The WHRDIC is part of many events at the CSW60:
The Role of Women Human Rights Defenders and Feminist Organisations in Realising Goal 16 of the Agenda 2030
Tuesday 15 March 2016, 10:30am
For more information click here.
Sponsors include: CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, WHRDIC, Oaxaca Network WHRDs, Frida, The Young Feminist Fund, IWRAW Asia Pacific, Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance
Empowering Women by Empowering Women Human Rights Defenders
Wednesday 16 March 2016, 13.15 – 14.30
Conference room 12, UN Headquarters, New York
• Tone Skogen, State Secretary, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
• Ambassador Mara Marinaki of Greece, European External Action Service (EEAS) Principal Advisor on Gender,
and on the implementation of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and all other gender-related matters
• Bai Ali Indayla, KAWAGIB – Alliance for the Advancement of Moro Human Rights, Philippines
• Noelene Nabulivon, Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), Fiji
• Fatima Outaleb, Union of Women’s Action (UAF), Morocco
Samira Merai Friaa, Minister for Women, Family and Childhood, Tunisia
Richard Bennett, Representative and Head of New York UN Office
Watch live: http://webtv.un.org/
A Discussion With and About Women Human Rights Defenders
FRIDAY, 18 March, 2016 – 12:30 PM
THAI CULTURAL CENTER (310 E.44th St.)
Join us for a discussion featuring activists who are thinking critically and creatively about how women human rights defenders are sharing our narratives about our lives, our activism, and the challenges we face.
Amal Elmohandes (Egypt), Nazra for Feminist Studies
Carrie Shelver (South Africa), Coalition of African Lesbians
Cynthia Rothschild (USA), WHRD-IC
“Documentation” – which can take many forms – is a politically motivated naming of women human rights defenders’ stories. Our discussion rests in the ideas that WHRDs work with bravery and resilience, and that documentation of our experiences of both abuses and activism is critically important. For many, documentation is a courageous act of resistance. Yet, our stories are often untold.
Presented by the WHRDIC with co-sponsoring members, including:
Amnesty International, Association for Progressive Communication WRP, Association for Women’s Rights in Development, Center for Women’s Global Leadership, Coalition of African Lesbians, Front Line Defenders, International Service for Human Rights, ISIS-WICCE Uganda, Nazra for Feminist Studies, Urgent Action Fund, Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights, World Organization Against Torture – OMCT/FIDH
The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition has just launched its most recent publication: Gendering Documentation: A Manual for and About Women Human Rights Defenders.
WHRDIC members are participating in many events at the CSW60:
AWID EVENTS happen every day of the CSW! For more information consult: http://www.awid.org/get-involved/awids-calendar-events-csw60
MADRE EVENT: Implementing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda: A Roadmap for the 1325 Global Study Recommendations
When UN Security Council Resolution 1325 passed, it marked a milestone commitment by governments to include women’s leadership in peacemaking. Fifteen years later, women peace activists are still too often excluded from the negotiating table. But a UN Global Study on Resolution 1325 proposes a way to change this, with recommendations to policymakers.
How can we bring these recommendations to life? Join experts and activists in a participatory discussion to find out.
Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Laureate
Radhika Coomaraswamy, Global Study Author
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director, UN Women
Madeleine Rees, Secretary-General, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Yifat Susskind, Executive Director, MADRE
Lisa Davis, CUNY Law School & MADRE
Tuesday, March 15, 2016 | 1:00pm – 5:00pm (FREE Entry)
CUNY Law School | 2 Court Square | Long Island City, NY 11101
ISIS-WICCE EVENT: Peace at the Frontline of the Sustainable Development Goals
Helen Kezie – Nwoha (Isis-WICCE):
Global Peace and Security: A Reflection on SDG16 from a gender perspective.
Muadi Mukenge (Global Fund for Women)
The Peace and Security Cooperation Framework for the Great Lakes Region: Gains and the unfinished business
Dr. Renu Rajbhandari (National Alliance of Women Human Rights Defenders – Nepal): Recovering from armed conflict; Trapped by Natural disasters: Defending women at all costs”.
Bai Ali Indayla (KAWAGIB1 , Phillipines). Confronting militarism; Protecting environmental rights: Reflections from KAWAGIB
Linnea Hakansson, World YWCA;
Recharging the Movement for Peace and Security: Insights from WYWCA’s approach
Juliet Were; Programme Coordinator – Isis-WICC
Tuesday, March 15, 2016 2:30-4_30pm
Church Centre; Drew Room
MADRE EVENT: New Tools and Next Generation Strategies to Advance Women’s Human Rights
More than 20 years ago, women won recognition that “women’s rights are human rights.” This widened definition was a victory for global women’s movements, and it allowed us to demand new rights-based polices for women worldwide. But today, the movements confront an impasse. The strategies honed two decades ago are far less effective in advancing women’s rights. What paradigm shifts are necessary now?
Charlotte Bunch, Founding Director and Senior Scholar, Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL)
Rose Cunningham, Founder and Director, Wangki Tangni
Mallika Dutt, Founder and President, Breakthrough
Anita Nayar, Director, Regions Refocus
Yifat Susskind, Executive Director, MADRE
Wednesday, March 16, 2016 | 8:30am – 10:00am (FREE Entry)
Thai Cultural Center, Suite L, Room 1| 310 E 44th St | New York, NY 10017
URGENT ACTION FUND EVENT: Celebrating Women Charting a Path for Women’s Peace in Korea
UAF is pleased to co-sponsor an evening on women building peace with Gloria Steinem and Nobel Peace Prize winner Leyman Gbowee. The event will feature women peacemakers from South Korea, Japan and the U.S. who are actively working across national boundaries for peace and the reunification of Korea.
When: Wednesday, 16 March, 6 PM – 9 PM
Where: Address given upon request (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rally for Justice! Rally for Berta!
#NiUnamás – #JusticiaParaBerta – #BertaPresente- #NotOneMore – #JusticeforBerta
URGENT ACTION FUND EVENT: Women Human Rights Defenders Respond to Extractive Industries: Experiences
Event Moderator: Monica Aleman Cunningham, Senior Program Officer, Ford Foundation
Kate Kroeger, Executive Director, Urgent Action Fund
Bai Ali Indayla, Environmental Human Rights Defender, Philippines
Tatiana Cordero, Executive Director, Urgent Action Fund-Latin America
Lina Solano, Environmental Human Rights Defender, Ecuador
Ndana Bofu-Tawamba, Executive Director, Urgent Action Fund-Africa
Emem J. Okon, Environmental Human Rights Defender, Nigeria
Urgent Action Fund, Urgent Action Fund-Africa, and Urgent Action Fund-Latin America
Thursday, March 17, 2016 from 2:30 PM to 4:30 PM (EDT) – Add to Calendar
Roger Smith Hotel, Starlight Loft, Mezzanine Floor – 501 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10017
More information and RSVP
ASSOCIATION FOR PROGRESSIVE COMMUNICATIONS WITH DUE DILIGENCE PROJECT EVENT: SDG 5 and Online VAW: Who’s Accountable? Due Diligence, the State & Internet Intermediaries
Access to information and communications technology is key to women’s empowerment. The transformative potential of the internet is (increasingly) under threat by high levels of online violence against women. Increased prevalence of online violence against women, the lack of effective measures to prevent and contain it and the ensuing impunity has created barriers to women becoming full participants and equal players in development. Event organised in conjunction with The Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Government of Malaysia.
Zarizana Abdul Aziz, Due Diligence Project Director
Dubravka Simonovic, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences
Frank La Rue, Former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression (Statement)
Jan Moolman, Association for Progressive Communications
Tania Farha, UN Women
Janine Moussa, The Global Women’s Institute
Friday, 18 March, 10:00- 11:30AM
Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands at the UN, 666 Third Avenue, 19th Floor, New York 10017 (between 42nd and 43rd street)
NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF WOMEN HUMAN RIGHTS EVENT: Promoting Safety and Security of Women Human Rights Defenders through Community Leadership and Governance
18 March, 4:30 PM
More information: https://www.facebook.com/events/506584229526652/
More to come!
El Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation for Victims of Violence and Torture is a prominent human rights organization which, since 1993, is providing support to torture victims and families of those who were subject to enforced disappearances in Egypt. Since 17th of February authorities in Egypt delivered a closure order based on “breaching license conditions” and have launched a smear campaign against the organization which has supported thousands of individuals and family members confronting immeasurably traumatic experiences.
On 17th of February 2016, three men, an architect and two policemen, entered the premises of El Nadeem Center and unduly and arbitrarily requested from Dr. Mona Hamed, an Egyptian WHRD and the Director of the Clinic, to leave the office. The lawyers negotiated the closure order and have extended it until 22 February 2016 to investigate the allegations brought against El Nadeem Center and provide justifications to the Ministry of Health.
The authorities in Egypt further escalated the aggression towards the organization via disseminating misleading information in an attempt to libel their meaningful contributions to the advancement of human rights in Egypt for more than two decades. On 24th of February 2016 the Ministry of Health released a statement discrediting the organization, which was published in Shorouk newspaper as well as in English on the Facebook page of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). El Nadeem responded to all false accusations via an announcement.
El Nadeem Center has not only supported victims of torture and families of those who were subject to enforced disappearances. The center is at the heart of the women’s rights struggle in Egypt and is critical to fostering women’s rights in Egypt and the wider region. The center was instrumental in drafting a law to prevent and protect women from domestic violence and have been advocating for its acceptance by the Parliament. El Nadeem has also issued important publications on sexual violence in Egypt in an attempt to raise awareness on gender-based violence in the country.
The WHRD Mena Coalition has warned that the closure threat brought against the Center has wider implications for WHRDs in the region. The Coalition has stressed that “As El Nadeem center is mostly run by pioneering WHRDs of Egypt who have been on the frontline of pushing the gender agenda in the country, they have inspired their fellow activists in the region. The closure of the center will certainly send a message to the women rights movement in the region of potential implications they might face by their government if they continue their committed advocacy.”
The WHRDIC strongly urges the government of Egypt to cease all acts of harassment against the El Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation for Victims of Violence and Torture. The WHRD-IC stands in solidarity with women human rights defenders in Egypt and the wider region, who continue their meaningful human rights advocacy at the face of such gruesome threats and restrictions.
The Women Human Rights Defender International Coalition is a resource and advocacy network supporting women human rights defenders worldwide. We have 32 members including:
Amnesty International (AI)
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM ASIA)
The Association for Progressive Communications Women’s Networking Support Programme (APC WNSP)
Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)
BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights (BAOBAB)
Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR)
Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL)
Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL)
Frida the Young Feminist Fund
Front Line Defenders
Human Rights First Information Monitor (INFORM)
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW-AP)
Isis International ISIS Women’s International Cross-Cultural Exchange (ISIS-WICCE)
Just Associates (JASS)
The Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights (CLADEM)
Nazra for Feminist Studies
Nobel Women’s Initiative (NWI)
Peace Brigades International Rainbow Rights Project (R-Rights)Inc. Society for Appraisal & Women Empowerment in Rural Areas (SAWERA)
Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights (UAF)
Women Living under Muslim Laws (WLUML)
Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice (WIGJ)
Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC)
World Organisation against Torture (OMCT)
WGNRR’s #SRHRheroes campaign, which will run during this year’s #16Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (25 Nov-10 Dec). Through this campaign we are looking for the recognition of SRHR activists as WHRDs and demand that they are able to access existing protection mechanisms and hold governments accountable for their responsibility to protect them and their work. We are also looking to highlight the courageous actions of our colleagues and friends– defenders of sexual and reproductive rights, particularly those who have lost their lives for this cause, and those who have been victims of repression, extremism, intolerance, attacks, threats or intimidation. For more information click here.
The author of this article prefers to remain anonymous.
Meeting Wu Rongrong
Recently, I was blessed to meet up with Wu Rongrong, one of the “Feminist Five” in Hangzhou, China. On April 13, Ms. Wu was sent back to Hangzhou by Beijing police under the condition of “on bail awaiting trial”. I organized her own narratives about what she has gone through into this article.
There will be sub-sectional titles with question marks below. That’s because the article is written based on Ms. Wu’s own narratives only. I do believe Ms. Wu was telling the truth, but since I did not interview the police, I use the question marks here to demonstrate certain objectivity for the article here as it is based on Ms. Wu’s unilateral story. Such a question mark could be also considered as a form of “procedural justice” in writing and reporting.
The Crashing down of A Wonderful Plan
Ms. Wu told me the details of their wonderful activity plan – the performance art with the theme on “Anti-Sexual Harassment” on March 7. They had prepared the stickers sent out to the pedestrians writing “Prevention of Sexual Harassment, Safety made by Everyone of Us,” “When you are sexually harassed, don’t be afraid and ask the police for help immediately.”
“But we were not able to make it eventually. At around 2:00pm on March 7, I was taken away by the police in Xiaoshan Airport. At 11:00am the next morning, I was taken to Beijing and had detained in the Haidian Detention Center ever since then.” Ms. Wu told me, “As a matter of fact, on the morning of March 06, I got the call from the Guobao in Hangzhou (the policemen from the Department of State Security). They asked me to stop the activity and I actually agreed to do that at that moment.”Ms. Wu believed that she was detained by the police due to their activity plan on March 07.
“Occupy Men’s Room” – the Old Activity Two Years ago Becoming the New Charge?
Ms. Wu said “in fact, our March 7 plan has never been carried out. There is no reason for my detention. This detention is unlawful. After the police held me in control, they changed their indictment against me about the performance art – “Occupy Men’s Room” two years ago.” Ms. Wu is furious about Beijing police’ actions – “detaining someone based on some reason first and then changing it to another reason after the detention.”
According to Ms. Wu, “Occupy Men’s Room” in the early spring of 2012 was the performance art conducted by feminist activists in Beijing and Guangzhou. Their activity did not really take over the men’s room, but took the form of performance art demonstrating their concerns for the disproportional ratio of women’s and men’s rooms. They aimed to solve the social issue that women have always had to wait for a long time in a long line for using the public bathrooms.
The activity was actually conducted in this way. They found a public bathroom, firstly explained to the men who were going to use the bathroom about their activity and only after they got the consent from those men did they symbolically “occupy” the men’s room for 10 minutes (and let the women who were waiting for a long line for the women’s room next to use the men’s room instead). They also held a sign writing “Protection of Women’s Rights” outside of the public bathrooms. And that’s it.
In fact, when searching online, it could be seen that there were a lot of positive media comments on this performance art. But now, Ms. Wu said with indignation, “the police mainly interrogated me because of this activity I participated into three years ago. This activity ridiculously became the charge against me for ‘picking quarrels and provoking a disturbance’!”
Humiliated, Threatened and Insulted during Interrogation in Detention Center?
“I was humiliated the moment I was thrown into the detention center. They would not let me sleep on a bed. I was made to sleep on the floor even though I saw empty bunks. They wouldn’t allow me to sleep on the bed because I have hepatitis B,” said Ms. Wu. “Also, many of the interrogations were made at night. I was only allowed to return when most of my cellmates were already long asleep. Interrogation under fatigue exacerbated my liver condition.”
Ms. Wu also told the author that “they [the police] would often threaten me right before they started the inquisition record (written and simultaneous video recordings). They would yell at me ‘we will tie you up and throw you into the men’s cells, and let them gang rape you.’ Or they would say things like ‘you have a 4-year-old son, right? Seems like he’s going to have some trouble in his future education and work.’ Threats like those would always proceed their recorded inquisition.”
Moreover, Ms. Wu also said. “while in the detention center, a man in police uniform would come to me out of nowhere and verbally insult me out of no reason. I have no idea who he is, but suspect that he was doing so under specific police order. This is implicit in his loud humiliating words, like, ‘you are a scum. The scums like you poison girls’ minds nowadays. Men used to enjoy polygamy with multiple wives and concubines but no longer can. Now we are all suffering tremendously because of you.'”
ID was “made lost” by the police?
Ms Wu said, “after the 37-day detention, the prosecutor denied the arrest and therefore the police had to release me under the condition of “on bail awaiting trial”. However, when I was getting ready to go back to Hangzhou, The police officer Zhu Jihua told me that they lost my ID, which they took from me (they confiscated my ID during my detention). So now, they can’t give me back my ID.”
Ms Wu is very sad. She said, “without ID, my life becomes very inconvenient. The procedure of applying for a new one is very troublesome. I need to go back to my hometown in Shanxi, and it will cost me several thousands of RMB. As a social worker with low incomes, this is simply too much for me.”
More about the feminist five:
This month, Front Line Defenders and Verso launch La Lucha: The Story of Lucha Castro and Human Rights Defenders in Mexico. The first in a series of nonfiction graphic novels, La Lucha features the real life stories of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) in northern Mexico who confront lethal challenges in order to promote human rights, justice and accountability. A series of vignettes threaded together by one of the leading Mexican WHRDs, Lucha Castro, the book offers a rich depiction of the complexity and challenges in the lives of WHRDs and the profound importance of their work.
The day after the book was released in bookstores, the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition released a statement detailing a campaign of defamation against Lucha Castro and her colleague Irma Villanueva, which puts the two women at direct risk. This is precisely the conditions this book is meant to address and counter – to provide a counter-narrative to the efforts to smear, harass and defame human rights defenders.
La Lucha is the first in a series of nonfiction graphic novels from Front Line Defenders documenting the stories of human rights defenders at risk around the world. Particularly in the human rights field, this project is unprecedented, seeking to provide an innovative platform with unique content that demonstrate the role of human rights defenders in promoting open and just societies.
The book is published by Verso (US and UK) in English, and will soon be released in Spanish in Mexico and throughout Spain and the Americas (as well as other languages). In addition to general release, the book will be soon published in a dynamic digital format which will allow for multimedia engagement, ongoing updates to the book based on developments in the field, and the ability to engage active storytelling as a means of educating for human rights.
“This book gives evidence of the risks and adversities human rights defenders across the world have to face to make the rights of their communities a reality”, explains Adam Shapiro, Head of Campaigns at Front Line Defenders and co-author of the book, “The bravery, persistence and hope women rights defenders featured in the book exhibit in their day to day lives make up these stories of real life heroes”.
“In my journey as a defender,” says woman human rights defender, Lucha Castro, main character in the graphic novel, “I have learned to listen to the stories of women who suffer violations of their human rights, with compassion and a reverence that compels me to respect their lives. I am convinced that it is through acts of love and justice that we can proclaim the scandal of all the unjust acts imposed on women, represented by all forms of violence, many of them hidden. By empowering women we can encourage them to rebuild their lives.”
Get your own copy of the book for a 20 euro donation in support human rights defenders at risk: https://www.
See an excerpt of the first chapter of the book in an interactive format: http://www.flipsnack.com/
Join the WHRDIC at CSW59. We are part of 3 events:
Protection in practice for women human rights defenders and their work
Monday 9 March 13.15 – 14.45
Conference Room 7, General Assembly Building, UN Headquarters
Learn more about the first ever UN resolution on the protection of women human rights defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2013, advances made since its creation and the obstacles to, and good practices in providing protection to defenders.
Sponsored by: Association for Women’s Rights in Development, Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Permanent Mission of Tunisia to the United Nations (TBC), Amnesty International, International Civil Society Action Network, Just Associates, International Service for Human Rights and Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition.
Documentation for Women Human Rights Defenders
Friday 13 March 8:30
Armenian Convention Centre V Hall 630 2nd Avenue (at 35th St)
Join the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition to talk about human rights documentation of and for Women Human Rights Defenders. We will discuss ‘good’ gender-sensitive documentation and explore key issues, challenges and politics of documenting our activism and the violations we face.
Sponsored by: Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition, International Service for Human Rights
A Worrying Trend: Increased Systematic Threats Against Women Human Rights Defenders
Monday 16 March 10.30 – 11.30
Salvation Army Venue, UN Plaza 221 East 52nd St (Between 2nd and 3rd Avenues)
The event will provide a crucial opportunity to reflect on the key role that Women Human Rights Defenders are playing in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action at the national level, as well as the countless restrictions and violations they face because of who they are and the work they do. The panel will also provide a venue to discuss concrete measures that states need to take at the national level to ensure effective protection for WHRDs and safeguard their rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression.
Sponsored by: Association for Women’s Rights in Development, MADRE, CIVICUS, Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition, Amnesty International and Urgent Action Fund.
Leyla Yunus’ daughter has updated the WHRDIC on her mother’s situation:
I have a horrifying news to share.
In February, my mum was told that if she does not sign the confession in treason, then my dad will suffer… they will torture him.
In the period of first three months of her pretrial detention, my mum was continuously exposed to beatings by her cellmates — many times in custody criminals — who were ordered by the authorities of Baku Investigative Detention Facility Kurdakhany to beat and repeatedly attack on my mum. My mum was also beaten by the prison major – Major F. Yaqubov. UN representatives, the mission that was visiting Kurdakhany prison saw my mum’s bruises.
On December 11, 2014, 6-8 prison workers entered my mum’s cell, dragged my mum out of her bed by her feet, pulled her out from the cell, and pushed her through cold prison corridor barefoot and then threw her inside punishment ward. Why? No, explanation was given.
My mum has been repeatedly put into punishment ward.
Humiliations and mockery with the help of criminals and prison guard. Criminals are threatening my mum with new beatings and attacks, because of her “treason” charge. And the prison guard — only men — are usually present in the process of undressing, when my mum is undergoing medical checkups, simultaneously they humiliate my mum.
Humiliations are constant. During the visit of German doctor, Doctor Rauf Agayev called my mum enemy of Azerbaijan and insulted her.
Deprivation of sleep. During whole pre-trial detention period, there was not a single calm night, when my mum could sleep. First, there were criminals in my mum’s cell, who kept on attacking, threatening and insulting my mum. Now, there are drug users, suffering from their drug addiction, who are making a lot of noises during nights.
My mum has been deprived of her crucial diabetic medicine, and now she is repeatedly deprived of her full parcels, from where prison authorities are taking out the necessary diabetic food.
There is no investigation going on. But the concrete and direct threats by Prosecutor Office have already been sounded. In February, my mum was told that if she does not sign the confession in treason, then my dad will suffer…
From WHRDIC member ISHR: After four years of a flawed judicial process, ISHR welcomes that the District Court in the State of Oaxaca in Mexico has ruled to acquit Lucila Bettina Cruz Velazquez of charges made against her. The charges relate to acts or omissions gravely affecting the ‘national consumption and national wealth’, and with illegally detaining individuals. They were brought in February 2012, but refer to incidents allegedly having occurred during a peaceful protest in April 2011.
Bettina Cruz Velazquez, a member of the Assembly of Istmo of Tehuantepec Indigenous Peoples in Defence of Land and Territory as well as the National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders in Mexico, has been working on behalf of her community to counter the impact of private companies which are establishing and operating wind farms in lands traditionally owned by indigenous communities in Tehuantepec. The projects were reportedly initiated without the free, prior and informed consent of the peoples native to the area.
‘Bettina Cruz Velazquez has faced intense security risks since February 2012 and has been subject to a long process of judicial harassment based on unfounded and baseless charges put forward by the Federal Electricity Commission’ said Ms Pooja Patel of ISHR.
The International Civil Society Mission to Mexico in November 2014 received many reports on the criminalisation of the work of human rights defenders and pointed specifically to vaguely defined legal provisions applied arbitrarily, such as the very charges faced by Bettina Cruz Velazquez. ‘Such judicial harassment amounts to stigmatisation of human rights work and opens the door for further acts of intimidation and harassment against them. Furthermore, the charges themselves aim at paralysing the work of Bettina and other defenders due to the time, resources and efforts required to face them’ said Ms Eleanor Openshaw, who represented ISHR at the Mission.
The case of Bettina Cruz Velazquez is considered emblematic as a number of other human rights defenders face similar patterns of judicial harassment in Mexico. ‘While her acquittal sends an important positive message that the rule of law has ultimately been upheld, it is time for the Mexican State to guarantee due process for all other human rights defenders facing apparently arbitrary charges, and take steps to prevent the criminalisation of activists’ stressed Ms Patel.
For more information, contact Eleanor Openshaw on email@example.com
– See more at: http://www.ishr.ch/news/mexico-court-dismisses-baseless-charges-against-bettina-cruz-velazquez#sthash.CBBcnDwx.dpuf
On the eve of International Human Rights Day (Dec.10) and during the global campaign for 16 Days of Activism, newly-elected Indonesian President Jokowi Widodo announced that he would give imprisoned land rights activist, Eva Bande,presidential pardon. Eva, a member of the JASS-inspired youth organization, FAMM-Indonesia, was imprisoned on and off since 2011 for peacefully organizing against national palm oil corporations’ extractive projects which were exploiting resources and displacing her community. FAMM-Indonesia and dozens of women’s rights organizations across Indonesia and Southeast Asia mobilized global support by leading social media campaigns, online petitions and solidarity marches to pressure the government to release Eva. “This is a source of strength for us. Our struggles, our months and years of campaigning for Eva Bande’s release finally paid off,” says Niken Lestari, national coordinator of FAMM-Indonesia. Eva was released on Dec. 19 and held a press conference on Dec. 20, “I am a local activist [working on] local issues. Granting a pardon [does not stop] cases of land conflicts in the region. The farmers are still struggling.”
Who is Eva Bande?
Eva Bande has been organizing against land grabs by corporations for years. Working alongside farmers and indigenous peoples, she led the fight against companies—PT Kurnia Luwuk Sejati (KLS) and PT Berkat Hutan Pusaka (BHP)—who were converting cacao land plantations into palm oil plantations in Sulawesi (an island in Indonesia). Despite the local government’s allocation of reforestation funds for these cacao lands, the KLS and BHP began seizing these lands by closing and destroying roads leading to the cacao plantations—eventually displacing the cacao farmers.
On May 26, 2011, Eva and hundreds of farmers led protests against KLS and BHP and demanded the repair of the damaged roads. When Eva tried to ease the escalating tensions, she was arrested for allegedly inciting people to act violently, which was not the case.
Fast forward to May 15, 2014. Eva who has been on parole for three years since 2011 was rearrested, along with two farmer leaders. In her seven months in jail, FAMM-Indonesia (or Young Indonesian Women Activists’ Forum) led local, regional and international campaigns to release Eva from prison on the ground that she was wrongly accused.
Criminalizing Activists Is a Trend
Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, women activists have had similar experiences. In Cambodia, Thailand and thePhilippines, hundreds of women are serving jail terms for protecting their territories against land grabs. Local and multinational companies are embarking on large-scale development projects, which not only displace people but also destroy the environment. Local governments often work hand-in-hand with these companies to exploit resources in the name of job creation and “development.”
In November, Kong Channtha, along with six other land rights activists from the Boeung Kak Lake community were arrested for blocking a road in Phnom Penh in a demonstration demanding respect for their land rights. Two pregnant peasant activists from the Philippines—Andrea Rosal and Maria Miradel Torres—were locked up for allegedly taking part in criminal activities. Both women were denied immediate medical attention which led to thedeath of Andrea’s two-day-old daughter and to Maria Miradel’s induced abortion.
Calls for Justice for Activists in Defense of Land and Territories
The increasing number of cases of violence against women activists and their arrests prompted JASS Southeast Asia to focus its annual One Day, One Voice regional campaign during 16 Days of Activism on these women. This year’s theme, “Justice for All Women Human Rights Defenders” honoured all the courageous women activists in prison through a series of art performances, media events, peace marches, dialogues, bazaars, film screenings, and lantern lightings in Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Timor L’este and the Philippines.
Eva was one of the activists that JASS Southeast Asia and FAMM spotlighted and mobilized global support for. Eva was released on Dec. 19, while the other two farmers were released on bail. JASS and FAMM-Indonesia joined thousands of activists to welcome her. Eva’s release is living proof that with collective action, everything is possible.
This presidential pardon has given hope to other activists across Southeast Asia—that all women human rights defenders—those who have been jailed, forcibly disappeared, and killed—be given justice. In the meantime women’s rights groups will continue to organize and spotlight women activists who are being targeted for their justice work. Eva will continue to fight for the charges against the other two farmers to be dropped and for the rest of the 140 farmers and human rights activists, including agrarian activists, who are also in jail—to be released. As Eva wrote in a poem, “You silenced me with prison…but you can’t silence my soul, my struggle, my voice.”
This is an update by WHRDIC member JASS and also appeared at Protection International: http://protectionline.org/