No more double speak for Peña Nieto’s Mexico

November 21, 2014

On 21 November 2014 Ben Leather (Advocacy and Communications Manager at the International Service for Human Rights, who was previously Advocacy Coordinator for Peace Brigades International’s Mexico Project) published an extensive and fascinating piece on Mexico’s double talk when it comes to human rights defenders: “No more doble-cara: it’s time for Peña Nieto to practise what he preaches”.

(In Mexico, 43 students remain missing. How is this possible in a country known for its UN human rights advocacy? Demotix/Hugo Ortuño – Some rights reserved)

The key notion of the article in Open Democracy is summarized in the phrase: “How can Mexico lead the way internationally, when it cannot protect the basic rights of its own people?“. A contradiction laid bare also by Alejandra Ancheita’s Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in October this year [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/10/07/breaking-news-alejandra-ancheita-is-the-2014-mea-laureate/].

On September 26, I delivered the final NGO statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 27th session, celebrating some of the key resolutions passed after weeks of diplomatic arm-wrestling. As in previous experiences advocating at the UN since swapping Mexico City for Geneva, I observed Mexico’s firm commitment to strengthening international human rights norms through its diplomats’ constructive initiatives.

Yet that very same night, I also learned that Mexican police forces were suspected of disappearing 43 student protesters from Ayotzinapa college, after murdering six others at the scene. A month later, those students remain missing, while the role of Mexican officials in human rights violations is becoming increasingly apparent.

These contrasts are a microcosm of Mexico’s perverse doble-cara, or two-facedness, which has exasperated its civil society for decades. They demonstrate the schizophrenia of a reputed international human rights promoter that is also proven to repress, torture, disappear and kill at home. How can Mexico lead the way internationally, when it cannot protect the basic rights of its own people?

This contradiction was underscored when Alejandra Ancheita, Director of the Mexican human rights group ProDESC, won the acclaimed Martin Ennals Award and denounced the risks facing Mexican human rights defenders. Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho then visited the UN to put her own case of arbitrary detention and torture to its Human Rights Committee. She highlighted Mexico’s exemplary efforts to strengthen its own legal framework, but lamented appalling implementation. She also emphasised the role of corruption, drugs and people traffickers—in exacerbating the context of abuses.

The schizophrenia’s causes therefore, are complex. However, the cases of Ayotzinapa, Alejandra and Lydia are not only emblematic of the Mexican human rights paradox, but also of two crucial factors which prevent its cure: blanket impunity and unbridled risks for human rights defenders.

Mexico: la doble-cara of human rights

None of this, of course, is new. In the 1960s and 70s, successive Mexican presidents opened the doors to political refugees fleeing persecution in Europe and Latin America, while simultaneously disappearing, torturing andmassacring student activists, political opponents and guerrilla groups in theDirty War.

Under former president Felipe Calderón, Mexico became a member of the UN’s Human Rights Council, where it led and lobbied for resolutions on women’s, migrant and indigenous rights. It consistently promoted the protection of human rights defenders, and voted for UN action worldwide. Yet this was all happening while the Mexican State was failing to prevent systemic femicide, migrants were denouncing abuses by public security forces colluding with organised crime, and indigenous activists were condemning attacks by the army.

Calderón promulgated some excellent human rights policies, including a Constitutional Reform guaranteeing the domestic legal transcendence of international treaties. On the ground, however, the abuses multiplied: 80,000 people were killed and over 27,000 disappeared in six years of the “War on Drugs”. In many cases, there is considerable evidence that Mexican State actors were involved, but the lack of sufficient investigation leaves most perpetrators free and unidentifiable.

Under current President Peña Nieto, with his emphasis on structural economic reforms and on international investment, Mexico’s progressive reputation at the UN and the Organization of American States has consolidated. Time magazine’s controversial front page this February was emblematic of the international community’s willingness to overlook Mexico’s human rights abuses in return for business opportunities. However, the disappearance of 43 students in Ayotzinapa, along with the attempted cover-up of 22 civilians killed by Mexican soldiers in the town of Tlatlaya this June, mean that—like the mass graves in Guerrero State—Mexico’s human rights reality is being exposed.

Impunity: green light for human rights abusers

In December 2011, I participated in Peace Brigades International’s meetings with Guerrero Governor Angel Aguirre and federal authorities to demand accountability for the killing of two students from Ayotzinapa shot by police at a protest, with others arbitrarily detained and tortured. Aguirre promised justice, while Mexico’s Human Rights Commission deemed authorities at all levels guilty of abuses. Nevertheless, the local Attorney only imprisoned a handful of local policemen, who were soon released.

Exacerbating the large number of crimes in Mexico is the fact that 98% of them remain unsolved. The impunity of 2011 joined a longer list of unsolved violations and, echoing in a weak international response, sent a message that resonated with grave implications this September: in Mexico, you can murder and abuse activists without consequence.

The relevance of widespread impunity becomes even clearer when one realises that Aguirre last governed Guerrero when the 1998 El Charco Massacre saw the army open fire on indigenous community activists, killing 11. His predecessor had stood down following another massacre of activists, just as Aguirre did this October. Nobody was punished for either crime. Meanwhile Peña Nieto himself has been criticised for the excessive use of force, torture and sexual abuse by police officers against protesters in San Salvador Atenco, when he was governor of the state of Mexico. Impunity prevails.

Silencing those who dare to speak out

Alejandra Ancheita has faced defamation, threats and attacks for her work. Yet this is par for the course in Mexico, with at least 25 human rights defenders killed and 29 disappeared in the first 18 months of Peña Nieto’s government, which began—in December 2012—with the arbitrary detentions and excessive use of force by Mexico City police against those protesting alleged electoral fraud. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has documented that activists face threats, attacks, criminalisation, harassment and killings for their work, with aggressions carried out by a range of state, non-state and unidentified actors. Members of the ruling party have proposed a lawto jail protesting teachers.

In 2012, Mexican activists successfully lobbied for the passage of the Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which reflects civil society input and international best practise. Yet the law’s implementation has been consistently undermined by administrative flaws, a lack of resources and—crucially, as identified by NGOs on the ground—an absence of political will at all levels. Government officials have not implemented the preventative organ promised by law, staff constantly rotate, and some activists complain that the same police forces attacking them are sent to protect them.  

A shared schizophrenia

It is not only Mexico’s doublespeak that compromises global human rights protection. If the international public is appalled by abuses in Mexico, then it is time their political and diplomatic representatives began to condition aid, trade and political support on the evidence of real change on the ground. While the EU and the US have established human rights dialogues with their Mexican counterparts, activists complain that these serve only to legitimise, rather than impact, the free trade agreements with what the EU calls its “strategic partner”.

Meanwhile in Mexico, Peña Nieto must use Ayotzinapa as a catalyst to ensure his federal officials are clean, competent and accountable, and that they use their power to investigate and punish local level officials suspected of human rights violations. Ongoing abuses undermine not only the valuable efforts of Mexico’s diplomats, but the international system itself.

Resolutions and laws are not enough: those with leverage must demand implementation and otherwise attach a real political cost. By protecting human rights defenders and ensuring justice, Mexico can take steps towards safeguarding not only human rights on the ground, but the integrity of the entire human rights system.”

No more doble-cara: it’s time for Peña Nieto to practise what he preaches | openDemocracy.


Azerbaijan replies to critical NGO comments

November 21, 2014

Last week I published a post https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/time-for-azerbaijan-to-quit-the-council-of-europe/. Now a strong reply has come from the government’s side (through lkhan Suleymanov, Chairman of Azerbaijani Delegation to the Euronest PA) which tries to counter the criticism by focusing mostly on the position taken by the European Stability Initiative, strangely ignoring all the other sources which said similar things. On 21 November, /PRNewswire/ summarized the statement as follows (the last two paragraphs invoking the occupation of Azerbaijani territories would seem to weaken the case): Read the rest of this entry »


Group of Governments and Agencies formulate policies on LGBTI issues and human rights defenders

November 21, 2014

On the Occasion of the Annual Conference to Advance the Human Rights of and Promote Inclusive Development for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Persons held in Washington from 12-14 November 2014, the governments of Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uruguay, as well as the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, the European Union, UNAIDS – the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, and the United Nations Development Programme, adopted a communiqué, which is relevant to human rights defenders in particular through the following paragraphs:

Introduction

…..

We further recognize the work of civil society organizations and human rights defenders from whom we have heard over the last three days. We commend their tremendous dedication and resolve to bring about a world free from violence and discrimination. We are gravely concerned by the serious challenges, difficult circumstances, and in some instances violent attacks that human rights defenders and organizations face as they work to achieve this important goal. We are inspired by their commitment, and recognize their rich diversity and unique views from different regions and across different cultures and traditions.

Together we affirm the following:

….

6. We dedicate ourselves to exploring ways to strengthen our international assistance and diplomacy efforts to promote and protect the human rights of LGBTI persons, through cooperating with additional governments and identifying new sources of funding and engagement, including from the private sector;

7. We will strive to ensure flexible and timely support, especially to meet the needs of the most vulnerable persons worldwide, including LGBTI persons;

8. We intend to guide our assistance and diplomacy efforts on the basis of need and when possible on the basis of needs assessments. We also recall the importance of co-ownership of assistance and diplomatic efforts with host governments as we work to advance the human rights of LGBTI persons;

9. We underline that governments, funders, civil society organizations and other implementing organizations should ensure involvement of local LGBTI communities and their allies in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of human rights and development cooperation efforts as appropriate;

…….

12. To further strengthen cooperation, coordination and communication of assistance and diplomatic efforts, we plan to continue to meet annually to discuss implementation of this communiqué and other relevant issues. The next meeting is expected to be organized by the Netherlands in early 2016.

For further information, please contact Chanan Weissman at WeissmanC[at]state.gov.

for full text: Joint Government and Multilateral Agency Communique From Conference to Advance the Human Rights of and Promote Inclusive Development for LGBTI Persons.


World’s largest collection of documents on torture still a well-kept secret

November 20, 2014

The DIGNITY Documentation Centre and Library near Copenhagen holds the world’s most extensive collection of published documents on torture and related subjects with more than 40,000 items, ranging from books and articles to journals and images. See:

 

World’s largest collection of documents on torture still a well-kept secret.


Amnesty’s Detekt: a new tool against government spying launched today

November 20, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 10.24.35

On 20 November 2014 Amnesty International launched a new tool that human rights defenders can use in their struggle against surveillance. It is calledDETEKT. As I have often expressed concern about digital security in this blog (see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/digital-security/\) here ARE major excerpts from the Questions and Answers that were provided in the press release:

What is Detekt and how does it work?

Detekt is a free tool that scans your computer for traces of known surveillance spyware used by governments to target and monitor human rights defenders and journalists around the world. By alerting them to the fact that they are being spied on, they will have the opportunity to take precautions.

It was developed by security researchers and has been used to assist in Citizen Lab’s investigations into government use of spyware against human rights defenders, journalists and activists as well as by security trainers to educate on the nature of targeted surveillance. Amnesty International is partnering with Privacy International, Digitale Gesellschaft and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Why are you launching Detekt now?

The latest technologies enable governments to track, monitor and spy on people’s activities like never before. Through the use of these technologies, governments can read private correspondence and even turn on the camera and microphone of a computer without its owner knowing it. Our ultimate aim is for human rights defenders, journalists and civil society groups to be able to carry out their legitimate work without fear of surveillance, harassment, intimidation, arrest or torture.

Has anyone used Detekt successfully to know if they were being spied on? 

Detekt was developed by researchers affiliated with the Citizen Lab, who used a preliminary version of the tool during the course of their investigations into the use of unlawful surveillance equipment against human rights defenders in various countries around the world.

For example, according to research carried out by Citizen Lab and information published by Wikileaks, FinSpy – a spyware developed by FinFisher, a German firm that used to be part of UK-based Gamma International– was used to spy on prominent human rights lawyers and activists in Bahrain.

How effective is this tool against technologies developed by powerful companies? 

Detekt is a very useful tool that can uncover the presence of some commonly used spyware on a computer, however it cannot detect all surveillance software. In addition, companies that develop the spyware will probably react fast to update their products to ensure they avoid detection. This is why we are encouraging security researchers in the open-source community to help the organizations behind this project to identify additional spyware or new versions to help Detekt keep up to date.

It is important to underline that if Detekt does not find trace of spyware on a computer, it does not necessarily mean that none is present. Rather than provide a conclusive guarantee to activists that their computer is infected, our hope is that Detekt will help raise awareness of the use of such spyware by governments and will make activists more vigilant to this threat.

In addition, by raising awareness with governments and the public, we will be increasing pressure for more stringent export controls to ensure that such spyware is not sold to governments who are known to use these technologies to commit human rights violations.

How widely do governments use surveillance technology?

Governments are increasingly using surveillance technology, and targeted surveillance in particular, to monitor the legitimate activities of human rights activists and journalists. Powerful software developed by companies allows governments and intelligence agencies to read personal emails, listen-in on Skype conversations or even remotely turn on a computers camera and microphone without its owner knowing about it. In many cases, the information they gather through those means is used to detain, imprison and even torture activists into confessing to crimes.

How big is the unregulated trade in surveillance equipment? What are the main companies and countries involved? 

The global surveillance industry is estimated to be worth approximately US$5 billion a year – with profits growing 20 per cent every year. European and American companies have been quietly selling surveillance equipment and software to countries across the world that persistently commit serious human rights violations. Industry self-regulation has failed, and government oversight has now become an urgent necessity.

Privacy International has extensively documented the development, sale and export of surveillance technologies by private companies to regimes around the world. Recipient countries include: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, Morocco, South Africa, Syria and Turkmenistan.

Isn’t publicizing the existence of this tool giving governments a heads up about how they can avoid being caught (by adapting new equipment which avoids detection)?

The technologies that allow governments to efficiently and covertly monitor the digital communications of their citizens are continuously improving. This is happening across the world. The growing trend in indiscriminate mass surveillance on a global scale was laid bare by the Edward Snowden disclosures. In addition to mass surveillance technologies, many governments are using sophisticated tools to target specific human rights defenders and journalists who work to uncover abuses and injustice. The new spyware being developed and used is powerful and dangerous and putting many human rights activists and journalists at risk of abuse.

As surveillance technologies develop in sophistication, it is vital that civil society groups learn how to protect their digital communications. No one tool or intervention will be enough to do this. We hope Detekt will become a new approach for investigating surveillance while sensitizing people to the threats.

However, long term we must also demand that governments live up to their existing commitments to human rights and that they and companies put in place stronger protections to ensure that new technologies are not used to violate human rights.

Surveillance is also used to carry out legitimate criminal investigations, why are you against it? 

Targeted surveillance is only justifiable when it occurs based on reasonable suspicion, in accordance with the law, is strictly necessary to meet a legitimate aim (such as protecting national security or combatting serious crime and is conducted in a manner that is proportionate to that aim and non-discriminatory.

Indiscriminate mass surveillance – the widespread and bulk interception of communication data that is not targeted or based on reasonable suspicion – is never justifiable. It interferes with a range of human rights, particularly the rights to privacy and freedom of expression.

The Detekt tool can be downloaded from: Github page.

http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/detekt-new-tool-against-government-surveillance-questions-and-answers-2014-11-20

 http://gadgets.ndtv.com/internet/news/human-rights-group-amnesty-international-releases-anti-surveillance-tool-623484

Amnestys Detekt tool wants to help you thwart government spying | ZDNet.


UN recognizes that Belarus violated the freedom of association of Ales Bialiatski

November 19, 2014

The UN Human Rights Committee decided on 24 September 2014 that Belarus had violated the freedom of association of Ales Bialiatski, President of Human Rights Centre “Viasna”. This groundbreaking decision is not limited to Belarus but concerns all signatory States that violate the freedom of association. The interpretation could benefit other human rights defenders who are under pressure from political and administrative measures to curtail their right to freedom of association. The text of the press release issued by FIDH (whose Director General represented the victim) on 17 November follows:

Paris-Minsk, 17 November 2014 – In a decision that will go down in history, on 24 September 2014 the UN Human Rights Committee officially recognized that the Republic of Belarus violated the rights of Ales Bialiatski, President of Human Rights Centre “Viasna” and FIDH Vice President. The Committee recognized violations of Article 9 (the right to liberty and security of the person), Article 14 (the right to justice and a fair trial), and Article 22 (freedom of association) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This decision follows an individual communication from Ales Bialiatski’s spouse Natalia Pinchuk, represented by FIDH Director General Antoine Bernard. It sends a strong signal to regimes that manipulate their legislation to stifle critical voices and violate the freedom of association.

After Viasna was deprived of its state registration in 2003, its founders applied for registration at the Ministry of Justice three times between 2007 and 2009. However, the state refused registration every time. As a result, Viasna was unable to open a bank account in its name and receive funding for its activities. According to the Committee, Belarus violated the organization’s right to freedom of association when it denied Viasna registration, basing its decision solely on the argument that the documents submitted by Viasna needed minor adjustments to meet the requirements of the Ministry of Justice which could have been corrected should the Ministry had given it an opportunity to do so. The refusal to register Viasna rendered its activities illegal within Belarus and prevented its members from accessing their rights. Sentencing Ales Bialiatski to a lengthy prison term for actions associated with the receipt and expenditure of funds aimed at carrying out the legitimate activities of his organization was a direct consequence of the violation of freedom of association. The Belarusian courts rejected evidence that these funds were intended and used for these purposes and did not consider the case in a way that would aim to safeguard the freedom of association. Consequently, imposing criminal liability on Ales Bialiatski violated this freedom.

“This decision by the Human Rights Committee, based on international law, recognizes the legitimacy of Viasna’s activities and fully rehabilitates Ales Bialiatski”, rejoiced Valentin Stefanovic, Vice President of Viasna.

The Committee also found that Ales Bialiatski’s detention during the initial investigation was arbitrary, since the decision to arrest him was made by the procurator/prosecutor and not the court and was based solely on the gravity of charges and not on any evidence that this measure was needed or advisable.

The Committee found that over the course of criminal proceedings, Ales Bialiatski’s presumption of innocence was violated, as seen in treatment of the case by state media and statements by the president of Belarus. They presumed Ales Bialiatski’s guilt before the court’s verdict took effect. Also, he was wrongfully kept in a cage during the trial and brought into the courtroom in handcuffs.

The Committee’s decision states that Bialiatski is entitled to legal remedies: reconsideration of Viasna’s application for state registration, clearing of his criminal record, adequate compensation, including reimbursement of fines paid in accordance with judicial decisions. Furthermore, the Committee found that the State should review its laws on associations and bring them into accord with Article 22 of the ICCPR.

“The Committee has communicated the decision to the State, which is now obliged to provide Ales Bialiatski with legal remedies”, said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President. “This decision is crucial for Viasna, other Belarusian human rights organizations and the respect for liberty of association all over the world, as numerous regimes try to stifle critical voices”.

The decision reached by the Committee on this case sets a precedent. It clearly demonstrates that the actions of a state aimed at obstructing the activities of human rights organizations – from refusing to register an association to prosecuting its members for exercising their right to associate—are in violation of international law. No manipulation of internal legislation by individual states can hide these violations from the international community.

Our organizations consider this decision a source of expert legal arguments in the face of ever increasing pressure on human rights defenders and their organizations.

for earlier posts see http://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/ales-bialiatski/

UN recognizes that Belarus violated the rights of Ales ….


UN General Assembly votes today on Iran: Joint appeal by NGOs

November 18, 2014

Today – 18 November 2014 – the General Assembly is due to vote on a Resolution concerning Iran. Although the human rights situation in Iran has shown some slight improvements since Rouhani became president, it seems that hardliners keep firm control over the judiciary and thus over the life and well-being of human rights defenders. Also Iran continues to deny access to the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran. The Joint Letter to the Member States of the UN General Assembly signed by numerous NGOs makes the point quite clearly:

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/iran/

Text of Letter:

Your Excellency:

We, the undersigned human rights and civil society organizations, write to urge your government to vote in favor of Resolution A/RES/69/L on the promotion and protection of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This vote will take place during the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly, scheduled to take place in the Third Committee this Tuesday, 18 November 2014.

This resolution provides a crucial opportunity to reiterate ongoing human rights concerns identified by members of the international community and Iranian civil society. Sixteen months into the presidency of Hassan Rouhani, who won the election after promising to improve the human rights situation, those living in Iran continue to suffer violations at the hands of the authorities. Indeed, during last month’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Iran at the UN Human Rights Council, several UN member states expressed dismay at Iran’s lack of progress over the last four years, including on many of the recommendations Iran had accepted during the first UPR cycle in 2010.

Human rights abuses are deeply rooted in Iran’s laws and policies, both of which pose serious obstacles for much-needed rights reforms to take place. On 28 October 2014, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, reported that human rights in the country “remain of concern” and detailed violations of the rights to life, the rights to freedom from torture and discrimination based on gender, religion, and ethnicity, the rights to education, health, fair trial, freedom of expression, association, assembly, religion and belief, as well as limits on the press. Despite its 2005 standing invitation to the United Nations’ Special Procedures, Iran remains unwilling to accept their repeated requests to visit the country. Furthermore, the authorities have systematically worked to undermine the efforts of civil society in the country to promote and protect international human rights standards.

The continued attention of the international community is required if the Islamic Republic of Iran is to end this pattern of abuse and noncooperation. UN member states must continue to express their concern about these abuses. In doing so, member states provide support to civil society as well as to those in the Iranian government who wish to see improvements in the human rights situation. By voting in favour of the resolution, states will encourage Iran’s government to prioritize human rights and to advance and protect the rights of Iran’s population.

Since the beginning of 2014, Iran has executed at least 600 people. This figure includes juvenile offenders and individuals who may have been executed for peacefully exercising their rights including the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly. Death sentences in Iran are often imposed without any regard to internationally prescribed safeguards. Authorities executed Reyhaneh Jabbari on 25 October 2014, despite repeated calls from UN human rights mechanisms, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to stay the execution out of concern that her prosecution had failed to meet international fair trial standards. Moreover, the vast majority of executions in Iran are implemented for offenses, such as drug-related offenses, that do not meet the threshold of the “most serious crimes.” Iranian law maintains the death penalty for consensual sexual relations between adults, including for adultery and same-sex relations, and for financial crimes. Iran continues to execute in public despite calls by the UN Secretary-General on authorities to halt the practice.

Executions based on national security-related charges that may be politically motivated appear to be carried out disproportionately against members of Iran’s ethnic minority communities, including Ahwazi Arabs, Kurds, and Baluchis. Rights groups are concerned about the situation of 33 Sunni Kurds, most of whom are held in Raha’i Shahr Prison in Karaj and face imminent risk of execution. The men were sentenced to death following grossly unfair trials during which basic safeguards, such as the right to defense, were disregarded, in contravention of international fair trial standards.

The Special Rapporteur and human rights organizations continue to express grave concerns for scores of activists, journalists, human rights defenders, women’s rights activists, trade unionists, students, and members of ethnic and religious minorities currently languishing in arbitrary detention. Iranian detainees and prisoners consistently face the risk of torture or other ill-treatment, including prolonged solitary confinement and denial of medical treatment. They are regularly denied access to legal counsel or fair trials. Many detainees are prosecuted under vaguely defined national security charges, which are regularly used to silence peaceful expression, association, assembly, and religious activity. In July 2014, for example, journalist Sajedeh Arabsorkhi began serving a one-year imprisonment sentence on the charge of “spreading propaganda against the system.” It appears that the charge is related to her open letters to her father, Feyzollah Arabsorkhi, a former deputy trade minister and a senior member of a reformist political party, during the time he was imprisoned.

Systematic discrimination against women in law and practice also merits serious concern. In the past few years, the authorities have increasingly put in place discriminatory measures aimed at restricting women’s access to higher education, including gender quotas, and have adopted new population policies resulting in women’s restricted access to sexual health and family planning programs. The authorities continue to persecute those protesting such discriminatory laws and practices, often by accusing them of vaguely worded national security offences. This month, for example, Ghoncheh Ghavami learned of her one-year prison sentence and two-year travel ban by a Tehran court on the charge of “spreading propaganda against the system”. She was arrested after she protested a ban on women watching matches at sports stadium during a game played by Iran’s national volleyball team.

This resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights in Iran of the 69th UNGA is a vital opportunity for the international community to give expression to human rights concerns. The resolution welcomes recent positive statements by Iranian officials, while effectively drawing attention to the broad range of ongoing violations. Moreover, the resolution calls on authorities to cooperate with all UN Special Procedures, including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Substantive cooperation with UN mechanisms and tangible rights improvements in line with Iran’s international legal obligations are the real measures of progress. By voting in favor of this resolution on 18 November, the UN General Assembly will send a strong signal to the government and all Iranians that the world is invested in genuine human rights improvements in the country.

Letter to the Member States of the UN General Assembly.


Battered Lawyer Wins Zimbabwe Law Society Award

November 18, 2014

Kennedy Masiye

RadioVop in Zimbabwe reported on 14 November 2014 that Kennedy Masiye, a human rights lawyer who was brutally assaulted by the police recently, has been honoured by the Law Society of  Zimbabwe (LSZ) for his outstanding contribution to the protection and promotion of human rights in the country.

Masiye, a senior project lawyer with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) was named as the human rights lawyer of the year 2014 at the LSZ’s Summer School held in Nyanga last week. Masiye could not attend the award ceremony as he was detained in hospital (see picture above) recovering from acts of police brutality meted on him while in the course of discharging his professional duties.

[The LSZ’s human rights award is sponsored by Scanlen and Holderness Legal Practitioners and targets junior to mid-career lawyers under 35 years of age]

Masiye has represented and secured acquittals for several human rights defenders in the country including some former farm workers and villagers facing eviction from their living quarters.

I am humbled by the award. At least the work that I am doing as a human rights lawyer is being recognised by the legal fraternity. ZLHR has enabled me to explore my potential in the human rights field. The award is an icing on the cake given the work that we have being doing at ZLHR,” said Masiye.

RadioVop Zimbabwe – Battered Lawyer Wins Zim Law Society Award.


The 5th “Inter-mechanisms”: consultations between inter-govenmental and non-governmental entities on human rights defenders

November 17, 2014

On November 12 and 13, 2014, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, met with representatives of regional human rights defenders’ mechanisms, in the framework of the first part of the fifth “inter-mechanisms” meeting. Enhancing coöperation between the UN mechanism and its regional counterparts was defined as a priority by the UN Special Rapporteur in his first report to the UN General Assembly in October 2014.

The “inter-mechanisms meeting 5.1” gathered representatives from the UN, the International Organisation of “La Francophonie” (OIF), the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the OSCE/ODIHR, the European Union, as well as international NGOs. It was hosted by theOIF headquarters in Paris, and was facilitated by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT joint programme).Participants reflected on ways to enhance cooperation, if not articulation, in processing submissions and public statements about human rights defenders’ violations, and in enhancing the follow-up of individual communications and recommendations from country visits. They further discussed best practices and strategies to tackle the issue of arbitrary detention, particularly on emblematic cases.

The meeting also allowed for an exchange on the definition of reprisals and impunity, how they relate to each other, and how tackling impunity through accountability would ultimately mitigate the root-cause of reprisals.

Finally, participants had a discussion on the issue of NGO funding, including foreign funding, as well as on the protection of land rights defenders, echoing the topics of the 2013 and 2014 Annual Reports of the Observatory.

This meeting aimed to prepare an “inter-mechanisms meeting 5.2”, gathering mandate-holders themselves, which the Observatory will organise during the first quarter of 2015 at the OIF headquarters. Last but not least, FIDH and OMCT were invited by the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe to hold the sixth meeting in Strasbourg, and a future meeting in Warsaw, by ODIHR.

“Inter-mechanisms 5.1”: enhanced cooperation will lead to better protection of human rights defenders – FIDH.


Register for the 3rd annual Forum on Business and Human Rights: 1 to 3 December 2014

November 17, 2014

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) organises the third annual Forum on Business and Human Rights, from 1 to 3 December 2014 in the Palais des Nations, Geneva.humanrightslogo_Goodies_14_LogoVorlagen

The Forum will last three days and focus on trends and challenges in the implementation of the “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights” and in implementing the United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework (A/HRC/17/31) and promote dialogue and cooperation on issues linked to business and human rights. The Forum is under the guidance of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, and open to multi-stakeholder participation, including States, business, civil society, and affected individuals and groups. See also my earlier posts: http://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/business/

Registration for the 2014 Forum is currently open via the online registration system:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Forum/Pages/2014FBHRParticipation.aspx.

The draft programme of the Forum is now available at:www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Business/ForumSession3/DraftProgramme.pdf

For further information about the Forum, please see the Forum website:www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Forum.

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 796 other followers