Monday, October 31, 2011


Human rights defenders at risk!

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the 
 Observatory) releases on Monday, October 24 its 14th Annual Report on the situation of human rights defenders during a press conference held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. 

"While the revolutions that took place in the Arab world in 2011 reminded the international community of the emergency to put the issue of human rights back at the top of its political agenda, utmost attention must be paid to the alerts made by human rights defenders worldwide, and no compromise must be made towards the harassment they face,” the Observatory said in a Press Statement.

The release of the Annual Annual Report "Steadfast in Protest" is a key momentum of the daily activity of the Observatory. This report tells of the struggle of human rights defenders in about 70 countries - civil society activists, journalists, trade-unionists, lawyers or simple citizens “indignant” at injustice, arbitrariness, or horror.

The 617-page report, published jointly by Mr. Staberock’s Geneva-based World Organization against Torture (OMCT) and the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) headed by Souhayr Belhassen, documents from January 2010 to April 2011 individual cases of repression against human rights advocates in 66 countries worldwide.

Egypt Protests Jan 18, 2011 (pix: Totally Cool)
The document highlights the universality of the claims raised by the “Arab Spring”. As pointed out by St├ęphane Hessel and Aung San Suu Kyi in the foreword to the report, “everywhere, respect for human rights was at the heart of the peoples’ claims, (…) These movements did not feed on identity, religious or cultural politics, but were rather founded on the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (…)”.
“At the same time human rights defenders are more than ever at risk. As the Report is being published, the blood bath continues in Syria, in Libya and in Yemen. In Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Americas, Asia, human rights defenders are harassed, imprisoned, sometimes tortured,” says the President International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Souhayr Belhassen.

For the Secretary General World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), Gerald Staberock “far from being recognised for what they are - vital protagonists for change, the guarantors of a free society - human rights defenders are, on the contrary, subjected daily to repression by regimes that are all the harsher for having understood the force and the legitimacy of their claims ”. “The present report calls for stronger protection for those involved in human rights and democracy”, he concludes.

On July 22, 2011, Observatory publishes an international fact-finding mission report on the situation of human rights defenders in The Gambia, which revealed "a climate of fear amongst human rights defenders in the country".

The Observatory said it decided to send a fact-finding mission to The Gambia from May 2 to 11, 2010 "following allegations of human rights violations against Gambian human rights defenders and public statement made by President Jammeh in September 2009 threatening to kill anyone who sought to sabotage and destabilise his Government, in particular human rights defenders and those who support them."
"On the basis of elements collected during the mission, the mission report shows that there is a general climate of fear amongst Gambian human rights defenders, notably following the still unsolved assassination of Mr. Deyda Hydara, the Editor and co-founder of the private newspaper The Point, in 2004, the enforced disappearance of Mr. Ebrima Manneh, a journalist at the Daily Observer, in 2006, the continuing campaign of harassment by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) against journalists, the 2009 presidential threat and, today, the multiplication of cases of prolonged judicial harassment, which seems to be the new technique to impede the peaceful activities of defenders," the Observatory outlined. "In addition, the restrictive legal and institutional framework hampers the promotion and defence of human rights. In this context, the State institutions have failed to guarantee effective protection to defenders."
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, is a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), accompanies, follows and protects human rights defenders at risk throughout the year.

  • Author: Modou S. Joof for The Voice Newspaper, Banjul-The Gambia
Read more of the Observatory's mission to Banjul on the following links:

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