Rights defenders at risk: 20 years after UN Declaration



In a Russian court hearing yesterday, human rights defender Semyon Simonov (left) faced police officers who had detained him in April in the southern city of Volgograd. Simonov had been there for Human Rights Watch to interview workers building a World Cup stadium. Volgograd is one of 11 Russian cities hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup, writes Jane Buchanan, Associate Director of the Europe & Central Asia Division at Human Rights Watch:

Police detained Simonov before he even found workers possibly willing to speak about conditions on the site. Officials were waiting for him, presumably thanks to some form of surveillance, and approached him saying, “Are you Semyon?” They held Simonov in a police station for just over three hours. They tried to search his phone and camera, questioned him about his work, threatened him by saying they had “information that he was involved in crimes,” and accused him of “trying to disrupt the World Cup.”

Ukrainian authorities must stop the persecution of anti-corruption activists, a coalition of civil society groups insisted today. In an Open Letter, the groups expressed “serious concern about harassment and persecution of anti-corruption activists in Ukraine, including restrictive legislation requiring activists to disclose personnel assets, criminal investigations and smear campaigns against well-known anti-corruption organizations and activists, as well as physical attacks against individuals and a lack of effective investigations in such cases.”

Twenty years have passed since the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, and governments and non-state actors continue to suppress defenders as impediments to their agendas, notes Lana Baydas, a senior fellow with the Human Rights Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

“To protect human rights defenders, we need an approach that recognizes the instrumental role that human rights defenders have in building societies that embrace democratic values and human rights principles and standards,” she adds. Such an approach requires governments to acknowledge that “human rights are not luxuries we enjoy in times of prosperity and abundance, but inalienable entitlements which should be exercised everywhere by all members of the human family,” she writes in Human Rights Defenders at Risk: Twenty Years After.

Human Rights House

Human rights defenders in China are calling for the release of poet Liu Xia (left), the wife of Liu Xiaobo, and Li Yuhan, a lawyer accused of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” who has not seen her family in her month of detention, VOX reports. Xia’s case has been championed by writers from PEN America, including Chimamanda Adichie, Margaret Atwood, and Chang-rae Lee — all of whom wrote to Xi this week, urging him to take up her case.

There is a deafening silence on the part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) when it comes to human rights violations….at a time when some citizens of most, if not all, of ASEAN member-states are experiencing some form of oppression by their own governments, Rappler reports:

ASEAN – founded in 1967 to promote peace, stability, security, and prosperity, and which has grown from 5 to 10 members across the region – could have been the perfect influence on human rights standards among its member-states. …But Phelim Kine, Human Rights Watch (HRW) deputy director for Asia, said that the association has consistently failed to harness its influence. It always falls short in ensuring that the countries follow benchmarks when it comes to protecting the rights of their citizens.

“Human rights have been the orphan child of ASEAN’s policy portfolio,” he told Rappler. RTWT


Print Friendly, PDF & Email