Archive for the 'ISHR' Category

Better “business and human rights” starts with better understanding

May 17, 2022

Andrés Zaragoza in Open Global Rights of 16 May 2022 hits the nail by arguing that “If we want to constructively engage companies, business associations or investors on human rights issues, we must recognize who our interlocutor is.

..Building trust and a common narrative to engage in a constructive conversation is extremely difficult. Some would argue that a trusting relationship between civil society and private companies is not only impossible but also not desirable; that good faith is nowhere to be found in business sectors where human rights abuses can and do take place.

It has already been 10 years since the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights…..The enactment of legislation at the regional and national levels requiring companies to carry out human rights due diligence, such as the newly proposed EU Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence, as well as negotiations on a binding international treaty on business and human rights, creates a window of opportunity for NGOs to be creative, ambitious, and innovative in testing new advocacy strategies to change corporate conduct and advance human rights.

Despite an understandably dogged legacy of mistrust between civil society and corporations, there is a momentum for human rights organizations to engage productively with businesses, responsible investors, and other private actors that hold increasing market power, leverage, and are subject to new human rights legislation. As we write, global corporations are becoming increasingly relevant actors in international conflicts. In other words, businesses could become powerful allies in advancing human rights’ agendas with governments or in regards to public opinion.  

It’s no mystery that businesses and civil society speak different languages and engage from radically distinct perspectives when referring to human rights issues.

It is true that corporate activism is on the rise, with some companies supporting important causes and campaigns such as LGBTQ+ rights, anti-racism, equality, and non-discrimination. However, companies are not founded for promoting and protecting human rights, even if we may wish it otherwise. Instead, corporations see human rights issues through the lens of their productive and business models. This does not mean that workers or companies do not care about human rights. They do care, especially in certain sectors and business cultures. 

As civil society, we need to identify and understand how to best engage our strategic targets and audiences. If we want to constructively engage companies, business associations or investors on human rights issues, we must recognize who our interlocutor is. Businesses’ core activity is the starting point to analyse any human rights issue: their business, people, customers, and supply chain

Businesses tend to focus on risk identification and mitigation. There is growing recognition that human rights defenders can play a vital role in sounding the alarm on problems within an organization’s operations or supply chain. Generally, ‘UN speak’ does not work with businesses. Civil society should avoid jargon when engaging with business circles. Business representatives seek examples and clarity on which human rights issues are of concern and how they are relevant to their operations. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/21/davos-businesses-need-strong-human-rights-defenders/

Civil society should not automatically feel good about the fact that a company has a person with “human rights” written in their title. Unfortunately, this often means that a position was created for compliance or reputational management purposes, to deal discreetly with human rights issues, or engage (read: manage) civil society relations. By contrast, companies that take human rights seriously embed the topic across functions and departments, working towards including human rights within the company’s ethos. 

To achieve change, civil society should make every effort to better understand the complexity of a particular company, its economic sector, activity, internal governance, corporate values, and culture. Each company has its own systems and structure, progressing through their human rights journey differently. 

On a micro level, the individual background, connections, and motivations of the human rights personnel within the company have great bearing on how issues are pushed through a company. At the systemic level, NGOs must understand the functioning of international business, economics, investment and trade.  

Lessons learnt and scars taken 

..Civil society should understand and use the market. As companies need to comply with human rights and sustainability regulations, NGOs and defenders can become key in risk assessment or due diligence processes, influencing directly the behavior of companies. We need to know the “enemy” and know ourselves. As civil society, we should build our technical capacity to understand and leverage international business, economics, investment and trade. We will not change business dynamics if we do not understand them.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/18/business-network-on-civic-freedoms-and-human-rights-defenders-launches-new-website/

https://www.openglobalrights.org/what-it-takes-to-bridge-the-divide-between-the-business-sector-and-human-rights/

Historic vote: Russia also out of ECOSOC NGO Committee

May 13, 2022

On Wednesday, 13 April, members of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) elected 19 members to the UN Committee on NGOs, a body frequently criticised for restricting civil society participation at the UN. See my earlier posts on this topic: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/ngo-committee/

Members of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) voted to elect 19 members for the next 4 year term (2022-2025) of the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs. The 19 members of the Committee, elected from five regional groups, are the gatekeepers for civil society at the UN as they decide which NGOs receive UN accreditation participation rights.

In the election, the Eastern European States was the only regional group which presented a competitive slate, as three candidates, Armenia, Georgia and Russia, contested for the two available seats. Armenia, Georgia and Russia received 47, 44 and 15 votes respectively. As a result, Russia,  a member of the Committee since its establishment in 1947, has been voted out. This result comes one week after a historic resolution of the UN General Assembly to suspend Russia’s Human Rights Council membership. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/04/08/suspension-of-membership-un-human-rights-council-finally-operationalised/

Despite Russia’s departure, the incoming NGO Committee still includes members with deeply problematic records on safeguarding human rights and civil society participation. According to the CIVICUS Monitor, 60% of the incoming members are currently characterised as being ‘closed’ or ‘repressed’ civic spaces. This includes all members for the Asia-Pacific region. Civic space is ‘obstructed’ or ‘narrowed’ within the remaining 40%.

Members of the NGO Committee are the primary decision makers on which NGOs can access UN bodies and processes,” said Maithili Pai, Programme Officer and ISHR focal point for civil society access and participation. “States must fulfil their fundamental mandate under ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31 by acknowledging the breadth of NGO expertise and their capacity to support the work of the UN, and ensuring just, balanced, effective and genuine involvement of NGOs around the world.” she added.

ISHR is aware of 352 currently deferred organisations seeking UN accreditation, at least 40 which have faced over four years of deferrals, and one that has been deferred for 14 years. In response, ISHR sought to campaign for states to engage in competitive and meaningful elections that could produce positive outcomes for civil society. We urge incoming members of the Committee to open the doors of the UN to civil society groups from around the world.

https://ishr.ch/latest-updates/ecosoc-committee-on-ngos-elections-russia-voted-out-for-first-time-in-75-years/

Profile of Soun Yuthyia from Cambodia

May 11, 2022

I chose to be a human rights defender by, hopefully, protecting those who don’t know where to find a solution when there are human rights abuses happening to them.”

Soun Yuthyia is the advocacy director for The Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, an organisation that seeks to protect and promote respect for human rights throughout Cambodia. He shares his vision for the future of Cambodia and how his work has positively impacted the people of Cambodia.

Yuthyia also shares his experience with HRDAP and the ISHR Academy in the below video:

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/vAfHKFScArU

https://ishr.ch/defender-stories/human-rights-defenders-story-soun-yuthyia-from-cambodia/

International Service for Human Rights: annual report 2022 (2021)

May 8, 2022

The last 18 months have been deeply challenging from a human rights perspective, with the COVID pandemic exposing and exacerbating inequalities, human rights defenders continuing to face deadly threats and choking restrictions to their work, and some governments working to undermine the accessibility and effectiveness of human rights mechanisms and multilateral processes.  But it’s also been a period over which sparks have been lit on key issues which we must now nurture and ensure fires of progress that long burn bright. 

ISHR invites you to discover our latest annual report, outlining our key impacts during the last year and our vision for 2022 and the years ahead.

What did we achieve in 2021?

Here are just a few examples of our collective impact:  Together with human rights defenders fighting racism, we celebrated the establishment of a historic expert mechanism to advance racial justice and equality in law enforcement, as well as a commission to inquire into the root causes of conflict and violence against the Palestinian people. Together with defenders promoting women’s rights, we were inspired by the widespread mobilisation and calls for accountability in cases of sexual harassment and assault, as well as the release from arbitrary detention of a number of prominent women human rights defenders. Together with defenders working on the environment and the climate crisis, we commended the landmark recognition under international human rights law of the right to a healthy and sustainable environment, as well as the mandating of a new UN Special Rapporteur on Climate Change. Together with defenders working to make governments accountable, we rejoiced in seeing an increased number and diversity of persons prepared to speak up and take action against widespread and systemic violations in States including China, Egypt, Nicaragua, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, while in other States in Africa, Asia and Latin America progress was made in the legal recognition and protection of defenders. See more achievements by clicking on the two videos below and visiting our website!

For other annual reports of 2021, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/annual-report-2021/

Announcing the launch of its 2022 Annual Report

Late alert: Panel on gender rights: 24 March

March 23, 2022

On Thursday 24 March 2022, from 1:30pm – 2:30pm (CET) will take place the panel “Fighting for equality: Working together to combat violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity

Over the last two decades, UN human rights bodies and mechanisms have been at the forefront of promoting equality and fair treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, gender-diverse and intersex (LGBTI) people.

These contributions have led to considerable progress regarding decriminalisation of same-sex consensual acts and diverse gender identities, enactment of progressive laws and the promotion of international standards on the rights of LGBTI persons.

While these advances have been, and continue to be, integral in the promotion and protection of equal rights for LGBTI persons, the stories of those relentlessly fighting for that progress often remain untold. Indeed, everywhere around the world human rights defenders working on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE) play a central role in the fight for equality for LGBTI persons.

This side event aims to shed light on the success stories of human rights defenders working to combat violence and discrimination based on SOGIE, bringing together defenders as well as two UN mandate holders that focus on human rights defenders and on SOGIE. The panel will reflect on opportunities and risks for LGBTI human rights defenders, nation-level developments towards equality for LGBTI persons, progress of the current UN standards on these issues, and what can be done to address challenges.
SPEAKERS: 

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity

Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Other speakers will be confirmed soon

Welcoming and closing remarks by the Permanent Mission of the Netherlands and the Permanent Mission of Mexico

MODERATOR: Julia Ehrt, ILGA World’s Executive Director 

You are welcome to join this discussion, which will be held in English with simultaneous interpretation in Spanish. Click here to register to the event. 

https://mailchi.mp/ishr/749qlxejj6-33453?e=d1945ebb90

Profile of Woman Human Rights Defender Maria Luisa Acosta

March 8, 2022

Dr. Maria Luisa Acosta is the coordinator of the Centro de Asistencia Legal a Pueblos Indígenas (CALPI), an organisation that supports and seeks to realise the rights of Indigenous and Afrodescendant peoples and communities in Nicaragua. She shares her vision for the future and how, despite the personal toll of her work, she remains steadfast in her convictions.

States have the obligation to respect defenders, to provide them with security, to heed their calls and to consider that we are people who support the most vulnerable sectors of society, and that this is a contribution to democratic life.

https://ishr.ch/defender-stories/human-rights-defenders-story-maria-luisa-acosta-nicaragua/

NGOs express great worries about human rights situation in Russia at UN Human Rights Council

March 5, 2022

UN Human Rights Council should take urgent action to address the dire human rights situation in Russia say NGOs in a Joint Letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/27/anti-war-human-rights-defenders-in-russia/

To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council:

Excellency,

As the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council gets underway, and Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine, we, the undersigned civil society organisations, would like to draw your attention to the dire human rights situation within the Russian Federation, and urge all states to bring this neglected country situation onto the agenda of the Human Rights Council.

A year after last year’s joint statement on the situation in Russia, authorities there have further intensified the already unprecedented crackdown on human rights. A fully-fledged witch hunt against independent groups, human rights defenders, media outlets and journalists, and political opposition, is decimating civil society and forcing many into exile.

The gravity of this human rights crisis has been demonstrated in the last few days by the forcible dispersal of anti-war rallies and pickets across Russia with over 6,800 arrested (as of 2 March  2022), attempts to impose censorship on the reporting of the conflict in Ukraine and to silence those media and individuals who speak out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including through blocking media websites, threats of criminal prosecution under “fake news” and “high treason” charges and other means.

In a shocking development, the authorities moved to shut down “Memorial,” one of the country’s most authoritative human rights organizations. At the end of December, courts ruled to “liquidate” the group’s key legal entities, International Memorial Society and Human Rights Center Memorial, over alleged persistent noncompliance with the repressive legislation on “foreign agents.” On 28 February, the Supreme Court upheld this decision, despite an article 39 ruling from the European Court of Human Rights ordering the Russian authorities to halt liquidation proceedings.

The December rulings came at the end of a particularly terrible year for human rights in the country, during which authorities threw top opposition figure Alexei Navalny in prison, banned three organizations affiliated with him as “extremist,” launched criminal proceedings against several of his close associates, doubled down on Internet censorship, and designated more than 100 journalists and activists as “media-foreign agents”.

Recent months also saw a dramatic escalation of repression in Chechnya, where Russian law and international human rights obligations have been emptied of meaning. With the Kremlin’s tolerance or acquiescence, the local governor, Ramzan Kadyrov has been eviscerating all forms of dissent in Chechnya, often using collective punishment. In December 2021, Kadyrov opened a brutal offensive against his critics in the Chechen diaspora, by having the police arbitrarily detain dozens of their Chechnya-based relatives. It continued in January with the abduction and arbitrary detention on fabricated charges of Zarema Musaeva, mother of human rights lawyer Abubakar Yangulbaev, and death threats issued against the Yangulbaev family and some prominent human rights defenders and journalists. 

This is a country situation urgently requiring the Council’s attention. We urge the Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution expressing serious concern about the human rights violations and abuses occurring in Russia, requesting the High Commissioner to monitor and report on the situation, and appointing a dedicated Special Rapporteur to address the human rights situation in Russia.

Yours sincerely,

Signed:

  1. Human Rights Watch
  2. Amnesty International
  3. Human Rights House Foundation
  4. International Federation for Human Rights
  5. International Service for Human Rights
  6. Human Rights Centre Memorial (Russia)
  7. Civic Assistance Committee (Russia)

There was also a statement was delivered by Yulian Kondur and the International Charitable Organization Roma Women Fund ‘Chiricli’ in the name of Minority Rights Group (MRG) and other organizations at the Human Rights Council’s Urgent Debate, held on Friday 4 March 2022, on the situation of human rights in Ukraine stemming from the Russian Aggression. They called on authorities and aid actors to ensure that Roma, minorities and marginalised peoples are granted equal access to protection and safety when seeking refuge, including those without identity documentation.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/03/04/joint-letter-united-nations-human-rights-council-human-rights-situation-russia

Women human rights defenders in conflict and post-conflict situations; side event 8 March

March 2, 2022

Women human rights defenders are crucial agents and leaders of change. However, due to their gender, they face particular obstacles and security risks. What are these gendered obstacles and risks? How can women human rights defenders best be supported and protected by States and other actors?
ISHR, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and the Permanent Mission of Norway invite you to join a virtual event on the side of the Human Rights Council’s 49th session: 
Supporting women human rights defenders in conflict and post-conflict situations” takes place on Tuesday 8 March 2022 11:30am – 12:30pm (CET)
See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/03/roadmap-to-women-peace-and-security-wps-agenda-2020/

Opening statement:  Pekka Haavisto, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Finland

Panellists: 

Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders

Ilwad Elman, Director of Program & Development, Elman Peace & Human Rights Centre [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/09/17/fartuun-adan-and-ilwad-elman-from-somalia-named-2020-aurora-prize-winners/]

Horia Mosadiq, Human rights activist and Executive Director, Conflict Analysis Network (CAN)

Pooja Patel, Programme Director, International Service for Human Rights

Moderation:  Heidi Hautala, Vice-President, Member of Parliament, European Parliament.

Download the flyer here and click here to join the event.

More about the contributions of women human rights defenders to peace and security: ISHR report.

See also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.com/themes/

https://mailchi.mp/ishr/749qlxejj6-33413?e=d1945ebb90

Guide to 49th session of Human Rights Council – with human rights defenders focus

February 21, 2022

The 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council, from 28 February – 1 April 2022, will consider issues including the protection of human rights defenders, freedom of religion or belief, protection and promotion of human rights while countering terrorism, the right to food and adequate housing, among others. It will also present an opportunity to address grave human rights situations in States including Nicaragua, Venezuela, China, Syria, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar, Eritrea, among many others. Here’s an overview of some of the key issues on the agenda. The ISHR has issued again its excellent Guide to the upcoming session and I have extracted from it the issues most directly related to human rights defenders:

Protection of human rights defenders

On 11 March 2022, the UN Special Rapporteur will present her report on the work of human rights defenders to address corruption. At the 49th session of the HRC, Norway will present a thematic resolution on human rights defenders in conflict and post-conflict situations. A group of NGOs have produced a list of 25 recommendations related to key concerns that should be addressed in the resolution. These include recommendations related to the removal of legislation that impinges upon the ability of defenders to do their work, including counter-terrorism legislation; the development of protection measures that take into account the specific needs of particular groups of defenders and the precarious nature of their situation in conflict and post-conflict contexts, and specific measures to support human rights defenders in such contexts, including in regard to the provision of cloud-based solutions for storage of documentation, flexible and reliable funding and swift responses in the case of the need for relocation of human rights defenders and their families. ISHR joins these calls and to impress upon the Council the need for a strong commitment to acknowledging and taking action to protect human rights defenders working in such contexts.  In addition, we call on all UN members to monitor and report on their implementation of the resolution in a comprehensive way, sharing updates on challenges faced and progress made during relevant UN dialogues and debates.   

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.

The UN has taken some action towards addressing this critical issue including:

  • an annual report by the Secretary General;
  • a dedicated dialogue under item 5 to take place every September;
  • The appointment of the UN Assistant Secretary General on Human Rights as the Senior Official on addressing reprisals.

Despite this, ISHR remains deeply concerned about reprisals against civil society actors who try to engage with UN mechanisms, and consistent in its calls for all States and the Council to do more to address the situation. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/

During the 48th session, the Council adopted a resolution on reprisals. The text was adopted by consensus for the first time since 2009 and invites the UN Secretary General to submit his 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.

Item 5 of the Human Rights Council’s agenda provides a key opportunity for States to raise concerns about specific cases of 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. The President should also update the Council on actions taken by the President and Bureau to follow up on cases and promote accountability under this item.

Other thematic debates

At this 49th session, the Council will discuss a range of topics in depth through dedicated debates with mandate holders. The debates with mandate holders include: 

  • The Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights 
  • The Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief
  • The Special Rapporteur on torture
  • The Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy

In addition, the Council will hold dedicated debates on the rights of specific groups including the Special Rapporteur on minority issues

In addition, the Council will hold dedicated debates on interrelation of human rights and human rights thematic issues including:

  • The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism
  • The Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment

Country-specific developments

China: High Commissioner Bachelet has still not released her Office’s report on grave human rights violations in the Uyghur region, six months after announcing its upcoming publication, and three months since her spokesperson indicated it would only be a matter of ‘weeks’. Further delays risk entrenching the Chinese government’s sense of impunity, and will harm the credibility of, and confidence in her Office’s capacity to address grave violations, some of which could amount to atrocity crimes. States should urge the High Commissioner to promptly publish her report, and present it to the Human Rights Council as a matter of utmost priority.  This includes ensuring sustained pressure around China’s abuse of national security in discourse and law, and on the widespread and systematic use of enforced disappearance under ‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location’ (RSDL). See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/05/chinas-residential-surveillance-at-a-designated-location-needs-to-disappear/

Burundi: The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi (CoI) concluded its work at the 48th HRC session in October 2021 while a new resolution establishing a mandate of UN Special Rapporteur on Burundi was adopted, resolution 48/16. The resolution tasks the mandate with monitoring the human rights situation in the country, making recommendations for its imp­ro­ve­ment, and re­por­ting to the Human Rights Council. While the Spe­cial Rapporteur will be unable to continue the entirety of the investigative work carried out by the CoI, they will “collect, examine and assess” information on human rights deve­lop­ments. Ahead of HRC48 more than 40 organisations, including ISHR, urged the Council to continue its scrutiny and further work towards justice and accountability in Burundi. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/07/03/germain-rukuki-burundi-human-rights-defender-out-of-jail/

The UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) will ensure that evidence col­lec­ted by the CoI is “consolidated, preserved, accessible and usable in support of ongoing and future accountability efforts” including efforts to hold Bu­rundian officials responsible for atrocities in front of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Burundian government should resume its engagement with the Council and grant the Special Rap­porteur, who will be appointed in March 2022, access to the country for an official visit.

France: Following an urgent call by ISHR and the Comité Adama, UN experts sent two communications to the French government on 15 and 26 November 2021 asking for measures to ensure that human rights defenders, including people of African descent, enjoy a safe environment in which to carry out their legitimate work for human rights and justice. The lack of investigation in the case of Adama Traoré’s death and the judicial harassment against his sister Assa Traoré for her activism is a sign of broader systemic racism against Black people in policing and criminal justice in France. 

ISHR urges the HRC to continue its scrutiny and calls on France to ensure a prompt, transparent, and impartial investigation into the case of Adama Traoré; end the judicial harassment of Assa Traoré for her activism; accept the requests of the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism and the Working Group on People of African Descent to visit the country; end impunity for police violence; and ensure truly free and impartial investigations into the death or injury of anyone at the hands of the police, especially people of African descent.

Egypt: The joint statement delivered by States in March 2021 at the 46th session of the HRC played a critical role in securing the conditional release of several human rights defenders and journalists arbitrarily detained throughout 2021 and 2022. Regrettably, these releases do not reflect any significant change in Egypt’s systematic attacks on civic space and human rights defenders, including arbitrary detention, torture, ill-treatment, enforced disappearances and criminalisation of the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly or public participation. On 3 February 2022, 175 parliamentarians from across Europe urged the HRC to establish a “long overdue monitoring and reporting mechanism on Egypt”. ISHR joined more than 100 NGOs from around the world in urging the HRC to create a monitoring and reporting mechanism on the ever-deteriorating human rights situation in Egypt. Continued, sustained and coordinated action on Egypt at the HRC is more necessary than ever. The HRC should follow up on the 2021 State joint statement and heed the calls of civil society and parliamentarians. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/01/11/the-arabic-network-for-human-rights-information-has-shut-down/

Nicaragua: A year after Council resolution 46/2, civil society reporting indicates no meaningful action has been taken by Nicaragua to implement any of the Council’s recommendations to the government. Instead, it has deepened its crackdown on human rights defenders and any form of dissent, and further closed civil society space ahead of the November 2021 electoral process. The government’s absolute disregard for cooperation with international and regional mechanisms, including the treaty bodies, is an additional sign that the government does not intend to revert course on the country’s human rights crisis. ISHR, jointly with the Colectivo 18/2, urges the Human Rights Council to establish an independent mechanism to investigate grave human rights violations since April 2018 in Nicaragua, as well as their root causes. The mechanism should verify alleged grave violations, identify perpetrators, and preserve evidence, with a view to long-term accountability processesSee also my post of today: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/21/nicaragua-death-in-detention-and-sham-trial/

Saudi Arabia: According to ALQST’s 2021 annual report, for a short time in early 2021, intense global pressure on Saudi Arabia’s leaders to improve their dismal human rights record resulted in some minor reforms and concessions, yet, when the pressure eased, the Saudi authorities resumed their habitual pattern of abuses with renewed intensity. A number of high-profile women human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience were conditionally released, but they remain under severe restrictions which means that while they are released, they are not yet free. Saudi authorities continue to crackdown on freedom of expression and hand down lengthy prison sentences to human rights defenders. Saudi Arabia is sensitive regarding its reputation and susceptible to international pressure.

Sudan: On 5 November 2021, the Human Rights Council held a special session to address the ongoing situation in the Republic of Sudan and mandated an Expert on human rights in Sudan to monitor and report on the situation until the restoration of its civilian-led Government. The HRC must extend the reporting mandate of the Expert as the human rights situation is deteriorating. The military is closing the civic space for women’s rights groups and women human rights defenders, including by stigmatising women’s rights groups as terrorists or drug abusers. The recent arrests of women human rights defenders are part of a systemic attack against WHRDs in Sudan. The military and security forces are using social media and traditional media to defame women protesters. Women’s rights groups and WHRDs are facing a new wave of attacks that include framing charges to prolong the detention of WHRDs and defame the women’s rights movement. The military reinstated the authorities of the former regime’s security forces in December 2021 in the emergency order number 3. The new emergency order gave Sudanese security complete impunity and protection from accountability for any form of violations on duty.  Sudanese security forces have a well-documented history of sexual abuse and torture of women detainees. WHRDs in detention are at risk of maltreatment, torture, and sexual violence. 

Venezuela is back under the microscope with updates from the Office of the High Commissioner and from the Council’s fact-finding mission on the country both scheduled for 17th March. Attention on the human rights situation in the country follows hot on the heels of the Universal Periodic Review of Venezuela that took place at the end of January.  The Council session is taking place at a time that Venezuelan civil society continues facing restrictions and attacks on their work. The head of human rights organisation, Fundaredes, has now been arbitrarily detained for 224 days. The Council session is an opportunity for States to express concern about the restrictions on civil society, and to enquire about the implementation of prior recommendations made to Venezuela by both OHCHR and the Mission. Despite being a Council member, Venezuela has yet to allow the Council’s own fact-finding mission access to the country, something the Council as a whole should denounce. 

The High Commissioner will provide an oral update to the Council on 7 March. The Council will consider updates, 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:

  • Oral update and interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea
  • Oral update and interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on the Tigray region of Ethiopia 
  • Interactive Dialogue on the High Commissioner’s written update on Sri Lanka
  • Interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report on  Nicaragua
  • Interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report on Afghanistan
  • Interactive Dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report on ensuring accountability and justice in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem
  • Oral updates and interactive dialogues with the High Commissioner and fact-finding mission on Venezuela 
  • Oral update bv the High Commissioner and interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
  • Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the OHCHR’s report on Belarus
  • Interactive Dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report, enhanced interactive dialogue on the Secretary-General’s report, and interactive dialogue on the Special Rapporteur’s report on Myanmar
  • Interactive Dialogue on the Special Rapporteur’s report on Iran
  • Interactive Dialogue on the Commission of Inquiry’s report on Syria 
  • Interactive Dialogue on the Special Rapporteur’s report on the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967
  • Interactive Dialogues on the High Commissioner’s report and Commission on Human Rights’ report on South Sudan
  • Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner on Ukraine
  • High-level Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Central African Republic
  • Oral updates and enhanced interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner and the team of international experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Oral update by the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia 
  • Interactive Dialogue on the Independent Expert’s report on Mali 
  • Interactive Dialogue on the fact-finding mission’s report on Libya

Appointment of mandate holders

The President of the Human Rights Council will propose candidates for the following mandates: 

  1. Three members of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (one from the Pacific, one from Central and South America and the Caribbean, and one from Central and Eastern Europe, the Russian Federation, Central Asia and Transcaucasia); 
  2. The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change; 
  3. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan; 
  4. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burundi; 
  5. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967; 
  6. A member of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, from Western European and other States; 
  7. A member of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, from Asia-Pacific States; 
  8. A member of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, from Asia-Pacific States;
  9. A member of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, from Latin American and Caribbean States (an unforeseen vacancy that has arisen due to a resignation).

Resolutions to be presented to the Council’s 49th session

At the organisational meeting on 14 February the following resolutions were announced (States leading the resolution in brackets):

  1. Human rights of persons belonging to minorities (Austria, Mexico, Slovenia)
  2. Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against, persons based on religion or belief (Pakistan on behalf of the OIC) 
  3. Human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the obligation to ensure accountability and justice (Pakistan on behalf of the OIC) 
  4. Cultural rights (Cuba)
  5. The negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights (Azerbaijan on behalf of NAM)
  6. Right to work (Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Mexico, Romania)
  7.  Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran – mandate renewal (Iceland, Moldova, North Macedonia, UK) 
  8. Rights of the child (GRULAC and EU)
  9. Human rights defenders (Norway)
  10. Adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and the right to non-discrimination in this context (Germany, Brazil, Finland, Namibia)
  11. Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic – mandate renewal (France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Netherlands, Qatar, Turkey, UK, USA)
  12. Situation of human rights in South Sudan – mandate renewal (Albania, Norway, USA, UK)
  13. Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism – mandate renewal (Mexico)
  14. Prevention of genocide (Armenia)
  15. Situation of human rights in Belarus – mandate renewal (EU)
  16. Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)- mandate renewal (EU) 
  17. Situation of human rights in Myanmar – mandate renewal (EU)
  18. Freedom of religion or belief (EU)
  19. Technical assistance and capacity-building for Mali in the field of human rights (Africa Group)
  20. Technical assistance and capacity-building for South Sudan (Africa Group) 
  21. Role of states in countering the negative impact of disinformation on human rights (Ukraine)

During this session, the Council will adopt the UPR working group reports on Myanmar, Greece, Suriname, Samoa, Hungary, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Papua New Guinea, Tajikistan, United Republic of Tanzania, Eswatini, Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand and Ireland.

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. 7 panel discussions and 1 thematic meeting are scheduled for this upcoming session:

To stay up-to-date: Follow @ISHRglobal and #HRC49 on Twitter, and look out for our Human Rights Council Monitor.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/10/19/48th-session-of-the-human-rights-council-outcomes/

https://ishr.ch/latest-updates/hrc49-key-issues-on-agenda-of-march-2022-session/

Business Network on Civic Freedoms and Human Rights Defenders launches new website

February 18, 2022

The Network is now launching its official website, where details about activities, priorities and participants can be found and engagement is encouraged. 

The work of human rights defenders  (HRDs) and civil society is vital to peace, justice, fairness and sustainable development. It is also essential to promote transparency and combat corruption. Nonetheless, around the world, there is a concerted attack on the essential freedoms and the rule of law on which business and civil society depend. Both defenders and organisations who expose the risk of abuse by companies in their operations and supply chains are under particular attack.

Responsible businesses and investors need to both step up and lead by example as well as to speak and act decisively to protect open societies and the “shared civic space” in which both companies and civil society develop. Sustainable development cannot thrive in closed societies where cronyism and corruption prosper, and basic human rights are not respected.

But why, when and how should business engage on this urgent agenda? There is no easy answer and progress will only be achieved by motion and action. Created in 2016 with this goal in mind, the Business Network on Civic Freedoms and Human Rights Defenders is formed by a group of companies committed to identifying ways that businesses and society can benefit from increased support from the private sector for the protection of civic freedoms and human rights defenders. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/21/davos-businesses-need-strong-human-rights-defenders/

The Network is now launching its official website, where details about activities, priorities and participants can be found and engagement is encouraged. 

The participating NGOs and defenders have been providing guidance for companies, which was compiled in the Shared Space Under Pressure Report on Business Support for Civic Freedoms and Human Rights Defenders, published by BHRRC and ISHR in 2018. Since then, at least 30 companies make references to human rights defenders in their internal policies. A good trend, but not enough in terms of numbers, implementation, and impact. Additionally, some of the members signalled their early commitment to this agenda through this public statement in support of civic freedoms, human rights defenders and the rule of law.

The Business Network on Civic Freedoms and Human Rights Defenders is coordinated by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, the International Service for Human Rights, and The B Team. Approximately 40 major multinationals currently participate in the Business Network. The Network works across sectors, which include businesses, civil society (NGOs, community representatives, union leaders and other front line human rights defenders), investors, international institutions and academia.

https://ishr.ch/latest-updates/business-human-rights-the-business-network-on-civic-freedoms-and-human-rights-defenders-launches-its-new-website/