Killings of environmental human rights defenders up again compared to last year!

April 24, 2015

Jeremy Hance – writing in Mongabay on 20 April, under the title “Killings of environmental activists jumped by 20 percent last year confirms again the terrible truth that it is in the countryside, away from monitors, and in disputes over land issues that the most gruesome repression takes place and the leader is..Brazil! [for last year’s report see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/environment-deadly-for-human-rights-defenders-says-global-witness/]

Soy field in the Brazilian Amazon. Again this year, Brazil has the highest number of murders of environmental and land defenders. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Soy field in the Brazilian Amazon.  Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

The assassination, murder, and extrajudicial killing of environmental activists rose by 20 percent last year, according to a new grim report by Global Witness. The organization documented 116 killings in 2014 across 17 countries with the highest number in Brazil, which saw 29 environmental and land defenders killed. Still, the report is a major understatement of the problem as data across much of Africa, China, the Middle East, and Central Asia remains scarce to non-existent.

Across the world environmental defenders are being shot dead in broad daylight, kidnapped, threatened, or tried as terrorists for standing in the way of so-called ‘development’,” said Billy Kyte, a campaigner with Global Witness. “The true authors of these crimes—a powerful nexus of corporate and state interests—are escaping unpunished. Urgent action is needed to protect citizens and bring perpetrators to justice.

Most of the deaths last year—116 of them—were related to disputes over land. But mining was linked to 25 deaths, and hydroelectric dams and agribusiness to 14 each. Indigenous people also remain among the most targeted.

In 2014, 47 indigenous people were killed defending their natural resources, 40 percent of the total deaths of environmental and land defenders,” reads Global Witness’s new report, entitled How Many More?. This year’s report follows a landmark document last year that tracked environmental activist killing—all 908 of them—over a dozen years.

Environmental activist killings by sector. Image courtesy of Global Witness.
Environmental activist killings by sector. Image courtesy of Global Witness.

Human rights defenders are stigmatized (as ‘anti-development’) and criminalized in order to silence their opposition.

While Brazil had the highest number of environmental activist murders in 2014, the most dangerous place to be an environmental activist was actually Honduras, according to Global Witness. During the last five years (2010-2014), Honduras lost 101 activists, giving it the highest rate of environmental activist killings per capita.

“A UN Human Rights Council resolution addressing the heightened risk posed to environmental and land defenders would be a start,” Kyte said. “But, in the end, governments themselves have to take responsibility and ensure impartial, exhaustive investigations into killings of these activists. And they have to bring perpetrators to account. Many targeted assassinations of activists are being passed off as ‘common’ murders and are going unnoticed.

Environmental activist killings by country. Those in red were indigenous people. Image courtesy of Global Witness.
Environmental activist killings by country. Those in red were indigenous people. Image courtesy of Global Witness.

Read more:  http://news.mongabay.com/2015/0420-hance-activist-murder-rise.html#ixzz3XxWqLdTV

 

Killings of environmental activists jumped by 20 percent last year.


Essex county (USA) proud of students for winning award with human rights video

April 24, 2015

An example of how (making) film can teach young people to become human rights defenders. This comes Essex county in the USA.

The Speak Truth To Power student video competition encourages school students to become engaged in human rights. The video contest is sponsored by New York State United Teachers and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and is based on Kerry Kennedy’s book Speak Truth To Power. Students who participate in the contest must choose one of the individuals identified by the RFK Center Human Rights and create a three- to five-minute short film. The contest is looking for student films that utilize creative storytelling to teach others about a human rights issue. The format is open to documentary, stop motion, narrative, digital photo essay or other innovative explorations that involve filmmaking components.
Two Bloomfield Tech students, Christopher A. Rodriguez and Julio Villegas, won the first place in the video contest with a five-minute film about genocide and focused on Holocaust survivor and human rights activist Elie Wiesel. This feat was proudly reported in the local media on 21 April:

“Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. and the Essex County Vocational Technical School District …… are all very proud of Chris and Julio for winning the top prize in the RFK Human Rights Center’s student film contest. ……..It was important to share their film with our Essex County audience to raise awareness of this emotional issue and to highlight the exceptional work of our students”.

The first public premiere of the film was made Tuesday, April 21st during the afternoon celebration in Newark. In addition, the will be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on Thursday, April 23rd.

Elected and school officials shared their pride about the students’ accomplishment:

I want to thank our students for their courage and their hard work,” Essex County Vocational Technical School Board President Father Edwin Leahy said. “Every time you speak the truth, you don’t get a crowd like this. You have to continue to do what is right even if you don’t have a lot of support”.

Today is an amazing celebration of education,” said Bloomfield Tech Social Studies Teacher Jennifer DaSilva, who gave the students’ the assignment. “Both students have flourished in our Diaspora class. Their film is extraordinary and helps raise awareness about the tragedies taking place in the world today”.

Also sharing words of encouragement were Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver, Freeholder Patricia Sebold, Sheriff Armando Fontoura and Chief of Staff Phil Alagia.

ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE DIVINCENZO AND ESSEX COUNTY VOCATIONAL TECHNICAL SCHOOL DISTRICT HOST STUDENT FILM SCREENING – Montclair.


Weekly television programme for Human Rights in Asia: this time focus on Indonesia

April 23, 2015

This is already episode 69, published on 17 April 2015. This one focuses on Indonesia.

The programme begins with the latest in the decade-long fight for justice for slain human rights defender Munir Said Thalib: the naming of a street in The Hague in honour of Munir. This week, Munir’s wife travelled to The Netherlands to unveil Munir Street.  AHRC TV caught up with Suciwati and learned about a recent Petition signed by Right Livelihood Award Laureates from across the world calling on Indonesian President Joko Widodo to resolve Munir’s case and prosecute those responsible for his assassination.

Next, there is a long section on the Filipino migrant worker Mary Jane Veloso who faces the firing squad in Indonesia for drug trafficking. Global campaigns are underway to stop the execution, as Veloso appears to have been duped into carrying a suitcase containing drugs into Indonesia. AHRC TV speaks with Eni Lestari of Asian Migrants Coordinating Body and Dolores Balladares of United Filipinos, who are lobbying hard to save Veloso’s life.

Finally, AHRC TV tunes in to human rights defender Chris Biantoro, who speaks about the increase in incidents of torture in Indonesia and other fatal flaws that characterise Indonesia’s criminal justice institutions.

I do no longer refer to all episodes in this remarkably long running experiment in using images as anyone can subscribe to the You Tube channel.


NGO Forum preceding the April session of African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

April 22, 2015

ISHR-logo-colour-highpublished on 21 April “KUMULIKA – THE AFRICAN COMMISSION MONITOR” which describes the NGO Forum that was held from 17-19 April prior to the 56th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). It involved close to 200 civil society participants from the continent. As usual. the NGO Forum followed the practice of holding a series of panel discussions combined with smaller special interest discussion groups, over the course of which recommendations and resolutions were developed to put to the Commission at the upcoming session. You can find more detail in that Newsletter but some key elements are:

Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING NEWS: FINAL NOMINEES MARTIN ENNALS AWARD 2015 JUST ANNOUNCED

April 22, 2015


new MEA_logo with text

Being the award of the global human rights community (for Jury see below) today’s announcement (22 April 2015) deserves special attention:

The Final Nominees of Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders 2015 are:

Robert Sann Aung (Myanmar)

Since his first year of University in 1974, Robert Sann Aung has courageously fought against human rights abuses. He has been repeatedly imprisoned in harsh conditions, physically attacked as well as regularly threatened. His education was interrupted numerous times and he was disbarred from 1993 – 2012. In 2012 he managed to regain his license to practice law. Since then he has represented jailed child soldiers, those protesting at a contested copper mine, peaceful political protesters, those whose land has been confiscated by the military, as well as student activists. Throughout his career he has provided legal services, or just advice, often pro bono, to those whose rights have been affected.

Upon receiving the news of his selection, he stated, “I feel humble and extremely honored to be nominated for this prestigious award. This nomination conveys the message to activists, human rights defenders and promoters who fight for equality, justice and democracy in Myanmar that their efforts are not forgotten by the world. And this is also the nomination for the people in Myanmar who stand together with me, who struggle with me, for the betterment of citizens so that they can live in dignity, under the just law, in conformity with the principles of UN human rights declaration.”

Asmaou Diallo (Guinea)

Her human rights work started following the events of 28 September 2009 when the Guinean military attacked peaceful demonstrators. Over 150 were killed, including her son, and over 100 women raped. Hundreds more were injured. She and l’Association des Parents et Amis des Victimes du 28 septembre 2009 (APIVA), which she founded, work to obtain justice for these crimes and to provide medical and vocational support to victims of sexual assault, many of whom cannot return to their homes. She has worked to encourage witnesses to come forward and supported them as they provided information and testimony to court proceedings. As a result, eleven people have been charged, including senior army officers.

Upon receiving the news of her selection, she stated, “As a human rights defender in Guinea, I am very comforted to be among the nominees for the Martin Ennals Foundation, this prize encourages me to continue my fight for the protection and promotion of human rights in Guinea. I trust that this award will have a positive effect on the legal cases concerning the events of the September 28, 2009, and will be a lever for all defenders of human rights in Guinea

 Ahmed Mansoor (United Arab Emirates)

Since 2006, he has focussed on initiatives concerning freedom of expression, civil and political rights. He successfully campaigned in 2006-2007 to support two people jailed for critical social comments. They were released and the charges dropped. Shortly after, the Prime Minister of UAE issued an order not to jail journalists in relation to their work. He is one of the few voices within the United Arab Emirates who provides a credible independent assessment of human rights developments. He regularly raises concerns on arbitrary detention, torture, international standards for fair trials, non-independence of the judiciary, and domestic laws that violate international law. He was jailed in 2011 and since then has been denied a passport and banned from travelling.

Upon receiving the news of his selection, he stated, “I’m very pleased to be nominated for the Martin Ennals award. This recognition indicates that we are not left alone in this part of the world and that our voices resonate and our efforts are appreciated by a well-informed people. I hope this nomination sheds further light on the human rights issues in the UAE. It is not just full of skyscrapers, big malls and an area attractive to businesses, but there are other struggles of different sorts beneath all of that.”

The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) is a unique collaboration among ten of the world’s leading human rights organizations to give protection to human rights defenders worldwide. The Jury is composed of:

  • Amnesty International,
  • Human Rights Watch,
  • Human Rights First,
  • Int’l Federation for Human Rights,
  • World Organisation Against Torture,
  • Front Line Defenders
  • International Commission of Jurists,
  • EWDE Germany,
  • International Service for Human Rights
  • HURIDOCS

An electronic version with Bios, Photos, and Video can be found at: http://bit.ly/1DYqlFn

For last year’s nominees see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/announcement-ceremony-of-the-martin-ennals-award-2014-on-7-october/

For further information: Michael Khambatta +41 79 474 8208, khambatta@martinennalsaward.org or visit http://www.martinennalsaward.org


‘The Interview’ Sequel plays at the Korean Border

April 21, 2015

The Hollywood Reporter (THR) of 20 April 2015 contains an interesting and detailed piece by Paul Bond who went with the Human Rights Foundation on a trip to South Korea, to see how defector send films, television shows, books, and offline versions of Wikipedia into North Korea. The experience inspired nine articles, all of them published on THR’s website, but the centerpiece is this one: ‘The Interview’ Sequel: Inside the Frightening Battle Raging on the North Korean Border’.  The articles all together give an interesting picture of the powerful role that film can play in the case of closed societies where there is hardly any internet (here North Korean), but also how the South Korean authorities out of fear for retaliation limit the human rights defenders’ actions.

Left: U.S. resident Thor Halvorssen filled bags with The Interview,leaflets and American music to be ballooned into North Korea but was stopped April 9 by South Korean police. Right: Lee Min Bok prepared a balloon with Interview,Zero Dark Thirtyand U.S. dollars but was prevented from launching it by two guards.

 

To trick North Korean authorities, Interview begins with state propaganda clips before switching abruptly to a 12-minute subtitled edit of Interview — a bit from the beginning, middle and end, with the more vulgar parts removed.

For the full article please go to: ‘The Interview’ Sequel: Inside the Frightening Battle Raging on the North Korean Border – Hollywood Reporter.

 


Azerbaijan: a Formula for combining sports and repression

April 21, 2015

Lewis Hamilton has just won the Bahrain Grand Prix [which was canceled in 2011 amid violent clashes after an uprising demanding political reforms]. It was the occasion for F1 chief Bernie Eccle­stone to says that the Azerbaijan “Baku European Grand Prix” will make its début in 2016, despite concerns over the country’s human rights record. Earlier this week, the sport’s official website carried a notice stating that “The Formula One Group is committed to respecting internationally recognized human rights in its operations globally.” Asked if the human rights situation in Azerbaijan had been checked out with a view to hosting next year’s race, Ecclestone said “We have” before adding “I think everybody seems to be happy. There doesn’t seem to be any big problem there.”

One wonders where he got this idea as the Human Rights Watch report (and that of other NGOs, such as FIDH/OMCT, see link below) on Azerbaijan for 2015 was damning:

Read the rest of this entry »


Nobel Women’s Initiative: “Defending the defenders!” 24-26 April 2015

April 20, 2015

The conference “Defending the defenders!”, hosted by the six women Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, will bring together 100 women human rights defenders and organizations working to support them in order to advance the global agenda to protect women’s human rights defenders. During two days, participants will examine trends of threats that women all over the world face, and the strategies they employ to address these threats.

The conference is designed for maximum interaction, learning from each other, open dialogue and strategizing. It will include panels, participant-led discussions, skill-related workshops and strategy sessions. Participants will be able to showcase their work, including relevant films and documentaries, and have time to socialize and reconnect with each other. Invited participants will be women who are:

• Civil society activists and women human rights defenders from at least 20 different countries
• Academics
• Government officials
• Corporates
• Donor organizations and philanthropists
• Media (including journalists, filmmakers, writers and social media experts)

From 24-26 April 2015 in Duin & Kruidberg, Netherlands

Participation is by invitation only!

Defending the defenders! Building global support for Women Human Rights Defenders – WO=MEN.


Human Rights Defenders must shift their framework, to earn the public’s support

April 20, 2015

Open Democracy carries regularly interesting pieces related to human rights defenders (e.g. https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/daysi-flores/hope-as-survival-strategy-for-defensoras-in-honduras), but I draw your attention to a particular pertinent one on the ‘framing’ of the human rights debate. This blog has always taken a special interest in this aspect of human rights work [see e.g. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/media-framing-and-the-independence-of-the-judiciary-the-case-of-water-boarding/]. This post by Rachel Krys focuses on the United Kingdom but much is relevant to other European countries where similarly there are sustained efforts – with the media leading or at least being a conduit – to give ‘human rights’ either a bad name or at least portray it as something ‘foreign’, ‘European’ [!!] and only necessary for others. Read the rest of this entry »


Vietnamese blogger Mother Mushroom gets Civil Rights Defender of the Year award 2015

April 20, 2015

Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders announced earlier this month that its Civil Rights Defender of the Year award for 2015 has gone to Ms. Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh. She is Coordinator for the Vietnamese Bloggers Network and well-known for her use of social media to speak out against injustices and human rights abuses in Vietnam. Quỳnh has been blogging under the pseudonym of Me Nam (Mother Mushroom) and has openly criticised the Vietnamese government over human rights abuses and corruption. She began blogging in early 2006 when she paid a visit to a hospital and witnessed many poor people in the hot sun desperately waiting for treatment, but ignored because they lacked money to bribe hospital officials.

Civil Rights Defenders reported about bloggers and the human rights movement in Vietnam in: We will not be silenced.

For further information on the award: http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/human-rights-defender-year-award

Civil Rights Defenders – Civil Rights Defender of the Year 2015 – Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh.


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