The Bahrain Center for Human Rights in cooperation with Bahrain Interfaith organizes a workshop on “Equal Citizenship Initiatives”
On Friday, January 24, 2020, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights organized a workshop in cooperation with Bahrain Interfaith and with human rights researchers on a paper prepared by the center on the creation of equal citizenship initiatives.
The Acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Nedal Al-Salman, and the President of the Bahrain Interfaith, Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman, and a number of researchers and jurists concerned with human rights issues, especially the right to equal citizenship, participated in the specialized workshop.
“A glossary of terms and concepts on homeland and citizenship” was presented and discussed by legal professionals, with copies distributed to all attendees. Sheikh Al-Salman then discussed the importance of equal citizenship and its role in resolving the crisis in Bahrain.
Following the introduction and preface, the session continued with the moderation of president of Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Nedal Al-Salman, who also stressed the importance of implementing these initiatives, and presented them for launching the discussion.
The interaction of the participants on the topics was distinguished by the richness, diversity and multiplicity of opinions, where everyone participated in the discussions that took place on the violation of the law and if citizenship permits it, along with the state's obligations as well as the responsibilities of citizens, the relationship between responsibility and freedom, secularism, and other important topics that occupied the thoughts participants in the workshop.
This workshop has been held in the context of a number of programs and activities recently launched by the center in the previous period, and constitutes a key component.
The workshop touched on linking these concepts with the concept of active citizenship and how the citizen becomes a positive influence within the scope of his presence, whether geographic, tribal, or social. In addition, this workshop in particular, aimed to achieve the following:
• Urging initiatives that the government and non-governmental agencies need to promote concerning of equal citizenship in Bahrain.
• Launching at least of 10 initiatives that are hoped and expected to have a corrective and positive impact on the human rights situation in Bahrain with regard to the issue of equality and non-discrimination in the country.
• Proposing dozens of community initiatives to promote citizenship.
The Release of a Number of Sick Prisoners who have been Imprisoned on the Grounds of their Demands for Democracy and Human Rights
Since 2011, Bahrain has witnessed a serious deterioration of its human rights situation, especially after the closure of the democratic space, and the intensity of the security grip in dealing with the movement of peaceful protests, as the Bahraini authorities paved this through a series of local legislations that have been created or developed to serve that purpose.
According to documented statistics, more than 12,000 Bahraini citizens have been subjected to arbitrary arrest since 2011, including more than 4,000 victims of torture and ill-treatment, 968 children who were subjected to arbitrary arrest, and 330 women (two women currently in prison).
According to the study prepared by the International Center for Criminal Policy Research in October 2016, Bahrain ranked first in the number of prisoners in the Arab world, with the number of its prisoners reaching about four thousand people, at a rate of 301 per 100,000 population.
The deteriorating conditions of prisons in Bahrain represented the other side of arbitrary detention, whereby the prisoners are held in correctional institutions that do not meet the minimum standard rules for the treatment of prisoners. According to the information received, the deteriorating prison conditions included all four official prisons in Bahrain, but they were heavily concentrated in the Dry Dock Prison (Preventive Detention Center) and Jaw Central Prison (Center for the Convicted), compared to the women's prison and the juvenile prison.
Nevertheless, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights continues to welcome any endeavours towards the release of prisoners who have been imprisoned against the background of their demands for democracy and human rights.
Specifically, on Tuesday evening, January 21, 2020, when the Bahraini authorities released some prisoners suffering from chronic diseases, with reports indicating that other numbers will be released in the coming periods.
The Acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Mrs. Nedal Al-Salman believes that this and other similar steps are “positive”, and she called on the official authorities in Bahrain to continue to release all those who have been imprisoned since 2011 on political or related grounds to express their opinion and demands for reform and democracy.
The BCHR also reminds the Bahraini authorities to recognize the existence of prisoners they have, who have been convicted simply for exercising freedom of expression or peaceful assembly and demanding democracy and human rights. BCHR calls on the authorities to immediately release them, including the group of political opposition leaders who have been imprisoned since March 2011 and who suffer from chronic diseases as a result of prison conditions, detention and ill-treatment they suffered in the first months following their arrest, such as: Hassan Mushaima, Abdul Jalil al-Singace and Parweez Jawad, as well as many.
The BCHR also urges the Bahraini authorities to continue to fully respond to what is contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for what significant impact that has on building societies and establishing respect for human rights in them.
International Day of Education January 20, 2020
On January 24, the United Nations called the "International Education Day", where education is a human right, a public good and a public responsibility. The United Nations decided to declare this day to celebrate the role of education in achieving peace and development in the world.
Education provides children with a ladder to escape poverty and a path to a promising future, but approximately 265 million children and adolescents in the world do not have the opportunity to study or even complete their studies. Even though more than one-fifth of these children are of primary school age, they are frustrated by poverty, discrimination, armed conflict, and emergency situations and climate change impacts. Where according to the 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report, migration and forced displacement also affect the achievement of education goals.
In Bahrain, institutional education was launched in 1919 with the establishment of Al-Hidaya Al-Khalifia Secondary School in Muharraq. The state recorded its leadership and precedence in the launch of formal education in the Gulf states.
But when a state does not review its school and university educational system first-hand, and does not monitor the relationship of this educational system to training and the labor market, it will continue to suffer greatly at all levels.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights knows that the challenges facing education in Bahrain today need to be reviewed honestly and there is an urge to reports that reflect very transparent numbers about many details affecting the educational and school environment and the implications of their frequencies in all the details of state institutions.
The 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report reminds the reality of education in Bahrain, which has declined to low levels due to discrimination in the right to education, as the Ministry of Education has deprived hundreds of “A grade” students of their right to university studies due to religious considerations and the existence of sectarian discrimination in large scale since 2011.
In Bahrain, the new Financial and Administrative Supervision Bureau report for the year 2019 estimated 15% decline in primary school performance in the third review reports of “the quality of education” compared to their performance in the second review cycle, as 31% of primary schools that received an evaluation of inappropriate or satisfactory performance.
The report criticized the repetition of some recommendations in the quality reports issued during the second and third sessions of some primary schools, despite the lapse of time periods between the date of the issuance of the two courses, which ranged between three to four years. The report noted a merger between primary school students who numbered more than nine thousand students for the academic year 2019 with students in stages intermediate and secondary schools in some schools. The report also drew attention to exceeding the standards of student densities for more than 21% of primary school classes during the years 2016-2017 to 2018-2019.
The report said that the Ministry of Education has resorted to increasing mobile classrooms in primary schools to keep pace with increasing student numbers without taking the necessary measures to verify the suitability of public facilities in schools with the expected total number of students after adding those classes, pointing out that the area of mobile classes is 42.5 square meters which does not conform to the standard classroom space specified in the Standards and Technical Specifications for Governmental Educational Institutions, as the classroom space must not be less than 50 square meters.
Also, approximately 17 schools, meaning 12,000 students, will terminate its educational services as they are likely to fall, which means having to transfer the students to other schools, causing an increasing pressure on the existing institutions, educational and administrative bodies and Ministry of Education staff that manage these educational and training institutions.
This is in addition to the exit of 3600 teachers and employees from the Ministry of Education in the early retirement program, accompanied by 800 teachers and employees within the regular government retirement programs, which means 4400 persons including school principals, teachers and specialists whom will not be replaced according to the optional retirement system first, as well as the difficulty of reproducing their expertise and experiences second .
As for reducing budgets in the educational sector, it constitutes another challenge that does not lie under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education alone, but it is a major challenge that will face the Supreme Council for the Development of Education and Training and its planned strategies, which cannot be implemented according to numerical pressure in the numbers of students, and a numerical shortage of educational, technical and administrative staff. Not to forget the large reduction in budgets, which does not give any opportunity to remedy the existing imbalance.
The circumstances and previous challenges constitute a major confusion in the educational structure in Bahrain, and will stand as a major obstacle in the development of education and upgrading its quality, which was launched by the state exactly a decade ago; in establishing the Polytechnic, the Education and Training Quality Authority and the Teachers College.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights hopes that the reports on the quality of education and training, and their comparison with reality and aspirations, will really be able to chart the path after the 100-year march from the start of formal and institutional education in Bahrain.
On this international and national occasion, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls for increased political commitment to education as a force to include it in pushing for the achievement of all sustainable development goals, and to adopt reforms related to education at all levels besides those related to people with special needs, and to indeed improve procedures for professors and employees of educational institutions and all its members.
Mohamad Ramadan and Hussain Moosa at Risk of Execution
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is highly concerned about the cases of Mohamad Ramadan and Hussain Moosa, sentenced to death, and therefore, urgently calls for the stop of all death sentences in Bahrain.
In December 2014, the two men were sentenced to death following a bombing that killed a police officer in the village of al-Dair on 14 February 2014.
In 2015, the Court of Cassation upheld the death sentence of Muhammad Ramadan and Hussein Musa for their alleged involvement in the killing of a policeman. Both were tortured by interrogators resulting in enforced confessions.
Today, on 08 January 2020, the Fourth Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the death sentence of both men. The court based its judgment on confessions obtained under conditions of torture, where detainees were subjected to ill-treatment and incommunicado detention in circumstances of enforced disappearance.
Human rights organizations report that Hussain Moosa and Mohamed Ramadan were severely tortured which led to extracted confessions, which served as the main evidence in their trial for the murder of the policeman, Sayed Mohamed Faqir during a bombing in the village of al-Dair.
International standards, including the "Arab Charter on Human Rights", which Bahrain ratified, stipulate that countries that adopt the death penalty must use this punishment only for "the most serious crimes", and in exceptional cases. Many human rights defenders and organizations issued urgent appeals to rescue detainees Mohamed Ramadan and Hussain Moosa, calling on the Bahraini authorities to retry them in accordance with international standards of fair trial, and to stop extracting confessions under torture.
Based on the above, BCHR urgently calls on the Government of Bahrain to:
• Immediately refrain from the application of the Death Penalty against Mohamed Ramadan and Hussain Moosa;
• Commute all death sentences;
• Establish a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to abolition;
• Investigate and prosecute all acts of torture, mistreatment, enforced disappearance;
• Grant immediate access to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions;
• Establish procedures to ensure the fairness of all criminal trials and appeals.
Alternative Sanctions: positive step, yet anonymous implementation plan
Alternative penal laws are among the pioneering ideas in which contemporary society addresses the problem of overcrowded prisons. As human thought has evolved, a new way of human interaction with the prisoner evolved according to a reformist vision, reducing pain and suffering, and easing economic burdens on the state and its financial system. This way also reduces the constant psychological and physical exhaustion of inmates and their families.
Recently, Bahrain witnessed the release of a number of prisoners within the Alternative Penal Code that Bahrain began to implement in early 2018. Among the prisoners who were released within this law, are prisoners who face cases related to the political situation in Bahrain. Previously, in November, the Bahraini authorities released three women within the same law, and then four other women were released.
After the Bahraini team won the Gulf Cup, a number of prisoners sentenced in various cases with different sentences were released gradually. They were from those who had served half of their sentence and who, according to official statements, numbered 800. The largest proportion of those released were prisoners of foreign nationalities, who were sentenced in Bahrain in drug trafficking and other criminal cases.
Indeed, the number of prisoners associated with the political crisis in Bahrain is no less than 4000 people, according to unofficial statistics, which is a large number for the total population of 1.6 million, in a country whose citizens do not exceed 45 percent. Despite the small number of released politicians, there is only a few days or months left of the sentence issued against the largest number of them, with a very limited number of those who still have five years of their sentences to serve.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) believes that the beginning of the application of the Alternative Penal Code is a positive step in the right direction, and it is a step that will ensure justice for prisoners who have been subjected to harsh sentences in politically tense conditions. This step will contribute to clear the atmosphere in front of any corrective process for the deadlocked political track since 2011.
However, it is evident that the implementation of the law is very slow, especially considering the number of complaints of ill-treatment in prisons, and the denial of access to medical care and medicine. Additionally, this law was started nearly two years after the King of Bahrain ratified the same law on July 17, 2017.
BCHR considers that the steps to release political prisoners in Bahrain are still in need of a clear official intention to do so. Despite being a positive step, the implementation of the Alternative Penal Code needs more steps to support it in order to become a fixed law implemented in accordance with specific and clear criteria for every person to whom the law applies and includes prisoners who face clear political issues and issues related to freedom of expression and opinion.
Therefore, BCHR, through this statement, calls on the Bahraini authorities to lay down a clear executive plan for the implementation of the Alternative Penal Code, and to extensively include political prisoners and prisoners of conscience within this law.
Bahrain: Death Row Inmates
As the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), we are writing to express our deepest concern over the cases of death row inmates Mohamed Ramadhan Issa Ali Hussain and Hussain Ali Moosa Mohamed. The verdict on their case has been delayed to 08 January 2020.
They were sentenced to death in December 2014 for their alleged involvement in the explosion in al-Dair on 14 February 2014 that resulted in the death of a policeman. They took the judgment to the Appeal’s Court, on the grounds that they were falsely accused, tortured and coerced to confess to a crime they had not committed.
On 16 November 2015, the Bahraini Court of Cassation rejected their final appeal and upheld their death sentence. The two men are now at imminent risk of execution.
BCHR therefore urges the international community to condemn the high number of death sentences passed in the country; to call for an official moratorium on all executions; to call for a review of all death sentences to ensure that the trials in question adhere to international standards; and to continue makimg reference to Bahrain in the EU and Member States’ statements under item 4 in the upcoming sessions of the UN Human Rights Council;
We call on the Vice President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the European External Action Service, the Council and the Member States to systematically raise the concerns about the violation of human rights in Bahrain and to consider the introduction of targeted measures against those responsible for grave human rights violations.
BCHR also calls on the Government of Bahrain to:
•Postpone the verdict to a later date in the cases of the Mohamed Ramadhan Issa Ali Hussain and Hussain Ali Moosa Mohamed in view to ensure an outcome of a trial that has fully complied with international fair trial standards that excludes evidence obtained under torture, and without recourse to the death penalty;
•Cooperate with the UN Special Rapporteurs (notably on torture, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and belief, independence of judges and lawyers, and human rights defenders) and to issue a standing invitation in their favour;
•Allow an official delegation of Members of the European Parliament and civil society representatives to visit prisons concluding for the purposes of making contact with detained human rights defenders;
• Release immediately and unconditionally Mr. Rajab, for any remaining charges against him to be dropped, and for the authorities to ensure that, pending his release, he is not subjected to torture or other ill-treatment and has regular family visits and access to lawyers of his choice, as well as adequate healthcare;
•Abide by their international obligations and commitments to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms and ensure a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders;
•Deplore the poor prison conditions in the country and the use of torture by Bahraini security and prison personnel;
•Refrain from all torture, cruel and degrading treatment of detainees, to fully investigate all allegations of violation of basic rights of prisoners and torture and to bring the perpetrators to justice;
•Release all illegally detained prisoners, including human rights defenders arbitrarily arrested, charged and convicted for carrying out their legitimate and peaceful human rights activities;
As the BCHR, we recommend that the government of Bahrain abolishes the death sentence legally and judicially, and invite them to join the second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the abolition of the death penalty.
Domestic workers in Bahrain:Religious freedom is one of their rights
Bahrain Center for Human Rights and Bahrain Interfaith published this study which aims to discuss the conditions of domestic workers, and to propose solutions for their improvement.Methodology: This paper primarily relies on secondary data, scholar books, and articles, as well as research reports published by international NGOs, organizations and institutions from Bahrain and the Bahraini Ministry of Labor website.
Results: The average number of domestic workers has decreased during the past two years in Bahrain. The government of Bahrain had executed several steps to reform this situation, but unfortunately, it was insufficient.
Discussion: Some solutions were proposed to the Government of Bahrain, the employers, and employees to maintain appropriate working conditions for all parties.
Conclusion: Freedom of religion in Bahrain, for both citizens and migrant workers, needs to be improved by enhancing the laws that protect it. Moreover, the laws concerning the domestic workers must be upgraded and improved to ensure their religious freedom and basic human rights.
On the International Migrants Day: we call on the government of Bahrain to pay special attention to the suffering of domestic workers
On the International Migrants Day, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Interfaith Center call on the government of Bahrain to pay special attention to the suffering of domestic workers in the country.
On December 18 of each year, the world celebrates the "International Migrants Day ", to highlight the issue of migration and the profile of migrants from their countries of origin to other countries. On this day, the United Nations announced that migration, throughout human history, was a courageous expression of individuals' determination to overcome difficulties and seek a better life. The UN has made it clear that globalization and progress in communication and transportation have led to an increase in the number of people who have the desire and ability to move to other places.
Concerning Bahrain and the Gulf States, the term (migrant labor) is not a current one, and another term is used which is (foreign labor) or (expatriate labor). The United Nations' International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates the number of migrants worldwide at about 214,000,000, about half of whom are women. The organization warns that the global financial and economic crisis has exacerbated the conditions of women migrant workers, especially in the developing countries. Migrant workers around the world face policies and procedures of discrimination and abuse, including low wages. Bahrain is home to more than 438,000 migrant workers, most of them from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
In Bahrain, migrant women face multiple forms of discrimination and harassment at work. For example, migrant domestic workers in Bahrain - estimated of about 70,000 - suffer discrimination and some manifestations of racism against the background of differences in religion, sect, or race, as well as insulting and degrading violations.
Migrant workers find themselves obliged to leave their home countries in search of an appropriate income. Many of them had to pay exorbitant fees to facilitate immigration and find a job, and in the hope of obtaining better work opportunities in Bahrain. However, they are often surprised when they arrive that the high cost of living and the nature of work available are not equivalent with the money they had to pay to come to the country.
On this occasion, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) publishes, in association with the Bahrain Interfaith Center, a report on migrant domestic workers in Bahrain. The report deals with files related to the rights of this group in society, including the strengthening of laws that guarantee the care and respect of freedom of belief and religion, for both citizens and migrant workers alike. In addition, the report urges the government to develop the laws related to domestic workers, in a manner that respects international standards and achieves security and commitment to the rights of this group, including the rights to practice religious rituals and the freedom of belief.
BCHR and Bahrain Interfaith call on the local and international community to pay special attention to the suffering of migrant domestic workers in Bahrain, and call on the government to: ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families; as well as to ratify the relevant International Labor Organization treaties, including Convention No. 97 (1949) on labor migration, and Convention No. 143 (1975) on migration in abusive situations; and to promote equal opportunities and treatment for migrant workers.
Bahrain: On Universal Health Coverage Day, Bahraini prisoners are denied access to necessary medical care
Universal Health Coverage Day is at the top of the World Health Organization's goal list in order to ensure that everyone gets the care they need, when they need it. However, millions of people around the world are still denied any access to health care.
On this occasion, which coincides on the 12th of December, and in light of the international community's continuing shameful engagement with human rights issues in Bahrain, especially while prisoners are still suffering, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) would like to remind the international community of its responsibility towards human rights issues and the ongoing violations taking place in Bahrain. These violations including those related to the medical rights of prisoners and detainees, and to the increased suffering of detainees and the ill-treatment they are subjected to at the hands of the responsible police officers inside the prison.
The Acting President of BCHR and Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Nidal Al-Salman emphasized the suffering of the detainees from the continuous harassment, mistreatment and deprivation of human rights, including receiving treatment and taking medications, which caused the spread of many diseases on the one hand, and the deteriorating health conditions of some detainees on the other hand.
According to reports received by BCHR from Jaw Central Prison, many detainees suffer from "diabetes", and face difficult health conditions due to the denial of the necessary treatment, as 10 prisoners with severe illness frequently fall inside the prison because of the lack of provision of required health care. Moreover, a report prepared by 10 activists inside the prison stated that there are risks to the lives of a number of sick patients, while the prison authorities continue their procedures in preventing medicines and refusing to transfer them to outpatient clinics, in addition to the poor public health conditions inside the prison.
Bahrain's prisons contain thousands of prisoners, including nearly 4,000 prisoners on issues related to freedom of expression and the political situation in Bahrain. Many of them suffer unfair and inhuman prison conditions, and about 600 prisoners recently went on hunger strike to protest against poor conditions and mistreatment inside the prison. Hunger strike is the way which the prisoners resort to every time to demand an improvement in their conditions.
On the conditions in Bahrain's prisons, Human Rights Watch said in a statement issued in October 2019 that the prison authorities in Bahrain "arbitrarily deprive prisoners of urgent health care, refuse to present them to specialists, and do not reveal the results of their medical examinations; authorities also withhold medication as a form of punishment related to detainees’ prominent roles in the opposition and protests".
Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle East division at Human Rights Watch said: “It is shameful that the Bahraini authorities are denying prisoners the medical care they urgently need, sometimes putting their lives at risk.” He added: “Many of these people should not have been imprisoned at the first place, and arbitrary deprivation of medical care may amount to extrajudicial punishment".
On this day, BCHR calls on the authorities of Jaw Central Prison and all prisons in Bahrain to abide by the provisions of international law and standards for human rights in treating prisoners. Bahrain, as a state party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, is legally obliged to respect, protect and fulfill “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health” of detainees and prisoners. Furthermore, the Nelson Mandela Rules stipulate in Rule 27 thereof that prisoners whose condition requires specialist treatment must be transferred to specialized institutions or to hospitals outside the prison when such treatment is not available in prison.
BCHR calls on the government of Bahrain to take necessary measures to reduce violations and stop ill-treatment of prisoners, especially those related to medical care, and to develop strict laws that protect prisoners from being subjected to violations and hold accountable those found to be involved.
In Quest for More Equal Societies, Those Who Defend Human Rights Are Key Agents of Change
Alice Mogwe, FIDH President
(Paris) 10 December 2019 – Popular uprisings are occurring in all regions of our world. Although seemingly disparate and unconnected, these movements are united in their rejection of an elitist socio-economic model which enables inequalities, corruption, discrimination, abuses of power and violations of human rights. In response, these movements call for building societies which are more resilient, inclusive, respectful, and equitable,so that communities and people may thrive. This ambitious vision strives to prevail in a world marred by racism, hate speech, bullying and the existential threat of climate change.
These popular uprisings are expressions born of lived experiences of exclusion. Generally not structured around an ideology or political party, they transcend existing political movements. They provide a voice for those who have felt silenced and excluded by systems of governance. We must pay tribute here to the courage of the women, men and others, both young and old, who have taken to the streets, in many cases, in countries where the right to demonstrate or the right to claim rights are contested and suppressed.
On 10 December, the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948, we reaffirm its significance as a benchmark against which we measure our achievements and challenges in our civil, political, economic, social, cultural and developmental spheres.
The UDHR also provides the necessary guidance for the resolution of these crises, through the respect and protection of particularly, the right to demonstrate; the right to freedom of expression; the right to equal protection of the law; the right to life, liberty and security of the person; the right to education, health care, food, housing and social security; equality between women, men and others; the right to be free from all forms of discrimination; the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; the right to due process and a fair trial; and the right not to be subjected to torture or to unlawful or arbitrary arrest or detention.
Human rights organisations around the world, are today, actively engaged in challenging this status quo by using the courts and functioning institutions of democracy; by denouncing violations of human rights; by increasing public awareness through the media; by using regional and international mechanisms – all aimed at seeking redress, enforcing decisions, and encouraging states to guarantee the protection of their citizens.
However, human rights defenders are increasingly targeted because of their work, through threats, smear campaigns, intimidation, harassment and enforced disappearances. In 2018, at least 318 human rights defenders were killed for defending rights. Reliable information has indicated that there have been reprisals against human rights defenders in for example, Turkey, where human rights and humanitarian organisations were shut down and human rights defenders arrested and imprisoned. In
Honduras, as of early this year, more than 200 human rights defenders had been attacked.
In December 2018, on behalf of hundreds of human rights defenders who had met at the Human Rights Defenders’ World Summit in Paris in October 2018, I presented the Declaration of the World Summit of Human Rights Defenders to the United Nations General Assembly. Through it, we denounced how, around the world, those who defend the rights for all are intimidated, harassed, attacked, imprisoned or even killed. We called upon States "to recognise the essential role of human rights defenders, protect those at risk, and take concrete measures to foster a safe and enabling environment, including through adoptions of national action plans on the protection of human rights defenders".
Over the past year, as popular uprisings have multiplied, repression against defenders has only increased, particularly in cases where human rights defenders have demanded social, economic or environmental justice. Yet, these defenders are the agents of change in and for our societies. They are the observers, the whistleblowers and the stewards of our collective well-being.
However, due to the state capture of independent regional and international investigative mechanisms and judicial institutions, the ability of defenders to protect human rights is curtailed. Bodies such as the International Criminal Court, the UN Special Procedures and Treaty Bodies, and regional human rights mechanisms, risk being compromised due to their budgetary dependence on member States. They also risk becoming powerless when their recommendations are not respected and not
implemented by member States, on the basis of their sovereignty.
Populism and nationalism are on the rise — used as a rallying cry by political leaders who have failed to respond to the needs of their societies, which are consequently riven by fundamental socioeconomic inequalities.
On the anniversaries of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (10 December 1948), and of the International Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (9 December 1998), let us work together – both citizens' movements and civil society organisations — to consolidate the three essential pillars of a global human rights-based public order: the defence of universal human rights standards; the protection of defenders; and the strengthening of independent institutions which monitor the
implementation of human rights. This three-pronged approach comprises the compass which directs and keeps us on course to achieving thriving societies in which the dignity of everyone is respected and upheld.
Botswana activist Alice Mogwe was elected president of the International Federation for Human
Rights (FIDH) in October 2019. Ms. Mogwe, a staunch human rights advocate and civil society
leader, will lead the Federation for the next three years, ushering in its 100th anniversary in 2022.
In December 2018 Ms. Mogwe was the first civil society leader to address the United Nations General
Assembly on behalf of over 250 human rights defenders from around the world. As founder and
director of DITSHWANELO – the Botswana Centre for Human Rights – she has spearheaded efforts
to advance human rights in Botswana and its Southern African neighbours.