Bangladesh human rights defender Adilur Rahman Khan, of the human rights organisation Odhikar, has won the 2014 International Bar Association (IBA) Human Rights Award.
- Show Them the Money: What are the Lifelines for Civil Society in a Sea of Restrictions? More and more governments – and not only authoritarian ones – are finding ways to close the space for independent civil society groups, especially those critical of government policies. As part of this effort, governments have developed sophisticated methods to undermine the credibility of international –especially American – support for local human rights and democracy organizations. Russia and Egypt are leading the way; each has passed laws restricting access by independent civil society groups to foreign funding, which is essential to their existence. How should the U.S. government and other donors respond to these coordinated efforts to restrict human rights and democracy activists? Given the legal landscape, is foreign funding for NGOs even possible anymore?
- Progress and Backlash in the Global Struggle for LGBT Equality Human rights advocates often describe achieving full equality for LGBT people as the next chapter in the struggle for universal human rights. For many years, this movement appeared to be one of steady gains, but we are now facing a moment of profound backlash. LGBT citizens of Russia, India, and Nigeria have seen a sharp curtailment of their rights. In many cases, this is part of a larger attack on civil society, marked by laws and policies aimed at limiting freedom of expression, freedom of association, and other basic rights. The countries in question may see themselves as in conflict with the West and its values; support for such laws is often driven by anti-Western sentiment. How can the United States respond to this development in ways that will improve the lives of LGBT people worldwide?
- NGOs as the Enemy Within? Human rights defenders face particular challenges when their societies mobilize for war. In such circumstances, questioning government policies can be characterized as disloyalty or siding with the enemy. Human rights defenders become targets of defamation, persecution, and violence. The universal values they are seeking to uphold are themselves called into question and undermined. Does the U.S. government have a role in preserving the rights of activists espousing what may be deeply unpopular points of view in times of public fear and conflict?
For more information and to enroll: http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/event/human-rights-summit
On 23 October former UN Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, gave the Anna Lindh Lecture 2014 under the title: “Providing a safe and enabling environment for Human Rights Defenders: Critical factors to Consider”. This was done in the context of the 30th anniversary of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Lund, Sweden.
The full text is available: http://rwi.lu.se/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/AL-Sekaggya-2014.pdf
If there was any doubt on where civil society stands on the issue of reprisals and repression of NGO activity in Russia, the letter below and the enormous number and variety of organizations having signed it should put the doubt to rest: [see also: https://plus.google.com/+HansThoolen/posts/2nWSsUBuCJw]
We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations, are writing to urge you to stop the clampdown on the right to freedom of association and end reprisals against independent non- governmental organizations (NGOs) in Russia.
We are deeply concerned that under the legislation on “foreign agents”, hundreds of NGOs have been subjected to unannounced inspections by government officials which have interrupted and obstructed their legitimate work with dozens currently embroiled in lengthy court hearings. Several NGOs and their leaders have had to pay prohibitive fines, and some were forced to close down because they refused to brand themselves as “foreign agents” – an expression akin to spying. Recent legislative changes now give the Ministry of Justice powers to register organizations as “foreign agents” without their consent and without a prior court decision. More than a dozen of leading Russian rights groups have already been branded by the Ministry. These NGOs are not foreign spies or “agents”, and have worked in the interest of the people of Russia. Many more face the same fate.
Under the previous legislation, NGOs in Russia were already accountable to the government and the public, having to report on their activities and finances. It is difficult to avoid concluding that the only purpose of the legislation on “foreign agents” is to publicly discredit and stigmatise them.
We believe that NGOs are essential to the healthy functioning of society. They play an important role in providing much needed services to the public. They help keep officials accountable and improve policies in the interests of the people.
We are calling on you as the President of the Russian Federation and the guarantor of its Constitution and of the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined therein, to take all necessary steps to ensure that the “foreign agents” law is repealed and NGOs in Russia are able to do their work without hindrance, harassment, stigmatisation or reprisals.
• Action des chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture (ACAT) (France)
• Agir ensemble pour les droits de l’homme (AEDH) (France)
• Amnesty International
• ARTICLE 19 (UK)
• Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (Bulgaria)
• Bunge la Mwananchi (Kenya)
• Centre de recherche et d’information pour le développement (CRID) (France) • Centrum Kształcenia Liderów i Wychowawców im. Pedro Arrupe (Pologne)
• Comité catholique contre la faim et pour le développement – Terre solidaire (CCFD) (France)
• Committee on the Administration of Justice Ltd (CAJ) (Northern Ireland, UK)
• Cordaid (Pays-Bas)
• Danny Sriskandarajah, our Secretary General
• English PEN (UK)
• European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) (UK)
• Emmaüs International (France)
• Finnish PEN (Finlande)
• Foundation Max van der Stoel (Pays-Bas)
• Free Press Unlimited (Pays-Bas)
• Front Line Defenders (Irlande) • Fundacja Edukacja dla Demokracji (Pologne)
• Fundacja im. Stefana Batorego (Pologne)
• Gevalor (France)
• Greenpeace Spain (Spain) • Helsińska Fundacja Praw Człowieka (Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights) (Pologne)
• Hivos (Pays-Bas)
• Human Rights Commission (Kenya)
• Human Rights House Foundation (Norway)
• Human Rights House Foundation HRHF (Switzerland)
• Human Rights Watch
• Index on Censorship (UK) • INPRIS – Instytut Prawa i Społeczeństwa (Pologne) • Instytut Spraw Publicznych (Pologne)
• International Service for Human Rights
• Kansalaisjärjestöjen ihmisoikeussäätiö KIOS (Finlande)
• Kenya Human Rights Commission (Kenya)
• Koalicja Karat (Pologne)
• La lliga del drets dels pobles (Spain)
• Ligue des droits de l’Homme (France) • Małopolskie Towarzystwo Oświatowe (Pologne)
• MEMORIAL Deutschland e.V. (Germany)
• Milieudefensie (Pays-Bas)
• MONIKA – Naiset liitto ry (Finlande)
• Movies that Matter (Pays-Bas)
• Naisten Linja Suomessa ry (Finlande)
• Netherlands Helsinki Committee (Pays-Bas)
• Nederlands Juristen Comité voor de Mensenrechten (NJCM)
• Nederlandse Vereniging van Journalisten (NVJ) (Pays-Bas)
• NGO Working Group OSCE (Switzerland)
• Observatoire pour la protection des défenseurs des droits de l’Homme (joint program FIDH and OMCT) (France/Switzerland)
• Pakolaisneuvonta ry (Finlande)
• Pat Finucane Centre, (Irlande)
• Queer Youth Norway (Norway)
• REDRESS (UK)
• Reporters sans frontières (RSF) (France)
• Russie-Libertés (France)
• Sadankomitea (Finlande)
• Society for Threatened Peoples (Switzerland)
• Stiftung Haus der Demokratie und Menschenrechte (Germany)
• Stowarzyszenie Wschodnioeuropejskie Centrum Demokratyczne (Pologne)
• The Bellona Foundation (Norvège)
• The Norwegian LGBT Association (Norvège)
• UNITED for Intercultural Action (Pays-Bas)
• XENION Psychsoziale Hilfen für politisch Verfolgte e.V. (Allemagne)
• Автономная некоммерческая правозащитная организация «Молодежный центр консультации и тренинга» (Russie)
• Автономная некоммерческая организация «Правозащитная организация «МАШР» (Russie)
• Благотворительный фонд развития города Тюмени (Russie)
• Общественная правозащитная организация «Солдатские матери Санкт-Петербурга» (Russie)”
The 2014 Sakharov Prize goes to the Congolese physician Denis Mukwege for his treatment of the victims of gang rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Congolese physician Denis Mukwege, will be awarded this year’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, European Parliament President Martin Schulz announced in Strasbourg on Tuesday.
Mukwege has been treating rape victims at a clinic in Bukavu on the Rwandan border for decades. He has performed thousands of surgeries on women to heal their injuries sustained in violent attacks, often by local militias. The 59-year-old founded a gynaecology unit and maternity ward in Bukavu in 1996, the first of its kind in the area. He has since expanded the station to an entire hospital, which he runs. The Second Congo War began in August 1998, ravaging the region. Mukwege is said to have performed over 10,000 operations on rape victims ever since.
The other finalists were Ukraine’s pro-Western Euromaidan movement and Azerbaijani rights defender Leyla Yunus.[https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/more-on-the-sakharov-prize-and-the-arab-nominees/]
For more information on the award see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/sakharov-prize-freedom-thought
The 2014 prize will be awarded at a ceremony in Strasbourg on 26 November.
The glimmer of hope for Nasrin Sotoudeh and Iran which I saw in my post of 6 September [http://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/09/06/glimmer-of-hope-in-iran-nasrin-sotoudehs-ban-to-practice-overruled/] seems to have been crushed already. Yesterday, 20 october, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, the joint programme of FIDH and OMCT, has received new information that on 18 October 2014, a three-member disciplinary investigation panel of Tehran’s Bar Association has now suspended Nasrin Sotoudeh’s law license for three years, based on a complaint filed by the Islamic Revolution Court’s Prosecution Office (unlike the first disciplinary panel of the Tehran Bar Association which rejected a similar request). Read the rest of this entry »
On 16 October 2014 the Inter-Parliamentary Union [IPU] announced that a former “prisoner of conscience”, the Bangladeshi Saber Hossain Chowdhury, was elected as new IPU president.
A former businessman with an education in law, politics and economics in the UK, President Chowdhury first became an MP in 1996 at the age of 35. He was also the youngest member of the government when he held two deputy ministerial posts in succession between 1999 and 2001. A political prisoner in the early 2000’s, he is described as a firm believer in the rule of law and human rights. He was involved in ground-breaking legislation to criminalize custodial torture in Bangladesh and to address domestic violence.
(Ravina Shamsadani, Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Photo: UN Multimedia)
On 17 October 2014 the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights felt duty bound to express deep concern about a criminal case initiated by the Supreme Court of the Maldives against members of the country’s own official Human Rights Commission!
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), noted that five members of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives were now facing “serious criminal charges” following the submission of their written contribution to their country’s second Universal Periodic Review (UPR), presented to the UN Human Rights Council (the actual UPR of the Maldives is scheduled to be held between April and May 2015). “The Government has a responsibility to ensure a safe operating space for the Commission and for civil society actors in the country, so that they are able to coöperate with UN human rights mechanisms without fear of reprisals.” the spokesperson stated.
[It is not the first time the Supreme Court of the Maldives has come under rebuke from OHCHR. In 2013, former High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for reforms to the judiciary to safeguard the rule of law following the Supreme Court’s repeated interventions in the presidential election process in the Maldives which, she said, were undermining the country’s democracy. In that specific case, the Court had nullified the first round of the election on the basis of irregularities in the process, despite conclusions by national and international observers that the election was free and fair.]