I am sure you have noticed that the Defender Alert Network has recently focused on defenders whose work and lives have been endangered by their governments’ use of counterterrorism measures.
You have read how the governments of Russia, Indonesia, and Thailand have intensified conflicts, departed from the rule of law, and violated human rights in the name of combating terrorism. They respond to criticism by saying they are doing the same that the U.S. government has done in its “war on terrorism.”
So we were encouraged when President Bush used his second inaugural address to say to human rights defenders around the world: “When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.”
We hope that in its second term the Bush administration will support human rights defenders both in word and in deed: by speaking out against oppression and injustice, and by leading by example in combating terrorism while respecting human rights and upholding the rule of law.
For the U.S. commitment to human rights to be credible, it must be consistent. We hope that the Administration will support defenders wherever they are working. It is not sufficient to support activists only in countries that are not closely allied with the United States, like Cuba, Zimbabwe, or Iran. In order to lead by example, the Administration must raise such concerns in countries like Russia, where the United States has many vital interests at stake.
I thank you for your support of human rights defenders around the world – your activism sets the most powerful sort of example.
With best wishes,
Dozens of human rights defenders and their families have been harassed, arrested, or murdered by Russian authorities or pro-Russian forces over the last few years, and reports indicate that the situation is getting worse. Attacks on human rights defenders in Russia have escalated as the authorities have sought to use the need to find effective mechanisms to combat terrorism as a pretext to violate human rights. Human Rights First is urging President Bush to speak up about increasing attacks against those who monitor abuses, especially in the conflict region of Chechnya and Ingushetia, when he meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24, 2005. Click Here to Take Action»
Indonesia’s human rights community has experienced setbacks and opportunities since our last newsletter. The tsunami that devastated the troubled province of Aceh took the lives of several leading human rights defenders and courageous grassroots activists. Several organizations also saw their offices destroyed, along with records of years of research and legal assistance. They are now working to rebuild in order to respond to the challenges of relief and reconstruction. Unprecedented international attention to the formerly closed province has not eliminated concerns central to defenders’ work, including the rights of internally displaced people and the role of the military.
Human Rights First is delighted to have been invited to join the jury of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. The Award is a unique collaboration between twelve prominent human rights groups from around the world. Each year, the jury chooses a human rights defender who has shown exceptional courage in the face of adversity to receive the award named in honor of Martin Ennals, who was Secretary General of Amnesty International (1968-1980) and a pioneer of today’s global nongovernmental human rights movement. This year’s recipient is Aktham Naisse of Syria, whose case has been featured on the Defender Alert Network. Click Here to Take Action»
Colombia: Human Rights First received assurances from the Colombian government that local authorities had been instructed to take the necessary measures to ensure that the life and physical integrity of Father Joakin Mayorga would be protected. Take Action»
Cuba: On January 31, 2005, the European Union decided to temporarily suspend diplomatic sanctions against Cuba. Human Rights First has urged the EU to continue its visible support of human rights defenders and apply pressure on the Cuban government to release those dissidents that remain imprisoned. Jose Daniel Ferrer, Luis Enrique Ferrer and Hector Palacios remain imprisoned.
DRC: The African Association for the Defense of Human Rights (ASADHO) continues to monitor human rights violations in the DRC despite harassment and intimidation of its staff and recent prohibitions on publication of political commentary. Take Action»
Indonesia: Former intelligence chief Hendropriyono has dropped the defamation suit against human rights defender Hendardi. The lawsuit followed the lawyer’s comments that the intelligence agency’s harassment of activists was distracting it from counterterrorism efforts. More»
The Indonesian government green-lighted an independent team to work with police investigators examining the poisoning of human rights defender Munir. However, the team’s limited scope and membership disappointed many observers. Human Rights First will continue to monitor the investigation. More»
Iran: Human rights lawyer Nasser Zarafshan remains in Tehran’s Evin Prison. Human Rights First believes that the charges against Zarafshan were fabricated by the authorities to punish him for his human rights advocacy. Take Action»
The Chechen human rights organization Society for Russian-Chechen Friendship faces an ongoing criminal investigation into publications that were critical of Russian government policies. Several staff members, including Stanislav Dmitrievsky, have been questioned by the Russian Security Service. Take Action»
Sudan: The U.S. maintains its resistance to use the ICC to try grave crimes committed in Darfur. On February 8, 2005, the U.S. Ambassador-At-Large for War Crimes Issues met with Security Council members to endorse a U.S. proposal of establishing an African war crimes court in Tanzania as an alternative. Take Action»
Sudanese human rights activists Dr. Mudawi and Mr. Salah remain in detention. Human Rights First continues to condemn their detention and call for their immediate release. Take Action»
Syria: Aktham Naisse’s trial, originally scheduled for January 16, 2005, was delayed for three months. Human Rights First continues to call for all charges against Mr. Naisse, recently recipient of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, to be dismissed. Take Action»