8 Must-Read Stories from the US Human Rights Reports selected by Catherine Russell

July 2, 2015

Catherine Russell, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, wrote in the Huffington Post of 1 July 2015 a piece which highlights 8 stories about women taken from the State Department’s annual human rights reports, that she says would not reach the evening news but are a must. Here is her selection:

2015-07-01-1435772655-6505904-HRRblog.jpg

[Photo: Gustave Deghilage ]

In Nepal, a mother may be denied the ability to confer her Nepali citizenship to her children if the father’s identity is unknown or he is not Nepali. This is not uncommon: 27 countries discriminate against women in their ability to pass citizenship on to their children. Too often this results in a child who is stateless, meaning he or she may not be able to access basic services like health care and education.

In Afghanistan, a survey found that 39 percent of Afghan women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before the age of 18 — making them part of a global trend where one in three girls in the developing world is married as a child — and Afghan women who marry later in life often don’t have a choice in their marriage. These stories and statistics exist despite laws against early and forced marriage.

A story in the Nigerian report highlights the case of a college student who reported that a soldier lured her to a police station and raped her repeatedly. The soldier was reportedly “disciplined” for leaving his post, but as of December nothing else had happened.

In Burma, there is an effort underway to enact legislation that would mandate that women can’t have children more than once every three years. There are obvious questions as to how such a law would be enforced. Many are concerned that it would only be enforced in areas where many members of minority groups live.

Fortunately, the news is not all bad.

In Afghanistan, the national electoral commission’s gender unit focused on women’s political participation in the 2014 election, and increased the number of women who helped determine their country’s future.

In Brazil, the federal government operates a toll-free nationwide hotline for women to report intimate partner violence, while in India, a partnership between state government and civil society led to the launch of a crisis center for survivors of rape, dowry harassment, and domestic violence.

Another partnership — between government and civil society in Guinea — is helping to educate Guinean health workers on the dangers of female genital mutilation. The report says that more than 60 health facilities have integrated FGM/C prevention into their services thanks to this effort.

 

You can follow Catherine Russell on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AmbCathyRussell

8 Must-Read Stories From the Human Rights Reports | Catherine Russell.


Unlawful Communication Surveillance of Amnesty International: tip of iceberg

July 2, 2015

An article “BRITISH TRIBUNAL FLIP-FLOPS ON WRONGFUL SURVEILLANCE OF AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL” by Jenna McLaughlin on 2 July 2015 reveals that a British tribunal (Investigatory Powers Tribunal) in charge of investigating public abuse of surveillance admitted that the U.K. government’s spy agency illegally retained communications it swept up from Amnesty International.
Featured photo - British Tribunal Flip-Flops on Wrongful Surveillance of Amnesty International
Amnesty International protest in London by Malcolm Park/Getty

In the e-mail sent to Amnesty late Wednesday, the president of the tribunal said the unlawful retention of communications it had previously said affected an Egyptian group had in fact affected Amnesty. Amnesty International responded understandably with outrage. In a press release, it described the tribunal’s email as a “shocking revelation” that “made no mention of when or why Amnesty International was spied on, or what was done with the information obtained.

The revelation that the UK government has been spying on Amnesty International highlights the gross inadequacies in the UK’s surveillance legislation,” Salil Shetty, Amnesty’s secretary general, said in a statement. He added something even more important:  “If they hadn’t stored our communications for longer than they were allowed to by internal guidelines, we would never even have known. What’s worse, this would have been considered perfectly lawful.” The tribunal did not rule that the U.K. spy agency’s initial interception of communications was unlawful; just that retention rules had been violated.

AI now joins the company of other non-governmental organizations targeted by the Government Communications Headquarters – or GCHQ, the U.K. equivalent of the U.S.’s National Security Agency. Those include Unicef and Médecins du Monde, according to top-secret documents released by The Guardian in December 2013.

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jul/01/gchq-spied-amnesty-international-tribunal-email

IPT Flip-Flops on Unlawful GCHQ Surveillance of Amnesty International.


Swaziland NGO welcomes release of HRDs with new hope for independence of the Judiciary

July 2, 2015

As many international NGOs (e.g.: Human Rights First, Front Line, the Human Rights Foundation, ISHR and several trade unions) have already welcomed the release of two human rights defenders in Swaziland, it is perhaps interesting to give the local take on it through an article in the Swaziland Observer of 2 July 2015 at hand of Noxolo Nkabinde: “Bheki, Thulani sacrifice not in vain SCCCO”.

The Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO) says the sacrifices made by Nation Magazine Editor Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko were not in vain..“When they wrote those articles, Bheki and Thulani could not have imagined the events that were to follow. They, as concerned members of the public and as human rights defenders, were simply articulating the sentiments of a nation, frustrated and rapidly losing faith in the justice system. As we continue to stand with them, we believe the pain they and their families have gone through is another building-block towards freedom – their sacrifice has not been in vain,” SCCCO said in their statement. They added that their charge, arrest, conviction and imprisonment were never justified and believed they were vindicated.

Interestingly the NGO gives big credits to the judiciary “We commend the judges of the Supreme Court for this ruling. We welcome this, amongst their first acts in office, as a sign that perhaps our judiciary is turning a corner towards the better path of justice. The past few years have increasingly eroded our confidence in the judiciary – the impeachment proceedings of the former chief justice exposed but a fragment of the rot that had set in the judiciary.  But as we all know, that situation has been created and nurtured over time, and it’s predilection  for injustice has its roots in an environment that is hostile to free speech, in particular the speech that dissents with the status  quo. And so our rejoicing is bitter-sweet:  this is not about the individuals who previously occupied and abused judicial office; nor is it about their heinous conduct during this and other cases – the problem of the judiciary, just as with the other structures of governance, is systemic, and our new judges and their successors will remain vulnerable to outside influence as long as the structural flaws are not addressed.

This was also an opportunity to restore both the dignity of and confidence in the judiciary.  It could also serve as an opportunity to develop and grow the country’s jurisprudence in a way that promotes a culture of human rights and good democratic governance.

The SCCCO anticipates an era of respect for the rule of law under the new Supreme Court Judges Qinisile Mabuza and Mbutfo Mamba: “We note in the appointments the presence of judges such as Qinisile Mabuza and Mbutfo Mamba who have a proven track record of fairness and we look forward to an era where such judges are not punished for being principled…We call on all the judicial officers, even as they have taken the judicial oath/affirmation of office, to also recall the following constitutional provisions: Whereas all the branches of government are the Guardians of the Constitution, it is necessary that the Courts be the ultimate Interpreters of the Constitution”.
The article adds with a sad note that in the meantime the Swaziland Office of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has been closed due to lack of funding.

See background in: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/swaziland-should-immediately-release-two-human-rights-defenders-arrested-on-17-march/

Observer.


London discussion on business and human rights defenders on 14 July

June 28, 2015

The International Service for Human Rights [ISHR] and the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre [BHRRC] organize a well-stocked panel on “Business and the protection of human rights defenders” on 14 July 2015 (12h30-14h30) in London: DLA Piper, 3 Noble Street, London. RSVP by Friday 10 July. The discussion.. Read the rest of this entry »


New Tactics in Human Rights: ‘conversation’ on photography now running!

June 24, 2015

New Tactics in Human Rights is currently having an on-line conversation on “The Use of Photography in Advancing Human Rights“. It lasts until 26 June.

Photography (as images in general) is a powerful tool that can create awareness and effect change. The visual narrative created through photographs can move individuals to a place and understanding of people, geographies, and events that would otherwise be impossible. Used as a tool to document, educate, move, and inform, photographs can be a powerful resource in the efforts of human rights practitioners when used effectively and ethically.

There is even a human rights award for photography in the area of human rights: http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/anthropographia-awards.

I have written several posts about the power of images, through the Geneva-based True Heroes Films (THF) [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/true-heroes-films/] and in general [e.g. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/12/30/round-up-of-2014-in-human-rights-images/].

New Tactics in Human Rights.


What Wikileaks reveal about Saudi Arabia’s methods against human rights defenders

June 23, 2015

On 22 June Ms. Samar Badawi, via the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia [MHRSA], tells how the government fabricated stories to explain to the USA its travel ban on human rights defender Waleed AbuAlkhair. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/06/14/saudi-arabian-human-rights-lawyer-waleed-abu-al-khair-wins-ludovic-trarieux-prize/]
He already was portrayed as an atheist, working for foreign agendas, receiving foreign funding, etc. Now, in one of the leaked WikiLeaks cables of the Saudi Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Interior tries to justify its preventing Waleed AbuAlKhair from traveling to attend the Democratic Leaders Program sponsored by the US State Department. After the Saudi ambassador in Washington received a call from the US Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Saudi Ministry of Interior fabricated a story that Waleed is facing a family suit because of his marriage and his conversion from Sunni to Shiite Islam. None of this was mentioned in court, when he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for demanding constitutional monarchy, and the establishment of two human rights organizations.
for more information: samar.badawi1@gmail.com

Scholars at Risk publishes first Academic Freedom Monitoring Report: Free2Think

June 23, 2015

SAR Free to Think report

“Attacks on higher education are at crisis levels”

Today, 23 June 2015, Scholars at Risk [SAR] released the first report of its Academic Freedom Monitoring Project at the United Nations in Geneva,: “Free to Think”. The culmination of four years of monitoring and analysis by SAR staff and researchers around the world, the report analyzes 333 attacks on higher education communities in 65 countries from January 2011 to May 2015, demonstrating the pressing need to raise awareness and document attacks on higher education: Read the rest of this entry »


3 July in Geneva: book launch “Conduct of Hostilities, the Practice, the Law and the Future”

June 23, 2015

The International Institute of Humanitarian Law (San Remo) is about to celebrate its 45th anniversary. In the context of its 15th Summer Course on International Humanitarian Law, it organizes a Book Launch to introduce the Proceedings of its last Round Table:  “Conduct of Hostilities, the Practice, the Law and the Future”. The launch is held on Friday 3 July 2015 at the United Nations Library in Geneva from 11 am to 1 pm.
In addition to the President if the IIHL, Professor, Fausto Pocar, and the Vice-President, Prof. Michel Veuthey, the following panelists will participate:

– Professor Marco Sassòli, Director, Department of International Law and International Organizations, University of Geneva (UNIGE)
– Mr. Laurent Gisel, Legal Adviser, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
– Dr. Nils Melzer, Senior Adviser, Security Policy Division of the Political Directorate, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).

The Institute’s next Round Table will focus on the important topic: The Distinction between International and Non-International Armed Conflicts:
Challenges for IHL? , to be held in San Remo between 3rd and 5th September 2015.

Please register for the UN Pass (required for this event) by Thursday 1 July at  http://bit.ly/1d3Mzth


Martin Ennals 2015 ceremony will be held on 6 October in Geneva

June 22, 2015

MEA 2015 nominees: Robert Aung, Ahmed Mansoor, Asmaou Diallo

MEA 2015 nominees: Robert Aung, Ahmed Mansoor, Asmaou Diallo

A very early “save the date’ announcement: those who need to travel from far away may want to note that the 2015 Martin Ennals Award Ceremony will take place on 6 October, at 18h30 at Uni-Dufour, Geneva. It is the event that opens Human Rights Week hosted by the University of Geneva from 6 – 9 October.


The laureate will be selected from among the three 2015 finalists, shown in the picture above: Read the rest of this entry »


The MOOCs are coming to human rights education (thanks to AI and edX partnering)

June 19, 2015

Yesterday (18 June 2015) Amnesty International announced something that is (rather will be) something new in human rights education: a series of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Who knows, the horrible acronym may one day be as normal as HRDs or AI itself. For this to come about Amnesty International is partnering with edX, a global leader in online education founded by Harvard University and MIT.  The first MOOCs will be available later this year. The free online courses will be designed by human rights and education experts from across Amnesty International.

Read the rest of this entry »


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 888 other followers