For 20 years, Afghanistan was bombarded continuously to get rid of Taliban, and yet in the end the country was abandoned to their rule. Afghans who cooperated with the NATO forces were largely left to the mercy of the Taliban Regime.
The UK Government has to take action for the current conflict in Afghanistan. The Taliban are taking over provinces in the area and attacking and slaughtering Afghan people who previously gave aid and support (militarily and otherwise) to NATO forces. This travesty against humanity cannot be tolerated.
The volunteers of The Justice Corner gathered on 28 August 2021, in front of the Parliament House, to call our government to evacuate Afghans to third countries and ensure their safety there, or to provide them with asylum and permanent citizenship in the UK.
Holocaust Memorial Day is a national commemoration day in the United Kingdom, dedicated to remembering the Jews and other victims who suffered during the Holocaust, under the Nazi persecution. After first being held in 2001, it has been observed on January 27th every year since.
As Human Rights Solidarity’s Immigration Committee, we prepared a splendid program, consisting of interviews with Holocaust Survivors and Academics, Artworks, Musical Performances and Poems.
Sacha Kester is a survivor of the Holocaust from the 1940s, as well as a committed political activist for equal rights, justice and fairness. Sacha will be sharing his upsetting experiences and memories on our YouTube channel, as well as answering some of our questions. His daughter, Susanna Kester – a Creative Arts Therapist, workshop leader and volunteer for numerous community-based projects such as the Finchley Foodbank, Finchley Progressive Synagogue Social Action Committee and Generation2Generation – will also be joining us.
Generation2Generation is an organisation that helps the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors to tell their family stories. They promote and inspire tolerance and understanding in society through supporting these people so that their presentations to schools and community organisations are of high quality, historically accurate and have lasting impact. For more details, check out their website here: https://www.generation2generation.org.
Joanna Michlic, an Honorary Senior Research Associate at the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies, is also joining us on this day to speak to us about ‘Lessons from the Holocaust for the Twenty First Century: Listening to the Voices of Jewish Child Survivors’. You can find out more about her research projects, past publications and awards on her UCL page: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/institute-of-ad.
Youth Skills Day is celebrated every year on July 15 by UNESCO. The World Youth Skills day of 2021 paid tribute to the resilience and creativity of youth through the pandemic crisis. We, as Human Rights Solidarity, celebrated youth skills with our Youth Action Committee (YAct), and held a live interview with our young friend Jude Daniel Smith on how the youth can be helped and empowered through this crisis.
We learned that there are many ways to receive support for our skills as young persons and how important is it to support the young people around us in such a time of crisis. Jude told us about his journey through the pandemic and his lobbying and activism experience in a time of crisis. This interview was motivating and supportive for all of us.
On the occasion of the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture 2020, Human Rights Solidarity’s Human Rights Defenders Committee brought together experts on the mechanism of impunity in Turkey and how international legal schemes can be used to fill the vacuum.
On 26 June 2020 we invited lawyers and human rights experts to discuss the findings of a recent report on impunity in Turkey by the Italian Federation for Human Rights (FIDU), Human Rights Defenders (HRD) and Arrested Lawyers Initiative (ALI). The report, Impunity: An Unchanging Rule in Turkey underlined that in Turkey impunity is not an aberration, but, rather, it is the norm when a rights violation is committed against individuals by state officials.
The report observed that Turkey’s impunity policy had three pillars:
the moral legitimization of the unlawful acts of state officials,
the protection provided for perpetrators by administrative and judicial authorities,
the legal regulations either constitute obstacles for investigation and prosecution or provide for an explicit impunity for perpetrators.
Apart from discussing the findings of the report, our panellists discussed the applicability of international mechanisms like universal jurisdiction, UN mechanism, European Court of Human Rights and the Magnitsky laws to the case of Turkey and the difficulties therein.
Our panellists were:
Antonio Stango, International human rights expert. President of the Italian Federation for Human Rights. Professor of Human Rights at Rome Link Campus University
Natacha Bracq, Human Rights Lawyer with the Paris Bar & Senior Officer for Training and Capacity Building at the International Nuremberg Principles Academy
Gonzalo Boye, Lawyer based in Spain, Expert on Universal Jurisdiction
Coskun Yorulmaz, Turkish Lawyer, London Advocacy and The Arrested Lawyers Initiative
The event was hosted by Burak Haylamaz from Human Rights Solidarity.
Outcomes of the Panel
Co-chair of Human Rights Solidarity’s Human Rights Defenders Committee Miss Esra Kalkan wrote a blog on her observations from the panel. Her “Impunity Webinar: In Turkey neither torture nor impunity are an exception anymore” can be found here. [Please put the link]
Prof Antonio Stango’s speech was mainly about international mechanisms that can fill the gap of lacking domestic remedies. Prof Stango particularly delved into the UN mechanisms and the newly emerging Magnitsky laws. Prof Stango’s speech can be watched here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JSJ8RO6Y0I
Human Rights Lawyer Natacha Bracq spoke about the limits of the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court as international remedies for the victims of torture. Natacha Bracq’s presentation can be watched here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqGZG8wdm_E
Lawyer Gonzalo Boye, an expert on universal jurisdiction and somebody who had experienced torture in person brought the lessons he extracted from the Spanish case. Boye underlined that confessions taken under torture are being used against people who managed to flee the persecuting countries in extradition requests. Mr Boye’s presentation can be watched on our YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gljEIIDYe_A
What did we learn?
Torture and impunity are global phenomena. Authoritarian regimes establish mechanisms of impunity and guarantee that victims of torture do not have access to mechanisms redress. Though there are international mechanisms, all have their own weaknesses also. European Court of Human Rights suffer from heavy workload and does not have power to impose its decisions on the states. United Nations has established several mechanisms like working groups, special rapporteurs and Universal Periodical Review, but reaching a result might take years and processes are too complicated for a victim to navigate through. Universal jurisdiction is a promising area but only if evidence of torture is preserved and some countries ask of presence of either the victim, or the alleged culprit in their jurisdictions. Magnitsky laws are promising in that they are not judicial but administrative measures and are spreading worldwide.
Human rights advocacy necessitates momentum building that can take years sometimes. We have to be realistic in our expectations from international mechanisms, but the fact that they are slow or deficient should not stop us from appealing to them.
Refugee Solidarity Week is a week of celebration of contribution of the immigrant communities to the UK society, launched by Human Rights Solidarity in 2020. It is celebrated within the framework of the Refugee Week, which houses the World Refugee Day (20 June). Refugee Solidarity Week is aimed at celebrating, empowering and inspiring refugees and their contribution to the UK and encouraging a better understanding between communities. Our programme for 2021 included art and music performances, poetry and film and book reviews. We also had an interview with Becky Dell from Citizens of the World Choir and Moses Saidler from Refugee Education UK.
Here are a volunteer’s words for their experiences at the Refugee Solidarity Week:
“Participating in the making of this programme as a refugee was an unforgettable experience. I hope we were able to motivate and encourage other refugees around the world as well. This event helped me develop my skills in hosting and video editing, participating in Human Rights Solidarity projects is always a great delight.”
What have we learned?
This experience gave us the chance to better develop our teamwork skills and allowed us to further expand our talents in arts, music and literature, letting us use them in means of activism and advocacy as well. It showed us that we, as refugees and volunteers, can have an impact on change using our skills and talents.
EARTHDAY.ORG’s theme for Earth Day 2021 was Restore Our Earth, a theme focusing on natural processes, emerging green technologies, and innovative thinking that can restore the world’s ecosystems. With the awarenesss that we all need a healthy Earth to support our jobs, livelihoods, health & survival, and happiness, our Environmental Rights Committee hosted a live YouTube event to raise awareness that a healthy planet is not an option — it is a necessity.
Our guest speakers were:
Line Niedeggen, Climate Justice Activist at Fridays For Future Germany
Humans have altered nearly three-quarters of the Earth’s ice-free land to meet an ever-increasing demand for food, raw materials, highways, and homes. Avoiding, slowing, and reversing the loss of productive land and natural ecosystems is urgent and critical for a rapid recovery from the pandemic and ensuring the long-term survival of people and the planet.
Over the next decade, current commitments from over 100 countries call for the restoration of nearly 1 billion hectares of land – an area nearly the size of China. If we restore this land, we will be able to provide enormous benefits to both people and the environment.
Environmental Rights Committee organised an Instagram Live event on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and had Nomhle Senene, a 13-year-old climate and social justice activist, and Jerome Foster II, an 18-year-old activist who is an Environmental Justice Council Member at the White House.
The Neighbourhood Cleanup Day is part of the Restore Our Earth campaign run within the framework of the Earth Day 2021. With this project we aimed to show that the solution to the global environmental crisis starts by taking small and localised actions that have an impact on the environment. Our small step was plogging; a new trend where picking up trash is combined with jogging.
We wanted to illustrate that individuals do not have to be environmentalists, activists or experts to make a difference for the future of our planet. We asked our volunteers to clean their streets, beaches, rivers, forests, parks and neighbourhoods.
The Global Magnitsky Act is a powerful new tool for deterring human rights violations and fighting corruption. Magnistsky Act is a new form of sanctions for gross human rights violations. By sanctioning individuals who engage in the worst abuses of power, the United States hardens its own system to external abuse while extending moral support and solidarity to those whose fundamental freedoms are curtailed or denied. As it is was announced in July 2020 in the United Kingdom, there is only several people who know the details and how the application process work. Therefore, as HRS, we invited experts to a series of workshops with human rights lawyers from the UK and the EU countries.
On 29 March 2021 our instructors were from REDRESS; Leanna Burnard and Celeste Kmiotek.
Leanna Burnard is the Legal Officer for Asset Recovery and Sanctions. She focuses on REDRESS’ asset recovery and sanctions work. Leanna has an amazing background in human rights litigation. She volunteered for the Yazidis in Iraq, Palestinians in West Bank, Aboriginal people in Australia and at many other posts. Leanna has an LL.M. in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights from the Geneva Academy and bachelor’s degrees in law and journalism from Australia.
Celecste Kmiotek is a legal fellow at REDRESS. Prior to REDRESS, Celeste was a student attorney in the International Human Rights Clinic while pursuing her J.D. at Harvard Law. She worked on human rights abused in Bolivia and Cambodia.
The two lectured our guests on the development and application of the UK’s Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime.
On 17 Mary 2021, our instructor was Paola Gaffurini, an advocacy officer from the Open Dialogue Foundation. Paola lectured our guests on “The EU Framework and the Future Potentials of the European Magnitsky Acts.
Human Rights Solidarity attests particular importance to supporting relatives of oppressed people in their times of difficulty. Hakan Dagdeviren is one such “child of incarcerated parents” who was diagnosed with leukaemia and was informed that cancer had metastasized to his liver, abdomen, neck, and armpits.
Human Rights Solidarity organized two Run for Hakan Events in March and May 2021 and gathered donations to improve conditions of Hakan and facilitate the marrow transplant surgery. Due to the Covid-19 restrictions we asked our volunteers to go out to the parks and run for Hakan for a minimum of 5 kilometers. We invited the running volunteers to join our live instagram broadcasts and share their thoughts with other volunteers.
Since the July 2016 coup attempt, Turkey has seen mass arrests and trials on terrorism charges of hundreds of thousands of people who have not involved in any violent act. Those people, among them are journalists, teachers, academics, human rights defenders, and opposition politicians, have been accused and tried for who they are, rather than what they might have done. Human rights groups have established that these proceedings were political and unfair.
Hakan’s parents are two of the 100,000 who have been imprisoned on false charges after 2016 in Turkey. His father was arbitrarily accused of terrorism just for being the head of a legally incorporated education company. Police raided their house on many occasions and interrogated Hakan about his parents when he was only 10 years old. These police raids and imprisonment of his parents made Hakan distressed. After all the things he went through Hakan was diagnosed with Leukaemia. He is being taken care of by his 70-year-old grandmother who is under threat due to COVID19 outbreak. Imagine a 10-year old kid’s life being upside down in political conflicts and imagine his parents’ grief and pain.
We didn’t only gather financial support for Hakan. We also encouraged our audience to write to their MPs and to the Ministry of Justice of Turkey in order to facilitate temporary release of either one of Hakan’s parents to stay with him during the murrow transplant. These attempts failed to convince the Turkish authorities, but we managed to transfer over £8,000 to Hakan’s relatives taking care of him before the transplant surgery.
Eventually Hakan had a successful surgery and entered a lengthy recovery process.