Over the past 11 years I’ve led workshops for human rights defenders at risk in Africa, Asia, the Americas, the Middle East, and East and Central Europe. Many of the HRDs trained at those workshops on Risk Analysis and Protection Planning reported stigmatisation, online abuse, threats and attacks. But earlier this year I received a call for help from a much closer source.
After leading Front Line Defenders for 15 years, on 6 October 2016 Mary Lawlor announced she was stepping down as Executive Director. In this letter, Mary pays tribute to human rights defenders around the world.
While the current nature of EU foreign policy means it has to be built on a delicate compromise between 28 member states, most observers have felt that it has been excessively – perhaps needlessly? - timid in communicating on issues related to human rights. Human rights, after all, are both a founding value of the EU, so important that they appear in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union, and one of the most important objectives of its foreign policy (again, enshrined in the Treaty as the second objective after the eradication of poverty).
Today is a national holiday in the United States. Schools, banks, and government buildings are all closed to commemorate the arrival of Christopher Columbus to a land he thought was India. In fact, 1492 marked the year Columbus "discovered" a land already home to almost 20 million indigenous peoples.
Since that day, indigenous communities of the continent have suffered centuries of persecution, massacre, disease, and systemic violations of their rights to land.
Azimjan Askarov is a Kyrgyz HRD working against corruption and for civil and political rights in the country, including for the ethnic minority Uzbek population. He was arrested during the violent clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan in 2010 between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz, though he had long been targeted by the authorities because of his human rights work. Read more about his persecution on his case history page. Masha Chichtchenkova is Front Line Defenders Protection Coo
On 22 September 2016, human rights defenders Svetlana Gannushkina (Russian Federation) and Mozn Hassan (Egypt) were awarded The Right Livelihood Award. The other two recipients were The White Helmets (a volunteer rescue group in Syria) and Turkey's independent "Cumhuriyet" newspaper.
Front Line Defenders is extremely saddened and would like to express its deep condolences for the sudden death of renowned human rights defender from the Philippines, Mr. Max de Mesa, on 28 September 2016.
Yolanda Barranco Hernández will never forget the morning of 18 May 2013. It started with a loud noise. Seven men carrying heavy weapons broke down the door of her house. They were looking for her husband, Damián Gallardo Martínez. They didn't present any warrant. They said they were there to arrest him and they took him away.