25 Years EuroMed Rights

October 1, 2022

Wadih Al-Asmar, President, and Rasmus Alenius Boserup, Executive Director of EuroMed Rights write about the 25th anniversary of EuroMed Rights: Since its inception, EuroMed Rights has become one of the most prominent and most active actors in the Euro-Mediterranean region on human rights protection and democracy promotion. To mark this milestone, we asked members from North and South to tell us what EuroMed Rights meant to them and their organisation. Read the interviews below There is also a dedicated 25th anniversary webpage

What a journey it has been since the network was founded in 1997. “After the establishment of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, the initiators of EuroMed Rights felt that creating some sort of platform to monitor the Barcelona Process would enhance human rights work significantly.
Kamel Jendoubi, Tunisia

Sharing our experience gives us energy, it keeps us up and running!
“I think the greatest benefit of being a member is the exchange of experience with other human rights activists, including from the North. Being a human rights defender is tough and we may find solace in sharing our experience and our highs and lows, it gives us energy, it keeps us up and running!”

Eva Abu Halaweh, Jordan

It is fundamental to make the voice of the network heard! “We always tried to bring a certain dimension on European issues, to analyse them from a different perspective. It worked and that shows how important and impactful the work of the EuroMed Rights network can be!”

Catherine Teule, France

EuroMed Rights is more than a talking shop, it’s a practice shop!
“This is a network of people and not just a network of good intentions. It’s about understanding and feeling what a denial of human rights means in people’s lives, so we can do something about it together. Very few networks in the world offer this kind of activities.”
Tony Daly, Ireland
See what current and past members have to say in this video.

https://mailchi.mp/euromedrights/a-milestone-anniversary-lets-celebrate?e=1209ebd6d8


2022 Right Livelihood Laureates announced

September 30, 2022

Recipients of the 2022 Right Livelihood Award show that systems change is not only possible but outright necessary in the face of failing governance and the breakdown of international order. For more on this and other awards, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/97238E26-A05A-4A7C-8A98-0D267FDDAD59

Hailing from Somalia, Ukraine, Venezuela and Uganda, the 2022 Laureates have each created new models for human and societal interactions that challenge the status quo. With crises stemming from authoritarian governance, international aggression, profit-seeking economic systems and political inertia to take action against a planetary climate breakdown, these change-makers have imagined a better world and work tirelessly to make it a reality.

The 2022 Laureates are:

Fartuun Adan and Ilwad Elman “for promoting peace, demilitarisation and human rights in Somalia in the face of terrorism and gender-based violence.” Among them they won quite a few awards, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/80cc3d15-775d-40bd-8591-fa921fc45f25 and https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/9D4A093D-1276-6907-739B-23CABBB12158

Oleksandra Matviichuk and the Center for Civil Liberties (CCL) “for building sustainable democratic institutions in Ukraine and modelling a path to international accountability for war crimes.” See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/03/14/side-event-on-the-ukraine-on-17-march/

Cecosesola of Venezuela “for establishing an equitable and cooperative economic model as a robust alternative to profit-driven economies.”

Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) “for their courageous work for climate justice and community rights violated by extractivist energy projects in Uganda.”

The 2022 Right Livelihood Laureates are grassroots actors dedicated to strengthening their communities. In the face of failing governance and a breakdown of order – including wars, terrorism, extractivism, massive displacement and economic crises – they have established new, human-centric systems. Their successes demonstrate how we can build societies on the principles of justice rather than exploitation,” said Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director at Right Livelihood.

Find more information in our Press Kit.

Find more information on the Laureates here.

https://rightlivelihood.org/2022-announcement/


Three shortlisted for the 2022 Václav Havel Prize of the Council of Europe

September 27, 2022

On 6 September 2022 the selection panel of the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize [for more on this award and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/7A8B4A4A-0521-AA58-2BF0-DD1B71A25C8D] announced the shortlist for the 2022 Award.

Meeting in Prague the panel – made up of independent figures from the world of human rights and chaired by Tiny Kox, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) – decided to shortlist the following three nominees, in alphabetical order:

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Russian Federation

The nominee is a Russian politician, author and historian. He is one of the opposition leaders in the Russian Federation, and co-founder of the Russian Anti-War Committee established to oppose Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Mr Kara-Murza was arrested in April 2022 and faces up to 10 years imprisonment. [he received earlier awards: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/34e43b60-3236-11ea-b4d5-37ffeeddd006, see also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/04/14/human-rights-defender-vladimir-kara-murza-arrested-in-russia/]

Rainbow Coalition/Invalid Campaign for LGBTQIA+ rights, Hungary

The nominee is a coalition of human rights organisations, LGBTQIA+ rights groups and other civic movements. The Rainbow Coalition has been campaigning and mobilising support for the defence of LGBTQIA+ rights in Hungary.

Ukraine 5 AM Coalition

The nominee is a coalition of Ukrainian human rights organisations whose aim is to uncover, document, collect and preserve evidence, while raising awareness of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine during the ongoing war of aggression by the Russian Federation.

Announcing the panel’s choice, the PACE President said that the Council of Europe has worked since its creation to safeguard freedom, the rule of law and social justice on the continent. “Every year, the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize celebrates concrete, courageous and determined action by women, men and organisations who defend human rights. Their courage and determination in standing up for basic principles of justice and fairness deserve our profound respect and gratitude,” he added.

https://pace.coe.int/en/news/8797/three-candidates-shortlisted-for-the-2022-vaclav-havel-prize


Call for an EU Visa framework for At-Risk Human Rights Defenders

September 24, 2022

ProtectDefenders.eu and the great many undersigned NGOs are convinced that with political will and clear guidelines, the EU can and should return to its political mandate in favour of human rights and human rights defenders, and lead on the implementation of concrete initiatives, good practises, and policy changes to ensure that at-risk human rights defenders can access European Union visas with guarantees, security, and predictability.

More specifically, they call on the EU stakeholders to:
i) propose a specific facilitated procedure for human rights defenders within the EU Visa Code, setting common criteria and defining the elements of a facilitated procedure;
ii) include instructions in the EU Visa Handbook on granting facilitations to HRDs and their family members,
iii) work towards amending the legal instruments on visas, particularly the Visa Code, and
iv) introduce amendments to the Temporary Protection Directive that allow temporary protection status in the EU to be granted to defenders at risk.


Furthermore, they call on the EU Member States to implement consistent policies and guidelines to recognise the right of human rights defenders to access visas; as well as to promote the exhaustive use of their current prerogatives to urgently guarantee access to visas for those facing severe threats and risks.


ProtectDefenders.eu is the European
Union Human Rights Defenders
mechanism, led by a Consortium of 12
NGOs active in the field of Human Rights:
• Asian Forum for Human Rights and
Development (FORUM-ASIA)
• DefendDefenders – East and Horn of Africa
Human Rights Defenders Project
• Euro-Mediterranean Foundation Of
Support To Human Rights Defenders
(EMHRF)
• ESCR-Net
• Front Line Defenders
• ILGA World
• Peace Brigades International
• Protection International
• Reporters Without Borders
• The International Federation for Human
Rights (FIDH)
• The World Organisation Against Torture
(OMCT)
• Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human
Rights (UAF)
This initiative is supported by:
• AfricanDefenders
• Amnesty International
• Araminta
• Artist Protection Fund
• Artists at Risk (AR)
• Asociación Zehar-Errefuxiatuekin
• Brot für die Welt
• Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
• Center for Applied Human Rights (CAHR),
University of York
• Civil Rights Defenders
• Comissió Catalana d’Ajuda al Refugiat
(CCAR)
• Defenders in Dordrecht (DiD)
• Docip (Indigenous Peoples’ Center for
Documentation, Research and Information)
• European Center for Press and Media
Freedom (ECPMF)
• Fédération internationale des ACAT /
International Federation of ACAT (FIACAT)
• Freedom House
• Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
• Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
• Hamburg Foundation for politically
persecuted persons
• Heinrich-Boell-Stiftung (hbs)
• Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF)
• Human Rights House Tbilisi
• Humanists International
• Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Mujeres
Defensoras de Derechos Humanos
• International Arts Rights Advisors (IARA)
• International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN)
• International Partnership for Human
Rights (IPHR)
• International Service for Human Rights
(ISHR)
• Justice & Peace
• Mundubat
• Open Society Foundations (OSF)
• PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC)
• Pen International
• Réseau de Défenseurs des Droits Humains
de l’Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)
• Scholars at Risk
• Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders
Network
• Tbilisi Shelter City
• Un Ponte Per
• Unit for the Protection of Human Rights
Defenders of Guatemala


Shelter City and Artists’ Safe Haven; a call for applications

September 24, 2022

Justice & Peace Netherlands is launching a new call for applications for its initiatives: Shelter City and Artists’ Safe Haven initiative. The deadline for applications for both initiatives is 2 October 2022 at 23:59 CET. Please note that special conditions may apply due to COVID-19.

Shelter City is a global movement of cities, organizations and people who stand side by side with human rights defenders at risk. Shelter City provides temporary safe and inspiring spaces for human rights defenders at risk where they re-energise, receive tailor-made support and engage with allies. The term human rights defender is intended to refer to the broad range of activists, journalists and independent media professionals, scholars, writers, artists, lawyers, civil and political rights defenders, civil society members, and others working to advance human rights and democracy around the world in a peaceful manner. From March 2023 onwards, several cities in the Netherlands will receive human rights defenders for a period of three months. At the end of their stay in the Netherlands, participants are expected to return with new tools and energy to carry out their work at home. For last year see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/04/20/shelter-city-netherlands-call-for-applications-for-september-2022/

Artists’ Safe Haven initiative

Through its Artists’ Safe Haven initiative, Justice & Peace Netherlands aims to contribute to the promotion of freedom of artistic expression globally, including the right to create art, admire it, critique it, challenge it, be provoked by it, and respond to it free of governmental censorship, political interference or the pressures of non-state actors. Through the provision of temporary relocation and tailor-made support for artists at risk, Justice & Peace aims to promote the safety of these artists, and in particular women artists, worldwide so that they can build new strategies and continue their important work for freedom of artistic expression in their country of origin. With support from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Justice & Peace will be able to provide three temporary safe spaces in The Hague in March, June or September 2023 for artists or art practitioners at risk.

https://7a2pv.r.a.d.sendibm1.com/mk/mr/K_x49f0_LN6hMWyukmyZin_8nFjvyvxEZ64oBYmy0mcrornzARhZf2MMVMohYTcigMvb7fOgyE8_v0NpVjJ007RkNxvaOwa970jiH0-_rgbyYyAtoTgTtlTVcOhkQ5AFqLqJihg


Applications open for the Global Advocacy Learning Programme on Human Rights and Development #GALP2022

September 22, 2022


On 22 September 2022 Forum Asia announced the Call for Applications for its “Global Advocacy Learning Programme on Human Rights and Development” which provides a comprehensive set of knowledge and skills to human rights and development activists. Extremely qualified and experienced facilitators, as well as international experts, will guide the participants through the most relevant and pressing issues related to human rights and development. The participants will learn and engage in interactive sessions throughout the 7-day programme touching upon, among others, human rights advocacy and mechanisms at national, regional, and international level, business and human rights, gender, and environment. All participants will receive high-quality reading and training materials. All sessions will be conducted in English.

Dates and Venue

The fourth edition of the Global Advocacy Learning Programme on Human Rights and Development will take place in Thailand from 29 November to 5 December 2022. Details about the venue will be communicated to all confirmed participants.

Participants

Participants from all over Asia are expected to participate in the fourth edition of the Global Advocacy Learning Programme on Human Rights and Development. Their participation will be fully covered by FORUM-ASIA. Participants will be selected based on the following criteria:

  • Genuine interest in issues related to human rights/sustainable development/gender/environment
  • Being currently employed or actively partner with a national, regional or international civil society organization and/or community-based group;
  • Preferably 3 years working experience in organisations addressing issues related to human rights/ development/environment/gender (applicants with less than 3 years will be considered on an exceptional basis);
  • Excellent command of English, both spoken and written.

Only those selected will be contacted.

All interested applicants should apply promptly by submitting the duly filled application Online Application Form by Friday 7 October 2022.

For more information, email globalacademy@forum-asia.org


Rafto Prize 2022 to Nodjigoto Charbonnel of Chad

September 22, 2022

The Rafto Prize 2022 is awarded to Nodjigoto Charbonnel and his organization Association Jeunesse pour la Paix et la Non-Violence (AJPNV), “Youth for peace”, for their courageous struggle to abolish torture in Chad as well as internationally. In the context of authoritarianism, terrorism, war on terror and institutionalized violence, and at great personal risk, Charbonnel and his team assist survivors in rebuilding their lives after torture, and advocate the protection of human rights, and the prevention
of torture and sexual violence by providing human rights education for youth and civil society.

For more on this award and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/A5043D5E-68F5-43DF-B84D-C9EF21976B18.
Since the year 2000, AJPNV has conducted programs for the rehabilitation of victims of torture, the promotion of peace and non-violence and the prevention of torture in Chad. The need is overwhelming: in 2021, the organization treated 575 torture survivors. AJPNV provides medical, psychological, and legal support, free of charge, to victims of torture and sexual violence to reduce its somatic, psychological, and social harm. They assist the reintegration of victims of sexual violence through vocational training and prevent torture through education on the effects of torture on the individual and on the society.

Nodjigoto Charbonnel became familiar with the long-term harm and suffering caused by torture after his father survived mistreatment by state authorities. This experience motivated Charbonnel to found AJPNV. For 8 years he worked as an engineer at an international oil and gas production company, but in 2012 they terminated his contract because of his human rights work.
Charbonnel serves as the Sub-Saharan Africa Council member of the International Rehabilitation
Council for Torture Victims and as a regional leader of the Global Human Rights Project. Due to his work, Charbonnel has been detained and imprisoned three times. He and his family have also suffered harassment by state agents. Despite the political repression, Charbonnel and his AJPNV team maintain a clear voice for the victims of torture and sexual violence: “We reaffirm our commitment to shed light on those who commit torture, to expose their violation, to prevent future acts of torture, to ensure justice

https://www.rafto.no/en/news/raftoprisen-til-nodjigoto-charbonnel

see also: https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/09/23/chad-security-force-abuse-amid-national-dialogue


Report on the 50th Session of the UN HRC

September 20, 2022

The following NGOs made a joint statement on the 50th session of the UN Human Rights Council:  International Service for Human Rights; Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA); ARTICLE 19; DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project); CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation; Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI); International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI); The Global Interfaith Network (GIN SSOGIE NPC); World Uyghur Congress; Gulf Centre for Human Rights; Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; Child Rights Connect; Access Now; Association for Progressive Communications (APC); IFEX; Human Rights House Foundation; FIDH.

We welcome the resolution on discrimination against women and girls which focused on girls’ activism. This strong text regrettably faced a series of amendments which challenged the very notion of children, especially of girls and adolescents as rights holders, and sought to deny women and girls their agency.  The amendments are a continuation of a trend of hostile arguments and rhetoric on issues of gender, autonomy of women and girls and participation, which is coalescing and increasing in an alarming fashion. We are deeply concerned by the coordinated and targeted attacks against the rights of women, girls, LGBTIQ+ people and marginalized communities which aim at undermining sexual and reproductive rights and the right to bodily autonomy.  We are also concerned by recurrent attacks against children’s rights, which specifically question their right to participate and express their views freely and their rights as human rights defenders. We urge this Council to abide by its mandate to uphold the strongest human rights standards for all and to resist any retrogression that would have deep and harmful impact on those affected. 

We welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity for the second time, and the successful opposition of 12 out of 13 hostile amendments presented. 1,256 non-governmental organisations from 149 States and territories in all regions supported a campaign to renew the mandate. This was the first time this Council explicitly condemned legislation that criminalises consensual same-sex conducts and diverse gender identities, and called on States to amend discriminatory legislation and combat violence on the grounds on SOGI. This renewal once again reaffirms this Council’s commitment to combating discrimination and violence on the grounds of SOGI.

We welcome the resolution on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. At a time when civic space urgently needs to be protected and defended, we welcome that the resolution addressed substantive concerns, including access to funding, which is increasingly an existential threat to civil society worldwide.

We welcome that the resolution on peaceful protest reiterates that protests are a fundamental aspect of participation in public affairs, and highlights that people from marginalized communities can be particularly vulnerable to unlawful use of force. We regret that language urging a landmark moratorium on surveillance technology that could be used to violate human rights during protests was lost during negotiations. Hostile amendments calling for obligations to be imposed on protest organisers were overwhelmingly rejected. We now call on states to ensure accountability for excessive use of force which has been all too prevalent in protests worldwide, and urge future resolutions to strengthen this core issue.

We welcome the new resolution on freedom of opinion of expression, which reiterates that this vital right is one of the essential foundations of democratic societies and an important indicator of the level of protection of other human rights and freedoms. We particularly welcome new guidance related to the theme of digital, media and information literacy, which enables the full enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression. However, we strongly encourage the core group to ensure that future iterations of the resolution address core challenges to the right to freedom of expression which have been overlooked, including criminal defamation laws and strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs).

We welcome the approval of the resolution on the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, jurors and assessors, and the independence of lawyers, its focus on participation of women in the administration of justice, and the enhanced gender approach. This is a timely and crucial focus for this Council.

We welcome the Council’s approval of the resolution on the  importance of casualty recording for the promotion and protection of human rights that reaffirms the importance of the right to truth and takes note of key international standards for accountability, such as the updated set of principles for the protection and promotion of human rights through action to combat impunity[1] and the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, and the Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death.

We welcome the resolution on human rights and the regulation of civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms’ focus on business and human rights – which we hope will contribute to ensuring that States and manufacturers and dealers of firearms undertake participatory, gender-responsive human rights impacts assessments, and ensuring mandatory human rights due diligence (HRDD) requirements for the arms sector based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. We regret that important notions of patterns of structural discrimination have been reduced to discrimination rooted in negative stereotypes.

We welcome  the urgent debate on women and girls in Afghanistan and urge the Council to ensure that it remains accessible and responds adequately to the demands and needs of women human rights defenders from the country. It is imperative that this Council continues to ensure access and engagement of women human rights defenders, women political leaders and survivors and takes all necessary measures to address and ensure accountability for gender apartheid in Afghanistan. While welcoming the resolution, we regret the lack of inclusion of NGO suggestions for more specific investigation and reporting operational language that would have mandated the High Commissioner to look into the specific situation of women and girls in Afghanistan. We strongly encourage that future resolutions regarding the situation address the core issue of accountability, which has been overlooked in resolutions passed by the Council to date.

We welcome the latest resolution on Belarus, which extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. Since the previous version of this resolution was passed at HRC47, the human rights situation in Belarus has significantly deteriorated, with all independent human rights organisations in Belarus forcibly liquidated, and many human rights defenders indefinitely detained or imprisoned.

We welcome the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, who plays an essential role in documenting violations Eritrean authorities commit at home and abroad. We stress the need for the HRC to adopt resolutions that fully reflect the situation in the country and fully describe and condemn violations.

The United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Libya (FFM)  presented their latest report to the UN Human Rights Council only  days after protestors in Libya stormed the countries parliament and other government buildings.   Their report details gross human rights violations committed by armed groups and government forces throughout the country, including allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes.   Despite these findings the UN Human Rights Council has  adopted a resolution drafted by Libya that only allows the investigation to continue for a  “final, non-extendable period of nine months.” NGOs have called on states to ensure that UN monitoring is maintained as long as gross human rights violations and abuses continue to be carried out in Libya with impunity.  By creating an abbreviated operational time frame and pre-emptively dismissing the possibility of renewing the FFMs mandate – the resolution adopted by this Council sends a dangerous message to armed groups in the country that the international community lacks the will to ensure a  sustained and serious accountability process. For these reasons, and in light of recent events in Libya,  we urge member states of the Human Rights Council to  work to ensure the  FFM is preserved or an alternative mechanism is created that will sufficiently respond to the long-standing and urgent need to protect victims and end impunity in Libya beyond March 2023. Failure to do so will only encourage more violence and hamper efforts to ensure a sustainable peace.

We note the approval of the resolution on the situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar. Rohingyas and other minorities in Myanmar continue to be victims of gross human rights violations, including crimes under international law, and it is important their plight  remains at the centre of this Council’s attention. We regret however that the resolution fails to recognise the gravity of the situation on the ground and calls for the immediate “voluntary” return of Rohingya to Myanmar despite the complete absence of the conditions for safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return in the country, as confirmed by the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar.

We welcome the report of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) which emphasized Israel’s systematic discrimination, and stressed its strategic geographic, social and political fragmentation of the Palestinian people. The report addressed the lack of accountability and compliance with recommendations made by previous UN bodies, including commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions, addressing the failure of third States to uphold their obligations under international law. In the interactive dialogue, the CoI responded to the joint statement by the United States of America questioning the validity of the CoI mandate, by exposing the double standards when it comes to holding Israel accountable. Commissioners also reiterated the overwhelming support for the mandate, including during the interactive dialogue. We call on States to continue to support this important accountability mechanism and ensure the CoI has sufficient resources to discharge its mandate.

The outcome on Sudan that was achieved at this session is the best possible outcome that could be achieved by consensus. As the de facto authorities and security forces continue to kill protesters peacefully demanding civilian rule, however, consensus cannot be the Council’s only guide. We stress the need for long-term scrutiny of Sudan, beyond what resolution 50/L.14/Rev.1 has requested. The Council should keep all options on the table to expose and respond to the situation.

We regret that the Council failed to respond to several human rights situations.

In Cameroon, as the crisis in the North-West and South-West regions continues, with violations committed by all sides, including recently unspeakable atrocities committed by armed separatists, and grave violations continue to be reported in the Far North and in the rest of the country, particularly against independent and opposition voices, it is essential for the Council to follow up on its joint statement of March 2019. This is all the more important since both the African Union and the UN Security Council have been silent on what remains one of the most serious human rights crises on the African continent.

We welcome the joint statement by 47 States expressing serious concern at the human rights situation in China, including in the Uyghur region (Xinjiang), Hong Kong and Tibet, and echo the call for the prompt release of the High Commissioner’s long-overdue report on the serious violations in Xinjiang. The High Commissioner, or her successor, should present her report upon release in an intersessional briefing to the Human Rights Council. 42 Special Procedures experts have also reiterated their call for the creation of a UN-mandated mechanism to ‘monitor, analyse and report annually on the human rights situation in China’, underlining the importance for the credibility of the UN system to ‘ensure a consistent UN approach to all States.’ In its September session, the Council should take action on the basis of objective information from the UN system – namely the OHCHR Xinjiang report, Special Procedures concerns, and the upcoming Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee’s ongoing review of Hong Kong – with a view to establish a space for formal discussion of the human rights situation in China. 

The continued silence of this Council on the critical human rights situation in Egypt is of great concern.  As Egypt prepares to host COP 27 it continues to carry out  widespread and systematic violations of human rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association. Almost all independent media has been forced to shut down or threatened into silence.  100s of websites continue to be banned.  Thousands of civil society and media representatives have been and continue to be  disappeared, tortured and/or arbitrarily detained under the pretence of counter-terrorism and national security. This includes well known blogger and democracy activist Alaa Abdel Fattah – recently  sentenced to an additional 5 years in prison by an exceptional court.  His crime?  Advocating for democracy and rights.  He is currently approaching day 100 of a hunger strike. We urge this Council and its Special Procedures to take action to protect and ensure the release of Mr. Fattah and the thousands of others like him in Egypt.  

There have been strong calls from international and Russian civil society for Russia to be on the formal agenda of the Human Rights Council since the beginning of 2021.  A recent further intensification of human rights violations in Russia has led to calls for the HRC to mandate a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Russian Federation. While the joint statement signed by nearly 50 delegations at HRC50 was important, the situation now demands stronger action and we will be looking for the HRC to take action at the next session.

See also: July 11, 2022 Blog, Blog, Uncategorized, URG Human Rights Council Reports

https://ishr.ch/latest-updates/hrc50-civil-society-presents-key-takeaways-from-human-rights-council/


#EndReprisals campaign continues throughout HRC 51

September 20, 2022

Human rights defenders promote dignity, fairness, peace and justice in their homes, workplaces, communities and countries. They challenge governments that fail to respect and protect their people, corporations that degrade and destroy the environment, and institutions that perpetuate privilege and patriarchy. For many, the United Nations (UN) is the last arena in which they can confront abuses. 

Human rights defenders must be able to share crucial information and perspectives with the UN safely and unhindered. Yet some States try to escape international scrutiny by raising obstacles – such as intimidation and reprisals – aimed at creating fear and systematically hindering defenders’ access to and cooperation with human rights mechanisms. See my post of today: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/09/20/human-rights-defenders-at-the-51st-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/

This needs to change! Join the campaign of the International Service for Human Rights today so human rights defenders have a seat at the UN table.

What can you do? ISHR and partners have worked to support individual defenders and organisations that have endured multiple forms of reprisals and intimidation. Take action for them now and help #EndReprisals!

Here are two quick, impactful actions you can take:

Write to State representatives at the UN and urge them to take up cases from Belarus, Burundi, China, Egypt, and Venezuela
Click to tweet a message in solidarity with the individuals or groups described in a specific case:

 Tweet for Viasna in Belarus

Tweet for human rights lawyers in Burundi

Tweet for Jiang Tianyong in China

Tweet for Ibrahim Metwally Hegazy in Egypt

Tweet for NGOs in Venezuela

Join the campaign


Human rights defenders at the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council

September 20, 2022

The 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council has started well and good on 12 September and will last until 7 October. I am awfully delayed in extracting from the – as always excellent – guide – produced by the team of the ISHR – the issues most directly affecting human rights defenders. Apologies.

Readthe full Alert to the session online here and to stay up-to-date, follow @ISHRglobal and #HRC51 on Twitter. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/09/15/new-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-volker-turk-the-man-for-an-impossible-job/

Throughout the session ISHR is calling on States to #EndReprisals against human rights defenders and civil society groups who engage with the United Nations!

Some Thematic areas

Reprisals On 29 September, Ilze Brands Kehris, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights will present the Secretary-General’s annual report on Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights (also known as ‘the Reprisals Report’) to the Council in her capacity as UN senior official on reprisals. The presentation of the report will be followed by a dedicated interactive dialogue, as mandated by the September 2017 resolution on reprisals. ISHR remains deeply concerned about reprisals against civil society actors who engage or seek to engage with UN bodies mechanisms. The dedicated dialogue is a key opportunity for States to raise concerns about specific cases of reprisals and demand that Governments provide an update on any investigation or action taken toward accountability. An increasing number of States have raised concerns in recent sessions about individual cases of reprisals, including in Egypt, Nicaragua, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Bahrain, Yemen, Burundi, China and Venezuela, Egypt, Burundi, Lao and China, Belarus, Iran, Turkmenistan, and the Philippines. During its 48th session, the Council adopted a resolution on reprisals. The text, which was adopted by consensus, invited the UN Secretary-General to submit an annual report on reprisals and intimidation to the UN General Assembly. Once again, the resolution listed key trends including that acts of intimidation and reprisals can signal patterns, increasing self-censorship, and the use of national security arguments and counter-terrorism strategies by States as justification for blocking access to the UN. The resolution also acknowledged the specific risks to individuals in vulnerable situations or belonging to marginalised groups, and called on the UN to implement gender-responsive policies to end reprisals. The Council called on States to combat impunity by conducting prompt, impartial and independent investigations and ensuring accountability for all acts of intimidation or reprisal, both online and offline, by condemning all such acts publicly, providing access to effective remedies for victims, and preventing any recurrence.

Other thematic reports At this 51st session, the Council will discuss a range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and issues through dedicated debates, including

Special Rapporteur on truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence

Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences 

Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order.

Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes 

In addition, the Council will hold dedicated debates on the rights of specific groups including with the: Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The Council will also consider various other reports, see the full list here.  

Country-specific developments
Afghanistan The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan and enhanced interactive dialogue on the human rights situation of women and girls in Afghanistan on 12 September. While a Special Rapporteur mandate is necessary to monitor and report on the human rights situation in Afghanistan, the dire situation in the country and the atrocities affecting women and girls warrant a more robust and systematic response. ISHR together with other NGOs call on the Council to establish in parallel an ongoing accountability mechanism with the specific mandate: To investigate all alleged violations and abuses of human rights law amounting to crimes under international law in Afghanistan, in particular against women and girls, To collect, consolidate and analyse evidence of such violations and abuses, including their gender dimension, and to systematically record and preserve all information, documentation and evidence, including interviews, witness testimony and forensic material, consistent with international law standards, in view of any future legal proceedings; To document and verify relevant information and evidence, including through field engagement, and to cooperate with judicial and other entities, national and international, as appropriate; To identify, where possible, those individuals and entities responsible for all alleged violations and abuses of human rights law amounting to crimes under international law in Afghanistan, in particular against women and girls, with a view to ensuring that those responsible are held accountable.

China  Despite significant pressure, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) has published its human rights assessment on the Uyghur region (Xinjiang). The report highlights ‘serious human rights violations’, including torture and sexual and gender-based violence, stressing that existing ‘highly securitised and discriminatory’ re-education camps ‘provide fertile ground for such violations to take place on a broad scale.’ The OHCHR found that the ‘arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim group […] may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.’ It also warns that ‘conditions remain in place for serious violations to continue and recur’, calling for ‘urgent attention’ by the international community.  The Human Rights Council, and all governments that are genuinely committed to rights protection globally, cannot turn a blind eye to the severity and scale of evidence verified by the UN.  In line with ‘objective criteria’ for Human Rights Council action, ISHR calls on:  The Council to hold a formal discussion on China’s human rights crisis, including the human rights situations in the Uyghur region (Xinjiang), the Tibetan region, Hong Kong, and on human rights defenders;  States to initiate and support efforts to establish an independent international mechanism to monitor and report on the human rights situation in China, in line with the call by 50 UN Special Procedures experts. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/09/01/finally-the-long-awaited-un-report-on-china/

Burundi The Council will hold an Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Burundi on 22 September.  Since the Special Rapporteur’s mandate was operationalised, the human rights situation in Burundi has not changed in a substantial or sustainable way. The limited improvements since President Évariste Ndayishimiye was sworn in, in June 2020, as well as the positive signals he sent, particularly with regard to freedom of the press and promises of justice, have not materialised into long-term reforms. All the structural issues the CoI and other human rights actors identified remain in place. These include arbitrary arrests of political opponents or those perceived as such, acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, sexual and genderbased violence, undue restrictions to freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and violations of economic, social and cultural rights that are intertwined with the economic underpinnings of the State. In the absence of structural improvements and as grave human rights violations and abuses continue to be committed with impunity, the Council should adopt a resolution that reflects realities on the ground and ensures continued monitoring, reporting, and public debates on Burundi’s human rights situation. It should grant the Special Rapporteur the time he needs to fulfill his mandate and urge Burundi to cooperate with him, including by granting him access to the country. At its 51st session, the Council should adopt a resolution that extends the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Burundi for a further year.

Egypt The continued silence of the Council on the critical human rights situation in Egypt is of great concern. As Egypt prepares to host COP27, it continues to carry out widespread and systematic violations of human rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association against Egyptian and foreign nationals.

Egyptian authorities have for years employed draconian laws, including laws on counterterrorism, cybercrimes, and civil society in order to subdue the civilian populations and stifle all forms of peaceful dissent and mobilization. Under the current government, Egypt has become among the worst three countries in the world in the numbers of jailed journalists and almost all independent media has been forced to shut down or threatened into silence. Hundreds of websites continue to be banned. Scores of civil society and media representatives have been and continue to be disappeared, tortured and/or arbitrarily detained under the pretense of counter-terrorism and national security.

While the release of a few select arbitrarily-detained activists is a sign that international pressure works, the number of releases pales in comparison to the vast numbers of individuals newly detained by the National Security Prosecution, or whose arbitrary detention has been renewed in 2022. Amongst those still in prison is well known Egyptian-British human rights defender Alaa Abdel Fattah – recently sentenced to an additional 5 years in prison by an exceptional court.  He is on hunger strike for over 150 days. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/07/07/mona-seifs-letter-a-cry-for-help-for-alaa/]We urge the Council and its Special Procedures to take action to protect and ensure the release of all those arbitrarily detained in Egypt.

Russia  Together with Russian and international human rights organisations, ISHR continues to call on the Human Rights Council to establish a dedicated international mechanism to monitor and report on the dire human rights situation in Russia. As recognised by UN human rights experts, this situation includes: the stigmatisation and criminalisation of independent civil society; the persecution of human rights defenders, peaceful protesters and political activists, including through arbitrary arrest, detention, ill-treatment and torture; the banning of independent media and the silencing of journalists; attacks against women and LGBTI persons and activists; the propagation of massive disinformation; and the systematic erosion of any semblance of the rule of law or accountability mechanisms.  As further recognised by independent UN experts, by undermining and attacking independent civil society, persecuting human rights defenders, activists, and opposition and dissenting voices, banning independent media, silencing journalists, and effectively outlawing any form of peaceful protest, the Russian authorities have created an environment that, at least in part, facilitates its war in Ukraine. The war has led to an enormous loss of civilian life, displacement of millions of Ukrainian civilians, and contributed to a global food security and energy crisis, among other developments. A dedicated Special Rapporteur mandate would independently collect, analyse and present information on the human rights situation in Russia and make recommendations to the Council and the authorities on how to address it. It would serve as a crucial lifeline between Russian human rights defenders and the international community at a time when other bridges have been cut. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/04/26/lev-ponomarev-human-rights-defender-leaves-russia/] Finally, a Special Rapporteur could speak up authoritatively against the deepening restrictions on human rights in Russia and on behalf of those facing intimidation, harassment and reprisal for their human rights work.

Israel and oPT ISHR joined over 150 organisations from all world regions demand that the international community condemns and takes action to protect seven Palestinian civil society organisations that have been subject to illegal threats, raids and closure by Israeli authorities.

On the morning of 18 August 2022, the Israeli occupying forces (IOF) raided and sealed the doorways into the offices of the seven Palestinian organisations: Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq Law in the Service of Man (Al-Haq), Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), Health Work Committees (HWC), the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC). We urge States to unequivocally condemn Israel’s targeting of Palestinian civil society and tactics to further repress of freedom of expression, and to take all necessary action to support and protect Palestinian human rights defenders and ensure the continuation of their invaluable work.

We call upon States to demand that Israel immediately revoke its designations of Palestinian human rights and civil society organisations as ‘terrorist organisations’, reverse the military orders designating the organisations and closing their offices, and repeal its Anti-Terrorism Law (2016) as it does not meet basic human rights standards. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/12/15/human-rights-defenders-targeted-by-israel-launch-new-joint-website/

Venezuela The HRC’s fact-finding mission on Venezuela will present its final report under its current mandate to the Human Rights Council on 26 September, followed by an interactive dialogue with States. All eyes are on Latin American states, in particular, to see whether or not they will present a resolution to renew the mission’s mandate.  While there have been significant human rights changes in Venezuela – including a reduction in extrajudicial executions between 2020 and 2021 – the human rights situation in the country remains grim, with clear retrogression in some cases. This is not the time for States to end the work of the Mission, a key accountability mechanism which during its work to date has produced evidence of likely crimes against humanity.  Not only is its work on past violations far from over, but it could play a key role in the prevention of further violations, particularly at times of instability such as is possible during upcoming Presidential elections.   ISHR has worked as part of a Coalition of Venezuelan, regional and international organisations calling for the continuation of the mandate of the Mission. These demands were recently made in a letter to States, signed by 125 other Venezuelan and international organisations. The continuation of the Mission should be a key part of foreign policy aims of states of the region, and ISHR hopes to see States step up on this front in the coming days and weeks.

Yemen ISHR joined NGOs in urging States to work toward the establishment of an independent international criminally focused investigative mechanism on Yemen in the coming period, including at HRC51. While a Yemen truce hangs in the balance, little to no progress has been made by parties to the conflict to  address ongoing and widespread violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law or remedy the harms they have inflicted on civilians throughout the conflict. The humanitarian situation in Yemen remains desperate, and, in recent weeks, armed clashes have once again increased. Civilians continue to fall victim to shelling, drone strikes and other attacks.These factors attest to the urgent and critical need to reinvigorate international accountability efforts on Yemen through the establishment of an independent international investigation. After its mandate ended in October 2021, members of the GEE called on the international community to take specific initiatives at the international level in pursuit of accountability.  Continued impunity will only increase the likelihood that more children will starve, more rights defenders and journalists will be imprisoned or executed, more homes and schools will be bombed, and the cycle of violence and suffering will continue. In this context, an international independent criminal accountability mechanism for Yemen can play a critical role to deter violence, protect civilians and promote a genuine and lasting peace.  In December 2021, nearly 90 civil society organisations called on member states of the UN to move quickly and establish such a mechanism in order to  investigate and publicly report on the most serious violations and abuses of international law committed in Yemen.

Other country situations These include: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan and Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the human rights situation of women and girls in Afghanistan Interactive Dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on Nicaragua Interactive Dialogue on the report of the OHCHR on Sri Lanka Interactive Dialogue on the report of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, Interactive Dialogue with the SR on Myanmar, Interactive Dialogue on the OHCHR report on Myanmar, Acting High Commissioner oral update on the human rights situation in Myanmar Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia Interactive Dialogue on the oral update of OHCHR on technical assistance and capacity-building for South Sudan Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic  Interactive Dialogue on the interim oral update of the Acting High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in Belarus  Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine and Interactive Dialogue on the Acting High Commissioner oral update on Ukraine Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner and experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia and presentation of the Secretary-General’s report  Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Somalia Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Central African Republic  Presentation of the High Commissioner’s report on cooperation with Georgia  Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on the Philippines

Council programme, appointments and resolutions

States announced at least 29 proposed resolutions. Read here the reports presented this session. Appointment of mandate holders: The President of the Human Rights Council will propose candidates for:  Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, member from Eastern European States; Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Read here the three year programme of work of the Council with supplementary information. Read here ISHR’s recommendations on the key issues that are or should be on the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council in 2022.

Concerning side events, the Secretariat informed the Bureau that it had developed a way to organise the time slots for the three meeting rooms in order to allow for side events to take place in the Palais des Nations during the 51st session of the Council. The time slots for side events will be allocated according to availability and on a first-come, first-served basis. In order to accommodate as many requests as possible, only one side event per requesting organiser will be accommodated and each side event would be limited to one hour in duration. Organisers are requested to strictly respect the allotted time and to leave the room on time in order to ensure the smooth organisation of the following side event. NGOs will find additional information on the modalities and the criteria at the OHCHR NGO participation web page. The Secretariat underscored that these measures will be implemented during the 51st session on a pilot basis.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/09/20/report-on-the-50th-session-of-the-un-hrc/

https://ishr.ch/latest-updates/hrc51-key-issues-on-agenda-of-september-2022-session/