Archive for the 'UN' Category

SHIFT’s new Chair is former High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

May 20, 2022

Shift, the centre of expertise on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, announced the appointment of HRH Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein as the new Chair of its Board of Trustees. He served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2014-2018, as well as Jordan’s Permanent Representative to the UN, and as the first president of the International Criminal Court (ICC), among other leadership roles.

He is currently the CEO and President of the International Peace Institute and the Perry World House Professor of Practice of Law and Human Rights at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School. He is also a member of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders working together for peace, justice and human rights, first established by Nelson Mandela in 2007. He has been recognized globally and received 5 human rights awards, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/8ec8e85a-66ba-404c-b82e-720ebf044549]  

Prince Zeid succeeds Shift’s late founding Chair, Professor John Ruggie, author of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. [See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/28/in-memoriam-john-ruggie-father-of-business-and-human-rights/]

On taking up the role of Shift’s Chair, Prince Zeid said:  

The unanimous endorsement of the Guiding Principles in 2011 represented a watershed moment in changing the understanding of companies’ responsibility for the negative impacts that business activities can have on people. For a decade now, Shift has worked relentlessly to embed the ethos of the UNGPs in the way business gets done, with the focus where it must always be – on delivering better outcomes for the most vulnerable workers and communities. I am delighted to take up the role of Chair of Shift’s Trustees at a time when we see so much growth in the appetite and need for the organization’s work and leadership, not least as regulators, legislators, investors and financiers become more attuned to their own roles in incentivizing rights-respecting business practices, including as an essential component of a Just Transition to carbon neutral economies. I look forward to working with the Board and the management team to seize these growing opportunities to deliver on the promise of the UN Guiding Principles.”

For the past three years, Shift has worked closely with Prince Zeid in strategic partnerships to advise global sports bodies––including the International Olympic Committee and the Féderation Internationale de l’Automobile ––on their responsibility to respect human rights under the UN Guiding Principles.

Taliban dissolves ‘unnecessary’ Human Rights Commision

May 20, 2022

Patrick Slater, from the Vermont Law School, reports in Jurist.org of 18 May 2022 that the Taliban authorities in Afghanistan announced that the country’s Human Rights Commission will be dissolved, calling it “unnecessary.”

The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) was the national human rights institution of Afghanistan, dedicated to the promotion, protection, and monitoring of human rights and the investigation of human rights abuses.

The Kabul-based Commission was established on the basis of a decree of the Chairman of the Interim Administration on June 6, 2002, pursuant to the Bonn Agreement (5 December 2001); United Nations General Assembly resolution 48/134 of 1993 endorsing the Paris Principles on national human rights institutions, and article 58 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

The much-honoured Sima Samar was the Chairperson of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/4AEEBC97-C788-49F5-8DE1-33F7855D2192] and as of 2019, its chairperson was Shaharzad Akbar [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/46068051-7f6e-403a-9663-8286238d7d2e]

Following the Taliban capture of the country in 2021, the AIHRC has been unable to carry out its work, due to confiscation of he human rights commission’s “buildings, vehicles and computers”

Along with the Commission, four other departments were dissolved. The Taliban faces a $500 million budget deficit, and the dissolution of these agencies was deemed necessary to avert a financial disaster. In addition to the Human Rights Commission, key agencies such as the National Security Council and the High Council for National Reconciliation have been dissolved.

For other posts on Afghan human rights defenders, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/afghanistan/

https://www.jurist.org/news/2022/05/taliban-authorities-dissolve-afghanistan-human-rights-agency/

Turkey’s unsuitable candidate for the UN Human Rights Committee

May 18, 2022

Abdullah Bozkurt in the Nordic Monitor of 18 May 2022 points out that Turkey is nominating an unsuitable candidate for membership on the UN Human Rights Committee.

Turkey nominates human rights abuser to UN Human Rights Committee

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has nominated a person with a poor human rights record for membership on the UN Human Rights Committee. According to UN documents Hacı Ali Açıkgül, head of the human rights department at Turkey’s Justice Ministry since 2015, was officially nominated to become one of nine new members of the Human Rights Committee.

Açıkgül, a loyalist and partisan official in the Erdoğan regime, hushed up cases of torture and abuse in Turkey’s detention and prison facilities where many people, including journalists, human rights defenders and activists, were subjected to harsh treatment.

The widespread and systematic practice of torture and abuse is approved by the Erdoğan government as part of an intimidation campaign to silence critical and independent voices in Turkey. Complaints of rights abuse fell on deaf ears, while officials who were involved in ill-treatment and torture were granted impunity.

He issued opinions to challenge complaints filed by victims with the Constitutional Court on violation of fundamental human rights and secretly and illegally coordinated with judges and prosecutors to ensure the continuous imprisonment of government critics. He defended the Erdoğan government in cases brought to the European Court of Human Rights.

Açıkgül used his position in the department not only to bury torture and abuse allegations and complaints, but also helped whitewash them when queried by organizations such as the Council of Europe.

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/

Sad symbolic number reached in Mexico: 100,000 disappeared.

May 17, 2022

The 100,000 officially registered disappearances in Mexico illustrate a long-standing pattern of impunity in the country, indicating the tragedy continues daily, UN human rights experts warned.

The Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) on 17 May 2022 expressed grave concern about the growing numbers registered by Mexico’s National Register of Disappeared Persons

There are now over 100,000 people in Mexico’s national register of the “disappeared.” The UN says organized crime is among the leading causes of missing people in the country. Human rights organizations and relatives of the missing have called on the government to step up investigations and conduct searches more effectively

In the last two years the numbers have spiked from about 73,000 people to more than 100,000 — mostly men.

Mexico has seen spiralling violence since the war on drugs began in 2006, with over 350,000 people having died since then. Last year, the country of more than 129 million people saw 94 murders a day on average.

It’s incredible that disappearances are still on the rise,” Virginia Garay, whose son went missing in 2018 in the state of Nayarit, told news agency Reuters. “The government is not doing enough to find them,” said Garay, who works in a group called Warriors Searching for Our Treasures that seeks to locate missing loved ones.

Civil society groups that help try and locate missing people stress that many families do not report disappearances because of distrust in the authorities. The actual figure of missing people is therefore believed to be much higher than the official data.

Organized crime has become a central perpetrator of disappearance in Mexico, with varying degrees of participation, acquiescence or omission by public servants,” a report by the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances, released last month, said.

“State parties are directly responsible for enforced disappearances committed by public officials, but may also be accountable for disappearances committed by criminal organizations,” the report added.

The missing people include human rights defenders, some of whom went missing because of their own involvement in the fight against disappearances.

According to the UN committee, over 30 journalists have also disappeared in Mexico between 2003 and 2021. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/01/31/more-killings-of-journalists-in-mexico-in-2022/

https://www.ohchr.org/en/statements/2022/05/mexico-dark-landmark-100000-disappearances-reflects-pattern-impunity-un-experts

https://www.dw.com/en/mexicos-number-of-disappeared-people-rises-above-100000/a-61820055

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/

Karla Avelar speaks out in Diversity in Adversity campaign

April 28, 2022

Episode 4: People who work to end violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) face multiple forms of risk. They can be targeted for their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, and for being human rights defenders as well.

Karla Avelar is trans woman human rights defender from El Salvador who has been working since the 1990s to defend the rights of LGBTI persons, people with HIV and other marginalised groups. After being subjected to two and a half years in prison, where she was tortured, sexual assaulted and denied access to medical treatment, she began to work more intensely for the rights of LGBTI persons. She began by calling for appropriate provision of HIV medications and greater access to justice within El Salvador. In 2008 she founded COMCAVIS trans, El Salvador’s first organisation for trans women with HIV. In 2013, she was the first trans woman to appear before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. After multiple threats to her own life and that of her mother, she applied for asylum in Switzerland in 2017, where she now lives and continues her work. She was a finalist of the MEA in 2017 [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/05/16/trans-defenders-karla-avelars-life-is-under-constant-threat/]

Diversity in Adversity is a joint campaign by Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, and Victor Madrigal-Borloz, UN Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity. It will feature interviews with 10 SOGI rights defenders from all over the world; ordinary people engaged in extraordinary work. For more on this campaign, visit: https://www.ohchr.org/en/special-proc…

Sudan: providing information against sexual violence to the UN equals “leaking state secrets”

April 26, 2022

Mat Nashed in Al-Jazeera of 18 April 2022 reports how Sulima Ishaq’s work against sexual violence is now being used against her.

On March 28, Volker Perthes told the United Nations’ Security Council that Sudanese government forces had raped 16 female protesters since last December’s anti-coup protests. He added that as UN envoy for Sudan, he was working with the Combating Violence Against Women (CVAW) Unit under the Ministry of Social Affairs and civil society to mitigate sexual violence in the country.

The next week, Sulima Ishaq, head of the unit, was interrogated by security services. Her lawyers say she is being investigated for accusations of “leaking state secrets” to the UN envoy under Article 47 of the country’s criminal act.

The information I gave to the [UN] had already been broadcasted on television channels and media outlets,” Ishaq, who is now worried that she’ll go to prison on trumped-up charges, told Al Jazeera over the phone. “But because the information was presented to the Security Council and the [coup forces] are afraid of getting sanctioned, they are [targeting] me now.”

In March, a Khartoum office – belonging to a commission investigating a June 3, 2019 incident in which security forces reportedly murdered at least 120 people to break up a sit-in – was raided by security forces.

According to Emma DiNapoli, a legal officer focusing on Sudan for Redress, a London-based non-profit advocating an end to torture worldwide, activists cooperating with the organisation have recently reported more security officers stalking them outside their homes. In some cases, this has resulted in unlawful arrests.

None of our partners has had arrest warrants issued against them, but I think there is a general sentiment that there is higher surveillance,” DiNapoli told Al Jazeera. “Even if they are not really being surveilled, [the arrests] are having a chilling effect.”

However, experts and rights groups say Ishaq’s case represents an escalation of a broader campaign to intimidate activists and put human rights defenders on high alert.

Kholood Khair, manager of Khartoum-based think-tank Insight Strategy Partners, told Al Jazeera that the coup government is trying to make an example out of Ishaq. The authorities, she said, are particularly irked since Ishaq is a civil servant, which gives her allegations more credibility in the eyes of the international community.

In Sudan, rape victims are traditionally harassed by the public and even punished by the police, so the number of people coming forward to Ishaq was seen as a big deal, Khair explained.

“Sulima was trying to highlight that rape is a weapon of war and a weapon of repression and the number of cases [documented] shows that it is a state tactic … not a case of just individual rapists,” she said.

Mohamed Osman, Sudan researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said activists have always feared that they could be targeted for documenting human rights violations against protesters. He cited the recent arrests of journalists, lawyers and doctors who appear to have been targeted for tracking unlawful arrests and killings in the country.

But the targeting of a high-profile person like Ishaq suggests that security forces are even more sensitive to scrutiny following the United States’ decision to impose sanctions on the Central Reserve Police last month, said Osman. The US cited the unit’s excessive force against protesters – including the use of live ammunition – as the reason for the decision.

Ishaq told Al Jazeera that she wished the UN envoy had been more subtle by not mentioning her unit at the Security Council meeting, given the level of repression in Sudan. “I feel that the way [the information] was stated was a little bit insensitive,” she said.

In response, Fadi Al Qadi, the spokesperson for the UN envoy, told Al Jazeera that “the special representative to the secretary-general did not name any individual in the Security Council as a source”.

And now, an atmosphere of fear is slowly enveloping the country, causing dissidents, activists and civil society to beef up personal security and take more precautions to protect themselves and sources from the eye of the authorities.

One of them is Nabil Adeeb, the septuagenarian human rights lawyer heading the investigation into the June 2019 massacre.

After government forces stormed the tribunal’s office, there were fears that evidence could be compromised and that the names of witnesses – who provided testimonies that possibly implicated specific security branches in the massacre – could be exposed.

“Our records are secure and we know that nobody would be able to access them, but we are concerned that if we resume our activities in the same place then we might expose the investigation to unwanted people since the office could be bugged,” he said.

Adeeb  – who is also Ishaq’s lawyer – told Al Jazeera that she is currently being charged for defaming the security forces under Sudan’s cybercrime law, an accusation he believes has little merit.

He is concerned that Ishaq could still face more harassment and graver accusations for simply doing her job from the state, which should naturally be helping her instead. Ishaq too fears that the worst is yet to come.

”I think that I will be scapegoated to kick out Volker [from Sudan],” she said.  “I will then be charged for jeopardising national security for providing [him] with sensitive information.”

https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2022/4/18/sudan-investigates-social-worker-fo-leaking-state-secrets-to-un

Green economy and human rights defenders: Provide data, denounce attacks

April 21, 2022

On 21 April 2022 Christen Dobson, Ana Zbona and Andrea Pelliconi of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre wrote a piece entitled: “Safe, legitimate engagement between firms, human rights defenders key to a just transition

..Human rights defenders are vital leaders of a just transition to green economies. They are on the front lines of the climate crisis – and they hold essential information on the risks and harms associated with business actions, which can be used by companies and investors to conduct effective environmental and human rights due diligence to create long-term value.

Yet, these defenders are under sustained attack. In 2021, there were at least 615 attacks against people raising concerns about business-related harms, with nearly 70 per cent of attacks against climate, land and environmental rights defenders. Since January 2015, we have documented more than 3,870 attacks globally, including killings, death threats, arbitrary detention and strategic lawsuits against public participation.

Indigenous peoples, who are at the forefront of protecting biodiversity and our shared planet, experience a disproportionately high level of attacks. Although they comprise approximately 5 per cent of the world’s population, they faced 18 per cent of attacks globally in 2021. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/13/global-witness-2020-the-worst-year-on-record-for-environmental-human-rights-defenders/]

One of the main drivers of this violence is the failure of companies and investors to engage in safe and legitimate consultation with rights-holders and defenders. This failure stands to derail the fast transition to a zero-carbon economy that we urgently need.

If companies and investors do not listen to people highlighting risks related to their operations, investments, supply chains, and business relationships, or if it is not safe to raise these concerns, they will lose out on critical information needed to mitigate harm and achieving a fast and fair energy transition, essential for averting the climate crisis. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/07/un-experts-urge-eu-to-take-the-lead-on-protecting-human-rights-defenders-in-context-of-business/]

Renewable energy firms guilty too

While companies and investors are increasingly making welcome and necessary commitments to climate action, including promises to achieve net zero by mid-century, many do not have policies expressing zero-tolerance against reprisals, nor do they assess risks to defenders or engage in consultation with them. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/04/07/clean-energy-will-not-automatically-be-good-for-indigenous-land-defenders/

That’s the case even in the sector most crucial to the transition: our 2021 Renewable Energy Benchmark, we found that of the 15 of the largest global renewable energy companies evaluated, all scored zero on their commitment to respect the rights of human rights and environmental defenders.

The urgently needed global transition to green economies will only be successful if it is sustainable and just. This means respecting the rights of the people at the forefront of protecting our earth and raising the alarm about harmful business practices.

We have seen this failure to secure consent from affected communities prior to starting development projects lead to horrific outcomes. On 30 December 2021, police officers in the Philippines raided an Indigenous village, killing nine leaders. Local groups said that those killed were targeted and red-tagged because of their opposition to the Jalaur Mega Dam construction. Indigenous groups had challenged the project for years saying it would destroy their ancestral domain.

Meanwhile, in Mexico, an Indigenous Zapotec community has been raising concerns about wind farm construction not respecting their rights to self-determination and free, prior, and informed consent. Leaders have faced stigmatisation and harassment. In October 2018, a federal court in Mexico delivered a historic ruling in favour of the community, ordering the Mexican authorities to carry out a consultation at a wind farm operated by a state-owned company based in Europe. In October 2020, the community filed a civil lawsuit in Paris against the company.

Engaging with rights-holders and defenders early on is one of the most effective ways of identifying actual and potential human rights and environmental impacts, while also reducing business risks. It is also their responsibility under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

For human rights due diligence processes to be effective, companies and investors can start by making clear they will not tolerate any attacks to defenders related to their operations, value chains or investments, communicating this publicly and to their suppliers and business partners. Companies should also conduct due diligence across their entire value chains, as the biggest risks and harms to people and planet occur in the lower tiers…

Throughout the entire due diligence process, companies should engage in ongoing consultation with rights-holders and defenders, including prior to and at every stage of business activity, and integrate their input into decision-making.

Effective due diligence also involves conducting human rights and environmental impact assessments. The assessments should map potentially affected rights-holders and land and resource conflicts and by informed by rights-holders and defenders’ expertise

This is not just nice to do. Conducting safe and legitimate human rights and environmental due diligence benefits everyone and will ensure companies are more effectively achieving their climate commitments. As the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights says, defenders need to be seen as key partners who can help businesses identify their human rights impacts, rather than being seen as obstacles to be disposed of.

The urgently needed global transition to green economies will only be successful if it is sustainable and just. This means respecting the rights of the people at the forefront of protecting our earth and raising the alarm about harmful business practices.

https://www.eco-business.com/opinion/safe-legitimate-engagement-between-firms-human-rights-defenders-key-to-a-just-transition/

Pramila Patten on Enhancing the Protection of Women Human Rights Defenders and honoring Jineth Bedoya

April 14, 2022

On 12 April 2022 SRSG-SVC Pramila Patten made a statement at a side event in New York on the Protection of Women Human Rights Defenders and Journalists:

…..Today’s meeting is a critical opportunity to take stock of both the persistent and entrenched, as well as new and emerging, challenges that women activists, women human rights defenders, and women journalists face in their daily lives. The annual Report of the Secretary-General on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, which is due to be debated tomorrow by the Security Council, notes that in 2021, women peace builders and human rights defenders were specifically targeted, including through sexual violence and harassment as a form of reprisal, in order to exclude them from public life in a number of country settings, such as Afghanistan, Libya, Myanmar, Yemen and elsewhere. Moreover, activists working to highlight the plight and rights of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, and to support their access to justice and services, were also subjected to reprisals and intimidation, which has a chilling effect on their critical work.

The high-risk environment in which women leaders and activists are compelled to operate is directly correlated with the trend of intersecting humanitarian, security and political crises, including coups, military takeovers, and unconstitutional shifts of power seen in recent months. This has exacerbated the root causes and drivers of conflict-related sexual violence, including militarization, the proliferation of arms, impunity, the collapse of rule of law institutions, structural gender-based inequality, and harmful social norms.

Today, we will hear directly from powerful women activists who have raised their voices against injustice, at great personal risk, and continue to advocate for the eradication of conflict-related sexual violence, and the closure of accountability and protection gaps. Today’s panel of speakers will highlight the tireless efforts of women human rights defenders and journalists, as well as the risks they endure working on the frontlines of armed conflict and civic strife. In the work of my mandate, I am continually reminded that we are only as strong as our partnerships. Since I took up this mandate in 2017, I have consistently emphasized the importance of working directly with survivors as the co-creators of solutions. It is in this spirit that today, I recognize Ms. Jineth Bedoya Lima, a trailblazing survivor, activist, and agent of change, with the demonstrated ability to lead and influence others to take action to end the scourge of conflict-related sexual violence. [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/6f49a0f6-7dd6-4f95-902c-9d9f126e0bcc] I commend her courage and commitment in elevating the issue of conflict-related sexual violence onto the public agenda and historical record in Colombia and globally, and her two-decade quest for justice, truth and reparations for these heinous crimes. Her vision and determination contributed to the establishment of the National Day for the Dignity of Women Victims of Sexual Violence in the context of the internal armed conflict in Colombia, which is commemorated every year on the 25th of May. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/10/19/inter-american-court-holds-colombia-responsible-in-the-case-of-jineth-bedoya/]

I also congratulate Ms. Bedoya on the emblematic judgment delivered by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on 18 October 2021, in connection with her case, which sets a powerful precedent for women activists, journalists, human rights defenders, and peace builders the world-over, who are subjected to, or at risk of, sexual violence. This ruling marks the first time that a court has specifically considered the use of sexual violence as a tool to silence a female journalist in the context of the Colombian armed conflict. Significantly, the judgment also entailed important reparative measures, such as the creation of a fund for the prevention, protection, and assistance of women journalists who are victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

I am pleased to announce that today I am naming Ms. Jineth Bedoya Lima a Global Champion for the Fight Against Sexual Violence in Conflict. In this capacity, she will contribute to the efforts of my mandate to enhance advocacy and awareness-raising, and to amplify the voices of survivors.

Please join me in showing our appreciation for Jineth’s remarkable journey and infinite courage. Jineth, I look forward to working with you in common cause to break not only the silence of history, which has hidden these crimes, but also the vicious cycle of violence and impunity, which must be replaced with a virtuous cycle of recognition and redress for all survivors. It is only by facing difficult truths that we can transcend them and end the seemingly endless cycle of violence.

OSRSG Sexual Violence in Conflict

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/statement-srsg-svc-pramila-patten-side-event-enhancing-protection-women-human-rights