Etusivu Supporting women, protecting rights

Supporting women, protecting rights

Supporting women, protecting rights – How can the EU work to better safeguard the work of WHRDs and integrate an intersectional approach





About the event

It is particularly important to support human rights defenders at this moment. The space for civil society is shrinking and human rights defenders are facing increasing threats, around the world and also inside the European Union.

Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union is a good opportunity to bring up the work of human rights defenders and to amplify the support of EU and its Member States for human rights defenders. Finland already has practices in place for supporting human rights defenders and the capacity to push these issues forward in the EU.

In the seminar, the speakers will discuss how the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders could be implemented more effectively; how these guidelines could support women human rights defenders; and what kind of threats women human rights defenders are facing.

The seminar is organized by Amnesty International in cooperation with KIOS Foundation and European Parliament Liaison office.

The seminar is held in English.

The venue is accessible.

Time: 29.8.2019, at 09:30-14:30
Place: Eurooppasali (Malminkatu 16, Helsinki, Finland)

Additional information: anu.tuukkanen@amnesty.fi

Programme

Registration at Eurooppasali (Malminkatu 16)

Pekka Haavisto is the current minister for Foreign Affairs and former leader of Green League. He returned to the Finnish Parliament in the Finnish parliamentary election of March 2007 after an absence of 12 years and was re-elected again in 2011, 2015, and 2019. Between April 1995 and April 1999 he was the Minister of Environment in the Lipponen I Cabinet. In October 2013 Haavisto was appointed as the Minister for International Development. He has also been a member of the Helsinki City Council. Haavisto was appointed as the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Rinne Cabinet since 6 June 2019.

In autumn 2014 Haavisto was appointed as Foreign Minister’s Special Representative for African Crises. Before he has worked as the European Union Special Representative (EUSR) in Sudan and Darfur (2005-2007), and as a Special Advisor for the UN (ASG) in Darfur peace process (2007). Haavisto has also led several missions to conflict areas as the Chairman of UNEP’s post-conflict work in 1999-2005.

Sexual and Reproductive Rights Activist

El Salvador/Sweden

María Teresa Rivera was one of “Las17 y Más” – more than 17 women jailed between 1990 and 2011 under the total abortion ban in El Salvador because of obstetric complications. Following a miscarriage in 2011, María Teresa Rivera was sentenced to 40 years for aggravated homicide. After four and a half years in prison, she was finally released in 2016 when a judge dismissed the charges against her. During her time in prison, María Teresa Rivera connected with other women in a similar situation and following her release she continued to speak up for sexual and reproductive rights in El Salvador. Her outspokenness led the public prosecutor’s office to reopen the case against her. To avoid persecution María Teresa Rivera left El Salvador with her son to seek asylum in Sweden. She is the first woman to have been granted asylum for abortion-related persecution.

“My greatest wish is that the rights of Salvadorian girls and women are no longer violated”.

This panel examines how can the EU and its member states promote and protect WHRDs and what actions should they put in place to protect WHRDs globally taking into account intersectional forms of discrimination. The panel will also explore current gaps in implementation of the EU HRD Guidelines and innovative ways in which these could be overcome.

Participants:

  • WHRDs (Irina Biryukova)
  • Representative of EEAS: Sofie From-Emmesberger
  • Representative(s) from Finnish MoFA: Tarja Kangaskorte
  • Former Finnish ambassador Hannu Himanen

Wrap-up comment from WHRD

Irina Biryukova

Lawyer, Russia

Irina Biryukova is a lawyer and human rights defender from Moscow working on protecting the rights of individuals in detention facilities all over Russia. She currently works at Public Verdict Foundation (Obschestvennyi Verdikt), a non-political, not-for-profit organisation, which provides legal assistance to protect the human rights of those individuals, who have fallen victim to misconduct by Russian law enforcement authorities. Her work involves continuous legal cooperation with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in Russia, as well as for a number of national and international NGOs which specialise in the protection of citizens’ rights. She has received threats due to her work and in the past has been forced to leave Russia temporarily.

In addition to working for Public Verdict Foundation, she is accredited at the Ministry of Justice, Russia, as an independent expert in the anticorruption evaluation of legislation and regulatory acts, and legislation and regulatory acts bills and works as a lawyer. Previously she has worked with Civic Assistance Committee (Grazhdanskoe Sodejstvie), a regional, public charity dedicated to helping refugees and migrants and as a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Civil Law (family law, housing rights) at the A. Griboedov Institute of Law and Economics.

“ By defending one – we defend everyone.” ”Защищая одного – защищаем каждого”

Sofie From-Emmesberger

Chair of the Political and Security Committee (PSC), European Union External Action
 

Ambassador Sofie From-Emmesberger serves as the Chair of the EU’s Political and Security Committee (PSC). Before the appointment From-Emmesberger was Finland’s national representative in the PSC. Previously, she has been Finland’s Ambassador to Kenya and worked at the Mission of Finland in Tel Aviv and in Strasbourg. In the Ministry, she has worked in the Unit for Human Rights Policy.

Tarja Kangaskorte

Director, Unit for Human Rights Policy, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland

 

Ms Tarja Kangaskorte is the newly appointed Director of the Unit For Human Rights Policy at the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. She joined the Foreign Ministry in 2002 and has served abroad in the Finnish Embassies in Vienna (2003-07), Bangkok (2007-2010) and most recently in Beijing (2015-19). At the Ministry Ms Kangaskorte has served for example as Diplomatic Adviser to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and as Team Leader for Southeast Asia and Oceania.

Hannu Himanen

Before retiring from the Finnish Foreign Service in 2017, Mr Hannu Himanen was Ambassador of Finland to Russia in 2012 to 2016. Earlier, he was Ambassador/Permanent Representative to the UN Organisations in Geneva (2008–2012), including the UN Human Rights Council, and Ambassador to Indonesia (1996–2000). In 2003 to 2008, he served as Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Ministry in charge of strategic management. In 2005, he was in President Martti Ahtisaari’s team mediating a peace deal in the Indonesian province of Aceh.

Mr Himanen’s other foreign postings during his 40-year diplomatic career include New Delhi (1979–1981), New York/UN (1981–1984), Moscow (1986–1989) and Vienna/CSCE (1989–1991).
Outside the Foreign Service, he participated in the Fellows Program of the Center for International Affairs at Harvard University in 1995–1996. He was Vice President for International Security and Governance of the EastWest Institute (Prague Center) in 2001–2002.

Since retirement, he has appeared frequently in the media as a commentator on Russia, Finnish security and European affairs. In October 2017, he published a book entitled West or East: Finland and the Return of Geopolitics (in Finnish).

“Ms Tarja Kangaskorte is the newly appointed Director of the Unit For Human Rights Policy at the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. She joined the Foreign Ministry in 2002 and has served abroad in the Finnish Embassies in Vienna (2003-07), Bangkok (2007-2010) and most recently in Beijing (2015-19). At the Ministry Ms Kangaskorte has served for example as Diplomatic Adviser to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and as Team Leader for Southeast Asia and Oceania.”

Light lunch served at the venue

This panel discusses the obstacles and threats WHRDs face in their work, and the effect smear campaigns and hate speech have on WHRDs work and everyday life in different contexts. How does intersectional discrimination affect WHRDs? How do WHRDs cope with the risks and what support they need to continue their work? What can be done to stop or mitigate offline and online violence and harassment?

WHRDs participating:

  • Maria Teresa Rivera (El Salvador)
  • Memory Bandera (Uganda)
  • Irina Biryukova (Russia)
  • Nedal Al-Salman (Bahrain)
  • Jessikka Aro (Finland)

MEP: Sirpa Pietikäinen (Finland)

Memory Bandera Rwampwanyi

Human rights defender, Zimbabwe/Uganda

Memory is a US-trained Zimbabwean who lives in Uganda. Currently, she is the Director of Programs and Administration with DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project). DefendDefenders is a regional organization seeking to protect and strengthen human rights defenders in the East and Horn of Africa subregion, including Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia (together with Somaliland), South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. DefendDefenders protects human rights defenders who are in danger and offers training for human rights defenders in protection and security as well as in advocacy, human rights monitoring and reporting, among other things. The organization also promotes human rights defenders and their work at regional and international platforms.

Prior to joining DefendDefenders, Memory worked with the International Law Institute’s African Centre for Legal Excellence (ILI-ACLE) and with Youth Action International. Memory is a founding member of the Girl Child Network Zimbabwe (1999); co-founder of Tariro-Hope and Health for Zimbabwe’s Orphans (2003); and Girl Child Network Uganda (2009).

“To me, protection of human rights defenders is not a choice but an obligation.”

Maria Teresa Rivera

Sexual and Reproductive Rights Activist, El Salvador/Sweden

María Teresa Rivera was one of “Las17 y Más” – more than 17 women jailed between 1990 and 2011 under the total abortion ban in El Salvador because of obstetric complications. Following a miscarriage in 2011, María Teresa Rivera was sentenced to 40 years for aggravated homicide. After four and a half years in prison, she was finally released in 2016 when a judge dismissed the charges against her. During her time in prison, María Teresa Rivera connected with other women in a similar situation and following her release she continued to speak up for sexual and reproductive rights in El Salvador. Her outspokenness led the public prosecutor’s office to reopen the case against her. To avoid persecution María Teresa Rivera left El Salvador with her son to seek asylum in Sweden. She is the first woman to have been granted asylum for abortion-related persecution.

“My greatest wish is that the rights of Salvadorian girls and women are no longer violated”.

Irina Biryukova

Lawyer, Russia

Irina Biryukova is a lawyer and human rights defender from Moscow working on protecting the rights of individuals in detention facilities all over Russia. She currently works at Public Verdict Foundation (Obschestvennyi Verdikt), a non-political, not-for-profit organisation, which provides legal assistance to protect the human rights of those individuals, who have fallen victim to misconduct by Russian law enforcement authorities. Her work involves continuous legal cooperation with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in Russia, as well as for a number of national and international NGOs which specialise in the protection of citizens’ rights. She has received threats due to her work and in the past has been forced to leave Russia temporarily.

In addition to working for Public Verdict Foundation, she is accredited at the Ministry of Justice, Russia, as an independent expert in the anticorruption evaluation of legislation and regulatory acts, and legislation and regulatory acts bills and works as a lawyer. Previously she has worked with Civic Assistance Committee (Grazhdanskoe Sodejstvie), a regional, public charity dedicated to helping refugees and migrants and as a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Civil Law (family law, housing rights) at the A. Griboedov Institute of Law and Economics.

“By defending one – we defend everyone.” ”Защищая одного – защищаем каждого”

Nedal Al-Salman

Women’s and child rights activist, Bahrain

Nedal Al-Salman is the Head of Women & Children’s Rights Advocacy at Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR). BCHR works carrying out advocacy, training, workshops, seminars, media campaigns on human rights and reporting to UN mechanisms and international NGOs. The BCHR has also participated in many regional and international conferences and workshops, in addition to testifying in national parliaments across Europe, the EU parliament, and the United States Congress.

In the past Nedal has been banned from travelling outside Bahrain. On 26 November 2017, Nedal Al-Salman was stopped at Bahrain International Airport by Bahraini authorities and prevented from leaving the country. Previously she had been placed on travel ban on 29 August 2016, while en route to Geneva to participate in the United Nations Human Rights Council, the human rights defender was informed by officials at Bahrain International Airport that the Public Prosecution had ordered a travel ban against her. She was subsequently banned from travelling in March and June 2017 again, when the Human Rights Council sessions were held in Geneva. Bahrain’s authorities have also imposed arbitrary travel bans on dozens of other activists and WHRDs in recent years.

“My name means struggle for your rights. I was born in a year when people demanded for the same rights I defend today”

Vitalina Koval

Women’s rights and LGBTIQ+ rights activist,Ukraine

Vitalina Koval is a relentless  defender of women’s rights  and LGBTI rights from Uzhgorod, Ukraine. Vitalina Koval has been central to the LGBTI community in Ukraine. She helped set up a community centre – a safe space for LGBTI people within the growing hostility of the country. Due to her activities organizing events such as Women’s day marches and other art and cultural events, she has been a target for attacks by far-right groups.

“I want to defend equality and human rights and I am not going to back out. We might struggle now, but in the end, I know we will win.”

 

Jessikka Aro

Journalist, Finland

Jessikka Aro is a Finnish award-winning investigative journalist working for Finland’s public service broadcaster Yle. In September 2014, she began to investigate pro-Russian Internet trolls, but became a victim of their activities herself. This harassment led to three people being convicted in October 2018. In 2019 she was notified that Aro was to receive an International Women of Courage Award but this was rescinded just before the ceremony.

In 2014 Aro started to investigation pro-Kremlin social media troll techniques. Her work focuses on how trolls from Russia are influencing debate in other countries which is putting her at the center of the ‘fake news’ and ‘trolling’ worlds. Currently Aro is writing an investigative book about the Kremlin’s information warfare and trains reporters and the general public to recognize and counter online disinformation. Aro is also lobbying for better legislation to counter hybrid threats and protect citizens from state-sponsored online security threats. Due to her work, Aro is a target for international propaganda and hate speech.

Aro is especially concerned with how trolls are unduly influencing citizens within her own country and how this disinformation is being spread unknowingly through social media sharing. Her work is routinely used in the investigation of online trolling, of a propaganda or political nature and her voice is now spreading far beyond her native Finland.

“Fake news from Russia and the propaganda trolls are a threat to freedom speech and to all human rights. They are also a threat to the national security of West. This is why, the phenomenon must be stopped. Human rights belong to people, not trolls.”

 

Sirpa Pietikäinen

Member of the European Parliament, Finland

Sirpa Pietikäinen, M.Sc. Econ. is Finnish Member of the European Parliament representing European People’s Party (EPP) since 2008. Pietikäinen was Finland’s Minister of Environment in between 1991 and 1995 and a Member of the Finnish Parliament from 1983 to 2003.

At the European Parliament, Pietikäinen is Member of the Environment and Public Health Committee (ENVI) and substitute Member in the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON), and in the Women’s Right and Gender Equality Committee (FEMM).

She is a keen advocate of people´s rights, vice president in Parliament´s LGBTI intergroup and member in the interest group on Women´s and girl´s rights.

Eve Geddie, Head of Amnesty International European Institutions Office and Director of Advocacy

Frank Johansson, Director of Amnesty Finland

Registration

Women human rights defenders

Women human rights defenders (WHRDs) are both women who defend the human rights of all and individuals of all genders who defend the rights of women.

In every region of the world, WHRDs face forms of gender-based violence in addition to the attacks other HRDs might face, including sexual violence, and threats, harassment and defamation campaigns linked to their status as women. WHRDs are frequently targeted not only because of their activism but also because of their gender and their activities are repeatedly delegitimized and denigrated.

Many of them operate in an environment of blatant hostility against the interests they promote. Those who challenge gender stereotypes and who work on issues like sexual and reproductive health and rights or defend more widely the human rights of women and girls, are often especially vulnerable to gender-based attacks and threats.

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