What: The Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy 2019, Geneva Switzerland
When: Tuesday 26 March, 2019
IOHR participated once again in the annual gathering in Geneva for the Human Rights and Democracy Summit. It is an important reminder of the vital work going on around the world and brings together a quorum of those who relentlessly advocate for the victims of human rights violations.
Some are victims, such as Nimco Ali, now a global campaigner against female genital mutilation (FGM), who was presented with the 2019 International Women’s Rights Award for her tireless campaigning to stop the mutilation of 70 million women and girls. Ali reminded the audience that the average age for someone to mutilate a child through FGM is 5 years old.
Other speakers included the families of victims still detained. Ensaf Haidar, the wife of Raif Badawi, the blogger sentenced to ten years in prison and 1000 lashes in Saudi Arabia brought their three children, Najwa, Tirad and Miriyam to speak about the pain of separation and their ongoing advocacy campaign for their father. Najwa read out a moving letter to her father of hope.
The summit provides a platform to political dissidents to keep reminding the world of the need for constant pressure. A panel entitled “Supporting Political Prisoners” brought together Nguyyen Van Dai, a human rights lawyer recently released from prison in Vietnam, with Vincente de Lima, brother of Philippines Senator Leila de Lima who was serving her 761 day in captivity as her brother highlighted her fight to stop the “consensus of silence and the conspiracy of fear” perpetrated by Philippine President Duterte to enable him to execute his people without any due process or law.
Joining them was Richard Ratcliffe, husband and fervent activist on behalf of his wife Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who is accused of spying and is currently serving an unjust five-year sentence in Iran. The UK Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, took the bold step this month of placing Nazanin under UK diplomatic protection which raises her case from a consular matter to the level of a dispute between the two states. In essence, any harm which is done to Nazanin is now an attack on the UK too. Hunt said he believed Tehran was not meeting its human rights obligations to the British-Iranian dual national under international humanitarian law. Ratcliffe’s advocacy has succeeded in raising the clarion call for all dual nationals being used as political pawns in Iran. The wife of another long term Iranian detainee, Kameran Ghadari was also participating in the event. Harika Ghadari spoke to IOHR of her hope that events like the summit would keep the world’s focus on prisoners like her husband.
The panel was moderated by Yang Jianli, a Chinese dissident, Tiananmen Square massacre survivor and former prisoner in China who spoke of the need to hold China to account for its human rights violations.
At the same time as Yang Jianli described the current situation of oppression across China, the French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Elysee Palace in Paris.
Watch IOHR TV for a detailed interview with Yang Jianji
China’s persecution of minorities remained in the spotlight with the presentation of the Geneva Summit Courage Award for 2019 being awarded to Dhondup Wangchen, a Tibetian film maker and activist jailed for six years in a Chinese prison. Celebrating with Wangchen were some of the women of Tibet, now exiled and using their voices in Europe to garner support for their cause.
Valerie Peay, Director of the International Observatory of Human Rights attending the event said:
“This summit enables all of us to share experiences and to learn how we can better make a difference. I was so encouraged sitting here with the young student advocates listening to their reaction to the positive message from Michael Levitt (Canadian MP and Chair of the Foreign Affairs committee) speaking about how policy changes, like the Magnitsky Act, can be used to defend human rights activists like those all around them.”
United Nations Watch organise the summit each year in partnership with 25 human rights organisations. Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of UN Watch opened the event encouraging all attendees to visit the display of portraits of murdered and persecuted journalists created by the German art collective Wahrheitskämpfer (Truth Fighters). Among the poignant paintings were images of Reuters Journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo jailed in Myanmar on fabricated charges and murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi to remind the world of the importance of Freedom of speech. This was echoed in a stirring speech from Ambassador Alfred Moses, Chair of United Nations Watch, in a speech entitled “Do human rights matter?” add link to his speech here
The International Observatory of Human Rights was established in 2017 in London as an independent non-profit and non-governmental organisation.
The team is made up of human rights professionals, lawyers, researchers, award-winning journalists and academics of diverse backgrounds and nationalities.
IOHR utilises its unique access and the expertise of its multilingual and dedicated staff to advocate for human rights worldwide.
The International Observatory of Human Rights has created partnerships with local and international human rights groups. The IOHR advocacy team meets with governments, members of parliament and global groups such as the European Union, the Council of Europe, the United Nations and businesses to drive and promote positive changes and push for justice and the respect of human rights worldwide.