Every day human rights defenders who have the courage to stand up for the rights of others face threats, attacks, the risk of imprisonment and even killing because they have the courage to challenge abuses carried out by the rich and powerful. Front Line Defenders, the Dublin based International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders was set up, 10 years ago this year, to help protect these key agents of social change.
Front Line Defenders seeks to provide rapid and practical support to at-risk human rights defenders, including through:
international advocacy on behalf of human rights defenders at immediate risk;
grants to pay for the practical security needs of human rights defenders;
training and resource materials on security and protection, including digital security;
rest and respite, including the Front Line Fellowship;
opportunities for networking and exchange between human rights defenders, including at the biennial Dublin Platform.
Sadly the space for human rights defenders to work safely is shrinking. In September Front Line Defenders hosted 130 human rights defenders from 85 countries for the Front Line Defenders Dublin Platform. Every one of the participants was at risk and yet everyone of them chooses to continue their work despite the dangers.
At the time of writing Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, Front Line Defenders' former Protection Coordinator for the Middle East is pursuing his appeal in the Bahrain courts against a life sentence imposed after an unfair trial during which he was tortured and given only limited access to his family and lawyers. He and other human rights defenders, including blogger Ali Abdulemam, have received unprecedented harsh sentences because of their participation in peaceful demonstrations for human rights and greater democracy.
At the same time in Belarus Ales Bialiatski chairman of Human Rights Centre 'Viasna' (HRC 'Viasna'), one of the biggest human rights groups in Belarus that works to defend and promote political, cultural and social rights, is standing trial on politically motivated charges of tax evasion . He is also the Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).
The list is endless. On the front page of the Front Line Defenders' web site alone you will find details of human rights defenders at risk in Indonesia, China, Chad, Brazil, the Philippines, Russia and Algeria. All these countries have one thing in common – they seek to silence those who dare to speak out on behalf of others - those who demand change.Yet we have seen how human rights defenders played a key role during the recent Arab Spring. Their courage and commitment shows that change can and will come when people work together in pursuit of a common goal. You too can help bring change about – log on to www.frontLinedefenders.org for more information on the work of Front Line Defenders or join the campaign to help Abdulhadi Al Khawaja and other human rights defenders in Bahrain at http://www.bahrainhrd.org
Amnesty International in Ireland, in both the Republic and the North, has a widespread network of groups, one accessible to most people on the island in fact.
AI in the Republic
There are local groups in Athlone, Cashel, Clonakilty, Cork City, Dublin Central, Dublin West (Castleknock), Dundalk, Dun Laoghaire/Blackrock (Co Dublin), Enniscorthy, Galway City, Connemara (group being constructed), Kells, Kilkenny, Letterkenny, Mayo, North Wicklow/Bray, Portlaoise, Rathgar (Dublin), Schull (Co Cork), Sligo, Tralee, Tullamore, Waterford. In addition there are country focus groups on Colombia, Zimbabwe, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and Iran. Full details and contacts on the Amnesty website at http://www.amnesty.ie/ and go to ‘Find an activist group’ (look for 4 provinces map).
- Meanwhile AI in the Republic has a campaign on the right to health care: see http://www.amnesty.ie/health and you can sign the petition there including “Equal access to healthcare is one step in ensuring people have the right to health. Health reform by your Government must be based on human rights standards and equality.”
AI Northern Ireland
There are local groups in Foyle (Derry), Mid-Down (Downpatrick centred), Moyle (Ballycastle), Newry & Mourne, North Down, Belfast and the University campuses of Queen’s, Jordanstown, and Magee.
For Amnesty news in Northern Ireland see here including coverage of the work being done on an institutional child abuse enquiry for Northern Ireland; in particular Amnesty “has issued a warning to Northern Ireland Executive Ministers not to betray the victims of institutional child abuse by establishing an inquiry without adequate powers to investigate allegations of systemic abuse.”
- There has also been the launch of the promising human rights blog http://www.rightsni.org along with CAJ, academics and others.
Freedom waves to Gaza
As we publish this newsletter, the Irish ship MV Saoirse and the Canadian ship Tahrir are on their way to Gaza, challenging Israel’s illegal blockade. To keep up to date see http://irishshiptogaza.org/
Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE)
FIE is a voluntary network of committed and experienced environmentalists established in 1997 with a particular interest in what European environmental legislation could offer Ireland. This core network communicates through a group email list, providing scientific, legal, and media experts who are available on an informal and pro-bono basis to the public. FIE meets regularly with Irish Government and European Union officials and makes submissions on key issues, especially on public access to information and justice, including infringement complaints to the EU, Petitions to the Parliament, and Parliamentary Questions to the Dáil tabled by sympathetic TDs.
Controversial work at the moment includes seeking to protect Ireland's raised bogs and peat soils through greater land use controls and working to bring about more transparency in water quality issues to highlight the declining quality of surface and drinking water. FIE is a member of the Irish Environmental Network and the European Environment Bureau. We also represent WWF in Ireland to coordinate Earth Hour each year. By our active membership in these organisations we ground our national work in international cooperation.
The FIE website is at http://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.net and includes a library, podcasts, a subscription form to receive news updates, and information on making a donation (FIE’s new offices are almost complete, with an eco-friendly timber building, so money is needed for that). E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Phone 027-74771 (or 087 2176316) or by post to Friends of the Irish Environment, Kilcatherine, Eyeries, County Cork.
Seán MacBride peace prize
The International Peace Bureau (of which Irish CND and Afri are members), has announced joint winners of the Seán MacBride Peace Medal, which is sponsored annually by Irish CND. This year's recipients are Iraqi campaigner Hanaa Edwar and German lawyer Peter Becker. Hanaa Edwar has been a tireless advocate for democracy and human rights, particularly women's rights in the male-dominated political arena of the Middle East; she returned to Iraq in 2003 after spending most of her life in exile, and was instrumental in the founding of the Iraqi Women’s Network, made up of more than 80 organisations. Peter Becker was elected Executive President of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA) in 2011, having been chair of the German section of IALANA for over twenty years, during which time he has made a significant contribution to the legal arguments for the abolition of nuclear weapons. For more information see here. As two medals have been awarded, Irish CND were delighted that Afri joined in sponsoring the award this year. For Irish CND see here and for Afri see here.
Hanna’s House Ezine
The first edition of the quarterly Hanna’s House Ezine on ‘Feminist visions of peace, justice and transformation’ is accessible online. The aim is to share ideas, develop solidarity and create change through the development of an active community of feminist women coming together to support and inspire each other across Ireland. See also http://www.hannashouse.net and www.Facebook.com/hannashouse
Eco-Congregation Ireland has a new website address http://www.ecocongregationireland.com as the old one was hijacked, and e-mails have changed as well; you can get the communications officer, Fiona Murdoch at email@example.com and other addresses are on the website. Eco-Congregation Ireland (ECI) encourages churches of all denominations to take an eco approach to worship, lifestyle, property and finance management, community outreach and contact with the developing world.
An official installation ceremony took place in late September for Rev Dr Inderjit Bhogal at Corrymeela’s Ballycastle Centre as family, friends and church leaders gathered to celebrate his official installation as Leader of The Corrymeela Community. See photo on INNATE photo site. For Corrymeela see www.corrymeela.org
Corrib Gas; Day of Solidarity, 11th November
There will be a Day of Solidarity, at the Shell site, Aughoose, Erris, Co. Mayo and at the Solidarity Camp on Friday 11th November to mark two anniversaries: the 5th anniversary of the baton charge and violence by Gardaí against protestors opposed to the Corrib Gas Project [Youtube video] and the 15th anniversary of the hanging of Ken Saro Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists who opposed Shell in Nigeria Shell's work continues despite the fact that their legal permissions are undergoing three separate judicial reviews which are in progress at the moment. See http://www.shelltosea.com and www.rossportsolidaritycamp.org for further information.
Conflict and mediation: Interview with Sue Williams
Mediation Digest, edited by Brendan Donaghy, has a wide ranging interview with Sue Williams who is an international mediator and facilitator and previously lived and worked in Northern Ireland (for both Quaker House Belfast and INCORE), reflecting on her work here and abroad and on conflict interventions. The interview is originally from Mediation Northern Ireland’s in house magazine and was conducted by Rob Fairmichael (who also edits Nonviolent News – Ed!). See http://mediationdigest.com
Republic: So where is climate change law?
Friends of the Earth point out that the sudden announcement by Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, on 3rd November that climate legislation is to be long-fingered is a spectacular U-turn from his previously stated positions. It also puts him at odds with Government policy as restated by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore just two weeks ago, when he said Government would "deliver on climate change legislation in 2012".
Friends of the Earth is calling on the Government to clear up this unwelcome uncertainty by stating that the draft climate Bill will be published in early 2012. See http://www.foe.ie Friends of the Earth
9 Upper Mount Street, Dublin 2, ph 01-6394652 and e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org@foe.ie
Northern Ireland: Climate change report
On 3rd November Friends of the Earth welcomed the report from the Committee on Climate Change, the UK Government’s advisory body, on a climate change law for Northern Ireland. The report describes Northern Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions trends and sets out the case for emissions reductions targets. The Committee advises Northern Ireland should be moving towards a low-carbon future and suggests, ‘to continue on a business as usual path, would result in increasing costs in line with rising carbon prices, and reliance on imported fossil fuels around which there are security of supply concerns.’ The report concludes by stating, ‘Experience at the UK level and in Scotland suggests that legislation is helpful in underpinning low carbon objectives, by making long term commitments to reduce emissions, including through providing certainty to business and policymakers.’ The report can be found here Friends of the Earth, 7 Donegall Street Place, Belfast, BT1 2FN, ph 028 9089 7591, web www.foe.co.uk/ni
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