Shlosberg awarded the inaugural Boris Nemtsov Prize

May 23, 2016

The Boris Nemtsov Foundation was established by Zhanna Nemtsova, a daughter of the murdered politician, Boris Nemtsov, and plans to work in the field of education and raising public awareness, expert evaluations and also in “helping political prisoners and those who are prosecuted on political grounds in Russia.” A new national award, the Boris Nemtsov Prize, was created which is awarded annually for “outstanding courage in fighting for democratic values, human rights and freedom in Russia.”

Lev Schlosberg, a member of the Yabloko Party and a former deputy of the Pskov regional parliament, was announced as the first recipient. The award ceremony will take place in Bonn, Germany, on Russia’s National Day, June 12.

Nemtsov was in 2015 runner-up in the European Parliament’s Sakharov prize: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/10/29/saudi-blogger-raif-badawi-awarded-europes-sakharov-prize/

Source: Human rights activist Shlosberg awarded Boris Nemtsov Foundation Prize | Russia Beyond The Headlines


Rupert Abbott, a human rights defender about Phnom Penh

May 20, 2016

This blog features regularly profiles of human rights defenders. This time slightly different: a profile by a human rights defender. Rupert Abbott who has worked several years in Cambodia.  He spoke with Brent Crane and the interview appeared in the Phnom Penh Post of 20 May 2016 under the title: “MY PHNOM PENH”.

 

Rupert Abbott has worked at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, for the UN at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal and as the deputy Asia Pacific director

Rupert Abbott has worked at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, for the UN at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal and as the deputy Asia Pacific director of AI

S-21

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New travel guide “Cyber security policy for human rights defenders” issued by GPD

May 20, 2016

On 18 May 2016 Global Partners Digital (GPD) issued a new entry in its series of ‘Travel Guides to the Digital World‘: Cybersecurity Policy for Human Rights Defenders.

Just as a travel guide introduces tourists to the customs, language and geography of a foreign land, the series aims to equip human rights defenders with the information needed to navigate complex areas of internet-related policy from a human rights perspective. Previous guides in the series have focused on internet governance and digital surveillance. The latest entry,  shines the spotlight on an emerging, and increasingly crucial domain – and aims to fill a conspicuous gap. For while much valuable work has already been done on cybersecurity, there are currently few resources for human rights defenders on this issue.

A few years ago, cybersecurity was a word most likely to evoke dreary office trainings on password protection. Today, it is a top priority of states worldwide. 72 countries now have live national cybersecurity strategies, and 102 have National Computer Incident Response Teams (CIRTs). It remains however, a contested, elastic and shifting term which can cover a seemingly endless range of different issues, situations, and policy measures.

In spite of this, human rights defenders have so far been notable for their absence in cybersecurity policymaking spaces. Without the crucial scrutiny they provide, important decisions are being taken without any consideration for their broader implications on the enjoyment of basic human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, access to information, and privacy. The guide hopes in a small way to address this trend by helping human rights defenders to find their bearings and gain a solid grasp of the institutions, actors and issues at stake.

A few words on structure. In conceptualising the guide, an immediate challenge was the sheer range of definitions available within cybersecurity. We’ve tried to resolve this by grouping issues into three broad categories –  information security, cyber crime and cyber conflict – but we recognise that these overlap. Human rights defenders need to be active not only in challenging the impact of cybersecurity policies, but in reshaping its very meaning, which is why definition is a key focus of the guide.

The guide concludes with a list of recommendations, which are by no means prescriptive or comprehensive, but which hopefully offer some useful starting points for strategic engagement from a human rights perspective.

[GPD are a small team based in Shoreditch in London working with civil society groups, governments, international institutions and businesses to protect and promote human rights values online. Much of its work is carried out with partner organisations in the global South. Global Partners Digital started off in 2005 as Global Partners and Associates (GPA) which was set up to work in the areas of democracy, governance and human rights. As a team within GPA, it initially worked on human rights and traditional media issues. Since then, its work in this field has developed substantially. With the unprecedented growth of the internet and mobile phone technologies – and the challenges and opportunities that these bring – GPD have become increasingly focused on human rights and digital communications. Thus the rebranding as Global Partners Digital in 2013.]

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/new-book-on-internet-policy-and-governance-for-human-rights-defenders/

Source: Introducing GPD’s new travel guide to cybersecurity policy for human rights defenders | Global Partners Digital


Urgent: award-winning cartoonist Zunar under threat in Malaysia needs support

May 19, 2016

On 3 May 2016 Malaysian cartoonist Zunar was one of the winners of the international Cartooning for Peace Prize [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/cartoonists-gado-kenya-and-zunar-malaysia-get-2016-cartooning-for-peace-prize/].
Back home the backlash has started and he has asked for support:
– Malaysian ministers threaten him anew;
– a government-backed NGO is going to protest at Kofi Annan’s office.
The award was presented by ex-UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, and the winners were given a chance to exhibit their artworks at Lac Léman in Geneva. Zunar’s cartoons covers issues such as corruption, freedom of expression, conspiracy against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, and the new National Security law.
In reaction Deputy-Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi hinted that the police may take action on him. Ahmad Zahid added that he hopes that Zunar will repent and find other ways to express himself. “I think in this regard, I am seeking Allah to open his (Zunar) heart so that he quickly repents and uses other approaches to express opposing opinions,” he said ( http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2016/05/14/zahid-hopes-zunar-repents-criticise-but-dont-insult/ )

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In Somaliland lawyer has to choose: practicing law or human rights!

May 19, 2016

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - croppedreports that on 16 May 2016, human rights defender Mr Guleid Ahmed Jama received notification from the Somaliland Minister of Justice and Judicial Affairs that his licence to practice law had been terminated. Guleid Ahmed Jama [for profile see: https://frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/guleid-ahmad-jama] is a lawyer and founder of the Human Rights Center, a human rights watchdog organisation in Somaliland.

He only learned about this when he saw on 16 May a letter (dated 10 April!) which was circulated to members of the Somaliland judiciary from the Minister of Justice and Judicial Affairs, Minister Ahmed Farah Adarre, requesting that the judiciary cease to allow Guleid Ahmed Jama to practice law, as his position as chairperson of the HRC and his work as a lawyer are incompatible. [The termination of the licence by the Minister of Justice is unprecedented as the duty of licensing permissions falls within the mandate of the Advocates Licensing and Disciplining Commission.]

Earlier harassment against him occurred in April 2015 when he was arrested, charged and detained in Hargeisa while working in his capacity as a lawyer at Hargeisa Regional Court. He was accused of ‘subversive or anti-national propaganda’, ‘instigation to disobey the laws’, ‘intimidation of the public’ and ‘publication or circulation of false, exaggerated and tendentious news capable of disturbing public order’. According to the Office of the Attorney General, the human rights defender had allegedly committed these offences through his work at the HRC. This case was later closed. <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-guleid-ahmed-jama>

Seems to me to be a good case for (international) lawyers organizations.

See also: https://www.defenddefenders.org/2016/05/somaliland-minister-justice-revokes-license-human-rights-lawyer/

 

 


Peter Gabriel and Susan Sarandon encourage UN Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, Christof Heyns, in visit Honduras on 23 May

May 19, 2016

Berta Cáceres, an indigenous environmental human rights defender was killed two months ago. Berta was leading the fight against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project that is an environmental and cultural threat to the Lenca community [see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/berta-caceres/]. The UN Special Rapporteur is visiting Honduras as from 23 May. One should hope that the NGOs pressure [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/03/07/exceptional-response-from-ngo-world-on-killing-of-berta-caceres/] as well as the short video messages by Peter Gabriel and Susan Sarandon published on 12 May by Witness will help to get justice:

 

The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, Read the rest of this entry »


Possible funding for training independent journalists exposing human rights abuses

May 19, 2016

Photo_Asset_1

Giselle Portenier (CNW Group/Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma)

Independent documentary-makers and freelance journalists working to expose human rights abuses can compete for a bursary to help them obtain hostile environment training, more usually made available to journalists working in war zones. The 2016 Portenier Human Rights Bursary competition, offered by the Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma, opened on 16 May and closes on June 30. The annual bursary, introduced last year, is sponsored by the documentary-maker Giselle Portenier. Read the rest of this entry »


Conversation with Yanar Mohammed on trafficking in Iraq

May 19, 2016

The Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq focuses on protecting women’s human rights, including fighting against trafficking of women and girls, and operates six safe houses for women survivors of violence. The Global Fund for Women interviewed its President, Yanar Mohammed who speaks about her work and the impact from the conflict with ISIS.

Yanar, you’ve been an activist and a defender of women’s rights in Iraq for over 13 years. What do you think are the main challenges women in Iraq are facing right now?
We focused in the last year on working against trafficking in women and girls and expanding a new network, the Network of Anti-Trafficking of Women in Iraq. We started the network in 2013, barely nine months before ISIS began gaining ground in Iraq. As ISIS grew, they started their attacks against women in the north of Iraq, including against the women of Yazidi faith. They trafficked them in broad daylight.

Trafficking in women and girls is now a tactic used by opposing groups in instances of sectarian violence in Iraq. Women and girls are looked upon as the representatives of a community’s honor, and so the sexual exploitation of women and girls belonging to a certain community is seen as the most effective way to humiliate and break it. Unfortunately, it is therefore not a surprise that the so-called Islamic State, ISIS, as a Sunni group, has targeted non-Sunni Muslim women and girls such as Shi’a Muslims, Christians, and Yazidis. Retaliations ensue and wars are led on women’s bodies.

When ISIS began to enslave women, we found that this was the time when we should rise to the occasion and highlight the issue of trafficking in society and the government. This is an issue that needs to be addressed by laws, practices, programs, and by some understanding from the society as to what it means that a woman gets compromised, gets exploited, and gets enslaved. So we set up this network, which is now about 40 NGOs working together on the issue. We began to talk about trafficking in women and girls, especially sexual exploitation, and address it as something that’s not only happening under ISIS but also happening in Iraq more broadly, without anybody daring to give it any importance.

Beyond ISIS, orphans and widows of war in Iraq who are extremely impoverished have fallen prey to sexual exploitation. They are being used and exploited and violated daily in Iraq, without anybody thinking of it as a human rights issue. So this is our focus; we have decided we will work on this until we get the government to pass laws that make the suffering of these women less, and also that open the way for us to protect the women from this kind of violence.

Is there any legislation right now against trafficking?
We demanded that the government pass a law for the financial support of Yazidi women when they step out of their enslavement. When they come back to areas of Iraq that are not under ISIS control, they should be compensated just like prisoners of war for the sufferings they went through. And we were so happy when it took only a few months and the Iraqi government decided to give monthly stipends for survivors in May 2015. That was the first success of the network. At the time nobody else had demanded this kind of support for ISIS survivors, so we felt that we were on the right track and that we should proceed to the rest of our demands that we needed in order to address violence against women.

What would you say is the level of public awareness around the issue of trafficking?
We have struggled a lot to make many words and terms debatable in our society—to remove the taboo. I will give you an example: in 2003 when we began to talk about honor killings and how it needs to stop, everybody was disgusted with us and saying that women’s groups should refrain from speaking about taboo and sexual issues, and that we do not address women’s rights in a way that they find acceptable. It took us almost 5 years to make discussion of honor killings a mainstream argument. Now when you go to Iraq, the issue of honor killing has become such a regular thing to talk about. There are so many NGOs that are standing against it, talking about it, are lobbying against it. Whenever we have an issue like this, we find ourselves the first ones on the front lines to address it until, it becomes a mainstream argument. Now as we talk about trafficking and discuss sexual exploitation of women and girls this issue is a very taboo and difficult issue to address.

How many women and girls in Iraq are at risk of being trafficked?
The dilemma of displacement in Iraq is huge because of ISIS. The number of displaced people is two million, going to three million. Most of these are women, because the men are either in the Iraqi army fighting ISIS or have been recruited into militias also heading to fight ISIS, or stuck in the cities defending them. It may be impossible to give the exact number, but we can estimate that out of the 1.5 million women who are displaced, half of them are between ages 16 and 30—the biggest age group at risk of trafficking. So I would say not less than 100,000 women are being trafficked at this point in Iraq.

So the political instability caused by ISIS is increasing the threat of trafficking for women and girls, even if ISIS is not doing the trafficking directly.
Yes. ISIS has created the most ugly reality of trafficking, where they defend it as a religious right. They say it is their right to enslave the “spoils of war” who are not of Muslim faith. They describe them as faithless and as less of human beings whose enslavement makes them better, makes them closer to Islam. ISIS has brought an example that has totally shocked the region and shocked it in a way as to taking us back to a time when people had no human rights, basically. And they are trying to make it a fact to force on the people of Iraq, Syria, and maybe other places if they are allowed to expand.

Can you tell me about the shelters that your group runs?
Our shelters are currently keeping safe women who survive trafficking. They are also getting educated; our shelters are not only a place for women to rest and be safe, they are also schools for social transformation for women to turn from victims into defenders of women. We only had one shelter until 2008; since then we have expanded to have six shelters all over the country. We also have a pipeline from the southern city of Busra, to direct violated women to our shelters in Baghdad. And we have many supporters in the network of the 40-plus NGOs, who are our eyes and ears in more than nine cities in Iraq and are guiding women who are in need of shelter to us. I like to put it in a very short story: our organization was able to spread its wings over most of the Iraqi cities in the last few years.

However, the Iraqi government is not facilitating our undertaking of women into our shelters. And it boils down to one point—we need a piece of legislation from the Iraqi government to provide legal status to shelters that are run by NGOs or other private sector groups. Although the government does not have a law that says that our shelters are illegal, they do have a law that allows the ministry of social affairs to determine if they should stay open. So some of the tribal and misogynist officials did tell us in the past that we are doing an illegal thing, but they did not shut us down.

So, although we are protecting women from trafficking and domestic violence and all that—although we are doing the duty of the government, the duty the government is not taking seriously and do not want to move on, and although they should be supporting us and applauding us for doing their job, in reality they confront us, telling us that our sheltering of women is promoting promiscuity, that it is encouraging women to go against their families and have full sexual freedoms and come stay in our shelters. So some governmental officials have intimidated us in the past, telling us we are doing something illegal, when we are protecting women.

What can the international community do to help Iraqi women be empowered and experience less violence?
We are asking the international community to ask the legal committee in the Iraqi parliament to legislate for the legal status of our shelters. Letters that are addressed to the Iraqi parliament—and specifically to the legal committee of the Iraqi parliament—asking them to legislate for the legal status of women’s shelters that are run by the NGOs. This would be a great help to us.

Would you say that action now is especially important to protect women? Is right now a critical moment?
Right now is a very critical moment because ISIS is at the point where it can be defeated. It has lost the social support of those among the Sunni groups in Western Iraq that were supporting it because people saw the atrocities that ISIS can commit against them. It is a very special moment in time to act against ISIS, but is the kind of action we are seeking a military one, where we have more US army in Iraq? No.

Our experiences of the last 13 years tell us that US intervention in Iraq never brought us anything good. It always has caused more deterioration. Now is the time to have a political intervention, and to ask the Iraqi government to stop its sectarian, politics that gave way to ISIS, as well as empower the Iraqi army so that they can regain the cities that were taken by ISIS.

What are some of the other forms of violence that women come up against in Iraq?
We have many kinds of violence we undergo, and we know what is making this kind of violence worse, which is Islamist extremist parties reaching power. Some of these parties have shown us a terrible example of what they want to bring to Iraq, including legislating for Jaafari law. This law allows the marriage of a 9-year-old girl to an adult man—in other words it legalizes pedophilia in Iraq. It also allows men to be polygamous, and allows for getting rid of wives if they are not sexually pleasant for husbands.

The amount of humiliating material in this law against women is incredible, and out of this era. It’s something that modern humanity cannot even bear to hear of. We must keep this legislation outside of parliament, because the law was not passed, but it is still waiting for us. The Islamist political parties are just waiting for some stability and for the moment when they feel stronger to bring back this legislation. And that would really be the end for Iraqi women.

Source: In Conversation: Yanar Mohammed on trafficking in Iraq – Global Fund for Women


Coalition of NGOs call for freeing of UAE human rights defender Dr Nasser Bin Ghaith

May 18, 2016

A group of 10 NGOs has called on the authorities to immediately release human rights defender and professor of economics Dr Nasser Bin Ghaith, who remains in detention in an unknown location in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for his social media posts and human rights activities.

Nasser Bin Ghaith has been denied proper access to his lawyer or family since his arrest in August 2015, and reportedly subject to torture in custody. The continued detention and charges violate his human rights, including his right to free expression. On 18 August 2015, security officers in civilian clothes arrested Dr Bin Ghaith in Abu Dhabi and searched his home and confiscated personal items including electronic memory sticks. He was held incommunicado until finally being brought to the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi on 4 April 2016, when he told the court he had been tortured and beaten in detention and deprived of sleep for up to a week. On 2 May 2016, a second hearing took place to examine charges against Dr Bin Ghaith relating to his online postings. He stated that he is still being held in secret detention, a fact he had previously brought to the judge’s attention during his hearing on 4 April. The judge refused to listen to his complaints for a second time. Neither his family nor his lawyer knows where he is being detained, and his lawyer’s request to visit him has been denied repeatedly.

Dr Bin Ghaith is one of a group of men known as the “UAE5” who were imprisoned in 2011 and tried for “publicly insulting” UAE officials. That trial also breached international human rights law and was widely criticised by human rights groups, including signatories of this letter.

A further charge brought against Dr Bin Ghaith of allegedly “posting false information about UAE leaders and their policies, offensively criticizing the construction of a Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi, and instigating the people of the UAE against their leaders and government” was related to a statement he made on Twitter intending to promote tolerance.

The court ordered the case to be adjourned until 23 May when the defence’s arguments will be heard.

Source: UAE: Free human rights defender Dr Nasser Bin Ghaith – Index on Censorship | Index on Censorship

for other posts on the UAE: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/united-arab-emirates/


Mubashir Naqvi writes a requiem for Pakistani human rights defender Khurram Zaki

May 18, 2016

Mubashir Naqvi wrote on 17 May 2016 a personal account of his last meeting with the recently-murdered Pakistani human rights defender Khurram Zaki [see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/05/10/pakistan-killing-zaki-non-progress-perveen-rehman-impunity/]:

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