July

Printer-friendly version

July 2007

Contents

Democracy Alerts/Appeals
Bahraini Woman Harassed Following Criticism of Sharia Court System
Harassment of Media Group in Russia Intensifies
Norwegian NGOs Protest Human Rights Violations Against Minority Students in Morocco and the Western Sahara

Announcements and Events
World Youth Movement for Democracy Announces Essay Contest Winners
Institute of Social Sciences Celebrates Women's Empowerment Day in New Delhi
Call for Nominations: Transparency International's 2007 Integrity Awards
Call for Applications: Youth Training on Conflict, Peace, and Development
Call for Applications - Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School

Civic Education
Voter Awareness Initiative Registered in Nigeria

Conflict Resolution and Transitional Justice
New Free Networking Site for Conflict Resolution, Democratization, and International Development

Elections
Zimbabwe Election Support Network Reports Low Turnout in Recent Election
Conclusion of Jordanian Fourth Training Course in Elections Monitoring

Gender Issues and Sexual Minority Rights
Naw Zipporah Sein Wins 2007 Perdita Huston Human Rights Award
WLUML Campaigns to Support Pakistani Transgender Couple

Good Governance, Transparency and Anti-Corruption
Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group Issues Report on Misuse of Campaign Finances during Nigerian Elections
Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project Issues Report on the African Peer Review Mechanism Process in Ghana

Human Rights, Equality and Access to Justice
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum Releases Report on Human Rights Violations on Commercial Farms
NGOs Release Update on Condition of Human Rights in Vietnam
Foundation for Human Rights Initiative Releases Report on Uganda
The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) Conclude Human Rights Workshop
Activists Demand Immediate Release of Ethiopian Human Rights Defenders

Labor Unions and Worker Rights
Solidarity Center Applauds 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report

Legislative Development and Assistance
Macedonian Rights Group Claims Macedonian Laws Discriminate Against the Disabled
Zimbabwe Election Support Network Critical of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill

Media, Freedom of Expression and Communication Technology
South East Europe Media Organization Holds Meeting in Macedonia to Discuss Private News Agencies

Political and Civic Participation of Youth
Women's International Peace Movement Organizes International Youth Forum
Activists Protest Increasingly Harassments of Civil Society Leaders in Belarus

World Movement Participating Networks, Organizations and Individuals Mentioned in this Issue

 

Democracy Alerts/Appeals

Bahraini Woman Harassed Following Criticism of Sharia Court System
On June 20, Suad Fathalla lost custody of her children and her apartment after she criticized the Sharia court system's handling of her divorce and alimony case involving her former husband on public television. The Bahraini Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Women's Petition Committee intend to support Ms. Fathalla's challenge in the ruling. Since speaking out against the Sharia courts, the Ministry of Interior, politicized judges, and the lack of a personal status law, Ms. Fathalla has received death threats and anonymous phone calls. BCHR is calling for the ruling to be overturned, the government to stop using the Sharia Courts as a tool to silence activists, Bahrain to develop an independent and honest judiciary, and Ms. Fathalla's ex-husband, who is an employee of the Interior Ministry and has physically and verbally abused her, to be held accountable for his actions.

Go to: www.bahrainrights.org/node/1291

Harassment of Media Group in Russia Intensifies
On June 21, Russian prosecutors revealed that they had filed criminal charges of smuggling against Manana Aslamazyan, President of the Educated Media Foundation (EMF, formerly known as Internews Russia). The prosecutors say they are officially considering opening an investigation on two more criminal charges related to illegal business activities and money laundering. In April, the Moscow-based headquarters of EMF had been raided, and the Foundation forced to suspend its work. Police had seized financial documents and computer servers, supposedly to support the criminal investigation of Ms. Aslamazyan, who recently accepted a new consultancy position with the US- based Internews network. The criminal investigation and raid resulted from Ms. Aslamazyan's neglect to file a customs declaration form when she entered Russia in January while carrying more than the legal limit for undeclared cash. Over 2000 Russian journalists signed a letter to President Putin in support of Aslamazyan and her organization, and numerous news articles, editorials, and statements of support, both Russian and international, have called the government's actions excessive.

Go to: www.internews.org/bulletin/monthlynews/lb_2007_06ex.html

Norwegian NGOs Protest Human Rights Violations Against Minority Students in Morocco and the Western Sahara
On May 23, 2007, forty-three Norwegian NGOs signed a letter addressed to the Moroccan government protesting the treatment of Sahawari college students in Morocco and the Western Sahara. Since 1975, the Sahawari people of Western Sahara have been locked in a dispute with Morocco over the issue of their independence. The students have been subjected to serious human rights violations, including verbal abuse, sexual abuse, and severe beatings by both armed mobs and the police. The letter demands that the attacks on Saharawi students stop, and that their rights are respected. Specific requests include guaranteeing the students physical security; releasing detainees from prison; protecting and promoting their freedom of expression, movement, and association; and arresting perpetrators of these crimes to help prevent further abuses.

Go to: www.humanrightshouse.org/dllvis5.asp?id=5526
Go to: www.vest-sahara.no/index.php?parse_news=single&cat=49&art=496

 

Announcements and Events

World Youth Movement for Democracy Announces Essay Contest Winners
The World Youth Movement for Democracy (WYMD), an international community of young people working non-violently to promote democratic institutions and practices, has announced the winners of its essay contest. Early this year, young activists, students, and citizens, aged 14 to 30, were invited to submit a short essay reflecting on their experiences with the ideals and realities of democracy, and the future of democracy in their communities and countries. Essays by the two winners, three runners up, and all regional finalists, are available online.

Go to: www.ymd.youthlink.org/ymd/2007finalists/contestsfinalists.html

WYMD also issued the July edition of its newsletter. It includes democracy alerts and appeals, and highlights activities from participants, international news, forthcoming events, and opportunities for grants, funding, and participation.

Go to: www.ymd.youthlink.org/ymd/newslettermain.html

Institute of Social Sciences Celebrates Women's Empowerment Day in New Delhi
The Institute of Social Sciences (ISS) in New Delhi celebrated the 14th Women's Political Empowerment Day at Vishwa Yuvak Kendra, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, on April 23-25, 2007. The day commemorates a 1985 constitutional amendment act, which states that women could make up no less than one-third of the representation in the Panchayati Raj system of local government, which groups together the local governance of villages in close proximity. Every year, the event is organized by theme, and this year's theme was HIV and AIDS. In addition, the weaker position of women compared to that of men in the Panchayats was also discussed. More than 600 women from 23 states, government officials, academics, representatives from civil society organizations, and the media participated in the event.

Go to: http://www.wmd.org/documents/July07DemNews1.pdf

Call for Nominations: Transparency International's 2007 Integrity Awards
Transparency International (TI), a global anti-corruption organization, is accepting nomination for its 2007 Integrity Awards. The awards recognize individuals and organizations from around the world that have risked their lives and their livelihoods for justice, transparency, and integrity, and have thereby promoted the goals of TI. Specifically, the awards are given for actions and initiatives that have had significant impact on the nominees region, are innovative and courageous, received world recognition, or have been emulated.

Go to: www.transparency.org/news_room/award/integrity_awards/call_for_entries

Call for Applications: Youth Training on Conflict, Peace, and Development
The Centre for Peace Initiatives in Africa (CPIA), based in Harare, Zimbabwe, is accepting applications for the Regional Youth Training on Conflict, Peace and Development on 4-14 November, 2007. CPIA is an NGO that promotes sustainable peace, stability, and security in Africa through conflict prevention, resolution, and management. The training is open to anyone working in the areas of conflict and peace, especially in Africa, between 18-30 years of age. The goal of the training is to educate youths on conflict prevention, resolution, and management, and to teach them how effective program management impacts peace and development in their communities. The application deadline for the training course is 14 September.

Go to: http://www.wmd.org/documents/July07DemNews2.pdf

Call for Applications - Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School
The Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School, which offers an opportunity to learn about the history and development of human rights and democracy in South Korea, is now accepting applications. A total of 25 applicants will be invited to participate in the school, which will be held on September 2-16, 2007. The program includes a comprehensive look at Korean democratic movements and struggles though seminars, discussions, field trips, and sessions designed to help the participant impart this information to others through cultural events and youth activities. The deadline for applications is July 20.

Go to: www.518folkschool.blogspot.com/2007/04/lenin-raghuvanshi-and-irom-sharmila-win.html

 

Civic Education

Voter Awareness Initiative Registered in Nigeria
The Voters Awareness Initiative of Nigeria is a newly registered NGO that endeavors to educate Nigerians on the importance of democracy. Its members have diverse experiences in activities including human rights activism, community work, social work, and humanitarian activities. Its vision is to ensure that every Nigerian voter is properly educated about his or her civic and political rights, to strengthen democratic institutions, and to help institutionalize a strong democratic culture in Nigeria. To reach this vision, the Voters Awareness Initiative will issue their monthly newspaper, called "Voters News," and organize workshops, symposiums, seminars, road shows, an enlightenment campaign, and other democratically-oriented activities.

Go to: http://www.wmd.org/documents/July07DemNews3.pdf

 

Conflict Resolution and Transitional Justice

New Free Networking Site for Conflict Resolution, Democratization, and International Development
A new networking site for professionals and academics in conflict resolution, democratization, and international development has been launched. Membership to the network, called "Peace and Collaborative Development Networking," is free. It is intended to encourage interaction, and promote the sharing of ideas and experiences, between individuals and organizations worldwide who are involved in the fields of development, democratization, conflict resolution, and related activities. On the Web site, members can participate in current discussions, create their own blog, network, or research other organizations, and post information about themselves or their work, including publications, teaching materials, videos, curricula, and pictures.

Go to: www.internationalpeaceandconflict.ning.com

 

Elections

Zimbabwe Election Support Network Reports Low Turnout in Recent Election
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) reported that the Zaka East Parliamentary election held on June 9 ran smoothly, but voter turnout was very low. ZESN's observers stated that although the election was conducted with adequate materials and professional polling officials, there were also a variety of concerns. One was the issue of voter assistance, because this could increase the possibility of biased voting. Other concerns were that the youth vote was particularly low, and that there were noted instances of voters being turned away because their names were not registered or they did not have proper identification. ZESN recommends mobile voter registration and the mobile issuance of identification cards to facilitate the voting process. In addition, the Network calls for a new voter roll to build the electorate's confidence and increase voter turnout. ZESN believes the low voter turnout is an indicator of the election's lack of credibility, and that this can be improved when voters become well informed about the legitimacy of the elections, and the importance of democratic processes.

Go to: http://www.wmd.org/documents/July07DemNews4.pdf

Conclusion of Jordanian Fourth Training Course in Elections Monitoring
The Amman Center for Human Right Studies (ACHRS) and the Jordanian Coalition for Civil Society Organizations (JCCSO) concluded the fourth election monitoring training course on June 10-13. 300 participants in the training learned how to monitor their parliamentary elections. The course included a number of training sessions about the importance of election monitoring, the rules that the local monitor should follow, monitoring electoral promotions, the process of election monitoring, and discussed a recent monitoring experience from Yemen.

Go to: http://www.wmd.org/documents/July07DemNews5.pdf

 

Gender Issues and Sexual Minority Rights

Naw Zipporah Sein Wins 2007 Perdita Huston Human Rights Award
The 2007 Perdita Huston Human Rights Award was given to Naw Zipporah Sein of the Karen Women's Organization (KWO), a community-based organization that promotes freedom, democracy, and equality in Burma. For over two decades, Ms. Zipporah and the KWO have documented human rights violations by the military government of Burma against the Karen people, one of Burma's main ethnic groups, who are continuously suppressed by the junta. Under Ms. Zipporah's leadership, KWO has developed into a key organization providing health, education, and humanitarian aid to women and their families in Thai refugee camps, and on the eastern border of Burma. It has built safe-houses in refugee camps and provided shelter and counseling to women and children facing violence. The United Nations Association of the National Capital Area in the United States confers the annual Award to recognize the life and work of outstanding advocates for women's rights in less developed countries.

Go to: www.perditahustonaward.com

WLUML Campaigns to Support Pakistani Transgender Couple
The Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) is campaigning to support Shamial Raj and Shahzina Tariq, a transgender couple from Faisalabad, Pakistan, who were sentenced to three years imprisonment and Rs 10,000 fine on charges of perjury in May. Shamial Raj had a sex change operation in 2006 and has been living as a man for years. He and Shahzina Tariq married last year, despite the fact that Shahzina's father had wanted her to marry a person to whom he owed money. Since they got married, the couple has been continuously harassed by Shahzina's father and other family members, who took legal action against Shamial and accused him of kidnapping their daughter, despite the consensual nature of their marriage. Their petition challenging the verdict is currently pending in the Pakistan Supreme Court.

Go to: www.wluml.org/english/actionsfulltxt.shtml?cmd[156]=i-156-554284

 

Good Governance, Transparency and Anti-Corruption

Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group Issues Report on Misuse of Campaign Finances during Nigerian Elections
The Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group (NDEBUMOG) recently published a report that details the findings of an internal project undertaken by the organization during and after the April 2007 Nigerian presidential elections. The report, entitled "The Impact of Administrative Resource Misuse on Campaign Finance and the Political System in Nigeria," asserts that the diversion of state and public sector resources to finance private electoral campaigns is a little-examined form of corruption, but a dominant form of election campaign financing in many countries, including Nigeria. It found that the abuse of public resources varied from coercion by police forces, biased enforcement of regulations, passage of unjust laws, unequal use of state media and public capacity resources, and the payment of private expenditures with federal funds.

Go to: http://www.wmd.org/documents/July07DemNews5.pdf

Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project Issues Report on the African Peer Review Mechanism Process in Ghana
The Africa Governance and Monitoring Project (AfriMAP) recently issued a report on the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) self-assessment process in Ghana. The APRM is a mutually agreed instrument for self-monitoring of member states of the African Union (AU). Its purpose is to ensure that the policies and practices of participating states conform to the agreed political, economic, and corporate governance values, codes, and standards of the AU. The recently issued report on Ghana, which was one of the first countries to sign the Memorandum of Understanding establishing the APRM, and the first to complete the review, outlines the strengths and weaknesses of the Ghana's APRM process and makes recommendations for the monitoring of Ghana's implementation of the APRM program of action. The main weakness was identified as the lack of a method to ensure that those who were consulted for the process, such as civil society and public officials, could see how their inputs were used in the process.

Go to: www.afrimap.org/report.php#25

 

Human Rights, Equality and Access to Justice

Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum Releases Report on Human Rights Violations on Commercial Farms
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum has released a report that details human rights violations on commercial farms that were seized by the government between 2000 and 2005. The report shows that the original farm owners and current workers have experienced many human rights violations. The farmers underwent losses of income, homes, health services, and access to clean water and sanitation. The Human Rights Forum claims that the perpetrators, which include the police, members of parliament, officials from the president's office, provincial governors, and other government officials, should be charged and tried.

Go to: www.hrforumzim.com/special_hrru/Preliminary_report_on_farm_seizures.pdf

NGOs Release Update on Condition of Human Rights in Vietnam
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, and the Action for Democracy in Vietnam, released an update on the condition of human rights in Vietnam. In the update, they state that Vietnam is currently experiencing an influx of human rights violations, violating its covenant with the UN, and abusing many basic human civil liberties. It also notes that Vietnam experienced a brief period of positive democratic direction in 2006, when Vietnam's Communist leaders sought membership of the WTO, permanent normal trade relations status with the United States, and the removal of Vietnam from the religious blacklist of "Countries of Particular Concern." However, Vietnam continues to ban or control independent religion and the press, prohibit free trade unions, and impede NGO or civil society activities in the country. Most recently, there has been a throng of unjust prison sentences given to peaceful activists, and many others are awaiting trial or under house arrest, including the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Thich Quang Do, and journalist Nguyen Vu Binh.

Go to: www.queme.net/eng/

Foundation for Human Rights Initiative Releases Report on Uganda
The Kampala-based Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) has released a human rights status report on Uganda that details the human rights situations in the country from January 2006-May 2007. Topics addressed in the reports include: gender equality, the right to life, liberty and security of the person, prohibition from torture, cruel inhuman and degrading treatment, the right to fair hearing, political space rights, freedom of expression including the media, and the rights of children in Northern Uganda. The report laments the lack of legal framework or system to prohibit and deter human rights violations in Uganda.

Go to: www.fhri.or.ug/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=50&Itemid=1

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) Conclude Human Rights Workshop
On June 25, in Gulu, Uganda, The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) began a three day workshop, bringing together human rights defenders working in the conflict areas of Eastern and Northern Uganda. The objectives of the workshop are to train human rights defenders to become more knowledgeable about the procedures of human rights violation cases, to know the security tactics best suited for precarious working conditions, and to recommend actions for stakeholders to help defend human right defenders. For many years, human rights defenders in the region were subjected to a wide range of human rights violations, including the harassment, intimidation, and restriction of their activities, unlawful arrests, torture, and ill-treatment while defending the human rights of others.

Go to: www.yorku.ca/crs/AHRDP/

Activists Demand Immediate Release of Ethiopian Human Rights Defenders
On June 28, activists in cities around the world, including Washington DC, Geneva, Pretoria, Accra, and Kampala, organized protests against the trials of Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demissie, and called for their acquittal and immediate release.

Bekele and Demissie, coordinators at Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) in Ethiopia, have spent 20 months in a detention center and soon will be put on trial for treason. They are being charged with criminal conspiracy with the intention of overthrowing the constitution or constitutional order, which carries a possible sentence of life imprisonment or death. The charges are based on their critiques of the governments' actions during Ethiopia's 2005 presidential elections. In addition to their work with GCAP, Bekele worked as head of the policy department of Action Aid International Ethiopia and Demissie is the founder of the Organization for Social Justice in Ethiopia, which assisted in monitoring the May 2005 elections. The case is one of Africa's largest treason trials in recent years. Originally, 100 people were accused of treason, even though only ten are being tried. This has brought fear to civil society organizations in Ethiopia and has caused outrage in the international community.

Go to: www.commondreams.org/news2007/0626-04.htm

 

Labor Unions and Worker Rights

Solidarity Center Applauds 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report
The American Center for International Labor Solidarity (Solidarity Center), a Washington-based organization that helps workers around the world build democratic and independent trade unions, applauds the U.S. Department of State's 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) for its continued focus on trafficking for various forms of labor exploitation. Each year, the Department of State submits a report to the U.S. Congress on foreign governments' efforts to eliminate severe forms of trafficking in persons, and this years' report recognizes labor trafficking as the form of human trafficking that is most widespread, but the hardest to identify. Forms of labor trafficking include trafficking for involuntary domestic servitude, debt bondage among guest workers and other migrant labors, and forced child labor. The report also highlights case studies from around the world, including anti-trafficking efforts by several of Solidarity Center's partners. The Solidarity Center urges the Department of State to broaden its future focus to underlying causes of trafficking, including the effects of global economic policies on increasing the vulnerability of workers and other populations to trafficking.

Go to: www.solidaritycenter.org/content.asp?contentid=686
For the TIP report, go to: www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2007/

 

Legislative Development and Assistance

Macedonian Rights Group Claims Macedonian Laws Discriminate Against the Disabled
In a recent press conference, Polio Plus, an organization that serves to help the disabled in Macedonia, criticized 20 Macedonian laws and 28 by-laws. The organization claims that many laws in Macedonia discriminate against disabled persons and are obsolete, dating back to legislation created under the ideals of Yugoslavia. The most severe cases of discrimination focus around employment and transportation. The disabled can only work if they obtain a special permit. Extra taxes burden the disabled people who own cars, and it is very hard for many of them to get licenses because the driving schools do not have adapted vehicles. Polio Plus is pressing the Macedonian government to create a law preventing the discrimination of disabled people, and has initiated a petition to this end that already has 18,000 signatures.

Go to: www.polioplus.org.mk/awarenes.htm

Zimbabwe Election Support Network Critical of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has commented on the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment bill, which proposes a variety of changes to Zimbabwe's presidential and election regulations. The three main objectives of the bill are to change the president's term of office and method of election after the event of death while in office, to change the composition of the senate and the house, and to establish a human rights commission. ZESN believes the proposed changes are not necessary and could be considered a hindrance to democracy progress in Zimbabwe.

Go to: www.zesn.org.zw/docs/pdf/Constitution_amendment_18_zesn_comments.pdf

 

Media, Freedom of Expression and Communication Technology

South East Europe Media Organization Holds Meeting in Macedonia to Discuss Private News Agencies
The South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO) held a meeting on June 1-3 in Skopje, Macedonia, to discuss the situation of private news agencies across South East Europe. As a result of the meeting, the Association of Private News Agencies (APNA), the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Stability Pact, and the local governments in the region will work to support fair access to information sources in their countries. In addition, steps were taken to strengthen the cooperative bond between the different private news agencies by means of a shared domain name, joint logo, and the shared exchange of available news sources. Agreements concerning economic growth, marketing campaigns, and tax rates and benefits as they relate to print media were also made.

Go to: www.seemo.org

 

Political and Civic Participation of Youth

Women's International Peace Movement Organizes International Youth Forum
The Suzanne Mubarak Women's International Peace Movement is organizing an International Youth Forum titled "Youth Speak, We Listen: Voices of Peace." The Forum will be held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, on September 1-3, 2007. A particular goal this year is to ensure that the youth are actively involved in planning, organizing, and running the event. This affords the opportunity for many young people to utilize their skills and abilities on a scale that is typically unavailable to youths due to their lack of experience. Furthermore, the event aims to inspire the participating youth to further the goals of the campaign using newly gained confidence and experience. The themes of the forum include the power of youth in promoting peace, and investing in young women's economic security, environment, and sports.

Go to: www.womenforpeaceinternational.org/EN/Events/EventDetails.aspx?ID=104&Path=International%20Level

Activists Protest Increasingly Harassments of Civil Society Leaders in Belarus
A large number of activists from Belarus recently conducted mass hunger strikes, pickets, and flash mobs, and initiated several appeals, to protest convictions and charges against civil society leaders in their countries. In January 2006, an article was introduced to the Criminal Code of Belarus that limits the activities of civil society. In August 2006, several activists of Partnership, an organization that observes elections, were charged with "activity on behalf of the name of an unregistered organization or foundation," and were sentenced to between 6 months and 2 years of prison. In September 2006, the leader of Young Front, Zmicer Dashkevish, was convicted for 1.5 years of prison under the same article. In March 2007, five more members of this organization were similarly charged and fined.

Go to: www.humanrightshouse.org/dllvis5.asp?id=5539

 

World Movement Participating Networks, Organizations and Individuals Mentioned in this Issue