News

Latest news on human rights achievements, collaborations, events and activities.

Swedish Attorney Generals’ verdict on damages awarded to Roma lacks a human rights perspective

John Stauffer Photo: Civil Rights Defenders

The Attorney General recently ruled that the Roma who were illegally registered by the Skåne Police should receive 5,000 SEK in damages from the state as a result. The Attorney Generals’ decision is based almost exclusively on the Swedish Commission on Security and Integrity Protections conclusions regarding the legality of the registers but certain flaws have clearly been highlighted. 

Tomás Ojea Quintana on challenges in Myanmar

Photo: UN

Tomás Ojea Quintana, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, describes the ongoing reforms as a positive step towards democracy in Myanmar, while stressing the remaining challenges. On 20 March, he visits Civil Rights Defenders to talk about future challenges for human rights in Myanmar and the role the international community can play in addressing these challenges. Watch live on: http://bambuser.com/v/4459084

Little respect for rule of law in unrecognized territories

Seminarium_2

In Transnistria, the breakaway region on Moldova’s eastern border with Ukraine, the socio-political environment remains highly repressive. Authorities act with impunity, there is little respect for the rule of law, and fundamental human rights are routinely violated. Don’t miss an interesting breakfast seminar with Ion Manole, on the current human rights situation in Transnistria. Live on: http://bambuser.com/v/4434424

Anti-gay law in Uganda violates international conventions

H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of Uganda. Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

February 25, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a bill strengthening the punishment against homosexuals, who can now be sentenced to fourteen years up to life in prison for sexual relations with the same sex. Civil Rights Defenders, along with many other human rights organisations, have called for Uganda’s government to reverse the decision and urged them to guarantee Ugandan citizens their human rights

Testimonies from North Caucasus

Den 5 maj 2011 mördades Khava Sultygovas enda son Muslim Agiev i Grozny, Tjetjenien under så kallad "antiterroristattack". Ingen utredning om hans påstådda kopplingar till terroristorganisationer hade gjorts. Foto: Pieter ten Hoopen

The North Caucasus is situated only 70 miles from Sotji. It’s the site for Europe´s bloodiest conflict in present times and it’s a region where the local population suffer indiscriminate violence on a regular basis and where fear and uncertainty are an every day reality. From January 30 to February 23 the photo exhibition entitled, “Testimony from North Caucasus”, can be viewed at the museum Fotografiska in Stockholm

First LGBT activists sentenced under federal propaganda law

Nikolai Alekseevredsq

A court in Arkhangelsk, Northern Russia has found two LGBT activists in breach of a law against “propaganda” promoting “non-traditional” relationships to minors. Nikolai Alexeyev co-founder of the Moscow Gay Pride Movement and a fellow activist Yaroslav Yevtushenko were arrested and put on trial for picketing in front of the Children’s Library and fined 4,000 rubles (90 EUR).

Serbia must protect the rights of asylum seekers

Asylum seekers

Extensive and violent protests erupted in Serbia when local authorities in the cities of Obrenovac and Vracevic decided to give 200 asylum seekers temporary winter accommodation in dormitories, as a result of freezing temperatures. Aggravated citizens blocked the road leading to the accommodation facilities and one of the dormitories was set on fire. Civil Rights Defenders strongly condemns the lack of reaction from the police and the failure to protect the asylum seekers.

Organisations call on international solidarity with the newspaper Azadliq

On 17 October, just a week after the presidential election, the sale of several daily newspapers including the newspaper Azadliq was banned in metro stations in Baku. Azadliq is one of few remaining opposition news outlets in Azerbaijan. “We urge the country’s judicial and political authorities to stop hounding it and we call on international solidarity with the daily”, said Civil Rights Defenders and several other organisations in a joint statement.

Housing Rights Activist Yorm Bopha is freed on bail

Cambodia November 22, 2013 : Photo Licadho

22 November the Supreme Court ordered the release of Cambodian Housing Rights activist Yorm Bopha, but only on bail. The Court further ruled that the Boeung Kak Lake activist should have her case returned back to the Court of Appeal for a retrial. “The fact that Bopha is released on bail is positive in the respect of her being able to go home to her family and friends. But it is at the same time disturbing that the Supreme Court does not drop the charges, but instead decides on a new trial in the Appeal Court and thereby allows a continuation of this politically motivated process.” says Brittis Edman, Southeast Asia director at Civil Rights Defenders

Gold and silver to the Civil Rights Captcha

Captchan

The PR Agency Prime won gold and silver with the campaign “Civil Rights Captcha” for Civil Rights Defenders. The gold was in the category “Campaign of the year in social media”, and the silver in the category “Mass media campaign of the year”. Spinn is a Swedish competition in effective marketing PR, ie non-purchased marketing (publicity, seminars, internet etc.) in private channels (web, email, newsletters, lectures etc.).

Cambodian Supreme Court must free housing rights activist Yorm Bopha

Cambodia

On 22 November, the Cambodian Supreme Court is hearing the final appeal of human rights defender Yorm Bopha. Civil Rights Defenders believes she is imprisoned for her human rights activism.For more than a year, Yorm Bopha, has been in prison following an unfair trial. In 2012, the housing rights activist and mother of one was sentenced to three years for what the Phnom Penh court determined as “intentional violence with aggravating circumstances” without any concrete evidence presented against her.

Convicted for homophobic attack

On 22 January, Russian LGBT activists held "We are for Traditional Values" demonstrations in protest of the federal bill to ban "propaganda of homosexuality", as a response to the authors, who cited Russian traditional values as the basis for banning "propaganda of homosexuality to minors." Photo: Maria Kozlovskaya.

An attack on a participant of a peaceful action on LGBT-rights has been met with legal consequences for the first time in Russia. Civil Rights Defenders welcomes the ruling and hopes that the verdict is a step in the right direction. In the aftermath of the so called ”propaganda laws” there has been an increase of aggression and violence towards LGBT-people in Russia. Despite this the courts usually treat the cases as hooliganism instead of hate-crimes.

Unique action of a Supreme Court judge in a region of impunity

Judge Vakhid Abubakarov, photo from http://vs.chn.sudrf.ru

A judge from the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic has ordered the withdrawal of a case after being blackmailed. This is the first time ever that a judge in Chechnya has publicly spoke out regarding the pressure upon judicial bodies. Chechnya has gained an infamous reputation when it comes to impunity for grave human rights abuses and the lack of an independent and transparent judiciary.

“Seven” on tour in the Balkans

Photo: Seven on tour

Starting on the 5th of November, the documentary play Seven will be on a tour in the Western Balkans, visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Albania. Seven is a documentary play about gender based violence based on interviews with seven activists from around the world. The tour is supported by the Swedish Institute and coordinated by Civil Rights Defenders in cooperation with local partners in each country.

Peaceful post-election protests in Cambodia mobilise masses

Kamboja 1

In Cambodia, peaceful protests which took place over three days last week mobilised tens of thousands of people who came out in force to call for electoral reform and a review of the results from the parliamentary elections in July. The opposition party collected thumb prints from some two million Cambodians. The authorities responded with restraint, essentially protecting the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

Percy Bratt resigns as chairperson of Civil Rights Defenders

Percy Bratt

Civil Rights Defenders Chairperson Percy Bratt has announced that he will immediately resign from his current position due to ill health. Percy Bratt has for many years contributed his invaluable knowledge of legal issues both at national and international levels to the organisation.Together with the organisation’s Executive Director, Robert Hårdh and contributions from board and staff members he has been instrumental in pushing the organisation forward.

Second Albanian LGBT activist included in the Natalia Project

Xheni Karaj. Photo: Civil Rights Defenders

“I was once spat at by a man on the street while at a demonstration. Albanian men get very threatened by lesbians so I challenged him. I grabbed his hand and told him I would not let go until the police arrived” said Xheni Karaj, LGBT activist from Albania who is now included in the Natalia Project security system. The Natalia bracelet represents an important physical, moral and psychological support to human rights activists.

New media and art as tools for human rights advocacy

Wallpaper (webb)

Civil Rights Defenders is organising a five-day working conference in Przno, Montenegro, from the 22 to the 27 October. The conference is entitled “Empowering people – ideas worth spreading“ and will gather human rights activists from Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. The goal of the conference is to increase the participants’ capacities in using new media and technology as well as art in their advocacy work.

Opinion: Police records about the Roma community in Sweden is institutionalised racism

Romaregister

Police records regarding the Roma community in Sweden have deeply upset both the Roma and many in mainstream society. It revealed a sinister practice intent on flagrantly violating the values that are fundamental to a democracy. Respect for human integrity , dignity and rights of the citizen have obviously got lost some where in the police force’ skewed philosophy in combatting crime.

Election will not be credible unless people can criticise the government

Photo: Aziz Elkhanoglu, Art for Democracy

In a joint call issued on the eve of the Presidential election, 22 human rights organisations and press freedom campaigners warn that the failure of the government of Azerbaijan to respect human rights, including freedom of expression, undermines the democratic legitimacy of the government. Azerbaijan should take immediate action to ensure fundamental rights are protected ahead of the election.

Swedish comedians stand up for freedom of speech

ROA står upp för det fria ordet

Tickets for this year’s most important comedy show have been released. 16 December, some of Sweden’s top comedians will fill Södra Teatern in Stockholm in a charity show called “Stand up for freedom of speech.” In many places in the world freedom of speech is silenced and to speak critically about injustices can have terrible consequences. For the comedian agency Roa’s comedians it was therefore important to stand up for freedome of speech while supporting Civil Rights Defenders with the profit from the show.

Belgrade Pride in Swedish media

For the third year in a row Serbian authorities banned the Pride Parade in Belgrade. The frustration and disappointment within the LGBT community was unmistakable and Civil Rights Defenders immediately condemned the decision. The newspaper Svenska Dagbladet interviewed Civil Rights Defenders Program Director for the Western Balkans, Goran Miletic, and wrote; “Now, he and the others must continue to battle against the wind”

Natalia braclet protects LGBT-activist in the Balkans

Kristi Pinderi, LGBT activist from Albania, is one of the human rights defenders included in the Natalia Project.

Kristi Pinderi from Albania, is one of the first human rights defenders from the Western Balkans to be included in the Natalia Project security system. For him the bracelet represents a strong moral support in his day-to-day work: ”Behind the bracelet there is an entire system and organisation with people, institutions, and media ready and willing to act in case of an emergency. It is a way for human rights activists not to feel alone and it is definitely the best tool for empowering them”

Structural racism and hate crimes still a big problem in Sweden

Alternative report CERD

A hearing was held with the Swedish government in the UN Racial Discrimination Committee due to previous criticism from the committee. Civil Rights Defenders, along with Swedish United Nations Association, and nearly fifty other organizations presented a parallel report to the UN Racial Discrimination Committee. The report shows that structural racism, discrimination and hate crimes still are serious problems in Sweden.

Harassment of investigative journalist must be effectively investigated

Khadija Ismayilova (humanrightshouse.org)

In a letter to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and the Prosecutor General Zakir Garalov, several human rights organisations, including Civil Rights Defenders, express their profound concern regarding the harassment and intimidation of investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova. The organisations urge the president to ensure an effective investigation into the threats against her.

House of representatives adopted proposed definition of hate crime

Sumeja Tulic, programme officer at Civil Rights Defenders in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

On 24 July, the House of Representatives of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina adopted the legal amendment proposed by civil society, including a definition on hate crime. “I am very pleased that our effort to foster a coalition of organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina has yielded such a positive outcome”, says Sumeja Tulic, programme officer at Civil Rights Defenders.

Trans Gender Europe: Bosnia adopts trans-inclusive hate crime law

Bosnia 2

TGEU reports that “Bosnia i Herzegovina’s House of Representatives recently adopted hate crime legislation that is inclusive of gender identity and sexual orientation”. The legislation reads “Whoever publicly incites or makes publicly available pamphlets, photos, texts and other materials which advocates, urges or incites hatred, discrimination or violence directed by any person or group of […]

Definition of hate crime in the Criminal Law needs to be improved

28-30 November 2012 Civil Rights Defenders organised a workshop on hate crimes and hate speech. The workshop included training in monitoring, advocacy and litigation strategies. Photo: Civil Rights Defenders

The Draft of the Law on Amendments to the Criminal Law in Bosnia and Herzegovina, recently sent to the parliament, contains narrow and incomplete legal formulations of hate crimes and exclude several protected grounds. This caused Civil Rights Defenders’ partner to propose changes to the legal formulation of hate crimes. Civil Rights Defenders urges the authorities to take the needed steps in accepting the changes.

Burmese human rights lawyers inspired in Serbia

Human rights lawyers in Burma do not waste any time when trying to make use of emerging opportunities as their country is opening up. But rule of law is weak, civil society initiatives are nascent and threats against lawyers commonplace. To support them, Civil Rights Defenders has organised a two-week study tour to Serbia for ten activist lawyers, to meet with our partner organisations that work in the field of legal aid.

20th Anniversary of the massacre in Štrpci

Twenty years ago, the Army of the Republic of Serbia abducted 19 non-Serb citizens of Serbia and Montenegro on the railway station in Štrpci (BIH). The passengers were taken to the village of Visegradska banja, where they were tortured and killed. Up till now, the remains of three victims have been found. On February 27, Civil Rights Defender’s partners in Serbia marked the 20th Anniversary of the abduction in Strpce in front of the main railway station in Belgrade.

MFA’s reply on human rights defenders

In December, Civil Rights Defenders wrote a letter to the Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and urged him to demand stronger protection for human rights defenders in Kosovo. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has replied that “we are discussing these important issues on a political level. When Prime Minister Hachim Thaci visited Sweden in October, EU integration and the necessary reforms, including human rights, were major themes.”

Future professionals trained in freedom of speech

Photo: Press Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Theoretical and practical insight into national media legislation and European standards in the field make law students better prepared to handle human rights issues in their future work as legal professionals. That is why Civil Rights Defenders, together with one of its long-term partners, the Press Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is conducting trainings for law students in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The culture of silence and impunity must be broken

On 29 November, Ramush Haradinaj, Prime Minister in the Kosovar government 2004-2005, and former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army, was again aquitted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Haradinaj was on trial for crimes against civilians in the prison camp in Jablanica in 1998. Civil Rights Defenders deeply regrets the fact that the ICTY failed to properly establish the facts in this case.

Summoned to court for publication of human rights monograph

A new court case against Stanislav Dmitrievsky, Head of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, signals that Russian authorities continue to restrict the work of human rights defenders. Civil Rights Defenders calls for international attention to this case as this is yet another attempt to silence Stanislav Dmitrievsky and his organisation for their work against impunity in the North Caucasus.

“Foreign agents” law now in effect – NGOs’ premises vandalised

Photo: Yuliya Klimova, Memorial

The Night Watch – this is what a group of about 20 Russia Young activists called the late-night act of vandalism on the premises of internationally funded Russian human rights organisations as well as the picket in front of Transparency International later that day. At least two organisations’ premises were vandalised with chalk drawings saying “foreign agent” and “I love USA” on their buildings on the same day as the “foreign agents” law came into effect.

Stockholm process strengthens human rights defenders at risk

Map of the North Caucasus

The situation for citizens and human rights defenders in the North Caucasus continue to deteriorate; grave human rights violations turn everyday life into a nightmare. In November 2012, Civil Rights Defenders gathers about 20 of the key human rights defenders from the region to the North Caucasus Conference. During a few intensive days in Stockholm we develop strategies to improve their security and to increase the awareness among decision makers in order to create real change.

Supreme Court allows dissemination of information on LGBT issues

Two of Civil Rights Defender’s partners have appealed the regional laws that prohibits ”propaganda for homosexuality” to the Russian Supreme Court. In the latest ruling, on 25 October, the Court decided in favor of the law in St Petersburg but stated that dissemination of information about lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender issues cannot be banned. The laws have already been used to clamp down on LGBT activists.

Ukraine prohibits ‘gay propaganda’

The Ukrainian parliament has in the first reading approved a bill to ban the positive depiction of homosexuality, permitting charges of up to 5 years in prison and hefty fines. “Unfortunately, this is a recent, growing tendency in the region, which shows no respect for basic human rights from the authorities and further promotes social exclusion and stigmatisation of the LGBT community.” said Joanna Kurosz at Civil Rights Defenders.

New report: Long road to press freedom ahead

Cover report Press Freedom Serbia

Only 4 of the European Council’s 27 principles for press freedom have been fully implemented in Serbia, the first comprehensive report on the media situation in the country: Serbian Media Scene VS European Standards, suggests. Free press is a cornerstone for democratic development; in this report the challenges lying ahead of the Serbian media scene become evident. This report is a result of a yearlong cooperation between Civil Rights Defenders and local partners.

We trained judges in freedom of speech

In December, Civil Rights Defenders organised a workshop on the new freedom of expression law for judges in Moldova. The aim was to improve understanding of how the new legislation should be interpreted and applied by magistrates who work with these types of cases. “Strengthening the legal system is central, because that’s where the rights are protected”, commented Percy Bratt, chairman of Civil Rights Defenders board and one of the trainers, afterwards.

Combating prejudices with radio debates

Widespread lack of respect for human rights, in particular discrimination against vulnerable groups, remains of great concern in Albania. Civil Rights Defenders believe that the media can play an important role in raising awareness about human rights and mobilizing civic engagement. A cooperation with Independent Local Media Association (ILMA), to engage citizens in debates on radio about the most important human rights issues, has therefore been established.

Kosovo 2.0 – Vibrant news in three languages

Kosovo 2.0 is a web portal and a magazine available in English, Albanian and Serbian. Since the launch in July 2010, it has had around 257,760 unique visitors and more that 1,000 unique visits a day. Civil Rights Defenders collaboration with Kosovo Glocal aims at building up Kosovo 2.0, a comprehensive and vibrant media platform, offering interesting and current news, commentary and information that will contribute to an overall respect of freedom of expression in Kosovo.

Map of victims of the Yugoslav wars

Together with Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) in Serbia Civil Rights Defenders provide work to raise public awareness on the importance of confronting the past, by compiling and disseminating a comprehensive record of human losses in Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro in the wars of the 1990s. The “Interactive Online Map of Human Losses” provides user-friendly information and access to relevant documents on human losses in Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia.

Improving protection against discrimination

Civil Rights Defenders cooperation with the Albanian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights (AHC) in this specific project aims at improving the situation regarding protection against discrimination in Albania. We do this by raising capacities of our legal aid partners and the Institution of the Commissioner against Discrimination in handling cases of discrimination as well as increase the capacities of lawyers, people from public structures and civil society to understand and follow cases of discrimination.

Maintaining the rule of law in cooperation with Russian Justice Initiative

The cooperation between Russian Justice Initiative and Civil Rights Defenders aims at highlighting the failure of the rule of law in Russia by taking legal approaches to secure legal remedies and reparations for victims of serious human rights abuses committed during the conflict in Chechnya and other North Caucasus republics, such as extraordinary killings, torture and enforced disappearances.

Fighting corruption with Transparency International

Bosnia and Herzegovina is ranked among the most underdeveloped and corrupt countries in the world where reforms are slowly implemented (the same level with Zambia, Jamaica, Senegal and Dominican Republic). Citizens’ participation is a crucial component to a culture of tackling corruption, since integrity, accountability and transparency must take hold societal and systemically if it is to uproot corruption practices.

Enabling Roma communities to access basic human rights

The main objective of Civil Rights Defenders cooperation with the organisation ARKA is to register, and provide identification documents, to around 300 Roma individuals in Skopje, Kumanovo, Kratovo, and Kriva Palanka regions. The registration will give them access to basic human rights; such as the right to education, health care, social allowances, as well as the possibility to get a legal employment and the right to vote in general elections.

Monitoring detention centres and mental health facilities

Public administration has the power to deprive people of their liberty following procedures clearly established by the law. But when detention takes place outside the public scrutiny it opens the door to violations of rights of the inmates, as well as to torture and ill-treatment. Civil Rights Defenders initiated cooperation with Kosova Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims in 2007, with the aim to monitor detention facilities and prisons.

Improving accountability of duty holders

Civil Rights Defenders have cooperated with the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for more than a decade, with the main focus to enhance awareness and respect for human rights and the rule of law in Macedonia. By providing free legal aid we not only improve people’s access to justice but also monitor the respect of human rights by authorities, and put pressure on authorities to comply with international and national human rights standards.

Empowering the most vulnerable with Tirana Legal Aid Society

Since 2006 Civil Rights Defenders has cooperated with Tirana Legal Aid Society, TLAS, in assisting Roma families to register their children, but also other members of the families, in order to help them get access to some of the most fundamental human rights; such as the right to education, health care, social allowances, as well as the possibility to get a legal employment and the right to vote in general elections. Hundreds of families have been assisted through our joint efforts so far.

Monitoring trials – in cooperation with Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Through Civil Rights Defenders partnership with the Helsinki Committee we monitor and report on fair trial standards in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the last couple of years we have also worked intensively on lobbying for an all inclusive Law against discrimination, in addition to the regular long-term activities of providing free legal aid to victims of human rights violations.

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