support to NGOs working in the field of women’s and children’s rights, non-discrimination, freedom of the media, and indigenous people. With the current reduction of staff in the EU Delegation [7], civil society will now have to turn to Global Calls for Proposals to find support for its activities rather than seeking financial support directly at Delegation level through Country Based Support Schemes (CBSS). FIDH and SUARAM fear that such a change may have consequences on the effectiveness and sustainability of civil society activities. Many NGOs may not have the capacity to respond to the Calls for Proposals or to absorb the important amount of finance offered in calls designed for large- rather than middle-sized projects. It is therefore important for the EU to find alternative ways to support civil society beyond small emergency grants, for example in the form of funds at the regional level or sub-grants to local NGOs.

The EU must also step up its political support to civil society. The EU must push for the amendment of the 1966 Societies Act, which offers no judicial remedy to an association whose registration has been suspended or refused by the authorities. The EU must ensure that FTA provides for a genuine enabling environment for civil society.

Failure to do so would create a democratic gap in terms of monitoring of the agreement. The negotiation process should be an opportunity to hold tripartite discussions between the EU, Malaysian authorities, and civil society. The EU should offer technical advice to Malaysian authorities to reform the Societies Act and ensure the new version complies with international standards.

The fact that Malaysian authorities continue to criminalise peaceful assembly after the Court of Appeals declared a section of the Peaceful Assembly Act as unconstitutional is proof of the political will to repress peaceful assembly. This issue should be addressed by the EU at the highest levels of the political dialogue. The EU should also address the issue of recent calls made by Malaysian government officials to adopt legislation similar to the Indian Foreign Agents Registration Act, which would provide a legal basis for monitoring of foreign funds to civil society organisations.

Recommendations

FIDH and SUARAM call on the EU and its Members States to (inter alia):

• Demand the immediate release of individuals convicted for political reasons, notably under the Sedition Act.

• Establish a human rights roadmap in cooperation with Malaysian authorities and civil society, in order to achieve tangible results before the FTA are agreed.

• Ensure that human rights are included in the negotiations and the structure of the future Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Malaysia. 

• Place the support for civil society, human rights defenders, local communities, and indigenous peoples at the centre of their interactions with Malaysia. EU and its Members States must:
— Urge the Malaysian authorities to ensure that all citizens’ human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and assembly are respected;
— Press Malaysian authorities to amend the Societies Act to bring it in line with international standards, and provide technical support to that effect;
— Press for effective and immediate investigation into serious cases of human rights violations, and the formation of an Independent Police Complaint and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to investigate allegations of torture and deaths in police custody;
— Demand that Malaysian authorities set a date for the country visit of the UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on Freedom of Assembly and Association and extend an invitation to the UNSR on the rights of Indigenous Peoples and the UNSR on Freedom of Religion;
— Organize a civil society seminar before the EU-Malaysia human rights and political dialogues;
— Include civil society in sectoral discussions and in the negotiation process of the FTA;
— Propose alternatives to make up for the end of Country Based Support Schemes in order to ensure financial support to the work of human rights NGO.

Encourage Malaysian authorities and companies to adopt binding regulations and a business investment framework to prevent human rights violations by economic operators and ensure accountability in the case abuses take place. Regulations must be in line with international human rights standards, including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

• Prepare a strategy on business and human rights that ensures that current and future investments by EU-based companies do not negatively affect human rights in Malaysia. This strategy, to be designed with Malaysian authorities, companies, and civil society, should aim at setting up binding regulatory measures corresponding in line with international standards.

• Work with Malaysian authorities to ensure that their development plans do not negatively affect human rights.

Advocacy Note: A committed but too shy EU support to human ….


Amnesty’s Moscow office decries “foreign agents law” together with 148 other NGOs

November 24, 2014

Sergei Nikitin, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, posted a clear and inspiring blog on 21 November about the “foreign agent” label with which the Russian Government is trying to discredit legitimate work by human rights defenders.  [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/foreign-agents/]. In spite of the harassment the writer keeps up hope that justice will ultimately prevail:

“……Two years ago, the law adopted by the State Duma entered into force. It is universally known as the “Foreign Agents” law, despite the fact that it is actually an amendment to an old law “on non-commercial organisations”. The updated law with all its novelties wasn’t put into use at first, but in February 2013 the Russian Prosecutor’s Office began mass inspections of NGOs across the country. These inspections were followed by court hearings. The wide-scale campaign to smear NGOs began.

However, despite the authorities’ demands, human rights activists refused to call themselves foreign agents voluntarily. When all the Russian NGOs united in solidarity and declared, once for all, that they are not “agents”, it prompted widespread admiration.

Russian authorities had to rush to modify the fateful law. Following these amendments, “foreign agents” are now being unilaterally registered, without any judicial review. The leading human rights organizations are on this list too. Registration now consists of a penstroke by the Ministry of Justice. Just this week, two more organizations were put on the register and stigmatized by the “foreign agent” label.

Russian NGOs still reject the insulting stigma – none of the forcibly registered organizations is going to lie to themselves and to society. They are not “agents”. These people, representing various NGOs in different cities around our country are working for the good of our fellow citizens by helping those whose rights have been violated by the Russian authorities.

The past two years of pressure and denigration of civil society activists, the wave of state propaganda and streams of lies and insults have made the lives of human rights defenders, environmentalists and activists very difficult. Their struggle is widely known amongst their NGO colleagues in other countries, evident through numerous solidarity actions that have been conducted abroad in support of Russian civil society over the past two years.

Up to the present day, on the second anniversary of the shameful “Foreign Agents” law, almost 150 NGOs – national and international – have signed a letter to President Putin calling for him to overturn the disgraceful legislation.

Along with my colleagues from Amnesty International, and in the presence of journalists, this week I delivered this letter to the Presidential Administration. Our colleagues from 32 countries that have signed the letter are now waiting for Russian authorities to react.

We brought the letter with six pages of signatures and a 90cm x 150cm poster reprinting the words of the letter. To our great surprise, both were accepted, although the large poster caused some fuss among Presidential Administration employees.

One might say: “Oh, everything is meaningless.” It is nothing like that. More than 50 years of Amnesty International activism in every region of the world suggests the opposite.

There were darker days in the history of our country. We experienced numerous campaigns of lies and slander against individual citizens, groups of citizens and nations. Mudslingers have been always singing from the same song sheet as the authorities.

However, the inexorable course of history teaches us that truth is always restored and justice prevails. It may take years, and sometimes requires a lot of strength.

But we all know that those defamed and stigmatized with the “foreign agent” label are very brave and courageous people. And ultimately, this dark page of history will be remembered with disgust.

A version of this blog originally appeared (in Russian) on Ekho Moskvy’s website.

Open letter to Putin – 148 NGOs slam ‘foreign agents’ law | Amnestys global human rights blog.


NGO recommendations on torture for the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy

November 24, 2014

Five international NGOs with strong credentials in the area of the fight against torture have written to the EU with sensible recommendations to be incorporated into the next Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy. The main recommendations submitted on 19 November 2014 are:   Read the rest of this entry »


2014 Nansen Award ceremony for Butterflies – video

November 23, 2014

To my horror I see that I missed this year’s Nansen Award. Rectified with the video clip above which was published on 1 October , 2014 by UNHCR.  UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, presented the Colombian women’s rights group, Butterflies with New Wings Building a Future, with the Nansen Refugee Award in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday 29 September. The courageous Colombian women’s rights network received the award for its outstanding work to help victims of forced displacement and sexual abuse in Buenaventura, Colombia.

The Nansen Refugee Award marked its 60th anniversary this year. see also: http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/nansen-medal

Learn more: www.unhcr.org/nansen


Meet the Right Livelihood Award laureates in Sweden, Norway, Germany and Switzerland

November 23, 2014

 

On 1 December, the 2014 Laureates – Basil Fernando, Asma Jahangir, Bill McKibben and Alan Rusbridger – will receive the Right Livelihood Awards [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/09/25/snowden-and-asma-jahangir-among-recipients-2014-right-livelihood-award/]Edward Snowden, will not be able to participate in person. There may be a live video-link with him during the Award Ceremony streamed live on the homepage at 16.00 (CET).

During the week, the Laureates will participate in several public events in Sweden, Norway, Germany and Switzerland. The detailed programme with more information about registration for the events is available from the website, but I want to  highlight the following:

Human Rights Defenders in Asia:

 

 

 

On Friday, 28 November, Asma Jahangir (MEA Laureate 1995) and Basil Fernando will participate in a seminar on civic organisations’ contributions to Asian societies at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs. The seminar will be followed by a screening of the documentary “Unjust”, which is produced by the Basil Fernando’s organisation and features among others the story of murdered RLA Laureate Munir from Indonesia.

In Berlin on 27 November, Fernando will also speak about civil society’s involvement in Asia along with Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Assembly and Association.

 

On 2 December, Asma Jahangir will give the 7th Right Livelihood Award Lecture at the University of Zürich, organized by the Right Livelihood Award Foundation Switzerland.

 

 

 

CITIZENFOUR:

Laura Poitras’ documentary film CITIZENFOUR focuses on the encounters with Edward Snowden as he hands over classified documents providing evidence of mass surveillance by governments. The film will be screened on Saturday, 29 November at Södra Teatern in Stockholm.

The film is followed by a discussion with Daniel Ellsberg (2006 Laureate), Ewen MacAskill (The Guardian), Sarah Harrison (WikiLeaks), and Wolfgang Kaleck (European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights). Tickets are available for sale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Democracy and the right to know: The digital world poses opportunities as well as challenges for today’s journalists. On Monday, 1 December, Alan Rusbridgerwill discuss responsible journalism and the public’s right to know with Peter Wolodarski (Dagens Nyheter) at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs in Stockholm.

via: http://rightlivelihood.org/newsl_november14.html


Hunger Games 3-finger sign not welcome in Thailand

November 22, 2014

(Police stand inside the theatre in Bangkok where two student activists were arrested in connection with the showing of ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Photo by Pattarachai Prechapanich)

If there was any evidence needed that symbols from films travel fast, the Bangkok Post reports that on Thursday 20 November three students outside two Bangkok theatres. They were released without charges, but in the meantime the discussion had already started. On Friday Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha of Thailand said he felt unthreatened by The Hunger Games’ three-fingered protest against totalitarian rule, but nonetheless warned people against using it. “I don’t know whether it is illegal or not but it could jeopardise their futures,” Gen Prayut told reporters at Government House. “I appreciate their courage but they should use their courage in the right ways”.

His comments came as the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Southeast Asia criticised the authorities for a recent spate of instances in which people were led away for questioning after making the salute that has become a symbol of defiance for anti-coup protesters. The United Nations on Friday criticised the country’s military leaders for arresting students flashing the signature protest gesture from The Hunger Games while the film’s makers said they are concerned for the young activists. Director of  The Hunger Games, Francis Lawrence, felt honoured that the film has become an inspiration but added: “My goal is not for kids to be out there doing things that are getting them arrested,” (in a Friday interview with Buzzfeed). “”In a sense, part of it is an honour that there (are) ideas in the movies that we’re making that (have) become so important to people that they are willing to risk something and use that symbol,” he continued. “But it’s so scary.”

I didn’t want to punish [the students] so they were merely reprimanded, released and told not to do it again because it’s of no benefit to anyone,” Gen Prayut told reporters. The general also denied any role in Apex’s decision to pull the film from its Scala and Lido theatres.

Three-finger fallout continues | Bangkok Post: news.


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