During the Session, IFOR hosted a group of ten human rights activists from Mexico, Colombia, South Sudan, and Western Sahara, brought to Geneva through their partnership with the SweFOR, IFOR's Swedish branch.
Representing a variety of different organizations in countries facing similar yet distinct challenges to human rights, the activists experienced a week of training on the various ways in which the work of the United Nations in Geneva can help to protect human rights on the ground. They attended debates in the Human Rights Council and watched it adopt the Report on the review of a member state under the Universal Periodic Review; they met with staff of the High Commissioner's Office working with some of the Council's special procedures, and heard how these take up complaints about human rights violations sent to them by activists in country; they saw two of the ten “treaty bodies” - the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Committee on the Rights of the Child – questioning delegations from a “state party”. Some met with the World Council Churches – also based in Geneva – and the Lutheran World Federation; meanwhile the rest of the party met with other leading ngos – Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and also with UPR-Info and the CCPR Centre - ngos with the specific purpose of facilitating the access of in-country activists to specific UN procedures (the Universal Periodic Review and the Human Rights Committee, which oversees the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, respectively).
Monday, 26 October 2015 seven activists connected to IFOR’s Belgian branch Agir Pour La Paix appeared in court to face criminal charges for their action on February 11, 2012 to denounce the presence of nuclear weapons on Belgian soil.
The courtroom in Mons was packed with supporters of the Bombspotters, including 3 members of IFOR Germany who traveled to show their support. The IFOR International Coordinator was also there to express solidarity with the Bombspotters. Over 50 Belgian and international organizations have expressed support for the Bombspotters and the importance of their act of civil disobedience.
Working closely with the IFOR members in the Netherlands and Belgium, the International Secretariat launched a new project to support the efforts of its members to encourage reconciliation in their societies by challenging racism, xenophobia, and other forms of discrimination and social alienation. The project seeks to promote nonviolence as a means of addressing the structural violence that these social ills represent. The name of the project is inspired by the phrase “Beloved Community” made popular by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who was a member of IFOR’s branch in the United States.
On Thursday, September 10, 2015 The German Branch of IFOR sent the following appeal in response to the refugee situation confronting Germany and other European countries to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, German President Joachim Gauck, the group chairmen of the Bundestag as well as the prime ministers of the federal states and the Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration:
Representatives of the European branches of the IFOR gathered in Bremen, Germany April 17-19, 2015. Representatives were from Branches and Affiliates in Austria, Belgium, England, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Wales.
They were joined by Junior Nzita Nsuami from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who was forcibly recruited at the age of 10 by the rebels seeking to overthrow the Mobutu dictatorship and fought in the DRC itself and Angolafor the next 12 years before finally passing through a demobilization and reintentegration programme sponsored by the international community. He subsequently committed himself to the cause of helping those who as child soldierspassed through similar traumatic experiences; he has now been appointed a UN goodwill ambassador on the subject of child soldiers.
February 11, 2012, Seven pacifists entered into the NATO military headquarters also known as the SHAPE facility (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe), in an act of civil disobedience. The Bombspotters (Bomspotters in Dutch), as they called themselves, were there to denounce the presence of nuclear weapons on Belgian soil. They recorded their act of disobedience and posted videos of their actions on the internet. They have been issued a criminal summons to appear in court on October 26, 2015 the activists face up to five years in prison and a substantial fine.
European Court of Justice Advocate General Reinforces Rights of Refusers
In the legal case of U.S. AWOL soldier André Shepherd (37) the European Court of Justice Advocate General, Eleanor Sharpton, today published her final opinion. This official statement contains guiding deliberations for the interpretation of the so-called Qualification Directive of the European Union. Amongst other considerations, these rules state that those endangered by prosecution or punishment for refusal to perform military service involving an illegal war or commital of war crimes, should be protected by the European Union.