With the support of ICORN and the municipality of Lillehammer, ProtectDefenders.eu supported the relocation of Fatemeh Ekhtesari and her husband from Iran to Norway. Both defenders had to leave Iran illegally, as their passports had been confiscated, and were facing long-term imprisonment, lashing and execution sentences. ICORN was able to provide legal travel for the couple (without their passports) and ProtectDefenders.eu provided financial support for the first 3 months. In Norway, they are taking part in a national two-year introduction scheme for refugees, which includes intensive lessons in the Norwegian language, and other training to prepare and include them in the local labour market. Funding support was also dedicated to money for literary and cultural activities, including translations, participation in festivals and other relevant events, focusing on both literature and human rights. According to the testimony of Fatemeh, “the most important point of being in Norway is the feeling of freedom and safety. Here I can write without thinking about censorship. I can publish my works without stress and out of the consequences.”
"For me, as an Iranian artist and human rights activist, the experience of relocation is somehow a kind of escape, rather than trying to have better situation and facilities. Escape from prison, torture and daily threats. Although relocation has many difficulties and bitterness that are irrefutable, I can be free, continue writing and try for freedom and peace, at least. The very freedom I have, certainly, is a great blessing which has been achieved through relocation.
ProtectDefenders.eu has allowed me to get acquainted with the persons who are active in the field of human rights and the at-risk artists, and make them aware of the problems of people like myself. Surely, recounting these issues can provide a basis for more accurate planning for the future. Besides, some other activists who, like me, had relocated, participated in the event. Although listening to their memories was sometimes bitter, it was a reminder of the pain that made us closer together.
If relocation is accompanied by the support and guidance of specialist persons, it can be an opportunity, instead of only escape from prison and torture; an opportunity that is not limited to being free for writing, but an experience of new cultures and humans which can be a beginning of new ideas and a more complete understanding of the world around you.
Civil society organizations and international organizations have observed with extreme concern the situation of violence generated in Honduras after the general elections on November 26. At least 14 people have been killed, as well as dozens of people injured and more than 840 detainees. Likewise, human rights defenders have also reported attacks against them in the electoral context.
The delay in the dissemination of definitive results and the apparent lack of transparency on the part of the TSE led to demonstrations in various parts of the country. Subsequently, on December 1st, the Honduran government decreed a curfew and the suspension of certain constitutional guarantees for 10 days. The Organization of American States (OAS) considered such measure disproportionate and requested its immediate lifting.
The population was harshly repressed by the Honduran security forces. Amnesty International denounced that "the security forces have operated with the highest levels of impunity" after the curfew. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras also expressed deep concern about the reported acts of violence and urged the Honduran government to comply with its international obligations to guarantee human rights.
In this context, PBI has observed with concern the governmental measures, the action of the security forces and the post-electoral violence, in particular, with regard to the defense of human rights. Defenders, defenders, and organizations are carrying out tasks such as case documentation, legal representation or observation. The state of exception has restricted their right to seek and disseminate information, closing a fundamental part of their workspace.
PBI urges the international community to urge the State of Honduras to comply with its obligation to guarantee the protection, promotion, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. In particular, on the importance of complying with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on human rights defenders, in order to explicitly recognize and facilitate the monitoring, systematization, and reporting work of human rights defenders in the current context.
See here the full PBI statement.
PBI is a member of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders mechanism.
The Ambassador of Bahrain to France received on November 24th a delegation of the FIDH International Board, who handed him a letter asking his government to immediately release FIDH Deputy Secretary General, Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. A Bahraini citizen, on 22 November 2017, this iconic human rights defender saw his prison sentence confirmed on appeal. His crime? Stating publicly that journalists and human rights activists were denied entry to the country. As his health rapidly deteriorates, he is facing further judicial proceedings and judicial harassment. Coupled with the degrading treatment he is subjected to in prison, Nabeel Rajab’s life is now at risk.
In a letter given to His Excellency Mr Mohammed Abdulghaffar Abdullah, Ambassador of Bahrain to France, in fear for Nabeel’s life, FIDH calls on the Bahraini government to end all judicial harassment against Nabeel Rajab and to release him immediately.
In tweets, interviews, and op-eds published in Le Monde and The New York Times, Nabeel has denounced the lack of freedom of expression in Bahrain, where human rights activists are regularly persecuted, subjected to travel bans and imprisoned. Having spent 4 of the past 6 years behind bars, Nabeel’s two-year prison sentence was just confirmed on appeal after an unfair trial for having dared... to give media interviews.
For excercising his right to freedom of speech, Nabeel is also being prosecuted on other charges and risks 15 years in jail for tweeting about the cruel treatment inflicted on prisoners in Jaw prison and Saudi coalition bombings in Yemen.
Today Bahrain is under a total black-out, preventing human rights activists from expressing themselves or traveling and forbidding journalists and human rights defenders from investigating. In October, an FIDH delegation mandated to investigate Nabeel’s situation, as well as that of other imprisoned human rights defenders, was denied entry to the country.
Meanwhile, Nabeel’s health has deteriorated significantly. After being hospitalised, his return to prison has been marked by new persecutions and dangerous, humiliating and degrading detention conditions. Beaten on his arrival, and woken up and searched in the middle of the night, his clothes and toiletries were confiscated and his head was shaved. Today Nabeel’s life is in danger.
The November 2017 issue of the ProtectDefenders.eu digest warns about the administrative harassment against human rights organisations in Uganda, the recent killing of journalists in Latin America and the judicial harassment against environmental rights activists in Madagascar.
Madam Chairperson, Distinguished Commissioners and State Delegates,
The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, thank the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) for this opportunity to raise some of the key issues with respect to the situation of human rights defenders in Africa.
While States have the duty to protect human rights defenders and to ensure that they operate in a safe and enabling environment, attacks, threats, judicial harassment, criminalisation, legislative and administrative restrictions, as well as smear campaigns against them continue to perpetuate an environment of hostility towards their activities.
1. Pursuit of criminalisation threats and violence to silence human rights defenders
In several countries, we are concerned that human rights defenders are criminalised in retaliation of their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities recognised and protected under regional and international human rights instruments. Furthermore, their human rights are often violated while they are arbitrarily detained or subjected to arbitrary legal proceedings.
In Cameroon , the endless judicial harassment since 2013 of Mr. Célestin Yandal, President of the Collectif des jeunes de Touboro, a youth human rights organisation in the Adamaoua region of Cameroon, continues as he being prosecuted in two different cases under trumped up charges, for denouncing human rights violations committed by Rey-Bouba’s traditional leader (Lamido) against Touboro’s youths. Hearings in his case are continuously postponed since the opening of the trial. The Observatory denounces a flagrant violation of his right to a fair trial which includes the right to be tried within a reasonable delay.
Recently, Egyptian authorities have targeted human rights organisations and individuals providing legal support to Giulio Regeni’s family members in the investigation of Italian graduate who was abducted and tortured to death in Egypt in 2016. The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) is amongst them. Likewise, Mr. Ibrahim Metwally Hegazy, human rights lawyer, Co-founder and Coordinator of the Association of the Families of the Disappeared in Egypt, who has provided legal support to Giulio Regeni’s family, was forcibly disappeared on September 10, 2017, at Cairo International Airport before boarding a flight to Geneva, where he was traveling in response to an invitation by the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances to attend the proceedings of its 113th Session at the UN Human Rights Council. The whereabouts of Mr. Metwally Hegazy remained unknown from that date until September 12, when he was reported to be located in State Security Prosecution custody, in Al-Tagammo’ al-Khamis on the outskirts of Cairo, where he had been interrogated by the State Security Prosecution (SSP). During his interrogation, he reported being tortured and his home was searched by security forces. On September 20, 2017, Egypt’s High State Security Prosecution renewed the preventive detention of Mr. Ibrahim Metwally Hegazy for 15 days pending investigation. Mr. Ibrahim Metwally Hegazy is being suspected of “founding and leading an organisation that was created illegally” (i.e. the Association of Families of the Disappeared), “spreading false news” and “communicating with foreign entities in order to undermine national security”. He is currently detained at the ‘Scorpion’ (Al-Aqrab) high security wing of Tora prison complex, in solitary confinement, in a cell with refuse and no electricity. He is being denied access to his lawyers and family.
Human rights lawyer at Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), Mr. Tarek Hussein (aka Tito), was arbitrarily arrested on June 17, 2017, under accusations of “joining an illegal organisation” and “calling for a protest”. Mr. Tarek Hussein was held incommunicado until July 27, 2017, preventing his family and lawyers to visit him. Following his enforced disappearance while in detention, Mr. Tarek Hussein’s family and lawyers filed three successive complaints regarding the various violations suffered by Mr. Tarek Hussein. In an attempt to justify his detention, authorities claimed that at least 13 verdicts had been issued all over the country against an individual named "Tarek Hussein", and in one of the cases, police claimed he was sentenced for “stealing electricity in 1993”, his birth year. During the nearly 40 days of his illegal detention, his lawyers submitted documentation and evidence to the authorities to prove that he was not the "Tarek Hussein" in question. One such case is still pending and will be heard on November 9, 2017. In addition, Mr. Tarek Hussein is being investigated under charges of “inciting protest” by the general prosecution. Mr. Tarek Hussein’s arrest and arbitrary detention occurred amidst protest over Tiran and Sanafir islands’ transfer to Saudi Arabia, which he had been vocally opposing.
Furthermore, on June 14, 2017, Ms. Esraa Fehead, Founder and Executive Director of Horeya for Human Rights Organisation in Port Said and member of the Regional Coalition for Women Human Rights Defenders in the Middle East and North Africa, was arrested in front of the Governorate Administration Building in Port Said, at the same time as Mr. Mahmoud Naguib, former member of the April 6 Youth Movement. Their arrests coincide with the June 14, 2017, peaceful protests opposing the transfer of Tiran and Sanafir Islands to Saudi Arabia, that have resulted in the arrest of 60 activists throughout the country. Many of those arrested were forcibly removed from the street or their homes, while security forces used excessive force to disperse demonstrators. Mr. Mahmoud Naguib and Ms. Esraa Fehead were both held in detention and Ms. Fehead was interrogated by the Port Said Prosecution from June 15 to June 18, 2017. She was subsequently charged with numerous offenses including: “inciting demonstrations”, “disrupting public and general security”, “disrupting production and citizens’ welfare”, “affecting public governmental facilities”, “blocking roads and transportation”, “disrupting traffic”, “attacking people and private and public possessions, and subjecting them to danger”. On June 18, 2017, Ms. Fehead and Mr. Naguib were released on a bail of EGP 10000. (approx. 495 EUR).
In Morocco , the Observatory reiterates its concerns about the ongoing judicial harassment under charges of “threat to State security” of Messrs. Maâti Monjib, historian, journalist and President of the association “Freedom Now” for freedom of expression in Morocco, Hisham Almiraat, President of the Association des droits numériques (ADN), Hicham Mansouri, Project Officer at the Association marocaine pour le journalisme d’investigation (AMJI), Mohamed Essabr, President of the Association marocaine d’éducation de la jeunesse (AMEJ), Abdessamad Ait Aicha, former training project Coordinator of the Centre Ibn Rochd, journalist and member of the AMJI. Furthermore, Mr. Rachid Tarik and Ms. Maria Moukrim, respectively President and former President of the AMJI are accused of receiving foreign funding without notifying the authorities. On October 11, 2017, the court decided to postpone their hearing for the eight time, rescheduling it on December 27, 2017.
On May 20, 2017, authorities in Niger arrested Mr. Ali Idrissa from his house outside of Niamey. As the national coordinator of the Réseau des Organisations pour la Transparence et l’Analyse Budgétaire (ROTAB) and of Publiez ce que vous payez-Niger (PCQVP), Mr. Ali Idrissa has been documenting transparency issues within the country’s uranium industry. He was arrested following the ban of a protest planned on May 20, calling for the respect of human rights and individual freedoms in Niger as well as denouncing President Issouou Mahamadou’s poor governance record. Mr. Ali Idrissa was arrested on allegations that he gave interviews to media after the protest ban. He was released later this day and further interrogated on May 22, 2017. On that day, he was notified that an investigation for “inciting rebellion” against him was still pending.
In Uganda , on June 23, 2017, Mr. Erasmus Irumba, Coordinator of the Twerwaneho Listeners Club (TLC), was set to meet with Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) senior officials in the province of Ntoroko, at Butungama trading center. Although Mr. Irumba was summoned to “discuss matters of public importance” he was told not to be suspicious as he had no criminal record and since no criminal charges were pending against him. During the meeting, Mr. Erasmus Irumba and another member of the community, Mr. Siet Kanyoro who was accompanying him, were both shot in the leg. Whilst still alive, they were both put in the boot of a private car, driven to a rural area and shot dead at a close range. Both lifeless bodies were taken to Buhinga Regional Referral Hospital in Fort Portal, on the wee hours of June 24, 2017. The Observatory condemns in the strongest terms the murder of Mr. Irumba and urges authorities in Uganda to adopt effective measures to ensure the protection of human rights defenders in the country.
In addition, since 2016, the Observatory has documented a pattern of harassment against TLC members who have been threatened, assaulted and judicially harassed by Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited, a Uganda-based engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) company accused of land grabbing in the Rwenzori region of Uganda. On September 12, 2017, TLC member, Mr. James Rukanpana was shot in both legs by armed guards hired by Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited in Kasenda, Western Uganda. Mr. James Rukanpana had been advocating for the rights of local communities, and opposing the takeover of over 20 crater lakes by Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited. He has actively participated in radio talk shows and mobilized communities on the issue. TLC and local communities filed a civil court case against the company to secure the rights of local communities to access crater lakes for water and domestic fishing. On June 7, 2017, the court found that the exclusive use of crater lakes by Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited following the lease by Kabarole District was an abuse of the rights of local communities, and ruled in favour of local communities. Mr. James Rukanpana had been intrsumental in the success of the court case.
Parallel to the civil case filed by TLC against Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited and Kabarole District Local Government, a criminal case filed by Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited has been targeting Messrs. Suleiman Trader, Jackson Magezi, Fred Kyaligonza and Prosper Businge, four TLC members who had challenged the legality of Ferdsult Engineering Services Ltd’s acquisition of 20 crater lakes and eviction of communities in Kabarole District. After being briefly detained on April 28, 2017, Messrs. Suleiman Trader and Jackson Magezi were released on April 29, 2017, on court bail pending trial. On May 3, 2017, the four human rights defenders have been charged under criminal offenses related to the use of explosives, electronic gadgets and the poisoning of fish under Chapter 197 of the 1970 Fish Act following allegations by Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited. The case is pending before Fort Portal Magistrates Court and if convicted they would face up to seven years in jail.
In Tanzania , the Observatory is extremely concerned by the wider campaign targeting human rights defenders working on HIV/AIDS on allegations of “promoting homosexuality”. On September 17, 2017, 20 people were arrested in hotel in the Stone Town area of Zanzibar City (Unguja island) as they were attending a training about HIV/AIDS education programmes.
On October 17, 2017, Tanzanian police raided a legal consultation convened by Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA) and Community Health Services and Advocacy (CHESA) at Dar es Salaam’s Peacock Hotel. Thirteen people, including ISLA Executive Director Ms. Sibongile Ndashe and CHESA Director Mr. John Kashiha were detained and subsequently granted bail on the same day without being charged. However, on October 20, 2017, the bail was revoked without any reason provided by the authorities. This followed a statement by the Police Regional Commissioner Mr. Lazaro Mambosasa, on October 18, 2017, referring to the “arrests of twelve people who were promoting homosexuality”. All twelve human rights defenders were arrested, taken into custody to Dar es Salaam Central Police Station and released on bail on October 26, 2017. However, their passports were confiscated upon release.
In addition, on June 3, 2017, Tanzania Students Networking Programme (TSNP), known for advocating and supporting the role of human rights defenders in public life and civil society at large, was denied access to the Blue Pearl Hotel, in Dar es Salaam, where they were about to organise the launch of the book Sauti ya Watetezi wa Haki Vyuoni (The Voice of Human Rights Defenders in Universities), which illustrates the harassment tactics used to remove human rights defenders from positions in higher education institutions in Tanzania, authored by Mr. Alphonce Lusako, TSNP Secretary General. The Hotel informed TNSP that they could not enter without a permission letter from the police. Three police vehicles then arrived at the hotel while event organisers were negotiating with hotel management out-front and arrested Mr. John Baraka, TSNP Coordinator. When Mr. Ole Ngurumwa Onesmo, National Coordinator of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC), objected his arrest, he was then immediately arrested too. Both were transported to Magomeni Police Station without being notified of any charges pending against them. When THRDC lawyer Mr. Jones Sendodo asked the police about the nature of the charges, they were unable to confirm any charges and informed him they were awaiting orders from superior authorities. On the same day, Messrs. Onesmo and Baraka were later charged with criminal trespass, after Blue Pearl Hotel filed a complaint stating the men had forced the hotel to host the launch event for their colleague Mr. Alphonce Lusako. Messrs. Onesmo and Baraka were released on bail that same day, with instructions to report to the police on June 5, 2017. Reporting to the station on June 5, the men were informed that the Blue Pearl Hotel had not yet filed the documentation required to formalize its complaint. They were ordered to return on June 7, 2017. Besides, when contacted by Mr. Onesmo on June 6, the Blue Pearl Hotel had claimed to be unaware of any criminal complaint against Messrs. Baraka, and Onesmo, on June 7, Blue Pearl representatives confirmed that they had filed a complaint at the direction of an “unknown authority”. The incident described above is not the first attempt to hinder the book launch event, that was initially planned to be held at the Commission of Science Technology (COSTECH), an institution affiliated with the government of Tanzania, which, in violation of a contractual agreement, cancelled, forcing the organisers to move the event to Blue Pearl Hotel, where THRDC had already organised several events without any issue.
2. Constant reprisals against human rights defenders and civil society organisations promoting democracy and electoral rights, particularly within electoral contexts
The Observatory has documented a concerning number of cases of harassment and criminalisation targeting human rights defenders and civil society organisations promoting democracy or electoral rights, including within electoral contexts.
In Burundi , since April 2015, following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s third term bid, human rights defenders continue to face increased intimidation, harassment, physical attacks and in the most worrying cases, enforced disappearance. Many have had to flee the country and continue to face intimidation in their country of relocation.
Mr. Germain Rukiki, Association des juristes catholiques du Burundi (AJCB) staff member, President of « Njabutsa Tujane », a community-based organisation fighting against poverty and hunger, and former Action des chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture (ACAT-Burundi) staff member, has been arbitrarily detained since July 13, 2017. The Observatory has documented several infringements to his right to a fair trial since his arrest. Initially detained within the National intelligence services (SNR) premises, where he did not have access to his lawyers and family members, Mr. Rukiki was transferred after 14 days of detention to Ngozi prison where he remains detained to date. His detention was confirmed by the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Ntahangwa on August 14, 2017. Mr. Rukiki appealed the decision and on October 27, 2017. On October 31, 2017, Bujumbura’s Court of appeal upheld the decision and ordered Mr. Rukiki’s remand in custody. Mr. Rukiki is accused of “undermining State security” and “rebellion” for his cooperation with ACAT-Burundi in organising protests against President Nkurunziza’s third term bid and publishing reports on the human rights situation in Burundi.
In addition, the Observatory remains particularly concerned by the fate of Ms. Marie-Claudette Kwizera, Treasurer of the Ligue Burundaise des Droits de l’Homme « ITEKA », who was forcibly disappeared on December 10, 2015. To date, Burundian authorities have refused to provide any information about her fate or whereabouts.
In Cameroon, Ms. Maximilienne Ngo Mbe, Réseau des défenseurs des droits humains en Afrique centrale (REDHAC)’s Executive Director, has received on several occasions, including on May 30, and June 10, 2017, death threats via text messages. These threats occur in a context where REDHAC, through Ms. Ngo Mbe, has publicly spoken about the repression of the independence movement in Anglophone Cameroon since November 2016.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Congolese government’s widespread crackdown on human rights and pro-democracy activists opposing President Joseph Kabila’s effort to remain in power beyond his constitutionally mandated two-term limit, continues as polices forces regularly arrest members of pro-democracy and youth movements ahead of or during protests and sit-ins.
On July 14 and 15, 2017, ahead of a country-wide peaceful protest denouncing the national electoral commission’s failure to publish an electoral calendar, what many considered to be a critical step to ensuring that elections will be held by the end of 2017 scheduled on July 31, 2017, the National Intelligence Agency (ANR) arrested LUCHA members Messrs. Nicolas Mbiya Kabeya, Josué Cibuabua Kalonda, Kabongo Kadima, and Ms. Mamie Ndaya in Mbuji-Mayi. The four LUCHA members were freed on September 29, 2017, after two and a half months in arbitrary detention.
On July 31, 2017, authorities arrested at least 128 people in nine cities during protests across the country, including 11 journalists and several human rights defenders. Amongst them Mr. Timothée Mbuya, lawyer, Justicia Asbl President and member of the NGO Coalition for the respect of the Constitution, Jean-Pierre Tshibitshabu, Congolese Civil Society (SOCICO) member and journalist on Kasumbalesa radio-television, Jean Mulenda, LUCHA member, Eric Omari Omba and Patrick Mbuya Kwecha, members of the Bomoko Foundation were arrested in Lubumbashi and to date remain in arbitrary detention at Kasapa Lubumbashi’ central prison. The five human rights defenders are being accused of “inciting civil disobedience”. On August 29, 2017, Jean-Pierre Tshibitshabu, Jean Mulenda, Eric Omba Omari and Patrick Mbuya Kwecha were sentenced to eight months in prison. The first appeal hearing in their case took place on October 27, 2017 and was postponed to November 3, 2017. Mr. Timothée Mbuya will appear before court on November 10, 2017.
As pressure was mounting ahead of the August 8, 2017 Presidential elections in Kenya , human rights defenders involved in monitoring, documenting and observing the electoral campaign and primaries were attacked, harassed, threatened and even arbitrarily arrested. Journalists and human rights defenders were also barred from documenting, entering or forced to leave campaign meetings. Furthermore, during these political rallies, intimidating statements and negative rhetoric against human rights defenders have been used by politicians, government, and party officials, accusing them of influencing the outcome of the elections.
In the elections’ aftermath, Kenya’s Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Coordination Board de-registered the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and the Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) and instructed authorities to restrain their work, on grounds of tax evasion, illegal bank accounts and illegal hiring of expatriates. The NGO Coordination Board also requested the Central Bank of Kenya to freeze KHRC’s assets and the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) to recover accrued taxes. Both organisations were at the frontline of elections monitoring and had been vocal in highlighting several concerns about the electoral process and the violence in the aftermath of the electoral results. KHRC is regularly harassed by the NGO Coordination Board which has been leading a smear campaign against the organisation on similar baseless grounds since 2015. These same allegations were successfully challenged by KHRC before the High Court in 2015. Yet, the NGO Coordination Board revived these matters in late 2016 and now against the backdrop of the disputed elections.
Furthermore, after the official announcements of the disputed results and the Kenyan Supreme Court ruling to cancel the elections results and order new elections, human rights defenders who have witnessed or attempted to document the excessive and disproportionate use of force by Kenyan security forces - including the indiscriminate use of teargas and live bullets, and extra-judicial killings - have subsequently been targeted by police, harassed and received threats.
In Morocco , amidst a growing social unrest in the Rif region, which rapidly spread to other regions of the country, several human rights defenders have been targeted by the authorities. Mr. Hamid El Mahdaoui, director of news website Baldil.info, and Mr. Rabie Al-Albak, journalist with Baldil.info in Al Hoceima, have respectively been arbitrarily detained since May 28 and July 20, 2017, for covering the protests. On September 20, 2017, Mr. Hamid El Mahdaoui was sentenced by Al Hoceima Court of Appeal to one year in prison and a 20,000 Dirhams fine (approx. 1 798 Euros) under charges of “incitement to commit a serious offence through public speech”. Mr. Hamid El Mahdaoui is also being prosecuted under charges of “failure to report attempts to undermine State security”. The trial is ongoing. Mr. Rabie Al-Albak, is being accused of receiving foreign funding to carry out propaganda activities and undermining State security. The Observatory is particularly concerned by the psychological and physical integrity of the two human rights defenders who have reportedly started long-lasting hunger strikes to protest their detention and judicial harassment.
As the Parliament of Uganda discusses the constitutional amendment to lift presidential age limit to allow President Yoweri Museveni, 73, to run for another term in 2021, authorities have attempted to silence several human rights organisations. On September 20, 2017, police raided the premises of ActionAid Uganda (AAU) and Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLISS) in Kampala, as well as the house of GLISS Executive Director, Mr. Godbar Tumushabe. Search warrants included allegations of “illicit transfer of funds for funding unlawful activities”. Following the search, on October 4, 2017, Mr. Arthur Larok, Country Director, and Mr. Bruno Ssemaganda, Head of Finance of AAU, were summoned to appear before the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) on October 6, 2017. They were both further interrogated by the CID on October 10, 2017, although no charges have been levelled against them yet. On October 13, 2017, the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Uganda ordered the freezing of the five accounts held by AAU, because of the investigation the CID is conducting against the organisation under allegations of “conspiracy to commit a felony” and “money laundering”. In addition, on October 11, 2017, the Ministry of Internal Affairs requested 27 NGOs to submit specific ‘financial information’ to the NGO Bureau within a week. The information requested include bank statements of the organisations over the past three years, annual reports clearly stating activities and sources of funds from 2014 to 2016, all bank account numbers and lists of directors and executive directors’ names. The list of organisations includes AAU, GLISS and several organisations working on human rights, development, humanitarian aid and democracy. Following the publication of the list, on October 14, 2017, State Minister for Internal Affairs, Mr. Obiga Kania, told the press that “in fact they (the NGOs listed) should be closed until they submit their financial information”.
In Zimbabwe , on September 24, 2017, Pastor Evan Mawarire, prominent anti-corruption activist who led last year’s #ThisFlag protests which encouraged Zimbabweans to hold protests against President Robert Mugabe accusing him of corruption, was arbitrarily arrested and subsequently detained at Harare central police station. Pastor Mawarire had initially been charged with “subverting a constitutional government” under Section 22 (2) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Chapter 9:23. Pastor Mawarire was taken to the Prosecutor General’s office on September 26, 2017. On the same day Harare Magistrates Court, ordered his release on the ground that under the Constitution of Zimbabwe, no one can be detained more than 48 hours without appearing before a court of law. Charges related to his arrest were consequently dropped. Similar charges levelled against him in February 2017 were dropped on September 29, 2017.
3. Legislative and administrative restrictions to freedom of association and assembly, and access to funding for NGOs
The worldwide trend undertaken by some States to restrict freedom of association and hinder the work of human rights defenders by enacting an arsenal of restrictive laws has been particularly spreading across Africa, where authorities increasingly aim to control, paralyse or even eradicate independent civil society, in blatant breach of basic human rights standards.
Civil society in Egypt is on the brink of collapse as authorities continue to intensify their wave of attacks against human rights organisations. On May 30, 2017, Egypt’s draconian NGO law was published in the Official Gazette after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi officially ratified the repressive NGO law that Egyptian Parliament approved in November 2016. The law handcuffs NGOs with regulations and strangles their funding mechanisms, essentially eliminating civil society in Egypt under the guise of national security.
NGOs will now have one year to register with the, yet to be formed, National Authority for the Regulation of Non-Governmental Foreign Organisations, created by Law 70 of 2017 for Regulating the Work of Associations and Other Institutions Working in the Field of Civil Work. This authority includes representatives of Egypt’s top national security bodies. No representatives from civil society will serve on it, instead it will be composed of representatives from the Defense Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, the Justice Ministry, the General Intelligence Directorate, the Administrative Control Authority, the International Cooperation Ministry, and the Money Laundering Unit. Under Law 70 of 2017 for Regulating the Work of Associations and Other Institutions Working in the Field of Civil Work, all NGOs are prohibited from conducting activities that “harm national security, public order, public morality, or public health,” vague terms that can be abused to constrain any legitimate activity. The National Authority will oversee the work of NGOs, including any funding or cooperation between Egyptian associations and any foreign entity. The law prohibits any Egyptian government body from making agreements with NGOs without the authority’s approval.
The law also strictly controls the funding of NGOs. It states that associations must obtain permission from the authority 30 days in advance to receive donations from Egyptian entities or individuals inside Egypt and must inform the Social Solidarity Ministry upon the receipt of such funds. The law further states that associations may receive funding or grants from foreign entities inside Egypt or Egyptian or foreign entities outside Egypt as long as the Authority is notified within 30 days of receipt. The Authority then has the right to reject the funding within a 60-day period following its notification. Associations may not use these funds within the 60-day review period.
Additionally, the law gives the government the authority to monitor and challenge NGOs’ day-to-day activities, from choices in leadership to the schedule of internal meetings, creating a blanket and ambiguous provision authorizing the Egyptian government to cancel a foreign NGO’s license at any time if its work is deemed to be harming national security, public safety or disturbing public order, or per the principle of reciprocity. The Observatory denounces a legislation contravening Egypt’s commitment to international and regional human rights law and undermining the essence of the right to freedom of association itself.
Egyptian authorities also continue their relentless judicial harassment of civil society organisations and human rights defenders as part of the case known as the “foreign funding case No. 173”, a five-year-old investigation into the funding and registration of independent human rights groups.
Mr. Mohamed Zaree, Egypt Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), and winner of 2017 Martin Ennals Award, was summoned to appear on May 15, and 24, 2017, before the investigative judge within the framework of the “foreign funding case No. 173”. During the interrogation session, Mr. Zaree was accused of harming Egypt’s reputation by contributing to the country’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report, undermining the country’s reputation including before the European Parliament and drafting false reports about the human rights situation in Egypt through his work at CIHRS. Mr. Zaree is charged — jointly with others human rights defenders — with receiving foreign funds for an unregistered entity (CIHRS) and using them for unlawful activities, with the intent of harming national security and interests. The Observatory recalls that CIHRS was amongst the 37 NGOs listed in the 2011 Government Fact-Finding Committee report that could be targeted under the “foreign funding case No. 173”. On September 17, 2016, the Cairo Criminal Court in Zeinhom ordered the freezing of CIHRS’ assets and those of its Director, Mr. Bahey el din Hassan, as well as those of several other defenders and NGOs. Several CIHRS members have also experienced various acts of harassment and threats.
Further infringements to the right to freedom of association were reported as on September 20, 2017, a committee from the Investment Authority, accompanied by National Security officers and a police van, entered ECRF’s headquarters office in Cairo, claiming to hold a warrant to close down the organisation and attempted to put a wax seal on the office’s door on grounds that remain unknown. No warrant was effectively presented. Lawyers present at the office rejected these claims and prevented the closure arguing that it would be illegal since ECRF is a law firm operating in accordance with national legislation. Nonetheless, the committee threatened to come again. This unannounced raid and closing attempt occurs several days after the Egyptian government blocked ECRF’s website on September 5, 2017, and one month after the publication of ECRF’s report on enforced disappearances in Egypt. The report documented 378 cases of enforced disappearances between August 2016 and August 2017, and labelled the Egyptian security apparatuses as the main actor to be held accountable for these grave human rights violations.
The Observatory expresses its concerns over the on-going attempt by the Nigerian National Assembly to pass a NGO regulatory bill to control the operations of NGOs in violation of Nigeria’s constitutional guarantees of freedom of association and assembly. The bill seeks to establish an NGO Regulatory Commission competent to register civil society organisations. According to the bill, the Commission may refuse the registration of an organisation, which would be mandatory every two years, if it deems its activities to not be in the national interests. As drafted, the NGO Bill would enlarge governmental powers to regulate, monitor the funding and operation of civil society organisations. Accordingly, civil society organisations are under the obligation to disclose sources of funding ahead of any project implementation. Furthermore, the use of funds without the commission’s permission would amount to a crime punishable by a prison term of up to 18 months.
In Tanzania , the implementation of repressive laws has allowed the ban of eight media houses and the arrest of more than twenty-seven journalists and human rights defenders. Since 2010, the government of Tanzania has enacted several laws putting additional barriers to online freedom of expression and to the work of human rights defenders. Among these new laws, the Cybercrimes Act, which came into force in September 2015, has been used as a tool to censor dissent voices and journalists and to further restrict the right to freedom of expression. The judicial harassment of JamiiMedia Managing Director Mr. Maxence Melo and shareholder Mr. Mike William illustrates this worrying pattern. On December 15, 2016, the police searched both JamiiMedia premises and Mr. Maxence Melo’s home without any warrant. Furthermore, the police interrogated some Jamii Media staff members at their office premises in Mikocheni, Dar es Salaam, and later at the Central Police Station. The police kept Mr. Melo in custody for more than 48 hours without interrogation and in absence of charges against him, in violation of Tanzanian legislation which sets a four-hour limit for police interrogation without charges. However, on December 16, 2016, that the Resident Magistrate Court of Dar-es-Salaam at Kisutu indicted Mr. Maxence Melo under three sets of charges: “obstruction of a police investigation” under the 2015 Cyber Crimes Act; “not complying with an order of disclosure of data”; as well as “managing a domain not registered in Tanzania” in contravention of the requirements of the Electronics and Postal Communications (2010) Act, Mr. Maxence Melo was eventually granted bail on December 19, 2016 pending trial. The three cases are currently being heard before Kisutu Resident Magistrate Court.
1) In view of the above-mentioned elements, the Observatory reminds States Parties of their obligation to comply with all the provisions of the African Charter, in particular those relating to the protection of human rights defenders. In that regard, States should immediately and unconditionally:
- Implement all the provisions of the 1998 United Nations (UN) Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, especially by guaranteeing in all circumstances their physical and psychological integrity and their capacity to operate in a safe and enabling environment;
- Release all defenders who are arbitrarily detained for their activities of promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association;
- Develop differentiated measures for the protection of the most vulnerable groups of human rights defenders such as land and environmental rights defenders, defenders working in rural areas, woman human rights defenders or defenders working on LGBTI issues;
- Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against human rights defenders;
- Order immediate, thorough, transparent investigations into allegations of violations of the rights of human rights defenders, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and apply them the sanctions provided by the law;
- Refrain from adopting any provisions that do not comply with international and African standards with respect to the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and abrogate or revise any such provisions that may be in force;
- Send a standing invitation to the UN and ACHPR’s Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights Defenders and facilitate their country visits.
2) More generally, the Observatory also calls upon the ACHPR to:
- Highlight the importance of the legitimate work carried out by human rights defenders, and the need for their protection from harassment and attacks, including through public speech by States Presidents and high government officials;
- Systematically raise the question of the situation of human rights defenders as well as denounce and condemn all human rights violations they face during the examination of the periodic reports of States parties to the ACHPR, and on the occasion of all visits conducted in a State party;
- Denounce the impunity that prevails with regard to these violations, and urge States to hold all those responsible to account;
- Increase its capacities to respond to urgent situations faced by human rights defenders;
- Ensure the effective implementation of ACHPR’s resolutions, concluding observations and decisions on communications in order that everyone, including human rights defenders, be able to effectively enjoy all the rights and freedoms recognised by the ACHPR, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders;
- Continue to strengthen the collaboration with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, as well as with the other regional mechanisms dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders.
Thank you for your attention.
Brussels, November 9th, 2017 - In the past year, the situation of democracy and human rights around the world continue to deteriorate at an alarming rate. Political and civil space is increasingly shrinking in numerous countries, and economic, social and cultural development often is uneven and does not include vulnerable groups. In a growing number of countries, the pressure on human rights defenders has continuously increased, and the international community has failed to bring stability and peace to regions of conflict, in sharp contrast with the efforts undertaken in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Human rights defenders, including women and LGBTI defenders, are grassroots champions of change, and crucial pivotal actors in the drive to tackle the crises faced by the international community. In order to address the root causes of crises such as the spread of conflict - which result in forced displacement and refugee movements - radicalisation and environmental breakdown, we must provide support to those who are active on the ground fighting for positive change and inclusive development.
Human rights defenders across the world often put their lives and well-being on the line to push for democratic governance, sustainable development, gender equality and poverty reduction. According alerts issued by four international human rights organizations,1 in 2017, more than 650 defenders have faced severe attacks and threats, and at least 400 have been subject to judicial harassment. Democracy and human rights are only possible when courageous individuals and communities are willing to stand up for them. This is what makes defenders a central keystone to development, peace-building, democratisation, and resilience.
Authoritarian and repressive regimes around the world, have become better organised, more sophisticated, and more effective at impeding the work of human rights defenders through surveillance, defamation, restrictive legislation including on access to funding, intimidation, and harassment, as well as arrests, disappearances, torture and murder. Multinational corporations and private interests are also often implicated in repression and violation of human rights for economic gain.
As defenders face ever increasing threats, they require protection in order to continue to do their work: Since its launch in October 2015, ProtectDefenders.eu, the EU Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society, has worked to provide support for human rights defenders under increasing threat, while recognising and legitimising their role as central promoters of development. In the past twoyears, ProtectDefenders.eu has provided emergency support to nearly 600 human rights defenders at risk, and granted financial assistance to more than 65 human rights organisations working in the most difficult environments. More than 250 human rights defenders facing severe threats, and their family members, have been temporarily relocated. Moreover, ProtectDefenders.eu has provided training and capacity-building to more than 3,500 human rights defenders around the world and conducted fact-finding, advocacy and outreach missions to difficult countries. Its members have developed ongoing work of monitoring and accompaniment in the field and regularly monitored attacks and threats against defenders worldwide.
Working together with defenders and international human rights organisations, the European Union and its Member States must pursue even more vigorously a progressive agenda for protection of human rights defense in the context of development and make support for independent civil society and human rights defenders a key strategic priority.
A fundamental change is needed from states, companies and all actors involved to recognize human rights defenders not as threats, but as vital assets and key partners in development. The international community, the European Union, and its Member States must meet this challenge as a matter of priority, and step up their efforts to provide protection to human rights defenders at risk.
1) Increase investment in support of the work of human rights defenders, ensuring the existence of long-term protection mechanisms available to support them, as well as guaranteeing that they meet existing funding commitments to human rights defenders at risk.
2) Develop specific actions to ensure the effective implementation of SDG 16 on promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies, in particular, by ensuring a safe and conducive environment for human rights defenders, ensuring that the practice of killing human rights defenders is stopped, and that the perpetrators are prosecuted and held accountable.
3) Guarantee that all development cooperation grants and loans implement a mandatory human rights impact assessment and ensure policies for the protections of HRDs working in the context of development projects.
4) Engage constructively in the development of binding legal instruments on business and human rights
ProtectDefenders.eu is the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism, established to protect defenders at high risk and facing the most difficult situations worldwide.
ProtectDefenders.eu is implemented by a Consortium of twelve international organisations with a proven track record in the field of protection, campaigning and advocacy in favor of Human Rights Defenders.
Would you like to support the organisation of the ProtectDefenders.eu Annual meetings, next 7, 8 and 9 of November in Brussels, and get in contact with a remarkable representation of human rights defenders, Human RIghts international institutions and EU representative from all over the world?
Multilingual, proactive profile required. Paid opportunity.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org
The October 2017 issue of the ProtectDefenders.eu digest warns about the ongoing pattern of repression against human rights defenders in Egypt, the recent killing of a prominent journalist in India and the harassment against civil rights activists in Singapore.
Moreover, only during September 2017, the ProtectDefenders.eu Index of attacks and threats against Human Rights Defenders has reported 59 new violations against HRDs.
Click to read the ProtectDefenders.eu digest and share it on Twitter.
ProtectDefenders.eu is holding its Annual Meeting next 8 November 2017 in Brussels, under the motto:
“Champions of change - Human Rights Defenders at the forefront of Development and Democracy ”
This annual meeting will allow taking stock of the most pressing protection challenges for human rights defenders at risk and operating as leaders of today's human rights and development agenda.
Join us at thie unique EU gathering of defenders working on the frontlines for change and setting a progressive development and protection agenda.
Read more for more information and register now.
Unique and prime EU gathering of defenders working on the frontlines for change
It will allow to identify best practices from protecting human rights defenders, based on the achievements of the first two years of ProtectDefenders.eu, and draw relevant conclusions on how to counter some of the most difficult protection challenges, while setting a positive narrative for human rights defenders as champions of change for human rights, social justice and development.
The meeting will provide a remarkable opportunity to engage and share experiences directly with a cross section of Human Rights Defenders working across the globe in particularly difficult environments and often under great risk, and who have benefited from the support of the EU’s Human Rights Defenders mechanism, ProtectDefenders.eu, over the last two years. The meeting will be joined by leading experts and personalities on and in the protection of human rights defenders, universal and regional protection mechanisms, and representatives of various EU institutions implicated in the protection of human rights defenders and current development agenda.
In a distinctive feature, the meeting will also include members of the EU Temporary Relocation Platform, providing a growing vital lifeline and rest and respite support to defenders under threat with the support of Protectdefenders.eu
Setting a progressive development and protection agenda:
The meeting will highlight the crucial role and impact of human rights defenders around the world as promoters of a sustainable development, and will engage development actors in how to integrate the protection of human rights defenders as part of an effective development and protection agenda. It is those actors on the ground who will be the key protagonist of the meeting.
This meeting will also address the widespread attempts to de-legitimise human rights' discourse and human rights defenders' work worldwide, by promoting a positive narrative grounded on the universality and indivisibility of human rights and its contribution to more advanced and developed societies. Human rights defenders and high level speakers will share strategies to enhance the protection of those who strive to defend human rights, and to develop a positive narrative on the human rights' work, legitimising their work at the local level and taking back the human rights discourse to the centre of the international agenda.
This unique occasion will contribute to provide the necessary tools for reflection from the field in order to shape the international and EU agenda for the protection of human rights defenders, by bringing together the key stakeholders involved in the international human rights scene and addressing the most challenging issues faced by the human rights defenders' community.
The working agenda of this event is available here.
Interpretation will be provided into English, French, Spanish and Arabic.
The event will be closed with a dinner for which a limited number of places is available. Kindly fill out the registration form before October 30th. If you have any questions, please contact Javier Roura at email@example.com
We are very much looking forward to welcoming you.
Publicación de Nota de Misión de Observación Judicial del Observatorio para la protección de defensores de Derechos Humanos.
París-Ginebra-Temuco, 18 de octubre de 2017 – El Observatorio para la protección de los Defensores de Derechos Humanos, programa conjunto de la FIDH y la OMCT, concluye que las graves irregularidades observadas en el proceso Lucksinger-Mackay en contra de la defensora de derechos humanos la Machi Francisca Linconao y de los diez comuneros mapuches, debe impedir su condena. El Observatorio publica una nota con las principales constataciones realizadas luego de la Misión de Observación Judicial, que realizó del 2 al 6 de octubre 2017 en el marco de ProtectDefenders.eu, en la que se concluye que hay una indebida aplicación de la Ley Antiterrorista contra las 11 personas, así como graves irregularidades a lo largo del Proceso penal. Destaca por ejemplo el hecho de que la acusación contra los comuneros mapuches no contiene una descripción clara, detallada y circunstanciada sobre las condiciones de tiempo y lugar de los hechos y las conductas atribuidas a cada uno de ellos. Igualmente, resulta preocupante que la acusación se realizó casi exclusivamente a través de un único testimonio, que, según manifestaciones realizadas en el proceso judicial, habría sido obtenido bajo coacción por parte de miembros de fuerzas de seguridad a una persona, al parecer con algún grado de discapacidad cognitiva. Finalmente, destaca el hecho de que la acusación se dirigió en contra de un grupo de personas que a la fecha de los hechos no se conocían entre sí.
Las fallas en el sistema, las prácticas del Ministerio Público y de la Policía de Investigaciones y la demora legislativa y ejecutiva para tomar cartas en el asunto, producen múltiples víctimas de estos procedimientos. En primer lugar, se victimiza al pueblo mapuche bajo la etiqueta de terrorista, debilitando sus estructuras y reforzando un contexto general de impunidad. En segundo lugar, las víctimas de los delitos investigados y sus familiares no acceden a la garantía de justicia, pues se investiga y juzga a quienes no son autores de las infracciones penales. En tercer lugar, a la sociedad en su conjunto no encuentra salvaguarda en los organismos de investigación judicial. Finalmente, el conjunto del Estado se ve afectado al involucrarse ingentes recursos en acciones judiciales desgastantes y fallidas.
El documento contiene recomendaciones para asegurar plenas garantías para las actividades de las personas defensoras de derechos humanos del pueblo mapuche y garantizar los derechos del pueblo mapuche, así como de las personas sometidas a procesos penales bajo la Ley Antiterrorista.
La Misión durante su estancia en Temuco se entrevistó con la defensora de derechos humanos, la Machi Francisca Linconao y los comuneros mapuches acusados en este y otros casos, con sus abogados, con el Instituto Nacional de Derechos Humanos, la Defensoría Penal Pública, la Intendencia Regional que representa al Poder Ejecutivo Nacional como querellante en el juicio y con el jefe de los Fiscales de la Región de la Araucania.
El juicio se origina por hechos ocurridos el día 4 de enero del año 2013 en los que Werner Luchsinger y Vivianne Mackay fallecieron como consecuencia del ataque incendiario de su vivienda ubicada en el Fundo Granja Lumahue, predio que se encuentra dentro del territorio de ocupación tradicional indígena. Los once mapuches fueron acusados por el hecho en un proceso judicial en el que se invocó la Ley Antiterrorista utilizando como argumento la supuesta finalidad de “compeler a los agricultores de la región a hacer abandono de sus predios”.
On Thursday 12th and Friday 13th of October, ProtectDefenders.eu participated at the working meeting of experts organised by Tbilisi Shelter City programme, in Mtshketa, Georgia.
The meeting was attended by organisations providing temporary relocation programmes for HRDs (including Truth Hounds, Front Line Defenders, FIDH, PIN, Freedom House, among others) to share experiences and discuss challenges and opportunities for further cooperation. During the two-days event, several topics were discussed, such as ethic issues, rehabilitation, security issues, communication between the relocation programmes for endangered HRD, monitoring of Human Rights abuses, and fund-raising opportunities.
The September 2017 issue of the ProtectDefenders.eu digest warns the recent killings of human rights defenders, and the pattern of intimidation against them in the Philippines, the many media freedom violations registered in Morocco and the plight of human rights defenders in DRC.
Moreover, only during August 2017, the ProtectDefenders.eu Index of attacks and threats against Human Rights Defenders has reported 113 new violations against HRDs.
Click to read the ProtectDefenders.eu digest and share it on Twitter.
Bruxelles - Une conférence de presse s’est tenue aujourd‘hui au Parlement européen pour lancer une initiative originale : 20 eurodéputés ont accepté de parrainer 20 défenseurs des droits humains congolais en danger afin de leur apporter une meilleure protection dans leur combat pour les droits humains et la démocratie.
Alors que la République démocratique du Congo (RDC) est en proie à de nombreuses tensions dans la perspective de la tenue des élections présidentielle et générale, les activistes de la société civile sont inquiétés pour leur combat en faveur de la démocratie, de l’alternance politique et la défense des droits humains.
Nos organisations soutiennent - ou ont élaboré avec des parlementaires européens engagés et de tous bords politiques - un mécanisme de parrainages des défenseurs des droits humains en danger par des eurodéputés. Issus de 20 organisations de défense des droits humains et de mouvement citoyens, les activistes menacés pourront compter sur la mobilisation de leur parrains eurodéputés pour informer, alerter et mobiliser la communauté internationale sur leur sort et agir en leur faveur.
Ce mécanisme a vocation à mobiliser plus d’eurodéputés pour protéger plus de militants de la société civile en RDC. Il pourra également se mobiliser sur d’autres crises dans le monde.
Listes des députés européens parrains et des organisations parrainées :
Liste de députés européens / Sponsoring MEPs
M. Gianni PITTELLA
Mme Maria ARENA
M. Pier Antonio PANZERI
Mme Elena VALENCIANO
Mme Soraya POST
M. Norbert NEUSER
M. Philippe LAMBERTS
Mme Heidi HAUTALA
Mme Barbara LOCHBIHLER
M. Claude ROLIN
M. Louis MICHEL
M. Javier NART
Mme Marie-Christine VERGIAT
M. Helmut SCHOLZ
Mme Lola SÁNCHEZ CALDENTEY
M. Charles GOERENS
Mme Patricia LALONDE
Liste d’organisations parrainées / Sponsored organisations
COMPTE A REBOURS-Kinshasa
IL EST TEMPS-Kinshasa
PARLEMENT DEBOUT DE FURU-Butembo
Agir pour les Élections Transparentes et Apaisées (AETA)- Kinshasa
Nouvelle Société Civile Congolaise (NSCC)-Kinshasa
Congolese international Congres (CIC)-Kinshasa
Institut pour la Démocratie, la Gouvernance, la Paix et le développement en Afrique/(IDGPA) – Kinshasa
Journal/Tempête des tropiques
Radio KASAI horizon
Journal/Les Points saillants Plus – Kinshasa
Journaliste CC News
Journal indépendant – Toko Mi Wapi
Association congolaise pour l’accès à la justice (ACAJ)
Olya is an LGBTI and women human rights defender from Russia. In 2015, she reached out for support to ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders mechanism. This is her story:
Human rights defenders know all too well what it means to be targets of hate and state harassment. And sometimes, something as simple as a photograph can kickstart a number of unfortunate events.
This is what happened to Olya P., an LGBTI and women human rights defender from Russia. After staging a street protest, her face and name were suddenly everywhere, after a picture of hers – shoulders wrapped in a rainbow flag – spread from one media outlet to the next. As the picture became a symbol of the protest against the country’s repressive laws against LGBTI communities, this sudden exposure made her a target of online hate.
It was when online abuse added to an already repressive environment that Olya reached out for support. She found it in ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders mechanism: thanks to a grant, she managed to join a self-care training, which also helped her strengthen capacities for her activism.
How did you become involved in the defence of human rights?
I used to live in a small town in the Moscow region, but we didn’t have any activity of this kind there. I was interested in politics, but I didn’t allow myself to read news because… I felt something rising inside of me, but I didn’t know what it was, nor what to do with it.
For almost two years, I stopped reading news. This means that I had not exactly known what had happened to Pussy Riot, or about the 2012 arrests after the Bolotnaya square protests in Moscow, until I moved to Saint Petersburg in 2012 and became an activist.
The first people I met there were LGBT activists: I discovered the city’s organisations quickly, and decided that I wanted to take part in every activity. As quickly as I found them, I also understood that I had no resources to join what they did. I dropped everything I was doing, and started volunteering for Coming Out – I have done so for four years.
In June 2013, I also started joining street actions. At first I didn’t want to, because I was afraid of violence – not against me, but I was afraid that homophobes could beat my friends and I would try and stop them. We had a lot of street actions that summer: the “gay propaganda” law was about to be adopted on a federal level in Russia, and we tried to protest.
After the 2013 Saint Petersburg Pride, all the world learnt about being LGBT in Russia, because there was a lot of violence: homophobes were throwing stones and eggs at us, and police ended up taking us to police stations, while homophobes could walk away free. It was horrible. This was my first time at the police station.
About 70 people were detained, and some activists had to go to the hospital following their release because they had been attacked during the action, and police didn’t want to call an ambulance.
The fact is that I was never scared for myself, but for others taking part in the actions. A person walking by me got attacked in the street right after a street action against the propaganda law, only for wearing a t-shirt with a pink triangle, and when something like this happens I can’t stay silent.
At a certain point, you started receiving hateful messages on social media on the grounds of your activism. How did that start?
It happened in 2015, after I staged a street protest in Saint Petersburg, holding a rainbow flag. After that, some media people found my social media handles and posted my photo with news about the action, using my name and surname. This is why people could find me in social networks, and began sending me messages that were… not very pleasant.
I had been involved in activism for more than three years at that stage, and I was experienced in how to handle these situations: I banned them immediately, but it didn’t work. People managed to find me and write whatever they wanted, especially people I didn’t know.
I have also always felt a threat from the State, too, because we have a law saying that street actions need to be approved in advance by a special committee. Without such an agreement, you can be taken to a police station and receive a fine for joining a street protest. And if you are taken to the police station for more than three times, you can end up in prison.
This is when I really felt threatened, because I constantly take part in these actions – not only advocating rights for rainbow communities, but also for other issues. I was taken to a police station twice in six months, and I was afraid that it could have happened again, even for no reason. I really felt in danger, and I was afraid to take part in other actions.
When I was a teenager, and until I was 25 and moved to Saint Petersburg, I always considered prison as a very distant reality, something that can’t touch me. But now, the reality is that I am interested in what happen in the prison system, and in finding ways to change it.
In Russia, whoever goes to prison receives a punishment, but people running the system can think that prisoners deserve more punishment. This system doesn’t correct behaviours, but just punishes them.
Was there a specific moment in your experience as a human rights defender that prompted you to look for support?
It was in 2015, in autumn, after the street action I was telling you about. The video with me covered in a rainbow flag was everywhere, even on Euronews. People wrote me nasty comments on social networks, and soon after that Ildar Dadin was sentenced to prison – I felt very depressed. It was too hard. I decided to see a psychotherapeutic group.
I had attended similar trainings earlier, and I knew the person who organised them. I asked whether I could join it, but they told me I needed money to apply. Then I began looking for support from an organisation which helps human rights defenders, and I ran into ProtectDefenders.eu. I applied for their support immediately: it was really urgent, because the group would have started its activity in just two weeks.
For me it was like a miracle, because I received a positive answer the next day. Thanks to their support, I could afford paying to attend the activities of a support group in Ukraine. It was very important for me to go there at that time because, among other reasons, I also wanted to let people in Ukraine know that not everyone in Russia supported the war, and approved of what is going on in Crimea.
Did taking part in this session help you?
Yes! I don’t know what happened when I was there, but when I returned to Saint Petersburg the feeling was like I had been depressed for the past ten years, and I had finally woken up. It was amazing.
It was a support group for human rights defenders, and we stayed for ten days around Christmas and New Year’s Eve. It helped me very much to understand what I wanted, and the importance of non-violent activism, and to learn how to communicate with people who are important to me.
I still think it was a miracle that I managed to join this group.
Aren’t you scared that the wave of hate on social media against you may start again?
I am scared, but I know that I will be OK: this is the point. Now I know that I will find ways to support myself and to manage. It’s not pleasant to receive threats on the Internet, even if you are a very spiritually developed person: it is just creepy, and if you are facing a situation of psychological crisis this may be the last drop for you. But now I know that it will not happen to me again: it can’t make me depressed anymore.
I am scared when I think of threats that may come from the State, though. Russia is such a country that gives you less and less space to move and organise activities to defend something you believe in.
Do you see the situation of our communities evolving in your country?
It doesn’t look like that, to be honest. In 2016, we could not organise even a single street action with the permission of authorities. I tried to organise an LGBT feminist bloc on the demonstration on the 1st of May: not only we were not granted permission, but our pages on VKontakte were blocked. And this happened to every LGBT initiative that year.
This is why people joined some ecologist or anarchist organisations to take part in the demonstration. For the second time, we could not organise a rainbow flash mob on the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia and we had to do something without having received a permit first – and the same happened with Saint Petersburg Pride. But if you join unauthorized street actions, there is always the risk to get arrested.
The “promotion” law created a system where people are not allowed to speak about our communities, making it so that, for the public opinion, we simply do not exist. And if we do not exist, we do not have problems and issues that need to be addressed. How to come out of such a situation?
If you join a public protest or a street action, you know that you may be assaulted. But I never hoped that someone holding political power would have seen me, or my photos on the Internet, and decided to change something.
To me, it is about simple people seeing me standing there with my placards: maybe they don’t know what I am talking about, but maybe they will go home, google it and find something about our issues for themselves, create their point of view. This is what has always been important to me.
Do you think that occasions like this ILGA World Conference can be useful for human rights defenders to come together and share their experiences?
This conference is an amazing opportunity. Most of the time, it is always the same circle of people who take part in street actions, and it can get tiring and frustrating from time to time, because the situation around you hardly changes. These events – but also visiting other countries which are more respectful of our rights, or taking part in Pride marches – can be so useful for activists in Russia! It is really inspiring to see that you are not alone, and that in other countries people like yourself are accepted and feel more or less safe.
The August 2017 issue of the ProtectDefenders.eu digest warns about the ongoing criminalisation of human rights defenders in Turkey, as well as the aggravated situation of defenders in Honduras and the judicial harassment reported in Bahrain.
Moreover, only during July 2017, the ProtectDefenders.eu Index of attacks and threats against Human Rights Defenders has reported 71 new violations against HRDs.
Click to read the ProtectDefenders.eu digest and share it on Twitter.
ProtectDefenders.eu, the EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism implemented by International Civil Society, is organising its Annual Meeting 2017, under the motto "Champions of change - Human Rights Defenders at the forefront of Development and Democracy", on November 8th, 2017.
Have a look at the highlights of last year's meeting.
Save the date and join us at this event, which will bring together Human Rights Defenders, Human Rights NGOs, Representatives of international and regional Protection Mechanisms, Members of the EU Temporary Relocation Platform, as well as other Representatives of EU Institutions, providing therefore valuable networking opportunities for all participants.
In addition to highlighting the main achievements and challenges of ProtectDefenders.eu, this annual meeting will celebrate the work done by human rights defenders as a cornerstone of development, progress and justice, responding to widespread attempts to criminalise and delegitimise human rights' work and human rights defenders worldwide, by promoting a positive narrative grounded on the universality and indivisibility of human rights.
Due to the persistence of the aggressions against women human rights defenders and the importance of their recognition as peace builders in Colombia, form 17th June to 1st July, PBI organised an advocacy mission in Europe for the Colombian human rights defender Olga Silva, director of Humanidad Vigente – human rights organisation that works in the fight against impunity, with emphasis on the rights of children, women and the defense of territory.
The advocacy mission took place in Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Holland, centered around the current situation in Colombia in terms of human rights, the vulnerability of human rights defenders, particularly women and indigenous communities (particularly those affected by the extractive industry such as in the case of Cerrejón in La Guajira), the challenges of the implementation of the Peace Agreements, the importance of the support from the EU for the ELN peace process (particularly the quick advance of humanitarian agreements and measures such as a bilateral cease fire). In Brussels Olga had meetings with European ministers and with the EEAS. She also participated in a panel at an event at the European Parliament, for the projection of the documentary “Women at the Front” by Lúla Gomez. During this event the human rights defender was able to explain the current situation in Colombia and particularly how it is affecting children, women and indigenous communities.
Over the past year, Russia has twice moved to roll back legislation that criminalizes domestic violence, including child abuse. Urgent Action Fund has been alarmed not only by the legislative retrenchment, which represents a failure to protect the right to freedom from violence but by the attacks on civil society leaders and human rights defenders who work on issues of domestic violence that have accompanied the legislative changes.
According to UAF, the Russian governments' tacit endorsement of family violence is emboldening ultra-nationalist groups to threaten, harass, and in some cases, commit violence against defenders who work on these issues. Because of ProtectDefenders.eu, Urgent Action Fund has been able to assist defenders impacted by these hate crimes, which are aimed at deterring them from their work, including in the following cases:
An emergency grant was immediately made available to a center that provides free legal aid to domestic violence survivors in the city of Soch, to hire a temporary guard and provide secure transportation to the center for clients or staff members. The request for emergency support was submitted after staff members and clients were assaulted and the office vandalized by members of an ultra-nationalist group dressed in military garb. Critically, these measures enabled it to stay open after the attack.
Besides, in August 2017, two emergency grants were provided for immediate temporary relocation of women human rights defenders under threat in Russia. Both work with local NGOs that have programs for domestic violence survivors. The first instance assisted a lawyer in the Belgorod region of Russia who provides legal representation to survivors of domestic violence. The second assisted the Program Coordinator for a community organization in Ingushetia that provides assistance to domestic violence survivors along with other empowerment programs for women and girls. In the latter case, the defender was targeted and harassed by the Russian security services after she attended a session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
A cohort of nine grassroots human rights defenders from six different provinces across Indonesia attended a four month training, from mid-February to mid-June 2017, in Jakarta, where they developed skills in safety and protection mechanisms, human rights law, and techniques to monitor and investigate human rights cases in the field. The training, supported by ProtectDefenders.eu, covered the full spectrum of human rights, and developed research projects to look at topics including support for women victims of human rights abuses, environmental and social impacts of large-scale agribusiness, access to education and healthcare in rural areas, and violence against women and children. A highlight of the training was a briefing hosted by the German Embassy, with representatives of 13 different embassies engaging with the HRDs to learn of the threats and challenges they face in their work.
A compilation of research from previous trainees has been translated into English and can be downloaded at: http://elsam.or.id/2017/05/writing-for-rights-human-rights-documentation-from-the-land-of-papua/
In July 2017, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) conducted a training around digital security for LGBTI human rights defenders, supported by ProtectDefenders.eu. For three days, 25 participants from nine countries across Asia gathered together in Bangkok to improve their digital security practices, learn how to make informed decisions when communicating online, and safely exercise their rights without falling prey to preventable digital threats.
Digital space has a crucial role to play in the LGBTI movement: not only it can bring isolated LGBTI individuals together, but it also offers accessible means to help change public awareness on issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics. Unfortunately, there is also another side to the coin: a dramatic growth in the use of online spaces to further activism efforts and for personal use has resulted in more visibility, leaving members of rainbow communities more vulnerable and exposed to threats.
After an assessment of their level of knowledge, human rights defenders took part in an interactive role-play activity: a simple game that helped everybody understand how the internet works, and why making a conscious effort to develop safe practices is necessary, especially in their specific area of work.
A threat analysis exercise was then conducted to help participants to the training realise who they could possibly be under threat from, and what assets of theirs are under threat: this was an essential step to help human rights defenders start developing their organisations’ digital security policies. During the training, participants also received an intensive introduction to encryption for emails, messages and file sharing services, and learnt how to protect themselves against internet surveillance.
In essence, it was an important occasion for capacity building. At the end of the training, human rights defenders noted how their knowledge of secure communication and safe internet browsing had increased: they are now ready to use this knowledge in their activism, and to transfer their new skills to colleagues and partners they are in contact with through digital and online media.
The July 2017 issue of the ProtectDefenders.eu digest warns about the illegal surveillance, criminalisation and killings of human rights defenders in Mexico, as well as physical attacks against defenders in Pakistan and judicial and administrative harrasment reported in Russia.
Moreover, only during June 2017, the ProtectDefenders.eu Index of attacks and threats against Human Rights Defenders has reported 64 new violations against HRDs.
From July 11 to 19, 2017, OMCT, in the framework of the Observatory and ProtectDefenders.eu, carried out an international fact-finding mission in different areas of Colombia (Bogotá, Norte de Santander, Antioquia and Valle del Cauca). The work of human rights defenders continues to be a high-risk activity in Colombia, marked by a climate of constant threats and a sharp rise in killings of human rights defenders. The persistence of paramilitary structures, impunity and limitations in the State response are among the main reasons for this reality. Moreover, human rights defenders who are local leaders, particularly those who defend rights related to the land and environment in rural areas, are the group most vulnerable to constant threats.
More information on the preliminary findings of the mission can be found here: http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/colombia/2017/07/d24455/
Geneva-Paris-Bogotá, July 19, 2017 - The lowest murder rate in Colombia for 40 years in the context of the peace process masks a climate of constant threats and a sharp rise in killings of human rights defenders. The persistence of paramilitary structures, impunity and limitations in the State response are among the main reasons for this reality, as reported by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (an OMCT-FIDH partnership) at the close of its mission to the country, carried out in the framework of ProtectDefenders.eu, the EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism.
The work of human rights defenders continues to be a high-risk activity in Colombia. Depending on the source, figures for the number of killings of defenders in 2016 range between 59 and 134. Despite these inconsistencies, the figures are scandalous at either end of the scale, and it is important to highlight that the different national State institutions, international bodies and Colombian civil society organisations which have gathered these statistics all coincide in reporting a significant increase in the number of killings of human rights defenders in comparison with previous years. Moreover, according to the information gathered by the mission, human rights defenders who are local leaders, particularly those who defend rights related to the land and environment in rural areas, are the group most vulnerable to constant threats.
The Observatory has identified four structural causes that explain the current situation.
In the first place, the main attacks against defenders take place amid the persistence of paramilitary structures in the country, identified as the main perpetrators of these crimes. The mission was able to document various cases of collusion and/or connivance between State officials and paramilitary groups in different parts of the country including Norte de Santander and Antioquia in a context in which the authorities continue to deny the existence of this phenomenon.
“In the words of a Colombian defender: ‘If something does not exist, it cannot be confronted’. That is why the Government must publicly recognise the persistence of paramilitary structures in Colombia and confront this phenomenon by effectively and decidedly applying the relevant measures included in the peace agreement”, declared Miguel Martín Zumalacárregui, Director of the OMCT Office in Brussels and delegate of the Observatory mission in Colombia.
In second place, according to the Observatory findings, there is now a tendency among public authorities to recognise the legitimacy of human rights defenders’ work. However, there continue to be examples of smears and stigmatisation against defenders. For example, in Sur de Bolívar, Bucaramanga and Barrancabermeja, in a case where five defenders were arrested, one was linked by the Prosecutor to the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional - ELN) as a result of his leadership in the organisation of demonstrations.
The criminalisation of social protest continues to cause concern. The mission received a number of reports describing the use of repression by the authorities during peaceful protests in Colombia, including numerous examples of excessive use of force against protestors. The mission heard about a number of cases involving defenders in the department of Cauca and during the civic strike in the city of Buenaventura.
In third place, the Observatory notes the persistence of high levels of impunity, which reinforce the vulnerability of all human rights defenders in the country. According to the information received, there have only been convictions in five cases of murders of defenders over the past year. What is more, in May 2017 the first conviction in the history of Colombia was made in a case related to threats against a human rights defender. A bodyguard was convicted of threats to the person he was responsible for protecting; however, there has been no investigation into who may have planned the crime.
“We are particularly concerned about the low priority given to cases of threats by the Public Prosecutor’s office. There is also a tendency, in all investigations into attacks against defenders and in the few cases that lead to a conviction, that these investigations are limited to those who carried out the crimes, while those who planned the crimes are not investigated”, stated Vincent Vallies, international expert and mission delegate.
Finally, in the fourth place, the Observatory notes that despite the considerable institutional framework dedicated to protecting human rights defenders in Colombia, the institutional response continues to be weak for the following reasons: the inadequacy of measures to tackle the structural causes that place defenders at risk, the lack of local implementation of national guidelines and plans, insufficient guarantees to carry out work to defend human rights, and a lack of measures with a differential focus according to age, ethnicity, gender and socio-economic situation.
The Observatory carried out an international fact-finding mission in different areas of Colombia (Bogotá, Norte de Santander, Antioquia and Valle del Cauca) from July 11 to 19, 2017. The delegation was composed of Vincent Vallies (international expert, French nationality) and Miguel Martín Zumalacárregui (Director of the OMCT Office in Brussels and Human Rights Advisor for the Observatory at OMCT, Spanish nationality), and was accompanied by Jahel Quiroga (Director of the Reiniciar Corporation - Corporación Reiniciar and member of the OMCT Executive Board), and Ana María Rodríguez (Representative before the United Nations, Colombian Commission of Jurists - Comisión Colombiana de Juristas - CCJ).
In the coming months the Observatory will publish a report on its specific findings, conclusions and recommendations regarding the situation of human rights defenders in Colombia. In addition, as part of a strategy to strengthen the Observatory’s work on Colombia, a report will also be published over the following months documenting various cases of attacks against human rights defenders who defend land and environmental rights in the context of large-scale development projects.
In July 2017, OMCT allocated a grant to Honduran human rights defender David Valle, to allow him to receive medical and psychological treatment after suffering an attempted killing on July 10, 2017, as reprisals to his LGBTI rights activities in Honduras, where LGBTI rights defenders are facing a climate of extreme violence.
The grant enabled David Valle to receive an adequate, specialized and emergency treatment to safeguard his psychological and physical integrity, as well as to keep on continuing its human rights activities as the Project Coordinator of Centro para la Cooperación y Desarollo LGBTI SOMOS CDC (Centre for LGBTI Cooperation and Development), a civil society organisation based in Honduras which aims at improving the quality of life of the LGBTI population, by developing programs that support their access to education, employment, health services, human rights and security.
ProtectDefenders.eu participated in a roundtable on protection of threatened lawyers, organised in Madrid by the Observatoire international des avocats en danger (OIAD), gathering individuals and organisations involved in the promotion of human rights.
During the session, the practical operation of the EU HRD mechanism and its application to lawyers at risk was discussed, as well as other relevant initiatives, such as the presentation of the Index of attacks and alerts, seeking synergies that lead to greater coordination and interrelation between actors involved in the defense of groups of individuals facing threats for defending human rights and / or ensuring access to justice as a fundamental right.
Maik Müller 27 June 2017 - Through my work with Peace Brigades International (PBI), I’ve been in contact with diverse members of local and international NGOs working on human rights, but few—if any—of these organisations have integrated a clear approach to counteracting the negative psychosocial impacts of human rights work in repressive contexts.
As an independent consultant, I recently worked with PBI to document and systemize the work done by PBI Mexico over the last 10 years, and our case study indicates that the inclusion of a psychosocial perspective can be an important mechanism to strengthen human rights organisations and their members. In our surveys and interviews, past and current members of the organization gave a variety of examples of how integration of the psychosocial perspective—in addition to specific tools and procedures—led to increased resilience, decreased internal conflicts, and improvements in protection and security work.
Our interviews and surveys found that sensitisation and awareness raising about the psychosocial impacts of political violence (and human rights work in such contexts) were key—people who are aware of the psychosocial impacts of repression are more willing to prioritise adequate self-care.
To increase this awareness, PBI offered regular mental health workshops facilitated by an external expert, which addressed the impacts of violence and the problems that members of the organization deal with in their daily work. PBI also facilitated self-organized workshops, which are set up and managed by the teams in order to work on any issues related to mental health. These workshops—utilizing existing tools, knowledge, capacities and previous experiences of each member—helped staff and volunteers to recognise negative impacts and to develop strategies to prevent, cope with or counteract these effects.
Another important tool that the organization introduced was “check-ins”: these were spaces at the beginning of meetings (in person or virtual) where each person can comment on how they are doing and about aspects that influence their well-being (work-related or personal) and in which members can hear from others about how they are doing, express needs, concerns. The excessive workload and the dynamics of human rights work in the field can lead to situations in which team members do not know how their teammates are doing, and this lack of exchange can lead to misunderstandings, friction and conflicts. Proper use of check-ins can be a useful tool for preventing conflict and to promote mutual support. The tool helped to get staff and volunteers used to including expression of emotions and (the lack of) “well-being” into certain spaces, and in many occasions team members noted an increase in their empathy for each other.
In addition, PBI Mexico created “mental health minimums”, which are individual commitments by all team members to practice self-care and maintain a good state of mental health during the year in the field. These minimum commitments are different for each team member and involve simple things such as doing sports at least once a week, writing daily, and going to dance classes.
They are the result of an individual reflection process (sometimes promoted and/or guided in a workshop) and are shared with the other members of the team so that everyone is aware of each other’s needs. The implementation of these minimums is done individually but if stress dynamics linked to a lack of implementation arise, the team uses the workshops and/or the “check-ins” to follow-up as a collective. As such, the minimums help with conflicts about different perspectives on work management and self-care.
The organization also decided to rotate certain tasks considering the mental health of the team members. One example is the person who is on-call. This person is responsible for checking the phone and e-mail in order to respond to emergency situations, and PBI has taken care to avoid exposing the same people to the most difficult testimonies, such as victims of torture and forced disappearances. “During my year, the hardest moments for me emotionally were listening to testimonies of mothers of disappeared people”, stated one of the volunteers. During the workshops, the external expert provided tools to better deal with such situations and at the same time the rotation system avoided constant exposure to these testimonies.
Finally, PBI offered individual support programs with therapists through Skype. This is an external service to support employees and volunteers so that they can prevent and/or cope with situations or periods of stress and/or emotional charge. PBI has a working agreement with the European Gestalt Therapy Association where members can request individual pro-bono counselling at any time throughout their service (before, during and after the volunteer year, and also for paid staff) in order to prevent burnout and secondary trauma. At the beginning of the collaboration volunteers and staff did not used this specific service much. PBI Mexico started to promote this opportunity for support and integrated further information about this service in training and orientation of staff and volunteers alike. Now there is a regular use of the service and in the questionnaires and interviews several people stressed the importance of this tool.
PBI Mexico made extensive use of an external professional expert to support field teams to address the negative psychosocial impacts of the dynamics inherent to frontline human rights work. Before this collaboration (ten years ago) there was little work on mental health and the accompaniment work of PBI Mexico did not consider well (if at all) psychosocial aspects of the security and protection work for human rights defenders. While there was initially resistance from some members, people were rapidly convinced once they experienced the support. Over time the collaboration with the external expert led to the integration of a psychosocial approach in the internal and external work of the organization. One public example of this integration is PBI Mexico’s facilitator’s guide for security and protection workshops, which explicitly integrates a psychosocial perspective in each training module.
Although we found that workshops with the external expert were especially important, it was the combination of the different tools and procedures that led to a proper integration of the psychosocial perspective. The ongoing support via the regular workshops helped to develop or adjust these tools and procedures to make them more effective. We found that participative processes were important, as commitment and implementation depends on buy-in from all team members—coping mechanisms should not be imposed from the outside, in order to avoid resistance and/or dependence on intervention. Our study also illustrates the need to create an organizational culture that not only allows and promotes the use of time and resources for well-being and mental health, but actually integrates it as important part of the human rights work that is obligatory, reflected in work plans and job descriptions. Unless this incorporation happens, we observed that self-care gets lost or de-prioritized in the frequently overloaded agendas of HRDs and their organisations.
The horizontal and participatory working approach of PBI has certainly facilitated progress, but most of the tools and procedures described can be integrated and adapted by other local and international NGOs alike. In addition, a similar type of case study to what we completed could also help organizations identify their specific needs.
Of course, a cultural shift and strong effort to raise awareness are still required in order to foster well-being and counter negative impacts of repression within the sector. But profound changes in the staff and organisation are possible with proper investment in and implementation of psychosocial support.
Maik Müller is an external consultant and works for PBI, partner in the implementation of ProtectDefenders.eu.
This articles was originally featured in OpenDemocracy.net.
ProtectDefenders.eu - The EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism is looking for a 'Programmes and Communication' intern.
Based at the Secretariat's office in Brussels, the intern will work in support to the different file-holders and under the overall supervision of the Head of Secretariat.
He/She will carry out a variety of tasks related to the purposes of the EU HRD Mechanism coordination and implementation, what will provide an opportunity for learning and achieving relevant work experience in the field of human rights at global and EU levels.
Tasks & General Responsibilities:
Communication and Advocacy
STARTING DATE & CONDITIONS
HOW TO APPLY?
INFORMATION ABOUT PROTECTDEFENDERS.EU
ProtectDefenders.eu is the European Union Human Rights Defenders mechanism, established to protect defenders at high risk and facing the most difficult situations worldwide.
• Operates a permanent and rapid response mechanism to provide emergency support and material assistance to Human Rights Defenders in danger, their families and their work.
• Manages a support programme of temporary relocation for Human Rights Defenders at risk to relocate inside their country, within their region or abroad in case of urgent threat.
• Supports and coordinates an exchange platform for organisations and stakeholders working on temporary relocation for Human Rights Defenders, including through the EU temporary relocation platform.
• Provides training, support and capacity building to Human Rights Defenders and local organisations.
• Monitors the situation of human rights defenders and advocates for a protection agenda for Human Rights Defenders at local, regional and international level.
• Promotes coordination between organisations dedicated to support for Human Rights Defenders, EU institutions and other relevant actors.
The implementation of ProtectDefenders.eu is led by a Consortium of 12 NGOs active in the field of Human Rights, namely Front Line Defenders, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Network (ESCR-Net), International Gay and Lesbian Association (ILGA), Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights (UAF), Protection International (PI), Peace Brigades International (PBI), Euro-Mediterranean Foundation of Support to Human Rights Defenders (EMHRF), Forum Asia and East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP).
ProtectDefenders.eu is coordinated by an independent Secretariat based in Brussels.
The June 2017 issue of the ProtectDefenders.eu digest warns about the crackdonw on civil society in Egypt, as well judicial harassment and repression against human rights defenders in Venezuela and Malaysia.
Moreover, only during May 2017, the new ProtectDefenders.eu Index of attacks and threats against Human Rights Defenders has reported 38 new violations against HRDs.
ProtectDefenders.eu supported in Brussels a consultation with Human Rights Defenders for the draft of the next report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of HRDs, Michel Forst, on defenders working on business and human rights.
This meeting with representatives of grassroot movements worldwide favored an open discussion on their specific challenges and needs and how to address them. ProtectDefenders reaches out to the most particularly targeted defenders around the world, with immediate protection measures, training, monitoring and advocacy.
On 16-17 June 2017, the Advisory Group to ESCR-Net’s System of Solidarity (SOS) held its first, full in-person meeting in Brussels, Belgium. Representatives from Consejo de Pueblos Wuxhtaj, Defend Job Philippines, Forum-ASIA, Front Line Defenders, Green Advocates, Just Associates, Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales (ProDESC) and the World Organization Against Torture came together to define ESCR-Net’s particular approach to bolstering security and protection of human rights defenders and to generate guidance for the implementation of that system over the coming five years.
In the meeting, participants reflected on global and regional trends affecting human rights defenders working to advance and promote ESCR; including discrimination against women and gender stereotypes and the policies and practices influencing business actors and development financing. Participants also addressed specific challenges facing certain groups of activists and advocates working to defend economic, social and cultural rights, including trade union organizers, corporate accountability advocates and indigenous peoples.
Several members of the Advisory Group have, themselves, received support from the SOS in response to serious threats and attacks, and they shared their experiences with rapid response measures coordinated by ESCR-Net in the form of collective letters, petitions, referrals (link is external) for material security support and temporary relocations, among other measures.
Throughout the meeting, the Advisory Group stressed the need for ESCR-Net’s System of Solidarity to strike a balance between reactive measures, which are undertaken after human rights defenders are threatened or attacked, and proactive actions. More proactive approaches would ideally build capacities to prevent threats and attacks and challenge their root causes, including the underlying economic and political forces that both perpetuate — and are sustained by — violence against human rights defenders working to advance economic, social and environmental justice.
The Advisory Group also recommended that the SOS coordinate support for human rights defenders at risk before attacks occur, as well as during and following incidents, and that new tools and strategies should be developed in order to address the role of non-state actors, including corporations, organized crime, the communications media and others play in perpetuating threats against human rights activists.
In June 2017, OMCT pursued its efforts in order to raise the awareness of and call upon action from relevant stakeholders, including United Nations (UN) institutions, to address the situation of human rights defenders in Kenya. In that framework, OMCT invited Ms. Teresa Mutua, representative of the International Commission of Jurists - Kenya (ICJ-Kenya), to Geneva, Switzerland, to carry out an international advocacy mission in the margin of the 35th session of the UN Human Rights Council.
During the mission, the main conclusions and recommendations of the Observatory mission report on the situation of human rights defenders in Kenya were discussed with key stakeholders, including representative of diplomatic missions as well as of various UN Special Procedures. OMCT also organised a side event during the 35th session of the UN Human Rights Council on June 9, 2017, with the participation of Ms. Mutua, Mr. Maina Kiai, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Ms Manon Yard, PBI Switzerland Advocacy Coordinator, and Mr. Peter Zangl, OMCT Representative to the EU.
Through this advocacy mission, OMCT was able to give visibility and enhanced recognition to the situation of HRDs in Kenya, as well as to empower Ms. Mutua through building her capacity to better work with the UN.
On 11 June, ProtectDefenders.eu participated in the opening session of the cluster on Human Rights Defenders of the Venice School of Human Rights, sharing information on practical support for defenders at risk and discussing about the challenges and risks faced by human rights defenders throughout the world.
Human rights defenders play an essential role in the realisation of rights. Not only do they fight for human rights in situations of oppression and abuse; they also act as monitors, drawing attention of the international community to otherwise neglected violations and threats; they assist victims in claiming their rights; and they contribute to holding those in power accountable..
EIUC Venice School of Human Rights was born in 2010 with the goal of studying today’s challenges in the field of human rights. It allows its participants coming from all over the world to list these challenges and examine their reasons and possible solutions they can deploy. The EIUC Venice School at the same time, combines theory and practice and its faculty involves both academics and practitioners. The Venice School intends to highlight that the respect for human rights is the responsibility of all, that "Human Rights are our responsibility".
On June 8, ProtectDefenders.eu, the EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism, organised a panel session at the European Development Days 2017. Under the title 'Protecting human rights defenders as a development strategy', the session highlighted best cases and success stories of the EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism for local NGOs promoting human rights in a difficult environment, making sure that promotion of Human Rights was represented at the EDD 2017 as an integral part of the discussions and debates around development.
Moderated by Antoine Madelin, International Advocacy director at FIDH, this panel included the participation of Sarah Rinaldi, Acting Head of Unit Human Rights, Gender, Democratic Governance at DG DEVCO, Liliana De Marco, Executive Director at Protection International, Anne-Sophie Schaeffer, Programme Director at the Euro-Mediterranean Foundation of Support to Human Rights Defenders and Sandra Lorena Neira, representative of CPDH Colombia and coordinator of a protection project in rural communities, funded by ProtectDefenders.eu.
Date: 8 June 2017, 10h45 –12h00
Venue: Room Project S2 - EDD 2017, Tour et Taxis, Brussels
Under the title 'Protecting human rights defenders as a development strategy', the session will highlight best cases and success stories of the EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism for local NGOs promoting human rights in a difficult environment, making sure that promotion of Human Rights is represented at the EDD 2017 as an integral part of the discussions and debates around development.
Moderated by Antoine Madelin, International Advocacy director at FIDH, this panel includes the participation of Sarah Rinaldi, Acting Head of Unit Human Rights, Gender, Democratic Governance at DG DEVCO, Liliana De Marco, Executive Director at Protection International, Anne-Sophie Schaeffer, Programme Director at the Euro-Mediterranean Foundation of Support to Human Rights Defenders and Sandra Lorena Neira, representative of CPDH Colombia and coordinator of a protection project in rural communities, funded by ProtectDefenders.eu.
Join us at the EDD 2017 to learn more about what the EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism is doing to support human rights defenders as actors of change throughout the world.
In May 2017, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), conducted a trial observation mission on the case of Mr. Levent Pi?kin, a human rights lawyer belonging to the Association of Lawyers for Freedom (Ozgurlukcu Hukukcular Dernegi – OHD), a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Intersexed (LGBTI) rights activist, and a member of the Justice Commission of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
According to the information received, during the May-18 hearing which was monitored by an Observatory trial observation mission, the Heavy Penal Court in Bursa heard the case against Mr. Levent Pi?kin on charges of “undermining the image of Turkey” and “support to a terrorist group” (Article 7 of the Anti-Terror Law – ATL and Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code). The defendant is criminalised for fulfilling his duties as an attorney, in particular for being part of the lawyers team of HDP co-chair Mr.Selahattin Demirta?.
During the May-18 hearing, the accusation upheld the argument of the investigators, who had considered during the pre-trial stage that a meeting between Mr. Demirta?’ lawyers, where they had decided to share the costs of their dinner, was amounting to “financial support to terrorism”.
The accusation went on alleging that interviews given by Mr. Pi?kin to international media, notably Der Spiegel, had contributed to “undermining the image of Turkey”.
In turn, Mr. Levent Pi?kin’s lawyers demonstrated that the investigations against the defendant violated the principles of the due process and rule of law, in particular in terms of fairness and impartiality, relying on provisions of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and on relevant case-law from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Several activists were present in the courtroom in a sign of support to Mr. Pi?kin.
The next hearing was set for November 30, 2017. Mr. Pi?kin remains free but under judicial supervision.
The Observatory deplores the continuing judicial harassment against Mr. Levent Pi?kin, which seems to merely aim at sanctioning his human rights activities as an attorney. The Observatory urges the Turkish authorities to drop all the charges against Mr. Levent Pi?kin and to put an end to any kind of harassment against him.
Throughout May 2017, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) supported by ProtectDefenders.eu, has raised the voice to warn about several acts of harassment targeting various human rights defenders, including excessive use of force, ill-treatment and torture in custody and other acts of intimidation by Bahraini security forces.
Concurrently to the repression of peaceful protesters, a number of human rights defenders, journalists and online activists have been summoned for interrogation, reportedly ill-treated, threatened and forced to publicly announce their resignation from their human rights activities during interrogation by the Bahraini National Security Agency (NSA).
According to the information received, on May 23, 2017, Mr. Mohammed Kadhem Mohsen, Deputy President of a local chapter of the Environment Friends Society  in the village of Duraz, died from injuries to his head caused by birdshot during a police raid on the same day against a peaceful sit-in organised to protest the harassment of religious leader Sheikh Issa Qassem . During the raid, 286 persons were arrested and at least four other peaceful protesters were killed, including Messrs. Mohammed Ali Ibrahim Ahmed, Ahmad Jamil Ahmed Mohammed Al-Asfour and Mohammed Ahmed Hassan Mohammed Hamdan . Throughout May 2017, peaceful protesters have been violently cracked down by authorities in Duraz, which access is restricted to since this is the city where Sheikh Issa Qassem resides.On May 23, 2017, Mr. Adel Al-Marzoog, member of the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory of the Al-Wehdawi Society, a political group, was summoned by the NSA in Muharraq and kept in custody until the following day. Following his release on May 24, 2017, Mr. Al-Marzoog announced his resignation and said that he will stop all his human rights activities. It has been reported that he was ill-treated during his detention and forced to remain standing for 18 hours.
On May 24, 2017, the Third Grand Criminal Court reduced Dr. Taha Al-Derazi’s sentence from six to three months in detention under charges of “illegal gathering”. Dr. Al-Derazi was immediately taken into custody to begin serving his sentence. Charges against him stem from his arrest, interrogation and subsequent release on August 14, 2016, after taking part in a peaceful assembly on July 19, 2016 in the village of Duraz protesting the arbitrary revocation of Sheik Issa Qassem’s citizenship.
On May 25, 2017, the Second Lower Criminal Court handed down a 1,000 Bahraini dinars (approx. 2,365 Euros) fine against journalist Ms. Nazeeha Saeed, France 24 and Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya’s correspondent in Bahrain, for “working without a license” . The Court of Appeals will review her case on July 18, 2017. Ms. Saeed, whose application to renew her license has been rejected without any basis at the end of March 2016, was summoned for interrogation and charged with “unlawfully working for an international media” under Article 88 of Law 47/2002 on July 17, 2016.
Besides, on May 27, 2017, Mrs. Ebtisam Al-Saegh, Monitoring and Documentation Officer at the NGO Salam for Democracy and Human Rights, was summoned by the NSA to Muharraq police station. She was released seven hours later and was immediately taken to the hospital in a very concerning psychological state, following a “severe nervous breakdown”. Upon her release, Mrs. Al-Saegh reported having suffered acts of torture, including severe beatings on the head, sexual abuse and was insulted threatened to be raped if she continued her human rights work. NSA agents also threatened to target her family members. According to reliable reports, she was also forced to repeat the royal anthem and beaten and insulted when failed to do so properly. During her interrogation, she was asked about the work of activists inside and outside Bahrain, including in Geneva during sessions of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC).
Mrs. Ebtisam Al-Saegh, who together with 22 other human rights defenders in April 2017 was subjected to a travel ban and falsely accused of participating in “illegal gatherings” in the city of Duraz , is also the target of a defamation campaign conducted by the pro-government newspaper Al-Ayam, which accused her of fabricating reports on human rights violations in Bahrain. On May 15, 2017, Mrs. Al-Saegh’s car was burnt.
Summoned by the NSA in Muharraq on May 28, 2017, blogger Mr. Hassan Al-Sharqi, who had been tweeting about the Duraz protests, the rights of peaceful assemblers and calling authorities to allow families of killed protesters to see the bodies, declared on the same day that he would stop tweeting. Reports confirmed that during his interrogation he was insulted, beaten and ordered by a security officer to stop his online activities.
On the same day, the head of the monitoring and documentation team at the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), Mr. Abduljalil Yousif, was summoned to the headquarters of NSA in Muharraq. He was interrogated for four hours about his human rights activities with BHRS and about his private life. Upon his release, he reported that he had been subjected to insults and psychological torture and was threatened that if he does not stop his human rights activities, he would be exposed and his family will be targeted.
The Observatory condemns the killing of Mr. Mohammed Kadhem and urges Bahraini authorities to adopt effective measures to ensure the protection of human rights defenders in the country. The Observatory also calls for an immediate, thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation into Mr. Mohammed Kadhem’s death and for those responsible to be held accountable.
The Observatory is appalled by the above-mentioned reports of torture and ill-treatment and expresses its outmost concerns over these new acts of harassment and intimidation against human rights defenders in Bahrain, which only aim at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities, and urges authorities to fully investigate the allegations of mistreatment by the authorities.
On May 30, 31 and June 1, in Mexico City, the Latin American Meeting "Strategies of protection for the defence of territory" was held. With the support of ProtectDefenders.eu, this event was organised by a group of international and regional organisations that support processes for the protection of human rights defenders, especially those who work in the defence of land and territory, including ProtectDefenders.eu partners PBI, Front Line Defenders and Protection Intrenational.
With the purpose of incorporating local and community perspectives, as well as taking advantage of their knowledge, local organisations from several countries also participated as conveners of this meeting, with the aim of opening a space for exchange and learning about experiences and protection strategies existing in the region that would strengthen the ongoing processes, as well as to foster a space of solidarity and articulation between different movements, organizations and territories.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and within the framework of ProtectDefenders.eu, has mobilised the public and media attention on the continued judicial harassment and the restrictions to freedom of association faced by several Egyptian human rights organisations, as well as their staff and members, in the framework of the so-called case No. 173/2011, also known as the “NGO foreign funding case”.
According to the information received, on May 24, 2017, Mr. Mohamed Zaree, Egypt Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) was interrogated by the investigative judge within the framework of the “NGO Foreign Funding case”. At the end of the interrogation session, the investigative judge ordered the release of Mr. Zaree on a LE 30,000 bail (approx. 1,482 Euros).
Article by Noor Ali, pen name of a WHRD benefiting from the ProtectDefenders.eu temporary relocation programme - For security reasons, information allowing her identification is not disclosed.
As a woman human rights defender, I have been living in constant state of danger for the last six years. A new war erupted in my home country of Sudan following five years of fragile peace. Alarming signs of potential genocide became hard to avoid, so I found myself doing what I can to report about these signs for international human rights organizations. Within few months my house was under surveillance, my phone was tapped and then was cut off by security, because I was making calls into the war zones...
Within 8 months I was arrested and detained several times, and finally my house was raided by 14 armed men with machine guns. I was accused of espionage among other serious charges, and threatened to be prosecuted. With the help of some friends, I managed to flee the country to escape prosecution of charges that could lead to execution.
My story didn't end there, although that could be the end of the journey for so many human rights defenders, especially women. When I arrived in exile, I found help from colleague human rights defenders, who guided me to apply for support from regional human rights defenders network EHAHRDP. Through their help I managed to start again and reorganize my life and resume my work. But most importantly I had confidence that, whatever troubles I might find myself in, I will find a safety network that can protect me and help me restart again. My own experience led me to start thinking about other women and colleagues in my home country who are at the same situation, but they did not have access to direct connection with human rights defenders protection mechanisms, either because of the language barriers or the lack of internet or safe communications in remote areas. So I started helping other women defenders at risk through coordination with human rights defenders safety networks such as Urgent Action Fund for Women/Africa. What I understood from helping those colleagues; that saving one life of human rights defender means saving the lives of so many other people.
Working from exile in helping other defenders at risk was not safe enough in the hosting country. Within couple of years I found myself once again at danger, when the country I fled to became more hostile against civil society organizations, and decided that my work and other NGOs or HRDs in general was not legal anymore. This time ProtectDefenders.eu came at my rescue. When I applied to them I was surprised by the fast response and close follow up, especially that such mechanism is covering applications from all over the world. In my case that fast processing of my application was timely needed, because I was at serious danger and I needed fast relocation. What made me more comfortable throughout the process with ProtectDefenders.eu, is the flexibility in the period of support provided and the wide covering of HRDs needs which is not always covered by most of other mechanisms. Within few weeks I was able to engage again in my work, but through secured communication channels, while I felt safer in my new location.
Working as human rights defender could be seen by some people as not quite a serious work, or more of a volunteering job. The spirit of volunteering is at the core of every human rights defender, but we must remember that; HRDs do not just volunteer or give up some of their time or money. They give up their security, their family safety and unfortunately in too many cases, they also give up their lives. When I say "they give up their lives", I literally mean it. In our days HRDs lose their lives while doing their work, either tortured in detentions or assassinated or executed. But they also lose their lives in other ways, although they remain physically alive. Human rights defenders who are forced to flee their countries, they are also forced to leave behind their families and their old lives, usually for indefinite periods of time; they are basically forced to start a new life in exile. Other HRDs are enforced to stay in prisons for years or live in hiding for months and sometimes longer. Therefore, a safety network like ProtectDefenders.eu, not only insure the security of the defenders at risk, but it also give them opportunity to reclaim their lives back or to start a new one.
Equally important to saving human rights defenders lives is helping HRDs to resume their work, which enable them to save the lives of so many other people. When HRDs defenders feel safe and have access to protection networks, they are also feel empowered to do better work and provide help to those most at need. HRDs who work in war areas providing aid or documenting violations are at risk of detention and sometime death during their work. One of the WHRDs from the war area of Nuba mountains who used to help displaced families inside Nuba mountains and in Khartoum, she was detained and sexually abused by the Sudanese security. We managed to help her and she had been supported to relocate her family and have access to medical and psychological treatment. After her relocation to safe place, and within few months, she started her work again. She campaigned to collect food, clothes and education materials for displaced children and sent them back to Sudan. Investing in supporting and protecting HRDs is an investment that empowers vulnerable communities; it's an investment that strengthens peoples' access to justice and builds foundation for sustainable development and peace. When human rights defenders have reliable and strong safety networks, they become able to create different safety nets for other people and make our world more humane.
As part of its support for media and journalists, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), with the support of ProtectDefenders.eu, conducted a seven-day seminar on digital security for 7 Libyan journalists and activists with the aim of training them to be able to train others on digital security in Libya.
The seminar was held in two stages, seven weeks apart. The chosen approach was Training of trainers, in order to train them as well to later train their fellow peers in digital security, hence improving the impact of this training.
The first stage, that lasted 3 days and was organised in March, had two components: awareness raising and then a technical introduction to various digital security tools and strategies. In the second stage, a 4 day session hold in May, the participants were trained in the various techniques for training others in digital security, so that they would be able to use appropriate methods to pass on their technical knowledge.
As well as showing the participants how to hold their own digital security seminars, the second stage also developed and consolidated the links between the different modules and showed them how to develop complete digital security strategies.
The participants formed a very good group according to the trainer, one that should be encouraged to dedicate more time and effort to the field of digital security. Some of the candidates expressed a desire and determination to organize digital security training in their work or civil society environment. The trainer will follow-up on these future trainers by providing them with the necessary teaching tools, aids, technical assistance with improving when necessary and/or coordinate with the best students to invite them to participate as assistant trainers in the next digital security seminars.
The May 2017 issue of the ProtectDefenders.eu digest reports judicial harassment and repression against human rights defenders in Bahrain and Uganda, and recent killings of journalists in Mexico.
Moreover, only during April 2017, the new ProtectDefenders.eu Index of attacks and threats against Human Rights Defenders has reported 62 new violations against HRDs.
ProtectDefenders.eu participated in the roundtable 'Madrid for those who defend human rights', co-organised by Mundubat Foundation and Peace Brigades International (PBI), in collaboration with the Madrid City Council. The round table addressed the situation of human rights defenders, communities and organizations, as well as their protection needs and disseminated information about the protection programmes put in place to support defenders at risk, with the purpose of providing the municipal government with contents for the implementation of a municipal program for the protection of human rights organizations and individuals.
Nazik Awad - 16 May 2017 Local human rights defenders—who are fighting to stop global companies from destroying their people's lands, or documenting horrific war crimes against their own communities, or providing aid for displaced families—are not just advocates, they are victims too. For local advocates, the passion to defend their communities' rights is far more personal and very emotional, but most of the time, their commitment to the struggles of their people exceed their limited capacities. They often make the choice to ignore their personal needs in order to ensure the survival of their communities—but this choice can come at a significant cost.
Local defenders’ persistence against various threats and obstacles is not just coming from compassion; it is coming from sharing experiences and conditions with the victims. Being an advocate in many local communities also means being a leader for change and a voice for the voiceless. These different roles are accompanied by high risks of persecution for the activists defying powerful states and non-state actors. Despite these serious threats and stressors, grassroots advocates do not have the luxuries of quitting the job, taking a break or going on vacation. If they did any of that, they would likely feel more anxious than relieved; burned out or traumatized local advocates always suffer from inner conflicts, because they do not want to abandon their people—otherwise they would see themselves as traitors and cowards. So they stick with it, and continue the work until they fall sick or die. Even those who have been detained or prosecuted and forced to leave their countries continue to feel that guilt, as they keep asking themselves: why I am here and not there? Consequently, either inside or outside their country, local activists struggle to establish professional boundaries that could help them maintain their mental and emotional wellbeing.
I know all of this because I am one of them. Five years ago, I had to leave my country, escaping from espionage charges as a result of my documentation of the ongoing war crimes in Sudan. But I also know these things because I interviewed and documented dozens of experiences of grassroots activists inside Sudan, who are working in one of the most hostile environments for human rights defenders in the world. These women and men working in conflict areas or with displaced people were deeply involved and committed. They had never considered their own wellbeing neither as a priority nor as a right. One of the most courageous anti-genocide activists I have ever known used to wear dirty clothes and ride a donkey for weeks into remote areas of Darfur. He wanted to reach those women who had been mass raped by militias, while also taking pictures of the burned villages and the mass graves of his own people. I often asked him why he did not stop after ten years of doing this, as it clearly was taking a toll on his health, but he simply said to me, "I can't." I did not understand why at the time. When he died a year ago, I had been disconnected with him for a while so I asked about the reasons of his death. His family told me that, "For more than a year he turned to the bottle; he drank himself to death." My friend and colleague died of depression, because he just could not stop his advocacy work, or did not know how to.
Sudan has been plagued by civil wars for half a century now. The Darfur conflict, which started in 2002, has continued, while new wars have started in another two regions of the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile. The ethnic conflicts in the country escalated to genocide under the current Islamic militarized regime, and the Sudanese president was accused of war crimes and genocide by the International Criminal Court in 2009-2010. However, without the efforts of local and grassroots activists, the evidence and stories of thousands of victims would have been buried by the government forces. But those brave women and men paid high prices in terms of their own safety, wellbeing and health.
One such example was a young female activist from Darfur, who had been documenting war crimes since she was a teenager. Because her family still lived in an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp, she told me: "I had to study psychology, I needed to help myself to survive all that I have been through, and to process what I have heard from others." Another 45-year-old woman activist from Nuba Mountains said:" I have chronic headaches, and I became hypertensive. I just cannot see my people die this way, it's too much and I feel helpless." For women defenders in particular, stress and trauma has a strong effect on the whole family. One of my female colleagues, for example, had ongoing fertility problems that her doctors attributed to too much stress.
The commitment and passion of grassroots advocates is admirable, but the main problem is that they do not know how to stop when they need to. Most of us feel that we should not stop, that we cannot leave our people’s fight. On top of this, the lack of holistic security trainings and resources at the local levels has increased defenders’ risks to develop different types of health and mental problems. And access to psychological support at the grassroots level is very limited, especially for those at risk of PSTD. Occasionally, local advocates have to relocate, sometimes even outside their country, to find psychological treatment.
For grassroots activists, solidarity remains at the core of their coping strategies. One of the female activists who was a victim of rape in security detentions, as a result of her work, decided to share her relocation fund to help another colleague to relocate as well. We managed to find help for the raped activist to relocate and receive medical and psychological support, but she said: “My other colleague is at risk too, I will not leave her behind." She made this decision because her colleague was living in a remote area inside Nuba Mountains; she did not have access to internet to apply for her own relocation or to communicate with protection networks. With a lack of resources to seek professional help, peer support has been the most effective—and often the only—safety and mental health network for grassroots advocates.
ProtectDefenders.eu is a unique mechanism to fill the coordination gap between the local and the international HRDs support networks. The wide range of collaboration with regional and international partners made the fund operations more effective in providing urgent help for those at immense risk. HRDs from Sudan who were previously helped by the fund, managed to remain safe while resuming their work in secured environment. Yet we know that this is simply not enough. The international donors and human rights defenders support networks need to take measures that consider the complicated challenges encountered by local defenders. More importantly, NGOs, either local or international, that recruit community-based activists must recognize their unique status and develop strategies that understand their vulnerabilities. Only when organizations approach this issue proactively will they be able to ensure the safety, wellbeing and work stability of advocates who are also victims.
About the author - Nazik Awad is a Sudanese Women Human Rights activist who fled to Egypt in 2011 after detention in Sudan. She has worked in youth and peacebuilding organisations for the past decade, and is documenting and monitoring the human rights situation in Sudan focusing on women, youth and marginalized peoples.
This article was originally published in OpenDemocracy and has been edited with the consent of the author.
ILGA is organising a digital security training within the framework of ProtectDefenders.eu. Asian organisations serving and led by LGBTI people can apply for this training opportunity, that will take place in Bangkok, Thailand from July 11-14, 2017.
Digital space has a crucial role to play in the LGBTI movement by bringing together isolated LGBTI individuals and changing public awareness on diverse sexual and gender identities. At the same time, it leaves the LGBTI community vulnerable to threats of violence as they become more visible.
The aim of the training on digital security for LGBTI activists is to equip selected organizations serving and led by LGBTI people across the Asian region with the tools and knowledge to make informed decisions when communicating online, anticipate and counter digital threats, and safely exercise their rights without falling prey to preventable digital threats.
Participants of the training are expected to transfer the skills and knowledges from this workshop to their colleagues and partners they are in contact with through digital and online media.
Selected organizations will nominate up to 3 staff members/volunteers each, who will be able to attend the 3-day training in Bangkok, Thailand from July 11-14, 2017, thanks to scholarships provided by ILGA. The deadline for applications is June 5, 2017.
Who can apply?
Asian organisations serving and led by LGBTI people. Applying organisations can nominate up to three staff members / volunteers to be sent to the training.
The staff members / volunteers indicated by the selected organisations will be provided with flight, accommodation, meals, transportation and per diem to attend the training.
The training is an initiative by ILGA, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, as a member of the consortium of 12 NGOs leading ProtectDefenders.eu, i.e. the European Union Human Rights Defenders mechanism established to protect defenders at high risk and facing the most difficult situations worldwide.
Should you have any inquiry regarding this training, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Terms of Reference for a research on international funding available for Human Rights NGOs and Human Rights Defenders
1) Rationale and context of the assignment
Human Rights Defenders and organisations carry out their work in a difficult and challenging context worldwide. Their physical integrity, as well as their legal ability to work is being increasingly threatened. At the same time, funding to support sensitive human rights work (such as protection of human rights defenders in difficult contexts, documentation of human rights violations, advancing human rights policies etc.) available at the international level has been perceived as shrinking in the past few years. This lack of support is having an adverse affect on Human Rights Defenders and is resulting in the forced closure of local human rights organisations. Overall, such a situation puts the peaceful defense of human rights in danger. The launch of ProtectDefenders.eu, the EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism operated by a Consortium of 12 international NGOs, has been seen as a very positive commitment by the European Union to allocate more funds to the needs of Human Rights Defenders at risk worldwide.
ProtectDefenders.eu carries out its work of supporting defenders and organisations, including through financial assistance, training and advocacy activities. However, members of the Consortium can only report about the increasingly scarce financial resources available at the global level from traditional donors for this specific group of beneficiaries. If part of the needs can be answered thanks to the resources of the EU mechanism and those of other organisations active in the field of Human Rights, there remains a large proportion of requests for which Human Rights Defenders do not manage to find appropriate support.
ProtectDefenders.eu intends to mobilise international attention on this phenomenon and urge relevant stakeholders to develop concrete actions to tackle this worrying trend, thus ensuring availability of stable and sufficient resources for individuals and organisations defending human rights. To initiate such an action, ProtectDefenders.eu needs a solid study of these trends based on a thorough analysis of all available information, that would be used as a basis for further advocacy.
2) Scope of the work:
Under the supervision of ProtectDefenders.eu, the consultant will produce a thorough research on funding available for human rights defenders and organisations, taking into account all relevant donors, both public and private, at the regional, national and international levels. This research should illustrate and explain the recent trends (5 last years) of funding availability for Human Rights Defenders and NGOs in need of support for their activities or to answer security threats. To the possible extent, it should also provide a forecast of funding availability for the upcoming 3 to 5 years. This research should balance its findings with the trends in the demand from Human Rights Defenders and local NGOs. The research should have a suitable approach to be used as a basis for future advocacy work and as a funding manual for civil society organisations, among other purposes.
The consultant shall:
4) Deliverables and timeline:
It is expected that the consultant will deliver the following outputs during the assignment:
A) A comprehensive evaluation report (40-60 Pages excluding annexes) including:
B) A briefing document including key findings and conclusions, as well as concrete recommendations
C) A presentation to be delivered summarizing methodology and findings
The timeline for the consultancy is tentatively as follows:
5) Duty station:
The consultant will work home-based. Visits related to the research can be considered, as well as visits to the Secretariat of ProtectDefenders.eu.
6) Qualifications and experience required
2 months starting 29 May 2017, for a maximum of 40 working days.
8) How to apply:
Applicants are requested to send their submissions to Joan Audierne at email@example.com, with the subject line "Research consultant" by 21 May 2017.
Applications must include:
ProtectDefenders.eu is seeking to recruit an experienced manager to run the Secretariat of the mechanism in Brussels and to ensure coordination of the project implementation and all related financial and narrative reporting. This is an exciting opportunity for an experienced manager with strong communication skills who will play a crucial role in the successful implementation of the project.
Tasks & General Responsibilities
The HoS reports directly to the Chair of the Board of ProtectDefenders.eu. She/He works under the supervision and management of the Board with the assistance of other Secretariat staff members: he/she coordinates effectively all elements of the mechanism so as to help deliver the commitments of the Consortium in an efficient and effective manner; provides overall representation of, and coordination between, Consortium members; ensures liaison with the EU Commission, EEAS, EP and other external actors; manages the Secretariat and its staff.
Programme and financial management
Monitoring and reporting
Institutional representation and visibility
Management of the Secretariat
The successful candidate will be expected to take the position in July 2017. The initial contract is a fix-term contract up to September 2018.
The Head of Secretariat will be based in ProtectDefenders.eu Secretariat in Brussels. The Head of Secretariat should have the necessary permit to work in the EU. The gross monthly salary for the position is €4,100 with lunch vouchers, transportation costs, health insurance coverage and retirement plan.
Applications comprising a CV with at least two references and a cover letter should be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org by May 28, 2017.
The abduction, torture and killing of renowned Kenyan human rights lawyer Willie Kimani in June 2016 shocked the entire world, provoking a wave of outrage at national and international level. This is only the tip of the iceberg of a widespread pattern of violence and harassment aimed at silencing dissenting voices and perpetuating impunity, as concluded by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OMCT-FIDH partnership) after a fact-finding mission to the country, conducted within the framework of ProtectDefenders.eu
Kenya, a country that in 2010 voted a very progressive Constitution strengthening the country’s human rights framework in compliance with international standards, has in recent years chosen a different path. Unfortunately, so far the freedoms enshrined in the constitutional Bill of Rights have not been fully incorporated into domestic legislation, and, most importantly, are not upheld or implemented in practice.
“To date, the effective implementation of this progressive framework unfortunately remains a mirage and still needs substantial improvement”, declared OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock. “With all the right instruments put in place to bring about change, lack of implementation and political will appear to be the main reasons for such disillusionment”.
On the contrary, a report published today by the Observatory accounts for high levels of police and security forces’ violence, especially against human rights defenders involved in the fight against impunity for human rights violations. The mission report compiles several testimonies of incidents of violence, including cases of harassment, threats, torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.
Moreover, human rights defenders are often criminalised on the basis of trumped-up charges, which aim at intimidating them through episodes of frequent arrests, detentions in police stations, long trials and punitive bail and bond terms. This inevitably prevents them from pursuing their legitimate human rights activities.
Adding to this, the lack of a clear legal framework regulating the civil society sector due to the failure to commence implementation of the Public Benefit Organisations (PBO) Act 2013 creates a legal limbo which obliges NGOs to operate in a hostile environment, characterised by the threat of arbitrary de-registration and asset freezes, continuous attacks and smearing campaigns.
“In such a context, and ahead of the upcoming general elections, it is urgent that Kenyan authorities publicly recognise the crucial role of human rights defenders as pillars of democracy and watchdogs of the rule of law. They must improve their safety, truly implement the police and security sector reforms, hold perpetrators accountable, acknowledge the misuse of criminal law to harass defenders, and finally commence the PBO Act of 2013”, concluded FIDH President Dimitris Christopoulos.
The full report is available online in English:
on OMCT website
on FIDH website
In late April 2017, Front Line Defenders conducted a four-days training of trainers for Spanish-speaking defenders, supported by ProtectDefenders.eu. The training was aimed at increasing the capacities of participants, while developing local champions on risk assessment, who can work with others to enchance protection planning. The training took place in Costa Rica, in a relatively safe environment for HRDs to access in a manner which does not prove problematic on their return, and benefited 12 Human Rights Defenders, 6 of them WHRD, from Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela.
The April 2017 issue of the ProtectDefenders.eu digest reports alarming cases of repression, criminalisation and judicial harassment against human rights defenders in Belarus, Cameroon and Peru.
Moreover, only during March 2017, the digest reports at least 18 defenders killed in relation to their work of defence of human rights within their communities in the Philippines, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala or Mexico, among other countries.
Click to read the ProtectDefenders.eu digest and share it on Twitter.
You can also search the new ProtectDefenders.eu Index of attacks and threats against Human Rights Defenders.
The video of the ProtectDefenders.eu 2016 Annual Beneficiaries' Meeting, held in Brussels on the 29 November 2016 under the motto "Defending Human Rights is not a crime - #DefendersNotCriminals", is now available.
The event gathered human rights defenders, NGO representatives, international and regional protection mechanisms and European insitutions to reflect on the first year of support of the EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism and raise the awareness about the pressing threat of criminalisation against human rights defenders around the world.
Watch it now on Youtube.
Reporters Wthout Borders (RSF), within the framework of ProtectDefenders.eu, has provided financial support to FalaRN.com, a Brazilian news website launched in December 2014, by two journalists Francisco Costa and Josi Gonçalves, aiming to offer journalistic information, analysis, opinion with credibility and transparency guided by editorial independence.
Fala RN has published a series of stories about embezzlement of public funds, nepotism and election fraud involving local politicians. Since, the two journalists have been victims of judicial harassment, and those local officials have brought a total of 11 defamation suits against the couple – seeking a total of more than 200,000 reais (57,000 euros) in damages –. In addition to judicial harassment, Costa and Gonçalves have feared for their safety. They have been victims of persecutions, as well as threats and suspicions of abduction. Increasing legal fees have put the media into a difficult financial position. This case has been denounced by RSF and, combined with public condemnation of this persecution, financial assistance was allocated to help them purchase equipment such as cameras, computer, microphone in order to be able to continue their high quality investigative journalistic work and develop their own production of content.
ProtectDefenders.eu, the EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism, will organise a panel session in the coming edition of the European Development Days 2017, on Thursday, June 8, 2017. Under the title 'Protecting human rights defenders as a development strategy', this session will highlight best cases and success strories of funding and support of the EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism for local NGOs promoting human rights in a difficult environment, making sure that promotion of Human Rights is represented at the EDD2017 as an integral part of the discussions and debates around development.
Respect for human rights and the promotion of fundamental values are at the core of an equitable and sustainable development. After a year of intense activity, ProtectDefenders.eu, the EU mechanism for Human Rights Defenders, has provided material and financial support to dozens of local organizations and human rights groups working to advance the human rights agenda within their communities, including vulnerable groups of individuals. The projects funded and the training provided have reportedly contributed to the development of social cohesion, equality and the promotion of the rule of law worldwide. Through relevant examples, participants are encouraged to debate about how to overcome the challenges of the promotion of human rights as a development tool in difficult contexts.
Nodjigoto Charbonnel is a Chadian human rights defender supported within the ProtectDefenders.eu Temporary Relocation Programme.
"I am the founder and Executive Director of the Association jeunesse pour la Paix et la Non-violence (AJPNV), in Chad. The organisation works against torture and supports the victims of torture and ill-treatment, as well as victims of sexual violence against women in the community. We also carry out activities to educate Chadian citizens in the field of human rights.
We provide free of charge medical, psychosocial, legal support to refugees, IDPs, women victims of sexual violence, abandoned children, as well as empower women to fight against inequality, discrimination, poverty and harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM). However, Human rights defenders Chad in general face threats, intimidation, harassment and are always brutalized.
This fellowship at the York University, supported by ProtectDefenders.eu within its Temporary Relocation Programme, is the opportunity to step back and look to what I am doing and make analysis to improve it. It is a kind of rest. It is also an opportunity to meet with others Human Rights defenders to share experiences, knowledge and learn new skills, which can help me to improve my way of work. Overall the fellowship is very beneficial for me and thanks for those who make it possible."
On March 29 and 30, PBI Guatemala invited 25 women human rights defenders of the territorio cuerpo-tierra, from 15 organizations and groups, from 15 organizations and groups and 9 departments to a meeting to exchange experiences about their realities and the challenges they face in their struggle.
The precarious situation of security and lack of protection of the defenders in rural areas was made evident during the discussion, since in many cases defenders do not have access to those State institutions in charge of protecting the women at risk. This gathering included a meeting with representatives of the embassies of Germany, Canada, Spain, the United States, United Kingdom and Sweden, as well as the EU Delegation and the OHCHR, where defenders shared their concerns on varied issues, such as the freedom of expression of community communicators and the lack of recognition of their work, the work of women's organizations that accompany women survivors of violence, who are highly exposed and vulnerable, and the lack of adequate responses by state institutions.
ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders mechanism implemented by international civil society, launched its Index of attacks and threats against Human Rights Defenders, featuring a monitoring of alerts concerning violations perpetrated against individuals promoting Human Rights around the globe. The Index of attacks and threats against Human Rights Defenders is available on ProtectDefenders.eu website.
This Index does not intend to be exhaustive, as many alerts and attacks go unreported and real figures are much higher. Still, with more than 1000 documented alerts reported by ProtectDefenders.eu partners, it aims at becoming a source of updated information that should allow the identification of worrying trends and encourage the coordination of adequate responses by decision-makers and authorities to counter the violations faced by defenders.
Since January 2016 up to today, ProtectDefenders.eu has compiled more than 1000 documented alerts, provided by ProtectDefenders.eu partners: Front Line Defenders, Reporters Without Borders and FIDH and OMCT within the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. Alerts are based on verified information concerning violations affecting Human Rights Defenders. As part of its advocacy mission to raise awareness about the plight of Human Rights Defenders, ProtectDefenders.eu has created this new platform to provide the necessary information for relevant actors to engage and take action to alleviate the situation of Human Rights Defenders at risk. It is ProtectDefenders.eu's belief that an adequate warning helps to break the isolation in which actors of repression attempt to place Human Rights Defenders.
Only in 2017, more than 200 violations have already been committed against defenders, with at least 17 murders and 51 defenders imprisoned around the world. Judicial abuses, including arbitrary detention, judicial harassment, criminalisation or sentencing, are the most frequent types of alerts concerning defenders, with more than 130 cases documented in 2017 alone.
Among the areas of action of threatened defenders, the Index of Alerts confirms the particular plight faced by defenders of land and environmental rights, pro-democracy activists and defenders of freedom of expression, as the most targeted categories of defenders around the world.
All of the alerts of the ProtectDefenders.eu Index can be searched and refined by country, field of action of the Human Rights Defender, gender, profile or specific type of violation faced. The Index features interactive graphs and listings and aims at ensuring optimal accessibility to the information available.
Explore the new ProtectDefenders.eu Index of attacks and threats against Human Rights Defenders
The March 2017 issue of the ProtectDefenders.eu digest reports alarming cases of torture, arbitrary detentions and repression against human rights defenders in Sudan, DRC and Macedonia.
Moreover, only during February 2017, at least 12 defenders were killed in relation to their work of defence of human rights within their communities in the Philippines, Colombia, Pakistan or Mexico, among other countries.
The Secretariat of ProtectDefenders.eu is recruiting a Finance Officer to join their team, based in Brussels.
PURPOSE OF THE POSITION
Under the supervision of the Head of Secretariat and with the assistance of the other Secretariat staff, the Finance Officer maintains an effective and accurate financial reporting system or all the HRD mechanism activities. This includes ensuring that all expenditures are in conformity with the relevant EU guidelines, that records of receipts and other relevant documentation of expenditure are maintained and that the financial reporting to the EU and the relevant audit reports are delivered on time and to the highest professional standards.
He/she develops and adapts the necessary tools to successfully administer a consortium budget and provides financial analysis of the project's performance to inform decision-making processes. He/she oversees the coordination of accurate reporting by all organisations participating in the mechanism. Together with the Head of Secretariat, he/she ensures the development and implementation of work and expenditure plans and ensures that programmes are implemented within agreed and approved budgets through undertaking regular budget monitoring of expenditure against budget. He/she ensures that the Head of Secretariat and the Board are provided with accurate financial reports in an ongoing manner. He/she coordinates audit of the project and ensures that continuous monitoring and risk mitigation measures are in place. He/she ensures compliance with relevant legal frameworks in all contractual, financial, labor and taxation matters. He/she provides support on all other administrative and logistical aspects within the Secretariat whenever necessary.
Tasks & General Responsibilities
The Finance Officer will:
- Coordinate the financial aspects of the multi-state, multi-year, multi-partner program in line with EU requirements and the grant contract.
- Process the disbursement of funds in accordance with the agreed schedule.
- Ensure that financial management systems and records are effective and robust.
- Consolidate cash flows, reporting templates, financial plans and amendments throughout the project life.
- Maintain an adequate filing system for all financial and accounting deliverables to ensure ease of access during internal/external audit.
- Monitor budget burn rates and cash-flow projections.
- Recommend appropriate action on any significant variances ( +/-10%) and prepare budget amendments where necessary.
- Prepare the financial accounts for external audit and coordinate audit activities.
- Follow up on timely implementation of the recommendations to remedy significant variances.
- Oversee forward planning and preparation for reporting to EU, adherence with consortium requirements and time-lines, and timely submission of reports by the 12 member organisations.
- Produce integrated financial reports on a timely basis and in line with international accounting standards and EU regulations.
- Finalize yearly accounts and provides any ad-hoc financial reports that may be required.
- Ensure that all consortium members submit accurate timesheets.
Financial and administrative management of Secretariat managed activities:
- Ensure the daily accountancy of the Secretariat.
- Follow up the level of expenditures of the Secretariat's budget in close coordination with the Head of Secretariat.
- Ensure that all Human Resources procedures under Belgian Law are observed and carry out payment of salaries to the Secretariat staff.
- Ensure financial management of inter-mechanisms meetings, core group meeting, foundation meetings and consortium meetings.
- Be available to partners to clarify EU financial rules and check compliance of reporting.
- Put forward recommendations when appropriate.
- If needed, undertake support visit to consortium members.
- Participate in consortium meetings to foster compliance and to address any financial issues.
- Ensure that internal audit recommendations for grant-funded projects are adhered to.
- Share lessons learned with consortium members throughout the project's implementation.
General administrative and logistic support:
- Support in the logistical and administrative organisation of meetings when necessary.
- Ensure supply of stationery and necessary equipment for the Secretariat in coordination with other staff members.
- Perform other administrative tasks if needed.
- Ensures timely communication with the Head of Secretariat regarding eventual problems and possible solutions.
Masters Degree in Finance or Accounting or professional accounting qualification.
Minimum of five years of experience in a finance/accounting role preferably with an international NGO.
Demonstrated experience in developing and managing large budgets, with preference for previous experience working in a consortium or a network.
Considerable experience of successfully managing the implementation of complex projects.
Experience in working on projects funded by major international donors, with preference for previous experience with EU.
Strong coordination/negotiation skills specifically with the ability to effectively coordinate among partner organisations.
Understanding of the security and protection of human rights defenders around the world.
- Excellent oral and written English language skills.
- Strong financial management skills.
- Ability to work towards tight reporting deadlines.
- Strong analytical, interpersonal, communication and organisation skills.
The Finance Officer should have the necessary permit to work in the EU.
The Finance Officer will be based in ProtectDefenders.eu secretariat in Brussels. The gross annual salary for the position is €45 080 (full-time).
Applications comprising a CV with at least two references and a cover letter should be sent by email to email@example.com. Interview will take place on March 10 (in person or by Skype). The successful candidate will be expected to start working by the end of March if possible. The initial contract will be up to End of September 2018. The position is expected to be full-time, although a contract at 80% can be discussed.
Doaa Mostafa Ahmed Hassan is a lawyer and the director of the criminal justice programme in the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms. Due to the situation in the country and the threats and criminalisation she faced because of her work, Doaa left Egypt with the support of ProtectDefenders.eu, and is currently participating in a fellowship programme with the accompaniment and collaboration of York University.
"I am working in an increasingly restricted space: NGOs and human rights defenders in Egypt are generally coming under severe threat due to an investigation into their funding sources. A number of key human rights defenders and organisations are under threat of closure, and subject to travels bans, asset freezes and heavy prison sentences. My work as a human rights lawyer researching, documenting and defending those whose rights has been disrupted since the moment of my arrest, and I am regarded as a thorn in the side of the regime.
There have been attempts to silence me on more than one occasion. I have even been detained in the Supreme State Security Prosecution Headquarters, one of the top investigating bodies in the country, where officers took me into a room to pressure me to cease my work and intimidated me to drop the work I am doing in the defence of human rights..."
"I work for an organisation whose directors are targets of the regime. Our director and co-founder, Mohamed Lotfy, was subjected in 2015 to a travel ban due to his human rights activities. He was informed of the ban after trying to fly to Germany, where he was invited to give a speech to parliament about the human rights situation in the country, at the same time that the Egyptian President was meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Our other co-founder, Ahmed Abdallah, was arrested from his home on 25 April 2016 and is facing charges under the counter-terrorism law for his human rights activities..."
As a female lawyer, who comes into contact regularly with security officers, I am regularly sexually harassed by them through verbal insults. But this has not deterred me in my job, and going on a weekly and sometimes daily basis to police stations and prosecution offices to defend my clients. Also my 9-year marriage has recently ended because of the constant fear we live in. My husband could no longer take the fact that our home could be stormed by police at any point to arrest me, or anyone of my family as a means of pressuring me to stop the work I am doing. My husband asked me to switch careers even, and I found myself torn between my heart which loves this man, and my heart and mind that loves the work I do. I experienced the heartbreak of my two children, who I adore, moving in to live with their father for their own safety. But I truly believe that as long as a heavy price has been paid, there will be compensation."
ProtectDefenders.eu, together with the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), is organising the workshop: "How to improve the protection of threatened lawyers worldwide? Practical tools from the EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism", on Thursday 30th March.
This workshop will gather together lawyers, representatives of the EU institutions, Human Rights organisations and lawyers' associations to explore the resources and initiatives at EU level to support threatened lawyers worldwide, including the coming ProtectDefenders.eu online monitoring platform on attacks and threats against Human Rights Defenders and other practical tools for the protection of HRDs/ Lawyers.
Registration is available at: firstname.lastname@example.org
WORKSHOP - How to improve the protection of threatened lawyers worldwide? Practical tools from the EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism
Thursday 30 th March - 14.00-18.00
Press Club, rue Froissart 95, 1040 Brussels
14.30: Welcome speech by Ruthven Gemmell WS, President of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE)
14.40: Keynote address by Mercedes García Pérez, Head of Human rights Division, European External Action Service
14.50 : Session I - INITIATIVES AT EU LEVEL TO SUPPORT THREATENED LAWYERS WORLDWIDE
Moderator: Richard Sédillot, CCBE Human Rights committee member/French National Bar Council (CNB) Vice-Chair of International & European affairs committee
- Threatened lawyers worldwide – Patrick Henry, Chair of the CCBE Human Rights committee
- Testimony: the situation of lawyers in Colombia - Jairo Enríquez Céspedes, President of the Executive Committee of the Colombian Bar
- The European Commission’s support of human rights defenders/lawyers - Sarah Rinaldi, acting Head of Unit "Human Rights, Gender, Democratic Governance", Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO)
- The EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism – Joan Audierne, Head of Secretariat ProtectDefenders.eu
16.00: Coffee break
16.20 : Session II - NEW ONLINE PLATFORM AND OTHER PRACTICAL TOOLS FOR THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS / LAWYERS
Moderator: Richard Sédillot, CCBE Human Rights committee member/French National Bar Council (CNB) Vice-Chair of
International & European affairs committee
- The new online platform - Javier Roura, Communications Officer ProtectDefenders.eu
- Presentation of the different types of help available - Tommaso Mignani, Grants Coordinator,
- Testimony by a Burundi lawyer relocated in Belgium
- Testimony by an Egyptian lawyer relocated in the United Kingdom (tbc)
- Testimony by a Kenyan lawyer relocated in the Netherlands
17.50: Concluding remarks – Patrick Henry, Chair of the CCBE Human Rights committee
18.00: End – Drinks reception
Elena Pershakova, a Russian woman human rights defender defending the rights of citizens victims of law enforcement entities' abuses, has recently concluded a successful and fruitful temporary relocation stay in Georgia, funded by ProtectDefenders.eu with the support of the Tbilisi Shelter City programme.
Today, more than 550 human rights defenders at risk and their relatives from all corners of the globe have benefited from a temporary relocation grant from the EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism, allowing them to get away from a dangerous context and strengthen their skills and capacities to continue their work.
Click to Read More to learn about Elena's experience
"My expectations towards my participation in Tbilisi Shelter City programme, thanks to the support of ProtectDefenders.eu, were fully met. I got to change the working situation, meet a lot of new people and even got new skills: had started to learn English, began to learn how to drive a car and other things. Despite my frequent working trips, I rarely manage to travel for personal purposes, and this was a great opportunity. I became calmer, less irritable, less nervous. On a 10-point scale, I feel myself at 9!
I think that participation in such programs as Tbilisi Shelter for Russian human rights defenders is needed not only because they are vulnerable and subjected to pressure and threats. First of all, it is important to understand the number of prejudices connected with the relations between Russia and Georgia: one must fight against prejudice. We need to discover the Caucasian traditions for ourselves by the example of the most hospitable Caucasian country - Georgia.
In addition, Georgia has much interesting achievements which we could learn: the success of the police reform; organization of public mass events and legislation on this topic. Now there are activists and NGO staff in Russia, in relation to whom there is a constant persecution from different sides. And the experience of Georgian NGOs that have evolved over the last 4-5 years under completely different conditions, even with regard to supervision and control over non-profit organizations will be very useful for my colleagues.
In Georgia, of course, you start to feel yourself much more secure. For example, my first trip to the metro in Tbilisi: I will never approach a policeman in Russia to ask anything, direction or advice. And in Tbilisi, I overcame myself, asked the way - and received a very friendly, human response. Psychologically, in Georgia, you are relaxing, and friendliness to non-citizens from the locals is helping on it. I was struck by the culture and nature of Georgia, but Georgians are generally a special attraction. To learn how to rest – what is was the most difficult skill for me - this is what you need to do in Georgia. In Moscow it is not common to show strong friendliness on the streets to strangers. In Georgia, you will not just be helped, but will also go where you need, or help you get any kind of service."
Picture: Tbilisi Shelter City
With the support of a grant provided through ProtectDefenders.eu and as part of an advocacy speaking tour organized by PBI, the director of Alianza Sierra Madre, Isela González attended the 34th Human Rights Council session in Geneva, where the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, presented his annual report, highlighting the grave human rights situation that environmental defenders face.
In the interactive dialogue with SR Michel Forst, PBI expressed concerns on the worsening situation of human rights defenders in the Latin American region and specifically the murders of the environmental defenders, members of the raramuri community, Isidro Baldenegro and Juan Ontiveros, which happened within two weeks of each other in the Sierra Tarahumara, Mexico.
In the meetings with UN special procedures, Isela González explained the accompaniment which the organization provides to the indigenous raramuri communities in Chihuahua, who are claiming their rights to land and territory against the exploitation of the wood resources in the region.
In the side event “Environmental Human Rights Defenders: Responding to a Global Crisis”, convoked by the Permanent Mission of Spain, UNHCHR, PBI and other human rights organizations and networks, the defender called the attention to the structural impediments that arose, such as the lack of recognition of their ancestral territory and the lack of adequate resources, which are an obstacle to legal and administrative's defence in litigation.
According to data from civil society, Chihuahua is the state with the highest number of killings of human rights defenders in Mexico, and a PBI early alert was published recognizing the gravity of the situation in the state, with the intention of preventing future violations.
You can download PBI statement here: bit.ly/34-HRC-PBI
ProtectDefenders.eu attended the East And Horn Of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRD-Net) General Assembly Meeting, which took place in Kampala, Uganda, on the 21st and 22nd of February 2017.
The General Assembly of the Network meets every five years with the aim of assessing the progress made in the implementation of the plan of action, addressing the challenges met by the secretariat and the network members as well as mapping out a way forward. The Assembly elected the Chairperson of the Network and its focal representatives of countries.
The grants coordinator of the EU HRD mechanism had the opportunity to present ProtectDefenders.eu to the various stakeholders attending the event, met the Protection Team at EHAHRDP, and held bilateral meeting with the African Center for Justice and Peace Studies, one of EHAHRD-Net's partners based in Kampala.
In February 2017, ProtectDefenders.eu supported an international advocacy, outreach and solidarity mission in Mexico, carried out by OMCT in the framework of the Observatory. The mission was conducted in order to seek the release of human rights defenders Damián Gallardo Martínez, Enrique Guerrero Aviña and Librado Baños Rodríguez, who have been victims of arbitrary detention, criminalization, torture and ill-treatment for three years and a half, despite UN recommendations.
The mission delegation could visit the three defenders in prison, and met with numerous civil society representatives from across the whole State of Oaxaca as well as official representatives in Oaxaca and Mexico City. In addition to addressing the pattern of arbitrary detention of human rights defenders in Mexico, the mission also noted the lack of guarantees for human rights defence in the State of Oaxaca.
The February 2017 issue of the ProtectDefenders.eu digest reports alarming cases of judicial abuses, repression and harassment against human rights defenders in India, Saudi Arabia and Cameroon.
Moreover, only during the first month of the year, at least 17 defenders were killed in relation to their work of defence of human rights within their communities. Colombia, with 9 killings, has reportedly been the world's deadliest country for human rights defenders.
In February 2017, OMCT, within the framework of ProtectDefenders.eu and jointly with the Mexican NGO “Consorcio Oaxaca”, carried out a two-days training to 37 human rights defenders mainly from remote areas in the State of Oaxaca, Mexico, focusing on international mechanisms for the protection of human rights defenders and for the advancement of their causes.
During the training participants learnt in a very practical way about the ways to engage with UN mechanisms dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders including Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures, as well as how to engage with diplomatic missions in the country (including through the EU Guidelines). Participants also learnt about the tools available within ProtectDefenders.eu. Finally, they learnt about international and regional standards in the fight against torture and through the example of the right to be free from torture how to engage with international mechanisms to promote their causes (UN Treaty Bodies, UPR, UN Special Procedures, IACHR, etc.).
On the 18th and 19th February, RSF organised in Istanbul a training in Istanbul on the basics of journalism for 5 Syrian journalists, four of them exiled in Turkey and working for Syrian media, the fifth one still in Syria working as freelance reporter covering the war. This training, conducted within the framework of ProtectDefenders.eu, responded to their needs to be trained on the essential rudiments and principles of journalism, as well as on security, as they all learnt the profession by doing and never had the opportunity to be trained as such.
The training was led by a French journalist, Sophie Nivelle Cardinale, who is working with several French information media, and who has documented the war in Syria on several occasions. The RSF Head of Middle-East desk also followed the training and met with the participants.
One of the participants, Hadi Abdullah, was awarded in November 2016, 2016 RSF-TV5 Monde Press Freedom prize in the journalist category. He is a 29-year-old freelance reporter who has braved many dangers to cover the war in Syria, entering high-risk areas where few colleagues venture in order to film and to enable civil society’s actors to speak to the outside world. By his courage, Hadi Abdullah has become the international community’s eyes, reporting the atrocities committed every day in Syria.
For this reason, he is now a target for both pro-government forces and armed groups. He has had many brushes with death and was briefly kidnapped by the Al-Nusra Front last January. His cameraman, Khaled al-Issa, was killed in June by an explosive device left outside the home they shared, and Abdullah himself was badly injured by the blast.
Publication of an international judicial observation report, after the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a FIDH-OMCT partnership) mission, carried out in the framework of ProtectDefenders.eu
Paris-Geneva, February 15, 2017 – A Kyrgyz court ruled to uphold human rights defender Azimjan Askarov’s life sentence, after what was a mock retrial falling short of basic fair-trial requirements and running against United Nations recommendations to release him, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (an FIDH-OMCT partnership) reported today.
The Chuy Regional Court, which reconsidered Azimjan Askarov’s case in appeal from October 4, 2016 to January 24, 2017, upheld the 2010 verdict which had been issued in a trial marred by a flawed investigation, bias, lack of substantial evidence and allegations of torture and the absence of investigation thereof. In its decision published in April 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee requested the authorities to release Azimjan Askarov and quash his conviction. Neither of the recommendations were brought into effect.
Moreover, the Chuy Regional Court itself, by refusing to hear some defence witnesses, restricting access to the courtroom, failing to investigate credible allegations of torture and ignoring acts of pressure and intimidation targeting defence witnesses and lawyers, failed to guarantee Askarov’s right to a fair trial in accordance with international human rights standards.
“Kyrgyzstan has also made a complete mockery of its international human rights obligations, ”said Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General. “If this country wants to be a European trading partner it has to be clear to it that it has to behave very differently.”
Tomorrow, President Atambayev is scheduled to meet with European Union (EU) leaders in Brussels, including EU Foreign Affairs Chief Federica Mogherini, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, to discuss a new Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation and a Memorandum of Understanding on a 13 million euros worth project aimed at supporting judicial reform in Kyrgyzstan. Shortly after the court’s decision on January 24, 2017, UN bodies and the EU voiced serious concerns over the “ serious shortcomings” in Kyrgyzstan’s judicial system, recalling that “ full compliance with its international human rights obligations, including the opinions of the UNHRC, is essential to maintain the international standing of the Kyrgyz Republic”.
“The arbitrary character of Azimjam Askarov’s detention is unquestionable. EU leaders must take the opportunity of President Atambayev’s visit to remind him of Kyrgyzstan’s human rights commitments and the need to demonstrate at the highest level the will to support a genuine judicial reform. Support to judicial reform is meaningless if the right to a fair trial is not guaranteed and justice remains vulnerable to political interference, ” said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH Honorary President.
Azimjan Askarov is a human rights defender from the South of Kyrgyzstan where he had been investigating police brutality from 2002 to 2010. He was arrested on June 15, 2010, in the immediate aftermath of violent inter-ethnic confrontations opposing Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities. He was charged with participating in mass unrest, inciting ethnic strife, illegal weapons possession, complicity in the murder of police officer Myktybek Suleimanov, attempted murder of other police officers and incitement for taking hostage a mayor. Azimjan Askarov argued that he was not present on the bridge where the attack on Mr. Suleimanov occurred. His claim was corroborated by several testimonies.
From the very beginning of the judicial proceedings in 2010, the case against Azimjan Askarov, built on testimonies extracted under torture and on statements from Kyrgyz police officers whose work had been under the scrutiny of Azimjan Askarov, was marked as politically motivated. As reported by the Observatory in “ Kyrgyzstan at a crossroads: shrink or widen the scene for human rights defenders”, Mr. Kubatbek Baybolov, former Prosecutor General at the time of Mr. Askarov’s conviction recounted that Interim President Roza Otunbayeva had instructed the Judiciary to sentence AzimjanAskarov to life imprisonment. He added that the elements in the criminal case failed to demonstrate Mr. Askarov's guilt.
The report is available on FIDH and OMCT websites at the following links (ENG/RU):
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
On February 1st, the Hamburger Stiftung für politisch Verfolgte welcomed their new guest Nur Nobi Dulal (46) from Bangladesh in the safety of Hamburg. Nur Nobi Dulal will be relocated away from danger for the next twelve months, as part of a relocation programme funded by ProtectDefenders.eu and supported by Amnesty International and PEN International.
As a blogger, writer and filmmaker, Dulal has been campaigning for the freedom of speech, women’s rights and against religious oppression as well as terrorism in his home country for years. Just as long, he has been threatened by islamists but also by the Bangladeshi government. Because in his home country the writer is in constant danger of being killed by a radical Islamist movement, the Dulal family has had to relocate again and again since 2015. Moreover, he risks up to 14 years of imprisonment due to his criticism of state and religion on the basis of article 57 of the “Information and Communication Technology Act” of the Bengali penal code.
In 2011, Nur Nobi Dulal was voted Bangladesh’s “Blogger of the Year“. In 2012, he founded the Online Activist Forum, which is advocating the freedom of speech. His blog Itishon, founded in 2013 – in terms of readership the second largest blog of the country – was shut down by the authorities on 25 September 2016. In addition, he runs the online bookstore iKarigor.com, which is renowned for its liberal and religion-critical range of books.
In 2013, the terrorist group Hefazat published the names of 84 "Islamophobic" bloggers, among others Dulal’s name. So far, eight of these bloggers have been murdered. Dulal’s name is also on a death list of the terror organization Ittehadul Mujahedini. According to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the situation has recently become even more serious. Those affected cannot count on protection by the police.
Ginebra, Paris, Oaxaca, 8 de febrero de 2017 – Damián Gallardo Martínez, Enrique Guerrero Aviña y Librado Baños Rodríguez siguen siendo desde hace tres años y medio víctimas de detención arbitraria, criminalización, tortura y malos tratos, a pesar de las recomendaciones emitidas por la ONU. Su único delito es su trabajo como defensores de los derechos humanos, según denunciaron hoy el Observatorio para la Protección de Defensores de Derechos Humanos (OMCT-FIDH) y el Consorcio Oaxaca. Además de abordar el patrón de detención arbitraria de personas defensoras en México, la misión conjunta -apoyada por el mecanismo de la UE para los defensores de Derechos Humanos, ProtectDefenders.eu- pudo constatar la falta de garantías para la labor de defensa de derechos humanos en el Estado de Oaxaca.
Como seguimiento al informe conjunto “Detenciones arbitrarias e ilegales – Criminalización: Una política de Estado para inhibir la defensa de los derechos humanos en México" publicado en diciembre de 2016, el Observatorio y Consorcio Oaxaca han realizado una misión conjunta a México de solidaridad con los defensores detenidos y de incidencia ante las autoridades para alertarlas sobre esta grave situación. La misión ha prestado una particular atención a la situación de las personas defensoras de derechos humanos en el Estado de Oaxaca.
La misión visitó a tres defensores arbitrariamente detenidos, los Sres. Damián Gallardo Martínez y Enrique Guerrero Aviña, ambos encarcelados en el CEFERESO nº 2 de El Salto, Estado de Jalisco, en lo que constituyó la primera visita por parte de organizaciones de la sociedad civil desde hace más de dos años, así como al Sr. Librado Baños Rodríguez, encarcelado en el Penal de Ixcotel, Estado de Oaxaca.
“Durante la visita pudimos constatar que los problemas médicos de los tres defensores son evidentes pero resulta reconfortante comprobar que lejos de afectar a su compromiso con la defensa de derechos humanos los tres se mantienen fuertes y convencidos de que su liberación tiene que producirse antes o después”, declaró Miguel Martín Zumalacárregui, Director de la Oficina de la OMCT en Bruselas y miembro de la misión a México. “Resulta alarmante que, tres años y medio después de su detención y más de dos años después de que la opinión de la ONU reclamase su liberación, los tres procesos sigan en fase de instrucción en medio de un cúmulo de irregularidades y violaciones al debido proceso”, añadió.
Tanto Damián Gallardo como Enrique Guerrero han dado positivo en la aplicación del Protocolo de Estambul para documentación de la tortura que les ha sido realizado. La misión pudo verificar que ambos mantienen problemas de salud en conexión con la tortura que han experimentado, en un contexto de inacción por parte de las autoridades carcelarias y judiciales, así como de la Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDH) que tres años y medio después aún no ha emitido ninguna recomendación. El Sr. Enrique Guerrero sufre de un tic nervioso y de daños debido a la dislocación de su dedo pulgar durante el interrogatorio mientras que el Sr. Damián Gallardo sufre de una lesión en un pie y ambos mantienen daños psicológicos como víctimas de tortura y/o malos tratos. En conexión con las condiciones de detención y la denegación de un tratamiento médico adecuado el Sr. Librado Baños ha perdido la vista de uno de sus ojos y mantiene menos del 50% de visibilidad en el otro.
En el caso del Sr. Damián Gallardo, hace más de cinco meses solicitó al juez la autorización para poder recibir rehabilitación psicológica como víctima de tortura así como tratamiento oftalmológico para tratar una carnosidad en su ojo derecho. Pese a la urgencia, la solicitud aún no ha sido procesada, en un claro ejemplo de los constantes retardos y demoras en el proceso judicial al que regularmente se enfrentan los tres defensores de derechos humanos.
Damián Gallardo, Enrique Guerrero y Librado Baños se cuentan entre los beneficiarios de recientes opiniones del Grupo de Trabajo de Naciones Unidas que declaran arbitrarias las detenciones de cinco personas defensoras de derechos humanos. Ninguna de las cinco opiniones ha sido implementada tal y como resaltó recientemente en el informe preliminar de su visita a México el Relator de la ONU sobre la situación de las personas defensoras de derechos Humanos, el Sr. Michel Forst. En los cinco casos se puede verificar un mismo patrón de detención, no existieron ordenes de aprehensión, fueron sometidos a actos de tortura y/o malos tratos , así como a diversas violaciones al debido proceso.
En cuanto a la situación en el Estado de Oaxaca, según datos de la Defensoría Especializada en la Protección de Personas Defensoras y Periodistas de la Defensoría de los Derechos Humanos del Pueblo de Oaxaca, en 2016 se produjeron 197 agravios contra 95 personas defensoras (39 mujeres y 56 hombres) y contra 10 grupos. En al menos 72 de estos agravios se contó con la participación de integrantes de corporaciones policiacas federales, estatales o municipales. Además, según datos de la Red de Mujeres Activistas y Defensoras de Derechos Humanos de Oaxaca, el Estado lidera desde 2010 el ranking de ataques contra defensoras de derechos humanos a nivel nacional con un aumento constante de las cifras.
“La situación para las personas defensoras en Oaxaca se cuenta entre las más difíciles en todo el territorio mexicano. Sin embargo, el Estado de Oaxaca sigue sin contar con una política pública integral de protección a personas defensoras con un enfoque particular para las mujeres defensoras y con medidas que hagan frente tanto a la impunidad como a la falta de efectividad de las medidas de protección”, declaró Yésica Sánchez, miembro de la Junta Directiva del Consorcio Para el Diálogo Parlamentario y la Equidad Oaxaca A.C.
Contexto de la misión:
La misión tuvo lugar entre el 31 de enero y el 8 de febrero y estuvo conformada por Miguel Martín Zumalacárregui, director de la oficina de la OMCT en Bruselas y Yésica Sánchez, integrante del Equipo Directivo del Consorcio Oaxaca.
En el Estado de Oaxaca la misión sostuvo reuniones con numerosas personas defensoras y organizaciones de la sociedad civil oaxaqueña así como con la Defensoría Especializada en la Protección de Personas Defensoras y Periodistas de la Defensoría de los Derechos Humanos del Pueblo de Oaxaca (DDHPO). Lamentablemente, la solicitud de reunión con el gobernador de Oaxaca, Alejandro Murat, no fue atendida.
En la Ciudad de México la misión pudo reunirse con la Delegación de la Unión Europea en México, la Oficina en México del Alto Comisionado de Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos, la Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDH) y la Subsecretaría para Asuntos Multilaterales y Derechos Humanos de la Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores (SRE). Lamentablemente, la solicitud de reunión con la Subsecretaría de Derechos Humanos de la Secretaría de Gobernación (SEGOB) no fue atendida.
Contactos de prensa:
· OMCT: Miguel Martín Zumalacárregui / Delphine Reculeau: +41 22 809 49 39
· FIDH: Audrey Couprie : + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / José Carlos Thissen : + 51 95 41 31 650
· Consorcio para el Diálogo Parlamentario y la Equidad Oaxaca A.C.: Yésica Sánchez: Tel: +52 951 132 8996 / Cel: +52 951 17 00 432
El Observatorio para la Protección de los Defensores de Derechos Humanos (el Observatorio) es un programa creado en 1997 por la Organización Mundial Contra la Tortura (OMCT) y la FIDH y tiene por objetivo intervenir para prevenir o remediar situaciones concretas de represión contra los defensores y defensoras de los derechos humanos. OMCT y FIDH son miembros de ProtectDefenders.eu, el Mecanismo de la Unión Europea para Defensores de Derechos Humanos implementado por sociedad civil internacional.
With the support of ProtectDefenders.eu, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published a report in Spanish, French and English about the plight of journalists in Mexico’s eastern state of Veracruz, one of Latin America’s most dangerous places for the media.
Entitled “Veracruz: journalists and the state of fear,” the report is the fruit of a visit carried out by RSF to Mexico in June 2016 -within the framework of the EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism- during which it met with local journalists, representatives of NGOs and representatives of federal and state-level institutions involved in protecting media freedom in Mexico.
The report examines the appalling environment for journalists in Veracruz. Caught between ultra-violent criminal cartels and corrupt politicians, journalists who take too close an interest in sensitive stories or in organized crime are liable to be admonished, threatened and even gunned down in cold blood.
From 2000 to 2016 in Mexico, 99 journalists were the victims of murders that were clearly or probably linked to their work, and 20% of these murders took place in Veracruz alone. Cases of physical attacks and disappearances are also legion, and the shocking level of impunity shows the ineffectiveness of the many mechanisms created for protecting journalists.
The report includes the accounts that RSF received from Veracruz journalists about their problems, the need to censor themselves and the decision that some have had to take to flee the region. The families of victims also describe their mostly unsuccessful battles for justice.
The report concludes with a series of recommendations for Mexico’s federal authorities and for Veracruz’s new governor, Miguel Ángel Yunes, the heir of the appalling record of his predecessor, Javier Duarte, who disappeared into thin air late last year after the federal authorities accused him of illicit enrichment.
The recommendations, to be presented in detail at RSF’s press conference on 2 February, aim to end the vicious circle of violence, improve the existing mechanisms for protecting journalists and effectively combat the chronic impunity that constrains media freedom in Veracruz and the rest of Mexico.
ProtectDefenders.eu partners are concerned about recent killings, attempted murders and enforced disappearances in Colombia, the killing of land rights defenders in Myanmar and the ongoing repression against human rights defenders and lawyers in Turkey.
In January 2017, OMCT, within the framework of ProtectDefenders.eu, allocated a grant to the NGO “Avenir Jeunes de l’Ouest”, an NGO defending and protecting human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersexual (LGBTI) people in Cameroon, a country where homosexuality is criminalised.
The grant enabled the NGO to rent a new office after it was expelled without notice from the previous premises it was renting, when the owner discovered that the NGO was defending LGBTI rights.
The grant also covered the employment during six months of a guard for the office. Thanks to OMCT support, “Avenir Jeunes de l’Ouest” has improved the security of its office and staff, which has helped the NGO to continue its critical human rights work.
ProtectDefenders.eu has allocated more than 550 emergency to human rights defenders and organisations. More information is available here.
In December 2016, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (an OMCT-FIDH partnership supported by the EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism) jointly with several Cambodian organisations, welcomed the recent Opinion No. 45/2016 adopted by the UNWGAD that recognise the arbitrary nature of the ongoing detention of human rights defenders Ny Chakrya, Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan, Nay Vanda, and Lim Mony in Cambodia.
The decision of the WGAD followed a submission made by OMCT, FIDH, CCHR and LICADHO in June 2016. In a landmark move, the WGAD also referred for the first time ever to human rights defenders as a protected group that is entitled to equal legal protection under Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The five human rights defenders have been in pre-trial detention on charges of bribery since April 2016.
In December 2016, ProtectDefenders.eu supported a three-days training for 25 human rights defenders from the Midlands Province in Zimbabwe conducted by the OMCT, jointly with the Zimbabwe Organisation for the Youth in Politics (ZOYP). The main objectives were to strengthen the advocacy work of the participants as well as to sensitize them on security issues in their work, especially ahead of the 2018 elections.
The training has enabled the participants to exchange experience and expertise to comprehensively address the repression and criminalisation of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, as well as to reinforce their digital, physical, and psychological security measures. The training also addressed the local, regional and international legal and policy frameworks that are relevant to the protection of human rights defenders and their work. Finally, participants were also formed on how to conduct trainings and share further to fellow activists the knowledge they acquired during the workshop.
ProtectDefenders.eu partners are concerned about recent killings and overall degradation of the situation of Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala, and arbitrary detentions and judicial harassment against defenders in Kenya and Malaysia.
Protection International, partner in the implementation of ProtectDefenders.eu, has just launched a call for proposals for local human rights organisations.
The call prioritises proposals for consolidating operational capacities of local human rights organisations which are important to the medium to long term prospects for Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), such as:
- Supporting local initiatives, especially the ones in isolated areas or strengthening HRDs’ protection structures, such as networks, response mechanisms or focal points;
- Allowing HRDs to manage risks inherent to their own work and/or work of other HRDs, and thus support continued human rights activism;
- Building capacities of local organisations, by allowing them to obtain and/or conduct specific trainings in areas that would assist in protecting them, such as physical and digital security, legal defence, litigation, etc.;
- Providing a lifeline to local organisations that are endangered by unexpected and/or grave security, financial, legal or administrative situations.
This call for proposal will NOT support individual or emergency grants, nor any relocation request as these needs are covered by other call for proposals under Protectdefenders.eu (see in particular “Emergency grants” and “Relocation grant”).
Applications can be received anytime during the opening of the call (see dates above).
Proposals will be dealt upon as they arrive. The call will be closed as soon as the available amount has been fully allocated and at the latest on March 15th 2017.
The overall indicative amount made available to Protection International under Component 2 (C2) for this Call for Proposals is EUR 130 000. Only one contract will be awarded per applicant under this call. Protection International reserves the right not to award all available funds.
Africa: Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville, DRC, Chad, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda, Sierra Leone, South Sudan;
Americas: Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, USA;
Asia: Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand.
ELIGIBILITY & CRITERIA
Any grant requested under this Call for Proposals must fall between the minimum amount of EUR 5000 and the maximum amount of EUR 20 000.
Only activities taking place from October 1st 2016 until September 30th 2017 will be considered eligible.
To avoid creating a misbalance and/or dependency towards the Fund, the grant requested cannot be more than 30% of the organisation’s previous annual financial statement (to be provided along the application).
The call is only open to non-profit organisations and networks that:
- are formally registered;
- are working with the following priority groups:
a) HRD or communities who are particularly vulnerable due to gender, sexual orientation, the issue they work on (e.g. land rights; anti-corruption), or their geographical location (e.g. remote or rural areas, conflict area);
b)HRD or communities with little means to access the required financial resources through other channels.
Fixed list of eligible activities:
- Setting up and maintaining protection systems (including but not limited to office physical and digital security measures);
- Preventive protective accompaniment by third party;
- Organisational capacity building and systems
- Running a protection network or collective protection mechanism;
- Activities related with team supervision, psychosocial support, rest and respite or other well-being measures;
- One-off financial support to ensure the organisation’s operational functioning or a bridge to cover a funding gap.
Other criteria for selection:
PI prioritises projects that aim for sustainable results in order to achieve lasting impact. In particular, applicants are highly encouraged to include in their proposal specific activities aimed at increasing financial, management and organizational capacities to ensure the continuation of their work in the long term (financial, legal, physical, psychological, digital and reputational resilience);
Applicants are not receiving funds already for organisational development from any of the EU ProtectDefenders.eu component;
PI aims for a geographically balanced distribution;
PI expects a gendered approach to protection and security;
Equal treatment and non-discrimination: PI will not discriminate against any applicant because of race, colour, religion, gender, or national origin.
PAYMENT AND REPORTING REQUIREMENTS
Payments shall be made in accordance with the terms described hereafter:
An initial pre-financing payment of 80% of the granted amount will be disbursed upon reception of the signed contract;
The balance of the final amount of the grant will be disbursed after reception and approval of the financial report by PI in the limits of:
– maximum 20% of the amount originally granted;
– AND maximum of the total amount duly reported and accounted for in the financial report. Should that final amount be inferior to the total amount granted, only expenses accounted for will be reimbursed.
The final reports (financial and narrative) must be sent as soon as the whole funds have been spent and no later than October 31st 2017 (one month after the end of the implementation period).
Correspondence related to the call and possible grant-making process is encrypted if opportune or required;
The proposals are presented using the application form provided;
Applications will be examined and evaluated by PI head office and their protection desks with the possible assistance of external assessors. All submitted proposals will be assessed;
If the examination of the application reveals that the proposed action does not meet the eligibility criteria stated above, the application will be rejected on this sole basis;
The applicants will be informed in writing of Protection International’s decision concerning their application and, if rejected, the reasons for the negative decision;
An applicant believing that it has been harmed by an error or irregularity during the award process may lodge a complaint;
Following the decision to award a grant, the Beneficiary(ies) will be requested to sign a Grant Agreement based on the application. By submitting the application form, the applicant agrees, if awarded a grant, to accept the contractual conditions of the Grant Agreement. The Grant Agreement describes the main terms of the grant, identifies the contact person, details the reporting requirements and provides a complaint procedure.
In December 2016, Adan Guillermo López Lone, a member of the Association of Judges for Democracy (AJD, Asociación de Jueces para la Democracia), visited the UK, France, Switzerland and Belgium to meet international actors. The tour was sponsored by PBI Honduras within ProtectDefenders.eu.
The main purpose of the tour was to raise awareness about the Honduras’ government failure to implement the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) sentence on the López Lone and others vs. Honduras case.
During the tour, López Lone met with representatives from the British Foreign Office, The Law Society, the UN OHCHR, the Geneva Bar Association, the offices of three UN Special Rapporteurs (on the situation of human rights defenders, on the independence of judges and lawyers, and on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association), the French Magistrates Union, the French Foreign Ministry, Cáritas and other civil society actors.
In the UK, Guillermo was a key speaker at a meeting organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group, the Law Society and PBI UK about challenges facing the rule of law in Central America.
The tour was very successful and gathering international support for AJD’s struggle to see the sentence implemented. The British Minister for Human Rights, Baroness Anelay, visited Honduras after Guillermo’s tour and raised the issue with the Honduran government. The three UN rapporteurs’ offices with which Guillermo had met issued a joint public statement about the case.
In addition, the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales sent an amicus curiae to the IACHR ahead of a February 2017 audience on the government’s compliance with the sentence. The French Magistrates Union sent a public letter to the Honduran government calling for full compliance with the sentence. A French MP committed to ask a parliamentary question about the case and send a letter to the Honduran authorities.
According to Guillermo, PBI’s accompaniment has been instrumental in raising international awareness about the case and advocating for judicial independence in Honduras. PBI’s advocacy and outreach has helped give visibility to the situation facing justice operators in the country. The European tour was very important in strengthening AJD’s international support network and the legitimacy of its work in Honduras.
From November 28 to December 2, almost 700 LGBTI human rights defenders and allies from 101 different countries gathered in Bangkok, Thailand to take part in the 28th ILGA World Conference. Thanks to the support of ProtectDefenders.eu, ILGA could meet one of the first LGBTI human rights defenders to receive support from European Union Human Rights Defenders mechanism: a video interview will be released in the upcoming weeks.
For five days, advocates from all over the world met to network and engage in dialogue on issues faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex communities both at the local and at the international level, to take stock of the many groundbreaking moments celebrated in the past few years and to strategize about the future of these movements.
With nine Pre-Conferences, 20 Rainbow Talks and 25 workshops on topics ranging from integrated security for activists to the economic cost of social exclusion for LGBTI communities, from fundraising to strategic litigation, the conference offered an important occasion for LGBTI human rights defenders to strengthen their capacities, network and discuss on ways to shape a world in which everyone can live safely, equally and free.
Picture: Jacuzzi News
Ciudad de Panamá-Ginebra-Paris-Tegucigalpa, 1 de diciembre de 2016 - "Asesinatos, amenazas y criminalización es la realidad cotidiana para las personas defensoras de derechos humanos en Honduras. Las autoridades hondureñas deben mostrar una real voluntad política para hacer frente a esta crisis", según denunciaron hoy el Observatorio para la Protección de los Defensores de Derechos Humanos (OMCT-FIDH), CEHPRODEC, CIPRODEH, COFADEH y la Plataforma Internacional contra la Impunidad en el informe de la misión de investigación realizada por el Observatorio en el marco de ProtectDefenders.eu. El lanzamiento de este informe se realizó durante la audiencia ante la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos sobre la situación de los defensores de derechos humanos en Honduras, celebrada en la Ciudad de Panamá.
La difícil situación de los defensores y las defensoras de los derechos humanos en Honduras ha recibido una gran atención internacional durante el año 2016, como consecuencia del asesinato de la emblemática defensora indígena lenca Berta Cáceres. Este crimen es sólo la punta del iceberg en un contexto de altísimos niveles de violencia contra las personas defensoras en el país centroamericano, que se ha convertido en uno de los países más peligrosos del mundo para la defensa de los derechos humanos.
Desde 2001, 17 personas defensoras han sido asesinadas siendo beneficiarias de medidas cautelares de la CIDH, en promedio una por año. Desde mayo del 2015 hasta la actualidad, el observatorio ha podido documentar 16 asesinatos de defensores, prácticamente uno por mes, lo que demuestra el agravamiento de la situación.
Las agresiones en contra de los defensores y defensoras están en la impunidad, en gran parte por la ineficacia de la administración de justicia, entre otros factores estructurales. En contraste, destacan los numerosos casos de criminalización de personas defensoras y el nivel de diligencia que el sistema judicial emplea para que los procesos en su contra avancen. Según datos de la CIDH, desde 2010 se habrían producido en el país 3064 casos de criminalización para amedrentar a defensores y defensoras de derechos humanos.
El informe concluye que urge contar con un marco nacional más claro y protector que reconozca plenamente los derechos humanos de la población campesina, los pueblos indígenas y el colectivo LGTBI. Esto mejoraría el entorno de trabajo de los defensores y defensoras que trabajan por estos derechos y aumentaría su legitimidad y su visibilidad, especialmente en los contextos en los que prevalecen los conflictos en torno a la tierra y los estereotipos hetero-patriarcales respectivamente.
“Hasta que no se solucionen las causas estructurales que generan riesgo para quienes defienden derechos, medidas en la buena dirección como la Ley de Protección no serán eficaces. Las políticas discriminatorias contra la población LGTBI así como la violación de los derechos relacionados con la tierra, incluyendo la obligación de consultar a las comunidades afectadas por proyectos de desarrollo, contribuyen a exacerbar los conflictos y a reforzar estereotipos, dejando a los defensores y defensoras entre la espada y la pared”, denunciaron las organizaciones.
Particularmente, en un contexto en el que se dan 837 proyectos mineros potenciales que implicarían el 35 % del territorio nacional, un marco legislativo claro y respetuoso de los estándares internacionales en materia de derechos humanos relacionados con la tierra contribuiría a canalizar los posibles conflictos a través de canales institucionales de diálogo en lugar de generar violencia y conflictividad social. Es por ello que nuestras organizaciones abogan por la apertura de un proceso participativo de debate sobre el modelo de desarrollo con la participación efectiva de la sociedad civil y, particularmente, de los pueblos indígenas y garífunas.
El informe concluye asimismo que factores estructurales como la militarización del Estado, la falta de independencia de la judicatura, la sistemática estigmatización de los defensores y defensoras y las carencias en la institucionalidad del Estado en materia de derechos humanos son una muestra de la ausencia de voluntad real del Estado para proteger a los defensores de derechos humanos.
Un ejemplo reciente y preocupante son las últimas declaraciones del Presidente Juan Orlando Hernández, en las que criminaliza de forma irresponsable a organizaciones de derechos humanos vinculándolas con grupos pandilleros, lo que contribuye a elevar aún más el riesgo de agresiones en contra de las personas defensoras.
Para ello el informe propone recomendaciones específicas sobre las reformas estructurales necesarias que nuestras organizaciones han identificado a partir de su análisis.
El informe completo está disponible para descarga aquí.
El Observatorio para la Protección de los Defensores de Derechos Humanos (el Observatorio) es un programa creado en 1997 por la Organización Mundial Contra la Tortura (OMCT) y la FIDH y tiene por objetivo intervenir para prevenir o remediar situaciones concretas de represión contra los defensores y defensoras de los derechos humanos. OMCT y FIDH son ambos miembros de ProtectDefenders.eu, el Mecanismo de la Unión Europea para Defensores de Derechos Humanos implementado por sociedad civil internacional.
On the occasion of the 1st Beneficiaries' Meeting, the twelve partner organisations of ProtectDefenders.eu have issued a public statement urging all national authorities to "publicly recognise the crucial role played by human rights defenders and protect them in all circumstances from any form of judicial harassment". As stressed by Antoine Madelin, FIDH Director for International Advocacy and Chair of the Board of ProtectDefenders.eu, "Human Rights Defenders are the pillars of democracy and of the rule of law but are too often subjected to unfair criminal prosecution, in an effort to undermine their work in the defence of human rights."
(READ HERE THE FULL VERSION OF THE JOINT STATEMENT)
"Everyday in Honduras, human rights defenders face killings, threats and criminalisation. The Honduran authorities must show genuine political willingness to confront this crisis" urged the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (an OMCT - FIDH partnership), on the occasion of the publication of the report on the international fact-finding mission carried out in the country within ProtectDefenders.eu, launched on December 1st in Panama City, before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
The predicament of human rights defenders in Honduras has received a great deal of international attention in 2016, following the murder of Berta Cáceres, an emblematic Lenca indigenous defender. This crime is just the tip of the iceberg; the high levels of violence directed against defenders in Honduras have made it one of the most dangerous countries in the world for human rights defence.
Since 2001, 17 defenders have been murdered, although they were beneficiaries of IACHR precautionary measures - an average of one per year. Since May 2015, the Observatory has documented 16 killings of human rights defenders - almost one per month. These figures clearly demonstrate that the situation is becoming more acute.
Attacks against defenders tend to go unpunished, largely due to inefficiencies in the administration of justice as well as a number of other structural factors. Meanwhile, there have been a great many incidences of defenders being criminalised, and the judicial system has shown remarkable diligence in pursuing these cases. According to IACHR, since 2010 there have been 3,064 cases in Honduras where human rights defenders have been criminalised as a means of intimidation.
The report concludes that Honduras needs a clearer and more protective national framework, one which fully recognises the human rights of the rural population, indigenous peoples and the LGBTI community. This would improve the working environment of defenders of these rights, and would allow them to enjoy a greater degree of legitimacy and visibility, especially in situations of conflict over natural resources and hetero-patriarchal stereotypes respectively.
Brussels, November 29, 2016.- ProtectDefenders.eu, the EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism implemented by International Civil Society, has just concluded its first annual meeting of beneficiaries: human rights defenders at risk from all regions of the world who have benefited from the project gathered today in Brussels. The meeting aimed at reflecting on this first year of coordinated work to support defenders worldwide and at highlighting the worrying global phenomenon of criminalisation of human rights defenders.
To conclude the meeting, the twelve partner organisations of ProtectDefenders.eu have issued a public statement urging all national authorities to "publicly recognise the crucial role played by human rights defenders and protect them in all circumstances from any form of judicial harassment". As stressed by Antoine Madelin, FIDH Director for International Advocacy and Chair of the Board of ProtectDefenders.eu, "Human Rights Defenders are the pillars of democracy and of the rule of law but are too often subjected to unfair criminal prosecution, in an effort to undermine their work in the defence of human rights."
Since the launch of the project in October 2015, ProtectDefenders.eu has witnessed an increased criminalisation of defenders worldwide in reprisal to the conduct of legitimate human rights activities.
ProtectDefenders.eu held its meeting in Brussels under the motto "Defenders are not criminals" and brought together dozens of human rights defenders at risk supported by the EU mechanism during its first year of implementation, together with prominent representatives of NGOs, European institutions and Representatives of International and Regional Protection Mechanisms, including the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst. Participating defenders, coming from more than 20 countries such as Burundi, Honduras, Egypt, Bangladesh or the Russian Federation, shared their experiences of resilience in often dangerous and challenging situations and debated on the most effective strategies to counter criminalisation and pursue their work.
This meeting has also emphasised the main achievements and highlights of the first year of ProtectDefenders.eu. In the first twelve months, the EU Mechanism has provided more than 330 emergency grants to defenders at high risk, facilitating a rapid response to their legal, medical, security or emergency relocation needs in pressing circumstances. At the same time, ProtectDefenders.eu has successfully started and run a temporary relocation programme, disbursing more than 700,000 € in support of 74 temporary relocations in favour of 150 individuals, with the collaboration of host institutions worldwide and in the framework of the EU Temporary Relocation Platform.
The Project has also provided institutional and operational support to grassroots organisations, allocating more than 300,000 € through 32 grants. 1,300 defenders worldwide were trained to improve their security and protection in difficult contexts.
Finally, ProtectDefenders.eu has expanded its advocacy and outreach dimension, by conducting fact-finding missions and monitoring trials against defenders particularly in difficult countries, as well as carrying out initiatives to assist and connect isolated and vulnerable defenders throughout the world. ProtectDefenders.eu has coordinated more than 430 urgent alerts aimed at mobilizing the attention of concerned authorities, public and media on behalf of defenders at risk.
Human Rights defenders who attended the meeting positively assessed the first year of implementation of ProtectDefenders.eu. The twelve partners praised the EU strong support through the EIDHR of a project as ambitious and comprehensive as ProtectDefenders.eu. As pointed out by Andrew Anderson, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders and member of the Board of ProtectDefenders.eu, in the closing speech, "human rights defenders in danger around the world do benefit from this strong coordination between international civil society organizations and the institutions of the European Union."
On the 29th of November, ProtectDefenders.eu held its first annual meeting of beneficiaries under the motto "Defenders are not criminals". More than 30 human rights defenders at risk from all regions of the world who have benefited from the project gathered in Brussels with representatives of NGOs, European institutions and International and Regional Protection Mechanisms, including the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst. The meeting reflected on this first year of coordinated work to support defenders worldwide and highlighted the worrying global phenomenon of criminalisation of human rights defenders.
Participating defenders, coming from more than 20 countries such as Burundi, Honduras, Egypt, Bangladesh or the Russian Federation, shared their experiences of resilience in often dangerous and challenging situations and debated on the most effective strategies to counter criminalisation and pursue their work.
This meeting also emphasised the main achievements of ProtectDefenders.eu for this first year of support: More than 330 emergency grants have been allocated to defenders at high risk, facilitating a rapid response to their legal, medical, security or emergency relocation needs in pressing circumstances. At the same time, ProtectDefenders.eu has successfully started and run a temporary relocation programme, disbursing more than 700,000 € in support of 73 temporary relocations in favour of 150 individuals, with the collaboration of host institutions worldwide and in the framework of the EU Temporary Relocation Platform. The Project has also provided institutional and operational support to grassroots organisations, allocating more than 300,000 € through 37 grants. 1,600 defenders worldwide were trained to improve their security and protection in difficult contexts. Finally, ProtectDefenders.eu has expanded its advocacy and outreach dimension, by conducting fact-finding missions and monitoring trials against defenders particularly in difficult countries, as well as carrying out initiatives to assist and connect isolated and vulnerable defenders throughout the world. ProtectDefenders.eu has coordinated more than 430 urgent alerts aimed at mobilizing the attention of concerned authorities, public and media on behalf of defenders at risk.
See the gallery of pictures of the 1st Beneficiaries' Meeting here.
Brussels, November 29, 2016 - "Human rights defenders worldwide are regularly subjected to harassment and trumped-up criminal charges aiming at paralysing, intimidating and delegitimising their human rights activities. They face difficulties carrying out their work in increasingly restrictive legislative and administrative environments denying the right to freedoms of association, expression and peaceful assembly. Licences of human rights NGOs have been steadily cancelled, bank accounts seized and their right to access foreign funds violated. A growing number of States have also developed a systematic pattern of obstacles to human rights defenders' freedom of movement, in particular through the use of travel bans, in a clear attempt to isolate them.
Within the first year of the project, ProtectDefenders.eu, the EU Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society, has perceived this phenomenon as a worldwide growing trend, which undermines the existence of an enabling environment for human rights defenders. Only in 2016, as per ProtectDefenders.eu's findings 1 , more than 425 defenders have faced judicial harassment and at least 193 defenders have been charged or sentenced to prison.
The misuse of domestic criminal justice systems and the development of restrictive legislations and regulations against human rights defenders have a threefold impact on their work. Firstly, it practically interferes with their daily human rights activities. It obliges them, for instance, to present themselves regularly to summons, to serve long periods of pre-trial detention or, when convicted, to serve sentences preventing them from pursuing their human rights activities. Secondly, it contributes to the stigmatisation of human rights defenders and organisations depicting them as criminals, therefore delegitimising their positive role in society. Thirdly, criminalisation and judicial harassment of defenders creates a chilling effect on civil society as a whole, specifically within the communities or groups to which the defenders belong, in many cases leading to social fragmentation and isolation of the defenders themselves.
Some groups of defenders have been more frequently the target of criminalisation by State and non-State actors, due to the issues they work on. In particular, land and environmental rights defenders, defenders working on economic, social and cultural rights, women’s rights (including sexual and reproductive rights), LGBTIQ rights, freedom of expression, rule of law or accountability issues, often face trumped-up criminal charges. Criminalisation is generally accompanied by major violations of the right to a fair trial. Criminal proceedings are often characterized by lack of independence of the judiciary, summary procedures, failure to inform the accused of charges brought against them, obstacles to their right to defence and access to a lawyer, lack of translation and failure to comply with the principle of publicity of the hearings, among other violations.
An increasing number of countries around the world have developed repressive legal environments that undermine the exercise of the right to freedoms of association (including the right to access funding), expression and peaceful assembly. Those restrictions not only violate universally recognised human rights standards, but also seriously impact efforts by civil society to promote and protect human rights and ensure that the voice of victims of violations is heard. These laws and regulations, as well as restrictive official practices and procedures, are very detrimental to the work of NGOs, and result in a limitation of their activities, the criminalisation of their staff and/or even the closure and dissolution of the organisation. In many countries, these new laws and policies threaten the very existence of a human rights civil society.
ProtectDefenders.eu strongly calls upon all national authorities to:
- Publicly recognise the legitimate and crucial role played by human rights defenders in society and condemn systematically all acts of harassment and violence against them.
- Protect them from any kind of harassment, particularly at the judicial level, so that they are able to carry out their human rights activities without any hindrances.
- Remove all legal and administrative obstacles placed on the activities of human rights defenders.
- Immediately and unconditionally release all arbitrarily detained human rights defenders and drop all charges against them, as their detention only aims at sanctioning their human rights activities.
- Guarantee the right to defence of all detained defenders by lifting obstacles undermining access to their lawyers and putting an end to the practice of depriving defenders from the support of their designated
lawyers by calling them as witnesses in the case.
- Investigate in an effective, transparent and independent manner and sanction accordingly all public officials involved in cases of undue use of the criminal system against human rights defenders and guarantee the access to justice and redress to all victims.
ProtectDefenders.eu also calls upon the European Union and its Member States to:
- Publicly recognise the trend of criminalisation of human rights defenders as an urgent issue to address, as one of the biggest threats to the security and the work of defenders, and incorporate this as a priority focus into their human rights advocacy strategy.
- Work on a strategic approach to advance human rights with a global perspective and specially condemn every form of criminalisation of human rights defenders.
- Monitor more closely the trends of criminalisation in countries of concern and systematically observe trials against human rights defenders in countries with presence of EU Delegations.
- Take steps to combat the stigmatisation of human rights defenders by public officials: condemn public statements made by public officials that negatively affect the image and reputation of human rights defenders and reiterate the damaging effect this has; and conduct positive awareness work and encourage governments to do the same.
- Encourage governments and media bodies to take affirmative action to clear human rights defenders’ name, support their work, and restore their reputation and legitimacy.
- Afford special attention to groups marginalised due to their identity -such as women, LGBTIQ, and ethnic or indigenous groups - who are particularly vulnerable to all types of harassment, including criminalisation.
“I have been in Nairobi for 26 months..."
“I have been in Nairobi for 26 months; I changed four places in Nairobi including UNHCR safe house. My life was at risk and full of fears. I was targeted by the government security agents and I was locked for two years. I had nothing to survive. However, ProtectDefenders.eu and its partner organizations was a lot of impact for being safe in US Florida. They provide me financial, emotional and counselling support, without the help of ProtectDefenders.eu and its partners I wouldn’t be in US. The financial assistance helps me to pay my house rent and basic expenses. Currently, I am struggling to begin life from nothing; but thanks to the support I do all my effort to keep on my journalistic activities, I have confidence that the EU and its partners will remain defend the defenders. I express heartfelt thanks for all you did. and for all the support you’ve shown" .
ProtectDefenders.eu partners are concerned about recent killings and overall degradation of the situation of Human Rights Defenders in Honduras, and severe threats and judicial abuses against defenders in Kazakhstan and DRC.
On November 19, ESCR-Net’s System of Solidarity Advisory Group, through Front Line Defenders and Just Associates and with the support of ProtectDefenders.eu, facilitated a security training for 35 human rights defenders, half of whom were women, during the ESCR-Net Global Strategy Meeting in Buenos Aires (Argentina).
During the meeting, more than 140 social movements, civil society organisations and advocates from over 40 countries came together to confront global systems that perpetuate inequality, impoverishment and dispossession and to explore alternatives to these global common conditions. The participants ranged from representatives of social movements and grassroots organisations working in difficult countries as well as representatives from larger NGOs based in the Global North who collaborate with human rights defenders under threat.
Following a dynamic methodology, participants were asked to draw an average day in their lives. They subsequently discussed their drawings in pairs. Then, in plenary, participants explained their drawings and shared observations about their daily routines and what those mean for the security risks and vulnerabilities that they face, as well as general observations about well-being for human rights defenders.
Participants expressed appreciation for the training and informational session, which was made possible thanks to ProtectDefenders.eu, and highlighted interest in further capacity-building opportunities for the coming period.
ProtectDefenders.eu is holding its first beneficiaries' meeting next Tuesday, 29th November 2016, in Brussels, under the theme “Defenders are not criminals - Countering Criminalisation of Human Rights Defenders”.
In addition to highlighting the main achievements and challenges of the first year of implementation of ProtectDefenders.eu, this first beneficiaries' meeting will aim at giving enhanced visibility to the human rights defenders agenda. It will address the issue of criminalisation as a worrying trend, foster sharing of experiences on successful strategies to counter criminalisation and draw relevant conclusions on the support needed by human rights defenders both within and outside ProtectDefenders.eu.
ProtectDefenders.eu chose to highlight the issue of criminalisation of human rights defenders as a topic of concern throughout this event. Indeed, in recent years, state and non-state actors have made numerous attempts to criminalise the work of human rights defenders worldwide in order to silence their voices and undermine the credibility of their actions. Countering criminalisation of the work of human rights defenders is therefore imperative to ensure a safe environment for individuals to defend and exercise their rights.
This event will bring together Human Rights Defenders, Human Rights NGOs, Representatives of international and regional Protection Mechanisms, Members of the EU Temporary Relocation Platform, as well as other Representatives of EU Institutions, providing therefore valuable networking opportunities for all participants.
If you are interested in joining us, please contact Javier Roura at email@example.com
ProtectDefenders.eu has supported the advocacy tour of Nkosilathi Emmanuel Moyo, a Zimbabwean human rights defender and democracy activist, carried out from 7-10 of November, in Brussels. During his stay, Nkosilathi met with MEPs, human rights NGOs, scholars and EU representatives to raise awareness about the hazardous situation of civil society and human rights defenders in Zimbabwe. Nkosilathi Emmanuel Moyo has been particularly threatened after accusing President Robert Mugabe for crimes against humanity, and has been forced to flee to South Africa.
Nkosilathi had previously participated in the Shelter City relocation program in the Netherlands after receiving several threats and being under constant surveillance due to the publication of his book 'Robert Mugabe from freedom fighter to the people’s enemy'.
Nkosilathi is the co-founder of Zimbabwe Organisation for the Youth in Politics (Z.O.Y.P), a community-based organisation working with human rights defenders and youth based in the small mining town of Kwekwe, in Zimbabwe. He has also established the ‘Community Human Rights Defenders Academy’ where he is educating and training human rights defenders based in remote and grassroots areas to help them perform their human rights work.
On 10 and 11 November 2016, Reporters Without Borders organised a training in physical security for 19 Afghan journalists in Kabul with the support of ProtectDefenders.eu. The training gathered journalists, majority of them working as war reporters for local and national media and among them 4 women, from 13 provinces of Afghanistan.
The training focused on four different topics, based on RSF’s guide to security for journalist, translated and edited for this occasion in Pashtun and Dura:- Physical security; How to prepare a report and assure that all security measures are being respected; How to react to a kidnapping, or extreme situation and protection measures: How to deal with post-trauma and psychological impact.
Each session was divided between a theoretical part and workshops with practical exercises. The methodology of the training was based on the ‘training of the trainer’ approach, as the objective was that the trainees could then form their colleagues. So far, two additional trainings have been organised. At the end of the two-days, one journalist confided “you think you already know all the security rules to protect yourself as a journalist, but you don’t, this training was eye-opening and very useful”.
In November 14-16 2016, ProtectDefenders.eu participated in the 7th Asian Regional Human Rights Defenders Forum, held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, presenting the EU Human Rights Defenders. The forum was organised by FORUM-ASIA together with their members in Sri Lanka: Inform Human Rights Documentation Centre (INFORM) and Law and Society Trust (LST).
ProtectDefenders.eu, through the European Union Temporary Relocation Platform (EUTRP), has supported the set-up of a new relocation programme 'Tbilisi Shelter City' in Tbilisi, Georgia, together with two local NGOs (Truth Hounds and Analytical Center for Interethnic Cooperation). This new shelter initiative is expected to host up to 20 human rights defenders. The first group of defenders in need of relocation will arrive in December 2016.
This new shelter programme is open to human rights defenders under threat coming from Central Asia, Russia and Turkey. Thanks to the advantageous conditions of the visa free regime in Georgia, the programme will be able to swiftly relocate human rights defenders at risk. Local organisations Truth Hounds and the Analytical Center for Interethnic Cooperation, who are running the Tbilisi Shelter City programme, have developed a comprehensive program to make out the most of the stay of defenders, providing meaningful opportunities for professional development. The relocation programme includes courses in human rights offered by the University, English and driving lessons, as well as trainings in communication, project writing and advocacy.
ProtectDefenders.eu is supporting the monitoring of the trial against human rights defenders Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayan in Atyrau (Kazakhstan), carried out by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OMCT-FIDH partnership) and several local and national and international human rights organisations.
According to the Observatory, “the criminal cases against Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayan appear to be aimed at punishing them because of their criticism of the Land Code reform and at sending a chilling message to civil society in the country" Therefore, the Observatory urged the Kazakhstani authorities "to ensure that the proceedings are carried out in full compliance with the right to a fair trial, as guaranteed by international law and to acquit the two defenders”.
From October 24, the Observatory for the Protection of HRDs, a partnership of OMCT and FIDH, conducted a four-days fact-finding mission on the situation of HRDs in Kenya within the framework of ProtectDefenders.eu.
The Observatory, particularly concerned by the high levels of police violence against HRDs and the attempts of restricting their space of work, decided to carry out an International Fact-Finding Mission in Kenya with the objective of verifying in situ the situation of human rights defenders in the country, raising international attention on their situation and contributing to their protection and the improvement of an enabling environment for civil society in Kenya. More particularly, the mission focused on the analysis of the high levels of police violence against defenders working on accountability and the rule of law, as well as against peaceful demonstrators, especially during election periods such as the one Kenya is living at the moment. Another important focus was the legal path of the 2013 Public Benefit Organisations Act a new NGO law which, once enacted, will repeal the 1990 NGO Coordination Act, the NGO legislation currently regulating the civil society sector that is clearly out-dated. The Mission touched also upon the recent attempts to shrink the space of civil society through administrative sanctions as well as through criminalization within the anti-terrorism legal framework.
ProtectDefenders.eu partners are concerned about reported judicial abuses, harassment and attacks against Human Rights Defenders in Russia, Colombia and Vietnam.
ProtectDefenders.eu - The EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism is looking for a 'Programmes and Communication' intern.
INFORMATION ABOUT PROTECTDEFENDERS.EU
ProtectDefenders.eu is the European Union Human Rights Defenders mechanism, established to protect defenders at high risk and facing the most difficult situations worldwide.
The implementation of ProtectDefenders.eu is led by a Consortium of 12 NGOs active in the field of Human Rights, namely Front Line Defenders, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Network (ESCR-Net), International Gay and Lesbian Association (ILGA), Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights (UAF), Protection International (PI), Peace Brigades International (PBI), Euro-Mediterranean Foundation of Support to Human Rights Defenders (EMHRF), Forum Asia and East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP).
ProtectDefenders.eu is coordinated by an independent Secretariat based in Brussels.
TASKS TO BE PERFORMED BY THE INTERN DURING THE INTERNSHIP
Based at the Secretariat's office in Brussels, the intern will work in support to the different file-holders and under the overall supervision of the Head of Secretariat.
He/She will carry out a variety of tasks related to the purposes of the EU HRD Mechanism coordination and implementation, what will provide an opportunity for learning and achieving relevant work experience in the field of human rights at global and EU levels.
Tasks & General Responsibilities:
Allocation of grants
Temporary Relocation of Human Rights Defenders
Communication and Advocacy
STARTING DATE & CONDITIONS
Please note that our internships are unpaid. Schedule can be flexible and would be agreed between the supervisor and the intern. Local transportation costs and meals expenses shall be reimbursed.
HOW TO APPLY?
Con el apoyo del Mecanismo de la UE para los Defensores y Defensoras de los Derechos Humanos - ProtectDefenders.eu, Protection International en Guatemala y Colombia ha estado impulsando en America Latina procesos de protección y fortalecimiento de la labor de las mujeres defensoras de los derechos humanos, particularmente los derechos territoriales y ambientales.
Como parte de este trabajo, del 2 al 8 de octubre se celebró el primer intercambio de mujeres defensoras de derechos humanos, en el cual participaron mujeres de las organizaciones sociales y comunidades acompanadas por los equipos de PDGuatemala, ADES-organización socia de PI en El Salvador, y PDColombia en alianza con Pensamiento y Acción Social – PAS.
La actividad tuvo como objetivo generar un espacio de intercambio de experiencias deprotección desarrolladas por las organizaciones y comunidades acompañadas. La metodología desarrollada permitió generar un espacio para profundizar a cerca de los riesgos a los que están expuestas las defensoras, en especial en contextos de explotación minera por parte de empresas extranjeras y conflictos de tierras. Entre los mayores riesgos se destacan los asesinatos de lideresas, la difamación y estigmatización de las mujeres y sus organizaciones, judicializaciones, ataque contra sus medios de vida como cultivos, y alteraciones en el medios ambiente y el uso de la tierra, como la contaminación de fuentes de agua, que terminan desplazando a las comunidades de sus territorios y limitando su espacio de actuación como defensoras.
Frente a las distintas amenazas, las mujeres identifican que los ataques en contra de sus familiares, principalmente los hijos e hijas, así como la difamación, son los hechos que han generado un mayor impacto, con consecuencia psicológicas grabes. Evidentemente todo lo anterior se presenta en un contexto de clara complicidad con las autoridades de los países.
En este intercambio se percibieron los logros, debilidades y fortalezas de las acciones de protección colectiva y autoprotección que se están llevando a cabo en sus comunidades y organizaciones, entre la que resaltan: el trabajo y desplazamientos en grupo, el uso de mecanismo de información comunitarios para la difusión de información y alertas, la denuncia como una práctica permanente y el desarrollo de acciones de incidencia nacional e internacional. Acciones que han permitido salvar vidas, dado que las respuestas institucionales en todos los países continúan siendo muy limitadas.
Al final las mujeres valoran la experiencia como un momento de aprendizaje y a su vez ratifican la importancia de la protección colectiva y de la autoprotección como un ejercicio de solidaridad y cuidado con la vida de cada defensora, apropian que estos factores, deben ser fortalecidos en cada uno de los procesos acompañados, aunque reconocen que es un gran reto, pues la estrategia del opositor en todos los casos es romper los procesos organizativos y acabar con la solidaridad.
Organizaciones y comunidades participantes:
Fuente: Protection International
ProtectDefenders.eu is supporting the monitoring of the trial against human rights defenders Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayan in Atyrau (Kazakhstan), carried out by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OMCT-FIDH partnership) and several local and national and international human rights organisations.
According to the Observatory, “the criminal cases against Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayan appear to be aimed at punishing them because of their criticism of the Land Code reform and at sending a chilling message to civil society in the country" Therefore, the Observatory urged the Kazakhstani authorities "to ensure that the proceedings are carried out in full compliance with the right to a fair trial, as guaranteed by international law and to acquit the two defenders”.
The Observatory denounced the judicial harassment and the arbitrary detention of Max Bokayev, a prominent civil society activist who heads the NGO “Arlan”, and Talgat Ayan, a lawyer and activist, have been ongoing since 17 May 2016. On that day, they were both arrested in Atyrau in retaliation for their crucial role in the peaceful protests against controversial amendments to Kazakhstan’s Land Code that took place in Kazakhstan in April and May, as well as their critical statements on this issue on social media platforms. In response to the peaceful land reform protests, the Kazakhstani authorities adopted a predominantly repressive approach including by detaining well-known civic activists and civil society leaders, as well as by refusing to grant authorisation for peaceful rallies.
From October 2 to 8, Protection International, with the support of ProtectDefenders.eu, organised a sharing experience for women human rights defenders and land rights defenders in Guatemala, the first of a set of initiatives and processes promoted to protect and strengthen the work of women human rights defenders, particularly working in land and environmental rights, through mutual learning.
On 26-27 September 2016, the EMHRF Maghreb team conducted a field visit to Tunisia’ most impoverished and remote areas, as an outreach initiative towards less connected human rights defenders and organisations carried out within ProtectDefenders.eu.
During this mission, the team visited the North-West of the country, (El Kef and Jendouba governorates), and met with four civil society organisations, in order to assess local civil society dynamics and needs as well as means to support their work in the future. As a result of this outreach mission, a new local HRDs’ organisation, whose aims are to promote citizenship and defend youth rights as well as developing civil society synergies around youth issues in the Ain Draham delegation and in the North-West of Tunisia, may receive core support from ProtectDefenders.eu to leverage and reinforce its activities.
Chakeri has been increasingly critical towards his country's government, also calling for freedom and democracy as an activist. During the last years he has been regularly attacked, arrested and threatened. He decided to leave his country and he is currently relocated in Brussels with the accompaniment of Passaporta - International house of Literature as host organisation, with the financial support of ProtectDefenders.eu.
Arash Chakeri joins at least 39 other defenders that have accessed the Temporary Relocation Programme of the EU Human Rights Defenders Mechanism during the last three months.These threatened defenders, coming from multiple countries (Bangladesh, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan or Uganda, among others) and working on fields such as freedom of expression, land and environmental rights or women's rights are now protected and accompanied by host organisations throughout the world. Since the launch of the Temporary Relocation Programme in February 2016, 68 human rights defenders at risk and their families when needed have been awarded with a temporary relocation grant by ProtectDefenders.eu.
Human Rights Defenders facing threats are eligible to the Temporary Relocation Programme of ProtectDefenders.eu. All information and secure application forms are available at https://www.protectdefenders.eu/supporting-defenders.
ProtectDefenders.eu has supported the publication of a briefing on the situation of repression against human rights defenders in Cuba, drafted by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of implementing partners FIDH and OMCT, and released on August 29. In a context of diplomatic and economic opening in the island, legitimate activities in defence of human rights carried out by civil society are still subject to prohibitions and prosecution.
In this briefing, the Observatory warns about the escalation of acts of repression against defenders and members of Cuban civil society, in particular against the movement of 'Las Damas de Blanco' and defenders related to the "#TodosMarchamos" campaign, documenting arbitrary detentions, judicial harassment, attacks, ill-treatment and death threat reported since April 2016.
Read the full briefing here.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, within the framework of ProtectDefenders.eu, has just issued its report on judicial observation mission of the Bajo Aguán case. Four years later, 25 defenders and peasants acquitted but the murder of lawyer Trejo go unpunished.
You can read the full report here.
The World Organisation against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of ProtectDefenders.eu, has allocated an emergency grant to Damián Gallardo Martínez, defender of indigenous people and education rights from the Mixe region in the state of Oaxaca (Mexico).
Mr. Gallardo has been arbitrarily detained since May 2013, as stated by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (Opinion 23/2014), as a consequence of his work for the release of political prisoners or indigenous rights in the Mixe and Zapotec regions. Mr. Gallardo is accused of criminal charges and has been subjected to repeated cruel and inhuman treatment and denied adequate medical care. The material support provided by ProtectDefenders.eu will allow Mr. Gallardo to cover expenses for adequate medical, psychological and legal attention to alleviate his situation.
In the last three months, ProtectDefenders.eu has allocated 46 emergency support grants to human rights defenders at risk, mostly to individuals working in the field of freedom of expression, indigenous people rights and good governance topics. China, Syria, Mexico, Ecuador, Burundi, Sri Lanka and Uganda rank among the countries of origin for a significant number of grantees, who requested support from ProtectDefenders.eu partners mainly to cover emergency relocation expenses, individual security measures and legal and medical assistance. Since the start of the project, the EU Human Rights Defenders Mechanism has provided 278 emergency grants.
Threatened defenders facing pressing needs can apply to an urgent support grant at www.protectdefenders.eu. Secured and encrypted application forms are available for defenders and requests for immediate assistance, including to cover legal or medical support, material assistance or relocation measures, can be quickly processed by ProtectDefenders.eu partners.
In June 2016, Reporters Without Borders carried out a 7 days observatory mission in Mexico, in the framework of ProtectDefenders.eu. The objective of this mission was to gather comprehensive information on the insecure situation, constant threats and attacks against the journalists in the region, in order to raise awareness and alert international community and propose recommendations.
The mission visited first the federal district of Mexico and met with institutional actors and journalists from Veracruz who fled into exile in the capital. Then, they travelled to the state of Veracruz (in the capital Xalapa and Puerto de Veracruz), to meet with local journalists, NGOs and representatives from the local mechanism for journalists’ protection. A report with all the conclusions and recommendations after this mission will be published in November.
On August 10, ProtectDefenders.eu partner ESCR-Net sent a letter to the Government of Nepal to express concern regarding the reported and threatened human rights violations in connection with the World Bank-funded Khimti-Dhalkebar 220 kV Transmission Line Project (Project), in the Sindhuli District, which is operating on the lands of indigenous peoples.
The letter follows concerns expressed for over a decade by Project-affected peoples regarding the Project’s human rights and environmental impacts, including: appropriation of lands without adequate compensation or resettlement; impacts detrimental to local livelihoods including land devaluation, loss of economic opportunity and interference with agricultural activities; environmental impacts; health impacts; and impacts on historical, cultural, religious and sacred sites.
On August 12, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, within the framework of ProtectDefenders.eu, welcomed the release of Mexican defender Ildefonso Zamora, after the intense work done to raise awareness about his case both nationally and internationally. Mr. Ildefonso Zamora was released after 9 months of arbitrary detention in reprisal for his work in defence of the environment, natural resources and the territory of the tlahuica community.
On 29 and 30 June 2016, PBI Guatemala, in collaboration with various local organisations and with the support of ProtectDefenders.eu, conducted a workshop on "Preventing and reacting to practices of defamation and criminalisation of social protest", held in Guatemala City.
46 people (37 women and 9 men) belonging to 24 organizations and social movements from 11 departments of Guatemala participated in this workshop, organised with the aim of increasing organizational and individual capacities of defenders to implement strategies and protective measures to minimize the impacts caused by the criminalization. This training addressed legal strategies for defenders to prevent and counteract criminalization processes. Moreover, the different manifestations of sexism within organizations and social movements and their psychological impacts, especially on women, were also addressed in the workshop.
Together with four other organisations and with the support of ProtectDefenders.eu, PBI Mexico convened and facilitated a Training for Trainers on Digital Security for 10 human rights defenders from four different Mexican states, held from 29 June to 1 july in Mexico City.
Participants were asked after training to replicate tools learned and deliver their own digital security workshops in the regions where they work. The opportunity was also used to create an informal network of organisations that can respond to the growing demands for tools on self protection from cyber threats. This initiative is the second of a series of four workshops where the focus lies precisely on sharing tools to facilitate workshops on security and protection.
In September 2016, Urgent Action Fund participated in the Association for Women's Rights in Development AWID Forum in Bahia (Brazil), meeting with WHRDs from around the world and sharing information about support available for them from ProtectDefenders.eu.
ProtectDefenders.eu partners are concerned about the plight of harassment and criminalisation against Human Rights Defenders in China, Cambodia and Bahrain.
ESCR-Net, within the framework of ProtectDefenders.eu, sent a petition to the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, to express grave concern regarding the recent abduction and killing of human rights defender and lawyer, Willie Kimani, his client, Josphat Mwenda, and driver, Joseph Muiruri and calling for a prompt and effective investigation into and accountability for these acts.
The three individuals were abducted and found dead on June 30. Their bodies were discovered in a river in Machakos County and were reported to show signs of having been tortured. Kimani had dedicated his career to defending human rights, protecting the rights of victims of torture, and transforming the criminal justice system.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, within the framework of ProtectDefenders.eu, carried out in July a mission of judicial observation of the process against human rights defenders Juan Francisco Pedro, Adalberto Villatoro, Arturo Juan Pablo, Hermit Lopez, Mynor Lopez, Domingo Baltazar and Rigoberto Juarezm held in Guatemala City.
The defenders were arrested due to their role in the defence of the territory and natural resources of their communities in North Huehuetenango. They were accused of crimes as attack, coercion, threats, incitement to crime, obstruction of criminal action and kidnapping or abduction, among others. In a case regarded as emblematic of the pattern of criminalisation of human rights defenders in Guatemala and after 13 days of trial, the authorities unanimously acquitted of all charges five defenders, while two others were found guilty for some charges yet released immediately for having been in custody for over a year.
The Colombian Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (CPDH), with the funding and support provided by FIDH and ProtectDefenders.eu, is advocating before the Colombian and international institutions for the effective implementation of protection measures for human rights defenders and organisations in the country.
CPDH, in partnership with the local organisation CAHUCOPAN, has received a grant from the EU Human Rights Defenders Mechanism in order to strengthen dialogue between institutions and defenders and promote the development of comprehensive and tailored protection plans within local organisations, in a context where human rights defenders are frequently targeted by threats and attacks. Only between January and July 2016, at least 35 human rights defenders were murdered in Colombia, as reported by Somos Defensores.CPDH is one the 12 human rights organisations that have received funding from ProtectDefenders.eu in the last three months.
Among the other groups and organisations supported in the last trimester, a feminist organisation working in the MENA region has received a grant to set up a campaign to address sexual violence and harassment in their community, potentially benefiting 300 women. Thanks to the support of the Project, a youth organisation from Caucasus is working to bring attention to environmental impacts on the health of women employees at a contaminating plant. In Burundi, an other local organisation has been supported to receive a training on how to better secure themselves and their communications, to conduct advocacy activities and to increase their capacity to raise funds for their human rights activities
In the last year, 44 grants have been allocated by the EU Mechanism to groups of defenders and organisations working on human rights topics at a local level. Local human rights organisations and groups of defenders can apply for financial support, including core funding, in order to sustain or expand their activities. Information and one-step application forms are easily accessible and available at www.protectdefenders.eu/strengthening-organisations.
The Euro-Mediterranean Foundation of Support to Human Rights Defenders (EMHRF), one of the twelve partners of ProtectDefenders.eu, is supporting a set of innovative initiatives launched by the Prometheus Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (IPDDH), a local organisation consisting of young defenders working to achieve human rights education and to spread a democratic culture in Morocco.
With the financial collaboration of ProtectDefenders.eu, this NGO - established in June 2013 by a group of young people belonging to the movement of 20 February 2011 -, has been able to rent an office space and to employ a coordinator to develop new programmes aimed at channelling the voices of youths in the drafting of public policies in Morocco.
As a result of this contribution, the Prometheus Institute has set up, among other initiatives, a monitoring programme on respect for human rights in the country to address non-conventional mechanisms of the United Nations and it has published a memorandum on the cultural public policies in Morocco in April 2016, in partnership with a specialised UN agency and an international foundation.
Local organisations of human rights defenders, communities and informal groups working on human rights, also in remote and less connected areas, are eligible for funding and assistance within the ProtectDefenders.eu programme for strengthening organisations.
Through seven of its partners, ProtectDefenders.eu provides up to EUR 60000 for the implementation of projects aimed at advancing a human rights agenda and to counter violations (including emerging local initiatives, protection plans, lifeline funding, advocacy or public campaigns, capacity building and trainings, documentation and printing of materials or development of networks).
Peace Brigades International (PBI), with the support of ProtectDefenders.eu, has participated in the monitoring of the CREOMPAZ case, against 14 retired military accused of enforced disappearances and crimes against humanity as the result of their participation in several massacres committed against non-combatant civilians in Guatemala. This key trial shall elucidate the responsibilities for the disappearance of at least 535 people who were taken by the Guatemalan army between 1981 and 1988, then killed and buried in a clandestine cemetery.
PBI has also accompanied the Q'eqch'i Maya Community witnesses involved in this case, both during their journeys to Guatemala City and the trial audiences. In addition, PBI have lent support and accompaniment to the lawyers of the Bufete Jurídico de Derechos Humanos in the reopening of the trial for genocide on March 16.
During this process, as PBI reported, the judge ruled that there is evidence to believe that 8 soldiers, -including the brother of former President Lucas Garcia (1978-1982), who was head of the Presidential junta during that period- were involved in the crimes and sent them to trial.
Through its partners, ProtectDefenders.eu raise its voice to warn about the critical situation of Human Rights Defenders at risk worldwide, especially when affecting vulnerable groups and defenders working in crisis situations, difficult countries or under repressive regimes.
ProtectDefenders.eu dispatches urgent alerts and coordinates immediate responses, including early warnings, field missions to conduct urgent advocacy, documentation of human rights violations and mobilisation of public and media attention on severe situations. It also monitors the individual situation of defenders in critical situations, whether imprisoned or under trial, and advocates for the end of impunity of perpetrators.
Reporters without Borders (RSF), within the framework of ProtectDefenders.eu, has provided financial support and raised the voice to prevent the extradition of a young Russian opposition journalist arrested at Larnaca airport, Cyprus, at Russia’s behest. This journalist, whose identity remains confidential, was facing a possible 15-year jail sentence if extradited to his home country.
The journalist fled to escape imminent imprisonment for his activities as an independent journalist and an outspoken activist. He was known for his investigative coverage of local government corruption and his involvement in local grass-roots campaigns.
At time of his arrest, RSF denounced his imprisonment in a press release, calling for his liberation. Within sight of his trial, in addition to his Cypriot lawyer, he benefited from the support a Bulgarian lawyer, specialised in requests for extradition to Russia. The emergency grant allocated through ProtectDefenders.eu also covered his legal fees. Thanks to these joint initiatives, the court ruled his liberation and he then went to Lithuania, where he was granted asylum.
ProtectDefenders.eu has allocated 188 emergency grants for human rights defenders at risk, journalists and those fighting for the freedom of expression, since the start of the Project. Emergency grants for individuals can reach up to EUR 10000 and are channeled through the existent mechanism of eight ProtectDefenders.eu partners. Applications details, thematic and geographic criteria and contact forms, as well as a hotline working 24/7, are available at www.protectdefenders.eu.
Since the launch of the Temporary Relocation Programme last February 2016, ProtectDefenders.eu has approved and secured funding for 43 human rights defenders at risk -and their families' members when needed- to temporary relocate them away from danger. Thanks to this programme, more than 90 individuals at risk are now receiving shelter, support and permanent accompaniment .
Relocated defenders and their families -whose identities are preserved during the whole relocation process for security reasons-, faced risks, attacks or constant threats because of their work in defence of human rights, ranging from women's rights, civil rights or freedom of information and journalism to environmental rights and even artist and writers.
Defenders and their families, coming from countries as Thailand, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Libya, Morocco, Egypt, Yemen or Burundi benefit from funding and support granted by ProtectDefenders.eu and the collaboration and accompaniment provided by host organisations throughout the world. All those defenders at risk supported through this programme are safe now, currently or about to be relocated within host structures in The Netherlands, Nepal, Kenya, Guatemala, India, Spain, France, Ireland, Jordan or Uganda.
ProtectDefenders.eu, along with host organisations and the defenders concerned, designs comprehensive and individualised relocation programmes on a case-by- case basis, covering not only the basic needs of the defender but providing empowering tools for them to continue their work or strengthen their capacities. This is done through the assessment of the specific needs of the defenders, as the relocation programme can cover rehabilitation and medical assistance, education, training or capacity-building, as well as initiatives aimed at connecting defenders into networks or enhancing their international visibility.
ProtectDefenders.eu, through its Secretariat, allocates grants for Human Rights Defenders at risk to temporary relocate within their country or abroad, in case of urgent threat and when preventive and protection measures for personal security are not enough. ProtectDefenders.eu also coordinates the EU Human Rights Defenders Relocation Platform (EUTRP), a global platform of national, regional and international organisations involved in programmes for the temporary relocation of Human Rights Defenders.
From April 11 to 15, OMCT, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and with the support of ProtectDefenders.eu, carried out a fact-finding mission in Honduras, aimed at analysing the situation of human rights defenders in the Central American country, with a special emphasis on land rights defenders and defenders of the LGBTI community.
The mission held interviews with officials from a number of public institutions, including the Supreme Court and the National Human Rights Commission, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN OHCHR) in Honduras, embassies of the European Union (EU) and the Kingdom of Spain, as well as human rights defenders and civil society representatives in San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa, the Zacate Grande peninsula and the department of Santa Bárbara. A press release was issued by the Observatory shortly after the end of the mission with preliminary conclusions and recommendations. In particular, it highlighted that the murder of Berta Caceres is emblematic of the high levels of violence faced by human rights defenders in Honduras. Moreover, other structural problems such as the misuse of criminal law against human rights defenders, the impunity for attacks against them, the absence of effective protective measures and the increasing militarisation make Honduras one of the most difficult countries in the region for the defence of human rights. The Observatory’s international mission concluded that the Honduran State should urgently take effective and comprehensive measures to tackle this climate of violence and attacks against those who defend human rights.
ProtectDefenders.eu and Urgent Action Fund are supporting a Woman Human Rights Defenders (WHRD) from Armenia, currently facing false charges created to hinder her work on an anti-corruption campaign. An emergency grant has guaranteed her access to legal aid, reinforced the security of her office and helped her prepare an application to the European Court of Human Rights.
ProtectDefenders.eu provides funding for legal aid and judicial assistance within its emergency support programme, channeled by eight partners of the Consortium. Up to 15 defenders worldwide have requested and received emergency support for this purpose in the first months of the project.
ProtectDefenders.eu and UAF have assisted a domestic violence shelter in Montenegro to secure its premises after staff members were violently attacked due to their work. With the funds provided, the shelter has increased its protection measures and installed surveillance cameras to reinforce the security at their facilities. To this day, up to 11 grants have been allocated to reinforce office security.
Office security measures, such as installation of alarms, fences or cameras can benefit from the emergency support programme delivered by ProtectDefenders.eu. Local NGOs, communities or informal groups working on human rights can also apply for a more comprehensive assistance and receive security trainings or assistance in the design of protection strategies under the grant-making programme available for organisations.
The International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net), within the framework of ProtectDefenders.eu, has denounced the recent smear campaign being waged by the Mexican media against organizations and individuals working to defend human rights in Mexico. In recent months, several Mexican media sources have launched an intense campaign to defame various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and human rights defenders active in Mexico – deriding and devaluing efforts to defend and promote social justice and human rights.
This campaign has also targeted international institutions and mechanisms, including various United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteurs, the UN Human Rights Council and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
ProtectDefenders.eu carries out extensive advocacy initiatives through its partners, by dispatching urgent and mobilising public and media attention on severe situations.
ProtectDefenders.eu, through several of its partners, as OMCT, FIDH, ESCR-Net, FLD and PBI, has supported a set of initiatives to facilitate the return of the human rights defender Gustavo Castro Soto, to his home country, Mexico.
Castro Soto was retained in Honduras, as the sole witness to the murder of Berta Cáceres, the leader and co-founder of the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (COPINH) who worked to defend the rights of Lenca indigenous communities affected by the 'Agua Zarca' hydroelectric project. After an intense campaign, which included public statements and open letters, Castro Soto was allowed to return to his country.
The Head of Secretariat was invited to present ProtectDefenders.eu at a panel during the Defenders' Days organised by Civil Rights Defenders in Stockholm. The presentation was focused on opportunities for temporary relocation for human rights defenders at risk.
ProtectDefenders.eu was presented at the EU Delegation in Tunis, in a meeting with local human rights defenders, organisations and embassies held in the framework of the 25 th anniversary of EU presence in the country and the campaign #Eu4HumanRights.
At the end of May, ProtectDefenders.eu launched its social media accounts in Facebook and Twitter, aimed at contributing to the dissemination of resources for available for human rights defenders and organisations, as well as information about partners' activities within the Project.