Archive for the 'UN' Category

Over 2,500 indigenous languages reported to be in danger of extinction

August 12, 2019

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed’s spoke on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, 9 August 2019, in New York:  …There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world today.  …This year marks the International Year of Indigenous Languages, declared by the United Nations General Assembly to draw attention to the urgent need to preserve, revitalize and promote our indigenous languages.  Almost half the world’s estimated 6,700 languages are in danger of disappearing.  Most of these belong to indigenous peoples.  With every language that disappears, the world loses a wealth of traditional knowledge and cultural heritage.

……..As the International Panel on Climate Change report that comes out today focuses on land degradation, it is important to re-emphasize that we will stand with those human rights defenders and defenders of our environment, of our habitat, that are persecuted.  We should put a stop to that and have zero tolerance for it. And on this day we remember those who are fighting for indigenous peoples and their habitat.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/08/08/9-august-international-day-of-the-worlds-indigenous-peoples-un-experts-see-increasing-murder/

https://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=245100

On Aug. 9, World Indigenous Day, attention goes to Indigenous languages

A good appointment at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees

August 9, 2019

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On 8 August 2019,  Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that Austrialian Gillian Triggs [@GillianTriggs] has been appointed Assistant High Commissioner for refugee protection. He states that she will bring to #UNHCR substantial legal expertise, knowledge and experience of refugee issues and a passion for human rights. From the single blog post I have on her that seems indeed very likely: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/06/16/the-importance-of-independent-national-human-rights-bodies-illustrated-in-australia/

UN spokesperson on human rights puts a simple question on gun violence

August 9, 2019

Although not directly linked to human rights defenders (but they are often the victims of gun violence) the above statement by the Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, reacting to the weekend mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, raises the straightforward question: why should any civilian anywhere be able to acquire an assult rifle…??

 

See also in this context: https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/un-rights-experts-bigoted-statements-make-politicians-complicit

https://www.mrctv.org/videos/un-rights-official-why-should-any-civilian-anywhere-be-able-acquire-assault-rifle

China’s cyber-dissident Huang Qi get 12 years jail

July 30, 2019

Quite a few mainstream media have paid attention on 29 July 2019 to the sentening of human rights defender Huang Qi, often referred to as the country’s “first cyber-dissident”, to 12 years in jail. Huang Qi is the founder of 64 Tianwang, a news website blocked in mainland China that covers alleged human rights abuses and protests. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/06/14-major-ngos-call-for-immediate-release-of-chinese-human-rights-defender-huang-qi/

He had been found guilty of intentionally leaking state secrets to foreigners. The statement, from Mianyang Intermediate People’s Court, added Mr Huang would be deprived of his political rights for four years and had also been fined $2,900. Huang has kidney and heart disease and high blood pressure. And supporters have voiced concern about the consequences of the 56-year-old remaining imprisoned.

This decision is equivalent to a death sentence, considering Huang Qi’s health has already deteriorated from a decade spent in harsh confinement,” said Christophe Deloire, the secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders. The press-freedom campaign group has previously awarded Huang its Cyberfreedom Prize. It has now called on President Xi Jinping to “show mercy” and issue a pardon.

Amnesty International has called the sentence “harsh and unjust”. “The authorities are using his case to scare other human rights defenders who do similar work exposing abuses, especially those using online platforms,” said the group’s China researcher Patrick Poon.

And in December 2018, a group of the United Nations’ leading human rights experts also pressed for Huang to be set free and be paid compensation. According to Reporters Without Borders, China currently holds more than 114 journalists in prison.

https://www.jurist.org/news/2019/07/chinese-journalist-huang-qi-sentenced-to-12-years-for-allegedly-leaking-state-secrets/

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-49150906

Report of the Nelson Mandela Human Rights Lecture 2019

July 24, 2019

Panelists at the 2019 Nelson Mandela Human Rights Lecture

The Nelson Mandela Human Rights Lecture was held at the Graduate Institute 18 July 2019 [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/12/nelson-mandela-human-rights-lecture-in-geneva-on-18-july-2019/]. For the lecture, Michelle Bachelet, United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Albie Sachs, Former Judge of the South African Constitutional Court, were present to share their incredible personal experiences of fighting for human rights.

Establishing the Rule of Law in South Africa as a form of ‘Soft Vengeance’ against Apartheid

A piece of paper, a body, a voice and the dreams of millions of people, including our hope; for those of you in the audience, that’s my text for today’, began Mr Sachs, who had fought against apartheid since age 17, was appointed by Nelson Mandela to the Constitutional Court of South Africa in 1994 and played a critical role in the creation of the first draft of South Africa’s Bill of Rights, adopted in 1996 by the South African parliament as an integral part of the South African Constitution. Mr Sachs explained that his efforts to establish a rule of law in South Africa were a form of ‘soft vengeance’ against apartheid, exemplified through his own, personal tribulation. On 7 April 1988 in Mozambique, as a result of a car bomb, he lost his right arm. …Commenting on the trial of one of the accused car bombers, Mr Sachs said, ‘My vengeance will be if the person receives a fair trial, and if his guilt is not beyond doubt, will be acquitted, because this will prove that we will have established the rule of law’.

Standing Up and Acting for Change

Michelle Bachelet recounted her own experience as a human rights defender. She told of dictatorship in Chile, the torture and killing of her father and her mother’s detention. In defiance of the anger she felt at her family’s situation, she found the perseverance to stand up and act for change, becoming the first woman President of Chile (dually elected), then Executive Director of UN Women, and eventually replacing Zeid Raad Al Hussein in 2018 as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

‘[…] the world today faces complex challenges, challenges too big for one country, challenges that do not respect borders’, she said. ‘[…] And we see a pushback on human rights. And I say, let’s pushback the pushback’.

Nelson Mandela Human Rights Lecture Michelle Bachelet

Video of the Lecture. You can watch here the Nelson Mandela Human Rights Lecture in its entirety.

https://www.geneva-academy.ch/news/detail/247-human-rights-warriors-tell-their-stories-at-the-nelson-mandela-human-rights-lecture

 

The ‘Van Boven Principles’: short video

July 23, 2019

This short video dates back to 17 November 2015 but is now available as UN VIDEO. It is a short version of a full-length documentary film on Theo van Boven who was head of the UN Human Rights Division in the late seventies/early eighties when in Latin America hundreds of thousands were tortured, killed and disappeared. Theo was one of the few courageous UN leaders to speak out:  “It is inexplicable and indefensible for the United Nations not to react urgently to situations of gross violations of human rights”.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/07/new-book-on-theo-van-bovens-crucial-role-in-the-development-of-the-un-human-rights-system/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/12/16/theo-van-boven-reflects-on-70-years-united-nations/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/03/05/theo-van-boven-honored-with-film-and-debate-in-geneva-side-event-14-march/

https://videos.un.org/en/2015/11/17/the-van-boven-principles/

Why Iceland led the UN resolution on the Philippines

July 22, 2019

Despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat to sever diplomatic ties, Iceland expressed hope the Philippines will cooperate with the United Nations Human Rights Council’s investigation into the human rights situation in the country, including the drug war. “Icelandic authorities sincerely hope that the Philippine authorities will engage the UN on this and the resolution,” Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs said in a press statement. The resolution was backed by 18 out of 47 member-countries. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/11/un-council-agrees-action-on-philippines-in-spite-of-vehement-objection/]

President Rodrigo Duterte blasted Iceland for failing to “understand” the Philippines. “Iceland, ano ang problema ng Iceland? Ice lang. (What’s the problem of Iceland? It has only ice.) That’s your problem you have too much ice and there is no clear day or night there,” Duterte said rather unsuitably but then added that – as a country that enjoyed low crime rates – Iceland was unable to comprehend the need for a bloody drug war in the Philippines.

But why did tiny Iceland, of all countries, file the resolution in the first place?’ Sofia Tomacruz in Rappler of 19 July 2019 tried to answer this:

When Iceland led the resolution at the UN Human Rights Council, it did so as a country that puts a high priority on human rights. As one of the most peaceful countries in the world, Iceland also leads by example when it comes to observing human rights. Iceland carried that responsibility when it became a member of the UN rights council last year, taking the place of the United States which left the rights body it called a “cesspool of political bias.” “For a small and peaceful country like Iceland, international law and the multilateral system is our sword, shield and shelter,” Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs said in statement to Rappler.

ICELAND'S FOREIGN MINISTER. Iceland's Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson at the United Nations. Photo from the Government of Iceland website

ICELAND’S FOREIGN MINISTER. Iceland’s Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson at the United Nations. Photo from the Government of Iceland website

In an interview with the Iceland Monitor, Iceland Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson said, “We are fortunate enough to enjoy human rights in Iceland, which we take for granted….It is our duty to contribute to the fight for improving the state of human rights affairs in the world.

According to the Fund for Peace’s 2019 Fragile States Index, Iceland was considered among the most stable countries in the world, enjoying stable observance of human rights and the rule of law among other factors. The Philippines, meanwhile, was described as a state with “high warning” over eroding human rights and higher levels of crime and violence. Aside from this, the 2019 Global Peace Index ranked Iceland as the most peaceful country in the world, while the Philippines was 134th out of a total of 163 countries.

GLOBAL PEACE INDEX. Iceland is ranked as the most peaceful country in the world according to the 2019 Global Peace Index. Screenshot from Visions of Humanity.org

Iceland is ranked as the most peaceful country in the world according to the 2019 Global Peace Index. Screenshot from Visions of Humanity.org

For Human Rights Watch deputy director of Geneva Laila Matar, Iceland’s actions as a new member of the powerful rights body live up to its reputation as a country that champions human rights. “Iceland is a country that takes the Human Rights Council seriously and that takes their membership in the Human Rights Council seriously. The Human Rights Council is meant to ensure that gross violations of human rights are addressed,” Matar said in an interview with Rappler.

https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/iq/235775-why-iceland-led-un-resolution-drug-war-killings-philippines

https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/701688/iceland-hopes-phl-will-cooperate-with-un-probe-on-ejks-drug-war/story/

Alarm bells about China’s growing coalition of the ‘unwilling’

July 20, 2019

On 18 July 2019ecturer on Human Rights, School of Law, University of Essex, wrote in The Conversation a piece that sounds alarm bells about “China is building a global coalition of human rights violators to defend its record in Xinjiang – what is its endgame? Worth taking note:

Read the rest of this entry »

Human rights defenders of minorities having a hard time in the UN finds UNPO

July 19, 2019

On 17 July 2019 the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) is launched a report, Compromised Space: Bullying and Blocking at the UN Human Rights Mechanisms, with its partners at the University of Oxford and Tibet Justice Centre which details how China, Russia, Iran and other repressive regimes are manipulating the United Nations Human Rights System to block and attack those seeking to hold them accountable for gross human rights violations perpetrated against minorities, indigenous communities and other unrepresented peoples…

The report is based on three years of study conducted by the UNPO and its partners at the University of Oxford and the Tibet Justice Center, supported by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council. It is based largely on interviews and testimonies from 77 human rights defenders working on behalf of minorities, indigenous communities and other people living in nation states whose political systems do not create governance structures representative of all. It identifies a systemic attack on the United Nations human rights system by these governments, led largely by China, Russia and Iran, designed to shield them from accountability for human rights violations and crimes against humanity. This includes efforts to deny civil society groups participatory status at the UN (so called “ECOSOC status”), to bully and block them when they are able to access the UN, to crowd out the UN space with “GONGOs” – government-sponsored organisations posing as NGOs – and to harass, intimidate and take reprisals against activists and their families, whether at home or abroad.

Among the indicative findings of the report are the facts that:

China has regularly detained or imprisoned activists from its Southern Mongolian, Uyghur and Tibetan communities who have sought to travel to the UN, with such success that, for example, no Tibetan from Tibet who is acting independently of the Chinese government has ever managed to leave Chinese- occupied Tibet to testify at the UN in Geneva or New York, and then return safely;

Russia, in order to shield itself from accountability for its crimes in Russian-occupied Crimea, has asked for rules of participation in forums, such as the UN Minority Forum, to be changed to restrict NGO participation to groups acceptable to Russia, and its Crimea occupation authorities have attacked Crimean Tatar activists and destroyed or confiscated their passports in order to prevent their travel;

Iran regularly engages in practices designed to intimidate activists from their minority communities, even while they are operating within the United Nations buildings, and have taken out reprisals against the family members of these activists still living within the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The story of Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress and Vice President of the UNPO, is indicative of all of these actions. Mr. Isa and his organization have regularly been denied ECOSOC status at the United Nations, his access to the UN buildings and events have been restricted due to Chinese demands, he and his supporters have been followed and harassed in the UN building, his mother was held in China’s anti-Muslim concentration camps as a result of his work and for many years his ability to travel freely around the world was frustrated by Chinese efforts to involve European and other states in his persecution by falsely labelling him a “terrorist”.

Reacting to the launch of the report, UNPO’s General Secretary, Ralph Bunche, stated that “the report presents the disturbing finding that the United Nations Human Rights system, which is the only outlet for many peoples living under repressive regimes to seek accountability for crimes committed against them, is being systemically undermined by perpetrator regimes. Unfortunately, democratic states are not doing nearly enough to push back against this phenomenon and in some instances are even adopting the conduct that we see from the repressive states. The withdrawal of the USA from the UN’s Human Rights Council has certainly not helped matters, but other states are simply not doing enough to counter this problem and protect human rights defenders.

DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT HERE

https://unpo.org/article/21583

41st UN Human Rights Council: what the NGOs see as its result

July 16, 2019

On 12 july 2019, ISHR published what key civil society organisations thought of the just finished 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council.

Civil society organisations welcomed significant outcomes of the Human Rights Council’s 41st session, including the extension of the SOGI mandate, adopting the first resolution on the Philippines and extending its scrutiny over Eritrea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Belarus and Ukraine. This session witnessed heightened scrutiny of Council members by shedding light on the situations in Saudi Arabia and China. It missed an opportunity, however, to ensure that human rights are not sidelined in Sudan.

16 leading human rights organisations (see below) expressed regrets that Council members seek to use their seats to shield themselves and others from scrutiny. They called on States to stand with victims of human rights violations. They welcomed the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly association, that the Council stood up to the global backlash against the rights of women and girls, and that it continued to address the threat posed by climate change to human rights. They also welcomed the reports on Venezuela, called on the High Commissioner to immediately release the UN database of businesses engaged with Israeli settlements, and on all States to pursue accountability for victims of intimidation and reprisals.

Full statement below:

By renewing the mandate of the Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), the Council has sent a clear message that violence and discrimination against people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities cannot be tolerated. It reaffirmed that specific, sustained and systematic attention is needed to address these human rights violations and ensure that LGBT people can live a life of dignity. We welcome the Core Group’s commitment to engage in dialogue with all States, resulting in over 50 original co-sponsors across all regions. However, we regret that some States have again attempted to prevent the Council from addressing discrimination and violence on the basis of SOGI.

This Council session also sent a clear message that Council membership comes with scrutiny by addressing the situations of Eritrea, the Philippines, China, Saudi Arabia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This shows the potential the Council has to leverage its membership to become more effective and responsive to rights holders and victims.

The Council did the right thing by extending its monitoring of the situation in Eritrea. The onus is on the Eritrean Government to cooperate with Council mechanisms, including the Special Rapporteur, in line with its membership obligations.

We welcome the first Council resolution on the Philippines as an important first step towards justice and accountability. We urge the Council to closely follow this situation and be ready to follow up with additional action, if the situation does not improve or deteriorates further. We deeply regret that such a resolution was necessary, due to the continuation of serious violations and repeated refusal of the Philippines – despite its membership of the Council– to cooperate with existing mechanisms.

We deplore that the Philippines and Eritrea sought to use their seats in this Council to seek to shield themselves from scrutiny, and those States [1] who stood with the authorities and perpetrators who continue to commit grave violations with impunity, rather than with the victims.

We welcome the written statement by 22 States on China expressing collective concern over widespread surveillance, restrictions to freedoms of religion and movement, and large-scale arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang. We consider it as a first step towards sustained Council attention and in the absence of progress look to those governments that have signed this letter to follow up at the September session with a resolution calling for China to allow access to the region to independent human rights experts and to end country-wide the arbitrary detention of individuals based on their religious beliefs or political opinions.

We welcome the progress made in resolutions on the rights of women and girls: violence against women and girls in the world of work, on discrimination against women and girls and on the consequences of child, early and forced marriage. We particularly welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls under its new name and mandate to focus on the intersections of gender and age and their impact on girls. The Council showed that it was willing to stand up to the global backlash against the rights of women and girls by ensuring that these resolutions reflect the current international legal framework and resisted cultural relativism, despite several amendments put forward to try and weaken the strong content of these resolutions.

However, in the text on the contribution of development to the enjoyment of all human rights, long standing consensus language from the Vienna Declaration for Programme of Action (VDPA) recognising that, at the same time, “the lack of development may not be invoked to justify the abridgment of internationally recognized human rights” has again been deliberately excluded, disturbing the careful balance established and maintained for several decades on this issue.

We welcome the continuous engagement of the Council in addressing the threat posed by climate change to human rights, through its annual resolution and the panel discussion on women’s rights and climate change at this session. We call on the Council to continue to strengthen its work on this issue, given its increasing urgency for the protection of all human rights.

The Council has missed an opportunity on Sudan where it could have supported regional efforts and ensured that human rights are not sidelined in the process. We now look to African leadership to ensure that human rights are upheld in the transition. The Council should stand ready to act, including through setting up a full-fledged inquiry into all instances of violence against peaceful protesters and civilians across the country.

During the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial and summary executions, States heard loud and clear that the time to hold Saudi Arabia accountable is now  for the extrajudicial killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. We recall that women human rights defenders continue to be arbitrarily detained despite the calls by 36 States at the March session. We urge States to adopt a resolution at the September session to establish a monitoring mechanism over the human rights situation in the country.

We welcome the landmark report of the High Commissioner on the situation for human rights in Venezuela; in response to the grave findings in the report and the absence of any fundamental improvement of the situation in the meantime, we urge the Council to adopt a Commission of Inquiry or similar mechanism in September, to reinforce the ongoing efforts of the High Commissioner and other actors to address the situation.

We welcome the renewal of the mandate on freedom of peaceful assembly and association. This mandate is at the core of our work as civil society and we trust that the mandate will continue to protect and promote these fundamental freedoms towards a more open civic space.

We welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus. We acknowledge some positive signs of re-engagement in dialogue by Belarus, and an attempted negotiation process with the EU on a potential Item 10 resolution. However, in the absence of systemic human rights reforms in Belarus, the mandate and resolution process remains an essential tool for Belarusian civil society. In addition, there are fears of a spike in violations around upcoming elections and we are pleased that the resolution highlights the need for Belarus to provide safeguards against such an increase.

We welcome the renewal of the quarterly reporting process on the human rights situation in Ukraine. However, we also urge States to think creatively about how best to use this regular mechanism on Ukraine to make better progress on the human rights situation.

The continued delay in the release of the UN database of businesses engaged with Israeli settlements established pursuant to Council resolution 31/36 in March 2016 is of deep concern.  We join others including Tunisia speaking on behalf of 65 states and Peru speaking on behalf of 26 States in calling on the High Commissioner to urgently and fully fulfill this mandate as a matter of urgency and on all States to  cooperate with all Council mandates, including this one, and without political interference.

Numerous States and stakeholders highlighted the importance of the OHCHR report on Kashmir; while its release only a few days ago meant it did not receive substantive consideration at the present session, we look forward to discussing it in depth at the September session.

Finally, we welcome the principled leadership shown by Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, in pursuing accountability for individual victims of acts of intimidation and reprisals under General Debate Item 5, contrasting with other States which tend to make only general statements of concern. We call on States to raise all individual cases at the interactive dialogue on reprisals and intimidation in the September session.

[1]States who voted against the resolution on the Eritrea: Bahrain, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq, India, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, the Philippines and Pakistan.
States who voted against the resolution on the Philippines: Angola, Bahrain, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Hungary, Iraq, India, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and the Philippines.

*Statement delivered by the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) on behalf of: DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project); Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA); International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH); International Commission of Jurists (ICJ); Center for Reproductive Rights; ARTICLE 19; Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; Human Rights House Foundation; CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation; Franciscans International; Association for Progressive Communications (APC); Amnesty International; Human Rights Watch; International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA).

For the preview of the the 41st session, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/14/guide-to-human-rights-defenders-issues-at-the-41st-human-rights-council-starting-on-24-june/

http://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc41-civil-society-presents-key-takeaways-human-rights-council