Azerbaijan rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev wins Homo Homini award

Intigam Aliyev, a leading human rights lawyer from Azerbaijan, has been awarded the prestigious Homo Homini human rights award for 2012. The award, given by People in Need, the Czech Republic’s largest non-governmental organization, is given in recognition of Aliyev‘s personal courage and exceptional committment to defending persecuted individuals.

Aliyev (right) was one of several leading activists arrested in a recent police crackdown in Baku. He will receive the award at the opening ceremony of the One World film festival in Prague on March 4, 2013. Thecelebrated Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez will also speak at the event.  

Aliyev has presented hundreds of legal cases to the European Court of Human Rights; around 40 cases are currently awaiting court decision. He has succeeded in a number of cases concerning voting rights, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and the right to a fair trial. He has also lectured at universities, published hundreds of articles and provided direct legal assistance to people persecuted for participation in peaceful protests, for uncovering corruption and publishing voices critical to the regime. 

Aliyev is an exceptionally courageous person and consistent human rights defender. The award also aims to draw more attention to the repressions taking place in Azerbaijan, which especially in Europe is largely ignored“, says Marek Svoboda, director of People in Need´s Center for Democracy and Human Rights.  

Only weeks ago, dozens of peaceful protesters including Mr. Aliyev and other prominent defenders were arrested, two days after the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan and called upon the authorities to stop attacks and harassment against  human rights defenders. 

Founded in 1992 and having worked in over 40 countries around the world, People in Need is predominantly focused on humanitarian, development and human rights support. It is also the organizer of the One World documentary film festival that has grown to be the largest showcase of human rights documentaries in the world. Among its many guests this year will also be another prominent Azeri defender Emin Milli and the Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez.  

First awarded in 1994, the Homo Homini will be given during the opening ceremony of the One World festival in Prague on March 4, 2013. Until his passing away, the award has traditionally been handed over by former Czech President Václav Havel. Among its past recipients are the underground network of Syrian medics „Doctors Coordinate of Damascus“, the jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, unjustly imprisoned defender Azimjan Askarov from Kyrgyzstan or Iranian student leaders Majid Tavakoli and Abdullah Momeni.

For more information please contact:  Marek Svoboda


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The Story That Lies Beneath: Journalists at the Forefront of Corporate Governance Reporting

Good journalists can spot a good story even in the most innocuous press release. While the phrase “corporate governance” doesn’t set off any alarm bells, what about: fraud, theft, waste, incompetence, nepotism, abuse of power, conflict of interest, or corruption? These terms light a fire under journalists, because they may lead to exclusive, groundbreaking stories that are the essence of good journalism.

As a new guide by the International Finance Corporation and the International Center for Journalists notes, not all corporate governance stories are about scandals, however. They can be about heroes and visionaries, about brilliant ideas and charismatic leaders, about men and women who build great fortunes by giving the world new products and services that improve lives.

Governance, at its heart, provides the direction for a company, family-owned business, or state-owned enterprise. Guidelines, standards, and best practices established worldwide define what constitutes good governance, and a savvy business journalist quickly learns the difference between good governance and bad. Both can lead to great stories. Both are essential to promoting transparency and accountability in emerging democracies. In this discussion, panelists will examine the media’s role as a watchdog, what constitutes good practice, and how reporting on corporate governance fits into overall development, democracy, and governance efforts.

The Center for International Media Assistance at the National Endowment for Democracy,

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and the International Center for Journalists

invite you to a panel discussion on

Journalists at the Forefront of Corporate Governance Reporting:
The Story That Lies Beneath


Bethany McLean

Vanity Fair

Andras Petho



John D. Sullivan


Center for International Private Enterprise

Moderated by:

Philip Armstrong


International Finance Corporation

Tuesday, March 5, 2013. 12-2:00 p.m. (Lunch served from 12-12:30 p.m.)

1025 F Street, N.W., Suite 800, Washington, DC 20004

If you are unable to join, watch the event live here Follow the event @CIMA_Media on Twitter: #cimaevents

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South Korea dilemma over North Korea atrocities?

“The United Nations’ human rights chief declared recently that the time had come for a ‘long overdue’ investigation into what she called unparalleled rights abuses in North Korea. The probe, unprecedented in scope, could help establish whether the North’s leaders are committing crimes against humanity,” the Washington Post reports:

Navi Pillay’s January proposal has already drawn support from the United States. But the decision has proved sensitive in South Korea, where leaders remain divided over whether to confront the North or try to somehow reduce tensions with it, even after Pyongyang last week detonated an underground nuclear device…. Washington’s decision to support the effort could prove just as important, prompting other nations, “especially those on the fence, to come forward in support of the initiative,” said Roberta Cohen, co-chair of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.

It remains a crime in the North to criticize the government, watch a South Korean television show or leave dust on founder Kim Il Sung’s portrait. Those found guilty of crimes that Pyongyang considers grave are sent, often along with their parents and children, to prison camps in isolated mountain areas where they almost always stay for life.

For example, the Daily NK news website reported that North Koreans who failed to mourn the regime’s former dictator with sufficient emotional intensity were severely punished.

Citing a North Korean source, Daily NK reported that “the authorities are handing down at least six months in a labor-training camp to anybody who didn’t participate in the organized gatherings during the mourning period, or who did participate but didn’t cry and didn’t seem genuine.”

Human rights groups have been lobbying the government in Seoul to take a stronger stance on human rights in North Korea, the Post’s Chico Harlan reports:

One advocate, An Myeong-chul, secretary general of the Free the NK Gulag group, said he is compiling documents about a few individuals in the North’s prison camps, based on information from relatives who have escaped to the South. The documents detail the names of those in the camps, when they were taken and by whom.

An filled out one document of his own, giving information about his mother and two siblings, who were sent to a gulag in 1994, he said, paying for the crimes of his father, who had been stealing rice and then committed suicide. An believes that his family members are still in a camp, but he isn’t sure. He calls the commission of inquiry a “necessity.”

“If Park Geun-hye wants to open dialogue with North Korea, accepting the COI might give the North an excuse to get upset,” he said. “But South Korea should be aware: There are prisoners in there, and there are survivors here.”

The new generation of defectors has been described as a “small miracle” for raising hopes for human rights in North Korea. The defectors act as a “bridge population” between the two Koreas, said Carl Gershman, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Endowment for Democracy.

Daily NK is supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.

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Islamist leaders in Egypt and Tunisia deploy unreformed security forces

“The governments that rose to power in Egypt and Tunisia in the wake of the Arab Spring are increasingly relying on the oppressive security apparatuses crafted by their predecessors,” notes a regional analyst.

“Whole-scale reform of the security services in both countries, where police were viewed as predatory foot soldiers for the regime, was a central catalyst for the uprisings two years ago,” writes the Global Post’s Erin Cunningham:

But as the two North African nations now grapple with heightened and sometimes violent unrest — the result of stalled political and economic progress — the government of Mohamed Morsi in Egypt and Tunisia’s Ennahda leadership are embracing the unreformed police forces as necessary tools to quell opposition to their rule, activists say.

Morsi attracted criticism from rights activists and appeared to confirm his authoritarian instincts last month when he replaced the minister of interior not with an outsider but a former occupant of the post and veteran Mubarak apparatchik accused of rights violations.

“Tunisians say the Ennahda-led Interior Ministry, meanwhile, continues to torture and turns a blind eye to attacks by extreme Islamists on liberal opposition groups — including the assassination of vocal government critic and human rights advocate, Chokri Belaid, earlier this month,” Cunningham observes.

That’s one reason why Ennahda Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem insisted on the Islamist group retaining control of the Interior Ministry rather than accept a government of neutral technocrats, one analyst notes.

Similar tensions are arising in Egypt where the Muslim Brotherhood appears content to utilize rather than reform the repressive apparatus inherited from the Mubarak regime.

“The police are returning to their ways in the time of [former Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak,” said Hafez Abu Seada, the president of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights. “They are a tool of oppression in the same way that they were. They are working for the Muslim Brotherhood now, and it should not be this way.”

Civil society groups had high hopes for reform in the country, where, according to the United States Institute for Peace — a nonpartisan group — educational standards are high for entrance into the police force, security infrastructure is solid and rules of engagement are clearly established…..But divisive political climates and ailing economies frustrated aspirations for reform.

“As political and social protests continue on the one hand, and on the other hand, the government is less able to provide — the only thing they can do as a government is repress,” said Karim Medhat Ennarah, security sector researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).

Pro-democracy activists and rights groups in Tunisia say police abuses like protester beatings and sporadic torture continue, including against government opponents. The police force under the Ennahda government has failed to investigate or prosecute perpetrators of mostly religious-based attacks against liberal establishments like bars, art galleries and cinemas.

“Before the revolution, the ministry was very much an opponent of Ennahda,” said Ali Zeddini, vice president of the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights. “Now the tables have turned, and the ministry is working in Ennahda’s interests.”

But even Egypt’s prosecutor-general, appointed by Morsi, is now spearheading an effort to protect security forces under the new government, Ennarah of the EIPR said.

The public prosecutor is renewing the detention of prisoners without evidence — sometimes without even a basic police report — EIPR said. Ennarah, who has worked with the president’s advisory team on proposals for security sector reform, said, “the role of the prosecution” in aiding police impunity is new.

According to rights groups, they proposed the immediate implementation of simple reforms to the presidential office like the creation of an independent commission to investigate the illegal use of firearms by security forces, or small monitoring teams to make visits to detainees in prison. …They were rebuffed. 

“They want a compliant police force, rather than a reformed one,” Ennarah said of the Morsi administration.

“In the absence of any will or interest of any kind in reforming the security services, the government is going to constantly be at loggerheads with the population,” he said.

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