Archive for the 'organisations' Category

UN Rapporteur and Amnesty seek freedom for those “punished for daring to drive.”

July 9, 2020

On 9 june 2020 Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, urged member states to pressure Saudi Arabia to free women activists before a G20 nations summit which Riyadh will be hosting in November. At least a dozen prominent women’s rights activists were arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2018 as it lifted a ban on women driving cars, a step that many of the detainees had long campaigned for. The women were rounded up as part of a broader crackdown on dissent that extended to clerics and intellectuals.

Several of the arrested women have alleged torture and sexual assault in detention. Saudi officials deny this and said the detainees were suspected of having harmed Saudi interests and offered support to hostile elements abroad.

Some of the activists are now on trial, but few charges have been made public. Charges against at least some of the activists relate to contacts with foreign journalists, diplomats and human rights groups. Their prosecution has drawn global criticism, particularly following the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents inside the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate. (as Rapporteur Agnes Callamard also dealt with Khashoggi’s killing: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/23/the-unsatisfactory-end-to-the-khashoggi-investigation/)

The families of some of the activists, included Loujain al-Hathloul, raised concerns earlier this year when they were unable to contact their detained relatives in prison for several weeks. Contact was eventually restored. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/07/lina-al-hathloul-speaks-out-for-her-sister-loujain-imprisoned-in-saudi-arabia/].

Earlier Amnesty International had called on Saudi Arabian authorities to immediately release women human rights activists, including those who are “being punished for daring to drive.“…. Amnesty UK has launched a “Beep for freedom” campaign in support of the persecuted women’s rights defenders. The campaign involves supporters sharing photos of themselves behind the wheel of a car or sharing the campaign’s “Beep For Freedom” car horn symbol, with an appeal to the Saudi authorities to “immediately and unconditionally” release the activists and drop all charges against them.

https://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2020/Jul-09/508775-un-investigator-calls-on-saudi-arabia-to-free-female-activists.ashx

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/amnesty-intl-urges-sarabia-to-release-female-activists/1889626

New EU Toolkit on Women Human Rights Defenders

July 8, 2020

On 7 July 2020 Front Line Defenders made public the toolkit on woman HRDs, a companion to the EU Guidelines of Human Rights Defenders (2004) which provide practical actions for EU staff in Brussels and in human rights defenders’ (HRDs) home countries to support and protect HRDs.

While useful, the Guidelines do not contain recommendations or actions that consider the varied experiences of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) with regard to gender, sexuality, race, class, family life, etc. This EU Toolkit on WHRDs provides practical steps for the EU to better meet the needs of WHRDs, from a gendered, intersectional perspective.

You can Download the EU Toolkit on WHRDs here.

As outlined in the UN Resolution on Women Human Rights Defenders, WHRDs experience violence in differentiated ways because of the work they do and who they are, as women. The UN Special Rapporteur on HRDs reports that “women defenders often face additional and different risks and obstacles that are gendered, intersectional and shaped by entrenched gender stereotypes and deeply held ideas and norms about who women are and how women should be.” In addition, there are many economic, social, cultural and geographical factors that affect how WHRDs experience violations. These factors include class, religion, age, language, sexual orientation, location, race and ethnicity. The UN calls all actors to develop specific gendered protection measures, and the inclusion of WHRDs in their design and implementation. The need for the toolkit has arisen because many protection measures are difficult to access for WHRDs as they face not only societal barriers to their work, but also in accessing the international community. The toolkit will help bridge that divide.

Following consultations with international WHRD networks, the EU Office of Front Line Defenders drafted a Toolkit for diplomats on how to address the specific protection needs of women human rights defenders at risk. It was presented to the EU Council Working Group on Human Rights, bringing together the EU institutions and diplomats from the 28 Member States, in Helsinki in October 2019, and shared again on occasion of the preparation of the Guidance Note for Delegations and Embassies by the EU Council Working Group on Human Rights. There are plans to have it tested in collaboration with WHRDs and diplomats in one or two countries per continent; the goal is to have this Toolkit adopted as an annex to the EU Guidelines on HRDs.

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/resource-publication/eu-toolkit-whrds

Human Rights Watch seeks Director of Physical Security

July 8, 2020

Human Rights Watch is seeking a forward-thinking, innovative and experienced senior security professional who can guide a globally dispersed organization that reports on the most sensitive human rights issues. The Director of Physical Security will lead the organization to optimal and inclusive physical security risk management practices for the complex environments in which it operates.

This position is the organization’s lead on all physical security matters, providing support and leadership across a wide range of areas including crisis and incident response, asset protection, programmatic work, travel safety and event security. In partnership with the Director of Information Security, this role provides unified security risk management leadership across HRW.

The successful candidate will understand the threat landscape facing Human Rights Defenders or similar constituencies and have a proven track record of enabling work in challenging operational contexts. They will continue to lead the organization towards best practices and further embed and promote a proactive security culture; collaborate with both internal and external security groups; and have experience in crisis management, operational security and training.

The role will require international travel, including to areas that might be considered high risk. This position will be based in one of HRW’s main offices and will report to the Chief Operating Officer or their designee.

Please apply by visiting the online job portal at careers.hrw.org. Application Deadline: August 1, 2020

https://reliefweb.int/job/3650928/director-physical-security

Appeal to support human rights defender Waldo Albarracín in Bolivia

July 8, 2020

Human rights defender Waldo Albarracín continues to be the subject of death threats and may be the target of surveillance, as a result of his work in Bolivia. Since October 2019, the defender has been targeted on a regular basis with threatening messages via his Facebook account by known and unknown individuals. The messages include threats to incriminate him and to set his house on fire.

Waldo Albarracin

About Waldo Albarracín: Waldo Albarracín is a well established and widely recognised human rights defender in Bolivia. He was the President of the Permanent Assembly of Human Rights of Bolivia (APDHB) from 1992 to 2003 and the Bolivian Ombudsman from 2004 to 2010. He is the current Rector of Universidad Mayor de San Andrés in La Paz and President of the National Committee for the Defence of Democracy (CONADE), a civil platform defending political rights.

1 July 2020 Front Line Defenders called for urgent action. Those of you who want to take action in this and other cases of threatened HRDs, should subsctibe to Front Line’s almost daily information.

Download the Urgent Appeal

In May 2020, Waldo Albarracín was mentioned as a target in a threatening video posted and circulated on social media by the illegal armed group Resistencia Juvenil Cochala. At 1:10 in the video, one man of a group of six men, hooded and armed, stated: “Resistencia Juvenil Cochala will fight on behalf of the Bolivia against Waldo Albarracín and Bolivian political leaders.” The armed group currently exceeds 5,000 members online and describes itself as a citizen’s platform, formed to fight against tyranny and in promotion of democracy in Bolivia. According to the group, it has no one leader.

In June 2020, the Fake Antenna Detection Project, an initiative established by the South Lighthouse organisation, released its findings that Waldo Albarracín, along with a number of human rights organizations and academic entities, may have had their mobile phones intercepted. The study identified 24 suspicious antennas, capable of interfering with mobile phones, some of which were located by the Office of the Permanent Assembly of Human Rights in Bolivia and also by the University Mayor de San Andres, both places where Waldo Albarracín works from. It has been suggested by local media that the interceptions were orchestrated by the military and government authorities, however the authorities are yet to comment publicly on the existence of the antennas and how permanent they are. South Lighthouse researches and monitors surveillance activities and abusive technological practices threatening human rights, security, and privacy in Latin America and other parts of the world.

Front Line Defenders has previously expressed concern regarding the risks faced by Waldo Albarracín. Although the human rights defender has faced risks since 2004 as a result of his human rights work, there has been a worrying escalation since the protests in 2019 regarding the results of the presidential election. On 10 November 2019, the defender’s house was set on fire by a crowd of around 500 people, whilst his family were still inside.

..Front Line Defenders believes he is being targeted solely as a result of his peaceful and legitimate human rights activities.

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/ongoing-death-threats-against-and-potential-surveillance-waldo-albarracin

Will long-running saga of trial against the Istanbul 10 end on Friday 3 July?

July 3, 2020

From the start, this has been a politically-motivated trial’Idil Eser© Amnesty International (Foto: Jordi Huisman)

The verdict in the trial of Amnesty Turkey’s chair, the organisation’s former Turkey director and nine other human rights defenders, is expected tomorrow. The key hearing will begin at 8.00am BST (10.00am local time) on Friday 3 July at Istanbul Heavy Penal Court, No 35.

Taner Kılıç, Idil Eser, Özlem Dalkıran, Günal Kurşun, Veli Acu, Nejat Taştan, Nalan Erkem, İlknur Üstün, Şeyhmus Özbekli, Ali Gharavi and Peter Steudtner are all on trial for baseless terrorism charges.

Over the course of 11 earlier hearings spread over nearly three years, ‘terrorism’ allegations against all 11 defendants have been repeatedly and categorically disproven, including – ironically – by the state’s own evidence. The prosecution’s attempt to present legitimate human rights activities as unlawful acts has comprehensively failed, said Amnesty. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/16/turkey-who-will-defend-the-human-rights-defenders/.]

In August 2018, after more than 14 months in prison, former Amnesty Turkey Chair Taner Kılıç was released on bail. Eight of the others spent almost four months each behind bars before they were released in October 2017.

At the tenth hearing in November 2019, the prosecutor requested acquittal for five of the 11, and convictions for the remaining six.

See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/06/ali-gharavi-of-the-istanbul10-speaks-about-his-experience-and-his-hope/.

In the meantime, on 2 June 2020, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights spoke out on the independence of lawyers in Turkey: “I have taken note with concern of a bill recently submitted to the Turkish Parliament containing amendments to the Turkish Law No. 1136, which affect lawyers and their professional associations. The proposed changes would notably allow for a plurality of bar associations in provinces with large numbers of lawyers and modify the election procedures of bar associations and their Union. These changes raise particular concerns when seen against the background of the serious problems I identified in my latest report on Turkey published in February 2020. These problems include a hostile and repressive atmosphere affecting civil society in Turkey, of which professional associations, such as bar associations, are a very important part; the glaring lack of consultation and involvement of civil society in policy-making and legislation; and the very difficult situation, including undue judicial pressure, faced by lawyers in Turkey both as  human rights defenders and as a fundamental part of an increasingly hostile judicial system.

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/turkey-verdict-expected-long-running-trial-amnesty-chair-and-ten-others

https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/commissioner-s-concerns-about-proposed-changes-affecting-the-legal-profession-in-turkey

International Day in Support of Victims of Torture 2020

June 27, 2020

UN Women/Ryan Brown After surviving military enslavement in Guatemala, Maria Ba Caal received help through an emergency grant from the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.

26 June 2020 was the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Torture is an “egregious abuse of human rights”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said. Although international law “unequivocally prohibits torture in all instances”, the UN chief pointed out that it nevertheless continues in many countries, “even those where it is criminalized”.

On this International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture, human rights defenders and survivors of torture around the world take the opportunity to speak out against this abhorrent denial of human dignity and they act to remember and support its victims”, Mr. Guterres said in his message.

Its prohibition forms part of customary international law, which means that it is binding on every member of the international community, regardless of whether a State has ratified international treaties that expressly prohibit the practice or not, according to the UN.  Moreover, the systematic or widespread practice of torture constitutes a crime against humanity.

The UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, channels funding to assist victims of torture and their families by awarding hundreds of grants to civil society organizations worldwide for medical, psychological, legal, social and other assistance.  It contributes to the rehabilitation, reparation, empowerment and access to remedies for nearly 50,000 torture survivors each year.

And to underline that torture is still very much a problem today the Himalayan Times of 26 June writes “that despite new criminal laws, impunity for acts of torture, ill-treatment prevails in detention” in Nepal

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Advocacy Forum (AF) and Terai Human Rights Defenders Alliance (THRD Alliance) have voiced concerns about the near-total failure by authorities to investigate and prosecute acts of torture in Nepal. On the occasion of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the three rights organisations urged the Government of Nepal to investigate into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment, and to bring prosecutions where warranted under the criminal provisions of the Penal Code…

The ICJ has made an appeal to the Government of Nepal to establish an independent preventative mechanism for monitoring of detention centres and to become party to the Optional Protocol of the Convention on Torture. Nearly two years after provisions in the new Penal Code came into effect, not a single torture prosecution appears to have been brought. There have also been very few instances in which victims have received an effective remedy and reparation for their ill-treatment, the press release stated.

Nepal has, as per the statement, failed to meet its obligations in this regard under article 2(3) of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and article 14 of the Convention Against Torture….

The AF and THRD Alliance both published reports on Friday that document instances of torture and other ill-treatment against detainees over the past year. Some 20 per cent of the more than 1,000 detainees interviewed reported some form of unlawful ill-treatment during confinement.

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/06/1067072

https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/rights-organisations-urge-government-to-prosecute-acts-of-torture-ill-treatment/

Human Rights Defenders and the 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council

June 25, 2020

The ISHR published on 24 June its usual and irreplacable “HRC44 – Key issues on agenda of June 2020 session”

As usual I have lifted out of this the issues that would seem to affect most directly Human Rights Defenders. To stay up-to-date on all issues: follow @ISHRglobal and #HRC44 on Twitter, and look out for its Human Rights Council Monitor.

The UN Human Rights Council (the Council) will hold its 44th regular session at Palais des Nations in Geneva from 30 June to 21 July 2020.

Modalities for participation in HRC44

State delegations not wishing to enter the plenary room physically will be able to deliver their statements by pre-recorded video-message, as provided for under HRC decision 19/119. Similarly, NGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC will be given the opportunity to do the same insofar as interactive dialogues, panels and UPR adoptions are concerned. It won’t be possible to hold “official” side events during the 44th session (online or in-person). Any events happening on the sidelines of the session will be considered independent events and won’t be publicised in the Bulletin of Informal meetings by the Secretariat. Read here the information note by the Secretariat which is updated according to the latest information, and an additional explainer by HRC-net.  

Human Rights implications of COVID-19

The High Commissioner will present an oral update on the human rights impact of COVID-19 at the 44th session, as mandated by the presidential statement adopted by the Council in May 2020. The presidential statement also calls on the High Commissioner to produce a report on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the enjoyment of human rights around the world to be presented at the 46th session in March 2021. In addition to their previously mandated reports, some mandateholders will present additional reports to address the impact of COVID-19 as related to their mandate, including the Special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye.  [for some of my earlier posts on covid and human rights see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/covid-19/]

Here are some highlights of the session’s thematic discussions:

Business and human rights

At this session, the Working Group on Business and Human Rights is expected to present reports on their activities over 2019, including a country visit to Honduras and on the theme of anti-corruption and the UN Guiding Principles (UNGPs). They are also meant to present groundbreaking guidance on human rights defenders and the role of business. ISHR expects that such guidance should provide companies with concrete suggestions for how to engage human rights defenders in the development and implementation of their human rights policies. It is important that the guidance explains why this is not simply good practice, but is also aligned with the Guiding Principles’ word and spirit – and thus should be widely mainstreamed for any company committed to the UNGPs.  There will tentatively be a resolution presented to renew the mandate of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, as well as to welcome the thematic reporting.

Sexual orientation and gender identity 

ISHR joined a coalition of 187 organisations to draw the attention of the Human Rights Council to the situation of LGBTI persons and those who defend their rights in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. In line with the call to action signed by 96 human rights experts, organisations working for the protection of the human rights of persons of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) globally urged States and stakeholders to ensure that this public health emergency will neither exacerbate existing prejudices, inequalities or structural barriers, nor lead to increased violence and discrimination [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/11/coalition-of-187-global-organisations-issues-joint-statement-re-the-impact-of-covid-19-pandemic-on-lgbti/]

Reprisals

Reports of cases of intimidation and reprisal against those cooperating or seeking to cooperate with the UN not only continue, but grow. Intimidation and reprisals violate the rights of the individuals concerned, they constitute violations of international human rights law, and undermine the UN human rights system. [agains for earlier posts see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/]

During the 42nd session, the Council adopted a resolution which listed key trends such as the patterns of reprisals, increasing self-censorship, as well as the use of national security arguments and counter-terrorism strategies by States as justification for blocking access to the UN. The resolution 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 and to report back to it on how they are preventing reprisals, both online and offline.

Item 5 of the Human Rights Council’s agenda provides a key opportunity for States to raise concerns about reprisals, and for governments involved in existing cases to provide an update to the Council on any investigation or action taken toward accountability to be carried out.

Other thematic reports :

At this 44th session, the Council will discuss a range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights through dedicated debates with the mandate holders, including interactive dialogues with:

The Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises  (includes recommendations from 2019 visit to Peru)

The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance 

The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions 

The Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association 

The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression 

In addition, the Council will hold dedicated debates on the rights of specific groups including:

  • The Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children 
  • The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers 
  • The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants 
  • The Working Group on discrimination against women and girls 
  • The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons 
  • The Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences 
  • The Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity 

#HRC44 | Country-specific developments

China (Hong Kong and Uyghur regions)

Violations in China, especially those linked to freedom of association, were made even more clear during the government’s efforts to respond to the COVID-19 epidemic. …..States should ensure continued calls for access to UN human rights experts, in line with last year’s joint letter condemning China’s suppression of minorities. Finally, following nearly a year of protests – largely of peaceful civilians –  the central government in Beijing launched an initiative to draft and pass National Security Legislation in Hong Kong. This alarming development was foreshadowed by increasing police violence and use of chemical weapons; the arrest and political prosecution of more than a dozen pro-democracy leaders; and further restrictions on the free press. Many activists, and the European Parliament, are calling for UN Secretary-General António Guterres to appoint an envoy, rightly recognising that China’s actions violate international agreements aimed at ensuring peace and security.

United States of America

Last week, the Council held an urgent debate and adopted a resolution in reaction to systemic racism and police violence in the US and elsewhere. The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism and the UN Working Group on Experts on People of African Descent had also voiced their support for an international commission of inquiry. They have urged the Human Rights Council to ensure the following outcomes from the debate: (1) the creation of an international commission of inquiry to investigate systemic racism in law enforcement in the United States; and (2) the creation of a thematic international commission of inquiry to investigate systemic racism in law enforcement globally, with a focus on systemic racism rooted in legacies of colonialism and transatlantic slavery. They stressed that “both measures described above are necessary and cannot be substituted for one another”.

Saudi Arabia

Women human rights defenders (WHRDs) have been in prison for over two years, only because they demanded that women be treated equally as men, and no one has been held accountable for their torture. While the Council has sustained pressure on Saudi Arabia in 2019, it is essential that this scrutiny continues as the situation on the ground has not improved. ISHR calls on all States to jointly call on Saudi Arabia to immediately and unconditionally release the WHRDs and drop the charges against them; and implement the bench-marks set out in the two joint statements delivered by Iceland and Australia in 2019, underlining that should these benchmarks not be met, more formal Council action would follow.

Saudi Arabia is running for Human Rights Council election in October 2020 and hosting the G20 in November 2020. These all provide windows of opportunity to push for the immediate and unconditional release of the women human rights defenders and all those detained for exercising their rights. 

Nicaragua

The COVID-19 crisis has not prevented the Nicaraguan government from making further use of repressive methods to continue targeting released political prisoners, human rights defenders, as well as indigenous people and other social groups, and their relatives. In a rapidly-deteriorating human rights situation, the authorities’ dangerous denial and inaction in the face of the pandemic have additionally fueled an alarming health crisis.

It is in this context that Council Members renewed a resolution on Nicaragua this week at the resumed 43rd session of the Human Rights Council. ISHR joined Race and Equality and a number of national and international organisations in urging the Council to ensure strong support for the resolution on the human rights situation in Nicaragua. To ensure the international community is fully informed of the worsening national situation, the resolution requests the High Commissioner to prepare a report and two oral updates, the first of which should be presented at the Council’s 44th session.

Honduras

The Working Group on Business and Human Rights will present the report on its official visit to Honduras (carried out between the 19 and 28 August 2019). …According to the end of mission statement, a significant number of human rights defenders who work for the respect and protection of human rights in the context of business activity have been arbitrarily arrested, intimidated, stigmatised, criminalised, threatened and some killed.

This was particularly evident in reference to those working in the field of extractive and hydro-electric industries.  The murder of leading land,environment and indigenous peoples´ rights defender Berta Cáceres, who had been campaigning against the construction of the Agua Zarca dam, is one case cited where impunity is ongoing.  Individuals responsible for the killing have been tried and jailed. However, those suspected of planning the crime, including senior management from the company building the dam (DESA) according to the independent mission of experts GAIPE, have not been investigated or prosecuted. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/10/nina-lakhanis-who-killed-berta-caceres-reviewed/]. Another Special Procedure expert – the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers – will also be presenting a report on its official visit to Honduras in August 2019. After completion of the visit, he called on Honduras to take urgent action to end corruption and guarantee an independent judiciary, stressing that ‘the justice system, as well as the political class’ are being ‘called strongly into question by the citizens’.

Burundi

The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi will present its oral briefing during the 44th session of the HRC. ISHR continues to remain highly concerned about the human rights situation in Burundi and its refusal to cooperate with the Council’s mechanisms.

Egypt

Seven UN experts have expressed concern about the collective and corrosive effects of Egypt’s counter-terrorism laws and practices on the promotion and protection of human rights. They stated that “Despite repeated communications by UN experts over arbitrary detention of individuals, human rights defenders and activists, the Egyptian Government has not changed its laws of practice”. The ‘Terrorism Circuit courts’ in Egypt, are enabling pre-trial detention as a form of punishment including against human rights defenders and journalists, such as Ibrahim Metwally, Mohamed El-Baqer and Esraa Abdel Fattah, Ramy Kamel, Alaa Abdel-Fattah, Patrick Zaky, Ramy Shaat, Eman Al-Helw, Solafa Magdy and Hossam El-Sayed. All of the individuals that the Special Procedures and the High Commissioner have written about since September 2019 are still in pre-trial detention by these courts. Once the terrorism courts resumed after they were suspended due to COVID-19, they renewed their detention retroactively.

The government’s response to the UPR in March 2020 demonstrated its lack of political will to address key concerns raised by States and to engage constructively with the Council. For example, the government refused to acknowledge the systematic and widespread attacks against defenders, the practice of torture and ill-treatment in detention centres, and to receive visits by Special Rapporteurs on torture and human rights defenders. The government claimed that no one is detained for exercising their rights, despite the fact that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that arbitrary detention is a systematic problem in Egypt and could constitute a crime against humanity.

ISHR urges States to call on Egypt to immediately and unconditionally release all those detained for exercising their human rights, to stop using pre-trial detention as a punishment, and to take immediate measures to guarantee their rights to contact their families on a regular and continuous basis and to ease sending and receiving letters, food and medical supplies to them.

Philippines 

The OHCHR issued its report (A/HRC/44/22) on the human rights situation in the Philippines, drawing on extensive engagement with and information provided by civil society in the country, the region and globally. The report refers to the killing of 208 human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists, including 30 women, between January 2015 and December 2019. Confirming practices of vilification, criminalisation, restrictions of fundamental rights, as well as the continuing attacks including ‘red-tagging,’ the report notes existing impunity and the failure of domestic mechanisms to ensure accountability. The presentation of this report provides an important opportunity for debate on the key findings, and to consider options for how to advance recommendations to address the government’s violations of human rights overall, and restrictions on human rights defenders in particular.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/05/how-a-philipines-website-does-the-reporting-on-the-un-findings-on-human-rights-violations/

Other country situations:

The Council will hold an interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s annual report on 2 July 2020. The Council will consider reports on and is expected to consider resolutions addressing a range of country situations, in some instances involving the renewal of the relevant expert mandates. These include:

  • Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner on the human rights situation of Rohingya people 
  • Enhanced Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in the Philippines 
  • Interactive Dialogue with the SR on the situation of human rights in Eritrea
  • Oral update by the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in Nicaragua
  • Interactive Dialogue with the SR on the situation of human rights in Belarus 
  • Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
  • Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi 
  • Interactive Dialogue with the SR on the situation of human rights in Myanmar 
  • Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic 
  • Interactive Dialogue with the SR on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967 
  • Enhanced ID on the oral reports of the Government of the Sudan and OHCHR on progress towards the opening of a country office 
  • Oral update of the High Commissioner on cooperation with Georgia 

Adoption of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) reports

During this session, the Council will adopt the UPR working group reports on Armenia, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lesotho, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey.

ISHR supports human rights defenders in their interaction with the UPR. We publish and submit briefing papers regarding the situation facing human rights defenders in some States under review and advocate for the UPR to be used as a mechanism to support and protect human rights defenders on the ground. This session of the Council will provide an opportunity for Turkey, Kuwait and Guinea  to accept recommendations made in relation to human rights defenders, as proposed in ISHR’s briefing papers.

#HRC44 | Council programme, appointments and resolutions

During the organisational meeting for the 44th session held on 12 and 15 June 2020, the President of the Human Rights Council presented the programme of work. It includes five panels of discussion and 81 reports. States also announced at least 17 resolutions. 

Appointment of mandate holders

The President of the Human Rights Council has proposed candidates for inter alia the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression and the Special Rapporteur on trafficking.

Resolutions to be presented to the Council’s 44th session

At the organisational meeting the following resolutions were announced (States leading the resolution in brackets) especially relevant:

  1. Elimination of discrimination against women (Colombia, Mexico)
  2. Human rights situation in Eritrea (Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands) mandate renewal 
  3. Business and human rights (Norway, Russian Federation, Ghana, Argentina) Working Group + Accountability and Remedy project mandate renewals
  4. Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (Sweden) mandate renewal
  5. Human rights and climate change (Bangladesh, Philippines, Viet Nam)
  6. Independence and impartiality of the judiciary, jurors and assessors, and the independence of lawyers  (Hungary, Australia, Botswana, Maldives, Mexico, Thailand) + mandate renewal
  7. Trafficking in persons, especially women and children (Germany, Argentina, Philippines) + mandate renewal 
  8. Freedom of opinion and expression: access to information (Canada, Namibia, Brazil, Fiji, Netherlands, Sweden) 
  9. Rights of persons with disabilities (Mexico, New Zealand) mandate renewal 
  10. The human rights situation in Belarus (EU) 
  11. The right to peaceful protest (Switzerland, Costa Rica)

Panel discussions

During each Council session, panel discussions are held to provide member States and NGOs with opportunities to hear from subject-matter experts and raise questions. All panel discussions are broadcast live and archived on http://webtv.un.org. Five panel discussions are scheduled for this upcoming session:

  1. Annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child (two panels, theme: “Realizing the rights of the child through a healthy environment”) 
  2. Annual full-day discussion on the human rights of women 
  3. Panel discussion on the impacts, opportunities and challenges of new and emerging digital technologies with regard to the promotion and protection of human rights; including an oral update of the Advisory Committee on its report on new and emerging digital technologies 
  4. Panel discussion on promoting and protecting the rights of persons with disabilities in the context of climate change 
  5. Annual thematic panel discussion on technical cooperation in the promotion and protection of human rights (theme: “Upholding the human rights of prisoners, including women prisoners and offenders: enhancing technical cooperation and capacity-building in the implementation of the Nelson Mandela Rules and the Bangkok Rules”)

For the latest session see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/24/human-rights-defenders-issues-on-the-agenda-of-43rd-human-rights-council/

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc44-key-issues-agenda-june-2020-session

Human Rights Foundation starts interview series: “Dissidents and Dictators” with Srdja Popovic

June 23, 2020

Human Rights Foundation


The first episode features Serbian protest organizer and peaceful revolutionary Srdja Popovic.

In just a few years, Srdja transformed from a college student in a band to the leader of a national movement that ended the fearsome dictatorship of Slobodan Milošević with clever tactics and movement building, all without a single shot fired. After the tyrant’s fall, Srdja went on to serve in Serbia’s National Assembly and later launched an organization called CANVAS that teaches the art of protest to democracy activists around the world. He is the author of Blueprint for Revolution: How to Use Rice Pudding, Lego Men, and Other Nonviolent Techniques to Galvanize Communities, Overthrow Dictators, or Simply Change the World.

HRF chief strategy officer Alex Gladstein (@Gladstein) sat down with Srdja to discuss: How do you scale a movement of one up to millions of people? How do you overcome a regime that holds all the power and weapons? Why are peaceful revolutions much more successful than violent ones? Why are street movements like start-ups? Is it possible to sustain a movement during a global pandemic? How are protest movements around the world reacting to their new twin enemies, the coronavirus and the rise of authoritarianism?

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/22/human-rights-foundation-announces-its-first-10-freedom-fellows/]

You can listen on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, and you can watch the video versions on Youtube

“HRCnet” explained

June 23, 2020

HRCnet was established in 2006 to enhance NGO engagement with the Human Rights Council and to strengthen the Council’s impact and influence on the ground. Since then, HRCnet members working in coordination and solidarity, or as a network as a whole, have contributed significantly to some of the most important initiatives and outputs of the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms.

HRCnet’s membership comprises 16 NGOs and organisations working at the international level and across almost all regions:

Africa

  • African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (The Gambia)
  • DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) (Uganda)
  • Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network (Zimbabwe)
  • West African Human Rights Defenders Network (Togo)

Asia-Pacific

  • Asian Legal Resource Centre (Hong Kong, China)
  • Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM ASIA) (Thailand)
  • Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (India)
  • Human Rights Law Centre (Australia)

Latin America

  • Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) (Argentina)
  • Conectas Direitos Humanos (Brazil)

Middle East and North Africa

  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (Egypt)
  • Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (Egypt)

International

  • CIVICUS (South Africa)
  • Human Rights Watch (USA)
  • International Service for Human Rights (Switzerland)
  • Open Society Foundations (USA)

HRCnet members have substantially shaped debates and made influential policy proposals on country situations, as well as thematic and institutional issues. HRCnet works to:

  • Safeguard civil society:  through securing actions by key actors that have, in a number of cases, assisted in the release of human rights defenders from detention or in alleviating pressure on NGOs.
  • Enhance access: by assisting rights holders from the Global South in engaging with the international human rights system and strengthening capacity to influence States, and harness civil society, from all regions.
  • Amplify impact: by facilitating coordination and collaboration between international and regional NGOs.
  • Promote accountability: seeking the establishment of commissions of inquiry or other independent expert mechanisms to investigate and promote accountability for gross human rights violations.
  • Enhance scrutiny: through the mandating of new Special Procedures to monitor human rights and document violations.
  • Strengthen protection:  through the establishment of new Special Procedures and other mechanisms.

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/01/welcoming-the-new-year-with-civil-society-in-geneva/

For more information, please contact Fabiana Leibl, HRCnet Coordinator, f.leibl@ishr.ch

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrcnet

AI and HRW address criminal prosecution of Emir-Usein Kuku, Ethnic Crimean Tatar Human Rights Defender and His Five Co-defendants

June 22, 2020

On 19 June 2020 Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International addressed a joint letter to Russia’s Prosecutor General

….We write to you to express our concern about the unfounded criminal prosecution and imprisonment of Emir-Usein Kuku, an ethnic Crimean Tatar human rights defender from Crimea, and his five co-defendants – Muslim Aliev, Vadim Siruk, Enver Bekirov, Arsen Dzhepparov and Refat Alimov. They were convicted and sentenced on 12 November 2019 to prison terms ranging from seven to 19 years on groundless terror-related charges. On 22 June 2020, their appeal against the decision will be considered by the Military Court of Appeals.

All six men should be immediately and unconditionally released, with their convictions and sentences quashed, and we call on you to take all necessary measures in your authority to ensure this happens. This case exemplifies the persecution of human rights defenders and other activists in Crimea.

Amnesty International considers Emir-Usein Kuku, who has been sentenced to 12 years in prison, and all his co-defendants prisoners of conscience.

The terrorism-related charges against Emir-Usein Kuku and his co-defendants stem from accusations of membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an organization banned as “terrorist” in the Russian Federation (Article 205.5 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), but not in Ukraine. All six have also been accused of conspiring to seize power by violent means (Article 278 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).

…..

Emir-Usein Kuku is a member of the Crimean Human Rights Contact Group – a grassroots initiative created to monitor investigations into enforced disappearances in Crimea. As a human rights defender, Emir-Usein Kuku was continually harassed and threatened by the Russian authorities prior to the launch of the criminal proceedings against him, an indication that his prosecution is politically motivated and intended to stop his legitimate human rights activities.

When Emir-Usein Kuku joined the Crimean Human Rights Contact Group in October 2014, his activities soon brought him to the attention of the FSB, and according to him one of their officers unsuccessfully tried to recruit him as an informant on several occasions. The officer allegedly threatened Emir-Usein Kuku with reprisals, including criminal prosecution, for his refusal to cooperate.

On the morning of 20 April 2015, several FSB officers attacked Emir-Usein Kuku from behind while he was on his way to work, and severely beat him. They repeatedly kicked and punched him in the head, torso and kidney area. Then, in front of witnesses, they placed him in a vehicle and drove him to the local FSB headquarters where he was interrogated. He was later released without charge and they brought him back to his house.

On 11 February 2016, FSB officers arrested Emir-Usein Kuku at his house and detained him for questioning. On 12 February, Emir-Usein Kuku was charged under Article 205.5 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“membership of a terrorist organization”) and placed on remand. Kuku has been in detention since that date – over four years and four months.

On the same day, the FSB detained Muslim Aliev, as well as Vadim Siruk and Enver Bekirov, who are accused of membership of the same group. On 18 April 2016, the FSB detained Arsen Dzhepparov and Refat Alimov as part of the investigation of the same case. All six deny any involvement with Hizb ut-Tahrir and the charges against them.

…… Under international fair trial norms, civilians should not be tried before military courts. We call on you to take all necessary steps to address the human rights violations suffered by Emir- Usein Kuku and his co-defendants, Muslim Aliev, Enver Bekirov, Vadim Siruk, Arsen Dzhepparov and Refat Alimov, including harassment, their transfer from Crimea to the Russian Federation in violation of the international humanitarian law, and their ultimate unsound and wrongful conviction following an unfair trial. Emir-Usein Kuku and his five co-defendants must be immediately and unconditionally released, with their convictions and sentences quashed.

Marie Struthers, Director, Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Office, Amnesty International

Hugh Williamson, Director, Europe and Central Asia Division, Human Rights Watch

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/06/22/joint-letter-human-rights-watch-and-amnesty-international-russias-prosecutor