Archive for the 'books' Category

Report on Human Rights Defenders in States in Transition in Africa

March 17, 2018

recently published its report on ‘Lessons Learnt: Human Rights Defenders Working in States in Transition.’ A State’s transition towards democracy will invariably present particular challenges for human rights and their defenders. But it will also present opportunities. ISHR seeks to ensure that defenders have the tools that will enable the development of national laws and mechanisms that are compatible with, and give effect to, international human rights obligations. ISHR hopes that this report will be used by defenders to reflect on the strategies, successes and shortcomings of other campaigns and programmes in order to appreciate the impact they’ve had in various African States.

Follow the African Commission on Human Rights through Kumulika

March 13, 2018

Clément Voulé, ISHR’s African advocacy director and Adelaide Etong, ISHR’s Africa advocacy consultant

Clément Voulé and Adelaide Etong (pictured above) introduce the new format of the Kumulika publication. To allow for a better understanding and overview of the developments at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission) during an entire year, the publication will now be issued once a year.

Through this yearly publication, ISHR will take a new approach to providing analysis and up to date news on what is happening, the developments and the outcomes of the sessions and the NGO Forum.

Last year the African Commission celebrated its thirty years of existence. The last session of the year was an opportunity to think back and reflect on how its work grew over the years and the challenges it faced while implementing its mandate to promote and protect human rights in Africa. It also allowed the Commission to acknowledge the importance of the work done by civil society organisations in support to the implementation of its mandate. These past thirty years NGOs have provided invaluable information on country situations and advocated tirelessly for the establishment of several special procedures of the Commission.

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Click here for the 61st session’s summary 

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights launches major report on Human Rights Defenders

March 2, 2018

While all eyes are on the ongoing session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) – on 28 February – presented its report “Toward a Comprehensive Policy to Protect Human Rights Defenders,” in the context of the 167th session of the IACHR taking place in Colombia. The purpose of this report is to provide the States in the region with guidance in developing their domestic policies, programs, and protection mechanisms for human rights defenders, in keeping with inter-American human rights standards.

The work of defending human rights in the countries of the Americas has become extremely dangerous,” said the President of the IACHR, Commissioner Margarette Macaulay. “The levels of violence against people who defend human rights in our region are alarming, and the rates of impunity for these types of crimes are very high. The focus of the IACHR’s concern is on the violent deaths of rights defenders, the impunity that tends to surround these types of crimes, and the remaining vulnerability of all persons and groups on whose behalf the defender had worked. This makes it essential and urgent for the States to adopt effective measures to put an end to this situation,” she added.


“We are aware of and welcome the efforts made by some States to implement different mechanisms, laws, and policies to protect rights defenders, but unfortunately these have not been effective enough,” said the IACHR Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Commissioner Francisco Eguiguren. “That is why the IACHR in this report has laid out the main components of a comprehensive protection policy, so that such a policy can be effective and so that we can manage to stop the killings and other attacks that are putting an end to the lives of rights defenders or preventing them from doing their work. The aim of the IACHR is to provide the States with a guide on developing domestic policies, programs, mechanisms, and practices for the effective protection of human rights defenders, in accordance with Inter-American human rights standards,” he indicated.

A comprehensive protection policy is based on a recognition of the State’s interrelated and interdependent obligations to enable rights defenders to freely and safely carry out their work of defending human rights. In this sense, a comprehensive protection policy refers to a broad, all-encompassing approach that requires extending protection beyond physical protection mechanisms or systems when defenders experience situations of risk. It requires implementing public policies and measures designed to respect the rights of defenders; prevent violations of their rights; diligently investigate acts of violence against them; and punish the perpetrators and masterminds of any attack on human rights defenders.

The report also analyzes the main steps forward and challenges in terms of the efforts underway in some States, such as the national protection mechanisms, legislation, and policies and programs that exist in some countries. It also makes recommendations to the States on how to ensure better implementation of prevention, protection, and investigation measures to achieve a comprehensive protection policy.

..Human rights defenders are an essential pillar for the strengthening and consolidation of democracies in the hemisphere. Acts of violence against human rights defenders not only infringe on the defenders’ own rights as human beings but also undermine the critical role they play in society and in upholding democratic standards.

Contact info María Isabel RiveroIACHR Press and Communication Office

EU entity report foresees funding problems for human rights defenders

February 27, 2018

On 26 February 2018 published a report on the diminishing prospect of sufficient funding for human rights defenders.

With human rights, democracy and the rule of law around the world increasingly under attack, those who stand up to defend them have an ever-more central role to play in sustainable development and conflict resolution. As civil society space closes around them, and governments use repressive tactics to impede their work, human rights defenders (HRDs) often put their lives, liberty, and safety at risk, and require support and protection in order to go on. In a context where the level of need and demand from HRDs has significantly risen, increased support will be required in the coming years to meet the demands of HRDs operating in the context of a global backlash. The level of funding and support provided by international donor community no longer matches the magnitude of the needs of Human Rights Defenders, as observed in the report on funding on support for HRDs, launched last January at a public seminar held in the European Parliament. Human Rights Defenders, in fact, are receiving declining support.

In its conclusion, this report shows the high volatility of the level of funding available for HRDs at risk, as well as worrying indications that public funding for HRDs may be set to decrease in coming years due to loss of support from traditional allies.

The main conclusions of this report are available on website presents a report on funding available for Human Rights Defenders

Student dissertation award in the Netherlands goes to Canadian study on Police failures to combat sexual assault

February 14, 2018

This blog has a keen eye for all human rights awards, so I report with pride rather than embarrassment that the 7th Thoolen NJCM Dissertation Prize 2017 goes to Sylvie McCallum Rougerie. Sylvie wrote her dissertation on ‘Police Failures to Combat Sexual Assault: Lessons from International and Regional Human Rights Law for Improving Accountability under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms’.

No less than four student dissertations made the final cut this time. They were assessed on the following criteria: originality of the chosen human-rights based theme, development thereof; academic level; degree of innovative insight; and accessibility.  Tied for second place are Jordi Bierens and Danielle Snaathorst. Jordi wrote his dissertation on the growing influence of fundamental rights on European copyright rules. Danielle wrote about ‘The Curious Case of the Legitimate Aim. Understanding the “Legitimate Aim” Test of the European Court of Human Rights in Cases Concerning Freedom of Religion’. The third place goes to Jake Tingen. He wrote his dissertation on the tension between the freedom of information and the Dutch Public Access to Government Information Act.

The prize for winning the Thoolen NJCM Dissertation Prize is the publication of the winning dissertation by NJCM’s publishing house, Stichting NJCM-Boekerij. The award ceremony will take place during NJCM’s seminar on 12 April 2018 in The Hague (from 7.00 to 8.30 pm).

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Publication “Sur 26: Reclaiming Civic Space” focuses on local human rights defenders

February 2, 2018

This weekend I would like to share some new research on issues of civic space and human rights defenders (HRDs). The Fund for Global Human Rights has collaborated with Conectas to produce Sur 26: Reclaiming Civic Space, the 26th edition of Sur – International Journal on Human Rights. This is a special edition of the journal, authored predominantly by activists for activists. It documents the resistance of human rights groups during a time of increasing repression and restrictions on civil society, and offers key insights on the strategies frontline activists are using to reclaim civic space.

As you know, research about the global crackdown on civil society often focuses on how the crisis has manifested and its impacts. Little has been documented about the ways national-level civil society groups are responding to closing civic space, or the effectiveness of these responses. Moreover, international actors conduct much of the current research, and when frontline activists do produce analysis, it is often to inform the work of larger groups or to feature as case studies. Sur 26: Reclaiming Civic Space  helps change this. The research documents the learning of activists from 15 countries, how they have evolved their strategies to reclaim civic space, and the challenges they experienced along the way.

A letter to readers, authored by Juana Kweitel (Executive Director, Conectas Human Rights), Oliver Hudson (Editor, Sur Journal) and James Savage Program Officer of the Fund for Global Human Rights, provides insight into the special issue.

This collaboration with Conectas is a component of the Fund’s Enabling Environment for Human Rights Defenders Program <> , a global initiative that supports human rights activists to resist the crackdown on civic space. A cornerstone of the program is to support documentation by and learning between activists.

Prior to the publication of Sur 26, with support from the Fund, Conectas brought together a dozen of the Sur 26 author-activists at a writers’ retreat in Sao Paulo. This opportunity helped the author-activists examine global and regional trends in closing space, discuss and share their strategies, review and provide feedback on each other’s texts, and reflect together on the importance of writing and documentation. The retreat enhanced and helped shape the final texts of Sur 26 while also providing a valuable space for frontline human rights defenders to collaborate on their work.

A video essay <> , which was produced at the writers’ retreat, and offers a glimpse into the work explored throughout the 26th edition of Sur. Sur 26 is published in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

[see also:]

Prominent UK lawyers: Suspend Saudi Arabia from UN Human Rights Council

February 2, 2018

In July 2016 two major NGOs (HRW and AI) teamed up to try and get Saudi Arabia suspended from the UN Human Rights Council ( Now Al-Jazeera reports that British lawyers have called for Saudi Arabia to be removed from the United Nations Human Rights Council, stating that the kingdom detains political and free speech activists without charge.

In a report released on Wednesday 31 January 2018 in London, Rodney Dixon QC and Lord Kenneth Donald John Macdonald said more than 60 individuals were detained in September last year, “many of whom are believed to be human rights defenders or political activists”.

“Our main recommendation is that steps should be taken by the General Assembly to suspend the government of Saudi Arabia from the [UN] Human Rights Council,” Dixon told Al Jazeera. It is “completely contradictory and ironic for a government with systemic patterns of abuse – as we have highlighted in the report – to be sitting on the council, and in fact previously to have chaired the council….That suspension will act as a major lever for the government to clean up their act and make a proper new start.”

The report, titled Shrouded in secrecy: the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia following arrests in September 2017, was commissioned by the relatives of detainees and will be forwarded to Saudi authorities. “Those detained have not been charged with any offence, and the information about the reasons for their arrests and circumstances of their imprisonment are very limited,” the report said. “There is cause for serious concern about the treatment of many of those detained, including Mr Salman Al-Awda who has recently been hospitalised and others who are, effectively, disappeared.” Awda is one of Saudi’s most popular Muslim leaders with almost 150 million followers on Twitter. He was recently hospitalised after five months of solitary confinement. It remains unclear why he was arrested..

Saudi Arabia’s membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council expires in 2019. “The suspension of membership rights is not simply a hypothetical possibility,” the report said.In February 2011, the council called for Libya to be suspended as the government of Muammar Gaddafi was being accused of human rights violations against civilians during the uprising. A month later, the General Assembly voted for the suspension of Libya’s membership – marking the first time it has used its power to revoke a country’s membership.

FIDH looks back at 2017 with its annual comic strip

February 1, 2018

On 30 January 2018, FIDH publishes the comic strip version of its Annual Report created by graphic artist Romain Ronzeau and the graphic artists from Cartooning for Peace. Illustrating some of the victories and battles of 2017, the artists eloquently convey the essential: in times of crises, defending human rights is more necessary than ever. [for last year’s see:]. Good to see that the tradition is being kept up!

On the occasion of the comic strip Annual Report’s release, FIDH reaffirms its support for all graphic artists and caricaturists who are subjected to threats and attacks on a daily basis.


for the full version see:

Human Rights NGOs in Europe no longer the standard to follow!

January 27, 2018

In January 2018 the EU Fundamental Rights Agcncy (FRA) published a Report “Challenges facing civil society organisations working on human rights in the EU“. Its conclusion is that the situation is getting more difficult. Also, on 26 January 2018, the Thomson Reuters Foundation published an interview with Michel Forst, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders said that the EU are setting a bad example by allowing some of its members to stifle human rights groups, which is encouraging crackdowns elsewhere in the world.

In the interview done by Umberto Bacchi, Michel Forst said that the EU has historically done a good job supporting and protecting rights advocates worldwide but the bloc’s authority is now being undermined from within. Officials in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Israel and other countries pointed at recent laws in Hungary and Poland to justify their own regulations which may curb the independence of non-governmental organisations.

There is a need for European countries to be more coherent … not to teach human rights outside of Europe and then not respecting human rights inside Europe,” said Forst, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders. Charities in dozens of countries, from Angola to India and Tajikistan have faced restrictions targeting their funding and operations over the past two years, according to an EU report. The trend is part of a global backlash on civil society that has seen rights activists in some parts of the world criminalised or branded as troublemakers, Forst stated.

Last year, Hungary introduced a measure requiring NGOs that get money from abroad to register with the state, a bill that NGOs say stigmatizes them and is intended to stifle independent voices. [see also:]. Poland instead introduced legislation to set up a centralised authority controlling charities’ funding. [see also: As countermeasure, the EU should boost direct funding of rights groups operating within its borders, Forst said. “What is absurd for me is that the EU is funding organisations in Latin America, in Africa – which is good – but there is no more funding for EU NGOs,” he said. Money should be allocated from a dedicated fund and not channelled through governments, he said.

Besides Europe, Forst also singled out Australia for its treatment of asylum seekers held in offshore camps, adding it was “not a safe place” for human rights defenders due to pressure from the government. A December report by Pro Bono Australia and the Human Rights Law Centre, two rights groups, found Australian NGOs were often pressured into “self-silencing” their advocacy work fearing funding cuts and political retribution.

(Global civil society) space is shrinking because it is shrinking in Europe, because it is shrinking in the Americas, in Australia,” said Forst.


The FRA’s report finds that civil society organisations in the European Union play a crucial role in promoting fundamental rights, but it has become harder for them to do so – due to both legal and practical restrictions. This report looks at the different types and patterns of challenges faced by civil society organisations working on human rights in the EU. While challenges exist in all EU Member States, their exact nature and extent vary. Data and research on this issue – including comparative research – are generally lacking. The report also highlights promising practices that can counteract these worrying patterns.

First quantitative analysis of 16 years outgoing ‘communications’ by Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights Defenders

January 26, 2018

On 24 January 2018 an important study was made public about the work of the UN Rapporteurs on Human Rights Defenders. It concerns the study “Chasing Shadows: A Quantitative Analysis of the Scope and Impact of UN Communications on Human Rights Defenders (2000–2016)” by Janika Spannagel and published by the Global Public Policy Institute. At the bottom of this post there is link to downloading the full report. [see also:].

Each year, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders receives a large number of submissions regarding individual cases of concern. Only a fraction of these cases are addressed by the rapporteur’s communications procedure. Unlike outgoing communications, incoming cases are not publicly reported or even systematically registered by the UN. Furthermore, the criteria for the selection of cases (beyond basic eligibility) remain largely undefined. The consequences of case selection, whether according to explicitly stated rules or implicitly applied criteria, are quite significant. Currently, only 550 individual cases can be addressed by the mandate each year. [there are tremendous constraints in terms of staff.] Given this reality, the case selection process defines which types of defenders under pressure receive the UN’s attention and legitimization – and which do not. Nobody can determine with certainty how many cases have fallen through the cracks over the 17 years the mandate has been in existence, or who tends to benefit from the UN’s attention and who is often overlooked.

Based on extensive empirical research, this policy paper provides the first systematic analysis of all communications sent out to date. It finds credible indications that outgoing communications have a positive impact, but also demonstrates that there is room for improvement. In particular, a more deliberate prioritization of cases is required to ensure that the mandate can serve its protective purpose more effectively under the constraints of very limited resources.

The policy paper advocates an approach that aims to maximize the potential impact on the individual defender while systematically striving for a balanced documentation of cases. It makes an evidence-based argument for a number of adjustments and offers actionable recommendations to the mandate as well as to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to states, and to civil society actors regarding how to enhance the effectiveness of UN efforts to protect threatened human rights defenders around the world.

Among others, the paper recommends that the use of joint special procedures communications should be the exception rather than the rule, that states’ replies to cases should be systematically monitored and the respective data publicly released, and that more concerted international action should be taken with regards to ‘softer’ forms of repression.


Download PDF (679.81 KB)

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