2016 FIDH Congress concludes in Johannesburg: FIGHTING BACK FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

August 25, 2016

On Wednesday 24 August the 39th Congress of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) closed after two days in Johannesburg. More than 400 delegates from more than 120 countries participated and in the closing session some of the action points taken were recognized by regional bodies such as the European Union (EU) and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).

EU special representative on Human Rights Stavros Lambrinidis said: “We need to have the EU itself judged, criticized and advised every day. Because the fact of the matter is, no one is perfect in Human Rights and that includes the European Union”.

ACHPR Chairperson Pansy Tlakula said her organization will continue to support FIDH in their efforts. “The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights values the collaborative and mutual beneficial relationship with FIDH. And on our part we will continue to collaborate with you, we will continue to support you and we also count on your support. Because even if we have to say so ourselves, our commission remains one of the most welcoming inter-governmental organizations to civil society organizations.”

The video below contains excerpts from these statements:

The forum discussed the following topics:

• Restricting freedom of association and human rights in the name of security

• Defending Human Rights principles within heterogeneous societies

• Invoking morals, religious or traditional values to build a new world order: States opposing Human Rights principles

• An unbalanced and unfair globalisation: the consequences of an economy disregarding Human Rights and civil society groups

• Redesigning Human Rights funding

• Civil society influencing global economic projects

• Whistle-blowers: Exposing violence violations and corruption, seeking transparency and the right to freedom of information

• How can the Human Rights movement further engage with the rest of society?

• A shield and a sword: Enforcing rights through the judiciary

• Deploying innovate advocacy

•Using the web and social networks – securely reaching out, accessing new audiences and generating engagement

http://www.sabc.co.za/news/a/e417a1004dfc68499faebf0ede96a075/Human-Rights-congress-concludes-on-a-high-20160824

for earlier posts on the FIDH, see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/fidh/


DatNav: New Guide to Navigate and Integrate Digital Data in Human Rights Research

August 25, 2016

DatNav, a guide designed to help human rights defenders navigate and integrate digital data into your human rights research, was launched today.

DatNav is the result of a collaboration between Amnesty InternationalBenetech, and The Engine Room which began in late 2015 culminating in an intense four-day writing sprint facilitated by Chris Michael and Collaborations for Change in May 2016. Based on interviews, community consultations, and surveys the researchers found that in the vast majority of cases, human rights defenders were not using the tools. Why? Mainly, human rights researchers appeared to be overwhelmed by the possibilities.

DatNav - Digital Data in Human Rights Research

Still, integrating and using digital data in a responsible way can make a huge and important difference to human rights research. Acquiring, disseminating and storing digital data is also more in reach. DatNav is about navigating these new possibilities.

In May 2016, the 3 NGOs gathered a group of experts to create a guide to help address this problem, and created the foundations of DatNav. Nearly 70 key members of the human rights tech and data community, representing nearly 40 different organisations from around the world, played key roles in the creation of DatNav.

This is just the beginning. If you’re interested in taking the guide forward, whether to inform strategy in your work, to train others, or through translations, or adaptations of the content, the organizers would like to hear from you. The content is all CC-BY-SA licensed and remixes of the content are more than welcome. We’re in initial talks to release an Arabic translation of DatNav, and we’d like to carry out others, too.

Download the DatNav pdf

You can sign up for The Engine Room’s newsletter to be notified of new updates and releases.

To find out more about the project or give feedback, you can send an email. You can also reach out on Twitter @zararah and The Engine Room @EngnRoom.

 

Source: DatNav: New Guide to Navigate and Integrate Digital Data in Human Rights Research | The Engine Room


19 August: World Humanitarian Day 2016 focus on youth

August 10, 2016

United Nations and humanitarian organizations in Geneva will be marking the World Humanitarian Day on 19 August in Room XX, of the Palais des Nations, 10h00.

19 August was the day in 2003 when 22 humanitarian workers were killed at the United Nations office in Baghdad. This year, the Geneva World Humanitarian Day will be dedicated to the role young people play across the world in raising awareness about humanitarian crises and making a true difference in their communities. This year’s programme includes a panel discussion on youth in humanitarian action and will be followed by a solemn commemoration ceremony to acknowledge humanitarian workers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

The World Humanitarian Day will conclude with a reception outside the meeting room. You are kindly invited to register for the event here.

More information, event’s programme and details are available on the following Facebook page:www.facebook.com/whday2016.

More news on the global campaign is available at www.worldhumanitarianday.org. (to be active very soon).

On the social networks, please use the following hashtags: #ShareHumanity and #YouthGE

Source: Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation – Humanitarian action through dialogue

 

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/sergio-vieira-de-mello/


Daniel D’Esposito, HURIDOCS Executive Director, announces his departure

August 5, 2016

After more than 5 years as Executive Director and over 10 years at HURIDOCS (he joined as training officer in January 2006) Daniel D’Esposito will leave the organizations on 1 October 2016. He joined the organization when it was in a very difficult position but managed to bring it back to be the key documentation network on human rights. Eddie Halpin, HURIDOCS Chair: “I need to pay particular thanks to Daniel. His achievements are amazing, his strength incredible, and his passion frightening; I do not think anybody else could possibly have brought HURIDOCS, to where it is and I am honoured to have shared in some of that with him.” He encourages you to watch the HURIDOCS mailing list so as not to miss the vacancy announcement.

For my earlier posts on HURIDOCS: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/category/organisations/huridocs/

For my own involvement in the network’s development, see: https://www.huridocs.org/a-biased-history-of-huridocs/

Daniel himself has written a substantive farewell piece that you can find in the link below:

Source: Departure of Daniel D’Esposito, HURIDOCS Executive Director


Another Chinese human rights lawyer, Wang Yu, makes spontaneous video confession

August 2, 2016

China‘s use of ‘video confessions’ would be almost comical if it was not so serious for the individuals concerned [see e.g. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/confessions-abound-on-chinese-television-first-gui-minhai-and-now-peter-dahlin/]. Now it is the turn of Wang Yu, a well-known Chinese human rights lawyer who was released on bail after she purportedly “confessed” to some wrongdoings.   Wang Yu, 45, who was arrested by mainland police in July last year on charges of political subversion [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/wang-yu/], appeared in a video expressing “deep remorse” for her actions. In the televised confession, Wang is shown rebuking her profession and accusing “foreign forces” of using her law firm to smear the Chinese government.

The lawyer also said that she will not recognize, endorse or accept the Ludovic Trarieux International Human Rights Prize awarded to her in June, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/06/07/detained-chinese-lawyer-wang-yu-wins-ludovic-trarieux-prize/].

Chan Kit-man, secretary-general of the Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, noted that the Wang case is similar to that of another human rights lawyer, Zhao Wei, who was also set free after a videotaped confession.

The Chinese lawyer has handled several politically sensitive lawsuits, including the case of Cao Shunli, who was detained for months for staging sit-ins at the foreign ministry and later died. She also defended Ilham Tohti, a Uyghur economist who was handed a life sentence on separatism-related charges. Tohti is one of  3 final nominees for the MEA 2016. She also provided legal assistance to the families of six schoolgirls who were sexually abused by their teachers in Hainan province and to practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement banned in China.

(Wang appeared on Phoenix TV on July 31 in an interview apparently conducted at a restaurant in Tianjin. She said she is physically well after recovering from a mammary gland tumor in February and March this year. Wang said arrangements had been made for her to undergo surgery. The action made her realize the “human touch and care” of Chinese authorities.)

Front Line Defenders also issued on 2 August 2016 an Update on Wang Yu’s case: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/wang-yu>

In her confession released on 1 August, Wang Yu criticised fellow human rights lawyers, saying that they were motivated by money and fame and blamed overseas activists for using human rights defenders as tools to tarnish the reputation of the Chinese government. Wang Yu’s confession is the most recent in a series of televised confessions of human rights defenders which have been broadcast in an attempt to undermine human rights work in the country. At least two of those who had previously appeared in such videos later said that their confessions were scripted and that they were pressured to participate”. … Wang Yu had been held incommunicado since 9 July 2015 and her husband, Bao Longjun , remains in detention, having been seized on the same day. Their 16 year old son, Bao Zhuoxuan, is under tight surveillance at the home of his grandparents following an unsuccessful attempt to flee China last year with the help of two human rights defender friends of his parents.”

A day later a court in Tianjin Tuesday handed down a guilty verdict for Chinese rights defender Zhai Yanmin, who was given a three-year jail term with a four-year probation period after being found guilty of “state subversion.”

Source: China human rights lawyer freed after video ‘confession’

http://www.voanews.com/content/rights-groups-denounce-court-ruling-against-chinese-activist/3445329.html

http://international.thenewslens.com/article/45644


Role of Human Rights Defenders critical for post-accord justice in Colombia says Mary Lawlor

July 12, 2016

Mary Lawlor has only  just announced her departure (see announcement published yesterday) and already an article on Colombia of 11 July 2016 shows what insights we may miss in the future. The link between the peace process and the role of human rights defenders in Colombia was referred to in earlier posts [e.g. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/09/11/human-rights-defenders-squeezed-by-geo-politics-the-cases-of-colombia-iran-and-cuba/]  Mary Lawlor here welcomes the agreement as historic, offering the Colombian people an opportunity to make a break with the endemic violence of the past. The direct reference to the protection of human rights defenders in the peace agreement is one more reason to celebrate. Here the piece in full:

Human Rights Defenders Critical for Post-Accord Justice in Colombia

Read the rest of this entry »


Ivette Gonzalez: profile of a Human Rights Defender from Mexico

July 11, 2016

Ivette Gonzalez: Human Rights Defender from Mexico

In the ISHR Monitor of 1 July 2016 there is an interview with Ivette Gonzalez who works as a strategic engagement associate for Project on Organizing, Development, Education and Research (PODER) in Mexico. Ivette was in Geneva to participate in ISHR’s Human Rights Defender Advocacy Programme.

—–

In Mexico, Ivette’s work at PODER is framed around the business and human rights agenda. PODER works to strengthen civil society to achieve corporate transparency and accountability with a human rights perspective. Ivette spoke to ISHR about her motivation to become involved in human rights work, in particular advocating for business and human rights:

‘Injustice and inequality as well as understanding the imbalance of wealth distribution and power triggered my motivation.’

Regarding the risks she and her organisation face on a daily basis, Ivette acknowledged that a focus on safety concerns is necessary in Mexico. PODER has implemented a very strict security protocol in the office to ensure they can work in safe conditions. All members, both those in the field and in the office, are required to follow the protocol.

‘By working in business and human rights, we are aware that powerful actors can consider our work as a threat.’

In the last few years, Ivette feels that human rights defenders and journalists are more at risk in Mexico. Discrediting campaigns point the finger at NGOs and defenders, questioning the legitimacy of their work and even accusing them of taking advantage of victims of human rights violations.

Implementation of laws for the protection of defenders

When talking about particular changes to legislation Ivette would like to see in Mexico, she mentions that the creation of laws is not the issue, but their implementation is. In Mexico, a law and protection mechanism for human rights defenders exists, but the mechanism needs to be improved with the inputs of the users of it and the people at risk. For that to happen, it is crucial that civil society are involved in the process and monitoring.

‘Even though Mexico already has the legislative tools in hand, using these tools, making them concrete and practical for defenders and activists on the ground is the missing step.’

Information is power

Regarding her goals at the international level, Ivette admits that the human rights agenda needs to have an impact at the international level, because some actors are large transnational corporations based in many different countries, and there is a lack of access to justice for the victims of corporate activities in the host and home countries.

Ivette interacts with UN mechanisms including the Special Procedures. PODER has interacted with the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Working Group on Business and Human Rights. In speaking of interacting with the Special Procedures, Ivette acknowledges civil society’s critical role in providing information to Special Procedures.

‘My recommendation for the international community would be to work together and form coalitions. Building new structures and making steps towards change, can be best achieved by working together.’

Learning and advocating in Geneva

Regarding her participation in HRDAP, Ivette is grateful to have been able to receive such a significant amount of information on how to effectively engage with the UN system, as well as how to efficiently use it in her existing work. She looks forward to sharing her knowledge with other civil society organisations and assisting affected communities to engage with the UN. She appreciated the opportunity to lobby various actors, as well as learn how to approach missions and engage with the system – including Special Procedures and Treaty Bodies.

‘During HRDAP, I met very brave defenders with whom I developed professional relationships. Sharing experience and expertise can strengthen our work in the pursue for the respect of human rights.’

Source: Ivette Gonzalez: Human Rights Defender from Mexico | ISHR


Save the dates: Oslo Freedom Forum in San Francisco September 2016 and Oslo May 2017

July 11, 2016

The New York based Human Rights Foundation has announced the dates for its ‘Oslo’ Freedom Forum:

On 29 September 2016 there will be a one-day event in San Francisco, California.

The big event will be held from 22-24 May 2017 in Oslo, Norway.


Mary Lawlor leaves as Executive Director of Front Line Defenders: search for successor started

July 11, 2016

Founding directors do not alway leave in such a well-planned way, but in the case of May Lawlor this is different. Having done a most admirable job in setting up and developing Front Line Defenders into the main ‘hub’ for information Human Rights Defenders over the last 15 years, she has now announced her departure. Frontline NEWlogo-2 full version - cropped

For the few readers of this blog who need further information, please visit www.frontlinedefenders.org

The Board of Trustees now seeks an Executive Director with significant previous experience of working at a senior level for the protection of human rights defenders or equivalent experience in a human rights based activity or organization in a leadership role. The Executive Director will have strong communication, management and analytical skills. They will have an understanding of the political environment for human rights defenders and have excellent political judgement. This position will be based in Dublin but will involve frequent travel.

For more information, please contact: Claire Cronin, Cronin Partners International Search, 12 Merrion Square  |  claire@croninpartners.com

Application deadline: Friday 29th July, 2016

Source: Executive Director Job with Front Line Defenders


Russian protest artist Pavlensky stripped of Havel Prize over support for violent ‘Partisans’

July 10, 2016

On 5 May 2016 I reported on the Havel Prize winners [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/05/05/2016-havel-prize-of-the-human-rights-foundation-goes-to-atena-farghadani-petr-pavlensky-and-umida-akhmedova/], including the ‘protest artist’ Pyotr Pavlensky. Now that he has been stripped of this award two months later, this should also be reported. The choice may have seemed a bit shaky from the beginning, but the more important is to recognize the decisive action by the award giver, the Human Rights Foundation.

Pyotr Pavlensky
Pyotr Pavlensky
Pavlensky told RFE/RL on July 8 that HRF President Thor Halvorssen had informed him of the formal decision to revoke his prize in an e-mailed letter. The letter, which has been seen by RFE/RL, states that HRF regrets the decision as “unfortunate and unprecedented” but says the prize’s selection criteria disqualify those who have “advocated the use of violence as a valid method to fight government oppression.” Speaking to RFE/RL on July 8, Halvorssen confirmed that the organization had revoked Pavlensky’s prize but said HRF had nothing to add beyond the text of the letter sent to the artist.
Dissident artist Pyotr Pavlensky talked to RFE/RL [Tom Balmforth] about what prompted him to take up political art, and how he sees his political stunts as a rejection of a pervasive “clerical” ideology. He does not take the cancellation lightly and accused the organizers of the Vaclav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent of essentially “acknowledging their support for police terror” by withdrawing the award after he pledged to devote the $42,000 in prize money to the legal defense of convicted police killers in Russia’s Far East.

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