Friday, February 12, 2016

Two years after #12F and no progress on murders of protesting Venezuelan students

"Today I was hit with a rock in the back, a helmet in my nose. I swallowed tear-gas, Carried the kid who died, and what did you do?" - Robert Redman, age 28 over twitter on February 12, 2014 shortly before he was shot and killed.

Two years ago today nonviolent student protesters Bassil Da Costa and Robert Redman were gunned down on February 12, 2014, the Day of the Youth in Venezuela, while engaged in nonviolent street protests against the government of Nicolas Maduro. Robert Redman was shot and killed hours after he had carried Bassil who had also been shot and killed earlier that same day and tweeted about it.

Today the Venezuelan human rights organization Foro Penal published and distributed the above image with the names and images of young Venezuelans murdered during the 2014 anti-government protests along with their first names which states: "It is ironic to celebrate the Day of the Youth in Venezuela when her youth are in prison, exiled or in a tomb." 

Also toda, Robert Redman's dad visited his son's grave site and tweeted the following image recreating picture of his son holding up the Venezuelan flag with the following text:"Here with my son on the 2nd anniversary of his murder by hired assassins of the regime. God bless you son."

Two years later and a second Venezuelan human rights organization PROVEA reports that: "In 2015 there was no progress into the investigations of the cases of Bassil Da Costa, Juan Montoya and Robert Redman.

They and the others killed, tortured and arbitrarily detained by the Maduro regime are not forgotten and the call for freedom and justice continues. My prayers go out to them and their families.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The International Bill of Human Rights and Cuba's failure to ratify

Two important anniversaries

2016 marks an important anniversary. Fifty years ago on December 16, 1966 two important human rights covenants were opened for signature: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that came into force on January 3, 1976 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that came into force on March 23, 1976. Together they are known as the International Bill of Human Rights. The Human Rights Action Center, founded by human rights pioneer Jack Healey in 2010 prepared the following video explaining the two covenants:

Eight years ago on February 28, 2008 the Cuban dictatorship signed both covenants. Less than a year later on January 28, 2009 representatives of the Cuban government extended an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture that was never allowed by the regime.

Eight years later despite calls by international human rights organizations and a campaign inside of Cuba the Castro regime has not ratified either covenant. Despite signing the two covenants the human rights situation in Cuba has deteriorated since 2008 with an explosion in the number of arbitrary detentions and the extrajudicial executions of high profile activists such as Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas who could have overseen a democratic transition in Cuba.

There have also been negative consequences for the United Nations Human Rights Council and international human rights standards as a result of the work of the Castro regime's diplomats working in Geneva, Switzerland over the years.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Nonviolence and Peace Movements a crash course

There is an alternative to the cycle of violence that has engulfed the world and it is to be found with the shield of human rights and the spear of nonviolence. Nonviolence is not passive and often times requires an aggressive attitude but always needs a strategic vision in order to succeed. Below author John Green gives a crash course on the history of nonviolence in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Cuba remains one of the worse places to be a reporter on planet Earth

Cuba is ranked #169 out of 180 countries in the Reporter Without Borders 2015 World Press Freedom Index with a score of 70.21

 Reporters Without Borders offered the following analysis in their 2015 report
"Freedom of information is extremely limited in Cuba, which is ranked lower in the index than any other country in the Americas. The government tolerates no independent press. Internet access is restricted and tightly controlled. The authorities continue to cite the US embargo as the reason for the low Internet penetration but the activation of Cuba’s ALBA-1 fibre-optic cable with Venezuela proves that it has more to do with a political desire to control the Internet. In addition to the lack of media pluralism, outspoken journalists and bloggers are still subjected to threats, smears, arrest and arbitrary detention. Does the announcement by Cuba and the United States of an historic agreement to restore diplomatic relations offer a ray of hope for Cuban journalists?"

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

8th Annual Geneva Summit: 10th Anniversary of the United Nations Human Rights Council

Register here to attend the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy. Not able to attend in Geneva? then watch it on live-stream.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

All sessions to be held at the Geneva International Conference Center (CICG)
9:30   Opening Address: Reflections on the 10th Anniversary
of the United nations Human Rights Council

Lord David Trimble, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, member of the British House of Lords, former First Minister of Northern Ireland
9:50     The Return of Authoritarianism
Moderator: Christopher Walker, Executive Director, International Forum for Democratic Studies, National Endowment for Democracy
  • Svitlana Zalishchuk, Ukrainian MP, Steering Committee of World Movement for Democracy
  • Irwin Cotler, Former Canadian Minister of Justice & MP, lawyer for political prisoners, Emeritus McGill University Professor of Law
  • Yang Jianli, President of Initiatives for China, former political prisoner
  • Joan Hoey, Editor of The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index
11:00   Presentation of Geneva Summit 2016 Women’s Rights Award
Presenter: Anne Brasseur, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, former Minister of Education of Luxembourg
Moderator: Sohrab Ahmari, Journalist, The Wall Street Journal
  • Vian Dakhil, Yazidi Member of Iraqi Parliament
  • Jan Ilhan Kizilhan, German psychologist who created a clinic in northern Iraq for women victimized by ISIS
12:00 Flogged for Blogging: The Case of Raif Badawi
  • Ensaf Haidar, wife of Raif Badawi, Saudi blogger currently in jail, 2015 Laureate of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, interviewed by journalist Tom Gross
12:30   Networking Lunch
14:00   Presentation of Geneva Summit 2016 Courage Award
Moderator: Javier El-Hage, General Counsel, Human Rights Foundation
  • Mitzy Capriles, wife of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma who is currently in jail on politically-motivated charges
14:20   Is China Upholding Its Duties as a UN Human Rights Council Member?
Moderator: Yang Jianli, President of Initiatives for China, ex-political prisoner
  • Anastasia Lin, Human rights advocate on China, 2015 Miss World Canada
  • Jigme Golog, Tibetan monk, recently released from jail
15:00   Fighting Oppression, Defending Human Rights
Moderator: Irwin Cotler, Former Canadian Minister of Justice & MP, advocate for political prisoners, Emeritus McGill University Professor of Law
  • Mohamed Fahmy, Al Jazeera journalist, recently released from Egyptian prison, now launching his own press freedom foundation
  • Darya Safaei, Campaigns for right of Iranian women to enter sports stadiums
  • Orhan Kemal Cengiz, Turkish human rights lawyer, columnist for Today’s Zaman and Özgür Düşünce
16:00   Voices for the Voiceless
Moderator: Philippe Robinet, CEO Editions Kero
  • Daniel Mekonnen, Exiled Eritrean human rights lawyer and scholar
  • Lee Young-guk, Former bodyguard of Kim Jong-il, arrested and tortured for trying to defect, eventually escaped to South Korea
  • Rosa Maria Paya, Cuban human rights activist, daughter of late dissident Oswaldo Paya
17:15   Beyond Geneva: Advancing Human Rights in 2016
Ambassador Alfred H. Moses, Chair of UN Watch

17:30   End of Summit