IFOR's Branch in Madagascar, Fikambanana Entanin’ny Fampihavanana eto MADAGASIKARA (FIEFA) celebrated its 25th anniversary recently. The anniversary was held in the village of St. François of Antananarivo. The association chose as it's theme "La force ne vaut pas la vertu" or "force is not worth the cost of virtue." The anniversary was an opportunity for members of FIEFA to consider the moral importance of the movement's values and to renew the commitment to promote active nonviolence and peace.
Stacey Mitchell of IFOR's International Committee joined leaders from FOR-USA in Charlottesville this weekend as they gathered with thousands to send a message of love in opposition to the expressions of hatred and bigotry that permeated the U.S. city. White Supremacists and Neo-Nazis gathered in Charlottesville to demonstrate their opposition to the removal of a statue honoring the general that lead the army of the Southern States during the U.S. Civil War.
Several national and international media outlets covered the events in Charlottesville and FOR-USA posted several images and videos to it's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FORUSA/
July 03-28, 2017 IFOR's Representatives to the United Nations in Geneva attended the 120th Session of the Human Rights Committee. This synopsis is taken from notes provided by IFOR's Fellow in Geneva, Martina Lanza.
The HR Committee reviewed the implementation of civilian and political rights in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Honduras, Mongolia and Swaziland. IFOR attended the meetings on Switzerland, Honduras and Mongolia reviews.
From June 6-23 IFOR's Representatives in Geneva attended the 35th Session of the UN Human Rights Council. IFOR's Representatives Derek Brett, Hans Ulrich Gerber and IFOR Fellow Martina Lanza worked with IFOR's members and contacts around the world to provide make oral statements, submit written statements and host side events during the council.
FOR Peace Presence International Accompanier
Fellowship of Reconciliation Peace Presence (FORPP) is a non-governmental organization dedicated to providing safety, political visibility and solidarity to communities and individuals at risk in Colombia who are working to promote human rights, peace and justice. In addition to providing ongoing physical accompaniment to our partners, we also provide political accompaniment through meetings with Colombian civil and military officials as well as embassies, UN and other international officials. We provide visibility for these struggles through delegations, speaking tours, publications and an online presence, building bridges between communities in the global North and South on issues important to both.
FORPP is supported by several branches of IFOR and is an active part of the IFOR community. For more information or if you are interested in becoming an international accompanier, click here.
The European Branches of IFOR gathered in Vienna, Austria from April 28th to April 30 to share work and collaborate on the common problems of violence in Europe. Discussions included Security and Disarmament, Campaigns for Nuclear Disarmament, Migration, Refugees, Social Inclusion, and Peace Education. They were joined by IFOR's Honorary President Hildegard Goss-Mayr who spoke with the group and offered words of counsel and encouragement.
The branches released a statement at the conclusion of the meeting...
On April 8th, IFOR's branch in the United States issued a statement in response to U.S. military action in Syria. While acknowledging the horror of the chemical weapons attack on civilians, FOR called upon its members to contact the White House to express their disapproval of military response to the crisis in Syria. The statement calls upon the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. just days after the commemoration of his assassination and his famous statement against the Vietnam War one year earlier.
The statement says "The logic that a military strike, even a limited one, will deter and quell aggression from the Assad regime, or the armed resistance, or the movement of Al-Qaeda believed to be in Syria, is fundamentally flawed. In violent escalation, both sides respond in turn with their own escalation of use of arms and aggressive attacks. We are already seeing the rumbling of this in Russia’s pronouncement of the strike as “an act of aggression.” As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can't murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can't establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can't murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.”
To read the full statement click here.
IFOR Members in Israel are fighting the forced displacement of Bedouin Communities in the Negev. They are asking for support by calling on people of conscience around the world to sign a letter to Israel's Prime Minister. Please click here to sign the petition.
IFOR members write: "In 1949, Israel evicted the Bedouin tribe Abu Al Qi'an from its lands in Wadi Zabbālih in the northern Negev. In 1956, the Israeli government settled the tribe in Umm Al Hiran and Atir in the north‐east region of the Negev. However, the government never granted these localities official recognition. Now, more than sixty years later, the government of Israel has ruled to evict its Bedouin citizens from Umm Al Hiran and settle Jewish citizens there instead, in a new Jewish town be called "Hiran." Please sign the petition, addressed to Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, calling upon him to prevent this outrage of evicting Bedouin citizens in order to settle Jewish citizens in their place."
In March of 2017 IFOR's representatives in Geneva engaged two important UN Human Rights bodies: the Human Rights Council (34th session) and the Human Rights Committee (119th session).
During the Human Rights Council session, IFOR delivered seven oral statements addressing critical concerns of IFOR members around the world. IFOR spoke to situations in Colombia, Eritrea, Turkey, and Western Sahara in particular as well as issues of torture and the forced recruitment of child soldiers in general.
On March 22, during the general debate following the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights' report on the situation of Human Rights in Colombia, IFOR delivered a statement that spoke to the experiences of its members in Colombia.
The statement was delivered by IFOR Fellow Martina Lanza and it underlined our concern for the ongoing attacks against human rights defenders and on the militarization of the country, even after the peace accords. To read the full statement please click here.
(video of the remarks can be viewed here).
IFOR has deep relationships with human rights defenders in Colombia. IFOR is represented in Colombia by SERPAJ-Colombia and IFOR branches from Sweden, Austria, U.S., and the U.K. work collaboratively to provide protective accompaniment to human rights defenders in several regions of the country. The coordinated work of IFOR Austria, U.S. and U.K. is organized as FOR Peace Presence. IFOR members have accompanied the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó for the past 15 years.
Amid escalating violence, IFOR's Branch in South Sudan, the Organization for Nonviolence and Development (ONAD) joined a coalition of organizations who have responded to the call for National Dialogue issued by South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Mayardit.
The coalition of organizations is known as "The Voluntary Civil Society Taskforce on Implementation of the Peace Agreement." It is a coalition of over 20 diverse and non-partisan South Sudanese civil society organizations and networks. The Taskforce is interested in genuine and full implementation of the Peace Agreement and a quick end to the suffering inflicted on innocent citizens of South Sudan by the political crises in the country.
During the first week of the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council, IFOR held a side event titled “Human rights in Turkey”.
The event was moderated by IFOR Fellow, Martina Lanza and featured the following panelists:
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is working on its four-year analytical report on conscientious objection to military service. The report will be introduced and opened to discussion during the June 2017 session of the Human Rights Council.
IFOR responded to the invitation of OHCHR to submit information on the topic last February. In our submission, we concentrate only on developments after 2013, because early details were comprehensively summarized in the first Quadrennial Report (A/HRC/23/22, 3rd June 2013).
Regarding to the international legal and normative framework, the submission reports developments at the UN and regional level. In the second part, it provides analyses, speaks of encouraging developments, best practices and remaining challenges at the national level.
The read the full text of IFOR's submission click here.
FOR India, has a long history of work supporting young people. Amidst rapid changes in society there has been an increase in problems effecting young people in particular. FOR India offers a brief report of its experience in hopes to encourage other IFOR members in their work to support youth:
We are sharing this based on training programs and interaction with 600 school counselors over a period of past 3 months.. This training for 600 government appointed counselors at government schools. All the counselors in 14 districts all over Kerala in batches of 50 each are given intensive training for a period of 4 days in practical hands on skills and also given inputs on the application of enacted laws.
Internationally distinguished Community Mental Health Professional and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Western Australia, Dr Mohan Issac delivered the 16th Acharya KK Chandy Commemorative oration on Saturday, 28th January 2017 at the Gurukul Ecumenical and Peace Centre Hall. Thetopic dealt with was the need to help individuals develop a mind set that enables building of a violence free world. The Visitor President of Christavashram , Rt Rev Thomas Samuel , retired Bishop, presided over the function organized by the Acharya KK Chandy Endowment Trust who said in his Presidential Address that Acharya Chandy was indeed a Christian innovator who revolutionized the concept and practice of community living.
January 15-20, IFOR’s International Coordinator visited South Sudan, at the invitation of the Organization for Nonviolence and Development (ONAD). ONAD has been a part of IFOR since 2006. The visit was primarily to express solidarity with ONAD and the South Sudanese people in this period of intense violence in the country. The IFOR International Committee (ICOM) has long sought to prioritize support for nonviolent movements in Africa. The most recent months of violence in South Sudan have caused global concerned that the country was teetering towards genocide. ICOM and the International Secretariat felt it critical to express support for ONAD and find ways to amplify their efforts in the country.
February 12, is international day against the use of child soldiers. The UN campaign #childrennotsoldiers (#enfantspassoldats) is being supported by several countries around the world. Through the work of it's Swiss Branch, IFOR began to work more closely with Junior Nzita, the goodwill ambassador for the UN campaign. Now Teenergy, a small company in Montreux, Switzerland specialized in documentary films, is finishing a 26-minute film on child soldiers and the real possibility of demobilization. Parallel to the production of the film is the development of a smartphone app by the University of Geneva. This app shall help child soldiers in process of demobilization. It is about to be used in a pilot project in Colombia. The films will be featured initially by TV5 monde in French and then in English and Spanish by other TV channels. It will be distributed free world wide through UN and various NGO channels including IFOR.
This project is called Away from Arms and IFOR is proud to be partnering with Junior Nzita and Teenergy to support the project and child soldiers around the world. IFOR is represented in the project by Hans Ulrich Gerber.
On February 12, 2017 there will be the launch of the project in Montreux Switzerland. The links below introduce the film and the event. Those near and far interested in this matter and willing to support the project are cordially invited to the event on February 12. We hope many will come and/or spread the word so it finds the necessary support to run over an initial period of 36 months.
- See here the invitation for February 12: https://vimeo.com/teenergy/invitation
- An introduction to the documentary film: https://vimeo.com/teenergy/soldat password: teenergy
Fellowship of Reconciliation Peace Presence, an effort supported by several branches of IFOR, is organizing the Longing for Peace International Delegation April 18 – 27, 2017.
FOR Peace Presence provides physical safety, political visibility and solidarity by accompanying communities and organizations that embrace active nonviolence to defend life, land and dignity.
Colombia is going through an historic but uncertain period. The results of four years of peace negotiations between the government and the FARC-a comprehensive agreement on five areas related to the conflict-was rejected by voters in October 2016 by the narrowest of margins. The Colombian Congress later approved the agreement on November 30th. Amid the hope of what the agreement means concerns about the future of implementation remain.
The delegation will meet with local human rights defenders; human rights and environmental NGOs' women peace leaders; young Conscientious Objectors; Afro-Colombian, indigenous and small scale farmer leaders; and displaced communities. The delegates will learn about the impacts of corporations, and how global demand for energy is devastating communities and destroying vital ecosystems.
For more information about FORPP or the delegation please visit their website here.
IFOR's Main Representative to the UN in Geneva, Derek Brett, submitted a report on Eritrea to the 119th Session of the Human Rights Committee. The report specifically focused on matters of military service, conscientious objection and related human rights concerns in Eritrea.
From the Report:
Of all the world's states, Eritrea is the only one in which military service issues are widely considered to be one of the major human rights concerns. Both men and women are subject to conscription; since 2002, under a situation of general mobilization, the period of service has been prolonged indefinitely. Forced recruitment and abusive treatment within the military are widespread. The right of conscientious objection is not recognized; the only way to escape enlistment is to leave the country. Travel restrictions however mean that few citizens are able to do this legally, and it is believed that a “shoot to kill” policy is in place to prevent persons crossing the border clandestinely. Nevertheless, almost throughout its independent existence Eritrea has, proportionate to population, suffered one of the largest refugee outflows in the world.
To read the full report click here.
Conscientious Objector Alert
Addressing urgent need for reform
On November 19th The European Bureau for Conscientious Objection, EBCO, presented its Annual Report 2016 on Conscientious Objection in Europe on Saturday 19/11/2016 in Athens, Greece. Each year, the report is carried out under the auspices of IFOR. EBCO decided to organize this Annual Report presentation in Greece because in less than a year three different international human rights instruments (the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Human Rights Committee, and the European Court of Human Rights) have pointed out serious violations of human rights of Greek conscientious objectors. This highlights Greece’s urgent need for legislative reform on conscientious objection, in order to comply with international human rights law and standards.
In his foreword Friedhelm Schneider, EBCO President, points to some gleams of light amid the darkness:
- In January 2016 an amnesty was pronounced for all Greek objectors who had declared their objection before 1998 when the current law on conscientious objection entered into force. No compensation, however, was granted for all fines and prison sentences imposed to this group of early objectors.
- Supported by an international network of solidarity and lobby work the Ukrainian journalist and conscientious objector Ruslan Kotsaba was acquitted in July 2016. He had been arrested in February 2015 because of his appeal to refuse a mobilization that would lead to fratricide.
- In Rojava, Kurdish region where a many years long struggle is being waged against ISIS, the right of conscientious objection has been recognized by the government of the Cizre canton in April 2016.
After its General Assemblies held in London (14 May 2016) and in Athens (19 November 2016) the European Bureau of Conscientious Objection expresses once more its concern that the credibility of international Human rights institutions on the European and United Nations level will strongly be damaged if the implementation of their resolutions and judgements cannot be achieved. It will consequently stay an important task for human rights NGOs to remind national governments of their responsibility to publicize and to execute the binding requests of international Human rights institutions.
Click here to read the full EBCO 2016 report in detail.