Saturday, January 24, 2009

Death to Free Speech in the Netherlands

on the Danish Cartoon Controversy
Alexandr Vondra: "Radical Islam Poses a Major Challenge to Europe"
Death to Free Speech in the Netherlands
by Brooke M. Goldstein and Aaron MeyerAmerican SpectatorJanuary 22, 2009

On Wednesday, freedom of speech in Europe took a new and devastating turn, as a Dutch appellate court ordered the prosecution of Geert Wilders, parliamentarian and filmmaker, charging him with "inciting hatred and discrimination" against Muslims for his film exposing the threat of radical Islam.
This ruling comes a mere six months after the public prosecutor's office found Wilders' dialogue contributed to the debate on Islam and that he had not committed any criminal offense. Now, curiously, the court has done an about-face and decreed that charges may be brought against the politician, and that prosecuting him is somehow in "the public interest."
After releasing a ten-minute self-produced film entitled "Fitna," Wilders found himself wound up in a litany of "hate speech" litigation, one such suit filed by a radical Imam asking for 55,000 Euros in compensation for his hurt feelings.
Ironically, the film's narrative is primarily comprised of quotes from the Koran which incite violence and death to "infidels" as well as scenes of an Imam preaching death to the Jews. Akin to something out of the Twilight Zone, the Imams who routinely spout hate speech from the pulpit and who are instigating these suits are never themselves charged with incitement to immediate violence. Moreover if the film "Fitna," which merely quotes the Koran and depicts angry Imams, is "hate speech" then what is the Koran itself?
Suspiciously, the wording of the appellate court's ruling strongly echoes public criticism made by the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) when the earlier prosecution was dropped, where the OIC censured prosecutors for ignoring the "thin line separating freedom of speech and the instigation of hatred, animosity and discrimination."
Even more disturbing is that the State of Jordan, most likely acting as a stalking horse for the OIC, has issued a request for Wilders' extradition to stand trial in Jordan for blasphemy of Islam, a crime for which Shari'a law declares the penalty to be death. The Dutch parliament has taken the extradition request very seriously, and has shut out Wilders from all multi-lateral negotiations. As a precaution, Wilders no longer travels abroad unless he can obtain a diplomatic letter from the destination state promising he won't be extradited. For years now, Wilders has lived under looming death threats complemented by the threat that any day, Interpol might issue a warrant for his arrest at Jordan's behest.
Mistakenly, Wilders had thought that his own country remained true to democratic ideals, despite cases such as that of the cartoonist Gregorious Nekschot, who was arrested on May 13, 2008, by Dutch police for the criminal offense of "publishing cartoons which are discriminating for Muslims and people with dark skin."
The very notion that a judge could weigh a man's freedom of speech against what the court construed as "one-sided generalizations" is an absurd and dangerous misrepresentation of the very concept of free speech. However, that pales in comparison to the fact that a democratically elected and sitting member of government is going to be prosecuted for a thought crime for speaking to his constituents about matters of national security. In Iran dissdents are routinely arrested for holding opposing political views. Now we are seeing the same tactics being employed in Europe, but this time, enacted by Western governments at the behest of Islamist groups and against their own citizens.
WIlders' "crime" is what the OIC has been working to criminalize on a global level through the United Nations, while advocating the punishment of Westerners who speak out against radical Islam, terrorism, and its sources of financing. It is clear that the OIC's successes in the United Nations -- where the General Assembly passed its "Combating Defamation of Religions" resolution last year -- are already resulting in direct action.
This is no victory for the Netherlands, or for anyone -- save the OIC and Islamo-fascists. The damage being done to free speech, however, is a defeat that will be felt everywhere. When members of a democratic country's legislature can be arrested and tried for expressing ideas that some find objectionable, that country's status as a free and fair democracy is in serious doubt. But while the Dutch will have to come to grips with their government's abject failure to uphold basic principles of human rights, the leaders of other nations must take notice as well.
The OIC has power and influence, and "hate speech" laws provide an extremely malleable tool to silence critics of radical Islam -- even if you are a member of a parliament, or indeed, perhaps, eventually, a member of Congress. Whatever pressure may be brought on the Netherlands to counteract the OIC's influence must be brought to bear. For if Geert Wilders is tried and sentenced, it will establish the precedent Islamists have been striving for -- and one day, none of us will be free to speak out against them.

------------------------------------------Comment------by Albert Ashok
The time has come for the world leaders who support Freedom of expression, and International covenant of human rights, to confront the truth, whether they are stable on their ground and can defend it truly or they are under the threat of Islamic sharia law. Let this fight and war surface.
If Judges see Fitna and Danish cartoon are absurd and dangerous misrepresentation of the very concept of free speech then the common people in non Islamic nations and religion would be offended and they would be provoked by the actions of muslims. In India, What Maqbul Fida Hussain has been doing for 3 decades could be an example. Maqbul fida hussain has crossed his line long ago still we have respects on him. Why people would bend their heads to a specific religion? Why Muslims roam free and spreading all over the globe? They don’t have the right to witness the thing they don’t like. After all they are not our guardians. What is next?

The UN character is going under suspicion. Is it eaten by Islam? Who rules it? OIC? Is it violating its own principles? We are frustrating to have the clear answer.

I hope judges are not under the threat of Muslim attacks. If they are then let them leave their judges seat.
The right time has come to defend freedom of expression boldly, or perish under the Islamic threat or bombs. The decision and resolution should be transperant.

Brooke M. Goldstein is a practicing attorney, the director of the Legal Project at the Middle East Forum and the director of the Children's Rights Institute. She is also an award-winning film producer of The Making of a Martyr, an adjuct fellow at the Hudson Institute, and the 2007 recipient of the E. Nathaniel Gates Award for Outstanding Public Advocacy. Aaron Meyer is the assistant director of The Legal Project at the Middle East Forum and legal correspondent at the Terror Finance

Thursday, January 22, 2009

United Kingdom: Submission on Libel Law Reform

19 January 2009
United Kingdom: Submission on Libel Law Reform

ARTICLE 19 has provided a Submission to the Inquiry into press standards, privacy and libel being undertaken by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the UK Parliament. The Committee is looking into possible reform of the UK’s libel and privacy laws. The ARTICLE 19 Submission identifies problems in four key areas, namely jurisdiction over cases, standards of liability, damages and costs.
The Culture, Media and Sport Committee announced on 18 November 2008 that it was conducting an inquiry into press standards, privacy and libel, and calling for submissions. Among other things, the Committee is looking at the relationship between press reporting and the UK libel laws and the impact of conditional fee arrangements (no-win no-fee arrangements with lawyers) on press freedom.The ARTICLE 19 Submission highlights a number of key issues in relation to UK libel law, with a particular focus on the impact of these laws on advocacy NGOs. Among other things, the Submission recommends:

To prevent the UK from remaining a ‘libel tourism’ destination, rules should be put in place so that UK courts may only consider defamation cases where there is a substantial connection between the statements in question and the UK.
Defamation defendants should benefit from a more generous ‘reasonable publication’ defence, in line with the practice in many other democracies.
More stringent limitations should be placed on defamation damage awards and more emphasis should be given in this context to non-pecuniary remedies.
Conditional fee arrangements in defamation cases should either be prohibited altogether or subjected to stringent conditions.
ARTICLE 19 calls on the UK Parliament to take the necessary steps to give effect to these recommendations.

• The Submission is available in English at:• For more information, please contact Toby Mendel, Senior Legal Counsel,, +1 902 431-3688.

Russia: double murder another blow for human rights

20 January 2009

Russia: double murder another blow for human rights
The shocking murders of the lawyer Stanislav Markelov and the young journalist Anastasia Barburova on Monday brings Russia’s human rights record to a new low. The crime is compounded by the knowledge that Russia has a culture where impunity reigns and murderers are rarely brought to justice. Even in the case of a journalist as famous as Anna Politkovskaya, after a rare two-year murder investigation it is the alleged accomplices who are on trial – while the murderer remains at large.

Stanislav Markelov was well known for his work as a human rights lawyer, particularly in Chechnya. Markelov represented the family of 18-year-old Kheda Kungayeva, who was murdered by Yuri Budanov - the first senior officer to be convicted of human rights abuse during the Chechen campaigns. Markelov had announced that he would be challenging Budanov’s early release last week.Those who are brave enough to expose human rights abuses in Russia risk their lives. Over the past few months, victims have included Umar Israilov, a Chechen who claimed that he had been tortured by President Ramzan Kadyrov and had filed a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights. He was shot dead in Vienna last week. Last November, Mikhail Beketov, a local newspaper editor, was assaulted in the Moscow suburb of Khimki and left in a coma. Beketov had been a fearless critic of the local administration. Last summer, Magomed Yevloyev, who owned the website and also bravely exposed abuses, was shot dead in a police car as he was being taken away for questioning. All these cases represent a striking and widespread level of lawlessness. We would like to remind the Russian authorities that as a State Party to the European Convention on Human Rights, Russia has agreed to secure the human rights of all within its jurisdiction, including the right to life and to freedom of expression.ARTICLE 19, English PEN and Index on Censorship call on the Russian authorities to do everything in their power to bring those responsible for the murders of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Barburova to justice – and to demonstrate the will to address the continuing culture of impunity.

• For more information: please contact Anoush Begoyan, ARTICLE 19 Europe Programme Officer at or +44 20 7278 9292 or Jo Glanville, Editor: Index on Censorship at mailto : or +44 20 7278 2313 / +44 771 302 0971.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Gaza : The grave violations of human rights

Gaza: ARTICLE 19 Condemns the Israeli Military's Continued Targeting of
Media Personnel in Gaza and Supports International Calls for a UN
investigation into the Attacks

ARTICLE 19 strongly condemns Israel’s continued unlawful attacks on Gaza, including the shelling on January 15 of a United Nations compound containing essential aid supplies and the targeting of a building hosting several media offices, resulting in the injury of two media professionals. In an escalation of Israeli attacks on media professionals, a missile or shell hit a Gaza tower block home to Reuters and other international media organizations on January
The 13th floor of al-Shurouq Tower struck the offices of Abu Dhabi television injuring one of its journalists and a Reuters cameraman.

ARTICLE 19 also strongly condemns Israel’s detention of two Palestinian journalists working for the Iranian Al-Alam television station in Ramallah on January 5, 2009.
Hadir Shaheen 34, and Mohammed Sarhan, 26 were arrested in Jerusalem on charges of broadcasting information on the deployment of Israeli soldiers into Gaza which was subject to ‘military censorship.’

More than 1000 Palestinians have so far been killed and more than 5000 are injured. Among the killed, more than 300 are children and hundreds more are wounded.

The continuous ban of foreign media entering the Gaza strip and the severe attacks on media personnel in Gaza is evidence of the Israeli authorities’ determined attempts to control and manage the news coming out of Gaza.
“The denial of access to Gaza for journalists prevents the important circulation of essential information on the plight of those most in need” said Dr. Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19’s Executive Director.
“History and experience have stressed the importance of protecting a free flow of information about conflict situations so as to expose any abuses that may occur and create a climate in which the conflicts may be resolved. Media freedom must be respected, not restricted, if peace is to be won” added Dr. Callamard.

Media workers benefit from the full protection granted by international humanitarian law to civilians, in both international and non-international armed conflicts. Journalists are considered civilians under Article 79 of Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, provided they do not do anything or behave in any way that might compromise this status. Any deliberate attack on a journalist that causes death or serious physical injury is a major breach of this Protocol and deemed a war crime.

This protection under the Geneva Convention was reiterated by Security Council

ARTICLE 19, 6-8 Amwell Street, London EC1R 1UQ
Tel: (+44) 20 7278 9292 / Fax: (+44) 20 7278 7660
Web: / Email:
Resolution 1738 concerning the protection of journalists and media personnel in conflict zones.
ARTICLE 19 supports urgent international calling for a UN-led investigation into a range of attacks in which civilians were killed or injured, and civilian buildings were destroyed.

ARTICLE 19 in particular calls for the international investigation to include the targeting of media professionals in Gaza and the shelling of media buildings. A19 calls on the international community to implement UN Human Rights Council resolution (A/HRC/S-9/L.2) adopted on January 12, 2009, which, among other matters calls for “Free access of media to areas of conflict through media corridors” into Gaza

· For more information: please contact Hoda Rouhana, Programme Officer for Middle East and North Africa,, +44 20 7278 9292

· The 47-member United National Human Rights Council adopted the resolution, with 33 voting in favour, 1 against and 13 abstentions, as it concluded its ninth special session which discussed “the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including the recent aggression in the occupied Gaza Strip”. The resolution called for an “immediate cessation of Israeli military attacks throughout the Palestinian Occupied Territory, in particularly in the Occupied Gaza Strip that have resulted, thus far, in the killing of more than 1000 and the injury to more than 4000 Palestinians, including a large number of women and children. It also called for an “end to the launching of the crude rockets against Israeli civilians that resulted in the loss of 4 civilian lives and some injuries.”

· The Security Council resolution adopted on Thursday January 8th 2009, by a vote of 14-0, with the U.S. abstaining, "stresses the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.”

· The Security Council adopted resolution on 1737 on 23 December 2006. Full text:

· ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works around the world to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech.

United Kingdom : Submission on libel law reform

United Kingdom : Submission on libel law reform
ARTICLE 19 has provided a Submission to the Inquiry into press standards,
privacy and libel being undertaken by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee
of the UK Parliament. The Committee is looking into possible reform of the UK’s
libel and privacy laws. The ARTICLE 19 Submission identifies problems in four
key areas, namely jurisdiction over cases, standards of liability, damages and
The Culture, Media and Sport Committee announced on 18 November 2008 that it was conducting an inquiry into press standards, privacy and libel, and calling for submissions. Among other things, the Committee is looking at the relationship between press reporting and the UK libel laws and the impact of conditional fee arrangements (no-win no-fee arrangements with lawyers) on press freedom.

The ARTICLE 19 Submission highlights a number of key issues in relation to UK libel law, with a particular focus on the impact of these laws on advocacy NGOs. Among other things, the Submission recommends:
_ To prevent the UK from remaining a ‘libel tourism’ destination, rules should
be put in place so that UK courts may only consider defamation cases where
there is a substantial connection between the statements in question and the
_ Defamation defendants should benefit from a more generous ‘reasonable
publication’ defence, in line with the practice in many other democracies.
_ More stringent limitations should be placed on defamation damage awards and
more emphasis should be given in this context to non-pecuniary remedies.
_ Conditional fee arrangements in defamation cases should either be prohibited
altogether or subjected to stringent conditions.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the UK Parliament to take the necessary steps to give effect to these recommendations.

· For more information, please contact Toby Mendel, Senior Legal Counsel,, +1 902 431-3688.

· ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works around the world to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Publishers and editors up in arms over assault on Himalmedia

NEPAL: Publishers and editors up in arms over assault on Himalmedia January 5, 2009

The Media Society and Editors' Alliance, alliances of publishers and editors of major media outlets in [Nepal], have issued a joint statement strongly condemning the attack by Maoist workers on Himalmedia, and have launched a protest programme beginning with blank editorials in all member newspapers, television and radio news programmes on Tuesday.

The protest editorials have appeared on Annapurna Post, The Himalayan Times, The Kathmandu Post, Kantipur, Nepal Samacharpatra, Rajdhani, Himalaya Times, Image Channel TV, Image News FM, Nepal, Kantipur TV, Kantipur FM,,, e-Kantipur, Newsfront, Nepali Times and Himal Khabarpatrika.

"This is the first in a series of escalating protests that our media companies will launch if the current organised attacks on us by groups affiliated to the ruling party are not stopped immediately," the statement said.

"We feel the attack on Himalmedia and other media houses represent a serious threat to press freedom, democracy and pluralism in this country, and it is ironical that it should be perpetrated by a group affiliated to a party that won the election and leads the government," it added.

The Media Society and Editors' Alliance group the publishers and owners of most of Nepal's major national newspapers and magazines, TV stations and radio and a meeting on Monday took serious note of the escalation of violent attacks on media.

The raid on Himalmedia on Sunday, in which 12 people were injured, was the latest in a series of attacks and threats against newspapers, TV stations and radio all over the country in the past.

"We feel enough is enough," they said in the statement. Besides blank editorials, TV stations will also carry a message after the signature tune instead of the headlines on their news broadcasts, and similar announcements on radio news bulletins and news portals.

Publishers and editors demanded the immediate arrest of two identified members of the attacking force on Himalmedia on Sunday, and said the government's handling of this case would be an indication of whether or not it is serious in addressing the pattern of "criminal" attacks on media.

They said the incidents of violent intimidation were politically motivated, and demanded a full public apology from the CPN-Maoists, a credible commitment not to repeat such attacks on the fourth estate and to abide by the rule of law. In turn, the publishers also said they will continue to abide by all the laws of the land.

The statement was signed by Kailash Sirohiya, Chairman of the Nepal Media Society and Kunda Dixit, convenor of the Editors' Alliance.

Four people arrested in connection with journalist's murder; another female journalist receives death threats
Country/Topic: Nepal

Date: 13 January 2009 Source: Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Person(s): Uma Singh, Manika Jha Target(s): journalist(s) Type(s) of violation(s): death threat , killed Urgency: Flash

(CPJ/IFEX) - The following is a 12 January 2009 CPJ press release:
Government must act to protect female journalists in Nepal
New York, January 12, 2009 - The Nepalese government must act immediately to protect female journalists in the wake of the brutal murder of one reporter and death threats made against another in the volatile Terai plains of southern Nepal, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
About 15 unidentified people attacked Uma Singh, a 24-year-old print and radio reporter, in her home in the southeastern district of Dhanusa on Sunday night, according to local and international news reports. Singh died of multiple stab wounds to the head and upper body while being transferred from a local hospital to a larger one later that evening.
Brij Kumar Yadav, Singh's editor at the Nepali-language daily Janakpur Today, told Agence France-Presse that her recent coverage of women's rights and local political issues could have been the cause of the attack.
The Kantipur news group also reported that its Dhanusa-based reporter Manika Jha was threatened in her home on Sunday by a group of three or four people who broke her windows and told her that she would be the next person to be attacked. Police provided a guard at her residence, according to the group's Web site, eKantipur.
Women journalists in Dhanusa demanded official protection in October 2008, claiming dozens had been forced to quit after threats from armed groups, eKantipur reported.
Sunday's attacks come just weeks after Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal publicly reaffirmed the government's commitment to protecting the press following an escalation of violent attacks on the media. News outlets raised an outcry after assailants struck the offices of the Himalmedia publishing company in December, with many newspapers leaving pages blank in protest.
"The violent death of our colleague Uma Singh is a tragedy and her attackers must be prosecuted," said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia Program Coordinator. "This killing should act as a wake-up call to the Maoist-led government. For too long Nepal has failed to respond to female journalists in the Terai region and their calls for much-needed protection."
Singh also worked for the local FM station Radio Today, according to news reports. She opposed threats to women's rights - including the local tradition of costly dowries paid by the bride's family before marriage - and criticized political leaders involved in local unrest stemming from ethnic separatist movements, the reports said.
The local news Web site Republica reported on Monday that police had arrested four people in connection with Singh's murder. It quoted state-owned Nepal TV saying that a local political group had claimed responsibility for the slaying, saying it was committed "mistakenly." Other news outlets said the motive was still unknown.
Militant groups operating in the plains and low hills of the Terai advocate autonomy, and the region has seen outbreaks of violence since 2006, according to published analyses. Despite opening negotiations with some groups, the recently elected government, dominated by the Communist Party of Nepal, has failed to stem the aggression.
The Janakpur offices of the Terai Times were also attacked and staff assaulted on October 20 after the paper published articles alleging the Maoists' youth branch, the Young Communist League, was involved in local criminal activities, according to local and international news reports.
"It is a big problem working in the Terai region," Singh told the U.N. Mission in Nepal during an interview last year, which is available on YouTube. "Society doesn't accept (women) with equal perspectives. They say the work we have been doing is not good." She also described pressures from local organizations and armed groups. "If we don't air the news of their choice, they threaten us with killing," she said. But, she said, she and her colleagues did not bow to their orders. "We also have to balance our news."
CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.

For more information, visit
Updates the Singh case:
For further information, contact Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz at CPJ, 330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA., tel: +1 212 465 1004, fax: +1 212 465 9568, e-mail:,,


Journalist and women's rights activist brutally murdered

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has voiced shock and horror at the brutal murder of journalist and human rights activist Uma Singh, 26, a correspondent for the "Janakpur Today" daily and Radio Today FM.
Singh was attacked by a gang of around 15 men on 11 January 2009
after she returned from work. The men burst into the room she rented in Janakpur, some 240 km south-east of the capital, and battered her repeatedly with sharp objects in front of other tenants. She died of her injuries shortly before midnight while being driven to the capital.
"Our first thoughts are with her family and friends. We ask the authorities to react quickly and to do their utmost to protect journalists in Nepal and to quickly arrest this group of killers. This kind of appalling murder must not go unpunished if the Nepalese press is to go about its work freely," the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
The Federation of Nepalese Journalists also condemned the attack and is sending a team to the spot to investigate the killing. Dharmendra Jha, president of the organisation and a former professor of Singh, said he was very shocked by what had happened. "She was my pupil and I encouraged her to go in for committed journalism," he told satellite television CNN.
Police have so far not identified any motive for the killing. Some of Uma Singh's articles made waves in the region, particularly those in which she criticised the dowry system, a widespread tradition in Nepal obliging the family of a bride to pay a significant sum of money and to give land to the husband before the marriage.
Human Rights Watch said that some of the attackers could be linked to the Communist Party of Nepal, the largest party in the ruling coalition, headed by Pushpa Kamal Dahal or "Prachanda", who led a Maoist rebellion for a decade before becoming prime minister.
Singh's murder is the latest in a long list of arrests and murders of journalists in Nepal in recent months. Three journalists were killed last year and one was kidnapped. Nepalese journalists plan to hold a demonstration on 15 January to urge the government to provide them with protection.

For further information, contact Vincent Brossel, RSF, 47, rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris, France, tel: +33 1 44 83 84 70, fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51, e-mail:, Internet:

Thursday, January 8, 2009


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
(Human Rights Day 10 December 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948
On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
. Following this historic act the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and "to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories."

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 1.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11.
(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14.
(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15.
(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.

(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16.
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17.
(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21.
(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22.
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23.
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26.
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27.
(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28.
Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29.
(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30.
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

Iran: Concern for Shirin Ebadi

Iran: Concern for Shirin Ebadi

English PEN is extremely concerned for the safety of Iranian lawyer, human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi.
According to our information, Ebadi has been subject to increased harassment over recent weeks and has received numerous death threats against herself and her family. On 21 December 2008, the office of the Defenders of Human Rights, a human rights group led by Ebadi, was shut down by security and police officials, reportedly without a warrant. The following is a statement issued by the Women's Learning Partnership (WLP) on 30 December 2008: We, the undersigned, representing women's and human rights organizations working in Muslim-majority countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, express our grave concern for the personal safety of Shirin Ebadi. Ms. Ebadi, a staunch defender of women's rights activists and human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran and internationally, has been subjected to increased intimidation and harassment by security forces of the Islamic Republic in recent weeks. These actions follow escalating acts of persecution against women activists ranging from search and seizure of computers and personal property and closure of websites to travel bans, imprisonment, and sentencing of tens of prominent women's rights defenders. Women's rights activists have been routinely accused of "acting against the national security of the state" for their peaceful activities calling for equal rights for women and men. Ms. Ebadi is a founding member and head of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, a nongovernmental organization that was forcibly closed by security forces on December 21. A few days later, following a search that yielded no incriminating evidence, Mehr News Agency, affiliated with the government, reported that Ms. Ebadi had failed to pay her taxes - an allegation that has been refuted by Ms. Ebadi. Yesterday, security officers identifying themselves as tax officials stormed and raided her private law offices, attempting to seize two computers and confidential client files, which she refused to surrender until she was forced to do so.

The first Muslim woman to be honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, Ms. Ebadi has represented numerous human rights activists and promoted legal protections for women and children in Iran. Her work in support of democracy and human rights has had a global impact. In 2006 she joined five other Nobel Peace Prize winners to found the Nobel Women's Initiative, and she has spoken and published internationally in furtherance of her human rights work. The actions against Ms. Ebadi during the past week demonstrate a targeted effort not only to obstruct directly the work of the country's most influential human rights defender, but also to intimidate Iranian human rights activists as a group. We, the undersigned women's rights activists and organizations, strongly condemn the acts of harassment against Ms. Ebadi and are gravely concerned for her personal security and the protection of the rights of women activists in the country. For more details on the closing of the Defenders of Human Rights Center and the raid on Ms. Ebadi's office, visit For updates in Persian, visit To join us in voicing your support for Ms. Ebadi and Iranian women's rights activists by adding your signature to this statement, please send an e-mail to Over 500 Women’s Rights and Civil Society Activists Object to the Closure of the Defenders of Human Rights Center Wednesday 24 December 2008 Read the statement in its original Farsi and to see the signatures. *While the Defenders of Human Rights Center is a non-governmental organization, the subject of human rights is viewed as political, therefore according to regulations organizations addressing political and human rights issues must register with the Commission, in charge of political parties. The Defenders of Human Rights Center Raided and Closed Change for Equality: On Sunday December 21, 2008 plain clothes and uniformed police and security officials raided the offices of the Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC), a human rights Organization headed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, preventing a delayed celebration of the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights by the Center and sealing their offices. According to reports from those present at the scene security officials not only sealed the offices but also mistreated the members of the Center, including a physical confrontation with Mr. Ismaiel Zadeh and a violent verbal confrontation with Ms. Nargess Mohamadi both members of the Center. Ms. Ebadi was also present during this raid. The reaction of the international community and press as well as Iranian human rights organizations to this development has been swift condemnation.

Read related news and some of the statements issued in this respect:
Joint Statement Issued by Human Rights Watch and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran: Reverse Closure of Nobel Laureate’s Rights Group
The Earth Times: EU Voices Concern at Ebadi Office Closure in Tehran
The Washington Post: Iran Shuts Down Rights Center
AP: Iran shuts office of Nobel winner’s rights group
Press TV: Ebadi Reacts to Office Shut Down
Trend News Agency, Azarbaijan: Dutch Condemn Closure of Iran Human Rights Center
Daily Times Pakistan: Rights Groups Blast Iran Raid on Nobel Laureate’s office
Top News India: Closure of Iranian Human Rights Office Troubling
The Daily Star, Bangladesh: Tehran goes Tough on Shirin Ebadi
The Nobel Women’s Initiative: Nobel Laureates Condemn Harassment of Human Rights Defenders in Iran
Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi should be allowed to speak at a Malaysian university, Malaysia's foreign minister has reportedly said.
The statement is an apparent U-turn on the part of the Malaysian government.
Two days ago foreign ministry officials advised the university to withdraw the invitation to Ms Ebadi, an outspoken human rights lawyer.
Malaysia blocks Iran Nobel winner
Ebadi criticises Iran's judiciary
By Frances Harrison BBC News, Tehran
The Nobel Peace prize-winning lawyer, Shirin Ebadi, has complained to Iran's judiciary that criminals are treated better than political prisoners.

The Nobel laureate is representing another US-Iranian detainee - the 67-year-old academic, Haleh Esfandiari.

Iranian raid on Ebadi condemned

Iran closes human rights centre
Iranian police have raided and closed the office of a human rights group led by the Nobel laureate, Shirin Ebadi.

Press conference by humanitarian, human rights organizations on gaza

source :

Press conference by humanitarian, human rights organizations on gaza

As the Security Council was preparing to resume its deliberations on the ongoing Gaza crisis, representatives of several humanitarian and human rights organizations called for immediate action to stop the fighting in Gaza and ensure respect for international law, full access to the population in need and lifting of the Israeli-imposed blockade this morning.
Speaking from New York, Gaza and Jerusalem at a Headquarters press conference were: Brenden Cox, Executive Director of Crisis Action; Michael Bailey, OXFAM International Spokesperson based in Jerusalem; Yazdan al Amawi, Team Leader, CARE; Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch; and Allyn Dhynes, Advocacy/Communications Manager of World Vision Jerusalem/West Bank/Gaza.
Opening the briefing, Mr. Cox said the purpose of the press conference was to stress the need for the Security Council to take action on the crisis, both from the humanitarian and human rights perspectives.
Presenting a detailed update, Mr. Al Amawi said that the humanitarian situation was very dire on the twelfth day of air strikes and ground operations by Israel, which had followed an 18-month blockade. Some 218 children and 85 women were among the 660 casualties of the conflict. “Women are really in a panic and we are all the time trying to establish any kind of humanitarian corridor to supply the people with the needed supplies and food.”
Various humanitarian organizations and international agencies on the ground had faced many challenges in their efforts to alleviate the suffering of the population, including displaced and injured people, he continued. While some supplies had been able to reach the Gaza Strip, the humanitarian situation was seriously exacerbated by the lack of equipment, medical supplies, access and safety. The lack of electricity, depleting food supplies and water shortages also represented serious problems.
Speaking from Jerusalem, Mr. Bailey of OXFAM added that since 20 June 2007, the Israeli authorities had only allowed a minimum of humanitarian aid into Gaza. As a result of the blockade, about 70,000 jobs had disappeared, leading to the freezing of the economy, closure of some 95 per cent of the factories and a 50 per cent unemployment rate. Every family in Gaza was hit by poverty, and some 80 per cent of them were dependent on food aid. As if it were not enough that 1.5 million people were being collectively punished for something they simply could not control -- Palestinian factions firing rockets at Israeli cities on the other side of the Gazan border -- the current “onslaught” had made the situation even more serious. However, the blockade and the weakening of the population had not achieved any of the stated aims of removing Hamas from control of Gaza or, indeed, impeding the rocket fire.
“When the ceasefire is achieved ‑- and we pray that it be today or tomorrow ‑- we need to see also a change in the policy and a lifting of the blockade”, he insisted, “because otherwise, we would just return the people of Gaza back into the situation of isolated dependency they have been in for the last 18 months.”
Focusing on the legal aspects of the conflict, Ms. Whitson of Human Rights Watch said that the closure of Gaza represented collective punishment, which was unlawful under international humanitarian law. Under international law, Gaza remained occupied territory, where the occupying forces, Israel, had the primary responsibility for providing food and medicine and securing the welfare of the population. Clearly, Israel was failing in its legal obligation. To that end, Egypt was complicit in the collective punishment of the Gaza population, enforcing the closure of the borders on its side. As for the recent fighting, Gaza was densely populated, and artillery attacks and aerial bombardments were not suitable there. Since the recent ground incursion, the death toll had nearly doubled, with some 40 per cent of the casualties being civilians, according to the most recent estimates.
Regarding yesterday’s attack on a United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) school, she said that it was an example of civilians being exposed to great harm. Of course, the Israelis had said that there had been artillery fire from the vicinity of the school, but Human Rights Watch had spoken to witnesses on the ground, as well as UNRWA representatives, who had said that was not the case. Further, initially, Israel had focused its attacks on the police stations in Gaza. However, police were not combatants and could not represent legitimate targets, unless actively engaged in hostilities. It was Israel’s burden of proof to show that the police they had targeted were, indeed, Hamas militants. Instead, it appeared that Israel had targeted the police stations “on a blanket basis”.
Israel had also made clear that all Hamas entities, affiliates and sympathizers were subject to attack, she continued. In that regard, it was important to note that only combatants who were actively engaged in fighting were legitimate subjects of attack. Thus, a Hamas official at the Ministry of Health was not a legitimate target, and neither was a Hamas media broadcasting station.
Right now, all the international community had statements from Israeli officials that all they were doing was retaliating against Hamas rocket fire or attacks on their troops. Stressing the need to verify those claims, she said that pressure should be brought on Israel to allow access for those in a position to make an independent assessment of the situation on the ground. To see whether the rules of war were being respected, independent monitors and journalists should be allowed in Gaza.
Responding to a question, she said that Human Rights Watch was calling for respect for international humanitarian law. With regard to Hamas, that meant containing rocket attacks that were indiscriminate or targeted civilians. With regard to Israel, it meant cessation of indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas. Her organization also called for a Security Council-led international investigation into the violation of the rules of war, as well as recommendations for holding those responsible for such violations accountable.
“Without a ceasefire and full opening of the borders to let the humanitarian supplies to flow into Gaza, we will witness a humanitarian catastrophe, on top of the high levels of death and injury caused directly by the violence,” said Mr. Dhynes of World Vision. Children were the first victims, who needed the attention and protection of the international community. He urged the Security Council and Quartet to work tirelessly to develop a lasting ceasefire plan that could be implemented, monitored and supported. In the absence of such a joint agreement, he called on both sides to agree to a pause in the fighting, so that emergency medical supplies and other essential goods could be transported to Gaza. The international community and parties to the conflict should take seriously the rights of children and civilians to flee the conflict zones. He urged the Council to include the provisions to protect the rights of children in its resolution.
While welcoming the three-hour daily ceasefire, he also insisted that only a full ceasefire would allow for the crisis to be fully addressed. Responding to several questions in that regard, Mr. Al Amawi said that, while today’s three-hour cessation of fire had allowed humanitarian organizations to deliver “some more aid” to the needy people, the measure was certainly not adequate to respond to the needs of the ground. There had also been concerns about “the seriousness of this cessation”. Mr. Bailey added that he did not want the cessation to become a distraction from the need to achieve a complete ceasefire and allow proper humanitarian access to all the people in need.
Asked how civilians were identified in such a conflict, Ms. Whitson said that, while women and children under the age of 10 were generally considered civilians, in many cases witness information was sought to confirm that the casualties were not combatants. The task of identification was made easier by the fact that, in most cases, militants did not try to hide their participation in such organizations as Hamas. It was a point of pride, and militants were usually buried with special grave markings identifying them as martyrs. It was difficult, however, to determine if a person had died while engaged in fighting.
To another question, Mr. Cox said that some 20 to 30 aid agencies and other organizations had called on the European Union today to reconsider its association agreement with Israel, which was currently under negotiation. OXFAM’s Mr. Bailey added that the rationale behind that call was that it would be inconsistent for the European Union, which held human rights as an inviolable principle of all its agreements, to be in negotiations with Israel at a time when so much of its activities were “entirely inconsistent with the understanding of international humanitarian law and the application of human rights to civilians”.

Security Council meets on Gaza fighting, Ban renews ceasefire call

Security Council meets on Gaza fighting, Ban renews ceasefire call

6 January 2009 – The Security Council convened on the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza this evening, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warning that today’s deadly Israeli shelling of United Nations schools where hundreds of Gazans had sought refuge made a ceasefire more urgent than ever.
“Three UNRWA [UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East] schools, set up by the United Nations as places of refuge for civilians fleeing the fighting, have been hit in adjacent Israeli strikes,” Mr. Ban told the Council at the start of the session, noting that the third strike at a school in Jabalia refugee camp killed dozens of civilians.
“These attacks by Israeli military forces which endanger UN facilities acting as places of refuge are totally unacceptable, and should not be repeated. Equally unacceptable are any actions by Hamas militants which endanger the Palestinian civilian population. Today’s events underscore the dangers inherent in the continuation and escalation of this conflict. I call once again for an immediate ceasefire.”
He said had stressed to United States President George W. Bush in a meeting earlier today the importance of acting immediately, as he had in meetings with Arab leaders, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, noting that he had repeatedly condemned indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas into Israel and the excessive use of force by Israel with the stated aim of bringing an end to such attacks and a change in the security conditions in Southern Israel.
The Secretary-General added that he intended to travel to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory next week as well as to regional capitals. “But I do not believe we can wait until then to end the violence. We must achieve that now,” he declared.
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health and media sources, over 570 Palestinians have already been killed, and over 2,700 have been injured with Israel’s offensive moving into its 12th day.
“In the midst of this fighting, the civilian population of Gaza faces a humanitarian crisis,” Mr. Ban said. “Entire families have perished in the violence, including women and children, UN staff, and medical workers. There are no shelters for the vast majority of the civilian population. Food and fuel supplies are insufficient. A million people have no electricity. A quarter of a million have no running water.
“The only answer is an end to the violence. Whatever the rationale of the combatants, only an end to violence and a political way forward, can deliver long-term security and peace.”
He welcomed today’s initiative by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and French President Nicolas Sarkozy for an immediate ceasefire, with the opening of safe corridors for relief into Gaza, and an invitation to Israelis and Palestinians to meet to discuss how to avoid a resumption of fighting, including securing borders and lifting the blockade of Gaza, which Israel says Hamas rocket and other attacks have forced it to impose.
“Third parties will need to provide assistance, both on the ground and in terms of diplomatic support, to supervise and safeguard all the various elements of a ceasefire. Gaza’s enormous social relief and reconstruction needs will need to be addressed,” Mr. Ban said, calling on all Member States to respond promptly and generously to UNRWA’s appeal for funds.
And he stressed the urgent need to achieve Palestinian unity and the reunification of Gaza with the West Bank within the framework of the legitimate Palestinian Authority. Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist nor the international two-state plan for Israel and Palestine to live side by side in peace, seized control of Gaza from the Authority last year.
Following Mr. Ban, President Abbas appealed to the 15-member Council to stop the “new catastrophe” at the hands of “the Israeli machine of destruction” now befalling the Palestinian people. “The massacre in the UNRWA school at the Jabaliya camp is new proof of the heinous crime committed against our people,” he said, calling for a full cessation of “Israeli aggression” so that political dialogue could resume.
“Any procrastination can only deepen the tragedy,” he added, stressing that an international force was needed to end the “unjust siege” of Gaza by opening all crossings, calling for a mutual and complete ceasefire, and voicing support for the plan proposed by Presidents Mubarak and Sarkozy.
“Put an end to this genocide and destruction,” he concluded. “Do not allow for the killing of one more Palestinian child. Do not let one more Palestinian mother cry for her children. Do not allow it. Put an end to the massacre of my people, let my people live and let my people be free.”
Speaking next, Israeli Ambassador Gabriela Shalev noted that 8,000 rockets and mortars had been aimed against Israel from Gaza over the past eight years. “No state would permit such attacks on its citizens, nor should it,” she said, adding that Hamas was vehemently opposed to peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
“Hamas has no interest in making peace with the enemy; for Hamas peace is the enemy. Its only interest is in establishing a regime of tyranny for Gazans and of terror for Israelis,” she stressed, charging that Hamas uses civilians as shields, hides its missiles and terrorist bases in homes, hospitals and mosques, and “as we saw earlier today, deliberately launches attacks from in and around schools and densely populated areas – with tragic results…
“This conflict will end not when terrorism is appeased or accommodated but when the international community stands determined and united against it,” she said.
The Council session is to continue tomorrow.