Amnesty International Recognizes Six Women for Human Rights Advocacy

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

MANILA, Philippines – Amnesty International has warned of the human rights violations being committed in South Asia. The organization is reporting that the rights of journalists and activists have been increasingly disregarded over the past few years. According to the organization, LGBT activists, Hindus, Christians, Sufi Muslims, and scholars have all become targets after the 2015 murders in Bangladesh, where five bloggers were killed in separate attacks.

Leila de Lima faces three separate criminal charges after speaking out against Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Photo courtesy of: Reuters.

The region has become hostile towards mass media and journalism, as new laws have been invoked against online critics and colonial-era laws are being unleashed against government critics. However, in light of International Women’s Day, Amnesty International recognized six women for their extraordinary efforts in human rights advocacy.

The group of women, comprised of lawyers, activists, and a former justice secretary, were each commended for their dedication to taking stands against injustices, despite the grave danger they faced by doing so. In Thailand, Sirikan Charoensiri, a lawyer who regularly defends clients investigated and prosecuted for peacefully defending human rights, faces 15 years’ imprisonment under charges of treason and a local ban on political assembly of five or more persons.

Similarly, in the Philippines, Senator Leila de Lima, former justice secretary and chair of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, has been arrested under politically-motivated charges in response to her criticism of Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte.

Human rights organizations are working to raise awareness of the injustices faced by advocates, critics, and journalists in the region. These organizations are now trying to protect the human rights which local governments are choosing to ignore.

For more information, please see: 

Amnesty International – Southeast Asia: As governments fail on human rights, women stand up – 7 March, 2017

Amnesty International – Human rights violations endemic in South Asia – 28 February, 2017

Jakarta Post – Six Southeast Asian women recognized for advocating for human rights – 8 March, 2017

Asian Correspondent – Amnesty names 6 women leading human rights activism in Southeast Asia – 8 March, 2017

Google Resists Chinese Internet Censorship

By M.E. Dodge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – Internet censorship is by no means a new concept to Chinese citizens. However, recent activity, instigated a surprising decision by Google to cease cooperation with Chinese government censors, and possibly, a four-year effort to do business in China. The effort is propelled largely by U.S. business and technology communities and human-rights advocacy groups. The central concern is over China’s human rights and free speech restraints.
Google announced the decision after discovering “highly sophisticated and targeted attacks” on dozens of Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China. Google stated that it was not alone. A spokesperson of the internet corporation said some 20 other companies were also targets of cyber attacks from China.

Human Rights Watch said that Google’s decision spotlights the importance of freedom of expression, and privacy online and illustrates the persistent risk to human rights posed by governments that view the free flow of information as a threat. To this, Arvind Ganesan, director of Human Rights Watch’s corporations and human rights program said, “A transnational attack on privacy is chilling, and Google’s response sets a great example.” She went on to say that, “At the same time, this incident underscores the need for governments and companies to develop policies that safeguard rights.”

Prior to Google’s most recent announcement, a Google senior vice president, Jonathan Rosenberg, issued an online manifesto back in December that placed Google’s business and ethical interests squarely behind open information, and against censorship. Less than one month ago he posted, “There are forces aligned against the open Internet — governments who control access, companies who fight in their own self-interests to preserve the status quo,” and “they are powerful, and if they succeed we will find ourselves inhabiting an Internet of fragmentation, stagnation, higher prices, and less competition.”

High company officials at Google are not alone. A Google engineer stated in a blog that the company’s popular Gmail service, which was a target of the Chinese hackers, will henceforth employ extra encryption by default.

Google’s actions also highlight the growing dangers faced by foreign information technology firms in China where the government devotes massive financial and human resources to censor the Internet and to hunt down and punish citizens who hold views which the ruling Chinese Communist Party disagrees with.  To date, Google and other companies have acquiesced to Chinese government demands to censor information.

Jonathan Zittrain, a Harvard law professor, and a founder of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, said that Google’s action had raised the ethical bar for foreign investors across China. In a recent interview he stated, “I think every major outside firm is clearly going to have to do a reality check with itself in the wake of the Google announcement.”

Regardless of Google’s recently announced business decision, the rights of Chinese citizens to uncensored internet information continues to be a major international human rights concern, and Google’s actions appear to be one step to resist kowtowing to the government’s demands.

For more information, please see:

The New York Times – Far-Ranging Support for Google’s China Move – January 14, 2010

The Guardian – China: Google Challenges CensorshipJanuary 14, 2010

CNN News – Google reports China-based attack, says pullout possible – January 13, 2010

Internationally Recognized Advocate for Migrant Human Rights on the US-Mexico Border Dies at 72

By Sovereign Hager
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
CHULA VISTA, California – Roberto Martinez, a committed advocate for migrant rights on the US- Mexico border died on May 20th from complications of diabetes. Martinez appeared at marches, spoke on behalf of migrants, cataloged human rights abuses, and testified before Congress on the impact of increased militarization at the border.

Martinez’s career in advocacy began when he led efforts in demanding police action to violence against immigrants.  He has consistently fought for government accountability for failed immigration policies. As the director of the American Friends Service Committee in San Diego, Martinez was instrumental in developing a human rights methodology, which is now widely regarded as a best practice by human rights organizations on the US-Mexico border.

The media often attacked Martinez’s convictions. Martinez received death threats, was arrested during the course of his work, and hate groups targeted his family. His wife, nine children, and their families survive him.

Martinez was the first US citizen to be honored as an International Human Rights Monitor by Human Rights Watch for his pioneering human rights advocacy in border communities. Recently Roberto received the prestigious Ohtli Award from the Mexican Government. This is the highest honor granted to a non-Mexican national for their service to Mexicans abroad. He was also the recipient of the Quezacoalt Award, presented by the Mexican National Commission for Human Rights.

Christian Ramirez, the national coordinator for the American Friend’s Service Committee reflected on Martinez’s death, saying “It’s going to be a terrible loss . . . for the whole border community. Voices like his are urgently needed at the border.”

House Raids Continue in Chad

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch Reporter, Western and Central Africa

N’DJAMA, Chad – The government of Chad will continue to search for rebels in the capital, N’Djamena, by using the method of “house to house” searches. Many of the searches have produced child rebels, who after detection, were paraded in front of reporters and journalists.

The rebels who are eighteen have not received any special treatment upon detection. The government has referred to the juvenile rebels as “child mercenaries,” rather than “child soldier.”

The government insists that house to house raids will last until every rebel is found. Moreover, officials announced that any person hiding a rebel in their home will be treated like a rebel themselves.

Chad’s former colonial power, France, has helped in the transport of materials and weapons to Chad’s army. France has acted in accordance with a military co-operation agreement between the two nations.

French military spokesman, Cmdr. Christophe Prazuck, stated that French forces opened fire “about 10 times” during the violence, but only in self-defense. Also, there was no fire from French airpower.

Presently, the government is trying to determine the location of three key opposition leaders who are in hiding.  A spokesman for Mr Choua’s Assembly for Democracy and Progress, reported to AFP news agency that the leaders were “kidnapped by about 15 soldiers from the presidential guard.”

France and Amnesty International, a human rights advocacy organization, have expressed their concern over the whereabouts of the three missing opposition leaders. Former President Lol Mahamat Choua, is one of the opposition leaders who had disappeared while rebels were attacking the city. The other two are opposition alliance spokesman Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh and veteran Ngarlejy Yorongar.

Presently, there is major concern for victims of the violence, as many are fearful to return to their homes in N’Djama. “We are afraid to go back,” 20-year-old N’djamena resident Patrice Djerane who is hiding out near the dusty border town of Kousseri. “We’ll go back when peace comes. Until then, we’ll wait.”

For more information, please see:

BBC- Chad Vows Raid To Seek Rebels   – 14 February 2008

All Africa – Chad: Refugees From N’djamena Still Fearful of Returning – 14 February 2008

AP – Official- France Helps Chad  – 14 February 2008